Daily Press Briefing, August 23, 2012
Daily Press Briefing
August 23, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
Secretarial Phone Calls
Statements made by Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council officials
Meeting in Ankara
Conversations with the Britain and France regarding Syria
Security challenges in the Sinai
U.S. support of IMF assistance to Egypt
Arrest of Islam Afifi
Stennis decision/Secretary Panetta's remarks
U.S.-China Missile Defense Discussions
Kurt Campbell's Meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sugiyama
Relations with South Korea
Internet / Freedom of Expression
Nabeel Rajab case
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Happy Thursday. I have three Secretarial phone calls to read out at the top here. The Secretary yesterday made phone calls to Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, and the new Libyan National Congress President Magariaf.
With regard to the call to Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq, they discussed a variety of issues of mutual interest in our bilateral relationship, including the Iraqi political situation, recent regional developments, and our shared interest in ending the violence in Syria. They both affirmed that the long-term strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraq is a source of important stability in the region.
With regard to the Secretary’s call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, they obviously talked about the situation in Sinai and the ongoing Egyptian security operations. They talked about the visit of the IMF to Cairo and under the – with Christine Lagarde there as well, and the United States’ ongoing interest in support Egypt’s recovery as well. And they obviously talked about the situation in Syria.
And with regard to her call with Libyan National Congress President Magariaf, this was a congratulatory call welcoming him to his new position and reiterating our interest in supporting the Libyan Government as it goes forward and to working well with them on a broad cross-section of their needs as they strengthen and build their new democracy.
So let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Well, let’s start with those. One, are those all the calls that she’s made, those --
MS. NULAND: Those are the calls that she made yesterday.
QUESTION: Has she made --
MS. NULAND: That’s the only calls that she’s made this week, so far.
QUESTION: This week. Okay. So she did not call Secretary General Ban at all?
MS. NULAND: She did not. No.
QUESTION: That was left to Susan Rice?
MS. NULAND: She did not call him this week. She’s been in touch with him in the past.
QUESTION: About the NAM meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, she maintains, as you know, broad discussion with him on a variety of issues. She’s talking to him about Syria. Obviously, she’s talking to him about --
QUESTION: Oh, I understand that. I’m asking specifically about the --
MS. NULAND: They have talked about our view of the NAM meeting in the past.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Now, on the – with Zebari, did she raise concerns that the Iraqis are helping the Iranians flout sanctions at all?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, they talked about the situation in Syria. We have, as you know, for a number of months, been working with the Iraqis to ensure that their territory, whether it’s their land or their airspace, can’t be abused by Iran or by anybody else to transship weapons to the Assad regime. So those conversations continue and --
QUESTION: So it’s fair to say that she brought that up?
MS. NULAND: Again, they talked about the situation in Syria more broadly. I don’t think I’m going to go into any more details about the particulars of the phone call.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: Yeah --
MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, I was going to move to the next call.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: On the Zebari call?
MS. NULAND: Shall we stay on Iraq and then we’ll move on?
QUESTION: Just two. Any – did they talk at all about Camp Ashraf or the MEK?
MS. NULAND: They did talk about the ongoing effort to ensure that the MEK moves. And as you know, there’s another – or as you may know, there’s another tranche of folks planning to move to – from Ashraf to Camp Hurriya today, which is a welcome development.
QUESTION: And did she mention anything about MEK concerns about possible Iraqi action against them should they fail to move?
MS. NULAND: Again, beyond saying that this is an issue that we’ve been working with the Iraqi government on for many months, trying to arrange for the new camp, trying to get everybody to move, and that this is something that we have been trying to achieve peacefully together and in cooperation with the UN, I think I won’t get into details. But again, the Iraqi government has been very supportive of this move and very helpful in trying to get it done.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The – increasingly – I don’t know if you follow the statements made by major figures of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, SIIC or ISCI, like Jalal al-Din Saghir, Humam Hamoudi, people that were very close to the United States – they’re making quite belligerent comments about they are very close to Iran, they are – does she bring these issues up? And they’re actually inciting against America’s interest in some of the region and this is the largest political group in Iraq.
