Department Press Briefing - January 4, 2018

Heather Nauert
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 4, 2018


3:07 p.m. EST

MS NAUERT: Hi Dave, how are you? Hi.

QUESTION: The Secretary – are we going to see him this year?

MS NAUERT: In 2018? Yes, I think there’s a very good chance of that, certainly.

QUESTION: He could come down and say hi to us --

MS NAUERT: Good afternoon, everybody. He’s upstairs. I saw him upstairs not too long ago. So he is hard at work, certainly.

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. I understand we have some visitors from Austria here, so welcome. You’re always welcome here. I hope you brought us some sachertorte. No? No sachertorte today. Robert, we got to work on that next time.

Okay. Well, I’d like to start the briefing today with mentioning something that is important to this administration, and President Trump has proclaimed January 2018 as the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. There are 25 million victims of human trafficking around the world. Trafficking in persons is a crime that’s rooted in deception. People who are victims of this often fear that if they are – if they come forward, they will be punished. Human trafficking happens in nearly every community around the world, even in the United States, robbing individuals of their freedom and also their dignity. You may recall a recent report on the African migrants in Libya who are being sold for as little as $200 at slave auctions. Perhaps some of you remember the young men from Guatemala who were lured with empty promises and forced into compromising job and living environments before they were found in Toledo, Ohio just a few years ago.

In September 2017, the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – that’s the TIP office – awarded $25 million to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery for a three-year program to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery in specific countries or regions around the world. Secretary Tillerson is set to chair the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. It consists of 15 government agencies because we can simply not fight human trafficking alone.

The State Department supports the important work of our partners by engaging in strategic diplomacy, targeting foreign assistance, supporting the coordination of federal anti-trafficking policies, and engaging civil society and the private sector in some of these key partnerships. As the President has said, “Our nation is and will forever be a place that values and protects human life and dignity. This month let us redouble our efforts to ensure that modern slavery today comes to a long-overdue end.” So if any of you are interested in stories on that, I’d be more than happy to assist you. It’s obviously an important matter for this administration.

With that, I’d be happy to take your questions today. Where would you like to start, Mr. Josh?

QUESTION: Sure. Let’s start with Pakistan. So everyone is very confused about what exactly you guys are doing on aid to Pakistan. Are we cutting all of it off? Is it just security assistance? Is it just the $255 million in Foreign Military Sales that was already announced, or are you doing something new?

MS NAUERT: Okay. As you recall, a few months ago we announced the suspension of $255 million in the Foreign Military Assistance. That’s basically the money that we would provide to Pakistan; Pakistan then, in return, uses that money to buy equipment, military equipment, from the United States. That was all suspended. That was announced back in August.

Today we can confirm that we are suspending national security – or, excuse me, we are suspending security assistance, security assistance only, to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani Government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. We consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel. The United States will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan.

QUESTION: What’s the dollar figure on the amount of security assistance?

MS NAUERT: So we are still working through some of those dollar numbers right now. As soon as I have a number for you, I can certainly get that to you. I have some more information that I can provide you.

QUESTION: Sure. And given that you’re suspending that aid but you’re not – you’re not reprogramming it to something else, Pakistan could still end up getting all of this money, assuming they meet your criteria. Is that right?

MS NAUERT: So – okay. Let me provide you with some more information and I’ll take – I’ll take some of your additional questions on this because I know you have a lot of interest in this.

The President announced his South Asia policy in August of 2017. You all remember that. He made it clear that no partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It has been more than four months since the President’s speech, and despite a sustained high-level engagement by this administration with the Government of Pakistan, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilize Afghanistan and also attack U.S. and allied personnel.

Pakistan has greatly suffered from terrorism, and the security services have been effective in combatting the groups that target Pakistani interests such as al-Qaida, ISIS, and the Pakistani Taliban.

We have now worked closely with Pakistan against these groups. Now, just as we have made Pakistan’s enemies our own, we need Pakistan to deny safe haven to or lawfully detain those terrorists and militants who threaten U.S. interests. The United States stands ready to work with Pakistan in combatting all terrorists without distinction, and we hope to be able to renew and deepen our bilateral security relationship when Pakistan demonstrates its willingness to aggressively confront the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist and militant groups that operate from within its country.

So we will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law. I think that part answers your questions. There may be some exemptions that are made on a case-by-base basis if they’re determined to be critical to national security interests.

