Robert Scott, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs,
Mark Lambert, Deputy Special Representative for North Korean Policy,
Sandra Oudkirk, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Economic Bureau &Brian Neubert, Moderator
January 17, 2018
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the North Korea in Africa conference call. At this time all participants are in listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. If you should need assistance during this call, please press * then 0. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Brian Neubert. Please go ahead.
Brian Neubert: Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I’d like to welcome our participants dialing in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion. Today we are very pleased to be joined from Washington by two senior officials from the African Affairs Bureau, from the East Asia Pacific Bureau as well as from the Economic Bureau. We have Robert Scott, Acting Deputy Secretary for African Affairs, Mark Lambert, the Deputy Special Representative for North Korean Policy, and Sandra Oudkirk, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Economic Bureau. The speakers will discuss the United States’ foreign policy on North Korea, their activities in Africa, and current diplomatic efforts to address the global threat to international security posed by the DPRK, including U.S. advocacy efforts with African governments to sever ties with the DPRK.
We will begin this call with opening remarks, then we will turn it over to your questions. We’ll try to get to as many of you as possible in the time that we have, which should be forty-five minutes, or perhaps a little bit longer. At anytime during the call, if you would like to ask a question, you have to press * and then 1 on your phone. If you’d like to join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #DPRK briefing and you can also follow us @AfricaMediaHub on Twitter. As a reminder, today’s call is on the record. With that, I will turn it over to Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Scott. Go ahead, Mr. Scott.
Robert Scott: Brian, thanks for the introduction and members of the media who have joined, thank you for being with us on this call today. On behalf of my State Department colleagues, I want to thank you for joining us for this important discussion. We have organized this call to emphasize the heightened importance the United States places on the threat from North Korea.
I also want to thank my colleagues from the Bureaus of East Asia and Pacific Affairs as Brian had noted; Deputy Special Representative for North Korean Policy Mark Lambert and Economic and Business Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Sandra Oudkirk for joining us this morning. As we saw with Kim Jong Un’s January 1 statement, North Korea is committed to becoming a nuclear power. Additionally, their continued declarations of intent to strike the U.S. mainland highlight why we, the United States, treat this matter with utmost urgency.
North Korea’s words and actions edge East Asia and the rest of the world closer to instability and broader conflict. The United States is still committed to maximum pressure policy with the international community, using all diplomatic and financial tools available to ensure the complete, verifiable, irreversible de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
We are speaking with you today to explain how North Korea’s de-stabilizing activities extend far beyond the range of its missile program. They are de-stabilizing force worldwide. Mark Lambert, our Deputy Special Representative for North Korean Policy will explain how we envision our DPRK policy, its relevance to African governments, and the objectives of our pressure campaign in Africa. Many governments on the continent have long-standing relationships with North Korea that warrant a serious reassessment. The passing of four UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions on North Korea in the past twelve months demonstrates the urgency of this matter and the collective desire of the international community to find a diplomatic solution to the problem.
After Mark has spoken, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Sandra Oudkirk will lay out exactly the types of activities that are prohibited by these new UN Security Council resolutions. When reassessing the relations with the DPRK, countries should consider that North Korea abuses its diplomatic and trade relationships with partners to gain access to the international commercial and financial systems that sustain its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In doing so, it routinely misuses diplomatic privilege and undermines the international reputation of governments hosting its embassies and trade missions.
The DPRK exploits its access to the international financial system, access that countries provide in good faith, to conceal its illicit financial activities, often by using unwitting foreign nations and entities. North Korea engages in these practices with full recognition that these illicit transactions expose their international partners to financial penalties. Furthermore, in successive annual reports, the United Nations North Korea Panel of Experts has documented multiple instances of North Korean arms-related activities with various African governments. The United States takes these reports very seriously as trade and arms-related materials with the DPRK is explicitly forbidden by UN Security Council resolutions. The Security Council resolutions also ban engaging in any military, police, or security-related training with the DPRK. Such activities provide North Korea with critical revenue to advance its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.
