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Daily Press Briefing

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 9, 2016

Index for Today's Briefing

DEPARTMENT
SYRIA
TURKEY/SYRIA
TURKEY
IRAN
YEMEN
SYRIA
IRAN
CHINA/TAIWAN
NORTH KOREA
EGYPT
UKRAINE
PHILIPPINES/CHINA
JAPAN/CHINA
SAUDI ARABIA

 

TRANSCRIPT:

2:00 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Hello, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to the State Department. We will keep them sharp this week, so I have no – nothing at the top.

So Matt, I turn it over to you.

QUESTION: Right. I just have one brief logistical thing and then to Syria, and the logistical thing is about the whole email issue and a court filing that you guys just presented today. It says that you have been unable to find any email records responsive to a request from the RNC for Mr. Pagliano's email. I'm just wondering, how – do you know how that is?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So thanks for the question. I have quite a bit to say on this, so bear with me.

As a standard, the department does not comment on matters in litigation. However, the department disagrees with a number of assertations made in today's filing and will be responding in court. We will say, however, that this matter was reported in the press back in December 2015. The department has searched for Mr. Pagliano's email PST file, and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton's tenure. To be clear, the department does have records related to Mr. Pagliano and we are working with Congress and FOIA requesters to provide relevant material. The department has located a PST from Mr. Pagliano's recent work at the department as a contractor, but the files are from after Secretary Clinton left the department. We are continuing to search for Mr. Pagliano's emails which the department may have otherwise retained.

When it comes to FOIA, I think as you know, the State Department works diligently to produce all responsive records in our possession. The department does acknowledge we must work to improve our systems for record management and retention. As part of the ongoing effort, the department is now automatically archiving Secretary Kerry's emails as well as the emails of numerous senior staff.

QUESTION: So in other words, these – because he was not a senior official, they just – they just – they're now in the ether someplace?

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would --

QUESTION: I mean, you think – I mean – you can't find them, so he clearly didn't spend four years here and never send an email, right?

MS TRUDEAU: No. It's --

QUESTION: So --

MS TRUDEAU: It's not required for employees to save every email they have sent and received. However, they must preserve federal records. Each employee is responsible for preserving his or her emails that are required to be retained under the Federal Records Act. The topic of records management has been discussed previously, exhaustively, from this podium. We have work to do to improve our records management.

QUESTION: Does that include – so you're – the search continues; is that what you're saying? You haven't --

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: To be responsive to this request, you --

MS TRUDEAU: We are conducting a thorough search right now.

QUESTION: But it's not over? You haven't just thrown your hands up in the air and said --

MS TRUDEAU: No, we are conducting it.

QUESTION: -- you can't find – you are continuing?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. A PST is that when you archive your emails and it makes that little folder – and sometimes it'll ask you on Outlook – that's a PST.

QUESTION: And so when – I mean, if I understand it, is it the case that you have not found a single email related to Mr. Pagliano's service while Secretary Clinton was here?

MS TRUDEAU: So that's accurate that we have located a PST from when his recent work with the department as a contractor, but not – those were from after when Secretary Clinton left the department.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable that he might have deleted every single email he sent during the period of Secretary Clinton's service?

MS TRUDEAU: I'm not going to speculate on that. I cannot say how or whether he stored records.

QUESTION: And is it conceivable that nothing he committed to email during the time he was here rose to the standard of a federal record?

MS TRUDEAU: I can't say on that. What I will say is the department's conducting a thorough search. At this stage, I just don't have any additional details to provide.

Okay, Matt.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So I know that this has been discussed by a senior official, or by official on a background call, but I want to try and pin you down on this thing about the joint statement from United States and Russia.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: It is still unclear to me whether or not you think that this joint statement today extends and expands and reinforces the nationwide cessation of hostilities so that incremental extensions of local truces and sort of – like Aleppo, like Latakia, like – so that those don't need to be extended anymore. Is that the Administration's position? And if it is, is that your understanding of – that's the Russian position and also the Syrian Government position?

MS TRUDEAU: So there's a lot there. I'm going to address some of it and then we can talk about what those incremental ceasefires were actually doing. So in this joint statement today, the United States and Russia reaffirmed the commitment to the nationwide cessation of hostilities that went into effect February 27th across Syria. That includes Aleppo. Full stop. We have been cognizant of the strains to the cessation in Aleppo in recent week, but the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo remains in effect and will continue. We're fully committed to making sure it remains in place. Each side – the Russians and the United States – have communicated with commanders, saying the other side is called upon to honor the cessation and they should reciprocate.

