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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – April 10, 2015

12:53 p.m. EDT

MR RATHKE: Hello.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MR RATHKE: Well, thank you. And to all of you as well.

One thing just to mention at the top: Secretary Kerry is in Panama City today. This morning he held bilateral meetings with Canadian Foreign Minister Nicholson, Mexican Foreign Minister Meade, and Vatican – sorry – Foreign Secretary Meade and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin. The Secretary also participated in President Obama’s meeting with Panamanian President Varela, and he returns to Washington tonight.

Last night, of course, as you know, the Secretary met with Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez. You may have seen the note we sent around on that meeting which took place rather late last night.

So, Matt.

QUESTION: I – I’m going to defer to Arshad for the first question.

MR RATHKE: Okay. Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we – do you have any reaction to the Pakistani judicial system’s decision to free on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is one of the people alleged to have helped plot the 2008 attack in Bombay?

MR RATHKE: Yes. We are gravely concerned about the release on bail of alleged Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. We have communicated that concern to senior Pakistani officials over the course of many months, and as recently as yesterday. Terrorist attacks are an assault on the collective safety and security of all countries. Pakistan has pledged its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators, financiers, and sponsors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice, and we urge Pakistan to follow through on that commitment to ensure justice for the 166 innocent people, including six Americans, who lost their lives.

QUESTION: Who communicated that concern as recently as yesterday? Was it the ambassador? (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: I believe it was in Islamabad. I would have to check to see whether it was the ambassador. So I can look for that detail.

QUESTION: Can I —

MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Will this be just the words to tell them that you are supposed to – have pledged and you are supposed to – you are giving them quite a bit of a deal on defense equipment. Will there be any repercussions of this? Or just words?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speculate about consequences or repercussions from the podium, but I think I’ve made clear that we’re, again, as I said, gravely concerned about this development.

QUESTION: But if there are no teeth to your grave concern, if there are no consequences that are possible, then why should the Pakistanis take your grave concern seriously?

MR RATHKE: Well, I would just, again, say that this has just happened in the last few hours. So of course we’re going to look at this development and decide what consequences to draw from it. But I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Just to – it’s not just the Mumbai attacks, it’s that six Americans died. And as President Obama has repeatedly said that anywhere where you will run, American is lost, we will hunt them down. And it doesn’t look like – as Arshad said, there’s no teeth. And so where do we head from here? Like, in other countries, when we’re dealing with other countries, we immediately talk about sanctions, we talk about – so when can we see any teeth or anything more? And you say that it’s 24 hours. What about maybe 48 hours? One week? Should we wait?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to put a timeline on it, Tejinder. But certainly, bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice is a key priority. And we stand by that. So we’ll continue working in that direction, but I don’t have any further specific steps to outline right now.

QUESTION: Well, when you said —

MR RATHKE: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: — we will look at this development and decide what consequences there will be, does that mean that there will be consequences, or you decide what, if any, consequences?

MR RATHKE: I’m – what I’m trying to indicate is that this development has just happened, so of course we’re going to look at it. And – but I’m not trying to foreshadow any specific steps.

QUESTION: Well —

MR RATHKE: We’ve got to look at this and decide what —

QUESTION: Forget about specific steps, how about any steps? Are you saying there will be, or is that —

MR RATHKE: Well, that’s what we’ve got to consider. I don’t – I’m not trying to say that there necessarily will be a particular step.

QUESTION: So it’s decide what, if any, consequences there will be?

MR RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR RATHKE: All right. New topic?

QUESTION: A question on Iran?

MR RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: So with Iran, I know there’s going to be some briefings next week on the Hill for members here. There have been some members of Congress who have been very critical of the tentative framework here. Pete Roskam in particular said, quote, “They have kept members of Congress entirely in the dark” – his words. How do you respond to those criticisms, particularly from the right, who aren’t pleased with this arrangement and what’s been coming forth to keep them apprised of what’s happening?

