U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
February 5, 1997
5-7 Gore-Chernomyrdin Mtgs. 2/5-2/7
10-11 Briefing on Four Party Talks/Food Aid
MR. BURNS: A few other notes. The Gore-Chernomyrdin meetings begin today, and they extend until Friday. I wanted to let you know what your opportunities will be. I understand that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will be arriving at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base. Vice President Gore will be receiving him, and that is an open press event. No Q&A, but open press for those of you with cameras.
Tomorrow, at 2:00 p.m., the Vice President and the Prime Minister will open the major plenary session here at the State Department in the Loy Henderson room. So at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, there will be an open press event for opening statements only. You'll hear Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin give the opening statements. Then the media will leave, and the Plenary Session will follow, and that session will extend from 2:00 p.m. to 6:15. So it's the major substantive meeting on the agenda.
On Friday, February 7th, there will be - I think at approximately 4:00 p.m. - a press conference in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
QUESTION: What time?
MR. BURNS: About 4:00 p.m., but check with us and check with the White House on Friday for the specific time.
Now, a couple of other announcements, Barry. Can I do that? Do you want to do Gore Chernomyrdin?
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have a meeting Friday, too? I'm sorry, did I miss that?
MR. BURNS: There are going to be meetings Friday, but I don't believe there is any press access.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on two levels. Obviously, you have no press access to almost every event you've mentioned so far. But so far as the two -
MR. BURNS: Actually, there's press access for the opening.
QUESTION: If Chernomyrdin and Gore begin meeting at 2:00 p.m. and the press can't get to them until 26 hours later, you might imagine there would be some interim interest and people will do what reporters usually do - they'll try to get information from sources.
MR. BURNS: And I'm sure we'll try to help you out tomorrow evening.
QUESTION: I'm not sure we'll get information.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTION: But could you tell us, is there anything Friday - you know, any highlight meeting between them, or is it, you know, working experts types meetings?
MR. BURNS: Let me do this. By tomorrow I should have -
QUESTION: They sit back and wait for the experts to do some work Friday and then meet again. I don't mean sit back, but, you know, hand off to experts on Friday. Is that the point of progress?
MR. BURNS: Actually, their pattern in these meetings has been to actually lead the meetings themselves with the experts.
QUESTION: So you think they'll meet Friday.
MR. BURNS: I figure they will meet Friday, and I'm sure there will be some White House meetings. When I get a fuller schedule, I'll give that to you tomorrow.
QUESTION: The Ambassador to the U.N. from North Korea said yesterday that the reason the briefing hadn't gotten off the ground was, in fact, because the United States had not carried through with its promise to provide food aid to the North Koreans.
Nothing your answer yesterday that the United States had washed its hands or was not getting involved in negotiations between the North and Cargill, I'm just wondering, which side of this is correct? Which is the truth here? Has the United States promised and then reneged, or are the North Koreans incorrect in believing that?
MR. BURNS: That was a very interesting interview. We read it quite closely. I mean this quite sincerely. Perhaps something was missed in the translation or just missed in the communication, because what we have done is very clear.
The United States never promised a specific amount of food aid to the North Koreans as an inducement to convince them to come to the table and have a briefing on the Four Party Talks, number one.
We did not promise to deliver food or to guarantee commercial shipments of food. But we recently approved an application by a private American grain company for a license to export grain to North Korea. We approved that already. That deal needs to be concluded between that grain company and North Korea.
I should also tell you that we have been assiduous in listening to the World Food Program and the other non-profit organizations. When they have come forward with emergency appeals for grain to North Korea, the United States has responded. I said two days ago that we understand the World Food Program is considering another appeal and that we would look very seriously at that appeal.
I believe the United States has acted in good faith. It is simply not accurate to say that the United States Government is holding up the
talks because we've been straightforward with the North Koreans on what we can do and what we can't do.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say, then, that what you're saying is that the North Koreans are making the historical and typical socialist mistake of believing that Cargill and the United States Government are one in the same thing?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if the North Koreans believe that, but I think that is a good point to make, to remind people about. Cargill is a private company. It is not an arm of the United States Government. It makes its own decisions. It does require an export license. We've already granted that.
We have tried to facilitate North Korea's contacts with private
American grain companies. But it's a good point to make, Steve.