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State Department Briefing
The regular State Department Briefing with Sean McCormack. MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements to start with, so we can get right into your questions; whoever wants to start. Great, good, I'm out of here. (Laughter.) QUESTION: Sean, anything on the -- MR. MCCORMACK: Somebody here? QUESTION: Do you have any readout on the six-party talks? QUESTION: He was already starting. MR. MCCORMACK: That's right. We'll get you next. QUESTION: The six-party talks. QUESTION: (Inaudible.) MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know, really -- rap people in the knuckles with the ruler. QUESTION: Anything, sir, on the statement on the six-party talks? (Laughter.) MR. MCCORMACK: Stole your thunder. (Laughter.) Here's where we stand. Chris Hill briefed Secretary Rice about it yesterday up in New York at the Waldorf. They had breakfast over at the White House, including with the President, I think a couple of others, White House can fill you in on that, so they briefed the President up on this. We have conveyed to the Chinese Government our approval for the draft statement that all the parties had when they went back to their capitals. We studied it, talked about it, examined it, gave our approval to the Chinese. I can't tell you what the status is of all the other countries, whether or not they have had -- done their review and given a response to the Chinese. So in terms of the when and if they issue the statement and the contents of the statement, let me take a deep breath and we'll wait for the Chinese to issue the statement. QUESTION: Just a -- I mean, a very general -- what the statement is all about. Is it in relation to the timing in which -- MR. MCCORMACK: It addresses those issues that we were talking about, the second -- implementing the second half of the February 13th agreement, very basically three components: disablement of the Yongbyon facility, a declaration by the North Koreans of their nuclear program and then what in return the other five parties would do for North Korea. That's very generally it. QUESTION: So were there any changes that you sought or you just approved -- you just signed off on the whole thing as was brought back? MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that we in the negotiating sessions that Chris had back in Beijing were happy with the outcome and that was verified by the fact that Chris was able to brief senior officials back here in Washington and they gave their approval to it. QUESTION: So no changes, not even a comma? Everything is -- MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, you know, Matt, I don't know. I mean, did they, you know, correct the grammar? You know, perhaps. QUESTION: Well, I don't know because these things -- a lot of them hinge on punctuation, the intent -- MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it is absolutely true that the Secretary is a stickler for grammar -- QUESTION: It's not just -- MR. MCCORMACK: -- and I don't know if she got out her Strunk and White and went through the statement. She may very well have. But, look, it was approved. I can't tell you whether or not -- whether or not there were any changes in it. QUESTION: Can you just give us anything about why the envoys had to come back to the capitals to decide on something? MR. MCCORMACK: It's a significant document. And very oftentimes, you have a long document, a detailed document and there's a lot of negotiation that went into it. Sometimes some of the capitals want to have an option to, in a considered way, take a look what it is the envoys have produced. Yes. QUESTION: Sean, when you say -- sorry -- that you don't know when the Chinese might release it or what they're going to do, was it not the understanding when they wrapped up things the other day on Sunday that they in turn, in 48 hours, there will be a decision, yes or no; because if it's a yes then it will be released. MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I can't tell you the status of when people are getting back to the Chinese, you know. I don't think anybody's going to call the whole thing off if somebody gets back to the Chinese at hour 50 or hour 60. It's not the way it's going to work. So breathe in with me, take a deep breath, and we'll just wait for the document to come out and then at that point you can take a look and see exactly what it says. And that's -- I'm preempting all the other questions on what's in it. QUESTION: You don't expect Chris to go back in the next week? MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. He's up in New York right now doing -- performing his duties as the Assistant Secretary for East Asian Pacific Affairs as opposed to the Assistant Secretary for the Six-Party Talks. So he'll be back down here tomorrow night in time for -- in time to watch the Red Sox get their -- gain their first victory in the playoffs. QUESTION: Is that really a title? It's not? MR. MCCORMACK: It's an attempt at humor, Matt. (Laughter.) QUESTION: Oh, okay. A brave -- MR. MCCORMACK: To make a point, yes. Others laughed, by the way. QUESTION: Just one more, Sean. The North Koreans