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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Release of the 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Michael G. Kozak
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Washington Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
April 20, 2018




MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us, and thanks to our colleagues in New York. My name is Benjamin Weber. I’m the director of the Foreign Press Centers, and I’m very pleased to welcome our senior official for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Ambassador Michael Kozak, who is going to present this year’s Country Reports on Human Rights. I’ll allow him to take a few moments to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll go to questions and answers.

Ambassador Kozak.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Thank you very much. I thought I might spend a few minutes going through why we do the reports, what they represent, what they’re used for, and then we can open it up for questions and comments by all of you.

The – this is the 42nd year that we’ve done the Annual Human Rights Reports, and they’re done as a requirement of U.S. law. This goes back to the 1970s, when Congress said to the Executive Branch, “When we’re making decisions about foreign assistance and security assistance and trade agreements and all of that, we’d really like to know: What is the human rights situation in the countries that we’re dealing with?” So they charged the President by law – or the Secretary of State – with having to produce this annual report to them that is supposed to report on the situation of human rights in each of the member-nations of the United Nations and a few other territories or areas that we deal with as well. We try to do that – and it’s internationally recognized human rights, and then there are a few requirements that are added on from the U.S. law specifically.

So the reason we do the reports is not to be passing judgment on other countries, or the old word of name and shame; it’s not with that in mind. It’s to fulfill a statutory responsibility to our Congress to try to produce the most accurate description of what we find is going on in other countries so that they can use that in making decisions. And frankly, it gets used then also by our judicial system. For example, when our immigration officers or our immigration judges are assessing asylum claims or refugee claims, they’re matching the person’s story against what they know of country conditions, and they use these reports as a factual baseline for that. We use it in the Executive Branch as well when we’re meeting with foreign officials. It’s the basis on which we can brief the President or the Secretary of State on the human rights situation in that country.

So the whole effort is to make it as factual, as clinical as possible, and not – we’re not drawing conclusions. We’re reporting what’s out there, and often you’re getting contradictory information. You’ll have a credible source – media in another country, a respectable newspaper, or a nongovernment organization or something – saying, “This happened,” and then you have somebody else saying, “No, it didn’t,” or, “It didn’t happen that way.” And we try to reflect both of those things. We don’t try to resolve and say this is the – this is the true facts here. We’re putting together a description of this issue is going on, here are the parameters of it. And then later on, if we’re making a decision where we have to resolve that, we will. But this is basically to gather up that information, put it in one place.

We don’t rank-order countries. We don’t have, like, the good countries going down to the bad. There’s no automatic consequence that flows from these reports. So unlike some of the other ones we do where there are tier rankings and – or if you meet a certain standard, that we have to cut off foreign assistance or something. This is just a factual report. What we do with it is a later set of decisions, but it often is an important factor in informing those later decisions.

One thing we did this year that I would call your attention to is, we’ve noted that it was kind of difficult to compare one country to another. Not that we are trying to do that, but the readers hopefully can do that. And in the executive summary of the reports before, it was a little bit of a grab bag for each country, and in no particular order they would list different human rights issues that had come up in that country. So we’ve tried to standardize it more this year, and there’s – it’s usually the third paragraph in the executive summary, we’ll say “human rights issues included.” And we’ve tried to include there in the same order in every report the most egregious forms of human rights abuse – torture, extrajudicial killing, forced disappearances, criminalization of libel – or of expression, criminalization of LGBT consensual sexual activity, violence against people.

But we’re trying to focus on what is the government doing or not doing about those issues more than just what’s going on in the society. That’s important too, but the focus here is: Is the government taking steps to penalize bad behavior, or is it encouraging it, or ignoring it? And so we’ve tried to make that so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison by looking at the executive summary of any two countries and say, okay, this one hit these following violations or abuses of human rights, and this other one only hit two or three, or in some cases none at all – not that there weren’t problems in the country, but that there were no reports of really egregious human rights abuses in the country. And so that comes in in some places.

In any event, with that in mind, I think perhaps I’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I’ll quickly remind you of FPC procedure. Please wait for the microphone. When you do get it, please identify yourself by name and outlet. And because we do have a fairly short time here, I’ll ask everyone, please, to limit themselves to one question.

Let me start here, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Michael. Thank you for the briefing, and you’ve had a colorful career in this area now, particularly in terms of democracy and human rights. I’ll ask about Bangladesh. According to today’s report, 160 people killed in crossfire and 118 individuals in extra – faced extrajudicial killing. And the situation is like that in Bangladesh.

In terms of democracy, the report mentioned that, that there is no space for the freedom of association, particularly in main opposition, and according to your report the main opposition BNP boycotted the last parliament in 2014. And not the BNP boycotted; this was boycotted by the international community to sending observer like U.S., EU, and we have seen the statement from the State Department which was these nonparticipatory election, it was not in any way an election. And currently, main opposition leader, she is in the jail.

So how you are assessing to the restoring democracy in Bangladesh and to stop this – the extrajudicial killing and the – in terms of democracy, restoring democracy, what is your assessment, and how you will established – as U.S. is the largest developmental partner of Bangladesh.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, I think you read the report well. And of course, one thing I should qualify this, is that this is a report on conditions during the last calendar year, so events that have occurred since that time are not captured in the report. They’ll be in next year’s report, and I think you had some things late in the year like the elections that were – are coming up.

But we, I think, have called out for free and fair elections with international monitoring in the country. That’s one way you try to restore or promote democratic competition and openness. We speak frequently with the Government of Bangladesh about how to reduce or eliminate extrajudicial killings or – it’s usually a debate about whether that’s what it is or whether it’s people killed in crossfire in a legitimate military activity. But it’s something of concern to us. We speak to people about it.

Another thing that applies to Bangladesh and every other country is, if we have information that a particular unit of the security forces is engaged in abuses, we can’t train them or equip them under our law until the government brings the perpetrators of the abuse to justice.

So those are just some of the tools that we – that we try to use to encourage better performance in those areas. And we’ve also, I think, called for an impartial and fair trial of Zia, and not just to let somebody be imprisoned for being a political opponent.

So anyway, that’s kind of some of the things that we’re doing. But as I go back to the report, it’s supposed to be describing the conditions in the – the factual conditions. What we do about that in policy terms varies from country to country, different tools we can use – statements, not providing equipment, going in and encouraging, sometimes training people so that they improve their human rights performance. So there’s a whole range of activity out there that we can and do use to try to address these kinds of problems. The report’s only about the problem, not about the solution.

