State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 13, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 13, 2006
Announcement of Secretary Rice's Travel Schedule / Discussions to
Include Implementation of Pending UN Security Council Resolution /
General Security Situation in Region / Broader Discussions on
Existing Nonproliferation Regimes - Alliances and US Reaffirmation
of Those Alliances
Six-Party Talks Remain a Viable Mechanism / Goal is to Get North
Korea to Change Behavior
Talks with Countries in Region on PSI Efforts / China's View of
PSI / Addressing the Spread of WMD Technology / September 19th
Agreed Framework Still Available
Nuclear Testing / Looking at Data on What Happened / International
Community Focused on Protection from Threat Posed by North Korea /
Passing Resolution Will Send Strong Message to North Korea
Permanent Five Speaking in One Voice / Possible Changes in Draft
Resolution Based on Comments of Others / Sending a Strong Message
for North Korea to Reverse Course
China's Views on Resolution Taken into Account / Intelligence
Professionals Collecting Data from Various Sources on Nuclear
Testing / There was a Seismic Event / North Korean Nuclear Program
Constitutes a Threat / Global Reaction to North Korea's Nuclear
Status of Discussions / US Supports UN Envoy Martti Ahtisaari's
Efforts in Talks
Reports of Shipment of Arms to Hezbollah / Possible Violation of
UN Security Council Resolution 1701
US Special Envoy General Ralston / PKK Must Lay down Arms
Pentagon's Investigation into Death of British Journalist
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one brief announcement for you. It is a travel-related announcement. I want to let you know that Secretary Rice will be traveling with scheduled stops now in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing from October 17th through the 22nd. She's going to be there -- she's going to be -- this is presumably in the wake of a passage of a UN Security Council resolution regarding North Korea we're expecting a vote as early as tomorrow.
She is going to be talking about the passage of that resolution certainly, but really what comes after it. She is going to be talking about how to go about actually implementing that resolution. It's also an opportunity for her in the region to reaffirm and talk about the strength of our existing alliances there and also to have a bit more of a wider conversation with others in the region about the current situation, about the security situation and also to talk broadly about nonproliferation efforts. Certainly there are challenges to the existing nonproliferation regimes, as we can all see in today's headlines, and she's going to have a conversation about that as well. So many different elements to the trip, several different reasons for going out there, but all in the wake of the passage again, we presume, of this UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: You haven't mentioned the six-party talks at all. I mean, is she going to -- you'll recall in her Wall Street Journal interview a couple weeks ago, she said she'd planned to go to the region the next months to six weeks. Do you see that there was one -- make one final push for six-party talks? Have you given up on them?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, the six-party talks, as we talked about over the past couple days, remains a mechanism that is available. It is most importantly a mechanism that is available to the North Koreans should they have a change of heart and have a change in their stated course, where they're going right now which is greater isolation from the rest of the world. Should they decide that they are serious about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula then certainly that is a mechanism. The event that has occurred since that interview was given was, of course, the North Korean's statement that they had tested a nuclear device and, hence, the situation has qualitatively changed since she gave that interview. But the six-party mechanism is something that does remain.
I think that really the focus of her discussions on this trip will really be about what I talked about, talking about strengthening, underlining the strength of those alliances that already exist, have a broader conversation with a wider group about the existing security situation in the region, the security structures in the region, talk about also how to implement this resolution, and also to have a little bit of a broader discussion about existing nonproliferation regimes and how these efforts that we have now through this resolution might inform other efforts that we have. But she's not going out there to talk about another resolution. The resolution that we're going to pass, we hope, in the next 24 hours or so is the resolution that we're talking about.
QUESTION: Does she plan to have --
QUESTION: Are there others coming into these talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Are there other governments that will join the talks in these three places? You said a broader conversation. It's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, a broader conversation. Right, exactly.
QUESTION: Will it bring in other countries into -- or just --
MR. MCCORMACK: There may be some opportunities, and we'll get into the scheduling and exactly what meetings we're going to be having during this trip as we get closer to the trip. I know that that only means in the next few days, but we're still working on the exact elements of the schedule. But I think, Barry, let me just put it this way, I think that there will be an opportunity to have a little bit broader discussion we hope along the way here at least at one of the stops where you can talk about some of these issues. Certainly stops in Tokyo and Seoul, you're talking about -- you're talking about the current situation and you're talking about the alliances that exist and reaffirmation of the United States to those alliances.
