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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 5, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton meets today with Foreign Minister Luis Amado of Portugal / Signs Protocols of Exchange of Instruments of Ratification for our bilateral Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaty
    • Secretary Clinton Meets Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan of the Republic of Korea
    • Special Envoy Mitchell departs Sunday for Oslo / Will travel to the region for talks with Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian officials / Syria visit is possible / Lebanon is not currently on his schedule
    • President Obama has outlined an ambitious agenda / Not aware of a specific timetable
    • No further information on the trial of the American journalists / No access to courtroom / Swedish Ambassador met with the journalists on Monday / Seemed in reasonably good health under the circumstances
    • Strong commitment to a new resolution / Discussions ongoing in New York / There will be consequences for their actions / Pressure on North Korea to live up to international commitments / Return to the negotiating process / Stop destabilizing activities / Act constructively / Goal is denuclearized North Korea
    • North Korea has been a Stalinist state in the past / Disparity between standard of living in North Korea and standard of living in South Korea, elsewhere in the region is known
    • North Korea spends billions to fire missiles, conduct nuclear tests, but can't feed its own people
    • Special Representative Holbrooke announced additional US assistance / Has left Pakistan
    • Aware of additional attacks today / Progress is being made on the ground / Taliban area of operation is shrinking / Still able to conduct attacks / Pakistani attitude towards Taliban is changing
    • US will continue assist Pakistan with internally displaced persons
    • Process for placing the Uighurs continues
    • Ambassador Fried is traveling / Visiting Australia and Palau
    • Welcome exchange of information agreement with European Union on detainees
    • Conference in Europe later this month / Secretary Clinton will attend


11:25 a.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I had so much fun the other day, I thought I’d do it again.

QUESTION: May I say – I’m sorry, I have to say, I thought that that Red Sox sign was permanently banished after Sean left.

QUESTION: Absolutely not.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely not. In fact, we had some outstanding coverage in the Boston Globe that it’s a fine tradition that now three of the last – and taking over from Robert, who is from that evil empire which we won’t talk about.

Good morning, and welcome to the Department of State. Secretary Clinton has returned from her travels to South America and Cairo, and this afternoon she will have a series of bilateral discussions, first with Portuguese Foreign Minister Amado. They will be talking about a number of issues of bilateral interest, including Portugal’s important contributions to the international mission in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the upcoming 2010 NATO summit in Portugal. They will also sign the protocols of exchange of instruments of ratification for our bilateral mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties. I think we have a separate statement explaining that agreement.

Later on this afternoon, the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey. She is looking forward to hosting the foreign minister in his first visit to Washington as foreign minister. They will discuss the strategic partnership between our two countries and the ways to deepen cooperation on a wide range of issues. Topics will include counterterrorism cooperation, Turkey’s EU accession bid, the Turkish presidency of the UN Security Council, and developments in the Middle East, Iran, and North Korea.

And then finally this afternoon, the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan of the Republic of Korea, obviously an important ally of the United States. They will be discussing upcoming – the upcoming summit between the President of the United States and the president of the Republic of Korea. They will obviously clearly also talk about the current situation in North Korea and the U.S.-Korea alliance.

As the President mentioned this morning, George Mitchell will be departing for the region, beginning on Sunday. He first starts with a stop in Oslo, Norway, and then will travel to the region for talks with Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian officials.

You will probably ask me: What about Syria? That is a possibility, but it’s still being – the arrangements for that are still being worked.

QUESTION: Did we ever find out if they --

MR. CROWLEY: Can I finish what I’m saying first?

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were done.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, it’s all right. You were on the trip – I know you were on that trip – part of the trip. But finally, you will probably ask about this current situation with the trial of the two journalists in the DPRK, and basically we really have no further information to provide. As far as we know, the trial is continuing, but we’ve had no further access through our – the Swedish Embassy to the two journalists, but we remain in regular contact with the families.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Can I just go back to Mitchell for a second?


QUESTION: Which is why I – which is why I --

MR. CROWLEY: Now I will stop and, Matt, the floor is yours.

QUESTION: Yeah. You said there was a possibility of Syria, but did we ever know – and I was on the trip, so I don’t know if this – did they get their visas? Did they get visas for --

MR. CROWLEY: They do have their visas.

