Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 3, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton's Travel Itinerary / Participation in the Forum for the Future / Speech on U.S. Commitment to Board Engagement with Muslim Communities throughout the World / Meeting with President Mubarak
    • En Route to Cairo / Meeting with Minister of Intelligence General Suleiman
    • Rescheduling of Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski
    • Special Envoy Mitchell Meeting with King Abdullah in Amman, Jordan and President Abbas
    • Reprocessing of Plutonium / Focus on Re-Launch of Six-Party Talks / Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula / Living Up to Commitments / Comprehensive Peaceful Solution / Useful Discussions / Willing to Talk Bilaterally / UN Security Council Resolutions
    • Ambassador Nominations / Tom Shannon for Ambassador to Brazil / Arturo Valenzuela for Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere / Capital Hill and Senate / Secretary Clinton's Consultations / Working Hard to Get Them Confirmed
    • Disagreement over Airbase in Okinawa / A/S Campbell Travel to Tokyo / Bilateral Negotiations / Position on Basing Agreements Not Changed / Broad and Deep Relationship / Mutual Security Arrangement
    • A/S Campbell and DAS Marciel in Burma / Meeting in Capital / Fact-Finding Mission / Beginning of Dialogue / Meeting with Ministers of Burmese Government and Individuals Affiliated with the Regime / Meeting with Members of the Opposition / Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi
    • Troops to Afghanistan / Decision Expected over Next Several Weeks / Recent Elections / Expectations of President Karzai / Improving Governance in Afghanistan / Fighting Corruption / Security Forces / U.S. Support and Partnership / Election Process / Dr. Abdullah Campaign
    • House Resolution on Goldstone Report / Talking to the Hill / Discussion at the UN / Resumption of Talks
  • IRAN
    • Engagement Policy / IAEA, Russia and France Proposal / Urge Iran to Accept Proposal / Javier Solana in Close Contact with P-5+1 Members / EU Has the Lead on Talking to Iran


1:23 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: Okay. Good afternoon. Just an update on the itinerary of the Secretary. She participated in the Forum for the Future today. She gave a speech this morning and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to broad engagement with Muslim communities around the world and outlined concrete steps the U.S. is taking to follow up on the new beginning that the President laid out in Cairo.

She focused on partnerships to promote civil society, entrepreneurship, and economic development, educational opportunity, scientific and technological cooperation, women’s empowerment and interfaith cooperation. She’s now en route to Cairo. Tonight, she’s going to meet with General Suleiman, who's the minister of intelligence, and also with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. She’s going to be joined in Cairo by Special Envoy Mitchell. Special Envoy Mitchell met today in Amman with King Abdullah and also with President Abbas.

Tomorrow, of course, she has a meeting with President Mubarak. Obviously, we’ve had to juggle her schedule for tomorrow, and these commitments mean that unfortunately, she’s unable to meet with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski. The Secretary looks forward to an early rescheduling of this meeting and a re-launch of our strategic dialogue with Poland. And with that, I will take your questions.

QUESTION: Can you – what is your read on the latest bombast out of North Korea?

MR. KELLY: I think what we’re focused on with North Korea is getting to the point where we can re-launch the Six-Party Talks which will get us to our ultimate goal, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I’ll say, as a matter of principle, that reprocessing plutonium is contrary to North Korea’s own commitments that it committed to in the 2005 joint statement, and also would be a violation of various UN Security Council resolutions. And what we’re looking for is North Korea to take steps to achieve verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION: So if true, you’re saying – you’re condemning what they’re saying?

MR. KELLY: I didn’t say we were condemning it. I was saying that they should start taking steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and there is a way forward for that. And the way forward is to resume the Six-Party Talks and get back to all sides adhering to the commitments that they took in – undertook in 2005.