Both the United States and the Russians are currently focusing on particular areas of the country where we've seen tensions in recent week, obviously including Aleppo, and making these incremental steps to getting the cessation back on track. The goal is to get to the point where we no longer have to rely on these 24-hour, these 72-hour, and that the cessation of hostilities is fully respected across.

QUESTION: Right.

MS TRUDEAU: Speaking specifically to this – so the use of these 24-hour, the 48 hours, were because the exchanges of fire on both sides – they had become intense in Latakia, in Eastern Ghouta, in Aleppo. These small – these short-term cessation of hostilities were a means to get local commanders to be assured of the other side's readiness to renew the implementation of cessation. With our statement today, we do believe that the cessation is in place. We do believe that this was what's called a confidence-building measure that the cessation then will be across. We're not ruling out scattered violence; we're not ruling out that there could be attacks either way. But we do believe that this is now in place.

QUESTION: So you think that this puts you now at the point where you don't need another 24 or 48-hour or 72-hour extension in Aleppo, for example.

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: You think that that's covered by --

MS TRUDEAU: -- we believe that it's covered, but what we're also very cognizant about is that these are small, isolated areas, that the violence flares up there. We're committed; the Russians have said today that they're committed. We're in touch with the commanders on the ground, so we believe yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: Elizabeth, on this one.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course, Michel.

QUESTION: The statement said that Russia and the U.S. are committed to undertaking efforts to develop a shared understanding of the threat posed and territory controlled by ISIL and the Nusrah Front and to consider ways to deal decisively against the threat posed by ISIL and the Nusrah Front to Syria and international security. Does this mean that Russia will be part of the international coalition now – will join the effort?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn't read into it. Russia's been a member of the ISSG. We continue --

QUESTION: Yeah, we know that, but after this --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, but we continue to talk about that. One of the things we've spoken out extensively from this podium is the issue of having parties to the cessation intermingled with Nusrah. This was that conversation on how we have a shared understanding of the territory controlled by Nusrah and making those efforts to tease that out.

QUESTION: But when you say that or the statements says "consider ways to deal decisively against the threat posed by ISIL," what ways are you talking about?

MS TRUDEAU: As I said, this is the idea that we share information, that we understand where Nusrah is, where they're mixed in with parties to the cessation, and then we have conversations there about how we can deal with them. I wouldn't get ahead of this in talking about your primary question.

QUESTION: That means there will be more cooperation and coordination with Russia now to fight ISIL and al-Nusrah?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is we'd leave it where it is, where it is – we are building a shared understanding of where the territory controlled by Nusrah and then steps we could take to do that, but I'm not going to get ahead of where the statement was.

QUESTION: What about the timing of the statement? It came out before Paris meeting.

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: Anything about the timing?

MS TRUDEAU: No. I would say that this is a conversation that we have been having with the Russians. We are very cognizant of the impact on the ground that the cessation of hostilities has had very positively for the Syrian people – not uniformly, not covering all areas – and the idea that a reconfirmation right now is vitally important for the Syrian people.

QUESTION: And why the U.S. didn't wait for the – for Paris meeting to issue the statement?

MS TRUDEAU: So the Secretary today, it's our understanding, is briefing those individuals who will be at the Paris meeting. But remember that this is a build-on from a previous Russia-U.S. statement.

QUESTION: And is the U.S. and – or are the U.S. and the European and Arab states at the same page regarding Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that we all have the same goal. We all have the same view. Suffering has gone on too long; the political transition is the only solution for the people of Syria.

QUESTION: There is no difference between --

MS TRUDEAU: I think with any sovereign state, of course there's going to be differences in views on there, but we all have the same end goal.

Okay --

QUESTION: But Foreign Minister Ayrault said that there would be a meeting of the ISSG next week. Is there --

MS TRUDEAU: I've got nothing to announce on there, but I would – if the foreign minister --

QUESTION: Would the U.S. like to see one?

MS TRUDEAU: I think that we are committed to using the ISSG as the platform to continue this dialog forward.

Barbara.

