(AGENPARL) – ven 19 agosto 2022 You are subscribed to Press Releases for U.S. Department of State. This information has recently been updated, and is now available.
08/18/2022 08:40 PM EDT
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
2:16 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Quite a crowd we have today.
MR PRICE: Good to see so many people. I have one element at the top and then I’ll turn to your questions. The United States remains deeply concerned about Russia’s military takeover and continued control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency must be given access to ZNPP as soon as possible and in a manner that respects Ukraine’s full sovereignty, to help ensure the safety and security of the plant and monitoring of its nuclear material.
Brutality has been a hallmark of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The United States is aware of reports that Russian personnel have abused and coerced members of the ZNPP staff. We applaud the Ukrainian authorities and operators for their commitment to nuclear safety and security under the most trying of circumstances. The United States condemns in the strongest terms Russia’s reckless disregard for nuclear safety and security. Along with our allies and partners, we call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, and to return full control of the ZNPP to Ukraine.
We continue to support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to fulfill its safeguards mandate, and to assist Ukraine with nuclear safety and security measures across its nuclear facilities.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: Oh, that was brief —
MR PRICE: Breezy? Yes.
QUESTION: — briefer than I thought – well, I wouldn’t say breezy, but briefer than I thought it would be. Okay, thanks for that.
Can we start with Israel?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: You have seen, no doubt, reports about the raid that – raids that were conducted on these NGOs and the closure of the offices. And I’m wondering what, if anything, you guys have to – you guys have to say about it, and what, if anything, you have to say about the review of the material that the Israelis gave to you last year about them being terrorist organizations.
MR PRICE: Sure. We’re concerns – we are concerned about the Israeli security forces’ closure of the six offices of the Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah today. We have reached out to the Israeli Governments at – including at senior levels, including here from Washington as well as from our embassy in Jerusalem, for more information regarding the basis for these closures. And we’ll will continue to seek additional information and to convey our concern directly and privately to our Israeli partners. Our Israeli partners, in turn, have assured us that more information will be forthcoming regarding the basis for their actions. We of course, have assured them that we will review that information on a timely basis and very carefully as well.
We have, in the course of recent events but also in recent months and beyond, made clear to our Israeli Government partners – and to the Palestinian Authority as well – the fact that independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and Israel must be able to continue their important work. Civil society is a thriving – is an integral element to thriving democracies the world over, and of course that applies here.
To your specific question about our review of the material that has been provided to us to date from our Israeli partners, what I can say is that we have provided that information to our partners within the U.S. Government. There are various departments and agencies who have taken a look at this material.
What I can also say is that when it comes to reviewing information, whether that’s intelligence information, whether that’s open-source information, we’re always reviewing new material, which is why we’ve conveyed directly to the Israelis that any new information they provide, including the information that have pledged to provide regarding the basis for today’s action, that would be something that we would review carefully, thoroughly, and immediately.
As I think you know, Matt, the – through the course of our review of this information, we have not changed our position on or approach to these particular organizations. I should note that we designated the PFLP as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 – several decades ago. It is also a specially designated global terrorist group. It remains designated today. We have never funded any of these organizations, but again, we have not seen anything that has caused us to change our approach to or position on these organizations.
QUESTION: Okay. So, does that mean that based on what you know now pending the arrival of this new information that the Israelis say that they’re going to give you, you do not see any basis for the raids and the closures that took place today?
MR PRICE: Again, we have been promised additional information regarding —
QUESTION: But I’m not asking about what you might learn in the future because that’s a hypothetical. I’m asking you about what you know now, and based on what you know now, were these – was this action legitimate?
MR PRICE: We have conveyed the message that there must be a very high bar to take action against civil society organizations. Our Israeli partners in turn have conveyed back to us that they have met that high bar.
MR PRICE: That is why —
MR PRICE: That is why we are going to carefully review the information that they have pledged to provide. We will form a conclusion, on the basis of that information. We don’t have that information yet. In the interim – in the interim – to your question – that is why we voiced our concern. We have voiced our concern publicly. We have also voiced our concern directly and privately to our Israeli partners.
QUESTION: Okay. But you got information about these groups from the Israelis a year ago, and you still haven’t made a conclusion. So, I’m sorry, it’s just a little hard to believe —
MR PRICE: Well —
QUESTION: — that all of a sudden new information is going to arrive, and you’re going to make it – when you haven’t made one in a year on the previous information, that you’re going to be able to say something – or will say something anytime soon about this.
