Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 22, 2010.
|Secretary Clinton’s first day in Tallinn / Productive meeting with Estonia FM Urmas Paet / Expression of appreciation for contributions to NATO / Discussed U.S.-E.U. bilateral ties / Working dinner hosted by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen|
|Senator George Mitchell in region / Ongoing discussions with Palestinians and Israelis|
|Applaud Armenia President Sargsian’s announcement to suspend discussion of protocols with Turkey|
|Deputy Secretary Steinberg in Dhaka / Discussions to enhance bilateral ties with Bangladesh|
|Under Secretary Burns in South Africa / Signed Memorandum of Understanding to establish commercial air routes|
|Members of African Union in Washington|
|Letters from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates highlighting State Department’s proposed budget increase|
|U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue meeting scheduled for May 13-14 ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS|
|Ongoing discussions on specific issues / Timing of Mitchell’s travel / Israeli construction in East Jerusalem|
|Grateful for efforts in interdicting dangerous materials|
|Consequences of Anwar Awlaki’s alignment with Al-Qaeda|
|Importance of immigration reform / Particulars referred to White House / Continue to urge Congress to pass bill|
|Statement issued on spent nuclear fuel – Taken question / Travel warning and warden message issued based on specific intelligence|
|Violence condemned / Call on UDD and Thai security forces to resolve differences|
|Cooperating with South Korea on investigation regarding warship / Reports indicating delay of operation control of South Korean troops|
|President Sargsian’s announcement / Intensive meetings with Armenians and Turks in Washington / Ongoing discussions with parties to move process forward / Neither side has walked away|
|U.S. considers Azerbaijan a valuable partner / Intentions referred to Azeri Government / Working with OSCE co-chairs to seek resolution / Meeting of Minsk Process – Taken Question / Iranian influence – Taken Question|
|Last U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in 2008 / Raise human rights in all high-level meetings with China|
|U.S.’s stance on Black Sea fleet status|
1:26 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Several things to talk about before taking your questions. The Secretary is in the midst of her first full day in Tallinn. Today, she had a productive meeting with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, the foreign minister of Estonia, expressing strong appreciation for Estonia’s contributions to NATO, including in Afghanistan. I think Estonia is one of those countries that, to use boxing terminology, within NATO definitely boxes well above its weight. But they also had discussions about our bilateral relationship, U.S.-EU ties, and then that fed into the initial working meetings that will lead to a working dinner this evening led by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Russussen, and obviously discussing a wide range of issues before the alliance.
Senator George Mitchell is in the region today to meet with leaders on both sides, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The meetings with those leaders will occur tomorrow. In preparation for George’s meetings, Secretary Clinton had a brief conversation with President Abbas this morning. Obviously, we’ve had ongoing discussions with the Israelis and Palestinians about specific actions they can take respectively to improve the atmosphere for progress towards peace. And George will continue these discussions.
And back to Tallinn, I just want to point out something that Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon said a little bit earlier today regarding Armenia, just to point out for your edification. We note President Sargsian’s announcement that Armenia will suspend the discussion of the protocols in its national assembly. President Sargsian’s announcement makes clear that Armenia has not ended the process but has suspended it until the Turkish side is ready to move forward. We applaud President Sargsian’s decision to continue to work towards a vision of peace, stability, and reconciliation. We believe that the normalization process carries important benefits for Turkey and Armenia as well as the wider Caucasus region. We will continue to urge both sides to keep the door open to pursuing efforts at reconciliation and normalization.
Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg is in Dhaka today, met with the ambassador and U.S. Embassy staff, called upon – called on Prime Minister Hasina at her office, also met with Foreign Minister Moni, leader of the opposition Zia, and other counterparts, discussed key issues to expand bilateral ties and enhance regional relations between the United States and Bangladesh.
Likewise, Under Secretary Bill Burns is arriving, I think, as we speak in South Africa. He spent the day in Angola meeting with President dos Santos and other senior Angolan officials to discuss our governments’ shared focus on strengthening our bilateral ties. He met with members of the opposition and the private sector, but while there he signed bilateral – a bilateral air services Memorandum of Understanding with Minister of Transportation Augusto da Silva Tomas that will serve as a first step towards establishing direct commercial air routes between the United States and Angola.
