Daily Press Briefing
- Progress Report on Visas
- USAID / Programs did not Interfere with Elections
- Will Continue to Work with Civil Society / Support Free and Fair Elections
- LIBYA/MIDDLE EAST
- Security Evaluation / U.S. is not Withdrawing from the World
- In Close Touch with French and Other Allies on Security Posture
- Contact with Egyptian Government / Committed to Democratic Transition
- Commitment to Protecting Free Speech
- World Bank Report / Donor Countries / Palestinian Authority
- Demonstrators Surrounding Ambassador Locke's Vehicle
- No Position on Sovereignty of Senkaku Islands / Concern for High Tensions
- Aung San Suu Kyi
12:58 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. I have one thing at the top.
As some of you may have heard earlier today, the Administration today released the 180-day progress report on our efforts to improve the visa application and entry process by building more capacity and better using our resources, as the President directed last January. Specifically, the President asked us to interview 80 percent of our visa applicants within three weeks of their application. Worldwide, we’re now interviewing 88 percent within three weeks compared to only 57 percent in 2011.
And in Brazil and China, two of our key target countries, wait times are dramatically down while managing a 37 percent increase in visa demand this year alone. We also recently hit another milestone in Brazil. In late August, we processed our millionth visa for a Brazilian in 2012.
QUESTION: Did they get a prize?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether a party was thrown or what happened, Matt. I think there was a little fiesta down in Brazil. Anyway, these are efforts to expand our nation’s ability to attract and welcome visitors while also maintaining the highest standards of security.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with Russia today? So the foreign ministry today had some quite interesting comments to make about USAID and its role, or alleged role, in trying to influence Russian elections. And I’m wondering, one, what you think about the comments made by your counterpart in Moscow, but also, two, what does this mean for U.S. efforts at promoting democracy, civil – strengthening civil society going forward?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we completely reject the notion that our support for civil society, democracy, human rights in any way interferes with elections, whether in Russia or anywhere else in the world. We do these programs all over the world. We are evenhanded as to access to the resources for political parties, et cetera. So from that perspective, I just want to take that one off the table.
Yesterday, we said very clearly that we are extremely proud of the work that AID has done in Russia over the past 20 years. In addition to civil society support, as we’ve talked about, U.S. support went to help Russia, and the Russian people in particular, manage health problems like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, to help Russia improve environmental standards, to protect wildlife, things that are of greater good not only to the Russian people, but also to the region and to the world. And it is regrettable that the Russian people are not going to be able to benefit from the support that the American people are sending their way in these areas of health, environment, et cetera.
And with regard to our support for civil society, for democracy, for human rights, for rule of law, we will continue to work with those Russians in civil society who want to work with us. We do that in many parts of the world where we don’t have AID missions, and we are looking now at precisely how we’ll work this through, but we are committed to stay on the side of those who want to see a more democratic, more just Russia.
QUESTION: Okay. Just two very brief follow-ups: One, yesterday, you didn’t want to say that you were disappointed in the Russian – in this Russian decision. Is that still – is that – are you still not wanting to say that? Do you think this is just a case of, well, if they don’t want money from America, then fine?
And two – I’ve forgotten what two is now, so start with – (laughter) --
MS. NULAND: Well, as I just --
QUESTION: Oh, right, I remember what two – two is did any --
MS. NULAND: I may not remember two by the time we get to it.
QUESTION: Did any of the – did any of this assistance that you’re talking about for political parties go to now-President Putin’s party?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, on the last point, when we offer democracy programs anywhere in the world, we are evenhanded as to access to them for any political party that wants to take advantage of them. This is not about how you win; this is about how you manage campaigns, about how you work with civil society, et cetera. So I can’t speak to whether the party of the President of Russia ever worked with NDI or IRI. I’ll refer you to them. But I would guess at some point, some of those individuals probably did work with us.
But on the larger point, I think I just said that it is regrettable that Russia has taken this decision, first and foremost for the Russian people, because we were strongly supporting them at the level of, as I said yesterday, about $50 million a year on tackling some of these difficult, persistent health, environment, other program – problems in Russia. And we hope for their sake that their government will now pick up the slack, because the problems obviously persist.
QUESTION: Can we stick with Russia?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government believe that – notwithstanding the Russian Federation’s demand that AID cease its activities in Russia, does the U.S. Government believe that it can continue grant-making to Russian civil society, rule of law, other pro-democracy groups without a U.S. – without an AID presence? Can you keep giving money?
