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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 27, 2002

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

12:15 P.M. CST

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. Good morning, everybody. Let me run through the President's morning and then take some questions on -- I know you have some questions on North Korea, cloning and other subjects.

The President this morning had his usual briefings. And following his briefings the President spoke to Polish President Kwasniewski. It was a warm conversation reflecting the close relationship between our countries. President Kwasniewski praised the results of the Prague Summit, particularly the decision on NATO enlargement. The two discussed Iraq's failure to provide full information to the United Nations. And President Kwasniewski informed the President of Poland's decision to buy F-16s. President Bush welcomed this news. The conversation was approximately 14 minutes long.

Following that, the President taped his radio address, which we will get to you as soon as we can this afternoon. And he has been spending the rest of the morning clearing some brush.

With that, I'm happy to take whatever questions you may have.

Q What's your statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: On the inspectors? North Korea's decision today to expel the inspectors represents yet another violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. And as Director General Baradei has said, North Korea's actions of the past several days belie its announced justification to produce electricity. These recent actions are not designed to produce electricity, but rather to advance North Korea's nuclear weapons capability.

We remain in close contact with the IAEA and our friends and allies, including Japan and South Korea, on these latest moves by the North Korean regime. And we call on the regime in North Korea to reverse its current course, to take all steps necessary to come into compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement and to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable manner. The international community remains in agreement that North Korea's actions are a challenge to all responsible nations, and has made clear that North Korea's relations with the outside world hinge on the elimination of its nuclear weapons program.

Q You mentioned South Korea, Japan and China. What about Russia, are they being included?

MR. McCLELLAN: I said, with our friends and allies, including South Korea and Japan.

Q Did the President discuss this with Rice and Wolfowitz?

MR. McCLELLAN: I saw that report, and I checked on it. I was informed that that was an inaccurate report.

Q Scott, what does the U.S. think North Korea is up to?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think those are conversations we continue to have with our friends and allies, Mark. But we continue to seek a peaceful resolution of the situation that North Korea has created by its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. And we will continue our consultations with friends and allies in light of these latest moves by the North Korean regime. But let me make it clear that we will not negotiate in response to threats or broken commitments.

And, again, I reiterate what I said a minute ago, that these recent actions by North Korea are designed not to produce electricity, but to advance North Korea's weapons -- nuclear weapons capability.

Q What was Powell doing at the White House today, do you know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I don't have any update on that. There are regularly various meetings, principal meetings, and meetings of principals from the National Security Council and other areas of the White House. But I don't have any --

Q Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: We don't discuss any specifics.

Q Scott, as part of the consultations, do you plan to send James Kelly to the region, either to Japan or South Korea or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, if there's anything to announce, you know that we'll do that at the appropriate time, either State Department or the White House. But I don't have anything to announce today.

Q It just seems to me that the administration is rather unengaged on this issue -- I mean, at a time when we're full throttle, you know, preparing for war against Iraq, it seems to be rather small and secretive steps about confronting this when, you know, every day seems to be a new provocation.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I disagree with that characterization. As I said, we remain in close consultations with our friends and allies. Secretary Powell was in consultations with some of those over the weekend, I believe it was reported. And we will continue to work closely with our friends and allies to seek a peaceful resolution here.

Q But do you think the IAEA and the U.N. should take the lead role for the moment on this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are consultations that we're going to continue to have with the IAEA and with our friends and with allies, as well.

Q Scott, you said at the outset of this that this is yet another violation of commitments that North Korea made to us and the IAEA. They are saying that we broke commitments to them regarding fuel and the like. Did we break commitments in that regard?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, remember, this goes back to North Korea was the one who, when confronted, admitted that they were in violation of their agreements. They, themselves, were the ones who announced that. And so they said that they -- the North Koreans stated that the agreements were, in their view, null and void by their own actions, so this is something that North Korea has this is action that has been taken by the North Korean regime.

Q So we're going to go tit for tat? They admitted they had it, we stopped something, then they're going to continue?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, what we're going to do is continue to urge them to reverse its current course. That's what they need to do, work with and we're going to continue to work with our friends and allies to keep the pressure on North Korea, to keep North Korea to keep the pressure on North Korea.

Q You're making the same urgings and the same statements for three, four days, and every day they come out with an even more provocative challenge to this authority. What if they don't, as seems the likely trend, what then?

MR. MCCLELLAN: And we expressed a few days ago the serious concerns we had. And that's why we continue to be in consultations with our friends and allies right now. But I don't

Q So more consultations will follow if they keep doing the same things?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to get into those discussions here from the podium. I think those discussions are best had with our friends and allies and we need to let those discussions happen.

Let me go to Ron.