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying that the importance that we place on political dialogue inside Iraq and on Iraq working through the issues that it has among the political stakeholders in a peaceful and democratic way, I don’t think I’m going to get into the details of her conversation. What we want to see is Iraqis of all groupings working together under their constitution to move forward on the very, very urgent business of the country.
QUESTION: But there is a feeling of – for the United States of being isolated in Iraq, because the Iraqis and especially propagated by groups such as the Supreme Council and so on that they are dependent on Iran for electricity for instance, while the United States programs and the PRT have failed miserably in providing services to the Iraqi people. They use that as means to sort of incite against America’s interest. Does she discuss this with them?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m certainly not going to join with the premise there, Said. As you know, we have a deep and broad strategic partnership with Iraq. We have a foundational document with regard to our partnership going forward on the political, economic, energy, security side. We are continuing to invest deeply in projects of interest to the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people, including in the energy sector. So our relationship with Iraq is broad, it’s deep, and it’s guided by what the Iraqis themselves want.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned Syria, is there any readout on the Ankara meeting?
MS. NULAND: On the --
MS. NULAND: On the Ankara meeting. Yeah. Let’s go to --
QUESTION: Well, do we want to stay with the phone calls?
MS. NULAND: You want to stay with the phone calls first and then go more broadly to Syria?
QUESTION: I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. If you have – do you have a readout on that?
QUESTION: You said it was in Istanbul yesterday.
QUESTION: I thought it was --
MS. NULAND: It’s in Istanbul. Yeah. We had --
QUESTION: Is it?
MS. NULAND: I had some trouble with my locations.
QUESTION: Just say Constantinople.
MS. NULAND: Exactly. (Laughter.) So as we discussed, we had an interagency team in Istanbul together today to meet with senior Turkish officials, led by Assistant Secretary Beth Jones. As expected, they discussed the full range of issues and challenges with regard to Syria along the lines that the Secretary has been speaking about, that we’ve been speaking about, the issues of supporting the opposition and hastening the day when Assad goes and a transition begins, the refugee issues, and obviously the day-after issues.
As you know, this meeting was called as a result of the conversation that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Davutoglu had on August 11th. And they had agreed to have intensive conversations about operational planning. And so those conversations began today, went into some detail. They were just wrapping up as I came down here, so if we have any more to give you tomorrow, we will.
QUESTION: Just in general, do you know did they get into – you don’t have to say what specifically – but intelligence or any type of military aspects potentially?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we said when we announced the meeting, this is designed to go deeply on the full range of contingencies that one might confront, and we are looking at every feasible option in terms of what we might do together to evaluate whether it’ll advance our shared goal of hastening the transition or not. So a full range of issues were discussed.
QUESTION: So can you be more specific about what kind of contingencies?
MS. NULAND: I think I won’t at the moment, because the conversations are continuing.
QUESTION: Well, it sounds to me like they discussed nothing but hypothetical situations. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: They discussed what more one might do to hasten the day, and –
QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry. Does a full range of contingencies mean things that may or may not happen? In other words, they are hypothetical?
MS. NULAND: Sounds about right. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah? Okay. So can you just briefly describe what some of these hypothetical situations that they’re looking at they might have discussed?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’m not going to go into too much detail except to say that, as the Secretary said when we are – when we were in Istanbul, we have to first of all look at – on the hastening the day side, the effectiveness of what we are already doing and the ground situation that we are seeing, which is changing and evolving, and what more could be done by allies and partners to support the Syrian opposition against that litmus test of not causing more harm, not causing more suffering in Syria. So obviously those issues, but also all of the day-after issues of support that the Syrian people might need.
QUESTION: Well, one of the things that the Secretary mentioned in the press conference in Istanbul was the possibility of the use of chemical weapons. Is that one of the contingencies that is being discussed today, or has that just been taken off the table, and you guys are ignoring that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to whether and how deeply that specific set of issues came up. But with not just Turkey, but all of our allies and partners, we are obviously doing appropriate thinking and contingency planning in case we confront a situation where Assad makes a terrible and horrific choice. That would only be appropriate, as we’ve made clear.
But there’s also the necessity of planning for the day after. When that day comes, when the Assad regime falls and we move into transitional government, the international community will want to offer the Syrian people support for managing and disposing of some of the most dangerous weapons of the Assad regime.
