Department Press Briefing – December 13, 2022 – United States… – Division of State
1: 30 p. m. EST
MR PRICE: Thanks very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining today’s telephonic briefing. A couple things at the top and then we’ll turn to your questions. First, following Secretary Blinken’s November 29 announcement at the NATO Ministerial of over $53 million in emergency support for Ukraine’s electric grid, today we are very pleased to say that the first tranche of the support is on its way. The administration continues to work in partnership with the National Labs, industry, utility, and the Ukrainian Government to locate available equipment in the United States that can be delivered to Ukraine for emergency support. Procurement and movement of this equipment is a coordinated effort between the Section of Condition, Department of Energy, Department associated with Defense, USAID, the White House, and of course Ukraine’s government.
Russia will be struggling on the battlefield, so it is increasingly turning to attacking infrastructure to bring the battlefield into Ukrainian homes. The United States is usually committed to bolstering Ukraine’s resilience to the Kremlin missiles plus drones deliberately damaging Ukraine’s energy main grid and facilities. This will require continued coordination throughout the international community, which is why the State Department continues to lead our G7+ coordination group that complements parallel efforts – like today’s emergency response conference for Ukraine convened by Presidents Macron and Zelenskyy – to help Ukraine build its strength during the winter in the face of Russia’s attacks.
Our ongoing assistance and that of our allies and partners will help Ukraine restore the backbone of its power transmission system, which is critical in keeping the particular lights on and houses warm throughout the winter. We will continue to identify components that we can send from the Usa while supporting a global work to find compatible equipment that suits the specifications from the Ukrainian program. Once Ukraine’s urgent needs are met, the administration will then focus on meeting Ukraine’s longer-term grid reconstruction attempts.
Next, and finally, as we learned from HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, Ebola, MPOX, and other global health threats time and again, health security is national security. We’ve seen how a virus can spread quickly across borders and around the globe, endangering lives and livelihoods and disrupting economies. We must have strong U. S. leadership to address health threats that impact the entire world.
This is why today the particular Secretary notified Congress of his intention to establish a new Global Health Security plus Diplomacy Bureau. Once stood up, the new bureau will bring together as one team our health and security experts from across three existing teams, namely the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the Agency of Oceans and Worldwide Environmental and Scientific Studies
The Admin intends to ask Global AIDS Planner, Ambassador John Nkengasong, in order to lead the brand new bureau. Ambassador Nkengasong was confirmed by the U. T. Senate as the U. S i9000. Global HELPS Coordinator plus Special Representative for Health Diplomacy in May, following a five‑year stint since the first director of the Africa Centers with regard to Disease Control and Prevention.
Once we complete the congressional notification process, this new bureau will ensure the department may effectively strengthen global wellness security architecture and efficiently respond to global health risks.
With that, we will turn to questions. Lia, if you wouldn’t mind just repeating the instructions to ask a question?
OPERATOR: Certainly. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to inquire a question please press 1, 0 on your telephone keypad.
MR PRICE: Great. We will start with the line associated with Missy Ryan, please.
OPERATOR: And go ahead, Ms. Ryan, or Missy Thomas.
MISTER PRICE: Missy, we’re —
QUESTION: Hi, Ned, can you hear me?
MR COST: Hi, go ahead. Yes, we have you now. Go ahead.
QUERY: Yeah. I’m just wondering if you can talk about what the Secretary’s message will be to the leadership of Tunisia this week during the – throughout the Africa summit, especially when it comes to the Tunisian Government’s hope that the upcoming elections – the parliamentary elections will certainly sort of reset the criticism or the view around democratic backsliding inside Tunisia. Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Missy. I – sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t like want to get too far ahead of the specifics of a meeting that will take place this week when the Secretary will have an opportunity to meet with Tunisian President Saied around the margins from the African Leaders Summit.
I think without violating that rule I just set for myself, I will say that the messages that our Tunisian counterparts will hear from the Secretary will be very consistent with the messages we’ve been issuing publicly for some time now. We support the aspirations of the Tunisian people for a democratic and prosperous future, including through inclusive plus transparent democratic governance, the particular rule of law, equal economic opportunity as well. We have and will maintain a robust collaboration with Tunisia’s civil society. We know that it plays a wide range of critical roles, including simply by advocating regarding ensuring that the government is accountable to the people of Tunisia.
