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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing January 3, 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 3, 2006

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice's Travel to Indonesia and Australia / Will Discuss
Democratic Development, Avian Flu, Tsunami Recovery, Climate Change
U.S. to Reinstitute Financing, Military Exchanges Following Negotiations

RUSSIA / UKRAINE
Resumption of Russian Natural Gas to Ukraine
U.S. Supports Gradual Implementation of Market Pricing for Energy
Issues Between Russia and Ukraine Remain Unresolved
Conflict Signals Insecurity of Energy Sector / Raises Questions
about Use of Energy to Exert Political Pressure

IRAN
Announcement of Resumption of Nuclear Research on January 9
U.S. Opposed to Enrichment-Related Activities
U.S. Supports EU-3 and Russia to Engage Iranians into Negotiations
Iran Should Not Pursue Nuclear Weapons Under Cover of Civilian Program
Iran Not Engaging in Good Faith Negotiations

IRAQ
Consular Affairs Warnings Clear About Danger of Travel to Iraq

BOLIVIA
U.S. Prepared to Work With All Democratically Elected Governments,
if They Govern Democratically
U.S. Supports Positive Agenda in Region: Promotion of Freedoms,
Democracies, Free Trade, Good Governance, etc.
Bilateral Relations Depend on Intersection of Interests

SYRIA
Remarks by Vice President Khaddam Warrant Further Investigation
Syria Must Cooperate with Investigation Per UNSC Resolution 1636
U.S. Calls Upon Syria to Change Behavior on Lebanon and Iraqi
Terrorism

PALISTINIANS
Election Date is Matter for Palestinian People / Should be Able to
Vote in Atmosphere Free From Intimidation, Violence
Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government Should Accommodate
East Jerusalem for Elections as They Have in Past

CAMBODIA
U.S. Condemns Arrest of Human Rights Activists
Arrests Call into Question Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights

NORTH KOREA
U.S. Looks Forward to Resumption of Six Party Talks
U.S. Briefed North Korea on Actions Taken Under Section 311 of
Patriot Act / Concern about Money Laundering Unrelated to
Talks

BURMA
International Community Concerned about Oppressive Practices


TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EST


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, and Happy New Year.

QUESTION: Happy New Year to you.

MR. MCCORMACK: And we'll start off the first briefing of the new year with a Travel Announcement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Indonesia and Australia January 7th through the 12th. The Secretary's visit to Indonesia will focus on support for Indonesia's democratic development. The Secretary will meet with Indonesian President Susilo BambangYudhoyono and his ministers to discuss our cooperation on preventing and responding to the threat of avian influenza and to review progress on Indonesia's recovery from last year's tsunami.

In Australia, the Secretary will hold a ministerial session of the U.S.-Japan-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with her Australian and Japanese counterparts. She will participate -- also participate in the first Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate with the governments of Australia, China, India, Japan and Korea.

QUESTION: This is a little bit sidewise, but is there an opportunity to talk about North Korea's situation when she sees the Japanese, or is that a little bit off the point of the trip?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's off the -- that's not the -- it's not the point of the trip and I'm sure if the issue comes up, she'd be ready to talk about it.

QUESTION: And do you see any follow-on travel in the works? She, you know --

MR. MCCORMACK: Any follow-on travel?

QUESTION: Well, you know how restless she gets and she has an airplane at her disposal. Might she come back and have a cup of coffee and take off someplace else that you can tell us about?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on our travel schedule.

QUESTION: Okay, good.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about --

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: It's cold in Western Europe, and Russia and Ukraine have been wrestling over gas supplies. They're going to talk, so I guess that's something. But you have a -- is the U.S. -- one of the things -- does the U.S. substantiate Russian claims Ukraine has been siphoning off undeserved portions of the gas or do you have any general views on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of what amount of gas, the cubic meters flowing through the pipeline, I am not in a position to substantiate what the parties have been saying. What I do understand is the Russian Government has said that they have increased the amount of gas flowing through that pipeline that transits through Ukraine and into Western Europe. At what level they have increased the gas, I don't know.

What I do know, though, is whatever steps the Russian Government has taken to increase the level of gas flowing through the pipeline, it doesn't resolve the issue between Ukraine and Russia. Now, we put out a statement over the weekending concerning this issue and that's still -- that's still where we are in terms of our -- where we are on this issue. We support a move towards market pricing for energy but believe that such a change should be introduced over time rather than suddenly and unilaterally.

