|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 19, 2008
|Operationalizing Yongbyon / Looking for the Output from North Korea / Approving the Verification Regime / Stages / Continuing to Move to the Right Operationally / North Korea Has a Choice / Will Remain Engaged with North Korea and Other Six Party Talk Members / Secretary Rice Meeting with Chinese FM in New York|
|Likely No Change in Dealing with New Administration / Solid Process / Goal to Denuclearize the Korean Peninsula / New Administration will Make Their Own Calculations / Existing Security Council Resolutions|
|Kim Jong-ils Health|
|Chris Hill Travel to New York / Have Been in Contact with North Korea / We Will Meet our Obligations|
|Continue to Push Process Forward on the Six Party Process|
|P5+1 Political Directors Meeting This Afternoon / Focus on Iran / Where the Various Parties Are on Timing and Substance / Other Meetings among Political Directors / Addressing a Number of Issues / Meeting for Initial Discussion / Possibly Headed to a New Security Council Resolution / Two Pathways Still in Place / Wouldnt Expect an Agreement Coming out of Todays Meeting /|
|Security Council Resolutions are Important / Iranian Reputation / Iran is Paying a Heavy and Increasing Cost / Resolution is One Part of an Overall Solution / Hope for a Change of Mind in Some in Iranian Leadership|
|Dealing with Russia on Georgia and Iran / Working Together in the Security Council and IAEA / Putting Aside Issues with the U.S.|
|Applications to Join the WTO and OECD / Difficulty of Joining / Russia Moving Backwards / Other Factors for Applications Not Going Anywhere|
|Investigation Teams Are on the Ground / Post Aware of Security Threats and Challenges / Working with Host Government / Authorized Departure / Taking a Look at our Footprint / Making Sure Our Personnel and Facilities are Safe|
|Secretary Meeting with Prime Minister and President Bush / Separate Meeting with PM / Discussion of Regional, Bilateral, Israel/Palestinian, Iraq and Iran Issues|
|Trafficking in Persons / Global Issue / Part of Strategy Intended to Highlight Issue|
|SOFA / Not Going to Talk about Substance of Negotiations / U.S. Focus Is on Getting an Agreement with Iraq|
|Ambassador Satterfield Travels|
|AP Reporter Detained Then Released / Representations Made Via Embassy / Made Clear We Stand for Religious Freedom|
10:33 a.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Friday. I don’t have anything to start off, so we can get right to your questions.
QUESTION: Can you just start with North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: They seem to have taken the plunge from -- and now confirming and saying that they’re going to restart Yongbyon and that they don’t care anymore about getting off the state sponsors list. So where does that leave you and where does that leave that State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ll see. And you know, the same basic response as I have been given over the past week or so as we’ve been talking about this story, and that is we’re looking for the output, looking for the verification regime where we, as well as others continue to be in contact with them and urge them, to get to the point where they approve that verification regime.
I checked on this question of where do they stand vis-à-vis those three stages we were talking about. The first stage, talking about trying to reverse what they’ve done. The second stage, making the – taking preparatory steps to reverse the shutdown of Yongbyon. And then the last stage is actually going operational and starting up Yongbyon again and continuing to produce plutonium and put the fuel rods in the reactor. We’re still in the second stage.
Now as they have said, and has been reported, they continue to move to the right, getting closer to that point where they are to the point of operationalizing Yongbyon again. They haven’t gotten to that point yet. And we would urge them not to get to that point.
Look, as always, throughout this process they have a choice: They can go down the pathway of having a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world, receiving the benefits of that relationship, or they can keep themselves isolated, move the process backwards. So we’ll see. I don’t think we’re to the point yet of their having fully reversed what they have done. But they are continuing to move that direction. And we’re going to remain engaged with the North Koreans and, in particular, are going to remain engaged with the other members of the Six-Party Talks.
And the Secretary looks forward to having a meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister when she’s up at the UN General Assembly next week. And I would expect that this will be an important topic of conversation.
