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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
August 16, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton Spoke on the Global Health Initiative
    • Ambassador James Jeffrey Sworn-In as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
    • Ambassador Christopher Hill Briefing Tomorrow
    • Iraq Transition Briefing
    • More U.S. Helicopters Arrived in Pakistan
    • Three Americans Injured in Colombia Airline Crash
    • Department Released the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Report 2010 to Congress
    • Shared Goal in Increasing Capabilities of Afghan Security Forces/ Private Security Contractors/ US Relies on Local Security Everywhere but Afghanistan and Iraq/ Mindful of Recent Deaths of Aid Workers/ Four Months a Challenging Deadline/ Ongoing Conversations with President Karzai
    • U.S. Will Work Collaboratively with the International Community/ Deputy Envoy Hale met with President Abbas/ Quartet /The US is in Touch with Israeli and Palestinian Officials
    • US Does Not Want a Vacuum Anywhere in the Middle East/ Review of Lebanon Assistance
    • State Department Team Visited Pyongyang Last Week to Visit Mr. Gomes/ On-Going Concern for Mr. Gomes's Health/ Encourage North Korea to Release Mr. Gomes on Humanitarian Grounds
    • American Citizens Injured in Colombian Plane Crash
    • Outbreak of Disease a Concern Due to Flooding/ Twenty Percent of Pakistan Under Water/ Pakistan's Needs are Profound/ Evaluating Immediate and Long-Term Needs/ $76 Million of Assistance
    • Mandatory Retirement at Age 65/ Guided by Foreign Service Act/ Evaluating Potential Impact
    • Senkaku Islands/ Article 5 of 1960 U.S-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security
    • U.S. Talking with Indian Officials about Visa Bill


1:37 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things to talk about before taking your questions. Today, the Secretary spoke on the Global Health Initiative: The Next Phase of American Leadership in Health around the World at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Global Health is linked to every major foreign policy goal of the United States, from reducing conflict to fostering economic and political opportunities, and in our interconnected world stopping the spread of disease is a matter of critical national interest.

QUESTION: Every foreign policy goal of the United States is related to global health?

MR. CROWLEY: Every foreign policy goal of the United States.

QUESTION: Nonproliferation?

MR. CROWLEY: Of course. You never know what’s in those weapons. (Laughter.) That’s actually true. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) if you’re hungry. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary this morning also administered the Oath of Office to Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, who will depart tomorrow for Baghdad. He was joined by the Iraqi ambassador to the United States as well as former U.S. ambassadors to Iraq John Negroponte and ] and General George Casey, who worked closely with Jim in Baghdad during his previous assignment there, as well as Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, who will be the ambassador’s military counterpart for this next phase of the transition of our relationship with Iraq.

Speaking of that, we’ll have Chris Hill here in the briefing room to start off tomorrow’s daily press briefing to provide his perspective as he retires from the Foreign Service. And as soon as I finish here, across the hall, we have Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Corbin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl to brief you on our future transition plans in Iraq.

QUESTION: You said tomorrow?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, tomorrow Chris Hill will be at this podium. Today, across the hall, as soon as we’re done here, we’ll have an additional briefing to provide some details of our transition planning.

In Pakistan today, four U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters arrived as part of the continuing U.S. humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in support of flood relief efforts. That brings to 18 the total number of U.S. military and civilian aircraft operating throughout the country. And we expect an additional eight helicopters to arrive in the next few days. We also have C-130 aircraft supporting operations delivering international aid throughout Pakistan. Two C-130s are expected to transport an estimated 52,000 pounds of relief supplies today.

We are obviously conscious of the crash this morning of Colombian Aires Flight 8250 which crashed on a runway while attempting to land at San Andres Islands. There are no reports of U.S. fatalities; however, we have confirmed that at least three U.S. citizens have been injured and are currently receiving appropriate medical care.

And finally before taking your questions, I just want to flag for you that on Friday we released the Paul Simon Water for the Poor 2010 Report to Congress describing U.S. efforts to expand access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improve water resources management, and increase water productivity in developing countries.

