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Daily Press Briefing

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 6, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




12:47 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Happy Tuesday.

MS. PSAKI: There are a lot of scarves in here. Is it cold in here? Okay, it's a theme.

I have two items at the top. On Indonesia, obviously, many of you have been following the missing AirAsia flight. Some of you have covered this, but I just wanted to give a brief update on our assistance given we haven't discussed that in here.

Ten days ago, we, of course, learned that the Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing. The United States offers condolences to the families and loved ones of those who perished on the flight. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who await news on the passengers and crew who remain missing.

Indonesia continues to lead the search operation, and the United States has been happy to offer support. As the Department of Defense has announced, the U.S. Navy has offered ships, helicopters, sonar equipment, and small boats. They have all contributed to the search efforts. In particular, the USS Sampson and the USS Fort Worth are actively engaged with search activities in close coordination with Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency. In addition, Indonesia's – Indonesian participants in the search effort are recipients of training supported by funding from the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. This includes police search and rescue, divers deployed to the site, who are trained under a maritime law enforcement project. Indonesian laboratories being used for victim identification have also received past law enforcement forensics capacity building support.

Also on upcoming travel, Secretary Kerry will travel to Ahmedabad, India, on January 10th to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summit inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Modi. The Secretary will join leading U.S. business executives and innovators at the summit to highlight the critical role that U.S. technology plays in supporting sustainable economic growth across India and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as strengthening trade and investment between the two countries. This is the first time the United States will join the event as a partner country. Secretary Kerry may travel to additional countries, but any other stops would be announced at a later date.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Yesterday, we had a rather lengthy exchange about Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Not only on the political prisoners that are supposed to be released but also on the dates for the upcoming trip and migration talks. So I'm wondering if you can update us at all on either or both of those issues.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have an update on the trip quite yet. We're still finalizing details for that. We hope to have that locked down in the coming days.

In terms of prisoners, which you're right we had a discussion on yesterday, as Raul Castro indicated in his December 17th speech, the Cuban Government made the decision to release these individuals as part of the discussions with them. They will – this is a commitment that they made not just to the United States but to the Vatican as well.

We will continue, of course, to urge the Cuban Government to follow through on its commitment. They have already released some of the prisoners. We'd like to see this completed in the near future. And certainly, that's something we'll continue to discuss.

I'd also like to note that while we're still finalizing the agenda for the migration talks, we plan on discussing human rights issues directly with the Cuban Government at the migration and normalization talks in Havana later this month. And that will certainly be a topic. That continues to be a focus of our discussion.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it correct that the release, though, while you would like to see it happen in the near future, is not – doesn't have to be done for the – for Assistant Secretary Jacobson to go and actually have these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. I would just like to emphasize this list is not to be seen as the end of our discussion on human rights with the Government of Cuba. It is part of certainly what we see as an important effort and a step that the Cuban Government committed to, not just to us but to the Vatican, and we're, of course, encouraging them to continue to implement it. Some have been released already.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I don't think anyone's saying it's the end, but it certainly is the beginning. And if they don't even begin at the beginning, then --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they have --

QUESTION: -- that seems like it's a problem.

MS. PSAKI: They have begun. Some prisoners have been released.

QUESTION: Well, I know. But you would think, though, that once they've released the 53 and they're all actually out of custody, that would be the beginning, right? I mean, this --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, and just promising something to you and to the Pope doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to actually happen, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they have --

QUESTION: People have lied to popes for centuries and centuries.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, first of all, there have already been some prisoners released.


MS. PSAKI: I also think it's important to note that we've been very careful about discussing these prisoners and this process because we're not looking to put a bigger target on Cuban political dissidents. We're looking to get them released, and this is the process that we think will be most effective in getting that done.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, there has been some – on the Hill, it will come as no surprise to you – people who are opposed to the idea of any kind of reconciliation while – or normalization while the Government of Cuba remains the current Government of Cuba have said that they don't think that it's a good idea for Assistant Secretary Jacobson to actually go down there and have these talks and begin the discussion of normalization until the Cubans at least make good on one of – on this early preliminary initial pledge.

