Press Availability With South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
Secretary of State
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. I apologize that we are running a little bit behind. There have been a couple of interrupting phone calls. And my distinguished guest, the Foreign Minister Mashabane, has been very understanding, and I appreciate that.
I’m very, very pleased to welcome Foreign Minister Nkoana-Mashabane back to Washington, and her delegation for the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and South Africa. I might add that this dialogue has now been going on – this is the third day of the dialogue. A great deal has been covered, and I will discuss that in a moment.
But before I do, I want to say a few words about the events in Syria and the impact it’s having, obviously, on migration in Europe. We have – all of us – seen the heartbreaking images of refugees from Syria and from some other places, but spurred on principally by what is happening in Syria, streaming into Europe, searching for some measure of security and safety in their lives. And we’ve seen an unbelievable effort by European countries to step up and to open up their borders in order to accommodate this extraordinary human wave of refugees. We applaud their generosity and we welcome steps by the EU to find a comprehensive solution to the crisis.
The United States is going to continue to do its part in many different ways, and I’m proud to say that we lead the world in refugee resettlement as well as in the financial contributions to the UNHCR. Recently, I started a working group here at the State Department under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken to develop additional options that we can present to the interagency and the international community, and we’re going to have more to say about the ideas that that effort is generating shortly. We’re also considering ways that we can increase overall refugee resettlement numbers. And as you know, President Obama just announced that for Fiscal Year 2016, the United States will bring in at least an additional 10,000 refugees from Syria. These are important measures, and as I said, we will likely take additional steps in the next days.
I also think it’s just an important that we remember the root cause of this crisis, and I will – the principal impetus for this mass exodus of human beings is the utter brutality of the Assad regime and the absence of any sense of hope or possibility of a safe future that people now feel after these years of conflict in Syria. This has fed one of the greatest extremist threats anywhere on the planet, and the scope and the secure – and the scope and the scale of the conflict that still rages in Syria itself.
That’s why we have put together an international coalition of more than 60 countries to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, which is a terrorist organization – nothing more – which continues to murder and maim innocent Iraqis, Syrians, people of one religious belief or another, people of one sectarian membership or another. And they kill at random for the purpose solely of achieving their power and forcing on people their choice of lifestyle. They have adopted rape not just as an instrument of war but as a method of life. They have cut off heads at random, shot people in the back of the head, destroyed cultural and historical sites, and clearly have demonstrated a ruthlessness, a level of depravity, that is shocking to everybody. They have to be defeated, and we recognize that. And the war in Syria must come to a close in order to deal with the crisis of refugees and of life where three-quarters of a nation has literally been rendered into displaced person status.
That mission cannot succeed through military action alone. We understand that. And that’s why we continue to work so hard to try to find a political solution to the conflict, one that leads to a transition inside Syria towards a government that can be responsive to the needs of the Syrian people and bring peace and stability, and unify Syria and keep it as a secular, single country. And that’s why I am communicating so closely with my counterparts in the region, in Western Europe, and Russia, because the answers do not lie in expanding a conflict but in cooperation and in dialogue and in finding a way forward.
This weekend, I’ll be traveling to Europe for consultations with key partners on this and on other topics. And I spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov again yesterday, the third time in less than a week. I made clear that Russia’s continued support for Assad risks escalating the conflict and undermining our shared goal of fighting extremism if we do not also remain focused on finding the political solution.
I also reaffirmed our commitment to fight ISIL with the coalition now in place, and that indeed we would welcome a constructive role by Russia in that effort. I also stressed that continued military support for the regime by Russia or by any other country risks undermining the security of Syria, attracting more extremists to the fight, and hinders the possibility of future cooperation toward a successful transition – unless done in an effective and constructive way.
President Obama has been clear there is no military solution to the overall conflict in Syria, only a political one. And I believe the opportunity still exists to achieve that goal with Russia’s help should they be willing to contribute in a meaningful way.
Turning to the topic of today’s meetings and of this meeting – and I thank our distinguished guest for her indulgence to allow me to say a few words about the Syria situation – I want to note that this year’s Strategic Dialogue with South Africa takes place a quarter of a century after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and is the first such dialogue since the passing of the Rainbow Nation’s most historic and beloved, revered president, who made such an impact on the world.
