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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 6, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • SOUTH AFRICA
    • Secretary Kerry's Statement on Nelson Mandela
  • UKRAINE
    • Relations with Neighbors / European Integration
    • Readout of Assistant Secretary Nuland's Meetings
    • Assistance to Ukraine / Economic Modernization and Democratization
    • Yulia Tymoshenko
  • BANGLADESH
    • Elections / Political Process
  • SRI LANKA
    • Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Committee report
  • INDIA / PAKISTAN
    • Relationship / Territorial Issues
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
    • UNSCR Chapter VII Authority / MISCA and French Forces
    • Peacekeeping Operations / Nonlethal Equipment and Training
  • DPRK
    • Internal Politics
  • LIBYA
    • Death of an American Citizen
  • DPRK
    • Merrill Newman
  • JAPAN
    • Information Security / Alliance Cooperation / Universal Values
  • JAPAN / CHINA / SOUTH KOREA
    • ADIZ / Tensions in the Region / Vice President Biden's Meetings
    • Regional Peace and Stability / China's Role in the Region
    • FAA Guidelines
  • THAILAND
    • Human Trafficking / Rohingya
  • JAPAN / CHINA / SOUTH KOREA
    • Readout of Vice President Biden's Meetings with ROK President Park
  • JORDAN
    • Election of Jordan to Non-Permanent U.N. Security Council Seat
  • SYRIA
    • Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack / Chemical Weapons Convention
    • OPCW Announcement on Destruction of Category III Unfilled Munitions
    • Abduction of Nuns
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions
    • Conversations with Israelis
    • Technical Discussions in Geneva / P5+1
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Health Insurance Coverage of Foreign Mission Personnel in the U.S. / Medicaid
    • Art in Embassies Program / Representational Purchases


TRANSCRIPT:

1:28 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hello. Day four. Scarf on day four.

QUESTION: The All Blacks – New Zealand rugby team.

MS. HARF: I like it. The only thing I have at the top, just briefly, as you saw, the White House announced that the President and the First Lady will travel to South Africa next week to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela. I know there are lots of questions about the delegation and who else might be going. The White House will be making any and all further announcements, so I’d point folks to there for that, because I know there have been lots of questions this morning on that issue as well.

So with that --

QUESTION: Well, just on that, I mean, does the Secretary have an interest in going? Would he like to go?

MS. HARF: You saw the statement the Secretary put out last night on his feelings on this day. Again, just no decisions have been made about who else might be going. The White House will be making all those announcements.

QUESTION: Well, okay, that’s fine, but that’s not my question. His statement --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize his thoughts on it. He put out a statement last night about his thoughts on this day, and I’m not going to --

QUESTION: You can’t say that he would like to go?

MS. HARF: -- say whether or not he wants to go or doesn’t want to go. No, I’m just not going to answer that question.

QUESTION: Well, I can’t – well --

MS. HARF: Because I’m not going to get inside the Secretary’s head. If – the President and the First Lady will be going next week. If there are additional announcements about --

QUESTION: It seems like a fairly simple question to be able to answer.

MS. HARF: It’s just one I’m not going to answer for you.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I don’t have anything else.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So apparently, Ukrainian President Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today to talk about a strategic partnership. Do you have any views on that?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said a couple times this week, we don’t think it’s a zero sum game. We obviously encourage Ukraine to continue to develop normal relations with its neighbors, but we also believe the European integration provides the surest path towards Ukraine’s democratic future and economic prosperity. This has been going on for some time now, and again, we call on the government to listen to the voices of their people and continue on the path towards European integration.

QUESTION: Do you have any fear that a strategic partnership might actually lead to Ukraine becoming a vassal of Russia?

MS. HARF: Again, we don’t think this is a zero sum game here. We are working with the Ukrainian Government. Assistant Secretary Nuland had a number of meetings yesterday there – I think it was yesterday there – on the ground with folks. So we’ll keep talking to them. And they’ve made a lot of progress in terms of reforms to move on this path, and hopefully they will continue to do so.

QUESTION: On that subject --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Could you tell us who --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Assistant Secretary Nuland met with and read out some of those meetings, please?

MS. HARF: Yeah. On December 5th, Assistant Secretary Nuland met with Ukrainian foreign minister, the prime minister, the first deputy prime minister. She also met with opposition leaders, visited the site of the ongoing protests, and spoke with journalism students. As we’ve talked about a little bit, she also attended the OSCE ministerial meetings and met with civil society representatives from across the OSCE space. Her message in all of these meetings was the same: that the world is watching Ukraine; that we stand with the vast majority of Ukrainians who want a European future, who desire to bring their country back to prosperity and economic health. These conversations, of course, will continue.

QUESTION: And the other day, we were talking about possible ways in which --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the United States might be able to help support the EU as it tries to bring Ukraine closer into the European fold. Could you outline – did you get an answer on any of those?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I have a little bit of information, so thank you for asking this. I had taken it and tried to get a little more. We’ve obviously been working closely with our European allies and partners to help Ukraine take the steps necessary to proceed along this path. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, we’ve supported the Ukrainians as they’ve built democratic skills and institutions, promoted civil – civic participation, excuse me. In Fiscal Year 2013, we provided over 100 million of assistance to Ukraine – specifically to Ukraine in support of economic modernization, democratization, and other reforms to help Ukraine move faster down the path towards EU integration.

Our programs that assist on customs, intellectual property rights enforcement, border guards, contribute to Ukraine meeting the European standards required under an association agreement. Also, our support of judicial reforms, especially on Ukraine’s newly adopted criminal procedure code, helps prepare Ukraine for deeper integration as well. And finally, one more thing I will mention is that we have programs that have been combating trafficking in persons. This has been helping Ukraine reach EU standards in that area as well.

QUESTION: That’s – this is all about meeting EU standards --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which is obviously important for them to make their association agreement.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I think one of the problems that Ukraine had had with signing this agreement was that they were under a threat of some kind of trade embargo from Russia, and I was wondering whether there was any counterproposals that the United States might be able to put to the EU to help --

MS. HARF: With tariffs or something like --

QUESTION: -- tariffs and trades and that sort of thing.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I didn’t get any more on that. I’m happy to take it, and hopefully, if I could get you something this afternoon. I’m just not sure what we’ve done.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: This was in the Moldovan wine conversation.

QUESTION: Yes, it was.

QUESTION: Did she raise the case of Yulia Tymoshenko?

MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that. We’ve very clearly made our position known, publicly and privately, that we think she should be released, but let me double check. I don’t know.

