12:41 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Hello, everybody. I’ve missed you. (Laughter.) I have nothing at the top, so why don’t we go to your questions.
QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome back.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
QUESTION: Question, this morning the Secretary was in Hong Kong doing some damage control in part of that speech on the discussions on Capitol Hill about the deficit, raising the deficit – the ceiling, debt ceiling. How damaging would you say this debate is around the world to the U.S. image, and what’s the State Department doing to mitigate that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary spoke very clearly, obviously in Hong Kong, about the fact that she has great confidence, that we have confidence, that we’re going to get through this, and that you have democracy in action as the two parties on the Hill work towards an agreement and work with the President on this.
There have been a lot of questions around the world, as people try to understand how our system works, how our democracy works, about where all of this is going, so that was one of the reasons why the Secretary felt it was important to make a strong statement about democracy in action and about the fact that we will come through this, and about the adjustments that our strong, democratic economy has been able to make over time whenever we faced these kinds of challenges.
More broadly, though, I hope you caught the key themes of her speech, which were to ensure that not only in the East Asian region, but around the world, that we are working together on the basis of open, free, transparent, and fair market systems in which all countries can compete on the basis of a level playing field, whether they are developing nations, developed nations, and all businesses can compete, whether they’re big businesses or small businesses.
QUESTION: You said there’s been a lot of questions from around – how would you characterize the concern? Is it a lot of concern? Is it coming from certain regions more than others?
MS. NULAND: I think what we have are countries, leaders, businesses trying to grapple with how the American system works. They see us engaged in a democratic debate about what the right moves are going forward in the U.S. economy, but a lot of countries find our system hard to understand. So those are the kinds of questions we get – how long will this go on, are you confident that there’ll be an agreement? And I think it was important for the Secretary to make a strong statement of confidence that our system will produce a good result not only for the American people, but for the world economy as a whole.
Anything else on this? Oh, Kim.
QUESTION: Just – has the State Department been doing any outreach itself or is that all happening through the Treasury? I mean, beyond the statement that the Secretary made, are you reaching out to countries? Are they coming to you with questions? Where are these questions coming and going from?
MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary, obviously when she’s had her meetings with various bilateral partners and international partners, gets questions about how our system works. The Treasury, obviously, answers questions from counterparts around the world. Under Secretary for Economics Bob Hormats, who’s been with the Secretary, has also been explaining the process, the American process, to foreign governments and to interlocutors around the world. But again, the point is to explain that this is democracy in action, and we will have a good result in the end.
Anything else on that? No? Other thoughts? Please.
MS. NULAND: In terms of the timing, we’re looking at the end of the week. I don’t know whether the precise date – Thursday or Friday – in New York has been set. I think you know that the expected DPRK representative is Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan, and I think you heard the Secretary speak to what we’re looking for in this meeting, that we see this as a preliminary session where we’re going to lay out very clearly our expectations for what will be necessary to not only resume Six-Party Talks, but to improve direct engagement between the U.S. and the DPRK.
QUESTION: But why did you decide to have this meeting at this timing? Do you see any positive signs that North Korea is actually ready for serious negotiation?
MS. NULAND: I think following the North-South meeting that happened on the margins of the Bali multilaterals, there was a question about what the North Koreans would say to us, and so we thought it was timely to, again, have this preliminary session. And as you know, we are particularly interested in hearing them reaffirm that they are prepared to meet their international obligations and that they are prepared to take concrete and irreversible steps towards denuclearization.
Please, in the back there.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility that Mr. Kim is coming down to Washington, D.C. area from New York?
MS. NULAND: The plan is to do these meetings in New York.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) pressure China to make more effort on the North Korea issue, could you talk specifically what do you expect China to do?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think it’s a matter of pressure. I think it’s a matter of partners in this endeavor to get North Korea to take the necessary steps, comparing notes, and working from their respective areas of influence. As you know, Secretary Clinton met her foreign ministerial counterpart and she also just met Vice Prime Minister Dai Bingguo in Shenzhen. That was an opportunity for her to compare notes with China on what they’re seeing in the DPRK, particularly after recent diplomacy that they have done.
QUESTION: Was there any outcome regarding those issues come out when she was meeting the State Councilor Dai Bingguo and the other officials on the North Korea issues?
