Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
December 14, 2009
Bilateral Meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos
Human Rights Speech at Georgetown University
Bilateral Meeting with Lebanese President Sleiman at the White House
Detained Americans in Pakistan / Consular Access / Lahore Court Barred Deportation / No Charges Pending / Working with Pakistani Authorities / Legal Rights / Due Process
Conflict in Yemen / Impact on Civilian Population / Call for Hostilities to Cease / U.S. Assistance to Displaced Yemenis
Weapons on Plane Reportedly Headed to North Korea / Thailand Action Applauded / Investigation Ongoing / Report Incident to UN
Concern of Arms Trade and Transfers / International Obligations
Detained Americans / Consular Visits / Charges against Hikers Unfounded
Relations between Latin Countries and Iran / Unity in Sending a Clear Message to Iran / Need For Transparent Nuclear Program / Dual-Track Approach
LEU Officer / P-5+1 Meeting / Political Directors Need to Consult / Pressure Track
American Contractor Arrested / Will Not Discuss Details of Case / Attempting to Obtain Consular Access / Expect Cuba to Honor Obligations under Vienna Convention
Okinawa Issue / Support of Their Policy Review / Realignment Roadmap / Important Security Relationship
Policy Review Not Complete
SOUTH CENTRAL ASIA
Assistant Secretary Blake Travel to India and Kazakhstan
Troop Surge / Defense Department Priority / Physical Logistics
Afghanistan Government and ISAF Capabilities
Detained Chinese Dissident Liu / Urge Respect of Rights / U.S. Raised Concerns
1:34 p.m. EST
MR. KELLY: Okay. Well, welcome to the press room. You saw that the Secretary had a bilateral meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos, and there was a nice, long press availability after that. She is – right now, well, she’s, I guess, long finished up at Georgetown, where she talked about the human rights agenda for the 21st century. She noted that we cannot separate our democracy, human rights, and development agendas, they are mutually reinforcing. And in the 20th century, of course, we saw – we came to recognize human rights as universal and in the 21st century, she said, we need to make human rights a human reality and emphasized that supporting democracy and fostering development are not separate endeavors, they are twin cornerstones of our human rights agenda.
She is right now over at the White House, where the President has a bilateral meeting with Lebanese President Sleiman. The Secretary will also have a bilateral with President Sleiman this evening. President Sleiman’s visit to Washington reflects the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Lebanon. And of course, the Secretary looks forward to discussing a wide range of issues. The U.S. shares President Sleiman’s vision of a sovereign, stable, and prosperous Lebanon. We were pleased to see a parliamentary vote of confidence on December 10th and look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government that proves by its actions that it is fully committed to strengthen the institutions of the Lebanese state in order to build peace and stability both within Lebanon and within the region.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Can I just – on the Georgetown speech, seeing that human rights – you want to make human rights a human reality, I never got an answer to my question on Friday about the – your reaction to the charges being brought against this detained Chinese dissident. I believe I was told that there would be one forthcoming, and it never came.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yeah, I think we have that. Don’t we have that ready to go out?
QUESTION: It was a – considering the Secretary’s speech today, I thought it might be appropriate to raise this.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yeah. No, I apologize for that. You’re right; we should have had that Friday afternoon, but we didn’t. So we’ll get that out this afternoon. We did talk about it briefly with our colleagues in the East Asian Bureau, so --
QUESTION: Well, okay. But the world is waiting.
MR. KELLY: Yes, I realize that.
QUESTION: It’s great that you guys talked about it internally. Anyway, on Pakistan, the detained Americans – apparently, one – the father of one of them has been released. Do you know anything about this?
MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t heard that, Matt. One of them’s been released?
QUESTION: I don’t – I’m asking you.
MR. KELLY: That’s news to me.
QUESTION: Okay. What’s the status of the – of them then?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t really have any substantive update in terms of consular access to them. We’re – I don’t think they’ve had charges brought against them as well. We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Pakistani authorities both on the diplomatic side and on the law enforcement side, and the Pakistani authorities granted us access to the six individuals within 24 hours of our request, which is a very speedy response. But I don’t have any --
QUESTION: When was the last time they were seen?
MR. KELLY: I believe the last consular visit was on Friday.
QUESTION: So nothing since?
MR. KELLY: Nothing since that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the order barring their deportation?
MR. KELLY: I’ve just – I’ve seen it in the press that a Lahore court barred their deportation pending a review by the court. I don’t have any comment on that. It sounds to me to be a reasonable judicial procedure.
