Daily Press Briefing - January 7, 2013

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary Clinton/Senior Staff Meeting/ARB Status/Schedule
    • Assad Speech/Assistance to and Recognition of the SOC
    • Casualties in Syrian Conflict
    • Three Bs Meeting Update
    • Ambassador Ford Visit
    • Richardson/Schmidt Visit
    • Renaming of the Palestinian Authority
    • Special Envoy Hale Travel
    • Sentencing of Two Kuwaitis for Posts on Twitter
    • Arrests of Activists
    • Freedom of Expression
    • Detained American
    • Violent Conflicts in Kashmir
    • New Government's Relations with the Republic of Korea
    • Deputy Secretary of State Burns' Meeting with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Kawai
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 7, 2013


This video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

12:35 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. It is a great day here in the Department. As you saw, Secretary Clinton is back to work. And if you got a chance to look at the pictures we put out, she is in the pink, literally. She’s wearing a brilliant pink jacket today.

Just a little bit of color for you all, we have every Monday the large Department staff meeting where she has her deputies, all of the under secretaries, all of the assistant secretaries, all the special envoys. Riffraff like me get to go. And when she walked in the room, she had a standing ovation from 75 people assembled, and then Deputy Secretary Nides presented her with a gift from all of us in a big box. You probably saw the pictures. And she opened the box, and inside – first of all he said, “As you know, Washington is a contact sport.” And she opened the box, and inside was a football helmet with the State Department seal, lots of good padding, and also a football jersey that said Clinton on the back and on the front it says number 112, which symbolizes the number of countries that she’s visited as Secretary of State.

And she loved it. She thought it was cool. But then, being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business. So we do what we always do in that meeting, went around the room, and she heard from everybody what they’re working on and what’s coming forward. She did take the opportunity to reiterate to everybody that with regard to the Accountability Review Board recommendations that she wants to have every single one of those recommendations on its way to implementation by the time her successor is sworn in and takes up his duties, and that she’s expecting everybody to work hard in that regard. And then obviously, she was interested in hearing about all of the policies underway, particularly focused, obviously, on President Karzai’s visit later in the week.

So with that, let me go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: You said pictures, but to my knowledge, only one picture has been released. Are there others that have been put out that we haven’t seen or – the one that was released showed her sort of from the back with Deputy Secretary Burns next to her and kind of the table going out. So are there other pictures that you have not released and they plan to or --

MS. NULAND: Just before I came out, I saw three more – maybe they haven’t come through your spam filters there, Arshad – (laughter) – that have – there are three pictures of her receiving this gift, opening the box. There’s a picture of the helmet and a picture of the jersey.

QUESTION: Okay. They’re not out?

MS. NULAND: So if you don’t have those, we will get those to Reuters. I don’t know how we managed to miss you.

QUESTION: I think the --

QUESTION: They’re just out.

MS. NULAND: Are they just out? Okay, all right. Please, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Are we on the – are we staying on this subject?

MS. NULAND: Let’s --

QUESTION: Well, I want to stay on the subject of the meeting but not necessarily about her return. Was there anything other than Benghazi that was discussed? There was talk to anything of note that was – I mean, she has been gone for a month.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, I’m obviously not going to get into all the details of an internal meeting, but she heard from all of her regional assistant secretaries about what the hot issues that they’re working are on in their region. She heard from many of the unders this morning, as she always does in that meeting.

QUESTION: On her schedule, could we just continue on that?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So we know some of the rest of the week. How intense would you say this is compared to what she normally does, and are there any other adds that we should be looking out for? We have Karzai, we have some White House meetings.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we usually update that schedule during the course of the week as more things come on to the schedule. Today, she’s doing a lot of internal meetings. She was sitting there in this big staff meeting saying, “And I want to see you today, and I want to see you today, and I want to see you today.” So she’s doing a lot of that. There may be other meetings outside the building today. We’ll let you know as it comes forward. But then, now being sure that she’s going to be here, I’m sure the schedule will get more full during the course of the week.

