State Department Briefing, February 3, 2004
|Tuesday February 3,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
QUESTION: Sir, could you talk about your hopes and aspirations on the six-party talks?
MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary has made clear before, we're looking for a round that's productive; we're looking for a round that can move towards the goals of verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs; and in return, provision of whatever security assurances might be helpful in helping North Korea go down that path. We're looking for a round that can produce some follow-up, some movement towards that goal and not just an exchange of positions.
QUESTION: Does that mean that when -- in his very brief comment downstairs -- one sentence comment downstairs, that you hope that this round will be successful --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Success isn't necessarily a done deal. It could be just movement towards --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we all understand how complicated these subjects are, particularly when it comes to the verification and making things irreversible. So I don't know that anybody expects to have a wrapped-up deal in one round. We're looking for a round, however, that doesn't just result in restating of positions, but rather moves us down the road towards that goal, that starts the movement --
QUESTION: And do you have --
MR. BOUCHER: -- towards resolving these issues.
QUESTION: And do you have any indications from the Chinese or from the ether that is often North Korea that that will in fact be the case, that it won't be just a restatement of old positions?
MR. BOUCHER: You can never know until you get there. You can never know the outcomes until you actually go have the talks. We do know that the Chinese have had extensive discussions with us and with the other parties about how to make the talks productive, about how to achieve this -- these goals of denuclearized peninsula, and how to try to create some momentum in that direction.
So we do know the Chinese have had extensive discussions with us and as you've heard from the Secretary over the last month or two, he's felt those discussions, having those discussions itself has been productive.
QUESTION: All right, well --
QUESTION: Are you going into specific proposals on security guarantees, or security assurances, as you like to put it, and on economic benefits for the North Korean exchange?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll be discussing those issues, but I do not -- particularly we'll be discussing the security guarantees, but we need to discuss the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. That's the context in which anything else is going to take place.
So we'd certainly be prepared to have discussions. I can't go beyond that at this point.
QUESTION: Maybe that's the answer; you won't go beyond that. But the ultimate goal is clear. But there are things that North Korea has done which have alarmed a lot of the world, and Senator Biden, for instance, last week spoke with great concern about fuel rods not being under control now and, you know, the menace they could provide, the opportunity, perhaps, to have the fuel for six or eight more nuclear weapons.
Could you, do you feel you could state here some of your immediate goals, or one or two of your immediate goals? Because there are things short of ending their program that might make the world a lot better off.
MR. BOUCHER: We want an end to their program. We want movement towards an end to their program. I'm not going to sit here --
QUESTION: But the clock is ticking while you wait for that, you know.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, these rods, due to North Korean actions, haven't been --
QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: -- haven't been under IAEA safeguards for many, many months now.
QUESTION: Well, that's my point.
MR. BOUCHER: The point is that we're not going to pay again to get them to do what North Korea should have done before.
QUESTION: I'm not suggesting that.
MR. BOUCHER: They need to eliminate this program in a verifiable and irreversible manner. We'll be talking to them about how they can do that.
I don't think it's for me to lay out here, the day the talks are announced, what the various steps are that we might think are useful in that regard. We'll have to sit down and talk to them about what their -- first of all, what their -- what they need to do to achieve those goals and what the goals are and what they need to do to achieve them.
QUESTION: Do you think they're predisposed to go all the way now for the right -- in the right situation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Can't say? So you'll see.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll see.
MR. BOUCHER: They are, apparently, disposed to go as far as Beijing, so we'll take it from there.
QUESTION: Has the United States Government been in contact with other of the six-party allies to see if, perhaps, financial compensation would be part of the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not talking financial compensation to get North Korea back into the agreements that they should have been respecting all along. I know that various parties do have assistance programs and projections of investment and things like that, but we're not talking with anybody about compensating North Korea. We're not -- as we've made clear, we're not going to pay again for something that's been promised in the past and then violated.
QUESTION: You've been, over the last few months, submitting proposals, working with the Chinese, and you kept saying, you know, we can't get North Korea to sign on and agree to come to the talks. Do you have any sense of what it was that finally made North Korea say yes, this is the time?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, what was the last -- what was the last kind of proposal that you --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to expand on the no. First of all, trying to give you a sense of what made the North Koreans decide to do something falls into the trap of speaking for the North Koreans. I can't try to explain what the North Koreans do or don't do. That's not my job, nor within my capabilities.
Second of all, we didn't agree to any preconditions for this round of talks. We have made clear that what our expectations were for this round of talks in terms of a verifiable and irreversible end towards North Korea's nuclear program. We have made clear, as the President did in Bangkok, that we are prepared to deal with some of North Korea's concerns about security in that context.
