1:17 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Everyone, welcome to the State Department. Just quickly at the top, I do want to note that World Press Freedom Day is approaching. I’m sure it’s something you all have a date on your calendars that you all have, given your profession. And UNESCO will be hosting its annual conference in Tunis beginning on May 3rd. I believe Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Esther Brimmer will be attending that on behalf of the United States and will deliver the keynote address on May 3rd.
But every year, the U.S. Government, as you know, we mark World Press Freedom Day. This year we’re trying something a little bit different in light of the large number of journalists who have been jailed, attacked, disappeared, or forced into exile or even murdered. As part of our Free the Press campaign, we’ll be highlighting some of these freedom of expression cases on our website, which is HumanRights.gov.
Today, for example, there’s a profile of the jailed Vietnamese blogger Dieu Cay. And as the – and continuing this run-up to World Press Freedom Day, we’ll continue to roll out cases from around the world that are emblematic of the problems facing your counterparts and colleagues as they try to do their job throughout the world.
I would also note if you’re really interested in a deeper dive on this subject, Under Secretary Sonenshine, as well as Assistant Secretary Posner, gave a press conference earlier today at the Foreign Press Center, and I’m sure there’ll be a transcript available of that.
Matt. By the way, I missed you yesterday. I apologize.
QUESTION: Well, thank you for – (laughter) – the apology. I’m not sure you’re really telling the truth that you miss me, but –
MR. TONER: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I actually don’t have anything that really warrants starting the briefing with, so I’ll defer to whoever.
MR. TONER: Okay. Shaun, you got anything?
QUESTION: Sure. Well, to begin with, in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, she’s going to be traveling for the first time overseas since her house arrest, to speak – going to be going to Norway and to the UK. I was wondering – presumably, the Secretary invited her during her trip last year. Are there any plans in the near future for Aung San Suu Kyi to come here?
MR. TONER: Well, Shaun, as you correctly noted, we – she certainly would always have an open invitation to carry on the dialogue that began when the Secretary was in Burma. I don’t know that there’s any plans at this time, but certainly we welcome, in fact, her ability to go out and travel to these countries and to engage in a dialogue with these governments; view it as a positive sign.
QUESTION: Sure. Could I switch topics --
MR. TONER: Sure thing.
QUESTION: -- to Sudan? Just want to see if you could have any update on Princeton Lyman’s visit there, and also a look at the developments now. President Bashir earlier today gave a speech where he was talking about the potential overthrow of the South Sudanese authorities. I think he referred to them as insects. Just what your read is on the situation and what Princeton Lyman’s been able to do, or not do?
MR. TONER: Well, as you noted, there’s a lot of unconstructive rhetoric being thrown around. We’ve also seen reports of new fighting along the Sudan-South Sudan border. Our central message is the same as it was yesterday. We continue to call for an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence by both parties, and that means we want to see the immediate withdrawal of South Sudanese forces from Heglig, and we want to see the – an immediate end to all aerial bombardments of South Sudan by the Sudanese armed forces.
Just – you asked about Princeton’s travels. He was, as you noted, in Khartoum. He has held high-level meetings with the Government of South Sudan, as I mentioned yesterday, including President Kiir, and he is in Khartoum today meeting with Sudanese officials.
QUESTION: Do you know whom he met?
MR. TONER: I don’t have a list of the officials with whom he met. I’ll try to get that for you.
QUESTION: Is he still there? Is he planning to continue his work, or is that --
MR. TONER: He’s still there for the time being. I don’t know where he’ll go from Khartoum.
QUESTION: Follow on that, please.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: In that rally, President al-Bashir said that his main target is now to liberate the people of Southern Sudan from the SPLM. Does that raise concerns about what you think Khartoum’s respect for that new border?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, obviously, given the escalation of violence over the past few weeks, given the rhetoric that’s being thrown about, we’re very concerned. We continue to, as we’ve said, through Princeton on the ground as well as publicly here, call for both sides to get back to the AU process. The Secretary spoke about this a few weeks ago, where she said it’s absolutely in both sides’ interests to get back to the negotiating table to settle borders, to talk about resources, and sharing of those resources. The situation such as it is right now gains nothing for either side.
