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Diplomacy in Action

President's Upcoming Trip to Asia and U.S. Foreign Policy after the Mid-Term Elections

FPC Briefing
Mike Hammer
National Security Council Spokesman
Foreign Press
Washington, DC
November 4, 2010


Date: 11/04/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer gives remarks on the President's upcoming trip to Asia and U.S. Foreign Policy after the Mid-Term Elections at the Washington Foreign Press Center on November 4, 2010. - State Dept Image

12:30 P.M., EDT


MR. HAMMER: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. I know it’s a rainy day. It looks like most of you are dry. Well, I’m here today in part because about a week ago I went for a run – something that’s not a common occurrence, as you can tell from looking at me, and Neil saw me and says, “You’ve got to come over.” And so thank you, Neil, for the invitation once again to have me come and brief. Jose, thank you for hosting us.

But more seriously, the reason I wanted to come over today is because the President is about to embark on a very important trip to Asia, a 10-day trip that includes stops in India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan, and including two major economic summits, the G-20 in Seoul and the APEC summit in Yokohama. And as part of that, I thought it was also important to perhaps reflect a little bit. I know we’ve had an election here that’s gotten not only domestic attention but a lot of international attention, and so I wanted to make a few remarks regarding President Obama’s continuing foreign and national security policy priorities in the coming months. And I’ll obviously take any questions that you might have. So if you’ll indulge me, I’ll make some introductory remarks, mostly focused on where we are today after nearly two years here in the Obama Administration, and then take some questions.

So the President, in coming to office, and you’ve heard me brief this before, but he certainly wanted to reestablish American leadership and have better American standing in the world; to have a revitalization of our alliances with NATO, Korea, and Japan; to engage constructively with the major powers, whether that be Russia and China; to recognize emerging powers in the case of India, which is important obviously with this upcoming trip, and others like South Africa and Brazil; and to do what is necessary not only to advance American interests but also to promote economic prosperity around the globe, because in this interdependent world, it’s not just about having our economy in order but rather we also need to internationally address it and we need to address the financial crisis. And we’ve done a lot of work in the G-20 with our partners, and that’s part of this trip. And I think this upcoming trip really encapsulates a lot of the President’s agenda, both domestic and foreign, particularly on the economic side in terms of promoting jobs and exports.

In terms of just some of the things that we’ll be looking to do in the coming months to reassure you around the world that we are very much committed and the President’s going to continue as he has since January 21st, 2009, continuing to work every day on advancing our American interests and advancing our foreign policy. We will be clearly – beyond this immediate trip, we have, as you know, the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November 19th and 20th, including an important EU Summit. We have a possibility of resumption of some type of discussions with Iran over their nuclear program, an invitation that the P-5+1 extended through High Representative Lady Ashton. We have clearly a number of other issues that we’re working, like the Middle East peace process, where Secretary Clinton with Senator Mitchell and a number of others on our foreign policy team are trying to advance that and still working very hard every day on it. We have in the coming year clearly with – in December what is known as the Afghan Policy Review, which, in essence, is an assessment taking stock of where we are and seeing if we need to make any refinements. And in January, we have a referendum in Sudan of extreme importance which we are working very hard with others to try to ensure that there’s – those referenda go forward in accordance with the CPA, on-time and credibly.

And we have some domestic agenda in terms that is linked internationally, the President, you may have heard, talked about it this morning in wanting to ratify the New START Treaty in keeping with the bipartisan tradition that we have had historically in advancing these types of arms control agreements. And that’s something that the Administration will be working very hard on with our new colleagues but also clearly with the existing Congress to try to see if we can get this done through the lame duck session.

And I think with that – I know that we can talk a lot about the upcoming trip and perhaps you have some specific questions. We’ve had three briefings today. I trust you’ve seen the transcripts. They’re on the whitehouse.gov website, where a number of our senior officials have already talked and laid through the schedule and sort of the priorities. But this focus on Asia is something that President Obama has wanted to do from the outset of his Administration because, obviously, the rise of Asia economically is important. The United States is a Pacific nation. The President, as he has said himself, is a Pacific president. He considers himself that. And in that sense, clearly we have very important interests to advance in promoting economic growth and stability throughout the region.

