Daily Press Briefing - May 27

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary Clinton Meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit
    • Secretary Clinton Working Dinner this Evening with President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas
    • Special Background Briefing Tomorrow on Secretary Clinton's Upcoming Trip
    • Secretary Clinton will Meet with Egyptian Democracy Activist
    • Ambassador Rice Met with P-5 Colleagues in New York/Very Productive Meeting
    • Meetings and Consultations Continue in New York
    • Senior Level Internal Deliberations Continue in Washington
    • U.S. Calls on North Korea to Fulfill the Commitments They Made in Six Party Talks/Refrain from Provocative Statements and Actions/Uphold Commitments
    • Secretary Clinton Spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Yesterday
    • Press Reports of North Korea Conducting Short-Range Missile Launches/U.S. Not in Position to Confirm or Deny Reports
    • U.S. Takes Relationship and Security Commitments to South Korea Very Seriously
    • Secretary Clinton to Review a Broad Range of Issues in Meeting with Palestinian President Abbas this Evening
    • U.S. Commitment to Middle East Peace and Two-State Solution/Cooperation in Areas of Shared Interest
    • Regional Approach to Lasting Peace/Saudi Arabia to Play Important Role
    • Special Envoy Mitchell Meeting with Senior Israeli Officials in London Yesterday/Follow-up to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Visit to U.S.
    • Special Envoy Mitchell is Returning to Washington
    • U.S. Welcomes the Release of Michel Kilo/President Obama Has Made Clear Strong Support for Human Rights Around the World
    • U.S. Sends Deepest Condolences to Innocent Victims and Their Families in Today's Blast in Lahore
    • There is No Political Cause that Justifies Killing Innocent People
    • U.S. Continues to Support the Government of Pakistan in Their Efforts to Combat Terrorism
    • All U.S. Consulate Personnel are Accounted for/Unaware of Any U.S. Citizen Casualties
    • The U.S. Consulate is Open for Business
    • Per Request of the Government of Pakistan the U.S. Consulate has Provided Emergency Medical Supplies
Kelly, Ian
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 27, 2009


12:11 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Welcome. As you know, the Secretary has a joint press availability in a little less than an hour with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. She also – I think as you saw on her schedule, she has a working dinner with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. And we also, I think, put out a notice that we’re going to have a background briefing on the Secretary’s trip to Latin America with a senior U.S. official tomorrow at 2 o’clock.

So with that, and with the caveat that we’ve only got about a half hour here, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: What’s the latest on North Korea? What can you tell us about anything they may or may not have done or said over the last 24 hours, and how are things going in New York?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – since we’ve – since we last met, since yesterday’s briefing, Secretary – I’m sorry, Ambassador Rice met with her P-5 colleagues in New York, in addition to the Japanese ambassador. I think you probably saw her remarks afterwards. She called it a very productive meeting and everyone agreed that we had to send a strong, unified message to North Korea. Today, up in New York, meetings and consultations continue. There is also consultations with capitals. And we here in Washington, we continue our internal deliberations in our – at the senior level.

QUESTION: Well, two specific things. One, there are South Korean media reports that North Korea has resumed operating its facility at Yongbyon, which, as you know, produced plutonium. Does the U.S. Government have any reason to believe that Yongbyon has been sufficiently reconstituted to actually work and produce plutonium?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, Arshad, we’ve seen these reports. We’re aware of them. We’re – I can’t comment on any sort of intelligence matters or any kind of analysis of what they’re doing there or what their capability is. I’ll just say, again, that we call on them to fulfill the commitments that they’ve made.

QUESTION: You don’t have any reason to substantiate those reports, though, do you?

MR. KELLY: I just – all I’ll say is that we’re aware of them. We’ve seen them.

QUESTION: But I mean, on that particular issue, I mean, if they have indeed restarted the facility, then that’s a violation of the agreement that you’ve reached with them, and your commitments would no longer be valid. So why can’t you say whether you believe that North Korea has restarted the facility and has stuck to its commitments on the --

MR. KELLY: You know, I’ll just say straight out I’m unable to comment on it. We’re aware of them. We’re aware of the reports. We saw them. But I’m unable to comment on them.

QUESTION: But are you judge – are you looking at the reports? Or are you saying you can’t comment because you don’t know that to be true?

