State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 2 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
December 2, 2005
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Participation in the Second Session of
the U.S.-China Senior Dialogue
Agenda for Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Taro
U.S. View of Japan's Relationship with China & South Korea
U.S. Response to Foreign Secretary Straw's Letter
U.S. Response to Allegations about Secret Prisons
U.S. Sensitivity to Concerns of Foreign Governments & Publics
Expansion of Public Diplomacy Efforts
U.S. Support of Free, Independent & Responsible Press
Reports of Russian Missile Sales to Iran
U.S.-Mexico Efforts to Curb Violence along the Border / Bilateral
Importance of a Peaceful, Stable & Democratic Iraq
U.S. Programs for Iraqi Journalists / Best Practices & Ethical
Spread of Democracy / Historical Changes / Increase in U.S. Visa
Query Regarding President Chavez's Accusations about U.S.
Interference in Election
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one short programming note for you regarding the Deputy Secretary. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will host Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo at the second session of the U.S.-China Senior Dialogue in Washington, DC, December 7th and 8th.
So with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: If I could ask what they're dialoguing, would you expand on that a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is the second meeting of the Senior Level Dialogue that has taken place. The first took place in Beijing. Deputy Secretary Zoellick led our -- was in the lead on our side of the table. They covered a variety of different issues: economic issues, human rights issues, as well as democracy issues. And I would expect that they would also cover that same terrain, follow-up on the President's meeting with President Hu that took place recently just after the APEC meeting.
QUESTION: But it's not the place to compare notes, I take it, on North Korea's -- the status of negotiations?
MR. MCCORMACK: If North Korea and the six-party talks come up, I'm sure Deputy Secretary Zoellick will be ready to talk about it.
QUESTION: I'll ask you a question about David Welch. I know various high-level officials were due to do a lot of traveling in the region, mostly to make sure the agreement that the Secretary oversaw on Palestinian travel was implemented. Beginning with questions as to whether David Welch is on his way or soon to be on his way, maybe go to Egypt, maybe go to Israel, anything that you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't checked on David's travel schedule. We'll --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- see if there's anything we can update for you.
QUESTION: And if it turns out he's heading for the airport tonight, would you let us know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd be happy to share with you whatever details we can of his travel schedule.
QUESTION: But no one else that you know of in particular?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Can you say what topics are likely to be covered in the meeting with the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the Secretary -- the Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: They will have an opportunity to meet this afternoon about 2 o'clock. We expect that they'll talk about a broad range of issues regarding the security and foreign policy dialogue between the United States and Japan. That would include, I would expect, Iraq, UN reform and the U.S.-Japanese security relations. I expect that they will also touch on bilateral economic issues, such as the need to resume imports of U.S. beef.
The Foreign Minister, I understand, will also meet with Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley.
QUESTION: Dmitry Sidorov, Kommersant, Russian business and political daily. The question is about Russian missile sale to Iran.
QUESTION: Can we stick with Japan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Chris Hill was voicing some frustration in Pusan about Japan's relations with China and South Korea. I just wondered, are you going to be encouraging Japan to maybe improve those relations and what kind of a role do you think the United States could play in pushing Japan possibly towards ameliorating those ties?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are -- I think it's well known that there are some lingering tensions between Japan and South Korea, Japan and China. These have a historical root that's well understood. We think that it's very important that all the countries in the region, in their bilateral relations, work to overcome any historical differences or, you know, potential grievances that may continue into the present day. So we would hope that Japan and China, Japan and South Korea, work together in a spirit of cooperation and in the spirit of good neighborly relations to overcome any differences that they may have.
I think that one indication of the ability of all the states of the region to work together on a common problem is the six-party talks. All three of those countries are involved in those discussions with a common goal and that is to achieve a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and they're all working in concert, along with us and the Russians, to negotiate with North Korea to see that they dismantle their nuclear program. In exchange, North Korea could potentially realize a different kind of relationship with all of the other partners in that negotiation.
