Office of the Press Secretary
January 6, 1997
The Briefing Room
1:24 P.M. EST

MCCURRY: Those of you who have followed Chancellor Kohl's travels know that he met very recently with President Yeltsin, so President Clinton took that opportunity to have a half-hour conversation with Chancellor Kohl today, a very wide ranging conversation that obviously focused on relations between the Russian Federation and the West, but touched on other subjects as well.

Quite a bit of the conversation dealt with the issue of NATO expansion. I think some of you have seen Chancellor Kohl's public comments on that subject. Certainly the President and the Chancellor share the view that the timetable for NATO expansion that has been outlined by NATO's foreign ministers should proceed. They exchanged views on how that will happen in the context of the very important discussions going on between NATO and the Russian Federation related to the NATO-Russia charter. It was most recently discussed at both the Defense Ministers meeting and the Foreign Ministers meeting. And they agreed that they would continue to remain in close contact as we work through that issue in the course of the coming year.

Q: Mike, in that context, did they discuss the kind of harder tone coming out of Russia, even from Mr. Yeltsin himself?

MCCURRY: They discussed in general the approach the Federation has taken to this question. There is certainly a great degree of concern, and some would say a certain degree of ambivalence, on that subject and the West is well aware of that. That's the importance of the parallel discussions that NATO has established with the Russian Federation on issues related to expansion and also the importance of the discussions related to a charter, formal charter between NATO and the Russian Federation that Foreign Minister Primakov endorsed at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting.

Q: -- discussion of Yeltsin's health?

MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. I didn't see anything reflected on that.I can double-check that, but I didn't see anything indicated on that.

Q: Russian officials today are suggesting that he might not be able to do the early-this-year summit.

MCCURRY: We remain in contact with the Russian Federation. As you know, we have not made any announcements related to timing or venue for that, but we do expect to proceed with the previously announced schedule for a summit meeting between President Clinton and President Yeltsin.

Q: In the spring?

MCCURRY: In the springtime. In fact, have we specified March?

(DAVID) JOHNSON: We've suggested that it's likely to take place in March, but we've been very careful not to say a specific place because that hasn't been agreed.

MCCURRY: We have suggested March, but we have not suggested place or exact date.

Q: Can you tell us about this food deal with North Korea? Is this tit for tat in terms of North Korea's apology to South Korea for the submarine incident? Now the U.S. is letting this major food sale go through? Is that part of the same package?

MCCURRY: Not a specific, direct connection there, although there is now a climate on the Peninsula that we hope is conducive to discussions about peaceful resolution of differences that exist between North and South. We were encouraged, obviously, by the agreement to proceed with multi-party dialogue on the future of the Peninsula, but it has long been our policy that the Treasury Department, through the Office of Foreign Assets Control may, from time to time, issue licenses for specific transactions that are deemed in the interest of the people of the United States and, in this case, obviously the people of North Korea, given the grain, which is the item that would be shipped.

Q: Mike, this is not part of Food Aid, right?

MCCURRY: No, this is a separate transaction. There have been some international provisions of humanitarian relief, but this would be a transaction purchase.

Q: Is this one of the first big ones? I don't know really the history of that.

MCCURRY: My recollection is that we have had those before. They were foreseen in the agreed framework document issued in 1994, that there would be, from time to time, those types of commercial transactions. But I'd have to check and see whether there's been one of this size. David can maybe help you on that.