MR. KELLY: I’m just saying that we’re aware of the reports and I’m just not going to comment on any intelligence matters.

QUESTION: How about the North Korean threat to attack the South if it were, as a newly-minted member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, to stop North Korean vessels?

MR. KELLY: You know, I saw those statements too and I’m just not going to respond to every statement coming out of Pyongyang. I said yesterday we welcome South Korea’s participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative. These advance our nonproliferation goals. I think 95 countries have joined it. You saw the statement probably out of the White House as well welcoming the decision of South Korea to participate. And beyond that, I don’t really care to comment.

QUESTION: I know you won’t comment on statements, but there – doesn’t that reaction give you pause about the idea of intercepting ships and boarding ships? They said it’s an act of war. So does that make you reconsider your position?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, you know, as we’ve said many times from this podium, we call on North Korea to refrain from these kinds of provocative statements. And we call on them to uphold their commitments and abide by their international obligations.

QUESTION: Is there --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- reassessment going on of their motives, what might be behind this, and that they may not be interested at all in the Six-Party Talks?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, we’re continuing our internal deliberations here at the State Department and interagency, and we’re looking at all the factors.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the – just about the reactor? I mean, the reactor is the whole premise of the Six-Party Talks --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the denuclearization of North Korea. So if indeed they restarted their reactor, and it doesn’t seem to be that there is any reason to believe that they actually did, but I know that these reports are out there – why can’t you comment on these particular reports? I mean, that’s the whole premise behind your decision to go ahead with the diplomacy on the Six-Party Talks – the idea that North Korea would continue to dismantle its nuclear reactor. It’s the very heart of U.S. policy and diplomacy towards North Korea.

MR. KELLY: Well, I just – I’m not going to comment on something that’s just a report at this time. I’ll just say again that they should refrain from any provocative actions – and clearly, restarting the nuclear reactor would be a provocative action – and uphold the commitments that they’ve made. But I’m not going to comment on something that we don’t – that’s right now just press reports.

QUESTION: Oh, so it’s just press reports? It’s not --

MR. KELLY: All we’re aware of --

QUESTION: You don’t believe that to be true?

MR. KELLY: All we’re aware of right now are press reports.



QUESTION: The reports are that – not the nuclear reactor, but that they’re restarting the processing center, which they restarted last year.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And when they did restart that last year when there were troubles in the talks, we were given a blow-by-blow description --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- of when and where and how it was restarted.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering, if they were to take that step to restart the reprocessing, would you take that same route and let us know exactly what was happening if you had information on it?

MR. KELLY: Well, let’s see where we are. I mean, I – this – you know, this is just reports that I’ve just seen this morning. We’ll respond to something when we have something confirmed.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the Secretary’s calls relating to North Korea? And also, can you tell us whether she will attend a meeting at the White House later today, or is that a deputies meeting later?

MR. KELLY: There – I can’t comment on the specific participation list of interagency meetings. There are a number of interagency meetings going on today, including at senior levels. I briefed you yesterday on the phone calls that she made. She does have a meeting with the President today. I don’t have a – I wouldn’t go into the details of the agenda, but I’m sure that North Korea will come up.

QUESTION: And what about phone calls today or phone calls since you briefed us last?

MR. KELLY: She did –

QUESTION: Has she talked to the Russian foreign minister, for instance?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Has she talked to the Russian foreign minister?

MR. KELLY: She did talk to the Russian foreign minister yesterday --

QUESTION: Yesterday.

MR. KELLY: -- yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: But no calls today?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware. I’m just not – I just can’t recall off the top of my head her phone calls today.


QUESTION: Isn’t the President in California? How is she going to meet with the President?
He doesn’t get back until tomorrow.

MR. KELLY: I’ll have to – why don’t I get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, he’s in Los Angeles.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Can you check if she’s going to be in these interagency meetings? I mean, you’ve said in the past if she’s taking part in these meetings --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, we’ll – we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: -- it certainly seems logical you should be able to --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, okay. And we’ll get back to you on the White House issue too.

QUESTION: Also, Ambassador Bosworth –

MR. KELLY: I may have misspoken. I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Also, would you check please on whether Ambassador Bosworth is going to participate?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, he’s – I know he’s here in town.