QUESTION: What about the –
QUESTION: Toria, why isn’t it reasonable to assume that, given the President’s conversations yesterday evening with the British Prime Minister and the British Prime Minister’s conversation with the French President that a discussion about a no-fly zone, about dealing with any possible movement of chemical weapons inside Syria, why isn’t it reasonable to assume that that wasn’t on the agenda today?
MS. NULAND: Again, you can make any assumptions that you would like, Ros, but I’m not going to get into the details of the conversation as we are, as I said, working on a full range of contingency plans.
QUESTION: When you talk about the day after, looking at the day after, does that include, like, setting a special fund to help Syria? Does that include maybe having teams of technocrats and professionals to go in and sustain whatever institutions are there? What does that involve? I mean, will you go into details?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, when we get to that day after, whatever the international community has to offer will be guided by what Syrians want. This will be a Syrian-led transition. But we’ve all seen enough of these transitions over time to have a sense of the kinds of issues that they may need help with and to not want to start from a cold start and to begin to think about who in the international community would specialize in different issues.
So from that perspective, it is the full range. We’ve talked about this before. They will need help standing up a transitional government; they will need help getting to a constitutionally-based elected government; they may need help with public security, safety; they may need help with accountability and justice issues; they may need help rebuilding their economy, dealing with the humanitarian needs of people, particularly in cities that have been destroyed by combat. So we want to be thinking about all of these issues, including safeguarding dangerous weapons, et cetera. So that’s what we’re talking about with lots of our partners and allies now, including Turkey and the countries that were mentioned.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Does that include – the day-after planning, does that include some sort of a contingency plan perhaps for an (inaudible) role for the military so they can probably impose martial law and keep the country together for a while through the transition? Is that something that they think about and discuss?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we will be guided by what the transitional government and Syrians feel that they need in these transitional situations. Historically, various levels of support have been requested for public safety, public security, for restructuring the military. We need to be ready and available with a menu of options.
As you know, in the Libyan case, we are helping them to think about how to demobilize militias, how to create an integrated national army – training, disposal of MANPADS and other dangerous weapons. That’s sort of one example of the kinds of things that the international community can do. But again, what we’re doing here is contingency planning for requests that may come, but we will be obviously driven by what the Syrians feel they need in that happy day when we are in a transition period.
QUESTION: You mentioned twice public security and safety. So that, to me, suggests that you’re talking about contributions to a potential civilian – okay – an international civilian police force. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t get ahead of it. There is a full range of things that one can do here. Again, in the Libyan case, the international community, I think, would have been prepared to send supporting cadre. In that case, it wasn’t requested. What was requested was training. So again, we are looking at a full menu of things that we can offer, but we obviously won’t –
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
MS. NULAND: -- get there until we get there.
QUESTION: -- can you say whether decisions on the various contingency plans were made today – are being made today? Or is this kind of just a preliminary throwing – brainstorming kind of thing? Or are there actual – are there actual decisions so that if contingency X happens, it has been decided by the U.S. and Turkey that they will do Y? Or is this just – is that too early?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I came down, these conversations were ongoing. So I don’t want to predict the outcome. My –
QUESTION: Well, was it expected that this was going to produce a definite plan for X?
MS. NULAND: I think the expectation was that this was a first interagency opportunity to go deep on some of these issues and that the conversation will continue. But if we have something to announce, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Can I just a follow-up on that? Well, at least explain what the process will be for involving other partners in this discussion. I mean, this is the U.S. and Turkey sitting down, getting their ducks in the row.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: How are you going to then roll out your – the results of this meeting, whatever they may be, to your allies in the Gulf? And then Europe, when do they become part of the conversation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, allies and partners have been part of this conversation all the way along. We’ve been gathering perspectives from a number of partners over the recent weeks. You remember that the Secretary, after she came back from Istanbul, had a phone conversation with Brits, French, Germans. We anticipate that after – when we come back to school, if you will, and after Labor Day, there will be more diplomacy to discuss multilaterally and bilaterally with other partners, what we are seeing, what we think we need to be prepared for, obviously all leading up to the big diplomatic jamboree that is the UN General Assembly in New York. I would anticipate that sometime around the UNGA period, there’ll be an opportunity for the countries that have been involved in Syrian support to be together and to talk more about this.