QUESTION: Is Russia a player in (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm sorry. No, no.
QUESTION: I keep --
MR. MCCORMACK: Who wants to go?
QUESTION: Sylvie had a question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, Sylvie. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Could it be a meeting with Russia, South Korea, Japan and China -- the five-party meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right now, Sylvie, we're working through the schedule. I did want to let you know as early as I could about her travel. As for specific meetings, we're going to keep you up to date on those as soon as we can.
QUESTION: But it's something you would be interested in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me just -- we'll just keep you up to date on the schedule, Sylvie.
QUESTION: You're looking at things -- there are stops and they're having people stop where she is. So are you looking at both possibilities -- additional stops, adding additional countries, (inaudible) governments to participate?
MR. MCCORMACK: As always with these trips, Barry, there's always the possibility of adding on a stop. We'll certainly let you know in public as soon as we can do that.
QUESTION: If I could just go back to the six-party thing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: You said that it is still there if North Korea changes its mind, but it doesn't sound like she's going to go out to talk to any of the other members of the six-party talks about how they could get North Korea back into the process. It's something that could (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no – but I think really given where we are right now and given the fact that within the past week North Korea has announced that it had detonated a nuclear device, really -- and the passage, again, that we hope of a UN Security Council resolution -- the discussion really is on implementation of that Security Council resolution as well as talking about the general situation in the region.
Now, of course, I'm sure the six-party talks is a part of that conversation. And as I said, it remains -- it is a pathway that we still support, still in our view is still a viable pathway, is a viable mechanism. But the obstacle to that right now is North Korea, North Korea's behavior and their decision-making processes and their calculations about whether it is in their interest to participate or not. We, as well as others, certainly hope that the passage and implementation of a Security Council resolution with quite robust actions that are required of members of the international community to enforce might change -- help change those calculations. So that is the goal of this exercise, is to get North Korea to change its behavior and in the meantime, to protect ourselves, to protect the United States as well as other countries around the world from the threat posed by North Korea's actions and potential actions.
QUESTION: Do you think you're going to need a more robust either set of alliances or agreements?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of?
QUESTION: Well, you've been talking -- I'm trying to get a more detailed sense of what she actually is hoping to get. I mean, you obviously have treaty relationships and so on. And I'm trying to get a clearer sense of what it is you're looking at that will better protect ourselves.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of -- there are a couple different layers to this. In terms of the immediate, the discussion really turns to the practical task of implementing the Security Council resolution. Now you have a piece of paper and it has certain requirements there, but the trick then is to take those requirements, those general requirements on a piece of paper and turn them into action and turn them into reality; actually enforcing embargoes, you know, how do you go about doing those things. And clearly, the Secretary is not going to get into detailed technical discussions of those things, but she can talk in general terms and even slightly more specific terms about how you do that. People traveling along with her will have expertise in how you do that; how can you cooperate in doing these things. So that will be, I think, one of those concrete things that you're looking for.
In terms of the more general discussion about the security situation in that part of the world and how you address the various threats that are present there and most proximately North Korea's behavior and their assets in the form of WMD and missile technology, there are no existing pan-Northeast Asian security structures there. They never have had those kinds of security structures. So it is certainly a question of, well, how do you -- there's a common interest here in addressing the threat from North Korea. How do you go about addressing that? Do you do that in a more informal way? Do you do it in a formal way? So those are discussions that are worth having. In terms of looking, in your reporting, for, well, what is a concrete outcome, I don't expect that at this point you see that sort of concrete outcome from that kind of discussion, along that pathway. But it is certainly a topic I think that she will raise, a question that she will raise, and it is something that they have, various parties in the region, have talked about before.
QUESTION: On the first question, is it sort of PSI-related things that you're thinking of?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it doesn't have to be strictly PSI. Now we have talked to China. We have talked to South Korea as well as other countries in the region about PSI. Japan is fully participating there. South Korea has been a little more reluctant to though. Certainly we would hope recent events would allow them to re-look at their level of cooperation with PSI and perhaps even participation. They have been active cooperative partners in terms of counter-proliferation.
