|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 2, 2008
|Readout of Secretary Rices Meeting with Lithuanian Prime Minister|
|US in Missile Defense Negotiations with Only Poland and Czech Republic|
|Communication Channels on Missile Defense with Russia, Other NATO Countries|
|Question About Financial Support for Lithuania|
|Status of U.S. Actions on Zimbabwe at the United Nations|
|Crisis in Zimbabwe / Statements from AU Summit|
|AU Needs to Keep Focus and Pressure on Mugabe|
|US Actions / UN Security Council Resolution on Zimbabwe|
|US Focus is on Diplomacy / Finding Solution to Nuclear Issue|
|P-5+1 Refreshed Package / Statements by Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki|
|Effect of Sanctions on Iran|
|International Communitys Incentives and Disincentives to Iranian Power Structure|
|Question About Iranian Airliner Incident|
|Question About Israeli-Iranian Relations / US Working to Find Diplomatic Solution|
|US Does Not Control the Sovereign Decision Making of Israel|
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
|US Communications with UAE Regarding Iran|
|Political Appointees and Career Diplomats as US Ambassadors|
|Declaration / North Korean Statements on Plutonium, HEU and Proliferation|
|Sanctions Against North Korea / North Korean Commitments to the Five Parties|
|Results of Diplomacy with North Korea|
|Next Steps in Six-Party Process|
|Monetary Cost of North Korean Denuclearization|
|Attacks in Jerusalem|
|Question About Iraqs Progress Toward Reconciliation|
12:14 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with, so we can get right to your questions. Who wants to begin?
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the Secretary’s meeting with the Lithuanian Prime Minister and specifically –
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Whether the issue of missile defense and the possibility of siting the interceptors in his country came up?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are no negotiations with any other country than Poland and the Czech Republic. They did talk a little bit about missile defense, where we stand on the effort and Lithuania, as a NATO member, is following the issue. NATO has endorsed missile defense and our missile defense effort. So they follow it with interest. But we don’t have negotiations going on with anybody but those two countries.
They talked about Russia. They talked about U.S.-Lithuanian relations. They talked a little bit about the Visa Waiver Program. We’re working very hard on that. They talked a little bit about Belarus, previous issues related to energy security, talked about – a little bit about restitution for claims related to Jewish communal property. And that really is – it was a wide-ranging discussion. They talked about a variety of different things.
QUESTION: Did the discussion -- to the extent that they touched on missile defense, and you said that Lithuania obviously follows it, since it would originally fall underneath the umbrella of – a rather protective umbrella, should this ever get built and work, did it, in any way – and I’m well aware of your repeated statements that they are non-negotiations by countries other than Poland and the Czech Republic. Did it, however, in any way, touch on the possibility of Lithuania or any other country being an alternative site, should the Polish negotiations not reach a successful conclusion?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, our focus is on the negotiations with Poland. I think it’s fair to say that with Lithuania, as well as other countries that are interested in the issue -- NATO countries and Russia -- there are open channels of communication regarding missile defense. And we’re going to keep open those channels of communication to – with those countries that are interested in the issue. However, when you’re talking hardware, we’re really only now talking to the Czech Republic as well as Poland.
QUESTION: And then, one other one on this. And that wasn’t a denial. I mean, just so we’re clear, you didn’t say, no, that didn’t actually come up, the possibility? You’re basing it elsewhere, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I – look, like I said, the only people with whom we’re talking hardware right now in negotiations are the Czech Republic and Poland. We have an offer on the table with Russia, for example, to talk about missile defense and how we might cooperate. So I’m not going to preclude that we are going to keep open channels of communication, talking about the issue of missile defense with Russia, Lithuania or any other country that happens to be interested in cooperation on missile defense, defending against launches from states like Iran.
