View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 10, 1999
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                              JOE LOCKHART

                           The Briefing Room

3:43 P.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you, Bruce. (Applause.) Thank you, thank you. Somehow I don't think that was for me.

Do we need to wait a minute while people come up or -- questions?

Q Is there any evidence that the Serbs are beginning in any way to pull off from Kosovo -- that we know of?

MR. LOCKHART: We have seen no evidence at all of any troop withdrawal.

Q No? And NATO hasn't --

MR. LOCKHART: No. I mean, I've checked at all the places you would expect me to check.

Q Have you tried to check out his statement, further, in Belgrade in any way? Is there any way to find out what they're talking about?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know that, beyond seeing what he does, that we spend that much time focusing on the words. As we've said all along, we want to see actions here. It's deeds, not words. And as the President said outside, there are a series of conditions that need to be met, the minimum level -- to reverse the ethnic cleansing, and allow the refugees to return. And we need to see movement on all of those.

Q But actually, the President seemed to be a little optimistic about it. He said, a little daylight, a little progress, every day a little better than the day before.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you're seeing some evidence that the air campaign is having an impact on Mr. Milosevic.

Q Mr. Milosevic's thing, I believe.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you've seen a series of actions from Mr. Milosevic. He has not, obviously, reached the conditions that NATO has set forward. But I think you're beginning to see some of the impact of the air campaign, and I think he now knows, with all certainty, that this air campaign will continue. He knows the damage that it's done to his forces, to his ability to repress Kosovo. And he, perhaps, is looking for a way out of this.

Q Joe, in view of this morning's New York Times report that the CIA used outmoded maps of Belgrade, and also failed to check on the ground, so that the Chinese embassy was bombed, does the White House agree with Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon's statement that we have the best planning in the world? Or does this operation more closely resemble Inspector Clouseau leading the Keystone Kops?

MR. LOCKHART: That one probably took all weekend to come up with.

I do agree with Mr. Bacon. I think we have the finest forces in the world. We have -- this campaign has run with a higher degree of precision than I think -- than I think you can look at, in any conflict. But we have to understand and recognize that mistakes happen and, in this case, a tragic mistake.

Q They should have used up-to-date maps, and they should have checked it on the ground, is that your conclusion?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm certainly not going to get into a long, involved discussion of this.

Q Well, just make it short and pithy.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me try this. As I told some of you this morning, the President is currently -- had dropped in at the end of a PC for -- a PC on Kosovo, principals committee meeting. After that meeting Secretary Cohen and some others will give for the President a briefing on their review of the situation.

They've already briefed the appropriate committees on the Hill this morning. And I think Secretary Cohen, after he's had a chance to talk to the President, will go back over to the Pentagon and talk to reporters there.

Q Does the President feel that the progress toward some kind of settlement that had been made last week was set back by the Chinese bombing?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. I think that the conversations that Mr. Chernomyrdin and others have been having, continue. Strobe Talbott is in Moscow today. Mr. Chernomyrdin is in China, is continuing to actively look to move the diplomatic process along.

We are going to continue to prosecute this air campaign until the NATO conditions are met. This is, as the President said, a tragic mistake -- and there's no getting around that. But it would compound the tragedy of it if somehow NATO took a step back and didn't continue prosecuting this campaign to reverse the barbaric acts that President Milosevic has perpetrated against the people of Kosovo.

Q You had hoped to go to the United Nations and get I think what the President called an endorsement or an embrace. What are those plans now? Does this slow that down and what effect --

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I don't know if it slows it down. I think the ambassador from Washington, the Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Lee, said yesterday that if Russia and the Yugoslav authorities and NATO could work out something along the lines of something that met the NATO conditions and that the Yugoslavs could agree to, that they wouldn't block a resolution in the United Nations.

Q Have the Chinese told you directly that they would not --

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think they said it on television, which is fairly directly.

Q Joe, is your interpretation of the events that are happening inside China, do you think they're more about, you know, the upcoming Tiananmen anniversary and internal domestic politics than they are a sign that there's going to be a new chill, a new kind of permanent chill?

MR. LOCKHART: I think -- I'm not sure I'm in a position to really speculate on what the meanings of all of the protests are. Clearly, there is sentiment among many Chinese that this was a tragic incident. And they have a right to be upset by the circumstances that led up to this.

As far as whatever domestic political considerations are playing into that, I really can't speak to them.

Q -- pressing this a little too loudly, though? I mean, you say it was a mistake and it was -- they're really going whole hog here.

