Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
October 1, 2007
|Waxman Report / Blackwater Company's Involvement in Shooting Incidents|
|System in Place for Reviewing Incidents / Primary Responsibility is Protection|
|Difficult Circumstances for PSDs to Operate / Still Must be Held Accountable|
|Investigation by RSO in Baghdad / Joint Commission with Iraqis / Common Set of Facts|
|Ambassador Kennedy Policy Review / Amb. Boswell / Amb. Stapleton / General Joulwan|
|State Department Works Closely with Defense on Coordination of Security Details|
|No Requests from U.S. Military Concerning Safety Issues Would be Ignored|
|No Timeline Set for Blackwater Investigation / Initial Assessment|
|No Official Report on Conclusions of Blackwater Incident / Spot Report|
|Status of Individuals Involved in Incident|
|Iraq-Turkey Security Agreement / U.S. Welcomes / Challenges Posed by PKK|
|Status of General Ralston|
|Reports of PKK Killings / Points Out the Importance of Agreement with Iraq|
|U.S. Reaction to Elections in Ukraine / No Official Announcement|
|Reports of Police Crackdown / U.S. Wants to See the Peaceful Expression of Views|
|Putin's Comments That He Would Head Party's Parliamentary Ticket|
|Upcoming Elections / U.S. Hope for Election to Provide Open Opportunity for All|
|U.S. Will Watch the Conduct of the Election Closely|
|Joint Statement with EU Calling on India, China, ASEAN Countries to do More|
|Need for Countries with Close Commercial, Economic Relations to Put Pressure on Regime|
|Additional Sanctions on Burma / Individual Asset Freezes / Expanded Visa Ban|
|U.S. Will Continue to Look at What More Can be Done|
|Secretary Personally Expressed Her Views to Burmese Representatives at ASEAN Meeting|
|Need for an Inclusive Political Process / Engages with Opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi|
|Assistant Secretary Hill's Discussions on Six Party Talk Sidelines|
|U.S. Efforts in the Security Council / Gambari Mission|
|Effectiveness of Sanctions / U.S. Desire to See China, India Pressure Government|
|U.S. Support for North-South Dialogue|
|U.S. Humanitarian Support in North Korea / Leading Donor of Food Assistance|
|Incident at Embassy / U.S. Awaiting Formal Report from Police|
|Report by Former Diplomats on Middle East Peace Process|
12:34 p.m. EDTMR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to another week. Happy Monday to you all. I don't have anything to start you out with so let's go to what you've got or not got.
QUESTION: There's a new report out by Henry Waxman today, ahead of the hearing tomorrow in which he reports that -- this is based on incident reports compiled by Blackwater -- apparently Blackwater was involved in at least 195 incidents in Iraq since 2005, which involved the firing of shots by their forces. Apparently, in over 80 percent of those instances Blackwater fired first, and in most cases they fired from a moving vehicle and moved on before knowing whether there were any casualties. They also list in this report a whole lot of -- I think there were 16 Iraqi casualties by Blackwater's own incident report. I just wondered whether you had any comment on those statistics. And I'll come to a follow-up in a minute.
MR. CASEY: Okay. I haven't seen that document, so I can't really comment on it. Certainly, you heard from us, including from the Deputy Secretary in previous testimony, talk about -- during the course of this year -- that there had been over 1800 movements conducted by Blackwater security -- personal security details. And that in the course of that there had been approximately 56 -- I believe was the number, though check it against his statement -- incidents in which weapons had been discharged. I'm not sure whether those other numbers being provided in this document match up with that.
But again, I think what we've said before, and what we would again point out, is that there is a system in place for reporting incidents. There's a system in place for reviewing those and for taking appropriate investigative and follow-up actions where that is necessary and where that occurs.
I'd note just one thing, too, is that the primary responsibility of protective security details, of course, is to protect the people they are guarding. So it would not strike me as unusual that in the course of trying to get away from a hostile situation, it would not be expected, I would think, that any of these kinds of movements would stop to analyze what had happened afterwards. Again, their primary function is to get people out of harm's way.
