Tag Archives: JRCNuclearSecurity

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – December 19, 2017

3:25 p.m. EST

MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.


MS NAUERT: How are you?


MS NAUERT: Hi. How have you been?

QUESTION: I’ve been good.

MS NAUERT: It’s been a while. Nice to have you back. Okay. I’d like to start with mentioning the Secretary’s trip to Ottawa, Canada today. As you know, Secretary Tillerson is in Ottawa making his first trip to Canada as the Secretary of State. Secretary Tillerson is joined on this first trip by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Paco Palmieri. Many of you know him. And they were welcomed by Ambassador Kelly Craft.

While in Ottawa, the Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Freeland and several other senior Canadian officials as part of our ongoing and close relationship between our two countries. During the meetings, they discussed a range of issues, including mutual prosperity, defense and security, and our shared concerns on global issues, including North Korea and the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

On North Korea, the Secretary and foreign minister talked through upcoming plans to convene the United Nations Commanding Sending States[1] meeting in January. We still don’t have the specifics nailed down, so I won’t have anything additional for you on that. But as soon as I do, I will certainly bring it to you. That group will include South Korea, Japan, and other key affected countries to discuss how the global community can address North Korea’s threat to international peace. Lastly, they spoke about the importance of border security and our mutual economic relationship.

In addition to that, I want to draw your attention to something that we addressed last week, but unfortunately, the situation has not improved in Ukraine. I want to draw your attention to the dire humanitarian situation and the spiraling violence in eastern Ukraine. Last night, Russian-led forces shelled the town of Novoluhanske with Grad rockets, wounding eight civilians and damaging dozens of homes, a school, and also a playground. Fighting also resumed today around the Donetsk filtration station and its system of pipes carrying poisonous chlorine gas. This is considered extremely dangerous. If those were to go off in this area, which is close to where people live, it could be potentially devastating.

Employees of the filtration station are trapped in the station’s bomb shelter at this time, we are told. Previously, a Russian-Ukrainian military body has organized ceasefires to allow civilians in similar situations safe passage. However, the Russian Government has unilaterally withdrawn from this deconfliction mechanism. This happened yesterday. So those trapped in the filtration station will remained stranded, under fire, until Russian-led forces stop the attack.

Russia and its proxies are the source of violence in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian Government continues to perpetuate an active conflict and humanitarian crisis through its leadership and supply of military forces on the ground, as well as its direct control over proxy authorities. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is not an organic civil war. The so-called “republics” that Russia created are not legitimate entities.

The United States calls on Russia to put an end to the attacks in eastern Ukraine, withdraw its forces and heavy weapons from the sovereign territory of Ukraine, and agree to a robust UN peacekeeping mission. And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Oh, one more thing. I’d like to – many of you joined us yesterday for our public affairs holiday party, and I just wanted to thank you so much for coming up and spending time with our front office and the front office of many of our bureaus here at the State Department. We love having you. And I think it’s just another example of how we can certainly disagree over some things, but we can hang out and have a good couple of drinks together. So thanks for showing up.

QUESTION: Will there be one for the New Year or —

MS NAUERT: Well, that’s a good idea. (Laughter.) That’s a good idea. And we’ve got a little surprise for you coming up in Robert’s office in the new year. So – especially on a tough day.

But, Josh, go ahead. Good to see you.

QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. You too.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Why don’t we just start right on there. Is the – do you have any update for us on the status of trying to work out a UN peacekeeping deal for Ukraine? How’s that going?

MS NAUERT: That’s something that’s still under discussion. One of the things that we consider to be important about that is having it be a not only a real UN peacekeeping mission, but the line of conflict is something that would have to be agreed upon. We have some concerns about how that would work out. Russians are pushing for one side of things, and we’re pushing for another side of things. But it’s still something that we are looking at seriously.

QUESTION: And then I wanted to follow up on the National Security Strategy that the administration released yesterday. One piece of that brought up the issue of STEM visas that are issues in the context of intellectual property and the allegation that other countries are sending students here who then steal trade secrets basically and bring them back to their foreign governments. And it says that the U.S. will consider restricting those STEM visas from designated countries. What are those designated countries?

MS NAUERT: So the National Security Strategy which the President rolled out yesterday is a broad-based document that looks at and highlights our national security priorities. It’s not meant to be a piece of legislation; it’s not intended to provide extremely specific guidance to various government agencies, entities, and departments. So some of this we will take back from the National Security Strategy, take a look at the State Department in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. We have the ability to take a look at these things and decide what needs to be done from there.

So we don’t have anything specific for that yet. I can tell you, however, that our U.S. embassies and consulates are continuing to process visa applications as we normally would. So there has been no change at any point yet. No changes have been made. Security screening and vetting is something that you all know well that is constantly reevaluated; it’s constantly evolving and changing within various environments.

So if I have anything new for you on that, I’ll certainly bring that to you.

QUESTION: Sure. New visa steps aside then, can you tell us which countries are considered at a larger risk for that kind of problem?

MS NAUERT: To my knowledge, that has not been determined in any kind of way. Perhaps I missed something. But in that document, I don’t recall having seen any specific countries mentioned. So I think some of that will just – the U.S. Government will take a look at that.

QUESTION: And then on that issue – and one of the countries that comes to mind for a lot of people because of its focus in the NSS was China – China’s Government reacting pretty angrily to that strategy today, saying it’s part of a new Cold War kind of phenomenon. Do you have any response to the Chinese reaction?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think what we would say is no, it’s not that. It’s not what they called it out to be. We have a broad relationship with China, as we do with many nations around the world, where we have areas where we have mutual cooperation and get along great. As you know, the President has a very warm relationship with President Xi. But we also have areas of disagreement, and some of the areas of disagreement include human rights, some trade issues, and all that. So we can have that kind of broad-based relationship like yesterday. We all hung out and we had a good time together and celebrated the holidays, but sometimes we duke it out here as well.

QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.


Hi, Said.

QUESTION: Can I move on?

MS NAUERT: Okay. Does – first of all, does anyone else want to cover DPRK or China?


MS NAUERT: Oh, a lot of you do. Okay.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about DPRK.


MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead. Hi, Carol.

QUESTION: McMaster today gave an interview in which he said now is not the time for talking, and he seemed to suggest that the United States may have to forcibly denuclearize the Korean Peninsula if North Korea does not denuclearize itself. It seemed to be an implicit rejection of the diplomacy that the Secretary has been doing.

MS NAUERT: I heard —

QUESTION: I was wondering what the State Department —

MS NAUERT: I heard General McMaster – I heard General McMaster’s interview this morning. I don’t recall him saying how you just characterized it. I know our official administration policy, our administration policy, is we would certainly like to sit down, be in the place where we can have talks with North Korea, but we are nowhere near that point yet. Our administration policy has not changed. We continue to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. There are many, many other nations around the world that agree with us on that front. We would like to have the opportunity to talk with North Korea when the time is right, and I want to be clear about that; the time is not right, right now.

QUESTION: Just on China.

MS NAUERT: Hi. How are you?

QUESTION: Good. South Korean President Moon said —

MS NAUERT: Can we come back to South Korea, stick with North Korea?

QUESTION: This is also North Korea.

MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. They said that the U.S. and ROK are considering postponing military exercises until after the Winter Olympics. So – and obviously, part of this reason would be North Korea. So my question is: How seriously is the U.S. considering this proposal?

MS NAUERT: Well, I think that would be a DOD issue, but I can tell you that we have joint exercises that are legal. We do them around the world. We do them with many other countries. And those are to maintain our readiness and to be able to make sure that we are ready in the event of a worst-case scenario. But that’s something that would just be handled by DOD.

Okay. Anything else on ROK?

QUESTION: Heather?


QUESTION: Korea-China.

MS NAUERT: Okay, hold on. Hi, Conor.

QUESTION: Just something that a White House official said. Tom Bossert, the Homeland Security Advisor, said that “President Trump has used just about every lever you could use, short of starving the people of North Korea to death, to change their behavior. So we don’t have a lot of room left to apply pressure to change their behavior.” If that is the case, how much more room do you have then, and how can you achieve results with this peaceful pressure campaign, especially again, as you say, now is not the right time to meet, but H.R. McMaster also said recently that we’re running out of time.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So look, diplomacy is what we do in this building and that’s not going to change. We will continue to push ahead with the peaceful pressure campaign, the maximum pressure campaign. Every day we’re speaking with other countries about having those countries do more to try to stem the tide of money going into North Korea. So that hasn’t changed. We’re pushing ahead. We had some good news come out of Thailand. They’re doing less in conjunction with North Korea than they had in the past. I’d have to look at the specific details.