QUESTION: Yeah. The U.S. official who spoke on background said that the fighting southwest of Aleppo city was not a truce violation because it involved --

MS TRUDEAU: Nusrah --

QUESTION: -- the government versus al-Nusrah. But there are reports that, in fact, it involves Jaysh al-Fatah, which does include parties to the truce like Ahrar al-Sham. So are you aware of these reports, and if you could shed any more light on that? And if so, are you pressing those parties, probably through your allies – Saudi Arabia and so on – to stop fighting?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so I haven't seen particularly that report, but I would say your question actually illustrates perfectly why it's so important to have that shared understanding of where Nusrah is, where they're operating; where Daesh is, where they're operating. They're not parties to the cessation, as you exactly said.

Let's stay on Syria. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Elizabeth, ISIL attacks to Turkey's border town Kilis have claimed tens of lives, civilians' lives since mid-January. And following the last week's attacks Erdogan yesterday said that Turkey has been left alone in its fight against ISIS, and he says that unlike the attacks in the European countries, the attacks to Turkish towns are not being taken enough seriously by the coalition forces and the U.S. And I was wondering if U.S. or coalition forces are going to take any further steps in order to secure the Turkish towns.

MS TRUDEAU: So I'm not going to speak specifically to President Erdogan's comments. What I will say, though, is Turkey is a NATO ally. It is a friend. It is a key partner in the fight against ISIL. We stand by our ally Turkey. We have said that routinely and strongly and positively from this, and our coordination continues.

QUESTION: And also – sorry.

MS TRUDEAU: Wait, wait. Are we on Syria or Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Because sometimes it gets a little blurry with you guys. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, Syria. There are some reports suggesting that Turkey and U.S. have agreed on helping Syrian Democratic Forces to take control of that 98 kilometer of Manbij pocket. And also the same reports claim that Turkey have demanded in change of leadership of Syrian Democratic Forces, bringing the Turkmens and Arabs into the leadership of Syrian Democratic Forces as well. I was wondering if you can confirm those report.

MS TRUDEAU: So I'm not going to speak to those comments. I haven't seen that report. We have spoken, though, extensively about the importance of that stretch of border in supporting Turkey's efforts to making sure that that border is closed. We actually spoke to that in the statement today with the Russians and the importance of helping and intensifying our efforts with regional allies to making sure that Daesh is not getting the financing, the people. So that's actually in the statement. I'd refer you there.

QUESTION: Does Turkmens and Arabs – are they also part of the plan to bring into Syrian Democratic Forces?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, you're asking me about a report, like I mentioned, I haven't seen. I'm not going to speak about that – that component.

QUESTION: Elizabeth, on this --

MS TRUDEAU: Syria?

QUESTION: No, Turkey-Syria. Turkey has said today that it will deal with the PYG forces in Syria in the same way that it's dealing with ISIL in Syria. Are you aware of that, and do you have any comment?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, I hadn't seen that. As you know, our view is very clear on both the PKK as well as the YPD. Our view on that has not changed.

QUESTION: I'm not talking about the PKK.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: I'm talking about Turkey --

MS TRUDEAU: The PYG --

QUESTION: -- dealing with the PYG in the same way that it's dealing with ISIS.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I have not seen those comments. I have not seen those comments, Michel.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: About the resignation of the Turkish prime minister --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria, please?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course. And then I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: It's a Turkish question. There are several reports quoting rebel and opposition sources in Aleppo have complained that from this podium and others the U.S. Administration has exaggerated the extent to which Nusrah is present in the city of Aleppo as a way of giving cover to the Russians and the Syrians in this attack. What proportion of the city of Aleppo do you think is under Jabhat al-Nusrah control?

MS TRUDEAU: That's an operational, on-the-ground report, Dave. I'm sorry, I really can't give a figure on that.

QUESTION: What about the allegation then that you have --

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that we don't underestimate the impact of Nusrah or Daesh on that area. These are terrorist organizations. When you see ungoverned space like that, terrorist organizations thrive. So that's why I can't give a specific figure or make a guess on the percentage of Aleppo that's been controlled by that, we take it very seriously.

Let's go to Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah, about that decision, a lot of people see the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is widely seen as a relatively kind of reformist leader, as a push – as being – he's being forced to resign by President Erdogan. What do you make of that? Do you have anything to say?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, we've – we spoke to this last week. Obviously, we've seen the reports, we've seen the prime minister's comments that he'll be stepping down as the AKP chair, and there will be an extraordinary congress on May 22nd to select new party leadership. Mark spoke to this last week. This is an internal matter for Turkey. We will continue to work with the Government of Turkey as – and you guys can say it with me – as a friend, a NATO ally, and a partner.

