Daily Press Briefing - November 24, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Series of Calls by Secretary Clinton with Her Counterparts on North Korea / Pending Calls with Her Counterparts from Japan and Korea
    • Anniversary of Mumbai Attack / Possible Statement
    • Media Note on Designation Involving an Alias of LeT
    • Volley of Artillery Fire / Ambassador Bosworth Return to the U.S. / Round of Consultations with Counterparts in South Korea, Japan and China / China's Influence on North Korea / Reducing Tensions / Expect to Have High Level Conversations with China / Premeditated Act / Violations of Armistice / Sending a Consistent, Unified Message / Resolution 1874 / North Korea's Responsibility / U.S. Will Consult Broadly / Sending a Firm Message / Provocative Actions / Protecting Our Allies / Bolstering Capabilities
    • Joint Military Exercises
    • Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Dr. Hecker
    • Pending Release of Documents / Evaluating Material / Harmful to National Security / In Touch with Posts throughout the World
    • Cables / Discussions and Analysis / Perspective
    • Clashes between Christians and Police / Post is Investigating / Conversations with Egyptian Government
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 24, 2010


Today's briefing was held off-camera, so no video is available.

10:50 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: First of all, happy Wednesday and, one day early, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Just to kind of set expectations, under current thinking, we will not brief on Friday. We will, through the next four days, keep you updated through various forums, including Twitter. We would expect the Secretary to have a series of calls in the coming days with her counterparts, expect, for the most part, with counterparts discussing the situation in North Korea. I think Mark flagged for you yesterday that we have calls pending with her counterparts from Japan and Korea. I wouldn’t rule out other discussions as well.

We’re mindful that Friday is the anniversary of the attack in Mumbai. I would expect that we’ll have a statement to put out. Maybe we’ll try to put that out sometime tomorrow so that it can be reported for Friday in India. But – not that there’s anything coming up this weekend, but we will be available to you during the weekend as we anticipate an emerging story, shall we say. And we just – we did just put out a Media Note on a designation involving an alias of LeT, so we’ll note that for you. But beyond that, your questions.

QUESTION: Are you getting any sense – well, first of all, have you had any contact – well, Bosworth is back – sorry, I’m all over the place. (Laughter.) My name is Matt Lee. I work for the Associated Press. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Do you want to revise – extend that question? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What are you getting from the Chinese in terms of any willingness to try to influence the North Koreans not to shell their southern neighbors?

MR. CROWLEY: As you have rightly pointed out, Ambassador Bosworth is en route back to the United States having completed a round of consultations with his counterparts in South Korea, Japan, and China. As we’ve said all along, China is pivotal to moving North Korea in a fundamentally different direction, which is not – just to state the obvious, that North Korea is a sovereign country and will do what it’s going to do, whatever that is.

But China does have influence with North Korea and we would hope and expect that China will use that influence first to reduce tensions that have arisen as a result of North Korean provocations, and then secondly, continue to encourage North Korea to take affirmative steps to denuclearize.

We – obviously we view yesterday’s events as serious. Contrary to suggestions from North Korea, there was an ongoing South Korean exercise. North Korea, hours later, unleashed this volley of artillery fire. We see this as a premeditated act. There’s no equivalence here. You had one country undertaking military activity which is perfectly legal and perfectly legitimate, and you had another country that violated the armistice and fired upon a sovereign country and resulted in the deaths of military and civilian personnel.

So this is a clear case where North Korea has to be given a consistent, unified message. That was our message to China yesterday, and I would expect that we’ll continue to have – to encourage China to send a clear message to North Korea that these provocations are unwarranted, unhelpful, and should cease.

QUESTION: But you’ve already given that message to North Korea repeatedly over the last years and they don’t seem to listen or to care. You had the Cheonan attack and now you have this. They know what the message is. It doesn’t seem to have an impact.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are --

QUESTION: Are you thinking about doing it differently or --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, these provocations are obviously of concern to us. But we believe we have the right approach in terms of the kind of international cooperation, close collaboration. This is a – this is something of a regional, if not – this is something of regional, if not global, consequence. We have had decisive action in the context of Resolution 1874. But likewise, North Korea should not be able to take comfort from any public statement that – it needs to understand that the responsibility for where we are right now belongs – the responsibility rests on North Korea’s shoulders. We’ve got to make that clear. And it is North Korea that must take steps to reduce tensions, behave more constructively, and then continue to be encouraged to pursue a different path.