On the political front, we now have consistently encouraged Tunisia to undertake reforms to strengthen democratic checks and balances, including through holding free plus fair parliamentary elections. And on the economic front, obviously Tunisia faces considerable headwinds and will need to undertake meaningful reforms in order to stabilize its finances, ensure private-sector-led growth, and expand economic opportunities for all Tunisians.
So the meeting that the Secretary will have with the Tunisian president will be an opportunity to discuss all of these issues and to hear in turn from Chief executive Saied and his team updates from their end. And I suspect we’ll have more to say after that meeting takes place.
We will go to the line of Jennifer Hansler, make sure you.
ISSUE: Hi, Ned. Thanks for doing the call. Yesterday, Jake Sullivan mentioned there would be a high-level engagement using the Russians upon Paul Whelan’s case this week. When will that engagement take place, and who from your State Division, if anyone, is going to be on it? And are you prepared to put a brand new proposal on the table for Russia to secure his release? Thanks a lot.
MISTER PRICE: Hey, Jenny. Nice that. So a couple points.
One, in terms of Paul Whelan, we have been consistent repeatedly that we are going to do everything we can to secure their release as quickly as we can, as soon as we can. We are committed to seeing to it that will Paul Whelan is able to enjoy the same chance that Trevor Reed and more recently Brittney Griner have had with their loved ones upon being returned to the United States. We have been absolutely committed to that. We have been committed to that since the start of this management.
In July, the Admin made public for the first time that we had put on the table what we called a substantial proposal that would have seen the release of both Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. Of course , we all know how this particular chapter of that story concluded. The particular Russians, to date, had not been willing to negotiate seriously or constructively for the release of Paul Whelan even as we were able to bring Brittney Griner house.
Nevertheless, we are going to continue to be devoted to this. We are going to be creative, we are going to be determined, to do everything we are able to see John Whelan freed and back home with his family and loved ones.
We’re not in a position to provide specific details on our engagements with Russian interlocutors. Our very first imperative, as I said before, is to see to it that Paul Whelan is definitely reunited with his loved ones just as quickly as can be managed, and wouldn’t want to say anything openly that could jeopardize that or even set back the particular prospects of that successful outcome.
We had a chance to speak directly with the Whelan family. We went through the next steps of the strategy. That took place yesterday. We are going to remain in close contact with his family, working with his family, and in turn engage straight through the appropriate channel along with Russian interlocutors to see to it that we can find a successful end result to this, as we have through this same channel with this same mechanism towards the cases associated with Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner before him. But we’re just not in a position to provide exacting detail on what that might look like.
We are going to go to the line of Alex Raufoglu.
OPERATOR: Alex, your line can be open.
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
OWNER: There you go.
MR PRICE: Hi, go ahead. All of us got you.
QUESTION: Okay, awesome. Thanks so much for doing this, Ned. Jennifer asked my first question, so I have only two questions left, if I might. The Kremlin today rebuffed Kyiv’s call to withdraw troops at Christmas, saying that Ukraine has to accept “new realities, ” meaning Russia’s illegal capture of territories. I know this is a familiar statement coming out of Moscow. I’m just curious: what does it tell you about who we have been dealing with here?
And secondly, I know we discussed the South Caucasus yesterday, but since I’m moving rapidly between Armenia plus Azerbaijan – you made the case that you have eyes on the ground. I’m simply curious if you have anything to add, given what we should have seen during the past 24 hours.
Plus speaking of eyes on the ground, the (inaudible) that will question. With the caveat that people are two weeks away before the new year, I’m also wondering how much the fact that you will have no ambassador on the ground in the new 12 months might drain your efforts. Your presidential nominee to Azerbaijan hasn’t even granted a hearing for more than six months now. And these days, ambassador to Armenia is leaving – leaving behind the region.