QUESTION: Can you give any more details on what kind of military equipment you are not going to be providing?

MS NAUERT: So when we talk about military equipment, that would be something that’s solely under DOD when you talk about that portion of the things. There’s the foreign – the one that I mentioned earlier, the $255 million that we announced back in August. That was a suspension. Whatever it is that that country had bought from us in the past or would buy from in the future, I don’t have the details in front of me. But that’s something that’s kind of considered old news because it came out in August.

QUESTION: No, no, I know. I’m interested in what’s new here, and therefore you just said that you are going to suspend deliveries of military equipment and that you’re going – or transfers of security-related funding. And what I’m interested in is just a simple description of – are we talking about spare aircraft parts? Are you talking about ammunition? Are you talking about guns? Just broadly, what are you talking about?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Again, I’m not going to be able to get into the specifics of that. A lot of that is under DOD so I just won’t have the details about that, but I can refer you to them.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MS NAUERT: Hi, Andrea.

QUESTION: Hi. Are we talking about more than the 255?


QUESTION: You’re talking about additional --


QUESTION: -- millions or hundreds of millions.

MS NAUERT: Yes. So the 250 --

QUESTION: Do you have a dollar figure?

MS NAUERT: No, that’s what I said. We’re still working out those numbers. These are obviously big numbers. We want to get you the right numbers.

Originally, back in August, we had talked about $255 million in the Foreign Military Assistance. That is the money that goes --


MS NAUERT: FMF. That is the money that goes to --

QUESTION: Is that a one-year number?

MS NAUERT: That was a one-year number. This, however, will be limited to – or will include 2016 FMF as well as prior year FMS – FMF that has not been spent or delivered. That would be somewhere north, I believe, of $255 million. That’s one thing. That’s the old piece of news.

The new piece of news is that we are suspending the security assistance, and that is something that falls under Department of Defense.

QUESTION: And have any of the recent attacks in Afghanistan, some of which have resulted in the deaths of Americans, been attributed to groups that – to Haqqani and other groups that are harbored by Pakistan?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, that is certainly a fair question. And some of that would be under intelligence, which I wouldn’t be able to get into, and some of what would be probably still under investigation by the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Okay. I guess I’m trying to – I’m trying to figure out how this evaluation was reached. What is the failure of Pakistan that has caused this decision today?

MS NAUERT: Well, this is something that should not come as a surprise to Pakistan because the President, Secretary Tillerson, and Secretary Mattis have all had conversations with Pakistani officials alerting them to our concerns that Pakistan has not done enough to detain, to take care of – and when I say “take care of,” I mean round up – terrorist and militant groups operating from within Pakistan. We’ve had a series of discussions with Pakistan about that, telling Pakistan that they need to take more decisive action.

Now, the money that has been suspended at this time does not mean that it will be suspended forever. Pakistan has the ability to get this money back, if you will, in the future, but they have to take decisive action. They have to take decisive steps. People have long asked, why don’t you do more about Pakistan, and I think this sort of answers that question. Obviously, Pakistan is important, an important relationship to the United States, because together we can work hard to combat terrorism. Perhaps no other country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan and many other countries in that part of the region. They understand that, but still they aren’t taking the steps that they need to take in order to fight terrorism.

Hi, Michelle.

QUESTION: And just – and thank you. And the mechanics of this, is this a situation where the U.S. listed certain things that it wanted Pakistan to do and it failed to do them? Or in taking away this funding, is the U.S. now saying here, are the exact things we want you to do to actually get this back?

MS NAUERT: A lot of this would fall under some of the private diplomatic conversations that the U.S. Government is having with Pakistan, so a lot of that stuff I’m not going to be able to share because that would give away information to people we don’t want to have that information. A lot of these are very sensitive matters, but we have been clear with Pakistan what they need to do.

QUESTION: But what – can you say that Pakistan was warned that this was – this specifically was going to happen if they didn’t do something?

MS NAUERT: I think this was not a surprise to Pakistan. They may say it’s a surprise, but what is no surprise is that the President has expressed his concerns, Secretary Tillerson has expressed his concerns, as has Secretary Mattis, and I imagine many other government officials having those conversations with Pakistan.


QUESTION: Bless you. Did Secretary Tillerson’s call on --

MS NAUERT: Bless you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Heather, did the Secretary deliver this news directly to the Pakistani Government, and is – did the response he get – and is the Pakistani Government’s response to the United States something as if they’ve agreed to work with the U.S. on this, or is this a standoff?