But my point is there are a lot of countries doing a lot to contribute to this. Last week at the United Nations, Secretary Tillerson called on countries to go beyond the scope of the UN Security Council resolutions and agreements to do their part to choke off that money supply to North Korea. So regardless of what others in the U.S. Government say, we’re pushing ahead with peaceful diplomacy, maximum pressure.

QUESTION: So you think there is more – you would disagree? You think there is more room?

MS NAUERT: I think there is more that we can do, yeah. And that’s just like we call on Russia and China every single day to do more, to do more to put pressure on North Korea.

Anything else on North Korea?

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?

MS NAUERT: Hi. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: So Bossert was talking specifically about the cyber attack.

MS NAUERT: Oh, he was. Okay.

QUESTION: And so —

MS NAUERT: I did not see his comments. I read a couple of them.

QUESTION: No, that’s fine. I just – I’m just trying to – so the pressure campaign, is that just targeting North Korea for its nuclear program and its missile activity, or is it also trying to tamp down on them for what they’re doing in the cyber sphere as well?

MS NAUERT: If it is with regard to cyber, I’m not familiar with that. One of the things we focus on here in that building – and cyber, I think, would be handled out of DHS or Department of Justice, perhaps even DOD – but we focus here on the money that goes into North Korea that North Korea then ends up using to fund its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs, so that’s what we stay focused on.

QUESTION: So the State Department won’t be involved in any unilateral consequence —

MS NAUERT: What I said is I’m just not familiar with that part of it. I’d just have to refer you to DHS at this point. If we have anything more, an angle that the State Department is specifically involved with, I’ll certainly let you know. Okay?

QUESTION: Heather?


QUESTION: Yeah. And on that —


MS NAUERT: Okay. Janne, hi.

QUESTION: Thank you, Heather. As you already know that five Chinese combat airplanes flew over in the South Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zones. How do you comment on this?

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Tell me —

QUESTION: Five Chinese combat airplanes flew over in South Korean Air Defense Identification Zone, so how do you comment on this?

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, I just don’t have anything for you on that. I’d refer you back to South Korea or to the Government of China.

QUESTION: Do you think this action is, like, threatening South Korea and China?

MS NAUERT: I just – I don’t have any specifics on that for you, so I don’t want to comment on that, because I just don’t have any specifics for you, okay?


MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey, how are you? Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we stay on DPRK, please, for just a second longer.

MS NAUERT: Wait, Afghanistan?

QUESTION: North Korea. North Korea.

MS NAUERT: Oh, North Korea. Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Secretary Tillerson pretty much signaled a willingness to have talks with North Korea recently, saying as much as, hey, you want to talk about weather, let’s talk about weather. I wanted to ask if you reached out to the North Koreans directly via diplomatic channels either in New York or someplace else to suggest having talks, other than making those public announcements.

MS NAUERT: First, let me tell you our U.S. Government policy has not changed. We are not going to be sitting down for talks with North Korea at this time. They are showing no interest, they’re showing no willingness to sit down and have conversations with the U.S. Government.

In terms of your question about whether or not any U.S. Government official or representative sat down and had a talk with North Korea while at the United Nations, the answer is absolutely no. The Secretary did address publicly the North Korean permanent representative, and he said to him, among other things, any notion that the source of tensions on the peninsula are the fault of one party – because some have blamed the United States for the deplorable conditions in North Korea – there is one party that has carried out illegal detonation of nuclear devices; there is only one party that continues to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, overflying other sovereign nations – Japan – threatening civil aviation security because these launches are undertaken with no notification.

So the Secretary addressed him publicly, but the U.S. Government has had no other conversations.

Okay. Shall we move on to another issue?

QUESTION: One more about China, please.

MS NAUERT: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: So just calling China and Russia the rival powers in the —

MS NAUERT: Start your question again, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I mean, my question is that just calling China and Russia the rival powers in the national strategy reports. So does it signal any policy change from the U.S. Government towards the countries?

MS NAUERT: About the national security strategy?


MS NAUERT: I think I would just go back to the President and his team and our folks at the National Security Council outlined four pillars, four pillars of our national security strategy. And among those are just what we’ve talked about already – taking a look at other nations and determining other nations and where we have areas of agreement, and where we have areas of disagreement, and how we will – it may seem messy to some people, but we’ll work together with some countries in areas where we have agreement, and we will continue to call out countries and – in areas where we have disagreement. So I think I’ve stated that already, and the President’s comments were clear.

Okay? Let’s move on. Hi, Said.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Thank you. I want to ask you about the American-Palestinian relations. First of all, at the vote yesterday at the Security Council, 1421, and Ambassador Haley said that this is to help the process of peace. Could you explain to us, what is – how could that possibly – your vote, your no-vote, your veto, could help the cause of peace?

MS NAUERT: Yeah, I don’t want to speak on behalf of Ambassador Haley. She has a very capable team up there who handle that for her. But I can say this: We exercised our veto power because we view that that resolution would do more harm than good. The United States wants to not add to any additional strife. We feel that that resolution vote causes additional strife in the area. The President has long called for the two sides to sit down and have peace talks. They’re not there yet; we continue to work on those peace talks, however.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is a position that the United States has long held. I mean, we can go back all the way to the late ‘40s, but most recently – more recently in the ‘80s, Resolution 478; last year, 2334, which basically was saying that Jerusalem is occupied territory, and we consider whatever Israel has done is null and void. Why would this suddenly be contrary to the American position?

MS NAUERT: I think what we would say is that the President took great care in his decision that he made about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital. We are not making any decisions about boundaries or borders; we see that as being up to final status negotiations, and they’re not there yet.

QUESTION: And I have one more about today, because today in the General Assembly, there was a vote on the right to self-determination. And 176 countries voted for the right of Palestinians for self-determination. You and Israel and the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau voted against. I mean, the right to self-determination is basically an American concept. It is an American principle. It was – it has been put forth by – pioneered and put forth by the United States. Why would you oppose the right to self-determination of the Palestinians?

MS NAUERT: Well, I think we would support – in terms of that, the United States is supporting something that both sides have to be able to live with and be able to agree with, the Israelis and the Palestinians. So when we get to the final status negotiations – when I say “we” I just mean the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we’re happy to help support and facilitate those talks, and we have people hard at work at that, but they have to decide; they have to come up with something that’s going to work for both sides.

QUESTION: And I promise, my final question – sorry, Michele – my final question.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: She shares.


QUESTION: You can ask all my questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you if there is any ongoing talks or contacts with the Palestinian leadership at the present time.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I could just tell you that we look forward to having additional talks with the Palestinians. We were at a hopeful point with Mr. Abbas at the United Nations earlier this year. We had positive conversations about the peace process. Relationships between the United States and other nations have their peaks and their valleys. Some days are better than others, but we look forward to continuing those talks and we’re confident that we’ll be able to do that.

Okay. Laurie, you want to talk Iraq?


MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, Michele, did you have a question about this?

QUESTION: It’s okay. Yeah, quickly.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Sorry.

QUESTION: So we heard —

MS NAUERT: She’s been so patient.

QUESTION: It’s okay, I don’t care. We heard Ambassador Haley say that this resolution was an insult that won’t be forgotten. How does the State Department view that statement? Do you agree with that? And it kind of sounds like a threat of some kind.

MS NAUERT: I don’t have Ambassador Haley’s comments directly in front of me, so I don’t want to – I don’t want to speak on her behalf. I know that one of the things we’ve been extremely focused on today is the Secretary’s travels up to Canada to handle issues related to North Korea. We have a whole world in front of us. That’s just not something I have anything for you on.

QUESTION: Okay. And so when you say that the resolution itself does more harm than good and causes more strife, well, those parties feel like the U.S. declaration does the same thing. So if the U.S. is going to make a statement like that that many feel, including the U.S.’s closest allies, causes more harm than good at this time, why would the U.S. have such a problem with a resolution —


QUESTION: — a resolution that simply expresses the opposite opinion?

MS NAUERT: They’re certainly – other nations are certainly welcome to support resolutions, just as they did, and that’s sort of – they have the right – the right to their free speech; they have the right to make the votes and choose the votes that they decide to put forward and vote for; and we have the right to vote the way that we choose, and we made that decision.

QUESTION: But calling it an – for the U.S. side to call it an insult that won’t be forgotten, it kind of seems like the U.S. has something in mind or some kind of retaliation for that.