QUESTION: But do you think Japan should be doing more with China in particular? Do you think they should be trying harder? China says that they have not been trying hard enough.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think in any bilateral relationship, it's two-way -- a two-way street so we would expect that both sides of any bilateral relationship would work towards those kind of goals. Also I think that those -- those are the goals that their peoples would expect them to work towards to overcome whatever differences they may have in a spirit of openness and transparency.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Ireland told us yesterday that the Secretary is going to make a declaration about the secret prison of the CIA and these flights to Europe. Can you confirm that and tell us when?
MR. MCCORMACK: They had a general discussion on these news reports of the allegations that we've been talking about for the past several days. As I have said before, the Secretary looks forward to responding to Foreign Secretary Straw's letter. And we're going to do that in as timely a manner as we are able and we'll keep you up to date on that response.
QUESTION: It will be a declaration? A statement?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of what form the response will take, I'll keep you updated on that.
QUESTION: Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: On the same topic?
QUESTION: As a follow up to that. I assume from your use of tenses that there has been no response yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's correct.
QUESTION: And secondly, I would ask, does the Secretary intend to address this issue before she leaves for Europe? And in public?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- well, a couple of things. One, in terms of the formal response to Foreign Secretary Straw's letter in his capacity as EU presidency, we'll keep you updated on the timing of that. I think that at an earlier event today, there were a couple of questions asked of the Secretary whether or not she was going to be speaking with you and your colleagues prior to her departure, she said that she would be speaking to you prior to her departure and she's a woman of her word. She intends to keep that word.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. Do you see the Russian missile sales to Iran as a success in -- Moscow's success in persuading Tehran that the air strike against Iran is from either the U.S. or Israel is imminent?
MR. MCCORMACK: A couple of things. One, we've seen the news reports. I think that there were reports that Iran has signed a deal to buy TOR M1 missiles -- that's T -- capital T-O-R -- M1 Russian tactical surface-to-air missile systems. We are at this point evaluating those reports. At this point, I couldn't confirm the validity of those reports.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. try to stop this deal and what leverage does it have?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you're presupposing that there is a deal and what I just said was we're working to confirm that these reports are valid.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Different topic?
QUESTION: Well, I just want to get back to the secret prisons, if I can, just for one second.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Have a go? I was just wondering, I know that in terms of the delay in the U.S. actually responding to this, I know that you have said that you have responded to it from the podium and actually I've sort of gone back and done a bit of compendium, you know, just of your statements from the podium and it --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's trouble.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's trouble.
QUESTION: Absolutely. (Laughter.) Okay. It seems at the beginning you said that it was a matter to be addressed by the CIA or the DNI. Afterwards, you couldn't discuss classified issues. As late as November 16th, you didn't notice any strains as a result of reports of these issues. And it was only sort of on November 29th that you said that this is a matter that has to be responded to. My question out of all this is, do you think that whatever the outcome of this, the United States could have been more on top of responding to these concerns and not let them fester and reach the point they have?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the latest response that I gave you was in response to questions about Foreign Secretary Straw writing a letter, which would be a formal written request from the EU. In terms of our response to these news reports and these allegations, we have made every attempt to be -- to give the best possible response that we could. We have talked at length in this room and in other fora about the constraints on our ability to respond directly to these allegations and these news reports. So all we can do is with, as I have said, with the European publics, European parliaments, with the American public, is to try to engage in a discussion about the context in which these allegations and these news reports -- these news reports arise. We will continue to engage in that discussion. We will provide a response to Foreign Secretary Straw's written request for information and I expect that this will be a topic of continuing discussion into the future.
QUESTION: Can I just follow-up just on one thing on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Given the fact that there was a delay of almost four weeks between the break of the report and the time that you actually said that this was allegations that needed to be responded to, do you think that the United States in the future has to be more sensitive to what the Europeans or other allies may consider inappropriate activity in the war on terror that the United States might not consider?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, in terms of -- in terms of the news reports, I can't -- I am not able to confirm the substance.
