Seeking Freedom For US Journalists Held In North Korea

QUESTION: Ian, North Korea with the Ling and Lee trial, they’ve sentenced both girls to 12 years of hard labor. I saw Secretary Clinton on This Week yesterday alluding to it. Do you have anything further?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re very, very concerned about this sentence. And I know that Secretary Clinton is very engaged, and we plan to explore all possible channels. As we have all along, we call on the North Korean authorities to release the two young ladies, allow them to be reunited with their families, and we’re very, very focused on that right now. But yeah, the news was – concerned us very much.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Lebanon for just one quick second?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Can we go back with that? Sorry, guys.

MR. KELLY: We will come back to North Korea.

QUESTION: Just one thing. You said in the prepared statement that you read at the top that the United States will support an independent and sovereign Lebanon. Can we take that to mean that you would expect the U.S. Government, should Congress agree to go along with it as it has in the past, to continue financially supporting, in the rather generous way it has in recent years, the Lebanese Armed Forces? Is that – does that signal that when you’re saying we’re going to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, that you’re going to keep doing the kind of funding that you have done in the last couple years?


MR. KELLY: Well, yeah. I mean, it signals what it is. It signals that we support an independent and sovereign Lebanon. I don’t want to prejudge how we’re going to come out one way or another working with this government. We’ve got to see what government is formed. But we feel very strongly that Lebanon should remain a strong, independent, sovereign nation. But I’m not going to prejudge where we go because we want to – the government has to be formed first. So let’s take it one step at a time.


QUESTION: On the journalists in North Korea –


MR. KELLY: Yeah.


QUESTION: — you said you wanted to explore or would continue to explore all avenues. Can you be more specific on that and also answer the sort of speculation that people have that maybe a high-profile figure, maybe outside of the Obama Administration, might go there to intercede?


MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t want to go too much into detail on what exactly we’re pursuing, I think for reasons that you can understand. This is obviously a sensitive subject, and we want – the outcome that we want is we want these young women returned to their families. We think that the Government of North Korea should release them on humanitarian grounds. The whole judicial process has played out now, and we think it’s time for them to be released just on pure humanitarian grounds.


But Secretary Clinton is – she’s going to have a press availability later on this afternoon, and I expect her to have more to say on this.


QUESTION: Ian, why is it so important for you to emphasize humanitarian grounds and separate it from the political issue, the nuclear issue? Secretary Clinton made a point of doing that yesterday and has in the past.


MR. KELLY: Well, we do want to separate them. We think this should be examined on a – on humanitarian background. These are two young ladies that we think should be released and allowed to go home. That’s totally separate from what we’re trying to do up in New York and what Deputy Steinberg was doing in his – with his delegation in the region last week, where we need to also respond to North Korea’s defiance of the international community. But I think you’re going to see me be very scrupulous in not trying to make a connection between the two.


Yeah, Jill.


QUESTION: Do you believe that the North Koreans are keeping it separate?


MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not going to try and get into what the North Koreans think or what – how they’ve made their decisions. But I think that the right thing to do here is very clear. They need to be set free.


QUESTION: Sir, what – North Korea again. Does the United States have any intention to list North Korea as terrorist nation again?


MR. KELLY: Well, I think Secretary Clinton addressed this in an interview yesterday, if you’ll just hold on one second.


QUESTION: Maybe we can finish with the journalists first before you get into that?

MR. KELLY: You want to finish with the journalists? Okay, while I try and find – okay.


QUESTION: Ian, can I ask – and I apologize for being dense here, but what – on what humanitarian grounds should they be released on?


MR. KELLY: They are –


QUESTION: Do you have a quarrel with the conviction? Are they innocent of these charges?


MR. KELLY: I’m just going to say that I think that –


QUESTION: Are they sick?


MR. KELLY: Not that I’m aware of. I think that they should be released.


QUESTION: They should be released because you think that they should be released?


