Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary Holds an Off-Camera Press Briefing

Feb. 23, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY:  Hey, everybody.  I actually don't have anything to open up with this morning, so Bob, I think you're on, we'll go with you.

Q:  OK, thank you -- thank you, John.  A question about -- on the Afghanistan policy review that's underway.  Is Secretary Austin going to, or already consulted, directly with President Ghani about the May 1 deadline?  And also, is he going to consult or has already consulted directly with General Dunford regarding the Afghan Study Group analysis and recommendation on this?

MR. KIRBY:  Bob, I don't believe he's had a conversation with General Dunford about the study group -- he's certainly aware of the group's findings and the -- and the tenor of the report -- but we have obviously been in constant communication with our Afghan partners about the review process and how we're working our way through that.

And as the Secretary said on Friday, we're mindful of looming deadlines here and -- and everybody shares the sense of -- of alacrity when it comes to working our way through this review but we want to do it in a thoughtful, deliberate way, to make sure that we're -- that whatever decisions are made, they're  the best ones, that are in our best national security interests and the -- certainly the security interests of our allies and partners, and that includes the Afghan people.

Q:  So is he  going to talk to General -- I mean President Ghani about it?

MR. KIRBY:  I -- I don't have a -- a -- a future conversation to announce here today but obviously we'll keep you posted as he continues to consult with our allies and partners.  OK, let's see.  Missy?

Q:  Hi -- hi, John, thanks for doing this.  I just have a quick question, and apologies if I missed this.  Senator Klobuchar said this morning in the Capitol riot hearing that there was going to be another hearing next week, including people from Department of Defense -- witnesses.  I'm just wondering if you could tell us who is going to be doing that and any info on that?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have a list of names, Missy.  I'll try to get that for you and we'll  we'll let you know when we have some names to announce as a part of that but I don't have it today.

Q:  OK, thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  OK, in the room.  Yeah?

Q:  Two things.  One ...

MR. KIRBY:  There's always two things.

(Laughter.)

Q:  I'm sorry, you always have (inaudible) -- tell me about this.  Well yesterday, it seems like there's -- there's been some confusion.  Your statements were clear, you're still waiting for the investigation into the attacks in Iraq.  State Department spokesperson Ned Price seemed to be saying that there is evidence the weapons used in the Erbil attack were provided by Iran and were made by Iran.  Can you clarify this issue?  And then I have a broader question on ...

MR. KIRBY:  I've -- I've taken a look at ...

Q:  ... (inaudible), there was a follow up by a journalist when he first answered the question and it's -- it's not really clear whether he was referring to Erbil specifically but because he mentioned it in saying that weapons provided by Iran and Iranian-made weapons.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I mean, I'm looking at what he said yesterday and his final comment on it was, and I'm quoting him, "I'm saying that, broadly speaking, we have seen that many of these attacks have used Iranian-made, Iranian-supplied weaponry."

I don't want to -- I mean, it's not -- I -- I -- I would point you to Ned to -- to -- to -- for more context here but the impression I took away was he was saying the same thing I've said from this podium, which is that in the past, we have seen, in these attacks, historically by Shia-backed militias, that they do use Iranian rockets, Iranian weapons, but we aren't making -- we aren't -- you know, right now, we're not able to give you a certain attribution as to who -- who was behind these attacks, what groups, and I'm not going to get into the tactical details of every bit of weaponry used here.  Let's let the investigations complete and conclude, and then when we have more to say, we will.

Q:  And -- and -- and the attack on Erbil and -- and the embassy, is -- is the U.S. in possession of any of the fragments or weapons used?  Were you able to collect...

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not aware.  I'm not aware of that.  I mean, I -- I'd ask you to go to our Iraqi partners for that, or if you want to, you know, talk to Operation Inherent Resolve, they might have more detail.  I don't have that kind of information.

Q:  The -- the -- the broader question is, the previous administration pulled out from Iran nuclear deal, which was, you know, a deal that the U.S. had with major powers.  Now, the new administration, the Biden administration's saying, "We need to review the deal with Taliban."  Is the department concerned at all that this will create some kind of confidence deficit, when it comes to U.S. commitments to treat -- not treaties -- to -- to any deals or agreements with international powers or with other groups?