QUESTION: But can I just follow up on this public --

QUESTION: Can I go back to China for one second? Can we go back to China for one second? Because, look, it is more than eight years since U.S. Government officials confronted North Korea with their belief that they had, in that case, an HEU program. I remember the briefing at the White House after that story broke, and the senior administration official pointedly noted China has influence on North Korea. Eight years later, you’ve had two nuclear tests. They’ve thrown out all the inspectors. What gives you any reason to hope that this time China will exert influence sufficient to get them to restrain their activities?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me – that – it’s a very good question. Let me go to that central point. Let me be clear, the responsibility for where we are today rests exclusively on the shoulders of North Korea. It is North Korea that sunk the Cheonan. It is North Korea that chose a provocation earlier this week ostensibly in response to a military exercise. But this was a clear, premeditated action by North Korea, specifically intended to inflame tensions in the region.

So it is up to North Korea to stop these provocative acts. We do believe that China has influence with North Korea. We don’t want to understate or overstate that. It’s not that China can dictate a particular action to North Korea, but it is that China, together with the United States and other countries, have to send a clear, direct, unified message that it is North Korea that has to change.

Ultimately, North Korea will make the choices that it makes. But we expect China to be clear as – like we are, as to where the responsibility for the current situation, the current tension, lies.

QUESTION: Are they clear?

QUESTION: Let’s get back to my question though: What gives you reason to expect that they will actually (a) use their influence or, indeed, (b) be clear about the responsibility here, given that they weren’t particularly clear about where the responsibility lay for the Cheonan? What makes you think they’re going to use influence or whack the North Koreans?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had conversations with China both in Beijing, here in Washington. I would expect we will have high-level conversations with China in the coming days as we continue to consult on the way forward. So this is something that we feel strongly about, and we will be communicating that. We have already communicated that to China. We will continue to encourage China to send a direct message to North Korea.

QUESTION: You said – sorry --

QUESTION: Is there any concern that maybe China doesn't have the amount of influence over North Korea that you had once thought?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, North Korea is a sovereign country. North Korea is, unfortunately, behaving in a way that adds risk and tensions to a critical part of the world. China has its own interests here and – in stability and peace in the region, and we would expect China to use its influence. But ultimately, the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and others have to do everything that we can to fundamentally change North Korea’s calculations. But North Korea should not be under any illusion that it can hide behind any country or any public statement here. This is another in a string of provocative acts by North Korea, and we believe strongly that these provocative acts need to stop. And it is up to all countries that have whatever level of influence with North Korea that they have to make this clear to the leadership in Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Do you think there’s a need for a UN Security Council meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: We are going to continue our consultations. We’re going to take our time. We’re going to evaluate not only what’s happened in terms of the exchange of fire, but also in terms of revelations about activity at Yongbyon. We will consult broadly. This issue has at least been preliminarily raised within the Security Council, and we’ll take the action that is appropriate.

QUESTION: You said the North Koreans – sorry. You said the North Koreans shouldn’t take comfort from public statements. What do you think the Chinese are telling them privately?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question to ask the Chinese.

QUESTION: You said that North Korea’s intention is to push for a negotiation in order to receive economic aids and enforce itself as a nuclear power. Is there any common ground between China --

QUESTION: Did you say that?

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It is said. It has been said. Is there any common ground between the China encouraging Six-Party negotiation with the Korean – North Koreans?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but just to clarify, I mean, you’ve had an exchange of fire. It is tempting to suggest that both sides of this exchange need to take steps. What we’re making clear is that the provocative action happened on one side of the ledger. North Korea fired artillery shells at South Korea, resulting in the deaths of South Korean military personnel and civilians. There was no – there is no justification for that action, and that’s a message that everyone needs to deliver to Pyongyang. There’s no equivalence here in what happened yesterday. And we have had conversations with our – Chinese officials and we will continue to make sure that North Korea is receiving a consistent and firm message from all of us.

QUESTION: P.J., is it safe to say that you haven’t yet come up with a new game plan? You said that you’re going to be moving slowly and consulting with partners, but has there not been any consensus on steps forward?

MR. CROWLEY: At certain levels, this is more of the same. We’ve seen, unfortunately, these kinds of actions by North Korea before. So there might be new developments, but what we continue to see here on one side is consistent provocative actions by North Korea, whether it’s an exchange of fire, the sinking of a ship, a missile test, or a nuclear test. And on the other side of the ledger, when given a clear choice between normalized relations with the rest of the world and broad international assistance, unfortunately, North Korea has chosen to continue to dabble in nuclear technology and also proliferate that technology.