So with that, let me allow Jose to call on a few of you. I know several of you which I will want to call on because we see you every day at the White House and sometimes you don’t get a chance to ask a question.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you very much, Mike. We have about 45 minutes so let’s make this an effective use of our time.

QUESTION: Thanks for letting us this opportunity. I’m Sam Kim from Voice of America. I have a quick question on North Korea. In this travel, President Obama will have a chance to meet with Lee Myung-bak and Hu Jintao bilateral meeting and other leaders in Six Party talks. So what will be his message to these leaders to have better environment to resume the talks?

And my second question is: There are some reports expected that the talk can be resumed after G-20. So do we have any reason to believe or do you have this kind of hope?

MR. HAMMER: Right. Thank you for your question. I mean, clearly North Korea will be on the agenda in the President’s meetings both with President Lee, Prime Minister Kan of Japan, and President Hu of China as well as with others. President Medvedev, I’m sure, will also – with whom we’re having now our tenth bilateral meeting by the President, will also be engaging on that.

I mean, it’s clear when you ask what happens next, I think the onus, as we’ve said repeatedly, falls on North Korea to take the steps needed and to show the seriousness of purpose that is required to begin or restart Six-Party talks with the aim of an irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So I would not be anticipating any news at this point, but clearly there will be consultations with our partners and we will continue to work on this process. As you know, Ambassador Bosworth is also working on this issue, but much of this depends on the attitudes of North Korea. At some point, it needs to realize that if it wants to enter into the community of nations, that it must address and stand by its international obligations.

MODERATOR: Why don’t we continue right here with Ali from Pakistan.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. Ali Imran from Associated Press of Pakistan. Regarding President Obama’s visit to India, U.S. has good relations with both Pakistan and India and also encourages efforts towards greater security and peace in South Asia. Will President – first part of my question is: How should Islamabad view this visit to India?

Number two, will the President be talking about resolving the old lingering conflict between Pakistan and India, Kashmir, which is seen by many experts as the root cause of tensions and militancy as well, and because there have been human rights violations recently and U.S. promotes and protects human rights? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Sure. Let me take the second question first. As you’ve heard repeatedly from others in the Administration, we support and encourage ongoing efforts between India and Pakistan to resolve their issues directly. We’ve seen some efforts in the past and the meetings that they’ve had are encouraging, but clearly it is something that the two need to resolve.

In terms of how Pakistan should view the visit to India, I think your question framed it really well in the sense that the United States does enjoy very positive and fruitful relations with both countries, with both India and Pakistan. And one is not at the expense of the other. I think both countries benefit from American engagement in the region and trying to promote greater economic growth to see that these democracies, both of them, need to continue to flourish. And so I would hope that our Pakistani friends – and the President did meet with the Pakistani delegation that was here not too long ago on the occasion of the Pakistan – U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, whereby he basically made clear that he intends to travel to Pakistan in 2011 and that, again, we are very interested in working with each country and having the most positive bilateral relations we can have.

These are issues that benefit all our people, that we want to see stability and growth of the economies, and that comes through peace. And so hopefully it will be seen in that spirit, and we certainly look forward to the opportunity sometime in the future to visit Pakistan.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike. Before we take another question in Washington, we’re going to go to one of our colleagues in the New York Foreign Press Center. New York, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Pincas Jawetz from Sustainable Development Media. My question is about the UN. The position of the UN Secretary General is assumed that will have to go again to an Asian, and remembering that before there was an Indian runner- up that was vetoed by China and the present secretary general was only – had the benefit of China simply abstaining. Has this created a move amongst three countries which will be visited by the President now in terms of positions at the UN? Will the subject of the appointment by the UN of a secretary general be on the table on this trip?

MR. HAMMER: Well, that’s probably all a better question to ask Ambassador Rice, who represents us quite well there at the United Nations, but I appreciate the question. I don’t know specifically, quite frankly, if the subject of the next secretary general will come up. I mean, clearly the United States will want to continue to work with the United Nations in the way that this Administration has found is incredibly productive in terms of trying to resolve some of the major challenges that we face in the world today, and we have an incredibly able representative at the UN who does that. The President had a tremendously successful trip to the UN General Assembly this year, and I think it’s important to recognize that part of his effort in terms of reestablishing the United States leadership around the world has borne fruit. When we now are going to the United Nations, you see a number of our colleagues in countries, other countries, very interested in engaging with us, again, to address the many challenges that we face around the globe. And that’s something that clearly we will continue regardless of whomever would be the next secretary general at the United Nations. But thank you for your question, New York.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Kim next question.

