Daily Press Briefing - May 22, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

  • IRAN
    • IAEA / P-5+1 / Baghdad Meeting
    • Assistant Secretary Feltman's Retirement
    • Possible Nuclear Test / Glyn Davies
    • Leap Day Agreement
    • Presidential Elections
    • Law of the Sea
    • President Zardari's Meeting with Secretary Clinton / U.S.-Pakistan Relations
    • Haqqani Network
    • Ambassador Ryan Crocker's Retirement
    • Recent Violence
    • Honduran Investigation on Helicopter Use
    • Secretary Clinton Meeting with Foreign Minister / Human Rights Council Decision
    • Anwar Ibrahim Case
    • Chen Guangcheng Case
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 22, 2012


12:50 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Happy Tuesday, everybody. I have nothing at the top. Hope everybody here enjoyed their day without us yesterday while everybody in Chicago did all the work. What is on your minds?

QUESTION: I presume that you are ecstatic about the fact that Mr. Amano says that he has gotten a deal or that they’re about to get a deal with the Iranians to resume the inspections. Are you?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we fully support his efforts and those of the IAEA to try to resolve the outstanding issues. Our understanding is that they are still working on the precise terms. Obviously, the announcement of the deal is one thing, but the implementation is what we’re going to be looking for, for Iran to truly follow through and provide the access to all of the locations, the documents, and the personnel that the IAEA requires in order to determine whether Iran’s program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

QUESTION: Okay. So ecstatic is not the right word?

MS. NULAND: That would be your word.

QUESTION: Okay. When – do you see this having any impact on tomorrow?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we see these issues in parallel. We are looking for Iran to demonstrate unequivocally that its program is peaceful. So there are separate but linked tracks for doing that: One is to do what the IAEA needs to demonstrate that it has seen all the locations, all the documents; and the other is to work with the EU 3+3 on concrete steps to give more reassurance of the kind that we’re seeking. So I think we see them as part and parcel of the effort that we’re looking for on the part of Iran.

QUESTION: I guess what I’m getting at is that if the Iranians satisfy the IAEA on that track, does that obviate the need for the P-5+1 track?

MS. NULAND: No, they’re --

QUESTION: Okay. So they – so they’ve got to meet both?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: And what happens if it’s the other way around? Still not good enough? In other words, if they satisfy the P-5+1 but not necessarily the IAEA, or is that impossible to do? If they satisfy you guys – are your standards tougher than the IAEA’s?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I don’t want to get ahead of the conversations that are going to happen in Baghdad tomorrow, where we’re going to be talking about the kinds of concrete steps that we’re looking for and how, if Iran actually takes steps, we might be able to respond.

But clearly, what the IAEA is involved in is verifying, on behalf of the international community, that things that Iran says are true are actually true. So in the context of any kind of an understanding that might be reached in the EU 3+3 context, you would still want the IAEA to be able to verify the implementation of all of those things.

Anything else on this subject? Michel, no? On Iran?

QUESTION: Yes, actually on the meetings in Iraq.


QUESTION: Do you expect Iraq to play any role in that, or it’s merely going to help Iraq get integrated into the international community?

MS. NULAND: Well, Iraq is the host of these meetings, as Turkey was the last time. So from that perspective they’re already playing a role and being supportive of the effort that we are all undertaking with Iran. I would assume that officials will brief the Iraqi side at some point during the talks, but we don’t anticipate seeing them at the table, if that’s what you’re asking.

Yeah. Anything else?

QUESTION: How long are the meetings going to last – one day or two days?

MS. NULAND: I think it remains to be seen, Samir. I think we’ll see if there’s enough to keep going, but certainly tomorrow is the plan.


QUESTION: You’re prepared, in other words, for a second day if need be?

MS. NULAND: We’re always prepared if there’s progress to be made.

Okay, what else? Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the retirement of Assistant Secretary Feltman?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying simply that Assistant Secretary Feltman has advised Secretary Clinton that he would – that he plans to retire at the end of the month and that he is going to be pursuing other opportunities, I think I will leave it there until he is prepared to make further announcements himself.

QUESTION: And who will replace Assistant Secretary Feltman?

MS. NULAND: We are working on that, but I don’t have anything to announce today, Michel.

