Daily Press Briefing - November 22, 2010
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Cholera Crisis / Upcoming Elections / Helped Train Domestic Observers
- NORTH KOREA
- Ambassador Bosworth Leading Interagency Team to Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing / Claims of Uranium Enrichment Program / U.S. is Assessing Information / Evaluating Implications
- Hariri Assassination / Special Tribunal for Lebanon
- Upcoming Elections
- Elections in Okinawa / Futenma
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
- David Hale Meeting with Saeb Erekat Today / Meetings in Amman and Cairo over the Weekend / U.S. Continues to Work to Create Conditions to Return to Direct Negotiations
- SAUDI ARABIA
- King Abdullah's Visit to the U.S. for Medical Treatment / Wish Him a Speedy Recovery
- Unaware of Any Response from Iranians on Returning to Talks
Daily Press Briefing
1:28 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Just a couple of things to mention before taking your questions. Obviously, we continue to work very closely with the Government of Haiti, both on the ongoing cholera crisis and preparations for this weekend’s elections on November 28. The United States, along with the international community, has been providing significant support to the Provisional Electoral Council. We’ve helped to train 5,500 domestic observers in preparation for the upcoming elections.
And regarding cholera, as the reporting and surveillance systems continue to improve, we now see the figures rising, as we had anticipated. As of the end of last week, we’ve seen more than 1,300 deaths in Haiti and out of a caseload of more than 57,000. This represents an overall fatality rate of 2.4 percent, which is higher than we’d like to see. But – and obviously, we continue to provide intensive assistance to the Government of Haiti regarding the cholera outbreak.
And as I suspect, your primary area of interest today involving North Korea, our interagency team led by Ambassador Steve Bosworth is in Tokyo this evening, having visited Seoul over the weekend. They will be in Beijing tomorrow before returning to the United States. Obviously, North Korea’s claim to have a uranium enrichment program, if true, contradicts its own pledges and commitments and violates its international obligations.
This reinforces, however, our longstanding concern about North Korea’s clandestine uranium enrichment activities. We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior. They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result, and we’re not going to buy into this cycle. As Ambassador Bosworth himself said, this obviously is an issue of concern, not a crisis. We are going to consult with our partners and coordinate a unified response to North Korea’s actions.
QUESTION: So on this, P.J., what does it say about your – about the last two years of North Korea – of U.S. policy towards North Korea that they managed to construct this facility? And why do you keep saying “if true”? Do you think that what Sig Hecker and the others were shown was some Potemkin village-type thing?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we don’t know. We are going to – we’ve talked to Dr. Hecker and others who have visited North Korea. We will continue our consultations with them and try to understand what they were shown and what the potential implications are. They were given a brief glimpse at a capability. We’re going to assess exactly what we believe that capability represents. North Korea says it’s about enriching LEU for a civilian power plant. As Secretary Gates said, he is highly skeptical of that claim. But we’re going to take our time, work through the information that’s available to us.
But certainly, this doesn’t surprise us. Going back many years to 2002 and beyond that, we’ve had strong suspicions of a clandestine enrichment capability or North Korea’s pursuit of that kind of capability, but we will review the implications of this information and then chart a way forward with our parties – our partners.
QUESTION: But what does it mean for the policy, for the last two years of this Administration’s policy?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it validates the concerns that we’ve had all along about North Korea.
QUESTION: Well, it may validate the concerns, but I think a lot of people out there would say that it invalidates your policy because they’ve been – it calls into question whether that – whether what you were doing was, in fact, the right thing to get the North Koreans to go along.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we’ve had a long list of concerns about North Korea and this potentially adds one more concern to that list. North Korea has nuclear programs. North Korea has, for a number of years, we believe, been looking to see how to develop an enrichment capability, so this is not new. As Ambassador Bosworth said, it’s not really a surprise, per se.