QUESTION: They do. Okay. Does he, while he is there, have any plans to meet with anyone connected with Hamas or related to Hamas?


QUESTION: No. And then you say that – on North Korea, you say that the trial is continuing. How do you know that?

MR. CROWLEY: It started yesterday.

QUESTION: Glyn Davies just now said that we don’t even know if the trial is – has occurred.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. And I’ll defer to – as far – we were told this trial started yesterday, and as far as I know, it is continuing, but I do not know the status, in fairness.

QUESTION: Sorry. How do you know the trial – was it through the Swedes that you know?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the North Koreans announced that the trial was supposed to start yesterday.

QUESTION: But do you know that that’s true?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not know. We are – we have not been given access to the courtroom.

QUESTION: So you have not been able to independently confirm via the Swedes that it has indeed started?

MR. CROWLEY: I will – tell you what. I’ll just take the question of what is our understanding about the status of the trial.

QUESTION: Can you define exactly what the charges are?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question as well.

QUESTION: Can I just get back to the Portuguese --

QUESTION: On the trial (inaudible), do you have any more information as to whether these girls have a defense lawyer? It seemed a bit --

MR. CROWLEY: I believe we know that they have defense lawyers.

QUESTION: North Korean defense lawyers?


QUESTION: And are they providing any kind of readout to the Swedish Embassy or anything?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I mean, as you know, there has been some communication from the two journalists back to their families, but beyond that, I don’t know anything else.

QUESTION: Okay, and one last thing --


QUESTION: -- on speculation concerning Al Gore and a possible involvement by him or a visit by him. Can you --

MR. CROWLEY: I have no information on that.

QUESTION: That was my question, and then I just wanted to follow up on if you can say anything more at this point about their welfare.

MR. CROWLEY: When the Swedish Ambassador met with them, I believe on Monday, I think they found them to be in – under the circumstances, in reasonably good health.


QUESTION: When the Secretary visited Lebanon in --

QUESTION: Can we stay on North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Hold on. I’ll come back to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: When the Secretary visited Lebanon, she said Senator Mitchell will visit Lebanon in June. Is there a possibility that they will include Lebanon on this trip?

MR. CROWLEY: That – the Lebanese have an important election coming up on Sunday. I wouldn’t rule out a visit to Beirut, but it’s not currently on the schedule.

QUESTION: Back on North Korea?


QUESTION: When Deputy Secretary Steinberg led this delegation out to the region recently, one of the people on the trip --

MR. CROWLEY: He is, by the way, on his way back to Washington.

QUESTION: One of the people on the trip is Stu Levy from Treasury. I’m wondering if there is any thought, as has been reported in, I think, the South Korean media, to imposing some kind of a BDA type of – are you familiar with BDA? I know you weren’t in government at the time of that.



MR. CROWLEY: As a military guy, I would say Battle Damage Assessment, but go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, no, it was – it was a bank – it was a bank in Macau, but it actually kind of turned into a battlefield damage --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Anyway, there were sanctions that were placed on this bank, money was frozen, and then when the North Koreans started to make some moves in the right direction, they tried to unfreeze this money and it turned out that the sanctions that you’d imposed on them were actually working better than – they were very difficult to unravel.

Anyway, there are some reports that similar sanctions are being considered now, and I’m wondering if you can say --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me use that as a segue. Someone will probably ask. We have discussions ongoing in New York. Obviously, first and foremost, we’ve had a very strong commitment to a resolution. Now we’re deliberately working on the process of determining what should be in that resolution. And I wouldn’t rule out both steps to strengthen the existing sanctions that have been placed on North Korea, and obviously, Stuart Levy’s presence on this team would indicate that we’re both looking at how those would be structured, but also looking at other ways that we can bilaterally put pressure on North Korea to return to the negotiating process.

So I’ve got nothing to announce on those, but you’re quite right; we’ve had various steps in the past. Some of them have been successful in getting North Korea’s attention, and that is our purpose in considering further steps.

