Department Press Briefing - April 10, 2018
Index for Today's Briefing:
MS NAUERT: Hi. Good afternoon.
MS NAUERT: It’s nice to see you all.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MS NAUERT: Do you notice anything different? No? No? Look at this little book. I went on vacation, and the book went on a diet. I thought you all would enjoy that. So we’ll see how this works today.
QUESTION: So quality has replaced quantity?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know about that. It’s kind of like when my kids go to school and I use that opportunity to clean their rooms, and they don’t notice. (Laughter.) That’s exactly what went on the past week.
QUESTION: The optimism.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah. So great to see you all again. Hope you’re having a terrific day. A couple announcements to bring you. First, as many of you know, the Qatari emir is in Washington today. We warmly welcome him, His Highness Qatari Emir Al-Thani, to the United States. The President met with the emir a short while ago, and Acting Secretary Sullivan will meet with him this afternoon.
Qatar is a highly valued strategic partner to the United States and also a friend. You may recall that we held the inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue here at the State Department on January the 30th, during which we collaborated on defense, counterterrorism, human rights, trade, aviation, and also investment. We’re building upon that dialogue and look forward to discussing these and other important issues of bilateral cooperation during the emir’s visit. Since the dialogue and building on our July 2017 counterterrorism MOU, Qatar has continued to advance its counterterrorism and counterterror financing efforts.
In addition to that, I’d like to announce that Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan will travel to Lima, Peru tomorrow, from April 11th to the 14th, to accompany the Vice President at the Eighth Summit of the Americas. We strongly support Peru’s ambitious summit agenda, focusing on democratic government – governance against corruption. During the summit, the United States will promote priorities of mutual interest to the region, including supporting democracy, addressing political and humanitarian crises, and restoring democracy in Venezuela. Also, they’ll discuss stemming corruption and transnational crime, promoting economic prosperity, and also women’s empowerment.
While in Lima, the acting secretary will meet separately with leaders from Peru, Brazil, Haiti, and Mexico. He also will meet with the heads of delegation of the governments of the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia, as well with leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. As you may know, civil society will have a vital role in ensuring summit priorities reflect the practical needs of the citizens and businesses of the Americas. The acting secretary will engage with members of the Cuban and Venezuelan independent civil society groups to underscore some of those priorities. So we look forward to providing readouts and information from the acting secretary’s trip as it goes forward.
Lastly, we have some students in the back, I understand, from Georgetown. Welcome. We’re always happy to have students join us here. And that kind of gets into my last announcement. This week, the State Department is proud to announce the inaugural list of U.S. higher education institutions that sent the most students overseas on Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship Program in the academic year 2016 to 2017. Were any of you Gilman scholars by any chance? No. Well, we’re happy to have you here anyway.
The Gilman Program broadens U.S. student population that studies and interns abroad by providing scholarships to outstanding undergraduate students who, due to financial constraints, might not otherwise be able to participate. Since the program’s establishment in 2001, more than 1,300 U.S. institutions have sent more than 25,000 Gilman scholars to 145 countries around the globe. We especially want to congratulate the University of California Berkeley, Georgetown, Spelman College, Portland Community College, and San Antonio College for heading up the top of their respective categories. Congratulations.
The State Department is committed to helping the next generation of diverse American leaders foster mutual understanding and develop important skills in support of our national security and economic prosperity. Congratulations to all the Gilman Program students and institutions. The full list and additional information about these scholarships is available at gilmanscholarship.org. So I would encourage you to take a look.
And finally, as many of you know --
QUESTION: Wait a second. You said that was the last one.
MS NAUERT: No, this is more of a personal note.
MS NAUERT: And you will be all happy to hear about this. For the past year, I’ve been doing this job with the assistance of our fantastic press team and with Robert as – you all know Robert very well. But I am more than thrilled to announce that we have an acting deputy spokesperson now, and that is my colleague Elizabeth Fitzsimmons. Many of you will get the chance to meet her in the coming days, but this has been a long work in progress. Elizabeth, would you please stand up?
