DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Oh, thank you, thank you. All right.
MS. SINGH: Well, thank you. I just have a few things at the top here, and thank you for the compliment. And I will then be happy to take your questions.
So good afternoon, everyone. As you know, the secretary is on travel right now. Tomorrow, he will be wrapping up his trip, which included a stop in Canada, Indonesia and Cambodia. The secretary's currently in Cambodia, where he discussed the region's most pressing security challenges with our allies and partners at the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meetings Plus.
On the margins of the Ministers Meeting Plus, the secretary met with the People's Republic of China, Minister of National Defense General Wei. They discussed the U.S.-China's defense relations and regional and global security issues. The secretary emphasized the need to responsibly manage competition and maintain open lines of communication. He also raised concerns about the increasingly-dangerous behavior demonstrated by PLA aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region, which increases the risk of accident. The secretary also affirmed that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. And the secretary reiterated that the United States remains committed to our long-standing One China policy, reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the strait and called on the PRC to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan.
And one more item: Over the weekend on the margins of the Halifax International Security Forum, the -- the secretary met with a bipartisan, bicameral delegation led by Senator -- Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Senator James Risch. The secretary thanked senators and members of Congress for their continued support for Ukraine, urged for the confirmation of the department's 11 highly-qualified civilian nominees and encouraged the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Congress returns to Washington next week, and the department hopes that Congress will finalize and pass the NDAA. At a time when the United States faces challenges from China, and an acute threat from Russia, it is essential that we have the authorities we need to keep the American people safe, deter our adversaries, and support a lethal, resilient and healthy joint force.
And lastly, before I take your questions, I just want to note that today is Justin Brown's last day in our office. You all are familiar with him and his smiling face that greets you every day, so hopefully, you can say goodbye to him before you leave for your holidays and just wish him well. He is going to be staying in the building, but I would encourage you to talk to him about what he's doing next.
And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. I'm going to see if anyone from AP is on the line. If not, we can move on. Phil Stewart, and then I can come back in the room.
Q: Thank you. Last night in the readout from the secretary's conversation with his Chinese counterpart, it spoke about the increasing activity by Chinese -- dangerous activity by Chinese PLA aircraft. Hoping you can give us some sense of the frequency, the kinds of interactions that were deemed to be dangerous, and yeah, any kind of fidelity about those activities.
And then separately, today, the -- and I -- then I'll have a follow-up on Iran separately. Thanks.
MS. SINGH: No problem. So I'm not going to be able to go further than what was laid out in the readout, which I believe is hopefully in your inbox, and also available on defense.gov. The secretary just reiterated the concerns about dangerous behavior that we've seen demonstrated by PLA aircraft. But in terms of how many incidences and where, I'm just not going to be able to go further beyond the readout itself.
Q: Okay. And -- and the IAEA today also said that Iran was enriching uranium up to 60 percent at -- at Fordow, and also that it was going to -- plans further enrichment at -- at both Fordow and Natanz. I'm just wondering whether or not you have any reaction to this latest announcement about Iranian -- expanded Iranian enrichment.
MS. SINGH: I've seen the reports, and thanks, Phil, for the question. I've seen the reports. Unfortunately, I don't have more to add at this time. What Iran is doing and the capabilities that they're trying to procure, we continue to monitor. But I have nothing further to add right now.
Thanks. We'll go into the room. Oren?
Q: After the Speaker Pelosi visit, China announced that it had cut off a series of -- of communications lines such as meetings between Chinese and U.S. defense leaders, the annual naval meetings. Is there any indication from the secretary's meeting that some of those might be reopened or restarted in -- in the near future?
MS. SINGH: Well, in particular on those meetings, I don't have -- I don't have any announcements to make. But I think from what you've seen with the president engaging his Chinese counterpart, the vice president also engaging just on her travel just this week, and then with the secretary engaging General Wei, I think what you're seeing is an opening of lines of communication, and we welcome that, and we want to continue to see these lines of communications restored and remaining open. And so if I have more to share in terms of anything else that we participate in or any other conversations, I'd be happy to follow up.
Q: Thank you. Nice to see you.
