State Department Daily Press Briefing, May 15, 2013. Main questioner, I heard, was John Zhang of CTITV
MR VENTRELL: It looks like we have some questions maybe on the Philippines and Taiwan. (Laughter.) I’m just guessing.
QUESTION: Yeah. Patrick, do you have anything new to say on the fatal shooting of the Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippines? Jen said a couple of days ago that the United States was in contact with both Taiwan and the Philippines. How is your communication with both sides? How effective is your communication? Because the problem seems to be far from ending. Thank you.
MR. VENTRELL: Thanks for the question – John, am I correct?
MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, John. So, we’re concerned by the increase in tensions between two neighboring democracies and close partners of the United States in the Asia Pacific region. We note that the Philippine President appointed a personal representative to Taiwan to convey his deep regret and apology to the family of the fisherman and the people of Taiwan. We welcome the Philippine Government’s pledge to conduct a thorough and expeditious investigation into the incident and cooperate promptly and fully with Taiwan investigators. We urge the Philippines and Taiwan to take all appropriate measures to clarify disagreements and prevent recurrence of such tragic events. And we continue to urge both parties to ensure maritime safety and to refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions in the region and undermine the prospects for a rapid and effective resolution of differences.
QUESTION: How is your communication with both sides so far?
MR. VENTRELL: You know that these are partners with whom we have extensive relationships. I’m not going to get into the day-to-day readout of our diplomacy, whether it’s from Washington or our posts overseas. But I’m just not going to get into that level of detail.
QUESTION: Patrick, just about some factual data, is it – have you learned exactly the location of the incident? And when the investigation will be revealed to the public? So far, how much fact have you learned?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information on when the investigation may be completed, and refer you to the Government of the Philippines. But it appears the incident took place in or near disputed waters where the Philippines and Taiwan both claim fishing rights. The United States does not take a position on the proper location of a maritime boundary in that area.
QUESTION: What is “in or near disputed area” – so it’s disputed whether it’s in disputed area or not?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, that’s a pretty rough estimate.
QUESTION: Can’t you just say it’s in disputed area then?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, this is in or near disputed waters. That’s all the accuracy we – that’s all the level of detail we have.
QUESTION: And that’s everywhere in the world, correct?
MR. VENTRELL: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Everywhere in the water, it must be in or at some point near to disputed waters. (Laughter.)
MR. VENTRELL: The point is, Brad, we’re not able to pinpoint exactly whether it was inside the disputed waters or --
QUESTION: It was in the water.
MR. VENTRELL: -- or very nearby that disputed area.
MR. VENTRELL: That’s the point. Bingru, go ahead.
QUESTION: Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou actually rejected the Philippines apology as lacking sincerity. Do you consider Philippines apology is sincere?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, in terms of an apology, this is a determination for the Taiwan authorities to make, and they can discuss that as appropriate directly with the Government of the Philippines. So that’s a judgment that they’re making.
QUESTION: And you also mentioned your concern about the increase tension. Are you concerned this conflict, as it’s rising, would undermine the U.S. interest in Asia Pacific?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to draw sort of that broad a conclusion, other than to say that we’re concerned about this increase in tension. And so these are two partners that we have a robust relationship with both of them and we want them to work through their differences on this issue as expeditiously as they can.
QUESTION: So, to what level do you have contact with both side?
MR. VENTRELL: I already answered that question, that we have diplomatic discussions, but I’m just not going to get into the back-and-forth of every discussion at every level.
QUESTION: Patrick, the death of the Taiwanese fisherman was a main factor why there has been outrage all over Taiwan. The United States has expressed regret over the death of the fisherman. Would the United States express something more than regret? Sympathy or – because, after all, Taiwan is an ally of the United States, as you say.
MR. VENTRELL: It is up to the Philippines and Taiwan to determine the specific terms of the resolution on this immediate issue. We’ve said we have already on the specific incident.
Nike, you go ahead. You’ve been waiting in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. Patrick, you mentioned several times about maritime security. Broadly speaking, is it against the code of conduct or the freedom of navigation to use violence against any party in disputed waters?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, code of conduct is something that’s still being worked through, and it’s something we’ve encouraged, so that there are rules of the road. And so this is not something that is a process that’s been completed, but it’s precisely incidents such as this which underscore the need for a code of conduct as we work through these issues in the wide range of the Pacific where there are disputed areas of territorial waters and other claims to various territories.
QUESTION: Well, Patrick, there are some story indicated that U.S. has dissuaded Taiwan to send a military ship to protect their fishermen. And – so I would just wonder, do you want it clarified, does U.S. really involve in this kind of conversation? And – because there is some criticism from Taiwan about a U.S. action.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, I’m not aware – I don’t have any information on that one way or another on that specific item. I think I’ve done what I can on this issue. Are there – one more.
QUESTION: Yeah. Taiwan says apology from Philippine over the shooting is inadequate, and threatens to impose more sanctions. How do you see these sanctions?
MR. VENTRELL: I already answered that question. So, okay.
MR. VENTRELL: Different topic?
MR. VENTRELL: Nike, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. I apologize if this issue has already been addressed, because I’m a little late. Secretary Kerry is in Sweden for the Arctic Council --
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and today six countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, have become – has become the permanent observer. And so I wonder if you have anything on that. What is the rationale for the United States to support China’s permanent observer status, and what does the United States expect from China in the Arctic Council? Thank you.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, the Secretary already spoke to this pretty extensively, so we’ll get you his comments and reaction. You know that the chairmanship will go to Canada for the next two years, and then we look forward to the U.S. having the chairmanship here, and that these additional observers were added. But I really don’t have any information beyond what the Secretary said.
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