MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everyone. And sorry we’re just a little late.
As I promised, we have a special guest with us today. Today I am pleased to introduce Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nate Fick, who just started a few weeks ago and held an inauguration ceremony earlier this week, on October 4th, just in time to kick off Cyber Security Month. Awareness.
Last year and during his tenure as Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken set out an ambitious modernization agenda to help the State Department take the lead in the policy areas that will define the next decade. Cyberspace and digital policy is at the top of the list, and this is the arrival of our first ambassador to lead our new Bureau of Digital and Cyber Policy. And this is an important milestone in conveying the Secretary’s agenda.
Ambassador Fick was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, has an impressive and impeccable leadership record in both the public and private sectors, and is an expert in many issue areas in the cyber and digital policy arena.
I’m happy to have him here. He’ll make some comments for you, and then we’ll ask you a few questions, before he has to continue several meetings throughout the day. So Ambassador Fick, please. The floor is yours.
FICK AMBASSADOR: Thank you. Hi all. I don’t know if you’re staying like this here to keep you short or to keep me brief, but it may have had that effect. I hope we all get the flu shot. (Laughter.)
My name is Nate Fick. I am the new ambassador leading the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. And as you can hear, this – this is my first week in the building. So I’ll play the new man card shamelessly.
– I am excited about this opportunity to lead the State’s newest bureau, to lead an organization focused on integrating and enhancing the United States approach to technology diplomacy with our partners and allies, and to upholding the vision of how we can all use technology to enrich lives us and uphold democratic values.
I carry some personal and deep beliefs. I was a Marine early in my career, after college. I served in Afghanistan just after 9/11 and in Iraq in 2003 and witnessed firsthand the costs when diplomacy failed. So I, once again, have a strong deep belief in the intrinsic value of diplomacy. I believe diplomacy should be our first tool of choice in all matters. And cyber and digital policies are the next frontier of diplomacy. These are not silos; it is not a series of problems confined to one bureau; it is the substrate that crosses every aspect of our foreign policy.
And Secretary Blinken and Deputy Secretary Sherman have made it clear that that’s the case, that cyber and digital policy is not the job of just one agency, and we need to make understanding digital policy a core part of the department’s work and a core tool in our diplomat kit at every level.
So to succeed, we need to communicate what we are going to do publicly, so I’m excited to have this opportunity to start talking to all of you on my fourth day here. So I hope to find new ways to highlight how we are advancing this mission, and I will give you just one example from my first 10 days of how cyber and digital issues have shaped the work of US diplomacy. I was sworn in, got my passport, and boarded a plane to Bucharest for three days in a row to work with our US delegation there in the days leading up to last week’s election for the post of secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union.
The ITU is a 157-year-old organization responsible for setting standards that govern so many aspects of telecommunications, including things like 5G and fiber-optic networks. And we have a very strong American as candidate for secretary general, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, and she won a landslide victory over her Russian opponent: 139 votes to 25, which I think gives her – we think gives her a strong mandate now to start a four-year term. years as secretary general. And I know that he will do a phenomenal job not only because he has managerial and leadership experience within ITU, but also because of his commitment to connecting the unconnected, to closing the digital divide, and advancing the principles of an open, interoperable, safe and secure internet. reliable for people all over the world.
So there’s a lot to be done, of course, from fighting malicious cyber activity and building resilience to promoting investment in secure telecommunications infrastructure and ensuring that access to the internet is universally available in a way that advances human rights.
So I’m honored to work with the bureau’s great team of experienced diplomats. I look forward to building relationships with my interagency partners. I look forward to working with our partners and allies around the world.
And with that, I’m happy to ask a few questions, as long as we can all withstand the temperatures here.
MR PATEL: Okay. So the ambassador will take some questions. Alex, you want to start us?
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador. Thank you for being here. Congratulations on your new show.
QUESTION: Some questions about Russia. How would you assess the risk of Russian cyber retaliation, from Ukraine to the latest example of a Kremlin-backed Russian-speaking group attacking US states? Do you have an opinion on that and where is the response (inaudible)?
