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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 28, 2007

INDEX:

SOUTH KOREA/NORTH KOREA
Secretary's Meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon
Possible Ministerial Level Six Party Talks
Changing North Korea's Relationship with the Broader International Community
Ensuring September 15th Agreement is Implemented / Follow-on Steps
Presence of IAEA / Witness Shutdown / Agreement for Verification and Monitoring
South Korean Government in the Process of Acquiring Fuel Oil
FTA Discussions / Good Deal for Both Countries / June 30th Deadline / USTR
Possible Normal Diplomatic Relations with North Korea / Denuclearization
UNITED KINGDOM
No Conversation Between the Secretary and the New Foreign Secretary Yet
LIBYA
Decision By Scottish Court to Review Megrahi Case / Lockerbie
IRAN
Status of American Citizens Detained in Iran / No Threat to Regime
Parnaz Azima Interview with WTOP / Interviewing Those Under Threat
TURKEY
Head of the Turkish General's Staff / Intergovernmental Relations in Turkey
U.S. Concerned about the PKK Activities / Terrorist Organization
Best Way to Address PKK Issue is through Cooperation
BURMA/CHINA
Deputy Assistant Secretary John's Meetings in Beijing with Burmese Officials
Aung San Suu Kyi / Other Political Prisoners / Statement on Phyu Phyu Thinn
Opportunity to Express Concerns and Reinforce Those of UN Special Envoy
No High Level Discussions in Burma Without Access to All Sides of Debate
JAPAN
Death of Former Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa / Condolences
COLOMBIA
FARC Hostage Taking / 11 of 12 Lawmakers Killed / Condolences
Responsibility for their Deaths as Well as Others Lie with the FARC
American Citizens Held Hostage / U.S. Desire to See them Returned Safely


TRANSCRIPT:

12:36 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, guys. Don't have anything to start you out with, so Matt.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about the meeting with the South Korean?

MR. CASEY: Well, not much. I think Sean covered most of it this morning. They had a good meeting. They did talk about the state of play in the six-party talks -- certainly expressed hope that the North Koreans would move forward quickly, now that the IAEA is there in place to complete their requirements under the February 13th agreement, talked about some of the things that'll need to be done in the next stages of this. And so we said this morning, those are pretty tough things and they're going to take some tough negotiating. They also did discuss some bilateral issues, including the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement. But I think you pretty much had that already this morning and I think that's pretty much a good cover of what they talked about.

QUESTION: Okay. And has there been any progress that you're aware of being made on the six-party ministerial?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I think as you heard Chris say earlier in the week, we're looking first to have another six-party envoy level discussion and that is something that he said would take place probably around the week of July 10th. The six-party ministerial is something that according to the agreement, gets done after all the other steps have been taken, the agreement's completed. So obviously it won't happen until then. We do have at least as kind of a datapoint out there, the idea that perhaps a date some time around the ASEAN Summit at the end of the month. But again, I don't think anyone has spoken of specific days and I think it's a little too early at this point to be trying to talk about a specific date until we actually see all the actions that are required take place.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister mentioned making a new regional security and peace mechanism. Can you elaborate a little more on what he might have meant by that?

MR. CASEY: No, because I have no idea what he might have meant by that.

QUESTION: Oh, I thought that was part of the whole framework agreement that -- as you went down the road, that there would be some Northeast Asian security framework.

MR. CASEY: Well, as you -- there are a number of things that would take place in terms of changing the North's relationship with the broader international community. Part of that includes dealing with some of the issues that have prevented there being relations between the United States and North Korea, as well between Japan and North Korea. It includes things like moving from an armistice to a final settlement of the Korean conflict. But in terms of the specific architecture or anything else in terms of Northeast Asian security arrangements, I'm not aware that there was a particular discussion of that in the meeting or, you know, what specific steps he might be referring to.

QUESTION: No, no. Not in the meeting -- not in today's meeting, but what -- I mean, when Chris was up here earlier this week, he talked about this -- he mentioned (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Yeah, in the context -- In the context, when you look at -- there are discussions about establishing some new mechanisms in the September 15th agreement. But again, that's something that is pretty far down the road and is a result of- not a part of discussions -- a result of -- excuse me -- denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula rather than a part of that discussion. And I'm not aware to what extent that issue might have come up in the meeting.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Experts have basically discussed -- I mean, basically said that the possibility of converting the six-party mechanism into such a security and -- security mechanism, how does the U.S. view this, actually?

