Daily Press Briefing - May 27, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels
    • Attack on Convoy of OPCW Inspectors and UN Staff
    • Successful Elections
    • Reports of Violence / OSCE Team Abduction
    • Focus on De-escalation / Urge Restraint
    • Elections / Actions of Armed Russian Militants / Sanctions
    • Nonlethal Security Assistance / Encourage Dialogue
    • Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif's Visit for Prime Minister Modi's Inauguration
    • U.S. Attendance at Prime Minister Modi's Inauguration
    • U.S. Support for Efforts to Address Terrorism
    • U.S. Consults Frequently with Japan on North Korea Policy
    • U.S. Encourages Strong and Constructive Relations in the Region
    • South China Sea / Reports of Sinking Ship / Oil Rig / Encourage Parties to Lower Tensions
    • U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue / Intelligence Activities
    • U.S. Urges Return to Democracy
    • U.S. Assistance
    • Indictment of Chinese Military Members / Retaliation against U.S. Businesses
    • Presidential Elections
    • OPCW Mission
    • Counterterrorism Concerns
    • Kidnapped Girls / U.S. Supporting Efforts
    • Meriam Ibrahim Case
    • Political Transition / Ongoing Conflict
    • Steps to Protect U.S. Personnel and Facilities in Place
    • EU Parliamentary Elections
Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 27, 2014


1:29 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.


MS. PSAKI: Hello. Hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing Memorial Day. I have two items for all of you at the top.

The United States strongly condemns Saturday’s deadly attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims. There is never any justification for these hateful attacks against innocent civilians, nor for prejudice against the Jewish people or the state of Israel.

Also, a convoy, as you may have seen in reports, of OPCW inspectors and United Nations staff that was traveling to a site of an alleged chlorine gas attack in Syria came under attack today. The OPCW reported that all team members are safe and well and are traveling back to the operating base. We strongly condemn this attack and call on all parties to grant safe, secure, and unfettered access to OPCW and UN staff working in Syria. We commend the brave OPCW and UN staff working in Syria during an ongoing war, and we thank them for their continued resolve to ensuring the accomplishment of their vital work.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Before we go back to Syria and onto Ukraine, I just – there’s two housekeeping things, both having to do with timing. One is what you just mentioned. Is there some reason that you didn’t – that there wasn’t a statement or anything – any comment on the Brussels attack before? I mean, why is it two – I mean, it happened over the weekend. I’m just curious.

MS. PSAKI: Just the nature that it was over the weekend.

QUESTION: But are you – okay. Are you sure --

MS. PSAKI: It was not – it was something clearly we wanted to make sure we spoke to.

QUESTION: Gotcha. Do you know – I mean, is the Administration or is the State Department convinced that this was a terrorist attack? Or do you have any insight into what it was?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information beyond what I’ve shared.

QUESTION: All right. And the second thing is I know that the Friday afternoon document dump is something that all administrations do all the time, but this Friday was a bit ridiculous. 5:35 on Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend you guys put out over 1,000 pages of the – on the Chile coup, the documents that describe – that go into detail about the U.S. role in the coup in 1973. I mean, it was noticed. And I realize that there are – there wasn’t really much news in it, and I – but I do understand there’s some embarrassing quotes. But can we – was there a reason that this had to go out at 5:35 on a Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a big world out there. We cover all of it. So information is processed, and sometimes we make it available at that time. But I will note your expression. And I’m sure others in the room share that, and we’ll pass that forward.

QUESTION: Right. I mean, it just makes people – even if there isn’t – even if you’re not trying to hide anything, it gives the impression that you are when you do it. And I personally had better things to do on Friday afternoon than read through 1,045 pages of --

MS. PSAKI: Did you read all of the pages?


MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Anyway – all right. So on this – sorry.

MS. PSAKI: They’ll be a test on page 874 at the end of the briefing. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, the quote from Nixon to Kissinger about it’s time to kick Chile in the ass was really a good one. But anyway, onto substance.


QUESTION: Ukraine. You have seen reports, I presume, of the fighting that’s going on in Donetsk. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, first, let me of course – I know we put out a statement from the Secretary yesterday about the successful elections this weekend, so I would point everyone to that. We look forward to, of course, working with President-elect Poroshenko and the people of Ukraine to build on this victory for democracy.

In terms of the events over the weekend or the reports of violence, we certainly have been watching those events closely. We remain concerned about the actions of Russian separatists against civilians in eastern Ukraine. We support the efforts of the Government of Ukraine to maintain calm and take steps to maintain order in their own country, and we remain in close contact with them as well.

QUESTION: Well, so you believe that this violence is the responsibility entirely of pro-Russian separatists? Is that – I mean, do you have any words of caution or advice of restraint to the Ukrainian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly to all parties. But I would remind you – and obviously there are a range of reports out there about events that have happened over the course of the past couple of days. There are some involving the airport.


MS. PSAKI: There are some involving the fact that a special monitoring mission is missing. So there are a range of different reports, different – and I guess I could speak to all of those. But my point I was making is that the Ukrainian Government and the Ukrainian authorities have every right to certainly take steps to maintain calm and order where they see fit.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t have any concerns about whether they are acting – that they’re going too far? You don’t have any concern that – do you believe that everything the Ukrainian authorities have done to this point in trying to maintain law and order has been reasonable and appropriate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if we have concerns we will express them. But certainly --

QUESTION: But as of this moment, you don’t have any concerns?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not expressing a concern about the events over the course of the weekend, no, in terms of the Ukrainian authorities, no.

