Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 21, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary is now in Shanghai/While in Tokyo she met w/senior Japanese officials, discussing the strengthening of our alliance and stressing the importance of our partnership
    • The Secretary and Indian Minister of External Affairs Krishna to lead high-level interagency discussions at inaugural U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, June 1-4
    • U/S Bill Burns travels to Afghanistan and India May 22-27/Meets with Afghan officials in Kabul and visits a Provincial Reconstruction Team; then confers w/senior Indian officials re: U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue
    • Ambassador Verveer to head an interagency delegation at 5th World Telecommunication Development Conf. in India, May 23-June 4
    • USAID Administrator Shah travels to Bangladesh next week for the Food Security Investment Forum; then to Beijing for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue
    • A/S for African Affairs Carson completes his stay in Kampala today/Travels to Turkey tomorrow to attend a UN conference on Somalia
  • IRAN
    • Mothers of detained hikers met for a second time on Friday/No further developments
    • Iranians previously detained in Iraq have been returned to their country by Iraqi authorities
    • In a joint declaration by Iran, Brazil and Turkey, Iran agreed to forward a letter to the IAEA/The U.S. is still waiting to see such a letter/Iran has stated that it will abide by procedures established by the P5+1/Iran must take the next step by coming to the P5+1 for a follow-up meeting
    • Work on sanctions against Iran, resolutions, and annexes continues at the United Nations
    • No information available re: an Iranian representative to the NPT Review Conference whose visa was allegedly denied
  • NORTH KOREA
    • The Secretary states we will have numerous consultations with other nations in the region re: North Korea's provocative acts of aggression and their consequences
    • A White House statement re: the sinking of the Cheonan calls it "an act of aggression"/It is a clear violation of an existing armistice/The intent of North Korea remains unknown
    • The message has been consistently clear--North Korea must agree to return to the Six-Party Talks and seek better relations w/ its neighbors/Its provocative actions only serve to separate them even more from the international community/Up to the DPRK to change the status quo
  • PAKISTAN
    • Arrests have been made in connection with the investigation into the "Times Square Bomber" case/The U.S. is pleased with the level of cooperation it is receiving from Pakistani authorities
  • JAPAN
    • The Secretary has indicated that we will work very hard on resolving the basing issue on Okinawa/The U.S. fully understands the situation there and is fully cooperating w/ the Government of Japan


TRANSCRIPT:

1:20 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Happy Friday to you all and welcome to the Department of State. Several things to talk about before taking your questions.

Secretary Clinton has landed in Shanghai on the second leg of her Asian trip, having stopped in Tokyo for consultations with senior Japanese officials. As you heard her say, we will be consulting very closely during the course of this week with our partners in Japan, in Beijing, and in Seoul on the proper international response to the sinking of the Cheonan. And she also indicated that we will be cooperating closely with the Government of Japan regarding the best way forward in terms of promoting and strengthening our alliance, and that our goals remain unchanged to maintain Japanese security and regional security, while minimizing the impact of base hosting on Japanese communities.

The inaugural U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue will take place in Washington, D.C., June 1 through 4. The Secretary looks forward to hosting Minister of External Affairs Krishna. They will co-chair high-level interagency discussions here at the State Department on a range of critical issues, including agriculture, education, energy, trade, and counterterrorism. There will be in-depth discussions on global and regional issues. And in addition, there’ll be separate bilateral meetings, including between cabinet members and Indian ministers, on the margins of the dialogue.

Connected to that, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns will travel to Afghanistan and India. He’ll be leaving tomorrow. In Afghanistan, he will build on the progress achieved through the successful visit of President Karzai and his cabinet to Washington, D.C. And in India, he’ll meet with a range of senior Indian officials and make preparations for the upcoming Strategic Dialogue.

Also in India, from May 23rd until June 4, Ambassador Philip Verveer, our U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, will lead an interagency delegation from the Departments of State, the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Homeland Security, and National Telecommunications Information Administration to the fifth World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad, India. The conference is held under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union.

