Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 20, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Statement concerning release of Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi
    • Announcement of permit for the Alberta Clipper Pipeline
    • U.S. disappointment with decision to release al-Megrahi from prison
    • U.S. believes Scottish authorities have sent al-Megrahi home to die
    • U.S. expressed firm conviction that al-Megrahi should serve out his entire jail term
    • U.S. was given informal word that the verdict was coming down today
    • U.S. does not believe compassion should overrule justice in a case of terrorism
    • U.S. made it clear that Americans would have difficulty understanding the decision to release al-Megrahi
    • U.S. would be pleased if al-Megrahi would be under house arrest
    • U.S. disappointed and thinks celebrating al-Megrahi's return sends the wrong signal to potential terrorists
    • Libyan Government paid compensation to victims of Pan Am flight 103
    • U.S. has said to Libya al-Megrahi is not entitled to a hero's welcome home
    • U.S. waiting to see how Libya handles al-Megrahi's homecoming
    • U.S. and UK have a special relationship
    • We have disagreements. We communicate with UK and will continue to do so
    • Have strong cooperation on war in Afghanistan and NATO
    • Not going to draw parallels of Uighurs in Bermuda and the Al-Megrahi case
    • People of Afghanistan overcame many challenges to organize and hold elections
    • Turnout progressed throughout the day
    • Most polling stations were open despite threats of violence
    • U.S. admires and respects the courage of the Afghan people that voted in election today
    • Ambassador Eikenberry, Special Representative Holbrooke, and Embassy personnel within SRAP were out in the country today
    • Important for Afghan people to make the determination of fair elector process
    • There is an organized effort by insurgents to disrupt elections
    • Afghan election commission is prepared for a run-off
    • Reports of voter fraud are a concern
    • U.S. is waiting for the results and word from election monitors to make judgments
    • DoS is in favor of improved relations with North Korea
    • DoS has not received a debrief from Gov. Richardson
    • DoS interested in bilateral talks with North Korea in framework of Six-Party process
    • North Korea must come back to Six-Party talks and take affirmative actions to denuclearize
    • North Korea has obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions
    • Primary concern is the destabilizing acts North Korea has conducted in the past
    • U.S. not going to choose bilateral negotiations at the expense of the interests of partners in the region
    • U.S. prepared to help North Korea integrate itself as part of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula


12:51 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. And I’ll begin by reading a statement by Secretary Clinton that we released earlier today.

“The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which took the lives of 270 persons, including 189 Americans. We have continued to communicate our longstanding position to the United Kingdom Government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland. Today, we remember those whose lives were lost on December 21, 1988 and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime.”

And before I take your questions, you’ll see a media note this afternoon that by executive order the State Department has been delegated authority from the President to receive applications for the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of facilities at the border of the United States, including petroleum pipelines. And after considerable review and evaluation today, the Department issued a presidential permit to Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership for the Alberta Clipper pipeline. This will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States, including expanding available supplies of energy, also increasing trade with a stable and reliable ally such as Canada, a positive economic signal during a difficult economic period. But at the same time, we will continue to work internationally and with Canada to address the climate change problem – climate change challenge as we lead up to the international meeting in Copenhagen later this year.

QUESTION: And just – is there a dollar amount attached to that?


QUESTION: This has been in the works for years hasn’t it?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes. It came about after considerable consultation with relevant --

QUESTION: Dating back to the --

MR. CROWLEY: -- agencies and --

QUESTION: But dating back to the previous administration? I mean, there was environmental impact statements and things like that --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, right.

QUESTION: -- from last --

MR. CROWLEY: Right, and extensive public and shareholder participation, I think.

QUESTION: Can I ask about – on Lockerbie?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you’ve put out this statement from the Secretary, the White House has put out a statement, what are you going to do? I mean, obviously, you made your case and they didn’t listen, so what are you going to do now?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, this was a decision that came within the purview of Scottish authorities. We raised this at the highest levels, going back weeks and months. Secretary Clinton raised it with a variety of officials, so did the Attorney General, others within the United States Government. And as we – as happens with friends, we sometimes have disagreements, even significant ones, and this is clearly one of them.