QUESTION: Okay. So in the view of the State Department, view of the Administration, is that what is happening on the ground in the east right now, in Donetsk and other places where there are clashes, where there’s fighting, that is all the fault of the separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, obviously --

QUESTION: They are the instigators?

MS. PSAKI: Obvious – they are – certainly, we believe they’re the instigators, yes. And we believe – and I think there’s broad reporting on their involvement in what’s happening at the airport or what happened at the airport over the course of the weekend.


MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a – much question about that.

QUESTION: Well, but there are a lot of reports from my news organization, from others as well, that this isn’t entirely one-sided, that – and I mean, the separatists – some of the separatists leaders say that they’ve been – that the Ukrainian authorities have been shooting at civilians. But you don’t – you haven’t seen that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if we have concerns, we’ll express them.


MS. PSAKI: But that’s not where we are at this moment --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Do we --

QUESTION: And then do you have --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just on the OSCE monitors.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a new update, unfortunately, for all of you. The OSCE reports that it has lost contact – that it lost contact Monday evening with one of its special monitoring mission teams in the Donetsk region. The four-person team was last heard from as they approached a separatist checkpoint near the city of Torez. We condemn this abduction and call for Russia to use its influence with the militants to secure the team’s immediate release.

This team, this particular team, has been observing the situation across Ukraine since March to reduce tensions and promote security, so they weren’t kind of a new election monitoring --

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re convinced, again, that this is – that they have been abducted by the separatists? That that’s the – I mean, do you know that for certain, or is that just the most plausible explanation you have?

MS. PSAKI: That is the most plausible explanation, yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Is there any --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Staying on Ukraine, is there any evidence that Russia’s hand is still in – is part of any of this fighting that’s going on from the separatists’ side?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s been evidence all along that there has been a Russian hand in the activities that have been happening on the ground, whether it’s the – how equipped the militants have been, what their equipped with, kind of a trend that we’ve seen from Crimea that has carried forth to parts of eastern Ukraine. So we’ve seen a great deal of evidence on the ground of their engagement.

QUESTION: And today Russian President Putin called for an immediate halt to the Ukraine’s military operations, and he expressed this to the Italians. And he said that he called for Ukraine to talk to the Russian separatist leaders. Would you support that kind of dialogue to try to resolve this? Or I mean, there’s a possibility this could just escalate, so how is the U.S. seeing this being resolved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our primary goal here has been de-escalation from the beginning. But I would remind you that there are a range of calls that President Putin and others have been made that have not been backed up by action in terms of taking their own de-escalatory steps. And we certainly feel there are a range of steps that they could take in order to show they’re going to back their words with action. We eagerly await that.

I would also point you to the fact that President-elect Poroshenko made clear that his number one priority after taking office will be to restore order in eastern Ukraine by increasing dialogue with citizens of that region, traveling to the area soon after his inauguration, increasing transparency of the ongoing constitutional reform process. And so we believe that’s a positive step and the right approach to return stability to the area.

QUESTION: Jen, real quick on the monitors, do you know their nationalities?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have that information, no.

QUESTION: I mean, sorry if you just went over this while I was walking in.

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: But I mean, have you urged the Ukrainians to use restraint in their military operations? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, Elise, we’ve urged that across the board. But let’s not forget we’re talking about a group of armed militants, armed Russian militants, who have been aggressively engaging in, whether it’s taking over of buildings or going – attacking airports. The Ukrainians have every right to defend and maintain stability and order in their own country, and that’s our belief.

QUESTION: But I mean, there has been a concern that they’ve – that perhaps the Ukrainians would use, like, disproportional force against these militants.

MS. PSAKI: Well again, Elise, as we have concerns, we’ll express them. But I think there’s no question in our view that they have every right to maintain stability or take steps to maintain stability within their own country.

QUESTION: Following up on --

QUESTION: Jen, you’re not bothered by --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Michael. Let’s – go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Following up on Lesley’s question and your assertion of a Russian hand in previous activities in eastern Ukraine, as you know, it was not possible for all the people in eastern Ukraine to vote, that some of the polling places were not open. Is your assessment that Russia had a hand in encouraging separatists to close some of those polling places and thus obstruct voting in eastern Ukraine? Is that your assessment or is that not your assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question that we feel there’s a strong tie and there’s a Russian hand in the actions of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine. And to the degree they took steps to hinder or prevent voting, we feel there’s a connection.

I would also note, though, that despite all of that, more than 60 percent of eligible voters in Ukraine voted on May 25th, which is a significant turnout, and one we have noted and the OSCE has noted. But this is a discussion we’ll continue to have internally about – based on the evidence on the ground about what steps were taken, what the involvement of Russia was, and we’ll make decisions accordingly.

QUESTION: But are – I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay.

QUESTION: Are you asserting that Russia played a role in obstructing the voting in eastern Ukraine? Because it sort of sounds like you are.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m asserting is that there is no question that armed militants played a role, as we’ve seen evidence of across the board. We’ve long believed and stated that there is a connection between Russia and these militants. We’ll continue to evaluate what specific role they played. That’s an ongoing discussion in the Administration now.

More on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, previously, elections were a sort of trigger for sectoral sanctions against Russia in terms of if Russia – you were saying that if Russia disrupts elections, there will be sectoral sanctions. So the elections are held. Are sanctions – sectoral sanctions still on the table? And if they are, are there any new triggers or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they remain on the table. They’ve been on the table since the President signed the executive order several weeks ago. There’s – I have no decisions or announcements to discuss today.

