Department Press Briefing – September 27, 2023
1:23 p.m. EDT
MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I’ll start with some —
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR MILLER: Start with some brief remarks. The United States has secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Earlier today, he was transported to the border between North Korea and China, where he was met by our Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Nicholas Burns. He then boarded a State Department OpMed plane and flew from Dandong China to Shenyang China, and then on from Shenyang to Osan Air Force Base in South Korea where he was transferred to the Department of Defense.
We appreciate the professionalism of our diplomats, who worked with their counterparts of the Department of Defense and coordinated with the governments of Sweden and the People’s Republic of China, and we thank Sweden and the People’s Republic of China for their assistance in facilitating that transfer. He is now on his way to the United States, and we expect him to arrive in the coming hours.
With that, questions.
QUESTION: Oh, that’s it?
MR MILLER: That’s it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when I woke up this morning, I thought the news of the day was going to be about Israel and the Visa Waiver Program.
MR MILLER: We like to keep you on – we like to keep you on your toes.
QUESTION: But – yes, exactly – but obviously – can I just ask you, on Travis King, sorry, where did you say he – what base in South Korea?
MR MILLER: Osan Air Force Base.
QUESTION: Osan. Okay. And then – and you’re confirming that he has now left Osan and on his way —
MR MILLER: Correct – and is on his way back to the United States.
QUESTION: — back to the U.S. And how did he get from North Korea to China?
MR MILLER: He was – so I don’t know how he got inside North Korea to the border. I’ll let the North Koreans speak to that if they want to.
QUESTION: No, how did he get —
MR MILLER: But then he was transferred —
QUESTION: Today, how did he get —
MR MILLER: He was – I believe he was driven by the North Koreans, but again, I don’t have perfect —
QUESTION: Driven by the North Koreans or by the Swedes?
MR MILLER: Let me just finish. I don’t have perfect fidelity on his movements inside North Korea. But let me just – he was taken to the border at Dandong where he was transferred to U.S. custody.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then where? And that’s where Burns and the other —
MR MILLER: Dandong. That’s where Burns met him – Dandong, China.
QUESTION: Okay. And then he didn’t go anywhere else in China before leaving for Osan?
MR MILLER: The plane – he got onboard an OpMed plane which stopped in Shenyang, China and then continued to Osan.
QUESTION: Okay. And this OpMed plane – I don’t know how many you guys have – but it’s getting a lot of use – or if there’s only one, it’s – is this the same plane that brought back the people from Iran or from Doha?
MR MILLER: I do not know. I don’t know how many we have. I don’t know if it’s the same plane.
QUESTION: What kind of plane are you saying?
MR MILLER: An OpMed plane – State Department OpMed plane.
MR MILLER: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: Jet plane?
QUESTION: Can I just ask about the – sorry – about the diplomacy regarding this?
MR MILLER: Sure.
QUESTION: What does it mean? I mean, obviously the U.S. wanted Travis King back, but does it mean something broader with North Korea? Could this be an opening for something broader? What does – what were the motivations as far as you could detect for North Korea releasing him?
MR MILLER: So I would not want to speculate on any motivations on the North Korean side, and I don’t know that I would take from this that it heralds some breakthrough in diplomatic relations. Obviously, we’re pleased to have secured his return. We’re very thankful for the Government of Sweden for their work as the protecting power that they did to help facilitate his transfer back to the United States.
I will restate – as I have said from this podium before and as we have said – we are open to diplomacy with North Korea; we would welcome diplomacy with North Korea. They have always rejected that. We tried to reach out to them when Travis King first crossed the border into North Korea. We tried to reach out a number of occasions. They rejected our direct approaches – ended up talking to Sweden, and Sweden talked to us and helped negotiate this transfer. But I would not see this as the sign of some breakthrough. I think it’s a one-off with them being willing to return this private.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on China’s role a little bit? Do you see them more as a transit point in this situation? Did they play any role as a mediator?