MR. KIRBY:  You're getting me into State Department territory here.  I mean, that's -- that's not the kind of thing we would talk to you from this podium, in -- in terms of international deals and agreements.

Q:  Yes, I understand.  (inaudible)...

MR. KIRBY:  Let me finish.  I'm not going to talk about the Iran deal or what the administration is saying.  That's really more for my colleague, Ned, to talk to, not -- not me. 

But to Afghanistan in particular, I think it's perfectly reasonable, when you have a new administration coming in, to want to take a look at the Doha Agreement, which was agreed to before this administration took office.  So perfectly understandable, given the stakes in Afghanistan, for us to want to come in and take a look at that and to look at the issues of compliance, and to try to make informed decisions about what the best way ahead is.  And -- and that is, honestly, where we are right now; in -- in the midst of this interagency review.  And you heard the secretary himself talk about this on Friday.  We're taking it very seriously.

And so, to your broader question about messaging and confidence, I think -- we would hope that people would feel a sense of confidence that we are taking this so seriously; that we want to dive into the details and better understand it, mindful of our security commitments around the world, and particularly, to our Afghan partners.

OK?

Q:  Could I just go back to...

MR. KIRBY:  Sure.

Q:  ... the Iraq aspect of it again, in Erbil and Baghdad.  It's the Iraqis that are conducting the investigation, right? 

MR. KIRBY:  That's correct.

Q:  And have they asked for any help from the U.S. in conducting that -- that...

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not aware of any specific requests for support.  The secretary offered that when he spoke a couple of weeks ago with both the minister of interior and the minister of defense; not aware that they have actually asked for anything.  But I would point you to OIR.  They're probably the best people to ask for the specifics.

But this is -- it's an Iraqi investigation.  Both gentlemen made that clear, that they wanted to do this and that they were going to do it, you know, in a -- in an expeditious way, but a careful way, and so we're going to -- we're going to see how that shakes out.

Q:  OK, thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, ma'am?

Q:  When is the Pentagon going to release installation-based vaccine rates and the breakdown between service members and civilians who are getting vaccines at each place, and ships, and locations?

MR. KIRBY:  Why are you -- why are you sighing, Meghann? 

(Laughter.)

Q:  I have asked so many times (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  There's a lawyer somewhere who says no, so...

MR. KIRBY:  I -- I don't know that there's any plan to release installation-specific figures, but we have provided -- and I, you know, I can provide you what we have at our level, which is how many doses that the DOD has -- and I can get that for you now if you want it.

Q:  But I mean, how do I know that any doses are going to a certain installation, or how fast they're going, or -- I mean, isn't that, like, a good progress, to see, like, how many people are getting -- how many service members, how many civilians, you know, front-line personnel are receiving vaccines?  And if we don't know how it's being distributed, I think that that's kind of like an -- it's a question that needs to be kind of discussed...

MR. KIRBY:  We've -- we've walked you guys through before, the -- the tiers and -- and how -- how we're prioritizing who gets the vaccine by their function.  We don't do it -- wait -- hang on a second.  It's not something that -- the tiers aren't determined geographically so much.  They're determined by, you know, what your role is.  So front-care healthcare -- front-line healthcare workers, you know, have been getting it first, and then we move through these, we call it a schema, but we move through these tiers appropriately.  And it changes based on size of installations and numbers of deploying units.  I mean, so not every place in the DOD is going through these exactly the same way, but roughly, you know, roughly, it corresponds.  And I just don't have, you know  I know you -- you don't like the answer, but I don't have it broken down by individual bases.

I would certainly point you to the services.  Each of the services probably have a better sense of how they are working their way through these tiers.  But I don't have that at the DOD level.

Q:  Have there been, like, individual stories?  Like, certain commanders will say, "Oh, we're at 80 percent", or...

MR. KIRBY:  Right.

Q:  ... "We just did a drive."

MR. KIRBY:  Right.

Q:  It doesn't kind of say -- you know, for a local community to know what the vaccine rollout among the DOD within that...

MR. KIRBY:  Right.

Q:  ... installation.  They -- they're totally in the dark, too.

