State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, May 14, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 14, 2010.


Human Rights/ al Qaida
Meeting with UK Foreign Minister
Secretary’s Call to Brazilian Foreign Minister
Discussions Regarding Iran
Ambassador Hill
Times Square Bomber
Secretary’s Meeting with Marshall Island’s President
Human Rights Dialog
Cheonan Sinking


4:40 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: I am – this is the part of the week – I think the Germans call it (inaudible), which a German friend of mine once called – once translated as Miller time. (Laughter.) So – I mean, I’ll take a couple of quick questions. I don’t know that we need to extend this – the week – the work week any – much further. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on human rights issues –

MR. CROWLEY: You just had the assistant secretary. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This month there has been four or five big demonstrations, anti-Iran demonstrations in Afghanistan, including Kabul, in which people have accused Iran of violating human rights of Afghan refugees living in Iran. And today, there was a big demonstration by Afghan (inaudible) at the United Nations, also.

Is it an issue of concern about violation of human rights of Afghan refugees living in Iran? A lot of them have been executed, a number have been put behind bars in recent months.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have expressed a number of times our concern about Iran’s human rights record – not only concerns about what it is doing inside its own borders to its own people, but also how it is acting not constructively in other parts of the world, whether it’s in that region or – also in the Middle East.

So, yes, we have tremendous concerns about Iran and its human rights record, one of the reasons we worked very significantly behind the scenes and we’re gratified that Iran was not granted a seat on the Human Rights Council.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Secretary’s trip to Asia? Is she going to South Korea and Japan after China?

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary actually had a meeting – a trip meeting this afternoon. I think we’ll be making some final decisions, and we’ll be announcing the schedule early next week prior to her departure. So we’re pretty close to setting the trip, but we’re not prepared to announce the schedule yet.

QUESTION: What are your concerns about reports that al-Qaida members have been able to travel more freely in and out of Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: We have long had concerns about al-Qaida members, al-Qaida leaders who are – have been residing in Iran. It – Iran is a – probably the most significant state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and this is just another indication of it.

QUESTION: Any movement – there was working talks on Futenma this week, working-level talks. Has there been any conclusion or movement on –

MR. CROWLEY: We have not reached a conclusion. I think we were satisfied with the meetings this week and we will continue to work with the Japanese Government at a variety of levels on those details.

QUESTION: This morning, at the morning press briefing earlier, the British foreign secretary spoke about the discussion on how to – how U.S. and Britain can coordinate on Pakistan issues. Can you give us a little more detail about it, what was discussed, and how do you plan to coordinate?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, as the Secretary and the foreign minister said, they – it was a very detailed discussion. I mean, it started with about a 10-minute one-on-one discussion with the Secretary and then joined by staff on both sides. We had a working lunch and went back and forth. As the Secretary outlined in her remarks, Afghanistan was a significant topic, Iran was a significant topic.

It did get to Pakistan. Obviously, the United Kingdom has its own very strong relationship with Pakistan and traded some ideas on how we could work cooperatively, and also how the United Kingdom could have its own dialogue with Pakistan on issues of mutual concern, including security.


QUESTION: Any recent conversations with the Brazilians about Lula’s trip?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, this is one I just kind of missed. The Secretary had a discussion with Foreign Minister Amorim on Tuesday. It just – I just missed the readout of that call, so I apologize for not catching that earlier and passing it on, but – so she did have a conversation with him. That, in turn, followed up on a conversation she had in New York at the opening of the NPT conference earlier this month. And as the Secretary herself said upstairs, we will look to see what happens this weekend.

QUESTION: A follow-up question.


QUESTION: The Indian foreign minister is also visiting Iran this weekend, part of the same team. Have you reached out to India in – at some – at any level on the same issue, on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. I mean, Iran did come up in the context of the discussion that we had this week with President Karzai since, obviously, Afghanistan is a neighbor of Iran. I mean, we are touching in a wide range of discussions with a wide range of countries. And we’ll be watching closely to meetings that occur in Tehran this weekend. But as the Secretary said, we are skeptical that Iran is going to change course, and as she also said, we believe that it is time to apply more pressure to Iran and that, we think, is the best way to get them to engage more seriously.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that Ambassador Chris Hill is slated to retire this summer?

MR. CROWLEY: Chris Hill is working very hard in Iraq and whenever there are changes in ambassadors overseas, those announcements come from the White House.