QUESTION: And – well, is that – does it end here or is there some kind of retaliatory step that you might take?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t say it’s a retaliatory step. I mean, in essence, the Scottish minister today said that a convicted terrorist has a right to die at home, and the United States could not disagree more. But clearly, we are a country of laws. We respect our laws, we respect the right that – the fact that Scottish authorities had this right. They exercised this right. We just believe this is a profound mistake.

QUESTION: So this is – it’s case closed from your point of view or do you --


QUESTION: -- is there anything more that you plan to do to make your displeasure known?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, obviously, in light of the release, we have had a number of conversations with the Government of Libya. Obviously, he will move back to Libya, and we certainly believe that as a convicted criminal he is not entitled to a hero’s welcome.

QUESTION: Well, I’m talking about with the Scottish and Brits.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. I mean, we have a wide range of interests, close partnership with Britain. We’re obviously deeply disappointed with its decision, but I don’t think it’s going to affect our fundamental relationship.


QUESTION: What have your communications, though, been with the Libyans? Do you want him to be held under – well, he apparently can’t really move very well anyway, but do you want him to be held under house arrest or are you asking for some sort of action by the Libyans? Because they have seen this case quite differently to how you perceive it.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, I think there are some conditions that the Scottish authorities have given to the Libyans. I’ll refer to the Scottish authorities to describe those. But we have had conversations both – or will have conversations both in Washington and in Tripoli over what our expectations are with respect to his greeting back in Libya.

QUESTION: What are your expectations?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that he – to the extent that the Scottish authorities have sent him home to die with his family, we hope that he – the return will be low key and he will not be celebrated as a hero, which he is not.

QUESTION: And can you say anything about whether you want him to be, I think, following on Sue’s question, under house arrest or anything like that? You’ve made that known to the Libyans that you’d like that?

MR. CROWLEY: That would – I think, if the Libyans take that action, we would be pleased.

QUESTION: What does the State Department say to the families who have been very vocal in the last few days that this is about oil and trade deals with Libya and it only appeases Qadhafi?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, for that I would refer you to the Scottish authorities and to the British Government. This is a Scottish decision.

Obviously, from the standpoint of the United States, we do not think that justice has been served. We think that justice has been undermined. We understand compassion, but Pan Am 103 has always been a special case. We all remember the iconic vision of the cockpit of Pan Am 103 resting on the ground in Lockerbie. And over 12 years, the United States, working with the United Kingdom, working with the international community, worked diligently to prosecute and convict the perpetrator of one of the most heinous crimes of the last 25 years.

The international community was united in applying significant international pressure on Libya to yield these suspects, to create a special tribunal to provide them a fair trial. That verdict was considered just, and it was upheld on appeal. So we deeply regret that the Scottish authorities have taken this action, but they have. It was within their purview to do so.

QUESTION: It seems to be Libya is preparing to celebrate this. Do you think that will have an impact on the future relationship between the United States and Libya, and what your feeling was toward the Brits and Scottish after his release? Are you mad? Are you – I mean –

MR. CROWLEY: I think we are disappointed. That’s – we think this sends the wrong signal to those who would contemplate acts of terrorism or political violence. As for Libya, obviously, they have taken steps in recent years to be a more responsible actor in the region and the world, and we’ll be watching to see how they handle this particular situation.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick one?


QUESTION: Last week, you told us that Secretary Clinton and Attorney General Holder had made calls to the Scottish justice minister. Can you bring us up-to-date if there were any calls since then, with him or any other officials? You said senior officials in the government. Who else did she call and when? When was the last one?

MR. CROWLEY: I think you’re – I haven’t got a list in front of me, but going back literally months, we have been deeply engaged with both the Scottish Government, Scottish authorities, and the British Government on this question. We have raised it in a variety of venues with a variety of officials at the highest levels of all governments. And we expressed, as we said publicly, our firm conviction that this individual should serve out his time in jail.

