State Department Noon Briefing, June 23
|Tuesday June 22,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2004
1:40 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements for you right now, but I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Would you like to answer what Mr. Cunningham has had to say about the news that the U.S. is dropping the resolution, seeking to renew the exemption for American peacekeepers from that tribunal that the U.S. doesn't really think should be -- have jurisdiction over them?
MR. BOUCHER: We felt the draft renewal that we had presented met the needs of all of the members and was consistent with what the members of the council had stated in passing the resolution before.
At the same time, we found that members didn't agree. So we have decided not to proceed with further consideration of the resolution, the ICC resolution, or action on the draft at this time. We want to avoid a prolonged and divisive debate in the council. We will have to take into account the lack of this resolution, as we look at our various obligations, and the way we proceed overseas. We'll be doing that in the coming days.
QUESTION: It sounds like you came to the conclusion for sake of not taking too much time, occupying too much time. But you haven't changed your position, have you?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not changed our position, and in fact, we believe that the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court needs to be -- can't be established over nationals of states that are not party to the Rome statute and that, therefore, that Americans and others who are not members of the Rome statute, who participate in UN peacekeeping, need to be protected from some kind of misguided prosecution because of actions they might undertake while participating in those operations.
We have, I think, demonstrated that in the very unfortunate situation, terrible situation that developed at Abu Ghraib, that the United States does stand for justice and will itself impose justice on any members of our services who might undertake things that constitute international crimes.
QUESTION: It's a matter for national --
MR. BOUCHER: But it's a matter for us to take care of and not for some other court with some other jurisdiction that we're not a party to.
We also note, as I think we pointed out before, that some of the ICC states, some of the members of the Rome Treaty have used within that treaty statutes that can get them a delay in the application of the court to their members.
MR. BOUCHER: So we saw nothing inconsistent with the statute, the Rome Treaty, or with the actions of other members, people who are party to the treaty, in passing this resolution. Obviously, that wasn't the view that was held strong enough in the council to pass this.
QUESTION: Richard, will this make it harder for the United States to vote for or to participate in peacekeeping missions in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: We will have to examine each of these missions case by case, both in terms of the voting for a peacekeeping mission. We do have, I think, 90, now, Article 98 agreements that, with individual nations, that might be a factor when we come to considering particular missions.
We also will have to look at it in terms of staffing and providing Americans to participate in peacekeeping missions, what the risk might be of prosecution by a court to which we're not party.
QUESTION: Two years ago July, I think -- can I just -- two years ago July, I think there were eight missions that the U.S. was considering abandoning. So I don't know if this is a larger reconsideration. And I don't know if it's a matter of principle or you're going to be selective to the -- selective as to which operations U.S. personnel might be most vulnerable to international prosecution.
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- we'll have to -- I'm not even sure that decision has been made, whether we'll have to pull them all or do it selectively. But we're going to have to look at the consequences of not having this resolution --
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: -- in terms of the different operations that we participate in, and we'll make our decisions. I'm not sure if we'll make it as a batch or individually.
QUESTION: Okay. But you're not willing to say now that you not -- you won't participate in any mission where your troops would be at risk of prosecution by the ICC?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to say blanket, one way or the other, what the implications would be for our participation in peacekeeping. We'll have to look at each of these that we have now, and as per your earlier question, each of them is, as they come along, we'll examine the impact on our ability to participate and we'll have to take that into account.
QUESTION: Has it been determined whether there will be any protections from prosecution for American troops serving in Iraq in a multinational force? Is there an Article 98 agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: I believe that the provisions of 14 -- 1546, that have already been passed provide for some sort of protection. I'll have to check on that and find out exactly what it is.
QUESTION: And Iraq is not a party to --
MR. BOUCHER: And Iraq is not a party to the statute, so it doesn't arise in Iraq.
QUESTION: Will you continue with cutting some of the military aid to countries who refuse to sign an Article 98 now? That won't change at all?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a matter of law. We have to withhold certain kind of assistance from countries whom we don't have Article 98 agreements.
QUESTION: Richard, since Under Secretary Grossman opened the door to you guys answering hypothetical questions on the idea of if the Iraqi interim government asked the U.S. troops to leave that you would, of course, leave, if the interim Iraqi government becomes a party to the Rome Treaty, will you pull your troops out --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt --
QUESTION: -- without an Article 98 agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, the fact that we once made one exception to the answering of hypothetical questions --
QUESTION: No, you guys opened the door on it.
MR. BOUCHER: It is not a precedent; nothing is ever a precedent. There are so many factors involved in trying to answer that question that neither you nor I can calculate at this moment; that it would be a fool's errand to try to answer it.
QUESTION: Richard, if at all, various governments are selectively ignoring Geneva-type agreements, we've had this morning a tit-for-tat in Afghanistan, of all places. It's been denied, but they're saying now that Afghan troops have been beheading Taliban.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I didn't see reports like that, and I don't agree that governments have been selectively ignoring the Geneva Conventions. The United States is very committed to the Geneva Conventions and I think the President's policy on that is clear.
QUESTION: But if each government has their own interpretation of those regulations and are selectively ignoring them and --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't agree with the premise. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can we go back, briefly, to the terror report and the updated figures?