QUESTION: Change of subject?


QUESTION: Will the --

QUESTION: One more on North Korea?

MR. KELLY: One more on North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah. Missile launch? How many missiles do you understand North Korea to have launched since the nuclear test?

MR. KELLY: Again, I think we’re just – it’s just press reports that we’re aware of. We’re not in a position right now to confirm or deny the reports. They conducted short-range missile launches on May 25th. And these press reports were that they conducted short-range missile launches on May 25th and 26th. And again, we just call on North Korea to refrain from aggressive and provocative actions such as this.

QUESTION: The South Korean press reported the launching of another missile last night. Is that – so that by my count, we’re looking at press reports of four separate launchings of a total of six missiles.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are we on the same page you and I?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not sure of that latest missile launch. But again, we’re unable to confirm or deny any of these reports right now.


QUESTION: On North Korea?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Just for the record, you’re not confirming either – you’re not going to give a reaction either to North Korea abandoning the truce that ended the Korean War, is that correct? You’re not going to --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not going to give a response to that.

QUESTION: So we have quite a lot of public statements from the North that you don’t want to comment on. And that’s a sudden change, isn’t it? You used to comment on these statements, and does this mean that you are more concerned than ever not to ratchet up tensions?

MR. KELLY: I’m just – you know, I’m just not going to respond to every statement coming out of Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Well, a declaration of war on South Korea isn’t just any other statement. I mean, a statement that says that it’s going to, you know, violate a armistice that’s been in place for decades is not just an ordinary statement. I mean, it’s pretty --

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, again, I’m not going to comment on it. You know, obviously, we take our relationship with South Korea very seriously, our commitments to their security very seriously, but I’m just – I’m not going to respond to each statement coming out of Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary is meeting with President Abbas tonight, and the White House announcing yesterday that the President is going to do a detour for his Cairo trip, stopping in Riyadh and meeting with King Abdullah. Is the Arab Peace Initiative still the premise, the base for negotiation between the Israelis or the Palestinians? Or are we expecting to see a new plan or proposal that’s going to be launched?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – you know, this – it’s a – I can say that the Secretary is meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority tonight. She’ll review a broad range of issues, including our commitment to a Middle East peace and our commitment to a two-state solution, and they’ll also discuss ways that we can cooperate in areas of shared interest.

QUESTION: But I mean, is this anything new that we’re going to hear? My question, is are we still – or is the Administration still relying on the Arab Peace Initiative as the base for negotiations?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me – let’s not – I don’t want to prejudge too much what will be on tomorrow’s agenda, so I’ll refrain from further comment on it.

QUESTION: But in terms of Saudi Arabia, how important is the Saudi role in all of this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think Saudi Arabia plays a very important role in this. I mean, we want to take a regional approach to the issue of a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And so we think Saudi Arabia plays a very important role.

QUESTION: Can you tell us why the Secretary no longer plans to meet with the Egyptian democracy activist today? She had --

MR. KELLY: I think she does plan to meet with an Egyptian democracy activist.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us why it’s not some sort of – on her – it’s on her schedule today?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – it’s – you’ll see it on her schedule. It’s just not today.


QUESTION: Well, when is she going to do that?

MR. KELLY: We’ll have – I’ll tell you when – we’ll tell you when we have that information. But she is going to meet with him.

QUESTION: But not today?

MR. KELLY: But not today.

QUESTION: Why not today?

QUESTION: Was this postponed today because of the – because she was doing – he was coming after the meeting with --

MR. KELLY: It was postponed strictly for scheduling reasons.

QUESTION: Well, scheduling reasons, as we know, can be – take on a variety of different --

QUESTION: A multitude of (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yes. So it wasn’t done out of any --

MR. KELLY: One at a time, Arshad.

QUESTION: It wasn’t done out of sensitivity because she was meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister immediately --


QUESTION: -- before that?

MR. KELLY: No, it wasn’t.

QUESTION: Who would be in this meeting then?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have that information right now.

QUESTION: Do you expect her to raise the case of Ayman Nour in her meeting today with the foreign minister?

MR. KELLY: She’s going to talk about a broad range of issues, but I’m not going to get into individual cases --

QUESTION: During the Secretary’s --

MR. KELLY: -- individual agenda items.