So this is an issue that the Ukraine and Russia need to work out. The steps that the Russians -- the Russian company Gazprom recently took raise some questions and we understand that the European Union has been in touch with them on this issue, as have we. So we'll see how it turns out. Our position continues to be what it was stated to be over the weekend and we're going to continue watching the situation closely.

QUESTION: On the negative statement, there was a little part -- there was a little give, but you're saying we stand where we were?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. And when you say with them, I suppose you mean both sides -- we're in touch?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, both sides.

Peter.

QUESTION: Does the United States view this as a purely economic issue or do they see political intent in Russia to try to put the squeeze on Ukraine?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as we said in the statement over the weekend, it raises two kinds of questions. One, it raises questions about the insecurity in the energy sector, especially at the height of winter in Western and Eastern Europe. A number of storms have come through. There's a lot of snow. It's very cold. And it also raises questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure. Now, I would leave it to the Russian authorities to explain what their motivations were behind this move, but certainly it does raise those two kinds of questions and it's something that we have raised with the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to come back to that last statement, at what level have you raised it with the Russian Government and how much pressure or how much input are you putting into this thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: The -- I believe our Embassy has been in touch with Russian authorities. At the assistant secretary level here, we have been working -- are working the issue as well. So it's really at the ambassadorial/assistant secretary level that we've been working it.

QUESTION: You used the phrase "exert political pressure." I mean, do you see this in Ukraine as a punitive measure for Russia, where you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to turn --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) away from this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah -- I'm not going to try to discern exactly what the Russian motivations were in taking these steps. I would note that it is winter and the Ukrainians have some parliamentary elections coming up. There are also -- the Russians have also said that there are economic issues at stake. Now, these are issues that we understand the Russian authorities and the Ukrainian Government need to resolve. There's a question here about the pricing level. There was -- they were previously operating under an agreement where Ukraine was provided gas at, I think, $50 per cubic meter and the Russian Government wants to raise it to over $200 per cubic meter.

Now, whatever level the Russians and the Ukrainians agree upon for the gas is up to them. We believe that, certainly, a market-based mechanism is appropriate in terms of the pricing of the gas. But the problem that precipitated -- the step that precipitated where we found ourselves over the weekend was the fact that the Russians raised this price precipitously. They raised it suddenly and unilaterally. And that raised some serious concerns not only in the United States but in Western Europe as well, as well as among the Ukrainians, understandably.

Saul.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: So Iran has told the IAEA that it's going to resume research and development on uranium. Is this of concern to the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we understand that the Iranians informed the IAEA that they intended to resume on January 9th nuclear research and development activities that it had previously suspended. Now, they weren't clear as to what exactly that meant, so the IAEA is seeking clarification from Iran regarding the letter and what exactly they meant by these research activities.

Now, certainly, we strongly oppose Iran proceeding with any further enrichment-related activities. They began resumption of uranium conversion activities this past August, which was in contravention of the November 2004 Paris agreement that they reached with the EU-3 in which they pledged to suspend all enrichment and conversion activities.

Our view is that if Iran takes any further enrichment-related steps, the international community will have to consider additional measures to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions. And I think that Iran should listen very carefully to the international community. It finds itself increasingly isolated on this issue. Witness the actions the Board of Governors took this past fall at their meeting.

And our view is that we support the efforts of the EU-3. We support the efforts of Russia to engage with the Iranians to get them back into negotiations. The Russians have put on the table a proposal in which there would be joint enrichment activities on Russian soil, but the Iranians would have the benefit of that enriched material for use in peaceful nuclear reactors. That's, we think, a very interesting proposal. We think that it is a good faith proposal, but thus far the Iranians have really done sort of a bob and weave on this issue, seeking to extend out discussions, not really commit to whether or not they're going to negotiate in a serious manner.

And frankly, the patience of the international community is not infinite on this issue because it's a serious issue. Iran is trying to pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program. We don't think that that should be allowed to happen and I think you won't find any disagreement on the fact that Iran's obtaining a nuclear weapon would be destabilizing, destabilizing to the region and destabilizing to the world.

