Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 28, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton concluded participation at Afghanistan Conference in London; had sideline meetings with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen; the PM of Armenia; and FM Chang of China; Saudi FM al-Faysal; UAE FM Abdallah bin Zayid
    • Announced appointments of Staffan de Mistura as new UN representative for Afghanistan; Ambassador Sedwill as NATO special representative for international coordination for Afghanistan
    • Secretary, and other FMs, issued statement regarding violence in Nigeria
    • US assisting Peruvian government with stranded American citizens around Machu Picchu
    • Update on evacuations of AmCits from Haiti; rescues; orphans processed; concerned about potential for trafficking in persons, especially children; working closely with UNICEF and GOH
    • Question taken regarding whether there are any cases of Haitian child trafficking to the US
    • US has asked protecting power, Sweden, in inquire regarding report of alleged detention of a second AmCit; take the report seriously, but no verification; if proved true, we would seek consular access
    • US unclear re: North Korean intentions regarding the sending of mixed messages; North Korea has to take the first step; uphold its prior obligations; return to Six-Party process
    • US has an interest in resolving outstanding MIA cases; but #1 priority is getting back to Six-Party process and on getting North Korea to roll back its nuclear program
    • President Obama cited US's outreach to North Korea in his SOTU speech
  • CUBA
    • No announcements concerning restart of immigration talks; no update on detained AmCit
    • At her press event afterwards, the Secretary characterized her meeting with Chinese FM as detailed and positive; the Google incident was discussed;
    • Regarding the executions in Xinjiang region, US requested, but not granted permission to observe trials; urges China to handle their detention and judicial processes in a more transparent manner
    • The ME peace process continues to be a US priority; Secretary had sideline meetings at London Conference
    • No immediate comment on ISIS report concerning Burma's nuclear ambition; will investigate
  • IRAN
    • US has an outstretched hand to Iran because we want to see Iran play a constructive role in the region; we will continue to try to engage, but also be willing to apply pressure to Iran; we will continue to speak out on Iran regarding human rights and their relations with their citizens;
    • No P5+1 conference call on next steps this week
    • US has congratulated President Rajapaksa on his victory; first elections in 20 years; an opportunity to heal the breach that exists within the Sri Lankan society; US in contact with General Fonseka  


1:44 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Sorry for the delay. Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Let me just mention a few things before taking your questions. The Secretary, as you just heard, finished the Afghanistan conference and had a number of meetings during the course of the day on the sidelines of the Afghanistan conference. The conference itself focused on the issues of security, development, and governance, civil society, and then a regional framework and the international architecture for supporting that.

And obviously, during the course of the day, we were pleased with the announcements of the appointment of Staffan de Mistura as the new UN representative for Afghanistan, as well as the appointment of Ambassador Sedwill as the NATO special representative to help with the international coordination of our efforts in Afghanistan. But the Secretary had a number of bilaterals, including a meeting with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, the prime minister – or the foreign minister of Armenia, as well as you heard her talk about her meeting with Foreign Minister Chang of China.


MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I’m sorry. Yang, sorry. The Secretary also issued a statement along with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton regarding the current situation in Nigeria, our concern about recent violence and the tragic loss of lives, Nigeria’s ongoing efforts towards ensuring stability and democracy within the country, our concerns about the current uncertainty regarding the illness of President Yar’Adua, but also the imperative to – for Nigeria to move forward with gubernatorial elections on February 6th.

Our efforts continue along with the Peruvian Government to assist with stranded American citizens around Machu Picchu. We were able to evacuate 60 American citizens yesterday. That’s on top of the 50 that were evacuated the day before. We think that perhaps as many as 125 Americans are still in Aguas Calientes and a helicopter – we’ve added two more helicopters to the effort, U.S. helicopters, to bring that total to six. And the weather is acceptable for flying, so there are ongoing operations there today.

QUESTION: Do you think they’ll get them all out today?


QUESTION: Do you think they’ll get them all out today?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know if we’ll get all them out because, obviously, it’s the movement of American citizens and other nationalities. But we have six helicopters, the Peruvians have a number, and so we’ll just continue to move people off the mountain as quickly as we can.

And then in terms of Haiti, as of 10 o’clock this morning, we have evacuated 13,126 Americans and family members from Haiti. There are 76 confirmed American fatalities – that’s an increase of one from yesterday: 72 private citizens, the four U.S. Government official citizens. We processed 21 additional orphans for parole yesterday. Obviously, everyone was thrilled by the additional rescue of a 17-year-old girl yesterday. That brings the number to 135 that have been rescued from the various urban search-and-rescue teams since – over the past two weeks. And our – we’re also pleased that the contributions to our texting program, Haiti to 90999, has now crossed $30 million.

