Daily Press Briefing - December 21, 2010
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Statement Saluting Iraq's Political Leaders for Forming a New, Inclusive Government
- Secretary Clinton Imposed Travel Restrictions to U.S. on Members of President Gbagbo's Regime and Other Individual Supporters
- Groundbreaking Session at UN Security Council Today on Youth / Voices of a New Generation
- COTE D'VIOIRE
- Revoking of U.S. Visas / People in President Gbagbo's Inner Circle / Gbagbo Needs to Step Aside and Make Way for a Peaceful Transition / Putting Pressures on Those who Support Gbagbo / Funding Issue Under Active Review / U.S. Would Like to See Situation Resolved without Violence
- Issue of Kashmir has Come Up on Regular Basis / No Change in U.S. Policy
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- Jonathan Pollard / Prime Minister Netanyahu / No Formal Request Made / U.S. Continues to Work with Israelis and Palestinians on Creating Conditions for a Framework Agreement / Meetings of Dan Shapiro and David Hale / Core Issues / Focus is on Middle East Peace
- Sanctions / Process Led by Department of Treasury / Significant Sanctions on Iran / Continue to Look at What's Happening in Iran
- A Promising Moment / An Iraqi-led Process / Represents Broadly the Will of the Iraqi People / Credible and Legitimate / There are Challenges that Still Need to be Addressed / Government is Able to Move Ahead
- NORTH KOREA
- Governor Richardson has Completed his Visit to Pyongyang / Governor Richardson Could Reach Out to Provide a Perspective of his Visit / As a policy, U.S. Supports Universal Adherence to NPT / U.S. will Evaluate the Future Based on What North Korea Does / There are Regular Visitors to North Korea / The Decision on Who Travels to North Korea is a Private Decision / IAEA
- President Lukashenko / U.S. Sanctions will Continue in Place / Respect for Democratic Process and Human Rights at the Center of Relations
- Evaluating What to Do in Light of Venezuela's Decision
- WESTERN SAHARA
- Travel of U.S. Citizens / Decry Any Attacks on Civilians Anywhere in the World / U.S. Supports UN Mediation Effort
- U.S. has a Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan / Will Continue to Work with Pakistan
- U.S. Relationship with Other Countries Based on Mutual Interests / Mutual Interests Are Unchanged by WikiLeaks
Daily Press Briefing
1:55 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to talk about before taking your questions.
At the conclusion of the briefing you’ll see a statement by Secretary Clinton joining the President and Vice President in saluting Iraq’s political leaders for forming a new, inclusive government that respects the will of the Iraqi people, reflects the nation’s diversity, and demonstrates a commitment to democratic ideals. Let me simply say that the Secretary concludes her statement that “The formation of this government is a milestone in the emergence of the new Iraq. It constitutes a resounding rejection of the extremists who sought to derail the democratic process and sow discord among Iraqis. Iraq is a great nation with a promising future, and we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the new government to help our Iraqi friends build on what they have already achieved.” But the full statement will be available at the conclusion of the briefing.
Also, the Secretary of State today imposed travel restrictions to the United States on members of President Laurent Gbagbo’s regime, as well as other individuals who support policies or actions that undermine the democratic process and reconciliation efforts in Cote d’Ivoire. The citizens of Cote d’Ivoire expressed their will at elections on November 28 with results which were widely declared by accredited, credible international observers to be free and fair. Gbagbo’s efforts to remain in power, despite the express will of the Ivoirian people for Alassane Ouattara to be president, threaten to compromise years of reconciliation and peace-building efforts on behalf of the Ivoirian people.
QUESTION: Can we talk about that for a bit, or do you want to finish?
MR. CROWLEY: We can stop there. Let me just mention one thing. I just want to highlight for you a groundbreaking session at the UN Security Council today, focused on the concerns of youth from around the world. There was a discussion, “Voices of a New Generation,” of text and video submissions from youth already -- around the world, pushed by – promoted by Ambassador Susan Rice in her capacity as the president of the Security Council for this particular month. Almost 1,000 submissions from more than 90 countries poured in in less than two weeks, and selected text and video submissions from around the world will be available on State.gov and USUN.state.gov.