MR. KIRBY:  Each -- so we've had this discussion before when we were -- and hopefully you saw my email about what we are tracking, and what we aren't tracking.  But it's certainly understandable that a local commander, the commanding officer of a squadron, of, you know, aircraft squadron or the commanding officer of a smaller base somewhere would have a pretty good understanding of how his or her troops are getting the vaccine.  And that's perfectly reasonable for them to have that data, and there's no restriction by DOD for them to talk to that data.

What I'm saying, and I've said before, is that I can give you a broad overall acceptance rates from DOD, but I would point you to an individual base commander or an individual unit commander, as well as the services, for more specifics from what they're doing.  But we don't -- it's not -- that's not something that I can give you here from...

Q:  It's just weird, because, like, the VA, you can go online and see at each hospital how many people have been vaccinated, but the DOD can't say...

MR. KIRBY:  I can tell you right now.  We've administered, as of today, 1,022,407 doses; 684,497 of those are first doses, 337,910 are second doses.  I can't be more precise than that.  I mean, if you want to  find out what it's looking like at Naval Air Station Pensacola, then, Imean, certainly, they -- they might have a better sense of how they're doing there in Pensacola.  But that's not the kind of data that would -- would -- would bubble up to -- to my level right now.

Ma'am?

Q:  OK, here's the rub:  We have that -- you can go on CDC website.  There's a good tracker for that, as well.  The problem is I, probably other reporters have been asking not necessarily by base, but service members, contractors, civilians -- that sort of breakdown.

MR. KIRBY:  Right.

Q:  We've heard from OSD, I've heard from OSDPA, I've heard from a defense official.  The Office of the General Counsel says, "We don't want to release that information, we're not tracking it." 

However, when a bunch of Pentagon officials went to the Hill last week, they were very easily able to trot out a statistic about how many troops, uniformed service members have been vaccinated. So the question is, they were able to say that in public; where's the disconnect between these broad DOD numbers and someone in this office somewhere who has the number of troops -- I mean, one would assume also the number of civilians and contractors as well?

MR. KIRBY:  So get out your pen.

Q:  I'm ready.

MR. KIRBY:  OK. 

Q:  I'm recording this, too.

MR. KIRBY:  I figured. 

STAFF:  All right, those are the cases.  Numbers here.  Total administered, yeah.  These are all for each service. 

MR. KIRBY:  Right, but that's just troops, right?

STAFF:  Yes, sir.  This is uniformed members.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, that's right.

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  So I can give you military component numbers.  Actually, we have civilians down here too, it looks like.

Q:  This would be a good thing to send out in the follow-up e-mail to everybody, instead of you having to read every one of these numbers and...

STAFF:  Sir, we can take that for action…

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q:  Yeah, that would be great, thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  See if you can do that…

Q:  Do you have it broken down by dependents?

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  But Meghann , what you were beating up on me last week about was  the comment that, 30 -- you know, or somehow an extrapolation of 33 percent are saying no.  And hopefully my e-mail cleared that up, that's not being tracked.

Q:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  So what you're asking me today is completely different than what you were beating me up last week about.

Q:  I wasn't asking about that last week, personally.  The reason people were asking is that, again, that group of senior defense officials went to the Hill and said, "We have 30 percent."  And you say we're not tracking that.  So my question is not whether you are lying to us...

MR. KIRBY:  Question...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  ... it is where they're getting that from.

MR. KIRBY:  I think they clarified themselves in the hearing, saying that they were -- they were extrapolating based on -- saying -- based on an estimate that in general, we were matching the civilian society, in general.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Is that not a terrible idea to tell the Congress?

MR. KIRBY:  That's not for me to say.

Q:  That's the thing, that turns into the story.  And, like, is that even true?  Apparently maybe it isn't even true because that's something that they just pulled out.  They're like, "Oh well," you know...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  All I can tell you -- all I can tell you, Meghann, is what I got.

Q:  Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  And the raw numbers that we've got.

Q:  And that's what we're trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of, is like where'd that number come from, why do they have it, you don't have it.  Now we understand that's something they fudged? I don't...

MR. KIRBY:  I can only speak for what I can give you, and that's what I'm giving you, the overall numbers.  I mean, you know, we passed a million today.  And as I think I articulated last week, on Friday in my e-mail to you, is to help you understand why we don't have numbers of people that...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  I understand it's a legal issue...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  ... aren't getting the vaccine.

