12:22 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. For the two or three of you I don’t know, I’m P.J. Crowley, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. This is my seventh day on the job here at the Department of State, and I thought that it was a good time to come down and I will visit you from time to time. I pay tribute to my predecessor Sean McCormack, a fellow Red Sox fan, and we will – going back to another good friend, Nick Burns, back in the ‘90s, so you will have an appropriate interlocutor here at the podium.
To get started, we will release for you after the briefing a statement by the Secretary of State on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. On this, the 20th anniversary of the violent suppression of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square by Chinese authorities, we should remember the tragic loss of hundreds of innocent lives and reflect upon the meaning of the events that preceded that day. Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets for weeks in Beijing and around the country, first to honor the late reformist leader Hu Yaobang, and then to demand basic rights denied to them.
A China that has made enormous progress economically and is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained, or missing, both to learn and to heal.
This anniversary provides an opportunity for Chinese authorities to release from prison all those still serving sentences in connection with the events surrounding June 4, 1989. We urge China to cease the harassment of participants in the demonstrations and begin dialogue with the family members of victims, including the Tiananmen Mothers.
China can honor the memory of that day by moving to give the rule of law, protection of international recognized human rights, and democratic development the same priority that it has given to economic reform.
The Secretary is – secondly, on an update on Secretary Clinton, she is in the air and will be arriving in Cairo in the next couple of hours. Yesterday she led a U.S. delegation at the OAS General Assembly and worked to build a broad-based coalition to address the issue of Cuba’s re-inclusion in the OAS in a way that is true to the core principles and values of democracy: respect for human rights, non-intervention, self-determination, security, and development.
The effort to reach consensus was blocked last night by a small number of countries, principally Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The OAS General Assembly continues today and the issue of Cuba’s reintegration may again be raised, although it appears that the assembly lacks the critical mass of foreign ministers necessary to proceed on this question.
But as a result, there’s a clear sign of how the President’s approach to relations in the Americas is paying dividends. We look – we took an issue on which we were initially isolated, and through respectful diplomacy, built a broad coalition in support of our core principles in the Americas. And clearly, the dialogue on this issue we expect will continue.
And finally for opening, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has arrived in Islamabad. He has had a meeting this evening with President Zardari. Upon his arrival, he announced an additional $200 million of supplemental funding for aid to support internally displaced people in Pakistan. Tomorrow, Ambassador Holbrooke will visit refugee camps, schools, distribution sites, mobile medical units, meet with IDPs and the families that are housing them in the affected areas of conflict in Malakand Division.
And with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: P.J., can you go back to what you began --
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I’m sorry. I just want to do one more thing. This morning the special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia, Dennis Ross, had a meeting with Israeli minister of defense Ehud Barak continuing his consultations with many countries in the region about our interest in direct dialogue with Iran. And we look forward to dialogue in both a bilateral and multilateral settings, if and when, Iran is ready.
QUESTION: Okay. Going back to the first thing you read, which was the statement on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square. How do you square what you said with Secretary Clinton’s comments on her first trip to China as Secretary of State in which she said that while human rights were important and the United States would continue to raise them with China, they couldn’t be allowed to interfere with making progress on other issues such as climate change and the financial crisis?
MR. CROWLEY: I think they’re fully consistent. I mean, I think what you’re going to hear from the Secretary, from the President and others, is a theme of rights and responsibilities that all countries have, I mean, how will you govern in the 21st century. I think we will hear the United States promote the concept of integration rather than the concept of isolation. That is particularly poignant when you think about the situation with North Korea. We’ll be looking for countries that are acting as problem-solvers as opposed to countries that are acting as spoilers. We’ll be looking for countries that empower people not fear them, and that certainly is the situation in a country like Burma, for example, where this week you have a Nobel Peace Prize winner on trial for being polite. We will be looking for countries that govern in the interest of the many and not the interest of a few.
So I mean, I think when you look at the breadth of the relationship between the United States and China, the Secretary was saying that human rights is a fundamental element of our relationship with China. And in fact, you can look at the swath of issues that we have with China, and there are human rights inherent in all of those. I mean, in looking to solve the problem of climate change, it is an international right for people to have clean water, healthy air to breathe. When you look at the issue of global health, it’s about people – governments that are working to protect their people. When you’re looking at the issue of food security, which is very important to the Secretary, whether it’s making sure that the goods that China exports or the United States imports are safe for the people to play with or safe for the people to eat.
