Daily Press Briefing - May 9, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary's Trip
    • Putting Pressure on the Assad Regime / Monitoring Mission
    • Chen Guangcheng Case
    • 18th Party Congress / Human Rights
    • Secretary's Meeting with Crown Prince / Bilateral Relationship
    • Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC)
    • Bomb Plot / Contact with Yemeni Government
    • Ambassador Powell
    • Secretary's Trip / Full Agenda
    • Possible Missile Launch / International Obligations
    • Syrian/Kurdish Delegation / Working Together / Political Transition
    • Reconciliation Issues / Other Bilateral and Regional Issues
    • Visa Fees / Visa Programs
    • Iraqi Vice President / Interpol Red Notice Issued
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 9, 2012


12:50 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Wednesday. Secretary’s back in town. We had a very interesting trip to China, Bangladesh, and India, as you know. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.

Which of you fine gentlemen in the front row would like to kick off this briefing? Lach is so gentle; he’s --

QUESTION: I’ll – we’ll go with Syria, the roadside blast that hit the troops escorting the UN observers.

MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Lach?

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Any reaction to it?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this is another example of why we’ve got to continue to put the pressure on the Assad regime. As the UN’s lead monitor, General Mood, said, it’s a graphic example of what the Syrian people themselves are suffering every single day. It is further evidence that the ceasefire is not holding, and we really have to continue to pressure the Assad regime and all actors. And this is further to why that we’ve get the monitors into as many places as we can so we have eyes on the streets and the opportunity to protect the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Does this change how you’re thinking about the monitors’ safety? Does it make – does it concern you for future safety?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think, as you know, from the very beginning, we have always said that, given the way this monitoring mission went in, given the fact that it is a Chapter 6 monitoring mission without any force of its own or self-protection capability, that it is incumbent on the regime to ensure the circumstances under which it can deploy. And as we’ve said from the beginning, we continue to put the bulk of the responsibility for the violence in Syria at the hands of the regime.

Anything else on Syria? Yeah.

QUESTION: China? There’s a long and detailed story in The New York Times today describing the negotiations between the United States and China over Mr. Chen’s fate. Is it true that the Chinese side at one point suggested a willingness to cancel the S&ED?

MS. NULAND: I am not in a position, from this podium, to confirm any of the details in that story or any of the other stories purporting to have background on how we got here. I think the Secretary made the point yesterday that our continued focus is on getting to the point where we can welcome Mr. Chen to the United States so he can pursue his studies, and we’ll all have plenty of opportunity – he will, and other participants – to talk about how we got there when we get there.

QUESTION: Has he made any progress in his efforts to obtain a passport?

MS. NULAND: As the Secretary said yesterday, as Mark said here yesterday, he is working with his own authorities on that. He made some positive statements about how that is going yesterday, so we need to let that process go forward.

QUESTION: But you don’t know what progress, if any, has been made from your contacts with him?

MS. NULAND: I think we do have a very good sense of where he is in the process, but I’m not going to speak for him or speak for his government in that regard.

QUESTION: Right, but from your good sense of where he is in the process, do you feel that the process is moving forward?

MS. NULAND: We do.

QUESTION: And has the U.S. Government – this has been asked a couple times this week – have you tried to see him in person this week? I know that you’ve had phone contacts. Has any U.S. Government official sought to see him in person?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have seen him at the hospital since he’s been there. We have been in regular phone contact with him.

QUESTION: That was last Friday, though, right?

MS. NULAND: That’s correct. That’s correct.

QUESTION: But you haven’t – my question was this week. Have you seen him this week?

MS. NULAND: Let me simply say, Arshad, that I think we are comfortable with the level of contact that we’ve had with him, and we will continue to maintain our intensive contact with him.

QUESTION: Why can’t you say whether or not you’ve seen him? Mark’s impression was that you had not seen him, but that you had had phone contact with him.

MS. NULAND: We have not been into the hospital in the last couple of days, but again, I think we are satisfied with the level of contact that we have with him.

QUESTION: And have you sought to visit him and been rebuffed by the Chinese?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details of our contact with him other than to say that we are satisfied with the contact that we’ve had with him.

QUESTION: Why not, though? Because if you’re asking to see him and the Chinese are rebuffing you, that’s an interesting fact.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think that would accurately characterize the situation.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up?


QUESTION: When Secretary was in China, you think she had pressed some for human rights and for democracy in China, and also if she had seen any kind of sense that in the upcoming 18th Chinese congress that there might be some changes inside China as far as maybe rule of law, democracy, and maybe free elections? That’s what I’ve been hearing from some of the Chinese visiting here.