Yes. Another scarf.

QUESTION: A couple – another scarf, okay.

MS. HARF: I like it. Go ahead.

QUESTION: A couple questions on South Asia – Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Sri Lanka. Let’s start with Bangladesh. The situation is not very good and upcoming elections and there was a hearing on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while it’s going on, and law and order is in trouble, and that’s what – according to the chairman. What’s your – the situation from the State Department?

MS. HARF: Well, we --

QUESTION: And because there – I’m sorry, there was terror warning also to Bangladesh.

MS. HARF: So we believe the need is now even more urgent for the major political parties to engage immediately in constructive dialogue to find a way forward to hold elections that are free, fair, and credible, and that reflects the will of the Bangladeshi people. Violence of any nature – which I know we’ve seen in Bangladesh – by any of the participants in the political process is not part of the democratic process. It’s not acceptable, must stop immediately. And the U.S. believes that, obviously, in a democracy, all parties have a right to express their opinions freely and peacefully. And we call on the major parties to engage in constructive dialogue to try to find an agreed-upon way forward.

QUESTION: And going to Sri Lanka?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Recently, there was a Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka in Colombo. According to the president there, what he told the leaders – and also to the international community, including UN and the U.S. – he said that time is needed for reconciliation with the countries because after so long war between the two communities and the violence and so forth, and the international community should not conclude or jump on the situation because each country needs some time. And also here in Washington, Sri Lankan ambassador also repeated the same thing on the U.S. and the UN, to give his country more time. So what is going on now as far as the human rights and other situation in Sri Lanka?

MS. HARF: I think I had something on this. Yes. Here’s what I have, the latest, and if I need to get more, I can: The U.S. has long urged the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its public commitments, to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee report, and to develop credible justice mechanisms to address outstanding allegations concerning serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

We do also continue to be concerned about ongoing issues regarding restrictions on freedom of the press and expression, the erosion of the rule of law, and violence against religious minorities. And we also note with concern that human rights defenders have continued to face reprisals. Obviously, this is something that needs to end.

QUESTION: And finally, on Pakistan, if I may, please?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You may have seen some reports. First of all, recently, India celebrate – I mean, not celebrated, but mourned five years of the Mumbai attacks in where 166 people died and – including six Americans. And so far, there is no justice for the mastermind, what the Indian Government believes is in Pakistan.

But my question here is: Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made remarks to his leaders that he sees there is a forthcoming war on Kashmir or over Kashmir between India and Pakistan and he said that he – his vision is to have Kashmir part of Pakistan. Any comments?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t actually see those comments, so I don’t want to respond to comments I haven’t seen. We’ve been very clear that this is an issue we think needs to be discussed directly between Pakistan and India. I just haven’t seen those comments. I’m happy to look at them, and if there’s a response, get back.

QUESTION: But let me put it in a different way: What do you see the relations between India and Pakistan as far as U.S. is concerned? Where are they going now?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve always said that we believe they need to keep building a better relationship, they need to work together on these issues, and certainly we hope they will do so.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: Along the lines of the – your response on the Sri Lanka question just then --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did you get answers to the Kenya questions that were roughly similar yesterday?

MS. HARF: Let me see. I’m not sure if I did, Matt. I’m sorry. Let me see on that. I did not.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Let me – I’m sorry about that. I’ll see what I can get.

QUESTION: Okay. And then going back also to yesterday on the Central African Republic and why the United States did not believe it was appropriate at the time, at least yesterday, for there to be a UN peacekeeping force – is one of the reasons that it – that you – that the Administration felt it was not appropriate for a peacekeeping force the fact that you would have to pay for about 28 percent of it, and there is barely enough money in the – free money to even meet the 40 million that you – that the President is – or that the Secretary has announced to set aside?

MS. HARF: That’s not my understanding. I got a little bit more, so let’s – none of it involved money, so let me see what I can tell you.

The Security Council resolution giving MISCA and French forces Chapter VII authority to do a few things, not all of which peacekeeping operations can do: to take all necessary measures to protect civilians; to restore security and public order; to stabilize the country; create conditions to the provision of humanitarian assistance; to disarm, demobilize, and repatriate armed groups; and to restructure the defense and security sectors. Those are what I think was laid out in the UNSCR.

There remain some outstanding issues to be resolved before a peacekeeping operation could be considered. Some of these include whether there would be a viable and cooperative political partner with which a UN peacekeeping operation could engage; also, whether the Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups, many of whom are human rights violators, would be integrated into the reformed military; and finally, whether armed groups would voluntarily stand down when faced by UN troops – again, something that’s necessary for peacekeeping, that – I stress the second part of that word, “keeping” of the peace. Right now, obviously, that’s not a situation we’re looking at. We believe that the MISCA and the French troops, with this Chapter VII mandate, can do more at this time more quickly, can deploy immediately, and help stabilize the situation.

QUESTION: But doesn’t MISCA and the UN troops face the same problem of not – of potentially not having a viable and cooperative political --

MS. HARF: It’s just a different mandate. Obviously, to have a peacekeeping --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) mandate, that’s for sure.

MS. HARF: Well, it’s just different. It’s an ongoing conflict. To have a peacekeeping operation, there needs to be some peace to keep.

QUESTION: So you would not characterize MISCA as a peacekeeping operation? That’s the --

MS. HARF: I can see what the – how the UNSCR’s – I’m not sure they used that word.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But when you ask about a UN peacekeeping operation --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- obviously, we believe there a couple things that still need to happen.

QUESTION: Just on that, I also had a follow-up question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Germany today is offering to provide some transport and refueling aircraft to the French military operation. I know in the past, the United States offered some military support for Mali, particularly when the French went in. I asked yesterday, but – and I presume you’ll probably refer me to the Pentagon, but I just wondered if there were still any plans for any kind of military backup by the United States in this operation.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m – yeah, it’s a good question, and the Pentagon would probably know more. I’m not aware of any specific requests for U.S. military assistance at this point. Again, this is just the latest I have. The Pentagon may have more updated information. We responded jointly with our – jointly, excuse me – with our EU and international partners to specific requests on nonlethal equipment and training for MISCA troop-contributing countries. That’s a mouthful there. So I just am not aware of any specific requests. Obviously, we would consider them if they came in.

QUESTION: And just on the 40 million --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are you aware if all of that money has been found?

MS. HARF: Found? What does that mean? Sorry.