QUESTION: But you did – but the President, and when he was with Chancellor Merkel, did say that interfering in the election would be the trigger for the sanctions. So the question I think Michael was getting at and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Lesley is getting at is: Was Russia’s involvement – you talk about that there’s these strong ties between the Russian militants, but did Russia specifically take enough steps to disrupt the election to incur these sanctions? And I don’t remember if you said whether that an effort to disrupt the election was a trigger or whether they actually disrupt the election, which it doesn’t seem that they did if you’re acknowledging the results.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I would say and what I was trying to address to Michael is that that’s a discussion that – we have these tools and we have the ability to put in place additional sanctions. We’ll be coordinating with the EU, as we have been all along, but we’ll evaluate over the coming days whether there are additional steps that need to be taken.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t – it seems to me like you’re saying that through their ties to these separatists, that Russia might have attempted to disrupt the election. But given the fact that you’ve acknowledged as – you’ve praised these elections and accepted them and recognized them and are moving ahead, it doesn’t seem like they actually did disrupt them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but I also noted, and it’s important to note again, that there – despite the strong turnout across Ukraine, there was chaos and violence perpetrated by pro-Russian militants in certain areas, as you know. So we’ll take a close look at that, and again, I have nothing to outline today, but we’ll continue that discussion internally.

QUESTION: So when you’re looking at specifically that, are you looking at if there was a deliberate attempt by Russia to – I mean, I’m just trying to figure, when you’re looking and evaluating that, what is it that you’re looking for? Because these just could be the rebels that are causing mischief, right? It doesn’t mean that Russia’s deliberately in there and stoking it up. I mean, is that the kind of evaluation you would look at?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, these were pro-Russian militants who were the perpetrators of the chaos and violence in some parts – limited parts – of Ukraine. We’ll look at that. We’ll look at any of the connections. But I don’t have kind of a five-point checklist to lay out for you because it’s all part of the discussion that will happen internally.

QUESTION: Can I – now I’m a little bit confused.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just – I mean, are – sectoral sanctions for alleged attempts to disrupt the election are still a possibility? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: We said that, and if they cross the border; there are a range of factors that we’re looking at.

QUESTION: No, no, no, but specifically about the election, those sanctions are still on the table? I mean, it seems to me if you call the election a victory for democracy, any attempt to disrupt it was unsuccessful, no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we will continue to have these discussions internally. There were attempts to disrupt in parts of Ukraine. We will look at what that means and if it means anything in terms of a next round of sanctions.

QUESTION: In other words, you’re saying that attempts to disrupt, even if they are unsuccessful, could be a trigger for sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were successful attempts to disrupt in some parts of Ukraine, whether --

QUESTION: Yet you still acknowledge the elections?

MS. PSAKI: Of course, because there was a high turnout nationwide, and we feel this was a successful election. But we’ll look at a range of factors. I don’t have anything to announce or outline for all of you today.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any truce that may have just taken place in Donetsk between the militants and the Ukrainian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Any true? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Any truce? There --

MS. PSAKI: Truce?

QUESTION: Truce, a truce in the fighting?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware of the numbers that were killed as a result of the bombardment of the Ukrainian air force?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen a range of numbers. Yes, we’ve seen a range of numbers.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you share with us these numbers?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any to confirm for you. There’s a range of reports out there, Said. Do we have any – Ukraine or – okay. Go ahead, both of you on Ukraine.

QUESTION: President Obama soon goes to Poland, and as I understand, the newly elected president of Ukraine also. Is there a meeting planning – planned between them, do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House for the President’s schedule. I don’t think they’ve outlined that quite yet.


QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Now we have a newly elected president to Ukraine – for Ukraine. What you are expecting in the coming days and weeks? What is going to be changed in the relation between United States and Ukraine? Is there any different from what was before Saturday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve long been supportive of not just the interim government, which we felt was the legitimate Government of Ukraine, but also the process leading up to an election and all of the steps that were taken by the OSCE, by the Ukrainian Government to ensure as many people could vote as who were interested in voting.

But I would point you to what President-elect Poroshenko stated about his priorities, about moving things forward, and I would also point you to the readout of President Obama’s call that he did with President-elect Poroshenko over the weekend, where he stressed the importance of quickly implementing the reforms necessary for Ukraine to bring the country together and to develop a sustainable economy, attractive investment climate, and a transparent and accountable government that is responsive to the concerns and aspirations of all Ukrainians. So we will continue to work with them in the coming weeks on all of those areas of --

QUESTION: One of the reasons that I’m asking this question, because for a while you were raising the issue of the necessity of constitutional reform --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is – are there steps taken in that regard? Or it’s like --

MS. PSAKI: They’ve been ongoing and we anticipate they will continue.

QUESTION: There is another – my last question is regarding in the last 24 hours, once again it was raised the issue of the necessity or the importance to support or provide Ukrainian with the lethal weapons to face the reality, the so-called – whether you call them separatists or terrorists, do you have any intention or reviewing going on regarding this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has approved three tranches of nonlethal security assistance to the Ukrainian military and border services so far. We continue to review additional Ukrainian requests. Our main focus continues to be on supporting economic and diplomatic efforts. We don’t see a military solution as the outcome to this crisis, but we – and we’re not considering lethal assistance, but we’ll continue to review their requests.

QUESTION: Wait a second. You don’t consider a military solution? You don’t believe there’s a military – why are you saying that the Ukrainian Government has – is doing the right thing in going after the authorities of --

MS. PSAKI: Because we believe, Matt, that maintaining stability and order in their own country --


MS. PSAKI: -- they have every right to do that.

QUESTION: Right. But isn’t that a military solution?

MS. PSAKI: That is not a military solution.


MS. PSAKI: We still believe this will be resolved through dialogue between the parties --


MS. PSAKI: -- which is what we’ll continue to encourage.