MR MILLER: They did not play a role as a mediator, but their role in providing transit or – in facilitating transit is one we very much appreciate. We have always thought that China could play a useful role in any number of issues as it relates to North Korea. The Secretary said that directly to his Chinese counterparts; we’ve said it publicly on a number of occasions. And we do appreciate the role that they played here.
QUESTION: And I mean, your working-level diplomats must have communicated on this. Do you think that these conversations can be described as a set of positive exchanges, or how would you describe these?
MR MILLER: Well, we didn’t have direct exchanges with North Korea so certainly —
QUESTION: Or – sorry.
MR MILLER: — we had positive exchanges with Sweden.
QUESTION: With China.
MR MILLER: With China – yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: And is there – I mean, the relationship’s not in a great place at the moment. Like is there any hope of seeing this as sort of a jumping off point for more communication, for better relations?
MR MILLER: I would say that we have seen an increase in the tempo of our conversations with the Chinese Government across a number of fronts since the Secretary traveled to Beijing in June. Of course, you’ve seen that at the secretary level – not just here but at other departments in the United States Government. You’ve seen that at the assistant secretary level. We have other meetings that we’ll be able to make public in the very near future where we’re exchanging views with China on a number of issues. And we do think there is an opening to work with China – I think you saw that the department of – or the Department of Treasury just announced new working groups on economic issues, and we continue to pursue ways to work with them on stopping the trafficking of fentanyl, on returning United States detainees.
So any time we can work together on areas that advance U.S. interests or that address shared concerns, we see that as a positive and hope that it will lead to more work together.
QUESTION: And in the wake of this and Blinken’s meeting last week in New York, do you see the meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco is more likely now?
MR MILLER: I wouldn’t want to say more likely, less likely. It’s always tough to make those assessments from here, really from anywhere with any degree of accuracy, because there are two parties at work here. I will just reiterate what we have said, which is that we think there’s no substitute for leader-to-leader communication. The potential for a meeting between the two leaders is something that Secretary Blinken discussed with the Chinese vice president last week at UNGA in New York. We believe it would be important to have that meeting, and we hope it will take place, but we don’t have anything to announce yet.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR MILLER: Let me go to Alex first.
QUESTION: Thank you.
This all seems rather sort of unilateral on the North Korean side. They let it be known to the south – to the Swedes that they were willing to release King. Understanding that this was the culmination of intense diplomacy, was there anything that the North Koreans asked for or received in exchange? Was there a trade at all?
MR MILLER: I am not aware of them asking for anything. Doesn’t mean they didn’t, but I’m not aware if they did or – I’m just not aware whether they did or – did or did not ask for anything. We did not give them anything. We’ve made no concessions as a part of securing his return.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea why they decided to suddenly expel him?
MR MILLER: I am going to follow my general rule here and not try to get into the heads of foreign governments and certainly not that one.
Janne, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Travis King voluntarily chose the North Korea. What punishment will he face when he comes home?
MR MILLER: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for that question. He is an active member of the military, and that’s a question they’ll have to speak to.
QUESTION: Because it’s violations for —
MR MILLER: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: He had the violations of U.S. laws. He is active militaries.
MR MILLER: Again, I’m going to refer that to the Defense Department, who would be the agency that would be – that would speak to that question.
Yeah, one more?
QUESTION: One more on North Korea. North Korea’s Ambassador to United Nations Song Kim said that nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula was imminent and blamed the United States and South Korea. How do you comment on this?
MR MILLER: We would obviously find those remarks irresponsible, as we find any number of statements the – that North Korea makes threatening its neighbors or raising tensions in the region. And I will say we will continue to work with our partners in the region – the Republic of Korea, Japan – to ensure their security and prevent North Korea from taking aggressive – such aggressive actions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Go to the back – go to the back.
QUESTION: Yeah, so after the release of Travis King, do you think communicate with DPRK is getting more easier to compared to before?
MR MILLER: Do I think what? What was the —
QUESTION: Communication to North Korea getting more easier to compared to before?