Q:  Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  It's not just a legal issue, it's a health issue.  Some people just aren't allowed to get it by their own doctors, it's not just that they don't -- you know, I think that the assumption is, well, it's just people that just don't want it.  That's true in some cases, but not in every case.

All right.  Have we exhausted this one?  OK.

Let me go back to the phones.  Tony?

Q:  Hi, John.  I have a non-vaccine question.  What's the status of the '22 budget in terms of a skinny budget release?  And has the Pentagon received from OMB the ‘pass-back’ document that lays out what its budget allocation will be for 2022?

MR. KIRBY:  We're working with OMB, Tony, but I don't have anything to share right now about the possibility of a skinny budget.  Nothing to share, really, until the budget is delivered.  I'm sorry, what was your second question?

Q:  The second question is, has OMB sent to the Pentagon the document known as the ‘pass-back’ document that lays out what your topline is going to be for FY '22?  That's normally the -- kind of the starting point of the back-and-forth.

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not aware that that has gotten to the Pentagon, Tony, but I'll -- I'm happy to ask that question.

Q:  Can I ask one other, one -- do you expect anything from the National Security Council by way of a toned-down National Security Strategy that will guide Secretary Austin's budget recommendations?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not aware of that -- a document like that, such as you described it, is  forthcoming, Tony.  I would point you to the White House and the National Security Council for an answer to that question. 

But as the secretary has said himself, I mean, he's -- we're just beginning the budget process.  Certainly it will be informed by the existing National Defense Strategy and as he had testified in the Congress, we would expect the new administration to develop a new National Security Strategy, which will drive a new National Defense Strategy.  But we're just not there yet.

Q:  OK, for -- for the next session, could you at least have a sense of when a realistic expectation for when the budget will be dropped?  You know, is it going to be in April or May in general, for the next session that you do?

MR. KIRBY:  I will do my best, Tony, but no promises.

Q:  Understood, thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  OK.  Lara Seligman?

Q:  Hey, John.  I wanted to ask you actually about Turkey.  I'm wondering if anything came up last week specifically at the -- the NATO meeting about the relationship with Turkey, and are they sort of renewing pressure on a couple of the different things that have been issues in the past?  For instance to get back into the F-35 program, to ease sanctions over the S-400 or -- or to stop -- the U.S. stopping supporting the SDF?

MR. KIRBY:  I would point you to NATO to speak to specifics about other agenda items.  I thought the secretary did a good job reading out to you what -- what he was focused on. 

And then there's been no change to the administration's policy with respect to the F-35 and the S-400.  Again, we urge Turkey not to move ahead with the delivery of the S-400.  We believe it's incompatible with the F-35, and Turkey remains suspended from that program.  Again, we urge them not to retain it.

I would remind that they had multiple opportunities over the last decade to purchase the Patriot defense system from the United States, and instead chose this S-400, which provides Russia revenue, access, and influence.

Here in the room.  Yeah?

Q:  Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner.  So the Green Zone rocket attack, the Erbil attack, is the approach of having the Iraqi government do those investigations different from the last administration, where it seems as though the Department of Defense was quicker to lay blame on Iran for backing these militias? 

And I ask you this question because right now, the administration is interested in renewing nuclear negotiations with Iran, and so may not want to upset Iran by blaming them for attacks on bases where U.S. troops are housed in Iraq?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I dealt with this yesterday, so I'd point you back to what -- how -- how we -- we talked about it yesterday, but I think you can see from the comments that my State Department colleague made yesterday, nobody's -- nobody's backing away from the significant security challenges that Iran still poses in the region, and we've not been bashful about that at all.

And nobody, also, is in a rush to judgment here on these particular attacks.  As Ned said, you know, historically we have seen these attacks from Shia-backed militias on our facilities, our people and those of the Iraqis, as well, being conducted with weaponry, rockets, that have Iranian origin.  I mean, that's not -- that's not new.  We've seen that in the past.

But we had a very good discussion with our Iraqi partners a couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the Erbil attacks.  They made it very clear to the Secretary that they're taking this seriously and they want the chance to investigate it for themselves so that, you know, proper accountability can be held and we're going to let them do that.