For those of you who have not met Elizabeth – and many of my colleagues around the world will know Elizabeth – she is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. That’s significant here at the State Department. She served as deputy executive secretary to Secretaries Kerry and also to Secretary Tillerson, and she served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asia. She’s served overseas in Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, and also Bulgaria. She, by the way, is married to a DS officer, and she is a mother of five children, and she’s also – doesn’t look it – she’s a grandmother. (Laughter.)
So we’re thrilled to have Elizabeth joining us and look forward to having her take your calls, too.
And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: All right.
MS NAUERT: Or I could just hand them over to Elizabeth. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. Welcome back.
MS NAUERT: Thank you.
QUESTION: And Hoya Saxa to our guests in the back.
MS NAUERT: Did you hear that?
QUESTION: Let’s start with Syria.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Oh, actually, just on Acting Secretary Sullivan’s trip.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned that he was going to meet with Cuban and Venezuelan civil society.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: I notice that you guys put out a statement critical of the Cubans --
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for blocking or frustrating or interfering somehow with civil society getting there. Are there any plans to meet with actual members of those delegations, if they’re going to be there?
MS NAUERT: I believe that some may be headed to Peru for those meetings, but not all. Let me double-check on that and get back with you.
QUESTION: Okay. But are there – are there going to be Cuban and Venezuelan officials at the summit that he might meet with, or no?
MS NAUERT: That I am not sure of. Hold on, let me check his schedule right here and see if I have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Is he going to meet with anybody from the Cuban official delegation?
MS NAUERT: Let me check and see what I have for you on that schedule, which has still been coming together.
QUESTION: It can wait. It’s not a – it’s not an urgent question. It’s just --
MS NAUERT: Okay. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to hand his schedule off to my colleagues. They can take a look at it and we can come back to this.
QUESTION: All right.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: Yes. So this is obviously an interagency process. The United States, through the White House, through the State Department, and others of well – as well, have been having conversations with our allies and partners overseas. Deputy Secretary – pardon me. Acting Secretary John Sullivan spoke on two occasions with Foreign Minister Boris Johnson of the UK yesterday. I believe a readout was provided of that call.
We are looking for a coordinated response, whatever that response might be, to the situation in Syria.
QUESTION: Has he spoken to anyone other than Foreign Secretary Johnson?
MS NAUERT: Not to my awareness. I have spoken with him on two occasions today. I don’t have any additional --
MS NAUERT: -- calls to read out for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you expect him to? Because, I mean, the President has spoken now twice to President Macron and at least once to Prime Minister May.
MS NAUERT: Yes. So the President spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May. The President also spoke with Macron. I’m not sure if Acting Secretary Sullivan was on that call or not, but we are closely linked up with the White House, with the NSC, and other partners and departments on this.
QUESTION: Do you believe that – so a lot of the European officials believe that you can’t really do anything at against the Syrians and the Russians until you’ve got some kind of evidence. What is the U.S. point of view as far as collecting that evidence, and do you believe that evidence would be – we had Russians in at the site yesterday. Do you believe that that is enough evidence to make a move either through the UN or directly?
MS NAUERT: Well, the OPCW, I believe it was just yesterday or earlier today, announced that it would be on the ground gathering evidence. We see the OCPW as the impartial body to be able to collect this kind of evidence. Let me remind you how difficult it is to get. To get to these – first of all, you’re in a war zone. This is a very dangerous environment for anyone to go into. So for these people to be able to go into these environments to collect samples, perhaps through partner organizations that they work with and also themselves – I understand they have their own inspectors who go about doing this – collecting that information and then analyzing that information.
So that’s an important role. They’re the gold standard in collecting this type of information, and we would certainly rely upon them, as we have in other instances, to take a look at that.