QUESTION: Could I --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Andy.
QUESTION: Just another one on that because, I mean, you have been making this comment for quite a while now, and yet it seems to be falling on deaf ears. Is there any backup plan or second strategy that you guys might have to try to get these guys back to the negotiating table? I mean, it seems like the Thabo Mbeki initiative isn’t going anywhere. Princeton Lyman hasn’t been able to get them to do what everyone says they should do, which is pull back. Why – I mean, isn’t there anything else that the international community can do to get this together?
MR. TONER: Well, as you know, we’ve already – we still are – have sanctions in place against the Government of Sudan. I think part of this is trying to remind both parties what there is to gain to a peaceful resolution of this conflict and these contested areas. As I just said, there’s absolutely no military solution to the present situation. We’re going to continue with the on the ground diplomacy from Princeton. I know that Mbeki was in – at the UN, I believe, yesterday where he briefed the Security Council on the situation. People are concerned about the situation there. I think they’re concerned about the escalation and fighting, but we remain engaged with both sides.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. TONER: We can go ahead with a different subject.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from The Guardian. The story in The New York Times this morning about China and Bo Xilai. I know the State Department has said repeatedly it doesn’t discuss asylum-seeking requests, but The New York Times today – a few wrinkles that make it different. There’s discussion – why did the State Department or the consulate agree to cooperate with the authorities and hand him over to someone in Beijing rather than in Chengdu? Why was a discussion with the White House about the – whether this would impact on the visit with Biden?
Sorry, just a related thing. There’s also a report in the last few days suggesting that Bo Xilai’s son was taken from his apartment under escort. Was he taken into custody for his own protection or what?
MR. TONER: I’ll start with your second question first. I – we’ve had inquiries about his son. As far as we know, there’s nothing to those reports. I can recommend you contact local authorities, but as far as we know, there’s nothing to those reports. He remains at school at Harvard.
In response to your first question, I agree it was an interesting read based on anonymous sources within the U.S. Government. Obviously, I can’t speak to the credibility of any of their statements. I can only say that, as we’ve said previously, that Wang Lijun requested a meeting with U.S. Consulate General Chengdu officials in early February. That meeting was scheduled accordingly. He was there, I believe, on Monday, February 6th and Tuesday, February 7th, and left of his own volition. But I can’t talk about the contents of that meeting.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Wang Lijun – his current status and – are there any concerns about his status right now? He was taken into custody after --
MR. TONER: Well again, we don’t – we have no contact with him since his departure from the consulate. So I’d just have to refer you to the Chinese Government for any information.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, wait.
MR. TONER: Sure. We can stay on this topic. We’ll stay. We always finish the topic and then --
QUESTION: Okay. Sure. Fantastic.
QUESTION: Sorry. What – you can’t speak to the credibility of colleagues of yours? You’re saying that they’re incredible?
MR. TONER: I said I can’t speak to quotes from anonymous sources in a newspaper article.
QUESTION: Well, let’s not talk about their quotes.
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about what they actually said. I mean, is it correct that he brought with him documents that were related to – or that you presume that the consulate employees presume to – or that he said had to do with corruption and investigation into --
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to get into the discussions that were held. I can only confirm that he was at the consulate in Chengdu on the dates that I just specified. I can’t get into the contents or what we discussed or --
QUESTION: There wasn’t any concern – well, there was no request for asylum?
MR. TONER: I couldn’t speak about it if it were.
QUESTION: There – is it correct that the U.S. Government does not like to give asylum to people with – who have somewhat checkered records?
MR. TONER: There’s no way for me to – I mean, asylum cases are all – follow a precise legal framework, and in fact, many of those – almost all asylum cases – speaking now globally or largely about the issue, all asylum cases, I believe, are carried out within the United States.
