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On-the-Record-Briefing

12 de Enero de 2018
Channel 1 Los Angeles

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hi, it’s Steve Goldstein. I’m the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. I will be doing the briefing today, and I’m joined by Brian Hook.

Of note, I’m happy to say that Heather’s son is doing much better, and I would expect her back at the podium next Tuesday. And no one will be more happier to see her than I. (Laughter.)

What we’re going to do first is have Brian give you a briefing on Vancouver. He’ll then take four or five questions, and then he has to go back to his office. And then I will come back up, answer additional questions, and then we’ll go around the world trying to respond to whatever you might have.

So first let me introduce Brian Hook, who I think many of you know is the Director of Policy Planning for the Secretary. Brian.

MR HOOK: Thank you, Steve. Good afternoon to all of you. The Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability in the Korean Peninsula will be held in Vancouver on January 16th. The United States and Canada are convening the meeting to demonstrate international commitment to diplomatic solutions to the escalating threat posed by DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The ministerial – the goal of the ministerial is to provide a practical mechanism – mechanisms to exert continued pressure on the Kim regime while demonstrating that diplomatic options remain open and viable.

The invitation list is largely based on countries who are UN Command sending states, which are the countries that sent combat support and/or humanitarian aid to support the Republic of Korea during the Korean War. There is growing evidence that our maximum pressure campaign is being felt in North Korea. They are feeling the strain. And we believe that this pressure campaign remains the best avenue to force change in Kim Jong-un’s behavior and to get him to the negotiating table for meaningful discussions.

Among the issues we will be discussing is how the international community can thwart North Korean efforts to evade UN sanctions through smuggling. As you know, with the Secretary’s patient diplomacy, together with our allies and partners around the world, the administration has increased pressure on the DPRK to new and unprecedented levels. Combined with previous UN Security Council resolutions, over 90 percent of North Korea’s publicly reported exports as of 2016 are now banned. Many countries are further taking unilateral action to hold the DPRK accountable, and let me give you a few examples.

Malaysia kicked out North Korean laborers. Qatar and Kuwait halted work visas to North Koreans. The UAE has completely severed diplomatic ties. Peru, Spain, and Italy have all expelled ambassadors. Portugal froze all diplomatic relations with the DPRK in July. As I think as I’ve mentioned in prior interactions with you, in every bilat the Secretary brings up North Korea, and he has done that since the time that we had reached agreement on a North Korea strategy in the national security cabinet. And we have seen a lot of this very patient and day-by-day diplomacy yield a lot of results.

The goal of this pressure campaign is to persuade the North Korean regime that the only way to achieve peace and stability is to abandon its current path and embrace meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The sending states ministerial comes amid the backdrop of renewed talks between North Korea and South Korea over the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics. President Moon told President Trump that the initial talks on Tuesday went well. We will wait to see where this engagement eventually leads. As always, we are hoping for a diplomatic solution. Secretary Tillerson has been clear that we do not seek regime change or collapse. Nevertheless, we will not rest until the world is assured that the DPRK’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been verifiably abandoned.

And then with that brief scene-setter, I’m happy to turn it over to questions.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Matt Lee.

QUESTION: I just – I’ve got to defer to my colleague, Matt Pennington, who is going to be on the trip. So —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay. Matt Pennington.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m over here. Brian, has the complexion of this meeting in Vancouver changed because of the diplomacy that started between the North and the South? I mean, will there be a greater emphasis on seeking a diplomatic engagement with the North rather than just focusing on sanctions pressure?

MR HOOK: I don’t think it’s – I don’t think it’s going to change the agenda. I think you saw that the President and the Secretary were both very pleased with the interaction between the North and the South. We believe that that was brought about through – in some part because of the pressure campaign. As I said, we believe that the sanctions – that the North Koreans are starting to feel the bite of a global pressure campaign, and we think that this creates the kind of conditions that lead to discussions between the North and the South about the Olympics.

We are going to be at this Vancouver ministerial doing an assessment of progress to date. We’ll be discussing sanctions, the sanctions that we have done multilaterally and unilaterally to date, and their effectiveness and what we can be doing in the coming year. We’ll be discussing the importance of nonproliferation and we’ll be discussing diplomatic options to achieve our goals of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Andrea.

QUESTION: What steps would be considered to try to thwart smuggling, especially the kind of refueling we’ve seen at sea? Would any kind of a naval operation be considered? Some have suggested, including a former NATO supreme allied commander, that a naval blockade is actually the only option.

MR HOOK: At Vancouver we will be discussing maritime interdiction. We continue to explore all options to enhance maritime security and the ability to interdict maritime traffic, those transporting goods to and from the DPRK that support the nuclear and missile program. And we will be discussing with our partners and allies the kind of steps that we can take on maritime interdiction and also to be cutting – disrupting funding and disrupting resources. And maritime interdiction helps us to disrupt resources, and then the financial side helps us to disrupt the financing of their nuclear and missile program.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay, Arshad.

QUESTION: How do you hope to effectively crack down on smuggling to or by North Korea on trade, on financial transfers, without having China at such a meeting? And did the United States favor or oppose China attending the meeting?

MR HOOK: We have had regular discussions with the Chinese about the problem that we’re having about resources and funding making its way illegally to North Korea. We’ve been very pleased that China has certainly given much fuller implementation. I think they have closed some sanctions gaps. They are doing a better job of implementing the UN Security Council resolutions. We’ve had four UN Security Council resolutions in this administration that the Chinese supported.