QUESTION: Also they -- Waxman says in this report that the State Department has reacted far too slowly to many of these incidents, and in some cases kind of tried to gloss over them. He cites one incident where the State Department's Chargé d'Affaires apparently recommended that Blackwater make a sizeable payment and an apology for the killing of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi's guard. In other words, they're saying that you tried to sort of sweep this under the carpet.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I haven't seen this document and I don't want to comment on it without having had someone review it. I'd also note that we do have several senior officials testifying on this subject tomorrow. And while this may be an early look at the kinds of questions they may get, I think I'd actually like to let the experts address them rather than try and respond on individual points in a document I haven't seen.
But again, I think the point that we would make is that we are scrupulous in terms of oversight and scrutiny not only of Blackwater but of all our contractors, and not only of our contractors in the security field but of those generally. That's part of our obligation. It's part of our obligation to make sure that people are doing what they've been paid to do. And these are difficult circumstances in which these individuals operate. And you saw in the Deputy Secretary's statement a recognition and appreciation of the fact that these are tough jobs and that these people often perform heroically under very difficult circumstances.
At the same time, they have to be held accountable for their actions. And they have to be held accountable in accordance with not only the terms of the contract with the company, but in terms of the specific standards of conduct and rules of engagement that are established by the ambassador at post and that are administered by our regional security officers. So certainly if there are issues that the Congressman would like to raise up with our individuals who are testifying, I'm sure they'll be happy to address them. But I would strongly dispute anyone's assertion that the State Department has not exercised good and strong oversight in our efforts to manage these contractors.
I would also point out, too, that again in light of the specific incident that has triggered a lot of these questions, which is the one that occurred on September 16th, we now have done three, I think, very important things that show that we are not only in general concerned and willing and able to provide oversight, but that we are very much concerned with assuring ourselves that we have the full facts and have an ability to respond appropriately to that specific incident. And that of course is first and foremost the investigation that's ongoing, that's being conducted by the regional security officer in Baghdad. That's also the formation of the joint commission with the Iraqis, which has met not only at the principals level, but at the working level in order to help us assure ourselves that we're working from a common set of facts in this incident and that we have a good understanding of procedures and that we can make recommendations on how we should both be able to move ahead jointly on this.
And of course, the third element is what we announced on Friday, which is that the Secretary has named Pat Kennedy to head a group of distinguished persons, including longtime retired ambassador, Ambassador Stapleton Roy, Eric Boswell, who is a security expert of longstanding, as well as General George Joulwan, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as former head of the U.S. Southern Command, to take a broader policy level review of how we use and operate and provide security for our people in Iraq. And Pat is already there on the ground with Ambassador Boswell and I know that General Joulwan and Ambassador Stapleton will be joining them shortly thereafter.
So I think the record shows that we have been very concerned continuously about making sure our contractors obey the rules of the game and that in light of this tragic incident that occurred on the sixteenth, we are are doing everything we can to make sure we again not only understand the facts, but that we address any issues out there and we're doing so both at a police investigative level, if you will, through the RSO, as well as through looking at the broader policy implications, through Pat's group and working with the Iraqis to make sure that whatever is decided, there's a common understanding and a common approach to how to move forward.
QUESTION: Some Defense Department officials say that they have sought to get the State Department to sort of reign in these Blackwater contractors. Have you sought to restrain Blackwater's actions or --
MR. CASEY: Look, Sue, we've addressed this before. I think you can talk to Bryan Whitman or Geoff Morrell or any of our colleagues over at the Pentagon. I'm not aware that -- I've seen a lot of statements made by people anonymously. I can assure you that whether it was General Casey and Zal Khalilzad or General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, from top to bottom of the chain we work very closely with our colleagues in the military. We have to. Coordination is required between our movements and those of U.S. military and Iraqi security forces. So, you know, I think it's a little bit hard for me to respond to allegations that are made without names attached to them when, at least as far as I know, there's never been an unwillingness on the part of U.S. military officials or diplomatic officials to directly talk about any concerns they have. And again, we talk about security issues broadly as well as narrowly on a daily basis.