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve had unprecedented levels of cooperation, consultation, and briefings with Congress throughout the entire process of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. So we have made people available for testimony, we’ve had meetings, we’ve had phone calls. This has been a central part of our approach to the talks, is making sure that people in Congress are up to speed on the status and indeed, since the framework understanding was reaching in Lausanne, to reach out as well. I mentioned yesterday that the Secretary and Under Secretary Sherman and others are keeping in touch. The Secretary has made several phone calls to the – to members of Congress. Under Secretary Sherman briefed Senators Schumer and Cotton yesterday. And we remain in contact; in fact, we’ve offered even this week for Under Secretary Sherman to talk with members. So this will continue next week as well, when we anticipate that the Secretary will brief Congress. The exact timing and scheduling of that is still taking shape, so I don’t have scheduling details to announce. But this is – this has been what we’ve been doing and it’s what we’re going to continue doing.

QUESTION: What do you think spurs that? Granted, this is – you think that’s coming from people who are just opposed to this? And again, this is criticism coming from the right.

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to try to ascribe motivation to people who are being critical. I would just reiterate that we have made it a point to be in touch with members of Congress, and indeed, as recently as this week after the conclusion of the framework agreement, to offer to meet and discuss the details, and that will continue next week as well.

QUESTION: This briefing yesterday with Under Secretary Sherman and Senators Schumer and Cotton – excuse me —

MR RATHKE: Those were separate. It wasn’t – so it was a phone call that Under Secretary Sherman had with Senator Schumer, and then she had a meeting with Senator Cotton.

QUESTION: In person?

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: So were they the only two that took you guys up on the offer for yesterday?

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve made – we’ve offered, and those are the people who have taken the offer.

QUESTION: Do you have any more of a readout about the —

MR RATHKE: No, I —

QUESTION: — in-person meeting between Under Secretary Sherman and Senator Cotton?

MR RATHKE: No, no I don’t. I don’t have any further details to read out.

QUESTION: And – but it was at their request after you offered? Or did she reach out to these two in particular?

MR RATHKE: Again, we’ve made clear that Under Secretary Sherman was prepared to talk with members of Congress, and as I understand it, they took up that offer.

QUESTION: I’m sure we’ll ask Senator Cotton’s office how – what his impression of the meeting was. You don’t want to offer us what – offer us the State Department’s view of the meeting?

MR RATHKE: Well —

QUESTION: I mean, this building and the White House were extremely critical of Senator Cotton’s letter to the Iranian leadership.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering how this meeting went. Do you think you’ve won him over on this?

MR RATHKE: I’ll let him speak for himself, but the – certainly it was an opportunity to talk about the understanding that we reached and why we consider it an important start on the way to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that we aspire to conclude by June.

QUESTION: You can’t say that the meeting was cordial, or friendly, anything like that?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m not trying to hide something, I just don’t know. I didn’t take a barometer —

QUESTION: Okay. All right, but if you could —

MR RATHKE: — of the meeting.

QUESTION: — if you can find out, it would be interesting to know.

MR RATHKE: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Was it a full and frank exchange? (Laughter.)

MR RATHKE: Again, I don’t have a characterization, not because I’m trying to hide one – I just don’t —

QUESTION: Did it happen here or did it – for Cotton, did it happen here or did he —

MR RATHKE: I believe it happened here, yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MR RATHKE: Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay on Iran?

MR RATHKE: Oh, sorry. Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to know, I mean, have you – do you know if there’s been any conversation at the Under Secretary Sherman level or the negotiator level with the Iranians about the divergent narratives that have emerged from Lausanne in any attempt to get – in any event, to make sense of what are almost diametrically opposed accounts of what was agreed or not agreed to?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not aware of any direct contact with the Iranians in the last couple of days about that topic. Again, I – we stand by the information that we have circulated. I would also point out that I believe that our German counterparts made a similar comment today in a press briefing that they did about the question of sanctions relief. So the substance of what we have shared publicly and our fact sheet, again, we stand by that.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: The news reports —

QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

MR RATHKE: With your indulgence, Michel, we’ll stay on Iran —

QUESTION: No problem.

QUESTION: — with Pam and then we’ll come back to you. Yes.

QUESTION: Could I get your reaction to Iran’s acceptance into the Chinese-led AIIB? In particular, with both China and Iran being part of the ongoing nuclear negotiations, does this type of relationship pose a risk, first of all, of destabilizing the talks?

MR RATHKE: No, we don’t see – we don’t see such a risk. The P5+1 have remained united in our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and we expect that to remain the case regardless of other outside events.

QUESTION: What about the sanctions that are imposed on Iran? Could Iran’s affiliation with this bank have an impact on the international sanctions against the regime?