We also know that this is necessary but insufficient, and we need to be doing more to deal with vessels that are engaging in prohibited activities under UN Security Council resolutions. One of the things that we’re looking that – we hope that the UN can list some of these vessels for port entry bans, and we think that that will demonstrate seriousness of purpose if we can start having more of these vessels listed so that we can then – they can be banned from entering other ports. We need to drive up the consequences for any vessels that are engaging in this kind of activity.

With respect to China and the Vancouver ministerial, we will give them a readout of this ministerial after it’s over, and we have been in discussions with the Chinese and the Russians leading up to this Vancouver ministerial. This is based on sending states. China and Russia were not sending states.

QUESTION: Well, they were but on the other side. Right?

MR HOOK: They were not UN sending states.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay, let’s —

QUESTION: Wouldn’t your ability to get —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Here we have a couple more questions. Nick.

QUESTION: — to impose pressure been much greater with the Chinese there?

MR HOOK: No, but they weren’t UN sending states. That was my point.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be better – wouldn’t your ability to exert pressure be greater if you had with you the largest trade partner and the regional heavyweight, China?

MR HOOK: Well, China is working with us. This is not an alternative to everything that we are doing. This ministerial will enhance and strengthen all of the efforts underway to achieve our policy goals. China has the same policy goal in terms of ensuring that North Korea does not become a nuclear weapon state and acquire the means to deliver a nuclear warhead. So there is broad agreement in the international community about the end state.

This Vancouver ministerial is something which supports all of our efforts collectively, and we have been in touch with China and Russia on this ministerial, and we will be giving them a readout when it’s over, and a discussion, and it will be very helpful. I think that they will welcome a lot of the actions that come out of the discussion, because it all rolls up into the same policy end state.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Thank you. Nick.

QUESTION: Brian, what is a clear sort of concrete deliverable you hope to get out of this meeting? Is it progress toward a new Security Council resolution? Is it charting a path forward on new sanctions? And as part of this campaign, is the U.S. considering advocating for secondary sanctions against major Chinese banks to further clamp down on North Korean finances?

MR HOOK: We very much want the Vancouver ministerial to be an assessment, an assessment of where we’re making progress and areas where we need to do more. And so this will not be – this is not just for sort of PR value. We want very concrete steps. We will be discussing concrete steps that we can all be taking to help increase the campaign. As we’ve said from the beginning, this is a campaign of global and escalating pressure. It’s a maximum pressure campaign, and that campaign will continue in some form or another until we achieve our policy goals, our security objectives. And the great benefit of a meeting like this is it allows many, many countries to come together and to discuss interdiction, to discuss nonproliferation, to discuss maritime activities, to discuss denying the regime the resources and the funding that it needs, and will also be to talk – also to talk about diplomacy and how all of that fits together so that we have – we certainly have put the credible military threat on the table and – but our definite preference is for a negotiated solution.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Thank you. We have – Kylie Atwood will get the last question. Kylie.

QUESTION: On Chinese banks? On banks, on Chinese banks, Brian?

QUESTION: Two – I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you just answer the question on —

MR HOOK: Oh, on Chinese banks. Well, we have – in our discussions, I remember when the Secretary, in his initial discussions with the Chinese – we have been very clear with them about the action that we need them to take against individuals or entities that are under Chinese control that are contributing in whatever fashion to helping or facilitating or supporting North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. We’ve asked them to take action. They have taken action in some areas. We take secondary sanctions – we will impose secondary sanctions when we need to, and that’s something which the Chinese understand very clearly from our conversations.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay, Kylie. Kylie gets the last question.

QUESTION: Okay, so two quick questions. You said that the global pressure campaign that’s been put forth by the U.S. is one of the reasons that’s created the conditions that have led to these discussions between North Korea and South Korea. Can you expand on that? Because it seems from an outsider’s perspective that it’s actually just inviting them to talks without them actually committing to anything that you guys want them to commit to. And then the second question is: Are U.S. and North Korea talks a possibility at the Olympics?

MR HOOK: On the first question, you’re saying that you don’t think that the pressure campaign has – I’m not sure what you mean.

QUESTION: How is it creating the environment that led to these – led to these talks if it’s just looking like North Korea can say they want talks, can show up at the Olympics, and they’re not really facing the heat that you guys – or making the changes that they want – you want them to make?

MR HOOK: Well, North Korea came to the South and said that they would be willing to talk about the Olympics, and so we were pleased that they had that conversation. It was largely limited to the Olympics. It is – you’ve seen what the President and the Secretary have both said about it. The President has said that he believes that this – that this climate that we have helped to create through the pressure campaign promotes and enables and encourages this sorts of interaction, but this was largely limited to the Olympics, and there really is – I don’t think – I don’t read much beyond it other than that.

And your second question was?

QUESTION: Is it possible to consider U.S.-North Korea talks at the Olympics?

MR HOOK: No.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay, thank you so much, Brian.

MR HOOK: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR HOOK: Thanks.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Thank you again. Dave, welcome.

Okay, so let’s go over the trip just briefly. The Secretary will leave on Monday. The meetings will take place in Vancouver on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, he will go to Stanford, where at noon he will give a speech with open press to the Hoover Institute. He was invited by Secretary Rice, and Secretary Shultz will co-host the speech. The Secretary will speak and then he will take questions on the podium from Secretary Rice and – former Secretary Rice and former Secretary Shultz, and then after he will then come back to New York – to Washington. (Laughter.)

