State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 26, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 26, 2005
Appointment of Roger Winter as Special Representative for Sudan
Six-Party Talks / Assistant Secretary Hill Meetings in Beijing / June 2004 Proposal
North Korean Sovereignty / Strategic Choice to Give Up Nuclear Program
US Food Pledge / World Food Program
Decision to Defer ASEAN Chairmanship / Call for Release of Political Prisoners
General Ward Remarks to Congress / Independent Report on
Palestinian Security Forces / General Ward Work with Security Forces
Challenges to Successful Gaza Withdrawal
Ambassador Khalilzad Comments
Constitution-Drafting an Iraqi Process / Deadline
Call for Release of Algerian Diplomats
UN Reform / Security Council Reform
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism
12:25 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one short opening statement that we will put out in paper form after the briefing. The Department of State announces the appointment of Roger P. Winter as Special Representative of the Deputy Secretary of State for Sudan. Mr. Winter's appointment reflects the high priority this administration attaches to halting the violence in Darfur and supporting implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed January 9th.
Mr. Winter will be responsible for advancing the achievement of America's goals for Sudan that were promoted during the Secretary's visit to Sudan last week and during the Deputy Secretary's three visits to Khartum and Darfur in the months of April, June and July of this year. He started work today and we will try to keep you updated on his activities.
With that I'm ready.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Perhaps I heard you incorrectly. But did you say he's the Special Representative of the Deputy Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Deputy Secretary, yes. He will be part of the Deputy Secretary's staff and reporting directly to the Deputy Secretary, but he'll also advise the Secretary as well.
Anything else on Sudan?
QUESTION: Yeah. How unusual is this for there to be a Special Representative of the Deputy Secretary? Is that something that happens all the time in this building or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't looked back at the history of it. Certainly it's an indication of the importance that we place on the issue. And as you know, Deputy Secretary Zoellick has been deeply involved with the parties in trying to move the process forward.
I think part of what Mr. Winter will be doing, as well as help to maintain what momentum there is in the Abuja talks process -- try to find a political settlement in Sudan, which ultimately is the way to address long-term the security and the humanitarian situation there.
QUESTION: And does that mean that the Deputy Secretary might not have as much time in the future as he did in the past several months for Darfur and Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. This in no way indicates any lessening of the Deputy's involvement in these issues. But this is a way to have, on a daily basis, somebody who is directly tied to the Deputy Secretary involved in what's happening in Sudan.
QUESTION: Until now the Secretary said she didn't feel that there was anybody needed in this position. What changed --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is -- we always look at the fact as they are before us. And the decision was made that now is a good time as we have a new Government of National Unity to try to move this process forward. As I said, build on some of the momentum that we have recently seen in the Abuja talks process and really get the parties moving forward on the various aspects of the political settlements to the various conflicts going on in Sudan.
QUESTION: On the six-party talks --
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Sudan? Okay.
QUESTION: The six-party talks have begun, in good humor. But Interfax is carrying an account by an anonymous North Korean official, saying that things didn't start too well or at least the one-on-one didn't go well with the U.S., that North Korea's demanding denuclearization simultaneously, meaning they're sticking to their guns, that there are U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea that ought to be removed as well. Do you have any observations?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the anonymous comments from the North Korean official but Assistant Secretary Hill did have bilateral meetings with all the delegations in Beijing. He also attended a plenary session. As you noted, Barry, the six-party talks kicked off today in Beijing. And I would say that we had good discussions, it was a good start. We -- but these, you know, you have to view these really as preliminary discussions.
This is -- what we're trying to do here in the plenary session, as well as in these bilateral contacts, is really to lay the foundation to, we hope, make progress in these talks. And when we say progress, well, what does progress mean? Well, progress would mean that we see enough in these talks that would merit all the parties agreeing that we would come back for another round. And Assistant Secretary Hill talked a little about that during his public comments this morning -- Beijing time -- after he had an opportunity to sit down with some of the other delegations as well as in the plenary sessions.
So we are going through this process in a methodical way. We are, we hope, laying the groundwork to make some progress in these discussions. But I -- we have not set an ending for this round of six-party talks. So we are ready to roll up our sleeves and work. And I think that you are seeing a serious sense of purpose on our part and we detect that as well from the other members of the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Including North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Including North Korea. I would describe the atmosphere of the meeting with Assistant Secretary Hill, as I did yesterday, as businesslike.