I  understand the interest in trying to point to some larger policy process here but this has nothing to do with any diplomatic efforts that may or may not be happening, it has to do with trying to make sure we judge accountability the right way, and – and that's what the Secretary wants to give our Iraqi partners the time and space to do.

Q:  And does that represent a change, having Iraq lead ...

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know.  You were here before me, I don't know.  I -- I can't speak to what the previous administration and how they handled these things and ...

Q:  ... Department of Defense.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah but I wasn't in the Department of Defense before the 20th of January, so I can't speak to Department of Defense equities or decisions or policies before this administration took office.  I can only speak for what we've been doing and that's what I just did.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  OK.  Yeah?

Q:  Prime Minister of Israel gave a speech today, talked obviously about Iran and their proxies.  In one part, which is following up on the issue of Shia militias, said that they have the policy of not allowing the entrenchment of militias north of their borders and Iran north of Israel borders.

One, is the U.S. on the same page with Israel on this policy?  Are we helping them on this one?  Do you want to help them in not allowing the Iranians and Iranian proxies to be entrenched on the northern border of Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  I -- you're giving me comments there for the first time.  I'm not going to react to policy pronouncements by -- you know, by another country here without -- without having more context about it.  So I'm going to have to defer comment on that until we can get a chance to look at these comments.  OK?  Yeah?

Q:  Just to follow up on what Pierre  just asked, so does the Pentagon have concerns that Iran will be using its proxies, such as Hezbollah, to exercise some political pressure, especially that ...

MR. KIRBY:  Political pressure where?

Q:  You know, that -- that the administration's trying to renew the deal -- Iranian deal ...

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I -- you know, as much as I'd love to be able to speak for another country's motivations, it's just not my place.

Q:  No, but do you have concerns that Iran will be using its proxies in a way that… ...

MR. KIRBY:  We have concerns that they are using their proxies in the region to sow insecurity and instability and terrorism.  I mean, their malign activities in the region are a matter of record and nothing has changed about our desire to be able to address those malign activities in the appropriate way.

As for their motivations, if -- you know, in terms of affecting political or diplomatic discussions, that's something -- that's a question you should put to Tehran.  OK, let's see who else we've got here.  Tara?

Q:  Hi, John, thanks -- thanks for doing this.  Just a follow up on the extremism -- you know, their -- and Missy’s question with the role of the National Guard potentially on January 6th.  What's the status of any sort of deep dive on the National Guard's role and will the Secretary be briefed or be briefing Congress on the issue?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  The -- what's -- what's -- a -- a deeper dive on the National Guard's role, is that what you asked?

Q:  Yes.  You know, as -- the briefing this morning raised the issue again, the -- the Capitol Police Chief mentioned that it surprised him that the National Guard troops could not get there earlier.  I realize that this happened before the Biden administration came in but has there been a look within the Defense Department really at what caused that delay and any further explanation you might be providing Congress?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  So as I understand it, that's -- you know, the DOD IG is looking at this and that work continues.  I certainly wouldn’t -- couldn't and wouldn't speak for them or what they're learning.  I know they'll do a thorough job and -- and to the degree that they can, they'll make public their findings.

We look forward to seeing what they learn.  Our focus right now, having come into office, is, you know, inheriting a mission on Capitol Hill that the National Guard still is conducting to make sure that we are -- that we are meeting the requirement for those forces, that it's properly tailored and scoped to the mission itself, and to the need for them to be there.

And you heard the Secretary talk about this Friday.  I mean, our plans are still to conclude this mission on the 12th of March.  We're not in receipt of a request for an extension right now and the last thing I'd say is what he said to those soldiers, that he doesn't want them to be up there one day longer than they're needed. 

Luis?

Q:  Hey, John.  A question about the 60 day stand down.  It's been three weeks now since the Secretary directed that the stand downs  take place across the military but in checking with the services, it sounds like they're all still prepping the program or the -- the instructions that are going to be used individually at the unit level.