And the African Union delegation here in Washington met with a variety of counterparts from the Departments of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Trade Representative, Health and Human Services, USAID, Treasury, the Trade Development Agency, the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator, Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And they’re also going to have meetings with nongovernmental organizations including the Chamber of Commerce.
MR. CROWLEY: We will be releasing this afternoon letters that Secretary Clinton and also Secretary of Defense Gates sent in the last couple of days to the Senate Budget Committee. In her letter, Secretary Clinton highlighted the importance of the $52.8 billion budget request for the Department of State, the so-called 150 Account, and highlighted the fact that most of the proposed increase in funding for the State Department goes directly to frontline states Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, while other funding goes towards important initiatives such as relief of poverty, food insecurity, climate change, and disease that pose serious threats to America’s interest.
As the Secretary noted in her letter to Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Budget Committee, Congress has rightly demanded that we use all the tools in our national security tool belt and that we put more diplomats and development experts on the ground shoulder-to-shoulder with our troops and that we do everything possible to secure America’s interests around the world. And we are doing our part at the State Department and USAID, she said, but we need the help of the Congress with the 2011 Budget Request.
Likewise, Secretary Gates indicated – as he said, “I strongly believe a robust civilian foreign affairs capability coupled with a strong defense capability is essential to preserving U.S. national security interests around the world. State and USAID partners are critical to success in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Our military and civilian missions are integrated and we depend upon our civilian counterparts to help stabilize and rebuild after the fight.” And he continued, “I believe, that full funding of these two budget accounts is necessary for the national security and for ensuring our continued leadership around the world.”
So the two of them together continue to emphasize that as we have a balanced national security strategy, we need to have a balanced national security budget to support that strategy.
And finally, before taking your questions, we have set the dates of May 13 and 14 here in Washington for the next meeting of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue. The U.S. delegation will be led by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Mike Posner. The Chinese delegation will be headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations Chen Xu.
With that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back to Mitchell’s trip?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why now? Why did he decide to go last night? And what do you make of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments on Israeli television this evening, their time, in which he seemed to say that there’s – well, he didn’t seem to say. He did say there wouldn’t be any freeze on construction in East Jerusalem. It doesn’t seem like any – there’s been any movement.
QUESTION: And he – and just to add quickly on that, Israeli officials are saying that they have communicated that to you – not you, P.J. Crowley, but this Administration.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I suppose to some extent your second point answers the first point.
QUESTION: I only had one (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Clearly, we have asked both sides to take specific actions and we – that includes the Israelis as well. And this is part of our effort to continue our ongoing discussions on the specific issues and the steps that both sides need to take and to take responsibility for and create that atmosphere to allow the process to move forward.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but —
MR. CROWLEY: Why now?
QUESTION: They haven’t done any – and why now did Mitchell decide to go? Why didn’t he go last week or the week before?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s see, when did Passover end? I mean, look, we pledged that after the holiday period we would travel. We’ve taken our time. We’ve had a variety of contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials since George was last in the region. That would include meetings yesterday that David Hale and Dan Shapiro had with both sides. So at the end of those discussions last night, we thought it was fruitful for George to travel to the region and he’s there today and will have these meetings tomorrow.
QUESTION: What do you make of Netanyahu’s comments?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that they necessarily are new.
MR. CROWLEY: We understand that the Israelis have a longstanding position. But as the Secretary has said repeatedly, including in her speech to AIPAC, the status quo is not sustainable. And we’ve had a variety of conversations on these issues and specific steps that in the case of the Israelis we think that they have to take. And there has been a good give and take and this is why George is there today.
QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean, specifically, have the Israelis – you’ve been waiting for a quote, unquote, answer from the Israeli Government about whether it would answer your request to stop building in East Jerusalem. And it sounds like they’ve put a final point on it and said no. Is that your understanding, that that’s where it lies, that they’re not going to stop building? And what does that mean in terms of your efforts to get the peace process going?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I don’t think we’ve been waiting for an answer. I mean, there has been —
QUESTION: Of course, you have.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, wait a second. I mean, the Secretary had conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu. So did the President. So we have received a number of ideas from the Israelis. Some of them addressed the concerns that we laid out in the initial conversation between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu a few weeks ago. And this is an ongoing process. Have they done everything that we’d like to see them do? No. But this is why we will continue this conversation and we think that it’s important for both sides to continue to take steps that create the environment for us to address the substance behind the conflict.