We believe that these examples demonstrate the need for all of our partners to understand what DPRK is doing in their territory and to shut down these activities. In the past year, we have seen a number of African countries take extremely positive steps to go beyond the UN Security Council resolutions in promising to sever ties to North Korea. We are encouraged by actions of multiple countries in the past year to disrupt North Korea’s activity in the region, including by expelling North Korean laborers, decreasing and/or ceasing all trade ties, refusing to renew DPRK labor contracts, denying high-level visits from and to Pyongyang, and making public statements condemning the DPRK’s unlawful activities. All of these actions send a strong message to North Korea and show the global support of limiting the influence of DPRK activities worldwide. More, however, needs to be done to stem North Korea’s activities in Africa.
For all these reasons, we have asked countries around the globe to join us in restricting political and economic engagement with the DPRK as a means to demonstrate convincingly to the Northern Korean regime that the international community will not accept its behavior. Today’s briefing with you is part of a series of efforts to highlight the U.S. government’s policy in North Korea and to convey that North Korea’s relationships and actions in Africa are a top U.S. concern. As we see countries start to close diplomatic and economic paths to the DPRK, we have seen Pyongyang redouble its efforts to generate currency and cultivate other diplomatic relationships. Again, thank you all for joining this call today and for your attention. At this time I would like to ask Mark Lambert to continue this discussion on how we are countering the North Korean threat.
Mark Lambert: Thank you very much and good day. President Trump made very clear very early in his term in office that the threat posed by North Korea is the number one security threat the United States faces. There’s only one country on earth that is determined to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, put it on a missile, and aim it at the United States, and that is a threat that we will now use every means possible to stop.
President Trump has made clear that we are going to exert maximum pressure on North Korea. That means economic pressure, that means diplomatic pressure, and that means military pressure. That pressure is designed not to overthrow the North Korean government, but rather to compel North Korea to return to negotiations aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
We have worked closely with a number of African countries on a series of UN Security Council resolutions but we look at those resolutions as a starting point. In addition, we have a number of very strong unilateral sanctions that allow us to punish financially any person or any company, no matter where that individual or company is located that is involved in serious trade with North Korea. We are asking countries around the world to expel North Korean diplomats from their countries. It is very clear that North Korean diplomats abuse their diplomatic privileges and use their embassies as profit-making centers. We are asking countries to expel North Korean workers. These workers in many countries are exploited. The proceeds of their labor do not go to their families but rather are siphoned off and are sent back to Pyongyang to develop weapons of mass destruction. In addition, we’re asking countries to be doubly careful about their information technology sectors. North Korean workers are working on cybercrime around the world. In short, there are no North Korean tourists. Any country that has North Koreans in it, puts its companies and its people at risk.
In Africa, we want to partner with you. We want to work with you to send two clear messages to North Korea. First, the international community is united and has spoken that it will never, ever, ever accept North Korea as a nuclear power and that we will exert more pressure on North Korea until it returns to the table. But secondly, we want to make clear to the people of North Korea and the leaders of North Korea that there is a better future, that if North Korea, in fact, returns to negotiations, we can work with North Korea to help it develop its economy and better its people. With that, I’ll let my colleague speak and then I look forward to your questions.
Robert Scott: Thank you Mark. Turning it over to Sandra.
Sandra Oudkirk: Thank you Rob. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of the UN Sanctions Regime which is imposed on North Korea by the international community with the goal of ensuring the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. Since 2006 when the UN Sanctions Regime was first imposed on North Korea, it has expanded and now includes ten separate resolutions with some of the most extensive measures ever imposed against a UN member state. Four of these ten resolutions were adopted by the Security Council last year, so in 2017, in response to North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile tests. These resolutions are focused on cutting off the revenue that the North Korean regime needs to continue developing these unlawful programs and send a strong message condemning North Korea’s behavior.
By the end of last year, compulsory UN restrictions banned virtually all North Korean exports including all coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, textiles, seafood, heavy machinery, electrical equipment, and agricultural product. Member states are also required to repatriate nearly all North Koreans currently working abroad within two years and are prohibited from renewing existing work permits and issuing new ones to DPRK nationals. Furthermore, these UN measures impose additional restrictions on North Korea’s ability to generate revenue and access the international financial system, such as an end to all joint ventures with North Korea, which not only deprives the regime of any revenue generated from these arrangements but also ends all future foreign investment and transfers of technology.
