State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 28, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 28, 2005
Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 28, 2005
Murder of Algerian Diplomats Ali Belaroussi and Assedine Belkadi
Six-Party Talks / Assistant Secretary Hill's Meetings / Japanese
Abductions Raised at Six-Party Talks / June 2004 Proposal /
Statement of Principles / Bilateral Meetings
Public Statements by Muslim Scholars and Clerics Condemning Those
Who Commit Violence in the Name of Islam
Statement by IRA to End Armed Struggle / Special Envoy Mitchell
Reiss's Contacts with the Parties
Announcement of Cuba Transition Coordinator
John Bolton's Response Regarding Grand Jury Testimony
12:25 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. How is everybody today? I have one opening statement, and then we will go right into questions.
The United States condemns the brutal murders of Algerian Envoy Ali Belaroussi and Assedine Belkadi, the Algerian Embassy's Diplomatic Attaché in Baghdad. We want to pass along our thoughts and prayers to their families and colleagues, as well as to the government and people of Algeria. Such attacks will not deter us from our commitment to assist the Iraqi people in their transition towards a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. We will continue to work with the Iraqi Government and Iraqi security officials to bring those responsible to justice and to eliminate the network behind this brutal act.
And with that, I would be pleased to take your questions. Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: Do you have an unvarnished update on the North Korea talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Unvarnished? Always unvarnished.
Mr. Hill had a heads of delegation meeting today at the six-party talks. Also within the context of the six-party talks, he had several bilateral contacts. He met with the South Korean delegation. He met with the Japanese delegation. He also had a meeting with the North Korean delegation. And I expect that tomorrow we will see more bilateral contacts among all the different parties in the context of the six-party talks as well as a possible plenary session. I think that Ambassador Hill would characterize the atmosphere at the six-party talks as good. Good atmosphere continues. But I have to emphasize we are still at the very beginning of these talks. This is tough, multilateral diplomacy. Ambassador Hill is there because he is a seasoned diplomat and a veteran negotiator. So while the positive atmosphere continues among all the parties at the six-party talks, we are still at the very beginning and I think all the various parties are focused now of working on a statement of principles that might form a foundation to move forward.
QUESTION: A follow-up with two things. One is I think there was a report today, I guess I think it was the New York Times, that the North Koreans, their main concern was again what we talked about the other day, the sequencing or how much they would have to do up front before they can get the benefits. Can you comment on that?
And the second thing is that the Japanese have been insisting -- and excuse me if maybe you discussed this yesterday and I wasn't here -- the Japanese have insisted on raising the issue of abductions as part of the talks, and countries like Russia, and I think China, have said they shouldn't be really part of it. Where does the United States stand on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Two things. I think the North Korean delegation in the plenary session talked a bit about the sequencing or phasing that is contained in the June 2004 proposal, so they have raised that in a multilateral context. I think it is going to be one of the issues that, as a group, as a grouping of six parties, it will continue to be discussed as well as other issues.
You mentioned Japanese abductions being potentially raised by the Japanese delegation. Our view is that other delegations, of course, can raise other issues in the context of the six-party talks. But the focus of this round and the focus of our efforts, our immediate efforts continuing out onto the foreseeable horizon, is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. So that is where our focus remains. I think that that is also the shared focus of the other participants in the six-party talks. That said, certainly other parties can raise other issues as well, including the Japanese abductee issue.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. The Chinese have said it should be done bilaterally within the six-party. Would that be the U.S. preference?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is a bilateral issue between North Korea and Japan, and it is an issue I know that the Japanese Government has in public expressed concern to the North Koreans about. But, again, as we have said and you've heard Secretary Rice during her recent trip to the region in meeting with Japanese officials, they suggested that they might raise it during the six-party talks. We said that, of course, it is an issue that could be raised but, again, we have to underline the fact that this is -- the focus of the six-party talks is on a denuclearized Peninsula and making progress in this round towards that goal. So that is where our focus is and that's what I believe the focus of the other parties in the talks is.
