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Bolton: HRC Sudan, North Korea, and Other Matters

Briefing on the Human Rights Council, Sudan, North Korea, and Other Matters


Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the media following a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
October 6, 2006

USUN PRESS RELEASE #262

Ambassador Bolton: have a statement to make about the recently concluded meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which ended its second session today. I note that the spokesman for Human Rights Watch, a strong advocate of the resolution that set up this new council, described it as, and I quote, "a huge disappointment." Close quote. Indeed. Any questions?

Reporter: Actually on that -- on that, do you -- one of the disappointments that have been described by groups is taking the issue of Uzbekistan and only dealing with it behind closed doors, rather than in an open session. Is that -- does the U.S. --

Ambassador Bolton: Look, this is a -- this session was another example of ineffectiveness, of exactly the problems in the former Human Rights Commission that the United States and others complained of. We had warned that we feared that the new Human Rights Council would fall prey to precisely the same problems as the old commission because the changes were insufficient. And of course we're still studying this matter and we'll continue to study it carefully, but this second session was, in fact, a huge disappointment. Human Rights Watch has got it right on this one.

Reporter: Why didn't -- in that case, why didn't the United States involve itself actively in --

Ambassador Bolton: We were heavily involved, even as a non-member. We participated actively in Geneva and caucuses of the Western group in making our position known. The question that we're still attempting to analyze is whether the council as it operates can overcome the flaws in the resolution establishing it that led the United States to vote against it in the first place. And I must say, to date we see no evidence that it has done so.

Reporter: Just for those who are maybe not particularly familiar with the intimate details of the same problems, which may be present again, can you explain, from the U.S. perspective, what's at play here that results in the big disappointment.

Ambassador Bolton: The earlier commission was highly politicized. It was focused on criticizing Israel and the United States, not focused on real human rights problems; tended to get off into thematic discussions of little or no relevance to important human rights issues; and in fact was essentially monopolized by some of the worst human rights abusers and opponents of human rights for their own ends. The objective that we sought in reform was a dramatically different Human Rights Council, and we did not believe that the resolution establishing the council would achieve a dramatically different council, and I must say the evidence so far is consistent with our negative vote.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, the previous speaker didn't seem to have quite the same --

Ambassador Bolton: Speaking of the Human Rights Council.

Reporter: On Sudan, he didn't seem to have the same interpretation of their discussion with the Japanese president of the Security Council as you did, and he showed no indication that they were retracting this letter. What's your response to that?

Ambassador Bolton: As I think I said to you earlier, our view was based, as well, on statements made by the Sudanese ambassador to the United States in Washington yesterday afternoon. I said in the Council this morning, when Ambassador Oshima reported on his conversation, that we had heard something different in Washington, and it was really on that basis that we were prepared to say we thought the government of Sudan had backed down, had retracted its position, and it was no longer valid.

Now, if the government of Sudan, in fact, has changed its position again, then obviously that would be new news. But I was quite struck by the discussion in the Council today at the importance that people attach to the government of Sudan having reversed itself, and in fact many governments -- not prompted by us -- many governments said put it in writing -- put it in writing -- which is something I think we would certainly be prepared to support. I think the most important aspect is the substantive aspect, the policy aspect, that the government of Sudan has reversed itself. And how we reflect that we're open, and I said that we would defer a further meeting of experts on our draft presidential statement until Ambassador Oshima had a further conversation with the ambassador of Sudan. But our view, based on what the Sudanese told us in Washington, is that the policy has been reversed. And we interpret it very simply: they popped off, we stood up, and they backed down.

Reporter: But you were standing right over here as he spoke and made pretty certain that that was not their position anymore or ever had been.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I guess we'll find out what their position is.

Reporter: And what are you saying, Ambassador, that there is some progress being made?

Ambassador Bolton: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that the government of Sudan, in a communication to the government of the United States, said that the position in the note verbale that we've been talking about was no longer their position. We took that to be definitive. Now, if it's not definitive, Sudan has come yet another 180 degrees, then that's something to see. But as of now, I believe if you ask the members of the Security Council, they believe that the government of Sudan has reversed the position expressed in the note verbale.

Reporter: (Inaudible) does the U.S. believe that the Darfur peace agreement needs to be opened up, reexamined, added to, supplemented in some way? And this is also one of the, I guess complex explanations that the Sudanese ambassador is giving for objecting to it.

Ambassador Bolton: Yeah, well, that -- presumably they signed it and meant to adhere to it. That's usually what you mean to do when you sign an agreement, at least in the parochial world of the United States that's what you mean when you sign an agreement. And what we'd like to see would be the Darfur peace agreement implemented. That would be a good place to start before it's changed. The concern we have is not these diplomatic niceties here in New York; what we're concerned about is the tragedy in Darfur. And the government of Sudan ought to be more concerned about the tragedy in Darfur. That's what we want to focus our attention on.

