|Daily Press Briefing|
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
June 24, 2008
|Reports that U.S. Is Interested In Establishing an Interest Section in Iran|
|U.S. Has Great Respect for Iranian People / Continuing to Look for New Ways to Reach Out|
|U.S. Efforts to Isolate the Iranian Government and Continued Efforts to Reassure Its People|
|Reports that the U.S. Has Denied a Visa to Boy George / Visa Records Confidential|
|Allegations That the U.S. Covered Up Chinese Origins of Ammunition Sent to Afghanistan|
|Very Serious Allegations / U.S. Has No Information to Substantiate|
|IG Investigation / Thorough, Fair and Transparent Review / Congressman Waxman|
|Death of DOS Employee Steve Farley / PRT Member in Sadr City / Other Casualties|
|Work of PRTs in Developing Iraq and Democratic Institutions / Job Done in Harms Way|
|Intended Target Currently Unclear|
|Direct Hire of the Department / One of Many Hired Because of Particular Expertise|
|Security Assessment / Department of State Does Everything Possible to Protect Its People|
|Any Runoff Held Under Present Circumstances Cannot Be Considered Legitimate|
|Desire of Mugabe Regime to Maintain Power at all Costs|
|Security Council Call for an End to Violence, Change in Behavior of the Regime|
|Existing Sanctions Against Zimbabwe / Possible Actions by the International Community|
|Zimbabwe in a Difficult Position / Actions of Government Created Broken Process|
|Letter from Fairfax County Regarding Islamic Saudi Academy|
|U.S. to Take a Look at Letter and Provide Any Necessary Response|
|U.S Desire to See Name Issue Resolved / No Change in Policy|
|Reports of an Apparent Suicide by Journalist Vlado Taneski while in Custody in Macedonia|
|Secretarys Travel Schedule / U.S. Relations with South Korea / U.S. Beef Imports|
|Agreement on Beef Imports / U.S. Fully Understands the Concerns of the Korean People|
|Nuclear Declaration / Need for it to Include Plutonium, Uranium, Proliferation Activities|
|U.S. Expectations for a Declaration / Secretarys Speech at Heritage Foundation|
|Verification Process / Ongoing as Third Phase is Implemented / Several Months Long|
12:58 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start you off with, so let’s see what other people have.
QUESTION: I have a serious one and a not-serious one. Which one do you want first?
MR. CASEY: Your choice.
QUESTION: All right. I’ll do the serious one first. The IRNA quotes a Foreign Ministry official in Iran as saying that in principle, Iran would consider any request for an interests section, such as the one that the U.S. may or may not be interested in setting up. So that’s not an outright rejection. Have you all evaluated this statement? Do you have any update on that whole situation?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven’t seen the statement. In terms of the issue itself and some of the reporting that’s out there, I think – the Secretary spoke to this a little bit yesterday on the plane on her way to Germany. And you know, of course, as she noted, we’re always looking for ways to be able to reach out to the Iranian people and we have established Iranian watcher posts, if you will, in Dubai as well as a couple of other places around the world to try and give ourselves greater insight into what’s occurring in Iran. And to try, of course, to also find ways to get more Iranian people to have some exposure or some experience in the United States. You know, as you know, we’ve made a point of trying to emphasize here that our issues with the current Iranian Government, including its nuclear program as well as its support for terrorist activities, do not in any way mean hostility or animosity on the part of the U.S. towards the Iranian people. And we have great respect for the Iranian people and for Iranian civilization. And certainly, you’ve seen as well through some of the exchange activities that have been done, whether that’s based on sports or medicine or art, that we’re continually looking for ways to be able to find new means to reach out to the Iranian people.
But certainly, I haven’t seen those comments. At this point, as the Secretary said, I’m simply not going to try and discuss or talk about any internal deliberations here.
QUESTION: And what does the U.S. Government have against Boy George – (laughter) – You denied him a visa.
MR. CASEY: Sorry, I should have swallowed before you said that. (Laughter.) Let’s see if I spit the water over any place else. (Laughter.)
I’ve seen the report that’s out there. Obviously, visa records are confidential. But I’d simply note that there often are difficulties for individuals who either are currently subject to criminal charges or otherwise may have criminal records. So I think you might want to look toward some of those reasons as why he might be having some difficulties here.
