Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 3, 2013.
- Secretary’s Conversation with Philippine Foreign Secretary Del Rosario
- Merrill Newman
- 4th Anniversary of Alan Gross Imprisonment
- Draft Constitution / 30 Days to Call for Referendum
- Under Secretary Sherman Meeting with Yemen’s Minister of Defense
- Second Annual U.S.-Yemen Strategic Dialogue / Acting Assistant Secretary for Political and Military Affairs Tom Kelly
- National Dialogue
- ADIZ / ICAO / Vice President Biden in Region
- Maaloula / Urge All Sides to Avoid Civilian Casualties
- P5+1 / Nuclear Issue / Aviation
- BSA / Ambassador Dobbins
- Encourage Countries in Region to Work Together
- Trilateral with Russians, UN / Under Secretary Sherman / Humanitarian Issue
- Observing Trials
2:07 p.m. EST
MS. HARF: Hello. It’s been a while.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MS. HARF: Welcome to the daily briefing. I apologize – I have a little bit of a cold – if I sound ridiculous. I have one thing at the top and then I’m happy to open it up for questions.
Today, Secretary Kerry, who, as you know, is on the road – most of you probably just saw his press avail – spoke with Philippine Foreign Secretary Del Rosario. Del Rosario thanked the Secretary for the United States overwhelming support in the wake of the typhoon. Secretary Kerry noted that it is an honor to help a good friend and that the United States will continue to stand by the Philippines during this difficult time. Secretary Kerry said he looks forward to visiting the Philippines later this year to reaffirm our commitment to reconstruction and to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.
With that, I like your scarf, Matt.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you.
MS. HARF: That’s good team pride more.
QUESTION: Yeah. I wish I had more to be proud about, actually.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: But —
MS. HARF: We can talk about Buckeye football later in the week. It’s fine.
QUESTION: Or we can talk about Buffalo football all day long.
MS. HARF: I know.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry will visit the Philippines later this year?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Considering we’re now December 4th or 3rd, you don’t want to make it —
MS. HARF: I don’t want to qualify it any further.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific?
MS. HARF: No. That’s okay.
QUESTION: All right. I don’t really have anything huge to start with, but I have a couple of housekeeping things.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: The first one is just on North Korea. Is there any update on – or did – were you able to get answers to the questions that were put to Jen yesterday about what the Swedes were able to learn from Mr. Newman about – if anything, about his alleged confession?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details or any update from yesterday in terms of Mr. Newman. I can reiterate sort of the key points if we want to walk through it again. I know Jen’s done a lot of this. But that – as she said, on November 30th, the D.P.R.K. was permitted – permitted the Embassy of Sweden consular access to him. I don’t have any more details other than what she said yesterday.
QUESTION: Also with North Korea, can we stick with that?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are reports out today about the North Korean leader sacking a very influential uncle of his. We wanted to – is there any possibility of verifying this from the U.S. side? I mean, has this happened? Has the U.S. any insights into —
MS. HARF: I’ve —
QUESTION: — a family feud or a power feud?
MS. HARF: I’ve seen those reports and just don’t have anything for you on that. Obviously, I’d refer you to them to address those issues.
MS. HARF: Go for it. Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. Gross’ fourth anniversary is today. And I’m noting some comments that were just made by the Secretary – currently engaged in some discussions on that. Is there anything that you can tell us, even an update on him? What is the Secretary talking about?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, you are right; the Secretary did just address this. Today is the fourth anniversary of Mr. Gross’ imprisonment in Cuba. Securing Alan Gross’ immediate release remains a top priority of the United States. We use every appropriate diplomatic channel to press for Mr. Gross’ release, both publicly and privately. I think that’s what the Secretary was referring to. Obviously, there’s reasons we don’t outline all of that, private diplomatic conversations. We have urged governments as well around the world and prominent figures who travel to Cuba, including religious leaders, to press for Mr. Gross’ immediate release. Excuse me.
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana officials visit Mr. Gross monthly. The last visit took place on November 27th. There is a pending request with the Government of Cuba for permission to visit him again on December 26th. And as we’ve said, we reiterate our call on the Cuban Government to release Alan Gross immediately. And as the Secretary made very clear, it’s a top priority and we’ll continue working this diplomatically.
QUESTION: But does he mean or you mean that there is something actually new, or is this a continuing process?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve – from the very first moment of Alan Gross’s imprisonment, we’ve called on the Government of Cuba to release him and have been working very hard to do just that. So I don’t have anything new for you. This has been a very high priority for the U.S. Government for the last four years.
QUESTION: Just on the consular visits?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You said that they see him once a month?
MS. HARF: Monthly.
QUESTION: But they have to ask permission each time, or is it just –
MS. HARF: That —
QUESTION: Have they ever been turned down, do you know?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. I can ask. I don’t know. Like I said, the last time they visited him was November 27th. We have a request for December 26th. I don’t know if it’s ever been turned down.
QUESTION: And Marie, his family – and I think he also – says that he has lost about 100 pounds, and it’s a difficult situation. Is the U.S. aware when the consular people visit him? Are they concerned about his welfare?