MS NAUERT: That – I don’t have anything for you on that.


MS NAUERT: I would just have to refer you to USUN.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS NAUERT: Okay? Laurie, go right ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Dutch prime minister recently called on Baghdad to end its ban on flights to and from Kurdish airports, saying that it was getting in the way of Dutch military operations. Do you agree with that position? Do you think the ban should end, whether for military or humanitarian reasons?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I was looking into this and talking to some of our experts who cover Iraq about this very issue earlier today, and I think this goes back to something that, for a couple months now, we’ve been calling for Iraq and Erbil to sit down and have talks. And I feel like we say this about a lot of nations, but it’s really a perfect example in Iraq. That is a situation where they need to work it out themselves. I understand under the Iraqi constitution that the central Government of Iraq has sort of management over the airports throughout the country. That’s my understanding of the Iraqi constitution – not only the airports but also the borders. But for that very reason, it’s even more important for Erbil and Baghdad to sit down and have talks about the status of its airports.

QUESTION: And you’ve been saying that for so long and that – I’ve got a different understanding of the airports, but anyhow.


QUESTION: I’ve been – I think it’s joint operations, but whatever. You’ve been saying that for so long. The Iraqis do nothing. In fact, they increase the punitive measures on Kurdistan and show no regard whatever – whatsoever for your calls for dialogue. Don’t you think it’s time to publicly pressure Iraq? For example, the German foreign minister, when the prime minister of the Kurdistan region just visited there, said, “We’re going to make our aid to both of you, Baghdad and Erbil, contingent on a dialogue.” Are you inclined to up your pressure because, so far, nothing has happened?

MS NAUERT: Well, we have spoken about this a lot here. I think you’ve asked me about it at every briefing.

QUESTION: And I get the same answer and nothing happens.

MS NAUERT: At every briefing since this happened. We continue to talk with the countries – I mean with Erbil and Baghdad. We continue to talk with them and urge them to sit down and have conversations. In terms of punitive measures such as withholding money or anything, we never forecast that. I’m not saying we would do it at all, but we just continue to ask the countries to sit down and have a conversation. It’s ultimately hurting themselves by not sitting down. We hope that countries would see the wisdom in that.


QUESTION: If in a month from now we have this same conversation, is there anything you’re prepared to do to put more pressure on Baghdad?

MS NAUERT: Laurie, I think that’s a hypothetical. We’ll just follow it and see what happens then.

QUESTION: A month from now? Okay.


QUESTION: A new topic?

MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

QUESTION: Honduras. The opposition leader is here in town urging you not to recognize Hernandez’s reelection. Does the U.S. believe that these – this vote should be – that there should be a revote?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So there are a couple entities which have looked at that election and they’ve come up with a little bit of different information about how they regard the election. We’re continuing to look at both of their responses, the OAS and the European election commission, I believe it’s called, to determine our position on this.

I can tell you Honduras’ supreme electoral council, it declared the incumbent presidential candidate, Juan Hernandez, as the winner. The process overall is underway. There’s that five-day period in which – that’s established under Honduran law, and that’s when people can present challenges that they might have to the election result. One of the things that we’re doing is having conversations with both sides, the opposition and the incumbent, to ask them to refrain from any provocative talk. We’re calling on both sides to not commit any kind of violent acts. I can confirm for you that our deputy assistant – excuse me – our deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere, John Creamer, met with the opposition alliance’s Salvador Nasralla yesterday. Yesterday was December 18th, right? But I want to point out and be clear about this that we regularly meet with many individuals from the government in Honduras. Since the election we’ve met with candidates on both sides regularly.

QUESTION: I have one —

QUESTION: Do you support a call to have the election counted once more?

MS NAUERT: Well, there are two different electoral bodies, if you will, that have looked at this. My understanding is that they’ve come up with different results at this point. We’re just taking a look at all that. We’re not ready to make a call right now. They’re in that five-day period and so we’re going to wait and see what happens then, okay?

QUESTION: I have one other question —

MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah, go right ahead.

QUESTION: — on another topic – on Egypt, because there was a woman here who came to the State Department a couple weeks ago. Her parents are both green card holders and jailed in Egypt. There are about 20 other Americans who are jailed in Egypt, and many were hoping that Pence would raise that on his trip, though he’s postponed it for now. What’s the State Department doing on that front, on the American citizens?

MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with that case. I can just look into it and get back with you. I don’t recall that individual you mentioned having been at the State Department, but let me see what I can find for you about that, okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, Senator Tim Kaine sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson and Mattis expressing his concern that U.S. forces and coalition forces in Syria are switching from an anti-ISIS mission to an anti-Iran and proxies mission. What would be your answer to that?

MS NAUERT: You said that Senator Kaine sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson about this?

QUESTION: And Mattis.

MS NAUERT: I have not seen this letter supposedly going to Secretary Tillerson. I’m just not familiar with it. Okay? Hi.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Switching to Burma, Myanmar.


QUESTION: Wanted to talk about the – ask you about the two Reuters journalists who have been detained there. In the past, the State Department has suggested that the civilian government is not fully in control of events and it has focused its criticism on the military. Is it therefore a concern to the United States that the civilian president, Htin Kyaw, should have given approval for the case against them to proceed?

MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with him giving approval for their case to proceed. I don’t have the details on that. What I can tell you is that we’ve been covering – following the cases of the two reporters, the Reuters reporters, very closely. We are deeply concerned about their detention. We do not know their whereabouts. That is of concern also. They’ve now been detained for, what, a week – about a week now, right? And today I want to make it clear that we’re calling for their immediate release. We call for the release of these two reporters.

As you all know, I was recently in Burma and had a chance to meet with a lot of reporters, and despite the status of the government – some very difficult things happening in that country – they have reporters who are working hard to tell the story and to try to accurately tell the story about what is happening in the northern Rakhine State. I met reporters who represent a free and fair press over there. Not all of them do; some of them have a state component to them or are heavily influenced by the state. But I met a few reporters who have the courage to report openly and freely, and we applaud those efforts. And so it is tremendously concerning to us when we hear that reporters have not only been detained but they’ve been detained and we don’t know their whereabouts. I can just tell you we’re covering this – following this very closely.

QUESTION: On this —

MS NAUERT: Anything else on Burma?


MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead, sir. Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you, Heather. My name is Mushfiqul. I’m representing Justnewsbd. Right groups —

MS NAUERT: You know what, let me pause you for one second. I just want to add one more thing to that. It is our understanding that the families do not know about their loved ones’ whereabouts. I mean, imagine that. You’re a family member. Your child, your husband, your brother is reporting, and you’re just trying to tell the story. You’re reporting, you’re detained, and you don’t know where that loved one was. I cannot imagine, as a mom and a former reporter, what that would feel like. And so I hope that the Government of Burma will let us know how they’re doing and let the families know how they’re doing.

Sir, go right ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Heather. Human Rights Watch was – has claimed satellite images shows that dozens of Rohingya villages were burned the week Myanmar signed an agreement with the Bangladesh to repatriate hundreds of thousands of refugees. The evidence that villages were still being damaged as late as 2nd December contradicted assurance by the Burmese Government that violence had ceased and that the Rohingya could safely return to Myanmar, the watchdog said. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement on 23rd November to begin the proceed of repatriating some of the estimated 6,500 – 6,500 – thousand refugees who fled Myanmar in the past four months.

Do you think, with this reality, it will really work for repatriating the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to their homeland?

MS NAUERT: Well, that’s one of the things that we hope for eventually. We hope that the refugees will eventually be able to go home, to go home to Burma. More than 600,000 of them have been forced across the border since August alone and now it’s December. Bangladesh has been so generous in accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees. The U.S. Government has provided significant financial assistance to help with that. I want to be clear that that financial assistance goes directly to aid groups. That financial assistance does not go to the individuals. I want to be clear about that.

In terms of the repatriation plan, we’d like to see the plan. We’ve heard about it in concept. But one of the things that would be important to be in that plan is the voluntary, safe, and dignified return. So it has to be voluntary. People have to feel like it’s safe to go home. If they don’t feel like it’s safe to go home, it’s probably not going to be safe to go home. They have to have a dignified return. That means treating the people well as they decide to return home. It also needs to be voluntary. They can’t be forced to leave one country to go to another country. They have to feel safe and ready to go home. We don’t think that that situation calls for it just yet.

Unfortunately, I think it’s probably not safe for them to go home at this point, but we’re continuing to assess the situation and continuing to have our conversations not only with the Bangladesh Government, but also with the Burmese Government. Okay.