QUESTION: Why should the Chinese take you seriously on this matter when you’ve made clear that it’s at best third on your list and probably --
MR. CROWLEY: I would disagree with you, Arshad. It is paramount on our list. But I think the Secretary is communicating that we’re not going to take a cookie-cutter approach to human rights. We will bring it up as appropriate with every country with which we have those issues. But she is interested in making sure that we address this in a way that is going to be most effective. In some cases, that will be public; in some cases, that will be private; in some cases, that will be both.
QUESTION: But it’s not paramount. I mean, she herself said that it couldn’t be allowed to get in the way of climate change and the financial – working on the financial crisis. It’s not --
MR. CROWLEY: It’s – yeah. I mean, I think what she was saying was we are going to address all those issues and that’s going to be – but human rights is a fundamental issue in our relationship with China.
QUESTION: Mr. Crowley, for the last 20 years – or 20 years ago, the international community, UN, the U.S., all were watching when China was pressuring all these people standing for democracy and human rights. And same thing happening in the dictatorship in Burma that this poor lady for the last almost 20 years on and off in jail and house arrest and all that, and the U.S. and, again, the international community is still watching. Are these people listening to the U.S. really, or this is just talk for the last 20-plus years and it can continue another 50 years?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think as the Secretary has said, as the President has said, I suspect as the President will say in his speech tomorrow morning, these are fundamental issues of importance and they’re really about how nations will govern themselves in the 21st century. It’s not for the United States to impose these solutions on countries such as Burma. In fact, for a country like Burma, if you’re going to succeed in the 21st century, you have to empower your people. You can’t be fearful of your people. You should find ways to promote the exchange of information, not find ways to hide it or to restrict it.
So we are going to have these conversations with a country like Burma as appropriate, with a country like North Korea as appropriate, with a country like China as appropriate, with a country like Egypt as appropriate. I mean, this is what the President has said about making sure that we are going to engage the world and we’re willing to engage any nation of the world in pursuit of our national interests. But as we do so, we will do so consistent with our interests and our values.
QUESTION: One more quickly --
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: Did we go back to China?
QUESTION: P.J. – yeah, just staying on China, have you observed any evolution in China’s human rights record since Tiananmen?
MR. CROWLEY: I would say China is not the same country it was 20 years ago. I mean, and – but by the same token, China as an emerging great power still has work to do.
QUESTION: Well, in other words, is their human rights record better now than it was 20 years ago. Have they regressed? Have they shown progress?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that – I am not a China scholar, but I think there are elements that are – we would call progress.
QUESTION: Such as?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, for example, dealing with the issue of corruption in China, dealing with the issue of property rights in China in ways, perhaps, primarily at the local level. You have a government that is – needs to become and is becoming slightly more responsive to the needs of its people, to the actions of its people. But still, systematically, that remains the tension within China. It has made economic reform and its political reforms are lagging behind.
QUESTION: Could you address what’s actually going on in Tiananmen Square today? According to our reports, Chinese security forces have blanketed the square ahead of the anniversary. Yesterday, Twitter and other internet services in China were blocked. Black police vans are parked at the side of the Forbidden City near the square. You know, it’s – is that progress?
MR. CROWLEY: No, it is not. And I mean, the Secretary addressed some of these issues in her statement. We would prefer to see a China that’s prepared to learn from history rather than trying to hide it. I mean, I think it’s remarkable in some of the coverage that we’ve seen this week how some elements of their population are roughly unfamiliar with what happened 20 years ago. This is inconsistent with the actions of a great power.
QUESTION: Maybe in the – along the same lines, but first I want to congratulate you just speaking from this podium for the first time. I know for a fact there are a few people who came here specifically to say hi to you in your new position, and I’m one of them. Since –
MR. CROWLEY: So you’re going to offer me a softball question as a result of that?
QUESTION: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Actually, my question is whether you learned the lessons – the U.S. has learned the lessons of the past eight years specifically. Would you agree that your plan to impose a unilateral approach to world affairs, a unipolar world, as the Russians will call it, has failed under the previous administration? And even if you don’t agree with that, what kind of a world and – are you kind of aiming toward to achieve? What is the proper role for the United States in that world? And, I mean, looking for a catchy sobriquet, the post-Cold War was called just that. Then they even came with an awkward definition of a post-post-Cold War. Can you give us a better one?