QUESTION: You're putting a red line out there. You don't want Iran to take any further enrichment-related activities, you said. The research and development might not --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the term "red line" is yours. I am not --

QUESTION: Okay. But aren't you saying, look, if they do this, then we want the international community --

MR. MCCORMACK: We think that if they do take further enrichment-related steps, then the international community should consider additional measures to constrain Iran's activities in this regard.

QUESTION: And I just want to be clear what the further enrichment-related activities might be. In research and development, you can build centrifuges which might not necessarily be --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's an enrichment-related activity.

QUESTION: It is for you guys?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. That is. Yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: And just to follow on this also, is pure research in this field, is that considered --

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't think that there's -- again, this gets to the issue of their motivations and the fact that Iran has over the years sought to conceal what it is really doing with its nuclear program has really broken down any sort of trust that might have existed between Iran, its nuclear program and the international community. So frankly, Iran, through its actions, through its statements, through its evasiveness and its failure to fully cooperate with the IAEA to this point, has really -- has really eliminated any sort of trust that might have existed on this issue. So in terms of trying to draw a line around something being pure research with respect to enrichment activities, it's not something that we're going to buy, and I don't think the international community will either.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you be more specific on what steps do you think the international community should take? Does this mean going immediately to the Security Council? What does it mean?

MR. MCCORMACK: At this point I'm not going to prejudge what those might be. We are working very closely with our colleagues in the EU-3. We're in contact with the Russian Government as well as others on this issue. Our view is that, given Iran's past behavior, that this issue will eventually end up in the Security Council. We've said that for some time. But we are working in good faith and in full support of the EU-3 as well as other diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.

QUESTION: And are you optimistic that you'll get the support of India again on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We have been talking to the Indian Government about this issue. And I think that their vote this past fall in the Board of Governors in finding Iran noncompliance with its NPT, Nonproliferation Treaty, obligations is a signal of how seriously they view the issue of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful program.

QUESTION: So who have you spoken to today about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have an update for you. We have been -- we have had a number of international contacts on this. But primarily we've been working with the EU-3, the Russian Government. We have been in contact as well -- Under Secretary Burns as well as Under Secretary Joseph have both been working this issue on the international front.

QUESTION: Do you need any clarification of what Iran said it will do? I'm asking because with the provisos you're laying down, they can't do any further enrichment-related activities, it suggests -- I think I'm interpreting that they can't do any research and development without you thinking the international community should then consider further measures? Is that right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I was talking to Peter about, in trying to draw these distinctions between what they might describe as R&D, research and development, and what is actually intended to be activities that further their nuclear weapons program, I don't think is a line that we would draw. I think they're one and the same.

We -- you know, Iran is a country that is rich in hydrocarbons, both in gas reserves and oil reserves. And you know, why they believe they need a civilian nuclear power-generating capacity is frankly inexplicable. They've said they need it. We, working with the EU-3 and the Russians, have put -- the Russians have put an offer on the table that would address their concerns about access to fuel for civilian nuclear power plants. The Russians have also put in place provisos with their agreement -- in their agreement with Iran concerning the Bushehr reactor, which is intended to produce civilian nuclear energy, a fuel take-back provision.

So again, the international community has gone more than the extra mile in trying to address Iran's concerns with regard to access to nuclear fuel. And frankly, the Iranians have pocketed those -- pocketed those proposals and they haven't offered anything in response. What they've offered in response is to break the agreements that they've made.

QUESTION: What are the mechanisms for the international community considering additional measures? There's no Board of Governors meeting until March.

MR. MCCORMACK: There's -- I'm not sure when the next one is. It'll probably be February-March. There are certainly provisions for calling extraordinary Board of Governors meetings. I'm not going to presuppose that that is -- that might happen, but that is a mechanism that's available.

Let's move back and I'll come back. Yes.

QUESTION: Same subject. Do you believe that Iranian Government may be playing game to buy the time to pursue its nuclear activity, nuclear --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that -- I think that they are certainly not engaging in good faith negotiations, as the rest of the world would have them do, and send a clear message that they should do. So what exactly the motivations are of the Iranian Government at this point, I can't describe for you. I think that the fact that they have tried to stretch out these negotiations over a long period of time, walked back from previous commitments and then say that they want to have talks about having talks, it's not an indication that they're serious at this point in engaging with the international community on this issue.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, over the holiday, a college student from Florida possibly did a publicity stunt, saying he's doing research, ended up both in Kuwait, Lebanon and in, obviously, Baghdad. Obviously, it's been on TV and the news. He must have had help between relatives, university friends and others. Is there any warning you want to give in general to others that are -- would this is being considered thrill seeking?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that our Consular Affairs warnings regarding travel to Iraq are pretty clear on that issue, and I think beyond that I don't have anything else to say about it.

