State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 6, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 6, 2006
Iran's Response to Proposal Expected Before P5+1 Ministerial on
July 12 / U.S. Hopes For Postive Answer
P5+1 Ministers to Determine Next Steps with Iran / Security
Council Next Option if Iran Does not Respond Positively
Deepening of Ties Between North Korea and Iran are Troubling
Trade in Weapons and Weapons Technology a Source of International
Assistant Secretary Hill's Travels to Region, Talks with Six-Party
Further Missile Launches Should Not be Considered
Intensive Diplomatic Activity to Continue
North Korea Not Isolated / Ties with China, Russia, South Korea,
Japan Exist / Talks with Other Countries to Discuss Leverage for
Current Crisis not U.S. Â– North Korea Issue / International
Agenda of G-8 Summit / Energy Security, Infectious Disease, Iran,
North Korea Among Topics to be Discussed
Variety of Problems Exist, U.S. Capable of Effective Responses
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Focus of U.S. Diplomatic Efforts is For Release of Kidnapped
U.S. Asks Israel For Restraint / International Community Has
Called For End of Missile Attacks From Palestinian-Controlled
Participation by Woman in Elections a Landmark Event, Example for
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Don't have any opening statements so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Sean, it seems today also isn't the day for an answer from Iran. Some chatter at dinner, maybe pass the butter, but not an answer. (Laughter.) Well, it's European diplomacy. Tte--tte. Whatever that means.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So are you disappointed yet or are you going to just keep hanging in there best you can?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we will weigh for the hanging in there the best we can, Barry. We expect that the Iranians will provide an answer prior to the P-5+1 ministers getting together on July 12th. We know that that is the date that has been set. They are going to discuss what it is that we have or have not heard from the Iranians. Today, I believe in Brussels, Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani are supposed to get together and we would hope that we hear their answer. We would hope that that answer is a positive one, saying that they have chosen to meet the conditions that have been laid out to them by the international community in order to begin negotiations. They are hearing from a variety of different corners that that's the right choice to make. It is a positive pathway that has been offered to them and we hope that they make that choice.
QUESTION: In Spanish at least, "expect" and "hope" is the same word. Is your expectation based on fact or is it hope?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would -- Barry, they've -- the international community has done everything that it could do to put together a good, comprehensive proposal to lay out very clearly here for the Iranian Government and the Iranian people what the choices are: there's a positive pathway; there's a negative pathway that leads to further isolation. It is up to them. It is their choice. The conditions are there to be met. These are conditions -- not the United States' conditions -- these are the conditions of the international community, the IAEA, as well as the EU-3. So we will see what the answer is. They have had plenty of time to consider the offer. It's high time that they provide an answer and we would hope that today is the day that they provide a positive answer.
QUESTION: Have you begun planning how to implement the disincentive side of the package given that it's only a week before all the ministers meet and the Iranians still have not answered?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's a clear pathway there. The ministers have talked about it. As we've talked about and as you point out, there are two sides to it. And as for the disincentive pathway, we'll wait to see what the Iranian answer is. If the answer is no or they choose not to meet the conditions laid out to begin the negotiations, then the ministers will talk about how to proceed down that pathway and exactly what steps they're going to take and what sequence that they follow. But if there is an answer that's no or they haven't met the preconditions, then I'm sure that the ministers will talk about how to proceed down that pathway, that negative pathway.
QUESTION: Well, do you expect -- if that date passes and they haven't given you an answer or they've said no -- do you expect this to go directly to the UN Security Council or are there other options being --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's what Libby was just asking. What's the sequence? What are the steps that they're going to take? And that's an issue that I'm going to leave to the ministers. They're going to get together on the 12th. And if we are met with that set of facts that the Iranians have not provided an answer, then that's where the discussion will likely head.
QUESTION: President Putin said today that if the Iranians don't answer positively, it would be nice to go back to IAEA instead of the Security Council. Do you agree with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: There's agreement among all the ministers about where this heads if the Iranians don't meet the conditions, and that is down the pathway of the Security Council.
Okay. Good. We're done. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, I can't pull the trigger. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: All right, go ahead.