QUESTION: You don’t have an interim – I mean, would the PDAS step up?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, Liz Dibble, his principal deputy, will steer the ship in the interim.

Yeah, please.

QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: After the warning against a North Korea third nuclear test, North Korea officials yesterday said they are going to strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Do you think this is going to a vicious circle?

MS. NULAND: Well, frankly, I’m not sure what they mean by that. So obviously there’s nothing to deter in this case, so I’m not sure what they actually had in mind. I would say that Glyn Davies, I think you know, was in Beijing. He was in Seoul the day before. He had a press availability in Beijing that I’d call your attention to in which he said again that it would be a grave mistake if North Korea were to take any significant actions.

QUESTION: Yesterday China, after the meeting with Ambassador Davies, China said – China actually called for both the United States and North Korea to respect the Leap Day Agreement. So my question is: Is the Leap Day Agreement still in effect?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know what we’ve been saying about the Leap Day Agreement, that we no longer have any confidence in any of the commitments that they’ve made since they’ve already abrogated the major ones. So I’m not sure what there is to implement, given the fact that North Korea itself started this process of abrogation.

So – please. Still on North Korea?

QUESTION: Similar question with Ms. Wang?


QUESTION: Actually, North Korea – like he said, North Korea announced that it has no plan for a nuclear test for the time being and that it remains open for dialogue. Do you see this statement as a sign of change in North Korea attitude?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think Ambassador Davies responded to the extent that we’re going to respond. We’re going to be guided not by what they say but what they do.

QUESTION: Just one more, please?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Actually, as you know, there were reports that a senior U.S. official visited Pyongyang before North Korea’s rocket launch in April. So do you have something to say on the reports?

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the single Korean press report that was raised on Friday. I think I said on --

QUESTION: Yeah, right. Yeah, last week, yes.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I think I said on Friday that we don’t have any comment on that report at all.

Please. Can you tell me who you are? I don’t --

QUESTION: Uros Piper, Tanjug News Agency, Serbia.

MS. NULAND: Uh-huh. Nice to see you.

QUESTION: My question is on Serbia. After Tomislav Nikolic won presidential elections two days ago, there are many possibilities open for the creation of the new government. So my question is: Would it be acceptable for the United States if the new government is formed by Nikolic party, socialist, and Kostunica party or would you prefer a government of democrats and socialists?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly not going to get into the middle of the Serbian Government formation. That’s an internal matter for Serbia. What I will say is that we welcome the fact that President-elect Nikolic has reaffirmed his commitment to Serbia’s European future, and we have encouraged him to work constructively with Serbia’s future prime minister, with the government to achieve their European goals, and particularly to honor regional stability and to work constructively with Kosovo.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to that North Korea – to the last question on North Korea?


QUESTION: When you refer to that report as the single South Korean report, are you suggesting that it’s not true?

MS. NULAND: I’m not commenting on it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Well, you seem to denigrate it by saying that it was just one report, but oftentimes, there are single reports that are true. So I just wanted to make sure --

MS. NULAND: Especially when Matt gets a scoop.

QUESTION: -- you’re saying -- no.

MS. NULAND: I wasn’t trying to valuate it one way or the other. I’m simply saying we have no comment on it.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you ordinarily want to deny such a report, I mean, if it were untrue?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I have to say on this one. May I help you?


MS. NULAND: Do I know you?

QUESTION: Daniel from Feature Story News.

MS. NULAND: Nice to meet you, Daniel.

QUESTION: We do global broadcasting --

MS. NULAND: Excellent.

QUESTION: -- here in Washington. Just wanted to ask you something about what the Indian media has been focusing on here. Kairi Shepherd, who was adopted when she was very young, is being deported. And so far, the Indian media hasn’t had an opportunity to have any comment from the U.S. Government. I was wanting to give you the opportunity.

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that. But this is a DHS matter, given that she is an Indian citizen who’s being sent back to India. So I am going to send you to DHS for comment.

QUESTION: So DHS was saying that they didn’t comment on individual cases. So is this kind of drawing a line under it?

MS. NULAND: Sounds like it, but I’m going to send you to them.

QUESTION: Another question.