QUESTION: Well, I --

MS. HARF: We’ve pledged it. I think there’s a process --

QUESTION: Right, exactly.

MS. HARF: -- that may involve Congress or something else. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Yes, it involves reprogramming some money as well, but I just want to know, are you confident that you will be able to meet that pledge?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I certainly have no reason to believe we won’t. I can double-check on where the process stands.

QUESTION: Do you know how it’s going to be distributed?

MS. HARF: I had a little bit of --

QUESTION: It’s quite a lot of money. I mean, how is it going to be parceled out?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I had a little bit on that. Let me see if I have it in front of me right here – 40 million in assistance to MISCA. I’m not sure I have more details on that. Give me one second. But if I don’t, I’m happy to take that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m just not sure how it’ll be parceled out.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Just a follow-on on North Korea. There are South Korean media reports that an aide to Kim Jong-un’s oust – apparently ousted uncle is seeking asylum and is currently in China. Do you have anything to substantiate that?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’d refer you to those countries that are part of that report for any comment.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The American who was killed, do you have any indication that he might have been involved in Christian activities of some type?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more information than I shared yesterday, still trying to get some more facts related to this case and exactly what happened on the ground. I know he was working in an international school in Benghazi. I just don’t have anything more than that.

QUESTION: And the status of another American who might be there, do you know anything about --

MS. HARF: Another American who might be where?

QUESTION: In Benghazi.

MS. HARF: We don’t track American citizens overseas. They’re not required to register with the State Department. We encourage them to, but they’re not required to. So I just don’t have a number for how many Americans may or may not be anywhere overseas.

QUESTION: Marie, on Japan, please?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Go back to North Korea and I had a question on Americans, and that is whether there’s any update on Mr. Newman.

MS. HARF: No update from yesterday.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Japan?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: National secret protection law has finally passed the parliament in Japan today. Can we have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. As you know, information security plays a critical role in alliance cooperation, and we welcome progress on strengthening policies, practices, and procedures related to the protection of classified information. A foundation of our alliance is also a shared commitment to universal values, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, so those are – that’s our response to that. Obviously, we’ll continue talking to them about it if --

QUESTION: Is the freedom --

MS. HARF: -- it’s a topic that comes up.

QUESTION: The last part is regarding this huge national debate in Japan that law might – press – the freedom of press practice in Japan. Is that the reaction you are making?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, a key part of our alliance is also the – our shared commitment to freedom of the press, and we believe it’s also important to protect classified information. So obviously – I know there’s been some debate about this there, but this is the extent of our response to that.

QUESTION: Did you know that – I mean, can you comment on this law’s character? It has been long requested from the United States for Japan to prepare it.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have any further comment on this new Japanese law.

Yeah, in the middle.

QUESTION: East China Sea?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. So yesterday, Japan adopted a resolution urging China to rescind its East China Sea ADIZ. But China says that Japan has no right to make irresponsible remarks on this issue, and that China firmly oppose this. So what is your response?

MS. HARF: Well, my response is what the U.S. policy is, what the Vice President just made clear that it is during his trip – that we believe – that we don’t recognize the ADIZ, that we feel that the way that China did this raises tensions in an already tense region, there was no consultation, this is one of the world’s obviously most geopolitically sensitive areas, and that we don’t believe they should implement it. We made that point very clear in all of the Vice President’s meetings.

QUESTION: So do you still call for China to rescind its ADIZ or its procedure? Because yesterday, White House Spokesman Carney didn’t mention this. So there are some news reports that says that maybe U.S. has already changed its position, no longer --

MS. HARF: Well, our position hasn’t changed on this. Our position hasn’t changed. Vice President Biden was candid and direct with President Xi when he raised a few points – that the zone should not be implemented – that’s been our policy all along; that hasn’t changed – more broadly, China should refrain from taking similar actions elsewhere in the region; and that China should work with other countries, including Japan and South Korea, to establish confidence-building measures, including emergency communications channels to address the dangers that its recent announcement has created; and to immediately lower tensions. We’ve been very clear that’s our policy, and that has in no way changed.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

QUESTION: Hold on for a second. You say that they should take steps to have an emergency channel of communications to ease tensions that --

MS. HARF: To build confidence.

QUESTION: Right, because of the announcement. That would suggest, though, that you don’t expect them to rescind or to not implement --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- and that you want them --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say that. Our position is – has not changed that they should not implement it.

QUESTION: So if they --

MS. HARF: As we work through this process, they need to do a few things right now to immediately lower tensions, yes.

QUESTION: Right, but – so until they either rescind or decide not to implement it, they should have this new channel of communications or --

MS. HARF: They should do – take a number of steps to reduce tension immediately, yes, including that.

QUESTION: But that would suggest that you’re saying, okay, well, if you’re going to have this, we --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- might not like it, but if you’re going to do it, then --

MS. HARF: Not at all. Not at all.

QUESTION: Well, then, why even say that? Why not just say, don’t implement it?

MS. HARF: We’ve said, don’t implement it. We’ve also said --

QUESTION: I know, but then at the same time, you’re saying they should set up this channel of communication --

MS. HARF: No, we’re saying they need to take steps to reduce tensions. They need to not implement it. They need to immediately take steps to reduce tensions that they themselves have created --

QUESTION: By this step.

MS. HARF: Correct. So they need to not implement it and try to lower tensions. There’s a variety of ways they can do that.

QUESTION: But it does suggest that – your language does suggest that the United States could be willing to live with the situation where the ADIZ is allowed to exist, providing the Chinese do nothing about it – i.e., it exists on paper, but they don’t implement it.

MS. HARF: Well, we said they shouldn’t implement it. We said it will not change how the U.S. conducts military operations in the region. It will not have any practical effect on U.S. Government operations. It’s – we’re not going to change what we’re doing and we said they shouldn’t implement it. They shouldn’t put it into practice.

QUESTION: Yeah, but what I’m suggesting is that a way out of the tensions is that China gets to keep what it’s declared, it just doesn’t implement it. So it’s an ADIZ that is there geographically but is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

MS. HARF: I take the point. Again, our problem is with how this was done and how we don’t believe it should be implemented practically. The practical part of this is what matters, so again, the Vice President made that very clear. I don’t know if an ADIZ can exist just in the ether without its implementation; I’m not sure if that’s even possible. But our position has been very clear that it should not be put into practice.

QUESTION: Because I think the confusion comes from your position saying that you don’t want China to implement it, and – is different from asking for them to rescind it or withdraw it completely.

