Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 10, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton's Meetings with Palestinian and Israeli Leaders
    • Secretary Clinton will Speak Tonight at the Saban Center
    • Secretary Clinton will Travel Monday to Wakefield, Quebec for North American Foreign Ministers Meeting
    • U.S. will Continue to Watch the Situation in Ivory Coast Very Closely
    • Acting Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization Robert Loftis will Travel to Sudan Next Week
    • Conference Call on Sudan Today with Key Participants, Preparation of CPA Referendum
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Yun Met with Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese Officials
    • Secretary Clinton's Meeting Today with UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. has Built a Foundation for What Lies Ahead / Necessary for Parties to Tackle the Core Issues in Details / Still U.S. Intent to Achieve a Framework Agreement on Core Issues within a Year / More Intensified Focus on Core Issues / George Mitchell will Follow-up in Meetings Next Week / Believe Progress can be Made / Up to Both Sides to Make the Difficult Decisions to Reach an Agreement / U.S. Believes Both Parties Remain Committed
  • BURMA
    • U.S. is Prepared to have a Different Relationship with Burma / Welcomed the Release of Aung San Suu Kyi / U.S. Prepared to Engage Burma / U.S. has Concerns about the of Nature the Relationship Between Burma and North Korea
  • HAITI
    • This Electoral Process is Critical to the Future of Haiti / U.S. Committed to Support the Review Process / Will Judge Future Relationship by the Actions Haiti Undertakes / Believe Results of Process Can Lead to a Credible Election
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Query Concerning Ambassador Holbrooke's Illness / Taken to Hospital for Evaluation
  • IVORY COAST
    • Peaceful Transfer of Power / President Gbagbo / Letter from President Obama / U.S. Closely Monitoring the Situation
  • INDIA
    • State Department in Touch with Department of Homeland Security / Issue of a Formal Complaint / There May be Ways to Improve Coordination / Defer to TSA / TSA Guidelines
  • CHINA
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg and U.S. Delegation Travel Next Week / China Shares a Common Interest with U.S. / Wants North Korea to Cease its Provocative Actions and Take Affirmative Steps Towards Denuclearization


TRANSCRIPT:

1:55 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Continuing on, the Secretary today has already had meetings with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. She’ll be meeting later on this afternoon with UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, and also Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as well as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad taking advantage of the presence of many of these key leaders here to participate in the Saban Forum this weekend.

Obviously, the Secretary will be speaking this evening at the Saban Center. It will be a broad-ranging review of all dimensions of the challenge of Middle East peace. She will discuss the way forward, in particular what we need the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiation teams to do in the coming weeks and months. She will remind everyone what is at stake and what the costs of the status quo are today.

She’ll call on both sides, with the continuing support of others in the region, to begin to grapple with the core issues of the conflict: borders, security, refugees, settlements, water, and Jerusalem. And she will make clear that the United States remains committed to this process, but that responsibility to end the conflict ultimately rests with the parties themselves.

On Monday, the Secretary will travel to Wakefield, Quebec to meet with Canadian Foreign Minister Cannon and Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinosa for the North American Foreign Ministers Meeting. There will be a short press availability following the meeting. The exchange will build on progress since the 2009 North American Leaders Summit in Guadalajara and will shape the agenda for the upcoming Leaders Summit early next year in Canada.

They’ll discuss a range of issues, including trilateral cooperation on economic competitiveness, regional security and citizen safety, and energy and climate change. This will include how to bolster North American competitiveness, address the problem of citizen security in Central America and the Caribbean. Clearly, Foreign Secretary Espinosa will update the ministers on the challenge that Mexico faces, with the support of the United States and others, in dealing with the international criminal elements that are challenging the Mexican state: increased financial inclusion in the hemisphere, cooperate more closely on natural disaster preparedness, cyber space issues and health security, and promote energy efficiency and environmental protection across our three nations, in the region, and globally.

We continue to watch the situation in Ivory Coast very closely and engage with a variety of countries in trying to put additional pressure on the existing government. Obviously, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council met yesterday and suspended Cote d’Ivoire until Alassane Ouatarra, the democratically-elected president, has effectively taken office. And we welcome the communiqué, which strongly urged President Gbagbo to respect the results of the election and facilitate the transfer of power without delay.

Staying in Africa, Acting Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Ambassador Robert Loftis, will travel to Sudan next week as the United States continues its intensified diplomatic efforts to support the CPA parties as they work through implementation of the CPA. He’ll visit Juba and Khartoum. He’ll meet with Civilian Response Corps members who have been deployed already to assist in preventing conflict and promoting stability leading up to the referendum next month.

