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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 1, 2007

INDEX:

South Korea / Afghanistan

U.S. Remains in Close Contact to Governments Regarding the Hostage Situation
DCM in Seoul Met with Families of Those Kidnapped

Russia

Expert-Level Meetings on Missile Defense Strategy First in a Series of Discussions

Sudan

Passage of Security Council Resolution Authorizing Hybrid AU/UN Force Welcomed
U.S. to Provide Financial / Logistical Support

Japan

Japan’s Leaders and People Must Decide on Extending Anti-Terrorism Legislation According to Its Own Legislation

Nicaragua

Nicaraguan President’s Offer to U.S. on Exchange of Soviet-Made Surface to Air Missiles for Helicopters / Supplies
No Formal Proposal Has Been Made for Exchange of Missiles for Supplies
Nicaraguan Government’s Interest in Weapons Elimination Welcome

Middle East

Support and Cooperation on Military Issues is Longstanding
Saudi Arabia Sending Delegation to Iraq
Consequences of Early Withdrawal from Iraq Well-Known
Opportunity to Discuss Future Options for Iraq Will Be Ample Following General September Report to Congress


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:30 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. It's a thin crowd, but I'm glad you're all here with us. Don't have anything to start you off with, so --

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the South Korean delegation that we asked about earlier?

MR. CASEY: Again, as far as I know, I'm unaware of any delegation that is coming here. Certainly, we continue to be in close contact with the South Korean Government on this issue. This is a terrible, terrible incident. And these are innocent people; we've already had two of them killed by the Taliban. What our focus is right now is on making sure that these individuals are allowed to be sent home unharmed to be reunited with their families.

And we are going to maintain close contact with the Korean Government. I know that our Deputy Chief of Mission in Seoul did meet yesterday, I believe, with representatives of the families there; expressed his concern for their well being and also his assurances on behalf of all of us that the United States will continue to coordinate closely with the Korean Government, will support the Korean Government in their efforts to see that these people are released and, again, released unharmed. Certainly, we're also talking with our friends in Afghanistan about this issue, as well, but the primary thing is the safety of these individuals and seeing that they're allowed to go home.

QUESTION: Tom?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout from the U.S.-Russia discussions that, I guess, are concluded now, or concluded yesterday?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, I've had this piece of paper sitting here for a while, hoping someone would ask. So yes, let me give you a little bit of a readout of the discussions. First of all, just as a reminder, these were expert-level meetings that had been agreed to by President Bush and President Putin during their meeting in Kennebunkport at the beginning of the month. And so, starting on Monday, on July 30th, we had an interagency delegation representing our side, and that included: John Rood, our Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation; Dan Fried, as I mentioned before; Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense; and a variety of other officials, including folks from the Missile Defense Agency, understandably; and Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak, as you know, led the Russian side.

So, with that as lead in, they're -- basically what these delegations did was, Matt, they had a good preliminary exchange on the issues looking at the perspectives of both sides on the threats of proliferation from ballistic missiles and WMD. It was a chance for both delegations, really though, to give their perspectives on the threat as we saw it from the United States to Europe and to Russia. And they also did discuss a number of different ideas on how we could engage with the Russians on missile defense cooperation.

There was some additional information provided, as I understand it, on the proposal that President Putin had made back on July 7th, and that was part of the discussion. And they also did talk about the U.S. comprehensive proposal for missile defense cooperation, which is something that we put forward to the Russians back in April.

So, certainly, this is a set of discussions that will continue -- I think, we're looking at holding another round at this kind of fairly senior working level in September, probably in Moscow. So I think you should look at this as the kick-off of what I expect will be a series of discussions on these issues. And certainly, again, just to re-emphasize what the President and others have said, we believe that there's a common threat there not only to the United States and to Europe, but also to Russia from rogue states and from the potential of ballistic missiles and potential nuclear arm ballistic missiles. And we think it's appropriate for us all to be able to work together to try and find ways to respond appropriately to that threat. And we certainly appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion with the Russian side. And again, I expect we'll have more conversations in the days to come.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you summarize what the U.S. is willing to provide to a proposed Darfur peacekeeping mission?

MR. CASEY: Well, I can talk a little bit about it. First of all, just to repeat what we said last night -- welcome the passage of the UN Security Council resolution yesterday. It was a unanimous vote. It does authorize the AU/UN hybrid force under Chapter 7 and very explicitly gives that force the authority to protect civilians who may be in danger from violence from any quarter there.

In terms of United States support, we have talked a good deal about funding support. Of course, we are one of the major contributors to the AMIS Mission, the African Union Mission that's currently in place there. At this point, through our contributions for peacekeeping, we expect to pay about a quarter of the costs of the hybrid force as part of our assessed contributions. We're also going to be working with our NATO partners and allies to see what kind of logistical support we can provide. In the past, as you know, NATO's been helpful in providing airlift to the African Union to get some of the AMIS troops there, and that's certainly something that we'll be looking at with our NATO partners and allies.

We're also going to make sure that we continue to provide logistical and financial support to AMIS as we move through this transition period. And that is the other thing I should note, too, about this resolution; it does call for the force to be deployed. We certainly realize that there are physical limitations in how that can be done. But a key for us is making sure that that force is deployed as quickly as possible and without delay. And I think you all have heard from Ambassador Khalilzad yesterday, noting our concern that the Sudanese Government be fully cooperative with this and that they take the necessary steps to ensure that that force is deployed and deployed without delay.

Yeah, Mia*.

