Department Press Briefing - June 21, 2018
Department Press Briefing
June 21, 2018
3:18 p.m. EDT
MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody. Hi. Hi. Good to see you. A couple announcements to start out with – actually, several announcements. So get comfortable, as I say when we have a lot to go over.
First off, I'd like to wish all of you a Happy International Yoga Day. Last year I recall we had forgotten it, and so where are our friends here who practice yoga?
QUESTION: Goyal is the one who does yoga.
MS NAUERT: Goyal, yeah. Okay, there we've got one person in the back. (Laughter.)
Okay. Well, Happy International Yoga Day, everyone. It is celebrated around the world to recognize yoga's many benefits to the mind and the body. The observance was launched by the United Nations in 2015 with U.S. support thanks to the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Modi.
Today we're also celebrating another significant achievement with our Indian friends. I'm pleased to announce today that the United States will hold its India 2+2 Dialogue with the United States. It will be held here at the State Department on July the 6th. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will host the Indian external affairs minister along with the minister of defense for meetings that will focus on strengthening the strategic and defense cooperation as the United States and India jointly address challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and also beyond.
Next, I'd like to say this on behalf of the entire State Department: I'd like to express our sincere gratitude and best wishes to German Ambassador Peter Wittig, who marked his last official day yesterday as German Ambassador to the United States. Over the course of nine years in which he has served here in the United States, he played a critical role in deepening mutual understanding and strengthening relations between our two great countries. Wishing him the best of luck in his next posting with his family.
Next, Matt, an issue I know that you're following closely in Bahrain. I'd like to mention that we are following closely the case of Ali Salman, the former secretary general of the dissolved Al-Wefaq opposition political party, who was under investigation for allegedly collaborating with Qatar against the Government of Bahrain during the events of 2011. We welcome today's verdict acquitting Ali Salman, along with his co-defendants. Today's acquittal removes a potential barrier to political reconciliation in Bahrain, and we urge Bahraini prosecutors not to pursue an appeal of the judge's ruling. We repeat our call on the Government of Bahrain to release Ali Salman from prison and grant relief from his previous conviction.
Next week --
QUESTION: Is that coming out as a written statement as well, or can it?
MS NAUERT: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Can you put it out as (inaudible)?
MS NAUERT: Do you need it to? Do you need it to? Okay, we'll look into that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Easy enough.
Next, I'd like to announce our deputy secretary's upcoming travels. Deputy Secretary John Sullivan will travel to the Netherlands, Denmark, Algeria, and Morocco. He will begin his trip in The Hague to lead the U.S. delegation to a special session on the Conference of the States Parties of the OPCW, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He will underscore U.S. determination to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons, and also our commitment to ensuring that all responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere are held accountable.
Next, he'll lead a delegation to Copenhagen to participate in Ukraine reform conference to reaffirm the U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and its internationally recognized borders, and also reiterate our conviction that the success of Ukraine depends on the implementation of serious structural reforms. On the sidelines of that conference, the deputy will also meet with the Ukrainian prime minister and Denmark's foreign minister to discuss bilateral and regional matters, including energy security.
The deputy will next travel to Algeria to meet with government officials and participate in the 5th annual U.S.-Algeria counterterrorism dialogue to reaffirm our strong partnership and shared efforts to promote regional stability and combat terrorism. His last stop will be Morocco, where he will meet with leaders to discuss a range of issues, including Morocco's contributions to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Lastly, earlier today we had made plans to brief you and provide you with an update on a medical situation affecting our colleagues in Cuba; however, someone provided the information to the press before we could come out here. Why do I mention that? Because last year when we first learned about the health attacks that were affecting our colleagues in Cuba, I pledged to you personally that as soon as we learned new information that you needed to be aware of, that the public needed to be aware of, that I would bring that to you, and that was our intent today. There is now new information that is available. We learned about this about 11:30 or so earlier today.
On June 21st, following a comprehensive medical evaluation, one U.S. diplomat working at the U.S. Embassy Havana was medically confirmed to have experienced health effects similar to those that were reported by members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community. This is the first medically confirmed case in Havana since August of 2017. The number of Americans now affected is 25. Previously, that number was 24; it is now 25. The health and well-being of our personnel remains our top priority here at the State Department. The investigation into the origin of these symptoms continues, and it is an interagency effort.
