FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON MARIE HARF
TOPIC: FOREIGN POLICY UPDATE
THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2014, 3:30 P.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: (In progress) great pleasure to give you, once again, Marie Harf.
MS. HARF: The intro keeps getting shorter. I like it. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to my regular briefing here. It’s always good to be back. My book barely fits back here, by the way. It’s good to be back and see everyone.
It’s a busy time in the world. As you know, Syrian Opposition Coalition President Jarba is in town today, met with the Secretary – actually is in town all week – met with Secretary Kerry just a few hours ago. The President just returned from a trip to Asia, where he met with a number of our closest allies in the region, discussed a number of issues related to our policy there. Secretary Kerry just returned from a seven-day trip to Africa, where he worked on a number of important issues, including a trip to South Sudan, where he talked to the folks there on the ground and tried to make, hopefully, what will be some progress going forward.
Obviously the situation in Ukraine is ongoing. I’m sure there are lots of questions about that. Next week we go to Vienna for the next round of comprehensive talks with Iran over its nuclear program. So there are a lot of items on our agenda, I’m sure a lot on your minds as well. So I’m going to open it up for questions now.
And in a little change of pace, I’m going to start calling the questions. So I know most of you, but when I call on you, can you identify yourself and your outlet, just so I get to know you even better as we do this? And there’s’ a microphone, so please wait for it.
Yes. We’re going to start here, my friend from Poland.
QUESTION: Marcin Wrona, TVN Poland. Hi, Marie. Good to see you.
MS. HARF: Good to see you as well.
QUESTION: Marie, Senator Mark Kirk introduced a piece of legislation which is called the Russian Aggression Prevention Act. And this piece of legislation he writes that it would require the President to accelerate implementation of missile defense in Europe. So my question is: Would the Administration at all consider speeding up this program so that it could be fully operational before, I guess, 2018 is the deadline here?
MS. HARF: Thank you for the question. I haven’t seen the legislation, so I can’t comment on that specifically, but a few points on missile defense I’ll make. Our commitment to missile defense remains unchanged. We are committed to it. We are actually also working – committed to working with the Russians, if we can, on missile defense. I know they have some issues with what we’re doing, but we’re still open to having that conversation.
You’re right. The next phase here is – on October 28th – excuse me – the last phase was when we broke ground on phase two of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. That’s in Romania. In terms of Poland, we will deploy a missile defense in Poland in the 2018 timeframe. As you mention, this is part of our European Phased Adaptive Approach. So we have a timeline. We’ve implemented some of it, and we will continue implementing it through 2018.
Again, this isn’t designed towards Russia, right. Our missile defense is designed towards the host of ballistic missile threats we face. Obviously we’ve talked a lot about Iran when it comes to the threat from their ballistic missiles. So we’re on track and don’t have any plans to change it as far as I know. But we’ll take a look at any legislation and work with Congress on that.
Yes, right here on the right. I’ll just go across the front row.
QUESTION: Hi. Chen Weihua, China Daily. I just wanted to ask – there is a sort of perception that the – you and President Obama’s message in Asia, or – the U.S. message actually has emboldened a country like maybe the Philippines or Vietnam taking more confrontational attitude. So what’s your view on that? How --
MS. HARF: Confrontational attitude towards what?
QUESTION: Sort of the South China Sea issues. And how the U.S. – I mean, its message try to strike a balance – I mean, like maintaining a good relation with China. At the same time I know U.S. want to sort of strengthen ties with its allies or maybe partners. Thank you. I mean, maybe you want to touch on the recent sort of dispute with Vietnam, I mean, these days. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Great. Thanks. There’s a couple questions in there, so I will try to answer all of them. Well, one of the key messages I think that the President brought on his trip and that we’ve all made is that we want claimants on these issues in the South China Sea or the East China Sea – I know they’re all a little different – to resolve their disputes peacefully. We don’t take a position on these competing claims, but that all countries need to work together.
And one of the things we’ve been very focused on is putting in place some rules of the road, right. Obviously, it’s important to solve these disputes under a set of guidelines for how we do so. So we’re working with folks on that as well.
When it comes to – you asked first about the Philippines. One of the things that we announced out of that trip – the President actually announced that we have agreed to an enhanced defense cooperation agreement, which really upgrades and modernizes our alliance. So we work very closely with the Philippines. Again, on territorial disputes we think folks need to work together to resolve them peacefully. We don’t take positions on the underlying claims. We just want to see it resolved in a peaceful manner.
Your third question was on the Vietnam-China issue. Are you talking about the oil rig operations? Well, we’ve put out some statements on this. We did say in these statements that China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters that are disputed with Vietnam is provocative and it raises tensions. And these are exactly the kind of steps we don’t want anyone to take. We don’t want people to take provocative steps that could lead to miscalculations. We don’t want people to take steps – any steps – that raise tensions. So we’ve encouraged countries, like China in this case, not to do so. We also don’t want there to be dangerous contact or intimidation of vessels operating in these waters. Obviously that would be a provocative step.
And we don’t see – finally, I think to your last question, and tell me if I’ve missed any – it’s not a zero-sum game. We believe we can work with China and that we need to have a good partnership with China. You’ve seen, starting with the President on down, engagement at very high levels to forge a new kind of relationship moving forward. Obviously our alliances in the region underpin what we do there, right. And these aren’t mutually exclusive; we can do all of them at once, and we are doing all of them at once.
Did I miss anything?
QUESTION: But China really seems to be very different (inaudible) Vietnamese ships actually trying to sort of ram on the oil rigs. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Well, China’s decision to introduce this oil rig was an action we call provocative. And we would not anyone to take provocative actions in response. But that’s part of the reason that we believe steps like this are very dangerous, because they can lead to miscalculations, they can lead to further provocative steps, they can lead to further escalation. And what we need to see in the South China Sea in exactly the opposite. We need to see these disputes resolved peacefully, without provocations, without any ways that people could miscalculate and misinterpret what’s happening.
Yes. I’m really just going to go across the front row, and then I will go to the rest of the room.
QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. I’m from Vietnam Television. Just keep following one of my colleague’s questions about the conflict in the South China Sea.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And we – from the perspective of international law, how does the U.S. Government see the move of – China’s move in the South China Sea recently? And --
MS. HARF: Are you talking about a specific move or moves plural?
QUESTION: The oil rigs and --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- operation of the oil rigs and also the armed vessels in the South China Sea, especially in Vietnam’s EEZ. And the U.S. has stated again and again that it has interest in maintaining security, stability, and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. So if China keeps this kind of acts in the time to come, how will the U.S. Government react to the move, which it called provocative and unilateral?
MS. HARF: Well, this --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: No, thank you for the questions. And they’re important ones. This last unilateral action with – which we’ve talked about, including their decision to introduce the oil rig, but also the accompanying vessels – is really the latest in, I think, what we can now say is a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that really threatens peace and stability in the region. And it’s exactly what you asked about.
The reason we care about this is because we believe peace and stability in the region is important and that we believe these claims should be resolved in a peaceful manner. And attempts like this to change the balance on the ground, outside of international law, is what we believe threatens that peace and stability.
So I know sovereignty over these specific islands – the Paracel Islands – is disputed. This incident occurred, I believe, in waters claimed by both Vietnam and China near those islands. And what these events really highlight is the need for these claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law. Again, it’s rules of the road. It’s how we resolve these disputes. There’s mechanisms to resolve them, how we resolve them, without taking actions that are escalatory in nature and the need to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and actions in these disputed waters.
So we need them to work together on this. It’s something we care very much about. Obviously freedom of navigation is incredibly important. The ability for countries to work through these claims, again peacefully, is really what underpins so much of what we do there.
Yes. I’ll do the front row, then I’ll do New York, and then I’ll go to the rest of the room.
QUESTION: I’m also Vietnam Television. I want to follow up the question about the South China Sea, because it seems that the Obama Administration is now, like, having so many issues dealing with so many other region, and especially with what Russia does in Ukraine. So it’s really the worry that maybe China, they keep making some more – even more provocative actions in the South China Sea. What would the U.S. do to prevent it?
MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s probably the part of your question I didn’t answer, and I’m sorry about that.
Look, I don’t want – I don’t have any specific predictions to make about what we will do or not do in response. What we’ve done consistently, as we’ve seen now this broader pattern emerge, is to push China to resolve these issues through the mechanisms that are in place through international law not to take provocative steps, speak out very clearly when anyone does – including China – but also work with the Chinese Government directly and push them to resolve these in a peaceful manner.
We work with them on a whole number of issues, but this is one we talk about every time we meet with Chinese officials – how we resolve claims in the South China Sea, how we deal with issues in the East China Sea, how the countries in the region can work together. It’s something we’re constantly talking about and pushing the Chinese and other countries on – to be fair, not just China. There are a number of countries, as we know, who are involved here. So we’ll keep having those conversations. I don’t have any specifics to preview for you on what we might do, but this isn’t about us. This is about the countries in the region resolving these together.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: I’m guessing this is not about the South China Sea. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Mix it up a little bit.
QUESTION: Thank you, Marie, for coming over, and thanks to our friends at the FPC as always for doing this, hosting the event. My name is Andrei Sitov. I am with Tass, the Russian news agency. Obviously, I am interested in Ukraine. If I may, my question is in three parts here.
MS. HARF: Okay. Let’s do one. I’ll answer --
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah.
MS. HARF: -- and then you can have two more.
QUESTION: Okay. There --
MS. HARF: Just so I don’t forget.
QUESTION: Right. That’s easy, of course. The Ukrainian regions have just turned down Putin’s call – President Putin’s call for a delay in the referenda. I guess that underlines their insistence on being partners in this dialogue on the future of the country. This has been supported by many people, including Chancellor Merkel, as Putin – President Putin said. Are you aware of --
MS. HARF: What has been supported? The dialogue, not the referenda?
QUESTION: The dialogue, obviously.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: As President Putin said, Chancellor Merkel suggested to him a roundtable format for that, and he says Russia supports that. Are you aware of that initiative on the German part, and what is your attitude to that?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, first, on the May 11th referenda, we’ve made very clear these referenda are illegal, they’re illegitimate, but they’re – more importantly, they’re illegal under Ukrainian law itself, which has said that any decisions about Ukraine’s future, any part of it, must be made by a country-wide vote. It’s the same thing we saw in Crimea. So we’ve urged President Putin to go beyond calling for a postponement, and really to endorse the democratic process.
In terms of the roundtables and how we go forward from here, obviously, we believe – we strongly support roundtables in Ukraine that enable participation of a broad cross-section of Ukrainian society, because the future of Ukraine is for the citizens of Ukraine to decide. I know there are different formulas for what that might look like, but we certainly support very strongly the concept of Ukrainians sitting down together and talking about what their future might look like, and then of course, on May 25th, going to the ballot booth and voting on what that future might look like.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Question two.
QUESTION: Marie, yes. The second part of that question is: To have any dialogue, any meaningful dialogue, you need to stop the violence first. And of course, the Kyiv regime at this point stands accused, and I think was obvious proof that they’ve – they are fighting their own people, they’re burning their own people, they’re committing atrocities. So they, of course, say that – basically, that people burned themselves.
Is this an acceptable explanation in your eyes? You called on May 2nd for a full investigation of what happened in Odessa. Is this explanation that they provide acceptable for you? Are you calling for pulling back the troops? Thanks.
MS. HARF: Well, in terms of the Odessa situation, we did very strongly condemn the violence that took place. I’d just make a few points on that and then make a few broader ones as well.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has called for a full and thorough investigation into what happened in Odessa. We fully support that. Second, they’ve already taken action to fire, I think, the police chief in Odessa who was responsible for much of what happened on the ground there. So they’ve already had some accountability, and I’m sure as we investigate, there may be some more.
It’s worth remembering how that started – that pro-Russian separatists, people who support the pro-Russian separatist movement, attacked a peaceful protest. Now, the police certainly – so that’s how it started, but what happened after that, certainly there needs to be accountability for on the Ukrainian side. And there already has been with the firing of the police chief, and the Ukrainian prime minister himself, Yatsenyuk, has promised to investigate this and take any further steps. So we fully support that. There is no place for any of this kind of violence on either side, and we will condemn it when either side does it, to be fair.
