Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 12, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • BENIN
    • Death of Peace Corps Volunteer
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • Response to Sectarian Murders / U.S. Supports Peace and Reconciliation
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Assistant Secretary Dan Fried to Lead Team Facilitating Transfer of Guantanamo Bay Detainees
  • NORTH KOREA
    • North Korea Notifies International Agencies on April Launch
    • This Act Will Destabilize the Region / U.S. Will Consult with Partners
  • MEXICO
    • U.S. Mexico Bilateral Relationship / Policy Dinner Tonight / Attendees
    • Travel Alert / Mexican Government is Concerned About Violence
  • IRAN
    • No Update on Roxana Saberi
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Secretary Clinton's Attendance at March 31 Afghanistan Conference at The Hague
  • TURKEY
    • Secretary Clinton's Discussions in Ankara
  • CHINA
    • Comments by Chinese Foreign Ministry on U.S. Naval Operations
  • PAKISTAN
    • Department of State Communication with Senior Officials in Pakistan
    • No Update on John Solecki / U.S. Wants Him Released
  • IRAQ
    • Sentencing of Shoe Thrower


TRANSCRIPT:

1:20 p.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I’m going to start off with three announcements, sort of statements. First and foremost, this is with regard to the death of the Peace Corps volunteer. The State Department was saddened by the news of the death of a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Benin, West Africa, during the early morning hours of March 12. The female volunteer was found outside her home and identified by colleagues and friends at the school where she worked as a teacher.

The Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington will be contacting the volunteer’s next of kin. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou has dispatched a regional security officer and other personnel to the village, several hours away from the capital. The Government of Benin has expressed condolences to the U.S. Government and pledged full cooperation and support in this matter.

The State Department expresses our deepest condolences to the family of the volunteer and the Peace Corps. We will provide further information as it becomes available.

Second – yes.

QUESTION: I wasn’t aware of this, but perhaps I’m a little bit behind. This was not a natural death, I assume?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know the details yet. We’ll try to provide those once they become available. What I have is what I’ve just given you.

Next, on Northern Ireland. The United States commends the people of Northern Ireland and the authorities of the United Kingdom and Ireland for their constructive response to the recent sectarian murders. It is clear that the vast majority of people reject violence and murders – and murder because they are tools of terrorism, not politics. The United States will continue to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and will be a steadfast partner of the people of Northern Ireland as they turn back threats to the peace process. And we commend all parties in Northern Ireland for their firm response to those few who seek to obstruct political reconciliation and destroy the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland.

Final item. In order to carry out President Obama’s commitment to close the detention facility at Guantanamo within one year, the Secretary has determined we need to intensify our efforts to facilitate the transfer of detainees. She therefore has asked Ambassador Dan Fried, a seasoned diplomat with a strong record of accomplishment, to lead a dedicated team to address this issue full-time. Ambassador Fried’s extensive experience will be an invaluable asset as we seek the assistance of foreign governments in moving toward the closure of the detention facility.

Over the last several years, the task of negotiating transfers of detainees from Guantanamo has fallen to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and his staff, whose primary function, historically, has been war crimes matters, in itself a full time job. This shift provides the benefit of also ensuring that the ambassador-at-large and his team can devote their full attention to war crime matters, which are of critical importance to this Administration.

Assistant Secretary Fried will continue in his current position until a new Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs is confirmed by the Senate.

And with that, I will take your questions.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Northern Ireland, is the Administration any closer to naming an envoy to replace former Under Secretary Dobriansky, who had that particular portfolio?

MR. WOOD: No decision has been made yet as to whether – to name a special envoy for Northern Ireland.

QUESTION: And just one on Assistant Secretary Fried. Was he chosen because of his experience in Europe and the hope that that will help in persuading European nations to accept many of the remaining detainees?

MR. WOOD: I think if you look at Assistant Secretary Fried’s background, he’s got a great deal of experience in working with countries in Europe and other places around the globe. You know, the Secretary felt that in order to help facilitate this process, we need somebody who’s got the skills, the insight who can do this. And she felt that Dan, and others felt that Dan was the appropriate choice for this.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t have anything to do with – I mean, I did look at – his background up and most of it really has been Europe, Soviet Union --

MR. WOOD: That’s right.