And one of the things that we’re focused on right now is, as we continue to work with the Haitian Government, with the UN in terms of the movement of children out of harm’s way, we are also concerned about the potential for trafficking in persons, particularly children, in the aftermath of the earthquake. Clearly, a number of people, including many, many children, have been displaced, separated from their families. They – this poses great risk and, particularly for children, a higher vulnerability to human trafficking. So we are working very closely with UNICEF, with the Haitian Government, to try to – and to alert nongovernmental organizations that are working in Haiti to be on the look for those who might want to try to take advantage of the situation.

QUESTION: Do you have any evidence that that’s taking place?


QUESTION: Could you give us any examples?

MR. CROWLEY: I should just add to – before going into that, the Secretary also met today with Saudi Foreign Minister al-Faysal and the UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid. They were talking about issues ranging from Yemen and Iran to Afghanistan, but also the Middle East peace process.

I don’t know that I have a lot of particulars, Kirit, on that. But this is something that – the Haitian police have had child protection brigades in place for some time. Obviously, we’re working with them, but also to try to supplement the capability on the ground. Haiti has a tradition of placing children from rural families with wealthier host families, but it also presents the challenge of bringing children into involuntary domestic servitude, something that the Haitians refer to as restaveks.

But we have seen some indications that – in people who have come down to help, we have concerns about traffickers, we have concerns about pedophiles. We’ve seen a couple of cases of those in recent days. So this is just something that we’re working collectively with those organizations that are actively trying to help children and the people on the ground to be alert for this kind of danger.

QUESTION: Do you have any numbers of people who have been caught? Can you give us a sense of --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve given you what I’ve got.

QUESTION: Do you believe – just one other one on this. You may not know, but do you believe any Haitian children have been trafficked to the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Anywhere else? Is there any --

MR. CROWLEY: And again, this is something that we’re just affirmatively putting people in place because we recognize in the dynamic that’s going on now, there is always this risk.

QUESTION: New subject? North Korea?

QUESTION: Actually, I just have sort of one real quick one.


QUESTION: Do you have a number of possible American deaths? You’ve been giving that figure in the past.

MR. CROWLEY: That number actually – we’re still –

QUESTION: It hasn’t changed for a number of days.

MR. CROWLEY: It hasn’t changed. I think we just moved one from the “possible” to the “actual.”

QUESTION: Is it “possible” or those were not identified?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve acknowledged there were some fatalities, but what – just determining whether – confirming that they were American citizens.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask about North Korea --

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and this report from the Korean Central News Agency that an American was detained on Monday crossing from the Chinese border?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve asked our protecting power, Sweden, to inquire of the DPRK about this report. It’s obviously something we take seriously. At this point, we haven’t got any specific information to confirm that, but it is entirely possible.

QUESTION: Is it also possible that it’s a reference to the previous case of --

MR. CROWLEY: Our current thinking is probably not, but --

QUESTION: Based on what?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we think – I mean, there’s been a report of a recent indication that perhaps an American citizen has crossed into North Korea and has been detained, and we are looking into it. We’ve asked the Swedes to – and they’ve sent a note into the North Korean Government seeking additional information.

QUESTION: Was that indication from – sorry. Is the indication – you’re basing it just on the Korean news report, or you have other indicators?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think at this point we take the report very seriously. We have looked into it. Have we got confirmation yet? No. But --

QUESTION: But you seem to suggest that you had some indication, based other than on the Korean report. Is that --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think right now we’re operating on the assumption that it’s entirely possible that we have a second American citizen detained in North Korea, in addition to Robert Park. On Mr. Park, we continue to seek consular access to him through our protecting power in Pyongyang. And like we say, if this report is verified, we would seek the same access to a second American citizen, should that be the case.

QUESTION: I understand you probably won’t want to get into the person’s identity, but do you actually have a sense of who this person might be yet?


QUESTION: Do you have anything you want to say?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I mean, it always – we do not have specific confirmation. We’re taking this seriously. And should we be able to verify that a second American citizen is being detained in North Korea, we would seek consular access urgently and immediately so that we can determine who it is and verify his condition.

QUESTION: Is your message not getting out to Americans who may be contemplating crossing over the border?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I mean, obviously, we don’t know the circumstances of this particular report, but we do take it very seriously.