QUESTION: Ian, on that shipment of North Korean weapons --
QUESTION: Wait a minute, can we stay on this?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Yeah, sure.
MR. KELLY: Charlie. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you tell us whether the U.S. Government has asked for their either deportation or extradition?
MR. KELLY: I am not aware that we have formally asked for their – they haven’t been charged --
QUESTION: I understand.
MR. KELLY: We can’t ask for their – for extradition unless there are charges pending, and there are no charges pending.
QUESTION: What about deporting? Can you ask for that?
MR. KELLY: I’m not sure that we would ask for deportation, frankly.
QUESTION: Well, have you asked for their release?
MR. KELLY: I think we are just – we’re – right now, we are in the process of working with the Pakistani authorities to determine their legal status, and formal charges haven’t been brought.
QUESTION: What would be the next step for the next consular access that they have? Do you have to request that, or do they say they want to talk to a consular official? When does that happen?
MR. KELLY: I mean, normally, the way it works is we make the request for consular access. And I’m not sure we’ve even asked for another visit with them.
QUESTION: Do you make the request only if you think that there’s something new that needs to be done, or is there a standard procedure whereby you see them every few days?
MR. KELLY: I’m not so sure that there’s a standard procedure. Of course, what we’re interested in is that their legal rights are being respected, that local law is being followed, and that they have access to legal counsel. And we normally provide them with a list of lawyers who are available in the matter that they’re being held for.
QUESTION: Okay. So – and you’re satisfied for the moment that all of those conditions are being met?
MR. KELLY: I believe so. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you say just whether, in the past week that you’ve been doing this investigation with the Pakistanis, whether your concern about what they were up to has increased or decreased?
MR. KELLY: I don’t – I think that’s really a question for the Department of Justice, Kirit. I can’t answer that.
QUESTION: Why has the U.S. Government not come to their aid as quick as – or as quick as in other cases, because they haven’t done anything wrong, or it hasn’t been found that they’ve done anything wrong yet?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t agree with you that we haven’t acted quickly. I think we’ve acted very quickly on this. As I said before, our obligations are to work with the local authorities to ensure that whatever charges are brought against them are done in accordance with due process and with local law, and that the conditions they’re being held under are decent conditions. And those particular conditions have been met.
QUESTION: What is the U.S.’s role in the conflict in Yemen right now, if there is any involvement? And what’s the reaction to the number of civilians that have been killed there?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think we are concerned about the – with the conflict there, and we’re concerned about the impact on the civilian population. We have called on the – for hostilities to cease, and we’ve called for the need – or we’ve highlighted the need for humanitarian relief organizations to have access to the conflict area. We’re also concerned about the damage to homes and to civilian infrastructure. And I would just – I’d also point out that to date we’ve provided almost $9 million to assist Yemenis displaced by the recent fighting.
QUESTION: Okay. So it’s only just humanitarian efforts right now?
MR. KELLY: Right now, that is our focus. We are concerned about the people who have been displaced, and we’re concerned about getting basic human necessities and medical care to these people who have been displaced.
QUESTION: Ian, do we know exactly where those – the weapons – North Korean weapons that were on that plane were headed ultimately?
MR. KELLY: We don’t. I think you saw what the Secretary said. We commend the Thai Government for their swift and efficient action in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which you know bans all arms transfers from North Korea and calls on all member-states to inspect cargo that they suspect may be arms and to detain that cargo. The investigation of the incident is ongoing. And part of that investigation is to determine where exactly the shipment was headed.
I think the next step here will be to report this incident to the UN’s North Korea Sanctions Committee, the so-called 1718 Committee, which has a mandate to investigate and take appropriate action in response to incidents like this. And again, we applaud the Thai Government’s actions and their decision to refer this to the 1718 Committee.
QUESTION: Wait. Let me ask you just what I asked the Secretary. Do you – let’s see how to phrase this – does this say something to the United States about the intentions of North Korea on the nuclear issue?
MR. KELLY: On the nuclear issue?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think, you heard what the Secretary said, that we are concerned about the arms trade by North Korea. We are always concerned about their defiance of the limitations and obligations imposed by the international community, by the UN Security Council. Part of this is arms transfers; the other part of this is their refusal to abide by other international community demands regarding their nuclear weapons program. So I would – I mean, obviously, you can’t draw a – or it doesn’t appear that you can draw a direct correlation to their nuclear program, except it’s all part of a greater refusal of North Korea to abide by its international obligations.
QUESTION: On Iran. The Secretary mentioned --
QUESTION: I’m sorry, can we stay on this for just a bit?