And speaking of that, when we conclude this briefing, we’re going to have a call with some key participants in this process of preparing for the CPA referendum next month. On the call at 2:30 will be Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Charge d’Affaires Bob Whitehead at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, and Consul General Barrie Walkley at the U.S. Consulate in Juba. I think the details have already been distributed to you.

But the United States welcomes the completion of a peaceful, well-managed voter registration process for the South Sudan referendum. And we commend the professional work of the South Sudan Referendum Commission, the approximately 11,000 registration workers, and the people of Sudan for achieving this milestone. And we recognize the continued commitment of the Sudanese Government and the SPLM to implement the CPA and the tremendous efforts of the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration, and other international partners as we prepare for the polling on January 9th.

And finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Yun has left Burma and is in Bangkok as we speak. He’ll return to the United States on Sunday. I think there was a statement put out earlier from our Embassy in Rangoon, but Deputy Assistant Yun met today with Aung San Suu Kyi and yesterday met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win of Burma and other officials, as well as other members of Burmese society as we continue both our engagement with Burma but also making clear to Burma that we believe there are significant steps that Burma has to take to change its relationship with its own population and open up greater space for participation in Burmese society.

QUESTION: On Burma?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, hold on a second.

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Let’s start with the Middle East here. Your highlights of the Secretary’s speech tonight seem to – it seems like those – they could have been written and she could have said them almost two years ago. Is this speech going to admit that your efforts to date have not been successful?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Matt, I would – well, let’s --

QUESTION: I just want to – if I can go back through my notes, you want to tell everyone how important it is – what’s at stake and that the status quo is unacceptable. You want to call on people in the region, including the parties but the neighbors as well, tell them how important it is to do something, and then tell the two sides that it’s important to begin to grapple with the core issues. I mean, this seems like you’re starting – you’re literally back at square one.

MR. CROWLEY: No, I would say we’re definitely not back at square one. We think through the many, many conversations and work that we’ve done over the course of the almost two years, we think we’ve built a foundation for what lies ahead. Admittedly, we’ve had the – dealing with the challenge most recently of the moratorium. As we’ve outlined, we believe at this point it’s necessary for the parties to begin to tackle the core issues in detail.

That said, over the past months, we have had, as we’ve been working through this process and trying to build momentum within direct negotiations, we have had substantive dialogue with both sides. We have a good understanding of both what their expectations are and what their needs are. We have had conversations on specific details of tackling the core issues, and so we think that this will help us in terms of outlining what needs to be done now and how we will move forward. These have been the focus of the conversations that we’ve had both with the Secretary and the Middle East teams, with Mr. Molho and Mr. Erekat. In the case of Mr. Erekat, he met yesterday and this morning with members of our Middle East team, in addition to this meeting for a little more than an hour with Secretary Clinton.

So we believe that we have advanced the process, but clearly more intensive work lies before us.

QUESTION: Well, you say that you have advanced the process and that you have a good understanding of the needs and wants and the hopes and aspirations of both sides. And they seem to be diametrically opposed. I mean, they won’t even sit down in the same room together. So how is it possible that you’ve advanced – that this is an advance, that this is a step forward?

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, you can’t get them to agree on something until they actually sit down and agree on something, and right now they won’t even --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we’ve – as we have indicated, it is still our intent to achieve a framework agreement on the core issues within a year. We believe that is achievable. We believe that rapid progress is still possible. And George Mitchell will obviously be here this weekend participating in the Saban Center event. He will leave Sunday night, be in the region on Monday, and will have a series of meetings as we begin this more intensified focus on the core issues.

QUESTION: Who’s he meeting with?

MR. CROWLEY: He’ll be meeting with the – I expect him to meet with the prime minister, with the president. The sequence of those meetings, I think, is still being worked on.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Well, when we spoke with Saeb Erekat outside, he said Israel chose settlements, not peace, and he sounded very pessimistic and angry. So what happened at the meeting today with the Secretary? Was there any type of progress whatsoever in that conversation?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I said, we’ve got work to do going forward. We expect to have a more intensified focus on the core issues. As the Secretary will outline in her speech tonight, it’s time for the parties to grapple with the core issues. We believe that progress can be made. We understand that we have to build confidence, that each side continues to question whether it has a partner with which it can make progress and ultimately achieve agreement. That is the challenge that we face. We believe that by working on the core issues at this point, we can build momentum, we can build that confidence. And we recognize, as we’ve said, at some point, to get to an agreement there has to be a direct negotiation. That remains our goal. But we understand that at this point we’re shifting to a more intensified focus on the substance itself.

