Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
December 15, 2008
Offensive Against Lord Resistance Army
US Has Long Standing Relationship with Uganda / DRC / South Sudan / Direct Role
Russian Military Relationships in Western Hemisphere
US Emphasizing Talks between India and Pakistan to Ease Tensions
US Does Not Want to See Any Actions by Either Party to Escalate
No Update on Mumbai Investigation
Difficult for the Parties to Move Forward Until North Korea Agrees to the Verification Protocol
Action for Action Process / Ball is in North Korea’s Court
Improving Security Situation in Iraq / Positive Reception of President Bush in Iraq
Existence of HIV Virus / Scientific Reviews
Transportation Links Across the Straits / Encourage Cross-Strait Dialogue
Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte’s Meeting with Representative Dai
Election / Adherence to OSCE Election Guidelines
South Ossetian Delegation Visiting DC
12:34 p.m. EST
MR. WOOD: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I don’t have anything, so we can go right to your questions.
QUESTION: What’s the – what’s your attitude toward this offensive in – by the governments of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I think South Sudan, against the Lord’s Resistance Army?
MR. WOOD: We welcome the activities that these countries have taken against the Lord’s Resistance Army. All the Lord’s Resistance Army has done over the last 20 years has caused havoc in those countries. It’s been responsible for the deaths of, you know, thousands upon thousands. It’s a good thing. And yeah, that’s my response.
QUESTION: But do you – are you involved in any way?
MR. WOOD: Well, we have, as you know, military-to-military relationships with the three countries, but we haven’t been involved in any combat operations.
QUESTION: Providing support or --
MR. WOOD: Well, let me just say that we have these longstanding military-to-military relationships with the three countries.
QUESTION: Talking military, apparently, the Russians have just had some new initiatives here in the Western Hemisphere, especially bringing some of their ships into Cuba, I assume to Venezuela and possibly even to Nicaragua.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What is your attitude with all this activity by the Russians? Do you see it as a payback for what we’re attempting to do with our missile shields in Poland and Czech Republic?
MR. WOOD: Look, we don’t have any problem – any fundamental problem with Russia having military relationships with countries of the hemisphere. I mean, that’s quite fine. You know, we have what I’d like to say is a very productive agenda in trying to help the region, democratize the region, bring economic prosperity. But in terms of Russia having military relationships with other countries of the hemisphere, that’s fine. I don’t think there’s any question about where the preponderance of military power comes from in the hemisphere, so, you know, it’s --
QUESTION: On India, there have been some reports that ever since Mumbai, attacks that the Indian air force and army have been kind of posed on high alert for a potential strike against Pakistan. Could you say anything that the U.S. might know about this or whether the U.S. has kind of given India any warnings that any attack against Pakistan could destabilize the region?
MR. WOOD: Well, we don’t give warnings. Look, we’ve been in touch --
QUESTION: Advice, whatever you want to call it.
MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve talked to both countries about the importance of cooperating in terms of this investigation of Mumbai attacks. We obviously don’t want to see tensions in the region escalate. We think, actually, that promoting this type of cooperation between the two governments will help, you know, ease tensions in the region. But I don’t have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: But do you think that an Indian attack against Pakistan would destabilize the region?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to – I’m not going to speculate about something that – you know, that hasn’t happened or – but let’s just say we don’t want to see any type of actions that destabilize the region.
QUESTION: There’s a recent disagreement amongst the five parties about discontinuing fuel aid to North Korea. You guys said that you wouldn't send any more. Russia is saying it will. South Korea says it’s up to each party. Were you guys actually – did you guys consult with them?
MR. WOOD: We’ve talked to the other four parties about this issue, and I think, you know, in the absence of an approved verification protocol it’s going to be hard to go forward with future, you know, fuel shipments. So there’s no – certainly with regard to the South Korean Government, we’re in sync in terms of that.
QUESTION: But with Russia?
MR. WOOD: Well, with Russia as well. I think there’s, you know, a general understanding that, you know, it’s going to be hard for the parties to move forward in, you know, meeting those commitments to the North if it doesn't meet its commitments. And so again, without a verification protocol, we don’t see how you’re going to be able to go forward and provide these – how we’re going to be able to go forward and provide these shipments.
QUESTION: So the five parties didn’t actually agree to not continue the --
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m saying this is – there’s a basic understanding that the North knows what it needs to do. It didn’t agree to this verification protocol and all of the others did, and you know, the talks are at an impasse. And if we are at this impasse, it’s going to be hard to see how we can go forward with shipments until this impasse is broken.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a follow-up on that.
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When Sean talked about it last week, he said pretty clearly that there was an agreement, that the five parties had agreed to this. But it’s – it doesn't seem like that is the case. I mean, it’s what you hope and it’s what you wish, but it doesn't seem like there’s an actual agreement amongst the five parties. Is there a misunderstanding?
MR. WOOD: Well, if you’re talking about a formal written agreement, no. But there’s certainly an understanding that came out of the discussions that, in the absence of this – you know, this verification protocol, it’s inconceivable to see that people would go forward in fulfilling these fuel shipments. This is – again, we’re in a process of action-for-action, and we want to see the North – we want to see the North approve this verification protocol. All the other parties did. And again, the North did as well; however, it just wouldn't put this in writing. And we want to see the North do that.
