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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 4, 2006

INDEX:

NORTH KOREA
Nuclear Test Threats Unacceptable / U.S. Working with Security Council Members, Others
Strong Unified Signal from the International Community / Members of 6 Party Process
Secretary Rice and Department Officials' Communication with South Korean Officials
IRAN
U.S. Policy is to Resolve the Nuclear Issue through Diplomatic Means / All Options Remain
Work at UN Security Council / Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter
TURKEY
Status of U.S. Relations with Turkey / Prime Minister Erdogan's Trip to the United States
U.S. Policy on Cyprus / Agreement that is Acceptable to Both Turkey and Cyprus
Incident in which a Turkish Citizen Hijacked a Commercial Airliner
SAUDI ARABIA
U.S. Has an Important and Friendly Relationship with Saudi Arabia / Share Concerns
Secretary Rice's Discussions with Saudi Officials During Her Visit
UKRAINE
NATO Membership and Status a Ukrainian Decision
U.S. Supports a Democratic Government


TRANSCRIPT:

12:53 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have any statements or announcements for you. I know you’ve all heard from the Secretary a little earlier today, so why don’t we go right to questions.

QUESTION: Can you give us an update on whatever contacts may be going on concerning North Korea 24 hours after they issued their threat?

MR. CASEY: Well, sure. I think I covered a little bit of that yesterday, but let me give you a bit of an update. We’ve been continuing to engage with our six-party partners, as well as others in Asia and Security Council members. Secretary Rice spoke earlier today with South Korean Minister Ban. Under Secretary Burns has continued his consultations with both Asian and European counterparts. As you know, Ambassador Bolton has discussed this issue in the Security Council and those discussions are continuing today. I understand there will be an experts meeting on this subject later this afternoon. And Assistant Secretary Hill has also been engaged in consultations with his counterparts on the six-party talks.

I think if you look at statements that have been made over the course of the last 24 hours, we’ve seen very strong statements from China and Russia, from Korea, Japan, some of the other members of the six-party process, as well as the EU and some of its individual members like France and the U.K. that have very clearly spoken out in calling for restraint and calling for North Korea to end its irresponsible threats and also calling for them to come back to the six-party talks. We are working in the Security Council. We certainly hope to see some action there in the near future and will be continuing to work both bilaterally and multilaterally with our partners in the region, in Europe and elsewhere to try and convince North Korea to do the right thing, and the right thing is to end these kind of provocations and end these kind of threats and to go back to the six-part talks, which is where we all want to be to come up with a viable solution to North Korea's nuclear program.

David.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what kind of action you're expecting at the UN?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, the consultations here are at an early stage. I don't want to predict any particular kind of action. I think Ambassador Bolton may have or may be speaking to reporters after the earlier session today. So I'll leave it to him to talk about the specifics. Certainly, though, we believe it would be appropriate for the Council to respond to this.

QUESTION: John Bolton came out and has already spoken about divisions. They've gone into divisions in the Security Council. I mean, are there things if there isn't any possibility to move forward there, what kinds of other options will the U.S. be looking at?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's a little early to conclude that the Security Council isn't going to be able to act on this issue. Certainly the Security Council has proven in the past that it treats threats from North Korea seriously. Resolution 1695 is proof of that. There are certainly actions that people can still take under Resolution 1695 including the call that is in there for all states to do what they can to ensure that there is no support provided for North Korea's missile program as well as North Korea's nuclear program. So there's already Security Council action and there's already Security Council efforts that are underway in that regard. What else the Security Council may do, again, the consultations are at an early stage, but we do expect to see movement in the Council on this issue.

Libby.

QUESTION: A U.S. Defense official has been quoted in a Reuters report about potential activity near test sites. Do you know anything about that? Can you give us anything about what you might be seeing?

