US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 18, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 18, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 18, 2008
US Policy on Arms Sales to Taiwan
Informal Ministerial-Level Meeting of the Six-Party
Ministers on Sidelines of ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore
Update on 6-Party Process
Prospects for Formal Ministerial Meeting
Prospects for Opening
US Interests Section in Iran
Possible Talks on Resumption of Direct Flights between US and Iran
US Participation in Geneva Meeting on July 19
Secretary Rice's Meeting with the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo
US-Iraq Security Horizon / White House Statement
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Secretary Rice's Travel / Meetings
Investigation of Missile Strike Along Afghan Border
Possible Travel by Special Envoy Lefkowtiz
US Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Tactics
12:04 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let's get right to your questions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I don't have anything to start with.
QUESTION: Good, thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: You want to start, fine. Let's go ahead. We're going to switch –
QUESTION: You want me to start first? Thank you very much. It's an honor.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, second row first. Let's go. We're going to switch things up. It's Friday.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you very much. It's (inaudible) of Phoenix TV of Hong Kong.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: My question is regarding Taiwan. What is the current position of U.S., you know, regarding on arms sales to Taiwan? Has it changed, the position?
MR. MCCORMACK: The short answer is no. But let me reiterate for you what our policy is. The Administration faithfully implements the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States makes available items necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient defense. There is an internal interagency process for the United States Government to consider all military exports, including sales to Taiwan. When the interagency process achieves a final decision for specific arms sales, we will notify Congress. We do not comment on specific weapons systems under consideration. And you should all know that we faithfully carry out the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: So can I follow up? Is it true that it is frozen for the arms sale for a while, you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have stated the U.S. Government policy on this matter.
QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up? Admiral Keating of the PACOM - I mean the U.S. Commander of the Pacific Command - he said the other day that - you know, he actually - he confirmed that there is actually a freeze on the arms sales to Taiwan. So do you have any comment about his, you know, comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those remarks. And what I would do is I would point you to what I have just given you as the official United States Government policy that is applicable for all U.S. Government agencies, whether it's the Department of Defense, Department of State or any other part of the U.S. Government. So I would look to this statement that I've just given you as the official U.S. Government policy position.
QUESTION: So what is the process of the, you know, interagency negotiations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's not interagency negotiations. There's an interagency review process, as I've just outlined for you.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up, sir?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Admiral Keating also said that decision made by the U.S. leaders indicates that there is no pressing and compelling need for, at this moment, arms sales to Taiwan. Does the State Department agree with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, what - I'll repeat. What I have just given you is the official United States Government position that applies across the United States Government, all department - all cabinet agencies. This is the U.S. Government position.
QUESTION: So, Sean, there's no freeze on the arms sales issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Can repeat for you - here is the United States Government position.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Let's - we'll move back to the front row. Yes.
QUESTION: New subject, if everyone's okay?
MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The South Koreans' Yonhap News Agency is reporting that there will most likely be Six-Party ministerial talks on the sidelines of the Singapore ASEAN Regional Forum early next week. Do you - have you confirmed - do you have any –
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say –
QUESTION: Does the Secretary have a plan to meet those ministers?
MR. MCCORMACK: The way I would refer to it is - well, first of all, she is going to be at the Asia Regional Forum in Singapore. That's the reason why she is traveling to Singapore. On the sidelines of that meeting, I would expect that there would be an informal ministerial-level meeting of the Six-Party ministers. Again, this is not going to be a meeting that produces specific outcomes. Don't look for an outcome document or any such thing, or any negotiation outcome. It's really a meeting to review where the Six-Party process is at the moment.
QUESTION: Will there be a bilateral component to that, be it with the U.S. or DPRK?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't expect - there is not, at this point, any bilateral component to it. It is an informal gathering of the Six-Party ministers who will all happen to be at the Asia Regional Forum at the same time.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, that would include the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect it will. Again, I think that is - that's the idea, and that's the invitation. Obviously, it's up to North Korea whether or not it would choose to attend the informal meeting.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why you've agreed to do something like this now, or the timing of it?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think it's useful. We think it's useful to the diplomacy. There's - Chris Hill had a good meeting at the head-of-delegation meeting in Beijing just a week or so ago. They agreed on the verification principles to move forward. That's a positive step. There's still detailed work to do, and that is going to take place in the verification sub-working group that the Chinese are going to lead. We participate in it. But again, it moves the process forward in terms of verification.