Additionally, the Security Council recently imposed powerful new restrictions on member state’s exports to North Korea, most notably targeting DPRK access to oil. The DPRK is now limited to a total of 500,000 barrels of refined fuel annually; down 89% from an estimated 4.5 million barrels of imports in 2016. Crude oil supplies to the DPRK are capped at four million barrels annually and suppliers must now submit quarterly reports to the 1718 Committee of all export volume to ensure that the cap is not breached. Moreover, the most recent measure, number 2397 which was adopted in December 2017, included a warning that the Security Council would respond to any further nuclear or ICBM tests with additional oil reductions.
The impact of these measures on the DPRK government, if fully implemented by all member states, will be substantial. For example, the ban on coal exports alone cuts off what in the past brought in more than a billion dollars annually. In total, the sectoral sanctions could reduce DPRK export earnings in 2018 by as much as 2.5 billion dollars or close to 95% of the DPRK’s known export earnings in 2016. Further restrictions on the export of DPRK labor will gradually erode the country’s roughly five hundred million dollars in export earnings over the next two years, effectively shutting down its lawful capacity to earn hard currency abroad by the end of 2019.
I also want to circle back to something that Mark mentioned earlier. The powerful new tool which is available to the United States to target those engaging in trade with North Korea and the financial institutions that facilitate this trade, the United States Executive Order 13810, issued in September 2017, authorizes the U.S. Department of the Treasury to designate any individual or entity of whatever nationality that engages in significant trade with North Korea, including the importation or exportation to North Korea of any goods, services, or technology. Executive Order 13810 also authorizes new secondary financial sanctions, meaning the United States can cut off from the U.S. financial system and or block the property of any individual, entity, or foreign financial institution that facilitates this trade. So with that, turn it over to questions. Thank you.
Brian Neubert: Thank you to our speakers. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. For those asking questions, I ask that you please state your name and affiliation and of course, please focus on the topic of today’s briefing which is the U.S. Government’s foreign policy on North Korea, particular to Africa. For those of you listening to the call in English, you can press * ,1 on your phone to join the question queue. If you are using the speaker phone, you may have to pick up the handset before pressing *, 1. If you are listening to the call in French and Portuguese, we have some of your questions received in advance and you can also slip in questions in English via email to [email protected].
And with that, I will go to the first question from Business Day News. Sir, if you could introduce yourself and your outlet and ask your question. Yes, do we have Dukolo Matsaku on the line?
Dukolo Matsaku: Yes, hi. My name is Dukolo Matsaku and I am actually a U.S. citizen myself. I am from Business Day in South Africa, and the question that I have for you is just in terms of the sort of tough things that the United States is doing with this potential threat from financial sanctions on any party that’s engaging with North Korea in terms of imports and exports.
Does the United States realize, for example, that when it comes to African governments, because of the long-standing history when it comes to North Korea helping them out with getting them out of colonialism…does the U.S. not consider rather trying to supplement the products that North Korea, for example, is giving to African governments such as military assistance and military training and weapons as opposed to just sort of strengthening financial sanctions? Because how effective do you think that is going to be, for example, in actually, you know, sort of scaling back on this anti-Western sentiment instead of rather trying to supplement what North Korea is providing for Africans. Because technically, if the United States was supplementing—
Brian Neubert: Okay, thank you for that question. Miss, if we could let the speakers have a chance to answer. Thank you very much.
Robert Scott: No, thank you very much for that. I think Mark and then Sandra will both have a chance to respond to your question.
Mark Lambert: Every UN member state has a responsibility to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions. We do not think that stepping into the gap created by North Korean entities in African countries is the way to move forward. We believe that North Koreans are abusing their hospitality in African countries and that it is incumbent on every African country to follow the UN Security Council resolutions. As far as stepping in to fill the gap created by North Korean weapons supplies in the past, I think that on a case-by-case basis we would be willing to look at those, but again, it is incumbent on the states in Africa to follow the UN Security Council resolutions that their capitals have endorsed.
