|Daily Press Briefing|
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
September 5, 2008
|A/S Hill to Meet with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister/ Russian Ambassador|
|Six-Party Talks to Continue to Move Forward|
|U.S. and India Addressing Concerns of Nuclear Supplier Group Concerns|
|U.S. Objective to Ensure Humanitarian Aid to Georgia/ Rejects Russian Criticism|
|Russia Must Adhere to Ceasefire Commitment|
|U.S. Has Strong Working Relationship with Government of Iraq and PM Maliki|
|U.S. to Continue to Work with Government Regardless of Election Outcome|
|U.S. Hurricane Relief of Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Bahamas|
12:42 p.m. EDT
MR. WOOD: Well, this is what I call a full house. Sue, you ready? Good afternoon, everybody.
QUESTION: Any readout from Chris Hill’s meetings yet?
MR. WOOD: No. He arrived today for meetings in Beijing. And today, he held a bilateral meeting with South Korean Ministry Special Representative Kim Sook. He then held a bilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Ministry Director General Saiki. These meetings were followed by a trilateral dinner that the United States, South Korea and Japan held. It was hosted by the Japanese.
So Ambassador Hill tomorrow plans to meet with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, and then he will meet with the Russian Ambassador in Beijing. And Sung Kim, as you know, our Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks, is accompanying Assistant Secretary Hill. And both Assistant Secretary Hill and Sung Kim will return on the 7th to Washington. Assistant Secretary Hill, of course, will brief the Secretary on this visit.
QUESTION: Well, is he meeting with his North Korean counterpart at all?
MR. WOOD: We’ve heard nothing from North Korea, but Ambassador Hill has advised them of his travel schedule.
Go ahead, Nina.
QUESTION: And finally, anything more on the activities at Yongbyon? Have you any more clarity on it?
MR. WOOD: No update, no further update.
QUESTION: How about the telephone conversations that are going on between the U.S. and North Korean officials? Can you give us any insight about the substance of those conversations?
MR. WOOD: No. I obviously wouldn’t, you know, get into the substance of those diplomatic conversations. But obviously, we’re in – talking with our other partners in the Six-Party process about how we move forward with regard to what, you know, North Korea has done. And again, Assistant Secretary Hill is going to have some additional meetings tomorrow and we’ll just see how it goes.
QUESTION: I wanted to know if you had anything to say or any information about a documentary filmmaker who was detained in Nigeria. Apparently, Senators Schumer and Clinton have written a letter to Secretary Rice urging the State Department to take up his case with the Nigerians. I don’t know if you had anything on that.
MR. WOOD: Yeah. Kirit, if you could check with the Press Office, we’ve got something. We can give that to you a little bit later after the briefing.
QUESTION: Appreciate it, thanks.
MR. WOOD: No problem.
QUESTION: I apologize if this has been asked before, but any update on the NSG following the statement from Acting Under Secretary Rood?
MR. WOOD: The meeting – I believe the second session began a short while ago. And I don’t have any readout at this point. One of the things I’d like to do is draw your attention to a statement, a very significant statement that was issued by the Indian Foreign Minister Mukherjee about India’s nonproliferation commitments. The Nuclear Supplier Group representatives welcomed this statement. And we think the statement will give some positive momentum to the discussions in our efforts to bring about an exception for India.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that that statement actually does anything in terms of adding to the binding commitment that India operates under, or does it just really essentially just restate the voluntary moratorium on testing?
MR. WOOD: Well, again, it – the statement refers to a number of commitments India’s made. I’d recommend that you read the statement. It is, I believe, a public document.
QUESTION: I forgot what I was going to ask.
MR. WOOD: It’s all right. We’ll come back. You know where I am.
QUESTION: Robert, do you have anything on the latest Russian criticisms of aid shipments to Georgia, particularly as a U.S. ship docks in Poti or outside – drops anchor outside Poti?
