Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 29, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Consular Affairs Brenda Sprague
    • Implementation of Land and Sea Border Crossing Requirements Begins June 1, 2009
    • Americans Will Need WHTI-Compliant Documents
    • Department of State is Ready for Implementation
    • Explanation of Various Forms of ID
    • Statistics on Passports
    • Strong Unified Response Required to North Korea's Defiance
    • Most US Efforts Have Been Concentrated at the UN/Consultations Continuing at Expert Level
    • Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg is Leading an Interagency Delegation, Including the National Security Council, Department of Defense, and Department of The Treasury
    • US is Working for Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Benefiting the Region and the World
    • North Korea's Actions Must Have Consequences
    • Embassy Spoke to Russian Foreign Ministry/Confident Russia Believes in Need for Strong Action to Respond to North Korea
    • China is Actively Involved in Consultations and is Playing a Constructive Role
    • Detainment of American Citizens in North Korea is a Separate Issue
  • CUBA
    • US Welcomes the Day Cuba May Join OAS
    • Prerequisite for Joining Requires Cuban Adoption of OAS Democratic Standards
    • Secretary Spoke with Indian Foreign Minister/Private and Confidential Conversation
  • IRAN
    • US Condemns Bombing in Zahedan in Strongest Possible Terms/Extends Sympathy to the Families of Those Injured or Killed
    • US Strongly Condemns Sectarian Driven Violence/All Forms of Terrorism/Does Not Sponsor any Form of Terrorism
    • US Continues to Work with the International Community to Prevent Attacks Against Innocent Civilians Worldwide
    • US Deeply Disturbed by Press Reports that the Beijing Judicial Bureau Refused to Renew Licenses of 18 Civil Rights Lawyers/Urges that Human Rights Lawyers in China be Given Full Scope to Practice Law
    • US Seeks to Build Positive, Cooperative, and Comprehensive Relationship with China
    • US Continues to Raise Human Rights Cases in China


12:53 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Listen, let me first of all say that we have a special guest star today to begin the briefing. Brenda Sprague --

MS. SPRAGUE: That’s right.

MR. KELLY: -- who is Deputy Assistant Secretary in our Bureau of Consular Affairs, head of the passport part of our operations in Consular Affairs. And our Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative begins on Monday.

So, Brenda, could you make some introductory remarks? And she’ll be glad to take some questions, and then I’ll be glad to take questions afterwards.

MS. SPRAGUE: Good – I guess, it’s good afternoon by now. Implementation of the land and sea border crossing requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, better known as WHTI, begins Monday, June 1st. This is the day that Americans will need WHTI-compliant documents in order to cross land and sea borders into the United States. WHTI-compliant documents verify both the identity and citizenship of the individual in a single document, which must be presented to the border official.

The WHTI air requirement went into effect in January of 2007. In the following months, there was an unprecedented surge in demand for WHTI-compliant documents, particularly the U.S. passport. The State Department was unable to keep abreast of the workload, resulting in significant inconvenience for the American traveling public. As a result, the scheduled implementation of the land-sea border crossing documentation requirements were delayed until June 1st, 2009.

We have been preparing for this day for some time and have made significant investments in personnel, equipment and facilities. We have communicated information about this change through an extensive outreach campaign by the Department of State and by our colleagues at Homeland Security. We are ready. The WHTI-compliant documents include: a passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card, or an enhanced driver’s license. The passport book is valid for all international travel: air, land, and sea. The passport card, trusted traveler card, and enhanced driver’s licenses are only valid for land and sea border crossings between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

While passport issuance for this year is down slightly from the previous two years, overall, the percentage of Americans with valid passports has increased significantly since 2005, going from 20 percent at that time, to over 30 percent today. We anticipate that we will issue approximately 13 million passports this year, which is significantly less than the 18.5 million passports we issued in 2007, and the 16 million passports in 2008.