Do we have more on Ukraine or should we go to a new topic?


MS. PSAKI: Do you have Ukraine in the back?


MS. PSAKI: Okay. New topic? Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Today, Pakistani and Indian prime ministers, they met in New Delhi, and the U.S. has been encouraging them – both countries to revive their dialogue for a resolution of outstanding issues. What is your reaction? And are you hoping that this meeting will lead to resumption of the composite – the comprehensive dialogue between the two countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the news of Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to India for Prime Minister Modi’s inauguration and their subsequent bilateral meeting. I would point you to both of their governments on the substance of the meeting between them, but broadly speaking, we continue to welcome any and all steps India and Pakistan take to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation, and we applaud any efforts between India and Pakistan to create economic opportunities for the people of both countries that can contribute to a more secure, stable and prosperous region. So we certainly support and applaud the news of the weekend.


QUESTION: A follow-up to --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as this meeting is concerned, if U.S. played any role before or during or anything in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no, Goyal.

QUESTION: And second, since Mr. – Prime Minister Modi is the new prime minister of India now, anybody attended from this building or from the U.S. Embassy as far as swearing-in ceremony was concerned?

MS. PSAKI: Our charge on the ground represented the United States at the inauguration.

QUESTION: And just a couple more on India. The first business of the new prime minister and the new government was to bring from outside the standing billions of dollars of Indian black-market money sitting by the corrupt Indian politicians. If – U.S. is going to help the new government to bring that money into India? I’ve been asking this for the last 15, 20 years, this same question.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as soon as we have our next bilateral meetings planned, we’ll talk about what’s on the agenda.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I ask why there wasn’t a higher-level delegation to the president’s inauguration? I mean, I look at some of the other inaugurations around the world, they’ve been --

QUESTION: Prime minister.

MS. PSAKI: Prime minister.

QUESTION: Prime minister, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Because typically with India inaugurations, there isn’t a high-level U.S. official sent or necessarily invited, so it’s typically attended by someone on the ground.

QUESTION: That’s keeping up with tradition? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: It is. That’s right.

More on India or a new topic?

QUESTION: I’m sorry --

MS. PSAKI: I think we need to go on, Goyal, just to get some more folks. India?


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, thank you, Jen. I’m just referring to my two colleagues’ question on Pakistan and India’s overture for a new beginning.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: My question is also related to Bangladesh because the new prime minister of India, Mr. Modi, has openly made it an overture that he wants to see Bangladesh, Pakistan on the same frontline in containing extremism, which is a very welcome sign. What is the position of the State Department in that regard, when Mr. Modi’s taking the extra mile, being from the BJP and being his background well known to the rest of the world? So how would you react to this overture of Mr. Modi in coming days and weeks and months?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we support efforts to address terrorism around the world, but I don’t want to speculate on events that haven’t yet happened.

Should we move to a new topic?

QUESTION: New topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Japan and North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. As you know, Japan and North Korea are now having official talks at Stockholm from 26. They are talking about abduction issues, which Japanese Government want DPRK to review again. Do you support these efforts from – of Japanese Government? And what’s the comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we work closely and we consult frequently with Japan on a range of issues, including North Korea. We are closely coordinating with them and we’ll continue to do so. I don’t know that I have a further comment, but maybe you have another question.

QUESTION: Are you asking Japanese Government to explain or consult a strategy, what the strategy of the official talks? Because as you know, DPRK didn’t stop any nuclear program and provocative action. Are you in the United States Government concerning about these talks, official talks at this moment?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not concerned. We consult frequently on North Korea policy with Japan and we expect that will continue. Do we have more on this specific issue, DPRK, or --

QUESTION: Same region but different topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So the Chinese and the Japanese fighter jets had a very close encounter over the weekend, and they’re each accusing each other of taking provocative actions in regards to disputes in the East China Sea. Do you have any comments about that skirmish?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I do. Let’s see.

Well, let me say first that – you’re talking about the planes flying --

QUESTION: That’s correct.

MS. PSAKI: -- clearly? Okay. Well, we believe that strong and constructive relations between countries in the region promote peace and stability – promoting peace and stability are in the interests and in the – of both countries as well as the United States. We encourage dialogue and diplomacy to resolve any areas of disagreement. That’s what we feel is the appropriate step forward.

QUESTION: And I’d like to move to the South China Sea, if that’s okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So a Vietnamese boat was sunk after a collision with a Chinese vessel in the South China Sea, and the Vietnamese have accused the Chinese vessel of intentionally colliding into the ship to sink it. So does the State Department have any comments on that? Do you assess that it was the fault of the Chinese for the sinking of the ship, or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware of the report of the sinking ship. We don’t have independent information on that front, and so we’re seeking additional information. We remain concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area by the Chinese. We continue to call on all parties to exercise restraint and take steps to lower the tensions and conduct themselves in a safe and, of course, professional manner.

QUESTION: And lastly, the Vietnamese media is reporting that the Chinese have augmented its South China Sea oil rig contingent with an attack missile boat and also a minesweeper. Has the State Department seen any indications to corroborate that?

MS. PSAKI: We’re aware also of these reports. We’re also seeking additional information. If China continues to maintain the rig and escalate tensions in these disputed waters, our position will remain the same, which is that these are provocative actions that continue to raise tensions and we’ll continue to express concerns at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) China?

QUESTION: You express concern about Chinese actions in the area; do you have any concern about Vietnamese actions? Do you believe that anything Vietnam has done is provocative?

MS. PSAKI: We --

QUESTION: I’m just curious if it’s both sides or if it’s just the Chinese who’s --

MS. PSAKI: It’s – the provocative actions have largely been from the Chinese side.