MR. KELLY: I think they should be released.


QUESTION: Okay. Why?


MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not going to get into the details of the case. I just have – what I have seen does not justify what they’re – what they’ve been subjected to in terms of –


QUESTION: Can you explain what it is you have seen?


MR. KELLY: Well, all I’ve seen is that they’ve committed an unspecified grave crime against North Korea and that they didn’t follow border procedures.


QUESTION: But you don’t have a position on whether they are innocent or guilty of the charge that – however harsh it may be, do you have any indication that they were not guilty of doing what they were accused of?


MR. KELLY: Well, again, I’m just – I’m not going to get into the legal aspects of the charges. I mean, I haven’t even seen the charges, so – it’s been such an opaque process that it’s difficult for me to say and it probably is not my place standing up here at this podium to say anyway.


QUESTION: Okay. Have the Swedes had any further contact that you’re aware of with the –


MR. KELLY: Well, you know, I’m glad you asked that. The Swedish Ambassador, AmbassadorFoyer, has been absolutely extraordinary, and he’s been in very close contact not only with us, but also with the families. He acted very quickly. When the charges came down, he asked for immediate meetings to try and get clarification on the whole process. So he has done just a fantastic job – Mats Foyer.


QUESTION: But has he had any – has he had any contact since the conviction?


MR. KELLY: With the two young ladies?




MR. KELLY: I don’t believe so. Not since – last Monday, I think, was the last time.


QUESTION: Apparently, the Secretary wrote a letter to the North Koreans, could you – or an aide memoire or whatever it is. Could you please provide details on that and what was in that note to the North Koreans? Did she say, we’re sorry if the girls did something – the journalists did something that they should not have done? Could you put that in context, please?


MR. KELLY: Well, you know, the Secretary said that we’re – what we’re focused on is getting an outcome. We’re exploring all kinds of channels to try and get the two young ladies released. But what exactly we’ve done in our diplomatic correspondence, I just am going to keep that private.


QUESTION: Well, but can you confirm that the Secretary did indeed send a written –


MR. KELLY: I am just going to keep all of our diplomatic communications private.


QUESTION: But are you – are you sorry that – would you like to apologize to the North Koreans if these journalists did happen to stray over –


MR. KELLY: We just want to see them released.


QUESTION: Well, but, Ian, I mean, when Secretary Clinton in the Netherlands at the Afghan conference kind of went on the record telling the whole world when we were talking about the journalists in Iran that she wrote an aide memoire or some kind of letter to the Iranians asking their release, so why could she tell the world about this letter but you can’t tell us about this particular letter on the North Korean grounds?


MR. KELLY: We have two American citizens, two young women, who are facing the prospect of 12 years in a North Korean prison. And there are times when I’m just not going to get into a blow-by-blow of exactly what we’ve done or the Secretary has done, and this is one of these instances.




QUESTION: (Inaudible) up to now, you’ve pretty much left everything up to the Swedish ambassador to do your negotiating. Have you – I know it just happened yesterday, but since the verdict, have you reached out to the New York channel to try to talk directly to the North Koreans, or do you plan on using the New York channel on this issue?


MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’ve –


QUESTION: And just secondly –


MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware that we have. Doesn’t mean we haven’t, but I’m not aware that we have.


QUESTION: And just secondly then, the journalists were staying in a hotel in Pyongyang. Do you know if they have been moved from that hotel?


MR. KELLY: I’m not sure their – where they are after the verdict.


QUESTION: Ian, does the United States consider these two individuals hostages?


MR. KELLY: Hostages?


QUESTION: I.e., people being detained against their will and for no reason?


MR. KELLY: Yeah, well, I think that there’s a whole kind of legalist definition of hostages. I just – I’m not going to pronounce one way or the other on that. But we just feel they should be released and released immediately.