QUESTION: There are some reports that the North Koreans have rejected the proposal out of hand. Have they issued any kind of response to the U.S. proposal? If so, would you characterize it as a rejection and is this proposal a kind of starting-off point or is this a proposal that's not open to any further concessions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that the North Korean delegation in the plenary session, I believe it was yesterday, had some reactions to the June 2004 proposal. And as the previous question noted, they expressed concerns in the public forum about the phasing and the sequencing.
Right now, our focus is on, and the focus of the parties in the talks is on, drafting what we are referring to as a statement of principles that we think will allow us to build a foundation that we hope to make progress on towards the ultimate goal of a denuclearized Peninsula.
We think, you know, the June 2004 proposal is still on the table and we are going to continue working from the June 2004 proposal. There are other ideas that are out there as well. I would note the South Korean proposal on energy. So I think that there are going to be other ideas flowing into the discussions, into the multilateral discussions. And I think that that's natural in the multilateral diplomatic process.
QUESTION: So their -- the reaction was not a rejection?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'd just refer you to -- it's a matter of public record what they said in the plenary. I think they made it in a public forum.
Anything else on this? George.
QUESTION: Wasn't there a statement of principles worked out in June 2004? And if so, why is that not the basis for the discussions instead of having to draft a new statement of principles?
MR. MCCORMACK: There has been previous work done in other rounds. Certainly, that work will inform what the parties are doing right now. We started off from the basis of our comprehensive June 2004 proposal and that certainly is the issues contained in that 2004 proposal, as well as the ideas -- or certainly inform our efforts and the proposal is still out there. And I think that, you know, we have a new round here and we are looking for all the parties to have input to a new statement to come out of this round. That's where our efforts are focused on. I think previous efforts will certainly inform what is being done now in this round.
Anything else on six-party talks?
QUESTION: Just for clarification, assuming that you draft the statement of principles, would that then replace the June '04 U.S. proposal as a working document or blueprint for the talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think let's wait to see if we do get that statement of principles.
QUESTION: Well, is that the idea --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the June 2004 proposal, again, it still remains on the table. It still informs the discussions that are going on. It's still something that we're working from. So let's see what potential progress we can make towards the statement of principle before we get into those kinds of discussions.
QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry to belabor this, but you say it's the document that you're working from, but it sounds as if what you're saying is it's a kind of jumping-off point and is open to, as the talks go on and other people introduce their ideas, that it's open to negotiation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is a multilateral diplomatic process, so you're going to have ideas coming in from various parties. The June 2004 proposal still remains on the table, from our perspective. It certainly informs and is the basis for our efforts as we engage the other parties in the talks. So it's still very much active and part of our diplomacy.
QUESTION: Sean, the agreement from last year is largely sort of bilateral. It talks about what the United States would do and what North Korea would do in --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think that that's an accurate characterization of it. It certainly -- just one example -- it talks about other parties in the six-party talks looking at North Korea's energy needs, not the United States. It talks about multilateral security guarantees in response for North Korean actions. So it is -- it was certainly discussed with the other four members of the six-party talks -- South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. So, you know, I think it -- I don't think it is accurate to characterize it as a bilateral document. It certainly was produced by the United States and tabled by the United States, but it is tabled within the context of the six-party talks.
QUESTION: I'm just making sure that you're still looking for sort of a document out of this that is multilateral and there are other parties involved because the purpose of the six-party talks to begin with two years ago was that anything that the North Koreans commit to, then they'll have to be responsible for it before five other countries, not only before the United States. So that's still your goal, but you have been waiting for a response to the proposal, the U.S. proposal, but you still are looking for a multilateral document out of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, absolutely. Yes, let me make one thing clear here is that we have no intention of negotiating a bilateral agreement at these talks with North Korea. That is an approach that was tried in 1994 and didn't work. So we are focused on multilateral diplomacy at the six-party talks and we hope to make progress in that regard.
