State Department Noon Briefing, January 7, 2004

 

Wednesday January 7, 2004

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, January 7, 2004
12:20 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

CUBA
-- Migration Talks
-- U.S. Efforts for Free Cuba

MEXICO
-- Counterterrorism Efforts
-- Sec. Powell Travel

BRAZIL
-- New Airport Procedures
-- Consular Information Update

DEPARTMENT
-- VISIT Program

ISRAELI
-- 1967 Arab-Israeli War Conference/Attack on USS Liberty

EGYPT/IRAQ
-- A/S Burns Travel

IRAQ
-- UN Secretary General January 19 Session

SUDAN
-- Peace Talks

NORTH KOREA
-- Continuing Discussion on Six-Party Talks
-- Uranium Enrichment Program

PAKISTAN
-- Transfer of Technology to Libya


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:20 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements for you at this moment, so I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Cuba says the U.S. has suspended migration talks. Can you tell us why?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not exactly the way it is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: We have told Cuba that we're ready to go to talks when they're ready to discuss the serious issues that need to be discussed. Unfortunately, the Cubans have continued to refuse to discuss the issues that we've identified. We think the talks need to provide a forum to discuss a productive agenda, including a commitment to substantive discussion of five Cuban impediments to safe, legal and orderly migration.

Cuba has long refused to engage on these matters, specifically: Cuba's obligation under the accords to issue exit permits to all qualified migrants that's a matter of basic fairness; the need for Cuba to meet its commitment to cooperate in holding a new registration for the lottery from which two-thirds of all legal migrants are selected; the need for a deeper Cuban port for repatriations by the Coast Guard to ensure the safety of life at sea; Cuba's responsibility under the accords to again permit U.S. Interests Section personnel to travel to monitor return-migrants, reversing a policy that was put into place during the regime's March 2003 crackdown on civil society; and fifth, Cuba's obligation under an international law to accept the return of Cuban nationals determined to be excludable from the United States.

We have raised each of the issues in at least the last six sessions of the talks, and Cuba has refused to discuss them substantively, in some cases, including as recently as October 24, 2003, Cuba has subsequently informed us by diplomatic note that it rejected any discussion of such issues in the talks.

Consequently, when the Cuban Government proposed January 8 for the next round of migration talks, we determined that given the Cuban Government's expressed unwillingness to engage on these five most important issues that another round of talks at this point did not serve our interests.

Although there's nothing in the accord that requires a regular schedule of meetings, the United States is willing to reconsider the scheduling of the next round of migration talks when Cuba informs us that it agrees to a productive agenda, including a commitment to discuss these five issues.

QUESTION: Yeah, I'm sorry, I don't, you know -- I'm not familiar with the background of this. Is this -- is the U.S. position the culmination of Cuba's, what should I say, Cuba's stance in previous rounds, or is this something new? And also, although I wouldn't be surprised with your answer --

MR. BOUCHER: These are --

QUESTION: -- the Cubans say this is politics, it's the election season, and it's a time to get tough on Cuba.

MR. BOUCHER: It's a time to have safe, legal migration from Cuba. That's not an election issue, that's an issue of humanitarian concern. That's an issue of concern for the people who want to come here. That's a matter of concern for the people who lose their lives at sea.

It's time for Cuba to reverse steps it took last March to make it harder for us to make sure that -- to visit people who might have been repatriated for Cuba. It's time for Cuba to agree to safe repatriations to a deeper water port. It's time for Cuba to open up the system that is established -- that's supposed to be working fairly for everybody -- to make sure it does work fairly for all Cubans who might want to come here.

These are issues in response to the first half of your question.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: We have raised before -- we have raised before in these talks with the Cubans, which the Cubans have either refused to discuss during the meeting or -- and then at times reiterated after the meeting, they refused to discuss them, so the point is not just to have a meeting. The point is to deal with the serious issues involved to try to make sure that people who do want to come here can come here in a safe and orderly way.

QUESTION: Is the right word suspension, postponement? It's certainly not cancellation, right?

MR. BOUCHER: There are no -- the discussions are not scheduled at this point because the Cubans refuse to discuss the issues that need to be discussed for this to be a safe and orderly system.

