Department Press Briefing - August 18, 2017
Index for Today's Briefing:
MS NAUERT: Hi, how are you? Hi, everybody. How is everyone today?
MS NAUERT: I know, Friday – ready for the week to be over, right? Okay. But it has been a busy couple days, certainly.
Let me start out by first addressing what happened in Spain yesterday and overnight. The United States wants to strongly condemn the terror attack that took place in Barcelona, Spain. We extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of the victims and the people of Spain, as well as our hopes for a quick recovery for those who have been wounded. The United States stands in solidarity with Spain. Crimes like this cowardly attack only reinforce our shared resolve to stop these senseless attacks that target the innocent.
The U.S. consulate general in Barcelona continues to work with local authorities to identify and provide assistance to U.S. citizens affected by the terror attacks in Las Ramblas and in Cambrils. As Secretary Tillerson said earlier today, we can confirm that one American citizen was killed in that attack, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his friends. We can also confirm that there was a injury of another U.S. citizen. It was a minor injury, we’re told. Out of respect for the family’s privacy and in their time of grief, we have no further comment on that matter.
Spanish authorities report that there are still several casualties who have not yet been identified. The U.S. consulate in Barcelona continues to issue emergency and security messages to update U.S. citizens in the area. U.S. citizens are advised to maintain security awareness and monitor media and local information sources. We also strongly encourage U.S. citizens in Barcelona to contact their family and friends back here in the United States to directly inform them of their safety and their security. President Trump spoke with President Rajoy today to – and said to him that we stand ready to offer any assistance necessary to Spanish authorities as they pursue their investigation.
As a second matter today, I’d like to bring this up. It’s something that takes place tomorrow, actually, and that is World Humanitarian Day. It is a time to protect aid – or recognize, rather, aid workers who have lost their lives to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. We come together as an international community on August the 19th to honor the brave men and women who heroically risk everything to serve those who are in need around the world. Nearly 300 aid workers worldwide were killed, injured, or kidnapped in 2016 alone, a particularly dangerous year for humanitarian staff. Providing humanitarian assistance and saving lives is growing harder as crises and conflicts grow in complexity and also strain scarce resources.
Violations of international law put aid workers in grave danger. The numbers tell a pretty tough story. An unprecedented number, 141.1 million people across 37 countries, are now in immediate need of assistance. Just this week the United Nations confirmed that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda has topped 1 million people as the conflict in South Sudan has created the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. The United States has a long and distinguished history of helping people in need as a result of conflict and natural disasters. The United States and our humanitarian partners are responding to crises around the world, providing life-saving assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. In 2016 the United States, the world’s leading humanitarian donor, contributed more than $7 billion to humanitarian efforts around the globe. This World Humanitarian Day we remain committed to saving lives and recognize the tremendous service of all humanitarian heroes, including our brave aid workers and partners on the ground. And we want to thank them for their bravery and their work.
With that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: Just very quickly --
QUESTION: -- on Barcelona --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- before I get to something – can you at least – I realize you can’t give details about the two casualties, but were they killed in – were they in Barcelona or in the other place?
MS NAUERT: They were in Barcelona.
QUESTION: Okay, and in light --
MS NAUERT: The one American who was killed was in Barcelona.
QUESTION: Do you know about the injured?
MS NAUERT: The other injury – I believe the other injury was in Barcelona as well. I can double check that for you.
QUESTION: Okay. And was the injured person you referred to – his family, for the person who died, it – can you be more specific about the sex of the injury? Man or woman?
MS NAUERT: Two males. Two men.
MS NAUERT: Temporarily back up. So our email system – so if any of you had emailed us this morning and did not get a response, that was not intentional. Our email system has been down since --
QUESTION: Not necessarily intentionally.
MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) I would never not get back to you all.
MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) She says speak for yourself. Carol texted me. (Laughter.) Nevertheless, it has been quite a headache today. Our email system has been down. It was brought up just a short while ago. I understand they’re still working through some of the details. It’s something that was a technical glitch – that’s how our folks are describing it, right?
STAFF: Internal issue.