MS. HARF: I think we’ve certainly spoken to this a number of times. We’re aware of, I think, some health issues that he has. And for those and other reasons, we’ve called for his immediate release. We’ve called on the Government of Cuba to immediately release him. So we’re certainly aware of that. Again, we have consular access, but this is one of our highest priorities, and we’ll continue working to secure his release.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Egyptian constitution?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Let me see what I have on that. So as I’m sure folks are aware, the draft constitution was passed to Interim President Mansour today, and now he has 30 days to call for a referendum on it, where the Egyptian people themselves will decide the fate of the draft constitution in that referendum. We remain committed to a referendum that is open to international observers and monitors. We’ll continue to track the constitutional process with interest. I don’t want to get ahead of the decision the Egyptian people will make. Obviously, it’s up to them in this referendum.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: But have you seen the copy of the draft constitution? Does it meet the requirements you’ve heard of an open, fair, transparent, democratic government?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear throughout this drafting process when we’ve had some issues with different things that were included in parts of the constitution. We can talk about some of those if you’d like. But I don’t want to do, at this point, sort of a line-by-line analysis of the constitution. There is a referendum. It’s going directly to the Egyptian people in the next 30 days. And they’ll have a chance themselves to vote on it, which is what we said is what the process should look like.
QUESTION: Sure. But over and above that —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — I mean, the United States has been asking Egypt to turn a corner and move back towards democracy.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does this constitution meet some of the requirements that you had, which the previous constitution – which was never really put in place – lacked?
MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said all along, we look to this constitution to protect the fundamental freedoms and rights of all Egyptians. We don’t want to prejudge the outcome of a referendum. Again, this is up to the Egyptian people to decide whether or not they approve of this draft constitution. At times, we’ve made clear when we had issues, whether that was the fact that we think civilians should be tried in civilian courts, for example. We’ll continue to track the constitutional process and leave it up to the Egyptian people to say yes or no, one way or the other, on this draft constitution that will be put before them.
QUESTION: But one of the articles in the draft constitution actually addresses the thing, the – about military courts. It says that civilians cannot be tried by military judges, except for cases of attacks on armed forces, military installation, and military personnel. Would that meet your requirements, for example?
MS. HARF: Well, they aren’t our requirements, right. I mean, certainly, we say what we think should be included in how the Egyptian Government moves forward – what the process should look like, certain things, like you mentioned, whether it’s inclusivity or certain freedoms that we want maintained by the government. But it’s not up to us to say whether or not a constitution’s acceptable. It’s up to the Egyptian people.
So we’ve said when we have specific issues, but we’re not going to go through, in advance of a popular referendum, and do a line-by-line analysis. That’s not really our place to do here.
QUESTION: Sure. I understand that.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But there’s quite a lot of Egyptian aid – sorry, American aid to Egypt that’s on hold, basically, because you want to see more progress made on constitutional and democratic reforms.
MS. HARF: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does this draft constitution seem to you, to the Americans, to meet those standards?
MS. HARF: Well, the evaluation is still ongoing. As we’ve said, we’re not going to outline exactly A, B, and C what needs to be done to resume some of the assistance that’s been suspended. But this all plays into the analysis that we’re doing, and we’ll do going forward, if we eventually have a discussion about when to resume aid. So people are looking at it. We’ll look at what happens in the referendum process. I just don’t want to get ahead of it.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But you said you look to the constitution to protect and defend the rights of the Egyptian people, correct?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I did say that.
QUESTION: So – you did, right?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So does the Administration believe that this constitution does that?
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: It’s not that difficult a question, and I – it doesn’t have anything to do with whether the Egyptian people vote yes or no on it, because, as you said, that’s their choice, their decision.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: So the question to you, speaking for the Administration, is: You said that there were – you had expressed concerns about certain things in the past.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So have your concerns been addressed in this draft constitution that is going to be voted on?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a question of whether or not we can make a determination about whether it addresses our concerns. It’s whether it’s appropriate to do so, that at this point, when where we’re in a – wait, I sensed it coming.
QUESTION: I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I was ready for it. I haven’t been up here in a while, Matt, and I was just ready for it. No, but at this point, when it’s about to go to a popular referendum, where we have said all along this needs to be in the hands of the Egyptian people, that it’s not appropriate for us to come out and make sort of a blanket statement about whether this is a good or bad draft constitution. That’s in the hands of the Egyptian people now. We’ll keep having these conversations privately. But it’s just a question of what’s appropriate and how best to promote our interests there. And at this point, we think it should be up to the Egyptian people to decide.
QUESTION: Right, but surely, you wouldn’t want the Egyptian people to vote yes on a constitution that you think doesn’t protect their rights, correct?
MS. HARF: We don’t tell the Egyptian people how to vote on anything.
QUESTION: Well, I know. I’m not —
MS. HARF: So I’m not going to stand up here and take a position one way or the other on that.
QUESTION: Well, you have concerns. And you —
MS. HARF: And we’ve voiced them individually as they’ve arisen.