keep saying, including Kim Gye Gwan today, that the statement will contain a timeline for their being taken off the terrorist list. The Japanese came out and said it's not true. So which is it, yes or no? MR. MCCORMACK: My advice to you, take a deep breath and you can -- QUESTION: I'm out of breath. MR. MCCORMACK: -- and do your breathing exercises from the diaphragm. And then when the document comes out, you can see exactly what it says. How about that? Rosen. QUESTION: Forgive the long windup but I want to establish the predicate with some facts here. MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. (Laughter.) QUESTION: And apologies to Tom. MR. MCCORMACK: I would never want to deny you the opportunity for a little air time here and to establish the (inaudible). QUESTION: At the daily press briefing on September 26th -- MR. MCCORMACK: Uh-huh. QUESTION: -- the Deputy Spokesman was asked if the U.S. sanctions that were imposed on the Government of North Korea and on a Pyongyang-based company, citing proliferation of missile technology, should give rise to any concern about the Administration's stated intention to remove North Korea from the Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism. The Deputy Spokesman told the questioner, "You've got a bit of apples and oranges issue here." But then went on to say in the very same answer that the bottom line is that for North Korea to be removed from the terror list it has to address the questions that are out there, those questions for us principally through the six-party talks are about denuclearization. But the Deputy Spokesman added, denuclearization by definition includes dealing with WMD proliferation concerns as well. My question to you is: Why should a question about missile proliferation and the potential de-listing of North Korea from that terrorism list be described as apples and oranges? MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) James, I'll let you and Tom talk about this over lunch or dinner. I didn't -- I have to confess, I'll confess to all up here. QUESTION: Do you (inaudible) as apples and oranges? MR. MCCORMACK: James, I didn't read the transcript. So I'll -- I'm sure if you take a look at the entire exchange, that it's quite clear from what Tom said to everybody else here what it is that he meant, so -- QUESTION: Well, maybe you can go about it this way, you know, is missile proliferation necessarily WMD proliferation? MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're concerned about the -- QUESTION: Yes, but our -- MR. MCCORMACK: -- proliferation threat from North Korea in all its regards. QUESTION: But are missiles in themselves -- just in themselves, not with anything attached to them, that might explode or whatever -- are those regarded as WMD? I don't know. MR. MCCORMACK: Technically not. They're not. No. But very oftentimes, it's the threat of the combined -- QUESTION: I know. I understand. I -- MR. MCCORMACK: -- (inaudible) WMD married up with the missiles. QUESTION: If you have someone who's getting -- I just want to understand this. If someone is -- some entity is being penalized for missile proliferation, it doesn't necessarily fall under the WMD category. MR. MCCORMACK: It depends on the facts. I mean, they could be designated for both things at the same time. It would really depend on the specific circumstances. But strictly speaking, you have missiles, that is separate from WMD, but we usually -- talk about them in the same breath. QUESTION: And so these sanctions that were signed on the 18th and that appeared in the Federal Register. One final question, one follow-up. There are, as you know, those who have long expressed concern that the Bush Administration is pushing to negotiate a deal with a country that has a demonstrably poor record of faithful adherence to nuclear accords. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. QUESTION: And now these individuals can point to a State Department finding as recent as September 18th that North Korea is, while we have been negotiating with it, actively engaging in dangerous and illegal WMD proliferation. Why then should anyone believe that negotiating with the North Koreans at the present time is a smart thing to do? MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, James there are people who don't think that we should negotiate with North Korea at all; that we should have no contact with them; that we shouldn't even try to have them negotiate away their nuclear weapons program. We don't agree with those people. John Bolton is a proponent of that point of view. I wouldn't mischaracterize his views, but I think that's safe to say that's his point of view. We don't agree. We don't agree with that. We have learned the lessons of our experiences with the North Koreans over time, over the decades here, and we think that we have now the best possible opportunity to try to have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and have a changed relationship, therefore, a changed behavior on the part of the North Korean Government, vis-à-vis the rest of the world. We think that that's -- we think that that is an opportunity worth taking. And we have designed the