Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 14, 2012.
- Status of ARB/Overview of Process / Consultations with Congress
- Senkaku Islands
- Urge China to Address Tensions
- NORTH KOREA
- Satellite / Looking for a Clear and Credible Response at the UN Security Council
- IAEA Efforts / Concerns about Parchin
- Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front
- Russian Position
- Ukrainian Journalist Being Held
- Humanitarian Assistance
- Magnitsky Bill
- Russian Civil Society
- Scud Missiles Launched against Targets Inside Syria
- Assistant Secretary Blake Visit
- Counterterrorism Conference
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing. Happy Friday to all. I will go ahead and turn it over to all of you.
QUESTION: Well, welcome. Your virgin appearance on the —
MR. VENTRELL: So to speak, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yes, maiden appearance. I don’t really have anything huge, but I do want to start with – to try and address some of the confusion that I think arose out of yesterday’s briefing. Do you have any reason to think that the Secretary will not testify next week?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, thanks for the question, Matt. I think there was some over-reporting yesterday of the situation.
QUESTION: Yeah, there seemed to be a lot of it.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, a little bit of stretching there. Here’s what I can say: Right now we anticipate that the ARB will complete its work early next week. Toria talked a little bit about the process yesterday. It goes to the Secretary, who reviews it. There’s then a 90-day window per legislation for her to send her report to Congress about it. We do anticipate that – the committees have announced that the Secretary will be on the Hill next Thursday, and so that’s the plan.
QUESTION: This, as far as I understood, was the plan as of two days ago. And yet yesterday – I mean, had that – was it just not fully cooked enough for Toria to talk about it yet? Because she seemed to have – what resulted, what came out of her comments, seemed to be just way, way out of proportion.
MR. VENTRELL: I thought the reporting was way out of proportion. What we were able to determine as of today is that the report will be done by early next week, and the process that laid out – that Toria laid out yesterday is very much operative.
QUESTION: That’s it for me.
QUESTION: So, is it just a matter —
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: Okay. So ARB completes early next week.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Then it goes to the Secretary Clinton.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Then she has 90 days to submit it to Congress.
MR. VENTRELL: Right, but we’ve said —
QUESTION: But she —
QUESTION: To send her responses on it.
MR. VENTRELL: Right, of her findings.
QUESTION: Of her response. Okay. But she could still obviously testify on it on Thursday.
MR. VENTRELL: Right, which we anticipate will happen next Thursday.
QUESTION: Okay. But does she – is it expected that she would give some type of, her comments to Congress before she testifies?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, let’s see when we get a little bit closer. But obviously, the Secretary has committed to being fully transparent with the Congress, and this is a chance for her to discuss with those committees that have the direct oversight the situation, broadly speaking.
QUESTION: Okay, so she is fully versed. Maybe they won’t be. Is that conceivable on Thursday or —
MR. VENTRELL: Again, we’ve been cooperating with Congress throughout this extensively and will continue to do so in a variety of formats.
QUESTION: Can I ask on procedural matters?
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, yes.
QUESTION: If the ARB makes recommendations, are these binding on the State Department, or are they recommendations that can be taken on board as and when?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, let’s talk about the ARB and what it is. It comes out of legislation dating back to 1986. It requires the Secretary of State to name an Accountability Review Board after violence against official Americans overseas. The report then goes to her for her review and action. And so I don’t think there’s any binding nature of specific actions that have to be taken, but it’s a chance for the Department as a whole to look at our operations and look at what needs to be done to improve security.
QUESTION: And I guess, just so – and I may be a little slow today. Will Congress, by the time they talk to her on Thursday, will they have something to look at? Will they have some highlights of this report or the report itself by then?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, let’s look when we get a little closer. I don’t know the exact timing of how that will all work. We have been sharing with the Congress thousands of documents and extensive briefings that have been ongoing since the incident. So they’ve had significant information and they will continue to have our cooperation.
