Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 25, 2010.
1:16 p.m. EDT MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. We have some familiar faces back with us. You’ve been on travel, studying. Very good. As you know, the Secretary, along with Secretary Geithner, have completed the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China and you’ve also heard from both secretaries during their press avail at the end of the program.
During the course of the S&ED, as we call it, the Secretary announced expanded exchanges, increased cooperation on energy and education, on energy looking for ways to continue to persify global energy supplies. She also indicated that we had frank and detailed discussions with China regarding the situations with respect to Korea and Iran. The Secretary indicated that the Chinese Government and the United States Government share our concerns about the gravity of the situation. We share our hopes for stability and peace in the region. And this is a shared responsibility of both countries and we will closely cooperate in the coming days and weeks.
And on Iran, she indicated that there is a clear path forward and our strategy involves dual tracks and we continue our efforts on both sides of that. And she clearly indicated that there were deficiencies, as she called it, in terms of the joint declaration and the – that was worked out in Tehran last weekend. And I’ll come back to that, I’m sure, with your questions.
We can confirm that the two U.S. citizens that were kidnapped in Yemen by a tribal group have been released. We have not seen them at this point, but our indications are they’ve been turned over to a mediator. We are in touch with the – one of the American citizens by text message and they have indicated they are safe.
Our Embassy in Kingston is closed today and we will continue to make that evaluation on a day-to-day basis based on events on the ground in Kingston. The United States Government and Government of Jamaica continue to work collaboratively to ensure the safety and security of our citizens as we also counter illicit trafficking.
Turning to – let’s see what else I’ve got here. Oh, I’ve got a couple of things. Staying in the Middle East for a second, we deplore the murder of a member of parliament Bashar Mohammed Hamid Akaidi in Mosul yesterday. The Iraqi people have shown repeatedly that they will not be intimidated by violence as they work to build their democracy. We understand that Iraqi authorities have arrested two suspects. We hope that those responsible for this crime are swiftly brought to justice. We extend our condolences to the family and colleagues of the victim.
And today as well as yesterday, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg and Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman had another follow-on meeting today with Prime Minister Hariri as we continue our close consultation with the prime minister and the Lebanese Government on the way forward with the peace process and building a stable and prosperous Middle East.
Turning to travel, Deputy Secretary Jack Lew met today with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and other top officials in Abuja to discuss the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission agenda and HIV/AIDS partnership framework. He visited the Defense Headquarters Medical Center, where the Department of Defense has partnered with the Nigerian Ministry of Defense to implement HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, funded largely by PEPFAR. He also met with Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of the Kano state to discuss progress on polio eradication and other health goals in northern Nigeria.
Under Secretary Bill Burns met today with Foreign Minister Rassoul in Afghanistan to build on the progress achieved during the successful visit by President Karzai and his cabinet to Washington. He also met with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and U.S. Embassy and ISAF staff.
As the Secretary’s finished her program in China, USAID Administrator Raj Shah is en route to Bangladesh, where he will speak at the Food Security Investment Forum sponsored by the Government of Bangladesh tomorrow. The forum is a country-specific element of the Feed the Future Initiative. At the forum, Dr. Shah will meet with government officials, civil society, and opinion leaders.
Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez is in Madrid and he is leading the U.S. delegation at the U.S.-EU Political Dialogue on measures to curb terror finance. Today, he met with the American Chamber of Commerce Advisory Board as well as the coalition of creators and the content industry intellectual property rights business group to discuss the protection of intellectual property rights throughout the world and the jobs created by these creative industries.
Turning to this hemisphere, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly is in Miami, where he will speak today at the 2010 Western Hemisphere Security Colloquium, called "A New Chapter in Trans-American Engagement." The colloquium provides an opportunity to examine the complicated realities and regional dynamics shaping the state of risk in security and opportunity in the Western Hemisphere. And I think a portion of that colloquium is open for media coverage.
And finally before taking your questions, today, the Bureau of Consular Affairs launched a new redesign of travel.state.gov. Travel.state.gov – its website – we receive over 370 million visits – we received that last year from people all over the world looking for information about visas, passports, and other consular services that we provide to citizens traveling abroad. And it’s usually the first stop for people planning on traveling around the world and where they go for information during a crisis. So we’re happy to have that launched underway.
And with that, I’ll take your questions. Bob.
QUESTION: P.J., on North Korea you mentioned the Secretary’s remarks in Beijing. I believe it was after she commented that the North Koreans announced that they were cutting off all communication and ties with the South. Could you comment on that move?
And also, are you seeing any other indications of action, preparatory actions by the North either in missile tests or any other kind of military-related action?