QUESTION: Sorry. There was a scheduled meeting from the Strategic and Economic Dialogue – the U.S-China one – on the Law of the Sea and polar issues that was scheduled for today, but I haven’t seen much coverage of it. Did it take place? Has it taken place? Do you have anything on that?

MS. NULAND: This is a U.S.-China session on Law of the Sea that comes out of the S&ED. It’s ringing a vague bell, but why don’t I take that one and see if we have anything for you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, thank you.

MS. NULAND: You’re so far away. I can barely see you in your tamarind colored shirt back there.

QUESTION: Thank you. My question is, madam – thanks very much. As far as after Secretary’s meeting with the President Zardari of Pakistan, where do we stand as far as the opening of the doors for the NATO (inaudible) and also, U.S.-Pakistan relations for the future after Osama bin Ladin’s death?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the broader question, as you know, we put out a few lines yesterday on the Secretary’s meeting with President Zardari. President Obama also spoke to this issue quite extensively after his brief encounter with President Zardari, so I don’t think I can improve on that. I will tell you that our teams on the land routes did meet again today and we are continuing to work through the issues. I don’t have anything final to report for you.

QUESTION: And finally, was there any final commitment from Pakistan that, as far as the transition is concerned in Afghanistan, that what role Pakistan will play in tackling down the terrorism, especially the Haqqani Network and among other security issues?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you saw in the readout of the Secretary’s meeting that there was an extensive discussion about the importance of us working together on all of these counterterrorism issues, including the Haqqani Network issues. So I think the commitment remains the same. We need to really get the work done now.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam.

MS. NULAND: Please, Lach.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Afghanistan, can you elaborate on the health reasons that caused Ambassador Crocker to step down? And was it related to his heavy workload?

MS. NULAND: To his heavy workload. My understanding is on the latter, the answer is no, that this is something that he has been working through. But I’m going to, in the interest of his privacy, let him speak to that. But we simply wanted and he wanted to make it clear that this should not in any way be seen as a lessening of his personal commitment and our national commitment, obviously, to Afghanistan. If you got a chance to see the fuller statement that he put out to his Embassy and the larger ISAF community, I think his heart will always be a little bit in Afghanistan. But obviously, he’s not leaving yet. He’s going to stay on the job through the Tokyo conference in July. And as is our want, we will squeeze every ounce of value out of him.

QUESTION: Anything on a potential successor? We reported yesterday that James Cunningham, the deputy ambassador, was under consideration.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you’ve seen the statement that Ambassador Crocker put out, Ambassador Cunningham is going to steer the ship in the interim. With regard to who the White House may nominate for the Senate’s advice and consent, I obviously don’t have anything for you on that.


QUESTION: On Lebanon, to what extent you are concerned about the situation there, and especially in the capital, where we’ve seen a roadblock and clashes between several factions or parties?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you will have seen that Mark put out – Mark Toner put out a little statement yesterday --


MS. NULAND: -- expressing our concern about the shooting, that we have had incidents in Tripoli, we’ve had incidents in the capital and that we are obviously concerned about any spillover effect. And we are continuing to call for calm, for restraint, and to support the efforts of the Libyan – the Lebanese armed forces to try to bring this under control.

QUESTION: Twelve Lebanese were taken hostages in Aleppo, Syria by the Syrian Free Army today. Can you play any role in releasing these people? Especially, can you call the Syrian Free Army, or do you have any contacts with them to release them, or to help in to releasing them?

MS. NULAND: I have to tell you Michel, I haven’t seen those reports. If we have anything to comment on that, I’ll bring you something tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Anything else?


MS. NULAND: Samir, behind you first, maybe? Okay. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Deputy Burns met with the Lebanese minister of economy and trade. Do you have any readout on this meeting?

MS. NULAND: I don’t, so let me get you something on that as well, Samir.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: I want to go back to this incident in Honduras.


QUESTION: One, is there any update on the investigation from the State Department’s end in terms of whether its helicopters were used properly or improperly? Were the actions of U.S. personnel inside the helicopters, were they appropriate or inappropriate? What – is there any update on that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything. My understanding is that we are cooperating with the Hondurans in their investigation, so I would expect that we probably won’t have any comment before the investigation is completed.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there not a separate U.S. investigation into this?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I don’t – DEA may be looking into it, but we don’t have a separate investigation here. We’re collaborating with the Hondurans.