MR MILLER: No, I wouldn’t say that, given that, as I just said, they refused all of our attempts to communicate with them over this matter. They have always had communications with other governments, and we found it possible to communicate with them through Sweden, which, as I said, is our protecting power. But I don’t think – as I said, I think in response to an earlier question, I do not see this as a sign of any diplomatic breakthrough that will have implications for other issues, other areas of concern we have with the DPRK regime.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Yeah, Olivia.
QUESTION: Thank you. Private King was described by U.S. officials as being in good spirits and good health. What do you know about his treatment while in the custody of the North Koreans?
MR MILLER: I don’t know anything at this point. It’s possible that people who were on the plane with him have gotten further information. It hasn’t been communicated back here yet. So I don’t have any information other than to confirm that, yes, he was in good spirits. He was in good health. But with respect to his treatment, that’s not something I can read out from the podium today.
QUESTION: So no indications right now that he was interrogated or harshly treated in any way?
MR MILLER: I just – I would certainly imagine that he was interrogated. That was – that would be consistent with past DPRK practice with respect to detainees. But I don’t have any readout from his conversations with the people on the plane with him or the people that he met at Osan Air Force Base.
QUESTION: Okay. And did his release come as the result of an explicit ask by the United States, even if conveyed through Sweden, or do you view this as a sort of voluntary or even benevolent act on the part of Pyongyang, again, conveyed to Sweden?
MR MILLER: I think it could be the result of both an ask and a voluntary decision. It was a request. We made the – we made it clear to North Korea that we wanted to secure his return, and they ultimately decided to do so.
QUESTION: And one more. When did their willingness to release him get conveyed?
MR MILLER: In the past few days, I would say.
QUESTION: In the past few days. And —
MR MILLER: In the past few days – in the past week, past few days, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And was it the subject of any conversations between the Secretary and other interlocutors while at the UN General Assembly?
MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of. I was in most of those conversations and it didn’t come up. It certainly didn’t come up in our conversation with the Chinese vice president. This was handled more at the working level, not at the – not the secretary level.
QUESTION: Okay. And sorry, but just to put a fine point on it, when did the U.S. become aware that they were going to get Travis King back?
MR MILLER: I don’t have a specific date. We’ve been working on this for some time. But it takes you know, as we’ve seen with the release of other detainees, it can take some time from the time that you get indications that he might be returned until you know it for sure, until you can actually negotiate the specific details of the transfer.
Anything else on North Korea before we – yeah.
QUESTION: Well, did – when the plane stopped in Shenyang, did Nick Burns get off the plane?
MR MILLER: I don’t actually know if he was on the plane to – I don’t know if he was on the plane, the first leg of the plane, or whether he got off. I don’t know. I don’t – just did not – I did not get a briefing on the manifest before coming up here, so —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, you just said you didn’t know —
MR MILLER: He – he greeted —
QUESTION: You didn’t know of anyone who had spoken to him on the plane. But presumably, if Burns was at the border and met him, and then got on the plane in Dandong and then flew to Shenyang, he was on the plane for —
MR MILLER: Yeah, right.
QUESTION: — however long that flight is.
MR MILLER: Let me say this. I presume he was not on the plane by himself. I don’t know if it was the ambassador or other people. Whoever it was on the plane with him, I haven’t gotten a readout of anything he might have said to them, so – Alex, go ahead.
QUESTION: And I have a few topics but let me start with Azerbaijan-Armenia, if you don’t mind. As I understand, senior officials are currently in Azerbaijan. You have eyes and ears on the ground. Give me a sense of what you have been observing there during the past 24 hours. There are calls for international community to prevent ethnic cleansing, something that (inaudible). What exactly is going on? And the sides are talking about also turning back to Brussels. What is being hoped for, actually?
MR MILLER: So I would say a few things. Number one, as you noted, Samantha Power, the USAID administrator, and Acting Assistant Secretary Yuri Kim are in Azerbaijan today, where they stressed a number of things, the same things that the Secretary stressed in his conversation with President Aliyev yesterday and that I reiterated at the podium, which is that, number one, we want to see the ceasefire maintained; number two, we want to see humanitarian needs addressed; that means keeping the Lachin corridor open, it means ensuring that humanitarian supplies can come in, and that it means an international monitoring mission to ensure that humanitarian needs are addressed.