Mr. Black was asked yesterday -- Matt, logically, asked whether the increase in the number of incidents in 2002 was going to lead to an upward revision in the number of casualties and deaths for 2002. And Ambassador Black was asked yesterday, "Do you think the 725 dead in 2002 and the 2,013 injured in 2002 are undercounted because now you've added some events?" And he said, "Yeah, I do not believe so. I believe there is some accuracy to this." Then he said that it's under review, but he said that he believed the numbers are accurate.
Do you stand by that statement? Do you still believe those numbers are accurate or are you, in fact, in the process of revising them upwards?
MR. BOUCHER: I stand by the "yeah" and I stand by the "under the review." I think the middle, we need to revise and extend the remarks. There is, as you pointed out, a certain logic. I don't know that they will change or how they will change. But if there are more events, there may very well, indeed, be more victims, and therefore that has to be factored in.
QUESTION: When do you think you're going to have those new and presumably upward revisions?
MR. BOUCHER: For 2002?
MR. BOUCHER: Or --
QUESTION: The number of dead and injured in 2002.
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know. As we've said, as I think the briefers explained yesterday, that information comes in all the time and that at any given moment, if you ask us what our totals are on events or Significant events or deaths or casualties, they can be different from one week to the next or one month to the next because sometimes it's natural things, like somebody who injured dies, and sometimes it's more information. So I -- when we feel comfortable that we have a fix on the situation, we'll be able to answer further questions.
QUESTION: Just one more. Is it your expectation that the number of dead and injured will go up as a result of your review?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. For the previous one, we went back not only to last year, which we had promised, but we went back to the previous years and were able to revise the total number of events.
But if you do the math, you see we weren't even -- didn't even break those down into revisions of Significant and Non-significant at this point. We just -- we did the totals, so we will be looking at these other things as we proceed. I don't think there's a particular timetable to that. It's just a matter of trying to clean up the records and keep accurate records as we go forward.
QUESTION: Yes, about terrorism. About two years ago, United States promised Turkey to neutralize some PKK terrorist units in the northern Iraq. But in the last two years, we didn't see, as though nothing is happening right now, instead after this terrorist unit is neutralizing, now is passing through from the American control area to enter into Turkey and attacking the security forces. Did you change your policy or --
MR. BOUCHER: That -- I mean, first of all, the policy is the same, the cooperation with the Turkish Government is the same. I think if you ask us and you ask the Turkish Government on this, you will find both of us believe that we have good cooperation against terrorism in northern Iraq. The United States' commitment is clear and the United States' -- commitment of United States forces is clear in that area. We do everything possible to eliminate terrorism from Iraq.
QUESTION: But including the President, Prime Minister, and (inaudible), everybody is complaining about you're not cooperating or not neutralizing the PKK unit.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's a factual statement.
QUESTION: This is the official statement.
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen official statements to that effect.
QUESTION: Also, U.S. State Department officials lately, to May 28th, they attended one secret meeting in the Washington area about Iraqi Kurdish area and the current situation. They said that they made that very strong. In this meeting, they discussed about -- they asked a question about -- excuse me?
MR. BOUCHER: A secret meeting?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
MR. BOUCHER: And you're telling me everything they talked about?
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
QUESTION: I talk one of the attendants, sir.
MR. BOUCHER: Then it's not secret anymore.
QUESTION: Yeah, it's not secret and we published the story, sir.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: And they are asking the State Department officials, asking what is the Turkish Government reaction? What would be the Turkish Government -- are you planning to recognize the independent Kurdistan in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we stand firmly for the territorial integrity of Iraq. I believe both the Secretary and Ambassador Negroponte said that this morning.
QUESTION: And are you planning to announce anything in the next coming NATO summit in --
MR. BOUCHER: Announce anything? We'll advance -- we'll announce a lot of major developments for NATO and a positive outlook on the future for NATO.
QUESTION: Can I pick up on that, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You'll accuse me of asking the same question again, but at least it's timely this time. You got a NATO summit coming on. Some of us heard Senator Biden this morning say that you should have a plan, the Secretary should present a plan to the President, present it to the NATO leaders to give NATO a role, ask NATO to play a role.
Anyhow, the Secretary made some general statements --
MR. BOUCHER: So maybe he has. I mean --
QUESTION: But that's the question. The Secretary, in the swearing-in, made some general statements, but we've -- not unusual, he's made these kinds of statements before. Obviously, he'd welcome more contributions. He'd welcome this and welcome that. Is anything live going on to try to enlist NATO specifically at that meeting to -- Biden says, "guard the borders" -- protect the UN, help the Poles out in the South?
MR. BOUCHER: There is plenty live going on. We are working very hard within the Administration, all members of the Administration, not just the Secretary, to prepare for the NATO summit. We're working closely with NATO Secretary General and friends of NATO, our ambassador out there, in touch with other governments at NATO about what NATO's role might be in Iraq.
The issue is under active consideration. I won't be able to tell you exactly what they decide until they decide and that will be at the summit.
QUESTION: What's the issue that's under active consideration?
MR. BOUCHER: How NATO can play a role in Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, since you normally ask the other question of exactly how many troops we're going to get, I think it is --
QUESTION: How many countries, at least.
MR. BOUCHER: How many countries. It is worth reminding people, first of all --
QUESTION: Thirty -- 16?
MR. BOUCHER: -- more than half the NATO members are already in Iraq.