MR PRICE: So, Matt, a couple things. As I mentioned a moment ago —
QUESTION: It stays at a – it’s in a perpetual state of limbo.
MR PRICE: Well, as I mentioned a moment ago, Matt, the – we have seen nothing in recent months that has caused us to change our approach to or position on these particular organizations.
QUESTION: Okay. But that —
MR PRICE: But the other point is that when it comes to these matters, we are always reviewing new information – new information that is in our possession, new information that our partners provide to us. That will certainly be the case with the information that our Israeli partners —
QUESTION: I get that, but —
MR PRICE: — have pledged to provide in this case.
QUESTION: But – okay. I guess this is kind of a futile line of inquiry. Let me just go —
QUESTION: Can I follow up on —
MR PRICE: Said.
QUESTION: I mean, I don’t want to belabor the issue or even beat the dead horse, because you guys received that information – as Matt said – on the 26th of October last year. It’s been a long, long time.
MR PRICE: So, Said, let me clarify.
QUESTION: No – just – wait a minute, just let me follow through on my question, okay? The – and you keep saying that the Israeli Government or the Israeli authorities met the bar – met the bar. Okay. Have they met the bar?
MR PRICE: Said, what I said was our Israeli partners have conveyed to us their opinion that they have met that bar. As I said, we do not have the information yet in our possession that they have pledged to provide us. As soon as we receive that, we will begin reviewing it. We’ll review it – we’ll review it thoroughly. We’ll review it carefully. I imagine we’ll also provide it to other departments and agencies who have a stake in this. To your first point, our Israeli partners did provide us with information last year, but I do want to clarify to underscore that what has been promised to us today is additional information – information regarding the basis for their actions over the past 24 hours. So, we will of course review that carefully just as we have carefully reviewed the information they provided to us last year.
QUESTION: Okay. And your – Israel’s record is clear in meeting this bar and being really truthful of what they say in their accusations, right? We have always had – we can look and review this record and find that Israel was always right in its assessment and so on, or its accusation, as far as you’re concerned, right?
MR PRICE: I am not going to be categorical about anything like that, Said. What I will say – what I will be categorical about is the fact that we will review what is provided to us, and come to our own conclusion.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you keep saying —
QUESTION: Well, what was the conclusion that you came to, based on the previous information that was given to you last year? Is there —
MR PRICE: Matt, I’ve said this now a couple times. We haven’t changed our position on those organizations.
QUESTION: But that’s – but what was your conclusion about the information that they – did you – do you agree with them that these groups are terrorist organizations or connected to terrorist organizations?
MR PRICE: What happened last year is the Israeli Government designated these organizations.
QUESTION: I know; I remember it very well.
MR PRICE: We have not – we have not followed through with any designations, nor have we changed our approach to these designations.
QUESTION: Okay, so that – okay, so then why can’t you just come out and say that you don’t accept the Israeli allegations —
MR PRICE: We are going to continue —
QUESTION: — (inaudible) the previous one.
MR PRICE: We are going to continue to review any information that’s provided to us.
QUESTION: Well, have you gotten anything since – since October of last year and today?
MR PRICE: We’ve been promised information today.
QUESTION: Yes, but have you gotten anything since October and today that would make you – apparently not.
MR PRICE: As I just said, we have not changed our position on these organizations.
QUESTION: Okay. So, you don’t believe the Israelis’ information?
MR PRICE: This is information – intelligence information is always information that is the subject of analysis, and different parties can read information differently, can perceive of threats differently. Our own analysis heretofore of the information that was provided last year has not caused us to change our approach to these organizations.
QUESTION: I was just wondering – you express you concern, but you don’t go as far as to condemn it. If that had been any other country, you would probably condemn the raids against civil society NGOs. So could you express why you’re using that language of concern and not condemning the situation?
MR PRICE: Well, I think the fact is that our Israeli partners, as I mentioned a moment ago, they took an action last year to designate these organizations as so-called terrorist organizations. What we’ve seen publicly, what they have conveyed so far privately in recent hours, is that there is an appropriate basis for the actions that they have taken. It will be a matter of urgency for us to review the basis for that information. We have not received it yet. It was pledged just today. As soon as we do receive it, we’ll begin reviewing that.
QUESTION: When do you expect to receive it? Do – did you give the Israelis a deadline? When do you expect to receive it and come up with – and conclude what the substance of these accusations?
