State Department Noon Briefing, September 29, 2003
September 29, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2003
12:10 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any particular statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have anything interesting to say in response to the various comments of the Iranian Foreign Minister yesterday about their intentions vis-à-vis their nuclear programs?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the most interesting things to say will be to say when Iran accepts the obligations that many other countries have accepted, when Iran signs the additional protocol, answers the questions of the IAEA. And we think they should do that, obviously, in accordance with the timetable of the most recent IAEA resolution, which is to do that October 31st.
Failure to comply would obviously have to lead to referral to the United Nations. It's at this point, however, that Iran has been given an opportunity to satisfy the concerns of the international community to disclose information about its program and to enter into the kind of arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency that many other countries have entered into.
I think that kind of got -- see if there's anything more we need to say. No, that's about it. Okay, other questions?
QUESTION: When you talk about referral to the UN, does that imply that you would look for some kind of -- the imposition of some sort of sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: It implies that we would refer the question to the UN Security Council for whatever action the UN Security Council then felt it was appropriate. Let's take this step-by-step. If the International Atomic Energy Agency Director either reports noncompliance or can't confirm that they have not diverted nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes, then that would constitute evidence of noncompliance and so the Board, the IAEA Board, would be obligated to report noncompliance to the Security Council. At that point, what the Security Council does about it would be a question for the Security Council.
QUESTION: What would you like to see?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. One step at a time. It's time for Iran to comply with the questions it's been asked, to answer the questions it's been asked, and to comply with the obligations that, as I said, many other countries have accepted.
QUESTION: Do you think, Richard, the Council will be more responsive to such a referral than it has been to the referral to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: You guys are going two months down the road. I'm trying to take the next sort of six weeks in mind and say it's time for Iran to comply. Let's see if it goes to the Council, let's see when it goes and what we do there. But I don't want to start leaping off into space right now. Let's keep the emphasis where it belongs, particularly with the IAEA in contact with the Iranians, and that is on Iranian compliance with the demands, with the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governor resolution.
QUESTION: Jumping into space -- do you have any comment on China's --
QUESTION: Oh, wait, wait.
QUESTION: Are you still on Iran?
QUESTION: Yeah, but it's a different subject, a different Iran subject.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about the closure of a reformist newspaper in Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: In Iran?
QUESTION: Or the suspension of one?
MR. BOUCHER: Our information is that the Iranian judiciary has closed a leading reformist daily for publishing -- from publishing for ten days. Obviously, the United States supports the principles of free speech and free press. We regard them as standards for all nations that aspire to democracy and international acceptance.
We view with concern the Iranian judiciary banning a reformist publication simply for not placing prominently a judiciary statement.
We have always said that Iranians have a right to determine their own destiny; that we support their aspirations to live in freedom. We hope the voice of the Iranian people and their call for democracy and the rule of law will be heard and help transform Iran into a force for stability in the region.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Chinese preparations for a manned space flight?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, obviously, it's -- a Chinese --
QUESTION: A stunning event --
QUESTION: Was that NASA?
QUESTION: That was a stunned reaction.
MR. BOUCHER: It shows you how excited we are about it.
A Chinese manned space flight would obviously be an important event in space launch history and we wish them every success and we wish their astronauts a safe return.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns that it might have military implications?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything right now.
QUESTION: Currently, the U.S. has missile technology control regimes, and other export controls regulations prevent the transfers of, like, space launch technology to China. And we know that in May, State Department imposed a $32 million fine on Boeing for supplying China the rocket and satellite data. Can you tell us the U.S. policy in this area?
MR. BOUCHER: U.S. policy has been and will continue to be to meet international standards ourselves with regard to what we might sell, and to look to China to meet international standards with regard to missile exports.
It's important to us that all nations in the world cooperate and prevent nations from acquiring missile technology that can improve their ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction and other armaments at great distances. So there is an international control regime that we participate in, and that we have looked to China to apply -- the regime -- or at least similar restrictions to that.