QUESTION: But what – why should the North Koreans deal with this Administration in its last four months?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I – you know, I don’t know who the next President and who the next Secretary of State is going to be, but I would wager that they’re not going to get a much different deal from the next administration as they’re getting from this administration. This is a solid process, a solid mechanism to try to solve really one of the toughest problems that is out there, and that is denuclearizing that Korean Peninsula which, for the past 60 years, has been a real source of geopolitical tension. This process holds out the prospect of defusing that longstanding geopolitical tension as well, as removing a serious threat in terms of proliferation, as well as, you know, North Korea possessing nuclear weapons.
So the process is a solid one. I think the logic behind it is indisputable. Again, I’m not going to speak for those who come after us here in this Administration. But I would wager that they probably are not going to get a much different deal from whomever comes next.
QUESTION: So you would – you would tell -- if you were to be advising the North Korean leadership on this, you would say that you don’t think that they’re going to get any better deal? That this is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they’ll make their own calculations. And first of all, I’m not going to offer them any advice and, second of all, I don’t think they would take it. But --
QUESTION: Do you – everything you’ve said so far is offering them advice.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no, no. You asked me a question; I gave you my best answer to it. But you know, again, I would caveat I don’t know what the policies of the next administration will be. I can only point out that this is a process that for the first time, really in decades, offers the prospect of addressing proliferation issues, political issues, security issues, all at once in one – in one process.
QUESTION: Would you say that a North Korean calculation that they should hold out and try for a better deal from the next administration is a fundamentally flawed --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I would only submit to you that there are existing Security Council resolutions that hold penalties for North Korea, should they go down the pathway of, for example, missile testing; for example, further testing of any nuclear devices. So there – the downsides are quite clear for them, and they exist even beyond, you know, American administrations. They’re enshrined in international law at this point.
So you know, that gives you a sense for where the international system is. And again, I don’t think that there’s a better solution at this point than this process.
QUESTION: Sean, do you link this reversal from the North Koreans – do you link this to Kim Jong-il’s apparently deteriorating health? And is there a decision-making, sort of, freeze in North Korea possibly, or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to – you know, I’m not going to make any comments about the news reports of Kim Jong-il’s health. I have seen the news reports out there. I’m not going to discount them, but I’m not going to certainly add in public to those news reports.
One thing we know for certain is that we have – we have yet to see any outputs from the North Koreans. And certainly, we have not seen any outputs from the North Koreans in the past month or so.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Actually, I just want to ask one more thing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) moving to the right. That means – in the second stage? That means they’re getting closer to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I’m sort of – trying to draw --
QUESTION: It means it’s moving backwards. It’s not moving --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, you can – (laughter) – I view it – you know, I view it as a progression, albeit it a negative progression, but a progression moving, you know, left to right.
QUESTION: And that’s a change from what – when you first started --
MR. MCCORMACK: I suppose we could move from right to left, depending on, you know, what alphabet you use.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: When you first started seeing the equipment being moved --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, you weren’t quite sure what was going on. That’s a change now, that you’re seeing it go towards the right or backwards or however you want to say it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, look, again, I can’t get inside the decision-making loop of the North Koreans, you know. I can’t explain to you what the intent is behind their doing this, whether this is, you know, an attempt at a negotiating tactic or what have you. All I know is that the process isn’t going to move forward absent their – a positive decision on the verification regime.
QUESTION: The P-5+1 meeting, I wanted to know if it started. And also there was apparently another meeting earlier this morning --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: -- about Georgia. What was discussed?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, the P-5+1 political directors are scheduled to meet right around – starting around lunchtime, right around noontime, and that meeting is going to be focused exclusively on Iran. So certainly, we’re not going to bring up any other topics, you know. If somebody else wanted – if the Russians want to bring up Georgia, then I suppose that would spice up the conversation a bit. But our focus is going to be on Iran.