QUESTION: At previous rounds, the North Koreans talked about the possibility of nuclear weapons tests and the possibility of the export of nuclear technologies. Have they talked at this particular round about those same subjects?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not heard those subjects come up, George, but I haven't talked to anybody about those. I will endeavor to get you an answer to your question.
QUESTION: One last one.
MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie.
QUESTION: Can you characterize the bilateral meeting that the U.S. had with North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any readout for you today.
QUESTION: So --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's part of -- these -- a couple things. There are a lot of bilateral contacts going on. There are different groupings of nations, as you would find at -- different groups -- groupings of delegations -- those you would find at any multilateral forum. There are contacts with -- bilateral contacts that the Japanese are having with other parties and not with the United States. Same goes for the South Koreans and for the Chinese and for the Russians, as well as the North Koreans. So there are a lot of -- there's a lot of activity, bilateral, other groupings, as well as six-party activity here. And we are having contacts with, as I just mentioned, Japan, South Korea. Yesterday it was with the Chinese as well.
And that, you know, our contacts with North Korea, these bilateral contacts that we have, concern the modalities of the talks and they are an effort to understand North Korean positions and to explain U.S. views. So that's the nature of those contacts. It's not a negotiation. Negotiations take place in the multilateral six-party forum.
QUESTION: But certainly, in kind of previous rounds, it was as if you -- it seems as if there would be like kind of one meeting to placate the North Koreans who, you know, wanted to speak to the U.S. about the negotiations in more of a bilateral context. But it seems now that these -- that, you know, the kind of bilateral contact on this within the six-party talks with the North Koreans are now part and parcel of the six-party talks themselves; it's not just kind of one isolated meeting but more part of your regular bilateral contacts with the other parties.
MR. MCCORMACK: Our approach hasn't changed. It's the same. And I think if you, as you point out, if you look back in the six-party talk rounds, there had been previously bilateral contacts. And I would also note that I think we're in day three, I think, of these talks. Previous rounds have ended by now, or were soon to end. And I think that we are seeing now that although there is not a set time for these, for this round to end, that there is a longer time horizon for this particular round.
So I think naturally, there's going to be more diplomatic activity as we go forward. But again, I have to emphasize, this is the same approach as we have had with the previous -- in the previous rounds where we have had bilateral contacts with other delegations.
QUESTION: Are you going to draft a statement before tomorrow or before the end of the week? A common statement -- something which would wrap up the week?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right now, I don't think people are thinking in terms of, you know, kind of Monday through Friday or the weekend. People are working hard out there, working long hours. As for when those people start to put pen to paper, or I guess as the case may be, sit down in front of their keyboards and start typing up potential drafts, I think I'm going to leave that to people on the ground, you know, to keep you updated on. I'll try to do it as best I can, but right now I don't have a time horizon for you on that.
QUESTION: This morning, the meeting between Secretary Rice and the Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura was held. What do you have -- something to state about that thing?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did have a meeting. They met one-on-one so I -- and I haven't had a chance to talk to the Secretary about that meeting. So we will -- I expect that on the agenda was certainly the issue of UN reform. But what we'll try to do is we'll try to get you some information that we'll post later outlining what topics they discussed. But I expect they talked about UN reform.
QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up, did the Secretary -- sorry, not the Secretary. Did the Japanese Foreign Minister meet with anybody else in the building except the Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe his only scheduled meeting was with the Secretary.
Anything else on North Korea or the Japanese Foreign Minister?
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Are they going to work on the weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe so. Let me check with Ambassador Hill. I'll find out what the work schedule is. But I think they're not going to be wasting any time.