MS NAUERT: We literally got off the phone with them 20 seconds ago. A little longer than that. And so it was – what was – remind me.
STAFF: Internal issue.
MS NAUERT: It was just an internal issue, so if there’s anything different on that, we’ll bring that to you.
QUESTION: Well, when you say “internal issue,” can you – can – you can rule out that this was, like, kind of a sabotage or an outside hacker? Because – I just remind you, this was well before your time, but in 2014 we had this issue, and we were basically given false information that this was – that the system was shut down for routine maintenance, when, in fact, it was shut down so that the technicians could go in and do battle with hackers who had infiltrated it. So you’re assuring us that there’s nothing like that?
MS NAUERT: To my awareness, there’s nothing – that is not the case.
QUESTION: And it’s just the unclassified system?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, thank you. Unclassified system.
QUESTION: Okay. But – so when you say temporarily back up, you don’t expect it to go down again, do you?
MS NAUERT: I would hope not. There are some glitches that they’re still working out. I got a big batch of emails in about 10 minutes ago, and then didn’t. So we’re kind of sharing with you how the sausage is being made right now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So it’s like everyone else’s email system – it goes up, and then goes – when it goes down, it comes back sporadically.
MS NAUERT: I think so.
QUESTION: Okay. That’s all I have.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: I mean, I have other stuff, but other people --
MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Would anyone like to talk about email or Spain? Let’s try to stick to a more organized system of regions today.
QUESTION: Spanish email.
MS NAUERT: Anything else on Spain? Yeah, hi.
MS NAUERT: Well, we have a very close partnership and collaboration with the Spanish authorities and with the Spanish Government. The President just talked to their president a short while ago. Secretary Tillerson spoke to this yesterday, as did Mike – Vice President Mike Pence. Among the things that we have said to the Spanish Government is that we are standing by and willing to offer any assistance that they might need in the investigation or with resources in terms of helping out their folks on the ground there. That hasn’t changed; we still stand by that, and are willing – the entire body of the U.S. Government – willing to stand by to help the Spanish.
QUESTION: Actually, on Spain, do you – I mean, apparently it was a much more complex attack and a more dangerous attack was planned using butane explosives or something like that, and then there was a couple of weeks ago a plot in Australia that the Australian authorities disrupted, and they said it was very sophisticated and was supposed to involve some sort of chemical agent. Do you see that ISIS is stepping up its attacks as it’s losing territory?
MS NAUERT: You raise a good point about how ISIS is losing territory. And we know that coalition partners, backed by the United States in Iraq and also Syria, have taken back much, much of that territory that ISIS held in the first place. As that continues to happen, as they lose ground – they’ve lost like 70 percent of the ground that they had initially taken in Iraq, more than 50 percent of the ground that they had initially taken in Syria – they become more desperate. We do know that other European attacks that happened in the last year were plotted out of Raqqa, Syria. That is one of the reasons that the coalition has focused so much on the city of Raqqa and taking back Raqqa from ISIS, because some of those plots were hatched from Raqqa. We know that as a fact.
What has happened now may just be an instance where they are trying to show that they may still hold some relevancy as we continue to take back ground from them.
QUESTION: So you think it’s too early to say there’s any pattern of escalating attacks?
MS NAUERT: I can’t say – I can’t say that. I don’t want to draw any conclusions. Spanish authorities are investigating that; I don’t want to get ahead of any of their investigations.
QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. On today’s announcement on diversity, and the Secretary’s comments on race relations in the country. It seems obvious, but just to ask: How much did Charlottesville play into the timing and the content of the Secretary’s remarks, and the announcement for this new diversity initiative? And how long has he been constructing this or thinking about it?
MS NAUERT: Sure. So let me take you back quite a few months. The Secretary’s first day on the job, when he came in here and he went into the main hallway at the front where all the flags are at the State Department, he looked out across the crowd, and one of the things that he said to our employees is, “When people see you, they see America.” Meaning, looking at the minorities, looking at all the different faces, the different types of names and everything – that is America, and that’s what we represent, not just here in America but also overseas. And that’s a priority for him.