QUESTION: Another procedural question. When the ARB is submitted to the Secretary, do they do that in person, or does a binder or a CD simply get delivered to her desk? How does she actually get it? And I guess what I’m really asking is: Does she have a chance to ask the members of the panel that put this report together some of her initial questions once she starts going through it?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think, Roz, I’m going to be able to get into that level of logistical detail with you other than to say there’s a classified and there’s an unclassified portion of each of these reports. Clearly, they’re in writing. To the extent that she sits down with the ARB, we’ll get you more information as we have it.
QUESTION: Is that typical, that there is a meeting between the members of the ARB panel and the Secretary whenever a report is required to be submitted to him or her?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure. Legislatively speaking, I think what the legislation requires is a written report, but it’s their prerogative to see if there will be face-to-face meetings.
QUESTION: On the documents that they’ve obviously been reviewing, has the ARB actually been interviewing witnesses who were directly there on the night of the events of Benghazi?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to speak to their methods of investigation at this time.
QUESTION: Do you know whether the Secretary was deposed, questioned, talked to by the panel?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything for you on that.
Okay. Other topics?
QUESTION: Another subject.
MR. VENTRELL: In the back.
QUESTION: Thanks. If we could return to something else from yesterday —
MR. VENTRELL: Sure.
QUESTION: On the Chinese plane flying over the Senkaku Island airspace, Toria said that she had – she didn’t have anything new to say. And yet to me it seems like quite a bit of escalation, and I think the Japanese Government considered it such as well. Does the State Department really believe that this is nothing new, this air incursion?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, let me just say that we are concerned by the flight of a Chinese Government airplane near the Senkakus. It’s important to avoid actions that raise tensions and to prevent miscalculations that could undermine peace, security, and economic growth in the region. And so we’ve raised our concerns with the Chinese Government directly and made clear that U.S. policy and commitments regarding the Senkakus Islands are longstanding and have not changed.
QUESTION: Are you equally concerned by the Japanese response? I mean, the Japanese also put planes in the area.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we think it’s important to avoid any actions that raise tensions.
QUESTION: Have you said that to the Japanese in relation to this specific incident?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we’ve been in discussion with the Japanese about the incident, but I don’t have anything further for you.
QUESTION: Can I just follow it?
MR. VENTRELL: Is this still on the Senkakus?
QUESTION: On China.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Well, let’s go to him and then – okay.
QUESTION: So now the Chinese are saying that they’re concerned they’re send air force over Senkakus against Japanese air self-defense force protecting the area. Don’t you – do you think it’s too aggressive and very provocative action, you know, air intrusions?
MR. VENTRELL: I think I just said that we’re concerned and we think it’s very important to avoid actions that raise tensions. So we are concerned.
QUESTION: A number of nations say in the region are really worried about Chinese aggression and Chinese presence, Chinese buildup and Chinese threat to the Philippines and Japan and other nations, and also now India is also starting worrying. And White House said other day that they are concerned. This building and the State Department, are you concerned or are you worried or are you – what kind of action are you going to take, or just talking with the Chinese? Because right now, I think just talking will not solve the ongoing rising problem and rising military strength by the Chinese in the region.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Goyal, I think you’ve heard the Secretary say before that the Pacific is big enough for all of us. We obviously have an extensive relationship with the Chinese where we’re able to work through the whole breadth of the relationship, from the economic to the security. But the Pacific is big enough for all of us.
QUESTION: You think the Chinese are taking this action because of U.S. presence now because since U.S. has announced that the future focus of U.S. and international community will be Asia?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I wouldn’t speculate on Chinese actions. But clearly, we’ve been clear about why we’re pivoting toward Asia and the actions that we’re taking and the important alliances we have there and the important work that we do with our partners across the region.
QUESTION: And if I may one more related to Chinese, Tibetans are now more and more burning themselves or self-immolation, and it’s not – it’ll continue unless until international community and U.S. help them to take action as far as their self-independent or human rights and other issues, Chinese are now threatening that if they continue, then action will be taken and doesn’t matter what the international community will take – and take any action.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Goyal, the U.S. – we continue to publicly and privately to urge the Chinese Government at all levels to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and threaten the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people. So we call on the Chinese Government to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. So this is something that is very much a part of our dialogue with the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?
