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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 12, 2008



Secretary Rice Travel to the UN December 15-16 / Expected Topics of Discussion – The Middle East / Zimbabwe / Somali Piracy


Assistant Secretary Hill Briefs Secretary Rice on Six Party Talks
Consultations with Other Six Party Members Will Continue
Future Fuel Shipments Will Not Go Forward Without Verification / Opportunity for North Korea to Agree Still Exists
Action for Action Process / Ball is in North Korea’s Court


Indictment of Former President Chen


Issue Dealing with Ban of Jamaat
Secretary Rice to Meet Foreign Secretary Miliband at UN


Discussions with UNSC
Number of Cholera Cases Going Up, Not Down
Discussions with South Africa
Time for Mugabe to Go
U.S. Encourages Surrounding Countries to Use Existing Leverage


123 Agreement on Civilian Nuclear Power
Encourages States in Region to Act Responsibly / Urges Rational Discussion
Consultations with Congress / Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Legislation
Dubai Ports World / Lots of Hyperbole and Misinformation
Not Aware of Similar Agreements with Other Gulf States
Important to Have States Agree on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy


P-5+1 Functioning Well
Two Pathways for Iran – Positive / Negative
Iran Pays a Price for Defying UNSC and IAEA


Passage of Legislation to Continue Refueling in the Indian Ocean


View Video

10:24 a.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. Just a couple of notes up at the top of the briefing. And we'll put out a Media Note regarding the Secretary's travel up to New York that she will travel up to New York next week, Monday and Tuesday. She'll overnight up there and have a lot of activities over at the UN. Topics to be discussed: Middle East, Zimbabwe, Somalian pirates. So we'll - again, we'll have a little bit more to say about the agenda, as well her - the precise schedule of meetings as we get closer.

The other thing that I want to mention to you is that Chris Hill is back in the building. He had an opportunity to meet with the Secretary and brief her on his recent discussions in Beijing and the Six-Party Talks. They, of course, were able to consult while he was there, but he was able to give her a more full briefing when he was here. He's going to continue his consultations with respect to the Six-Party Talks.

And I would also just reiterate one point that we made yesterday, and that is that this is an action-for-action process. And certainly, the United States as well - and I think this is the understanding of other parties -- is that future fuel shipments aren't going to move forward absent a verification regime. So there's - that's very clear from the United States' point of view. There aren't going to be --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, future fuel shipments?

MR. MCCORMACK: Fuel shipments, yeah, will not go forward absent a verification regime.

QUESTION: But you're not up for a while anyway, are you? I mean, the Russians --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. That's right. There's one in train with the Russians, but I think there is an understanding among the parties, I guess the five parties -- the exception being North Korea - that fuel oil shipments will not go forward absent progress.

QUESTION: So you notified North Korea at this - at the --

MR. MCCORMACK: They understand.

QUESTION: -- consultations?

MR. MCCORMACK: They understand that, yes.

QUESTION: So the Russians agreed then that they're not going to send the next shipment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that one is - that one, I believe, is already in train. I think it's very difficult to turn off. I'll try to get you the technical details. But again, this is action-for-action. The North Koreans have not come through and signed onto the verification protocol, which all other parties have agreed, so therefore those fuel shipments --

QUESTION: And those shipments, are those already --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it is already in train. We put a note up yesterday about that.

QUESTION: When you use the phrase that Chris Hill will "continue consultations," could you elaborate on that as to what the goal is maybe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they're still in that period. The way that this was left was that the North Koreans didn't sign onto this verification protocol, that they would go back to their capital - all the other parties would go back to their capitals -- and there is the opportunity for North Korea to sign onto this verification protocol. That still exists. We'll see. The ball is in their court.

