State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 28, 200
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 28, 2003
NORTH KOREA 1 Missile Testing and Nuclear Weapons Program 2-3 U.S. North Korea Relations 3 U.S. Chinese Discussions on Denuclearization of the Peninsula
TURKEY 4 Congressional Statements
ALBANIA, CROATIA, MACEDONIA 4-5 Postponement of U.S. Adriatic Charter Signing
SYRIA 5 Discussion Topics with U.S. Officials
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 5-6, 7 Status of the Roadmap Release 6 Reaction to Abu Mazen s Arafat Travel Comments
IRAQ 7-9 Participation of Iraqi Groups in Baghdad Meeting 10 Status of UN Iraqi Ambassador 12 Arrest of Self-Proclaimed Leaders
COTE D IVOIRE 9 Negotiations to Establish UN Political Mission
BELGIUM 10, 11 Universal Competence Legislation and US Military Officials
CYPRUS 10-11 Green Line Crossings
LAOS 13 Armitage Meeting with Senior Officials on Trade Relations
12:30 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I see the Secretary answered all your questions outside at C Street a few moments ago, but if there happens to be one or two left, I would be happy to entertain them here.
QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask about North Korea, but I wonder if there's anything more you're prepared to say. He said the word "testing" come up, the word "test" didn't come up, but there's knowledge that they have tested, or is there?
MR. BOUCHER: No. They have tested missiles. They haven't tested nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: They've tested missiles.
MR. BOUCHER: Testing did not come up in the context of nuclear weapons when they talked about having nuclear weapons. It was expressed slightly differently than that. The Secretary, I think, gave you some idea of how they had expressed it. The point is, I think the one that we've made before -- you have reports today. You know, last Thursday it was this, the next Friday it was that, today it's that, Sunday it's that. These are all little pieces being picked out of a larger context. All of these things were said. They said they had nuclear weapons. They said they might, you know, as the Secretary, I forget how the Secretary put it, talked about some way of, you know, something they might do with them.
They said they might get rid of them. They said they might -- they said they were reprocessing. They said they might get rid of all their nuclear programs. They said they might get -- you know, stop their missile exports.
The point it that we have to come back now that Jim Kelly is back, look at all these things together, look at the proposals that they made that the Secretary talked to you about last week, look at the statements and threats or bluster or how ever you want to describe them that they said. We'll look at it in the whole context and decide -- analyze it and decide what we do next.
QUESTION: Last week when you said there'd be no quid pro quo, I assume that still applies?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does that cover some pact, some treaty, some non-aggression assurance?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been, I think, fairly open in the past about the fact that we have no intention to attack North Korea. The President said it, we've all said it here, there's no particular constraint in saying that since that is our policy, although all options always remain on the table, but the points that we made in the meeting, I think, are better grounding for saying what our policy is as far as to what our policy isn't -- that we made very clear that there needs to be a verifiable and irreversible termination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. And we also made clear that once North Korea did that, we could move on or move back to the comprehensive approach to U.S. - North Korea relations that we had talked about before.
We also pressed for the early inclusion of other concerned parties in the talks, first and foremost, South Korea and Japan. As the Secretary said, we felt the meetings in Beijing were quite useful. They offered all three sides an opportunity to express their positions. It was not a negotiating session, but North Korea put forward what it called its proposals, or its plan. The Chinese put forward very clearly their own point of view, and we welcomed that. And we put forward very clearly out point of view, which is that they need to get rid of these nuclear weapons programs. And that point, I think, has been made many times.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary spoke about the North Koreans wanting something considerable in exchange for giving up the nuclear and the missile programs. The South Koreans are under the impression that this "something considerable," is what their quid pro quo is, for want of a better word, are normalization of relations with the United States as well as economic measures. Is that basically correct, or is there something else in there?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're sort of starting to get ourselves into taking out a few pieces. They had quite a list of things. I don't really quibble with that characterization of the list, but there was a list of things, as you might expect. They've put forward over time a series of demands on a variety of things.
So the point, I think, is to take all of this back. We've made clear we're not going to pay for elimination of the nuclear weapons programs that never should have begun in the first place. That remains our policy, a very clear policy, that we've taken. So this kind of, you know, you do this, you do that, we'll do that, and maybe we'll do something else proposal has its limitations. But, obviously, we're going to look at the whole thing. We're going to look at everything that they've said during the course of these discussions and see what we think we ought to do next.
QUESTION: Just to put it on the record, Matt mentioned normalization and economic assistance, or however you want to phrase that. Security guarantees, I assume, was also on --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'm not going to start listing pieces.
