November 14, 2006 State Department press briefing touched on two Asia-related matters.
Re North Korea, no new date for the six party talks. Maybe the U.S. is delaying because it is still trying to get other countries on board for more aggressive sanctions so we can go into the talks from a position of strength. However, South Korea has refused to sign on the Proliferation Security Initiative to enforce UNSCR 1718 sanctions, so it looks like crushing sanctions against Pyongyang will continue to exist only in John Bolton’s fantasies.
Re China: “Chinese submarine incident”.
The Washington Times reported that the Kitty Hawk (the aircraft carrier we use to throw our weight around in the Pacific, and the naval keystone of the Proliferation Security Initiative) was “stalked” by a Chinese sub. If the sub was detected by the Kitty Hawk, it means the Chinese still have a way to go in hide and seek activities. But it is interesting that the Chinese appear willing to stick their toe in Pacific blue water, traditionally an exclusive preserve of the U.S.A.
Here’s how the Washington Post reported it:
Confirming the gist of the Washington Times report, [Admiral] Fallon said the submarine had been detected at close quarters by an aircraft carrier and its accompanying warships.
The Washington Times said the submarine had stalked the USS Kitty Hawk and surfaced within range of its torpedoes and missiles in "ocean waters" near the Japanese island of Okinawa.
"The characterization of stalking an aircraft carrier is rather sensational and I think it's probably not close to being accurate," Fallon told reporters in Malaysia, where he is attending an annual meeting of Asia-Pacific defense chiefs.
Relevant portion of the briefing below:
QUESTION: On North Korea, is there anything new and has a date been set for the bilateral talks, for any bilateral talks, and do you have the date of the six-party talks in Beijing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new on a date for the six-party talks. In terms of our preparations for the talks, those are ongoing. I expect that this is going to be another topic at the top of the list of the Secretary when she's in Vietnam. She's going to have a chance to meet also with her Japanese counterpart as well as her South Korean counterpart, so they're going to talk about preparations for the six-party talks as well as implementation of 1718.
And you had another question in there?
QUESTION: It was -- are there any bilateral talks planned?
MR. MCCORMACK: There's -- again, we get back to the old New York channel thing, but that is a mechanism that's used to pass information, exchange information. It's not a negotiating channel.
QUESTION: So there's nothing special planned during APEC?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about this Chinese submarine incident?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. The guys over at DOD, I think, have been talking about it quite a bit.
QUESTION: So they're going to be the lead on that? I mean, are you going to talk to the Chinese or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- you know, we don't own any aircraft carriers here. You know, if there's a role for the State Department, then you know, then there is. I'm not aware of one in this regard.