QUESTION: I'm not asking (inaudible)
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we are, in our public diplomacy efforts, very sensitive to the concerns of foreign publics. There have been examples where we've not done as good a job as we might have, but we have -- we have certainly tried to learn from those past examples and to try to improve our ability to react rapidly to news reports that are now bouncing around in the 24-hour global news cycle. That is something that the President believes is important, the Secretary believes is important and Under Secretary Hughes believes is important.
So it is an effort to which we are devoting extensive resources and extensive effort. I think that we have improved our ability over time to respond to these -- to respond to news reports and inaccuracies in news reports that may appear several time zones away. We are always looking at ways in which we can improve that effort.
QUESTION: But I suppose when we have what she has to say, we'll know the answer to my question. But my question is: What is it about this that you feel the allies are due or other countries are due an explanation?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we --
QUESTION: I mean, this is an American operation. America has an interest in trying to defeat terrorism. You sound very apologetic, frankly. I mean, apologetic --
MR. MCCORMACK: But no, I was -- with -- let me be clear.
MR. MCCORMACK: I was trying to make a general point about our --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, don't misunderstand what I'm saying.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: It sounds a little bit like we have some explaining to do, and I'm just wondering why.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Barry, I think we have gone over and over this issue over the past three days. I think in terms of my response to these questions about the Secretary's meeting with the German Foreign Minister, with Foreign Secretary Straw's letter, are out there for you to evaluate. There are a lot of words on this.
In terms of, I would just, again, differ with this characterization of being apologetic. What I'm trying to do is provide as forthright and timely an explanation as I can on this as well as other matters. And what I was trying to do in response to Peter's question was to give a more general answer in which we look back even further beyond these news reports popping up several weeks ago.
QUESTION: You said that you want to answer because it was a formal written request. Why did you wait for that formal written request which is a rather high level of -- in diplomacy of tension between two countries? And it's with good allies, so why did you wait for such high tension to answer or to -- not even to answer but to consider that you have to answer?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we -- prior to this letter, as Peter just pointed out, we talked about this -- we talked about this issue quite a bit. In terms of formal requests, I'll have to look back at the record. I don't have the exact timeline of when we received formal inquiries from the EU. But this was a public formal request for information and we think it's important to respond to that request.
QUESTION: Just one more thing, a follow-up on this. You said that there were cases there where you thought you could have done better. Is this one of them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not referring to this case.
QUESTION: I know, but I mean do you think that you could have been a bit quicker to get off the mark on this one?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Peter, I think that, you know, I'm going to let the historians judge how, you know, how we're doing. It's -- I know there's a real temptation to do instant analysis these days, but in terms of the job that we are doing here every day at the Department of State and in this government, I'll let other people make those judgments. I'll let other people make those assessments. We'll let the historians judge.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I just follow-up on one more question on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: As Peter said, to begin with, you are saying this hasn't strained or hadn't strained EU relations. I suppose -- we'll, you acknowledge now, do you, that it has strained U.S. relations with the EU?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look. I have answered this question, I believe it was yesterday or the day before, when we were talking about, well, what is it that -- you know, how much time is this taking up? And my response was, inasmuch as I am standing up here in this briefing over the past several days with you, not talking about our cooperation on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, not talking about our cooperation with NATO in helping to provide a stable atmosphere in Afghanistan, not talking about our cooperation in helping the Iraqi people build a democracy and not talking about our common fight and the struggle against the spread of AIDS and malaria and other diseases. It's taking up quite a bit of time in the public discourse. But in the private meetings, let me tell you that the real work that is getting done is being done and all of those topics that I just went over are the topics that are concerning the policymakers and the discussions between the United States, the EU, as well as other European countries.
QUESTION: But this has been the second (inaudible) -- how big an issue do you think this is going to be when she visits Europe?