MR PRICE: These conversations have taken place just within recent hours, so —
QUESTION: Okay, just let me follow up on – just a little bit on this. You keep saying that you have designated the PFLP as a terrorist organization a very long, long time ago. Yet, the connections between these groups and the PFLP is almost nonexistent. It’s so flimsy that your partners, your European partner, dismissed this altogether. So why do you keep repeating this? Why do you keep saying as if: that’s what the Israelis say that these guys were somehow – nobody knows of the connection is, but somehow were connected with the PFLP. You have no evidence, right? You have no evidence that these organizations have had any kind of connection, whether military or non-military or otherwise, with the PFLP, do you?
MR PRICE: Said, it is a fact when it comes to the PFLP that we designated it several decades ago in 1997.
MR PRICE: I wasn’t implying any explicit connection or denying any explicit connection between these six organizations and the PFLP. What we are going to do is take a very close look at any additional information that is provided to determine the nature of any links between – whether it’s the PFLP or any other organization we consider to be an FTO or an SDGT to these six organizations that Israel took action against today.
QUESTION: Israel —
QUESTION: Can I just ask you what is – what is your sense? I mean, you said you’re going to look at this with a sense of urgency, so another year before you – before you even deign to —
MR PRICE: Matt, I —
QUESTION: I mean, I don’t get it because you have – you’ve had this information about these groups for a year. You can either reject it, which it sounds like you’re doing but you don’t want to say that you don’t believe it, presumably because it’s Israel, a partner, that provided the information in the first place. But if that’s – but if that information was also reviewed with a sense of urgency, your definition of urgency seems to be a bit lacking. So —
MR PRICE: We began review of that information as soon as we received it. In the case of that information, what I can tell you is that we immediately provided it to a number of our partners throughout the interagency, other departments and agencies who have an equity in this, who have an interest in this, and who have the wherewithal to help us understand the information that our Israeli partners provided in this case.
Now, I don’t want to delve into a hypothetical because, again, we haven’t received the additional information that’s been provided today, but I would imagine that we, too, will share that information with other departments and agencies. So even as we begin reviewing it on an immediate, urgent basis, it is going to take some time for us to understand what I presume will be a complex set of issues and set of facts.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just – on a technical point?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: You just said the information that’s been provided today. So, did they actually provide you information?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry. The information that has been pledged today.
QUESTION: That they said that they would provide?
MR PRICE: That is correct.
QUESTION: They said today they would provide to you, but they didn’t say when they would provide it?
MR PRICE: That is correct.
QUESTION: All right. Relatedly, just – I’m sure that you may have – or I’m sure that you’ve seen these reports. Apparently, there – senior Israeli officials gave some kind of a background briefing in Israel to Israeli reporters in which they said that Prime Minister Lapid has sent a letter to President Biden saying that the Iranian response to the EU text is not acceptable and that you can’t —
I want to ask you about – I know that you’re not going to respond to unnamed officials, but the fact of the matter is that yesterday or the day before, you made a point of saying that countries that were not quote/un – were not “wild” about the JCPOA the first time around had changed their tune. And this seems to just fly in the face of that, unless I’m just completely misreading the stories that are coming out of Jerusalem.
MR PRICE: I don’t know if you’re misreading stories, but I think you’re either mis-recollecting what I said or mis-portraying what I said, because I did not say that every single country has as a matter of government policy changed its tune on the Iran deal. That is not what I said and that would not be true.
QUESTION: You said that members – you said that countries that were not, quote – unquote “wild” about the nuclear deal in 2015 – and then you specifically mentioned countries in the GCC, so the Gulf Arab states, and then you mentioned members of the security establishment in Israel —
MR PRICE: That is correct.
QUESTION: — had changed their tune.
MR PRICE: That is correct.
QUESTION: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Government of Israel has not changed their tune.
MR PRICE: But Matt, you just changed the subject of your sentence. You went from “members of the security establishment” to “the Government of Israel.” I am —
QUESTION: It was members of the security establishment in 2015. Members of the Israeli – some members of the Israeli security establishment in 2015 also were okay with the deal.
MR PRICE: And the —
QUESTION: But the government, the elected government, was not.
MR PRICE: And I have not said anything about the position of the elected government, current or then, to the Iran deal. Their position on the Iran deal is quite clear. It is something that we all know quite well, and something of which we are quite frequently reminded.
So of course, our Israeli partners have not changed their official position on the Iran deal. The point I was making, and the point that you at least portrayed accurately in one instance here, is that members of the security establishment, individual members of the security establishment, including some who were not, at least publicly, in favor of the Iran deal in 2014 and 2015, have voiced support for it now.