Is it the Administration's position that you welcome the congressional input but you're not going to abide by it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly welcome congressional input, but I would just reiterate what our view is, which is that this is an opportunity to discuss human rights issues directly. It is not as if our policy of several decades was working previously. Our new policy, by opening up Cuba to the United States, we will do more to empower the Cuban people than by keeping them isolated. It's certainly not in the interests of Americans or the interests of civil society activists to not continue these discussions and begin to make progress on some of these different components. And so our view is that continuing to engage in this process provides an opportunity to have a dialogue about how to make progress.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just the last one, and I want to go back to this thing about the Vatican.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why is it that you think that it's so important that the Cubans not only told you, meaning the U.S. Government, that they would release it, but also the Vatican? I mean, I'm not sure I understand why that's – why is that germane to somehow – because they promised the Roman Catholic Church that they would do this, that means they're more likely to do it than if they had only said it to you guys?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, obviously, the Vatican played a unique role in this process, and it's just important to emphasize that this is a negotiation that wasn't just the United States. There are many in the international community who feel that this path forward is the most beneficial path forward.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on it quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Correct me if I'm wrong.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday you said you couldn't confirm publicly that one of those prisoners had been released. Now you're saying that some have been released.


QUESTION: Do you know how many?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get into specifics of numbers.

QUESTION: Is it important that a specific number or that there is a threshold of those 53 that need to be released for these talks to really go ahead with some mutual trust?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say I would de-emphasize the link between the two. There are many components of why this new – our new approach to Cuba is going to help civil society, help human rights activists, help the human rights community in Cuba. Certainly, the step to release political prisoners is one we feel is important. That's why we've talked about it. But having a dialogue, opening up access to be able to communicate, to organize, those are all steps we feel is important.

And the third thing I would just say, which I meant to mention in response to Matt's question, is that for decades now the United States policy toward Cuba has isolated us in the region, and it has been used as an excuse by the Castro regime to blame the United States for the lack of access to the internet, to the ability to communicate in Cuba. That's no longer the case. And so there are many benefits we hear, yeah we feel – that there are to moving forward on this policy. Yes, of course, we feel that the release of political prisoners is very important. That's why we mentioned it and why it was announced as part of the discussion. This is an ongoing process. We didn't expect it would be overnight. They've committed to do this, and we'll continue to have a discussion about it.

QUESTION: And to just get more into details about the list, who actually put together this list?

MS. PSAKI: The United States did.

QUESTION: Was it the White House that came up with this list?

MS. PSAKI: This was – as you know, there were two individuals who work out of the NSC who were involved in the negotiations. Obviously, there were others through the interagency who were coordinating behind the scenes or discussing behind the scenes, but it's a process that was put together by the Administration.

QUESTION: Because the dissidents argue that this list – that they haven't been consulted about this list and that some of the prisoners might actually have already been released. One of the difficulties in this kind of list is that, for example – and I think it was Mitterrand when he went and he looked at prisoners released, most – some of them had already been released. Are you absolutely certain that most of those prisoners are – were actually still in jail at the time that the list was compiled?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that the list was carefully put together. And certainly, the goal and objective was to get the release of additional political prisoners. It wasn't to check a box or just be able to say we took part in a release when they were already released. This also isn't the end. There are additional – there could be more, but this is the list, obviously, that we're focused on now.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are these prisoners all very – are they political prisoners? None of them have any other kind of backgrounds that you were interested – was there a certain background --

MS. PSAKI: That's how I would describe them. I don't think there's more description I would offer at this point.

QUESTION: Jen, just real quickly, on the – in terms of the regulations, the Treasury and Commerce regulations, there's – they still haven't been published. So I'm just wondering if there's – if you have any idea when that's actually going to happen. When are people going to be able to legally bring back their hundred dollars' worth of rum and cigars?