QUESTION: Richard, when and where was the last round? And --

MR. BOUCHER: I, of course, don't have that with me. But I'll check for you.

QUESTION: It's supposed to be every six months. I don't know if it's been that timely --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly when or where the last one was.

QUESTION: And are you aware if you -- your side or the Cuban side has ever turned down a proposed -- have you guys ever done this before, basically said, "No. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks, we're not -- "

MR. BOUCHER: I think at times we've had, you know, differences over scheduling, difference over timing --

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is a -- have these issues, these five issues, ever forced the, whatever you're going to -- postponement, or cancel -- whatever the term is, has this ever happened before, for these reasons?

MR. BOUCHER: Whether talks have been put off before because of --

QUESTION: -- for these reasons.

MR. BOUCHER: -- because issues, these issues were not going to be discussed? Again, I don't know. I'll check. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Do you know when they sent you the note you refer to?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the note that I cited was October 24. That was an example where they came back to us, even after a round of talks, and said it rejected any discussion of such issues in these talks. In the present instant when they -- the proposed January 8 -- we told them that we were willing to have the meeting if they were willing to discuss these five important issues, and they then refused. And that's why the talks aren't being scheduled at this time.

QUESTION: So, and do you know when they did that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that, too.

QUESTION: Well, when did they propose the January 8 meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'll answer all the "when" questions, too. I'm sorry. We did the policy without the "who, what, when, where and how," as is our wont.

QUESTION: Can I pursue that? Recently, Secretary Powell has been alluding in interviews and even the President came out on the record saying that the U.S. would be trying to do more to work toward a free Cuba. Can you talk about some of the efforts that the U.S. has been taking in the last few months, above and beyond what you've done traditionally, to forge a free Cuba?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to look at the President's announcement last fall, when he indicated that we were going to move forward on the commission to study how the United States could relate to a free Cuba, and relate to a post-Castro Cuba, and what we might do to encourage that prospect. The other Cabinet member involved was Secretary Martinez. He's, of course, left government at this point, but that commission will continue its work and will produce a report by mid-year. So that is being looked at.

But at the same time, the President also announced a number of steps to tighten up on some of the loopholes that we felt benefited the Cuban Government in terms of cash flow and other arrangements, and to make sure that rules that we did have regarding travel and trade with Cuba were being respected. So that was a series of steps that the President announced last fall that really embody the initiative that we've taken.

The President also announced earlier, in the basic policy framework, an initiative with Cuba, which was: when Cuba is ready to change, we're ready to change our policy. If they have elections like other countries have done and allow -- respond to the will of the people who've signed petitions and otherwise look for more democracy and a right to decide their own government, then of course, we would, we would adjust our policy as well.

Okay. Ma'am.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Argentinean Government --

QUESTION: I still have a few, if I could. I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: The -- do we know the number of exit permits that haven't been issued for those who have been approved to travel to the United States?

And secondly, wouldn't you say that over the course of the 10 years or so of the migration agreement that the -- it has, by and large, been a very positive thing that has, in some ways, avoided unchecked immigration?

MR. BOUCHER: I certainly would agree with that. That's why we wanted this. That's why we want to make it work and we want to make it work well.

This is an agreement that helps people come here without risking their lives at sea, that has probably saved many lives over the course of the years. And that's why it's important for us to see it work properly, for it to be open fairly to other Cubans, for it to be implemented in a way that doesn't risk people's lives when they're returned, implemented in a way that lets us check on people. And some of these steps that Cuba has taken, you know, the one I cited as part of the crackdown in March of last year, have made it more difficult to operate this system properly.

As far as the actual number of permits that -- issued and people they haven't been allowed to leave, again, something I'll have to check on.

QUESTION: And when you say the crackdown in March, you're not talking about the crackdown on dissidents?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as part of the crackdown on dissidents, they also restricted the ability of our Interests Section to go out and meet people and talk to people and check on people, which has always been part of the program in the past.

Okay. Ma'am. Argentina.