Next week, Administrator Raj Shah of USAID will be in Dhaka, Bangladesh to participate in the Food Security Investment Forum, hosted by the Government of Bangladesh. This forum is a country-specific element of the Feed the Future Initiative. He will also be in Beijing to take part in development-specific talks during the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Dr. Shah held bilateral meetings with agriculture ministers from Bangladesh and Mali to discuss their national food investment plans as part of the Feed the Future event that we talked about yesterday.

Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson has completed his stay in Kampala, Uganda after productive meetings with President Museveni and other Ugandan officials yesterday. He had meetings today with a staff at the U.S. Mission and some of Uganda’s opposition figures. Tomorrow, he will arrive in Istanbul for a UN conference on Somalia and then return to Washington, D.C.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the hikers in Iran, the family visit, and any prospect for release?

MR. CROWLEY: The mothers of the three hikers remain in Tehran. We understand that they had a second meeting with their children earlier today, and we are grateful for that. And beyond that, we understand they’re still there. And that we certainly continue to call upon the Government of Iran to release them on humanitarian grounds.

QUESTION: The U.S. military has released two Iranian prisoners. Can we see any link or --

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I think, Lach, that’s not true. You’ll remember last July the U.S. military turned over to Iraqi custody five Iranians. And I would defer to the Iraqis as to whether any of those Iranians have been recently released.

QUESTION: So they’re in the hands of the Iraqis right now and it’s up to the Iraqis to release them; is that what you’re saying?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in July 2009, consistent with the requirements of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, the U.S. transferred five Iranian detainees to Iraqi custody. So if there were further releases of any of these individuals to Iran, I would refer you to the Iraqis.

QUESTION: So the Iraqi Government’s on good terms with the Iranians, so does it at least raise some hopes that if these guys are released, then the Iranians may be more encouraged to release the Americans – the three Americans?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, the circumstance – if there was such a release, those circumstances were up to the governments of Iran and Iraq.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any Iranians in custody in Iraq?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Okay. And you said that the mothers are still there. The wire reports were saying they were seen on their way to the airport. Do you have any indication that --

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, I mean, we’ll find out. I mean, I think the – they will be the ones who will be telling you what is happening. We obviously are getting some information from our Swiss protecting power. But on, I think, freethehikers.org, that’s where I think you’ll chart what continues to happen with the three mothers.

Yes.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Russian press is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has finally turned over the documents on the Daimler bribery case to the Russian office of the prosecutor general. I understand that this is purely a law enforcement matter, but since this --

MR. CROWLEY: You read my mind.

QUESTION: -- happened via diplomatic channels, I was hoping to get something from you. To be frank with you, we asked the DOJ about a month ago about this and they refused to comment. Even – we didn’t ask them to comment and just wondered if they received this request for mutual legal assistance or not and stuff like that.

MR. CROWLEY: I would send you back to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran real quickly? There’s a word that the U.S. denied a visa to an Iranian deputy foreign minister who wanted to go to the NPT Review Conference. Is that true and why would you have kept him out of the country?

MR. CROWLEY: Visa decisions are confidential.

QUESTION: But you already said – when you approve the visa it’s not confidential. I mean, you say we’ll approve this visa. I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: Is there a particular reason why this individual was not --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s not a matter of a visa decision being confidential. In this particular case, regarding the delegation that was coming to the United Nations, obviously if we approve visas they become visible, as with the arrival of President Ahmadinejad at the United Nations.

Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea. The Secretary said in Tokyo that there must be international response to this Cheonan incident. So what did she mean by international response? Are you pursuing a sanction resolution in the Security Council?

MR. CROWLEY: I think she also indicated that one of the key aspects of her trip will be the consultations that she had today in Tokyo, that she’ll have in a couple of days in Beijing and in Seoul before she returns to the United States. So we will consult closely with our partners in this process in the coming days, share perspectives on appropriate steps and then we’ll move forward with consequences for Iran. As she made clear, this kind of provocative act cannot be tolerated and there will clearly be consequences for North Korea.

QUESTION: Is there an increased vigilance on the part of U.S. personnel in the region now because in light of this attack, in light of the fact that the rhetoric has been raised, is – are U.S. embassies, forces, diplomatic facilities on alert?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, on military forces, I would defer to our colleagues at the Pentagon. I would say that we have not necessarily changed our security posture in the recent – in recent days.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Pentagon said the defense minister didn’t think that it’s an act of war – I mean, the Cheonan incident is not – is a little short of act of war. What is the State Department --

MR. CROWLEY: Who said that?

