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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 14, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice to Announce Rollout of International Religious Freedom Report
NORTH KOREA
No Further details on Pyongyang / The Three Parties (U.S., China, Russia) Involved in All Visits to Facility and Discussions on Yongbyon's Disablement
Cannot Confirm Exact Comments of Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary on Intelligence Report / Report is Definitive U.S. Assessment of Intelligence Community
U.S. Has Held Concerns on North Korea's Nuclear Program / Healthy Public Record Available on North Korean-Syrian Activities
Core Concern of Six-Party Talks is North Korea Nuclear Program / Goal is Denuclearization Korean Peninsula
Issue of De-Listing of North Korea on Terrorist List / Chris Hill had Talks with North Koreans / Next Phase Coming Up
Discussions will Take Each Issue Raised by North Koreans on Its Merits / Good Faith Actions by North Korea will be Met by Good Faith / Not Aware of Inquiries from Foreign Governments on Syria-North Korea Link
Plenty of Public Assessments and Documents That Describe U.S. Views on State of Various WMD Programs That Include North Korea
Disablement Issue of Nuclear Facilities Will Be in Declaration / Will Deal with Unknowns When Issue Arise
In-Kind Assistance of Fuel Oil
North Korea's HEU (highly enriched uranium) Program
Not Aware of Any Current Plans for a Possible Summit with North Korea
CHINA/TAIWAN
Assistant Secretary Hill's Meeting with Director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office
PAKISTAN
Benazir Bhutto's Return to Pakistan / A Matter for the Pakistani Authorities
U.S. Has Interest in Seeing Pakistani Democracy Move Forward and Progress
Very Different Circumstances in Cases of Sharif and Bhutto / Will Not Interpret Pending Legal Question on Sharif
KYRGYZSTAN
U.S. Cannot Confirm Reports of Changes in Kyrgyz Constitution
Decisions About Constitution Rests with Kyrgyz People


TRANSCRIPT:

12:06 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a housekeeping reminder, we have the Secretary coming down at 12:35 to do the rollout of the International Religious Freedom Report. So let's try to fit all of our questions and answers into the allotted time space, so we don't keep the Secretary waiting.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any more on the discussions in Pyongyang on disablement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any more details. You did ask a question earlier this morning about whether or not this was just the Americans or whether it was the Chinese, Russians and Americans. It is all three -- U.S., China, Russia -- that were: (a) involved in all the visits to the Yongbyon facility and then (b) are involved in the discussions down in Pyongyang now, talking about what are some possible courses that might constitute a plan for disabling the Yongbyon reactor, based on what they saw there, based on the expertise of these groups. Chris Hill, who is going to be down here about four o'clock or so to give you a pre-trip briefing, might be able to fill you in a little bit more as he has been in contact, I think, each of the days that our folks have been up there with Sung Kim who is the head of our team that's up there now.

Yes.

QUESTION: Related to North Korea, are you aware of these comments that were made by the DAS -- Acting DAS for a nuclear nonproliferation policy, Mr. Semmel?

MR. MCCORMACK: You mentioned it to me. I don't know exactly what he said, but what I can tell you is that every single year the intelligence community puts out a report concerning weapons of mass destruction, the status of those programs of countries around the world. I don't have that report in front of me. It is a publicly available document. But I can tell you that that is the definitive U.S. view or assessment of the intelligence community.

QUESTION: But that report came out some time ago, correct? I mean, what he's talking about here when he says that there are North Koreans in Syria. There's no question about that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, Matt, I haven't had a chance to look at his remarks in any depth at all, so I'm not sure what --

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware of there being a number of foreign technicians in Syria and Syrians being in contact with secret suppliers for nuclear equipment?

MR. MCCORMACK: This has been a topic that we've talked about for the past several days. And I can tell you, Matt, that certainly over the past couple of decades that we have held concerns about North Korea's nuclear program. It's well known; it's why we have the six-party talks. And we have also expressed over time our concerns about North Korea's activities in terms of dealing with A.Q. Khan and others around the globe. We've talked about that in quite some detail and some depth. Beyond that, I wouldn't have any comment about our view of North Korea, its nuclear program or any of its activities. But there's a pretty healthy public record, talking about that.

