US State Department: Daily Press Briefing - August 22, 2013
08/22/2013 05:49 PM EDT
Daily Press Briefing
August 22, 2013
Index for Today's Briefing
Secretary Calls / Ambassador Ford Dialogue with SOC
Chemical Weapons / Red Line / Range of Options / UN Investigative Team
General Dempsey's Letter / National Security Interests
Letter Sent to UN Secretary General
Intelligence Community / Working with Counterparts / Urgency within Administration
Scale and Scope of Aid
Yesterday's Events / Reports / Statement
Violence along Line of Control / Kashmir / Dialogue
Mubarak Trial / Internal Egyptian Legal Matter
Mr. Morsy / Arbitrary Arrests
Condemnation of Violence on All Sides
Sustainable Democracy / Elections
Relationship with Egypt / Aid
Violence against Journalists / Detention of Journalists / Basic Safety Measures
Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King's Travel
Bilateral Talks in Jerusalem / Future Meetings in Jericho
Taiwan Relations Act
Defense Articles and
Services / Self-Defense Capability
1:44 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thanks for your patience. I know we’re a little later today.
I just wanted to start at the top by just giving you all a rundown of the calls the Secretary has made today related to the events in Syria. He has spoken with SOC President Jarba, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, with French Foreign Minister Fabius, Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Atiyah, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and EU High Representative Ashton. During all of these calls, he reiterated the U.S. commitment to – focus to getting to the bottom of the facts on the ground, our concern about the reports, the photos, the videos that we have certainly seen out there. And this was also a part of our efforts as an Administration to discuss what other countries are hearing so that the Secretary can bring that back to the national security team and discuss with them in the meetings that are ongoing.
I just wanted to provide a little bit more detail of his conversation with SOC President Jarba. He expressed our sincere condolences to the Syrian people, the loss of life, those who have also been injured or are suffering from yesterday’s attack. He reiterated the United States commitment to looking into what has happened on the ground. Ambassador Ford – I wanted to just add this – oh, finally, he encouraged – sorry – all opposition groups to work with the UN in their investigation, that again, we have encouraged and continue to encourage access and that the Syrian regime grant access.
And just one other piece, since some were asking yesterday about our contacts: Ambassador Ford also spoke with coalition President Jarba and he will visit Istanbul on Sunday to continue his dialogue with the SOC leadership.
With that, go ahead, Deb.
QUESTION: France’s Foreign Minister is raising the prospects of an international intervention. Turkey’s Foreign Minister has said several redlines have been crossed. We’ve got McCain saying that without U.S. response, that instead of a redline that Assad is looking really at a green light here because we’ve see him use chemical weapons in the past. So are we at least reaching a tipping point with Syria here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be crystal clear here. People around the world – including many of the people you mentioned, but also people living in countries around the world – have seen, have woken up this morning, have seen yesterday, photos, videos that many of us have seen that shocked the consciousness, and anyone would see as beyond the pale. The President has directed the intel community to – here in the United States, to urgently gather additional information. That is our focus on this end.
At this time, right now, we are unable to conclusively determine CW use, but we are focused, every minute of every day since these events happened yesterday, on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts. Also, as part of these efforts, the Secretary – and I mentioned a number of his calls, but part of that is working with, coordinating with, cooperating with his counterparts around the world and having those discussions. He did speak with Foreign Minister Fabius this morning. He’s spoken with a number of officials, and those calls will continue. But we are doing everything possible to use our resources, which includes coordinating and cooperating with our counterparts on the – around the world to get to the bottom of the facts on the ground.
QUESTION: So if they determine that beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the regime that was using the chemical weapons, is this then another redline that’s been crossed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the redline has been clear. I know there’s been some confusion about this. The redline is the use of CW, the use of chemical weapons. That was crossed a couple of months ago. The President took action, which we talked about at the time. While, as I mentioned, we’re still focused on nailing down the facts – the intel community is focused on that, the Administration is focused on that – if these reports are true, it would be an outrageous and flagrant escalation of use of chemical weapons by the regime. So our focus is on nailing down the facts. The President, of course, has a range of options that we’ve talked about before that he can certainly consider and, of course, discuss with his national security team.
