[EXCERPTS] U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
Friday, May 2, 1997 Briefer: John Dinger
QUESTION: Thank you, John. Representative Tony Hall, the
humanitarian gave us a report on his trip to North Korea just a
few minutes ago. It was his conclusion that there is an urgent
need for a great deal more grain to be distributed rapidly in
North Korea, primarily because, as Mr. Atwood, Brian
Atwood, said, the North Koreans are going to eat their crops
before they harvest them. They are going to eat their seed, things
are so desperate.
And secondly, John, I would like you to address the issue of
thousands and thousands of North Korea military people,
observed by Mr. Hall, who were thin, wasting away, wouldn't fit
their clothes. Is this a dangerous situation?
MR. DINGER: Maybe I will just address your second
question first, briefly. We don't have any reason to believe that
there is any increased danger due to the food shortage. No
change in our view, I think, of immediate danger in North Korea
because of the food shortage.
Second, regarding Mr. Hall's assessment. He has been very,
very forceful and articulate. He has been forceful and articulate in
his description of what he saw when he went to North Korea.
Of course, the World Food representatives have also been very
active in North Korea and been involved in this crisis for some
time. They have made several appeals, including, most recently,
an expanded appeal for food aid.
Clearly, there is a severe food crisis in North Korea. If fact, in all
of our meetings with the North Koreans, they have stressed the
dire situation there and the need for food aid. So although the
details may vary or not be entirely clear to us, since State
Department officials are not there on a regular basis;
nevertheless, it is clear the situation is very, very serious.
Of course, for that reason the United States has already
contributed, I think, to each of the World Food Program's
appeals. In fact, we are the largest contributor to those appeals.
So, yes, there is a very serious problem there. Everybody,
including the North Koreans, makes that very clear. Yes, the
United States is very concerned and, yes, the United States in
contributing towards this and, in fact, is the largest contributor.
QUESTION: Would this government consider an accelerated
MR. DINGER: We have always said that we are prepared to
study any new appeals. We just met the last appeal, which was
an expanded appeal. So without speculating on what new appeal
may come from the World Food Program or perhaps another
humanitarian organization, we are certainly willing to study any
QUESTION: John, there is a report out of Seoul that next
week there will be a meeting, and that Chuck Kartman from this
building will be attending, with the South Koreans, the Japanese,
and the United States to talk about North Korea. Can you give
us some details on that?
MR. DINGER: Right. Chuck Kartman is going to be going to
Tokyo next week. I think it is a one-day meeting in Tokyo on
Wednesday. These will be trilateral talks with the South Koreans
and the Japanese. The talks will focus on North Korea, not
They, within that broader focus, will focus mostly on obviously
the status of the South Korean and the American proposal for
Four Party talks. It has been a couple weeks since Chuck
Kartman was last in New York for those meetings. We have
periodic talks in this format. This is another of those periodic
talks. It will address the Four Party talks and also the food
situation in North Korea.
QUESTION: Have the North Koreans communicated in any
way they are in a, sort of, working-level group or otherwise
since the breakdown of the last session?
MR. DINGER: I am not aware that we have any new
communication from North Koreans on the Four Party talks. We
have a couple of occasions that we will probably be seeing the
North Koreans soon, not on the Four Party talks or on the food
situation. But we do anticipate, as I mentioned yesterday, that
there will be talks about the return of the remains probably soon.
That is a DOD issue. So for details on who will be attending and
when, I would check with them.
Also, we still anticipate having missile talks in New York. Is it
the 12th and 13th? Chuck Kartman will not be meeting with the
North Koreans on this trip.
QUESTION: John, back on the food issue. I believe Nick said
the first of the two U.S. vessels is due on the 4th of May. Is that
MR. DINGER: That sounds about right, but I don't recollect
accurately. As far as I know, there is no change. Whatever the
records, the first two ships, the 4th, and then shortly thereafter. I
don't know about whether we have lined up the exact shipment
for the expanded appeal.
QUESTION: Could you take the question as to the date of the
arrival of the first one?
MR. DINGER: We will see if there is any update on the
QUESTION: You know that the Japanese Government is
reluctant to give North Korea additional food shipments and
assistance. Actually, what kind of conversation do you have with
the Japanese Government on this issue? Or is Mr. Kartman
going to have conversations with Japanese (inaudible) officials on
this issue? Does he ask the Japanese Government to give North
Korea another assistance?