QUESTION: Did that happen since last week? Has there been –

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say that we’ve had – obviously, we’ve had communication in the last 24 hours. We were given an informal word that the verdict would be coming down today, and as we continue to say, we are deeply disappointed in the action they have taken.

QUESTION: After the Libyans kind of settled the compensation case and the deal was done, the Libyan’s retracted their kind of claim of responsibility. And today, it was reported that Saif Qadhafi’s plane, the son of Muammar Qadhafi who’s seen as very close to the government, took Megrahi home. I mean, what does that say about the fact that the Libyan’s don’t claim responsibility for this, but then are assisting the man who –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there was a very specific settlement. My recollection is rusty, but Libya, first of all, yielded these suspects, agreed to the trial that was conducted in – in a special trial conducted in the Netherlands. They have paid compensation to the victims of Pan Am 103, but clearly in terms of what happens now, we will be watching closely to see how Libya reacts to his return home.

QUESTION: But what do you say to the fact that a senior member of Muammar Qadhafi’s family is taking the guy home?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see what the Libyans do once he gets back to Libya.

QUESTION: Did you say that you’ve been told by the Libyans that they won’t have any celebrations, or that you had asked –

MR. CROWLEY: We have said to the Libyan officials quite clearly that he is not entitled to a hero’s welcome.

QUESTION: Well, your embassy doesn’t seem to think that that – first of all, your deep engagement with the Brits and the Scotts doesn’t – I’m not sure what their decision today means about your ability to influence people, but – there, in a friendly country, but now you have this situation with the Libyans. Now, you’re telling them that you don’t think it would be appropriate or that he is not entitled to any kind of celebration, and yet there’s a Warden Message from the embassy in Tripoli which says that, you know, there is this big celebration expected.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s see what happens. But clearly, what happens when he returns to Libya will have an influence on the future direction of our relationship.

QUESTION: Well, does that mean that if there is a –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

QUESTION: Well, no, I understand, but have you told them –

MR. CROWLEY: We have communicated – we have communicated something clearly to Libya, and we’ll see how they respond.

QUESTION: But you have said our relationship will suffer if this guy is given a hero’s welcome?

MR. CROWLEY: We have given a very direct message to Libya.

QUESTION: Many of the families feel that a lot of the questions are still not answered over Lockerbie, and they would like to have the investigation reopened. Is this something that you would look at, or do you see that as case closed, time to move on?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll defer to the Justice Department. I think there’s probably questions of jurisdiction here, and there’s also a practical aspect that this individual is in his last days on earth. I mean – so I’m not sure if that will be a fruitful undertaking. I think what we are mostly concerned about is the mixed message that this sends in terms of those who have in the past, or those who might contemplate in the future acts of political violence, that this – and that’s why we have said very firmly, very strongly that, as a perpetrator of one of the most heinous acts in recent history, that he should serve out his sentence and should not be released.

QUESTION: I want to go back to what – the point that Matt made about the fact that you weren’t able to influence the decision. I mean, this wasn’t a kind of independent court that decided where, you know, the government can’t get involved. I mean, the justice minister made this decision. And I mean, the UK, Scotland is a close ally. Why weren’t you able to influence the decision more?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, I mean, there are – Scotland is an independent authority within the United Kingdom, and don’t ask me to try to explain it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

MR. CROWLEY: But it has a devolution of authority --

QUESTION: But still, you’ve called Scotland a close ally in the past, though. I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I recall the fact that there was a case in the United States a couple of years ago involving an inmate in Texas who was denied his consular rights. The President of the United States made an appeal to the governor of Texas. The governor of Texas said: I have the authority to exercise this within my purview, and I will exercise it as I deem appropriate. So I think that we are --

QUESTION: You think this is a tit-for-tat?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that – I think that – let’s accept the justice minister’s rationale here that this was, in his mind, an act of compassion. We are a compassionate people in the United States. We just don’t believe in this particular case, or in the case of terrorism, that compassion should overrule justice.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re --

MR. CROWLEY: But let me finish. But we are a nation of laws here in the United States, and we do respect the fact that this is an exercise of authority legitimately and legally by the Scottish authorities, by the Scottish executive. We just happen to disagree with what he decided to do.