MS. HARF: In practice, I don’t – I’m not sure there’s a difference though. That’s what I’m saying. Our policy hasn’t changed since the beginning, so I know we’re all focused a lot on words, but what we don’t want is for the regulations, as part of this ADIZ, to go into practice. That’s not what we want. We think it creates confusion. We think both commercial and government airlines it can create confusion for, and that’s just not a good situation.

QUESTION: No, but --

QUESTION: So the ADIZ could exist on a map but they just don’t put the regulations relating to it into practice.

MS. HARF: We don’t believe they should implement any part of the ADIZ. I don’t know if that includes putting it on a map or not, but we don’t believe they should implement it. We don’t believe that there should be different air traffic controllers from different countries calling into the same plane with different instructions because these are overlapping territories. We don’t believe that should be able to exist. And we don’t believe they should be able to change the status quo unilaterally with this ADIZ.

QUESTION: Well, it’s kind of like planting a flag on the moon, you know? Your flag is up there, but it doesn’t mean that you’re claiming it for yourself. You’re not actively trying to tell the rest of the world that this is your territory. I think that’s what Jo’s getting at. You have a line on a map, but they don’t actually try to enforce the restrictions that you think are onerous. That’s the question. Is it possible to --

MS. HARF: It’s not that they’re onerous, it’s that they’re confusion-causing –

QUESTION: Confusing, whatever.

MS. HARF: -- tension-raising, all of that. Yeah.

QUESTION: Exactly. So I guess the question, if you – if it’s possible to find out: Could the United States live with the Chinese having their own little line on a map, just like the Russians do under the Arctic – but they don’t actually try to enforce the restrictions that you think are bad?

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: That’s the question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And also, there was a question yesterday from Matt about how you actually go about creating an ADIZ, because this does overlap with an existing one from Japan.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the one that the Chinese have created is therefore null and void because you can’t have two overlapping ones?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s no treaty or – a little bit more, got a little bit – no treaty or agreement defines the process for establishing ADIZs. Okay? There’s no one thing I can point to, which is why it was so hard to get information on it. But there are established practice of states to ensure the safety of civil and state aircraft and to respect the freedom of overflight.

So one of the – a couple of the reasons that China’s ADIZ creates real problems in deviating from these is because – I’m going to lay out a couple and then if you have follow-ups, which I’m sure you will, I can address those.

China’s new ADIZ purportedly applies to all aircraft, including those not intending to enter, depart, or transit China’s national air space. Their assertion that they would cause all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report, regardless of whether they were intending to enter the sovereign air space of China, is destabilizing. We think it’s not a good thing.

By extending its ADIZ over airspace administered by other countries without prior agreement, China has created a situation in which two different authorities claim to give orders to civilian aircraft, which could potentially create confusion. This is what I was talking about, that if you have Japanese, Korean, civilian – and now China’s civilian air traffic control authorities each talking to the same plane and giving them two different sets of guidance, that’s very confusing and unsafe. The references we’ve talked about to defensive emergency measures and establishing the ADIZ over sensitive territories in areas administered – administrated by other countries creates a destabilizing dynamic which could compel China’s neighbors to take further actions to respond.

So again, to be clear, every state has a right to establish an ADIZ. Many states have them. We do as well. But it is not wise to unilaterally declare one in uncoordinated fashion in one of the most highly sensitive areas in the world, which includes territories administered – administrated by other countries, and then make statements that many would interpret as threatening and out of line with international aviation practice.

QUESTION: So – well, then is it your understanding that the --

MS. HARF: It’s a little more.

QUESTION: No, it’s actually a lot more, and it would have been very – too bad you didn’t get it earlier.

MS. HARF: I’ve had a similar conversation with people about that same topic, Matt.

QUESTION: So, but here’s my – so here’s my question: It is --

MS. HARF: We share the frustration.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the ADIZ actually includes sovereign air space of other countries or that it just includes administrated areas that are under the administrated – contested administrative – or disputed areas that are under the administrative control of other countries?

MS. HARF: Let me double-check. It’s my understanding that it extended the ADIZ over airspace that’s administered by other countries --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- and without prior approval. So there’s places where other Japanese or Korean aviation authorities already have jurisdiction and that’s why the problem could be.

QUESTION: Okay, ‘cause that would seem --

MS. HARF: So there’s a couple different problems.

QUESTION: That would seem --

MS. HARF: There’s an airspace jurisdiction --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- but then there’s also the destabilizing and threatening notion of creating it over contested territory, so I think there’s two similar but not exactly the same issue.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: What do you mean, over contested territory? I understand the first, but I don’t get the second part.

MS. HARF: That – hold on – over sensitive territories, I think this – obviously part of the region – is one that we talk about quite a bit in terms of who – administration and all of that, so --

QUESTION: Right, so it further complicates the Senkakus issue?

MS. HARF: It’s a complicated area, yes.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah.

MS. HARF: Yes. That is what I was referring to, though. Up in the air, that --

QUESTION: All right. And then just in that very helpful bit of information that you had, does it – when, say, the United States created its ADIZ --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it did so in a multilateral and coordinated fashion with whom?

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: The ICAO? Its neighbors – Canada, Mexico?

MS. HARF: Probably. I actually don’t know, but I can double – I would assume the people that border us, but I can double-check.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: U.S. official --

MS. HARF: And it’s actually not very – it’s my understanding it’s not very wide off of our coast, so it also isn’t over contested area is my understanding. I don’t think we contest, like, off of the Pacific coast with any country, last time I checked.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Right, not any --

QUESTION: I don’t know. Not territorial disputes that I know of.

MS. HARF: Right. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And U.S. official at the same time announced before that President Xi Jinping has ultimately understand what the Vice President Biden said.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I’d like to know, what, in your understanding, what the President Xi Jinping understand what – in general, what Biden said? It’s – United States asked China the zone – this zoning should not be implemented, or China should not take similar action elsewhere in the region, which means, in your understanding, the U.S. position that China – the president of China understand in these requests – you understand what I am saying?

MS. HARF: Sort of.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I think actually it’s important to take a step back here, and let me raise this up to more of a – to use an aviation term – 30,000 foot level, and then if there are specifics, I’m happy to – if I’m not getting at what you’re getting at, I’m happy to answer them.

The Vice President made comments at the American Chamber of Commerce where I think he was very clear about what the – why this is actually – forget it – stop thinking about the details of where the ADIZ ends and where it begins and what implement means and what it doesn’t mean.