QUESTION: There's a report in the paper this morning on North Korea. There was a report about deepening ties between North Korea and Iran, considering arms shipments from North Korea to Iran. Do you have anything more on that? I don't know if you've seen that report. But just any particular concern about the linkages between those two countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's been a lot of news reports about the linkages between Iran and North Korea, and I don't have anything that I could offer by way of clarifying those news reports. But certainly North Korea -- one of their only exports aside from counterfeit bills is weapons and weapons technology. That's what they deal in. The bazaar is open as far as they are concerned. So that is a real source of concern not only for us but for the international community. And combine that with the fact that you have a country that has declared itself a nuclear weapons state; that is something that gets the attention of the international community. That is part of the discussions in New York today and I expect will be over the coming days as they consider a resolution there. It is also part of the discussions that Chris Hill will have: how to address these immediate issues of North Korea's nuclear program as well as their missile program; how to ensure that they are not able to benefit in any way from assistance from the outside in developing those programs; and also how to ensure that that technology, that know-how, their material, is not proliferated.
So that certainly is going to be an important part of the conversations in New York as well as out in the region. I think that the real diplomatic center of gravity in terms of where we are now on North Korea is in the region. I expect that the conversations will also continue in New York regarding a resolution.
Those efforts, I would say, are mutually reinforcing -- what's going on in New York is what Assistant Secretary Hill is going to be doing. If you look at where he's traveling -- Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow -- it matches up with the list of the President's phone calls, of Secretary Rice's phone calls, and that's really the list of other countries in the six-party talks. So it is going to be -- the issue that you bring up in terms of proliferation, ensuring that this sort of know-how, material, expertise, doesn't seep out from North Korea, is going to be part of those discussions.
QUESTION: Also on the same kind of issue, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said that he's going to take a trip to North Korea for the specific purpose of science and technology cooperation. And does this concern you that this could be growing ties between Venezuela, North Korea and a possible proliferation partner?
MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, it's the first I've heard of this particular report in terms of his intention to travel there. I think it just demonstrates that he and his behavior is an outlier. Certainly on this issue, you have the rest of the world condemning what North Korea has done and you have him talking about traveling to North Korea. So as for the particulars of what he hopes to accomplish, I couldn't speak to it.
QUESTION: He -- can I -- just one more. He's also said that he's going to travel to Iran, Russia and Belarus. These are all countries --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I wouldn't necessarily group all of them -- all of them in the same category.
QUESTION: Well, okay, but these are all countries where the U.S. has had concern about proliferation cooperation with Venezuela in the past. I mean, what do you think that Chavez is trying to do here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, I don't know. He is free to travel wherever he wants, but his actions will either further isolate him in terms of his points of view or they will not, and that choice is going to be up to him.
QUESTION: Sean, first I want the record to reflect that it's absolutely freezing in the briefing room. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I concur.
QUESTION: Do you agree with that assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's very comfortable in here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It's your warm personality. (Laughter.) On North Korea --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- that's responsible for the cool temperature? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, no, no. That's making you comfortable.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, right.
QUESTION: On North Korea, are we still studying this event, these missile launches, for intelligence purposes or any other purposes? Are they still under some kind of formal study or do we think we know everything we're going to know about them at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: You need to talk to the intel guys on that. The President indicated that they were still looking at the data in terms of where it might have been headed and all the other various aspects of the information that you'd collect about these things. But the intel guys would be in a better position to talk about that, James.
QUESTION: Are you expecting more launches imminently?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they have said that they might launch some more missiles I think. Certainly, the world has spoken about what we as an international community think about that. Certainly, they should have gotten a very clear message that they should not do that, that the international community has condemned -- it condemned those actions and that they should not consider further such actions.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made calls today that you can inform us of?
MR. MCCORMACK: No phone calls today.
QUESTION: Okay. And I know you talked about counterproliferation as being one of Ambassador Hill's goals in his meetings, but more broadly, what does he hope to accomplish there? Should we expect that he's going to return from this trip with something tangible to show for his efforts?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what you should expect to see from him is really knitting up what the diplomatic next steps should be with respect to North Korea and their behavior: how to encourage them to engage in constructive behavior, not engage in this behavior that serves only to further isolate them, that causes great concern in the international community as well as in the region. So that's, you know, that's really what he's going to be doing. What are the diplomatic next steps that we're going to be taking? At this point I'm not going to get into what his discussions might be. But we will see, you know, we'll have an opportunity once his trip ends. He plans to be back here on Tuesday -- see what the results of those conversations might be. We're also going to see what happens up in New York. So there is going to be a period of intensive diplomatic activity here and we'll certainly try to keep you up to date as best we can on the results of that.