QUESTION: But I'm not asking whether you cooperate with them or not and whether you all work well together. What I'm asking is, have they asked you to restrain Blackwater and have you followed?
MR. CASEY: Sue, I'm not aware that anyone has made such a request or a recommendation. And again, I'd point to you the fact that none of the people who seem to be making that accusation are doing so by name in an official capacity. We again coordinate very closely with the military on a daily basis, on every single mission, on every single operation. The military is responsible, as you know, for providing this kind of protective service for some of our diplomats who are in Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are embedded with U.S. military units. And so there really is a sort of a seamless cooperation between our two sides. I know certainly that there are individuals out there who are saying a lot of stuff. What I can tell you is that no requests from any U.S. military officials concerning the life and safety of our people would be ignored by our RSO any more than I would expect that any concerns that we would raise about the life and safety of our soldiers would be ignored by one of their commanders.
QUESTION: Tom -- what -- I may have missed this in the past week or so, being in New York and all --
MR. CASEY: Well, welcome back. How was New York?
QUESTION: What is the status of the independent DS-U.S. investigation? How long do you anticipate that's going to go on for?
MR. CASEY: I don't have a specific timeline for you. I know they've been working on it steadily. I think they'll be in a position, I would hope, to conclude it in the not-too-distant future. But they're going to look at what they have to look at. I know they're still talking to people, including some of the witnesses involved here and are working with a number of other folks, including MNF-I, to make sure we have as full an understanding as possible. Pat, of course, has said that in terms of his more senior-level review, he hopes to be able to make an initial assessment to the Secretary some time end of this week, beginning of next and we certainly look forward to him doing that --
QUESTION: Will he at least get a rough sketch of what U.S. investigators think happened?
MR. CASEY: I'm sure he'll have an opportunity to talk with the investigators. Obviously I think they want to make sure that they have an investigation that is clear and concise and that is not something I expect they will discuss in great amounts of detail with him or with anybody else prior to its conclusion, simply because you generally don't want your police investigators or your people doing that kind of investigation to be talking ahead of their conclusions. But to the extent that they've concluded anything I'm sure they'll be addressing those issues with them. Remember, too, Pat's not there and the purpose of his review team isn't to look at this specific incident, but it's to look more broadly at how are we providing protection to our people; does that make sense; and is there anything we can learn from it or anything we might need to do to adjust it, because again we've now been operating this embassy for a little over three years and it's appropriate to try and take a look at this broader issue, even as we're going through the specifics of the investigation into the incident on September 16th.
QUESTION: We heard from sources in Baghdad today that the initial Blackwater report was compiled by Blackwater officials and employees themselves and not by the State Department as had been initially brought up. Can you comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure -- let me go through a few things. First of all, there's no official report of any kind on this incident in terms of one that would provide a review analysis or attempt at a - at drawing conclusions about what happened there. People have talked about in the past, including I think as recently as last Friday with me here, what is alleged to be the, quote, "spot report" provided by Diplomatic Security services.
And just for the record, again let me explain what a spot report is. A spot report is the equivalent of the dispatch from a police car that's just arrived on the scene of a crime. It would have been a response provided by the people who were involved in the incident, probably radioed in rather than even something told to them after they got back to their headquarters. And basically the purpose of doing that is so that the security officials involved, in this case at the Embassy in Baghdad, as well as those back here in Washington, simply know that an incident has occurred. It is in no way, shape or form intended to authorize any kind of official reaction. It's not an attempt at an analysis. It's not an attempt at issuing judgments. It is again basically the equivalent of saying, we've just arrived on the scene, there appears to have been a burglary here, we're checking it out and we'll let you know as we move forward.
