US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 14, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
May 14, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: May 14, 2008
Briefing Today by USAID Administrator Fore on US Relief Efforts for Burma and China
Humanitarian Flights Arrive on Wednesday in Burma
UK Prime Minister Brown's Proposal for UN Summit on Burma
Ongoing Security Council Meetings on Burma
US Working Closely with NGOs Regarding Aid Distribution
Reports of Aid Being Diverted
Possible Further US Humanitarian Flights
US Provides $500,000 in Disaster
Assistance Funds to Support Earthquake Relief Efforts in
US Contacts with Chinese Government / Offer of US Readiness to Help
US Assistance to
Lebanon's Security Forces
Expedited Delivery of Equipment Already Committed to Lebanese Armed Forces
Jaipur Bombing / US Condemns Terrorist Attack
Expulsion of Two US Military Attaches
Query on Potential Food
Assistance to North Korea
Assistant Secretary Hill's Meetings May 18-19 in Washington With South Korean and Japanese 6-Party Counterparts
US Supports Dialogue Between India and Pakistan on Kashmir
US Relations with New Government in Nepal
US Issues Protest to Government of
Zimbabwe for Harassment of US Ambassador
Status of Run-Off Election / Necessary Conditions for Free and Fair Run- Off
12:46 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Glad to be here with you. Just want to note, since I know that sometimes our e-mails do not get out as quickly as possible, that we will be having a special briefing today at 2:00. USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore will be here to talk about both our efforts to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone in Burma, as well as what we're doing to assist the Chinese in light of the recent earthquake there.
On Burma, someone had asked earlier this morning. I just want to verify that we did have five more C-130 flights go in today, carrying U.S. humanitarian relief supplies. They have arrived in Rangoon. And just to give you a sense, again, these are the kinds of very basic humanitarian supplies that we would normally provide after these kinds of events. So that includes things like plastic sheeting, bottles of water, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and other kinds of fairly basic items that we think, to date, the supplies we've been able to get in should be sufficient to benefit potentially up to about 100,000 people. And certainly, Henrietta will be able to address this a little more for you later this afternoon, but I figured I'd start with that, and basically anything else on that or any other questions.
QUESTION: Gordon Brown would like UN to meet in a summit on Burma and would like a full summit on the problem of Burma.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a good idea?
MR. CASEY: We have seen some press reports about his statements. Certainly, we look forward to learning more about his ideas. As I said this morning, until we have a chance to understand more of what he's asking for, I don't think I can offer you any more detailed comment on it. Certainly, we are all very concerned about the situation in Burma and want to see everything possible done to be able to alleviate the suffering of the people there. And certainly believe that anything that we can all do as the international community individually or collectively ought to be done.
QUESTION: But isn't –
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Susan.
QUESTION: -- the United States going to be attending a meeting on that this afternoon in New York at the United Nations?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm referring to -- what I understood Sylvie's question referring to was a summit-level meeting, head-of-state level meeting that has been proposed by Prime Minister Brown. My understanding at this point is that's a very general proposal that's been made so far and we certainly would look forward to hearing more specifics from them about it. In terms of ongoing U.S. Security Council discussions on Burma, certainly, we're involved in that, but that's, of course, something that Ambassador Khalilzad is representing the U.S. for.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a good idea, though, to invoke this concept, this responsibility to protect concept, in the case of Burma?
MR. CASEY: You know you can probably get a hundred lawyers to argue that one with you. As far as we're concerned, we think that everything that we and others can do on a practical level to see that the people in these affected areas are supported and taken care of is really what our focus is on now. And we, again, are pleased to see that the Burmese Government has allowed us to get these relief flights in. But there is a lot more that we and others in the international community would do. We continue to urge the Burmese Government to let not only our disaster relief experts, but those from the UN and other organizations and countries to come in. And this is something that we hope to be able to make progress on.
QUESTION: So maybe you think it would be premature to invoke that at this time.
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think we need to see what the Council comes up with in terms of its discussions. I'm not going to try and predict where we go on that. But again, I think for the moment where we are principally focusing our efforts is on the practical steps we can take and some of the improvements that we have seen in terms of at least letting some international relief flights come in. And again, we've now moved from one flight to two flights to five flights over the course of three days and I think that's a positive development.