But this is clearly a violation of North Korea’s international obligations of its commitments. It remains our view that North Korea must take complete verifiable and irreversible steps towards denuclearization. That is our policy. Our policy remains intact. And we will consult with our partners on the way forward.
QUESTION: Can – and then my last one on this – can you just talk a little bit about the timing, what happened after he – after Dr. Hecker got back, when he presented you or the Administration with what he had been shown when the decision was made to send him out to the region – when the sigh of relief was when you realized that this was Thanksgiving week and he would actually be able to make the trip – (laughter) – and what you’ve --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a tick-tock. We’ve met with the various individuals who have gone to Pyongyang recently in a private capacity. We’re still assessing that information. There will be further meetings with Dr. Hecker and others as we sort through the implications of this information.
QUESTION: Where do you think North Korea acquired the technology, which I’m told included not merely centrifuges, but also such modern things as flat screen computer displays that Dr. Hecker and his colleagues saw? Where did it get that stuff?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we’re – Arshad, we’re still assessing exactly what – the implications of the information that they brought back. We do not believe that they have acquired any nuclear technology since the passage and enforcement of Resolution 1874 last summer, but beyond that, anything I say at this point would be speculation.
QUESTION: Well, why do you not believe that they have acquired --
MR. CROWLEY: We have no information that they have acquired further capability since 1874 was passed.
QUESTION: But your ignorance is not a guarantee that they have not acquired it; it just means you don’t know.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m – as you know, a lot of information that we have on this comes through intelligence sources. I’m just not going to go down that road.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, in regard to this, how effective do you think your sanctions regime has been, given that regardless of whether it was before 1874 or after 1874, they appear to have managed to have obtained what at least Dr. Hecker thought were hundreds and hundreds of centrifuges?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I understand the question. We are going to go through our own assessment of this information, compare it to information that we have through other sources. We’re, at this point, not going to pass judgment about the implications of this until we’ve done our thorough review and come to a conclusion about the implications of what has been seen. That’s why I say “If true.” But it’s been no secret that North Korea has been interested in and actively pursuing an enrichment capability. But we will assess exactly where we think they are, what stage they’re at.
QUESTION: One more on this. You opened by saying – using a line that has been used by a great many people before you from that podium, numbers of – many of whom have – the statement has subsequently proved to be false – “We’re not going to reward North Korea for bad behavior.” That statement was notably uttered after the 2002 disclosures that the administration – that the then-Bush Administration – believed that they had a uranium enrichment program. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to look at the 2005 agreement as rewarding the North in various ways, including removing them from the state sponsors of terrorism list.
Two questions: One, why is it not a reasonable strategy to offer them incentives that get you some kind of benefits? For example, the destruction of the cooling tower at Yongbyon – why is that not a reasonable thing? It may not eliminate their nuclear capability, as manifestly it has not if these reports are true, but it at least mitigates it. So why is that not a reasonable strategy, to offer them incentives to give up some of their nuclear programs?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, let me talk about the – this year and last year. I’ll not comment on actions that preceded the Obama Administration. What we have seen over the past couple of years is a series of significant provocations by North Korea, from missile tests to nuclear – missile launches to nuclear tests, to the sinking of the Cheonan and now to this at least publicity stunt that obviously, we are going to evaluate further.
Our position is clear. North Korea has to take affirmative steps to denuclearize. It has to be willing to credibly show that it’s prepared to meet its international obligations. You mentioned the 2005 joint statement. In that joint statement, it was North Korea itself that committed to denuclearization. We are going to look for North Korea to work constructively with the international community. And clearly, if this program is, in fact, a uranium enrichment program, it’s a step in the wrong direction.
QUESTION: Well, just – last one from me on this. I mean, to try to get another country to do something that you want them to do that they don’t appear to want to do, you have either incentives or disincentives.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, sure.