So what is your strategy here? Perhaps it’s also a good chance to address the fact that one out of five ambassadorships still remain vacant. Is the administration planning to use your recess appointment energy in the coming days? Thank you so much, Ned.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Alex. So on your first question, what we’ve heard from the Kremlin in recent hours has not told us anything all of us didn’t already know. And I declare because what we have noticed from Russian federation stands in stark contrast to what we have heard through Ukraine, and for that matter, much of the rest of the world over the course of many months now.
To give you just one example, during the G20 when world leaders were gathered in Bali, Indonesia to discuss the particular pressing issues of the day, which includes issues of peace and security, including of course the question of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Leader Zelenskyy participated by video conference, where he laid out their vision, Ukraine’s vision, for any just peace, a just end to this war.
That will vision of a just serenity wasn’t fulfilled with a reciprocal vision to get a just peacefulness on the part of the Russian Federation. Instead, it was met with bombs plus missiles raining down on Ukrainian towns and cities, the continuation from the brutal escalation and assault that Russia’s forces have undertaken towards civilian targets, including the energy infrastructure sites that we’ve talked about at some length in recent days.
At every opportunity the Russians seem to be meeting Ukraine’s call for a just peace with more escalation and with a very clear acknowledgement that Russia is in no mood for constructive dialogue, the type of constructive dialogue and diplomacy that will ultimately be necessary to move forward the vision for a just peace that we’ve heard from President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians.
So in the meantime as Russia continues to demonstrate this attitude, we are continuing to do what has proven effective: provide Ukraine with the security assistance it needs, with the economic assistance it requires, including the infrastructure assistance it takes, and with the humanitarian assistance the people of Ukraine need to be able to weather this cold winter. We’re doing that in conjunction with dozens of countries around the world. Not only is it providing support to the Ukrainian people during their time of need, but we believe that doing so is the best means by which to accelerate the process of developing a negotiating table, and once that negotiating table has come to fruition, the best means by which to strengthen Ukraine’s hand at that negotiating table. So that is the strategy we have laid out as we hold Russian federation accountable and as we ensure NATO’s defense and deterrent capabilities as well, and that’s a strategy we’re going to continue to press forward with.
On your question of Armenia and Azerbaijan, I believe you will have seen a statement, a tweet that we have just issued on the latest developments. We made clear that the closure of the Lachin corridor has severe humanitarian education implications. It sets back the serenity process. We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor. The way forward is through negotiations.
I want to be especially clear that any disruption – and we possess seen reports of disruption to energy infrastructure : any interruption to power infrastructure could precipitate a humanitarian crisis, especially as we’re entering the winter months. If deliberate, it’s unacceptable to target the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the second part of your query, Alex, we are in the fortunate position of having very capable and effective stewards of our diplomacy at our missions around the world where we don’t have a confirmed ambassador in place. These dedicated members of the Foreign Service have helped us carry forward the particular President’s foreign policy eyesight, the Secretary’s foreign policy vision, and have helped us to address many of the most urgent challenges that we face.
Nevertheless, we continue to note the long queue of nominees who are awaiting Senate confirmation. As of earlier this month, there were some 50 nominees who were awaiting confirmation. All of us continue to ask the United states senate to move swiftly on these nominees, knowing that no other country, certainly no other major power around the world, would tie its hands behind its back again the way that we have had to do given the lack of Senate-confirmed ambassadors in position in many in our most important quests around the world. So we’re going to continue to work very closely with the Congress on this to identify plus advance opportunities to see more Senate-confirmed ambassadors be in place at our posts around the world.
Let’s go to Eunjong Cho.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned, for taking my question. Today the Special Representative with regard to DPRK Ambassador Sung Kim met with his Japanese in addition to Korean counterparts in Indonesia. During the meeting, South Korea’s Special Representative Kim Gunn said that typically the international community pursues the denuclearization associated with North Korea and will not reconsider that will goal in a million years. Does the State Department share the same sentiment that it will not really reconsider denuclearization of North Korea inside a million many years?
And the second issue. European Union added eight individuals and four entities to the sanctions list for their involvement in Northern Korea’s missile development yesterday. What is the significance of EU’s new sanctions measures in terms of sending signals?