QUESTION: A change of subject. Sean, a press conference just concluded at the National Press Club where U.S.-Canadian Muslim Council has released a fatwa condemning extremist radicals. They abhorred the behavior of Usama bin Laden, Mr. Zarqawi, Muqtada al-Sadr and other broad terrorist groups. What are you doing to support their efforts in their public relations campaign?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is a private effort, but I think what you see is a growing number of these sort of public strong statements from leading Muslim scholars and Muslim clerics condemning people who use the name of Islam to commit acts of terror and acts of violence. King Abdullah of Jordan recently hosted a meeting in Amman where he brought together Sunni and Shia clerics in which they talked about the fact that those who purport to use the name of -- use the Islamic faith as a justification for acts of terror don't, in fact, truly represent Islam and those who adhere to that faith.
So certainly I think it is a noteworthy effort and a noteworthy development. But, again, this is a private effort.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Ireland? What confidence does the U.S. have that the IRA will, in fact, disarm this time? Haven't we been down this road before?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have -- there is a statement that was put out by the IRA pledging to end armed struggle. We welcome that statement. The White House has put out a statement by the President regarding this. We're encouraged by what we see as a potentially historic statement and what it might mean for the people of Northern Ireland, but now words must follow -- actions must follow words.
And Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, who is our Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, has been in contact with the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein leaders, as well as officials from the British and Irish Governments. And this is, you know, continuing our efforts that President Bush had talked about several years ago that we stand ready to assist in any way possible when all the parties agree that that assistance would be useful. So I expect that Mr. Reiss will continue his efforts. To reiterate, we welcome the statement, but actions need to follow on those words.
QUESTION: And are you concerned that they won't? I mean, obviously, you're calling for it, but given the track record?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, again, we will wait to see -- wait to see actions that follow on those good words.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the appointment of the Cuba Transition Coordinator? I know that you're not going to upstage the Secretary, but could you give us a few more details about why the announcement is coming today? It was more than a year ago that it was announced that there would be this position.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as you point out, the Secretary will be, in half an hour, talking about this and making an announcement of the name of the Transition Coordinator. It is an important job. This follows on recommendations made by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. It follows on efforts that we have made in the wake of that report concerning empowering Cuban civil society, denying resources to the Castro regime, broadcasting into Cuba.
And so we think that this is an important moment and that's why the Secretary herself wanted to make this announcement. This Transition Coordinator will be heading up and coordinating our efforts that we -- that President Bush launched in the wake of that commission report. And beyond that, I'll wait half an hour for the Secretary to speak to you guys. And we will also try to do a background briefing this afternoon for you guys to kind of fill in some of the details about how the coordinator relates to the State Department and where that person will be sitting and those sorts of details.
QUESTION: It is a State Department position, though, isn't it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I believe so.
QUESTION: The -- but I think the question was why was there such a delay between the initial initiative a year ago and now this naming here of such an important position.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's been a lot of activity. This is, you know, the -- we have launched a lot of activities following up the commission's report. And, you know, the President and the Secretary wanted to make sure that we found the right person for the job and I think that both of them think that we have.
QUESTION: Senator Biden -- let's see -- asked the Secretary yesterday to tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee whether John Bolton did, in fact, appear before a grand jury or whether he has been interviewed or otherwise asked to provide information by the Special Prosecutor or his staff in connection with the Valerie Plame affair. Do you have anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Bolton, as part of the nomination process, supplied answers, supplied an answer to the question. They'd asked whether or not the nominee has been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative, including an Inspector General, congressional or grand jury investigation within the past five years, except routine Congressional testimony. Mr. Bolton, in his response on the written paperwork, was to say no. And that answer was truthful then and it remains the case now.
QUESTION: Sort of a personnel question. If Mr. Bolton was a Foreign Service Officer, I would know the answer to this, but he's down in the transition office, as far as I know. He is not Under Secretary anymore and he hasn't been confirmed. Is he still paid by the State Department and how exactly is he paid, if that's the case?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a question I'll have to look into for you to give you a precise answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:48 p.m.)
DPB # 130