Let me take you to about two weeks ago, and that’s when Deputy Secretary Sullivan spoke at our town hall meeting. One of the things that he said – it was closed press, but one of the things that he did share with the people at our town hall meeting, and who were also watching overseas who work at the State Department, was we have a commitment to diversity, and we can do a whole lot better than we currently do as a State Department.
And so that was really the genesis of the Secretary’s comments today, in bringing in some of our interns and our – those who are involved in our fellowship programs here, Pickering and Rangel – we’ve talked about that program that intends to bring in diverse applicants into our Foreign Service program. So that’s one of the things that the Secretary focused on today, bringing them all in and addressing the issue of diversity.
This also takes place as we undergo the redesign of the State Department, and in undergoing the redesign of the State Department, this is something that we’ll consider. We look at our overall mission and we look at our overall objectives and the scope of what we do, and this is one way to reflect on that. So the Secretary is making this a big priority of his.
QUESTION: But certainly, he was aware of the timing of this just a few days after Charlottesville?
MS NAUERT: Oh, and I think one would be remiss if they didn’t touch on what had happened in Charlottesville over this past week. And that’s a good reminder for all of us, not just here but Americans serving abroad, that what happened last week in Charlottesville is not representative of America. Yes, we have freedom of speech. Yes, that is something that we embrace. Hatred is not something we embrace. It’s not who we are as a people. That’s not what we want to show overseas. But it reminds us that there is still a battle that can go on internally within our own country, and it’s something that we’re working to address and to try to fix.
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: So what’s --
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, sure. Hey, Elise.
QUESTION: Hi. Well, it seemed as if it was a not-so-subtle repudiation of the President’s declaration that both sides were to blame, and kind of equating the hate speech protesters and those that were protesting the statue with the peaceful protesters. And when he also brought up – when he invoked George Washington at a synagogue, kind of indirect – antithetical to President Trump’s remarks that George Washington was no different than Robert E. Lee.
MS NAUERT: I think what the Secretary was stating is what we all think about America and what we represent as Americans, and those are the best ideals. And we represent diversity as Americans. We represent hope. The Secretary talked about this today, where we’re the kind of country where it doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter what your parents did, it doesn’t matter what your last name is, that you too can succeed. And I think he’s hoping to not just underscore those ideals but to help promote them across the country and across the world as well.
QUESTION: Well, would it be wrong of us to infer from his remarks that he does not believe that both sides were to blame for last week’s incidents?
MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question, but I think he was very clear, and I will restate some of this for you. Those who embrace poison in our public discourse, they damage the very country that they claim to love. We condemn racism. We condemn bigotry in all of its forms. Racism is evil. It is antithetical to American values. It’s antithetical to the American idea. So I think the Secretary was clear in his personal beliefs about that.
QUESTION: On this?
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: He mentioned that you would be keeping in place the Pickering and Rangel fellowship programs, which we – you had said before. I know that. But he said – he said all fellowship programs. Does that include the Presidential Management Fellows?
MS NAUERT: I believe so. Let me double-check that part of it for you, though.
QUESTION: So when exactly is the – I mean, the hiring freeze, with the certain exceptions that have been made already for the two A-100 classes, is in – is still in place, correct?
MS NAUERT: Yes. So the – there’s a department-wide hiring freeze. The Secretary touched on that this morning. That hiring freeze was put in place earlier this year so we could kind of get a better temporary – it was a temporary hiring freeze.
QUESTION: So --
MS NAUERT: But to get a better sense as to who we have here, what our folks are doing, and what current jobs are open and what current jobs are perhaps duplicative.
QUESTION: Right. So it is still not being lifted and it won’t be lifted until after the reorganization is complete?
MS NAUERT: I’m not certain about the time in which it will be lifted. All I can tell you is that it’s temporary. I think that’s something that’s still under consideration.
QUESTION: Okay. Because there’s a lot of angst and stress among this building and among former officials who think – or who have been under the impression that these programs are going away and that the Secretary was not committed to having a full – a full and effective complement of diplomats in the Foreign Service. Is that incorrect?