MS NAUERT: We’ve long had conversations with Pakistan about what they need to do and how they need to do more to help in the fight against terrorism, so I think this was no surprise. But in terms of any diplomatic conversations or calls to read out, I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: So I mean --

QUESTION: It might --

QUESTION: So Pakistan knows exactly what it needs to do in order to maybe one day get this money back. Is that right?

MS NAUERT: I would – I would think that they would know that. I mean, there have been a series of conversations. This President rolled out this strategy, the South Asia strategy, back in August, making it clear in some pretty tough words – remember a lot – some folks had criticized us for being blunt with Pakistan. Some people had criticized us for not being blunt enough with Pakistan in the past. So I think this administration has spoken very clearly in terms of what it is asking Pakistan to do.

QUESTION: But has Pakistan told you that it’s not going to do it or has it just failed to do it so far?

MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information coming back from Pakistan at this point.

QUESTION: But after that speech, Heather, the President had tweeted his thanks to Pakistan for their cooperation on many fronts. Secretary Tillerson and Mattis both have had visits there that seemed successful. What changed in the last week that you are making this announcement now? Was it the President’s tweet?

MS NAUERT: I don’t know that anything necessarily changed. With a lot of countries around the world, we have complex relationships. We talk about it in the sense of a marriage. Some days you have better days than others. I’ve made that reference – I’ve made that reference before. They have certainly --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Andrea. They have certainly been helpful in some instances. You all know that. The Coleman family – assisted with bringing home the American family. He was Canadian, she’s American, but the family from Pakistan. And we appreciated their help on that. But again, there are concrete steps that Pakistan needs to take.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more follow-up on that?


QUESTION: When the President tweeted on Monday, was he previewing this announcement or was this announcement in response to that?

MS NAUERT: I don’t have the tweet right in front of me, so I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Could you clarify one point?


QUESTION: That the – in most of the statements and the answers, Afghanistan gets mentioned. Is this also – are you also looking at the cross-border terrorism towards India and also 2008 Mumbai attacks in which six U.S. citizens were killed, and nothing – Pakistan hasn’t done anything to bring them to book?

MS NAUERT: Well, we have certainly expressed our concern about the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks being let out of house arrest in Pakistan. To my knowledge, that has nothing to do with that. There is a $10 million reward out for, I think, information leading to his rearrest, the person who is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks who was let go in Pakistan.

So we’ve been very clear about our displeasure with that individual being let go, and that’s why we like to remind people that there is a $10 million Rewards for Justice program out for him.

QUESTION: Can we move on?


QUESTION: (Off-mike) just two more things.

MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead.

QUESTION: It’s not a surprise that you’re doing this. As you point out, the President had telegraphed this possibility. You informed people on the Hill yesterday. Why, as a practical matter, are you not able to provide even a rough estimate of the amounts? I mean --

MS NAUERT: Because it’s – they’re numbers that we are still working through right now.

QUESTION: Yeah, but why --

MS NAUERT: These are --

QUESTION: Why is that so hard?

MS NAUERT: These are different pots of money.


MS NAUERT: Some of this comes through the State Department and some of it is money that’s tied into the Department of Defense. I can’t speak to the Department of Defense and its pot of money right now, so I can just refer you to the Department of Defense and perhaps they can answer that.

QUESTION: And then secondly, you said that you would provide exceptions based on certain criteria. What are those criteria? I mean, I think you said national security necessity, but how does one know? If you can’t give us a number and if you’re willing to make exceptions, how does one know that you’re actually going to do or withhold a significant amount of money here?

MS NAUERT: Well, I think when we talk about how some of this is dependent on the national security situation, some of that is just going to be evolving over time, and determining – because you have to be fluid in any kind of environment where you’re going after terrorists, in a counterterrorism environment. So some of that is just going to have to be fluid.

QUESTION: So – but in other words, you can’t actually commit that you will actually suspend any of it because you can issue waivers?

MS NAUERT: Well, look, I think it would be an unfair jump too far to say that that money would not be suspended. We are announcing today that that money will be suspended, but naturally, any administration in this kind of environment would need to have some flexibility, and I think it’s just that kind of flexibility that is built in. I’ll get you more information as we get to – as I can provide it to you. Okay?