QUESTION: And in these calls, are those ideas being discussed --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- those options?
MS. PSAKI: -- of course, there are many different views and different ideas around the world, as there long have been. But the Secretary is more interested in hearing what their understanding is, what information they have available, and, of course, what appropriate steps are certainly a part of the discussion with his counterparts, but also with – in the meetings with the national security team.
QUESTION: But you guys didn’t take any action the first time when they decided that --
MS. PSAKI: We did take action. We did – we’re not going to outline the inventory of what we did. That remains the same as it was a couple of months ago. But the President acted. We crossed a redline. It did change the calculus, and we took action, and we have the opportunity, or the option, to do more if he chooses to do more.
QUESTION: Are there people within the Administration who are pushing for more action to be taken? Yes. Is Congress split? Yes. Is the Defense Department going one way and State another? What is the State Department’s view on taking action at this point, since we’ve just seen another incident?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline the conversations, the private conversations, that are happening. There is broad agreement that any step we would take would be one – the decision would be part of what’s in our national security interests, what helps advance our interests in Syria, and certainly, the crossing of a redline would be part of that calculus and part of that decision. But there’s a range of options that are being discussed as well as a range of step – a range of incoming information that’s being discussed as part of these meetings as well.
QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that if it’s been determined by a reasonable amount of intelligence that the redline was crossed again, that the White House would take steps that would be more, I guess, forceful, is the word, or more transparent than what was taken the first time several months ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to predict what the White House may or may not do, which I’m sure you understand. But certainly, this would be an outrageous escalation of chemical weapons use if we are – if the facts are found to be true. And the President has a range of options to consider – options that we’ve done or haven’t done in the past.
QUESTION: Is it, in your view, the Syrian regime has taken advantage of or has taken an occasion, on the first anniversary of the declaration by the President about the redline, that this is a game-changer and so on, and take an occasion, on the day in which they allowed the inspectors in to do this, to actually just – to be – to send a bold message to you and to the rest of the world that they don’t care?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I can’t begin to get into the minds of the Syrian regime. I can convey to you that if the regime has nothing to do with these attacks, if there was not a use of chemical weapons here, there’s no reason they wouldn’t let the UN team that is on the ground, available, happy to investigate, in to do just that. So that’s what we’re continuing to encourage.
QUESTION: So would you say that – the Russians are saying that the source may have been the opposition. Do you dismiss that out of hand from that podium? Do you dismiss the possibility that the opposition may have actually used chemical weapons?
MS. PSAKI: We still believe that they don’t have the capability to use chemical weapons. That has not changed. Again, we’re looking into the facts on the ground, but there’s no reason, if there’s nothing to hide, for the regime not to let the investigative team in.
QUESTION: And finally, General Dempsey said yesterday that we could conceivably take out all the air power that the Syrian regime has, and we can knock them out, that that would involve us in another war in the Middle East, and we’d become involved in an ethnic and sectarian war from which it’s very difficult to extricate ourselves. Those were not his exact words, but I’m paraphrasing. And he’s actually advising against any kind of involvement, because he thinks that if the opposition takes power, it will not be a friend of the United States of America.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re referring to General Dempsey’s letter.
QUESTION: Yes. Right.
MS. PSAKI: And I certainly wouldn’t want to speak for him, and I know you wouldn’t want to speak for him either. But in that letter, the context makes clear that military options cannot be considered in isolation. That’s why our national security interests, why our goal of advancing our own interests on the ground, why a number of factors are part of the discussion. They have been. They will continue to be.
QUESTION: So Jen, I was wanting to find out with – given the Russia versus the West deadlock --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- on how this should move forward, and you have to convince the Assad Government to actually give the UN that access --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- he hasn’t done that yet. And what’s going to convince you that he will do it? There is a time limit also on proving these things.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me state a couple of things. I know some people asked yesterday about a letter, so let me just give you all the information on that first, and then I will certainly get to your question. Sorry. Bear with me here. It’s a lot of information to look at.
