State Department Noon Briefing, June 15
|Tuesday June 15,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2004
12:20 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Apparently, after months of white-knuckle suspense, the Chinese have set a date for the six-party talks. I suppose you can confirm that. And do you have observations in that regard?
MR. BOUCHER: I could easily keep up the suspense, if you'd like me to, but I think we'll just confirm it. As China has announced, the next session of the six-party working group and six-party plenary will take place during the week of June 21st. That's next week. The working group will meet in Beijing, June 21 and 22, and the plenary will meet from the 23rd to the 26th.
Our Special Envoy Joseph DeTrani will lead the interagency U.S. delegation for the working group phase of the meetings. And our Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly will lead the interagency U.S. delegation to the third session of the six-party talks.
The purpose of these talks is to find a diplomatic resolution to the threat that's posed by North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's a threat to the security and stability in the northeast Asia and to global nonproliferation efforts. And that's why we have six parties, six nations that have come together. We hope to try to resolve that issue because it's important to all of them.
The U.S. goal in the talks process is the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs because we do continue to believe that that is the only way that we can end the threat and that we can provide the kind of stability and security that all of the parties need for the future.
QUESTION: Norway, I believe, is dropping charges against Mullah Krekar, apparently, because one of the key witnesses against him claims he was mistreated while in custody in Iraq. But as I understand at the moment, your Department plans to proceed with trying to expel Krekar.
Do you have any views on the decision to drop the prosecution and on whether or not they should proceed with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I wasn't aware of the news. I'll have to check and see if we have anything to say about it.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in their latest report, they complained China hasn't done enough helping resolve the North Korea crisis. Is that also the stance of this Administration?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have heard from this Administration, from the Secretary, from this podium, and elsewhere, that we certainly have appreciated Chinese efforts to help organize the talks, but as well to represent the Chinese view and the Chinese strong view as they have expressed is that they want to see denuclearization of the peninsula. They're as concerned about the potential of a nuclear threat on their -- in their neighborhood as anybody is. And so I think the Administration's view has been and continues to be that we appreciate all the efforts China has made.
QUESTION: North Korea has already rejected the U.S. position, dismantling their program in acceded way, and South Korea is expected to revive its offer that it did last -- in the last talk to provide North Korea's energy need instead of a nuclear freeze. And also the Chinese are -- actually, the Chinese hope that all parties to show their utmost flexibility. I'm just wondering do you recall when you repeated CVID position. And I'm just wondering what do you expect --
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is only one or two observations I'd make about this. The first is that we need to let the parties sit down together. The United States is going to these talks with a real desire to try to find a diplomatic solution to the difficulties on the peninsula. We think that the whole neighborhood, but including North Korea, would be better off with a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is the attitude that emerged from previous rounds of talks, that that was a consensus.
And so what we need to sit down to do in the working group and the plenaries is to talk about how to achieve the denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the complete verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear programs is the way to do that. You've got to get rid of the programs. You've got to do it in a methodical and organized and a thorough way if nobody on the peninsula is going to face this kind of threat in the future.
The second thing, as we've pointed out before, is that the expectations that North Korea might have about its interaction with the world are not going to be fulfilled unless they have a different relationship, one that's not based on the fear of war or the fear of nuclear weapons with other people in the neighborhood.
We have coordinated closely with other governments -- Japan, South Korea, especially -- and just had those recent discussions in the last few days. We recognize that other countries might be willing to do certain things at certain stages. And that's okay. But, in the end, I think we're all looking for a denuclearized peninsula and we're all trying to achieve that goal.
As far as the United States is concerned, we don't think -- we don't have any intention of rewarding North Korea for things it never should have done to begin with, but we do understand that there is a process here. We have said that the freeze is not a goal for the United States because it doesn't really solve the question. To solve the question you need the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear programs.
So what are we doing? We're sitting down in Beijing, another round of talks, to try to discuss how to get rid of this nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula. Different people might have different approaches. I think we've been very clear about the U.S. approach. But we think it's basically logic: The only way to get rid of the nuclear threat is to get rid of the nuclear threat completely, irreversibly and verifiably.