QUESTION: It’s tragic really.
MR. CASEY: Do you really want to hurt him? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Switch topics from Boy George?
MR. CASEY: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Tom, we talked about this at the gaggle a little bit this morning, but how do you respond to these allegations that the U.S. Ambassador to Albania helped cover-up the Chinese origins of ammunition that was purchased by a Pentagon contractor for Afghanistan security forces? (Inaudible.)
MR. CASEY: Well, look, let me try and – we talked about this a little bit yesterday as well, and let me – I don’t think I have much to add. But let me try and, you know, tell you where we see this.
First of all, you know, these are very serious allegations and certainly the Department always treats seriously any charges that are made. That said, as I told you earlier, we certainly don’t have any information that would support or substantiate these allegations, which are being made against a career Foreign Service Officer, who, I believe, has been a member of the Foreign Service for about 24 years and served distinguishedly – served in a distinguished manner in many regions of the world and, of course, was Director of the Operations Center here in Washington, as well. So, you know, certainly I think these are very serious allegations.
We will, of course, do everything we can to review this matter. We’ve had a chance to take a look at the – a letter now. My understanding is that Pat Kennedy has now formally asked the Inspector General to go and look at these charges and conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of these allegations; again, without, certainly, any prejudice towards an outcome. But I think when someone has had a cloud placed over them publicly, as Chairman Waxman has done through making these allegations, they deserve to have an independent body take a review of them and come to an appropriate conclusion.
QUESTION: Is that a full investigation or are they just looking into it?
MR. CASEY: Is that like a half nelson or a full nelson?
MR. CASEY: Look, they’re going to look into it, I would – I think in their terms, they conduct a preliminary review and then make a determination as to whether that review requires a -- quote -- “formal” investigation. You could check with them in terms of the formal definitions of it.
The bottom line is, we want to make sure that any and all issues related to this are given a fair and transparent review. I think that’s what Ambassador Withers deserves, certainly. And we would hope that through that means there would – any questions that might have come up would be dealt with appropriately. Certainly again, Ambassador Withers’ own statement that the Embassy put out today says that he fully expects that when any reviews are complete that it will be shown that he and his staff have acted appropriately. And I certainly don’t have any reason to believe the outcome will be otherwise.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this Major Larry Harrison that made the allegations – is it your understanding that he’s sticking by what he told the committee or what the committee at least is saying he told them?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think all we have to go on right now is the letter that was sent and that letter refers to certain things said in an interview. I can’t tell you whether that is the full extent of what this individual told the committee or not, or how what they have pulled out and placed in the letter fits in with the overall discussion that he had. I – you know, I’d simply – you’d have to check with the committee themselves, of course, in terms of what the full nature of those discussions were or with the individual in question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Follow up?
MR. CASEY: A follow-up. Well --
QUESTION: Can I follow --
MR. CASEY: There’s a follow-up to the follow-up to the follow-up.
Yeah, Mr. Lambros, go ahead.
QUESTION: Why your Ambassador to Albania then endorse a plan by the Albanian Minister of Defense to hide several boxes of Chinese ammunition?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I believe that we have just gone through saying that we have no reason to believe that that, in fact, occurred and that we are going to ensure that there is a transparent investigation by our IG to verify the facts and make sure that both Ambassador Withers, as well as Chairman Waxman, have a full and complete review done of this matter, so that there will be no questions about it. But certainly, I have no reason to believe that that, in fact, occurred.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details for us on the death of the State Department employee in Iraq today? Is there (inaudible) of the circumstance?
QUESTION: Sorry, can we --
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to ask – I haven’t seen the statement from the Embassy, but do you expect this to affect the Ambassador’s daily duties in any way?
MR. CASEY: No, not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Okay. I was going to go to another letter, but I’ll –
MR. CASEY: Okay, so Kirit wanted to do Baghdad.
QUESTION: I have a quick one more on that.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Keep going.
QUESTION: Will Ambassador Withers testify before Waxman’s committee?
MR. CASEY: As I said, I think right now, we are, you know, going to look at this matter internally ourselves and certainly let the IG review it. I think the IG’s investigation would be the authoritative voice on it, and, you know, we’ll see what, if any, other actions are required.