And quite frankly, I’m not going – I would not point you to any expectations of any breakthroughs or outcomes. This is really discussion intended to talk about where the various parties in the P-5+1 are regarding timing and substance of a next Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran.
There were some meetings, and I think they’re ongoing now, among the United States, France, the UK, and Germany political directors. And they address a number of other issues. They talked about Iran, they talked about Kosovo, they talked about Georgia as well.
QUESTION: And why this meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it was an opportunity when you have the political directors all in one place prior to UNGA, to discuss a number of issues that will probably be a topic of discussion about among ministers at the UN General Assembly. So it’s really – it’s being opportunistic. They have a chance to talk about those issues, and also talk a little bit about Iran going into the noontime meeting.
QUESTION: Isn’t it – isn’t the goal of the – or isn’t it one of the goals of this meeting or your hope that this meeting with give – the political directors will come to a consensus to recommend to the ministers that they begin the process of ordering the beginning of the drafting of the next resolution? Is that not the purpose of this meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well it’s a pre-meeting. We’re hoping for a P-5+1 ministerial meeting up at the UN General Assembly next week. I think it’s an initial discussion. There’s – the context for this is that all the members of the P-5+1 had previously agreed, if Iran does not meet its international obligations – (a) comply with Security Council resolutions, cooperate with the IAEA, those two things – then they’re headed for a new Security Council resolution. That’s where we are right now. So the Iranians have chosen at that particular fork in the road to go down the pathway of continued defiance, and therefore isolation.
So this conversation takes place in that context: What is going to be the timing and content of a new Security Council resolution? And we’ll take the temperature of all the various parties on those particular questions, and we’ll see. Yeah, it is – so in the sense, it is meant to -- as a precursor for the foreign minister – the hope for a foreign minister’s conversation up in New York. But I wouldn’t set expectations high at all for this meeting actually producing a definitive answer on the substance or timing of a resolution.
QUESTION: Well, is it your understanding that there is consensus to go to a new resolution? The Chinese (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that’s the context of this. That’s the context of this. We’ll see as to, you know, how fast, at what pace, and what the content would be of a new Security Council resolution among the P-5+1. I mention the context only because as far as we know and have been informed, that deal hasn’t changed. That fundamental deal is that if Iran continues to defy the Security Council, they’re headed for continuing – a continuing series of Security Council sanction resolutions. So the Chinese or Russians – anybody – nobody else has come to us and said, well, no, actually, we don’t agree with that strategy.
QUESTION: The Chinese have.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, they have not. They have not reneged on the fundamental bargain at all of the – of Security Council resolutions. Now, as we saw the last time around, the last time we passed the Security Council resolution, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about the timing and content of the resolution, yes. But that fundamental bargain about the two pathways for Iran is still in place. So that’s not in question. And certainly, we have not heard otherwise from any of the parties, including the Chinese and the Russians.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand, though. If this meeting isn’t going to talk about the content or --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it is. I’m sorry if I left you the impression that it wasn’t. I’m trying to set – look, I’m trying to set expectations for you here. I don’t expect an agreement on the timing of it or the substance. They certainly will talk about both of those things, but I wouldn’t expect agreement at – coming out of this political directors’ meeting.
QUESTION: Well, is the idea that – and I’ll stop after this. Is the idea then to get it to the point where –
MR. MCCORMACK: Please.
QUESTION: -- the ministers could decide on the timing of the – of the (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Matt, you know I never – I never, ever bet on when we will pass Security Council resolutions. I wouldn’t expect the meeting of the ministers next week to produce a final agreement, either on the timing or the substance of a resolution.
QUESTION: Well then what’s the point in having those meetings, other than to make a free lunch at the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: Because – well, because it – Matt, it’s a precursor. We believe we are going to get to that point where you do have a resolution. But as we have seen anytime you have multilateral diplomacy, it takes a lot of time. I know we’ve – you know, we’re always accused of going it alone and not engaging in multilateral diplomacy. Well, let me tell you – we spend a lot of time and effort for a group of people who don’t seem to be concerned with that on multilateral diplomacy.
