State Dept Press Briefing, March 9, 2023
The US State Dept held a press briefing on Mar 9 with Ned Price, the spokesman holding the forte. India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan figured amongst a host of other subjects.
Some Excerpts. Q-A on South Asia is tweaked to appear upfront.
QUESTION: Thank you. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. It is about U.S. intelligence report released recently in which United States expressed concern about the peace and security of South Asia mainly because of Pakistan-India tensions. Pakistan offered a hand – like offered to have peace talks with India many times, but Indian Government tried to avoid that. So when you engage with Indian authorities, what reason they say – why they don’t want to talk to Pakistan on the pending issues?
MR PRICE: I will speak to the message we sent to both India and Pakistan. We support constructive dialogue. We support diplomacy between India and Pakistan to resolve, again, another set of longstanding disputes. We are a partner. We are willing to support that process in any way that they deem appropriate, but ultimately these are decisions that India and Pakistan themselves are going to have to make.
QUESTION: So many analysts believe that United States has the power and authority to mediate between the two partners; Pakistan and India is partners of yours. So why don’t you just mediate?
MR PRICE: Because these are decisions for the countries themselves. If they agree on a particular role for the United States, the United States is prepared to, as a partner to both countries, support that process in any way that we responsibly can. But ultimately, it is not for the United States to determine the modalities or the way in which India and Pakistan engage one another. What we support is constructive dialogue, meaningful diplomacy between India and Pakistan in the first instance to resolve longstanding conflicts.
QUESTION: This is the last question. I hope you’re aware about the police baton charge in the women – at the Women’s March. I know you try to avoid commenting on the domestic issues, but this is like brutal attack on the women during the Women March on the International Women’s Day.
MR PRICE: We’ve seen those reports, and unfortunately, we’ve seen reports of violence and repression against marches on International Women’s Day around the world. We condemn reports of police violence against peaceful protestors who took to the streets to defend their human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe on International Women’s Day. It is to us reprehensible that some countries on International Women’s Day, a day for the international community to come together to celebrate the leadership and contributions and accomplishments of women and girls was marred in far too many places by violence and repression against the very persons we came together to honor.
Women and girls deserve the ability to exercise their freedom of expression, their right to peaceful assembly, and association without fear or retribution. We know from experience that governments that treat women and girls equally – that fail to treat women and girls equally and that don’t respect their fundamental human rights are societies that are not in a position to reach their full potential.
QUESTION: Ned. … two questions. One Recently Secretary was in India, and was he carrying any message from the President? And he had met many, many foreign ministers, and Indian foreign minister of course, the Russian foreign minister, but also embassy staff and all that, which he always does that. So, was he carrying any message from the President and where we stand now as far as the recent visit to India is concerned?
MR PRICE: So, Goyal, the Secretary did have an audience with the prime minister when they were in New Delhi for the G20. He had a chance to speak to the prime minister. I’m just not in a position to detail what was exchanged between the Secretary and the prime minister.
But our message to India and about India is consistent. India is a global strategic partner of the United States. The engagements we’ve had with our Indian partners at the ministerial level, at the leader level, at all levels has been in furtherance of deepening the already extensive ties between our two countries. These are ties that are political in nature, diplomatic, economic, security, and importantly people-to-people ties. There is a vibrant Indian diaspora in this country. There is quite a bit of interest on the part of the American private sector in India, exchange students. There are various ways in which our two societies are intertwined.
So every time we have an opportunity to meet with our Indian counterparts, it is an effort to deepen what is that already quite extensive global strategic partnership.
QUESTION: Second question is that was actually as far as budget is concerned. Recently I have been interviewing or talking to many, many American Pakistanis in the area. What they are telling me is that as far as budget is concerned or any U.S. or global help to Pakistan is concerned that goes in the pockets of the corrupt politicians or military dictators. And U.S. especially or other countries when they are sending money to Pakistan for the development of the people that may be hurricane or earthquake or any other natural or internal disasters are concerned, it never reaches to the people more than 1 percent.
And the money should go directly to the people, not to the corrupt politicians or corrupt military dictators, because they said recently – and Mr. Bajwa, he may have taken billions and billions of dollars after retiring as military dictator, but now he’s said to the next one now it’s your turn. So question is that internally situation is so bad that it may happen a civil war within Pakistan. So can you make sure that I can tell them, my Pakistani friends, that next time any help or any money goes from the U.S. into the country will go to directly to the people for the development that’s supposed to be?