QUESTION: And any Kerry meetings?

MS. NULAND: Meetings with Senator Kerry?

QUESTION: Yeah. In person?

MS. NULAND: She has been talking to him virtually nonstop. She’s had – apparently had sort of daily phone calls, a number of phone calls. He is not in the building today. But as I said last week, she is 100 percent committed to having the smoothest possible transition, to helping him as much as possible, and she’ll be available as much as he needs her.

QUESTION: And then on Benghazi, of course, we all want to know what that might – what the schedule might be on that.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say that she will testify. She will testify while she is still sitting Secretary of State. As I mentioned last week, we have a new Senate Foreign Relations Committee; we have the 113th Congress in now. We also need a confirmation hearing for Senator Kerry. So we’re working now with the committee on scheduling both the Benghazi hearing, the confirmation hearing, getting the sequence agreed with them. But as you probably know, they are now not coming back until right after the inaugural. So it obviously couldn’t be before then. But I don’t yet have dates to announce. You might talk to the committee too, but we’re continuing to work on that.

QUESTION: So that would obviously mean that she will be staying in place, at least for a while, after the inauguration.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, the committee is not in session. The Congress is not in session, Senate’s not in session. So obviously a new Secretary can’t take up duties until there has been a confirmation hearing, until there has been a vote, et cetera. So our expectation is that we will be able to sequence this so that she will testify as sitting Secretary. We will also have a confirmation hearing. And all of this, obviously, will be preparatory to a transition.

QUESTION: Just a couple of – some things. How’s she feeling?

MS. NULAND: She looks fantastic. She seems to be terrific.

QUESTION: And is her – is she now back to a regular schedule then? She’s not curtailing her days or anything? She’s planning to work as hard as she always does?

MS. NULAND: I would guess, judging by the way she was this morning, yes.

QUESTION: And then last thing: Is it still the case that she is – well, do you expect her to travel abroad during the remaining of her tenure as Secretary of State, or can you rule that out now?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have any travel scheduled. As you know, under doctor’s advice, she is not supposed to travel for the coming period. And it’s going to be pretty busy here, including, as we discussed, with her testimony.

QUESTION: And just one more. Is she on blood thinners?

MS. NULAND: Jill, I don’t have any more to give you, beyond what we have already put out, which we made --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) were indicating that --

MS. NULAND: I mean, her doctors made clear that they had prescribed them. I’m not going to give you a daily update on her dose, if that’s what you’re looking for.

QUESTION: No. I just wanted to confirm that she is.

MS. NULAND: Nothing has changed from that report, except that she’s obviously here.

QUESTION: This is kind of a variation on Arshad’s question. Is Secretary Clinton fully recovered?

MS. NULAND: Judging by the woman we saw this morning and the workload that she’s got, she seems to be fully recovered. Yes.

QUESTION: This entrance into the room today, where she received a standing ovation and so forth, was that, by any chance, videotaped?

MS. NULAND: No. There was a still photographer who – the State Department’s photographer who put out the photos you saw.

QUESTION: And I know that you have spoken from the podium in recent days, since she fell ill, about how the Department’s belief is that it has been very transparent with regard to updates about Secretary Clinton and her condition at the various junctures. Are there – were there legal requirements attendant at any point along the way here, in so far as she may have been completely incapacitated and somebody else had to become acting Secretary or anything like that?

MS. NULAND: No. We didn’t have to invoke an acting Secretary stipulation. But obviously you saw that her two deputies, Deputy Secretary Burns and Deputy Secretary Nides, picked up a number of activities for her. Deputy Secretary Burns did the trip she was planning to do that second week of December. They both testified on Benghazi after the ARB hearing. But it obviously – there was no moment at which her duties were transferred to them.

QUESTION: So I presume that had she, at any point, been fully incapacitated the proper protocols would have been invoked, correct?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: So she was never fully incapacitated?

MS. NULAND: Again, James, I think we’ve spoken to her health situation all the way along. There was no moment at which it was deemed that she was incapable of performing duties, except that her deputies were asked to take up meetings and trips that she couldn’t do because she was sick in bed.