MR. KELLY: Is that okay with you, Matt?
QUESTION: The same topic.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Nick, go ahead.
QUESTION: The Thai Government said the other day that they acted on a tip from the Americans. Given that this plane asked for a refueling stop and the Thai Government granted that stop, isn’t it logical for them to have known where the plane is headed for? I mean, you are in the air, you want to refuel, the people who let you stop refuel should know where you’re going; isn’t that true?
MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me to --
QUESTION: Well, I’m asking because it’s pretty clear where this --
MR. KELLY: -- draw conclusions from --
QUESTION: I mean, it’s not pretty clear, but there’s a good guess where this plane was headed. And you’ve had talks before about the implementation of this resolution with several countries and about several countries, including Burma. The Thai Government said the other day that they believed the plane was headed to a country in the region. There is no other obvious country in the region than Burma.
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So I’m – it’s been now almost three days, and given that this was a tip from the Americans, it just sounds like the United States knows more than it might be saying in public. Isn’t that a good assumption?
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, you’re asking me to engage in a guessing game, which is not a very good game for me to engage in. And I mean, I understand that there are – that we’ve had concerns in the past about these kinds of transactions between the government in Burma and the North Koreans. But you’re asking me to speculate on possible ties. But I just think we need to allow the Thai authorities to conduct their investigation, and that’s ongoing. They are talking to the pilots. And then, of course, this is going to be referred to the 1718 Committee, which will have a – I think a --
QUESTION: That could take forever to --
MR. KELLY: -- very broad mandate which could take some time.
QUESTION: 1718? Oh, yes.
QUESTION: Do you know what Phil Goldberg is doing today? I mean, is he working on this?
MR. KELLY: I actually exchanged some emails with Phil over the weekend, so yes --
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. KELLY: -- he is working on this.
QUESTION: Can we go to the hikers?
MR. KELLY: The hikers?
QUESTION: Yeah. Just two quick things. One is, when was the last time they had a consular visit from the Swiss? And second, what is your understanding of what charge or charges they may face?
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, the last consular visit by the Swiss was October 29.
QUESTION: So they haven’t been seen in --
MR. KELLY: No.
QUESTION: Have you – do you know if there’s been a request for an additional one made?
MR. KELLY: I am sure there’s been a request. I don’t know that for a fact right now, but I’m sure there has been – that’s a long time to go without consular access.
On the issue of the charges, we actually have not received official confirmation that they’ve had charges brought against them. We’ve seen the press reports.
QUESTION: So what charge is unfounded?
MR. KELLY: Any charge – as the Secretary said, any charge against them is unfounded.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. KELLY: I mean, they --
QUESTION: They crossed – not if they – if they crossed the border illegally, there’s got to be some charge that is applicable.
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, that’s the kind of charge that is normally handled in a pretty expeditious manner. I think what she was referring to were these press reports that they were guilty of espionage.
QUESTION: Ian, can you discuss the case of the American contractor arrested in Cuba apparently distributing electronic devices? Is this sort of standard practice for U.S. officials, and do we always contract such things?
MR. KELLY: Well, we’re not going to discuss the details of this case. And I told you why on Friday we’re not going to. What I will say is that we, of course, are – first of all, let me just say about consular access, we’re trying to get access to the individual involved. And we would expect the Government of Cuba to honor its obligations under the Vienna Convention on consular affairs and grant consular access. So we are calling on the Cuban Government to do that in a very expeditious way. But I don’t want to comment on any of the details of this, what would he may or may not have been doing, simply because we don’t want to cause any harm, frankly.
QUESTION: How long has the State Department been aware that the guy has – was detained?
MR. KELLY: I believe we were informed on December 5th that he had been detained.
QUESTION: And do you know how long? Was he detained on December 5th or before?
MR. KELLY: It’s my understanding that we were informed the same day. It may have been with a day’s lag time, but it was fairly quickly after that.
QUESTION: There is any negotiations now with the Cuban Government about him?
MR. KELLY: Any negotiations?
QUESTION: Well, any discussions?
MR. KELLY: Well, we have a – I mean, we have diplomats in Havana, obviously. And we are – right now, we’re very focused on the consular access issue of this, trying to get consular officers in to see this individual and ensure that his conditions are appropriate and that his legal rights are respected.
QUESTION: Ian, would you just go through why you don’t want to talk about this case? It’s kind of – you’ve talked about a lot of the others ones today so far. Why not this one?