MS NAUERT: Well, here’s what I can tell you. The Pickering and Rangel fellows program is staying. We have a new class that’s incoming. I talked with some of the fellows this afternoon and asked them what they thought about the speech and asked them how they’re enjoying the program, and they gave it all a thumbs up. So I know that they’re pleased with it. Of course they’re very happy that the program is remaining and we are as well, and talking with a lot of Foreign Service officers in the building, even the white guys, they all said, “We love this. We love this program. We’re so pleased that it’s staying.” So I think building-wide I can speak for that – the importance of diversity, and kidding aside. But the importance of diversity to the programs here.
QUESTION: Well, so do you have any idea how quickly the Secretary envisions building the Foreign Service up to a point where it does reflect the face of America or it does reflect the diversity of America?
MS NAUERT: So part of the program here – and this is something that he kind of outlined in broad brush strokes earlier today – to build a recruiting team, to go out to some schools in different places around the country so that people don’t necessarily have to seek us out – and I’m not talking just about Foreign Service officers, but this would also apply to civil servants as well, according to my understanding of it – but where we would try to build up relationships with various institutions, where we would go out and basically do recruiting, talk to different students on different campuses and so forth. One of the things that they want to do is hold minority-focused job fairs and see that as a way of helping to introduce the State Department to people who may not normally know about the State Department and know about careers available here.
Another interesting idea the Secretary brought up was looking to our veterans, our veterans across the country, many of whom are getting out of the military and are looking for a civilian career now. They are a talented, important work pool, a workforce that knows how to get things done and knows how to get things done in difficult circumstances, and that really mirrors what we do here at the State Department. So the Secretary has talked about how he wants to try to recruit veterans and bring in veterans. So those are just kind of among the big toplines that we would focus on here.
QUESTION: Right, but for the students that’s clearly a multiyear process, because you’re not going to be able to get these people in and then get them into senior positions where, if the stat is correct that he mentioned, only 12 percent of the senior Foreign Service is non-white, which is far more pale, male, and Yale than I actually ever thought it was, but – and I’ve been here for quite a long time.
MS NAUERT: I know.
QUESTION: But the issue that – or the question I have is: Previous Secretaries have tried to do exactly the same thing, and this veterans idea is not new, and in fact, veterans get preference for hiring in all federal civilian jobs. But there was a particular push in this building years ago, and it still doesn’t seem to have worked. So I guess my question is what exactly is going to be different this time around, because we had Secretary Powell notice this and see it, Secretary Rice too, and so --
MS NAUERT: Matt, I’d have to go back and look – I’d have to go back and look at the numbers, the recruiting numbers and then the number of people who actually joined the State Department, the Foreign Service, and other programs that we have here, to see where it is now compared to where it was five, 10 years from now. So I’d have to go back and actually look at the data and compare the program that the Secretary has outlined – again, broad brush strokes, but outlined now – compared with the programs before. If you want me to do that, I can take a day or so to dive into that and try to figure it out, but I know that this is something that the Secretary --
QUESTION: If I say yes, you’ll never talk to me again, right?
MS NAUERT: No, of course I will. But it would take me some time to figure all that stuff out. That would be data-driven. But I know – I can tell you that this is important to the Secretary and this is something that he really wants to do.
QUESTION: Right. But I – well, I – I mean, you don’t have to personally do it. Perhaps there is some way to quickly find out whether the numbers of the – minority numbers have been going up or going down or have been static over the course of the years despite these programs.
MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not going to promise you that today, but we can certainly look into it. Okay? Okay. And you reporters out there, don’t start writing this and give me a deadline of 5 o’clock today, because it’s going to take a while to hunt down those numbers.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Thank you, Matt.
Okay. Sir, hi. How are you?
MS NAUERT: China. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more question on Charlottesville?