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think we’re at a position to speculate from this podium what may or may not happen in internal Chinese discussions at their 18th party congress. Obviously, the situation – the general question of human rights came up in China. The specific case came up. The Secretary was extremely clear about both of those in the public comments that she made in Beijing.

QUESTION: And pressed for more democracy and more freedom for the people?

MS. NULAND: Again, we always talk about the importance of human rights and openness.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Still on the Chen case.

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Matt Ropeik, TV Tokyo. This is my fifth briefing, so very, very new.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Welcome.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: And thanks for calling on me. You say that the --

MS. NULAND: Luckily, we have – they’re half asleep up here in the front, so it’s – (laughter). I was able to see your hand. Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that was a false statement. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: He doesn’t think that accurately characterizes where we are.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Of course.


QUESTION: You say that, from the U.S. side, you’re satisfied with the level of contact you have with Mr. Chen. Has anyone from his side, either he or his family, said the same?

MS. NULAND: I think he has --

QUESTION: Has he requested more contact or anything like that? Less, I’m not sure why.

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I have to say on this subject. I think I’ll let him speak for himself.


MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah. Samir.

QUESTION: What’s on the agenda on the – for the meeting between the Secretary and the crown prince of Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: Well, as Samir notes, the crown prince of Bahrain will be in later this afternoon. I would expect we’ll have a little readout for you all on paper after that meeting. But as we always do, we’ll be talking about regional issues; we’ll be talking about the bilateral relationship; and we’ll be talking about the Bahraini Government’s ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission.

QUESTION: Well, will you also be having a frank discussion about your concerns that the reforms are not going ahead as quickly and as robustly as you would’ve hoped?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary and the crown prince are generally frank with each other, so let us come back to you when we have a readout on the meeting.

QUESTION: Well, where do you stand on the pace of the Bahraini reforms? I mean, you still have this gentleman who’s on a hunger strike. There have been kind of small, incremental steps at reform, followed by a crackdown of protestors and journalists.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve spoken about this before, that with regard to the implementation of these recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission, they’ve made some progress but we want to see more progress. We’ve talked to them about that regularly. We have also talked about the Khawaja case and other cases of concern, and I would not be surprised if those came up again today.


QUESTION: A team of U.S. officials were recently in Pakistan for negotiating with them on reopening of the ground – GLOCs? Do you know what the status is right now? Have they agreed to reopen the routes?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any update except to say that we are continuing to work on these issues with the Government of Pakistan. As you know, that would follow on the visit that Ambassador Grossman had to Pakistan. And as you know, we’re still seeking to come to an arrangement on how we can get the GLOCs open. We think it’s important for us; it’s important for a peaceful, stable situation in Afghanistan; and it’s obviously – that would be in Pakistan’s interest as well.

QUESTION: And also, has the U.S. agreed to the taxes – new taxes being asked by Pakistan for every truck that passes through their territory for Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you’re taking me into the details of a discussion with the Government of Pakistan that is ongoing, so I think I’m not going to comment on the details.

Please, Elise.

QUESTION: New subject?



MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yemeni officials have kind of voiced frustration that they were left out of the loop on this thwarting of the bomb plot. Was wondering if there had been any discussions from this building with Yemen since the revelation of this device being secured. Has the Secretary reached out to the – any Yemeni officials, or anyone else from this building?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary has not. My guess is – and we’ll confirm this for you, Elise – that our ambassador in Yemen has been in contact with the government.

You’re so quiet over there, Brad.

QUESTION: You satisfied all of our needs. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I satisfy all needs all – up on the front end.




QUESTION: Secretary’s visit to India – and also welcome back. And how is our new ambassador Madam Nancy Powell doing there?

MS. NULAND: She is fabulous, as you know.

QUESTION: And the Secretary’s visit, what was the main agenda, and why she went to India this time?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, she had a full press conference in India standing next to her counterpart, Foreign Minister Krishna. I can’t improve on the lay-down of the meeting that both of those ministers gave, so I would refer you to that.

QUESTION: Well, it must be something between the two countries because of the sudden visit to India. I mean, there must be a full agenda other than just a press conference.

MS. NULAND: But in the press conference, they went through all the issues that we discussed – the bilateral issues, the regional issues, the global issues. So I would encourage you to go back and read it, because it was a fabulous, rich encounter. Okay.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MS. NULAND: Scott. Scott, in the back. Scott.