QUESTION: You released that on CD? Can I ask you about President Karzai’s – or at least the indications that President Karzai is going to announce soon the banning of private contractors in Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the --

QUESTION: Security contractors.

MR. CROWLEY: We have a shared goal with Afghanistan of transitioning from our current situation to security led by the Afghan Government. We are continuing to work to improve and increase the capabilities of Afghan national security forces, but during this transition period, clearly, we will continue to rely on security contractors for operations. But we understand and agree with his long-term goal.

QUESTION: Right. But his goal is not exactly long-term. It appears to be short-term – four months. You said during the transition period. I presume that means between now and July of next year, which – so what you’re saying is that – or what you seem to be saying is that you’re still going to use private security contractors even if there is a ban.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, at this moment, we believe that there is still a need for private security companies to continue to operate in Afghanistan. We certainly agree that over time this responsibility should transition to the Government of Afghanistan. I think we have a shared goal of improving oversight and management. We will continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan as a deliberate process to kind of – to move to where this responsibility can transition to the Government of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Well, would you be comfortable in having them banned after four months, getting rid of your private security contractors in four months time?

MR. CROWLEY: We will study his decree, understand the details better, work with the Afghan Government. At the present time, the Afghan Government itself relies on private contractors as well for some of its security requirements. So we understand and agree with President Karzai that security should become a responsibility of Afghanistan under its leadership. He mentioned this in his inaugural address. He mentioned it again during the London and Kabul conferences. And we’ll work through the issue with the Government of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Well, the question is do you understand and agree with President Karzai that they should be gone in four months?

MR. CROWLEY: I think – I can’t comment on the four-month deadline. I haven’t seen that particular aspect. I think we rely on security contractors and we’ll work with the Government of Afghanistan on a realistic approach going forward.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government in Afghanistan at the Embassy seen a decree?

MR. CROWLEY: We have. And we are studying it.


QUESTION: A realistic approach? This is – do you believe that what is proposed is a realistic approach?

MR. CROWLEY: You see a situation in Afghanistan that is perhaps, with Iraq as well, two very unique situations. In every country of the world but these two, we rely on local security capabilities to provide our security requirements. In these two locations, that is not currently possible. We have increased the size of the U.S. and international military contingent to help establish and sustain security in Afghanistan, but under present circumstances, there are unmet requirements that can only be filled with private security contractors. We understand the issue and we agree with the concern behind President Karzai’s statement. We’ll work with the Government of Afghanistan to clarify what he has in mind. We want to see this responsibility transitioned from – transitioned to leadership by Afghanistan on security issues. Whether that can be done in four months, we’ll evaluate that together with the Afghan Government.

QUESTION: So at the moment, you don’t think – you think that this could be realistic? This could be a realistic approach?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you’re – I mean, there maybe are two issues here. One is transition to the point where oversight and management of private security contractors moves under the aegis of the Afghan Government. Now, as I said, we, the United States, have security needs for our diplomats as they move around Afghanistan. We’re very mindful – although it’s not a direct corollary, but mindful of the security challenges that we face in Afghanistan. We’re very mindful of the recent deaths of aid workers in some of the remote provinces of Afghanistan. So there are definitely security needs. In this transition period, we have security requirements that can’t be met under the traditional arrangements of – that we normally have with any other sovereign state. So we understand and share the president’s sentiment. We’ll see what we can do. Four months would be a – is a very challenging deadline.

QUESTION: What is the transition – what is the transition period you’re referring to? Is that till July of next year?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, I mean, we’re in a period where we are trying to build up the capacity of the Afghan Government to provide for its own security. Over time as the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, the security requirements will lower. But clearly, right now, we’re in a war zone. The security requirements are significant. Yet the need for us to be able to take our diplomats out away from Kabul to engage directly with the Afghan people, to work side-by-side with the military, that it means that we have a need for security. And at the present time, that requirement is being met by, in many cases, private security contractors. Over time, as the Afghan Government’s capabilities expand, the need for military and private contractors will be reduced. How fast that can be accomplished is the essence of our current strategy. We are trying to work as aggressive as we can to build up the capabilities of the Afghan Government, and as we are able to do that, we can reduce our reliance on private security contractors.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Many Afghans want you to stay there as far as until you force out the terrorists and Taliban, and that, as far as President Karzai’s concern, like the question earlier, he wants you to leave and he’s – he can – or he’s (inaudible) of Afghanistan without you. But what I’m asking you, does President Karzai tell you something different privately and different in public as far as security and terrorism in Afghanistan is concerned and your presence there?