In terms of China, they again have I think come some ways in their view of PSI, and that has come about over the past several years as a result of our discussions with them about what PSI is, its nature and what it hopes to accomplish. So, again, they will make their own decisions about what kind of relationship they want with that effort. They have, however, I think -- and we have come some ways on working on counter-proliferation issues, maybe not specifically PSI, but they understand that there is a shared interest here in addressing the spread of WMD and WMD technology. So it is an issue I think that we will probably continue to talk to them about, and given the moment which we find ourselves urge them as well as others to take another look at what kind of relationship they have with PSI efforts and whether or not they do want to join in those kinds of efforts.
QUESTION: Can I ask one last one on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: You didn't make any reference I think to the agreement of a year ago in September and to the offer of various incentives to North Korea if it were to give up its nuclear ambitions. It really sounds like this is all stick and no carrot. Is that fair? Is that a fair way to look at this?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, Arshad, I think you have to put it in the moment and you have to look at the moment in which we find ourselves.
QUESTION: The stick and not the carrot?
MR. MCCORMACK: The six-party talks remains a viable option. And the Agreed Framework is something that is still out there. We would hope that North Korea would have a change of heart and actually willing to come back to talks and engage in a constructive manner. That's not been the case. You have five parties that are willing to do that, that have been willing to do that. But given the moment at which we find ourselves, I think that you are -- the primary discussion is about the Security Council resolution and how you go about implementing that Security Council resolution.
Is North Korea going to have a sudden change of heart and get serious about engaging in the six-party talks and get serious about demonstrating that they are going to engage in a constructive manner in those talks along the framework that is already there, the September 19th agreement? I think certainly that would be a welcome development. I'm not sure that that is in the immediate offing, but certainly, I think the international community would welcome that kind of change of heart.
QUESTION: And practically, what would they have to do if they wanted to show they are ready to go back to the table?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, you know, I --
QUESTION: What would you expect?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't, at this point, lay out for you what they may or may not do. We have, in the past, called on them to be constructive and be serious in demonstrating that they are constructive about engaging in those discussions. But you know, again, that would be up to North Korea to demonstrate to the rest of the world.
It is interesting, these questions -- well, sort of, the tenor of them is, "Well, what incentives are you going to give North Korea to come back to the table," and I understand that. But I don't think that is at all where -- certainly the Security Council countries or the rest of the world is. I think the rest of the world sees that North Korea has made, at the very least, a major political statement saying that they have detonated a nuclear device.
Now it is -- the jury is out on what exactly happened. We know that there was an event, there was a seismic event, something happened in that particular spot in North Korea. And we're in the process now of going through, looking through all the data and all the facts to try to come up with the best possible explanation for what exactly happened there. We don't know yet. I know I've seen various news reports out there that we have come to conclusions; we have not. Any time you go through an exercise like this, and I think you can talk to the experts, you're going to get a number of different data points from a number of different sources. You want to look at the problem from a number of different angles. It gets very complicated and it's even more complicated by the fact that you have very little information about that particular spot in North Korea; the geological characteristics of the spot, of the site, all these sorts of things are important in determining exactly what happened, what went on there.
But to get back to the original point, the rest of the world is now looking at this as, we have to (a) protect ourselves from the threat that very clearly is posed by North Korea, given this existing state of affairs as well as what they might do, and also to find a way so that the outside world does not, in some way, knowingly or unknowingly, contribute to furthering development of that program and also making sure that North Korea can't benefit from their WMD programs. That's where the world is right now. And if you can bring about a change in the calculations of the North Korean regime and they calculate and they make the calculations, look, this is an unexpected response from the rest of the world.
You have every country from China to other members of the Security Council, including the Permanent Five, speaking with one voice. You look at this, the draft resolution that is now on the table and it is not yet final, so there may be some changes to it. But even with some minor changes to it, this is an extraordinary resolution. This is one of the toughest, strongest resolutions that the Security Council has ever produced, I think, if you go back and take a look at them. So the focus of the world now is on passing that resolution, protecting ourselves, making sure that North Korea's programs can't be furthered and sending a strong message to them that this needs to be reversed.
Our view and I think the view of the other members of the six-party talks and -- as well as the rest of the Security Council is, this is reversible. There are plenty of examples where it has been reversed and we would expect that -- we would hope that the North Korean regime would make that calculation to reverse course.