MR. VENTRELL: Sure.
MR. VENTRELL: Sure.
QUESTION: Have there been more – has there been any progress in deciding how the U.S. and its allies are going to respond to the rocket launch of two days ago?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, as I think, Roz, you heard a couple of nights ago Ambassador Rice say, we’re looking for a clear and credible response at the UN Security Council. That’s something we’re working toward with our partners. I don’t have an update on negotiations in New York today, but that’s certainly what we’re working toward because these are very much violations of Security Council resolutions, including 1718 and 1874, where North Korea is in clear contravention of an explicit ban on the use of ballistic missile technology. So in that context, we’re very much consulting with our partners on the Security Council.
QUESTION: One more on North Korea?
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Whatever actions may come, a new round of sanctions or anything like that, do you have any reason to believe that they will work this time?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we’re doing —
QUESTION: Work, as in get the North Koreans to scale back their military expansion, stop testing missiles, anything like that?
MR. VENTRELL: Very clearly, North Korea is one of the most sanctioned countries on earth and will continue to be so. And we’re doing – continuing to work with our partners and looking at all aspects of this, but I wouldn’t speculate.
QUESTION: How does the —
QUESTION: Still on North Korea?
MR. VENTRELL: In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. North Korea’s two previous nuclear tests back in 2006 and 2009 were both followed – both followed rocket launches. Are you concerned that a third nuclear test may be on the horizon given this pattern?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I don’t have anything for you specifically. But clearly, that’s something that we have previously discouraged the North Korean Government from considering, and we’ll continue to do so.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: IAEA team was in Iran and has just come out and the head of the team was making sort of positive noises about the visit and the prospect of sort of resuming the IAEA investigation of Iran’s activities. They didn’t get to go into Parchin though. And I’m just wondering: (a) if you have any sort of initial read on this IAEA visit, do you think it was a useful exercise; and particularly given that they weren’t able to get into Parchin, do you think that they saw everything they needed to see?
MR. VENTRELL: Thanks for the question, Andy. Well, while we do commend the IAEA for its efforts, we’re disappointed that Iran did not grant access to the Parchin site, which Iran has been sanitizing in advance of reengaging the IAEA. So we are disappointed. We recall that Mr. Jalili from the Iranian side indicated that there were no obstacles to reaching agreement with the IAEA, after which Iran quickly proceeded to raise multiple obstacles. So we understand there’s going to be a meeting in January between both sides, and we hope that Iran starts the immediate substantive cooperation that is long overdue.
QUESTION: It sounds as though – I mean, I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but that sounds as though you’re thinking that the sort of positive assessment from the IAEA is a little bit premature. Is that right?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we commend the IAEA for their work, but we do have concerns specifically, as you mentioned, about Parchin.
MR. VENTRELL: Anything else on Iran? Okay, Syria. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Have you been able to take a look about videos that came out from Syria today – today is Friday – of the protests held across the country? How do you see the reaction after your decision to label the Jabhat al-Nusrah as terrorist organization?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I haven’t seen the specific videos that you’re referring to. We made very clear why we made these designations and that the violence that that group espouses and the radicalism and the extremism is not something that we think the vast majority of the Syrian opposition would agree with. And so we’ve been very clear about why we made our decision. Clearly, they’re a minority among the opposition but one that we very consciously designated.
QUESTION: In many areas today in Syria, a lot of signs and slogans actually were support for Jabhat al-Nusrah and there were a lot of damnations on the U.S. policy along with Iran and Russia. So how do you rate this? Do you think – do you still think it was a right move or do you think the Syrian people are on the same page as you are? Apparently, it’s not marginal people just protesting this.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, let me be clear. We stand on the side of the Syrian people. We have from the very beginning of what started as a peaceful protest movement. We think that the vast majority of Syrians want a free, democratic, just future, a peaceful, unified, democratic Syria, and so that’s absolutely what we’re looking for. There are a small minority of extremists who are trying to hijack the revolution for their own aims, and we don’t agree with them, and that’s why we thought it was important to marginalize them, to sanction them, and we stand by our decision.