QUESTION: I understand that. But not really in relation to Syria and particularly, not in relation to Syria and nuclear --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there's a public record out there, Matt. I don't have it in front of me. I can't tell you what the report is. The next time we talk, I'm happy to take a meander through that report and we can talk about it in detail, but I don't have it here in front of me.

Yes.

QUESTION: Still on the same topic, if I may. I mean, you're aware of these reports that have been out this week, that are published drawing this very strong link between Syria and North Korea. Now, will this issue be on the table in any form next week, either bilaterally or amongst the six party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I've seen all the news stories that you're talking about. And you know, we've talked about what our response to those news stories is and heard a little bit of it there in response to Matt's question. But completely separately, I would say that as part of the six-party talks, the core of that is North Korea's nuclear program. That's the proximate issue that's before us right now.

What we want to get to is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We want to be able to get North Korea to get rid of its nuclear program in all its aspects. And that also would involve any other activities outside of North Korea. So that is the core of the six-party talks. And we believe that this is the mechanism that will actually get us to that point. And that we've learned from past experience with dealing with the North Koreans and we think that having those six parties there, having that leverage, having the Chinese actively involved in these negotiations, really is the way to get to everybody's desired objective here or at least the publicly stated objective of having a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Well, also (inaudible) the delisting issue. And wouldn't these kinds of reports, if they were true, or if there was any question raised about it -- it’s a very serious allegation -- wouldn't this complicate the delisting wishes of the North Koreans?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's an issue that takes place and is being looked at on the basis of the facts. You're talking about delisting as a state sponsor of terrorism list?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. MCCORMACK: Chris Hill talked to the North Koreans a little bit about that, and again, we are taking a look at that in the context of any progress towards the goal that we are all talking about here: denuclearization. We have a next phase coming up and we certainly hope and we think that by the end of the year we can have the North Korean nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and the facilities disabled as well as a full listing of North Korea's nuclear program. That certainly would be progress. That would be something that has gone beyond any agreement that the international community has been able to arrive at with North Korea has gone before.

And in that context, certainly we are going to take a look at whether or not on the merits of the case we can do something about a couple issues that the North Koreans have raised: (1) the Trading with the Enemy Act and (2) the state sponsor of terrorism list. But again, we are going to take a look at that based on laws, regulations, the facts, as well as discussions with our other colleagues in the six-party talks and any progress that North Korea has made on that goal of denuclearization.

QUESTION: But you haven't really answered my question. I mean, if there's reports --

MR. MCCORMACK: What happened?

QUESTION: I don't really know. If there's any question --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know, take a poll. Have I answered the question? (Laughter.) I think I don't want to know the answer to that.

QUESTION: But as with any questions in the air about this possible link --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Wouldn't that just throw a massive spanner in the works with this delisting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, the whole point of the six-party talks is to get at the issue of denuclearization, so there isn't a North Korean nuclear program. That's the source of everybody's concern with respect to North Korea's behavior in the neighborhood as well as North Korea's links with others that have been involved in nuclear proliferation, A.Q. Khan for example. So that is the focus of what we are trying to get at. We are going to take each of these issues on their merits, we're going to take these issues based on our consultations with other members of the six-party talks and we're also going to take this step by step.

Everybody understands the history of agreements with North Korea and that is why we are taking the approach that we are. And that is that good-faith actions on the part of North Korea will be met in turn by good faith. So that you have -- and that when you have this taking place in the context of the six-party talks, you have North Korea making this commitment to all the other five parties not just the United States, and that any benefits that might flow to North Korea will flow from the other five parties not just the United States, and that if North Korea reneges on any of its commitments those benefits stop. And that the -- any consequences that might flow from that failure to live up to their commitments is going to come from all the other five parties not just the United States.

QUESTION: Can I ask one last question on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: In view of these reports, have you had any inquiries from any other foreign governments about it, about the reports?

MR. MCCORMACK: About?