QUESTION: And just as a final sort of punctuation mark on this, at any point was the State Department legal counsel or the legal advisors consulted with respect to these considerations?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if she saw fit to model her gifts. Did she put on the helmet? (Laughter.) Or was the ghost of Michael Dukakis too strong for her to be photographed wearing protective headwear?

MS. NULAND: She is – you’ll see in the photo – she’s holding it up, both the helmet and then later the jersey.

QUESTION: Yeah. But she didn’t put it on?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say, as a fellow chick, her hair looked fabulous this morning. I’m not sure I would have challenged my hair with a helmet either.

QUESTION: Well, if she did, if we can get a photograph of it --

MS. NULAND: Yeah, I’m sure you would love a photo. Even better if it had the Bills on it, right? Yeah. Exactly.

Okay. Please.

QUESTION: And last one. You said she will testify as long as she’s a sitting Secretary. When she --

MS. NULAND: When she testifies she will be the sitting Secretary is my point, that she will testify before he successor takes office was the point.

QUESTION: Oh. But if she’s – if Senator Kerry takes over, she can be asked to testify after that?

MS. NULAND: No. That wasn’t my implication. My implication was that she’s made a commitment to testify. We expect we’ll be able to get that done before her successor takes office.

QUESTION: In open session? Is that part of the commitment?

MS. NULAND: She is prepared to do it in open session, if that’s what the committees would like. Our understanding is that that’s what they would like. But obviously we’re still talking to them.

QUESTION: Sorry. Presumably she’s talked to Senator Kerry about this. This is all right with him, yeah?

MS. NULAND: What do you mean?

QUESTION: Well, that she’s going to stay on a little bit longer, and I don’t know if he’s like really itching to get into – I mean, theoretically, you could have the – his confirmation hearing could be on the 21st. He could get – then there could be a vote. He could be in as early as the 22nd. So I’m just asking, she’s talked with him and it’s okay with him if she stays on for a couple days?

MS. NULAND: I think without getting too much into every hour of every day, I think the expectation is that the sequence will work out such that she’ll be able to testify; he’ll be able to have his hearing. And by the time he’s fully off the floor, the testimony will be behind her.

QUESTION: All right. And then just a last one, and I – this is probably better asked of his office or the Senate, but do you know if he is planning to chair the hearing at which she – at least the Foreign Relations Committee hearing? Not his confirmation hearing but her testimony.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s good work if you can get it.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Is he going to chair his own hearing, is that what you’re asking? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, but is he going to chair the hearing at which she testifies before his committee?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the SFRC on this --

QUESTION: You don’t know.

MS. NULAND: -- but my understanding is that there are new chairs of the committee for the 113th Congress. That’s my understanding.


QUESTION: Can we change topics?




QUESTION: I know you issued a statement yesterday on Assad’s speech, but does that push you towards aiding perhaps the opposition with arms and other materiel?

MS. NULAND: Our position on the assistance that we’re providing has not changed, Said. As you know, we’re only providing nonlethal assistance.

QUESTION: Okay. And also in terms of recognizing the coalition legally, not only politically as you explained before, does that also accelerate the process for you to sort of recognize the Syrian coalition legally, as well as politically?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think there’s anything about the speech that changes the progression of work that we’re doing with the opposition. I think we have to continue to see how things develop on the ground. We have to continue to see how they develop as a force. But as we have said, we do consider them the legitimate representatives now of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, did he seem more obstinate in his speech than was expected?

MS. NULAND: I mean, we put out a statement yesterday making clear that we think he’s completely out of touch with reality and that everything he offers will do nothing to change the situation on the ground in Syria.

QUESTION: Vic – Toria, the UN said that --

MS. NULAND: You’ve forgotten my name already, Elise?

QUESTION: I know, it’s been a while.

MS. NULAND: Or was it a late Super Bowl night?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Victor.

QUESTION: I was going to call you Victoria. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There was that movie with Julie Andrews, Victor Victoria. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry. The UN --

MS. NULAND: I don’t know how my husband would feel about that one.

