US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 27, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
June 27, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 27, 2008
Six Party Support for North Korean Destruction of
Chinese Are Determining When Envoys Meeting Will Take Place
Chinese Have Distributed Declaration To Six Parties
Receipt of Declaration Is First Step / Incremental Process / Verification of Information
Action for Action / Positive Steps Will Be Met with Positive Steps
Chris Hill Will Negotiate Third Phase / Ensure Specific Verification Steps
President Spoke about Support of Japan on Abductee Issue
Elections Today Are a Complete Sham /
Have No Standing with U.S., Security Council, G-8
Would Like Strong Action from Security Council / U.S. Will Look at Bilateral Measures
Would Like Other African Leaders to Urge Government for Political Solution
U.S. Would Like to See Afghan
Government Assert Authority Over Entire Country
U.S., NATO, Others Are Working to Develop Afghan Army, Police Force, Local Institutions
To Work with Government of Pakistan to Develop Democratic
Want to See Broad Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to Face Extremism
Colombia’s Call for Referendum is Internal Matter for
Facts Surrounding Colombia and Venezuela Make them Different Cases
Referral to DHS
on Case of Egyptian Extradition Request for Citizen in
Standard Practice of U.S. to Seek Assurances Individuals will be Treated Properly
12:42 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, guys.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR. CASEY: Don’t have anything to start you off with, so let’s see what’s on your minds. Anybody?
QUESTION: Can I ask about the cooling tower? How much did the U.S. give North Korea to blow up the tower? Do you have that figure?
MR. CASEY: I actually don’t. I’m not sure what financial assistance we might or might not have provided. I’m not sure. I know there were technical consultations about the issue of how the detonation was to be done. Obviously, there are certain safety considerations involved there, but I’m not sure what, if any, kind of support they got from us or from any of the other six parties.
QUESTION: If this was just a symbolic move, why would we have given them aid to blow it up?
MR. CASEY: If I was aware that we had, I might be able to answer that question for you, Libby, but I’m not aware that we did. Certainly though, we have talked about the importance of having full compliance with the variety of steps required under the disablement phase. Frankly, at – well, the cooling tower, while I think visually appealing in some ways – who doesn’t like a good explosion – is not perhaps the most significant of the steps they are taking.
And as I mentioned this morning, the things that we are more pleased to see happen, of course, is the continued removal of fuel from the power plant, as well as some of the other steps that were taken that would make it much harder for the facility at Yongbyon to be able to go back into plutonium production. Certainly, we have talked about the ways in which the six parties have tried to facilitate that. But at this point, I couldn’t confirm for you that we or anyone else had given them financial assistance to do this.
QUESTION: And talks are scheduled in Beijing on Monday for six-party envoys-meeting?
MR. CASEY: Well, the Chinese are still making a determination as to exactly when the meeting will take place. I understand there’s just some scheduling issues they’re working through. I would think you could certainly count on it in the very near future, and we would hope as soon as Monday.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Go ahead, Goyal, or, sorry, Kirit.
QUESTION: Just wanted to see if you had anything more you can say than you did at the gaggle about the contents of the declaration at this point?
MR. CASEY: No. I really don’t think I have much to add beyond what we said this morning. Again, the Chinese have distributed the declaration to the six parties. Certainly, we and others will be looking at it very carefully. And of course, the receipt of the declaration is just the very first step and beginning of the process of verifying the information and of answering outstanding questions that are there. So I think people should, again, look at this as a beginning, rather than an ending.
QUESTION: Tom, what needs to be done before there can be a ministerial level meeting of the six parties? We’ve been talking about this, you know, for -- months ago.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think that’s something that is among the other issues that could be discussed at a heads of delegation meeting. Certainly, you want to have a meeting of the six parties at any level when you think there’s productive work that can be done and find the right means for doing it. Now, we have said and have agreed in past implementation agreements of the six-party talks that there would be an appropriate time, a six-party ministerial. I would expect that would happen sometime. But at this point, I certainly know there’s no date planned for it or scheduled. Obviously, it’s again a matter that I think the six parties will have to talk about and determine when the right moment might be.
QUESTION: Tom --
MR. CASEY: Okay, Goyal.