QUESTION: Kim Ghattas with the BBC. I have two questions, if I may. One is a bit broader.

MR. HAMMER: Are they multiple-part questions? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Two separate but very quick, one a bit broad. A lot has been written about the impact of the midterm elections on the President’s ability to carry out his foreign policy agenda. I wanted to have your candid assessment, if possible, about whether you think it is accurate to say that it is going to be much more difficult. And if it’s not going to be much more difficult, why is that? If you can explain to a world audience why the President will still be able to carry out his foreign policy agenda as he wishes or why in some cases it might be difficult.

And very quickly on the Middle East, it’s been quite tough for this Administration to push forward with talks in the Middle East. The results of the midterm elections were seen by some as a victory for Israel, predicting a much tougher – a toughening of Israel’s position in those talks. Do you think that President Obama is still in a position to ask Israel to make the difficult sacrifices that are required to make those talks move forward?

MR. HAMMER: Thanks, Kim. Good seeing you. Let me start with the first question. I’ve had the great privilege to serve in the last three administrations at the White House and have seen that there is a very strong tradition in the United States of bipartisanship. National security interests are such that both Republicans and Democrats see them very much in the same way, and that is that we want to ensure the safety and protection of the American people, we want to create economic opportunity and certainly a better future for America.

And so I don’t see that there’s any reason to be concerned as far as the President’s ability to continue to push forward with a very robust international agenda that advances the interests of the United States. The President was very clear yesterday in his press conference relating to domestic issues that he wants to work with the new Congress and will do so. But particularly on the issues of foreign policy, you may see disagreements occasionally about the type of approach that may be undertaken, but it’s quite heartening as an American to see that both parties truly want to and see the interests very much in similar ways and should be able to continue to work together. So we’re not at all concerned about that. In fact, what you saw in our elections, it’s a moment of celebration of American democracy, that the American people are the ones that really have the power and through that power the President and the rest of his team try every day to work hard to advance their interests.

As that relates the second question on the Middle East, we certainly as an administration, as we’ve said multiple times before and you’ve heard me say that as well, the President from his first day in office felt that it was important for the United States to engage, to try to advance peace in the Middle East. This is a vexing and difficult problem; we all recognize that. It’ll take tremendous courage on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians, and then all the others of us that need to support that process, to get the kind of agreement that is necessary to finally put this conflict to rest.

We are still working the issue very hard. We anticipated it would be difficult, but you’ve seen the President engaged very directly as needed. And then he, of course, he has Secretary Clinton and an extremely able special envoy in Senator Mitchell, who are tireless in their efforts to try to advance peace. And we still are very much committed and keen on ensuring that these direct talks resume and should hopefully move forward. But we know that it’s a difficult process. If it weren’t, it would have been realized already. And we will continue to, again, work hard every day to try to see if what is possible is finally achievable.

Thank you, Kim.

MODERATOR: Let’s get our Korean colleague, Hwang.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mike for coming here.

MR. HAMMER: Oh, thank you.

QUESTION: I’m Hwang from Yonhap News Agency, South Korea.

MR. HAMMER: Yeah, it’s good to see you again, Hwang.

QUESTION: And the United States has called on North Korea to improve ties with South Korea before returning to the Six-Party talks. So do you think President Obama supports another inter-Korean summit? Do you think another summit will help international efforts to denuclearize North Korea through Six-Party talks? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Well, as you know, President Obama has a very close and tight relationship with President Lee and admires his leadership, the way that he has handled some very difficult issues with regards to North Korea, including the very tragic sinking of the Cheonan. And those – that issue needs, and we have made this clear, the North Koreans need to satisfy South Korea’s concerns regarding that tragic incident.