QUESTION: Richard, I have a change of subject for a second. Yesterday, after his meeting with King Abdullah, the Secretary said that the errors in the terrorism report were understandable and that he expected there to be a revised version, a revised whatever, coming out in the coming days. I'm just wondering if you ever got a fix on when you're -- the release of the complete, verifiable and incontestable --
MR. BOUCHER: And irreversible figures on terrorism? The -- no, I don't have a precise fix. We do expect it to be in coming days. We're continuing to meet on it. People have been working on it.
As the Secretary, I think, noted in another interview, all weekend and over the last two days, they have met with him once; they may meet with him again. And as soon as we have a solid set of numbers, we'll come down here and explain them to you.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any idea what kind of form this is going to take now? And is it going to be just redacting pages, or I don't know, taking pages out, putting new ones in or --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know for sure. We'll make sure there's a revised and complete version available of all the information that we put out in an accurate way and we'll come down and try to explain this to you as well.
QUESTION: So it won't be a late night rollout; it will be while the sun is still out?
MR. BOUCHER: What do you call a late night, you know? And the sun stays out late.
QUESTION: Fridays, after the networks have aired?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've, I think, not tried to game this one. We've been up front about the mistakes that have occurred. We've been up front about our pledge to fix them. And as soon as we have a solid set of numbers to stand on and an analysis that reflects the numbers, we'll come down here and tell you about it. And I promise the sun will still be shining when we do that, even though the lights here can make up for any lack of sunshine.
QUESTION: Sunday is the longest day of the year.
MR. BOUCHER: No, again, the Secretary said we're looking to do this in the next couple days, and we'll be as forthcoming as we can in sort of explaining what happened and what the numbers are and what they mean.
QUESTION: Did anything emerge from yesterday's meeting with the Secretary as to how this could have happened and who's going to get blamed?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing more than what we discussed at the briefing yesterday.
QUESTION: But the meeting was after the briefing, wasn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. But we all were anticipating. I think the basic source of the errors that we described is there. Frankly, where the numbers are going to end up, on one thing or another, I really hesitate to predict. The more I learn about it, the more confused I am, and therefore we'll just have to see it when they have done the numbers and scrubbed them twice. We'll see what exactly the numbers will be for incidents, major incidents, non-significant ones, as well as deaths and casualties. They've just got to get it all together and we'll talk about it then.
QUESTION: Yes, about Saddam Hussein and turning him over to the Iraqis. Any sense as to how quickly this could happen? What has to take place for Saddam to be turned over? And also, the larger question of, will all custody of detainees be turned over to the Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: These are issues that remain under discussion between the United States and Iraq. We have always made clear that we were prepared to turn over Saddam Hussein and other detainees when the Iraqis were in a position to take him and try him. And that's, I think, what you've seen repeated today by the various spokesmen of the United States, including by the President, that we would turn him over at the appropriate time.
There are a number of factors that are involved. One is, in the case of Saddam Hussein, getting the special tribunal up and running. Two is, as the President pointed out, and in fact, as President al-Yawer of Iraq has pointed out, both of them, both our President and the President of Iraq spoke today about the need to be able to provide enough security in order for the Iraqis to take custody of Saddam. So that's another factor.
But I think, though, the point is that it's when the Iraqis are ready and able to take over this responsibility, this task, we will turn him over. So it's an Iraqi-led process, and as the Iraqis prepare to do that, we're working with them, supporting them. We've provided a lot of advice, technical assistance and support for the special tribunal for them to start getting up and running. And I think they do have a spokesman so you can get a better feel from him about where they stand.
QUESTION: And the other question about all detainees. Will -- is the U.S. willing to hand over all detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of detainees in general is also something that we will discuss and are discussing very closely with the Iraqi interim government and with Prime Minister Allawi. This needs to proceed in a manner that's consistent with international law, consistent with UN Resolution 1546, and so at this point I can't make any sweeping promises. We have to work out the details with the Iraqi government.
QUESTION: Richard, you've talked briefly of Saddam Hussein about some of the practical issues involved, when the special tribunal will be set up and when security -- if a security environment could be created for the Iraqis to keep him in. But by what authority could the U.S. Government keep any of these Iraqi citizens post-handover of sovereignty?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is authority in international law for detaining prisoners of war as long as the hostilities continue. And I would note also that as part of the annex to the UN Resolution 1546 that also mentions in the letter from Secretary Powell that there might be internment where it is necessary for imperative reasons for security.