QUESTION: The problem is that the Russians are starting to say that North Korea now would be ready to negotiate, to go back to the table. So it's looking more and more like the Iranian process. We --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, you are --
QUESTION: One step beyond, one step back.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Sylvie, I know you guys have to put out stories on a daily basis, an hourly basis, a multi-hour basis. You are -- we're all going to ride the sine curve of hope and despair that is the negotiation of UN Security Council resolutions, but we are going to end on a high note, on a positive note from our perspective. So we all go through these, everybody analyzes each little public statement and reads multiple things into them, whether or not the speaker intended them or not. But we will get a resolution. It will be an extraordinarily strong resolution and we would expect to have a vote in the not-too-distant future.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the resolution, is she going to ask the Chinese, as the United States has been doing ever since the autumn of 2002, when the HEU program was first acknowledged by the North Koreans -- is she going to ask the Chinese to squeeze the North Koreans harder?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the message that the North -- certainly in terms of implementing the Security Council resolution. I mean that certainly is a form of diplomatic pressure. That's going to be the real focus for the discussions.
QUESTION: Is it going to be beyond that though?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's let the meetings take place and we'll try to give you as full a readout as we possibly can.
QUESTION: A logistical question and then I'd like to try and ask -- re-ask the question I asked yesterday to see if you're any closer to answering it. First of all, is the order in which you read out the cities the order in which she will go to the cities? I think you read to us, Tokyo, Seoul --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, that's the plan. Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing.
QUESTION: -- Beijing, okay. And secondly, even though you're on the cusp of getting a resolution, even though you expect a vote soon, would she go if you don't have a vote? Would she go until she has --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think at this point given where we are in the process, I think that that is -- it is -- the percentages are very much likely that we're going to get a resolution here in the next 24 to 48 hours or so. So I don't even think that that calculation is going to come into play. If by Monday I'm standing up here and we're still talking about scheduling a vote, then you know we'll have to make an assessment at that point. But I don't think at this point that's going to come into play.
Yes. North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Are you on North Korea? Okay.
QUESTION: I have two, maybe three questions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, my heavens.
QUESTION: After Chinese Councilor meeting yesterday at the White House with President and Madame Secretary, is it wise to say U.S. changes are going to change (inaudible) soften its language regarding the resolution? Is it wise to say that some kind of deal has been reached? In other words, you said you give away something for North Korea and you gain something with the Chinese regarding Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, no. No, I don't -- it's not that sort of quid pro quo. China has certain views on this resolution regarding North Korea and we, of course, are trying to take those into account. I think we are making a few changes in the draft resolution based on their comments as well as the comments of others, but in terms of a quid pro quo across those two areas, no.
QUESTION: Second question. Is CTBT or an UN-affiliated organization usually gives directly a result regarding any kind of atomic test? Did you receive anything from them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. You know, our guys are -- our men and women, intelligence professionals, are collecting data from a variety of different sources and they will put that in the grinder and see what comes out in terms of a result. But right now we don't yet have a result.
QUESTION: There was a report that air samples did not show any indication of radioactive particles.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those reports. And yeah, I'll go back and restate what I talked a little bit about before. You have to take in a number of different data points here from a number of different kinds of sources over a period of time in order to form a judgment. And that's what this comes down to, a judgment about the various facts here. There are a lot of unknowns, particularly given the closed nature of North Korea that you have to take into account. So ultimately, this is going to come down to somebody's best judgment. Unfortunately, in this kind of case, you don't -- you probably don't have hard and fast facts that will allow you to, on that basis alone, point you to one solid conclusion.
So we will -- our intelligence professionals are going to be making those judgments based on all the data that they're collecting and based on the information that they have. We have not yet arrived at a judgment about exactly what happened.
QUESTION: But aren't most of the -- aren't most of the -- or all the indications, don't they point to what they did wasn't quite as dramatic and maybe quite as dangerous as first impressions had it? And --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, when --
QUESTION: And if you had --
MR. MCCORMACK: It doesn't --
QUESTION: And would that have affected the judgment about to move on sanctions?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, not at all. Because first of all, you don't know exactly what the internal intention -- by internal, I mean within the regime -- what their goal was for what they did. If this was in fact a nuclear device, you don't know what size of device they were hoping to explode and what sort of result that they were hoping to get.
