Briefing on Monday's Events

Press Availability
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 21, 2009

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I have cleverly arranged this so that I’m the only thing standing between you and dinner.

So how to digest eight-plus hours of bilats into a couple of pithy statements? Let me just – you’ve heard from the Secretary several times today, but I think there were a number of things that spread across several of the meetings – not, obviously, all of them. One was genuine concern about the situation with respect to Iran, and an earnest gratitude to the United States and everyone, hoping that dialogue will succeed in addressing the challenge of Iran’s nuclear programs. And the Secretary talked about the need for a unified position internationally on this, and I think she received across-the-board significant support.

There was a significant discussion in many of the meetings about climate change, particularly poignant. I know Kurt Campbell came down to brief out a couple of the meetings, but it obviously was very poignant in talking to the presidents and prime minister leaders of the island nations, obviously, whose survival is at stake when talking about climate change and the need for significant action internationally to address this challenge. A lot of talk about access to technology and finding ways to lower the cost, and some optimism in terms of a progress in recent days that gives people hope for an agreement in Copenhagen.

And obviously, broadly speaking, a lot of discussion in its various manifestations on nonproliferation, not only with respect to Iran, but also with respect to North Korea. Obviously, the Secretary talked to multiple – in several of her meetings – obviously, Korea, Japan, Australia – to focus on what can be done to get North Korea back to the Six-Party process. I think there was general agreement and support for the idea that not only the United States, but other countries, might engage in dialogue, a bilateral dialogue, which would bring North Korea back to the Six-Party process.

Why don’t I stop there and just – we’ll go wherever you want to take it.

QUESTION: The Costa Rican thing?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The meeting with President Arias – did they talk about – specifically about Zelaya’s return? We heard from the Secretary, but I mean, what kind of calls is she making? What – were there any kind of next steps?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, a very good question, Elise. The Secretary, during – between meetings earlier this afternoon, talked to the Brazilian foreign minister about the current situation. Tom Shannon, who is here, has been in touch – and others within the government have been in touch with various parties. I think the Ambassador has talked to President Zelaya. Others are communicating to the de facto regime.

As the Secretary said, one of our primary concerns is obviously that this be resolved peacefully. We have long worried about any actions that would precipitate violence. Obviously, if the curfew has been declared in Tegucigalpa, hopefully that will allow the authorities to maintain calm. And the Secretary and President Arias, as you heard, both called for dialogue between President Zelaya and the de factos.

I think President Arias in particular saw this as a – as he said to Secretary Clinton during the meeting, the return of Zelaya has been the primary impediment to progress with the San Jose Accords; now that Zelaya is actually back in the country, this actually provides an opportunity.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary feel the same way? Does she think that it was a provocative action, or does she think that this could actually jumpstart some meaningful progress on the (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think she called for dialogue in her session with you, and obviously, this is something that has to be resolved by Hondurans for Hondurans. But the San Jose Accords are there on the table, as President Arias said to you, he also said to the Secretary, there’s no Plan B.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

QUESTION: Is this kind of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? I mean, it’s an opportunity, on the one hand. The other hand, this is a government that – he tried to return once before. They barred him. They threw him on a military plane in the middle of the night in his pajamas. Why is there any reason to think that this won’t lead to more conflict between the two sides rather than --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we certainly hope that this will not lead to more conflict. I mean, we’re dealing with the facts that exist. We don’t know how President Zelaya has returned to the country, but he has. And --

QUESTION: You’ve warned him in the past against that, though.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, but he’s there. Okay?

QUESTION: You actually don’t know how he got there?

MR. CROWLEY: We do not.

QUESTION: The Brazilian foreign minister --

MR. CROWLEY: Neither does President Arias.

QUESTION: And the Brazilian foreign minister wasn’t able to shed any light on that as he showed up in the Brazilian Embassy?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there are a lot of people asking questions as to how this happened, probably most especially those within the de facto regime are probably wondering how this happened.

QUESTION: You’re not wondering how it happened?

MR. CROWLEY: We are wondering how it happened, and we’re having a variety of conversations. But the real issue is what happens now. The Secretary made clear that this – given that this has taken place, now is the time for dialogue, now is the time for both sides to sign on to the San Jose Accords and get on with the process of moving to a new government through the electoral process, and restoring democratic and constitutional order.


QUESTION: Just a couple of points. You said the U.S. Ambassador talked to Zelaya?


QUESTION: Do you know if the subject of “how in the hell did you get back here” came up? Or if it did, could you try and find that out?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. I mean, I’ve been with the Secretary for the last couple of – she does not know how it happened. I do not know how it happened.

QUESTION: No, no, no.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We’ll --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure that over time some of these details will emerge.

QUESTION: And the conversation with the Brazilian foreign minster was by telephone; is that correct?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: In other words, (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: I think both Foreign Minister Okada, Secretary Clinton, recognized that this is an historic moment, and it is – there is a new government. They are obviously, literally, brand new, and in the case of the foreign minister, only been on the job a few days. He is, I think probably as Kurt Campbell said to you earlier, he is well known to us. They talked about a number of issues. The United States and Japan have worked very closely together on the North Korean situation and the Six-Party process, and there was a pledge to continue that cooperation. I think they did pledge, as you heard, to broaden and deepen the relationship, even one as fundamental and strong as the relationship between the United States and Japan.