Yeah. On this?

QUESTION: No.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll come back to the front row. I'm going to move around.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Secretary Rice is also expected to the Turkey in this month. When is she going and what is the agenda? Is it related to Iran and to Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll keep you -- we don't have any announcements on any further travel beyond what I've done. I would expect that as the month progresses we'll have more announcements concerning her travel, but at this point I don't have anything else for you.

Yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: You've dealt with Iran on one issue and Iraq on another issue. I'd like to deal with Iran and Iraq on a third issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Has Ambassador Khalilzad been having meetings with Iranians?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have not checked on that, Charlie, since before the holidays so I will --

MR. ERELI: Nothing new.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new? Mr. Ereli says that there is nothing new. I will take his assurances.

Yes.

QUESTION: On another region. Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales is in Caracas today. He was in Cuba over the weekend. What are some of the U.S.'s long-term concerns in light of this apparent trio that's forming?

MR. MCCORMACK: We -- you know, we are ready to work with any democratically elected government in the hemisphere. You know, our only concerns are that democratically elected governments continue -- that democratically elected governments govern in a democratic manner. We invite all governments that fit that description to join in what is a positive agenda for the hemisphere, and that is the increasing freedoms, support for fragile democracies, support for good governance, support for expanding free trade, breaking down barriers to trade. We believe that promotion of good governance, of transparency, fighting corruption and promotion of free trade are mutually reinforcing and that that is the best way to have -- to see that the citizens of countries of the hemisphere benefit from the prosperity that we see evident in the hemisphere.

We are certainly willing to work with the Bolivian Government, as well as other governments in the hemisphere, on this agenda. In particular, we have in the past had good cooperation with the Bolivian Government on anti-narcotics efforts. We'll see what kinds of policies President Morales pursues and, based on that, we'll see what kind of relationship the United States and Bolivia will have. The depth and breadth of any relationship the United States has with another country around the -- any other country will depend on the intersection of the interests. You know, we can work together with a variety of different countries on a number of different issues, but the depth and breadth of that cooperation and the closeness of any relationship will depend on what commonality there is in the agenda.

Yes.

QUESTION: Still on this. Well, he's been sending quite clear signals. He's been only in the office two weeks. He's already been to Venezuela and Cuba. That's pretty clear what his policies probably will be. Are you -- do you think that you might be able to turn him around? Are you in denial of what his policies will be? What is --

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. You know, he has been in office a very short period of time. We'll see what kinds of policies he pursues. We'll see, once the challenges of governing are before him, what kinds of policies he chooses to pursue and what kinds of relationships he chooses to cultivate within the hemisphere. So we'll wait and see. Like I said, we -- it doesn't matter, left of center, right of center, we're -- we will -- it doesn't matter to us along the political spectrum what kind of democratic government a country may have. If they're willing to work on the positive agenda that we have outlined for the hemisphere, then certainly we can have very close relations with governments across a political spectrum.

QUESTION: But it's not a question of where in the political spectrum he is. The issue is that he is aligning himself with your best -- your worst enemies in this hemisphere. That's really the issue here.

MR. MCCORMACK: The issue for us is working on promoting a positive agenda for the hemisphere. That's what we're focused on.

QUESTION: For Bolivia, he says, not Venezuela? Bolivia, you mean.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, for the hemisphere.

QUESTION: Oh, the hemisphere. Sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. All right. Michel.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on former Syrian Vice President Abd Halim Khaddam remarks last week. Mr. Khaddam has alleged that Syrian leaders threatened Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before his assassination last February.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that his remarks warrant further investigation by Mr. Mehlis. I think Mr. Mehlis has made that clear. He has put out a new list of individuals with whom he would like to speak concerning his investigation. We think it's important for all those individuals and governments to cooperate with Mr. Mehlis, as UN Security Council Resolution 1636 makes clear.