QUESTION: -- Poland. It has nothing to do with the geographic --

MR. WOOD: Well, clearly, there are a number of countries in Europe that we have approached on this subject as – and we’ve approached countries from other parts of the world. So as I said, you know, the Secretary feels that Dan is the best candidate for this job, and I know he looks forward to taking on this assignment.

QUESTION: And Clint Williamson, what is he going to do now?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I haven’t talked to Clint about it.

QUESTION: Well, what is that job going to – I mean, is that just --

MR. WOOD: You’re talking about the war crimes, I assume?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. WOOD: We’ll continue to focus on those – you know, on war crimes issues.

QUESTION: But will no longer be involved at all and --

MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t say, you know, definitively that, no, that particular position, or the incumbent in that position will not have any role at all. I don’t want to say that. This is certainly an effort, you know, where we will draw on resources from other elements of the State Department and outside of the State Department.

QUESTION: On the issue of transferring detainees, the Secretary said in Brussels last week that she was encouraged by the European response. Has there been anything since then to get further encouragement or are you waiting for Dan Fried to get on board?

MR. WOOD: Well, we will continue to have discussions with European countries, even prior, you know, to when Dan takes over the job, so – but I don’t have anything to update you from her conversations in Brussels on that.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. WOOD: New subject – a new subject? Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. The North Koreans have notified several UN agencies that they do plan on launching a rocket or launching something in early April.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, our understanding is that the DPRK informed the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization that they intend, sometime – I think within the first week of April – to launch some sort of experimental communication satellite.

Our view remains the same. You know, any launch of a long-range missile by North Korea would, in our view, be a provocative act and certainly be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718. And so we think the North needs to desist or not carry out this type of provocative act, and sit down with the other members of the Six-Party Talks, and work on the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: What do you make of their timing? That’s expected – you know, the first – early part of April is when the G-20 leaders are gathering. Do you think there’s any connection there?

MR. WOOD: As I’ve said many times, hard to get into the mindset of Pyongyang. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Robert, yesterday, Secretary Clinton said that there were a range of options to respond should North Korea proceed with such a test. And she later said that U.S. partners were open to dealing with this in the UN Security Council. Well, why is there any reason – one, can you give us any better sense of what those options might be? And two, why is there any reason to believe that another Security Council resolution would dissuade North Korea from such acts, given that it has flouted them in the past?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think it’s hard to say what will influence North Korea. We just don’t know. What we want to try to do is work with our partners and others around the world who share this interest in preventing the North from carrying out this type of provocative act. The only thing that this act would do is to destabilize the region. And as you know, this region doesn’t need any further destabilization. And so what we are going to try to do is convince the North not to carry out this launch. It is indeed provocative. And we will work, as I said, with others to try to see what we can do to head this off.

In terms of what we may do, I don’t want to get ahead of the process, but we certainly have options that we will look at, and we will obviously consult with our partners on this. And again, we would say to the North not to take this type of action. It’s – as I said, it’s provocative, it’s not helpful, and it’s destabilizing.

QUESTION: Do you plan on making this argument anywhere other than from the podium? In other words, are you planning on directly telling the North Koreans?

MR. WOOD: There is – look, there is diplomatic activity that’s going on with regard to this issue. I don’t want to get ahead of that.

QUESTION: The New York channel or the intermediaries?

MR. WOOD: I don’t want to specify it. I’m just – you know, be assured that, you know, that this something that we are addressing with a number of countries.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but with North Korea?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to get beyond that. Let me just leave it where I left it.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s all well and good for you to stand up here and say this to us and, by extension, to – perhaps to the North Koreans if they happen to listen. But I’m just wondering if the North Korean --

MR. WOOD: The North is well aware of our position on this. It’s been made very clear.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but you know, they just made this notification today. So are there plans to raise this, since – you know, since their notification, are there plans to raise this directly with them?

MR. WOOD: Matt, I’m just going to leave it where I left it. I don’t want to go beyond that. But as I mentioned, this is a matter of great concern to not just the United States, but other countries, and we’re here to do what we can to try to get the North to reverse this decision.