So again, I think anyone that's asserting that there's some kind of analysis or investigative result or any kind of report out there that is anything more than a first blush account by those on the scene is simply wrong.
QUESTION: And by those on the scene doing the first blush account, you take it to mean the Blackwater employees radioed back --
MR. CASEY: Well, again, whoever would be on -- whoever would have been, in this case if you're talking about something that would have been provided as a result of an incident with a personal security detail, it would be members of that detail that would be provided that, yeah.
QUESTION: And that spot report, though, was approved by a State Department employee from -- according to some --
MR. CASEY: Well, Zain, I don't know how thin you want to slice the salami on this thing, but the bottom line here is, whoever is involved in the incident out in the field, they report in to the equivalent of a police dispatcher. That person writes it up and sends it back to Washington. I'm assuming at some point in time there would have been someone from the RSO's office that would have approved it sending back. But again, the main point here is that whatever you have -- the spot report does not represent an investigation, a review, or anything more than a first blush account of the basic incident itself. And all it's intended to do is provide people on the scene, in terms as the embassy as well as people back in Washington, with the idea that something has occurred. And, of course, the reason why you do that is there's more than one convoy out in any given day. If someone's just been shot at or had an incident, you probably want to know that if you're sitting back in the embassy and are about to dispatch five more convoys so that they know to avoid that area, first and foremost. So that if the incident raises broader questions it might mean you might change who you sent out or when you sent them out. And again, providing that kind of real time information to people is essential to be able to make the kind of calls that our RSOs have to do every day in terms of both making sure our people can do their job, but then making sure they can do it safely.
QUESTION: And just one last thing.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There were some suggestions also from sources in Baghdad that some, or one, of the guards involved in the Blackwater incident on the 16th were being rotated out or have left. Can you comment on that or is there anything that you've heard --
MR. CASEY: Look, Zain, my understanding on this is that we're exactly where we've been, which is that all of the individuals who were involved in this specific incident currently are still in Iraq. I do know there was one individual that has left the country because of a medical emergency. But that individual is certainly still available to our investigators as need be as they finish up the investigation.
Yeah, over here.
QUESTION: There is some news in Turkish media about the terror coordinator General Ralston has already resigned. Do you have any comment on that?
Secondly, could you comment on Turkey and Iraq security agreement signed in Ankara last week?
MR. CASEY: Well, we put out a brief statement on that -- or a response to a taken question, actually, on that on Friday. We welcome this agreement. We think it's positive that the Government of Turkey and the Government of Iraq are cooperating on this issue. We certainly want to work with them as well to confront the challenges and the problems posed by PKK terrorism. And again, to the extent that we can all work together with one another, I think we'll be able to achieve greater success in this result.
In terms of General Ralston, as far as I know, his status hasn't changed and we look forward to him continuing his efforts. If, for any reason, he's got an announcement to make, I'm sure he'll let us know.
QUESTION: As you know, PKK killed 13 workers during the weekend. Do you have any reaction on that?
MR. CASEY: I don't. I've seen those reports, but I don't think I can give you a confirmation of what's happened. Again, to the extent that there has been any kind of PKK activity, all it does is point out the importance of having this joint agreement move forward and continue to be developed and implemented as well as continuing to remind us of the fact that all three of us, the Government of Turkey, the Government of Iraq and the Government of the United States, need to work together on this problem.
Do you want to go down here, yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment to the elections in the Ukraine?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, in terms of the elections in the Ukraine, first of all, we're pleased to see that these elections have moved forward. I know that the OSC mission there has made a statement on it that's been generally very favorable. I think we would still, of course, need to see the votes actually be counted and official results released before we can start recognizing any individual winners and before we can have a full assessment of the process itself. What we do hope, though, is that this election will result in a government in Ukraine that can be effective and can serve the needs of the people and we stand ready to work with whatever government results from those elections.
