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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 20, 2008



Inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou


Website in Honor of Cuba Solidarity Day


Secretary Rice to Travel to California with Foreign Secretary Miliband


Travel Alert / Violence Near Border / Kidnapped and Murdered American Citizens


No Decision on Whether U.S. Will Participate in Pledging Conference in Rangoon
Amount of U.S. Aid and Flights to Date


U.S. Ambassador Having Meeting at Foreign Ministry Today


Allegations of Torture
World Public Opinion


Additional Aid / C-17 Flight on Thursday


No Specifics to Assistant Secretary Hill’s Travel Schedule
Focus is on Getting Declaration


View Video

12:08 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody, or nearly afternoon. I have a couple of things to start off with. We’ll put these out in paper form afterwards. The first has to do with the inauguration of Ma Ying-jeou as President of Taiwan. This is a statement from me:

We congratulate Ma Ying-jeou on his inauguration. We look forward to working with Taiwan’s new leaders and maintaining the vibrancy in our economic and people-to-people relationship. We welcome initiatives to reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait. As President Bush said after the March vote, “The election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences.”

On a separate note, I would invite you to visit the following website: www.solidaridadcuba.org. That’s s-o-l-i-d-a-r-i-d-a-d-c-u-b-a.org. And if you click on it and click on the English version, this is what it looks like. This is in honor of May 21st, Cuba Solidarity Day. So I would encourage you all to visit it. There’s also – you can click on the Spanish version of it as well.

And we also have one trip announcement. It’s a formality, but we – at the request of the esteemed press corps, we put this out – we will put this out:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband will travel to California on May – on Thursday, May 22nd and Friday, May 23rd. While in California, Secretary of State Rice and Foreign Secretary Miliband will highlight the development of cutting-edge technologies and environment-friendly programs across the region. The Secretary and Foreign Secretary will also meet with leading entrepreneurs and business leaders from the area.

And also, just on behalf of Red Sox Nation at the State Department, we congratulate Jon Lester on his no-hitter last night. He’s a young man who’s overcome a great deal in battling cancer, not only has won the deciding game of the World Series last year, but also a no-hitter last night. So congratulations, and it’s a real inspiration.

With that, I’ll take your questions. Stunned silence.


QUESTION: Hi, I’m Penny Starr with CNSnews.


QUESTION:  And I wanted to ask, on the State Department website, there’s a travel alert for Mexico that I reported on and it says in it -- in many things in that Travel Alert on border cities on the U.S.-Mexican border that there’s increasing violence as the fight between the Mexican police, it says, and drugs -- drug cartels has escalated. They said it resembles small combat units with sophisticated weapons, including grenades and machine guns.

And it also says that dozens of Americans were -- citizens were either kidnapped or murdered in Tijuana in 2007. And I wondered if you had any numbers on the number of Americans who were kidnapped – American citizens, it says, specifically kidnapped or murdered -- in the border area in 2007.

And just to follow up, I wanted to know if this is the case, what the State Department and, in particular, Condoleezza Rice is doing about that scenario.

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll try to get you numbers. Off the top of my head, I don’t know. Clearly, in – over the past couple of years, there’s been an uptick in violence along those – in those border regions. And we’ve put out travel warnings and travel alerts to warn people of that, so that they can be well-informed in making their own decisions about travel in that area and work in that area.

In terms of kidnapped American citizens, I don’t have specific figures for you. Be happy to look into it and we can post an answer for you. But any American citizen in distress, whether it’s in Mexico or around the world, is of great concern to us. And we do whatever we can to assist either these individuals or family members who are concerned about the safety of their loved ones. So we work very closely with Mexican authorities. We work very closely with family members. Oftentimes, there are restrictions in terms of what we can say in public about these cases, just because of Privacy Act concerns. But every single American citizen that is in distress is a concern and a top priority for us.

QUESTION: But do you keep those numbers? I mean, do they exist or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll look into it. I’m happy to share them with you, if we have something

that --


MR. MCCORMACK: -- some numbers in which we have some confidence, then I’m happy to share those with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Where’s Charlie?