negotiations such that we go step by step. Good faith actions met, in turn, by good faith. And that has been the underpinning for all of these negotiations. Now we are seeing the North Koreans shut down the Yongbyon facility. That's positive, but that is not breaking new ground in terms of North Korean behavior. You can go back in history and thet've done that before. Disabling the Yongbyon facility and a full declaration of North Korea's nuclear program, that's new, that's path breaking. And we'll see between now and the end of the year if they can achieve that. And if the North Koreans meet the conditions that have been laid out for them by the other six parties, then they are going to receive some benefits for that change of behavior. But it's only in reaction to that change of behavior. And it's also important to note that in the six-party talks, whenever North Korea makes a promise, makes a pledge, it's making that pledge not just to the United States, it's making it to the other four members of those six-party talks. And safe to say that those other countries -- notably China -- have much more leverage with North Korea than the United States does. So they're making that promise and that pledge to those countries with whom they have the most to lose. So we think that the structure of these negotiations, whereby you have real leverage to try to get North Korea to change its behavior is the right way to go. We'll see if it bears results. It warrants some initial results. We'll see if we actually start to break some new ground in terms of changed North Korean behavior. But we couldn't disagree more that it's not worth taking that opportunity because the risks of doing nothing are far too great. QUESTION: To extend my air time on BNET, what does it -- what does it say about the faith of the North Koreans, good or bad, as we're in this negotiation right now, that as recently as September 18 you have this finding by the State and Treasury Departments? MR. MCCORMACK: You know, James, we will see, as the negotiations proceed and as North Korea makes progress or not in keeping its pledges. And then we'll be able to make those judgments. QUESTION: Hasn't a determination been made by State and Treasury on the 18th of September? MR. MCCORMACK: James, what you're talking about are lagging indicators. And what we're doing is taking a look forward. Whenever you have a designation it's, by definition, looking backwards. And it is something -- a lagging indicator, if you will. And we'll see going forward what kind of changed behavior we have. This is not going to happen overnight. The North Koreans are not going to have a pristine record by the end of December, from our point of view or the point of view of any of our other colleagues in the six-party talks. Nobody -- everybody's going into this with their eyes wide open in terms of the history of North Korean behavior. These are hard, tough negotiations. And I can assure you that the President and Secretary Rice, every step along the way, are designing the negotiations and what it is that we would provide North Korea with an eye towards the fact that they need to perform on what it is that they have said they would do. QUESTION: Last question with your and Elise's forbearance, if I might. You mentioned John Bolton as the proponent of a view that there should be no negotiation with North Korea right now. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. QUESTION: To you knowledge is there anybody inside the Bush Administration who also is a proponent of that view? MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. You know, you have sources within the Bush Administration, do a poll yourself. QUESTION: You don't know if there's anyone in the Administration that holds that view? MR. MCCORMACK: You know what, the voices that I listen to -- the President and Secretary Rice, and they are fully behind the six-party mechanism. I don't know what other noise there may be in the system. But for my money, those are the voices that matter. Yeah. QUESTION: Can we move to a different topic. MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: Pakistan's President Musharraf has announced that a new general will replace him once he takes off his uniform. MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: I wonder, what are your comments on that, considering President Musharraf has been considered a long-term ally of the U.S. and will it in your view affect the relationship of the two countries, especially in the context of the war on terror? MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware. You can check with other military officers who have had some long-term interaction with the general, what they think of him. I can't offer any particular opinion. I'm sure that he's somebody that our military would be able to work closely with. As for the decision of who fills what post, that's going to be up to the Pakistani Government and ultimately the Pakistani people to decide within the context of their laws and their constitution and their political system. QUESTION: But the very fact that this indicates a willingness on part of Musharraf to take off his uniform and replace himself with another