MS. NULAND: There are all different kinds of ways to support civil society. As I said, we have at least 20 missions around the world where we support civil society without having an AID mission, per se. Whether we can – whether we do this directly to our assistance partners, whether we do it through international organizations, through foundations, we are going to continue to support the development of a strong civil society in Russia.
QUESTION: So you think that there – but my question goes precisely to money. You think there are ways that you can get U.S. money, whether it is through foundations or other intermediaries or directly, into the hands of the kinds of Russian groups that you have financially supported in the past?
MS. NULAND: We do.
QUESTION: Toria, but you do agree that the promotion (inaudible) promoting democracy anywhere – you promote American values, democratic values, correct? That may be in conflict of other countries’ perceptions or other systems’ perceptions.
MS. NULAND: We make no secret of the fact that when we are supporting free, fair, transparent elections, that’s what we want to see; we want to see free, fair, transparent elections. Some of the support that we offer in countries around the world are for election monitors, election observers, so that they can bear witness for their own people as to whether elections were free and fair – polling, these kinds of things that provide transparency to populations. So obviously we are trying to promote, in word and deed, free, fair, transparent elections.
MS. NULAND: It’s a process. It’s not picking and choosing winners and losers.
QUESTION: So when you’re helping to – giving funds to political parties, what are they spending it on concretely, then?
MS. NULAND: It doesn’t work that way, Jo. We offer training programs, and we’ve talked about this a lot here. IRI, NDI offer training programs in how to run campaigns, how to work with community activists, et cetera. And traditionally a program, a training program that a political party would attend, would have three or four or five or six or 12 parties also attending. So the competition might be coming to the same event, if you will. So we don’t give cash; we give training.
QUESTION: But it’s not to – and it’s not to specific parties?
MS. NULAND: No. All of our programs are open to everyone.
QUESTION: Do you have this mission in India? And second, what Russians are saying really that we do not need any aid, and also there are so many people around the globe hungry and poor and U.S. should help them out.
MS. NULAND: Well, on your second point, I think we spoke to this yesterday. If the Russian Government says it can now meet all the needs of its people – and we hope that it can and it will – there are plenty of countries that do want larger complements of assistance from the United States, and we will move the money that we’re spending in health, et cetera, to those countries. But we will continue to be vigilant in supporting democracy, human rights, civil society in Russia. We’ll just do it another way.
QUESTION: And India. You have this --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have in front of me what our precise IRI, NDI programs are in India, but traditionally we’ve worked on democracy promotion and support in India.
QUESTION: I just have one more on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Senator McCain and others have said that this is a sign of American weakness or the Administration’s weakness, as a finger in the eye, and it’s a sign that the reset has failed. I’m going to assume that you disagree with those comments, but can you explain, if in fact you do, why exactly you disagree with them? And also explain that – could this – could a sovereign decision by the – would a sovereign decision by the Russian Government be affected by who is President to the United States?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to Russian motivations and whether they’re connected to our politics, and I won’t. We did say – and I said it yesterday – that in the context of the reset, the reset has been, first and foremost, about how we can harness the bilateral relationship to do more together regionally, globally, et cetera, that we have had a lot of individual and collective successes from the reset, whether it is U.S.-Russian cooperation in the P-5+1 vis-a-vis Iran, the tight global sanctions we’ve put on, whether it’s our work together in the context of the DPRK, whether it’s having better and more Russian cooperation in support for ISAF and the Afghans in supporting peace, stability, and security there.
But we’ve also always said that the reset allows us to speak frankly when we disagree, and we’ve always been very upfront about our concerns about human rights in Russia, rule of law, free, fair, transparent elections, and we’ll continue to do so.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Over in the Legislative Branch today, Congress held a hearing here in Washington in which concerns were raised that lives might have been saved had there been a beefier security posture in Benghazi last week. Senator Susan Collins of Maine actually said that she was, quote, “stunned” and, quote, “appalled” that there wasn’t better security.
Is she wrong to feel this way? And what is this Department doing to evaluate its long-term security posture and policies?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve talked extensively about security in Libya, in Benghazi, before this, what we knew about the evaluation that we made in the context of September 11th. As you know, the Secretary is going up with some of her colleagues tomorrow for a closed-door, classified session, so she’ll have a chance to talk to the Senate, she’ll have a chance to talk to the House, about security before, security after. And we are – this is obviously our highest priority. The President has said it, the Secretary has said it. I’m not going to speak directly to what may have happened in the hearing this morning. Frankly, I didn’t track it.
