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Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 24, 2008

INDEX:

CHINA

Question about Russian Technical Assistance with Chinese Space Technology

NORTH KOREA

Reports of Expulsion of Monitors / Actions Are Disappointing, Counter to Six-Party Agreement
Urge North Koreans to Come Back into Compliance with Obligations
No Plans for Meetings with North Koreans at this Point / U.S. Plans to Consult with Allies
U.S. Personnel in North Korea
Recent Actions by North Korea Cause for Much Concern
U.S. Plans to Pursue Path to Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula
Sung Kim’s Whereabouts / Meetings

INDIA

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approval of Bill
Want to See Agreement Move On to House of Representatives
Agreement Is Important to Both U.S. and India
Secretary’s Communication with Members of Congress Regarding Civil Nuclear Agreement

JAPAN

Congratulations to Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso

IRAQ

Congratulations for Passage of Iraqi Provincial Elections Law / Positive Step
Issues of Kirkuk and Other Provinces to be Worked Out by the Iraqis


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

10:35 a.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Good morning, everyone. Welcome. I don’t have anything, so I’ll go right to your questions.

QUESTION: There’s a report that the – it’s – well, it’s actually a statement by the Chinese, (inaudible) space program. They’ll have Russian technicians helping China with its first-ever space walk this week, and it sets the stage for greater space cooperation. Is that something the U.S. was informed about in advance, do you know?

MR. WOOD: I certainly wasn’t. I haven’t seen the report. So we’ll try and get something on that, Barry, but I haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Is there anything unsettling about that?

MR. WOOD: Let me take a look at it first --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: -- before, you know, providing comment.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Robert, as you’re well aware, the IAEA has said that North Korea is expelling their monitors. And I’ve seen what Gordon had to say about this at the White House. Do you have anything more to add? And in particular, the White House statement said that the Administration remains open to talking to North Korea about its verification protocol. Is there any reason to believe that you will have any travel or meetings with the North Koreans about this, either in New York or elsewhere?

MR. WOOD: Well, I do know that Chris Hill is going to be meeting later this week with his Japanese and Chinese counterparts. But just for the broader group, North Korea’s actions are very disappointing and basically run counter to the expectations of the Six-Party members and the international community. Their actions serve only to isolate the North Koreans from the rest of the international community. And we strongly urge the North Koreans to come back into compliance with their international obligations. And so we remain, as we’ve said many times, interested in seeing a verification regime presented to us by the North Koreans. So I don’t have anything further beyond that at this point.

QUESTION: And just to be precise on the question of meetings with the North Koreans, there are no plans for meetings or talks with the North Koreans or travel by American officials to the region in the hopes of meeting them?

MR. WOOD: At this point, none.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: Please.

QUESTION: You just said that you are very disappointed, and North Korea’s actions run counter to the expectation of the Six-Party members.

MR. WOOD: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Is this not a violation of the Six-Party agreement?

MR. WOOD: Well, it runs counter to the Six-Party agreement. So again, we urge the North Koreans to reverse their actions and to come into compliance with those obligations under the Six-Party framework.

Please.

QUESTION: U.S. personnel still on the ground in Yongbyon?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, yes.

QUESTION: Have they been asked to leave?

MR. WOOD: As far as I know, no. And I believe, but you might want to check with the IAEA, I believe there are – people are on – the monitors are on the ground still as well.

Charley?

QUESTION: Does this transcend some of the earlier fits and starts of the whole process? Is this a serious rupture from where you stand?

MR. WOOD: Well, this is obviously serious. But again, we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in this process along the way. These actions the North Koreans have taken, as I’ve said, are very concerning and we want them to be reversed. But it’s hard for me to characterize exactly what’s going on in the North Korean mindset at this point. But we want to make very clear that we want to see them come back into compliance with these obligations. This is what the international community expects, wants to see happen and we want to see the North Koreans do this, you know, as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Earlier I got the feeling that you were playing this down, that you thought this was just one of the usual games that North Korea plays. Has the analysis changed?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s hard to say, again, with what the North Koreans are doing. I mean, we have to judge them on their actions and these actions that we’ve seen are quite troubling. And so we’re going to continue to consult with our allies. As I said, Chris Hill is going to be having conversations with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts, and we’ll go from here. But I just want to reiterate, we are troubled and these are very troubling actions, and we want to see them reversed.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal --

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: -- if we’re done with North Korea? As you’re aware, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bill yesterday 19-2, with no amendments – or their version of the bill . The House does not yet have a public version of a bill and it now appears that the continuing resolution, which is the vehicle to which this is expected to be attached to it, if it is attached to anything in the House, is likely to go through today. Do you have any – can you give us a sense of where the Department is in its talks with the House side on a version of the bill and whether you feel like you’re getting closer to agreement with them, as you clearly did with the Senate side on their bill?