MR. CROWLEY: Now, we’re in the post-post-9/11 world. No, I understand that. I mean, I think this is why the President’s speech tomorrow night is very important. I have not seen the text of his speech. But I think it is important to put the speech in a broader context. I think we the United States expect to be judged by our words, but primarily by our actions. I think the President has laid out with the support of Secretary Clinton a very aggressive agenda in his first five months on the job. We have high-level reengagement in the peace process, public outreach for dialogue with Iran, transformation of our relationship with Iraq from one of occupation to one of a long-term partnership, and an increased commitment to the situations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to the people of those countries. And that’s just in the Middle East, but obviously he’s interested in changing the tone of our relationship with the Islamic world in particular, with the rest of the world. I think he succeeded in doing that during an ambitious five months. I wouldn't be surprised – I would expect that the President will reflect on that in his speech tomorrow night.
But we, ourselves, expect to be accountable. United States leadership in the world is still vitally important, and that we will be judged both by words and deeds.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: A lot of democracy activists have said that they wish that, you know, because President Obama – this is his first address to the Muslim world, that perhaps he could have not done it in a country which is an authoritarian regime, that he could have taken a populist Muslim country like Indonesia or Turkey, where democracy is flourishing there. What do you think that this kind of message sends to the oppressed throughout the Arab and Muslim world?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think Cairo is one of the great cities in the world. It’s an appropriate venue for this speech. I think it certainly is in stark contrast – I understand that we have a message from Usama bin Ladin today, and so you have the leader of the free world speaking from one of the great cities in the world and you have the – bin Ladin speaking from an undisclosed location. And I think that speaks volumes in terms of the contrast.
Clearly, Egypt is a strategic partner with the United States. You know, 30 years ago, it took a risk for peace in reaching a peace agreement with Israel. It has been a significant partner in trying to work out these challenges. The President is going to have a bilateral with – along with Secretary Clinton with President Mubarak coming up, which is not to say that we don’t have issues with Egypt. Obviously, whoever it was who attacked Ayman Nour the other day should be identified and brought to justice.
So I do think that this is – will be part of an ongoing dialogue that we have with the – with Egypt. The Secretary, I expect, will have some meetings on the ground with those who represent civil society in Egypt while she is there.
QUESTION: Well, as you know, I mean, the Bush Administration made kind of democracy in the Middle East, you know, a big cornerstone of its foreign policy, but a lot of people were disappointed with the results. I mean, how do you think that President Obama and this Administration is going to push ahead on issues of democracy in the Middle East? Do you think it’ll be more private, more bilateral, or --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it’s going to be – obviously, what you’re seeing from the administration in its first five months is a return to high-level engagement in the Middle East, at the presidential level, when appropriate. We’ve had a number of our most seasoned diplomats put into positions where we can have dialogue, with Iran if they’re willing, with Israel and Palestine. George Mitchell will be going back out to the region in the next couple of weeks.
So I think, again, the speech in Cairo will be vitally important. I think much of the world will stop and listen tomorrow morning. But again, it is a speech that is part of a dialogue. It continues the President’s outreach that he began with the Nowruz message, with his trip to Turkey. We’re not going to solve all the problems of the region with one speech, but this is going to be an ongoing part of significant engagement in a variety of ways with the Islamic world to solve the challenges that we both face.
QUESTION: But just --
QUESTION: To follow on that, you’ve been speaking about the Islamic world. The President, on a number of occasions, starting in his inaugural address, has spoken and addressed himself to the Muslim world. And there are a number of foreign policy analysts with whom I know you’d be familiar who are arguing in op-eds in various places yesterday and today that the very use of this phrase, “the Muslim world,” is a mistake, because it assumes a monolithic bloc of Muslims --
MR. CROWLEY: Quite the opposite.
QUESTION: -- and it equates the factory worker in Dearborn, say with a terrorist in Jakarta, with a devout individual in some other part of the world. So is it not a mistake to adopt the view that is usually propagated by extremists that there is one Muslim world?
MR. CROWLEY: And there is not. I mean, this is – Islam is one of the world’s great religions. It is a global religion. But the countries of the Islamic world are quite varied, and I don’t think we believe that there is any monolithic aspect. I think that is actually what bin Ladin believes.
QUESTION: So why has he addressed himself to, quote-unquote, “the Muslim world?” He uses that phrase. You’re speaking of the Islamic world. If it’s – if there isn’t one such world, why do you keep using those phrases?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it is vitally important. It’s something the President pledged during his campaign that he would begin to build a new relationship with countries in the Islamic world that are important to us. Our standing in the world – in that part of the world is – has been under siege for the last few years, and it’s very important, if we are going to address not only global challenges but also the challenge of political extremism in the world, having a new dynamic will be very important to resolving that.