QUESTION: Just one more time. Specifically, they have said publicly that they’re not going to stop building in East Jerusalem. They’ve said publicly that they told you that. So where do you go from here?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s have the conversations tomorrow with George Mitchell, Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, others that he’ll be meeting with while there. And we’ll see what both sides are prepared to do.
QUESTION: P.J., while the Israelis or Netanyahu said specifically that he’s not going to freeze settlement activities in Jerusalem, there’s indications that they might do other things like releasing prisoners or easing the blockade on Gaza or freezing the activities (inaudible), I think, for two years. Are these measures good enough for you and for the Palestinians to start the peace process?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly, the Palestinians can answer that question themselves. We believe that getting a formal process started addressing the substantive issues at the heart of this process, getting into a direct negotiation that leads to a resolution of all these questions – ultimately, none of this gets solved through public statements. It gets through – it gets solved only through a direct negotiation. That has been our message to the Israelis and Palestinians for the past 15 months. That continues to be our message to them.
We recognize that there are things that happened on the ground that can impede the ability to get to that direct negotiation. That’s where we are now. We’re trying to remove obstacles to a direct negotiation. We’re trying to get the parties engaged at first step indirectly and then as a second step directly so that we can address issues of housing, refugees, borders, security, Jerusalem – all of these issues. They’re not going to be solved through parrying of public statements between the Palestinians, the Israelis, or other interested parties in the region.
So our focus here is on what do we need to do to get the parties into that direct negotiation. That is our focus. That is why George Mitchell is back in the region. We understand that we’re not there right now, but we’ll see where these meetings take us.
QUESTION: If I could just go a little bit back to the timing, you made it sound as though the decision to send – for Ambassador Mitchell to go was actually made last night. Is that true? Was it that short-term?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And was that based purely on the information that came out of those meetings that Shapiro and Hale had?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, to take the – what was behind Matt’s question, it’s a fair question. Why now? We don’t go to meet just to meet. We go there because we have some indication that both sides are willing to engage seriously on the issues that are on the table. And on that basis, based on the meetings that – the conversation that we’ve had over a number of weeks, but specifically what we heard yesterday from both parties to George Mitchell’s deputy David Hale and Dan Shapiro of the NSC, we felt it was fruitful for George to travel.
QUESTION: Is it an open-ended trip or is there – I mean, I’ve heard there are supposed to be meetings over the weekend. Is that – is he going to stay there until when and if something comes of it?
MR. CROWLEY: As normally happens, George may well call audibles at the line of scrimmage once he’s under center. So —
QUESTION: I thought he was a baseball pitcher. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Well, he’ll shake off the pitcher and call for a different pitch. Yeah, he’s going to have meetings tomorrow. He could stay longer and have a second set of meetings. We’ll see where we are tomorrow.
QUESTION: One final one. On the Secretary’s phone call with President Abbas, did she have anything specific to convey to him? Was she transferring information about those meetings that Shapiro and Hale had, a message?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the purpose of the meeting was just to affirm that he felt comfortable that the meetings should go forward, and he answered that he was ready to meet with George Mitchell.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. CROWLEY: New topic.
QUESTION: On Georgia, the government says it’s interdicted enriched uranium. What do you think this case shows? And the government has asked for more help from the U.S. for stopping smuggling of enriched uranium. Is the government prepared to do that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, (a) we are very grateful for the efforts that Georgia has made not just recently but over an extended period of time interdicting the flow of dangerous materials out of the region. That’s the reason that Georgia was invited to the Nuclear Security Summit because they have demonstrated both a responsibility and, obviously, a capability of interdicting – helping to interdict the flow of dangerous materials to people who do not have the right to have them.
We are working with Georgia. And to the extent that not only the United States but the international community can help increase Georgia’s capability, we have done a lot of work to help increase their capability at their borders. And I think – but we will look at to see what more needs Georgia has.