QUESTION: Thank you. How will you comment on the events in Islamabad on Saturday when, according to some press reports, more than two dozen journalists were injured after police (inaudible) used violence and more than three top channels were taken off air for some time? How does that reflect on the degree of freedom of press and expression in Pakistan in your view?
MR. CASEY: Well, I've seen a lot of conflicting reports about what's happened there, including the fact that at least some reports saying that the Supreme Court judge has asked for the arrest of the police commissioner as well. Certainly, we want to see people be able to freely express their views in Pakistan or any place else and would hope that they would be able to do so without any resort to violence by either other protestors or by law enforcement officials or anyone else. It's a fundamental and important right.
In terms of the media freedoms in Pakistan, we also of course want to make sure that all legitimate broadcasters as well as all legitimate publications have the opportunity to help inform the Pakistani people of what's going on, particularly as we move towards what's going to be a very important election for the country.
QUESTION: Can we move to Russia? Putin said today that he would head the United Russia Party in elections in December which, apparently, could clear the way for his taking of the prime ministership. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm afraid I can't put on a, you know, Russian political analyst's hat for you on this --
QUESTION: You could.
MR. CASEY: I could. (Laughter.) It probably wouldn't be a good idea and I'm not sure about the quality of the analysis you'd get either. There are probably a few other folks around town that could help you out in that regard. But look, to the extent that he's doing this in the context of the laws of Russia then certainly that's his choice and his party's choice. Of course, the main thing is we will be looking very closely at the upcoming Russian elections. We'd certainly like to see elections take place there in a way that provides opportunity for all legitimate political parties to campaign openly and freely and we also want to see there be opportunities for individuals to really be able to campaign in a way that makes the transparency of the process clear to everybody. So we'll be keeping a close eye on it. But certainly to the extent that he's doing this within the context and limits of Russian law and Russia's legal system, then that's certainly his choice to make.
QUESTION: Do you see this --
MR. CASEY: Nina. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Just following up on that. Do you see this in any way as a further step toward Putin wanting to continue to control and continue moving in an authoritarian direction?
MR. CASEY: That takes us back to where we started, which is me trying to interpret or analyze for you the motives of President Putin or other political actors in an election year in Russia. Again, we'll keep an eye closely on how the political process develops and how the elections develop there. Like with any country, what we want to make sure happens in Russia is that there is a free, fair and transparent electoral process and one that gives all parties a chance to express themselves, campaign effectively and then we'll see who wins afterwards.
QUESTION: Burma, please. You said in the gaggle this morning that the U.S. would like to see India and China do more. What exactly do you mean by that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we've spoken to this several times before. But as you know, our joint statement with the EU last week specifically called on India, China and the ASEAN countries to do more to support the cause of political dialogue and of freedom for the people of Burma. We've seen a little bit of that take place in the sense that you've now seen a strong statement by the ASEAN countries, with regard to the need for Burma to open up a political dialogue with the opposition. You've seen that to a certain extent, as well, in China's efforts to ensure that Mr. Gambari was allowed into the country and to see the people he needed to see.
But those are, I would think, first steps that we certainly would like to see those countries use the influence that they have because of their political relations, as well as their commercial and economic relations with Burma to put pressure on the regime to make those changes actually occur.
Again, the United States has an extensive series of sanctions in place on Burma. We have added to them in the past week, both in terms of asset freezes as well as visa bans. But the United States by itself is not going to be able to force the Burmese Government to change its ways. That's why we want to see these other countries, many of whom do have close relations with Burma or are neighbors of Burma use their influence as well because that's the most effective way to see change occur.
QUESTION: China and India are very tied up, of course, with Burma in terms of fuel, gas, oil -- what do you expect them to do in that case?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, Nina, I'm not trying to dictate to any of those governments how they should develop their national policies. I think it's very clear though that they have an influence over that government, that they can have more of an impact if they choose to do so. And we'll leave it to them to determine specifically how. But what we want to see is -- see them take serious and concrete actions to push the Burmese Government in the right direction.