I think that Mr. Khaddam's remarks raise some deeply troubling issues as to what exactly was going on during the period in time in question, in which Mr. Mehlis has reported the Syrian Government was putting intense pressure on Mr. Hariri to support the extension of President Lahoud's mandate in Lebanon. So, you know, very clearly, Mr. Khaddam's remarks speak to that period of time in question. They raise serious questions about who in the Syrian Government may have been involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and we believe that all parties are -- it's incumbent upon all parties to cooperate in the investigation.

QUESTION: A follow up. The French newspaper Libération reported that American administration is trying to establish a Sunni regime in Syria to balance the Shia regime in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: That sounds like wild speculation. It sounds like a -- sort of part of the tinfoil hat crowd.

Yeah.

QUESTION: What's your assessment of the defection of Khaddam and its impact on regime change in Syria or for Syria to change its behavior?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't think the Government of Syria should wait for a television interview to change its behavior. We and others in the region have been calling upon Syria to change its behavior in a number of different aspects, whether that's in Lebanon or support for rejectionist groups in the Palestinian territories or allowing its territory to be used as a transit point for foreign terrorists going into Iraq. So we have made it very clear that Syria should change its behavior.

Yes.

QUESTION: Any reaction --

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, is this on the same or -- okay.

QUESTION: That's right. At what point does your policy of change in behavior become change of regime? Is there a red line that might make you consider a regime change rather than a behavior change in Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: What we have called upon is for the Syrian Government to change its behavior.

QUESTION: Okay, and so my question is sort of pushing things forward. So what's the -- when do you know that they're not changing their behavior and what do you after that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they have not changed their behavior to date in a substantive way, so we will continue to urge them, along with others, to change their behavior along the various aspects that I have talked about.

Yes.

QUESTION: Palestinian elections? Any reaction to Abbas' call for a postponement and do you think that if, in fact, the elections go forward on the date scheduled that -- do you have confidence at this point that they can be carried off fully?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we continue to think that the date for the Palestinian elections is ultimately a decision for the Palestinians to make. Their elections. They have -- however, they have said January 25th is the date for their parliamentary elections. We see no reason why those elections should not proceed on January 25th. We believe that that the Palestinian Authority should be concentrating on preparations for those elections so that individuals -- Palestinian people -- can vote in an atmosphere that is free from violence or coercion or intimidation.

QUESTION: So do you think that -- does that mean that you think that the election can be carried off fully even in East Jerusalem?

MR. MCCORMACK: The issue of East Jerusalem has come up in previous Palestinian votes and the Palestinian Authority has been able to work out accommodations with the Israeli Government to allow voting for people in that area. We see no reason why the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government shouldn't be able to come to some similar kind of accommodation for this round of voting and we are going to be working with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government, encouraging them to discuss this issue so that elections can move forward.

Assistant Secretary Welch and Elliot Abrams from the National Security Council are going to be traveling out to the region. They're going to be talking to officials on both sides -- the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority -- to talk about the range of issues, implementation of the movement agreement, security and elections as well.

QUESTION: Question. Do you think --

QUESTION: When?

MR. MCCORMACK: They'll be leaving -- I don't know exactly when, either today or tomorrow. I think probably tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do you think elections -- the election issue in East Jerusalem can be resolved without prejudging the future of East Jerusalem?

MR. MCCORMACK: It has been -- it has in the past.

QUESTION: It has in the past.

MR. MCCORMACK: It has in the past. You know, again, we see no reason why they should not be able to reach some type of accommodation, as they have in the past on the issue.

QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up to that. Do you see that the voting in East Jerusalem is indispensable to having what would be a legitimate election in the Palestinian territories?

MR. MCCORMACK: We believe that these elections should reflect the will of the Palestinian people and that in the past that has included voting by people who are from or live in East Jerusalem. The Israelis and the Palestinians have been to reach accommodation on that issue. We think that they should able to again.

QUESTION: But President Abbas' argument is that without the vote in East Jerusalem, it would not be a totally legitimate election. Is the United States --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we believe that these elections should be for all the Palestinian people within the parameters, as defined by the Palestinian Authority, working with the international community.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sir, just --

QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: Just one more, if I may. David is going to see who out there?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a list of who he's going to be seeing, but he'll see -- he'll see his -- the interlocutors he usually sees on the Israeli and the Palestinian side.

QUESTION: Those two sides?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: No Egypt?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have his full travel itinerary. We'll try to keep you updated.

