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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 3, 2008

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

Chris Hill Talks in Pyongyang / Now in Seoul / Tomorrow to Beijing, then Washington
Discussions of Disablement Process / Verification Package
DPRK Steps to Reverse Disablement / Removal of Equipment from Storage
No Full Readout Yet
Nothing New on Kim Jong Il’s Health

CYPRUS

UN Special Envoy Downer Meetings at State Department
Follow-up to Last Week’s Rice – Foreign Minister Kyprianou Meeting

INDIA

Secretary’s Trip to New Delhi
Additional Steps on U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Deal / Congressional Approval
Focus on Implementation

MACEDONIA

Financing for Balkan History Book

GEORGIA / UKRAINE

German Chancellor Merkel’s Remarks on NATO Membership Action Plan
Bucharest Declaration / U.S. Support of MAP Status for Both Countries


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:36 a.m. EDT

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

QUESTION: Can you tell us about what Chris Hill found out in North Korea?

MR. WOOD: Well, Chris Hill just wrapped up three days of talks in Pyongyang with North Korean officials. He is now in Seoul, where he has briefed his Korean counterpart Kim Sook, and the Japanese Foreign Ministry Director General Saiki. And he will be there overnight. He goes to Beijing tomorrow, where he will brief Chinese officials and officials from the Russian Embassy. And then later tomorrow, he will head back to Washington.

While in Pyongyang, he had very lengthy, detailed, substantive discussions with North Korean officials on how we move the disablement process forward. I know that he is trying to, you know, get in touch with Secretary Rice to brief her. I don’t know if he has already. He may have. I don’t know. And we’ll wait for Chris to return to Washington and, you know, we’ll get a briefing on how things went.

QUESTION: He’s trying to get her on the plane?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, she has – I believe they’ve taken off, and he’s probably trying to reach her. He may have reached her. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: And, Robert, if I’m not mistaken, you actually quoted verbatim what Chris said in Seoul about his meetings; is that right?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t --

QUESTION: Lengthy, detailed, and substantive discussion?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m on message. (Laughter.) I’m on message.

QUESTION: So what does substantive mean? I mean, did they manage to overcome some of the stumbling blocks? Did the North Koreans come back and say, okay, we’re going to step back from the actions we’ve taken?

MR. WOOD: I honestly don’t know. I have not gotten a readout yet. And we’ll – you know, we’ll have to see what happens when Chris gets back and reports.

QUESTION: You said beforehand, or the State Department did anyway, that you weren’t offering any compromises, no new proposals. So you say that there were substantive talks. Were there – do you know if there were any proposals – new proposals raised by the North Korean side or --

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. There were discussions and they were detailed, so obviously there was a lot of --

QUESTION: And substantive.

MR. WOOD: And substantive. Very good. She reads his points as well. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, true. But you know, Sean had made a big deal up here yesterday and the day before talking about how he wasn’t – he was bringing non-substantive things with him, and now you’re saying that there were substantive talks. Are the two mutually exclusive?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, let Chris come back and report and give us a flavor of exactly what happened and what the back and forth was like. And I just – I don’t have anything more to report to you on it.

QUESTION: But following these substantive talks, are you satisfied that the process is not dead and that it’s still going to be able to move ahead?

MR. WOOD: Well, we hope to see it move ahead. I can’t tell you where things are until Chris comes back and I get a briefing on it. But again, our objective has been from the beginning – and that has been to persuade the North Koreans to submit that verification package so that we can move forward in the process. And Chris – obviously, his trip to the region was an attempt to try to use diplomatic, you know, talks and persuasion to get the North Koreans to live up to their obligations.

QUESTION: And during his discussions with the North Koreans, did Chris come back several times to the Secretary and ask her permission to forge ahead with any new ideas?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to get into the substance of any discussions Chris may or may not have had with the Secretary.

QUESTION: The thrust --

MR. WOOD: Let me completely --

QUESTION: Oh. No, Param can go ahead.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: I’ll defer to my colleague.

MR. WOOD: Okay, go ahead. Okay.

QUESTION: Now, the thrust of the State Department’s message was that North Korea hand over the verification documents to China?

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And China hands it over to the six – the five parties. In that sense, has Chris Hill made some breakthrough in that sense?

MR. WOOD: I can’t tell you. I don’t know until we’ve gotten a readout back here. But as Sean said yesterday, you know, the question of sequencing is something that obviously was being looked at. But again, it wouldn't be fair for me to sit up here – or stand up here and, you know, try to give you a readout on something that I have no details on.