QUESTION: Can you give me an example of the kind of actions you mean?
MR. CASEY: Again, Nina, I think -- I can tell you what U.S. sanctions are and if people would like to emulate them that would be fine. But in terms of what specific countries might do to be able to do this, I don't think the Indian Government or the Chinese Government needs me to tell them what the levers in the diplomatic toolbox are that they have. And I think we'd just like to see them use them.
QUESTION: On Friday, you announced the designation of these additional individuals. Are you planning any further actions --
MR. CASEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- any further sanctions. And secondly, what contact has the Chargé d'Affaires, whoever it is, in Myanmar had with the authorities?
MR. CASEY: Okay. In terms of sanctions, as you know the President in his UN speech announced that we were going to be providing additional sanctions on Burma. We did that in two instances already. The Treasury Department as you know announced that they were adding a number of individuals to the list of asset freezes. These are some members of the regime. There are also some individuals who are actively supporting it. From our side, we have expanded the visa ban to cover several dozen more individuals as well to be able to inhibit their ability to travel. We've also worked in the Security Council to ensure that Mr. Gambari got dispatched and we also look very much forward to hearing from him upon his return.
In terms of additional sanctions, certainly we'll continue to look both under those existing executive orders that are there, which includes another one that provides for an import ban, to see what more we can do. Certainly, we'll also look at whether there might be new measures that we might be able to take to try and increase the pressure on the regime for positive change. But I don't have anything to announce for you on that for now. And as you know, we're also very careful about not advertising any of those things until they're ready because it potentially, particularly in the financial realm, makes it easier for the targets of them to evade them.
QUESTION: But in the short term are you expecting anything?
And then secondly, the question that I asked you about whether your officials on the ground have been meeting.
MR. CASEY: Oh, sorry. In terms of expectations for more sanctions, look, we're going to continuously look at this. People are looking at what more we might be able to do now, but I don't want to try and give you a specific timeline. It could be tomorrow. It could be quite a ways down the road.
In terms of contacts between our officials and government officials there, I honestly am uncertain what those -- what level of those contacts has occurred and what's there. I can tell you again that we've put our -- and the Secretary of course personally made her views known to the representative of Burma who was there for the ASEAN meeting. We have sent our Ambassador in to talk to government officials in China. We've talked to a number of other countries, including the Japanese and the other members of ASEAN about this at the level of the Secretary. I -- as you know, the Burmese regime doesn't really take a lot of cues from our Embassy in Rangoon, so I'm not sure what level or what kind of contacts they may have had there. But to the extent that our Chargé has done so, she of course has continued to push the same kinds of lines we always have.
I would note that the policy that we would like to see the Burmese Government develop has not changed, and that is to have an inclusive, real political process, one that engages the opposition fully, one that allows Aung San Suu Kyi and the many other political prisoners that are in Burma to be released and to be able to participate actively in their country's life.
QUESTION: Could you take that as a question, please?
MR. CASEY: I will happily do so. Is there a particular concern in that regard that you're looking for?
QUESTION: No, I just want to find out who the Chargé has been speaking to and what the outcome was of those meetings?
MR. CASEY: Okay, that's perfectly reasonable. I suspect the answer is that whoever she spoke to, she made the point she usually makes on this and the answer was usually the same answer that she's gotten in the past. But we will try and find out specifically who for you she might have been giving that message to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Did Chris Hill meet with the Chinese on the sidelines of the six-party talks to talk about this as well?
MR. CASEY: I know Chris -- the main avenue for discussing this with the Chinese was through our Ambassador. I think Chris had some brief mentions of this in his meetings with Chinese officials, although he did not, because of the shape and nature of this particular round of the six-party talks, I don't think he had a lot of extra time before departing on this pause to do meetings outside of that specific focus.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about imports from Burma? You were talking about potential for an import ban. How much --
MR. CASEY: It's not a potential. Since 2003 there's been an import ban for Burma.