QUESTION: During Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Aboul Gheit today, did she pressure him at all to look into reforming or speaking with Mubarak about reforming Egypt’s democracy?

MR. KELLY: Well, they’re actually meeting right now.

QUESTION: To discuss that?

MR. KELLY: Well, they’re having their – they’re having a working lunch right now. You’re talking about the Egyptian foreign minister?


MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s going on right now.

QUESTION: And did she mention if that’s going to be on her agenda to --

MR. KELLY: Well, I – it’s happening right now.

QUESTION: And how does – if I can just follow up with that. Egypt as a democracy – if I can just mention something that was in an op-ed this week – the executive director of Voices for an Egyptian Democracy said while Mubarak is perceived abroad as playing a key role in regional stability, the corruption of his regime and continued repression of the Egyptian people are undermining that very stability and security. So where does the State Department stand on the Egyptian-U.S. relationship?

MR. KELLY: Well, the Secretary is going to be speaking in about a half hour on the meeting that they’re having right now, so I think I’ll just refrain from comment and give her an opportunity to --

QUESTION: Will Gaza be part of that discussion?

MR. KELLY: I – again, I’ll let her characterize the meeting.

QUESTION: On the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is Senator Mitchell in London, as the Jerusalem Post says, meeting with an Israeli delegation on Iran and the future of Israeli settlements?

MR. KELLY: Senator Mitchell was in London yesterday. He met with some senior Israeli officials. This is part of our ongoing consultations with the Government of Israel, and these meetings were agreed to as a follow-up to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit earlier.

QUESTION: You can’t confirm the settlement issue figured on that?

MR. KELLY: I just – all I know is that they discussed a full range of issues.

QUESTION: Where is he today?

MR. KELLY: I believe he should be back in Washington. He’s on his way back to Washington.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Cuba and the --

QUESTION: Can I stay on the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: James has got a question on the Middle East.

QUESTION: Does the Obama Administration regard itself as bound by the contents of the letter that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received from President Bush in 2004?

MR. KELLY: That’s an excellent question, James, and I’ll get you the information on that.

QUESTION: Taken question?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, taken question.

Yeah, Michelle.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you explain the change of policy on allowing – opening up discussions at the OAS for membership for Cuba, why the Obama Administration has offered this change in tack?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’ve changed tack, and I’m going to take that question, too.

This is the last question, okay? Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any reaction or comment about Syria’s release of the political activist Michel Kilo last week?

MR. KELLY: Let me check for you.

QUESTION: And if you could --

MR. KELLY: I do, yeah.

QUESTION: -- get something on the Lahore bombing also, which I suspect you have guidance on?

MR. KELLY: Oh, yes. Okay. You’re right, Arshad. I will take that one.

This is on the release of Michel Kilo?


MR. KELLY: Okay. I do have a reaction to it. We welcome the release of Syrian writer Michel Kilo. President Obama has made clear his strong support for human rights around the world. And that’s it.

QUESTION: That’s it?

MR. KELLY: That’s it.

Okay. I’m sorry, Arshad, you wanted a comment on the Lahore --

QUESTION: The Lahore bombing, yes.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, okay. And this will be the last.

Our deepest condolences go out to the innocent victims and their families. There is no political cause that justifies killing innocent people. We continue to support the Government of Pakistan and their efforts to combat terrorism.

To bring it down to the more specific, we’re unaware of any more – of any U.S. citizens who were killed and injured in this incident. All U.S. Consulate personnel are accounted for. The Consulate is open for business per normal business hours. And per the request of the local government in Lahore, the Consulate has provided some emergency medical supplies.

QUESTION: Just one small follow-up on this. The Pakistani Government has said that they view this blast as revenge for their offensive against the Taliban. Do you see it the same way?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, there is absolutely – there is no justification at all for this kind of heinous act, indiscriminate murder.

QUESTION: But regardly of whether it’s justified – I’m not – my question wasn’t is it justified or not, but rather do you think this is part of Taliban or Taliban-allied --

MR. KELLY: Yeah – no, I’m not going to get into the Taliban’s way of thinking. This is just a totally abhorrent and unacceptable act.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Okay, thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:29 p.m.)