Let me go to Libby and then Charlie.

QUESTION: Did you ever determine whether or not the North Koreans continued reassembling Yongbyon while Chris was on the ground there?

MR. WOOD: Well, you know, based on information we’ve – recent information we’ve received, the North Koreans continue to take some steps to reverse disablement at some of their – at some of the Yongbyon facilities. In essence, the only details I can give you on that basically are that, you know, some of the equipment that was moved to storage we’re now seeing put back in place. So I don’t have any further details on that. We’re obviously going to monitor the situation. But that’s where it stands right now.

QUESTION: (inaudible) ready for operations?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have that kind of --

QUESTION: Storage --

MR. WOOD: There were items that were initially moved to storage that now have been returned to their original locations. But beyond that, I don’t have any other details.

QUESTION: Any assessment of how long it might take them to put it all back together?

MR. WOOD: Who knows? I don’t know what their actual intent is. We’ll have to see. We’re monitoring it. Our folks are on the ground, as we’ve said, and we’ll just have to see where it goes from here.

QUESTION: So it’s fair to say he didn’t convince them while he was there to stop the activity, at least while they were there, or just to agree to stop it?

MR. WOOD: Well, obviously, if this activity is continuing, we obviously weren’t able to get them to stop it. So – Charlie.

QUESTION: Robert, in your brief bit of information you’ve gathered from Hill, do you know who he met with? Can you tell us who he met --

MR. WOOD: In North Korea?

QUESTION: Yes, in North Korea.

MR. WOOD: He met with some – obviously, he met with Kim Kye Gwan. I don’t know with – you know, who else, you know, he met with. I’ll see if we can get some more details on that. I can’t promise you that, Charlie. We’ll have to see. We’ll probably know more when he gets back.

QUESTION: I’m just curious if you know or can find out whether he met with anybody higher while he was there.

MR. WOOD: Well, we’ll take a look and see what we can get you.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Just one other thing. Before he left, I think you were saying that he was trying to determine what’s going on on the ground there, meaning the health of Kim Jong Il. Do you know if he was able to at least find any sort of information about that --

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. We’ll have to ask him when he comes back.

QUESTION: -- in the broad sense?

MR. WOOD: Again, communication hasn’t been that great, you know, for obvious reasons. But you know, we need to wait for Chris to return so we can get a full readout of exactly what happened.

QUESTION: In terms of his health, North Korean media apparently today carried some reports that Kim Jong Il had had a very tiring summer.

MR. WOOD: So did I. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, which was the first sort of indication that maybe his health was affected? Is this something that you’re looking at, the reports that came out overnight?

MR. WOOD: We’re obviously interested in looking at reports, but we just don’t know at this point.

QUESTION: Just to double-check; the U.S. officials are still in the – on the site, right?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, yes.

Lambros – North Korea?

QUESTION: Just one follow-on.

QUESTION: No.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: Is the information that you gave us about – that they continue to reverse disablement, is that from your advisors on the ground there or from your disablement --

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into, you know, where we got the information from. But I mean, this is obviously --

QUESTION: I’m trying to determine if they told you that or if it’s that you saw that. I’m just --

MR. WOOD: Again, you know, I’m not certain of where we got that information from in terms of whether it was, you know, various means that we have or whether it was from these folks on the ground. But this is obviously our best estimation of where things are from, you know, any number of sources.

We’ll go right down.

QUESTION: Do you have any details on the kind of equipment that was brought over to the reprocessing facility?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t. I don’t have any.

QUESTION: And how current is that information that they’re still hauling stuff out of storage and, you know --

MR. WOOD: This is what I have for today. So how – it’s a good question. I don’t know. I assume it’s the most recent information we have and --

QUESTION: But could that be from this week, or could it be referring to last week?

MR. WOOD: This is -- I think this is information we received – probably yesterday. I think yesterday is probably an accurate way to look at it.

Mm-hmm. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. On Cyprus, Mr. Wood, the UN Special Envoy on Cyprus Alexander Downer is in Washington and he’s going to spend almost the whole day here at the State Department. May we know the names of the DOS officials, who he’s going to meet, including, of course, the Secretary of State and Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns?

MR. WOOD: We’ll see if we can get you a list of those people he’s meeting with here.

QUESTION: Okay. And also the Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, during his meeting with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week in New York, briefed her about the prospect of an agreement that will abolish annual military exercises in and around Cyprus and the demilitarization of the entire island. May we know the reaction of the Secretary – of Secretary Rice? And may we have also a full readout of the talks?