QUESTION: So do you have a text already?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure – I don’t believe we have a working text. We’re not to that point. Everybody has their own set of ideas which they have put on paper, so I guess in that sense you can consider it a text. We’re not to the point of working from a joint draft of a resolution yet. That will come later.
QUESTION: Do you plan to furnish a statement at the end of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn’t expect – I would not look for that.
QUESTION: But what could be in it realistically, though, when there’s people saying, you know, it would have to be quite weak, because there’s clearly not agreement among the parties on what we would put in it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, we’re looking for the most robust Security Council resolution we can get. And there are all variety of options. I’m not going to try to outline those for you right now.
What we have – what we have seen, however, is that in a sense, the fact of Security Council resolutions is quite important. And they have some teeth to them. A lot of people have said, well, they’re not exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not exactly what you originally proposed. True enough. I mean, if we were writing these ourselves, then they wouldn’t look exactly like the existing resolutions look. But what one of the very practical effects of these resolutions is that they – they put a cloud of – over the reputation of this Iranian regime. And we have seen numerous instances over the course of the past year of the importance of reputation when you’re in the international financial community, in the international trading community. And suffice -- I think it is very safe to say that because of the combination of the Security Council resolutions and the steps that individual states have taken – that Iran is paying a heavy cost and an increasing cost for their behavior.
So this is -- the action in the Security Council is just one part of an overall strategy to try to present a different set of choices to the Iranian regime and to, again, try to get them to make a different set of calculations in terms of cost benefits. You know, clearly, they are capable of doing that. I – judging from some of the public debate we have seen in Iran, there are some who have started making a different calculation in terms of the costs and the benefits of what they’re doing. And the idea is to continue proceeding down that road to demonstrate to them both in political and very practical and real ways that there are increasing costs for their behavior, and therefore we hope – meaning we in the international community – that we hope that there will be an increasing number and an increasing number of people with influence on the decision making process in Iran that say, wait a minute. The costs that we’re incurring just aren’t worth it. We can have a peaceful civilian nuclear program and enjoy a more normal relationship with the rest of the world in terms of politics, economics, and finance than we currently have.
So that’s what we’re trying to – that’s what we’re trying to do.
QUESTION: Did you talk to the Russians about this before the meeting today? And how’s your leverage with them on this now with all the problems in Georgia and with Secretary Rice’s speech yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Secretary Rice on September 11th, when she spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov, touched on the variety of issues that the world has before it, including Iran, and just expressed the hope that we could, despite very real differences and difficulties regarding Georgia – that we could work together in the Security Council and the IAEA and elsewhere on – to help prevent Iran from obtaining those technologies they could use to build a nuclear weapon.
Like I’ve said before, that’s not a favor to us. It’s not a favor to the United States. It’s not a favor to France. It’s not a favor to Germany or England or anybody else. Russia has made it clear that it isn’t in their national interest that Iran obtain those technologies. And they’ve expressed that in a lot of different ways: voting for Security Council resolutions with Bashir, they have a fuel take-back provision. So quite clearly they have concerns about this.
And we would urge them to put aside, as we have, any issues that are -- exist between the United States – the United States -- the rest of the world -- and Russia on Georgia, and work on areas where we can work together, like Iran.
QUESTION: Sean, one of the things the Secretary’s made clear in her speech was that it is not just the Georgia issue that the U.S. has problems with in terms of Russia --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right.
QUESTION: -- and it goes well beyond that. It goes to this kind of – the idea, you know, they’re meddling, for lack of a better word, in Latin America with the Latin American autocracies and their authoritarianism at home. So if it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, you’re right. I was just – you know, I was using a current example.