QUESTION: On North Korea again, as you know, North Korean coastal artillery has fired continued toward the South Korean territorial coast. And in the meantime, North Korea has proposed United Nations command to resume search for U.S. soldiers’ remains. Can you tell us what North Koreans’ true intentions would be?

MR. CROWLEY: As to what North Korea’s intentions may be at any particular time, who knows? We’ve seen provocative actions in the past. We always have concerns about this. As to why they enter into provocative actions at one point, a so-called charm offensive at another point, we don’t know. We don’t know what they’re thinking. We do know what they should be doing, which is to return to the Six-Party process. And through the Six-Party process, there’s the potential to address and resolve any number of issues. First and foremost among them is for North Korea to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization.

But as to issues regarding concerns that North Korea may have, obviously we have longstanding issues and have sought cooperation from North Korea over decades to determine the fate of American soldiers from the Korean War. But there’s a great deal of potential here, but North Korea has to take the first step. It has to commit to this process, commit to its prior obligations. With that, lots of other things become possible. But we continue to consult closely with our counterparts in South Korea on the current situation. We remain concerned that – about any provocative actions that North Korea’s been taking and – but we remain adamant that, at this point in time, what North Korea needs to do is commit to come back to the Six-Party process and to meet its obligations.

QUESTION: That’s maybe – this is speculation for the true hidden intentions of North Korea is to get a peace treaty with the United States.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, North Korea has a history, when confronted with a straightforward but difficult decision, of taking any number of actions to try to hide the ball. The ball is in their court. What North Korea needs to do is clear. We’ve communicated that directly. Our counterparts in the Six-Party process have sent the same message to North Korea. The fundamental issue remains – what is North Korea prepared to do?


QUESTION: Can I follow up on (inaudible) part of her question?


QUESTION: I didn’t quite follow your answer when it – regarding her question on the North Koreans’ interest in resuming U.S. participation in the search for remains from the war. Is that something you – I mean, the U.S. unilaterally cut that off a couple of years ago. Are you interested in resuming it, or is it part of the Six-Party --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, as we’ve made clear, our foremost interest right now is to get North Korea back into the Six-Party process to address the obligations that they have previously committed to regarding denuclearization. We know there are a large number of issues regarding – in the bilateral context. We think there’s an opportunity to address those inside the Six-Party process once it resumes. From our standpoint, we do have an interest in resolving outstanding MIA cases. In the case of North Korea, it has expressed an interest in pursuing a peace agreement.

All of these things are possible. But first and foremost, we need to see North Korea back in the Six-Party process. We think that’s the right framework for any number of issues to be addressed.

QUESTION: So it seems like you’re not really interested, at least for the moment, in pursuing the search for MIA remains, that coming back to the Six-Party Talks has to happen first.

MR. CROWLEY: We have a lot of bilateral issues. We’re willing to address those bilateral issues. But first and foremost, our concerns are to get North Korea back in the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: The previous position was that this was a humanitarian issue and should be separate from the nuclear issue.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it is.

QUESTION: And not --

MR. CROWLEY: But right now, our focus is on getting North Korea to roll back its nuclear program. That’s where our emphasis is. We would entertain having a bilateral dialogue on issues of concern to us, issues of concern to them. But at the present time, what we want to see North Korea do is make a commitment back to the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: On another area?


QUESTION: On Cuba, the restarting of immigration talks. I think it’s an agreement has been reached.

MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing to announce.

QUESTION: No? And about this person who’s been detained in Cuba, I think there has been some talk about with the Cuban Government.

MR. CROWLEY: I – that’s a – I don’t know where we stand on that particular issue, whether we’ve had consular access recently or not. I’m not aware that we have.

QUESTION: Do you have details of the Secretary’s meeting with the Chinese foreign minister and was Google issue – it came up in the talks?

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary addressed that in her press event afterwards. She did bring up the Google incident. She characterized it as being a detailed and positive discussion and something that we will continue to discuss with China within the context of our broader relationship.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: President Obama talked about stronger sanctions on North Korea last night. Do you have any specific plans for that?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Clearly, the fact the President included North Korea in the foreign policy portion of his State of the Union speech, as he did in the context of Iran and our efforts on arms control and nonproliferation, it emphasizes the importance that we attach to this issue. We’ve made engagement with North Korea something – a priority during the course of the past year. We’ve reached out to North Korea. We’ve given them what we think is a compelling rationale for why heeding the will of the international community and understanding the unity with which all of the parties in the Six-Party process attach to this issue.