QUESTION: And the question is not whether you think the Egyptian people should vote yes or no on. No one’s asking you that. The question is whether the Administration believes that this constitution does protect the things that you think that it should.
MS. HARF: Again, we’re going to keep evaluating the constitution. We’re going to look at the process.
QUESTION: Well, is it going to change between now and the vote?
MS. HARF: Well, not to my knowledge, but we’re going to watch the process as it unfolds, we’re going to see what happens with the popular referendum, and we’ll make judgments about that going forward as we feel appropriate. At this point, we really do think that there’s a draft constitution that’s on the table, that it’s important for us to take a step back and not do a line-by-line analysis of it, and let the Egyptian people vote on it —
QUESTION: So after —
MS. HARF: — without us coming out and saying this is good, this is bad, this is somewhere in the middle.
QUESTION: All right. So after the referendum, then you’ll come out and say you think this constitution stinks —
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that either.
QUESTION: — I mean, or this constitution is wonderful?
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that either.
QUESTION: I’m sure the Egyptian people will be very appreciative of —
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that either. I’m just conveying to you —
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: — where we are in the process right now. But as this process has unfolded, when things have arisen where we think they could be tweaked, we’ve said so. But where we are right now, we think it’s important to let the process go forward and the Egyptian people to decide.
QUESTION: Can you say whether those tweaks – the tweaks that you suggested have been adopted?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to go through line by line and do that.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: And what are the other issues that you are talking about —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — the other problems in the constitution or the draft constitution?
MS. HARF: In terms of what?
QUESTION: About the issues. You talked about the issues and this and that.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve raised them from time to time. I don’t think it’s necessarily useful to go back through them.
QUESTION: But can you repeat them, please, for us?
MS. HARF: Look, I just mentioned one, which talked about the civilian – civilians being tried in civilian courts. I think we’ve talked about that a lot in here. But again, at this point, we’re not focused on going back over things we’ve talked about in the past. We’re focused on where the process goes from here.
QUESTION: You cannot remind us about these issues?
MS. HARF: I’m not sure it’s a useful exercise to do in the briefing today.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yeah. And then I’ll go back to you. Yeah.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Sherman met with Yemeni officials, including the defense minister.
MS. HARF: She did.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of that?
MS. HARF: I have a little bit of information. Let me see how much, and if there’s more to share, I can.
So you’re right. Today, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with the Yemeni minister of defense at the State Department to discuss the full range of topics related to the U.S.-Yemen bilateral relationship. In their meeting, she underscored U.S. support for Yemen’s ongoing democratic transition, including military restructuring efforts and a national dialogue that’s currently underway. Yesterday, the Yemeni minister of defense led the Yemeni delegation to the second annual U.S.-Yemen Strategic Dialogue, which was held at the State Department. Yesterday’s meeting was led by Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tom Kelly, built on the inaugural Strategic Dialogue held in Sana’a in December 2012.
QUESTION: How much of that conversation with any of the State Department officials focused on the U.S.’s drone strategy in Yemen?
MS. HARF: Obviously, we discussed the wide range of bilateral issues, including counterterrorism. I don’t have a breakdown for how much of the conversation was on one specific topic or another. If we have more to share, I’m happy to —
QUESTION: Would you maybe know if the Yemenis asked the U.S. to be less active on the drone strategy?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details for you on their meeting, but I’m happy to check in with our folks and see if we do.
QUESTION: Do you know —
QUESTION: Can you also ask if Guantanamo detainees came up?
MS. HARF: I can definitely ask. I just don’t —
QUESTION: Do you know whether the special envoy for Guantanamo was in on that meeting?
MS. HARF: I do not know.
QUESTION: Could you find out, please?
MS. HARF: I will endeavor to find out. Yes.
MS. HARF: I just don’t know the answer. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on how the national dialogue is going on? And if they don’t complete it by the deadline of the agreement, will the U.S. support the extension of the term of President Hadi?
MS. HARF: I don’t have an update on where their national dialogue is. It’s a good question, and I’ll check with our team and see. Maybe tomorrow, if I do, I can share it. Like I said, Under Secretary Sherman – this is one of their topics of discussion, our support for Yemen as it moves forward in this transition, including with the national dialogue. I’ll see if there’s any update for you.
QUESTION: Change of topics?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: East China Sea?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So a senior Administration official said that in terms of the U.S.-Japan position on the Chinese ADIZ, that fundamentally there is no daylight between the positions. But the Japanese are calling for the Chinese to completely roll back their decision to enforce this ADIZ. Does the U.S. Administration agree with that view, or is it differ – does it differ?
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll make a couple of points. And I would also point people to the Vice President, who’s in the region right now. He made some remarks with Prime Minister Abe today, where he very clearly spoke about this issue and also said that he would be raising this with the Chinese when he meets with them – I think it’s tomorrow – directly. So he spoke to this, and I would point you to some of his remarks.