QUESTION: Would that be a formal Friends of Syrian People gathering, or would that be sort of a slightly more informal grouping of –
MS. NULAND: I think we haven’t decided yet, but obviously everybody’s in New York, which gives an opportunity to do lots of talking about Syria.
QUESTION: Were you able to get any information about the fate of Al Hurra correspondent and the cameraman in Syria?
QUESTION: Can we stay with the meeting here, Toria? I had a quick follow-up on the meeting.
MS. NULAND: Let’s do the quick follow-up and then come to – just to answer Samir’s question quickly, I don’t have any additional information – I’m sorry – on the Al Hurra. We’ve obviously – we are concerned, obviously, and making that clear.
QUESTION: Actually, before the meeting, after the incident last weekend – bombing incident in Gaziantep, the Turkish officials declared their intention to bring the PKK issue to the top of the agenda during the meeting – I mean, the PKK dimension of Syrian crisis and the possible link with this bombing incident in Gaziantep. So do you have anything about that, because –
MS. NULAND: I frankly don’t have any specific information about that. I mean, obviously, in all of our conversations with Turkey and, frankly, with others, we’ve been talking about the importance of having – working positively with the Kurds of Syria who want to be part of a peaceful democratic transition, want to play a role inside Syria in building a democratic future for their country. We’ve obviously also talked about the threats from spoilers and terrorists and other groups the longer the violence goes on. But I can’t speak to whether the issue came up specifically today.
QUESTION: In the absence of Syrian interlocutors in these talks, you probably – the U.S., Turkey, and the allies are more talking about what they can offer more than – right?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Italy was quoted today that he is going to host an international meeting in Rome about the day after in Syria. Are you going to take part in this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Again, I saw that announcement as I came down. I frankly can’t speak to whether that’s something that we had been working on, but it is consistent with the broad plan that over these coming weeks we would deepen and broaden our collaboration on day-after planning. As I have been saying, it’s important that as we look at the pool of donor countries across these various potential needs – political, economic, security, security and weapons, human rights, justice – that we don’t all, as we like to say, play kids’ soccer and everybody chase the ball and leave the field open. So we’re going to have to divide up the specialization, if you will, in terms of what we’re going to offer. So it would make sense to have some coordination. But in terms of this specific proposal, I can’t speak to that.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you believe that we are getting close to the point where what’s going on in Syria can be officially characterized as a civil war?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we’ve been on that, Said. I don’t think that declaring names here or there is very helpful. Our concern has been that the longer this goes on, the worse it gets and the risk of spillover.
QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The phone call. You said that they talked about the ongoing Egyptian security operation in the Sinai. I know yesterday you talked a little bit about that and how you said that you wanted it to be transparent and in keeping with the treaty – Egypt’s treaty obligations. Is there – did she express any U.S. concern that the Egyptians are not being as transparent as required? Did she convey Israeli concerns that – the Israelis have been public with their concerns about this.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, without getting into the detailed back-and-forth of their conversation, which we never like to do, this call was in keeping with a series of contacts that we’ve had in recent days with both Egyptians and Israelis, encouraging both sides to keep the lines of communication open between them, to talk directly about any issues of concern, and the importance of working through the security challenges in the Sinai in a way that, first and foremost, strengthens Egypt’s security, but also has a positive impact on the security of neighbors and the region as a whole.
QUESTION: Yeah, but do you have any concerns that the Egyptians are somehow not living up to their obligations in that regard?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are interested in seeing strong security operations, but we are also interested in good communication among neighbors going forward.
QUESTION: Well, in your – in the Administration’s assessment, do you believe that the lines of communication are, in fact, open, and that there is an effective mechanism for the two – for those two countries to talk about – talk through whatever concerns there might be? Or are you saying – did she tell the Foreign Minister that, “Hey, the communication has to improve here?”
MS. NULAND: Again, I think our view is that effective mechanisms do exist, and that they just need to continue to be used.
