This Week at State: February 9, 2018

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This Week at State: February 9, 2018

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are the highlights from This Week at State:

Secretary Tillerson Travels to Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Jamaica

This week, Secretary Tillerson continued his travels in the Americas, traveling to Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Jamaica on February 3-7.

(clockwise from top left) Secretary Tillerson with senior government leaders of Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Jamaica, and Colombia.

In Argentina, Secretary Tillerson discussed scientific exchanges and conservation practices at the Nahuel Haupi National Park, and emphasized Argentina’s economic progress, as well as the expanding U.S.-Argentina economic and trading relationship, during meetings with President Mauricio Macri and Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie.

In Peru, Secretary Tillerson met with President Kuczynski and with Foreign Minister Cayetana Aljovin, highlighting Peru’s strong leadership and commitment to areas of common interest, including security and economic cooperation, and the ongoing challenges of North Korea and Venezuela.

During meetings with President Juan Manuel Santos, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, and other senior officials in Colombia, the Secretary emphasized the cooperation on the shared challenge of Coca cultivation and cocaine production, as well as working together to combat transnational crime.

In Jamaica, Secretary Tillerson met with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith, discussing bilateral and regional security, energy efforts, and Jamaica’s successful economic reform efforts.

Secretary Tillerson Highlights Trade, Syria and the Olympics in Fox News Interview

In an interview with Fox News on February 6, during his visit to Colombia, Secretary Tillerson highlighted a wide-range of topics from trade to Syria to the Olympics. 

On trade in the Western Hemisphere:

On Russian engagement in Syria:

Regarding the Vice President’s delegation to the Olympics, Secretary Tillerson said, “The President asked the Vice President to lead the U.S. official delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Seoul. We’re there to first support the successful Olympics by the South Korean Government. We’re also there to support all the United States athletes that’ll be competing, and we expect to bring home a lot of medals. And whatever happens while the Vice President is there, we’ll just have to see.”

Vice President Pence Travels to Japan and Leads Delegation to Olympics in South Korea

Vice President Mike Pence travelled to Japan and South Korea, February 6-9, participating in bilateral meetings with Japanese and Korean leaders to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and leading the United States delegation to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

During his visit to Japan, Vice President Pence announced the United States will soon unveil a new round of economic sanctions on North Korea. During his visit to Seoul, Vice President Pence congratulated South Korea on what President Donald J. Trump has called “a magnificent Winter Olympics.”

Secretary Tillerson Hosts Bilateral Meetings with China, Guatemala, and Serbia

On February 8, Secretary Tillerson hosted Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi for a meeting at the State Department. Also on February 8, Secretary Tillerson hosted Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales for a meeting at the State Department. On February 9, the Secretary hosted Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.

Secretary Tillerson Expresses Disappointment Regarding Recent Legislation in Poland

Secretary Tillerson expressed the United States’ disappointment “that the President of Poland has signed legislation that would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish state” in a February 6 statement. 

“The United States reaffirms that terms like “Polish death camps” are painful and misleading. Such historical inaccuracies affect Poland, our strong ally, and must be combatted in ways that protect fundamental freedoms. We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech.”

- Secretary Tillerson

Deputy Secretary Sullivan and Ambassador-At-Large Brownback Speak on Religious Freedom

On February 8, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback gave remarks at an event honoring the U.S. commitment to international religious freedom at the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Testifies on South Asia Strategy in Afghanistan

On February 6, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “The Administration’s South Asia Strategy on Afghanistan.” In his remarks, Deputy Secretary Sullivan highlighted conversations with Afghan leaders his recent trip to Kabul, as well as the roles that Pakistan, India, and Central Asian governments must play in Afghanistan. 

“Every leader reiterated their support for our strategy, and their commitment to creating the conditions that will bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and establish an environment for a sustained peace,”

- Deputy Secretary Sullivan commenting on his trip to Kabul 

United States Alarmed by Escalating Violence, Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria

In a February 8 statement, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “The United States is extremely concerned about escalating violence in Idlib, the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, and other areas of Syria threatened by ongoing regime and Russian airstrikes,” adding, “These attacks must end now.” 

Spokesperson Nauert also addressed chemical weapons attacks in Syria in a February 5 statement

“The United States is gravely alarmed by continued allegations of the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian Regime to terrorize innocent civilians, this time in Idlib Province near Saraqib.”

“We implore the international community to speak with one voice, taking every opportunity to publicly pressure the Assad regime, and its supporters, to cease its use of chemical weapons and hold those responsible accountable for these brutal attacks.”

- Department Spokesperson Nauert

United States Denounces Decision to Advance Presidential Elections in Venezuela

Department Spokesperson Nauert denounced the decision by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to unilaterally advance presidential elections without guarantees to ensure free, fair, and internationally-validated elections in a statement on February 8.

“We stand with the hemisphere in support of the Venezuelan people and their sovereign right to have their votes counted in free, fair, and transparent elections.”

- Department Spokesperson Nauert

United States Announces Implementation of New START Treaty

In a February 5 press statement, Department Spokesperson Nauert announced the United States of America and the Russian Federation have implemented the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty) for seven years, with the Treaty’s central limits on each country’s strategic nuclear arsenal taking effect.

“Implementation of the New START Treaty enhances the safety and security of the United States and our allies and makes strategic relations between the United States and the Russian Federation more stable, transparent, and predictable; critically important at a time when trust in the relationship has deteriorated, and the threat of miscalculation and misperception has risen.”

- Department Spokesperson Nauert

For more information about the New START Treaty, see this fact sheet.

United States Comments on Troubling Convictions in Vietnam

Department Spokesperson Nauert expressed the United States’ concern over the conviction and sentencing of peaceful labor and environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong in Vietnam in a February 6 statement

United States Comments on State of Emergency in Maldives

On February 5, the United States expressed its disappointment regarding the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Maldives. In a press statement, Department Spokesperson Nauert said, “The United States calls on President Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, implement the Supreme Court’s ruling and the rulings of the Criminal Court, ensure the full and proper functioning of the Parliament, and restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions of the Maldives.”

Secretary Tillerson to Travel to Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Cairo and Kuwait City

Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced Secretary Tillerson’s trip to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kuwait, February 11-16.

Once the trip begins, you can follow along here.

Follow the State Department on Twitter and Facebook for additional information and updates.

Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.