I’m not going to speculate on what would be best in terms of advancing that process forward. We are very strong partners with South Korea. We are allies. We’ll be celebrating our Veterans Day on what is the 60th anniversary of the Korean – the start of the Korean War. And so we’ve had a very strong partnership. And through those many years we have seen how South Korea – which was pretty much on a parallel in terms of where it was in its development with North Korea back then – how South Korea has progressed and become a really powerful example of how democracy and market economy can benefit its people and be a real leader around the globe.

And that’s something that we admire. I think that it’ll be something that will be recognized during our visit to – our second visit now, to Seoul. And again, I don’t want to get ahead of whatever conversations President Obama and President Lee will have regarding North Korea, but we will be looking, of course, to listen very carefully to what President Lee has to say in terms of what he sees as the best way forward in conjunction with our other Six-Party partners.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike. We’re going to break away again for New York. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Laolu Akande and I write for The Guardian of Nigeria. I just have one question. The MEND in Nigeria has been described by the National Assembly of Nigeria as a terrorist organization. And the European Union has said that it would not make such a designation for MEND. And I’d like to know what is the perspective of the United States Government on this, and if you also can give me if the U.S. has any concerns regarding the forthcoming Nigerian elections next year, especially the fact that there is no specific date.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Akande.

MR. HAMMER: Thank you for your question. I must say, as we say sometimes, it’s a bit in the weeds and out of my range, so I will not be able to address the specific question. If I were at the State Department we could take it and get an answer back to you. But hopefully, what I would recommend is perhaps have it posed to P.J. and he can ably answer the specifics of it or we can try to get you an answer in terms of that particular terrorist, or alleged terrorist organization.

Can I call on a couple of people that I know?

MODERATOR: Yeah. Sure, go ahead, Mike.

MR. HAMMER: If not, Laura will help me.

MODERATOR: I was going to go with Laura first anyway.

MR. HAMMER: Absolutely. Please, please, please.

MODERATOR: She’s about to jump up. (Laughter).

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Mike, for doing that. Two questions. This administration seems to emphasize a lot its relationship with Asia and emerging countries. How do you see in the next two years your relationship with Europe?

And the second question is: In the fight against terrorism, could you clarify the U.S. position at this moment about Yemen?

MR. HAMMER: Okay. First, on Europe, the President has spent time in Europe. He feels very comfortable and he’s said this in interviews with our European partners. And I think what one needs to understand, in the first year we went – the President did – on six trips to Europe. And it’s the kind of enduring partnership – the transatlantic alliance, NATO is a reflection of this – that no issue around the globe is handled by the United States by itself. It’s always in consultation, coordination, cooperation, with our European partners. And I think that gets lost. I think in every conversation and issue that the President has, he engages with European leaders to see what the best way forward, because we think that together we can certainly advance both our interests better.

Of course, you know, Laura, that we have the Lisbon NATO Summit, and that’ll be an opportunity to review NATO’s situation and ISAF’s in Afghanistan to look at the way forward that we all want to see there in terms of addressing the terrorist threat that emanates from that region, and very specifically to defeat and dismantle al-Qaida.

And you have – following that NATO summit, you will have an EU summit where many of the very important bilateral trade issues and economic issues that affect both our – both the European Union and the United States will be addressed.

So this is an enduring partnership. And even as we, I would say, engage more in Asia, it is not at the expense of any other region. We believe we can continue to grow our partnerships and tight relationships with a number of countries and that advances global interests in a sense. And so we can have, again, a greater focus on Asia, which is a rising economic region, which is very important to the future of our country, while at the same time maintaining that incredible partnership and historical relationship that we have had with our European friends. So that’s basically how I would answer the first question.

With regards to Yemen, I think that what you have seen in this latest attempt at a terrorist attack is that our Yemeni partners have been very cooperative and supportive of the efforts to first find out exactly who was responsible and then bring those people to justice. We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Emiratis, the Saudis, and of course, our British partners.

And so our focus in Yemen is to work cooperatively with President Salih – and President Obama spoke recently with him, as you know, just I think on Tuesday – and to work in a comprehensive way to support the aspirations of the Yemeni people. They do not want to be under threat from al-Qaida Arabian Peninsula. They do not want to see their husbands, wives, children slaughtered. They don’t want to see the vision of destruction that al-Qaida has for their future.