MR. MCCORMACK: You’re absolutely correct. There’s a –
QUESTION: But are you willing to put your – and so when you say that you would hope that the Russians would put aside, as we have, the differences, very real and, you know -- differences and difficulties over Georgia, it’s not just Georgia. It’s a lot of other things.
MR. MCCORMACK: Fair enough. You know, fair enough. And I’m not – and you know, of course, the Secretary’s speech stands. I didn’t want to go through the litany, but yes. There are very real and deep differences and very real questions about what vision Russia is going to be following.
QUESTION: And one of the things that she alluded to in her speech is the problems that Russia is going to face or is facing now in its applications to join the WTO and the OECD. She wasn’t very specific about what those problems were, though. Is the United States doing something to prevent or to block Russian applications to join these, or do they – do you need to? Are others also doing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right. Well, for – in both of these cases, WTO and the OECD – and, by the way, these are clubs that Russia, despite current protestations not withstanding, want to join and can derive very real benefits from. The WTO – it’s a consensus organization, and the OECD is, in fact, an organization where current members have to vote for membership for a proposed incoming member. And in both of those cases, the WTO and the OECD, those applications are going nowhere for a variety of different reasons. And I would – you know, I – I’ll point out one reason, one obvious reason, on WTO: Georgia is a member of the WTO. And again, I don’t speak on behalf of foreign governments or for Georgia. One would find it difficult to imagine that Georgia or – and a whole variety of other countries, at this point, would vote for Russia joining the WTO.
On the OECD, they’re – again, a different – there are a whole set of criteria there, one of which, I think, talks about like-mindedness in terms of the various policies, economic policies, political – you know, political – and the intersection of politics and economics. And I think it’s fair to say, judging by Russia’s record, they’re moving backwards, certainly, on that one criteria. So again, that application is going nowhere.
And the Secretary also talked about a variety of other costs of Russia’s – Russia is incurring because of its behavior. So there are very real costs that are being imposed on Russia. They have nothing to do with governments, you know. Markets and individual investors are making decisions on their own based on what they’re seeing in Russia and Russian behavior, based on their judgments about the application of the rule of law in Russia, based on their judgments about the business environment in Russia, and making judgments about Russia leadership, based on the behaviors that they see externally to Russia. So there are a whole set of factors have nothing to do with governments, but with respect to governments on WTO and OECD, those applications are going nowhere.
QUESTION: But is the United States prepared to stand up in the WTO and to – and block consensus, recognizing that you can’t speak for Georgia, unless (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. prepared to block consensus on WTO, should there – should it look like there might be one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well --
QUESTION: And is the U.S. prepared to vote no or to veto or to do whatever -- to lead a block of countries in OECD to prevent Russia from joining?
MR. MCCORMACK: In both those cases, we’re nowhere near that point where people have to raise their hands, one way or the other. So – but we’ll see how this plays out, but I can tell you that these – right now, during – given the current circumstances, neither of those things are going anywhere.
QUESTION: Can you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just give us some more detail on what happened at this meeting in the group of four, you know: Britain, France, Germany, U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have anything for you beyond the fact that they talked about these issues.
QUESTION: You can’t tell us anything about what was said in that meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven’t gotten a readout. They’ve been closeted in these meetings. I only know that they took place and what the various agenda items might be.
QUESTION: And one other thing, do you think you have time to come up with another sanctions resolution while the Bush Administration is still in office?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. All things are possible. Yeah, we got a number of months here.
QUESTION: Switching to Yemen. Do you have any update on the investigation? Have the teams arrived – the investigative teams arrived?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they’re on the ground. They’re working – I don’t really have much of an update beyond that, though.
