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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing

Wednesday, March 12, 1997 Briefer: Nicholas Burns

QUESTION: Can you give us any specific results from the meetings that took place with North Korean officials yesterday and tell us if any more were scheduled for today?

MR. BURNS: Mark Minton had a good meeting with his North Korean counterparts yesterday. Mark Minton is our Korean Office Director. He met with Mr. Li Gun. They talked about a variety of bilateral issues, including our joint efforts to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers lost in the Korean War. They discussed our non-proliferation concerns, the Agreed Framework. They discussed the establishment of liaison offices. I believe the North Korean delegation went on a real estate tour yesterday of possible sites for their liaison office in Washington.

But we do not have an agreement and have not yet agreed on a date to establish those liaison offices. That's ahead of us, and that will depend on some of the logistical issues that are very important to us in these conversations. So we think it was a good visit. Mr. Kim Gye Gwan, the Vice Foreign Minister, is in Washington but on a private visit, and as far as I know, he has not seen American Government officials.

We were also asked yesterday if Chuck Kartman would be traveling to North Korea, and he has no plans to do so at this time.

QUESTION: Anyone on the schedule for today with any State Department officials?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe that there are any meetings scheduled today, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the course of the day there were contacts or meetings at this mid-level that I've described. It wouldn't be a surprise at all, because we do have these contacts ongoing with the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

QUESTION: Has (inaudible) been made to have another round of talks specifically on these issues, liaison offices, and MIAs?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there's been any agreement on a schedule to establish a liaison office. I'm pretty sure there hasn't been an agreement. That's ahead of us, and that will depend on some of these logistical concerns that we have. Obviously, reciprocity is a very important concept in the establishment of liaison offices, reciprocity being a foundation for diplomacy in many ways.

Steve.

QUESTION: On North Korea, is there anything in the mix there about this very fine candidate, as I understand it, for the NBA that exists in the North but can't make it into the league?

MR. BURNS: That's an intriguing question. I believe that Mr. Katz's newspaper had an article on the sports section of USA Today on a 7'8" North Korean basketball player -

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: We have heard -

QUESTION: (inaudible) as far as eligibility for George Washington University.

MR. BURNS: I had a different thought.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know, the Celtics.

MR. BURNS: The Boston Celtics are in the cellar, and they desperately need a center to combat Akim Olajuwon and Gheoghe Muresan and he's 7'8. He's taller than Gheoghe Muresan, so that was my thought, the Boston Celtics, not GW.

We've heard indirectly that a North Korean basketball player has expressed interest in playing professional basketball in the United States, and we're not aware of any visa application; and, if an application were submitted, we'd have to review it, as we normally do. But it's quite an intriguing story, and I want to thank Mr. Katz's newspaper for bringing this to the attention of Boston Celtics' fans everywhere. Thank you, Lee.

QUESTION: A follow-up -

MR. BURNS: They desperately need help.

QUESTION: They're a disgrace to the Celtics -

QUESTION: Nick, is there anything new on Primakov's visit?

QUESTION: Nick, can I (inaudible).

MR. BURNS: We'll go back to that, Steve.

QUESTION: Nick, the North Korean delegation is scheduled to leave today for New York. How do you assess the whole event or series of events, starting with last week's Four-Party Talks and Friday's bilateral talk on the yesterday's meeting? A senior State Department official after Four-Party Talks, he described it was a modest progress. So how do you -

MR. BURNS: A senior U.S. official?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BURNS: I always agree with everything senior U.S. officials say -

QUESTION: It was after Four-Party Talks, so he had bilateral talk on yesterday's meeting.

MR. BURNS: Is this a senior official in New York? Can you divulge your sources?

QUESTION: Yes. It was - well - background briefing.

MR. BURNS: Right. I always agree with senior American officials, speaking in New York, who characterize the process last week as modest progress. It was a very good opportunity for us to put forward with the Republic of Korea a proposal for the Four-Party conference. We believe we made a good offer, and we hope that Mr. Kim Gye Gwan will return to Pyongyang and will be able to convince his senior associates in the North Korean Government that they ought to join China, South Korea and the United States in Four-Party talks.

We're pleased with the modest progress that was made, and we've had some good bilateral talks with the North Koreans - a good chance to review things with the South Koreans as well as with the Japanese Government on Saturday in New York. So I think we made some steps forward, but I don't want to certainly exaggerate the success, because we won't know ultimately until we hear back from the North Koreans exactly where we are on the Four-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Well, you're probably just waiting for North's answers to Four-Party Talks?

MR. BURNS: As we say, the ball's in their court. Right. We're waiting back to hear from the North Koreans.