|Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)|
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
November 12, 2008
|U.S. Condemns Burmas Sentencing of Political Activists / Calls for Dialogue, Release of Political Prisoners|
|U.S. Has Raised the Issue of Burmas Democracy and Human Rights|
|Will Continue to Work with Allies|
|Ballistic Missile Test is a Violation of UN Security Council Resolutions|
|U.S. Will Talk to Allies on Issue of Broad International Pressure|
|Irans Behavior and International Obligations|
|U.S. has Made Case That Russia Should Not Worry About Missile Defense|
|U.S. Missile Defense Deals with Growing Threat from Middle East|
|Russian Cooperation is Needed / Missile Defense Also in Russias Interest|
|No Official Notification from Russia on Missile Defense|
|Discussions on Verification Issues Will Continue|
|U.S. is Doing Its Part on Action-for-Action Strategy / Deliverables|
|All Should Adhere to Their Obligations Under the Verification|
|U.S. Has a Process in Place / Committed to That Process|
|Query on Lower-Level Interaction with President-Elects Transition Team|
|President-Elect Obamas Election was Historic|
|State Departments Office of Transition Affairs|
|U.S. Position on the Name Issue Addressed Many Times|
|American Citizen and a Pakistani Killed in Peshawar / U.S. Consulate Investigating|
|Warden Message Issued / U.S. Consulate was Open Today|
|U.S. Investigating Incident with Pakistani Authorities|
|U.S. Has Ongoing Discussions with Saudis on Issues Related to Democracy|
|President Bush to Speak at Session / Secretary Rices Scheduled Lunch with Tzipi Livni|
|Iraqis Studying Text on SOFA|
10:40 a.m.. EST
MR. WOOD: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Good morning, good to see you. I’m just going to start off with some points on Burma, I just want to make.
The United States strongly condemns the Burmese regime’s harsh sentencing of at least 30 political activists to between two and sixty-five years in prison. These brave democracy activists are peaceful citizens whose only crime was to challenge the regime’s illegitimate rule.
We further condemn the manner in which the trials were conducted. The regime held closed court sessions and did not allow family members or lawyers to attend. We reiterate our call for the regime to cease harassing and arresting civilians for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized human rights.
We also call on the regime to begin a genuine dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority representatives and to immediately release all of Burma’s over 2,000 political prisoners, including Aung San Sui Kyi and those convicted in recent days.
And with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: Robert, will you raise that at the UN --
QUESTION: Well, I was -- you know, last week, or maybe it was even earlier this week, the President appointed a special envoy for Burma.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is -- has that person – I don’t know if that requires Senate confirmation or not, but is that person on the job, and do they have any plans to go there?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, I don’t know. Why don’t you check with the White House on that, since it was, you know, someone --
QUESTION: This person is working at the State Department.
MR. WOOD: Well, yeah, I can look into it and see if I can find an update on that for you.
QUESTION: Will you try to raise this issue at the UN? Would you convene an emergency meeting?
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to talk about what we may or may not do, but we obviously are going to raise this issue at various levels. We have raised the issue -- as you know, the issue of human rights and democracy, with the Burmese. We’ll continue to do that and – but I don’t want to get ahead as to where we might go from here.
QUESTION: Robert, is there --
QUESTION: Burma seems to be acting with even more sort of impunity. Is there anything that – is there any kind of new thinking about what can be done to put some leverage on Burma?
MR. WOOD: Well, we will continue to work with our allies to try to see if there are ways we can, you know, come up with additional pressure to put on the Burmese. You know, we are very concerned about the situation in Burma, as we have said many times. And we’re going to continue to look for ways to increase that pressure on the Burmese. And we call on them, again, to release all political prisoners from detention. So we’ll continue working this issue.
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: Burma -- have they supported – continue to advise the Chinese regime, including financially and also arms supply and all that? Do you think that’s what – Burma think that maybe nobody will come to – after them?
MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t tell you what the Burmese are thinking. But we’re concerned about a lot of activities that the Burmese have been engaged in. And you know, again, as I said, we’ll continue to work with our allies on the best ways we can to try to put additional pressure on the Burmese to correct their behavior.
QUESTION: Are you in talks with China?