QUESTION: It was in the Pentagon report, press report.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: The exact wording was neither he nor Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would go – wouldn’t go as far as characterizing the refuted attack as an act of war. That was the wording.

MR. CROWLEY: So you’re talking about Secretary Gates?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, as we’ve made clear, this was a clear and compelling violation of the existing armistice. It was without doubt a hostile act. It was provocative. It was unwarranted. I think our characterizations are broadly consistent. We will be evaluating appropriate steps with our – with regional partners. And as we’ve said, there will clearly be consequences to North Korea.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, does the State Department see it as an act of war or not?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the White House statement that we put out before called it an act of aggression. I mean, everyone perhaps has their particular term. Act of war – it was a torpedo fired by one military vessel against another military vessel. No one knows what the intent of North Korea was. But it was unwarranted, it was unnecessary, it killed 46 South Korean sailors, and we will be working together and – as the Secretary said – there will be a strong and appropriate international response.

QUESTION: P.J.?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: On the same subject, in – as part of the consultations with the South Koreans, is the U.S. considering moving the date of 2012 for transfer of operational control of forces, which is something the South Koreans had wanted in the past? Is that under consideration?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s an issue I would probably defer to our colleagues at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: You don’t – you’re not aware of it or you don’t think that you can comment on it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to comment on it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. The North Korean foreign ministry said today that they are still committed to the Six-Party Talks and blamed – denounced the United States for blaming the North for the Cheonan.

MR. CROWLEY: Who’s blaming the United States?

QUESTION: North Korea. The foreign ministry denounced the United States for --

MR. CROWLEY: So let me clarify.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Six-Party process.

MR. CROWLEY: North Korea sunk a South Korean ship and it’s the fault of the United States.

QUESTION: He’s not blaming you for the ship; he’s blaming you for the Six-Party Talks, which led them to torpedo --

MR. CROWLEY: So North Korea’s admitting that it sunk the ship because of failure to advance in the Six-Party Talks. (Laughter.) I mean, there – I’ve heard of outrageous statements before. Look, the international community has been very clear with North Korea going back many, many years. North Korea has obligations. It has commitments that it signed up to in 2005 and has failed to follow. If there has not been progress in the Six-Party process, there is only one country to blame for that, and that is North Korea.

North Korea knows what it has to do. It has failed repeatedly to fulfill its obligations. It has once again taken provocative actions that not only undermine stability in the region but, in fact, present obstacles to progress towards a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a different kind of security environment in the region. So this is up to North Korea to – if North Korea wants to change the status quo, then it’s North Korea that’s going to have to take actions, stop its provocative actions, develop a sustainable relationship with other countries in the region, and take affirmative steps towards denuclearization.

QUESTION: Also, can you confirm the North Korean foreign minister remarks that they were negotiating on other high-level contacts with the United States in New York in March before the Cheonan?

MR. CROWLEY: From – there have been a number of contacts with North Korea, not just from – by the United States but by a number of countries. In all of these contacts, there was a clear understanding that North Korea would have to takes steps if we were going to make progress. And it has been North Korea’s failure to take appropriate action, and now we have this provocative step with the sinking of the Cheonan.

It’s North Korea that has to change its behavior. It’s North Korea that has to stop these provocative actions. If North Korea takes these steps, develops a different kind of relationship with South Korea, other countries in the region, a number of things become possible. But as we’ve made clear, if North Korea continues to take these unwarranted actions, such as the sinking of the Cheonan, then further progress is retarded.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, can you say more about this Warden’s Message that the Embassy sent out about avoiding a catering company that might have ties to the Taliban? It looks as if the owner’s son was arrested in Pakistan for talking to the Taliban about targeting VIPs and other diplomats at government functions.

MR. CROWLEY: Let us see if we can get you something on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And another one on Pakistan: There’s been some more reports about the connections between Faisal Shahzad and the Taliban in Pakistan. And now it looks like an army general in Pakistan was arrested, allegedly knowing about the attack but not alerting Pakistani authorities. Is there anything you can say?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there have been some arrests in Pakistan. We just had a high-level visit to Pakistan by General Jones, the National Security Advisor, and Leon Panetta, the CIA Director. We are satisfied with the cooperation that we are receiving with Pakistan in this investigation. But as to any detentions that have been taking place, I’ll defer to the Government of Pakistan.