QUESTION: The UN said over the last few days, gave an estimate that over 60,000 people have died in Syria. And, I mean, is there a number at which point you say the threshold is just too high to not do more in terms of more robust U.S. action? I mean, I know that the cases between Libya and Syria are different, but you took action in Libya to prevent the murder of tens of thousands of people. And the death toll is much higher in Syria than it ever was in Libya, and I’m just wondering where the threshold is.

MS. NULAND: Well, we did talk about this quite extensively last week when the UN’s report came out and we did find the numbers were considerably higher than some of the estimates that we had seen before. Elise, I think as we’ve said all the way along, whether we’re talking about Yemen or Libya or Egypt or Syria, all of these circumstances are different in terms of evaluation of what makes the most sense in terms of international support. We continue to believe that our combined efforts of squeezing the regime through sanctions, supporting the opposition through nonlethal support, coordinating with others who are providing other kinds of support, and providing the maximum humanitarian support, both inside and outside Syria, is the right course for the United States at this time.

I don’t want to get into a numbers game. It is a horrible, brutal tragedy what is going on in Syria. But it is the Assad regime that bears fundamental responsibility, which speaks to the completely callous attitude that he took in this speech, just completely ignoring the fact that at any moment he could silence his own guns and that would completely change the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: But if I could just follow, you seem to have this policy where you’re hoping that the rebels will overtake the regime, yet – and you’re coordinating with others who are doing so, but you’re not doing, in effect, they would claim, enough to help them tip that balance. So you’re hoping that they’ll get the job done, but not giving them the tools to do so.

MS. NULAND: Again, the situation on the ground is changing; it is accelerating. We are still seeing the regime on the defensive. We are seeing the opposition continuing to take and hold more territory. They’ve now grounded his planes in and around Aleppo. The battle for Damascus is engaged. The decision that we’ve made is to continue to coordinate with countries around the world who are providing support. Some of them have made a different decision that we’ve made, but for the United States, our view is that the nonlethal assistance that we are providing is appropriate for us in terms of training, in terms of communications, these kinds of things.


QUESTION: Just when you say that it is the view of the Department that Assad is completely out of touch with reality, it invites a further question as to whether or not Secretary Clinton believes that Assad is a rational actor.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think anybody who has – is guilty of the kinds of crimes against your own people that he’s guilty of can be considered rational by any human sense of the word.


QUESTION: I wondered if the State Department believes, following those mob scenes we saw at the end of the speech from Assad, whether the feeling is that these people are also deluded or whether there’s a severe amount of coercion going on in that case.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’re in a position to speak to that, but as we’ve seen all over the world, renting a mob is not that difficult.

QUESTION: Is there any movement on the three Bs?

MS. NULAND: We are continuing – Mr. Brahimi is continuing to try to work out a date. We’re prepared as soon as he can get it together. But I think, as we noted, it was holiday week in Russia from the 1st to the 7th. This is their first day back to work, for those of them who did come back to work. So we’re continuing to be ready and to stand by for when he can get a date and a venue.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the speech, in a way, sort of preempted the meeting of Brahimi, I mean, or the value of the meeting?

MS. NULAND: I think it underscores the difficulty of the job that Brahimi’s taken on. I think the question that he had initially was, could he take Geneva and convince Assad to participate in the establishment of a transitional government? And you can tell by the attitude that he showed in that speech that getting him to actively participate is very difficult. So the question is: Can we make facts on the ground around him that he’s going to have to contend with?

QUESTION: But if you don’t regard him as a rational actor, then almost any effort at diplomatic activity involving him or around him is not going to achieve your desired ends.

MS. NULAND: We’ve talked a number of times here, James. There are a number of audiences for this. I mean, obviously, if he were to say, “Okay, I’m ending the violence, I’m prepared to send some representatives to a discussion about a transitional government,” that would be a terrific step.

