Department Press Briefing – April 22, 2022

This PRESS RELEASE was originally published on THIS SITE

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

MS PORTER: Hello and good afternoon, everyone. Happy Earth Day. Happy Friday. Thank you so much for joining today’s press briefing. I don’t have any updates at the top, so I will just start with taking your questions. So let’s please go to the line of Janne Pak.

QUESTION: Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Jalina. Happy Friday. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I have a question on North Korea-China-Russia. My first question is about North Korea’s cyber attacking. There are reports that North Korea is using cyber attacking to steal money and use it to develop weapons. I mean weapons of mass destruction. What is your comment on this?

And my second question is recently North – I’m sorry. Recently, China and Russia have been engaging South Korea’s air defense identification zone. These actions can be seen as symbolically defending the North Korean threat to South Korea. Would you please comment on this? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Janne. And so for your first question, I’m going to actually have to defer to my colleagues at the White House.

And to your question – the second question, I would say that the United States continues to work closely with likeminded countries to focus attention on as well as condemn any disruptive, destructive, or otherwise destabilizing behavior in cyberspace. We know that it is vital for governments as well as network defenders and the public to stay vigilant and also work together to mitigate any cyber threat that’s posed by the DPRK, and we will also continue to work closely with allies and partners to address this critical issue.

Let’s go to Simon Ateba, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question, and thank you for doing this. This is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington. I would like to ask you about Africa and specifically about Ethiopia. As you know, the WHO continues to lament humanitarian access into Tigray remains minimal, and people are starving to death. I know USAID yesterday announced an additional $313 million in humanitarian assistance for the people in northern Ethiopia. But when it comes to the political situation, is the Biden administration doing anything specific to end the humanitarian blockade into Tigray? And beyond any condemnations that actually achieve nothing, is there any new strategy from the Biden administration? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Simon. What I’ll say is that we strongly support the declarations of the humanitarian truce by the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional Authority, and we also welcome the recent deliveries of humanitarian assistance to communities in need in the Afar and Tigray regions. However, we reiterate the importance of significant and sustained unconditional and unhindered overland humanitarian access to meet the dire needs of millions of people in northern Ethiopia as well as the urgency of resumption of basic services, which would include electricity, telecommunications, and banking. We also welcome the recent withdrawal of TPLF forces from some districts of Afar and underscore the importance of further withdrawals from the Afar Regional State.

I’ll also say that the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, as well as Deputy Special Envoy Payton Knopf, have concluded their visit to Ethiopia, where they met with several stakeholders and pursued robust diplomacy on that trip. They discussed the urgent need and sustained delivery for humanitarian aid for those in need in Ethiopia, and we continue to work with the Ethiopian Government as well as regional authorities, security forces, and other actors to advance that shared goal.

Let’s go to the line of Paulina Smolinski.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. First, can you provide an update on the administration’s plans to reopen the embassy in Kyiv?

And then two, another embassy question. Can you give any sort of timeline on the U.S. expediting the opening of an embassy in Solomon Islands? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Paulina. So I’ll take your first question first on Ukraine.

So our core mission Ukraine team is now working from Poland, and they remain in Poland and are currently not traveling over the border to Ukraine due to the unstable security situation. And we continue to constantly reassess and evaluate the security situation because the safety and security of our employees, as we continue to say, is our top priority.

At this time today, we don’t have any specifics as far as timeline of when our team will return, but our team is actively planning. And we also look forward to resuming embassy operations in Ukraine to facilitate the support of the government and the people of Ukraine as they continue to defend their country.

On your second question on the Solomon Islands, the Secretary actually announced our intention to open an embassy, and this is an important step in a complex path to opening a U.S. embassy in Honiara. But we still have a number of requirements ahead of us. The U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to Solomon Islands, and staff members from our embassy in Port Moresby traditionally have maintained ties with the people in Solomon Islands as well.

Let’s go to Shaun Tandon, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for an update on developments in Jerusalem. As I’m sure you know, there’s more violence today. I know there have been statements recently, but wanted to see if you had a reaction to the latest violence or if you have an update on U.S. diplomacy in the region. How concerned are you about things spiraling further?

And also, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was saying that there should be an investigation about the Israeli use of force. Is that something that the United States would support? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Shaun. Well, I don’t have a comment to your second question, but to your first one I will say that we welcome all efforts to maintain calm in Jerusalem as well as throughout Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, including by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And we certainly condemn all forms of violence and continue to urge calm during this period of many religious holidays.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I wonder if I could get your response to some comments today by the deputy commander of Russia’s central military district who is quoted in state media in Russia saying that Russia – well, Moscow wants to take full control over southern Ukraine, including the ports along the Black Sea and to give Russia access to Transnistria, the breakaway province in Moldova. I wonder if the U.S. has any response to the – what seems to be a more overt statement of Russia’s goals in Ukraine than we’ve heard before. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So I won’t comment specifically on the Russian Government’s claimed military objectives or leadership, but I will say that we’re clear-eyed about the reality of what is happening on the ground, and no one should be fooled by the Kremlin’s announcement. We firmly support Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we respect it’s constitutionally guaranteed neutrality.