Also, tomorrow morning at 10:30, the Secretary, in the Acheson, will swear in a class, a new Civil Service class, and that will also be open press.

Now, let’s – I can start with whatever country you’d like or we can continue questions.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Iran.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay.

QUESTION: So I’m just curious if you could – when the Secretary was asked about Iran sanctions waivers, the President’s decision this morning, he said that he’s going to get a chance, I guess, to make that decision today. Are – some have taken that to believe that a decision and an announcement will happen today. Is that – is that an incorrect reading, or do you still expect this to be tomorrow?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, there have been ongoing discussions about this for at least a week. The – Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and the President and others started this at Camp David, and the Secretary’s been at the White House almost every day. He was there yesterday for many, many hours. The decision meeting is this afternoon, and from that the decision will be made. I’m not sure when the announcement will be, whether it will be tonight or whether it will be tomorrow, but we do expect a decision to be made later today.

QUESTION: Are you persuaded by what the European Union today – their statement? Because they advocated for – to stay with the deal. Are you in any way influenced by that?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The President and the Secretary have all the facts in front of them, and ultimately it will be the President’s decision. They’ll have a long discussion about this today, as they have all throughout the week, and a decision will be made.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Steve, how much has – have the protests, if at all, complicated a decision given widespread analysis that any withdrawal or blowing up of the Iran deal at this point would help the hardliners and undermine any efforts towards moderation in Iran?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I don’t think we should conflate the two. The fact is that the – we’ve encouraged – we’re encouraged that President Rouhani in Iran has allowed social media sites to open. We still encourage the Government of Iran to allow protesters to dissent and we hope they will continue to do so. We do not support any crackdown on dissenters.

Felicia.

QUESTION: In October when the Trump administration rolled out the strategy, Tillerson said that he hoped by January there’d be an agreement on legislation – trigger points I think is how he described them. Obviously that legislation’s not going to happen this week, but I guess, one, is the Secretary satisfied with the progress; and two, if January was the old deadline, does the administration and the Secretary have a new deadline for when they want to see that happen?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, there are – thank you. There are 20 more days in January, but first let’s get to the decision today, and at that point we’ll make a further determination and I’ll try to give you an answer to that next week.

QUESTION: How involved is the Secretary? I know that there’s been a lot of meetings at the White House and the NSC on the legislation negotiations. How involved has the Secretary been?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Secretary’s very involved in all decisions relating to foreign policy.

Rich.

QUESTION: Steve, how much do the INARA and congressional discussions have to do with the President’s decision that he’s going to make, apparently today?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We have not halted funded – funding to UNRWA. The decision is under review and there’s still deliberations taking place. I think the – we are looking at this decision for what it is. And the President will make a decision based on all the information he has, including information from the Secretary of State and from other – from the Secretary of Defense and others. But we are confident that we will get to the right place. I would expect an announcement either later today or early tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: What’s the right place?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, that’s for the President to announce and that will occur soon.

QUESTION: Well – (laughter) – you have your —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hold on. Yes, ma’am?

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that as well?

QUESTION: Can I go back —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, hold on. Let’s let everyone ask – have the opportunity to ask one question first.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can I go back to Vancouver meeting?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: First of all, could you please clarify if China and Russia were invited to this meeting?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. China and Russia were not invited to the meeting, but China and Russia will be informed of the results of the meeting right when it is over. Most important to note is that China and Russia strongly support what we are doing. We’re all together in the – in belief that the – that North Korea must provide a plan for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: And could you please explain —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We all share the same view.

QUESTION: Can I clarify one thing?

QUESTION: They’ll —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: In response to Rick’s question, which I think was about UNRWA —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay.

QUESTION: — in other words, aid to the UN —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Thank you.

QUESTION: Right. You then said I’m confident that we’ll get to the right place.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: When you said I’m confident that we’ll get to the right place, were you talking about Iran and the decision on Iran sanctions waivers?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I was answering the question that was asked of me.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No, I was actually asking INARA. Yes.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Oh, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: INARA. Yes.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I apologize for that.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: But then it sounded at the end that you were answering also INARA, so —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yeah.

QUESTION: So does that change the answer?

QUESTION: So – so getting to the right place —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: That —

QUESTION: — applies to what? To INARA and Iran or to UNRWA?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: It implies – it applies to all decisions that we make. Look (inaudible) —

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The (inaudible) Secretary of – of course it does.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The Secretary of State along with the President, along with the National Security Council and others who were involved regarding Iran have met all this week. The decision meeting is occurring currently. There will be a decision announced on that. As it relates to any other issue, we follow the same process in making a decision.

QUESTION: But that decision is going to be today or tomorrow as well? The Palestinian —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. No, I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: Okay.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I said that – no, we did not – I did not say that that decision would be made. That – deliberations are still taking place and we’ve not made a decision on that.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the Palestinian —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Nazira Karimi, Afghan independent journalist.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: May I ask you about Iran situation impact to Afghanistan? Any impact to Afghanistan situation – Iran currently situation?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We will get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Steven?

QUESTION: Yes, on the —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Alicia.

