Press Briefing by Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci
The Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EDT
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: Good afternoon. I'd like to begin with a comment or two on this morning's meeting. President Carter met this morning with the National Security Advisor and some other officials, including myself. We met for about two hours. It was a good meeting. It provided more detail on his visit to DPRK -- to North Korea. We learned more about the message that he is carrying back. I'd say the talks were very constructive and very useful.
During the course of that meeting, President Clinton also spoke with President Carter for over a half an hour. And I'd say, on balance, we now are in a position to do as we said we would, which is to follow up on the results of President Carter's trip in diplomatic channels. And we plan to do that just as soon as possible.
I'd be prepared to answer questions now.
Q: Do you agree with the former President that the crisis is over?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: We have never said that this was a crisis. Our view of this is that we are working very hard to avoid a crisis from materializing. And it may well be that President Carter has brought back something upon which we can build and defuse the situation.
Q: Do you agree with his assessment, whatever it was, whether it was a crisis or not, that the serious situation has been ameliorated or mitigated to some extent?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I think what we have here -- I think you're looking for a characterization of what has happened. And I think the characterization I'm comfortable with is that there may be an opening here. Certainly we're very appreciative of President Carter's good efforts. If they do in fact lead to practical results, we'll be extremely pleased, obviously. But at this point, we're -- our posture is one in which we really do need to follow up on what he has brought back to see just exactly how much is there.
Q: Did you get precise detail from President Carter about what the North Koreans mean by a freeze in their nuclear program?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: We spoke at some length with President Carter about his understandings of what the North Koreans had told him. I will tell you that our view is as we stated it last week, that what we are looking for at this point is for the North Koreans to agree that they really will not reprocess any of that spent fuel, not separate any more plutonium; that they will not refuel the reactor -- that is to say, not produce any more plutonium; that they will maintain the presence or permit the IAEA to maintain the presence of the inspectors and, generally, to maintain the continuity of safeguards.
And when I say we're going to follow up in diplomatic channels, that's what we're going to do.
Q: If I could just follow up on that -- is it your understanding from what he has told you so far, is it your understanding that the North Koreans are willing to meet those three specific conditions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: What I can tell you at this point is we have a better appreciation of the position of the DPRK, but our intention to get a precise and official view is to do that in a diplomatic channel. And I really can't go beyond that.
Q: Could you give us your reaction to his statement that there are no unanswered questions? And tell me, if you would, what the step is. Do you go to New York? Do you talk to the U.N. delegation? What is your --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: Sorry, I need for you to help me here -- "there are no more unanswered questions" -- can you give me a context?
Q: He just says, as far as I'm concerned, there are no unanswered questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I'm sorry, I can't explain what President Carter meant by that, and I would really ask you to ask him what the context is for that.
Is there another question there that I --
Q: Yes. Do you go to New York now? What happens now? Tomorrow --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: The modality, as diplomats like to say, for following up in diplomatic channels I really can't comment on at this point. What I can tell you is, we will follow up, we'll follow up just as quickly as we can.
Q: Are you reconsidering, sir, the need for sanctions? Are sanctions, indeed, held in abeyance, as he suggested?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: Our position on sanctions is, as we have said it is, and that is that we are pursuing consultations in New York. Certainly, our hope is that if as a result of the follow-up in a diplomatic channel, we can agree on the pursuit of a settlement through a diplomatic means, through a third round, that in that context, certainly once that is agreed we would suspend their effort at sanctions.
Q: Do you generally agree with Mr. Clinton just that you can generally trust what they're telling you at this point, what the North Koreans are saying that they will agree to do? Do you feel that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I think what I would prefer to say is that we will be going back to the DPRK. We will try to be precise about exactly what they are prepared to do, and if what they are prepared to do will meet our needs with respect to a basis, then we'll go to a third round. I think at this point, as we have been for some time, we've taken the position that what happens on the ground in North Korea at the nuclear facilities is something that needs to be monitored by the IAEA. We need to have verification. That's a standard international condition; it's nothing special in this case, and it's something we hold to.
Q: What is there in Mr. Carter's report to you this morning that leads you to the conclusion that, quote, "there may be an opening here." What makes you think there is an opening?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: President Carter reported when he was in the DPRK and, indeed, gave us more detail this morning about the interest of Kim Il Sung and others in the DPRK government to, in the first instance, be willing to freeze the nuclear program, an interest in genuinely decommissioning and putting aside a graphite technology, which is, from a proliferation perspective, very troubling, and move to light water reactors; generally an interest in improving relations and meeting international standards; and in the context of an overall settlement, in fact, even settling questions of the past of special inspections, which was the issue, you will recall, over which this current situation materialized over a year ago.
So there's much that could be there, and the issue, again, to say it over again is, we need to determine whether it is there.
Q: What was there at Camp David today that was so important that President Clinton can come here to the White House and meet with President Carter in person?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I'm sorry, I cannot answer that. I simply don't know what was going on at Camp David today, so I can't speak to that.
Q: What was the reaction to the offer by Kim to allow joint searches for men missing from the Korean War through the U.S. and North Korea? And this is something that's been hanging fire for a long time and he's now professed to offer agreement on it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: Yes. I can't speak to this in any detail, but the preliminary assessment of this, like much else, is very positive. If, indeed, this is a new position by the DPRK, if, indeed, they are offering to have joint efforts and locating and then executing the return of remains, it would be very welcome. But exactly what's involved here and what is the DPRK position I can't say at this point.
