1:38 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. We have a full house this afternoon. It probably has nothing to do with the fact that the Secretary of State is hosting a reception this evening for members of the press corps. And happy Human Rights Day to everyone.
A couple of announcements before we begin. You heard from the Secretary of State a short time ago following her meeting with Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic, and obviously she talked about the very close relationship that’s evolved between the United States and Croatia, our support for Croatia’s membership in NATO, and obviously its ongoing efforts to – for accession into the European Union. She obviously expressed great thanks for the Croatian ongoing support to our efforts in Afghanistan.
Probably a story of keen interest to you today a State Department team with officials from both the Embassy in Islamabad and the Consulate in Lahore met with the five American citizens that have – that are in custody in Pakistan. I think it’s important to emphasize at this point we are in an information-gathering phase, but we have met with them. We are working closely with Pakistani authorities on this case. And I would expect in the next 24 hours we’d have further visits with these individuals, and including a visit from consular officials who I expect will be on their way to see them tomorrow.
And finally, obviously Ambassador Steve Bosworth and the interagency team have returned to Seoul from Pyongyang, where they had a couple of days worth of meetings with senior North Korean officials. We will begin very close consultations. Obviously, we’ve had initial consultations with our counterparts from South Korea. Ambassador Bosworth and his team will depart for Beijing tomorrow. They’ll be in Tokyo on Saturday, in Moscow on Sunday, before returning to the United States early next week.
I think we would characterize this meeting as a good start. It was the first high-level meeting between the United States and North Korean officials in more than a year. But at the same time, as you heard the Secretary say earlier today, there’s still – and Ambassador Bosworth say earlier today, there is still much work to be done.
The purpose of our meeting was, in fact, to express directly to North Korea our encouragement for them to return to the Six-Party process. This meeting was held in the context of the Six-Party process. And we’ve sought their affirmation of their obligations under the 2005 joint communiqué. But we will come back, do the consultations with the other members of the Six-Party process, and we would await a more definitive response from North Korea as to how we proceed in the days and weeks ahead.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Who was it that went from the Embassy? What kind of officials? You said consular officials were going to go tomorrow. But I mean, it wasn’t consular officials today?
MR. CROWLEY: I think these were security officials.
QUESTION: Security meaning RSO type?
MR. CROWLEY: Security and – yes, yes.
QUESTION: Well, like from – who work for the Department of State or who work for other --
MR. CROWLEY: This was an Embassy team. I would describe it as an interagency team, which would include RSO and FBI.
QUESTION: So no consular at all today? That was --
MR. CROWLEY: No. No, I mean, and part of it was we had some officials in Lahore who could get there rather quickly. But I think it’s – I mean, this is an ongoing process. Obviously, we – as Americans, the families of these individuals had expressed concern going back a couple of weeks to the disappearance of these five individuals. And we now – they now are safely in the custody of Pakistani officials, and we’re going to find out how they made their way from Washington, D.C., to Pakistan, why there were there, what their intentions were. And at this point, we’ve reached no judgments beyond – we obviously now are beginning to talk to them, to gather information. We’ve reached no conclusions as to the circumstances surrounding their travel from the United States to Pakistan.
QUESTION: When did they express concern – when did the families express concern to the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, they have not – I’m not aware that the families have been in touch with the State Department. I think the families – since the – I should refer you to law enforcement (inaudible) in terms of interaction between the families and the United States Government. All I can tell you is that once they went missing, as we do in any particular case, embassies around the world touch base with law enforcement officials and provide notifications in terms of asking for law enforcement assistance globally. We did that, as we do in any of these cases, and the Pakistani law enforcement came upon these individuals yesterday. They promptly contacted our Embassy. We’ve had contact with these individuals, and we are together with our Pakistani colleagues in the information-gathering phase.
QUESTION: P.J., can you say whether the Pakistanis have given you any explanation for why they’ve detained the five?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the Pakistani authorities. This was their operation.
QUESTION: And then can you just – sorry. I’m just wondering if you can confirm one last thing here. The breakdown of the background of these individuals – they were – you’ve all confirmed that all five are U.S. citizens? And then whether – how many are actually American born or foreign born?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer – I’m not – we believe that we – that they are the five individuals who were reported missing. Beyond that, I’ll not go into further detail.
QUESTION: Is this an effort to get them back here, to bring them back here?