MR. WOOD: Well, let me just say, Arshad, we’re very pleased by the vote out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And as you said, 19-2. We want to see it go to – we want to see passage by the full Senate and to see it go to the House of Representatives for passage. It wouldn’t be correct for me to comment on discussions we are having with members of the House of Representatives. This agreement is very important to the United States as well as India. We want to bring India, as we’ve said, over and again, back into the nonproliferation mainstream. This agreement is a good way of doing that. And we’re going to push – we’re going to work with the Congress to bring this agreement to fruition. But again, I don’t want to get into discussions – comment on the substance of discussions going on between the Administration and members of the House.

QUESTION: One other thing, when you said we want to see it go – you know, you want to see it pass the full Senate and then you want to see it go to the House of Representatives, by it, do you mean that bill or do you mean the India civil nuclear cooperative --

MR. WOOD: India civil nuclear agreement.

QUESTION: And – oh, last thing.

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: Any calls by the Secretary on this in the last day or so?

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe so, not in the last day or so. I’m certainly not going to rule out calls in the future. But at least in the last day or so, I don’t believe she has made any to any members of Congress on this subject.

QUESTION: On North Korea, does this mean that the whole U.S. approach has to be revisited or reassessed given the actions of the North Koreans, that perhaps the assumptions or premises that informed the approach thus far have to be looked at again?

MR. WOOD: Well, this is not a U.S. approach. This is an agreed framework by the six members of the Six-Party Talks. So look, North Korea’s obligations are clear. They know what they need to do and we want to see those obligations met. But again, the recent actions that the North Koreans have taken cause us a lot of concern. And so we want to see those actions, as I said earlier, reversed.

QUESTION: Do you have any alternative in riding the rapids with certainly – what should I say --

MR. WOOD: Riding the rapids?

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, you’re set back every couple of days and you express hope that the North Koreans will behave and all. I mean, is there an alternative way to deal with the situation or you’re just doomed to follow the whimsies of the North Korean Government?

MR. WOOD: Well, Barry --

QUESTION: The whims of the North Korean Government.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. Well, Barry, it’s a difficult process working with the North. It’s not easy. And this is something that we understood from the beginning. And that’s why we’ve been very insistent on trying to get this verification regime in place. We’re under no illusions about this process. But we believe that this is the best process for bringing about a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And we’re going to continue to pursue that path.

QUESTION: Has there been some interruption in communication with – from the North Korean regime to the outside world, to the Six-Parties? Has there been odd incoherence of late?

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, we’ve had conversations with the North Koreans through the New York channel. You probably need to talk to the other Six-Party members to see if they’ve had similar discussions with the North on this. I don’t want to characterize beyond what I’ve said what the North Korean modus is here. But we’re going to continue to push with our other Six-Party colleagues to try to get the North to do what it agreed to do. And we believe this is important, obviously for our nonproliferation efforts. We do not want to see the North continue, or to go in a backward direction. We want to see them meet their obligations.

Please.

QUESTION: Is Sung Kim still in New York and is he working that channel with the North Koreans?

MR. WOOD: I think he’s back in Washington now.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And can you say anything about meetings that he had or (inaudible) Six-Party Talks?

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have any readouts on any of his meetings that he had in New York.

Yes.

QUESTION: I know you commented on this a couple of days ago, but the Japanese Prime Minister – the new Prime Minister was officially appointed. Do you have a comment?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. We congratulate the new Prime Minister Taro Aso. And we look forward to working with him and the rest of the Japanese Government on outstanding issues, particularly, the bilateral relationship and how we go forward in meeting some of the challenges both countries face in the 21st century.

Anything else?

QUESTION: A different topic.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: This may not be something that gets handled out of this building. But as you know, French President Sarkozy has suggested the idea of a meeting of world leaders to discuss the financial crisis. Does the Administration think this is a good idea?

MR. WOOD: Well, that’s something, obviously, others in the Administration are looking at. And I prefer to leave comment to either Treasury or the White House on that.

Any other questions? Charley.

QUESTION: It’s another topic.

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: The Iraqi parliament approval of the parliamentary elections pushing them out even further. Any reaction to that?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. We congratulate the Iraqi parliament for passing the provincial elections law. We think this is a positive sign and certainly shows a maturing Iraqi democracy. And we hope that there’ll be provincial elections held as soon as possible, certainly before the end of the year. And – but I’d refer you to the Iraqis for further comment on their process. I do believe, though, it goes to the presidency council; that seems to be the next stage.

QUESTION: How much of a disappointment is that it is a further delay and it exempts Kirkuk and northern provinces from the elections?

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, these are issues that have to be worked out by the Iraqis themselves. And what we want to see is a process for making decisions on these important Iraqi issues. And this is a very good step having these – getting this provincial elections law passed through the Iraqi parliament so –

Anything else? Okay, thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:47 a.m.)

dpb # 159



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