Q: Will it be pursued through the same channels as the verification on the nuclear issue, or is there a separate channel on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: It will be a separate channel. It will be a separate channel.
Q: Can you tell us about that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I'm afraid I can't speak to that. It will be a separate channel in Korea, I'm certain, but not in the same context as we're pursuing the nuclear issue.
Q: I understand that you want to hear from the North Koreans directly precisely what they're willing to do. But from what President Carter reported, are they willing to meet the conditions you've laid out? Or, alternatively, was there anything that he had to report that gives you pause?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I think that really goes back to the same question, and I can't go beyond what I said before. We have substantially more detail as a result of today's meetings, and they were very useful, but for an official in an authoritative position of the DPRK, it is reasonable to expect that we would get that in diplomatic channel. And that's exactly what we're going after.
Q: Did you express any concerns, or did Mr. Lake, to President Carter about mixed messages?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: There is no question that all of us read the newspapers over the last few days.
Q: But was there any direct concern expressed to him in this meeting today?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I think we all agreed in the course of this meeting that U.S. policy was stated by President Clinton. I don't think President Carter had any problem with that whatever. And I think we are all on the same sheet of music.
Q: All on the same sheet of music?
Q: You are now?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: That is my understanding, yes.
Q: Were there some dissonant chords on that sheet of music? (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I love the metaphor, but I can't go any further with it.
Q: How are you going to coordinate with South Korea as to North and South Korean summit? That's another message that President Carter brought up.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: Obviously, we welcome the concept of a summit meeting between the two Presidents as a step we hope would ultimately lead in a reduction of tensions between North and South Korea. And, obviously also, we will be talking to the Republic of Korea about their plans, as we will be describing to them our plans with respect to following up on the matters that President Carter brought back from him. Consultations, in short, with the Republic of Korea will continue across the whole range of these issues.
Q: How can you say that you're all on the same sheet of music when President Carter just told us that the agreement is a done deal, that there's no need for sanctions, we should go directly into a third round? And you're saying something quite different -- that it's not a done deal, you need to have clarification through diplomatic channels, you need verification of what Kim Il Sung said? We're getting a message from Carter even today that is totally at variance from what you're giving us. Can you reconcile those two?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: What I can do for you is tell you that by saying that we're on the sheet of music I did not mean to say that everything that President Carter thinks and everything that President Clinton thinks are exactly the same about all matters. What I meant to say by that is, on the issue I thought was before us, whether President Carter had a different view about what we were doing in New York, I did not think he did based upon our conversations today.
My own view, having listened to President Carter, is that he understands that we are indeed continuing to consult on sanctions. And President Carter has views about the utility of sanctions; he has views about the North Koreans, and those are the views of President Carter. And I invite you to explore them with him. I can't say to you that at every point, this administration will agree with President Carter. But he certainly has a right to those views.
On the substance of what we are doing right now, I don't detect any difference in principle or important difference whatever. He well understands that our intention is to take advantage of this opening that he may well have created here. And I think he's certainly extremely supportive of that. That's what we talked to him about in detail, as well as the message he was bringing back. So I say again, I don't think there is any substantive difference, and I think the characterization as it being otherwise is incorrect.
Q: So overall, you view the trip as helpful to forming U.S. policy. You view the Carter mission as an assist rather than as something negative.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GALLUCCI: I would like to answer that unambiguously and clearly -- yes, we welcome President Carter's efforts, and we intend on following up on them immediately.
Q: Dee Dee, will we hear from the President today or do you have a statement from him, a written statement on this?
MS MYERS: No.
Q: Is there any reason why he has nothing to say?
MS. MYERS: Secretary Gallucci just spoke on behalf of the administration, and we don't have anything else planned for today.
Q: Do you expect him to talk when he gets in?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Do you know when he's coming back?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Q: A 30-minute telephone conversation within the twohour meeting?
MS. MYERS: No. The meeting lasted two hours. The phone conversation was an additional half hour.
Q: You mean after the two hours?
MS. MYERS: I think it was actually before.
Q: just before 10:00 a.m. The meeting broke up just after noon.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. He met with Tony and a couple of others. Then they took the phone call for about half an hour. Then he continued meeting.
Q: The total overall time was two hours.
Q: When Carter met with these guys, was it one-on-one, or was it like a round robin meeting, or how was it?
MS. MYERS: It was Tony one-on-one for a while, and then the expanded group that included Win Lord, Sandy Berger, Bob Gallucci and Dan Poneman.
Q: Do you care to characterize the phone conversation he had with the President?
MS. MYERS: I t was a very good conversation.
Q: Where was it in the meeting? Was it the end, middle-end?
MS. MYERS: Middle. (Laughter.)
Q: You mean it was close to either the beginning or the end?
MS. MYERS: Correct. It was neither the beginning, nor the end.
Q: What I'm really trying to ask, Dee Dee or George, is was there something the President wanted to hear before he'd get on the phone? Was there something they wanted to elicit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He just wanted a briefing.
END 1:23 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269778