QUESTION: On the U.S.-Japan relations, after the elections last weekend, the Democratic Party of Japan was saying they're opposed to extending the special antiterrorism law. It's due to expire in November. What -- is the U.S. concerned that this will have implications for U.S.-Japan partnerships on the war on terror or how that might effect the overall alliance?

MR. CASEY: Well, it's certainly up to the Japanese Government and the Japanese people to determine specific legislation in their country. One thing that I think we're confident in is that we're going to continue to have a very good working relationship with the Government of Japan on counterterrorism issues. I think the Japanese Government certainly understands that Japan is a potential victim and certainly has been threatened and has suffered terrorist attacks in the past. And so there is no question in our mind about the commitment of the Japanese Government and the Japanese people to work with us on counterterrorism issues.

In terms of specific legislation, though, again, that's really an internal matter for the Japanese people. I don't expect they're giving us advice on ours and I don't want to try and give them advice on theirs.

QUESTION: Well, has there been any exchange between the State Department and the Japanese Foreign Ministry trying to -- well, the Japanese Democratic -- sorry, the Democratic Party as to, you know, try and get them to change their mind or --

MR. CASEY: Well, I know that certainly, we have conversations all the time with various people in the Japanese political establishment. I'm not aware of anything special that's gone on, on this issue. Certainly, I'm sure, in general, as we talk about counterterrorism cooperation, we'll want to make sure we fully understand any changes that might occur in Japanese law and make sure that that is done in a way that will still allow us to be able to continue to engage in the full range of counterterrorism support.

Yeah.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you were able to find out anything on the Nicaraguan offer for the Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did look into this. We are talking about the MANPADS issue, and this is something that there has been discussions with the Nicaraguan Government about for some time. Back in 2003, the Nicaraguan Government pledged to eliminate all their MANPADS. And again, these are the kind of -- you know, man-portable missiles, meaning things that you can basically put up on your shoulder and fire. They're a real potential threat to civil aviation. It's something that's been identified not only by the United States, but by the G-8 and others as a concern worldwide. And we work with a number of countries in terms of dealing with this issue, and certainly, we've been in conversations over time with the Nicaraguan Government on this.

I know I've just seen the press reports on these comments that were made. I don't believe that any kind of formal proposal like that has been made to us, but certainly, if the Nicaraguan Government wants to do so, I'm sure our officials there as well as here would be interested in hearing about it. The main thing, I think, that's important to derive from this is we welcome the statements made by the Nicaraguan President that they're interested in being responsible and dealing with this issue and seeing that these weapons are eliminated.

Yeah, Joel.

QUESTION: This morning, Senator Obama has come out; he's saying that troops should be redeployed from Iraq over to Afghanistan and if need be, into Pakistan up in the northwestern territories. Is this just plain campaign rhetoric? And also, is the statement by Senator -- former Senator John Edwards applicable when he is casting doubt about the modernization of arms shipments to moderate Arab countries, what the Secretary spoke about yesterday?

MR. CASEY: Joel, I think first of all, I'll try and stay as far away from U.S. presidential politics as I can and I'm glad you've been following their comments. I honestly haven't seen either the remarks you're referring to by Senator Obama or by former Senator Edwards. What I can tell you is in terms of -- first of all, let's talk about the arms sale questions. This is something that, again, I think I want to reiterate and that the Secretary's made clear is that these sales of arms, this defensive cooperation arrangement with the Gulf states, with Egypt, as well as with Israel, are matters of long standing. Our history of support and cooperation on military issues with these countries goes back decades.

And frankly, what this initiative that's been announced does is simply, at a time when agreements with Israel and Egypt were coming to an end, reassure those countries that the U.S. remains committed to their security and their safety in an environment that is changing in the Middle East and to the Gulf countries; again, demonstrates that for those countries that are standing on the side of moderation -- that do, for example, want to see a whole unified and secure Iraq, that do want to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a negotiated two-state solution -- that the United States is going to continue to be there with them, to partner with them, to ensure that their defensive security needs are met.

And I also think if you look, for example, at the comments made by the Saudi Foreign Minister today -- in which he was very positive about the initiative that the President's called for, including the idea of holding a international meeting later this fall to discuss how we can all work together to move forward on Israeli-Palestinian issues -- or the comments he also made about his desire to see Iraq be successful and the fact that Saudi Arabia is now sending a delegation to Iraq on re-establishing normal diplomatic relations between those countries and that he has also been speaking with Iraqi officials about doing more on controlling the border, it's pretty clear that, in this case, Saudi Arabia, but also the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, are working in a positive way for a positive solution to the region's problems. And we want to continue to work with them. So that's definitely what you should see this military assistance package as being part of.

In terms of Iraq and in terms of issues related to our troops there and our service there, I think you've heard from our officials on the ground there -- from General Petraeus, from General Odierno, from Ambassador Crocker -- about what we think the consequences would be of a precipitous withdrawal of American troops. And I think you've seen things recently written by those who certainly aren't in any way, shape or form associated with this administration, including the op-ed the other day by Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, who recently returned, talking about the fact that the President's strategy in the surge is, in their mind, appearing to make some real strides forward.

And so, certainly, we'll all have an opportunity to talk about and debate this issue. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, are, of course, in the process of looking at the situation and will be presenting a report to Congress in September for their review. And I'm sure there'll be a very healthy discussion about that, not only with Senator Obama, but with all the members of the Senate and House on this and that's as it should be. This is an incredibly important issue for the United States and it's fundamental to our national security. And certainly, there are going to be a lot of different views shared. But I think the Administration right now has put forward a fairly clear course and it's one that's appearing to have some payoffs.

And I think that's a "thank you".

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thank you, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:49 p.m.)

DPB # 137



Released on August 1, 2007

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