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS NAUERT: Can we move on? Sure.


MS NAUERT: Hi, Said.

QUESTION: Hi, Heather. On Tuesday, I asked you about the status of Jerusalem, and you said that it is a final status issue, and then the President tweeted almost, like, an hour or so thereafter that Jerusalem is “off the table.” Could you please clarify your position on Jerusalem?

MS NAUERT: So I think what the President was referring to when he said Jerusalem is “off the table,” he meant that the United States has now acknowledged that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That is what the President meant, I understand, by saying Jerusalem is off the table.

QUESTION: So I still don’t understand it. So I – on this issue, I mean, the whole world recognizes East Jerusalem as occupied territory, and we asked you this time and --

MS NAUERT: We’re going back to this again, huh?

QUESTION: Well, because it is an issue that – I mean, that will continue to go on and will continue to --

MS NAUERT: Look, we are not taking a --

QUESTION: We want to just – I just want to understand what is the U.S. policy, what is the State Department’s position on Jerusalem? Is it occupied or is it not occupied?

MS NAUERT: We are not taking a position on the borders, on the territory, or on the sovereignty. Those are final status negotiations; those are negotiations that would best be arrived at through the various parties.

QUESTION: Okay. I want to ask you another question. Also, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that the United States would cut off aid to UNRWA until the Palestinians go back to negotiations. It is confusing because UNRWA was established in 1949, before there ever was any Palestinian polity or PA or PLO or anything like this. It was to deal with Palestinian refugees that were – that came into being as a result of the existence – the creation of Israel.

So what is your position on UNRWA, because that is completely independent of any political expressions of the Palestinians.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, certainly, they have played a valuable role in the past to Palestinians, but I don’t have any updates for you on the --

QUESTION: Because I --

MS NAUERT: -- status of that or what might be done with that in the future.

QUESTION: Because the United States is the biggest contributor --

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I understand.

QUESTION: -- to UNRWA. And UNRWA looks after 5 million, maybe 6 million refugees --

MS NAUERT: I understand.

QUESTION: -- mainly in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria. They’re not even in the West Bank or in Gaza.

MS NAUERT: I don’t have any updates for you at this time. But what I can tell you is that to the President and to Ambassador Haley and to Secretary Tillerson, and to Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt as well, getting the Palestinians and the Israelis to the table to discuss a peace process so that those children you speak of can live in peace, not live in terror, not have any side foment terror whatsoever, of any sort, so that they can live in peace, hopefully both sides will now come to the table and have some conversations about that.

QUESTION: But you do recognize that this issue is totally independent of Palestinian political behavior, okay?

MS NAUERT: I understand that, but we would like to get both sides to the table.

QUESTION: Right. And just one last thing. Pardon me, Andrea.


QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the – the Israelis killed a 17-year-old boy yesterday. Would you consider that to be an excessive use of force?


QUESTION: It was during a demonstration?

MS NAUERT: Well, I’m – obviously, I’m not there so I don’t have all the details about what happened on the ground. In any situation like that, especially with a minor child, that is a terrible loss, a minor child is certainly. I don’t have anything more specific for you on that matter. We are always concerned about the appropriate use of force being used on the part of government officials or any kind of law enforcement. If I have anything more on for you – on that for you, I’ll get it to you.

QUESTION: One more on the Palestinians?


QUESTION: I know you’ve been waiting. I’ve been asking now for three days of multiple people to clarify what Ambassador Haley’s comments in response to the question about UNRWA meant. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to seek an answer, so if you could personally try to get an answer on that and whether --

MS NAUERT: Certainly. What is your specific question?

QUESTION: Well, she said when she came out and spoke publicly on Tuesday that – she was asked whether the United States was going to suspend assistance to – for the Palestinians – assistance to UNRWA for the Palestinians. And she suggested that yes, it was. And there’s a big distinction between money that goes to help Palestinians via UNRWA, right, and money say to the Palestinian Authority. Right?

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And so I’ve asked this question, literally, since Tuesday and I’ve gotten, like, zero clarity. And it seems to me that somebody within the administration ought to have a position on whether you’re going after the UN-related funding or not.

MS NAUERT: That’s why – that’s why I said to you that we don’t have any updates for you at this time, but I’ll see if I can get an answer for you. Okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I have one detail --

MS NAUERT: Hi, Andrea. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and I apologize. One detail to --

MS NAUERT: Not at all. You’re so patient.