What the Yemeni people want is they want what American people want – they want to be able to have economic opportunity. And we – a lot of our comprehensive approach to Yemen is beyond what is the focus of counterterrorism. Of course, it’s important and we will do what is necessary together with our Yemeni partners to secure the United States and our partners. That said, we have a very strong economic component in terms of assistance that we provide to Yemen to, again, strengthen that democracy, to address some of the very difficult economic circumstances that Yemen faces.

And this is an evolving partnership. And we find that with President Salih, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot and we’ll continue to do more. So it is a comprehensive relationship. We tend to look at it from a counterterrorism lens, but really it’s much more than that. And we hope that it is understood in the region that with our relationships come an offer of support and cooperation. And I think that’s what President Obama has shown his willingness to engage with a number of different countries and to grow those partnerships, as he likes to say, to address the common challenges of our time.

MODERATOR: Mike, why don’t you take two more questions and then we’ll go to New York and then we can wrap up as we have time.

MR. HAMMER: So you want me to do it? Then I have to call on Lalit. The poor guy’s all the way in the back and he wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for coming back to the Foreign Press Center. Two questions. First, how does India and U.S., the two largest democratic countries of the world, intend to work together to see that assertiveness or the rise of China doesn’t hurt the people across the globe, be it currency manipulation or violation of human rights or supporting regimes like in Burma?

And secondly, what is President’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan? Does he think it’s moving in the right direction? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Thanks, Lalit. Well, with regards to China – and we’ve addressed this, as you know, in many of our briefings – we have and the President has been very keen to try to develop a cooperative and comprehensive relationship that we know will also include exchanges where we have differences, and frankly where we don’t see eye to eye. The President has had an opportunity to meet with President Hu, I believe six times – the seventh will happen on this trip, three times with Premier Wen. So we’ve had very tight engagement with them, and our current National Security Advisory Mr. Donilon was in Beijing over Labor Day weekend with Dr. Larry Summers to advance that relationship.

And so with the question relating to India, I think what we hear from our allies and partners in Asia throughout the region is that we want to see stability, we want to see prosperity, we want nations to abide by international law and international norms. And that will allow for a natural evolution of the different countries. And I think that’s what we’re here to promote. That’s what I think what you’ll hear a lot during this trip. Again, I think you can have relationships with different countries that are in different stages of development that have different ideologies without it being seen as competitive that if one gets something, another is getting something less.

But it’s important that we also recognize that in this – on this trip, we’re going to four vibrant democracies in Asia, strong market economies, and that’s something that is rather important to see. And in the case of India, we have a strategic partnership we’re trying to develop. It’s an indispensible partner, one that we recognize is rising on the global stage, one that we want to embrace. Because we think that together with India, as we have historically with others – and going back to Laura’s question with our European partners – there are many things we can do together that advance both our countries’ interests and also that provide for others. And I think that what you’ll see on this trip is a manifestation of some of these ideas. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of making any announcements. I’ll leave that to the President. But clearly, we will be working very closely in the future on that.

And did you have a second question?

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MR. HAMMER: Afghanistan, yes, thank you. On Afghanistan, it’s difficult. I think now what you’ve seen is a completion of additional deployments of our forces to Afghanistan, continued cooperation with our ISAF partners. The Afghans themselves have – are in a difficult circumstance but are working very hard. So I don’t want to pass judgment as to where we are in terms of at this very moment. We will have an assessment in December. We will have a very in-depth discussion and consultations with our European partners at the NATO summit precisely on this subject, because it is critically important to American security and other security in the region that al-Qaida not be able to ever again strike out of that region. And that is our main focus. We are working, again, with our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere to try to ensure that those that want to do us harm do not have an opportunity to do so.

So I will defer on making any judgment as to exactly where we are. But I think the President, as he said from the start of his Administration, wanted to focus attention where it should be, and he’s done that in Afghanistan. At the same time, in the case of Iraq, we have looked to do a responsible drawdown, pulling out a hundred thousand troops. And that country now is taking more and more of its own future into its own hands, and that’s a positive. So let me just leave it there, and I think we’re going to take a few more questions.