Few people in history have touched as many lives in such a positive way as Nelson Mandela. Beginning in his homeland but reaching all across the globe, he had a profound effect on so many of my generation. He had an effect on my wife Teresa when she was a young girl attending school in South Africa. He motivated her and her classmates to march on the campus against apartheid. He helped spark my daughter Vanessa’s interest in Africa and in global health, which she is now engaged in in many African countries. And he inspired a generation by his leadership, combined an unyielding commitment to justice with a profound ability to sense and respond to and call on the best of humanity in other people.
Mandela is gone, but his legacy remains as a challenge to all of us as we aspire to show or to try to show the same wisdom, the same loyalty to truth, and the same willingness to work together to build shared prosperity, to solve problems without violence, and to protect the rights and the dignity of citizens.
It’s with that spirit before us that we held our bilateral meetings over the last three days, and we had a lot to discuss. Events in Africa and the Middle East present us – all of us, but particularly South Africa, which has taken such an important leadership role in these years – they present us with a full plate of challenges. So it helps that we come to the table as partners and as friends.
Over the last three days, our working groups focused on three areas in particular: on regional security, trade and investment, and public health. On security, our countries are united in the desire to see a greater stability and peace throughout Africa. President Zuma and Deputy President Ramaphosa have shown real leadership in helping the parties in Lesotho to break their political deadlock and carry out elections. In South Sudan, the United States and South Africa are both strong supporters of the recent peace agreement, but we also know how fragile that agreement is. The world is watching to see if South Sudan’s leaders finally make good on the promises that they have made to put down the guns, allow more assistance to reach their people, and enable the restoration of a functioning political system. South Sudan has a great deal to learn from South Africa’s experience with justice and reconciliation. Across the continent, South Africa is a significant contributor to the UN and regional peacekeeping operations, a topic that will be a major focus of attention at the UN General Assembly session in New York later this month.
The foreign minister and I also discussed our growing economic ties. Each year, more than $20 billion in goods and services flow between our two countries. The number of American companies operating in South Africa has reached 600 – Facebook, Google, and Starbucks among them – with a total local employment of more than 100,000 people. So more and more, our partnership is driving shared prosperity in the region, and that’s a trend that could really gather added momentum from a recent 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
AGOA, as it’s called, was based on the idea that trade preferences would make possible a dramatic increase in economic engagement between the United States and countries across Africa, and that this would lead to a host of benefits – new jobs, training programs, incentives for education and innovation, greater opportunities for women, and African economies that ultimately were more economically competitive and diverse.
The United States is really pleased that South Africa has seized the opportunity to export high-quality goods tariff-free to the United States. And in our discussions today, we talked about the need for improved access for U.S. exports – of chicken, beef, and pork – in order for South Africa to be able to best benefit fully from AGOA’s generous trade preferences. That’s the very definition of fair trade that would best serve the interests of all, including South African consumers.
We’re also moving forward on energy security – and we discussed that this morning – and diversification. South Africa’s government deserves credit for promoting renewable sources of energy and seeking to diversify electrical – electric – electricity production. And we’re proud that U.S. companies, such as First Solar and SunEdison, are leading the change on wind and solar. Thanks to the contracts that they’ve signed, the United States has become the leading investor in clean energy in South Africa.
A third focus of our dialogue concerned public health. Through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief , or PEPFAR as it is known, we have invested more than 4.3 billion to fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Together, we have saved millions of lives. And in coming years, South Africa will be the first country in the region to fully manage the care and treatment program on its own. That’s a significant milestone. This is a vital transformation, but we all understand that our work is really far from finished.
In South Africa, young women are four times as likely as men to become infected with HIV, and we know that these infections are preventable. The foreign minister and I agreed that we have to do more to protect women, in part by changing the behavior of men, and by empowering women better through healthcare, improved access to schools, and opportunities for economic advancement.
Of course, economic, social, and health initiatives don’t operate in a vacuum. They are closely related to the quality of governance and the strength of democratic institutions. In the next couple of years, national elections are scheduled in some two dozen African countries. Five are scheduled for this October alone. As a leader on the continent, South Africa has been and can continue to encourage elections that are free and fair and peaceful and held on time, and the United States will echo that message in support of South Africa’s efforts.