I haven’t seen these particular protest videos to which you’re referencing but suffice it to say that we have contact with a large range of Syrians, many of whom very much understand and appreciate that we’re supporting them and supporting their deep desire for a democratic, pluralistic society.
QUESTION: Speaking of on the side of the Syrian people, formerly U.S. post point man Mr. Frederic Hof has been giving some interviews last couple days, has been questioning the timing of this decision as well as U.S. arming policy, which is non-arming policy.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t have a specific reaction for you from the comments of a former official.
Matt, I think you had a question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, Toria expressed pleasure with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s comments about the Assad regime being – days being numbered. She said that you guys were glad that Russia was waking up to the reality that Assad was on his last legs, or something to that effect, but waking up to the reality. I’m wondering, since the Foreign Ministry has basically said that he meant – the Deputy Foreign Minister never said that and that Russia’s position hasn’t changed, I’m wondering if you’re at all disappointed that the Russian bear seems to be going back into hibernation on this, on the Syria issue.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Matt, what we think is now is the time for Russia to work with the international community to support the Syrian people. The Syrian people are watching very closely the Russian position to see if they will stand with them. We think that the transition to a post-Assad future is inevitable. Whether this comment was or wasn’t made, what we want is the Russians to play a more constructive role, cease its support for the Syrian regime, wind down its support, and work with us on the roadmap that provides for a managed political transition. So that’s where we are. Again, I can’t comment on how they may or may not have shifted their position, but we think it’s absolutely clear that the tide is turning against Asad and we’re on our way toward a post-Assad future.
QUESTION: Two questions: One, does this in any way damage the Burns-Bogdanov-Brahimi talks that were just getting underway to try to see what can be done to try to get to a transition? And two, is there any value, perhaps, in trying to get a meeting between the new President of the SOC, Mr. al-Khatib, and Russian officials to try to change Moscow’s mind on the situation there?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Roz, I mean, I think that the channel between the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and our Deputy Secretary along with the Joint Special Envoy is still open and will continue to be, and that’s a channel that they’ll work through. But suffice it to say, and we’ve been absolutely clear about this, the – what was the second part of your question again, Roz? Sorry.
QUESTION: Is there any value, perhaps, if Moscow is saying, “Our position on Asad has not changed —
MR. VENTRELL: Oh, on – right.
QUESTION: — basically got ahead of himself —
MR. VENTRELL: Thanks.
QUESTION: — is there any value, now that the SOC has been recognized by so many countries, should President al-Khatib perhaps start meeting with Russian officials to try to get them to change their minds about what’s happening in his country?
MR. VENTRELL: Right. Thanks, Roz. For President al-Khatib, again I don’t have anything on his schedule. He’s certainly been invited here to the U.S. to meet with us, but again, we’re going to continue to make our case to the Russians and encourage others to do so as well. So, of course, it’s good thing is the opposition can continue to make their case of – this is a group that’s a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. So to the extent that they can continue to make their – it abundantly clear to the Russians how closely they’re watching – Russian behavior is important.
QUESTION: But is that something that the U.S. could help make happen, some sort of communication established between the SOC and the Russians? Because it just seems as if the Russians are only hearing one side.
MR. VENTRELL: Roz, I don’t think I’d get into our private diplomatic discussions and how we may or may not set up meetings. I’m not sure that’s something I’d get into.
Hannah’s been patient in the back. Go ahead, Hannah.
