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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 1, 2008

Visual from today's briefing:
Map of Georgia

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

Christopher Hill’s Travel / Moving the Six-Party Process Forward / Nothing New in Terms of Substance or Choreography / Special Roll of the Chinese / Verification / Meeting Obligations / Interagency Process / Playing a Positive Role in Moving the Six-Party Process Forward / Handing over the Process to a New Administration

RUSSIA

Putin’s Comments on U.S. Financial System / Congress Taking Steps / Working Closely with International Partners

INDIA

Indian Civil Nuclear Deal / Working Closely with Both Sides / Urge Passage of Legislation / Good for U.S.-India Relationship

LEBANON/SYRIA

Security Situation in Northern Lebanon / Capable of Dealing with Threats to Stability

CUBA

Prensa Latina “I” Visas / Consular Affairs Considering Issuing

DEPARTMENT

Report of Explosive Device Found near Egyptian Embassy / Department of State Works Closely with All Missions in DC

GEORGIA

Positions on Russian Troops in Georgia / EU Monitoring Mission


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:40 a.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with. We can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Nothing to start off with? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have –

QUESTION: North Korea? 

MR. MCCORMACK: – we do – if some questions do come up about Georgia, we have a couple of maps about Georgia, but we’re –

QUESTION: You’ve discussed that already. 

QUESTION: So can you give us an update on Chris Hill’s travels and what he’s accomplished, so far? 

MR. MCCORMACK: He has traveled to Pyongyang. He is, I think, back in Seoul right now and he’s going to be traveling tomorrow to Beijing.[1] I haven’t gotten a read-out of his discussions. He went there to – at the invitation of the North Korean Government in an effort to try to move the Six-Party process forward. Offer – he could offer any explanations that might be required regarding the verification regime that is being proposed by the other five members of the Six-Party Talks. And again, we’ll see what the visit yields. The ball is, in essence, in the North Koreans’ court. And we’ll see if they make a different set of decisions than they’ve been making over the past month.

QUESTION: But you have no idea if he succeeded in moving the process forward or not? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I, you know, haven’t talked to him.

QUESTION: Has he briefed the Secretary, Sean?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. Didn’t ask her about it.

QUESTION: Is he making proposed changes to the Iraq protocol? 

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No. There’s no – and I saw this in a story that he was bringing, quote, “new proposals.” And inasmuch as that refers to any change in the substance, that would be incorrect. He, of course would talk about how the process can move forward, any of the sort of choreography of that process, but there was no – he wasn’t bringing with him any new substance in terms of proposals. 

QUESTION: What do you mean by choreography? Do you mean, like, sequencing, for example, things like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Those sorts of things. I don’t want to get in too deeply into it, but, in essence, yes.  In essence, yes. 

QUESTION: You should –

QUESTION: He wasn’t bringing new ideas? 

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he was not, not in terms of the substance and changing the verification proposal, no. 

QUESTION: Well – but it sounds like he’s bringing something. When you say it’s not –

MR. MCCORMACK: No, he was –

QUESTION: – specifically on the substance, it sounds like there is something new in the, kind of, means of delivery and the –

MR. MCCORMACK: I would only say that you know, we have in this process used the Chinese, who are chair of the Six-Party Talks, as a way of, in the past, serving as a repository for documents and information. But so – I don’t want to get into it any more deeply than that. But the Chinese have – after they’ve served as a repository or an escrow account, if you will, for information and declarations, that has been shared with all the other members of the Six-Party Talks. So I guess the best way to put it is, Chris really isn’t plowing any new ground here, either in terms of substance or in terms of choreography.

QUESTION: So it sounds like –

QUESTION: Well, wait a second, you just said that he was. He was just talking about the choreography.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, he was talking about the choreography, but not breaking with precedent. I mean, we have, as I described very briefly to you, used the Chinese and the Chinese have served a special role as chair of the process. But no, he’s not plowing any new ground.

QUESTION: So the Chinese are not only an escrow account for the U.S. financial system, they’re now an escrow account –

MR. MCCORMACK: Very nice, Matt. 