In Africa, as elsewhere, there is a deep hunger for governments that are legitimate, honest, transparent, accountable to their people, and effective, and that is a standard that every country has to set for itself and look for in others. We should have no doubt that progress on democratic governance will lead to gains in every other field about which we share concerns.
In summary, the partnership between the United States and South Africa is healthy and active on both government-to-government and people-to-people basis. Going forward, we will continue to do everything we can to strengthen the economic, political, and security bonds that facilitate cooperation between our two great countries. I’m very pleased now to yield the floor to my colleague and friend, Foreign Minister Nkoana-Mashabane.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, thank you very much, colleague and U.S. Secretary John Kerry. And good afternoon to you, ladies and gentlemen of the media.
We’ve had a very fruitful interaction of our Strategic Dialogue, which has indeed confirmed very strong bonds of political, economic, and social cultural relations between our two countries, based on values and principles that we cherish – that of good governance, of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
We have agreed that we need more and more interaction to strengthen our bilateral relations. We are pleased that as we meet here, economic relations – economic and trade relations have expanded. And I want to agree with Secretary Kerry that, indeed, more than 600 American companies are operating happily in South Africa and are also complying to the rules and regulations as espoused in our constitution.
We’ve got very strong cooperation in the field of science and technology, which enhances knowledge-based and ICT relations. We are happy with other areas of engagement, in public health – that includes PEPFAR – and education, and we think this will take us a long way. This engagement that comes through health and PEPFAR not only benefits South Africans but also many other Africans who find themselves in our country.
We’ve also spent time discussing relations on the multilateral fora. South Africa believes as we do in the values that our founding father, and the first president of South Africa, referred to – that we are a multilateralist country. So we look forward to further engagement with other countries as we chair G-77 (inaudible) to a very, very successful COP21, working together with all other countries, including the U.S.
We are happy that Africa is back and has been confirmed to be the beneficiary, or continue to be the beneficiary, of AGOA, and all thanks to the government here and Congress and all other – all players on keeping South Africa on AGOA for the next coming 10 years. South Africa, as the most advanced economy, is able to export more than 98 percent of beneficiated goods and services through this program to the U.S. We are also pleased that the U.S. remains – U.S.A. remains the largest foreign direct investment in our country.
The working groups have also agreed on establishment of an energy cooperation group, which would also be looking at all areas that Secretary Kerry had referred to. As we speak now here, the Secretary for Commerce, Mr. Marcus Jadotte, is currently in South Africa leading a trade mission of more than 80 U.S. companies interested in trade and investment opportunities in our country with a mission that is referred to as Trade Winds – Africa 2015.
We welcome the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between your good self, Secretary Kerry, and our friends in Cuba. That has been long overdue. And we really would want to pledge that we will be standing by to give support so that even the trade embargo is removed.
I would want to confirm that we are a country that champions “diplomacy of Ubuntu.” Ubuntu simply means “I am because you are.” We champion cooperation and collaboration against competition. This is one of the values we share. We also know that peace, security, and development are intertwined. We know that there’s no way South Africans can sleep ease at night if the neighborhood is on fire, so we champion investments, trade, and peace and tranquil, not only for South Africa but for our neighborhood of SADC, for the East African community, for ECOWAS, for all parts of our continent.
We are engaged in many peace initiatives in our region – Lesotho, South Sudan, the DRC – we have soldiers there – and many other areas. We are looking forward to a debate also as we go to the UN General Assembly for the 70th anniversary of the UN, to check if indeed the world has become more peaceful and secure or has become more insecure 70 years on after the formation of the UN.
I agree with Secretary Kerry that, indeed, the events in the Middle East prove that the world has never become so insecure. I also agree that military solutions are not the answer, that we cannot solve political problems through military means. The example we have is of Libya, but if we did not choose to do what has taken place in Libya, we wouldn’t be having so many Libyans finding themselves again, as Secretary Kerry has said, with Syrians, with Iraqis, with Afghanistans, and many others from those parts – particularly, as I said, Libyans, Iraqis, Syria, Afghanistan – leaving their homes as migrants to nowhere.