QUESTION: All right. So Ivory Coast. How many people does this effect?
MR. CROWLEY: The number is going to evolve. I would say it starts with a list of dozens and will go up, so we’ve put into place a process, but as events unfold, it will potentially involve a fairly significant number of people – not only the president himself, his immediate family, but also those who are – his cabinet ministers and those who are continuing to help him remain in power.
QUESTION: How many of these people are – actually have visas already, where – in which case the visa will need to be revoked, and how many of them will be subject to just a denial if they apply?
MR. CROWLEY: To the extent that any of these individuals, as of today, have current visas, they have been revoked. And to the extent that others in his inner circle contemplate travelling to the United States and apply for visas, they would not be accepted.
QUESTION: Have they been – have the people affected – well, one, I’ll ask the question, who exactly has been affected, so you can give me any privacy answer. And then based on your not telling me who actually has been affected by this --
MR. CROWLEY: You’re doing really well, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- can you say if these people have, in fact, been informed that they are now excluded from coming to the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: To the extent that we can inform these people, we will do so. But I would say if you’re a cabinet minister today in the Government of Cote d’Ivoire and you’re holding a visa to come to the United States, that visa will not be honored.
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
MR. CROWLEY: I don't know if that constitutes notification, but --
QUESTION: Does that apply – why does this apply to the president’s family?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, these are people that we believe are part of his inner circle, are providing the president with advice, and we have revoked their visas.
QUESTION: Well, does it apply to his children, say?
QUESTION: His daughter lives in the United States.
MR. CROWLEY: I think he does have children in the United States. I’m not aware that that would apply to them, because they’re already here.
QUESTION: Well, if they’re here on a visa, it can be --
QUESTION: Revoked. At least for the ones --
MR. CROWLEY: That is true. I don't think it would apply to those who are here.
QUESTION: Okay. And does it apply to the family members of cabinet ministers?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we --I don't know that that’s the case.
QUESTION: P.J., it was suggested several days ago here that he is – he was getting the message, Gbagbo. Do you still --
MR. CROWLEY: Right, now, he’s ignoring the message. He may be getting it, but he’s not following through. President Gbagbo needs to step aside and make way for a peaceful transition. He is receiving that message at high levels, from high-level officials in countries in the neighborhood, in countries around the world, including the United States. But clearly, we will continue to put pressure on this government until it yields to its successor.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that there were many abuses being conducted. Do we know who these people that are committing all these abuses?
MR. CROWLEY: We have concerns that there are obviously members of his military that continue to shield him. We also believe that he has access to others -- perhaps they could be called thugs -- who are doing his bidding.
QUESTION: So do you – do we know if the Cote d’Ivoire military supports him, the army, whatever, the official military --
MR. CROWLEY: It’s hard for me to – it’s a fair question. It’s hard for me to characterize the situation on the ground. I suspect there are divisions – a view within the government. But for the moment, he does have some support, which is why we and others are putting pressure on those who are continuing to give him – to support him.
QUESTION: Is the option of --
QUESTION: Looking forward to future pressure, is it – is the U.S. Government working on drafting any sort of financial sanctions? I know that those take longer to put in place than travel ones. Is that the second step that might be taken?
MR. CROWLEY: That is an option available to us. That’s something that we have under active review.
QUESTION: Is the option of using force under review?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would hope that by applying pressure, he will give way. And obviously, one of the things that is being looked at is sources of funding for the government to continue to function. We want to see funding come under the responsibility of the new government, but these are things that the international community is looking at.
QUESTION: Is the renewal of the mandate – peacekeepers would be a flashpoint with his military?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The mandate, the renewal of the mandate for a peacekeeping force, the UN peacekeeping force in Cote d’Ivoire, is that likely to be a flashpoint?
MR. CROWLEY: We would hope not. We want to see this resolved without violence and without injury or intimidation to those in civil society, as we hope it’s not – we see the presence of UN forces as a stabilizing influence. That’s why we, along with others, supported the renewal of the UN mandate in Cote d’Ivoire.
