State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for May 8
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC May 8, 2003
DEPARTMENT 1 Foreign Service Day
CHINA 1 Statement on United States Assistance to China To Combat SARS
IRAQ 1-4 Oil for Food Program / 4 Iraq Oil Contracts 2, 4 Lifting of UN Sanctions on Iraq 2 Weapon Searches 3-4 Spending of Oil Money 4-5 Status of Iraqi Interim Authority
FRANCE 5-7 Consequences and Future Cooperation with the United States
RUSSIA 6, 10-11 Assistant Secretary Holmes Travel 10-11 Under Secretary Bolton Travel 11 Russian and Iranian Interaction
UNITED NATIONS 6-7 New United Nations Resolution
NATO 7-8 DPC and NATO Deliberations 7-8 National Atlantic Council and NATO Deployment
IRAQ 8 Iraqi Stabilization 9 Iraqi Funds Frozen in Western Banks
IRAN 9-10-11 United States Position on Iran s Nuclear Program 9-10, 12 IAEA Report
ISRAEL/PALESTINE 11 Israeli Forces and Targeted Killings 12 Palestinian Security Issues 12-13 Moving Toward Roadmap
KOREA 13 Developments in North Korea
1:20 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, let me tell you about two things off the top. The first is that the Secretary will unveil the names of six Foreign Service employees on the American Foreign Service Association's Memorial Plaque tomorrow, May 9th, 10:15, C Street Diplomatic Lobby, in connection with Foreign Service Day.
This year's ceremony will honor six members of the Foreign Service family, including Laurence Foley, who was murdered in Amman, as we know. Additional members of the Foreign Service family are being honored because of recent change in ceremonial criteria to include those who have died in the line of duty in addition to the traditional criteria of heroic or other inspirational circumstances.
So Foreign Affairs Day is a longstanding tradition and we'll be doing that tomorrow.
Second of all, we'll be putting out a statement for you on U.S. assistance to China regarding -- in order to help China combat Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. President Bush, in a conversation with President Hu at the end of April, offered to support China in its fight against SARS, as it's known, so we are providing additional assistance in terms of $500,000 in emergency funds to help China bolster its strained public health system. Money will be used by the Red Cross Society of China to purchase protective gear and other medical consumables, including thermometers and protective goggles, gowns and masks to protect against SARS.
Our Embassy in Beijing will be working with the Chinese authorities to monitor the procurement of those supplies.
And now I would be glad to take your questions about these or other issues.
QUESTION: A couple of areas, but let me try Iraq first and the resolution that you're proposing tomorrow. I have two questions. The first is, I can't put together allowing the Oil-for-Food program to go on for four months and, at the same time, lifting sanctions on Iraq. Is there some inconsistency there?
And the second is, does the U.S. want weapons searches to continue? Evidently not, but certainly not a UN weapons search.
MR. BOUCHER: You can't put these things together, but we can, and you'll see how it's done in the resolution when we table it tomorrow.
Lifting the sanctions -- think of it this way. Lifting the sanctions allows the Iraqi people to engage in normal commerce, to have a normal economy, to trade, to invest, to work, to buy things, to develop their own economy and develop their own resources. As they do that, unlike under the Saddam Hussein regime, they will have the wherewithal to buy their own food, to buy their own medicine, to take care of themselves, without depending on a feeding system that's powered by the Oil-for-Food program. As they sell their oil and do it in a manner that's transparent under the resolution, do it in a manner that's audited by international auditors, do it in a manner that's in cooperation with international financial institutions and others who can help, that money can be directed at supporting the Iraqi people.
So, as the private economy and the sales of oil to support the Iraqi people grow, then the provision of resources through the Oil-for-Food program can go down because it won't be necessary any more. This kind of organized distribution system won't be necessary because there will be a real economy that hasn't been allowed to thrive in Iraq for many years.