So that's the basis on which we go to talks. Those have been extensively discussed with the Chinese. How this round might be productive, how it might lead to movement in that direction has been extensively discussed with the Chinese. I have to assume that they've had similar discussions with other parties. But what made any one party decide that now is the time to come to talks, I have to leave it to that party to explain.
QUESTION: Right, but if I could follow up. That being said, like, the announcement of the talks follows, like, you know, a lot of kind of high-level diplomacy in the region over the last, you know, few days. Can you cite any, you know, specific things that were discussed over the last few days that, you know, that you saw a positive result from?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's something that was decided over the last few days. It's something that's been a subject of continuing discussions and consultations among the parties to the talks about resumption and then about the dates for resumption.
Our Deputy Secretary, Mr. Armitage, was just in Asia, in China and in Japan. I think you asked me contacts with other parties. Certainly Assistant Secretary Kelly has just been out to East Asia, had contacts with the Koreans and the Japanese. Deputy Secretary Armitage just had meetings with the Chinese and the Japanese the last few days.
So that's part of this continuing process of consultation we've had that has sort of gradually brought us to this point. I can't cite any particular meeting or any particular substantive development that brought us to this point. It was a process that we've been working on carefully at a high level for some time. We've cooperated and worked with the Chinese in trying to prepare for another round of talks, and now it seems the North Koreans are ready to go.
QUESTION: Are you saying Armitage didn't go to Seoul to join Kelly there --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying that Armitage didn't go to Seoul because he was never planning on going to Seoul.
QUESTION: Oh, we heard different but that's all right.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Armitage was China-Mongolia-Japan. Kelly was Thailand-Korea-Japan.
MR. BOUCHER: They were joining up in Japan.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: That was the plan from the beginning.
QUESTION: You've been saying that North Korea for a long time had been insisting on preconditions. Have they then -- is it your understanding that North Korea has dropped any preconditions for these talks? And can I also ask, are you expecting a statement to come out of the -- the Beijing conference?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as North Korea's position on conditions, all I can tell you is that we did not agree to any preconditions to go to this round of talks. As far as a statement out of talks, we'll have to let -- see what happens in the talks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) prearranged agreement among the six that would be ratified at the agreement. Can you say anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: There was a lot of work on making this round productive, on potential outcomes for these talks, on how to get progress from this round, as the Secretary has said, to make it different. There was not agreement on a particular joint statement or any other matter in order to hold a round. We'll go to the round, we'll have the talks and we'll see what statement is appropriate at that point.
Okay. Let's go to the back. Michelle.
QUESTION: You talked -- you wouldn't say what is driving other countries. But what's driving the U.S. to get back in these talks? And is there a sense of urgency here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has always been committed to a diplomatic solution. The President made clear last year in Bangkok that we were prepared to take steps to achieve that, in terms of dealing with some of the security concerns North Korea might have, but that we needed to make sure that North Korea would verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program.
On that basis, we've been working very carefully for a long time to prepare another round of talks and cooperating and working with the Chinese to do that. So we've been saying for months now that we were ready to go to talks and prepared for early discussions. The reason we're agreeing to February 25th is because that's when the other parties are ready to show up.
We'll come back, Barry.
QUESTION: Let me confirm the U.S. position. Is it correct to say that the North Korean proposal for freeze of nuclear activities is not acceptable for the United States, even if it is a first step toward no nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on that. If they want to talk about a freeze, they can talk about a freeze, and we'll see where the -- if the discussion leads anywhere. What we have made clear is that a freeze is not our goal. A freeze is not elimination. North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, nuclear programs need to be eliminated. And so we do not have -- we're not seeking or asking for a freeze. We're looking for elimination of the programs.
QUESTION: Richard, there's speculation in Pakistan --
QUESTION: Can I stay on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we're staying on North --
QUESTION: No, it is part of the subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh.
QUESTION: The nuclear scientists there have been working in conjunction with the North Koreans. Do you expect that this is part of the aspect of those talks? And also, do you expect the IAEA to interrogate those scientists before February 25th?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as being part of the six-party talks, I don't think the sources of North Korea's nuclear technology are necessarily part of that, part of that decision. As you know, there's an investigation going on in Pakistan. President Musharraf, I understand, may be reporting to the Pakistani people soon on the status of that investigation. But no, that's where any information on Pakistan's relations of -- contacts with Pakistani scientists or other leaks of technology would come from.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about security assurances? Is the U.S. open-minded how they may be addressed? Is the U.S. prepared to be creative to somehow find a way to accommodate both the U.S. position and North Korea's position?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to throw around adjectives, but we --
QUESTION: How about pieces of paper? Can you throw them around?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to throw around pieces of paper either. Not here, not now.
The point I would make is the one that President has made before and the Secretary has made before, that we want to see North Korea eliminate the nuclear weapons program. Whatever reason they may have had such a program, it does not contribute to North Korea's security, nor to stability, nor to the future of the North Korean people. For a variety of reasons, it needs to be eliminated.