MR. DINGER: Well, in general, one of the issues is certainly
going to be the food situation in North Korea. We have made it
very clear that this is a decision for the Japanese Government to
make. We have not, and certainly don't plan, to change our view
on that. Contributing food aid to North Korea is a decision for
the Japanese Government to make.
We have contributed. Obviously, that is what we are doing. But
we will leave it to the Japanese Government to make its
decisions about food aid.
QUESTION: But, John, to be fair, in addition to saying - on the
one hand it's for Japan to make this decision, the spokesman has
been very clear about saying that the United States thinks this is
an urgent need and that all countries should contribute. So
presumably that implies Japan, and he certainly made no
exception for Japan or South Korea.
MR. DINGER: It applies to all countries.
MR. DINGER: We are definitely not singling out Japan.
QUESTION: So my question would be, in this meeting in
Tokyo, is that one of the messages that Mr. Kartman is going to
MR. DINGER: No.
QUESTION: He is not?
MR. DINGER: No.
QUESTION: He is not going to tell them that the United States
believes this is an urgent situation and all countries should
MR. DINGER: All countries? I'm not going to read off his
talking points. He is going, but he is not going to pressure Japan
into providing food aid.
QUESTION: So he won't even - he won't even be repeating
the same kinds of positions that have been spoken publicly from
MR. DINGER: He may well, but that is not a position that we
have spoken publicly, that Japan should - singled out Japan for
contributing food aid.
QUESTION: No, no. But as I just said, when he asks -
MR. DINGER: We are not sending any signals here to Japan
in making that statement. That is a general statement, and we
have led by example. Obviously, we have contributed food aid
to Korea. It would be very odd if we said every country in the
world shouldn't. That doesn't really make sense that we would
do that. But to transfer it from the general to a specific, I just
don't think you can do that accurately.
QUESTION: Well, if you can't, then what is the point of making
MR. DINGER: Let's not lose sight of what Japan does do.
Japan is very heavily involved in KEDO, for example. So let's
also keep in focus Japan's relationship with North Korea and
what it does contribute to North Korea.
QUESTION: Are you saying that the United States thinks that
MR. DINGER: No, I'm just saying let's not lose sight of the
overall picture here of our cooperation with Japan on issues
dealing with North Korea. It's been very, very close - very, very
close -- and deserves to be praised.
We are not singling out Japan on the food aid issue. We,
obviously, are contributing food aid to North Korea. We
wouldn't do that if we didn't think it wasn't needed, if we didn't
think it was a serious situation. Obviously, if we do it, we think
others should do it as well, but we are in no way singling out
Japan on this issue.
QUESTION: John, on another subject --
QUESTION: Same subject.
QUESTION: There is a something quoted in the -
MR. DINGER: We'll have the same subject, Jim, for a
QUESTION: So you don't have the details of the MIA-POW
Talks? When it starts and who is the head of the delegation?
MR. DINGER: No, it's a Pentagon issue. So whoever the
head of the delegation is, it will be a Pentagon official.
QUESTION: The North Korean side, you don't know who is
the head of the delegation?
MR. DINGER: No, please check with the Pentagon.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) he is in New York, or he already left?
MR. DINGER: I don't--
QUESTION: The North Korean delegation?
MR. DINGER: I haven't checked recently. I am not sure. You
might want to call up to their mission in New York.
QUESTION: And the members who will have talks with the
U.S.A., missile talks, talks next week?
MR. DINGER: I do not know who the North Korean side is.
The Pentagon may know who will be leading the North Korean
delegation. Regarding whether the party is still there that was
there two weeks ago, you might want to check with the North
Korean mission in New York and ask them. Betsy.
QUESTION: On the Middle East --
QUESTION: I have just one more. Sorry, I just want to try this
one more time. If the United States is not going to single out
Japan for food aid or urge them in any way to give aid again to
North Korea, what else would be brought up with food aid?
You said food aid or the situation in North Korea regarding
famine will be brought up.
MR. DINGER: Well, it's a major issue, clearly, and the
humanitarian situation there is dire. I would add that in all of our
talks with the North Koreans, they do bring the issue up. So if
we are going to have meetings with the Japanese and South
Koreans about the situation in North Korea, clearly, that is an
element of those discussions. No surprise there.