QUESTION: And what about weapon searches? There is no mention.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, yeah, there is no mention. Well, I am not going to get into the text of the resolution.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: But, at this point, I think you have seen our position fairly clearly. U.S. personnel are very active in searching Iraq to learn what we can about their programs of weapons of mass destruction. There was quite a detailed briefing yesterday at the Defense Department including -- talked about the discovery of a mobile vehicle that looks like the biological weapons van, biological van laboratory, that the Secretary spoke about on February 5th.
So we are finding things, we are getting information; we are talking to people now. But we all remember, as the Secretary outlined on February 5th, this is a well-hidden program. These are programs that were designed to be inspected. So as we work on this, we will find more and more information. We, ourselves, are putting more people on the ground.
But we also remember that Iraq is still a difficult security environment, it's still a quasi-military environment. I don't know how to describe it, but it's a security situation where the military has to be integrally involved in everything that goes on, and therefore they are the ones at this moment who are doing this work. Whether, at some point down the road, there is a role for UNMOVIC or others, we'll just have to see. We haven't ruled it out at this point, but it's not something that we think kicks in right away because of the nature of the circumstances right now in Iraq.
QUESTION: Good, thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Terri.
QUESTION: Back to Oil-for-Food and the private economy. How do you envision -- and I understand that U.S. advisors are working with Iraq on this -- the money getting from the oil revenues out to the vast majority of the population who are, at this point, completely dependent on -- or, I guess, 60 percent of it is completely dependent, but 90 percent gets --
MR. BOUCHER: -- gets something from it.
QUESTION: Yeah. How is it going to dissipate enough to give these people out in the rural areas their food?
MR. BOUCHER: I talked about two or three aspects of this. One is the growth of the private economy, with most citizens of Iraq getting money through their businesses, their activities, their salaries, being able to fund government programs will have an effect. But second of all, then, some of this oil money would be spent by Iraqis, with international auditing, with transparency, with -- in cooperation with international financial institutions on projects that would develop Iraq, that would invest in Iraq, that would create opportunities in Iraq for the Iraqi people. So that's part of the growth as well.
QUESTION: That's why -- I mean, this suggestion is that the advisory board would include the World Bank and the IMF to expand the money that they get into other loans and grants?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I won't talk in too much detail today because you all will see the text tomorrow, I assume, when it's tabled, if you haven't seen it already. But we specify the kinds of purposes that we would think everybody would want to see this money spent for, and that is specific areas where this money could benefit the Iraqi people. And there would be transparency, there would be audits, and there would be international involvement to ensure that those purposes were served by the money.
QUESTION: Can I just take you up on exactly that, the auditing committee, which includes the World Bank and IMF? Would they have any say in how the money was spent or would they merely be ascertaining whether any of it had disappeared?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave that answer to looking at the resolution, maybe tomorrow, after we table it. We've called for a meeting tomorrow to table the resolution. I think that's tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: Well, it's kind of freely floating around.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that may be. But I think if you look at the text, when you look at the text, you'll see that the purposes -- how this money can be used to benefit the Iraqi people, by the Iraqis with transparency and in consultation with the international financial institutions and others is fairly well specified in the resolution, and everybody would be cooperating to make sure the money went to those purposes.
QUESTION: What is the role of the future Iraqi interim authority in this draft resolution that you're going to present? And are you seeking through this resolution any kind of international recognition for this Iraqi authority?
MR. BOUCHER: One of the purposes that we've talked about for the resolution is to encourage people to help the Iraqi people, lift the sanctions, encourage people to help the Iraqi people, and help define the vital role that the United Nations can play.
Helping the Iraqi people stand up their own government through an interim authority, and then eventually their own government, is an important part of this, of Iraqis taking charge of their own affairs. So we would encourage international organizations, we would encourage non-governmental organizations, governments, as well as the UN through its coordinator, to support that process and to endorse, as we have said, that process.
QUESTION: Can we stay on this for one more?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Maybe this is too fine a point to deal with here, but as you described the Oil-for-Food program winding down, there are ongoing contracts. Is it a good assumption that those contracts will remain undisturbed? There's no letting of new contracts?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, at the current moment, the Council has given the Secretary General authority to prioritize those contracts and to deal with them, so you'll see in the resolution how that is dealt with.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, we talked a little bit about lifting versus suspending sanctions, and then the President came out and spoke. Is it still your understanding -- could you clarify again for us that what the President did was suspend the sanctions until the -- an Iraqi interim authority can be named? Is that still the explanation?