QUESTION: Okay. One – and just sort of one last one on this for me. The Prime Minister, just before we were ushered from the room, said that they’re – while praising the PRT and talking about how important and necessary is the work, that the Lithuanians do in Afghanistan said that there were some problems and he said that Lithuania, as a small country, needed more financial support. Did that come up? Did he ask for more financial support from the U.S. Government? And is the U.S. Government disposed to provide anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: Didn’t come up. They did talk about PRTs. That’s one thing I left out. Thank you for reminding me of that. They did talk about the operation of PRTs in Afghanistan and Iraq. But at least to my ear, I didn’t pick up anything that one might consider a problem and I didn’t hear any requests for funding.
QUESTION: It’s funny, because he used both the word, problems, and financing.
QUESTION: Financial assistance.
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, to my ear, I didn’t hear anything.
QUESTION: Did the Russian warning to Lithuania not to host these bases come up, or do you have any comment about that warning?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I mean, look, this is – we keep repeating for the Russians’ benefit, as well as anybody else who is listening, this isn’t about Russia. And as a matter of fact, we would like Russia to cooperate on the issue of missile defense. But you know, this is also an issue of interest to NATO, one that NATO, has endorsed, and Russia doesn’t have a vote, when it comes to NATO issues.
QUESTION: Sean, yes, you have been saying for weeks that you focused on Poland –
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the Czech Republic and that there’s nothing going on with other countries. And then yesterday, the Secretary of Defense comes out in public and says that Lithuania is a good alternative to Poland.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You probably don’t see any contradiction here but, you know, in the – I would imagine in the world of diplomacy, that might be a signal that could be interpreted in at least two different ways. So if it’s – do you agree that it’s a good alternative? And then why would the Secretary of Defense come out and publicly say this if it’s not under consideration?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m certainly not going to contradict the Secretary of Defense. Like I said, we don’t have negotiations with anybody other than the Czech Republic or Poland. But of course, we’re going to keep open channels of communications \with others. The negotiations with Poland have reached a sensitive stage, and I received this morning from John Rood, who is our point-man on this issue, a positive report that we’ll see. We’ll see if the deal gets done. And we certainly hope we’re able to conclude a deal with Poland on the issue. But again, of course there are alternatives. There’s always – there are always, always alternatives – if I can get that phrase out. But we’re focused on Poland right now.
QUESTION: You say, “sensitive stage.” Can you tell us what the sensitivity might be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sensitive stage is that, you know, that we have a positive report, but nothing is done until everything’s done. And not everything is done at this point.
QUESTION: But is it just between the U.S. and Poland, or, you know, is there a third country that might be part of the sensitivity issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. It’s a negotiation between Poland and the United States.
QUESTION: Just a question on Zimbabwe, if you could bring us up to speed on your actions up at the United Nations right now, when you expect to be able to present the resolution, and how much support you have in the Council and around the world, for us.
MR. MCCORMACK: Still working the issue in the Security Council. I would expect that at the end of the day, we’re going to get support for a resolution, that it’s still a matter under discussion right now. You know, I can’t imagine the world is going to turn its back on this issue.
QUESTION: A (inaudible) resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess we’ll see what sort of resolution we end up with. I’m not going to – I don’t – I never make predictions about UN Security Council resolutions, either their content or the timing thereof. But we’re working. We’re working the issue.
Look, the – Zimbabwe is in crisis. This is a country that has, for quite some time, been spiraling downward in terms of its politics, in terms of its economy. And with the advent of this sham election – we refer to it – we as well as others have referred to it as a sham election – that has not produced a legitimate government. It’s that time for the world to help find a solution in Zimbabwe, a solution that will allow Zimbabwe to get back to its democratic roots, that will allow it to return to prosperity, and to do so without loss of life. There’s already been enough violence in Zimbabwe. So that is what we as well as others are working on. I know that the African states, the AU, and the SADC are seized with the matter. And while there were statements out of the AU Summit that perhaps were not quite as strong as those that were mentioned in private, it was, all in all, a good effort, but not an endpoint for the AU. They need to keep focus on it. They need to keep the pressure up on Mr. Mugabe, because nobody wants to – everybody wants to see Zimbabwe prosper and move forward, but nobody wants to see it descend into violence.
