US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 26, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
June 26, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 26, 2008
Legislative Procedure for Removal of North Korea from
State Sponsors of Terror List
State Department and U.S. Government Role in Verification
Question about IAEA's Role in Verification
Questions about Content of Declaration
Status of Trade, Lending Restrictions, Tariffs on North Korea / Trading with the Enemy Act
Expectations of North Korea to Ensure Complete Verification / Components of Verification
Verification Ensures Forward Movement / Many Steps Remain in Process
Options Available if North Korea Does Not Comply with Terms of Verification
Next Possible Six Party Meetings / Meeting Level / Participants
Sung Kim's Activities in North Korea
U.S. Work to Bring about Change in Behavior of Regimes
U.S. Hopes that Iran Sees Advantage of Working with P-5+1 to Resolve Nuclear Issues
U.S. Concerns about Hmong Detention in
U.S. Ready to Accept Referrals of Hmong from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Question about Israeli and Palestinian Negotiators Being Invited to the U.S.
Status of Nuclear Weapons / Department of Defense
12:46 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, guys. Nice, quiet day, huh? You know all of you were up bright and early this morning enjoying the view and the sunrise. I think there's been certainly a lot said about North Korea already today. I don't really have anything to add to that at the top here or anything particular to start you off with, so - sure, what do you got?
QUESTION: Will any decision on details about - a bit in the fact sheet you put out saying that the blocking - or the terror list could be blocked by the Congress in a joint resolution - do you know if this is, you know, a veto-proof two-thirds, if it's just a plurality, if it's --
MR. CASEY: Well, like any piece of legislation, it could - my understanding is, like any piece of legislation, it could be vetoed by the President. So therefore, if it were vetoed, would then - you know, we're making a lot of assumptions here.
First of all, we've just sent over to Capitol Hill this morning the formal notification of our intent to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terror. If -- in that 45 days, Congress has an opportunity to review it -- but yeah, it would take action by both houses of Congress to impede that decision from taking effect. And my understanding, at least, it's like any other piece of legislation, then that would either be - you know, have to be signed into law or vetoed by the President, and if vetoed, would require a two-thirds majority to override.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What role is the IAEA going to have in the verification? And also, who is going to be doing it on the U.S. side? I mean, you know, so far, the bureau's - the State Department's Verification Bureau hasn't really had a role up to this point. But do you expect them to take a robust role in the actual verification of the deal? Of the declaration?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think, you know, first of all, you have to look at verification as not a single process or a single step, but a series of things. There obviously are certain issues that you have to go through that are very technical and require folks, you know, familiar with the running of nuclear power plants. And those folks, including people from the Department of Energy, including people from our T family, our arms control family of bureaus, including folks from the Department of Defense, have been engaged in that up in Yongbyon.
You also have to look at it in terms of, you know, some of the other questions that are out there about HEU, about proliferation, which, you know, may require different kinds of expertise. So my expectation - I talked a little bit about this the other day - is that you will, at any given time, literally have hundreds of people in this government who are at least focusing part of their attention on this. That would include people in our nonproliferation arms control bureaus. That would include people working the diplomatic issues of this, through Chris Hill and Sung Kim and others. It would certainly include technical experts from the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense and other relevant organizations that have some technical expertise here.
So I - you know, the answer is a lot of people were involved in this, will be involved in this, and of course, the intelligence community has a role to play here too, since much of what we had previously learned about the North Korean nuclear programs comes, in part, through the kinds of activities that they're involved in. So I think there's going to be a pretty thorough interagency involvement in the verification process as well as in reviewing the declaration and associated materials with it.
QUESTION: What about the IAEA?
MR. CASEY: You know, at this point, I can't tell you specifically what role the IAEA might be playing in that. Certainly, we've welcomed having IAEA inspectors on scene at various times with North Korea. But I can't tell you right now, how moving forward in this, what their role will be, though certainly I'd expect they'd have one.
QUESTION: But you don't expect - I mean, you don't know or - but I mean, in terms of like, playing a significant, major role, you don't expect that?