I watched on television last night that indeed, these people are not going back home because there is nothing to go back home to, that they will keep moving because they’ve got nowhere else to go and they’ve got nothing to lose. So it says that, indeed, leaders need to sit up and think clearly that there is no military solution to any political conflict anywhere, be it in Syria or Libya or anywhere else. We all need to put our heads together and we are happy that you’re engaged with Russia to find political solutions to all these challenges, including that of Syria.
Syria has so much history that we all have to cherish. The destruction that’s going on there, it’s not good. As a mother, I know that I wouldn’t sleep tight if my kids are not sure of their next meal. We need to make sure that 70 years on, people who are moving move because they want to, because at the end, the real victims become women and children. This migration we see, it’s not desirable, it’s unwarranted, and shouldn’t have happened if global leaders would have focused on political solutions to political challenges.
We pledge that you will find us ready to work with all peace-loving leaders of the globe to continue engaging and never get tired of re-engagement and more dialogue and more dialogue so as to avoid the calamities and this fast migration of those levels that we – that which we are seeing at the moment.
South Africa is a signatory of all UN-related refugee-related migration issues. We have been receiving migrants in South Africa or asylum-seekers who get fully integrated in our societies. We do not have camps reserved for people who come from somewhere because we know the pain of staying in camps during the time when we were fighting for freedom and Mandela was in jail. But at the last AU summit which we hosted in South Africa, one of the outcomes was can we please not only focus on accommodating people, but making sure that only those who want to move, move; those who want to stay home are allowed to do so in peace and tranquility.
I really want to take this opportunity once again to say these kind of interactions, these types of dialogue, particularly between two democracies that have values that we share needs to continue, and I take this opportunity once again to thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much.
MR KIRBY: Our first question today comes from Elise Labott of CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, I’d like to follow up on your comments about your discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov and that the Russians – you want to work with the Russians on a political transition. We’ve seen in recent days there are 6 Russian tanks, 36 armored personnel carriers, other equipment which can be constituted as a lethal, mobile armored force that does suggest that the Russians are gearing up for some kind of military action. So clearly, their actions on the ground belie their comments that they are working towards a political solution.
I’m wondering what it says about the relationship with Russia that in three phone calls, you still can’t get a straight answer from the foreign minister about what the Russians’ intention are on the ground. And how do you intend to get the Russians to voice their intentions?
Foreign Minister, I’m wondering – I’d like to follow up on your comments suggesting that the migrant crisis would not be as fulsome as it was if global leaders could meet. What do you mean by that? Do you mean that if there was more action on Syria that you wouldn’t see Syrian – as many Syrian refugees and – or do you mean just in countries in general that there should be more leadership around the world? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Go ahead.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, I watched – there’s nothing much to watch. CNN is the one news agency that one has access to in the hotel where I stay, so I’ve had on CNN – watched on CNN a comment made by President al-Assad that he will be ready to step down if Syrians say so and that if it’s done through a political process. Standing here, I do not know of any military intervention that has brought about political solutions of the problems.
I started with Libya because we were in the Security Council and coming in as a nonpermanent member for the second time. We took a resolution popularly known as Resolution 2033 that particularly for issues of peace and security on our continent would want the African Union to have the first (inaudible). That did not happen. Bombardment of Libya happened. And what we do have at the moment is there’s no – as much as we recognize one sector of that which referred to as government, reality is Libya is in turmoil and risks becoming a failed state. So if indeed that which you are referring to in Syria – of other countries wanting to come in with tankers and other things – it means that the end is not near – if, in particular, Russia, the USA, who are members, permanent members of the Security Council, are not talking more and more political solutions – we will not see the end to this. But I am encouraged by the fact that Secretary Kerry says there are heavy discussions with his Russian counterpart, Minister Lavrov. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, Elise, I think the foundation of your question, actually, is incorrect. I don’t know where you got the idea that I didn’t get a straight answer. I never suggested that and I didn’t say that. I’ve had three conversations and I’ve had a number of very direct answers. The question is are the actions of the Russians going forward going to keep faith with those answers, and is there a process in place --
QUESTION: But I didn’t hear a straight answer, though.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, no. Well, it depends what you mean by “straight answer.” A straight answer is they say specifically that they are focused on ISIL and that they’re going in to do that. Now, obviously, there are serious questions about that. I’m not taking that at face value, because we look at the type of airplanes or the type of munitions and so forth, and it obviously raises much more serious questions about what is happening. But the Russians proposed in the conversation I had today and the last conversation specifically that we have military-to-military conversation and meeting in order to discuss the issue of precisely what will be done to de-conflict with respect to any potential risks that might be run, and to have a complete and clear understanding as to the road ahead and what the intentions are.