MR PRICE: A couple things, Goyal. So first, on political questions, those are questions for the Pakistani people to decide for themselves. The United States does not take a position. We only take a position in support of Pakistan’s democracy and its constitutional system.
Our goal for Pakistan is a country that is peaceful, stable, and prosperous, and you referenced this, but Pakistan has encountered economic headwinds of late. They – the Pakistani people are facing record levels of inflation. Of course, this comes on the backs – on the back of the extensive flooding through parts of the country, and it has only put a spotlight on our need to continue to work together to help the Pakistani people on a – put them – to help put themselves on a sustainable economic path and a durable path to the prosperity that we seek for the Pakistani people.
There’s a reform agenda that the Pakistani Government is in the midst of. We encourage Pakistan to continue working with the IMF, especially on reforms that will improve Pakistan’s business environment, and we know that doing so will ultimately make Pakistani businesses more attractive and competitive around the world. This is a country with tremendous potential, and we have partnered with Pakistan. We want to make sure that the resources that Pakistan has itself, the resources that the United States is contributing, that other countries are contributing, and the resources that have and will continue to come from international financial institutions – they’re managed responsibly as part of responsible and responsive governance.
QUESTION: Can I ask a quick question on Afghanistan?
MR PRICE: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. The Washington Free Beacon claimed that the Taliban are in possession of $7.2 billion worth of American arms that were left behind, including airplanes, ground-to-air missiles, and so on that pose a threat to U.S. interests. Do you have any comment on that?
MR PRICE: I’m not familiar with that report, and that’s an issue that our colleagues at the Department of Defense would be in a better position to respond to. What I can say is that since August of last year, we have found that previous estimates – and I can’t speak to this one, because I’m not familiar with it – of material that may be in the Taliban’s possession that was left behind after the evacuation – those estimates were inflated by a large degree, but I can’t speak to this.
THE PRESS BRIEFING OPENED AT 2:02 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy budget day. It’s a very special day every year. Today, to help commemorate the occasion, we have two very special guests. I am very pleased to introduce to you Ambassador John Bass – he, of course, is the Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; and our colleague Paloma Adams-Allen – she is the USAID Deputy Administrator for Management and Resources. Both will offer some opening remarks on the FY 2024 budget request for Department of State and USAID, and then we’ll take your questions, and then we’ll proceed to our normal programming.
So with that, Ambassador Bass.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Great. Thank you, Ned, colleagues. Good afternoon.
And we’re here, of course, to present the highlights of the Fiscal Year ’24 budget request for the department and for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The resources detailed in our combined Fiscal Year 2024 budget are essential to the Department of State and USAID’s work to advance the Biden administration’s vision of a free, open, secure, and prosperous world, while delivering on issues that matter most to the lives and livelihoods of our fellow Americans.
The President’s FY 2024 budget request requests $63.1 billion for State and USAID. This is a $4.9 billion increase, roughly 9 percent increase, above what Congress enacted for comparable State and AID programs in Fiscal Year ’23. And we deeply appreciate the support and partnership from Congress in resourcing this department and USAID to meet the moment that we face.
The budget is an extension of principled, clear-eyed leadership by the United States in the face of a set of generational challenges that require sustained commitments to address.
First, as you have heard so often from the Secretary, our approach towards the generational challenge posed by the PRC focuses on investing in our own domestic capabilities, aligning our efforts with those of allies and partners, and competing with the PRC where interests and values differ.
The second priority is to ensure that we continue to carry forward our pivotal work as part of the broader administration efforts to ensure that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine remains a strategic failure, while supporting the Ukrainian Government and the people of Ukraine. The FY24 budget will advance that commitment while promoting oversight and accountability to ensure taxpayer resources are appropriately spent and accounted for.
Third, we are mobilizing and enhancing resources to address shared global challenges, including economic challenges, energy challenges, food security, health security, the climate crisis, and other challenges that defy national borders such as irregular migration.
Fourth, the budget will continue our work to ensure U.S. interests and values are protected in the digital and emerging technology sector.
Fifth, we will continue the Secretary’s ambitious agenda to modernize American diplomacy and our diplomatic operations globally to ensure we’re equipped to address the challenges and seize the opportunities presented to us in the coming years.
In addition to these five major priorities, I just want to take a minute to highlight several other critical investments that the budget proposes.
To support all that we are doing globally, our request includes over 500 new staff positions for the State Department. And these will focus primarily on expanding our footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, increasing professional development and training options to ensure our personnel are best prepared to meet some of these complex challenges, and bolstering our consular staff to meet unprecedented demand for passports, visas, and other services.