QUESTION: You're talking about possible additional measures.
MR. CASEY: Well, again, there are all kinds of additional measures that are potential out there. Those would involve additional financial measures. They might involve adding to existing sanctions beyond what we've already done in this past week. I'm not trying to point you in a particular direction. I'm just trying to give you the sense that this is something that's actively under consideration.
QUESTION: Tom, is another Security Council resolution along the lines of the one that failed in November? Is that completely off the chart?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think in terms of the Security Council, as you know, we pushed for a resolution on this issue earlier this year. Unfortunately, that did not succeed because of vetoes from a couple of the permanent members. However, this is something that again has been, because of our efforts, continuously on the Council's agenda. The meeting that was held last week to dispatch Mr. Gambari is an example of that. And I think at this point what we need to do is have Mr. Gambari return, have him brief the Council and then see where that leads. Certainly, though, we would like to see effective international action take place and there's obviously a role for the Security Council in that.
QUESTION: Although the protests have eased, there have been a lot of concerns about the monks and protestors who have been taken into custody and some claim that they have been brutally tortured. Has the Embassy in Rangoon made any representation to the Myanmar authorities on this?
MR. CASEY: Well, that partly gets backs to the question that Sue made earlier. But in general, all I can say is we've made it clear to the Burmese Government that we want these kinds of actions to stop, that they should not be arresting demonstrators for simply expressing their views, that they should not be, in particular, going after monasteries and Buddhist religious sites and arresting monks. We've again asked them to release any of those that they've held in detention, as well as those political leaders and others who they've kept locked up or under house arrest in one form or another for many, many years. And certainly our Embassy has spoken out about that, including publicly with some of your colleagues as recently as this morning, I believe. So the Embassy is contributing to that effort.
Again, I don't think, unfortunately, the message we are giving to the Burmese Government is anything new to them. This has been our longstanding position. It's only made more serious by the tragic actions and the terrible response that we've seen on the part of the government to these protests led by the monks.
QUESTION: How do you see the new sanctions, for example, really working in Myanmar? I mean, there have been many studies that have been made on the sanctions that have been imposed by both Europe and the United States and they have failed disastrously in that sense that, you know, aside from not only -- it's not working, but the people have been affected by this?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think that sanctions like any other diplomatic tool can only do so much. And sanctions implemented by one country or a handful of countries can only do so much. And again, that's why it's critical that the countries that have the most influence in Burma right now, including the Chinese, the Indians and the ASEAN nations, engage in a serious effort with us to change their behavior. Certainly, we'd like to see them use what levers are at their command to be able to put pressure on the Burmese Government because I don't think it's any surprise that sanctions of and by themselves have not led to a specific change of behavior that we'd all like to see.
Yeah, let's go back here.
QUESTION: On inter-Korea summit talks. President -- South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told today that, before departing for Pyongyang, quote, "once discussions on a peace regime get under way in earnest, we can take up building military confidence and a peace treaty and furthermore the issue of arms reduction." Can you comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his remarks. Again, as you know, the United States has always been supportive of North-South dialogue. These are matters for the two Koreas to discuss and work out. In terms of denuclearization and the things that come with denuclearization, I'll just point you right back to what Chris has said before, which is with denuclearization, all things are possible and North Korea can achieve a very different relationship with the United States as well as with the rest of the world. But I certainly am not looking for those inter-Korean discussions to change the basic facts on the ground or the six-party talks. And as you know, some of the issues that you're referring to are ones that are being dealt with as part of that process.
Yeah. You have a follow-up?
QUESTION: On (inaudible) thing. I honestly believe that the two Korean leaders agreed to -- would agree to some bilateral arrangement for economic aid plan. Are they -- are these steps in line with the action-for-action spirit, spelled out in the six-party talks?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll leave it to the two Korean leaders to talk about their meeting for -- obviously not a participant in that. In the past, particularly in terms of food aid, the Government of South Korea has provided support to the Government of North Korea. We of course, for a long time were the world's leading donor of food assistance to North Korea. So certainly we think things that address people's humanitarian concerns or needs are important. They need to be outside the political process.