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I can’t relate every conversation that the president has with senior officials. We have ongoing daily conversations with the president on a variety of issues. Security is critically important not only to the presence of our diplomats and military but also to the Afghan people. We all agree what the answer is here. The answer here is a capable Afghan military and Afghan police force that can provide basic security throughout the country. We’re working aggressively to get to that point. We’re not there yet. The military and the buildup that we’ve seen of military capabilities in recent months that’s nearing completion, that gives us some additional capabilities that we haven’t had before. It allows us to operate in more sections of Afghanistan than we have before. With the military presence there, not only U.S. military presence but international military presence, that provides a great deal of security for our diplomats and development experts who are working every day throughout Afghanistan. But there are still requirements that as we move our diplomats and NGOs around the country, there are security requirements, and right now, we do rely on private security contractors to fill that gap between what the military provides and yet what the Afghan Government is unable to provide. As we’re able to shrink that gap, we can shrink our reliance on private security contractors. But in the meantime, we can work with the Government of Afghanistan to see if there are improved ways in which greater oversight and management of these contractors can allay the concerns that President Karzai has.

QUESTION: But just a quick one, I’m sorry. In your viewpoint, what general strategy on the ground that how long it will take that Afghans can govern their own country without you?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s the $64,000 question, Goyal. I think the answer is we are committed to Afghanistan, we are going to have a presence in Afghanistan for a number of years. Just as we’ve seen in Iraq, over time, that presence will shift from a largely military presence to a more civilian-oriented presence. How fast that timeline proceeds is the essence of the strategy that we’re currently working on.


QUESTION: Can (inaudible) a sense of just how many – the reliance on security contractors since 2002, and has it gone up or has it gone down, and in relation to the gap that you’re talking about in terms of capability of the Afghan Government?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I don’t know that we have – I don’t have numbers here.

QUESTION: Can you just give us a sense? Are you using more or less today?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have more civilians in Afghanistan, but we also have more – a larger military presence in Afghanistan. I suspect it’s gone up slightly, but I’ll – we’ll double-check that.

QUESTION: What’s the concern in terms of money being allocated to Lebanon --

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, hold on, hold on.

QUESTION: So you’re suggesting that the withdrawal table is still on track? Because I have a follow-up to that (inaudible) Afghanistan.

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: Because you said --

MR. CROWLEY: -- as the President has outlined in his – that we are going to review the current state of progress at the end of this year and we will begin to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan beginning next year, but as to the length of time that will take – back to Goyal’s question – that is not – that’s not knowable at this point.

QUESTION: But General Petraeus yesterday on Meet the Press basically suggested otherwise, that we might have to be there longer or – he pointed to the cover of Time Magazine what might happen and so on once the U.S. forces, suggesting maybe this timetable should be lengthened.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t want to create any new news here. The --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: The withdrawal of troops will begin next year, but its pace will be, as General Petraeus said yesterday and as the President has stressed, based on conditions on the ground. But again, as we’re able to expand the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces, that will definitely have a profound impact on the length of time that you’ll see international forces still in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: P.J., twice in your answers over the last couple of minutes, you’ve mentioned the possibility of moving toward greater oversight and management of private security contractors by the Afghan Government. Does that mean that you’re open to a negotiation with Karzai and his people about maybe keeping private security contractors there but giving the Afghan Government some kind of authority over them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re going to work with the Government of Afghanistan, clarify what President Karzai has in mind. But as we stand here, it’s hard to envision where the Afghan Government can assume all of the security responsibility in Afghanistan four months from now.

QUESTION: P.J., (inaudible) negative impact on – as far as security is concerned when you are telling the people there that you are going to withdraw so and so date and all this, so militants will get this that they will just wait until you get out from there?