I think we’ve been very clear about what our position is, that this appears to be a highly provocative act by the Chinese to unilaterally change the status quo. And what we’ve said, what the Vice President’s said, what other people have said, is that this increases the risk of miscalculation, confrontation, and accidents. We’ve been very clear that we’ve called on China not to implement the ADIZ, and we’ll continue to do so. I know we’ve talked about it a lot in this room and I’m sure we will in the coming days as well. The Vice President, as I said, is raising this directly in the region with our Japanese and Korean allies, and also with the Chinese when he’s there as well.
QUESTION: And so asking them not to implement this ADIZ, are you saying that you want them to roll back to November 23rd, to the status quo, in other words?
MS. HARF: Again, our position on this is that we do not want them to implement the ADIZ. We also don’t want them to take any further provocative or destabilizing actions that attempt to alter the status quo in the region, including creating new ADIZs over contested or otherwise sensitive territory administered – excuse me, administrated – I’m not sure what the word I’m looking for is – by other countries.
So we call on them to exercise caution and restraint. We’ll continue this dialogue. Again, the Vice President will have conversations directly with the Chinese. I don’t want to get ahead of those conversations, but he’ll have them directly. I think it’s tomorrow.
QUESTION: The Chinese —
QUESTION: So Jen, yesterday —
MS. HARF: Hold on. Let me go here and then I’ll go around the room. I promise.
QUESTION: The Chinese Defense Ministry issued a statement a short while ago, one, criticizing the U.S., I would assume, by this statement: “A very few countries’ insistence on not filing flight plans is neither beneficial nor responsible.” And then the spokesperson goes on to strongly criticize Japan for essentially forcing its hand on establishing the ADIZ, saying that its own efforts to establish a similar zone have basically infringed upon China’s ability to defend itself from outside attack. Is this going to make the Administration’s efforts to get Beijing to roll back or rescind this zone more difficult?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to speak for what the Chinese said or why they said it. We’ve been very clear that we think this is a provocative act. We are going to be raising it – we have raised it and will continue to raise it directly with the Chinese. We’ve been clear that this type of provocative behavior is inconsistent with the actions of a major power that upholds international norms and promotes peace and stability. This is, of course, very important issue, upholding international norms, including in aviation. So we’ll keep discussing this with our partners in the region, with the Chinese directly, and keep making our position very clear.
QUESTION: They also insist that they have not changed the status quo as persons in this building and other buildings here in the Administration have said since last Monday. What is your reaction to that?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I’m not going to sort of do a tit-for-tat with what they’re saying in the press. We’ve said that by establishing this new ADIZ, that it appears to be an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo. That is our view. We’ve made that clear. I’m sure there’ll be discussions on the ground about what those comments mean on their end. But again, we’ve made our position on this clear.
QUESTION: Has there been any future – has there been any additional thinking about whether a third party should be brought in to mediate this? Or does the Administration believe that by simply having these face-to-face meetings with President Xi, that the U.S. can resolve this matter? Is it going to have to go to the Security Council?
MS. HARF: I certainly don’t want to get into any hypothetical about how this might eventually be resolved. I know we’re having discussions. Certainly, we encourage countries in the region to resolve their disputes peacefully, diplomatically. That hasn’t changed. But I’m not going to sort of get into hypotheticals about how this eventually may be resolved.
QUESTION: Can you tell us with whom the U.S. has been discussing this, besides with Japan? Has – is South Korea brought into this conversation? Is – are the Philippines brought into this conversation? Who else is involved in this?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. I know that we’ve obviously raised it directly with the Chinese. The Vice President has discussed it with the Japanese in his visit. And I think we’ll be discussing it with the Koreans as well when he’s there, I think after he’s in Beijing. I can check and see who else we’ve discussed it with. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Let me clarify (inaudible). Jen mentioned yesterday the need for China to rescind the procedure. In this case, what is the – what does it mean, “the procedure”?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve called on them not to implement the ADIZ and everything that goes along with that. I’m not going to further outline that from the podium. We’ll have these discussions with the Chinese, as I said, very – we’ve been having them and will continue to have them. But we’ve been very clear that they need to not implement it, and they need to not take any further provocative action along these same lines.
QUESTION: So if that – does it mean China doesn’t need to rescind the ADIZ itself?
MS. HARF: I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Oh, I —
MS. HARF: We’ve been clear that they should not implement the ADIZ and not take any further provocative actions, period. Our position on that hasn’t changed. We’ll be having these discussions with them. We are having them now, and we’ll continue to have them going forward.
QUESTION: So in this case, what is appropriate procedure for China?
MS. HARF: In terms of what specifically?
QUESTION: Jen also – Jen and Mr. Carney also announced that China needs to rescind the procedure, so – which means the Chinese procedure is not appropriate. So what is appropriate procedure?
MS. HARF: Well, for example, we’ve said that China’s announcement includes a list of requirements which appear to be preconditions for entry into its ADIZ. This is not consistent with international aviation practice, nor consistent with international norms respecting navigational freedoms. So that’s one example of a reason we think we don’t recognize the ADIZ and don’t believe that it should be implemented. That’s just, practically speaking, one way that we – one example of how we don’t think that it should be implemented.