MODERATOR: Why don’t you pick another one.

MR. HAMMER: Oh, I’m supposed to pick? Somebody I don’t know.

MODERATOR: Oh, I can do that. (Laughter.)

MR. HAMMER: Yeah. Well, pick somebody I don’t know because I’ve seen everyone I know.

MODERATOR: How about PJ in the middle there.

QUESTION: Priscilla Huff with Channel News Asia. While the President is in Asia, Burma will be holding elections. Do you see this as a positive sign? What is the future for U.S. relations with Myanmar, especially since these elections are the first in 20 years?

MR. HAMMER: Right. I think Jeff Bader, our senior director for Asia, addressed sort of the elections on – we have rather serious concerns about them and do not think that they will be carried out in a fair and free fashion. It’s a difficult relationship. We have tried to engage with the Burmese Government. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they’ve made much of an effort on their part.

Part of President Obama’s approach is to try to engage some of these countries which we have difficulties with and to try to encourage positive change and evolution in terms of promoting democracy and human rights. In some cases those countries haven’t wanted to do so and it’s fallen short, but not for lack of effort. And we will continue, again, to be working on it. But we’ll have more to say on the Burmese elections when they do occur. And of course, we’d like to see political prisoners freed, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

MODERATOR: We’ll take one last question from New York. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Betwa Sharma. I am with the Press Trust of India. I have a question regarding the information that was provided by David Headley’s wives and what is being dubbed as an intelligence failure in India. Is this – are these concerns – is this something that the President is going to address when he meets Prime Minister Singh? And also, could you talk about how the conversation on sort of developing better counterterrorism intelligence communications – how is that conversation going to move forward?

MR. HAMMER: Terrific. Do you work with Lalit?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. HAMMER: All right. (Laughter.) Thank you for your question. First let me address the second part first. We enjoy terrific and excellent counterterrorism cooperation with India, and this Administration in particular has gone to great lengths to make sure that we are working together. Both India and the United States suffered tragic losses in the Mumbai bombing and it’s a shared experience. And we both, these democracies, want to ensure that incidents like this never occur.

And specifically relating to your question about Headley, we have provided access to the Indian Government to him. We clearly are looking back and our office, the Director of National Intelligence, is conducting an after-action review to look back and see if there are lessons learned that can be taken from whatever information was out there. We have to recognize this happened some time ago.

And I don’t want to, again, preempt what the President might specifically discuss with Prime Minister Sing. In the broad umbrella, I can assure you that strengthening counterterrorism cooperation will be on the agenda. The President will have an event that will focus on this as soon as we arrive at the Taj Hotel there in Mumbia. So I think there’s a lot more that we will be hearing in the coming days about – involving our counterterrorism cooperation. But on the Headley case, again, we shared information relating to terrorist threats as we had them at the time that we had them, and I think I’ll stop at that.

MODERATOR: Our colleague Raj. Let’s just give him a question, from India.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yashwant Raj from Hindustan Times India. Two questions, Mr. Hammer. One, how much – we’re hearing about a figure of $200 million a day, that’s what it’s going to cost the U.S. Administration for President’s trip around Asia. This is going wild on the web now. There are blogs and blogs on this.

MR. HAMMER: Can you answer where that information comes from?

QUESTION: I just said blogs.

MR. HAMMER: Right. And is it based on any reputable reporting?

QUESTION: It quotes an Indian official in Mumbai, but it is an unidentified Indian official in Mumbai.

MR. HAMMER: Correct, right. No, I just wanted to clarify that because we don’t know where these reports are coming from. They seem to be wildly inflated in terms of the cost. I’m not going to get into the cost issues, but certainly I wouldn't pay a lot of credence to that.

QUESTION: Second question. It’s on the nuclear liability bill. India just signed Sea --
Convention on Compensatory – Convention on Supplementary Damages. Now, when we asked the Administration the day after, they said – William Burns said, well, it’s a positive move. Now, I believe American companies are still not going, still not interested in doing business on this front. Could you please talk about this? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Right. As you’ve pointed out, Under Secretary Bill Burns did address this question. We do see that as a positive step. It’s something that’s continuing to be worked and that the American companies are addressing themselves. I’m sure it’ll be something that we’ll be discussing in the course of the trip, but I don’t have any real news to go further regarding that issue.