MODERATOR: Let me take one more here and then we’ll go to New York. Ma’am.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Kylie Sertic and I work for Kyodo News. I have a question about Japan. The report says that in Japan sexual harassment in the workplace remains widespread, so what does the U.S. urge or expect the Japanese Government to do to improve the situation, and how seriously does the U.S. take this?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I think you also saw that we said that Japan didn’t have any really egregious violations upfront and that they – there’s no extrajudicial killing and all that kind of thing.

Sexual harassment, unfortunately, is a big problem in a lot of countries, including our own, and what we are trying to urge all governments to do – and I suspect the Government of Japan is working on this too – is to institute awareness programs, trainings, and other things to try to get people to understand what is and is not appropriate behavior and how you need to be respectful of other people.

In some cases you need to have a penalty. Often in the, like, workplace it’s administrative in the sense of firing the person who’s been doing the harassment, as opposed to prosecuting them, unless it reaches the level of crossing a criminal boundary. So I don’t think we have any doubt that the Government of Japan’s intentions are in the right direction on this issue, but it’s a – it is a problem in Japan and it’s a problem here and it’s a problem in a lot of places, and one that we all need to work on and try to bring to an end as quickly as we can.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Good afternoon. This is Shehabuddin Kisslu. I have quick two things, sir, to ask. One is, as you – we have seen that U.S. has very strong statement about the Burmese authority to – regarding the Rohingya, and you know this very bad situation there. It is getting really safe haven of the criminals there in that situation, especially the women and children are really that are risk. So – and Burma continuously actually ignoring the international concern – in that case, actually what is the U.S. stand or what you are actually thinking to go after Burma to make them comply with these international – I should say the recommendation that has been done by the Mr. Annan commissions, number one?

Number two is quick thing. Like, as the U.S. and Bangladesh has a very good relation in partnership of security assuring in this region, and as one of my colleague already has asked a question, I – do you – what do you see the governments – how the governments working on those areas? Are – they are cooperating with you or are – is the government is very, I mean, sincere to improve the condition or what is supposed to be done?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, thank you for the question. I – this is a problem that is just beyond belief. I – my colleague, Ambassador Brownback, has just been in Bangladesh and was out in the camps where the people from Burma are located, and I think he said this morning that the horrible conditions and the suffering that they have undergone in Burma was just breathtaking. He was very impressed in a negative way as to what had happened to them – in fact, so much so that he called the Vice President and he sent messages back to the secretary about we need to redouble our efforts on this.

So we accept this is a huge and serious problem. We appreciate the work that the Government of Bangladesh has been doing to try to bring some relief to these people. I think we just committed another $50 million in relief to try to help in that respect, but the long-term solution, or the real solution, is to make it possible for people to go back to their homes in a safe and secure way and where their homes are rebuilt to the point that they can live in them. As you may know, the – a lot of the villages people came from have been obliterated and there’s no place for them to go back to at this point.

We’ve tried to let the Government of Burma know how seriously we see this. We brought economic sanctions against the senior general who commanded that region of the country, and that is a start, anyway, on letting them know that people should be held accountable for what they did. We are trying our best to get through to the government the need to be serious and to be welcoming of these people, to create a situation where they can come back and be safe and not be – not have the same cycle occur all over again.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that the Government of Bangladesh has been in direct touch with the Government of Burma. We think that’s good, because there needs to be that coordination, but we’re very much on the side of trying to do everything we can to get the government to make it possible for people to come back in a safe and secure way, and in the meantime, to assist the Government of Bangladesh in the important humanitarian relief that it’s providing to the victims of this crime. And it’s a crime of ethnic cleansing, as we have made clear. This was not a chance thing. It was very deliberate and unfortunate.

MODERATOR: Sir, in the black jacket.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sumer, from Voice of America Turkey service. There is a more than 60-pages Turkey section in the report; we saw that. And also, as you know, a pastor and two employees of the U.S. embassy are in jail in Turkey, and there are lots of criticizing points about the violations of human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey in your report. And also, yesterday night, yesterday evening, two U.S. senators made a call for sanctions on Turkish officials due to these allegations. Do you think the Trump administration will consider impose sanctions on Turkey after your report and also call made by the U.S. senators?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I’m not going to predict what policy responses that we may have to this, but I would reemphasize the seriousness of the situation, and I think Acting Secretary Sullivan, in introducing the reports this morning, talked about Turkey in particular. Not only do you have Pastor Brunson and our local staff of the embassy in jail there, but I – when I was looking at what we said in the report, it was 50,000, and my expert told me that now it’s 60,000 people have been jailed under the state of emergency. And so our very clear message to the government has been: It’s time to end the state of emergency, it’s time to have due process for all these people with a fair and independent judicial process, and try to get Turkey back on the track that it for so long had been on of being a very law-abiding, rule-of-law country.

And so it’s something that’s very disturbing to us. We’ve been trying to message in every way we can to the government that this – they really need to step back, take a look at where they’re headed, and try to get back on the right track. But what exact measures we’ll take in addition to those we’ve taken already, I wouldn’t want to speculate. That’s going to be up to the President and others.

MODERATOR: Take one here and then we’ll go to New York, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Ambassador. When --

MODERATOR: Sir, can you give your name and your outlet, please?

QUESTION: Oh, Paul Huang from The Epoch Times. I know you have increasing concern about religious freedom in China, specifically the persecution of Falun Gong, Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang. What concrete steps have you taken to hold those officials that committed the persecutions accountable? And would you consider applying Global Magnitsky Act to sanction those officials that have committed the persecutions? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you. Yes. I mean, we are extremely concerned about the level of repression, particularly in Xinjiang. In terms of the increase over the last year, it’s been a bad situation for Falun Gong for a long time, it’s been bad for Uighurs, it’s been bad for Tibetans, but there seems to be amping of the level of repression against those groups and against society in general as well.