In the meantime, Chris, for example, will continue his consultations with his South Korean counterparts, with Japanese, Russian and Chinese counterparts as well. So that possibility exists that the process can move forward, but it's not going to move forward if the North Koreans don't agree to this verification protocol.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this will just get the North Koreans kind of angry and they'll stop disabling and go back to that routine that they've been --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this process has not necessarily been a linear one throughout, Dave. There have been stops and starts and various kinds of fits. But this is an absolute matter of principle. And we have been very clear on that, that it is an action-for-action negotiation. The sine qua non for progress is a verification protocol. The ball is in the North Koreans' court.


QUESTION: Just to get back to the details of shipments of the Russians, they're already on the high seas, you think. How much do they have? Do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: That I don't know.

QUESTION: And when is it your turn?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to get details for you. But again, it's not just us. It is the other parties as well.

QUESTION: Because you're making - you can't speak for the Russians, so --

MR. MCCORMACK: I know, and I'm passing along to you the sense and the understanding among the other parties. And also, if you recall, there were efforts to perhaps solicit donations of fuel oil from other parties not involved in the Six-Party Talks, which has happened before, and I don't see those going forward without agreement on a verification protocol.

QUESTION: So there was a decision taken among the five then that fuel oil shipments would stop (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct, correct.

QUESTION: And everyone signed onto that, even the Russians --

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct, correct.

QUESTION: -- even though they still have stuff on the high seas?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, let me get clarification for you on the Russian - on that one Russian shipment.

QUESTION: Yeah. It's quite a big clarification, seeing as it --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't think so. I think it's - the principle remains.


QUESTION: Well, when you say mid train, I mean, what does that mean? Is it like on its way?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, let me get you the details for that.


QUESTION: On another subject. Do you have any comment on the indictment of former President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me read something for you. This is a matter for Taiwan's legal system to resolve. We are confident in Taiwan's democracy and its legal system. And we have every expectation that the process will be transparent, fair, and impartial.

QUESTION: Do you see - a quick follow-up. Do you see any political motivation behind these pretty sweeping indictments, as Mr. Chen himself alleged and some of his supporters?

MR. MCCORMACK: I refer you back to the statement I just read.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The Pakistan Defense Minister said that Pakistan had to ban the Jamaat because if that hadn't happened it would have been branded a terrorist state. Is that the message the U.S. has sent out?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look, Pakistan did this because it saw it in its interest. As we have said many, many times over, the threat from violent extremists and terrorists in Pakistan is as much a threat to the Pakistani people and the Pakistani Government as it is to anybody else. All that said, it's a welcome step that they took. This is a day-by-day process and is something that requires vigilance every single day in fighting terrorism.

QUESTION: But for an international body like the UN to take this step - so was there any talk at all that Pakistan may be branded as a terrorist state?


QUESTION: No talk at all?


QUESTION: Can you just tell us, will Secretary Rice be discussing the UN ban on the Jamaat in - when she visits New York next week?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are a lot of different things that she's going to be talking about up there. I'm sure that she will touch on the issues related to India and Pakistan. I know that Foreign Secretary Miliband, at least at this point in time, plans to be up there, and she plans to see him. And, you know, if they do get together, I'm sure that that topic will come up.

QUESTION: Well, but - I'm sorry. I mean, maybe this is a little too technical for this briefing, but the Jamaat was listed under that UN designation as an alias or an affiliate or whatever. I don't remember the name that the UN used, but as a subset of LET. And so wouldn't it, in effect, be a terrorist organization?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. She's talking about the Pakistani state, the Government of Pakistan, Pakistan itself.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were --

MR. MCCORMACK: That might be a little too technical for the briefing.

QUESTION: Yeah, maybe.


QUESTION: You mentioned that the Secretary is going to talk about Zimbabwe when she's up there. What are you hoping -- are you hoping to come up with a new resolution on Zimbabwe? What are you crafting?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're in discussions with members of the Security Council as to what the Security Council as a body might do. Thus far, the Council has not really been willing to take meaningful action, and that's been unfortunate. We have spoken out quite clearly and forcefully about that. We'll see if attitudes have changed. We hope they have. The number of cases of cholera, statements from Robert Mugabe notwithstanding, is going up, not down. The crisis has not ended. People's lives are in danger. And what we want to do is to start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: But how are you going to do that? Has the Secretary, for example, called the South Africans? I think McGee called it, you know, the big dog on the block who wasn't really doing very much.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. We're talking to the South Africans. And like I said, I'm not going to rule out the Secretary making some phone calls before she goes up to New York. We'll see, and we'll keep you informed of those.