But the reason that this is, at a very 30,000-foot level, troubling to us is because – the Vice President said this very clearly, that the Asia Pacific region will be the driver of the global economy in the 21st century. And as China’s economy grows, its stake in regional peace and stability will continue to grow as well, and that it will have much more to lose as its economy grows. And that’s why he said China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security. That means taking steps to reduce the risk of accidental conflict and miscalculation, to not do things that raise tensions in the region, to act responsibly – again, Matt picked up on what I said the other day – as a major power. So as its economy grows, as its role in the region grows, it has a responsibility to contribute.

That’s what the Vice President – the overall message he was taking to China, and then talking specifically about what it means to not implement or implement, that’s all part of it. But it plays into the overall what we see going forward for China’s role.

QUESTION: So I just have one more, and this is kind of getting into the weeds, and I’ll probably have to go to the FAA for a right answer, but do you know that --

MS. HARF: I want to bring my counterpart at FAA over here to guest brief. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s an excellent idea. So what happens – or what is your advice to a commercial plane or a military – a U.S. commercial plane or a military pilot if it goes into this zone and gets conflicting air traffic directions from one set of – from two different sets of, or three different sets of air traffic control? What do they do? Because it seems to me --

MS. HARF: I can – I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- that if they start ignoring one over another, then you have --

MS. HARF: That’s why it’s so confusing.

QUESTION: Well, exactly.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But then that’s a big --

MS. HARF: So the FAA is definitely the person on commercial airlines, certainly. I’ll see if I can get something.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we shift to something else?

MS. HARF: Yes, thankfully, please.

QUESTION: Staying in the region, but just a simple short one.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know that you’re aware of the reports about Thai immigration officials --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- transferring or selling Rohingya refugees or migrants to human traffickers. And I know that you’ve urged the Thai authorities to do their own investigation of this. Have you – how have you conveyed that to the Thai authorities? Have you actually spoken to anybody? And if so, who has talked to whom about that?

MS. HARF: I believe we have spoken directly to the Thai Government, but I’m not sure about specifics. So I can --

QUESTION: Can you check that for me?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. And then I’ll come up to you, Michele. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So I want to go back to the ADIZ. South China – South Korea is considering expanding its ADIZ, and the president of South Korea has already mentioned this to Biden. So what is your comment?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. The Vice President did have a good discussion with President Park. Discussed – they discussed Korea’s potential response to China’s provocative announcement. Obviously not going to get into the details of their diplomatic discussions, but the – South Korea’s plans regarding its ADIZ were a part of that discussion. The Vice President indicated that we’re on the same page with the ROK as it considers its next steps, and I think I’ll probably leave it at that, and if the White House has anything more to say about their conversation, I’m happy --

QUESTION: So I know you are very positive about the future of the U.S.-China relationship in the long run, but how do you see the announcement of this ADIZ, its impact on the bilateral relationship?

MS. HARF: Well, again, I’m relying a lot on the Vice President’s words this week, but one of the things he consistently said was the reason that we’re able to so candidly discuss these issues when they arise where we disagree is because of the breadth of our relationship. Do we agree on everything? No, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But the Vice President had good and candid conversations. When disagreements arise, we work through them, we discuss them very candidly together. I can point to a host of times we’ve worked with China even just in the last few weeks – through the P5+1 on the Iran agreement, for example – to make progress on key national security priorities. So it’s a complicated but deep and incredibly important relationship. We’re building on progress we’ve made starting in Sunnylands, through the Vice President’s trip, and into the new year as well. So I think we’re looking forward to working together on a host of issues, and when disagreements arise, we’ll make those clear.

QUESTION: So a short question: What is this building’s position on ROK’s trying to expand its ADIZ? Are you going to tell them don’t implement it?

MS. HARF: Well, I just said, I think, all I have to say on that, that the Vice President – that we – the Administration has one policy on this. The Vice President discussed it. I’m not going to get into the details of that discussion. He indicated that we’re on the same page as it considers its next steps. Obviously, I don’t – I’m not aware that anything’s been announced, or they haven’t moved forward on anything. So we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Well, now I’m very confused. You’re on the same page as the ROK as they consider their response to this? That would suggest, imply, that you think that it’s fine for the South Koreans to expand their ADIZ. Is that --

MS. HARF: Did I say that?

QUESTION: No, but you’re being intentionally vague and I think it’s – and I know why you’re being intentionally vague, but instead of making the situation better or defusing the situation, as I think you’re hoping – when I say you, I mean the Administration in general, not you personally – it’s making – as you can tell, it’s making the matter more confused and potentially more dangerous.

Is it correct that if the South Koreans went ahead with doing the same thing that the Chinese did --

MS. HARF: Well, clearly, they wouldn’t be if they’re already talking to people about it, including us.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: So part of what was wrong with the --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: Just – part of what was wrong with what the Chinese did was not consulting with anyone and doing it in a completely – again, they – South Korea hasn’t announced anything yet. I’m not – that’s – to my knowledge. So part of what was wrong was that there were no consultations. Clearly, we’ve already had consultations about them. I would refer you to the South Koreans to say if they’ve had consultations with other folks as well. So clearly, there’s already something different about this.

Go on.

QUESTION: All right. So it’s okay for you – it’s okay if – it would have been okay if – the Chinese move would have been okay if they had told you about it?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. There were a number of problems we had with the ADIZ.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Part of it was the uncoordinated nature, but part of it was over other AD – over other contested areas, over other places people already had jurisdiction over. So I’m not going to get ahead of hypotheticals about what the South Koreans may or may not do. If they decide to do something and expand their ADIZ, I am happy to take a look at that specifically, what they decide to do, and we’ll have a response then.

QUESTION: But in – as far as you’re concerned – and you, again, is the Administration. As far as the Administration is concerned, what the South Korean – the South Koreans, by consulting with you, have negated that one problematic part of the Chinese decision?

MS. HARF: Certainly – it’s certainly something different that they have already done. And again, they haven’t announced anything. If they do, I’m happy to respond to the specific announcement.

QUESTION: Okay. It would – if they – well, it’s a hypothetical so I’ll let it --

MS. HARF: Right. I mean, again, this is something that hasn’t happened yet. So if they do, we’ll look at what they announce and I am confident we will have a response for you.

QUESTION: Do you think it’ll be consistent with your message to the Chinese?

MS. HARF: Every situation is different.

QUESTION: So in other words, it might not be consistent if the --

MS. HARF: No, I think every situation is different. It’s not consistent or not consistent. They’re just all different.