QUESTION: In the bilateral discussions today did the North Koreans come back with a response -- a formal response to the U.S. proposal from June 2004?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't characterize it as a formal comprehensive response to the June 2004 proposal. I think you saw Ambassador Hill made some remarks. They did talk a bit about the June 2004 proposal. He mentioned the North Korean representatives brought up the issue of sequencing, phasing, which is part of the June 2004 proposal. Again, I would characterize these as preliminary discussions. I think that they focused on one aspect of the June proposal. I would expect that our discussions within the context of the six-party talks with the North Korean delegation, as well as the other delegations, will continue concerning various aspects of the June proposal. But I wouldn't characterize the discussion today as a, you know, comprehensive response to the June proposal and I would expect that discussions will continue.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Peter.
QUESTION: So you said that the conversations focused on sequencing and phasing. By that, can we take --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's how Ambassador Hill described it in his public comments.
QUESTION: Well, by that can we take it then that the actual content of the measures proposed seems to be basically in agreement there and it's just a matter of sequencing and phasing?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, as I said, the discussions regarding the June proposal, I would expect are going to continue. This was just the -- again, let's step back here for a second. We have not set an end date for these talks. We are there. Ambassador Hill had a great quote the other day and he packed some extra shirts. We're working through this in a methodical way. And we're laying the groundwork, we hope, to make progress in this round of talks. So I -- this was just the first day and I expect the first of many days in which we talk about various aspects of the June proposal as well as comparing notes on how to make progress in these talks.
QUESTION: If I could just rephrase that for a second then. I think the question that we're asking is trying to get the North Koreans' initial response, which was supposed to be given, or a response to the June 2004 proposals was supposed to be coming at this meeting. So we're asking what is their initial response to what was put on the table, have they given it, and if they're only talking about sequencing and phasing, does that indicate that they are at least are not that troubled by the content of it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, when we say "the meeting," that means the six-party talks.
MR. MCCORMACK: And those are ongoing. I'm not going to narrow it down to a particular encounter.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, these talks are going to continue. I expect that -- and we hope that the atmosphere continues in the businesslike manner and that we are able to again lay the foundation in these preliminary discussions and build on that foundation to make progress.
QUESTION: On the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's move it around a little bit, Barry. Okay. Well, we have some others. I'll come back, Barry. I'll come back.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Go ahead, Teri.
QUESTION: Can you say whether, from the U.S. side, that we brought up the reassurances that North Korea has been looking for that the U.S. has no hostile intention against them? Was that something that came up on this first day?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ambassador Hill talked in his public comments -- he reiterated the fact that North Korean sovereignty is a fact and that he also reiterated the fact that the U.S. has no intent to invade or attack North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Elise.
QUESTION: For the past year and ever since the last round, the Secretary and everyone has said that you believe that the six-party talks are the best way to solve this. Right now, you just said that you're hoping to get enough progress that you see it worthwhile to have another round. Are you considering these kind of make-or-break talks to determine the North Korean seriousness about ending its nuclear program and moving forward?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what we talked about prior to these talks, and I think it remains the standard, is we want to see that North Korea has made a choice concerning their nuclear programs. I think the goal is a shared goal among all the six parties, and that is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. What we want to do is make progress towards that goal in this round of talks and that's what we're working towards.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you see these talks as the indicator of whether North Korea has demonstrated its seriousness? Before, I mean, James Kelly, other people up until now have said that they don't believe that North Korea has made a strategic choice yet to give up its nuclear program. Are you seeing these talks as a way to determine that or do you think the fact that they're at the talks signal their kind of strategic choice to give up their nuclear weapons?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think really what we're looking for is constructive engagement and indications that they have made a fundamental choice. So the talks have just begun today. I think that I have described what our approach is to these talks and that we are going to continue to work in a serious way to make progress in these discussions.