QUESTION: Are you – Erekat also told reporters that the Secretary gave him letters to bring back to Abbas. Can you confirm that? And also, what are you asking Abbas to do? Are you encouraging him to go back to direct talks, or are you saying we’re willing to shuttle back between you two for the time being?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the purpose of these meetings was to help assess where the parties are, gain an understanding of what their expectations are, given our decision not to continue to pursue a moratorium. We have outlined for them our ideas on how to proceed going forward, and George Mitchell will be following up in the meetings next week.

QUESTION: So that’s what was in those letters, the outline of how you see going forward?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m going to be very judicious in what I say. The Secretary offered her thoughts to both Mr. Molho and Mr. Erekat on what needs to be done now, and we will follow up with George Mitchell next week.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: No. Hold on. Do you have anything to say about the case of this Palestinian activist, nonviolent leader, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, who was – has been imprisoned by the Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question and see what we know about that case.

QUESTION: Apparently, the EU, former President Carter, and others have all expressed concern about his treatment. He is a non – a leader in a nonviolent movement, Palestinian movement, in Israel, and there’s been concern expressed that the Israelis are throwing in jail someone who they might actually be able to --

MR. CROWLEY: As I said, let me found out what we know.

QUESTION: Staying on Israeli-Palestinian matters, from what you initially said it seems as if what she’s trying to do tonight is twofold, one, somehow trying to get them to talk more about the actual key, substantive issues. Do you plan to do that indirectly? Can you say, yes, we’re going to try to do this indirectly since they’re not talking directly now?

Secondly, it seems as if she’s putting much more of the onus sort of more explicitly on Israel and the Palestinians. In other words, we can’t want this more than you do; if you want to solve this, solve it. Is that – are those – is that a fair reading?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, ultimately, as we’ve said many times, it is up to both sides. It is for the leaders to make the difficult decisions to reach an agreement. We are prepared to do everything we can to help and support them. And as we go forward, if there’s an impasse as we address the core issues, the United States will be prepared to offer bridging proposals to try to overcome those obstacles.

But it is ultimately for the parties themselves to reach an agreement. We do believe that at some point they’ve got to return to direct negotiations to achieve that. But in the meantime, dealing with both sides on the substance we believe offers the best opportunity now to create some forward momentum, create some confidence in the process, help overcome the trust deficit that does exist. And we still think that progress is very possible.

QUESTION: Okay, so indirect talks on the main issues is your plan going forward in the near term. Is that fair to say?

MR. CROWLEY: Arshad, we’re not going to put a label on it, that we’re –

QUESTION: I’m not asking for a label. I’m trying to understand.

MR. CROWLEY: No, no. You’ve produced – I mean, for example, right now the parties are not in direct negotiations. Our goal is to get them back into direct negotiations, and we’re going to lead a more intense fight effort, focused on the substance and see if we ultimately can get to agreement, recognizing that at some point in time, to get to an agreement, a return to direct negotiations will be necessary.

QUESTION: So that sounds like really stepped-up U.S. effort and time expended now because you’re the middle man. Is that correct?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we think we’ve had a great deal – we’ve expended a great deal of effort to get to where we are. We are committed to this. We believe the parties themselves remain committed to this. And we’ll have George Mitchell in the region next week, following up on the meetings that the Secretary has had this week.

QUESTION: What’s – why are you allergic to saying, yeah, it’s going to be indirect talks. I mean, it’s obvious from what you’ve described that that’s what it is. They’re not talking to each other, you’d like them to talk to each other sometime, but now, like a tired, weary, and sad marriage counselor, you’re going to shuttle back and forth between them. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right, Arshad, tell us what you really think. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What’s the problem with – I mean, what’s the problem with saying indirect talks? Why is that – why are you allergic to that phrase?

QUESTION: Well, it’s not just that phrase. It’s any label. I mean, my God, the Bush Administration came into office and Colin Powell banned the use of the word peace process. Look where that got us. So it’s any label. Then Condi Rice talked about the political horizon for the Palestinians. And you can’t even – and then you guys called them indirect talks at first, and that was a big success when you started indirect talks. (Laughter.) And then you called it direct talks and it was a big success. And now, you don’t have direct talks anymore, but you won’t call them indirect talks.

MR. CROWLEY: Anybody else want to pile on? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I mean, why not? Why won’t you call them indirect talks?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to put a label on them.