In terms of broadly speaking, we want Russia to use its influence with the pro-Russian separatists to get them to live up to the Geneva agreement which they signed on to, right, to pull out of buildings, to lay down their arms, to come out of the streets, and, separately, to pull back their troops from the eastern Ukraine border, to take de-escalatory steps of that nature. We’ve seen some of the words from President Putin, which we would obviously welcome any steps to back up those words by Russia to defuse tensions, certainly.
So we’ve seen the remarks – if implemented, if followed through on, certainly would be a good thing.
QUESTION: So on the other hand, what about the armed forces that – the army that is used against its own people?
QUESTION: Are the Ukrainians? The --
MS. HARF: I mean, the Ukrainian Government has a responsibility to provide security and stability in its own country, and the Ukrainian military is not being used against its own people. It’s being used to provide peace and stability and security when there are separatists – armed, dangerous separatists, many of which are supported by Russia – taking escalatory steps.
So again, on the Odessa piece, we’ve condemned that. We said there needs to be accountability. In that case, there’s already been some, but broadly speaking, the Ukrainian Government has the responsibility to protect its own people.
QUESTION: So somehow, it didn’t in Kyiv, but okay.
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: My last part of that – okay, yeah, it wasn’t --
MS. HARF: Well, when the previous government --
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) didn’t --
MS. HARF: -- the one supported by Russia --
MS. HARF: -- under Prime Minister Yanukovych, fired on their own people – I’ve stood in the streets of Kyiv with Secretary Kerry and seen where the Government of Ukraine, at that time led by Mr. Yanukovych, killed their own people in the street. Yes, I’ve seen that, and that’s exactly why we have this government in place now, and why there need to be elections on May 25th, so the people of Ukraine can stand up and say, “We’re not going to be governed that way. We’re going to be governed differently now.”
Okay. Last question, then I need move on to other people.
QUESTION: Yeah, and I understand. The last is simple: On the election on May 25th, I think Toria [Ambassador Victoria Nuland], who was asked yesterday about this – Yatsenyuk called for support, for experienced people in running elections in war-fighting countries, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toria said that you will be doing this. Can you elaborate on that? What are you planning to do? Thanks.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Thank you for that. I know these are questions a lot of folks have, so thank you for asking them. We are providing – so the – just in terms of election assistance and monitoring, the United States is providing a total of 11.4 million to support free and fair elections in Ukraine. Our funding will help the OSCE observer missions and also support approximately 255 long-term observers and 3,330 short-term observers through local NGOs on the ground. This also includes a high-level delegation from the U.S. that’s being organized by the National Democratic Institute.
The OSCE election monitoring agency has already deployed 100 long-term observers to Ukraine and will deploy 900 short-term observers on May 20th. This will be the largest OSCE monitoring mission in the organization’s history. The United States will provide approximately one-tenth of those observers. Those 1,000 observers will be joined by more than 100 members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including some members of Congress.
So basically, we’re providing support in a number of ways, and the elections will go forward on the 25th, which we think is a good thing.
QUESTION: But the USAID also announced an additional million now.
MS. HARF: Oh, okay. Well, there you go. USAID is also helping, I’m sure. Yes, basically, we’re doing everything we can to help.
Yes, and then I’m going to go to New York after him. Yeah. Sorry, we will get to you. I promise. You look great on the screen. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Back to Northeast Asia. My name is Sungchul Rhee with SBS Seoul Broadcasting System from Seoul, Korea. Last couple of days, Chinese – one of Chinese Communist leaders, Wang Jiarui, was in D.C. and I understand that he met with Secretary of State John Kerry. What is the new message from China or from Pyongyang via Beijing to the United States with regard to North Korean nuclear issue, on whether it is – on possible nuclear test or rejuvenating Six-Party Talks? And what is the response from the United States, Secretary Kerry?
MS. HARF: Well, thank you for the question. They did meet. Without getting into too many specifics about what they talked about, North Korea is obviously always a topic we talk about with the Chinese, for a couple of reasons. The first is that China has unique weight it can bring to play in terms of pushing North Korea to come back to the table, come back in line with its international obligations, and working side by side with China we are to work towards our goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
So we have seen some provocative steps taken by North Korea recently. We would obviously encourage them not to do so, encourage them not to take further escalatory steps of any kind, whether it’s nuclear related, whether it’s missile related, whether it’s artillery related – none of those steps – because they just inflame tensions in the region when what we need to see is the opposite.
So what we’ve said repeatedly is North Korea has a choice to make: They can continue with the escalation, with the rhetoric, with the tests; or they can take steps to fulfill their international obligations. We haven’t seen movement thus far, but that’s what we’re working with China with on a daily basis.
QUESTION: What was Mr. Wang’s perspective?
MS. HARF: I would let him probably convey his own message to you.
Okay, we’re going to go to New York, and then I’m going to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Yoshita with Press Trust of India here in New York. This is a question about India, given the elections that are coming to an end there. How does the U.S. hope to engage with India to take the relationship forward, also with giving the possibility that it could be the new government and India could be led by Narendra Modi and his BJP Party?
MS. HARF: Absolutely, and thank you for the question. It’s a great one.
First, obviously, we would congratulate the people of India on their incredible national elections. I think there’s something over 800 million eligible voters who go to the polls over this multi-week process which I am sure many of you are following closely, often in very remote and very challenging conditions. And it’s just really an amazing example of democracy in action. I’ve learned a lot about it recently, obviously, and think it’s pretty incredible.
Obviously, I’m not going to comment on sort of internal Indian politics, but I would say a few points. Obviously, we look forward to continuing to work with India on a whole range of issues with whoever is in the next Indian government, whoever ends up being a part of that government. Obviously, we’ve talked a lot recently about issues that we can work together on. Our bilateral trade has grown to nearly $100 billion and there’s more room to keep growing. That helps not just India but also Americans, American businesses, American workers here at home.
So that’s certainly one place we want to continue to work together. Another is on people-to-people ties. We have something like 113,000 Indian students studying in the U.S. just this year, which I think is second only to China maybe, if I have my statistics right. So certainly at the people-to-people level, we think there is great room to keep working together, again, which benefits both of our countries.