QUESTION: So you think the phrase is perfectly appropriate?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the fact that the President is going to use a speech in Cairo to continue a broad dialogue with the Muslim world or the Islamic world is quite important.
QUESTION: I have a question about Pakistan. What is the U.S.’s --
QUESTION: Can we stay on the speech, though? Can we just have one more on – one more on the speech?
With all the problems that you’ve mentioned – you talk about Iran, you talk about the Middle East peace process, you talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan – I mean, with so many kind of pressing national security and foreign policy concerns, how do you --
MR. CROWLEY: You don’t think this one’s important?
QUESTION: No, I’m just – I do think it’s important. But I’m just – I’m talking about the speech in particular. How do you – are you – can you say that democracy is not going to take a back seat to some of these issues that you need to address for national security reasons?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, democracy is important. The question is how you sequence that. I’m not going to – there have been a lot of – the United States is a great believer in democracy, but it is also a believer in responsible governance. And so I think beginning with the President’s conversation today with the Saudis, continuing with the President’s conversation with President Mubarak, what we do in the immediate term and how the world progresses politically and economically and socially in the future, these are very important. They’re inseparable from the larger challenges that we face. At some point in time, for countries like North Korea, countries like Burma, other countries, you have to turn towards responsible governance where you are empowering your people rather than oppressing them.
We are not going to have the same conversation in every country of the world. As the President has said, we are not going to lecture. We’re not going to try to impose these solutions. But we are going to encourage in ways that are appropriate, continued reform across the Middle East, around the world, to make sure that we are getting to a point where we are able to and we’re building capacity around the world to address the significant challenges that we face.
QUESTION: Can I switch topics?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure, please.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: It has – well, it’s been only five months, but there has been quite a lot of energy put into this by the Administration on all sides in terms of the outreach to various parts of the Muslim world. What evidence do you see so far, even however small it might be, that this is producing any kind of results or any kind of the positive reaction that you’re looking for?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the election of the President itself and the statement that makes about U.S. society has communicated a great deal to the rest of the world. We do have literally --
QUESTION: Right. What evidence are you seeing of a response to that?
MR. CROWLEY: -- a different face on U.S. foreign policy in both President Obama and Secretary Clinton. We are showing a renewed capacity to engage the world as partners, not as lecturers. And I think this has created opportunities for us. Now, we recognize that that one speech is not going to solve all of the world’s challenges. It’s not going to reduce the honest differences that we have with people or governments. But certainly, it creates openings for us to work together to see if we can – where we can solve these challenges, where we can still have respectful differences where they occur. And I think that – with this speech, but it’s really the broad – it’s within the broader context that a significant reengagement by the United States, our willingness to take a leadership role but do so in partnership with other countries, that is going to be most significant. It creates opportunities for progress, but obviously there are no guarantees of success.
QUESTION: P.J., I want to switch to Cuba, please. Isn’t the real essence of democracy if an organization as the OAS submit to a democratic vote the reassignment of Cuba? Isn’t that the real essence of democracy? I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: First of all, the OAS operates by consensus.
QUESTION: And by vote.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and, you know, we put forward the concept of an OAS resolution that would both recognize Cuba’s opportunity to join – rejoin the OAS, if it chooses – and there’s no evidence right now that Cuba has a desire to join the OAS – but do so in a way that is respectful of the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
And at the end of this, it was countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela – they’re the ones who have been trapped in the past. You know, the United States – we’re looking forward. We’re celebrating the fact that the OAS is, in fact, a community of democracies. And we thought there was a way to balance both rectifying the situation from 1962, but in the process affirming that we in the Western Hemisphere value progress made towards democracy in the region over the last 47 years.
QUESTION: In the case of China, you said you saw some progress in the fight against corruption. But the White House yesterday said that the President of the U.S. is pleased because Cuba has accepted to begin again negotiations on immigration and direct mail. Do you consider those things as a step forward, or what?
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, certainly, certainly.
QUESTION: But in terms of --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I mean --
QUESTION: -- democracy, what can you expect from Cuba?
MR. CROWLEY: In a lot of these situations, take Iran for example, we’ve had relations that have been paralyzed for 30 years – Cuba longer than that. It’s going to take a long time. It’s going to be a delicate process over time to see where you can take small steps and maybe larger steps.