QUESTION: Can you add that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't even confirm those two particular elements. I said that's -- I don't want to differ with any particular characterization, but it was a list of specifics, and I am not going to get into trying to listing the specifics for you, both because I don't speak for the North Koreans, or convey what they have said. And second of all, because I don t think it's useful to start picking this stuff out of context. We need to look at the whole thing and decide.
QUESTION: Okay, one other thing. Are you currently planning any talks with the South -- a three-way meeting with the South Koreans and the Japanese here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if there is anything on the schedule at this point. As you know, Assistant Secretary Kelly stopped in Seoul and Tokyo on the way back. He has briefed other allies. I think he has briefed the Australians, and I am sure we will be talking to others, as well. He was in close touch with the Chinese throughout the discussion, so they knew everything that happened and the different ways. And so, therefore, it's an ongoing process of consultation. Whether we have another trilateral scheduled soon, I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Richard, you haven't used in awhile the phrase "no hostile intent." Have you dropped that from your vocabulary?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I just use different phrases, different date. "No hostile intent." Actually, I think last time I said it, Barry pointed out I didn't use "no hostile intent," so I said it for him too so.
George -- sorry.
QUESTION: A quick one. You mentioned -- you referred to China weighing in with its own -- I forgot the phrase -- but the Chinese presented their views, too. Is the U.S. happy with China's presentation? Does it parallel U.S.'s?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize it one way or the other. There's certainly the Chinese interest in denuclearization of the peninsula, which goes back in terms of -- well, it goes back a long way -- but in terms of U.S.-Chinese discussions, it goes back to the discussion of the two presidents in Crawford, when that was clearly stated as part of those discussions. The Chinese have now moved to implement that, to carry it forward in their diplomacy with the North Koreans, and that is something very, very similar to the view of the United States about the peninsula. And we have welcomed the active participation, the active role that China has played in those meetings, in addition to the fact that they were kind enough to host the talks.
QUESTION: Richard, Ari Fleischer said Friday that the U.S. wants to talk with friends and allies about the possibility of sanctions against North Korea. Can you elaborate on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything to elaborate on that at this point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) radio accurate information that from these 80 or almost $80 billion plan for the cost of war in Iraq and terrorism costs, State Department already allowed or set aside some money for different countries, among them for Slovakia. I was told that it's about $6.5 million. Can you please comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the numbers accurately, so we'll have to get you that afterwards. There was, indeed, as part of the supplemental program, we anticipated that we would be putting aside money for specific countries that might be assisting either in the war on terrorism or the effort against Iraq, and I just don't have my papers here to tell you how much any individual country might have been, more or less, allocated under that. But all of it is subject to further review and consultation and discussion, particularly with the governments involved.
QUESTION: Congressman Wexler is in Ankara right and he made some state --
MR. BOUCHER: Good.
QUESTION: He made some statement. He said that Turkish foreign policy, when they come closer to the Iran and the Syria, they have a very deep concern about that. Are you joining his concern on the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, if you allow me, I'm going to decline to pick up on your characterizations of what somebody may have said since, in the past, we have often found those to be not complete. And so I'm not going to try to characterize our view of what you say somebody else's view was.
QUESTION: How about your policy?
MR. BOUCHER: Our policy is that Turkey is an ally and we work with our ally, Turkey, in many, many ways, all the time.
QUESTION: Are you happy with their relation with Syria and Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to characterize their relations with others at this point.
QUESTION: U.S.-Adriatic Charter that should be signed next Friday, what is the status of this document now?
MR. BOUCHER: Which charter?
QUESTION: U.S.-Adriatic Charter between Albania, Croatia, United States and Macedonia.
MR. BOUCHER: It's a document that's important to us that we've worked hard on. I'm not sure when it's going to be signed. I'll have to check on that for you.
QUESTION: And the reason for this postponement of the signing, is it political or technical?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's scheduling.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, are you submitting the Syrian regime any list, you know, before Secretary Powell visits Syria? Any list they should abide by, or any requests?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had an ongoing series of discussions with Syria, going back to the Secretary's meetings and phone calls with Foreign Minister Shara. Actually, some of the things are basic terrorism policy that go back to things the Secretary discussed directly with President Asad. But in more recent weeks, our Ambassador has been in frequent touch with the Syrian leadership, especially with the foreign ministry, and I think that Syria is quite clear on the important and significant areas that are of concern to us.