FIK AMBASSADOR: Yes. I thought again, a few days after this, I might have to keep some of my comments on a principle level. But I think the idea of extending deterrence to the cyber domain is an important one in many aspects of American foreign policy, including Russia’s war in Ukraine.
I think the level of unity of purpose across the NATO Alliance that we are seeing is very encouraging. Cyber prevention is part of that. And it – to some extent it worked, didn’t it? We haven’t seen a ton of lateral escalation using cyber tools outside of Ukraine by Russia. Inside Ukraine is – one of the interesting success stories in its early days was – the kind of effectiveness of public-private partnerships in the field with software vendors who, in some cases, have hundreds of millions of systems in use in Ukraine and feedback loops between them and U.S. government about things like sharing threat intelligence and then pushing patches to the system.
I’ve been doing this on the other side of the table in the private sector for a long time, and I’m not used to seeing it work as smoothly and as quickly as it does now. So I feel like we’re learning at least on that front.
MR PATEL: Kylie, you raise your hand?
QUESTION: Yes, just two questions. To follow up, you mentioned that prevention works in Ukraine in any case –
FICK AMBASSADOR: Prevention works outside Ukraine.
FICK AMBASSADOR: Prevention works in Europe and throughout the NATO Alliance.
QUESTION: Okay. So do you think that deterrence is one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a more offensive cyber operation from Russia in Ukraine, or do you think it’s just a decision on their behalf in terms of how they approach this war?
FICK AMBASSADOR: So again, Kylie, with apologies, somewhat on a principle level, because I’m fairly new, I think there’s a strong deterrence framework that’s part of the NATO Alliance, and I’m going to relate to it, at least in part, because there hasn’t been an attack. Russian cyberspace that extends beyond Ukraine.
Inside Ukraine, I think there’s actually some level of malicious Russian cyber activity, at least that’s what they’ve tried. And I think one of the reasons why it didn’t have the impact Russia was hoping for was because of the tight feedback cycle that goes on between the software vendors and hardware vendors who have the goods deployed in Ukraine and their partnership with the US Government and the Government of Ukraine and NATO to deliver that – to speed up that feedback cycle.
QUESTION: And just one more question. When it comes to U.S. offensive cyber capabilities and operations, are you excited to see this administration do what appears to be restraint – curbing those cyber operations and the level of scrutiny they have to go through on the U.S. side. before them ‘Can it really be done so the State Department has more visibility?
AMBASSADOR FICK: I think cyber operations are an important tool of national power. I think going into any of the details on that topic is now a little out of my reach in the first few days.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador, and congratulations. What can your agency do – what role can your agency play in getting internet access to the Iranian people, or is there anything your agency can do with a private company or whatever to get internet access to Iran?
AMBASSADOR FICK: I think there is – I hope there will be a lot we can do from an advocacy standpoint globally to advance our belief that the internet is – internet access, access to reliable and secure information – is something that every human being on Earth should be. . This is one of the principles that Doreen stands for – will strive for as secretary general of the ITU. I think there are many ways we can operationalize it, and under my leadership I hope the bureau will be a strong advocate for it.
QUESTION: Ambassador Fick, congratulations. How does prevention work? I mean, we know how a nuclear deterrent works. We – like this country has so many weapons and the enemy has so many weapons, and so on. But in this case, what do you show them – like you shutting down some of your enemy’s facilities and so on to show your abilities in terms of deterrence?
AMBASSADOR FICK: I think there’s an old saying that history doesn’t repeat itself but rhymes. I think everything we learned about nuclear deterrence during the Cold War didn’t translate perfectly into this domain, but it did. Some principles remain the same. There are unique challenges around attribution, for example. – We don’t have a series of satellites that track a missile launch blob and can pinpoint in real-time where it’s coming from, right? That’s not how this domain works.