So the United States – and many of you know this, but it’s an important reference point – joined a formal letter with approximately 36 other countries that was sent August 21st, which is yesterday, to the Secretary General requesting he immediately launch an investigation into these allegations. There was also a statement this morning many of you may have seen from the Secretary General also asking for the UN team to have access to the sites where these alleged attacks – where these attacks happened.
So yes, you are correct that we’re not – we have never relied on one way of looking into information, and we’re certainly not now. That is an important opportunity. We think it’s an important vehicle given the UN investigative team is on the ground in Syria right now, and these attacks just happened yesterday. And we’re obviously using the force of our role and working with countries around the world as evidenced by the letter to put pressure on the Syrian regime to allow the team to investigate.
However, at the same time, as I mentioned, the President has also asked the intel community to take their own steps to look into what happened. What does that mean? I’m just getting to your next question. That means gathering information from witnesses on the ground, it means intelligence gathering, it means open-source reporting and examining that, and obviously we’ve taken a close look at that. It means scientific gathering, and we know, we’re aware of the limited resources we have in some capacity given we don’t have a team on the ground. But we’re doing everything possible to work with counterparts around the world to share information, to discuss with them what they know, and also what appropriate steps are.
QUESTION: But what are the discussions at the moment among the allies, those that want – excluding obviously Russia right now – what do those discussions about trying to get – I mean, what is the leverage that you really have here over Assad to say, “You need to let the UN team in”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the leverage we have, I suppose, is that there’s a claim that nothing happened here. There’s no claim of responsibility. And so if that is accurate, there’s no reason not to allow access to the team. And certainly when you have, as I mentioned, 36 countries, you have the UN pressing for this, you have the team on the ground, there’s certainly a significant effort to gain access.
QUESTION: Jen, a few things if you would.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not your usual seat. I’m thrown off. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You’ll be fine, I’m sure. First of all, this gets at a question that Leslie just asked. Is the Obama Administration prepared to wait in perpetuity while this – these competing claims are resolved with your fact finding?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, James, I think I made clear that the President of the United States, the Secretary of State feel a great sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of the facts as quickly as possible. I can’t give you a timeline on that, but as soon as we have that, as soon as we assert that, that allows additional options to be considered and discussed.
QUESTION: But as was mentioned earlier in this briefing, time is not the friend of such an investigative fact-finding mission insofar as soil samples get contaminated. This is an active war zone. So would you at least concede that, in fact, a fact-finding mission of this kind cannot go on indefinitely?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I think the important point here is that it’s not just about acquiring information on – specifically on the ground. We’re also doing intel gathering. We’re also making efforts to gain information from witnesses. We’re also looking at open-source reporting. So there are a range of ways that we’re looking into this. I can’t detail it much further than that for you, but obviously there is a great deal of urgency within the Administration to determine the facts on the ground.
QUESTION: You cited the letter that was sent to the Secretary General, the Secretary General’s comments, and so forth. I take it that, as of yet, there is no indication one way or the other from the Assad regime that it is, in fact, prepared to allow this inspection team to make its way to the particular site in question.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any update on that for you.
QUESTION: Last --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Two last questions, if you would.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You stated earlier that you weren’t going to inventory the actions the Obama Administration took after the last finding that chemical weapons were, in fact, used and that the President’s redline was crossed.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you at least assure us that on the basis of the actions that the U.S. did take thereafter, you are confident that Assad himself or the Assad regime somehow felt the impact of the actions the U.S. took?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak on their behalf, James. I understand, certainly, why you’re asking, but as I’ve talked about before, the United States is a piece of the pie. We’re not the only piece of the pie. That’s why we work with our counterparts around the world to coordinate on assistance to the SMC, to work with them on what their needs are, but I can’t determine for you or make a calculation about the Assad regime.