MS NAUERT: Sure, of course.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary ever plan to publicly address what he thought of President Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville? And do you know if – since they speak so frequently, do you know if he has had a private conversation with him telling him what he thought of – specifically about his remarks? Not just the incident itself, but the reaction.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. A couple things. I know the Secretary has spoken with the President this week – not in person, but he’s spoken with him by phone. I’m not aware of whether or not it was a one-on-one call or whether it was just a group call, like a principals’ call or something of that sort, but I know he has spoken with the President this week. As you know, right now he’s at Camp David, and that’s where we’re – they’re having conversations, so that conversation may be going on at this time. I know that the Secretary has spoken out on two occasions about race this week alone: one as he was meeting with the foreign minister from Canada, in which he addressed what happened in Charlottesville; and then I think his overall views on race and diversity and the place in America that it properly holds today. So I think the Secretary has spoken a fair bit about that.
QUESTION: Do you have any more on how the ambassadors are going to be – the pool is going to be selected, how that – having a minority in that group with the --
MS NAUERT: Oh, I’m glad you asked that. One of the things the Secretary mentioned today is that when we look at our ambassadorial candidates at that pool, that the Secretary wants to have someone who represents a minority represented in those interviews to be interviewed for the job. And the Secretary said perhaps if that person is not ready yet for that position, that gives us a good opportunity to know who that person is and have that person on our radar and help bring that person along into the future. So it helps to identify a quality base of candidates and helps the State Department to better work with them to get them to that position which they aspire to.
QUESTION: Is that effective immediately?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn't get a chance to ask him that. Okay.
MS NAUERT: So I’ve seen that report, and I – I’m afraid I just don’t have anything for you on that right now.
QUESTION: Well, then, I have another question.
MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Iraq has requested – has formally requested the UN’s help in investigating ISIS for war crimes. Can you give us some idea of what the next steps are going to be and what your role is going to be in that?
MS NAUERT: So one of the things we’ve addressed here before is the amount of aid that we’ve helped to provide to Iraq, I believe also through the United Nations as well. I would need to double check on that. I have it in my notes somewhere. And part – what that is – the aim of that is to help the Iraqi Government and to help the United Nations to be able to identify some of those who have been involved in these – what we can call war crimes, genocide, and all of that.
So the United States is putting financial aid so that they can – they can kind of better handle that situation.
QUESTION: So how does this request to the UN change things, does it get more parties involved, make it formal?
MS NAUERT: Yeah – I’m not sure exactly. So I’d have to just look into that further and get back to you on it. Okay?
QUESTION: Omur Sahin from BirGun, a Turkish newspaper.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m going to ask about the Reuters interview with Syria Democratic Forces spokesperson, that he said --
MS NAUERT: An interview with who?
QUESTION: With Syria Democratic Forces spokesperson.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: He said the U.S. will remain long after ISIS is defeated. I’m going to ask if you have a comment on that. And also, are you having some discussions with Syria Democratic Forces about your further plans in the region?
MS NAUERT: Are we having conversations with who?
QUESTION: With Syria Democratic Forces.
MS NAUERT: Oh, with the Syrian Democratic Forces --
MS NAUERT: -- about – okay. So the United States and coalition partners work with the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the main goal in working with that entity, that group, was to take back Raqqa. We know that they are tried and true and tested, battle tested, battle ready, to take out ISIS, and they’ve done a good job of that. That operation, of course, is still underway to take out ISIS from Raqqa. So we have worked with them. We see that as something that’s being done in a very focused fashion and not in broader fashion.
In terms of what you are referring to – that interview – I’m familiar with that interview, and let me just kind of point back to what one of our colleagues, someone over at Department of Defense, was talking about and that is our overall mission. And our overall mission, and we’re not taking our eye off the ball in this regard, is to defeat ISIS. Whether it’s in Iraq or in Syria, that is our intent, to defeat ISIS and not do anything more than that. We want Syria governed by Syrians, not by the United States, not by any other forces, but by Syrians.
QUESTION: So you say you’re not planning to stay after defeating ISIS?
MS NAUERT: Look, that is not our plan. Our intent is to defeat ISIS, and we’re keeping our focus on that.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary --
MS NAUERT: Oh, wait. By the way, anything else on Syria?
Okay, go right ahead.
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Does the Secretary believe that the U.S. is at economic war with China?
MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question. I think what you’re probably referring to is our – Mr. Lighthizer, who handles trade for us. Is that – is that what you’re trying to get at?
