THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Naples, Italy)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
July 9, 1994
The Continental Hotel Naples, Italy
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Situation Room called my staff this morning soon after we got word, which was about 5:00 a.m. here; called my staff something after 5:00 a.m. My staff concluded that it was not necessary to wake people up because there was no immediate decision to be made. I was informed something after 6:00 a.m., and the President, then, was informed after 6:30 a.m. sometime.
We drafted a statement for the White House to release in coordination with Secretary Christopher, who had been in touch with Foreign Minister Han in Seoul. And the President then revised the statement and we rereleased it.
I also called Secretary Perry, who consulted with General Shalikashvili and General Luck -- Gary. Army. And as I said, General Luck's and General Shalikashvili's recommendations, with which Perry and I agreed, was that we not place our forces on alert because, as I said, there were no signs that it was necessary. And the President approved that recommendation.
But I would emphasize -- this can be back on the record again -- that we will, of course, be watching the situation very carefully.
Q (Inaudible) -- who had raised the question about the -- (inaudible) -- they would not accepting any foreign representatives, even offer condolences.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, we just don't have any evidence on that.
Q What is your understanding about President Carter --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My understanding is that President Carter, who was on a visit in Tokyo, will be returning to the United States. But you would want to confirm that directly with him.
Q Do you have any idea why it happened? They didn't tell the world about this for a long time -- when did he actually -- Friday?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't know. Well, today is Saturday, and we were informed Washington time late Friday evening.
Q But someone in --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just can't help you. I don't know when he died, what the hour is that he died.
Q We had a story on the wire that said he may have been dead 15 hours before they told --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I just don't know.
Q About the succession, do you have any expectations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me go on background about the succession, if I may. Our understanding is that there is no clear legal procedure for the succession in North Korea. In form, at least, their Assembly elects a president. But we simply don't know what that process will be, but we do know that Kim Jong Il has been groomed as the heir apparent. And we will just have to see what happens.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not very much. The recent American visitors who have been to Pyongyang have not met with him. And so there has been little direct contact between Americans and Kim Jong Il.
Q What do you think -- what's your gut feeling about whether this is good or bad for our interest in stopping the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will have to see what happens now in the talks, because we do have an agreement with the government of North Korea that the talks will proceed, and that during those talks the North Koreans will freeze major elements of their nuclear program verifiably as the talks proceed. And we hope that that agreement will remain in place and that the talks can proceed.
Governments do act essentially on the basis of their interests. And it is in the interest of North Korea and others that these talks continue, and we hope that they will.
Q How might this affect the upcoming summit between the North and South --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have any word as to the status, and we just simply don't know what effect that will have.
Q The military status thing, is that going to be reviewed on a continuous basis?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, we will be watching very carefully to make sure that our troops are --
Q Was it you that told the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, this morning? No, one of his aides did. I asked that he be informed and talked it over with them.
Q Do you know the first name of the Korean minister, Han?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Foreign Minister Han. His friends call him Foreign. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.