QUESTION: As far as the nuclear program is concerned, in the past, they broke their pledges and trust. And how can you -- and – trust them now? And I’m sure, beyond six-party talks, many other neighbors in the regions – they must be worried about – in the future and – because they’ve been doing like this (inaudible).
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the neighbors are concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program -- neighbors like China, Russia, South Korea and Japan -- which is why we have worked with them in the six-party talks to address not just U.S. concerns, but their concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program.
And look, this isn’t a matter of trust. Trust is something you build as a result of the confidence that comes from people successfully adhering to their agreements and meeting their obligations. This is a matter of testing, as the Secretary has said, North Korea’s willingness to move forward, to honor its agreements, and to live up to the commitments it made back in September of ’05, which was to fully and completely dismantle their nuclear programs and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. And the importance of this process and the way we’ve set it up is so that it is action for action and that steps, positive steps taken by the North Koreans will be met by positive steps by us.
But it’s a incremental process. It’s one where no one is taking anything for granted and it’s one where we are going to look very hard and carefully, as the Secretary said, in verifying the information that we’ve got to assure ourselves that we know what we need to know about North Korea’s nuclear program and assure ourselves before we take any additional reciprocal actions that what has been pledged has actually been carried out.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: When you already know -- or do you know now that as far as where they got their nuclear program, whether it’s from China, from A.Q. Khan network?
MR. CASEY: Well, look. All questions – these are all the kinds of things that need to be done through the verification process. I think we certainly, again, as the Secretary said, have a far better idea now about the range and the scope of North Korea’s nuclear programs, not only about their plutonium production and capabilities, but also about their other activities.
But these are things where there are still open questions and where, through the verification process and as we move forward with implementation of the original September ’05 agreement, we will need to and expect to be able to get answers.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice has said that the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is going to be a phase three issue. Can you tell us anything more about how you’ll plan on approaching this with the North Koreans? And is this something that would come up in the next six-party talks meeting?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me reach down here, I’ll get Chris Hill’s negotiating book, and we’ll start talking about the strategy here – no. Look, certainly, we have to make sure that when we get to the end of this process, the end of phase three, that we don’t just think that denuclearization has occurred. We have to know it. And that’s why, again, verification is so important.
So the kinds of things that I suspect Chris and his colleagues will be talking about at the heads of delegation meeting include not only specific verification steps that we can take to be able to answer some of the questions that remain or to assure ourselves that some of the information provided is correct. But also talking about, then, what is the hardest part and the final part of phase three, which is how you then dismantle all those programs and eliminate them from the Korean Peninsula. But that is something that is the subject of negotiation of the third phase, and I expect those are the kinds of issues that Chris Hill and the other people at the heads of delegation level will be discussing, as well as, ultimately, matters that will be discussed by technical experts as well.
And there are any number of issues and details in this rather lengthy and complicated process that are going to need to be worked out. And that’ll happen not only at the basic, kind of, political level that the broadest agreements are made out of, but obviously, involves work at some pretty specific technical levels of expertise. And we’ve seen that in part as we’ve done the disablement process here, too.
QUESTION: Can you comment on some of the other concerns, like especially for Japan with regards to the abductee issue or anything like that, and how that might be addressed in the future?
MR. CASEY: I thought the President spoke pretty clearly on this yesterday. Look, I don’t think it’s for us to tell Japan what is a satisfactory solution to this. It never has been. Our role in this has been to support the Japanese efforts to respond to this concern and to have it adequately addressed by the North Korean Government. But ultimately, it’s not for us to say. It’s for the Japanese to say what is required to do that. We will be supportive of their efforts to do so. We have been in the past. We will continue to be in the future. And it is an important component of the overall six-party process.
But, you know, we have bilateral issues with North Korea, the Japanese have bilateral issues with North Korea, the South Koreans, Russians and Chinese do, too. The purpose of getting us all together in the six-party talks is to allow each of us to work on those bilateral issues in the broader context of the six-party talks, because the combined leverage and weight of all of us working together on this ought to mean that each of us can achieve both our specific bilateral concerns, as well as dealing with the broader overall common interest of ending North Korea’s nuclear program.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
MR. CASEY: If your colleagues are okay with it, I am, sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: It has become clear now that President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has defied every reasonable logic and (inaudible) U.S. obviously, together with the president there was a (inaudible) station closed and was the only one who was standing. Your greatest ally in Africa, President Mubarak, is hosting the African Union next week. Are you making any efforts to tell him to withdraw the invitation to President Mugabe as the first step to shows President Mugabe that the world is not going to accept what happened in Zimbabwe?