QUESTION: The sanctions that you have imposed don’t seem to have worked, right? I mean, I don’t think you (inaudible) --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, to – I mean, this is a pursuit or an interest that North Korea has had for many, many years. I’m not going to – I’m not in a position to judge. To the extent that what Dr. Hecker and others were shown – you don’t just produce this kind of material overnight. So we are going to evaluate the implications of this. But this could very well be something that has been evolving over many, many years. It may not be a reflection of the success that we think we have had with Resolution 1874 and its implementation.
But North Korea says it wants normalized relations with the United States. If North Korea is interested in moving down that path, this is clearly going in the wrong direction.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you – I understand that Ambassador Bosworth is out consulting in the region right now, but I’d like to try to ask a little bit about where you’d like to go from here. In the past, you’ve said that the North Koreans have to do certain things before you resume talks in the Six-Party Talks. I was curious how this revelation affects that list of things you’d like them to do. And if you could be more specific, because I think in the past, you’ve been reluctant to give us specifics like --
MR. CROWLEY: And there – I mean, I can go back over our list which includes more constructive relations with other countries in the region, stopping provocative actions which create greater tension in the region. And this is clearly inconsistent with steps that we have demanded that North Korea take in order to demonstrate a credible interest in negotiations or in a different relationship with the United States or the international community. So --
QUESTION: So what would you like them to do now differently, now that you know this? And is that (inaudible) still --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, our policy remains intact. Our policy remains what it was prior to these revelations. North Korea has made a commitment under the 2005 joint statement to denuclearize. We need to see credible, verifiable action in that direction. And the revelation of a supposed uranium enrichment capability is certainly inconsistent with its international obligations. It’s inconsistent with its commitments under the 2005 joint statement. And we are consulting with others on the path forward. The – as my proverbial ball, the ball remains in North Korea’s court.
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: Given – hold on a second. Given that in the past, for such provocative actions as missile launches and nuclear tests and that kind of thing, that the U.S. has pushed for sanctions in the Security Council, is that something that – does this rise to that level, that you’d like to push for some more punitive measures?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we’re not going to prejudge. We are still assessing the information that has come in, comparing it with concerns that we’ve had for some time. And we are consulting now with our partners in this process, and we will carefully consider how to respond to this latest information, just as we took our time, consulted significantly with countries in the aftermath of the Cheonan.
QUESTION: So you’re not ruling out the possibility of sanctions, then, at this point?
QUESTION: Additional sanctions.
QUESTION: Additional sanctions.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will take appropriate measure of what’s happened here, understand the implications of it, depending on how we assess the revelation by North Korea, and we’ll take appropriate action.
QUESTION: But what did you – then what did you mean when you said that you’re not – the U.S. isn’t going to buy into this continued cycle of North Korea acting and the U.S. reacting? What sort of reaction are you trying to avoid then?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, look – and who knows why they did it. North Korea had an agenda when it invited these scientists to visit Pyongyang. They were very clear in discussing and they were very open to showing these scientists a limited view of a supposed uranium enrichment capability. So they have an agenda, which would presume that we will be required to react and potentially to reward this new development. We’re not going to do that.
QUESTION: Any plans to speak to the North Koreans? Any plans to speak directly to the North Koreans? It was about a year ago that Ambassador Bosworth went out to North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean we will – it’s going to take some time for us to work through this information and its immediate-term and long-term policy implications.
QUESTION: So you’ve had no contacts even through the New York channel post these disclosures?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Isn’t describing these revelations as stunning cast like a sense of urgency on them? So are you responding urgently with the same kind of --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as Ambassador Bosworth said, is this concerning to us? Of course. Any association or any potential expansion of North Korea’s nuclear programs is a major concern. And why is that? Because North Korea is a serial proliferator, and as it develops potentially new capabilities their past track record would suggest that they would make the – this capability available to other countries. So our principal concern about North Korea is the proliferation risk that it represents. That’s why we’ve developed a number of tools over the years, including additional sanctions, to protect the United States and others against this proliferation risk.