QUESTION: Did the Embassy actually make it – facilitate his phone call to officials in Beijing?
MR. TONER: I can’t comment on that.
QUESTION: You can’t comment because you don’t know or because you --
MR. TONER: I can’t comment on it because I don’t know --
QUESTION: Because that’s the purview of anonymous officials speaking in The New York Times.
MR. TONER: -- but it would also be within the purview of our diplomatic exchanges with another individual and a country. So we don’t need to --
QUESTION: Oh okay. So --
MR. TONER: -- talk about the substance of those conversations.
QUESTION: -- when he showed up --
MR. TONER: Or those meetings.
QUESTION: -- at the consulate, he was acting on behalf of the Chinese Government?
MR. TONER: Matt, I think I’ve gone about as far as I can on this. He came to the consulate, he requested a meeting --
MR. TONER: -- it was scheduled --
QUESTION: As a member of the Chinese --
MR. TONER: He was there on the dates --
QUESTION: -- Government? Or as an individual?
MR. TONER: It was in his capacity as vice mayor.
QUESTION: In his capacity as vice mayor. And you regard the vice mayor of Chengdu to be an official of the national --
MR. TONER: A local government official, yes.
QUESTION: A local government official, which is that --
MR. TONER: And again, those conversations would be confidential, absolutely.
QUESTION: Except when your colleagues speak about them to The New York Times.
MR. TONER: Again, I can’t speak to the veracity of any of the --
QUESTION: I’m just curious if you can’t speak to the veracity of them because you think that – because they’re not true, or you can’t speak to the veracity of them because you were told that you can’t speak to the veracity.
MR. TONER: Let’s try to end this line of conversation, because I don’t think it’s productive. I can’t speak to the veracity of any anonymous officials being quoted in newspapers.
QUESTION: You could speak to the veracity of what those people said, though.
MR. TONER: And I can’t speak to the substance of any of this issue – this story. I can’t talk about what was discussed in the meeting for reasons I just gave. I can only confirm there was a meeting. He left there on his own volition. We’ve not had contact with him since.
QUESTION: Did you understand that he left alone, as he came?
MR. TONER: I don’t know that.
QUESTION: Have you sought to make contact with him since then?
MR. TONER: I don’t know.
QUESTION: You don’t know.
QUESTION: Well, is it correct that the Administration believes that it has been put into a position that it was – in other words, put into a position that it doesn’t want to be in, involved in the middle of a power struggle in the Chinese Government, or the Chinese couldn’t --
MR. TONER: Well, again, that wouldn’t be – it wouldn’t be my position to comment on internal Chinese politics.
QUESTION: Well, no, I’m not asking you about internal Chinese politics. I’m asking about --
MR. TONER: I thought you were.
QUESTION: No, no. I’m saying is it correct – the statement in the story says that it’s pressed the Administration into a position that it doesn’t want to be in, that it really doesn’t want to have anything to do with power struggles and internal Chinese power struggles.
MR. TONER: Well, I’m not going to --
QUESTION: Is that correct? Do you not --
MR. TONER: To talk about some of the implications of this – that are discussed in this story would be to, I think, address the substance of the story, and I said I’m not going to get into that.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Mark, move back to Syria?
MR. TONER: We can go to Syria.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, France has pulled for tougher sanction and Secretary Clinton will be tomorrow in Paris. First, will she join the Friend of Syria meeting? Secondly, will she propose something new in light of the new escalation on the ground?
MR. TONER: Thank you. You stole my top line, but you already heard the Secretary from Brussels said she will be attending tomorrow, Thursday, the ad-hoc meeting taking place in Paris with a group of foreign ministers to discuss next steps on Syria. I think she spoke to this; Ambassador Rice spoke to it earlier in New York, of our concern that the ceasefire is showing signs of eroding, that the other conditions laid out in the Annan plan are not being fulfilled.