QUESTION: -- follow up on Pakistan. What about reimbursing, continuing to reimburse Pakistan for the money that they spend on counterterror operations, which we have been doing? Are you suspending that as well?

MS NAUERT: I believe that that falls under – and let me double-check this. Robert, if we could double-check that. I believe the money that Andrea was referring to, the reimbursable money, I believe that that is under DOD, in that pot under DOD.

MR GREENAN: Yeah, the Coalition Support Fund.

MS NAUERT: Coalition Support Fund.

QUESTION: And is that – does – is that included in the suspension or not?




QUESTION: So we will not be reimbursing them for counterterror operations in these northwest territories and Wardak and along the border?

MS NAUERT: Now, again, there may be some exceptions, and double-check --


MS NAUERT: -- double-check me on this, because we’re getting a lot of this information just in, shortly before we started the briefing.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS NAUERT: Okay? So give us a little --

QUESTION: But maybe if you could get back to us today with some kind of a breakdown of what is covered and what isn’t, that would be helpful.

MS NAUERT: Yes. We’re not going to be able to get into specific dollar numbers, because all of that is still being figured out. Some of that is handled under a DOD fund, not the State Department fund. But we can get you the most from here. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.


QUESTION: Hi. Yesterday the Kurdish and Sunni parties boycotted the Iraqi Parliament so there was no quorum. Afterwards, the speaker of parliament gave a press conference and said the parliament and prime minister need to decide the budget by consensus and not by the prime minister simply laying – saying something. So there needs to be a consensus that’s reached. And secondly, he said that relations between Erbil and Baghdad should return to their pre-referendum status and punitive measures should end. What’s your view of that?

MS NAUERT: I think, Laurie, one of the things I first want to say to you, we – you and I have talked a lot in this room about how Erbil and Baghdad should sit down and have face-to-face conversations. I was pleased to see a picture on Twitter earlier today of some Kurdish and Iraqi central government figures sitting down and actually having those conversations. So you know what that proves? That proves that the Iraqi Government certainly does not need the U.S. Government to help them hold hands. They did it on their own, and we’re really happy to see that those conversations are really starting to take place. So that’s the first thing. I just want to highlight: They are talking. Okay? So that is certainly a success, and we are pleased to see that.

In terms of your question, our position just remains to see the – remains the same. We continue to urge our friends in Baghdad and Erbil to have dialogue about these matters, to reach an understanding over any outstanding issues that are in accordance with Iraqi law.

QUESTION: Yes, but the Kurdish delegation consisted entirely of Kurdish opposition parties, which have denied the Kurdish media, besides their own media, access to any information. They’re not briefing them. And what would you think if Vladimir Putin invited the Democrats to go to Moscow and talk about important issues? That’s not the Kurdish – the Kurdistan Regional Government.

MS NAUERT: What would I think if what?

QUESTION: If Vladimir Putin invited the leadership of the Democratic Party – i.e., the opposition – to come to Moscow and discuss some important issues existing between Moscow and Washington. Would you consider that satisfactory?

MS NAUERT: Look. Overall – and I’m not going to get into that hypothetical; I just wanted to – I wanted to hear that from you again because it was entertaining. (Laughter.) But I think overall, when countries and when individuals are talking to one another, that tends by and large to be a good thing. So if they’re having conversations, I can’t see that as a bad thing.

QUESTION: So you don’t see Abadi playing divide-and-rule among the Kurdish parties?

MS NAUERT: Laurie, some of this would be sort of internal politics, and I – just as I would not expect them to weigh in on what our Congress does or some of our negotiations between the White House and Congress, I don’t want to weigh in on those things, either.

Okay? Should we move on?

QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: Korean Peninsula?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: So the U.S. has agreed to hold off on these annual military drills with South Korea as the South and the North start to have some preliminary conversations about the Olympics and other issues. Can you give us any backstory on – obviously, that’s a DOD thing, but the State Department very involved in trying to facilitate kind of negotiations, and sort of the diplomatic component of that, was something Tillerson was advocating for?