QUESTION: And what can you tell us about what you would like this resolution to look like? Would you like it to see – would you like to see it target President Mugabe directly, members of his leadership?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to negotiate in public on this one. We’re still working on a resolution. We have stated quite clearly that we are going to unilaterally seek to take some actions. The President directed Secretary Paulson and Secretary Rice to see what might be done in that regard. But in terms of the specifics of the resolution, at this point I’m not going to get into the details.
QUESTION: And then one final question. What are you doing to ensure that you will get support? I mean, is there any other measures you’re taking to get other countries, especially ones in the Council, on board?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s just – you know, it’s a matter of politics. It’s a matter of international politics. And the – we’ll do what we always do with these kinds of resolutions. In this case, we feel as though we have a particularly strong argument if you look at what has happened in Zimbabwe. And it’s time for the Council to stand up. It’s time for the member-states of the Council to say that this is just unacceptable, what is happening in Zimbabwe and what’s being perpetrated by Mr. Mugabe and those around him against the Zimbabwean people.
QUESTION: Iran, please. How confident is the Administration that Israel won’t act independently as – against Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can speak to the Israeli Government about various statements and their intentions. Our focus is on making the diplomacy work. I think the President just talked about that a few minutes ago. We recently have worked with the P-5+1, our partners in the international system. But for the refreshed package before the Iranian Government, we’re still waiting for an answer. We’ve heard some positive noises out of Foreign Minister Mottaki, apparently, up in New York yesterday. He was talking to some journalists. At this point, my assessment of that is value neutral. You know, while these are positive words, we have not seen a history of their following through with any positive words. Maybe they’re feeling a little bit uncomfortable because there’s a lot of international focus on the fact that they continue to defy the international system. But they said that they were going to have an answer in the not-too-distant future. We’ll see what that answer is. I’ll hope that it is a positive answer and that we could work effectively and constructively through diplomacy to find a mutually agreeable solution to the issue at hand.
The issue at hand is Iran’s nuclear program. We have no objection to working out arrangements for a civilian nuclear program in Iran. The problem is the fuel cycle. That has always been the problem and it’s not a problem that is one that is isolated to the United States or is solely the concern of the United States, it’s a concern of the international system. So we’ll see in the coming period of time whether or not there’s any follow through on these kinds of positive – I guess, some have said positive -- statements out of the Iranian Foreign Minister. I’m not going to break one way or the other at this point on the issue.
QUESTION: But you said you were done and you’re (inaudible), but, you know, your language is actually – I mean, your initial comment was almost dismissive – it seemed to be positive noises.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It really sounds like you don’t – and then you later sort of backed away from the word “positive” and you said, some of have called it positive.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, do you regard the comments as positive?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, on – at this point, Arshad, you know, I could comment on the words and we can follow the sign curve of Iranian statements over the course of time. It needs – there needs to be some actual follow through on words. So whether the public statements from the Foreign Minister are positive or not is really, you know, not terribly important at this point. You know, one hopes that it’s a signal of something to come in terms of positive actions. Let’s hope that that is the case. I’m not going to dismiss them. But given the history of Iranian statements, I’m also not going to put more stock in them than I would if there were some actions. If we saw some actions that followed through on the statements, perhaps they would have a bit more meaning, not only for us, but for others.
QUESTION: By action, you mean the freeze of enrichment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a positive response to the proposal that is before them.
QUESTION: In other words, a positive answer to Solana?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.
Elise, you’ve been waiting patiently back there.
QUESTION: Yeah --
QUESTION: Can I just --
QUESTION: I know -- it’s a little bit of a political story, but I’m hoping you can talk to the general idea that the American Academy of Diplomacy has written Senators Obama and McCain, asking them to pledge to decrease the number of political appointees as ambassador and use more career ambassadors who have been kind of trained and have greater skills. And I was just wondering what you think of the legitimacy of such requirements. I mean, do you think that there should be more career ambassadors in the Foreign Service doing these ambassadorships or is – do you think that there should be less?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, okay. I thought you were going to ask about Iran. I will answer your question, though, let me ask first are there any other questions about Iran here?
Okay. All right, so I’ll get – answer your question, but let’s finish up with Iran.