MS. NULAND: They did talk about North Korea today. They met for more than four hours in Shenzhen. And it was very broad-ranging conversation about the U.S.-China relationship, about our shared interest in regional issues, but North Korea was certainly one of the subjects of the meeting.
QUESTION: So who will participate from the State Department?
MS. NULAND: We are still working on the precise U.S. delegation. We’ll have more for you on that later in the week.
Please. No? Anything else on this subject, North Korea? No?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: In light of recent warning or precaution from the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem possibly restricting Ambassador Ford’s travels should he leave the capital, my question is: First, have you been legally or officially been notified of this statement? And what is Ambassador Ford’s current plans to travel, either in Damascus or outside of the capital?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, let me say that whether it is in Syria or anywhere else in the world, we reserve the right for our diplomatic personnel at all levels to travel as necessary to do their jobs, to represent U.S. views to a broad cross-section of population and leaders, but also so that we can gather the information that we need to evaluate internal dynamics. I don’t think any decisions have been made about onward travel by Ambassador Ford, but obviously, we reserve the right for him to travel.
With regard to your specific question, we’ve had some kind of an informal notification of these new proposed guidelines, but we have not had an official notification from the Syrian Government.
QUESTION: Could you share what they are?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Could you share what they are, the --
MS. NULAND: Could I share --
QUESTION: The travel – the new guidelines.
MS. NULAND: Again, we haven’t had any official communication from the Syrian Government. We’ve seen the same press reporting that you have seen, so --
QUESTION: A different topic? In that speech --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sorry, anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: While Secretary Clinton was in Istanbul, also the opposition – Syrian opposition coming in another meeting in Istanbul. And the Administration was talking about they don’t know enough about the opposition, Syrian opposition. Do you have more of a sense right now what kind of opposition is in the making in terms of Syrian position against the regime?
MS. NULAND: I think this is one of the main focuses of our Embassy in Damascus, is to try to get to know as many of these folks as we can and to have open doors to them as they want to talk about their desire to see prosperous democratic reformed Syria. We are making as many contacts as we can. We’re watching these community movements gaining force in many cities in Syria. But our primary interest is in the opposition movements that are forming inside Syria.
QUESTION: Sure, on a different topic: In Burma, the labor minister, I believe it was, met today with Aung San Suu Kyi. Do you see this as a significant move or do you see it primarily as symbolic? What’s your take on this dialogue?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke to our hopes for the new Burmese Government when she was in Bali that we want to see them take more democratic steps, more reformed steps, that we call on them to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi in an environment where she feels safe and secure, where she can have an influence on the future of her country. I can’t speak to this specific meeting, but those are the steps that we want to see, and we want to make sure also that the Burmese Government is taking great care with her security.
MS. NULAND: Following the contact group meeting in Istanbul, Minister Khatib was charged by the international community to do a number of things: First, to work intensively with the TNC on its roadmap, and particularly how the United Nations and the international community can support that roadmap going forward. So that’s the primary focus of what he’s up to. He’s also the main channel for the TNC in terms of its future and its desires regarding Qadhafi, who obviously we want to see step down from power.
QUESTION: So is he meeting with the Qadhafi regime as well?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I would refer you to the UN. But he’s certainly working with a broad cross-section of Libyans led by the TNC on how we get from where we are now to an increasingly democratic Libya.
QUESTION: So it’s your understanding that he’s trying to find some sort of political situation to what’s going on there?
MS. NULAND: Again, I would refer you to the UN on exactly what he’s up to today, but he was charged to be the international community’s main interlocutor, both with those Libyans looking to take their country forward, and in terms of helping them to achieve their goal, which is for Qadhafi to step down.
QUESTION: What’s the status on the frozen assets of Libyan regime after recognition? Is there anything happening? Anytime soon you’ll be able to release those assets?
MS. NULAND: I think you’ve seen a number of countries have been able to move forward and get some money into TNC coffers, and they are beginning to speak positively about that. With regard to the situation in the United States, recognition was a necessary step for us to now begin doing some of the internal legal work that we have to do to look at our options. As you know, the frozen Libyan assets in the United States are mostly property, but there is some cash. But there’s a question of working through both UN restrictions and some domestic law issues, and that’s going to take a little bit of time. But we are working hard on it and we’ll get back to you when we have something to say.