QUESTION: So you’re first waiting for the OPCW to come back with something before you can make any kind of --
MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not saying that. The United States Government has its own mechanisms to be able to look into things. Some of these would be intelligence matters that I’m not going to get into. You know full well why. The United States has been sharing information with its allies and partners, as have our allies been sharing information with us. But the OPCW we recognize and are pleased to see that they are able to get to the area or eventually be able to get to the area, we hope as soon as possible, to be able to collect samples.
We have talked about before the Joint Investigative Mechanism that Russia thwarted, and the United Nations today is looking at a vote to come up with a new form of a Joint Investigative Mechanism. And that is something that we would strongly support, because not only do you need that body to investigate what exactly was used, but you need a body to be able to determine who was responsible for it, and that’s exactly what the Joint Investigative Mechanism did.
Now, we do know that some sort of a substance was used, a chemical was used. We’re just not sure at this point today exactly what was used. Okay?
Andrea, go ahead.
QUESTION: Following up on the forensics of this, you know something was used. You don’t know exactly what or by whom. But absent hard evidence, which may take a long time, if ever, is it possible that there would not be some kind of response? Is there a threshold for taking action if it’s clear that some kind of chemical was used, and that there are only certain players who have access to such chemicals?
MS NAUERT: Well, look, we know that only certain players, to use your word, have access to these kinds of chemical weapons. We know that it requires certain kinds of delivery mechanisms to use those types of weapons. Not everyone out there has access to those delivery mechanisms. So we have that information; we’re familiar with it. I’m not going to get ahead of the President and the White House and what the interagency determines is the best route going forward, but I can tell you that we are in close coordination with our allies and partners on this.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: But given the pace of phone calls and our own reporting in different capitals, it does seem likely that this will be a multilateral response; if there is a response that it will be different from what happened on April 6, 2017.
MS NAUERT: I can just say –
QUESTION: Is that a fair conclusion?
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to confirm that for you. I think our calls are certainly obvious, that we stand strongly with our allies. We’ve had calls with the French and with the British. We’ve had information sharing and also are in conversations with people, as you would expect.
QUESTION: And could I ask if you could take a question? NBC News reported today – one of my colleagues, Courtney Kube – that the Russians have been jamming the GPS of our drones, which may or may not be one reason why it’s been difficult to collect photographic evidence, and that this has been going on for several weeks.
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, Andrea. I’ll see if I can get something for you. Some of that may fall under intelligence, and we may not be able to answer that. But I can’t even confirm the premise of your question. This is the first I’m hearing of it.
QUESTION: Heather, can I just ask very quickly --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you saying, in response to both Lesley and Andrea, that even absent a determination from the OC – OP – OPCW or this JIM, the joint investigative message that is likely to be --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. The new type of JIM, yeah.
QUESTION: -- vetoed today – even without any conclusion from them, the administration believes it has the – it can act?
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of anything that the White House may announce. That’s not my roll to do that. I can just say it’s very clear that some sort of chemical weapon was used, and that is a tremendous concern to the United States.
QUESTION: That’s a certainty, right?
MS NAUERT: Hi. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, Heather.
MS NAUERT: Hi.
QUESTION: As the United States is coordinating with allies on this, there’s a move in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to write a new authorization for the use of military force. What kind of input has the State Department had, as this sort of come up as the Secretary had left – Secretary Tillerson has left? Where’s the administration on an AUMF? It could be moved in the committee as early as next week or so.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we haven’t changed our position. Our position remains exactly what it was. Director Pompeo and I have not had a chance – perhaps he’s discussed this with other colleagues here at the State Department to review his opinion and how he envisions it. Also our lawyers obviously would play a strong role in that, so we just have not had those conversations yet. But as it stands right now, our policy remains exactly the same.
QUESTION: So as the U.S. considers a response, it believes it has the authority to act as it can and should?
MS NAUERT: I would defer to the White House on that, but yes.
Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: While you coordinate with the U.S. allies, do you also have – or do you plan to have contact with the Russian officials, government to avoid any escalation if there is to be a response by the Western countries?
MS NAUERT: I don’t have any calls or meetings to read out on the Russians at this point. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I move on?
MS NAERT: Hi, Said.
QUESTION: Could I –
MS NAUERT: Oh, wait. Hold on.
MS NAUERT: Michel.
MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’ll come back to you.
MS NAUERT: Hi, Michel.
QUESTION: Hi. How are you?
MS NAUERT: Nice to see you.
QUESTION: Nice to see you, too. Will the U.S. be waiting for the OPCW investigators to come back from Syria to react, or you have enough proofs or – to react?
MS NAUERT: I think I answered that question. That is something we believe we know, that some form of a chemical weapon was used in that attack in Syria that has killed at least 85 people that we are aware of so far. So the United States is convinced and knows that some sort of a chemical weapon was used. We also recognize the importance of the OPCW, and we don’t know their timeline for being able to get in, collect information. We have our intelligence and then they have their information from the ground, so we have different kinds of information.
QUESTION: The President, though, was pretty clear that there was going to be a price to pay. I mean, he literally said that. Why – since April 6th of last year, when he – when they ordered the missile strikes in Syria, and now – or until this last incident – there have been numerous uses of chemical weapons that have been alleged in Syria. What makes this one hit that threshold that a price has to be paid?
MS NAUERT: I think, Matt, to answer that question, we have to look at the number of attacks that have taken place, the pace, how quickly these attacks are now taking place. This will be the ninth attack using some sort of chemical substance this year alone. It used to be that when attacks would take place the world would stand up and take attention and it has become, in the view of the U.S. Government and many others as well, far too common. So I think it’s taken the world to stand up and say this is unacceptable; this is horrific, and we can’t stand for this anymore.
QUESTION: But why if those – if that figure is correct, if this is the ninth this year alone, since – what makes this different than the sixth or the fifth, that you would now say there has to be a price to be paid and you didn’t before?
MS NAUERT: Matt, I would just say that a lot of this has been based on conversations with our allies and partners overseas. And beyond that, I’m not going to be able to get into it.
QUESTION: Can I move on?
QUESTION: Another part of Syria?
MS NAUERT: Hi, Said. Okay. Then I’ll go to Said. Laurie.
QUESTION: Okay. This has to do with Iran. And Israel struck Iranian targets at Syria’s T-4 Airbase on Sunday, which is the second time in as many months. Do you share Israel’s concern about Iran’s presence in Syria?
MS NAUERT: We have talked about this a lot, that Iran supports Hizballah. Iran has sent not only fighters but also equipment into Syria. Iran has been a bad actor in Syria and other parts around the world. They have further destabilized the country of Syria. They have also bolstered the regime of Bashar al-Assad, enabling the regime to be able to commit attacks against innocent civilians, not just in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere, but around the country as well. Of course we’re absolutely concerned about Iran’s presence or meddling, whether it be through proxies, in the country of Syria.
QUESTION: So it’s possible, when President Trump talks about everyone will pay a price involved in this, that the United States could also strike Iranian targets in Syria as a response?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of what – if we were to take any kind of action, I’m not sure what our targets would be.
Okay. Said, go ahead. Yeah.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last Friday, the Israelis killed a Palestinian journalist. He was – he had a vest that was clearly marked press. I wanted your reaction and comment on that, if you have one.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. I can say we’re certainly aware of reports that a journalist operating in Gaza was killed in the clashes in Gaza. I don't have the specifics on his particular case, but I can tell you we’re looking into it.
QUESTION: So you’re not sure that he was targeted and that the marking was clear, that he was wearing a vest that said --
MS NAUERT: I’m just saying I don't have the specifics on this case.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MS NAUERT: But I can assure you, we are looking into that.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the fact that the Israelis are targeting the press?