The interagency community continues to work diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as develop mitigation measures. We informed the Cuban Government of this occurrence on May the 29th of this year. The Cuban Government assured us that they will continue to take this seriously and are continuing their investigation. We strongly remind the Cuban Government of its responsibility under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats.
With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: So – thanks, Heather. And I hope that when it comes to be International Yogurt Day, you will also remember that.
On Cuba, does this – this one person was one of the two who was most recently --
MS NAUERT: Medically evacuated to the United States, that is correct.
QUESTION: So does that mean that the other one was determined not to have --
MS NAUERT: Our other employee is still being evaluated at this time, so we don't have any updates on his or her condition yet.
QUESTION: But – okay, but that means that then the testing continues and there has been no determination at all on that person.
MS NAUERT: That other employee is still being evaluated at this time, so if that number changes – and we certainly hope it does not – if it does, we'll let you know.
QUESTION: And then the handful of people from China who were sent to – this is – these were – all these people were at the University of Pennsylvania?
MS NAUERT: I'm not going to confirm where they were sent.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, wherever it was they are, what about the people who were sent back with symptoms from China?
MS NAUERT: So some of our colleagues – and this is similar to the way that we handled it with Cuba – in Cuba – our colleagues who wanted a baseline medical evaluation, a screening, were able to receive that screening. We had sent medical professionals to China to assist with the evaluation. A number of people – a good number of people – were evaluated there at their request, and that's something that we provided to our colleagues in Cuba as well. The number of individuals have returned to the United States from China. Some of them still do remain under evaluation at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. But – and again – then no determination has been made on those – so far from China, there's just one.
MS NAUERT: We – in – from China we have one medically confirmed case at this point, one medically confirmed case. That does not mean that that number won't change, but that is where it stands at this time.
QUESTION: On the Cuban Government, have you --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: What are the discussions with the Cuban Government about this latest person, and has there been – since you pulled out the diplomats and some have gone back, and where do things stand with the Cuban Government in terms of --
MS NAUERT: Well, I can just tell you that we've had conversations with the government, reminding them, of course, of their responsibility under the Vienna Convention. They have pledged to be of assistance in the investigation, and I'll just leave it at that for right now.
QUESTION: Well, do you – they've pledged to. Do you find them cooperating?
MS NAUERT: I'm not going to characterize it in any way. I just want to state where things stand right now. All of this is still an ongoing investigation. As you all well know, we take this situation very seriously. If there's anything more for you, I'd be happy to bring it to you.
QUESTION: No, I know you do, but there was a lot of intense criticism about the Cuban Government and its – whether its lack of cooperation or lack of sharing information. The Cubans maintain that they don't know, but I'm just wondering if that kind of feeling that the Cubans were not upholding their responsibilities under the convention still exists.
MS NAUERT: I will let you know when we have something new for you on that.
QUESTION: So then there's nothing new in terms of your assessment of how the Cuban Government is handling --
MS NAUERT: I have nothing new for you on that.
QUESTION: Heather, just to build on Elise's question --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.
QUESTION: -- the previous position last year on this had been we're not saying Cuba did this, but we do not believe there's any way that this could have happened in Cuba without the – at least the knowledge of Cuban officials.
MS NAUERT: And we talked about how it's a small island --
MS NAUERT: -- and they certainly would be aware of things going on on their island, we believe, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. Now that the U.S. Government has determined that something similar, if not identical, is happening on the other side of the planet in China, does that statement about the fact that this couldn't have happened in Cuba without Cuba's knowledge still – is that still an operative statement?
MS NAUERT: Are you talking about that with regard to Cuba or are you talking about that with regard to China?
QUESTION: Talking about that with – I guess the question is does the fact this is now happening in multiple places create any different opinion about whether it could have happened in Cuba without Cuba's knowledge?
MS NAUERT: Look, I think our position on Cuba remains the same, and an investigation is still underway. We still don't know to this date what is causing it and who is responsible. I want to make that very, very clear. With regard to China, there is an investigation also underway, and that is something that we will take very seriously, and when we have more information, when we have better information on what is causing this, who is responsible for it, then we will certainly let you know. But I don't have anything more for you on that point.
QUESTION: And China obviously is also a country that has intense surveillance. Is the statement that it couldn't happen in Cuba without Cuba's knowledge true about China? Could it have happened in China without China's knowledge?