Our message to China all along has been: If you want to realize the full potential of the Chinese people and have an even stronger economy and so on, opening up is the way to do it, not clamping down. As to whether we would use a particular tool in that endeavor to convince the government, again, I can’t speculate, but we – Global Magnitsky is a rolling thing. We look at different candidates from time to time for that – to use that particular tool, and it applies to anybody who does that kind of behavior anywhere in the world. Obviously, you can’t sanction everybody, but you could sanction anybody. So I wouldn’t go into speculating about that now, but I think our message has been very, very clear from the President on down that China needs to move in a different direction on those kinds of issues.

MODERATOR: We can go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ariana King with the Nikkei Asian Review. In your remarks earlier, you mentioned that there didn’t have to be a tradeoff between concerns about the nuclear issue and the human rights issue in North Korea. I’m wondering if you believe that means that President Trump will push human rights in his denuclearization talks with Kim Jong-un.

And a technical question, if you don’t mind, about the abduction issue: In last year’s report, there was language saying that the North claimed that the investigation was over and there was nothing to report, and this year’s report, it seems to omit that sentence and implies that the investigation is still ongoing. I was wondering if that – if there was a policy reason for that or why that change was made.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Last part first, and I am not familiar with the – that particular phrase in the reports. My guess is – one of the editorial rules we have in the report is if something – if an event occurred in one year, if there is – the second year after that, you can kind of say where it stands, but if it doesn’t change, we drop it. Otherwise, this thing would just become – it’s already 2 million pages and it would be – (laughter) – several times that many. So it may just be that editorial reason that, since the denial occurred at one point in time and nothing new has happened on that, that we stop talking about it. But I can check if you’d like and see if there’s anything more on that front. I mean, we certainly don’t consider the issue resolved, so that’s – hopefully is reflected in the report.

On the issue of tradeoffs, I mean, I think you have seen already the United States has pursued a very strong advocacy on the issue of human rights in North Korea. And as I mentioned in the earlier briefing, we’ve tried to be very supportive of groups and international mechanisms that were set up, the Commission of Inquiry and so on, to try to expose and hopefully by shining a light on, rectify some of those behaviors. We’ve done that even as we have pursued denuclearization. And so what I was alluding to is, I don’t think it’s incompatible to do both things together.

Whether – I can’t predict whether the President will say words about both things in one set of talks or another, but I think it’s very clear that we’re already on a course where we’re concerned about both things, we’re pursuing both things, and we don’t see that you – that the price of solving one is not to stop pursuing the other.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more. Sir.

QUESTION: I’m Allen Abel from Maclean’s Magazine of Canada. In a general sense, how does it impact your work when you diligently try to collect factual, empirical evidence, and then the President boils 2 million words down to one word like shithole? How does it impact your work?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well I’m not going to get into grammatical things, but it doesn’t impact our work that much in terms of producing a report like this and – and we – and finding that others in other countries use it. Whatever differences they may have with the United States, or with a particular official in the United States, we’ve gone – I’ve had this question for years where people will say, “Oh, well, because of this, how can you have any credibility?” And what we find is, people that are struggling for their human rights and for democratic freedoms around the world, they’re looking for support and friends where they can find them. And they still see and have, I think, consistently seen the United States as being a friend on that front, as they do your country. Canada has been one of the great allies in that effort. So it’s – that – it’s not some – it’s something that’s much bigger than one comment or one word, and I think the President has already spoken to the factualness of that allegation.

MODERATOR: I think actually we will take one more in New York, and then for any other questions you may have here, please contact us and we’ll make sure we get them to our colleagues at the bureau. So New York, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Marija Sajkas, Novi Magazin, Serbia. Could you please tell us something about the region of western Balkans, and in particular about Serbia and Kosovo? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I think the report speaks for itself. It’s obviously a complicated situation. We’ve tried to report as clearly as we can on what’s going on there as well as in other parts of the world. But it’s – it is a difficult one, and if I can find my paper, I will try to give you what I have of our latest guidance on this, as opposed to what’s in the report. I am not finding it. So I think you’ll have to let it go at that. I would suspect we can try to get our press office to follow up too, because we have more current guidance than what’s in the report because there have been developments since.

MODERATOR: If you give your – if you give your question to the program officers in New York, they’ll pass it along and we’ll make sure it gets answered. And with that, I will thank you all very much for joining us this afternoon, and thank Ambassador Kozak for taking the time to come in and give us a briefing.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you all very much, and it’s been a pleasure to be here with you.

# # #

 

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us, and thanks to our colleagues in New York. My name is Benjamin Weber. I’m the director of the Foreign Press Centers, and I’m very pleased to welcome our senior official for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Ambassador Michael Kozak, who is going to present this year’s Country Reports on Human Rights. I’ll allow him to take a few moments to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll go to questions and answers.

 

Ambassador Kozak.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Thank you very much. I thought I might spend a few minutes going through why we do the reports, what they represent, what they’re used for, and then we can open it up for questions and comments by all of you.

The – this is the 42nd year that we’ve done the Annual Human Rights Reports, and they’re done as a requirement of U.S. law. This goes back to the 1970s, when Congress said to the Executive Branch, “When we’re making decisions about foreign assistance and security assistance and trade agreements and all of that, we’d really like to know: What is the human rights situation in the countries that we’re dealing with?” So they charged the President by law – or the Secretary of State – with having to produce this annual report to them that is supposed to report on the situation of human rights in each of the member-nations of the United Nations and a few other territories or areas that we deal with as well. We try to do that – and it’s internationally recognized human rights, and then there are a few requirements that are added on from the U.S. law specifically.

So the reason we do the reports is not to be passing judgment on other countries, or the old word of name and shame; it’s not with that in mind. It’s to fulfill a statutory responsibility to our Congress to try to produce the most accurate description of what we find is going on in other countries so that they can use that in making decisions. And frankly, it gets used then also by our judicial system. For example, when our immigration officers or our immigration judges are assessing asylum claims or refugee claims, they’re matching the person’s story against what they know of country conditions, and they use these reports as a factual baseline for that. We use it in the Executive Branch as well when we’re meeting with foreign officials. It’s the basis on which we can brief the President or the Secretary of State on the human rights situation in that country.

So the whole effort is to make it as factual, as clinical as possible, and not – we’re not drawing conclusions. We’re reporting what’s out there, and often you’re getting contradictory information. You’ll have a credible source – media in another country, a respectable newspaper, or a nongovernment organization or something – saying, “This happened,” and then you have somebody else saying, “No, it didn’t,” or, “It didn’t happen that way.” And we try to reflect both of those things. We don’t try to resolve and say this is the – this is the true facts here. We’re putting together a description of this issue is going on, here are the parameters of it. And then later on, if we’re making a decision where we have to resolve that, we will. But this is basically to gather up that information, put it in one place.