MR. LOCKHART: Let me say that we certainly are troubled by the vocal support and sanctioning of some of these demonstrations, but we do take heart in the government's public statements -- and we've seen it in private actions -- that they will respect international law and protect American diplomatic personnel around China.

Q -- know that people know that we've apologized?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that it's -- clearly, I think it's important to the United States government that the Chinese people understand our view of this and the words that have been expressed by the President, the Secretary of State, the Ambassador. I think you're beginning to see today some of that in the state-run Chinese press.

Q Joe, does the President feel he's being snubbed by Jiang Zemin, in that his phone calls won't be taken?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not certain that that's the sentiment he -- he has sent a diplomatic message, in that message he expressed a willingness to talk about this on the telephone when President Jiang is ready. And when he is ready, I'm sure the President and he will have that conversation.

Q But he won't initiate another call until he hears the President of China is ready?

MR. LOCKHART: Diplomatically, the ball would be in his court.

Q Joe, what's the situation at the embassy?

MR. LOCKHART: I think similar to how I described this morning. I think at this point it's considerably calmer than it was yesterday. The embassy personnel, both in Beijing and around the country, are able to move in and out of the embassy. Again, we've received assurances, both in Beijing and from local governments around China, that they will work with us, as they have, in providing the necessary security.

Q The Ambassador is not trapped in the embassy?

MR. LOCKHART: No. No, the Ambassador has chosen at this point to stay because there's important work to do there. But personnel has left the residence. People have rotated in to replace some of those who were there all weekend.

Q Joe, the President has apologized twice publicly, once in a letter.


Q The Chinese are demanding an official apology. What is the definition of an official apology?

MR. LOCKHART: I would hope that they would recognize what the President said in his letter and what he said today as something official. It was certainly something he felt and said and spoke from his heart.

Q -- demands for an investigation?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as we've told you, the Pentagon is reviewing this. Secretary Cohen, again, will have more to say about this later today. But we have as much reason to look into this and the circumstances as I think anyone else would.

Q Joe, will NATO pay restitution? Is there any sort of process for that, or willingness by the U.S. to pay restitution?

MR. LOCKHART: There are a lot of issues that are going to play out down the road, compensation is one of them. I just don't have any information on that.

Q Has the President stopped apologizing now?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has clearly expressed his views on this subject.

Q Joe, do you think China is taking advantage from this -- because 10 years ago was the march for freedom. And today they are marching against freedom or against the United States.

MR. LOCKHART: I think I will stay away from trying to speculate on motives.

Q Joe, is there any indication that part of the Chinese demonstrations are being charged by the government to distract from the spy scandal? And do the Chinese people know about the --

MR. LOCKHART: That, I'm not sure of. Again, there's television evidence that they support and sanction the demonstrations. The Vice President of China went on television and talked about that. As far as the motives for doing that, I think they should speak for themselves.

Q It's been several hours, now, since the Tanjug Report. Do you think that was just a trial balloon, or a phony, or what? What's it all about?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, President Milosevic will have to speak for himself. I think he understands at this point -- and if he doesn't, he should -- that he needs to meet the NATO conditions, and that half-measures and half-steps aren't enough.

Q But what do you see happening? I mean, do you have some sense of -- is there a pullout or not?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, we don't see -- as of the last time I checked, which was just before I came out here -- that there's evidence of a significant pullout.

Q Is there evidence of any pullout?


Q If there was evidence of a significant pullout, what would that mean?

MR. LOCKHART: It would mean that maybe he's taken one step, or half a step, towards what he needs to do. But this isn't a multiple choice test for him. He needs to meet the conditions. He needs to remove his forces, all of his forces. He needs to allow the refugees to return, with security and autonomy. And he needs to allow an international security presence, with NATO at its core, to guarantee those things.

Q You haven't seen any evidence of any pullout whatsoever?

MR. LOCKHART: None has been reported to me.

Q Joe, how concerned are we that the actions of the Chinese government, and the anti-Americanism evinced by the Chinese protesters, are going to harm the prospects for WTO in Congress?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- I take WTO in specific -- we've been working for 13 years to try to find a commercially viable way for China to enter WTO, because we believe it's in China's interests. We believe it's in the interests of the United States, and in the interest of all free-trading countries.

We will continue to work that, because it remains in the interests of both countries. And I think, overall, the engagement policy that we've pursued on a number of levels, including trade, is in the interest of both countries, and that's why we will continue to pursue it.