QUESTION: You would expect that in this particular case then, they would again be the depository. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, we’ll see how this plays out. Again, the ball is in the North Koreans’ court. They are the ones who have been steadily taking steps to try to reverse what they have done in the past. They have to stop – you know, stop that. They have to reverse their reversal, and they have to approve a verification regime.  And we have made clear – and Chris did reiterate, I do know this – that we are prepared to meet our obligations, should North Korea meet its obligations. 

QUESTION: What do you mean by choreography?  

QUESTION: Yeah. 

QUESTION: Sorry, maybe I’m thick here, but what are you talking about, maybe?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, it’s –

QUESTION: I mean, that’s a big word for what – what does it all mean? Well, in terms of choreography, do you mean the timing of everything? What do you mean? 

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of who hands what to what person when.

QUESTION: Okay. 

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s basically it. 

QUESTION: But you’re still –

QUESTION: Who delists –

QUESTION: Who delists who?

MR. MCCORMACK: Who does what and when and – 

QUESTION: At what point. Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it’s – they’re non-substantive issues. That’s the best way to put it. 

QUESTION: But you’re –

QUESTION: Well, but –

QUESTION: You’re still demanding, though, that the – that you will only take them off the terrorism list if they agree to the mechanism?

MR. MCCORMACK: The verification. 

QUESTION: The verification, right. Yeah. 

MR. MCCORMACK: The verification is part of the declaration. We view that as part and parcel of the declaration. 

QUESTION: And have you put forward any new conditions within the verification mechanism or protocol or whatever you like to call it? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Not from what was tabled in the Six-Party Talks. 

QUESTION: And from what I understand, the U.S. position seems to be more hardline than others within the Six-Party – or five party –

MR. MCCORMACK: We talked to that. We’re all of one mind here. We want to move the process forward. I mean, just judging very generally from the Secretary’s meetings up in New York, I think that everybody is essentially on the same page. I can’t tell you whether there are degrees of variation in each country’s thinking, but in essence, everybody is on the same page.

QUESTION: Good.

QUESTION: And would you say that also you’re all on the same page within the Administration? Because what I understand, the White House – Dick Cheney’s office, in particular – has been much more stringent in their requirements than, for example – which has been holding up the deal.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I can’t speak to the particular position of any particular entity within the – within this process other than the State Department. I will say, however, that this has been an interagency process in which all the relevant agencies and entities have had an opportunity to provide input, whether that input is at the level of the President meeting with his senior-most advisors, or that input is at a lower working level. I mean, that has been the way this process has worked. And it has been at the discretion of the President, as well as the Secretary, as to how that process works. But everybody has had an opportunity to provide input.

And this is an issue that is serious enough that I think everybody welcomes a variety of different points of view. That’s how the policy-making process should work, and those views should be aired, fully explored, analyzed and looked at. But once there’s a final decision that is made by the President, then that is the policy.

QUESTION: The last sort of crisis between the two – between North Korea and the U.S., Banco Delta Asia, took months and months and months and months to resolve. Are you optimistic that you’re going to be able to get some breakthrough before the end of the Administration, or do you think that it could go the same way as BDA did and take months?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll – you know, we’ll see, Sue. We don’t know how this will play out. As I said, much depends on what North Korea decides to do, and that is a decision-making process into which we don’t have a lot of visibility. So we shall see. There – as with many of these policies that we’re pursuing, whether it’s with Iran or North Korea or others, there are two pathways. They have choices to make. And if they make a certain set of choices, they can realize a different set of relationships with the rest of the world and realize benefits from those choices. Otherwise, there is deepened isolation and there will be increasing costs. 

Now, North Korea in contradistinction to Iran recently, at least as of a month ago, was making a set of choices in which it was realizing some of the benefits. It has, within the past month, taken a set of decisions that call into question what they had previously done. We hope that they, as I said, reverse their reversal on that and play a positive role in moving the Six-Party process forward. 