On all of these issues we’re going to keep working together, whoever the winner ends up being. So we will continue watching the process and we will wait and see.
Yes, I’m going to go here and then I’m going to go around the room.
QUESTION: Irina Gelevska, Macedonian TV. I have a question about the Western Balkans region in Europe. President Obama is not going to visit any of the countries in the Western Balkans during his trip to Europe next month. Also there are rumors because in the budget for 2015 some of the Voice of America services in the Balkanian (ph) language are closed. Does this mean that United States of America is losing interest in the region, having in mind that there is still unfinished business with NATO, EU integration of some – most of the countries?
MS. HARF: Well, I absolutely would not agree that we have lost interest in any way. I think you’ve seen for more than 20 years really our engagement in the region has been driven by a desire to support the aspirations of Western Balkan states as they integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. And just because the President’s not going there doesn’t mean in any way that we’re not still very focused on it. We’ll continue to engage in these issues, certainly believe the best means of ensuring long-term prospil – prosperity and stability – I tried to combine those two words – is by having closer ties and working together on these issues.
In terms of NATO, NATO’s door remains open for all European democracies that want to join the alliance, are in a position to further its principles, and can contribute to the stability and security of the Northern Atlantic area. So these are conversations we will continue having. This isn’t one of the topics that will be the main themes for the 2014 summit, but it’s an issue we’re certainly focused on all the time.
Yes. Okay, I’m going to go the back and then I’m going to come up to you. I’m going to jump around now.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this. Thank you to the Foreign Press Center. My name is Xavier Vila and I work for the Public Radio Headquarters in Barcelona. My question is regarding Scotland. I would like to know what would the U.S. calculus – would it change should Scotland become independent in September? And linked to that, as a general policy, does the U.S. support the right of the people to cast a vote to become independent eventually? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, thank you for the question. It probably won’t surprise you that we think this is an issue that needs to be handled – I know there’s a whole internal process for how people vote on this issue, and the United States isn’t going to take a position on this. Certainly, we work very closely with the UK, certainly, and Scotland – it was the first place I went overseas when I was, I think, six years old, so I personally have a soft spot in my heart for Scotland. But we’re just not going to take a position. The United States obviously thinks – knows there a process. We’re going to keep working with the UK, and don’t have much more for you than that.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Just I do understand that, but I assume that you’re working should something happen in terms – for instance, in a nuclear issue, I mean, would the U.S. nuclear posture change should Scotland become independent?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture into that hypothetical at all. And I didn’t answer your last question on VOA. I’m sorry about that. Obviously, VOA has its own structure through the Broadcasting Board of Governors, as you know, but we support VOA, work with – they come to the briefing, certainly believe it’s an important voice in many places around the world to get out another outlet for press, I guess I would say. So I haven’t looked at the budget specifically in terms of that cut, but obviously, we think VOA is an important voice.
Yes, I’m coming up to you.
QUESTION: Manar Ghoneim, Middle East News Agency, Egypt. I have two questions, in fact.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: The first question: Yesterday, press reports said that the United States had nominated a new ambassador to Egypt, and Egypt has agreed on this nomination. So what’s your comment on this, please?
MS. HARF: We haven’t announced who our new ambassador will be to Egypt yet. I expect we will in the coming days very shortly, and I’m sure whoever that is will be very well-qualified. But I know – I know there’s lots of reports out there. When we have an official announcement to make, we will.
QUESTION: Okay. The second question is regarding Secretary Kerry African tour. He had been to Ethiopia, so did he discuss the issue of the dam, the Ethiopian dam with the Ethiopian officials? And is – the United States is ready to mediate in this issue between Egypt and Ethiopia? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Thank you for the question. We do support productive dialogue and compromise among all parties within the Nile Basin on this issue and want to see an all-inclusive process that results in a Nile Basin commission that includes all of the countries that are parts of, I think, what you’re getting at right now, including, obviously, Egypt and Ethiopia. We think that this is a very important issue, obviously, that needs to be resolved between the parties themselves. We’re obviously happy to talk to everyone and help in any way we can, but this is really for them to decide between themselves.
I don’t know if the Secretary raised it during his trip to Ethiopia, but suffice to say this is something we’ve talked to officials about. But it’s something they need to figure out between themselves.
Yeah. Yes, I’m going to go right behind you. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Stefan Grobe. I’m with Euronews European television. My question is: How comfortable are you with President Putin’s intention of attending the D-Day celebrations in Normandy and the French Government’s readiness to host him? And do you think this is consistent and compatible with the spirit of the anti-Russian sanctions and the decision to kick Putin out of the G8? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, they’re not related. Our current differences, very strong differences, over Ukraine notwithstanding, the fact remains that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, and many others united 70 years ago to defeat Nazism. So in terms of this historic event honoring those who sacrificed to bring peace to Europe, obviously, we think we should all be able to attend. I don’t think we’ll probably be having a meeting with President Putin. I think the White House may have already spoken to that, so I’ll let them do that. But commemorating an event where we actually came together and united to defeat such a brutal enemy is something that we think should go forward.
QUESTION: I think this is the first time that a Russian – I think this is the first time that a Russian president attends any of these big D-Day celebrations.
MS. HARF: Oh, really? I wouldn’t know, but – why?
QUESTION: Again, are you comfortable?
MS. HARF: Well, like I said, we all – I mean, in a short word, yes. I don’t think we’re going to be meeting with him, given what’s happening and given that we’re there really to commemorate D-Day and what happened in Normandy. But this is an event where we can all look back in history and say we came together and united to fight a brutal enemy, and that the peace and security of Europe hung in the balance. And we were able to come together and do so together, and that’s worth commemorating even given what we’re going through right now.
Yes, I’m going to go here to you.
QUESTION: Hi, Marie. Florens Herbst with German television.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Another question to Mr. Putin: How is this crisis with Ukraine going to lead to a shift – a long-term shift in the relationship with President Putin and with Russia, not just now, not just this year, but in the long run?