QUESTION: But why have you done before?

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Can you call them parallel talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Can you call them parallel talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Samir, I’m not playing a – do we have Middle East labels for $200?

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what’s the purpose of the Secretary’s meeting today with Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN envoy?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s to continue to focus on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and continue to show our support for the tribunal.

QUESTION: On Burma?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, Burma.

QUESTION: Okay, two questions I have on Burma. One, are you considering lifting of any sanctions from Burma, small or big, in view of the recent developments there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Lalit, and we would do that for what reason? I mean, we are prepared, as we have said many times, to have a different relationship with Burma, provided Burma takes significant steps forward. There are very clear requirements for Burma, and it’s not about the United States dictating to Burma. It’s about what is in Burma’s best interest. Obviously, the – we welcome the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but that doesn’t solve the broader problem of the 2,000 political prisoners who still remain in custody in Burma. It doesn’t solve the challenge of the fact that the central government is still at war with many ethnic groups within its borders. It doesn’t solve the challenge of having a political system that allows broader participation so that you don’t have a faux election here that just, in essence, takes generals and makes them civilians and pretends that’s a different kind of government. It is the same kind of government.

So we will have – we are prepared to engage Burma. We’re prepared to change our relationship. That would include a lifting of sanctions, but Burma has to take affirmative steps to warrant that kind of consideration.

QUESTION: And second question about these WikiLeaks cables which says that Burma is building bunkers with the help of North Korea. I’m not asking you about the cables. The question is, in your assessment, what is the kind of relationship Burma has with North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: We study that very closely. You’re right; I won’t get into any particular cables. We have concerns about the nature of the relationship between Burma and North Korea, and we have that concern because of North Korea’s recognized history as a proliferator of dangerous technology. But it is something that we continue to watch very, very closely.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick one on Haiti? Senator Leahy, who chairs, as you know, the Senate Appropriations foreign ops subcommittee, put out a statement this morning in which he calls for the United States to suspend direct aid to the central government of Haiti and visas for top officials and their immediate family members, so as to send a message that the United States squarely supports the Haitian people’s rights to choose their leaders freely and fairly. Do you have – this is obviously a key player in Congress and on your budget. Do you have any sympathy for his call for suspending aid to the central government, and for not doing visas for members of the government and their families?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s focus on where we are now. We have – we’re in the middle of an electoral process. This electoral process is critical to the future of Haiti. We have already publicly stated our significant concerns about the results that have been announced. There is a process underway. I think today is the last day to file formal complaints to challenge the results that have been announced.

And we are committed to support this review. It needs to be credible. The results that -- when these results are finalized, leading to a run-off election next month, the people of Haiti have to believe that these are the candidates that they have chosen, they haven’t been chosen by the government behind closed doors.

This is a critical moment for Haiti . We are prepared to support Haiti. We are also sending a very clear message to the existing government that that this election has to be done properly, in accord with the wishes of the Haitian people. We will judge our future relationship by the actions that Haiti undertakes, but -- and we are committed to supporting this process. But let’s wait until we see what happens first, and then we will judge the implications.

QUESTION: So you have no sympathy for Senator Leahy’s –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Senator is outlining some actions that are, of course, within our purview. But let’s get to the end of the electoral process, find out what actually happens, and then we will evaluate what the nature of our future support for Haiti should be.

QUESTION: Last one for me on this. You don’t think, therefore, the exercise of this kind of pressure might be beneficial toward getting to a more credible outcome?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, there is an existing process ongoing within Haiti. The election is not done yet. I think it’s premature for the United States to take this kind of action until we are convinced that the existing process cannot work. I think we are committed to try to help to make this process work. There is a lot at stake here, but we want to see the process unfold, and we believe that it can lead to a credible election result.

QUESTION: P.J., there is a report out that Ambassador Holbrooke collapsed today in the Secretary’s office due to a blood clot. Do you have any information on that?

MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you is that the ambassador is at the hospital at the present time, and beyond that I will -- we will let you know, as we find out more.

QUESTION: Can you say at what time he went to the hospital?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t.

QUESTION: Can you --

MR. CROWLEY: I just know he was here working this morning. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation, and I haven’t heard --

QUESTION: Can you say if this happened in the Secretary’s office? That’s what –

MR. CROWLEY: It happened on the seventh floor, I just don’t know where.

QUESTION: Did he collapse?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I have told you everything I am going to tell you. He is at the hospital now, he’s being evaluated. He was here this morning. And beyond that, I will wait until we have more information.