MISTER PRICE: Thanks very much. So as to the first a part of your problem, we all have our own ways of conveying our own messages and even our plan positions. We have conveyed the policy position by noting that we undertook a comprehensive review of our coverage towards the DPRK in the early part of this particular administration. In the aftermath of that policy review, we identified the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula because our overarching objective. And as you been told by our South Korean counterpart in perhaps slightly different language, I don’t foresee that changing.
You raised Ambassador Sun Kim’s trilateral meeting today. He did, in fact , host ROK Special Representative regarding Korean Peninsula Peace together with Security Affairs Kim Gunn, whom you mentioned, and additionally Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General intended for Asian not to mention Oceanian Matters Funakoshi Takehiro in bilateral and dreiseitig meetings in Jakarta to discuss the U. S. -ROK-Japan cooperation in response to the DPRK’s unprecedented numbers of unlawful ballistic missile launches this year, including a number of ICBM launches.
The officials shared their assessment of the DPRK’s recent actions. They expressed concern about Pyongyang’s continued flagrant disregard for the various UN Security Council resolutions. They also reviewed the synchronized trilateral release of sanctions targeting this DPRK in early December and also emphasized the need to use all available tools to further limit the growth from the DPRK’s destabilizing ballistic razzo and nuclear weapons programs.
Along these types of lines, they underscored the necessity to raise global awareness of often the DPRK’s malicious cyber activities and its egregious record regarding human rights violations as well as abuses. They called upon Pyongyang to immediately cease their unlawful and dangerous behavior and return to constructive conversation to promote peacefulness and stability on the Korean language Peninsula and in the region more broadly.
These meetings follow a trilateral leaders-level meeting, of course , that happened recently between President Biden and President Yoon in the ROK plus Prime Minister Kishida involving Japan last month in Cambodia, and it underscores the close in addition to ongoing U. S. collaboration with our trilateral partners, your ROK and even Japan, on DPRK issues and the ironclad U. S. commitments to the security of our own ROK together with Japan allies.
To the second part of your question, we now have a number of partners and allies with whom we work in lockstep around the challenge posed by the DPRK’s ballistic missile and elemental weapons program. Those companions and allies extend well beyond the exact Indo-Pacific and do include each of our allies within Europe, and the fact that all of our allies in Europe have taken additional concrete steps to hold the DPRK accountable is something we applaud. We are working with allies and additionally partners all over the world to see to it that the DPRK is held to account.
We will go to the line of Courtney McBride.
QUESTION: Thanks. So there are multiple reviews out that the U. H. is preparing to approve sending Patriot missile defense systems in order to Ukraine. Just if you’re capable to confirm or comment, I’d appreciate it. And then separately, do you have comment on the latest China-India border clashes that this Indian Government has announced, and what may be the U. T. assessment within the timing of those clashes? Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Courtney. Thus broadly, we have been very clear the United States will continue to prioritize sending air defense systems to Ukraine to help your Ukrainian associates defend themselves from the brutal Russian aggression that we have access to seen for the better part of a year now. I don’t have anything to preview or even announce, but our commitment to be able to Ukraine’s self-defense capabilities, including through the provision of air defense techniques, is some thing we are committed to.
In fact , in recent weeks alone our assistance has included equipment to help Ukraine counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles. We’ve provided two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, which the Ukrainians have reported have been quite effective, as well as missiles for the so-called HAWK air protection systems that have been donated by allies not to mention partners around the globe. We will always provide Ukraine with the type of defensive capabilities that it needs for as long as it takes.
And to your second concern, on China and India, we’re closely monitoring the situation. We are glad to hear of which both sides appear to have quickly disengaged from the clashes. Dont really have everything to offer in terms of the timing at the rear of the most recent clashes, but we are continuing to monitor very closely and to engage with some of our Indian partners.
We will visit the line of Khushboo Razdan.
QUESTION: Hey, thanks for taking my dilemma. Can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes, we can hear a person.
