DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Wednesday, April 16, 1997 Briefer: Nicholas Burns
BURNS: .. we've talked a lot about missile proliferation and problems
of some countries exporting missiles to countries, rogue states that
shouldn't have them. Well, ten years ago, April 16, 1987, the United
States and its G-7 partners announced the formation of the Missile
Technology Control Regime that would restrict transfers of nuclear
capable missiles and related technology. Since April of 1987, 21
additional countries have joined the MTCR. And several others have
adhered unilaterally to MTCR guidelines. Over the course of the last
10 years, the MTCR guidelines and its annexes have become the
international standard for responsible missile-related export
behavior. There has been very important progress in elevating the
attention that this issue is given. In fact, President Clinton has
deemed it one of the great threats to the security of the American
people -- missile proliferation. On the occasion of the 10th
anniversary, the United States would like to salute the Missile
Technology Control Regime as an outstanding example of international
cooperation that has helped to make the world safer for all people.
At the same time, a lot of work remains to be done. We face the
challenge of extending export controls to all potential suppliers and
transshipment points and of eliminating missile programs of concern.
The United States' national security interests, therefore, demand that
we continue to place a high priority on curbing global missile
proliferation. And we certainly want to work with all of our partners
to do that. We re posting a statement on this today.
Q: Could I ask you a question about -- you mentioned missiles. Have
you seen the report in your least favorite newspaper that Russia is
selling Iran anti-aircraft --
BURNS: You mean the Cuban State Daily? You mean the organ of the
Communist Party of Cuba? That's my least favorite newspaper --
Castro's hand-picked journalists who write glorious things. Oh, The
Washington Times, okay, I'm sorry.
I've seen a report by Bill Gertz today, yes, and let me just say this.
Let me just give you a little background here. At the September 1994
summit when President Yeltsin visited President Clinton at the White
House, President Yeltsin pledged, at that memorable press conference
in the East Room, that Russia would not enter into new arms contracts
with Iran; that Russia would close out existing contracts within a few
years. The details of that commitment were finalized in a meeting a
couple of months later in early 1995, between Vice President Gore and
the Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin.
At the time the agreement was reached, Russia advised us that one
kilo-class submarine was expected to be delivered to Iran and other
old contracts, such as those involving tanks, would be fulfilled. The
deliveries under the contracts in the pipeline, the Russians said,
would be concluded in a few years and did not involve any new weapons
systems. And that's the critical point here. The United States agreed
that some existing contracts could be fulfilled, but no new contracts.
Prior to the signing of that agreement with Russia, the United States
assured ourselves that the transfers contemplated under the agreement
would not provide Iran with any new military capabilities; that they
would not alter the regional balance of power in the Middle East; or
compromise the ability of the United States and our allies to protect
our mutual interests. For instance, any transfers to Iran of advanced
anti-aircraft missile systems, such as those, such as SA-10s or
SA-12s, would provide Iran with dangerous new capabilities, and would
certainly violate the 1995 agreement.
Now, we've continued to discuss this issue with the Russian
government, at almost every major Russian-American summit. And I can
tell you, based on those meetings, based on our conversations with the
Russian government at the very highest level, based on all the
intelligence information available to us, all the information
available to us, the United States does not believe that Russia has
transferred to Iran advanced missiles. And that's that.
Now, there are press reports that we see in the Russian press and now
in the American press; so we'll continue to discuss this issue with
the Russian government. We'll want to be assured of Russian government
compliance with the 1995 agreement. But I want to be clear, the United
States does not believe that Russia has transferred the missiles
talked about in The
Washington Times story to Iran.
Q: There's a difference between sales and actual transfers. Has there
been a sale, or discussion of a sale?
BURNS: We do not believe there has been a sale. We do not believe
there has been a transfer of any kind of those weapons -- the
shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft weapons that Bill Gertz talked about in
his story this morning; and that's our position.
Q: Or discussion of a sale?
BURNS: Excuse me?
Q: Or discussion of a sale?
BURNS: Well, I mean, now you're asking me to prove almost the
impossible -- has any Russian ever talked to any Iranian about a
possible sale? I don't know the answer to that question. There have
been a lot of press reports that has happened, that there have been
some conversations. I cannot confirm that. I don't think I'm in a
position to say no Russians and Iranians have never discussed it. But
I am in a position to say, no sales, no transfers.
Q: Can we go back to two days ago, unless you covered it at the
beginning of the briefing, on the reports of North Korean missiles
BURNS: Ah, yes --
Q: It was Monday, we had -- you couldn't validate the report. You
couldn't authenticate the reports then. Do you know more now than you
BURNS: I do not know more. I cannot confirm the deployment of that
missile that the Japanese and others have been worried about. But I
can say, Barry, we're sufficiently concerned about North Korea's
program -- missile development program, and reports of transfers --
that we have scheduled on May 12th and 13th in New York these missile
talks with the North Koreans. And I'm sure that this issue will be
raised by Chuck Kartman in our bilateral talks on Friday, when they're
held with the North Koreans.
Q: On North Korea, could you just -- let me try this one on you. You
say that there may be briefings later today about the talks that are
going on in New York. But things seem to be going well so far. Can you
tell us that you do not yet have an answer from North Korea as to
whether they're willing to join the four-party talks?
BURNS: Well, I can tell you this, and I just had a brief probably
five-minute conversation with Chuck Kartman -- he had just left the
negotiating room -- that the first couple of hours of discussions were
quite positive and encouraging.
We do not yet have any agreement that can be announced. Certainly, I
think the discussions need to go on for several more hours up in New
York before we will know if we have a final agreement that can be
announced. And that's why I just wanted to tip you off. Obviously this
is a very important story, and if the trends are positive and if there
is an agreement, obviously we'll have an announcement to make this
Q: Is that because the North Koreans have come back with more
questions about exactly what the ground rules would be in such talks?
BURNS: David, I don't know the answer to that question. Chuck just
told me that there are number of issues that he felt he had to go over
with the North Koreans and the South Koreans. And he thought that
would take until 5:00 or 6:00 this afternoon. Now, what I would expect
-- if those talks are successful -- if they re successful ultimately,
I would suspect that Chuck would have something to say in New York,
that Secretary Albright would have something to say here, perhaps in a
prepared statement. And that I'm sure the North and South Koreans will
make themselves available to the media.
But I do want to caution you, there is no -- we haven't concluded
these discussions. But Chuck reports that they have -- that they are
encouraging, that there have been some positive things happening. And
I think you have seen some positive statements by Vice Minister Kim
Gye Gwan, as he entered the meeting today. He said he thought they
would be positive talks today. So all that is looking up. But we have
to wait a couple more hours to see how this is consummated.
Q: I'd like to go back to Iran and arms. An Israeli arms merchant has
been arrested allegedly for supplying chemical weapons components to
Iran. And the arrest was supposedly or said to be at U.S. urging. And
the issue is also said to have come up in meeting between Clinton and
Netanyahu. Do you have any comment on that?
BURNS: I don't, Howard. It's the first I have heard of that. I'll be
glad to look into that for you. But I will say this. We have a
standard when it comes to Iran. We don't believe that any country in
the world, or any private manufacturer in the world, ought to add to
Iran's military capabilities with conventional missiles or related
technology; with chemical or biological missiles; and obviously, with
any nuclear technology. That is why we have consistently opposed many
of the programs that China and Russia have underway that are to assist
the Iranian nuclear power program because we don't want any training
or any related civilian technology to give Iran a lead in developing
military technology. So we have zero tolerance when it comes Iran and
its own military capabilities.