QUESTION: Can you say he felt ill, or something?

QUESTION: Did he go under his own –

MR. CROWLEY: I do not know. I –

QUESTION: I happened to actually see him not so long ago, down by the cafeteria. So he was walking into the garage.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Matt, I do not know. I –

QUESTION: You don’t know if an ambulance came or anything?

MR. CROWLEY: I am going to be very circumspect here until I know the full details.

QUESTION: Can you not say that he felt ill? I mean, presumably, he did if he went to the hospital. Right? I mean, is that too much to ask?

MR. CROWLEY: He felt ill.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we just go back to Burma, please, one second?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: As far as your engagement is concerned, and also lifting of any sanction in the future, is this -- your team is asking the military government to -- I mean, are you asking them for a new election, so this lady Aung San Suu Kyi can run?

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, not -- it’s not for the United States to pick the future leadership of Burma. It’s for the United States to make clear that to change fundamentally the relationship between the United States and Burma, Burma has to take many, many actions, including opening up greater political space for more credible elections in the future.

QUESTION: P.J., Mr. Putin has made some very gleeful comments about WikiLeaks, calling into question American diplomacy, American democracy. And I think it was Mr. Rogozin who said that maybe Julian Assange –

MR. CROWLEY: Mr. who?

QUESTION: -- Rogozin -- NATO -- ought to get the peace prize. Do you have any -- have you been following these comments? Do you have any -- especially with Mr. Putin’s comments, any –

MR. CROWLEY: I have not seen Mr. Putin’s latest comments.

QUESTION: I have a question on Ivory Coast. The Secretary yesterday talked about this letter from President Obama warning of consequences if he did not step down. What’s in it for him if he does?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as you know, the hallmark of democratic and effective governance is the peaceful transfer of power. It is something that we take for granted here in the United States, but it is by no means a certainty in other parts of the world, including in the Ivory Coast, where President Gbagbo is already five years past his designated term in office.

President Gbagbo, like others in the neighborhood in the recent past, whether it’s Guinea-Conakry here recently and other countries over the past few years, he has the opportunity to be a statesman. He has the opportunity to make a significant mark in the future of the Ivory Coast, to demonstrate that -- to the region -- that there can be peaceful transfer of power, just as there has been in other countries, including Ghana.

You look at a country like Ghana. From a courageous decision several years ago, you now have an economy that is moving forward, economic growth in that kind of country, because with that kind of political stability, that’s the climate that brings significant government support and private sector investment. Cote d’Ivoire is a country with resources, but what is absent is commitment to democracy and to the kind of stability that can make a meaningful difference in the lives of its citizens.

So the President just charted out there are two paths for the Ivory Coast: One is greater integration in the region and around the world and international cooperation; and the other is increasing isolation.

QUESTION: And can you just confirm whether or not the President offered him a visit to the White House? And then also, what sort of contacts have you had with President Gbagbo?

MR. CROWLEY: The President has sent a letter to him. Beyond that, I know that, through our ambassador, Phillip Carter, and through our intrepid assistant secretary, Johnnie Carson, we are closely monitoring the situation. I can’t point to any particular dialogue that we have had with President Gbagbo this week, except for the President’s letter.

QUESTION: And the Defense Consultative Talks, who from State is participating in the DCT over at the Pentagon? The Pentagon said there were some State officials participating, Flournoy and others, in the Defense Consultative Talks.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I will be happy to check on that. I don’t know.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: On the Indian ambassador thing, do you have any update on it? Have you seen any formal complaint from the Indian Embassy or someone from this building that was --

MR. CROWLEY: We have been told that a formal complaint is coming. I just don’t think it’s arrived yet.

QUESTION: And yesterday the Secretary said -- expressed concern about it and said she will be looking into if this kind of incident could be avoided in the future. So what are you looking into? How could this be avoided?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are in touch with the Department of Homeland Security. There may be ways in which we can improve communications so that officials at airports know when diplomats are coming and help to better facilitate their movement through security. As we’ve said, and properly so, everyone from diplomats to ordinary citizens are screened prior to boarding airplanes. That happens here. It happens around the world. But certainly, there may be ways in which we can improve coordination so that this kind of situation will not happen again.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: There is one thing. Some lawmakers are saying that U.S. diplomats are treated like a king in India or in Indian airports, and they should be treating Indian diplomats around the U.S. And second, according to the Jackson – in Mississippi Jackson newspapers, she was pulled out because of her appearance. She had a sari, the national woman dress.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, for a particular comment on what happened in Jackson, I’ll defer to TSA.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, in the broader scheme of this, why should diplomats be given any special treatment for – over that of an average American citizen on something that matters to our national security?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I’m not – I thought I made clear that all passengers are subject to screening. But to the extent that ambassadors may, in some cases, wear traditional dress, if that can help TSA with its assessment of the risk that any passenger might pose to the airplane, that may be helpful information for them to know.