QUESTION: Do you have any details for us on the death of the State Department employee in Iraq today, and the circumstances? You mentioned in the gaggle you didn’t know if he was being targeted or not.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I don’t know if any of you have seen the statement that Embassy Baghdad put out, but let me just repeat, as well, some of that.
Certainly, we regret the tragic death of Steve Farley, who was an employee of the State Department, working with the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team for the Sadr City District in Baghdad. He was, as we know, killed in an explosion, along with several other individuals, including two U.S. soldiers and, I now understand, two civilian employees of the Department of Defense. While they were carrying out their official duties, they had gone to this location to meet with some local Sadr City council members. And this is part of what our PRTs do. They’re there to help support the development of local government institutions, help them in providing services for the people in developing Baghdad and developing Iraq’s democratic institutions and practices. So, you know, again, we extend our sympathy to his family and certainly to all his colleagues at the PRT and in Baghdad and, you know, throughout Iraq, who are really making a tremendous effort and placing themselves very clearly in harm’s way to be able to get the job done.
In terms of the circumstances around the bombing, again, as we mentioned this morning, we don’t know what the intended target of this bombing was. It occurred in a building that did house, as I understand it, the district council and a number of other offices. It is unclear to us whether the American officials, including Mr. Farley, were the target of this, or whether it was simply targeting a building that is associated with the local government and institutions there in Sadr City. Certainly, MNF-I, our U.S. military, as well as Iraqi authorities are going to investigate this to see what we can determine, both in terms of the perpetrators and motivation. We certainly hope to see them brought to justice.
QUESTION: What was the (inaudible)?
MR. CASEY: He was a expert in local governance issues and was -- of course, understandably, one of the reasons why he would be visiting the town council was to talk to them as they’re working on setting up some of their practices and systems there. But basically, part of his function, or his main function, was to help assist in the development of local government institutions.
QUESTION: Do you know how long he was in Iraq for?
MR. CASEY: I don’t. I know he had been there for several months but I’m not sure the extent of time that he was there.
QUESTION: Was he a Foreign Service Officer, Tom?
MR. CASEY: No. He was not a career Foreign Service Officer, but one of the many other people who the State Department has employed and worked with over time who have expertise in some of these areas that, again, as the Secretary has testified to, aren’t normally the kinds of things that either regular duty, active duty military officers, or regular Foreign Service Officers generally have as part of their experience.
QUESTION: So he was some sort of a contractor, I suppose? One of these 3161 jobs?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I mean, that would – I think that would probably pretty much adequately describe his employment status. But he was a direct hire of the State Department, he’s part of our diplomatic and part of our State Department family, and certainly we are – you know, we’re very privileged to have him working with us on this, and it’s an important component of our staffing in Iraq to have these kinds of people with these kinds of specialties and expertise who can really help assist us in doing the work.
QUESTION: And this – is he the first such person to be killed in Iraq working for a PRT?
MR. CASEY: Certainly, as far as I’m aware, the first person associated with a Provincial Reconstruction Team, first State Department employee. There have been State Department employees in Iraq who have, unfortunately, also lost (inaudible) in the past.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know if there were any others that were injured in the attack, or these only?
MR. CASEY: My understanding is there were, I believe, two U.S. soldiers that were also injured in addition to the two soldiers that died in this attack, but I don’t have anything more on their status. That’s something you’d probably have to get from the Pentagon.
QUESTION: No more – no other State Department employees?
MR. CASEY: No other State Department employees, no.
QUESTION: Sir, can I just clarify that?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: He’s the first known civilian State Department person killed, or the first known –
MR. CASEY: PRT. State PRT.
QUESTION: PRT. Okay.
MR. CASEY: There have been other State Department –
QUESTION: Right, right. That’s what I thought. Okay.
MR. CASEY: -- employees, contractors and otherwise who have died in Iraq. But as far as I know, I think he’s the first person that was assigned to a PRT.
QUESTION: Is there any thought to changing any of the rules for PRTs – PRT engagements like this? This is the second time in, like, a month, that a convoy going someplace to do something similar has been attacked.