QUESTION: I’ve got a couple of very small --

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: -- very small things.


QUESTION: Have you made any decision on whether or not to go Rangoon?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s still under consideration. It’s still under consideration.

QUESTION: Okay. Was the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela called in today?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is -- I was informed he’s going to have a meeting at the foreign ministry at 2:00, 2 o'clock this afternoon.

QUESTION: And have they accepted your explanation that this is inadvertent? Are they satisfied by that, or is that what you’re going to find out?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.


MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On Guantanamo, some questions. The House hears for the first time from the first ever released Guantanamo – for the first time in Congress, that is – a German-Turkish individual named Murat. That’s going to be at 2 p.m. He alleges torture and there’s been other allegations of torture at the facility. How do you respond against such accusations and the fact that those are against the U.S. Constitution?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you’ve heard from the President of the United States as well as other cabinet officials on these questions, and I can’t put it any more plainly than the President of the United States has put it, and he says the United States does not torture.

QUESTION: And how do you convince world opinion that that is not taking place and the fact that everyone in Guantanamo is a suspect of terrorism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we try to – and you can talk to my colleagues over at the Department of Defense who are responsible for the facility as well as for the judicial procedures that are ongoing there. And very basically, we try to have as open and transparent a process as we possibly can. The President, back in September 2006 when he talked about those high-value detainees that we were going to ship to Guantanamo and to put on trial – it is evidence, it’s just one data point in terms of looking at our efforts to be as transparent as we possibly can in dealing with people whom we believe we are quite dangerous not only to citizens of the United States but to citizens of other countries. We have seen, for example, you know, a detainee that was released ended up as a suicide bomber. So these are – it should be a lesson to people who look at Guantanamo and how we deal with these people that we are dealing with some very dangerous individuals.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: I appreciated your statements on Ma Ying-jeou’s inauguration, make our jobs easier.


QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. So do you expect --

MR. MCCORMACK: I figured that it might. Yeah.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Appreciate that. Do you expect this to be a new era in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship as well cross-Strait relations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don’t have anything to add beyond the statement I’ve read. And I want to hear from the rest of you how I’ve made your jobs easier as well. (Laughter.) Feel free to speak up. Feel free to --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) offer you – (laughter) --

MR. MCCORMACK: Feel free to speak up, make the offer. I’m not seeing any takers here.

Okay. Anything else?

QUESTION: You made things easier the other day by putting the list of countries in alphabetic order. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: There we are. A small example.

QUESTION: There you go.

MR. MCCORMACK: A demonstration of attention to detail on our part.

QUESTION: Indeed, indeed.

QUESTION: An update on relief to China and Burma – Myanmar?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have – I think – let me check the figures here. I think we’re up to 36 total flights having gone into Rangoon and the total amount of aid to date has approximate – is approximately about 19 million. The figure I have here is $19,150,000. It continues to increase with each flight.

In terms of China, we will have on Thursday – at least it’s schedule to land – a C – another C-17 flight. This will be carrying search-and-rescue equipment as well as some experts who can assist the Chinese Government in their efforts in the affected area.

QUESTION: Nothing more on the DART team for --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, nothing – nothing new.

QUESTION: One thing about – Assistant Secretary Hill was fairly upbeat when he talked to reporters yesterday after his meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, and he said that he expected to soon go to China and Russia for more consultations. Has that trip been set up? Do you have any dates yet on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any specifics on his travel schedule. Our focus, really, however, is on getting – in getting a declaration from the North Koreans, which has not yet been forthcoming – not yet been handed over by the North Koreans to the Chinese, and then analyzing that and making a judgment about the declaration. So we’re taking the Secretary’s views, we’re taking this step by step, and the next step here is the North Koreans providing a declaration. At that point, we’ll have a basis for some prognosis about the way forward, you know, if the process will move forward.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:17 p.m.)

DPB # 90

Released on May 20, 2008

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