military leader heading the army, how do you view that? MR. MCCORMACK: This is -- this gets to the larger question about the transition that is ongoing within Pakistani politics. And we have said repeatedly and I'll repeat it again today, what we're looking for is a modern moderate democratic Pakistan. We're not in the habit of choosing who will lead Pakistan. That is going to be up to the Pakistani people. We're not in the habit of choosing candidates or favoring political parties. That is for the Pakistani people to decide. What we would like to see, and I think what the rest of the world would like to see, is that the elections that are coming up that will have an effect on a lot of these questions that you're -- the answers to a lot of the questions that you're asking right now -- is that these elections take place in a transparent, free and fair way and at the end of the day that the voice of the Pakistani people will have spoken. We will work with whomever the Pakistani people choose to lead them. They are, as you said, a good friend in the fight against terror. They have a lot at stake. We have a lot at stake. They have a lot at stake. The future course of Pakistan is at stake in this and future elections. But it's going to be up to the Pakistani people to decide within the context of their laws, their constitution and their political system. QUESTION: But are you looking at it as a positive development or progress toward democracy? MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, you're going to try to get me to jump into the Pakistani politics and I'm going to resist at every turn. Yeah. QUESTION: Can I get jump into whatever details you can disclose about the incident in Vienna yesterday and -- MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, that's right. QUESTION: -- whether or not there (inaudible) yesterday? MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, I apologize. I was supposed to get that for you. We'll post something for you. QUESTION: How about (inaudible) on Pakistan about whether the Secretary is -- MR. MCCORMACK: She did. I had some folks research that. She met -- apparently met him once about a year ago in November 2006 here. QUESTION: In Washington? MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, here in Washington. QUESTION: And then another question -- I don't know if you were able -- on the Iraqi refugee admissions. MR. MCCORMACK: We have some -- QUESTION: I know you have the numbers, but -- MR. MCCORMACK: We have the general numbers. QUESTION: And the look forward? MR. MCCORMACK: The look forward -- the very -- the best description I've gotten as to why this is -- why we've seen a significant increase over the past couple months of people coming into the United States, refugees admitted, is that a lot of the groundwork that had been done earlier is actually starting to bear fruit. That you had people into the -- in the pipeline being fed in through the bureaucratic processes and they emerged from that pipeline. QUESTION: Right. But you expected -- I mean, we were told about ten days ago or something -- MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: That you were shooting for 12,000 of this -- of fiscal '08, that -- which means 1,000 a month. Now, last month, September was 880-something. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They were -- QUESTION: Do you know -- MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you can go back and check the -- QUESTION: (inaudible) processed. MR. MCCORMACK: You can go back and check the briefing, Matt. QUESTION: No, no, I just want to know -- but it was a thousand a month they were talking about actually getting here to the United States. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. QUESTION: And last month, was a jump of 880 something or other, and I'm just wondering if you -- are you going to get to the 1,000 this month? MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I see. In October? QUESTION: Right. Exactly. And -- MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we're going to -- I can't tell you, Matt. I can't make promises. What I can tell you is what the folks that do this for a living tell me and that is that they think they are starting to make some progress in terms of keeping this pipeline going. We'll see. Part of Jim Foley's job in all of this is to make sure that it does keep going. We're going to try to meet our obligations as best we can. I'm not going to lay out a specific number for you. The folks -- we'll see if the folks who do this on a daily basis have any particular numbers that they would like to provide you. Yes. Elise. QUESTION: On Russia, could you say anything about President Putin's announcement that he's going to run for parliament? The insinuation is that he wants to become prime minister and hold on to power beyond his term? MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, you know, the -- what we would expect is that any actions by Russian politicians conform to Russian law. President Putin has said in public that he does not have an interest in running for another term as President. As to future political participation in some other form, whether it's