QUESTION: Well, for example, in his testimony in March on the Hill, Ambassador Ford stated that the fighting had grown so close to Assad’s palace in Damascus that, as Ford put it, his windows would have rattled. There are ways, tangible ways, without inhabiting the mind of the Assad family or regime, in which we can discern as an objective fact that your policies are having an impact in one way or another, whether it’s territorial gain or however you want to measure it. So you are asserting to us, without much specificity, that you took certain actions after the last time it was determined that the redline was crossed; you don’t want to catalogue what those actions were. I’m just asking you for some assurance that they had an impact. Are you able to provide that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I think it’s a – it depends on how you measure the impact. There are a number of steps and a range of steps that we’ve taken. As you know, we’ve been working closely with the opposition. We all feel, as do the Russians, that a political transition and a political resolution is the right step. As you know, there’s a meeting in – about Geneva and moving that forward next week. We’ve increased progressively the scale and scope of our aid over the past several months. We’ve worked with counterparts --
QUESTION: Has that had an impact? That’s what I’m asking you. Are you able to tell us that that’s had some impact, this --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the --
QUESTION: -- escalation in scale and scope of the aid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, since March, there’s also been other factors that you failed to reference, which include the influx of Hezbollah, Iran, other foreign fighters that we’ve said many times have strengthened the hand of the regime. At the same time, we’ve worked every single day, every single week, to make sure we’re taking the next appropriate steps, the next helpful steps to ensure the SMC is strengthened, General Idris is strengthened, and the political component is strengthened as well.
QUESTION: Last question: Where exactly was Ambassador Power that she could not take part in this emergency Security Council session?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Where exactly was she?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the UN has spoken to this, but since you asked and I like to be transparent as possible, Ambassador Power is on a prearranged trip. She did not attend the consultations in person yesterday, as you know. She has secure communications, as any leader has, and has been in constant contact with her staff and the White House. She’s monitoring events, participated in the National Security Council meeting on Egypt convened by the President, and is providing instructions to her staff. And the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative participated in the UN Security Council consultations on Syria at the direction of Ambassador Power.
QUESTION: Is she on vacation?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you. I’d send you to the UN for her schedule.
QUESTION: Jen, if I take you back, early in the Syria crisis --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- from that podium it was asserted that you will know when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. I mean, those were the words, we will know without a shadow of a doubt. But the impression we’re getting now is that you are not sure, you don’t really have independent intel or independent sources that allow you to determine that the Syrians did use chemical weapons. So you – do you know exactly that they used them or how they used them, or you don’t know?
MS. PSAKI: We’re working to nail that down as we speak and we’re working urgently to gather additional information.
QUESTION: So you don’t have independent sources that can prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt with ---
MS. PSAKI: I think I stated near the beginning, Said, but let me repeat this, that we don’t at this point – I’m not able at this point to conclusively – we’ve not conclusively determined at this point. But obviously, that work is continuing.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally, on the calls --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that the Secretary made: Did he make them individually with Ban Ki-moon and the other foreign ministers, or did he make them as a conference --
MS. PSAKI: They were individual calls.
QUESTION: Individual calls, okay.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. And those calls are continuing.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- just to follow up on something you said a few minutes ago, on that you don’t believe that the opposition has the capability to use chemical weapons --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- would it be fair to infer from that that if you do determine that chemical weapons have been used, that they would be – have been used by the Assad regime?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we still feel, as I said before, that they don’t have the ability. But we have asserted that we would support and encourage investigation of any reports. Obviously, the reports we’ve seen out there meant much of the open-source reporting points to the regime. So that’s a part of our investigation.
QUESTION: And do you think – do you know if the UN team is operating under that – those same assumptions, that the opposition doesn’t have the ability to use these kinds of weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: They are.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On South Asia?
MS. PSAKI: On South – well, let’s finish Syria, and then we’ll go right to you.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the credibility of the President of the United States – that there’s an issue here that the President – we’ve all agreed that a redline has been crossed, and he said that this would result in a game change. You’ve said a few months ago you’ve expanded the scale and scope of the aid, but now it’s a few months later. We’re still seeing these different events happen, and yet, to the public eye, it seems as nothing has actually changed, there hasn’t been a game change that the President has wanted.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me try to unravel some of your questions. Just to reiterate, a couple of months ago – I think it was three months ago – the Administration made the announcement that the redline had been crossed. The redline has been – it has always been the use of chemical weapons. At that time, we made decisions to expand the scale and scope of our aid. For reasons I’m not going to outline here, we can’t go into the inventory on that, we have never been able to, and I’m not able to do that for you today.