QUESTION: Your protest notwithstanding though, a lot of the families are saying today that if you really wanted to make this an issue in the relationship, that you could have made sure that the Scottish did not do that. And the fact that you didn’t means that you don’t feel that really, your protest notwithstanding, that you don’t feel that strongly about it and this is really about kind of issues about Libya and oil and the like.

MR. CROWLEY: I think if you judge the history of this case, you will recognize that we have been very diligent, we have been very dogged, since December 1988, working with the United Kingdom, working with the international community. We made it clear we were going to find out who was responsible for this heinous act. We, in fact, identified the perpetrators. We, working creatively with the international community, set up a special tribunal and we supported that tribunal. We put the appropriate amount of pressure on Libya. We did, in fact, get Libya to yield these suspects. There was a trial. It was a fair trial. It yielded a credible result.

So to suggest that over the course of 12 years the United States was not determined year after year to see justice done, in fact, the track record says we were, in fact, determined to see justice done. It is, in fact, why up until today we’ve been very clear with the United Kingdom, we’ve been very clear with Scottish authorities, that we disagreed profoundly with this step.

QUESTION: Well, then why is the case closed, then? Why don’t you take – I mean, I don’t know what kind of retaliation you can take against Scotland – banning haggis and bagpipes or something – but why isn’t there – why isn’t there any – why aren’t you prepared to consider any kind of --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- step against them if you feel so strongly?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the United Kingdom and the United States have a special relationship. That is not to say that we will not have disagreements. And currently, right now, this is one that is significant. We have communicated with them. We will communicate with them some more. But, obviously, in our relationship, we have a range of interests. We’re cooperating significantly in the war in Afghanistan. We are allies within NATO. So sure, on this particular one, we respect their decision. It was their decision. We disagree profoundly with what they’ve done. It will – we will continue to talk to our friends in the United Kingdom and in Scotland about this, but it will be a conversation among friends.

QUESTION: Do you see this as a decision by the UK or by simply – or by – by the United Kingdom or by Scotland?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, this was a decision that was made by the authorities and the executive in Scotland.

QUESTION: So you don’t --

MR. CROWLEY: But, obviously, we --

QUESTION: -- hold this against – you don’t hold this against --

MR. CROWLEY: We did raise this both with Scottish authorities directly – the Secretary of State – as recently as last week. At the same time, we apprised our allies in London about the importance of this case.

QUESTION: So you accept that devolved powers that Scotland has --

MR. CROWLEY: Of course.

QUESTION: -- but you still consulted with the Brits?


QUESTION: So then can I ask, in the case of the Uighurs going to Bermuda, why it was that you did not consult with the British Government before --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – I think you’re mixing apples and oranges here.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not sure I am.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t see –

QUESTION: You have a situation where --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t see any connection.

QUESTION: No, I’m not suggesting that there is a connection other than the fact that there are entities that are part of or that come under the responsibility of the British Government. Bermuda has – you know, is – relies on its defense and its foreign affairs are done – are done by the British. In this case, you have a situation in Scotland where the justice minister makes – or the executive makes a decision and you consult with the British on that. Why would you not have consulted with the British on the case of another jurisdiction where they have interests?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to draw parallels between the decision to move four Uighurs to Bermuda, which was a decision that was an offer made by the Government of Bermuda, and this incident.

QUESTION: Which upset the Brits.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that, but I don’t – I don’t see that today’s decision has anything to do with that.

Go ahead, back in the back.

QUESTION: Just one on this?

MR. CROWLEY: Back in the back.

