State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 3, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 3, 2006
Possible North Korea Missile Test / Would Be Provocative Act
U.S. Working Closely with Partners in Security Council, Six Party
Strive for Implementation of September 19 Agreement / Resolution
Real Consensus in International Community to Bring About a Change
in DPRK's Behavior
DPRK's Proposal of Bilateral Meeting / Meetings with A/S Hill Part
of 6 Party Process
Financial Measures Taken Under Patriot Act
Proposition for Cooperation by Iran / Resolution 1696
Russian Proposal / Possible Sanctions / P5+1 / Discussions with
Returning of British National Detainees to United Kingdom from
American Service Members Protection Act / Article 98 Agreements /
U.S. Supports Reform in Middle East / Aspirations of the People
Should be Fulfilled
U.S. Response to Russian Federation's Sanctions on Georgia
Both Countries Should Move Forward to Resolve Differences
A/S Fried's Comments on Conversations with Russian Officials /
Diplomatic Note from Mexican Embassy on Building of Fence Near
Bosnian Election / Challenges Ahead for Bosnia / U.S. Will Work
with New Government
2:52 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Sorry for the delay in getting to you this afternoon, but I know a number of you wanted to have the opportunity, and I know I certainly wanted to have the opportunity to see what the Secretary and her Egyptian colleague had to say. So, I don't have any opening statements or announcements for you. So with that, Barry.
QUESTION: On North Korea, the Secretary says it's not a matter for the U.S. alone clearly and it's a problem for -- well, it's a problem but it's an issue for the neighborhood. Is that a somewhat veiled appeal to the Chinese, for instance, the South Koreans, other in the six, to do more to try to bring North Korea around to a diplomatic resolution?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, first of all, I think as you heard from the Secretary, this is certainly would be a provocative act if the North Koreans decided in fact to test a nuclear weapon. But it is a matter that is not only for the United States but for the broader international community. That was reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 1695 which was a response to North Korea's missile test, but of course also required all states to do what they could to prevent activities that would support the development not only of North Korea's nuclear -- or North Korea's missile program but of North Korea's nuclear weapons and WMD program as well.
So there is definitely already part of the international discussion a requirement for states to take actions and that's something we've seen followed up on, including by measures that were taken by the Japanese and Australian Government fairly recently.
However, in addition to that, certainly we've had conversations already about this with other members of the international community. Ambassador Bolton has spoken with his colleagues up at the UN today. I know that Under Secretary Nick Burns has spoken to Japanese, Korean and European officials about this. I suspect he'll soon be speaking with his Russian and Chinese counterparts. Clearly everyone wants to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and anything that takes us further away from that goal is obviously unhelpful and certainly if it takes the form of an actual nuclear test would be provocative and something that would be a threat to peace and security in the region. So we are going to be working closely with our partners, not only in the six-party talks, but in the Security Council and elsewhere to see what all of us can do to try and ensure that North Korea does not in fact move forward and does not in fact take this step.
QUESTION: Yeah. In the light of things -- threats for a nuclear test, do you think this indicates that your current policy towards North Korea is successful? And secondly, are you rethinking your policy of financial sanctions against North Korea? Do you think that that's been worthwhile and has put any pressure on them?
MR. CASEY: Well, Sue I think that everyone shares our goal, the rest of the six parties do. Even the North Koreans claim that they share the goal of having a denuclearized Korean Peninsula that's achieved through peaceful diplomatic means. And we do believe that we need to continue to strive for implementation of the September agreement. That agreement puts a clear path forward for a positive future and for concrete benefits to the North Koreans in turn for them carrying out their commitment to denuclearize. And we continue to believe that we want to work with our six-party colleagues to bring North Koreans back to talks. That doesn't mean that we are unwilling or unable to talk about these kinds of issues and other forum. Certainly as you saw in Malaysia and again up in New York, we are having conversations about security issues in North Asia, with a wide variety of individuals. But again, I think for us we still believe that the best way forward for everyone, including for the North Korean people, is to see the six-party talks move forward, is to see that September 19th agreement implemented and therefore that is basically the focus of our conversations. How can we convince the North Koreans to change their behavior, to come back to talks and to move forward with a agreement that they themselves signed on for to and that frankly offers them a way forward.