In the case of Cuba, we are obviously looking for Cuba itself to make significant strides in terms of release of prisoners, in terms of opening up their political process, other reforms within Cuban society. And we’ve indicated that as Cuba acts, we will respond. So – but certainly, the Cuban decision to reciprocate, to agree to a resumption of the migration talks, and to hint that there are other issues that we could begin to talk about, such as mail delivery – these are progress and these are consistent with what the President has done in terms of expanding the links between our two countries.
QUESTION: And the last thing. In the fight of drugs in Mexico, in recent days, the authorities have been arresting mayors of many states. And my question to you is: Does the U.S. really trust the local and state governments in Mexico? Because it seems to me that they are working for the drug cartels and the only partner you have in Mexico is the president of Mexico.
MR. CROWLEY: That is a pretty broad-brush indictment --
QUESTION: Well, more than 20 mayors have been arrested --
MR. CROWLEY: The Calderon government has done significant effort here to not only – you know, to fight cartels. The Mexican response to the H1N1 virus was very significant. Obviously, there is the issue of corruption. It exists on the Mexican side of the border. It exists on the U.S. side of the border. We have to make sure that public officials, law enforcement are working on behalf of the people rather than working against local and national interests. And I think Mexico has indicated that it is willing – it is going to aggressively root out corruption. And we in the United States on our side of the border have recognized – Secretary Clinton has talked about this, Secretary Napolitano has talked about this, the President has talked about that – that we both have responsibilities if we’re going to make sure that we fight international criminal activity.
QUESTION: In Pakistan, the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack has been released by the (inaudible) today. Do you think it is helpful in the war against terrorism when you – when the Pakistan army is fighting with the Swat – militants in Swat Valley, then you have a terrorist being released there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to impress upon the Government of Pakistan the importance of bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. We believe the Government of Pakistan should continue its investigation to ensure that all those who are responsible for the attack are, in fact, brought to justice. We do respect the rule of law and we – but we just want to make sure that Pakistan is, in fact, acting aggressively against extremist elements within its borders. Clearly, in the military campaign that you see over in the Swat area, they are, in fact, doing that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, just talking about the problem in Pakistan. When the terror attacks happened, India chose to actually take a diplomatic track as opposed to retaliating against Pakistan, and at that time the U.S. supported that. So this time, are you worried that maybe troops will stay with – at the India border instead of concentrating on the Afghanistan side if tensions build up between India and Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’ve been involved in an intensive, lengthy dialogue with Pakistan on its military priorities. We stand ready to help Pakistan in a wide range of ways. But we are, I think, satisfied that Pakistan has aggressively worked to deal with the extremist elements. And as we are doing today, we recognize that the military action has created a significant impact on the ground with roughly 2.5 million displaced persons. And we along with other countries are trying to make sure that we can help build capacity within the Pakistan Government to be able to support its population during this difficult time.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up please? Just a quick one, please. (Laughter.)
As far as --
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, you never have a quick follow-up. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you. As far as these issues of terrorist attackers being released by Pakistan, will be brought out during the Mr. – or Ambassador (inaudible) visit to India or also during Ambassador Holbrooke visit in Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Holbrooke’s trip is primarily focused on the humanitarian situation in Pakistan. That said, he will return to Islamabad, I believe, tomorrow night and will have a wide range of additional meetings with various government officials after that.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: So I wouldn't rule out that he’ll address some other issues.
QUESTION: In India when Ambassador --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I don’t know.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I promised Samir.
QUESTION: Yes, it’s great to see you here, Colonel Crowley. There’s a report in the Post today saying that Secretary Clinton had a phone conversation on Sunday with the Syrian foreign minister. Can you give us any readout on this, and if she touched on the elections in Lebanon?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m aware of the call, Samir. I don’t know precisely – it was not a very lengthy conversation. I think they talked primarily about the possibility of upcoming travel to Syria. I’ve got nothing to announce at this point, but obviously we have had – we have conversations. Acting Assistant Secretary Feltman, Dan Shapiro of the NSC have made two trips to Damascus. We are trying to improve our communication between the United States and Syria. I think it was more within that context.
QUESTION: Travel by --
QUESTION: Will this be travel by her?
MR. CROWLEY: When we have – not by – I’m not aware of any travel by the Secretary of State to the Middle East. But yeah, I think, as I said earlier, Senator Mitchell will be going out to the region in the next couple of weeks. And when we have more information to tell you, we will.