QUESTION: Okay. In response to my questions last week, I believe that you said that the members – the Honduran members – the Honduran police who were on board had been vetted under the Leahy Rule. Is that correct? Is my memory correct on that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I affirmatively spoke to that issue at all, except to say that they were participants in our programs, which generally require vetting. I don’t think you asked me the question that precise way.

QUESTION: Did – well, okay then. All right. Then, were they vetted?

MS. NULAND: Let me take it, because – let me just make sure. But --

QUESTION: And the other thing is that you know you’re required, under this rule, to withhold assistance if units or individuals of foreign police or security forces if there’s evidence of gross human rights abuses.

MS. NULAND: Right. Obviously.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any funds or programs that are being withheld currently to Honduras because of this?

MS. NULAND: Again, my understanding is that we are supporting the Honduran investigation, that we will await the outcome of that before making any determinations of the kind that you --

QUESTION: No, no, no. Quite apart from this incident. Quite apart from this --

MS. NULAND: You meant previously held?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there any planned assistance to Honduras that is being withheld because of Leahy concerns?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no. But if that is not the case, we will get back to you. Okay?


MS. NULAND: Yes. Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: As far as Sri Lanka and U.S. meeting between the Secretary and Sri Lankan foreign minister last week, do you have any, madam, final readout? Because foreign minister of Sri Lanka told the Wilson Center’s audience that Sri Lanka rejects any UN resolution supported by 23 countries, including the U.S.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think I spoke pretty extensively to the Sri Lankan meeting on Friday, gave you a pretty full readout there. We stand by the Human Rights Council decision, as we did at the time, and we continue to.

QUESTION: And finally, one more on Malaysia, please?


QUESTION: Are you following Malaysia’s situation? Because it’s ongoing violence, especially against minorities, in Malaysia.

MS. NULAND: You mean broadly speaking?

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on Malaysia, today.

QUESTION: Actually, speaking of Malaysia, do you have anything on Anwar being charged again?

MS. NULAND: I do. So our understanding is that charges were brought against Anwar Ibrahim related to demonstrations that occurred on April 28th. We understand that he’s been granted bail and that the next court date will be on July 2nd. We encourage the authorities in Malaysia to ensure that due process is protected and that any trial is conducted in a fair and transparent manner, and we will continue to monitor the case.

QUESTION: Do you have --

QUESTION: In years past, you have described previous prosecutions of Mr. Ibrahim as being politically motivated. Do you regard this prosecution as politically motivated?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think we’re at the stage of a prosecution. So let us see how this proceeds.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to add: Do you have concerns that the trial will not be fair or that due process will not be followed in this case?

MS. NULAND: Again, you know that we’ve had concerns in the past, as Arshad brought up. So, at this stage, we are encouraging the Malaysian authorities to do the right thing.


QUESTION: Right. So – hold on just a second. So you do have concerns about whether the trial will be fair and whether there – due process will be respected?

MS. NULAND: I think we are monitoring closely to ensure that it is.

QUESTION: And leaving aside the question of whether the prosecution has actually begun – I mean, he has been charged – do you regard the charges as politically motivated? I think it’s a salient, relevant question, given the history here and your past positions that previously he was prosecuted in politically motivated charges.

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we need to see how this goes forward. I mean, there is – clearly, he was – well, I don’t want to get into the middle of it. I think we need to see how it goes forward and how they treat him once he gets to the court.

Okay? Thank you. In the back, quickly.

QUESTION: Anything new on Chen Guangcheng, his pending probable request for asylum or his falsely imprisoned nephew, now that he’s arrived here?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to his ongoing plans, our understanding, based on his own statements that he made publicly when he arrived in New York, are that he is looking forward to studying. And we are very pleased that he will have that opportunity.

With regard to his relatives, as we’ve said in the past, we will continue to raise our concern and our expectation that his family members, that his supporters, be treated fairly under Chinese law and that their human rights be respected as well as their safety and security.

QUESTION: Do you have any – do you expect that to happen despite – regardless of the statement, do you think that will be the case now that the pressure has not necessarily left the issue but at least switched countries?

MS. NULAND: Again, all we can do is make our views known. I can’t – I don’t have a crystal ball here, obviously.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay? Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)