MR. CASEY: We view it as important that the September 15th agreement get implemented in full. And how that's going to be implemented, look, we're -- as the Secretary said, we're in the first quarter of this game. The first quarter is seeing that the February 13th agreement get implemented and then moving forward with specific steps and specific agreement on how to complete the rest of it. I think we'll have to leave it up to the negotiators in the six-party talks to determine how each of those steps is done, and I don't think it's for me or for anyone else at this point to try and speculate on how that might be accomplished.

QUESTION: Will you be getting a readout from these IAEA people who coming and going? Is it something that you would do in Vienna?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, certainly we're in regular contact with the IAEA both through Greg Schulte, our Ambassador in Vienna, as well as through other means. I'd leave it to them for right now to talk about the specific actions that are taking place on the ground. But the most important thing about their presence there, as required under the agreement, is that they not only are there to help witness the shutdown of the facilities but that an agreement is in place between the IAEA and North Korea both on the shutdown as well as the verification of that and continued monitoring of the various facilities at Yongbyon to ensure that the agreement is being honored.

Yes, go back here.

QUESTION: Can you give us a little more detail about the oil shipment, what perhaps you talked about with your counterpart that would have been perhaps on the (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: I really don't have anything beyond what Sean talked to you about this morning. Now, this is certainly part of the February 13th agreement. My understanding, as we told you yesterday, is that the South Korean Government is in the process of acquiring that fuel oil. This is something that does take a little while. You have to have the contracts be negotiated and the material be shipped and then transported appropriately. But I'd leave it to the South Korean Government to discuss the specifics of that. Certainly there was no detailed review of that in the meeting this morning.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any details on the FTA issue between U.S. and South Korea that was discussed this morning?

MR. CASEY: Well, this was not -- certainly Sue Schwab and the folks at USTR can talk to you in greater detail about some of the specifics as we move forward on the U.S.-South Korea FTA. I'd leave it to them to sort of talk about the details of the state of play. The main discussion of this this morning with the Secretary focused basically on the general support that we both have for seeing this agreement move forward. This would be a very substantial and important ability to enhance our relations, our economic and trade relations with South Korea and we think it's going to be a good deal for both countries as well as a broader signal about the importance of free trade for the United States, for the region, and really for the world.

QUESTION: Just can I --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- follow up? They have to sign the agreement by June 30th?

MR. CASEY: Yes, there is a legislative mandate because that is when TPA, Trade Promotion Authority, does expire and I know that, again, Sue Schwab and her team at USTR are actively working on the final details that still need to be taken care of in order to have this agreement fulfill the terms that were established between the Administration and Congress. But in terms of what the state of play is on that and how it's going, I'll leave it to them. They're the ones that are directly engaged in that.

Libby.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken with the new British Foreign Secretary yet?

MR. CASEY: Not as of yet, but we'll keep you updated on it and I'll give you a readout on the call.

QUESTION: And do you know if they have met before?

MR. CASEY: I don't believe so, at least not recently, but I'm still checking to verify whether they've ever been in other meetings together. I don't -- as far as I understand it, not in her time as Secretary.

Matt.

QUESTION: I have an extremely tangentially related question.

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Which is the Lockerbie recommendation? Did you get anything on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. My understanding is this is -- first of all, this is a decision that's being made by Scottish legal authorities. It does not have any bearing on the guilt or innocence of the individual involved. It's simply a referral to the Court to review the case and look at it. We would leave it to Scottish legal authorities to comment on the process. Mr. Megrahi has filed a number of appeals over the years, including previous appeals on the -- on his conviction, which had been denied.

Obviously, the process is available and these appeal processes are available for him to do exactly what he's doing right now in this case. I know the Crown has also filed an appeal at one point, saying that the punishment that was handed down by the Court was, in fact, too lenient. So these are all matters that the Scottish legal system is going to work through, but my understanding is all this is, is a movement to allow for healing on these appeals, not any final decision on the case.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Different subject. On Iran, first of all --

QUESTION: Can I have one on North Korea?