QUESTION: Okay. So continue to be used; so right now, you don’t have a problem? You think that they’re – they are being used?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think it’s helpful to characterize one way or the other except to say that we are talking to both Egyptians and Israelis about the importance of talking to each other.
QUESTION: In fact, it’s actually unhelpful not to be specific. I mean, either you think that it’s going along just fine or you don’t.
MS. NULAND: He lost me in the double-negative there. We are encouraging, as I said, both sides here to keep their communications open.
QUESTION: I understand that, but --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- is there a – why are you encouraging them? Are you encouraging them because you don’t think they have kept the lines of communication open, that there needs to be improved communications because it’s not going as well as it should have – as it should go? Or are you saying you just want things to continue along the way they are right now?
MS. NULAND: We want things to move forward and continue to be very transparent, very open. This is, as you know, a new government. It needs to – it is establishing its relationships with its neighbors, so it’s important that that go well.
QUESTION: Okay. So you do have some concern that there is --
MS. NULAND: I am not characterizing it that way beyond saying that we want them to continue to talk to each other and to deepen and broaden that --
QUESTION: Well, then – and the Secretary of State needed to call the Egyptian Foreign Minister to say, “Hey”?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary of State was calling Foreign Minister Amr, who she talks to about every month, to check in with him at an important moment not simply on Sinai, but also he’s got the IMF and Christine Lagarde there, and it’s very important for the future of Egypt that that go well.
QUESTION: Okay. All right, on the IMF visit, then --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- is the U.S. going to support this – what the IMF is there to consider in terms of whatever – I can’t remember the technical name, what they call these things – will the U.S. support IMF assistance to Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are strongly supportive of the conversation that’s now going on between Egypt and the IMF. Egypt’s facing a very difficult time economically in the aftermath of the revolution last year. They’ve got approximately $12 billion in a financing gap now. So we are encouraging the International Monetary Fund in its visit, and we think it’s important for the IMF to work with the Egyptians on how to fill this gap, and we look forward to hearing what they are able to agree to and to supporting that process going forward.
QUESTION: Just briefly on Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Egyptians announced yesterday that President Morsi will come to the UN General Assembly. Was there any talk that the Secretary had about that or potentially making that a visit to Washington as well?
MS. NULAND: They – apart from the fact that they said that they would see each other in New York, it was not a conversation about a future visit. It was primarily about the two issues.
QUESTION: Anything in particular about Syria with – in these talks with Egypt? I mean, you said the situation in Syria; anything in particular?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, I think – obviously, Egypt’s been a crucial partner in its Arab League capacity in being strong on what we expect of the Assad regime. So I don’t have anything particular except that we’re all concerned about the accelerating violence, the refugee flows, et cetera.
QUESTION: Yes, Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Regarding the situation in Sinai, it was mentioned during the talk about security that the U.S. will help somehow Egyptians to restore security, and the same time development, and it was mentioned according to Patterson, the Ambassador – our Ambassador in Egypt about financing some money. Was there any talk about that?
MS. NULAND: I would say that, without getting into specifics, as you know, when the Secretary was there and then subsequently when Secretary Panetta was there, we were open to any requests that the Egyptian Government might have had for support. I’m going to send you to the Pentagon on any specific things that came forward with regard to that. There may have been some technical requirements of one kind or another. I’m not aware of any additional financing above and beyond what we already do through --
QUESTION: About the IMF and the economy and – it was mentioned a few weeks ago that a team of – business economic team from U.S. is going to go to Egypt. Is there any development on that front?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, when the Secretary was in Egypt, she talked about this three-stage process – that we’d have the IMF visit, we would need to have a conversation about what the Egyptian Government feels it needs from the U.S. in terms of economic support, and then we would need to talk to the Congress, and that we also wanted, in keeping with the Secretary’s economic statecraft agenda, to bring a group of U.S. businesspeople to Egypt. And we’re anticipating doing all of those things in coming weeks. I don’t have a visit to announce here, but I think you will see all of those commitments fulfilled in the coming weeks and months.