And finally, I want to address one component that I know matters to many of our fellow citizens and to people around the world. As the department takes over responsibility from the Department of Defence for key aspects of our ongoing relocation of Afghan partners under Operation Enduring Welcome, we are requesting that Congress establish an Enduring Welcome program account to provide a consolidated, flexible funding source to meet our commitment in the months and years ahead to those who served alongside us in Afghanistan.
So with that, I would like to turn the podium over to my colleague, Paloma Adams-Allen, to preview the top lines for USAID.
MS ADAMS-ALLEN: Thank you, John. Thank you, Ned. Good afternoon, everyone. The President’s FY24 budget request reflects the decisive juncture at which the United States finds itself, with an opportunity to lead the world in extending the reach of human dignity to all. The requested funds will allow the United States to continue to support our country partners on the front lines of multiple overlapping crises, including responding to climate change and food insecurity.
The FY24 budget request for USAID is $32 billion in fully and partially managed accounts – an increase of 3 billion or 10 percent above the FY23 Adjusted Enacted levels.
It includes vital assistance to support American foreign policy priorities, including: additional resources to assist the people of Ukraine and all of those impacted by Putin’s brutal invasion; and confronting the rise of autocracy and anti-democratic threats posed by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
MR PRICE: Excellent. Thank you both. We’ll take questions.
QUESTION: Yeah. So I guess, Deputy Secretary, this is for you. And I realize this is kind of the drop in a bucket of $63 billion budget request, but I’m curious about the 150 million you’re asking for UNESCO. Because although there had been talk about re-joining, it had never been official. This seems to me – maybe I’m wrong, but this is the first time that you guys have sought money to pay these arrears. And I’m just wondering, how serious are you about this, because apart from the broader question of how – what a lot of people think is that the entire federal budget is DOA on the Hill anyway, but how serious are – is the State Department about wanting to re-join UNESCO? And how will you overcome the legal challenges – the legal hurdle to do it?
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Well, thanks, Matt. I’d say a couple of things. First of all, we appreciate the waiver authority we received in the omnibus for this fiscal year that gives us a path to begin the process of re-joining UNESCO, should we elect to do so an administration. We’re currently considering carefully those options. I would also say, if we do re-join – if we do choose to re-join – it will help address a critical gap in our global leadership toolkit and capacity, and it will also help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China. I think a lot of the focus on UNESCO overlooks the extent to which that entity is an essential element of setting and shaping standards for, among other things, STEM education around the world.
So, if we’re really serious about the digital-age competition with China, from my perspective, in a clear-eyed set of interests, we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key fora in which standards around education for science and technology are set. And there are a number of other examples in that space of UNESCO’s mission where our absence is noticed and where it undercuts our ability to be as effective in promoting our vision of a free world.
MR PRICE: Andrea.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Bass, how will this – beyond Enduring Welcome, how will this help address the problems of repatriating more Afghan SIVs and others, and some who are caught in third countries? If you could give us some detail as to what the commitment in this budget is compared to last year’s.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Sure. So in specific budget terms, you will not see new money in the State Department’s budget. That’s because we assess that the resources that we are receiving through a transfer from DOD and the OHDACA account gives us enough to work with for the current fiscal year and for Fiscal Year 24 to sustain a robust effort to continue to relocate Afghans who wish to leave Afghanistan to the United States or other third countries. In addition to that financial piece, we have a set of positions, a set of people in the department and at a number of locations overseas who are continuing to work full-time on this vexing challenge.
I have to say, in 35 years in this business, this is one of the most complicated, challenging problems to deal with, and it is going to continue to take a really sustained focus, which Secretary Blinken, myself, and many colleagues across this department are absolutely committed to.
QUESTION: I mean, you know this better than anyone, having been on the ground, so you’re in a unique position to assess. The criticisms at the hearing yesterday were pretty direct. I mean, could we just ask how you feel the State Department is addressing this? Because a lot of us are still getting appeals from people, including some who’ve come here and just can’t get jobs.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: So I’d say a couple of things. Like many, I was moved by the testimony yesterday of people across this country representing people across this country who care deeply about Afghans and Afghanistan. And that’s a reflection of the breadth and depth of a 20-year commitment, of which thousands of my colleagues here in the department were also a part.