QUESTION: So – but can you connect those dots between Senator Mitchell’s travel and going to Damascus? Because it’s – is one of the issues that he’s going to be looking at on this trip when he does go to the region the restart of Israel-Syria indirect talks? Is that his key reason for going to Damascus, if indeed he does go to Damascus --
MR. CROWLEY: I think first of all, we have not had a great deal of diplomatic activity with Syria in recent years. Obviously, we have not had an ambassador there since the assassination in Lebanon. So we are willing to restart diplomatic activity. That’s the reason why Secretary Feltman and Director Shapiro have made multiple trips to Damascus. We will probably have other delegations going to Syria in the coming days, and when we have something to announce, we’ll tell you.
But I think obviously, we have multiple interests with Syria. Number one is activity that occurs within Syria that affects the situation in Iraq. Syria itself obviously has a significant issue with refugees from Iraq. We clearly want to evaluate the potential for discussion between Syria and within the context of the Middle East process. I would expect all of these issues would be part of a discussion if and when that takes place.
QUESTION: But you seem to want to have your cake and eat it. I mean, on the one hand, you’re sanctioning them to death --
MR. CROWLEY: And what’s wrong with that? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On the one hand, you’re – one hand, you’re reissuing sanctions, and yet on the other, you’re – you know, you’re playing cozy with them. So which way are you going?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t – there’s always been this idea that when we talk to a country, we’re doing them a favor. You know, when we talk to a country, we’re pursuing our own national interest. Syria is an important country in the Middle East. It can act constructively if it chooses. At times in the recent past, it has chosen to act less than constructively. But obviously, it’s a player. We want to be engaged with Syria. We want to see what’s possible, what the Asad government is willing to do. That’s why we’ve reopened dialogue with Syria, and we will see where it goes as it develops.
QUESTION: Sorry, just one more thing. Are you planning – did the Secretary discuss sending U.S. military commanders to Damascus? Was that part of the phone conversation?
MR. CROWLEY: Again --
QUESTION: To discuss Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: -- we are – when we – there will be, I expect, U.S. delegations going to Syria in the near term. When we have something to announce, I’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Yes, may I ask you about START negotiations with Russia? Yesterday --
MR. CROWLEY: You may ask. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yesterday, Russian president’s spokeswoman said that the agreement on START is achievable by – at least the framework agreement is achievable by the time President Obama is coming to Moscow. Do you have any comments on that? Will you agree with this statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see, today is June 3rd. I believe we’ve had a delegations meeting this week in Geneva. I have not received a readout of their discussions. But obviously, our interest here is to see what can be teed up for the presidents when they get together in the next few weeks. Obviously, we are very definitely focused on the renewal of the – or the updating of the START agreement, and we will hope to have something accomplished this year. The presidents, when they meet next month, will have the opportunity to push that process along. But I don’t have a particular readout of where we stand at this point.
QUESTION: You talked about democratics that would open in some countries, like China. In two weeks – I believe less than two weeks, Iranian will have their presidential election with four candidates. Do you view it as a fair, semi-democratic process which you can be – I mean, U.S. can be hopeful about the outcome?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, no one would describe the electoral system in Iran as being free and fair. You know, that said, there are real politics that do occur in Iran. Let’s wait and see what the results are. We are anxious to talk to Iran directly about the full range of issues that we confront, most seriously its nuclear ambitions. We have offered through Javier Solana to join in the P-5+1 talks. We have not received a formal response from Iran on that invitation. Perhaps a response will await the end of the elections.
But I think this is a real election. It’s a real election within a constrained system. But we obviously are hopeful that after the election, we’ll see Iran decide what it wants to do in terms of the President’s outreach and the offer of direct dialogue.
QUESTION: The two young American journalists are going on trial, apparently, in North Korea tomorrow. Have you – has our protecting power there had any recent access? Do you think that they will be allowed to attend the trial proceeding? And do you still feel the way of – Secretary Clinton suggested she felt that the start of a process is a hopeful sign for the two?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I think we believe, first and foremost, that these journalists should be released. But we – obviously, you’re right; we did have – we were encouraged by a meeting by the Swedish ambassador with these two journalists on Monday. I’m not aware if there’s any contact since. We are very much aware and focused on the trials. We continue to consult with the families. And there is no higher priority that we have than protection of American civilians abroad. And we, again, hope that North Korea will forego this legal process and return them to the United States.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
QUESTION: Will the Swiss be able to attend?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Could you address the rumors that Al Gore may go on behalf of the United States to try to secure the release?