MR. CROWLEY: Our commitment to Afghanistan is long-term. We’re going to be there for a long time. That doesn't mean we’re going to have military forces there indefinitely. We’re committed to transitioning our operations and our activities in Afghanistan just as we’re doing in Iraq from one that is significantly led by the military to one that is significantly led by the civilian side of our strategy. How fast we can get to that point will be part of the ongoing review of our operations in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Will the contractors be subject to the same legal accountability as in Iraq in Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: I think, it’s important to kind of clarify. We have contractors who are currently guarding our embassy. We honestly don’t know whether what President Karzai has in mind covers that. We have requirements for our diplomats when they move not only about Kabul but around the country to have the security that they need. And that that cannot – not every convoy that moves out of the Embassy in Kabul can be guarded by the U.S. military. So we do have valid security requirements to be able to have our diplomats in Kabul and elsewhere function and contribute to the development and – development of Afghanistan. So we will work with the Afghan Government to see exactly what their concerns are, but the reality is today we rely on private security contractors to help us secure our operations in Afghanistan. That is not likely to change fundamentally four months from now. But – so – but we’ll work with the Government of Afghanistan and understand what their concerns are and see if we can’t work collaboratively to meet those concerns.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hold on.

QUESTION: No, the same.


QUESTION: Do you have figures on the number of Afghans you have trained by the U.S.-led forces and who have gone over to the Taliban side? In 2008, it was a very high number (inaudible) trained by the U.S.-led forces and then changed sides.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have particular numbers here. We think we’re making progress. This is an Afghan-led process to help with reintegration of those who have fought on behalf of the Taliban but we don’t think are ideologically committed to the struggle. A lot of effort has gone into this. And as we have stressed many times, we are open to reintegrate into Afghan society anyone who renounces al-Qaida, gives up violence, and respects the Afghan constitution.

QUESTION: No, I am talking about the Afghans who are trained by the U.S. to fight on behalf of the U.S.-led forces who have gone now to and fighting on behalf of Taliban. In 2008, a general gave figures in Brussels.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, a lot of things have changed. We’ve intensified the training program with the Afghan national forces. We’ve increased their pay. And we think that has shifted the tide where we are training larger numbers. We think they’re more committed to the future of Afghanistan, they’re committed to the Government of Afghanistan, they’re committed to the Afghan people. Can there be – there is a competition here, and can there be small numbers of people who might flip sides? Can’t rule that out. But we think that the security program is getting stronger and the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces are getting stronger.


QUESTION: P.J., Israel will not accept the Quartet meeting that calls for direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, and the Israeli Government has said that it will be waiting for a separate invitation from the United States without preconditions. Two questions. First, when do you expect a Quartet – the Quartet statement to be issued? Second, are you planning to send separate invitations to the Palestinians and Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, we are going to use whatever means we can working collaboratively with the international community to move the parties into direct negotiations. It’s not for me to detail how and when that’s going to happen. We continue to be hard at this. The deputy special envoy David Hale met last night with President Abbas. We think that was a constructive meeting following on George Mitchell’s meetings last week. As we’ve said many times, we want to get them into direct negotiations as quickly as possible. We’re consulting with the parties and with the Quartet on how to be supportive of this process and we will do everything that we can to get them into the direct negotiations as soon as possible. But what particular steps that will take, we’re just working hard to do it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Are you planning to send separate invitations to the Israelis and the Palestinians?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to say whatever mechanism – what we’re trying to do is get both the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to direct negotiations. We continue to work directly with them on the process of how to best get that done. We continue to answer questions that both sides have about some of the details underneath this process. And – but we want to get them into direct negotiations. We want to get them to yes. And we continue to push them, as we speak, to move in that direction.

QUESTION: P.J., has the Secretary had any talks with her Quartet partners or anybody else?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m trying to think. (Laughter.) She had a number of calls over the weekend. I don’t think it was on this subject.