QUESTION: Yes, the Argentinean Government has reacted very harshly to the -- Roger Noriega's comments yesterday in the Council of the Americas about their policy towards Cuba. Do you have any reactions about that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think we're going to get into reacting to reactions to reactions. I'll just -- I think, I think Mr. Noriega probably expressed himself very well. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Can we say, then, that Latin American just move geographically to Mexico? With the President going there next week, countering terrorism seems to be an issue -- certainly internally in Mexico, the President, Mexican President's position, et cetera. How would you, if you care to, describe the state of cooperation with Mexico at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I think in advance of the President's trip to Mexico for the hemispheric summit, there will be a lot of briefing on those events, the President's trip and the relationship with Mexico. So just to take this one piece and not try to make it the whole thing -- just to say that we've had a very strong, very continuous relationship with Mexico in the area of the fight against terrorism.

We have appreciated a broad range of activities that we have been able to see in Mexico that Government of Mexico has taken to combat terrorism, to make travel safer, to help secure the common border, and that as one of our closest neighbors, this is very important to us to see that Mexico is helping to protect all of us by taking the steps it's taken against terrorism.

We've also had very good bilateral cooperation with Mexico, especially in recent days as they've taken some extraordinary steps to assure the citizens of both countries in response to potential threats to flights coming from Mexico to the United States.

So we feel like the relationship in this area has been very good, and obviously, it's something we work on, continue to work on and discuss with the Mexican Government to make sure that it works well for people of both nations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Well, as long as we're in Latin America, how goes the battle with Brazil? Have you heard back from them about whether they are ready or whether they are willing to revise their entry procedures?

MR. BOUCHER: Here's where we stand. There --

QUESTION: I know there's a law -- a lawsuit's been --

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's -- there's a -- also a lawsuit. There's also some judicial action, I think, in Brazil that affects this, so I'll just talk about the diplomatic piece. How it will be settled, we'll just have to see.

But our Ambassador, Donna Hrinak, did meet with the Brazilian Foreign Minister yesterday to express our concerns. She pointed out that the U.S. citizens were being singled out and subjected to demands not made on any other country; whereas, the US-VISIT program was not specific to Brazilians, applying to all nationals who enter the United States with a visa.

The Ambassador further stated that U.S. travelers had been unfairly inconvenienced by arrival delays of as much as nine hours.

The consulates -- our consulates in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro have been monitoring the situation. They have been in regular contact with Brazilian federal police and airport authorities regarding the procedures and delays, and have urged them to adopt more expeditious processing and provide better accommodations for U.S. citizens subject to the new procedures.

We have issued an updated Consular Information Sheet to reflect the delays, and this discussion continues.

We do understand from some of the reports from the field that while Brazil originally began with requiring a digital photograph and ten ink fingerprints from U.S. citizens, in some instances, now only thumbprints are being collected. As you know, the US-VISIT program requires two digital index finger scans and a digital photograph.

QUESTION: Can I get back in just for a second to ask if Secretary Powell going with the President?

QUESTION: Well, yeah -- hold on.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Is that it?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: On Brazil. Have you suggested to the Brazilians -- have you made any suggestions to them about how they might change this system? Or are you just asking them to alter it so that it's more expeditious? In other words, are you saying that --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's a change. I mean, to make it more expeditious is to change it.

QUESTION: Yeah, but for -- well, there is other -- there are other things that could be done. You could be saying -- you say that the Americans are being unfairly singled out. You could say, "All right. If you're going to do this, you have to do it for everyone, not just Americans."

MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly made that point, and that will be one of the criteria by which we would judge whatever decisions Brazil decides to make. But as I had pointed out before, and I think my colleague pointed out on Monday, Brazil does have the right to decide how people enter and exit its countries, and what procedures they should follow.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: What we have said to them is that we're concerned about the discrimination involved; we're concerned about the procedures themselves. And so we have raised all those issues including asking them to change it to make it faster, to take care of people better, and not to impede the important travel and trade between our two countries.

QUESTION: But what I'm trying to get at is that you haven't asked them to completely remove this program?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we went through that yesterday. We always recognize they have a right to have a process of having people enter and exit their countries.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: No, no.