MS. HARF: Well, I think actually what you’re getting at here is probably the most lasting impact of this, right, and how I think in the long term we can actually work to change Russia’s calculations, right. Because what we’ve said is every day that goes by that Russia does not de-escalate, does not pull back, that takes further escalatory steps, is another day where we grow further apart on this issue, and where the consequences and the costs become greater.
So if you talk about sanctions, sanctions aren’t designed to work overnight. That’s not how they work. Every day they’re in place it hurts President Putin’s friends, President Putin’s partners, and the Russian economy a little more. So in the long term, if Russia and President Putin continue down this path, Russia will be isolated. They will be by themselves. They will be pursuing a path that is not what the rest of Europe and the rest of the world wants: the notion that people can pick their own leaders.
That fundamentally underpins what we’re doing Ukraine, that another country in 2014 doesn’t get to do that for someone else. So what I can is – look, we work together on a whole host of issues. When it comes to Iran and the P5+1 talks, obviously – which I go to and do the press for – it hasn’t impacted our ability to work together there. And we don’t want it to, because this is something that’s very important to Russia, preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
So we’re going to keep working with them there, and we will continue working with them on other issues where we have mutual interests. But I think longer term, it really remains to be seen what kind of Russia President Putin wants, what role he wants Russia to play in the world, and whether he will live up to the international norms that underpin what everyone else around the world does.
QUESTION: You just mentioned Iran, and Syria would be probably another example of cooperation. How --
MS. HARF: Sometimes cooperation, sometimes disagreements, yeah.
QUESTION: How bad is – let me put it like this: How much are your hands tied because of the necessity of working together with Putin on Syria, on Iran? Or in other words, would you act differently if you had not to cooperate with him on so many important issues?
MS. HARF: No, I don’t think so. Look, on Syria, Russia has been very helpful in terms of – particularly with the chemical weapons – getting us to a place where we almost have all of Syria’s chemical weapons to move out of the country. So they’ve been incredibly helpful there. We want them to do more, but they’ve been very helpful.
On other parts of Syria we think they could be more helpful, quite frankly. But I think one of the things that’s really underpinned this President’s Administration is the fact that we do better and are more effective when we can work with our partners. I think you saw before this President when we attempted to go it alone at times, and you just don’t get as good a foreign policy when you have to. And we – to be clear, we will if we have to, right. Where we have to go it alone, whether it’s on counterterrorism or other issues, we’ve shown willing to do so.
But I think what has underpinned so much of what the President’s done that even when it’s hard and even when it’s complicated and even when we don’t agree on everything, if we work with other people, we’re more effective, often, in promoting our goals. On sanctions, being able to bring the world together on Iran sanctions is what made them so effective. Because we were able to get Russia on board, we were able to get China on board, we were able to get other countries on board. So that’s why you work with other countries, because it’s in your interest to do so and because it makes – often, often better policy results.
Yes, let’s go right next to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Devika Bhat from the Times of London. On the question of the kidnap of the schoolgirls in Nigeria --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- we’ve heard statements from Secretary Kerry, from the Pentagon, from the White House. The Pentagon sending in less than 10 troops, I think it is. Could you talk a bit more --
MS. HARF: I think those numbers are a little low. I think we have new numbers for you, but go ahead.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Could you talk a bit more about (a) the numbers, the types of personnel accompanying those troops – is it a case of working with the – obviously, you’ve got people on the ground already there.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So how many new people are going in and who are they? Is the FBI going? And secondary to that --
MS. HARF: Let me do that first, then you can follow up.
QUESTION: Okay, sure.
MS. HARF: So I don’t forget. So obviously, how this interdisciplinary team we announced yesterday will work is there are a lot of people already on the ground from a bunch of different agencies, and folks from D.C. will supplement them going forward.
So in terms of the Department of Defense, they already have about 50 to 60 military personnel in Nigeria: Embassy security, Office of Military Cooperation, the defense attaché staff. So they will send a group from AFRICOM of about 15 to 20 folks to supplement who we already have there. The core of the group is members from the Office of Security Cooperation who are permanently assigned, and the AFRICOM staff officers will sort of make that more robust.
And what they’ll do is work with the Nigerians to determine what their needs are and how we can provide assistance and help. We’re not talking boots on the ground at this point, but there are a variety of ways we can assist and help there. The team – the additional folks could arrive within the next 48 to 72 hours from DOD.
In terms of the FBI and other folks, obviously, we already have folks – some folks on the ground. And what we’re going to assist with there is particularly things like hostage negotiation, forensics. If you think about it, many of these girls have likely been moved out of the country, and they’re probably in much smaller groups. So this is a very tough challenge. They – the Nigerians have expressed interest in intelligence and information support. We’re seeing if there’s something we could do there.
So – and our Embassy, obviously, will be coordinating all of this on the ground. So to underscore, this is a Nigerian-led rescue – search and rescue operation, right. This is the Nigerian Government’s responsibility to find these girls. But we are committed to helping in any way we can. It is horrific to watch what they’re going through there. Also, in terms of the girls who’ve already escape, providing victims’ assistance. That’s something that USAID and others do as well. That’s a key part of this, what happens when they come home.
So we’re going to help in any way we can. I think the Nigerian Government knows time is of the essence and we need to get to work.
You had a second question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Great, thank you. So fair enough that this is a Nigerian-led operation, but yourselves, Britain, France are getting involved in this. So I just wondered if you could talk a bit more about the conversations you’ve had with Britain, with France about how a potential operation might work.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly been talking to them as well. I know they’ve offered specific things. Again, we’re not talking about boots on the ground here. We’re talking about advice, assistance; sort of other capabilities we can bring to bear.
But the point I think that’s underscored here is that other countries around the world see how horrific this is and want to help, because this is a really tough challenge. And to be clear, our assistance to the Nigerian Government to fight Boko Haram didn’t just start 25 days ago when these girls were taken. We designated Boko Haram in 2013 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The year before we designated a couple of their leaders, which meant their assets were frozen here. They couldn’t use financial institutions in this country.
We’ve helped the Nigerians with counterterrorism, with law enforcement, with capacity building so they can do this better. And we’re going to keep doing that. So we’re going to do a lot now, but what we’re really looking at as well is a longer-term goal here. Because Boko Haram has shown that they are willing to go – to stop at no lengths to perpetrate this kind of really horrific violence.