QUESTION: Did you meet or did anybody in the State Department met with Buthaina Shaaban, the spokesman for the foreign affair in Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: I know this was covered downstairs, but it was covered quite broadly and not very specifically. But the roadmap, is there anything new? Is everything just waiting now on the Palestinian Legislature confirmation, and you guys won't really have anything to say about the roadmap or possible travel until after that's done? Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: On the roadmap, the intention to release immediately upon confirmation of the new Palestinian Prime Minister and his government is exactly the same as it was before. That hasn't changed.
As far as what we may have to say about travel, just don't have anything right now to say about travel.
QUESTION: Richard, what would be the forum for releasing the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: The appropriate forum. I can't give you a plan yet on that. I know some of your colleagues have been asking me. I think the point about the roadmap is, let's face it, the roadmap is fairly well known to everybody since it's available on the Internet. The point about its release as the Secretary, I think, or maybe President, described, is released to the parties -- the roadmap -- to sit down with the parties and say, "Okay, let's get to work. We're now in a position. We have a transformed leadership."
In the Palestinian community it's something that they have worked hard for many months and something that we have worked hard for many months. We have a government in Israel that's gone through an election that, as you know, from -- after December there was a lull in activity because of that. And so we're now in a position where we do think we can move forward. Certainly the United States Government is committed to moving forward, committed at the highest levels.
The importance of the roadmap is to start sitting down with the parties and talking to them about how it can be implemented, how these steps can be taken and how they can start working with each other to take these steps. So in terms of release of the roadmap, it's not the press conferences that matter. It's the getting down to work with the parties and that's where I think our emphasis needs to be.
QUESTION: Abu Mazen says that he will not be willing to take any trips as Prime Minister unless Yasser Arafat also receives permission to travel freely and to come back to Ramallah. Do you think this is going to be a problem?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We saw the statement. We don't have anything particular to say about it at this point.
QUESTION: Well, how much will that handicap him if he isn't allowed to travel here to meet the President and --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. It requires speculation, and I don't do that.
QUESTION: What if we separated the two parts of Terri's question? Does the State Department have a new position on whether Arafat should be free to travel?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any new position on that, no.
QUESTION: To follow up on your point of getting down to work with the parties, obviously, the Secretary will make a short trip to the region, but it will require something --
MR. BOUCHER: You guys are all talking about the Secretary's going to do this and going to do that. I would caution you to give us a moment or two to figure out what our travel plans are before you start predicting any particular travel.
QUESTION: Okay, but certainly he's not going to go out and stay there for, you know, weeks or months or anything like that, so I mean, what -- are you planning any, you know, follow-up of kind of full-time engagement? Are you going to send Assistant Secretary Burns or someone else out to work with the parties more intimately on implementing steps of the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect -- I don't have any new announcements for you, first of all, but let's remember that the Secretary has, at times, been personally engaged in this, has remained throughout, personally involved. He just met this morning with the Jordanian Foreign Minister talking about the roadmap, how we can implement it.
The President has made clear his own commitment to that process. And we do have experts, Assistant Secretary Burns and others, who are very frequently out in the region working these things. So the -- I expect you will just see over time a very full-time, a very aggressive engagement by the United States at all levels.
QUESTION: Follow-up to that. The Secretary said last week -- I don't remember where -- but he said that -- I think at the -- his Asia speech -- that once the prime minister was confirmed, then the roadmap was going to be rolled out, that it would be the start of a much more fuller and deeper U.S. engagement. Is there any consideration to reappointing a full-time envoy, or someone to stay in the region, or travel?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard of any such thing, but I'll have to check. At times, we have felt that was appropriate. I just don't have anything on that -- like that today.
QUESTION: Yes, are you able to say anything about the Abu Mazen statement that would help us in terms of where you go from here? Is there a possibility that the Secretary's travel will have to be held up since Abu Mazen said he wouldn't meet with anyone?
MR. BOUCHER: Number one, I don't think that's what he said; and, second of all, what he did say was just quoted by your colleague, and I think I asked -- answered her question.
QUESTION: Do you have any read-out from the meeting in Baghdad, the Iraqi meeting from the Garner group, anything you can tell us about?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any particular read-out. I can tell you about it going into the process. I thought I heard one of the networks saying that the meeting, itself, with General Garner, on behalf of the meeting, might have something to say soon, so that may be the first read-out we all get.
But their meeting today in Baghdad is attending are Presidential Envoy Khalilzad, Office of Reconstruction Director, Jay Garner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker. They are meeting with a broad range of Iraqis including representatives from the Shia, Sunni, Turkomen, Assyrian, and Kurdish communities from both inside Iraq and from the expatriate and opposition communities.