MR. MCCORMACK: She is prepared to discuss this issue, should it come up. I expect that it will. But she also has a long list of policy issues that she's going to be discussing at each of her stops along the way. I talked a little bit about those yesterday. They go all the way from U.S.-European relations to the spread of democracy to fighting the war on terrorism.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) war between drug cartels in Mexico. Yesterday the Dallas Morning News received a piece of video and that later released that shows the execution of members of a cartel by members of another cartel. The question is those people are or appear to be members of the military and the drug police in Mexico. And this obviously sets back Mexico in its efforts against drug trafficking. Is there disappointment on the part of the United States that this situation is continuing to grow?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen the news report that you refer to. We are working very closely with the Mexican Government to prevent the upswing in violence that we have seen along the U.S.-Mexican border. This is an important issue for the Mexican people, it's important to the United States and, in particular, to those states that border with Mexico. We have a great relationship with Mexico and the people of Mexico. We share so much in terms of history and culture. And that's what makes it so important that we work together to stop this -- stop this violence. I know that the Government of Mexico has taken a number of steps in recent months to diminish the level of violence along that border region. We look forward to working with them in the future to see that those efforts are even more effective.
QUESTION: And the question concerning the President of the United States is that the Mexico is advancing greatly on this. But now with the proof that there's Mexican military involved on the side of the cartel or working for the different cartels and this whole thing. It gives sort of a new dynamic to the whole thing, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of those specific reports, I'm not in a position to substantiate those reports. We will certainly look into them. But, in terms of, in terms of working together and efforts along the border to curb this violence, I think that there has been progress that's been made but clearly more needs to be done. And we're going to be working closely with the Mexican Government on that issue.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, the following human rights was committed. The New York Times reported yesterday that those UFO flights used by the U.S. Government landed also in Greece. And I'm wondering if Secretary Condoleezza Rice is going to address the use of the Greek airports, too, during the upcoming trip to Europe?
MR. MCCORMACK: Use of the Greek airports by UFOs? I don't think she's going to touch that one, Mr. Lambros. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I'm saying just -- the (inaudible) flights --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any -- I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: There was an opinion poll released today by the University of Maryland and also South Beach National. They polled about 3,900 people in six Arab countries and overwhelmingly, the -- this was on U.S. -- on Arab opinion towards the United States -- and overwhelmingly, there appeared to be a very negative opinion of the United States and U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Iraq. I just wondered, is this an indication that possibly your public diplomacy program in the Middle East has not borne fruit yet? And how do you think that you can get your message across? I could give you many more details about this poll.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, first, with respect to polls -- and I haven't seen this one -- there are so many different factors that go into polls and how they come out, what questions are asked, how the questions are phrased, what the sample size is -- there are a variety of different questions and I would hazard to guess that if you ran a similar -- if somebody else ran a similar poll, you might come out with different results. I don't know how different but in any case just a caution about polls.
The -- in terms of change in the Middle East, the -- in the greater spirit of democracy and the cry for freedom in the Middle East, this is something that originated with the people in the Middle East. There, not three years ago, there was an important UN report calling for an expansion of dialogues and an expansion of freedom in the Middle East.
Now, with respect to Iraq, we've covered this ground before. We think that it is important for all the countries of the world, including Iraq's neighbors, to do everything that they can to help build a peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq. This is in the interest of the Iraqi people. It's in the interest of Iraq's neighbors. It's in the interest of the entire region as well as the world.
So we think that that's where -- that's where people's efforts need to be -- need to be focused. Inasmuch as there are misperceptions or misunderstandings about U.S. policy, whether it be in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe, we have made it a priority, as I was talking to Peter about, to expand our public diplomacy efforts, to make an effort to engage in the millions of conversations that are going on around the world at any given moment, whether it's on the internet, over the airwaves or in print. And that's what our people around the globe at our embassies and missions around the world are doing. That's what we're doing here.
This is going to -- in terms of change in the Middle East, the spread of democracy in the Middle East, this is fundamentally going to be a project for the people of the Middle East. We are going to do everything we can to assist them in that, but this is also going to be a generational project. It's going to take a long time.
