U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 1997, 1:10 P. M.
9-12......February 5 Briefing on Four-Party Proposal
10........Report of Agreement to Ship Nuclear Waste fr. Taiwan
10-11.....Report of U.S. Financing of Private Grain Deal
QUESTION: What can you say about the reported postponement of the meeting which was supposed to have been held on Wednesday?
MR. BURNS: I can confirm that the North Koreans requested over the weekend that we postpone the joint briefing that we were to give on January 29 in New York City. We postponed that by one week. We have now accepted that request - the United States and the Republic of South Korea have accepted that request. We plan to meet next week in New York on February 5 for a briefing on the Four Party proposal that was made by President Kim and President Clinton.
The North Koreans mentioned to us, when they asked for the postponement, that they have put first priority recently on some grain discussions - discussions of the import of grain they are having, they are conducting - with some private Western companies. They want to conclude these negotiations -- I guess they believe they can in the next week - before they send their negotiators to New York for the briefing on February 5. That is a satisfactory explanation. This is not a North Korean decision to cancel the Four Party briefing. It is a decision just to postpone it by one week, so we expect a meeting February 5 in New York. We look forward to that very much.
QUESTION: What is the position of the State Department on the issue that Taiwan is going to ship some nuclear waste to North Korea and therefore the rift between Taiwan and South Korea over this issue?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that the State Department has taken a position on that. We've heard about the deal, but I'm not sure we know enough about it to talk about it.
Let me just say this, some positive things have happened concerning North Korea in recent weeks. We've seen the North state its deep regret for the submarine incident. There is every reason to think that implementation of the Agreed Framework continues to proceed normally. In fact, there's no indication to the contrary, including the spent nuclear fuel canning operation at Yongbyon, North Korea, and the delivery of heavy fuel oil by KEDO to the North Koreans.
None of this - the core issue in our relationship, which is the Agreed Framework and the freeze on North Korea's nuclear program - will be affected by anything else that's going on; certainly not affected by the delay of one week in some discussions in New York City on February 5. I know that we're going to proceed as best we can to continue to make progress with the North Koreans and the South Koreans on these important issues.
QUESTION: Is the Clinton Administration willing to consider some type of financing for North Korea on up to 500,000 metric tons of grain from Cargill - Minneapolis-based Cargill? If not, is it willing to help push these negotiations along since they did break off last week without any date for resumption?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I just don't know that the United States Government has been asked to provide any kind of financing for this deal or any other.
As you know, there was a meeting of non-profit and humanitarian organizations in Washington on Thursday. Chuck Kartman, our Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, attended that meeting. We have no plans right now for the United States Government to contribute further food shipments to North Korea. But we've said many times that should there be a request by the relevant and effective international organizations, we'd consider it. I'm not just not aware, in addition to that, Sid, we've been asked to help in financing a private grain deal. I'm just not aware of it.
QUESTION: Are you willing to step into these negotiations between Cargill and North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Oh, these are private negotiations. So we would rarely step into a negotiation like this. I don't believe we are, it's up to this American company, other Western companies, and the North Koreans to proceed.
QUESTION: Since the North Koreans have put off one set of negotiations because of the other set, there seems to be some kind of a linkage between them. I wonder if you could address that?
MR. BURNS: You might want to consult the North Korean web site. They've got their own home page now. If they're really efficient like we are here at the State Department, maybe their Spokesman's briefing transcripts are on the Web right now.
In other words, I think it's fair to ask the North Koreans that. The North Koreans are always interesting. As Secretary Christopher used to say, "It's a rather opaque government and society. It sometimes hard to figure out exactly what's happening." They've told us that they're going to be in New
York on February 5, so we expect that that will happen. They've also told us they'd have first priority on these very important grain negotiations. So we take that at face value.
QUESTION: The talks are on the 5th in new York. Do we know yet if the North and South will speak to each other fulfilling the KEDO and the nuclear framework requirements? Will they speak through us? Do we know anything about the structure?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information. I haven't talked to Chuck Kartman and others, and the people who work for him - Mark Minton - about how they plan to structure these talks. I'll just have to get back to you on that. Bill, it's a very good question.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I guess we have a follow-up, David. Then we'll go back to you.
QUESTION: Do you have the date and place of the bilateral meeting with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: A bilateral meeting?
QUESTION: With the U.S. and North Korea?
MR. BURNS: We have regular talks in New York that we always brief the South Korean Government fully upon. Are you referring to the regular talks we have weekly in New York?
QUESTION: Actually, which was scheduled - which you were supposed to have January 31.
MR. BURNS: We were supposed to have talks on the 29th of January on the Four Party Proposal with the Republic of Korea and the North Koreans. That has been postponed to February 5.
QUESTION: For a follow-up meeting with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Will there be a follow-up meeting? I just don't
know. We have regular contacts with North Korean officials to
the United Nations.