QUESTION: Just going back to Israel again; I know it’s a difficult topic for you to talk about, but, you know, there’s a school of thought at the moment that Israel may be considering some kind of preemptive attack. You know, and we had these – you know, public aerial maneuvers a couple of weeks ago.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is there something that you’re discussing with the Israelis? Is it something you are counseling them against? Is it something that you would condone if it happens?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the question --
QUESTION: Can you elaborate?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course, we talk about the issue of Iran with Israel. And, look, I fully understand, they view this as an existential issue. Iran is a country that said it wants to wipe Israel off the map. It also has a very active nuclear program. They are working very hard on the issue of enrichment of uranium, which is the most difficult step, actually, if you intend to build a nuclear weapon. And Israel has legitimate concerns in that regard.
As to Israel’s intentions and its rhetoric, I will let the Israeli Government respond to questions about those issues. We couldn’t have been clearer in statements from the President on down, in terms of where our energies are. We are working to find a diplomatic solution. All the same, the President also says, in the same breath, that he never takes any options off the table. But from the President on down, we are working hard on a diplomatic solution. And the ball is, in fact, in the Iranians’ court right now. There is a very attractive proposal that is before them, and we’ll see what sort of response they give the world.
QUESTION: But are you not concerned about these rumblings about Israel possibly considering it?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we can only focus on our efforts and those efforts under our control.
QUESTION: I was hoping you could catch us up on the sanctions effort. Do you feel that it has produced positive results? Are you happy with what the sanctions have done? There are some people who think that it has caused, you know, some sort of backlash inside Iran. And I was also wondering if you could tell us whether you’re talking at all to the UAE, where many Iranian companies are believed to be going and setting up under the guise of another nation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. We talk to a lot of different countries about Iran. I think the UAE is one of them. I can’t say that we are speaking to them about any specific measures. I don’t know exactly the content of those conversations. I haven’t kept up-to-date with them, but we talk to a lot of countries, Middle East and in Europe.
We believe the sanctions have had some effect. They have, at the very least, increased the costs of doing business for the Iranian Government. And we also believe we have made it much more difficult for them to use legitimate international systems, whether those are international trading systems or international financial systems, for illicit purposes. That we know. They have – the sanctions have also had the effect of amplifying the effect of the Iranian Government’s mismanagement of the Iranian economy.
You know, take away sanctions; you already have significant inflation in Iran, significant budgetary problems, and an economy that really hasn’t expanded beyond the oil and gas sector. Put on top of that the sanctions; it has made – it has amplified that mismanagement. And certainly, it’s not the wish of anybody in the international system to further burden the Iranian people, but the fact of the matter is that their own government has put them in this disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the international financial system, as well as the international trading system.
QUESTION: Do you think hardliners are more powerful today than they were two years ago, or do you think it’s causing people to reconsider?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, there’s always this desire among people to try to play Iranian politics and to think that they understand Iranian politics better than the Iranian – than Iranians. You know, what we --
QUESTION: I’m just – you (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, I know, I know. But the root of the question is whether or not we think we have fine-tuned our policies to somehow harmonize with Iranian politics or, you know, sort of strands in Iranian politics. You hear this argument all the time, but all you can do is you can set out a set of incentives and disincentives that reasonable people can judge for their selves whether or not they will pursue a particular policy course.
We’re not looking -- Secretary Rice always talks about the fact that, sort of, America’s worst foreign policy misadventures in the past 25 years begin with the phrase, “Well, if we can only find the Iranian moderates.” What we’re looking for is the reasonables. We’re looking for reasonable people in the Iranian system who can make – who will make a rational judgment about what is best for the Iranian people and their future, what is best for their economy, what is best for their place in the world.
Thus far, we have seen that President Ahmadinejad and those in positions of authority and decision-making have chosen a path that is disadvantaging the Iranian people. We hope that that balance in the decision-making process somehow changes.
QUESTION: Well, but – I mean, isn’t that a little inconsistent? Because on one hand, you’re always talking about how the people in Iran have absent – you know, although it’s a, quote-un-quote, “democracy” --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: You’ve talked about elections in the past and they have very little input into decision-making or democracy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So how do you square that with the fact that you’re saying you hope that the people that are moderate are --
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t say – I didn’t say anything about moderate.