QUESTION: Can we go to Mexico?

MR. WOOD: Anybody on this issue before we – okay, please.

QUESTION: No, not on --

MR. WOOD: No, this lady behind you.

QUESTION: Yeah, does the Secretary have any plans to send Ambassador Bosworth to Korea? I think she said that – yesterday that he was ready to go Pyonyang if there was any invitation.

MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of any plans at this point. I mean, that could change. But at this point, there are no plans.

New subject?

QUESTION: Robert, on Mexico?

MR. WOOD: I just want to make --

QUESTION: Yes. I wanted to ask about this policy dinner that was listed on the schedule. What’s the agenda and who’s participating? Is it just a U.S. Government meeting or --

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have the list of who’s attending. But the Secretary plans to hold, you know, a number of policy dinners on a range of subjects throughout her tenure. And this is just another one of those dinners. And she’s going to be very interested to hear the attendees and their views on the situation in Mexico – the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. And, you know, that’s what I have.

QUESTION: Is it like experts or --

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have the list, but it’s people who are obviously very familiar with the country of Mexico who are, you know, experts and others who have an interest. She wants to try to tap into as wide a variety of views on Mexico and the bilateral relationship as she can.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: So it’s people outside the government in addition to inside (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I believe there – you know, I mean, I believe that there will be people from outside the government who will be on that guest list. I just don’t have a list in front of me.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up? A couple of weeks ago, you released the Travel Warning for Mexico. Now that spring break season is upon us, do you have any advice for young people considering traveling to Mexico or planning to travel to Mexico? What is the State Department advice to those people?

MR. WOOD: Well, every year, many young people, other tourists go to Mexico. As I’ve said before, I travel to Mexico regularly. It’s a great --

QUESTION: Do you? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Well, what’s wrong with that? What did I --

QUESTION: Well, (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Okay, I’m guilty. I have gone down at least once in my life for spring break. But look, Mexico is a wonderful place to go and vacation. People just need to, you know, take sensible precautions to protect themselves. I don’t have anything more to say on it than that. I mean, it’s just using common sense and taking necessary precautions.

QUESTION: But considering the uptick --

QUESTION: Can I follow on that, please?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Considering the uptick in violence there, you know, with the drug cartels, there’s no extra special caution you’re extending to the spring break season?

MR. WOOD: Well, we have issued, you know, travel notices for the American people about Mexico. But again, what we’re talking about here is just basic common sense, not doing things that you – you know, that you wouldn’t do normally. You know, Mexico, like many other countries, has issues with crime. But if you’re sensible and you take the right steps and exercise caution, you’ll have a great trip.

QUESTION: I thought that was the entire – that’s the utter antithesis of spring break, being sensible and doing – (laughter) – so are you –

MR. WOOD: Let’s not delve into your history with spring break, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. I think you are the one who just admitted that you went --

MR. WOOD: Okay, I’ve gone to Mexico on spring break, yes.

QUESTION: Is there basic common sense in Mexico on spring break?

MR. WOOD: I’ve used common sense. I’m still with us.

QUESTION: Is there a reason – well, what’s the deal with the timing of this? Why Mexico? Why today?

MR. WOOD: Look, as I said --

QUESTION: I mean, the – I’m talking about the dinner.

MR. WOOD: Yeah. Well, Mexico is an important country for the United States. I mean, that’s very clear. And there are some issues that we have with Mexico. And the Secretary is very interested in --

QUESTION: Yes, but is there a particular reason why she is having a Mexico policy dinner today, you know, Thursday, March 11th – well, 12th?

MR. WOOD: The Secretary felt that she wanted to have a dinner at this time, so she’s doing that.

QUESTION: Is the Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, attending the dinner?

MR. WOOD: I honestly don’t know. I’ll see if I can get you a list of who is attending. I think it’s a fair question.

Please.

QUESTION: Still on Mexico. You know, recently, Mr. Blair has mentioned that with the problem with the narcotraffickers in Mexico, the federal government doesn’t have control of some parts of the territory. Today, President Calderon has declared there is a campaign against Mexico by the U.S. Government. And he’s invited any official from the U.S. Government to make like, a tour to Mexico City to show them that he has the control of the country.