China said numerous times it would do so. Where we have found that China has not done so or Chinese firms have exported materials that would contravene China's own stated intentions, we have also imposed sanctions and restrictions under U.S. law, and will continue to follow our law.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the potential for the U.S. and China to cooperate in the manned space exploration?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can comment on that at this point. I'd have to leave that to NASA or somewhere else.
Sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Same area, different issue.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan announced over the weekend that should he be reelected next year, he would push for a new constitution. Do you have any U.S. reaction to this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to react to the individual campaign statements, or what -- how this will proceed in Taiwan's politics. Obviously, we won't take a position on domestic politics. We have taken a position on some of these issues that we believe are fundamental to stability in the Taiwan Strait.
We noted in August of 2000, that President Chen pledged not to declare independent, not to change the name of Taiwan's government, not to add state-to-state theory to the constitution, and not to promote a referendum that would change the status quo on independence or unification.
We have expressed our support and appreciation for that pledge in 2000, and his subsequent reaffirmations of it. And we would take it -- we continue to take it very seriously.
QUESTION: Was the United States made known of this -- of his announcement beforehand, and are you urging China to exercise restraint? And also, does this have any impact on U.S.-Taiwan relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I would, again, describe our policy the way I described our policy. I don't know whether they told us about what he was going to say or not, but to some extent, we have to leave the political ramifications to people in Taiwan. Our position, I think, is clear, that President Chen has said these things, and that we continue to take them seriously and believe they should be adhered to.
QUESTION: Have you talked to China about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's come up with China either. Sorry.
QUESTION: New topic. The loan guarantees to Israel. I believe a determination is due to Congress tomorrow on how much the loan guarantees would be reduced for settlement activity. How much will they be reduced?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't have an answer for that one yet.
QUESTION: Do you know --
QUESTION: Will there be one tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect we'll have an appropriate answer at an appropriate time. I just can't promise exactly when.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, do you intend to meet the deadline of tomorrow for this?
MR. BOUCHER: We always intend to meet deadlines.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to think that you might have to -- it might have to be delayed because it's not -- the decision's not ready?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact status of this. I'm just not going to promise it for a briefing tomorrow when tomorrow is such a long day that goes all the way till the end of the day.
QUESTION: What are we talking about here? Is it settlement or settlement plus --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, those are issues that are being considered.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. So does that mean you're leaving open the possibility of hitting them twice -- once for the fence and once for settlements?
MR. BOUCHER: We're leaving open the possibility of making an appropriate decision at an appropriate time. I'm not going to go beyond that today.
QUESTION: What, in both areas?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going beyond that today, Barry. I'm not trying to define it any further than we have in the past.
QUESTION: A different subject.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister-designate of the Palestinian Authority has suggested some names for his cabinet, most of whom appear to be very close allies of your favorite, Mr. Arafat. I'm wondering if you -- if you think that his choices -- I recognize they haven't been submitted yet formally, but if his -- what his -- the people he appears to be choosing will constitute the kind of government that the Secretary talked about on Friday and that others -- as a government that's genuinely committed to fighting terrorism.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think it will surprise you that I'm not going to start commenting the personalities and the people involved from the government.
QUESTION: Except for the top guy?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't commented that much on Abu Ala'a, on Qurei.
QUESTION: No, on his boss. You've talked plenty about Mr. Arafat before, so --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we have talked about Mr. Arafat. I don't think he's a member of this government, at least the reports that I've seen.
QUESTION: Well, how about statements by former officials? Mr. Dahlan's remarks?
QUESTION: Okay. Well, how about just answering --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's answer one question at a time.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought you weren't going to answer it. It seemed clear you weren't.
QUESTION: You're leaving open the possibility, then?
QUESTION: Maybe I'm just --
MR. BOUCHER: You guys talk among yourselves for a while, okay? When it's time for me, somebody tell me.
QUESTION: Time. Time.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into talking about specific ministers or personalities involved. I don't think we did that when the last government was formed. I'm not going to do that when this government is formed.
We have made clear, as you mentioned, that the new Prime Minister must be empowered to act decisively to end terror and violence, needs to be committed to move forward in a sustained manner on institution building and reform that will benefit all Palestinians.