MR. BOUCHER: Tammy.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that it was specifically in response to the U.S. request, for example, the meeting with the Foreign Minister that the Ambassador had, that only thumbprints are being taken in certain places? Are you expecting a sort of change in policy overall here by the Brazilians?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We have seen this, in some instances, locally. Our people locally have been working also with authorities to try to encourage more expeditious procedures. Whether they changed it nationally or locally, can't tell you. They'd have to answer that question.

QUESTION: Richard, during these discussions, did the U.S. propose any kind of relaxation of the procedures for Brazilian passengers coming into the United States in an effort to alleviate some of the burdens on U.S. passengers?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, our procedures don't just apply to Brazilians; they apply to all people coming into the United States with visas, and are part of our effort to identify the people who come in and out of our country. We estimate they take 10 to 15 seconds of additional processing time. And so, no, we don't, we don't see a need to change those procedures.

QUESTION: Was there any talk about adding Brazil to the Visa Waiver Program?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a legal criteria that's based on a mathematical standard embodied in the law. It's not something that's a matter of negotiation.

QUESTION: As a procedural issue, when did you update the Consular Information Sheet?

MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday or today?

MR. ERELI: We have to check.

MR. BOUCHER: I have to check. Sorry.

QUESTION: Richard, the Visa Waiver Program, there is -- there is some negotiation involved in that, I believe. I mean, Belgium was granted a grace period for --

MR. BOUCHER: That -- there are several criteria involved: One is the refusal rate, which was the basic standard; and then there are other things like the type of passport and the fraud document -- or, it's anti-fraud document, things like that --

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR. BOUCHER: -- so we have, at times, had these discussions with other governments who qualified for the program about whether their documentation, for example, met the anti-fraud standards that were also required.

QUESTION: So being removed from the program, it could be a subject of negotiation, but being added to it isn't? It's a mat -- it's a --

MR. BOUCHER: There has to be a certain mathematical standard to qualify to be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. Once you reach that threshold, then there are also other aspects to it that we need to discuss with other governments to make sure that they're travelers are coming in on proper documentation and things like that.

QUESTION: One more on this. Have you heard from any other countries exhibiting, like, a huge displeasure? I mean, obviously, there haven't been any measures such as the Brazilians'. But have you heard a lot of complaints from other countries about this program?

MR. BOUCHER: I really haven't done much of a survey. I haven't seen much reported in the press about it either, so --

QUESTION: But, I mean, the State Department isn't getting flooded with calls?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I can't say for sure, yes or no, but not that I'm aware of, nothing that's big enough to capture one's attention in that manner.

Sir.

QUESTION: Does anybody -- does any other country have a similar standard in place already? A similar --

MR. BOUCHER: What's a similar standard, a biometric identifier?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are we the first? Is the United States the first --

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. I really don't know.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about the two-day conference that's schedule for here next week on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, or, how did it come about and why now, and as much as you can tell us?

MR. BOUCHER: Because it's 30 years after the Johnson Administration, and this is one of the volumes that we're releasing on the U.S. foreign relations during the Johnson Administration, we're releasing a volume on the 1967 War. It's not just about the attack on the Liberty.

QUESTION: So this conference will be on the whole war and not just the --

MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It's in relation to the release of the Foreign Relations series volume, 1964-1968 volume, 19 -- Arab-Israeli crisis and War of 1967. And the full volume will be released and then the text will be available online as well. Anybody that wants that can get the URL from the Press Office.

So it's about -- and given that the 1967 War was a significant event in history and foreign policy, we felt it was appropriate to have a discussion with scholars and military experts and others on the release of the volume and the history involved.

One of the panels during the conference, during the two-day conference, will address the Liberty incident. There are numerous, recently declassified documents related to that matter in the new volume and those have been of great interest to historians. So that will be part of the discussion that the historians have about those things. This is about history. It's not about current policy in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I've noticed -- I noticed that David Satterfield is going to make opening remarks. Is the reason he is, and not Assistant Secretary Burns, because Burns might be traveling?

