State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, April 5, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 5, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
  • D.P.R.K./R.O.K./REGION
    • D.P.R.K. Warning to Embassies / U.S. Protecting Power in Pyongyang
    • U.S. Citizens in D.P.R.K. / Embassy Seoul Message to U.S. Citizens
    • Glyn Davies / Six-Party Process
    • Coordination with China
    • Rebalance to Asia
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 Talks
    • Progress in Reduction of Nuclear Weapons
    • Escalation of Tensions / Border Difficulties
    • Magnitsky Act / DOS Statutory Requirement
    • Embassy Cairo Tweet
    • Leaders and People to Choose Government
    • Victoria Nuland’s Last Day as Spokesperson



The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

12:41 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Friday. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can – let’s start with North Korea. Have you heard anything from your friends, the Swedes, about this – the North Koreans saying that they can’t guarantee the safety of diplomats and embassies after April 10th?

MS. NULAND: We have been in touch with the Swedes, our protecting power in the D.P.R.K., because, obviously, if they were to change their status, we would have to inform American citizens and the D.P.R.K. At this point, we have no reason to believe that they will make any changes.

QUESTION: How many American citizens do you believe there are in North Korea right now?

MS. NULAND: I frankly do not have a number for you, Matt. I’m not even sure that we corporately have a number with much —

QUESTION: Do you know if any have registered with the Swedish Embassy as – I mean, there are aid workers there. I don’t know if they’re Americans, but —

MS. NULAND: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the issues with having an accurate number, is that the majority of Americans in the D.P.R.K. are NGO workers who come in and out with humanitarian delegations, et cetera. There are also the occasional tourists, and then, as you know and as we’ve said here, we have one American detained, et cetera.

So I don’t have an accurate number. I can – we can certainly take it and see if we can tell you how many have registered with the Swedes, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, even if it’s – even – and recognizing that not everyone registers, and that maybe some don’t even know that —

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: — the Swedes are your protecting power and that that’s who they should register with, just a rough idea of how many would be good.

MS. NULAND: Right. We’ll see what we can get.

QUESTION: And you said that the Swedes have told you at this point that they don’t intend to change their —

MS. NULAND: We don’t have any reason to believe they’re going to change their posture in the D.P.R.K.

QUESTION: But did they receive this message that —

MS. NULAND: Everybody did. It went to all the –

QUESTION: So they (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: It was a diplomatic circular, yeah. I think you’ve probably also seen – I think the U.K. put out a statement today saying that they weren’t planning to change their posture.

QUESTION: What do you make of this?

MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about this all week. I mean, this is just an escalating series of rhetorical statements, and the question is: To what end?

QUESTION: Well, how many – how much further do you think they can go without firing a shot?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not in a position to have a crystal ball on that kind of thing, but as we’ve been saying all week, obviously we’re going to take prudent precautions. You’ve seen that happen. But we still think this is the wrong choice, and we still want to leave the door open if the D.P.R.K.’s willing to make a different choice.

QUESTION: And then just my last one on this: Are you planning to do anything in terms of notices to – what used to be warden notices in Seoul and Tokyo? Is that happening?

MS. NULAND: Actually, with regard to Americans in the Republic of Korea, our Embassy did put out a message on April 4th to U.S. citizens saying that we have no specific information to suggest an imminent threat to U.S. citizens or facilities in the R.O.K. So the goal there was to be calming, obviously.

QUESTION: Right. Well, understood, but today – what’s today? It’s not the 4th.

MS. NULAND: That was yesterday, so —

QUESTION: It’s the 5th. So is there any —

MS. NULAND: Yeah, there’s no change there. No.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: Same topic.


QUESTION: On the wording of the statement —

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are, please?

QUESTION: Paul Courson with CNN, filling in for Elise right now. On the wording of the statement that went out to the diplomatic community, was it kind of an invitation to evacuate, or was it a suggestion? How would you characterize the words that went out?

MS. NULAND: The D.P.R.K.’s invitation?


MS. NULAND: Well, we don’t have a diplomatic mission in the D.P.R.K. —

QUESTION: Understood.

MS. NULAND: — so we weren’t a recipient of it, so I would refer you to the governments who were.

QUESTION: So Sweden didn’t tell you how it was worded?

MS. NULAND: I will let those governments who received it speak to it.


QUESTION: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov, who is handling the D.P.R.K., spoke to Special Envoy Glyn Davies. I assume they discussed this and other developments on the peninsula. Do you have a readout of this phone call?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that obviously Ambassador Davies has been in contact with his – all of the allies and partners in the Six-Party process, you can assume that they were talking about our shared concern, that despite our efforts to try to get the D.P.R.K. to change course, the tension continues to rise.