The issue is terror. The issue is ending terror. And what we're looking to is to see what the government will do in that regard. We're also looking to see what the government has in terms of the ability and the authority to carry out that fact, to carry out that program, and it must have control of all security forces.
So we need to see, as we've said before, the commitment, the intention, the authority and the resources to combat terror. And that's how we will judge any government that's formed.
QUESTION: To quote it correctly, the former Security Minister -- I guess he is now Interior Minister -- Mr. Dahlan, said that the Palestinians were not better off, in fact, were not as well off -- or worse off -- after the Intifada than they were before. If that's a correct quote, do you have a -- is that something you think is about right?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to comment on individual statements, but we have certainly talked about our view in the past, which is that the violence is not getting the Palestinian people anywhere; in fact, it's made them less safe, along with making Israelis less safe; and that the path to a Palestinian state is the path that's outlined in the roadmap, it's the path to building institutions and fighting terror.
QUESTION: Yeah, just -- I need to go back to this talking about you're not commenting on personalities, because although you say that you don't and haven't in the past, that's just not true. I mean, the President has come out over and over again, talking about how the Palestinian Finance Minister is a wonderful guy, and how he, at least on three separate occasions within the space of about five days, talked about how putting the Palestinian budget on the internet was a great -- was a great and wonderful thing. You guys have talked about Dahlan. You've talked about --
MR. BOUCHER: We've talked about individuals in government and the steps that they have taken. I think we've done that with other governments as well. But in terms of who they choose to put in their cabinet, it's not the exist -- the presence of -- we don't talk about cabinet choices. We talked about cabinet ministers and what they do, and I expect we'll do that in the future, as they do things. What's important now is to see that they're prepared to move forward against terror.
QUESTION: Well, are you suggesting then that once these people are actually formally submitted and named, then you might be prepared to talk about whether --
MR. BOUCHER: Once these people start doing things, we'll comment on what they're doing.
QUESTION: Or not doing things?
MR. BOUCHER: Or not doing things. We'll comment on what they're not doing.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay?
QUESTION: Can I jump in real quick? You'll say this is looking too far down the road. Whoever they name, will the Administration -- remember how the point the Secretary made repeatedly last week, is that until you have a Palestinian government, you know, we can't move ahead.
Now, whoever the government is, whoever is named to the government, does the Administration intend to prompt or prod the two parties to try to get started at that point, or do you have to, sort of, evaluate these guys, their past records, and think about it a little? In other words, are you ripe for action now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we're looking for action. We're always looking for action. We've actually kept in touch with the two sides, even as this process of government formation has gone on. As you know, there was an Israeli delegation in Washington last week. Ambassador Wolf had been out in the region; he's back in Washington now. But he continued his meetings. Ambassador Kurtzer and the Acting Consul General have kept up their meetings.
So we will continue to prod the two sides, to push the two sides to move on the important issues. And as soon as the Palestinians form a cabinet, we will be looking to them to start taking the actions necessary to end terror, and we'll also be looking for the Israelis to take actions that can create the environment for progress.
QUESTION: Moving on to Iraq, I recall that the Secretary said over the weekend that the United States would have a new version of its Iraq resolution ready within a few days, I think. Is that the kind of timescale you're still thinking of this morning? And can you give an indication of how far, how close that is? Is it a few days --
MR. BOUCHER: It's four hours closer, I think, this morning. But that is the kind of timetable we still have. We're still looking to put together elements of a resolution, to put together a resolution the United States can start sharing with other governments. The discussion is, I guess, underway within the Department and the U.S. Government.
I think a lot of what we heard over the course of the last week is going to be factored into this resolution. Remember, the President had meetings; the Secretary had a multitude of meetings where this resolution and the subject of Iraq was discussed. The President had meetings with President Putin Friday and Saturday. So we will factor all that into a new text.
The goal, I think, is to respond in some ways to the desire of other governments to have a sense of the political horizon, a sense of movement and momentum towards that political horizon, towards that political process that we all want, that will transfer full authority for Iraqi sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And so we'll be making appropriate modifications to the text.