Sandra Oudkirk: And speaking on the issue of financial sanctions, U.S. financial sanctions are essentially a blocking of the institution or individual or person from the ability to access the United States financial system. In this case, U.S. financial sanctions thoroughly support the will of the international community which has already very clearly spoken and put off-limits for all members of the international community, all substantial trade with North Korea.
Brian Neubert: Okay, thank you. Thank you very much for those answers. We’re going to turn now to Mr. Kevin Kelly, if you could introduce yourself and your outlet, please, sir. The line will be open for you.
Kevin Kelly: Hi. Thanks for doing this today. My name is Kevin Kelly. I write for the Nation Review in Kenya based in New York.
So my question is, given the reports of President Trump’s recent bolder comments regarding Africa, would this complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts to persuade African countries to comply with UN resolutions with U.S. policy executive orders regarding North Korea? Isn’t this an impediment to your efforts?
Robert Scott: Thank you for the question. I think we have very strong relationships across the continent and those remain unchanged. We recently, in November, had thirty-seven ministerial-level delegations visit us in Washington to be with Secretary Tillerson. He invited them for a ministerial for a day. More recently, we had our Deputy Secretary travel to the continent and we anticipate that the Secretary will be traveling to the continent in the coming months as well to visit multiple countries. The schedule is not yet set though.
So, we see a strong engagement and the purpose of this call is to talk about how that engagement, those strong relationships, how we’re using those to partner with counties on the continent to address the issue of DPRK. So, we’ve seen some very positive reactions on the continent. Approximately half a dozen countries have taken explicit steps in Africa in response to the UN Security Council resolutions. We remain engaged through our ambassadors and capitals, we’re having discussions here in Washington, so this is an ongoing and vibrant discussion and I think that there is a lot to be talked about and we’re certainly engaged. So I think we’ve got a very positive sense of momentum on this issue across Africa and one that we’re going to dedicate ourselves to continuing.
Brian Neubert: We have a question from—that was sent in by email from Peter Fabricious based here in South Africa that I will ask for him to our speakers. Could you tell us if the South African government was asked by the United States Government to sever ties with North Korea and what was their response?
Robert Scott: Yes, we have asked the South African government as we have asked every government in the world to sever or at least downgrade their diplomatic ties with North Korea. Today South Africa has not given us a clear answer of its policy.
Brian Neubert: Thank you. With that, let’s turn over to Anita Powell. If you could introduce yourself and your outlet and ask your question.
Anita Powell: Sure, thanks. Can everyone hear me?
Brian Neubert: Yes.
Anita Powell: Cool. Anita Powell, Voice of America. I want to press you a little bit more on Kevin’s excellent question.
If African governments inevitably ask you, “Your President has called our country a shithole, why should we listen to anything you say? Why should we partner with you in your mission to control North Korea,” what would you actually say to them? What have you said to them?
And I also just want to ask you, North Korean trading partners—African countries are not the biggest. They’re a relatively small chunk.
I just want to get an idea of how impactful African trade really is with North Korea and why are you so concerned in particular about African trade with North Korea when they have larger trading partners like China and India and Pakistan?
Sandra Oudkirk: Okay, so I’ll start because I think we already answered the first part of your question pretty thoroughly. I’ll deal with the issue on trading partners.
I think the issue with North Korea and trade and cutting off substantially all trade is that any cent, the smallest amount of money that the North Korean regime earn can and is diverted to its proliferation efforts, to its weapons of mass destruction, to ballistic missile programs which directly threaten the United States. So in some cases, people whether they’re government officials or outside analysts, look at numbers and they’ll say, “Hey, that’s a really small number.” But the fact of the matter is that North Korea is qualitatively and quantitatively different from any other threat the United States faces and we need—there is no trade flow, there is no revenue flow that is too small or so small that it’s insignificant. Everything is important.