QUESTION: And then the other topic. A congressman has introduced legislation to strip Anwar Awlaki of his U.S. citizenship. Do you think Mr. Awlaki has reached that threshold where his citizenship should be stripped?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Mr. Awlaki has aligned himself with al-Qaida. That has a number of consequences, perhaps including his citizenship.
QUESTION: On Mexico?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Mexican Government – the Embassy in Washington came out with a very tough statement about the new immigration law in Arizona, saying it could result in rights violations and racial profiling of Mexicans and also affect the relationship with the United States, particularly cross-border relations. What do you have to say about that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we have recognized that the issue of immigration is central – is a core concern that Mexico has. It comes up in every meeting that we have with Mexican officials. Mexico, like the Obama Administration, wants to see progress on immigration reform. The Secretary has spoken to that a number of times. And that’s why it has become a priority and we’ll continue to encourage Congress to pursue it and ultimately pass immigration reform, which we hope will resolve many of these issues.
QUESTION: Have there been any discussions between this building or Secretary Clinton or the leadership and the Mexican Government since the passage of this legislation?
MR. CROWLEY: Since the passage of?
QUESTION: This Arizona legislation.
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. But I mean, this is not a new issue. Whether it’s actions that particular states have taken that have drawn Mexico’s concern, we share that concern. But ultimately, the solution of this is national immigration reform.
QUESTION: Just to follow up quickly, P.J., as far as this Administration – President Obama is concerned working on immigration bill, so then on the other hand these states are trying to cross President Obama and his Administration as immigration bill is concerned. Then don’t you think after this Administration takes action on immigration, then how the federal law will affect these state laws?
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, it’s a fair question. Now you’ve gone beyond the province of the Department of State. I mean, as to the particulars in a ultimate reform bill, that’s a matter – it’s more of a domestic matter than an international matter, so I’ll defer to the White House or Department of Homeland Security. But we recognize that immigration reform, it is a significant issue in Mexico, elsewhere in this hemisphere. It comes up in any bilateral discussion we have with many countries in the region, and perhaps some more broadly. And we encourage Congress to pass immigration reform. The President has made it a priority. But on the particulars, I’ll defer to the White House.
QUESTION: On March 29th, the State Department had issued a statement that it has reached an agreement with India on reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel by the Indian company – Indian authorities. Has this agreement been sent to the Congress for approval and are you confident that this would have a smooth sail?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. We’ll get you an answer in terms of the procedure. It may be one of those cases where we notify the Congress and then it has like 30 business days to either offer an opinion – if it doesn’t offer an opinion, then it goes into force. We’ll get that answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit more about the Travel Warning and the recent threats against U.S. and Western interests in India that led to the Travel Warning?
MR. CROWLEY: Such as?
QUESTION: I’m asking you.
MR. CROWLEY: I know. Can I talk a little bit further about it? I mean, there – we did update our Travel Warning. We did issue a Warden Message. In terms of the Travel Warning, it is part of a broader ongoing concern we have about terrorism in the region and it underscores the importance of our ongoing cooperation with India and other countries in the region to address a challenge that we all share.
In relation to the Warden Message, it was based on some further intelligence, very specific intelligence regarding a particular threat to markets, and so we issued the Warden Message and caution to our American community.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) stay on India.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Well, okay.
QUESTION: All the major terrorist attack in the last 10 years in India has been done by the Lashkar-e Tayyiba based on Pakistan and now it has expanded its wing in the U.S. also (inaudible) David Coleman Headley. How serious the threat Lashkar-e-Tayyiba poses to U.S. national security interest?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it’s a threat to our citizens, it’s a threat to Indian citizens, and next door it’s a threat to Pakistani citizens, and next door it’s a threat to Afghan citizens. I think this is – we have stepped up our cooperation with all of these countries. Together we are trying to reduce the threat of violent extremism that threatens all of us and our respective citizens. It is a work in progress. Tragically, we see examples of this every week. But it is a priority. For each of these countries, counterterrorism is a central pillar of our ongoing strategic dialogue and something that we will continue to work collectively to see if we can’t reduce the threat to our citizens.
QUESTION: Just one more.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: This particular specific attacks or intelligence which you’re talking about, it came from the U.S. intelligence or from the Indian intelligence?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to go any further.
