State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, April 2, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 2, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
  • DPRK / ROK
    • Secretary Kerry’s Meeting with ROK Foreign Minister
    • United States will not Accept North Korea as a Nuclear State
    • Cooling Tower
    • UN Contingency Planning Regarding Syria / U.S. Support for Stable Syrian Transition
    • Special Representative Brahimi’s role
    • Application of Rule of Law in Egypt
    • Meeting of the Economic Community of Central African States on the Situation in the Central African Republic (CAR)
    • Legal Definition of a Coup
    • U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to CAR
    • IMET Training in CAR
    • Protests in Response to Death of Palestinian Held in Israeli Prison
    • Lady Ashton Engaging Parties on Issues of Recognition, Normalization and Relations
    • U.S. Recognition of Sovereignty and Integrity of Kosovo
    • Sexual Assault of American Tourist in Rio de Janeiro
    • Congressman Wolf’s Letter



12:40 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Tuesday, everyone. I have nothing at the top, so why don’t we go to what’s on your minds?

QUESTION: Okay. So recognizing the Secretary is meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister later this afternoon and also recognizing that that is for – before we see them or hear them – it’s several hours. So I’m just wondering if you can go over a bit of what you expect the Secretary and the South Korean to talk about as it relates to North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Well, Matt, I’m obviously not going to preview the meeting before we have the meeting, especially because, as you said, the Secretary will have a chance to speak to all of you after the meeting. But in general terms, I think we can all assume that they will talk about the escalating rhetoric and tension that the DPRK is creating in the neighborhood. I’m sure they will also talk about our bilateral relationship. As you know, the head of state will be coming in May to see the President. The Secretary will be out in Seoul in about 10 days. So they will talk about all those things. They will probably talk about relations more generally in Northeast Asia, and they will talk about the increasing global role that the ROK is playing in its support for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, its humanitarian support for Syria, and other things.

QUESTION: Okay. I know that you’ve been asked about this before. I’m wondering if you can just basically restate it. The North Koreans seem to be very desirous of being recognized as a nuclear weapons state. Is it still correct that the U.S. does not accept that designation and will not?

MS. NULAND: As National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said I think less than a month ago at the Asia Society –

QUESTION: You do understand –

MS. NULAND: — the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state.

QUESTION: Okay. I just – you do understand the concept of the news cycle, right? So if something’s said today ahead of a relevant meeting –

MS. NULAND: Our position has not changed since National Security Advisor Donilon stated it quite emphatically a month ago.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m done.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Anne.

QUESTION: Would destruction of – or rebuilding of the destroyed cooling tower completely abrogate and end anything that remains of the agreement struck first in 2006, I think, and the fulfilled with the destruction of the cooling tower in 2008? Would there be anything left of that agreement from your view?

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I haven’t gone back and looked at that agreement in some time, but suffice to say that it would be a clear violation of the DPRK’s international obligations and the commitments that it made at that time. What else has already been dismantled from that time I’m frankly not – haven’t looked at it in a long time.

QUESTION: What – as a practical matter, would it change anything if they rebuilt that cooling tower? I mean, does it place them in any different status as far as the UN is concerned or as far you’re concerned?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously there’s a long way to go between a stated intention and actually being able to pull it off with all that that would entail. But were they to be able to put themselves back into a position to use the facility that would obviously be extremely alarming. But as I said, it’s a long way from here to there.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that it may be a bluff then?

MS. NULAND: I’m simply saying that what we have as of today is a stated intention to violate their international obligations further. That’s not going to take them any closer to ending their isolation, to feeding their people, or in any way improving the quality of life in the DPRK.


QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we stay on the same?

MS. NULAND: Please. Still?



QUESTION: Without going into intelligence matters too much –

MS. NULAND: Too much?

QUESTION: Too much.

MS. NULAND: Thank you for that opportunity, Dima.

QUESTION: Is the suspicion of the U.S. Government now any stronger than a couple of years before that the DPRK also has the uranium enrichment program?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into intelligence. Thank you for the opportunity, but you know what they have said publicly, and they have bragged about both kinds of programs.


QUESTION: Yes, Toria. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today’s comments mark the first time that the DPRK has publicly acknowledged that its highly enriched uranium programs are in fact being used for the development of nuclear weapons. As recently as 2009 in an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State Clinton was still expressing skepticism that North Korea had – even had the HEU program. Why was the Administration so slow to grasp the existence and scale of this threat?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think that’s a version of the question that Dima just asked, and I’m not going to get into our intelligence assessments here.

QUESTION: And real quick, one follow-up?


QUESTION: Have we asserted yet whether that nuclear test that was done contained plutonium or uranium?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into intelligence here.

QUESTION: Scale of one to ten, ten being certain?

MS. NULAND: That’s a good, good try.


MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday the Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson suggested that there are plans to send in troops to Syria, I mean UN peacekeeping troops to Syria, and possibly to do more than just peacekeeping. Could you share with us anything on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think what he was talking about was the contingency planning that the UN is doing in this case, which is similar to the contingency planning that the UN does in all such cases —


MS. NULAND: — when there is the potential for it being asked to provide a stabilization force, et cetera. So we regularly consult with the UN, with our international partners about how we can support a stable transition in Syria. We all know that there’s already a goodly amount of sectarian violence, that that violence could increase in any of a number of scenarios including a scenario where Assad had departed the scene. So we need to be ready as an international community for all requirements.

QUESTION: So all it is – this plan that is called “Syria – The Day After” is just a contingency

plan in the event that the regime falls?

MS. NULAND: The UN is looking at all of the things that might be needed from the international community, as are we nationally, as are a number of other close allies and partners who work on Syria. So it’s everything from the question of civilian security to chemical weapons to humanitarian needs to rebuilding all these kinds of things that come up in this kind of situation.

QUESTION: Last week, last Thursday, the Security Council approved – unanimously approved sending 2,500 troops to Congo, actually, to conduct not peacekeeping, but offensive kind of operations. Is that something that is likely to happen in the Syria situation?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, you are well ahead of where we are. I think it depends on what the needs are, it depends on whether there are requests from Syrian leaders post-Assad, whether the circumstances are spilling beyond borders, et cetera.

QUESTION: And finally, on Brahimi, he’s being marginalized more and more with every passing day. He was not invited to the Arab League summit conference. We don’t know about his plan, and now the UN seems to be bypassing him. Could you comment on that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization of his role. As you know, he continues his quiet diplomacy among Syrians who he believes have influence, among countries who he thinks have influence with different factions in Syria, including consultations with Russians and others who may have influence on the regime, to see what he can put together. It has been some time since he has called a meeting, but we understand his own quiet diplomacy continues.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MS. NULAND: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Your comments yesterday about Egypt have made you something of the flavor of the month there, or flavor of the week. The ruling party says that you’re blatantly interfering in their internal affairs. I’m wondering if you have any response to that.

MS. NULAND: As we always do from this podium, I was not representing my personal views. I was representing —

QUESTION: Oh, no, I was —

MS. NULAND: — the views of the U.S. Government. We stand by those views as articulated here yesterday.

QUESTION: Right, but do you accept the characterization that you are interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs by saying – by questioning the priority with which the Egyptian courts or prosecutors are taking up cases against television personalities rather than people who are – rather than the people who assaulted – physical assaults on people?

MS. NULAND: Our point here yesterday was to say that rule of law needs to be applied appropriately in all circumstances. It’s the same point that we make with regard to countries around the world. So no, we reject the notion that we were interfering.


QUESTION: Can we move to North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm. We’ve just done North Korea.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. You said we can do it. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: You’ll see a full and rich transcript. Nice red dress, though.


MS. NULAND: Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Saudi Arabia is deporting thousands of Yemeni laborers from Saudi to Yemen, and this will affect the economy in Yemen. How do you view this action?

MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that, Michel. Let us see if we have any comment on that one way or the other.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Central Africa?


QUESTION: Tomorrow, N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, will host a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States to discuss the situation in Central Africa. What are your expectations with regard to the summit?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said a couple of days ago, we do welcome the fact that the Economic Community of Central African States is going to meet on the situation in CAR. We want to see this lead to a forum where all of the appropriate political actors in CAR can come together along with supporting players in the region and in the international community to build on Libreville and establish a real democratic roadmap to take the country back to appropriate democratic governance as compared to the seizure of power by the Seleka rebels.

QUESTION: When do you think you will be able to determine whether legally what happened was a coup or not?

MS. NULAND: We talked about this a couple of days ago. The legal definition of coup involves the military of the country, the constituted military of the country, overthrowing the government. In this case, we have a rebel organization overthrowing the government. So from that perspective, we’re not using the C-word in this case, but we are looking very carefully now at the non-humanitarian aspects of our assistance program with the CAR with an eye towards cutting off those things that would be appropriate in this circumstance. I think I said yesterday or the day before that the vast majority of the money that we spend there of some 28.6 million in FY12, 22.8 is humanitarian in nature. So we obviously wouldn’t be trying to hurt the people, but there are other things that we’re looking at now, and we’ll let you know when we make policy decisions.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the remainder of 28.6 – 5 point – my math is horrible. Whatever it is —

MS. NULAND: I think it’s 3.8, is it – yeah.

QUESTION: Three? No, it’s got to be more than that. 22.8 is humanitarian out of 28.6, so it’s 5.4, 6? Whatever it is, is the remainder of it all on the – the remainder of it is all stuff that can be – could be cut if he sort of shows —

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re looking through it now. There are all kinds of programs, some of which may have a humanitarian component to them, so we have to unpack it, Matt, which is why we don’t have a decision yet.

QUESTION: Do you know that – one of the things that usually is the first to go is the IMET stuff.