That depth and breadth of commitment for such a long time is manifested in so many different ways for individuals. And we see the reflection of that, both in the continued scale of need, the outreach, the individual stories of Afghans who are still looking for support. We’re not going to be able to meet that need in the moment as quickly as all of us wish we could. But that does not mean we are not going to do everything possible to do right by as many people, to keep faith with as many Afghans to whom we have an obligation, as we can. And it’s why we are continuing to build out that capacity and ensure that we have sustainable capacity in the department to keep at this for as long as it takes.
MR PRICE: Kylie.
QUESTION: I have a quick question on the funding related to competition with China. And this proposal includes two billion to support high-quality, strategic hard infrastructure projects globally, and that’s part of the portion of the budget where it speaks about outcompeting China. But obviously when you look at what China has done with its Belt and Road Initiative over the last year, reports are that it invested more than 19 billion in direct investments in countries for the Belt and Road Initiative. 19 – more than 19 billion and two billion are just numbers that are completely at odds with one another. So how do you outcompete China, particularly in this space of infrastructure investment, when the U.S. Government just isn’t putting down the funds that appear to be competitive?
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Thank you. I think it’s important to differentiate between quantity and quality. We are not looking to match China dollar for dollar, in part because any number of Chinese investments – or, quote/unquote, “investments” – don’t make a lot of commercial sense. And so if we’re trying to do this in a thoughtful way that reflects economic norms and good business practice, we need to be supporting a proper evaluation of some of this on the merits.
By the same token, what we are finding as we are looking to support infrastructure development in many different countries and markets and sectors is that in an enormous number of places, partners – whether they’re governments, whether they’re companies – prefer to work with the United States or with our Western allies and friends. And often they are willing to do so at – on the face of it, at a disadvantage, in terms of what might be an offer from the PRC.
So it’s a matter of finding what in that particular transaction, in that particular infrastructure is a need that they are looking for, where a contribution that’s from the U.S. Government or supported by the U.S. Government would make the difference to them and give them the reassurance that we’re going to be present and we’re going to be partnering with them, and therefore tip the scales in their decision calculus, if you will, towards an investment other than one made by a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
MR PRICE: Could I amplify one point there? Where John started, I think, is a critical point because we are never going to match the PRC dollar for dollar in state capital, in a state-run economy like the PRC’s. But where we can compete, and in fact outcompete, is by harnessing the power of the American private sector, of private sectors in our closest allies and partners. That is precisely the objective of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, the initiative that President Biden launched with his G7 partners in 2021. You talked about $19 billion that the PRC has put forward. This is an initiative that is going to bring together hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five or so years.
So, it is a whole-of-society effort. It is what we can put forward in our budget, it is what our private sector can put forward itself, and it’s what our closest partners and allies can do, again, with their private sectors as well.
QUESTION: I promise to be brief. Now, your French counterpart today, Anne-Claire Legendre, called on the Israeli Government to provide protection to Palestinian civilians. Would that be something that the United States would consider, also calling on Israel to protect the Palestinian civilians under its authority?
MR PRICE: Our overriding objective, Said, is to see to it that Israelis and Palestinians alike live with equal levels of stability, of security, of prosperity. That is – that has been at the crux of our policy, of our approach. So this is very much what we seek to effect.
QUESTION: And lastly, the Knesset today, the Israeli parliament foreign relations committee and security committee, approved this morning in a parliamentary reading a bill that cancels the 2005 disengagement in the north of the West Bank and allows Israelis to enter the area again. The bill violates the Israeli Government’s commitment to the Bush administration and so on. Do you have any comment on that?
MR PRICE: We remain deeply concerned, as I said before, by the sharp escalation of tensions we’ve seen over the course of many months now. Our call to refrain from any unilateral steps remains, and those steps certainly could include any decision to create a new settlement, to legalize outposts, or to allow building of any kind deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities or on private Palestinian land.
Again, what we want to see is de-escalation. We want to see both parties take the steps that only they can take, the steps that are incumbent on them to take, to see a de-escalation of tensions and to see to it over the longer term that Israelis and Palestinians are able to work together, and work together cooperatively towards what has been the approach of successive American administrations. That is a negotiated two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians living side by side with equal measures of security, of stability, of democracy, of dignity as well.
QUESTION: Following up on that, does that admonition extend to daytime raids such as the raids that have taken place? And more broadly speaking, the U.S. commitment to Israelis and Palestinians having equal opportunities and eventually a two-state solution – how do you see that affected by the proposed changes in the judicial system and the independence of the supreme court?
MR PRICE: So a couple things on that, Andrea. First, when it comes to Israel’s right to defend itself, that is a principle that Israel of course have – has. We have seen far too many demonstrations – vivid, awful demonstrations, including of late – of the need for Israel to – oh no.