So words will not answer all of the questions here; it’s actions and it’s what will be determined going forward in very specific ways, but you have to have a conversation in order to be able to do that. And it is vital to avoid misunderstandings, miscalculations, not to put ourselves in a predicament where we’re supposing something and the supposition is wrong. So I think you have to in this kind of situation make sure that you’re dealing with reality, and that’s only going to happen through the kinds of discussions that have been proposed.
So we are currently evaluating. The White House, the Defense Department, the State Department are discussing the next steps in order to determine the best way forward in order to have a clarity about this road ahead.
It is also true that if Russia is only focused on ISIL and if there is a capacity for cooperation, as I discussed a moment ago, that there still is a way forward to try to get to a political negotiation and outcome. And in the conduct of great nations, particularly nations with enormous power, it is important to make sure you thoroughly explore those possibilities and don’t come to a rash conclusion that’s based on erroneous judgment.
So we’re going to do that, and we’re proceeding down the road to make a – to fully understand and to make clear our concerns and our limits. I might add that one of the conversations I had this morning was with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think it is public knowledge that he has announced he’s traveling to Moscow. He will be having a discussion directly with President Putin in order to underscore the concerns that Israel shares, that we share, that other countries in the region share about not mistakenly winding up actually making things worse rather than better and attracting more terrorists rather than defeating terrorists.
So all of these concerns need to be thoroughly discussed, as they will be in the days ahead, and I’m confident that there still is a path here for a diplomatic solution. And I think given the fact that everybody says there is no military solution and given the fact that everybody says they are committed to a political resolution, the challenge now is to make good on those statements. And that’s what I will be exploring with my counterparts in Europe this weekend and every day in the work that we do here in the State Department.
MODERATOR: The next question is from Kate Fisher, CCTV.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you. Two U.S. senators have just written to President Zuma.
SECRETARY KERRY: Can you put it --
QUESTION: Hello. Hello. Sorry.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, bring it closer. Thank you.
QUESTION: Two U.S. senators have just written to President Zuma to ask him to resolve the remaining issues that are blocking U.S. poultry exports into South Africa. Can you --
SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t know if you’re having as much trouble; I can’t hear.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: I have the same trouble. I can’t hear.
SECRETARY KERRY: Could we --
QUESTION: So like that? Sorry. Hello. Is that better?
SECRETARY KERRY: Much better.
QUESTION: Two U.S. senators have just written to President Zuma to ask him to resolve the remaining issues that are blocking U.S. poultry exports into South Africa. Can you reassure him that that will happen before the end of the year, which was what was agreed in the agreement that was struck in Paris earlier this summer?
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, the – if you’re referring to the same letters that I know of, one of them came from Senator Coons --
QUESTION: Exactly them.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Yes. We responded to that through our negotiators of AGOA between the two governments. And the conclusion came that which we are now referring to after all consent groups’ issues have been taken into consideration, including that of South Africans, not just of the senate of this side, because this is about partnership.
So where we are now, we note that there was a meeting about a day ago in South Africa, and I’ve seen the minutes, which are taking us forward. And the 65,000 tonnage of chicken portions -- boned chicken portions that were to be exported to South Africa has already also been attended to and agreed to.
QUESTION: So they will be allowed in before the end of the year?
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: It’s a done deal.
SECRETARY KERRY: Can I just mention from our point of view, this is the cornerstone of our trade relationship. And we believe very, very strongly in AGOA. As everybody knows, the current bill that passed the Senate for the renewal of it includes a review of the South Africa eligibility issue, and the House of Representatives were waiting for action from them. We have had a discussion about how important it is for South Africa itself to define the future road by responding to the concerns that have been expressed about U.S. exports. And I’m confident the minister, as she said, is committed to that, and so we hope to proceed forward very smoothly.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: I just thought maybe I should have emphasized that I agree with Secretary Kerry that ISIL is an enemy of all peace-loving democracies in the world, be it in the Middle East, U.S., or Africa. Extremism of any sort that which even wishes to (inaudible) countries need to be fought with all we have. But above all, we need to win the hearts and minds of our people not to join these extremist groups. So there we speak with one voice.