QUESTION: So, Marie —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Wait, hold on. I’ll come back to – I’ll go around. You, and then you, and then I’ll come back up to Matt.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s been about 10 days, I think, or a week and a half or so since this —
MS. HARF: I’ve lost all sense of time. Has it been?
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s what the holidays do.
MS. HARF: I know.
QUESTION: But so it’s been quite a while since this ADIZ was declared, and the Administration has held the line that it’s an attempt to change the status quo, but when is this ADIZ and compliance of it by U.S. airlines going to become the new status quo?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. We believe – as I said, we believe that China should not take steps to implement the ADIZ. I don’t want to get ahead of the conversations that the Vice President’s going to have in his team tomorrow. We don’t believe – we don’t recognize it, we don’t believe that it should be implemented. So our position hasn’t changed on that, and I’m not just going to get two steps ahead of the process. I know what you’re asking, but let’s see how the discussions go and where we go from there.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
QUESTION: Marie, I know it has been 10 days, and in that time you’ve said here we’ve raised it and we’ll continue to raise it.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a little more or just review for us specifically who we’ve raised it with, directly with the Chinese, and when? And also, not to get ahead, as you said, of the Vice President’s visit, but who specifically is he going to meeting with tomorrow?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I would refer you to his folks at the White House and I can see if I have a further readout for you tomorrow in the briefing as well. I just don’t have it in front of me.
MS. HARF: Assistant Secretary Danny Russel raised U.S. concerns with the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Cui. On November 23rd, Deputy Secretary Burns and Assistant Secretary Russel discussed a wide range of issues of pressing concern in the region, including the ADIZ with Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin. I’m sorry if I did not pronounce that correctly. On November 27th in Beijing, Ambassador Locke and senior embassy officials remain in close contact with senior Chinese counterparts. They’re reiterating U.S. concerns. We’ve reiterated them from the podium. Again, the Vice President will be reiterating them tomorrow as well.
QUESTION: So those conversations are generally positive and communicative, or are they tension-filled?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to put a colorful adjective on them. What I will say is that throughout all of our engagements with China on this issue, we’ve made it clear that the U.S. will not recognize the ADIZ, that the Chinese should not implement the ADIZ, and should not take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves if they’re entering the ADIZ. So we will continue these conversations. I’m sure we’ll have more of a readout as these meetings go forward.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: Is it still the case that your non-recognition of this means that military or U.S. Government aircraft will not comply?
MS. HARF: Yes. This announcement —
QUESTION: So does that —
MS. HARF: — will not change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.
QUESTION: Okay. So as you mentioned, the Vice President is flying from Tokyo to Beijing tomorrow right through this zone. Is —
MS. HARF: I’m not sure what his flight plan is, to be honest with you.
QUESTION: Are they going to go around it? Are they going —
MS. HARF: I don’t know.
QUESTION: Are they not going to file a flight plan with the Chinese authorities for this?
MS. HARF: I can check and see if I have – I really honestly don’t know, Matt. It’s not a bad question. I just don’t know the answer.
QUESTION: This, I understand, was raised in Montreal at the ICAO?
MS. HARF: It was. I believe that the Japanese put forward a statement. It was raised last week, I believe, at the ICAO, and the U.S. expressed support for the principles in the Japanese statement that addressed this.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Administration plans anything further in that venue?
MS. HARF: I don’t. I can double check. I don’t.
QUESTION: All right. And then —
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but I just don’t know.
QUESTION: And then the other thing is that you said that at some – at one point that this is not consistent with the actions of a major power —
MS. HARF: I did say that.
QUESTION: — or a responsible, basically, a responsible major power.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you —
MS. HARF: That upholds international norms.
QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t understand that. Why – it’s entirely consistent with what major powers do all the time.
MS. HARF: Well, what I said was this provocative behavior isn’t consistent the major power that upholds international norms. And international norms include norms that involve aviation, flight routes, all of the things we’ve talked about.
MS. HARF: And major powers – and all countries – but certainly major powers have a responsibility to uphold these international norms. We’ve talked about international norms a lot in this room on a whole host of issues.
QUESTION: Right, but the United States has requirements for planes that fly through what it considers to be its territory. I don’t – you’re not calling yourself inconsistent, are you?
MS. HARF: I don’t see in any way how there’s a comparison here.
QUESTION: Well, I just – I have a hard time understanding what – it’s not consistent with the actions of a major power.
MS. HARF: No, this type of provocative —
QUESTION: I mean, what is —
MS. HARF: — behavior that could lead to —
QUESTION: What is —
MS. HARF: We know this is a sensitive topic in the region. We don’t think that behavior that could lead to miscalculation, that could lead to a confrontation or accidents in this part of the world, is action that a major power that should take. They should uphold international norms and they should not take provocative actions, like the Chinese have, that could, in fact, lead to the worst kind of miscalculation, as the Vice President referenced in his statement today.