QUESTION: Yeah. Mr. Kem Sokha, the leader of the U.S.-funded Cambodian Center for Human Rights in Phnom Penh, was arrested on the 31st of December, accused of criminal defamation for criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen. Does the State Department have any comment on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: We condemn the arrest of two prominent human rights activists, Mr. Kem Sokha, President of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, and Mr. Yeng Virak, Director of the Community Legal Education Center on criminal defamation charges. This is the latest in a series of arrests and lawsuits targeting critics of the Cambodian Government and the cumulative effect of which is to call into question the Cambodian Government's commitment to democracy and human rights.

Our Embassy immediately raised this issue with senior officials in the Cambodian Government and we voiced our strong objections to these arrests and we urged the Cambodian Government to reverse this -- reverse the erosion of freedom and democracy.

Dave. No? Okay.

QUESTION: North Korea is once again saying that it won't return to six-party talks unless the U.S. eases its restrictions on some North Korean companies. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the two issues are separate. We've talked about this before. And at the end of the last round of talks, which I believe was in November, all the parties agreed to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible. We are prepared to do so and we're going to -- we look forward to the resumption of those talks.

We offered the North Korean Government an anti -- a briefing on the actions that we took under Section 311 of the Patriot Act. And the North Korean Government has made it clear that it is not interested in such a briefing. And this is -- as I said before, it's not an issue related to the six-party talks.

We think that it is important and perfectly reasonable for individual states to take actions to protect themselves, in this case to protect American currency, because there were concerns about counterfeiting, there were concerns about money laundering. So these are illicit activities. We, the United States, as well as other countries are going to take steps to stop, inhibit or prevent illicit activities. That's unrelated to the six-party talks. The six-party talks is focused on the specific issue of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. So we view these two issues as mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: You may have given us mutually exclusive but they say that they're prevented now from going back to the talks. So how are you going to find some common ground?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I don't see how they're prevent -- in what way they'd be preventing the North Korean Government from going back to the six-party talks. I'm not sure I understand that.

QUESTION: Sean, just to get back to the Secretary's trip to Indonesia for a second. There have been progressive moves to restore normalization of military assistance to Indonesia over the last year or so. Is this going to be a topic of conversation when the Secretary goes there and what is the state now? Are you considering now that fully normalized military ties with Indonesia?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have taken -- we have taken some steps to -- that allow for educational exchanges, that allow for financing to move forward on various issues. These steps were taken in response to reforms and actions that the Indonesian Government has taken. We believe that it is important to have military exchanges. President Yudhoyono is actually a graduate of the military exchange program. So this is -- these are good and useful programs.

That said, they have to meet certain criteria. And when we had concerns about the behavior of the Indonesian military, the U.S. Government restricted those programs. In response to discussion and negotiation and mutual understanding on a series of issues, we were able to move that relationship forward once again and change it. So I expect that it will probably be a topic of conversation. I'm not sure if there are any other -- any further steps that we have planned at this point. I'll try to keep you updated later in the week with a more detailed briefing on what the Secretary's agenda will be.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that. Just as a scorecard (inaudible) are there any steps -- are there any restrictions remaining on our exchanges with Indonesia since you've freed up military sales? I think you freed up the IMET and you freed up a whole bunch of things. Is there anything left?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, programmatically, I'll have to check for you, Peter. I don't know if there are any programmatic steps that are left. But I would make the larger point that, again, you have these programmatic issues and you deal with them, but there is always room for growth in the military-to-military relationship. Now, the growth in the state of that relationship will depend on the behavior, so we'll see how that relationship progresses over time. I'll check for you on the programmatic --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you on the programmatic side. Yeah.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, possibly a strange, possibly an alarming situation. The government in -- the military government in Burma, Myanmar, is trying to move the government inland without much warning. Obviously it could be politics against Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers. Do you have any comment regarding that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- I guess, as a general statement, Burma's headed in the wrong direction in terms of the steps the current regime is taking. This regime is one that continues to oppress its own citizens. It continues to put in jail or put under house arrest those who speak out for freedom for the Burmese people. And it is being taken note of in the international community; recently, the Security Council decided to take up the issue. So it is now an issue that is before the international community. I don't think it is going to fall off the radar screen of the international community if Burma doesn't -- if the Burmese regime doesn't change its behavior.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:17 p.m.)

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At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

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Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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