QUESTION: About the link between Syria and North Korea.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any.

QUESTION: Sean --

QUESTION: Go ahead, Jonathan.

QUESTION: So we've got U.S. officials somewhere saying that there is a link with Syria -- between Syria and North Korea and you will not -- I mean, you haven't addressed the question yet, is --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well --

QUESTION: What are you officially saying?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I just answered the question. Matt came at it from several different angles here and --

QUESTION: Well, I didn’t get an answer, but basically what happened was that I gave up when realizing that I wasn't going to get an answer.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mr. Beale can take a lesson from this. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, maybe you could invite him. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I gave an answer. Look, I haven't looked at these comments in any depth, but what I can tell you is that we do have plenty of publicly available assessments and documents that are out there that describe our views of the state of development of the various programs -- weapons of mass destruction programs out there and North Korea's included. And you are free to take a look at those and that can give you a definitive U.S. Government view of those programs.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: You said that you hoped and thought that by the end of the year you could achieve North Korea disabling its nuclear reactor and their facilities at Yongbyon, and that it was possible that you could offer them some of the incentives, Trading with the Enemy Act, et cetera.

MR. MCCORMACK: As well as -- part of that is also they would have to provide a full declaration of --

QUESTION: Right, correct.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- their nuclear programs.

QUESTION: But the February 13th agreement doesn't say disable all the facilities at Yongbyon. It says disable all its nuclear facilities. Does that mean that you believe that there are no other nuclear facilities other than those at Yongbyon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, part of -- and you will see that in the declaration and we will see that in the declaration. We'll take a close look at it. In terms of -- and in terms of any other facilities that they may have, they haven't -- they have told us that they have an HEU program. They haven't told us that they have any other -- haven't acknowledged any other facilities. I guess that is something we will have to take a look at when we get the declaration.

But we would expect that as part of this process their nuclear program would be disabled. So we are, at this point, dealing with the only known that we have, and that is Yongbyon and all the facilities at Yongbyon. If there are any others then, of course, that would be part of -- necessarily part of an agreement to disable those facilities or machinery in the context of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: So you're going to take a look at the declaration if you ever get one --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And if you decide it's accurate and there are indeed additional facilities, they would have to be disabled, too --

MR. MCCORMACK: Then we'd have to --

QUESTION: -- before the benefits flowed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think we -- since that is an unknown unknown at the moment, I think we would have to deal with it when that arose. If you have that fact in front of you, then you're going to have to deal with it. I think part of the idea in terms of the 950,000 tons of fuel oil or in-kind assistance, that is going to be phased in. I think you're going to see that -- because part of it is North Korea can't handle all -- a whole 950,000 tons all at once, so it is something you have to deal with.

QUESTION: Right. But it's also fuel oil, heavy fuel oil, or its equivalent --

MR. MCCORMACK: In-kind assistance.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) a whole bunch of other stuff, too. It doesn't have to be fuel oil.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.

QUESTION: And it doesn't have to be strung out --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, but the thing that they're really looking for -- you're right -- but the thing that they're really looking for is fuel oil.

QUESTION: And you said that they've acknowledged having an HEU program.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: I thought that you -- and Secretary Hill did not – Assistant Secretary Hill did not repeat that when he briefed us two weeks ago before the Geneva talks. And I thought that it was not now so clear that you guys believed that they did, in fact, acknowledge an HEU program back in October of '02.

MR. MCCORMACK: They did back in '02, yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more on the Syria (inaudible) of this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Mr. Semmel in his comments said good foreign policy -- basically, he said what you said -- good foreign policy, national security policy, would suggest that we pay very close attention to that; i.e., Syria and (inaudible). And then he said we're watching very closely, obviously the Israelis were watching very closely. Can you explain what he means by that?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I --

QUESTION: The Israelis were watching very closely?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure the Israelis are watching very closely all of their neighbors. I can't -- I don't know what he has in mind when he says that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ambassador Vershbow in South Korea said that two days ago if North Korea completely gives up their nuclear program, maybe North and United States summit talks will be held within next year. Can you comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: What talks in the next year?