MS. SINGH: Nice to see you.
Q: I have two North Koreans questions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unveiled intercontinental ballistic missile unit for the first time. What do you think his intentions were?
MS. SINGH: Well, I wouldn't be able to get in the mind of Kim Jong-un. I would ask you -- I would direct that question back to the DPRK.
Q: -- the second one, thank you. And what can you say about the possibility that if the Hwasong-17 ballistic missile is loaded with a nuclear warhead, it will definitely hit United States mainland?
MS. SINGH: Well, I certainly wouldn't be able to speculate on that. We -- as you know and you've heard from this podium, that we continue to monitor the -- the destabilizing actions that North Korea has taken with their missile launches. But on a particular issue when it comes to whether something might hit the mainland, I just wouldn't be able to speculate on that.
I'm going to go ahead and go to the room. Yes? Sorry, Brandi, go ahead. Sorry, go ahead. I'll come back to you. Sorry.
Q: It's a quick one.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: Just checking in on this -- the NDAA for 2022 required reports from the Pentagon on unidentified aerial phenomena, starting October 31st of this year and then annually until 2026 after, delivered to appropriate congressional committees. Do you have an update for us on that report, whether we'll see an unclassified version soon? Anything there?
MS. SINGH: I don't have an update on the report. I believe it's still with ODNI for review. Until we get that, I wouldn't be able to -- I don't have anything for you at this time.
Q: And as far as you know, it hasn't been delivered to the committees?
MS. SINGH: As far as I'm aware but you would have to ask those committees.
I'm going to go back to the phones then come to the room here. Howard Altman?
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Are you aware, is the Pentagon aware of ongoing drone attacks by Ukraine in Sevastopol right now? Can you talk about that?
MS. SINGH: Well, we've certainly seen -- Howard, I -- I think I heard your question -- we've certainly seen drone attacks from the Russians, and you -- we saw the barrage, I believe, last week and leading up right into what the Secretary spoke to after the contact group, but I don't have any more specifics beyond what was reported last week.
Q: No, no, I'm sorry, I was talking about the ongoing attacks right now, Ukraine attacks in Sevastopol, Crimea.
MS. SINGH: -- no, nothing -- nothing further to read out at this time. I mean, it is a dynamic and active battlefield that we're seeing within Ukraine and we're seeing the Ukrainians certainly push back and are using the weapons and systems that not just that we have provided but that other partners and allies have provided.
And, you know, we have seen them make gains, we've seen them, as early as last week, take back Kherson City, but I have nothing further to read out on any other movements in other cities.
I'm going to go to Jeff Seldin, VOA.
Q: Thanks very much for doing this. A -- a question about the fighting, the Turkish airstrikes against Syrian Kurdish positions in northern Syria -- we've heard calls from the -- the coalition, from CENTCOM for de-escalation and warnings that this is -- is going to destabilize the region. What more is the Pentagon doing, especially now that Turkey's President Erdogan has suggested he -- in addition to airstrikes, he's going to send in tanks? And also, how does this impact the U.S. forces on the ground in -- in Syria and also in Iraq? And is there any update on -- on how many troops the U.S. has in -- in that region?
MS. SINGH: Sure. Thanks for the question. I'll try to get to I'll try to remember all of them.
In terms of what we are doing, we continue to monitor what is happening on the ground. This is a, I mean, these -- is happening as -- you know, as I'm up here, as we speak. So we continue to monitor what's happening on the ground, and from all aspects of this department, we continue to urge for de-escalation on all sides.
And, you know, in our conversations and what we have said publicly, is that these strikes, from all sides, risk our mission, which is to defeat ISIS, the enduring defeat of ISIS. And so we are going to continue to monitor what's happening on the ground and make sure that our forces are safe -- and there has been no change to our force posture right now in the region -- but for further questions on our forces, I would direct you to CENTCOM.
Okay, great. I'm going to come back in the room. Yes?