Right now, the President has directed his – the intel team to urgently look into and all – using all resources we have, nailing down the facts here of the events that happened just yesterday on the ground. If we find those facts are true, if – I mean, if we find these reports are true, then we will feel that this has significantly expanded the escalation of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. The President, the national security team, would certainly have decisions to make, and they have a range of options to decide between. That discussion is also ongoing.
QUESTION: Jen, just to – not to be persnickety, but just for the purposes of the record --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you have twice in this briefing established or stated that the redline has always been the use of chemical weapons. And would it not be more correct to say that, as the President himself articulated, that the redline was the use or the movement of the chemical weapons?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your clarification there, James.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: One last question on the meeting next week in The Hague: Is that – that remains at the level of Wendy Sherman and --
MS. PSAKI: It does, and I know somebody asked yesterday about the date, which is the 28th.
QUESTION: Okay. So it’s on the 28th --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: and it’s at the level of Ambassador Ford, Wendy Sherman, and Gatilov.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. The participation from the United States side hasn’t – has not changed.
QUESTION: No plans for the Secretary of State and Mr. Lavrov to meet anytime soon?
MS. PSAKI: Not at this point.
QUESTION: I just don’t understand why you’re unwilling to tell us where Ambassador Power was. There’s no dishonor in having had a scheduled vacation, if that’s the case.
MS. PSAKI: She had a previously scheduled trip.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to go into more detail from here, and you’re welcome to call the United Nations, where she is the Ambassador.
QUESTION: You were willing to read out a certain set of facts related to this. Why do you stop at this?
MS. PSAKI: I have no more for you on this.
Do we have any more on Syria? Nicolas or anyone else?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: One more on Syria. You said twice that the U.S. at this point, right now, is unable to conclude that chemical --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- weapons have been used. So does it mean that you don’t agree with the French President, who has said to the UN Secretary General that he think that the use was likely, and even that you don’t agree with a U.S. official who was quoted by The Wall Street Journal saying that the U.S. has strong indication that chemical weapons --
MS. PSAKI: Our statements from yesterday still stand, and there is no conflict between these. We are taking our own steps, making our own efforts. The intel community is obviously the lead on that to nail down the facts. Clearly, we wouldn’t be doing that if we weren’t deeply concerned by these reports and we didn’t have concerns about their – or didn’t believe that they were worth looking into. We wouldn’t also have called for the UN to have access to these sites. So we are doing our due diligence here. We’re doing that as quickly as possibly, as urgently as possibly, and we’re using every resource at our disposal to do that.
QUESTION: Do you have a reliable death toll right now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – I know there’s been a range of reports. The most recent estimates we have seen range from 1,000 to 1,800, which is obviously a broad range.
Do we have any more on Syria? Okay. South Asia.
QUESTION: In disputed Kashmir region --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- things seem to be heating up. Yesterday, one Pakistan army official and today two Pakistani soldiers were killed in Indian fighting. Are you concerned that the situation might get out of control?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are certainly aware of these reports. We are concerned – remain concerned about the violence along the Line of Control. We understand that the governments of India and Pakistan are in contact. We continue to encourage further dialogue. As you know, our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue is for those two countries to determine.
QUESTION: But are you – has the Secretary been in contact with the leadership of those two countries?
MS. PSAKI: Let me just double-check the calls. I don’t have any calls from him, but as you know, we have a very robust U.S. presence in both of those countries, and I know they, of course, remain in contact with all – with leaders on a range of issues.
QUESTION: And do you recognize that the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has been stressing the importance of peace between the two countries, but his call for return to peace talks seems to have fallen on deaf ears in New Delhi?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: What is – what do you think is the reason for Indian aggression?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t speculate on that. We certainly continue to encourage both sides to participate in dialogue.