QUESTION: P.J., (inaudible) the Quartet as the Israelis have done, what does that do for the process? I mean, a couple weeks ago, we were talking about how the Quartet is going to cover – the Quartet will be sort of the venue that Abbas can use and point out the international process. But now it seems that they are left out there --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to do the negotiating from here. We are – we have active engagement with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and other governments on this issue. As we’ve indicated, the Quartet stands ready to be supportive. I would expect there will be a statement in the coming days indicating the Quartet’s support for this process. We have talked to both the Israelis and the Palestinians about the Quartet statement and the implications of a Quartet statement. But overall, we’re trying to move them towards direct negotiations. When and how that – I think we are confident that they will say yes. But the how of – how we get to that point, when we get to that point, I’m not here to predict.

QUESTION: Did you ask the Israelis for clarification on their position vis-à-vis the Quartet?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary in the last few days has talked directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu. They talked about the Quartet statement. They talked about the implications of the Quartet statement. We’ve had the same conversation with the Palestinians. We’re going to do everything that we can through whatever mechanism we can to get them into direct negotiations and it will take as long as it takes.


QUESTION: P.J., there was a report, out of the region that said that there was some concern from the Palestinian side about the extension of the settlement freeze. Can you comment on that? Have the Israelis indicated that they would not extend the settlement freeze? It sounded a little off to me.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I don’t speak for the Israeli Government –

QUESTION: I know, but have they told you –

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we want to get the parties into direct negotiations. That’s our focus at this point.

QUESTION: P.J., I’d like to clarify --

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: -- on the same point. Now, I know that the Secretary has been in touch with the Palestinians and the Israelis and about the goal for the Quartet and so on, but developments in the last 10 hours has clearly stated that the Israelis are rejecting the Quartet. Have you spoken to them since?

MR. CROWLEY: I thought your question was going to take longer. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that I ask long questions?

MR. CROWLEY: We are in touch with the Israelis every day. I (inaudible) say that we’ve had a conversation about this one public statement. We – I would just say, look, the Israelis have said many, many times publicly and privately they’re ready to get into direct negotiations. We want to see that happen. That remains our focus as we speak. You had a –

QUESTION: (Inaudible) since we’re in that region. Is there concern about – from certain factions on Capitol Hill about this 100 million in aid that’s to go to the Lebanese army here and if that money does not go through, that this helps create a vacuum and there could be influence from Iran or Syria in there if the United States sort of throwing its weight around?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the last thing that we want to see is a vacuum anywhere in the Middle East. You’re right; that’s not advantageous to the United States; that’s not advantageous to security in the region. We are, as we said last week, going to review our programs with Lebanon. That review is ongoing as we speak. We still believe that the assistance – the security assistance that we provide to Lebanon is in our national interest. More importantly it’s in our regional security interest. We are answering the questions that Congress has posed in light of the unfortunate episode between Lebanon and Israel, but we certainly are not walking away from our assistance programs to Lebanon.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. You’ve had one. We’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Yeah, on North Korea. Some sources told us that a U.S. official and a medical doctor visited Pyongyang recently to see Mr. Gomes. Can you confirm this and give us more detail?

MR. CROWLEY: We did have a State Department Team visit Pyongyang last week. It was a four person team: one consular official, two doctors, and a translator. We requested permission to visit Mr. Gomes. That permission from the North Korean Government was granted. The basis of the trip was simply our ongoing concerns about Mr. Gomes’s health and welfare. While the team was in Pyongyang, we again requested, as have Swedish officials on our behalf, but we requested permission to bring Mr. Gomes home. Unfortunately, he remains in North Korea.

QUESTION: Yeah, additionally, has there been any more effort to secure his release after that visit between U.S. and North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the team made the trip and returned late last week. I don’t know if we’ve had any direct contact with North Korea since then. We have had conversations directly with North Korea on this issue. We have encouraged them to release Mr. Gomes on humanitarian grounds and we will continue to have that direct conversation with North Korea as needed.

QUESTION: And just one more.

QUESTION: So you encouraged them to release –

MR. CROWLEY: When the team was in Pyongyang, they did request permission to bring him home.

QUESTION: Just one more.

QUESTION: And that was denied?

MR. CROWLEY: He’s still in North Korea.

QUESTION: No, but that’s not my question. Did they say no?

MR. CROWLEY: They did not hand him over.