That said, the Secretary was clear that she didn’t want to prejudge the success of the monitoring mission. It is moving forward. There are more monitors on the ground and there will be more in the coming days. And we’re going to look to their reporting back, as well as, I believe the Secretary General himself is going to provide a report on the monitoring mission, the scope and the size of it in the coming days.
QUESTION: Mark, just wanted to – the Secretary also said that the international community’s response to Syria is at a critical point and that --
MR. TONER: She did.
QUESTION: -- Assad can either let the monitors do their job or squander his last chance. And the question is: Or what? Squander his last chance or what happens? More expressions of outrage, or is there actually a plan?
MR. TONER: Well, I think the plan going forward – there’s going to be this meeting. We’ve always had a two-track approach to this, as you well know. We’ve – well, actually three tracks. I mean, there’s been our unilateral sanctions against Assad, but there’s also been the UN track, which we saw bear fruit with the latest Security Council resolution. And we’ve also been pursuing this Friends of Syria track and working with likeminded countries and organizations around the world.
And that’s what the goal of tomorrow is, is that she’s going to be there talking about what possible next steps we can do, undertake, to put more pressure on Assad. I think the sanctions working group met yesterday in Paris and had the chance to talk about further coordination on – and sanctions. So our basic thrust here is the same. We’re going to continue to work to implement the Annan plan, while at the same time, we’re going to continue to look at ways we can add more sanctions, more pressure on Assad as we move forward.
QUESTION: So I’m curious about --
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- your choice of words. You said the ceasefire is showing signs of eroding. Really? Showing --
MR. TONER: Is that too much passive voice? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. No, no. Not too much passive voice. I mean, just think it’s -
PARTICIPANT: I mean, I think it’s --
QUESTION: -- because seems like it’s a total mudslide. It’s not just showing signs of erosion. It’s like it didn’t – it’s a Grand Canyon-type erosion that we’re talking about here.
MR. TONER: Well, you are correct, Matt, that we have seen a lot of violence, almost to pre-ceasefire levels throughout the past 24 hours. I think I’ve seen that 70 people were killed in Syria yesterday and today, reports that at least 24 were killed.
MR. TONER: I don’t mean to downplay that at all.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, isn’t – this ceasefire seems to have been an increase fire, in fact, because it doesn’t look like – I mean, things have gotten worse rather than better since it happened. So I just don’t understand why you all have any confidence that adding an additional 30 or 25 monitors in the short term and then presumably, if the Syrians even agree to it, adding another 250 or 300 is actually going to do anything. It just seems to be, to use one of your words, Pollyanna-ish to think that that’s --
MR. TONER: One of my words?
MR. TONER: In any case, look, we aren’t under any illusions here. It is very clear that the violence is beginning to return. The Secretary, Ambassador Rice both spoke to the fact that the onus is on Assad. He needs to comply with the Annan plan. He needs to take steps to meet its conditions. He hasn’t done so. Even with the ceasefire, it wasn’t enough. There are other aspects to the plan, including the release of political prisoners and access for international media and international humanitarian assistance.
There’s been no progress on any of those fronts, so we’re going to continue, as I just said to Andy, to look at Plan B or Option B, which is ways to increase the pressure on Assad as we move forward. But that said, we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of the Annan plan and this monitoring mission. If we can get 250 monitors on the ground reporting back credible information about the situation there, then that’s valuable.
QUESTION: So you don’t think that it’s already failed?
MR. TONER: I think we’re --
QUESTION: Even though it’s shown no – even though nothing – none of the conditions have been met, and one of them, the ceasefire, has actually gotten worse, not better, you don’t think that’s a sign of abject failure?
MR. TONER: I think we’re going to wait to hear back from the monitoring mission, from the secretary general, and even from Kofi Annan, but we are very concerned.
QUESTION: Because somehow, they can tell you what you don’t know already?