MR. KELLY: Well, it’s very simple. I mean, I can talk in general terms about the way that we handle these kinds of cases in terms of consular access. I can talk in general terms about our calls to open up Cuban society, to support democracy in Cuba. We have a number of programs that are very open and are all available on the internet to try and foster the growth of civil society. But as I said on Friday, I just can’t talk about the individual details of an American citizen in this case.
QUESTION: Well, but yet you can say that charges that don’t yet exist or that you know that – that you don’t know yet exist against three Americans in Iran are spurious. You can’t say that this guy wasn’t doing anything wrong?
MR. KELLY: We haven’t had access to this individual to see what kind of public stance that this individual wants us to take on his case. And so until we’ve had that access, I want to respect his legal right to privacy.
QUESTION: That’s – so that’s the only reason?
MR. KELLY: That is the only reason.
In the back.
QUESTION: On the Okinawa issue with Japan. Has the U.S. set a deadline for Japan for the end of this week to come up with a decision on the Futenma issue?
MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’ve set any kind of hard and fast deadline. I think you know that we remain open to engaging the Government of Japan, of helping support their own policy review. We believe that the realignment roadmap that we’ve already agreed to is the best plan for reducing the burden on the people of Okinawa while maintaining our very important security relationship with Japan.
QUESTION: Can you go over what Kurt Campbell discussed with the U.S. – or the Japanese Diet member that was visiting on Friday?
MR. KELLY: I understand that he did meet with a Japanese Diet member. And – but I don’t know the actual substance of their exchanges. And I’m not sure that we would share that anyway, except to reiterate that we remain open to this dialogue.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. want to move the Marines off of Okinawa to the Japanese mainland?
MR. KELLY: I think what we want to do is we believe the best plan out there is this realignment roadmap, so we look forward to talking to the Japanese Government about how best to implement that.
QUESTION: Last week in her speech, Secretary Clinton warned Latin American countries that relations with Iran could have consequences. And Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez says he regards that statement as an overt threat. I’m wondering do you – does the Department see that as a threat? And can you let us know what kinds of consequences the Secretary may have been talking about? Are those consequences with bilateral ties with the United States?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think I’m going to let the Secretary’s words speak for themselves. I think what we’re all talking about is the need for unity in the international community in sending a very clear message to Iran that they need to abide by the wishes of the international community to make their nuclear energy program more transparent, and to engage with us as we’ve offered to do, and implement a very reasonable proposal that was made in Vienna, which would help us raise that level of confidence in the real intentions of their program, at the same time helping the Iranians with their own humanitarian needs.
And I think that we’re still focused on our dual-track approach, a willingness to engage, but also at the same time, also looking at other options, what we call the pressure track. And I think we’ve seen that Iran has had a very difficult time coming up with a positive answer to this very reasonable proposal of the IAEA. And you’ve also seen what the President has said is that we’re willing to give them some time. The engagement door will remain open. But the longer they take to get to yes on our offer of engagement, the more we’re going to look at the pressure track. And I think that all countries should be aware of that.
QUESTION: So in the case of, for instance, she mentioned specifically Bolivia, which presumably, doesn’t have a big hand in Iran’s nuclear program, what kinds of consequences does Bolivia face if they just are being friendly with Iran generally?
MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me to get into the specifics of what kind of options we would look at under the pressure track, and I’m just not prepared to do that right now.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that real quick?
MR. KELLY: Kirit, yeah.
QUESTION: Has there been anything over the past week or so, or even the last couple of days, that has led you to believe Iran might take you up on the LEU offer? And can you tell us if there’s a P-5+1 meeting in the cards in the next week or so?
MR. KELLY: Regarding the first question, the short answer is no. I mean, I don’t think we’ve seen much to really give us much encouragement that they will accept this very reasonable proposal of the IAEA.
Regarding a P-5+1 meeting, I think that it’s been decided that because of scheduling difficulties, that it won’t be possible this year. I think that they will – they look forward to continuing to consult, as they do on a frequent basis, the political directors of the P-5+1. I would expect that they will continue to consult and probably have one more type – consultation probably by telephone before the end of the year.
QUESTION: End of the year or end of the week?
MR. KELLY: I think by the end of the year, not necessarily by the end of the week.
QUESTION: So who has the scheduling difficulties of each of the six parties?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think – well, we were ready to do it. I’m just – I’m not going to comment on what other countries may have had the scheduling difficulty.
QUESTION: China or Russia?
MR. KELLY: Again, I’m not going to comment on who may have had the difficulty.
QUESTION: Some of the other powers don’t consider it as big a priority as we do?