QUESTION: Do you know if there’s any IMET in that —

MS. NULAND: We do have IMET. We also have training for countering the LRA. We have some Excess Defense Articles. We have support for the Kimberley Process, other things like that, so we have to sort through all of that. We have anti-trafficking programs.

QUESTION: Do you have the IMET figure?

MS. NULAND: I do not have it broken down, I’m sorry. I don’t think I do – sorry, yes I do.


MS. NULAND: In FY 2013, we only requested $100,000 for IMET for CAR.

QUESTION: The countering the LRA program is primarily DOD, correct, the funding for that?

MS. NULAND: Yes, it’s primarily the training and support that that small number of forces, primarily in Uganda, but some of them in southern CAR provide.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact with any of the people who are now in power in Central Africa at all?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that our Embassy personnel have had contact. I don’t have any specifics for you, though, Jo.

QUESTION: Have they actually specifically mentioned this threat to the aid? Sorry, have they mentioned specifically the threat to the —

MS. NULAND: No, of course. Yeah, of course.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?


QUESTION: Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons – today, one of the prisoners died. Although he died of cancer, the Israelis would not provide him with the proper medical care, despite repeated requests by his family. He was 64 years old. He’s been in prison for 10 years under administrative leave and so on. And he’s actually the 270th person to die under difficult circumstances in prison. Israel has committed itself to release Palestinian prisoners since Oslo and has not fulfilled that promise. Are you talking to them about this issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously talking to all sides about the protests that are going on today in response to this death. Let me just say that we have the same position on protests in the Palestinian territories as we have everywhere else, which is that individuals have the right to express themselves peacefully. We want to see freedom of expression maintained peacefully, and we don’t support violence either by protesters or by law enforcement in response to peaceful protest.

QUESTION: Israel has long practiced administrative detention against Palestinians that go on for years, sometimes decades, which is declared by the United Nations to be a violation of the most basic of human rights. Do you subscribe to the same principle?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we discussed the issue of Israeli detentions in our Human Rights Report. That will be updated in a few weeks, and you’ll see what we have to say there again.

Please, Scott.

QUESTION: On Serbia.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position regarding ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo who don’t follow the Kosovar central authority?

MS. NULAND: Well, Scott, as you know, Lady Ashton, High Representative of the EU, is engaged in diplomacy with both Kosovar and Serb leaders now to try to work through these issues of recognition, of normalization, of relations. As you know, we recognize Kosovo as an independent country. We recognize the integrity of Kosovo, including the north. It’s obviously up to Kosovo how it will establish the kinds of autonomy that some ethnic Serbs are seeking in the north. But these are all the subjects that Lady Ashton is working on, including the question of parallel Serb structures, et cetera. And we want to see a peaceful resolution of these issues that allow both Kosovo and Serbia to move forward and to move forward along a European trajectory.

QUESTION: So do you see a role for Serbia in resolving the ethnic Serb issue in northern Kosovo, as well?

MS. NULAND: We see, obviously, a role for Serbia in making clear to Serb citizens, ethnic Serbs, that it’s time to resolve these issues. Yes.

QUESTION: Change topics?


QUESTION: Are the American authorities working at all with the Brazilian authorities on the case of the American tourist who was gang-raped in Rio?

MS. NULAND: We are, Dana. We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was sexually assaulted in Rio de Janeiro. Our thoughts are with the victim at this difficult time. Our consulate in Rio is in contact with the victim; we’re also providing all appropriate consular assistance to her.

I want to also take this opportunity to thank the Brazilian authorities for their quick response and assistance. Our consulate in Rio has been working very closely with Brazilian authorities on the case and on the investigation that they have launched.

Please. Tell me who you are.

QUESTION: I’m Carla Turner with Canadian Broadcasting. I wanted to ask you about the Algerian gas plant attack back in January and the fact that two Canadians have actually been identified as being part of the militants and that more may be identified —

MS. NULAND: Identified by whom?

QUESTION: Identified by the Canadian media and – yeah, the Canadian media at this point. Do you have any comment on the fact that they’ve – that there are Canadians involved and may be more Canadians involved?

MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that Canadian media report. I don’t think I’m going to speculate on the basis of media reports.




QUESTION: Yesterday, there were quite a few assaults on Iraqi journalists, Iraqi media centers, and media organizations all throughout. And my question to you: Were any of the centers that are supported by the United States – the media centers, the training centers, and so on, supported by the U.S. – were targeted in these assaults?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information on that. I think I probably would have heard. But let me take it, Said, and check, okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: All right. Guy.

QUESTION: Regarding taken questions, yesterday I had inquired about this letter that two Congressman had written to Secretary Kerry about alleged Benghazi attack survivors at Walter Reed hospital.

MS. NULAND: This is Congressman Wolf’s letter.

QUESTION: That’s right.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Guy, I did check into it. We do have the letter. We are working on an answer. We hope to have it in coming days.

QUESTION: It hasn’t been sent?

MS. NULAND: Has not been sent. I was – I misspoke yesterday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Anything else? All right, everybody. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)