QUESTION: But you cited the discussions in New York, but Russia and China and North Korea stayed away from those discussions. So how do you think that is pushing the situation forward and trying to push North Korea to stop what it's doing?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think North Korea has heard a very clear message from the international community. They heard it in Resolution 1695. They've heard it subsequently through the voices of the other members of the six-party talks and through the other countries that have participated and joined in discussions in a variety of fora. Certainly the Secretary continues to have conversations with her colleagues on these issues as she did in New York. It is true that she had conversations about this with her Russian and Chinese counterparts, even though they did not participate directly in that meeting in New York, in part, because they'd already had those conversations separately with her. But we do believe that there is real consensus in the international community. Certainly I don't think you're going to find or see any statements from anyone in the international community in favor of a nuclear test by North Korea, or in favor of North Korea's continued development of its nuclear weapons program. And that's why it's important that we all do continue to talk with one another and all do continue to work together to try and bring about a change in North Korean behavior and to try and bring about a resolution in this conflict.
QUESTION: But do you.
MR. CASEY: Elise. Sorry. You want to just follow up Sue and then we'll go back to Elise.
QUESTION: Do you -- but do you think that your current policy on North Korea is having the desired effect?
MR. CASEY: Well, we think our policy is the right one and it's the one we continue to pursue.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, I mean, what really is the importance of a nuclear test when you've said that you believe that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and that with the lack of any kind of negotiations going on right now, that you believe they're continuing to constitute nuclear weapons. So I mean, whether they test it or not or whether they declare themselves a nuclear power or not, I mean don't you believe at this point that North Korea is a nuclear power?
MR. CASEY: Well, the intelligence estimates of North Korea's capabilities haven't changed and I'd just refer you back to what's been said publicly on that. But clearly, again there is a difference between what people say and what they do. And an actual test of a nuclear weapon, I think it would be significant and it would be a provocative step and I think everyone in the international community agrees with that. And so we very much want to see North Korea desist in making these kinds of assertions or these kinds of threats and we certainly don't want to see them carry it out. We think that would be unhelpful for resolving the overall issue of North Korea's nuclear program. We think it would be unhelpful to the North Korean people and we think it would only further contribute to the isolation of the North Korean regime.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any independent intelligence that shows that in fact they're getting close to a test?
MR. CASEY: David, I certainly can't comment on any intelligence issues. We know that they have made this statement that they intend to do this and that's what our reaction is based on here.
QUESTION: Well, but is it based on just the announcement that they said that they were going to make the test or the fact that you've seen activity which indicates they could be making the --
MR. CASEY: Well, again Elise, we've spoken to this issue on a number of occasions previously. We've always said that should North Korea engage in any kind of nuclear test, we would consider it a provocative action. I certainly, though, am not in a position to talk to you about what any intelligence might or might not indicate.
Let's go here.
QUESTION: Changing the subject.
MR. CASEY: If that's okay -- still on North Korea?
MR. CASEY: Okay, let's go back to him and then we'll come down to you.
QUESTION: North Korea has said that they want a bilateral meeting to -- basically to avoid having this nuclear test. And the reason why they're saying that they want a bilateral meeting is because they are questioning the U.S. commitment to implementing the September agreement because of what they see as the vision within the Administration. If it comes down to a choice of having a bilateral meeting or the North Koreans conducting a nuclear test, it seems like the choice would be to have the bilateral meeting. But how do you see it, if it comes down to that choice of a bilateral meeting or a nuclear test?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I'm not going to respond to hypothetical questions but let me make clear what our position is. First of all, we have met bilaterally with the North Koreans in the context of the six-party talks. And Chris Hill every time he has participated in a round of six-party talks has met with the North Koreans in the context of it. We continue to say to the North Koreans that if they would like to have a meeting with Assistant Secretary Hill again, all they need to do is agree to come back to the talks and sit down in that format and Chris Hill will be ready to talk to them as often as they want, within those discussions, within those six-party talks.
