Updated: 8 May 1999 Background Briefings


8 May 1999

Morning Briefing

by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea

Good Morning,

I would like to begin by stating that NATO did not intentionally target the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade last night.

The planned target was the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement in Belgrade but the wrong building was attacked. This was a terrible accident.

NATO deeply regrets loss of life, injuries to Chinese diplomatic personnel or to any other innocent civilians present in the Embassy at the time. We also regret damage to the Embassy.

Many Allies are currently in touch with the Chinese authorities in Beijing to express their sympathy and condolences to them, and also to the families of the victims.

I want to stress that Operation Allied Force will continue. And we will continue with the same concern to minimise harm to civilians. NATO never intentionally targets civilians. The overwhelming majority of our targets are military targets, all of them indeed are military targets, and the overwhelming majority of our strikes are accurate. We will do everything in our power to keep it this way.

We will continue NATO's air operations because it is both right and necessary to keep the pressure up on President Milosevic and the Serb leadership until such time as they meet the 5 essential conditions of the international community.

  • to stop the killing;
  • to withdraw their forces;
  • to allow the deployment of an international security presence;
  • to allow the return of all of the refugees and displaced persons;
  • and to work towards a political settlement.

Despite last night's accident, we cannot lose sight of the fundamental purpose of NATO's actions.

  • 1.5 million Kosovars have been displaced, over 900,000 are now outside Kosovo.
  • 100,000 military-aged men are missing.
  • We have reports that 4,600 people have been executed and more than 500 villages in Kosovo have been damaged or destroyed by the Serb forces.

It is to stop these horrors that NATO has resorted to the use of force. In total contrast to NATO, President Milosevic has used his armed forces to deliberately victimise and expel part of his own population. We cannot, and will not, allow this to stand.

But I want to stress also that NATO will continue to support all the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis on the basis of our 5 key conditions. These diplomatic efforts have produced good results this week. It is important that they move ahead without interruption.

I would like to remind the people of Yugoslavia that we carefully select targets that are directly related to President Milosevic's political and leadership apparatus; the military and paramilitary forces that he has deployed in Kosovo; and his ability to support his continued campaign of repression. One man is responsible for the Kosovo tragedy: President Milosevic.

If you consider the list of targets that NATO aircraft struck last night and in the most concentrated attack to date, you will see that our focus was wholly on disrupting the national leadership of the military and special police operations in Kosovo. NATO targeted the Dobanovci Command Complex. Above ground, this is one of the residences used by President Milosevic. Underground, it houses a major bunker complex. NATO had information that suggested that this is now the centre of Milosevic's high command, following the destruction and damage done to other command facilities in Belgrade and the Avala bunker complex.

We also struck last night the Hotel Jugoslavia, which is a location being used as a barracks for Arkan's Tigers in Belgrade and as an alternate Headquarters for the MUP special police forces. The hotel has long been under Arkan's control. He owned the casino as well as the sports club. Since the air campaign began, his forces took over the whole building and have used it as a Command and Control Centre for the operations in Kosovo.

Other targets last night included:

  • the Belgrade Ministry of Defence North
  • the Belgrade Ministry of Defence South
  • the Belgrade Army General Staff building and its satellite communications antennae
  • the Belgrade Federal Republic of Yugoslavia MUP Special Police Headquarters
  • and, finally, the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement weapons warehouse.

Also, to confuse and degrade command, control and communications systems NATO targeted electrical power transformer yards at Belgrade stations 3, 5, and 8 and at Obrenovac.

Finally, let me inform you that the North Atlantic Council will meet today at half past twelve to consult on the current situation in Kosovo and there will be another briefing this afternoon.

I can take just a few questions because I have to go to a meeting with the Secretary General at half past eleven.

Questions And Answers

Craig Whitney, New York Times: Jamie can you explain to us a little more what happened? How close is the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement to the Chinese Embassy and how was the mistake made? Did the planners or the targeters have the wrong information about which building was which, did the pilot point at the wrong building, did the FAC (Forward Air Controller) make the mistake, do you have any of those answers?

Jamie Shea: Craig, I understand that the two buildings are close together. I've said that we struck the wrong building, and I don't know exactly why that happened. That is a subject which of course is still being investigated.

Mark Laity BBC: Just to make it clear, what you're saying is that they aimed at the Chinese Embasssy thinking it was another building, so they actually hit the target they aimed at? It was just the wrong building, they had meant to hit another one? That's correct, is it?

Jamie Shea: Yes.

Mark Laity: And was it laser-guided bombs, was it Cruise missiles?

Jamie Shea The only information, Mark, I have at this moment is that it was precision-guided munitions, but I don't have more information on that at the present time.

Question: Est-ce que ces frappes contre l'Ambassade de Chine n'e vont pas rendre problmatiques les efforts diplomatiques actuels du groupe G8?

Jamie Shea: J'espre que non. Tout en plus que la diplomatie a fait des progrs essentiels, ces derniers jours, qui doivent tre poursuivi. Les pays de l'OTAN ont clairement expliqu aux autorits chinoises qu'il s'agit d'un accident affreux, regrettable, mais d'un accident. Nous n'avons pas dlibremment cibl cet Ambassade, et ce que nous esprons et ce que nous pensons c'est que ceci n'aura pas de consquences politiques longue terme; ce que nous ne souhaitons absolument pas vu la ncessit de poursuivre l'effort diplomatique. Et l'opration va continuer comme je viens de le dire.

Question: Both China and Russia have described this attack, or this incident, as "barbaric". What do you do to repair the diplomatic damage with these two important members of the UN Security Council?

Jamie Shea: We have worked, as you have seen, very successfully with Russia this week in the G8 framework, to put together seven key principles which offer a way forward towards resolving the Kosovo crisis. It is in everybody's interest that that process continue. We believe that Russia will want to continue that process; we will do everything that we can to continue to work together with Russia, but also with China on this. It is in everybody's interest that that process goes forward. As I've said, we have explained to the Chinese authorities that this is an accident - nothing more, nothing less than an accident - and we hope it will have no long-term political repercussions, and we have offered our regrets, sincere regrets, to the Chinese authorities and our condolences to the families concerned. Thank you very much. I will be back at three o'clock and I will report on the Council meeting then.

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