MR. CASEY: Well, look, first of all, I think, unfortunately, there are going to be risks associated with doing the business we need to get done, not only in Iraq, but in – elsewhere in the world, where U.S. diplomats and our other employees are working in pretty dangerous circumstances. And I’m sure that the Embassy in Baghdad will do a thorough review of the incident and look at the security concerns involved. And obviously, we’ll make any kind of adjustments necessary to ensure that our people can be protected as best they can.
And as we all know from long and difficult experience, none of the security systems that we or anyone have are absolutely foolproof, but we do everything we can to ensure that our people are protected, and, certainly, you know, make very careful efforts to ensure when they do go out and do the kind – these kinds of activities, that the situation warrants them being able to do so and do so safely and securely.
QUESTION: Do you know whether DS or anybody else, sort of, inspects a site before a civilian employee goes there? Like, when the Secretary goes into a room anywhere in the world, you know, it’s swept and – with dogs, and other things done. But I’m wondering whether anybody had assured, before he and the entire delegation went into the building, that the building was secure?
MR. CASEY: You know, Nicholas, I – two things. First of all, I don’t have that level of detail about the incident itself. Secondarily, I think that my Diplomatic Security friends probably wouldn’t want me to talk in too much detail about specific procedures that they use.
What I can say is that, just from having served in Baghdad myself, that, you know, the Regional Security Officer and his various staff, both direct hire and contract, generally go to fairly great lengths to ensure that a site has been adequately looked at and reviewed before U.S. officials -- including convoy routes and things like that, before U.S. officials actually get in a vehicle and travel to a location.
That said, you know, we, unfortunately, all know that not only Iraq, but many other countries in which our folks are serving, are pretty dangerous locations. And unfortunately, despite the best efforts at security that we make, these kinds of incidents unfortunately sometimes happen. But we’re going to, I’m sure, take a good, hard look at this, see if there was anything that we could have done differently or any way that we could have prevented this incident from happening and, you know, apply whatever lessons are learned there to future operations.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Zimbabwe? The government announced officially that the runoff of the election will take place on Thursday, as scheduled. Do you have any reaction?
MR. CASEY: Well, I guess, you know, there’s a lot that has been said already about this subject, but I’d refer you back to the Secretary’s statement yesterday, which, I think, makes clear our view that any runoff held under present circumstances and without the ability of the opposition to participate fully and fairly cannot be considered a legitimate election, and the government resulting from it will, therefore, itself not be legitimate. So I don’t think that there is going to be any support in the international community, either for the holding of this election or for any results that might come out of it.
Certainly, the desire of the Mugabe regime to maintain power at all costs, I think, is pretty transparent and visible to everyone in the international community. And we saw, in the Security Council yesterday, the unified voice of all 15 members clearly calling for an end to the violence, calling for an ability on the part of the opposition of all political parties to conduct activities and calling for the regime to change its behavior. So you know, I think that the government may choose to try and go ahead with these elections. But under present circumstances, I don’t think there’s going to be anyone out there that sees them as legitimate.
QUESTION: When you say you don’t think anybody will consider that election legitimate, did you receive any assurance from any – from any country, from South Africa, for example, that they will not consider that as legitimate?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think if you read the presidential statement from yesterday, which South Africa agreed to as part of the UN Security Council, it makes it pretty clear that there’s no basis for holding elections under present circumstances.
QUESTION: Can we just briefly go back to this Iranian Interests Section --
MR. CASEY: You can try.
QUESTION: -- or the proposed one. You’ve had this longstanding policy of isolating Iran or allowing Iran to isolate itself by stopping – by refusing to stop enriching uranium. Now, with opening an interests section, if it were to happen, wouldn’t that be inconsistent with this policy you’ve been pursuing?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I – you know, just have to refer you back to what the Secretary said and just remind you that we have always, while we have clearly worked to isolate the Iranian Government for its continued failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions concerning its nuclear program, at the same time, we have always been looking for ways and continued our efforts to reassure the Iranian people that the United States does not harbor any ill-will against them. In fact, we have great respect for them and we wish to have good relations with them.
Finding ways to reach out to the Iranian people has included doing such things as establishing these Iranian watcher posts in Dubai and in elsewhere, including in a couple of European capitals where there is significant Iranian populations. It’s included support for cultural exchange programs and educational exchange programs to allow average Iranians and average Americans to be able to have contact with one another, despite the differences between our governments.