QUESTION: Did they say no, he’s not going to be released; he’s going to continue – he’s going to serve out his sentence?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know what their reaction was. We asked if we could bring him home with the team and, obviously, that permission was not granted.

QUESTION: Okay. Who was on the team, again?

MR. CROWLEY: A consular official, two doctors, and a translator all here from the Department of State.

QUESTION: They all went from Washington?


QUESTION: And this was kept a secret last week when you were being asked questions about people going over there and you said no, you didn’t know anything about it?

MR. CROWLEY: I did not say that. We were prepared to answer these questions – actually, I don’t think at the – we did not announce the trip. When the team returned, we were prepared to answer the questions, but it didn’t come up on Thursday, I don’t think.

QUESTION: Just one more.

QUESTION: When were – hold on.


QUESTION: Just so I get the nuts and bolts down here. When did they go and when did they get back?


MR. TONER: Thursday or Friday.

MR. CROWLEY: They were in Pyongyang from August 9 through August 11. I believe they returned on August 12.

QUESTION: And did – they visited him in a hospital, in prison?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe they visited him in a hospital.

QUESTION: And his condition?

MR. CROWLEY: There are privacy issues here. We’ll just simply say –

QUESTION: How can you possibly tell us what you just told us –

MR. CROWLEY: All right, Matt –

QUESTION: -- if there are privacy issues?

MR. CROWLEY: Matt, I just said. We have concerns about his health. I’m not going to go into particular detail about those concerns. But we want – for that very reason, we want to have him home as soon as possible. We’ve made that point clear to North Korea and we’re going to continue to make that point clear to North Korea.

QUESTION: How did they get there? Did they go from Beijing or did they go from Seoul?

MR. CROWLEY: I think they went from Beijing.

QUESTION: Just one more. But previously, we’ve seen many times that U.S. officials or high-ranking nongovernment or figure visited Pyongyang to secure the release of U.S. citizens, so why is there comment on this time about those kind of possibility?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to talk to North Korea to obtain the release of Mr. Gomes. And we will continue to talk to North Korea about what we can do to get them to release him on humanitarian grounds.

QUESTION: What level you are talking from that side?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: What level officials are coming from that side?

MR. CROWLEY: We have envoys who work on Korea issues everyday and they are in contact with North Korea as needed.

QUESTION: Who proposed this trip?

MR. CROWLEY: We requested it of North Korea.

QUESTION: Do you know when?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t.

QUESTION: Can I follow up with a few other questions, different topics?


QUESTION: On the plane crash in Colombia, do you have – you said three Americans were injured. Can you say how seriously?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I don’t think they are life threatening, if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Okay, do you – there have been some conflicting reports about the number of Americans on the flight. There are some saying eight, some saying five. Do you know?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re aware of three at the moment.

QUESTION: But those are three injured. I mean –

MR. CROWLEY: In these kinds of situations, there may well be dual nationals. We’re still working to identify any additional passengers who have U.S. citizenship, but right now we can confirm three.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – if I can move onto Pakistan with the flooding. There’s some reporting now about outbreaks of disease. Can you say what your assessment is from your teams that are on the ground?

MR. CROWLEY: This is – in any kind of flood situation, the outbreak of disease, including cholera is an ever present danger. It is of great concern to us. We do have aid workers on the ground. I can’t point to any particular additional step, but we are continuing our daily contact with Pakistan, assess their needs, and respond appropriately.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Secretary today was speaking about the Global Health Initiatives and she did not mention as far as this disease and requirements – health requirements in Pakistan. And second, many Pakistanis are saying here really that if State Department supports the local volunteers, Pakistani volunteers from here, they will do a better job distribution of food and all that because now (inaudible), Ramadan or fasting, but many people, poor people, are not getting food. Only those NGOs are there giving to their relatives and friends and also putting in warehouses. What I’m asking you really what your assessment is on this that needy people should get food.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are very conscious of the fact that 20 percent or so of Pakistan is now under water. If you put that in U.S. terms, that would potentially affect some 60 million Americans if that had occurred here in the United States. So Pakistan’s needs are profound; they’re growing every day. We are already in the process of not only reevaluating what we’re doing now, but reevaluating the impact on Pakistan’s both immediate-term needs and long-term needs. We are committed to Pakistan. We are committed to helping Pakistan. We are providing – I think we’re up to $76 million worth of assistance. We’re going to do more as needed.