MS NAUERT: Look, I can say that we would call for renewed emphasis on having peaceful dialogue, trying to get two parties back to talk about the future of peace for the Israelis and Palestinians. And certainly the events of the past week and a half or so have been very troubling.
QUESTION: Okay. But you know, you have not even --
MS NAUERT: One at a time.
QUESTION: You have not issued a statement and so on. I remember, I raised on the 29th of last month that there was going to be such a thing the following day --
MS NAUERT: I know you – you did say that. And I said, “Said, I hope you are wrong.”
QUESTION: -- and I – well, I hope I am, but my hope just withered away.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: So – but they did use excessive force. Do you think that the Israelis are using excessive force to close these demonstrations that are really far? I mean, the reports show that Mr. Jason Greenblatt suggested that they keep away 500 feet. This journalist, Yasser Murtaja, was hit at like 350 meters, which is almost 1,000 feet. So they are demonstrating in their own enclave basically. You are not calling on the Israelis to stop targeting civilians?
MS NAUERT: What – Israel, from my understanding, has just announced that it will conduct an internal investigation into the use of force, and so we will stand by and we will watch what comes out of that, okay?
QUESTION: Heather, I’m sorry. You said you were aware of reports that a journalist was killed.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: You haven’t been able to confirm? The guy was buried over the weekend at a funeral that was quite – it was attended by a lot of people.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. And I’m aware of that, yes.
QUESTION: But not just of reports. I mean, you know that this guy was killed.
MS NAUERT: That is correct. Yes.
QUESTION: And I think you might know a little bit more – maybe, maybe not – but because this – the company that he worked for, that he cofounded and co-owned had last month gotten – been vetted and was approved for a grant from USAID. Now – okay, well first of all, can you say that that is true, that that is correct?
MS NAUERT: My understanding is that he was vetted according to U.S. Government guidelines, but I don't have anything more for you on that.
QUESTION: Okay. So would – the U.S. Government guidelines would allow for a member of Hamas to get funding – funding from USAID?
MS NAUERT: Matt, I don’t know the specifics of the case. I’ve not been involved in any of that, but --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you could --
MS NAUERT: -- if I get anything for you on that, I’ll be happy to bring it to you.
QUESTION: The Israeli defense minister has said that although he was wearing a journalist’s bulletproof vest with the word “press” clearly emblazoned on it, he was a member of Hamas, a member of Hamas’s armed wing, and with the equivalent rank of captain, and that he was disguising himself as a journalist. And I want to know – I mean, if he was in fact vetted and approved for USAID for a U.S. taxpayer grant, either the USAID vetting process is not very good or it allows for a potential – possible Hamas militant to get U.S. funding, or the Israeli defense minister is wrong or worse.
MS NAUERT: All I can say is that we’re looking into that, okay? We’re looking at all of this.
QUESTION: Let me ask just one last --
MS NAUERT: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Allow me just one – one last –
QUESTION: One last question.
MS NAUERT: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Please. Today, the Israeli minister of defense, Lieberman, said – told The Jerusalem Post, an Israeli newspaper, that there are no civilians in Gaza. Do you have any comment on that?
MS NAUERT: I do not. I do not.
QUESTION: Would you look into that, please?
MS NAUERT: If I have an answer, I will give it to you, certainly.
QUESTION: Heather. Heather.
MS NAUERT: Leslie, did you have something else?
QUESTION: Because you keep saying you’re looking into it, I’m trying to figure out, is that – are you talking to the Israelis about their – the way this happened, or – I mean, what kind – are you doing an independent --
MS NAUERT: That’s typically what we do. We talk to other governments, we talk with officials and sources on the ground from different sides, and gather information and facts.
MS NAUERT: Okay, that’s all I have. Hi, Janne.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, typically when we have the opportunity and talk with countries where we have tremendous differences, that is something that does come up. I imagine that that would come up as well. However, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is something that Kim Jong-un said that he is willing to abide by and willing to work toward – I think that is obviously the top conversation. Other things may come up as well.