QUESTION: Follow up?
QUESTION: I wanted to ask, on the Iran issue – although I want to go back to the Palestinian issue at one point, but since we’re on Iran, you told our colleagues at Alhurra today that you made it clear for Iran – or to Iran – in the past that releasing Americans is a priority. Does that mean that any signing of the deal is contingent upon the release of Americans beforehand?
MR PRICE: It means that our approach to the Americans who are detained unjustly, wrongfully, by the Iranian regime – our approach has not changed. The priority that we attach to their return, as a matter of urgency, has not changed. We have conveyed quite clearly to the Iranian regime over the course of 18 months now the priority we attach to this as a foreign policy goal of this administration.
QUESTION: Okay. So but we still – I still don’t understand. You’re saying that – is it contingent upon their release? I mean are they connected, or are they one issue?
MR PRICE: We’ve —
QUESTION: Because I know that when Iran, let’s say, asked for something, you said you reject any extraneous demands and so on. Could this be like an extraneous demand that is not really at the crux of the Iran deal itself?
MR PRICE: These are two separate issues, and we’ve been very clear that we have sought to maintain these as two separate issues, precisely because the Iran deal has always been a very uncertain, at times quite dubious, proposition. It has always been a priority of ours to see these Americans, these dual nationals, released. We want that to be a certainty. So, from our perspective, we have very intentionally not tied the fates of these Americans to what has always been an uncertain proposition.
Anything else on the region before we move on? Gitte? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Following up on what Matt asked about the Israeli issue, Axios has actually mentioned that it was the Israeli prime minister who sent a message to the White House saying that the – what they’re working on, the text that they’re working on, goes beyond the redlines of the Biden administration, and that it should walk away. And we know next week the Israeli national security advisor is coming to Washington. Is – and of course, they’ve also mentioned again that they don’t have to abide by the deal if it happens. Will the – if the deal happens, would that – apparently not, but would the Biden administration be able to convince the Israelis not to take any action because it is being – the nuclear program is being controlled by this agreement?
MR PRICE: Well, to Matt’s question, to Said’s question, it is no question that we have tactical differences with our Israeli partners when it comes to this question, the JCPOA. There is also no question that when it comes to the strategic objective, the overarching objective, we see entirely eye to eye. We are aligned. We are aligned in the firm belief that Iran must never be allowed to acquire or possess a nuclear weapon. We happen to believe that diplomacy, through the – centered around a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is the most effective means by which to accomplish that, the most effective means by which to once again see to it that Iran is subject to permanent and verifiable limits on its nuclear program as well as to the most stringent verification and monitoring regime ever negotiated.
If we are able to effect a mutual return to compliance with the Iran deal, Iran will not be in a position to acquire a nuclear weapon. It is not for me to speak to Israel’s foreign policy, but we have heard from our Israeli partners; and when we’ve been together this message has been echoed by both of our principals. We see eye to eye on this overarching priority of ensuring that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: It seems like today there was indirect communication between Tehran and Washington. The Iranian foreign minister called the Omani counterpart, and then the Omani foreign minister apparently called Special Envoy Malley. The topic, according to the Omani foreign ministry, was the implementation or the nuclear agreement. Can you add anything else to us – for us? Has there been progress towards giving an answer to Iran’s answer to the EU text?
MR PRICE: So, what I can say on that front is that our review of Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposal continues. We have continued to convey our feedback directly and privately to the EU, as has been requested.
 When it comes to Oman, I don’t have any calls to confirm or to read out, but what I can say is that Oman has played an important role – an important role when it comes to discussions regarding a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, and has also played an important role when it comes to our efforts to see those Americans who are unjustly and wrongfully detained in Iran – to see them free. We thank Oman for that role it’s played.
Yeah, anything else on the region?
QUESTION: Ukraine, Russia?
QUESTION: Yeah – Ned, yeah.
MR PRICE: Yes, in the – Michel.
QUESTION: When do you expect the review to finish?
MR PRICE: Again, we have been conveying our feedback directly and privately to the EU. We’re not going to negotiate in public. We’ll do, as requested, with and through the EU.
QUESTION: This week, next week?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) because the Iranians – or somebody said (inaudible) that the Iranians actually placed a deadline that apparently passed last night, on Wednesday. There is no such deadline?
MR PRICE: We will leave it to the EU to speak to the parameters of —
QUESTION: So there is no deadline? The Iranians placed no deadline on their response?
MR PRICE: The – we will leave it to the EU to speak to the parameters they’ve requested. Anything else on the region?