QUESTION: In terms of the pressure brought in Whitehall and in Scotland, did that extend beyond conversations at all? I mean, what was the kind of tone of the conversations? How tough did you really get with --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, in our normal discussions with allies on a variety of subjects and within this particular case, we made it clear that a decision by the Scottish authorities to release this individual would be something that the American people would have a great deal of difficulty understanding. I think that they understood our concern. But, obviously, the final decision was for the Scottish executive to make.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) You, as a part of the Executive Branch, would you like to see the Justice Department challenging this legally to the Scottish authority?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I hear a question in --

QUESTION: The next step that would you challenge this legally through the Justice Department?

MR. CROWLEY: I think if there is any remaining legal question, I will defer to the Justice Department. I’m just not aware that --

QUESTION: But would you like to see them do it?

MR. CROWLEY: -- at this point there’s any --

QUESTION: Would you like to see them do such a step? I mean, would you like to see the Justice Department, like, do the follow-up and to see – to challenge this legally?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not suggesting that there is a legal challenge available to the United States at this point.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Afghanistan. Do you have any comments on the elections being held there? And do you think the violence is less than you expected there during the elections?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a difficult question to answer. Clearly, the people of Afghanistan today overcame many challenges to organize and hold elections – I think the first in Afghanistan run by Afghanistan since the 1960s. Turnout progressively increased throughout the day. I don’t think we’ll have a sense of turnout for some time. But, clearly, most polling stations, despite sporadic violence, were open despite these threats. We expected that insurgents would try to intimidate the election process, and we’re pleased and we admire and respect the courage that Afghans showed in coming out to vote today.

Ambassador Eikenberry, Special Representative Holbrooke, others within the Embassy and within the SRAP staff have been out around the country today. Obviously, there have been a significant number of international observers, and we’ll await the preliminary findings over the next week.

QUESTION: So was it free and fair – the elections? Your team was there in the country.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we’re underestimating the difficulty of the challenge, the difficult environment within which this election was held. Afghanistan is experiencing a war, perhaps more than one. But I think it will be important for the Afghan people to make that ultimate determination as to whether this was fair. Obviously, part of that will depend on what the results are. I think September 3rd will be when the results are finalized. But I think we admire the fact that there was a vigorous debate within Afghanistan – clearly, a very significant number of candidates not only for president, but also for other offices. And I think the Afghans have responded admirably, given very, very difficult circumstances.

QUESTION: Well, to follow up on the idea that there’s a low turnout in the south, I mean, especially – I mean, that’s mostly a Pashtun area. Do you think that a whole section of the population is being disenfranchised in this election, and which could lead to further problems down the road because they weren’t able to vote?

MR. CROWLEY: I think let’s wait and see what the – I mean, I think it’s too early to tell. I mean, obviously, as we understand it, the vast majority of polling places were open.

QUESTION: Well, there are not as many in the south, though.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: And they’re majority Pashtun.

MR. CROWLEY: And we recognize that this will perhaps be – it has to be judged on a different standard than might be the case in this country. There is significant violence going on in Afghanistan. There is an organized effort by insurgents to disrupt the process. There are difficult surroundings in various parts of Afghanistan. But let’s wait and see what the results come in. It will be up to the Afghan people to judge whether this was a legitimate result.

QUESTION: Just one more. There were, obviously, a lot of efforts to stabilize the country before the election. It looks as if there could be a runoff. Will you continue – if there is a run-off, will you continue to make those extreme efforts to stabilize areas around polling places so that perhaps you can do even better in the run-off?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, obviously, the independent Afghan election commission, they are prepared for a run-off. It’s premature to say whether one will happen or not. Just to remind, a presidential candidate must receive 50 percent plus one vote to be elected in the first round. So there are provisions within the Afghan system for a run-off, but I think it’s too early to tell. But clearly, the Afghans went into this election recognizing that that was a possibility.


QUESTION: Ashraf Ghani has already started making some claims of voter fraud, alleging that Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah supporters have brought voters to the poll at gunpoint and made them vote for one of the two candidates. How concerned are you about these allegations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly that is a concern. It’s one of the reasons why – between the international community and Afghans themselves, you have robust mechanisms put in place, anti-fraud measures that were put in place. There were lots of observers out there by many, many different organizations so they’ll be watching to see if there’s intimidation or fraud, and they will be prepared to investigate any claims that come up.

