3:08 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: I thought we would have exhausted you from the budget briefing. But obviously, here at the Department of State, we’ve put forward to the Congress a significant budget totaling $52.8 billion for FY2011 that will, in our minds, secure frontline states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, meet global challenges from health to hunger to climate change and humanitarian assistance strengthen partnerships through foreign military assistance, peacekeeping operations, narcotics control, law enforcement, military education and training, nonproliferation and antiterrorism programs, while also investing in increased personnel and stronger infrastructure for the Department of State in critical parts of the world.
But with that, if there are other subjects we can address, the floor is open.
QUESTION: Yeah, people being held for allegedly trying to traffic in children?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have been given unlimited consular access to 10 American citizens who were apprehended over the weekend. And we expect that they will appear before a Haitian judge as early as this afternoon.
QUESTION: Sorry, you said unlimited?
MR. CROWLEY: We have been given unlimited consular access, yes.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that means, for example, I think at least one of the American citizens has health issues, and we’ve been able to help her. But we expect they – I think they’re standing by as we speak in Port-au-Prince to go before a Haitian judge and continue the investigation.
QUESTION: The Haitian Government said they might be tried in the United States. Do you have anything on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it’s – first of all, it’s up to the Haitian Government. It’s their country. Their police apprehended these individuals. Obviously, Haiti wants to determine the motives behind the movement of children between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and we are assisting every way possible. And once we know all the facts, then we’ll determine what the appropriate course is. But that – but the judgment is really up to the Haitian Government.
QUESTION: Can I ask – in the Embassy statement yesterday, they talked about having contacts with the Haitian Government about the case. Can you talk about the nature and level of those conversations, what the U.S. message is when they do talk to them? And then also, whether the Embassy plans to have anybody in the trial, in the courtroom or whatever, during the proceedings? Is that --
MR. CROWLEY: As we would with any diplomatic post, we would expect to have personnel from the Embassy monitor the proceedings, and I would expect that to be the case here. I think there were Embassy personnel who monitored the hearing that occurred on Saturday.
QUESTION: And then about the conversations between the U.S. and the Haitian Government about the case, can you describe the nature of those and the level of those conversations?
MR. CROWLEY: I think right now, the Haitian Government has a judicial system. It is up and running. And I’m not aware that we’ve had any specific conversation with the Haitian Government at this point on this case. I think – I mean, both the Haitian Government and ourselves are trying to figure exactly what has transpired here and perhaps more facts will reveal themselves this afternoon in court.
QUESTION: But the Embassy statement clearly said that there had been some talks between – about the case between the Haitian Government and the U.S. Embassy.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, we do, in the course of our consular activity, you’ve – they’re in the custody of the police. We want to ascertain the nature of the charges against them. We want to have access to them. So there is an interaction. But as to other conversations we may or may not have had with the Haitian Government, let’s let the legal proceeding work its course.
QUESTION: And then, what is your understanding of the charges against them, if that’s something they’ve communicated to you, then?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the Haitian Government has set forward some specific charges. They are a matter, I believe, of record. It’s hard for me to characterize it from here.
QUESTION: What is your understanding of what they are if they’re of record? I mean, we haven’t heard of them.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: At this point, does – based on the meetings that the U.S. has had with these 10 missionaries or Americans, whatever they really are, is there any belief that they had any malice involved in their actions?
MR. CROWLEY: I understand the question. I think this is what the investigation and the legal proceeding, when it does occur, will try to ascertain.
QUESTION: Because the --
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- the Justice Department at this point – I mean, they could bring these people to the U.S. and try them if it was a case where they believe they specifically went to another country to engage in sexual acts with a minor and then – but not necessarily for bringing them over the border into another country. So that --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, look. Let’s – I just – there is – are far better questions than there are answers at this point. And I think this is why we are working to try to ascertain precisely what happened, what the motivation behind these people. Clearly, there are questions about procedure in terms of whether they had appropriate paperwork to move the children. All of these are very good questions. This is what, I’m sure, Haitian authorities are trying to determine, what American authorities are trying to determine. But we should let the investigation take its course and then we’ll be in a better position to evaluate what should be done.
QUESTION: And do you just have an update on Haitian children who’ve been brought out?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, any other --
QUESTION: Well, just to follow on that, what are the – what are American authorities actually trying to determine in a legal way at this point? And who are those American authorities?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would provide the same kind of consular services as we would in any other post, to make sure that the – I mean, these are private citizens, they’re in a foreign country, they’re before a Haitian judge, that they have appropriate legal representation. We want to make sure that they are being well cared for; we think they are. And to evaluate that, in our judgment, this has been a fair and transparent legal process, and obviously, that process is ongoing.
QUESTION: Well, but my question – you mentioned what Haitian authorities and American authorities are trying to determine in terms of the legalities --
MR. CROWLEY: Right. And obviously, I’m not in a position to characterize. To the extent we’ve had conversations with these individuals, I’m not at liberty to go into details as to what they told us. We’ve been doing our own evaluation of the background of these individuals and the organizations that they’ve suggested that they’re working for, and this is all part of a process that’s ongoing.
QUESTION: South Korea President Lee Myung-bak said last week that he had planned to have – meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il over the North Korea nuclear issues. Do you have some information about process making of summit? And then what is your position on summit at this point?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had our own discussions with North Korean officials. We understand our partners in the Six-Party process, likewise, have had conversations. And we encourage dialogue and we would assume that should such a meeting take place, the message from South Korea would be the same message as the message from the United States and others within the Six-Party process about what North Korea should do to return to the Six-Party process and to begin to take steps towards denuclearization. But as to specific arrangements, I’d defer to the South Korean Government to describe what they’re prepared to do.