as prime minister or a member of parliament, ultimately, nobody can dictate those decisions to President Putin or to the Russian people. They are going to have to make those choices for themselves. Obviously, President Putin and the people around him are people who care deeply about Russia and Russia's future. And from our point of view, a more positive Russian future is one that is based in increasing political reform, political freedoms, as well as economic reforms. And so -- and making any of those calculations, they're going to have to decide for themselves whether or not, and how they participate in Russia's political system and its effect on that positive future, but they're going to have to decide for themselves. QUESTION: Well, but do you see this as an attempt to circumvent the kind of Russian laws that -- about not running for another term, because -- MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to impute any -- QUESTION: -- well, let me just -- can I just -- MR. MCCORMACK: -- but I'm not going to try to impute any particular motivation to President Putin. You can -- QUESTION: Well, there's some speculation that he's working to change -- MR. MCCORMACK: Right. QUESTION: -- the rules of the -- in Russia so that the prime minister, a lot of power has actually shifted to the Prime Minister. MR. MCCORMACK: You know, exactly what you said -- speculation. Look, there is a -- one thing for certain that is happening, is that there is a lot of (inaudible) within the Russian political system. There is a lot of activity. And we'll see what that activity and that (inaudible) leads to. I cannot predict for you. I'm not going to play junior -- Russian political scientist up here for you. There are plenty of other people that can do that. QUESTION: Like the Secretary? MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) I don't think you're going to catch her in that either. Yeah. QUESTION: A follow-up. But Sean, you know, you've got some speculation in this case in terms of Russia, but this has happened before, as recently as the last decade, someone who's name was Slobodan Milosevic. When he couldn't be the President of Yugoslavia, he became President of Serbia and you know what he did. So I mean, the point of having an embassy there is to anticipate what's happening in the political life of the country, right? So just waiting and see what happens doesn't sound to me like something that the embassy -- MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, that -- you know, to logically play out what you've just laid out, in terms of the role of the embassy, then the role of the embassy is then to do something about that. Well, no, that's not the way the world works. It's a sovereign country. You know, we're not in the business of picking the leaders or the MPs of other countries. Certainly, our people in the Embassy can -- they can do analysis of political situation -- QUESTION: Well, that's (inaudible). MR. MCCORMACK: -- and feed it back -- and feed it back to Washington. But you know, in terms of what you're talking about, the next step of going ahead and picking the President of Russia or picking the prime minister of Russia or the MPs. No, that's not what we do. QUESTION: Well, to go back to what I was suggesting -- I wasn't suggesting -- MR. MCCORMACK: Well, but you logically play out -- QUESTION: No, because you said you don't want to analyze any -- that it's too early to analyze it. And I was asking is it -- MR. MCCORMACK: No. I said I'm not going to play junior political -- QUESTION: Okay. Well, just to -- MR. MCCORMACK: -- Russian political analyst for you. Look, I'm sure there are many other people who are more than willing to play junior and senior political analyst about the goings on in Russia. That is something that gets fed in internally. And I'm sure that people are taking a look at that. I'm not going to perform that function for you up here. QUESTION: But the State Department has expressed concern about the viability of rule of law in Russia right now. MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah. QUESTION: And so what we're wondering is if the Department believes that developments like this comport with the advancement of rule of law? MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. You know, you want to play political pundit. You want -- QUESTION: I'm just asking a question. MR. MCCORMACK: Well -- and I'm giving you an answer. No, you're inviting me to play political pundit about the effect of some hypothetical outcome on the rule of law or Russia's democracy. I'm not going to do that. We'll deal with facts. We'll deal with facts as they are before us. Right now you have the fact that President Putin has apparently decided to run on the top of the -- his party's list for members of parliament. As I understand it, that can lead to many different things and many different possible outcomes. I'm not going to try to speculate on what those outcomes are. Our focus is on the health of Russian democracy, the direction of Russian democracy, the health of rule of law in Russia, the health of economic reform in Russia. We will make our assessments about those things and the effects of the political