QUESTION: Twenty -- 19?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. We know it by -- we know that almost as well as you know --
MR. BOUCHER: You don't know it because you just said 19 and the number 16. Okay?
MR. BOUCHER: So the number is 16 out of 26 are already in Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: The second thing to point out is we have a sovereign Iraqi government taking over on July 1st. What anybody does in Iraq will be with their consent and with their support. Their priority has been -- it's clearly stated, I think, and that is to get more help with security assistance and training. So that's one area where we think nations need to look at.
There is, obviously, a lot of work to be done on reconstruction. The Secretary's remarks this morning, I think, had not just to do with NATO or just to do with military forces, but rather a lot of different kinds of security assistance, reconstruction assistance that everybody should be looking at with the new Iraqi government coming on, with a new UN resolution, at what they can do to help the people of Iraq establish themselves as a free and democratic nation.
QUESTION: Move to North Korea?
QUESTION: Well, could we stay on Iraq, actually?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure, please.
QUESTION: And this is on the issue of contractors. And with the handover and with, you know, with increased terrorists focusing on contractors as targets, is there a concern that, you know, when the embassy takes over and they're not going to be necessarily DOD contractors, is there any concern there will be a drop-off of contractors? Any extra concern about their safety?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's clear that security in Iraq is going to continue to be a problem, as it has been for the last months, that our military and our embassy will work very closely together along with the Iraqis and their security forces to try to ensure the safety of the people of Iraq and people who are working in Iraq. So I don't expect any drop-off in the kind of measures that are being taken for their safety; in fact, I think with the expansion of Iraqi security forces that is something that we hope certainly will improve, particularly as the U.S. military and coalition continue to take action against potential threats and dangers.
QUESTION: What about, I mean, contractors in particular? Are you afraid that with the occupation ending that a lot of contractors will leave, that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what people will do. I don't think their decisions about coming or going depend on political status. They depend on economics and contracts and security concerns, particularly individual concerns.
QUESTION: About Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Are you planning to transfer your responsibility to operation against these terrorists units to new Iraqi government?
MR. BOUCHER: The new --
QUESTION: PKK. Against the PKK, any operation. Are you planning to transfer your responsibility to new Iraqi government?
MR. BOUCHER: The new Iraqi government is responsible for Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: And for everything that goes in Iraq. With their consent, at their request, coalition forces will continue to operate in various parts of Iraq to help bring security. That would include the coalition forces currently operating in the north and the goal of those forces, as well as of the Iraqi government, is to work together in partnership to eliminate terrorism in Iraq.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). The PKK announced the other day that it is not going to honor the truce, as far as for those events. What the position the U.S. Government to this announcement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I saw the announcement.
QUESTION: And on Cyprus, did you complete your advising process for the Cyprus issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Our what process? Our --
QUESTION: To -- revising.
MR. BOUCHER: Our review?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) your view and to revise your (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: I think this will be an ongoing process of looking at what steps we can take to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and how we need to react to things as we go forward. We've announced a number of steps already and we'll keep taking steps as appropriate in the future.
QUESTION: As far as for the recognition?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not talking about recognition, nor have the Turkish Cypriots asked.
QUESTION: At this moment. What about after 50 days?
MR. BOUCHER: Ask me after 50 days. I think I'll give you the same answer.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, I was wondering if you would care to add the State Department line to -- or if there even is one -- to what some people were merrily blabbing about yesterday ahead of -- with your negotiating position going into the six-party talks in Beijing.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you've seen a statement by Assistant Secretary Kelly in Beijing at the beginning of the talks where he said The United States is determined to do our utmost to advance a solution to the problem. The common goal of the participants is a Korean Peninsula that is permanently free of nuclear weapons, and that achievement of that could open the door to a new relationship between the United States and North Korea.
Since these talks are about denuclearization and complete denuclearization, the United States felt it important to come forward with a proposal, which we have done in Beijing today, on how to achieve that, on how to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear programs that have caused so much concern.
What we have described in the talks is a practical series of steps to achieve that goal. The process would begin with a North Korean commitment to dismantle all its nuclear programs. The parties would agreed to a detailed implementation plan that would require the supervised disabling, dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear-related facilities and materials, the removal of all nuclear weapons and weapons components, centrifuge and other parts, fissile material and fuel rods, and long-term monitoring programs.
The process would involve a short preparatory period for dismantlement and removal which would include the disabling of nuclear weapons components and key centrifuge parts, the permanent and verifiable dismantlement and removal of North Korea's nuclear programs would follow the brief period. At the same time, the parties would be willing to take steps to ease the political and economic isolation of North Korea. Steps would be provisional or temporary in nature and only yield lasting benefits to the North Koreans after the dismantlement has been completed.
So what we have put forward is a proposal for a series of steps that can achieve the goals that the parties in the talks say they agree on which is denuclearization. We have put forward in a way that achieves that comprehensively, verifiably and irreversibly and we have put it forward in a way that can be matched with steps to deal with the issues the North Koreans care about, whether it's their security during the process or things like energy supplies.
QUESTION: And how long is the brief period and then in terms of the provisional rewards or provisional, I don't know, inducement -- or provisional -- you just used the words, but you know what I mean.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: To North Korea. Would that include something, a contribution from the United States, such as the kind of security assurances that were talked about in -- god, at the APEC meeting last?