MR. WOOD: Well, we certainly reject the Russian charges. You know, the Mount – the USS Mount Whitney has arrived in Poti. It’s bringing humanitarian supplies such as, I believe, 4,000 blankets, juice, diapers, hygiene products. There’s absolutely no foundation to this Russian charge.
We’ll go to Kirit. I think he remembers what he --
QUESTION: I do remember now, finally. Did you have any comment on the Bob Woodward book that just came out alleging that the Administration had spied on Prime Minister Maliki, and any claims that he makes that – sources saying that the surge was not responsible for the success in Iraq, but rather some sort of counterintelligence operation?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything to say other than, you know, I read books, but I don’t do book reviews, basically.
QUESTION: Is this like Jeopardy where you have to be the first to push the button or – a couple of questions, one on the Nuclear Supplier Group.
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: Some people there at the meeting in Vienna said that the Indian pledge did not go far enough; they felt like it didn’t go far enough. I just wondered what your interpretation of that is. And then I do have a question on the Russia-Georgia thing as well, so --
MR. WOOD: Well, as you know, a number of countries have some questions about, you know, this agreement. And the Government of India as well as the United States has tried to address some of those concerns. The meetings are ongoing in Vienna right now, and we’ll just have to see how those turn out. But obviously, we’re aware of those concerns that have been raised. And you know, the Government of India is trying to do that. And I think the Indian Foreign Minister’s issuance of this, you know, document, I think, was an attempt to address some of those.
QUESTION: But they say, you know, it doesn’t really go far enough to allay the concerns about, you know, the Nonproliferation Treaty, the integrity of that treaty.
MR. WOOD: Well, I think certainly the Indian efforts, our efforts, have been to try to assure people that this agreement is a very important agreement in terms of promoting the international community’s agenda with regard to nonproliferation. So there will continue to be discussions about these concerns, and we and the Indians we will try to address them as best we can.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I do one on Russia and Georgia?
MR. WOOD: Let me just – one on Nuclear Supplier Group?
QUESTION: Well, it’s back to Iraq.
MR. WOOD: Why don’t I take Sue’s, and then we’ll do your question.
MR. WOOD: Go ahead, Sue.
QUESTION: Just one housekeeping one, which is are you going to – can we get a – we will be confident of getting a statement once the NSG meeting is adjourned, no matter the result?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know. Our representatives there, Under Secretary Burns and Acting Under Secretary Rood, may decide to say something. But I don’t know. I can’t say at this point whether they will or not.
QUESTION: Germany, Italy, and some other European countries have called for an inquiry into who’s to blame for the war in Georgia over South Ossetia. Do you think that’s a good idea to go back over that?
MR. WOOD: Well, those – that would have to be a decision of those governments as to whether or not they wanted to pursue something like that. Our number one objective – actually two very important objectives right now -- is to get assistance to the Georgian people as best we can; and secondly, is to get Russia to live up to its commitments under the ceasefire agreement. Those are our two priorities right now. And we think that those concerns need to be addressed and that’s what we will be doing.
QUESTION: So Steinmeier says that we need to know who participated in and what – with what motives in the escalation, and that it’s important as we consider future ties. I guess he’s talking about, you know, the possibility of sanctions. Do you think it’s important to know, sort of, you know, who started it at this point?
MR. WOOD: I think it’s --
QUESTION: Was he talking about sanctions?
MR. WOOD: Well, again, I haven’t seen Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s remarks at all. But look, there will be time for getting to the bottom of, you know, how this conflict began. And I think what’s more important right now is what we can do to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. And that requires Russia adhering to its ceasefire commitments, and that’s what we want to see happen.
And as I said also, we’re working on the humanitarian side right now to try to aid the Georgian people who, you know, need assistance and need it right way. So that’s where the focus of our efforts is.
QUESTION: Yeah, just to go back to Iraq and Bob Woodward’s book. Surely, you’re going to have to reassure the Iraqis that you’re not spying on them based on these allegations. The Iraqis must be concerned. There are some signs that they’re worried about what had been going on. So what are you doing to reassure them?
