Robert Wood
Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 22, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SECRETARY CLINTON
    • Secretary Clinton's Trip to Thailand / Meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov, Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang in Phuket / Participation in Town Hall / Meeting with ASEAN Foreign Ministers / Signing of Treaty of Amity and Cooperation
  • SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HOLBROOKE
    • Ambassador Holbrooke's Trip to Islamabad / Regular Consultations with Pakistani Officials / Economic and Security Issues / U.S. Aid for Programs
    • Travel to India / Travel to Afghanistan
  • INDIA
    • End-User Agreement / Global Non-Proliferation Efforts / In Interest of U.S. and India
  • HONDURAS
    • De Facto Regime / Arias Mediation Effort / U.S. to Follow Developments / Restoration of Democratic and Constitutional Order / Consequences
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Denuclearization / Talks / Irreversible Steps / Possibility of Normalization of Relations / Position with International Community / Commitment to Denuclearization / Fulfilling of Obligations
    • Military Ties between North Korea and Burma / UNSCR 1874 / Concern Raised at ASEAN Meetings
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Special Envoy Mitchell's Travel
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Foreign Missions Paying Property Taxes to New York City / Impact on U.S. Missions Abroad


TRANSCRIPT:

12:50 p.m. EDT

MR. WOOD: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I’m going to start off with two announcements, I’d guess you’d call them.

The first is on Secretary Clinton and her meetings in Thailand. Secretary Clinton, as you know, is in Phuket, Thailand today. She had meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu, and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang. She also participated in a town hall meeting that was hosted by World Beat with Suthichai Yoon at Phya Thai Palace in Bangkok earlier today. She met with ASEAN foreign ministers, all of whom welcomed the U.S. for its engagement with ASEAN. The Secretary also signed the Instruments for Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

The next is an update on Ambassador Holbrooke’s meetings in Islamabad. Ambassador Holbrooke is in Islamabad today. The travel is part of his regular consultations with officials in Pakistan in his role as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today, Ambassador Holbrooke met with Prime Minister Gillani, Generals Ashafaq Kayani and Ahmad Pahsa, and a group of Malakand residents.

The focus of his discussions was on a range of economic and security issues, in particular, the situation of the internal refugees and reconstruction plans for their return to their homes. At a joint press conference with Finance Minister Khar, Ambassador Holbrooke announced today that 165 million in U.S. funds are being committed to programs for humanitarian relief, early recovery, and long-term reconstruction efforts to support the internally displaced in Pakistan. He is scheduled to meet with President Zardari tonight.

And with that, ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Not – it’s actually on Honduras.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Well, why don’t we –

QUESTION: Are there any –

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This 165 million is in addition to 300 million already given to Pakistan?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. We’ll have – I mean, we issued a fact sheet on this. And this is – I believe this is additional. But you can just check with our fact sheet.

QUESTION: And when he goes to Afghanistan after Islamabad, would he be meeting the Afghan presidential election candidates?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know yet. They’re still working through his schedule in Afghanistan. When we have something to give you on that, we certainly will. But at this moment, they’re still working through that schedule.

QUESTION: And yesterday, you didn’t mention about India. Is he going to India after Afghanistan or is this –

MR. WOOD: India, I believe, is on the schedule. But again, we’ll have to see how that all works out in the end. I’m not sure in terms of what his schedule is going to look like beyond Pakistan right now. In Afghanistan, we’ll certainly have some details with regard to that schedule. In terms of the other stops, we’ll just have to see. I haven’t gotten that far forward yet. So we’ll provide you, as I said, the details once we have them.

QUESTION: I have another question on India, if you want. Now or later?

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: As you know, Secretary Clinton signed an end-user agreement with the Indian foreign minister when she was there. So can you explain to us what does it mean or what U.S. role would be when you sell some high-tech defense equipments to India? Are you – how you are going to verify that?

MR. WOOD: I’m not sure I understand the question.

QUESTION: Can you explain to us what end-user agreement means in layman’s language?

MR. WOOD: Well, what end-user means is basically making sure that the material, once it’s delivered, it does not go to any other party, unless there is some sort of agreement by the United States. I mean that’s, in essence, what end-user means.

And, I mean, it’s a very significant agreement. And again, we’re very proud and we believe that this agreement between the U.S. and India is an important – it’s important in our overall global nonproliferation efforts, and we believe that this agreement has brought India into the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream. And so it’s a landmark event, so – but that’s, in essence, what end-use is. It’s basically that simple.

QUESTION: But how do you verify it? Do you go to the Indian bases, military bases, to verify those equipments or –

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to get into the details. Those types of issues will be worked out between the two sides and in consultation with the IAEA and other players. But I’m not going to get – I’m not an expert in the agreement, so I can’t get into all of the details.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just one supplemental to this.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: There has been a reaction in India, a very strong reaction from the political parties and some experts about this end user agreement, and they say that basically it’s a sell-out to U.S. What do you have to say about that?

MR. WOOD: It’s a what?

QUESTION: Sell-out to U.S., like Indian – U.S. defense personnel can go to Indian bases and verify and India should not have signed this agreement.

MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, that’s – India made a conscious decision to sign this agreement. It’s in – India has said it’s in its best interests. We certainly think it’s in the interest of the United States. But I – again, we think it’s an overall good agreement. And we will need to implement the agreement, and those activities are already underway. But I really just don’t have anything to say about a – specific comment on it.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Honduras, Honduras’s ousted president Zelaya, has called on the U.S. to impose tougher new or new sanctions against the interim government. Are you looking at curbing visas for the interim government or taking other actions in terms of loans or anything else – loan to Honduras? What are you looking at?

MR. WOOD: Well, Sue, our focus right now is trying to get both parties to fully support and commit themselves to the Arias mediation effort. That’s where our focus is right now, and we want to see that happen. My understanding is that the next round of the mediation talks is kind of up in the air. We’re not sure if it’s going to happen today or not. We’re following it closely, and we’ll try to update you as to whether or not they’re going to take place today or not.

QUESTION: But are you looking at any punitive measures to try and push the interim government into, you know, conceding more in these talks and –

MR. WOOD: Look, I – the Secretary made very clear the other day that it’s important that the de facto regime take a serious look at this mediation effort by President Arias and to look at his 7-point plan very hard and try to work out – come to an agreement with President Zelaya and his representatives so that we can get back to the democratic and constitutional order in the country. And so she made Mr. Micheletti aware of the potential consequences for not coming to an agreement in the framework of the Arias mediation effort. So – but I don’t want to get into specifics of what we may or may not do. I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to do at this point.

QUESTION: So what are the consequences? I mean, you say you’ve made him aware, but could you just –

MR. WOOD: Well, I just say that.

QUESTION: – could you just outline them again?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to talk about consequences here. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that. Where we’re focused right now is trying to get, as I said, the two parties to give their full unequivocal support to this mediation effort.

QUESTION: Just one more then. What is your reaction to his appeal to you to take firm action against the de facto government or the interim government?

MR. WOOD: Well, like I said, we’ve made very clear, the Secretary of State made very clear that Mr. Micheletti, the de facto regime, needs to take this mediation effort seriously and respond appropriately. Should that not happen, there are clear consequences with regard to our assistance to Honduras, but I’m not going to go beyond that at this point. Our focus remains on the mediation effort.

QUESTION: But when – sorry, when you say “clear consequences” in terms of assistance, are you looking at further cuts in that assistance? I mean, that’s what you’re essentially saying?

MR. WOOD: I’m not – well, I’m not going to go into details of it, as I said. I think it’s not appropriate for me to do that here. But as I said, the Secretary pointed out that there would indeed be consequences.

QUESTION: We were told from this podium two days ago that they have 72 hours to resume the talks. And if the talks wouldn’t resume, at that time, you would decide on possibly suspending your international aid to Honduras. So if – when do you consider that these negotiations have failed?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, first of all, it’s a hypothetical, and we’re still in the process of trying to pursue these discussions.

QUESTION: We’re – the past few hours.

MR. WOOD: Well, this was a deadline that President Arias extended to the two sides, and they’re still trying to work through getting the two parties to this next round of talks. And we’re also, again wanting to hear what the de facto regime comes forward with, with regard to dealing with the situation. But I don’t want to get ahead of things right now. It’s very much in flux today in terms of the meetings. We may have something more to say later today depending on how things unfold. I really don’t have much more I could add to a situation that is clearly a moving target.

QUESTION: But you think there is – you think there is still a chance the negotiations could resume?

MR. WOOD: There’s certainly a chance they could in some form today, but again, I wouldn’t – don’t quote me on it, but I think we’re – there’s – certainly, President Arias, the United States, other parties in the hemisphere are trying to do what we can to get these talks going.

Anything else on Honduras?

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. WOOD: Please.

QUESTION: Yes. Is there any possibility of United States and North Korea bilateral meeting at the ASEAN meeting in Phuket, Thailand?

MR. WOOD: You’re asking – could you repeat it again?

QUESTION: U.S. and North Korea, bilateral meeting at the ASEAN forum?

QUESTION: Is there a possibility of a U.S.-North Korea bilateral meeting at --

QUESTION: Exactly. (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Not at all?

MR. WOOD: Not at all.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Campbell and Secretary Clinton mentioned about comprehensive package to North Korea to – may come back to the denuclearization process. So could you elaborate more about this package? And is there any new incentives, including this package?

MR. WOOD: Certainly our position is that further talks with North Korea are going to have to lead to irreversible steps by the country to denuclearize. This, in turn, would lead us and our partners to reciprocate in a comprehensive fashion. If the North returns to the table and commits to – and takes steps to bring about a verifiable and irreversible end to its nuclear program, then we would certainly look at a comprehensive – we take a comprehensive approach to incentives and opportunities.

And what I mean by that in terms of opportunities is a normalization of relations is certainly possible, but we’re not going to reward the North for steps that it should have taken. And so it really needs to come back to the table and demonstrate that it’s committed to an irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of its nuclear program. And then there are certainly, as I said, incentives and other opportunities that the international community would be willing to look at.