MR. BOUCHER: We had made it clear that in the multilateral context that we're dealing with and on a provisional basis, we could try to provide some sort of indication of security guarantees, yes.
QUESTION: But nothing else, just that. And how long -- and then how long is the brief period?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- you know, we've been talking -- we're working this with other participants. We worked this very closely with Japan and South Korea, so it is something that we are together on in this, trying to come forward with a very positive proposal, a very specific and practical proposal for how to resolve this peacefully.
In terms of the provisional period, the time frame, I just don't have that with me today.
QUESTION: Okay. But let me just -- the only -- the U.S. component of the provisional rewards is just the security assurances? Nothing else? It's not fuel oil or anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I am not able to say it quite that categorically. We are working with others in this process. And so there would be benefits in the form of things like heavy fuel oil provided during the temporary period, but they would only result in lasting benefits like things to ease diplomatic and political isolation after dismantlement was completed.
QUESTION: But that fuel oil might not -- doesn't necessarily come from the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't necessarily.
QUESTION: That might be other, the other parties might do that.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It doesn't necessarily come from the United States.
QUESTION: Richard, shouldn't one regard the provision of benefits, rewards, even if temporary in nature, to North Korea prior to its total, complete, irreversible, verifiable dismantlement as your -- and your allies -- paying them for a horse you bought before?
MR. BOUCHER: Because the total, irreversible dismantlement of nuclear weapons programs goes beyond what we had before. This is not the agreed framework. This is not a freeze. This is not the agreed framework. The agreed framework was a protracted freeze until a reactor was completed.
This is achieving the goal of denuclearization on a practical time frame and in a way that does reverse the problems that have been made, that have occurred over the past several years, first starting by constraining them and then moving on to dismantling them. But it goes further than that and it reaches a stable denuclearized basis for a more positive relation between North Korea and the rest of the world.
QUESTION: So it is paying them for a bigger, better horse?
QUESTION: And before you have even taken possession of it.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we had better not go too far on the metaphor, but I understand the question.
QUESTION: No, it's a serious question. You guys, you guys on January the 7th, 2003, issued a statement after a TCOG meeting in which you said you ruled out quid pro quos to North Korea. And it's hard for me to see how you haven't completely abandoned that if you're going to give them rewards of any sort on a provisional basis before they have completely dismantled their nuclear program. Why shouldn't -- why am I wrong in that?
MR. BOUCHER: You're wrong in that because we have said that the steps that North Korea has taken, the abandoning of its commitment, the beginning of a uranium enrichment program, the -- taking nuclear fuel out of the reactor pool, things like that, that we are not going to pay to reverse those things. At the same time, this is not just going back to the agreed framework. It is going much farther than that. If we do go farther than that, then more benefits accrue.
In terms of the provisional period, as they commit to that goal of denuclearization and move towards that goal of denuclearization, as I said, first, by constraining all their programs and then moving forward, then in that period -- we, first of all, know that there are countries other than the United States who are prepared to provide some assistance to North Korea in the energy field.
And, second of all, as the President made clear when he was in Bangkok that we are prepared over this process to provide some sort of multilateral security guarantee.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Well, that was just what I was going to say. You said we would be able to provide some kind of security guarantee. You are still on the multilateral --
MR. BOUCHER: Multilateral, yes, multilateral security guarantee.
QUESTION: Which they have rejected before but are now considering as you understand it?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll leave it to the North Koreans to consider this. This is a very comprehensive, detailed and practical proposal. It involves steps on both sides, particularly steps by the North Koreans. I would expect them to take some time to consider it.
QUESTION: Steps on both, meaning five on one side and one on the other? You said steps on both sides.
MR. BOUCHER: Steps on all sides.
QUESTION: Steps on the U.S. side and the North Korean side?
MR. BOUCHER: On the hexagonal sides.
QUESTION: One of the, I guess, crucial things in this is whether North Korea has made a strategic decision to dismantle its nuclear program. And, I mean, you can offer them things, you know, continue to offer them things -- and, you know, I don't know if it's an issue of them continuing to wait to see what they can get -- but have you seen any indication of a strategic decision by North Korea, a desire to give up their nuclear program? Or are you just offering them in the hopes that this will be enough to convince them to do it?
MR. BOUCHER: The parties at previous rounds of talks agreed on the goal of denuclearization of the Peninsula. We have now put forward a very practical way of achieving that, one that we think takes into account not only the need to do this in a very, you know, comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible way, but also that takes into account some of the concerns that North Korea has expressed along the way about security, about energy needs.
And so we -- with that kind of proposal now on the table, it's -- North Korea can make this decision. They should have made it a long time ago. But, shall we say, there's no excuse anymore. There's no reason not to. There's a practical proposal for achieving what even they have accepted is the goal of denuclearization; that we think this is an opportunity they should take advantage of.
QUESTION: Richard, you said two minutes ago that assistance would be provided during this temporary period that you spoke of. What would North Korea have to do to trigger assistance from, not necessarily the U.S., but the other four with which the U.S. is involved in this enterprise?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I think I said a little while ago, that it begins with a commitment to dismantle all of its nuclear programs.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a verbal commitment?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it begins with the commitment and the willingness to implement that commitment in various ways. As I said, you have to -- if you're committed to dismantling all the programs, the first thing you have to do is cease operating such programs and you have to start working on the verification, working on the practical steps to achieve that goal.