QUESTION: So you are considering imposition of unilateral sanctions such as --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’re looking at what steps that we could take, principally in collaboration with others in the Six-Party process, to establish whatever leverage that we can to convince North Korea, come back to the negotiating process, live up to its international obligations, and meet its commitments on our concerns about its nuclear program.

Recall that resolutions have the binding force of law. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re taking our time in New York, we’re making sure there’s a clear understanding of the steps that we are contemplating, what those steps mean in practical terms, and then how to implement them effectively once there is a resolution.

QUESTION: Well, just to get back to Matt’s, I think, specific question, in the report that he’s citing in the South Korean press says that the consideration is applying sanctions to multiple North Korean banks. Is that correct that you’re considering (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have any details, Arshad, other than to say that obviously, to the extent that we can find ways to influence North Korea – the steps we’ve taken in the past in the banking sector certainly did get North Korea’s attention previously. And if we find ways that we can do that, we will do so.

QUESTION: And just one other thing on this. I mean, my recollection – and perhaps I’m wrong, but my recollection wasn’t that North Korea took steps in the right direction and then the BDA sanctions got removed. My recollection is that the position of the BDA sanctions certainly got their attention, but you got nowhere whatsoever until you had removed the sanctions – until the U.S. Government had removed the sanctions and, because it was unable to get any other bank in the world to do so, enlisted the good offices of the New York Federal Reserve to transfer the 25 million back to --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let us say that there --

QUESTION: Let me get to the question.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right.

QUESTION: So the question is: If you’re trying to get their attention and you’re specifically referring back to the BDA matter, I wonder why you think that won’t perhaps just blow up in your face and push them in the wrong direction, given how very, very difficult it was to move forward when you did it on just one bank, BDA?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let’s continue to focus where the attention is. We want to get North Korea back into a negotiating process. We want to get them to stop doing things that are destabilizing in the region and start to focus on what it has to do in the future. I mean, if you look at South – at North Korea’s economy, I mean, 30 years ago, it was one of the wealthier countries in the region, and today it is one of the poorest countries on Earth. So I think – and certainly, its neighbors have advanced significantly from an economic standpoint – these facts are known in North Korea. So to the extent that we can find financial levers to put appropriate pressure on North Korea, it’s not – that’s not an end in itself; it is a means to an end.

What we ultimately want is a denuclearized North Korea. We want a country that is acting constructively, beginning to integrate itself into the larger community, act responsibly with respect to its neighbors. That’s our ultimate objective, and we will continue to use whatever levers that we see available and we think will be effective. But our ultimate objective is to get back to negotiations and to get – and to start to once again make progress on the commitments that North Korea has made previously.

QUESTION: But here’s my question: Why don’t you think it will be counterproductive?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no guarantee of success here. I mean, if – North Korea has largely isolated itself with what it has done recently through its nuclear test, through its provocative missile firings and its overheated rhetoric. If they choose to remain isolated, that is their choice. But we are going to make sure that as the Secretary has said, as others have said, that there will be consequences for their actions. There has been strong unanimity within the United Nations that there will be a resolution. We’re working assiduously on what form that a resolution will take place. Progress is being made in negotiations that we have ongoing in New York.

And we will put this in place; it will have consequences. It will get, we hope, North Korea’s attention. But if they choose to remain isolated, then we’ll deal with that fact down the road. That’s – I think one of the purposes of Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s trip to the region this week was, in fact, to not only talk at a high level about what’s been going on in New York, but to look at what can we do after we see a resolution in New York, what do we do from that point forward to both make sure that North Korea has not destabilized the region. We remain unanimous – or united along with our other partners in the Six-Party process. There are other steps you might envision down the road to continue to encourage North Korea to come back to this process.

QUESTION: I want to ask about what Ambassador Bosworth had said. He said he had some confidence that the North Koreans may come back to the talks, and I believe another official was on background saying that. Is that your understanding, and what might lead U.S. officials to believe that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the – well, history. I mean, you’ve had a – you’ve had a pattern here over a number of years, North Korea does a variety of things for whatever reason to get the attention of the international community, thinks it’s being dissed, not being paid attention to and so on and so forth. We’re not going to reward bad behavior, but we really want to make sure that North Korea returns to a process.