As it came from Cofer Black, there needs to be an Iraqi government in place before they can be lifted, but I still see stories referring to them as being lifted.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quibble with those who write "lifted" because the impact, the application of sanctions has been lifted, even if the sanctions exist on paper.
Yes, you're right. In order to -- as we look at this, we have to be able to define an Iraqi government that is not supporting terrorism. And that's a bureaucratic or legal requirement that we'll fulfill, we would hope, in the near future.
QUESTION: New subject. Yesterday evening, the Secretary spoke in New York, as you know, and he said that you had pretty well put your differences behind you with Europe after the Iraq dispute.
Does that mean that you are no longer considering any punitive measures against France, as you were talking about two weeks ago?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, he didn't say that. And, second of all, I didn't say that. We never talked about punitive measures against France.
MR. BOUCHER: Consequences.
QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean there are no longer any consequences? Consequences. Put it that way.
MR. BOUCHER: You want to ask that?
MR. BOUCHER: As I explained two weeks ago, when you asked me similar questions, obviously, we know about this history, we know what we have gone through, and we gauge our future actions accordingly.
I wouldn't agree with the first half of your question either, in that the Secretary didn't say we put our differences behind us. He said that these were matters that have been dealt with and we wanted to move on, but that's not quite the same as saying they have totally disappeared.
QUESTION: So there are still consequences possibly?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect that we will all gauge our behavior according to what has happened in the past, and according to how we can cooperate in the future. But the goal now, the focus now, is to cooperate in the future on the things that need to be done, including on this UN resolution, including in helping the people of Iraq, including the NATO deployment to Afghanistan, the war against terrorism, many other areas where, as the Secretary pointed out, we are working together and can work together more.
QUESTION: Well, on the flip side of that, you have a lot of countries coming to the White House for White House visits here at the State Department with Secretary Powell, just used Poland and, today, Denmark at the Pentagon as two -- and a couple of the NATO countries were very helpful, the new NATO countries.
What about people that say that --
MR. BOUCHER: Some pretty old NATO countries, too.
QUESTION: Okay, well --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I mean, specifically, the news ones. But what do you say to people that are saying that you are using some of these visits, some of these recent -- like the signing of the Singapore agreement today -- as rewards for countries that helped you in the coalition, and that there are rewards and punishments for people that don't -- that, according to how they treated the U.S. during the coalition in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a lot of work to do, and there are a lot of things, a lot of ways that countries can get involved. The Secretary last night in his speech encouraged everybody to support this new UN resolution. Indeed, we are out around the world encouraging people to support the new UN resolution. Assistant Secretary Holmes is in Moscow today, will be going on to Germany. He's had good meetings with the Russians on the new UN resolution.
The Secretary, yesterday, talked about the new resolution with Secretary General Kofi Annan, he talked with Foreign Secretary Derbez, he talked with European High Representative Solana about the new resolution. We've sent a cable already to all our embassies, our ambassadors in all the Arab capitals for them to start talking about the resolution with the host governments, and we'll be sending a much broader cable, probably overnight, to all our embassies to talk to nations about the new UN resolution in something of more detail. Deputy Secretary Armitage is in Pakistan and has talked about the new resolution there.
So I wouldn't say we are differentiating between those who supported the last one and only working with them in supporting the new one, first of all. Point number one.
Point number two, we have a great deal many things underway with different countries. The Singapore Free Trade Agreement is a great thing. It was ready to be signed. And we're glad we did that. We don't just do Iraq.
So we have military cooperation with some governments that has been active in recent months, and as we look at stabilization in Iraq we have met with the United Kingdom, with the Polish Government, and talked about this in various fora. We've also had meetings and discussions with others who might be willing to contribute.