QUESTION: On the same topic?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Go right ahead.
QUESTION: So Kim Jong-un has said he’s willing to work towards denuclearization, but is the U.S. Government confident that both your definition and his definition match up? Like, does he agree to complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, or does he have a different definition in mind?
MS NAUERT: I can’t speak for him; I can’t speak for his government. I can --
QUESTION: But can you speak to does the U.S. feel confident that you both mean the same thing when you’re talking about that?
MS NAUERT: And that is something that the President has determined, that – and I can’t speak for the President, but I can say that when they say they are ready to denuclearize and we will have conversations about that, we go into those meetings in good faith, hoping for the very best, and so we look forward to having those conversations.
Okay, Josh. Hi.
MS NAUERT: I’ll come back to you, Abbie. Okay.
QUESTION: In the Oval Office this morning, the President had a very different assessment of Qatar’s status on terror funding than he did a year ago. Ironically, his – today seemed to line up more with the secretary of state that he recently fired, and I’m wondering if it’s accurate to say that at this point Qatar has resolved U.S. concerns as expressed by the President last year about funding for terrorism.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I think a lot of this is a work in progress. They have made some progress, certainly. On March 21st, less than a month ago, they publicly announced designations of 20 terrorist financers and six entities under its new domestic designations authority, so that’s certainly a step in the right direction. We continue to call on all sides of this GCC dispute to come together, to refrain from the type of rhetoric that would make it difficult for them to come together. We have long talked about how this can affect our overall war on terror and efforts in the Middle East, and some of those countries have had to pay a price as a result of their eye being taken off the ball. So we continue to have those conversations with the Qatari Government.
QUESTION: As far as resolving that dispute, basically all sides of this dispute say we’re dug in, there’s been essentially no progress, this isn’t going anywhere. But the President put it very differently today. He said, “We’re working on unity in that part of the Middle East and I think it’s working out very well. There are a lot of good things happening.”
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Are there any examples of good things that are happening as far as resolving the Gulf crisis that you can point to?
MS NAUERT: I wasn’t in those meetings, so I don’t have a full readout of exactly what took place. I can tell you that our Acting Secretary John Sullivan will be meeting with the Qataris later this afternoon in a meeting here at the State Department, so we’ll see what comes out of that. I hope that we’ll be able to provide you a readout.
QUESTION: But the rhetoric has been elevated between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both of them are your allies, now they are talking about building a canal that will turn Qatar into an island and so on.
MS NAUERT: I think the rhetoric, if you all remember, is better now than it was last summer. Not where it needs to be, but we’re certainly – I think we’re in a better spot.
QUESTION: I don’t know. I mean, if I look at – look at the Arab press, I think it’s heightening.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m saying some of the projects would be a canal that would cut off Qatar, turn it into an island. I don’t know if you saw this.
MS NAUERT: I’ve certainly seen that – yes, I have – and that would --
QUESTION: So is that something that you would --
MS NAUERT: That would be something that we don’t think benefits the dispute. That only exacerbates the dispute.
MS NAUERT: So talk like that, suggestions like that only serves as a setback, and I think we’ve been clear with those countries about that kind of rhetoric. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: In what way have we been clear with the Saudis that we think the embargo should be lifted? Has that – where – when and where has that taken place?
MS NAUERT: I don’t have readouts of any of those meetings right now, but I know that we’ve made those – made that clear.
QUESTION: But we’re confident enough that the Qataris have done enough that I believe the State Department, yesterday or last night, announced an intention to sell advanced weapons --
MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything --
QUESTION: -- to Qatar?
MS NAUERT: -- for you on that.