QUESTION: I don’t think it’s legalistic at all. When you’re a hostage, you pretty well know it, whether you have a law degree or not. So –


MR. KELLY: Well, normally, when you have a hostage, there’s some kind of – I mean, there’s a demand, right? I mean a political demand. It would seem to me that we’re missing that part of a hostage situation.




QUESTION: Ian, with respect to the two journalists, is it the North Koreans – they want, obviously, direct American contact. Now, Current Television which was founded by former Vice President Al Gore – is it the North Koreans – are they looking to specifically get a high-profile personality such as former Vice President Gore to go to North Korea to talk with them? And would you advise, through Secretary Clinton and President Obama, that that shouldn’t occur?


MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me what North Korea wants, and I just wish I knew. In terms of what – what we’re prepared to do, I’m also not going to prejudge that, too. So that’s really all I have to say.


Yes, Michele.


QUESTION: I wanted to follow up. You said that you wanted to keep the issues – all these issues separate.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.


QUESTION: But do you get any indication from the North Koreans that they’re trying to use these two as pawns?


MR. KELLY: I have seen no indications that they’re – no overt indications that they’re using these two young ladies as pawns.


QUESTION: Ian, (inaudible) is saying that North Korea is playing games and playing with fireand also international community can no longer trust the North Koreans and because they are doing all this, including hostages or whatever these terms of holding the journalists and nuclear tests and missile tests is because China is behind them. So as long as China is there threatening the area, including Japan and Korea will continue until (inaudible) international community.


So where do we go from here? As far as sanctions are concerned, they’re on and off for many, many years. Sometimes you take them off. Sometimes you put them back again. So what do you (inaudible) now? The sanctions will never work as long as you have no China on your side.


MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not going to say that China is not on our side. Well, look, for one thing, Deputy Secretary Steinberg has been out in the region. I think today, if you’re kind of looking for a play-by-play, I think a lot of the action is going to be in New York at the UN. They’re involved in very close consultations on a response to the – to North Korea’s defiance of the international community. I think there’s going to be a meeting of permanent representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council plus Japan and South Korea. So let’s not prejudge who’s going to be supportive and who’s not going to be supportive. Let’s see what comes out in New York.


QUESTION: Ian, could you say whether this instance with the two journalists affects your push for sanctions at all? Are you trying to –




QUESTION: — hold off until this is resolved?


MR. KELLY: No. No, they’re – as I said before, they’re completely separate.


QUESTION: Ian, you made it clear that it’s not clear why the North Koreans detained the two reporters. You’ve suggested that – and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve suggested that there’s no reason to hold them, that they should be let go.


MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.


QUESTION: Some would argue there’s a parallel situation involving the U.S. military with a Reuters photographer who’s being held at Camp Bucca. He was rousted out of his bed in the middle of the night. He’s been deemed an unspecified high-security threat. And even though an Iraqi court has ordered his release because he hasn’t been tried, much less convicted, he’s still being held at Camp Bucca. Isn’t there, you know, some – isn’t there something odd about all this?


MR. KELLY: Well, I’m afraid I don’t know the details of it. It sounds to me like this is something you should probably address with my colleagues over at the Pentagon. But I’m just not aware of that situation, I’m afraid.


QUESTION: Ian, over the weekend, as you were just eluding, Secretary Clinton told an interviewer that, quote, “We’re just beginning to look at the process for potentially relisting North Korea on the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism.” How is she going about that when she says we’re just beginning to look at that process? Has she tasked people with looking at it? Tell us a little more about the –


MR. KELLY: Yeah. What she was referring to was a letter from Congress that wanted the StateDepartment to look at this possibility. And what she said was, of course, we’re beginning to look at this. But there’s a process that has to be followed, and then we would have to see recent evidence of North Korean support for international terrorism to be able to designate them. And then as a legal matter, in order to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary must determine that the Government of North Korea has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. And so we – there is a very specific process that we have to follow.


QUESTION: Now, when the interviewer followed up and asked the Secretary if she had any such evidence, she said I don’t have an answer for you right now because we’re just beginning to look at this.