MR. CROWLEY: I have not heard that rumor.
QUESTION: Is that something that is – that’s not something the U.S. is considering?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Al Gore is a private citizen, so – but I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up? Did you receive any written letter from them, two journalists? Letter --
QUESTION: Written letter from --
MR. CROWLEY: Written letter by?
QUESTION: By two journalists.
MR. CROWLEY: A written letter from the --
QUESTION: No, in North Korea.
QUESTION: From the two journalists.
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, again, I’m not aware – but a written letter from the journalists?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of that.
MR. CROWLEY: Mike.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Going back to the nuclear test on the 25th of May, we were told at that time that we would probably have more evidence of whether it was a test or not within a couple of days. And --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we said a couple of days. I think we said --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. CROWLEY: -- this process takes some time. As far as I know, that process is still ongoing.
QUESTION: It was a couple and a few days. And – but after the October 2006 test, it was about four days when they came out and they told us definitively it was a test.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way --
QUESTION: Can I finish my question, please?
MR. CROWLEY: I asked that question yesterday --
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if they’re having problems determining whether it was a test or not, an actual nuclear test or not.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there was a test. We just don’t know what the North Korean goals were and what the results were. But as far – I asked that question yesterday. And I believe analysis of what happened is still ongoing.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Actually, before I get to my North Korea question, you mentioned --
MR. CROWLEY: Is this a bait-and-switch?
QUESTION: It is a little bit of a bait-and-switch, yeah. No, you mentioned that – you referenced the recording by Usama bin Ladin today. Are you confirming the authenticity of that tape?
MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea.
QUESTION: All right. Then on North Korea real quick. A group of Republican senators has written a letter to the Secretary urging her to relist North Korea on the terror list. They specify certain unnamed ongoing terrorist activities. Do you share that assessment, and where do you want to go with that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me – maybe I’ll pick up on the bin Ladin issue first. I mean, I don’t know if it’s authentic. I think normally we assume that it is. I don’t think the timing is of coincidence. And bin Ladin’s message is exactly what you would expect. Everyone on earth, Muslim or not, understands that bin Ladin is entirely invested in promoting a clash of civilizations, one that the President made clear in Turkey, does not exist.
So I think there’ll be a contrast between bin Ladin’s vision of intolerance and perpetual conflict, and the President’s message tomorrow offering a vision of a peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, and interconnected world for the 21st century.
As for North Korea, I think we’re aware of that letter. But as far as I know, firing off missiles and over-heated rhetoric is unwise and unhelpful, but does not meet the legal definition of terrorism.
QUESTION: They seem to say – but they don’t refer to those tests as a terrorist activity – to say that other ones are ongoing, that those are --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there’s a --
QUESTION: Is there anything else that you’re aware of?
MR. CROWLEY: To list a country – to list a country on the terrorism list, there’s a legal requirement there. And what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think meets that legal test.
QUESTION: A U.S. delegation is in South Korea right now. I’m wondering, though, was the meeting of the Stuart Levy, the Under Secretary of the Treasury, join the delegations. So is there a possibility of the United States does financial sanction on the North Korea independently beside a UN sanction?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, you’re right; we have an interagency delegation that is in Seoul today. We’ve had productive meetings with senior officials from the ministry of national defense, including Minister Lee Sang Hee and the minister of foreign affairs and trade, including Vice Minister Kwon.
We continue to act both in the region with this delegation led by Deputy Secretary Steinberg, and also in New York we’ve been in intensive discussions with our partners in the Security Council, and looking for a very firm resolution.
We’ve obviously going to look for a number – ways that are both, multilateral, bilateral, to help North Korea understand it has obligations under international law. And it has made commitments within the Six-Party process, back to the agreement in September 2005, and we’re looking for North Korea to return to a process and to pick up where we left off with that agreement and fulfill its obligations towards the international community’s objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to the next, Steinberg is still going to Moscow?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, as you know, the Deputy Secretary’s party will not be able to go Moscow. We have been pleased with the high-level meetings that we’ve had in other capitals. We’ll look for a way to engage with Russia in the near term. But you know, the logical officials that we would want to have met with just were not available in the timeframe of their trip --
QUESTION: Two follow-ups, P.J.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: In regard to North Korea, you just stated there was a test, by which I take it, you mean there was a nuclear test.
