Daily Press Briefing - July 27

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue / Secretary Clinton Hosted Dinner for Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo
    • Presentations on Development and Clean Energy / Secretary to Meet Privately with State Councilor Dai to Review Day's Discussions
    • Conference Call with State Department and Treasury Officials
    • U.S. Has Strategic Talks at Sub-Cabinet Level and Cabinet Level Dialogues / Formal Ongoing Dialogues with Many Countries
    • Urge President Zelaya to Allow Political Process to Play Out / His Attempt to Enter Honduras without Political Agreement Allowing for His Return Was Not Helpful / All Sides Have to Focus on Peaceful Political Resolution of Conflict
    • U.S. Supporting President Arias and Negotiation Process / U.S. Wants Restoration Of Democratic Order and Return by Mutual Agreement of Democratically Elected President
    • Senior Officials, Assistant Secretary Shannon In Touch with Zelaya
    • No Specific Plans Regarding Zelaya's Trip to Washington, D.C.
    • U.S. Not Going to Put Artificial Deadline on Process
  • CUBA
    • News Ticker Turned Off in June / Not Effective in Delivering Information to Cuban People / Measures Announced April 13 by President Will Be More Effective in Promoting Free Flow of Information
    • Cubans Dismantled Negative Billboards Around U.S. Interests Section / Dueling Billboards Not Serving Interests of Promoting More Productive Relationship
    • U.S. Open to Bilateral Dialogue in Multilateral Context / Will Not Meet With North Koreans Without Specific Actions on Their Part / Want North Koreans to Uphold Commitments Laid Out in Joint Statement They Signed
    • U.S. Communicates Informally, Formally with North Korea / Will Not Discuss Substance of Diplomatic Exchanges
Kelly, Ian
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 27, 2009


12:55 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good afternoon. Let me start off by just kind of updating you where we are today in terms of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which you all know started today. The Secretary hosted a dinner last night for Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo. They discussed the agenda for today. And as you know, this dialogue is being co-hosted with the Department of Treasury.

This morning, there were a number of presentations in the first session, including presentations on development and clean energy. They’ve now broken for lunch and will reconvene this afternoon into their component sections. The strategic section will meet here at the State Department. They arrive here at 3:00. And the economic part of the program will remain at the Reagan Building. The Secretary will hold a private meeting with State Councilor Dai tonight, following the conclusion of today, the first day of the S&ED. And this meeting, again, will allow them to review the day’s discussions, today’s discussions, and look ahead to the work tomorrow.

I think, as you also know, we’re going to arrange a conference call with a few officials from State and Treasury. That’ll be at 4:45. I think you’ve gotten that – the details on how to sign on and participate in that call.

QUESTION: That call is on the record?

MR. KELLY: That call, I believe, is on background.

QUESTION: Just a point of order here: The Chinese officials who are briefing are briefing on the record.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Which country is more open and transparent? (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: I take your concerns on board and I’ll see what we can do.

QUESTION: I hope you do, because I think you should be embarrassed, actually.

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know if we’re embarrassed, but I do take your concerns very seriously. And with that, I’ll – I will answer your questions seriously.

QUESTION: Honduras.

MR. KELLY: Honduras?

QUESTION: Yeah. President Zelaya – not very happy with comments that Secretary Clinton made on Friday saying that his move was reckless, and he’s asking for the Administration to take – you know, put immediate sanctions on numerous people. What’s your reaction to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re continuing to urge President Zelaya to allow this political process to play out, this – these negotiations that are being spearheaded by Costa Rican President Arias. We are urging all sides to refrain from actions that would not further this process. And we see this attempt to enter Honduras, absent any kind of political agreement between the two sides that would allow for his return, as not helpful.

And what happened on Friday, as you heard, this going right up to the border point and even crossing over the border point, the Secretary termed, I think quite rightly, reckless. And I think that all sides have to focus on coming to a peaceful political resolution of this conflict.

QUESTION: So your position hasn’t changed at all since last week, given --


QUESTION: -- President Zelaya’s actions?

MR. KELLY: No, it has not. We are – we’re still – we’re focused very much on the process to – we are trying to – that we are hoping will lead to a peaceful resolution, and we’re doing all we can to support President Arias.

QUESTION: Do you still believe that the return of democratic rule requires the restoration of President Zelaya as president?

MR. KELLY: We – our policy remains the same, that we want the restoration of democratic order. And that includes the return by mutual agreement of the democratically elected president, and that’s President Zelaya.

QUESTION: Now the current leader of the – what you call the de facto regime, Mr. Micheletti, wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal today, in which he re – says again that if Zelaya does return, he has to be tried. What’s your position (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re going to let the two sides work this out. I mean, this is – we want this – as I said, we want this process to have a chance to work. We think that President Arias has presented a good plan, and let’s let this negotiating process work its way out.


QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Secretary to speak with Zelaya by telephone, or are there any plans for Zelaya to come here to the U.S. again?

MR. KELLY: Regarding the former, I’m not aware of a telephone call that’s planned. Should President Zelaya come to Washington, of course, we’d be happy to meet with him.

