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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 3, 2008

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA

Yongbyon / Moving of Equipment
Need to Complete Work on Verification Process
Chris Hill and Ambassador Sung Kim Will Go to Beijing / Consult with Chinese
They Need to Live up to Their Obligations / Work on the Verification Issue
Observers Are Still on the Ground / Have Observed Some of the Recent Activity
In Contact with Members of the Six Parties / Continue to Engage
Action for Action Process / Committed to Moving Forward
North Korea Has Not Completed Its Obligations / U.S. Prepared to Meet Its Obligations
Host of Bilateral Sanctions in Place / No other Punitive Steps by the U.S.

PAKISTAN

Attempted Assassination of Prime Minister Gillani
Relieved to See He is Unharmed

DEPARTMENT

Threat by al-Qaida to Harm Secretary Rice in Maghreb / No Changes to Her Program

LIBYA

Special Mechanism / Money in the Account
Libya Expected to Live up to Its Commitments
Families of Victims of Pan Am 103 / Mindful of Their Thoughts and Feelings
U.S. To Move Forward in It’s National Interest


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:36 p.m. EDT 

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have any opening statements, so we can get right to your questions. Who’d like to start? 

Matthew. 

QUESTION: North Korea, Sean. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. 

QUESTION: Sorry. North Korea. What’s your understanding of what’s going on at Yongbyon? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our understanding is that the North Koreans are moving some equipment around that they had previously put into storage. I don’t have a whole lot of details beyond that. Our monitors, our personnel are still on the ground, as are some IAEA personnel, and that’s why we have some real-time insight as to actually what it is that they’re doing. 

Now with respect to moving the process forward, North Korea knows what it needs to do. The United States has made it clear to North Korea, China has made it – made clear to North Korea, as have Japan, South Korea and Russia. Part of what they need to do is to complete work on the verification regime. So this isn’t asking anything beyond what is the internationally recognized standards for a verification regime. As I mentioned yesterday, this is all part of the process of building up trust, as well as actually verifying the facts that the North Koreans have given us. 

So North Korea knows what it needs to do. It needs to act to meet its obligations. It needs to complete work on the verification regime. And once those things are done, the process can move forward, and we will – we are prepared to fully meet our obligations as well.

QUESTION: And when you say moving some equipment around that they had previously put into storage, what exactly does that mean? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t – I frankly don’t have –

QUESTION: I mean, are they just moving it from one locker to another or are they –

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I don’t have more detail than that. 

QUESTION: Are they trying to glue back together again the cooling tower? I mean, what – how significant is this movement of equipment? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, yeah, I’m not going to try to assess it from a technical standpoint, Matt, because I’m not a physicist. I, you know, can’t put together a nuclear reactor for you. 

But certainly, it – what it does tell you is that the North Koreans are not at this moment moving forward on the process. And by that I mean they are not – they have not completed work on a verification regime. So beyond that, I’m not going to try to give you a technical assessment of it. What it means is the process is not moving forward at this point. 

Part of what we are going to try to do to understand better what the situation is and to consult with our partners in this process – specifically in this case the Chinese – Secretary Rice has asked Chris Hill to go to Beijing for consultations. Ambassador Sung Kim will accompany him on those consultations. Chris will be leaving – is it – on the 4th and should be back this weekend. We’ll have more for you as those plans develop. 

But again, it’s for – it’s to consult with the Chinese, who are the chair of the Six-Party process and who also do have a unique relationship with North Korea, to consult with them about how to move the process forward. But the standards are clear. We have laid them out, as have others for North Korea how they – what they need to do. 

QUESTION: But if I’m getting you right, you’re not, at this point, able to tell us from the podium that they – that the North Koreans are reassembling? 

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t give you that level of detail. To my knowledge, Matt, they – based on what we know from the reports on the ground, you don’t have an effort to reconstruct, reintegrate this equipment back into the Yongbyon facility. It has been taken out of where it was being stored, I guess, is the best way to put it at this point. 

QUESTION: But should they stop that? Should they stop that moving of equipment around? 

MR. MCCORMACK: What they need to do is live up to their obligations, Charley. And they should reverse this step. But more importantly, they need the complete work on their political obligations, and that includes work on the verification regime. 

Yeah, Sue. 

QUESTION: Have you got monitors there are at the facility (inaudible)? Are they able to see what is going on? Where are they? 

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they’re at the facility, as they have been for quite some time, some months now. They’re the – it’s the same mission that observed the cooling tower coming down, for example. I can’t – I don’t have the granularity of detail to tell you exactly what it is that they are – what they are seeing. But they are still on the ground. They are able to observe some of what’s going on there. I can’t imagine that they can see everything, but they do – they have been able to observe some of this activity that has been reported starting yesterday.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Are U.S. officials who have been dealing with this issue surprised by the North Korean action?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t say that we’re surprised, Charlie. I think the – we have been in contact with the North Koreans as well as other members of the Six-Party process as part of trying to move it forward, as part of trying to hammer out a verification regime. So we’ve heard rumblings about this kind of action from North Korea. Again, we urge them, as have others, not to take the steps that they have taken. And we’re going to continue to engage in the process and try to use the leverage of that process to get them to focus their energies on where we think they should be – and by we, I mean the other members of the Six-Party Talks – and try to move the process forward. 