And I will say that we did welcome the comments by the Government of Azerbaijan just a little while ago before I came out to this podium, that they would welcome such an international monitoring mission. That’s something that the Secretary had directly pushed the president for, and we’re glad to see his having agreed to it, and we will work with our allies and partners in the coming days to flesh out exactly what that mission will look like. But then ultimately what we do want to see is a return to the negotiating table, where they can ultimately reach a dignified, lasting peace.
QUESTION: Speaking of the negotiating table, for months and months you had dialogue going on in Washington, in Brussels. Senior officials told us just last month that the sides had agreed to return back to Washington. Who dropped the ball, and when and why?
MR MILLER: I don’t know what – so first of all, I reject the characterization about dropping the ball. We have been pursuing negotiations. The Secretary has been having direct conversations with the president of Azerbaijan, the prime minister of Armenia. We’ve had a number of officials travel to the region – not just in the past week or 10 days since hostilities broke out but going back months and months and months.
We have done everything we can to pursue diplomacy, but ultimately, remember, it’s up to the two parties here who are the parties that have direct disagreements. We can do everything we can to push them but ultimately they have to agree to talk and they have to agree to ultimately come to some resolution. That’s what we’re going to do, is continue to play our part to facilitate that.
QUESTION: And how much of this also can be pointed at Russia? I’m asking because Kremlin loves pointing at the West, and also the fact that Pashinyan chose Western orientation for Armenia. So what is Russia’s role here, and how do you – is it time to come out and call Russia out for what it has been doing?
MR MILLER: I certainly do not think Russia has played a productive role here in the past week. We have seen them at times – there have been times where they facilitated negotiations, and that was something that we welcomed; but certainly in the last week their role has not been productive in this situation.
QUESTION: I have one more on Russia, if you don’t mind.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In the wake of today’s sanctions and also yesterday’s business advisory on Xinjiang, I want to ask you about business advisory on Russia. It has been more than a year and a half that we entered this war. There have been calls from different sides, Ukrainian business community and diaspora. The fact that you guys are still allowing the U.S. companies, business companies, to operate in Russia – some of them have left and returned back and earning money and pay taxes – is not consistent with your policy to isolate Russia, is it?
MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about that. Number one, that since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February of last year, a number of U.S. international companies have looked at the legal, looked at the reputational risk, and decided that those risks were too high to continue involving – to continue operating in Russia. In fact, over a thousand U.S. companies have withdrawn from Russia in that time. In addition, Russia has passed restrictive new laws that I think have discouraged a number of businesses from operating.
I will say this is a decision that every business has to make on its own, looking at the operational and legal and reputational risks of operating in Russia. But I do want to be clear that we have always emphasized that there are certain types of commercial activity that we are not trying to shut down with respect to Russia. All of our sanctions have had exemptions for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian purposes because we do not see the United States in conflict with the Russian people.
So we have not tried to tell businesses that are working to provide food or pharmaceutical goods to the Russian people that they should stop doing business there. We have targeted our sanctions, our export controls, on the sectors of the Russian economy that fuel Russia’s war machine, and we’ll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up one more on Armenia-Azerbaijan?
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: One other development is that Azerbaijan says it’s arrested the head of the self-styled republican – the suffragist entity in Nagorno-Karabakh, which of course has fallen on Mr. Vardanian. Does the U.S. have anything to say about that, either the arrest or about what treatment you would expect to —
MR MILLER: We are aware of the arrest. We’re closely monitoring the situation. I don’t have any further comment today.
QUESTION: Thank you. Changing topic to the visa waiver, which – is the – this department and the Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken, completely convinced that Israel has totally fulfilled all its obligations to join the visa program?
MR MILLER: We are convinced that it has met the requirements to join the Visa Waiver Program. It’s a recommendation the Secretary made to the Department of Homeland Security, and it was ultimately decided by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Over the past few months, as we’ve been trialing this program with the Government of Israel, we’ve seen more than a hundred thousand American citizens enter Israel without a visa. That includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry who have travelled into Israel without a visa. And that said, we have ongoing monitoring programs that will be in place for Israel, as they are with every other member of the Visa Waiver Program. We’ll be closely monitoring their compliance as we go forward.