MS NAUERT: I think we can't combine the issues in that kind of way and assume that because one may have known, the other may have known as well. I can just share with you that the State Department has expressed its concern with both governments. Both governments have pledged their cooperation, and we expect that they will continue to cooperate with our investigations. When we have more, I'll certainly let you know, okay?
Let's move on to something else. Hi, Said. How are you?
QUESTION: Hi, Heather. Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Where do you want to start today?
QUESTION: I want to start with the Palestinian issue.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. With the --
MS NAUERT: Laurie, why are you laughing at Said?
QUESTION: With the delegation.
MS NAUERT: Sometimes he starts with Yemen. Sometimes he starts with other things.
QUESTION: That's true. I can start with anything you want. I can carry on with Cuba if you want.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: But I wanted to ask you about the delegation that is on --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: That is touring the Middle East now. They met with the Jordanian king, they met with the crown prince in Saudi Arabia, but we don't really know much about their activities. In the interim, in the meantime, there is war of words that is going on between Mr. Greenblatt and the Palestinians, and he's saying that the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas people and so on, they're basically bickering among each other and that does not allow for us to go forward. So I want to know your assessment. Are there any kind of contacts between the State Department or State Department officials, any Palestinians?
MS NAUERT: So Said, there are – I can certainly confirm that that travel is taking place. We addressed that the other day. There have been some readouts provided by the White House in terms of their meeting. So when you say we don't know what's going on, the White House has provided readouts, so I'd have to refer you back to those readouts.
There is a readout from Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt's meeting with the president of Egypt. There is also one on their meeting with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. So I'd refer you back to those. They talked about a lot of things, including humanitarian relief to Gaza, the administration's efforts to try to facilitate a longstanding – a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So there is information out there, and I'm sure the White House and Mr. Greenblatt's office would be happy to provide that.
QUESTION: I have a couple more questions, one pertaining to UNRWA. You said on Tuesday that this is something that the Palestinians or UNRWA does every summer and every fall. So you think that UNRWA is exaggerating its appeal, its urgent appeal for more funds?
MS NAUERT: I think what they need to do is determine a way to better manage its budgeting and its finances, and that's something – a concern that not just the United States has expressed, but other countries have expressed that concern as well, because every year around this time, late summer/fall, there are emergency appeals for more funding. So there needs to be a more sustainable way to have its funding not only come through but for them to manage their money. Again, it's a concern that's been expressed not just by the United States but other countries as well.
QUESTION: I know. But one of the reasons that there's a shortfall this year is that you guys slashed your funding by --
MS NAUERT: Matt, there's a shortfall every single year, so I think it's unfair --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But the reason that it's this big --
MS NAUERT: It's unfair to put that responsibility on the United States. Let's come up with a mechanism by which they can better manage their financing so there is not an emergency appeal year after year after year.
QUESTION: The problem is, is that you cut the funding by several – by like – I think more than half or almost half, and then you blame them for having a budget shortfall.
MS NAUERT: That would be --
QUESTION: Does that not defy logic?
MS NAUERT: That would be a fair criticism if it weren't for every year there being an emergency appeal, and there is an emergency appeal every year regardless of the United States funding level.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but it's much bigger now and they're going to have to shut down stuff and not open schools in September if they don't get the money on --
MS NAUERT: And Matt, I think --
QUESTION: Like Monday they're having – they're having --
MS NAUERT: The United States and other countries have long expressed their concerns about their management. But also this administration has talked a lot about burden sharing, that we believe other countries should become just as involved as the United States has been. We remain such a generous nation and still providing money to many causes internationally, and it would be great if other countries were to step up to the plate as well.
QUESTION: All right, all that's fine. Does this mean, though, that on Monday when they have their emergency pledging meeting in New York that there won't be any additional money forthcoming from the United States?
MS NAUERT: I'm not going to preview any decisions or announcements that could be made.
QUESTION: Because I think they would argue, and others who are looking at it from the outside, that it is somewhat disingenuous for this administration to say that – to blame UNRWA for funding shortfalls that are partly or largely the fault of you guys cutting your funding to the organization regardless of whether it happens --
MS NAUERT: I'll go back to saying this. Every year there is an emergency appeal for additional funding. This is not unique to this year or this administration alone. Okay?