QUESTION: Follow-up on two of the points we’ve – you’ve been discussing. Number one, regarding the Iran deal, in that article that my colleague over here mentioned, there was a report that Prime Minister Lapid had conveyed to Ambassador Nides that he’s concerned that the U.S. is not fully aware of the concessions that were proposed within the EU framework that was proposed. Did the U.S. see a full copy of the framework the EU was proposing before it was sent to the Iranians?
And then on the issue of the NGOs in Israel, what is the bar that – for the U.S. to be able to say – what evidence would it have to see to be able to sort of agree with the Israelis’ allegation that these NGOs were front groups for terrorism?
MR PRICE: So, on your first question, this – part of that goes back to what has been the case for several months. And the EU proposal that the high representative put on the table several weeks ago now was substantially based on the draft agreement that had been rather painstakingly negotiated between the parties, of course with our indirect communication with Iran, but directly through our European allies and others, that had been essentially agreed-upon since March. And so the EU proposal, as we’ve said, was substantially based on that March proposal.
Of course, when the high representative tabled what he has put forward as the best and final offer, we studied that proposal very carefully. We have conveyed, as I said just a moment ago, our feedback directly and privately to the EU on that initial draft, and in turn on the Iranian comments on that proposal. But again, that initial EU proposal was based substantially on the agreement that has been on the table since March and that Iran has been in a position to accept since March, if it had the political will to do so.
 When it comes to your question on Israel, look, I’m just not going to entertain a hypothetical. There is no question regarding the terrorist threat that Israel faces. We’ve all been reminded of that, tragically and vividly, to include in recent days. Israel cites security concerns; Israel cites terrorist threats. We will be looking to the information that they provide to us as we form our own judgment regarding these organizations and recent actions.
Anything else on the region?
MR PRICE: Syria. Okay.
QUESTION: I’ve recently been in northeast Syria, so I just wanted to pick your brains about a few things there. On the 20th of January, ISIS carried out, as you know, its biggest attack since it lost all of its territory when it tried to break out thousands of its members from a prison in northeast Syria. And as you also know, hundreds of people were killed in the battle. On the 22nd of January you said that ISIS had been planning this attack for a year. If you knew that ISIS had been planning to attack that prison for so long, why were thousands of men, some of them allegedly the most dangerous in the region of the world, kept in – why were so many men kept in a makeshift prison that was once a school, where it was overcrowded and clearly a security risk?
And just a follow-up from that as well. We know that there were hundreds of children that were being held in that prison, and we know that some of them were killed. Yet nobody seems to have any figures; no one seems to be able to tell us how many of those children were killed. Do you know how many children were killed? And why did the United States, which leads the coalition, sanction children being indefinitely held in a prison that has been described by human rights organizations as Guantanamo on steroids?
MR PRICE: So, there are a lot of premises and suppositions in your question, several of which are just not supported by the facts. When it comes to the region you’re talking about, the – it is not exactly a permissive security environment. Of course, there are a number of threats, not the least of which is the threat that’s posed by ISIS, the threat that manifested itself in the ISIS attack on that prison. Of course, no country has done more than the United States working with the dozens – some 70 countries who are now part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS#post-370191-footnote-1 that the United States started to put together in 2014, and we’ve continued in the nearly decade since to amass this coalition and to maintain it.
Through that coalition, we’ve been able to make significant progress against ISIS, against its so-called territorial caliphate, including in parts of Iraq, more recently parts of Syria. We’ve been able to shrink the size of the territory that ISIS controls substantially by some 90 percent by some estimates. So, the idea that the United States or any member of the counter-ISIS coalition has given license to ISIS to conduct any attack or to undertake or take part in any activity, that is just belied by the facts. And —
MR PRICE: Again, this is not exactly a permissive security environment. This is not U.S. soil. American troops are in Syria in small numbers as part of the counter-ISIS mission – again, as part of our collective efforts, but efforts in which the United States is still engaged, to maintain that pressure against ISIS – pressure that has prevented a number of ISIS attacks, pressure that has precluded the group’s ability to at least some extent to project power, to project attacks beyond the territory it controls. But this is a group that, as this attack illustrates, still continues to pose a threat. It is why —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) report stated that this prison was a security risk. When I was there in 2020 and in reports previously, the SDF warned over and over again that they couldn’t handle it, that security was an issue and that there potentially could be a prison break. There was an attempted prison break in 2021 as well that was foiled before it happened, and we know that there were – was opportunity to move them into a new facility that was funded by the Brits. But it seems as though – that you didn’t have your foot on the gas.
