Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns

11-12Tests of Chinese-supplied anti-ship Cruise missiles; Danger to US troops in Gulf
13US commitment to security of Persian Gulf; Iran support for terrorism

DPB # 92

TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 1997 2:00 P.M.
QUESTION: The Secretary chose not to say much about the Iran decision to test their cruise missiles, which apparently adds a new dimension to Iran's military capability. There is another component to the question. That is the fact that the Chinese were the apparent suppliers of this equipment, and I thought you might want to say something about that.
MR. BURNS: You know, George, I usually don't need this book very much. Today I need it on this question. I can't find it. I have no idea where this has been put. It's been hidden someplace. Let me tell you, this report this morning in The Washington Times is another report based on alleged intelligence sources. I never comment on intelligence sources, number one.
QUESTION: What about Secretary Cohen?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
QUESTION: Secretary Cohen announced it in the Gulf.
MR. BURNS: Are you talking about the article by Bill Gertz?
MR. BURNS: That's the question you asked the Secretary.
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. BURNS: What is your question?
QUESTION: Secretary Cohen, in Bahrain, I believe --
MR. BURNS: I don't think then - I'm not sure. Well, anyway, I think she thought you were talking about the other article.
QUESTION: Well, Secretary Cohen said the Chinese have begun testing an anti-ship cruise missile, and the implication is -
QUESTION: You said China.
QUESTION: What did I say? China. No, no, that the Iranians are testing these missiles. And the implication is that this could pose increased dangers for American troops in the Gulf. And the suppliers, as I understand it, are the Chinese. It's been on the wires since 5:00 a.m. this morning.
MR. BURNS: And Secretary Cohen made these remarks?
QUESTION: That's right.
MR. BURNS: Haven't seen the remarks.
MR. BURNS: I have to check with the Pentagon and see what Secretary Cohen said.
QUESTION: I suppose some of our countries which leading Syria, Iran, Iraq try to establish some kind of military pact as a counter for Turkish-Israeli military cooperation agreement. And, also, we heard that Libya showed a desire to join this counter -
MR. BURNS: Could you name the countries again?
QUESTION: Syria, Iraq, Iran and might be Libya.
MR. BURNS: That's a motley crew.
QUESTION: Yeah, it is.
MR. BURNS: Isn't it? You think so?
MR. BURNS: You know, I can't see anything good coming from an alliance of those countries. I can't see anyone who would want to join it. It's a bunch of dictators. We do talk to the Syrians. We don't talk to the Libyans or the Iranians or the Iraqis. It's a motley group. I don't think it's a very distinguished group of countries.
QUESTION: And also the Turkish navy is visiting the Israeli ports and most probably they are planning to prepare some kind of military exercise, navy exercise, in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Do you have any reaction on this?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the particulars of these reported military exercises with the government of Israel, but we have encouraged Turkey and Israel to conduct military exercises and training together -- of course making sure this is outside any area of controversy in the eastern Mediterranean. That is always helpful in these cases. But we very much encourage the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. It is significant. It is helpful to both countries and to the United States. Yes, Laura.
QUESTION: Generally speaking, do you think that Iran poses a threat to U.S. troops stationed in the Gulf region, regardless of the fact that you are unaware of Secretary Cohen's comment?
MR. BURNS: I did see that Secretary Cohen said this morning that the United States seeks peace in the Gulf. We also seek, and have sought for nearly 50 years now, freedom of navigation in the Gulf and of shipping, and we will keep the Gulf open for shipping. We will defend our troops and our assets and our allies, if necessary. The Iranians know that and they won't fool around with us because we are stronger than they are. I think that was the import of what I saw Secretary Cohen say on that particular issue.
QUESTION: Do you think that Iran supports terrorism?
MR. BURNS: Iran definitely supports terrorism. It is a chief funder and manipulator of some of the major terrorist groups in the Middle East -- Hezbollah and Hamas, to name two. That is one of the three reasons that President Clinton and Secretary Albright have cited why the United States has such a lousy relationship with Iran. It's support of terrorism is a big concern of ours and we are not going to let Iran get away with it without public comment and private action to counteract it. Yes, ma'am, yes.

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