QUESTION: So you're pretty confident that you'll have that ready this week, and be able to circulate it?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a specific date, and I can't say --
QUESTION: Next week?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a specific timetable, whether it's this week or next week. But we are looking to do that in the next few days. Whether we formally table it, circulate it in the Council, or we just use it to start talking to other governments, again, I can't promise exactly how we'll handle it. But we should be ready to go back to other governments within the next few days to talk about the resolution, and to give them some idea of modifications of text.
QUESTION: Could you give us a bit more detail about how it would differ from the previous one?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, not until we put it together.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary seemed to imply when he was talking yesterday that you would like this done before a vote. You would like it adopted and some kind of action before Madrid. Is that -- that is correct, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'd like to get this done as soon as we can get the maximum possible support for the resolution, but I can't give you a specific date for a vote, or timetable for a vote at this point.
QUESTION: Well, would it be easier, do you think, for other countries to pony up in Madrid, if the resolution was passed by then?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, certainly, having it before Madrid would make Madrid work a lot easier and a lot better.
QUESTION: How are your fundraising efforts going so far at Madrid?
MR. BOUCHER: The effort at encouraging other donors is one that's directed at Madrid. It's not one that does a daily tally or has a thermometer on the wall somewhere that goes up with each contribution. It's a process of discussion with other governments. It's a process of continued consultation and discussion among the donors group that has met many times.
And it's a process of working through the meetings we had last week, with the contacts our ambassadors have, to encourage governments to look at what they can contribute. But we'll know when we get to Madrid how successful those efforts have been. I can't give you a judgment at this point.
QUESTION: Has no one yet -- has anyone yet made commitments other than the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there have been some other commitments, I think. But the point is I am not sure we have heard the end of those commitments. I mean, I don't think whatever has been committed so far, even from specific donors, we would want to take as the final answer. We'll always be looking for more substantial commitments.
The other thing to remember -- and this is one of the things the resolution does -- is it helps the international financial institutions kick in their ability to help and their ability to contribute. And they're still in the process of finishing up their assessments of need.
QUESTION: I thought the International Monetary Fund could not loan except to a sovereign authority, and therefore, you would need a government recognized as a sovereign government before they could actually lend any money.
MR. BOUCHER: There are legal issues involved, but certainly we know that having a resolution would help that process.
QUESTION: And one last one on this. Ambassador Bremer was quoted as having told the House International Relations Committee last week that your expectations were for something like $2 billion, about a tenth of the $20 billion that the President has asked Congress for. Does that reflect a realistic expectation?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not put out any particular number ourselves. I don't know what context he might have expressed that in, but no, we have not put out any particular number ourselves.
QUESTION: Richard, another thing that Ambassador Bremer mentioned was that the Administration would take a look at this proposal which some members of Congress were floating that you essentially make loans to Iraq which they'd pay back later or you use the oil reserves as collateral for reconstruction aid. Is this -- was he just being polite, or are you seriously considering that possibility? Would you have a policy on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure if he said we will take a look at it that we will take a look at it. The Secretary has pointed out, I think, in his appearances over the weekend the drawbacks of saddling Iraq with further debt or, indeed, tying their future ability to invest, themselves, in their own future to additional constraints.
So we have submitted a plan, the Administration has, that calls for grant assistance and investment in Iraq. And that remains the Administration proposal that the Secretary has supported and defended.
QUESTION: Okay, but just to clarify that. Do -- you're not prepared to rule out, categorically, the idea of mortgaging oil reserves or whatever they -- securitizing, I think is the term --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be in a position here to start negotiating the terms of legislation. We have put forward legislation. The Secretary has supported that legislation. He has given the reasons for which that legislation is crafted the way it is, and the considerations that we went through, in terms of why we are proposing investment assistance and grant assistance.
QUESTION: Do you intend to raise the question of debt relief with Iran's biggest creditors -- international -- Iraq's biggest creditors? Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it will be at Madrid. It's certainly a subject of discussion already among the donor group, among people involved in the process. So how it will proceed from here, I'll have to check and see what the steps might be, in terms of looking at the debt burden now, looking at possible reschedulings.