Children under the age of 16 do not require WHTI-compliant documents. Individuals 18 and under who are traveling as part of a youth group, such as a sports team, are not required to present WHTI-compliant documents. I encourage you to visit the DHS website getyouhome.gov, and our own website travel.state.gov. I’d be happy to take any questions that you have.

QUESTION: What’s the difference between a passport card, a trusted traveler card and the enhanced driver’s license?

MS. SPRAGUE: Passport card is issued by the Department of State. It has the same – adjudicated to the same high standards as the U.S. passport. The other two cards are issued according to standards issued by Department of Homeland Security, the trusted traveler card, and enhanced driver’s licenses are issued by the states in accordance with their own standards. So the federal standard for citizenship and identification is represented by the passport card. The WHTI documents that are issued by Homeland Security have their own standards and complications and requirements that are different from ours, and the enhanced driver’s licenses are adjudicated according to state standards.

QUESTION: And if I’m sort of an ordinary citizen, how do I figure out which – which one will suit my needs if I go back and forth to – I don’t know – Canada twice a week or –

MS. SPRAGUE: If you travel both by land and sea, or if you have any plans in the next ten years of going somewhere internationally other than the Western Hemisphere, then I’d invest in the book. It’s the premier document. If you routinely go across the border and you have no intention of – by land and you have absolutely no intention of flying anywhere, then the passport book – passport card is a very cost-effective alternative, very durable, very portable.

Enhanced driver’s licenses, as compared to passport cards, are – they also let you drive, which is good, and they’re only good usually for shorter periods of time. The enhanced – the secure traveler cards that are issued by WHTI are for shorter durations and have other requirements; however, they really do – if you’re traveling through all the time, they can make a significant difference at the borders. They do have separate lanes and you can get through a lot faster.

QUESTION: Which states have the acceptable enhanced driver’s license?

MS. SPRAGUE: I’m going to miss one, but I think it’s Vermont, New York, Washington state, and Michigan is in the process of rolling theirs out.

QUESTION: And what is the difference between a driver license and an enhanced driver license?

MS. SPRAGUE: The enhanced driver’s license also indicates your citizenship, and it meets the standards of the REAL ID Act in terms of verifying the data that has been presented to the driver’s license office. Most states have not chosen to comply with REAL ID.


QUESTION: Well, I understand that it would soon be a state issue. But why are the only states that have the enhanced driver’s licenses on the Canadian border, not on the Mexican border?

MS. SPRAGUE: It’s a cost factor more than anything else. It’s extremely expensive for a state to roll out a program like this, and the southern border states just chose not to do so.

QUESTION: And speaking of cost factors, you said you’ve invested a lot in personnel and other things over the last few years in getting to where you are today. How much has all this cost?

MS. SPRAGUE: I don’t have an exact dollar figure because we’re fee-based. But I can tell you that we have doubled the number of passport adjudicators. We went from about 700 to over 1,300. We added a second book print facility. We have added – or are in the process of adding four additional passport agencies, and with our stimulus money we’re going to be adding an additional five agencies plus we’re going to be opening counters at some of our facilities that don’t have counters right now.

QUESTION: But are we talking a hundred million or a billion or –

MS. SPRAGUE: Oh, it’s certainly not costing a hundred --

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. I mean –

MS. SPRAGUE: I don’t either, to tell you the truth. I’ll have to take that question.


QUESTION: What’s the average wait time now for a passport?

MS. SPRAGUE: Four to six weeks for a routine, two to three on an expedite for which you pay the extra $60. We try to beat those, but it’s best that people give themselves plenty of time.

QUESTION: And how many people have gotten passport cards?

MS. SPRAGUE: We’re over a million. We’re working on a million two.

QUESTION: And do you actually have the number of the – the pace of passport issuance, the full passport book, so far this year?

MS. SPRAGUE: We are just over seven million coming – we’re more than just over, we’re working on eight million.

QUESTION: And do you remember what the previous two years were?