MR. BOUCHER: Good guess. Let me get you the -- Assistant Secretary Burns will travel to Egypt and Iraq next week. He will not be in Washington on Monday is my understanding. We have supported efforts by the Government of Egypt to obtain a comprehensive ceasefire that would provide a definitive -- an end to violence and terror directed against the Israelis, and that's what he wants to go out and discuss with the Egyptians, as well as the overall prospects for progress between the Palestinians and Israelis.

As you know, we've been keeping in touch with various parties in the region. The Secretary met with the Tunisian Foreign Minister yesterday. I'm sure we'll be discussing the Middle East with the Spanish Foreign Minister today, as well.

QUESTION: What's the Iraq angle there? Do you have anything?

MR. BOUCHER: He is looking forward to going out to Iraq, to talking to our people and assessing the situation, and making sure that we're contributing in every way to the transition to come.

QUESTION: Does it have anything to do with the embassy plans, that kind of thing? That transition --

MR. BOUCHER: It has something to do with everything. It's the overall process of political transition, the overall process of transition from CPA to embassy-type presence. There are many issues involved in this region and Iraq, many of -- the goal of all of us, particularly the Assistant Secretary of the Near East is to do everything we can to support that process in Iraq, whether it's supporting our efforts on the ground there or supporting it with our diplomacy with other countries outside.

QUESTION: Has Mr. Burns been --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we had another gentleman here waiting. Sir.

QUESTION: Well, can I stay on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Can he stay on the subject before that?

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Has Israel expressed any objection or protest to the discussion that's going to be held in the State Department concerning the Liberty? And of course, consequently, Israel is implicated in this incident that they had bombed the American vessel at that time. So did the Israelis express any objection to discussing this?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I think there are Israeli historians participating in the conference, and the, you know, one of the -- with regard to the Liberty, one of the matters of interest to historians who, and people who will be attending, will be that there will be newly declassified documents available so they can, perhaps, discuss this issue with more of a factual basis than might have been possible the past.

QUESTION: On Burns. Does he come back after that? I ask because you haven't got someone from Washington permanently, or even regularly, there anymore. I'm not saying you need someone there; you've got ambassadors. But will Burns linger and do a little probing into the stalemate or -- ?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- at this point, and I can't vouch for every stop that may eventually materialize at this point, the trip is planned for Egypt and Iraq. When you say "there" do you mean Iraq, or do you mean Israel?

QUESTION: No, I meant -- I meant Israel.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. So, at this point, he's not there. We do have very capable people on the ground, very active people on the ground, who are working on the Palestinian side to get them to make the maximum effort against terror and violence and with the Israelis, as well, as they carry out their obligations under the roadmap.

QUESTION: And Syria's not on his itinerary?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, no.

QUESTION: What dates?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact dates. I think, generally, when he's traveled in this region, particularly in Iraq, we haven't announced in advance the dates.

QUESTION: Yeah, but he is going to your, one of your, you closest Arab ally, as well. I don't -- is there a security problem with Cairo as well?

MR. BOUCHER: No, but if you give Cairo, then you end up giving the rest of the dates as well, right?

QUESTION: Somehow the --

MR. BOUCHER: If he leaves there for Iraq.

QUESTION: Somehow the Iraq reference triggers the question, have you decided who's going to go to the UN, to Annan's January 19 session?

MR. BOUCHER: No. No news on that yet.

QUESTION: Will it be a top-level delegation?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll be suitably and appropriately represented there.

Sir.

QUESTION: Going back to the conference, just -- are these volumes available, will it be available at the conference for purchasing, or are they released to the Government --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't actually know if you can buy them at the conference. There are certainly --

QUESTION: At the Government Printing Office?

MR. BOUCHER: The Government Printing Office has them and they're lovely things to put on your shelves.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. BOUCHER: But they're also available online and you can check with the Press Office. They'll give you the full URL for it so that you can avoid the expense and sit there clicking at your leisure.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Christophe.

QUESTION: Different country?

QUESTION: The King of Morocco today announced that -- his decision to pardon several Islamist militants and prominent journalists who were jailed. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you something on that. I didn't see it yet.

QUESTION: Sudan?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just ask about the Burns trip, one last thing?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: Is he going to be attending next week's town hall meeting in Mosul?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I haven't heard of any plans. There have been town hall meetings around the country to -- are you talking about a town hall for Americans out there, or for the Iraqis?