And that's what we would expect. And I think I described that first, that commitment, but also the need to work out dismantling implementation procedures at the beginning of removal; and as those steps proceeded, then we would all see that the goal was becoming more and more concrete and that would then lead to -- that would be able to lead to a series of steps from the other fives sides of the hexagon.
QUESTION: Right. Another question. Did North Korea talk this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they did.
QUESTION: Did they say anything about the uranium program which you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know if they did. You'd have to ask them, anyway.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the earlier point? You said all the parties agreed denuclearization is the goal. I don't remember the exact wording of all the other statements. But can you honestly say that North Korea has agreed that denuclearization is the goal? Or are you saying that the other five parties all agreed that their approach is to try and obtain the denuclearization?
MR. BOUCHER: If I remember, that was a briefing by the Chinese after one of the previous plenary rounds, that all the parties, including the North Koreans, had accepted that goal.
Certainly, we're looking for a real commitment on their part, but more important than that, steps that they can take to carry out that commitment. And that's why we've put forward steps that can be taken on both sides.
QUESTION: Mr. Kelly is known to have offered a bilateral talks with the North Koreans in Beijing regarding these new incentives?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if he's actually had a direct conversation yet with the North Korean delegation to the talks.
QUESTION: Well, he tried to have a bilateral --
MR. BOUCHER: We've said we've been willing, at the -- in the six-party context at the multilateral talks, as in almost any other multilateral framework, to have individual meetings with individual delegations. I don't know if he's had a meeting with the North Korean delegation or not.
QUESTION: What he said was, he offered the bilateral meeting, but the North Koreans rejected it instantly.
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know.
QUESTION: Anyhow, is this offer conceived as a new policy change of the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: No. As I've said, we've said -- we've had direct discussions with the North Korean delegation at previous rounds. These take place in all multilateral meetings. And that's the context of any conversations we might have.
QUESTION: Richard, you said that there was no time-frame for this proposal, but how long are you willing to wait? I mean, at what point are you going to say, forget it, this isn't going to work? Or at what point are you willing to say that North Koreans are serious?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been very patient. The President has been very clear all along that his goal was to resolve this situation peacefully, but in a manner that the world can have assurance that we will not face a nuclear threat on the Peninsula. Therefore, we have consistently pursued that goal that the President has given to us through these six-party talks and we'll continue to pursue it.
I think the question is not how long will we wait, but when is North Korea going to take the opportunity to move forward. We have shown ourselves consistently willing to move forward. We're now putting a proposal on the table that offers a chance for all of us to move forward in a very practical way. We think that's the value of these talks and we hope that North Korea will respond.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Presumably, Richard, your two closest allies in this endeavor, Japan and the South Koreans, were aware of this proposal beforehand --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it was very -- it was closely coordinated with them.
QUESTION: With those two, or also with the Russians and the Chinese?
MR. BOUCHER: Also with the Chinese, and I'm not quite sure to what extent with Russia.
QUESTION: But are you able to say if they're all on board with the general outline of this, recognizing that the details of what the North Koreans might get in the interim period is still to be decided, but are they on board with the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I can speak for each and every one of them, but certainly the depth of coordination with Japan and South Korea indicates that they're with us on this.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, what are the chances of a meeting between the Secretary and the North Korean Foreign Minister at the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't speculate on that.
QUESTION: Richard, do you expect a response from the North Koreans to your proposal in this round of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that they will have an immediate response. As I said, this is a far-reaching proposal. It's one that really does achieve the ends that we've all set out to achieve, which is peaceful denuclearization of the Peninsula. Given the nature of their delegation and their decision-making process, it may be that they will want to look at this more carefully before they get back to us.
Normally, when one party puts forward a very serious proposal like this at any round of talks, there is consultations with capitals. Whether those consultations would complete themselves -- would be completed in time for them to get us a response during this round, we'll just have to see.
QUESTION: And could you elaborate on the monitoring that you described as part of this? Would that be international monitoring, involving the IAEA, or would that be sort of U.S., some other country monitoring?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can speculate at this point. That's sort of down towards the end of the road. Once you've completely and irreversibly eliminated the program, you need to make sure it doesn't recur, and that would be the kind of monitoring.
QUESTION: You -- I'm sorry, you wouldn't begin monitoring --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, no, there's -- well, that's called verification monitoring. It's the same thing, I guess, in both cases, but you'd have to have verifiable steps along the way, and therefore some sort of involvement. But who exactly will do it, I don't know.
Tammy. Other thing?
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. BOUCHER: New topic?
QUESTION: New topic.
MR. BOUCHER: Same topic. Sir.
QUESTION: I understand that in his opening statement, Mr. Kelly did not use the word of "CVID." Why is that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. (Laughter.) No, I mean, first of all, I only tore out two pages of it, so I can't verify whether he asked --
QUESTION: Well, he always used --
MR. BOUCHER: But you've got it somewhere. Everybody knows that's our policy. I've said it, I think, 12 times today, but CVID, if it helps, I'll say it again.
QUESTION: Actually, you said total.
MR. BOUCHER: I said "total" once. I said
"comprehensive" once. I think it's actually
"complete," but close enough.
MR. BOUCHER: "Verifiable, irreversible," I've got down pat. But it's the "C" that always bugs me.