But in the absence of that, in addition to continuing our pressure on him, part of what we have to do is make the Syrian Opposition Coalition and all of the actors on the ground who are working with them on the political side, and on the other side as well, as credible and as prepared as possible for a transition. So within the context of that Geneva agreement, if you go back and read it, it includes all kinds of very good detail about the principles – human rights standards, democratic principles, balance of power, real institutions that need to undergird a future Syria.

So continuing to get Syrians who represent a future Syria to talk about it, to build a consensus for that way forward, to begin to operate even in advance of him leaving on the basis of it will make that transition all the smoother when it comes, along with the notion that they should all operate now, even as they struggle for that day, on the basis of these principles, that they should respect the human rights of all Syrians, that they should create an environment in those places that are liberated, where everybody’s rights are protected. There should be no reprisals, there should be no human rights abuses by any fighters, et cetera.

So all of this is good fodder for the Syria we want to see. And getting going on the basis of it even now is helpful, we think.

QUESTION: Is he evil? Is Assad evil?

MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to put a label on him. I could use any number of adjectives here.

QUESTION: Do you apply that one?

MS. NULAND: He certainly should leave power. He is beyond brutal. It is inhumane what he has done to his own people. Is that good enough for you, James?

QUESTION: I’ve asked a specific question. Do you regard him as evil?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a definition for that adjective. I certainly personally would consider what he has done evil, but I don’t think the U.S. Government goes around putting t-shirts on people like that. We’ve certainly said we think he’s lost his legitimacy to lead, that he is one of the most brutal actors on the world stage today. We can continue if you want to.

QUESTION: President Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire in public, so we do sometimes apply these labels. I wonder what prevents you from applying it here.

MS. NULAND: As I said, I personally consider what he’s done evil.


QUESTION: I want to move on if we could.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: There’s also the axis of evil if --

MS. NULAND: There.

QUESTION: -- you remember that. And Doctor Evil. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: North Korea. Now that --

QUESTION: One more on --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria?

QUESTION: On Syria, just one more. There is an idea out there – David Ignatius wrote about it – of making overtures to people who surround Assad.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: Is this an active consideration that they would have some type of protection, financial protection if they were to turn away from him?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me simply say that we obviously believe that anybody with blood on their hands needs to be held accountable, that it’s up to the Syrians to figure out how that should happen. But as we’ve said here, there are a number of countries who have made overtures, whether it’s to Assad and his family themselves or to people around him, offering sanctuary, offering protection. A number of those close to Assad, as you know, his vice presidents, et cetera, have already availed themselves of these opportunities for exile.

Back to James’s point about what Geneva provides, I think the other point here is the more you see the opposition operating on the basis of the Syria that they want to have beginning to, in liberated areas, govern humanely, et cetera, the hope is also to peel off those supporters of Assad, the Alawi population who’s long-suffering, et cetera, to say we’d rather live like that than what you’re offering, Assad. So there is a question of trying to create positive facts on the ground.


QUESTION: Any readout on Ambassador Ford’s contacts in Amman?

MS. NULAND: Just – I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. He’s been in meetings all day today. But he was in Jordan over the weekend. As I said on Friday, he had two missions there. He was first talking to the Jordanians about Syria and the refugee efforts that they are undertaking, and how we work together on all of those things. And then he was able to meet with a range of Syrian opposition figures who are currently making their home in Jordan. I don’t have too much more detail, but I’ll try to get some more for you for tomorrow.

QUESTION: Would you say former Prime Minister Hijab was among them?

MS. NULAND: I’ll ask the question. I know that he’s somebody that Robert Ford has seen in the past. I don’t know whether he saw him on this trip.

QUESTION: Are you on North Korea?


QUESTION: I just know that last week you were not too happy about this trip by Mr. Schmidt and Governor Richardson. Now that they’re actually there, I’m wondering if you have any additional or different thoughts.

MS. NULAND: We continue to think the trip is ill-advised for the reasons that we stated last week.

QUESTION: And are there any – I presume – and apologies, because I wasn’t here and I wasn’t really paying that much attention to the briefings while I was gone --

MS. NULAND: You weren’t?