You know, with all of these issues, whether it’s the Middle East or Iran or North Korea or any other issue over which we have stewardship, it is going to be a matter of acting in the national interest until January 20th, 2009. And at that point, we will hand over these issues to the next administration, whomever that may be. And we will act in a responsible manner in the national interest up until that point in time. And what we – certainly, we would like to accomplish whatever can reasonably be accomplished in a responsible way that is in the national interest before that time. But in some cases, we are going to hand over a process or a mechanism, a way to solve a problem that others who follow on from us will need to deal with. And that is – that’s the nature of foreign policy in the United States Government going back decades.

QUESTION: Fine on that.

QUESTION: Well, two things. One, on that handing over the process –

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This Administration, when it came into power, was pretty blithe, or rather dismissive, and rejected the process that the Clinton administration had handed over on this very same subject, on North Korea. You expect the next administration, whoever it is, to – just to pick up where you left off and not go and do its own review?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no. What we will do and what we hope to do in each of these cases is to hand over a set of accomplishments and a mechanism or a process for further accomplishments, or a mechanism or process that will allow a resolution to a number of these very, very difficult issues around the world, whether it’s North Korea, Iran, or the Middle East. Whoever comes next, it will be their prerogative to pursue whatever policies they think are best, whether that is to pick up in whole or in part what it is this Administration has accomplished and left in place, or not. That will be completely up to them. But we will be responsible stewards of the national interest in that we will hand over to the next administration what we think are either solutions or ways to get to a solution.

QUESTION: Thanks. Specifically, on this, you said – if it’s correct that what Chris is – what Chris Hill has brought to North Korea is non-substantive, why did he bother going?

MR. MCCORMACK: Because he was invited by the North Koreans, and we thought that it was worth the while to take up the invitation from North Korea in the hopes that perhaps that would help move the process forward. We thought that it was worth the plane ticket, his going there, to see if the process would move forward. You know, if he – if it would – if it helps the process for him to be able to face-to-face explain once again what the verification process is, what the verification process is not, as well as our commitment to fulfilling our obligations, then that is time well spent, in our view.

QUESTION: Does the United States have any objection to shifting or altering the procedure, the – by which one gets to the protocol being submitted or being accepted?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see what – any suggestions they have back. But there are procedures we have used in the past that seemed to have worked pretty well.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m talking – well, I’m talking more about the – what you termed the choreography and the sequencing and the – just the way the process goes. You’re – as long as you get to that end result of what you want, you don’t object to slight modifications of what happens in –

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll listen. If there is a constructive – if there is a, you know, a constructive proposal that doesn’t violate our principles or the principles of the negotiation, of course, we’re going to listen to it. But we also have – we have ways, tried and true ways, of doing this within the Six-Party Talks that have worked previously.

QUESTION: Sean, Russian Prime Minister said today that U.S. responsibility led to the global financial crisis and he added, we see an inability to take –

MR. MCCORMACK: Who is this? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Russian Prime Minister –

MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: – Vladimir Putin: We see an inability to take appropriate decisions. This isn’t the irresponsibility of particular individuals, it’s the irresponsibility of a system that, as we know, had claims to leadership. Do you have any reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure what the point – you know, again, I don’t get the context of what he’s saying.

QUESTION: Yeah, he was talking –

MR. MCCORMACK: There’s a financial crisis. We all know that. The Congress is taking steps or considering steps to deal with it, as are other institutions that are given the responsibility to regulate and monitor our financial systems. So I’m not sure what the point is of this particular comment.