MS. PSAKI: I knew cigars would be a part of that. Well, as Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson mentioned when she was here in this briefing room in December, this is obviously a first – one of the first steps in the process. It takes some time to put regulations together; it's weeks, not months. I can see if there's more of a specific update from some of the agencies responsible for that.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, do you expect that part of it to be done before she goes at near – towards the end of the third week of January?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn't – I can get an – and see if there's an update on it, Matt. But I think what's important to note about the migration talks is they were previously scheduled. Obviously, we're looking at a different environment now, but we're not looking at that as a deadline or a timeline. It's a part of the process, an opportunity to have a discussion, of which there will be many around that – outside of it.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. But when the President made his announcement, there was a lot of – there's – in the hours after that announcement, there was a lot of interest from people who want to go, want to take advantage of the general licenses that will be available for the 12 categories --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and people are waiting and they want to know when. So --

MS. PSAKI: I understand that, and clearly there's a lot of interest and excitement about the opening up of diplomatic relations. We understand that. It takes some time to put proper regulations in place, and Commerce and Treasury are working on that now.

QUESTION: Can I also clarify – sorry, just a few more things. The – is there some step that you would like that Cuba has asked the U.S. to do before you – Roberta Jacobson gets to Havana?

MS. PSAKI: I just wouldn't link things to Assistant Secretary Jacobson's trip to Havana. There – this is an ongoing process. We're going to continue to work on regulations. Cuba has released some of the prisoners. This is – it will be an ongoing dialogue. So this is not the last trip. It's not the last conversation that will take place. It was a previously scheduled trip, and we're continuing to make progress on each of these components, regardless of the timing of the trip.

QUESTION: Could I – you said "previously scheduled," but it wasn't previously scheduled for her to go, was it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, she had been a couple of years ago, but the migration talks --

QUESTION: Not as assistant secretary of State.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But in general --

QUESTION: I mean, you keep saying that --

MS. PSAKI: -- we have done the migration talks.

QUESTION: I understand that, but it wasn't the – this is – it's not as if this trip is nothing. You keep wanting to have it be – there be no links, but I mean, unless I'm really badly informed --

MS. PSAKI: I'm not trying --

QUESTION: -- she will be the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba since the Batista regime.

MS. PSAKI: I am not conveying that at all. I'm not intending to convey it's not – she's obviously an incredibly high-ranking official.


MS. PSAKI: There's an opportunity to discuss other components.


MS. PSAKI: What I'm just conveying is that we're making progress on each of the different pieces --


MS. PSAKI: -- outside of that.

QUESTION: But so because, as you say, she – well, incredibly high ranking – I'm – okay, I'll accept that. But because she is an important – will be an important visitor to Cuba, you might think that that could be used as some kind of leverage to get something. And you're saying she's going to go whether or not they release the rest of the 53; she's going to go whether or not they throw more people in jail from today onwards; she's going to go whether the Cubans all of a sudden shutdown what limited internet access they are – they have now. You're saying – basically, you're saying --

MS. PSAKI: That's not actually what I said.

QUESTION: Well, you're saying that she's going regardless of what happens --

MS. PSAKI: Matt --

QUESTION: -- whether things get worse or better.

MS. PSAKI: -- what I'm conveying is that there's a number of ways that we work to make progress on human rights issues. One of them is direct dialogue. This is an opportunity to have that as part of these talks. But there's also work – we're not waiting to make progress on the other components with a deadline of a couple of weeks from now.

QUESTION: No, no, I get that. But the criticism of this is that you've basically given up a – it used to be many – not so long ago that a visit from a senior American official was something that was a big deal and that was often accompanied by releases of prisoners and that kind of thing. And you seem to be saying that that– there are no prerequisites. This is just going to – this is going to happen regardless of what the situation is in Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there's already been progress made on releases of some of the prisoners. That's an issue that, obviously, we want them to continue to make progress on. There are other components we're working on. A visit is part of our process, but I wouldn't link them all together. That's what I'm conveying.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can you say a dozen, less than a dozen have been released?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to give any numbers here today.

Do we have any more on Cuba before we go on? Go ahead.

QUESTION: A follow up on the questions from yesterday on Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have figures for how much aid has been given to Pakistan and the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I have a little bit more for you. Let me just see what I can go through here. Okay. So there's two kinds. We talked about this a little bit yesterday, right? There's the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill funding. There's also appropriations funding. Let me just give you a quick update on some of the appropriations funding, since you asked about that yesterday too.