QUESTION: Back to on the Jabhat al-Nusrah designation, we’ve seen President Khatib criticize the designation, some prominent generals – secular, moderate generals from Aleppo criticize it and support – stand in solidarity with Nusrah. And today, these thousands of ordinary Syrians, where you can see families in the videos come out to support Jabhat la-Nusrah, and in fact call for an Islamic caliphate. So who determined and how that’s – the designation would be a popular decision among most Syrians? And how do you say that this is sort of on the side of the Syrian people if we already have some of your allies criticizing it? Who was consulted?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we’ve been so clear, Hannah, all week, we’ve talked about this at length, that we think it’s absolutely vital to differentiate between those Syrians who look for a just, free, democratic Syria that respects the rights of all Syrians, and those who are al-Qaida and whose ideology permits more violence, greater disunity among the Syrian people, and a complete lack of respect for human life. And so they’re just not compatible visions, and we thought it was very clear to make that distinction and important to do so, and so that’s the decision we’ve taken.
QUESTION: Why do you think a lot of EU countries or Western countries have not followed your steps?
MR. VENTRELL: I refer you to the European Union for their – European countries for their positions.
QUESTION: The case of the Ukrainian journalist, a woman who is being held apparently by some in the opposition, is the U.S. doing anything to pressure the rebels to let her go? Are you aware of her case?
MR. VENTRELL: Jill, we are aware of her case. We think that she should be released. I don’t have any further information beyond that to share with you, but we are very much aware of her case.
QUESTION: Are you intervening in any way?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think I’m going to get into our private diplomatic work on this, but suffice it to say we’re aware.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked about lack of resources in especially Aleppo in bread, and Victoria said that it is Assad regime’s mission to feed those people. I just wanted to clarify, so you are expecting people who are living under the rebel-controlled areas to be fed by the Assad regime?
MR. VENTRELL: I think the point we’re trying to make is that the Assad government is spending its money, its time, and its resources oppressing its own people instead of feeding them. Meanwhile, the international community is having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide basic services for people who are suffering greatly. And so we provided some $200 million of – some $210 million of humanitarian assistance. That includes food, that includes shelter, it includes so many things. And so I think Toria’s point really was we’re looking at a regime that’s spending its time, money, and energy killing its own people instead of feeding them.
QUESTION: But this lack of bread and food is spread across Syria. Many people, they’ve been arguing, activists today, that Western countries have been arguing this, how many – how much money they have been spending, whereas they are still cannot get just simple bread and flour to people in Aleppo which has liberated areas to Turkish border.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, providing staples like bread and flour is absolutely something we do through our UN implementing partners. Obviously, for security reasons, there are times when we don’t abundantly and clearly mark it as coming from the U.S. or from the West for obvious reasons, but suffice it to say, we have very talented implementing partners who go to great lengths to get that food to people, and it does get to people. I don’t know about the specific area of Aleppo you’re talking about, but our tens of millions of dollars of aid are reaching Syrians every day.
QUESTION: Since it’s so close to Turkey —
MR. VENTRELL: Yes.
QUESTION: — don’t you think the Turks might play a role in helping to get food there since we’re 7,000 miles away and Turkey is about 60?
MR. VENTRELL: I think the Turkish Government is providing assistance. I obviously refer you to them for the details.
QUESTION: But if it’s not getting to where it is, is the United States solely to blame?
MR. VENTRELL: We work as hard as we can at this and we work with all of our partners, Matt.
QUESTION: Are you asking —
QUESTION: In other words – excuse me. In other words, just because people in Turkey are not – I mean, in Syria are not in rebel-controlled areas, are not getting enough to eat or not getting anything to eat, you’re not prepared to accept sole responsibility on behalf of the United States Government —
MR. VENTRELL: I think —
QUESTION: — and then not getting the food —
MR. VENTRELL: I think we were crystal clear that the onus is on the Assad regime, that they are the ones that are causing the suffering, and that we are doing everything we can to alleviate that suffering as efficiently and as effectively as we possibly can.
QUESTION: Would you prefer them to feed the people before the shelling or after the shelling those people?
MR. VENTRELL: Let’s go on to Jill.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. VENTRELL: Yes.