QUESTION: When President Obama wrote to him when this started, he also – he not only threatened sanctions but also offered inducements like a trip to the White House and a conversation about how he can be a leader in democracy in West Africa. Are those inducements still on the table, or is his time run out for that option?
MR. CROWLEY: I would say we are going to apply additional pressure on President Gbagbo and his government. The inducements may well still be on the table, but they won’t be there for long.
QUESTION: Right. Well, how’s he going to get here?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, he did –
QUESTION: I mean, he did offer that meeting at the White House. He won’t --
MR. CROWLEY: -- the message to President Gbagbo is it’s time to step aside. The longer that he holds on, the more pressure will be applied and the fewer opportunities to pursue a different line of work will be available to us.
QUESTION: So if he steps aside, you might rescind the travel restriction?
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing that we have announced prevents him from leaving the country.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. But it would prevent him from taking the President up on his offer to visit the White House.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, this pressure is to a purpose, which is to help promote the transition to the government of President-Elect Ouattara, and that is our purpose. Obviously, if the president signals that he’s prepared to actually leave the country, then obviously we would be prepared to – if necessary, to facilitate that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, to facilitate it. The point of my question is larger than just snark. It’s – I mean, are these travel restrictions permanent, or could they be lifted if he steps down?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have revoked visas of the president and his inner circle. It is our option to potentially restore those, depending on the circumstances.
QUESTION: And then on a purely technical and logistical matter, what was the Department’s rationale for having this announced by a deputy assistant secretary of State in a telephone call with French reporters?
MR. CROWLEY: It was just timing. I mean, we signaled that we were going to be moving in this direction. It was just a matter of that was the first media encounter after the decision had been signed off. It – I don’t –
QUESTION: When was the decision signed off on?
MR. CROWLEY: Late last night.
QUESTION: And there wasn’t any thought about putting out a statement or anything like that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Matt –
QUESTION: I just –
MR. CROWLEY: You have chided us on –
QUESTION: Well, only when I’ve known that the statement had been signed off at – during working hours and it comes out at 3 o’clock in the morning. I mean, if literally a decision is made at 11 o’clock at night, then I don’t think that any of us would have a problem that – a statement that comes out at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. I do understand that.
QUESTION: It just seems like it’s – this is not a subject that has been ignored or not asked about from this –
MR. CROWLEY: I agree with you.
QUESTION: -- venue, so --
MR. CROWLEY: I agree with you.
QUESTION: So what was the rationale behind it?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it is just as I told you. There happened to be a media call scheduled for today, and the individual, who is quite knowledgeable about these issues, mentioned the fact that the decision took effect today.
QUESTION: A different subject? P.J., two questions on India. One, as far as the situation in Kashmir is concerned, violence continues in many ways, and according to WikiLeaks and also Amnesty International, what – when you have visitors from India and Pakistan, you – do you discuss with them how to solve this Kashmir problem? And also, what are you asking? What do you ask the Indian officials when they come and meet here and when you visit in India? And – because India is blaming Pakistan, and Pakistan is denying any interference.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, Goyal. We – the issue of Kashmir has come up on a regular basis in our discussions with India and with Pakistan, and our answer to officials of both countries is generally the same, that ultimately, it’s Pakistan and India that have to have a significant dialogue and resolve the issue of Kashmir. There’s no mystery here.
QUESTION: No policy change?
MR. CROWLEY: No policy change.
QUESTION: P.J., Prime Minister Netanyahu says that he’s going to ask – or I should say Prime Minister Netanyahu says he is asking for Jonathan Pollard to be released. Is the Administration inclined to do the prime minister any favors at the moment?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, this would not be the first time that Prime Minister Netanyahu has raised this issue. But I’m not aware that he has made any formal request, which I believe it was part of his statement that he will raise this in a formal way with the United States Government.
QUESTION: Well, is the U.S. inclined to – would the U.S. be inclined to consider such a request?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there is a – if such a request were formally made, there’s obviously a legal process that would be undertaken to evaluate it.
MR. CROWLEY: And?