QUESTION: So – but when a prime minister resigns, there should be a reason, and nobody knows the reason. I mean, prime ministers are pushed --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, that would be for the people of Turkey to speak to and not from the U.S. State Department podium.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you – does the United States share the views of a lot of people, critics, who believe Erdogan is a creeping authoritarian leader?

MS TRUDEAU: I think we've spoken extensively about our views on media freedom in Turkey, as well as the very real threats that Turkey faces along its border, as well as Turkey's exceptional generosity in hosting so many refugees.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS TRUDEAU: I'm – there's really nothing that I can add to that.

QUESTION: Do you believe he's a democrat, Erdogan?

MS TRUDEAU: I believe that he is the leader of our friend and our NATO ally.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on Turkey before we leave?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Do – we'll do that, and then, Matt, I'll go to Iran.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there a concern that with the prime minister's resignation, there may be a setback in efforts to fight the Islamic State, that this may be a hindrance to the overall effort considering that he had relatively warm relations with the U.S.?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that Turkey is not blind to the threat that it faces on its own – its own soil along its border, so Turkey is very aware. It's a strong partner in the counter-ISIL coalition.

Matt.

QUESTION: So you've – I'm sure you've seen these conflicting – or I don't know about – I guess they are, yes, conflicting claims out of --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, they are conflicting.

QUESTION: -- out of Tehran today – the first report being that they had test fired this ballistic missile, okay, with a 2,000-kilometer range; second report from the defense minister saying the range was not 2,000 kilometers, but he didn't deny that a missile test had taken place. So what's your read on this?

MS TRUDEAU: So we've seen – we're aware of Iranian comments on an additional ballistic missile launch. We're working to gather additional information at the time – at this time. We remain concerned about Iran's ballistic missile test launches, which are provocative and destabilizing. These launches are inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 in which the Security Council called on Iran not to undertake launches of ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: So you can't speak to, one, whether or not you think that they actually did launch a missile of any range --

MS TRUDEAU: I can't, no.

QUESTION: -- or two, whether or not it was this range?

MS TRUDEAU: I can't. I can't confirm either.

QUESTION: So if and when – in the past, when you have confirmed launches, you have taken it to the Security Council, where your --

MS TRUDEAU: And if this launch is confirmed, we will do so again.

QUESTION: Okay. But when you have done this in the past and sought additional Security Council action, you have not been successful, correct?

MS TRUDEAU: So we would say that as we raise it at the UN under 2231 that we will continue to have those conversations there if this is confirmed – and again, we're not saying it is.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But it is correct that you have not been able to get the Security Council to take any action on previous tests in part because the language in the current resolution that replaced all the previous resolutions is less stringent than what it used to be.

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: Is that not correct?

MS TRUDEAU: The language is "is inconsistent with," and I think we've talked about this before.

QUESTION: I understand that, but you – but I just want to make sure that you acknowledge that the reason that you have not been able to get action at the Security Council in the wake of the previous tests, these most recent previous tests, is because the language in this new resolution is different than the language that was in the previous resolution as it regards ballistic missiles.

MS TRUDEAU: So the new resolution, 2231, continues to call on Iran specifically not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.

QUESTION: Well, do you agree that that is different from the previous resolution language, which said "shall not?"

MS TRUDEAU: I think there are nuances – I think there are nuances in words, and we will continue to vigorously press the case for UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

QUESTION: But you do accept that there is a difference between a commandment – "shall not" – and a "call upon" --

MS TRUDEAU: We will continue --

QUESTION: This is the argument – I'm not making it.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: This is the argument that the Russians have made. This is the argument that the Iranians have made. And when you start saying that it's not a violation, but rather it is inconsistent with, it just seems like it's playing at words. I'm trying to find out if the Administration will at least acknowledge that the new language is less stringent than the old language.

MS TRUDEAU: No.

QUESTION: No?

MS TRUDEAU: The UN Security Council resolution continues to call on Iran specifically not to undertake any activity.

QUESTION: Yes, but before it did more than just "continue to call upon." It said it shouldn't – it "shall not" do these things. So if you're – if you say that the language is exactly the same, then it shouldn't --

MS TRUDEAU: It's not exactly the same.

QUESTION: Ah, okay.

MS TRUDEAU: We believe we have the tools.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Samir.

QUESTION: Oh, wait, wait. I had one more --

MS TRUDEAU: Wait. Are we staying on Iran?

