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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Robert Wood
Deputy Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 4, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton's Arrival in Nairobi / Status of the Secretary's Schedule
    • Update on the Bangkok Airways Crash / Condolences to Pilot's Family / Embassy Bangkok Working with Thai Hospitals to Confirm No Americans Among Injured
  • IRAN
    • Update on Detained American Scholar Kian Tajbakhsh / U.S. Calls on Iran's Leadership to Release Tajbakhsh Without Delay / The Right to Due Process in Iran / World is Watching
    • Reports About Charges Against Three Americans in Iran / Swiss Ambassador's Meeting at Ministry of Foreign Affairs / U.S. Waiting for Official Confirmation of Possible Detention / No information Available
    • Query on President Bill Clinton's Mission in North Korea / State Department has Nothing to Add to What White House Has Said
    • Ambassador Sung Kim Meeting in Hawaii for Discussions with Republic of Korea Counterparts
    • Ambassador Goldberg Had Good Discussions in Moscow / An Effort to Get Support for Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874
    • U.S. Policy that Six-Party Talks is a Separate Issue from the Two Detained Journalists
    • Will Not Discuss Intelligence Reports / U.S. Concerned About Possible Military Links Between North Korea and Burma


12:06 p.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: It is so good to see you, Barry. Long time no see.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Well, welcome, everybody, to the daily briefing. I just want to start off with a couple of things: Just to let you know, Secretary Clinton arrived in Nairobi about 25 minutes ago. I know she’s very much looking forward to her Africa trip, and we’ll keep you abreast of her schedule as we go forward. There isn’t anything on the schedule this evening there in Nairobi, so – as I said, we’ll keep you posted.

One other – the second item, I just want to give you an update on the Bangkok Airways crash. The United States extends its condolences to the family of the pilot killed in the crash, and our thoughts are with those who were injured. Our Embassy in Bangkok is working with Thai hospitals to confirm that no Americans were among the injured. So we will keep you abreast of that as we go forward.

Last item, I’d like to give you an update on this detained Iranian American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh. We are deeply concerned of reports that Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was recently charged by an Iranian court without the benefit of a lawyer. Given that the charges facing Mr. Tajbakhsh are without foundation, we call on Iran’s leadership to release Mr. Tajbakhsh without delay. He has played absolutely no role in the election and poses no threat to the Iranian Government or its national security. As an independent academic, Mr. Tajbakhsh has always sought out political neutrality.

The right to due process in Iran, which includes the right to legal representation, is not only addressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Iran is a signatory, it is also ratified in its own constitution. So the world is watching what is happening in Iran and will bear witness.

And with those, I’m ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Also on Iran --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: They’re working on it. Did you all get what I said there recently?

QUESTION: Now, you’re going to put that out, aren’t you?

MR. WOOD: We can if you like.

QUESTION: Yeah, just mostly for the spelling of the name.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, absolutely.

QUESTION: Three Americans, backpackers probably, detained in Iran with insinuations that there may be espionage involved. Do you have any response to their being held, and what at least one lawmaker is suggesting, spying?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’ve heard nothing about any charges of them being spies. I know there are reports out there. I don’t think those are credible at all. We’ve seen reports by the deputy governor of Kurdistan for political security affairs, and are awaiting for official confirmation from the Government of Iran following our request through the Swiss ambassador.

As I think you all are aware, on August 2nd the Swiss ambassador had a meeting at the ministry of foreign affairs but could not get confirmation that these Americans were being detained. And so we’re trying, as I said, to still get that confirmation. We do not have it as yet.

QUESTION: When did you say he saw them?

MR. WOOD: August 2nd.

QUESTION: August 2nd. So this has been going on a while. I didn’t realize that. Anything – he asked?

MR. WOOD: Yes. He asked, and the officials at the time, were not aware of the fact --

QUESTION: Oh, or said they weren’t.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. They had no information on these individuals but were going to try to get that information. So – but we don’t have it, as I said, as yet.


QUESTION: Why is it taking so long? Two days have gone by --

MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t give you an answer to that. I mean, the Swiss ambassador is trying to ascertain the information and location of these individuals but hasn’t been able to do so. But he’s going to continue to push to try to get that information for us.

QUESTION: Has the Swiss ambassador tried to go back in again today, or has he tried to reschedule another meeting?

MR. WOOD: I think they’re working on trying to do that. But I don’t think anything has been scheduled at this point.

QUESTION: The ambassador’s a woman, I think. Isn’t it Livia --

MR. WOOD: It could very well be. And I apologize for that.

QUESTION: I’m just checking because I’m trying to determine who it is.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. Let me see if I’ve got a name for you.


MR. WOOD: I don’t have a name here for you, but we can get you that.

Yes, Kim.

QUESTION: Staying with Iran, I was wondering whether you could confirm that the Administration had received a response from the Iranian supreme leader to the letter that the Administration had sent to Iran before the elections about the offer for engagement.

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything for you on that, sorry.

QUESTION: Could we take the question?

MR. WOOD: I’ll see if I can get anything for you on that, but I don’t have anything.


MR. WOOD: Lach.

QUESTION: Can we change? What can you tell us about former President Clinton’s mission to North Korea?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything for you beyond what the White House has said.

QUESTION: Can you say whether the Administration approved such a visit?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything I can add to it. The White House statement spoke for itself, and at this point, I don’t have anything further on it. So you might want to save your questions.

QUESTION: Well, did the Secretary know that her husband was traveling? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: As I said, no comment.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary address this in the next couple hours in Nairobi?