QUESTION: Would the Administration be inclined to do this favor for Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as – I mean, again, since there’s no formal request, it’s hard to –
QUESTION: The guy just went on Israel radio and said he was doing – I mean –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Matt, look, this is an issue that Prime Minister Netanyahu has raised from time to time, both in his current incarnation and in his previous incarnation. All I can tell you is Jonathan Pollard remains in prison.
QUESTION: And the last time it was – in his last incarnation when he raised it, what was the – what happened?
MR. CROWLEY: Jonathan Pollard remained in prison.
QUESTION: That was during the Clinton Administration?
MR. CROWLEY: That was during the Clinton Administration.
QUESTION: And were there threats from people to resign if such clemency were granted?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not recall that kind – there were –
QUESTION: Seems to me you were in the thick of it.
MR. CROWLEY: There was –
QUESTION: If you don’t recall, I’d be really surprised.
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no. There were spirited discussions about this issue.
QUESTION: And those spirited discussions, what came –
MR. CROWLEY: Resulted in no change in Mr. Pollard’s status.
QUESTION: Exactly. Well, is there any reason to believe that if such spirited discussions were had again, there might be a different result?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, if the prime minister wants to raise this with the United States Government again, obviously it is his option to do so.
QUESTION: Well, let’s take it away from the Pollard case and just in general, is the Administration at this moment inclined to do anything that the Israeli prime minister wants it to do as a favor --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- given the fact that he has done so many favors for you over the past year and a half?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, are – we continue to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians on creating conditions for a framework agreement, and in the context of these issues, we will be happy to work with the parties on a variety of interests as we try to advance this effort. I don’t want to make any bold predictions one way or the other, but we had meetings yesterday and today with David Hale, and Dan Shapiro yesterday talked to Yitzhak Molho. Today, they talked to Saeb Erekat. We will continue our consultations with the parties. We’re looking for the right combination of circumstances that gets the parties to an agreement on the core issues. And we will do whatever we can do to help advance this process.
QUESTION: Well, getting –
MR. CROWLEY: In the context of advancing Middle East peace, if either the Palestinians or the Israelis want to raise with us issues of importance to them, we will consider all of this as we try to get them to an agreement.
QUESTION: So you would consider a request to release a person who was convicted of espionage –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not –
QUESTION: -- almost of treason in relation to the –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not passing judgment.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering, are you –
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no. Matt –
QUESTION: Are you willing to consider linking the two?
MR. CROWLEY: It is something that has come up in the context of Middle East peace, both past and present. We understand this is a matter of importance to the Israeli Government and to the Israeli people, but our focus is on achieving Middle East peace, and anything that we might evaluate in the future will be based on that context.
QUESTION: Does that imply that you see some kind of relationship between a convicted spy and –
MR. CROWLEY: No, no. What I’m –
QUESTION: -- Middle East peace?
MR. CROWLEY: -- saying is others may well see a connection, but again, as I said at the beginning, if the Israeli Government makes a formal request, there is a legal process overseen by the Department of Justice to evaluate such requests.
QUESTION: You’re suggesting that there might – that you –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just – you, as a matter of a statement of fact, said that in the context of Middle East peace, in 1998, the Israeli Government raised this issue with President Clinton. That is a fact. And in the context of Middle East peace, the Israeli Government has raised this with the Obama Administration, and as indicated by the prime minister, may well raise it again.
We understand that this is an important issue to the Israeli people. And we are willing to – if the Israeli Government makes a formal request, we have a legal process that allows for the evaluation of such requests. I can’t predict what we’ll do in the future --
QUESTION: All right. Well, there is also --
MR. CROWLEY: -- other than saying that there is a legal process if such a request is forthcoming.
QUESTION: Well, my understanding was that the legal process for Mr. Pollard himself was that he is eligible – he’s not eligible for parole until 2015. Are you saying –
MR. CROWLEY: And --
QUESTION: You’re saying that there’s a way that that can be sped up in the context of Middle East peace?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, you’re asking me to predict the future, Matt. I can’t do that.
QUESTION: Well, it seems to me that you’re leaving the door open to making some kind of a concession to the Israelis --
MR. CROWLEY: No, what I’m --
QUESTION: -- that is really irrelevant to the --
MR. CROWLEY: -- I’m just simply noting the fact this has come up before. It could well come up in the future. Beyond that, I’m not making any predictions whatsoever.