MS. SPRAGUE: About this time – no, I couldn’t give you the exact --

QUESTION: Or total. Or total.

MS. SPRAGUE: Total – in 2006, at this – we – the total for the year was 16 million. I don’t think there’s any way we’re going to reach that. And the year before that, which was 2007, was 18.5 million. And a good number of those were issued after the 1st of June because that’s when we got – finally we were able to break loose the logjam.

QUESTION: Right. You said that ’06 was 16 million –


QUESTION: But you meant ’08, correct?

MS. SPRAGUE: If I said ’06, I made a mistake. It was ’08 is the 16 million.

QUESTION: And ’07 was 18.5?

MS. SPRAGUE: 18.5.

QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. KELLY: Other questions?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Thanks a lot, Brenda.

MS. SPRAGUE: Thank you very much.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Let me just start off with some comments on an issue I know that’s on all your minds. You know, we’ve – on North Korea, we’ve been --

QUESTION: Oh, I thought it was New Zealand. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: I don’t have anything on New Zealand.

We’ve been clear with our partners that we need a strong and unified response to North Korea’s defiance. And up till now, we’ve concentrated most of our efforts at the UN working with our counterparts at the UN. As you know, Deputy Secretary Steinberg is leading an interagency delegation to the region because we also want to visit with our partners and explore options and approaches directly with them. This delegation is led, as I said, by the State Department by Jim Steinberg. But other agencies include the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and Treasury.

I don’t have, unfortunately, exact details on the itinerary. We’re still working out some of these details on the travel, on the stops, and we’ll provide those details when we have them, when they’re available. I just want to just remind you of our bottom line here. Our bottom line is that we want to denuclearize Korea, a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And this will benefit, we believe, not only the people of North Korea, but also the region and the entire world.

QUESTION: If they’re going to the other four of the five Six-Party Talk partners, why isn’t it safe for us to assume that they’re going to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I mean, we know that – we know Deputy Steinberg is going to Tokyo. We announced that yesterday. We – these are just – these are logistical details that we have to work out. We want to provide you with the fullest information when we have it, and I expect to have it – well, I hope to have it soon.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that they might have – they might not go to all the capitals, that might have --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not – not suggesting that at all.

QUESTION: No, no, no, that people from, say, China might go to Japan and they would meet there?

MR. KELLY: I’m not suggesting anything except we’re still working out the details of this.

QUESTION: Can you give us some names of people who are represented along with Deputy Secretary Steinberg?

MR. KELLY: Unfortunately, I can’t provide you with the details of the names. I’d refer you to the agencies involved.

QUESTION: Why is --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ambassador Bosworth (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Again, I just – I don’t have that information for you.

QUESTION: Why? Can we ask why not? I mean, it seems odd --

MR. KELLY: Well, when we have all the details on the itinerary, on the – exactly where they’re going and who they’re meeting with, we’ll provide that to you.

QUESTION: Just one thing. Ambassador Bosworth is the special representative for North Korean matters, so is there any possibility he’s not going on this trip?

MR. KELLY: Again, I’ll provide you with all the details when I have them.

QUESTION: Ian, you mentioned up to now, we’ve been focusing on the UN Security Council. That seems to indicate that you’re thinking of something else.

MR. KELLY: No, not at all. This is a very serious issue. The President has spoken to the seriousness of it. The Secretary, on several occasions, has spoken to the seriousness of it. We want to explore all approaches. A lot of the focus, of course, is at the UN. The consultations in New York continue with our colleagues, with the permanent members of the Security Council plus South Korea and Japan. There were – there was a meeting of permanent representatives yesterday. Consultations continue at the expert level today. But this is a serious situation, and we’re approaching it in a serious way.

QUESTION: Right. I meant beyond that. In other words, is there a feeling, as some are saying, that this has – that we’re using the various game-changer, that things have changed, that you need something new since what has been used up to this point doesn’t seem to be working?