We can -- we understand, based on North Korean statements, that North Korea has some belief that they would have -- they would somehow make their security more vulnerable were they to do that, and we are prepared to address those concerns. The President has made clear we are prepared to address them in a multilateral manner which gets all the parties to the talks present able to provide some kind of assurance to North Korea, and we are prepared to do that in the context of North Korea's eliminating its nuclear weapons program. So that's what we'll be discussing.
QUESTION: Presumably, you've seen the KCNA report in which the North Koreans announced that they would go back -- that the talks would resume on the 25th.
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody has. I haven't, but --
QUESTION: Well, in that report, there was a North Korean official quoted as saying that the United -- that the resumption of the talks was possible because the United States had somehow softened its position. That's -- that would be incorrect, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to characterize our position or their position at this point. We have made clear we're willing to go to talks, willing to discuss all the issues.
QUESTION: Well, what's your response to the North Korean officials saying that the U.S. position has softened?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll characterize the U.S. position. He can characterize the North Korean position. I'm not going to get into characterizing his characterization of our position. I'll just tell you what it is.
QUESTION: Richard, I believe it was on December 9th the Secretary said that the North Korean freeze proposal was a positive step, and you're not saying anything positive today about that proposal as --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we said it was a positive step; it indicated some flexibility, words like that. Certainly, that's true. I've said we'll discuss it. We'll see where it leads. But our goal is to seek the elimination of the North Korean nuclear weapons program and so that's what we'll be looking for.
QUESTION: Has North Korea expressed to the United States, either directly or through other parties, just exactly what they perceive these security vulnerabilities to be vis-à-vis the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize them any more than I have. I think we have seen it in public statements. But I'd have to look back at the previous rounds of talks to see to what extent they might have discussed it there.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Kofi Annan?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember. Adi.
QUESTION: You said that you won't use financial compensation to get the North Koreans to do what they should have done long ago, but then you talked about investment programs. What exactly did you mean by that? You said it vis-à-vis other countries.
MR. BOUCHER: Other countries have -- South Korea has talked about investments in North Korea. That's all I'm saying.
QUESTION: So do you --
MR. BOUCHER: There are talks between South Korea and North Korea that are going on, I think actually this week, about various forms of cooperation. We've always supported that sort of process of opening up and of cooperation. We have supported all these issues being raised that different people have.
So we haven't blocked that process. Different countries have decided differently how and when they might proceed. But I think everybody has made clear to North Korea that the kind of benefits that they expect from opening up to the world, the kind of benefits that they expect from opening their economy, really can't be had if you're putting yourself at odds with the whole world by having a nuclear weapons program that scares everybody. And so I think those effects are actually widely seen.
If North Korea changes that, would there be some beneficial effect for North Korea? I suppose so. But the point that we have made is that in terms of ending the North Korean nuclear programs, having the IAEA safeguards, having the denuclearization of the peninsula, which North Korea has agreed to many times, we're not going to pay again for the same horse we bought before.
QUESTION: Now, I know we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but in reference to the World Food Program, do you see the United States, in this year, increasing its contribution to that vis-à-vis North Korea? You talked about investment programs. Perhaps this could be one way for the U.S. to, in this multilateral setting, invest?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't make too much of the word "investment." I didn't talk about U.S. investment. I said it's just an acknowledgement that other countries have investments in North Korea.
QUESTION: I know, I know.
MR. BOUCHER: (Inaudible.) I didn't -- I'm not proposing it, advocating it or leading you to believe that the United States is about to start something.
The humanitarian assistance programs, the food assistance programs, have been going on for some time. Those are programs to try to help the North Korean people because we recognize their dire needs. We have not tried to manipulate those for any political reason, as the various political fortunes and agreements have come and gone and relationships have gone up and down. If there's a real opportunity to help the North Korean, we've tried -- the North Korean people --we've tried to continue to help the North Korean people.
We do have to take into account the feasibility of tracking it, monitoring it, making sure the food reaches the intended recipients and things like that, and that was a subject of discussion yesterday between the Secretary and Mr. Morris of the World Food Program. They very much appreciate the contributions that we have made, including the 60,000 tons that we announced, I think it was Christmas Eve, or right before Christmas. And we continue to support the program. We hope others will as well.
Okay. Is it the same topic or something different?
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Some people in this city, or in this country, said the United States should shift their policy toward North Korea, toward a more tougher policy if you could not reach agreement in next session. I am wondering whether the United States is going to change your policy to be more stronger, like some like a more -- like a military action --
MR. BOUCHER: That'd be wildly speculative. I'm not going to speculate on the failure of the next round or what might happen afterwards at this point when we haven't even gone there to sit down and talk.