QUESTION: One last one. I promise, one last --
MS NAUERT: Last one, and then we'll move on to Laurie. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay, that's fine, that's fine. I asked about the law that will prevent or prohibit taking pictures of Israeli soldiers with confrontations and so on. It passed its first reading. And you said you don't want to prejudge or you don't want to judge something before – while it's being discussed or legislated. Now, isn't it really more prudent to have – to warn against such a law before it becomes law? I mean, don't you express your concern before this becomes the law?
MS NAUERT: Said, we don't do that here in the United States, and I'm certainly not going to do that in Israel. Okay?
Let me go to Laurie, and I'll come back to you. Hey, Laurie.
QUESTION: Hi. With the tougher line that you've been taking on Iran since leaving the JCPOA, would you support aiding Iran's ethnic minorities like Kurds, Baloch, Arabs, as Representative Rohrabacher has suggested?
MS NAUERT: I'm not familiar with his – the legislation that he – has he proposed legislation?
QUESTION: It's not legislation. He just suggested this in a hearing.
MS NAUERT: Okay. I'm sorry, I'd have to get a little bit more information on what exactly he is proposing, on what the congressman is proposing or suggesting. Sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, leave the congressman out. But as a way of, say, bringing human rights and more democratic practices to Iran, would you support the – would you endorse the idea of supporting its ethnic minorities like the Kurds, like the Baloch, in gaining more rights in Iran?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think always underscoring and highlighting the rights of minority groups is something that's important, whether it's in Iran or whether it's in Iraq or many other countries as well. China is another example of that where the rights and the dignities of minority populations need to be respected and should be respected.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And regarding Turkey, the foreign minister said today – and this is a two-part question.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: He said that YPG fighters will leave Manbij by July 4, that that's part of the roadmap. But haven't they left already? They said they've left. And he also threatened the United Nations that Turkey would attack the Makhmour refugee camp if it let the PKK stay there. What is that – what is your response to the foreign minister's statement about attacking a refugee camp?
MS NAUERT: Well, I can tell you in terms of timelines and speculating on timelines, that's something that we just aren't able to do that we won't get into. The current – nor can we get into the current status on the ground. We've agreed as a part of the overall roadmap in dealing with Manbij that the YPG will depart Manbij as part of that roadmap agreement. We're continuing to work with our NATO ally Turkey on a common way forward in Manbij.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?
QUESTION: So you're --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on.
QUESTION: You're saying that the YPG is still in Manbij? Because they said they left.
MS NAUERT: That is a – I can't tell you exactly where they are. I mean, I – you may laugh at this, but I could refer you to the YPG to answer where exactly they are because that is not something that we can confirm. I can tell you, however, that they have agreed in that framework that they will depart Manbij, but I can't confirm where they are at this point.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?
QUESTION: Another Syria question?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Okay. Hold on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Syria. So in the statement that came out today on the violations for the southwest ceasefire in Syria, it said that there would be serious repercussions for those who continue to violate the ceasefire. So what do those repercussions entail? Can you give us --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So part of this is we're not going to preview a particular response the United States Government may or may not decide to take. So that's first and foremost. I want to be clear that we've expressed our grave concerns with the Government of Russia. We've also expressed concerns and continue to have conversations with the Jordanians through the Amman monitoring center there.
Secretary Pompeo has raised these concerns directly with Foreign Minister Lavrov. He's also had conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about this. During the call over the weekend when the Secretary – or perhaps it was on Monday – spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov, we talked about how important it is, how critical it is, for the mutual adherence to the arrangement, to the ceasefire arrangement, stood up nearly one year ago. This is something that we consistently had talked about, the success that humanitarian aid was able to get in. Lives were undoubtably saved in southwest Syria because of the ceasefire arrangement.
And now we start to see that Syrian regime military and also militia units have violated that de-escalation zone, the ceasefire zone, in southwest Syria. They've initiated airstrikes. There have been artillery and rocket attacks, and that's a tremendous concern of ours.
QUESTION: And just to clarify, like, timing-wise --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- after Pompeo and Lavrov spoke over the weekend, were there violations that then followed throughout the week that led to this statement?
MS NAUERT: I don't have any specific information that I can provide you right here today, right now, about the timing of attacks and things that we have followed. But if I have anything more for you, I'll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: Just on the repercussions thing?