QUESTION: About the sense of urgency of this -- solving this problem, does the U.S., at this point, still regard that if you don't solve this North Korea's nuclear problem, then they might just go ahead with actual possession or the possession of more nuclear weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: I think whatever decisions North Korea makes, rightly or wrongly, our policy, I think, is clear. We're trying to solve this peacefully. We have gone to talks several times. We have put forward proposals in these talks now to try to achieve the peaceful elimination of the programs under circumstances that allow us to move forward with North Korea, allow all of us to move forward with North Korea.
Any time, energy or money that North Korea spends on nuclear programs is wasted. It's a loss to the North Korean people. It only increases their hardship and it doesn't get their country any more security, any more prosperity or any more standing in the world. So whatever they decide to do, it's important to remember the United States has put forward some proposals here to try to help resolve the issue.
QUESTION: But do you feel that the time is running out on your side?
MR. BOUCHER: We feel that North Korea has some important decisions to make and decisions about our proposal that we put forward, but also decisions on how they can proceed down a road which would benefit North Korea and benefit the North Korean people rather than continuing down a road that only brings them further hardship and isolation.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Albania, on your June background note on Albania just released from the Bureau of European Affairs, you are claiming, "95 percent of Albanian people are ethnic Albanian." Could you split for us the other 5 percent?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And why no?
MR. BOUCHER: Because I just don't know.
QUESTION: You don't know. Do you know how large is, at least, the Greek minority?
MR. BOUCHER: I think for Albanian census statistics you might want to go to the Albanian Government for that.
QUESTION: But you are stipulating this, not the Albanian Government.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we have a source for it that is not a independent U.S. Government source. I don't know if there's a footnote on it or not, but I think the best authority on this would be the Albanian Government for their census figures.
QUESTION: But why you are mentioning other minorities and not the Greek one? That's my concern. It's a document. It's from the Department of State.
MR. BOUCHER: A document about Albania.
QUESTION: About Albania from DOS.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it's a document about Albania, not the Greeks who live in various parts of the world.
QUESTION: Can I switch to Saudi Arabia? This one-month amnesty that the Saudi Government announced for al-Qaida to turn themselves in. I guess, well, several questions. One is: What's your understanding of this? Was the U.S. consulted at all? What do you think of it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is these are decisions for the Saudi Government to make within their own system, within their own laws. I don't really have any comment on it.
QUESTION: Were you consulted or given any briefing in advance?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. I'd have to check the cable traffic and see.
QUESTION: Richard, will you explain clearly, if possible, what the implications are of this new visa rule that's going into effect for certain classes of nonimmigrant visas and explain why exactly tens of thousands of foreign workers who are in the United States aren't going to have to leave the country to re -- to get their visas reissued?
MR. BOUCHER: They are -- the answer, can I explain? Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Clearly? Let's try it.
People under these visa categories are in the United States. They stay in the United States for as long as the Immigration Service, as long as Homeland Security now, allows them to. How long their visa was originally to come in doesn't determine how long they get to stay in the United States. So as long as they maintain valid status and that they're current with the Homeland Security, they can stay in the United States.
The question --
QUESTION: They just can't leave.
MR. BOUCHER: They can leave.
QUESTION: But they have to get another one to come back.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, they have to have a visa to come back. In the past, we were able to issue in the United States, before they left, a visa so that when they went overseas they could come back again without reapplying overseas. At this point, we don't have the ability to carry out the kind of interviews and the fingerprints that we do at our embassies overseas.
So in order to get a person into the system with that kind of interview and that kind of fingerprint, we can't issue the visa here; they have to get one at an overseas embassy that's better equipped to handle that. So these people can stay as long as they want, they can leave when they want, but when they come back, instead of getting a visa here in advance, they'll have to get one overseas at one of our embassies and consulates and then come back.
QUESTION: Well, how is that not a major inconvenience for people who leave the -- have to go, you know, thousands of miles, whereas, before they could have just dropped it in the mail?
MR. BOUCHER: Because they're not going to be thousands of miles away unless they wanted to go there to begin with. They don't have to leave. They can stay here as long as they want.
QUESTION: No, but surely you understand --
MR. BOUCHER: When they decide to go somewhere overseas, to Bermuda or Canada or India or wherever they decide to go, they can reapply there and come back.
QUESTION: Richard, with all the people who work in this building and all the resources that have been poured into tightening up, you know, our access to this country and getting fingerprinting machines out, what's so hard about dedicating a couple of people and buying an extra fingerprinting machine and doing it here?
MR. BOUCHER: It has many things at fault. First of all, the people that we would be serving are throughout the United States. So many of them, it may be, to do a fingerprint you need fingers, you need people. So, if we did that, we would have to do it in Washington, presumably, and therefore they'd have to come a long distance anyway for many of them.
We think it is just a part of kind of regularizing the whole process and making -- providing a way for these people to come and go, but doing it in a manner that's similar to other applicants. This was previously done by mail. We want to do interviews, we want to do fingerprints, we're best set up to do that overseas.
QUESTION: One other question. Could you -- and I suspect you won't know off the top of your head, but if you don't could you maybe take this question? Could you give us a succinct, simple description of the different visa categories which are identified in the media known just by letter? So, N, P, et cetera, can you just tell us what those represent?
MR. BOUCHER: The categories H, L, O, and P are people who have come to the United States to work temporarily as workers or as traders or as investors under various treaties.