QUESTION: There’s a law in Russia right now which is kind of a retaliation for Magnitsky. They are talking about people who – judges who let people off who have abused, killed, et cetera children who were adopted from Russia. President Putin has come out and said he supports it. It’s moving forward.
Is there any reaction so far, any discussion that you’re having with the Russians about this law?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, first of all, to say, Jill, I think you all saw – I think it just happened. It was on the President’s schedule that he was going to sign into law what had been Senate H.R. 6156 which terminates application of Jackson-Vanik to Russia and Moldova and authorizes the President to extend permanent normal trade relations to both countries. So this was part of a historic bill that normalizes trade relations between the U.S. and Russia. It’s a great benefit to both us and to the Russians.
And there are human rights provisions in the legislation, as you mentioned, that bar gross human rights violators from traveling to the U.S. That’s something we already do under existing law and will continue to do. But this sort of Russian attempt at reciprocity, sadly, instead of taking action to bring justice for Mr. Magnitsky, this is their attempt. And we continue to call on Russia to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for the crimes committed against Mr. Magnitsky.
QUESTION: Right, but what they are saying is there are also human rights violations of these children who are being abused in the United States. They’re taken to the United States as adoptees and then the people who carry out these abuses are, they argue, being let off by judges in the United States. So they, I presume, are building a case to list people like that on their type of Magnitsky legislation.
But the overall point is they’re saying it’s just as much a human rights violation here as it is there.
MR. VENTRELL: I think it stretches the imagination to see an equal and reciprocal situation here. The issue of adoption is one that we’ve worked very hard with the Russians, something that we’ve looked at carefully, but we just reject any attempt at this sort of – trying to make a reciprocal comparison. We just reject that.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: I don’t believe it’s been brought up here but – correct me if I’m wrong – the IRI is saying that it’s pulling its activities out of Russia. Do you have any reaction to that? And sort of it seems to be yet another shoe dropping on the closing in on civil society operations there.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thanks, Andy. We do understand that IRI, the International Republican Institute, has decided to close its office in Moscow. Likewise, we understand that NDI is assessing its own situation in Russia. So, I mean, obviously I have to refer you to IRI and NDI. Those are the – for more information – but our commitment to the development of Russian civil society remains strong, and we’re vigorously exploring ways to continue to engage with Russian NGOs and activists despite these actions that have come about in Russia.
In the back.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I don’t have any update for you on chemical weapons. We’ve been very clear about what a grave that mistake that would be. I do – unfortunately, the U.S. Government does have information, however, to confirm that the Assad regime has launched Scud missiles against targets inside of Syria. So I am, unfortunately, able to confirm that today, which is in our view truly a disproportionate military escalation and really a desperate act from this regime.
QUESTION: Do you know how many he fired?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not able to confirm —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) reported six earlier in the week.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, I’m not able to confirm a number at this time, Roz.
QUESTION: Do you know on what –
QUESTION: — on period —
MR. VENTRELL: One at a time. What did you say, Roz?
QUESTION: The time period over which these Scuds were fired, any particular locations that were targeted, do you have any of that detail?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not able to get in any detail, other than to say it was inside of Syria.
Matt, you had a question.
QUESTION: And what is the evidence that they used?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to get into intelligence, but we are at this time —
QUESTION: Can you just explain why it – why U.S. officials have been saying this for three days now, why it is finally that you’re able to say it?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I think we are cautiously confirming things on the record, and careful, and at this time we were able to do it.
QUESTION: Or is it that the State Department might – is the last to know? Is that it?
MR. VENTRELL: No, and I wouldn’t characterize it that way, Matt. I think that, obviously, we’re very careful with sensitive matters. We do our best to provide the best evidence we have when we’re able to.
QUESTION: But why – wait. It was so – this was – is it then the – your being able to confirm it today on the record would suggest that it’s been declassified somehow.
