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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 7, 2008



May Never Know Who Provoked / Important to Move Forward
Both Sides Must Live Up to Obligations / Bring Stability to Region


Incidents of Deaths of American Citizens
U.S. Consular Officials Assistance to Families


Department Has Good Procedures to Deal with Potential Hackers
Transition Team Update


U.S. Rejects Morales’ Charges / Will Look for Ways to Counter Narcotics Situation in Region


Assistant Secretary Hill’s Meeting with North Korean Delegation in New York
Discussed Verification Protocol / Energy Assistance / Disablement
Sung Kim Meetings / Move Six-Party Talks Forward


View Video

10:36 a.m. EST

MR. WOOD: Happy Friday, everyone. I don’t have anything, so why don’t we go right to your questions.

QUESTION: On Georgia, the New York Times is reporting that military observers are questioning Georgia’s claim that it was acting self-defensively against Russian aggression. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve seen the reports. And look, it’s – I’m sure at some point – we may or may never get to the bottom of who was actually responsible for what went on there. But we have, from the beginning, encouraged both sides not to be provoked or to provoke. And the Georgians felt that they were provoked by the Russians. And, you know, our goal right now is to try to bring about stability in the region and, you know, get both sides, particularly the Russians, to live up to their obligations, so --

QUESTION: Is there some sort of investigation done by the U.S. into who did what first, maybe (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I don’t – I think we need to get away from looking at, you know, who did what first, because as I said, I don’t think we’ll ever really get to the bottom of that. And the important thing is for us to move forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do in terms of trying to reconstruct Georgia, bring about stability to the general region, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.

QUESTION: But if you say it’s not important to find out what happened first, then maybe that could be interpreted as blind support for a U.S. ally?

MR. WOOD: Look, I’ve said what I’ve said on this. I don’t know that we’ll ever get to the bottom of that. And what’s really important now is to get both sides, particularly the Russians, as I said, to live up to their obligations so that we can help bring stability to this part of the world. That deserves stability.

Any other question -- I’m sorry. Please.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Penny Starr with CNSNews. And I wanted to ask about the State Department’s non-natural deaths of U.S. citizens abroad, the latest report that covers from July 1, 2005 to June 30th, 2008. And it says that Mexico accounts for the most – for 29 percent of Americans killed abroad, a total of, in those three years, 637. And I wondered if the State Department has – how they’re dealing with these cases of homicide – they’re listed as executions, also accidents and other deaths abroad. What does the State Department have in place to make sure that families whose loved ones are killed abroad – in particular, Mexico, I’m speaking of – to make sure these cases are – are – that the U.S. Government has in place to work with the Mexican Government to see that people find closure or --

MR. WOOD: Well, what our consular officials do in these types of cases is they go out and try to find out as much information as they can. They try to assist the families as best they can in these types of cases where people are found, you know, to have been killed or, you know, to have disappeared under strange circumstances. That’s what our people do on the ground. You know, we have established procedures that our consulates or consular officials undertake, and nothing more that I can say on that.

QUESTION: The Financial Times is reporting today that Chinese hackers penetrated the White House computer system. Do you have anything on that?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’d refer you to the White House for that. We obviously have procedures that we put in place to prevent our systems from being penetrated. And we feel comfortable with those procedures. We’re always looking for ways to improve our capacities to counter these types of hacking incidents. And that’s what we do.

QUESTION: Have you looked into if there could have been any instances here at the State Department in this system and in light of this?

MR. WOOD: Look, I mean, anything is possible. But as I said, you know, we have what we think are very good, sound procedures in place for dealing with potential hackers. And that’s prudent, that’s what we do. But I’d, you know, again, refer you to the White House for that specific case that you referred to.


QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, this is the latest in a string of apparent cyber attacks by the Chinese, in reports at least. Is this something that you bring up with the Chinese at any time?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, we’re concerned about any attempts by individuals, you know, governments where they’re – where we can prove that there’s a government involved in that type of activity. We do what we can to strengthen our procedures. That’s what we have to do to protect our computer systems. But beyond that, I don’t have anything more to say.