MR. CROWLEY: I think right now, they’re in Pakistani custody and we are gathering information about why they were there, who they were in the company of, and the implications of that. We’ve reached no conclusions on that. Obviously, there’ll be further investigating, and then we’ll figure out what to do beyond that.
QUESTION: P.J., are all these individuals cooperating with the Embassy team, and how would you characterize that discussion? Are we talking about --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize that discussion. I mean, obviously just think about the timing here. Yesterday they were apprehended by Pakistani authorities. Today we’ve had access to them, an opportunity to talk to them about the circumstances of their travel to Pakistan. I think this is indicative of the cooperation that we have received with Pakistani authorities. And we will continue to investigate this together, share information. Where this leads, we should just not draw any conclusions at this point.
QUESTION: Right. But in terms of defining what this conversation is, are the individuals cooperating? Are they talking willingly with the U.S. team?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not in the room, so I really can’t characterize it.
QUESTION: P.J., what message does it send to the U.S. as far that most of the Pakistani-born U.S. citizens are involved in various activities against the U.S. or --
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I think you’re leaping to a conclusion that we have not drawn. And again, some of this just involves publicly available information. If I have it right, in recent days, these individuals went missing. Their families expressed concern. Eventually, those concerns came to the attention of law enforcement. As we frequently do, we establish contact with our law enforcement colleagues around the world, asked them to be on the lookout for these individuals.
In this particular case, Pakistan came across these five individuals. We’ve already had access to them. I know there’s a lot of conjecture being bandied about as to what they were about, who they were associated with, what the implications are. I would just kind of dampen that kind of conjecture at this point. We are in the information-gathering phase of this. We’ve drawn no conclusions. All we really know is that these individuals were in the United States until recently, they made their way to Pakistan. And beyond that, we are trying to talk to them, find out what they were up to, what the implications are. And we should let the investigation go forward before we draw any conclusions.
QUESTION: Related to this one. U.S. had charged two Pakistanis or two U.S. citizens in Chicago. They were plotting against India. And those are also related cases are there. So where do we get from there? What conclusion we get to this really? Because not just on one case, but one after another, so many cases are now in –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, Goyal –
QUESTION: How many more of these are in the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: I would have two thoughts back. First of all, there is an emergent case in Chicago. I would not link that case and these individuals in any way. And secondly, because all we know at this point is you have five individuals from the Washington, D.C. area who have made their way to Pakistan, I would not draw any inferences as to what that means. That’s why we are going to chat with them, investigate this, and then we’ll draw some conclusions going forward.
QUESTION: You said there wasn’t any contact – you said there wasn’t any contact between the State Department and the families before their discovery – before they were arrested, correct? Has the --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that the United States Department of State has been in contact with the families at this point.
QUESTION: Has there been any – has there – oh, okay. So there still has been no contact with the – you haven’t reported to the families that you’ve seen these guys and talked to them?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t believe that we, the Department of State, have been in touch with these families at this point.
QUESTION: And have the Pakistanis told you that they have been formally charged with anything?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t believe – I’m not aware of any charges at this point.
QUESTION: These are the five adult individuals who have the right to travel to any part of the world as an American citizen. I presume they went on a valid Pakistani visa. When they were arrested by Pakistani authorities and they informed you, what were the reasons they gave as to as why –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, in terms of whether they applied for visas, that I’ll defer to the Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: But what – were they arrested because of any suspicious activities or did they violate any rule of law --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, as – there was a very fair question as to why the Pakistani authorities took this action. Again, I’ll defer to them.
QUESTION: And following up from Goyal’s question on this Chicago thing. Indian authorities have requested for the extradition and the request for interrogation of Headley and Rana. Is it possible will the State Department or U.S. accede?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, as to the precise disposition of this case, at the present time, I’ll defer you to the Department of Justice. Obviously, we do have an extradition treaty with India, but how that will work going forward, I think that’s premature.
QUESTION: P.J., I just want to tie up the issue of whether you’ve asked for either extradition or talked to Pakistani authorities about bringing the five back. And I understand all the caveats about the timeline and the investigation is still ongoing. But my specific question is: Has the U.S. asked the Pakistani Government for the return of the five individuals?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. Not yet.
QUESTION: Do you know how many people were on the Embassy team – the Embassy and Consulate team?
MR. CROWLEY: Two or three.