MR. CASEY: You know, again, I'd really rather let the people that are involved in verification try and describe it. But fundamentally, this is a six-party process, as we've seen with the disablement phase. I would expect that you would have a very heavy involvement from officials from those countries and particularly those that have expertise. Certainly, I would expect that there will be some involvement and role for the IAEA in this, but I really would hesitate to try and describe that role or give you details on it at this early stage.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the declaration itself. Can you give us any indication of how much plutonium has been declared by the North Koreans? There was some reporting that it was roughly 40 kilograms. And how many --
MR. CASEY: Look, I really can't - you know, the Secretary, she noted in her remarks, hasn't seen it yet either. I think I'd like to wait and see what they've actually put on paper before I try and tell you that. But you know, again, I think Steve Hadley talked about this in his briefing over at the White House this morning, and there's, you know, significant detail of the amount of plutonium produced and of the production there. And of course, we've got the records provided earlier to Sung Kim when he traveled to North Korea. That will be one means, though certainly not the only one, of verifying the amounts that they've declared.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has any U.S. official seen the declaration? Any official at all?
MR. CASEY: I can't - as far as I know, there is not a copy of it here in Washington as of yet, but, you know, I couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: But would you say that - I mean, there were talks, extensive talks in advance. Would you say that the United States knows what's in the declaration?
MR. CASEY: I would say, if you listen to the Secretary of State, who spoke to this about an hour and a half ago that, yeah, she said, you know, we've had extensive conversations with the North Koreans.
Most of you did notice that Chris had a few talks with them. I mean, you know, come on, guys, look, we've been working on this for a number of months. And every time that Chris has come out of a meeting he said, no, I do not have a piece of paper, but I have engaged in conversations with them about what the declaration would look like, what would it include, what kinds of material would be in it, what things we needed to see in it.
So, I think, having gotten to this point, yeah, we are fairly confident that we know what is in it. Obviously, we need to read through it thoroughly and completely, make sure we, you know, fully understand what's there. And of course, again, you know, as the President said this morning, this is a step, but only a step in a multi-stage process. And I don't think anyone should either, you know, underrate the significance of this action. But at the same time, I don't think anyone should be out there trying to overstate it either. It's an important tool for us to be able to move forward into the third phase of the six-party talks and be able to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But it's only a tool, and its utility and its value will only be borne out as we move through the verification process.
QUESTION: Do you think it will be - will the document be made public?
MR. CASEY: I don't know. That's a very good question, Libby. And I -- simply one that I don't honestly know. I would assume that there will be a significant opportunity to brief it out in one form or another. Obviously, our Congress is interested; certainly, officials in other capitals are as well. But I'm not sure, sort of, in what form it will be either, you know, discussed or provided publicly. And that's something I just haven't had an opportunity to talk with the main players on to be able to give you an answer on that.
QUESTION: So what means declaration package - what do -- term you use in the fact sheet? It means there are several documents?
MR. CASEY: It means that there's a package of information that's been submitted by the North Koreans. My understanding is it's roughly 60 pages. I think it, you know, encompasses material that talks about all three aspects of their nuclear program that we've discussed - plutonium, highly enriched uranium, as well as proliferation. You know, again, without having seen it, I'm hesitant to try and talk to you about the - you know, what's on page one versus what's on page 60.
QUESTION: But the Secretary and the President don't seem satisfied with what the North Koreans say about proliferation and highly enriched uranium.
MR. CASEY: Well --
QUESTION: Does it mean - what is in the declaration is not what you expected or it's what was expected and it's not enough?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we've made clear is that the declaration is the first step; it's not the ending point. And the declaration still leaves open many issues that need to be verified and many questions that will have to be answered. And again, the success of this process - I know that we've all played a nice long waiting game of "when's the declaration coming and when are we going to get it and what's it going to look like and what shape and size is it going to be, and is it going to be on blue paper and is it going to be in Korean or English or Japanese."
But let's kind of remember where we started and where we're trying to get to. This is sort of, you know, if the beginning point was where we began the six-party talks and the end point is a fully implemented 2005 agreed declaration - that means a denuclearized Korean Peninsula - then this is simply one point, somewhere, you know, halfway down the road. We've got a long way to go here.
And what the declaration does is provides us with a basis now for being able to do two things. For being able to make sure that we really understand the full and complete aspects of North Korea's nuclear program, answer any questions we have remaining about that through verification. And then, as we're doing that, begin the process of dismantling that system, whether that is physical hardware or pieces of equipment like those at Yongbyon or whether that is making sure we have a full understanding and are assured that there is no continued activity by the North Koreans with relation to proliferation.
QUESTION: A broad question, then a narrow one. The broad one: Do we still refer to North Korea as a member of the axis of evil now, or are they not so evil?
MR. CASEY: You know, I didn't realize we ever gave them a most formal membership card or anything. Look, the President was asked about that this morning, and I'll leave it with his answer.