And I know that the memo states that service secretaries can be given discretion of extending this by another 60 days.  Has that entered the equation?  Do you have any information about how many -- across the board, about how many units have already conducted this type of stand down and what has been learned?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have data on how many commands have actually conducted the stand down.  I -- we have, you know, obviously anecdotal evidence that some commands have already done it.  As I said yesterday, we have produced some training materials to assist commands who would like to have it and I'll check again today about the timing for that distribution.  It's imminent, as far as I know, it might have already happened.  I can check on that.

And as for a possible extension for another 60 days, I have not heard any conversations about that or r any requests to try to move it beyond the original two months.  I think we'd like to see how the next few weeks bears out and, I mean, I'm certainly the -- you know, if there was a need to do that, I'm sure the Secretary would be, you know, open to listening to arguments but right now, there's no plan to do that. 

Q:  Is there any possibility that the Secretary himself might participate in one of these sessions?

MR. KIRBY:  The Secretary has recorded a video, which I think we talked about yesterday, that he's encouraging units to use in their stand down, and that -- you know, I -- but I'm not -- I don't have anything on his schedule to -- to announce with respect to his physical participation in one. 

Dan DeLuce?

Q:  Thank you.  I have two questions.  One, I'll start in Asia.  There were Chinese Coast Guard vessels were in Japanese territorial waters over the weekend.  And according to Japan, that Japan -- protests or what happened, they said they approached a Japanese fishing vessel.  They're suggesting this is an escalation of the situation around the Senkaku Islands.  How concerned are you about this and what kind of discussions have you had with the Japanese on this?

MR. KIRBY:  Well I don't have any conversations with the Japanese to read out with respect to that specific incident.  I would just say that we believe all nations, large and small, should be secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted rules and norms.

The department is committed to defending the free and open rules-based international order an order from which the U.S., our allies and partners and even the People's Republic of China has enjoyed great benefit, but which Beijing, through its actions, is undermining for its own interests.

Again, we'll continue to take steps to address the strategic challenges posed by the People's Republic of China as we implement the National Defense Strategy, which includes modernizing our forces, strengthening our alliances and partnerships, and promoting interconnected security partnerships to advance our interests.

Q:  Does the Defense Department regard the actions of the Chinese vessels as provocative?

MR. KIRBY:  The Chinese have, again, continued to flout international rules and we've made it very clear our concerns about this activity and we're going to, again, continue to work with our allies and partners to reinforce the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and to make it clear that international waters are international waters.

Q:  And then, just going back to Iraq one more time, on  those three rocket attacks, and especially the one in Erbil, do you see -- does the department see similarities or some kind of a resemblance and parallels to previous attacks that were carried out by Iranian-backed Shia militias?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm sorry, say that one again, Dan.

Q:  Does the department see some similarities or parallel to previous attacks by the Iranian-backed militias?  Does the attack in Erbil or Balad or the embassy yesterday bear some resemblance to previous attacks?

MR. KIRBY:  Well I don't want to get into the forensics of these specific attacks, Dan, but again, historically we've seen these kinds of attacks before, these rocket attacks, in particular, and historically they have been perpetrated by Shia-backed militia using similar weapons and similar tactics, but again, I don't want to do the forensics on these particular.

I feel like I didn't do a great job with your previous question so let me just reassert that -- I mean, obviously we hold with the international community about the Senkakus and the sovereignty of the Senkakus and we support Japan obviously in that sovereignty and we would urge the Chinese to avoid actions, using their Coast Guard vessels, that could lead to miscalculation and potential physical, if not – and material harm.*  I don't think I did a good job with the first time around on that.  Here in the room? 

Yeah, Mike?

Q:  I know you said that the Secretary has offered the help of America to Iraq for their investigation.  So does that mean, and they want to do it on their own, does that mean the U.S. is confident that Iraq has the capability at this point to conduct a forensic investigation like that?

MR. KIRBY:  The Secretary doesn't have reservations about their ability to conduct a proper investigation of accountability for the attack in Erbil but, you know, he did offer help, and as I mentioned to Jim, I'm not aware of any requests for help, but again, he has full confidence in their ability to do this the right way.  Yeah. 

OK, looks like we've exhausted it.  Thank you.

[* Eds. Note:  There is no change to U.S. policy regarding the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. On Jan. 23, 2021, Secretary Austin further affirmed that the Senkaku islands are covered by Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, and that the United States remains opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea. You can read more here.]