QUESTION: Three hundred million dollars in --
MS NAUERT: Okay. I’ll take a look into that. Sorry.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we stay in Asia?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me answer your first one first, and I think you’re referring to the dialogue that we had last year, the four-part dialogue with President Xi and other members of his government. I don’t have any meetings, any plans to be able to provide you today about that, so I’ll let you know when we have something to announce.
Okay. Your second part is?
QUESTION: Are the trade tensions between Washington and Beijing have any repercussion on the four annual high-level dialogue between U.S. and China?
MS NAUERT: I don’t think so, and I think the President spoke about this yesterday and then just a short while ago today, talking about how we will continue to have conversations with the Chinese Government, in particular with President Xi. The President not long ago said, “[I’m] very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers…also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together.”
So I think what we may be seeing is China coming to terms with some of our concerns about unfair trade practices and the United States saying, “We stand by to engage with you, the Government of China and President Xi, on that matter.”
QUESTION: Do you know what --
QUESTION: On Taiwan, today is --
QUESTION: -- the President meant by “enlightenment”?
MS NAUERT: My best estimation of that – and I have not spoken with the President today – but my best estimation of that is basically what came out of President Xi’s speech. And in President Xi’s speech that he gave at the – at a forum recently, he spoke about economic reform, he spoke about market opening. Those are the types of suggestions that China has made for some time, but if they are willing to make progress on that and step in the right direction, we certainly remain open to engaging them.
QUESTION: So – but he believes that President Xi has been enlightened?
MS NAUERT: Possibly.
MS NAUERT: He used that word, so – okay.
MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Taiwan, what – today --
MS NAUERT: Nike, let me go on to somebody else. Hi.
QUESTION: Just – the same topic. So do you see the risk of the trade war between United States and China has been reduced, if not diminished?
MS NAUERT: I think we’re at a good point where we’re having conversations. We’ve been clear with the Chinese Government areas that are of concern to U.S. workers, U.S. companies, and the overall trade balance. We have had those conversations with them, so I think we’re looking like we’re in a better place.
QUESTION: But the Chinese Government officials actually saying there’s no negotiation going on right now. So I wonder – I’m wondering if you could confirm if there are talks between the two sides about trade issue right now.
MS NAUERT: We have had conversations government to government. As you all know, our Ambassador Branstad was meeting with Chinese officials just about a week or so ago, so those conversations and talks continue.
QUESTION: Thank you, Heather.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: There have been reports that a team at the CIA has been in communication with North Korea regarding the upcoming summit. My question is what the role of the State Department is in these preparations.
MS NAUERT: I can only confirm that the U.S. Government is engaged in talks with North Korea about our upcoming meeting. I can’t get into the specifics in terms of who is doing that, but this is a broad interagency process.
QUESTION: And then also yesterday, the President extended the timeline to May and early June. Why was the timeline extended?
MS NAUERT: I’d have to refer you to the White House for an answer on that.
QUESTION: Madam --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) North Korea?
QUESTION: -- India?
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you tell us, in this meeting in Peru, when it is that the U.S. delegation would be meeting with the exile community or the representatives of the exile and civil society from Cuba? Do you have a date?
MS NAUERT: My colleagues over here have my schedule right now, and so I will defer to them. When is Acting Secretary Sullivan set to meet?
MR GREENAN: On Thursday.
MS NAUERT: On Thursday with Venezuelan --
MR GREENAN: With opposition and Cuban NGOs.
MS NAUERT: Thank you, with Cuban NGOs and opposition leaders.
QUESTION: What about Raul Castro?
MS NAUERT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: What about any meetings scheduled with Raul Castro or anybody in the --
MS NAUERT: Robert, is there anything on the schedule regarding that?
MR GREENAN: No other officials planned.
MS NAUERT: No, okay.
MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’re going to have to wrap it up soon. Hi, Lalit.
QUESTION: India --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- which says that the U.S. has imposed travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats based in Washington, D.C. Is that the case?
MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. All right.
QUESTION: Madam --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, sir.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks a lot.