QUESTION: — Vancouver meeting —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Brian mentioned maritime interdiction would be a topic of discussion.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you going to be discussing something akin to a blockade? And if that’s the case, is there any concern that North Korea would take that as an act of war?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I think we’ll look at all things on the table. All things will be on the table. But we’ve been very clear that the sanctions are – have been effective. And what we want is for North Korea to come to the table. We are pleased that they are sending athletes to the Olympics, we’re pleased that people from North Korea are able to go and witness the Olympics, and that they’ll be marching as part of the community of nations, but that is a start.

At some point, they need to come to the table – and at some point soon – with a plan for how they’re going to denuclearize this peninsula and it has to be irreversible. So until that point occurs, all things are on the table.

QUESTION: Hi.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes. Hi.

QUESTION: We’ve talked a little bit about who’s not going to be at this summit —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: — but can you offer us a little more specificity on who has said that they’re attending and at what level?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I will get back to you with the names, but South Korea will be attending.

QUESTION: I have quick follow-up. So Chinese foreign ministry is describing this meeting as Cold War thinking because you only invite UN sending countries. What’s the reason behind it? And what’s your response to Chinese criticism that this may harm the joint international effort on North Korea?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, I haven’t seen that statement, but with all due respect, that is not how we or our Canadian hosts would describe that meeting. We will – once the meeting is over, we will call, we will talk to our counterparts in China and Russia, we will inform them. We have been given no indication that China and Russia’s position has changed regarding these sanctions, and their position is what our position is.

Yes.

QUESTION: So it’s been announced that General Mattis will be at the welcome dinner, I believe. What is his role going to be at the event?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: To welcome the countries that are at the event.

QUESTION: Just welcoming? He’s not going to be at any of the – in the meetings participating?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: General Mattis, of course, will likely participate in some of the meetings. I refer you to the Department of Defense. But we’re pleased that General Mattis is able to be there.

QUESTION: Secretary Mattis.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: One second.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) North Korea again?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: On North Korea.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Recently, President Trump mentioned that open to talks with the North Korea, but not without preconditions. Has the U.S. change any policy toward the North Korea?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. We have not changed our position, that the – we’re pleased that North Korea has agreed to come to the – participate in the Olympic Games. That’s good for South Korea and it’s good for North Korea, and it will also be good for the figure skaters and others from North Korea who come to South Korea and are able to interact with people from all different nations, including the United States.

QUESTION: But do you – you open to talk with North Korea with the preconditions or without the preconditions? What is it?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Our position’s very clear: North Korea needs to come to the table. The President stated what our position is. The Secretary’s reiterated it. We need negotiation.

Matt. I’m sorry. You had something? No? Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey? Turkey?

QUESTION: I do, but not on this.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Katrina Manson from the Financial Times.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hi, Katrina.

QUESTION: Hi. Can I just check, when you say that China and Russia were not invited, is there anything in Canada suggesting they should be invited and then U.S. in fact saying no? And can I confirm that China will in fact attend some side meetings in Vancouver?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I will get back to you on that, but Canada is hosting the meeting and we concurred with the decision.

Dmitry.

QUESTION: Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Please use the microphone.

QUESTION: Wait, can I follow up on that one particular point, please, Steve?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay. Okay. Elise.

QUESTION: Canada made the decision not to invite China and Russia? Or was that made in conjunction with you and Canada?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: It was made in conjunction, and again, we will inform China and Russia after the meeting where things stand. They are – we are all in agreement that these sanctions need to be implemented. We are also in agreement that the sanctions are working, but – and we’re also in agreement that North Korea must come to the table.

Dmitry.

QUESTION: A port – port entry —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Can you use the microphone if you don’t mind?

QUESTION: A port entry bans idea that Ambassador Hook mentioned, has – have you discussed it with the Russians and the Chinese in any way, shape, or form?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Is your question “Have we discussed with the Russians and Chinese” —

QUESTION: A port entry ban, a ban for some of the North Korean vessels to entry – to enter —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Every —

QUESTION: — ports abroad.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir. Everything that’s discussed at the meeting we will share with our – with Russia and with China along with all the other countries that are at the meeting. As I said after the meeting, we plan to contact China and Russia.

Josh.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pete Hoekstra in the Netherlands had his debut for the Dutch media. It didn’t go real well. Just to start off, does the State Department agree with his earlier comments that politicians have been burned as a result of Islamist movements and that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use.

QUESTION: Would you like the ambassador to maybe retract those given all of the controversy it seems to be causing?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The ambassador, when he was an ambassador-designate in December when this initially started, issued a statement on Twitter that said, “For the last 17 years I’ve been passionate about confronting the global threat of terrorism.”

The person Josh is referring to is Pete Hoekstra, who was sworn in yesterday as the ambassador to the Netherlands, former member of Congress from Michigan.

“This has been a long struggle. We still have much to learn. I made certain remarks in 2015 and regret the exchange during the Nieuwsuur interview. Please accept my apology. I was born in the Netherlands and love [this] country. It will be the greatest honor of my life to serve as the United States ambassador to the Netherlands. I look forward to the opportunity to learn, to listen, and to move on in the spirit of peace and friendship with the people and the leaders of the Netherlands. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.”

His position on that hasn’t changed. I agree that yesterday, that the ambassador did not answer some of the questions that were asked of him. He recognizes that. He is going to do a long-form interview tomorrow – that is the plan – with a Dutch outlet. And he also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities. And it is a great honor for Ambassador Hoekstra to serve the Netherlands and we are hopeful that we can move beyond this. He’s excited about the opportunity to be able to help the people of the Netherlands.