And then there are still other obligations under phase two that need to be fulfilled, but we are - the process is moving in the right direction based on action-for-action. That's the principle at work here. And we thought it was useful, as well as the Chinese, as the chair of the Six-Party Talks, we thought it was useful. All the ministers are going to be in Singapore, and why not have an informal gathering? Again, it's not to produce some specific negotiated outcome. There will not be an outcome document or any such thing. But it is a good opportunity for the ministers to be able to assess the work of their heads of delegations through the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: And what is an informal meeting? What are they going to be talking about? What's the difference between that and a formal meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a formal, you know - well, you know, some of it is the - is really the form of it and the expectations for it. You know, a formal meeting, you have the agenda, here are the items that are going to be discussed, you expect that there are going to be specific outcomes based upon those agenda items. There's a lot of preparation work that goes into producing some specific outcome, either a statement or some negotiation breakthrough. That's not what this meeting is intended to do.
QUESTION: What sort of interaction do you expect Secretary Rice to have with her North Korean counterpart? I mean, will she be willing to speak with him, talk with him substantively about the issue? Because I don't thinks she's ever met a North Korean foreign minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: That - I think that's correct. Yeah. Look, of course, she will be, as will all the ministers. I would expect that there would be an exchange among the ministers, you know, offering their assessments. You know, I can't speak to exactly what the interaction and interplay might be between - among all the different ministers or between specific ministers. We'll let you know as best we can. But I would expect that they're all going to be there.
Yeah. Anything else on this? Yeah, Kirit.
QUESTION: Have you decided what your message to the North Koreans will be when you meet with them?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, our message will be: Let's move this process forward on the Six-Party Talks. We have made progress up and to this point. All the parties - North Korea has made progress on fulfilling its commitments. We are doing so ourselves, as are the other parties in the Six-Party Talks.
And once we complete phase two, we're going to be moving to a crucial phase, phase three. And that phase ends with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. There are no interim steps. That's what that - that's what the next phase is intended to do, and that means North Korea being completely out of the nuclear business there, in terms of facilities and materials. And that's a big step. And certainly, we are prepared, as a member of the Six-Party Talks, to take that step along with the other members. But again, it's going to be action for action. And that will be her message, and I guess to review where we have been in terms of the Six-Party Talks.
Yeah. Anything else on this? Nina?
QUESTION: On Iran, please? We've heard some very positive comments from Mottaki today.
MR. MCCORMACK: North Korea - Iran, yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: He says that - he said in Turkey today that –
MR. MCCORMACK: He won't be at the meeting, by the way.
QUESTION: Really? (Laughter.) He says that a deal on a U.S. interests section in Iran is possible. Can I have a reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We - again, we've said that it's an interesting idea. We are always looking for ways to try to reach out to the Iranian people. I've talked yesterday at length about a lot of the ways that we have done that, but I'm not going to talk about any idea that may or may not be under consideration within the United States Government. But it is an interesting idea.
QUESTION: But wouldn't comments like this build momentum and encourage you to consider this more carefully?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, I've talked about it, Secretary Rice has talked about it, Bill Burns has talked about it. I think we're going to leave it where it is right now.
I mean, the only real drama for the weekend at the moment is whether or not Iran is going to provide a positive response to the P-5+1 offer that's on the table. That's the issue at hand this weekend. As for - you know, as for these other issues, again, interesting idea. I'm not going to talk about what we may or may not be considering inside the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Just one more follow-up on that, actually.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit, go ahead.
QUESTION: One of the other ideas that Mottaki floated was the idea of direct flights between the U.S. and Iran. I don't know if that's been floated in the past, but I don't know if it's your –
MR. MCCORMACK: No, they've talked about that in the past.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. They talked about it in the past.
QUESTION: Do you have (inaudible) for that, or –
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, I'll have to check with our guys to see whether or not that's - how we've reacted in the past to that. Off the top of my head, I don't know.
QUESTION: What would Iran have to do, if anything, for the U.S. to decide to place some sort of consular representative there? What would Tehran - is there - what would the U.S. like to see happen before that could come into play?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure what you're getting at.
QUESTION: Does Tehran have to do anything before the U.S. would consider opening some sort of - putting a person on the ground?
MR. MCCORMACK: Is the implication you - are we looking for some sort of quid pro quo? Is that the - sort of the question?
QUESTION: Well, you know, if this is out - if the issue is out there and the State Department hasn't denied this is under consideration, is there something they're waiting to see happen?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I've given the answer that I'm going to supply on the matter.