MR. WOOD: Well, we talk with a wide range of countries. I just don’t want to focus on one particular country. We do talk to our allies in the region.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. WOOD: New subject, okay.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Iran’s recent missile tests? It’s obviously in range of Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.
MR. WOOD: Well, obviously, you know, these ballistic missile tests by Iran are certainly in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and certainly are not in accordance with its international obligations. So we’re obviously concerned about that. And we will have discussions with our friends and allies about how we can put further pressure on the Iranians to, you know, stop carrying out these missile tests because they are not good for stability in the region.
QUESTION: Well, you’re just concerned that they violated the Security Council. I mean, what about the fact that they have a missile that can reach Israel? I mean, not that --
MR. WOOD: Well, it is. It’s very much a concern of ours, okay? And so we will talk with our allies to see that we can bring broad international pressure on the Iranians to stop conducting these types of tests.
QUESTION: So you think this will be – this will be brought up on Thursday in Paris?
MR. WOOD: Look, Iran is – the issue of Iran’s nuclear program will be discussed, and other issues with regard to Iran’s behavior certainly will be looked at.
QUESTION: Including this?
MR. WOOD: It’s hard for me to say whether -- that it will, you know, definitely come up. But certainly, you know, Iran’s behavior in the international – Iran’s international obligations are something that we’re going to discuss at every opportunity that we can. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that did come up.
QUESTION: Just somewhat related to Thursday’s meeting, Bill Burns is in Moscow today.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Russians have come out and said that they’re – they have rejected your new proposal on missile defense cooperation. What do you have to say about that?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to comment on what unnamed Russian officials have said. What I will say is that we have made the case time and again to Russia that missile defense is not something that Russia needs to worry about. This is something that we’re doing to deal with future rogue threats coming from the Middle East, particularly from Iran. And we’ll continue to work with the Russians. We want to cooperate with them on missile defense. And so that’s what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: Do you think that this latest test puts a heightened urgency, or will it give you any leverage in dealing with the Russians on this?
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know if it will have any leverage with Russia. But again, you know, we have made the point to them that this is an important issue. This is a growing threat that we need to be able to deal with, and I’m talking about, you know, future missile attacks from Iran. And we need Russia’s cooperation. And missile defense is a critical component of what we’re trying to do in terms of building regional stability. And so we hope that Russia will cooperate with us closely on this. We want to have discussions and we want to work with them, but it takes two to tango.
QUESTION: But I mean, why aren’t you making a stronger case that today’s missile test obviously shows the danger of long-range missiles posed by Iran?
MR. WOOD: Well, I – certainly, I think it’s pretty obvious, when Iran launches one of these ballistic missiles, that this is something of concern to the international community, and I’m including Russia in the international community here. And so again, we think missile defense is in the interest of not only the United States and its European allies, but also Russia. And so we’ll continue to make the case to Russia that we need to cooperate closely on missile defense and, hopefully, they will --
QUESTION: Will* you use this latest test as an example?
MR. WOOD: Whether we will or not, I don’t know. I’m not in – you know, I’m not – I haven’t had discussions with the Russians recently, but it’s obviously a concern. The Russians are certainly going to be aware of the fact or are aware of the fact that this test took place. So they should see it’s in their interest as well that we do what we can to limit – you know, to limit and to do away with these types of tests.
MR. WOOD: Let me go here. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: North Korea says that it --
MR. WOOD: Everybody want to stay on this subject?
QUESTION: On Iran.
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: Robert, in his first press conference, President-elect Obama warned Iran on nuclear test and also including supporting terrorism and (inaudible). Do you see anything change when he takes as far as Iran-U.S. relations are concerned?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what President-elect Obama’s team will do. I’ll let the transition headquarters speak to those issues. I can just speak to what the Administration’s policies are here.
Mm-hmm. Let me go over here. Yeah, please.
QUESTION: One more, just in terms of the kind of missile this was, do you think you can substantiate their claims that it uses solid fuel, which makes it more --
MR. WOOD: I’m not able to do that from here.
QUESTION: Robert, just --
MR. WOOD: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: North Korea says that they’re slowing their disablement of Yongbyon. This is just about a month after you had gotten them to reverse the reversal. And the reason that they give is their claim that they are not receiving the economic compensation as stipulated at the pace at which they expect to. What’s your reaction to that and are you – do you think that their argument has merit that the, you know, fuel oil and equivalent has not been flowing to them at the rate agreed?