QUESTION: No, for Iraqis.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. There have been, I think, several of these now, and they'll become -- I think you'll see them more and more, where we and the Iraqi Governing Council are trying to get out and inform people about the process, the political process underway, and tell them how they can participate and, you know, get the word out in a whole variety of ways.

I know they've printed a lot of leaflets that are being distributed. They're having town hall meetings, so there is an effort underway in Iraq to spread far and wide throughout the land the word on the political process and how Iraqis can participate in their government in a way that they have never been able to for decades.

Sir.

QUESTION: Sudan -- a vague question. Is the escalating fighting there having any effect on U.S. efforts to rehabilitate the country?

MR. BOUCHER: The fighting in the western area, what's called Darfur, I think it is --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: -- has not directly related to the issues being discussed in the peace talks. Nor has it directly affected the peace talks. Obviously, we're all concerned about the fighting there, and all the parties want to do what they can to try to settle things down and resolve the fighting, but we have made, I think you know, substantial progress in recent weeks on some of the issues.

The wealth-sharing issues have been agreed and signed off on by the parties. They now need to take up some of the matters of status of various territories including Abyei, you know, one of the bordering areas. We've been working very hard with our diplomats in the field.

The Secretary just today talked to Vice President Taha and Mr. John Garang, to encourage them to continue to make progress, and to say that we will continue to work with them to try to achieve the goal that we all set, which was to reach a final agreement. We'd hoped to do that by the end of the year. That still remains a very high priority. We've made considerable progress, but it's important for all the parties to work hard to finish it up.

QUESTION: He's been on top of it and he's made lots of phone calls. In the course of these telephone calls does he ever suggest a formula for resolving the unsettled issues, or does he -- or he is mostly encouraging them and telling them how important it is to settle this?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, he's mostly encouraging them and telling them how important it is for them to reach agreement. Some of these issues, however, have been discussed to great lengths. There are intermediaries and people like us, and our representatives out there. The Kenyan -- General Sumbeiywo is out there working hard, directly with the parties, helping them try to come to agreement. So, yeah, there's always ideas that are being discussed at any moment.

QUESTION: Richard, I -- you said that you'd hoped they would reach an agreement by the end of the year? I was under the impression that you were hoping to reach an agreement by the end of last year. Has it moved all the way to December 31st, 2004?

MR. BOUCHER: I -- no, no. I used the past perfect. I said, "we had hoped."

QUESTION: Okay. Right. Okay. And the fact that they weren't able to meet their deadline, are you disappointed in that at all?

MR. BOUCHER: You know, what can I say? These things happen. You don't always get there. You set yourself a goal, but we're still working hard on it. We're still working to get it wrapped up very soon, and I'd say, you know, a few weeks into the new year isn't bad, if you're dealing with a conflict that's going on -- gone on so long and so horribly for so many years, to see it resolved is more important than to see it resolved by a particular date, although we're working very hard to do it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: I think it --

QUESTION: Now, do you that -- is it possible by this month? Or do you not -- are you no longer in the business of setting deadlines since the --

MR. BOUCHER: It's possible for them to reach agreement any day they want to. We'll be working to try to get -- help them do that.

Teri. We've got one more on that one.

QUESTION: Anything to report on North Korea? And is it true that the U.S. is aware that China has mentioned to other allies that it doesn't believe that North Korea was actively pursuing uranium enrichment?

MR. BOUCHER: There's not really anything new to report on North Korea. There are discussions continuing with China. There are discussions continuing with the other parties to the talks -- Japan, South Korea, Russia. And those people are in touch with the North Koreans about possible outcomes of another round, so that process is underway. There are discussions of the substance and the scheduling of a new round, but nothing's set at this point.

As far as the issue of whether or not North Korea has a uranium enrichment program, let's remember the history of all this, that when we went out, and Assistant Secretary Kelly went out and raised this issue, confronted the North Koreans with this, they admitted to having such a program.

This is a government in North Korea that very frequently says, "We are in the process of reprocessing. We are building bombs. We are developing the weapons." So I don't think there is any doubt that they have admitted to these kinds of programs, that they have admitted to an intent to develop these kinds of programs, and that's the problem we're dealing with.