Second of all, I don't know who "some people" are. I suppose there's always some people that advocate this, that or the other. The President of the United States, the Secretary of State of the United States, have both said that we are committed to a diplomatic solution, that we intend to pursue with our partners in the international community a diplomatic solution to the problems created by North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and they have outlined how we are willing to do that and how we intend to do that. So those are the marching orders from the President of the United States and we do what he says.
QUESTION: Actually, Kofi Annan --
QUESTION: Just before -- this is very -- Kelly will lead the U.S. delegation? Is that the --
MR. BOUCHER: He's led the delegation in the past. I would expect that to be the case this time. I don't think we've set the details of who, what, when, where and -- well, we've set when, but --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it's not a bad assumption, though?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a bad assumption, no.
QUESTION: Kofi Annan -- perhaps after the White House meeting these questions will be answered, but can I ask you a few? The big issue, of course, is Annan sending the group there. The Romanian Foreign Minister said last night he thought they'd go in a few days.
Did he let you know when they'll go that you can tell us? And then I have, you know, a little more specific questions.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I wouldn't speak for him to be able to say when they're going to go. I don't think he gave us a precise timetable at this point.
As you know, there's a security group out there and the Secretary General himself has talked in public about having a political group go out in the coming days.
Certainly, the subject of Iraq was a matter that the Secretary and the Secretary General discussed today. The Secretary General talked about sending these teams out -- the security team, the political team. The Secretary of State said we look forward to hearing from them after they've had a chance to look at the situation, look forward to hearing your ideas about the kind of role that the United Nations can play, and made clear again that we welcome a role by the United Nations.
QUESTION: Is this an occasion for the Secretary to renew offers to do what the U.S. could do about the security of the UN people? Did he pitch again for the UN reopening there on a more permanent basis? These things?
MR. BOUCHER: Some of these things may be discussed at the White House during the course of the meetings there, so we didn't have to cover everything at the meeting here. I think the Secretary did say, of course, we will do everything we can in security to help make sure the people are safe or something like that.
QUESTION: All right. And on lesser issues, perhaps, helping finance the rebuilding of the UN, which looks in pretty good shape, to some of us, but may cost -- I think it's falling apart. Diplomats like a certain environment. Does the U.S. -- did he ask the U.S. to kick in and rebuild the crumbling United Nations? And what about --
MR. BOUCHER: When is the building from? It's the '50s, right?
QUESTION: Well, sure. I live in a building from 1912 and it's pretty good.
MR. BOUCHER: They don't build them like they used to.
QUESTION: Did that come up -- is there any change in the U.S. position as the budget takes shape?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we have -- this subject did come up briefly. We have made clear all along that we intended to support the United Nations as part of our support for the institution, for the work it does and for an effective United Nations. We have supported plans to renovate the New York headquarters. In this new budget, you will see that we have asked, we're asking our Congress to let us provide a loan for the full estimated cost of the UN plan.
QUESTION: To provide a loan or to back --
MR. BOUCHER: To provide a loan or -- let me --
QUESTION: I thought default insurance --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me get the details and see if it's a guarantee --
QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry to bother you with --
MR. BOUCHER: -- or if it's an actual --
QUESTION: -- that particular --
MR. BOUCHER: -- if it's the full money itself.
QUESTION: Because I thought the complaint was that you weren't going to do that, that you were going to provide default insurance.
MR. BOUCHER: The President's 2005 budget has provided for a practical way to move forward on the plan. We're offering to provide a loan to the United Nations for the full $1.2 billion estimated cost of the plan. This loan would bear interest at the current U.S. Treasury rate of about 5.5 percent, repayable over 30 years.
QUESTION: Well, that's pretty clear.
MR. BOUCHER: And of course, then, since all the UN members would pay for repayment of the loan, we would be paying 22 percent of the repayment cost as well.
QUESTION: So you just deduct that from your next -- from your -- out your contributions to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure how the accounting works. But the Treasury would break even on the loan over the long term.
QUESTION: Did he ask for -- can you say whether he asked for U.S. support for peacekeeping operations in Burundi and Ivory Coast?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't talk about Burundi. Again, many subjects have come up during the course of the day. They did talk a bit about the Ivory Coast and the work that's being under -- that's underway now to try to define what kind of role UN peacekeeping might play in helping the situation there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Kofi Annan --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Cyprus, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Cyprus.
QUESTION: I presume that was a major portion of the -- or at least a minor portion of the conversation?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a significant portion. It's always significant when Cyprus comes up. The Secretary today reiterated our full support to the Secretary General for his efforts on the Cyprus issue. He made clear that the United States continues to support at the highest levels the UN Secretary General's good offices mission for Cyprus and the role of the UN Secretary General as a facilitator in that process.
As you all know, we've been encouraged by the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gul have made clear in their meetings in Washington that there is a genuine willingness on Turkey's part to meet the UN Secretary General's requirements for resuming peace talks immediately.
