News

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
February 3, 1997

NORTH KOREA
17-18...Joint Briefing with US and South Korea Postponed
18......Cargill-DPRK Grain Deal/Additional Food Assistance

QUESTION: Nick, two questions on Korea. Will the North and South be meeting in New York on Wednesday as scheduled? And the second question is it's been reported that the North Koreans will not meet until some kind of basic guarantee, some kind of - something financial, I think, some support - underwriting I think is the word, Nick - by the U.S. Government for grain sales through Cargill to supply their needs. Can you comment on either of those?

MR. BURNS: We do not expect that the North and South and the United States will be meeting in New York this coming Wednesday, as we had proposed and as we had set. The North Koreans have told us once again that they need to give, as they say, first priority to their business discussions with Cargill and others for the procurement of grain. So therefore it is uncertain when this joint briefing will be rescheduled.

I think having postponed it once and set a date, I don't think we're in a position where we want to set a date again. The North Koreans believe they need to go through their grain discussions. We hope that when those grain discussions are concluded or perhaps even before that they might decide to have this briefing by the United States and the Republic of Korea, which is the first step, we hope, in putting together negotiations for a peace treaty in the Korean peninsula of the type proposed by President Clinton and President Kim last April.

QUESTION: So this has been indefinitely suspended, this meeting, and the question about underwriting - was the U.S. asked by North Korea to underwrite a grain deal between Cargill and North Korea, and what would the definition of "underwrite" be?

MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that the United States Government believes that these are private grain discussions; that the North Koreans ought to work out their deal with Cargill or any of the other companies with which they are dealing, and that the United States Government involvement would be limited to granting an export license if a deal is consummated with an American company.

QUESTION: Nick, can you take that question about whether the North Koreans wanted the U.S. to underwrite the deal?

MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to take that question, yes.

QUESTION: Nick, are there any plans -

QUESTION: Could we go back -

QUESTION: -- to give any further grain to North Korea?

MR. BURNS: We understand that the World Food Program is considering an emergency appeal for North Korea based on the findings of their assessment mission visit by the World Food Program and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations just about five weeks ago in December of last year.

What we have said consistently is that if these organizations do make an appeal, the United States will consider it very seriously. We haven't received the appeal, but we understand they're going to make one, and therefore we'll treat that as a very serious issue. As you know, the United States has responded to these appeals in the past.