When you talk about bouncing cyber attacks – launched by one country and bouncing through servers in six other countries before reaching their target, it becomes a more challenging matter. But again, I think some of the principles that have served us well in history will continue to serve us well: principles like proportionality; principles such as non-combatant immunity; principles like suggesting that it may not be just cyber retaliation, right, that deterrence – real deterrence – requires building up every ounce of our national power – information power, economic power, diplomatic power. So –
QUESTION: Thank you. Congratulations, Ambassador, and thanks for the direction. As the United States – as the US midterm elections draw near, what do you see from Russia, China and Iran as far as cyber campaigns targeting the midterms? And do you see any other state or non-state actors that raise concerns? Thank you
AMBASSADOR FICK: So this will be a short-term priority for me – working with our interagency partners to keep our elections and the elections in our allies and partners safe – but I’m not far enough away to have more to do. say about it yet.
MR PATEL: I think the ambassador has time for one more question. Yes, one more – Abbie, please.
QUESTION: How confident are you in the security of the State Department’s own systems, and would you make any efforts to improve security here?
AMBASSADOR FICK: So my wife asked me how many days it would take before someone in the department asked me to fix their printer. (Laughter.) And I think the answer is four. Our office is not part of the CIO or IT shop at the State Department, so I have no sense of the department’s own network security. I am sorry.
MR PATEL: Thank you very much, everyone, and thank you, Ambassador, for joining us. We appreciate that.
FICK AMBASSADOR: Okay, thank you very much.
MR PATEL: Okay. I’m happy to continue with regular scheduled briefings for all of you. I’m not sure where our friends are, but Daphne, if you want to start us off.
QUESTION: If I could start with OPEC, President Biden said all options are on the table after the OPEC decision. Does this include arms exports to Saudi Arabia?
MR PATEL: Sorry, could you repeat the last part of your question?
QUESTION: Do “all options on the table” including arms exports to Saudi Arabia, cut it?
MR PATEL: So I’m going to take a little step back here and reiterate what our colleagues from the White House and elsewhere have also said, which is that this decision to cut production quotas is short-sighted, especially given what’s going on. – what is happening to the global economy when it comes to the continued negative impact of the conflict in Russia.
Obviously, if there is a price increase as a result of the OPEC decision, it will mainly hit low- and middle-income countries. And yesterday’s announcement is a reminder of why it is so important that the US reduces its dependence and dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels, and with the Inflation Reduction Act we are making a historic investment right here at home to accelerate clean energy – the clean energy transition as well.
QUESTION: Can you say more about what options the US will look at in response to this decision?
MR PATEL: I’m not going to preview any specific options here. As you’ve heard many cross-agency say, there are – continue to be a number of tools in the President and the tool belt of administration. Of course the release of Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which was alluded to by NEC Director Brian Deese and NSC Director Jake Sullivan yesterday. Also there continues to be a number of options on the table.
QUESTION: And just a technical question. Is MBS accepted in the United States?
MR PATEL: For – what do you mean?
QUESTION: Is MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, accepted in the US? Like, would he be able to travel to the United States if he wanted to?
MR PATEL: Me – visa records are confidential, so I have nothing to offer in particular. But – so I have nothing else to offer at this point.
QUESTION: Can you – sorry, just in response, you have seen calls from some members of Congress for a pretty dramatic cut of US cooperation with the Saudis in this response. Sorry, did you cover the part that I —
QUESTION: Okay. In the event of the withdrawal of all US security forces and personnel and equipment from Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: What is it – is that advice good? Do you –
MR PATEL: So we don’t have any plans to do that at the moment. As you can see –
QUESTION: No plans to do what? Sorry.
MR PATEL: To draw weapons or – as you pointed out in your question. What I made clear – and you saw Minister Blinken talking about this on his way – is that we have a lot of interests in relation to Saudi Arabia. The President and Secretary explained it quite clearly during their trip over the summer, and these priorities include everything from regional relations, from improving relations between Arab states and Israel, to Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen, where we work with them very closely. . to try and continue the truce, and a number of other problems reflected during the President and Secretary’s trip over the summer. And we work every day to the best of our ability to ensure that energy supplies from around the world meet the demand signals we see across markets today.