QUESTION: Food is running short again in North Korea, by all accounts, and the U.S. has pledged a sizeable shipment. According to accounts, the food won't get there for three months. Is there anything the U.S. is considering to alleviate the problem?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen these reports, Barry, and we have pledged 50,000 metric tons of food this year, as we have last year, to aid the people of North Korea. In terms of the logistical arrangements, I know that our people are working closely with the World Food Program on those arrangements. I don't have an update for you on where we stand in terms of the delivery of that food through the pipeline, but certainly be assured that we are working closely with the World Food Program on the issue.
QUESTION: North Korea apparently again has demanded that the U.S. withdraw its nuclear weapons from South Korea, but does it have any legitimate grounds to assert that they weren't withdrawn under the first President Bush about 14 years ago?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think that that issue was addressed at the time by President Bush, and I don't have anything to add to what he had said.
QUESTION: With regard to the North Koreans, is there any mechanism in place? Of course, over the number of years they've spread technologies to the Mideast and even as far as Libya and -- for parts and scientific expertise. Will that also be part of this plan?
MR. MCCORMACK: I mean we use scientific expertise in which regard?
QUESTION: Scientific expertise to help other countries.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the focus of these discussions is well known, Joel, and has to do with the denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: Yes, Sean, on Burma?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see if we have anything else on North Korea before we move on. Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. There are reports that Burma has given up its claim to share ASEAN. Do you guys have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We welcome the announcement that Burma will defer its scheduled chairmanship of the ASEAN organization. We look forward to continuing to work with ASEAN to strengthen our cooperation in the areas of common interest. In the meantime, Burma remains far from the goal of peaceful transition to democracy and arrests of pro-democracy supporters continue unabated, as do egregious human rights abuses. And we, again, call upon Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, Hkun Htun Oo and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, so that they can engage the democratic opposition and pro-democracy, ethnic minority groups in a meaningful dialogue leading to genuine national reconciliation and the establishment of democracy.
QUESTION: You want to take some credit, the U.S., for this action?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just stick where we were with this, Barry.
QUESTION: What is the -- it's related -- being prepared by -- in cooperation with General William Ward arguing that the Palestinian security forces are weak and not equipped and divided and said the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are more armed than the Palestinian security forces. How are you going to deal with this situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, General Ward was just up on the Hill, along with Assistant Secretary Welch and he was asked this question and he addressed it and just let me reiterate a couple of points upfront and I would refer you to his remarks on the matter as well. First of all, this was not -- this report was not funded, asked for or supported by the U.S. Government. It was, as I understand it, a private consulting group and I think there were other funding sources for it.
That said, General Ward, I think did meet with some of these representatives. He himself has said when he was up testifying before Congress that he has not seen the report, but he did say that, you know, what he is doing is working to address some of the obstacles that we have that are currently in place to an effective Palestinian security force. I think that many of those are well known and there's a history to how we have gotten to this point with respect to the Palestinian security forces and that's why General Ward has been on the ground and working hard with the Palestinians to look at ways that they can improve their effectiveness to maintain a calm in the run-up and during the withdrawal as well as after the withdrawal, so that the Palestinian people can move forward with the aspirations that they have for building a peaceful and stable and more prosperous society.
So -- and General Ward is also working with the international community in this regard and he's also working with the Israeli Government. So he's hard at work trying to address some of the obstacles that were generally outlined in the report.
QUESTION: Are you planning to equip the Palestinian security forces?
MR. MCCORMACK: General Ward is working -- he's gone through and talked with the Palestinian security forces with Minister Yusef about what needs they have and he's working very closely with them on ways in which they might address some of those needs.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Tammy.
QUESTION: So does -- in saying that General Ward is working to address some of the obstacles outlined in the report, does he, therefore, agree with the assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: He, himself, said that -- when he was up testifying before the Congress that he has not read the report himself. So he can't attest to every single word that is written in the report. But certainly, we understand that there were issues of -- that he was working with the Palestinians on in terms of equipment, in terms of command and control and those are the things where he is -- those are the areas that he is focusing on. So I can't go through kind of everything that's listed in the report, but certainly the general areas that he was trying to address with the Palestinians are well known. And he and the Secretary have talked about that in public.
QUESTION: Do you -- does the U.S. Government agree with the, sort of, the general assessment that the capabilities of the Palestinian Authority actually are not as advanced and as good as those of the militant groups? Because that's something that is not -- it's been around for a while. So, I mean, I think the Israelis wouldn't agree with it. I think they would say that the PA has enough capability to actually take on these groups.
MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to this report, we didn't fund it. We didn't ask for it. We didn't write it. In terms of, you know, in terms of the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces, they do face challenges. They face challenges from those who want to derail progress towards a successful withdrawal. And if there's a successful withdrawal, we hope that that reenergizes progress towards the roadmap. So the Palestinian Authority does face challenges from these rejectionist groups. And we're working very closely with them individually, as well as encouraging cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government, so that there is a successful withdrawal. But there are real challenges and that's why General Ward is on the ground working very hard on these issues.
QUESTION: I understand that you didn't commission it or pay for it or produce it -- the report. But there have been other reports on various issues, whether it be public diplomacy, reconstruction, things like that, that you have used as a tool on your own policy. Would you say that you'll study the report and see if there's anything that you can apply to your work with the Palestinians?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. That will be up to General Ward and his team. I think he's got a very capable team that he is working with out there, and whether he draws useful information from this report will be up to he and his team. But let me tell you, after having talked to General Ward and as well as members of his team, he has a very capable group of people that are working very hard and working effectively with the Palestinian Authority as well as with the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: The South Korean President has accepted the resignation of their Ambassador to Washington involving domestic political scandal and not his work here. But in any event, does the State Department have any reflection? He's going to be here a while -- there's a lot of businesses, as we all know -- so he's not going to be yanked immediately. But does the State Department have any view of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have any comment on that, Barry.
QUESTION: No problem.
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's move around a little bit. How about in the back there?
QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia, I was wondering if you were aware of the fact that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Saud al-Faysal has been replaced by Nizar al-Madani recently because he's been injured?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those reports.
QUESTION: Standard question. Does the President still stand by the Bolton nomination? There's talk of recess appointment, that kind of thing. We haven't heard anything about it for a while.
MR. MCCORMACK: Still looking for an up-and-down vote. Up-or-down vote.
QUESTION: Soon? Or -- well, what's your --
MR. MCCORMACK: We've been talking about this for months and, meanwhile, the issue of UN reform, which is a crucial issue not only for the UN but certainly one of great interest to the American people and the U.S. Congress, continues. Meanwhile, we don't have a UN Perm Rep up in New York. Ambassador Patterson has been doing an excellent job, but we think it's important to have John Bolton up there and we look for an up-or-down vote on his nomination.
QUESTION: Also on Bolton?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: When you say that you're looking for an up-or-down vote, I mean, ultimately your hope and wish is that you would have an up-or-down vote. Is the Secretary still talking to senators, trying to find some kind of compromise to make an up-or-down vote, or are you just kind of hoping that the Senators will decide that there will be an up-or-down vote?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's an issue the administration continues to work and we want and think that John Bolton deserves an up-or-down vote.
QUESTION: Well, no, I understand that you know that you want one.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But is there anything to indicate through your contacts with the Senators or things that you're moving in that direction or are you still trying to make a compromise?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're still working the issue.
QUESTION: Would you, I don't want to say "predict" because you don't like to predict things, but would you say to that -- is it the administration's determination to have someone up there before the General Assembly opens its session in September?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We think it's important to have somebody up there as soon as possible and we're still looking for the earliest possible date for a vote on Mr. Bolton's nomination.
QUESTION: I tried.
MR. MCCORMACK: Good try. (Laughter). Peter.
MR. MCCORMACK: Iraq.
QUESTION: There is a report today that Ambassador Khalilzad is going to becoming more actively involved in the process of drafting the constitution. I'm wondering, does this reflect any concern that the issues of autonomy for the various groups or the other issues there are getting to the point that where it's getting critical that we may not be able to meet the August 15th deadline?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think -- Ambassador Khalilzad, I saw his comments and certainly his comments reflect what we have spoken out for in terms of minority rights, women's rights, as well as ideas for how various parts of the Iraqi Government might relate to one another. But let me underline -- and this is, you know, our understanding, as shared by the Embassy in Baghdad as well as back here in Washington, is that first and foremost, this is -- beginning and end -- this is an Iraqi process. The Iraqis will decide the wording of their constitution. They will decide the fundamental principles that are enshrined in that constitution concerning the role of religion in their society, the rights for women, the issues of -- so-called issues of "federalism." These are issues for the Iraqis to decide.