We certainly believe strongly that assistance should go through whatever means is possible to get this assistance where it is most needed. We’re working very closely with Pakistani officials. We’re also working closely with NGOs on the ground. You had Mark Ward here last (inaudible) going through how we vet Pakistani organizations to be able to provide assistance when it’s needed, where it’s needed. This is not – but this – we cannot stress enough, this is still an unfolding disaster, and right now it’s an expanding disaster.

QUESTION: Are you working with the neighboring country like India or China, because the needs or immediate needs can reach faster than reaching from here?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are encouraging international assistance, and to the extent that other countries are willing to help, obviously, Pakistan’s needs are profound and Pakistan’s needs continue to grow.


QUESTION: I want to shift from Pakistan with – in fact, start there, because there’s a public affairs officer in Karachi who turns 65 tomorrow, so she’s up against the mandatory retirement age, and she’s filed a lawsuit against the State Department. Others are trying to reach out to the Secretary on this by writing on the sounding board, and I wonder if the Secretary has any position on how this mandatory retirement age is enforced.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in terms of any litigation I’ll defer to the Department of Justice. We are currently guided by federal law. The Foreign Service Act requires mandatory retirement for participants in the Foreign Service at age 65 unless the Secretary determines it would be in the public interest to retain someone for a period not to exceed five years. In the State Department, we have what’s called an “up-or-out” promotion system and you want to have transition at the top. It allows you to promote good, strong, young and mid-level officers to higher levels of responsibility. Whenever a Foreign Service officer retires from the Foreign Service, their relationship with the Department of State doesn’t automatically change. We have a number of career Foreign Service officers who are brought back in for part-time temporary duty. Many of them, in some cases, redeploy overseas again; others work here at the Department of State. But we are currently guided by the Foreign Service Act, but we are evaluating what the potential impact and benefits of change are, but obviously, that change would be – would require changing the law.

QUESTION: But some of the changes you – but you could have a policy, though, of offering more of these extensions if she decided to – to fill lots of funding, I mean, of shortfalls around the (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but I – as we’ve highlighted through the course of this year, we have a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review underway. And part of that review is to make sure that we have – we can continue to recruit and retain the kinds of capabilities that we need for 21st century statecraft. This is an ongoing process, and obviously, our ability to recruit and sustain a larger force overseas, have the kind of expeditionary capability that you need today in a place like Iraq or in a place like Afghanistan, it – we want to make sure that the Foreign Service system that we have today meets the needs of today and tomorrow.

This is an ongoing process, and to the extent as we see that perhaps we have larger needs around the world than our current system can support, we look at creative ways of continuing to use these talented people. We have lots of different programs to do that. We have a civilian stabilization and reconstruction corps that just reached a new plateau in terms of manning; that’s an opportunity for people to continue to contribute. But this is something that we continually evaluate and is part of the QDDR process.

QUESTION: P.J., on Japan, Kyodo News is reporting today that the Administration has decided to not explicitly state that the Senkaku Islands are under Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan mutual defense. Can you say explicitly that they are still considered under that article?

MR. CROWLEY: The U.S. position on this issue is longstanding and has not changed. The United States does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. We expect the claimants to resolve this issue through peaceful means among themselves. But Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan. There’s no change. That report is incorrect.

QUESTION: A follow-up?


QUESTION: I’d like to make it clear that the U.S. considers the treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands, not because on March 24 in 2004, Deputy Spokesman Ereli talked about Senkaku at the press briefing and he says three points. One point is the Senkaku Islands have been the Japanese administrative territory from 1972. And number two, and the treaty applies to territories of under the administration of Japan. Those two points are just the same as what you say. But he say one more point – plus the treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands, and he said it very clearly but you didn’t say that so I have to make–

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, the report suggested that we have changed our position. We have not changed our position.