QUESTION: I know you say you’re happy with the kind of cooperation you’re getting from authorities and the leadership, but – excuse me. (Coughing.)

MR. CROWLEY: Do you want some water? Okay, we’ll hold that question. (Laughter.)

Yes.

QUESTION: Going back to Iran, P.J., the – Ban Ki-moon has said that the IAEA now has the official wording that they have received the agreement that was made in Tehran between Turkey, Brazil, and Iran. Besides what you’ve said before, do you have anything --

MR. CROWLEY: Can I clarify – are you – you’re suggesting that the IAEA has received a response from Iran?

QUESTION: From Iran.

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, yesterday the Brazilian president was daring the West, specifically the U.S., to come to the table. Now that according to him Iran has said it is willing to negotiate, to come to the table, to talk, now who’s to take the next step? Even before this, Iran used to say, okay, we’re waiting for the West to say when and the West was saying we’re waiting for Iran to say when. So who goes first?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Iran goes first. (Laughter.) I mean, it is Iran that is in defiance of many UN Security Council resolutions. In the joint declaration, Iran has indicated a willingness to engage the P-5+1. We want to be sure that at the top of the list of any prospective engagement is the Iran nuclear program. If Iran wishes to have that engagement, and we would welcome that engagement, it can pick up the phone and call Catherine Ashton of the EU and set up a meeting. Iran has had that option available to it since October 1st of last year when we had this – we had one meeting in Geneva.

QUESTION: Isn’t Jalili supposed to be meeting with Catherine Ashton this week? I mean, I’d heard --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there may well be contacts. But if Iran is willing to come to the P-5+1, then --

QUESTION: You said Catherine Ashton.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but if they’re willing to have a follow-up meeting to the session in Geneva, we would welcome that opportunity. We’ve been – made our – we’ve made ourselves available since October and it has been Iran that has failed to come forward and seek that engagement.

QUESTION: Can you provide an update on this debate over the sanctions resolution? Is there talk going on this week? Will it be going on next week?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. Yes. I mean, work continues in New York.

QUESTION: Any progress on the annexes, if you’ve got a list of --

MR. CROWLEY: There’s still work being done on the annexes.

QUESTION: Are you going – are you expecting to reach some kind of agreement with the Japanese Government on Futenma issue on 28th of this month?

MR. CROWLEY: I think as Secretary Clinton said during her media availability in Tokyo, we will continue to work hard, working with Japan based on the deadline that the Japanese Government set.

QUESTION: And the prime minister – Japanese prime minister is going to visit Okinawa end of this – this weekend, and he’s going to tell Okinawan people that the Futenma is going to be relocated inside Okinawa. Okinawan people won’t agree with it for sure, but both governments are going to have an agreement on that. Do you think it’s – it will work without the local government? Otherwise, we are going to see the same history again.

MR. CROWLEY: And we will – we understand that this is a difficult, complex issue. We continue to cooperate fully with the Japanese Government as we work through this. We want to seek a resolution that is viable and sustainable. And as the Secretary said, we will continue our efforts working closely with the Japanese Government.

Samir.

QUESTION: The conference that Assistant Secretary Carson will attend in Turkey tomorrow, is it about fighting piracy in Somalia or something else?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s – I think it’s about broad – the broader effort – we are the strongest supporter of the AU mission and helping the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. I think the conference will be about the broader aspect of how to continue to support Sheikh Sharif, the interim president, and the TFG. Obviously, piracy is one of those issues that we will continue to focus on as part of our broader strategy.

QUESTION: I have one more. (Laughter.) I’ve recovered.

MR. CROWLEY: Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Sorry about that. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA has informed the IAEA that they’re ready to submit a letter on its declaration reached the other day. Have you heard about this? Allegedly, Turkey and Brazil will be accompanying them to the IAEA when the head nuclear person addresses the IAEA.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re aware of is that in the joint declaration last Sunday, Iran committed itself to provide a letter to the IAEA. And we will watch to see if a letter arrives and what it says.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you. Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - May 21]