QUESTION: So are you going to say whether you’ve actually told them to stop it?

MR. WOOD: Look, when we come up against these types of cases, we do what we can to protect our systems. Let me just leave it at that.

QUESTION: Bolivia’s leader Evo Morales is accusing the United States of spreading drug trafficking in the country and that’s the reason that they’ve ordered the DEA people. Could you respond to that?

MR. WOOD: Look, the charges that have been made are just patently absurd. We reject them categorically. The United States has had good cooperation with the Bolivian Government over 35 years with regard to counternarcotics cooperation. You know, should the Bolivian Government decide to sever its working relationship with us with regard to counternarcotics, it’s going to impact the Bolivian people. And we’re going to continue to look for ways we can to counter -- you know, to do what we can to counter the narcotics situation in the region. And again, I just want to categorically reject those charges that have been made.

QUESTION: Is it true then that the DEA people have basically stopped their work now? I mean, they had three months to leave, so --

MR. WOOD: Well, I’d refer you to the DEA for, you know, where they are in terms of their activities. But I just wanted to make very clear what our views are of those charges that have been made.

Anything on this question?


MR. WOOD: No? Oh, okay. Let me go right here and then I’ll get back to you.


QUESTION: Do you have any readout of the meeting between Chris Hill and North Korean officials this week?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I have a little something I can give you on that. Chris had dinner last night with the North Korean delegation, and then he also had discussions with Ri Gun, the Director General for North America at the North Korean Foreign Ministry. And they discussed the verification protocol, you know, energy assistance, and disablement of the North’s nuclear facilities.

Let me just give you a little something on Sung Kim. He also met with Ri Gun yesterday in New York, and they had morning talks followed by a lunch – a working lunch which was then followed by another meeting, you know, an afternoon session. And the talks were substantive, serious, and they focused on, of course, how to move the Six-Party process forward.

QUESTION: And any planned meeting today?

MR. WOOD: No meetings today that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: And I’m sorry -- following up on that, how – does Chris Hill have any plans to travel to the region, or how does he --

MR. WOOD: No, at this point, I haven’t heard anything about any travel plans.

QUESTION: Was there --

MR. WOOD: Dave. Okay, I’ll get back to you, Dave. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was there any talk of a date for a Six-Party meeting?

MR. WOOD: Well, they obviously are – they obviously discussed that issue, and we’re, again, waiting for the Chinese to announce a date since they are the – basically the chair of the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Is there a general ballpark for a meeting? Are you thinking sooner rather than later?

MR. WOOD: I’ve heard nothing. We’ll let you know as soon as we have something.

QUESTION: Is there one agreed to, or has there been an agreement on a date? I mean, it’s not been announced, but is it --

MR. WOOD: To my knowledge, no. Not yet.


QUESTION: There was a published account today that the United States has engaged China, or at least tried to engage them, about coordination in the event of a succession in North Korea. This report says that the Chinese have rebuffed the U.S. Government (inaudible). Are you aware of that?

MR. WOOD: Well, I certainly saw the report. Look, we’ve had wide-ranging discussions with Chinese officials, and it just wouldn't be appropriate for me to get into the specifics of any types of conversations we may or may not have had with the Chinese.

Does this follow up on this?

QUESTION: North Korea.

MR. WOOD: Why don’t we just take this here and – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on reports that – forgive me if you discussed this yesterday, but the leader of North Korea has been shown in what are purported to be recent photographs in a healthy sort of setting, addressing the people of North Korea.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I’ve seen the same photos that you’ve seen. I don’t have any way of verifying, you know, for you what the condition is of his health. We just don’t know.

QUESTION: How about the condition of those photos, whether they’re recent or --

MR. WOOD: Well, I assume our people are taking a look at those photos and analyzing them, but I don’t have any conclusions to give you at this point.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the transition from the Bush to the Obama Administration?

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, as you know, there is a transition underway. We have not yet been contacted by the transition team that will be responsible for the State Department. We await those contacts, and we have a team of 24 Department of State employees who will – who are ready to help assist the transition team with beginning its work. And – but nothing else at this point.

Anything else? Okay, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:47 a.m.)

dpb # 189

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