QUESTION: No, I’m sorry.

MS. NULAND: We missed you, Matt.

QUESTION: I’m sure. I’m sure you did. Are there any plans to talk to them once they get back to see what they learned, if anything?

MS. NULAND: Jo did ask that question on Friday. I think we are always open to hearing from Americans who have been in North Korea. As you know, it’s --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) was an ill-advised trip, or not?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we’re obviously open to hearing from them. But we’ll see what they have when they come back.

QUESTION: Well, if they’re going to get this gentleman out, then would you still consider the trip ill-advised?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into hypotheticals that haven’t produced yet. But we just think the timing is bad.

QUESTION: I wonder if there’s been any reaction even through back channels from Beijing, because they obviously went in via China, whether the Chinese are sort of telling you they also think the trip is ill-advised.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on the Chinese attitudes. I would send you to them on that.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Change topics?


QUESTION: The Palestinian Authority.


QUESTION: The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, took a decision to rename the Authority the State of Palestine. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, our policy on continuing to call it the Palestinian Authority until such time that there is a negotiated agreement for a state with borders will not change.

QUESTION: Is that what you call, I guess, unilateral actions, as you have described it in the past, that is not helpful, and provocative to the peace process?

MS. NULAND: Well, you can’t create a state by rhetoric and with labels and names. You can only create a state in this context through bilateral negotiations.

QUESTION: And have you spoken to him or to any of his advisors on this particular issue?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether David Ratney had a chance to speak to them yesterday, but I think I --

QUESTION: Michael.

MS. NULAND: -- Michael, Matt, Ratney – Michael. I’m so sorry, Michael. But as I said, Special Envoy Hale is on his way to the region. He’ll be in Jerusalem for meetings tonight, and then he will see President Abbas and others tomorrow.

QUESTION: So you don’t – I’m sorry – so you don’t really take a position on this, on them – on the decision to start calling themselves the State of Palestine?

MS. NULAND: Our point is that --

QUESTION: I understand what the point is --

MS. NULAND: -- we’re not going to change what --

QUESTION: -- but I mean, do you think – but in the past, when they have done things like gone to the United Nations, you’ve been very outspoken and said that you don’t think it’s a good idea. Do you think this is a good idea, or is this also a bad idea that --

MS. NULAND: I mean, it’s provocative without changing the condition for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, provocative without --

MS. NULAND: Changing anything on the ground for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Right. In fact it seems the only thing that would be changed would be some stationery and a couple signs, not really changing much on the ground --

MS. NULAND: It doesn’t change anything on the ground.

QUESTION: -- unlike settlement activity, which does. So I’m just wondering if it is correct that you told the Palestinians that you thought this was a bad idea, or if you said, well, it’s not going to do anything, but go ahead and do it because we’re not going to loudly protest, like you have done with other things that they have done.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly going to tell them that it’s a bad idea and it doesn’t change anything for the Palestinian people, and if they really want to change things for the Palestinian people, they need to get back to the table.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you know if that was – was that opinion expressed to the Palestinians before this, when --

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t know that we had any forewarning on this name declaration, but --

QUESTION: But it certainly will be --

MS. NULAND: -- David Hale will have a chance to say something, too.

QUESTION: -- it certainly will be raised.

MS. NULAND: It will.

QUESTION: What – how is it provocative? You said it’s a provocative act. What does it provoke?

MS. NULAND: Again, we have been calling on both sides not to take rhetorical action or action on the ground that could be – could imperil the environment for peace. So it’s the kind of thing that is antagonizing to the other side without changing the situation on the ground.


QUESTION: If we’re done with that --

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Kuwait. A Kuwaiti man was sentenced to two years in prison today for a tweet that the authorities regarded as insulting the Emir. And he’s the second Kuwaiti, I believe, to have been sentenced to prison for this offense in the last two days. Any comment on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these reports about the conviction and sentencing of two Kuwaitis for their posts on twitter. We call on the Government of Kuwait to adhere to its tradition of respect for freedom of assembly, association, and expression, all of which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kuwait is a party. You know how strongly we feel about locking people up for their use of Twitter.