MR. WOOD: Well, look, with regard to verification issues, we’ve had discussions and we’ll continue to have discussions with the North Koreans on this issue. Last week, we provided the North Koreans with 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil. And it – apparently, the shipment will arrive in the DPRK on two different ships in late November and early December 2008. So again, this is part of our action-for-action strategy. I’m not able to tell you what the North Koreans are thinking.
But again, just going back to the issue of verification, if you remember the understandings on verification that were issued last month, it’s – it was basically agreed that experts could take samples and remove them from the country for testing. So as far as I’m concerned, the United States is doing its part with regard to action- for-action. And we’re going to continue to have these discussions with the North on verification. And so I’ll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Two things. One, you said last week you made a shipment of 500,000 metric tons?
MR. WOOD: That’s right.
QUESTION: A single shipment of 500 metric – I mean, in two deliveries?
MR. WOOD: In two – there will be two deliveries.
QUESTION: And that’s from the United States alone?
MR. WOOD: This is the United States. We procured this heavy fuel oil.
QUESTION: Back to the --
QUESTION: That seems larger than I would have – I mean, it was a total a million --
MR. WOOD: Well, this is my understanding.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the other – the second thing is, are they preventing you from taking samples and removing them from the country?
MR. WOOD: Well, look, let me just say that – I’ll go back to the understandings on verification. You know, it was agreed that experts could do this. It’s an important element of the verification process. And we don’t want to see – we want everybody to adhere to their obligations under this verification – these understandings of verification, so --
QUESTION: I mean, you yourself raised it, though, which raises the question of why you raised it, which makes me think that they’re not letting you do that.
MR. WOOD: Well, there have been some press reports about this. And I just wanted to be very clear and straight with everybody that, you know, this is something that you will find, if you go back and you look at the understandings on verification, it is clearly stated in there that experts would be allowed to, you know, to do -- conduct sampling and --
QUESTION: So you can’t say from here that they’re not allowing you to do that?
MR. WOOD: I’m not going to say from here whether they’re allowing us or not. I’m just saying -- I’m responding to some of these press reports and I just wanted to make it very clear where things are with regard to – on the sampling issue.
QUESTION: They’re supposed to let you do that?
MR. WOOD: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So then why isn’t this another example of North Korea kind of getting – making some kind of deal with you to get what it wants and then reneging on the deal? I mean, how can you – I mean, if, in fact, it’s true and you say you don’t have substantiation of it, then how can you really ever trust what the North Koreans say, if they tell you they’re going to do one thing, and then they turn around and they do the exact opposite?
MR. WOOD: Look, I never said it was easy to deal with North Korea on this issue. It’s been – as you know, these discussions have been going on for quite some time. It’s a challenge dealing with the North. But again, we have a process in place. We’re committed to that process. We want to do what we can with our other Six-Party allies to make sure that the North adheres to what it agreed to do. And so I’m not going to kid you that, you know, this has been an easy process. It certainly hasn’t been.
QUESTION: Do you think that until they sign the – actually sign the agreement, I don’t think it’s – that the Six Parties have actually gotten together to sign this.
MR. WOOD: No, they haven’t done that yet.
QUESTION: So until they sign it, do they – do you see – as if they don’t feel that they have an obligation to follow through with the verbal agreements that they made?
MR. WOOD: I can’t speak for the North. All I can tell you is that we have this process. We’ve had various agreements that have been reached with the North and others. And so we want to make sure that those agreements are carried out.
QUESTION: I have a few questions on the transition.
MR. WOOD: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you know if anyone is down there working yet from the Obama transition team?
MR. WOOD: To my knowledge, no, not yet.
QUESTION: As of today?
MR. WOOD: As of today.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if you’ve been notified by the Obama transition team who the State Department – who will lead their State Department transition efforts? There’s been rumors that it’s Wendy Sherman and Tom Donilon.
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m – again, out of respect for the President-elect’s transition process, I’m not going to comment on who may or may not be on the team that comes over here to the State Department. I’d refer you to the transition headquarters on that.