What’s your response to that? Is there really a campaign against Mexico or is your vision – is the U.S. mission that Mexico is not safe and not as – not for terrorists, but in general? Why you don’t say that?

MR. WOOD: No. First of all, there is no campaign against the Government of Mexico. We do have concerns about the violence on the border. There is no secret. The Mexican Government is very concerned about it. It’s taking steps to try to do what it can to, you know, stop this violence. But as I said, you know, with regard to people traveling to Mexico, Mexico is a friendly country. It’s an open country. It’s a very warm and hospitable country. And people just need to exercise caution when they travel there.

QUESTION: Just (inaudible). Mr. Blair didn’t say one time that argument. He mentioned it three times in the last couple – two weeks on Capitol Hill, the same argument.

MR. WOOD: Well, I was responding to the question.

QUESTION: I mean, what’s the problem? You don’t share information with the Director of National Intelligence, or what’s the difference? I mean, you say one thing and he says other thing. There is no coordination in the U.S. Government?

MR. WOOD: There is coordination in the U.S. Government. I just outlined for you what the U.S. – what the State Department’s position is with regard to Mexico and travel to Mexico, and I also spelled out for you that there are – that with regard to Mexico, the United States Government is not, you know, trying to hatch any plan against Mexico. That’s just not the case.

We work cooperatively with the Government of Mexico on a range of issues, including fighting narcotics trafficking and border crime. We will continue to do that, and we have a good relationship with the government of President Calderon, and I have addressed the issue of tourists going to Mexico. I think people need to understand that there are going to be issues between the United States and Mexico, as there are between the United States and other countries. We try to work on those differences as best we can, and I think I’ve spoken to your question.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, one more on Mexico.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Specifically, Obama briefed some regional reporters yesterday and he said that he’s considering bringing in the National Guard to supplement troops that are already on the border. Can you talk about this at all? What would be the trigger point that would prompt the President to do that?

MR. WOOD: Well, you’re – look, I would first of all refer you to the White House for, you know, comments that President Obama has made. I’ve just – I think I’ve said all that I can say on the issue of Mexico at this moment.

Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the case of Roxana Saberi?

MR. WOOD: I did check yesterday. We have no update at this point. As soon as there is an update, we’ll be happy to let you know, because we are following this case very – as you know, very closely.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you give me any indication of what avenues you’re exploring?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, we’ve been working, of course, through our Swiss protecting partner – power, excuse me. And we’re, you know, making pleas to the Iranian Government, and we will, you know, as I said, continue to work on this case. But I don’t have any further update right now on it.

The gentleman back here, please.

QUESTION: Robert, yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia said that a big international conference on Afghanistan will take place March 27. But he didn’t mention who will be representing U.S. side. He said high-ranking – a U.S. high-ranking official.

MR. WOOD: March 20 – are you talking about March 27 or --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. WOOD: -- March 31 conference?

QUESTION: Maybe I’m mistaken. It’s at the end of March.

MR. WOOD: Yeah, the March 31 conference is being hosted by the Government of the Netherlands. It’ll take place in The Hague.

QUESTION: Well, then it’s not correct, because Ambassador Beyrle said that it’s going to be Moscow.

MR. WOOD: Well, there – I’m not aware of, you know, a date for a Moscow conference. I just gave you what I had in terms of a conference on Afghanistan that will take place in The Hague.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: The Hague?

MR. WOOD: That’s The Hague. I checked. It is The Hague.

QUESTION: And that – and the conference is definitely happening?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. As far as I know, it is happening, yes.

QUESTION: And who will represent the U.S.? Will it be Secretary Clinton?

MR. WOOD: She – Secretary Clinton will represent us.

QUESTION: With Holbrooke?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t seen the actual list of delegation yet, but I would expect that Ambassador Holbrooke would be part of that delegation.

QUESTION: And has Iran accepted an invitation?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know yet. You might want to check with the Dutch Government on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Greece and Cyprus, Mr. Wood, in answer to my pending question if Mrs. Clinton discussed the Greek issues and the Cyprus problem during her visit in Ankara, you told me the other day that you are going to look into that.