QUESTION: Or reasonable -- excuse me, reasonable -- are able to change that? Because you’re always talking about how --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- they don’t have an equal voice in the government. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: If only it were the case that the Iranian people actually were able to express freely their will via the ballot box. That just simply isn’t the case.
MR. MCCORMACK: But the fact of the matter is you have before you a power structure that is in place in Iran. And it is to the people in that power structure that the international community is intending – is trying to communicate in terms of incentives and disincentives. And surely, there are rational individuals in that power structure. I’m not going to talk about Iranian policies.
But certainly, they can make a rational assessment about what is in the interests of Iran and the Iranian people. And the world is telling them that if you continue down the pathway in terms of the kinds of behaviors and the nuclear programs, support for terrorism, and oppressing their own people, that the pathway for Iran is not going to be a positive one. It is going to find itself further and further isolated and further and further disadvantaged vis-à-vis the international system and the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: You had your hand up. Do you have a question, about Iran?
QUESTION: About Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: It’s not on the nuclear program. It’s something else.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Tomorrow marks the 20 years since the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes gunned down the IR655 civilian airliner, killing all 300 people on board, 71 of whom were children. And while the United States Government settled the incident in the International Court of Justice in 1996 at $61.1 million in compensation to the families, they, till this day, refuse to apologize --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- as requested by the Iranian Government. And actually, officials in the Iranian Government said today that they’re planning on a commemoration tomorrow and it would, you know, show a sign of diplomatic reconciliation if the United States apologized for this incident.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think it sends a positive message if, on the 20th anniversary of this incident, the United States Government apologized for (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, to be honest with you, I’ll have to look back and see the history of what we have said about this – about the issue. I honestly don’t know. Look, nobody wants to see – everybody mourns innocent life lost. But in terms of our official U.S. Government response to it, I can’t – I have to confess to you, I don’t know the history of it. I’d be happy to post you an answer over to your question.
QUESTION: Well, do you think it show – do you think it would show a positive message as – in the midst of all this war talk --
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, you’ve asked the question. I’ve been trying to be – I’ve tried to be very up front with you. I don’t know the history. There’s obviously a long history to this issue. Let me understand the history to that issue before I provide you a response.
QUESTION: Sean, when Nina asked you about the possibility of an Israeli strike, you answered that we can only focus on our efforts and not the effort that – and the effort that are under our control.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does it mean that you don’t have any control of the – on the Israelis and that’s – you couldn’t prevent an Israeli strike on --
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all --
QUESTION: -- Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: -- I was talking about the diplomacy, but its (inaudible) we no more control the sovereign decision-making apparatus of Israel than Israel does the United States or any other country.
QUESTION: Yeah, but as – well, as I understood, I don’t see how the Israelis could strike Iran without flying over Iraq. And you control the airspace of Iraq, so how could they --
MR. MCCORMACK: You’ll forgive me if I don’t take you up on your hypothetical question involving military planning.
Elise. Yes, we’ll get back to your question about the mixture of so-called political appointees versus career diplomats. Look, this is an issue I think that comes up every four or eight years depending on the election cycle. It’s the prerogative of whomever is the president to appoint whomever he or she sees fit to represent the president in countries around the world. Typically, the percentages, I think, have hovered around two-thirds career diplomats, one-third so-called political appointees. It’s varied a bit from president to president, but it’s really the prerogative of that person.
From my experience, it’s healthy to have a mixture of political appointees and career diplomats. I think they can learn from one another. We have some excellent career diplomats as ambassadors. We have some excellent political appointees. That’s been my experience in the two terms of the Bush Administration. But whomever comes next, it’s going to be up to them how they – where they turn the dial in terms of that mixture.
Let’s see. Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about – set a date for Six-Party Talks yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.
QUESTION: But I believe we’re --
MR. MCCORMACK: I know the date we’re talking about with the Chinese, but they have not, to my knowledge, announced anything. And I think out of courtesy to them, I will allow them to make an announcement, as chair of the six-party talks, for the next head of delegation meeting.