Clearly, this government comes into office with some new ideas. The Secretary said that we will welcome the opportunity to learn more about their ideas and work through the issues that may arise.

QUESTION: Did Foreign Minister Okada make his government’s case that they would like all U.S. soldiers off – or the Marines off Okinawa?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that – well, all I’ll say is that he did signal that there would be a number of issues that were – he viewed as priorities that they would want to have further discussions on. The current realignment of forces would be one of those. But they did not get into substantive discussions this afternoon.

QUESTION: So he did not repeat what has been the new prime minister’s position that they should leave entirely?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will leave it to the foreign minister to characterize his comments. He did identify the issue as being one that the government would want to pursue with us, and we expect to have further discussions on that as we go forward.

QUESTION: And did the Secretary make the U.S. case that it believes that it’s vital that the United States maintain the Okinawa presence?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the Secretary just reflected the view that we have a current plan in terms of the basing of U.S. forces in Japan and some adjustments that are, in fact, already going on, and that we would welcome the opportunity to talk further with the government about that.

QUESTION: She didn’t say you’d like to stick to that plan?

MR. CROWLEY: She reflected the fact that we have a plan, but we will be happy to answer questions that the Government of Japan might wish to raise about that plan. And I’m sure they have questions, having just come into office, on the existing arrangement – how the two governments arrived at this particular plan, what other options were considered. So the Secretary pledged, to the extent that there were questions that the government has, we’ll be happy to work through those issues with them.

QUESTION: And she made no argument for retaining the U.S. Marine presence on Okinawa, albeit in the reconfigured manner that’s been --

MR. CROWLEY: Arshad, all I can say is that she expressed the view that we would be open to further discussions on this issue.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. The refueling came up as well in that? They were talking about refueling --

MR. CROWLEY: We’re aware of that issue. I think there was a great discussion not just in the bilateral but also in the trilateral about the efforts that the United States, Japan, and Australia all have in terms of support for the operations in Afghanistan. I don’t recall it coming up as a specific issue other than we understand that this is an issue that we’ll have further discussions on.


QUESTION: Did they agree on how to move the Six-Party process forward? Did the Secretary explain to Mr. Okada about the idea of (inaudible) direct talks with North Koreans?

MR. CROWLEY: I – obviously, they did talk both in the bilateral and the trilateral about the current situation. The foreign minister and the Secretary both reflected on the importance of the abductee issue with respect to the people of Japan, and the Secretary is very strong in her view that this violates the common standards of humanity on which all countries operate. And it remains important to us, remains important to Japan, and we will stay in close contact with Japan as a member of the Six-Party process as we work through trying to get North Korea back to dialogue and ultimately to resume its work and reaffirm its commitments to denuclearization.


QUESTION: With regard to the U.S. forces in Japan realignment, State Department – State Department (inaudible) that the United States has no intention to renegotiate on that issue. So I’d like to clarify whether the State Department has changed the position.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we’ve changed our position. There is – as the Secretary talked with the foreign minister, there is an existing plan in place. The new government has questions about this plan, and the Secretary pledged that we will continue our discussions with the new government and to answer any questions that they might have. I think she’s open to further discussions on this issue, but they didn’t get into a – what we call it down – we didn’t get into the weeds on those issues. So I would just say that this will be something that, obviously, it was signaled today it’s important to the new government. We recognize that and we’ll have further discussions.

QUESTION: So she’s willing to talk but not renegotiate it? You said, “I don’t think we’ve changed our position.”

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. There is a plan. Clearly, we’re going to have discussions about it. But I wouldn't – where those discussions go at this point, I can’t predict.

QUESTION: Are you willing to negotiate or not? I mean, it’s a reasonable question. And from the podium, you guys were very clear that you were not willing to renegotiate it. If you’re willing to now, which would be --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I’m just saying that there is an existing plan. The government – the new government has questions about that plan, and we’ll be happy to talk to the new government about those and try to do our best to answer those questions.

QUESTION: You mean to assure – to persuade them to keep the agreement, or see if there’s going to be anything that would make them more comfortable?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s – I mean, I’ve taken this as far as I can take it, which is --

QUESTION: Except for the fact that it seems – you seem to be leaving the door open for renegotiation.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve just said that we will – this will clearly be a matter for further discussion.

QUESTION: What will clearly be a matter for further discussion?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean --

QUESTION: The problem is we’re coming at this from what – I think it was you said on the record, maybe it was Ian – that the U.S. Government is not interested and is not willing to renegotiate these agreements. This was just after the election, within two or three days of the election, that was said on the record. And now it seems --


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) you’re willing to --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying we are. I’m just simply saying – I’m reflecting today’s bilateral. Obviously, it is an issue of importance to the new government, and we pledged in the spirit of cooperation, reflecting the very strong relationship between our two countries, that if the new government has questions about the current plan, we’ll be happy to try to answer those questions. I’m not signaling what happens beyond that. That was the sum and substance of today’s discussion. That’s all I’m trying to characterize.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T12-10