MR. CASEY: No, I mean, I'd refer you back to those officials. Again, there is all kinds of information that we look at all the time about North Korea. But I don't have anything to share with you in terms of specific intelligence or what it might and might not show.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. CASEY: Well, one more for David.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if there's not some concern that the North Korean crisis and the need to deal with that and the urgency of it since they're talking about a nuclear test, is that -- is there some concern that that's going to undermine or complicate the parallel dealing with the situation in Iran where we're not talking about an imminent --

MR. CASEY: Look, there are a lot of issues that are on the international agenda. The Secretary and her team are actively working on all of them. Certainly the North Korean issue has been something that we've been dealing with for some time and I don't see this as particularly changing or complicating any of the other dynamics that are out there with Iran or any other country.

Libby.

QUESTION: Did you get any particular readout of her call with the South Korean?

MR. CASEY: Not in any great detail. Obviously they discussed the general situation. The South Koreans have made a very strong statement with relation to North Korea's program. That was noted. And they generally exchanged views on that subject. But I really don't have a detailed readout to share with you on it.

QUESTION: Did they discuss the issue of the next UN Secretary General and the foreign minister's candidacy?

MR. CASEY: I don't know whether that subject came up. I know it certainly did in the context of an earlier call that Under Secretary Burns had had. But I'll check for you and see if there was any particular discussion of that with her.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government directly contact the United Nations North Korean delegation?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any particular contacts through the New York channel.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. think this deserves a response even if a test never takes place? I mean, are you looking to do something specific in the next coming days to respond to the threats at least?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think the first response that you've seen is not only by us but by other countries around the world in terms of calling on North Korea not to proceed with the test and to desist from threatening to do one. Certainly we will have to respond accordingly to any actions North Korea takes. But I think it's important that there is a strong and unified signal sent by the international community that these kinds of threats are certainly not acceptable and that we certainly do not want to see North Korea proceed or carry out those threats.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: In a statement from the office of Sean has been issued regarding approval of license request for civilian aircraft spare part to Iran Air. That shows, of course, the United States committed to supporting the Iranian people, in this case their safety. But in the meantime security -- sorry, Secretary Rice during her interview with Al Arabiya TV said that -- I quote -- "The President keep all the option on the table of course, but that's not in the agenda at this point," an air strike. My question is this because this is, I believe, this is the first time that Madame Secretary talking about the timing or this type of things in the agenda of a strike against Iran. Is this something new? Is it really in the agenda of the United States any kind of a strike against Iran?

MR. CASEY: Look, U.S. policy on this issue is clear and consistent. Regardless of the issue or the country, the President never removes any options off the table. But again, the Secretary has made clear repeatedly and consistently that U.S. policy is to resolve this issue through diplomatic means. As you noted in her discussion today with Palestinian President Abbas when she was asked about this, she pointed out that for two and a half years we've been engaged in efforts to support a diplomatic resolution of this through the IAEA, through the EU-3, through the P-5+1 process in the UN Security Council. That's where the focus of our action has been, that's where it remains and of course as we now get to the logical end I think of the conversations between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani, as she has said, the next step should Iran not produce a fully positive response is action again in the Security Council to call for sanctions under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN charter.

David.

QUESTION: Can you just give us an update on contacts concerning the elaboration of that sanctions list between Nick and his counterparts?

MR. CASEY: He's certainly continuing his conversations with his P-5+1 counterparts. I don't have anything particularly new to share with you on that.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. Casey, how do you define the American-Turkish relations upon the completion of the last visit to Washington by the popular and decent Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan escorted by the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think you heard directly from the Prime Minister and from President Bush following their meetings and, certainly, I think that speaks well to the relationship.

We have excellent relations with Turkey. Turkey is an important NATO ally for us. It's also an important partner in the region as well in terms of dealing with such issues as our joint efforts to combat the PKK and PKK terrorism.

Certainly we also look to Turkey as an important country in Europe as you know, and the President reiterated in his comments, we continue to support Turkey's bid for EU membership, although obviously the decisions on that are going to be made by the EU members since the United States is not a member of the EU.

So I would think the -- I would categorize the relationship as excellent, and believe that the visit here was helpful in terms of continuing our close cooperation with Turkey.

QUESTION: On Cyprus, Finland proposed for Turkey to open a limited number of ports to Cyprus, and Turkish Cypriots be permitted to trade directly with the world through a port run jointly by Greek and Turkish Cypriots under the auspices of the European Union. Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with that proposal. As you know, our policy on Cyprus is quite clear. We do want to see a peaceful resolution of the disputes, and we want to see an agreement reached that is acceptable to both communities.