Q: Thanks, Sabrina.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: Last Tuesday, the White House announced it was sending to the Hill a $37.7 billion request for more aid for Ukraine -- okay -- and in that release and in the briefing, there was multiple aspects of that request broken down by money sums. One of those was for $21.7 billion in defense aid and equipment for Ukraine and to replenish DOD stocks, those two items in that $21.7 billion subset.
However, they redirected me to ask the Pentagon, of that $21.7 billion, how much of that is going to go to replenish DOD stocks and what is the priority in replenishment?
MS. SINGH: Well, I don't certainly have an itemized breakdown for you here on our budget and what's going to be deemed from highest to least, in terms of replenishment. That's not something that I would be able to read out from here.
Q: Yes, I appreciate that. My question was how much of that $21.7 billion is going to go to replenish the stocks? That's not a budget item, that's an authorization request by the White House to which the Pentagon, according to the White House, had feed -- had feedback into.
MS. SINGH: So again, I would not be able to tell you how much of that $21.7 billion is going back to replenishment. I just wouldn't be able to do that from here. We are constantly --
Q: -- you take the question please?
MS. SINGH: I am not going to take the question because I'm answering your question. I'm not going to be able to itemize that out right now. I am going to tell you what we are doing, is that we are -- we continue, with every PDA that we announce, with every security assistance package that we announce, we assess our own readiness and capabilities and also what needs to be replenished. I just don't have a number or a dollar figure for you right now on what that looks like and I don't think that's something that we would broadcast from here, or at least something that I could broadcast from here at this time.
Q: Thank you, Sabrina. So I just want to go back to the situation in northern Syria --
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: -- the (inaudible) situation there. So you said that you were seeking de-escalation. However, the CENTCOM was more clear on the -- on the situation. There's a statement where the spokesperson says, quote, "that CENTCOM proposes what the Turks are doing in northern Syria, these strikes." Is this the -- the same position that the -- the department has? Are you -- do you oppose the Turkish military operation? And are you concerned about further widening of that operation in Syria?
MS. SINGH: We’ve been consistent on this, not only from CENTCOM, but this podium her, that we oppose all of the strikes that are happening right now from all sides. They have a major impact on increase in escalation in Syria and Iraq and take away from our goal, which is the enduring defeat of ISIS. So we have encouraged de-escalation. We are going to continue to monitor what's happening on the ground there, but we've continued not just Turkey, but all sides, to de-escalate. And, you know, are going -- we're going to continue to monitor what is happening on the ground there.
Q: Who do you mean, all sides? Can you name that sides that are involved in de-escalation?
MS. SINGH: I think there's been open-source reporting on the fact that -- I mean, as you know, Turkey was attacked just last week I believe, there have been strikes within Syria and Iraq that we've seen; we encourage all sides to de-escalate this conflict and to remember that, you know, again, our goal here, the United States military's goal, is the enduring defeat of ISIS. These strikes take away from that goal. And, you know, again, it risks the hard-earned progress that the global coalition has made when it comes to the defeat of ISIS.
Q: Thank you (inaudible).
MS. SINGH: Yes.
Q: (Inaudible) is reporting that a U.S. destroyer transited through the Taiwan Strait or November 5. What message did the U.S. military intend to send to China by this transit a week before the President Biden and President Xi's meeting in Asia?
MS. SINGH: Well, you know, as the -- as the secretary spoke at -- about at Halifax, as we've said from here, the United States is going to continue to sail, operate and fly in open waters and international waters. And that was one of our routine Taiwan transits that we did. I believe it was last week or the week -- week ago and it was completely safe and professional.
MS. SINGH: Can I come -- I'm going to come back to you. Tony ?
Q: Thanks, Sabrina.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: Are there any looming PDAs this week?
MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to announce right now.
Q: You might be able to announce something in the next day or two before -- you know -- like tomorrow or Friday?
MS. SINGH: I am -- I don't have anything to read out at this time. If I do, I will certainly let you know.
Q: Okay, SpaceX, six weeks ago --
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: -- the world was transfixed with this. The Pentagon shut down --
MS. SINGH: I remember. Yes.
Q: -- (inaudible). Six weeks later, has the Pentagon come to any kind of final decision on this? A, we're going to pay going forward. B, we're not. C, we're -- we keep talking. Where does that stand?