QUESTION: P.J., was (inaudible) an intelligence failure, that the U.S. didn’t know about this facility until the North Koreans showed it to Dr. Hecker?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, it’s hard to say that, because we presented specific concerns to North Korea as far back as 2002, and there was --
QUESTION: About this facility?
MR. CROWLEY: About its pursuit of an enrichment capability. So I don’t see how you can reach that conclusion.
QUESTION: Well, this specific --
QUESTION: Did you know about this facility?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to talk about what we knew or didn’t know prior to the trip by the scientists.
QUESTION: Secretary Gates was pretty clear yesterday, saying that you didn’t know about this facility ahead of time.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to talk about intelligence matters at the podium.
QUESTION: Has there been any negotiation regarding redeployment of U.S. nukes back into North – South Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. Start again.
QUESTION: Has there been any negotiation regarding redeployment of U.S. nukes back in South Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I know of no change in our military posture as a result of this.
MR. CROWLEY: These are two different countries, two different situations.
QUESTION: P.J., you seem reasonably confident that since 1874 they haven’t gotten any outside assistance. Prior to that, have they gotten outside nuclear assistance? Because some reports suggest that this could have been of Pakistani or Iranian origin.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, it’s very difficult to answer that kind of question without getting into intelligence matters.
QUESTION: P.J., why do you think North Koreans have shown the enrichment facilities? Also do you think the strategic (inaudible) still works?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s very, very difficult for us to get inside the minds of the North Korean leadership.
QUESTION: Also, Ambassador Bosworth said the door to the Six-Party Talks is still open, the door to the Six-Party Talks is still open. So can you elaborate on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean our policy remains the same as it was last week. We want to see North Korea take verifiable, credible steps towards denuclearization. I’m not going to rule in or rule out any particular step that might get us down that path. But that’s why we’re consulting with countries this week, to assess the implications of what we’ve learned and to chart a way forward. At this point it’s hard to predict what the next steps will be. We will carefully evaluate what to do next with our partners in this process.
QUESTION: I’m with Canadian Broadcasting, and we’ve obtained some documents that – from the UN tribunal investigation.
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, hold on, hold on. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little more on what the Bosworth team is doing, what their goal is, what they’re doing over there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are briefing these countries about what we’ve learned. We had some briefings here in Washington with the – with representatives from the four countries last week as well. We’re going to assess what we know and what the potential implications are and work with these countries on an appropriate path forward.
QUESTION: P.J., if you say that this doesn’t come as a surprise to us, this is not a crisis, you knew of their interest in enriching uranium for years, why did this all come together? Why did Bosworth go out? Why was he hastily dispatched on a Saturday morning to go talk to these people about what you at one point called a publicity stunt?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, information has come in. It is serious information. It has potential implications on our approach to North Korea. In light of the severity of the information, which, as I said again, we are still working to assess, we thought it was appropriate to send Ambassador Bosworth out to talk to other countries about this information and its potential implications.
QUESTION: All right. And this information that you’re referring to is the commercial satellite imagery of the outside of Yongbyon and then also what Dr. Hecker reported to you?
MR. CROWLEY: I think it is more about the latter.
QUESTION: More about what Dr. Hecker reported to you. Can you tell me then how this is so sensitive intelligence material?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: This is a Stanford University professor who got this information through a publicity stunt, what you called a publicity stunt. How is that not an intelligence failure of the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we – I’m not going to speak for Dr. Hecker. What he glanced at in a brief show-and-tell from North Korea has potentially serious implications. I’m not dismissing the potential significance of this. But based on a relatively brief exposure to some technology, by itself we can’t draw implications about how mature this capability may be.