So we have a firm understanding of the challenge that we face with North Korea. We believe that we have the right strategy. There’s no guarantee here that North Korea will make the right choices. And because of that recognition, we believe we have a strategy that involves continuing to cooperate with and protect our allies, whether it’s South Korea or Japan or others. We continue to look for ways of bolstering the capabilities so that we can address any provocations that North Korea may continue to do. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve had a series of military exercises with South Korea this year. It’s why the Pentagon announced – the President announced yesterday that the George Washington will be teaming up with South Korean military forces for an exercise coming up in the next few days.

We will continue, as this President said to President Lee last night, to do – to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with South Korea and do everything that we can to protect a valued ally. So we are – we believe we’re taking the right approach and we would hope that over time North Korea will recognize and move in a different direction. But we understand that the track record suggests they won’t, and we’re prepared for that, if needed.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. reached --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) information exchange between Secretary Clinton and Dr. Hecker yesterday, which hasn’t been accomplished yet and is it of importance?

MR. CROWLEY: They did meet. Dr. Hecker reviewed with the Secretary his – both his findings and what he views as the implications of those findings. And we will continue to evaluate the important information that Dr. Hecker and others who have recently visited Pyongyang have provided.

QUESTION: How long was the meeting?

QUESTION: Is there any indication that the North Koreans --

MR. CROWLEY: Give or take, it was 30 minutes.

QUESTION: -- really care? Clearly, consistently, over and over again, the more they do, the more attention they get, and the more they consistently are the aggressors. What makes you feel this time around they’re going to respond --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not making any bold predictions. I mean, we are prepared to deal with the choice that North Korea makes or continues to make.

QUESTION: Well, when you say prepared to deal, is that military action? And diplomatic hasn’t worked. What are your options? What are you – there is a message here that --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we’re not standing idly by here. I mean, remember, last year in response to a series of provocations, the Security Council passed Resolution 1874, and we continue to aggressively implement Resolution 1874. We continue to work closely with South Korea as part of our alliance. And as we’re demonstrating and are continuing to demonstrate, we will have close political and military cooperation and be prepared to address any military action that North Korea would contemplate. So we are doing what we need to do to protect ourselves from the risk that North Korea represents not only to us but to others.

QUESTION: What do you think your options are other than 1874?

QUESTION: And part of that question, I mean, is for people in South Korea, I mean, what are you offering them to protect them and make sure they don’t have more civilians who get killed? I mean, it doesn’t seem –

MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second. I mean, you just had a G-20 meeting in South Korea that demonstrates that you have one part of the Korean Peninsula moving ambitiously and aggressively and successfully in a positive direction. South Korea is one of the most dynamic economies in the world. And the tragedy is not about South Korea; the tragedy is about North Korea, that the gap between the two Koreas continues to widen every single day. So –

QUESTION: Well, that is until North Korea nukes Seoul and then you have a –

QUESTION: P.J., is there any value now –

QUESTION: North Korea seems to be simply ignoring –

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go in about seven minutes for – to participate in a –

QUESTION: They seem to be –

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) subject.

QUESTION: -- simply ignoring UN Resolution 1874.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, what?

QUESTION: North Korea ignoring about UN Resolution 1874. So does the U.S. have any other options policing North Korea itself?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, again, we will continue to evaluate the implications of the choices that North Korea makes. If North Korea chooses a fundamentally different direction, then you have one set of choices. If North Korea continues down this path of tension and provocation, then we have another set of choices. We will be fully prepared to deal with the choices that North Korea makes now and in the future. And unfortunately, the burden of this choice – these choices will fall on North Korea and on the North Korean people. But we are fully prepared for whatever North Korea decides to do going forward.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t want –

QUESTION: P.J., what makes this – what makes yesterday’s action by North Korea not an act of war?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as a practical matter, Charlie, this was, in our view a one-off premeditated act. It – we don’t – without getting into intelligence matters, we don’t see that North Korea is prepared for – preparing for an extended military confrontation. So that’s what makes it not a war. It is a violation of the armistice. Among other things, we will have a conversation with North Korean general officers and make clear that this is a violation of the armistice. But the – and we are taking the appropriate steps in coordination with South Korea to make sure that we are prepared militarily to respond to any future actions that North Korea will take.