QUESTION: But at the same time, you said – I don’t remember if the Secretary said it or – it was so long ago – that you would be willing to talk to North Korea outside of the context of the – or within the context of the Six-Party Talks. You would be able – willing to talk to them bilaterally within that context to try and jumpstart the talks.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: They’ve invited you, they’ve asked for numerous meetings, and you still haven’t answered them. So you could see from their point of view, perhaps, that you’re not interested in talking.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think from our point of view is we need to keep our eyes on the goal here, and that’s a comprehensive peaceful solution to the tension in Northeast Asia. And we want to make sure that we all move towards that goal. And it’s just – I think everybody should be careful and ratchet down the rhetoric and not take any actions that would contribute to tension in the region.

QUESTION: I’m talking just in terms of in the recent days. You know, their latest bombast, as Matt said, notwithstanding, in the last few days, they’ve said that they don’t think that you’re serious about talking. And they want to talk to you about returning to the talks, and you haven’t given them an answer. So how are you going to get to your goal of a complete and verifiable or whatever nuclear-free peninsula without getting back to the talks? And the North Koreans have said that they’re willing to start doing that.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, you heard what I said yesterday. We did have a useful discussion. My colleague, Sung Kim, had a useful discussion with Ambassador Ri Gun in New York. And we took the opportunity in that meeting to reaffirm our commitment to a multilateral solution to the tension in the region and a resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Right, but you said --

MR. KELLY: And we --

QUESTION: You said that you’ve been willing to talk to them bilaterally within that context. Are you saying you’re not willing to do that anymore?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that at all. We remain willing to talk to them bilaterally, within the context of the Six-Party Talks, which means with the support and in consultation with our partners in these talks. It’s just that we have – still have not – we have not decided on when and where we will have these bilateral talks.

QUESTION: What are you waiting for?

MR. KELLY: Well, Sung Kim has just come back and the Secretary is on travel. We will make a decision, but we’re just not at that point right now.


QUESTION: Have you assessed their capacity for enriching plutonium and do you take their reports at face value? Do you have anything --

MR. KELLY: I don’t have anything really useful to say on that, I’m afraid. I just don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Well, you said that you want them to take steps to ease tension.


QUESTION: Is an announcement like this something that eases tension?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, it certainly runs counter to the commitments that they made in 2005, and it violates UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: So it contributes, it adds to, rather than takes – even eases tension?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that everybody should take steps to ease tensions and not use rhetoric to --

QUESTION: Well, the first step --

MR. KELLY: Well, I think not take steps that run counter to the UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: I guess what I'm trying to do is see if we can get you to say – put it in a complete sentence, a single sentence, that this --

MR. KELLY: This --

QUESTION: -- adds to rather than takes away – it adds to tensions rather than reduces them.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Unless (inaudible).

MR. KELLY: No, I think I did put it in a complete sentence. I said that it runs counter to the commitments that they made in the 2005 statement, and it runs counter to UN Security Council violations.

QUESTION: And therefore, does it or does it not add to the tensions?

MR. KELLY: That’s a subjective --


MR. KELLY: -- subjective qualification that I’m not willing to make right now.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I change the subject?

MR. KELLY: It’s okay. You have another Korean – okay.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the status of Tom Shannon’s nomination for the ambassadorship to Brazil and also the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere?

MR. KELLY: Well, they both have had their confirmation hearings. They both were voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with – I don’t know the exact tally, but with – I think with a pretty good majority of votes. And we’re in close consultation with our friends up on the Hill and the Senate to see how we can move this forward. And the Secretary looks forward to having Arturo Valenzuela as her Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

And I think it’s – we think it’s important to have an ambassador, a full-time ambassador in Sao Paulo, too – in Brazil.

QUESTION: Well, these nominations seem to be held up because of --

QUESTION: Brasilia.

MR. KELLY: Did I say – Brasilia, yeah. Well --

QUESTION: I thought he said Brazil.

MR. KELLY: Wrong city, right country, yeah. Sorry.