MR. CASEY: Well, let's do Iran, then we'll come back to North Korea.

QUESTION: On Iran, first of all, I don't know if you have any news on the Americans that have been under detention. We haven't asked in a couple of days, so if you do -- that's a general question. And specifically are you aware of an interview that one of the people being detained, Parnaz Azima, gave to WTOP earlier this week in which there was criticism of the Administration's democracy efforts saying it was spawning a reaction by the government there, calling it a very serious mistake. So I just wonder are you aware of that and have any reaction to it?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, in terms of the status of the American citizens that are being detained by Iran, no, unfortunately, I don't have any new updates to provide you, Charlie. Again, these people don't pose any threat to the regime and we continue to call for the Iranian Government to do the right thing, to release them, to allow them to go back to their work and allow them to go back to their families. Again, most of these people were in Iran in the first place because they were visiting friends and family members there. I'm not aware of the interview that she may have given.

Certainly, again, the Administration made its views clear concerning our policy of support for democratic change not only in Iran but in the world at large. I would also caution that interviews being given by any citizen who is under house arrest, under threat of prosecution and unjustifiably being subject to harassment by authorities in Iran may not be in a position to speak as freely as they might want to.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. The formal and total diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and North Korea established under this Administration.

MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, could you say that again? I didn't understand the question.

QUESTION: When the formal and total diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and North Korea established under this Administration?

MR. CASEY: Well, we need -- what we need to see happen in order for North Korea to be able to realize a different kind of relationship not only with the United States but with the rest of the world is to see full implementation of the September '05 agreement. And that first and foremost means a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Certainly, we want to see this proceed as quickly as possible. Chris talked to you about the timetable for what we would hope to be able to accomplish by the end of this year.

In terms of what the diplomatic relationship between the United States and North Korea is and when that might change again, these are things that will have to be evaluated and seen in light of the progress against the September agreement. And I wouldn't be in a position to speculate for you in terms of specific timing on that.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey.

MR. CASEY: Anything else? Were you still on North Korea? No, okay.

QUESTION: On Turkey?

QUESTION: Follow up real quick.

MR. CASEY: All right, hold on. Before we get to Turkey, let him do a quick follow-up.

QUESTION: What about the working group on the normalization of relations between North Korea and the U.S., will there be any meeting of it after the New York meeting?

MR. CASEY: Well, in terms of the working groups, of course, there's been meetings of all the various working groups at this point. I'm not aware of anything new that is scheduled. Certainly, I think we need to see the agreements that were reached under the February 13th arrangement be met. And I think before you see any other kind of separate working group meetings, I think it's more likely that we'll see that general six-party heads of delegation session that Chris talked about some time in July. Obviously there will be other meetings of these working groups as we move down the road towards implementing the overall September '05 agreement. But I don't have -- know of anything that's specifically scheduled at this point.

Okay. Mr. Lambros, now you can go to Turkey.

QUESTION: Yes. On Turkey, the would-be dictator, Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit stated "As I said in 1927, there is a need for a cross-border operation and that it would bring benefits." The popular Prime Minister Recep Erdogan responded, "How can we deal with 500 terrorists outside Turkish borders before dealing with 5,000 terrorists inside Turkey?"

It is obvious, Mr. Casey, that a difference exists between the Turkish Government -- excuse me, the Turkish generals and the Turkish Government. I'm wondering, what is the U.S. position on this crucial issue of the cross-border operation prior to the election, however, of July 22nd?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, first of all, it's the position of the U.S. Government that one should show appropriate respect and courtesy to senior government officials of other countries. And I would take strong exception to your continued reference to the head of the Turkish General's staff. He is a military leader of his country. He works in cooperation with his government and I would leave it up to Turkish officials, including the Prime Minister, to express their views on intergovernmental relations in that country.

More importantly, though, to your question about issues involving the PKK, certainly, as Sean said yesterday, I believe, we are concerned about the PKK's activities in northern Iraq and elsewhere. It's a terrorist group. We recognize it as such and it presents a threat to Turkey, to Iraq, and to the United States as well. So we want to see Turkey and Iraq continue to work together on this problem. We believe that the best way to address it is to have that kind of cooperation go forward between the countries. And certainly, we don't think that it would be helpful to have any kind of unilateral military action.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. CASEY: One more.