And certainly, anything that we would look to do in the future would be done with an eye towards being able to provide better and broader contacts between the United States and average, regular Iranians. Certainly, nothing that we will do would be in the interest of or designed towards giving greater supporter or legitimacy to a government that we think, rightly, ought to be isolated because of its behavior and because of its failure, repeatedly, to take the high road, respond positively to the offers on the table from the United States and the other members of the P-5+1 to negotiate over their nuclear program, and to take up the Secretary’s opportunity to be able to not only discuss with us any of the issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, but any other issues that they might want to bring to the table. So you know, again, I think that the kinds of things that you heard the Secretary talk about yesterday are fully in keeping with our longstanding policy of trying to reach out to the Iranian public.
QUESTION: And can I just follow up very quickly?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: With her comments and with these reports in the media, is this something that’s being openly discussed as a real possibility here now?
MR. CASEY: Again, I’d simply refer you back to what she said. I’m not going to try and talk about any internal deliberations.
QUESTION: Just want to go back to Zimbabwe for a second.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The whole illegitimate issue after the election, if it were to take place, what does that mean in practical terms? Are you going to seek the suspension of Zimbabwe’s membership in international organizations? What exactly does that mean if the --
MR. CASEY: Well, let’s see – let’s see what happens. I think it’s clear, though, that – and I said this this morning -- it would be pretty hard for any country to conduct business as usual with Zimbabwe if it goes ahead with a sham election with a sham result.
QUESTION: But you haven’t been conducting business as usual for a long time, I mean, where you have an embassy, you have an ambassador, but you don’t necessarily behave as if everything was normal, so --
MR. CASEY: No, but again, Nicholas, there – you know, and you’ve heard Jendayi and a number of people speak to this over the last couple of days that we have an extensive series of targeted sanctions against President Mugabe and the regime. That by no means is the limits of what the U.S. could do bilaterally. It certainly is by no means the limits of what other members of the international community could do and might do in response to this.
But, you know, we’ve got to – let’s see what happens over the next couple of days. Let’s see what kinds of reactions occur as a result not only of this presidential statement from the Security Council, but of the upcoming meetings with SADC as well as of the African Union. I think Zimbabwe is finding itself in an increasingly difficult and awkward position. And I think it’s going to be very hard for President Mugabe to try and move forward and claim any kind of legitimacy through a process that is completely and utterly broken, and broken as a result of the actions that he and his government have deliberately taken to prevent the opposition from being able to campaign or being able to conduct any kind of normal political activities.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about this letter that I was going to ask earlier, this other letter, unless --
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Anybody else on Zimbabwe? Yeah. I understand that you’ve received a letter from the – from Fairfax County asking you whether you could give an opinion on the lease of the Saudi school in Alexandria and whether the county should extend that lease, which I am told it’s worth $2.2 million a year. But – just, I mean, do you expect to pronounce yourselves on that? Is that something that you --
MR. CASEY: Well, I think it’s something we’ve just gotten. We’ll certainly take a look at it and see what kind of response would be appropriate, but I – you know, it’s not something we’ve had a chance to really look through. As you know, this is a school that is incorporated and overseen through the county there. It’s not an institution that we have any sort of formal role in accrediting or managing. But certainly, we’ll take a look at the letter and if there’s some thoughts or advice that we can offer, we’ll certainly do it.
QUESTION: I was just wondering whether you thought – if it’s appropriate for them to be asking you, since you don’t really have (inaudible) in this.
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, kind of beside the point, since they’ve asked and we’ll take a look at what they’ve asked us and see if we can come up with a response that makes sense and see what would be useful input that we might be able to have into their decision-making.
QUESTION: Who would consider that for the State Department? Who would be looking into it?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think that involves a number of different people. Probably, first and foremost, the Bureau of Near East Asian Affairs, might involve the office of Foreign Missions, although certainly, this isn’t a diplomatic facility. It might involve the legal advisor since basically anything you do anymore require lawyers. So it’ll be the -- you know, like anything else done in this building, there will be many hands at work.
QUESTION: Can I just go back --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- for a second to the Baghdad bombing thing?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Apparently, this guy Farley is a Navy captain or in the reserves?