As you know, on the issue of financial measures, we in fact offered -- and the North Koreans did eventually accept -- a briefing on those measures taken under the Patriot Act by Treasury Department officials in New York. Certainly we have said that in the context again of the six-party talks, we would certainly be open to providing further briefings or information or discussions about that issue. But again, this all hinges on North Korea doing what not only the United States wants it to do but the other members of the six-party talks want it to do, and in effect, what the North Koreans agreed to do themselves, which is to come back to the table, to sit down, to work on ways of implementing the September 19th agreement. And in the context of those discussions, certainly other issues could be addressed, including the possibility of one-on-one meetings as we've had in all the other previous rounds.
Let's go down to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. The French Government declined today Iran's proposition for cooperation in Iranian enrichment. None of the -- the French Foreign Minister declared that there is only one channel of dialogue and that's the Javier Solana. My question is did they consult you, did they know -- did you know before they going to answer them?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think the Secretary has already answered that question. She was asked that in her briefing with Foreign Minister Gheit a little while ago. But we've heard these kinds of proposals before and frankly at this point I think, as she said, this amounts to pretty much nothing more than a stalling tactic. The UN Security Council Resolution 1696 has made it clear what Iran has to do. It's a very simple standard, and if Iran meets that standard then we can go into negotiations and then we can talk about other possibilities. As you know, the Russian proposal, which the U.S. supported, allowed for the possibility of enrichment in Russia, not on Iranian soil but in Russia, of nuclear fuel that could then be provided as part of a closed fuel cycle for Iranian nuclear reactors. And the Iranian Government has turned that down. So I'd just leave it where the Secretary left it in terms of saying the position of the international community remains clear and we fully expect that if Iran in fact has not answered positively to 1696 that we again have to move forward, as she said, with sanctions under Article 41, Chapter 7 of the UN.
QUESTION: I have a separate issue. Are you still on Iran?
MR. CASEY: Are we still on Iran? Yeah.
QUESTION: So does that mean that this upcoming meeting of the P-5+1, does that mean that it closes the door -- not closes the door on negotiations, but you've determined at this point based on the conference call the other day that this is it, they're not -- there's no more negotiation?
MR. CASEY: Well, Elise, I don't think we have a P-5+1 meeting scheduled as of yet, although the Secretary said it's likely to occur at the end of the week. But I'll leave it to them to talk about what the next steps are.
Clearly though, as Mr. Solana said and as we have said previously, our patience here is limited and the UN Security Council resolution required Iran to provide a response by the end of August. They didn't do that, or certainly didn't provide a positive one. And in the context of the discussions with Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani, we were willing to let a few more days go by, in fact a few more weeks go by, in order to allow him to continue his discussions in the hope of getting a positive response from Iran. But unfortunately that positive response hasn't come and certainly I think it's appropriate for the P-5+1 and others to look now at how we would move forward and what the next steps are going to be. But the resolution makes pretty clear what that is.
QUESTION: You said the positive response hasn't come. Have you had a readout from the latest Solana-Larijani conversation yesterday?
MR. CASEY: My only readout is that there's no change in the Iranian position, which is there's no decision on their part to suspend.
QUESTION: On Taiwan. Taiwan's Defense Ministry says that the U.S. has blocked the sale of 66 F-16s. Do you have any details on that?
MR. CASEY: First I've heard of it, Sue. We'll try and get you some information on it.
Let's go in the back here.
QUESTION: Guantanamo Bay. Have there been negotiations between the U.S. and Great Britain to return nearly all the British residents who are held at Guantanamo Bay?
MR. CASEY: Well, certainly we've had conversations with any number of countries over time about returning nationals to them that are held at Guantanamo Bay. There certainly have been conversations with the Government of the United Kingdom on that score. There have in fact been individuals returned to Great Britain from the United States, or from United States custody who are held in Guantanamo Bay. Those aren't conversations though that we generally discuss.