QUESTION: Okay. And then when you say you’re seeking additional information about this incident – from whom? From the Vietnamese, from the Chinese? Do you – from anybody?

MS. PSAKI: From any party that has additional information, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. To the – for – to what end? I mean, will there be some kind of consequence if it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, simply what I mean is we can’t confirm the details because we don’t have the – I don’t have those – we don’t have --

QUESTION: Okay. But it’s not like some kind of an investigation that could have a policy implication or something.

MS. PSAKI: No, I wasn’t inferring that.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, as these continue to escalate, that continues to be concerning to all of us.

More on this topic? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another topic on China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yes. I’m not sure you are aware of this. The Chinese assistant of Nikkei newspaper in Chongqing bureau in China was detained about two weeks ago. According to the explanation of Chinese press department – Beijing Chinese press department – was she was suspected making some trouble in society or something like this. And I did – it is reported that she’s tried to have a contact with Pu Zhiqiang, who is a very famous lawyer and activist for freedom of press or democracy. Yeah, actually the suspect is the same as the Chinese assistant of Nikkei newspapers. How do you and does the United States see these issues and have some comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are – let me see if I have anything on this specific case. I’m not sure that I do, so why don’t I talk to our team about that and see if we can get more clarification?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Scott?

QUESTION: Chinese oil rigs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re careful to say that the United States doesn’t have a position on these disputed waters.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a position about the location of this Chinese oil rig being – is it 150 miles off shore, and is it within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t take a position on the sovereignty, as you know, of this area, so that hasn’t changed. And I’m not going to speculate on kind of the distance between islands and what that means. Our issue here is about the provocative actions taken by the Chinese as it relates to the Vietnamese fishing boats and reports of aggression from their end. So again, we encourage the sides to maintain dialogue with each other, but we’re not going to weigh in on speculation about their location and what it means.

QUESTION: Just on China.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Different – just a little different. I’m just wondering if planning for the S&ED is continuing apace?

MS. PSAKI: It is continuing, yes.

QUESTION: It is? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

Any more on China? China. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just (inaudible) Assistant Secretary Kin Moy came back. Does he said anything about this ongoing cyber thing having an active impact on the upcoming S&ED, John Kerry, Jack Lew is going? And also, do you have a comment on China’s report yesterday on so-called U.S. Global Surveillance Record Report by the government international media research? Obviously, there’s a lot of trading of accusations. This report accused the U.S. not just targeting Chinese government leaders, but also companies. I mean, Snowden also said the U.S. spying is not just to – for national security but for the national interest as well.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me address your first question first. EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary Kin Moy returned last week from consultations and planning for the S&ED. Those were productive meetings, and they – he was – he certainly heard the concerns that they’ve had, that they’ve expressed publicly. But there are a range of issues that will be on the agenda, and planning is very much continuing as it relates to the S&ED.

I have not seen that report, so I can’t speak specifically to it. I can check and see if we have a specific comment on it. Our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs for our country. We collect signals intelligence exclusively where there’s a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose, and that is our process. But I will see if there’s more we have to add on that specific report.


QUESTION: And also on China, wanted to know if you saw and have response to a report from Friday that said a Chinese blogger who met with Secretary Kerry during his trip to China was arrested after he made critical remarks about Chinese propaganda laws and censorship.

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that report. As you mentioned, the Secretary did meet with a range of bloggers while he was there. He very much enjoyed the conversation. We would be certainly concerned about arrests of individuals for simply speaking their mind, but we can look further into that as well.

China, or new topic?

QUESTION: Can we stay in Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thailand. The situation seems to have gone from the temporary martial law to coup to indefinite coup with roundups of dissidents or dissenters. I know that Marie put out a statement over the weekend about the more restrictions and – or more curtailing of cooperation. Is there anything new? Do you have any new concerns about the situation?

MS. PSAKI: We remain concerned and we remain deeply troubled. We continue to urge the restoration of – a return to democracy through early elections.

We – I believe there was a question, so let me just address this, that came from Friday that I think I have an answer on, on FMF and IMET funding. It’s approximately 3.5 million in FMF and 85,000 in IMET. Most FMF assistance to Thailand consists of training and education programs. All IMET and FMF funded courses for Thailand have been canceled; no further ones are planned. There was also a statement from DOD this weekend on the suspension of some of their activities, but there’s nothing new today to announce.

QUESTION: So there’s no new – there’s no – you don’t have --

MS. PSAKI: No new suspensions.



QUESTION: But so the amount that was suspended last week remains the amount, plus --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- plus the DOD stuff that – but from the State Department, the 10 million --

MS. PSAKI: Ten point five – it’s approximate.


MS. PSAKI: And the reason that’s important is because that’s FY2013 --


MS. PSAKI: -- it fluctuates from year to year.

QUESTION: Okay. And then 85,000 IMET? That’s it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What did that – what’s that? One guy?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – I will get – let’s see. Thirty-three students actually participated in IMET --

QUESTION: Thirty-three?

MS. PSAKI: -- programs in Fiscal Year 2013.

QUESTION: In the U.S. And it only cost $85,000?

MS. PSAKI: We’re very efficient here.

QUESTION: Apparently. Or --

QUESTION: It must be very --

QUESTION: Eighty-five thousand? I mean, that’s probably not even enough to get – to pay their air fare.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure of the specifics of the – how many dollars and what they went to.


MS. PSAKI: If that’s of interest, I’m sure we can delve into it.

QUESTION: No, I mean, not really. But it just seems like a very small amount of money for – I mean, it’s obviously great value if they – but maybe not great value since they turned around and staged a coup after being trained. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And not very effectively.