QUESTION: And that said, understandably, but is the level – the extraordinary level of U.S. support for Israel in all regards, isn’t that intricately related to their being a democracy?
MR PRICE: Well, of course it is, Andrea. And that is why we have the relationship we do have with Israel. We have interests, but just as importantly in some respects, we have values. And the fact that Israel has been a thriving democracy in the Middle East since its founding in 1948 has connected our two countries, has connected our two peoples. It’s precisely the reason why the U.S. president was the first to recognize Israel within eight minutes or so of its founding in 1948.
So this has always been at the crux of our relationship. It is always going to be at the crux of our relationship. There are difficult questions every democracy has to grapple with. We have been no exception to that, of course. And so as a friend to Israel, as a fellow democracy ourselves, we have offered this advice in private. We’ve also offered it in public as well about the imperative of finding, of achieving that consensus as proposals are being debated, even heartily debated.
QUESTION: Okay. The Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee recently that North Korea – Kim Jong-un would never give up their nuclear weapons programs. Will the U.S. keep its diplomatic doors open and continue to wait for dialogue with the North Korea, or will you seek for other measures?
MR PRICE: Janne, our policy approach – and I think it’s important to differentiate between intelligence and policy. Director Haines was speaking to our current intelligence assessment, our current analysis of the DPRK regime. Our policy is something separate, and our policy approach is predicated on what we would like to see happen, what would be in our interests. And it would be profoundly in the interests of the United States and countries around the world if we were to fulfill the objective that we set forth, and that is an objective for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
We have made very clear that these programs pose a challenge, not only to our treaty allies but to the United States. We want to achieve this and make incremental progress towards this through dialogue and diplomacy. Now, of course, the DPRK hasn’t responded to that outreach. That offer remains, and we do hope that the DPRK changes its position, it ceases with the provocations, and demonstrates a willingness to engage in the genuine offer of diplomacy that we put forward.
QUESTION: Ned, today the Israeli defense minister during a press conference with Secretary Austin said, “Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons requires Israel to be ready for any action and important decisions lie ahead,” he said. He signaled as if some military contingencies are not too far now. Does the administration share this sense of urgency with the Israeli administration regarding Iran?
MR PRICE: We share the assessment that Iran’s nuclear program is an urgent challenge. We have a solemn commitment that Israel – excuse me – that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. We are determined to make good on that commitment. We believe the most effective means by which to fulfill that commitment is through diplomacy. Only through diplomacy can we achieve a permanent and verifiable solution to the challenges that are posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
Diplomacy is always going to be our first resort, but if we aren’t met with a willing partner on the other end, it won’t be our last resort. So we’re always engaged in consultations with allies and partners around the world about this challenge because it is a challenge that has implications for our friends around the world.
QUESTION: You appear to share the sense of urgency, but you don’t appear to share the same method that should be addressed. You are saying diplomacy; Israelis are signaling or somehow implying military action. Do you think that you are on different pages with Israeli administration?
MR PRICE: I will leave it to my Israeli counterparts to speak for their own approach. We have discussed our approach with them at the highest levels. It was a discussion between Secretary Blinken and the prime minister and other Israeli counterparts when we were in Israel earlier this year. Our Israeli partners know, because we are transparent with them, the fact that we believe that only diplomacy can achieve a solution that is durable and that will provide a permanent resolution to the challenge of Iran’s nuclear program.
QUESTION: Also, a separate – a separate topic. I’m sorry. So Saudi Arabia – we have seen a report that Saudi Arabia is asking the United States to provide security guarantees and help to their civilian nuclear programs as Washington tries to broker diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Do you have anything on that? Can you just —
MR PRICE: I don’t have anything to offer on that specific report. Of course, it’s well known that we are a full and eager proponent of normalization between Israel and its Muslim-majority and Arab neighbors, both near and far. We have had conversations with countries almost literally around the world on this front, and we’re going to continue to support Israel’s efforts, our collective efforts to expand the set of bridges that Israel has been in a position to build with its Arab and Muslim-majority neighbors and also other countries. But I don’t have anything to offer on that specific report.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Saudi foreign minister visit to Moscow and the commitment to increase commerce between the two countries?