QUESTION: Another – the last question, maybe. It’s – today, Cairo court is this – they ordered a chief editor of an Egyptian newspaper to be detained and – on charges of insulting the country’s President and spreading lies. Do you have any reaction? I know that last week, the – when the case was still going on – but in the last two weeks, at least – more than 10 cases of violations of freedom of expression, in particular media, take place according to the Human Rights and other organization. Do you have any reaction to this?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the case of Islam Afifi? Is that who you’re talking about?
QUESTION: Yes. Today is Islam Afifi, yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, as you know, we did express concerns quite strongly that one of the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy is a free press and respect for freedom of expression, and called on Egypt to ensure that it is protecting those freedoms moving forward. We’ve seen conflicting reports, frankly, regarding the arrest of Islam Afifi, and we are today seeking more information from the Egyptian Government about that case and we are monitoring it. More broadly, we continue to call for the protection of freedom of speech and freedom of press and believe it should be one of the highest priorities for Egypt going forward.
QUESTION: When you say conflicting reports, I mean, is that because of – some people mentioned that incitement of violence, he is talking --
MS. NULAND: No. In terms of what exactly has been --
QUESTION: The case or --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, his exact fate today.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary raise the issue of freedom of expression in her phone call?
MS. NULAND: She, in general, speaks always about the importance of staying on course with the democratic process. The Egyptian Government was very much aware and has been aware that we made some comments here about media freedom and took note of those.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A few days back, it was revealed that there is a coordination between the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to provide a missile shield to protect oil fields and to protect against any kind of aggressive actions by Iran. And then yesterday, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Panetta, spoke from aboard the USS Stennis bidding it Godspeed on its way there.
Is this part of the provision of a missile shield for these countries?
MS. NULAND: You mean is the decision to send the Stennis back --
MS. NULAND: -- to the Gulf part of the missile shield? Secretary Panetta spoke to this and talked about the general issue of security concerns, including Iran and the decision to send the Stennis back. I obviously can’t improve on that.
With regard to the missile defense cooperation that we have with Gulf countries, you’ll remember that when the Secretary was in Saudi Arabia – I think it was earlier this spring – we had a meeting with the GCC in which we reviewed the individual missile defense cooperation plans that we have with individual Gulf countries, and talked about ways that we can pull some of that work together so that they can each benefit from the programs that we have with others and look at it in regional terms as well as bilateral terms.
So that work is ongoing, and I think we are trying to do more to ensure that each of those Gulf countries can benefit from the work that we’re doing across the board.
QUESTION: So that is independent of saying the missile defense shield, that it’s independent of, let’s say, all the rhetoric that is going on about Israel and Iran and (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: The missile defense work that we’re doing is very much a response to the concerns that those countries could become – could come at risk as Iran develops its capability. But that’s separate and apart from any particular concerns this summer. You know that this missile defense work is very long-range, long planned. It takes time to get it up and running. So it’s something that’s been going on for quite some time, bilaterally and now multilaterally.
QUESTION: Can we stay on missile defense?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But in terms of the Pacific Rim, The Wall Street Journal story today talking about possible Pentagon plans to put a second X-Band radar in southern Japan to complement the one that’s been there since 2006. And even though Beijing has not formally objected, it did object to the placement of the 2006 siting in Aomori Prefecture. Have the U.S. and China talked about missile defense in these recent strategic dialogues at all?
MS. NULAND: Well, we do have a regular conversation with China, both in our mil-mil dialogue and in our S&ED, with regard to the intentions behind U.S. missile defense work with some of our allies – that this is not directed at China, that this reflects concerns about the missile threat from North Korea, that these are defensive systems, and that we are quite open and transparent about what it is that we’re doing and why.
QUESTION: But if you look at a map – and I don’t have a map in front of me – but if you have one in the northeast of Japan, if you have one at the southern end, the overlap from these two systems ostensibly could track what’s happening in and around Taiwan. And some have suggested that might raise hackles in Beijing.
Has the U.S. anticipated that? Have there been discussions between this building and the Pentagon about whether or not this is an appropriate way to refocus the U.S.’s defense posture in the region?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, our missile defense plans are the subject of interagency planning. We are all involved in it. Again, the Phased Adaptive Approach that we’re working on for Asia mirrors the work that we’re doing in Europe, the efforts that we have in the Middle East.