We don’t rank-order countries. We don’t have, like, the good countries going down to the bad. There’s no automatic consequence that flows from these reports. So unlike some of the other ones we do where there are tier rankings and – or if you meet a certain standard, that we have to cut off foreign assistance or something. This is just a factual report. What we do with it is a later set of decisions, but it often is an important factor in informing those later decisions.

One thing we did this year that I would call your attention to is, we’ve noted that it was kind of difficult to compare one country to another. Not that we are trying to do that, but the readers hopefully can do that. And in the executive summary of the reports before, it was a little bit of a grab bag for each country, and in no particular order they would list different human rights issues that had come up in that country. So we’ve tried to standardize it more this year, and there’s – it’s usually the third paragraph in the executive summary, we’ll say “human rights issues included.” And we’ve tried to include there in the same order in every report the most egregious forms of human rights abuse – torture, extrajudicial killing, forced disappearances, criminalization of libel – or of expression, criminalization of LGBT consensual sexual activity, violence against people.

But we’re trying to focus on what is the government doing or not doing about those issues more than just what’s going on in the society. That’s important too, but the focus here is: Is the government taking steps to penalize bad behavior, or is it encouraging it, or ignoring it? And so we’ve tried to make that so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison by looking at the executive summary of any two countries and say, okay, this one hit these following violations or abuses of human rights, and this other one only hit two or three, or in some cases none at all – not that there weren’t problems in the country, but that there were no reports of really egregious human rights abuses in the country. And so that comes in in some places.

In any event, with that in mind, I think perhaps I’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I’ll quickly remind you of FPC procedure. Please wait for the microphone. When you do get it, please identify yourself by name and outlet. And because we do have a fairly short time here, I’ll ask everyone, please, to limit themselves to one question.

Let me start here, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Michael. Thank you for the briefing, and you’ve had a colorful career in this area now, particularly in terms of democracy and human rights. I’ll ask about Bangladesh. According to today’s report, 160 people killed in crossfire and 118 individuals in extra – faced extrajudicial killing. And the situation is like that in Bangladesh.

In terms of democracy, the report mentioned that, that there is no space for the freedom of association, particularly in main opposition, and according to your report the main opposition BNP boycotted the last parliament in 2014. And not the BNP boycotted; this was boycotted by the international community to sending observer like U.S., EU, and we have seen the statement from the State Department which was these nonparticipatory election, it was not in any way an election. And currently, main opposition leader, she is in the jail.

So how you are assessing to the restoring democracy in Bangladesh and to stop this – the extrajudicial killing and the – in terms of democracy, restoring democracy, what is your assessment, and how you will established – as U.S. is the largest developmental partner of Bangladesh.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, I think you read the report well. And of course, one thing I should qualify this, is that this is a report on conditions during the last calendar year, so events that have occurred since that time are not captured in the report. They’ll be in next year’s report, and I think you had some things late in the year like the elections that were – are coming up.

But we, I think, have called out for free and fair elections with international monitoring in the country. That’s one way you try to restore or promote democratic competition and openness. We speak frequently with the Government of Bangladesh about how to reduce or eliminate extrajudicial killings or – it’s usually a debate about whether that’s what it is or whether it’s people killed in crossfire in a legitimate military activity. But it’s something of concern to us. We speak to people about it.

Another thing that applies to Bangladesh and every other country is, if we have information that a particular unit of the security forces is engaged in abuses, we can’t train them or equip them under our law until the government brings the perpetrators of the abuse to justice.

So those are just some of the tools that we – that we try to use to encourage better performance in those areas. And we’ve also, I think, called for an impartial and fair trial of Zia, and not just to let somebody be imprisoned for being a political opponent.

So anyway, that’s kind of some of the things that we’re doing. But as I go back to the report, it’s supposed to be describing the conditions in the – the factual conditions. What we do about that in policy terms varies from country to country, different tools we can use – statements, not providing equipment, going in and encouraging, sometimes training people so that they improve their human rights performance. So there’s a whole range of activity out there that we can and do use to try to address these kinds of problems. The report’s only about the problem, not about the solution.

MODERATOR: Let me take one more here and then we’ll go to New York. Ma’am.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Kylie Sertic and I work for Kyodo News. I have a question about Japan. The report says that in Japan sexual harassment in the workplace remains widespread, so what does the U.S. urge or expect the Japanese Government to do to improve the situation, and how seriously does the U.S. take this?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I think you also saw that we said that Japan didn’t have any really egregious violations upfront and that they – there’s no extrajudicial killing and all that kind of thing.

Sexual harassment, unfortunately, is a big problem in a lot of countries, including our own, and what we are trying to urge all governments to do – and I suspect the Government of Japan is working on this too – is to institute awareness programs, trainings, and other things to try to get people to understand what is and is not appropriate behavior and how you need to be respectful of other people.

In some cases you need to have a penalty. Often in the, like, workplace it’s administrative in the sense of firing the person who’s been doing the harassment, as opposed to prosecuting them, unless it reaches the level of crossing a criminal boundary. So I don’t think we have any doubt that the Government of Japan’s intentions are in the right direction on this issue, but it’s a – it is a problem in Japan and it’s a problem here and it’s a problem in a lot of places, and one that we all need to work on and try to bring to an end as quickly as we can.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Good afternoon. This is Shehabuddin Kisslu. I have quick two things, sir, to ask. One is, as you – we have seen that U.S. has very strong statement about the Burmese authority to – regarding the Rohingya, and you know this very bad situation there. It is getting really safe haven of the criminals there in that situation, especially the women and children are really that are risk. So – and Burma continuously actually ignoring the international concern – in that case, actually what is the U.S. stand or what you are actually thinking to go after Burma to make them comply with these international – I should say the recommendation that has been done by the Mr. Annan commissions, number one?