QUESTION: Have you been assured by the Chinese that this will stop, because North Korea has –

MR. CROWLEY: That what will stop?

QUESTION: The North Korean behavior, because the –

MR. CROWLEY: No, I mean, there are no assurances here.

QUESTION: Because are you saying that this is –

MR. CROWLEY: Again, these are actions and choices that North Korea is making. We don’t see yesterday’s action as an accident. It was a premeditated step taken by North Korea. And it is up to North Korea fundamentally to stop these provocations. We’re telling North Korea that, and we would expect others to send the same message.

QUESTION: But P.J., why do you have any confidence that China is going to send the same message? I mean, one reason the North Koreans can ignore 1874 is that they’re getting a lot of support economically from China. So why do you have any confidence that China is going to help you deliver a consistent message?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we believe fundamentally that China and the United States share the same interest. We want to see a stable situation in the region. We would like to see an end to these provocations. We would like to see a political decision by North Korea to follow through on its commitments under the 2005 joint statement. Where we will continue to talk to China is what is the best way to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to see North Korea take the – make the right choices and avoid the wrong choices. There’s no guarantee here. But what gives us confidence is that China and the United States see the situation very similarly. We may or may not agree on particular steps, but that is a conversation that we are having and will continue to have with China.


MR. CROWLEY: One more question and I’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. reached out to China about these upcoming military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: We have had multiple conversations with Chinese officials in the last 24 hours, and we’ll continue to keep them fully informed.

QUESTION: In the past, these exercises have been postponed because of us reportedly being –

QUESTION: They don’t – the Chinese don’t like them. Are they cool with these?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have a military alliance in South Korea and we will continue to do what we need to do with South Korea to cooperate and make sure that our interests, which we think coincide broadly with other countries in the region including China. Our alliance with South Korea provides stability and protection, and many, many countries, including benefit from the alliance that we have with South Korea and others in the region.


QUESTION: WikiLeaks.

MR. CROWLEY: Last question. One more, then I got to go.

QUESTION: WikiLeaks.

QUESTION: Is it coming down this week? Are you expecting it this weekend? Do you have any idea of what you can on the record, off on background, or off the record --

MR. CROWLEY: Last question on WikiLeaks. We – no, no. I literally got to go. All right. On WikiLeaks --

QUESTION: This is on the record?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, sure. We are very mindful of the announcement that WikiLeaks made earlier this week, that there is a release of documents pending at some point in the future. If the past is prologue, that would mean that certain news organizations may well already be in possession of specific documents. So we continue to work through, as we have throughout this process, evaluating both the material that we think was previously leaked from government sources to WikiLeaks, and we continue to make clear that this is harmful to our national security. It does put lives at risk. It does put national interests at risk.

It’s hard for us to give you any kind of assessment of what the potential impact is, because we actually don’t know what is going to be released. It is our expectation – we’ve known all along that WikiLeaks has in its possession State Department cables. We are prepared if this upcoming tranche of documents includes State Department cables. We are in touch with our posts around the world. They have begun the process of notifying governments that release of documents is possible in the near future. Many of you are aware, we have had similar conversations with members of the Hill to let them know what we are prepared for. This is going to be unhelpful.

This is – without getting into any discussion of any specific cables, the kinds of cables that posts send to Washington are – they’re classified. They involve discussions that we’ve had with government officials, with private citizens. They contain analysis. They contain a record of the day-to-day diplomatic activity that our personnel undertake. And this back and forth between government, the government of the United States and governments around the world, it is diplomacy in action. It is part of the system through which we collaborate and cooperate with other countries. Inherent in this day-to-day action is trust that we can convey our perspective to other governments in confidence and that they can convey their perspective on events to us. It helps inform us of what’s happening around the world. It informs our – the policies that we undertake on behalf of the American people.

And when this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television and radio it has an impact. We decry what has happened. These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests. They are going to create tension in our relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world. We wish that this would not happen. But we are, obviously, prepared for the possibility that it will.

QUESTION: And you’ve notified Congress this week?


QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Can you take a detailed question on Egypt for -- and put out an answer later?

MR. CROWLEY: What’s the question?

QUESTION: The clashes between the Christians and a police --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, our – on the latest incident, I don't know that we’ve concluded that it’s related to the elections. In fact, it probably is not.

QUESTION: It came after the halt of construction --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but we – our post is investigating. We’re having conversations with the Government of Egypt today, and we will continue to bring up our concerns.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:20 p.m.)

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