These are defensive systems. They don’t engage unless missiles have been fired. And in the case of the Asian systems, they are designed to defend against a missile threat from North Korea. They are not directed at China. And we do, as I said, Ros, have broad dialogue with the Chinese, both in mil-mil channels and in political channels, about the intention of these systems.
QUESTION: Have there also been any discussions – this is my last one. Have there also been any discussions with possibly the Philippines about siting a third X-Band radar to help complement what already exists in northern Japan?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to announce on any of that, Ros. You might try our colleagues at the Pentagon, but I don’t have anything to announce on new plans there.
QUESTION: Any political meaning or diplomatic meaning to the deployment of this aircraft carrier to the Gulf, four month in advance?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think it’s the place here at the State Department to talk about moving of aircraft carriers, especially because Secretary Panetta, I think, spoke about it yesterday. So I will --
QUESTION: On Asia?
MS. NULAND: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell met with his Japanese counterpart yesterday. Do you have details of their meeting?
MS. NULAND: I did have something yesterday, and am I going to be able to find it is the question. This was Kurt Campbell’s meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sugiyama, I think, right?
MS. NULAND: He is Kurt’s regular interlocutor. They meet very frequently, as you know. My understanding is that they talked about the full range of bilateral, regional, global issues yesterday, that the Deputy Foreign Minister also had a chance to talk to Glyn Davies and our DPRK team.
QUESTION: So did they talk about the – I know you don’t know this question, but talk about the territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan in their meeting – I mean the Dokdo issue?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the Japanese side brought it up and that our side said what we always say publicly and privately – that we want to see the two countries work it out together.
QUESTION: Just one more follow. I know you are tired of these questions on this topic, but do you support Japan’s move to bring this Dokdo issue to ICJ or the UN? Do you support?
MS. NULAND: We take no position on that issue. What we want is a resolution between the two countries. I --
QUESTION: But Toria, my sense is that you take position on Senkaku issue or South China issue to the – both of which are territorial disputes. But why don’t you – why you don’t take any question or take position on this Dokdo issue? What’s the difference between those two – Senkaku issue and Dokdo issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, on the Senkaku issue, as you know, we don’t take any position on that one either except to say that we want that one resolved peacefully as well. So I’m not sure what you’re seeing as inconsistency here.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: With South Korea and Japan, in addition to the dispute and to some of the rhetoric between the two sides, there’s been a dispute even about the protest itself. Prime Minister Noda sent a protest letter to the South Koreans. President Lee returned it, not accepting the note. Is that something that you’re concerned about, about the lack of communication with the two sides? Can the U.S. help them resolve that in any way?
MS. NULAND: Both of these countries are strong, important, valued allies of the United States. It’s obviously not comfortable for us when they have a dispute between them, so our message to each of them is the same: Work this out, work it out peacefully, work it out through consultation.
QUESTION: On the --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: -- same topic --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Sugiyama said – after the meeting with Mr. Campbell on camera, he said the U.S. role is importance of the resolution based on the international law about the Takeshima issue. So does it mean that – does it include about the action to that ICJ?
MS. NULAND: As I said, we take no position on the ICJ issue.
QUESTION: A new topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just – if we could return to that question about India and the internet, and specifically Twitter. The Indian Government apparently has warned Twitter that it will take suitable action, not specifying what, if Twitter doesn’t block some 20 accounts that the Indians say have been responsible for spreading some of this false information.
I’m wondering, do you have any view of that warning? And have you had any contacts with the Indians or with Twitter about this situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said for the last couple of days, we are in constant contact with our various companies as they reach out to us, as they need us. And as we’ve said all along and as we said publicly here, as the Indian Government seeks to preserve security, we are urging them also to take into account the importance of freedom of expression in the online world. Our understanding is that the Indian Government is working with a number of our companies – Google, Facebook, and now Twitter – and we stand ready to be helpful if we can, as we always do with our companies in those conversations.
QUESTION: Have you been asked by the companies, any of them, to – for advice or assistance?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that beyond the normal dialogue, we are not in the middle of these conversations.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: When you say that you’ve been urging the Indians to also respect freedom of expression, does that mean that potential action against Twitter would be inconsistent with that, inconsistent with freedom of expression?