QUESTION: Well, why doesn't she just pick up the phone and call them? What's holding her back?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what's holding back South Africa from acting or other states from acting? So yeah, certainly, if it were merely a matter of the Secretary making a phone call, I'm sure that phone call would have already been made. That said, we are talking to South African - South Africa as well as other states. And I - that diplomacy will continue, and I certainly wouldn't count out the fact of that phone call coming.

QUESTION: There have been some quotes from South African officials saying that they're trying to - trying to convince Mugabe to retire. Is that what the U.S. is trying to work with the South Africans on, trying to get him to retire?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's time for him to go. Those are the words of Secretary Rice. You have a statement from --

QUESTION: I know, but are there - is there diplomacy working to try and get - to try and - I mean, there is a difference between saying he's - go and trying to arrange the conditions for him to leave. I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to talk to the South Africans as to what they're doing.


QUESTION: Do you think it would be a good idea for neighboring countries to Zimbabwe to close their borders and to sort of blockade?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'm not going to prescribe any one particular action here. They - these countries have leverage. And they have leverage that, you know, could - is of a different means than just closing the borders. They have political leverage. Robert Mugabe probably could not continue on in the position that he is in without some form of political support for him from neighboring states and states on the continent. We have made it quite clear where we stand, and I think many, many other states in the international system have made it quite clear where we stand.

So you talk about various kinds of leverage. There are all kinds of different levers, and I'm not going to prescribe any one particular lever. But we do know, as a fact, that states in the region have at their disposal unused leverage, which we would urge them to use in this case, because the situation in Zimbabwe is not getting any better and people are dying.

QUESTION: But are you looking at acting against South Africa because of their lack of action? Is that something you --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, South Africa is a friend. And ultimately, they bear responsibility for whatever actions they decide to take or not to take. As a friend, we have urged them to take action. But ultimately, they're going to have to decide their own course of action.


QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: Could you say anything about a nuclear deal discussion - a civil nuclear deal with the UAE?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. We have been working on with the UAE a so-called 123 Agreement. I think now everybody understands what a 123 Agreement is after talking about it for so much time concerning India. We have engaged the UAE on this topic because we think it is an important way for countries in the region to potentially realize peaceful uses of nuclear energy and clearly prescribing the limits of the use of nuclear technology. We believe that that is responsible. It certainly stands in contradistinction to the actions of Iran.

And where we stand right now with the UAE is, I believe, that we have a common understanding about a text, but there are many, many steps that must be taken before you have an agreement that actually enters into force.

QUESTION: Do you think they'll be able to finish it by the end of the Bush Administration?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see. I mean - and part of this process also is consulting with the Hill as well.

QUESTION: What about the idea that this would spark an arms race around other countries in the region?

MR. MCCORMACK: We think actually just the opposite, that if you encourage states, whether they're in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe, to engage in responsible behavior, realize the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy while carefully prescribing the uses of those technology and having countries formally enter into agreements that prescribe the uses of the technology, that's a good thing.


QUESTION: Yeah. Didn't Secretary Rice and the UAE Foreign Minister sign something related to that back in April?

QUESTION: A memorandum of understanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it - I'll have to go back and look exactly, Lach. But I think what that was something that indicated we were going to move forward in this process.


MR. MCCORMACK: It's a separate step to actually sign an agreement. That hasn't happened yet. There's a common understanding of a text, but it hasn't been signed yet. Then, of course, I mentioned there are consultations with the Hill. There are many other steps. But again, we believe it's - we're moving in the right direction.