QUESTION: Just to follow up --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- are you willing to stand by comments that you made over the last week that the security posture was routine and what it needed to be in Libya last week?
MS. NULAND: Certainly I stand by anything said at this podium to date, and I think all of us stand by statements that we’ve made.
QUESTION: Victoria, to bolster security for American diplomats, will you consider cutting back on, let’s say, consulates in faraway places from the capitals in the Middle East?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you heard the Secretary yesterday, when she gave a press briefing after her meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Espinosa --
MS. NULAND: -- Foreign Secretary – thank you, Matt – Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinosa, say that we are not withdrawing from the world, that we have a difficult job to do, we have a sometimes dangerous job to do, that we will continue to work to strengthen and ensure security is what it needs to be, but retreating is not an option for America.
QUESTION: I understand. But consolidating, let’s say, in Arab capitals, in particular the ones that are experiencing some volatile demonstrations and so on. Would you consider, let’s say, scaling back or shutting down U.S. consulates?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have anything to announce on that, Said. I don’t have any knowledge of decisions that have been taken. I think you know that we have, over the last week, had some closings. We’ve had some missions where we have not been issuing visas in order to cut down on traffic as we continue to work with host governments to harden security around our various missions, but at this moment we don’t have anything to announce along the lines that you’re talking about.
QUESTION: Going back to the testimony on the Hill this morning where Senator Collins spoke. Matthew Olsen, the Director of NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center, described the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi as a, quote, “terrorist attack.” Yesterday you were – yesterday or the day before you were not willing, I think, to describe it as a terrorist attack. Do you now think it’s a terrorist attack?
MS. NULAND: Well, I didn’t get a chance to see the whole testimony that was given by Matt Olsen of the NCTC, but obviously we stand by comments made by our intelligence community who has first responsibility for evaluating the intelligence and what they believe that we are seeing.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of various embassies, consulates around the world, and given what happened in Sudan where protesters attacked the wrong embassy – western embassy – the German Embassy, in specific – do you have any concerns about the publication in France of these – Prophet Mohammed cartoons which has led the French to say that they’re going to close 20 of their missions, at least temporarily over the weekend? Are you planning to do the same thing?
MS. NULAND: Do you want me to do a review of where we are? You want to ask about specific missions before we go to the France question?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t know, is there any – well, go ahead with the France thing first, and --
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just briefly, as we’ve said, we’ve kept some of these missions closed as we continue to evaluate security. Tunis is closed today, Tripoli, Sana’a; Cairo is open; Beirut is open; Casablanca is open; Islamabad is open; Kabul is open; consulates Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar are closed today.
QUESTION: And as far as you know, there have been no untoward or violent incidents anywhere today so far?
MS. NULAND: There have been significant demonstrations in Pakistan --
MS. NULAND: -- particularly in Lahore, but I don’t have any reports of violence or of breaching of facilities, et cetera.
So your question specifically with regard to France?
QUESTION: Well, are you planning to follow suit given what happened in Khartoum with the German Embassy and the fact that that was attacked even though it – none of this really has anything to do with Germany. Are you concerned that the publication in France of these cartoons is going to – might have some impact, or are you taking any steps like the French are?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re in very close touch with our French allies as they evaluate their security posture. We are always in close touch on these things. We are continuing in every post around the world, but particularly in posts where we’ve seen difficulties or where we might expect difficulties to look on a day-by-day basis, on an hourly basis about the right posture, and that includes taking into account any new information, including this, and we will do that.
QUESTION: So – but you’re not aware of anything specific related to the cartoons?
MS. NULAND: Well again, we’re talking to the French, I’m obviously not going to get into our security assessment other than to say this is one of the things we’re factoring into our look at security going forward.
QUESTION: There’s no plan right now to follow suit as the French have to close down some embassies in certain countries on Friday, which, I believe, is being declared in Pakistan a day for the – a national holiday for the Prophet Mohammed?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve been making these decisions on a day-to-day basis. I’ll let you know on Friday what we decide to do on Friday.
QUESTION: Just a quick question. This video or cartoon is not the first one and may not be the last one, unfortunately. There have been many, many cartoons and videos and comments against other religions, including Christianity and Hindus, but there – we have not seen any much violence of any kind. They just forgot. What you think the future – are you ready and prepared for the future, because this will continue like this, or Secretary or President needs maybe some kind of special – any new message for those who are maybe misled or maybe – very few people, not everybody in the same boat that we see the violence?