QUESTION: Well, why should that ambassador wearing traditional dress be any different than, in this case, an Indian business man or woman wearing a sari?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not --

QUESTION: I don’t understand. When it comes to airport security, why you think that there should be some easier way for them?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not suggesting that their treatment would necessarily be any different. But as the Secretary said yesterday to the – we want – if there’s a way in which we can prevent misunderstandings or help TSA anticipate whatever screening requirements might be required, we’re happy to help facilitate that. We’re just looking to see if there’s any way that we can improve this process.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in this case, I mean, she would have been called out for this additional pat-down regardless. At least I would hope, if that’s what TSA does for everyone who is – so how could this advance warning change anything?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this – look, I – it’s not my place to give the Department of Homeland Security free advice.

QUESTION: I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

MR. CROWLEY: Thanks very much. We understand that these kinds of situations are not unique to Indian diplomats. It has happened with other diplomats. When you do have an incident like this, it can impact – it can cause public misunderstandings and even diplomatic tension. As we go about our business of protecting the traveling public, both our citizens and the citizens of other countries, we want to try to make sure that people are – travel secure, but their treatment is fair and consistent with TSA guidelines.

QUESTION: So will you be advising to any diplomats to --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not giving anybody advice, Lalit.

QUESTION: Not to wear any bulky clothes like sari, which could lead them to secondary screening --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, TSA has made clear that from their standpoint, their officers at the airport followed proper procedure. That said, if we can improve the communication between embassies here and TSA so that if there are any special requirements for screening, they are anticipated in advance. That might help avoid the kind of misunderstanding that happened earlier this week.

QUESTION: Do you see signs that China is now playing a more constructive role in cooling tensions with North Korea, or are they fully engaged or still falling short?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Chairman Dai Bingguo was in Pyongyang this week. Obviously, Deputy Secretary Steinberg and the delegation that he will lead next week – we look forward to getting a full readout by Chinese officials and their current assessment of the thinking of the North Korean leadership. Our – what is most important here is we share a common interest. China has the same interest that the United States has and other countries in stability in the region. China wants the same thing, which is for North Korea to cease its proactive actions and take affirmative steps towards denuclearization. We may have a difference of view as to what the right step is now, and we look forward to the engagement next week.

QUESTION: P.J., I just want to go back to this incident again, two things that you said. One, you said that it’s caused diplomatic tensions, or something like incidents like these can cause diplomatic tensions. Is that how you would describe this right now? There’s diplomatic tension between the United States and India over this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, to the point that was raised here, the – we have – we obviously share concerns if the population in other parts of the world that has the opportunity to visit the United States for any reason is subjected to increased scrutiny because of a type of dress, that – obviously, that raises concerns in other countries around the world. Everyone understands that security at airports is a reality for them. That said, they want to make sure that they’re treated properly, fairly, and not subjected to unusual security measures just because of who they are or how they’re dressed. We understand that.

But whether it’s this particular incident or others that have happened earlier this year, the last thing we want to do is – we want to protect the citizens of every country who travel on our airplanes or other airplanes. Aviation remains a primary terrorist target so everyone recognizes the importance of security, but everyone has the same objective in making sure that all passengers are treated as fairly as possible.

QUESTION: Right. But you just said that the TSA acted appropriately, or TSA said that they acted appropriately. So I’m not sure I understand why the U.S. or why the Secretary would say that she regretted the incident in the first place, why you would even accept a complaint from the Indian Government if there was nothing – if no rules were broken.

MR. CROWLEY: Look --

QUESTION: And then – but then you used the word “misunderstanding” --

MR. CROWLEY: And --

QUESTION: What was the misunderstanding here? If everyone acted the way they should have, where’s the misunderstanding?

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

QUESTION: Can we go back on one WikiLeak, please? Two question into one WikiLeaks. One, if you’re aware of that as far as the server is concerned, it is in (inaudible), it’s underground, and if you are asking to unplug the server from WikiLeaks. And second --

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I’m asking to what?

QUESTION: WikiLeaks server --

QUESTION: It’s not. It’s in Switzerland. Can we stop this?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

DPB # 201

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 10, 2010 ]