QUESTION: So this idea is a non-starter from an administrative position?
MR PATEL: I just – we have no plans to take such action. If you’re talking about specific laws, I’m not going to preempt Congress or any pending legislation. But in response to whether we intend to take such action, I have nothing to read about it right now.
QUESTION: Just a short follow-up.
QUESTION: Have there been high-level conversations with the Saudis, between high-ranking American and Saudi officials in the last 24 to 48 hours about this issue?
MR PATEL: I don’t have – I don’t have any specifics –
MR PATEL: Of course, of course. I don’t have a special meeting to read to. But clearly Saudi Arabia is an important regional partner, as I said, on a variety of issues. So we deal with them on a number of factors periodically. But I don’t have a special meeting to read to.
Anything else on this topic before we move on?
QUESTION: Yes. I mean, can you answer – I think the point of the criticism coming from Hill is that the United States and Saudi Arabia have always had a relationship where the US provides security guarantees, and the Saudis provide the oil. And many critics say that this is a kind of betrayal. And what is your response to the criticism?
MR PATEL: Well, I would say that is a very black-and-white description and does not reflect the totality of our bilateral relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As I said when answering Matt and Daphne’s questions, we have a lot of interests in relation to Saudi Arabia.
Of course, one of them is energy relations, but there are also security relations, and we discussed many of these issues during the President and Secretary’s trip over the summer. And as I said, there is a regional security component; there is an aspect of improving relations between Arab countries and Israel. Saudi Arabia plays an important role in Yemen, where we continue to work with them to extend the ceasefire. So we have a lot of interests related to Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we turn to North Korea?
QUESTION: On Tuesday, you said the US was assessing the specific nature of North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches. Has there been any conclusion from that? And do you have more to share with us about US action? And are sanctions working to prevent North Korea from launching more ballistic missiles? Thank you
MR PATEL: Sure, Nike. So again, we’re still assessing the specific nature of the latest launch, which I’ll reiterate as an unacceptable threat in the region. And to take a step back, we, once again, condemn the DPRK’s October 5 ballistic missile launch. This launch, along with several other launches during this week and in September, constitute a clear violation of several UN Security Council resolutions and pose a direct threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.
In terms of certain actions, I don’t have any actions to preview for you, but I noticed that the US has responded. I will let my colleagues at the Pentagon talk about this in more detail, but we are soon taking part in military exercises with our allies in Korea and our allies in Japan. The USS Ronald Reagan is in the region for this exact reason. And of course, we continue to have a number of tools in our tool belt – sanctions, other things – to hold the regime accountable. But I don’t have any specific actions to preview, but the United States is monitoring and watching closely and is ready to take additional actions as well.
QUESTION: Okay. But one – one –
QUESTION: Taking in North Korea?
QUESTION: One of the problems with North Korea is that they – you – that – now with North Korea is that in the past you have managed to get international consensus. You mention the Security Council resolution they violated; all that has passed.
But yesterday, we saw a situation where Russia and China blocked any kind of meaningful action. Are you completely deterred from trying to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table with the positions taken by Russia and China, or do you think you can – actions you take alone or with you – with allies can be enough to do so?
MR PATEL: Well, firstly, to echo our UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on the actions of Russia and China during yesterday’s Security Council meeting, it was obviously very disappointing. And we see a very loose use of rhetoric that the DPRK’s actions were provoked or something. That’s obvious and certainly not the case.
But, look, Matt, to take a bit of a bigger step back, our goal here still remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and dialogue with the DPRK without preconditions continues to be, in our view, part of the puzzle. , and so we’ll continue to pursue those things. However, we will also continue to hold the DPRK accountable through actions in our multilateral institutions and other actions. I don’t have anything to preview, but again, we’ve reacted and we’ve taken action on this head-on.