Number two is quick thing. Like, as the U.S. and Bangladesh has a very good relation in partnership of security assuring in this region, and as one of my colleague already has asked a question, I – do you – what do you see the governments – how the governments working on those areas? Are – they are cooperating with you or are – is the government is very, I mean, sincere to improve the condition or what is supposed to be done?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, thank you for the question. I – this is a problem that is just beyond belief. I – my colleague, Ambassador Brownback, has just been in Bangladesh and was out in the camps where the people from Burma are located, and I think he said this morning that the horrible conditions and the suffering that they have undergone in Burma was just breathtaking. He was very impressed in a negative way as to what had happened to them – in fact, so much so that he called the Vice President and he sent messages back to the secretary about we need to redouble our efforts on this.

So we accept this is a huge and serious problem. We appreciate the work that the Government of Bangladesh has been doing to try to bring some relief to these people. I think we just committed another $50 million in relief to try to help in that respect, but the long-term solution, or the real solution, is to make it possible for people to go back to their homes in a safe and secure way and where their homes are rebuilt to the point that they can live in them. As you may know, the – a lot of the villages people came from have been obliterated and there’s no place for them to go back to at this point.

We’ve tried to let the Government of Burma know how seriously we see this. We brought economic sanctions against the senior general who commanded that region of the country, and that is a start, anyway, on letting them know that people should be held accountable for what they did. We are trying our best to get through to the government the need to be serious and to be welcoming of these people, to create a situation where they can come back and be safe and not be – not have the same cycle occur all over again.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that the Government of Bangladesh has been in direct touch with the Government of Burma. We think that’s good, because there needs to be that coordination, but we’re very much on the side of trying to do everything we can to get the government to make it possible for people to come back in a safe and secure way, and in the meantime, to assist the Government of Bangladesh in the important humanitarian relief that it’s providing to the victims of this crime. And it’s a crime of ethnic cleansing, as we have made clear. This was not a chance thing. It was very deliberate and unfortunate.

MODERATOR: Sir, in the black jacket.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sumer, from Voice of America Turkey service. There is a more than 60-pages Turkey section in the report; we saw that. And also, as you know, a pastor and two employees of the U.S. embassy are in jail in Turkey, and there are lots of criticizing points about the violations of human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey in your report. And also, yesterday night, yesterday evening, two U.S. senators made a call for sanctions on Turkish officials due to these allegations. Do you think the Trump administration will consider impose sanctions on Turkey after your report and also call made by the U.S. senators?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I’m not going to predict what policy responses that we may have to this, but I would reemphasize the seriousness of the situation, and I think Acting Secretary Sullivan, in introducing the reports this morning, talked about Turkey in particular. Not only do you have Pastor Brunson and our local staff of the embassy in jail there, but I – when I was looking at what we said in the report, it was 50,000, and my expert told me that now it’s 60,000 people have been jailed under the state of emergency. And so our very clear message to the government has been: It’s time to end the state of emergency, it’s time to have due process for all these people with a fair and independent judicial process, and try to get Turkey back on the track that it for so long had been on of being a very law-abiding, rule-of-law country.

And so it’s something that’s very disturbing to us. We’ve been trying to message in every way we can to the government that this – they really need to step back, take a look at where they’re headed, and try to get back on the right track. But what exact measures we’ll take in addition to those we’ve taken already, I wouldn’t want to speculate. That’s going to be up to the President and others.

MODERATOR: Take one here and then we’ll go to New York, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Ambassador. When --

MODERATOR: Sir, can you give your name and your outlet, please?

QUESTION: Oh, Paul Huang from The Epoch Times. I know you have increasing concern about religious freedom in China, specifically the persecution of Falun Gong, Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang. What concrete steps have you taken to hold those officials that committed the persecutions accountable? And would you consider applying Global Magnitsky Act to sanction those officials that have committed the persecutions? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you. Yes. I mean, we are extremely concerned about the level of repression, particularly in Xinjiang. In terms of the increase over the last year, it’s been a bad situation for Falun Gong for a long time, it’s been bad for Uighurs, it’s been bad for Tibetans, but there seems to be amping of the level of repression against those groups and against society in general as well.

Our message to China all along has been: If you want to realize the full potential of the Chinese people and have an even stronger economy and so on, opening up is the way to do it, not clamping down. As to whether we would use a particular tool in that endeavor to convince the government, again, I can’t speculate, but we – Global Magnitsky is a rolling thing. We look at different candidates from time to time for that – to use that particular tool, and it applies to anybody who does that kind of behavior anywhere in the world. Obviously, you can’t sanction everybody, but you could sanction anybody. So I wouldn’t go into speculating about that now, but I think our message has been very, very clear from the President on down that China needs to move in a different direction on those kinds of issues.

MODERATOR: We can go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ariana King with the Nikkei Asian Review. In your remarks earlier, you mentioned that there didn’t have to be a tradeoff between concerns about the nuclear issue and the human rights issue in North Korea. I’m wondering if you believe that means that President Trump will push human rights in his denuclearization talks with Kim Jong-un.

And a technical question, if you don’t mind, about the abduction issue: In last year’s report, there was language saying that the North claimed that the investigation was over and there was nothing to report, and this year’s report, it seems to omit that sentence and implies that the investigation is still ongoing. I was wondering if that – if there was a policy reason for that or why that change was made.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Last part first, and I am not familiar with the – that particular phrase in the reports. My guess is – one of the editorial rules we have in the report is if something – if an event occurred in one year, if there is – the second year after that, you can kind of say where it stands, but if it doesn’t change, we drop it. Otherwise, this thing would just become – it’s already 2 million pages and it would be – (laughter) – several times that many. So it may just be that editorial reason that, since the denial occurred at one point in time and nothing new has happened on that, that we stop talking about it. But I can check if you’d like and see if there’s anything more on that front. I mean, we certainly don’t consider the issue resolved, so that’s – hopefully is reflected in the report.

On the issue of tradeoffs, I mean, I think you have seen already the United States has pursued a very strong advocacy on the issue of human rights in North Korea. And as I mentioned in the earlier briefing, we’ve tried to be very supportive of groups and international mechanisms that were set up, the Commission of Inquiry and so on, to try to expose and hopefully by shining a light on, rectify some of those behaviors. We’ve done that even as we have pursued denuclearization. And so what I was alluding to is, I don’t think it’s incompatible to do both things together.