MR. CASEY: Um, that’s not information that I had. I know he was – you know, he was employed full-time by the State Department. I’m not sure whether he’s had previous military service or whether he had any reserve status or not.
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s just a picky little thing about whether he’s a civilian or not. That’s all.
MR. CASEY: From our perspective, he was a State Department employee and was in Baghdad in that capacity. So you know, for us, he’s a State – a member of the State Department family. And you know, I think you’ll actually find, contrary to some popular belief out there, that a lot of people in this business, both Civil Service, Foreign Service and otherwise, have had some form of, you know, military service as well. And in some cases there are a number of people I’m personally familiar with who are active duty Foreign Service officers who are also reserve officers in one of the uniform military services.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, do you have anything on the -- today’s meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Berlin?
MR. CASEY: No, because I’m not in Berlin. But Sean McCormack certainly is. And I’m sure you can have people provide you with a readout from there. But I’d refer to the party, as always, in terms of reading out anything the Secretary is doing while on travel.
QUESTION: One on FYROM, Senator Bob Menendez on the name issue between Athens and Skopje in the letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice June 6th says, “Your lack of a resolution of this matter injured our relations with the United States, particularly with regard to bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties that come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” Are you concerned about that?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we would like to see the name issue resolved as we’ve said, as a matter of longstanding policy. And certainly, we believe it’s important that two of our good friends and allies, like Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, can reach an agreeable conclusion on that. I don’t have anything new, though, to offer you in terms of our thoughts on the subject.
QUESTION: Korea. The White House says that the President will not go to Seoul when he goes to the G-8 summit in Japan. As far as I know, the Secretary still plans to stop in Seoul after the meeting in Kyoto of the foreign ministers. Is there anything that she can do to smooth out the beef issue and are you aware of why the – I mean, well, we talk to the White House but I’m basically (inaudible)
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I am not – I’m not aware of what (inaudible).
QUESTION: It sounds like the President’s going to leave the Secretary to work the issue.
MR. CASEY: Right.
QUESTION: I mean, what can she do?
MR. CASEY: Again, first of all, I think you can, you know, talk to the White House about what, if any, reasoning they would like to share with you in terms of the President’s travel schedule and any changes made to it.
In terms of the Secretary’s schedule, look, first of all, we have a very longstanding and important relationship with South Korea. They are a major player in Asia. We, of course, have a whole series of issues that we work on them with, from our longstanding bilateral military cooperation to the six-party talks and our combined efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, on over into a whole series of trade relations, including the pending free trade agreement that we would certainly like to see Congress act on. You know, the dispute over the importation of U.S. beef is obviously something that’s generated a lot of passion in South Korea and has become a political issue there. Certainly, that’s something that we, you know, respect and understand.
I think you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks that efforts have been made, largely led by USTR, to try and resolve those concerns. And certainly, I’m sure the Secretary would be happy to speak to Korean officials about this issue and see as we move forward with implementing this arrangement, if there are additional steps that we might be able to take to help make this less of a concern to people. We certainly would hope that consumers would come to view American beef as most Americans do, as a product that is of high quality and then certainly entirely safe.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’m sure you do hope this. But the fact is that even after this latest agreement to only import beef from younger cattle, there’s still a massive protest in Seoul even against (inaudible). I’m wondering if – I mean, is there, in your relations with Korea, I would imagine there’s a lot of frustration with – among the people who work the issue. But is there a point where the relationship is affected just because it seems that the South Korean people are – I don’t want to use the word paranoid, but you know, it just seems that there’s no end to this. Whatever agreement is reached, the South Koreans don’t want U.S. beef. That’s the bottom line.
MR. CASEY: And guess what, Nicholas? There is not a soul in the world that is forcing anyone to eat it. So this arrangement will allow for the exportation of what, again, we certainly believe and understand to be a high quality and very safe product. But nothing is forcing Korean consumers or any other consumers to do that. That’s the wonder of the marketplace and people will make their own decisions. Certainly, though, we don’t want to see artificial barriers placed in the way of U.S. goods or any other goods based on emotion or based on non-scientific reasoning.