QUESTION: Well, the quickest way to move beyond it, it seems to me, would be for him to actually say that he was mistaken in – or incorrect in 2015 when he made the comments that have got the Dutch upset, no?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: He did say in December that he made certain remarks in 2015 and regrets the exchange —

QUESTION: Yeah, but the remarks —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: — and I’ve indicated —

QUESTION: But the remarks that he made in 2015 weren’t just something that you apologize – they were wrong. They were – it was factually incorrect.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. But I’ve indicated that —

QUESTION: Apologizing for them is one thing.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: But he was asked yesterday to retract them.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Which he did not do.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: But I have indicated clearly that that is not the view of the department.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the department has told him that he should retract his comments?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The department has had conversations with the ambassador. The ambassador wants to get this behind him. He is very committed to serving the people of the Netherlands as a United States representative. This is the greatest honor of his life, and he – and again, he will be giving —

QUESTION: I hope he’s committed to serving the people of the United States.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: He will be giving —

QUESTION: Which is why he’s there.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I appreciate that. He will be giving an interview tomorrow and he will be available throughout the Netherlands, and I have advised, as I’ve advised most people, that when reporters are in front of you, just as you are in front of me, that it’s always good to answer questions. (Laugher.)

QUESTION: So does that mean – does that mean that he will?

QUESTION: Can I (inaudible)?

QUESTION: When he is asked in this interview tomorrow, which he certainly will be – I’m sure he will be —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I think you should —

QUESTION: — if he still thinks or still believes that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands and that politicians have been set on fire —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right.

QUESTION: — will he answer the question?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: You should turn into that interview tomorrow. I’ve been very clear on what our position is.

QUESTION: Why can’t you say right now that those statements were inaccurate?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, I did say that. I said that’s not the position of the Department of State.

QUESTION: No, that’s different. It’s different. Not the position of the Department of State is different from those statements are inaccurate.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ve been very clear that that’s not our position. That is not language that we would use, and that’s not language you will ever hear me use or Heather use from this podium.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Let’s —

QUESTION: Can you just say that it’s wrong —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Let’s do one at a time. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Can you just say that what he said in 2015 on this television show is just factually incorrect; it doesn’t have any basis in truth?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ve been very clear on what our position is.

QUESTION: I —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’m not sure how I can be more clear other than to make the point that is —

QUESTION: You can say before he —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: — that is not the view —

QUESTION: — before the election, before he —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well —

QUESTION: In 2015, three years ago almost, that he made some comments on a television show that were incorrect.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The ambassador said —

QUESTION: That’s how you get it behind – that’s how you get it behind.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. I appreciate that PR advice and that’s – I share your view, by the way. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The ambassador made remarks in 2015 and he said very clearly that he regrets the exchange.

QUESTION: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that he thinks he —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I think you all, if you tune in to the interview tomorrow, you will under – you will – he will address this issue. This is – those comments were not the position of the State Department, and you will never hear those words from this podium or in any form. Let’s —

QUESTION: Well, do you expect him to say —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Let’s – I’m —

QUESTION: Do you expect him to say that he was wrong?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Let’s let some other – Matt, let’s let some other people ask some questions, with all due respect. Let’s let some other —

QUESTION: Why do you have ambassadors representing —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Let’s let some other people —

QUESTION: — the United States to countries where they have previously made factually incorrect statements about the country where they are sent to represent the United States? Why, as a matter of policy, does the State Department have an ambassador who’s made inaccurate statements about the country he’s now working in on behalf of the U.S. people?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: The ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made. He recognizes that. He apologized in December. He is doing an interview tomorrow. We are – he is honored to be the ambassador. The – he’s been received well by the Dutch Government and we hope that he can be received well by the people of the Netherlands. And we have made clear to the ambassador that – that he must move to get this behind him, and he definitely understands that. He feels great remorse.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On Turkey, two quick questions —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hold on. Okay, I’ll get back to you, Dave.

QUESTION: No, but I’m on this topic. This is Turkey.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, okay. Okay, Dave.

QUESTION: Sorry.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll get right back to you. I apologize.

QUESTION: Yesterday – yesterday the State Department issued its new way of doing Travel Warnings, Travel Advisories.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Holland, or the Netherlands, was given a one rating as a place you don’t need to exercise any particular precaution going to. Obviously, you’ve just said you don’t believe there are any no-go zones in Holland, whatever the ambassador may have said. Are there any no-go zones because of Islamic extremism in any country of the European Union?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll get back to you on that question. That’s not the language that we would use, as I said.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. Two quick questions on Turkey. One is: Is there any way you can first describe to us the relationship between Turkey and U.S.? And the second question is: Turkish President Erdogan just yesterday once again accused U.S. Government for plotting another coup, and many leading Turkish officials have been accusing Turkey. Almost day in and day out these accusations are coming from Ankara to your government. Can you respond to these accusations?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: It’s in our natural – national interest for Turkey to be a stable, democratic, prosperous, and reliable ally. We don’t believe language as you indicated moves that – helps us move to that goal. That it’s understandable that Turkey, like most countries, seeks good relationships with its neighbors. We’ve long supported and we continue to support Turkey’s democratic development because we believe that respect for the rule of law, judicial independence, and freedom of the press are sources of Turkey’s strength and expand our potential for partnership.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on the Palestinian issue?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, you may.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. You talked about – that they are still deliberating on the issue of UNRWA, the Palestinian —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: — Relief and Works Agency.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Now, are these deliberations – are they just internal deliberations, or are you talking to other contributors, like European countries, like the UN itself, and so on, to see how this money in the past has been spent on which areas and so on?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I cannot go – I can’t give any further guidance than what I did on Tuesday. In making decisions, we ask all interested parties to provide us with their view before a decision is made. Those deliberations are continuing.