And secondly, what’s the general preliminary assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe?
MR. CASEY: Well, we talked a little bit about this this morning, but let me just try and go through for you where we stand. First of all, the elections, if they can even be called that today, are a complete sham. They are a absolutely vacant process. They have no standing for us. They have no standing with the Security Council, with the G-8, and I’d refer you to the statement that they just released on this. They clearly aren’t going to have any standing with SADC, which has said that the elections should be postponed and would not be appropriate and could not possibly be held in a free and fair manner.
I would expect that the African Union would reach the same conclusion as well, and certainly, we’ve heard at the ministerial level where Jendayi Frazer, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, is in place and working with them, that this is a matter too that is of concern not only to SADC, but to the broader region as well. I would expect, and you heard from the Secretary this morning out in Kyoto, that this will be an issue that will again come before the Security Council. We would like to see strong action from the Security Council taken on this. I would suspect, as well, that in addition to the raft of sanctions that the United States already has in place against Mr. Mugabe, as well as some of his cronies and other officials, that you will see us take a very strong look at additional measures that we might be able to take in a bilateral capacity against Zimbabwe. So I think President Mugabe finds himself increasingly isolated.
I think we have made clear, not only we the United States, but the Security Council and many other individual states out there, that this election, such as it’s called, has no legitimacy, cannot have any legitimacy, and that any government that is supposedly derived from it is, therefore, equally illegitimate. So we will take a good, hard look at this, but it’s very disappointing and certainly very objectionable that in the climate of fear and intimidation that has been established directly as a result of actions by Robert Mugabe and his thugs that are working for him, that the people of Zimbabwe are not having a clear and fair opportunity to choose their leadership and there certainly ought to be consequences for that.
QUESTION: What about --
QUESTION: But --
MR. CASEY: Wait a minute. Let him do that. Let him follow up, then we’ll go down.
QUESTION: Yeah. But, you know, as much as you are putting pressure to the South African President Mbeki to act decisively on Mugabe, are you putting pressure to the host, your ally in Egypt, to withdraw the invitation of Mugabe as a first step to show that his government is illegitimate?
MR. CASEY: Well, personally, I think it would be wonderful if President Mugabe heard directly from every other African leader in -- staring him in the face that said, you’re not a legitimate leader anymore. You have held an election that is a complete sham and we want you to do the right thing and work with the opposition and come up with a political solution that’s in the best interest of your country. You know, I think, unfortunately, Mugabe has become one of those ultimately tragic comic figures that we’ve seen in Africa before, which is someone who starts his career as someone trying to lead an independence movement, trying to liberate his people, who has now become his people’s oppressor. And I think that’s abundantly clear, not only to the United States and to the other members of the Security Council, but I think that’s abundantly clear to most of Africa’s leaders as well.
QUESTION: So you think it’s better than – that he attends actually the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh?
MR. CASEY: I think that the African Union will make its own decisions on who to invite or who not to invite. I certainly think, though, that President Mugabe would benefit from hearing directly from his colleagues exactly how little they think of the current electoral process he’s undertaken.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific about the strong actions you’re pushing for at the Security Council? What specifically do you want to see?
MR. CASEY: Oh, the Secretary said today that she was going to be consulting with other members of the Security Council to talk about that. I don’t want to presume other – any specific actions there. Again, I don’t want to talk about specific steps that we might take. I’d suffice it to say that we would be looking for the kind of action that would add increased pressure on Mugabe and his regime and make it clear that the international community intends to apply pressure in a variety of different forums, including in our case, through bilateral sanctions against them.
QUESTION: In our view, Tom, do you think that what Mr. Mugabe is doing is a clear failure of the multilateral organizations, such as UN, AU, SADC, you name them?
MR. CASEY: Well, it’s certainly clear that there hasn’t been a resolution to this political crisis in Zimbabwe. And we certainly want to see all of those who have influence over Mr. Mugabe, exercise it. But it’s not over yet. Certainly, we will continue to work on this issue. We will continue to use not only our influence, but also work with other members of the international community until we can achieve the right kind of outcome here.