QUESTION: And there are reports that President Obama doesn’t plan to attend the next EU-U.S. summit in the spring. Can you comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I think I’ll defer to the White House in terms of what the President’s travel schedule is. I know they are going through it here – we’re still relatively early in the year – what his travel plans are for the rest of the year. He’s made several trips to Europe during the course of the previous year, but I understand that there were no specific plans for the President to travel to Spain for a summit this year. But we also have to recognize that with the Lisbon treaty, Europe has gone through a fundamental structural change, and as to – we will continue to have U.S.-EU meetings at a high level.
But because of the changes involving the establishment of a EU council president and a European commission president on top of the rotating EU presidency, I think it’s taking some time to work through exactly how various high-level meetings will happen. But we look forward to ongoing dialogue. The Secretary has had a couple of recent meetings with her counterpart, Catherine Ashton, and we continue to work on a range of issues. But as to specific plans by the President, I’ll defer to the White House.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Any update on these two Americans in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: No change. We’re still seeking consular access through our protecting power and it’s not occurred yet.
QUESTION: Are you surprised by the seeming ferocity of the Chinese reaction to the Taiwan arms sale deal?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I would characterize it quite that way. Obviously, they have indicated their displeasure for this round of sales just as they have in previous rounds. We understand that. At the same time, we’ve taken this action consistent with our one China policy and Taiwan Relations Act, three joint communiqués as well. We think that these defensive arms will contribute to security and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We regret that the Chinese have announced that they’ll halt bilateral military exchange programs and other security-related programs. Obviously, we’ll see further information as to specific impact on meetings that were anticipated. Likewise, we regret the fact that they have suggested that they will impose sanctions on U.S. companies involved in the sale of these defensive articles.
But we think that our interaction with China is in our interest, in China’s interest, and we will continue our discussions with China on this and other subjects.
QUESTION: P.J., there’s a story in The New York Times today quoting unnamed U.S. officials as suggesting that the Administration was deliberating trying to adopt a slightly more pugnacious stance toward China. Is that true?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we will continue to assert our national interests. We have a significant interest in stability in the region. We have longstanding commitments to provide for Taiwan’s defensive needs. And we will, as always, pursue our interests. But we will do it in a way that we think allows for positive and cooperative relations with China.
QUESTION: Have you had any positive or cooperative dealings with China in the last couple of weeks, post-Google and post-arming Taiwan?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, we have a wide-ranging relationship with China. It’s one of the most important relation – bilateral relationships in the world. And within our strategic and economic dialogue, we touch on a wide range of subjects. We are going to have areas of agreement. We’re going to have areas of disagreement. And when we have disagreements, we will work through them in a consistent but candid way.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any progress in the last few weeks on any of the issues between the United States and China that are particularly important to the United States, by which I would include specifically North Korea, Iran, internet freedom? Is the boat going in the right direction on any of those?
MR. CROWLEY: Of course. We see eye to eye with respect to North Korea. Our messages – our respective messages to the North Korean leadership have been very similar. We’ve had important discussions with the Chinese on Iran. I think we have the same interest in not seeing a nuclear-capable Iran from emerging. We obviously do have differences in terms of the current approach, and we continue in discussion with China on that issue. I’m sure our counterparts in other agencies of government continue their important dialogue with China on a range of issues from the economic to – and until this past weekend, on the defense issues as well.
So, I mean, we’re going to continue to engage China. We’ve had a number of conversations both before and since the Taiwan announcement and we will continue those discussions.
QUESTION: P.J., on Thursday, when the Secretary met with the Chinese foreign minister in London, do you know if she raised – if she hinted to him or told him that the arms sale is coming the next day?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I don’t think so.
QUESTION: She – so she didn’t raise it at all?
MR. CROWLEY: As we – I think there were some – there was a background briefing on Friday where we indicated that we had informed the Chinese on Friday morning through our contacts here at the Embassy in Washington, and that was --
QUESTION: But surely, she knew that it was coming down the next day, right?
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: I mean, is it really worth blindsiding the Chinese like that when you had a high-level meeting between the two foreign ministers a day earlier?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we will pursue our national interest. We did not consult with the Chinese beforehand. We informed the Chinese once we began the process of informing our Congress.
QUESTION: Well, don’t you think that the Chinese reaction may have been more vitriolic because the – because --
MR. CROWLEY: We’re doing nothing different today than we did in 2008, than we’ve previously done, where, on a regular basis, based on our evaluation of Taiwan’s needs, we do provide them articles that we think contribute to Taiwan’s defense. What happened here was, I don’t think, a mystery to China. They have not – they have objected in the past to what we’ve done and they objected this time, and we anticipated that. We informed them of it. And we will continue to work through this issue as we go forward.
QUESTION: Also on China, is there any update on talks with China over the Google issue, any more meetings here in Washington or in Beijing?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary, as she said last week, raised this issue with Foreign Minister Yang in London and indicated that we will continue to have conversation with China on this subject.
QUESTION: Just back to Haiti, do you have a number for us, update on U.S. fatalities by any chance?
MR. CROWLEY: No change --
QUESTION: No change.
MR. CROWLEY: -- from last week.
QUESTION: And how about children, Haitian children brought to the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: I think there was a flight over the weekend with a significant number – I’ve heard various numbers, but somewhere between 66 and 80 children left over the weekend. So I think in terms of processing of paroles for orphans, I think we’re now over 600.
MR. DUGUID: 578.
MR. CROWLEY: 578, close to 600.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I should welcome back Gordon Duguid from Port-au-Prince, did yeoman’s work over the past --
QUESTION: Here, here.
MR. CROWLEY: -- couple of weeks on behalf of the United States Government and our media colleagues who were deployed as well.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:26 p.m.)
DPB # 16
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