QUESTION: Given – well, if those end up being the case, can these be considered credible elections?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get the results first. I know you want to have someone with a white board out here just kind of describing what the process is. Let’s get to early next week, see what the results are, see how credible they are, and also get the reports back from the various monitors who out there – are out there, even as we speak. But I certainly think that mechanisms have been put in place so that as tallies are made at individual polling stations, they’ll be compared with the tallies that actually are reported to the independent Afghan commission.

But I think what we admire about this election is that there is, in fact, an independent electoral commission. This is an election that was run by Afghans for Afghans. But we have to – let’s see what the results are before we start making judgments.


QUESTION: I have a change --

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Yeah. P.J., Blackwater is back in the news, now known as Xe. What is the status of the Blackwater contract in Iraq? Are they still protecting U.S. diplomats over there?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I’m not – I’m not prepared to talk about Blackwater.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. CROWLEY: I just don’t have it in my book. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: P.J., while you’re taking the question, can you also take a question about the reports that the CIA hired Blackwater guards to assassinate al-Qaida members?

MR. CROWLEY: I will refer you to that agency.

QUESTION: Okay. But they were – but it was a Blackwater – was a State Department contract, though. So I mean, obviously, there had to be some cooperation between the State Department and the CIA if this program existed.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the first question.

QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. When – (cell phone rings). On North Korea --

MR. CROWLEY: I like that ring tone. (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: When Bill Richardson meeting with the two North Korean diplomats in New Mexico, North Korea has proposed to the United States about the direct talk and improved relationship between the two country. Can you confirm on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, we are certainly in favor of improved relations between the United States and North Korea and between North Korea and others in the region. We haven’t received a debrief from Governor Richardson at this point. But to the extent that it would appear that they expressed an interest in bilateral talks, we are perfectly willing to have bilateral talks with North Korea, as we’ve said many times, within the larger framework of the Six-Party process.

So it’s unclear that this or other gestures that North Korea have made in recent days – they certainly are preferable to provocative actions like firing rockets in the region. But it still remains for North Korea to demonstrate that it’s willing to come back to the Six-Party process. Within the Six-Party process we can have one or more bilateral dialogues. So there’s plenty of opportunity for North Korea, but it has to come back to the Six-Party process. It has to be prepared to take affirmative and verifiable actions to denuclearize.

Well, so – yeah, North Korea knows what it has to do. It’s just a matter of whether it’s prepared to take the kinds of actions that the United States and other members of the Six-Party process have made clear to them for months and years.

QUESTION: A follow-up on North Korea?


QUESTION: We have seen before in the previous administration that U.S. and North Korea had bilateral talks to overcome the impasse in the Six-Party Talk, and later they made progress. So is this kind of effort is still possible in this kind of situation to have bilateral talks first with North Korea and then to make progress in Six-Party Talk?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s flip that around. In other words, we believe that the Six-Party process remains the best mechanism to resolve the questions that we have, the tensions that we have, the issues that we have with North Korea. As we’ve made clear to North Korea for a long time, within the Six-Party framework there’s plenty of room for a bilateral dialogue. But North Korea knows what it has to do – it has to come back to a Six-Party process, be willing to take the kind of steps that the international community has made clear that it needs to do. And the ball is still in North Korea’s court – has to tell us what it’s prepared to do.

QUESTION: Then is it totally impossible to have bilateral meeting with North Korea before another round of official Six-Party meeting resumed?

MR. CROWLEY: We are prepared to have bilateral discussions with North Korea within the framework of the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: What if you can’t get another round of Six-Party Talks together? I mean, the North Koreans told Bill Richardson while they were there that they definitely want to talk to you, they don’t think that the Six-Party Talks for them have yielded what they want, and they’re ready to come to the table. I mean, but what if --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s not true.