QUESTION: It’s inconceivable from all five parties members, or just the U.S. --
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to speak for every individual party, but as I said, I think there’s an understanding amongst the five parties that, in the absence of that verification protocol, it’s going to be hard to go forward with fuel shipments.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: One more follow-up?
MR. WOOD: Please.
QUESTION: Are you concerned, given that you’re stopping that action of fuel delivery, that the North Koreans may stop the remaining disablement steps?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to speculate about what the North may or may not do. But so far as everything – as far as I know, disablement is continuing.
Any more on North Korea? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: The incident that happened yesterday in the Iraq press conference, do you guys see it as a gesture against Bush or as a gesture against the U.S. in general?
MR. WOOD: Well, I have no way of knowing what the actual motivation of this individual was, who was obviously trying to get attention for himself. But I think if you look at what we have done over the last several years with regard to improving the security situation in Iraq, in terms of helping Iraq along the path to democracy – I mean, look at how President Bush was received overall by Prime Minister Maliki and others in the Iraqi Government – I think it says a lot. And so that’s one incident, but – and one individual’s views. But if you look at the direction that we’re heading in Iraq right now, it’s in a very, very positive direction, and we hope to see that continue.
QUESTION: So you don’t see it as a larger trend, as a rejection to the U.S.?
MR. WOOD: I don’t at all.
QUESTION: On HIV/AIDS. Mr. Wood, December 1st your Global Coordinator on HIV/AIDS Ambassador Mark Dybul provided a selective press briefing to some reporters of his choice. The Deputy Global Coordinator Michele Moloney-Kitts has given publicly a similar one at the Foreign Press Center. Despite my questions to both, they never answered up to the present time. Once again, I am asking both to release the original document about the existence of HIV virus, its pathogenic character that causes AIDS and that is transmitted sexually. Can you --
MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, I mean, if you’re calling into question whether or not the HIV virus exists --
QUESTION: No, no, I’m – I raise to both those crucial questions. Sir, they never answered. It’s very legitimate and more specifically (inaudible) it’s specific questions about the existence, its pathogenic character and that transmits sexually.
MR. WOOD: I would just refer you to many of the reviews that have been done about the HIV virus. And I think there’s no question with regard to the science.
QUESTION: Okay, very well. The health ministers of Italy, Germany, and other European countries, Mr. Wood, officially stated they do not have such a document. The Greek Minister of Health, under Dimitris Avramopoulos, refused so far to answer. Since, however the (inaudible) of the existence of HIV virus started from the United States 26 years ago, once again, I’m asking the Global Coordinator Ambassador Mark Dybul to give a final answer. And I'm wondering if it’s not possible.
MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, our answer on that question is clear.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MR. WOOD: Let me go right here first. This gentleman had his hand up Please.
QUESTION: Okay. China and Taiwan, because the two sides of the Straits launch a direct daily* flight on Monday and – as well as direct post and shipping services, do you have any comment?
MR. WOOD: Well, these transportation links across the Taiwan Straits are very positive. And so we’ve always encouraged cross-Strait dialogue. We will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Do you have any concern because the latest development could (inaudible) the island too close to China?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have any comment on that.
QUESTION: Also on China?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout from this morning’s meeting with Mr. Negroponte and Chinese representative Dai?
MR. WOOD: I don’t yet. I know that they had a very good meeting where they discussed U.S.-Chinese bilateral relations. We’re obviously coming up on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. relations – U.S. relationship with the People’s Republic of China. They’re also going – they were also talking about international issues. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure the issue of the verification protocol came up, but I don’t know that for a fact. But we’ll see if we can get you a subsequent readout.
QUESTION: Any reflection – there was an election over the weekend in Turkmenistan. A few of the candidates seemed to be eliminated basically – people who supported the existing government. Any comment on that?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, I can – I’ve got some points for you, Dave. On December 14, the people of Turkmenistan went to the polls to elect a new parliament. Embassy officials did not formally observe the elections. The Central Election Commission will announce informal results within the next few days. Formal results will be released in ten days by the Central Election Commission.
We believe it is important for Turkmenistan to follow the principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and enact those reforms that would permit the country to reach the goal of holding free – excuse me, free, fair, and open elections that meet international standards.
Anything else? Sue.
QUESTION: There’s a group of women here from South Ossetia – a woman by the name of Lira Tskhovrebova who leads a human rights group from there. And she says that the State Department cancelled a meeting with them. I just wondered why the State Department refused to see them.
MR. WOOD: Well, I know that State Department officials had planned to meet with the entire group, and we’re open to maintaining contacts with, you know, all of the NGOs in the region, so --
QUESTION: But why did you cancel --
MR. WOOD: -- that’s all I know.
QUESTION: -- the meeting then?
MR. WOOD: I’ll have to check, Sue, to see, you know, if there is anything further on that. That’s all I have.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Lambros, very quick.
QUESTION: Any update on the investigations vis-à-vis to the terrorist act in Dubai, (sic), including Pakistan?
MR. WOOD: I have no update.
MR. WOOD: Nothing new.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:46 p.m.)