QUESTION: Saying that the system – it’s not an individual irresponsibility. It’s the irresponsibility of a system that, as we know, had claims to leadership; that you have responsibility to lead with this issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I’m not quite sure what he’s getting at. You know, without straying outside of my lane here, I will observe just some of the facts that our officials from the Department of Treasury, as well as from our federal reserve bank have been working quite closely with international partners, other central banks, other finance ministries. So again, I don’t – you know, if there’s a further point he’s trying to make there, I guess I’m not seeing it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The Senate is going to vote on the India civil nuclear deal tonight, I think about 7:30 or so. Do you have any comment on that? And do you have anything else you’d like to mention on India?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new. I suppose you’re alluding to potential travel and trip announcements. I don’t have a trip announcement for you today. In terms of the vote, we had heard that the Senate was proposing to have a vote later this evening. Again, that’s – we’re staying out that. That’s their prerogative. We have been working quite closely with both sides, the House and the Senate. The House has acted and it is now for the Senate to consider the measure. We would urge the passage of the legislation, as we have done in the past. We think it’s an important legislation that’s good for the United States. It’s good for the global nonproliferation regime, and it’s good for the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: You’re sure you haven’t changed your mind on that since – for the last – over the last four months (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you guys keep asking the questions, I’ll keep giving you the answers.

QUESTION: Well, I just want to make sure there hadn’t been any last minute change of heart on the Administration’s part.

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no change of heart. No.

QUESTION: It’s still a good thing. So has the Secretary made many phone calls today?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t believe that there were any phone calls today. But she’s been quite active in working this issue over the past –

QUESTION: So you think you’ve got it –

MR. MCCORMACK: – week or so.

QUESTION: – in the bag for the Senate?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re hoping – we’re hopeful for a positive vote. But again, each individual senator is going to have to express their views through their vote. And we hope the final tally is one that allows the legislation to pass.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: President Asad of Syria has said yesterday that the security in north of Lebanon is a threat for the security of Syria. Do you have any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: The threat of –

QUESTION: The security – the situation in the north of Lebanon and the security situation there is a threat to the security of Syria.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the Lebanese have shown that they – the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese military have demonstrated that they are quite capable of –increasing – they are increasingly capable of dealing with threats to stability in Lebanon themselves.

Matthew.

QUESTION: Do you have any more clarity at all on what’s going on with this hijacked ship off Somalia?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing more to report. I know that you could – well, first of all, you can talk to the Department of Defense –

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: – regarding the status of their ships. But nothing new, no new information. I’ve seen a bunch of other reports that have come out of the incident, but I can’t confirm anything for you.

QUESTION: Okay. And then yesterday, I asked the – two questions on Cuba, one of which was punted to Justice. But the other one, which is about these two journalists, who have –

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We –

QUESTION: Do you have anything on –

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the information I have, it falls into the usual black hole of visa matters are confidential. But I think that they have appealed the decision, and I think that appeal is being considered right now. [2]

QUESTION: Where is that? Is that here or is that there in Havana?

MR. MCCORMACK: Do you know?

MR. DUGUID: It’s here.

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s here. Here in Washington.

QUESTION: And is it you guys that handle the appeal or is it DHS? Because I think we went into this same thing with the Amy Winehouse case.

MR. MCCORMACK: Do we – is this a joint effort? Gordon?

MR. DUGUID: My understanding is that it’s been appealed to the State Department to Consular Affairs.

MR. MCCORMACK: There we are. So Consular Affairs here in Washington, D.C., is considering –

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: – considering this.

Elise.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on reports that there has been an explosive device found near the Egyptian Embassy here in Washington?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I don’t have any reports of that. Of course, we work closely with all the missions here and the D.C. Metropolitan Police to help provide security for the embassies.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.

QUESTION: Oh, I was going to let you (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: You don’t want to see my maps? We can go back and you can see my maps.

QUESTION: Of the peacekeepers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. It’s actually pretty –

QUESTION: Oh, that would be good, actually.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, come sit down. We’ll start again. Let’s start up – we’ll fire up the maps. Please, sit down.

QUESTION: You want us to move back?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sit down. Sit down. We’ll fire up the maps.

QUESTION: Okay, I’m happy to do the maps to explain –

QUESTION: We’re going back?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we’re going back.

QUESTION: Please everyone, have a seat.

MR. MCCORMACK:  Yeah, we’re going to go back and do the maps.

