The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Afghanista, START, North Korea, Cairo, passports

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Thursday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • President Obama convened his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan Thursday morning at the White House and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke represented Foggy Bottom. Meanwhile, next door Vice President Joseph Biden was meeting with key GOP senators about the new START treaty, including Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Joe Lieberman, I-CT, and Tom Udall, R-NM. Kyl is leading a delegation to Los Alamos and Sandia national nuclear laboratories Friday.
  • Special Advisor Bob Einhorn is headed to South Korea and Japan to start work on those new North Korea financial sanctions that the State Department is being so mysterious about. He'll also be discussing Iran sanctions and will be joined by Treasury deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes Daniel Glaser, on what will the first trip of several. "I don't think he'll make any announcements while he's out there," said Crowley.
  • The State Department is closely watching the Arab League meetings in Cairo as hoping they will push (or permit) the Palestinians to move to direct talks before the Israel (partial) settlement freeze expires in September. "We are encouraged by reports that Arab states meeting in Cairo agree on the need to resume direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to reach a final-status agreement," Crowley said.
  • Crowley wasn't aware of the new China-North Korea economic agreement, but he did say, "Clearly, China, as a neighbor of North Korea, has become an increasing factor in North Korea's economy... China has responsibilities, you know, with respect to specific aspects of U.N. Security Council resolutions as they pertain to the areas of concern: our proliferation concern, our nuclear concerns in particular. So we would expect China to live up to its international obligations. But at the same time, we want to see China use its leverage with North Korea to encourage North Korea to move in a fundamentally different direction."
  • Potential North Korea nuclear cooperation with Burma is also a concern of the administration, but they don't know what's the ground truth. "We don't see the transparency in that relationship that we'd like to see. North Korea is a serial proliferator. North Korea is engaged in significant illicit activity. Burma, like other countries around the world, has obligations, and we expect Burma to live up to those obligations," Crowley said.
  • State is defending itself in light of a new GAO report where GAO investigators were granted passports based on fake documents they created. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin held a hearing on the issue Thursday. "And as we will outline in testimony before Senator Cardin's committee today, we have improved our tools in recent years," Crowley said. "There's more work that needs to be done."


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