QUESTION: These nominations seem to be held up for political reasons because of the situation in Honduras. Do you think that the recent agreement between the de facto government and the Zelaya government will contribute to, perhaps, these nomination – the holds being lifted?

MR. KELLY: I certainly hope so. As I say, I think it’s important that we have an Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs and have an ambassador in Brasilia. But I think that you really need to address that to the senators and congressmen.

QUESTION: Well, what specifically has Secretary Clinton or her senior staff done when you say that we’re in close contact with the Hill in terms of trying to move this forward? Has she made specific calls on their behalf to see if you can – I mean, it does seem to be held up because of a political issue?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, this Secretary, I think, has done a lot of consultations with the Hill. She spent an entire day up there a couple weeks ago. She’s made a real commitment of time to staying in close contact with her former colleagues on the Hill. And yes, this is an important priority for her. We’re trying to complete our team here at the State Department, and so yeah, she’s made a real priority in trying to get these confirmations completed.

QUESTION: So when she was specifically – when she was on the Hill a few weeks ago, did she specifically talk about the nominations of Tom Shannon and Arturo Valenzuela?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure she did, but I don’t – I’m not sure exactly what transpired, and I’m not even sure if I would be able to share it with you. But I’m sure she talked about this.

QUESTION: It seems that DeMint is the one that’s being – that’s holding up the nominations. Has she spoken specifically to him?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure, Elise. Again, I have to refer you to the offices on --

QUESTION: Well, I’m referring specifically to – I mean, you say it’s a priority, but I’d like to know specifically what they’ve – what this Administration has done to get these nominations passed. I mean, the Administration has been in 10 months now. I don’t know exactly when these nominations were made, but I mean --

MR. KELLY: They were made a few months ago. Yeah, it’s – this is important to us and we’re working hard to see that they’re confirmed, but --

QUESTION: Do you think it’s fair that it’s being held up because of this Honduras issue?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not going to – this is really a question for you to address to the senators themselves.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to get a – you say it’s a priority, but I haven’t seen anything that indicates that it’s a priority.

MR. KELLY: Well, what do you need from me to indicate that it’s a priority?

QUESTION: I’d like to indicate what --

QUESTION: A sign. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: This is a priority. I mean, this is a – this is – we’re talking the Assistant Secretary for West Hemisphere Affairs and an ambassador in one of our most important embassies. And it’s important that we get them confirmed.


QUESTION: There’s a sense in Tokyo that the disagreement over the airbase on Okinawa could sour President Obama’s visit there later this month. What’s the U.S. position on relocating that airbase, and is there going to be – are there going to be any talks with the Japanese about it before the visit?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think our Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell is going to be in Tokyo Thursday, and he’ll have – he’ll continue the bilateral negotiations that we have.

Look, we have a new government in place in Tokyo. We’ve started an intense dialogue with them. Our position on the agreements that we have for basing hasn’t changed. We think that this is the best way forward in our security relationship with Japan. But we have a very, very broad and deep engagement with Japan, and this is indicated by all of the visits that we’ve had and all of the talks we’ve had with them. And this is an important relationship and it will continue to be an important relationship.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that the Japanese prime minister may not be able to back away from his campaign promise to move the base off land?

MR. KELLY: Well, that’s – it’s – that’s a decision for the Government of Japan to make. We are there in Japan because of our common interests, our – and a mutual security arrangement. Ultimately, it’s for the Government of Japan to decide what kind of relationship that they’re going to have with us, but again, this – what we have with Japan is designed to meet common challenges, common security challenges, and it’s done in complete transparency and in partnership with the Government of Japan. But it’s up to Japan to decide what kind of relationship they want to have.

QUESTION: Speaking of Kurt Campbell, he’s in Burma now?

MR. KELLY: He is in Burma.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what he’s doing, who he’s met with?