We’re prepared to meet our obligations. As we have said many times over, this is an action-for-action kind of process, and should North Korea fulfill its obligations, complete the verification regime, we are fully prepared and committed to moving forward with our obligations, as are the other partners in the process.

QUESTION: And just to follow up, when he’s in Beijing, will Chris Hill meet with any North Korean representatives when he –

MR. MCCORMACK: Don’t have any – no plans that I am aware of at this point. We’ll keep you up to date on what his activities are, as well as Sung Kim’s.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, is – the process is not moving forward. Is it moving backward?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. I would say it’s stuck in neutral at the moment, because you are not moving it forward, they have not completed their obligations. But in these kinds of – we – in the Six-Party process, we have learned that it is important to have consistency of principle, it is important to have patience, but it is also important to emphasize to all the parties, most importantly to North Korea, the urgency and the importance of moving the process forward. 

There is nothing inevitable about this process. You’ve heard that from Secretary Rice. And we have made clear that it will not move forward absent the fulfillment of all the parties’ obligations. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, North Korea knows what it needs to do.

QUESTION: But he has – from what I can tell, one of the reasons they’re citing for doing this, for moving the equipment and trying to “reassemble,” quote, unquote at least part of the plant is that you did not meet your promise to take them off the terrorism list within the 45 days. Now I understand that the 45 days was the minimum period, not –

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: But they don’t seem to agree on that. So where do you go from here? I mean, is there any space for negotiation on this, or what do you do?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, well, in terms of our actions, we’ve made it clear. We’re prepared to meet our obligations. The President and the Secretary of State have stated – have made that very clear. Part of – part of Chris’ mission, if you will, to go to Beijing is to talk with the Chinese about how to move this forward. But we have stated where – our positions. 

North Korea knows what it needs to do. It’s not being asked to do anything that is extraordinary in terms of international verification regimes. It may be difficult for North Korea, given its history and given the kind of regime and the kind of society that it is. But this is part of the process of North Korea taking the necessary steps to have a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world. And we’ll see if they choose to follow through on the commitments that they have made.

QUESTION: And the last thing on verification: So if the process were to go backward or get stuck even longer, then you would say that verification really is the issue here; that’s why they’re not doing what –

MR. MCCORMACK: For us, I think that is the bottleneck, I guess is the way to put it, in terms of the process. Because all the parties – I guess all the five parties, other than North Korea – are completely united on the question of the fact that North Korea needs to fulfill this verification requirement in order for the process to move forward. Should that happen, I think North Korea would see that in quick succession, the process would move forward. 

But as I have stated many times over, this is an iterative process, it’s an action-for-action process. To sum it up, looking at the phrase “trust but verify,” we’re not to the trust part. We’re still working on the verify part.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: North Korea is (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, nobody’s talking at this point about any punitive steps beyond those that are already in place. There are already Security Council resolutions. There are already bilateral sanctions that are in place. We have a whole host of them that are on the books. We’re focused on the positive aspect of this, the positive pathway of trying to get North Korea, along with our – we as – we along with our partners in the process to engage North Korea, get them to fulfill their obligations. But ultimately, they are the ones that have to make those decisions. So I don’t – I’m not aware of any other punitive steps that are under consideration by us or anybody else. 

Anything else on this? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: With respect to Chris Hill’s visit to China, is China already giving you some ideas, like suggestion or recommendations on verification protocol or –

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware of –

QUESTION: – compromise?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware of anything we’ve heard back from the Chinese. 

QUESTION: Who is he meeting with –

MR. MCCORMACK: The – excuse me?

QUESTION: Chris Hill – is he meeting with Wu Dawei or –

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, we’ll try to fill you in on the details as they become a little bit more clear as to with whom he’s going to meet. Right now, it’s bounded by his leaving Thursday, tomorrow, and being back this weekend.

You had your hand up, sir? We’ll go down, and then you. 

QUESTION: Just when did – do you have any confirmation of when North Korea started moving this equipment around –

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have the dates. Recently. Within the past several days. But I will try to pin that down for you, if we can. 

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Same question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Anything else on North Korea? (No response.) Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah, just a quick one. Can you give us a sense of how worried you and other people in the building are about this? Is it threatening to unravel many, many months of very hard and important work? 

MR. MCCORMACK: The North  what the North Koreans have done?