MR KIRBY: The next question will be from Brad Klapper from the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. I have a question for both of you as well. First, Madam Secretary – Madam Foreign Minister. Picking up on your comments on Libya, can I just ask you straight out: Do you think it was wrong for Western and Arab countries to have intervened militarily and overthrown Muammar Qadhafi’s regime?
And also, since you stress that political solutions are necessary in all disputes, or so it seemed, could I elicit your views on how you think a political solution might work with the Islamic State, or Boko Haram, for example?
Mr. Secretary, given the threat of a new nuclear North Korean rocket and nuclear tests, how do you engage Pyongyang at a time when you are also warning Iran of severe consequences if it violates its nuclear commitments? Can you do outreach to North Korea right now without also sending a message to Tehran that breaking nuclear agreements and developing atomic bombs wouldn’t, in fact, prompt devastating consequences but will yield more diplomacy instead?
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, let me start with Libya. We all had a discussion, as I said. We were serving as non-permanent member of the Security Council at that time. And – but the African Union presented a roadmap, an AU roadmap to a political solution to Libya. And the arrangement thereof was also about how the late Qadhafi was prepared to step aside at that time for them to form a government of national unity. I think the interpretation of responsibility to protect civilians brought about that which is now history, and I don’t think there was a clear plan that beyond that, what is it that was going to come in and take place? And it’s almost – more than five or six years since, and Libya is still a mess. So we believe that should we have followed the AU roadmap, which was very much part of Resolution 1973 – that which we also supported and adopted – maybe things would have been different. This is not the time for a blame game, but it’s the time to say, “What do we do now?” Because Libyans just want to carry on with their lives and they want a stable government that would unite them.
I do not see the comparison between what has happened in Libya with Boko Haram. Boko Haram should be fought, and we all agree, because it is an extremist group that seeks to unseat a democratically elected government. Now, in Africa, we have established African response mechanisms to such kind of challenges. We will be having or conducting African – Amani Africa military exercise, which will take place in South Africa by the end of this week – this month, September, and beginning of October in South Africa. But also, it is not just other countries that will be participating this, but also countries that have signed on what we refer to as African capacity respond to crisis.
So if there are intentions by some extremist groups who are trying to unseat a democratically elected government, we will work together to defeat them, but we do not seek to introduce regime changes through military means. That’s what I referred to earlier on, and that’s what I was saying – it’s important that we work together to resolve political problems politically. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: So I completely agree with my colleague, just to take a moment there. There is no negotiation with ISIL – none whatsoever – and I think everybody agrees on that. And that is why more than 60 nations have come together to defeat it, to destroy it, and I’m convinced ultimately that will happen.
With respect to the North Korea nuclear program and Iran, Iran made a fundamental decision that they wanted to change their direction, end their isolation with the world, and that that was more important than pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The North Korean Government has not made that decision, and the same policy about prevention of having a nuclear weapon – denuclearizing – remains the policy of the United States. There’s no difference. And there will be severe consequences as we go forward if Iran – if North Korea does not refrain from its irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional concerns, make the region less safe, and refuse – if it refuses to live up to its international obligations. Our position is clear: We will not accept a DPRK – North Korea – as a nuclear weapons state, just as we said that about Iran.
Now, Iran made a different decision. Kim Jong-un and North Korea have not made that decision. And so we, together with our Six-Party – with our other allies in the Six-Party effort and others in the world – will continue to put pressure on North Korea in order to get them to come to a place where they understand that their people and their country can never move forward until they have lived up to their international obligations. It’s that simple.
And it was sanctions, broadly applied and accepted, that helped Iran to make an important decision. It may take more than sanctions with respect to North Korea because of its almost total absence of a legitimate economy, but nevertheless, we are talking with China, we are talking with Russia, we are talking with our friends in South Korea and Japan and elsewhere about how to proceed forward in a way that can find a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to North Korea’s violation of all of the UN Security Council resolutions which have been passed to affect its behavior.