At various times there has been progress. We did reach a broad-based agreement in September 2005 that put North Korea on a path to denuclearization. We would like to get back to that path. And ultimately, I don’t think that North Korea has that much of a choice.

QUESTION: Well, what gives you that confidence–

MR. CROWLEY: When you look at the disparity between the conditions that exist in North Korea, the conditions that exist elsewhere in the region; I mean, North Korea has been a Stalinist state in the past. There was maybe a time when you could control information, you could maintain your thumb on a population. That – it is becoming more difficult for autocratic states to do that. So at some point in time, and probably even now, you’re seeing that the disparity between the standard of living in North Korea, the standard of living in South Korea, elsewhere in the region, is known. And at some point, we believe that North Korea is going to have to come back to a process.

And now, whether that is successful, we’ll have to wait and see. But we have had successful negotiations with North Korea. We’ve had difficulty in getting North Korea to actually follow through and implement what is agreed to. We would like to get back to that process. And if you look at the pattern, the roller coaster that we’ve been on with North Korea in recent days – recent years, there have been times where they’ve played constructively. And right now, they’re obviously acting in a way that is not constructive.

QUESTION: But I thought Secretary Clinton –

QUESTION: Do you have some evidence that the North Korean people are aware of the disparity? I don’t –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if you look at the – I’m not even going to debate on the modern media environment here. But there are realities –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: -- here that are fairly well known. The elites of North Korea do travel.

QUESTION: Yeah, they do, but not the actual people, the citizens.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not suggesting – I mean, right now there’s no reason to think that things are not stable in North Korea, but I would think that over time, the increase in – the gap between North Korea and the rest of the region is growing larger. Those facts have to be known to the people of North Korea. And they eventually – I mean, this is what’s tragic about this whole situation. North Korea is spending billions of dollars to fire off missiles, conduct nuclear tests, and yet they’re not able to feed their people.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Defense Secretary --


QUESTION: Can I stick with this one second -- a little longer? You mentioned Gore. Can you –

MR. CROWLEY: No, I didn’t mention Gore.

QUESTION: Well, you said you didn’t want to talk about Al Gore. But in a general way about special negotiators, is the Department receptive to the former Vice President or Governor Richardson intervening –

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to predict anything. Historically, if you go back – and there have been ways in which you’ve had special interlocutors who have been able to resolve situations like that. But I’m not – anything I would say would be speculation.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, there have been the series of attacks in Pakistan, suicide attacks. How do you assess the situation over there? Is it the Taliban expanding its area of influence?

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I haven’t – Ambassador Holbrooke has left Pakistan. He’s making a couple of other stops before he comes back to Washington. I actually hope to get him to come down to the briefing room next week, and he can debrief you himself on the current situation.

Obviously, we’re aware of the additional attack today. It is devastating, on the one hand, but everything that we see would say that there’s progress being made on the ground and that the area that the Taliban has to operate is shrinking. That said, we know that there’s a very difficult situation on the ground. They still have the ability to conduct these kinds of attacks. It would appear – I don’t – that the tide is turning in terms of Pakistani attitudes towards the Taliban. I think we’re very encouraged by that.

And so at the same time, we’re obviously recognizing that the current offensive has had an impact on the Pakistani population; something between two-and-a-half million and three million internally displaced persons. Ambassador Holbrooke announced some additional assistance by the United States earlier this week, and we’re going to continue in a variety of ways to assess that and to help the Pakistani Government in any way that we can make sure that we can care for these people. Many of them – some of them are in camps. Many of them are staying with families and friends. But, obviously, it’s a very dire situation, and we are going to do everything we can to help.

QUESTION: So what are the next stops of Ambassador Holbrooke?

MR. CROWLEY: I think he’s in the Gulf here. I’ll -- we’ll get you something afterwards.

QUESTION: He’s not in Afghanistan or India?


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Have you managed to find a home yet for the Uighurs? Are you making any progress in terms of getting them –

MR. CROWLEY: The Ambassador didn’t – the short answer is no. That process is continuing. Ambassador Dan Fried is on travel right now, and I think that this is one of the issues that he’s discussing.

QUESTION: And also, what the Portuguese in terms –

QUESTION: Where is he?