Q Is it still fair to say, as it was a few days ago, that military action is not being contemplated?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, yes. We seek a peaceful resolution. That's why I said that earlier.

Q On another matter, is there any reaction to Israel performing civil services the last week or so, in Gaza or West Bank? Some say it's undermining the Palestinian Authority.

MR. MCCLELLAN: I'll see if I can get more information on that. If there's anything additional to add to anything the State Department has said, but

Q -- military options at this moment are not being considered? Is that correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: We seek a peaceful resolution.

Q And also, this principals' meeting, can you at least tell us who was in it?

MR. McCLELLAN: We don't discuss any meetings of principals or who was in them. We just don't discuss those.

Q But the President did talk to his foreign policy team by teleconference or by phone today?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Again, I said -- I was asked about Secretary Powell being at the White House, and I said that there is -- that there are always a lot of principals meetings and so forth that happen. But no one informed me of any meeting that the President had. What I gave you on what the President did this morning is what he has been up to this morning.

Q What about cloning? Do you have any reaction to the announcement?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes, like most Americans, that human cloning is deeply troubling. And he strongly supports legislation banning all human cloning. And despite the widespread skepticism among scientists and medical professionals about today's announcement, it underscores the need for the new Congress to act on bipartisan legislation to ban all human cloning, that passed the House of Representatives by more than a 100 vote margin last year.

And I might refer you back to the President's remarks last April in the East Room, where he addressed human cloning for more details about his views on that.

Anything else?

Q Yes, on Chechnya, any reaction to the --

MR. McCLELLAN: We've seen the reports, but we don't have any information at this point beyond that. So we've seen the reports.

Q Was that on the Ireland ambassador resigning, did he just ask?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q I'm not sure what Olivier asked, but do you have a reaction to the Ambassador to Ireland resigning because he said the administration lacks a commitment to the peace process there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me look into that, Holly.

Q What was it about?

MR. McCLELLAN: About the Ambassador of Ireland.

Q Is the United States satisfied with the cooperation it's getting from the Iraqis, in terms of the interviews of Iraqi scientists?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's part of the process that is spelled out in the U.N. resolution. I refer you back to OP-5 and the U.N. resolution, where it calls on the regime in Iraq to provide immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access to all officials and other persons who UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview. And it says that UNMOVIC and the IAEA may, at their discretion, conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and that its sole discretion such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government. So this goes back to -- again, there must be full compliance with the U.N. resolution from Iraq.

There has been a number of indications that they continue to be unwilling to change their past behavior. We still have not seen the evidence that Iraq is willing to change, and that they are willing to comply with all aspects of the U.N. resolution which seeks disarmament. And, again, the regime in Iraq will disarm -- it is there choice how they will disarm, but they will disarm.

And so this is all part of the process, but it goes back to what Secretary Powell said as recently as last week, that they appear to be unwilling to change their past behavior. And we have yet to see evidence that they will change their past behavior.

Q So are you saying they're not complying in this specific aspect of the interviews of the scientists?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm talking about their overall objective here, which is to disarm, for the Iraqi regime to disarm. And, again, I think I just addressed it by saying that there are a number of indications that they appear to be unwilling to change their past behavior and comply in full with the U.N. resolution.

Q Is this one of those indications?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, it calls for -- in OP-5. We'll see. This is a process that -- it was the President that directed the United States to seek disarmament through the U.N. And that's what we are doing. This is part of the process, and they must comply fully with the U.N. resolution. This is one part of that.

Q I wouldn't be mad if you said "no comment."

Q On North Korea, there are a lot of people, experts who see the country essentially as a spoiled child, they have nothing else to use and so this is what they do to get attention and that undermines the threat of anything they're doing. How does the United States view North Korea? If that undercuts the threat, do you just see it essentially as a last-ditch effort, or do you take the threat seriously?

MR. McCLELLAN: From North Korea? Well, again, I think I addressed all that. I think for now we need to let the discussions happen with our friends and allies about the next steps that we take.

Q But the fact that military force is still not being considered, even as they ratchet-up, suggests that there's not a level of fear.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- peaceful resolution -- in urging North Korea to change it's form of behavior.

Q Well, is it correct to sort of sense that there's not, let's say, a sense of fear or worry as there is with Iraq, in terms of North Korea?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, I think we have said -- there are different circumstances in different regions of the world that we're talking about there, but I think we have previously addressed that and said that there are serious concerns about the latest actions the regime in North Korea has undertaken.

Q Other than clearing brush, is he going to do anything else on the ranch today?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any more update beyond this morning. If there is more of an update, I'll get that to you guys later.

Q When are we going to see you again?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be around, I'm here.

END 12:28 P.M. CST

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