MR PRICE: So, by your own admission you have said the SDF, which are our partners on the ground, an important partner in the counter-ISIS coalition. If the SDF has said that the security situation was precarious, if the SDF, the local partner, is not in a position to take action, the United States as a country is going to have an exceedingly difficult time to do that. Again, we would like to be in a position to fully neutralize ISIS, and to do everything we can to starve it of its resources, to fully wrest any remaining territory that the group holds; but we are always going to be challenged by the operating domain, by the terrain that in this case is quite dangerous.
QUESTION: What specifically was the reason why the prisoners were not transferred to a more secure facility? They were transferred pretty quickly after the attack. Why was that delayed?
MR PRICE: Again, I can’t speak to the specifics of this. But much of it owes to the precarious security situation on the ground. This is a region of the world where ISIS is quite obviously active, a region of the world that is under threat from multiple directions. So, we may not have full freedom of movement, certainly the ability to do everything that we would like. That’s including why we are in many cases dependent on our partners on the ground, including the SDF.
QUESTION: So, on the children – what about the children? Do you know how many were killed in that attack?
MR PRICE: Again, I don’t have these details at my fingertips.
QUESTION: But why do you not have that information? I mean, it’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it, to have hundreds of children who were kept in a detention facility in one of the most dangerous prisons in the world.
MR PRICE: You’re asking me a very specific question about something that happened eight months ago. I – I’m sorry I don’t have that specific detail at my fingertips, but if we can provide it, we will.
QUESTION: On the same issue, there was apparently an incursion by Turkish forces into northern Syria. They killed 17 – I guess three Syrian soldiers and maybe 12 or 14 SDF members, and so on. Do you have any comment on that? Is that the beginning of the much talked about entry into Syria and occupation of the northern part?
MR PRICE: I’m not aware that we’ve seen any indication that this is the prelude to a broader offensive, but what I can say is that we remain deeply concerned about the destabilizing impact military activity has had on the region, including our efforts to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. We urge all parties to de-escalate, maintain, and respect ceasefire zones, and to work towards a political solution to the conflict.
Anything – okay.
QUESTION: Yes, Russia?
MR PRICE: Russia? Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah, Russia, China, and North Korea. The Chinese ministry of defense announced that the People’s Liberation Army of China is participating in the eastern army exercise in Russia. They also – they’re reported that North Korea and China will conduct its own military exercise – I mean technical exercises. These three countries are ignoring U.S diplomatic efforts and are having strong military ties. In this regard, what kind of readiness do U.S. and ROK, Japan, our allies have?
MR PRICE: What kind of readiness?
MR PRICE: So, on your first question, if I – if you’re referring to the exercises that are taking place in Russia, this is something that we discussed yesterday. These are exercises that involve a number of countries, not only the countries that you mentioned but a number of countries including some partners with whom we regularly conduct our own exercises. So as far as these broader exercises are concerned, we don’t read much into the specific participation of individual countries.
 What I can say more broadly, however, is that there are a number of challenges to the security environment in the Indo-Pacific, including in North Asia. This is – there is perhaps no greater challenge to peace and security in the region – in that region than that posed by the DPRK. And in the face of the DPRK’s provocations, including its multiple ballistic missile launches, including its ICBM tests and launches in recent months, we have taken action with our treaty allies – Japan and the ROK – to ensure readiness, to ensure appropriate deterrence against the threat that we collectively face from the DPRK.
Now, again, our preferred approach is one of dialogue and diplomacy. We seek to take part in dialogue – direct dialogue with the DPRK – as a means by which to advance our shared objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But in the absence of the DPRK’s willingness to do so, and in the presence of the DPRK’s continued provocations, including those provocations that create a very – a much more unstable environment. We’ll continue to coordinate closely with Japan, with the ROK, and to take appropriate steps when it comes to their security and our collective deterrence.
QUESTION: Do you think the U.S. and ROK joint military exercise is necessary for extending the deterrence?
MR PRICE: So, these exercises – and I will leave it largely to the DOD to speak to these exercises, but these exercises are purely defensive in nature. These exercises, as are all of our military exercises with the ROK and our allies and partners around the world, are intended to see to it that together we’re able to defend our collective interests, our shared interests, including from any potential threats or provocations from the DPRK. But these are purely defensive in nature.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thanks.
QUESTION: On Russia-Ukraine?
MR PRICE: On Russia?
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