As for Moldova, we just welcomed Moldovans to D.C. on April 18th to relaunch the U.S.‑Moldova Strategic Dialogue to further strengthen bilateral relations as well as continue our close operations to support Moldova’s reform agenda.

Let’s go to Eunjong Cho, please.

QUESTION: Jalina, thank you for taking my question. Can you —

MS PORTER: Hi, Eunjong, it’s a little hard to hear you.

QUESTION: Oh, is this any better?

MS PORTER: A little bit.

QUESTION: All right. I’ll try hard. So North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent goodwill message to South Korean President Moon Jae-in offering praise for President Moon, and his letter comes as North Korea accelerated development of short-range ballistic missiles and started restoration work at its nuclear test site. What is your reaction to Kim Jong-un’s conciliatory letter to President Moon?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Eujong. So I don’t have a comment on the exchange of letters, but what I can say is that we strongly support inter-Korean cooperation and believe that it can play an important role in creating a more stable environment on the Korean Peninsula.

Let’s go to Jahanzaib Ali.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Jalina, for doing this. Today, the newly elected prime minster of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, chaired the meeting of national security committee and senior military and civil officers attended that. And this meeting was to – about Imran Khan’s allegation of U.S. Government. So the press release we got, it states that the (inaudible) concludes that there has been no foreign conspiracy. How do you see this?

MS PORTER: Thank you. So as we have continued to say all along, there’s absolutely no truth to those rumors, so we welcome this statement. And I would also like to underscore that the United States values our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests.

Let’s go to Cindy Saine, please.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Russia has announced that it plans to hold joint military drills with Vietnam. Could you comment on that, please? And also, if Hanoi were to carry out these joint military drills with Russia at this time, could it subject itself to U.S. sanctions? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Cindy. We are certainly aware of these reports. However, we don’t have anything to share on them today. We do – we’ll certainly take that back and update you as soon as we have further information.

Let’s go to Endale Getahun.

QUESTION: Hello. Good afternoon and happy Friday, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. I think – my name is Endale Getahun. I am from KETO FM International. I would like to go back to the East Africa, the Tigray region. A question I know my colleague just asked you earlier, but I just wanted to ask specifically on the meeting with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that you mentioned to me last – two weeks ago regarding the report on western Tigray. As we speak – also, I don’t know if you know the information, but still western Tigray, there is no refugee movement to Sudan or anything. The Eritrean troop – according to information, they’re still in that perimeter, also the Amhara, which is forced – that’s still occupied Tigray, western Tigray. What’s your response as far as the meeting?

And my second question is also the World Health Organization director was in Washington, D.C., three weeks ago. He was asking about Tigray. He mentioned he was – of course he is from that part of region, from Tigray as well. He said – I quote – he said he has not spoken to his family for 500 days, and also he mentioned that the international community also are not being fair when it comes to humanitarian assistance specifically to Ukraine and Tigray. He compared and included – mentioned international community. Since you represent the international community as United States Government, is there still be a fair way to say that they’re still not treating the African refugees or Tigray atrocity with the Ethiopian Government and other parties? And what is your response to that since he mentioned that?

And also, have you heard for the regional – Tigray regional president Debretsion sent a letter United Nations regarding to the current situation? The blockade is still – there is still a blockade and siege. There is nothing changed. Even their forces left Afar region, but still there is a siege, and he sent a letter and is announcing that it’s enough, and I think the letter was sent two days ago. What’s your response on that? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions. I will do my best to give a broad stroke of where we stand at the moment. Some of what you said, especially about your second question, a meeting here that took place three weeks ago, I’m learning about in real time. But what I can say is that we continue to call for the immediate restoration of humanitarian road transport corridors as well as air linkages to and communication, financial, and other vital services within the Tigray region.

And I’d also say that the continued commitment of the Government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities to a cessation of hostilities remains a critical step towards reconciliation and peace. So in that regard, we welcome the withdrawal of Tigrayan forces from Erebti and underscore the importance of further withdrawals from Afar regional state. The parties must continue to build on this progress to advance a negotiated and sustainable end of this conflict. Progress towards this goal is an essential foundation for restoration of essential services in Tigray and it’s also an inclusive political process to provide security and prosperity for all Ethiopians.

We’ll take our final question from Rosiland Jordan.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is going to Moscow on Tuesday for meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov and with President Putin. Is the U.S. Government coordinating with the secretary-general? Is the U.S. going to task the secretary-general to carry any messages on the global community’s behalf and not just the Biden administration’s behalf? And are there any plans for any top U.S. officials, including officials from the State Department, to visit Ukraine? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rosiland. So we don’t have any travel plans to announce, and I won’t speak directly to any coordination, but I would say that we certainly welcome anyone who takes a stand with the international community to promote putting this war – this unprovoked war – to an end.

Thank you all for joining today’s briefing. That ends our call. I hope you have a great weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)

Author: Ned Price Department Spokesperson