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said that you're not going to preview what may or may not happen. The statement that came out a week ago on this very same subject said very specifically that if there were violations, the U.S. would have a firm – quote, "firm and appropriate response." Not "may or may not have." So are – is there some backsliding here that you might not do anything?
MS NAUERT: I have nothing more for you on that, Matt. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?
MS NAUERT: Nadia, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the visit? You said that the White House --
MS NAUERT: I'm sorry, on the what?
QUESTION: On the visit, on Mr. Kushner and Greenblatt --
MS NAUERT: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: -- to the region. You said that the White House already issued the statements and they talk about the focus on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis. How are you going to do that without dealing with Hamas in Gaza? And is his visit to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and elsewhere and Egypt a way to coordinate with these countries to bypass dealing with Hamas?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, I can't answer the question to that. I'd have to refer you to Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt's office. When they are finished with their meetings we will get a full readout, and perhaps I can then bring you some additional information on that. I'd be --
QUESTION: But anybody from the State Department also coordinating with --
MS NAUERT: We covered this the other day. We have folks from the State Department. As we always do when we have people visiting different posts, different consulates and the like, we facilitate, help facilitate those meetings and are involved in their travel in that regard. But if I have – get something more for you, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?
MS NAUERT: Nick, hi.
QUESTION: The Secretary issued two tweets yesterday on Iran, one on protests being up on the – and the other on the unemployment rate. Did he send those two tweets himself?
MS NAUERT: The Secretary closely follows his Twitter account, yes.
QUESTION: So what was the message that he was trying to convey with those two tweets?
MS NAUERT: I think, look, as we look at the situation in Iran and we see the frustration that regular Iranians feel and are expressing, we've seen so many protests over the past year. I think the Secretary was merely pointing out the fact that these protests continue. We have seen the Iranian population tremendously concerned with their lack of economic progress. We've seen the Iranian regime pledge that regular Iranian people would see the benefits of their economy, and they certainly have not seen that, they've not experienced that. So we start to see people express their frustration through freedom of speech, through these types of protests, and I think – just highlighting the fact that those continue. We've seen people continue to be oppressed there. Women who protest the forced wearing of a hijab, they protest. We've seen some of them thrown in prison. Iranians appear to be increasingly frustrated, and I think he's merely pointing that out.
QUESTION: So – but this is not – I mean, in his Iran speech several weeks ago, there also were these similar references to how the people of Iran must be upset with their government, and it raised a lot of questions about whether he was advocating regime change in Iran. Is – does he believe that Iranians would be better served by a different government?
MS NAUERT: We are seeking a change in the regime's behavior. I think that is what most people would want, a change in the behavior on the part of the regime.
QUESTION: On the – on --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: Well hold on, just on that one tweet with the graph. He captioned it, "Can this be explained," and I've got to tell you that a lot of people looking at that graph were wondering if – that – it needs – that in itself needed to be explained. That graph – obviously the X-axis was time, but there was no label on the Y access – axis. It's not clear if he was trying to refer to the size of protests or the numbers of protests, just said trend. And there was no source for this information. Can you answer --
MS NAUERT: U.S. Government is the sourcing of that information.
QUESTION: Since you have no embassy and no one in Iran, how did – where's this information coming from?
MS NAUERT: Those are U.S. Government statistics that the U.S. Government has been able to pull together.
QUESTION: From what?
MS NAUERT: U.S. Government sources that the U.S. Government has been able to pull together, and we provided that to all of you.
QUESTION: From – from Iranian opposition people's Twitter feeds? I mean --
MS NAUERT: Matt, I'm not going get into all of the details --
QUESTION: Where --
MS NAUERT: -- about where all our information comes from.
QUESTION: Well, it obviously (inaudible) intelligence --
MS NAUERT: Our information comes – excuse me, Elise. Our information comes from a broad array of sources, and I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: All right. Well, in the future, could that – could those kinds of basic things for when you're going to tweet a graph or even publish one, like the – what the actual Y-axis means and the source of the data that you're using be included?
MS NAUERT: You can put down at the bottom – in fact, you can use that graph if you like, and then you can put, source, colon, U.S. Government there.
QUESTION: Well, I notice that you thought enough about it, because the photograph that accompanied it in the background was an AP photograph, and that was --
MS NAUERT: Oh, was it an AP photograph?
