|Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 8, 2008
Visual from today's briefing:
Map of Georgia
|Signing of U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement|
|Steps Involved in Signing of U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement|
IRAQ/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
|Visit of UAE Defense Official to Baghdad|
|U.S. is Assessing Chris Hill and Sung Kims Discussions on North Korea|
|Reports of North Korean Short Range Missile Launch|
|Questions about Secretary Rices Discussions and Briefings on North Korea|
|UN Security Council Resolutions on Long, Medium and Short Range Ballistic Missiles|
|Movement of Six-Party Process Depends Upon North Korean Government|
|Activity at Yongbyon|
|Release of Chinese Uighurs Is a Matter of Ongoing Litigation|
|Questions about President Medvedevs Speech|
|Russian Troop Movement in Georgia|
|U.S. Will Consult with EU Regarding Russia Upholding Its Obligations|
|Status of U.S. Humvees|
|SOFA Discussions Ongoing / U.S. and Iraq Negotiators Continue Efforts|
|U.S. Encourages Diversity of Delivery Routes for Hydrocarbon Energy|
10:48 a.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. I have two quick notes for you here at the beginning. The first is on Friday, at 4 o'clock, the Secretary will sign with the Indian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Mukherjee, the India Civil Nuclear Agreement. This follows on the President’s signature today of implementing legislation in the United States. So I thought you would all want to hear that programming note. I know it has been much anticipated. It certainly has been here.
And then also, I would just note one event in Baghdad. The UAE Minister of Defense, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, recently paid a visit to Baghdad. I believe it was just yesterday. This is the highest-ranking official from the Gulf region to visit Baghdad since the beginning of the war. It’s certainly a positive development, and it’s another indication of Iraq’s taking its place within the region and rebuilding ties with Arab nations that previously had been strained. This is the result of hard work by the Iraqi Government and, frankly, a lot of hard work by the United States Government to bring these countries together. So I want --
QUESTION: When was that?
MR. MCCORMACK: When was that? I believe it was either yesterday or today he was in Baghdad. I saw a news story. It might have even been an AP story about it.
QUESTION: Well, thank you for embarrassing me. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s the least I can do on a Monday – on a Wednesday afternoon – Wednesday morning when I’m back. And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can I ask about – I want to get back to Iraq in a little bit, but ask about North Korea? Two – a couple things. One, a South Korean official is saying the North is trying to miniaturize a warhead to put on a missile. Do you know anything about that? And two, what’s been the result of Chris Hill’s briefings with the Secretary, the Secretary’s briefing with the President, which I understood happened yesterday, and where do we go from here?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re still in a state now of assessing both what Chris Hill heard in his discussions and what Ambassador Sung Kim heard in his discussions. He stayed over one extra night in Tokyo, so I think he’s going to be heading back – is it tomorrow? So he’ll be flying back, flying back here tomorrow. We are assessing what it is that we’ve heard, and at this point I don’t have anything new to you to offer.
QUESTION: Well, what is it exactly that you heard?
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, we’ll let you – we’ll give you our full assessment of what Chris heard and the results of his discussion as we saw it. I think you heard him as well as the Secretary characterize the discussions as useful. We’ll see if, in fact, in the end, they are productive in moving the process forward.
QUESTION: Well, there seems to be – there seems to be a sense out there, at least from the South Korean side, that both U.S. and North Korea have shown some flexibility here. Is that your understanding?
MR. MCCORMACK: My understanding is we’ll let you – we’ll let you know when we have more to say.
QUESTION: All right. And on the other? On the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything more on that. I’ll see if there’s anything that we would have to say about it. This has, at least on an initial brush, the sounds of intelligence-related information that we typically wouldn't comment on. But even with that caveat, I’ll take a look into it, see if there’s anything we have to offer.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary informed the President about the discussions Chris Hill had in North Korea and how that’s going?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they’ve had some – she’s had some discussions within the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea yesterday, according to a news report. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t confirm it. Again, we have seen the news reports. I think just as a general comment with respect to the firing of these kinds of missiles, these short-range missiles, we would advise against it. It’s not helpful in any way managing tensions within the region, which are always at a constant level. So it’s not an activity that would be advisable. We would certainly counsel against it. But again, I can’t offer any particular comment on those news stories.