QUESTION: Can I just clarify – you have spoken to Britain and France about this?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh, certainly. We speak – yes. Yes.
MS. HARF: We speak to them all the time about a host of issues.
I’m going to go in the back here to this woman with the sunglasses on her head. Sorry. I don’t know how else to describe people.
QUESTION: Hi. Teresa Bouza with EFE, an international news agency from Spain. I would like to ask you: How confident are you that the elections on the 25th will be taking place --
MS. HARF: In Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: And on corruption, it has been a huge problem in Ukraine for more than two decades. I wonder what are you doing to make sure that the U.S. aid is being used in the right way, and do you have any specific plans to work with the new government that comes from the elections – if they take place – to fight corruption? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Absolutely, absolutely. We are confident the elections will take place on the 25th, because they have to. They need to. This is how the people of Ukraine stand up and say, “We get to pick our future.” And that’s, again, what underpins so much of what we’re doing there.
In terms of – you’re absolutely right. Corruption is a huge problem, and the current government is really coming out of decades when the previous government really did a lot of damage in terms of corruption. They are committed to fighting it; they know it’s a problem. We want to help them. There’s a variety of ways we’re working with them in terms of fighting corruption, particularly in terms of recovering assets. I know we’ve done a lot of work with them on that – assets that have been moved around illegally, some out of the country – and we will work with the next government to do the same thing and really push them to understand how big of a problem it is.
QUESTION: And what about (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: Oh, right. Right. No, that’s a good question as well. Obviously, we’ll continue watching and monitoring it, but we have been clear that this current government has been very outspoken against corruption, and we will be diligent, as we always are, when we’re talking about U.S. taxpayer dollars in terms of how it’s used.
Yes. Let’s go to the gentleman from Pakistan, I believe, on the end. Yes.
QUESTION: I’m with Pakistan’s Geo TV.
MS. HARF: I will learn all of you names, I promise. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’ve got two questions for you. Ambassador Dobbins was in Pakistan a few days ago, and he was quoted saying that that there’s mistrust between the United States and Pakistan. What mistrust was he talking about?
And secondly, there’s a rift going on between state institutions and media, and it’s been hinted that it’s basically the civilians and military that are up against each other. How do you see that?
MS. HARF: That who’s up against each other? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: The civilian government and the military establishment.
MS. HARF: In terms of what?
QUESTION: The power-grabbing and imposing their own will on each other. That’s what’s going on. But especially, we have the media – the rift with the media that started.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Could you comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, on the media issue, I spoke about this a little during World Press Freedom Week, I guess, last week, was it now? We have been incredibly concerned about the atmosphere in Pakistan for journalists. Obviously, we’ve seen instances of violence, attempted assassinations. We have been very concerned about it. We’ve spoken up repeatedly about it.
And there’s just – Pakistan has a choice to make now, and if they are as committed as they all say they are to – or many of them say they are – to having an open space for dialogue, this intimidation, this violence, these attacks just need to stop. And we’ve called repeatedly on the government to investigate these instances when they’ve happened. So I think we’ve been very forceful in our message there.
In terms of the first question, look, on our relationship with Pakistan, we’ve worked very closely. Secretary Kerry has worked very closely with the government when he was a senator and now as Secretary of State on our relationship with Pakistan, whether it’s on issues of energy, on – security issues, obviously, which is probably the most concerning issue. We have worked very closely with Pakistan to be clear that we want to help them. They face a threat from terrorists more than probably anyone else in the region, right? I mean, Afghanistan, obviously, has a huge issue, but terrorists based in parts of Pakistan have killed more Pakistanis than anyone else. So that’s why we’ve worked really closely with the government on these issues and will continue to do so.
And I think that you’ve seen the Secretary speak after his meetings about the relationship improving, particularly under the new government and coming – newish, not new anymore – but really coming into a better place.
QUESTION: But Ambassador Dobbins said that there’s mistrust. So what mistrust --
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see the ambassador’s full comments. But you’ve heard Secretary Kerry talk about the fact that we need to work together better, that he believes we have done so under the Pakistani – current Pakistani administration, and understanding that we have had some moments in our history, particularly recently, where there has been some mistrust, and that’s why we want to work together so there isn’t.
I’m going to go right to the right of you.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Son Taek Wang. I work for YTN. It’s a cable TV news channel in South Korea. My question is about the second American citizen being detained in North Korea. What did you do to take care of this person until now? I remember it is a week ago. And then, did you find out why he went there and what – is he really wants – get the asylum in North Korea or something?
MS. HARF: Well, American citizens around the world – their safety and security, obviously, is of utmost concern to the State Department. So wherever one needs our help, obviously, we attempt to provide that. In this case, we’re obviously aware of the reports, but because of privacy, unfortunately, I can’t talk about much more on this case. Again, I will say, generally speaking, anywhere someone is being held, we take every effort to try to return them home to their family. I just can’t speak more about this case.
Yes. Come up here. You’ve been waiting very patiently.
MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s coming.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a --
MS. HARF: Who are you and where you’re from?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Atheer Kakan from Anadolu Agency. What do you say about the withdrawal of the Syrian opposition from Homs? How Bashar al-Assad recently, like – I mean, yesterday or today, regained Homs?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d say a few points. The first is that you could just look at the pictures coming out of Homs, and they are horrifying. I mean, it is – the leveled buildings. It looks like a ghost town. It’s really, really, incredibly sad to see them. Look, we’re not going to do a battlefield update with every movement. We’ve said that there’s no military solution here. So what we need is for the parties to come back to the table and actually negotiate a political transition. Now, that’s very hard, and the situation on the ground is very dire.
So in a place like Homs, obviously, there are going to be ups and downs on the battlefield and territory will change hands. That’s, I guess, how it works, unfortunately. But in any area, we have said whoever controls it, they need to provide humanitarian assistance. That’s been a huge problem in Homs. They need to provide access for people to get that assistance in. And they really need to stop the brutality against their own citizens, which, unfortunately, in Homs, we’ve seen at an extraordinary level that is really just gross.