MR. KELLY: Right.


QUESTION: However, he noted immodestly, in an interview with me in April in Baghdad, I askedSecretary Clinton explicitly if she believes right now that North Korea is actively proliferating to any terrorist entities or nations that the State Department identifies as state sponsors of terrorism. And when I – as she said, well, we know that they have in the past proliferated, I said, I meant actively now. And her answer was, quote, “No. As of right now, we do not have any evidence,” unquote.


So that was in April. So how could she be looking at this now? How could she not have an answer for the interviewer this weekend?


MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mean, she’s being responsive to what these senators wanted the Department to be responsive to, and that’s to look – to relook at this whole issue. But as I said before, I mean, there has to be –


QUESTION: Why couldn’t she just tell the senators what she told me in April, that we have no such evidence?


MR. KELLY: Well, but we’re now in June, so let – I mean, this is a process that the Senate has asked us to look into, so we’re looking into it.


QUESTION: But, Ian, haven’t the lawyers at the State Department already concluded that there’s no legal basis to put them back on?


MR. KELLY: I don’t – I’m not aware that they have made that determination.


QUESTION: So how long could this take trying to determine? I mean, could this take months and months?


MR. KELLY: Well, I just –


QUESTION: Ten years?


MR. KELLY: I’m not going to put any kind of –


QUESTION: But can I ask, if this does go ahead, and realizing that this is – that you’re going to say that it’s hypothetical. But if you do decide to relist them, I want to go back to October when they were taken off the list by the previous administration, at which time it was stressed over and over and over again that removing them from the list did nothing other than remove them from the list. They still remain under all the sanctions that they had been placed under before.


So putting them back on the list, what good is it going to do other than saying – other than wagging your finger and putting them back on a list, which –


MR. KELLY: Yeah.


QUESTION: — to be honest with you, who cares –

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: — if there is no practical, punitive –


MR. KELLY: Right.


QUESTION: — effect of this?


MR. KELLY: Well, again, let me –


QUESTION: What is the point? What is –


MR. KELLY: Let me say again –


QUESTION: Other than to kowtow it to Congress –


MR. KELLY: Well, we’re responsive to Congress. (Laughter.) We’re always responsive to Congress.


Let’s focus on the real action that’s going on here, and the real action that’s going on is that we’re working with our colleagues on the Security Council and with the permanent members of the Security Council and with the representatives from South Korea and Japan in coming with some actions, as the Secretary says, that have real teeth in them. So that’s where the focus is right now.


QUESTION: All right. And part of the – and as part of that, is it correct that you are looking at trying to enforce the 1718 interdiction by looking at which –


MR. KELLY: I think we’re looking at a whole broad range of options, including interdiction.


QUESTION: And how would that work?


MR. KELLY: How would that work?




MR. KELLY: Well, not being an expert on how these things work, I sort of (inaudible) to say.


QUESTION: All right. Another thing the Secretary mentioned is an arms embargo. Isn’t there currently at least a partial arms embargo –


MR. KELLY: I believe there is.


QUESTION: — on North Korea? What – and so this is – again, I don’t understand the – what the value is to add things onto – you know, to put them back on a list –


MR. KELLY: Yeah.


QUESTION: — and to then accuse them or to put restrictions on them that already exist.


MR. KELLY: Right. Well, let’s remember what the goal here is. The goal is to show North Korea that their actions have real consequences, and the consequences are –

QUESTION: Okay. Well, what are the real consequences?

MR. KELLY: — a unified position of their neighbors in Northeast Asia and the United States and –

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like you’re considering a consequence that does nothing more than add some ink to a piece of paper that they didn’t really care – that didn’t* do anything.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, we haven’t seen this piece of paper yet, so let’s not –

QUESTION: Well, the state sponsors list.

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: I’ll drop it.

MR. KELLY: Okay. All right.

Comments are closed.