Clearly there are important issues to be resolved. As we've said before, whenever we are working on a transfer of individuals from Guantanamo Bay there are two basic standards involved, one of which is assuring ourselves that the individuals will be properly treated, the second being making sure that there are proper security measures in place if these individuals are still deemed to be dangerous or pose a threat to the United States or our allies. In some countries that often winds up being a concern that they not be able to walk in the front door of the jail and then walk out the back end. But there are conversations with any number of countries that are ongoing but I certainly don't have anything to share with you in terms of specifics of communications on this with the U.K.
QUESTION: Has there been a response from the U.K. regarding these detainees and the conditions?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, there are ongoing discussions about this, but I don't have anything specific in terms of a final disposition of any of those cases.
QUESTION: I noticed that in the news conference the Secretary avoided using the term the "new Middle East," saying she preferred to say the future Middle East. I wondered is that because the term new Middle East sort of went down like a lead balloon in the Middle East and it was not very well taken? I wondered whether this is a -- is this a term you're avoiding now?
MR. CASEY: Is this is a trick question, Sue?
MR. CASEY: Look, whatever one calls it, U.S. policy is pretty clear. We support reform in the Middle East. We support the democratic aspirations of the people of the region. As the Secretary made clear in her remarks today, what we want to see is not some U.S. model for the region, it's the aspirations of the people of the region be able to be fulfilled. And that means that each country is going to choose its own path to reform and choose its own path to democracy. Certainly no two democracies anywhere in the world look alike, and they are all going to be developed and managed in response to the unique conditions and the unique cultures of the societies involved.
QUESTION: But is it a conscious decision not to use the term "new Middle East?"
MR. CASEY: Sue, as far as I know, the Secretary spoke based on the questions asked her. I am not sure whether there was any particular reason why she or anyone else used a particular phrase at any particular time. Again, I think the main point, though, is that U.S. policy is consistent and hasn't changed, and that's to promote reform in the Middle East, to work with those people who want to see positive change, who want to bring about democracy, and that's part of what her trip is about here.
QUESTION: Russia has refused to lift the boycott or sanctions or blockade that they put onto Georgia. Do you have some response to that situation?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Sorry, could you repeat the question again?
QUESTION: Do you have a response to Russia's refusal to lift the sanctions that they imposed prior to the release of the four military officers?
MR. CASEY: Well, I do think, as we said yesterday, our main goal is to promote good neighborly relations between these two countries. And certainly we want our Russian friends and our Georgian friends to be able to resolve their outstanding differences in an amicable and peaceful way. So in that sense, I do think that we're disappointed that the Russian Federation has introduced some of these additional sanctions on Georgia. And we'd very much like to see them reconsider this and we encourage them to work together in a positive spirit to be able to resolve some of these issues.
QUESTION: Yesterday Dan Fried said that in the various conversations that U.S. officials had had with the Russians in leading up throughout that crisis that they never once mentioned any sanctions whatsoever. And you don't find that a bit disappointing?
MR. CASEY: Well, Dan would know best about those conversations. And I'd refer you back to some of the comments he made for the specifics on that. But again, I think what we want to see happen is that these two countries move forward in a positive way to resolve their differences. And certainly we don't think that the imposition of additional sanctions is helpful to that process. But you know, again, we will continue to be in conversation with both of them and certainly would hope that they would be able to make some changes and resolve some of these differences so that some of the underlying issues there can be addressed as well.
QUESTION: Yesterday the Russians introduced a whole batch of new sanctions railroad and air links, but previously they've had a ban on water and wine imports and some other issues. Are you saying that all sanctions and restrictions should be lifted?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm specifically talking about their decision by the Russian Federation to introduce these new sanctions that are already imposed -- in addition to the ones already imposed on Georgia.