QUESTION: Point to the maps?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we’re going to point to the maps, and –

QUESTION: Do you have a pointer?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look – if it is, you’re complicit in it. So you’re willingly being manipulated.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we’re going back.

QUESTION: We’re whole again.

MR. MCCORMACK: There we are. Do we have lights? There we are.

QUESTION: Showing off his new toys.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it’s useful.

QUESTION: Sean, what’s going with Russia, Georgia. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Russia and Georgia.

QUESTION: This isn’t FEMA.

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m glad you asked. I’m glad you asked. Okay, let’s bring up the full map of Georgia – so we’ll go. What we have here on this map – the last time you saw this we had troops, Russian troops, in these areas that have pulled out. These white dots indicate positions where Russian troops have pulled out. 

Let’s focus in on Poti for a second. There. So this is where the Russian positions were. They previously had pulled out in September. These blue dots indicate where the EU mission monitors have taken up. These red dots on the outside are still where Russian troops remain outside of the administrative boundaries of Abkhazia. And again, under the final ceasefire agreement, they should be out of Georgia. 

Let’s go over to near Gori. Gori –

QUESTION: Well, what was the green dotted line?

MR. MCCORMACK: The green –

QUESTION: Is that just the border?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s an administrative border. It’s not – it is not an international boundary. The international boundary is up here. This is just to demonstrate for you, this green line, the administrative border of Abkhazia and here is South Ossetia. And again, you can see here the blue dots where the EU monitoring mission has taken up positions. You will notice that you don’t have any of the white dots here where the Russians have removed any of their checkpoints or any of their forces yet. 

Now, there are news stories about the EU monitoring mission, actually today, going out on patrols, and that was from this location here. And they patrolled out to the west, a bit to the north, and a bit to the east as well. And I saw some news stories that referred to Karaleti, a checkpoint, and that’s that checkpoint right there. So they were able to go out on patrol. And what is also important about the deployment of these monitoring missions – we can go to the wider map – is that this triggers the next step in the Russian withdrawal. So 10 days from this period, on October 10th, the Russian forces that you see in Georgia should be out of Georgia. And we’ll continue to update these maps as we see movement or even non-movement.

QUESTION: That –

QUESTION: So it means that the so-called security zones where these –

MR. MCCORMACK: No, those aren’t the – those are not the security zones that are outlined there. I’m happy to work on getting a map for you that will demonstrate what the so-called zone of conflict and then the security zones. So we’ll try to get you that information if you find it’s useful.

QUESTION: That would be good, yeah.

QUESTION: It doesn’t appear, at least on your map – I don’t know what the scale is – that they got very far outside of Gori.

MR. MCCORMACK: The –

QUESTION: Are they trying? Were they stopped?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, the news reports and the reports that we have is that yesterday the Russians said they would not be able to go through those checkpoints. Today, in fact, they were able to go through those checkpoints. And I suspect –

QUESTION: They are leaving?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, the one checkpoint that I saw referred to in a news story – Karaleti is right here. And so from their base here they were able to go to the north, they were able to go to the west – and again, this isn’t meant to indicate a particular distance here; I’m just trying to indicate direction – and then they were also able to go to the east.

Yes.

QUESTION: Since we’re back sitting down –

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: – can I ask you about Somalia? The U.S. –

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Anything else on Georgia, Russia? Okay, so we’ll work on that other map, see if we can generate the information.

QUESTION: Especially by October 10, the deadline, that would be good to see.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Has the Somali foreign ministry kind of informed you or any other foreign powers that foreign powers could use force in coordination with the Somali Government against these hijacked vessels?

MR. MCCORMACK: What, in their –

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: – territorial waters?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Good question, Elise. I don’t know. I’ll – let me check for you.

QUESTION: Can you check? Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:02 a.m.)

DPB # 164


[1] Assistant Secretary Hill will overnight in Pyongyang, hold meetings tomorrow with North Korean officials, and then head overland to Seoul.
[2] In accordance with our UN Headquarters agreement, we have decided to issue visas to the two individuals in question.


Released on October 1, 2008

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