QUESTION: Experts also say – fear that if things continue this way, this might also impact U.S. plans for Afghanistan, in the – in view of imminent drawdown from that country, if the two countries continue to be tense on Kashmir – in Kashmir, their tensions can be – spill over to Afghanistan as well.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not at that point yet. I certainly don’t want to speculate on future. We certainly hope that they will engage in dialogue, and of course, they have played important roles in the process in Afghanistan as well, and we’re hopeful that will continue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the release of former President Mubarak?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we have long said, Said, with respect to the Mubarak trial and decisions made, this is an internal Egyptian legal matter, that it’s working its way through the Egyptian legal system. Beyond that, I don’t have more for you. I refer you to the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: Okay. So you have no feeling, no comment on the fact that the elected president, Morsy, is in prison and the former president who was accused of heinous crimes is actually out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken – and I know you and I even spoke about this just yesterday.
QUESTION: Now that it has happened, I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on Mr. Morsy remains the same. We believe there should be a process for his release. We’ve spoken frequently about our concerns about arbitrary arrests. And certainly, in order to have an inclusive process moving forward, an inclusive political process, we believe all parties need to have the opportunity to participate. It’s hard to do that when there are several members of one being detained.
QUESTION: So would you call emphatically on the Egyptian authorities to release Morsy in the name – or in – for the purpose of inclusive --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve stated this a number of times, and our position has not changed.
QUESTION: And why do you think that the Egyptian authorities are not heeding your call?
MS. PSAKI: Are not heeding our call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an issue that we certainly raise publicly, we raise privately. We continue to press on it, as do many other leaders in countries. I can’t make an evaluation for you on that specific question.
QUESTION: Does it remain Secretary Kerry’s view, as he said on August 1st while participating in a Pakistani television program, that the Egyptian military is presently engaged in the business of, quote, “restoring democracy”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, the Secretary spoke to this just the following day. He said at the time, during his answer, and his view is that what happens moving forward, the steps taken by the interim government moving forward, matter. You heard him say in a statement last week that the interim government has the preponderance of power here. Obviously, the events that happened last week when hundreds of civilians have been killed does not mean that business as usual continues. We have continued to condemn violence on all sides, as you know. But there wouldn’t be a discussion, as there has been this week, about reviewing our aid, reviewing our relationship, if there weren’t, certainly, concerns about the events on the ground.
QUESTION: That would be an entirely valid answer were it not for the fact that, at the time the Secretary spoke on August the 1st, the Egyptian military and security services had already engaged in two mass killings since the ouster of Mr. Morsy. So was it the Secretary’s view, you’re telling me, on the 1st of August, after those two mass killings had already occurred, that those were demonstrations of restoring democracy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I would point you to the comments the Secretary himself made the next day, where he made clear what he did and did not mean. And this has been heavily litigated, although I know that some like to continue to report on outdated old comments.
QUESTION: But let me ask it this way, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. still believe that Egypt is on a path to democracy?
MS. PSAKI: We still believe – obviously, this has been a rocky road. That is not something we didn’t anticipate. We still believe there is a window of opportunity for the Egyptian people to return – to move toward a path to sustainable democracy. Does more work to be done? Absolutely. Do they need to have elections of a civilian government? Absolutely. Do they need to deal with, certainly, the violence on the ground, the crisis on the ground? Absolutely. But we still feel that that’s in the best interests of the Egyptian people and that it’s possible.
QUESTION: Does – is the United States prepared to deal with an Egypt that does not move towards that path of democracy? I mean, the way you just said it makes it sound like they are not on that path to democracy, that they need to move – there’s a window for them to move towards the path to democracy. I don’t mean to parse words here.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure, sure. No, I understand. I – that was not – I was not meaning to imply that. I think clearly we’ve seen events that have raised – have been concerning over the past couple of weeks. There’s been, as you know, hundreds of people killed on the ground. That is greatly concerning, of course. And obviously, the violence needs to come to an end. We need to get control of that. But there still remains a window, an opportunity. What I mean is they still certainly can travel on that road to a sustainable democracy, and we absolutely believe that. And that’s something the Secretary believes and has conveyed to leaders there and leaders in the region.