QUESTION: Has the Embassy changed its security posture? I know you said you were going to look at --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. They are – I’m not going to comment on any specifics, but this was a Post where they were already acutely aware of the various security threats and challenges that existed out there. But once you have an attack like this, you take a look at your security posture, you work with the host government and talk about their responsibilities. We have gone to an authorized departure, so we are looking at our footprint, but it was already a very scaled-down footprint. And any family members that are there were family members that – are family members that are actually working at the Embassy, so they’re employed at the Embassy. All of that said, we’re taking a look at what our footprint is. And they have taken the steps that they think are appropriate to make sure that our personnel and our facilities are as safe as they can be.
QUESTION: On the Six-Party Talks, South Korean officials said that its chief representative is going to meet Christopher Hill in New York this Sunday. And I'm wondering if you have anything on that meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: He’s – I know Chris is out of town, but in the United States now, and I think he’s – either he’s traveling up to New York Sunday or Monday. I’m not sure for the UN General Assembly meetings, and I don’t know what his schedule is. We have – as I said, we have been in contact with North Korea during this period, as have others, to continue to encourage them to stay involved in the process, meet your obligations. And we can assure you we will, in turn, meet our obligations.
QUESTION: So he’s traveling to New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is. I don’t have the details of his schedule, but I know – I think he’s going to end up in New York – what Sunday? Yeah, he’ll end up there Sunday.
Yeah. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: And just on the North – the recent North Korea statement and, I guess, given the situation with the Six-Party Talks, are you guys concerned at all and – or have you kind of decided to pass it over to the next administration?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) You know, this idea that somehow we’re, you know, well, time to throw in the towel, we’ve gotten to, you know, seven years and eight months and, you know, we’re done and it’s over with is just, you know – (laughter) – is not at all where we are. As you can see, judging by yesterday, the Secretary’s speech yesterday, just for one example, we are completely engaged in being good stewards of the national interest here. We’re going to continue to push this process forward and do those things that we believe are responsible acts in the national interest and then we’ll be ready to turn over what we hope is a Six-Party process moving forward, as well as other diplomatic initiatives.
So at this point, absolutely, we are pushing forward on the Six-Party process. We’ll see what North Korea does. The ball is really in their court. We can continue to make clear to them that this process is a good process. It is the -- really, only pathway that they have to having a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world and realizing the benefits from that.
QUESTION: And then your assessment on what’s going on at Yongbyon, is that from your people on the ground?
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s from a variety of different sources, yeah.
Yeah. Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: Sean, do you think North Korea is saying it no longer wants to be taken off the terrorism list, do you think that represents a loss of leverage for the United States over North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: What is? I don’t understand. What would be a loss of leverage?
QUESTION: A loss of diplomatic leverage, because they no longer want to be taken off, so you can’t say then --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we – all I will say is we were prepared to meet our obligations, should North Korea meets its obligations. Yeah.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if you could give us just a little more clarity. You know, about 10 days ago, they were – had taken things out of garages and were moving them around.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right. Moving around equipment.
QUESTION: Okay, now you seem to say that maybe they’ve got mechanics in the reactor area and are doing things that would be preparatory to putting, like, the fuel rods back in. Is that --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. That’s not what I’m trying to say. They are – they are continuing work that could lead to their restarting Yongbyon. I’ll see if I can get you a more detailed list of some of those things or at least some examples of what that might be. I don’t have anything in front of me right now.
QUESTION: But you don’t think, again, that the return of the fuel rods is imminent?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Dave, I – you know, let me reserve on that question. I guess Robert’s going to be briefing next week, so maybe he can give you an update on Monday, what we know. Or if we have anything later today, we’ll provide that as well.
QUESTION: The Secretary is going to meet twice today with the Prime Minister of Kuwait.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: What is the agenda or can you tell us anything about this meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first, she’ll be participating in a meeting between the Prime Minister and the President. And she’ll have a separate meeting this afternoon with the Prime Minister. They’re going to talk about regional issues. They’re going to talk about bilateral issues. They’ll talk about where we stand in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I’m sure that we will talk about Iraq and encourage the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We’ll talk about Iran, I’m sure, as well as whatever else happens to be on the Prime Minister’s mind.