QUESTION: I have one more on Iran, but it's a different --

QUESTION: Iran. Iran for --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- 200. (Laughter.) Sky News has reported --

MS TRUDEAU: You have to pose it as a question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, then you have to come up with the right answer. (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: Snap. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How would you respond to the Sky News report that Secretary Kerry plans to meet with British bankers to discuss sanctions lifting on Iran and presumably to encourage them to lend their depositors' funds to the Iranians?

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks for the question, for 200. While we don't have anything specific to announce today, the Department of State and Treasury are always looking for ways to engage relevant parties on the implementation of the JCPOA. So nothing to announce today.

QUESTION: Okay. And is he meeting any – is he meeting any French bankers, for example, to discuss this?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I – if I have more information in the coming days, I'll do that.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS TRUDEAU: And Matt, you had an Iran too, and then I'll get to you, Samir.

QUESTION: I did, but go – I can't remember what it is at the moment. Ask --

MS TRUDEAU: I'm here all day.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Samir. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Twice on Saturdays.

QUESTION: Do you have an update about the status of the Yemen peace talks in Kuwait?

MS TRUDEAU: I do. Thank you for that question. So we are pleased that the Yemeni peace talks that began April 21st continue in Kuwait. As the UN special envoy for Yemen noted today, he continues to hold meetings with the Yemeni parties in order to reach an understanding on contested issues and to find a way to move forward. Thus far, parties have agreed upon a general framework for the talks and began meeting in working groups to focus on a variety of political and security challenges. The United States encourages all parties to continue to attend the talks in good faith and to continue to build upon the important progress already made in order to find a comprehensive solution to the crisis in Yemen.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: You're welcome.

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on one second.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the – finish the – they'll be very brief, because I think you're going to have to take both of them.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: One is there's also – you saw the reports about a bunch of IRGC officers being killed in Syria --

MS TRUDEAU: I did see those.

QUESTION: -- and some being captured. I don't know if there has been an official claim of responsibility for this action, but there is talk in Iran now that there is going to be some kind of a large-scale offensive in the area where that incident happened. Do you know anything about that? Have you – would you – if there was to be, would it be an issue with the joint statement that you put out with the Russians earlier? Or is it your view that whoever did this would not be covered by the ceasefire?

MS TRUDEAU: So I've seen the reports. I don't have a lot of details on that, and I haven't seen a claim of responsibility.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the second one, which you may not also know, is that a group, very much like the opposition to the Iran deal in Congress here – which there has been some – there is also opposition to it in Iran, in the Iranian parliament. And there – I guess more than 100 members of the Iranian parliament have written to say that they should stop – say that Iran should stop complying with the JCPOA and go ahead and do as much enrichment as they want, as they're allowed to under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Do you have anything to say about that? Is that --

MS TRUDEAU: I would refer you to the Iranians to speak to their own political process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Ma'am, and then we'll go back.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Elizabeth. I have a question about WHO's invitation to Taiwan last week.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Margaret Chan, the general secretary of WHO, sent a letter – invitation for Taiwan to be an observer this May. But in the letter he – he's recalling the UN Resolution 2758, and in line with the "one China" principle as reflected within. Therefore, he invited Taiwan to lead delegate to WHA. I wonder, do you have any comment? Because I remember U.S. has a "one China" policy, not a "one China" principle. So since you're a supporter of Taiwan's participation in WHA --

MS TRUDEAU: We are.

QUESTION: -- I wonder do – yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: We are pleased that Taiwan has received an invitation to this year's World Health Assembly taking place May 23rd through 28th. Taiwan has participated as an observer in the WHA for the past seven years. The United States strongly supports such WHA participation and Taiwan's meaningful participation in the work of the World Health Organization-related activities. We note Taiwan has made important contributions to global health, and its participation in the WHA and in the work of the WHO contributes to a safer, healthier world.

QUESTION: But how about the "one China" principle? Does that contradict the --

MS TRUDEAU: The United States remains committed to our "one China" policy based on the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.

QUESTION: And I remember too --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- a quick – just one last question.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: In 2011, I remember the secretary of health from the U.S. said in Geneva no UN organization can unilaterally decide, determine Taiwan's status. Do you think this time, by sending this invitation, WHO trying to redefine Taiwan's --

MS TRUDEAU: No. As I noted, we're pleased to see them participate.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead. You know what? Let me go to the gentleman behind you and then I'll come to you.