Anything else on Burma and Bangladesh? Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask on Yemen?

QUESTION: On Mexico?

MS NAUERT: Oh, yeah. Hi.

QUESTION: There was just a bus crash involving cruise ships in Mexico. Are you guys hearing anything about that and the possibility that there could be American casualties?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I have some notes on that because I heard about that not long before I went out – before I came out here to talk with all of you. There was a bus crash. And it was an accident, I would say, involving a bus that was contracted by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. It was in Quintana Roo, Mexico, which, as I understand, is close to —


MS NAUERT: — Cancun, thank you. We’ve heard certainly about that. We’re following it very closely. We would want to express our condolences to all of those who have been affected by that. It’s certainly a tragedy. We know that lots of families and individuals are traveling this time of year when people go to have fun and they get a few days off, certainly, for vacation at the holiday time. We’re continuing to monitor that situation. We’re working with local authorities. Some of our officials from our U.S. embassy, or our – perhaps it’s our mission – are on their way there to better assess the situation and to speak with government officials to see how we can help and try to determine if there are any U.S. citizens who were involved. That we just don’t know yet.

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t know that Americans are involved at this point?

MS NAUERT: I do not at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Could I ask a question on Yemen?


QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, both the —

MS NAUERT: We’re all over the map today, aren’t we? Yes.

QUESTION: I know, sometimes. It’s the end of the – midweek. Yesterday, both the Government of the United States and United Kingdom called on the Saudi coalition to let up and allow humanitarian supplies and aid to go through to Sana’a and other places. Could you explain to us what you are doing in terms of talking to the Saudis to convince them or to allow this aid to go through?

MS NAUERT: Yeah, and I’m glad you asked about it. It’s an area that we care a lot about. We have had many conversations with the Saudi Government. We’ve put out numerous statements from the State Department. The President has as well. The President put one out about a week ago on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Just last Friday, our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, along with USAID Administrator Mark Green, held a meeting with humanitarian aid groups to try to get more information about what’s happening. When we talk about where we get our information, part of that is from our people on the ground in any given country, but part of that is also talking with aid groups. And we hear from aid groups about the situation on the ground.

The situation is certainly dire there, and that’s why we’ve been very clear and we’ve increasingly called on the Saudi Government to open up humanitarian aid. We have not seen enough aid getting through the ports, we have not seen the fuel supplies coming in that are necessary to get that aid in. And you’ve all seen the pictures on television; you’ve seen the pictures in the newspaper that people are in crisis. You see the women, you see the children there, they need help. I certainly hope the Saudi Government will listen to us and that they will try to open up that aid as we have called for.

QUESTION: But the —

QUESTION: So the – go ahead.

QUESTION: The Saudis say that the reason that they are not able to allow more aid in is because they’re – they have these concerns about those ports being used to smuggle in missiles and other weapons that are being shot at them.


QUESTION: The U.S. has been giving —

MS NAUERT: And we’ve just seen that report about a – what they believe is a ballistic missile, which I can’t confirm that, but being fired into Saudi Arabia. So they do have every right to be concerned about their sovereignty and about their security. We are sympathetic to that. We’ve been attacked here in the United States too, so every country has a right to be concerned about that. But you also see the humanitarian situation and you see the horrific situation that people have put – been put in for several years now. And so we are asking the Saudis to open up the ports and allow humanitarian aid to come in.

QUESTION: So how – I mean, is there some advice that you’re providing to the Saudis about how they can let in just the humanitarian aid but better keep out the weapons? Because it seems like they’re working at cross purposes.

MS NAUERT: Yeah, I would assume we are. Some of those conversations might be between DOD and the Saudi Government. We have a good relationship with the Saudi Government; you all know that. I would imagine some of the conversations would include tips to figure that out.

Okay, we’ve got to wrap it up, but —

QUESTION: Well, just on that.


QUESTION: Given the Saudis’ restrictions, is it the U.S.’s view that Saudi Arabia is in part responsible for the famine and for the deaths of these civilians?

MS NAUERT: I’m not going to go as far as saying that, but what they can do is that they can open up humanitarian aid and they can allow it to get through to the people who need it most. Okay?

QUESTION: Heather.

MS NAUERT: Lalit, then we’ve got to wrap it up.

QUESTION: Yeah. About a month ago, U.S. issued a statement asking Pakistan to re-arrest Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar-e Tayyiba leader. He’s still freely roaming around the country. What do you have to say on that? Has U.S. – has Pakistan listened to U.S. asks?

MS NAUERT: I don’t – for those of you who – I’m not sure if we’ve talked about this here in this room before. I think we may have on one other occasion. And who Lalit is referring to is the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks – remember those – where the guys drove up on the boat, they went into the hotel, they shot up hundreds of people, killed I believe it was hundreds, including some Americans. That happened a few years back. He’s asking about the mastermind of those attacks, a man who is affiliated with LeT, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, one of the terror groups. It’s a group that the United States Government considers to be a terror organization.

We have many conversations with the Government of Pakistan. One of the things that happened recently is that this guy was held on house arrest. Pakistan released him from house arrest, and now there is word that he may be running for some sort of office. I want to remind folks we have a $10 million Reward for Justice program that would reward for information that would bring him to justice. So I want to make that clear so that everybody knows, $10 million out for this guy, and we would certainly have concerns about him running for office. So I’m glad you highlighted that.

QUESTION: But Pakistanis are saying they don’t have enough evidence against him. Has the U.S. provided evidence as well?

MS NAUERT: I can tell you that his organization – his organization that was responsible for those attacks – is considered a foreign terror organization. It’s considered a foreign terror organization by the U.S. Government for a reason and for a good reason. I would imagine that if we had any intelligence – and that’s not an area that I can discuss, anyway – but we would certainly share it with the Pakistanis on that front. I hope they’ll do the right thing.


QUESTION: But what implications Pakistan has if he’s – continues to move freely?

MS NAUERT: I can’t —

QUESTION: That was a pretty strong statement U.S. issued.

MS NAUERT: I can’t comment on that. I would just have to refer you back to the Government of Pakistan and hope that they will do the right thing and remind folks across Pakistan we have a $10 million reward for this guy. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Thanks, everybody. We’ll see you soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 4:02 p.m.)

DPB # 72


[1] United Nations Command Sending States

Press Releases: Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at a Press Availability

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: Okay. Hi, everybody. Great to see everyone here. Before I begin, I’d like to extend Canada’s thoughts and condolences to our American guests in light of the terrible train derailment in Washington state. We extend our sympathies to those who lost loved ones and wish a full and swift recovery to the injured.

(Via interpreter) Thank you all for being here on the traditional Algonquin territory that we occupy. I am very happy to welcome to Ottawa my colleague, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The close partnership between Canada and the United States rests on common economic interests and common values. This partnership enables us to collaborate on subjects like trade, investment, energy and the environment, the security – border security, defense, and global issues. So I really appreciate this opportunity to further discuss the relationship between Canada and the United States when it comes to important bilateral, regional, and global issues that have a great effect on the lives of both Canadians and Americans.

(Inaudible) an interesting time to come to Ottawa, one of the coldest capitals in the world, but in honor of your visit it warmed up a little bit today.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I appreciate that.

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: We covered a number of topics of great importance in our bilateral relationship and in the work that we do together around the world. We had positive discussions about the Canada-U.S. relationship, including border management and security, North American defense, energy security, and environmental cooperation. This conversation was greatly enhanced by the participation of my fellow ministers who sit on the Canada-U.S. Cabinet Committee, and I’d like to thank them for coming to Ottawa for that very important meeting.

On NAFTA, Canada’s priority continues to be maintaining the achievements that have bought 23 years of predictability, openness, and collaboration to North America and that supports so many jobs on both sides of the border. We will continue to bring fact-based arguments to the negotiating table as we work to develop a modernized agreement that addresses today’s realities while preserving our shared economic prosperity. We believe a win-win deal is both possible and necessary.

Rex and I also had the opportunity to discuss hemispheric concerns, including the crisis in Venezuela and what actions we can take individually, together, and in cooperation with the Lima Group, of which Canada is a member, to address the deteriorating political, economic, and humanitarian situation there. We discussed an issue that we and the world and I think very much Canadians are watching closely: Myanmar and the plight of the Rohingya. This is a crisis that we in Canada have taken important steps to address, and Canada appreciates the leadership the U.S. is taking at the Security Council.