QUESTION: Do you care to have something to say about the persistent threats against Musharraf -- cropped up over the weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not quite sure what you're talking about so --
QUESTION: All right. All right.
MR. BOUCHER: -- no, I don't right now.
QUESTION: It's been all over the airwaves. I don't know if it's been in the papers. But no, these figures who leave tapes around -- and, in this case --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the new tape?
MR. BOUCHER: I think one is still being studied, though. I don't think I'll have a comment at this point.
QUESTION: Being studied for -- for being -- for whether it's authentic?
MR. BOUCHER: To try to figure out what it is, and who made it, and when they made it, and that sort of thing.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, it's no surprise that al-Qaida types would do that. They frequently threaten just about everybody in the world, everybody in the Middle East, everybody that's working with the United States, as well as the United States, so not too surprising that al-Qaida doesn't like anybody much from anywhere.
QUESTION: Speaking of which, the Department put out another Worldwide Caution Friday night, and updating it, I believe, to add threats against maritime interests.
MR. BOUCHER: That was a minor -- one might call it a technical fix, since I think it belonged there in the last one and it got dropped.
What it basically did was we had put out a Worldwide Caution around September 11th, and we wanted to reissue it taking out the surrounding -- it's essentially the same kind of advice to Americans, but we didn't want them to think that because September 11th period was over that somehow all that advice was no longer valid or had expired.
The same kind of threats, the same kind of caution needs to be exercised by American travelers, as it was around the period of September 11th. So I think, basically, what we did is we reissued it without centering it on the September 11th date.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, though, there were threats in Yemen, the -- a Warden's Message was sent out that said that the Yemeni Government had passed along information that Americans may be under new threats in Yemen -- or all foreign interests actually, not just Americans.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's right. The Embassy provided a warden message on the 28th, saying that they received new information from the Yemeni Government regarding a potential new threat to foreign-affiliated Yemeni targets, advised Americans to review and update their security procedures, and to take exceptional precautions.
The Embassy will continue to work with resident Americans in Yemen, and they're having Warden meetings with the wardens who help them work with the American community. As far as our general advice to Americans who might be considering travel to Yemen, we advise against nonessential travel.
QUESTION: Is there another caution out about mice? I wondered --
QUESTION: I'd like to stick to Yemen.
QUESTION: Do you know how many American citizens are in Yemen roughly, round numbers?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I don't.
QUESTION: Just to get rid of the Worldwide Caution thing, can you tell us -- to your knowledge, there is no -- there was no new information about threats to maritime interests that led to that?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It was a view of a continuing threat to maritime interests, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, on Yemen, staying on that. Can you be a bit more specific about this, sir? Can you link to al-Qaida, for example?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I'm sorry. Since it was information passed from the Yemeni Government, anything more about what the nature of the information or the threat would have to come from them.
QUESTION: Is there any -- so what is the status of dependents and non-essential -- non-emergency personnel? Are they back in Yemen now or -- I forget. Is there any thought about changing it or closing the Embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have anything new. I thought that would be in here, but I guess I'll have to check on that one for you.
QUESTION: Richard, how much does the -- we're coming up to a period in Yemen, the anniversaries of two pretty devastating attacks -- well, one very devastating attack against the USS Cole, which was on October 12th, and then two years later, on October 6th, almost the two-year anniversary, there was the attack on the French tanker.
Does that play into your thinking at all, in terms of security -- the security situation in Yemen?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the point is that there has been a security situation, a serious one, in Yemen for some time. We have warned people to defer non-essential travel, and our Embassy has worked very closely with the local community. What this new information relates to, I just can't go into. But obviously it's an ongoing threat and the fact that these anniversaries are coming up -- I don't know if you say it heightens, but it is part of that ongoing threat.
QUESTION: You have an alert out about mice? Is it too early to ask if this has produced any results? Are people setting traps all over the building? Is this worth a column?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't really followed the mouse situation, and I'm not aware of any, personally aware, of any sightings of the annual fall mouse migration that we warned about in our Department Notice.