MS. PSAKI: The most recent review of that was in September of 2014, based on the FY 2013 appropriation. At that time, a certification or waiver for a broad range of topics was required. After reviewing the full range of criteria required by law, the Department of State did not certify, and instead employed the national interest waiver in that case, as well provided by Congress in the legislation.

To answer Matt's question from yesterday, we have certified under the KLB criteria only once. That occurred for FY 11, when the Department of State certified that Pakistan had met the requirements at that time.

Additionally, a review was required – and this is a little confusing, because this occurred before the 2013, but for the FY 2014 appropriations bill, prior to us notifying FY 2014 appropriations funding. That review and subsequent waiver was exercised in July of 2014. So it's essentially a waiver prior to the notification of the funding, which allows the Department to then notify and obligate those funds, which we'll do this year, but as I mentioned yesterday, we haven't done at this point.

In terms of total funding, for FY 2013, which only began to come off a congressional hold in September 2014, Congress appropriated approximately 1.2 billion in assistance to Pakistan. FY 2014 funding for civilian assistance programs, as I mentioned yesterday, has not yet been notified. So those are the numbers and statistics I have to offer for you.

QUESTION: Jen, can you rewind to the beginning of that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- into English, into straightforward, understandable – that was the most confusing thing I've ever heard.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know. But budgetary --

QUESTION: And I've heard some pretty confusing things from --

MS. PSAKI: Budgetary talk is a little nerdy, Matt.

QUESTION: When was the – a little? (Laughter.) My God. So --

MS. PSAKI: Let me try to unwind it for you. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: When was – the last time that the Administration certified that Pakistan was cooperating fully and could get the money was 2011?

MS. PSAKI: Was for FY 2011. I don't know what month or year necessarily that happened.

QUESTION: Okay. Post 2011, they have just gotten the waiver.


QUESTION: In other words, you have been unable to certify that they're complying, but you have --

MS. PSAKI: With all of the requirements.

QUESTION: -- that they're not meeting – you've been unable to certify that they're meeting all the requirements, but you have exercised the national security --


QUESTION: -- or national interest waiver. And how many times has that waiver been done then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there's two different types of funding legislation, KLB and appropriations. I'd have to check the exact number. It's been – there's been bills each year for both.

QUESTION: But it remains the case though, from what you said yesterday – or it is – it was correct yesterday and still is correct today that the last time the waiver – they got the waiver was 2013. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: For KLB, yes.


MS. PSAKI: Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding. There's also appropriations funding, which there was a waiver granted in September of 2014 for that, which is a separate pot of money.

QUESTION: Okay. But it's counterterrorism money.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there's different categories that each pot is used for. There's counterterrorism funding in each of them too, though.

QUESTION: So the total – this is something we probably can go offline.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: We can go over it. It's very confusing.

QUESTION: So far --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let --

QUESTION: -- criterias which Pakistan couldn't meet, that's why, because of that, you couldn't give them the certificate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – it doesn't mean that they haven't met – it means that some of the criteria hasn't been met.

QUESTION: Yes. Which are those?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn't mean that there hasn't been progress that's been made in some areas. We typically don't break that down in a public manner. But obviously the funding is important and one we feel is important to our strategic relationship. And that's why, of course, a waiver has been granted in these cases.

QUESTION: So do you have any figure of how much has been given to Pakistan under KLB so far?

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to – we can take that question and get that back to you, Lalit.

Any more on Pakistan? Okay. Japan? Go ahead.

QUESTION: And on the Secretary's trip --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it's being reported that he will be traveling to Pakistan after India. Do you have any --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more components of the trip to announce today.

Go ahead. Japan?


MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So yesterday, you made some comments on the Prime Minister Abe's remarks at the New Year opening press conference.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you also mentioned about the importance of Murayama Danwa and –Murayama Statement and Kono Statement, and some people see that as a kind of pressure on Japanese Government to take over that – those statements. So I'm wondering whether you have --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly wasn't intended to be. Let me just reiterate – or restate, I should say – that we welcome Prime Minister Abe's comments yesterday, including the positive message on history issues and Japan's postwar contributions to peace. We believe that strong and constructive relations between countries in the region promotes peace and stability and are in the interests of both the countries as well as the United States.

