[EXCERPTS] U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY BRIEFING
BRIEFER: NICHOLAS BURNS MONDAY, APRIL 28, 1997
Q: There are further reports today that famine may become a factor in
North Korea soon, and comments being made -- you've probably seen them
on the wires -- by people who worry about this matter, that other
countries besides the United States are not coming forward and making
contributions to the World Food appeal. Is the United States
contemplating more aid in order to take up the slack, since South
Korea and Japans and others seem to be reluctant?
BURNS: We've seen the statements from the World Food Program director,
Ms. Bertini this morning. We certainly share her concern. We do
believe, based on our own information, that there is a famine in North
Korea; that this particularly effects young children; and that these
people ought to be helped.
As you know, we are the leading donor to the World Food Program. We
have met two requests in the last two months. We have not been asked
for any additional food aid. We will simply rely upon the World Food
Program as the authoritative source to tell us if there is a need for
an additional tranche of food aid from donor countries. If they do
come forward to us with another appeal, of course we will look at that
very, very seriously. In the meantime, I believe the first two ships
of grain from Houston will arrive at Nampo, the North Korean port May
4th, just a couple of days from now, and May 12th.
The second shipment from the second tranche of food that we have
promised will be arriving later in the Spring. We do hope that other
countries will respond favorably to the United Nations, because we
think one ought to separate politics from the humanitarian need that
people obviously have in North Korea.
Q: Nick, given North Korea's poor record, by all accounts, on
proliferation, I know you want to separate the two and you've spoken
of that before. But does that hurt -- doesn't that hurt North Korea's
case internationally, so far as getting assistance, because of their
avid proliferation and reports, considered credible by this
government, that they have produced nuclear weapons?
BURNS: You know, if we were going to tie food aid to political issues,
there are four or five political issues we could tie it to in North
Korea. We could do the same thing in Zaire. We could do it in any
number of countries. But once you start tying food aid to political
issues, I think you pretty much guarantee you won't deliver food aid
to people in most countries of the world because people are starving
where there's political instability or political failure or economic
failure. As President Clinton said on Friday, there is economic
failure in North Korea. It's their system that has produced the
shortages. But we feel we have an obligation to help the young kids
under the age of six who are targeted by the United Nations for most
So, Barry, despite our concerns about proliferation -- and we have big
concerns, and we're going to address those to the North Koreans in our
talks to them in New York on the 12th and 13th of May -- we very
firmly believe you've got to separate these issues of food aid and all
the other political differences we may have with that regime.
Q: In your own assessment of the situation in North Korea, have you
uncovered evidence of the cannibalism that is being reported in the
last couple of days?
BURNS: I don't believe so. We've seen that report in the press. It's
obviously very disturbing. But I don't believe we have any direct
information at all about cannibalism. We have information from
visiting congressmen, from the United Nations, from a lot of the
non-governmental organizations that work there that there is
tremendous shortage. It is widespread throughout the country, and it
particularly affects older people and young kids, as you would expect
in a situation like that.
Q: And given that situation, do you have anything to say about the
appointment of 120 new generals in North Korea and the apparent
fitness of the military?
BURNS: Well, we think the North Koreans should turn their attention to
the civilian needs of their population. It's an over-militarized
country, one of the largest standing armies in the world. That is one
of the reasons why we have 37,000 American troops up along the DMZ to
protect South Korea and our own interests.
It would seem -- you watch this military parade that the North Koreans
had on Friday, that CNN paraded on the television screens all day on
Friday and throughout the weekend, it would seem to us that those well
fed soldiers, and well groomed soldiers with brilliant uniforms, that
some of the money ought to be spend on their own people who are
That just would seem to be a proper allocation of resources. I just
return you to the President's comments on Friday -- this all gets back
to economic failure, which is produced by communism.
BURNS: Yes, still on North Korea?
Q: Yes. I saw a strange report last week, when the Russian defense
minister was in Beijing, he said once war starts on the Korean
Peninsula, Russia should join the battle. Did you see that report?
BURNS: Who should join the battle?
Q: Yes. The Russian defense minister said in Beijing, once war starts
on the Korean Peninsula, Russia should join the battle. So what --
BURNS: Well, I haven't seen that statement. It doesn't seem to be --
it seems to be an improbable statement or it must have been a
misquote. I think the Russian Federation has said consistently over
the last few years that it supports stability in the Korean Peninsula.
China has said that. China, Russia, and the United States all have
worked well on the issue of Korea. We all want to see stability,
peace. Nobody wants to see a war on the Korean peninsula.
However, I feel compelled to say that we do have American troops
there, and an American security commitment to South Korea to protect
that country should it come under attack by North Korea. We don't
believe that that is an imminent prospect, but we are always ready,
and our troops are forward-deployed. Charlie, still on this?
Q: Yes, still on this.
BURNS: Nick, does the U.S. Government support food aid to the civilian
people of North Korea, specifically those above six years old?
Q: Well, we support food aid to everyone who needs it in North Korea,
but it seems to us to be the civilian populations. The military seems
to have been taken care of. That is usually the way it works in
communist societies. The people with ribbons and medals get the
The World Food Program of the United Nations has specifically targeted
kids under six. They say that those are the people in North Korea most
susceptible to malnutrition and to starvation. Therefore, we rely upon
its judgment and we contribute our food aid for that purpose. But we
obviously hope that whoever is starving, in need of food aid, of
whatever age, receives it -- receives that assistance from the world
Q: On another subject --
Q: I wanted to chew this one.
BURNS: Do you want finish this, Bill?
Q: On North Korea, still? Okay, this one to follow with. I believe in
the past week, the North Koreans have deployed their -- I think it's
called NoDong Missile, Nick. This missile has been designed
specifically to reach Japan -- or parts of Japan. Now, couple this
with what Mr. Hyang -- Mr. Hyang had to say about the plans of the
North Korean Government to devastate, to annihilate Japan. Have you
any comment from this Government on those missile deployments?
BURNS: Well, first we are aware of the reports about the missile, and
it's obviously one of the issues that we wish to raise on the 12th and
13th of May with the North Koreans in New York.
Second, we watch the North Koreans very closely, and not only do we
have a security commitment to South Korea, we have a security
commitment to Japan of long standing, many decades. That will
continue, and the North Koreans are aware of that.
It does seem to us that the North Koreans have opened themselves up a
little bit to political dialogue with the West, with the United
States, South Korea, Japan, on a number of issues. We hope that trend
continues because we, obviously, prize peace and stability on the
Peninsula. We want to build on that. Thank you. Jim.