QUESTION: Well, but if the – if whatever the South Koreans do is the same as --

MS. HARF: But I’ve already said one key way it wasn’t the same, so how could it be the same, Matt?

QUESTION: Well, because if they don’t tell the Chinese – if they don’t tell the country that is most directly affected by it --

MS. HARF: You have no idea who they’re talking to or not talking to about this.

QUESTION: You’re right. I don’t.

MS. HARF: So maybe you should call them and ask. And then if it is the same --

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. HARF: -- maybe we can have that conversation.

QUESTION: The next time I’m at the foreign ministry in Seoul, I will ask that question. But since I’m right here, do you know that the South Koreans are consulting with the Chinese?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to speak for the South Koreans. I’d refer you to them.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just I’d like to try and bring together kind of a lot of the things you’ve said and see if we can put a bow on it.

MS. HARF: Let’s try.

QUESTION: So given – I understand that all the questions – all the problems that you have with the way that China announced the ADIZ --

MS. HARF: That’s part of the problem, is the way.

QUESTION: That’s part of the problem.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But given that it’s already there and it seems very unlikely or very impractical that they would withdraw it entirely, and given what you’ve said on – that the U.S. doesn’t have a question with ADIZs in general, if China were to abide by the U.S. demands to institute safety protocols and also not implement some of the parts of the ADIZ that you deem as particularly problematic, would the U.S. be satisfied with that as a new normal, so to speak?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to even venture to guess in that hypothetical. Obviously, this is a complicated issue. The discussions are ongoing. It’s really up to the Chinese now to see what they are going to do. The Vice President made our position very clear when he was there. So we’ll keep having the discussion. This is an ongoing discussion with the Chinese, as you can imagine. And it’s really up to them to see how – what they do going forward. And we’ll keep talking about it.

Again, it wasn’t just the way in which it was done, although that’s part of it. It’s also, as we’ve talked about, parts of the actual implementation that would be problematic.

QUESTION: But now the ball is in their court and you’re --

MS. HARF: It is. Yes.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. HARF: Please. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I go to Jordan? (Laughter.) Jordan --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- today was elected to the UN Security Council seat --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that Saudi Arabia had won and then rejected. I wondered if you had a reaction on that, please.

MS. HARF: I do. We congratulate Jordan on their election today as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for 2014 and 2015. The U.S. deeply values our long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan, and we look forward to a strong and productive partnership to address issues fundamental to the maintenance of international peace and security.

QUESTION: Do you still regret the fact that it’s Jordan and not Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: We have very good relationships with both. It’s up to each country to decide whether or not they’d like to take seats on the Security Council.

QUESTION: Does Jordan bring something different that Saudi Arabia might not have, perhaps?

MS. HARF: I think each country brings its own benefits to the Security Council. We have really good relationships with both. Both are focused on a lot of the same issues, whether it’s Syria, Middle East peace, a whole host of issues. So we have a very good relationship with both and think both would be great members of the Security Council.

QUESTION: What you said sounded suspiciously word for word what the U.S. Mission had to say, or Ambassador Power.

MS. HARF: Well, look, our message is consistent, then.

QUESTION: Well, exactly.

MS. HARF: There you go. Meeting one of your standards.

QUESTION: Are you – yes, thank you. Are you aware if there are any words that are different between what you just said and what they said?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen their statement.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And Ambassador Power also tweeted it.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: So there you go.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition has accused the Syrian regime of using poison gas yesterday in Nabak. Do you have any idea about this? Can you confirm these reports? And what’s your reaction?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re aware of reports that several Syrians have died due to an alleged chemical weapons attack near Nabak. These are reports. We’re aware of the reports. At this time, we have no confirmation. We are working to gather more information and ascertain the facts. If we get more information, I’m happy to update folks. We just don’t have anything right now.

QUESTION: And what does it mean if the regime has used the chemical weapons again after the agreement with Russia and the regime?

MS. HARF: Well, Syria is now a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. I’d say that for starters. So investigations of these kind of allegations would actually fall under the provisions of the CWC. Obviously, we condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere, period, full stop. But I don’t want to get ahead of it here. We don’t have confirmation that this is what happened, but we’ve been very clear what our position is on any use of chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Will there be any consequences?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re in the process right now as a consequence of when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in August of destroying the entire stockpile of Syria’s chemical weapons. I would also note – just let me bring this up – that the OPCW has announced – an announcement we welcome – that all Category 3 unfilled munitions declared by the Syrian Government have now been destroyed. These are the most critical pieces of production equipment. So the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is exactly why we worked so hard to put in place a process to destroy them, which is now moving forward. So as we get more information, I’m happy to share it.

QUESTION: Would this suggest to you, if the reports are correct, that maybe not all the stocks are secured, then?

MS. HARF: I just don’t want to get ahead of it here. I really have no confirmation that this is what happened and I just don’t want to make a judgment about that based on a totally unconfirmed report.

QUESTION: And do you --

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, go ahead. Different subject.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the nuns’ whereabouts?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t. As I said, if they were taken for their security and safety, then I think that it’s clear they could be released. And if not, obviously, we would strongly condemn their abduction. I just don’t have anything new on that.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Madam, what message do you have for those countries, and including India, who were asked to – not to buy Iranian oil? And now this deal is going on in Geneva, and also at the same time Israelis still opposing any deal with Iran. And has Iran backed off what they used to say that wipe out Iran from the world map?

MS. HARF: Well, there are a lot of questions wrapped up in what you just asked, so let’s take a step back and let me talk first about the oil question with countries like India and others.

We’ve been very clear that as we negotiated the first-step agreement and as we negotiate the final agreement, the architecture, the core architecture of Iran’s oil and banking sector sanctions remain in place. We have done a lot of diplomatic hard work – very hard diplomatic, tireless work, again, with countries like India, Japan, South Korea, others – to put in place these sanctions on Iran’s oil. We know it’s not easy for these countries, but we all have done it because it’s in the world’s interest to put pressure on Iran to get them to a diplomatic solution to their nuclear program.

So we’re going to keep talking to these countries. We are going to keep enforcing a majority of the sanctions and we’ll keep having these conversations. We don’t believe this should be – and would actively fight any attempts to use this first-step agreement as a way for people suddenly to somehow try to evade sanctions in any way. So that’s part one.

Part two – and we’re very clear. We talk to the Israelis all the time about our shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. The Secretary just was wheels up from there a couple hours ago, had a long series of meetings over the past few days on the ground there, some of which obviously were focused on Middle East peace, but Iran always comes up.