QUESTION: Do you know if you’ve been notified who the officials will be?
MR. WOOD: Again, I think for any official notification of who those individuals are going to be, I’d refer you, again, to the transition headquarters.
QUESTION: And I wanted to clarify something that was said yesterday, I think it was. Have there been any contacts, even at a lower level, between the State Department team and the Obama team about the transition from the State Department perspective?
MR. WOOD: Well, certainly, from – let me just say that of course, we are looking to – looking forward to the team when it is officially named and arrives here at the Department, but I really don’t want to go into the question of whether there have been lower-level – you know, whether there’s been lower-level interaction with regard to the – with the President-elect’s transition team for the State Department. We’ll let you know as soon as we do – as soon as we know who those people are and when they’ll be showing up.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary has spoken her views about President-elect Obama. And what do you – how do you feel, being an African American, that – you think – he is the first president-elect from the minorities? And do you think he will bring some changes for the minorities in this country?
MR. WOOD: Look, I think President-elect Obama’s election was historic. It certainly, I think, lifts the hopes of many people around the country – not just minorities – about, you know, that you can reach, you know, your potential; you just have to work at it. But I’m not up here to express my own personal views on that. But it was an historic election, and I think everybody recognizes that.
Let me go to Lambros. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Wood, the popular Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is arriving today in Washington for the upcoming economic summit of the White House. I’m wondering if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to meet Mr. Erdogan?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know at this point. We’ll let you know if indeed, you know, she is going to get a chance to meet. I just don’t know. I haven’t seen any schedules yet on that. We’ll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: On FYROM.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Mr. Wood, the expressed desire by the U.S. Government is FYROM should become a NATO member in December. But NATO set up that the condition – for the solution on the name issue. I’m wondering what the Department of State is doing exactly since December is approaching.
MR. WOOD: Well, Mr. Lambros, you know our position with regard to the name issue. We want to see that issue resolved. And there’s diplomacy ongoing to try to resolve that issue, so I don’t want to get ahead of it, but --
QUESTION: May we have an answer from Assistant Secretary in charge Daniel Fried, why he never produced any press guidance on this important issue for the Office of the Spokesman?
MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, we have – we have addressed this issue many times.
QUESTION: Actually --
MR. WOOD: We have addressed this issue of the name many times.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Russia, can you confirm the START talks are resuming in Geneva Thursday, I believe, until November 21st?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, I don’t have the exact dates on that. You can check with the press office. We can get you that. I’m just – I’m not sure of the dates off the top of my head.
QUESTION: Also, Russia – let’s see – can you confirm that the Russians have contacted you to reject the proposals on missile defense?
MR. WOOD: We haven’t heard – again, as I think I alluded to earlier, that we haven’t gotten any – as far as I know, any official, you know, notification from the Russians with regard to that. We’ve just – I’ve seen reports about unnamed Russian officials commenting on it.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what your understanding of this incident in Peshawar – what your understanding is?
MR. WOOD: Yeah. There was an attack this morning in Peshawar in which an American citizen and a Pakistani were killed. The Consulate in Peshawar – the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar and Pakistani authorities are investigating, and we did – a Warden Message has gone out to the community in Peshawar. We do not have a Privacy Act waiver at this point, so I can’t go into further detail about the American.
QUESTION: The Warden Message tells the consular – consular employees to stay in place for today.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What exactly does that mean?
MR. WOOD: It means, basically, for them to stay --
QUESTION: At home?
MR. WOOD: You know, at home, if they’re at home, if – you know, if they are at work, and I believe that – you know, the office is closed by now, that they should have stayed in the office until further notice. But the Consulate was open today.
QUESTION: Is it going to be open tomorrow?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know, but it was open today. We’ll let you know if indeed, you know, the Consulate does not reopen tomorrow.
QUESTION: Well, just to be clear --
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the officials are kind of being kept inside the compound of the Consulate and not allowed to leave?