QUESTION: In terms of moving in the right direction, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced some legislation yesterday which would ostensibly block a deal.


QUESTION: I just wondered, in terms of your consultations with the Hill, are you going to be able to, you know, close those gaps? Because that seems to be rather a big obstacle.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I said, consultations with the Hill are a very important part of this process. And Congress has a role to play in this, quite clearly. As I referred back to our experience with the India 123 Agreement, I think that's an indication that they have a role to play. It's also an indication of the fact that we respect that role and that we are committed to close consultations with Capitol Hill on matters such as this.

QUESTION: But you saw, Sean, during the whole Dubai Ports World that there was a lot of opposition in the Congress to the country itself and, you know, obviously that there was an issue about homeland security. But there was - there were concerns about dealing with the UAE and the strategic relationship.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'll leave it to others to guide - you know, to do the --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you think this is going to come up to be a problem?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I'll leave it to others to do the forensics of the - you know, the so-called Dubai Ports World issue. I think that there was a lot of hyperbole, there was a lot of misinformation in the public so-called discussion about that issue. The fact of the matter is the UAE is a good friend that we have worked very closely with them on a number of different issues, and they've demonstrated that they are a very responsible partner in a number of different areas. The President has met on many occasions, as has the Secretary, with the leaders of the UAE. So we believe that this is a responsible, positive course for the relationship. And in terms of any discussion, you know, I guess the only thing we can do is urge a rational, factual, informed discussion, you know, about this or any other matter related to the UAE.


QUESTION: How far have you got, though, in terms of - you said, you know, you're still working with the UAE and they still have to go through certain - did you say certain steps or something?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, the agreement.

QUESTION: The agreement --

MR. MCCORMACK: I talked about the agreement. The agreement would have to go through - you know, there are multiple steps here before such an agreement would actually enter into force.

QUESTION: As in congressional steps?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, first of all, it hasn't been signed. You know, so the common understanding of a text. So that - you know, that's just one example of another step. But I mentioned consultations with the --

QUESTION: The negotiations are finished now?

MR. MCCORMACK: There's agreement on a text.

QUESTION: Can you put it in the broader context of similar agreements you're trying to reach with the other Gulf states? Isn't Bahrain - there's some kind of nuclear cooperation --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to confess I'm not aware of the sort of state of progress or non-progress on other agreements. Look, we try to negotiate these agreements with states that we believe are responsible partners in this regard. And I just go back to that the one point I've been trying to make here, and that is it is a good thing to have states agree in a formal sense to two things: one, peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and then, on the other hand, prescriptions on how technology is used. That's good for issues related to energy consumption. It's good for issues related to nonproliferation.

QUESTION: This is the first 123 Agreement with a Middle Eastern country, though, isn't it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to go back and look at the history books there.


QUESTION: What is the update on the P-5+1? Is it still functioning? And are you expect - would the Administration issue a communiqué on how you - what you have achieved through

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) The P - yes, yes. Contrary to --

QUESTION: Or are you going to start using other options?

MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh. You know, contrary to reports that the P-5+1 has passed from the scene, it is still functioning and functioning well. As a matter of fact, I would expect that there probably will be some discussion about Iran as part of the trip - the Secretary's trip up to New York, if not in a formal setting, in an informal setting. The underlying philosophy of the P-5+1 approach remains; that is, laying out for Iran two pathways, a positive pathway and a negative pathway. They have not taken up the opportunities of a positive pathway and, therefore, the disincentives remain in place. And I think increasingly, Iran is paying a price for the fact that it is defying the Security Council, it is defying the IAEA, and, in general, defying the will of the international system in this regard.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Last night, legislation passed in Japan to continue refueling in the Indian Ocean. Do you have any sort of comment or reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's very positive. We certainly welcome the decision by the Diet to pass this legislation. They have made a great - Japan has made a great contribution to this effort. And we very much welcome the fact that it will continue.

Okay, great.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:43 a.m.)

dpb # 210

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