So, in addition to cautions about polls, a caution about snapshots in time about -- concerning what are really fundamental historical -- large historical changes that are going on in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Just as an aside, the respondents were asked if they could choose a superpower -- they were given a list of seven countries -- which would they choose, and they chose France. The dominant number chose France as being the superpower that they would choose. It was France, then China, Pakistan, with the U.S. way down as the superpower. I just wondered what your response was to it -- France usurping your own superpower status.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that if you -- if you look at sort of visa applications and the desire of people from the Middle East to come to the United States, I think that in recent years you have started to see, again, an upsurge in those visa applications. People who want to come for tourism, people who want to come here to study, people who want to come here to live. So I think that that's a real indicator about how people truly feel about the United States in terms of a place for opportunity, as a place that represents an environment where people can realize a better life, and the -- also the kind of -- in terms of how they're governed, the kind of values that they want to see.
Now, you know, how those values translate into the democracy in the Middle East, that's going to be up to the people of the Middle East to determine. But I think it's important to note that the United States is still a destination from -- for immigrants around the world, including from the Middle East and that the United States is -- it's a country of immigrants and continues to be a welcoming place. And part of our strength is that continuing immigration and the contribution of, all of those -- all of those people from around the world to our culture and our society.
QUESTION: The reports that the Pentagon or somebody at DOD put out, the contractor have -- reports put in Iraqi press under different names, apparently by Arab writers. Does that conflict with your public diplomacy initiatives and are you getting if -- are you getting reaction from other countries or other people? You say you're sensitive to public concerns in other countries. How is that playing over here?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, those -- I talked about this over the past couple of days. I think Libby asked about this yesterday. And these -- I understand that the Department of Defense is still trying to ascertain the exact facts concerning these news reports. We have said, the Department of Defense has said -- General Pace himself did -- the White House has said, these news reports are very concerning and nobody should be confused about the United States' support for free, independent, responsible press around the world. And it is one of our important missions in Iraq and the State Department is involved in that mission to help the Iraqis develop that kind of free and independent and responsible press. The State Department has programs to bring Iraqi journalists here; also, to bring them outside of Iraq to talk to them about how to develop best journalistic practices, how to develop the sort of ethical guidelines that go along with journalistic practice around the world. So this is -- this is very, very important.
So while the Department of Defense is looking into these news reports and trying to ascertain the exact facts concerning those news reports, nobody should be confused about whether or not we support the development of a free, responsible and independent press in Iraq because we do.
QUESTION: Sean, in furtherance* to the posting last night about North Korean food aid, are you aware of any efforts being made through third parties, at least, to try and straighten out these distribution problems that cause the United States to decide not to send that second tranche of aid?
MR. MCCORMACK: I know that we are in close contact with the World Food Program on these issues as well as other donor countries. But in terms of any more detail, Dave, I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: On the Balkans.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. No more UFOs.
QUESTION: I'm saying about the secret flights. You understand that anyway
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you answer, those flights?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- you asked this question the other day and I have the same response. I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: On the Balkans. The Washington Post, in an extensive story, reported yesterday that a bunch of Islamic radical elements are functioning in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo and constitute a real threat to the stability of the entire Balkans. Are you concerned about these activities since you are involved politically and militarily in that area?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if we can get something for you on that.
QUESTION: On the Kazakhstan election this weekend, I wonder if the United States is going to take part in monitoring in there. There are complaints in the run-up to this election that the government there has been selective in the monitors that it has allowed in.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if we can get something for you. Yeah.
QUESTION: In Venezuela, there are elections this weekend. I know you already spoke about it but recently, Chavez again accused President Bush to interfere in the election, the preparation of the election, and he said that it's actually an electoral coup prepared by the U.S. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nice bumper sticker but no basis in truth.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:21 p.m.)
DPB # 205
Released on December 2, 2005