MR. KELLY: Our goal in this is to – is to make sure that North Korea understands that they’ve made some wrong choices, and we want to get them to reverse course, to come back to engagement with the international community. And as I said before, we think this is in the interests of everybody involved – of the North Koreans, of the people in the region, and the world.

QUESTION: But are you considering something stronger, something new, something different, a really get-tough approach?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, there’s – as I say, it’s a serious situation. We are very actively and intensely involved in consultations. And I just don’t want to – I don’t want to predict one way or another how this is going to come out. We – the Secretary’s been clear that we believe that North Korea’s actions must have consequences, but I’m just not going to stand up here and prejudge one way or another the way we’re going to go with it.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Yesterday, when you spoke about Russia, you said that you were going to ask clarification to the foreign ministry. Did you get this clarification, and do you count on Russia’s support on sanctions?

MR. KELLY: We – our Embassy did go into the foreign ministry. We feel confident that we’re on the same page in terms of the need for strong action to respond to North Korea. And in terms of what exactly Minister – Foreign Minister Lavrov said, I’d just refer you to the Russian foreign ministry.

QUESTION: Okay. And what about China? Do you count on China for possible sanctions?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, China, of course, is very actively involved in us – with us, in consultations. They issued a strong statement on Monday, and they’re playing a constructive role in our talks on how to respond to North Korea.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the ambassador at the UN said today that he didn’t receive any instruction yet from Beijing. So how do you know that you can – you can count on --

MR. KELLY: Well, I’ll just refer back to the – what the Chinese said in their official statement on Monday. We are confident that they’re playing a constructive role in this process.


QUESTION: What more do you think China needs to do in order to play a more constructive role?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, we – this is a – it’s a delicate – it’s a delicate moment in all of our consultations. And I’m just – I’m not going to – I’m not going to stand up here and say exactly what Country A should do or Country B to respond to this. But we – we’re all, I think, unified that we need to have a strong response to it.

QUESTION: And also, what is – what message is Steinberg bringing to the Japanese when he goes to Tokyo?

MR. KELLY: I think Ambassador Steinberg, of course, is going to have the same message to all of our partners, which is the need for a strong, unified response to this, to North Korea’s defiance of the international community.

QUESTION: Ian, you said that you were not going to stand up here and tell Country A or Country B what to do, but in fact, you’re telling North Korea what to do pretty clearly. And so there’s – that’s one thing. But I’m wondering – there are signs now, reported signs – I won’t ask you to comment on the signs themselves – but that they might be preparing for another missile launch, long-range missile launch. How much does that add to the delicacy of the situation?

MR. KELLY: Well, North Korea has to stop with its provocative actions, with its belligerent rhetoric, and return to a constructive role with its partners and – in the Six-Party Talks. And that’s – any such actions we would see as provocative, of course.

QUESTION: Do you have any – following up on North Korea, do you have any details on your own testing of what actually transpired there last Monday?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have any more information for you on that.

QUESTION: Ian, you were talking about making it – making them understand that they made some wrong choices. What is the U.S. doing beyond speaking out in international forum? Are you talking directly to the North Koreans? I mean, is the U.S. making any different approaches that --

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, I – as I’ve said many times before, we think the best approach to demonstrating to North Korea that they’ve made some wrong choices is to show them that what they have done has consequences. They’ve violated UN Resolution 1718, and we need to – we need to make some concrete – take some concrete steps to show them that they are on the wrong path. And we’re doing it in a number of ways. We’re doing it, as I said, at the Security Council. We’re doing it via this trip led by Deputy Secretary Steinberg.

QUESTION: How much does the fact that there are two American citizens in jail right now in North Korea affect the calculation?

MR. KELLY: Well, there are – the issue of North Korea’s defiance of the international community and their very serious actions and the issue of their detention of two American citizens are two entirely separate matters, and I’m not going to comment beyond that.