MR. KELLY: He and Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel had meetings in the Burmese capital --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: -- today.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I should have written it down – in the Burmese capital today. They are there on basically a – I would characterize it as a fact-finding mission. It is the first step, or I guess I should say the second step in the beginning of a dialogue with Burma. Today, they met with ministers of the Burmese Government and with various individuals affiliated with the regime. Tomorrow, they plan to meet with some representatives from the opposition, with the prime minister, and also with Aung San Suu Kyi.

QUESTION: How are the meetings going so far? Can you give us a readout?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I was able to talk to Mr. Marciel, and what he said is they’re basically in kind of an information-gathering mode. They laid out the way we see this relationship going forward, how we should structure this dialogue, but they were mainly in a listening mode today.

QUESTION: Are they going to meet with Than Shwe, the junta leader? I mean, is that scrapped? I mean, he met with Senator Webb.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not sure, Lach. We’ll find out.


QUESTION: Can I ask my question regarding Afghanistan?


QUESTION: Nazira Karimi, correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. As we know, President Obama promised that he going to announce his decision about sending more troops, additional troops to Afghanistan. I think it’s the time to sending more troops in Afghanistan; experts and people in Afghanistan waiting for the final decisions for President Obama. Do you think that he will take his decision?

MR. KELLY: Oh, I know he will take the decision, but --


MR. KELLY: Well, I can’t tell you when. I can refer you to what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said. He expects it to be over the next several weeks. He continues to have meetings. I think that we look forward to initiating a new chapter of our partnership with Afghanistan with the victory of President Karzai in the recent elections. I think that we’re going to look for President Karzai to move boldly and forcefully to initiate internal reforms, and we stand ready to assist him in that regard, to help him improve governance in Afghanistan, to provide security for the Afghan people and provide the kind of services that the people of Afghanistan deserve.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you talk specifically about what it is precisely you would like President Karzai to do boldly?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we would --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: We’ll have to initiate a dialogue with President Karzai, which, of course, we will do. I think that --

QUESTION: Well, don’t you already have one?

MR. KELLY: We do, but we want to see how the government is formed. We want to see who he’s going to have in his government. I think that, as I said before, one area that we will be looking to help him with is improving good governance, and that includes fighting corruption. I think we’re looking for the Afghan Government to speed up training of security forces, and so we’ll be looking to help them in that regard. I think our ultimate goal here is for the Afghan people – or the Afghan Government to be able to provide their own security for their own people.

QUESTION: President Karzai gave a speech today in which he said he was going to go after corruption, but he was flanked offstage by his two vice presidents, one of whom you guys have taken a very dim view of and believe is involved in major corruption. Do you think that it’s – is there – do you have any concern that he might not be serious?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we’re going to be looking for is – as I say, we’re looking for some strong and decisive action. We’re going to be looking for not just words, but deeds. And – but we’re not going to just stand off to the side and tell him what to do. I mean, we stand ready to support in tangible and concrete ways. But to do that, we need to do this in partnership with them and in consultation with his new government.

QUESTION: And also Dr. Abdullah’s supporter was – showed – they showed their negative reaction and they said they are waiting, you know, for a while. After that, they take action and they do something. And --

MR. KELLY: Dr. Abdullah will do something?

QUESTION: Dr. Abdullah supporter, yeah.

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know about that, but I --

QUESTION: They say President Karzai isn’t elected by the voters. That’s why they are --

MR. KELLY: Well, the fact is he was elected by the voters, and he – I mean, he was declared the victor in an election that was in accordance with Afghan law and run by Afghan institutions. As far as Dr. Abdullah is concerned, we have a lot of respect for him. We thought he ran an excellent campaign. And we hope that he continues to play a part in the political life of Afghanistan. We think he should continue to be a part of the dialogue regarding the future of Afghanistan.

Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Later today, if they haven’t already done so, the House is going to vote on this resolution which condemns the Goldstone report and calls on the Administration to oppose it and reject it. I think it pretty much basically echoes the Administration’s position on this already, but is there a statement of the Administration thinking on this resolution?