MR. VENTRELL: Matt, I’m not going to get into it beyond what I said. We’re able to confirm it, but I’m not going to get into it.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious as to why you’re – I mean, this is not something that happened yesterday, is it? It’s not something that happened this morning. It’s something that’s been out there and that NATO has spoken about, that the Pentagon has spoken about, maybe not on the record but they have spoken about it before. Is there something new to – I mean, are these new uses of Scuds since what everyone was talking about earlier in the week?
MR. VENTRELL: Matt, I’m simply not going to get into —
QUESTION: But then I can’t tell – I can’t tell why you’re – why are you telling us this?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, Matt, we —
QUESTION: I mean, the questions –
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we want to make clear —
QUESTION: Just let me make it – let me – just want to make it —
MR. VENTRELL: All right.
QUESTION: The question was not about Scuds. You volunteered that.
MR. VENTRELL: I did.
QUESTION: So my question is: Are you volunteering it because it is new, or are these the same Scuds that other branch – other agencies of the government were talking about earlier in the week?
MR. VENTRELL: What I am able to tell you is I was able to confirm it on the record today, at this point. We weren’t there before; now we are. What I will say is that this is utterly disproportionate, and it just shows the regime’s desperation and their utter disregard for the lives of their own citizens.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, okay. I’m not – I’m really – I know you’re going to think that this isn’t true, but I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m just trying to find out if these are new uses of Scuds since what others were talking about earlier in the week, or are they the same?
MR. VENTRELL: Matt, it’s been going on this week. I’m not going to get into it further about what has led us to be able to confirm it.
QUESTION: Would this confirmation change any of U.S. policy on the ground if continues or since you confirmed it?
MR. VENTRELL: We continue to do everything we can to hasten the end of this bloodshed.
QUESTION: Final question: Spokesman Makdissi, have you been able to locate his whereabouts?
MR. VENTRELL: I have no information on his whereabouts.
Goyal’s been patient.
QUESTION: Two questions.
MR. VENTRELL: Sure.
QUESTION: India and Bangladesh. First, India. Any comments on this latest rocket?
MR. VENTRELL: On this latest what, Goyal? I didn’t hear you.
QUESTION: Rocket by India.
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything for you on that, Goyal. We can check afterward and see if we do. I just don’t have anything for you.
QUESTION: And Bangladesh. As far as now situation is Bangladesh is concerned, economically is bad because of these factory fires and garments and now they cannot export to Wal-Mart and other U.S. facilities, and Secretary – Assistant Secretary Blake was in Bangladesh. Any latest about his visit? What sort of help are they needing – Bangladesh or what the U.S. has offered?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Goyal, I can confirm these are issues he raised on his recent visit. We’ll have to check with the Bureau of South Central Asia Affairs.
QUESTION: And speaking of Deputy Secretary Burns, have you gotten a readout from Abu Dhabi on the counterterrorism conference?
MR. VENTRELL: Matt, my understanding is that they just wrapped up and he was en route to the airport at this point, so I was not able to get an update before coming down.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I don’t – he probably doesn’t need to give the update. It can come from – I’m sure there were staff there, people from the Embassy or consulate, whatever. I’m very curious to know how the agenda item on getting non-members involved in the forum went, and if there was any decisions made about that.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay, Matt. I know this is an issue near and dear to your heart, and we will endeavor to get you a readout later this afternoon.
QUESTION: Okay, but please don’t – yeah, don’t disturb Deputy Secretary Burns on the plane because it doesn’t need to come from him, just anyone who was there —
MR. VENTRELL: We will touch base with his traveling party.
QUESTION: — what the conference decided on this, and whether or not you are happy with it.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. We’ll check in on that.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
One last question?
QUESTION: Can I go to China?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said concern about that action by the Chinese Government, but I would like to ask about how seriously that U.S. Government take this action, because this is actual first time in the history that a Chinese Government airplane invade Japanese airspace. Because I talked with several Japanese officials yesterday after the press conference and they were so surprised at the comment by the State Department, because they felt that the U.S. tried to be neutral between Japan and the United – Japan and China.
MR. VENTRELL: I think my previous characterization as concerned is sufficient.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)