QUESTION: Yes, the --

MR. CROWLEY: He’s in the Pacific.

QUESTION: I was just going to follow up. In terms of the Portuguese, Portugal has been quite involved in to resolve the Guantanamo Bay issue. Is this something that the Secretary plans to discuss with the foreign minister?

MR. CROWLEY: It could very well come up.


QUESTION: Is this bilateral and extradition treaty linked to Guantanamo?


MR. CROWLEY: No, I – no, that’s not, as far as I know. I mean, I think there was a development within the EU in the last 24 hours in terms of an agreement on exchange of information relative to detainees. We welcome that agreement. We think that will be a step towards helping to build cooperation with the United States and Europe to try to unwind the situation we find ourselves in.

QUESTION: Where in the Pacific is he?

QUESTION: P.J., what can you tell us about --

MR. CROWLEY: I believe he has been in Australia and Palau.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the Canadians turning down the Uighurs?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the Canadians turning down the Uighurs?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: This is a slightly facetious question, but why Palau? Are you planning on building another center there, or what’s the deal with Palau?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t tell you – I just happen to know that’s one of the stops on the trip.

QUESTION: On the Portugal thing --


QUESTION: Do you not have an extradition treaty with Portugal right now?

MR. CROWLEY: We have a statement on this.

QUESTION: That’s why it surprised me.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, my only concern now is the bilateral starts in 15 minutes. If you want me to read the statement, I’ll be happy to --

QUESTION: No, no, no, that’s fine.

MR. CROWLEY: -- but there’s one afterwards.

QUESTION: I can wait for it.

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Italy is going to host an Af-Pak conference at the end of the month. They’ve sent out 30 invites: one to Iran, presumably; one to the U.S. as well. Is this something that Secretary Clinton would attend?

MR. CROWLEY: This is the G-8? No, which --

QUESTION: I think it’s a special Af-Pak meeting.

MR. CROWLEY: Where? Tony (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Italy. Italy. They’ve just sent these --

MR. CROWLEY: In Italy?


MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, yeah. There is a meeting at the end of the month. I’m not announcing the Secretary’s travel, but yes, there will be an important meeting on Europe on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yes, the Secretary will attend.

David. I’m sorry, Jill.

QUESTION: P.J., there’s some reporting in Zimbabwe that the United States might be preparing to ease its policy vis-à-vis aid to Zimbabwe, which is now limited to --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have anything in my book on that, so come back to us and we’ll see what we can get you.


QUESTION: Angela Merkel mentioned some type of a timetable for progress on Mideast peace. They didn’t follow up on any answers about that, but can you tell us, is there actually now emerging some type of timetable for the steps that they want in progress?

MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware of any specific timetable. I think that the President laid out a very ambitious agenda in terms of the significant issues that we have in the Middle East, obviously, the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians being central among them. I think we’re working diligently on the issues that can help us come to a point where meaningful negotiations can take place. I’m not aware of any timetable.

QUESTION: As far as sequencing, if the United States is asking both sides to take certain steps, do you anticipate making that public about, you know, who’s doing what when and what your plan would be or what your sort of expectations would be for when they do that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think George Mitchell, supported by the President and the Secretary, will do things that we think will be appropriate and necessary to advance a process. But there have been some times in the past where we’ve been more forthcoming on specific negotiating criteria of steps, plans, and so forth, but that will be dictated by the needs of the negotiation.


QUESTION: Is the U.S. asking the Saudis to help in the situation in Pakistan? And did you mean to say Ambassador Holbrooke is visiting Saudi Arabia?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll get you – I don’t know that that was one of his stops, but he is in that part of the world. But I just don’t know.

QUESTION: I’m not sure exactly what the protocol is on these kinds of things, but it’s about a month away from July 4th and I’m wondering if you’re aware that – if any embassies have actually issued invitations to the Iranians to --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know if that’s true. I mean, they --

QUESTION: Is it possible as we get closer to find out if these – if people – if posts have made these – have issued these invitations?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t issued my invitations to friends to come to the house on the Fourth of July, so I think we still have a little time to work. But you can ask that question again.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:52 a.m.)

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