And so look, the battlefield situation is tough. People will take and retake and lose and gain territory, but that underscores why there’s no military solution. We’re not going to solve this on the battlefield.
QUESTION: But you know, like, Bashar al-Assad refused to go, like, to the negotiation table in the first place.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And this – and secondly, like, he’s been embargoing Homs. So two points that you are not achieving here by letting Homs fall by --
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make – let me answer your question --
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m sorry.
MS. HARF: -- and then you can follow up. You’re playing the role of Matt Lee here. I like it. (Laughter.)
So the first is that in terms of the diplomatic process, we had the two rounds in Geneva, and we are not going to have a third round unless the regime is willing to come to the table and actually talk about the real issues we need to talk about. So that’s why we haven’t had one, because you’re absolutely right, the reasons this negotiation has not made more progress is because of the regime, period.
And I think it underscores the difficulty of achieving a diplomatic situation in a scenario where a brutal dictator is both willing and able to brutalize his people like this, like we’ve seen in Homs. That is just another level of violence that it’s really hard to stop. And so what we’ve been working towards, what you heard the Secretary say, is that we need to change his calculation so he will come to the table.
Now, there are a variety of ways we want to do that, right? At the same time, we do things like fight terrorists in Syria and help the opposition fight the terrorists in Syria, because that’s a huge and growing and worsening problem.
QUESTION: Yeah. The other thing is Sigrid from the United Nations on the chemical weapon said that 8 percent of the chemical weapon we could – has been inaccessible because of a security reason. What do you have to say about this?
MS. HARF: Well, we have said that the regime needs to provide access to these sites. We have, I think, about 90 percent loaded and ready to go, and we’re still waiting on that last part of it. So the regime needs to provide access. They committed to do so. And a unanimous Security Council resolution made clear they had to do so. And that’s why we’ve pushed, again, going back to the questions about Russia, we’ve been working with Russia on this, and we’ve asked Russia to keep pushing the regime to get this done. Because if we can get the chemical weapons all out of Syria, that will take away an incredibly threatening element of the situation there. It doesn’t mean the rest of the killing isn’t horrific; it just takes away that element from his arsenal. So we’ll keep working on it.
QUESTION: Last one is: There are reports that Abbas, like, agreed to go back to the negotiation table, like, with the --
MS. HARF: We’re skipping to Middle East peace?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m really sorry.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: Abbas, like – reports said that Abbas, like, told Rice that he’s ready, like, to go back to the negotiation table on conditions. What do you have to say about this?
MS. HARF: Well, we do have a senior team right now in the region led by the National Security Advisor Ambassador Rice – Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is with her, as are other folks as well – meeting with a variety of folks on the ground. In terms of Middle East peace, where we are right now is we’re paused in the negotiations because both sides took steps that got us to this place, that created a climate where the talks couldn’t go forward right now. Both sides, to be clear – the Palestinians and the Israelis.
So what we’re doing, quite frankly, right now, is assessing the situation: Is there a path forward? We’re having conversations at the White House, with our folks, all of us together, trying to determine if there’s a path forward, because we did make progress in that nine months, and we know that we need a two-state solution here with two states living side by side in peace and security. The Israeli people want it. The Palestinian people want it.
We need to keep making tough decisions here, but we can’t make the decisions for them. We need President Abbas to, we need Prime Minister Netanyahu to. That’s what we’re seeing if we can get right now.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: Thank you.
Yes. Let’s go to this woman right here. Yes.
QUESTION: Hi. On North Korea, please.
MS. HARF: Where – tell me your outlet.
QUESTION: Miho Takashima, Tokyo Broadcasting System.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: And on North Korea, it seems like the sense of alertness for the South Korean side is leveling out in the – the last couple weeks, and one of the defense minister has mentioned that he assesses that North Korea is on its way to the final preparation stage, phase, for the fourth possible nuclear test. And I understand that you cannot get into the intelligence, but knowing that, can you – is there any way you can describe how – like a sense of how much you share this overall assessment, or how much do you share this sense of alertness with the South Koreans? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Well, you’re right; I can’t get into the intelligence underpinning our assessment for what we think we will happen, but a few points. The first is we are in very close contact with the South Koreans about all issues related to North Korea. Again, the President has had many conversations, the Secretary has had many conversations, because we share their concern about the destabilization of the region that happens when North Korea takes these escalatory and very provocative steps. So we obviously don’t want North Korea to do any of this. As I said, nuclear missiles, artillery – they need to refrain from further provocative actions. We are in constant communications with the South Koreans on this, also the Chinese, others in the region and our other international partners. So we’ll keep watching it and we’ll respond if they do something.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Did you also go to Jen’s briefing today?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: No? I see. Well, I feel honored.
QUESTION: I like your briefing. That’s why I’m here. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Thank you. Yes, now I’m going to answer whatever you ask me, so go for it. Ask a good one.
QUESTION: It’s a few follow-up on the Indian elections.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I was happy to see that you have been following, so what is your judgment? Was it free and – free and fair?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, the Indian people have a long history of having really robust and great elections, and I think this is the latest in a long line of them.
QUESTION: But in the earlier question there was a name mentioned, Narendra Modi.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Today early morning, like last night Indian time, he was on our channel and he said that the Indian response to any threats from across the borders will be dealt with, and we might have new borders. How do you look at it?
MS. HARF: I didn’t see those comments, actually. I’m sorry I missed your interview. I need to go look at it now. Yeah, don’t – so I don’t, unfortunately, have a comment on it.
QUESTION: Okay. Then the other one was in their manifesto in their talks, they have talked about revamping, re-changing their nuclear policy. So what the State Department is doing to go ahead with that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’re doing right now is waiting to see the outcome of the election and to see what the government looks like. And we’ll work with whoever it is, and we’ll talk on the whole range of issues we always talk about, and I think we’ll take issues as they come then. I don’t want to get ahead of the process of the election.
QUESTION: And the last one is on – if anybody is prime minister this question doesn’t arise, but if Modi becomes the prime minister this question arises. As we know that you prepare months ahead for a visit, so you must be preparing for the next prime minister’s visit to the U.S. If Modi is the prime minister, will you invite him? How are you going to solve his visa issue?