QUESTION: Right, but my question doesn’t really go to that; it goes more to the fact that you keep saying that you can’t comment because it involves sensitive intelligence gathering. And the intelligence here seems to have been gleaned and posted on a website by a Stanford University professor. And I’m not sure how sensitive, classified that might be. The information that Dr. Bosworth – that Ambassador Bosworth is going out there is publicly to discuss, is out there for anyone to see.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, and –
QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand why you keep falling back on the “I can’t comment about intelligence,” because you don’t seem to have any intelligence here. The intelligence all seems – no, no, I mean, the information he went out there with – that Bosworth went out there with is the information that Dr. Hecker got, correct, from his show-and-tell publicity stunt that the North Koreans had.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, one or two threads there and I’m working into intelligence information, which I can’t do. Obviously –
QUESTION: So there’s more to what –
MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second. Obviously, we intensively watch North Korea all the time. We have information on what is happening in North Korea from a variety of sources. Human intelligence is among the most valuable means by which we understand what is going on in a particular country, including North Korea. So we will take, and are taking the information that Dr. Hecker has provided. We are combining that with other source of information, and we will assess the potential implications of a North Korean enrichment capability. So we are doing due diligence, but by itself, the fact that North Korea invited these scientists to come to Pyongyang and did a show-and-tell, that by itself is valuable information, we’ll compare that with other things that we know, and we’ll make a formal assessment as to what we think this capability represents and what the implications are.
QUESTION: What is the State Department’s position on the idea that’s being floated that the U.S. should supply tactical weapons to South Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going down that road.
QUESTION: How would you respond to the criticism that the Obama Administration is focused more on nuclear nonproliferation by North Korea rather than on North Korea’s denuclearization?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t understand the question. I don’t understand the question.
QUESTION: Because some say the strategic patience just allows North Korea to (inaudible) its nuclear arsenal. But the United States is focused on nuclear nonproliferation rather than on denuclearization.
MR. CROWLEY: I think those things are closely connected. North Korea has a nuclear capability that is of concern to the United States and concern to the international community. That’s why the United States has worked steadfastly with the international community over a number of years to try to convince North Korea to change course. North Korea has, in fact, made public commitments to change course in the 2005 joint statement. It has failed to abide by those commitments. As a result, the international community, including the United States, have taken aggressive action over a number of years to try to protect ourselves from the proliferation threat that North Korea represents. Resolution 1874 is the latest of a series of actions to try to guard against this proliferation risk. We will continue to assess the implications of this and take appropriate action going forward, but the first step in this is the kind of consultation that Ambassador Bosworth is undertaking this week.
QUESTION: Has Secretary Clinton had any conversations either with her counterpart Foreign Minister Yang or with State Councilor Dai Bingguo or any other senior Chinese officials about this? (Inaudible.)
MR. CROWLEY: We have been talking to other countries about our concerns about North Korean activity for some time. I can’t say that she’s had conversations with her counterparts over the last several days. We did have direct conversations with representatives from each of the countries and their embassies here in Washington over the last few days to fully brief them on what we’ve learned. I won’t rule out that there will be high-level conversations going forward, but obviously, the Secretary in this last period of time has been fully engaged in the Lisbon Summit.
QUESTION: And is the – just one more on this – is the – does the Administration plan to, as it often has in the past, ask the Chinese to exert more influence, to the extent they have any, on North Korea following the disclosure of these – the uranium enrichment –
MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Bosworth will be in Beijing tomorrow and –
QUESTION: Is that part of his message? I mean –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we obviously rely on China, which has a significant relationship with North Korea, to send direct, clear, stern messages to Pyongyang and we would expect China to do that in the future as well.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: New topic.
QUESTION: Could you update us on the –
MR. CROWLEY: In fairness –
QUESTION: I’m just curious about your reaction to some documents that Canadian Broadcasting has obtained from the UN Tribunal looking into Rafik Hariri’s assassination. The documents clearly show a link between the assassins and Hezbollah, and I’m curious about your reaction.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, our reaction is to continue to support the work of the tribunal, and we look forward to the tribunal concluding its investigation and delivering its findings.