MODERATOR: Let’s take one from Zuzanna up here, and then we’ll go to the back.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time. Zuzunna Falzmann, Polsat TV from Poland. It seems that President Bronislaw Komorowski coming to Washington, D.C. this December. Can you confirm that President Obama and President Komorowski are going to meet at the White House? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Right. I wish I could. I actually don’t have any information on that. That’s not to say that it won’t happen; I just don’t have information on that. I’m sure if a visit were to occur and if there was a meeting, that we’ll announce it. So that’s all I can say.

MODERATOR: Let’s go in the middle right here, the woman in the black and white. Right there, yes. Thanks, Miriam.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Victoria Kupchinetsky, Voice of America Russian Service. My question is about the ratification of the START agreement. The Russian wire has reported that yesterday the Duma committee actually withdrew its recommendation for the Duma to consider ratification. Do you know if the Administration has an immediate reaction to that? And in general, how plausible do you think is the ratification of the START and do you think it will happen or the efforts will be made to do that before the end of the year or with the new Senate? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Right. No, most certainly, and the President spoke to this at his press availability right during the cabinet meeting. We would like to see New START ratified during the lame duck session. It is a priority for this Administration. We have seen tremendous bipartisan support with regards to arms control treaties. The original START treaty was approved by a vote of 93 to 6. You have the INF Treaty which was approved 93 to 5. And then the most recent sort of Moscow Treaty was approved 95 to 1. And we have heard expressions of support by very prominent Republicans and members of previous administrations for this treaty.

So we will work this very hard. We are confident at the end of the day that this will receive the bipartisan support that is necessary. It’s important for the United States not only because it’s an important reduction of nuclear weapons that sends a signal to the rest of the world that we’re serious about our nonproliferation obligations, but also to Russia that we’re partnering with Russia at an important time as part of our joint interest to reduce tensions around the world and to address issues like this.

I’m not going to specifically comment on the Duma’s action. Clearly, this is something that both presidents – and President Obama will meet President Medvedev, I believe, for the tenth time on this trip – and it’s a relationship that has been very productive in advancing both American and Russian interests and with multiple agreements on a wide range of issues. And all I can add, really, is that the President is going to be very keen to ensure the ratification of this treaty, and we hope again to have another productive meeting with President Medvedev when we see him.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike. We’ll take a question from our Turkish colleague in the last row. Ilhan.

QUESTION: Ilhan Tanir, Hurriyet Daily News from Turkey.

MR. HAMMER: Good to see you. Thank you.

QUESTION: My question is talks with Iran. You mentioned that P-5+1. First of all, could you please walk us through what is the expectation, because there are news reports that is that there’s a proposal put forward and has some conditions will be tougher than before the Turkey and Brazil broker it. And certainly, I think related to that, Turkey’s role – how do you see Turkey, given its past recent role with Brazil, which for some it run against Washington for some, it wasn’t exact what Washington wanted. Could you please tell us what do you expect from Turkey?

And last, which country will host these meetings? Thank you.

MR. HAMMER: Sure. The last – I’ll take the last question first. It is not yet clear that the Iranians have accepted Lady Ashton’s invitation to discuss their nuclear program. While there have been different statements by Iranian officials, they have, as I understand it, unless there’s been news this morning, have not yet accepted a date and place. And I’ll leave that announcement to the High Representative from the European Union to make when that – and hopefully when it does occur.

Iran has been placed under very tough sanctions, given the international community’s continuing concerns about its nuclear program. It needs to take confidence-building steps that demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

With regards to what might be required, I’m not going to get in advance of details of what these discussions would get into, but one has to understand that when Iran accepted the Tehran research reactor agreement that was proposed in – basically a year ago at this time, first in Geneva and then the other talks that followed in Vienna – that was something that was an attractive deal for everyone concerned. But since then, they have continued to enrich low-enriched uranium. They have now said they’re going to 20 percent highly enriched uranium and are doing so. These – they have to cease their activities and stop on the highly enriched uranium to 20 percent.