QUESTION: It was discussed today by the Turkish reporter Cengiz Candar in the Turkish paper Referans Daily that he made a statement of April 27 used by the dictator-to-be General Yasar Buyukanit against the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza. Any comment would be appreciated very much in order to find out what is going on.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, Matt Bryza is a good friend of mine and a very distinguished American diplomat, but among his many skills, I'm not aware that he is a ghostwriter for Turkish Government officials. That's simply untrue. It's a ridiculous story and I'm surprised at you for even raising it. And again, I would appreciate it if in discussing senior government officials from other countries, you use their title other than the one you'd like to describe them.

QUESTION: No, but that is -- it's very distinguished and reliable. It's not --

MR. CASEY: I'm unfamiliar with the journalist or the publication. I could assure you that Matt Bryza doesn't ghostwrite for foreign government officials, though.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, a commentary in a local paper this morning suggests that China brokered a meeting between U.S. officials and Burmese officials in Beijing to talk about the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, supposedly the first such dialogue of its kind. Would you be able to discuss that and give us any details?

MR. CASEY: Well, now, there is a report that actually has some truth to it, so that's a nice thing to have.

Yeah, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Eric John did hold a meeting in Beijing with officials from the Government of Burma. Now, as you know, the Government of Burma often asks for us to meet with them and often prefers that we would meet with them in Burma itself. Our longstanding policy is that we will not meet with them in Burma outside of our embassy officials if they will not allow us to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. So I leave it to your very easy understanding as to why this meeting took place in Beijing rather than in Rangoon.

We did so because we believed this was an important opportunity to reinforce the message that had been provided through the recent visit of special envoy -- UN special envoy Gambari on this subject. And this was a very frank discussion of our concerns about the regime, about its behavior, and again gave us an opportunity to again call for the release of political prisoners -- not only Aung San Suu Kyi but the thousand or more other political prisoners who are being detained by this government.

I should also note I think most of you saw the statement that we put out last night with relation to the detention of Phyu Phyu Thinn and 51 other individuals who were detained and arrested while trying to express their views and express their opinions in Burma. We're pleased that the other 51 individuals who had been detained have been released, but unfortunately Phyu Phyu Thinn as well as, again, Aung San Suu Kyi and all the other political prisoners in Burmese jails remain there.

So this was a meeting, David, that gave us an opportunity to express our opinions directly to the regime on a variety of these subjects, most specifically the human rights situation and the continued detention of political prisoners. And we hope that it served to reinforce the messages that they were receiving from the UN special envoy, Mr. Gambari.

QUESTION:  When was it?

MR. CASEY:   This was earlier this week. I believe he was there from Monday through Wednesday in Beijing. Eric was there Monday through Wednesday in Beijing, and I believe the meetings took place on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Can I -- I'm sorry. Can it be said that this is the start of a dialogue process or a one-shot --

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think whether there is any broader dialogue with the Burmese Government, once again, as it has in the past, depends on their actions, first and foremost what they are willing to do vis--vis Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. So I think you should look at this as an opportunity that we took and chose to reinforce the messages they were receiving from the UN Special Envoy as well as an opportunity to make sure we expressed very clearly our concerns about some of their recent actions, including these recent detentions as well.

QUESTION: Do you know who represented the Burmese?

MR. CASEY: I think -- I don't have that information with me right now but I'll try and find it for you. I believe the head of the delegation was actually their Minister of Information and I believe their Minister of Foreign Affairs was also there.

QUESTION: So they weren't just people from their embassy?

MR. CASEY: No, these were officials who had come from Rangoon.

QUESTION: And did you get any -- what was there response?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm going to say, I think it was a frank exchange of views. But I don't think we saw anything coming out of them that would indicate -- unfortunately, that they had changed their basic opinions. We certainly didn't hear that they were planning on releasing Aung San Suu Kyi or the other political prisoners.

QUESTION: But -- and who -- this was something that they had asked for?