QUESTION: Anyway, I would be – I mean, if you could find – I mean, that would be great to find out.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We can delve into that --

QUESTION: It just doesn’t --

MS. PSAKI: -- if there’s more information.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what other type of funding is up on the potential chopping block? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. So we provide a range of assistance, as you know, through bilateral, global, and regional programs. There’s 10.5 million in FY2013 funds from bilateral economic assistance and international security assistance accounts appropriated to the Department of State and USAID. That’s an approximation simply because, as you know, sometimes money is used in the following year and it fluctuates slightly from year to year. But it’s – that’s an approximation.

We provide funding through global and regional programs that include Thailand. And because all the money – those are programs that go to a range of countries, it’s going to require a little more time to compile an up-to-minute accounting of specifically how much from these programs. So that’s something that we are reviewing right now.

QUESTION: It doesn’t sound low that, like, you have a lot of economic levers at this point.

MS. PSAKI: That we don’t have a lot of --

QUESTION: Economic levers in terms of – obviously, the political relationship is important, but while in Russia obviously you’re talking about a lot of economic levers that you have. It doesn’t sound like the money is really going to be the issue which would turn the government or the military to change course.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think anyone’s preference in Thailand is for us to cut off any of the funding that we provide, so I would take that into account. Obviously, there are a range of tools we have at our disposal with any case like this – not just financial assistance but political relationships, international reputations – and we’ll work through all of them in this case.

More on --

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Nicole in the back, because – go ahead Nicole.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just had a China question.

MS. PSAKI: China?

QUESTION: I was wondering – yeah – if the Department had any comment on these reports that the Chinese Government is asking IBM to – or ordering IBM to stop using their own servers and use government-provided servers. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen that report. As we’ve said from the beginning, we expect the Chinese Government to understand that the Department of Justice’s May 19th announcement relates to a law enforcement investigation of individuals who have allegedly stolen intellectual property from the U.S. businesses. It doesn’t provide, in our view, any justification for retaliation against U.S. businesses or the U.S. Government. And we continue to believe that a dialogue about cyber-related issues and concerns we have and certainly concerns they have is the best path forward. And we’re hopeful that is one we can resume in the future.

QUESTION: Well, but do --

MS. PSAKI: Follow, Nicole? Go ahead. Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: I mean, also though, just the fact that you made this kind of declaration about this investigation, I mean does – would it give you any confidence to use government-provided servers, given that you’re looking at Chinese individuals for corporate espionage?

MS. PSAKI: Would the – it give the Chinese Government --

QUESTION: No. Would it – you. Would it give you – I mean, would you – even if you would consider such a move, I mean, would it – do you think that the U.S. should have any confidence in Chinese Government servers?

MS. PSAKI: In Chinese-issued servers?


MS. PSAKI: Well, we take our own range of cyber precautions around the world, but I don’t – I’m not sure – because these are IBM in China.


MS. PSAKI: They’re not here.

QUESTION: Right. But IBM is a U.S. company. So --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. So sorry, repeat your question. Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re asking.

QUESTION: No, I’m just wondering like – I mean, it sounds like on the face of it that would be – for any American company, given the fact that you’re looking into possible Chinese espionage, that you would not have any kind of confidence in their servers to begin with?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on that because I’m not a technology cyber expert up here. But --


QUESTION: All right. Hold on. Just on this. You said that the indictments don’t provide any justification for retaliation against the U.S. Government to --

MS. PSAKI: That’s our view, yes.

QUESTION: I understand that’s your view. But certainly you’re not surprised that this kind of thing is happening, and surely you knew or should have expected that the Chinese would, in fact, take retaliatory action whether or not it’s justified in your – in the mind of the Administration. No?

MS. PSAKI: Well, regardless, we don’t feel it’s justified, so that was the point I was making in response to Nicole’s question.

QUESTION: No, I understand that. But I mean, it just goes to the whole announcement of these indictments which are never going to be prosecuted. It seems to have invited retaliation even when – even if you don’t think it’s justified. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t feel it’s invited it. We feel that they should look at it as five individuals who allegedly --


MS. PSAKI: -- violated the law --

QUESTION: And last one on --

MS. PSAKI: -- and that’s why we’re going after them. Go ahead.

QUESTION: And have you had – made any progress in getting the Chinese to turn these five people over for prosecution?


QUESTION: Have you even tried since the --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you, Matt.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. I wonder if you could comment on the elections, although it’s been extended for one more day. And I’m sure you would probably want to wait until the results are out, but so far, do you have any comment on the conduct of the elections so far, the fact that it’s been very low turnout? Does that in any way diminish the outcome?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are waiting, as you noted in your question, for the conclusion of the Egyptian presidential elections, as well as the official announcement of the results. We’re also waiting for preliminary assistance by international observers on the ground, and so we’re not going to get ahead of the process.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re not concerned that there’s been such a low turnout and --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: -- certain disenchantment with the --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait for international observers and the elections commission to speak to that before we make any assessment from here.

QUESTION: Can we move just a little bit north?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Syria, back to the OPCW – not just that, but Syria in general.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The inspectors appear to be safe, but how goes the – their mission?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this specific mission was related to an alleged chlorine gas attack.


MS. PSAKI: I’m just – I know you know this, but I think it’s an important note. The OPCW will make a determination about how to proceed moving forward. Because this just happened today, I don’t believe they have made that assessment quite yet.

QUESTION: Okay. But – and you will go by what they decide – I mean, what they determine?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Whatever they determine as the way forward is – will be okay with you?

