This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

The White House

Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to the Travel Pool, 4/5/2009

Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             April 5, 2009
Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to the Travel Pool 
Prague Castle
Prague, Czech Republic
9:36 A.M. (Local)
MR. GIBBS: Good morning. I just wanted to give you guys a couple of updates. Obviously it's been a busy morning. I want to give you just a little tick-tock of some of the events. We received confirmation of a launch of a North Korean -- the North Korean launch a little after 4:30 a.m. local time in Prague. Shortly after that, the President was apprised of the situation and has spent a decent part of the morning on the phone with General Cartwright, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because Admiral Mullen is traveling; as well as Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to talk about --
Q Can you say Cartwright's full name and title?
MR. GIBBS: General James Cartwright, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff --
Q Vice Chair.
Q Where's Mullen?
MR. GIBBS: Traveling. As well as, obviously, speaking with Secretary Gates. Obviously staff has stayed in contact and repeatedly, with defense personnel, the intelligence community, and briefed the President along with -- in those briefings, obviously, have been the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff and senior personnel.
Q Has he spoken to President Lee?
MR. GIBBS: I do not believe he -- I know he's not spoken to President Lee or any others yet. I should mention that Ambassador Rice and Secretary of State Clinton have begun to reach out to their counterparts -- Ambassador Rice obviously in preparation, as the President said, in preparation for this afternoon's meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Q How quickly do you expect the U.N. Security Council to take action, and what kind of action are you recommending?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would leave you with what the -- at this point, what the President said in there.
Q Actually what did the President mean by that? He said he didn’t want the U.N. Security resolution -- he said he didn’t want their -- I couldn’t catch the last word -- it sounded like he was saying, you know, to make the U.N. resolution mean something.
MR. GIBBS: Yes. I mean, look, as I’ve stated before, we viewed, prior to the launch, the launch to be provocative and in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Obviously that demands and international response, and, as the President said, a response from the U.N. Security Council.
Obviously, as I said, Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Rice are beginning to reach out to their counterparts.
Q What is that option? What is that option?
MR. GIBBS: -- Security Council resolutions.
Q If the North says that they did put a satellite up, what do we -- what is our --
MR. GIBBS: I think that we'll have a -- there will be an assessment by DOD and the intel community later on today.
Q So the President has not yet been told whether this was in fact a satellite launch, or a missile test, or something in between?
MR. GIBBS: I won't get into that during this briefing. I will say this: The President has -- the launch today was not a surprise by any means. The President has been involved in several meetings about this situation over the course of the past three to four weeks. So this was something that had long been planned for. And had at any moment we determined that this launched posed a threat to the United States of America, we would have taken whatever steps were necessary to ensure the safety and security of the American people.
Q At any time were America's defenses placed on alert?
MR. GIBBS: I think it is safe to say that defenses were monitoring the situation.
Q Has the President reached out yet to -- directly to any allies -- Japan or South Korea?
MR. GIBBS: The President hasn't spoken yet with Aso or with Lee. Not yet.
Q So just to back up, he was woken up?
Q Who woke him up?
MR. GIBBS: I did.
Q What was his first reaction?
MR. GIBBS: Again, it wasn't completely unexpected. He asked me for a rundown of the situation. Obviously at that point there wasn't a ton of detail, and not long after we went back and gave him more up-to-date information about what to -- what defense came back with.
Q Did he stay up then to -- get on the phone from that point on?
MR. GIBBS: He was up at that point, yes.
Q Obviously this makes a big impact on the speech, it ties into the speech, but it overshadows it in some ways. What is he going to say --
MR. GIBBS: I don't think -- I don't think it overshadows it, because I don't think -- I think it makes even more urgent, as the President said, the agenda and the policies that he'll lay out today: The spread of this technology, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the threat of -- the threat that those weapons pose are the most -- are the gravest security danger our country faces. And I think what the President will outline today is a robust agenda to deal with the problems and the security threats that they pose.
Q Do you think the North timed it to coincide with the speech?
MR. GIBBS: It's a better question for them.
Q When he talked about what he was going to say in Strasbourg when he previewed the speech, it sounded like an optimistic message of a world without nuclear weapons. Does North Korea now become the focus of the speech?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't -- not at all. Obviously the North Koreans were always going to be mentioned in the speech. I think it's important to understand, as we laid out in some of the briefings yesterday and I think in the briefing call today, you can't reach that goal as long as others have the capability, which requires a strong deterrent from the United States of America.
But I think the actions of the North Koreans today, besides further isolating them from the community of nations, underscores the importance of what the President will talk about here this afternoon.
Q Did he get a briefing from Jones on this, as well?
MR. GIBBS: Jones was in the briefings with other staff, yes. It was with other National Security Council staff.
Q Was the text of the speech altered at all to reflect --
MR. GIBBS: I believe they've added some lines, but again, as I said, North Korea was always mentioned in the speech.
All right? As we get updates, we'll make sure you guys are apprised, and as soon as there's an assessment --
Q An assessment, yes.
MR. GIBBS: -- we'll get that out to you.
Q And then also just leaders -- foreign leaders that he's talked to.
MR. GIBBS: Sure, we'll keep you updated.
Q When do we think this first U.N. resolution -- I mean, is -- are we going to introduce it?
MR. GIBBS: I will find out -- try to find out the answer. I know that they're -- the meeting is scheduled for, as I understand, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, so that's 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. our time. So we'll have a better sense throughout the day.
Q Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: All right, thanks, guys.
9:45 A.M (Local)