QUESTION: Okay. So you are convinced that Israel is exactly, like all the other countries, the 40 other countries that belong to this program —
MR MILLER: I –
QUESTION: — they conduct themselves with the same kind of fidelity in treating all Americans the same?
MR MILLER: I said that they have met the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program. As we have discussed many times from this podium, there are differences, especially with respect to Gaza. We have to remember that Gaza is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. We would expect there to be different procedures. There are different procedures for entering the United States if you’re coming from a territory controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. So we do understand that there are different procedures, but we have looked at the plans and the policies that Israel has put into place and decided that they meet the Visa Waiver Program. But we will continue to monitor their compliance going forward.
QUESTION: You are not concerned that Israel could use (inaudible) of this caveat that it has special security needs and so on to abuse this – these requirements that you demand of them?
MR MILLER: I don’t know what you mean with respect to taking advantage of, but we will be watching for compliance with the program very carefully.
QUESTION: And what recourse do Americans that are not treated equally upon entry or departure, what recourse do they have?
MR MILLER: They should just – they should report that to the United States embassy.
QUESTION: And in the event that there are repeated incidents, will there be, like, a pullback from that program?
MR MILLER: I don’t want to get into – I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals, other than to say, as I just said, that we monitor ongoing compliance with the program and have ability – have the ability to take steps up to and including excluding people from the – countries from the program going forward if they fail to stay in compliance.
QUESTION: Last question on this. A group of American rights groups – Arab American rights groups – have filed a suit against this. Do you have any comment on that?
MR MILLER: I don’t. I would refer you to the Department of Justice for comment on that.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the stat you just gave? You said since when more than a hundred thousand Americans have entered Israel without a visa?
MR MILLER: Since we started this trial period, which was July or –
QUESTION: So like, all Americans, right? That, like, includes people like me and you?
MR MILLER: I said over a hundred thousand –
QUESTION: Palestinian Americans?
MR MILLER: No, hold on. Over a hundred thousand American – let me just –
QUESTION: Matt, that means nothing. Americans who get into Israel with – unless they’re Palestinian Americans, with –
MR MILLER: I think you missed the second part of what I said. Over a hundred thousand Americans since we began trialing this program have entered Israel without a visa, and that includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry.
QUESTION: How many – all right. But saying more than a hundred thousand since the trial period began means absolutely nothing, okay?
MR MILLER: It —
QUESTION: No, it means nothing. Because you and I could get to Israel without a visa for years. That’s not the issue. So when you say tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans, or tens of thousands of Americans who are on the Palestinian registry, how many?
MR MILLER: I don’t have the exact number. Tens of thousands.
QUESTION: Well – but how do you know that they’re – how do you know it’s reciprocal? How do you know that this is reciprocity if you can’t give an exact number?
MR MILLER: I’m giving you “tens of thousands.” I don’t often – I oftentimes walk out here with numbers that are in a range without the exact number to tell you the – down to the decimal point.
QUESTION: How many was it – how many – well, tell me how many was it before the trial period began?
MR MILLER: I don’t have that information.
QUESTION: Well, then what – the point —
MR MILLER: It – I – I think it is —
QUESTION: It is a meaningless statistic.
MR MILLER: I think it is important information that certainly the – given that the –
QUESTION: Hold on. Okay, no one is –
MR MILLER: Let me just say, given that the criticism –
QUESTION: — claiming that there hasn’t been improvements to the way Palestinian Americans are treated when they go to or through Israel. No one is saying there haven’t been. But the question is the reciprocity issue. So let me ask you something. Will Israeli citizens need to get permission from the U.S. Government to leave the United States if they come in?
MR MILLER: To leave the United States? I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security for that level of specificity.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it correct that Palestinian Americans who are on the Palestinian registration list, who are in Gaza, need to get permission – specific permission; not just checking a box on an ESTA form or whatever – to leave?