This is in North Korea’s interest. It is in their interest and they have the opportunity – they control their own destiny. They have the opportunity to end their isolation. They have the opportunity to have international cooperation, international support that would result in improved standards of living for their people. All they have to do is to understand that by giving up nuclear weapons, by ending their isolation, that this would be very good for North Korea in the long run. But as to why they continue to hold out, that’s always the $64,000 question and something of a mystery.


QUESTION: How come the President didn’t mention the Middle East peace process in the speech or the Middle East?

MR. CROWLEY: I would say that he – it is a priority. It’s a commitment that we’ve made from the outset. I think he did talk last night about the importance that we’ve attached to engagement on a wide range of issues. So whether it was explicit or not, I think it was implicit in his words that we are working aggressively with our partners around the world on a range of issues. The Middle East peace process is one and the meetings that the Secretary had on the margins of the Afghanistan conference today reinforces the importance that we attach to Middle East peace.

But this is one of a number of issues, whether its climate change, which he mentioned, whether it’s Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he mentioned, the fact that the Secretary is there, committed to working with international partners on progress in Yemen, on our strategy with respect to Afghanistan. We are committed to resolving the sources of conflict that impede the world from moving forward in a peaceful and prosperous way.

So there were a number of issues that he talked about directly. It was a 71-minute speech. So in any State of the Union address, you address many priorities; you don’t necessarily present a comprehensive list.


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: A question on Burma. ISIS has come out with a report today about Burma’s nuclear ambition and it also reports some construction activities going on near Mandalay, which could be a possible nuclear reactor site. Are you – do you have any statement about --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that particular report. We – in our discussions with Burma, we do have concerns about certain activity and the potential – that risks to the global nonproliferation agenda. I’ll be happy to – why don’t you ask me again and we’ll see what we can find out about the report.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: The – I know the White House addressed this just momentarily, just a few moments ago, but on Iran, there’s some executions of people involved in the recent political demonstrations. How does the State Department feel about this in terms of moving forward? The President, of course, has reached out to Iran on the nuclear issue. How would this affect U.S. diplomacy moving forward?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we pursue engagement with Iran and diplomacy because it is in our national interest to do so. We have an outstretched hand to Iran because we want to see Iran play a constructive role in the region. We want to see Iran have a different kind of relationship with its own people. So we are going to continue our efforts with respect to Iran, both to be willing to engage, but also be willing to apply pressure to Iran because of – we recognize the seriousness of the nuclear issue, for example, and we recognize that Iran’s isolation is not in the region’s long-term interest.

At the same time, we will continue to speak out on Iran regarding their relation with their people and what we see as serious human rights concerns and abuses. From what we can tell, it’s unclear that these individuals had anything to do with the turmoil surrounding the elections last year. We’re – and this – we think this is another sign of the increasingly ruthless repression and attempts at intimidation that we see the Iranian Government trying to send signals to its people. We think they’re the wrong signals because Iranian citizens have the same right that all citizens have to demonstrate peacefully, to participate in the political process. And this remains a concern and this – we believe that Iran should change course and respect the rights of its own citizens.

QUESTION: On a somewhat related note, on the note of executions, there were a few death sentences handed out in the past week in China in the Xinjiang region regarding the ethnic violence last year. Is there anything that the State Department has to say about that in terms of --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – it’s unfortunate that in the course of the judicial processes on these cases, we had requested permission to observe the trials; that was not granted. It’s hard to comment on the specific merits of the case without having been in the courtroom to observe firsthand. But we continue to urge China to handle their detention and judicial processes in a more transparent manner.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, do you have any further update on the elections there and on the conflict between the opposition leader and President-elect Rajapaksa?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we note that the election commissioner has certified the election results. I think there’s been a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Colombo congratulating President Rajapaksa on his victory. We are watching carefully and we have been in touch with General Fonseka regarding the security around him. But we think that President Rajapaksa now has an opportunity to continue to move forward with the political reconciliation process that he has started, the devolution of responsibility to the provinces, and to continue to work on full accountability of the – of what happened at the – as the conflict with the Tamil Tigers was finalized.

