|Daily Press Briefing|
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
October 6, 2008
|A/S Hills Briefing of the Secretary After His Trip to North Korea|
|DPRK Has Not Taken Any Steps to Stop Their Resumption of Nuclear Activities|
|Kim Jong Ils Health|
|Efforts at Obtaining a Verification Regime|
|Sung Kim Travel / Meetings / South Korea / Japan|
|North Korean Pianist Performing in the Department / Exchange of Ideas and Culture|
|Iranian Response to P5+1 Offer|
|Iranian Activities in the Middle East / Annapolis Process|
|Need for an Agreement and Establishment of a Two-State Solution|
|Secretarys Desire to Travel to the Region|
|PKK a Terrorist Organization / U.S. Condemnation of PKK Attack|
|Tensions Between Kurds and the Government of Iraq|
|Deputy Secretary Negropontes Travel to Iraq|
|SOFA Discussions / U.S. Desire to Conclude Discussions As Soon As Possible|
|Reports of Saudi Brokered Meeting Between the Afghan Government and the Taliban|
|Building of the Afghan Army a Long Term Goal of the United States and Partners|
|Reports of Continued Syrian Military Activity on Border with Lebanon / U.S. Concern|
|U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan|
|Process of Getting U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Signed|
|Great Deal for India and the United States / Boon to International Nonproliferation|
|U.S. Desire to See Serbia Pursue a European Path|
11:32 a.m. EDT
MR. WOOD: It’s still morning. Good morning, everyone. I don’t have anything, so why don’t we go to your questions. Sylvie, good to --
QUESTION: Robert, presumably, Chris Hill has managed to speak with the Secretary about his trip to North Korea. What can you tell us about --
MR. WOOD: Chris spoke briefly with the Secretary this morning, and he’s going to brief her more extensively later today and over the next few days, so I don’t really have a readout for you right now, but we’ll try and get you something as soon as we can. But again, he needs to brief the Secretary on the trip.
QUESTION: Well, where do things stand right now?
MR. WOOD: Well, he just came back, and so he needs to sit down with the Secretary, as I said, and brief her, you know, on the trip and the outcome of the trip and, you know, what his views are.
QUESTION: Are you saying that you – then you’re not aware of what the outcome of the trip is?
MR. WOOD: I’m just saying I’m not prepared to say anything until after Chris has had the chance to brief the Secretary and other officials.
QUESTION: Ah, and that will be today?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know. We’ll let you know when we know.
QUESTION: This isn’t a matter of, you know, somewhat – some – of urgency at all for you?
MR. WOOD: Well, it certainly is of urgency and that’s why Chris wants to brief the Secretary on his trip extensively, and there was a lot to talk about. And so before we talk to the press, those discussions have to – have to take place.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to brief the President on this before moving forward?
MR. WOOD: Well, I suspect the President’s going to be very interested in hearing about the trip. So I don’t think that would be unusual for her to do that.
QUESTION: But is there anything – were there any compromises that – are there any compromises that you’re looking at?
MR. WOOD: I’m not able to characterize the substance of the trip, and hopefully, we’ll be able to do that after Chris has had a chance to talk to the Secretary and read out --
QUESTION: I mean, the reason why you’re being so slow in reporting back on this, is that just because you have a lot of big stuff to look at and that there are changes of direction or --
MR. WOOD: Well, no. As you know, that – you know, Chris was traveling over the weekend, and – as well as the Secretary and --
QUESTION: But there’s – there are phones on board planes. I mean --
MR. WOOD: Sure there are, but the Secretary would want to obviously hear from Chris sitting down, talking one on one, to find out exactly his views on what went forward on his trip.
QUESTION: You said last Friday that your latest information had been that they had not taken any steps to reverse the reversal of the disablement. Has that changed since --
MR. WOOD: It hasn’t changed since Friday, no.
QUESTION: You’ve had information since then. It’s not -- the last update was Thursday, right?
MR. WOOD: I haven’t seen anything since Friday.
MR. WOOD: They still haven’t taken any stops to reverse the reversal.
QUESTION: Yes. Also, the – I lost the train of thought.
MR. WOOD: That’s all right.
QUESTION: It’s not on reversing the reversal, but on Kim Jong-il’s health. There have been reports that he was seen and out and about, et cetera. Do you have any substantiation of those reports?
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t. I heard reports last week that he was tired. That’s all I heard, so that was it.
QUESTION: That’s it?
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: Apparently, he went to a soccer game, so he’s not as tired any more.
MR. WOOD: Well, that’s good.
QUESTION: On sequencing, once a verification protocol is agreed to by the North Koreans, will there have to be another Six-Party meeting or will they just move forward from there once the U.S. agrees to it?