QUESTION: You think –
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
MR. CASEY: -- Tom, the more delay goes on and also they are not allowing any experts from around the globe and those who are - they're allowing are not maybe expert, is making any difference as far as increase in the death tolls and also more homeless or --
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think it's a very difficult situation. And certainly, again, we believe that, you know, in addition to bringing in the relief supplies, we certainly believe that there's more that we could offer and that others could. We'd like to see the regime do so.
I can't predict for you how that is affecting those in need right now. But the fact remains that there are many, many people who still have not gotten support, have not gotten assistance at this point. And we want to see them helped as soon as possible.
QUESTION: If I may -- I'm sorry-- if I may include China --
MR. CASEY: You sure you don't want to answer your phone? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, thank you. If I may include China in that --
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There's a briefing on the Capitol Hill by Secretary Boucher later on.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as China quake is concerned, their death tolls are also rising there. And is there any -- I understand U.S. has helped, maybe half a million dollars or something. Was there any direct request from the Chinese or (inaudible) coordination as far as --
MR. CASEY: Well, the Chinese Government has been accepting support from us and from others. We did -- our Ambassador did provide half a million dollars in immediate assistance through the Red Cross in response to an appeal for Chinese earthquake victims. I know the Chinese Government has been speaking with us and others. I believe the White House talked about the President's call on that subject and the very positive response that he got from the Chinese in terms of thanking us for our support and for our willingness to assist them in this effort. Again, I think Henrietta can talk to you a little more about some of the things we're going to continue to do after this to be able to help support the Chinese in this effort.
QUESTION: Tom, do you have anything new on the U.S. military aid for Lebanon?
MR. CASEY: Well, really not -- really not a lot. I certainly don't have any new announcements for you with regard to that. As you know, we have an ongoing military assistance program for Lebanon. That is something that has been active over the last couple of years and is designed to be able to help the Lebanese military carry out its mandate to provide security for the entirety of the country. I know that there are a number of things in the pipeline for them. And my understanding is we'll be trying to move some of those things through the pipeline in an expedited fashion. But in terms of overall levels of assistance, they remain the same. We have a very robust package of support for the Lebanese military and we intend to carry that out and give them the kind of help that they need to be able to, again, carry out their mission in support of the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: I'd just ask to follow up on the --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: You mentioned that there was stuff in the pipeline. Can you elaborate exactly what's in the pipeline right now in terms of --
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have any kind of specific listing for you. But if you look at what -- you know, what's been provided in the past or what's in the components of that -- that package, they include everything from vehicles and communications support to kinds of individual items, and as we saw this past summer, including some ammunition and other kinds of basic supplies.
QUESTION: So as far as where you are -- you decided not to step up the aid, but to accelerate it?
MR. CASEY: Well, as I said, there's -- there is no new aid or new aid program for the Lebanese military. What we have is an ongoing program. And again, I think what we're doing now is expediting the shipment of some of the things that were already in the pipeline.
QUESTION: How many shipments, do you know?
MR. CASEY: I really don't. I don't know whether, you know, how many carloads or planeloads we're talking about here. Again, this is an ongoing multi-year effort, and I would view it in that context.
QUESTION: Did it start or it's going to start?
MR. CASEY: It's ongoing. I can't tell you specifically where any individual shipment is at this point.
QUESTION: Did you say which bits were being expedited?
MR. CASEY: No, I said that the ongoing program -- those things that are in the pipeline are being expedited. I really don't have a specific list I can go through with you or detail for you. I'm not sure that's in anybody's interest at this point.
QUESTION: Can I have one on India, please?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Now the terrorist bombings -- I have seen the statement from the State Department which is saying -- use the word of terrorist. In India, there was some warnings in the Kashmir region against the -- Hindu temples and (inaudible) and all that. And also in India (inaudible) and communism is on the rise and Bangladeshi terrorism also on the rise in India. So, what do you - you have any kind of concerns or any talks with the Indians - government or Indian officials as far as the next leg - rise of - next rise in - next rise in the East, and also this terrorism going on and especially this one now in the different region of India?