The Secretary has made that point also to the Greek Cypriot president, that we're urging all the parties to commit to Secretary General Annan to meet his requirements to resume talks so that a settlement may be reached in time for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU on May 1st. So they discussed that somewhat today.
QUESTION: Any clearer idea of what Powell will be doing in this? Is he going to be calling all these sides, keeping the pressure up before that deadline?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Secretary's been discussing it with all the parties. He's had regular exchanges with various people on this subject for quite a while. And he'll continue, I think, to work actively on this in support of the Secretary General's efforts. And he made, as I said, again, clear today to the Secretary General our full support for his efforts and said that we would do -- he would do, we would do, whatever we could to support the Secretary General's efforts.
So conversations, phone calls, interventions, letters, whatever is appropriate to make -- to encourage the parties to move forward in the direction that the Secretary General has set for them.
QUESTION: Richard, with respect to the discussion here and also the discussions yesterday concerning the Haaretz interview with Prime Minister Sharon, apparently it's somewhat now semi-official that he would deliver land back to the -- or withdraw settlements, I should say, back from Gaza Strip and maybe exchange land in the West Bank. Now, one of the problems would be that this is made to stabilize the Israeli Government to the point where they may call for new elections. Would that, then, cause a delay in the so-called, Roadmap Peace Talks, and how do you foresee this?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- again, you're -- I'm not going to be drawn into speculation on Israeli politics. I think we've made clear that -- as Prime Minister Sharon has made clear -- that the roadmap is on the agenda, that we're looking for progress and movement down the path outlined by the roadmap. That requires Palestinian action against terror. It requires Israel to meet its obligations as well, and certainly movement on settlements, settlement outposts, settlement activity as defined in the roadmap and is committed as the Prime Minister has committed to.
Action on those points is important, and so I'm not going to speculate on things down the road, but you know, we'd certainly welcome action on settlements and the each -- the various commitments, the various points that the Israelis have made, and we look for their action on their obligations. But we also look for action from the Palestinians on their obligations, especially with regard to dismantling the infrastructure of terror.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Elise.
QUESTION: We know what the Palestinian obligations are in terms of cracking down on terror and those type of things, but I mean, what, specifically are the Israeli obligations that you're looking for them to meet, because it seems as if most of the actions they seem to be taking at this point are antithetical to the obligations that you said they were under the roadmap.
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen, over time, the Israeli commitment to the roadmap, to the steps in the roadmap. You can read those. There's a variety of things that we're looking for the Israelis to do.
The Israelis have also made commitments as far as removing roadblocks or easing travel or issuing work permits. We also look to Israel to carry out those commitments as well. All the parties have obligations and those are things that we continue to look for.
It's important, I think, that we try to make real movement on the ground. That obviously requires an end to the terror and violence as well, so in no way should our restating of one party's obligation be, you know, absolve the other of their primary obligation to remove the sources of terror and violence.
QUESTION: Richard, have you been informed by the Israelis now that Sharon has, in fact, ordered for this plan to be done to evacuate these settlements in Gaza?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there's been orders issued. I'd leave it to the Israelis to talk about that.
QUESTION: No, but I --
MR. BOUCHER: We've seen the discussion in Israel, I think, is about as far as I would go.
QUESTION: All right. Well, I'm -- just, I'm --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the government itself has said that it has a formal plan --
MR. BOUCHER: -- on how to go about this.
QUESTION: Well, I'm just kind of confused about your reaction. Yesterday you said that you looked for both sides to meet the commitments as they are outlined in the roadmap in the order that they were laid out. And so specifically related to withdrawing -- to evacuate, removing settlements from Gaza, is that a good -- I know that you said yesterday you don't want to -- you want to take it all as a whole. But is this, would this be consistent with Israel's obligations under the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: Action on settlements is consistent, is generally positive. But in terms of specific steps, the Prime Minister himself is committed to the roadmap. All -- many of these other steps that he's talked about are talked about in the context of if the roadmap doesn't work.
But he, himself, is committed to the roadmap, so you need to look first at the steps in the roadmap, which he is still committed to and we'd like to see him carry out.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MR. BOUCHER: And those are steps of dismantling outposts and ending settlement activity.
MR. BOUCHER: Would it be bad for them to do something in the longer run about settlements? No. But to get there, to get progress, we need to see the parties carry out their obligations of the roadmap. That's our view.
QUESTION: Well, you've always been opposed to unilateral steps by either side, but -- and I know we got into this when Sharon made his speech up in, in which he talked about this same thing but the Israelis seem to be under the impression, or some people in Israel seem to be under the impression -- mistaken or not -- that the United States would discourage evacuation of these settlements because, for -- as being a unilateral step. Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: We've gone around on this one before. We don't -- we're not looking for steps by the parties to prejudge final status issues. We know how important settlements are both in the immediate context and in the longer term, and so action, action on settlements can be an important part of the process. But if you look at what the action, the immediate actions on settlements are, they're things like the outposts and ending the settlement activity as outlined in the roadmap.