But the important thing is that the North has to make up its mind, it has to take a decision whether or not it wants to continue to be an outcast in the international community, or whether it wants to take the path that the international community is offering the North. So we – it remains to be seen what path the North wishes to take.

QUESTION: But there are many steps in denuclearization. So what could be the specific step that you need from North Korea to start this?

MR. WOOD: Well, first, the North has to come back to the table. It hasn’t done that. It said that it has no interest in doing that. We and others in the international community want to see the North return. It needs to take steps. I’m not going to spell out those steps here. But the North has to show a commitment to denuclearization, and – but the North cannot be rewarded for the behavior that it’s exhibited, and has to address the concerns of the international community. Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to move forward.

QUESTION: What if North Korea does not come back to the table? Then what kind of, you know, steps --

MR. WOOD: That’s another hypothetical question, “What if.” We want to see the North come back to the table. It needs to do that. And until it does, it’s going to remain an outcast and a pariah in the international community. I can’t believe that the North Korean people want that to happen. We in the United States, others around the world want to see the North come back to the table and get to – and start fulfilling its obligations as outlined in the 2005 joint statement.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Sir, I just want to be clear: The U.S. does not plan to reward North Korea for coming back to the talks?

MR. WOOD: That’s correct.

QUESTION: They have to take some other step --

MR. WOOD: That’s correct.

QUESTION: -- and then they’ll consider these comprehensive measures that you’re talking about?

MR. WOOD: That’s correct.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Secretary Clinton expressed concern about the military ties between North Korea and Burma. And is she talking about nuclear proliferation? Could you elaborate to us about – a little bit more about this concern, or --

MR. WOOD: What the Secretary said was that we and our other partners in the region are very concerned about military cooperation – the extent of military cooperation between Burma and North Korea. And what we want to see happen is that UN Security Council Resolution 1874 be fully implemented. We intend to do that and we encourage other countries to do that as well.

I’m not going to comment on – further on issues that go into intelligence. But the Secretary made very clear about our concern, and other countries from the region have made their concern known at the ASEAN meetings.

QUESTION: Why did she raise this issue now? Because of the incident, that ship heading to Burma? Is that why she raised this (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s an issue that many of us are concerned about. We don’t have a good sense of what that type of military – what type of military cooperation there is, or at least the extent of it. But we and others are concerned and want to find out more details about it. But one way to ensure that the North does not continue to proliferate and to have ties that we don’t think are appropriate is to basically make sure that we implement, fully and completely, UN Security Council Resolution 1874.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: On this subject?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. WOOD: Sylvie’s had her hand up.

QUESTION: Yeah, change of subject. Do you have anything to tell us on George Mitchell’s trip to Middle East?

MR. WOOD: I don’t have much in the way of detail beyond what I gave you yesterday. I’m trying to get additional information, so I’ll continue to work that and as soon as I can get you something, I will.

QUESTION: But he has left. He has left.

MR. WOOD: I know, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Where is he today?

MR. WOOD: I actually don’t know where he is at the moment. I will try to get you more information about that as soon as I can.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Could he be in London?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I’ll try to get you that information.

QUESTION: Just CC us on his and Holbrooke’s travel itineraries, and then we’ll be all set.

QUESTION: What is the (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: I wouldn’t mind being there.

QUESTION: The Syrian Foreign Minister Mullen is – will be in London tomorrow. Could George Mitchell meet him in London tomorrow?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know, Sylvie. I’ll try to get --

QUESTION: Well, all this mystery is really --

MR. WOOD: I am trying to get information so that I can provide you – and as soon as I can, I certainly will.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you please ask if he’s going to Turkey as well? The Turks today have said they’re ready to be the mediators between Syria and Israel. Israel, on the other hand, doesn’t seem terribly keen, but --

MR. WOOD: I’ll do what I can to find out.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. WOOD: Is there any other – Nina.

QUESTION: A completely different topic. I sent this question earlier. I hope you got it. In New York, apparently there were 16 countries, missions of countries, including Hungary, India, Bulgaria, Austria, who owe the city in the region of 260 million in back taxes. Do you know anything about this story?

MR. WOOD: I’ve seen the reports about it. I don’t have anything beyond what we said last week with regard to the question of paying property taxes and steps that the Department is taking with regard to that, but – nothing beyond that.

QUESTION: Is this so – that there is an investigation into this? Sorry, I missed last week’s comments on it.

MR. WOOD: Well, in essence, there’s been a decision taken by the Department to basically foreclose the possibility of missions paying property taxes to New York City. Our concern has been the fact that that type of property tax be implemented, it would impact our missions abroad. We would – the ones that we own – or excuse me, the properties that we are in would likely be – we would be levied a tax, property taxes on those, which would account for hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, to the U.S. taxpayer. So we think this is in the best interests of the U.S. taxpayer in pursuing the path that we are. So that’s basically (inaudible).

Mr. Lee, you just came in. Anything?

QUESTION: Nope.

MR. WOOD: Anything? Thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:09 p.m.)

DPB # 122

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[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 22]