MS. HARF: As I said, we will work very closely with whoever is the next prime minister of India, I can guarantee you that. I’m sure we will have meetings here. I just don’t have anything to preview for – we’re going to have to wait and see what the results are of the election. We see this as a weeklong – weeks and weeks long process, and at the end of it I’m sure we’ll talk more.
Yes. Who hasn’t had one yet? Yes, up front, and then I’ll go to you in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you. Nice to see you again.
MS. HARF: You, too.
QUESTION: I also escaped Jen’s briefing today.
MS. HARF: You – guys, very – I’m very flattered, thank you.
QUESTION: Everybody think it seems like you are very kind to the foreign press.
MS. HARF: Yes, I’m always happy to come here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Let me go back to South China Sea and Chinese issue.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I think there is – it seems like there is still huge gap in each issues between China and the other countries, for example the recent oil rig China claimed it is not our provocative action, it is not because of – because of China, we are victim, we have no choice to react or something like that, we are not wrong, the other side is wrong, something like this.
I know you know that Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel and Daniel Russel or lots of U.S. senior official visited China and talked lots of things every time. But still our international community cannot stop these actions from China, like oil rig and ADIZ and numerous action in disputed area. So my question is: What the United States thinks the Chinese intention in these area? And I think we’re going to have ASEAN Regional Forum this summer, ARF, and Secretary Kerry is going to visit.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I was there for last year’s.
QUESTION: Yes, yes. Yeah, (inaudible) this year. And how the United States approach to these dispute between China and other countries like Vietnam, Philippines, and Japan? Thanks.
MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s a good question. I don’t want to guess intentions, right? I don’t think that’s probably my place to do that. What we judge people on is what they do, countries on what they do and the actions, right? So I don’t know what the intentions are, but I have been very clear, as have every other U.S. official you mentioned, that the actions are provocative and they’re destabilizing and they threaten miscalculation. And it’s not for us to say whose claim is stronger, right, on any of these disputes. As you mentioned, there’s a number of them. It’s not for us to say whose is stronger.
It is for us to say as the United States, as a Pacific power, as someone who cares about these issues for a variety of reasons, whether it’s freedom of navigation, trade, security instability, they need to be resolved in a different way; that if you care about international order and the international system and the norms that underpin so much of what we do, you can’t take these kind of provocative actions; and we will speak out when you do and we will press you when you.
So it’s complicated. It’s tough. We will keep working with China on this issue. And obviously, in forums like ASEAN we’ve talked a lot about these issues. Certainly, there are great ways for us to continue talking about them, to push other countries to play by the rules of the road, to finalize a code of conduct. All of these things we’ve talked about – we talked about it ASEAN last year – they’re on the forefront of everyone’s mind. So we are very engaged in it – all of those folks you talked about engaged in it all the time.
Yes, right behind you, and then I will go back to you. You’re going to be last, I promise. We’ll start here. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Ragip Soylu from Turkey, the newspaper called Sabah. I have two questions regarding ISIL threat against Turkish enclave in Syria. The first one is: Is there any ongoing cooperation between Turkey and U.S. with regard to increasing ISIL existence near Turkish border?
MS. HARF: Well, obviously, as a close NATO ally, we work with Turkey on a host of issues, particularly security issues, and recognize that ISIL is an incredible threat not just to Syria and not just to Iraq, but also to Turkey as well. So we will keep working with them on – particularly on border security issues, but to help them fight this threat. We work together on counterterrorism, actually, quite closely, and we’ll keep doing so.
Your second question?
QUESTION: Okay. Is the Administration planning to share intelligence or provide technical assistance to Turkish authorities related to this matter? And connected with this, a senior source from the Turkish foreign minister said cooperation with the help of U.S. Government against ISIL is on the agenda probably end of the summer.
MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics for you in terms of what our cooperation will look like or any predications for you going forward, but I’m happy to keep having the conversation. I know it’ll be a topic we keep working with them on.
Okay, I’m going to the back for our last question of the day.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. My name is Juhan Lee from Korean Broadcasting System. Actually, this must be the last question so I’ll give you a light one.
MS. HARF: Okay. Uh-oh, who knows what’s coming now? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. As you know, last month when the Korea and U.S. bilateral summit took place at the time President Obama sent a very strong message to North Korea about ongoing and probable provocation. But according to The Washington Post today, the Korean News Agency in North Korea referring to that condemned President Obama as a “clown” and “dirty fellow” and “monkey” and so on. So I’m just wondering about United States Government reaction about that.
MS. HARF: Well, I think – look, I think we’ve seen a lot of offensive and ridiculous and absurd – I don’t know how many words I can use up here to describe the rhetoric we’re seeing out of North Korea. It’s disgusting. And it’s not based in any sort of reality. It is a country where people are starving in the streets, where they are cut off from the outside world, where they have no say over their future, over their government, over how they live their lives. So for someone, a leader of that country, to criticize us, especially using those terms, I think is, quite frankly, offensive.
And I would say another part of the President’s visit to Korea that we thought was so important was reassuring Korea that we will fully defend our ally, particularly in this time of increased tension and heightened rhetoric – some of it you just mentioned, quite frankly – but that we will defend them, that it’s important to us. It’s really the cornerstone, again, of what we do in the region. So I think, quite frankly, that the leader of North Korea should focus more on improving the lives of his own people than in saying these kind of ridiculous things which I don’t even want to justify them with a response even though I just did. But I think that’s what he should be focusing on. As I said earlier, he has a choice to make, what kind of country he wants to lead. And we’ve seen him make bad choice after bad choice, so I think it’s probably time for some better ones. We remain to be seen if that will actually happen.
Thank you, everyone. I have one more announcement. Our Spanish spokesperson, who is head of our Miami hub, Justen Thomas -- stand up and wave – he’s amazing. He does an amazing job in Miami. And I went and did a couple days with some press there when it was very cold in Washington – it was fun to go to Miami. He’s here and I think wants to meet folks after the briefing. So he’ll stick around. I know a lot – he’d love to meet a lot of you. He’s a great resource for folks, so please stop by and say hi to him. And thank you to everyone for coming today. We’ll do it again next month. Thanks, guys.