QUESTION: My last question on this. North Korea is a very isolated country as things stand already, perhaps the most isolated in the world. It's already fallen under a great number of international sanctions of one kind or another. A lot of observers believe we're kind of -- as the President's phrase was once used Â– "sanctioned out" on North Korea. What --
MR. MCCORMACK: That was with respect to Iran.
QUESTION: All right. It was just his phrase though, out there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: It is very cold in here. (Laughter.) What reason for confidence is there that diplomacy can work with North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, James, as you point out that they are very isolated. They sometimes revel in their isolation, but they do have some contacts with the outside world. For example, there are some contacts between North Korea and Japan. Japan itself acted in the wake of this missile launch to curb or cut off some of those contacts. So they're not completely immune from -- to outside pressure. And they are also in many ways dependent on some of those relationships, certainly with China, with Russia, to a certain extent South Korea, with Japan. So they are subject, we believe, to outside pressure, although North Korea is virtually unique in its status as a state that's isolated from the rest of the world. It's not completely immune to that outside pressure.
We're going to be talking to other countries around the world, specifically the other partners in the six-party talks, about how to use what leverage there is to get them to engage in constructive behavior and to choose a pathway that could be open to them to -- for greater integration into the rest of the world, a way that will benefit the North Korean people, which -- who have suffered greatly under this North Korean --
QUESTION: Are the Chinese susceptible to outside pressure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Are the Chinese susceptible to outside pressure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly they live right door to North Korea. Okay? So they certainly have an interest here in seeing that North Korea doesn't engage in this kind of behavior. And they -- I'll let them speak for themselves, but I think it's a safe assumption to say that they certainly have an interest in a North Korea that is more fully integrated into the rest of the world, that is a -- that engages in more stable kinds of behavior within the region, that is not a force for destabilizing -- destabilization in the region. So they certainly have an interest here as well and we certainly would like -- we as well as others, other members of the six-party talks, want to prevail upon those set of interests to talk to the North Koreans and get them to engage in the constructive behavior that we had all hoped for as a result of the six-party talk process.
QUESTION: You spoke about next diplomatic steps. Do you expect the G-8, which will meet not long after the return of Chris Hill, to adopt a statement on North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure it will be a topic of conversation. It was at the foreign ministers meeting in Moscow. I think given North Korea's recent actions it probably moved up on the agenda in terms of the amount of time that's going to be allocated to discussing the North Korea issue.
As for the particular mechanism, whether it's in a statement or not, I don't know. You can -- we'll see, but I'm sure it will be a topic of conversation among the leaders.
QUESTION: And what do you expect from the G-8 summit -- from your point of view, from the U.S. point of view?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, G-8 summits happen every single year. There are agenda items that are on it. This particular one is set up to talk about issues like energy security, fighting infectious disease, talking about concerns over proliferation. Iran is on the agenda. North Korea is on the agenda. You just look at what the foreign ministers in Moscow talked about and this is a wide-ranging agenda.
It is an opportunity for leaders of these important economies from around the world to get together to talk about these issues, and on given subjects to send very direct, concise, unified messages, and in some cases to develop programs in which they can act together. At the Kananaskis summit they talked about ways that the G-8 could actually fund global nonproliferation efforts. So that's -- it's an opportunity not only for discussion but also for action.
Because it is a summit and it's going to be -- the President that's attending it, I think the White House will probably talking more in the days ahead about what it is that they specifically hope to get out of the summit.
QUESTION: The nonproliferation, the top topic for you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I -- you know, I don't know. Different countries will put different issues at the top of their list. There's a formal agenda that's been laid out and agreed to. But I expect that nonproliferation is going to be an important topic. It certainly is in the headlines in a number of different ways.
QUESTION: Can we go to another subject now if it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Are we all through with that? Okay. Do you have a North Korea question?
QUESTION: Yes, I do.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll do North Korea and then come back to you. Yes.
QUESTION: North Korean Foreign Ministry issued its first official statement on the missile tests and it's saying that moratorium on missile tests is -- so in 1999 it was valid only when the DPRK-U.S. dialogue was underway. So it's their logic and how do you respond to this interpretation and to this statement?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's -- you know, we've seen this before. North Korea wants to make these issues U.S.-North Korea issues. It's not. I think the six-party talk process is evidence of the fact that it is not and it has been an important accomplishment of this Administration and this President that we have laid the foundation for a diplomatic infrastructure in which you can talk about this issue and the issue of North Korea's behavior.