MR. WOOD: Well, let’s – first, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get that verification regime, which we are still waiting for from the North Koreans. That hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: So you don’t know, in terms of sequence, what will have to happen, whether or not there will be – all the parties will have to get together?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m just not prepared to discuss sequence right now when we haven’t gotten that regime from the North Koreans. So let us get that first and then we can talk about it.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. WOOD: Anything else on North Korea? Please.
QUESTION: Where is Sung Kim right now and what are his plans?
MR. WOOD: Yes. Sung Kim is in Seoul right now. He’s planning to have some further consultations with the South Koreans and the Japanese. His plan right now is to return to Washington on Wednesday.
QUESTION: No plans to go to North Korea again?
MR. WOOD: No plans.
QUESTION: On Iran, the Iranians are handing over a letter to Javier Solana and they’ve also, with – this is the response to the offer made by the six – they’re also going to – they’ve also apparently handed over a letter to the Swiss mission in – Swiss Embassy in Tehran or the U.S. Interest Section – the – that handles your – I just wondered, are you – have you received this letter yet? Do you know what its contents are? What are you expecting from it?
MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of. This is the first I’ve heard of it. We will look into it and see if we can get you something on that.
QUESTION: When you do get something, would you let us know?
MR. WOOD: Oh, absolutely.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay.
MR. WOOD: On this subject?
QUESTION: Also on Iran. In yesterday’s Haaretz newspaper, the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he’s worried about Iran and the future of the Annapolis process. He also said that he knows that Israel is preparing for a military strike against Iran and he wants more time for diplomacy. Is the U.S. Government running out of time?
MR. WOOD: What was the connection between Iran and Annapolis?
QUESTION: He said that the future of the – he was worried about Iran and the future of the Annapolis process.
MR. WOOD: And who was the official with this?
QUESTION: Bernard – Bernard Kouchner.
MR. WOOD: Bernard Kouchner. Well, I mean, we’re obviously very worried about what Iran is doing in the region. We have been. The Annapolis process, though, continues – is an important process here. We still believe there is time for the two parties to reach an agreement, although time is running short, no question about that, but we still believe that we can achieve an agreement, you know, before the end of – end of the year.
QUESTION: Do you know what that agreement would be – what kind of format? There seem to be sort of less – lower expectations as to what that agreement would amount to. Where are you at the moment in terms of where you – what you think you’re going to get?
MR. WOOD: Well, again, I think -- you know, the format – it’s not all that clear to me what the format will be. The important thing is that the two parties reach an agreement that can go forward and lead to, you know, the establishment of a – you know, a two-state solution and go from there. But in terms of format, I’m not familiar with how that will come out.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Secretary to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories anytime soon and indeed before she leaves office?
MR. WOOD: I believe she said she would like to and planned to, but I don’t have any travel announcements at this point on that.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that you’re waiting until Tzipi Livni manages to get a government together before you go, or does that not bear on the Secretary’s travel plans?
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, look, the important thing for us is having an Israeli Government and a Palestinian – Palestinian representatives that can, you know, forge a peace together. That’s in the long-term interest of the United States. So you know, whether or not you have one party in government or another, I think what’s really critical here is having two sides that are willing to sit down and negotiate this two-state solution that we’ve all been talking about.
On this subject?
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. WOOD: Okay. Let me go to Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Turkey/Iraq. Mr. Wood, anything to say on the continued fight between Turkish forces and Kurdish PKK rebel forces in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey?
MR. WOOD: Well, you know, we put out a statement over the weekend, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: I saw that.
MR. WOOD: Look, the PKK is a terrorist organization. We want to see it go out of business. That’s been very clear. And, you know, we’ve obviously condemned the attack and expressed our condolences to the people of Turkey.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. The Turkish Government is talking about a trilateral talks among USA, Iraq, and Turkey. Any comment on that?
MR. WOOD: I – this is a recent proposal. I haven’t seen anything recent on that. I’ll see if we have anything on that.
QUESTION: And one more question on the same issue. Mr. Wood, tensions between Kurds and the Iraq Government over disputed territory have heightened recently, raising fears that they might lead to ethnic clashes between Kurds and Arabs at a time when Iraq is slowly recovering from years of sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Arabs. Any comment?