QUESTION: Going to —

MS. NULAND: Sorry, still on the D.P.R.K.?

QUESTION: One more.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Does it concern you at all that they put a date on it? I mean, we’ve got an anniversary approaching in North Korea that is important to them, and that this warning to the embassies had a date?

MS. NULAND: Cami, I think we all know that this is an unpredictable regime and an unpredictable situation. Again, our posture remains to be prudent, to take appropriate measures in the defense and deterrence sphere, both for ourselves and for our allies, but to continue to urge the D.P.R.K. to change course, because this is not going to end their isolation.

Please. Are we finished with D.P.R.K.? One more?

QUESTION: No, no. A couple.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you happy with the Chinese position about all this?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve talked about that all week here too. And we’ve talked about the fact that over the last three months, four months, we’ve worked well with China, particularly in the Security Council, to make our concern and displeasure known through these two UN Security Council resolutions, that the Secretary’s been on the phone with his Chinese counterparts, and that we expect that one of the central subjects that he will discuss, that the Secretary will discuss on his upcoming trip, including to Beijing, will be how we work on this further together.

QUESTION: But are you happy with what the Chinese are doing bilaterally with North Korea, or is it just in the Security Council?

MS. NULAND: Again, they are also looking at what more they can do to get the D.P.R.K.’s attention.


QUESTION: So what do you think about the – this crisis and what’s flared up so far that reinforces your sense that the pivot or the rebalancing to Asia was necessary, a good idea, or is there no nexus whatsoever to the situation on the peninsula and the Obama Administration pivot?

MS. NULAND: Well, the rebalance, as you know, was designed to ensure that we are paying as much attention as we need to to Asia writ large given its importance in the 21st century and given the fact that during the ought years we were very much encumbered in other parts of the world. So with or without this situation, there are very good reasons to be rebalancing, and we’ve always talked about the rebalance as being not only a security rebalance but also an economic rebalance, a diplomatic rebalance. So all of those factors come into play. But clearly, some of the work that we’ve done with our Japanese allies, with our R.O.K. allies, comes into play here.

Please. Please, Mr. Fox.

QUESTION: Is this another move by the D.P.R.K. to roll back UN sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Is it a move to roll back UN sanctions?

QUESTION: Against them.

MS. NULAND: I can’t possibly get into their heads as to why they’re doing what they’re doing.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. consider it more threatening than the 1953 armistice void, than their declaring the 1953 armistice void?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to rack and stack these aggressive —

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, is – this North Korean warning to a number of countries, have they told, any of these countries, the U.S. to turn down the heat, the rhetoric?

MS. NULAND: Has the D.P.R.K. told – what is your question?

QUESTION: No, no. Has the D.P.R.K.’s threats prompted other countries to tell the United States to turn – tone it down, the rhetoric?

MS. NULAND: I’m obviously not going to get into our diplomatic conversations with our partners and allies, but I think if you look at what the U.K. said very publicly today, this kind of further provocation isn’t going to get them anywhere and that they don’t plan to change their posture.

QUESTION: Can we go to Almaty?

QUESTION: No. Well, yes, the other nuclear troublemaker.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask if you could give us a readout on what’s happened at the talks so far and whether the response that you were hoping from Tehran to your proposals on the table was forthcoming.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me say that although I think they’ve finished for the day in Almaty, we are now expecting more activity tomorrow. So this is still an ongoing diplomatic engagement, so I have a limited readout here, but let me tell you what I’ve got.

So to begin the day, the P5+1 met to coordinate internally and advance the talks. As you know, Under Secretary Sherman leads for us. She also met bilaterally with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Idrisov. She thanked him for being the host. As you know, there’s a certain advantage to having these talks in Almaty because the Kazakhs are a country who gave up nuclear weapons voluntarily.

The plenary session began this morning Almaty time at about 10:30, adjourned about three hours later for lunch, and then there was a second plenary for about two and a half hours this afternoon. My understanding is that the talks have been substantive, but we don’t yet have any progress to report.

There were further bilateral meetings expected in various combinations this evening, but there was no bilateral meeting expected between the U.S. and the Iranians tonight. And there’ll be another plenary, as I said, tomorrow morning. I would expect, as we have in the past, that there’ll be some sort of a press readout in Almaty tomorrow when the talks conclude, and then we’ll share whatever we can from here as well.

QUESTION: What does “substantive” mean in this sense, then?

MS. NULAND: That, as I understand it – and again, these are ongoing talks – that they were talking about the real issues at hand, which as you know has not always been the case. But that’s a different matter than whether they actually made progress that we can report yet.

QUESTION: Well, did things go backwards? Was it —

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any —

QUESTION: If there was no progress, was there any slippage?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any indication of that either, Matt.