MR. MCCORMACK: Goyal.
QUESTION: One just to follow on Iran. Sean, as far as opening the negotiations or relations or a mission or whatever, are you in touch with the Israelis? Because what they're saying (inaudible). I mean, how can you forget what the President of Iran said, that he will - or his country will wipe out Israel off the map? And also, how the Israelis feel now the relations are going farther between U.S. and Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to ask the Israeli Government how they feel about where we - where they stand vis-à-vis our policy. Look, Goyal, Israel makes its own decisions about its own foreign policy, national security policy, as does the United States. We're good friends, but each state is responsible for its own actions.
QUESTION: May I have another? New subject, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, why not?
QUESTION: Thank you. As far as situation in Afghanistan and along the border with Pakistan is concerned –
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: - the Foreign Minister was here yesterday. He met with a number of officials in Washington. And now, their Prime Minister is coming in the next ten days here in Washington, meeting with the President and the Secretary. One, are you still in touch with General Musharraf? And also, what do you want now? Because now is a civilian government, democracy, not military anymore. And finally, how do you find yourself to talk with the - one time the military government, then suddenly comes the civilian government? Do you find it difficult to - or do you have to change any policy or rules or - how do you deal with them, two different scenarios comes at once?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've had any problem dealing with the Pakistani Government over the past several years, no matter who is sitting in what chair. We continue to have contact with President Musharraf, as we do with other members of the government, including the Prime Minister, as is evidenced by his upcoming trip here in about 10 days.
We have a very good relationship with Pakistan. It is a broad, deep relationship. We're looking to broaden and deepen it. There are issues related to, for example, security and fighting terrorism that we're working intensively with this government. I think Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was recently in Pakistan and I think he met with several members of the government, he met with the military, met with civilian leadership, and he also met with President Musharraf as well.
QUESTION: Kosovo, Mr. McCormack.
MR. MCCORMACK: Kosovo. Were you upstairs at the press conference?
QUESTION: No, I was not.
MR. MCCORMACK: Ah, okay. I didn't think I saw you there.
QUESTION: Anything to say on the today's meeting between Secretary Rice and Hashim Thaci of Kosovo?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was a very good meeting. They talked about the past, talked about the future, and talked about - they talked about their hopes and aspirations. We talked about our readiness and willingness to work with Kosovo as they, you know, form their political system, as they build their economy, and as the international system looks after aspects related to security.
So it was a very good meeting, historic meeting, and the Secretary was very pleased to meet the President as well as the Prime Minister.
QUESTION: One more. Despite the Russians' objections, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon - he made important news yesterday. He pushing with a plan to hand over security function in Kosovo to the 2,200-member EU police. Any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that there is a transformation of UNMIK that is ongoing. And of course, there is the - you referred to the EU Mission, the EULEX mission. And there is, again, a discussion about which organization will play what role, and over time the EULEX mission taking primacy in terms of - or taking a lead role in terms of many of the security aspects. But that's an ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Briefly back to Singapore, but not North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: I know you had a statement on the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim yesterday or the day before. But will she raise that if she has the opportunity either in the ASEAN setting or in a Malaysian bilateral setting? MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure we have any bilaterals scheduled. But I'm sure that she will note it, if given the opportunity.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the talks with the Iraqis about a time horizon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the - well, the White House issued a statement about this.
MR. MCCORMACK: And they - the Iraqis also put out language -
QUESTION: You don't want to step on the White House?
MR. MCCORMACK: What am I going to add to the statement that has been issued?
QUESTION: Just trying to give you the opportunity.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: You could explain what a general time horizon means and what it might connote for international policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we should see. We're generally talking about a security horizon. And it gets to the idea of the U.S. forces being able to operate - continue to operate, again, in ways that are mutually agreed upon between the United States and Iraq. Certainly, from our perspective, there are certain things that we'll need to see. And of course, the Iraqis have certain things that they need and certain things that their political system will need. At the heart of the statement, though, is a sense - both of the statements from the Iraqis and from the United States - there's a sense that we're going to work this out. And it's a matter of two sovereign states dealing with one another and coming to an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both sides and that serves the interests of both sides.