QUESTION: But one more —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, in the back. I’m sorry?

QUESTION: — one quick follow-up, if I may.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hold on. I made our point clear on this question.

QUESTION: I understand. Another – I mean, it’s —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I want to be fair to everybody in the room and we have at least 10 people asking questions.

QUESTION: It’s the Palestine-Israeli issue. I mean, I have more questions. I’m sure —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I appreciate your comments, but I’ve been clear on our position.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: I – I – that’s not on this issue, sir.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Sir, on another issue —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll come – with all due respect, I’ll come back to you, but let’s let other people ask a question.

QUESTION: But we focus on one issue at a time.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Was North Korea invited to the Vancouver meeting? Was it ever considered? And is there a bilat scheduled for Secretary Tillerson and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: North Korea was not invited to the meeting. North Korea has not indicated that they are ready to put down their nuclear weapons and to denuclearize. They are – that has to occur before they’re – they would be invited to any such meeting. I would – I do believe that the Secretary of State and the foreign minister of South Korea will have an opportunity to interact.

One second. Right behind you, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Cindy Saine with Voice of America.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Hi.

QUESTION: Following up on the travel advisories, Russia did not seem to be too pleased with its ranking in the new system. And the foreign ministry put out a statement saying that if U.S. citizens go to Russia en masse, they would be able to see with their own eyes there is not a trace of what U.S. officials are routinely trying to frighten them with. Do you have a response to that, and possibly an update from Ambassador Huntsman being here?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, those are two completely different issues.

QUESTION: They are.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Ambassador Huntsman was here as part of a routine set of visits to Washington, D.C. He met with the Secretary; he was on the Hill for a day and a half; he met with different people in the department, including me. I had the opportunity – we had the opportunity to talk for over an hour about public diplomacy matters and his support for how we can help enhance what we’re doing within Russia. And so that relates to that.

As it relates to your question regarding the – Russia’s hyperbole concerning visitation, if people would read the – look on the website and see what was said, the only goal in the rating system is to help people be safe as they visit countries. We – if people want to visit Russia, that’s within their purview. As long as they follow the appropriate – get the appropriate passport and visa, that – absolutely – and book the appropriate plane flights or boat trip, that’s their opportunity. And so I just don’t want to engage comments like that. They don’t – they really don’t serve any purpose, and in some ways they discourage Americans from wanting to go there.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: There are reports that Prime Minister Abe is considering not attending the Olympics because of recent statements by President Moon about the issue of comfort women. Is the State Department talking to Prime Minister Abe to encourage him to attend the Olympics?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I will get back to you on that. We hope for the country of South Korea that the Olympics is a well-attended event. It’s an opportunity for all the nations to come together in sport and to support our athletes. That is what the Olympics is about. It’s about the figure skaters and the skiers and the people that do slalom and biathletes and all others —

QUESTION: Luge.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: — and the luge and every other sport that we in this room like.

QUESTION: Curling.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Curling. Andrea mentioned curling – without a doubt, a very interesting sport. My spouse likes that.

QUESTION: Indoor rowing.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: There’s no indoor rowing in the Winter Olympics – (laughter) – but in two years I will come back to you and talk to you about that in the Summer Olympics if I’m so lucky. (Laughter.)

Nike.

QUESTION: Well, if I may, I would like to ask a quick question on Serbia. Regarding the visa rejection of the – its army chief’s visa application to the United States. I understand the State Department usually don’t comment on individual visa case. That said, could you please address the possible repercussion and then respond to Serbia Government’s comments that there would be consequence in the bilateral relationship?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We just don’t discuss any issue relating to the issuance of a visa.

QUESTION: So – but on the same subject, the – also apparently the foreign minister of Argentina was denied a visa to come for medical treatment. And there are instances in which you do discuss visa cases, visa denials, and those instances are when the person who was rejected speaks publicly about them – about it. And that has happened. I don’t know about the Serbia case, but it has happened in the Argentina case. Can you speak to that?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I can’t, but I’ll be glad to get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Can I —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I will come back to you, but let’s – yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Hi. Chia from United Daily News, Taiwan.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: You have expressed concerns about China’s unilateral actions to fly through M503 route. But have you talked to your Chinese counterpart about this? And Taiwan has been asking to communicate with China, but they haven’t responded yet. So have you encouraged Chinese to talk with Taiwan?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I will get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the question.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can —

QUESTION: You can never go wrong taking a question on Taiwan.

QUESTION: Has U.S. contacted ICAO on this?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Say that again. I apologize.

QUESTION: Has U.S. contacted ICAO regarding this unilateral announcement? Because this is about aviation safety issue. Taiwan government hope that other friends and other government can help to convey the message.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. So when decisions are made, we communicate with all affected parties.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came out with this report about Russia’s influence campaign abroad, and among the recommendations was a call for a – like an international effort with allies on the – kind of following the model of the Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Is the State Department, is the Secretary of State behind that kind of a recommendation?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We have a Global Engagement Center in the Department of State that – where – whose funding was increased, actually, and whose job it is to work on the interdiction of ISIS and Boko Haram and others who pose a threat to United States citizens and the citizens of our allies. And we also are very focused on the issue of disinformation and we are happy that Congress agrees with our Intelligence Community’s assessment.