MR. WOOD: We’ll try and get you something, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Have you guys been able to figure out exactly what the Secretary is going to be doing in Delhi?

MR. WOOD: Well, she’s obviously going to meet with Indian officials and --

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean in terms of the civ-nuke deal.

MR. WOOD: We’ll have to see. If there’s something that is going on, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Is she signing anything?

MR. WOOD: We’ll have to see.

QUESTION: But is that because it’s not ready or just because the – I mean, what is the protocol here? Sorry.

MR. WOOD: If we have something – I mean, you know, if there’s going to be some kind of activity taking place, we’ll let you know. The party will certainly inform us and we’ll know.

QUESTION: Are there still some hurdles that have to be crossed on the Indian side or --

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe so, but the Indians are probably the best source for that information.

QUESTION: Well, if you don’t know what she’s doing, why – I don’t understand why she’s going. I mean, is she going there with --

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say I didn’t know what she --

QUESTION: -- cake and candles, to say yea, yea us, but there’s no deal yet?

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say I didn’t know what she was doing. I just said if we have something we want to say to you, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Well, is there anything that still needs to be done to get this deal?

MR. WOOD: On our side you mean or on the Indian side?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, nothing needs to be done. The deal --

QUESTION: The President doesn’t need to sign it?

MR. WOOD: Well, you know, obviously, the President will have to sign it. But as far as I know, in terms of the substance, in terms of getting it passed by the Congress – by the Senate, it’s been done.

QUESTION: Where does it go from here?

MR. WOOD: Well, when you say where does it go from here, what do you actually mean by where does it go from here?

QUESTION: Well, is everything ready to go? Is it done?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have all of the details of, you know, what happens next. I mean, the important thing is that the agreement was approved by the Congress. We can, you know, update you, if you like, on that at some future point. But I think right now, the important thing is that the agreement was passed. As you know, the Secretary had a ceremony yesterday to thank State Department employees and others who have been involved in this process. And we’ll just, you know, go from here. The most important thing, though, is that it was passed, and it’s a good agreement for both India and the United States and nonproliferation efforts worldwide.

QUESTION: So you don’t know what the format is, whether the President has to sign this thing and then the Secretary takes it with her and has this kind of symbolic ceremony? Or – I mean --

MR. WOOD: I honestly don’t know all the specifics of that. We can try to get you something on that -- see if there is anything new. But I haven’t been – well --

QUESTION: You know, isn’t the most important thing that the deal actually gets implemented, not really that --

MR. WOOD: Implementation is very important.

QUESTION: Now, we’re two days past when the Senate has approved it and – and you’re still talking about how that was the most important thing. Well, in fact, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing now is getting it, you know, in place and --

MR. WOOD: Matt, you’re so right. But let us – it’s only been two days.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Give us a little time.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes. On FYROM, Mr. Wood, according to reports, the Department of State in Thessaloniki, Greece set up an NGO, namely C-D-R-S-E-E – (Center of Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe). One of its members, Costas Carras, expressed his gratitude to the State Department for $100,000 he received to write a book. This NGO now is writing a book on the common Balkan history by which supports the propaganda of FYROM on the so-called, – “Macedonian ethnicity, identity, and culture”. I’m wondering, Mr. Spokesman, if the Department of State is financing such an NGO against Greek interest vis-à-vis to FYROM.

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything for you on that, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything on that, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Can you take this question?

MR. WOOD: Look, Lambros --

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR. WOOD: I’ll see if there’s anything on that. But I doubt we have anything on that.

David.

QUESTION: German Chancellor Merkel in Russia yesterday, appeared to – in comments, appeared to rule out offering Georgia and Ukraine a NATO Membership Action Plan, even at the foreign ministers meeting in December. Anything on that?

MR. WOOD: No, I – again, I’m not going to comment on the Chancellor’s, you know, remarks that she made. Our policy has been very clear that we support, a Membership Action Plan – you know, entry for Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan. If you go back to the Bucharest declaration, it was made very clear that both Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO at some future date. And beyond that, I don’t have anything to add.

QUESTION: Would you like to do that at the foreign ministers meeting in December?

MR. WOOD: Well, the issue will come up. It will be discussed by the foreign ministers at the NATO ministerial, and we’ll go from there. Again, our position is very clear on this, and we support MAP status for both countries.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Thank you, all.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:50 a.m.)

dpb # 166



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