QUESTION: This is an Administration that has prided itself on trying to be flexible and dealing with nations that, you know, are questionable --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Exactly.

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’ve been flexible. I think we’ve been very patient. But we’ve also been very clear. North Korea has obligations. It has obligations under UN Security Council resolutions. It has commitments to fulfill that it made in 2005. And we are prepared to have a process – the United States, together with North Korea, together with the other countries in the region – a process that moves North Korea down a path towards denuclearization. That path is clearly available to North Korea.

QUESTION: And they’re saying a path is clearly available to you if you just take them up on what they want.

MR. CROWLEY: And with all due respect to North Korea, we will continue to vigorously enforce sanctions to convince them that the path that we have outlined is preferable to the path that they desire.

QUESTION: Just to (inaudible) a little but, I mean –


QUESTION: What’s the value of the Six-Party Talks, and why is it such a crucial thing? Is it because of the role of China, the role of Japan?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, you know, we have concerns with North Korea. But the primary concern about North Korea and the destabilizing acts that they have conducted in the past rests in the region. So we respect the fact that the – if there is unrest in North Korea, it’s first going to be felt in South Korea, China, Russia, Japan. And so we have long envisioned this as a – as a partnership, and I think what you’re seeing right now is the pressure that North Korea feels because, in fact, the countries in the region are united, both in the danger that North Korea poses, the path that North Korea ultimately has to chose, and the pressure that we are putting on North Korea day after day in terms of sanctions to try to convince them that there is a path to a better relationship with the rest of the world, with the region, with the United States. But they have to make the kinds of affirmative steps that they have understood for some time, but have been – but are, at least until now, unwilling to take.

QUESTION: However, U.S. and North Korea talked all the time, you know, all – you know, you talked at United Nations, and you talked, however --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, but within the construct of the Six-Party process. So the United States, we have concerns about North Korea. So does South Korea. So does Japan. So does China. So does Russia. So we’re not going to choose bilateral negotiations at the expense of the interests of our partners in the region. That’s why we believe so strongly in the Six-Party process. If North Korea comes back to the Six-Party process, demonstrates that they’re willing to take the kinds of affirmative steps that the international community has laid out, then, in fact, they can have a number of bilateral discussions and address the concerns that they have, the concerns that we have. The real question is: Is North Korea prepared to step up and to bow to the strong international view that the North Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized? That’s the question for North Korea, and that’s the question that we continue to seek their answer to.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about – you’ve said -- like your leaning-in-all-directions comment the other day. You just said it’s time for North Korea –

MR. CROWLEY: I’m still working on that.

QUESTION: -- to “step up and bow to?” And then you used another phrase, “with all due respect to North Korea.” How much is that? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Try me again.

QUESTION: How much respect is North Korea due?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, North Korea can be a constructive part of the region. I mean, there was a time – go back 30 years – where North Korea was one of the industrial powerhouses of the region. But now they have been effectively de-industrialized, based on their own economic policies.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m just asking how much respect do you accord North Korea at this minute?

MR. CROWLEY: If North Korea is prepared to take the kinds of steps that the international community is insisting upon -- to be a constructive part of the region, to affirm the commitments that it has already made to denuclearize, to engage in constructive dialogue with the United States, with South Korea, with Japan, with China, with Russia -- then they can have the kind of normal relationship that other countries in the region already enjoy. The choice is North Korea’s.

We are prepared to engage with North Korea. We have offered that repeatedly. But there are responsibilities, obligations that North Korea has that up until now, they have been unprepared to meet.

QUESTION: All right. Well, I understand that. I’m just trying to get at how much respect do you think is due to North Korea right now, given the fact that they’ve flouted every single thing that you’ve wanted them to do and that the rest of the international –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that goes to – I mean, we continue to be prepared.

QUESTION: Do you respect North Korea as a nuclear power? I guess that’s the –

MR. CROWLEY: The international community has been clear that North Korea should not be a nuclear power. We are not prepared to accept North Korea as a nuclear power. We are prepared to help North Korea integrate itself into the region as part of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 P.M.)