I also want to note that Rex has raised the issue directly with the authorities in Myanmar. Thank you, Rex, for doing that. And I was pleased to see the Security Council Presidential Statement on Myanmar onNovember 6th which called for an end to the violence being committed against the Rohingya. This is ethnic cleansing, it is a crime against humanity, and it is absolutely essential that the perpetrators be held to account.

Regarding Ukraine, Rex and I had a very good conversation about the potential for a peacekeeping mission and our two countries’ resolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s illegal invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory. Our conversation was particularly useful because I’ll be traveling to Ukraine tomorrow, and I’ll be meeting with leaders of the Ukrainian Government.

And then finally, Rex and I spoke at length about North Korea and what further action the international community can take to put pressure on the North Korean regime to abandon its dangerous nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Canada and the United States are aligned with the rest of the world in our position that these provocative and illegal acts cannot be tolerated. We fully support regional and international efforts to address the North Korean threat and the work of the UN Security Council. We believe that a diplomatic solution to the crisis is essential and possible.

In the spirit of working to achieve that and of maintaining pressure on the North Korean regime, I am pleased to formally announce today that the Secretary of State and I have agreed that on January 16th, Canada and the United States will cohost in Vancouver a meeting of foreign ministers from around the world in a demonstration of international solidarity against North Korea’s dangerous and illegal actions. We will use this gathering as an opportunity to advance our work on diplomatic efforts towards a more peaceful, prosperous, and nuclear-free future on the North Korean Peninsula and to demonstrate international solidarity in our condemnation of North Korea’s actions.

Finally, I want to thank you, Rex, and the rest of the American delegation for traveling to Ottawa today. I really appreciate the opportunities to have a really frank, candid dialogue about issues around the world and issues in our bilateral relationship. Merci beaucoup, Rex.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you so much, Chrystia, Foreign Minister Freeland, for the kind words and for the welcome to Canada. As indicated, I did make a commitment to come to Canada in the first year as Secretary of State, and I made it to Canada. And pleased to be in Ottawa. Obviously, not the first time I’ve traveled to Canada but my first trip as Secretary of State.

I think it’s also indicative of the importance of this relationship that during my first week in office as Secretary of State, I think if not the first meeting certainly one of the very first meetings that I had with a foreign visitor was with Foreign Minister Freeland. And I think symbolic but also indicative of how important this longstanding partnership is. From maintaining a strong trading relationship to defeating terrorism, to cooperating on a number of threats around the world, including North Korea, which was just mentioned, the United States and Canada really have a very close shared mission and shared objective in addressing all of these.

Our countries enjoy the most extensive economic relationship you’ll find anywhere in the world, and there are a number of opportunities to grow that relationship – important opportunities – and build on the strengths of both countries in the years ahead. I think it’s well known that almost 400,000 people move back and forth across this shared border, and almost $2 billion of goods and services cross our shared border every day – a real testament to the strong economic ties that exist between our people.

Canada is also an extremely important foreign market for U.S. goods as well. Millions of jobs in both of our countries depend upon our partnership. We too are committed to continue making progress toward a modernized NAFTA agreement, one that protects jobs and stimulates economic prosperity for both of our countries and is fair to both sides as well.

Canada and the United States do have one of the strongest, most reliable security partnerships, and early on it was an honor for us to cohost Foreign Minister Freeland and Defence Minister Sajjan at the State Department in May alongside Secretary Mattis for very comprehensive discussions of how we could strengthen the security relationship as well.

We appreciate Canada’s significant contributions to the coalition to defeat ISIS, to their – both their military and their humanitarian assistance to address the needs of that region that has been under conflict for some time. Canada has pledged millions of dollars of support in humanitarian assistance, which is very important to relieving the suffering of people who are only now being liberated from the clutches of ISIS.

Our countries also stand shoulder-to-shoulder in NATO, and we appreciate Canada’s decision to send troops and a lead battalion in Latvia, which underscores Canada’s commitment to the strength of the alliance in Europe and NATO. Canada’s strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty and maintenance of their territory is very likeminded with the U.S., and we have shared many, many discussions about how we can progress the talks in Ukraine to lead to Ukraine’s restoration of its full sovereignty in the face of Russia’s aggression.

And of course, NORAD, as some of you know, will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. U.S. and Canada forces protect and defend all of North America. And we did discuss next month’s ministerial in Vancouver, and I appreciate the minister’s willingness to cohost this event as we continue to find ways to advance the pressure campaign against North Korea, to send North Korea a unified message from the international community that we will not accept you as a nuclear nation, a nuclear weapons nation, and that all of us share one policy and one goal, and that is the full, complete, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And such was expressed I think in the ministerial at the UN Security Council meeting last Friday.

We’re really grateful to the relationship that Chrystia and our teams have developed over this past year. I’ve lost track of the number of the meetings that the two of us have had around the world as we find ourselves in common locations, but we never miss the opportunity to spend time together and continue what’s been a very active dialogue on a number of shared issues that are important to all of us.

To the Canadian people, I have said it before but I haven’t had the chance to say it while standing in Ottawa: Happy 150th. And on behalf of the American people, we wish you all a peaceful holiday and a most prosperous New Year. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: Okay. Where are our press guys?

QUESTION: Right here. So Minister Freeland and Secretary Tillerson, Warren Strobel from Reuters. Good to see you. I wanted to ask you a little bit more about this ministerial in Vancouver. Other than a demonstration of solidarity, what do you hope to achieve? The North Korean weapons program is something that has festered for 30 years. What precisely do you hope to achieve?

And secondly, both of you have called in different ways for – or said that there – diplomacy should be an option with North Korea. Have you seen any sign from North Korea that – either publicly or privately that they’re interested in diplomacy? Thank you.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Was that to you or me?

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: That’s to both of us, right?


FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: It’s one of yours, so why don’t you go first.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Okay. Well, with the convening of what we’re calling the Vancouver group in mid-January, this is a convening of foreign ministers from the original sending states that were involved in the original Korean conflict. But we also obviously are including other important parties – the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Sweden, and others, who we think are important to have engaged in this meeting.

What we’ll be discussing will be, first, how do we – how do we improve the effectiveness of the current pressure campaign? Are there other steps that could be taken to put additional pressure on the regime in North Korea, and how do we further take our diplomatic efforts forward? And then how do we prepare for the prospects of talk? I think it’s important to remind everyone the whole reason the pressure campaign exists and the reason the UN Security Council passed two very strong unanimous resolutions are to lead to talks. The pressure campaign is intended to lead to talks.

Now, we can’t talk unless North Korea is ready to talk. And I think as we’ve indicated, we’re waiting for them to indicate a readiness to talk. But what’s important for North Korea to know is that this pressure campaign will not abate. We will not be rolling any of it back. It will only be intensified as time goes by. And it will remain in place until they agree to give up their nuclear weapons and allow us to verify that, in fact, that is what they have done.

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: Yeah. And what I would add to that, Warren, is you started off by saying what apart from solidarity is this meeting about. Let me a little bit take issue with the question by saying solidarity is an important thing to demonstrate. It’s very important. Canada believes – and I think Rex and I share this view – to demonstrate to North Korea that this is truly a global issue, that the international community is united in condemning North Korea’s actions and in understanding them as a threat to our shared security. And showing that international solidarity is something that’s important to do and will be an important goal of this meeting.

Rex has already talked about the very important connection that we see between a sustained international pressure campaign and working on how diplomatic engagement works. And how we see it is it’s important to understand that the international pressure campaign – we believe it’s going to be successful, and a successful outcome of the international pressure campaign is a diplomatic engagement and a real conversation. And so those are the issues that we will be discussing in Vancouver in January.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for taking our questions. I have a question for both of you.

I’ll start with Secretary Tillerson: The White House has rejected calls to reopen diplomatic talks with North Korea. So if diplomacy is not on the table at the White House, what did you come here to talk to Canada about and what role do you see Canada playing in this?

And Minister Freeland, to you, in your discussions today, did you talk about military options in North Korea? And what is Canada’s position on military options in North Korea? And can I get, Minister Freeland, your answer en Francais as well? Thank you.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, the White House position on talks – they have not rejected diplomatic talks. What the White House has merely observed is that North Korea has not exhibited a willingness to talk. But the White House position and the President’s policy has always been – and I go back to why does the pressure campaign exist – and this pressure campaign of sanctions and diplomatic pressure is the President’s policy. It is the policy that came from the National Security Council that we would put in place a sanctions regime like has never been seen before, and that’s what we have today – one that involves the entire international community and one that goes beyond what just the – what the UN Security Council calls for, but countries taking unilateral action on their own to let North Korea know that we do not accept the development of their nuclear weapons program. All of it has always been intended to lead to talks. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to do this; we’d just go straight to the military option.