Mark Lambert: And let me add on to that, the situation with North Korean’s foreign trade is very different that Iran. Iran was quite integrated into the global economy whereas the DPRK is not.
By South Korean estimates, North Korea’s foreign trade only amounts to about five or six billion dollars U.S. We are engaged quite heavily with China which is North Korea’s number one trading partner and with Russia which is North Korea’s number two trading partner but this is a global effort.
We are not singling out Africa. We are deeply engaged with countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia and in Europe. This is a global effort.
Brian Neubert: We have a few more opportunities for questions. I’ll turn it over to Mr. McDonald. If you could introduce yourself and your outlet, please.
Hamish McDonald: Hi. My name is Hamish McDonald. I’m from an organization called NK News which focuses exclusively on North Korea. My question is pertaining to efforts to step up maritime interdictions which have been a bit of a focus recently with—recently their inclusion in the latest Security Council resolution, but also Secretary of State Tillerson has also commented personally on those increased efforts.
Given that North Korean ships and North Korean-linked ships have used flags of convenience in the past from African countries like Sierra Leon, Ivory Coast, Togo, Tanzania, and Comoros and places like that, have efforts been made by the U.S. State Department to get permission from these flag states to be able to interdict and intercept ships suspected of illicit activities on the high seas and what have the response been from these flag states if that has taken place?
Mark Lambert: Thank you Mr. McDonald. Yes, we look at the fact that now North Korea is having to resort to clandestine ship-to-ship transfers of commodities and surreptitiously selling commodities as an example that that the pressure campaign is having an effect. They’re having to use more criminal activities to get things done.
As part of our global effort, we are tracking the ships that are engaged in this trade and you exactly right. They frequently fly flags of convenience and they try to hide their ownership.
We are going after the flag countries, asking them to remove the protection that the flags provide. We’re also going after the ownership and we’re also going after the insurers. In short, we want to make an example of these ships, to make it very clear that any company that engages in this type of trade, risks losing not only the cargo but the ship itself.
Brian Neubert: Thank you. Again, as I’ve reminded our participants here, thank you for joining the Africa Regional Media Hub’s telephonic press briefing today on North Korean policy in Africa.
We’ll open the line now for Peter Fabricious. Peter, if you’re listening, I know we had some technical issues. I did ask your first question about South Africa before but please if you have another question, go ahead.
Peter Fabricious: Thanks very much. I missed the first part of that. I didn’t hear that question, and so maybe this question has already been asked, but I just wanted to know, if you haven’t already elaborated, what are the kinds of activities that North Korea is conducting in Africa that you mentioned in your announcement of this question, apart from the false-flagging or the, you know, the red-flagging that we’ve been talking about?
Mark Lambert: Thank you very much. Africa’s a big continent and North Korea’s incredibly resourceful so they’re engaged in a number of activities depending on the country but for example, in some countries in Africa there are traditional military-to-military ties where North Korea has provided small arms or training, radars, that type of equipment.
In other countries, North Koreans are involved in labor practices. It surprises a lot of people now to find out that in some very poor countries, companies are hiring North Koreans to do work that could be done by local people.
As I mentioned earlier, frequently these laborers do not receive the income that they’ve earned. It is siphoned off and is sent to North Korea.
Also, because the North Koreans are so enterprising in finding ways to raise money, we have clear evidence that they are also involved in smuggling wildlife; rhino horn and other items that are protected by the Siamese Convention.
Sandra Oudkirk: And I will also add that the United States is using its domestic authority to sanction or designate a number of individuals and entities who are based in African countries but they are by-and-large North Korean nationals or companies with North Korean names based in South Africa, that were based in African countries, that were engaged in support for the North Korean weapons proliferation effort over the past several years.
The first designation happened in January of 2015 so obviously this effort has been going on, on the African continent, for some time.
Brian Neubert: Thank you. Again, to join the question queue we have time for probably a few more questions. For those on speaker phone, again, you may have to pick up the handset to do that. We’ll turn it over now to Ashlyn Lang if you could introduce yourself and your outlet please and ask your question.
Ashlyn Lang: Hi there. My name is Ashlyn Lang. I’m the Africa correspondent for the Times of London.