MR. TONER: No, Matt, but just to understand and to appreciate --
QUESTION: Because – well, I – okay, I get that you want to hear back from the guy whose plan it is, but frankly, that’s not going to be for another four or five days, right? I mean, he’s not expected to report back until at least the weekend, right?
MR. TONER: Well, it’ll be up to --
QUESTION: So that’s another four or five days that people are going to get slaughtered.
MR. TONER: Matt --
QUESTION: Am I right or am I wrong?
MR. TONER: I don’t think I’m trying to couch this in any other terms than a realistic expectation here that the ceasefire plan, as I just said, is eroding. I mean, we are very concerned about the situation there. The Secretary is going to Paris talking about next steps.
QUESTION: But I guess – my question is --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: My question is why not say this is --
MR. TONER: You’re saying why don’t we declare it --
QUESTION: Yeah, say, “All right, all right, we tried this one plan and it hasn’t worked. Clearly it hasn’t worked. And it’s now time to move to the next stage,” instead of waiting for another --
MR. TONER: Well, we’re not --
QUESTION: -- 150, 200 people to get killed?
MR. TONER: The bottom line is we’re not waiting. We’re going to continue to work with the Friends of Syria Group to put pressure on Assad. At the same time, we’re going to try to give the Annan plan more opportunity to work.
MR. TONER: I don’t believe the Secretary’s had any calls or contacts with Lavrov. Of course, I don’t know that – whether Ambassador Rice has spoken to her Russian counterpart in New York.
QUESTION: New topic, (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Oh, sorry. Yeah, finish it (inaudible).
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- suspected of taking Syrian arms – arms to Syria. Do you guys have anything on that?
MR. TONER: Well, we have seen these reports that you mentioned. It’s a Ukrainian charted ship that’s now in a Turkish port that is apparently or allegedly carrying munitions to Syria. If true, this would be a violation of the EU arms embargo on Syria, and any aid to the regime’s violent capacities supports the killing of innocent victims, so we want to see the – we want to see it stopped and sanctioned.
QUESTION: But you don’t have any independent reason to believe that this is (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I don’t at this point.
QUESTION: Sorry. How is it a violation of the EU arms embargo?
MR. TONER: Against Syria.
QUESTION: I’m sorry; I don’t understand. Turkey is not in the EU and neither is Ukraine, at least the last time I checked. Why would this be a violation?
MR. TONER: Look, I think that --
QUESTION: Turkey wants to be in the EU.
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) I know that they want to be in the EU.
QUESTION: Or at least they did.
MR. TONER: I’m aware of their aspirations. I think that we are calling on all countries that are unified – and certainly, Turkey is with us on our stance against the situation in Syria – to comply with existing embargos. And we would seek in this case --
QUESTION: Well, my understanding is there is not an arms embargo on Syria, a UN arms embargo, so who is the – who would be – I mean, the Russians or whoever the Ukrainians can ship as – whatever they want without violating – I mean, EU – an EU arms embargo, to me, suggests that that means that EU countries cannot send weapons to Syria.
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think it’s a fair question. I’m not sure the legality or the – all the legal aspects to it. I think fundamentally, what we’re trying to say here is that countries like Turkey have played a leadership role in speaking out against Syria and taking action against the regime there, and what they’re carrying out should be willing to comply with this.
QUESTION: You think that the ship is owned by a German company?
MR. TONER: I think it’s owned by a German company, thank you. As you know, these – the ships also – often have a long pedigree.
MR. TONER: No, let’s do Canada.
QUESTION: Very quickly, I’m just wondering what you can tell us about the request to transfer Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay to Canada, how that process will now move ahead, and why the U.S. is so anxious to get this transfer moving.