MR. WOOD: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the substance of this book and, you know, our characterization of it, except to say that, look, we have a good working relationship, a strong working relationship, with the Government of Iraq. We’ve worked very closely with Prime Minister Maliki. We’ll continue to do so and -- in our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s democracy.
QUESTION: You can’t say that this is now an issue that you have to deal with?
MR. WOOD: Well, I, again, haven’t read the book. I’m not going to give you a review of it, and let me just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. WOOD: You want to follow up on that? Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, the Iraqis have put out a statement saying that they are concerned about that. I mean, are you not working to address those concerns on an official level?
MR. WOOD: I’m just not going to comment further, Kirit, on that.
QUESTION: Yes. There were reports yesterday that the Iraqi Government finally agreed to incorporate the volunteers, the Awakening. They call them the Sons of Iraq in the Sunni provinces, and that they will start paying their salaries beginning next month. How do you – what’s your reaction to this positive development?
MR. WOOD: Let me see if I can get you something on that. First and foremost, I’d refer you to the Iraqis for confirmation of that. But we believe transitioning some members of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi security forces, while providing the others with vocational training and other employment opportunities, will be key to sustaining the security gains that have been realized in Anbar and elsewhere in 2007. But I don’t have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: Let me go back about North Korea. Some sources said U.S. satellite caught the moving of North Korea ballistic missile preparation. Is that right?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything further from what I said yesterday in terms of what’s going on there at the complex.
QUESTION: Just one more, if you had any comment or anything to say to – about the plans to appoint Fran Drescher as the Public Diplomacy Envoy, what the reasoning was behind that? What does she hope to accomplish?
MR. WOOD: You know, honestly, I haven’t looked into that, but we’ll get back to you on that one. I’ll get you an answer on that.
QUESTION: Any comment on the upcoming presidential elections in Pakistan, and what do you think about it?
MR. WOOD: Nothing – I mean, the elections are going to take place tomorrow. It’s an internal Pakistani matter. And again, regardless of who becomes president, we will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on our mutual interests. And that’s longstanding U.S. policy.
QUESTION: Anything on hurricane relief, requests from countries in the path of the hurricane, and particularly providing assistance to Cuba as well as any requests for Americans to evacuate?
MR. WOOD: Let me see what I have here. I have some specifics on Jamaica and Haiti, and I think we can – if you want to check with the Press Office, we’ve got some stuff on Cuba. I don’t have it with me today. Okay?
You’re interested on something on Jamaica, Haiti, or --
MR. WOOD: Sure, okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Let’s see. The U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica made a disaster declaration and authorized the release of $100,000 in USAID emergency relief funds to assist the Jamaican Government in its relief effort. A USAID flight with emergency relief items for storm victims is scheduled to arrive in Kingston. I think that’s – I believe that actually – I think it happened yesterday. What I have here is the 4th.
Let’s see. USAID personnel on the ground are working with Jamaican officials to assess damage and determine if there are additional requirements for the United States.
In Haiti, the U.S. Ambassador authorized $100,000 in USAID emergency funds to support relief efforts. And let’s see. We have USAID disaster experts assessing damage with Haitian counterparts and humanitarian assistance organizations to determine additional assistance requirements.
Let’s see. The Dominican Republic -- the Ambassador has authorized $50,000 in USAID emergency funds to support relief efforts.
In the Bahamas, Embassy Nassau and USAID are monitoring the impacts of Tropical Storms Hanna and Ike. No U.S. Government assistance requirements have yet been identified for the Bahamas.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up, actually, on the Cuba front. I’m – this is the question that I wanted to have answered. There were a few – or a number of Cuban American activists who were asking the State Department to lift restrictions on imports into – or exports into Cuba so that they can be used for humanitarian relief in the wake of the – I think it was Gustav or Hanna that went through there. So I don’t know if you have anything on it specifically.
MR. WOOD: I don’t at this moment. We’ll see what we have.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Thank you, Charlie.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)
DPB # 147
Released on September 5, 2008