QUESTION: Right, but the – not being consistent with the actions of a – I just have a hard – what is consistent? Invading Iraq when everyone tells you not to?
MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s any comparison worth even making there, Matt.
QUESTION: An embargo on Cuba that the entire world votes against?
MS. HARF: Do you have a question about the ADIZ or are we done with that topic?
QUESTION: Yeah. I want to know why that this is inconsistent with the actions of a major power.
MS. HARF: Because we believe that country should uphold international norms —
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MS. HARF: — and they are not doing so in this case, period. It is not a comparison to anything else that any other country has done.
QUESTION: They’re not – but they’re not imposing anything illegal on – they’re just – they’re requiring planes —
MS. HARF: It’s not consistent with international aviation practice or international norms respecting navigational freedoms. I’m not sure how much more clear that can be.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not sure that – I just – I’m not an expert on international aviation law. I doubt you are.
MS. HARF: Really? That’s surprising to me. I thought you were.
QUESTION: I doubt you are either. But I would like to know how it violates —
MS. HARF: More specifics?
MS. HARF: I’ll see what I can do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: On China itself.
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll do one more – yeah. We’ll finish China.
QUESTION: When did China inform the U.S. officially about ADIZ?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. I can find out.
QUESTION: Did it pre-inform you before they went public?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. I’m sorry. I can try and find out for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Previously, you said that you urge China not to implement ADIZ and also not to come up with any new ADIZ.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication that they might come up with any new ADIZ zone in other parts in —
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but again, we are calling on them not to take any further provocative acts. That certainly would be one.
Yes. Anything else? Yes. Great.
QUESTION: Syria. Do you have any information about the 12 nuns? News reports said that they were kidnapped in Maaloula close to Damascus and moved to Yabroud.
MS. HARF: So we’re aware of the reports. I’m not in a position to provide any detailed information on this. We are, at this point, trying to seek some more information on this. Obviously, in any fighting anywhere, but certainly in Maaloula, we urge all sides to avoid civilian casualties, not to desecrate places of worship. We condemn attacks when people do on both sides. So we’re trying to get more information. If I have more to share in the coming days, I will.
QUESTION: You don’t have any information about —
MS. HARF: We don’t have any additional information, no. We’re trying to get some more right now.
QUESTION: Tangentially, are the Czechs still the protecting power in Damascus?
MS. HARF: I can double-check on that – no pun intended – for you. I don’t know. I’ll find out.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Iran?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So yesterday, I asked Jen if there was any reaction to the news that the new British envoy to Iran is visiting Tehran today.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And he’s visited and he’s come up with a statement and he says that this is the first step towards taking forward the bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis. He’s been visiting the embassy compound and he’s had talks with the foreign ministry. Is this helpful? Is this good that there’s contacts going on between the British and the Iranians on this level already?
MS. HARF: Well, there have been direct contacts between the British and the Iranians for a long time. This isn’t something new. Obviously, this is a new visit.
QUESTION: They haven’t had an – they haven’t had an envoy.
MS. HARF: That’s true.
MS. HARF: But there have been contacts. You asked about contacts. I’d leave it up to the Brits and others to explain the significance of why they’re having contacts with the Iranians. Certainly all the members of the P5+1 have direct contacts with the Iranians, and we think it’s a helpful part of the process, certainly on the nuclear side. We’ve had discussions to help move the process forward, and hopefully we can continue to move forward in these discussions.
QUESTION: But they’re obviously moving towards a different level now of trying to restore some kind of more permanent diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
MS. HARF: Which is certainly a very different place than we are.
MS. HARF: And I would leave it to them to explain what the significance of that is.
QUESTION: So – but do you – from the American point of view, when you’re at this tentative stage now with Iran and the new Iranian leadership, is it helpful for – to see an ally go perhaps galloping ahead with renewing contacts, diplomatic – a newer level of diplomatic contacts?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ll leave it to each country to make those decisions. What we’re focused on is how we and our partners, including the Brits and other members of the P5+1, can work with the Iranians to implement this first-step agreement that we’ve put in place, to work to negotiate a final agreement. That’s what we’re focused on. Each country can make decisions about their engagement and how that best fits into that strategy.
QUESTION: But there’s no plans within this Department for any kind of visit of that kind of level to Tehran in the coming months?
MS. HARF: Not at all. Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: To way off —
QUESTION: You’re not going? They’re not sending you —
MS. HARF: I mean, I wasn’t going to tell you guys, but next week – no. (Laughter.) Not to my knowledge at all. I know there’s lots of rumors out there, but not at all.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Did you talk to the Iranians about starting the political track, like to discuss political issues, between the U.S. and Iran?
MS. HARF: Well, political in terms of the nuclear agreement or separately?
QUESTION: No, no, no, beside the nuclear agreement.
MS. HARF: Well, our discussions with the Iranians have been focused on the nuclear issue.
QUESTION: On the nuclear, yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m asking if you are – if you started talking – if you’re starting asking them to start a track to discuss bilateral relations.
MS. HARF: No. Not to my knowledge, no. As I said, our discussions with them have been focused on the nuclear issue and moving that forward.