QUESTION: Just on that as well, actually. On the report in the Post this morning --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- talking about the North Koreans acknowledging the concerns on HEU and the proliferation in a separate statement, or I don’t know how it came out, can you shed any light on what that’s all about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’m not sure what was new in all of that. We’ve talked to – we’ve talked about the declaration and the fact that it’s come in different parts. The bottom line, as the Secretary spoke about, is that on the plutonium, HEU, and proliferation fronts, the North Koreans have made certain statements. The five parties will hold them to those statements. And they will be verified. And if there is any discrepancy between their commitments and their statements, then there are going to be consequences within the framework of the Six-Party Talks.
So, you know, again, I’m not quite sure what was – when you peel away everything here, what was new in that. The President and the Secretary have spoken to where we are in this process. And very basically, we have gained significant knowledge about different aspects of their activities, whether it’s plutonium, HEU, or proliferation during the course of this process, and as a result of this process of the Six-Party Talks. And in return, essentially, provided – the United States providing some heavy fuel oil, which is not suitable for use in cars or airplanes or anything in the such, and removed them from the terrorist list and suspended application of the Trading with the Enemy Act.
There’s still a whole long list of sanctions in place against North Korea, so it’s by no means a normal relationship. If North Korea wants to move in the direction of a more normal relationship with the rest of the world, it’s within its power. But it is going to have to follow through on its commitments, both what it has stated to the five parties, as well as down the road.
QUESTION: Just back on the issue, though – that’s of the actual statement (inaudible) provided. Can you give us some more information about how that came about and if that, you know, your satisfaction with it and how that will work in the verification phase. Are you expecting more on it, or is that going to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we expect to learn more as this process moves forward, should it move forward. At this point, it looks like it is. We’ll see what the future brings. As I said, the declaration came in a couple of different parts regarding plutonium, then separate statements on HEU and on proliferation. It --
QUESTION: Statements, plural, or statement, singular? The separate comments on plutonium and uranium --
MR. MCCORMACK: There was one on -- statement and then one on HEU. I’m trying to recall whether or not there was one on --
QUESTION: I thought uranium enrichment and proliferation were in one.
MR. MCCORMACK: They are, but they are separate – we’re getting down to how many pieces of paper.
QUESTION: No, no. I mean --
QUESTION: Why don’t you publish these documents?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it’s a matter of discretion among the – among the six. I’m not going to preclude it at this point. We’ll see. We’ll see. At the moment, we’re not. But it’s a matter – and this isn’t solely a decision for the United States to make.
The essential fact is that it – diplomacy is getting results in this regard. I know that there are others who argue that it hasn’t produced results, but I think that that does not withstand the test of looking at the facts. And if you look at the facts, you now have North Korea no longer producing plutonium. They have disabled their means by which to produce plutonium. And they have committed to a pattern of verification and a verification effort that is going to allow the five parties to more fully understand, better than ever before, their HEU activities, their plutonium activities, and any proliferation activities. In addition to which, if we do complete this process, there will be a denuclearized Korean peninsula. And that is – that would be a significant accomplishment. Now, we’re a long way from that point. But this process gives the world the best chance, at this point, to achieve that goal. Everybody believes it. And as Secretary Rice said, you know, how far are we going to get in this Administration? Don’t know. I think she used the quote, you know, she’s seen momentous international accomplishments take place in a very short period of time, or they could take a long period of time. We shall see. But it’s going to be based on the principle of action for action within the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: And are you expecting next? What’s the next step on HEU and the proliferation issue? You’ve received a declaration on plutonium. Are you expecting something similar in writing, you know, more declaration --
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the declaration, - the turning in of the declaration, that step is completed. The process is one now of verification. And I would expect that through the verification process, we are going to excavate on issues related to plutonium, as well as HEU and proliferation.
The heads of delegation meeting is intended to nail down a verification protocol on the regime that will allow you to get to that.