MS NAUERT: I think one of the things that was important to us is having a good Olympics in which people can focus solely on the Olympics. The President – our President, President Trump – and also President Moon had a good conversation earlier today. They agreed the dialogue between the North and the South would actually be a good thing. That’s something I’ve been saying for a couple days now, that when neighbors talk, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That kind of goes back to what Laurie was just talking about in Iraq. When neighbors talk, especially about the Olympics, we don’t see that as a bad thing. The fact that our President and that President Moon decided that it would be in the best interests of the Olympics and our government and our alliance relationship to hold off on having those exercises, military exercises, right now is certainly – is certainly fine with us. That’s the decision that they made.

QUESTION: So to take what you were describing a step further about it being helpful for neighbors to talk, does the U.S. hope that a successful discussion between the North and the South about the Olympics could be a precursor to broader talks either between North and South on nuclear issues, or between North Korea and the United States?

MS NAUERT: And I don’t want – I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves at this point. We know that North Korea and South Korea are willing to pick up the phone. Neighbors can certainly pick up the phone and have a conversation about the Olympics, and they also have other issues of domestic concern that they certainly could discuss. We are in very close conversations and consult very closely with the Republic of Korea – an alliance member of ours. We have a good, longstanding relationship. Secretary Tillerson spoke with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kang, just yesterday or the day before – I forget – overnight. So they had a good conversation as well.

We are synced up very well with South Korea on this matter. Could that meeting that could potentially happen between the DPRK and ROK lead to something more in the future? Perhaps it could, but I don’t want to speculate on anything in the future.

QUESTION: Heather.


QUESTION: The follow-up ‑‑

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Janne.

QUESTION: ‑‑ on Korea again.


QUESTION: Hi. Happy New Year’s. And North Korea is preparing to – another missile testing soon again. What if North Korea trying to launch the missile again soon? Is it still postponed --

MS NAUERT: Janne, why do you have to be the skunk at the party? We’re doing okay here, huh? I don’t know anything about potential missile tests. That would be --


MS NAUERT: ‑‑ that would be an intelligence matter and a hypothetical, so I don’t even want to get into that at this point. We have announced – there has certainly been some progress made and the fact that North Korea and South Korea are willing to talk to one another, just fine with us.

QUESTION: Do you know that Senator Lindsey Graham said that recently if North Korea comes to PyeongChang Olympic then U.S. will not attend?

MS NAUERT: Look, I know that we are looking forward to participating in the Olympics. We have a lot of athletes who have been training a very long time in order to do this, and they look forward to being a part of the Winter Olympics.

QUESTION: You know that North Korea is terrorist – terrorism list and also North Korea is a human right abuse?

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So those kind of country – very dangerous country. Why they come to the --

MS NAUERT: I know – I know that the Republic of Korea takes good care of its allies.

QUESTION: I don’t think so. They are not good --

MS NAUERT: We are a strong ally of the Republic of Korea, and we look forward to participating in the Olympics.

QUESTION: But the South Korean Government --

MS NAUERT: All right, okay, I’m going to move on then. Arshad, you had something else on this? Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s on – well, yeah, on North Korea. I mean, how is it that you have not essentially caved to the North Koreans on this? They repeatedly ask you to not do exercises, they repeatedly have asked for this specific exercise to be postponed and put off. Normally, the U.S. military goes ahead and does it because they don’t wish to appear to be giving in to a North Korean demand. How is this not a cave to, an unprompted concession, to the North without getting anything in return?

MS NAUERT: I think the last thing that this administration could be accused of is being an administration that caves to outside influences. If anything, people would perhaps argue the opposite.

This is a measured approach that the United States has taken. This is showing – the fact that Kim Jong-un’s people were willing to pick up the phone and call the Republic of Korea is a strong indication that our maximum pressure campaign is working. We have information and evidence that the pressure campaign is really putting the squeeze to the money that the DPRK gets and has been used – using for its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. So we know that that is having an effect.

Without that maximum pressure campaign that isn’t – that is led by us but many other countries are a part of it, we do not believe that that phone call would have been made. If some people want to look at that as the U.S. not succeeding, that’s their choice. But we know the facts are that the entire international coalition is behind us in this pressure campaign and it is working, and we’re pleased with where this is going right now.

QUESTION: Right. So why aren’t you keeping up the pressure by proceeding with your regularly scheduled military exercises with your ally? Why are you blinking?

MS NAUERT: Look, that is something that – that is an announcement that came out of the White House in conjunction with the Department of Defense. I don’t have anything more for you on that other than that our focus was really on the Olympics.