QUERY: Hi. My question is about the India-China clashes. You said you have nothing to offer on the timing, but this specific clash comes just weeks after The far east slammed India-U. S. war games just a hundred kilometers from the border. And so our question is that – has the State Department been briefed about what’s the situation right now at the border, because Tawang is a very sensitive area? And when will the State Department brief? Because the Indian Government is right now (inaudible) citizens in part, not ~ revealing that there were clashes for two days. So if you can share about the brief the fact that you’ve received from Indian and what is the situation, like, on the boundary right now, and when will you short. And what will be the strategy with the U. S i9000. if the situation escalates provided India is a Quad ally of the Oughout. S.?
MR COST: Thanks very much. India is indeed an important strategic partner of the United States bilaterally, in the Quad, and other multilateral fora as well. So we’re always, with that in mind, in close contact with our Indian partners, both from our mission in Of india as well as from your State Division here in Washington. I would need to refer you to the Indians for their perspective on this since we’re likely to keep this diplomatic conversations within those channels, yet we do strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims by incursions, military or perhaps civilian, across the border at the established Line of Actual Control, and we encourage India and also China to utilize existing zwei staaten betreffend channels to talk about disputed boundaries.
We’ll take a final thought from Eduard Rivas.
QUESTION: Ned, thank you. Do you have any comment on the violent protests in some cities connected with Peru? And do you assistance the new Peruvian Government?
MR VALUE: We perform commend Peruvian institutions as well as civil authorities for safeguarding democratic balance. The people with Peru deserve stable democratic institutions that follow Peru’s constitution and carry out the mandates for democratic governance.
To your question, we are troubled by scattered reports about violent demonstrations and by information of attacks on the press and private property, including businesses. We support peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including from members on the press, and we encourage Peruvians to express their grievances through peaceful protests and democratic channels. We all continue to carefully monitor events on the ground and remain in close contact with regional governments as well as the Organization of American States.
When it comes to Peruvian Chief executive Dina Boluarte, we of course do recognize her as such. We will carry on and work with Peru’s democratic institutions, and we look forward to working strongly with Leader Boluarte and all branches of this government inside Peru.
And we’ll have a final topic, in fact , through Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters.
ISSUE: Hi, Ned. Thanks for doing this. Just wanted for you to clarify this kind of engagement regarding Paul Whelan, because Ruskies deputy international minister is saying today that he knows in no new scheduled contacts with the United States regarding further prisoner swaps, and that was in response to exactly what Jake Sullivan said the other day. So should we think – should all of us assume he doesn’t know, or is the fact that a way of them ruling out any engagements this week? Can you just, like, clarify or maybe, like, give us an update, such as what that engagement is going to be and whether there has been any kind of contact with the designated channels with the Russians since last Thursday when Griner was released, whether there’s been virtually any communication using the Russians on Paul Whelan?
And just to follow up on the particular Reuters story about Nigeria, I believe last night you guys have said an individual raised typically the allegations with all the Government from Nigeria and you’re ongoing to seek information. I just wanted an updated comment from you, want what do the Nigerian Government say and regardless of whether you’ve got a lot more. Thank you.
MR SELLING PRICE: Thanks greatly. So to your own final subject, we have indeed raised this allegations together with the Government of Nigeria. We were – we have been continuing to seek further information from them, and we doing so because we were deeply troubled by the allegations in this report. As you heard from us, we’re urging the Government associated with Nigeria to establish an independent investigation into these kinds of troubling studies.
On Paul Whelan and the efforts to secure their release, Humeyra, as I said before, we’re simply not in a position to detail the specifics of our engagement with our European counterparts as part of the effort to see his release. I think the fact is that our wedding with The ussr on this narrow issue now twice has led to the successful return regarding wrongfully detained Americans to their families plus loved ones in the United States. We have worked with relevant in addition to appropriate Euro counterparts via this channel now for about 18 months since it was established from the two presidents in the context of their conference in Geneva in June of 2021, and we are going to continue to be committed and relentless in our attempts to see Paul Whelan released.
We are devoted to that effective outcome, and that we have a track record now that demonstrates our ability to leverage the following channel and also to work with Spain again about this narrow set of issues to find out to it that we have successful outcomes.
Thank you almost all very much. We will leave it there for nowadays and we will anticipate speaking with anyone tomorrow.
(The briefing was concluded in 2: 00 p. m. )
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