QUESTION: And do you expect – when you said they’re going to meet again tomorrow —

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: — the hope obviously is that you will get some progress to go with your substance?

MS. NULAND: Obviously, that is our hope. What we are looking for is a – as you know, a clear and concrete response to the proposal that we put forward in February.

QUESTION: And you did not get a clear and concrete response to your proposal today, at the meeting today; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Sounds like not yet.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but do you have any reason – is there any reason to hope that there might be? I’m just trying to get an idea of the direction. I mean, did it end with doors slamming and people walking out?

MS. NULAND: No. As I said —

QUESTION: Or did it —

MS. NULAND: No, I mean, they obviously considered that it was worth coming back tomorrow to see what more could be done, otherwise they wouldn’t have done that. You know how these things go. Sometimes there are opening positions and folks need to get instructions overnight after they understand that what they brought was not considered sufficiently clear and concrete.

QUESTION: Is that your – are you – did the Iranians or do you know that the Iranians said we have to get back in touch with Tehran?

MS. NULAND: No. I don’t want to take you into a room that I’m not in. I know only what I know. We’re obviously not onsite, but that they considered it was worthwhile to come back tomorrow. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. You know how these have gone.

QUESTION: We will see what tomorrow brings.

MS. NULAND: We will see what tomorrow will bring. Do you like that? Is there a song in there, Matt?

QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t know about a song, but —

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Tomorrow is another day.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Reports are saying that the Iranians are proposing a six-month freeze on enrichment at Fordo in exchange for lifting the non-UN sanctions. Is this something that could get traction?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have any more details about what is going on inside the room. I think we have to see what the results are from the round.


QUESTION: It’s related. Today marks the four-year anniversary of President Obama’s speech in Prague calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. Given the recent tensions with North Korea and the talks in Almaty and the upcoming expiration of the nuclear agreement with South Korea, a country where two-thirds of the citizens want nuclear weapons, is that still a realistic goal today?

MS. NULAND: I think it has to be a goal for all of us. The question is simply how long it’s going to take us to get there, and the President’s been very clear about the difficulties here. He’s also been very clear that as long as there is a requirement for them for deterrence purposes, that will be our posture. But I think the trajectory of the United States and other nuclear powers trying to lead in the reduction of nuclear weapons is extremely important if we want other countries to renounce the use of them and to continue to find other ways to deal with their nuclear power issues than to highly enrich, et cetera.

QUESTION: But the U.S. still believes that nuclear weapons have deterrence value? That’s still the position?

MS. NULAND: The President’s been clear about that.

QUESTION: Victoria, on Jordan, Jordan has tightened security along its border with Syria while Assad’s regime warned the Kingdom is playing with fire by allowing the U.S. and other countries to train and arm Syrian rebels on its territory. Are you concerned about the escalation of tensions between Syria and Jordan?

MS. NULAND: I think we are concerned about the impact that the Syria crisis has had on all of the bordering states – on Jordan, on Lebanon, on Turkey. We’ve talked about this. The Jordanians, as you know, have been generous hosts to large numbers of Syrian refugees. We’ve been trying to help them with that problem, as has – as have others in the international community. But this is part and parcel of what Assad has wrought, that the entire region is in a state of tension and that there are border difficulties, et cetera.

QUESTION: A Jordanian official has said that Jordan is expecting Patriot missiles – the U.S. sending Patriot missiles to Jordan soon.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that. Refer you to the Pentagon.


QUESTION: Guinea-Bissau?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the U.S. apprehension in international waters of the Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto?

MS. NULAND: Nothing, Scott. I will send you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Okay. How about Magnitsky? Can I go to that?

MS. NULAND: You can.

QUESTION: The Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern apparently has some additions that he’d like to make to the Magnitsky list. Has he sent that – forwarded that list to the State Department?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on the conversations with Congressman McGovern. As you know, we have an act, a piece of legislation, that requires the President, within 120 days of it having been signed, which was on December 14th, to provide Congress and publish in the Federal Register a list of people who were involved in the Magnitsky case as well as persons involved in human rights violations in Russia. By our count, that takes us to the middle of April, and we do plan to meet that statutory requirement to put forward a list. So stay tuned.

Please, Catherine.

QUESTION: On Egypt, Toria?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Egypt’s presidency has tweeted that Ambassador Patterson has, quote, “sent an apology for the tweet by phone, promised to review the U.S. Embassy’s policy, and admitted mistake.”

Couple of questions: When was the phone call between Ambassador Patterson and the Egyptians? Did she apologize for the tweet? I’m referencing the Jon Stewart tweet. And did she admit, as they say, it was a mistake?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on a phone conversation between Ambassador Patterson and the Egyptians. I’ll send you to our Embassy there. We spoke about this, the fact that there was a decision at post that the way that went out did not comport with senior management’s view of how the Twitter feed should be used, so I’ll just let that speak for itself.