MR. CASEY: They have periodically asked for meetings with senior-level officials and periodically ask for them to come to Rangoon. In this instance this was their request. The venue was chosen in light of the fact that we were unable to -- they were unwilling to allow us to see Aung San Suu Kyi as we'd asked for.

QUESTION: Okay. And when you -- and recognizing that the word -- in diplomatic speak, the word "frank" can mean many things. I mean, was this a screaming match? Was it banging -- hands banging on the table?

MR. CASEY: You know, Matt, I -- knowing Eric John as I do, I doubt there was throwing of crockery in the room. But again, I think you can take from that that we had a very clear and very direct presentation of our views.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just two quick questions: One is why was the U.S. reluctant to meet Myanmar directly when they have diplomatic relations?

MR. CASEY: Well, we do have diplomatic relations. We have a charg there and we have an embassy and those embassy officials do, you know, meet regularly with Burmese throughout the country. But again, we believe that it's important that if we're going to have any kind of higher level discussions in Burma itself, that we then be allowed the opportunity to speak with a full range of people there, including with Aung San Suu Kyi. And if the regime is not in a position to grant that access then we've never deemed it appropriate to travel there.

QUESTION: We understand that there was a meeting between Gambari and State Department officials recently and whether there's any possibility of Gambari going to Myanmar again?

MR. CASEY: You'd have to check with the UN on his travel schedule. We do meet with him and speak with him from time to time. Certainly, he's someone that we've known from his previous role at the UN as well as in his current role as special envoy. But we, again, want to be very supportive of his mission and his efforts to have the regime take the right steps, again with respect to Aung San Suu Kyi and with respect to other political prisoners, with respect to starting a legitimate political dialogue in the country that would allow for reform of the Burmese system and the creation of a political system in which everyone can participate.

QUESTION: Tom, sorry--

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don't want to drag this up, but you said before in answer to the first question that the Burmese regime is not in a position to allow you to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Surely, that's --

MR. CASEY: No, the Burmese regime said it was not in a position to grant our request, meaning they didn't -- they were unwilling to grant our request.

QUESTION: Which -- but you don't buy that argument. Surely, they are in a position to grant the request.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Matt, the regime has Aung San Suu Kyi in prison. They can let her out anytime they want. They can let us or anyone else have access to them anytime they want. They chose not to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay. We've got one more. Sorry, guys, we have one or two more.

QUESTION: Do you -- would happen to have a statement on the death former Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly, former Prime Minister Miyazawa was a close and steadfast friend of the United States. He was someone with whom we had a close and productive relationship and we offer our condolences to his family and his friends as well as to the people of Japan.

And I know you've got one more in the back there. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, on Colombia. Is the United States going to keep supporting the military rescue after the murder of the lawmakers that were kidnapped by the FARC yesterday?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is at least there are -- preliminary confirmation that 11 of the 12 lawmakers who had been taken hostage by the FARC had, in fact, been killed.

(Briefing paused for a Public Address System announcement.)

I knew I wasn't going to make it without this happening. (Laughter.) Talk amongst yourselves. Well, whatever's left will be detonated shortly, Matt. (Laughter.)

Again, we've heard from the Colombian Government that 11 of the 12 lawmakers that had been kidnapped by the FARC had, in fact, been killed while in FARC custody. And we offer our condolences to their friends and families as well as to the Government of Colombia. You know, the responsibility for their death as well as the responsibility for the well-being of other hostages that the FARC maintains is with the FARC and we call on them to release all of the hostages they have, including the three Americans who have been in detention for quite some time now.

QUESTION: Do you support a military rescue (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Look, I'll leave it to the Colombian Government to talk about the tactical decisions that they made with respect to these hostages. Again, the people -- let's be clear about this, though, the people that are responsible for the deaths of these individuals are those that took them hostage. There's no excuse for hostage taking. We certainly want to help the Government of Colombia do what it can to deal with the problems posed by FARC terrorism and are supportive of their efforts to try and release individuals in custody. From our perspective in terms of U.S. nationals that are held hostage, again, as we've always said we want to see them be released, be released unharmed. And our primary concern is their safety. And we want to see them be returned safely to their families and be able to continue their lives.

Thank you, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)

DPB # 116



Released on June 28, 2007



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