Yet just look at the international response this time around as opposed to in 1998 with the missile launch. Within hours, you had foreign ministers on the phone talking off a common set of assumptions with respect to North Korea and within hours you had global condemnation of North Korea's activities. And then within the span of a day you had the Security Council activated, you had the six-party talks process activated. I think that's really a testament to the diplomatic groundwork that has been laid by President Bush, Secretary Rice and, before Secretary Rice, Secretary Powell on this effort.
QUESTION: In the wake of this North Korean missile test a lot of foreign policy analysts are pontificating about what it means. And a lot of people have said that because of the U.S. preoccupation with the war in Iraq, issues like North Korea, Iran, Somalia, some other issues, that the U.S. lost the momentum because it was too obsessed with the war in Iraq. What's your response to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are a lot of different responses. I'll -- a couple of different things. One, you know, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Two, let me just read you a quote. You can guess where it came from. "I need not tell you that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very massive facts presented to the public by the press and the radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man on the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation." That was George Marshall in 1947.
I say that because we, throughout the recent history, if you go back over the past 50 years in United States history, have been faced with a variety of problems at the same time. We can't pick and choose -- pick and choose these things. If you look at the immediate postwar Cold War period, we were faced with a situation from 1947 to 1949 where you had large minorities win elections in Italy and France, you had civil war in Greece, you had civil strife in Turkey, you had Berlin divided, you had the Soviet Union explode a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule, and you had the Chinese Communists win in China.
I point this out to just demonstrate that facing multiple challenges across the national security and foreign policy front isn't new to the United States. And certainly the challenges that we face in the present day are very serious, but we have seen from this President and this Secretary of State and this national security team effective responses to those challenges, whether it is on Iran, where we have put together a coalition of countries to send a strong clear signal to Iran that the world will not let them develop a nuclear weapon; to North Korea, where you have the six-party talk process; to fighting HIV/AIDS around the world where the United States has led in the development of the Global Fund as well as in its bilateral efforts; whether it is in development with the Millennium Challenge Account; whether it is in Afghanistan toppling the Taliban or in Iraq in toppling a brutal dictator and getting behind a program of spreading -- helping encourage the development of greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
These efforts take some time. But the United States and this Administration has answers to the policy challenges that face it. And this President, this Secretary of State have taken effective action to guard the interests of the United States and to better protect the American people, just as those individuals in that immediate postwar Cold War period from right after World War II took actions to defend the interests of the United States, to better protect the American people and to help spread freedom and democracy around the globe.
QUESTION: So what's your reaction towards the deteriorating situation in Palestine and what's your estimation about the Egyptian role over there as a mediator?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Egyptians are certainly playing an important role. They have an interest along with many other members of the international community in seeing that this soldier is released and returned back to his family unharmed.
As for the current situation, I don't have any update for you. Certainly the focus of our diplomatic efforts and the efforts of many other countries around the world is to see that this soldier is released. We have at the same time advised Israel that it should exercise restraint in its actions, in its actions to defend itself. Also the international community has called upon the Palestinian Authority to act to stop the missile attacks that continuously are emanating from areas under Palestinian Authority control.
So it is a difficult situation certainly at the moment. We all hope that individuals will take action so that we can get back on a footing where you can have the prospect of negotiations between two partners who have the same objective, and that is two states living side by side in peace and security. That is not the situation that we have right now.
But there are a lot of countries and individuals in the region working to address the immediate situation, certainly with the eye toward ultimately getting to the point where we can go down that pathway to realize a peaceful resolution.
QUESTION: Macedonia held parliamentary elections yesterday. According to OSCE, generally they were conducted in accordance with international standards for democratic electoral process. Given the fact that the elections were considered a major test for Macedonian aspirations for future (inaudible) NATO membership, I would appreciate your comment on this issue.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have something later for you on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. A written statement?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll have something for you later, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Kuwait had parliamentary elections last week and I'm just looking for a formal response about, you know, women for the first time being able to run and vote in elections.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is a landmark event. The fact that you had the level of participation by women as candidates as well as voting in these elections, it certainly is an important moment in Kuwait's history and it is certainly an important example for the rest of the region. It is critically important that as political systems throughout the Middle East develop that they make women full partners in democracy. You know, half a democracy is no democracy at all. So the events in terms of women's participation in voting and as candidates is a very important development.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)
DPB # 112
Released on July 6, 2006