At the very least, they, through their actions and the fact that we know something happened there -- we can't explain what it was; there was a seismic event there; there was, we believe, some kind of explosion -- at the very least, they were trying to tell the rest of the world and make a political statement that they -- and claim that they have tested a nuclear device. And that in and of itself, given what we already suspect and know about North Korea's nuclear program, as well as the nature of this regime, very clearly, in the judgment of the United States as well as others, constitutes a threat. Just that. Just that fact. And we will find out exactly what happened, what happened there.
QUESTION: There still lingering in my mind is the possibility -- it doesn't matter what I think, but I wondered if folks in this government are thinking maybe they were bluffing, maybe they were exaggerating, maybe to an extent, maybe it's a little country trying to seem to be more powerful and more of a factor and get your attention, et cetera, et cetera.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, I -- you know, I don't know what their intentions are. Again, the President stated very clearly our view of the North Korea statement and what we know about what happened. We don't know everything about what happened. And all I can say is the world -- this is not just the United States judgment. This is a global reaction. And perhaps the North Korean regime, based on that reaction and based on what they are going to see as the practical result of that reaction, maybe they will change their calculations. I can't tell you what went into their original calculations, but maybe they will change their calculations.
QUESTION: A short one. Mr. McCormack, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari of UN stated today that "Kosovo's final status talks are not going well, at least not in my lifetime. The parties remain diametrically opposed." Any comment since Under Secretary Nicholas Burns was expecting a solution by the end of this year or in the beginning of 2007, as he said many times, and according to Christian Science Monitor today Kosovo rises very high now in the international agenda?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that certainly true. It was part of our discussions, the Secretary's discussions up in New York when she met with her EU as well as other counterparts who have a real interest in this issue. She had a separate meeting on the issue.
Look, nobody said that these discussions were going to be easy and I expect that all along the way here you are going to get descriptions of a point in time in which people say things are very, very difficult. You may even get some -- at some point in the future people saying, well, things are going along quite well. I expect that that is going to happen.
You know, our position on this is clear. We've stated it in public. It's unchanged. We support Mr. Ahtisaari in his efforts. And beyond that, it's probably not useful to get into a blow-by-blow of what might be happening within those negotiations.
QUESTION: On Albania. According to reports from Tirana today, Albanian public prosecutor said that the smuggling group consists of six Albanians and one Greek which have been arrested, transferred from Albania via the Greek island of Corfu to Hezbollah of Lebanon and to PKK of Turkey a lot of weapons, however U.S.-made. Do you have anything to say about that? Are you going to ask an explanation from the Albanian Government under the Prime Minister Sali Berisha?
MR. MCCORMACK: That -- of course, if there is some, you know, real basis for suspecting that there has been a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which would prohibit shipment of arms to Hezbollah, then that would of course be a concern. I can't tell you if that is, in fact, the case based on the facts you've given me. I don't know. We'll have somebody look into it, and if there's anything more to say on it then we'll let you know.
QUESTION: And last one on PKK. According to reports, U.S. special envoy on PKK General Ralston did a press conference in Ankara today, with the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, stated, "A military option is always on our table …and must approved by the related authorities …PKK ceasefire is not enough." May then we assume, Mr. McCormack, that somehow U.S. is ready to cooperate with the Turks to attack Kurds of PKK inside Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would not read that into the statement. I would point out a couple of things. One, General Ralston is there on the ground doing good work and having good discussions. I think Turkish counterparts will say that.
Two, I would just point out that a ceasefire for us is not acceptable either. They have to lay down their arms unconditionally. So that is just -- to put that on the record that, in our view, PKK is a terrorist organization and that they must lay down their arms unconditionally. That is our view.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And touching all bases, do you have anything to add to what the Pentagon -- the little the Pentagon said about the death of a British journalist early in the war?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the reports, Barry. I don't have a whole lot to add. I know that this has been investigated by the Pentagon. And it is a tragic circumstance that occurred in a war zone. I think it happened relatively early on during major combat operations. And it's a tragedy. It's a tragedy for his friends and for his family. My understanding is that the Department of Defense has done an investigation of the incident and they found that the troops involved were operating within the rules of engagement in a war zone.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:38 p.m.)
Released on October 13, 2006