QUESTION: Is he – is the Secretary behind a – creating an effort specifically to counter disinformation from Russia?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We have a mechanism designed to do that called the Global Engagement Center, as I indicated, which is funded, and whose job it is to focus on the issue of disinformation, whether it comes from Russia or China or any other country.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Well, in the report, it specifically criticized the State Department for not activating that Global Engagement Center adequately, saying that Congress had put the money in but that it has not seriously taken its mission and is behind the curve on this, and said that the President is guilty of negligence —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well —

QUESTION: — for not doing what the other countries have done to challenge Russia and defend against Russia.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We take the threat of disinformation very seriously. The Global Engagement Center reports to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. I meet with them very frequently. They’ve been doing excellent work as it relates to the issue of disinformation and along with interdiction. And they frequently brief the Hill. I received several questions on that during my hearing. And we respect Senator Cardin, but we don’t share the view that the Department of State or the administration is lacking in that regard.

I can tell you that I and my colleagues are very committed to this issue, that it doesn’t – what that – what that report is missing is a list of the – of what we have done and what we continue to do. We are awaiting additional funding, which we have been told that we will receive from the Department of Defense over the next couple of months. That hasn’t prevented us, though, from doing the work that we’ve had to do.

QUESTION: So the report was focused not only on disinformation.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: It talked about a range of behavior that really runs the gamut of what they call hybrid threats, that disinformation is just a small part of that.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, that’s what you asked about, though, but I appreciate that. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, no, I mean, I said a global influence campaign.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Okay.

QUESTION: And that, in their view, includes things like corruption and money laundering and transnational crime groups and all kinds of other efforts. That they’re saying that it’s not just a disinformation campaign, but it’s kind of a broad spectrum threat. And what they’re – what they’re saying, what the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are saying, is that it requires a different approach than what the State Department is doing.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: It – we believe we have a mechanism in place to address these issues, and we are going forward in doing that. We are very respectful of Senator Cardin and the Democrats on the committee and we’ve read the report with great interest, but to say that we are not moving forward on this, that this is not an issue of importance to us, is just not accurate – in all of the areas that you mentioned.

Josh.

QUESTION: Ecuador has granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange citizenship. Wondering if you have any reaction to that decision. He’s obviously been holed up in their embassy for quite a long time. And is the U.S. still looking to arrest and charge Mr. Assange?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. Well, that’s the decision – the decision to grant Julian Assange citizenship is a decision between Julian Assange and the country of Ecuador. And we don’t discuss whether we are considering bringing Julian Assange to the United States for trial.

QUESTION: What, so that means that you – the administration has no feelings, no thoughts on the Ecuadorian decision at all?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, we have feelings and thoughts on most issues.

QUESTION: Right, so what are they on this specific issue?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: (Laughter.) But on this specific —

QUESTION: And maybe not feelings, but thoughts.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right, but on this specific issue, we don’t discuss what our actions will or will not be.

QUESTION: I’m not asking about your actions.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I appreciate that.

QUESTION: I want to know whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the Ecuadorians —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: But that’s just not something we would discuss at the present time. This decision just occurred within the past two hours, I believe.

QUESTION: Yeah. Another question regarding Pakistan policy. What will be the next step of decision of United State toward Pakistan if Pakistan still keep its old policy toward Afghanistan and United State? Any update?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: As it relates to the decision that we made?

QUESTION: Yeah.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We would hope that Pakistan would come to the table and that they would turn over those terrorists that we have asked be turned over. We’ve indicated very clearly that we are – that we believe that can happen. We’ve only suspended the aid; we have not reallocated the money. So now it is the job of Pakistan to take seriously their commitment to us, and most importantly to the people of Pakistan who would most be hurt by this, by another terrorist – any terrorist activity, and come forward. So our position hasn’t changed. They have not yet come forward, to answer your follow-up question.

QUESTION: One follow-up on this?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can you tell us now precisely what is the amount of Foreign Military Financing that the U.S. State Department will suspend pursuant to the President’s decision? You had previously said, I think, or an NSC spokesman said it was about a billion dollars including —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: But it’s a week later, and I wonder if you now have the actual number.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll get back to you with the number. You’re correct, though. That is the number that we use – something close to a billion dollars. It’s a series of dollars in different areas that would have to be put together.

QUESTION: Yeah.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: But again, our hope – and we haven’t reallocated the money. Our hope is that Pakistan will do the right thing for the people of Pakistan because they should want to root out terrorists in their country as much as we want to root out terrorists in their country.

QUESTION: On Pakistan?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: And I brought this up earlier. I don’t know if there’s an answer to it or not. But do you have anything on any kind of recent interaction with the Government of Pakistan on the situation – the case of Dr. Afridi?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I don’t, but I will check on that and I will get back to you later today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. On Pakistan, we understand that officials have said they will stop sharing intelligence and already have stopped sharing intelligence from sources on the ground on the Afghan border with the U.S. What’s your reaction to that? Have they informed you of that? Are you making efforts to see if that’s correct and take action?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No, they have not informed us of that. And I checked on that at a quarter to two Eastern Time, and as of that point, that had not occurred.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate that to happen? Do you anticipate the unilaterally cut off the supply?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Because, as Matt noted, I have feeling, I am hopeful that Pakistan will do the right thing and turn over the terrorists and honor their commitment.