MR. KELLY: On the resolution itself? Well, I mean, you know what our feeling is about the report, the Goldstone report. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been talking to the – some of our friends on the Hill about the resolution itself, but I – Matt, I don’t --

QUESTION: Well, do you support it? Do you have any position on it?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know how to answer that. I would imagine we do, but let me take the question, then.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

MR. KELLY: Because I actually haven’t seen the text of the resolution, so --

QUESTION: This is going to come up tomorrow at the UN. What are you going to do about it there? Not the resolution --

MR. KELLY: It’s the UN General Assembly, right? I think – well, there’s a lot of discussions going on in New York today. Let’s see where we come out. I --

QUESTION: Do you think that it might – there’s a chance that it might not come up?

MR. KELLY: Well, in this regard, our priority is that we don’t want to do anything that’s going to make it more difficult to resume talks, and we know how difficult it’s been to try and get the two sides to resume talks. I don’t know that we – if we have a position per se on whether or not this resolution should be discussed in the UN General Assembly. I would imagine that we probably would not be terribly supportive of reopening this case. But again, let me --

QUESTION: Well, is the U.S. delegation going to storm out of the assembly building or something if --

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know, Matt. I would imagine not. But again, let me see if we can get you a position on that.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iran seems to be questioning the U.S. Administration’s engagement policy. They say that the Administration has a superficial, conciliatory tone. And today, the supreme leader said that every time they have a smile on their face – and this is in quote – they are hiding a dagger behind their back. Any reaction?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: That was from the peanut gallery here, not from the podium.

Look, we have – not just we, but the IAEA and Russia and France has on the table a very good proposal that will help Iran become better integrated in the international community, will be the first step towards ending its isolation. This is a very specific proposal that the Iranian delegation in Vienna already accepted in principle. I think it behooves us all to concentrate on this very concrete example of a way that we can move forward.

And this, as I say, is a way for them to end their isolation and begin to cooperate with the international community. And we would urge Iran to accept the proposal as it’s laid out by the director general of the IAEA, Dr. ElBaradei. And they’ve already agreed to this proposal in principle, so let’s – we think that we should focus on this first.

QUESTION: Where do things stand on the new round of talks?

MR. KELLY: The P-5+1, you mean? Well, that’s being worked out by Mr. Solana, and we – there’s been no agreement to have a P-5+1 meeting.

QUESTION: Well, actually, there was an agreement to have a meeting, but you just haven’t set the date? Or --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- now you don’t know if you are even going to meet?

MR. KELLY: The – well, the – yes, that’s right, Elise. We have not --

QUESTION: Weren’t you supposed to have one by the end of the month?

MR. KELLY: We’ve not agreed to a date as – a date or an agenda.

QUESTION: Why not? Is it because you can’t agree on the agenda, or you can’t agree on the date?

MR. KELLY: It’s – this is really – it’s being worked out by Javier Solana, and I just would refer you to the EU.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, you’re not an innocent bystander.

MR. KELLY: No, we’re not. I mean, Javier Solana is in close consultation with us and he’s in close consultations with the other members of the P-5+1.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to determine whether – I mean, you said you were going to have a meeting by the end of the month.

MR. KELLY: Right. That didn’t happen.

QUESTION: And that didn’t happen.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: So, I mean, is this that – have the parties kind of – has – Iran doesn’t want to meet anymore, or what --

MR. KELLY: Again, I --

QUESTION: What’s the holdup?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I really have to refer you to the EU. They’re the ones taking the lead on talking to Iran. They consult with us and keep us up to date on what they’re hearing from the Iranian side. But it’s – you really have to ask that of Javier Solana.

QUESTION: Is Solana actually making an attempt to --


QUESTION: Or is he waiting on --

MR. KELLY: No, he’s quite engaged in this and talking to the Iranians on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

DPB # 189

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