MS. NULAND: Well Goyal, I think the President, the Secretary have been working very hard, obviously, over the last week, and last time we saw this to make very clear that we may consider these things repulsive, we may consider them insulting, but that is not an excuse for violence, not an excuse for violence anywhere. And also to underscore that the U.S. Government doesn’t put this stuff out. We have nothing to do with it.
But no government, no people should use it as an excuse for violence. And we’ve been working with countries around the world, as I said yesterday, as I’ve been saying all week, to encourage leaders, both government leaders but also civil society leaders, religious leaders, to stand up for peace and to reject violence as a response.
QUESTION: I’m asking you really quickly, there is nothing in the Qu’ran, anything like this.
I have been talking to many people, my friends from various countries, Pakistan, and all them. What – are you taking any other steps in the future that these things doesn’t happen as far as violence are concerned – I mean, other than what you are taking steps now. Are you have in mind anything in the future, something different steps or different map – roadmap?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you said, Goyal, these things are not new. We’ve had these kinds of things before. We continue to try to build strong networks with moderate leaders whether they’re in the government, whether they’re in the religious community, whether they’re in civil society, to reject violence as a response to insults of this kind.
QUESTION: Can I go to Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Wendy Sherman met with the Egyptian Ambassador Tawfik. Can you discuss some of the issues that were brought up in their meeting?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything specific on Under Secretary Sherman’s meeting. As you know, we’ve been in constant touch at all levels with the Egyptian Government. The President spoke to President Morsi; the Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Amr. We have had Under Secretary Sherman in contact with the Ambassador. All of these conversations have focused first and foremost on security, but also on our commitment to continue to work together to try to support the Egyptian transition. So I don’t have anything in particular, but you can imagine what the subjects were in this case.
QUESTION: Well, what impact have both the events that happened in the region over the last week or two, as well as calls in Congress to limit or even stop some of the aid to Egypt, to what extent has that impacted either bilateral relations or your communications with Egyptian officials?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I just said we’ve been in constant contact with Egyptian officials at all levels. At times like this, one wants to communicate even more. But part of our message has been, as I said here yesterday, that we remain committed to supporting the democratic transition in Egypt. That’s the right response for isolating extremism and for not allowing these kinds of folks to turn back the clock on what the people of Egypt stood up for in Tahrir Square.
QUESTION: Sorry, one last one. Are there are any plans for anyone, at least from the State Department, to meet with President Morsi during his trip to New York?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure that there will be the appropriate meetings, but I don’t have anything to announce at the moment.
Elise, in the back.
MS. NULAND: Are you still on Egypt, Elise, because Wendell’s got something on Egypt here. Are you on Egypt?
QUESTION: No. It’s really --
MS. NULAND: Okay. Let’s do Wendell then first.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that President Morsi had raised the issue of Abdel Rahman and releasing him, but in light of this letter from half a dozen members of Congress to the Secretary and the Attorney General, I want to ask you if someone else within Morsi’s government has broached the idea of releasing Morsi (sic) or releasing him to the custody of Egyptian authorities.
MS. NULAND: Let me say as clearly as I can, there is no plan to release the blind sheikh. There is no plan. To my knowledge, we have not been approached about it recently by any senior Egyptians.
QUESTION: Recently (inaudible) but have you been approached at all?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information that we’ve been approached. As you know, we had some comments during the campaign in Egypt but – yeah.
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: Regarding the American consulate in Alexandria, is it back to work or not yet?
MS. NULAND: Still closed.
QUESTION: Still closed?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There is another question related to the riots and the demonstrations that took place and regarding the movie – or the so-called movie – a lot of – some people were arrested. Are U.S. is following what’s going on with the investigation of these people, or you just going to listen what was said about them?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about in Egypt. We’re obviously in close contact with the Egyptian Government as they investigate those who may have turned to violence, and we will cooperate with them to the extent that we need to.
QUESTION: Yes, and the same time, some in Egyptian – young people was sentenced because of he put use the movie whatever, and he was I think in all these cases is becoming like a court issues, which sometimes even the law is abused. Are you interested to follow this thing as a legal issues or just because of security? It’s not an issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we will continue to follow these as we do everywhere in the world. I would simply say that our own position on this is absolutely clear, that whereas this may be repugnant, it may be insulting, we may all be offended by it, and we separate ourselves definitively from it, as a government we’re not involved, we believe in free speech. We believe that free speech should be protected. And there’s never an excuse for violence as a result of an insult.