I would also just note, since I have the opportunity, that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Kishida had a phone call yesterday, a long – we were trying to schedule for some time – where they discussed their desire to look forward to avenue – working together on a range of avenues of cooperation for 2015. They talked a little bit about the Middle East and the region and what's happening in the region; Ukraine, ISIL, Ebola. The Secretary thanked Japan for their support and cooperation on a range of areas, and they agreed that there are a number of global issues that we'll continue to work closely on. So it wasn't intended in that way.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Gambia.


QUESTION: The Gambia.

MS. PSAKI: The Gambia. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I was wondering what – yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that it was – it had two individuals, I believe, that was related to the recent coup in Gambia. Do you know of any other arrests that have taken place with a connection to the U.S. of this coup?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given it's an ongoing legal case, I don't think it would surprise you that I can't comment on matters related to the ongoing investigation of the two U.S. citizens. And I don't have any other information about arrests or intended arrests.

QUESTION: One of the issues from The Gambia has been the U.S. link to this attempted coup. Has there been some contact between Kerry and Gambian officials to reassure them that this was not a U.S. effort to dethrone him or any way, or that it is being – that there is an investigation and what he hopes to get out of it?

MS. PSAKI: There has not – I don't have any calls or any contact from the Secretary to read out. I think we've been reiterating publicly, and I'm happy to do again, that the United States Government had no role in the attempted coup that took place, and that certainly is the message we'll continue to convey in every avenue we have the opportunity to.

QUESTION: Do you know that if any of these – some of these – I've still got my head in Cuba. They're not dissidents. Some of these coup – people trying to overthrow the government --

QUESTION: Alleged coup plotters.

QUESTION: -- alleged coup plotters – thanks, Matt – also had some links to the U.S. military. I think one of them might have served in Iraq. Do you have any of that? Can you confirm any of that?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for anything about links to the military.

QUESTION: Sorry, I just want to make sure I understood – maybe not at the Secretary's level, but can you ask to see if there's been any contact with lower-ranking officials --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- or even – or the Embassy too, because the president of Gambia had blamed terrorist groups and even suggested that there was some kind of an official U.S. link. So --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I'd just be curious to know if you've had – if someone sat down with him or called him and explained to him exactly what – or one of his aides – what's going on.

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to check on contact, and obviously, I would reiterate we were not involved in this.

Can I just take the opportunity – there were two questions yesterday that I just wanted to address quickly. Somebody asked about the language in the Department of Justice letter. The word "friendly" is used in the legal sense to mean the United States is at peace with The Gambia. It's not meant to convey a warming of – the status of relations in that way in terms of the adjective. It's a legal term.

The second piece on human rights, which I was also asked about – I mentioned, of course, that we certainly regularly raise our human rights concerns with senior Gambian government officials. Two kind of historic things, as you are all reporting on this: One, on December 23rd, the United States terminated the Gambia's African Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA, as you all know of it – eligibility due to the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process; and on November 24th, the United States expressed dismay regarding the president's decision to sign into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, as well as deep concern about the reported arrest and detention of suspected LGBT individuals in The Gambia. So just two recent pieces.

QUESTION: I had – I'm mystified that lawyers actually told you that "friendly" is a legal term now, but I'm sure it is, meaning the United States is – every country in the world --

MS. PSAKI: It's used --

QUESTION: -- the United States believes that every country in the world --

MS. PSAKI: Maybe not a legal term. Let me rephrase it.

QUESTION: -- is friendly.

MS. PSAKI: It's used in the legal sense, so --

QUESTION: Okay. The legal sense, though, that would suggest that any country with which the United States is not currently at war, which is every country in the world except for North Korea, because it's an armistice, not a truce – that means that you consider Iran to be a friendly country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the way that language may be used, Matt, is not meant to imply something about the specifics of the closeness of the relationship. That's what I was communicating here.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, do these same lawyers suggest that Iran is a friendly country? Would they?

MS. PSAKI: I don't believe we've used it in that way in a letter, no --

QUESTION: Or Venezuela, for example?

MS. PSAKI: -- but we can discuss legal use --


MS. PSAKI: -- if we have an Iran letter to talk about.