QUESTION: Could we --
MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am, please.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: Just one more on the settlements. So you don't -- you think it's okay for them to have actions on the settlements because that's a good thing, even if it is intended to prejudge a final settlement. I mean, the reason that he's evacuating these outposts seems to be because he's trying to make a unilateral settlement.
MR. BOUCHER: There may be aspects of unilateral action. There may be -- there are certainly unilateral -- I can't even say it -- there are certainly unilateral actions that we would be opposed to that do attempt to prejudge final status issues, that do attempt to impose a settlement. But I mean, we're speculating on things way down the road.
I guess our, you know, basic message on this is, it's good to consider, discuss what one can or might do about settlements, but to make progress, to make progress towards the vision the President has outlined, that the leaders have accepted; to make progress on the roadmap that the leaders have said they're committed to as the vehicle for moving forward, you need to do the things in the roadmap, and those are different things on settlements. But also, the Palestinians need to do the things in the roadmap and that's ending the violence.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, yesterday it was meeting between some members of the opposition and some State Department officials. It is possible to know more about this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Which country might we be talking about?
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry, Venezuela. And the second is, can we expect any new initiative from the United States, of a member of the Group of Friends of Venezuela, a member of the OAS, in support of to the recall referendum in Venezuela?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that specific meeting. I'll have to check and see what kind of meetings we've been having with people in Venezuela. We certainly meet frequently with all the various people involved in the situation in Venezuela. We always do encourage them to use constitutional mechanisms and peaceful means to achieve an end to the political turmoil there.
Our goal as a member of the Group of Friends and party to the OAS is to work with the other parties to try to get implementation of the OAS resolutions. So that's been the focus and will continue to be the focus of our efforts.
QUESTION: But there are some concerns on the current situation in Venezuela?
MR. BOUCHER: We're following it very closely. We have long been concerned about the political turmoil in Venezuela and have long urged the parties to work with the OAS and the other people who are involved to try to resolve these in a constitutional manner, in a peaceful manner, in a manner that meets the goals outlined in the OAS resolutions.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Middle East for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Can we go back to the Middle East for a second?
QUESTION: You can go, then, first. I'll wait.
MR. BOUCHER: Tammy.
QUESTION: On Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, Secretary Powell rather notably didn't repeat what he told The Washington Post yesterday when he came downstairs. He didn't talk about how, had the U.S. known that there weren't stockpiles, it would have affected the political calculus to go to war.
Has he changed his view since yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: He did repeat what he said yesterday, which is that --
QUESTION: But not that portion.
MR. BOUCHER: He did repeat what he said yesterday to The Washington Post, which was that Saddam's regime had every intention of maintaining weapons of mass destruction, was violating UN resolutions and deceiving international inspection regimes; that they had the capabilities and were trying to maintain the capabilities, trying to maintain a warm base, as he said; and that on that basis, it was the right thing to go to war.
So yeah, he answered a different set of questions yesterday and when asked about stockpiles, basically said that, obviously, we have to take into account the situation that we face when we make these decisions, that we make these decisions based on what's known at the time.
But even in hindsight, knowing that since the war the intentions of the regime, the widespread efforts at deception of the regime, the -- you know, David Kay says even it looks like some of the looting after the war was intentionally done to try to hide programs. And the efforts, the defiance, the maintaining of the capability -- that those things were quite solid basis for saying there's a danger there that we had to deal with, and that the President did decide and we had to deal with it.
QUESTION: Can you explain what exactly would have changed -- what changed or would have changed in the political calculus? What does that -- what does that mean?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's speculative on all our parts to say what -- you just deal with the information you have at the time.
QUESTION: Okay. But in that interview --
MR. BOUCHER: But I think he made clear outside today that he doesn't think it really would have changed the ultimate decision.
QUESTION: Okay. And just -- for the past couple weeks, or ever since Mr. Kay has been making his comments, the State Department appears to have accepted his finding that, thus far, no stockpiles have been uncovered. That's correct, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we accept the fact that, so far, no stockpiles have been uncovered.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Whether ultimately they will be or not, whether we'll find out what happened to the stocks that he has had in the past, that's a matter of having the Iraqi Survey Group and others continue their work.
QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that after -- you know, when his first report came out, you described the vial of botulinum that he found as a weapon of mass destruction. Does that no longer -- is that no longer your belief?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you're looking -- we didn't describe it as a stockpile.
