Tuesday, June 3, 2014

State Department Briefings May 9, May 15, June 4

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 9, 2014

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about the South China Sea again.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I know that you were asked about this yesterday, but the Vietnamese have released more photos that they say is evidence that the Chinese were the ones who indeed instigated the clash that occurred last week. I wanted to know if the State Department has seen those photos and if you make anything of them.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve spoken pretty extensively to this and our concerns about the provocative actions. I don’t have anything new to add today.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I did have one more follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I don’t think you have a comment on this, but the – China’s Foreign Ministry did have a rebuttal to something you said from the podium here a couple days ago, essentially saying that the U.S. should butt out of this conflict because it doesn’t specifically involve the U.S. I just wanted to know if you could comment on why the U.S. should not butt out.
MS. PSAKI: Well again, we don’t take a position on the sovereignty, as you know, of these – these are disputed waters, and obviously, they have a difference of view on who has control over those waters or who has ownership over those waters. So I think we were speaking to – in response to a range of questions.
Our concerns about – any time there are provocative or unhelpful actions taken that put the maintenance of peace and stability at risk, and I think that’s something that any country has the right to have concerns about.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And also, the foreign ministry spokeswoman this morning said that the United States was making irresponsible statements on this, and that you’ve ignored the facts and made a whole series of wrong remarks.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would stand by our statements we’ve made and our views on this specific issue.

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 15, 2014
QUESTION: And so I just wanted to know if you guys are following the ongoing unrest in Vietnam. The riots and looting and protest to the Chinese actions off the coast have now spread to the central part of the country, and seeing reports that the number of dead could be more than 20. I was just wondering how you guys are responding − what guidance you’re providing to Americans, if any. Yeah, maybe if you want to get into that first, and then I’ll go on with my second one.
MS. HARF: Yes. So we are, obviously, closely following the protests that you asked about. And as we say frequently – as I say frequently – support the rights of individuals, people to assemble peacefully to protest. Obviously, all parties need to refrain from violence and exercise restraint here.
We are in close touch with national and local authorities; condemn any of the violence that we’ve seen and the loss of life that’s occurred. And again, would encourage people while they – everyone – while folks are exercising their right to freedom of expression to refrain from any further violence.
QUESTION: Any particular sort of warnings or guidance to U.S. citizens in the country or visiting U.S. citizens?
MS. HARF: Not that I’ve seen. We haven’t – not that I’ve seen. We haven’t seen any reports of U.S. citizens being targeted, but I’m happy to check with our folks and see. I just haven’t seen any specific warnings.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Going back quickly to the Spratlys, I did find it in my guidance. So to revisit the last question: We are aware of reports that China is reclaiming land at a disputed reef – I think this is what you were referring to – in the South China Sea. Major upgrades or the militarization of disputed land features in the South China Sea by any claimant has the potential to raise tensions. That’s why we think that all parties to the Declaration On the Code of Parties in the South China Sea should fully and effectively implement the DOC, especially with regard to exercising self-restraint and the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes. And recent incidents highlight the need for claimants to be transparent about their respective activities in disputed areas.
Obviously, we’ve talked about this in a number of ways recently, but again, want folks to reach a shared understanding on appropriate behavior and activities in these kind of disputed areas.


QUESTION: Hi Marie, thanks for doing this. Can I just go on back to the Vietnam protests for a minute? I certainly appreciate that the State Department supports the right of people to protest around the world, but these have been unusually large demonstrations for Vietnam and I’m wondering if the Department has a position on whether the protests are justified. That would be my first question.
Then there have been mounting sort of anti-Chinese fervor in Vietnam over the past week or so, particularly since China placed an oil rig off the coast of Vietnam. Does the Department believe that the Chinese may be violating Vietnamese sovereignty with this move and sort of pushing the Vietnamese to accept Chinese sovereignty claims over certain areas of the South China Sea? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond beyond just saying we support the right of people to --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Well, on the oil rig issue, I’ve said and a bunch of us have said repeatedly that China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels in waters that are disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions, absolutely, and that this is a unilateral action that appears to be part of a broader pattern, quite frankly, of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed areas in a manner that really undermines peace and stability in the region.
So we are very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation of this kind. We’ve called on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law. So I think we’ve spoken out very clearly about how that action was seen and could be seen as provocative and raising of tensions.
QUESTION: Could you --
MS. HARF: In terms --
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. HARF: Go ahead. No, no, go ahead. You can follow-up on that before I get to my next one.
QUESTION: Could you update us just on what the last communications or what level of communications is the Department having with the Chinese on this particular issue within the context of perhaps getting the Chinese to pull the ship out without losing face at this point?
MS. HARF: Well, we have raised this issue with both sides, including at high levels, during separate calls with both the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, who is also the foreign minister, and the Chinese foreign minister. The Secretary – Secretary Kerry emphasized our strong concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea and stated our view that China’s unilateral introduction of an oil rig was provocative; urged both sides to de-escalate tensions, engage in high-level dialogue, ensure safe conduct by their vessels at sea, and a host of other things as well.
So the Secretary’s been engaged on it; other folks have been as well. I think the last time the Secretary spoke to the Chinese foreign minister was on Monday evening, where he again emphasized our strong concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea.
QUESTION: But that was – when were the protests that time? Had they really gotten out of – gotten big by Monday evening, or that was before the protests really got going?
MS. HARF: Well, we can – I can check on that, but he was very clear about what was happening in the South China Sea and what behavior should not continue.
In terms of the protests, as I’ve said, we’ve been in close touch with national and local authorities and have absolutely condemned the violence and the loss of life that’s occurred. What I said, though – and I – it didn’t sound like you really liked the answer, but it’s true that we support the rights of individuals to assemble peacefully to protest, period. So that is something that is important to us, but at the same time, urge all parties to refrain from violence and to exercise restraint. Those are really things that underscore what we’ve said.
So while we support peoples’ right to protest, we do not in any way support violence against Chinese-affiliated businesses or firms in Vietnam – absolutely are opposed to that, so --

QUESTION: Thank you very – no, I appreciate it. Thank you very much

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 4, 2014

QUESTION: On South China Sea. Yes. So in the past, the Department has urged for a diplomatic resolution of the maritime dispute in the South China Sea. And today China rejected a – or rejected a step that would’ve sent – that required them to send evidence to a UN tribunal for a court in the maritime court. Is the U.S. concerned that the --
MS. HARF: Is this in the Philippines filing?
QUESTION: Yes, the Philippines filing. So is the U.S. concerned that China’s not genuinely interested in seeking a diplomatic resolution to the case?
MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said, the Philippines and other state parties have the right to avail themselves of the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for under the Law of the Sea Convention. We think this is a good thing. We think states should work through a rules-based system to resolve their disputes. So we have said, broadly speaking, that we are concerned about China’s actions there, about an increasing pattern, it seems, of destabilizing actions there, and again, believe that this kind of dispute resolution mechanism is a good way to handle these things.
QUESTION: And the court has set a deadline of December 15th for China to offer its evidence in its dispute. Is the State Department engaging with China at all to encourage them to take this step?
MS. HARF: I can check and see. I would imagine we are. Let me check and see.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

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