But ultimately, this is something where we fully understand the emotions and we fully understand the concerns that people have. And we will work and I’m sure that those members of the industry who are most affected by this will work to try and do what they can to reassure consumers and convince them of this. But certainly, let’s also always remember that no trade agreement forces anyone in any country to consume a particular product. And we certainly will do again, whatever we can to help the South Koreans as we move forward with implementing this in terms of helping to increase consumer confidence. And we hope that ultimately this becomes an issue that does not affect the government or does not affect relations in any particular way.
But I would also, just again simply point out that the important relationship and friendship between the United States and North Korea is a lot bigger than any individual issue. And South Korea, excuse me, thank you. Gee, it’s Tuesday and I’m messing that up. Wow. But the longstanding friendship and relationship between the United States and South Korea is something that isn’t going to be affected or changed by any individual issue. And we will continue to work with President Lee and his cabinet as we move forward, again, not only on this but on dealing with all the other important issues in our relationship, including the six-party talks and including our longstanding military cooperation.
QUESTION: I’ve got one (inaudible) on North Korea?
MR. CASEY: Oh, yeah, I forgot about that one. Oh, you wanted – did you want to actually talk about that?
Okay. Go ahead, Sylvie.
QUESTION: I wanted to know if you could clarify that the declaration we are expecting for Thursday will mention the nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Syria?
MR. CASEY: The declaration will be the declaration we get, and we’ll know what’s in it when we see it. That sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme, but I think that’s about where we are.
Look, we’ve made it clear that the declaration needs to deal with all three of the central baskets that we’ve talked about. And that includes both the plutonium-related activities at Yongbyon and elsewhere. It includes activities related to highly enriched uranium and it includes activities related to proliferation. You know, I’m certainly not in a position to try and describe for you the forms and details that the declaration will take. And it will be out there soon enough for people to be able to consider.
And of course, as the Secretary has also said, whatever is in that declaration is important. But what’s more important is that we have the means to be able to verify what is there, and that we are able to assure ourselves that the information that is provided is fully accurate and complete. And of course, if it turns out that that’s not the case, then there certainly would be consequences for that.
QUESTION: But this morning or earlier – with the change – the time change, I don’t really know --
MR. CASEY: Sometime earlier today for us.
QUESTION: Sometime earlier, Chris Hill spoke about this declaration and spoke only about plutonium. He didn’t speak at all about the highly enriched uranium or proliferation.
MR. CASEY: Well, I’m not sure what Chris may have said, but I’d commend to you the Secretary’s remarks at the Heritage Foundation in which she did talk about both those other components. And I can’t give you any better, sort of, understanding of what our expectations are than the way she phrased it there.
QUESTION: I know this morning you didn’t really want to get into the sequencing issue, but maybe more in the way of housekeeping, the – assuming you have --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- at hand a declaration --
MR. CASEY: Right.
QUESTION: That does trigger some – the announcement of the intent to delist North Korea from the terrorism – will that announcement be made at this podium or by an official in the region, by Secretary Rice or some --
MR. CASEY: Well, I think technically, if you look at it, it’s a presidential determination. So I think you would – I would expect that such an announcement or such a statement would come first from the White House.
Let’s go back here first.
QUESTION: On the verification, do you have any kind of timeline for how long the verification process might take?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think Chris has said, and I think just as a technical matter, you’ve got a lot of information here. And this is something that will be on – the verification process is something that will be ongoing as you move into the third phase and implementing that as well.
But certainly, I think this is something that isn’t a matter of days or probably even weeks, but probably would be several months. And I kind of think you have to understand verification, whether that’s in terms of this agreement or in terms of much earlier arms control agreements, as something that is continuous and ongoing. As long as there is any element of a nuclear program in North Korea, you will continually need to follow through on the verification mechanisms to assure yourself that you do, you know, have an agreement that is being adequately and fully implemented.
Yeah, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: One more on FYROM. Mr. Casey, anything to say about Vlado Taneski, Skopjean journalist who, according to reports, committed suicide at a prison in Tetovo less than three days after being detained? And it looks like a crime committed by the local authorities, keeping in mind the way he died.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I’m unfamiliar with the case. But certainly, I would leave it to the authorities in the Republic of Macedonia to determine whether there was any cause for concern about the circumstances of his death, and if so, to fully and thoroughly investigate it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Okay. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)
DPB # 112
Released on June 24, 2008