Whether – I can’t predict whether the President will say words about both things in one set of talks or another, but I think it’s very clear that we’re already on a course where we’re concerned about both things, we’re pursuing both things, and we don’t see that you – that the price of solving one is not to stop pursuing the other.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more. Sir.

QUESTION: I’m Allen Abel from Maclean’s Magazine of Canada. In a general sense, how does it impact your work when you diligently try to collect factual, empirical evidence, and then the President boils 2 million words down to one word like shithole? How does it impact your work?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well I’m not going to get into grammatical things, but it doesn’t impact our work that much in terms of producing a report like this and – and we – and finding that others in other countries use it. Whatever differences they may have with the United States, or with a particular official in the United States, we’ve gone – I’ve had this question for years where people will say, “Oh, well, because of this, how can you have any credibility?” And what we find is, people that are struggling for their human rights and for democratic freedoms around the world, they’re looking for support and friends where they can find them. And they still see and have, I think, consistently seen the United States as being a friend on that front, as they do your country. Canada has been one of the great allies in that effort. So it’s – that – it’s not some – it’s something that’s much bigger than one comment or one word, and I think the President has already spoken to the factualness of that allegation.

MODERATOR: I think actually we will take one more in New York, and then for any other questions you may have here, please contact us and we’ll make sure we get them to our colleagues at the bureau. So New York, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Marija Sajkas, Novi Magazin, Serbia. Could you please tell us something about the region of western Balkans, and in particular about Serbia and Kosovo? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I think the report speaks for itself. It’s obviously a complicated situation. We’ve tried to report as clearly as we can on what’s going on there as well as in other parts of the world. But it’s – it is a difficult one, and if I can find my paper, I will try to give you what I have of our latest guidance on this, as opposed to what’s in the report. I am not finding it. So I think you’ll have to let it go at that. I would suspect we can try to get our press office to follow up too, because we have more current guidance than what’s in the report because there have been developments since.

MODERATOR: If you give your – if you give your question to the program officers in New York, they’ll pass it along and we’ll make sure it gets answered. And with that, I will thank you all very much for joining us this afternoon, and thank Ambassador Kozak for taking the time to come in and give us a briefing.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you all very much, and it’s been a pleasure to be here with you.

# # #

 

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us, and thanks to our colleagues in New York. My name is Benjamin Weber. I’m the director of the Foreign Press Centers, and I’m very pleased to welcome our senior official for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Ambassador Michael Kozak, who is going to present this year’s Country Reports on Human Rights. I’ll allow him to take a few moments to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll go to questions and answers.

 

Ambassador Kozak.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Thank you very much. I thought I might spend a few minutes going through why we do the reports, what they represent, what they’re used for, and then we can open it up for questions and comments by all of you.

The – this is the 42nd year that we’ve done the Annual Human Rights Reports, and they’re done as a requirement of U.S. law. This goes back to the 1970s, when Congress said to the Executive Branch, “When we’re making decisions about foreign assistance and security assistance and trade agreements and all of that, we’d really like to know: What is the human rights situation in the countries that we’re dealing with?” So they charged the President by law – or the Secretary of State – with having to produce this annual report to them that is supposed to report on the situation of human rights in each of the member-nations of the United Nations and a few other territories or areas that we deal with as well. We try to do that – and it’s internationally recognized human rights, and then there are a few requirements that are added on from the U.S. law specifically.

So the reason we do the reports is not to be passing judgment on other countries, or the old word of name and shame; it’s not with that in mind. It’s to fulfill a statutory responsibility to our Congress to try to produce the most accurate description of what we find is going on in other countries so that they can use that in making decisions. And frankly, it gets used then also by our judicial system. For example, when our immigration officers or our immigration judges are assessing asylum claims or refugee claims, they’re matching the person’s story against what they know of country conditions, and they use these reports as a factual baseline for that. We use it in the Executive Branch as well when we’re meeting with foreign officials. It’s the basis on which we can brief the President or the Secretary of State on the human rights situation in that country.

So the whole effort is to make it as factual, as clinical as possible, and not – we’re not drawing conclusions. We’re reporting what’s out there, and often you’re getting contradictory information. You’ll have a credible source – media in another country, a respectable newspaper, or a nongovernment organization or something – saying, “This happened,” and then you have somebody else saying, “No, it didn’t,” or, “It didn’t happen that way.” And we try to reflect both of those things. We don’t try to resolve and say this is the – this is the true facts here. We’re putting together a description of this issue is going on, here are the parameters of it. And then later on, if we’re making a decision where we have to resolve that, we will. But this is basically to gather up that information, put it in one place.

We don’t rank-order countries. We don’t have, like, the good countries going down to the bad. There’s no automatic consequence that flows from these reports. So unlike some of the other ones we do where there are tier rankings and – or if you meet a certain standard, that we have to cut off foreign assistance or something. This is just a factual report. What we do with it is a later set of decisions, but it often is an important factor in informing those later decisions.

One thing we did this year that I would call your attention to is, we’ve noted that it was kind of difficult to compare one country to another. Not that we are trying to do that, but the readers hopefully can do that. And in the executive summary of the reports before, it was a little bit of a grab bag for each country, and in no particular order they would list different human rights issues that had come up in that country. So we’ve tried to standardize it more this year, and there’s – it’s usually the third paragraph in the executive summary, we’ll say “human rights issues included.” And we’ve tried to include there in the same order in every report the most egregious forms of human rights abuse – torture, extrajudicial killing, forced disappearances, criminalization of libel – or of expression, criminalization of LGBT consensual sexual activity, violence against people.

But we’re trying to focus on what is the government doing or not doing about those issues more than just what’s going on in the society. That’s important too, but the focus here is: Is the government taking steps to penalize bad behavior, or is it encouraging it, or ignoring it? And so we’ve tried to make that so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison by looking at the executive summary of any two countries and say, okay, this one hit these following violations or abuses of human rights, and this other one only hit two or three, or in some cases none at all – not that there weren’t problems in the country, but that there were no reports of really egregious human rights abuses in the country. And so that comes in in some places.

In any event, with that in mind, I think perhaps I’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I’ll quickly remind you of FPC procedure. Please wait for the microphone. When you do get it, please identify yourself by name and outlet. And because we do have a fairly short time here, I’ll ask everyone, please, to limit themselves to one question.