QUESTION: And where did they actually see them? In this holding facility?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a – I think they – my assumption is they saw them in Sarghoda. But beyond that, I don’t know.
QUESTION: And how many people was it – the team?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. It was either – I’ve seen two and three. I just don’t – I think it was three.
QUESTION: P.J., just to clarify, prior to the families expressing concern – who did the families express concern to? And prior to their expressing –
MR. CROWLEY: Just a – three.
QUESTION: And prior to expressing their concern, did these individuals come to the attention of the U.S. Government in any form?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to Justice on that.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, sir, happy Human Rights Day.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much. Same to you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Are you celebrating or what?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I do think --
QUESTION: Because as far as China is concerned, still many people that you talk to anywhere that is most –
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, there is no question that on Human Right Days we have much to celebrate. And on Human Rights Day we know we have a lot of work to do. But clearly, from where we were decades ago when the convention was first passed, there is much to be thankful for in terms of the diminishment of the – not so much the scope or the number of conflicts around the world, but certainly the scope of them when you go back and compare where we were during the middle or latter stages of the 20th century. More and more governments are democratic. More and more governments are actively trying to serve the needs of their people and adhering to universal principles regarding freedom of association, freedom of expression, transparent government, and so forth.
At the same time, we obviously know that there are places where governments are continuing repressive activity. Iran would be a perfect case in point where there is still an ongoing struggle to reach a new understanding with the government and Iranian people given the election, its questionable conduct, and the aftermath, which has certainly been unsatisfactory to a significant number of Iranian people who want to see a regime that currently they begin – they now increasingly see as a – as militaristic and a police state.
QUESTION: Can we check – move on?
MR. CROWLEY: So – do you have a date?
QUESTION: I do, in fact.
MR. CROWLEY: So, we – this – human rights is something of importance to the United States. It’s something that is part of the relationship we have with a significant number of countries on earth, and it continues to be a vital part of our foreign policy.
QUESTION: The Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in an op-ed in New York Times today has sought U.S. role in resolving the Kashmir dispute. Have you received any formal – sorry, formal or informal request from Pakistan on this issue?
MR. CROWLEY: First of all, I thought it was a fine op-ed. And secondly, we understand the importance of the Kashmir issue to both Pakistan and India, and it is something that we do discuss with both countries. But obviously, at the end of a process that has to be something that is resolved ultimately between Pakistan and India with the active involvement of the people of Kashmir.
QUESTION: Do you see any role for U.S. in this?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we’ve been asked to play a specific role at this point.
QUESTION: Not even with Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it there.
QUESTION: P.J., one more thing on the Pakistan arrests. You said you’re not --
QUESTION: And just to clarify it, obviously, because of the issue, it would be something that would – have to be an agreement by multiple parties, not just one.
QUESTION: And do you agree with his view that resolving Kashmir --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll let the president’s view stand on its own.
I’m sorry, Jill, go ahead.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I will defer to Pakistani authorities to describe their operation, why they undertook it. But obviously, we are now in contact with them. We’ve working very closely with them and we’re gathering information about these individuals, how they – how and why they found their way to Pakistan, and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: Right. And the Secretary referred to them as detainees. Is there something that we should read into that? Is that --
MR. CROWLEY: No. I wouldn’t – I would not --
QUESTION: -- a technical term?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, they are in the custody of Pakistani authorities. We’ve had access to them, and we’ll have ongoing conversations with them, I’m sure, tomorrow.
QUESTION: P.J., the Government --
QUESTION: Change the topic?
QUESTION: The Government of Iraq has said that it’s going to close down Camp Ashraf and move the MEK people there, first to Baghdad, and then to some remote desert outpost in the south that used to be a detention camp in the 1950s. Do you still – do you have any thoughts on this?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that particular proposal. We have discussed on an ongoing and regular basis the status of the MEK within Iraq. This – you are quite aware of an operation earlier this year where the Government of Iraq sought to assert its sovereignty over this particular camp. The Government of Iraq has a right to do that. At the same time, the operation itself we believe was not carried out --
QUESTION: But you have no thoughts about this --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me finish what I was saying. It – the way it was carried out resulted in, we think, unnecessary violence. We continue to have conversations with the Government of Iraq on the future of this group. And beyond that, I’m not familiar with this particular proposal.