QUESTION: If I could up, though. Without the -- not including the notion of moving forward on Iraq and other things, but do you dispute the notion of some in Congress and elsewhere that now that the war is over and you had certain countries that supported you in the war, either publicly or with equipment or troops or anything, that now is the time to reward these allies and perhaps punish those that didn't support you?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we quite look at it that way. I would say that cooperation with a number of countries already is a solid basis for even more cooperation now as we go forward into the next stages. And so we're talking to many of the same governments who were part of the coalition about how we can continue to work together in the future. If others want to find ways of supporting that, either through the UN resolution, through humanitarian assistance, reconstruction assistance, that's certainly welcome as well. But certainly, those people that we cooperated with in the coalition want to keep cooperating, want to keep working together to achieve the results of a free and stable Iraq that we set out to achieve. We didn't just fight a war and start over. We fought a war in order to do something. We're still working on doing that.
QUESTION: Richard, I should have asked this yesterday, but does the resolution that we're pushing right now say anything about UN recognition of sovereignty of a future Iraqi government?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you should ask that tomorrow after we all look at the resolution together.
QUESTION: You can't preview and highlight?
MR. BOUCHER: I've previewed and highlighted about as much as I can.
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: Richard, can I ask you about (inaudible) the consequences? I'm sure you'll recall that one of the ideas that was floated around was that the United States would shift its emphasis to the DPC in its NATO deliberations. Is that on the table?
MR. BOUCHER: It's been on the table for 30 years.
QUESTION: Okay, but do you still intend --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you the same answer you asked two weeks ago when we talked about this, that it has been on the table for 30 years -- I think that's how long the DPC has existed; that we look to work with all our allies on important issues that need to be handled. Because of the disagreements in NATO, allied support for our NATO ally Turkey I think was handled through the DPC. It was a serious matter. We're glad it finally was done.
On the other hand, the NATO deployment to Afghanistan, come summer, was handled through the North Atlantic Council -- all the allies participating in that decision. For the moment, the discussion of what NATO can do in Iraq in the stabilization phase is in the North Atlantic -- is with other members, all the other members of the North Atlantic Council. We'll see how administratively NATO ends up making whatever decisions it decides to make. There are obviously some things that are more appropriate for one place or the other, and some things that could go either place. But for the moment, this discussion on Iraq is with all the members of the North Atlantic Council.
QUESTION: Okay, can I just clarify that? Do you mean that you'll use the NAC whenever possible, and only resort to the DPC when you foresee a potential problem? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not as steeped in NATO lore as I should be. I'm sure if you ask out there, they'll give you the definition of the roles. There are some things that are not appropriate for the NAC, some things that are not appropriate for the DPC, or maybe -- maybe it flows one way and not the other.
So I don't want to try to explain this. It's the same structure that has always existed, and we use it as appropriate in the circumstances. The fact that all the allies are interested in discussing potential NATO deployments to Iraq means that the discussion has been held with all of the members of the NAC.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?
QUESTION: Okay, go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Somehow, it sounds like Northern Iraq.
QUESTION: No, no, not today.
QUESTION: Richard Perle is in Turkey right now, and he said when in one of the conference, he said that U.S. Government waiting support from the Turkey against the Iran and the Syria policy for the United States. What kind of support do you know they are waiting for?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd ask Richard Perle. He's a private citizen. He doesn't speak for the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The ex-Ambassador to United Nations, the Iraqi Ambassador, he was quoted in Abu Dhabi as saying that there are $10 billion frozen in Western banks. Is that true? I mean, can they be then, I mean, unfrozen to help the Iraqi people?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we have had a figure on that. You might check with our Treasury Department and see if they have an estimate of the amounts that have been frozen. But the answer is: Whatever amount it is, needs to be committed to help the Iraqi people. In the resolution, there will be mechanisms for funds like that to be used appropriately to support the Iraqi people.
Obviously, once there is an Iraqi government up and running, the Iraqi government will be able to take charge of those monies and use them as appropriate. But in our discussions with other governments about freezing these funds, we have made clear in our actions and with other governments right from the start, they need to be committed to helping the Iraqi people and not used for other purposes.