QUESTION: What kind of approvals, if any, are needed from the UN, from the Security Council, before the U.S. releases those assets?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t want to get too deeply into the legal issues, but there are a couple of different things here. On the one hand, there are sanctions in place on – in giving money to Libya, so there’s a question of whether some relief could, would, should be necessary. Then there are also questions of U.S. law which have to be worked through, and both of these questions have to be looked at together.
QUESTION: Just a clarification: When you say Libya, it is the TNC; you mean TNC, right, from now on? Just –
MS. NULAND: Yes. We have recognized the TNC as the governing authority.
QUESTION: Okay. So you stopped using the rebel term of rebel is going on, or is when you say Libya, it is the TNC?
MS. NULAND: When we are talking about being able to release frozen assets --
MS. NULAND: -- to an entity, we are talking about that entity that we recognize as the governing authority in Libya, the TNC.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: I have a question about the report today that – on Afghanistan that some U.S. money intended for the Afghan Government has ended up in the hands of the Taliban. Has the State Department known about this? How long have you known about it, if so?
MS. NULAND: I think that the report that you’re talking about is in reference to some – a reported DOD investigation of its own funding. If that’s what you are referring to, then I would send you to DOD to talk to them about where they are in their investigation.
I think you know that the State Department did a very serious review not too long ago of our own contracting procedures, and we instituted a whole raft of new procedures designed to improve the way we do this in terms of transparency, in terms of understanding more clearly and being able to track in a better way how the money is spent. But I think with regard to this specific report, I’d send you to DOD.
QUESTION: Well, with respect to the State Department’s portion, is the Afghan Government cooperating with you on this?
MS. NULAND: We are working closely with the Afghan Government to improve this contracting system, yes.
Please. Anything else on this? No?
QUESTION: Just one question. The – in Iran on Saturday night, there was a scientist who was allegedly working with the nuclear program who was killed. Some Iranian officials have said that either the U.S. or Israel or both were behind this. Do you have any comment one way or the other on this?
MS. NULAND: Only to say that we’ve seen a number of conflicting reports on this particular incident, and our sympathies are obviously with the family the victim. We condemn any assassination or attack on a person – on an innocent person. But I would simply say that it’s frequent practice for Tehran to accuse the West for these kinds of incidents, and we hope that Tehran is not planning to use this incident to distract attention from what it needs to do, which is to come back into compliance with international obligations.
QUESTION: Is that a denial that the U.S. was involved?
MS. NULAND: We were not involved.
QUESTION: Could I get any comment on the situation in Malawi and the current state of aid to Malawi, due to concerns about poor governance and management? Is there any – are there any plans to stop giving aid to Malawi? At some point earlier this year, their aid was delayed, and I’m wondering what the status is at the moment.
MS. NULAND: I’m going to have to take that one, Kim. We’ll get back to you later.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton was in Istanbul. We read of statements and many readouts. Would you be able to characterize the visit, what it achieved for us again today?
MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary said in her press conference with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, as we look around the world at the many global challenges that we are engaged in, on many, many of them, Turkey is a key ally and partner. So it was, apart from the Friday meetings of the Contact Group, the Saturday meetings, which were bilateral in nature, gave us a chance to really concert views on all of the issues that we’re working on together, whether it’s Libya or Syria or Middle East peace or NATO-EU issues, Cyprus, et cetera. So it was a very good and rich bilateral program.
QUESTION: One thing that needs to be followed up, Secretary Clinton was asked during the TV program whether she is going to talk to prime minister about the freedom of press issues in Turkey, and she said she is going to talk about it. We have not heard how the conversation went on – would it possible to –
MS. NULAND: I think apart from telling you that it did happen, I don’t want to characterize her private meeting with the prime minister any further than she has.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you please update on the status quo of arms sales to Taiwan? Because there’s a report – Senator Cornyn said Secretary Clinton promised him the State Department will release a report and also make a decision on arms sales to Taiwan before October 1st.
MS. NULAND: No decisions and no timeline from here. We’ll let you know when we do have something to report.
Anything else? Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)