And again, I’ll just say what I’ve said previously, that we would hope that within the ZANU-PF, there would also be individuals who would consider themselves Zimbabwean patriots first, and recipients of Mr. Mugabe’s patronage second. This is an issue that really is about the future of Zimbabwe, about the security of the country, about the ability of its people to be able to feed themselves, to be able to have a normal life and a normal relationship with the international community.
And I think also that not only the United States, but others in the international community will look very hard at not only President Mugabe and not only senior leadership in the regime, but at any of those who are enabling him to be able to perpetrate this fraud on his people.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. Tom, there’s a bitter – and tension going on between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Afghanistan’s Attorney General, I’m sure he met somebody here at the State Department, he was speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, USIP, and he said that his nation is now a lawlessness nation and there is – there are some (inaudible) drug lords and he was blaming some of the (inaudible) and some corruptions and all that, so he needs help as far as ruling his country. And he cannot even arrest his own people who are criminals and committing crimes.
So what kind of help you think he shall – or asking now? Because also, now Pakistan is denying that (inaudible) tried to kill President Karzai.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, again, we talked a little bit about this this morning. But, first of all, we want to see the Afghan Government be able to assert its authority completely over the country. That is part of what NATO is trying to do. It’s part of what the United States is trying to do there. That’s not only in the form of U.S. and NATO forces working to ensure security and stability throughout the country, but that’s also in the form of the assistance that we and others are providing to develop the Afghan army, to develop the national police force, to help in drug prevention and drug eradication programs, to work in developing local institutions. Because certainly, one of the other things that’s important is not only that you have a police force capable of arresting those that have committed crimes, but that you have a legal system from judges and attorneys to prison systems and other mechanisms for being able to assure that justice is done and justice is served.
So certainly, we agree that we need to continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan to work on all these issues, and it’s something that we’re pleased to see members of the international community continue to step forward to support.
QUESTION: And you think finally this new $5.6 billion to Pakistan will bring integrity and the – democracy or (inaudible) free and intervention-free government in Pakistan, you think?
MR. CASEY: Well, ultimate --
QUESTION: And they will act on the terrorism and fighting a global war on terrorism (inaudible)?
MR. CASEY: I think Richard Boucher spoke to this rather extensively before Congress the other day, and I don’t think I have a lot to add to that. But certainly, we continue to work with the Government of Pakistan to help them develop their democratic institutions, to work on things like economic development, not only in Pakistan itself but also in the FATA. And we also want to see as broad possible cooperation between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with the common threat and challenge posed by extremism.
QUESTION: Tom, what does the United States think of President Uribe -- of Colombia’s call for a referendum that could give him a third term or allow him to run for a third term?
MR. CASEY: I’m not quite sure where that issue stands right now. But that’s an internal matter for Colombia and Colombians to decide. Obviously, any changes that might be made to their electoral law or to their constitution that would be required would be something that would be for the Colombian political process, and ultimately, if it involves a referendum, the Colombian people to work out.
QUESTION: Was that the same reaction -- was the reaction from the podium the same when Chavez tried a similar strategy?
MR. CASEY: Oh, so the reaction should be equivalent to a democratic leader proposing a democratic change in his country, in a country in which there have been free and fair elections in which media can operate freely, in which those who have committed abuses against labor leaders and others are being prosecuted?
You would like me to make an equivalence between that and someone who was elected democratically, but who has never governed in that way, who has closed down newspapers, closed down television stations, arrested his opposition, recently eliminated more than 300 opposition candidates from being eligible to vote based on a rather flimsy pretext of the possibility that they might face charges in the future?
I’m sorry, I can’t really go there for you. (Laughter.)
Okay, Samir, you’ve got one last one? We’ll let you at it.
QUESTION: A report by AP about an Egyptian in Philadelphia who’s fighting deportation by the U.S. Government to Egypt and --
MR. CASEY: Samir, I --
QUESTION: Did you get assurances that he won’t be tortured?
MR. CASEY: Samir, I’m unfamiliar with that case. But if he’s facing deportation hearings, that’s really something you’d have to speak to DHS about. In any instances where it is required or someone is being transferred to another country to face detention or legal prosecution, it’s the standard practice of the United States to seek assurances, where appropriate and necessary, that the individual will be treated properly in accordance with international norms.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)
Released on June 27, 2008