And what's the other --
QUESTION: The narrow and first one, your fact sheet on remaining sanctions and restrictions against North Korea --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And we put this to USTR and they said ask State.
MR. CASEY: That's a nice pass off.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Will North Korea still face very high tariffs unless, for example, they negotiate a PNTR-type arrangement with the United States? Smoot-Hawley and some of these lingering old trade --
MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding is that, you know, the results of - and we put out there - you know, sent around to some of you a sort of general review of some of the sanctions that remain in place, even after the Trading With the Enemy Act and the state sponsors designation sanctions would be removed. But, you know, again, as Steve Hadley said this morning, there aren't a lot of people anxious to engage in business opportunities in North Korea at this point. But there is still a very high barrier that is out there. There are still licensing requirements for practically any U.S.-made good that would go to North Korea. There still are many, many restrictions on any North Korean goods flowing back here. That includes a number of tariffs. I honestly don't have a good handle on, you know, specific tariff rates. But certainly, nothing - none of the actions taken today change any existing barriers to trade that are already in place.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, just on that particular issue.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Also on the fact sheet, North Korea's still under a, kind of, U.S. opposition to loans from international financial institutions.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: A) does that mean that they can't get the loans, because the United States is such a large contributor to those financial institutions? Does that mean that your opposition would basically, you know, kind of quell any application for a loan, or are they banned from the institutions themselves? And do you think that that's an area that the United States could soften, allowing North Korea to get more aid?
MR. CASEY: Well basically, there are, as we note, a number of provisions under U.S. law, Glenn Amendments one of them, there are a couple of others out there as well, that require the United States representatives in international financial institutions, the IMF, World Bank, other kinds of organizations of that nature, to - basically, to vote against any loans for them. Depending on the makeup of the voting structure of any of those organizations, you know, the U.S. commands usually a fairly strong plurality of voting in those, at least the ones that have their decision making based on investments in it. So it would be - while it may not be impossible, it would certainly be pretty hard for any loan to go through one of those institutions without U.S. support. And certainly how we move on any of those issues often has influence on other members of their governing body.
Look, in terms of future actions with respect to North Korea, certainly we've set up a process here to get back to some fundamentals, where with full denuclearization, almost anything is possible. Without it, it's hard to see much else changing here. So certainly as we move forward, in terms of the third phase of denuclearization, there are things that can be discussed as North Korea takes steps to denuclearize, what kinds of other steps might be done on the part of the United States, as well as on the part of other parties there. But that's something that will be subject to the discussions and negotiations in the third round here, and I wouldn't want to try and steer you one way or the other as to whether that's on the table or not.
QUESTION: And then just one last thing on the Trading With the Enemies Act - doesn't that unfreeze, like, a certain amount of money? I wasn't sure if it was like 30 million or 300 million. I don't remember.
MR. CASEY: If you look at some of the documentation that's come out of the White House today, there is a suspension, or a lifting, of the sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act, but there is also an additional memorandum that's gone out from the President, noting that any assets that were frozen under TWEA, under Trading With the Enemy Act, remain in effect.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Nicholas.
QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to Sylvie's question about the package, so-called. There is an understanding that was reported extensively that the uranium issue and the proliferation issue are going to be addressed in a separate document that was going to be a bilateral acknowledgement of what happened, and not be a part of what was given to the Chinese. Are you saying now that actually that document was part of what was given to the Chinese?
MR. CASEY: So you would like to know if a document I haven't seen contains a secret agreement that --
QUESTION: Well, you said you have a very good idea of what it contains, so –
MR. CASEY: Nicholas, my understanding is the document that has been provided to the Chinese, the declaration that's been the Chinese, is the full and - full declaration that the North Koreans intend to provide, including, you know, whether it's, you know, a ten-page summary with 27 chapters and 15 annexes, or otherwise. But, you know, all the information that is relevant to this process that has been provided by the North Koreans is, I understand, in what they handed over to the Chinese.
QUESTION: And you do not expect any addendums or appendixes or anything that will be provided only to the U.S. bilaterally?
MR. CASEY: Based on my thimbleful of knowledge on this subject? No.
QUESTION: Just so we can go back to verification real quick --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: If you could kind of go through what the North has agreed upon as far as who will be able to go into the country and that kind of thing, and then when this might start.