MR. CASEY: You know, look, first of all, we have full confidence in the Indian ability's government - Indian Government's ability to provide for the security of its people. However, as we've seen, there are groups out there or individuals out there intent on committing terrorist acts. And you saw our statement yesterday condemning this violence. There's certainly no justification for it and we will continue to work with the Indian Government, as we do with other partners around the world, to try and help prevent these kinds of attacks and bring those responsible to justice.
At this moment, I don't think we - and we certainly haven't heard from the Indians that they have any definitive conclusion on who was responsible for these attacks. But certainly, we hope that those who are responsible can be identified and again brought to justice.
Yeah, let's go in the back here.
QUESTION: A different subject?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details about the case of the two military attaches who were expelled from Russia earlier in the month? There's a report today that it was because they were, I guess, neglecting to abide by protocol that requires diplomats to notify about travel.
MR. CASEY: You know, look, if the Russian Government has anything they'd like to say on that subject additional to that, that's fine. I don't have anything more for you. We went through this. This happens from time to time in our relationship with Russia, as it does with other - with other countries. I really don't have anything I can tell you about the circumstances of it. Suffice to say, we don't think it was an appropriate action on the part of the Russian Government. We told them that at the time, but we abided by their decision. Those two individuals left the country, oh, I think two weeks ago now and I don't think there's really much more to add.
QUESTION: To go back to Burma, I wondered how much longer you're willing to do this policy of just, you know, taking in aid and leaving it there, you know.
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, you - this is a question that I think you can get more detail from Henrietta on when she's here a little later. But let's again look at the circumstances. We have a natural disaster with an immediate humanitarian need. I would dispute the idea that we're simply just taking aid in and leaving it there and not trying to do any follow-up. In fact, we have been working, and very closely, with those nongovernmental organizations on the ground. We are hearing reports from them that aid is reaching some of the people that have been affected by this disaster. Certainly not as fast as anyone would like, but we are working with them to make sure that we do find out whether aid is, in fact, reaching those in need. Now that is not a comprehensive view, but it is part of our effort to try and ensure that this material is, in fact, getting to those who require it.
We also have seen and heard press reports that are out there of aid being diverted or of aid being given that you know, winds up being - when it gets to the people in need, being spoiled or not being sufficiently suitable for people's use. That's also something we're looking into as well and is an obvious concern. But I think you always have to have a calculus here in which you weigh the immediate needs of people suffering from a short-term disaster versus the price of simply doing nothing. And I think in this instance, we are willing to continue in the short term this policy because we do believe that there is a serious need and it's one that we believe we can help address. And again, I think even if the delivery of this aid is not what we would like it to be, we are getting reports that at least some of it is getting through and benefitting those who suffered as a result of this disaster.
QUESTION: So should we expect some more flights, then, U.S. flights?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything to report to you beyond the five that I just talked about today. I'm not aware what might be scheduled over the next few. Certainly, we're constantly taking a look at what the need is and what we can best provide, as well as, again, trying to work with the authorities in the Burmese regime to make sure that what we think is appropriate we can, in fact, get through.
MR. CASEY: Let's go in the back here again, and then I'll come back, Goyal.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on North Korean food aid or meetings that will take place next week with Japan and South Korea?
MR. CASEY: On potential food assistance to North Korea, I don't have anything new beyond what we said yesterday. We had some good conversations. We're looking at the issue very seriously, but don't have any announcements for you.
In terms of meetings, my understanding is that Chris Hill will meet with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts here in Washington, and those meetings will take place Sunday and Monday, the 18th and 19th.
QUESTION: Tom, quick. Do you have any comments on the new Prime Minister of Pakistan comments, a statement on Kashmir and he said that Kashmir is the core issue again between the relations between India and Pakistan, and it should be resolved and solved through the UN resolution, and now there is some kind of celebration going on in the -- in Kashmir region. Any change in the U.S. policy or --
MR. CASEY: No, there's no change in U.S. policy on this. Certainly, we believe that any differences between India and Pakistan are things that should be resolved through dialogue. And as you know, we've supported dialogue and discussion among the parties in the past, and we'll continue to do so.