QUESTION: So has it been approached as part of a larger Middle East peace deal? Could it be part of a larger deal in this case?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, you’re asking a hypothetical, Said. The prime minister today said he plans to raise this issue in some formal way with the United States Government. If and when he does that, there is, in fact, a formal process for us to review those kinds of requests, and that formal process exists within the Department of Justice. All I said was this is an issue that has come up before, and it could well come up in the future.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. --
QUESTION: Could we have a --
QUESTION: -- Government ever brought up the – ever brought this up in the context of Middle East peace?
MR. CROWLEY: Have we brought it up?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Could we have a status report on the mission of Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Hale and what they’ve done in --
MR. CROWLEY: They will be returning to the United States today, having completed consultations with Mr. Molho yesterday and Mr. Erekat today.
QUESTION: And do you know if there is a reaction, if there’s going to be a reaction to the Human Rights Watch report?
MR. CROWLEY: We are – we have the report, and we are reading it.
QUESTION: So are we likely to see a statement or a reaction or a comment?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as of when I came down here, we were still evaluating the report.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I – on Iran, the sanctions that Treasury announced this morning, could you talk us through what State’s role was, if any, in helping to select these new targets? And more broadly, where do you think we stand in the sanctions – the U.S. unilateral sanctions process? I mean, are they going to keep on coming? Is this – are we zero – narrowing down on the ones that we really think are important? Are we expanding the scope?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, this is a process that is led by the Department of Treasury. We obviously have a role to play and cooperate fully in the work of Under Secretary Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Department of Treasury.
All I would tell you is that this is part of the ongoing game of cat and mouse, if you will, between Iran and the international community. We have significant sanctions on Iran. They don’t remain static. They try to do everything that they can to evade these sanctions. And as they take actions, we also take corresponding actions. So these are efforts today that are in reaction to steps that Iran has taken to try to circumvent the sanctions that we think are having an effect on Iran.
QUESTION: So it doesn’t represent a broadening or a redefining of what the sanctions --
MR. CROWLEY: It’s certainly not a redefining. We continue to look at what’s happening in Iran and continue to sanction those entities that we think are controlled by the government and are directly related to their proliferation activities.
QUESTION: On Iraq --
QUESTION: Have you reacted to Iranian threats to Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The Iranians, they directly threatened Pakistan to take action against the terror groups or they will take unilateral action.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t understand the question.
QUESTION: There was a bomb blast in Iran, and the Iranians are blaming Pakistanis. And they have – the Iranian president called Pakistani president over the phone and told him to arrest the people who are involved.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: On Iraq, the President called the formation of the government a promising moment. Why is that a promising moment, considering that they were able to fill 29 out of 42 posts, it was really divided along sectarian-ethnic lines, and the stalemates seems to be ongoing. Could you share with us why is this a really promising moment, beyond just announcing the government?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s a promising moment because it is a government that was made in Iraq as part of an Iraqi political process. Admittedly, it went into overtime and took longer than we might have first anticipated. But at the end of this process, you have an inclusive government; you have a government that represents broadly the will of the Iraqi people. It does include all of the major communities within Iraq. Thus, it is – I think will be broadly seen as credible and legitimate, and now this government has a lot of work to do. Iraq still has political challenges that it needs to address. There needs to be a hydrocarbons law. There needs to be effective action to reduce Arab-Kurd tensions within the country. But we now have a capable government that we believe will advance the interests of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Could you share with us the fate of the strategy council that was announced some three weeks ago, and Mr. (inaudible) commented on that during the conference call -- the strategy council that – to bring in Mr. Allawi and his Iraqiya, to allow him space to govern, so to speak, reporting to the prime minister. There was a strategy council that was formed almost parallel to the government. Could you tell us what has happened? What is the fate of that strategy council?