QUESTION: Yeah, the moving back of equipment –

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, there have been –

QUESTION: The reassembling, whatever it is that they’re doing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, there have been a lot of ups and downs, starts and stalls, in the Six-Party process. And as I said, we have a certain set of operating principles here, and that is action for action, and you know, standing on principle, looking for – but looking for ways to move the process forward. And I think that we’ve shown that while standing on principle we are prepared – we have been prepared to be flexible. 

But at this point, it’s really a question of North Korea performing on its obligations. And you look at recent statements from the Chinese President, from the South Korean President, about verification, and I think it’s pretty clear that all the other members of the Six-Party Talks are completely united on it. North Korea really needs to fulfill its obligations here in terms of the verification regime. 

Okay. Other questions? Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: To my knowledge, the only stop is Beijing. 

Charles.

QUESTION: Different issue. In Pakistan, there were two different incidents today – two different things today. 

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: One is an attempted assassination of Mr. Gillani. Do you have any information about that? 

And also, there was a raid into Pakistan by some forces this morning. Do you have any information on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. On the latter, I don’t have any information for you. 

On the former question, I think Pakistani officials are in a better position than I to answer any questions about this. Certainly, we have seen violence and attempts at violence in Pakistani politics, and it is certainly of concern to Pakistanis. It’s, of course, a concern to us. We are pleased and relieved that the Prime Minister is unharmed, as are all of his entourage as well. I haven’t seen any reports of any other – any casualties. 

Kirit.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) Pakistani sources (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: We’ll let the Pakistani officials speak for their side. Of course, we have on a daily basis contact between our Embassy and the Pakistani Government. 

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll let the Pakistani Government speak for themselves. For our side, I would say that we have daily contact with the Pakistani Government. 

Yes, sir. In the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Pakistan. I’d like to have your comments on Pakistan’s decision to postpone military operations against and related to militants during Ramadan.

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me try to get something for you on that. 

QUESTION: Sorry?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll try to get something for you on that.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Apparently, according to a specialized website, al-Qaida in Maghreb called its fighter to kill the Secretary during her stay in Maghreb this week. Will they change the travel program of the Secretary?

MR. MCCORMACK: There are no changes to her program. 

Matthew.

QUESTION: Somewhat related to that, has the – is the bank account or the special mechanism, or whatever you guys are calling it that is being set up to pay – has that been – is there cash in it now or is it still not –

MR. MCCORMACK: Not at this point. Same answer as yesterday. 

QUESTION: And – but you still have reason to believe that it will be topped up soon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. 

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to try to circle a date on a calendar. We expect that it will be soon.

QUESTION: Sean, does the money need to be there before she goes?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. She’s going to be proceeding on this trip. We have every reason – rational expectation that the Libyans will live up to their commitments. They have, in terms of their dealings with the United States Government, lived up to their commitments at every step along the way, and we have every expectation they will continue to do so. 

Charley.

QUESTION: Sean, some families of victims of Pan Am 103 have been critical in general of the Secretary’s trip to Libya, but specifically her trip, scheduled and going forward, without the money being put in. Do you have anything to say directly to those families? And was there any effort to meet the representatives of the families before –

MR. MCCORMACK: We have been, throughout this process over the years and across administrations, been in close contact with the families, and their considerations and their feelings about this process. And the – at one point, the potential for an evolving relationship, and now the reality of an evolving relationship between the United States and Libya, has taken account of their input. And part of the reason why we – the President was able to sign into law the legislation that was recently passed that allowed for and gave – allowed for Libyan compensation – full compensation to all the victims of terror was because of the efforts of the families and because of the United States Government’s awareness of their input and their thoughts on this.

All of that said, the United States is also going to move forward in its national interest. And we believe that it is in our national interest to move forward with this relationship, absolutely mindful of the history of U.S.-Libyan relations as well as the existing reality within Libya. We do not– we’re not – we’re certainly mindful of how far Libya has come, but also very mindful of how far Libya needs to go in terms of fulfilling certain – the requirements that we would expect of an evolving relationship in terms of human rights, in terms of democracy. 

So, you know, look, I can’t pretend to stand up here and speak directly to families and speak about the loss that they’ve suffered. You know, I can’t do that. I can’t even imagine it. But I can assure them that we have been certainly mindful and taken into account their thoughts and their feelings regarding this. But we also have an obligation as an administration and stewards of the national interest and our foreign policy to try to move forward relationships where we can that we think are in our national interest. And in the case of Libya, it extends beyond the bilateral relationship. It extends into fighting terrorism in North Africa, which we’ve talked about. It extends to trying to find a solution to the myriad problems in Sudan and elsewhere in Africa involving Sudan and Chad, for example. It also extends into the Middle East and to helping resolve the complex issues there. So there are a number of different aspects to the U.S.-Libya relationship and how it could potentially benefit the United States, benefit the region, as well as benefit the world while being mindful of the thoughts and feelings of the families of the victims.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, thank you.

 (The briefing was concluded at 12:56 p.m.)

DPB # 145


Released on September 3, 2008

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