QUESTION: On all three issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Publicly said -- just one other thing, publicly said, how much you paid to North Korea for the blowing up of the water --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I think it was on the order of $2.5 million. But that – again, that is not, I guess, earth-shattering news. I wouldn’t consider it earth-shattering news that we have – the United States has been providing funding for many of the disablement activities. So that is part and parcel of what we have been doing to disable Yongbyon. And our folks have been in the lead on those activities. And I think most would agree its money well-spent, putting North Korea out of the plutonium business.
QUESTION: Sean, do you think you can give us sort of a number of how much is being spent on the de-loading process since the beginning of it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll try for you. I know that we’ve been – we worked closely with the Congress on the issue, and it was on the order of 20 million that – authorized to spend on these activities. On the order of $20 million. I can’t tell you how much of that has been drawn-down. We’ll see if we can get you an answer.
QUESTION: One other thing on the verification. Have you guys said how much -- what specifically you want as far as the nuts and bolts for verification and what you expect?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, the – well, Secretary Rice, in her speech at the Heritage Foundation, gave probably the best, most complete explanation of the principles that we are going to be seeking as part of a verification regime. She really laid out our approach to it. At this point, we’re not going to get more into it because it’s a matter of negotiation, but I would expect that there’s going to be a fair amount of transparency as to what the end result of an agreed verification regime will be.
But she laid out pretty clearly the principles of it.
QUESTION: Just on this. You talked about verification of the HEU and the proliferation first part of this, but you verified facts. Have the North Koreans given you facts on these two issues or do they just say – U.S. has concerns and we understand this, but have they given you facts that you can actually verify? Because as far as I know, they were not committed to provide any facts in those – because the statement –
MR. MCCORMACK: They made statements that can be verified.
QUESTION: Just to stick with this, Sean, why is it that -- you know, as you well know, the language of the October Six-Party Agreement --
MR. MCCORMACK: 2005, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, no -- October of 2007, the one that said that they would produce the declaration by the end of the year, I believe said that they would provide or should provide and agreed to provide a complete and correct declaration of all their nuclear programs.
The February ’07 one didn’t say correct, but it did say a complete – and again, it used the word plural -- “programs.” Based on what National Security Advisor Hadley said in his briefing, what Chris Hill said yesterday at CSIS, it would appear quite clear that regardless of what is in the sort of separate documents, that the North Koreans did not provide a complete declaration of any proliferation or uranium enrichment programs that they have.
Why, simply stated, is it acceptable to the Bush Administration that North Korea should have provided a partial but not complete declaration that covers any such proliferation and uranium enrichment programs?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, whatever declaration that they produce; it’s always been our intent that it’s going to be verified. We think that this declaration is verifiable. And simply put, we think that we are (a) learning a lot about these programs in the course of this process and expect to learn a lot more. We have, for the time being, put North Korea out of the plutonium business at very little cost. And we think that that is – those are steps worth taking and that you have a declaration that is verifiable and that will be verified. And if there are any discrepancies between what they have said and what they have committed, then there will be consequences and reverberations within the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: But the declaration concerns plutonium, not uranium enrichment or proliferation.
MR. MCCORMACK: They’ve made declarations about all three things.
QUESTION: Right, but they haven’t declared what those programs were correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: They’ve made statements that can be verified.
QUESTION: So you’re expecting a full satisfaction on HEU and proliferation by the time, you know –
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t tell you – I can’t tell you --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said?
MR. MCCORMACK: That process will take a long time. Look, you’re dealing with probably the most opaque, closed regime country in the world. So as I said before, we’re in the verify part of trust, but verify. We haven’t even got to verify yet. And I expect that the verification process will take some time.
QUESTION: Sean, do you agree that the declaration is incomplete? Do you agree to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I said it’s verifiable.
QUESTION: So can you say – is it
QUESTION: Is it complete?
QUESTION: Is it (inaudible)? Is it – I mean, seriously, you’ve said for months “complete and correct” a thousand times. So now is it complete or is it partial? That’s my question.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve given the answer I’m going to give, Nicholas.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: A different subject on (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: On the transparency of the verification --
MR. MCCORMACK: You can write it the way you want to, Arshad. I say it the way I want to say it. You can write it the way you want to write it.
