US President Barack Obama said on Thursday he would not start “wheeling and dealing” with China and Russia over a U.S. request to extradite former American spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama,who appeared concerned that the case would overshadow his three-country tour of Africa begun in Senegal,also dismissed suggestions that the United States might try to intercept Snowden if he were allowed to leave Moscow by air.
“No,I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” he told a news conference in Dakar,a note of disdain in his voice. Snowden turned 30 last week.
Obama said regular legal channels should suffice to handle the U.S. request that Snowden,who left Hong Kong for Moscow,be returned to the United States.
He said he had not yet spoken to China’s President Xi Jinping or Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue.
“I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally and the reason is … number one,I shouldn’t have to,” Obama said sharply.
“Number two,we’ve got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia,and I’m not going to have one case of a suspect who we’re trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues.”
Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong in May,a few weeks before publication in the Guardian and the Washington Post of details he provided about secret U.S. government surveillance of Internet and phone traffic.
The American,who faces espionage charges in the United States and has requested political asylum in Ecuador,has not been seen since his arrival in Moscow on Sunday. Russian officials said he was in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport.
A Russian immigration source close to the matter said Snowden had not sought a Russian visa and there was no order from the Russian Foreign Ministry or Putin to grant him one.
CHARGES OF U.S. HYPOCRISY
Snowden’s case has raised tensions between the United States and both China and Russia. On Thursday,Beijing accused Washington of hypocrisy over cyber security.
Obama’s remarks in Senegal seemed calibrated to exert pressure without leading to lasting damage in ties with either country.
“The more the administration can play it down,the more latitude they’ll have in the diplomatic arena to work out a deal for him (Snowden),” said Andy Smith,director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Obama indicated that damage to U.S. interests was largely limited to revelations from Snowden’s initial leak.
“I continue to be concerned about the other documents that he may have,” Obama said. “That’s part of the reason why we’d like to have Mr. Snowden in custody.”
Still,Snowden’s disclosures of widespread eavesdropping by the U.S. National Security Agency in China and Hong Kong have given Beijing considerable ammunition in an area that has been a major irritant between the countries.
China’s defense ministry called the U.S. government surveillance program,known as Prism,”hypocritical behavior.”
“This ‘double standard’ approach is not conducive to peace and security in cyber space,” the state news agency Xinhua reported,quoting ministry spokesman Yang continued…