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, tell me your name again.
QUESTION: Sure, Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. I wanted to ask you about Syria.
MS NAUERT: Matt Lee, the other Matt Lee?
QUESTION: Yeah, I know, the other Matt Lee. Matthew Russell Lee.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. So I wanted --
MS NAUERT: Nice to meet you.
QUESTION: All right. I’m glad to be here. I wanted to ask you, this is maybe – I don’t know if it’s in your binder or not, if – two things I wanted to ask. One has to do with Syria’s set to the president of the Conference on Disarmament of the UN.
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, I saw that.
QUESTION: And Robert Wood, your – yeah, your ambassador said --
MS NAUERT: Ironic, right?
QUESTION: Yeah, highly ironic that they’re un – not qualified. I wanted to know: Do you have any ideas yet what that will mean? Will the U.S. walk out? Will they not participate? And I have one other question for you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m certainly aware of that story and that story taking place. That would be an outrage if Syria were to take control of that. We have seen these types of things happen at the United Nations before where suspicious countries, which countries that run against everything that an individual committee should stand for, will then head up that committee. I haven’t spoken to Ambassador Haley about that and what she may or may not do, so I don’t want to get ahead of any decisions she might make.
QUESTION: Sure. And I just – it’s something that I haven’t seen the department comment on. Maybe you’ll have – maybe it’s in your binder, or maybe it isn’t. But there’s been 47 Cameroonians were in Nigeria and they were picked up and sort of illegally returned, or refouled, back to Cameroon. And it’s been – it’s been months that people haven’t seen them. And I’m wondering: Is the U.S. aware of this? Are they aware of this conflict, the conflict or tensions in the Anglophone zones of Cameroon, and what do they intend to do about it?
MS NAUERT: I’ll have to take your question on that and get back with you. And there are things that are not contained in the binder that we are aware of as well. Okay? Okay.
MS NAUERT: All right, last question then. India.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, madam. Two questions, please. One, as far as U.S.-India relations are concerned on social and cultural affairs, there are thousands of cases in India at the external affairs ministry and home ministry as far as filed by the battered women by NRIs or non-resident Indians who go from here to marry them and ask for large amount of sum of amount and what they call dowry. And then they promise them to bring them to the U.S., but they abandon them there, and then after that they asking more dowry, then they file for divorce. This is recently one case from New York Supreme Court.
Not – the Indian Government is not doing enough than these women, what they said international woman rights, and also they said that we talk about trafficking or human rights for women, and many of these women did knock the doors of U.S. embassy in Delhi and consulates in India, but they don’t get any response or justice because they have letters in their hand signed by the magistrates and their lawyers, but the U.S. consulates or – what can you do for them? Because somebody should do something for those battered women.
MS NAUERT: I am not familiar with this story. This is the first I’m hearing of it, so let me look into it, find out what the process is. What you’re describing sounds like a terrible situation for those women, but I don’t have the facts on that, so let me see what I can find out for you. Okay?
QUESTION: And these people are U.S. Indian Americans, U.S. citizens or Indian citizens? My --
MS NAUERT: I’ll see --
QUESTION: My second question, please.
MS NAUERT: I will see what I can find out for you on that.
QUESTION: My second question, quickly.
QUESTION: What they call honest dialogue between U.S. and India --
MS NAUERT: Hey, you all ask multiple questions, too. So give him a break.
QUESTION: Honest dialogue between U.S. and India took place recently, but it was all secret. Anything you can talk about? What is the – what is the future of U.S.-India relations?
MS NAUERT: Well, we have a strong relationship with the Government of India. I think you know that very well. A lot of issues that we have in front of us that we talk about consistently, including Indo-Pacific, free trade, all of that. So I don’t have any specifics for you on anything coming out of meetings, but when I do I’ll let you know. Okay?
QUESTION: Madam, thank you very much.
MS NAUERT: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:38 p.m.)
DPB # 22