Reporter: If there is a North Korean nuclear test, are you expecting a Chapter 7 resolution? And do you have assurances from the other members of the Council that they would be willing to go along with that?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I don't know what the reaction of some of North Korea's friends on the Council will be if they set off a nuclear device, and I think we'll have to find out. I hope that North Korea doesn't misread the intentions of the United States. That's all I can really speak for.I can't speak for the rest of the council.

Reporter: Do you have any idea what would go into a resolution, though, at this point?

Ambassador Bolton: My focus at this stage is to try and convince North Korea not to test.

Reporter: Ambassador, you said earlier that -- on the subject of North Korea that you wanted more than a statement of deep concern, which now you have, but a more coherent, broad strategy. Yet when Ambassador Churkin was out here, we asked him about that and he said, well, I just haven't heard any proposals yet; there had been no proposals. What does the U.S. want here and how are you going to go about it, to go beyond this statement to this strategy you talked about?

Ambassador Bolton: As I explained to the Council yesterday, I had a -- I proposed a strategy that would be three steps to lead, hopefully, to having North Korea be dissuaded from conducting the test. And I said we were prepared to discuss it further, but I don't think we have established a strategy. We believe that this statement was useful to issue in anticipation of Prime Minister Abe's trip to Beijing and Seoul. But at this point, no, I don't think there's a strategy of preventive diplomacy in place.

Reporter: What are the next steps?

Ambassador Bolton: I described that yesterday really. If you read our website, you will see them.

Reporter: On the financial disclosure form, the secretary-general's spokesman at noon said since it's an international organization, he doesn't think that he has to disclose, he's not going to disclose. Is the U.S. thinking of organizing other countries to try to get this one reform accomplished?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think we'll have further discussions about it. I'm sure Congress will be interested in that response.

Reporter: On the Human Rights Council, why does the U.S. object to it handling human rights abuses in Israel? And if it shouldn't be the Human Rights Council, which world body should do that, had there been human rights abuses in Israel?

Ambassador Bolton: We don't object to discussion of human rights abuses in Israel; we just like to see discussion of human rights abuses in one other country -- other than the United States.

Reporter: On North Korea.

Reporter: Yes. Mr. Ambassador, could you explain to me what is the significance of this PRST, given the confluence of situations that we have regarding Asia right now? We have Ban Ki-Moon as the sole SG candidate, we have Prime Minister Abe going on his first trip to China as prime minister, and we have a potentiality of a nuclear test in North Korea. What does this mean? And you mentioned earlier that you're not quite satisfied with this PRST. Could you explain a little bit more what you would have liked to have seen?

Ambassador Bolton: No, I didn't -- I didn't say I was not quite satisfied; I said I wasn't going to get into whether I was happy or glad. We support the statement, and that's a fact. You know, I don't know what has induced the North Koreans to pick this particular time to make the threat that they made. But as I've said several times here, we do not regard it simply as an attention- getting device; that they feel left out because we're spending too much time on Iran or Sudan or Lebanon. We regard it as consistent with their overall strategic view of the world, unfortunately, sadly. Which is one reason why, if the Council is to be effective in preventing this kind of proliferation, it needs its own strategic view, which so far we've not developed.

Reporter: Ambassador, you've slightly touched on this before, about Ban Ki-Moon's comments on North Korea and getting involved. But do you feel -- does the U.S. feel if, as secretary-general, he should be involved, and would have no problem with him offering to mediate or going there or playing a greater role for the UN's top diplomatic -

Ambassador Bolton: You've asked a hypothetical question that I really can't address because, just to take one part of it, if North Korea tests, it will be a very different situation. So I think I'd prefer to have the election in the Security Council on Monday, which, since everyone else has now withdrawn, is a -- was a foregone conclusion before, but it's certainly a foregone conclusion now. And we'll see when the new secretary-general comes in. There are a whole range of things that the new secretary-general has to focus on, and certainly the situation of North Korea's pursuit of a deliverable nuclear weapons capability is one of them. And it's one of the reasons why we're looking forward to a new secretary- general.

Reporter: (Inaudible) South Korea and the United States were offering lots of incentive to North Korea to back down on this particular aspect.

Ambassador Bolton: I wouldn't characterize our policy in that way, but go ahead.

Reporter: I mean, like in the case of Iran, incentive have been offered. Whether they've been accepted or not is not the issue. But if those kinds of incentives were being offered to North Korea, do you think it would relent or there is a --

Ambassador Bolton: I think -- I think you should go back and read the September 2005 declaration on that subject. What we've said at an absolute minimum is that North Korea has to come back to the six-party talks, which it has boycotted for 13 consecutive months and shows no inclination of coming back to.

Okay, anything else? Thanks very much.

Released on October 6, 2006


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