MS. PSAKI: I – we’ve been broadly supportive of them across the board, so --

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Now there are reports also that the President – the Administration is going to soon sign off on training for vetted – what – is there any truth to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long had a range of options. We have been clear that we see Syria as a counterterrorism challenge, and therefore certainly we factor that in in options we consider. The current policy approach continues to be strengthening the moderate opposition, which offers an alternative to the brutal Assad regime and the more extremist elements within the opposition. But I don’t have anything to convey or announce for all of you today.

QUESTION: When you say you see – or it presents a counterterrorism concern, that is because that limits your ability to support the opposition because some of them are a terrorist concern, or you mean --

MS. PSAKI: No, I was conveying that that is one of the factors that we look at when we’re determining what options we should discuss and consider.

QUESTION: But – yeah, I guess I’m – is it both the fact that some of the opposition are extremists --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and that – or is it also that – your belief that Assad is a terror magnet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the first has long been a factor for us as we consider options, and that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: You don’t want to do anything to – that might inadvertently help the extremists? That – is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that would put anything in the hands of those who should not have access. So that remains a concern of ours, has long been. So – but the point I was making here was more specific to addressing what we feel are the greatest challenges within Syria and how to take those on, and that’s a factor in our decision-making. But I don’t have anything to announce in that regard.

QUESTION: Right, okay. But I just want to make sure it’s a bit – so in addition to you not wanting to get – you not wanting the extremists to get their hands on any assistance, you also think that the moderates should play a role in combating the extremists? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, yes, yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s what I was --

QUESTION: So what do you consider a bigger threat at this point: the Assad regime to regional stability, or the extremists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our belief is that Assad and the Assad regime is a magnet for terrorism, and as long as he’s there, it is challenging to address those threats. So that remains a concern, and of course, all of the threats around it.

QUESTION: What does that mean, “a magnet for -- ”

QUESTION: But a bigger threat to the United – but a bigger threat to the United States national security?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think any growth of terrorism is a threat that we would be concerned about, as many countries would be concerned about, to the United States or any of our allies around the world.

QUESTION: Jen, what do you mean by “magnet for terrorists?” I mean, because he’s there, these terrorists go out to fight him? I mean, that is the logic behind what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: That we’ve seen a growth as he’s committed more and more brutality against his own people.

QUESTION: Right. It does not mean that he is on the side of terrorists, does it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we --

QUESTION: It means that he – they actually go there to fight him.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve referred to this frequently, Said, in the sense that since he has been --

QUESTION: Right. I’m trying to understand, what does that mean?

MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish that answer – brutalizing his own people, that we’ve seen a growth of extremism, a growth of terrorism, and obviously we want to combat that. But that’s what I was conveying.

QUESTION: But you don’t see this as potentially very dangerous for the region, every time you have a secular or semi-secular leader, would be a magnet for terrorists to start some sort of a fight in there or a civil war?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not – I was speaking to this particular case.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the attack on the OPCW team.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you assigning blame to anyone in particular? Not the government.

MS. PSAKI: We are not at this point, no.


MS. PSAKI: More on Syria, or --

QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: Just to come back, so is training part of that strengthening of the moderate opposition?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on the reports out there. There are a range of options that we’ve long been considering, but I have nothing to convey to you further on this point.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) the options?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to it any further than to convey there’s a range of options.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to clarify the – related to the international mission – chemical weapon mission in Syria that has some problem now, what was the purpose of the mission? It was chlorine? Chlorine?

MS. PSAKI: An alleged – chlorine, yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s not related to 7 percent what was left there?

MS. PSAKI: It was related to an alleged chlorine attack, yes.



QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Okay, Iran – or do you have one more on Syria, or --

QUESTION: No, Sudan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Iran, or --

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Alphabetical. Iran wins. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Or you could have said ladies first.

QUESTION: Or ladies first.

MS. PSAKI: Either one.

QUESTION: All right, ladies first. Ladies before Iran.

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll take that one, then. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Good. Okay. Nigeria.

QUESTION: Well, there are reports that the Nigerians have – know where these young girls are. What – is there any truth to that? Has the U.S. independent confirmation that – have you found the young girls?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have consistently said that locating the girls is, of course, the first critical step and that we’re actively working to support the Nigerian efforts – the Nigerian Government’s efforts to do just that. We don’t have independent information from the United States to support these reports you referenced.

QUESTION: This is the second time, I think, the Nigerian military has said they found the girls and there’s nothing to corroborate that. I believe the first one, they withdrew that statement. So does this represent a – should we take this as indication that the Nigerian military really doesn’t know what they’re doing?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t draw that conclusion. This is – we continue to support their efforts on the ground. They’re in the lead. Everybody is taking every step possible to find the girls and that’s what we’re all working towards – the same goal.

QUESTION: Well, do you think it’s smart that if they actually found where they were, that they should say that they found where they were?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, as a matter of policy and for the girls’ safety and wellbeing, we certainly would not discuss publicly this sort of information regardless.

QUESTION: So it goes back to Ali’s question that do they – was that really a smart move? And does that cast doubt on whether the Nigerians are – have the capacity, capability, professionalism to conduct any type of rescue mission?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it does. I think that’s the way we would handle it and certainly how we would recommend others handle it, given, as you’ve referenced, the safety and security of the girls, and are all – the goal we all share, which is securing their return, which is very challenging and we’re all working toward. But I would caution you against jumping to conclusions based on a statement.

QUESTION: A week or so ago --

MS. PSAKI: Nigeria?


MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Which comes before Nigeria in the alphabet.

MS. PSAKI: It does alphabetically, that’s true.