QUESTION: Or Belarus or Zimbabwe?

MS. PSAKI: We could go all day.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Let's change the subject.

QUESTION: All right. Can I just stay in Africa, though?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There are reports out of Uganda that a senior LRA commander has turned himself in to U.S. troops in the Central African Republic. Do you know anything about this?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of reports that Dominic Ongwen, one of the LRA's senior leaders, is in the custody of U.S. forces deployed to the Central African Republic in support of the African Union's regional counter LRA task force. In coordination with the AU RTF, U.S. military forces took custody of an individual claiming to be a defector from the LRA. That individual later identified himself as Ongwen. Efforts to establish full and positive identification continue, so I don't have confirmation of that at this point. If the individual proves to be Ongwen, his defection would represent a historic blow to the LRA's command structure. It is clear that despite the regional challenges, the AU regional task force continues to make great strides toward ending the LRA threat.

So we – it's obviously new information as of today, but --

QUESTION: Do you know if there – if the military people who have custody of him now have reason to believe that he is not, in fact, the person who he says he is?

MS. PSAKI: I think – I don't have more details than what I've offered. The Department of Defense may have more specifics --

QUESTION: Are they --

MS. PSAKI: -- but obviously, they're working to confirm the details.

QUESTION: And is it the Pentagon that people should be asking on these, or is it AFRICOM?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on that. I mean, you can certainly start with the Pentagon and they can probably direct you to the right people.

QUESTION: All right. But I mean, presumably, you know what this guy looks like, right? So I mean, does he bear a resemblance to --

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to speculate. I'll point anyone to the Department of Defense or the appropriate military contacts.

QUESTION: Can I have another (inaudible) question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Iran, the – there's an Iranian or there's a – agency reporting that the Iran talks are going to take place on the 18th of January; we understand could be as soon as January 15. Can you give us the correct date on that? And is it at a political level or (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I've seen those reports. They have typically been at the political directors level, so certainly, it's safe to assume that. As you know, the EU has the lead, so we expect they'll have more specifics to announce on the dates and timing and program in the coming days.


QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think about if former President Chen Shui-bian's medical parole you had some statement but didn't bring it up. Could you set it on the record?

And regarding the flag raising ceremony, you said U.S. didn't know that in advance. Taiwan's representative in the U.S. admit that he didn't inform U.S. in advance but they have reached understanding afterward. And U.S. official said they can just – left everything behind and move on. I wonder if this is true.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to add to yesterday, which I already gave an on-the-record comment yesterday. I don't know if you have a new question to offer. I'm happy to answer it if you do.

QUESTION: You mean President Chen Shui-bian's medical parole?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, yes, that. Sure. Let's see. We have noted former President Chen Shui-bian's release on medical parole while the United States has raised concerns about Mr. Chen's health with the Taiwan authorities. We were not involved in his release. This issue was for the Taiwan authorities to decide.

QUESTION: And Jen, about the flag-raising ceremony yesterday, you said U.S. did not – notified – was not notified in advance, but Taiwan's government said they have reached understanding afterward. Could you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think I would just reiterate what I said yesterday, is that it's inconsistent with our policy, and not notified in advance means you didn't know about it in advance, which seems consistent with what you just said.

Do we have any more on Taiwan?

QUESTION: Well, yeah, because after the briefing yesterday, I read a couple of reports about this and I'm just – had it previously been not allowed for the Taiwanese mission here to raise the flag at the representative's office – residence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the issue is that it's inconsistent with the spirit of our policy, and it's violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations. I'm not sure if there was a previous incident to speak of.

QUESTION: So – well, had the Chinese – well, you were asked yesterday if the Chinese had complained directly to you. Do you know if they have?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more specifics on that. I'd point you to the Chinese.

QUESTION: But this is the first time you're aware of this ever happening?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any historic record of flag-raising issues, so I don't have a confirmation of that or not.

QUESTION: Is there any repercussion, is there any consequence to people – I mean, I presume that there's an American flag at the AIT in Taipei, yeah? I mean, is there any – does it have any consequence that they --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we're in discussions with – U.S. officials in Taipei and Washington are in discussions with Taiwan authorities about the matter. I don't have any other specifics for you.