MR. CASEY: Well, I guess one thing you could - one way of looking at this is that verification began a while ago. It began when U.S. and Russian and Chinese and other officials began working at Yongbyon on disablement and being able to view the activities there and verify what was going on there. It continued when Sung Kim went to North Korea and received the 18,000 pages of material related to plutonium production that he received and that we're using, in part, now, to be able to verify the amounts of plutonium produced. And, you know, it will continue from there.
As the Secretary's spoken to on this subject, we are looking at a variety of things that would allow us to be able to adequately verify the information involved. And that does involve things like physical inspections of facilities, waste pools, and other kinds of places. It involves being able to interview individuals who have worked on these various programs over time. It certainly involves other kinds of on-site inspections, sampling of materials or of soils, as appropriate, all to be able to make sure that what is in the declaration is true and accurate, and also to respond to and answer any of the other outstanding questions that the declaration might leave open.
So again, I don't think anyone has tried to put any particular limitations or descriptors on who that would be. What we are looking for and what we expect out of the North Koreans is an ability to go where we need to go and see who we need to see to be able to respond to those questions. And as I said before, in some cases that may involve a expert on nuclear reactor technology from the Department of Energy going somewhere. In other cases, it may involve having individuals interviewed by those who have some expertise on proliferation concerns. We'll just have to see. Again, I think there'll be a fairly steady stream of people involved in this and moving forward in North Korea as well as elsewhere to try and answer all those questions.
QUESTION: When Rice spoke about that last week, she said that more in the abstract, that this is what they would like to see. Has North Korea actually agreed to allow those things to take place?
MR. CASEY: There's an agreement in principle on these verification methods. What - you know, what you are asking me I thought was more of a, have they, you know, agreed to a list of individuals or kinds of individuals. But it's basically a principle - a matter of principles, and the principles include being able to do on-site inspections and sampling and interviews and those kinds of things.
QUESTION: And just one other point - when do you expect the Chinese to actually hand out the declaration? Is that going to happen tomorrow?
MR. CASEY: I honestly don't know, and then, of course, we're in a situation where we've got a lot of people in various places outside of Washington, too. I expect we'll have it shortly, but I couldn't tell you, you know, when it would get here versus when it might get to the Secretary and Chris out in Japan...
QUESTION: Going back to the axis a bit, is there anything from this process at this stage, that Iran - you would hope that Iran would take notice of or that would pertain to those diplomatic efforts that are also multilateral?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's - you know, I think it's -- each case is unique and each situation is unique. Certainly, we would hope that Iran would see the advantage of working with the international community to resolve the nuclear issue there. And just as good-faith actions by the North Koreans have been met by good faith actions by the other members of the six-party talks, certainly, we've put forward an incentives package for Iran that would allow them to achieve any number of their stated objectives, in terms of both development of civilian nuclear power, as well as in some of their broader objectives in terms of their relationship with the United States and other countries.
So certainly, if they want to look for an example of where the United States and others have lived up to their commitments and are making a good-faith effort to end a rather difficult issue and one that represents a challenge and a threat to the region, then I'd certainly hope they would take note of this. And we'd certainly like to see a situation where Iran had suspended its enrichment activities and was willing to sit down with us and the other members of the P-5+1 and negotiate a solution.
QUESTION: The Secretary and the President said from the beginning that the declaration should be complete, and they mentioned especially proliferation and highly enriched uranium.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: This morning they said they were not satisfied with the explanation about proliferation, especially. But nevertheless, the U.S. started the - lifted the sanctions and has started the process of withdrawal from the list of terrorist states. Does it mean that U.S. has made concessions?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think that we will know whether we've got a full and complete declaration when we've concluded the verification process. Because until then, what we know is this is what the North Koreans have told us. We certainly are not taking any of that on face value and that's why the Secretary in her remarks over the last few weeks and months, including in her op-ed this morning in The Wall Street Journal -- free plug there -- talked about the importance of verification in this process as really being the only way that we could assure ourselves we're moving forward. But she's also been upfront about the fact that what we know from the North Koreans leaves many questions unanswered, leaves many issues that we need to continue discussions with them and verify through this process. So certainly, there are - you know, there are a lot of steps left to go here and that's why, you know, both from the President and the Secretary, you heard from them about this being an important step forward, but only a step forward and certainly far from the end of the road.