Conditions will be changed. It’ll be different. Time has passed since Iran walked away from that commitment. Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of what will be on the table, but you can’t just simply reset the clock given that quite a considerable time has passed. And they need to demonstrate to the international community that they are prepared to abide by their international obligations and work with the IAEA in doing so. And they have been unwilling to do so, and as a result they’ve become further and further isolated. They’re experiencing the toughest sanctions in their history, sanctions that we know are biting, sanctions that will continue to put pressure on Iran.

But Iran continues to have a choice. President Obama from the outset has said that we have a two-track policy, one of engagement and one that would be a pressure track that would include sanctions. Engagement and talks are still on the table, but it is Iran that has the choice to walk through that door and engage in these talks in a way that’s reassuring to the international community to see what can follow.

QUESTION: Thanks, Mike.

MR. HAMMER: Oh, and then the role of Turkey – well, clearly, Turkey is an important NATO ally and partner. We have constant dialogue with Turkey, even if we’ve had disagreements, particularly as it relates to the vote on sanctions. So I can’t forecast in terms of in the future what exactly Turkey’s role will be or that of other countries. But this process is being managed through the P-5+1. That’s what’s been working so far. The international community writ large supports this effort and Iran knows what it needs to do. And the first thing is to begin by accepting the invitation for talks on their nuclear program, and then we’ll take it from there.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to break to New York for one last question. New York, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Indira Kannan with CNN-IBN and Business Standard. I have a very specific question on the issue of U.S. export controls of high technology items to India. In fact, President Obama had said in an interview to PTI, actually, that this is a very complex issue. And he sounded a little circumspect on this particular topic. And I believe on the same day, though, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said very clearly that we should expect a significant announcement on export controls during the President’s visit.

I’m just trying to understand, is there still a debate in the Administration about how far the U.S. should go on this? And what is the latest thinking on this issue? Thanks.

MR. HAMMER: Thank you. Thank you for your question. As you point out, the President did address this in his PTI interview. And believe me, if the President says this is a complex issue, I agree.

This is something that will come up in the course of this visit to India. I don’t, again, want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of any potential announcements, but it is complicated. And we’re working through it. I know that Secretary Locke and others have been very engaged with our Indian counterparts, and so we’ll see where this ends up. But again, the President will be in India this coming Saturday and then he’ll have an opportunity to – obviously, with meetings with Prime Minister Singh and others in New Delhi, will have an opportunity to address these questions directly.

MODERATOR: We have time for one last question and we’ll go right here in the middle, please. Thank you.

QUESTION: KBS, Korean Broadcasting System. What is the U.S. expectation of the G-20 Seoul Summit? And could you give us an assessment on South Korea’s role as a co-chair person, chairman country in this G-20 Seoul Summit?

MR. HAMMER: Well, first, a lot of compliments go to President Lee and his leadership, again, for Korea to host the first G-20 in Asia. From what I hear, the preparations are very well-prepared and we will enjoy, I’m sure, our short visit to Seoul for this summit.

On the broader question, I think Mike Froman and Lael Brainard, who had briefed at the White House, addressed a lot of the sort of focus and interest that we have at the G-20. There’s no question that while we have worked with the G-20, starting in that first meeting that President Obama went to in April in London of last year, and then following on with other meetings like the one in Pittsburgh and more recently in Toronto, that this group of countries, these leading economies, need to work together to ensure the global economic health.

And there are different approaches. We will be discussing how best to proceed. Secretary Geithner has been very active in pushing forward what the U.S. views as the best way to try to ensure that this economic – global economic recovery continues. And President Obama will obviously be moving ahead with our ideas, but again, I don’t want to go beyond what has already been briefed on this, other than to say that – again, from an American perspective, there’s always, on these foreign trips, also a link back for the American people.

And I think it’s important to understand that if – that it’s in this interconnected world, particularly on the economic front, that policies and – that are undertaken, if coordinated, can have and achieve better results. And I think that’s been, really, the focus of the Obama Administration.

MODERATOR: Mike, thank you very much. On behalf of everyone here, I want to thank you for taking the time to come today. We really appreciate it. Mike is literally getting on a plane this afternoon to go to Asia, so thank you very much, Mike.

MR. HAMMER: It’s my pleasure. Thank you, everybody.


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