QUESTION: Well, yesterday you mentioned that there had been – the Egyptians had complained —

MS. NULAND: Had complained.

QUESTION: — in a call.


QUESTION: Is that – would that be the same – did they call Ambassador Patterson, or did they —

MS. NULAND: I don’t know. I can’t – my understanding from what I had yesterday was it was at a lower level.

QUESTION: Toria, the last time – I would ask you to take it, because last time you referred us to Embassy Cairo they told us that they had no comment on this and referred back to the State Department.

MS. NULAND: Okay. We’ll take it and see if we have anything we can share. How about that?

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Is the Embassy in Cairo now beyond the purview of the State Department? I mean, you’re not answering any questions about —

MS. NULAND: Well, this has to do with her oral diplomacy, it sounds like —

QUESTION: She works for this Department.

MS. NULAND: — with the Egyptians, if in fact it’s accurate. So I don’t want to speak for her. I’m not aware of it.

QUESTION: But if in fact this call took place, you would be in a position to answer it, correct?

MS. NULAND: This is the first I’ve heard about the Egyptians reporting on this, so I’ve now agreed to take it. We will take it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Lebanon, the Lebanese President has begun today’s consultation with lawmakers to pick a new prime minister, but there is a consensus – or a consensus has already emerged to choose Tammam Salam for the post. Do you know Mr. Salam, and what do you think about him?

MS. NULAND: Michel, you’re not going to be surprised if I’m not going to jump right here into the middle of political negotiations inside Lebanon. This is for Lebanese leaders and people to decide how they will be governed. You know where we are, that we want to see the Lebanese people have a government that supports their desire to live peacefully and to live in harmony with each other.

QUESTION: The question is: Do you know Mr. Salam? Is the U.S. —

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to jump into the middle of this today. I’m sorry.


QUESTION: Does the quick consensus on Mr. Suleiman alleviate your concerns about the security situation in —

MS. NULAND: Again, until a decision is announced, I think we shouldn’t comment on any of it.

QUESTION: Toria, have you seen these reports, or at least one report, about a Saudi judge or court ordering a prisoner to be surgically paralyzed if he cannot pay compensation to —

MS. NULAND: I have not seen that, Matt. I have not seen that at all.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. You have not?

MS. NULAND: I have not seen the reports, no.

QUESTION: Can you find out – your friends the Brits, who you talked so glowingly about earlier in the reference to North Korea and their statement, have apparently put out a statement about this and said —

MS. NULAND: We will take a look and see if we have a comment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more on Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: Did you get anything on Saudi Arabia deporting Yemeni laborers to Yemen?

MS. NULAND: I thought we had come back to you on that, Michel.

QUESTION: No, not yet.

MS. NULAND: If we have not, we’ll see. I mean, I’m not confident that we had anything particular to say on it, but we’ll come back to you.


QUESTION: Kurt Campbell’s replacement – I know you don’t like to talk about personnel, but given there’s so much going on in the region, and the Secretary is visiting important countries in the region, do you have any update on the process of replacing that important (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: As you know, those kinds of personnel announcements are generally made by the White House when they are ready and we are ready. As you may know, Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Yun is Acting Assistant Secretary. He will be accompanying the Secretary on his trip to Asia.

All right. Are we —

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: I have one more thing. I have one more thing. I have one more thing.

QUESTION: On Friday.

MS. NULAND: On Friday. I would like to advise all of you that this is my last press briefing. This job has been such an honor, as well as a challenge. I have loved representing Secretary Clinton first and then Secretary Kerry, and the Department that I love. And I’ve loved working with all of you in the Fourth Estate.

So I want to thank all of you. I want to take this opportunity to invite you for some cupcakes and libations across the way afterwards, but before we do that, I have a special something for my very special friend, the dean of the press corps here – (laughter) – Matt Lee.


MS. NULAND: I have for you a cherry blossom cupcake.

QUESTION: Now, I could’ve taken today off. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: This is a cherry blossom cupcake to remind you to always stay sweet. (Laughter.) And especially to stay sweet to my successor, Jen Psaki, to whom I pass the baton. She’ll be taking up the podium later this spring. So stay sweet, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much. Let me just say –

MS. NULAND: All right. And thank you all.

QUESTION: Well, before you go, let me just say that on behalf of the press corps, thank you very much. You’ve been a real professional through all these last couple years. And it’s been a pleasure to work with you even if at times we have sparred. (Laughter.) It’s – you’ve done a great job. And congratulations, and good luck on your next job, which I won’t mention.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much, everybody.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay, let’s go have some cupcakes.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)