MR. CROWLEY: I have not heard of any – anything that has drawn immediate concern in terms of actions by North Korea. But obviously, that will be something that we’ll be watching carefully in the coming days.
I think it’s odd. South Korea is one of the most dynamic economies in the world. North Korea is a failing economy, even by their own admission. North Korea is unable to care for its citizens. It’s unable to feed its people. And so I can’t imagine a step that is less in the long-term interest of the North Korean people than cutting off further ties with South Korea.
QUESTION: P.J., you used the words "frank and detailed conversations." Frank usually has a negative connotation in your world.
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t read too much into that, Jill.
QUESTION: Yeah. So does that mean you’re having trouble with China on getting them aboard on getting to the UN on the issue of the sinking of the ship?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think so. Actually, I think we are pleased by a pledge on both sides to continue close consultation. The Secretary will leave in about eight hours time for Seoul, where she will have a working lunch with President Lee and then a follow-up meeting with Foreign Minister Yu. I believe during the course of the day, the Secretary mentioned that Premier Wen of China will be visiting Seoul on Friday.
So we are, as we’ve said, very supportive of the careful, detailed approach that South Korea has taken to this hostile act by North Korea. And we will continue to consult closely with China, with South Korea, and with Japan and others as we look to see what the appropriate international response to this is.
QUESTION: Well, where are you, then? What’s the status of getting China to support what you would like to do, which is put it before the UN Security Council?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have talked with China today. We will talk with South Korea tomorrow. I think there’s a pledge to stay in close contact in the coming days. But we will be guided by what President Lee and South Korea feel is the appropriate response to this. As the Secretary and other – and the president have indicated, there will be consequences for South Korea’s provocative action. We believe that there should be a very strong, determined international response.
I would note that we were in a similar – perhaps not quite as – a similar, but not parallel situation more than a year ago with a series of provocative actions by North Korea. And working closely together, that resulted in UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which has, we think, satisfactorily addressed our specific concerns regarding North Korea and its missile and nuclear program.
So we will be looking at a variety of options. That’s why the Secretary has met this week with her counterparts in Tokyo and Beijing, to Seoul tomorrow, and then we’ll work collaboratively in terms of the appropriate response.
QUESTION: But the Secretary said today in – when she was in Asia that China understands the gravity of this situation. But are they doing enough about it? Are they too careful?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, let’s not get ahead of what will be very important consultations in Seoul in the next three days with not only the Secretary of State of the United States, but Premier Wen from China. So I think that we are satisfied that China understands how we see this. I think they understand and will understand how serious South Korea views this.
We all want the same thing. We all want peace and stability in the region. There appears to be one country that doesn’t. That’s North Korea. We have worked closely and collaboratively in the past. We’ve sent strong messages to North Korea in the past. China has the same interest that we have. And this is why the Secretary – it was valuable for the Secretary to have the high-level discussions that she had with President Hu Jintao and others in Beijing the last couple of days. Lalit.
QUESTION: Do you think the steps being taken by North Korea is heading towards North and South – towards military confrontation in the coming days? The steps being taken by North Korea is headed towards a military confrontation in the region?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the last thing that we need – we have enough tension in the Korean Peninsula right now based on the action that North Korea has taken. We have no interest in seeing further provocations. The Secretary made that clear in Beijing today. We are looking to see how we can influence North Korean thinking and, most importantly, North Korean behavior. And we’ll be working closely with our regional partners to see what should be done and what can be done to have the greatest impact on the North Korean leadership.
QUESTION: You’ve talked – you’ve emphasized the collaborative nature of this response, but I’m wondering, does the U.S. have anything it can do unilaterally to impress upon the North Koreans the U.S. position on things, specifically about the state sponsor of terrorism list? I know the Secretary addressed this sort of glancingly in Beijing, but can you explain why or why not that might not be a tool that could be used now?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we – I think we have steps that we can take bilaterally. I think the Pentagon talked yesterday about particular actions on the military side, including maneuvers, the prospect of additional training to – as we review the capabilities that we have within our military alliance with South Korea. I mean, there are things that we have that we can apply constructively to this situation and we will do so if appropriate.
QUESTION: But specifically, the state sponsor of terrorism, whether or not it goes back on that list, is that something that might be – might come into play here?
MR. CROWLEY: Before – Andy, before you came back here, the last few days, I’ve been asked about this.
MR. CROWLEY: And I have pledged that our merry band of lawyers will be reviewing all options as we go through this.