QUESTION: Can the Iranians resume their civilian flights to the U.S. without normalizing —
MS. HARF: There’s a lot of aviation questions today.
QUESTION: — without normalizing relations between the U.S. and Iran?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any – I know that’s been rumored out there as well. I don’t have any details on that. I’ll check in again and see what the latest is. I just don’t know what the rules are in terms of that aviation question.
QUESTION: What about the rumor of the chamber of commerce type relationship?
MS. HARF: Again, I don’t – I don’t think there’s anything to that. I think that’s just a rumor. I know there are a lot of rumors out there.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
QUESTION: Do you have a date for the second (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: I believe it’s – the experts will be meeting next week, I think is what we settled on.
QUESTION: December 9, is that the day?
MS. HARF: I will double-check to make sure that’s the date. Political directors will also be meeting again. We don’t have a date for that. But as we’ve said, both of these parts of the process need to help move forward in terms of implementation and how we implement the first-step agreement, and then obviously, we’ll have to move forward negotiating the final step.
QUESTION: And where they are going to meet?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the details on that. It may be lovely Geneva again, but I don’t – I actually don’t know. I’ll —
QUESTION: Well, it might makes sense if it was Vienna, considering it’s the —
MS. HARF: That – our experts have met in Vienna in the past. I’ll just double-check on the details. I don’t have those in front of me.
QUESTION: Is there a timeline for coming to an agreement on that or when the six months is going to start?
MS. HARF: So we’re still – that’s still being worked through. It’ll be discussed at the experts meeting and the political directors meeting, whenever that happens, in terms of when the six months actually starts. I know that’s a question lots of people have interest in, but as we have more details on that, we’ll let folks know.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on BSA negotiations talks with Afghan President Karzai?
MS. HARF: I do. Well, not a lot, actually. But what we’ve said is, as you know, we’ve concluded negotiations. The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly supported the BSA, and now it’s – we’re waiting for a signature. We believe that deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year’s election or deferring it any longer just really isn’t viable. It wouldn’t provide the Afghans themselves the certainty they deserve regarding their own future, especially in the critical months leading up to the election. It also wouldn’t provide the U.S. and our NATO allies – and the Secretary just spoke to this in his press avail a little bit as well – that it wouldn’t provide us the clarity necessary to plan for a post-2014 military presence or footprint in the country. So we are hoping that we’ll get it signed as soon as possible and we’ll move forward from there.
QUESTION: The Secretary also said that it didn’t have to be Karzai to sign it.
MS. HARF: Technically, that’s true. It can be a designee. But I mean, obviously, President Karzai is the one who’s been doing it, and we assume he’ll be the one signing it. But I think technically, a designee can sign it.
QUESTION: Well, he’s also the one who is flaking out completely on this and keeps changing his mind left and right. So is it – would you prefer to have someone else —
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: — sign it?
MS. HARF: No, no.
QUESTION: And who would sign it for the U.S.?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I can find out. I don’t know. But I think it’s just he was speaking technically that President Karzai or someone else can —
QUESTION: Right, I understand that. But —
MS. HARF: Obviously —
QUESTION: But I’m just curious, because if President Karzai does sign it, then presumably, President Obama would sign it for the U.S., no?
MS. HARF: I can double-check.
QUESTION: But I’m just wondering, so if someone else signs it, like the janitor or something like that —
MS. HARF: — then I’ll be the one signing it? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, no. I mean, would it be —
MS. HARF: I will find out.
QUESTION: So if it’s the defense minister, would it be Secretary Hagel?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. It’s a good question. I just don’t know. We just – and then the process, as you probably know as it works, is that President Karzai will sign it and then it goes to parliament.
MS. HARF: Parliament will approve it and then it will be a done deal.
QUESTION: But that’s not your – Jen, last week, said that that – the idea of having Karzai’s designee sign it is not something you’re actively pursuing at the moment.
MS. HARF: No, we’re not. It’s just a logistical reality, but it’s not what we’re pursuing —
QUESTION: I just – if Secretary Kerry mentioned it, I wonder if now you’re grasping onto that —
MS. HARF: No, no, no, don’t take that as any indication that our position has changed.
QUESTION: Special representative was in Islamabad. Is he going to Kabul?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry. Who? I missed the first —
QUESTION: Special representative on Afghanistan-Pakistan.
MS. HARF: Ambassador Dobbins is in Islamabad, yes.
QUESTION: Is he going to Kabul also?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional announcements about his travel. As you know, he’s in Islamabad, and if we have anything to announce, we will.
QUESTION: So Secretary hasn’t spoken to President Karzai in last few days. Anyone else from this building who had spoken to Karzai?
MS. HARF: I can check and see.
QUESTION: Can we change topic?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So Vice President Biden in his remarks that you mentioned earlier said that they discussed the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance, him and the prime minister, but said it’s also important to see closer cooperation and better relations between Japan and South Korea. Can we take this as a sign that the U.S. is considering taking a more – a stronger role in mediating between the two countries?