QUESTION: But, you – the – during the Bush Administration, U.S. Government said that the treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands very clearly, but you didn’t say that. It seems like it’s a big change in place.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. How many times can I tell that our position has not changed?

QUESTION: And can you say what he’s asking you to say, that these islands are covered by Article 5 of the treaty?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right. I’ll try it again.

QUESTION: No, no, no.

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no, no. No, Matt, I’ll try it again. The Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the Government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan. That should answer the question.

QUESTION: Well, it does. So if you can say that, why can’t you say a – simple declarative sentence that these island – that you consider these islands to be covered by Article 5 of the treaty?

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible)

QUESTION: No, he didn’t say that. He said what should be the equivalent of it. It’s a syllogism here. Can’t you give us the third – can you give us the third leg of it? No, P.J., I’m serious. I mean, yes, it sounds like it’s a minor trivial thing, but if you’re under orders not to specifically say that these islands, in one sentence not specifically say that these islands are covered, then it does seem like it’s a change.

MR. CROWLEY: It is not a change. I mean, I can read what’s here.

QUESTION: But why can’t you take the –

MR. CROWLEY: If the –

QUESTION: -- next step to put the islands and the treaty in the same sentence?

MR. CROWLEY: I would say the answer is yes.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. (Laughter.) What do you mean you say – what answer is yes? It wasn’t – I mean, either you can say – either you can put them together in one sentence or you can’t. And if you --

MR. CROWLEY: The Senkaku Islands are under the administrative control of the Government of Japan. Article 5 states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan. So that if you ask today would the treaty apply to the Senkaku Islands, the answer is yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Okay.

QUESTION: P.J., another subject if I may.

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on new sanctions against North Korea? And what’s the delay?


QUESTION: What’s the reason for the delay?


QUESTION: I mean, is it related to the case of Mr. Gomes? Is that why --


QUESTION: -- they delayed the announcement?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I think it’s all about the U.S. bureaucracy.

QUESTION: P.J., can we return to the direct talks for a minute, is that possible?

MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on. Goyal, then go back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Just if you can clarify, there is still a red alert in India and also among the Indian American community as far as border security bill was passed by Congress, because it is really focusing on H-1B visa which will be affecting only mainly Indian American companies or Indians coming to the U.S. on IT. Now, today, IT Minister Mr. (inaudible) now said this is discriminatory against India and also breaking the WTO rules. And yesterday, celebrating India’s independence, Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar told me that it is a great concern to India and we are talking with the U.S. Department of State or Indian – U.S. officials. What I’m asking you is that are you talking with Indian officials or are you going to reverse this because of U.S.-Indian relations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, yes, we are talking to Indian officials about the bill. Yes, we are talking about the implications. Yes, we are reviewing a suggestion that this bill is not WTO compliant. I’m not aware that we’ve reached any final judgment, but we’re not sure that necessarily any WTO issues are triggered. But as we work to administer this law which Congress passed and the President signed, we will try to understand fully the potential impact that it has on individuals companies in India.

QUESTION: Are you talking with the U.S. Congress?

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Are you talking with the Congress also?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Congress has passed the law and the President signed it. Now we’re trying to understand its potential implications and we’ll work closely with India as we implement it.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for a second. Last week, you said and Mark said that we were closer. Are we closer today to the talks – to launching the talks than we were, let’s say, a day ago?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Inching ever so closer. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So you are inching away. So did that –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, we continue to have direct meetings with the parties. We are clarifying any remaining concerns that we have. We think this has been a productive set of discussions. We believe we are very, very close, but obviously, we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: But – so, you’re acknowledging that there are certain obstacles. Can you share with us some of these obstacles that you have?

MR. CROWLEY: No. Well, I mean, they are just concerns. I wouldn’t say they’re obstacles.
We are just clarifying–

QUESTION: Okay. What are these concerns? I mean, do they – are they on the terms on reference? Are they --

MR. CROWLEY: As I said last week, we believe very strongly that the parties are committed to direct negotiations. They understand the value of getting into direct negotiations, but there are some details surrounding that decision that we are still working with them to clarify.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)

DPB # 135

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