QUESTION: And just to follow up on that, would it be possible maybe for one of your merry band of lawyers to give us a little – it could be a background briefing – something on how this works? I mean, we know what the catchphrases are that come from the podium, but we never really perhaps get as full an understanding as we might.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the particulars of listing a country on the state sponsor of terrorism list, the particulars are outlined in law. It is a deliberately arduous process because there are broad legal and potentially economic consequences if we take that action. We’ll be guided by the facts of this particular case. I’m not going to judge any particular outcome here. But obviously, it is a question that many are raising and we are reviewing it. Yeah.
QUESTION: Outside of the state sponsors of terrorism list, there are some reports that you’re considering levying some sort of financial sanctions, unilateral financial sanctions, on North Korea. Can you tell us anything about that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s not get ahead of the process here. We will have consultations this week. We’ll be looking at a range of options. There are things that we can do multilaterally. There are things that we can do unilaterally in terms of economic measures. We have done that successfully in the past. We have found ways to influence the thinking and put pressure on the North Korean regime, and if those – if we think that there are options available to us that can deliver that kind of stern message, we will not hesitate to take that kind of action.
We already have broad-based authorities under existing resolutions to take that kind of action and that’s what we have done in the past when we’ve seen these kinds of provocative actions by North Korea. We will not hesitate to do that again.
QUESTION: Do you think —
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think China believes North Korea is responsible based on Secretary Clinton’s talks with the Chinese?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll let my counterpart in China describe what their thinking is. We, of course, believe that the investigation by South Korea was thorough. It was scientific. China has laid out what it thought the standards of the investigation should be. And we think that South Korea has made a very compelling case that North Korea was responsible for the ship sinking.
QUESTION: Can you give a sense of the type – nature of discussions you had with the Chinese during the S&E Dialogue – one – number one on Afghanistan and Pakistan, secondly on Burma, and finally on Tibet?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, during the course of the S&ED, there were sessions on regional issues. China has influence with respect to Burma. It is, as Kurt Campbell said before leaving for the region, it is an area of significant concern to us both in terms of Burma’s relationship with its own population, but also the – Burma’s activity which has broader concerns. We have concerns about Burma’s cooperation with North Korea, for example.
So I haven’t had a detailed readout of those sessions, but we, again, share common interests with China. And in some cases, they can have influences with certain actors in the region that are more significant than ours.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan-Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s another example of where – if we see progress in the region from a security standpoint, that clearly benefits everyone, including China.
QUESTION: And was Tibet discussed specifically? Was it —
MR. CROWLEY: Lalit, it’s hard for me —
QUESTION: Okay, okay.
MR. CROWLEY: — from halfway around the world to describe everything that we discussed this week.
QUESTION: Speaking of halfway around the world, can we go to Jamaica – at least halfway around the world? And can you give us any more details on what the Embassy is doing, whether or not there’s consideration of an authorized departure, whether the U.S. has been asked for any help by the Jamaican authorities to take care of the problem that they are trying to take care of?
MR. CROWLEY: On the first question, we are watching developments on the ground very closely. Unlike, say, the situation in Thailand where our Embassy was immediately proximate to the confrontation between demonstrators and security forces, here the Embassy is some distance away from Tivoli Gardens where most of the action has taken place, but there has been sporadic unrest throughout Kingston. There have been some concerns about security at the – both – in the approaches to Kingston’s airport. We do understand that some flights were canceled earlier today. But the latest report we had was service in and out of the airport was being restored. We have a close relationship with Jamaica. We have been asked to provide some minor assistance, but this is primarily an effort spearheaded by Jamaican police and military forces.
QUESTION: What is the minor assistance that you’ve —
MR. CROWLEY: Bulletproof vests.
QUESTION: And a question on the same subject. The timing of all this, why it’s happening now, did the U.S. request of Jamaica that they go after this guy?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we made an extradition request several months ago. There was a deliberation within the Jamaican Government, and most recently, they decided to take this action.
QUESTION: And the timing is no more – it’s just coincidental or just happened —
MR. CROWLEY: The timing – the —
QUESTION: It’s been a couple months ago that you requested —
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have been pressing for the – well, we have been – we filed the extradition request with Jamaica last year and the government has recently decided to arrest him. Obviously, they would have to go through a legal process to evaluate whether extradition is appropriate under Jamaican law. But —
QUESTION: What’s he wanted for?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Why is he wanted in the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: He – involved in illicit trafficking of drugs.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: South Korea has reportedly decided to refer to North Korea as the main enemy again. What would be the corresponding moves to be made by the U.S. side on this issue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – I mean, we have a history on the Korean Peninsula as well, and what North Korea has done is a violation of the armistice. I think we take note of steps that South Korea has done in terms of resuming propaganda efforts across the border. I think that we – as I said, we completely support South Korea’s efforts to send a clear message to North Korea that there will be consequences for the action that North Korea has taken. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I go back to South Asia and Nepal? You know the U.S. has been involved in the drafting – helping the Nepalese in drafting of the constitution, and the deadline expires two days from now and it’s unlikely that they’ll come up with a new constitution. So where is Nepal heading towards now? What’s your sense?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, a few weeks ago, Assistant Secretary Bob Blake was in Nepal and one of his prime messages was to encourage the government, working with the Maoists and others, to move forward on the constitution as a very important element in terms of charting a future for Nepal. And we will continue to push for – to resolve existing differences and come together to shape a more constructive future.