MS. HARF: Let me check with our team and see if that’s how it was meant. I think – I think it was meant – and I’ll check with our folks – we’ve always said that we encourage countries in the region to work together to have the best relationship they possibly can and to work through these issues and have very strong partnerships in addition to their partnerships with us. I’m guessing that’s what he was referring to. Obviously, we’ve said we want to have an activist role in the region. We’ve talked a lot about the rebalance and how we are increasingly focused on the Asia Pacific region. So I think that’s been a very clear goal of ours for the last few years. But in terms of the specific Japan and South Korea relationship, I can just check and see if there are more specifics.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have, like, an assessment, so like on a scale of 1 to 10, for example, like 1 being we don’t really – we’re not – it’s not really on our radar, 10 being we’re all over it? At what – to what level is the State Department concerned about this issue, because relations are at an all-time low, as some have described it?
MS. HARF: I mean, without putting a number categorization on it, obviously, we think it’s important for our partners in the region to have good relationships with each other. That’s very clear. In terms of how concerned we are about it, again, I can check with our team and see what their thoughts are. But this is exactly why we all sit down together and we have conversations together, whether it’s in a trilateral setting, a bilateral setting, and encourage the relationship to keep getting better. So we’ll continue doing that. And if I have anything additional, again, we can – I’ll get more of a readout from his meetings and see if we can talk more about this tomorrow.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. see it as a direct national security threat if two key allies strategically and economically in a very volatile region were to continue deteriorating in their relationship?
MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d probably turn it around and make it more positive and say that we think it’s important for our national security that our key allies work together on common goals, on common interests we all have, whether it’s countering North Korea’s nuclear program, whether it’s making – ensuring, again, maritime security and stability in the region. So obviously, it’s a priority of ours to ensure that our friends and partners and allies work together on these issues. And again, if I have more to share, I’m happy to do so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria and then —
MS. HARF: We can. We’re jumping all over the place today. Yes.
QUESTION: The SOC has announced today that a group of nations, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States, have met quietly in Geneva on November 21st to discuss ways to provide humanitarian relief for thousands of Syrians. Can you confirm this meeting or do you have anything on this meeting?
MS. HARF: Well, I know when we were in Geneva for the trilateral that there were discussions about humanitarian issues with the UN and the Russians. I’m not sure if that’s what they’re referring to. I mean, the Iranians weren’t —
QUESTION: Iranians and Saudis.
MS. HARF: Saudi – I don’t think – to my knowledge it was within the trilateral context. Let me double-check with our team. But when we were in Geneva after the Iran talks when we stayed for the trilateral with the Russians and the UN, which Under Secretary Sherman led, there was a discussion about the humanitarian issue in Syria, which is obviously of great concern to us. It’s my extent that those were the participants, the humanitarian agencies and the U.S. and the UN and Russia. I don’t have any knowledge of those other people participating, but I’ll triple-check for you.
QUESTION: Please, thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Anything else?
QUESTION: I have one.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked about Bahrain and this human rights activist who was not freed yesterday though he was eligible for release. Jen had something to say, but it turns out, lo and behold, there’s actually more to the story.
MS. HARF: Isn’t that always the case?
QUESTION: And that is I’m wondering if you are concerned at all that your representative, the person from the embassy who was at the hearing, was unceremoniously kicked out of the session.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. So as a matter of practice, the embassy has been observing trials in Bahrain. It is our understanding that I think it was yesterday’s trial the embassy’s representative was asked to leave the court. The last I had on this, and I’ll check with our folks again and see if we have any more clarity today, was that we are seeking additional clarification from the Bahraini Government as to why she was not allowed to observe the proceedings. We believe that an essential element of promoting national reconciliation is ensuring the confidence of all Bahrain’s citizens in their government’s commitment to due process and the rule of law. I will check again with our folks, and we think part of this that’s important is allowing outside observers to observe the process to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings. I’ll check and see if we got any additional clarification from the Bahrainis.
QUESTION: Was she given a reason by the judge or whoever it was that told her to get out?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more than what I just told you. We’re seeking additional clarification as to why she was not allowed to observe the proceedings. I’ll see if we have anything more from our folks on the ground.
QUESTION: All right. Is that all you’re doing? Just seeking clarification? You haven’t protested or —
MS. HARF: I’ll find out. Again, this is from yesterday, so I’ll see what’s happened in the last 24 hours and see if we’ve done anything else.
QUESTION: Right. But I didn’t know about it yesterday, which is why I’m asking about it today.
MS. HARF: No, I know. I know, I just – what I have in front of me is from yesterday.
QUESTION: However, it would have been nice to know yesterday when I did ask the question that there was something else going on here and that —
MS. HARF: I’ll check and see what’s happened in the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: But do you consider the fact that she was thrown out of the courtroom to be problematic?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we believe that it’s an important thing to be able to allow outside observers —
MS HARF: — to observe these trials. We do it routinely in Bahrain, so clearly we don’t think it’s a good thing. But let me check and see how we’re raising it with them.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:47 p.m.)