QUESTION: Have you raised this --

MS. NULAND: Some people should be? Is that – (laughter).

QUESTION: Have you raised this with the Kuwaiti Government?

MS. NULAND: We have.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Bahrain.


QUESTION: Would you update us on your position to – or your reaction to the latest arrests and apparent heavy-handedness of the Bahraini Government against the opposition?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, there was a final ruling today in the Bahraini Court of Cassation on the 13 Bahraini activists. We regret today’s decision by the Bahraini Court of Cassation to uphold the convictions and the sentences of these 13 activists. We’re concerned that this decision further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation. We have repeatedly voiced our concern about these cases both publicly and privately and at the highest levels, and urged the Government of Bahrain to abide by its international obligations, and we have also had Embassy observers at the trial. So we call on the Government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants in this case, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable any who are found responsible.


QUESTION: Can we move to China?


QUESTION: Similarly – in a similar vein on the freedom of expression, there have been demonstrations today outside the offices of a weekly newspaper in Guangzhou because an article was pulled, and there are demonstrations in favor of – in support of media freedom. I just wondered if you – if the United States has been following this and how interested this could be in terms of the overall picture of freedom of expression in China.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have long defended and supported the right of media freedom, both for Chinese journalists and for international journalists operating in China. We believe that censorship of the media is incompatible with China’s aspirations to build a modern information-based economy and society. It is, of course, interesting that we now have Chinese who are strongly taking up their right for free speech, and we hope the government’s taking notice.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Bahrain for one second?


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the case of Taqi Abulla (inaudible), who apparently is an American citizen, could be a dual Bahraini-American national, who’s been detained, allegedly tortured in prison? I understand the Embassy knows about the case.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything today on this case. Let me see what I can get for you, Elise.

QUESTION: Apparently, he’s been – he was arrested in October, and not only was he detained and abused in prison, but apparently his family was also roughed up.

MS. NULAND: And he’s an American citizen, you believe?

QUESTION: I think he might be a dual national, but there is an American citizenship.

MS. NULAND: Okay. So we’ll get more information for you.

I think we have time for two more. We need to get off the stage because the President, I think, is coming out in a few minutes.


QUESTION: In South Asia, in the disputed Kashmir region, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire yesterday, and today Pakistan lodged a protest with New Delhi over the killing of a Pakistani soldier. Are you concerned that this incident will affect the recent normalization process between the two countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have consistently supported attempts between India and Pakistan to find a positive way forward between them and to work on issues of Kashmir. We are concerned about any reports of violence along the Line of Control in Kashmir. We urge both sides to take steps to end exchanges of fire and to resume normal trade and travel across the Line of Control.

Let’s do one more. Please.

QUESTION: Yes. The question about – it’s Japan, that the new Japanese administration is talking about reviewing the so-called Kono Statement on the comfort women issue, and that this is thought to have ripple effects for the Japan-Korea alliance – I’m sorry, Japan-Korea relations. And the question is: Is the U.S. concerned that these tensions that could come up with the review of the Kono Statement could have a bleed-over to trilateral relations between U.S.-Japan in particular but also U.S.-Japan-Korea relations?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the issue at hand, we continue to hope that the countries in the region can work together to resolve their concerns over historical issues in an amicable way and through dialogue. As you know, we have no closer ally than Japan. We want to see the new Japanese Government, the new South Korean Government, all of the countries in Northeast Asia working together and solving any outstanding issues, whether they are territorial, whether they’re historic, through dialogue.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) have a meeting with Mr. Burns today. (Inaudible) Washington, D.C. today. What issue they discuss about?

MS. NULAND: Deputy Secretary Burns has a meeting today with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Kawai. He will also meet with Assistant Secretary Campbell today. They’re going to discuss the full range of U.S.-Japan relations – bilateral, regional, and global. This is a chance to see the new Abe government and launch that conversation.

Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:11 p.m.)