View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 17, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                              JOE LOCKHART

                           The Briefing Room

11:50 A.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Welcome to our last briefing of the week. Let me do a couple of things before we get going. One is I think many of you have had, since the departure of PJ Crowley, the pleasure of dealing with his replacement, Jim Fallin. But I want to formally announce that he's come over here to the White House to fill an important role in the NSC Press Office.

Jim has served a lot of operational roles around the world, from serving on the USS Enterprise to the 6th Fleet, and also serving with the Naval Special Warfare Command, better known as the home of the Naval Seals. He assured me today that he did not serve with Governor Ventura, but has met him -- (laughter.) Also worked in theater on Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. I know you all welcome him, and I have had one late breaking tip that the former Colonel Crowley may make his debut on Tuesday. So if you've got hard questions, take them to the Pentagon on Tuesday.

Let me read a statement by the President on North Korea which we put out a few moments ago, for the benefit of those who would like to hear it. Today the President announced his decision to ease some sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea administered under the Trading With the Enemy Act, Defense Production Act, and Department of Commerce Export Administration regulations.

The United States is taking this action in order to pursue improved overall relations with North Korea, support the agreed framework, and as a result of U.S.-Korean discussions in Berlin September 7-12, 1999. On the basis of these discussions it is our understanding that North Korea will continue to refrain from testing long-range missiles of any kind as both sides move toward more normal relations.

The easing of sanctions will allow most consumer goods to be available for export to North Korea and will allow the importation of most North Korean origin goods into the United States. To support this easing of sanctions and the trade of goods, most personal and commercial funds transfers will be allowed between U.S. and North Korean persons.

The relaxation of transportation restrictions will allow commercial air and sea transportation between the U.S. and North Korea for passengers and cargo, subject to normal regulatory requirements.

This easing of sanctions does not affect our counterterrorism or nonproliferation controls on North Korea, which prohibit exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most types of U.S. assistance. Statutory restrictions, such as U.S. missile sanctions will remain in place. Restrictions on North Korea based on multilateral arrangements also will remain in place, such as the Wassenaar arrangement.

Q What is the Wassenaar arrangement?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll get to that.

Q This is in the President's name, not yours -- this has your name on it.

MR. LOCKHART: This is my name and I was reading it from me.

Q Oh, I thought you said it was a statement from the President.

MR. LOCKHART: No, no. We have put that out and a fact sheet. In a few moments Secretary Albright, and Dr. Perry, who is behind and has been very helpful in formulating the policy with North Korea, will be at the podium at the State Department and they can answer detailed questions.

Q This may be a question that will be better for them, but I mean, broadly speaking, if you can put this in a little bit of context for us. What kind of business climate is there over there? How easy is it going to be for U.S. business interest to conduct relations with North Korea? Are they ready to trade with us?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that's better put directly to the North Koreans, but I think, clearly, they have an interest in expanding trade and economic development. And this -- I think you've put your finger on what this is about. This is about trade and investment, not about opening up other assistance, or loosening the restrictions we have based on North Korea as a terrorist state. But I think businesses will have to make decisions on the viability of the market. And from a legal and regulatory framework, the restrictions that have been in place are now being lifted.

Q Joe, is there any reason why we should not view this as a simple successful blackmail attempt? I mean, we're buying them off, in effect, by agreeing to trade with them.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that's a grossly inaccurate way of looking at this. I think you have to look at the importance of promoting our relations with North Korea and the influence it has on the Korean Peninsula. And I think it is vitally important to the stability of that region that North Korea moves, and continues to refrain from the long-range testing. I think, as the National Security Advisor told you all in New Zealand, that would have a very negative impact on the regional stability in the peninsula.

Q But given that, that said, why isn't it a blackmail attempt, or a buy-off?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think we impose -- we have sanctions imposed that will remain. We have sanctions here that we're talking about lifting, which is based on our, U.S., national interests in promoting security in the region. And we believe that this step will promote both of those.

Q What do you get in exchange?