Certainly, again, we'd like to see these issues resolved amicably among the parties. There are certainly a number of concerns that these countries have with one another. There's a history there that I think people are familiar with. But we believe that the best way forward would be for them to work together to resolve those differences, and certainly would hope that as part of a resolution of those differences these sanctions and additional measures that have been imposed would be lifted.
QUESTION: What about the previous ones? I want to be clear on this. Are you saying the wine and water ones should be listed and any others?
MR. CASEY: Sue, to be perfectly honest with you, Sue, I'm not familiar with the reasoning or rationale behind those sanctions, and so I really wouldn't like to hazard an opinion on them.
MR. CASEY: I'm specifically in this case referring to the --
MR. CASEY: -- bans on travel and transportation that have been imposed in response to this latest series of events.
QUESTION: Just one last one on the same topic. Lavrov earlier today, well first of all, accused the United States of meddling and being responsible for the spy thing. He pointed out that it had come right after Saakashvili had been visiting Washington. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I didn't see President Putin's comments. I think I addressed this yesterday and, frankly, my comments here today are pretty clear about what U.S. policy is. We certainly aren't trying to encourage any kind of dispute or dissent between these two countries, in fact, quite the contrary. We want to see Russia and Georgia resolve their outstanding differences and we want to see them do so in a way that allows them to move forward and have good neighborly relations with one another. We consider ourselves friends of both Georgia and Russia and we want the differences that do exist between them to be resolved peacefully. So we certainly aren't doing anything that would be in conflict with that basic goal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Let's go -- I've got one last one over here with David.
QUESTION: No, I've got a couple.
MR. CASEY: Uh-oh, okay.
QUESTION: Can you acknowledge a diplomatic protest by the Mexicans over the recent approval by the Senate of building a very long fence on the border?
MR. CASEY: I think so but let me just check. Yeah. I can confirm for you, David, that we've received a diplomatic note on this issue from the Mexican Embassy, just got it and we're going to obviously review it very carefully. Certainly we value our relationship with Mexico and have engaged in a longstanding dialogue with them on immigration-related issues. I expect that those conversations will continue.
QUESTION: Do you have any response/analysis of the Bosnian election which appeared to basically keep these ethnic divisions in the country pretty much where they were?
MR. CASEY: Well, David, I don't have any specific comment on the results. I understand there are still some tabulations to go forward, but obviously it's clear that Bosnia has many challenges in front of it. This new leadership that has been elected will have to deal with them. There are a number of issues before them in terms of moving in the next steps at the end of or beyond the Dayton process. And certainly we will want to work with this new Government to help them achieve their goals.
QUESTION: One more with your forbearance. Yesterday --
MR. CASEY: It's with Charlie's forbearance.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Okay. The -- one of many papers issued by the White House yesterday was a presidential determination, basically waiving penalties against 21 countries concerning the International Criminal Court, the Servicemembers Protection Act.
MR. CASEY: Right.
QUESTION: Basically giving 21 countries sort of a pass on this. Does this mean that the Administration's really kind of stopped enforcing it because --
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all David, we remain committed to fully implementing the American Servicemembers Protection Act. That does include prohibitions on providing certain kinds of aid to countries that have not signed Article 98 agreements with the United States. To date, I believe we have 103 of such -- of those such agreements that have actually been concluded, so that does include a majority of the countries there. In this particular case what has happened is a determination has been made to waive a specific kind of prohibition on assistance which is that referring to international military education and training for those 21 countries.
Now there are other restrictions including on Foreign Military Financing and excess defense articles which still apply to those 21 countries. But in this instance as you saw from the notice that went out there, it was determined that it was in the national interest to proceed with providing this kind of assistance to those 21 countries in order to further some of our other national objectives.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't buy the notion that this is a blanket amnesty?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, it only covers one particular type of assistance that's provided. The reasons for that are as outlined in the statement. But again, the United States remains committed to full implementation of that law and we are continuing to pursue Article 98 agreements with those countries that aren't part of the 103 that have already signed them.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:17 p.m.)
DPB # 160
Released on October 3, 2006