MS. NULAND: Again, these companies are talking to the Indian Government about application of Indian law within the context of internet freedom. I’m not in a position to parse the conversation that they’re having. The general principle of respect for freedom of expression, respect for the unique characteristics of the online environment, needs to be respected even as they work through whether there are things these companies can do to help calm the environment.
QUESTION: The same question --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- because what’s in general term – because recently it came out that this issue, which is Twitter, and before that it was BlackBerry and others, is part of this dispute between human rights activists in different countries, whether Arab Spring or India or wherever, and the companies.
Is this – how these issues is handled by the State Department? I mean, as a human rights issue or a technical issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, fundamentally, freedom of expression on the internet has been a keystone issue for the Secretary. We discuss it in terms of human rights and universal freedoms. We look to work with our companies and with governments around the world to protect and preserve an open environment. We don’t support, as you know, sort of global efforts to --
MS. NULAND: -- restrict or nationalize the internet. That said, that we also would always have concerns about incitement and hate speech and this kind of thing. So it’s always a balance, but in general, we want to see a free and open internet and we want to see our companies have a good dialogue with the governments that they --
QUESTION: So just to complete the idea, understanding, of what’s going on, like different embassies, U.S. embassies in different countries, are part of their thing or – I mean, following this thing, monitoring this thing --
MS. NULAND: In --
QUESTION: -- as an issue?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, as – absolutely, they follow it as an issue. And they follow it as a political issue, they follow it as a press freedom issue, and they make themselves available to our companies in the instances where there are concerns.
QUESTION: I got one more, but --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- unfortunately, I’m woefully unprepared for this question, because --
MS. NULAND: He’s admitted to being unprepared. Goodness.
QUESTION: Yeah. Wow. This is the first one --
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) First one in many, many decades. Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Somewhere in the Gulf --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- there was some appeals court that overturned a conviction of someone in --
MS. NULAND: This is Bahrain, I’m going to guess.
QUESTION: Yeah, Bahrain.
MS. NULAND: There. May I help you out, Matt? Yes.
QUESTION: Well, I wasn’t sure if it was Bahrain or the UAE or --
MS. NULAND: Yes. Would you like me to speak about Bahrain, Matt?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. NULAND: And I’m going to guess this is the case of Nabeel Rajab?
QUESTION: Yes, that’s the one.
MS. NULAND: Okay. So there were two pieces to this case. There was the Twitter piece and there was also the piece with regard to illegal assembly.
So today, we welcome reports that Nabeel Rajab was acquitted of the charge of insulting the people of Muharraq via Twitter by the appeals court in Bahrain. However, we’re deeply troubled that the Bahraini court simultaneously sentenced Mr. Rajab to three years last week in prison on charges of leading illegal gatherings. We understand that the appeals court of Bahrain is going to review this case, and particularly the three-year sentence for illegal gathering, on September 10th. And we take this opportunity to urge the Government of Bahrain to consider all available options to resolve this case, and in general to take more steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and begin a meaningful dialogue with – between the political opposition, civil society, and the government.
QUESTION: Sorry. You said to take all available options to resolve this case?
MS. NULAND: Resolve this case, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. Well, wouldn’t one of those – wouldn’t one resolution to the case be the appeals court --
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- affirming the sentence?
MS. NULAND: We want to see the appeals court take this up in a manner that is consistent with international law and protecting of his fundamental freedoms and freedoms of assembly.
QUESTION: Toria, I mean, you urge your appeal to the Bahrainis. Have you seen any movement on the part of the Bahrainis over the past 14, 16 months where they actually move to reform and to address these issues that you are so concerned about?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before, as you know, when we had the Bahraini Independent Commission report and we had a long list of recommendations, and we’ve talked here about all of the recommendations that were implemented, about the list of those that remain, including in the police sector, et cetera. So we are continuing in our conversations with the Government of Bahrain to urge them to complete those lists of reforms.
The question of national dialogue, as you know, has ebbed and flowed in Bahrain. And most recently, when the Secretary saw Bahraini counterparts a couple of months ago, she urged a renewed effort at national dialogue, and we continue to stress that here.
Thanks very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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