QUESTION: And one more in the region. Sorry.
QUESTION: Anybody else?
MR. CASEY: All right, Goyal. We'll give you the last shot.
QUESTION: Thank you. As far as Nepal, I know Nancy gave me some last week for my question, but what I'm asking you, since the terrorist -- once the terrorist organization now still on the list of the U.S. State Department is now part of the Nepal Government, do you endorse them or you support them, or as a government now they are --
MR. CASEY: You have two separate issues here. First of all, the Maoists in Nepal never have been a "foreign terrorist organization," as designated. That is one category under law. They have, however, been on the "terrorist exclusion list." That is something that applies to consular issues, visas and other kinds of matters. As we noted, Ambassador Powell did meet some time ago -- I believe it's almost two weeks ago now -- with the head of the party, who is now the head of the government there. That meeting was principally to focus on and to gain assurances that the humanitarian programs that we have in Nepal, which are focused through nongovernmental organizations rather than the government, would, in fact, be honored and not interfered with. We were pleased to get a response that they did not intend to do anything to block or otherwise obstruct these programs.
But you know, ultimately, the basis of our relations with the Government of Nepal will be based on the actions of the individuals there. Whether or not the legal issues involved and the changes that have occurred in the government there are such that it would warrant a change in the status of that party on the terrorism exclusion list is, again, to get back to something I said earlier, something you can get a lot of lawyers in the room together and argue about. But the basic fact is we have many ways in which we are trying to provide support to the people of Nepal, and our principal concern in this meeting was to assure ourselves that the new government was not going to do anything to change or otherwise obstruct those programs.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I --
MR. CASEY: All right, Susan.
QUESTION: Sorry, Charlie. Zimbabwe --
MR. CASEY: Charlie's trying to help me out here. You know, he really is.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Zimbabwe --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a mistake, I just want to get (inaudible).
MR. CASEY: You got a lunch date, Charlie? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In Zimbabwe --
MR. CASEY: Go ahead, Susan.
QUESTION: They've postponed the presidential runoff vote in Zimbabwe.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I just wondered if you're alarmed by this or what -- how do you read this?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me do a couple of things. First of all, let me get back to an issue that someone raised this morning which was in relation to the obstruction of our Ambassador and several other diplomats by Zimbabwean security forces after they had gone to a hospital to visit some of the victims of the government's violence.
We have issued a protest to the Zimbabwean Government for the harassment of our Ambassador and other members of the diplomatic corps. Certainly, it's inappropriate behavior and we wanted to make sure that the government was aware of our concerns about this issue.
In terms of the runoff election, you know, we've seen the statements from the electoral commission that they're going to delay the runoff for 90 days. And certainly, I think we've also seen statements from the opposition concerning the timing of this election. The reality is that we and others, including the representatives from SADC who are there in the country, don't think there are conditions right now in Zimbabwe to have a safe or a fair runoff at the present time.
That said, you know if a runoff is going to happen, there certainly is an obligation on the part of all the international community to push the Zimbabwean Government to make sure that there are conditions in place for a free and fair runoff.
And one of the ways that people can be given some additional assurances that that's going to occur is for an actual date to be set rather than just continued statements that there will be a delay, as well as some of the other things we talked about: ensuring that the Zimbabwean security forces aren't involved in the electoral process; having some independent supervision of the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission so that it is - does not act or be seen as simply part and parcel of the ruling party; having South African Development Community observers throughout the country so that state-sponsored violence can be deterred; allowing regional and local election observers to operate freely; admitting election observers from neighboring countries as well as from the broader international community; and, gee, perhaps allowing people who want to print things in opposition to the government to do so without being thrown in jail, as we've seen occur recently.
So, you know, again, I think there is a whole list of things that the Zimbabwean Government can and should be able to do if it's serious about holding a runoff that's free and fair. And the delay without a date being set just continues to, I think, underscore the fact that the government's not taking the steps it needs to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)
Released on May 14, 2008