QUESTION: Summit talks between North Korea and United States.

MR. MCCORMACK: Summit talks?

QUESTION: Yes. It's possible?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't heard that before. I don't think there are any plans for that.

QUESTION: Vershbow said that.

QUESTION: He was speculating about that possibility a couple days ago --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think there are any current plans for that.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Taiwan issue. Would you please provide information about a visit of the director of China's Taiwan Affair Office Chen Yunlin? I know he came here yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right. I think he's in the building for some meetings today. I think Chris Hill is actually going to see him and you guys are going to see Chris Hill at about 4 o'clock. So that's probably a good question to ask him.

Yeah, Jonathan.

QUESTION: The Benazir Bhutto issue, she's announced she's going back to Pakistan the 18th of October.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction -- do you welcome that and are you seeking any reassurances from the Musharraf government about her treatment when she gets back there --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- bearing in mind what happened to --

MR. MCCORMACK: This is a matter for the Pakistanis to deal with. I personally am not aware of any legal barriers to her return, but I think you'd have to check with Pakistani authorities and check with her party. We've seen the announcement. I don't think that we've been able to confirm the fact that she is going to be returning on that date.

Our view, very generally, is we are not in the business of picking candidates, we are not in the business of favoring parties. We have an interest, obviously, in seeing Pakistani democracy move forward and progress. Part of that is having free, fair, and open transparent elections. We have talked to the Pakistanis about that. We've been very plain about that in public.

With regards to this particular issue, you'd probably have to talk to her camp to see (a) if that is, in fact, true and (b) check to see if there are any legal questions, legal barriers that may impede her return. I am not aware of any.

QUESTION: But bearing in mind, I mean, what happened to Nawaz Sharif --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I mean -- and what you've said about -- you know, pressing for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- press forward on democracy --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Surely, you would seek guarantees that her treatment was -- she -- well, she wasn't going to be deported or she wasn't going to be --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, I --

QUESTION: -- in any way --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure the two cases would be equivalent.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they're very -- very different circumstances there.

Yes.

QUESTION: I don't think former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was aware of any pending legal matters barring his return either when he went back. I mean, in fact, there was a Supreme Court verdict that said specifically that he could come back.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And if I understand it correctly, the Pakistani authorities basically announced a whole series of new charges against him when he showed up.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Same thing could happen to Benazir Bhutto, you know, she --

MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad, Arshad, that all took place -- again, we went over this many, many times -- that all took place in the context of an agreement that was said to be arrived at among the Saudi Government, the Pakistani Government, and Mr. Sharif. So that whole legal question centered on that particular point. I'm not going to get into trying to interpret that and we're certainly not a party to it. So inasmuch as it still is a pending legal matter, I'm not going to try to insert myself in the middle of it. We commented on the matter the day that it actually happened, but beyond that, I'm not going to have anything else to offer.

We're going to have to wrap it up here real quickly as the Secretary's coming down.

QUESTION: Well, I'll ask, can you -- do you have any -- what does the U.S. Government make of the somewhat contradictory explanations from the Pakistani Government about Sharif's departure; one, that he had some pressing business in Saudi Arabia that he needed to attend to and then the second one that was offered was that he inadvertently got on to a plane to Saudi Arabia and not --

MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I hadn't seen those. I want to examine those comments closely before I offered any comment.

QUESTION: Kyrgyzstan, do you have comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, and we've seen the media reports and we have -- we, as the U.S. Government, haven't been able to confirm them. Obviously, any decisions about the Kyrgyz constitution rests solely and only with the Kyrgyz people and the Kyrgyz Government. Our concern -- only concern would be (a) any changes be done in a open and transparent manner consistent with Kyrgyz law and consistent with the Kyrgyz constitution and -- so that they also reflected the will of the -- of the Kyrgyz people, and also that any changes would not have the effect of contracting, but rather, expanding freedoms, personal as well as society-wide within Kyrgyzstan.

All right. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:25 p.m.)

DPB # 162



Released on September 14, 2007



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