QUESTION: But the tribunal has been working now for several years, spent around $200 million and there still hasn’t been any indictments, are you confident there actually will be an indictment at the end of this process?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the tribunal has yet to finish its work. Its investigation is ongoing. We have provided political and monetary support to this investigation. It is critically important to Lebanon’s future. Lebanon needs to end this era of impunity which has afflicted it for years, if not decades. And we support the work of the tribunal and we look forward to completion of its investigation and the findings that that investigation produces.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the objectivity of the tribunal given the fact that there seems to be, talking to a number of people who were involved, former investigators who made the statement that it looks like the tribunal itself was penetrated, that Hezbollah actually knew some of the movements, perhaps even was involved in the killing of a police officer doing a parallel investigation. How concerned are you about the objectivity of the tribunal’s work?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do not – I don’t think we’re concerned about the objectivity of the tribunal’s work. I think we are concerned about the campaign that is going around surrounding the tribunal to politicize its investigation and its potential findings. We support the tribunal. It is critical to Lebanon’s sovereignty and its future. And we look forward to a completion of the investigation and a release of its findings.
QUESTION: Do you expect that an upcoming high-level visit to Tehran would impact the outcome of the tribunal?
MR. CROWLEY: I would think it will not.
QUESTION: Do you know, P.J., if Fred Hof is dealing with this issue on his current trip, or is he there with the Lebanese armed forces military aide?
MR. CROWLEY: Those are not mutually exclusive.
QUESTION: So he is there meeting with both?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have regular interaction with the Government of Lebanon and we make clear our commitment to Lebanon’s independence, Lebanon’s sovereignty, in every conversation we’ve had with – recently with Lebanese senior officials. We’ve talked about the importance of the work of the tribunal. So it wouldn’t surprise me if that isn’t part of the conversation this week.
QUESTION: There were a number of press reports about tension between Egypt and the United States over the elections, the coming election, parliamentary elections. And the think tanks intensified their symposiums and seminars giving the negative aspects of the coming election. What is the official stance regarding this? Is there tension between --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would – we’ve had direct conversations with Egyptian officials about the importance of the upcoming elections. As we talked about when Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit was here recently and the issue came up in her discussion both with Secretary Clinton and also with Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman. We have made our views clear to Egypt about the importance of this election, what it will mean to Egypt’s position as a leader in the Middle East. It has the opportunity to demonstrate clearly that it is going to expand the available political space for broader participation in its elections in its future, and we continue to encourage Egypt to take advantage of this opportunity.
QUESTION: There was tension or some differences during this --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there is – we are closely monitoring events that are happening in Egypt, reports of arrests and intimidation, and we have not hesitated to express our concerns directly to Egyptian leaders. As friends and allies of ours, we obviously want Egypt to advance in the region, and we think this is a vitally important period for Egypt’s future and we continue to encourage them to do everything possible to ensure a free, fair, and impartial election in Egypt.
QUESTION: P.J., a little further north --
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.
QUESTION: The Egyptian Government reported that press – foreign press updating their reports just from the demonstrators and without giving why arrests are there, because they are not taking permits, they are not --
MR. CROWLEY: But again, this underscores what we have stressed. In a statement last week, we talked about the importance of domestic observers and we talked about the value of international monitors in this election process.
QUESTION: P.J., a little further north. The Israeli parliament is considering a --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just stay on Egypt for one second. So do you keep your own monitoring, let’s say, of this latest demonstration that took place in Alexandria yesterday or the day before, where there was an allegation of excessive police force and so on? Do you monitor these events yourselves?
MR. CROWLEY: We do monitor these events, and we have not hesitated and will not hesitate to express our concerns to Egyptian leaders.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about this bill that’s being considered by the Knesset which would require a supermajority in the parliament to approve of any ceding of land that has been annexed by Israel since the ’67 war? That would mean the Golan and East Jerusalem.
MR. CROWLEY: Let me take that question.