QUESTION: And what's the – how does it get remedied? Did they have to take it down?

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have anything to predict for you at this point.

QUESTION: Well, wait. But can we find out? Because as --

MS. PSAKI: If I have something more to offer, I'm happy to share it. I'm not sure that I will at this point, because we're still discussing with them.

QUESTION: So Jen, does the U.S. consider it (inaudible) or official capacity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it's not about the U.S. views it – it's a representative compound; it's not a private person's home.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, when you said yesterday the ceremony is not consistent with U.S. policy, so what kind of message you would like to deliver to Taiwan, such as "Don't do that again," or --

MS. PSAKI: I think the message is what we've been conveying, which is that we're disappointed with the action. It's – the flag-raising ceremony violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations. We have a robust set of cultural relations, but we do not have diplomatic relations. And we'll continue to discuss this with the proper officials.

QUESTION: But that's a bit more than you said yesterday. You're disappointed in it.

MS. PSAKI: I believe I said exactly that yesterday.

QUESTION: You did say that? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But --

QUESTION: I must have missed it. Well, regarding other disputed areas, I mean, would you have the same problem if – I don't know, if the Dalai Lama's office here put a Tibetan flag up?

MS. PSAKI: We can discuss that if that happens, Matt. I'm happy to talk to our team about that.

QUESTION: Okay. Georgia, I mean, South Ossetia, Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: We could do this all day. It's like a board game.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine?


QUESTION: As you know, a hunger strike of – by Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, who is being held in Russia, enters fourth week. Yesterday, a Twitter storm started to support her release. And as I know, the ambassador – the U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, joined these actions – action. Does the Department of State support this action, and do you have any comments or statement on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we welcomed the exchange of some detained persons in December. Hundreds remain in captivity. We reiterate our condemnation of Russia's continued detention of Ukrainian hostages inside Russia, including a Ukrainian member of parliament, Nadia Savchenko, and film producer Oleg Sentsov. We understand that Ms. Savchenko is on a hunger strike, as you mentioned, to protest the terms of her detention and is suffering additional health problems. We call for her immediate release, as well as other Ukrainian hostages held by Russia.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine? Okay.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You're not going to – well, maybe you do know about it, but I doubt it, because I just saw --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the move now, and I'm not --

MS. PSAKI: I don't, unfortunately, have any magic up here.

QUESTION: I know, I know, I know. So your colleague at the White House just said that the President will veto this Keystone legislation if it's approved, and I'm just wondering – I'm not asking you to comment on that. I'm just wondering, how is the review – what's the status of where things stand with the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there's not an update, because as we've noted in the past, there's a Nebraska court case which obviously could determine the route or if there would be changes to the route. So that, in terms of the official process, would be the next step.

QUESTION: Okay. The court verdict, the decision from – by the court?

MS. PSAKI: Right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there will not be a – the review will not be completed until at least that is done?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that's correct.

QUESTION: The court rules.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: One more question on Taiwan, because Representative Shen – he said at a press conference in Taipei yesterday that – he said he need no permission to hold a private session – I mean, such as a flag-raising ceremony.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I stated, it's a representative compound. It's not a private home, and I think I made clear what our views are. So I don't have anything more to add.

Do we have any more questions? Go ahead.

QUESTION: South Korea is claiming that North Korea has nuclear capacity to be able to reach the United States. Is the U.S. at all concerned about their findings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don't comment, as you know, on intelligence matters. And generally speaking, North Korea's ballistic missile launches and continued development of its ballistic missile program and related activities constitute clear violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and have been condemned by the international community. We continue to urge North Korea to comply with its UN Security Council obligations, and we obviously continue to closely monitor the situation on the Korean Peninsula and remain steadfast in our commitment to the defense of our allies, certainly including South Korea.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Well, wait. When you say because of intel matters, that means you can't comment on this claim that the South – the South Korean claim that the North Korean has this cyber army of 6,000 cyborg – or not cyborg, sorry – 6,000-strong cyber army? That's something you're not prepared to comment on?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any specifics on that. I'm happy to see if there's more we can offer.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

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