MR. WOOD: At this point, we have nothing that we can add to what the White House has said, so let me just leave it at that.

QUESTION: The White House has basically said they won’t say anything until the mission is complete and he’s left. Is that roughly where you are?

MR. WOOD: I’m just saying at this point, I don’t have any comment.

Another issue?

QUESTION: One more on North Korea. One more on North Korea.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The North Korean media reported today that President Clinton delivered President Obama’s message to Kim Jong-il. So do you – aware of the message? And I think it’s the role of special envoy, so --

MR. WOOD: One more time, I’ll try it again: Nothing to add.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, just on the larger issue of North Korea, I mean, it does seem in the last few weeks that even as there’s – even if they called the Secretary a pensioner looking to go shopping or something, I mean, it does seem that there have been signals both by this Administration and by the North Koreans that maybe the time is ripe for something of this nature. I mean, Secretary Clinton had dropped – had, you know, requested amnesty and kind of made comments in Phuket about the North Koreans coming back to the table.

And then in late July, the North Koreans kind of added – added to the fodder, but – so it looks as if, you know, the atmosphere has been improving over the last few weeks for a kind of break in this case.

MR. WOOD: I have nothing to add.

QUESTION: Well, that’s not – I’m not asking about President Clinton. I’m asking about --

MR. WOOD: I have nothing to add to what we’ve been saying about North Korea. There’s nothing more to say.

QUESTION: Do you think – okay, but do you think that this will be a kind of break in the stalemate which could allow North Korea ultimately to come back to the table?

MR. WOOD: Nothing further on it.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking about President Clinton. There – President Clinton wasn’t in the question.

MR. WOOD: You’re asking me to draw a comparison or talk about the two situations. I’m not going to do that.



QUESTION: Are you finished?


QUESTION: I actually have a North Korea question that doesn’t involve Clinton and then I’ll – is that okay?

QUESTION: I just want to ask quickly on Clinton --


QUESTION: -- if he’s really a free agent? In other words, how long he stays, what he brings up, what he discusses. We’ve had a lot of – Bill Richardson is a good example of sort of personal diplomacy, but he’s – you know, President Clinton. Is he on his own? Is he flying on his own? And can he be – thinks things are progressing, is it up to him to decide or does he have to report back and get a go-ahead or renewal of his presence?

MR. WOOD: Barry, I’ve known you a long time and I have a great deal of respect for you, but I just don’t have anything to add to what I’ve said.


QUESTION: One thing on North Korea that does not involve this mission at all. There – are you aware of – (laughter) – are you aware of these – there’s an Australian media report – I think it’s the Sydney Morning Herald – that North Korea – that the Burmese may be building a nuclear reactor in these tunnels that are sort of in the northern part of the country? And – you know, I mean, it would seem to lend credence to what Secretary Clinton alluded to last week in Asia when she said there was some troubling evidence of nuclear links.

MR. WOOD: Lach, the best thing I can tell you is – look, first of all, we wouldn’t get into any type of discussion about intelligence reports from the podium. But as the Secretary expressed before, we are concerned about any possible military links between North Korea and Burma, and that concern still remains. But I really can’t go beyond that because it would be getting into intelligence.

QUESTION: Can I ask another North Korea, not on Bill Clinton, if I could?

MR. WOOD: You may.

QUESTION: The meeting in Hawaii with Sung Kim, do you have any preview of that meeting?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have any update. I know that Sung Kim is there and will be there tomorrow for discussions with his counterparts in – from the Republic of Korea Government. But I don’t have any readout yet of those discussions. I will be happy to try to get you a readout once – his return.

QUESTION: There won’t be any North Korean officials there?

MR. WOOD: Sorry?

QUESTION: There won’t be any North Korean officials?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Is he going to the region after that?

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe so. I think he’s coming back to Washington.


QUESTION: What’s your comment on the two detained journalists in North Korea? They will be back?

MR. WOOD: I think you just heard, I don’t have anything to add to what the White House has said.

QUESTION: How – give us some idea of how deeply you’re looking into the – U.S. Government is looking into this report about the Burmese. Are they being questioned, are they being asked?

MR. WOOD: About which Burmese are you talking about?

QUESTION: About the tunnels.

QUESTION: The nuclear reactor.

QUESTION: Nuclear reactor.

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into much more detail than I already have on this issue, but it is an issue of concern to us. We’re obviously looking into these types of reports. But I just don’t want to go beyond what we have said on that.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Mr. Philip – Philip Goldberg had mentioned yesterday in Russia that the United States has separate additional sanctions against North Korea. Would you tell us more or explain about that?

MR. WOOD: Well, Ambassador Goldberg had some good discussions in Moscow. He is there to try to, again, get as much support as possible for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. Those efforts continue. We think that’s very important. But I don’t have an update with regard to that visit. We’ll try to get you something once he returns.


QUESTION: I’m just checking, has the North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan – if I’m pronouncing his name correctly – had any recent talks with his U.S. counterparts, either Envoy Bosworth or Sung Kim?

MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of.


MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Even – by telephone, even?

MR. WOOD: I don’t think so. I would have heard about that.

QUESTION: But Bosworth had been invited to go back to North Korea. Do you see that happening in the not-too-distant future?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t heard anything about his going back.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Does U.S. still have the same position that Six-Party Talks is a separate issue from the two detained journalists?

MR. WOOD: We have always said that. That hasn’t changed.

Anything else? Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:18 p.m.)

DPB # 130

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