QUESTION: And Sri Lanka’s foreign minister is here. Will the Secretary – meeting him in coming days?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary is obviously still overseas. She will be back tomorrow night and I believe she will meet with her Sri Lankan counterpart on Thursday.
QUESTION: Do you have an appraisal today of the Ethiopian election?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll hold our comment until the election results are official. That could be either later today or tomorrow.
QUESTION: Reports out of Lima saying that Lori Berenson may be paroled today. I’m wondering if – and then thereafter expelled from the country. I’m wondering if you have any – been hearing anything on that.
MR. CROWLEY: We have consular officials who have been monitoring the hearing. I’m just not aware of any judgment that the Peruvian Government has made at this point.
QUESTION: Can I ask on Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
MR. CROWLEY: Of course.
QUESTION: Yeah. The – in his interview with The Washington Post, the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, was quite annoyed at Mr. Feltman’s suggestion that they ought to have – that he and Allawi should have Plan B, and he says that the political process is moving fine, we’re moving according to our own table. Could you explain to us what is Plan B as seen by the —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure it’s what – I’m not sure – I mean, it’s up to Iraq to develop a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. I think —
QUESTION: But Mr. Feltman did say you have to have – if you must have Plan B —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, look. Let’s start with the – what we seek is the formation of a new government in Iraq. We’d like to see that government emerge as quickly as possible. We’re very encouraged by the fact that notwithstanding it has taken – taking some time to accomplish this, and notwithstanding that there are episodes where al-Qaida and other elements have tried to use violence to restart sectarian violence.
And we’re very encouraged by the fact that the actions of the government, and most importantly, the actions of the Iraqi people are focused forward rather than backward. We want to see, on behalf of the Iraqi people, the emergence of an effective government, an inclusive government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people.
Clearly, you had a very close election and there are two major blocs and these blocs have to work together and see how to form a credible government that the – that will work on behalf of all of the Iraqi people. As Jeff Feltman and Chris Hill and others have said, it is in Iraq’s interest to see this process go forward rapidly, credibly, transparently. And that’s all we seek.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On a totally different subject, this Administration is using social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook in a big way. Do you consider this as a diplomatic tool to reach out to people, and how is it is useful to you?
MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely. I have 2,000 followers and – (laughter).
QUESTION: Last week, I started following you.
MR. CROWLEY: No, we recognized from the outset that these are effective tools that enhance diplomacy. The Secretary has spoken about this. Under Secretary Judith McHale is leading this effort. We not only have the ability through social networking to communicate with governments; most importantly, we have the ability to communicate with people.
And so – and various places that – where we’ve traveled, everyone seems to be now in possession of a cell phone. That is a powerful tool, and around the world we’re using it to clarify the position of the United States, but we’re also using it to help solve challenges that – in the places that the Secretary has visited. For example, we’re using technology to help bring online banking to the people and the security forces in Eastern Congo. We’re trying to use technology to help bring market information to people – farmers and agricultural workers in Africa, not only where markets are, what a fair price for their goods – this is how you build and grow economies. So, absolutely, we are using these tools quite effectively. You’re able to follow – people are able to follow the Secretary and her travels at State.gov.
So we think that 21st century diplomacy involves a combination of capabilities – one, having the Secretary go around the world and talk face-to-face to leaders, but also have the ability to communicate with populations around the world through a variety of means, including social media.
QUESTION: So do you think this would be a good idea for other countries to use the social networking tools?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I mean, I think you heard from Maria Otero that – yesterday, when she talked about the fact that the people of Indonesia, half of the population, is on Facebook. And that becomes an important tool in terms of the emergence of democratic societies and accountable governments so that people can use social media to communicate to a government. And she noted that there have been adaptations in terms of emerging policies in Indonesia because of the manner in which people are now communicating to their government.
We are working in Mexico, for example, where people can use cell phones and texting to communicate to the government where they have concerns about corruption. So we only – we obviously see that technology allows the opportunity to – it both empowers people, it hold – makes governments more accountable. We think this is an important dynamic for global society in the 21st century.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
1] Is scheduled to meet.
2] North Korea