MR. TONER: Well, I can say that the U.S. Government and the Canadian Government continue to work closely to effectuate Omar Khadr’s application to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, which was pursuant to his plea agreement. And the first step, as you know, in this process was completed last year, which was an exchange of diplomatic notes. And those notes continue to govern this transfer. We did recently approve the transfer of Khadr to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, and we’ve been in regular contact with the Canadian Government on this case. We’ve worked diligently to take appropriate steps consistent with the treaty, but we’re not going to be able to give you a transfer timeline. But we’re working quickly and deliberately to close this process out.
I think your question was: Why are we working so quickly? Well, as you know, we’re working to close Guantanamo Bay, and as part of that process, we’re trying to find homes, if you will, for the remaining prisoners.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up: Is there any more action that the United States has to take in order for this to happen, or is it now entirely in the hands of Canada?
MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I think I’ll have to take that question, frankly. I’m not sure whether we have any more legal steps we need to take in this process.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Other than, obviously, the physical transfer.
Yeah, go ahead.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday the highest official in the Venezuelan Government – Eladio Aponte, supreme court – defected to the United States as serious accusations against the Chavez government – high military officials, the closest aides to Chavez on corruption and drug trafficking. How this changes the dynamic of the U.S. Government relations with Venezuela?
MR. TONER: Well, with regard to his current status and situation, I’d have to refer you to the DEA. As to the larger issue, I don’t really have any comment on the broader implications of his transfer.
QUESTION: Is there a concern about corruption and narco-traffic within the highest echelons of the Venezuelan Government?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we talk about our concerns. We’ve talked about them before, about our concerns about drug trafficking and corruption, frankly, in the region and the negative effects of it. But as to this case, because of its legal ramifications, I can’t really talk about any more detail.
Yeah. Go ahead, Scott.
MR. TONER: Well, I can give you a little bit more today, yes. I can say that we’re very concerned about the Government of Argentina’s intent to nationalize Repsol YPF. Frankly, the more we look at this, we view it as a negative development along the lines of what the Secretary said the other day, in that these kinds of actions against foreign investors can ultimately have an adverse effect on the Argentine economy and could further dampen the investment climate in Argentina.
And just to add that we’ve raised this on numerous occasions and at the highest levels of the Government of Argentina; our concerns about these kinds of actions that can affect the investment climate in Argentina. And we would just urge Argentina to normalize its relationship with the international financial and investment community.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on that. The Spanish foreign minister today said that this issue not only affects Spain’s interests or the European Union interests, it affects the interests of the whole international community. Do you agree with that?
MR. TONER: Well, insofar as along the lines of what I just said insofar as that it creates a very negative investment climate. Yes.
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Palestinian issue?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: According to press report, President Abbas, in his letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that he might go back to the United Nation or he might raise legal issue before the international justice. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. TONER: Well, as we talked yesterday, I am aware that the parties did meet yesterday. Obviously we’re encouraged by these face-to-face exchanges. There was a letter that was exchanged. To your broader question, our position hasn’t changed with regard to going to the UN or other organizations. It’s not productive and conducive to creating the kind of atmosphere that’s going to get both parties back to the negotiating table.
Yeah, go ahead.
MR. TONER: I don’t know. Possibly. I don’t have confirmation. I haven’t spoken with David about that.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a couple of little ones.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: The first is the Indian Government had plans – they’ve now postponed them, but they have plans to test this new missile. Apparently it can carry payloads deep into China or perhaps even as far as Europe. I was just wondering if you’d had any communication with that – on that subject with them.
MR. TONER: Well, look, you know that we’ve got a very strong strategic and security partnership with India, so we obviously have routine discussions about a wide range of topics, including their defense requirements. I’m not aware that we’ve specifically raised this issue with them. We’ve certainly seen the reports that between April 18th and 20th that they plan to test this ballistic missile. As I – I think I understand or saw in press reports that it was postponed.
Naturally, I just would say that we urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities. That said, India has a solid nonproliferation record. They’re engaged with the international community on nonproliferation issues. And Prime Minister Singh, I believe, has attended both the nuclear – both of the nuclear summit – security summits, the one in Washington and then Seoul.