So this is something that has been discussed and envisioned. But the legal basis, therefore, we think is adequate, more than adequate, but the practical matters, the ability of Iraq to take over this responsibility is what will govern how quickly we can transfer prisoners and detainees to them.
QUESTION: You say that there's authority as long as hostilities continue. What measure are you using for -- I mean, should violence stop completely or do you have a scale that tells you, you know, when --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there is some more detailed definition in international law, but I think it is quite clear at this point that hostilities continue. I would expect the Iraqi government to be in a position to take over this responsibility a lot sooner than we could say that there is perfect quiet in Iraq.
So I don't think the circumstances that you're describing might arise. The Iraqi government has certainly indicated that they do intend to get the tribunals up and running and manage to assume this responsibility as soon as the can, so it will be something we will work out with them as part of the transition process.
QUESTION: The Israeli Defense Ministry has informed many Palestinian owners of lands that it has taken, it is going to be taking new lands from them in order to go into the project of penetration, the deepest penetration in the Palestinian lands. A U.S. spokesman of -- the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Jerusalem has expressed concerns only, why this is actually taking place against their UN resolutions, and the Summit of the Eight statements. And could you say more than just -- express more than concern towards these violations?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me be clear on what the U.S. position is here, and we have discussed these recent reports with the Israeli government. I think we have made very clear over a long period of time, a variety of discussions what our policy is. The issue of the route of the Israeli fence, the barrier, has often been taken up, not just by our embassy, but in the regular exchanges that we have with Israeli officials including at high levels.
Our position has been clear, the fence is a problem. It is a problem to the extent that it prejudges final borders, that it confiscates Palestine property, or that it imposes further hardship on the Palestine people. And so that is the position that we have taken in the discussions with the Israelis when we talk about the barrier and we talk about what its consequences might be.
QUESTION: Are you going to be more proactive towards this because they are actually taking practical steps now and ignoring President Bush and the other international leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have been active all along and will continue to be active as we are now.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is there any update at all on the G-8 call for the Quartet to meet?
MR. BOUCHER: There is no update. I think I said yesterday they would meet in the region at the envoy level. I don't have a precise date yet.
QUESTION: Iran has threatened to review its cooperation with the IAEA if pressure being put on it doesn't abate. I'm referring to President Khatami's published statements. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is just clear to note that discussions continue in Vienna. We are looking forward to seeing the resolution that will be tabled by the Europeans. I think we and others made clear all along that Iran has obligations under its international agreements. Iran has requirements from the Board and Iran has commitments that Iran has made itself that we and others expect Iran to live up to.
So that's what we expect Iran to meet and threats and other posturing don't get us anywhere. We look for the kind of cooperation that the Director General of the IAEA has asked for, the kind of cooperation they've promised to the European visitors and in public before. We'll be discussing this resolution in Vienna, and I guess we'll look for a vote by the end of the week. That's when we will expect the Board of Governors to take action.
QUESTION: Back on Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I don't know if you've seen the CPA poll. I think it's the most recent one. Some of the news is not particularly encouraging. But from your point of view, 55 percent of Iraqis, according to the poll, said they would feel more safe if coalition forces left immediately; and 78 percent lack confidence in the CPA and there are other numbers similar to that. Do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I have just seen these poll results, and I think there's two or three things worth noting. One of the things that, I think, is on some of the same charts that you saw, is that Iraqis have more and more faith in their own police and security services. And let's face it, that's the goal, to build those up to the point where they can take charge in Iraq and they can maintain security in Iraq.
And so, the fact that Iraqis do have more faith in their own security services is a good sign. And one hopes that the society as a whole would react the way President Allawi has called on people to react, and that is to work with their security services, to provide information to their security services, to denounce the terrorists and the bombers who are undermining Iraqi goals and aspirations and Iraqi's -- Iraq's economy.
So that's the first point, that the other side of the coin that you're citing seems to be that they're -- the other side of the coin that you were citing seems to be that Iraqis do have more confidence in their own security services, and we hope that will translate into working and supporting with them the way the Prime Minister has asked them to.