MR RATHKE: We do not expect that Iranian membership in the AIIB would have any effect on the international sanctions regime that’s in place on Iran.

Okay, Michel.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. A news report has said that the State Department approved the selling of Hellfire missiles to Egypt in addition to training and logistical support worth some $57 million. Was it accurate, and when the delivery has or will happen?

MR RATHKE: On Tuesday, the State Department notified Congress of a potential sale of Hellfire munitions to support Egypt’s efforts in countering the terrorism threat that the country faces, particularly in the Sinai. So no sale has been concluded yet. This was a notification of a potential sale, as required by law.

QUESTION: And when do you expect this to happen – the delivery?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we have – it’s a potential sale. So the sale has not been concluded yet, so I think it’s premature to speculate about delivery. But this is the step where we are in the process. We have done the notification to Congress. That has a particular time period associated with it. After that, a sale could be concluded, and then after that, we would – there would be – it would be possible to talk more about delivery schedules. But we’re not at that point yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Is this the kind of potential sale that until the White House made its decision last week would have been – on military assistance that would have not been able to have – would not have been able to have happened or would not be able to happen?

MR RATHKE: Well, this is part of our counterterrorism cooperation with Egypt. And as you point out, the Administration decided to lift the executive holds on the delivery of certain weapons systems and will continue to request 1.3 billion in annual military assistance for Egypt. So this falls under that —

QUESTION: So in other words, prior to last week or whenever it was that they made that, this sale could have not – or potential sale would not be —

MR RATHKE: Well, it would have gone under – it would have – there was a process in place. So yes, this is able to go forward following the Administration’s decision. Yeah.

New topic? Laura.

QUESTION: Can we go to Cuba?

MR RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, I know you didn’t have much on this yesterday, but do you have anything more on what the State Department’s recommendation was with regard to the state sponsor of terror designation for Cuba?

MR RATHKE: Well, as we discussed yesterday, I’m not going to talk about the content of the State Department’s recommendation which was sent over to the White House. The President yesterday outlined where that stood from the White House perspective now that they’ve received the State Department recommendation. And I think the President also pointed out that he’s not going to talk about the recommendation or his decision, because it’s with the White House for their review and for him to decide. So I’m not going to get into the content of it.

QUESTION: Did this come up – can you say – in Secretary Kerry’s meeting with his Cuban counterparts? Can you say anything about what message he might have had on that?

MR RATHKE: Well, the meeting between Secretary Kerry and the Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez, it was lengthy; it was very constructive, in our view. They both agreed that we would continue to work on outstanding issues, but I don’t have further detail to share from the discussion.

QUESTION: Can I go to Venezuela then?

QUESTION: Can I —

MR RATHKE: Yeah, but – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: What progress – I mean, I think the readout that you gave – you’re right, you said it was very constructive. So how is it constructive? I mean, was it constructive toward the formal restoration of diplomatic ties? Was it constructive toward the potential removal of Cuba from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list? Was it constructive in terms of Cuba adhering to the kinds of human rights standards that the United States would like to see? Was it constructive on any of those things?

MR RATHKE: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to break it down, but I’m not going to get into more detail about which particular areas and to evaluate each of the component parts. Of course, we are embarked upon a – the negotiations on the one hand to reestablish diplomatic relations and open embassies in our respective capitals, and there are a number of other dialogues that have been happening over the last few weeks, including talks related to human rights, talks related to communications, to maritime issues, migration. So those are all parts of the discussions we’re having with Cuba as a result of the President’s policy change. But I don’t have more detail on what they expressed yesterday.

QUESTION: Can you say whether yesterday’s talks covered all those topics?

MR RATHKE: I’m not in a position to outline every – whether every single one of those was touched on. I could see if there’s more information to share.

So you wanted to switch to Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yeah, if no one else has anything on Cuba.

MR RATHKE: Go ahead. Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have any further readout of Tom Shannon’s trip? Did he meet with President Maduro while in Venezuela? Anything you can tell us on that?

MR RATHKE: Counselor Shannon met on April 8th with Venezuelan President Maduro. It was a productive exchange and the United States welcomed the opportunity for direct dialogue. From our point of view we believe it’s in the interest of both countries to work together where we can, while we recognize that we will continue to have differences. And so we have said also repeatedly that we are open to direct engagement with Venezuelan officials, and it was in that connection that the meeting happened. So that’s the readout I’ve got on the meeting.