QUESTION: On the transparency of the verification, is there going to be a verification protocol that will be made public?
MR. MCCORMACK: I was just answering that. I – you know, I can’t tell you what the agreements will be within the six parties regarding the verification program. You know, our intention is to be as transparent as possible about it.
QUESTION: You would like it to be public? I mean, I realize it’s a six-party matter and the other five have to agree, but –
MR. MCCORMACK: I think everybody should know what it is that -- we believe that everybody should understand what it is that we’re doing. Again, I can’t make commitments that have not been negotiated.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: It happened this morning. Hassan Nasrallah gave a –
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Hold on. Do we have anything else on North Korea? Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you. How does today’s attack in Jerusalem affect the peace process as far as the Administration is concerned?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s a terrible. There are people who lost their lives, people who were injured. I guess there were two American citizens who were treated and injured. Look, there are – there’s been violence throughout this process and that’s unfortunate.
QUESTION: Well, this is the first time there has been an attack inside of Jerusalem in several years.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s right. Just several months ago, there was a terrible attack at a religious training facility, so – and immediately after that, as a matter of fact, you had Foreign Minister Livni who said, this is a terrible tragedy, but we’re not going to allow those people who want to derail the peace process to succeed.
QUESTION: In efforts toward a peace process within the last few weeks, Israel has lifted a number of roadblocks and – what’s the English for machsom. They’ve allowed entrance from the West Bank and also lifted one of the blocks from Gaza in an effort – as good faith gestures from Israel to the Palestinians. How does this attack, as far as the White House – as far as the State Department is concerned, how – you know, what’s your view on that? Should Israel continue to show these good faith gestures when this is what they’re met with?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you’re making a causal link there that I’m not sure that anybody else is ready to make.
Look, in terms of Roadmap obligations, both sides have obligations there and neither side has fully performed on those obligations – Israelis and Palestinians. Look, ultimately, the – it’s our belief and it’s the belief of the Israeli Government and the belief of many people around the world, that you are going to provide a more secure, better future for the Israeli people and for the Palestinian people through a negotiated solution. And the only way you’re going to get to a negotiated solution is to demonstrate commitment to that despite – you know, despite violence that’s going on around you, because there are people that are committed to trying to derail that process.
QUESTION: So one more, as far as – there’s about to be a prisoner exchange of a known terrorist for the bodies of killed Israeli soldiers who have been missing for the last several years. Do you see that as a – and apparently, Prime Minister Olmert really wrestled with that decision. As far as you’re concerned, do you think that is a step toward peace or is that proliferating the desire for terrorism among terrorists if they see that they’re going to get back a live terrorist for murdered Israeli soldiers?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that’s only a decision that the Israeli Government can make.
QUESTION: Any comments on Hassan Nasrallah’s press conference today where he discussed this prisoner exchange?
MR. MCCORMACK: I guess, I didn’t tune into it. So, look – I don’t frequently follow the press conferences of terrorists.
QUESTION: He mentioned that it’s – what she mentioned – a step forward in finding some kind of solution; although, the Israeli defense force have to withdraw from the occupied area in Lebanon.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any comment on it.
QUESTION: On Iraq.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Real quick. There’s been a lot of private, track-two diplomacy efforts, sort of taking Iraqi politicians out of Iraq to various places in order to try to bring about reconciliation. They’re having a big event on Saturday. Do you have comment on whether these track-two efforts have been positive for Iraq? Have they contributed at all to reconciliation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Can’t tell you. You know, can’t tell you. Look, whatever the forum, whether it’s in the United States or in Iraq or who sponsors it or encourages it, the Iraqis are coming together and their politics are starting to cohere. They’re starting to – over the past several months, if not year -- starting to work on behalf of the Iraqi people, pass laws, implement them, work to provide a more secure environment for the Iraqi people. We’ve seen the results of that. These are facts.
So has this contributed to it? I can’t tell you. I’m sure that it hasn’t hurt, but I can’t tell you what contribution it’s made to that process.
Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:59 p.m.)
DPB # 118
Released on July 2, 2008