Q I understand all that, but you have the spying allegations, you have, now, this going on over there in Beijing, the American embassy being attacked. Don't you have to do something more on the Hill at this point to ensure that any kind of WTO --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think what we need to do is continue to talk to the Chinese, to get the best deal we can -- the best deal in the interests of the United States interests. That's what we're working to do. And we think if we get a commercially viable, good deal for American business and American workers, then the Hill will take care of itself.

Q As of this moment, Joe, how would you describe U.S.-Chinese relations?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that we have a tragic accident here, a tragic mistake that the Chinese government feels very strongly about. But it is -- good relations are manifestly in the interest of both nations, and we will continue to work at this until we work through it.

Q Do we have -- are you saying we have good relations now?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying we work very hard to engage in our own interests. We have, certainly, a number of areas where we cooperate, a number of areas where we disagree. This particular incident has obviously caused very strong feelings on behalf of the Chinese government. But we will -- again, we will continue, as we do on all issues, to work very hard to engage the Chinese government, because it is in our interest.

Q Would you say that relations are strained at the moment?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd say that this incident is difficult, but we will continue to work with the Chinese because it's in our interests.

Q What about the halt in --

Q -- to go to another issue?

MR. LOCKHART: No. Jim wants to do some more.

Q What about the halt in talks on human rights and other matters? How do you get those things back on track?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- again, I think in each of these areas it's in the self-interest of both governments to pursue these, whether it is trade, whether it is human rights, whether it is non-proliferation or weapons of mass destruction. These talks were going on for a reason. We hope that they can be restarted at the soonest possible time because it is in both of our interests to do that.

Q Joe, on another issue, if I may?


Q The Associated -- sure? (Laughter.) The Associated Press reported on Friday that Mrs. Clinton has made more trips this year on Air Force One from Washington to New York than to all other places she has visited this year. And these trips, they report, cost the taxpayers $10,000 apiece. And my question is, how long will the President allow this outrage of obvious political campaigning at the taxpayers' expense, or will it require a lawsuit to stop it?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the First Lady does a fine job pursuing her role as First Lady, and --

Q I'm sure she does. This isn't as First Lady, this is as a potential candidate for New York. She's been up there seven times, Joe. That's $70,000 of the taxpayers' money. Can you really, with a straight face, condone this, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll make sure that your outrage is communicated to all appropriate authorities.

Q Just lovely.

Q What's the trip about tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: Tomorrow. Tomorrow's trip is -- the President will talk first here at the White House on something called the New Markets Initiative, and he will then travel to Atlanta for an event there. It basically -- the President has been concerned and has spent a good bit of time over the last three years trying to come to grips with the problem of, even though we have an economy that we haven't seen in a lifetime, if ever in our country, there still are some areas of the country that haven't fully participated, who have lagged behind.

So he has worked with his economic advisors, Mr. Sperling in particular, to try to come up with some ideas on -- and he'll sort of launch that and start talking about that tomorrow, about how, as we go around the country, there remain pockets that have not participated in the economic upturn in this country.

Q What time is the event tomorrow morning?

MR. LOCKHART: Nine thirty a.m. there's an event here; we leave at about 12:25 p.m. The event is at 2:40 p.m. in Atlanta.

Q What's the 9:30 a.m. event?


Q The 9:30 a.m. is the gaggle?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. That's the roundtable.

Q Joe, how long is the meeting with President Cardoso of Brazil supposed to last?

MR. LOCKHART: About 45 minutes. I knew that.

Q No gaggle tomorrow, the 9:30 a.m. --

MR. LOCKHART: No, we'll probably gaggle either just before it or just after it. I wouldn't pass the chance.

Q Is he doing it like he did today, Joe, where it's an opening statement --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know what the coverage is. I'll let you know in the morning.

Q Joe, can you discuss what is President Clinton and President Cardoso, what's the purpose of their meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: I think primarily they'll discuss the progress that Brazil has made as far as their economic reform program. The President will congratulate President Cardoso on the important work that's been done and the progress that's been made. I think there are a number of other regional economic security issues that they'll talk about. We will get you a written readout of that session shortly after the ending of the meeting.

Q Do you know if participation of Brazil in the Space Station will be discussed among them?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll let you know.

Q You don't have an 11:15 a.m. event as listed now on the

MR. LOCKHART: Okay. I'll get the schedule for you.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 4:00 P.M. EDT