QUESTION: Did the issue of sanctions come up during this meeting, and in what way?

MR RATHKE: Well, the – again, the meeting happened at the invitation of the Venezuelan side, to send an official to talk with President Maduro. Among the topics they discussed included human rights and democracy concerns, from our side. I don’t have further detail on whether the sanctions issue was raised. I would refer you to the Venezuelan side if they want to characterize how they addressed that, if they did.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are any plans for any U.S.-Venezuelan interaction in Panama?

MR RATHKE: There are no bilateral meetings planned. Of course, it’s a big, multilateral summit, but it’s not – there’s no – there are no sit-down bilats or other kinds of meetings planned.

Yes, Abby.

QUESTION: Did the issue of Venezuela come up in the discussion with the Cuban foreign minister and Secretary Kerry?

MR RATHKE: So I’d put that in the same category as Arshad’s question. I’ll check and see if there’s more to say about that.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MR RATHKE: Yemen, yes.

QUESTION: The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee say they filed a lawsuit against Secretary Kerry and also Secretary Carter for what they say is the U.S. Government’s inaction in evacuating U.S. citizens from Yemen. From this podium you all have previously said that the State Department has been alerting U.S. citizens on opportunities to leave the country. So with that in mind, what is your reaction to this lawsuit?

MR RATHKE: Well, let me separate this into two pieces, if I could. On the one hand there – you’re right, there was a filing in – yesterday and as is customary, we’re not going to comment on the particulars of an ongoing litigation.

But on the other hand, you’ve touched on the question of evacuation of American citizens, and also I think it’s worth pointing out that back on April 3rd, we – that was our most recent update to our Travel Warning – but for more than 15 years the State Department has been advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen, and we’ve been advising those U.S. citizens who are in Yemen to depart. So I think it’s important to keep that in mind in – we’ve been – this has been our consistent position going back into the 1990s, that we advise people not to travel to Yemen – that is, U.S. citizens – and those who are there to leave.

Now with respect to the particular details and the advice we’ve been giving to American citizens who do happen to be in Yemen, we have been updating on almost a daily basis with the options that exist for people to leave if they choose. There was – you may recall over the last few days we’ve talked about there were flights and also ships from India, as well as from Djibouti. It’s our understanding that now the governments of Djibouti and India have suspended their evacuation efforts, and we also understand that the Government of India has closed its embassy in Sana’a. There are still attempts by the International Organization for Migration, the IOM, to organize flights out of Sana’a, and we continue to provide updates to American citizens about those opportunities and about any other opportunities that exist for people to leave.

QUESTION: You’re – the part of the response that says – your response that says, “For more than 15 years we’ve been telling Americans not to go and telling Americans who are there that they should leave” sounds an awful lot like you’re saying, “It’s your own fault that you’re there. If you’re stupid enough to go or stupid enough to stay, your government isn’t going to have any responsibility for helping you out.” Am I correct? Is that the right —

MR RATHKE: No, no. I’m not —

QUESTION: Well, why even mention that, then?

MR RATHKE: Well —

QUESTION: I mean, people are there. Some of them may not have had a choice in going there, and now they’re looking for help from their government.

MR RATHKE: Right, and so —

QUESTION: And you’re basically telling them to – well – (laughter).

MR RATHKE: Continue. Finish your sentence. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Fill in the blank.

MR RATHKE: Well, no. I would —

QUESTION: No? Well, okay. What are you doing for them?

MR RATHKE: I think I’ve just discussed —

QUESTION: Nothing.

MR RATHKE: No. That’s not true. That’s not accurate.

QUESTION: Well, you told them to go to India, or told them to get on the Indian boat or the Djibouti boat —

MR RATHKE: There are a number of American citizens who’ve taken advantage of those opportunities.

QUESTION: — but now – right, right, but now those are no longer options.

MR RATHKE: Well, some of them. As I said, the IOM continues to try to arrange flights out of Sana’a, so we’re keeping Americans updated about those efforts.

QUESTION: Okay. But it sounds as though you don’t have any – you don’t have a particularly – you don’t have any sympathy or much sympathy at all for American citizens who are stuck in a war zone.

MR RATHKE: No, no. We’re doing everything we can to help them find ways to leave.

QUESTION: Short of doing anything.