QUESTION: I mean, I didn't want to start a daily temperature taking, but I thought I'd ask every now and then.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave you to -- you can scour the corridors and see if you can find any. I'm sure that would be a useful use of your time.
QUESTION: Oh, yes. Well --
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't have the opportunity to do much of that myself.
QUESTION: I'm going to have to watch TV to get it, anyhow.
MR. BOUCHER: Adi.
QUESTION: In reference to foreign contributions, or more foreign contributions for support in Iraq, yesterday Secretary Powell indicated that it looked very unlikely that the Indians would provide any troop support -- fairly highly unlikely. Have the Pakistanis or Bangladesh or the Turks issued any sort of, any sort of similar Shermanesque statements to the Americans regarding --
MR. BOUCHER: Shermanesque?
QUESTION: You know.
MR. BOUCHER: Shermanesque? Is that a reference to peanuts? The -- I think he also sort of updated people on the state of play in regards to the others who we have been talking to, if you look at what the Secretary said yesterday.
We had discussions last week with a number of governments. Our embassies have ongoing discussions. Many of them are considering our request. They're also looking to see what happens with the resolution. And if I remember correctly, the Secretary said most of them want to see what does happen with the resolution before making their final decision and evaluating how they would proceed in their political process for any troops they might be able to provide.
QUESTION: Richard, not to split hairs, are these, please -- but, the point was made by the White House at the UN last week that the President had not made any request in all his meetings for contributions of troops, that he hadn't asked anybody. Are requests now being made afresh on the basis of an emerging resolution, or is it a longstanding U.S. request for all the assistance you could hope to get?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a longstanding U.S. request. I mean, we've -- at least, I think we've talked about this over the last, you know, three to six months about how we've gone to other governments and said, "What can you contribute?" I think we've got, what, 31 other countries that are there already. So many have felt able to come without it.
Some who considered it said, "You know, we'd like to go, but we need a UN resolution or some other form of international request or approval." And so it's been an ongoing process.
These countries are certainly well aware of our desire. The countries are also -- we're also well aware of their consideration. A lot of the Secretary's meetings were used just for them to update us on where they stood in their consideration and their political process. As the Secretary said, most of them want to see what's in the resolution, so you might say it's not quite time to bring in your closer yet.
QUESTION: Did the President, himself, in his meetings ask for financial contributions, or is that something that was also --
MR. BOUCHER: That's something you'd have to ask the White House. I don't remember if they addressed that or not.
QUESTION: Yes, do you have something on the meetings between -- among the U.S., Japan and the South Korea being held in Tokyo?
MR. BOUCHER: Assistant Secretary Kelly is in Tokyo. He's having informal consultations with his colleagues from Japan and South Korea. I think they met over dinner last night and they'll be having meetings during the course of -- well, they met over dinner tonight -- Monday night -- and they'll have meetings over the course of Tuesday.
QUESTION: And is this meeting going to have, like, a possible date for the next round of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: The possible date for the next round of talks is really something that's in the hands of the Chinese. The Chinese have been working on that. Clearly, all of us will keep in touch with the Chinese to see how we can continue to cooperate with them as they try to set the next date.
QUESTION: There's a report regarding the new bill is being discussed on the Capitol, U.S. Capitol, regarding the -- to provide $200 million to support of the refugees, North Korea refugees, and to promote democracy in North Korea. And do you have any, like, comments on --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've taken a position on that legislation yet. I'll try to check. You might also check the White House's web site, which has Administration positions on legislation. I haven't had a chance to check that one.
QUESTION: And according to the report, that this bill going to be passed within, I think is, within October -- next month. And is any something you would like to say? A comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I would like to say that let's all look and see if we've taken a position on the legislation, and if so, I'll give it to you.
QUESTION: I just want follow up on this issue on the -- this weekend Korean Foreign Minister Yoon and also Russian President Putin, they emphasize the necessity of more details on the security assurance. Can I interest your position right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any more details for you at this point on what we might be prepared to do as regards to any concerns North Korea could have about security. We've addressed that in public. The President has addressed that in public in the past. Nothing new at this moment.