MR PRICE: I’d refer you to the Saudis for comment on the foreign minister’s visit. I would just add that the visit does follow a very recent visit of this foreign minister to Kyiv, where he announced that Saudi Arabia will deliver $400 million in critical humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, including $300 million in energy products. That was the first visit of a senior Arab official to Ukraine since the war began. We’ve also seen our Saudi partners vote repeatedly, including as recently as February 24th – just last month – in the UN General Assembly to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the principles of the UN Charter.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to quickly ask on Poland. Do you have any comment about the Polish foreign ministry calling in the U.S. ambassador over this documentary critical of the late Pope John Paul II aired on a local broadcaster which is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery?
MR PRICE: I don’t beyond noting that the ambassador was at the foreign ministry for discussions. I’m not in a position to detail those discussions.
QUESTION: Thanks. Josh Keating at Grid. I was wondering, can you clarify at all the U.S. position on whether crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court given that Russia is not a state party to the court? And do you anticipate that the U.S. will provide evidence or any other assistance to the court in investigating such crimes given that the U.S. is also not a member of the court?
MR PRICE: So first, a couple things. Over the past two years, the United States has worked hard to improve and to in fact reset our relationship with the International Criminal Court through, in the first instance, the lifting of sanctions that we think should never have been imposed in the first place, a return to engagement with the court and the Assembly of States Parties, and identifying specific areas where we can support ICC investigations and prosecutions, including steps to support the court’s work in Darfur and assistance in locating and apprehending fugitives from international justice, including the LRA leader Joseph Kony. We also offer rewards for information leading to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of foreign nationals accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide before the ICC.
But what we don’t discuss is the specific forms of support that we may or may not be providing to the ICC. We don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize the sanctity of an investigation, that could set back the pursuit of justice.
QUESTION: And your position now on the jurisdiction question over whether the court would have jurisdiction over Russian crimes in Ukraine?
MR PRICE: We support the investigation that the prosecutor has announced. Ukraine is a state party to the ICC.
QUESTION: North Korea-related question. Since March 13th, U.S.-South Korea military exercise will start. Do you think yesterday missile launch is something related with that?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
QUESTION: So since March 13th, U.S.-South Korea military exercise will start. Do you think yesterday’s missile launch is something related with those things?
MR PRICE: I couldn’t say the motivation behind the DPRK’s launch. If they are under the mistaken impression that the defensive exercises that we are conducting with our partners, the ROK and Japan, are intended to pose a threat to the DPRK, they’re mistaken. We are exercising only because the DPRK has engaged in provocations and has put us in a position to ensure that we’re capable of making good on the ironclad defensive security commitments that we have to our treaty allies, the ROK and Japan.
We’ve stressed time and again that we harbor no hostile intent towards the DPRK; we’re ready and able to engage in dialogue and diplomacy to bring about what is our overarching policy goal. But the DPRK has met those offers with only additional provocations.
Yeah, final question.
QUESTION: About Syria. An estimated 8.8 million individuals have been affected by the earthquake, as you know, there. And 10,000, more than 10,000 buildings have been partially destroyed. About 55,000 households as displaced — leave them as displaced, either within or between assessed communities. Northeast Syria is different than Türkiye; Türkiye has a government and they are helping those people who have been affected by the earthquake. Do you have any plan to help those people who are looking for a hand to bring them out from this dire situation?
MR PRICE: So first, when it comes to the earthquake, we are committed to our Turkish allies. We are committed to the people of Syria. Nationality, of course, means nothing when you are suffering the implications of a natural disaster like this. And our commitment of resources, our commitment of focus, that is for both the Türkiye – the people of Türkiye and the people of Syria.
In these early weeks, we have put – when it comes to Syria – an emphasis on seeing to it that humanitarian aid is flowing from Türkiye into Syria so that when it comes to our contribution of $185 million, we can ensure or do everything we can to facilitate the passage and transfer of that assistance across the border into Syria. The rest of the world is stepping up as well, and we want to see the – we want to see the border crossings that have now been opened continue to operate, to have trucks and convoys continue to be able to transit from Türkiye into Syria so that people across Syria can receive this much-needed assistance.
Of course, our commitment to the people of Syria is longstanding. Over the course of the past 12 years, over the course of the Syrian civil war, we’ve contributed some $15 billion to the humanitarian response that’s been necessitated by what the Syrian regime unfortunately has perpetrated on the people of Syria. Far too many Syrians have been forced to flee from their homes and from their home country. Many of them have found and started new lives in Europe. Many of them have come to the United States, and we are prepared, as a country that has always not only welcomed but benefited from the integration of refugees into the fabric of American society, to continue to welcome those from around the world, including from Syria, who go through the appropriate procedures and arrive in the United States as refugees.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:32 p.m.)
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