In terms of, you know, what has the U.S. given up or otherwise given in exchange for this, well, you know, again, she's talked about this. But at this point, in exchange for the cessation of production of plutonium, the disabling of those facilities so it would be very hard for them to bring that back on line, a declaration which gives us greater insight and detail than we ever had into all aspects of their nuclear program, though certainly not absolutely perfect by any means. The international community has, so far, provided a limited amount of heavy fuel oil, good for basically only providing heat necessary to power homes. And we've taken actions to suspend sanctions which, as we have said, if anywhere over the course of time, we find that the North Koreans are not complying fully in terms of the verification or that the verification efforts that we undertake lead us to find that the declaration provided was not accurate or complete, then we certainly have the option of restoring those sanctions or adding new ones on. So we think this is the best and most positive way to be able to assure that there is a step-by-step process that will require the North Koreans to be able to work with us and be able to denuclearize in order to be able to receive any real significant benefits from it and achieve the kind of relationship they'd like to have with us and with the broader world out there.
QUESTION: So no concession.
MR. CASEY: I would describe it as a implementation of an existing agreement in a multistep process, at the end of which we would hope that North Korea would have denuclearized and in exchange for that denuclearization would have received some material benefits. That's what we set out to do and that's the course we're on.
QUESTION: When do you anticipate the Secretary will meet with the North Koreans in a six-party format?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I know we're waiting to see what the Chinese will do in terms of another heads of delegation meeting or another working level session, if you will, the six-party talks. Certainly, there's possibility for a ministerial-level six-party session at some point in the future. I wouldn't try and predict timing for you on that. If that's also a way of asking does she intend to go to North Korea on this trip or at any point in the future, there's certainly no plans to do so.
QUESTION: Under what conditions would she agree to meet with the North Koreans, though? At what - how far along would they need to be - I guess, would you need to be in the verification process?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think that's a decision that all six parties will have to make. I would think that if we were at a point where people felt that having a meeting at a ministerial level would allow us to be able to bring the process forward, then that would be appropriate, then that might take place. But I think at this point, you'd certainly want to let people actually take a good, hard look at the declaration and start the verification process. And I think we'll then see what might be an appropriate time for people to get together and in what format and level in the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Tom, do you know what kinds of meetings Sung Kim might have in Pyongyang, except for the - his witnessing the cooling tower destruction tomorrow?
MR. CASEY: I expect he'll have - he'll have some meetings with North Korean officials while he's there. I don't honestly have a agenda of his meetings. Again, one of the - sort of principal purpose of his visit this time is to witness the collapsing of the cooling tower and be sort of the senior U.S. representative there. But he certainly, I'm sure, will take advantage of that opportunity to talk with some North Korean officials, both about some of the ongoing tasks that remain in the disablement phase as well as, you know, perhaps share some ideas with them on verification or on other things as we move forward into the third phase.
QUESTION: And just one more. The President's joke this morning about the axis of evil aside - and in that speech at the State of the Union, he identified three countries as the most serious threats to the United States, and these were Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
MR. CASEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You've obviously dealt very differently with North Korea from what you've done with Iraq. But is - was it - I'm trying to figure out whether this was sort of a conscious, consistent policy of trying to neutralize these threats one by one, the three of them, and that with North Korea's removal from the terrorist list, that now, indeed, two of these threats have been, if not completely neutralized, at least reduced.
MR. CASEY: Well, I - first of all, I'll - you know, I'll let the President talk about his own words and statements, and my colleagues at the White House can kind of try and give you a read on that.
What I would say is it's certainly true that these are problems of longstanding, whether it was Iraq or Iran or North Korea. And we've certainly done what we could to be able to address those problems and pleased to see, in this instance, that we've had some, you know, positive steps taken place with North Korea. We'd like to see similar positive steps occur with Iran. But one of the things I think you can draw from this, though, is the fact that this Administration has worked consistently to build a international coalition, a group of countries who are best positioned to be able to use their influence and use the powers that they may be able to bring to bear to bring about a change in behavior.
One of the things that I think you've heard from the Secretary about quite frequently is the importance of having talks based on some rational expectation that they might lead to something. And to do that, you need to be able to have some form of leverage, some form of ability to influence the behavior of those you're talking to. And I think one of the real positive examples that comes out of the six-party process is that when we did work in concert with China, with Russia, Japan and South Korea, we were able to use the collective influence of all those countries to bring about a change in behavior.
And again, I'm not trying to say that this is the end of the road or that we'll easily get to a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But I think, to the extent that we have made the progress that we have, it's due to the ability of this group here, of the Secretary, and others at the White House and the President, to be able to build this strong group of international countries who are willing and able to work in concert with us to be able to bring about a change in a regime that has shown a great reluctance to do so over time.