MR MILLER: They do have to go through a different –
QUESTION: Well, how is that – how is that reciprocal?
MR MILLER: They do – I said they have to go through a different circumstance because of the unique nature of the fact that they live in a place that’s controlled by a foreign terrorist organization, which is something that we fully understand. So it is different, but we expect –
QUESTION: Okay. But –
MR MILLER: Hold on. We expect them to be —
QUESTION: Okay, and I’m not suggesting that Israel – I’m not trying to say that Israel – that they shouldn’t be in the program for whatever reason, except for the fact that that is not reciprocity right there. That is – that is discriminatory. Whether it is based on sound national security strategy or not, it isn’t reciprocity, it doesn’t meet the requirements of the law, and that’s what this lawsuit that Said was just talking about is about. So how – are you just saying that, okay, it’s all right that some Palestinian Americans are going to be discriminated against and —
MR MILLER: That is not at all what I said. I said that —
QUESTION: But that is what it is.
MR MILLER: I’ve said that Palestinian Americans coming from Gaza have to go through different procedures because they’re coming from a place that’s controlled by a foreign terrorist organization.
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MR MILLER: But – but —
QUESTION: But wait a second. But those Palestinian Americans do not have – they all – this is just to leave Gaza, to leave Israel, to get back to – to get back to the United States, presumably. It is not a U.S. requirement that they have to do this. It is an Israeli requirement, and that means that it is – that the treatment is not reciprocal.
MR MILLER: We believe that under the procedures that the Government of Israel is —
QUESTION: I know you believe.
MR MILLER: — hold on – is putting – is putting into place —
QUESTION: You can spin this all you want to, but it’s not reciprocity.
MR MILLER: — they will – they will be able to travel – Americans on the Palestinian registry in Gaza or any American citizens in Gaza will be able to travel into Israel without a visa. There are different procedures, but ultimately they may have to go —
QUESTION: But then they can’t leave?
MR MILLER: — but ultimately it’s – they —
QUESTION: So reciprocity is only getting in, it doesn’t include getting out? I don’t —
MR MILLER: I’m going to —
QUESTION: This is really just what – because you don’t know.
MR MILLER: No, I’m not – I —
QUESTION: And because it doesn’t make any sense.
MR MILLER: I would disagree with that. We believe that we have set up a program that allows them – first of all, again, is delivering an enormous benefit to —
QUESTION: Well —
MR MILLER: — enormous benefit to American citizens, including Palestinian Americans who have not been able to fly into Ben Gurion before now, who have not been able to transit in and out of the West Bank. There are different procedures for Gaza. We understand that. We expect it. We think it’s appropriate for there to be so. But at the end of the day, those American citizens who are in Gaza have the ability to transit with different procedures but without a visa.
QUESTION: But I don’t – I’m not arguing and I don’t think anyone else is arguing that this isn’t a good thing for U.S.-Israeli relations or that Israel should – that Israeli citizens should have those. The question is whether they meet the legal criteria, okay?
MR MILLER: And —
QUESTION: And honestly, what you have just said now does not meet the criteria for reciprocity.
MR MILLER: We have made a —
QUESTION: It doesn’t. You – no, it doesn’t.
MR MILLER: So – so I am not a lawyer, but we have looked at it inside the State Department —
QUESTION: I’m not a lawyer either.
MR MILLER: — and come to a different – well, then we’re really in the – we have come to a different determination.
QUESTION: So would you agree that there is a two-tier system of – there is a two-tier – there is a different system for Palestinians? Do you agree with that?
MR MILLER: I don’t know how many – I don’t know how many times I have to say this, which is that there is a —
QUESTION: I understand, but —
MR MILLER: — there is – there are different requirements for people that live in – that live in Gaza, and I think for understandable reasons.
QUESTION: So the issue of reciprocity —
QUESTION: So if an Israeli citizen wants to leave the United States and go back to Israel, and there —
MR MILLER: An Israeli citizen?
QUESTION: Yeah, under the Visa Waiver Program, right, so they can get in without a visa but they (inaudible). So, like, if they’re in Arizona or something —
MR MILLER: So the – so I —
QUESTION: — that they can – that politically you think is suspect.