So we share the concerns. This is exactly why we believe it’s so important to get a diplomatic resolution to this program – or to this problem, excuse me – and to the program – because it’s in Israel’s security interests, it’s in ours, it’s in the region’s, it’s in everyone’s that we resolve this diplomatically, that it’s the best, most effective, most durable way to do so. We’re going to keep having these conversations with the Israelis going forward.

QUESTION: What I’m asking you is: Are you talking with Iranians to change their behavior, what they have said in the past? Because that’s what may be the major concern for Israelis to – not to make those statements or reverse them publicly.

MS. HARF: Well, our conversations with the Iranians focus on the nuclear issue and trying to resolve that. We have been very clear publicly that those statements are unacceptable, they’re reprehensible, they’re abhorrent; we don’t, obviously, think they have any place in international discourse. But this is exactly the reason why we believe it’s so important to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that the President has made clear that’s his goal and we will do everything in our power to do that. So that’s exactly the reason why this is such a critical national security priority for us.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Sherman has met with the Arab ambassadors yesterday and discussed Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout for this meeting?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more specific readout. She has said that the things – that privately that she’s said publicly that we’ll continue to say publicly, I know we have some Hill engagements next week as well, a couple of which are public. Again, talking about what’s in this first-step agreement, what it does, how it halts the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, how it rolls it back in some key aspects, and what the process is going to look like going forward as we negotiate a final-step agreement.

Next week, starting on the 9th, experts will be meeting in Vienna – P5+1 and Iranian experts – to begin talking about implementation and how we move forward on that. It starts – again, it starts the 9th in Vienna. But these are topics we – she always briefs the ambassadors from the Gulf countries, also the Israelis after each round, and that dialogue is going to continue.

QUESTION: So the experts meet in Vienna on the 9th --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Starting on the 9th. I’m not sure how long it’s going to go.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know who’s leading that delegation from the U.S.?

MS. HARF: I can double check.

QUESTION: Will it be Mr. Countryman, perhaps?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure. The experts that we’ve had with us in the past rounds have been Jim Timbie, Richard Nephew, some other folks – Adam Szubin from Treasury. Those have been part of our delegation in the past. Let me see who’s going.

QUESTION: Will they be determining when the start of – the start date for the --

MS. HARF: That’s part of the discussion. There will also be a political directors meeting, which we don’t have on the calendar yet. I think that’ll be discussed there as well.

QUESTION: There’s – but that will follow the technical experts meeting?

MS. HARF: It’s not scheduled yet. So I think we’re almost to the 9th, so by definition it will be after the experts meeting’s done.

QUESTION: And towards – I mean, any idea? Towards the back end of next week?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m sorry. I just don’t.

QUESTION: Just – just to clarify, you don’t expect Adam Szubin, a Treasury official who presumably doesn’t really have that much experience with IAEA --

MS. HARF: Well, we have – well, no, but the technical talks --

QUESTION: -- technical protocol stuff is going to be part of --

MS. HARF: The technical talks are about nuclear and technical scientific implementation, but also sanctions.

QUESTION: Sanctions.

QUESTION: But I --

MS. HARF: So sanctions experts are also going to be attending.

QUESTION: Oh. I thought this was being – in Vienna because it had only to do --

MS. HARF: In part because of the IAEA, but all of the different kinds of technical discussions will be ongoing all at the same time. But yes, it’s in Vienna in part because the IAEA will be the one doing the verification and monitoring.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And it’s the P5+1, so it’s all the technical experts from all the countries?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yes, and Iran.

QUESTION: Thank you. Obviously, Iran, as well.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Is there any meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman this week on – this weekend on the Secretary’s schedule?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t have his schedule. I know that he’s in town. I think they’re both speaking at the Saban Forum. I can check and see if there’s a meeting. I honestly just don’t know. I don’t know what the schedule looks like for the weekend other than that.

QUESTION: Any travel announcements to make?

MS. HARF: No travel announcements to make.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: No, I got two brief ones. One is related to the indictment yesterday --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- of these Russian diplomats. In general, not dealing specifically with this case --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you know if foreign diplomats based in the United States are eligible to apply for and receive Medicaid?

MS. HARF: In some cases they are. Yes. So I got a little bit on that. We routinely inform all foreign missions in the U.S. – most recently we did this in November – that we expect their personnel to maintain health insurance coverage. So under U.S. law, nonimmigrants, which diplomats fall under in this case, who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for and receive federally funded medical care.

QUESTION: Do you know --

MS. HARF: Generally speaking, yes.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. HARF: That was the answer to your question.

QUESTION: Does the Affordable Care Act have any implications for this?

MS. HARF: I would just – I think I would like to note that this is the first time that the Affordable Care Act has probably come up in this briefing. I think this might be a record. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Marie?

QUESTION: Okay, can we find out?

MS. HARF: I’ll try and find out.

QUESTION: And also --

MS. HARF: I don’t. I can check. I just wanted to mark that moment for everyone. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you know what those criteria are?

MS. HARF: I think some of it may have to do with salary or income, but I can check.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the other thing would be to check is to find out how many have availed themselves of this legally – not with alleged fraud, like these Russians --

MS. HARF: Legally? Did you say legally?

QUESTION: Legally. Not with – yes – how many – and how much that has cost the American taxpayer.

MS. HARF: I can try to find out. I don’t know if there are statistics on that. States also – this is the second part of this. States may also elect to provide nonimmigrant women with federally funded medical care during pregnancy or the first 60 days after pregnancy. Certain states have done so, including New York, which I think is where this case happened. So I think that’s part of it as well. I don’t know if there are statistics.

QUESTION: You said, I think at the beginning – sorry – that you had informed embassies that you expect them to provide medical insurance. When did --

MS. HARF: Their personnel to maintain.

QUESTION: Maintain?

MS. HARF: They don’t have to provide it, to maintain healthcare.

QUESTION: They don’t have to provide it, but you said they have to maintain it. When did you remind them of that?

MS. HARF: November.

QUESTION: And was that in connection with this, the fact you must have known this was coming down the pike.

MS. HARF: We routinely inform them of this. I have no – nothing – I have no knowledge of a non-routine aspect of this informing them of this.

QUESTION: So you do this regularly --

MS. HARF: Routinely.

QUESTION: -- once just in November?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So just to be clear, what you’re taking or trying to get the answers to, I want to – I would like to know the criteria for which --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, presumably, like a British diplomat in the United States who was covered by the NHS at home would not be eligible.