Q What guarantees do you have that they'll adhere? What guarantees do you have that they'll adhere to the test ban?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, this is a very conditional lifting of sanctions. I think, as we've made it very clear, that if they resume testing, that sanctions will be put back on.

Q But Joe, what's so confusing is, all they have to do is say, well, gee, we're going to resume testing. And then you guys go through another negotiations and they get something else out of you, in exchange for something else. Isn't this just a game that you've played over and over again?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. I think, clearly, what I just said is that we have moved to loosen the restrictions on trade and investment based on our understanding that they will refrain from testing. And they will see a reversal of our position if they resume testing.

Q But they haven't tested. All they did was threaten to test. And look what they got for it.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think if you look at your history, they have tested.

Q Joe, given the fact that North Korea has posed a security threat, why do we now have commercial relations with them, or will we have commercial relations with them when we refuse to give that to Cuba, which has not posed such a threat?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we make decisions based on a case-by-case basis, and it is the view of the President's national security team, and a recommendation that the President has accepted, that this is in U.S. interests to take this step, and also in the interest of regional security.

Q Joe, what value of trade and travel and banking transactions do you expect?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me defer those sorts of questions over to the State Department.

Q Joe, is there some kind of deal that they will not supply any more missiles to Iran, Pakistan or other countries, if the U.S. will lift these sanctions?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think what we've talked about here is what's written in the statement, and it's quite clear.

Q Joe, how are U.S. allies in that region taking this? Was this run by the Japanese?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I think the Japanese and the Koreans have been quite involved in this process, and are quite supportive.

Other subjects.

Q Joe, regarding the President's invoking of executive privilege here in the case of the Puerto --

MR. LOCKHART: Let's stay on North Korea for a while. (Laughter.)

Q -- on the Puerto Rican nationalists, now some Democrats have joined Republicans in calling to look at some of these papers here. So this is really not a partisan issue.

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, listen, I think that for the Democrats or for the Republicans, all they need to do is to look closely at what the President said. If they have other questions, we're certainly available to talk to them about the process, about how we went through this.

But there is clearly a constitutional issue here that goes to separation of powers and that is what is at the root of it. I mean, there are some Republicans who aren't even trying to hide it. I mean, Senator Hatch said yesterday that -- he said, the court may very well hold that this is a political event. If that's so, then it's going to have to become a political event. I mean, he's quite openly saying that this ultimately -- they don't have a strong case on the law, but it's a good case politically. And that's something that many people have been saying privately.

Q But some previous Presidents, though, have released voluntarily papers that might come under executive privilege, right?

MR. LOCKHART: I think this case is so clear-cut and so cut and dried, going to separation of powers, that it would make the deliberative process for the President moot for future Presidents if for whatever reason we did not back the Constitution and the right for the President to receive candid and private advise.

Q But I mean, Carter voluntarily supplied information without damaging that precedent.

MR. LOCKHART: We have made the judgment in this case that this is so clear and the law is so compelling that we would damage the prerogative of future Presidents if we were to supply what Congressman Burton is looking for.

Q You said they should look at closely what the President has said. Let me just ask you about one thing the President has said. He said these people shouldn't be held in incarceration, in effect, by guilt by association. There is a tape now, a video allegedly showing two people who, in fact, he gave clemency to making a bomb and they were convicted of conspiracy to make destructive devices, unlawful possession of explosives and so forth. Isn't that more than guilt by association?

MR. LOCKHART: No. They were convicted of very serious crimes. But if you go back to how we've talked about this, their sentences were in excess of what would be given now for those crimes under the mandatory minimum sentences.

Q And that's it? But it's much more than guilt by association.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the point that we have tried to make is our justice system is based on you serve time for the crime you're convicted of, not the crime that people believe you're guilty of. And in this case they were convicted of very serious crimes -- not of maiming or killing, but of serious weapons offenses. But they served -- this is what the President tried to balance. They had already served sentences that exceeded what they'd be sentenced for now under the minimum sentencing guidelines, which all parties agree are tougher than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Q So he drew a line between the people who actually planted the bombs and people who were making the bombs?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, these people were convicted of serious offenses, but were not convicted of any offense that led to killing or maiming.