I just wanted to ask you about the operations about a company called Mansudae. As I understand it, they are a construction firm that have produced a lot of big buildings around Africa and also some interesting statues that seem to operate and provide the defense services at the same time.
Are there any particular projects, either construction or defense, that you’re aware of, either impending or sort of in process at the moment that you would like to see stopped? I know they are quite long-termed projects and I wondered if you could kind of identify any of them.
Sandra Oudkirk: Okay, so I—this is Sandra. I spoke a little bit earlier about entities and individuals that have been designated by the United States Government.
Mansudae Overseas Project Group was designated in December of 2016. We understand that they conduct business in a variety of countries on the African continent and the reason why they were designated is because they have engaged in facilitating or been responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea and revenue generation on behalf of the Munitions Industry department in North Korea and I would refer you to the U.S. Treasury Department press release from December 2, 2016 which describes in some detail the supporting evidence that we had back in December 2016 related to activities in Africa.
Mark Lambert: Miss Lang, I’d also like to point out that Mansudae has been sanctioned by the United Nations. There have been a number of terrific stories that show their links to the North Korean military.
Frankly, this is an area where we’re pleased with cooperation we’ve received from a number of African countries. We need to remain vigilant because these entities have a habit of springing back up under other names but I think we’ve had a number of successes in African countries of limiting Mansudae’s ability to operate in Africa.
Brian Neubert: Thank you again. So just to remind our participants, our speakers today—we have representatives from the Africa Bureau, from the Asia Bureau at the State Department, as well as the Economic Bureau, so what you’re hearing are three coordinated elements of policy with regard to North Korea.
I see that we have quite a number of participants on the line. We have time perhaps for one or two more questions.
I see Mr. Hamish McDonald would like to ask a follow-up question. We’ll open the line for you sir, go ahead.
Hamish McDonald: Thanks very much. Again, this is Hamish McDonald from NK News.
I just wanted to talk briefly or ask a question briefly about the Panel of Experts report. So there was a mid-term report that was leaked that revealed a number of ongoing investigations on DPRK activities in Africa, many to do with training and military-related cooperation, and they revealed that they were investigating or continuing to inquire with Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Eritrea, the DRC, and Angola, but had received very little response from those states to help with their inquiries.
I was wondering if the State Department can elaborate on any particular successes or describe any particular successes, perhaps in the last six months, involving some of those states and their cooperation with North Korea on military-related aspects as well as, obviously, following up on the previous question, with some of the military-related construction done by Mansudae as well.
Mark Lambert: Mr. McDonald, you’ve got us in an awkward position on your question.
As you indicated in your question, the Panel of Experts report was leaked and I think it would be inappropriate for us to comment on it until it’s in its final. There are some success stories lately and frankly, we’re trying to get some information downgraded that we’d be able to talk to you about in more detail, so I don’t mean to brush you off or anything, but please, as a follow-up, work with us and we’ll try to get you some more clear information about some cases that we can talk about in Africa.
Brian Neubert: And as a reminder to Mr. McDonald and other participants, most or all of you would have the [email protected] email. When you receive the transcript of this call and other information you are, of course, welcome to send us your follow-up questions and we will do our best to get answers and information to those.
We do have another question on the line. Miss Dukolo, we’ll open the line for you. I apologize, I interrupted you last time as you went a bit long. If you could be brief and ask one question of our speakers, go ahead please.
Dukolo Matsaku: Hi there again, it’s me from Business Day.
So obviously you guys are putting pressure on African governments to comply with the UN sanctions but because the givenformal enforcement mechanism, what exactly is the United States really doing besides talking to African governments to actually ensure that they are cutting ties with North Korea?
Sandra Oudkirk: Okay, the obligation that all Unites Nations member states have is to implement UN sanctions through their own domestic authority so it is not correct to say that there is no enforcement mechanism.
Every country in the world enforces UN sanctions, whether they’re against North Korea or any other country or individual or program using their own domestic authorities and those authorities vary. What we’re doing is asking countries to fully implement their UN obligations.