I really don't think the Chinese doubt that. But what, specifically, they might have said about this aspect of the program, you'd have to ask the Chinese. We certainly know the -- North Korea has a heavy -- highly enriched uranium -- a highly enriched uranium program, and when confronted with that fact, North Korea admitted it.

QUESTION: But at the same time, when North Korea makes these declarations, you always kind of take them with a grain of salt and say, "North Korea says a lot of things." So sometimes you take them at your word, and sometimes you don't. And all along, with these six-party talks, you've -- one of the things you said, that you appreciate the help of the Chinese is that they know as strongly as you they're concerned about North Korea's nuclear problem as well.

So the question is: Has anything come to light in the last few months that give -- that have caused the Chinese to give -- voice concern to you about the evidence?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't even think the report says the Chinese have voiced concerns to us. Second of all, we, obviously, would be talking to the Chinese because we have shared with them previously a lot of the information we have about North Korea's programs. Third, it's, I think, important to remember that all these declarations by North Korea, I'm not citing them as evidence of exactly what they're doing because they do say different things at different times about what they're doing, but it certainly -- it demonstrates an intention and a direction that needs to be dealt with.

But we know that they have a program for highly enriched uranium. They admitted to having such a program, and that is one of the elements that we have to deal with in any solution.

QUESTION: Richard, when you said, "I really don't think the Chinese doubt that," did you mean to say that you really don't think that the Chinese doubt that the North Koreans have an HEU weapons-related program?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I said it more generally that they have nuclear programs.

QUESTION: Okay, but not specific to HEU?

MR. BOUCHER: That's something you'd have to ask the Chinese, whether they have information one way or the other. I'm not aware of anything new. She -- responding to her question now, of anything new that's come to light, certainly, that changes our belief and our knowledge of what North Korea has.

Sir.

QUESTION: Yeah. On this subject, there is an editorial in Washington Times today about Pakistan, and they have made what looks like to be a new allegation that Pakistan had transferred some technology after September 11 to Libya.

I think what we heard was about North Korea allegation. Are you aware of any allegation from the Government of the United States that Pakistan did indulge in any transfers?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has not made allegations like that. We have discussed this issue, however.

QUESTION: Regarding Libya.

MR. BOUCHER: We have discussed this issued, however, over the last few days. I think at the present time, it's -- the Government of Pakistan is actually looking into some of these reports and some of these statements that have been made. And so we'll -- I guess we'll expect to hear from them what might or might not have happened.

QUESTION: But is there any intelligence information that after September 11, anything took place vis--vis Libya?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I'm not talking about any intelligence here.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got two more, Charlie, coming.

Sir.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to update on what you call the New York channel with North Koreans in recent weeks?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry? There's too much talk.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to update on what you call the New York channel with North Koreans? New York at the UN, anything?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Nothing particular.

QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, the Secretary's op-ed comment yesterday on North Koreans has been followed by Japanese Prime Minister and the South Koreans, and they are basically saying that it's time to go forward to six-party talk. Do you feel something, some chemistry has been changed in a --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you know, it takes six parties to tango. The fact is, yes, we are certainly prepared to go ahead with discussions. We have been working with them, with the Chinese; let me put that -- with the other parties, with the Chinese, on how to achieve productive talks. But we're ready to go ahead at an early date.

QUESTION: Richard, isn't there some rethinking about what your response is to the North Korean comments from yesterday? The reason I ask is that the tone expressed here by the Secretary and that expressed at the White House are awfully different. The Secretary was much more positive in his outlook on this.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I didn't have time to compare. I talked to the White House this morning. We're on the same wavelength on this.

QUESTION: So your -- the reaction is the same?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. They were interesting and positive remarks --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: -- but the fundamental policy that there needs to be an end, an elimination, a reversal, a verifiable and irreversible change, elimination of nuclear programs in North Korea, that remains. That's something we've said. And that's -- North Korea has not promised that at this point, but the fact that they promised -- they talked about freezing the entire spectrum of their programs, we see that as interesting.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)

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