Oh, no, sorry.
H, O, L, and P are temporary worker visas. Category E are the treaty trader and investors who come and Category I are journalists who come to work in the United States as journalists.
QUESTION: How long has that been a policy, because this came as a surprise to me when I heard about it this morning, that a person on one of these visas can stay after it is allowed legally to remain in the United States after their visa expires?
MR. BOUCHER: Since the beginning of time.
QUESTION: It has always been the case?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: And how many people do you think -- how many people are there in those six categories, roughly, tens of thousands?
MR. BOUCHER: Living in the United States?
QUESTION: Yeah, hundreds of thousands?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I really don't. I guess that would be -- really those kind of numbers would be in the hands of Homeland Security because they would know how many people in those categories had actually entered the United States. But I don't know that -- well, let's see. Some indications. Primary beneficiaries of the service in the United States have been foreign workers in computer and technology industries. Almost 50 percent of the applicants were Indian nationals, citizens of Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Korea round out the top five.
Overall, we received applications from more -- nationals of more than 60 countries. In recent years, the workload has been rising steadily with more than 50,000 cases processed last year.
QUESTION: Okay. So that -- that -- 50,000 people last year sought to re-have their -- applied to reissue -- have their visas reissued in the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Why should we not assume that 50,000 people this year, or next year, after this regulation takes place are now going to have to leave the country --
MR. BOUCHER: Because they could stay as long as they want.
QUESTION: Unless they have to go home for --
MR. BOUCHER: Until they have to go home. And then when they're home, they get a visa and come back.
QUESTION: And what's that -- what's the wait now for --
MR. BOUCHER: This is the only difference here. It depends where you are and it depends who you are; it depends what category you're in and it depends whether you've set it up in advance and, you know, arranged, made -- gotten all of the right paperwork and the right information.
But there's -- actually, you know, there are declines in visa processing in many of our embassies overseas. To some extent, we can transfer a workload that's been growing here to a place where we're more able to do it. The other thing is, we have, what, 200-and-some visa-issuing posts overseas.
It's not like 50,000 people are going to show up at the door next Monday at a particular location. It's going to be spread out throughout the world. It's going to be spread out at places that we hope will be able to take care of them and we'll do it in as efficient a manner as we can. But we're not able to do this in Washington for 50,000 people. It requires more than assigning a few people to do that, and we can't do it in a way that we think meets our security needs.
QUESTION: Well, judging by your --
MR. BOUCHER: We will take care of people.
QUESTION: Okay. But you can't say it's spread out all over the world because judging by what your -- well, it may be -- but there's --
MR. BOUCHER: Sixty countries.
QUESTION: Yeah. But judging by your little breakdown there, if 50 percent of these people are Indians, then 25,000 Indians, going by your last year's reissuance application rate, are going to show up in Delhi and in --
MR. BOUCHER: Over the course of some period which you don't know or can't predict, and they may not all show up in Delhi. They may have a business meeting in France that they want to go to, and they may end up getting their visa to come back to the United States from France.
QUESTION: Well, is it not the case that it's much more difficult to get a visa now in a third country than it is than in your home country?
MR. BOUCHER: It's always been difficult to get a visa in a third country, but if somebody is appropriately documented, has permission from the Immigration Service -- what do we call it?
MR. BOUCHER: From the Department of Homeland Security to stay in the United States and was legally here, bona fide here, one can process those in third countries. We've done that.
QUESTION: Richard, in some instances, aren't you worried that in some countries that where going to the U.S. embassy or consulate, it's been intimidating for people? And I think, a while back, you did mention that you've upped the fees for visas. And in some instances, for the elderly and others, it's been a imposition. Is there anything that, maybe using internet or other type of --
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of our visa processing around the world, we have had to see people in person to talk to them, to get their fingerprints. It's necessary for us to do that for increased security for the visa process and for the visas themselves. It hasn't been quite as simple. It may not be quite as convenient. There are waits. There are procedures involved.
But we've made clear, we have a policy of secured borders and open doors, and we need to make sure that the process protects the United States and protects all those in the United States, including people who come to work here and live here, from harm. That's our first obligation; and the second one is to do it in as efficient and considerate a manner as we can.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be more efficient and more considerate, seriously, to have people just come to Washington? Isn't that easier for most people than to fly back to New Delhi or Ottawa or --
MR. BOUCHER: It may be for some; it might not be for others.
QUESTION: Richard, as you know, many businesspeople go abroad for very quick or brief periods for business meetings that could last, you know, a day or two or three, and it takes longer to get a visa.
MR. BOUCHER: Sometimes, some places, it depends.
QUESTION: Right. What I'm going to ask you is: are these people going to be in the queue and, you know, apply and wait for the same periods? Sometimes it's two weeks or, you know, even more than that.
MR. BOUCHER: Look, I can't talk about what will happen to a particular individual or "these people." These people involve many different categories of people. They involve many different lengths of stay already approved by the Homeland Security Department. They involved individual circumstances.
Visas are not given to nations, nationals, classes, they're given to individuals. And the individual circumstances have to be looked at, have to be looked at appropriately, have to be documented appropriately. And that's necessary for our nation, for the security of our nation and all those who live here. We will do that as carefully but as considerately as we can for people.
QUESTION: Richard, why are you including length of stay? You don't have to get a new entry visa, is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No, you need an entry visa.