QUESTION: What do you expect from him during the political reconciliation process that you are pushing for?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, he has taken some steps, and we welcome those steps. But obviously, now the election itself was a step forward. This is the first national election that Sri Lanka has been able to hold in, I think, 20 years. The turnout was very significant, although we recognize not necessarily as large in certain parts of the country. So with this election comes an opportunity to continue to work to heal the breach that exists within Sri Lankan society. So with his election comes increased responsibility and we’ll continue to work with him on that.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, you mentioned that the U.S. has been in contact with General Fonseka. What are the nature of those contacts? Are there concerns about his safety in Sri Lanka?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, he had expressed public concerns and I think the Embassy reached out to him and just remain – we’ll remain in contact with him to clarify what his future intentions are and to be helpful if that’s appropriate.

QUESTION: He has U.S. residency, doesn’t he?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, he does.

QUESTION: Sorry, very quickly on climate change, the U.S. Government is supposed to inform the IPCC about their emission target reductions by the end of the month. Has that happened yet? Is it happening tomorrow? Or will that be --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question. Let me find out what we can. We obviously support this process, and Todd Stern is working hard on national steps that follow up. I think the Secretary had the opportunity to talk about climate change with Foreign Minister Yang earlier today in London, but we think that it’s now time for individual countries to demonstrate their commitment to the Copenhagen accord.

And obviously, we will continue to work not only to clarify the nature of our commitment; we obviously want to see it. And the President mentioned last night our ongoing commitment to domestic legislation regarding climate change. But I’ll take the question as to if the United States has to take a specific step and we haven’t done that yet.

QUESTION: On Iran, P.J., is there going to be a P-5+1 conference call on next steps toward Iran, notably sanctions, this week?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Have you checked? Is it that you just don’t know or you’ve checked and --

MR. CROWLEY: I have checked.

QUESTION: And you have no reason to believe that there is one, or you --

MR. CROWLEY: Correct. Well, I mean, as to next steps, as the Secretary outlined today, we will continue our consultations on the track that we’re on. We regret that in light of the – Iran’s inability to respond to our offer of dialogue and specific proposals that we’ve made, that we are looking at what should be done on the pressure of the sanctions track. We will continue to work with our partners and put forward ideas in the coming weeks. But as to a particular next step this week, I think that report is not correct.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you give us any more details on what the United States is doing to cooperate with Haiti to protect children at risk? I didn’t quite understand when you said we’re affirmatively putting people in place. Does that mean more U.S. officials are going to --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure – I don’t think I said quite that. I mean, we have people who are working here in Washington. We do have people who are working already on the ground. We have an office here in Washington to – that is focused on Haiti. But we’re – UNICEF is in the lead, but we will work to supplement their efforts to combat child trafficking. Part of this will be simply informing those who are – NGOs in particular who are deeply – faith-based groups who are deeply engaged in the recovery effort in China – I mean, in Haiti to be on the lookout for signs that there may be trafficking going on.

In this kind of situation with many, many children, additional children, orphaned, separated from their families, there is this danger. And we’ve seen some small signs of these dangers emerging, and that’s why we’re committing people here, working with people there to try to strengthen Haiti’s ability to combat trafficking of children and others.

QUESTION: P.J., I should have – before I asked you on this topic whether you were aware of any children having been trafficked to the United States and you said that no, you were not aware of any – and I should have asked you, are you aware – and you just said small signs, but are you aware of any Haitian children since the earthquake being trafficked anywhere either outside the country or within the country?

MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware. I mean, part of – there has – if you go back in Haiti pre-earthquake, we had already been working closely with Haitian officials, working with a special unit within their national police, because there is – there has always – there has been – there have been cases in Haiti, the so-called restaveks --


MR. CROWLEY: -- where children are moved into domestic situations with wealthier families and they’re supposed to be able to go to school, but in essence --


MR. CROWLEY: -- it becomes involuntary servitude. So I think we – knowing that we have some experience in Haiti, this is another area where we are trying to make sure that working with the Haitian Government, working with UNICEF, working with our nongovernmental partners, we want to make sure that we are attuned to any signs that this would become a growing problem.

But I think we’re worried about the potential and – I mean, I’ll – if you’re interested in this, I’ll put you in touch with our – with Ambassador de Baca and we’ll get some more substance for you.

QUESTION: Can I ask just a different one?


QUESTION: We asked if there were any cases of anybody actually bringing a Haitian child, trafficking them to the U.S. Have there been attempted cases of bringing them to the U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me take the question just to see if we have any early indications of specific cases so far.

QUESTION: And please, just to clarify, when you were giving us the latest numbers from Haiti, you said that 21 additional orphans had been processed for parole. Is that how you phrased that?


QUESTION: Okay. And --

QUESTION: So the total number was what?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re still in the range of 500.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)