I also find it interesting now that - you know, after a lot of commentary about: Will the Iraqi political system develop, you know? Is it taking care of the affairs of the Iraqi people? Is it a functioning political system? Well, you know, for all of those people asking those same questions, I think here is a bit of evidence for you. This is an Iraqi Government that is working on behalf of the interests of the Iraqi people and is representing the political views and some of the political currents that are ongoing within Iraq. And clearly, it's a political system that is becoming ever more vibrant every single day.
And it - quite clearly, Prime Minister Maliki is in charge of this government. And certainly, on affairs related to security, he is exercising his prerogatives, and the structures of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security apparatus are responding to that. You saw - we've seen evidence of that, for example, in Basra and that there have been several other instances where Iraqi security forces in Iraqi-planned and Iraqi-executed missions have gone in and reasserted control, sometimes in places where there hadn't been for years Iraqi Government security control.
So while there are a lot of questions, I know, about the strategic framework agreement and the various aspects of that, and most importantly, I think, for many people the security aspects, certainly that's important to us and it's important to the Iraqis, let's also step back and take a look at the fact that we are now dealing with an Iraqi Government that really is representing the interests of Iraq and the Iraqi people. And that's an important development.
QUESTION: Do you have a sense - do you have any details on the Secretary's meetings in Abu Dhabi, which ministers she plans to see, which Arab ministers, what they're going to talk about -
MR. MCCORMACK: I - again, this is an instance where we're traveling to Singapore and the Foreign Minister of Abu Dhabi - in Abu Dhabi has very graciously agreed to host her. It's a way of following up a bit on the visit of the Sheikh to - with President Bush at Camp David. She was on travel, so she wasn't at those meetings. And he's also agreed to host an informal - I don't know if it's going to be a dinner or a meeting - with some of the parties in the region, some of the - her - Secretary Rice's counterparts from the region.
I would expect they'll talk about a lot of different issues. You know, Bill Burns will meet the Secretary in Abu Dhabi, so I would expect talking about Iran might be on the agenda, talking about Iraq might be on the agenda. And again, this is - this falls in the category of an informal get-together. It's really more of a social get-together at which, you know, the foreign ministers can exchange information and points of view. It's not an - it's not a meeting with a formal structure or - and don't expect any particular outcome, statements, or anything of the sort.
QUESTION: It's not like a GCC+2 meeting or –
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. They - you know, those - I mean, again, those things, like the Six-Party Talks, come along with formal structures. You know, formal invitations issued, agendas, outcomes, planned goals set for the particular meeting with the idea of achieving certain things in the meeting. Again, this is just an inform - informal consultations, if you will.
QUESTION: So who will be at the dinner?
MR. MCCORMACK: I - at this point, I think that we're still working out the guest list. And I'm not sure it's going to be a dinner. It would be an informal gathering. And the Foreign Minister in Abu Dhabi, or his office, is probably most appropriate since he's hosting it to –
QUESTION: Well, they're off today. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's always tomorrow then, isn't there? (Laughter.)
Goyal, you've already had a bunch. Yeah.
QUESTION: One more on Singapore?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Chris Hill will also be there. What kind of meetings will he be involved in, and do you have any travel plans for him after?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect, first of all, he will be at all the meetings there. He will be there. He is the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, so it is his area of responsibility, policy-wise and bureaucratically, and he'll be in all the meetings with the Secretary. As for onward travel, I don't know. I don't know that he has any planned.
QUESTION: Should we still expect a formal ministerial at the Six-Party Talks or does this informal meeting fulfill the previous agreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think at some point you will see a formal ministerial. This is not a substitute for that.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that. So you have absolutely no goal for the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it– look, I wouldn't put it quite that way, Kirit. You know, whether you're in business or in the public sector, you know, if you have a meeting and it's intended to have a formal agenda, it's a set agenda and you want a specific outcome, and you're trying to resolve issue x, and that's the purpose of the meeting, that's a different thing than having an informal gathering at which the ministers can exchange views as to how they see the situation and where they see it going. It's a useful exchange of information.
QUESTION: It's a get-to-know-you?
