Thursday, November 30, 2006

Asia Roundup for State Dept Press Briefing Nov. 27, 28, & 29

Here’s the Asia crop from the State Department press briefings of Nov. 27, 28, and 29, 2006.

Most of the Asia-related talk was back-and-forth on Asst. Secretary Hill’s discussions in Beijing and whether the Six-Party Talks could resume in mid-December.

My uninformed guess is that North Korea is holding out for lifting of the Banco Delta Asia sanctions before it commits to return to the talks. Which is another way of saying they don’t expect a lot of progress or meaningful concessions from the United States after they rejoin the talks, so Pyongyang will try to get what they can out of negotiating conditions for their return to the talks.

There was an interesting question concerning the U.S.-India nuclear agreement that I’ll blog on later. And things are heating up in Burma with the shutdown of the International Red Cross office.

I don't have the heart to reproduce the full blah blah blah for three days, much of it along the lines of this exchange from Nov. 28:

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. As a matter of fact, the meeting -- there's another meeting that is -- it's planned at this point for tomorrow where he would -- it would follow the same pattern where you'd have interaction with the Chinese and then likely with the North Koreans as well. QUESTION: Well, can I -- QUESTION: So in other words, three-way and then two-way? MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, in theory, that's the way -- yeah, that's the way that it worked today. He had a meeting -- I don't know if he -- I'll check for you.

So I've posted only the parts I found interesting.

First, Nov. 29:

QUESTION: Are the '05 financial sanctions against North Korea still a sticking point? MR. CASEY: You mean the Banco Delta Asia measures? QUESTION: Yes. MR. CASEY: Well, again, as we have said previously, we know this is something that's of concern to the North Koreans and we've talked about establishing a working group in which, you know, we would be able to discuss those issues in the context of the six-party talks. But you know, I assume that's still a valid issue and concern of theirs and, again, we have a proposal in terms of how we would be able to address those.


QUESTION: With the sanctions on North Korea, can you give us a list specifically of what some of the luxury items that have been banned?
MR. CASEY: Well, I do know that as part of our efforts to implement Resolution 1718, we do, in fact, need to provide the UN with statements on how we intend to implement that particular provision on luxury goods as well as several other things. Best of my knowledge, that information hasn't been provided to the United Nations yet. But that information would come from the Department of Commerce. They're the ones that would be responsible for implementing those kinds of trade-related measures. So you might want to check over with them and see.
QUESTION: The AP story today, though, talks about iPods, plasma TVs, Segway electric scooters as part of that list. You can't -- can you confirm any of that?
MR. CASEY: No, I'm afraid I can't. Again, I think you need to talk to the Department of Commerce about that.

Nov. 28:

QUESTION: Sean, Burma has shut down the field offices of the International Red Cross --
QUESTION: -- and some are saying it's like a preemptive strike in advance of a critical UN resolution. Do you have response to what they've done?
MR. MCCORMACK: I guess we shouldn't be surprised by the action given the nature of the regime in Burma. Certainly it's a negative step and we would call upon them to actually reopen these offices and allow the ICRC to continue its critical work. We are working within the Security Council to talk to other members of the Council about a resolution in the wake of Mr. Gambari's report to the Council and would expect in the coming days it would be a topic of conversation in the Council, and certainly this action by the regime in Burma should be an important part of the conversation and an indicator that you do need a resolution.

Nov. 27 :

QUESTION: Sean, are we worried or is the Secretary worried about the expansion -- military expansion by China especially now the signing of the nuclear and defense treaties with Pakistan? And also some experts are saying China may become the future of Soviet -- threat like Soviet Union to the U.S.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we encourage development of bilateral relations between Pakistan and its neighbors. Look, you know, China and Pakistan have a long history of relations. As for any sort of nuclear angle on this, I'm not aware of anything new that was announced or is allowed for by these agreements other than what was already grandfathered in by the Nuclear Suppliers Group so I don't think there's anything new on that front.
We would ask that China play a constructive role in the international community. China is a growing power on the world stage, is developing economically, diplomatically, politically and militarily. Former Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick has asked that China be a responsible stakeholder in the international system. So that is our encouragement and our desire for China. China's going to be an important power on the international scene for some time to come. And we would hope that as it develops and as it defines its future role on the international stage that it plays a constructive role.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow. In the past, Secretary of Defense Mr. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Dr. Rice and many other experts also had a concern about military expansion by the Chinese around the globe.
QUESTION: So where do we stand today -- a threat to the U.S. security or other allies?
MR. MCCORMACK: The way it was put is we are concerned about their military build up. We believe that it is outsized for their stated regional issues that they need to take on or they need to address. The main issue that we have had is an issue of lack of transparency in that build up. We have encouraged over time more military-to-military relations between the U.S. and China so that we become more familiar with one another, so that we know -- we understand better how each other operates, what our objectives are, what our strategies are, what our tactics are so there are no misunderstandings. And that is something that is slowly developing. There was recently a joint search and rescue mission exercise between U.S. forces and Chinese forces, so that's positive development. These are things that are going to take some time, again as China starts to define itself differently on the world stage.


QUESTION: Question on U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. Recently, U.S. Senate cleared the way for India to get the U.S. nuclear technology. Now there are some hurdles because the House and Senate bills are there and conferee are going to settle next month, I believe. Indian governments are saying that at this moment, they are concerned about those amendments because it's not originally signed between Prime Minister Singh and President Bush at the White House on July 18th. My question is if Secretary is pushing or making some calls on the Hill before those conferees and if she had spoken to anybody in India, with the Indian officials on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you if she's had any recent phone calls with folks up on the Hill concerning the India Civil Nuclear Agreement. We -- it is one of our top priorities hopefully in this lame duck session that is coming up to get it passed. As for amendments -- look, we live in the -- you know, Congress has a say in passing this agreement. That's the way our system -- that's the way our system works. We would hope and we would encourage the Congress not to change the -- make changes to the legislation that would materially affect our ability to implement the agreement. You know, that said, Congress is going to have its say. So we're going to work closely with them both at the member level as well as at the staff level on addressing the various concerns that Capitol Hill has about this agreement, but they have a say in this. But we hope to be able to faithfully implement our agreement and our understanding surrounding that agreement.
QUESTION: Are there some things that you're worried about in the legislation -- in the version --
MR. MCCORMACK: There are -- again, there --
QUESTION: -- urging Congress to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing in particular that I would point out to you. But there are a number of specific amendments and particular concerns that various senators and congressmen and staff members have raised with us and we're trying to address each of those in such a way that we can implement this deal.
QUESTION: Should there be penalties, for instance, if India doesn't cooperate with the U.S. enough on Iran? Is that something that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, we're -- I don't want to comment on any particular amendment that, you know, may or may not come up.

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