I think the second point is, we do have now an Iraqi Government that was chosen through a very broad process of consultation. It's not the same as an elected government, but it certainly is standing up and taking responsibility for Iraq and for the future of Iraqis and will bring them through this transition period to elections. The United States will be working with that government, will be listening to that government. That government has already taken charge in many, many areas.
There's, I think, 15 ministries now that have been turned over to Iraqi control, including some of the most important ones, something like over 700,000 Iraqi employees work for Iraqi ministries under Iraqi control already. So this whole transfer of authority to the Iraqis that has been going on, will continue and will be formalized on June 30th, gives us a partner to work with.
Now, the people in that government have said that they do need U.S. troops and coalition forces to help them with security. And we'll listen to them, we'll work with them, we'll talk to them in partnership to help provide the kind of security that they -- that they want, that they've analyzed the situation and decided that Iraq needs.
QUESTION: Just to clarify.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did you say 700,000 Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, 15 -- 15 of the 26 ministries have been transferred to Iraqi responsibility, and 737,000 government workers already work for ministries that are under direct Iraqi control. The coalition's role in governance has been decreasing. The Iraqi authority over their own affairs has been increasing.
There are 11 more ministries to be transitioned, transferred in the next two weeks. And the total government employment in Iraq is going to be about 1 million, so somewhere around two-thirds now has been transferred over.
QUESTION: Different subject, and this is going to be very brief, because I just want to ask if you can look into this and take the question, look into it.
But over the weekend, or Saturday, there was an interview, a newspaper story with an interview of the Secretary in it about Sudan, and in that interview he said that there was a review, an active review going on in the Department among the lawyers about the determination of genocide or not.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering if -- well, maybe you do have an answer today but --
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's no final answer today. We have made clear our very, very strong concerns about what's taking place in Darfur, about the ethnic cleansing, I think we've said already that's taken place there, and we are looking at the question of whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.
QUESTION: And the implications of that are? Do you know? If --
MR. BOUCHER: If it is determined, I think there are certain implications in international law, but I'm not quite ready yet to explain it.
QUESTION: Because that -- that might not be done by the United States unilaterally on its own, or is that something that the UN has to do? Do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, it's just, you know, making clear if we think it meets the definition. We'll say so. Second of all, then the international community would have to decide (a) whether they agree, and (b) what to do about it.
Yeah, okay. Sir.
QUESTION: After June 30th, who gets to be the final arbiter of whether Iraq is ready to take custody of Saddam and any of the detainees? I take it the U.S. is working with them right now, but after June 30th, suppose there's a shift.
MR. BOUCHER: After June 30th, I think we've described the security situation as a partnership. This is part of that partnership. This is part of the cooperation between the United States and Iraq that's been described by our leaders, that's been described in the Security Council resolution, and particularly in the letters from the Iraqis and from the Secretary to the Security Council.
So in terms of the actual workings of this, it will be a partnership. It's something that we will continue to work with them together. Final say in all matters that relate to sovereignty will be in the hands of the Iraqis because they will be sovereign, but I think we've all made clear so far this is something we're going to work together.
QUESTION: Sir, do you have any elaboration that you could tell us about the meeting, what resulted of the meeting yesterday between Secretary Powell and King Abdullah, please?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a good discussion, a continuation of discussions they've had before, but even I think more than that, a look forward at the meetings that the King is having today with the President. So there will be more detail there.
The discussion centered really on two issues: one is Middle East peace process; and the second is Iraq. And I'd just, I think, leave it at that for the moment since there's further discussion taking place today on both those issues at the White House.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is that it?
MR. BOUCHER: One more.
QUESTION: Taiwan. The recent release of the itinerary of Taiwan's delegation of legislators coming to Washington for the possible purchase of weapons indicates that they will be in Washington on 19th. Could you please tell us who the delegation will be meeting with here in State?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have their schedule. They're a delegation of legislators who come from time to time. I think the Taiwan Coordination Office would have to tell you about their schedule, when we have discussions with people from Taiwan, when they come to town. But that's about as much as I can say about this particular group.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing ended at 12:55 p.m.)
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