So I don't -- I can't really speculate for you on what kinds of things they'd conclude. But certainly in terms of humanitarian support, we've always said that that's something that needs to be handled outside the terms of other political considerations, including the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Just a little clarity on what happened at the U.S. Embassy in Austria today. Any more details --
MR. CASEY: As long as you're only looking for a little -- (laughter) -- I might be able to accommodate you.
QUESTION: A lot of clarity with details and --
MR. CASEY: To the -- I don't have a detailed accounting of this right now, Zain. But what I can tell you is that earlier today an individual was stopped who was attempting to enter the U.S. Embassy in Vienna with a suspicious bag. I've seen it described as a variety of different satchels or backpack-type -- kinds of things. He was confronted by the security guards there and never, in fact, entered the embassy compound but ran off when he was confronted and was pursued by the guards and stopped and then turned over to the police in Vienna. And I understand that that bag was disposed of by the police in Vienna in terms of their explosive ordinance guys. So we're awaiting a formal report from the Viennese police, but really I think you need to check with them in terms of getting any kind of detailed readout of what they actually found in this guy's possession.
QUESTION: Do you know the nationality of the suspect?
MR. CASEY: It's been reported through a number of places that he had connections to Bosnia, but I'm not sure of his exact citizenship.
QUESTION: Do you know whether there were or not explosives or is that unclear yet?
MR. CASEY: That's something that's unclear. Again, our involvement in this was, our guards approached him because they thought his bag looked suspicious and he fled when that happened. I think there's a presumption that there was something in that bag that he didn't want seen by the guards. The exact nature of what it is, I think, I will let the Viennese police conduct their investigation and do a report to us back because that's really the appropriate law enforcement channel for this right now.
QUESTION: And --
MR. CASEY: Charlie.
QUESTION: -- our guards were contract-out guards, or were they Marine guards?
MR. CASEY: No, they're perimeter contract guards.
Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: Tom, we would like your comments on events in Pakistan. The government's efforts to suppress the media, you know, that on Saturday, 28 journalists were beaten mercilessly by the police. One of them has been laying unconscious in the hospital for the last four days and the government also blow up the transmission of some private TV channels. So what would you say to the Musharraf government to stop this?
MR. CASEY: Well, I could do the Robin Williams thing and repeat the first part of the show for you, but I actually addressed this a little earlier in the briefing. Let me just tell you, though, that certainly we want to see people behave responsibly, that includes protestors as well as government reaction to it. We do certainly take seriously any attempts to close or otherwise hinder media from taking appropriate actions. Certainly, as well we've seen a variety of press reports about those things, but I can't confirm any of it for you. But again, the key message to us is we want people to behave responsibly. We want them to do so in accordance with law and avoid any acts of violence. And I know that there are a number of things that have been brought before the Pakistani court related to these matters. And I think we'll let them rule and I think they've shown that they're capable of doing so.
Param, do you have one more?
QUESTION: Are you aware of a report by several ex-diplomats, U.S. diplomats on the Middle East peace conference that's coming up? And they basically -- I think three of them were former Assistant Secretaries of State -- they recommended a few things and sent it to the Secretary of State last week. And among the recommendations for State directly that the role of Hamas is the most difficult problem and must be addressed in detail. And they offered a series of recommendations to the Administration for dealing with this issue, simply saying no to Hamas without planning for the consequences is likely a ticket to new problems.
MR. CASEY: Param, I'm not familiar with their correspondence with us on this. Certainly, we'll be happy to hear ideas that they or anyone care to present on it. In terms of the role of Hamas, I think the Secretary's made it clear, including in several occasions speaking publicly on this during the past week, and I really don't have anything to add on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:14 p.m.)
DPB # 172
Released on October 1, 2007
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|