QUESTION: On Japan? On Futenma, regarding Futenma, there’s a government election coming end of this week in Okinawa, and both candidates are against the government’s agreement on Futenma’s relocation. So – which means whoever wins, it’s going to be tough situation for the government to implement. My question is how do you see it affecting election, and what kind of plan or strategy are you going to have regarding --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the elections in Okinawa and elsewhere are decisions for the Japanese people. We have worked hard this year to develop a way forward on Futenma with the national government. As part of that, we certainly have and they have engaged Okinawan leaders to help them understand the importance of the U.S. presence in Okinawa. And this is a conversation that we’ve had. We’ve produced a shared game plan on the way forward and we will continue to work with Japan to carry it out.
QUESTION: P.J., can you give us an update on where we are, what is the status of peace talks, and what has (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got – nothing to report other than David Hale, I think today, is meeting with Saeb Erekat in Jericho. Over the weekend, yesterday, he was in Amman for meetings with Jordanian officials. He was in Cairo on Saturday. But our work with both the Israelis and the Palestinians is ongoing.
QUESTION: Where’s Senator Mitchell?
QUESTION: What is the current role of --
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm? Senator Mitchell is in New York.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) working on the peace process?
MR. CROWLEY: He is working on the peace process, but he’s not traveling.
QUESTION: Are you having conversations with the Israelis then?
MR. CROWLEY: We have conversations with the Israelis all the time.
QUESTION: About the peace process matters?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Are they getting anywhere?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a work in progress.
QUESTION: So weren’t you expecting that the cabinet yesterday would take a stand on (inaudible) and what’s going on and all that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to work to create the conditions for a return to direct negotiations, and that is a work in progress.
QUESTION: What, if anything, can you tell us about Saudi King Abdullah’s visit to the U.S.?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) one more.
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.
QUESTION: It’s a question about Israel. Can you confirm that there are new understandings or new offers that have been made to Israel by the United States in any form whatsoever?
MR. CROWLEY: I will only confirm that we continue to have conversations with the Israelis and the Palestinians to address concerns that each has, but to create conditions that enable the direct negotiations to resume.
QUESTION: Former Ambassador Dan Kurtzer has said on Saturday that it’s the first time that the U.S. has a willingness to reward a bad behavior from Israel. And he added that the deal is a very bad idea. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: Why not?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Dan Kurtzer is a distinguished individual and former diplomat, and he has his views.
QUESTION: As a distinguished career diplomat and someone who has a great deal of knowledge in that region, do you concur with his assessment?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have an opinion. I read his piece, but beyond that, I’ll --
QUESTION: Yeah. P.J., on Pakistan, there are reports in media about the extension of drone attacks to Quetta and Baluchistan, and American authorities believe that Taliban Shura has safe havens there and CIA is seriously considering launching drone attacks there. These statements really triggers Pakistani military and civilian authorities. Do you have – do you – would you like to say anything about this? And also, is Obama Administration really thinking to do that?
MR. CROWLEY: You lost me. I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: There are – there were reports on the – in media about the extension of drone attacks to Quetta and Baluchistan.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to talk about drone attacks.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Saudi King?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What do you know about his visit to the States? What can you tell us about it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll defer to our colleagues at the Saudi Embassy for particulars. Obviously, we’re aware of his visit. We helped to facilitate clearances for him to come to the United States for medical treatment. We hope for a speedy recovery. Beyond that, I’ll defer to the kingdom to provide more details.
QUESTION: Is he coming to Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll defer to the Saudis to talk about the details of his visit.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about the state of his health and what it might mean for the Saudi Government?
MR. CROWLEY: The King is a valued partner. We wish him a speedy recovery. I don’t know that we have any particular concerns about his health. We want to see him up and about as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hold on.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) negotiation between Secretary Clinton and Catherine Ashton regarding the main topics of the first negotiation with Iranian, like Iranian –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that Catherine Ashton has yet received a formal reply from the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)
DPB # 190