QUESTION: But if they do not, is the U.S. prepared to have an engaging partnership with an Egyptian Government that does not take these steps that the U.S. believes it should?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, I don’t want to look too much into a crystal ball here, but obviously the events on the ground and what steps are taken or not taken matter, very much matter. They’re a part of the discussion, and part of what the Secretary, the national security team, and the President of the United States are looking closely at. And as we’re looking now, the discussions this week have been certainly about our broad relationship with Egypt that includes aid. And again, what happens on the ground and the willingness to take those steps does matter.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on the discussion about the aid?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to report for you.
QUESTION: No more meetings scheduled?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you can expect that meetings and conversations, given the severity of the situation, are ongoing. But I don’t have any other meetings to read out or announce for you.
QUESTION: Jen, what would be --
QUESTION: No expectation of a decision?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to predict a decision. Obviously, the President and the Secretary and the members of the national security team are in constant contact.
QUESTION: Days? Weeks? Months?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t give you a prediction.
QUESTION: How long is that window, do you think, going to stay open? When you talk about there’s this window for them to take certain steps, how long does that window stay open?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to give you a timeline or a deadline. What I mean broadly is that Egypt has been on a journey for the last two-and-a-half years. We believe they can continue on that process. We can – believe they can become a sustainable democracy over the long term. The United States has been at it for less – more than 230 years, and that it’s going to take them some time. And we continue to remain committed to that and remain committed to working with them on that.
QUESTION: You spoke of steps. What kind of immediate steps there – as far as they should take to reassure and the world and the Egyptian people indeed that they are on the road back to democracy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, Said, that the circumstances on the ground now are --
QUESTION: I mean, like, step one, step two, immediately that they can do.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to outline step one, step two. I can tell you, broadly speaking, that, obviously, bringing an end to the violence that’s happening, continues to happen on the ground in Egypt is a clear step here. But in addition, several weeks ago, there were many steps laid out, including reforming the constitution, including holding elections to elect a civilian-led government. We feel there’s still the opportunity to do that, but it’s not for the United States to determine. We can’t determine their path forward; the Egyptian people have to determine that. And we’re here to play as constructive a role as we can play from the outside.
QUESTION: But can the United States say that if Egypt remains under emergency rule, under martial law, we will not have relations with them, we will sort of suspend our relations with them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously the review of our relationship with Egypt of aid is ongoing, and that continues with the national security team.
QUESTION: That goes to the window that was just raised a minute ago.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a predication of a window. Clearly, this discussion is ongoing within the Administration, and I don’t have any announcements to make for you.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Any update on what’s in – what we’ve been calling the “tiny pot,” I guess. There’s the NGO aid, there’s the governmental aid, the environment and health, et cetera, democracy promotion, et cetera. And then there’s the other tiny pot. Any update on what’s in there, how much money, et cetera?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you.
QUESTION: Okay. And the Pentagon is still saying we can tell you we have given military assistance since July 3rd --
MS. PSAKI: Mmm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- since the start of the review; ask State what that military assistance is.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure why the Pentagon would be referring to us to provide their military assistance, so I would encourage you to go back to them and –
MS. PSAKI: -- ask them for any further clarification.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Turkish journalist Metin Turan has still in detention since the weekend in Egypt, and a few days ago, security forces just declared that his custody extended 15 days, and there are also some other journalists from Turkey and other countries share the same problem. So do you have any concern or reaction for people who are responsible this kind of behaviors against journalists?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, thank you for the question. We are deeply troubled by reports of violence against journalists in Egypt, by journalists being detained. There – international and Egyptian journalists I believe there have been reports of, as you referenced. We’ve seen media reports that at least four journalists have been killed; multiple others injured, detained, or abused by security forces. Reports allege that others have had their equipment taken from them and have been denied the right to bring in their protective gear for use while covering the situation in Egypt.