QUESTION: On the START negotiations, do you expect them to move forward more quickly now that the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is out of the way? There’ve been some people who’ve suggested that the Russians didn’t want to give the U.S. a victory ahead of that. And do you think that – or is this --
MR. CROWLEY: That’s kind of a Cold War kind of a question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Or is it – are there significant differences over verification issues, really?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, I mean, there – I mean, we all want to have buttons that say Free Rose Gottemoeller. (Laughter.) I mean, Rose has been a bulldog in shepherding these negotiations over many months. She gave up her Thanksgiving to be in Geneva. We hope she doesn't have to give up other holidays to get there to the finish line. Nobody wants to finish this effort more than Rose and her terrific team.
They are – they still are hard at it. As you heard from the Secretary, we are getting daily reports from the team. There have been high-level meetings within the United States Government on this issue. We want to see this get done as quickly as possible. The presidents have set a goal of having this accomplished by the end of the year.
QUESTION: So where do you think --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we’re now – I mean, negotiations counting now – you eventually get down near the finish line to where you’ve got a small number of issues but those issues have a high level of complexity. That’s exactly what we have here. And I think what we see on the Russian side is the same kind of determination and earnestness that we have brought to this negotiation. And as far as I can tell, we continue to think both sides are working in good faith, and where there’s good faith, we think ultimately we’ll reach an accommodation.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of where the hang-up is, over what kinds of issues?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, these are very complex issues when you get down to numbers and verification procedures and those kinds of things. I’m not going to pinpoint one, two, and three. There are a handful of issues that have details attached to them. And we’ve had Russian proposals, U.S. counterproposals, Russian counter-counterproposals, and that is where we are.
QUESTION: It’s about Taiwan arms sales. The Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Kovac made some comment about Taiwan arms sales in Congress yesterday, and he basically is saying the Blackhawks and the submarines are on the list, and PAC-3 missiles are under discussion. I just want to confirm – can you confirm --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to get into any detail on any kind of an arms list. We obviously have ongoing discussions with Taiwan. The United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. And Taiwan has, on an ongoing basis, made requests of us. And we continue to evaluate them and we’ve made no decisions.
QUESTION: A Chinese spokesperson yesterday opposed the idea of selling any arms to Taiwan. Can you have any – do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I – on this particular issue, I doubt seriously that our position has changed and I doubt seriously that the Chinese position has changed.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t.
QUESTION: And if I could just follow up with that, have the Indians expressed any concern about where U.S. military funding is going, especially because these two men are – were from the Pakistani military?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in an ongoing discussion with the Government of Pakistan and the Government of India trying to reassure both that they have nothing to fear from each side. We understand that for the region to advance, for us to be able to reduce tensions and have greater regional cooperation on a range of issues, whether it’s building more commerce and trade among the countries of the world or dealing with the threat that does confront India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, other countries in the region, it’s very important for us to reduce tensions and to have all sides have a clearer picture of the intentions of the other. And that remains an ongoing – it’s very important to us and it remains an ongoing conversation.
QUESTION: Have the Indians contacted you about these two men?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: And if I could, just one more question on Human Rights Day. You mentioned repressive activity. I’m sure you’re aware of the human rights conditions in Gaza right now. I was wondering if you had any statements on the situation in Gaza and if you’ve spoken to the Israelis about lifting the siege and allowing international aid to flow through faster than what it has been so far.
MR. CROWLEY: We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza. We’ve expressed that – those concerns to all of the parties. And we encourage everyone to take affirmative steps to improve the conditions on the ground for the people of Gaza.
QUESTION: So you’ve encouraged Israel to lift the siege on Gaza which is contributing to these human right violations?
MR. CROWLEY: We have had conversations – I’m not going to – without repeating your characterization, we continue to have conversations with all the parties about the situation in Gaza.
QUESTION: But nothing on lifting the siege?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going down that shopping list.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that this was a very important and, as Steve Bosworth said earlier today in Seoul, a very useful meeting. I think it is important. It’s been certainly our intention in the North Korea situation and in other situations to have a direct dialogue to make sure that they understand how we feel about the situation. Steve went there and made clear we think that North Korea should come back to the Six-Party process, should reaffirm its obligations under the 2005 communiqué. During the course of that conversation, obviously North Korea had its issues it wanted to bring up. And Ambassador Bosworth and the team made clear to North Korea, should they come – as he said in his press event in Seoul, should they come back to the Six-Party process, should they take affirmative steps in the denuclearization process, then a range of other possibilities open up for North Korea.