QUESTION: Could you go over the current U.S. position on Iran, and the IAEA specifically? Are you pushing for a resolution in IAEA and -- against Iran? And, specifically, what would you want such a resolution to say?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to the first question is yes, and you'll see what the answer to the rest of the questions is.
We have long made clear our concern, serious concern about Iran's active pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction and longer range missile delivery systems. Iran now openly admits that it is pursuing a complete nuclear fuel cycle. We completely reject Iran's claim that it's doing this for peaceful purposes.
Iran admitted to constructing a nuclear enrichment -- uranium enrichment plant and heavy water plant only after it had no choice because this had been made public, as you know, starting with an Iranian opposition group. The first uranium enrichment plant could be used to produce highly enriched uranium for weapons. A heavy water plant could support a reactor for producing weapons grade plutonium.
There is no economic justification for a state that's rich in oil and gas like Iran to build hugely expensive nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Iran flares off more gas annually than the equivalent energy its desired reactors would produce. States with peaceful nuclear energy programs have nothing to hide, and Iran did its best to hide all of these nuclear fuel cycle activities.
Until this year, Iran had been the only state not to accept the International Atomic Energy Agency's 1992 call for states to declare new nuclear facilities before construction. It finally agreed to do so in late February, only because of intense pressure.
Iran has also refused for several years to sign the additional protocol with the IAEA, which would increase the agency's insight into Iran's nuclear activities. The United States has made clear to the International Atomic Energy Agency, to other governments and to the public that we strongly support a rigorous examination of Iran's nuclear activities. We look forward to a full report at the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting in June, report to be presented by Director General ElBaradei then.
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Iranians developing these weapons, nuclear weapon is a direct threat to the United States or to the area?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to make sweeping judgments at this point. We made very, very clear we think it's a very dangerous development, and that no country should be cooperating with Iran's nuclear program because it is used to support this kind of development.
QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned a uranium enrichment facility, which I am assuming you are talking about Natanz; and then you mentioned also a heavy water plant. Are you talking about the one in Arak, A-r-a-k?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know.
QUESTION: Okay. And can you confirm here when the Iranians admitted to the heavy water plant?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to go back and see. I don't know off the top of my head. I'll check for you. Okay?
QUESTION: Did Kim Holmes bring this up at his meetings in Moscow, or was he focusing just on the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I think Assistant Secretary Holmes met with the Foreign Minister, with international organizations people, and I think with the Deputy Foreign Minister. But Under Secretary Bolton was just in Moscow. Certainly, Under Secretary Bolton was discussing Iran as well as other kind of G-8 kind of subjects and nonproliferation issues with the Russians. So this is a regular topic of conversation for him and for others. Whether it specifically came up with Assistant Secretary Holmes, I don't know yet.
QUESTION: There's no progress to report after Bolton's meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: I would leave it to the Russians to speak for themselves what they are going to do about their nuclear cooperation.
QUESTION: Are there countries other than Russia who are wittingly or unwittingly helping the Iranians?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to go back and see if there's anything I can say on that, George.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about an arms race in the region if they acquire such weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: Our concern is about the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by a state that's a known supporter of terrorism. This has been something that the President talked about. That's why he talked about the "axis of evil." We all understand this to be one of the most dangerous combinations of our age, and the United States, for many years, has pressed very hard for people to end nuclear cooperation with Iran because we think that it contributes to that kind of development.
QUESTION: Richard, I don't know if you can answer this -- it might be technical -- but can you give us any sense of comparison between the nuclear program we suspected Iraq had and the nuclear program that we believe Iran has?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. That's too technical for me. I think I would look at the CIA/DIA 721 Report. You'll get a fairly accurate rundown of what we can say in public. Elise, you had something?
QUESTION: It might be a little soon for you to have anything --
MR. BOUCHER: I love these questions that start out with, "It might be too technical," and I say, "Yes, it might be too technical." It may be a little soon? Yes, I can confirm it's a little soon. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Maybe this is -- Prime Minister Sharon apparently said today that he's willing to have talks with Syria with no preconditions. I was wondering if this is something he has mentioned to you in recent weeks or if there's anything you have on this.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on it now. It's a little soon.