The Egyptian Government has invited – repeatedly invited journalists to see for themselves what is happening in Egypt, and this clearly cannot be done if the government is not ensuring basic safety measures for journalists and is hindering their ability to enter the country by delaying the issuance of press credentials. And we call on the government to clearly instruct its security forces that journalists must not be targets of any violence or intimidation and must be protected and allowed to freely move about to do their jobs.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up question: Have you made any attempts to release them?
MS. PSAKI: Have we made any attempts to release them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly this is an issue that has been raised by U.S. officials.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On South Korea?
MS. PSAKI: South Korea? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes. It is reported that Senator McCain will visit Seoul on August 25th, this weekend, and he will have interview with North Korean defectors. Question is: Special Envoy for the North Korea Human Rights Issues Robert King –
MS. PSAKI: John McCain or Robert King? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: No, I mentioned that –
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- Senator John McCain will visit the 25th, this weekend. He will going to.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But the question is: Special Envoy for the North Korea Human Rights Issues Robert King in Seoul now until August 27th.
MS. PSAKI: He is. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He will spend five days. Does he have any scheduled contact with the North Korean defectors?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you an update on his travel and see if this helps – answers your question. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King met recently with North Korean defectors at the Hanawon resettlement center in Seoul on August 22nd. So that is today. He also – he will also meet with senior South Korean Government officials and civil society groups during his visit that, as you mentioned, extends through the 27th. As you know, he was in China before that. He had productive and useful meetings in China with senior Chinese officials, representatives from the diplomatic community, academics who follow North Korean issues, and UN officials on a range of human rights and humanitarian issues.
After he finishes his trip to South Korea, he will travel to Japan on August 27th for meetings with the senior – with senior government officials and executive members of the association of the family of victims kidnapped by North Korea. And these meetings are, of course, all a part of our regular consultations with all of these countries on human rights and humanitarian issues.
QUESTION: So he already has been the meeting with the North Korean defectors?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. It sounds like that meeting was today.
QUESTION: That why he had stay so long and five days in Seoul, but (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: It sounds like he has a range of other meetings with North – South Korean officials and civil society groups over the next couple of days, and he’s using the time on the ground to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a question about John McCain in regarding to the Diaoyu Islands, which is called Senkaku in Japanese.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So according to the Japanese report, the U.S. Senate – John McCain described the Diaoyu Island as Japanese territory at a news conference in Tokyo. So we already know the stance of the State Department.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But some media say whether – if his slip of tongue. How do you see his remarks regarding to this issue?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific on his remarks other than to just reiterate that our policy on the Senkaku Islands is longstanding and has not changed. The United States does not take a position on the underlying question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, and that remains the U.S. Government position.
QUESTION: So is the State Department is going to contact with John McCain regarding to this issue?
MS. PSAKI: I – well, the Secretary is in regular contact about a range of issues, but I don’t have any planned calls for you about this issue on my docket here.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian talks?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have update for us?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have any updates for you, Said. I know we talked yesterday about the bilateral talks that occurred in Jerusalem just two days ago, and of course, as we know, there are going to be future meetings in Jericho, but I don’t have anything new to announce for you on that.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the travel of the Palestinian negotiator to Russia and meeting Russian officials and so on?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that. I’m happy to look into that for you if you’d like.
QUESTION: Okay. Would that be something that he would coordinate with you or that’s something totally independent?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what the purpose is, so I’d have to look into it a little more closely.
QUESTION: Okay. Weapons sales to Taiwan.
MS. PSAKI: To Taiwan, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes. According to Chinese news report, U.S. might form a joint taskforce with China to discuss, among other issues, the arms sales to Taiwan. I believe it was proposed by China, but according to Chinese news report, U.S. gave a positive response to that proposal. I would like to have your comment.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe you’re referring to reports about Secretary Hagel’s discussions with the Chinese Minister of Defense. Generally I’d, of course, refer you to the Department of Defense for that. But consistent with U.S. commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self defense capability. We believe this longstanding policy contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. But there is no change to our One China policy, which is based on the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, so there is no change or new announcement to make. Beyond that, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)