MR RATHKE: Look, again, I disagree with you. What you’re —

QUESTION: Well, what is the U.S. —

MR RATHKE: What you mean by “doing something,” I think, Matt. But tell me, what do you mean by “doing something”? You mean sending —

QUESTION: Something other than – I don’t know. Doing something I think would mean something other than putting out a notice that says, “Hey, there’s a ship to Djibouti and a” – I mean, the U.S. Government itself is doing nothing other than telling people, “Hey, here’s a potential option for you to get out if you can make your way to the port at Aden and get on a ship that’s run” – on an Indian ship, which is now no longer an option.

MR RATHKE: Well, we are unfortunately in a situation where access to Yemen is extremely difficult, and to do so with U.S. Government assets could put other lives at risk. And so we are doing the best with – in the circumstances as they exist.

QUESTION: I don’t think anyone’s debating – no one’s taking issue with that. That’s just a fact. But the idea that you’re actually doing something seems not to be borne out by the facts, because it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything at all other than telling people, “Hey, here was a way you could’ve gotten out three days ago, but it’s no longer available.”

MR RATHKE: Well, no, I think that’s unfair, because we’ve been telling people in advance of opportunities. We’re not telling people after the fact.

QUESTION: Well, you’ve also been telling them for 15 years not to go there and that it’s essentially their own fault that they find themselves in this situation, and sorry —

MR RATHKE: We’re not suggesting that anybody is at fault. I’m simply pointing out that for a long time the advice has been not to travel.

QUESTION: I know that you don’t or can’t talk about pending – the lawsuit, but I’m just wondering, is this something that – in general, can the government be compelled by a court – is there any precedent for private groups going to a court, demanding that the – demanding that a court order an evacuation or something similar? Is this something that falls solely within the executive’s purview to do, or is it something that a court can order?

MR RATHKE: Well, I can’t speak on behalf of the court. I can check with our legal folks and see if we’re aware of any such precedent. I don’t have that information in front of me, but I can check and see.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m just wondering if there – if you can be – if the executive, meaning the State Department and the Pentagon, can be compelled to carry out a – what essentially is going to be a military operation, although non-combat – but carry out an operation that would involve sending troops or government personnel into harm’s way to rescue people, if that’s even allowable.

MR RATHKE: Right. No, I understand the question. It’s quite possible that an answer to that question would essentially be a comment on an ongoing litigation, but I’m happy to talk with our legal team —

QUESTION: Well, you’re not aware of it ever having happened in the past, are you?

MR RATHKE: I’m not aware of, but I also haven’t researched the question, so I’m happy to ask our legal experts whether they know more about that.

QUESTION: Can I just get a quick update on —

MR RATHKE: Yes, Tejinder. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I had asked earlier and Marie, I think, didn’t have the number of Americans who were evacuated by the Indian – Indians. Do you have a number now, like how many people, American —

MR RATHKE: Well, we’re not giving out public numbers of people who have taken advantage of these opportunities. We are certainly aware of some American citizens who have left by a variety of means because there have been several of our partners who have offered to help in transporting Americans, and we certainly appreciate those offers to cooperate and assist. So – but we don’t – we’re not giving out numbers about those.

All right?

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Libya?

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: So four years ago, there was a lot of push, certainly the State Department, for the end of Qadhafi’s regime there, and now there are 12-plus ISIS training camps set up there. With that push from the State Department, do you think that the folks in Libya are better off now than what was happening when Qadhafi was there, considering the influence of ISIS in Libya now?

MR RATHKE: Well, you start – you point out that, of course, under the Qadhafi regime the Libyan people suffered tremendously, and the Libyan people rose up in opposition to that regime. And the response of the Qadhafi regime was to brutally suppress the expressions of the Libyan people for freedom and for a greater say. And so that was an uprising that came from inside Libya.

And in response to that, of course, there was support from the international community to prevent those kinds of atrocities. And of course – and now there is still a long road to go. The situation in Libya is not an easy one, but I think also if you were to ask and if you look at the situation in Libya compared to the Qadhafi regime, if you ask Libyans, I think that would be for them to voice.

We certainly have been supporting the Libyan people and we will continue to support the Libyan people. We have – we remain engaged with people on the ground, also with the UN, to promote a peaceful political process. There have been some talks recently. There’s still a lot more to do, and we’ll continue to support that process.