QUESTION: Do you see it as some kind of message to you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that gets into the psychology and the thinking of the North Korean Government. I can’t offer any insight into that.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on that, a question. Did you say the Secretary had had discussions with the President?
MR. MCCORMACK: She’s had some discussions within the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: That’s what I thought you said.
MR. MCCORMACK: And she is part of the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, has --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to talk about her – you know, with whom she is speaking right now. Suffice it to say she is having briefings and discussions at a sufficiently high level in the government.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to corroborate that the Supreme Leader watched a soccer game recently?
MR. MCCORMACK: I do not, no. No.
QUESTION: Just going back to the missiles, this activity, if it did, in fact, happen, isn’t any violation of --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it’s not. Again, the report is about a short-range missile.
MR. MCCORMACK: And the Security Council resolutions deal with medium- and long-range ballistic missiles.
QUESTION: So your concern is not about – say, if it did happen, is not that --
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s --
QUESTION: It’s just that it could inflame things, and it’s not saying that the North Koreans have done something – violated any UN --
MR. MCCORMACK: That’s a fair characterization, yeah.
Yeah. Anything else on North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, yes. Well, sir, and then you in the back.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Rice has --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- you first.
QUESTION: -- painful conversation --
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: -- with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan. Can you tell us what is the contents of the conversations?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I can’t. No, I won’t.
QUESTION: Why not?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did have a conversation. It’s part of ongoing consultations about the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: Do you have anything serious matters with Christopher Hill visit in North Korea, they have some kind of – very delicate issues, their discussions with the South Korean delegation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it’s fair to say it’s an important moment in the Six-Party process, whether or not this process will be moved forward. And that depends, in large part, upon North Korea. The consultations with the South Korean Government were had in that context and I think we are able to discuss a little bit about Chris Hill’s visit to North Korea and also talk about where we stand in the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering one – while Ambassador Hill was up in North Korea, he met with General Ri Chan Bok, which – he is one of the leaders of the North Korean military. And it was the first time he had met with General Ri Chan Bok, I believe. Just wondering who requested – do you know who requested that meeting? Was it the U.S. side or the North Korean side? And also, what was the significance of that meeting (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m trying to think back to Chris’ transcripts. I think he answered this question and I believe he said that he requested the meeting. But we’ll double – we’ll double-check for you. I know he did – he did answer that question, so let’s go back and both do a check of the transcripts.
It’s useful to try to have as many discussions in North Korea while you are there as you possibly can to get a – gather as many data points, I guess you can – is a good way to put it, into – that will allow you to gain some insight into North Korea’s thinking.
QUESTION: Well, there’s a lot of reports coming out now that the North is requesting military-to-military talks between the U.S. and North Korea to be able to move the process forward as a trust-building mechanism. Is that something the U.S. would be interested in to help move the process forward?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing for you on that.
QUESTION: Can I just ask -- you said the Secretary spoke with the South Korean Foreign Minister. Has she spoken to anyone – any other colleague of the Six-Party --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t believe she has. I’ll check for you, Matt. I’m not prepared in that regard. I know she did speak with him yesterday, the South Korean Foreign Minister, yeah.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yep.
QUESTION: It’s about a week since the North Koreans said that they would start reprocessing at Yongbyon. Are you seeing any indication that they’re following through on that threat?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t think that we have seen anything. I don’t think there’s anything new since Robert’s talked about this.
QUESTION: So they’re just still moving equipment around?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think they’re – again, they’re – they continue – at least the latest reports that I’ve gotten, they’ve continued to move in the wrong direction. But I don’t have any updates from what Robert has given you recently.
QUESTION: And could they be awaiting a response from the U.S. for Chris’ --
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll see. You know, we’ll see. I don’t know exactly what their motivations are in this regard. We’ll see what pathway they decide to go down.
Okay, new subject. Nina?
QUESTION: Can I ask about the Uighurs that’s going to be released? Are you working with any other countries at the moment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that – let me put it this way. The issue – this particular issue is one of ongoing litigation. And as the Department of Justice is in ongoing litigation, they have recently filed some motions. I’m not going to say anything about the current status of the Uighurs or anything having to do with the case. You can all look back in history, look back through transcripts, and we have, in the past, looked for various countries to take these individuals. But I am going to offer no comment on the present.