MR. BOUCHER: We didn't describe a vial as a stockpile. I think there's a difference between those two words. I think generally what people have talked about in terms of stockpiles has been, you know, munitions dumps or locations where shells and weapons and rockets and things like that might be stored.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Libya. Can you talk about meetings between U.S., British and Libyan officials in London on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. We're having meetings on Friday in London between American -- U.S., U.K. and Libyan officials. This is the result of positive steps that Libya has been taking to eliminate all elements of its weapons of mass destruction programs and controlled classes of missiles. The meeting will be in London on Friday. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns will be traveling to London for these meetings.
As you know, a U.S. and U.K. team, working with the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, was in Libya in January to assist Libya in the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction programs. We expect a similar team will return soon to continue the work.
The President has made clear that Libya's recent actions to open the door to the possibility of better relations between the U.S. and Libya as the Libyan Government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, good faith will be returned.
The Libyan Government has taken several positive steps that reinforce their commitments of December 19th, including acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreeing to the removal of many thousands of pounds of sensitive materials related to Libya's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities, inviting International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to Tripoli, and expressing a willingness to conclude the additional protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards Agreement. So we welcome those developments.
As the Secretary said yesterday, now that we've seen a couple weeks of action on the removal and verification, it's appropriate to have a political dialogue on what lies ahead. The situation with Libya has fundamentally changed.
QUESTION: That's what London is, a political dialogue on what lies ahead?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, a dialogue on political issues.
QUESTION: It's not comparing notes on how to continue this --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there will be considerable discussion of how to continue, but there is also a political aspect to these discussions. That's why Assistant Secretary Burns will be going out.
QUESTION: Is there another load of parts due or coming -- documents, whatever?
MR. BOUCHER: As we send a new team out in, I guess, the near future, and sometime soon we'll send a new team out to Libya, again, U.S.-U.K. experts, working with the International Atomic Energy Agency, all of us working to help the Libyans meet the policy determination decisions that they have made to eliminate this program will be there helping, and, obviously, part of that help can include removing of materials for destruction where it might be safer or more appropriate to do that.
QUESTION: You said that as Libya demonstrates good faith, that good faith will be returned. And it seems as if Libya has demonstrated that good faith, so is part of this meeting to discuss what the next steps in terms of what the U.S. is going to do to reciprocate or reward Libya? I mean, do you think it's time for the U.S. to make some reciprocal gesture?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the United States has indicated that we do have flexibility as Libya moves forward, that we're able to move forward on some of the issues that Libya might be concerned about. So we'll look at the various aspects of our policy. As the President said, as they demonstrate good faith, good faith will be returned.
QUESTION: But they --
MR. BOUCHER: So as far as the discussions go with Libya, certainly the sort of overall process can be discussed, but some of these decisions we have to make based on our own law and based on whether or not Libya is fulfilling the conditions for us to remove the various pieces of sanctions or other things.
QUESTION: But so many of the sanctions, aren't they contingent on -- required by Libya being listed as a terrorist --
MR. BOUCHER: Some of them are, yeah.
QUESTION: So there's room to play apart from that list? It's been said recently that the U.S. isn't prepared to delist -- there's a word -- delist Libya. But there are other things you can do?
MR. BOUCHER: Who said that? I think we have always made clear --
QUESTION: An official in the government.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't --
QUESTION: No, no, I --
MR. BOUCHER: We've always made clear, I've always made clear from this podium that our goal is not to keep people on the list, but rather to take them off. And for many years now, we've said that countries like Libya need to take steps to end their relationships with terrorism.
QUESTION: Oh, sure.
MR. BOUCHER: We've made clear to those countries over various discussions what they need to do, and we've made clear that as countries do take those steps to end their relationship with terrorism that we would be prepared to take countries off the list.
QUESTION: Yeah. The list isn't an end of itself, of course not.
MR. BOUCHER: But they do -- that's one of those areas where, because of U.S. law and other requirements, they have to do certain things for us to be able to take the reciprocal step.
QUESTION: Have they done those things yet?
MR. BOUCHER: No, because if they had, we would have taken them off.
QUESTION: Can you describe some of the things -- I mean, is there a full list of here is what you have to do to get off of the state sponsors of terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear in the past, throughout our discussions with Libya, some of the steps that they needed to take. I'm not going to speculate, at this point, on how and when Libya might complete that process.
QUESTION: Is this something that they're asking about on Friday? I mean, is this --
MR. BOUCHER: It's certainly something we've talked to them about before. And when it comes to those particular sets of sanctions, I'm sure we're happy to explain why these various laws exist and what kind of steps from Libya in those areas might lead us to be able to lift various types of sanctions that are imposed for specific reasons.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) there was, in the Post, some word that perhaps you might be sending a diplomatic team to Tripoli to discuss next steps, in terms of that. Is there any decision made on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not sending a team to Libya to talk about -- not the political issues; those will be discussed in London. As we have had these various teams in Libya to help identify, verify and eliminate nuclear, biological and other weapons capabilities, we have had -- we have sent people in to work there to help facilitate those discussions, to help make arrangements, set up meetings, reach understandings on how and when things needed to be done and what needed to be done.