QUESTION: Every single time? Even if you are within your length of stay when you leave the country?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, unless you're -- well --
QUESTION: If you have a multiple visa --
QUESTION: If you have a multiple entry visa and your length of stay has not expired --
MR. BOUCHER: Now you are changing the question. You need a visa to come back into the United States. If you had a multiple entry visa to begin with, keep using it as long as it's valid.
QUESTION: Right, as long as the length of stay is valid.
MR. BOUCHER: If you had a one-entry visa --
QUESTION: Yes, that's what I meant.
MR. BOUCHER: -- or you had a two-entry visa and you have used up both of them, you need a new visa to come back in, even if you had a further length of stay on your INS card.
QUESTION: Right. Gotcha.
QUESTION: Can you explain the diplomatic ramifications, if there are any, of Secretary Evans' decision yesterday to certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment and to --
QUESTION: Could I have one follow-up on the visa thing? I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: I had a long answer to his question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are there no plans at this time for the Department to, at some point in the future, install the technology here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we'll ever do it here, but for the moment we won't.
QUESTION: Because, as you know, you said 50,000 as the number that you had cited a few minutes ago. And, as you know, some of your posts don't issue as many visas, some, you know, some small countries in different places.
MR. BOUCHER: They're not all going to go to Iceland for visas, I can promise.
QUESTION: No, no. What I am saying is --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll take care of them in various places around the world.
QUESTION: Right. What I am saying is --
MR. BOUCHER: At various times. Some of them may not leave the country for 8-10 years.
QUESTION: No. What my point was that if it's worth spending the resources to install the technology in a post that will be dealing with, you know, fewer or less people, sorry, much fewer, many fewer people than that, then it might be worth installing the technology to deal with 50,000 people in Washington.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the point is that the kind of processing, the kind of careful consideration to individuals, to their circumstances, to their -- get all the data we need from them, we're better set up to do that overseas.
Could we set up a consular section at the State Department? Theoretically, I suppose, we could.
But in this case, with consular resources already enormously strapped around the world by the dramatic increase that we've imposed in interviews and in careful processing, with money, energy and effort going into technology, data processing, biometrics, we've decided at this time it's not the best route for us to try to set up a consular processing center in Washington when we have the capacity to do it already overseas, and when we think we can take care of these individuals overseas.
MR. BOUCHER: Pelly Amendment.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, you people might not be welcome in Iceland anymore.
MR. BOUCHER: The Department of Commerce announced on June 22nd the decision of Secretary Evans to certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman's Protective Act for diminishing the effectiveness of the conservation program of the International Whaling Commission by taking 36 minke whales in 2003 for lethal research whaling purposes.
The United States believes the Icelandic lethal research whaling program is of questionable scientific validity. Information relevant to the management of whale stocks can be collected by non-lethal means.
The Secretary of Commerce has recommended only non-trade measures be taken in response to Iceland's certification under the Pelly Amendment. Also, on June 22nd, the President notified Congress of his decision to implement the recommendations of Secretary Evans, decided not to impose trade-restrictive measures.
The President did direct that the U.S. delegations attending bilateral meetings in Iceland regarding whaling issues should raise concerns that the U.S. has and look for ways to halt Iceland's actions. He also directed the Departments of Commerce and State to keep this situation under close review and to continue work through bilateral relationships to urge Iceland to cease their lethal whaling research activities.
And there is more information than that in the Department of Commerce release.
QUESTION: So the answer is there are none?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the answer is what I just told you.
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean, there don't see to be any diplomatic ramifications except for the fact that you guys are going to bring this up in the past. Now, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: In the future.
QUESTION: You're going to bring this up at future meetings. In the past, the last time a country was certified and this country was recertified, Japan, yesterday, you boycotted meetings that were being held in Japan. You also put a symbolic ban on Japanese fishing boats in U.S. waters. There's nothing like that at all in the --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, there's more information available from the Commerce Department, but I think I've described what I can here.
QUESTION: About the South Korean in Iraq, when did the U.S. get information of his kidnapping. (Inaudible) says he might be kidnapped in late -- in late May, and so many Koreans believe that the U.S. knew his kidnapping, but they didn't tell enough information.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when precisely we learned of his kidnapping. I would say that we have cooperated very, very closely all along with South Korea on this matter. We've been very, very concerned about the situation of Mr. Kim and cooperated with them very, very closely throughout the crisis.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry, got more.
QUESTION: With the Secretary going to the ASEAN, the Asian meetings next week, what is it that the United States hopes to achieve? How much of a focus do you want to put on the war on terrorism and on Burma? Or are you focusing more on trade issues?
MR. BOUCHER: The ASEAN meetings next week is the ASEAN regional forum and the post-ministerial conferences that we have with partners in that region. Obviously, a lot of our interaction with ASEAN and with people -- with countries in the region is economic and we'll be talking about economic issues with many of them.
But to a great extent, this meeting is focused on security issues in the region, on issues like terrorism, issues like the security of trade, issues like the cooperation that we have with partners against terrorism in training, law enforcement, intelligence sharing. So in the past, that's been major subjects of the meetings and I expect that to be a major subject of these meetings.
QUESTION: And how much on Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect a considerable discussion on Burma. I don't know if I can quantify it. Sorry.
(The briefing ended at 2:35 p.m.)
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