QUESTION: I asked you recently about the Russian activities in the Arctic --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the fact that they want to (inaudible) their borders there. And you told me you would look into that.
MR. MCCORMACK: We did. We posted a very long response, yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, I didn’t know that. I’m sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that’s okay. That’s okay. We try to be responsive.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about this announcement that the OSCE made that, you know, they’ve abandoned their efforts to get agreement with Russia on the international observers in South Ossetia?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have to confess, I didn’t see that. Let me check into it for you. We’ll get you an answer.
Yes, you had a question?
QUESTION: A follow-up on the Kuwaiti --
MR. MCCORMACK: Please.
QUESTION: -- question. I wonder if the meeting between Secretary Rice and the Kuwaiti Prime Minister if the agenda would include U.S.-Kuwaiti cooperation on the human trafficking in the Middle East as it is becoming a compounded problem in the Middle East and in the Gulf States, in particular. And there has been some uprising among the laborers – and the foreign laborers that -- the Gulf States depend on importing them. I wondered -- since this is becoming a real problem in the area, I wonder if there is any new cooperation or renewal of cooperation on this issue between the United States and the Kuwaiti Government.
MR. MCCORMACK: I honestly can’t tell you. I don’t know if it will be a topic of conversation between the Prime Minister and the Secretary. But trafficking in persons is a global issue. There have been issues in the Middle East; there have been issues all around the world. And we’ve spoken very plainly and very clearly about it, because it’s part of a strategy that is intended to highlight this as an issue, speak clearly in public about it, although it may be painful for governments around the world, including for some friends. But we believe that’s the way to try to get at the issue and to try to resolve it. We have made great progress. There is a lot left to do.
QUESTION: What’s going on with the Iraq – the deal on U.S. troops in Iraq? There are reports that --
MR. MCCORMACK: With the SOFA?
QUESTION: -- negotiations have stalled again, the question of immunity.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to talk about the substance of the negotiations. They continue. There have been a lot of ups and downs in these negotiations. But we still believe that we will be able to come to some agreement.
QUESTION: By December? Obviously, that’s when, you know –
What about the idea, though, of going back and doing another UN Security Council – or UN resolution that would just allow them to stay under that authority?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our focus is --
QUESTION: Because Maliki’s apparently raised this again as a possibility and --
MR. MCCORMACK: The focus is still on getting an agreement between the United States and Iraq.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Gates said that the team – the U.S. negotiating team would be going out again. I’m wondering when. After the General Assembly? Presumably (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Well, for our part, Ambassador Satterfield, who’s currently back in the United States -- I think he’ll be leaving again Monday or so to go back to Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. Is that – and you don’t know if he’s with the rest of the team or not?
MR. MCCORMACK: I assume that they’ll all assemble in Baghdad at approximately the same time.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have anything about an AP reporter being beaten up in Vietnam?
MR. MCCORMACK: I – we had reports that there was an AP reporter that was detained. He, I understand, has been released. And we made very strong representations to the Government of Vietnam that we were – we would want to hear from the Government of Vietnam steps they’re going to take to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. I understand he was reporting on a vigil --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- a religious vigil. And in that connection, we have also made it very clear that we stand up for religious freedom, the ability of people, no matter what their faith, to be able to practice that freely and -- whether it’s in Vietnam or elsewhere around the world.
QUESTION: Where were the representations made? In Hanoi?
MR. MCCORMACK: To the – yes, to the – I believe, the Foreign Minister. Let me see – let me see if I have any details for you on that. It was – I would have been via our Embassy, Matt. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And one last thing on Southeast Asia. Why are you guys all of a sudden ratcheting up or getting exercised about Malaysia? You recalled the Ambassador -- that was their Chargé in – about 10 days ago. You put out this statement last night on the Internal Security Act.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right, right, right. I have nothing – I can’t say anything more than we believe the events merited the actions that we took.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:06 a.m.)
Released on September 19, 2008