QUESTION: Tunisia?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You’ve been very vocal from the podium about asking the Iranians to release people that have been arrested at protests —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: — and also to give them free access to the web. Tunisia has arrested 600 protesters in recent days. Do you – do the Tunisians have a right to protest in the same way?

Also Saudi Arabia has held blogger Raif Badawi now for three years and has lashed him. He wanted access to the internet.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, the protests that are currently going on in Tunisia relate to longstanding economic issues. We believe that people in all countries should have the right to dissent, and we encourage nations to allow that to occur, and that would include Tunisia.

As it – we —

QUESTION: Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We don’t —

QUESTION: Just two days ago was the third anniversary of him being jailed for 10 years.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes. Any person who is in the media who is trying to do their job and has been punished for participating in trying to provide information to that country through free – through freedom of the press should be afforded appropriate considerations. And it’s not just as it relates to the blogger in Saudi Arabia, but there are journalists imprisoned in many countries, and those countries should try to address these issues as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Could I do one more follow-up, sir? You stated that U.S. Government is supporting Turkey as a stable, democratic, reliable ally, yet we hear these accusations are coming every day. Do you think there is a problem, an issue in communication channels between these two allies, U.S. and Turkey?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll – we believe that the Government of Turkey could be a strong ally to the United States and communication with all nations is important. That’s as – that is as far as I can go on that.

QUESTION: Could be? I mean, aren’t they a strong ally?

QUESTION: Is it not now?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes.

QUESTION: They’re a NATO ally.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, they’re a NATO ally. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Are they a strong ally?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes, they’re a strong ally. But there’s always work to be done with each – as we work with each nation. And they tell us their concerns and we tell nations our concerns, and we work together to try to reach agreement. And when we have concerns, we address those; and if they have concerns about something that’s happening in the United States, they address that with us. That’s no different than Turkey or any other nation.

QUESTION: Is Turkey attending the Vancouver meeting?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ll get back to you on that. No, I don’t believe they are. But I’ll – I don’t believe they are —

QUESTION: They were.

QUESTION: They were a sending state.

QUESTION: They were a —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. I’ll get back to you on that.

QUESTION: And if you remember ever watching MASH —

QUESTION: And Greece —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I did, I did.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: And Greece, as a matter of fact.

QUESTION: Well, then you remember that the Turks were there.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes. I did watch MASH. I was about three years old, but I did watch it. (Laughter.) Wait a minute, I don’t know if I like all that laughter there. I said the only part about getting older is that it used to be when I was 50, people would go, “Oh, you look like you’re 35.” But now that I’m in my 60s, people go, “Oh, you look like you’re 58.” And I said, “I don’t know if I consider that such a compliment.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Does anyone new have a question before I go back to the others? Well, let me just do two more questions and —

QUESTION: Before you get back to me.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: — that’s it. Yeah, I’ll come back to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you a very quick question that Arshad raised the other day on the settlements. He asked you a question on the building of – or the plans for building 1,329 illegal settlements and you said that you would get back to him. Have you gotten any answer on that?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: President Trump has made clear: While the existence of settlements are not in themselves an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace. The Israeli Government has made clear that going forward its intent to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concern into consideration, and the United States welcomes this. And we’re hard at work on trying to develop a comprehensive peace plan that would benefit both the Israelis and Palestinians, and it will be unveiled when the time is right.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: That’s all well and good, but that —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: That’s as far as —

QUESTION: But that statement is almost a year old now.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Yes. Well, that is – that’s the position that we have.

QUESTION: And in – in that – in the intervening – in the time between that – when that statement was first made and now there have been thousands and thousands of new settlement construction projects announced. So I – the question is are you satisfied with the Israeli response to the President’s expression of concern about this, or are you not satisfied?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: We believe that it is in the government’s interest to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity, and we are working towards that.

QUESTION: But you believe —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I can’t go any further than —

QUESTION: That’s fine.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I can’t go any —

QUESTION: But they seem to have adopted a policy —

QUESTION: They have a policy.

QUESTION: — of building more and more.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I’ve stated what our position is.

QUESTION: To follow Said’s previous question —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Our position will not change in the next – in the past 30 seconds, but I’m happy to —

QUESTION: On the UNRWA funding, is it your understanding that if UNRWA no longer has any money, that the responsibility for the refugees devolves on the occupying power?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I think you’re making an assumption of what will occur, and that’s not an assumption that I would make. We have not halted funding to UNRWA. The decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place. Let’s not make – let’s wait until that deliberation occurs.

QUESTION: But it is the responsibility of an occupying power to look after refugees?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: It’s the responsibility – it’s the responsibility of the Secretary of State to make a decision on that, and he – and he will after he’s had appropriate deliberation.

QUESTION: On China?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: One more question. Right in the back, right there.

QUESTION: When that would be expected?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, we don’t have a timetable to be expected —

QUESTION: The Secretary —

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: — but when it does —

QUESTION: So it is wide open?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Well, when – we don’t have a timetable to be – when it’s to be expected, but when it does occur, I will let you know. I am – will be up here for as long as you need me and I appreciate you taking the time today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: I hope all of you have a nice Thursday and a good weekend. Thank you so much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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