QUESTION: Can you verify that - how many nuclear weapons North Korea currently have?
MR. CASEY: Can I personally? No. (Laughter.) Look, I think - you know, there are certainly estimate of that. There are estimates that have been done by the intelligence community, by ours, by other countries. We now have a declaration from North Korea that specifies amounts of plutonium produced. We have records that will help in verifying that amount.
And I think, you know, that would answer the - answer a lot of the questions, ultimately, about - about not only weapons production, but what has happened to all of the plutonium that's been produced and verify for us, as we move through this process, that when that plutonium is eliminated from the scene, from the Korean Peninsula, that we really know that it's all gone.
QUESTION: North Korea didn't contain amount of - they currently have their weapons?
MR. CASEY: Again, I'd leave it where the National Security Advisor left it, and that was to talk about it in terms of overall production of plutonium.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Yes, ma'am. Somehow, I don't think you're on North Korea, Mr. Lambros, so let's go back - I think she may be, so let's keep going on that, then we'll go over to you.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask about HEU program or no verification. Has the U.S. Government got - have got either a draft or a document from North Korea today or the day before?
MR. CASEY: In terms of - well, again, in the declaration, as - again, the National Security Advisor Hadley said that declaration includes a couple of things. It includes acknowledgement of our concerns about their proliferation activities and their HEU program, and it also includes commitments that they no longer are engaging in such activities and won't do so in the future. But again, all that still leaves open any number of questions about the concerns that we have raised. And those are issues that have to be addressed through the verification process.
Okay, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Before we go to Turkey, Mr. Casey, I have one general question on Korea. I'm wondering, Mr. Casey, if anyone is working for the reunification of the two Koreas, like in the case of Germany, divided since 1952 for 56 years?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think there has been ample discussion on the part of the South Korean Government. In fact, they have something called a minister of reunification, and I think they can speak to that issue for you. Ultimately, such decisions are those to be made by the Korean people themselves.
QUESTION: On the part of the U.S. Government, are you doing anything to this effect?
MR. CASEY: On the part of the U.S. Government, what we're doing today is trying to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: May I go to Turkey?
MR. CASEY: Well, you used up your first shot. Let's go down here. I'll come back to you and we can do Turkey later.
QUESTION: I was hoping you might comment on Thailand's recent repatriation of more than 800 ethnic Hmong to Laos, including some who apparently were sent back involuntarily.
MR. CASEY: Well, what I have been given here says the international community, including the United States, has been concerned about Hmong in detention in Thailand for a long time and we're working to consider appropriate solutions. The United States stands ready to accept referrals of Hmong refugees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but we've not recently received a large number of referrals as some rumors or some speculation might have indicated.
QUESTION: Nothing specific on this?
MR. CASEY: Nothing specific on that, though, no. I've seen those reports but I don't have anything really detailed to offer you on it.
MR. CASEY: Okay, Mr. Lambros, going to Turkey.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, DAS Matt Bryza, speaking at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, during the annual event, Turgut Ozal lectures, said for the first time that a ban on the Recep Erdogan political party would be unfortunate. May we assume that the U.S. Government is against this movement of the (inaudible) to remove from the power of the most popular Turkish government since 1923?
MR. CASEY: You know, Matt's a great guy and I do try and keep track of his movements, but I'm not familiar with this particular set of remarks. Whatever his remarks actually were, Mr. Lambros, I'm sure they fully represented U.S. policy.
QUESTION: There was a report that Secretary Rice invited the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams to come to Washington early next month. Can you confirm this and tell us anything about it?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, you know, I'd seen those reports, Samir. At this point, I don't have anything that would substantiate them. Certainly, we're continuing to work with both the Israelis and Palestinians as they move forward in their negotiations. But at this point, I'm not aware that there's been any specific invitation or scheduling of meetings here. But we'll try and keep you updated as things move on.
As you know, the Secretary has been traveling quite frequently to the region and, you know, I'm not aware that there are plans to have both sides come here at any particular point, but we'll see what happens. They certainly were here to kick off the process in Annapolis, so I certainly wouldn't rule it out.
QUESTION: One more. Can you comment about a recent report that the U.S. has pulled out its remaining nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom?
MR. CASEY: I really can't. I've seen that report. But in terms of, you know, what we may or may have not done with relation to any of our military forces, including nuclear forces, I'd leave that to the Pentagon.
MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)
Released on June 26, 2008