QUESTION: Well, but, you know, the White House put you on the spot yesterday with their statement saying that you’re continuing to look. So does this – while this case is going through the courts, is that an ongoing process, the looking for countries to – that might take them in?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just say that the best way to put this is that --
QUESTION: Okay --
MR. MCCORMACK: Past this prologue, Matt, in this regard, I think that we haven’t – we haven’t changed our efforts any.
QUESTION: So they continue? Well, I’m not sure I understand how – I mean, if a day – if two days ago, you could have said before this decision this came out – if you could have said then that yes, you continue to look at it, what changes that?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Matt, don’t – you know, this is a separate branch of our government and the courts and I’m not going to try to interpret for you how they may perceive anything that I may say from the Executive Branch. But when you talk to the lawyers about anytime you have ongoing litigation, they ask you to please err on the side of caution, which is what I’m doing.
QUESTION: You would not – okay. You would not dispute, though, the statement that came out from the White House saying --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would not – I would not dispute the statement from the White House, no.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Can you give any indication of the countries you’re approaching?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Would you go back to Albania again?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no.
QUESTION: Subject change?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: President Medvedev delivered a major foreign policy address today -- Evian, speaking at length about U.S.-Russian relations. I was wondering if we could have your thoughts on those, especially on his renewed call to establish this proposed new security mechanism, security Euro-Atlantic mechanism. And as a follow-up to that, I think Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated his desire to have 2+2 meeting as soon as possible. Any chance for this meeting anytime soon?
MR. MCCORMACK: On both of those scores, let me get you an answer. I haven’t spoken with folks about President Medvedev’s speech and what particular reaction we would have to it. I can offer, if people are interested, an update on – with maps in Georgia if anybody’s interested. Okay, sure.
QUESTION: We are.
MR. MCCORMACK: We are? Okay, we’ll bring up the --
QUESTION: They said they had pulled out of the buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they – they were pulling out of – they were pulling out of Georgia in compliance with the September 8th agreement, so we can give you – go ahead, you can bring up the wider maps. So the – bring my cheat sheet with me – you can see in both areas – areas around Abkhazia here, these – these positions the Russians had previously withdrawn from, and then the new withdrawals that are being reported in the press are in this area over here.
And let’s go over to South Ossetia. The new withdrawals that are being reported are these six areas, these six posts right in here. So you can see that Russia is, in fact, starting to comply with the September 8th agreement with the EU. The final deadline is Friday, I believe, September – October 10th. So we’ll have an assessment for you next week. Once the Russians say that they have completed their activities, then we’ll consult with the European Union for their assessment of whether or not Russia has fully complied with the September 8th agreement, then we’ll perhaps be able to provide you an update then.
QUESTION: So you’re saying this is a good sign?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is a positive sign.
QUESTION: What do you make of President Medvedev’s talk about how Sovietology is a dead science, is – or should be, rather, and that elements of this Administration – the U.S. Administration continue to cling to it much like paranoia, seemed to direct it rather sharply at one if not two or three members of the Administration that you work with closely?
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t – honestly, Matt, I haven’t had time to assess the speech. Look, I’d be in full agreement that Sovietology is dead and I can assure you that Secretary Rice has moved – moved beyond the old Soviet Union. You know, the issue at hand isn’t really past history or whether or not the Cold War is coming back. But it’s really a question of Russian behavior. We have spoken about Russian behavior. We have spoken what we believe are some of the antidotes to some of the things that we have seen; not only us, but the rest of the world. So I’ll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Different topic --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Related to it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the – I think it was four – U.S. Army vehicles that the Russians took? Has there been any location of them, any talks to get them back?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check.
QUESTION: Or are they still in Russian hands?
MR. MCCORMACK: We – I’ll check for you, Charlie. I know that we asked for them back. You know, look, if Russia, you know, wants to have a “Buy America” program, I’m sure we’re happy to talk to them about it, but we still would want our Humvees back. To my knowledge, we haven’t got them back yet.