QUESTION: Have you decided what you make of the shift of Aung San Suu Kyi from her undisclosed location to the hospital and to house arrest?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we do understand that she is at her residence now. Over the weekend, a group of diplomats, including officials from the U.S. Embassy, sought to communicate with her doctor near her residence. That communication was blocked by Burmese officials. In addition, our Embassy submitted a request to the Burmese Government to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. We have not had access to her since before the May 30th attack on her convoy. We would like to see her at the earliest possible time; however, we've had no response to that request.
As I think we've made clear over time, and we reiterate today, we remain very concerned for her and for other political prisoners currently under detention in Burma. We reiterate our calls, and those of the international community, for the junta to lift all restrictions on her and her supporters immediately, and to release all other political prisoners.
QUESTION: Richard, can you elaborate on that? On how the members of the -- the officials from the Embassy tried to speak to her doctor? Did they wait for him, then walk up to him, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a play-by-play. They went down to a place near her residence in order to meet with him, and they were not allowed to do so. I don't know the actual --
QUESTION: I understand that there were some diplomats, and some journalists as well, who were able to speak to her personal physician, whose name I can't recall of the top of my head. Is this --?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm told that we were blocked in communicating with him --
QUESTION: But was it just, just a group with a U.S. diplomat, and there was no --
MR. BOUCHER: Whether this was one group that wasn't able to -- I'll have to see if there was one group that was able to and one group that was not. But certainly, we were not able to.
QUESTION: Were there security forces that physically prevented the diplomats from going in, or -- do you know what --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have a graphic description of the events. I don't know the exact play of events.
QUESTION: Is it -- the fact that she has been released from an unknown location into a hospital, and now to her residence -- does this constitute a real change at all in her situation, in your mind, or is it -- I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would say it's not a significant change in terms of her overall freedom, and her overall ability to participate in the political process in this country that needs one so badly. So no, as long as her freedom is restricted fundamentally, the circumstances under which she and her supporters operate have not changed.
We'll have to see if there's more information, more ability to visit her now that she's at her residence, but our understanding is that she is still cut off from other people, cut off from the outside world, cut off from the ability to talk to people. And what we've seen so far with the doctor, and then the lack of response to our request to see her ourselves, does kind of indicate that fundamentally, her circumstances have not changed.
QUESTION: When you say political prisoners -- you may have said this before -- but the number of political prisoners in Burma right now, do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check. There were some very limited releases over the last year and a half. After May 30th, there were additional arrests, so I don't know where we put the current total.
QUESTION: You wouldn't be tossing around a number like 1,500 or --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, something in -- I just don't have an updated figure, actually, for the last few months.
George, you had one?
QUESTION: On the same.
MR. BOUCHER: Going back. Matt.
QUESTION: I just wanted to -- did you file any kind of formal complaint or a protest over this blocking of access, or did you and the group of others who -- well, deliver some kind of joint protest to them?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if we did. I don't know.
QUESTION: I mean, but, as far as you're concerned though, them blocking your access to her doctor was not, was not kosher, was not okay; it was not an okay thing to do?
MR. BOUCHER: It was not okay. Yeah. Or kosher. Or halal, or any other appropriate designation.
QUESTION: The Secretary is giving a speech today, as you well know, before an Arab group -- Arab and American group, I guess. Can you preview at all what he's going to talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: Promise to listen anyway, even if I tell you what it's about? The Secretary's speech, I'd say, is a comprehensive look at the Middle East for an Arab-American, Arab and primarily business-oriented audience. He's going to Detroit because of this major conference, the U.S.-Arab Economic Conference, that's being held there.
And it's a chance to talk to them, I'd say, generally, about the process of change in the region, about, obviously, the big issues: how we can further the process of change and stabilization in Iraq through the investment that we've looked for; how we can try to get moving on the Middle East peace process; issues such as Iran; but also, more fundamentally, how the United States can contribute to reform, and support people that are trying to bring about change in this region.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. Sorry, Joel.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:50 p.m.)
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