QUESTION: Yes, and there was a credit to AP there. (Laughter.) So someone was thinking – someone was thinking a little bit about the small things, but it really would help if we knew what the source of the information was and what the actual information purports to show.
MS NAUERT: U.S. Government sources, and I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: All right.
MS NAUERT: Elise, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Well – I just will point out that when you do have reports and stuff, you do make citations of what your sources are. But anyway, this question is about Vietnam. Is there anything new about the arrest of William Nguyen in Vietnam? There was a consular visit last week. Has there been a new one?
MS NAUERT: And thank you for asking about the case. This is a case of an American citizen who's been detained in Vietnam, and I have a little bit of new information for those of you who are following this case. Our consular officers have now engaged with the Vietnamese Government. They engaged, in fact, as soon as they learned of Mr. Nguyen's case, and as soon as they learned of his arrest. He still has not been charged by the Government of Vietnam. Our understanding of the law there is that Vietnam will conduct an investigation before they actually charge someone. This, I think, is a good reminder that the rules and the laws that we have here in the United States are often very different from the rules and laws in other countries. It's a good reminder for Americans and all people who travel to other countries that what may seem like a normal law here may not be a normal law in another country, and that you are subject to the laws of the country in which you are visiting. Our consular officers visited Mr. Nguyen at the first available opportunity. The Vietnam Government permitted our consular access to Mr. Nguyen on June the 15th. Our ambassador and other department personnel are now engaged with congressional representatives on his case, and we are continuing our conversations with congressional representatives. We're deeply concerned by videos that show injuries, and the initial treatment of him on June the 10th. That was in Ho Chi Minh City; that's the time that he was taken into custody. We've made those concerns known to the Vietnamese authorities. His safety, and the safety of all U.S. citizens in the United States – of the United States, rather, is of utmost concern, and we'll continue to watch for this.
Also, this is a good reminder, and just as a general matter, that when Americans, or anybody for that matter, travel to another country and there's a demonstration or a protest taking place, those things can very quickly go from something that is peaceful and seemingly peaceful, and it can quickly turn. So we'd just like to caution, take this opportunity to caution American travelers on that as well.
QUESTION: So about those videos – so there was a concern about the treatment in which he was arrested, but when you had your consular visit on June 15th, was there concern about his treatment in prison?
MS NAUERT: I don't have any information for you on that, but I can just tell you that our consular officers did visit him --
QUESTION: And the family --
MS NAUERT: -- and some of that information we would keep private anyway and wouldn't disclose publicly.
QUESTION: Three congressmen from his district have sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo asking for a meeting to talk to him about it. Do you know if that's been scheduled?
MS NAUERT: I don't have any information on that for you.
QUESTION: Can I move to North Korea?
MS NAUERT: Certainly.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where we are almost 10 days after the summit? Last week President Trump said that the negotiation, follow-up negotiations will start this week, that it will be led by Secretary Pompeo. So have there been some engagement with the North Koreans this week and some progress?
MS NAUERT: On Tuesday of this week, I confirmed that we have been in communication with the Government of North Korea. Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with them and talking with them at the earliest possible date to try to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit. We don't have any meetings or travel to announce at this time. As soon as we do, I promise I will let you know. I know you all have a lot of interest in that.
QUESTION: There are reports from the region that Secretary Pompeo might go there in – back in Pyongyang this weekend or next week. You don't have any --
MS NAUERT: I don't have any meetings or any travel for you to announce.
QUESTION: And President Trump today said that there were many progress on denuclearization made the last days. Do you have some steps made by the North Koreans --
MS NAUERT: This is the kind --
QUESTION: -- some decision taken, some --
MS NAUERT: Yeah, so North Korea had agreed to denuclearization. That is certainly a promising step. Other countries are agreeing to that and continue to endorse our policy and our priorities of denuclearization. It will be a lengthy process in terms of these conversations and the meetings that we will have with this government. I'm not going to be able to provide you with a tick-tock of every step along the way. There's a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of work left to be done, and when I have something to announce, I'll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: And what President Trump was referring to when he said there were many progress made in the last few days? I mean, if there are progress, you can tell us if there are some steps, decision taken?
MS NAUERT: I'm not – I don't have anything to share with you on that.
