News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

NORTH KOREA
18US believes access to underground facility is a major problem.
18,20Failure to resolve the access issue would call into question viability of Agreed Framework.
20Failure to resolve access issue would have negative consequences.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 126
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1998, 12:25 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)


..............

QUESTION: Talking about interesting international cities - Pyongyang. I wanted to know basically whether the meetings went ahead as planned, whether you've got any reading yet from them?

MR. RUBIN: Well, he arrived today. As you know, our position is to focus on the importance of getting access to this important site that is suspicious to us - this underground site.

Let me say to those of you who seem to draw dramatic and unjustified conclusions from Secretary Albright's comments on Friday, it is her view and it is the State Department's view that a failure to resolve this issue would call into question the viability of the agreed framework.

One doesn't need to repeat that position every time to have it, and I hope people will take a look at the panoply of statements the Secretary has made about a subject like that before imputing a particular view based on the absence of one sentence at one time or another.

Secretary Albright from the beginning has taken the view that this is a major problem, and that if we don't get access to this underground facility -- that means verbal assurances are not sufficient - that it will call into question the viability of the agreement.

One can have that view and also have the view that at the Pyongyang facility, where the IAEA is doing its inspecting and where the rods are being transferred, that that is going according to plan.

In other words, at the known declared facilities, the North Koreans are doing what they need to do to ensure that they're not using that facility to develop a nuclear weapon material capability; and still be concerned about what they might do in the future at this other facility. So that is Secretary of State Albright's views, contrary to what some of you might have read.

With respect to what they're doing now, I'm advised that they simply just arrived and so nothing really has happened yet.

QUESTION: Are they expecting to have meetings today or hoping to?

MR. RUBIN: I believe the 16th is the first day of meetings, so they should, according to reliable sources, be having meetings very shortly. The moment they've read out those meetings or told us that they've occurred, provided communications is good, we will pass that on to you.

QUESTION: I mean, you know as well as anybody who says what in this town makes a huge difference. If a senior US official is speaking on background and says they're going to withdraw from the agreement, that's one thing.

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe that's what they said, and certainly the way that whole questioning proceeded argued to me to avoid having senior US officials brief you ever.

QUESTION: Well, it would be better if they make a - when they announce a huge policy shift --

MR. RUBIN: There was no policy shift.

QUESTION: -- they could say it -- can I finish, please?

MR. RUBIN: But, I mean, you're making things up.

QUESTION: Jamie, look at the -- I'm not making anything up and you know I'm not.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, you are. Fine, make it up some more in your question and then I'll answer it.

QUESTION: The point was that the Secretary of State was asked to reiterate what someone else said. She even started to say exactly what you said and stopped.

MR. RUBIN: Now you know what she was about to say?

QUESTION: No, she started with that exact sentence that you have.

MR. RUBIN: And you know what was in the remainder of the sentence?

QUESTION: No, I don't.

MR. RUBIN: Are you a mind reader now?

QUESTION: No, I don't. She started the exact formulation you've started and stopped in mid-sentence.

MR. RUBIN: How do you know what the rest of the sentence was?

QUESTION: I don't know what the rest of it was.

MR. RUBIN: So why are you saying she started to say a certain formulation and then stopped?

QUESTION: I say, she started what you just said - a failure to resolve this issue would call into question the viability of the framework.

MR. RUBIN: How could you know she started to say that if you don't know what the rest of the sentence was?

QUESTION: Because she said - look at the transcript.

MR. RUBIN: Pose a question without mind reading, okay?

QUESTION: Look at the transcript. Look at the exact words she used - "a failure to resolve this question" -- and she stopped and went with another thought. She just stopped right there, we'll just leave it at that - just stopped after that --

MR. RUBIN: So you retract all your mind reading about what she was going to say afterwards.

QUESTION: I didn't say what she was going to say afterwards.

MR. RUBIN: You did; you said she started to say something. So what's the question?

QUESTION: The question is, what is the policy of this government? Is it that the viability of the agreement will be drawn into question to the point of altering your obligations if they don't give access to the site, or, I mean, what is it?

MR. RUBIN: I think I said what the policy is. If you all think that your job is to take every word that someone says on background and see if you can get the Secretary of State to say it, then you don't seem to have any interest in having background briefings. And I will take that to heart, and I will encourage them not to have background briefings in the future on this subject. That is going to be my policy until I can understand better the logic of your questioning.

But with respect to our policy, our policy is the one that I stated from the podium and that the Secretary of State stated when she was here - which is that this is a matter of major significance to us. If it's not resolved, it will affect the viability of the regime.

Using words like "affecting the viability of the regime" have consequences. I even said, I believe, from the podium that if we don't have this resolved, there will be negative consequences. So it seems to me beyond that, it's inappropriate for me to say other than that we are working to get to the bottom of it.

QUESTION: Well, background briefings -- if the sole use for background briefings is to manipulate information prior to negotiation and to give information that US officials will not stand by publicly in the future, then maybe it's better, by my point of view, that you don't have background briefings.

MR. RUBIN: I'll make sure you're never at a background briefing.

QUESTION: Good.

MR. RUBIN: Thanks.

QUESTION: On the contrary, background briefings are very helpful

(Laughter.)

-- especially those on North Korea.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)

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