There are over 250 representatives there reflecting various levels of Iraqi society including intellectuals and academics tribal sheikhs, Iraqi bureaucrats and technocrats, clerics, opposition parties and former resistance leaders inside the country, and they're convening to advance the national dialogue among Iraqis regarding composition of an Iraqi interim authority.
The meeting builds on its -- on the successes of the historic April 15th meeting in Nasiriya. That was the first of several meetings intended to provide Iraqis their own forum to discuss their visions for the future, participation in the Iraqi interim authority, and how best to chart a course towards democratic government.
We expect that the interim authority that results from this process will be broad-based and fully representative, with members of all Iraq's ethnic groups, regions and the diaspora. We expect these meetings will culminate in a nationwide conference to be held in Baghdad, and that that conference will form the Iraqi interim authority.
We are pleased that after more than 20 years of suffering under a corrupt and brutal regime, the Iraq people are able to enjoy freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. As President Bush had said, the United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government; that choice clearly belongs to the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Just two questions, Richard. Can you give us any information about a proposed meeting on Wednesday of a smaller group of exile leaders? And also, can you tell us if you've had any participation in this meeting from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Each of the groups that's potentially involved in the future of Iraq is making their own decisions about participating. As I said, there were some 250 representatives from all walks of Iraqi society -- from inside Iraq, from outside Iraq, from the different religious groups, from different professions, from different kind of leaders throughout the country. I don't think -- I'm not sure that particular group attended, frankly, but that was their decision. Our point is that this is a very broadly representative group of people who are now meeting together and working on the future of Iraq.
As far as what meetings on Wednesday, no, I don't have anything particular on that.
QUESTION: Well, it's been reported in The Washington Post over the weekend, and other people have reported it --
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I've seen reported is that some of the leaders who had been meeting outside in Sulaimaniya were going to have some kind of meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: But that would be up to them.
QUESTION: But is that something that the U.S. is in any way going to be participating in? Or in any way -- I'm just -- it's very confusing with all these different meetings and what they all mean.
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- I know, it's great. But, you know, that's politics. That's democracy. People are getting together. They're meeting together. They're trying to work together. And the fact that we have so many people coming together now in Baghdad to work on the future of Iraq -- and they are from inside and outside Iraq, they're from the different groups, the different areas of Iraq, they're from different walks of life -- this is important. These are the people who can really help Iraq run itself and take over Iraq for its own future.
QUESTION: Richard, earlier there was a report that you guys are trying, along with some others, to reduce the size of the UN force in Sierra Leone, or Ivory Coast -- I'm sorry -- Cote D'Ivoire. Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: We're working with the UN. I'm not sure if that's the way to characterize it. I would say -- well, let me put it this way. We've strongly supported the French military presence in Cote D'Ivoire and the deployment of the Economic Community of West African States Military Observer Mission in Cote D'Ivoire. We believe that a regional force strongly supported by the international community is the most appropriate mechanism to support the reestablishment of peace and security in Cote D'Ivoire, and we have so far contributed $4.5 million to this effort this year, and we anticipate that we'll continue to support it.
So we have been working closely with France and the United Kingdom and other members of the Security Council to reach agreement on a UN Security Council resolution, which would, among other things, establish a UN political mission in Cote D'Ivoire. And that could help implement the Marcoussis Agreement providing advice on political and civil affairs.
While the mission will have a small military liaison component, it's not a peacekeeping operation. I guess there was a proposal by the UN Secretariat on the size of the mission that we felt was too large. So that's -- but we are working with other members of the Security Council to send out the appropriate kind and size of mission for that.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq, please? Two questions. First of all, do you have anything to say on these reports that Belgium is working -- a Belgian lawyer is working with some Iraqis to indict Tommy Franks for war crimes, and any potential consequences that the Belgian Government might suffer as a result of this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, this is, again, the "universal competence" question, and we do continue to have concerns about the scope of "universal competence" legislation in Belgium. We have expressed those concerns to the Government of Belgium.
We are pleased that the Belgian Government has taken action to change the law, but we believe the Belgian Government needs to be diligent in taking steps to prevent abuse of the legal system for political ends.
As to the specific case, we believe it does show the danger of a judicial system that's open to politically motivated charges.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Given our -- the State Department's position on universal competence as a principle, does that lead the State Department to oppose American laws that allow U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments for terrorism-related claims in U.S. courts?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think these things are exactly comparable, but I will leave it to lawyers to explain it.