QUESTION: P.J., two questions. One: For the first time, Pakistan Government spoke out and they are saying that this Times Square bomber has no connection with or in Pakistan, but U.S. agencies are saying differently.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, if you read the morning paper, Pakistan has made some arrests in connection with this investigation, so I think that speaks for itself.

QUESTION: You want to confirm that arrest?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) You’re —

QUESTION: No, no, it’s a simple —

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. On those issues, I’ll defer to Justice.

QUESTION: Oh, come on. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Come on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It’s Friday.

QUESTION: It’s Friday afternoon. (Laughter.) You’ve got it – you’ve got the only podium in town. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean – well, tell you what, Charlie. I mean, I – before we wrap up, I do not want us to overlook the fact that the Secretary met today with President Zedkaia of the Marshall Islands. And Gordon was in that meeting and indicates that the primary topic of conversation was global warming, as you would expect. But we obviously welcome the friendship that the Marshall Islands has with the United States, going back many, many years.

QUESTION: Then let me repeat the question. Take your —

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you want to —

MR. CROWLEY: So the diversion didn’t work, huh?


MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to Justice.

QUESTION: One more on China, please? Back on human rights.

MR. CROWLEY: You had the assistant secretary here, Goyal, and you had questions of him.

QUESTION: And this was – this is kind of different, if you can answer. Thank you. I know it’s Friday, you have to go for the weekend, parties and all that.

MR. CROWLEY: I have many miles to trot before the weekend comes.

QUESTION: When you talk with the Chinese, do you talk a bit about prison labor? Because there’s a concern in this country by the human rights groups and also by the labor groups and also, at the same time, talking about human rights with China, also concern different neighboring countries like Burma and North Korea and Iran and all those because Chinese have connections with those countries and they share the same values.

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, absolutely. As Mike Posner was talking about, this was about China, this was about issues that – in the region that also affect China.

Look, the challenge that China faces on the labor front is shared by other countries in the region that have export economies, and over time, you can have both. You can have economic growth. You can have rising labor standards. It is in everyone’s interest to move in that direction. So yes, we – these are the kinds of issues we have with a wide range of countries.

One, two, then we’ll wrap it up. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, sir. Is there any readout about today’s 2-plus-2 meeting between U.S. and ROK? And the Cheonan ship sinking incident, how did you discuss about that matter?

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, in the – I haven’t got a readout of that meeting, so we’ll take that question, see if we can get some sort of readout. We – but in – obviously, we are cooperating fully in the investigation. I would probably expect that it did come up in the discussion today, but we will continue to support the investigation until it reaches a conclusion.

QUESTION: I have the same question as – about whether Secretary Clinton’s visit is also related to Cheonan incident.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, again?

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton is visiting Korea.

MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t announced her travel yet. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Whether her trip to Korea is related to the – some of the extra additional findings with – of the Cheonan incident.

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t link the two directly together. The investigation is ongoing in South Korea. I’m – I think it’s in the final stages. And we will be talking to South Korea about that investigation and its implications.

I can come back and – in today’s meeting, Assistant Secretary Campbell and Assistant Secretary Gregson met with South Korean diplomatic and defense officials for preparatory discussions of important bilateral issues related to our alliance. That doesn’t tell you much. (Laughter.) But I think in the full range of bilateral and multilateral discussions, I think – I’m confident that various issues related to North Korea came up. I’m sure the Cheonan investigation came up. I’m confident that they also talked about ongoing plans in terms of our ongoing defense cooperation and changes that we’re discussing about the nature of the alliance. So I’m sure that was probably the primary nature of the discussion.

As for the Secretary, we – when she’s in the region, obviously we focus on our strong alliances. We’ll have more to say about her trip early next week, but as to – let’s wait. Let’s leave it there.

QUESTION: Can I just —


QUESTION: Just one final one on Thailand, if there’s any update on the situation there, particularly with the closing of the Embassy and your perceptions of how things stand on the ground right now?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are deeply concerned about the situation on the ground in Thailand. We continue to strongly encourage everyone involved, everyone engaged to show restraint and to find a way to work peacefully through these differences, and do so in a way that strengthens democratic institutions. I anticipate that our Embassy will remain closed through the weekend and probably Monday as well.

QUESTION: Are all personnel there accounted for? Is there any injuries or anything?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any injuries.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 4:53 p.m.)