So I would expect that we might send other U.S. officials back to Tripoli later this month to support our experts on weapons of mass destruction, as we did with the previous group.
QUESTION: Is there expectation that once the removal of the WMD is out that some will -- some U.S. officials will remain to continue the contacts? Or is it kind of like you take all the WMD out, and then you decide what you're going to do? Or is there going to be some kind of lasting presence?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate at this point. I think we're going to take this one step at a time. We're going to do what has to be done next. We're going to try to show flexibility, as Libya moves down this road. We're willing to discuss with them the various things that need to be done and the various things that can be done. But I hesitate to stand here and predict exactly how it will all play out.
QUESTION: Richard, do you see what's going on in Libya as a potential model for other countries on the terrorist list such as Syria? And are there quiet conversations, perhaps, in that direction, as well, to try to broker some kind of better relationship?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- quiet conversations? No, we've been pretty vocal.
QUESTION: Can you update us on your secret diplomacy?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been pretty vocal about what Syria had to do to end its support for terrorism, to end the operations of violent groups that have been operating out of Syria, not just close the office but make it impossible for them to operate, and the material support, the financial support, and the shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. And so we've been quite clear, I think, both in public and in private, with Syria and what they needed to do to adapt to the changed situation.
The Secretary's trip last summer was very explicit on a number of issues, pointing out to the Syrian leadership that the situation had changed and that we thought it was time for Syrian policy to change in many of these areas. That's a conversation we've continued to pursue with the Syrians through occasional visits by people like Assistant Secretary Burns and through regular contacts from our embassy.
We just sent a new ambassador out to Syria, Ambassador Margaret Scobie, and she'll be continuing to pursue those possibilities to see if Syria is really willing to move on some of those points.
As far as the Libyan model, I think if you look back at what the President said on December 19th, particularly about weapons of mass destruction, but I think, more generally, in terms of Libya's willingness to correct its relations with the world and how that was a model, that we did intend to return good faith as it was shown by the Libyans, and that others should learn from that example, that they get more for their people and more for their nation and more for their security by living in harmony with other countries rather than developing these kinds of threats.
QUESTION: Are you intending to rule out political talks to Libyans in Tripoli?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Do you mean eventually, some time down the road? No, I just was asked if we were sending a group there for -- to be there for talks with the Libyans. And I just wanted to make clear that we are considering sending a group there, in connection with the experts and the arrangements, but that particular group is not going for political discussions.
QUESTION: Richard, Taiwan's President Chen has said that he's looking for a "DMZ-type fallback" between they and China. In other words, a demilitarization through the straits, and a pronounced program to bring down, I guess, weapons on each side. Are you having any impact with both China and Taiwan in those discussions?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that they have started any discussions on that. I think there has been an idea proposed.
QUESTION: It's a proposal. Right.
MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly always promoted the idea of peace and stability across the Straits. It's made clear repeatedly that lowering of tensions has been in our interest and the interests of people in China, promoting their continuing opening up, as well as the continued prosperity of Taiwan's democracy.
Ideas like this, when they're proposed by one side, they really need to be discussed between the two sides. So we've always supported dialogue and discussions as the best way to address the various issues across the Strait, including the level of tensions.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Middle East for one second? Yesterday you couldn't answer this question, but I'm wondering about the status of the Israeli request to delay the release of the Human Rights Reports.
MR. BOUCHER: We are preparing the Human Rights Report on schedule, on time.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
MR. BOUCHER: It's due -- legislatively, the law was changed. It's due on February 25th --
MR. BOUCHER: -- and that's what we're working towards.
QUESTION: So there'll be -- and that will be the entire report and not -- with no sections omitted, when that goes up to the Hill and is made public?
MR. BOUCHER: We're working to prepare and report to our Congress, as required, the entire report, nothing omitted.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you given the Israelis that response?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly where the Israeli contact was made. I've asked a couple people who said they didn't hear. So I don't know if we've actually responded directly, but I think we've made clear both yesterday and today that we were going to go ahead with the report the way it was required.
QUESTION: That it was -- it won't be delayed. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: We had one more in the back. I'm sorry. Sir.
QUESTION: Yes, on the visit of China's Director of Taiwan Affairs, Chen Yunlin.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has he met anyone -- any U.S. official yet? And if so, could you brief on that, especially particularly on the referendum?
MR. BOUCHER: We talked a little bit about it yesterday. As far as the exact status of meetings, I'll just have to check and see. The meeting with Under Secretary Grossman, I think, was supposed to be yesterday, right? Does anybody remember? We'll double-check for you on that, okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
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