QUESTION: I wonder if the government expects North Korea to conduct a nuclear test before the end of the year because government officials have been very clear in saying that maybe they can prepare for it when the President is in Asia earlier this year. They don’t actually do nuclear tests. Do you think it will happen before the end of the year?
MR PATEL: As I said, I – we’re still assessing the specific nature, and I don’t have any new or different ratings to give from here. But I think the bigger thing is that we, once again, condemn the very destabilizing and insecure actions we’ve seen coming from the DPRK over the course of this week.
QUESTION: And just one more question.
QUESTION: Do you think the extremely high number of missile tests this year could be a tactic by North Korea to try and get you guys to pay attention and actually engage in talks?
MR PATEL: Well, we went on and on at nearly every interval where this question has come to Ned or myself or anyone else from the State Department – even non-spokesperson – we’ve been pretty clear that we’re continuing to assert that dialogue with the DPRK without preconditions continues to be the guiding principle of our approach to the denuclearization of the peninsula. So the offer is out there.
Anything else in the area before we move?
QUESTION: Given the escalation, obviously, and what has happened in the last few weeks, is there any consideration to re-evaluating the policies, strategies that you have put in place and maybe looking to a higher level – offering that higher level meeting – could it happen on previous government?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any such meeting or engagement to preview, but I will – upon your question, our position in diplomacy and dialogue with regard to our goal of complete denuclearization of the peninsula has not changed, and it continues to be very much in the on the table.
Anything else in the area before we move?
QUESTION: Yes. So at the meeting – speaking of the meeting, reports from South Korea said that the US, Japan and South Korea had agreed to hold a trilateral meeting in Tokyo this month. Will Deputy Secretary Sherman attend the trilateral meeting?
MR PATEL: Thank you, Nike. I don’t have any trilateral meetings or engagements in particular to announce, but as I noted earlier this week, senior officials not only from this building but across agencies have been in close contact with their counterparts, not just inside – within Republic of Korea, but also Japan. And our defense and our commitment to them is very strict, but I don’t have the potential for another meeting to be read out.
Shannon, you hats off – hands up for a second.
QUESTION: I have two questions. First about North Korea, repeated offers for open engagement, I wonder, just a point of clarity, can you say that the course of this government – have you ever received feedback from Pyongyang directly, any communication?
And second, the CIA reportedly began distributing compensation to victims of Havana Syndrome in August. We know the State Department is involved in a similar program. Do you have any updates on that rollout?
MR PATEL: Of course. Let me take your first question first. So again, I’m not going to read about specific diplomatic engagements or specific back and forth, but at each interval, we’ve made it clear that dialogue without preconditions continues to be our belief and, frankly, our priority. And we have a number of officials working directly with our allies and partners in the region to continue working towards that goal.
And then on your second question I have an update for you. Give me one second. So I am happy to report that on September 30, the department has approved the first stage of payment requests in accordance with the HAVANA Act. We are currently reviewing other requests, and we will continue to do so as they are received. We are processing the payment and processing it as quickly as possible, but I have no other specifications to offer at this time.
QUESTION: You can’t say how many countries are shared?
MR PATEL: I have no other specifications or ratings to offer at this time.
QUESTION: Are the diplomats from – are they affected in different countries or in the same place?
MR PATEL: So I don’t have any additional specs to offer at this point, but I can see if we have more metrics we can give you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. Let me – two questions. Let me get a reaction to Putin’s announcement of the seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant? Ukraine, of course, considers it nuclear blackmail. What is the US reaction to that? And I have another question about the South Caucasus.
MR PATEL: Well, like – to take a little step back, Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine, the power plant belongs to Ukraine, and the electricity and energy it produces is really Ukrainian. President Putin has absolutely no authority to take over power plants in other countries and a piece of paper issued by him or his government certainly doesn’t change that fact either.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. The second question is about – as you know, in Prague today, there are so many important events for the South Caucasus: the meeting between Turkey and Armenia, as well as the meeting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What was the State Department’s reaction? What do you expect from these meetings? And overall, what are your expectations?