QUESTION: I hope it's not too soon to tell us, do you have the votes for a resolution in IAEA that would declare Iran in violation of the NPT?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not talking about votes, I'm not talking about a resolution; I'm talking about getting a full report from the Director General of the IAEA at the board meeting in June.
QUESTION: So are you saying you are not --
MR. BOUCHER: What we are looking for now is information that is as full and as detailed a report as possible from him on the situation in Iran, and then we'll decide accordingly what we want to do.
QUESTION: So are you saying you are not lobbying other countries for support and votes at this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: I am saying we are looking forward for a full report.
QUESTION: Let me go back to Prime Minister Sharon. What do you have to say about his targeted killing which Israeli forces carried out this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on targeted killings hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Do you think this has any implications -- does it reflect in any way the Prime Minister's attitude towards the roadmap and implementation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you will have to ask the Prime Minister that question. Our view is clearly that both sides have obligations, they have responsibilities, they need to take steps, practical steps, concrete steps to further the process and to move -- begin moving along the road of the roadmap. It's time to focus on the practical steps they can take.
Palestinians need to focus particularly on the security issue. Israel and others need to see what they can do to support the transformation that is taking place in the Palestinian Authority and to ease life for ordinary Palestinians. And people really need to focus on the kind of steps they can take that will move the process along.
QUESTION: Sure. But do these Israeli obligations include refraining from preemptive assassinations, which don't exactly -- which inflame the situation, or could inflame the situation in advance of the Secretary's visit?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, our position on targeted killing has been and remains that they undermine the efforts to achieve peace, they aggravate the situation in the region, and they do not contribute to progress on Palestinian civil and security reform -- all goals that we are trying to achieve. We have also made clear that Israel does have a right to self-defense, and there can be no excuse for the violence and the terror that has been directed against the Israeli people.
So we urged the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent death or injury of innocent civilians, damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure, to consider the consequences of their actions, and to refrain from actions that adversely impact the ability of Palestinians to lead lives in as normal a manner as possible. This includes exercising restraint in operations in civilian areas.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have a position on whether the targeted killings violate international law?
MR. BOUCHER: We have never expressed it in those terms. That's all I can say.
QUESTION: So you don't have an opinion on it?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we have never expressed it in those terms. Our view is that whatever one may want to argue about international law, they make it more difficult to achieve peace, they needlessly endanger and sometimes harm civilians, and don't contribute to the kind of progress that we want to see, that Israel wants to see, and the Palestinians want to see towards the creation of two states that can live side by side in peace.
QUESTION: With respect to these targeted killings, if the particular actual missile attack on this vehicle was to a Hamas activist, you have Hamas and Hezbollah and other groups under FTO, what would you propose that they do just short of this missile attack?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have said before that it is important that Israel has a right to defend itself and needs to be able to do that and in an effective manner, but that Israel needs to consider how it carries out its self-defense to make sure that it doesn't detract from the other goals that Israel wants, that we want, and that others want as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: No, got one more.
QUESTION: Sorry, almost clear. We get a report from South Korea this morning about the satellite photograph, which is showing here smoking coming up from the Yongbyon reactor, you know, facility. Could you say anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, I won't be able to talk about any information that we may or may not have in specific terms. I would say that, obviously, we followed developments in North Korea very closely with regards to the nuclear issue, and particularly with regard to the nuclear reprocessing.
As you know, the North Koreans have made troubling statements recently about reprocessing, both in public and in the discussions in Beijing, when they said they were reprocessing. But we look at all the available information, not just the statements. We are consulting with friends and allies, like South Korea and Japan. And, as we have said before, the North Korean reprocessing of spent fuel to recover plutonium would be a matter of deep concern to the entire international community. And they have heard that view from us. They have heard it from many others as well.
QUESTION: There is a report in that regard that the U.S. has now concluded that they have reprocessed at least some of those fuel rods. Can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Thank you
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sorry.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
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Released on May 8, 2003