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to —
QUESTION: Would they have to apply for an exit visa to get out of the U.S.?
MR MILLER: Now you’re – now you are getting beyond my knowledge of immigration law when we start talking about —
MR MILLER: — when we start talking about Israeli citizens here.
QUESTION: Because I’ve read the 15-page DHS talking points (inaudible), and they don’t address this question, and not only do they not address the question of the Gaza issue and reciprocity, Israel is not even meeting right now the criteria for the West Bank, for Palestinians who are going – Palestinian Americans who are on the registry who are going into the West Bank. Now, yes, it has improved, no doubt. No one is saying it hasn’t. But they’re not meeting that requirement either. So it’s not an issue of whether Israel should get into the program based on it being a partner of the U.S. and a strategic ally in the Middle East. It’s a question of whether they meet the legal criteria under the law. And they don’t. And what your answers have just said —
MR MILLER: I —
QUESTION: — is that they don’t meet the criteria and you’re letting them in anyway.
MR MILLER: I – that is not at all what I have said. I have said we have made the determination that they do, and ultimately we have the ability to monitor this going forward.
All right. Go ahead.
MR MILLER: Did he raise the issue of what?
QUESTION: The Canadian allegations.
MR MILLER: No, not in that meeting. It was a – that was not a bilateral meeting. It was a meeting of a number of countries and it did not come up in that meeting. But we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this issue and urged them to fully cooperate with the Canadian investigation.
QUESTION: And the minister is going to be here in the city this week. The Secretary has plans to meet him and raise this issue again?
MR MILLER: Tomorrow. Yeah. And what?
QUESTION: Will he be raising this issue with the – with Minister Jaishankar?
MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview the comment – the conversations he will have in that meeting, but as we’ve made clear, we’ve raised this; we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this and encouraged them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation, and we continue to encourage them to cooperate.
QUESTION: So far engagement you had with the Indians, do you see sense of cooperation from them?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to read in – I’m not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Se Hoon Kim, Global Strat View. Last week, the visit of President Raisi – President Raisi’s visit to the United Nations actually carried on a lot of conversation in the public sphere. However, there were incidences where journalists from Iran International were harassed and attacked on the streets by Iranian diplomats. Namely, the – Iran International’s journalist Kian Amani was directly attacked and harassed by the protocol officer of Raisi, Reza Naghipour. I’m just wondering what your comment on that is and for – also would like to see your comment regarding the constant harassment and the targeting of Iranian dissidents located in the United States who are U.S. citizens, green card holders, and a lot of times asylees.
MR MILLER: So with respect to the first question, we actually put out a statement on this last week during the UN General Assembly in which we made very clear that we condemn the harassment and intimidation of journalists. And with respect to the harassment and intimidation of Iranian citizens living in the United States, of course we condemn that as well. We condemn transnational repression wherever it happens in the world.
QUESTION: Thank you. Today, Serbia is holding day of mourning after violent clashes in Kosovo on Sunday. The State Department so far didn’t send a message of condolences to the Serbian victims, and while Secretary Blinken expressed condolences for the loss of Kosovo police officer, there has been noticeable absence of any mention of the Serbian victims in his statement. What kind of message does this convey to the Serbs in Kosovo?
MR MILLER: I think we have pretty consistently expressed our condolences to the victims of violence in – both in this situation and around the world, and one of the messages we have had for both sides in this conflict is that they should refrain from violence and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue. That continues to be our message.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in her statement expressed concerns on the allegations of involvement of Indian Government in Canadian citizen killing. She also said that she has requested a briefing on whether there are similar operations in the United States. Any briefings scheduled, or she contacted the State Department?
MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Sir, secondly, how United States see this Khalistan campaign, as all these operations managed by U.S.-based group Sikhs for Justice —
MR MILLER: I missed the first part of the question. Could you just —
QUESTION: So how you – how United States see this Khalistan campaign? Because all their operations are managed by a U.S.-based education group, Sikhs for Justice.
MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Sorry, last question, sir. Has India asked United States to ban Khalistan operations in United States?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to read out any private diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. What do you have for the tragic fire incident that happened late yesterday in a wedding party in Nineveh Province, Hamdaniya district in Iraq, where more than 100 people killed and many more injured?
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So some of the victims are treat in local hospitals and some are in Kurdistan Region’s hospitals, but will you provide any medical assistance? And if needed, will you welcome them in – here in the United States hospitals?
MR MILLER: So first of all, we mourn the loss of life in the horrific fire that took place at a wedding in Hamdaniya in northern Iraq that killed more than – at least a hundred people and, to our understanding, critically injured 150 others. We express, of course, our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and we hope for a speedy recovery for those wounded.
With respect to the second part of your question, we do stand ready to support the Government of Iraq and its people at this tragic time. We have always stood by – we will always stand side by side with the people of Iraq and be ready to talk with the Iraqi Government about what – any assistance that we can provide. And with respect to the last question, I think it’s too early to get into what might occur.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. If you please, comment on the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan scheduled for September 21, which is tomorrow. There is no representative of the U.S. invited. How do you see that? And second, a high-level delegation of the Taliban led by acting Foreign Affair Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has traveled to Russia to participate in the two-days meeting. Does the travel ban on Taliban leaders still exist? Aren’t they in the blacklist?
MR MILLER: So I don’t have much to say about that other than that we’re aware of the Moscow format meeting taking place. We are not members of the Moscow format, so a U.S. representative will not be attending.
QUESTION: Mexican media is reporting that Secretary Blinken will be hosting a high-level delegation of Mexican officials on Friday. Given the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, will this be the topic of discussion on Friday?
MR MILLER: So I don’t want to get into – two days before the meeting what exactly we will talk about, but certainly migration issues are often issues that we talk about with our Mexican counterparts when we meet with them both here and in Mexico.
QUESTION: Who will be taking part from the U.S. side on this – on this meeting on Friday?
MR MILLER: Stay tuned. We’ll make announcements of that in the coming days.
QUESTION: But you confirm the meeting is happening?
MR MILLER: I’m going to make – we’ll make announcements about that in the very near future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: All right. Do a few more.
QUESTION: Hi, Matt. Could you talk a little about what may happen if Congress fails to pass the appropriation bills in regards to the compact of free associations for Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands?
MR MILLER: So we are still working through the exact implications. As you can imagine, there are – we have to look at everything that the State Department does and determine what kind of work can continue in a government shutdown, what kind of work would have to be put on hold. We are concerned about the fact that Congress might not do its job and pass appropriations bills to keep the government open, and so we are doing the kind of planning that we have to do to respond to that situation if it occurs. But I’m not at this point ready to talk about what’s – what any specific implications might be.
Go to the back.
QUESTION: After Cambodia’s election in July, the U.S. —
MR MILLER: Whose election?
MR MILLER: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: The U.S. cut off $18 million in aid in apparent protest, I guess against the legitimacy of the election. On Friday, Hun Manet, the prime minister of Cambodia, met with the acting deputy secretary, Victoria Nuland, and the Cambodian Government says that that aid has been restored. Can you confirm that? And if so, why was that aid restored?
MR MILLER: Let me take that one back, get you an answer.
All right, we’ll do last one. Janne.
QUESTION: Thank you. On Russia, Russian air force plane arrived in Pyongyang this week, and North Korea and Russia are taking steps to realize military cooperations. Any comment on that? Are you concerned about this?
MR MILLER: Sure. We have spoken to this a number of times and warned that arms discussions between Russia and the DPRK almost certainly continued during Kim Jong-un’s trip to Russia, and we believe that they continue as – in the aftermath of that trip. We think a burgeoning military relationship between Russia and the DPRK, including additional transfers of weapons from the DPRK to Russia and technology transfers from the DPRK – from Russia to the DPRK, will further undermine the global nonproliferation regime, would be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for. And so we would urge the DPRK to abide by what it has said publicly and refrain from supplying arms to Russia.
With that, we’ll wrap for today. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)
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