MR. KELLY: I’m not going to comment on that, Desmond. We are unified in our need to send a clear message to Iran that they have to oblige – or abide by their obligations.
QUESTION: They just can’t find the time?
MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: They just can’t find the time before the end of the year?
MR. KELLY: Well, no, they will find the time. Whether they can all come together in one place, I think – there’s a lot of traveling involved and a lot of scheduling, and telephone conversations are a lot easier to organize.
QUESTION: But Ian, this is a high priority. I mean --
MR. KELLY: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- we all know that there is a deadline that the President is talking about by the end of the year --
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for Iran to do what the world community wants it to do. So can we expect that there will be some type of movement quickly at the beginning of this coming year?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think – first of all, I think that the – as I suggested, I think that the political directors of the P-5+1 do still need to consult, and I think that will happen. It’s just not going to happen with the meeting. And no one has set a specific timetable for looking at other options. But the President’s made clear that his – that we will be looking, or shifting our focus more and more to the pressure track as Iran is unable to come up with a good answer.
QUESTION: What do you mean, no one set a specific timetable for looking at other options?
MR. KELLY: Well, the end of the year --
QUESTION: The guy who lives down the road has set one.
MR. KELLY: The end of the year. Is that what you mean, Matt?
QUESTION: Yeah. Is that not specific?
MR. KELLY: Well, that’s – yeah, okay, fair enough. He hasn’t given a date certainly, but – well, I guess December 31st is the date. Okay, your point is taken.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. KELLY: Yes.
QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, apparently, there – in the beginning of the year, some people have alluded to a kind of policy review. And I was wondering if what – if that has gone anywhere and what necessarily the policy is towards Sri Lanka. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee report is kind of softer on human rights concerns, citing more, you know, pragmatic political issues, and human rights organizations have been very critical of that. So, I was wondering where we are on a new policy towards Sri Lanka.
MR. KELLY: That’s a very good question. I know that the review is – has not been completed. It hasn’t gone to the principals yet. And yes, I’m aware that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has issued their report.
Assistant Secretary Blake has been traveling. He went to India and he’s en route to Astana, to Kazakhstan. He should get back, I think, probably mid-week or later. And let’s see if we can get you an update on where we are. It’s a good question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I just switch over to Afghanistan quickly? Are you able to comment on this report out of Kabul that sources Lieutenant General David Rodriguez saying the troop surge is going to take now nine to eleven months for the troops to get into country, as opposed to the previously planned six months?
MR. KELLY: Well, I need just to say that this is a real priority not just for the Defense Department, for the State Department, too, to try and implement the President’s strategy. I think in regards – the actual physical logistics of how we get the people, especially soldiers, I mean, I can – we can talk to the State Department side of this, and we will, but for the Defense Department side of it, I think you’ve got to talk to the Pentagon on how they actually get each brigade and all the different troops that have been designated into the theater.
QUESTION: But do you believe that’s accurate now that the timeline has shifted? And does that make the exit strategy --
MR. KELLY: Again, I think that’s really – you’re asking me issues of the military implementation and the President’s strategy, so I really have to refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Yeah. At – the weekend, a number of Afghan police were killed by the Taliban. They were guarding, I think, NATO convoys into Afghanistan. What does this say about the readiness of the police? I mean, if they were designated to protect such convoys, they must have been considered pretty good by NATO. So doesn’t this say something – doesn’t it raise a red flag about training?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that the Afghan Government and ISAF and the international community that’s participating in this effort are particularly concerned about Afghan policemen because they are – I mean, they are all over the country. Obviously, they provide a presence on the ground and they, of course, are vulnerable – perhaps the most vulnerable of all the security forces – and an important part of our transition to Afghanistan providing for their own security will be this police training effort.
Lach, I don’t know the details of this particular incident, so I don’t know what it says necessarily about their capability. But I do know that we are concerned about their vulnerability.
QUESTION: Ian, I’m led to believe that you may have an answer to my China question.
MR. KELLY: It’s in there?
MR. KELLY: Oh, it’s – (laughter) --
QUESTION: Hot off the press.
MR. KELLY: Hot off the press.
The U.S. Government is concerned that Chinese citizens such as Mr. Liu may have been detained or harassed solely as a result of having exercised their universal right to freedom of expression by signing Charter ‘08, which calls for respect for human rights and democratic reform. We urge the Government of China to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms, including the right to petition one’s government.
We have raised our concerns about Mr. Liu’s detention repeatedly and at high levels, both in Beijing and in Washington, since he was taken into custody a year ago.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
DPB # 211
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