QUESTION: Would you say this is kind of a breaking-the-ice session? You know, the Secretary - first time to meet the North Korean –
MR. MCCORMACK: Breaking the - no, it's not a breaking-the-ice session.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we got some more, Charlie. Yeah, in the back. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: This is about Afghan-Pakistan relations. Afghans have recently refused to participate in any peace talks with Pakistanis, and Pakistanis are blaming them for all sorts of things. Sir, do you see the alliance that you put together in that part of the world to fight terrorism, do you see that alliance falling apart? And have you made any recent efforts to improve the relations? Has there been any phone calls, any contacts with Afghan or Pakistani leaders?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, as a matter of fact, there was just recently a joint investigation with some findings issues - issued into the incident that took place along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan about ten days or two weeks ago involving an outpost on the Pakistani side. And this involved - this was a cooperative effort. And while the - you know, the findings different - differed, the outcomes were agreed upon, where essentially they were going to increase the resources dedicated to personnel on both sides of the border in terms of manning outposts, improved communications, help better delineate and demarcate the border in terms of agreeing upon where the line is and ways to monitor that line. So that's just one small example in which there is cooperation that is ongoing there.
Look, it's a tough problem, controlling that border. And there are issues on the Pakistani side, there are issues on the Afghan side. And we are helping both sides work through those issues, and I would expect that the communications between the Afghans and the Pakistanis will also continue.
QUESTION: A South Korean news agency reported that Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz is going to South Korea and submitted his application to enter the commercial city of Kaesong. Can you confirm that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know his exact itinerary, but I know - I do know in the near future, if not next week, that he plans to go there.
QUESTION: This is quite a - sort of a week for U.S. diplomacy. You have Bill Burns going –
MR. MCCORMACK: I like to think that every week is a week of U.S. diplomacy. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I mean especially - it's a special meet-your-enemies week. I mean, you're seeing the Iranians, you're seeing the North Koreans. I mean, is Hamas next?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: I mean, you're meeting people with whom you've often had rather, sort of, sharp words. I mean, is this just a general strategy of deciding that it's good to speak to your enemies?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we take these decisions because we think that they're effective in moving diplomacy forward. And I would point out we have met with the North Koreans before in the Six-Party context. We have met the Iranians via the first, Zal channel, and now the Ryan Crocker channel. If you go back and - if you want to dig up some more ancient history, Ambassador Khalilzad met with them, the Iranians, as part of the 6+1 process related to Afghanistan. And they - the Iranians participated in Bonn.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't - I shouldn't read this as a pattern and a new sort of approach to diplomacy?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I wouldn't read it that way at all. What I would read it as is the United States looking for opportunities to advance diplomacy, to push advantages where they see them, and in furthering our national interests and furthering the interests of our friends and allies. And if we see an opportunity to do that within the confines of the principles of our policies, we're going to do it.
While the - Ambassador Burns attending the meeting in Geneva could be a shift in diplomatic tactics, if you will - everybody loves the word "shift" –
QUESTION: But not a policy shift?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, because the substance is the same. I know you guys love to write about shifts and policy shifts. But the fact of the matter is, if you want to have an informed discussion about the policy, you look at the substance and you look at the diplomatic tactics. Sure, I'll tell you, it's a slight shift in diplomatic tactics. We're trying to push what we see as an advantage. But the substance is the same. Tone, you know, as I said before, it sends a signal, yes. Is it a change in policy? No.
The heart of the policy, as you've heard from Secretary Rice, you've heard from me, is that as part of the two-track approach Iran has to meet conditions - it has to meet a condition in order to realize negotiations. And that is unchanged. That has been unchanged from day one. It's unchanged today. And that is, they have to suspend their enrichment-related activities. It's our condition. It's the condition of the UN Security Council. It's the condition of the P-5+1.
QUESTION: What if that –
MR. MCCORMACK: Elise.
QUESTION: What if that never happens? What if they never agree to suspend their uranium enrichment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, then they're going to find themselves increasingly isolated. And they're going to find the costs incurred by the government on behalf of the Iranian people to increase steadily. We've already seen evidence of those costs. I can refer you to the recent action by Total pulling out the development of the South Pars oil and gas field. There is essentially now in that huge project in - to which Iran had devoted a lot of time and energy, no Western participation. And without that kind of expertise that Western companies possess, they're going to find it very difficult not only to exploit the resources there, but to find anybody who will finance the project, you know, even though oil is at $140 a barrel. And even at $140 a barrel, they're not able to keep up with the promises that they have made in their economy. They cannot - they have not and cannot because of mismanagement produce the - create the million jobs a year that they need to create.
So there are real costs to Iran continuing to defy the international system. But those costs are, unfortunately, borne by Iran. But the ones signing the bills for those costs, it's the Iranian Government. And the only reason why they're in the situation they find themselves in right now is because of the decisions that they've made. It's within their power to reverse course, however.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:31 p.m.)
DPB # 128
Released on July 18, 2008