QUESTION: So you wouldn’t have any specific concerns on it as a destabilizing factor in the region?
MR. TONER: I think I’ll just stay with – the fact that we always caution all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint.
QUESTION: Okay. And one other one --
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: On a separate issue, the Embassy in Abuja put out this morning about Boko Haram and threats to attack hotels. And the Nigerian Government has reacted rather unhappily to this warning, saying that it just fans panic. Did you guys run this by the Nigerians before you put it out? What sort of information was it based on? Can you tell us?
MR. TONER: Yeah. In response to your question about whether we ran this by the Government of Nigeria, I don’t know that we would be obliged to do so. I don’t know if we did in this case. We did receive, however, information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, as you said, against hotels frequently visited by Westerners. We don’t have any additional information regarding the timing of these attacks. But as you know, in accordance with the Department’s no double standard policy, when we deem a threat to any U.S. citizen – safety – rather a threat to a U.S. citizen’s safety or security to be specific, credible, and non-counterable, we do issue these kinds of emergency messages.
QUESTION: Specific, credible, and what?
MR. TONER: Non-counterable, meaning we can’t find any evidence to refute it.
QUESTION: Or non-counterable, meaning it can’t be stopped?
MR. TONER: No. Non-counterable meaning we can’t find any readily available evidence to dispute it.
QUESTION: And you can’t be any more specific?
MR. TONER: I can’t at this – no.
QUESTION: Because --
MR. TONER: Because I don’t know that we have any other information beyond what I just said, which is that – attacks against hotels frequented by Westerners. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Well, no, I – the source of this information I think it was what the question was.
MR. TONER: I can’t. We don’t comment on the source of our threat information.
QUESTION: Well, do you regard it – you believe it to be specific and credible?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: Like, so what you said?
MR. TONER: Yes. What I said.
QUESTION: Specific, credible, and non-counterable?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On India (inaudible) --
MR. TONER: And I also asked what non-counterable meant, and I think that’s the explanation I was given. If that’s wrong, I’ll let you guys know.
QUESTION: Doesn’t the development of an ICBM cross a certain line?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Where are we at again?
QUESTION: India. The missile.
MR. TONER: Look, there’s been no launch; it’s been postponed. I think I gave you all I’m going to say on that.
Yeah, go ahead, Scott.
QUESTION: The French Government has issued an international arrest warrant against the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea. This is the guy who the Justice Department went to court last week seeking to seize as much as $70 million of his assets. He’s a large property owner in California. Has there been any contact by the French Government to the United States Government about this arrest warrant?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. This is – this individual is --
QUESTION: The son of the president of Equatorial Guinea.
MR. TONER: Okay. I’m not aware of it. I’ll just take the question, Scott.
MR. TONER: Yeah, let’s go in the back then.
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: And – yeah. I was just wondering, what was part of the negotiation between the U.S. and Canada regarding – because we were being told that it was a deal – and if Canada was offered something in return.
MR. TONER: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying – that whether there was some kind of quid pro quo or something or --
QUESTION: No. That there was that – because we were being told that there was a deal regarding his transfer.
MR. TONER: I don’t have anything to add other than that there was – and I would just point you in the direction of there were diplomatic notes exchanged last year that are publicly available that spell out the transfer and the rules that govern it.
QUESTION: But there is nothing newer than that?
MR. TONER: Certainly not that I’m aware of. No.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: North Korea. The Japanese newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, reported today that China has suspended deportations to North Korea of refugees. The article was saying that this was partly in retaliation because North Korea didn’t consult China or inform China about its launch recently. But obviously, the U.S. has had long-standing concerns.
MR. TONER: We have had long-standing concerns. I’m frankly not aware of this particular report, but --
QUESTION: Just if there’s any information about whether those repatriations have actually been stopped.
MR. TONER: I don’t know. I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
MR. TONER: Is that it, everyone? Thanks guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
DPB # 70