MR. CROWLEY: No, I didn’t say that. I said there was an event.
QUESTION: You said there was a test.
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, I will accept that the North Koreans indicated and they communicated to us that they were going to conduct some kind of a test. Now, I don’t know whether this was designed as a nuclear event. And in fact, it was a nuclear event. I mean, I think there have been indications that we had some indications of seismic activity, but exactly what that was or what that represented and what we infer from that, that analysis is still ongoing.
QUESTION: But enough for U.S. diplomats to seek condemnation at the UN Security Council as a violation of 1718. 1718 didn’t rule out seismic events, did it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way, I think clearly what happened in North Korea was a clear manifestation of their ongoing nuclear ambitions. And so those ambitions are incompatible with the six – with not only UN Security Council resolutions, commitments by North Korea, that they made as part of the Six-Party process. And we want to see North Korea return to this negotiating process, respect its international obligations, and fulfill the commitments that it’s previously made. But clearly, North Korea is, in my judgment, signaling it wants to have nuclear weapons and a normal relationship with the region and the world, and we’re clearly communicating to North Korea that they’ll have to make a choice.
QUESTION: And in relation to the Usama bin Ladin tape, are you aware of reports that there is an al-Qaida recruiting tape that apparently indicates that al-Qaida is seeking to wage biological attack on the United States somehow through Mexico?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that.
QUESTION: P.J. a follow-up.
QUESTION: on the David Goldman case. Do you have any reaction to developments last night? Do you respect the decision by the Supreme Court? And is – or well, one of the justices, and is there anything that the United States can do? Anything more?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re aware that the Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal today suspended an order granting the immediate return of Sean Goldman to his father. We are disappointed by the decision, but U.S. Embassy officials continue to work with the family and will meet with Brazilian attorneys and Mr. Goldman’s attorney to learn next steps in the legal process.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary reached out to anyone involved in this case, anyone in Brazil, any foreign minister?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think this just happened today, so we are aware of this latest development.
QUESTION: We heard of it last night, so –
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: We heard of it last night.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, well, you’re ahead of me.
QUESTION: Venezuela? Hugo Chavez is saying that he has been the target of an assassination plot and that U.S. is behind it. Do you have any response?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s not true. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Just – do you believe that Usama bin Ladin is still alive? And also --
MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea.
QUESTION: Now, these days there are no more videos, but only audio. And how are we sending messages? And somebody must be knowing where these messages are coming from, where he delivers them?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, al-Qaida has had a very significant and sophisticated media operation. You know, bin Ladin has been able to communicate. Al-Zawahiri has been able to communicate. And I think that’s why – that’s one of the reasons why it’s important for the United States to communicate. I think that’s why the President has – is making this speech tomorrow night. We welcome this debate. We think it’s a debate that we’ll win.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: On Israel, you’ve called on Israel and the Palestinians to abide by their Roadmap obligations. I was wondering if you thought that you and Israel share the same understanding of what Israel’s obligations are under the Roadmap. You may be aware that the former chief of staff of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon published a letter – published an opinion piece which seems to suggest that they have a different understanding of what their Roadmap obligations are. And of course, there is this ongoing debate about the letter sent – exchanged between President Bush and –
MR. CROWLEY: I suspect there is an ongoing debate in this room, but not necessarily outside of this room. (Laughter.) I mean, we are focused on commitments that both sides have made in the Roadmap. The President and the Secretary have been very clear on the obligations that both sides have. We’ve had several meetings with Israeli officials in recent days. We do not believe there is any confusion about the nature of those obligations.
QUESTION: So is the U.S. Administration bound by the Bush letter?
MR. CROWLEY: We are focused on the Roadmap and the obligations that both Israel and the Palestinians have said that they will undertake, and we’re going to hold both of them to them – to that.
QUESTION: So it means you are not bound?
MR. CROWLEY: I would suggest that you keep focusing on the Roadmap.
QUESTION: But, P.J., when you talk about contrasting the Cairo speech with Usama bin Ladin’s tape, aren’t you actually serving the purposes of that tape by attracting attention to that? It struck me as unusual for someone to put basically the President of the United States and a leader of terrorists, an odious person somewhere hiding in a cave basically on the same level in saying –
MR. CROWLEY: I certainly did not. And I actually don’t think that most people who will be watching the President in the morning, I don’t think they’re going to put them in the same stature either.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)