MR. WOOD: No, I – look, I think primarily what this Warden Message was geared at is for, you know, local American community – those Americans who are out and about in Peshawar, that they should basically stay at home, and – but I don’t think it was meant for anything broader than that, saying that we need to, you know, keep people stationed in the Consulate, you know, for an extended period of time. But you know, again, I wasn’t there on the ground, but I’m sure at the time of – the killings were reported, that we wanted our people to stay in place for the time being. But that wasn’t meant to be something that was going to, you know --
QUESTION: From the time until you find the perpetrators, until the time being of more security?
MR. WOOD: Until further notification from --
QUESTION: Are you considering an authorized departure?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know what we’re planning to do at this point. We’re obviously investigating this incident with the Pakistani authorities, as I mentioned. And you know, if we decide that we’re going to do something different, we’ll certainly let you know.
Let me go back here, please.
QUESTION: The former president of Taiwan Chen Shui-bian was formally arrested for the money laundering allegations, and he described it as the political persecution. He also think that this is the joint work of the KMT party and the Chinese Communist Party. Your reaction to that?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have any reaction to that. I haven’t – it’s the first I’ve heard of it.
QUESTION: Next week, on Monday and Tuesday, the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue is going to be held in Beijing. Li Gun* from North Korea is going to be there. I’m wondering if anybody from here is going. Any meetings?
MR. WOOD: Don’t know. We’ll look – we’ll see if we can get you an answer to that.
QUESTION: One quick one, Robert. The next two days, Saudi Arabia will head Interfaith Conference, a religious tolerance conference in United Nations. But they don’t really respect human rights or other religious faith, religious faith in their country, and also the rights of the woman. So what do you feel or how the Secretary feels that somebody who doesn't respect --
MR. WOOD: Well, look, we have, on many occasions, talked to our Saudi friends about some of our concerns with regard to freedom of expression, women’s rights, and other issues related to democracy, and we’ll continue to do that. And this is an ongoing discussion we have with Saudi Arabia. They’re our friends, close allies, and we do raise these issues with them because they are of concern to us.
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: On that, what exactly – the notice that went out last night about the Secretary going to this event said she was going to participate, but it didn’t say anything more than that. What exactly does her participation entail, and is she planning to see anyone up there on the side of the --
MR. WOOD: As you know, the President is going to be speaking at the session, and she will attend that. She is going to have lunch with Tzipi Livni today. Other meetings – her schedule is in flux at the moment, so I can’t confirm any meetings for you. But at least I know that the lunch has been scheduled, and we’ll certainly keep you posted in terms of whom she’s going to meet with up there.
QUESTION: So she’s going to be there tomorrow as well?
MR. WOOD: She’s going to – I believe she’s going to be there tomorrow and then head off to --
MR. WOOD: Yeah, that’s right.
QUESTION: So she will be there when the President speaks?
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: But she herself is not – her participation today doesn't involve a speaking role?
MR. WOOD: To my knowledge, no. I don’t have anything here on that, no.
Lambros, one last question.
QUESTION: One more on FYROM. Mr. Wood, are (inaudible) the statement (inaudible) by Mr. McCormack on the name issue, and he (inaudible) spokesman. I am wondering what type of policy you are going to transfer to the Barack Obama administration on this particular issue.
MR. WOOD: As you know, Mr. Lambros, we have an office of transition affairs here. We’ll be working with the new team on a wide range of issues. Books have been prepared – briefing books for the new team for it to study and go from there. And of course, the Balkans will be one of those areas where --
QUESTION: Once again, since December is approaching, Mr. Wood, may we have a concrete answer from you about –
MR. WOOD: On what, sir?
QUESTION: On this situation. What the --
MR. WOOD: I think we’ve spoken to this quite a bit, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Is there a special briefing book on the name issue, or is it just grouped in with the Balkans issues? You don’t have --
MR. WOOD: I actually haven’t seen the --
QUESTION: -- an encyclopedic volume of --
MR. WOOD: I can just say that the issue certainly will be addressed.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one more?
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: Is there any update on the SOFA? Have you heard back from the Iraqis yet?
MR. WOOD: My understanding is that the Iraqis are studying the text, and we await to hear back from them. We think it’s, you know, a good agreement that serves both countries’ interests.
Anything else? Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:03 a.m.)
DPB # 191
Please note: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 prohibits states from providing assistance to Iran in the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, which include ballistic missiles. UNSCR 1737 does not prohibit Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests.
Released on November 12, 2008