Certainly, we and other members of the international community stand ready to assist the Iraqis as they move along through this political process. They are making progress in this regard. There are going to be ups and downs in the process, just as there were in our own constitution-writing process. But this is an Iraqi process and they have given every indication that they intend to meet the August 15th deadline. And we certainly support them in meeting that goal.
QUESTION: Just one thing just to follow-up? So does that mean the United States would be prepared, because it's an Iraqi process, to accept an outcome where things like the rights of women are subject to religious law, which is not something that we'd necessarily believe in here.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, beginning and end, this is an Iraqi process. These are decisions for the Iraqi people -- that the Iraqi people to make. They've already, in a preliminary fashion, spoken to many of these issues already in the form of the TAL, the Transitional Administrative Law. So they have already given some indication of what the issues are and where they might come out. But where they end up on these issues, it's going to be up to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: But you're not quite so hands-off with the issue of the militias. Ambassador Khalilzad addressed that and said that there's no place for these nongovernmental militias. Whereas different members of the Iraqi Government have said that they don't expect that to be such a problem.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is, you know, an issue that we have spoken out in different places, but again, the issue remains the same. In a democracy, the government must have a monopoly on the use of force. We have talked about this in various other areas as well, various other situations. So again, it's a reiteration of principles that we have talked about in universal -- what we believe are universal principles.
QUESTION: And you feel the Iraqi Government and the U.S. are on the same page with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have expressed what our views are. We think that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government want a peaceful, prosperous, stable Iraq and we believe that they will make the decisions concerning these issues that lead to that outcome.
QUESTION: General Keane, who spent a bit of time or quite a bit of time in Iraq, spoke yesterday at the Washington Institute. And he gave out a number of 50,000 to which he said was the number of captured or killed insurgents by U.S. or Iraqi forces in about seven months. Does that number seem likely to you or have you heard it before? Because this is the first time that anybody in the military or in the government has actually spoken out publicly in terms of numbers.
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen his remarks so -- and DOD would be a better place to be able to address --
QUESTION: Yeah, they said according to -- that number of people. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: There you go.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, here in the front.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I recall you were not able to respond to the question about the Zimbabwean leader Mugabe's trip to China. In a related vein, today on -- at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee there was several witnesses who expressed concern about China's policy of embracing a lot of the regimes we consider rogue regimes. The countries in question were Sudan and Iran. And I just wonder if you have a U.S. policy on that or an expression of concern that you can set forth.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll see what we can get for you.
Do you have a question?
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question about Iraq. Al-Qaida announced today that they plan to kill the two -- they announce -- they get -- they have the two diplomats from Algeria and they plan to kill them. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those claims, but we call for their immediate release unharmed.
QUESTION: On United Nations reform, yesterday G-4 countries and African Union agreed with seeking the unified proposal for expanding Security Council. Are you going to go against that unified proposal or are you going to persuade African countries not to go with that such kind of proposal?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our views on the issues of UN reform and, as a subset of that reform that the Security Council, are well known. Simply stated, with regard to Security Council reform, we've made very clear that we don't think any actions on deciding about reform of the Security Council should sprint out ahead of action on other issues that we think are -- on which there is wide agreement in terms of reform of the UN Secretariat, budget reform of the UN, on the peace building commission, on the human rights commission, on the convention against terrorism. So we would urge progress on those other issues. In the meantime, we're certainly willing to discuss criteria for the Security Council reform, but we think it's very important that Security Council reform not get out ahead of those other reforms.
QUESTION: Kofi Annan is calling on world leaders to define "terrorism" by finally coming out with a peace treaty, which has been stalled for years. What's your response to the formal definition? And there are now more vocal talk shows, criticisms of the Muslim community and the Muslim community are objecting to this with regard to terrorism, there's a backlash.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we certainly support Secretary General Annan's commitment to fight terrorism. And we are working on, as you note, the issue of adoption of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The specific wording of that convention as well as the definition is an issue that we continue to work and we are engaged with other members of the UN on.
QUESTION: Anything on this backlash?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have anything, no. Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 12:50 p.m.)