QUESTION: But does China pose any kind of economic national security --
MS NAUERT: I have not – I have not asked the Secretary that. I know the Secretary continues to recognize China as a country we can have close cooperation with on many issues, on many fronts. They’ve been extremely helpful to us now in dealing with DPRK and – but again, I haven’t asked him that question.
I know that the administration overall looks at China and looks at some of its trade practices and has concerns about it, and that’s a matter that other institutions are going to take up within the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: I don’t think he was referring to Mr. – the trade representative, Mr. Lighthizer. I think he was referring to a view of China expressed by the until-several-hours ago chief strategist of the White House in an interview --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- in an interview with a magazine in which the – this now former official also went after a career State Department official who handles China.
MS NAUERT: Now I understand what you’re --
QUESTION: Do you have --
MS NAUERT: Now I understand what you’re talking about. My apologies, sir.
QUESTION: Do you – or do you know, does the Secretary have a view on those comments? He said yesterday that he had seen them. I’m wondering if he does have a – if he – does he share the view of China that the former chief strategist of the President evinced?
MS NAUERT: That he what?
QUESTION: Evinced. That he spoke about to the magazine, that the --
MS NAUERT: Which one – which part – portion of those comments in particular are you referring to?
QUESTION: The – that the United States is at – in an economic war with China.
MS NAUERT: I have not asked the Secretary that question. He’s not here right now. He mentioned that he’s aware of the comments, but we’ve been focused on a lot of bigger things – bigger things meaning DPRK, and bigger things in terms of what’s going on today and their meeting with the President today.
QUESTION: On that issue – sorry --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi.
QUESTION: -- it was pretty well-known when he said it in the interview that Mr. Bannon opposed the role that Susan Thornton was playing. Now that he’s removed – and it’s quite well-known that Secretary Tillerson favored Ms. Thornton to be the actual assistant secretary for East Asian affairs as opposed to acting – does the Secretary now see the way clear for her to take that position officially?
MS NAUERT: Susan Thornton is fantastic. A lot of us have worked here quite closely with Susan. Susan’s been a part of the tip of the spear in dealing with the DPRK and she’s done it – she makes it look like it’s effortless and I cannot imagine that it is. But she handles herself very, very well, and she happens to be a very smart and accomplished woman as well. The news about Mr. Bannon broke about 11 o’clock today. The Secretary landed – or arrived at Camp David sometime after that or not long thereafter, so we have not had a chance to talk about this in particular.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey, how are you?
QUESTION: Thanks. I want to go over the meetings that happened yesterday --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the 2+2. First, I just wanted to know if you had, like, a readout about how the meetings went. Did they go as expected? And then also, within the joint statement, I noticed that THAAD was never mentioned. And I didn’t know, was that never brought up during these meetings, or what’s the situation with that?
MS NAUERT: Okay. A couple things: For the meeting that took place yesterday between the two-by-two – excuse me, the 2+2 between the Secretary and his counterpart, and also Secretary Mattis and his counterpart as well, they defined their shared roles, their missions, their capabilities, under the alliance that was going forward.
As you know, the Secretary then met later on in the afternoon with his counterpart and their staffs as well. They talked about the strong trade and investment relationship between the United States and Japan, they talked about the administration engaging Japan to reduce barriers to trade and investment, they talked about enhancing economic and job growth in the United States and the region. They also touched upon DPRK. I was sitting in the meeting and I don’t recall the topic of THAAD coming up, but if one of them isn’t going to raise it, then they’re not going to raise it.
MS NAUERT: Okay. I hope that answers your question. Hi.
QUESTION: Yesterday during the press conference, both sides actually raised their concern in East and South China Sea. So today the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson said United States and Japan, which are not parties in South China Sea, should respect the effort made by countries in the region to solve the issues peacefully with their – through coordination and negotiation. I wonder if you have a response to that.
MS NAUERT: So in terms of the South China Sea, our position remains the same. Nothing has changed with regard to that, and we’ve talked about it many times here and so I’d just prefer to leave it at that.