Let me start here, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Michael. Thank you for the briefing, and you’ve had a colorful career in this area now, particularly in terms of democracy and human rights. I’ll ask about Bangladesh. According to today’s report, 160 people killed in crossfire and 118 individuals in extra – faced extrajudicial killing. And the situation is like that in Bangladesh.

In terms of democracy, the report mentioned that, that there is no space for the freedom of association, particularly in main opposition, and according to your report the main opposition BNP boycotted the last parliament in 2014. And not the BNP boycotted; this was boycotted by the international community to sending observer like U.S., EU, and we have seen the statement from the State Department which was these nonparticipatory election, it was not in any way an election. And currently, main opposition leader, she is in the jail.

So how you are assessing to the restoring democracy in Bangladesh and to stop this – the extrajudicial killing and the – in terms of democracy, restoring democracy, what is your assessment, and how you will established – as U.S. is the largest developmental partner of Bangladesh.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, I think you read the report well. And of course, one thing I should qualify this, is that this is a report on conditions during the last calendar year, so events that have occurred since that time are not captured in the report. They’ll be in next year’s report, and I think you had some things late in the year like the elections that were – are coming up.

But we, I think, have called out for free and fair elections with international monitoring in the country. That’s one way you try to restore or promote democratic competition and openness. We speak frequently with the Government of Bangladesh about how to reduce or eliminate extrajudicial killings or – it’s usually a debate about whether that’s what it is or whether it’s people killed in crossfire in a legitimate military activity. But it’s something of concern to us. We speak to people about it.

Another thing that applies to Bangladesh and every other country is, if we have information that a particular unit of the security forces is engaged in abuses, we can’t train them or equip them under our law until the government brings the perpetrators of the abuse to justice.

So those are just some of the tools that we – that we try to use to encourage better performance in those areas. And we’ve also, I think, called for an impartial and fair trial of Zia, and not just to let somebody be imprisoned for being a political opponent.

So anyway, that’s kind of some of the things that we’re doing. But as I go back to the report, it’s supposed to be describing the conditions in the – the factual conditions. What we do about that in policy terms varies from country to country, different tools we can use – statements, not providing equipment, going in and encouraging, sometimes training people so that they improve their human rights performance. So there’s a whole range of activity out there that we can and do use to try to address these kinds of problems. The report’s only about the problem, not about the solution.

MODERATOR: Let me take one more here and then we’ll go to New York. Ma’am.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Kylie Sertic and I work for Kyodo News. I have a question about Japan. The report says that in Japan sexual harassment in the workplace remains widespread, so what does the U.S. urge or expect the Japanese Government to do to improve the situation, and how seriously does the U.S. take this?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I think you also saw that we said that Japan didn’t have any really egregious violations upfront and that they – there’s no extrajudicial killing and all that kind of thing.

Sexual harassment, unfortunately, is a big problem in a lot of countries, including our own, and what we are trying to urge all governments to do – and I suspect the Government of Japan is working on this too – is to institute awareness programs, trainings, and other things to try to get people to understand what is and is not appropriate behavior and how you need to be respectful of other people.

In some cases you need to have a penalty. Often in the, like, workplace it’s administrative in the sense of firing the person who’s been doing the harassment, as opposed to prosecuting them, unless it reaches the level of crossing a criminal boundary. So I don’t think we have any doubt that the Government of Japan’s intentions are in the right direction on this issue, but it’s a – it is a problem in Japan and it’s a problem here and it’s a problem in a lot of places, and one that we all need to work on and try to bring to an end as quickly as we can.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Good afternoon. This is Shehabuddin Kisslu. I have quick two things, sir, to ask. One is, as you – we have seen that U.S. has very strong statement about the Burmese authority to – regarding the Rohingya, and you know this very bad situation there. It is getting really safe haven of the criminals there in that situation, especially the women and children are really that are risk. So – and Burma continuously actually ignoring the international concern – in that case, actually what is the U.S. stand or what you are actually thinking to go after Burma to make them comply with these international – I should say the recommendation that has been done by the Mr. Annan commissions, number one?

Number two is quick thing. Like, as the U.S. and Bangladesh has a very good relation in partnership of security assuring in this region, and as one of my colleague already has asked a question, I – do you – what do you see the governments – how the governments working on those areas? Are – they are cooperating with you or are – is the government is very, I mean, sincere to improve the condition or what is supposed to be done?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, well, thank you for the question. I – this is a problem that is just beyond belief. I – my colleague, Ambassador Brownback, has just been in Bangladesh and was out in the camps where the people from Burma are located, and I think he said this morning that the horrible conditions and the suffering that they have undergone in Burma was just breathtaking. He was very impressed in a negative way as to what had happened to them – in fact, so much so that he called the Vice President and he sent messages back to the secretary about we need to redouble our efforts on this.

So we accept this is a huge and serious problem. We appreciate the work that the Government of Bangladesh has been doing to try to bring some relief to these people. I think we just committed another $50 million in relief to try to help in that respect, but the long-term solution, or the real solution, is to make it possible for people to go back to their homes in a safe and secure way and where their homes are rebuilt to the point that they can live in them. As you may know, the – a lot of the villages people came from have been obliterated and there’s no place for them to go back to at this point.

We’ve tried to let the Government of Burma know how seriously we see this. We brought economic sanctions against the senior general who commanded that region of the country, and that is a start, anyway, on letting them know that people should be held accountable for what they did. We are trying our best to get through to the government the need to be serious and to be welcoming of these people, to create a situation where they can come back and be safe and not be – not have the same cycle occur all over again.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that the Government of Bangladesh has been in direct touch with the Government of Burma. We think that’s good, because there needs to be that coordination, but we’re very much on the side of trying to do everything we can to get the government to make it possible for people to come back in a safe and secure way, and in the meantime, to assist the Government of Bangladesh in the important humanitarian relief that it’s providing to the victims of this crime. And it’s a crime of ethnic cleansing, as we have made clear. This was not a chance thing. It was very deliberate and unfortunate.