QUESTION: What’s the Obama Administration thoughts or position on the recent escalation of events in the Niger delta with the government attacking militant camps resulting in mistreatment of civilians? It’s also alleged that the U.S. is helping with equipments and intelligence. I don’t know if you can speak to that.

Secondly, the Government of Nigeria today is alleging or is accusing the U.S. Embassy in Abuja of organizing politicians and civil rights group to meet with Obama when he goes to Ghana in July. So they are accusing the Government of U.S. of sabotage. You know, how would you respond to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen these reports. I would – first of all, I’m not going to comment on any intelligence matters. And I just – I have no other further comment beyond that.

QUESTION: What about the Niger delta? What’s the position of the escalation of events? What’s the position of the Obama Administration?

MR. KELLY: Regarding the Niger delta?


MR. KELLY: You know, I’m afraid I’ll just have to take that question. I don’t know.


QUESTION: In regards to a case with Professor Adam Habib, he was denied a visa into the United States, and during his court case yesterday the State Department issued a statement that said he was involved in terrorist activities and that’s why he was denied a visa. Could you elaborate on terrorist activities, what he was involved in?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’ll refer to our statement of yesterday. And we don’t – we don’t discuss the details of visa applications.

QUESTION: I wasn’t here yesterday. Could you just elaborate on that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’ll just refer you to the statement. It’s on our website.


QUESTION: Did the Secretary call the new Indian foreign minister today or yesterday, and do you have any readout on that?

MR. KELLY: I – she did call the foreign minister, but I don’t have any readout. It was a private and confidential conversation.

QUESTION: What is the topic of the Secretary’s meeting with the President this afternoon?

MR. KELLY: She has – she has regular meetings with the President, and we don’t discuss the substance of their conversations.

QUESTION: I thought her regular one with the President and Vice President Biden was yesterday, wasn’t it? And --

MR. KELLY: Well, she has – she has weekly meetings. But as I – she has regular meetings in addition.

QUESTION: Okay. No, just it was added to the schedule --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and it struck me that maybe there was something new.

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have any – I don’t have any other information on it.

QUESTION: Well, not only was it added to the schedule, but her appearance that was on the schedule from last night at the White House event this morning was removed from the schedule --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s right.

QUESTION: -- because she didn’t go. Is there a reason why she didn’t go?

MR. KELLY: Well, she sent our Acting Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, Mr. Dinger. It’s just that something came up on her schedule where she couldn't – couldn't make it. The White House understood.

QUESTION: Is that why this afternoon meeting was added?

MR. KELLY: There is no connection between the two.


QUESTION: Yes. Next week on Tuesday in Honduras is this OAS meeting. Can you tell me the position that the United States is going to have concerning the possibility of Cuba joining the OAS?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. The Secretary, as you know, is planning to go to Honduras. On the issue of Cuba joining the OAS, I mean, we would welcome the day when Cuba is able to join the OAS. But our position is very clear on that. As the Secretary said a few weeks ago, it’s really up to Cuba whether or not they join the OAS. They have to take certain concrete steps in order to meet democratic principles that define OAS membership. And those steps they need to take are clear: they have to make more moves towards a – toward democratic pluralism; they have to release political prisoners and respect fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: Well, there is still some speculation that the United States would be willing to have a kind of intermediate agreement so that Cuba would enter conditionally, provided --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’m new up here, but I know that I’m not going to talk about anything that’s speculation, so I’m not going to comment on that.


QUESTION: On the questions – sorry. The Secretary’s special advisor on Iran says that progress in the Middle East peace process isn’t linked to bringing peace to the wider region as a whole. Dennis Ross in his upcoming book makes that point. How does that fit with the President’s conceptive linkage with – that dialogue with Iran will help bring progress in the Middle East peace process and to the region as a whole?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’m – I haven’t seen these remarks. I do know that Ambassador Ross has a book coming out that he’s co-authored with a colleague. I mean, our position vis-à-vis Iran is clear. And of course, our position towards regional peace in the Middle East is clear that we do want to have a global regional solution to the problems in the Middle East. But having – I seriously have not seen these remarks by Ambassador Ross, so I really can’t comment on them.