Brian Neubert: Thank you again. I see that we don’t have any further questions in the question queue at this time so before we wrap up let me see if Mr. Scott and the other officials in the room there would like to offer any final words.
Robert Scott: Thanks Brian. This is Rob Scott. I just wanted to thank you and the Hub and all the journalists who called in. I think, you know, our discussion today underlines how important this issue is to us. Secretary Tillerson just yesterday was in Vancouver in Canada at an international conference pulled together by the Canadians which brought together a number of countries, I believe, countries that were selected from those that were involved in the Korean War back in the 1950s. But the purpose was to underline the solidarity that these nations feel in addressing this threat and it’s a very specific threat.
I also just want to say that we view this as a partnership with countries in Africa. You know, we’re working with each other in order to implement agreed-upon policy so it’s not a unilateral policy that the U.S. has imposed. Rather, it’s an agreement by everyone at the UN that we need to take action and that we’re working together to fine the most effective way to take those actions.
And so in the Africa Bureau here at the State Department, we are certainly encouraged that a number of countries are taking actions and we continue engage through ambassadors and embassies to find other avenues of working together. I’ll just turn to Mark and Sandra for their final thoughts if they have any. Mark?
Mark Lambert: I would like to underscore something that I mentioned earlier that this is an international effort. The only way that we are going to successfully resolve the North Korean conundrum is by all countries on earth working together.
We need help from those of you in the journalism community. When you have these specific questions, please do send them to Brian. He’ll send them up to us in Washington and we will do our level best to try to get you answers. Please do understand that some of these things involve ongoing investigations. Some of them are legal, so in some cases, there’s not much we can say. But when we can say something, we want to get you good information, reliable information that you can share with your readers.
Sandra Oudkirk: And this is Sandra. Thank you very much for participating today. I’d like to echo Rob and Mark’s comments about our willingness to answer specific questions that you might have. You will see when you get the transcript that is appended to the end of my remarks, there are a couple of websites. Those are places where you can get sort of direct information on U.S. domestic designations, if you have questions there. Thank you.
Brian Neubert: Thank you again.
If our speakers will indulge me, we actually do have a question here in the queue and I know we were trying with some difficulty to reach her and since we do have a minute or two left, if you would allow just one last question from Shannon Ebrahim. If you could introduce yourself and your outlet we’ll sneak you in here at the very end. I know we had some technical challenges getting you on the line.
Shannon Ebrahim: Yes, thank you very much. I really appreciate that. My name is Shannon Ebrahim and I’m the group foreign editor of Independent Media in South Africa. It’s just about twenty newspapers and then an online site.
I do write quite a bit about North and South Korea and the conflict—the tension on the peninsula and I am writing this week about the Olympics and whether they will open new avenues for peace given the UN resolutions in November that wants the Olympics to be seen as a step towards peace and dialogue.
I don’t know if you have already covered this in your briefing but would be quite interested to know if the UN feels that it’s realistic that this new development that North Korea will participate—there may even be a joint-women ice hockey team of North and South Koreans—do you think that this could be built in terms of getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table and to discuss some of the issues that divide them?
Robert Scott: Miss Ebrahim, we’ve been in very close contact with South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government. He’s spoken twice with President Trump about this overture that the North has made. For now, it sounds like most of the discussions are going to be aimed at ensuring a safe and secure Olympics but hope does spring eternal.
We are hopeful that some type of overture will be made by the North Koreans indicating their willingness to again address the need to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. However, to date we have not seen or heard anything from the North Koreans to that effect.
Brian Neubert: Thank you very much. This will conclude today’s call.
I appreciate our speakers taking that additional question after their closing remarks. Thank you for that. I want to thank Mr. Robert Scott. Again, we had Robert Scott, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Mr. Mark Lambert is the Deputy Special Representative for North Korean Policy, and Ms. Sandra Oudkirk who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Economic Bureau today.
Thank you for all of our participants who called in from around Africa and around the world. If you have further questions, as I said, please contact us here at the Africa Regional Hub. That’s at [email protected]. Thank you very much everyone.