MR. WOOD: Nothing, other than the fact that we’re -- I don’t want to speculate on what might happen. But obviously, we don’t want to see that type of tension and fighting erupt in the region, and we will obviously do our best to make sure that that kind of thing doesn’t happen.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: CNN has a report that the Saudi Government hosted a meeting between Afghan Government representatives and Taliban representatives to discuss the possibility of some kind of a political deal between them. I realize this is a report about a third country hosting, you know, a meeting between two other countries. But given the U.S. commitment of troops and money to Afghanistan, I wonder: (a) if you any comment on that report; and (b) if you can address that report, in particular, if, as a general rule, you think it’s a good idea to try to reach political accommodations with the Taliban.
MR. WOOD: Well, Arshad, we’ve seen the reports. I’d have to refer you to the – either the Afghan and/or Saudi Governments for, you know, comment on the meeting. I would just say in general, and I think I spoke to this on Friday, that we’re very supportive of an Afghan reconciliation program. And, in fact, the Afghan Government has outlined criteria for that program which we fully support, one of which is renouncing violence; the second, adherence to the constitution. So I don’t think I have any further – anything further to add on it, other than what I said on Friday.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the situation with this hijacked ship off the coast of Somalia?
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t, Matt.
QUESTION: The Fifth Fleet is apparently referring questions to the State Department about what’s going to be done.
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything – any update on that.
Let me – somebody else. Right here.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. There’s a report out that the U.S. is asking allies to help build the army in Afghanistan. Is the State Department involved in that at all? And do you know which allies have been asked at this point?
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know which allies have been asked, but this is obviously a long-term goal of ours to try to build up the Afghan army. It’s important that Afghans be able to take on security responsibility for themselves. That is an effort that we and the Europeans and other countries are trying to do. And we’ll continue to work with other countries in the region to try to build up the Afghan army so that it can provide for its own security.
QUESTION: Do you know if Japan specifically has been asked?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I’d refer you to the Japanese on that.
QUESTION: Yes. What’s the U.S. reaction to the Syrian military activities on the border with Lebanon? And is the State Department conducting a new review about policy towards Syria?
MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve seen reports about continued Syrian military activity along the Lebanese-Syrian border. And you know, we in the international community a week ago made very clear that any intervention by Syria, you know, into – you know, by Syrian troops into Lebanon would be unacceptable. So you know, the recent terrorist attacks that took place in Tripoli and Damascus should not serve as a pretext for, you know, further Syrian military engagement or as – should not be used to interfere in Lebanese internal affairs.
QUESTION: About a review – are you doing a review on how to deal with Syria now?
MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of any review with regard to Syria at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: On the same issue?
QUESTION: Yes, on the same subject. You seem to imply that there is a danger it could be used as a pretext to --
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not saying necessarily that there’s a danger, but obviously we were concerned about this type of activity along the border and that it not lead to any further interference on the part of Syria into Lebanon’s internal affairs.
QUESTION: Did you notify the Syrian Government through your Embassy?
MR. WOOD: The Syrian Government is well aware of our views with regard to any kind of military activity along the border.
Did you have – okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Dave.
QUESTION: Robert, have you heard from the Chinese diplomatically about the Taiwan arms sales package? Have they, you know, come to you?
MR. WOOD: I don’t – they’re certainly well aware of the arms sales package. I don’t know that we’ve actually gone to them after the package, you know, was approved. I just don’t know that answer.
QUESTION: There’s a hiccup with getting the India deal signed. The Secretary went all the way over there and came back with the deal still un-inked. Any idea when that will be signed, and is it your belief that it’s due to Indian dissatisfaction with the deal that was passed in Congress?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know when it will be signed. I think we put out a taken question late last week on what we believe to be the process of getting that agreement formally finalized. But I think it’s just administrative matters, as the Secretary referred to. I’m not aware of any concerns that the Indian Government may have, but I’d refer you to them with regard to any concerns that they might have.
QUESTION: But did the Secretary or did the Indians raise it with the Secretary and say that we don’t like certain elements of the legislation and that this is why we’re not prepared to do it?
MR. WOOD: We’ve had extensive discussions with the Indians with regard to this agreement and we’ve covered a wide range of areas. I think the fact that we were able to get this agreement done says a lot about what we’ve all gone through in terms of working with Congress, with the Indian Government and with others in the international community to bring this, you know, agreement to fruition. So --
QUESTION: The deal’s not done.
MR. WOOD: Well --
QUESTION: It’s not signed.
MR. WOOD: Well, it’s – formally, it’s not signed, but let’s be real. I mean, the deal has been reached, and it’s a great deal for both India and the United States.
QUESTION: But it’s not worth the paper it’s written on until it’s signed, is it?
MR. WOOD: Well, it’s – it will be signed. And I think it’s important to focus on exactly what we’ve accomplished by reaching this agreement with the Indians. And it’s – this, again, is a very big boon to international nonproliferation efforts and it’s a very good thing.