MR. WOOD: We didn’t get you an answer on that? I’m sorry. Well, I’ll get you an answer on that, Mr. Lambros. I thought we would --

QUESTION: There’s no answer today?

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say – I just said I’ll try and get you an answer.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: On China, today the Chinese Defense Ministry demanded that the U.S. Navy end surveillance missions. Do you have a general reaction to that?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t seen the statement, but, you know, the United States will continue to operate in international waters as it has been doing. And I don’t have anything beyond that.

QUESTION: Do you not consider this something of a slight considering that --

MR. WOOD: Well, I haven’t really seen the comments, so I want to refrain from saying anything further until I’ve actually seen them.

QUESTION: Can you take it as a taken question if I can --

MR. WOOD: Sure, sure, absolutely.

QUESTION: Robert, a follow-up to that.

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton said that she had reached – or had indicated that she had reached some kind of understanding with her counterpart on this. What was that understanding?

MR. WOOD: Well, the understanding that they reached was to try to make sure that these types of incidents don’t happen again, and they’ll obviously – our two governments will be working on an appropriate mechanism to ensure that, as I said, that type of thing doesn’t happen.

QUESTION: But the obvious follow-up to that is if there is this disagreement that appears to be about that international waters and whether the U.S. should be allowed to operate there, then clearly, you haven’t reached an agreement.

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I haven’t seen these remarks, so I don’t know what the context is here. But let me just say that the United States, with regard to this particular incident, was clearly operating in international waters. We were respecting international law. We will continue to do that. And as I said, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Yang spoke about this issue, and both agreed that they wanted to – we wanted to create – we wanted to make sure that these types of incidents don’t recur. They’re not helpful to trying to carry on the positive agenda that we have in our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Yeah, do you have anything to say about Ambassador – former Ambassador Charles Freeman’s allegations that the, quote/unquote, “Israel lobby” bought his nomination or appointment --

MR. WOOD: I have nothing.

QUESTION: -- and whether it influences American foreign policy more broadly?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything on that.

Sir.

QUESTION: During the last 12 hours, Ambassador Holbrooke has spoken to president of Pakistan, then he called separately prime minister of Pakistan. Would you tell us what U.S. is trying to communicate to Pakistani Government at this point?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’ll also add that Ambassador Patterson spoke to Nawaz Sharif yesterday in Lahore. He was in Lahore. And the point that Ambassador Patterson made, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke, is that we want to see the situation dealt with in accordance to the rule of law in Pakistan, that violence be avoided, and that any impediments to peaceful and democratic activities not be put in place. And we’re continuing to watch the situation, as I said yesterday, and we will continue to engage the Government of Pakistan in discussions as well as other parties to try to make sure that this – that what transpires in Pakistan is dealt with within the content of Pakistan’s constitution.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you state for the record who Ambassador Holbrooke spoke to?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, I’m sorry, I should have been very clear on that. He spoke to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani.

QUESTION: Has the Administration yet taken a position on what it thinks about the events in the last two days?

MR. WOOD: I gave that – gave you the position yesterday, where we stand with regard to that. We want to see --

QUESTION: You mean you gave us the non-position position?

MR. WOOD: That’s your characterization. Our position --

QUESTION: Well, your position was that you support the freedom of assembly and --

MR. WOOD: Do you have a problem with that?

QUESTION: I don’t have a problem with it at all. I’m just wondering if you have a position on the Pakistani Government’s decision to restrict freedom of assembly.

MR. WOOD: And I think I addressed your question just a moment ago, that we – you know, we discourage any impediments to peaceful and democratic activities.

QUESTION: Robert --

MR. WOOD: Yes, Kirit. Kirit’s been waiting. Let me --

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that you were waiting to make an assessment on what had happened; you couldn't tell from where you were standing. Now, 24 hours later, can you give an assessment whether some of the people that have been rounded up in advance of the protest, whether you think that isn’t such an impediment to the constitutional process and the rule of law?