QUESTION: I have another question. The UN, or former Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Mr. Al Douri said today in an interview that he still considers himself the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN and that he hopes to return there if the Iraqis will appoint him in a new government. Is this something that the U.S. would be averse to?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a matter for the Iraqi authorities to decide and once there's an Iraqi interim authority in Baghdad, they'll be able to decide on their foreign representatives.
QUESTION: In Cyprus, the Turkish sides opened the gates for the Greek Cypriots then can freely visit the northern side. Do you have a reaction on this subject?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I gave a reaction last week, that we certainly welcomed it, we thought it was important to people to be able to travel back and forth. You know, I'm getting e-mails from my friends about their visits and it's -- I think it is noteworthy and it's good for people to be able to have that kind of access and have that kind of contact and, you know, have that kind of opportunity to see each other.
It's not -- I think I said on Friday, there's still an important job to be done in terms of reaching a settlement and we continue to support looking for ways to do that on the basis of the proposals that the Secretary General put forward.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to the Belgian question for one thing? Are you, do you have information to suggest that a suit has been filed, this suit in particular? Has actually been filed or if it's just people talking about it?
MR. BOUCHER: My background information says that attorneys will be filing a complaint, so it's still future tense.
QUESTION: Right. The second thing is that -- are you saying that the Belgian Government should do more to change the laws? I thought that you guys were pretty satisfied with the initial change.
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly welcomed the initial change because it does get federal authorities and federal prosecutors involved. But I think as these questions indicate, there are still -- it still leaves people in doubt as to the intentions of Belgian judicial authorities, and that's an issue that may be an issue for many people as we go along.
QUESTION: Right. But I guess what -- because the changes provide a screening process --
MR. BOUCHER: And I said we're pleased that they took that action.
QUESTION: But, apparently, you're not because if you're saying --
MR. BOUCHER: We think --
QUESTION: -- if you're still opposed --
MR. BOUCHER: We're pleased that they took that action, but we think the Belgian Government needs to be diligent in taking the steps to prevent abuse of the legal system from political --
QUESTION: All right. Now, is that -- that abuse is just filing a suit in the first place?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they need to be diligent in terms of how they handle all the actions in this regard.
QUESTION: So, then, can I -- is it fair to extrapolate, then, that you're not opposed to the suit being filed; you just want to see it get thrown out in the screening process?
MR. BOUCHER: People decide what kind of suits to file based on the authorities, the ability that they have, to do so within the law. Certainly, we think that the government's diligence then comes afterwards, after the -- under the way the law is written now.
QUESTION: Okay. So as far as you're concerned, right now, the revisions that they made to the universal competence law are okay and satisfactory and would not --
MR. BOUCHER: We think they were positive. We were pleased that they made them. But one has to -- how this works out in the longer term depends on how the government handles it and the diligence the government applies.
QUESTION: Richard, what are the policies -- over the weekend, there were arrests of so-called freelancers, those trying to run for mayor, for instance, in Baghdad, some of the, I guess, opposition groups that came with Chalabi into Iraq and they were trying to distribute some weapons. What makes that go over the line where they have to be, then, arrested, and how does that impact the various group meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is that we are working, as I described, with Iraqis from all walks of life to try to help them constitute, to help them put together, an Iraqi interim authority that can take responsibility and represent all the Iraqis and their government during that period. It's important that nobody try to challenge that process or set themselves up as somehow a separately constituted authority. And so CENTCOM, as they explained on Sunday, said the arrests had been in order to prevent his continued misrepresentation of his authority as mayor of Baghdad in the aftermath of the regime's defeat.
As the President said, the United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government; that choice belongs to the Iraqi people. And our job, our effort that's underway now, is to help them achieve that. And I'm sure, frankly, the President has probably just said something more about it in the last half hour, but I don't know exactly what.
QUESTION: Richard, I think Deputy Secretary Armitage met with officials from Laos this morning. I was just wondering if you could say something about the content of the meeting and anything that came out of it.
MR. BOUCHER: The Lao Minister of Commerce is leading a delegation, including the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Lao Ambassador to the United States and several business leaders. The Minister met this morning with Deputy Secretary Armitage. They discussed trade issues, including the granting of normal trade relations status to Laos. The administration supports extending normal trade relations to Laos.
Deputy Secretary Armitage reiterated administration support for this, for normal trade relations, but also urged the Minister to ensure that his government take credible steps to improve human rights and religious freedom in Laos.
QUESTION: Do you know if officials are planning on meeting with congressmen or other people in the government?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to check with them on their schedule.
Thank you. [End]
Released on April 28, 2003