Q Has the President been in touch with Yeltsin on the bombings, or with Governor Bush on the shootings, or any of these personal things?

MR. LOCKHART: He has not talked to President Yeltsin, he has not talked to the Russians since the bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister, although there have been discussions at different levels of the government.

Q Did he offer some sort of help or --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. We certainly have forensic capabilities and others, and we have offered any assistance we can in these investigations. I'm not aware that that help has been requested or is being taken up yet.

Q Did he talk to Bush at all about the Fort Worth --

MR. LOCKHART: He has not.

Q Joe, as the President opens the U.N. General Assembly session on Monday, number one, how do you view the U.S. and U.N. relationship together? And number two, they are still asking for the money, the President taking the check with him to --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect the President to travel north with a check in his pocket. I think, since the last time the President went to the U.N., we now have a confirmed ambassador, a gifted diplomat, leading our delegation there. That's a positive. On the negative side of the ledger, we still have the arrears issue to work out. And we continue to press Congress to resolve this issue so that the U.S. can pay their fair share at the U.N.

Q And what would be the message about this time?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President will use the last meeting of UNGA in this century to talk about the millennial challenges for the 21st century, particularly as we look at poverty around the world, the ethnic conflict, genocide, crimes against humanity, and other security challenges.

Q What's he doing today?

MR. LOCKHART: He's taking the day off and resting his voice.

Q What prompted him to offer this aid to Russia? Is there concern over stability, over Yeltsin's leadership?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think we obviously have unique and advanced abilities in the area, particularly in forensics. And if that kind of expertise is needed, we are glad to offer it.

Q Have we ever offered before, and have they ever taken us up on it before?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that. That's something we can look into.

Q What's he doing next week?

MR. LOCKHART: What's he doing next week? We want to get to the week ahead already?

Q Joe, if Cuba had missiles, could we make a trade deal with them if they still had missiles?

MR. LOCKHART: We would make decisions based on what the President views as the national security interest of the United States.

Q -- one question. Cardinal O'Connor wrote a column this morning saying, "I did not ask for the release of the Puerto Rican federal prisoners called FALN." The White House seemed to give the impression that he had.

MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that Cardinal O'Connor wrote, or was part of the effort to have the President consider a clemency or commutation of the sentences.

Q Can I have one more on the U.N., please. As the President goes to New York, how does he think that his relations with the rest of the world leaders when he meets them in New York? And also, how about the U.S. relations with the rest of the world today?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you watched the last few summits, whether it be the G-8 or APEC, clearly the world leaders look to the President for leadership. And I think the President remains engaged around the world to pursue the vital U.S. interests and among these groups of leaders now, he's one of the longest serving and senior leaders, and I think they've come to rely on his leadership.

Q Joe, the President has been out pushing his gun control measure, he's been out vocally talking about taxes, talking about Medicare. Is he ever going to go out and start banging the drum for this campaign finance reform bill? And if not, why isn't he?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can find you -- the President has spoken loudly and clearly over the last two years on campaign finance reform. I'll be glad to find you as many references as you'd like and fill up many columns of your paper. We will continue to push for this. Again, it is hard to understand why, given the majority of the House and the Senate support it, the vast majority of the American public support it, that a few senators can keep this from coming to the floor. But we're going to continue pushing.

Q Is he going to participate in any events up on Capitol Hill in the Senate or anything like that?

MR. LOCKHART: What day did we send the letter? Last week. I mean, he's just written to them within the last four or five days.

Q Just to clarify, when you talk about the North Korea sanctions easing, are you saying that if North Korea launches any missile tests, that this would cause a reimposition of sanctions, or is it simply a long-range missile test? Or can you tell us about that?

MR. LOCKHART: Our understanding is that they will refrain from long-range missile testing.

Q So they could do short-range --

MR. LOCKHART: Our understanding is they will refrain from long-term, long-range.