QUESTION: And particularly in the joint statement, there was this line mentioned that both sides recalled the incidents in 2016 August. I wonder, because it has been a year – I’m referring to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – and I wonder what’s – since it’s been a year, what’s the urgency and need for United States and Japan to bring this – brought up this issue again? And also, they both highlighted the article of the mutual defense treaty between Japan and United States and they also especially emphasized Article 5. So what’s the reason behind it? I wonder if you could elaborate.
MS NAUERT: So in terms of the Senkaku Islands, our position on that is – has not changed, and that has been clear, I think, all along. They’ve been under Japanese administration since the reversion of Okinawa back in 1972. They fall within the scope of Article 5, so that’s the – the technical definition or what encompasses the governing of that – of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. So we oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of those islands.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you. Hi, sir.
MS NAUERT: Sure.
QUESTION: So a couple of days ago, Foreign Minister Lavrov in a statement to TASS made a very interesting statement basically saying, we cannot support the ideas that some of our partners continue to put forward and that literally aim to economically strangle North Korea. Now, it seems that the United States position is to economically strangle North Korea until they come to the denuclearization and stop their missile programs. So how do you square that? What do your – what’s your response to this?
MS NAUERT: And remind me, you work for who again?
QUESTION: Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese newspaper.
MS NAUERT: Japanese. Okay. So I just ask that because you’re reading the Russian talking points – (laughter) – so that’s why I wanted to know about that.
Look, it’s not just the United States. The DPRK would like to paint this as a conflict or as a stressor between the United States and the DPRK. It is hardly that. The entire world looks at what North Korea has been doing in terms of its illegal nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, and see – the entire world sees that as a threat. We saw that at the UN Security Council through its resolution.
One of the ways that we believe that we can help get Kim Jong-un to the table to start negotiate is by showing him the repercussions of his actions, and the repercussions of his actions – he can – we will increasingly make the situation difficult for him. By that, I mean they get their money, they bring their money in, and it funds their weapons programs. By tightening the belt on North Korea, by ensuring that they don’t take in as much money as they have in the past, that helps to reduce the amount of money going into their weapons program. That we see as a key threat. The Secretary has talked about that; Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis in their op-ed earlier this week. That’s one way that we can address the issue. And Kim Jong-un can see how isolated he will become – not just from the United States, but the world – if he maintains that.
QUESTION: Was that really just earlier this week?
MS NAUERT: I know.
QUESTION: It seems like – (laughter) --
MS NAUERT: I know. That was Monday.
QUESTION: It seems like a long time ago.
MS NAUERT: It does feel like a long week, doesn’t it?
QUESTION: Time has no meaning anymore.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, I’m sensing everybody’s a little sleepy here on a Friday. It’s a summer Friday in August, so thanks, everybody, for coming in. We sure appreciate it.
QUESTION: Isn’t no briefing on Fridays an August old tradition?
MS NAUERT: I would – (laughter) – but you know what, Elise? So many of you wanted to do more. Okay?
QUESTION: It’s true. It’s why we’re all here.
MS NAUERT: So look, look, let’s just – but wait, let’s just back up for a second.
QUESTION: That’s why we’re all here.
MS NAUERT: Let’s just back up for a second and take a look at this week. Okay? So Tuesday, we had our briefing, right. Wednesday, I went over to the Foreign Press Center and spent some time with just a couple of you but some other folks, so that was fantastic to be over there. Yesterday, we had the 2+2 with Secretary Tillerson and his counterparts. And then today, we had the briefing and, by the way, brought in Mark Green, the new USAID administrator, to speak with many of you.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS NAUERT: So – hold on – thank you all for all the engagements that you’ve been involved with, and we’ve been trying to bring as much as we can.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: We said goodbye already.
QUESTION: This is a little sudden. So the drawdown is in process; it has to be done by September 1st. Do you all have any sense yet of which of the – there’s three consulates and an embassy – which posts you’re removing people from, what the mix is?
MS NAUERT: I – look, I don’t have anything for you on that. I know that we have agreed to provide a response to the Russian Government by September the 1st, and we so we plan to adhere to that, and that’s all I have.
Okay. Thanks, guys.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Have a great weekend.
QUESTION: You too.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:57 p.m.)
DPB # 45