Okay. All right. Anything else on that? Go right ahead. Hi.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up to clarify. Are you suggesting that the scope of the talks between North and South is not limited to just the Olympics? So they could talk about denuclearizing and any other issues?

MS NAUERT: Our understanding is that these talks will be limited. These talks will be limited to conversations about the Olympics and perhaps some other domestic matters. That’s what I said. Not beyond that. And when I say that we are closely linked up with the Republic of Korea, I can assure you that we are. This is not something where the Republic of Korea is going to go off freelancing. We’re having lots of conversations with them and making sure that we are on the same page. It’s not just about the Republic of Korea and the United States; it’s also about Japan, it’s about many other countries as well. Okay.

QUESTION: And two days ago you were skeptical about North Korea. You said North Korea was trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.

MS NAUERT: Could be. Yeah.

QUESTION: So you still hold that account?

MS NAUERT: Well, look. Any nation could try to drive a wedge between us and one of our allies. That’s what many other countries do. But no one is going to succeed at doing that, especially with this country, whether it comes to the Republic of Korea or Japan. No one’s going to drive a wedge between the two of us.

When I was talking about being skeptical, I was referring to we are skeptical as to the sincerity of North Korea having talks about the denuclearization. That remains our goal. That’s the goal of our pressure campaign, our maximum pressure campaign. We’re not changing that goal in any way, shape, or form. We’re still sticking to that. Would they be willing to sit down and have talks about that? We’re skeptical about that, but certainly we’re going to keep pushing for it. Okay?

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Iran?

MS NAUERT: And I’ve got to move on to a couple of other people.

QUESTION: About Iran?

MS NAUERT: Okay, hey.

QUESTION: One last question. The Paralympics are in March.


QUESTION: Will the drills also be suspended during that time, or just during the Olympics?

MS NAUERT: I don’t have the dates of the Paralympics or where they will take place off the top of my head.

QUESTION: Can you just look into that? Because it’s going to be in the same --

MS NAUERT: We can look into that.


MS NAUERT: We may not have anything for you at this point.


MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you on Iran.

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. We can ‑‑


MS NAUERT: Go ahead, Ilhan. Hi.

QUESTION: Hi. One quick question on Turkey, if I may. Yesterday, there was this court case in New York, the Turkish bank, a public bank official, and he was found guilty by the jury yesterday. And since yesterday, there are many accusations coming from Turkey, including justice minister, the prime ministry, as well as foreign minister of Turkey, basically essentially accusing in essentially accusing U.S. court going after Turkey, Turkey’s internal affairs. I am not going to go into all this quotes, but what’s your response to this court decision?

MS NAUERT: A lot of those things, Ilhan, as you know – and it’s not a very interesting answer to provide you, but a lot of those are under the Department of Justice. Turkey has made some claims in the past doing things that the United States is not doing. And I would just have to refer you to the Department of Justice on that. Okay?

We’ve got to go, guys. Thank you so much. Great to see you.

QUESTION: One more question on Iran?

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Just a quick question on Iran.

MS NAUERT: Okay, one question.

QUESTION: There are reports that the Trump administration is considering not waiving economic sanctions for Iran agreed to under the nuclear deal because of the protests. Is it true that the administration would consider linking the protest to nuclear-related sanctions relief?

MS NAUERT: I can tell you that we look at Iran with the – a large lens, an overarching view of our relationship with that nation and for that nation. And I’m just not – I’m not going to get ahead of anything that the President may decide or may not decide to do with regard to the JCPOA. Okay?

QUESTION: You saw the Iran sanctions today that the Treasury announced. Were those planned ahead of these protests, or do they – are they – should they be considered a response at all to the protests?

MS NAUERT: So the – so that came out of Treasury just a short while ago. And that is all something that I – I don’t want to speak for Treasury, but I believe all of that has been in the works for quite some time. When the President did his big Iran review, he talked about having the ability to sanction various authorities – various authorities that undermine human rights; various authorities that are involved in transferring weapons, providing missiles and ballistic missiles and other types of equipment. And so I think it would fall under that. Okay?

QUESTION: One other just quickly --

MS NAUERT: Got to go, guys. I’ve got to go. I’ve got --

QUESTION: There’s speculation in Iran --

MS NAUERT: I’ve got to go.

QUESTION: -- that the U.S. might sanction or go after Iranian state-run media. Can you --

MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Okay? Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.

MS NAUERT: Have a good day.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:43 p.m.)

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