QUESTION: So does that answer – that these charges that have been brought in absentia against the filmmaker and others involved in it, you’re not supportive of those?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve just stated clearly that’s where we are on these things.
QUESTION: Well, I understand – yeah, that was a broad statement. But it’s specifically related to these – what do you think of charges like this being brought in a country that is a recipient of U.S. assistance and is also a place where you have gone out of your way to promote freedom of speech, freedom of – including during the Mubarak regime.
MS. NULAND: I think we will continue to have the conversation that we’ve been having with the Egyptian Government with regard to the basic principles that we think ought to protect free speech when it doesn’t turn violent.
QUESTION: But do you know if there had been any conversations with the Egyptians about this?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that, Matt.
QUESTION: This is also about free speech. A German director whose name is Hans Muller says his film Shadow Inc. which is basically about the State Department directives being kind of sponsored by corporations, he says that he’s been told that --
MS. NULAND: The State Department what being what? Can you say that again, Elise?
QUESTION: That corporations – about sponsoring State Department initiatives. He says – his documentary is called Shadow Inc., and he says that the State Department has banned his film due to what he says is, quote, “reactions of recent incendiary foreign documentaries.”
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re not in the position of banning films. That’s not what we do.
QUESTION: I understand, but that’s what he said.
MS. NULAND: So I’m not sure what he’s talking about, but I’m happy to look into it. Perhaps he wanted to be one of the films that we send around the world and we didn’t happen to choose him. I just don’t know. But you know that we don’t ban films. That’s not our business here.
QUESTION: I understand. Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: He might just be looking for PR because --
MS. NULAND: You just got it, right? Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I looked at the trailer, and there were only 146 hits on it on YouTube yesterday. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Excellent. Well, let’s – maybe we just gave him some more hits.
QUESTION: Change topics?
QUESTION: Now there’s 147. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thanks to you.
MS. NULAND: All right. And Elise is about to go dial it up. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The financial rules of the Palestinian Authority --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Today the World Bank issued also a very bleak picture of what’s going on, warning against looming collapse of the Authority. Also the Palestinian Finance Minister, I believe, is visiting town. Or do you have any kind of extensive meetings with them, and what did they result in – Nabil Qassis.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen the World Bank’s report prepared for the upcoming Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting. This is going to be, obviously, an important departure point for the discussions that we’re going to have in New York next week among delegations from donor countries, the World Bank, in New York over the weekend. You know that we’ve also been concerned that we are working as hard as we can to take steps, and I would expect that in our bilateral interactions with some of the traditional donor countries we will be encouraging them to give as generously as they can because the situation is very, very difficult.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Arab countries that have made commitments are shirking their responsibilities?
MS. NULAND: Look, we have a number of countries who’ve made big commitments. We obviously want to see them follow through, and we will be talking to them about it when we see them in New York.
QUESTION: And yesterday you mentioned that they should sort of be on par with the Europeans, so to speak. You still urge them to do that, to be as generous and as forthcoming as Western countries?
MS. NULAND: We think we’ve all invested an enormous amount in the stability of the Palestinian Authority and its ability to deliver services. Now is not the time to slack in that regard.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you had any meetings in this building with Nabil Qassis?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think so, but we’ll get back to you if that’s not right.
QUESTION: Can we move out of the Middle East?
MS. NULAND: Anything else in the Middle East? Okay, one of your colleagues in the back. That would be you.
MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: I’m with Phoenix TV, Hong Kong.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: Yes. Ambassador Gary Locke’s car surrounded by Chinese protestors. From the U.S. Government point of view, what’s the motivation of the Chinese protestors?
MS. NULAND: Well, I obviously can’t get into the head of these demonstrators. But just to confirm what you’ve all seen, on September 18th, approximately 50 Chinese demonstrators surrounded Ambassador Locke’s official vehicle as it attempted to enter the Embassy compound. They caused minor damage to the vehicle. Ambassador Locke himself was unharmed. There were Chinese security personnel standing in front of the compound; they responded and removed the demonstrators from the scene, which allowed the Ambassador’s car to move forward.
We have registered our concern about this incident, both in Beijing and in Washington, and Chinese authorities have expressed their regret with regard to it.