QUESTION: Just on that, when you say that they've agreed to denuclearization, it doesn't seem that in the statement that came out of the summit that there was agreement on the actual definition of denuclearization and what that means. I mean, to the United States, it could mean something very different than it does to North Korea. So when you say that the North Koreans have agreed to denuclearization, how do you define what denuclearization --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. The United States and North Korea affirmed and underscored to work toward complete – and I'm just reading from the document itself – to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That is our agreement. That is what we're working to do. Granted, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our eyes are wide open as we go into this, but we'll keep pushing forward and keep pursuing it.
QUESTION: But I mean, according to the Nonproliferation Treaty and other things, complete denuclearization to the North Koreans, as they expressed in the past, is after all nuclear states are at zero themselves. So, I mean, obviously the United States doesn't think that it's going to wait for denuclearization of North Korea after the U.S. has a complete denuclearization of itself.
MS NAUERT: Elise, you've seen our policy, you know what our policy is. We're working hard toward that goal, okay?
QUESTION: What – just to follow up.
MS NAUERT: Let me just go to Rich. Rich hasn't gotten anything yet.
QUESTION: Real quick and on the same thing.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: When the President does say it's already started – and I know you don't want to give a step-by-step, but is the relationship with North Korea at the point where there is any type of international presence there to verify whether that's already started?
MS NAUERT: I'm not going to get into who's – who may or may not be on the ground there, but it's something that we're in communication with that government and we're working hard toward this goal.
QUESTION: Can you explain why the --
QUESTION: Heather, can you --
MS NAUERT: Matt, let me get to some other people too.
MS NAUERT: Abbie, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Are there any meetings that are occurring right now or have occurred since then between the U.S. and North Korea --
MS NAUERT: I can just tell you we're in communication --
QUESTION: -- any discussions or working groups?
MS NAUERT: -- we're in communication with the government.
QUESTION: At what level?
MS NAUERT: Elise, I'm not going to get into all of the details about who, what, where, when, why, how, what flowers – Matt likes to know what flowers are going on the table. I'm not going to be able to provide you with that information, but when I have something --
QUESTION: So you're not going to be able to help us with the who, what, where, why, and when, which is exactly the idea of what we do for a living, right, is trying to say who, what – so you're saying you're going to be unhelpful.
MS NAUERT: But what we're doing for a living here is working toward a goal, and the goal is denuclearization and following through on the commitments that were made. And sometimes that can be difficult when we're distracted by all of the questions going on, though.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow – when you say that there are contacts with North Korea --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- does that mean there are just contacts or there are contacts about the specific charge of setting up a negotiating process?
MS NAUERT: Elise, I'm not going to get into that, okay?
QUESTION: So there could be – there were contacts before the summit and there were contact – there have been contacts through --
MS NAUERT: You can conclude whatever you want out of that, but I can tell you we are in --
QUESTION: So then we can conclude that nothing has changed since the summit because if there was contact with North Korea before --
MS NAUERT: If that is the assumption you want to make, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Would you say that --
MS NAUERT: Go right ahead if that's the assumption that you want to make.
QUESTION: Even if you don't want to say --
MS NAUERT: I'm not going to get – I'm not going to get into the details, but the reality is that we are having – we are in contact, we are in communication with that government. And by the way, let me just point out that we are a significant step ahead from where we were six months ago, one year ago. I mean, think of --
QUESTION: So since --
QUESTION: Are those the contours of those conversations, or are those just like the typical New York Channel type of discussions that have nothing to do with bilateral relations?
MS NAUERT: Elise, I'm not going to characterize those conversations or the communications. Okay? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: On the question of --
QUESTION: Would you just – would you say that --
MS NAUERT: Okay. And I'm going to have to go. Let me just go to Kylie last --
QUESTION: Would you say (inaudible) conversation (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Yeah. So still on North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a report in Reuters that there was an agreement to shut – to close the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, which is one of the sites that is apparently a vehicle for the ICBMs that can hit the United States. Can it be confirmed that they have taken steps to tear this down, and do we know if it's happened yet or if it will happen?
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm. And I appreciate the question. I mean, that is something at – at the State Department, we can't answer at that point. I've certainly seen that report; we've seen that report. I would imagine there would be other government entities who would be involved in trying to clarify that and determine exactly what's taking place. But here at the State Department, we can't confirm that that's the case.
I've got to go. Guys, I have a meeting in just a few minutes. I'm sorry. Yeah, thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:53 p.m.)
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