QUESTION: On travel alerts, with – in Thailand there’s some – there was an outbreak of violence earlier today, our time. The – are there any plans to update the U.S. travel advice to avoid Bangkok? And more broadly, I mean, what —
MR. CROWLEY: I wonder if —
QUESTION: It just was.
MR. CROWLEY: It just was, I think. Yeah.
QUESTION: But sure – but beyond that, I mean, what’s the – is there a concern about the escalation?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, we condemn the violence and we call on leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, so-called UDD, to do the same. We also call on Thai security forces to show restraint going forward. I mean, the United States firmly believes that both sides can and should work out disagreements peacefully through earnest negotiation. We once again stress the importance to all players in Thailand working to resolve differences in a way that strengthens democracy and the rule of law. Violence is not an acceptable means of resolving political differences.
QUESTION: Hi, so that’s —
MR. CROWLEY: Yea, right.
QUESTION: Are you continuing? Okay.
QUESTION: Actually, this is on a different note. On – in South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency is quoting the military as saying that it appears that it was a North Korean torpedo that brought down the warship. Does the U.S. have any finding on its own and what would be the implications —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re cooperating in a South Korean investigation and that investigation is ongoing.
QUESTION: It’s about Armenia, recent announcement of Armenia. What do you think about timing of it? Because President Obama will be giving his remarks about 1915 events in two days? And I have one more question about this. Armenian President Sargsian met with President Medvedev just two days ago and this announcement came after that. How do you see Russia’s role in this normalization process?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s separate all of that. I mean, we share within the Minsk process concerns on the – on regional stability, so I don’t – I wouldn’t rule any outside influences into this. I don’t think we’re surprised by the announcement by President Sargsian. We had intensive meetings with the Armenians and the Turks here in Washington. We’ve had ongoing contacts with Azerbaijan as well. And we understand that there’s – we had – that both sides had reached a – I won’t say impasse, but kind of reached a hurdle in the process regarding the ratification of the protocols. I think we’re encouraged that neither side has walked away from the process, but I think we all recognize that we’ll just need some time to perhaps create some new momentum that allows the process to move forward. So I think this is something that the Armenians had hinted to us that they were prepared to do, and so we’re not surprised by the announcement.
QUESTION: Is there a concern that the process collapse? I mean, that it —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that we are actually encouraged that, both in the case of Armenia and Turkey, both sides have taken pains to make sure the process doesn’t collapse. That gives us some reason for optimism that over the long term we can find ways to come back to it and try to push forward the protocols again.
That was our message to both Turkey and Armenia during the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit: Keep the process going; if you don’t think that this is the right time, that’s fine, we’ll step back and reevaluate how to move forward. So that’s why Phil Gordon made the comments in Tallinn today that these are encouraging steps in the sense that both sides remain committed to seeking normalization because it is in – they recognize, I think, that it is in, ultimately, their collective interest to do this. We just have to continue to find a way to move forward.
QUESTION: Is there any other formula in your agenda to move the process forward if —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we will – we’ve invested a great deal of energy in this. We’re going to continue our ongoing discussions with the parties. But stay tuned.
QUESTION: On Azerbaijan?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there any concern about the cancellation or postponement of this military exercise that was supposed to happen?
MR. CROWLEY: Pause. I’ve got to get to the right place.
QUESTION: Well, bookmark (inaudible) because that’s my next question. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve done (inaudible) effective job of ordering my guidance here.
The United States considers Azerbaijan a valuable partner on a broad range of security issues. As to Azerbaijan’s intentions, we refer those questions to the Azeri Government. On the subject of military exercise, that’s more of a DOD matter. But we will continue to work in the Minsk process along with Russia, France, as the three OSCE co-chairs work with the parties – Armenia and Azerbaijan – to seek a long-term resolution to the —
QUESTION: When was the last time the Minsk process actually did anything?
MR. CROWLEY: We have – we —
QUESTION: In Minsk —
MR. CROWLEY: We have an ambassador.
QUESTION: When was the last time that anything happened in Minsk other than the Belarusians? No —
MR. CROWLEY: Oh – (laughter) —
QUESTION: No, it’s a serious question.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Minsk process has outgrown (inaudible).
QUESTION: No, no, exactly. When was the last time there was a substantive meeting of the Minsk process?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. It’s a fair question.