MR. WOOD: Well, Kirit, without going into a lot of detail, you know, Ambassador Patterson and Ambassador Holbrooke have been talking to the Pakistani Government about this issue. Our Embassy has had conversations with other elements of Pakistani society about this. We are still trying to, you know, formulate a good assessment, but obviously, the fact that these calls were placed means that we are concerned about the situation. And we want to make sure that no violence takes place and that, as I said, that all differences are resolved within the political construct of Pakistan’s constitution.

QUESTION: Do you think the people who were rounded up yesterday should be released?

MR. WOOD: That’s a decision that’s going to have to – that’s a decision for the Pakistani people. It’s not for me here at the podium to make.

QUESTION: Well, no one is expecting you to say, yes, they should – that yes, release them.

MR. WOOD: He just asked me to make.

QUESTION: No, I mean, he’s not – the decision on whether to release them, of course, is going to be up to the Pakistani authorities. But does the United States thinks that – think that the Pakistanis should release them? I mean, that’s a pretty straightforward question.

MR. WOOD: Our --

QUESTION: Obviously, it’s not up to you whether to release them or not, but you can say whether you want them to be released.

MR. WOOD: What I’m saying is that that is going to be a decision that’s taken by the people of Pakistan, not by the United States Government.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re asking them to remove impediments to freedom of assembly, surely incarcerating people a day before a planned rally or a protest would appear to constitute an impediment.

MR. WOOD: Like I said, you know, we discourage any impediments that are put in place to peaceful and democratic activities. That’s pretty clear.

QUESTION: But you can’t say whether you think that the roundup – the people rounded up should be released?

MR. WOOD: Well, one of the things that I said earlier was that you had Ambassador Patterson and Ambassador Holbrooke having discussions with the Pakistani Government and making our views known, and also through our Embassy speaking with other elements of Pakistani society. And you know, by doing that, you hope to develop a good assessment. But initially, what I’m saying with regard to some of the activities that are going on on the ground in Pakistan, we wanted just to make sure and make clear to everyone that peaceful democratic activity needs to take place in Pakistan. Violence is something we don’t need. And that’s where we’re at.

QUESTION: In Iraq --

MR. WOOD: Let me take a couple other – please.

QUESTION: Thank you. I would like to follow up the DPRK missile issue. I’m wondering that to – before the – before its – before DPRK will launch a so-called satellite, will the United States take any kind of diplomatic action to avoid it?

MR. WOOD: I think I said that earlier in response to another question.

Look – please.

QUESTION: Yes, follow up her questions. Do you think it’s very unprecedented for North Korea to announce of future missile with a specific date on it. Do you think it’s an interesting shift?

MR. WOOD: As I’ve said many times, I couldn't possibly tell you what the thinking is within the North Korean leadership.

QUESTION: Right, but you don’t have to guess. You know, what’s your – do you think it’s an interesting point?

MR. WOOD: It’s not for me to say whether something is interesting or not. I’m just giving you – I’ve given you what our policy is and my views on, you know, the North Korean leadership.

Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah. The shoe thrower has been sentenced today, as I’m sure you’re aware. The incident involved the former President of the United States.

MR. WOOD: I do remember.

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Well, you just looked a little confused.

MR. WOOD: No, no, not at all.

QUESTION: What do you – well, do you think that the sentence is appropriate? What’s your reaction to it?

MR. WOOD: It’s a matter for the Iraqi judicial system, Matt. We’ve said that before. I can say it one more time, if you like.

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you think that three years in prison is an appropriate sentence for someone who threw a shoe at the President and missed? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: Internal Iraqi matter, Matt.

Lambros.

QUESTION: On Pakistan. Mr. Wood, on the U.S. citizen John Solecki case, Amnesty International wrote, quote, “High-profile public action may not always be in the best interest of the hostage,” unquote. Do you have anything on this case?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have any update for you on this, Mr. Lambros. But we’re obviously very concerned about his well-being. We want to see him released. It’s a real concern. We’re doing everything that we can to try to see him released. But I don’t have any further update.

QUESTION: Do you communicated with Amnesty International on this specific case?

MR. WOOD: Well, we talk to a number of international players, NGOs and others, about this case, because we’re obviously trying to get as much information as we can and do what we can to bring him back safely.

Anything else? Thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - March 12]