QUESTION: As you know, there are Japanese lawmakers in town involved in the abduction issue. One of those parliamentarians yesterday talked about the case of the American David Sneddon, who he says was abducted by North Korean agents in southern China in 2004 and alleges that the Chinese Government told the United States that Mr. Sneddon died in a climbing accident. Can you tell us if you are concerned about this suggestion by the Japanese parliamentarian that this American was taken by North Korean agents?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to admit, Scott, that you have stumped me. I’m going to take that one and see whether we had a discussion of Mr. Sneddon in this encounter.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: On North Korea?


QUESTION: It is reported that North Korea have another missile launch (inaudible) the nuclear test soon. What is your comment on --

MS. NULAND: That they have already had one or that they intend to have one?

QUESTION: Intended another additional missile launch.

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have anything new to say on this subject from what we’ve been saying for weeks and weeks and weeks. It would be a very bad idea; it would be a provocation; and it would not be in keeping with their international obligations; and we urge them not to do it.

Anything else? Can we really go home? No. Samir, please.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Secretary to meet with the Syrian Kurdish delegation?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary is not planning to meet with them herself. She has met with representatives of this group in the past in the context of the meetings that she’s had with opposition. I think today’s meeting is at the Jeff Feltman level. But as you know, it is part and parcel of our broad outreach to a whole cross-section of Syrian groups to encourage them to work together.

In addition to that meeting, Ambassador Ford, Fred Hof, Ambassador Feltman are also making outreach to some of the tribes from the eastern parts of Syria. And again, our message is the same: to encourage all of them to work together to prepare for the day when we can have a political transition and to work together on a plan that will give Syrians of all stripes confidence in their future and confidence that they’ll be protected in the new Syria.

QUESTION: Is it – can I just add one?


QUESTION: Is it designed – are these talks designed to help the KNC become a member of the SNC?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s a --

QUESTION: The two are negotiating membership.

MS. NULAND: They have been talking to each other, as you know. They’ve been talking for some months. I think from our perspective, frankly, it’s less important, membership, non-membership; whether the SNC becomes more of an umbrella; how their arrangements are made than that they are working together, than that they are pulling in the same direction, than that they are all endorsing this general set of principles which the SNC has already endorsed about a Syria that democratic; that is protecting the human rights of all Syrians; and where Syrians – no matter what their religion, background, ethnicity, gender is – can feel comfortable, can feel safe, can feel part of the future.


QUESTION: The Sri Lankan foreign minister will be here next week. Do you know what will be on his agenda, when he --

MS. NULAND: What will be on his agenda? I’m going to send you to him for his agenda.

QUESTION: No, on the Secretary’s agenda.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we always talk to Sri Lanka about the reconciliation issues and the need for them to come forward with a plan. We also will be talking to them, I would guess, about other bilateral issues and regional issues.


QUESTION: Toria, this morning, Deputy Secretary Burns met with the CEO of the Royal Dutch Shell here. Can you tell us what the main subject of the meeting was?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a readout yet, so why don’t I take that and we’ll get back to you.

Yeah. Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: Have you seen the reports about India deciding to take U.S. to WTO for visa fees, hikes?

MS. NULAND: Tejinder, I’ve heard that there is something out there, but I haven’t heard that there is an affirmative decision on the – by the Indian Government on this front. We did have a good and thorough discussion in the context of the Secretary’s visit there of these visa issues.

As the Secretary said – I think she said it publicly – Indians are the greatest beneficiaries in the world of both our L-1 visa program and our B-1/H-1 visa program. We understand that the demand is even greater. We are working through those issues. But we continue to fully support the admission of qualified Indians under these programs.

QUESTION: What are these? L-1 and B-1/H-1 sounds like --

MS. NULAND: They are --

QUESTION: -- a pandemic virus.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, exactly, exactly. That’s what I thought they – H-1, B – yeah, I should have had my stuff in front of me. There are two categories of visas – one, to the come to the United States in an inter – intra-company transfer context. So if you work for Dell India, you can come to Dell India – to Dell U.S., for example. The other is to come to – the H category is to come to the U.S. for business training.


MS. NULAND: Right.

Please, Cami.

QUESTION: Was – just a quick follow-up – was, this issue of visa fees hike, it discussed during the visit?

MS. NULAND: On the fees? No.



QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a position on Turkey saying that it will not hand over Iraq’s vice president even though Interpol has issued a red notice for him?

MS. NULAND: While we note that the red notice has been issued, we consider this an issue for the two governments to settle.

QUESTION: Turkey and Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

All right. Thanks, everybody. Thanks for being easy on me today in my jetlagged state.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:06 p.m.)

DPB # 85