QUESTION: And the last one is, the Turkish authorities identified that the hijacker ofthe Boeing 737 of the Turkish Airlines with 107 passengers aboard, landing in Italy as Turkish armed forces linking the hijacking to a protest against the planned visit by Pope Benedict the 16th to Turkey on November 28th. Anything to say about that?

MR. CASEY: Really, Mr. Lambros, I'd leave it up to the authorities in Turkey and to Italy to talk about that incident. Obviously we condemn all acts of air piracy and hijacking, but in terms of the specifics of the investigation or the motivations of the hijackers, I'd leave it to the authorities there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Kirit.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia. Earlier this morning the Saudi Ambassador was speaking at CSIS and he said that American criticism of reforms in Saudi Arabia was a cause for concern. He called it bombastic rhetoric. Do you have any response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his comments but I'd just refer you to the joint press availability that the Secretary had with Foreign Minister Saud a couple of days ago. Clearly we have an important relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is a friendly one and is cordial one, but it is one in which we can also speak about our concerns to them and they can share their concerns with us.

We've spoken out about the importance of reform not only in Saudi Arabia but in the Middle East. And as you've heard from the Secretary throughout her trip, I expect we'll continue to do so.

QUESTION: And then also, follow up, he also said that Saudi Arabia, which is one of the close allies of the U.S., they would like to see a reform in the U.S. policy in the Middle East. He called for greater cooperation and communication. He specifically mentioned Iran. Do you have any response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure what he's referring to and, again, I haven't seen his remarks. As you know, the Secretary is in the region now. She has met with the Saudi Government. She met again with Saudi officials as part of the GCC+2 meeting that she held yesterday. Certainly Iran was one of the topics that they discussed. Again, you can look at her remarks for some of the specifics of it.

But we are actively engaged in the region. We're actively engaged in discussing a wide variety of issues of importance to the individual countries in it, as well as to the region as a whole. That certainly includes reform and includes concerns about Iran and it includes the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. It also includes efforts to help implement Resolution 1701 with respect to Lebanon. But again, I think the words that she has spoken out there and the trip that she's making really address any issues related to our desire for engagement and our actual engagement with Saudi Arabia as well as other countries in the region.

David.

QUESTION: President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party announced today that it was pulling out of the government and going into opposition, which seems to put some serious doubt into the democratic Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Do you have any kind of response to that?

MR. CASEY: Well, these are decisions that happen in any country. Obviously it's up to the political leaders in Ukraine to determine the composition of the government in accordance with Ukrainian laws and the constitution, so it's really an internal matter.

QUESTION: No, but it's going to impact probably even more on the issue of relations with NATO and other Western institutions?

MR. CASEY: Sure, but as we've always said, how Ukraine wishes to proceed in terms of its relationships with transatlantic institutions, whether NATO or the EU or others, is a matter for Ukrainians to decide. NATO will decide how to respond to Ukraine. The EU will decide how to respond to Ukraine. But fundamentally, both the EU and NATO are organizations of democratic states and no one is trying to force membership upon any country. Certainly what we want to see is those countries develop their relationships with those institutions as they see fit and appropriate.

In the case of Ukraine, it does have a longstanding relationship through the NATO-Ukraine Commission. That is a relationship that has been there through several different administrations and I expect it will continue. What Ukraine ultimately decides on whether it wishes to proceed further down the road or faster down the road towards NATO membership and how NATO chooses to respond to that are all matters for the Ukrainians to decide.

QUESTION: But just in terms of bilateral relations, I mean you don't think it's easier for the United States to have a relationship? You would think you would support a unity government rather than one that's representing only one side of the political spectrum.

MR. CASEY: Well, we support a government that's elected by the people of Ukraine and that's chosen through the democratic process there. And again, whether it's Ukraine or any other country, how parliamentary governments choose to compose themselves is really a matter for the people in that country to decide.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, Charlie.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)

DPB #161




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