MR PATEL: So I actually – I have to follow up with you about it and get back to you. I thought I had updated, but I was wrong.
QUESTION: Can I ask Azerbaijan —
MR PATEL: Wait. Let’s stay in the area. John, you raise your hand.
QUESTION: The interesting AP story that came out that “Two Russians fleeing military service took a boat to reach the remote island of Alaska and seek asylum in the United States,” was there any reaction to the asylum requests by these two Russians?
MR PATEL: We are aware of the reports, but I will refer you to DHS, which is responsible for managing arrivals at US ports of entry.
QUESTION: I want to change the topic.
MR PATEL: Of course. Continue. Oh, please.
QUESTION: Well, this goes back to the question that has been asked in a hypothetical sense. Will the United States – and you guys have a role to play because people don’t have to show up on a remote Aleutian island or even anywhere else in the US. They can go to the embassy and apply for asylum. So what is your understanding? Is it escaping conscription or is Russia escaping conscription from unpopular war reasons for asylum? What’s that –
MR PATEL: That’s the Department of Homeland Security to determine —
QUESTION: No, because, I mean, the State Department —
MR PATEL: — adjudicating this request, Matt.
QUESTION: Yes. Once they get here, yes, they do, but you guys have to make an early decision if someone shows up at the embassy. So these guys didn’t show up at the embassy, right? They show up on, what, Attu or something like that, some Aleutian island? But it is likely that others will seek asylum at embassies or consulates in Europe. So there has to be a policy – an administration-wide policy that will apply to both the State and DHS about whether this is a valid reason for granting asylum – to claim asylum.
MR PATEL: Regarding the asylum decision, regardless of where it comes from, it’s ultimately the decision of DHS. As you’ve noticed, there are a number of legal avenues to eventually gain status in the United States. Some of that equity resides within the State Department, others such as the refugee program system reside within the State. I have no new judgment to give, but adjudication of asylum claims occurs on a case by case basis and they reside under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.
QUESTION: Thank you. Regarding the Palestinian issue, earlier today, the Israeli army raided a village called Deir al-Hatab, east of Nablus. They killed a young man, 21-year-old Alaa Zaghal, but they also injured two Palestinian journalists, two from Palestinian TV, Mahmoud Fawzy and Louay Samhan. Are you aware of this situation? Although they are dressed and clearly marked “press” signs.
MR PATEL: Yes, thanks for your question, Said. So this government has not hesitated to voice support for press freedom and the ability of journalists to freely exercise that right without fear. We urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to work together to reduce tensions and emphasize the importance of maintaining stability in the West Bank.
QUESTION: Leave me alone – quick follow up on visa waiver. Can you tell us about the visa waiver status for Israelis?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any updates to offer at the moment, but I’d love to check if we have anything we can share.
QUESTION: In Syria, last night US forces carried out an attack there, killing an ISIS leader. It comes weeks after SDF forces carried out a counter-ISIS operation in the al-Hol refugee camp.
So two questions on last night’s raid: Is there any kind of State-CT coordination you can comment on? Then is the State still worried that the al-Hol camp could become a breeding ground for ISIS?
MR PATEL: In the first part of your question, I know nothing, and I will refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon to talk specifically about strikes. And regarding your second question in the prison camp, our judgment has not changed.
Guita, you’ve put your hands up for a second.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. But on this day—
QUESTION: And what is that assessment?
MR PATEL: It could – still has the potential to be a source of terror and conflict.
QUESTION: Thank you. Today the Biden administration announced a second set of sanctions against Iranian security forces in connection with the demonstrations. What is the Biden administration doing at the international level? Do you think it is appropriate for the Islamic Republic of Iran to have a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations?