MR. CROWLEY: I would actually defer to the Iraqi Government. I mean, there is a government in place. It is broadly inclusive. You’re right; not every position has been filled. But you have commitments from each of the major political blocs to support and participate in this government. There will be further announcements in the coming days as Prime Minister Maliki fills out these positions, but -- we have been supportive of this process, but it has been, throughout, an Iraqi-led process.
QUESTION: But there was a body that was created.
MR. CROWLEY: I --
QUESTION: Almost a parallel body.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What is the fate of that body?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the importance of that was that the major political players and factions inside Iraq got together and hammered out the – and reached agreement on the formation of a government, and that’s what’s important here. There was a political process, and that political process has yielded what we think will be an effective government. It doesn’t remove every challenge that Iraq faces, but at least now you have a government that is able to move ahead and tackle these difficult issues, and like our government, not the least of which is forming a budget and moving ahead.
So it did take a long time, but suggestions that we either did or should have dictated the terms of the government, – we did nothing of the kind. We supported a process, as did other countries from the region, and ultimately it was Iraqis themselves that got together, worked through the political challenges, and have formed a government. And this is an important milestone. So you had differences of opinion, you had a very close election, but it was resolved peacefully. You have a government in place, and you have all of the factions committed to participate in and support this government. This is a very, very important day for the future of Iraq.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Iraq, still, what are the lessons that you have learned from Iraq which could be implemented in Afghanistan or are being implemented in Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s hard to apply lessons in one to the other. I think there was a credible political process, an effective election. In a young democracy like Iraq, clearly there were irregularities, there were questions. But those questions were raised, they were sorted through, and they were resolved. But what you have here – had – what you should see here is genuine politics happening in Iraq, and challenges and questions and disagreements were resolved peacefully. That is a lesson that probably can apply anywhere in the world.
QUESTION: P.J., Governor Richardson said North Korea reacted in a statesman-like manner to South Korea’s artillery drills, and it showed the right step for the resumption of the dialogue. So do you agree to him?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Governor Richardson has completed his visit to Pyongyang. He is on his way back to the United States. I know he’s made a number of political – of public pronouncements. As we said yesterday, North Korea behaved as countries should behave. The exercise that occurred in South Korea was not a threat to North Korea, and that’s good news.
QUESTION: Do you feel --
QUESTION: What time is that meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: What time is the meeting with the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any meeting scheduled at the State Department tomorrow.
QUESTION: But, he’s coming back – no, sir?
MR. CROWLEY: Governor Richardson is returning to the United States. I’m not aware – as I suggested yesterday, it could well be that he will reach out to us and provide his perspective on his visit, but I’m not aware that anything’s scheduled at this point.
QUESTION: South Korea again, on -- South Korean Government has emphasized yesterday that North Korea should be – return back to the NPT before resumption of the Six-Party Talks. What is the U.S. position of – on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we certainly advocate that countries around – I mean, we -- as a policy, the United States of America supports universal adherence to the NPT. North Korea was once a party to the NPT. It withdrew. We certainly would agree that North Korea is better served inside the NPT than outside the NPT. So is the rest of the region, so is the rest of the world. But that -- obviously it will be a decision for North Korea to make. But that will be the kind of step that we would certainly view as indicating the kind of seriousness of purpose that we talked about yesterday.
QUESTION: Does the State Department feel at this point that Governor Richardson’s trip to North Korea was useful at all? And have you – has anybody in this building been in direct contact with him since he left? I mean, he was in Beijing, and he had enough time to talk to reporters.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we’ve had any contact with him since he left, and, like I said, it was a private visit. But at some point if he wants to provide us his perspective, we’ll await that moment.
QUESTION: And whether or not it’s been useful?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we’ve had – we and others have had conversations with North Korea before. The real issue is what will North Korea do. So we’re not going to judge a moment on a conversation between the governor and officials in North Korea. We’ll going to be – evaluate what to do in the future based on what North Korea does, and we’ve made clear what we want to see from North Korea going forward.
QUESTION: Timing of the Governor Richardson visit to North Korea, don’t you think North Korea using his visit for propaganda for the government in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Governor Richardson has met with officials from North Korea routinely, going back to his time as the ambassador to the UN. So it was a private visit. The arrangements were worked out between Governor Richardson and North Korea, and we had no role in it.