QUESTION: On Azerbaijan —
QUESTION: Yeah, but who —
QUESTION: And when you said as to Azerbaijan – the Government of Azerbaijan’s intentions, you would refer me to them. But I presume that would be the response to a question that I didn’t ask, which was, are you worried about growing Iranian influence. So now, I’ll ask the question.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about growing Iranian influence in Azerbaijan and the possibility that that made a – that might have played a role in their decision to postpone this exercise?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the broader question of any concerns that we have about Iranian influence in Azerbaijan. I have no indication that that – that this was anything but a decision by Azerbaijan.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on China, you announced the resumption of the Human Rights Dialogue. Can you remind me when – how long has it been suspended? When was the last time it met?
MR. CROWLEY: The last time they met was May 2008. And we were initially scheduled to hold this at the end of February and —
QUESTION: And remind me what happened then? Why didn’t it happen at the end of February?
MR. CROWLEY: The timing was not right between the two countries.
QUESTION: And why was the timing not right?
MR. CROWLEY: We just couldn’t – it had taken us a little bit longer —
QUESTION: Because you just sold billions of dollars of weapons to Taiwan, maybe?
MR. CROWLEY: — to schedule a meeting.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: And met with the Dalai Lama?
QUESTION: What issues does the U.S. plan to raise in the Human Rights Dialogue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we raise a number of issues in any discussion that we have with China, so this is one channel. But we have – we raise human rights in all of our high-level meetings. But in this one, we’ll be talking about religious freedom, rule of law, and expect to have a candid discussion.
QUESTION: Did you expect – well, specifically on – well, or at least on one specific item, the Chinese are going ahead with disbarment proceedings against several lawyers who represent dissidents, and this has sparked —
MR. CROWLEY: It’s something they’ve done a number of times.
QUESTION: Right. Is this something that would be raised there? Do you have any specific concerns about this?
MR. CROWLEY: I would absolutely believe that this kind of activity would expressly be the kind of thing that we’ll raise in this dialogue.
QUESTION: Do you —
MR. CROWLEY: Rule of law means just that. And the Chinese Government should not be intimidating the legal profession or denying the right of counsel to any of its citizens.
QUESTION: Yeah. I was wondering if internet freedom and the Google case, is that likely to come up as well?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s possible.
QUESTION: Or Tibet?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I’m sure that the broader topic of internet freedom and the availability of information to Chinese citizens. We disagree with China as to what that represents. I would expect that to come up, yes.
QUESTION: But do ever the relations – whatever you tell them really, do ever they follow or enforced? Do ever Chinese follow or enforce what you tell them as far as whatever you are saying?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is one of the elements of our relationship with China. We’ve had – we’ve wrestled with these issues with China ever since we normalized relations. We’ve seen certain progress on some fronts, and we continue to have concerns in other areas. So it is – but it is central to our relationship and central to the broad dialogue that we have with China.
QUESTION: Is that here?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, in Washington.
QUESTION: And as far as this earthquake in China is concerned, many citizens in India and also here in the U.S. are concerned about the welfares of their relatives in China. But Chinese are not allowing even not (inaudible). So what access do you have to those victims or —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have – our Embassy and other missions in China do, in fact, monitor these kinds of events. We’ve offered assistance to China. I’m not aware that we’ve had a specific request. But it is part of what we have encouraged China to do for its own self-interest, which is to function more transparently and to allow its citizens and others to more fully understand what is happening within the country.
QUESTION: There’s an AP report from China who says hundreds of monks who were visiting the rescue and relief operations in the earthquake prone area have been asked by the Chinese authorities to leave and go back to the monasteries. It is having an impact on the rescue. Is it having an impact on the rescue and relief operation? Do you have any report from the field?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. We’ll – if we – we’ll evaluate that.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the report that South Korea and the United States have agreed to delay the transition of the operational control of South Korean troops scheduled for 2012?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe South Korean officials have indicated that report is not true.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, one more.
QUESTION: P.J., on U.S. base agreement between Russia and Ukraine regarding the Black Sea fleet status, can you say something about U.S. position regarding this —
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, if you go to, I think, the transcript, the Secretary gave a fairly extensive answer on this issue earlier today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)