MS. SINGH: So, I don't have any -- there's been no changes, no updates. We saw the SpaceX statement that was put out a few weeks ago you referenced, that they are going to continue payments for the Starlink satellites and capabilities. So right now, that's the policy. That's what is happening, and I have nothing to read out at this time.
Q: There's no -- you're not talking anymore with SpaceX at the moment? That it's a dead issue or --
MS. SINGH: Well, we're in contact with SpaceX on a range of issues, not just Starlink, on other issues as well. So, I have nothing to -- nothing further to announce when it comes to our Starlink capabilities. But, you know, if that changes, I will certainly let you know.
Q: Okay. Can I go back to Tom's question on the 21.7?
MS. SINGH: Sure. Yes.
Q: Nobody expects you to be able to itemize --
MS. SINGH: Yes.
Q: -- what is on, I mean that's the -- would be unrealistic and unfair.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: But can you go back and in the -- over the next week and get a breakdown of the broad areas where this money is going to, that's a realistic transparent expectation, certainly not asking you to itemize right now…
MS. SINGH: Well, this is just a request that has been submitted as well, so nothing has been passed, so therefore, how would I be able to breakdown the itemization of something that could change?
Q: Congress though, this is what we want to spend the money on, so notionally, in the next week or so, can you give a breakdown, notionally the categories, that's all I'm asking.
MS. SINGH: I can't right now. I mean, notionally --
Q: (Inaudible) right now to do it.
MS. SINGH: But let -- I'm just saying that number that has been submitted to Congress could also change, right? Congress might not approve that number. So, the fact is like I can certainly -- I believe in transparency here, I want to be transparent with you, of course. I just don't have that breakdown for you today, and to what Tom was asking either. I'm happy to -- like, when we have more information, I'm happy to read that out, but at this time, I just don't.
Q: I know. I'm not expecting you to not know now but Congress is only going to approve it if you give them a breakdown of what you're going to -- what you want the money for. That's all I'm asking.
MS. SINGH: That's right, and I just don't have that right now.
Q: Okay, fair enough.
MS. SINGH: Okay.
Q: -- concerned that Congress is --
MS. SINGH: I'm going to go to another question and then I'm going to come back to you. Yeah?
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. I had a question about TikTok. Are there any discussions to review or amend the policy on TikTok? You know, right now, it can't be used on government devices but yet it's used widely on personal devices, and there are a lot of concerns about the security around that.
MS. SINGH: So right now, our policy hasn't changed. If it does, I would certainly be able to update you on that. But for -- in terms of personal use and devices, that's not something we monitor. We, of course, are monitoring the -- or encouraging folks to be safe on their government devices. So I just have nothing in terms of our policy.
Q: You can't say whether there's any discussion right now that --
MS. SINGH: Not at the moment -- not at the moment. I mean, nothing has changed in our policy, but if that does, I'm happy to -- happy to update you.
Q: Thank you for taking my question.
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: So in the face of the tremendous damage that Ukraine has sustained because of Russian bombing to their infrastructure and civilian populations suffering in the cold and so forth, the DOD has taken a piece of this puzzle, in -- in conjunction with another group. And can you say anything about the -- how far the plans have come, in terms of addressing the emergency needs, these very urgent needs on the ground in Ukraine, for --
MS. SINGH: In terms of what's happening -- like the -- from the damages that were sustained from last week?
Q: -- the infrastructure -- yeah, the heat, plumbing --
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: -- all of that, and I know there has been a group that's formed, but I'm just wondering if you --
MS. SINGH: Yeah, the --
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I mean, the Ukraine Contact Group, part of that group's meeting is to determine what Ukraine needs, not just on the battlefield but also in terms of to sustain their own infrastructure, and that's something that we continue to be in touch with our Ukrainian counterparts to determine what they need, which is what you will see in each PDA.
And I know Tony asked about when the next PDA might be rolled out, and I don't have an announcement for you on that but we're in constant contact with what the Ukrainians might need.