MR PATEL: Yes, Guita, we continue to engage with our allies and partners not only in the region but around the world and call for a very appalling condemnation of the crackdown we are seeing at the protests in Iran. As you mentioned, we took action today by appointing seven new people across the Iranian government for their role in carrying out violence against peaceful protesters and their crackdown on human rights. I obviously can’t speak to the efforts of other countries, but other countries continue to make their own efforts to hold the Iranian regime accountable, and we certainly welcome that. And we do it in close coordination and dialogue with them too.
QUESTION: Is downgrading other countries’ relations with Iran something you would consider asking a US ally?
MR PATEL: I have no new judgments or new insights to offer on that.
QUESTION: So sanctions – President Biden previously announced that there would be sanctions this week. What are the sanctions we see today, are they all, or will there be more sanctions? Also, how do you measure whether the sanctions are working, are they slowing down the crackdown, and is there such a thing – how do you measure it?
MR PATEL: Well, firstly, Roj, I certainly wouldn’t rule out or rule out – any potential action. We certainly continue to have a number of tools at our disposal to hold the Iranian regime accountable. The actions outlined today are, of course, a follow-up to President Biden’s remarks earlier this week.
But in terms of the impact, see, what we are seeing is international condemnation and further isolation of the Iranian regime as a direct result of their crackdown on these protests, of their crackdown on what the US believes to be human rights, basic dignity. , for that matter. And our actions, and those of our allies and partners, continue to have an impact.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments about the mass shooting attacks that took place in Thailand?
MR PATEL: So we are deeply saddened by the tragedy in Nong Bua Lamphu province, where a shooter killed nearly 40 people, including 24 children. We stand with the Thai people, our partners in the region, and extend our deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones today. The US stands ready to help our Thai ally after this terrible tragedy, and we continue to engage not only with our embassy there but the government and any offer – and any assistance the United States may be able to provide.
QUESTION: Do you know what help might be provided?
MR PATEL: I don’t. I don’t have any specifics to offer at this time. This obviously just happened today. But it is something we are watching closely, and our thoughts and condolences go out to the Thai people.
QUESTION: Thank you. So President Duda of Poland has suggested in a recent interview that there are ongoing talks with the US about including Poland in the nuclear sharing program. Can you confirm that or expand on it?
And also, secondly, President Biden seemed to suggest today that he might meet with President Putin in November during the G20, which would be a pretty big break from current policy, and is that on the cards and why? If so, why did the policy change?
MR PATEL: Okay. So first of all, regarding your question about Poland, I would like to take a step back and note that Poland is an important NATO ally in the region. But regarding this particular request, we are not aware of this particular item being submitted. And I can say that the United States has no plans to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of NATO members who have joined NATO post 1997.
Regarding the second part of your question, I will let the White House speak to one of President Biden’s engagements. But I think one thing you’ve seen pretty clear across agencies, including from the White House, is that it can’t be business as usual when it comes to Russia. And it is clear in all our engagements with our Russian counterparts that it cannot be business as usual after their flagrant and unlawful and unfair violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and their sovereignty as well.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, does the government still believe that Putin should not be a part even as long as he is waging war in Ukraine?
MR PATEL: As I said, it’s not – it shouldn’t be business as usual. Our position has not changed.
QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea for a bit?
QUESTION: The fact that North Korea launched so many missiles shows that North Korea is capable of producing that many missiles. So how does the US assess the current state of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities? And how, with the allies, can stop the production of these missiles with sanctions?
MR PATEL: Well, I think, to take a bit of a step back, as I said, we’re still assessing the specific nature of it, and I don’t have any additional insight to offer about the capabilities. But again, this is a clear violation of several UN Security Council resolutions, and we continue to have a number of tools available in our tool belt to hold the DPRK accountable – both through the efforts of the US Government, but also continue to work through our multilateral institutions as well.
QUESTION: Yes. In Lebanon, please.
QUESTION: Israel today rejected Lebanon’s request to add changes to the draft deal. Does the State Department have a reaction to this refusal?