QUESTION: So last week --

QUESTION: To follow up --

MR. KELLY: Charlie.

QUESTION: Following up on that same thing, who, if anyone, has been in touch with President Zelaya while he’s been down there going to the border --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- or is anybody in touch with him?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know that Senior State Department officials have been in contact with him, including Assistant Secretary Shannon.

QUESTION: Well, people down there or Assistant Secretary Shannon?

MR. KELLY: I believe Assistant Secretary Shannon has been in contact with him.

QUESTION: Any detail on his planned trip to Washington this week?

MR. KELLY: We know that he’s expressed an interest to coming to Washington, but we don’t have any firm plans on – any set time for a meeting or any set time for him to come.

QUESTION: Is there any sense of when the time span for these talks and allowing them to play out and when other measures might be considered?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I think we – as I said before, we think that President Arias has presented a good plan; it’s a good way forward that we think can lead to a peaceful resolution to the conflict and a restoration of the democratic order. And we’re content to let that process play out. We’re not going to put any artificial deadline on it, though.


QUESTION: A different topic in the region. On Cuba, do you have anything to say about your decision to switch off this news ticker at your Interests Section?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. As I understand it, the news ticker was turned off in June. The – we believe that the billboard was really not effective as a means to delivering information to the Cuban people. It was evident that the Cuban people weren’t even able to read the billboard because of some obstructions that were put in front of it. We think that some of the measures that the President announced on April 13 to increase the free flow of information to the people of Cuba will ultimately be more effective in trying to promote the free flow of information.

QUESTION: Would you – was this something that the Cubans had asked you specifically not to do in any of the meetings that took place? And then, was this kind of a sign of goodwill?

MR. KELLY: Well, I will note that the Cubans, for their part, did dismantle a few very negative billboards and graffiti around the U.S. Interests Section, which we do see as a positive gesture. But whether or not this was specifically raised in these talks, I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Would you – would we interpret this as a goodwill gesture by the U.S. towards Cuba, or is this solely because you don’t think it was effective?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to do all we can to promote the free flow of information between the U.S. and Cuba. That’s why the President announced these measures. We are looking for ways that we can do that in the best way possible. And we just felt that this – these dueling, disparaging – not – well, disparaging is the wrong word, but these dueling billboards, if you will, was not serving in the interests of promoting a more productive relationship.

QUESTION: Okay. So it was solely a U.S. decision to do this? It was not prompted or requested or anything like that?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if – I’m sure it was requested, but I’m not a hundred percent sure.



QUESTION: Just a general question on U.S. strategic dialogues across the board. Would you be able to release some kind of fact sheet about with which countries the U.S. has these kinds of dialogues and to what purpose?

MR. KELLY: I think, yeah. I mean, we can. The short answer is we can. I think that the structure is different in each one, and the level of engagement is different. I mean, we have a number of strategic talks that are at the sub-cabinet level. I think if you’re talking about the cabinet level, it’s – we have obviously this dialogue with China, when we’ve just announced dialogues, – they’re not – the one in Russia is not called a strategic dialogue, but it is the equivalent. It’s called the Binational Commission. We also just last week, of course, announced a strategic dialogue with India. But we also have a number of dialogues that are on a formal ongoing basis with other countries as well. But that’s a good question. I’ll see if we can get a fact sheet on that --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: -- or some sort of background information on these various dialogues.

Yeah, Desmond.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction to Pyongyang’s talk about dialogue with the United States, which appears to be a request for bilateral talks?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think you know our longstanding policy is that we are open to a bilateral dialogue, but only in the context of the Six-Party Talks, only in a multilateral context. And you heard what the Secretary said yesterday. She said that we’re not going to reward the North Koreans by agreeing to meet with them without some specific actions that they have to take. And they know exactly what those actions are. It’s all laid out in black and white in the 2005 joint statement. If they take those actions, take some concrete steps, we’re willing to meet in the Six-Party context, and within that context we could have bilateral discussions with them.

QUESTION: Just following up here, does that statement today reassure you that they do want dialogue after so many provocative actions? Did you at one point --

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m just – I’m not going to characterize it as positive or negative. I’m not going to – we’re not going to respond to press statements, frankly, coming out of the DPRK. What we’re going to do is –

QUESTION: It’s an official statement. It’s not just a press – I mean, it’s – what do you mean by that? It’s a --

MR. KELLY: Well, we – what we want is we want concrete steps to be taken. We want them to uphold their commitments. And as I said, those commitments are laid out very specifically in this joint statement that they signed. And once they start doing that and agree to a – to talks in a Six-Party context, then we can start talking about some movement forward. But right now, I don’t see any.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, have you received any requests from North Koreans to have direct talks? Have you been talking with North Koreans about that, or –

MR. KELLY: Well, we have a number of ways that we communicate with North Korea – informally, formally, in public statements. But I’m not going to get into the substance of any kind of diplomatic exchanges that we may or may not have had with North Korea.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)