outcomes on those things when we have facts. We don't have those facts right now. Yeah. QUESTION: Can I just follow this up? Russian (inaudible) statement about the situation in Georgia and Russian MPs criticized Georgia and the U.S. Governments. So do you have anything to say about this statement? MR. MCCORMACK: They've criticized us about -- QUESTION: Georgian Government criticized the U.S. Government because of supporting Georgian Government on this statement. MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I'm not going to respond to every utterance of member of parliaments from around the world. Look, we have a good relationship with Russia. We have a good relationship with Georgia. Occasionally, Russia and Georgia develop tensions between them over various issues. We like to see Russia and Georgia work those out via political means, via any other means. But we have good relations with both of those countries. I don't think it's a mutually exclusive thing. QUESTION: Sean. MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Samir. QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the Secretary's meeting with Iraqi President today? MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. There was a -- it was a follow-up to President Bush's meeting with President Talabani. They talked about a number of different things, talked about political developments in Iraq. They talked about the progress of political reconciliation in Iraq, part of that was a discussion of the hydrocarbons law. That was very generally it. QUESTION: And what's your understanding of how that's going? MR. MCCORMACK: The hydrocarbon law, still a work in progress; a lot of moving parts to it. The Secretary encouraged him to continue to make progress on all the various moving parts involved with the -- QUESTION: Are they making progress? MR. MCCORMACK: What's that? QUESTION: Are they making progress in your estimation? MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we'll see. The ultimate test of that is, do they pass all the necessary pieces to it. QUESTION: All right, but the ultimate test for a lot of things is the actual end result. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. QUESTION: But that doesn't stop you from talking about progress. MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Matt, I'm not going to -- QUESTION: Well, I mean, you just signed off on this thing with the North Koreans today. That's progress, right? Why can't you -- MR. MCCORMACK: That's for you to assess, Matt. I'll leave that to you. QUESTION: Do you think (inaudible)? MR. MCCORMACK: It's all in your hands. QUESTION: Okay. QUESTION: Sean, did you talk in any detail about the Blackwater incident or the joint Iraqi-U.S. investigation or Pat Kennedy's -- MR. MCCORMACK: Not in the discussion here at the State Department. Yes, sir. QUESTION: A question on Colombia. MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: Hugo Chavez will visit France in November to discuss the fate of hostages of the FARC, including Ingrid Betancourt. What initiatives is the U.S. taking to release its three U.S. hostages there? MR. MCCORMACK: Well, obviously, it's something that occupies people in this building on a daily basis. We want to see those people released right now, unharmed and returned to their families. As for any discussion of what the United States is -- might do or -- involving these individuals, that's not something that I'm going to get into. I'm not going to say anything that might in any way jeopardize their health or the possibility of their being released. QUESTION: Could you restate the U.S. policy regarding American hostages? MR. MCCORMACK: You can go back and look at it in the transcripts. Yeah. QUESTION: On Burma, Sean. There were reports yesterday out of Rangoon, questioning whether the UN envoy actually met with the leader of the junta today. There are reports that he actually did meet with him. What's your understanding about the meetings? MR. MCCORMACK: Our understanding, though I have to caution we don't have the full readout from special envoy Gambari, is that he did meet with Than Shwe and he met with Aung San Suu Kyi twice. We're going to -- he -- Mr. Gambari, I think, is going to be back here in New York -- up here in New York -- up in New York Thursday, and we're going to look for a readout and a report from him to the Security Council as soon as possible after that, whether that's Thursday or Friday, I can't tell you. QUESTION: Do you know if he had any interaction with any of the (inaudible) people at the embassy? MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: House Foreign Affairs has said they're going to markup and vote on the Armenian genocide resolution next week. Is the Administration still opposing that? MR. MCCORMACK: I can't -- I'm not sure if we put out a statement of the Administration position on it or not. But we have been working very closely with the Hill on that issue. As you know, it's -- every time one of these comes up it's a very sensitive issue. And we are conveying to members of Congress individually and in groups our views on it. I think that's about all I'm going to say about it. QUESTION: Thank you.