QUESTION: But the same time that the South Korean and the military exercise – but North Korea invited him personally. That means North Korea convincing Governor Richardson to (inaudible) things for their propaganda.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to subscribe any particular motivation as to why North Korea decided to invite him and why the governor decided to accept.
QUESTION: P.J. --
QUESTION: As a matter of policy, P.J., do you frown upon or do you encourage U.S. citizens sort of carrying diplomacy on their own, sort of freelancing? Is that something that you encourage or do you frown upon --
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, we do neither one. I mean, there are regular visitors to North Korea – Sig Hecker, Jack Pritchard, others. They go. Whenever Americans have the opportunity to travel there, they may gain insights. In many cases, they pass their perspective to us based on what they see and what they heard. This can have value since we don’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea, but the decision as to who travels when, where, and how, those are private decisions, as we have made clear. For these delegations that do go to North Korea from time to time, they’re not carrying a message from the United States Government. When we have a need to communicate with North Korea, we do so.
QUESTION: Did you ever get an answer to my question about the Treasury and spending money in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I’m getting nods.
QUESTION: Yes? What was the answer?
MR. CROWLEY: We forget. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Then can I add – then can I add another one?
MR. TONER: Add an addendum? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Add an addendum to the question, which was if the – the question was whether you need to get permission from the Treasury to actually spend --
MR. CROWLEY: We still don’t think the answer is that you do, but --
MR. TONER: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: All right. Well, if you come back, then can you also find out – if you come back with – from North Korea with U.S. currency, is there anything you have to do to make sure that it –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the first thing you should make sure is if it’s actually real. (Laughter.) One should not go to – you can go down the street to a bank.
QUESTION: One should not accept hundred-dollar bills in change from the North Koreans?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) travel documents --
QUESTION: Can you – do you expect any qualitative change now in the relationship with Belarus? Lukashenko seemed to be flirting with the West for a couple years, released political prisoners, made a nuclear deal several weeks ago. Now he seems to have gone to the dark side, so to speak, with this election. What’s going to happen for him tangibly?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure I necessarily subscribe to the suggestion. Whatever flirtation was happening here, it’s – I mean, Belarus and – President Lukashenko may well be a country that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Our sanctions will continue in place, and it’s tragic what Belarus – what has happened in Belarus. Respect for the democratic process and human rights of its citizens is at the center of our relationship and our aspirations for Belarus.
QUESTION: Have you heard or are you concerned that these events and the U.S. reaction to them might somehow derail the nuclear swap deal?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would hope not. That is something that’s important to the international community, including others in the region. But certainly, any fundamental improvement in our bilateral relations will only be possible based on a meaningful improvement in the government’s policies affecting democracy and human rights.
QUESTION: So no word on the nuclear?
MR. CROWLEY: No, but we would hope that that cooperation will continue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi. Ryan Tracy from Dow Jones. I want to talk about Venezuela and the issue with the ambassador there. Can you tell us any more about what consequences there might be either for Venezuela? And also, maybe you can talk about the consequences for the U.S. to not have an ambassador in place there if that’s what’s –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was a fairly lengthy period of time where we did not have an ambassador in place. Ambassador Patrick Duddy was there. He left. He did return. And now he’s come back and is a diplomat in residence here in the United States. We thought it was important to have an ambassador there to help to perhaps lead our countries to better relations. It’s regrettable that Venezuela has made this decision. We are evaluating what to do in light of that decision, but we have made no final judgments at this point.
QUESTION: Have there been any more communication on that between the United States and Venezuela? Any further developments since --
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: On --
MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hold on.
QUESTION: Actually, I have two questions. The first question concerns the North African (inaudible). So last week, we had the negotiations between Morocco and Polisario regarding the Moroccan Sahara. So does United States has any position or message to give (inaudible) parts, to have final resolution to this conflict?