But they have to make the fundamental decision, and we did not leave the meeting today believing that they had crossed the threshold that we want to see them cross. But we will – we want to see them come back to the Six-Party process. Based on today’s meeting, we thought it was constructive, but we await more information from North Korea as to whether and how they will proceed to come back to the Six-Party process. Whether that means a phone call or another meeting, we’ll wait and see.
QUESTION: You said that the North Koreans brought up some issues that they wanted to discuss. Could you talk about what those issues were?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, if you have a specific --
QUESTION: Did they mention a peace treaty?
MR. CROWLEY: They – in – we discussed the contents of the 2005 communiqué which has reference to a peace treaty. And obviously, we made clear that that is something that we could address within the context of a bilateral discussion as part of the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: When Ambassador Bosworth meets with his counterparts, will there be any talk about incentives or pressures, further pressures, other than --
MR. CROWLEY: We have made clear that we will offer no incentives for North Korea to return to the Six-Party process. And he made that clear again today – or in the meetings over the last couple of days. They have to make the fundamental decision: Are they willing to come back to the Six-Party process? Are they willing to affirm their commitments? Are they willing to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization?
QUESTION: How about pressure, though?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will continue to implement fully UN Security Council Resolution 1874. And to the extent that continues to have pressure on the North Korean Government to make the decision we think is in their best long-term interest, well, we’ll continue that path.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, our view is that Honduras should fulfill the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords, which obviously involves a transition to a new government in January. We continue to consult today with various countries in the region and Mexico on the way forward. Obviously, we are supportive of whatever steps that can be taken that helps Honduras advance during this transition period. But the decision as to whether President Zelaya decides to stay at the Brazilian Embassy or eventually accept the opportunity to move to another country, that’s ultimately his decision.
MR. CROWLEY: In what sense?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, developments. I guess we went through this, what, at the beginning of the week.
MR. CROWLEY: There are always development, but --
QUESTION: Well, anything from your --
MR. CROWLEY: -- they may not involve us. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What can you say about contacts?
QUESTION: Yes, that’s one.
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to be in contact with Amanda Knox and her family.
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Any meeting between Cantwell and the Secretary?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had a discussion between Senator Cantwell and Cheryl Mills, our counselor to Secretary Clinton. And I would expect those conversations will continue.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Has North Korea suggested additional meeting, bilateral meeting before resuming Six-Party Talks?
MR. CROWLEY: They did not request a meeting during the time that Steve Bosworth was in North Korea.
QUESTION: If they do, the U.S. have the willingness to do it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we went to North Korea. We made clear as to what they should do. We will remain in contact with them and – to try to figure out how we get from where we are back to the Six-Party process. I wouldn’t predict what particular route that will take.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Assistant Secretary Blake’s visit to Sri Lanka, do you have a readout on it?
QUESTION: Is he going to Bangladesh also?
MR. CROWLEY: In Kazakhstan, but he’s in Chennai today. I think he’s going to be in Hyderabad as well. But as to a particular readout of his stay in Sri Lanka, I don’t have one.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, one more.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have an agreement.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, you know --
MR. CROWLEY: There is an existing agreement. We maintain close contact with the Japanese Government, the new government, and helping to help them work through and understand the agreement that we reached with the previous Japanese government.
QUESTION: Well, any updates on that recent negotiations and have --
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t call it negotiations. We’re in discussions with the Japanese Government on the existing agreement, and we will stay in close touch with them.
QUESTION: And is there any issue came up? Is there any issue came up during that discussion?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have an agreement. We think it’s the best plan for reducing the burden on Okinawa and maintaining our alliance capabilities. And we’re going to continue to have that discussion with the Japanese Government.
QUESTION: I think she’s asking about --
MR. CROWLEY: What --
QUESTION: Open Skies agreement.
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I’m – that – I’ll take that question. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Also you answered – basically, your answers are all about Futenma issue.
MR. CROWLEY: Tell you what, let’s talk after the briefing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A real quick one.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
MR. CROWLEY: I would expect that there probably would be a P-5+1 meeting at the political director level sometime between now and the end of the year. But obviously, those announcements usually come from Europe.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 2:13 p.m., the briefing was concluded.)
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