Q This statement refers to "easing." Doesn't this amount to a lifting? A lifting of the sanctions and you say --

MR. LOCKHART: No, there's a broad range of sanctions that remain in place against North Korea. This is an easing of commercial and trade sanctions.

Q But it's not in the specific categories of trade and banking, transportation -- is it not a lifting?

MR. LOCKHART: The sanctions no longer exist on certain commercial and trade transactions.

Q -- that the assets remain frozen? Is that all assets?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, there are some assets that are frozen --

Q That have been unfrozen?

MR. LOCKHART: No, there are some assets that remain, that have not been litigated. And that was not part of these discussions. So the assets do remain frozen.

Q Joe, what's the state of --

Q -- assets, right?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think so.

Q I think it's 1953.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the precise origins of the frozen assets, but I do know that they remained frozen and were not part of this arrangement.

Q Joe, what's the state of play regarding the Colombia issue? There was a discussion in the administration on this aid that General McCaffrey had proposed, and now just in the last few days the Secretary General of the OAS had recommended that one should take more of a military operations against the narco guerrillas in the south in order to --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I can tell you if the question of aid is not resolved we're looking at the best ways and at what levels we can provide aid and assistance to the Colombians. But what is resolved is we do separate military involvement in dealing with the counterinsurgency movement there as separate and apart in something we're not involved in, and separate and apart from our direct aid to the government in fighting narcotics.

Q Will it be resolved by the time the two Presidents meet?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't really anticipate that now.

Q Joe, you said this morning that it's quite possible that you might not support an extenders package unless it includes some of the provisions that the administration wants. What are some of the tax cuts that you would like to see in a smaller tax cut bill?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've got some tax credits on climate change, long-term care, child care, low-income housing, school modernization. So we have a list of things that we think are important. You know, we still believe that we can do a much larger tax bill providing middle-class tax relief. But on the extenders issues, we've got a number of things we want to get done. And we'll be working with Congress to get them done.

Q Do you have any guidance on the veto text that bill next week?

MR. LOCKHART: Sometime next week.

Q Early? Late? I mean, before or after the U.N.? Can you give us a --

MR. LOCKHART: We'll let you know.

Q Joe, is there any concern here that the decision on the Puerto Rican nationalists might increase pressure for clemency for Jonathan Pollard?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think I've addressed that before. Any decision on that will be based on the merits, and what I've said before is, those who try to inject politics into that process will at best be ignored, at worst will find that their efforts are counterproductive.

Q Joe, you used the statement -- you used the phraseology in the Korea statement, "it is our understanding that North Korea will refrain from long-range" --


Q Did they say it or not, Joe? Why that very careful phrasing?

MR. LOCKHART: Because there are a lot of diplomats involved. But I think you can be assured that the words were uttered.

Q Back on Pollard, the President had asked Mr. Ruff to forward, to collect some information, and send it to him. Did he do that before he left?

MR. LOCKHART: That process is not complete.

Q So he didn't comply with the President's wishes?

MR. LOCKHART: He didn't -- the process is not complete.

Q When will it?

MR. LOCKHART: When it's done.

Q On education, tomorrow, is the President going to break any new ground on education, or is that basically the damage that might be done to education if the tax cut goes through?

MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen the latest draft of it, so I'll withhold any characterization of it until later today.

Q Joe, on drugs, given the emphasis on cracking down on the supply, would you acknowledge that the United States, including during the Clinton years, has really done a terrible job trying to stamp down the demand? Demand remains very high for these drugs.

MR. LOCKHART: Demand -- this is a serious problem for this country and many countries around the world. But we have worked on the demand. I think -- I'll give you one example. The advertising campaign that General McCaffrey has spearheaded has had very positive results in reaching kids, and beginning to change attitudes. This is a long-term problem that we're going to continue working on, so I'd disagree with your characterization. But there's still a lot of work to do.