MODERATOR: Sir, in the black jacket.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sumer, from Voice of America Turkey service. There is a more than 60-pages Turkey section in the report; we saw that. And also, as you know, a pastor and two employees of the U.S. embassy are in jail in Turkey, and there are lots of criticizing points about the violations of human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey in your report. And also, yesterday night, yesterday evening, two U.S. senators made a call for sanctions on Turkish officials due to these allegations. Do you think the Trump administration will consider impose sanctions on Turkey after your report and also call made by the U.S. senators?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I’m not going to predict what policy responses that we may have to this, but I would reemphasize the seriousness of the situation, and I think Acting Secretary Sullivan, in introducing the reports this morning, talked about Turkey in particular. Not only do you have Pastor Brunson and our local staff of the embassy in jail there, but I – when I was looking at what we said in the report, it was 50,000, and my expert told me that now it’s 60,000 people have been jailed under the state of emergency. And so our very clear message to the government has been: It’s time to end the state of emergency, it’s time to have due process for all these people with a fair and independent judicial process, and try to get Turkey back on the track that it for so long had been on of being a very law-abiding, rule-of-law country.

And so it’s something that’s very disturbing to us. We’ve been trying to message in every way we can to the government that this – they really need to step back, take a look at where they’re headed, and try to get back on the right track. But what exact measures we’ll take in addition to those we’ve taken already, I wouldn’t want to speculate. That’s going to be up to the President and others.

MODERATOR: Take one here and then we’ll go to New York, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Ambassador. When --

MODERATOR: Sir, can you give your name and your outlet, please?

QUESTION: Oh, Paul Huang from The Epoch Times. I know you have increasing concern about religious freedom in China, specifically the persecution of Falun Gong, Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang. What concrete steps have you taken to hold those officials that committed the persecutions accountable? And would you consider applying Global Magnitsky Act to sanction those officials that have committed the persecutions? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you. Yes. I mean, we are extremely concerned about the level of repression, particularly in Xinjiang. In terms of the increase over the last year, it’s been a bad situation for Falun Gong for a long time, it’s been bad for Uighurs, it’s been bad for Tibetans, but there seems to be amping of the level of repression against those groups and against society in general as well.

Our message to China all along has been: If you want to realize the full potential of the Chinese people and have an even stronger economy and so on, opening up is the way to do it, not clamping down. As to whether we would use a particular tool in that endeavor to convince the government, again, I can’t speculate, but we – Global Magnitsky is a rolling thing. We look at different candidates from time to time for that – to use that particular tool, and it applies to anybody who does that kind of behavior anywhere in the world. Obviously, you can’t sanction everybody, but you could sanction anybody. So I wouldn’t go into speculating about that now, but I think our message has been very, very clear from the President on down that China needs to move in a different direction on those kinds of issues.

MODERATOR: We can go to our colleague in New York, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ariana King with the Nikkei Asian Review. In your remarks earlier, you mentioned that there didn’t have to be a tradeoff between concerns about the nuclear issue and the human rights issue in North Korea. I’m wondering if you believe that means that President Trump will push human rights in his denuclearization talks with Kim Jong-un.

And a technical question, if you don’t mind, about the abduction issue: In last year’s report, there was language saying that the North claimed that the investigation was over and there was nothing to report, and this year’s report, it seems to omit that sentence and implies that the investigation is still ongoing. I was wondering if that – if there was a policy reason for that or why that change was made.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. Last part first, and I am not familiar with the – that particular phrase in the reports. My guess is – one of the editorial rules we have in the report is if something – if an event occurred in one year, if there is – the second year after that, you can kind of say where it stands, but if it doesn’t change, we drop it. Otherwise, this thing would just become – it’s already 2 million pages and it would be – (laughter) – several times that many. So it may just be that editorial reason that, since the denial occurred at one point in time and nothing new has happened on that, that we stop talking about it. But I can check if you’d like and see if there’s anything more on that front. I mean, we certainly don’t consider the issue resolved, so that’s – hopefully is reflected in the report.

On the issue of tradeoffs, I mean, I think you have seen already the United States has pursued a very strong advocacy on the issue of human rights in North Korea. And as I mentioned in the earlier briefing, we’ve tried to be very supportive of groups and international mechanisms that were set up, the Commission of Inquiry and so on, to try to expose and hopefully by shining a light on, rectify some of those behaviors. We’ve done that even as we have pursued denuclearization. And so what I was alluding to is, I don’t think it’s incompatible to do both things together.

Whether – I can’t predict whether the President will say words about both things in one set of talks or another, but I think it’s very clear that we’re already on a course where we’re concerned about both things, we’re pursuing both things, and we don’t see that you – that the price of solving one is not to stop pursuing the other.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more. Sir.

QUESTION: I’m Allen Abel from Maclean’s Magazine of Canada. In a general sense, how does it impact your work when you diligently try to collect factual, empirical evidence, and then the President boils 2 million words down to one word like shithole? How does it impact your work?

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well I’m not going to get into grammatical things, but it doesn’t impact our work that much in terms of producing a report like this and – and we – and finding that others in other countries use it. Whatever differences they may have with the United States, or with a particular official in the United States, we’ve gone – I’ve had this question for years where people will say, “Oh, well, because of this, how can you have any credibility?” And what we find is, people that are struggling for their human rights and for democratic freedoms around the world, they’re looking for support and friends where they can find them. And they still see and have, I think, consistently seen the United States as being a friend on that front, as they do your country. Canada has been one of the great allies in that effort. So it’s – that – it’s not some – it’s something that’s much bigger than one comment or one word, and I think the President has already spoken to the factualness of that allegation.

MODERATOR: I think actually we will take one more in New York, and then for any other questions you may have here, please contact us and we’ll make sure we get them to our colleagues at the bureau. So New York, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Marija Sajkas, Novi Magazin, Serbia. Could you please tell us something about the region of western Balkans, and in particular about Serbia and Kosovo? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, I think the report speaks for itself. It’s obviously a complicated situation. We’ve tried to report as clearly as we can on what’s going on there as well as in other parts of the world. But it’s – it is a difficult one, and if I can find my paper, I will try to give you what I have of our latest guidance on this, as opposed to what’s in the report. I am not finding it. So I think you’ll have to let it go at that. I would suspect we can try to get our press office to follow up too, because we have more current guidance than what’s in the report because there have been developments since.

MODERATOR: If you give your – if you give your question to the program officers in New York, they’ll pass it along and we’ll make sure it gets answered. And with that, I will thank you all very much for joining us this afternoon, and thank Ambassador Kozak for taking the time to come in and give us a briefing.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you all very much, and it’s been a pleasure to be here with you.