QUESTION: And I guess the follow-up on that then is, though: Is the ISIS threat, because of the effort to try to move something through Congress, to try to engage the United States militarily there, with having that influence of ISIS on the ground there, did that make things better? Is there a different type of threat that —

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to draw comparisons to those situations, but of course we’re deeply concerned about the threat from terrorist groups in Libya, including from ISIL-affiliated groups, who have expanded presence in Libya because of the absence of a strong, united central government. And so again, what this comes back to is that the ongoing escalation of violence against Libya points out the need for a political solution, and that’s what we’re working to try help bring about.

Samir.

QUESTION: On Libya.

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: There is a report that the delegation from the Libyan parliament coming next week to Washington to ask the State Department and Congress for arms and support. Do you have anything on this?

MR RATHKE: There are reports that the Libyan parliament is going to be making a visit here. I can confirm that a delegation from the Libyan house of representatives will be in Washington next week. The Libyan Embassy here is arranging their visit, so I think they would have more details about the specific elements on their itinerary. We look forward to discussing their work with the UN Special Representative Leon in support of the UN-led process to constitute a national unity government.

QUESTION: Do you know with whom they will meet here?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that detail. We’ll see if we have anything on the schedule that we can tell you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR RATHKE: Yep.

Yes, on the right, and then we’ll come to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is Sekae Toiyama with Ryukyu Shimpo Okinawa newspaper. I would like asking to the Futenma relocation issue. And U.S. and Japanese Government agreed to return Futenma in April 12, 1996. And it’s 19 years already passing, but Futenma isn’t – have not returned yet. How do you think about it taking so long time to that this issue is not solved?

MR RATHKE: Well, we remain committed to construction of the Futenma replacement facility. We are working with the Japanese authorizes in that regard. And of course, this is an issue on which our Department of Defense colleagues are in the lead since it’s a military facility. But we certainly are – continue to work with our Japanese counterparts toward that end.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea nuclear issue, I know the North Korea nuclear – excuse me – issue is totally different than Iran, but does the U.S. have any schedule to a nuclear negotiation with North Korea in near future in some times this year or, I don’t know?

MR RATHKE: Well, our position on the Six-Party Talks hasn’t changed. As we’ve made clear for a long time, in conjunction and consultation with our partners and allies, we remain open to dialogue with the DPRK with the aim of returning to credible and authentic negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But the burden is on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearization and to refrain from provocations. So that’s where we stand. It’s where we’ve been for a while, unfortunately, and our position on that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: What does “authentic” mean?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think what we mean by that is we – the point is not to have talks about talks. It’s to have negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, to return to the heart of the issues that the Six-Party Talks should be dealing with.

QUESTION: Do you think the Six-Party Talks will help denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula? I don’t think —

MR RATHKE: That’s the international framework. That’s what we’re working —

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t work. So for long years —

MR RATHKE: Well, this is – again, it’s on the North Korean side to take steps to show a readiness to return to meaningful negotiations.

QUESTION: Going back to the —

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: — point raised by Matt. There’s a – the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, along with two other organizations, have already filed a lawsuit against —

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: — Secretary of State John Kerry.

QUESTION: He answered this question.

MR RATHKE: Right. That’s what Pam was also asking about and Matt followed up.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on that?

MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, we’re not going to comment on an ongoing litigation. And we talk more generally though about the evacuation questions.

QUESTION: I have a —

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: — follow-up to a question I asked yesterday —

MR RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: — about Bahrain.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The answer on the question about Nabeel Rajab, the —

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that you urged the Government of Bahrain to drop these charges. And the question has arisen: Are you seeking the government to drop the – all of the charges he faces, just the new ones, just – or just the old ones, or both sets?

MR RATHKE: Right. So let me just – so there are two different sets of charges here. First, there was an April 5 court date that had been set for Nabeel Rajab, and that was for his appeal of prior charges. That hearing was postponed. And in addition, there was an April 2nd arrest of him. He was arrested on April 2nd – he had been out on bail – and those were on new charges related to posting of information on social media. We are deeply concerned by the arrest, and we urge the Government of Bahrain to drop those charges; that is, both the case for which he was supposed to have an April 5th hearing that was postponed and the new charges on April 2nd. So the short answer to your question is yes, both.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

MR RATHKE: Yes. All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)

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