QUESTION: But do you think it’s going to be signed before the next administration or do you think they’re just holding off until the next lot come in?
MR. WOOD: You know, I’ve learned never to put timeframes on things like this. We’ll just have to see. But the important thing to realize is that the agreement has been done, and it’s a good agreement for all of the parties that I mentioned.
QUESTION: Yes, on Serbia. Mr. Wood, the Serbian parliament passed two bills by large majorities which reflects the difficulties facing Serbia’s Government in seeking integration with Europe while maintaining its historic ties with Russia, seeing as many Serbs as the country’s only true protector. Anything to say on that?
MR. WOOD: All I would say is that we want to see Serbia pursue a European path, and we believe that’s in Serbia’s best interest, we think that’s in Europe’s interest. It’s certainly in United States’ interest. But I don’t have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: You have a North Korean dissident pianist in the building who will be performing shortly.
MR. WOOD: That’s my understanding.
QUESTION: I was just wondering what message the State Department was intending to portray to the North Korean Government, and also if you had received any objections from the North Koreans.
MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of objections, but obviously, you know, the free exchange of ideas and cultural exchange is very important to the United States Government. We believe that that is something that we need to do more of, we need to do that more around the world. And that’s just one example of that.
QUESTION: Do you know any of the details of who’s here and why and who they’re meeting?
MR. WOOD: You mean – which --
QUESTION: The pianist.
MR. WOOD: The pianist.
QUESTION: Oh, the pianist.
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, excuse me. Yeah, yeah, okay, got it. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: It could mean --
MR. WOOD: Matt.
QUESTION: As we saw this morning, the Deputy Secretary is in Iraq.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If he’s not there talking about the SOFA, what’s he doing there?
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean --
QUESTION: He certainly didn’t go there just to introduce Ambassador Crocker for this award.
MR. WOOD: The Deputy Secretary -- as you know, he was an Ambassador there. He goes from time to time to check on how things are going on the ground in Iraq. Obviously, the SOFA and the strategic framework agreement will come up in the conversations, but he’s not necessarily there to negotiate. But it’s not unusual for the Deputy Secretary to go to Iraq.
QUESTION: Well, I want – how much, if any, progress has been made on this since the Secretary was last in Baghdad or several --
MR. WOOD: Well, there has been progress. But again, as we said before --
QUESTION: Can you attempt to quantify that progress?
MR. WOOD: I would – not with – I’d have to get into the substance of negotiations, which I don’t want to do. Yeah, I know you’d like me to do that, but I’m not going to do it. (Laughter.) But you know, as we said before, especially when those stories broke in late summer, we’re close to an agreement but we haven’t gotten agreement yet. And until we have one, we don’t have one. And so – but the progress has been good. We’re not there yet.
QUESTION: Well, how would you rate this so the – you know, back in – back earlier in the spring, the idea was that you absolutely had to get it done by the end of July. It’s now October.
MR. WOOD: Well --
QUESTION: And there doesn’t – I mean, it’s moving along at the same pace as the Israeli-Palestinian talks appear to be, which is --
MR. WOOD: Well, this is --
QUESTION: -- moving nowhere quickly.
MR. WOOD: No, I understand your point. You know, this is a – we’re talking about a very complex agreement. This is something that many in the Administration have been working hard on. As you know, there’s a team from the United States that’s there and that’s been working hard on these negotiations. But, yeah, the fact that it slipped, you know, these things happen. But it’s important that we get a good agreement for both Iraq and the United States -- you know, one that obviously allows us to operate there in a legal framework and also that upholds Iraqi sovereignty. And those are two very important issues for us.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, is it – it seems to be – are you prepared yet to say when you want this done now? I mean, presumably --
MR. WOOD: We would like to get it done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: It’s got to be done by December 31st, right?
MR. WOOD: Well, obviously, yes. We want to get it done as soon as we can. But we want to make sure it’s a good agreement.
QUESTION: I have one more.
MR. WOOD: Sure.
QUESTION: And I don’t know if you have the – if you don’t have this, can you take – maybe you can take it. And that is: Has the Secretary fielded or made any phone calls to her colleagues about the financial crisis?
MR. WOOD: No, nothing beyond what we’ve said in the past.
QUESTION: Can you find out? Because today – you know, over the weekend and today, it seems to be slipping – taking on a much more international aspect.
MR. WOOD: I don’t think she’s – I don’t think she’s made any phone calls over the weekend at all on this issue.
QUESTION: Can you check to see if there have – if there are any today?
MR. WOOD: Oh, if there are any today, certainly we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:53 a.m.)
dpb # 167
Released on October 6, 2008