We're certainly aware that there have been extreme damages to their electrical grid and infrastructure, and that's something that we're thinking through, in terms of what we can provide them, and then, you know, also we've -- we know they're heading into a really tough, cold winter, which is why we've provided boots, gloves, hats, which Tom has asked about before, on -- in terms of what that looks like, and we've provided that to the Ukrainians cause we know that we'll need that on -- that they'll need that on the battlefield.
And so just to get back to the heart of your question, we continue to assess what they need, and that continues to change. And we've seen these strikes by these Iranian-made drones have devastating impacts on civilian infrastructure, on targets that are not military targets.
And so we're going to continue to do what we can to provide them what they need, and it's -- and it's not just us -- you know, it's our partners and allies around the world that are working together to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need for this winter.
Yeah, Gordon? Nice to see you.
Q: Nice to see you. Just on that, you have now another group of bipartisan lawmakers asking the Secretary to reconsider his decision -- or apparent decision on the Gray Eagle drones, the advanced drones for Ukraine. Do you have any responses to if the -- if it's still under consideration or what the rationale is for deciding not to give them those (inaudible)?
MS. SINGH: I would say that nothing has been decided. We are always assessing and evaluating what we can send to Ukraine, but in terms of the Gray Eagles, no decision has been made. We are -- you know, we have to examine what impact it would have on us, and specifically for the Army, but nothing has been ruled out.
Q: Great. Do you know anything about the rationale, though, thus far for not providing that?
MS. SINGH: I mean, it's something that we're assessing. I wouldn't be able to go beyond that. I think in terms of -- in terms of just on the larger scope of rationale, we feel that what we've provided them so far has been -- they've been more than capable of using and they've been more than capable of having instrumental gains on the battlefield.
And so when and if there's a time that we provide the Gray Eagle, I'll certainly be reading that out, and I'm sure you'll be interested as well.
Q: Thank you.
MS. SINGH: Nice to see you.
Q: Thank you. During the meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Secretary Austin highlighted the need to reopen lines of communication and military dialogues in order to manage the competition responsibly. Has there been a positive reaction from the Chinese side regarding the -- these dialogues that the U.S. wants to reopen?
MS. SINGH: Well, I wouldn't want to speak on behalf of the Chinese government. I would direct you to them for further comment. I think that the fact that we're seeing engagement from them certainly shows an openness and a willingness to want to communicate. And so we welcome that.
Q: Thank you.
MS. SINGH: Sorry, I'll come to the back after that. Yeah?
Q: A spokesperson from Foreign Ministry in Kyiv said that experts from Ukraine and Iran met to discuss the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine. Have -- you aware about that meetings? And do you encourage these kinds of meetings between Iran and Ukraine?
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, can you repeat the question? A Iranian spokesperson -- Iranian spokesperson put out --
Q: -- it said a -- a Ukrainian spokesperson.
MS. SINGH: Okay.
MS. SINGH: Sorry, can you just repeat the question?
Q: They said there's a meeting between Iranian and Ukraine experts from both sides to talk about or discuss the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine. Have -- you aware about that meetings?
MS. SINGH: I'm not -- I'm not aware of a meeting like that, no.
Q: Okay. And do you encourage these kinds -- these kind of meetings -- these meetings?
MS. SINGH: Well, I mean, I think it would be surprising if there was a meeting like that taking place, given the fact that Iran is providing drones to Russia to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians. So I just -- I wouldn't really be able to comment on that any further.
I mean, we've seen sort of where Iran is aligned right now and we're seeing Russia being further isolated by reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea to resupply what they need. It clearly shows that – their own weaknesses and it clearly shows how isolated they've become in the world.
And so I just -- I wouldn't be able to go any -- I wouldn't be able to comment on a meeting I don't have any awareness about.
Q: Okay, and a second question, thank you.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: Yesterday, General Mark Milley met with the Chief of the Israel General Staff Aviv Kochavi. They discussed the threats that -- posed by Iran. So is there any coordination or -- between the DOD and the Israeli, recently about any response maybe will be -- happen against Iran after the -- the Iranian threatens has been arised recently --
MS. SINGH: I have -- I -- you know, I saw the readout. I don't -- have nothing more to add to that. I would direct you to the Joint Staff for any further information or details on that meeting. Yeah, of course.
Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Yesterday, in the readout -- or this morning, in the readout with Secretary Austin, we used the word -- or it was used, "discussed," multiple times. "Secretary Austin discussed Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine." So basically, they had a conversation instead of talks. When we say Russia, we use "talks".
Are we planning on having talks with China, something more substantial? Instead? -- are they going to go in a room and just discuss talking points?
MS. SINGH: Seems like a bit of parsing of words here. Some of these --
Q: They mean different things.
MS. SINGH: Yeah. Yeah --
Q: One is we just go in and have a conversation; the other is we go in and have high talks.
MS. SINGH: So I would say that the readout and what the secretary said with his -- with -- to General Wei is that they discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine. I mean, I don't have more to read out other than what was already announced and what they discussed there. But I guess I wouldn't -- I think we're trying to parse a little bit about discussed and talks, and I just -- I -- there's no -- there's no -- I have nothing further to read out in terms of any conversations or talks with Russia, if that's what you're getting at.
Q: So they keep using "discussed" all the time when we're only describing China. We never say the word "talk". "They went in and had high -- high talks."
MS. SINGH: I think -- I understand what you're saying. I think we're reading a little too much into some of the wording here, just in terms of discussed, met with, had a conversation. I mean, we've used certain -- certainly, different words to characterize meetings, but I think the biggest takeaway that I would urge you to consider here is that this was an open dialogue. They discussed a range of topics in Cambodia, one of which included Russia's war that it's waged on Ukraine and many other topics. And we want to encourage to keeping this dialogue an open communication with China, but beyond that, I have nothing more to add to the readout.
Q: Sabrina --
MS. SINGH: Yeah, I'm --
Q: One more point --
MS. SINGH: Okay, sure.
Q: -- on that. Thank you. On China, China says that even if it has influence over North Korea, it is limited, and it has no authority to control North Korea, and also China used veto to defend North Korea at the UN Security Council resolution yesterday. How would you comment on that?
MS. SINGH: I would direct you to the UN, I’m not the spokesperson for the UN. I you say that, we've certainly been very vocal about our -- the destabilizing impacts and actions that North Korea continues to take, and we're going to continue to make clear our concerns, and that's something that the secretary raised in his -- in his meeting with General Wei, and we're going to continue to do that not just with China, but with other countries around the world.
Yeah, did I see a question back here? Yeah?
Q: (inaudible) --
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, and then I'll come to you, and then we'll probably have to wrap up soon because there's another event in this room soon. Yeah?
Q: Thank you for taking my question.
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: My question is about Japan. So Japanese government-commissioned panel said today that a drastic defense buildup, including preemptive strike capabilities was essential. So does the U.S. support a drastic defense buildup by Japan? And has the DOD had recent discussions with Japanese counterparts about preemptive strike capabilities?
MS. SINGH: I have nothing to read out on conversations that we've had with Japan. We certainly are in constant communication with Japan and the Republic of Korea when it comes to our bilateral and trilateral relationship, and we are always, of course, in contact with them when there -- when there are continued provocations that we see out of the DPRK. But beyond that, I just don't have anything further for you.
Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Thanks for taking my question. I would like to know if you have any information about what's going on in the Nigerian/Moroccan border, what Russian -- Russia is -- is doing there, and also if -- if the Pentagon had any contacts with the Iberian or Moroccan authorities since the military drills started there.
MS. SINGH: I haven't -- I don't have any conversations or calls to read out in terms of the secretary's engagement. We've seen a Russian presence in North Africa, and continue to grow. We consistently monitor Russian actions, and some of what they've been doing, but I don't have anything to read out in terms of any -- any response.
Great, okay, well, thank you all. I wanted to wrap up and just say before we go, happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a really great holiday, a restful holiday, and don't forget to say goodbye to Justin Brown before he leaves.
All right, thank you, everyone. Thanks.
Q: Will there be a briefing Friday?
MS. SINGH: No, no briefing Friday.