So I think the White House position’s quite clear. The White House supports diplomatic talks. The observation that’s being made – and I would agree with the observation – is we’re waiting on North Korea to come to that conclusion. And until they do, the pressure campaign will only intensify.

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: And nice to see you, Katie. So look, it’s important for people to appreciate the extent to which this unprecedented threat from North Korea has rallied and united the international community. We’ve already seen that with stronger than ever before resolutions by the UN Security Council supported by China, supported by Russia. That is a measure of the extent to which the international community in solidarity understands that North Korea is posing a real threat to our collective security.

The meeting of the Vancouver group is going to be another visible sign that the international community is acting in concert to speak to the Government of North Korea and to say this is threatening us all, and the pressure will increase until the behavior changes. Having said that, we believe – we’re confident that this campaign of international pressure will lead to the best outcome for the whole world, I think the only outcome for the whole world, which is a diplomatic path to a resolution of this crisis, a diplomatic path to the outcome that I think we all believe in, which is a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

(Via interpreter) And in French, we believe that, firstly, it is important to show international solidarity against the danger posed by North Korea to the international community. The UN Security Council resolutions show this international solidarity, and our Vancouver meeting will also show this international solidarity, including a pressure campaign waged against North Korea. We firmly believe that the diplomatic approach is necessary and essential and is indeed possible. And our pressure tactics and our international solidarity are the way forward towards that diplomatic approach.

And as I mentioned earlier, at our Vancouver meeting, we will discuss diplomatic avenues.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, first to you, on North Korea, is the U.S. considering halting joint military exercises in the lead-up to the Olympics as the South Korean president suggested recently in an interview?

And to both of you, both the U.S. and Canada share the conclusion that North Korea is behind the recent WannaCry cyber attack. What are both countries considering doing to punish North Korea for their – for the cyber attack and what will you do to prevent a similar attack in the future?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I’m unaware of any plans to alter longstanding and scheduled and regular military exercises with our partners in South Korea, the Republic of Korea, or with our partners in Japan. These exercises have been ongoing for many years. They are carried out on a scheduled basis. We announced them in advance. There’s no – nothing surprising about them and I’m aware of no – I’m not aware of any plans to change what is scheduled.

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: So let me just say on the cyber security issue, that is an issue which we discussed today. I’m not going to go into details of our conversation, but I think Canada certainly takes cyber security very seriously, including the threat from North Korea. And I would like to add in opening remarks Rex talked about the importance of having South Korea and Japan at the meeting. That’s very important for Canada, and let me emphasize the importance of having South Korea at the table. We talk about the Korean Peninsula, and we really cherish our relationship with South Korea, and we really recognize the particular threat they face and the importance of having their voice in this conversation.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My first question is for you, Minister Freeland. Did you discuss Jerusalem with Mr. Tillerson? And did you see what happened at the Security Council yesterday? You are campaigning to get a seat on the Security Council, and yet we don’t yet know what Canada thinks of Mr. Trump’s gesture regarding Jerusalem. And also, please answer in English.

(Inaudible) with the minister. I am speaking English.


QUESTION: So you’re good? (Laughter.) I’m sorry.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I can actually hear you better through here.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry about that.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: There’s an echo in here.

QUESTION: Okay, so you discussed NAFTA with Minister Freeland. We want to know if there was any advances. And there’s this impression in Canada, or maybe only in the Canadian media, that the Americans don’t truly want to renegotiate NAFTA. So do you want to try to prove us wrong?

FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: (Via interpreter) Thank you for these excellent questions. We did have a lengthy discussion of issues in the Middle East. This is a region where there are very complex issues, and Secretary Tillerson’s personal experience is something I always find very helpful in our discussions of the Middle East. Canada and the United States have different positions. We, however, always have candid and frank discussions, and I think our discussion of the Middle East was useful and important.

(In English) Certainly we did discuss a number of issues in the Middle East. It’s a subject that Rex and I have discussed on many occasions in the past. I particularly value my conversations with Rex about the Middle East given his deep personal experience of the region, including before he became Secretary of State. Canada and the United States have different views on issues, and I think that we have a strong enough relationship – both our two countries and Rex and I personally – that we’re able to be candid about those differences and explain them to one another.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, the subject of NAFTA obviously was a part of all the discussions today and all the meetings I had, as it rightly should be because it’s an extremely important issue to both of our countries. I am not engaged in the NAFTA negotiations directly. Those are carried out by the U.S. Trade Representative Mr. Lighthizer.

Having said that, though, we had an exchange of the importance of the trading relationship. Again, we commented on a couple of numbers. This is a trading relationship that’s important to millions of American jobs; it’s important to millions of Canadian jobs. And it is an effort to modernize the agreement that’s been around now for more than three decades, and we talked about how other events in the world and other trading relationships in the world have emerged over the last 30 years that are having an impact on how NAFTA performs. Some of these impacts come from other third parties that are trading with each of our nations, and so it is timely and right that we should re-examine that agreement and bring it up to date and modernize it for today’s global trading balances.

Having said that, it’s – as a – as the old saying goes, the devil’s in the details. And the parties are now involved in the details of those negotiations, and I know both parties are approaching the negotiations in good faith and an effort to achieve a modernized NAFTA agreement. I think the next several weeks are going to be very important to those discussions, and my role in the State Department is to be supportive of a positive outcome and ensure that parties are considering all aspects in the broader context of the specific trade issues that the two are negotiating.

Thank you.


Sweet Success with Nuclear: Malaysian Farmers to Grow Natural Sugar Substitute

Bangi, Malaysia – Farmers in impoverished communities in East Malaysia will be able to grow a cash crop starting next year – thanks to nuclear science.

Stevia, a natural sugar substitute, is native to South America and would not survive in Malaysia’s tropical climate. Researchers at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency have used irradiation to develop a variety suited for humid and damp conditions. The new breed, which will be available to farmers for the next growing season, is not only tolerant to humidity but is also a lot bushier than the traditional variety, bearing more and larger leaves. This is particularly important because the sweetener is extracted from the plant’s leaves.

While it has been used as a sweetener in parts of South America for centuries, Stevia is only now becoming popular in the rest of the world as an alternative to both sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and other government agencies are now working to propagate the plant to farmers in Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo Island, as part of a community project set up by the government to improve the livelihood of the rural population in East Malaysia. “There is growing demand for natural sweeteners across Asia, and once the right varieties are available, Sabah and other parts of Malaysia will be well suited for their cultivation,” said Norazlina Noordin, a plant breeder at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency.

The IAEA, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), supports countries, including Malaysia, in the use of radiation for agricultural research and development, including the development of enhanced varieties of seeds for improved production. This technique, which is harmless to humans or the environment, is responsible for the development of many favorable varieties, including salt tolerant rice in Bangladesh and soybeans with double the yield of traditional varieties in Indonesia.

The gamma greenhouse

Developing new varieties is a trial and error process. Scientists irradiate seeds or seedlings using different doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation induces changes in a plant’s genetic make-up, mimicking the natural process of spontaneous mutation. The mutation process generates random genetic variations and can lead to alterations in different kinds of traits. In many cases mutations are detrimental to the plant, but they can also result in new beneficial traits. From large mutant populations plants that carry the desired trait are selected and subsequently stabilized in the following generations. Once the trait is stable and the superior performance of the mutant proven, a new variety is born. The art of mutation breeding is to select the rare desired mutant from among a mutant population of many thousands of plants.

The irradiation method used at Nuclear Malaysia’s gamma greenhouse facility is called chronic irradiation. In contrast to the more conventional acute irradiation performed at a high dose rate for a few minutes, plants at the gamma greenhouse are irradiated over several months at lower dose rates. One advantage of this method is that it produces a wider mutation spectrum while the general radiation damage to the plant cells is minimized. Furthermore, the chances are lower that plants repair the genetic variations induced by long-term radiation and so “correct” the development of what would otherwise be favourable traits, explained Zaiton Ahmad, a liaison officer for the gamma greenhouse. Chronic irradiation can be applied in a wide range of crops, including flower plants, fruit crops and cereals.

Human Cost of Arms Trafficking ‘Runs Deep’, Disarmament Chief Stresses as Security Council Debates Halting Illicit Trade on ‘Dark Web’

At a time of deepening regional tensions, expanding terrorist and criminal networks, and traditional and non‑traditional conflicts wreaking havoc on communities, the pressing issue of the spread of small arms, light weapons and their ammunition were key determinants of crises, demanding swift action to curb their illicit trade, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council this afternoon.

Introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the matter (document S/2017/1025), Izumi Nakamitsu said the multidimensional and cross‑cutting nature of small arms was indisputable — from arms embargoes, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, child soldiers, counter‑terrorism and the protection of civilians in armed conflict to transnational crime.

“The human cost of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms runs deep,” she said, adding that the increased links among transnational organized crime, illicit small arms trafficking and terrorism, as well as the mounting use of the Internet, including the “dark web”, were of growing concern.  Nearly all violent deaths were caused by firearms, and the rate of firearms‑related homicides in post‑conflict societies frequently outnumbered battlefield deaths.  Small arms were also key determinants in the lethality and longevity of conflicts, and their rampant spread contributed to violations of international humanitarian and human rights, often playing a role in the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.

“To invest in effective management of small arms and light weapons, including their ammunition, is to invest in conflict prevention,” she said, noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had acknowledged the inextricable link between peace and development.

In the ensuing debate, delegates agreed that the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons constituted a serious threat to peace and security around the world, contributing to instability, violence and insecurity while undermining development efforts.  Their spread also contributed to terrorism and international organized crime.

Representatives also suggested ways to disrupt the network of transnational organized crime syndicates, including by controlling arms trafficking online, in particular through the “dark web”.  They urged for mainstreaming the issue into all relevant Council discussions and called for coordinated action to tackle the problem at the national, regional and international levels.

The representative of Italy, recalling that arms trafficking usually began with legally produced weapons, emphasized the importance of implementing the International Tracing Instrument.  In addition, the Arms Trade Treaty was a crucial instrument carrying the potential to mitigate risks.

Several delegates said Africa and the Middle East were regions deeply affected by the illegal arms trade.  Egypt’s representative noted that the core of the current challenge was due to the deliberate contributions of some countries that provided illicit weapons to terrorists and armed movements.

Bolivia’s representative said the seriousness of the problem had its roots in the breadth of the illicit trade, which reached $6 billion in 2014 alone.  At the same time, trafficking produced parallel profits in the financial system and tax havens, he said, adding that the global arms trade required international controls.

The representatives of Kazakhstan, China, Ethiopia, United States, Sweden, United Kingdom, Senegal, Russian Federation, Uruguay, France, Ukraine and Japan also spoke.

Taking the floor a second time were the representatives of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The meeting started at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:06 p.m.


IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that at a time of deepening regional tensions, expanding terrorist and criminal networks, and traditional and non‑traditional conflicts wreaking havoc on communities, small arms, light weapons and their ammunition were key determinants of crises.

Introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the matter (document S/2017/1025), she said the multidimensional and cross‑cutting nature of small arms was indisputable — from embargoes, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, child soldiers, counter‑terrorism and civilian protection in armed conflict to transnational crime.

She said the impact of their wide availability, misuse and destabilizing accumulation was well documented.  Nearly all violent deaths were nowadays caused by firearms, and the rate of firearms‑related homicides in post‑conflict societies frequently outnumbered battlefield deaths.  Small arms were force multipliers and key determinants in the lethality and longevity of conflicts.

High levels of illicit arms also contributed to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and were often used in killing, maiming, rape, torture and recruiting children, she said.  Small arms often played a role in the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.  “The human cost of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms runs deep,” she said.

Listing growing concerns, Ms. Nakamitsu pointed out the increased links among transnational organized crime, illicit small arms trafficking and terrorism, as well as the mounting use of the Internet, including the “dark web”, and the issue of improvised explosive devices manufactured with diverted ammunition.  Weapons and ammunition management had become a critical component of United Nations peacekeeping operations, she said, citing examples of operations in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali.

She said that the Secretary‑General had made 48 concrete recommendations to the Council on how to best address small arms, light weapons and ammunition, including on their management, peacekeeping, embargoes, community safety and law enforcement, civilian protection and armed violence.  Consideration had also been given to gender mainstreaming.  The Secretary‑General had also examined best practices from various mechanisms in United Nations field missions.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had acknowledged the inextricable link between peace and development, she continued, adding that target 16.4 closely connected adequate arms regulation with properly functioning institutions and would create security conditions conducive to social and economic development.  Arms regulation should be pursued through the concept of measurability.  The sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects had noted that the illicit trade had implications on the realization of several Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to poverty reduction, economic growth and health.  “To invest in effective management of small arms and light weapons, including their ammunition, is to invest in conflict prevention,” she said.


INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons constituted a serious threat to peace and security around the world, contributing to instability, violence and insecurity while undermining development efforts.  Security Council resolution 2220 (2015) underscored the need to implement urgent measures.  Addressing arms disposal efforts was critical in post‑conflict situations, he said, noting how illegal trafficking could contribute to institutional instability.  In that vein, he highlighted actions and tools that could be deployed by Member States.  Turning to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said its third Review Conference in June 2018 was an opportunity to achieve concrete progress by mobilizing stakeholders.  Recalling that illegal arms usually began with legally produced weapons, he emphasized the importance of the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument.  Meanwhile, the Arms Trade Treaty was a crucial instrument with the potential to mitigate risks.  Pointing at the acute impact of small arms and light weapons in Africa, he expressed support for any initiative taken by those States, including the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and all Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention).

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), emphasizing that the spread of illicit weapons impeded the goal of sustainable development, called for the universal application of measures such as improved stockpile management and the protection of military arsenals.  Raising other issues of concern, he said it was equally necessary to take a range of actions, including those aimed at disrupting the network of transnational organized crime syndicates and eliminating their weapons storage sites.  In addition, efforts should aim at controlling arms trafficking online, in particular through trading platforms of the “dark Internet”.  For its part, Kazakhstan had been actively implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms and had put in place strict export, manufacture and supply control measures to mitigate any possible illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said.