QUESTION: Yes. A couple weeks ago, or a week or so ago, you were asked by Arshad a question, a very detailed question about oil sales, Iranian oil sales. And at the time you said that you were confident that the average – the six-month average up till July was going to be okay under the million (inaudible). There are new statistics out now which show that that will be mathematically impossible, that keeping that average where you said it was – I mean, it can’t be done now because there’s been such a surge in their exports. Do you have any concerns about this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, not that I don’t take your mathematical word for it, but let me talk to our team and see what their view is. And I mentioned at the time when he asked, which I think was a couple of weeks ago, about some of the other factors that we take into account. So why don’t I take it and get a more fulsome – a better answer for all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: More on Iran or --


MS. PSAKI: -- Sudan. Sudan.

QUESTION: Yeah. Meriam Ibrahim, the woman sentenced to death for apostasy in Sudan gave birth to a baby today in jail. Her lawyer said that they didn’t even take Meriam to a hospital; she just delivered inside the prison clinic. Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is a case we’ve spoken out about frequently and strongly given our concerns about her treatment. That’s something we’ve done along with a range of our international partners. I don’t have any additional information or updates on this particular report today, but we continue to press the government to – for her release, and I know we’re joined by a range of people around the world.

QUESTION: When you say that you’re pressing the government, do you mean publicly or also is the Embassy working on this? Has the ambassador spoke to anyone at the foreign ministry? Has Secretary Kerry made any calls?

MS. PSAKI: I spoke to this last week, and we have been in touch with the government to express our – to make this – to make – press the case. Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry if I missed it --

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s okay.

QUESTION: -- but would there be any aid implications in terms of religious freedom, whether U.S. aid to the country might be in jeopardy because of this?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t want to speculate on that; not that I’m aware of at this time.

QUESTION: Sorry, is there still a Privacy Act waiver issue here?

MS. PSAKI: For her husband?

QUESTION: In this case?


QUESTION: On both? Well, I guess she’s not a U.S. – or she is a – or we don’t know, you can’t say. But there still is a Privacy Act issue – waiver.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes. Yes.

QUESTION: But the baby will be an American citizen.

MS. PSAKI: Again, this is a case where – and I can point you to all of the requirements that would need to be met. I have no other specifics I can talk about in relation to that given there’s no Privacy Act waiver.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Libya.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) just one question?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: Have you sought to obtain one?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we have made that effort, yes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Libya.


QUESTION: Do you have any update – I mean, after 72 hours, more than 72 hours now, any update about your assessment of what’s going on in Libya, or you contacts with what’s – with the different decision makers in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have, of course, been continuing to monitor the situation on the ground. We have been clear that credible elections are one of the most important steps that will increase Libyans’ confidence that their country is making progress toward a democratic and inclusive state. We continue to support Libya as it works to establish a – to establishing a democracy and achieving the goals of the February 17th revolution. We can recognize that Libyans – and we’ve also been clear that we are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict, and call on all sides to refrain from the use of force and to address differences by political means.

In terms of what’s going on on the ground, there’s an ongoing process of drafting – of the constitution drafting assembly. We continue to support that effort and we continue to work with our international counterparts around the world in steps to support Libya during this challenging time.

QUESTION: Are you still not having any contact with Hiftar?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s changed, no.


QUESTION: Just that – there’s no movement towards ordered departure at the Embassy, is there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to review the situation and address Embassy security needs, but I don’t have any announcements to make. As you know, any changes to staffing at any post would be announced through a travel warning.

QUESTION: And do you think --

QUESTION: Well, what about this warship, this U.S. warship that’s headed towards the coast of Libya for any contingency planning?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, I believe, announced that a week or two ago, and that was a step that was taken to be prepared to protect U.S. personnel and facilities in U.S. installations in North Africa, so that’s been in place. It’s a step we’ve taken in the past. But the reasoning – that was the reasoning for doing that.

QUESTION: And can you also confirm that there’s a (inaudible) Marine contingent in Sicily to do the same thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe Elise was asking about the same – this is a portion of a special purpose Marine Air-Guard task force crisis response that’s moved to a naval air station in Sicily, and this positioning was done in the event these resources are needed in the future. So it was taken as a precautionary measure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the assassination of a journalist in Benghazi two days ago, and the attack that – the prime minister residence has been targeted today?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on the journalist. I’m sure we can get you a comment on that after the briefing.

QUESTION: And the prime minister – the attack on the prime minister residence?

MS. PSAKI: On the residence? I’ll check on that as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about the EU elections, the European election --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yeah.

QUESTION: -- European Union parliament election.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Well, we offer our congratulations to the people of the European Union for the successful conduct of elections to the European parliament. We’ll watch with great interest as the new parliamentary leadership is established and we’re ready to work closely with the European parliament and other EU leaders. And we’re prepared to work with all political groups and leaders that support fundamental principles of human rights, democracy, and rule of law, and hope to engage EU leadership in order to keep this transatlantic relationship going in the future.

QUESTION: So you have no concerns about the rise of the Euro skeptics? Are you concerned at all that Europe has once again become the – disjointed and the place that you couldn’t get on the phone?

MS. PSAKI: We’re prepared to work with a range of leaders, and we’ll do that --

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but does the U.S. have any concerns about – of a potential fracturing of the EU, or were you always Euro-skeptical yourself?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any concerns that we have any plans to express, no.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: What is that – any concerns that you plan to express publicly, or you don’t have any concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’ll work with the range of officials who have been elected, and we’ll be in touch with them in the near future.

QUESTION: But are you afraid that this weakens the EU in any way?

MS. PSAKI: I was not suggesting that at all.

Any more? All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)

DPB #93