MR PATEL: Of course. Thank you for your question. So Presidential Special Coordinator Amos Hochstein continues his strong engagement to end maritime boundary discussions, and we are in close communication with Israel and Lebanon. We are at a critical stage in these negotiations and the gap has definitely narrowed, and we remain committed to reaching a solution, and we believe a lasting compromise is possible. I’m not going into personal diplomatic negotiations, but again, we remain committed to reaching a solution and we believe that a lasting compromise is possible.
QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up (inaudible)?
MR PATEL: Please, Said. No, I’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Are you expecting an announcement in the near future? And will the announcement – I mean, will there be, like, a ceremony with the American envoy and the Lebanese or Israelis present, or separately because they have no connection whatsoever?
MR PATEL: Well, Said, I think we get a little carriage before the horses, given that I just said that I’m not going to comment on diplomatic negotiations. And while we remain committed to reaching a resolution and having a lasting compromise, I don’t have one to announce today.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments about the UN Human Rights Council rejecting this US-sponsored resolution to debate China’s crackdown in Xinjiang? And more specifically, is the US disappointed that Ukraine abstained from the vote?
MR PATEL: So as you can see, Ambassador Taylor at our post in Geneva made a comment on this. And to take a step back, – we are disappointed that the council was unable to agree to hold discussions on serious human rights issues raised in recent independent discussions and assessments by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is very clear to everyone based on an assessment of what is happening in Xinjiang. And we will continue to remain undeterred in our commitment to defending human rights, and we will continue to insist that the Human Rights Council can be a meaningful forum and vehicle for discussing and holding states accountable for human rights abuses.
QUESTION: And in Ukraine? Any specific comments for their abstention?
MR PATEL: I don’t have a specific assessment to offer in any country, but we are certainly disappointed that the board was not able to resolve this in a way that would allow us to hold these discussions.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you give us, please, some background on the meeting between Secretary Blinken and Pedro Castillo in Lima? And what are the main topics that the U.S. brings? into this conversation?
And regarding the summit, the OAS General Assembly, what does the US expect from Latin American countries at the summit?
MR PATEL: Of course. So I – there – we will have the appropriate reading for the Secretary’s involvement. But since you asked the question, in Peru today the Secretary will meet with President Pedro Castillo and Foreign Minister César Landa, and their discussions will focus on regional collaboration on a number of issues – migration, addressing the threat of climate change, economic factors such as trade and investment, and of course continued engagement in human rights.
As part of the itinerary, the Secretary will lead the US delegation at the OAS General Assembly. He will underline the United States’ commitment to the OAS, and he will chair the implementation review group’s summit and will co-chair the migration minister on the Los Angeles Declaration as well.
QUESTION: Different topic, if I may.
QUESTION: About Azerbaijan and Armenia. Azerbaijan says it has found what is believed to be the mass grave of its soldiers killed by Armenian forces. Do you have any comments on that? Thank you
MR PATEL: Sure, Nike. Thank you for your question. So we are appalled by the loss of life during these decades of conflict and extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured. Many families have suffered and lost loved ones during this conflict, and even as we, through our engagement, try to see through different futures, these families deserve accountability and closure for the losses they have suffered. Perpetrators must be held accountable; to achieve peace, to heal, accountability is needed. And we continue to support international efforts to promote truth and reconciliation, and we believe that this process can go hand in hand with the ongoing peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which they have also committed to themselves.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the ceasefire in Yemen?
MR PATEL: This is something we are constantly working on. We are deeply concerned that the UN-mediated ceasefire in Yemen ended over the weekend without the parties reaching an agreement on an extension. To be honest, Yemeni men, women and children receive life-saving benefits under the ceasefire. And a UN proposal for an expanded treaty would offer even greater tangible benefits. This is something we continue to be strongly engaged in and continue to work with our allies in the region to work on, but I have no other updates to offer.
QUESTION: Do you have a proposal? Not a UN proposal, a US proposal?
MR PATEL: Again, I have no updates to give. This is something we are very deeply involved in.
Okay. Thank you to all of you.
(Brief ends at 2:58 pm)