Again, I can’t speak to the motivations. But as you may know, our mission is located very close to the Japanese mission, and there were some chantings of slogans with regard to the Senkaku Islands. So our preliminary assessment is that it was related to that issue and not to the issues in the Middle East.
QUESTION: But related to that issue in what way? Related because the U.S. has this treaty agreement with Japan, or just related because it happened to be close by and it was in a big, official limo or car or whatever and it was – and the protestors just kind of gravitated toward that because it was there, rather than because it was a U.S. vehicle?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I would guess that the Chinese are going to investigate and we’ll support that, but our preliminary assessment is that it was sort of a target of opportunity that they were there at the Japanese mission, they saw the car with the flag, they were obviously --
QUESTION: Okay. Given that, or given the fact that you think it might have been related to anger or tensions over the Senkakus and not anything having to do directly with the United States, do you think it’s time to come out with a more forceful statement or declaration of your – of the U.S. position, given the fact that now you have tangentially or U.S. personnel have tangentially been – their safety has been potentially compromised because of it?
MS. NULAND: Well, our public lines on this are not going to change. I don’t anticipate them changing. As we said yesterday, we are concerned about tensions between these two countries. We, the United States, don’t take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkakus, but we want to see the Japanese and the Chinese work through it. As you know, the Secretary had meetings with both Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Noda. We are going to do our diplomacy in private, as you can imagine. We have – Defense Secretary Panetta is still in China, and he’s obviously – I would guess he’s speaking on this issue as well.
QUESTION: Is one of the reasons for your concern the fact that this disputed territory is covered by the treaty?
MS. NULAND: I think our main area of concern at the moment is that tensions are relatively high. As the Secretary said when we were in Asia, this is not a new issue. This has been around for decades. And the tensions have periodically spiked over time, but they’re quite high now, and that always concerns us.
QUESTION: Right. Well, exactly. But I don’t recall the American Ambassador’s car being attacked out in the middle of a --
MS. NULAND: Well, again --
QUESTION: So I’m just – I mean, is one of the reasons for your concern – and I think – I don’t see why it would be a diplomatic faux pas to say it was – that if there is a conflict between Japan and – your ally Japan and China over this, your treaty – you have treaty obligations that would come into play.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously spoken to our position on all of that. It is not good for anybody – not for China, not for Japan, and not for the United States or any other regional powers – when tensions are heightened, because you could have unexpected consequences.
QUESTION: Right. Which --
MS. NULAND: You could have miscalculations.
QUESTION: Right. Which then could lead to your becoming involved, correct, because of your treaty --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but you know our position on all of this.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Yes. Will the U.S. Government try to reduce the people’s impression that the U.S. is siding with Japan on (inaudible) this week?
MS. NULAND: Well, people should not have that impression, because we’ve been absolutely clear that we want to see these governments work through this bilaterally through dialogue. And that’s what we are saying to both the Chinese side and the Japanese side, and we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: Madam, this is not the first incident at the U.S. missions in China. Even Ambassador Locke in the past had complained that your mission in Hong Kong was also – had a problem because Chinese were keeping their eyes there, they were harassing U.S. diplomats there. So do you know about that, and Hong Kong also?
MS. NULAND: I think that was a separate issue which went to – which didn’t have to do with demonstrations, et cetera.
QUESTION: I have a very brief scheduling thing. The White House has announced a little while ago that the President’s going to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi over there this afternoon, I think at 5. Is the Secretary going to be there for that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t believe she’s going to that meeting. As you know, she had a chance to spend a lot of time with Daw Suu, and she is on the Hill today for the receipt of the medal she – but if that’s not right, we’ll get back to you.
Okay. Yeah, Arshad.
QUESTION: You may not know about this because it came up while we were in the briefing, but --
MS. NULAND: I love it when you do that do me. He’s reading his Blackberry. Something pops.
QUESTION: You may know about it. Who knows?
MS. NULAND: I might; I’m omniscient, right?
QUESTION: An Italian court has upheld the guilty verdicts against 23 Americans for their alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric. This was, according to reports, the first – these were the first criminal convictions with regard to so-called renditions during the Bush Administration. All 23, I believe, are in the United States, and Italy hasn’t asked for --
MS. NULAND: I’m going to --
MS. NULAND: -- stop the pain for both of us and tell you I’ll take it and see if we have any reaction.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Anything else? Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)