QUESTION: On North Korea, the Workers' Party congress ended and with Kim Jong-un being named the party chairman. Do you have any comments on that? Is this a --

MS TRUDEAU: I do not.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the reporters being kicked out, the BBC reporters being kicked out of North Korea?

MS TRUDEAU: I think our position on press freedom is pretty well known. It's an opaque regime. It's – I think that we'll leave it there.

Sir.

QUESTION: So that I'm wondering that the United States agree on WHO's move to mention the "one China" principle in its invitation for Taiwan to participate in WHA.

MS TRUDEAU: I'm just going to leave our comments where we put them.

Sir.

QUESTION: On Egypt.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Last Saturday an Egyptian court recommended death penalty against three journalists, including two from Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Helal and Alaa Sablan. What's your reaction to this, and was there any kind of communication with the Egyptian authorities over the weekend about this issue?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Thank you for the question. It's an important story. We understand an Egyptian court is seeking the death penalty for two journalists affiliated with Al Jazeera. Apparently they were tried in absentia, which we understand automatically leads to the maximum allowable sentencing per Egyptian law. As we've said, we're concerned about the deterioration in respect for freedom of expression and association in Egypt, and we continue to have very frank conversations with the Egyptians on this.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: Ukraine. In the recent days there have been lots of reports about possible appointment of the new ambassador of the U.S. to Ukraine, Mary Jovanovich. Could you please confirm this or give more details of this?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I can't. I have no personnel announcements.

Sir.

QUESTION: The Philippines.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Duterte is the likely winner of the presidential election in the Philippines.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is your response? And he will call for a summit to solve disputes over the South China Sea, which would include the United States and Japan. What is the U.S. reaction to his proposal?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so first on the Philippines and the election, the United States congratulates the Philippines on holding inclusive and democratic elections. Our two nations have strong and enduring ties based on our shared respect for democratic values. We look forward to continuing those ties. We do understand, however, official election results have not yet been released. We'll wait for the official results from the Government of the Philippines before providing further comment. That would extend to any proposals that would be made by one of the candidates.

QUESTION: I had another one on South China Sea.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, a representative of the Chinese foreign ministry rejected any participation in the arbitration. Do you have any response to that?

MS TRUDEAU: As we've said before, the United States supports peaceful resolution of disputes including through the use of international legal mechanisms such as arbitration.

QUESTION: One more on the Philippines?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Mr. Duterte's long service as Davao – if I'm pronouncing that right – mayor and the many allegations by human rights groups that he condoned or actively encouraged extrajudicial killings by death squads?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, because the election results are still coming in, I'm not going to speak to that. I understand it's still in flux. I understand the question. Thanks, Arshad.

QUESTION: On the disputed island distribution.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, Japan and Taiwan recently has a territory dispute on a small island --

MS TRUDEAU: Which island?

QUESTION: I forgot, it is --

QUESTION: Senkakus.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, we don't have a position on those.

QUESTION: So Taiwan's president said that he might bring it to the international arbitration for the dispute. Does the U.S. --

MS TRUDEAU: As we've said in the past, we do welcome efforts for international involvement in this including through arbitration. But on this particular one we have no position on the sovereignty on those islands.

QUESTION: Staying in the region --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- but slightly different. On Japan. There's been some sort of mixed speculation on the U.S. position on this, so I just wanted to give you a chance to clear the record. Does the State Department have any reaction to Prime Minister Abe's meeting with Vladimir Putin last Friday?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we consult regularly with the Government of Japan on a range of regional and global issues. Continued unity among our partners including the EU and the G7 remains vital in our approach to Russia. We would refer you to the Government of Japan regarding Prime Minister Abe's visit and his discussions with his counterparts.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS TRUDEAU: That's it. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: One quick --

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, a quick one on Saudi Arabia.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the appointment of the oil minister?

MS TRUDEAU: We are aware of reports that the Government of Saudi Arabia has appointed several new ministers. We'd refer you, obviously, to the Government of Saudi Arabia for specific question. They remain a strong, vital partner of the United States. We continue to work with them on a range of fields including economic issues.

QUESTION: Wait, wait.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You're aware of reports?

MS TRUDEAU: We know. Thank you, Matt. That's an important thing.

QUESTION: I mean, the Secretary of State did meet with the Saudi foreign minister today in Paris.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, it is. Yeah, that's --

QUESTION: Are the --

MS TRUDEAU: No.

QUESTION: Did this not come up at all? You haven't --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, thank you. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:34 p.m.)



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