Second question is – my second one is there are many international experts that say that the rise of tourism attacks in that area, in North Africa, in Sahel and Mali. So does United States has regionally strategy against this terrorism – against terrorism in that part? As we know, that region is like in similar way as in Afghanistan.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, on the latter point first, we decry any attacks on civilians anywhere in the world as they travel, whether our citizens or the citizens of other countries. But in terms – in the context of U.S. citizens, it’s one of the reasons we put out regular travel notifications to try to keep American citizens apprised about particular local dangers as they decide where around the world to travel. In terms of the Western Sahara, there’s no change in our policy; we continue to support the UN mediation effort.
QUESTION: P.J., so you are not considering any proposal made by North Korea through Governor Richardson because you think they are unofficial?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what I’m -- again, what I’m saying is we’ve had no contact with Governor Richardson since he left Pyongyang. I’m not projecting any conversations that we’ll have. It is – frequently, if we have travelers going to Pyongyang, when they get back they’ll contact us and give us their perspective. But to the extent that North Korea may have told the governor they are willing to let IAEA inspectors back into the country, that is a message for North Korea not to tell Governor Richardson; that’s a message for North Korea to tell Director Amano at the IAEA.
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: This for official message to United States and – what – only North Korea (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, there’s no mystery here. If North Korea is prepared to take constructive actions, they have the ability to do so. And if they need to interact with any international organization in connection with those actions, they know how to reach the IAEA. They know Director Amano’s phone number.
QUESTION: How do you (inaudible) the North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: How do you (inaudible) the North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: How do we talk to North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: We have the ability to talk to North Korea. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The New York Times reported today that they – there’s a sense of frustration in the Administration that Pakistan is not doing enough and some of the military generals wants permission to go ahead and cross the border to hit the terrorist safe haven. Do you agree with the assessment? If not, why?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would just caution, do not believe everything you read in the newspaper. But we have a strategic dialogue with Pakistan. As we’ve said here many times, Pakistan has taken considerable action in recent years. No military in the world has suffered more casualties in the fight against terrorism than Pakistan. That said, clearly there are insurgents within Pakistan’s border that are a threat to the government itself, and we will continue to work with Pakistan and encourage Pakistan to continue to do everything possible to defeat this insurgency, which is a risk – which is a danger to Pakistan and a danger to others.
QUESTION: As the year comes to an end, how do you describe your relationship with Pakistan? Is it strained? Is it friendly? How is it?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s strategic.
QUESTION: P.J., just a quick question on WikiLeaks. As you enter the new year and, one, who is funding WikiLeaks, because leaks are still going on (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question, Goyal.
QUESTION: And second, how are you going to repair the relations or damage by WikiLeaks with the global leaders as you enter the new year?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll do it –
QUESTION: Are they going to trust you? That’s what they’re asking you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, as we’ve said many times, our relationship with other countries is based on mutual interests. Those mutual interests are unchanged by any document that has been released by WikiLeaks. We are going to do this one day at a time, one action at a time. The Secretary continues to have regular contacts either in person or in phone calls with world leaders. This issue comes up, and without exception, the leaders reassure her that notwithstanding whatever ripples have been created by these revelations, that our relations with these countries will continue because they’re important.
QUESTION: P.J., on that, there was a cable that was published today that had to with Haiti -- or maybe it was yesterday. And it had to do with this building asking ambassadors and others to push back against negative reporting as it regards the – as it regarded the U.S. effort – earthquake relief effort in Haiti. There seems to be some concern in some quarters that this demonstrated a – it was a misplaced priority, that rather than actually improving the delivery of relief material on the ground, you were more concerned with what – the presentation of it. Is that – do you think that that’s a fair criticism?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I’ve been doing a fair amount of work on this issue, and I’m not familiar with that cable.
QUESTION: Vice President over the weekend said that Julian Assange is like high-tech terrorist. Do you agree with his assessment? And if he – do you brand him as a terrorist?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, actually, having reviewed the transcript, it was actually the journalist who raised that term, and the Vice President responded as he did. I’ve got nothing to add to it.
QUESTION: Just on (inaudible) I sent you that question about Dominican Republic WikiLeaks report. Do you have anything on that? The – that Mr. Valenzuela called the Dominican Republic regarding –
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I’ve sent that question to them. I haven’t gotten an answer back. I’ll prod them again.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)
DPB # 208