QUESTION: What are those severe consequences? What are the severe consequences?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re incrementally being applied at this time, Brad. I mean, they’re already – China, for instance, has taken serious steps in the last year, year and a half, since we engaged China on this subject specifically to encourage them to do more, and they have. They’ve taken trade steps. There has been no meeting between North Korea and its high leadership and China. There have been four or five meetings between China and the South Korean president. So I think that there is a process by which additional pressure is being applied to the North. And obviously, I think we’ve already had discussions about the potential of what may have to now be done, if indeed the DPRK’s media reports and others prove to be true regarding their nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and the plutonium production reactor facility also near Yongbyon.
So we will see what evolves, but I am convinced – I spoke again – this was one of the topics, by the way, in the conversation with Lavrov. We did not only talk about Syria. We also talked about North Korea. We talked about Ukraine and other issues. So there’s a lot happening, and I can assure you that all of these countries remain fixated on the need for North Korea to denuclearize with respect to its weapons program and to live up to its international obligations. And we will continue to calibrate, as we did with Iran by the way, the increase of particular choices that are available to us in an effort to get back to talks.
MODERATOR: The last question goes to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Sherwin Bryce-Pease.
QUESTION: Thank you, Clayson. Madam Minister, I’ll start with you. I’m sure you’ve seen the ruling by the full bench of the high court in Pretoria this morning ruling that the government acted unconstitutionally in denying the government’s request to appeal that ruling allowing Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa earlier this year. The judges ruled that the government notice issued under the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act basically didn’t override the government’s commitments made in terms of the Rome Statute. How do you react this afternoon to that ruling in South Africa?
And Secretary Kerry, if I may, the State Department at the time expressed its disappointment that South Africa allowed President Bashir to leave. It urged the South African Government at the time to arrest Sudan’s president. But more broadly, there’s an increasing number of instances and cases where the United States and South Africa differ on human rights questions, particularly certain states and certain individuals. I wonder, sir, if you could characterize the ever-evolving relationship the United States has with South Africa, particularly on the question of human rights.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Let me start with that, Sherwin. We have very, very strong bilateral relations with the U.S. We have values and principles that we cherish. We also have a responsibility to support peace and security, which augers well for development in the African continent and beyond. These are some of the values we share. The United States of America is not a member of the ICC. We are. So specifically on the issue of the case you are referring to, the government is busy studying the outcome, and we definitely would take the matter up at the appropriate time.
Let me also just say that we both have, ourselves and the United States, embassies operating in Khartoum, because we have other responsibilities to work with them together with South Sudan, the nascent state, for it to achieve stability and move forward in a more secure and developmental manner.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me say look, no two countries in the world, even those that are linked together in more defined and longer terms serving mutual security agreements, other kinds of agreements, are going to agree on everything, on every single instance of every case. And there are some differences. We are not a signatory – we are not a member of the ICC. Some countries hold that against us, and others understand why that position has been taken by us. But it doesn’t diminish our mutual commitment to the rights of people to express themselves, to be free from unlawful imprisonment, to be tortured, to – all these other things. We may have a difference in – also in terms of a particular leader of a country’s status with respect to issues that are more immediate and to how one country perceives they need to deal with that particular person and that country versus the options that are available to us across the Atlantic Ocean far away from the continent living in a different set of choices.
So I don’t think either of us get particularly alarmed about the reality of some of these kinds of differences that exist in many, many different places. But in no way does it detract from the fundamentals of our relationship, from the depths of our commitment to freedom, to democracy, to our people, and to the many things on which we cooperate every single day – on women and girls, on the freedom – on education, on the PEPFAR program, on security issues, on peace initiatives with respect to South Sudan, with other – with Burundi, with other challenges of the region.
That’s the mark of mature nations, and I think South Africa is exercising important leadership. We disagree here and there on a particular choice or another, but we’re going to find a way to continue to see this relationship grow and blossom in its importance, and we respect and need South Africa’s leadership on the continent and the world. And that’s why we’re here having three days of a dialogue.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Thank you very much. That concludes the press conference.