QUESTION: Right. So in other words, you’d be willing to accept cash instead of the vehicles?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. You know, if the Russian military covets, you know, American military hardware, I’m sure that we’re willing to have a discussion about that.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one more Russia related? And that is, have you been in – has there many any more contact with the Russians about this ship – the hijacked ship off the coast --
MR. MCCORMACK: Off the Somali coast?
QUESTION: Yeah, the Somalia.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you, Matt. I’m not briefed up on that.
QUESTION: The Secretary spoke briefly about the financial crisis yesterday. She said there’s a concern that fear will feed on itself. I wonder what steps she’s taking in her conversations with other leaders to alleviate that.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware that this is something that has come up in her conversations. She’s, as we’ve reported, focused on her – on the Six-Party Talks and her duties as Secretary of State in her conversation with the South Korean Foreign Minister. And I’m not aware of any other recent phone calls that she’s had.
QUESTION: So she’s on the sidelines of efforts to reassure the world or bring the world together to (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you heard her remarks yesterday, Charley, and I think they speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Apparently -- just going back to the hijacked ship off the Somali coast.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Apparently, there’s been some sort of deal that’s been reached. Can you say whether the U.S. has any role in brokering any of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you, Kirit. I – you know, I have to admit, I don’t have visibility on this one. I didn’t ask about it this morning.
QUESTION: Are you ready to explain why the Indian deal signature had to be delayed until Friday, when the Secretary was just there last weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: We gave you the explanation. The President – the bill that the President is signing today had to be enrolled. And there was a – it was a necessary step that had to be taken before we felt we were able to move forward with the signed – the signature of the U.S.-India agreement. That didn’t take place in the timeframe that we were in in India. And the Friday date is really one that is mutually convenient for Foreign Minister Mukherjee, who is flying all the way to the United States, and we appreciate that, and for Secretary Rice as well.
QUESTION: The Indian media say that their government was seeking certain assurances from you, fuel assurances and other things, before they actually signed.
MR. MCCORMACK: The – in terms of her not – you know, the bill – the agreement not being signed in India, from our perspective, it centered solely on this technicality of our needing to move through some bureaucratic steps.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: What’s going on with the SOFA negotiations? And are you getting concerned that time is running – extremely short now? You had hoped to have this completed by the end of July, which is now several months ago.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And if you look back --
QUESTION: Creeping up on --
MR. MCCORMACK: If you look back in the transcripts, you will find that I did not put a timeframe on it.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. MCCORMACK: I know others – I know others did. Look, the discussions are ongoing. And I guess the state of play is that nothing is done until everything is done, and not everything is done. Secretary – Deputy Secretary Negroponte offered some public comments when he held a press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari, so the discussions continue. And I think that the fact they are taking this long and that the discussions are as intense as they have been over this period of months is an indication of how seriously the Iraqi Government takes this, as well as how seriously we take this issue. It’s a negotiation between two sovereign states. And our negotiators continue their efforts – our negotiators as well as the Iraqi negotiators.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you not concerned that it’s taking longer than you would have hoped? And, you know, what – when exactly do you want this thing done?
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s – we want it done as soon as possible. And in terms of longer than we had hoped, look, there is a certain rhythm to these things and it will take as long as it needs to. Everybody understands that there is a time by which they need to be completed. There is – I think we still have some time before that final date at the end of the year approaches. But we want to see it done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: But you think you’re going to make the end of the year date, though?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re still working to get this thing done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: In their talks with you last weekend, did the Kazakh Government, specifically the Prime Minister -- Masimov, assure you that they would continue to – they intended to still diversify their energy routes and send them westward, as well as northward?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the Kazakh Government about what their strategy is. We – it’s no secret that we have encouraged Kazakhstan, as well as others, to diversify the
number of delivery routes for hydrocarbons traveling north, traveling west. That’s been our policy position. I’ll let the Kazakhstan Government describe for themselves how they view the situation.
QUESTION: I was about to say thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll take the thank you.
QUESTION: No, about the Lebanese.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: The two American journalists in Lebanon, do you have any update --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new on that.
QUESTION: -- on what’s going on?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:01 a.m.)
Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed’s official title is Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
DPB # 169