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: But I just don’t understand --

MS. HARF: I just – I honestly don’t know.

QUESTION: So that’s one. What’s the criteria for them to be able to do this legally? And second, how much it has cost and how long has this been going on?

MS. HARF: Okay. And whether the Affordable Care Act plays into it.

QUESTION: And whether that will have any impact or has had any impact on it already.

MS. HARF: Again, I think this is a banner day. We need to mark this occasion, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, just wait till my – wait for my next question.

MS. HARF: I’m ready.

QUESTION: Oh, you are? No one else? There has --

MS. HARF: No one else has a follow-up on the Affordable Care Act? I’m shocked. (Laughter.) Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: There has been some outrage expressed over the – online, some mainly conservative commentators over the past week about these purchases of art and liquor by embassies.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if you would care to address that, care to address this outrage that is coming from --

MS. HARF: I don’t think it’s acceptable just to say no, so I do have a little information on that, though. So you’re asking about art?

QUESTION: Well, yeah. There was the question of in particular – I mean, more than – several million dollars’ worth of art, including this one sculpture that’s going in London, and whether that’s an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

MS. HARF: Yes, okay.

QUESTION: And then the several hundred thousand dollars in booze that was also --

MS. HARF: Technical term. I was going to say with the alcohol we need something to put in all that Simon Pearce glassware we bought a few months ago, right, that Jill asked about.

Okay, on the artwork, we have an Art in Embassies program run through the Office of Art in Embassies which curates permanent and temporary exhibitions for U.S. embassy and consulate facilities. It’s a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. For the past five decades, Art in Embassies has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy with a focused mission of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and the artist exchange.

In terms of the London piece, like much of the art purchased by this program, this piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery. This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas. We maintain facilities that serve as the face of the U.S. Government all throughout the world, and where we can promote cross-cultural understanding, and in this case do so for under market value, we think that’s a good use of our limited resources. Yes, we do.

Alcohol?

QUESTION: Yes, on the booze. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: On the booze, as Matt says. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have an art question. Can we do --

MS. HARF: This is Friday at the State Department.

QUESTION: -- the art before we get to the booze?

QUESTION: Well, I have --

MS. HARF: You have an art follow-up?

QUESTION: I do.

QUESTION: Well, I have one that goes to --

MS. HARF: Okay. Now we’ll go to the art follow-up.

QUESTION: But I don’t want to get in the way of Matt and his booze – (laughter) – question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Please don’t, please don’t.

MS. HARF: Alcohol has been mentioned more times at the briefing this week than I think ever.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, that’s because of the Moldovan wine.

MS. HARF: I know. It’s not because of me.

QUESTION: So – all right. So what’s the story with the liquor purchases?

MS. HARF: Okay. So an important part of the Department of State’s mission is to represent the U.S. and its interests overseas, and there are occasions when departmental funds are used to purchase alcohol for representational purposes. We do so mindful of our duties as the steward of the public resources that have been entrusted to us. We also endeavor, wherever possible, to buy wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages made in the United States.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: In fact, buy American, which helps to support American jobs and exposes foreign consumers to American-made products.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And I would also say, because part of this is that we, like, bought a – the notion that maybe we bought a bunch at the end of – right before the shutdown or something --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- that as we’ve talked about around the shutdown, the timing of a lot of our procurements this year was pushed back even later in the year due to the fact that the Department did not receive fiscal year 2013 appropriations until March and our operating – our fiscal operating plan wasn’t approved by Congress until September. So then a lot of things we bought – not just alcohol but other things as well – had to happen later in the year, which coincidentally ended up being right before the shutdown.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But listen, I don’t think anyone is suggesting – not even the harshest critics are suggesting that people who would go to receptions at embassies --

MS. HARF: Are you suggesting that the holiday party this year should be dry?

QUESTION: Well, no, no. I’m saying – I don’t think anyone is --

MS. HARF: Have any of you ever had a glass of wine at the State Department?

QUESTION: I am not – I’m not – I’m trying --

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: -- to give you the critics’ point of view. I don’t think any of the critics, even the more harshest ones, are saying that people should go to receptions at U.S. embassies abroad and drink Ripple or Natty Boh or something like that. And I’m not – and I don’t think that they’re saying that people --

MS. HARF: (Off-mike.) Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- people at – people who are waiting in line or go to embassies should be looking at velvet Elvises and dogs playing poker either on the walls. (Laughter.) But do you acknowledge at least that the amount that was spent and the timing of – that the optics are not particularly good --

MS. HARF: Well, the --

QUESTION: -- particularly going into the government shutdown?

MS. HARF: Then Congress should have approved our fiscal operating plan before September.

QUESTION: Okay. So this is Congress’ fault?

MS. HARF: Before September of 2013 in the year of the operating plan.

QUESTION: All right. So the critics should be focusing their outrage on Congress rather than on --

MS. HARF: I – look, I don’t have a year-to-year, bottle-to-bottle breakdown of what we spend on alcohol year to year. Okay, I just don’t. My point is that when people say, “Did you spend a lot of money on alcohol at the end of the year,” there are reasons we had to spend a lot of money on a lot of things at the end of the year because of the incredibly broken way Congress is deciding to fund the government.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And this falls into it. I mentioned the glassware. There were other things, more important things.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And so all joking aside, the fact that we didn’t get our operating plan approved until the end of the fiscal year and then the government shut down is crazy, and that’s not our fault. So --

QUESTION: Right. Fair enough.

MS. HARF: There was an art follow-up.

QUESTION: Oh, right.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you purchased the art at below market prices.

MS. HARF: Sometimes. Sometimes.

QUESTION: Sometimes.

MS. HARF: I don’t know about --

QUESTION: Is that not sort of stiffing the artist? I mean, why not – now, I understand you want to be good stewards of the public’s money. But on the other hand, why not pay them what their stuff is actually worth?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a negotiation between the artist and the gallery, and having their art displayed in a U.S. embassy and especially a prominent one in a place like London, I think is probably something that, if artists choose to sell us their pieces, is an important thing for them as well.

QUESTION: And it is displayed prominently if anyone could actually get into the embassy to take a look at it, right?

MS. HARF: Is that really a question?

QUESTION: Well, it’s not exactly like it’s a public – it’s going to be – unless it is. I don’t know. Is it going to be outside?

MS. HARF: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And I am happy to take that as a question, too.

With that, Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Have a nice evening.

MS. HARF: Thank you. You, too.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)



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