Q Joe, one more on FALN. You've said over the last couple of days that there are legitimate and passionate views on both sides of that issue. But did the White House underestimate the level of opposition to the clemency offer, especially on Capitol Hill?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think the White House understood that coming out -- any decision on this would be controversial. I would like to say that we certainly could hope that people could deal with this on the merits, express their view as both bodies of Congress did. And I think that's legitimate and they have every right to do that. I think if we had any expectation that we wouldn't get into the sort of investigative agenda that the Republicans have pursued for the last five years, it would probably have been naive to think that.

We have what we see once again is the majority party in Congress lacking a substantive agenda that will benefit the American people, and in place of it pursuing an investigative agenda, an agenda about attack politics that has failed them, and has failed them pretty miserably over the last three or four years. But for whatever reason, I saw the Chief of Staff here quoting Mr. Melville and relating it to Captain Ahab. Whatever the reason, they are dogged in their belief and their theology that the best politics are attack politics. Well, we think they're wrong and the American public thinks they're wrong and it has been proven time and time again.

Q Joe, if the Senate Judiciary Committee picks up the votes of a few Democrats in subpoenaing this information will you treat it any differently?

MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely not.

Q How can you say that they're substituting politics for policy when next week you're about to veto their $800 million tax cut?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, look at their entire budget strategy. They know that the numbers don't add up. So I don't view that as substantive, trying to get things done for the American public. They know the numbers don't add up. They're ready to walk away. You read in the paper this morning three Republican senators who are begging the leadership to stop playing games and to be honest with the American public. So I think that this statement is more than justifiable.

Q Well, Joe, setting aside the FALN investigation, do you believe that the Russia money laundering investigation and the Waco investigation are partisan --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know what they're doing on Russia money laundering. As far as I know, that's being done by law enforcement officials, where it should be done. I think on Waco there are real questions that need to be answered. And I think the appointment of Mr. Danforth, former Senator Danforth, will get to the bottom of this. And if Congress wants to do oversight on that, they have legitimate oversight concerns given that they asked for information and were given incomplete information.

Q There is no legitimate oversight role for the Russia money laundering?

MR. LOCKHART: I didn't suggest that there was or there wasn't. I don't know what they're doing on that.

Q Joe, Senator Helms is threatening to hold up the confirmation of Bob Einhorn --

MR. LOCKHART: Add it to the list.

Q -- unless penalties are made against China for allege violations of MTCR. What is the administration --

MR. LOCKHART: The administration's position, as always, is that the Senate should properly use their role of advice and consent, and not as a tool to pursue another political agenda or policy agenda.

Week ahead? Saturday, September 18th, the President will deliver his weekly radio address. He will attend the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner at the Washington Convention Center.

Q What time?

MR. LOCKHART: At 8:15 p.m. Open press. The President will have no public schedule on Sunday. On Monday, the President will have no public schedule.

On Tuesday, the President will travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, departing about 6:55 a.m. His address to the United Nations will be at 10:30 a.m. He will likely also have a series of pull-aside meetings with other leaders while he is in New York. We'll let you know when we have that all nailed down. The President will arrive back at the White House at 8:15 p.m. Note: There is no press plane and no filing center. Pool hold only.

Q Will you send up stenos and that sort of thing or is it just a pool trip?

MR. LOCKHART: It's just a pool trip.

Wednesday, September 22nd, the President has nothing during the day as of now. Wednesday evening, the President will attend two Gore 2000 dinners at the Hay Adams.

Thursday, the President will attend a memorial service for Lane Kirkland at 12:00 noon at Georgetown University, Gaston Hall. Later that afternoon, he will meet with Chairman Arafat and have a brief meeting with President Shevardnadze. That evening, he will host the annual Congressional Picnic and will address the National Democratic Institute Dinner at the Washington Hilton.

Friday, the President and the First Lady will host an event on adoption. The President will address the DNC annual fall meeting at the Washington Hilton and a DNC Democratic Business Council lunch at the Hyatt Regency. He will host the annual press picnic early Friday evening and will attend a dinner for Senator Bob Graham at the Library of Congress.

Thank you.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 12:17 P.M. EDT