QUESTION: But if the Secretary’s advisor is saying that that’s not going to help, does that mean – I mean, who’s speaking for U.S. policy on that issue? Is it the Secretary’s special advisor on Iran, or is it the –

MR. KELLY: Again, I haven’t seen the remarks, so I’m just going to decline to comment.

QUESTION: It was before he came into government.

MR. KELLY: Yes, it was. Yeah.

QUESTION: I think maybe we can stick with the idea that the President’s speaks for his Iran policy.

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry. Say that again?

QUESTION: No, that’s okay. (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: Okay, Arshad. Thank you very much, Arshad. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Another Iran question. This explosion in Zahedan, there is a cleric who is blaming it on involvement of the U.S. and Israel. Do you have any response to that?

MR. KELLY: I do.

QUESTION: I see you do. Right.

MR. KELLY: We condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms, and extend our sympathy to the families of those injured and killed. We note with concern a recent trend of bombings of Shia mosques in Iraq and Pakistan, as well as in Iran, and strongly condemn any kind of sectarian-driven violence.

The U.S. strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran, and we continue to work with the international community to try and – to prevent any attacks against innocent civilians anywhere.

QUESTION: So you think this is a link to the Taliban activity?

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to draw that link.

QUESTION: Can you say – you said that we do not sponsor any form of terrorist activity in Iran. Can you just say we had absolutely – the U.S. Government had nothing to do with this and, you know --

MR. KELLY: We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran.

QUESTION: How about elsewhere?


MR. KELLY: Okay. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism anywhere in the world. Never have, never will.


QUESTION: On China, maybe you have seen the media reports that a bunch of Chinese human rights lawyer got their lawyer license suspended by the Chinese authority. I wonder if you have anything on that.

MR. KELLY: This is – these are civil rights lawyers you are referring to?

QUESTION: Yes, human rights lawyers.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I do have something. Just bear with me for a second. Yes.

We are deeply disturbed by press reports that the Beijing Judicial Bureau has refused to renew the annual licenses of 18 civil rights lawyers. We seek to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China. We continually raise our concerns about China’s treatment of human rights lawyers with authorities in Beijing, and note that strengthened rights protections and rule of law are forces for stability in modern society. We urge that rights lawyers in China be given full scope to practice law.

QUESTION: How about those groups?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: How about those groups that they represented? I mean, they are just trying to seek their rights through the means of rule of law.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, we – as I said, we believe these lawyers should be allowed to – they should be licensed and allowed to practice. As I said, we have a very broad bilateral agenda with China, which includes a discussion of human rights. And we continue to raise the – our Embassy in Beijing continues to raise, as appropriate, these cases.

QUESTION: On China. Were you able to find out if this building or the Secretary is going to do anything on – for the Tiananmen Square 20th anniversary next week and – or are you going to let this date slide without any – without comment?

MR. KELLY: We will have something. I promise you, Matt, we will have something.

QUESTION: Statement or action?

QUESTION: I just want to go back to Cuba.

MR. KELLY: We’ll have information.

QUESTION: Going back to Cuba for just one second --

MR. KELLY: Most likely a statement.

QUESTION: Did they ever respond to your offer to resume migration talks? Or have they yet, do you know?

MR. KELLY: I believe that they have, but let me get the details for you.

QUESTION: Positively or negatively?(Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: I believe so. But you know, I don’t want to misspeak, so let me get back to you.

Last question.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Holbrooke traveling to South Asia these days, or do you have any travel plans of his?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any details on Ambassador Holbrooke’s travel.

QUESTION: Can you get us some information there?

MR. KELLY: If I can, I will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefings - May 29]

Short URL: http://m.state.gov/md124099.htm