WU HAITAO (China) said the illicit arms trade fuelled regional conflicts and facilitated the spread of terrorism while being detrimental to efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  China had proposed that the international community must commit to implementing diplomatic solutions to achieve peace and stability.  There was also a need to strengthen peacekeeping in order to swiftly restore stability.  Only a multi‑pronged approach could root out the problem of small arms.  China paid great attention to the Secretary‑General’s latest report and supported his efforts, various United Nations organs and Interpol in playing an active role in combating the illicit weapons trade.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD (Egypt) said illicit trafficking and supply of small weapons had a great security and economic impact, especially if such weapons fell into the hands of terrorist groups and armed movements.  The Middle East and Africa were most affected by the rise of that phenomenon, he said, noting an increase in a number of civilian and security force injuries in that regard, stemming from some countries who deliberately supplied illicit arms to terrorist and criminal organizations.  He called upon the international community to spare no effort to combat that dangerous trend.  On the Secretary‑General’s report, he said many recommendations, which were directed to the Security Council, should be directed to the General Assembly and the Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) underscored the devastating consequences of small arms and light weapons in her region.  Such weapons enabled international conflict and civil war, resulting in major harm to civilians.  Concerned about the risk of such weapons falling into the hands of domestic and transnational terrorist groups, she supported mainstreaming the issue into all relevant Council discussions and called for coordinated action to tackle the problem at the national, regional and international levels.  Highlighting the African Union’s strategy on combating the illicit trafficking of such arms and its corresponding action plans, she called on Member States to support such regional efforts.  Already, positive progress had been made at the national level in confidence‑building measures, she said, also underscoring the importance of addressing resources and capacity constraints.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said her country remained committed to the landmark Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument.  The United States was a leading donor in the field, including through its conventional weapons destruction programme.  However, challenges persisted and more needed to be done.  Instead of trying to identify every gap, the international community needed more countries to sign up to existing commitments.  Turning to the Secretary‑General’s report, she said it went beyond its remit in discussing domestic misuse in countries that are not in conflict, and the United States did not support its reference to the International Small Arms Control Standards, as they were not in fact standards, and had been created by a small group of self‑selected experts.  She expressed hope that future reports would more accurately describe the control standards as voluntary guidelines and not practical recommendations.  The United States was taking concrete steps to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and urged all countries to strengthen the implementation of existing related obligations.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said his was a peaceful State that did not produce, store or export weapons, and that mitigation in the trafficking of light weapons was vital for stabilizing countries in conflict.  The fight against illicit trafficking had not been won by the United Nations or the international community, and the use of such weapons promoted terrorism and transnational organized crime.  The seriousness of the problem had its roots in the trade of those weapons, which amounted to $6 billion in 2014, as highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report.  Illicit trafficking produced parallel profits in the financial system and tax havens.  Further, non‑State actors to whom weapons were provided illegally helped to worsen conflicts, leading to war crimes and massive violations of human rights.  The global arms trade required international controls to make progress on reducing the risk of small arms proliferation, which endangered the lives of millions of people.  Also important were effective mechanisms to prohibit the supply of those weapons.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said preventing armed conflict and building sustainable peace hinged on addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  For that reason, the issue must be mainstreamed into all relevant discussions on the Council’s agenda.  Welcoming the inclusion in the Secretary‑General’s report, he underlined the complex linkages between illicit trafficking and the vulnerabilities of post‑conflict States.  Improved arms control was also necessary to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Welcoming the report’s focus on gender, she noted Sweden’s support for projects aimed at increasing women’s participation in disarmament work.  Underlining the importance of controlling ammunition as well as weapons, she noted the issue’s inclusion in the European Union’s strategy.  He also pledged Sweden’s continued commitment to combating the illicit small arms trade.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the majority of deaths in conflict situations in developing countries were the result of small arms and light weapons.  They facilitated the most heinous human rights violations, and in many countries were the preferred instrument of war.  He cited South Sudan as an example, where local disputes were resolved with guns, and small arms had become the norm.  In a culture of weapons, such disputes escalated faster and resulted in widespread casualties, he noted, adding that the transfers of weapons only spread that threat to other States.  To tackle those challenges, the international community must strengthen arms control, with the Arms Trade Treaty being one of the most powerful tools in that fight.  Its universalisation was a priority.  However, such efforts must go hand in hand with the implementation of existing commitments.  He praised the Programme of Action on Small Arms, while encouraging States to devote resources for stockpile security and destruction efforts.  If the world embraced action and quelled conflict, 1.2 million lives could be saved by 2030, a fitting goal for the body charged with upholding international peace and security.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said arms control was crucial for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Given current tensions around the world, the Secretary‑General’s report had come at an opportune time, especially in Africa and the Middle East.  Achieving peace and stability was a battle that was far from over.  West Africa and the Sahel could not escape the scourge and faced many threats, such as the proliferation and trafficking of conventional weapons and drugs, as well as terrorist attacks.  Small arms and light weapons also fuelled conflict.  Such challenges were an obstacle to sustainable development, which depended on peace and security.  Nevertheless, the last two years witnessed success in the management of conventional weapons, he said, citing among other steps the outcome document from the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the recommendation of confidence‑building measures.  Highlighting the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty, he called for universalization of the instrument and its firearms‑related protocol.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that his country had spoken in favour of enhancing the role of the United Nations to tackle the illicit arms trade.  The pace of implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms remained insufficient at a time when the black and grey markets supplied terrorist groups and street gangs and fuelled conflicts.  It was time to add to the Programme of Action on Small Arms; to provide, for example, controls over States for brokerage activity in areas of their jurisdiction related to exports.  There should also be a ban on the re‑export of small arms without the consent of the initial State.  The Russian Federation had very developed legislation in that area and stood ready to provide assistance to States wishing to draft their own legislation.  Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he said the openly weak document failed to tackle all the tasks it contained and did not include a direct ban on provisions regulating the re‑export of military goods.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), noting that the Secretary‑General’s report highlighted the negative consequences of the unjust use of small weapons, said his country was committed to disarmament and had joined relevant regional and international treaties.  The proliferation of small arms was a fundamental part of armed conflict and a means of perpetuating them.  Selling small arms to warring parties had a direct impact on the suffering of civilians.  Access to small arms and light weapons and the lack of adequate controls negatively affected human rights and sustainable development, he said, citing the Secretary‑General’s report and noting that the illegal trade had topped $6 billion in 2014.  To combat that trade, international cooperation and the provision of assistance should be strengthened, with particular emphasis on developing national capacity.  States should adopt national standards to strengthen arms controls, and weapon‑producing countries must honour their responsibilities.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty was a game changer toward the international regulation and responsible trade of small arms.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said small arms and light weapons led to the highest number of victims in the world and were responsible for 90 per cent of conflict casualties and more than 500,000 deaths every year.  The illicit trade also fuelled conflict, organized crime and terrorism.  Like others, France had faced terrorist attacks, he said, urging Member States to mobilize.  Potential areas of collaboration included the development of national legislation, reduction of stockpiles, improving the security and physical management of stocks, and police and customs controls.  Increasing international cooperation on marking and tracing small arms was also essential, as was the exchange of information.  Moreover, international assistance was needed and must be adapted to the needs of beneficiaries.  Looking at the challenges ahead, he called on Member States to strengthen efforts and accede to all relevant instruments, including the Arms Trade Treaty.  Concerning the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said France would preside over its third Review Conference in 2018, which was a unique opportunity to move forward and take steps toward mobilizing actors in various areas and tap into existing synergies.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that while fuelling armed conflicts, the illicit arms trade had a wide range of negative human rights, humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences, in particular for the security of civilians.  Armed conflicts driven by the spread of those weapons also served as the main cause of people fleeing their homes in search of a more secure environment.  There was an increased link among transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking and terrorism.  Ukraine was facing a challenge with regard to the spread of illicit conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, as a result of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against his country, including the occupation of Crimea and a part of the Donbas region.  His delegation had drawn the Council’s attention to the continued illicit supplies of deadly weapons, ammunition and gunmen to Ukraine by the Russian Federation through the uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian‑Russian border.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that small arms and light weapons prolonged and intensified conflicts, hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid and reconstruction and development efforts, even in post‑conflict areas.  The Secretary‑General’s call for “disarmament that saves lives” represented an important vision, he said, welcoming the latest report’s recommendations and best practices.  Especially in post‑conflict areas, he called for a focus on capacity‑building for national institutions.  For its part, Japan had provided approximately $3 million to Côte d’Ivoire from 2015 to 2017 and had, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, provided capacity‑building assistance for the national commission in charge of the collection and disposal of such weapons, and helped to set up arms control guidelines.  While emphasizing the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty and expressing Japan’s support in universalizing the instrument, he pointed out that since its entry into force in 2014, only 93 States had joined, including just 6 in the Asia‑Pacific region.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) took the floor a second time, saying the implementation of the Minsk agreements was being hampered by general instability in certain areas.  Tracing the turnover of weapons was something that the authorities were incapable of doing.

Mr. VITRENKO (Ukraine), also taking the floor a second time, noted that given the number of deadly weapons used by Russian separatists, including the famous missile that took down an airplane, killing almost 300 people on board, the Russian Federation had no right to lecture any Council member.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that Canada had publicly stated that it would issue its companies licenses to supply arms to Ukraine.  Companies from the United States, particularly manufacturers of electronic grenade launchers, were already providing Kyiv with weapons, even though the United States had said there had been no official decision on that matter.  Pumping Ukraine with American and Canadian weapons of war was sabotaging the Minsk agreements, he said.

Mr. VITRENKO (Ukraine)said his Russian counterpart had forgotten to mention that Ukraine was defending its territorial integrity against the Russian Federation’s aggression.  His counterpart had very seriously prepared for the meeting and for making his statement, which had sounded ominous, as though the Russian Federation was preparing another stage of its military aggression against Ukraine.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that his delegation prepared very carefully for every single session.

United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament in Asia, Pacific to Host Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms, Light Weapons Seminar, 19-20 December

NEW YORK, 18 December (Office for Disarmament Affairs) — The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific and the Government of Cambodia are jointly organizing a Regional Seminar on Illicit Trafficking and Diversion of Small Arms and Light Weapons and Other Conventional Arms and Ammunition in South‑East Asia.  The Seminar will be held from 19 to 20 December in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This capacity‑building seminar is a response to requests made by several Member States in South‑East Asia to organize a sub‑regional meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) States and Timor‑Leste with the ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police secretariat to find ways to address diversion and illicit trafficking of small arms and their ammunition.

The Seminar will foster regional dialogue among South‑East Asian States and explore possibilities for strengthening sub‑regional cooperation and coordination in this area.  Experts from national law enforcement agencies will engage with representatives from the ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police, the secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization, research institutions and non‑governmental organizations to identify ways and means to effectively address small arms and light weapons diversion, and reduce illicit arms flows to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Target 16.4 (“by 2030 significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime”).

The Seminar is made possible with financial support from the Government of Germany.

For further information, please contact Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, at e-mail:  info@unrcpd.org.