Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:52 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming to the gaggle today.
I don't have any announcements at the top, so I will start, Julie, with you.
Q: Thank you. Just -- I want to start out and register a complaint on behalf of some of my TV colleagues that the gaggle is off camera today, this being our only opportunity to hear from you or anyone in the administration, particularly on the situation in Libya.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I have to say it's because my shirt -- I didn't have any white or blue shirts -- and this one wouldn't work on TV, so I decided to gaggle. All my other shirts are in the laundry.
No, seriously, we thought people were just getting back from the trip, a lot of folks who traveled on with us today, and we just thought it would be easier to have a gaggle. But I promise I will brief --
Q: Looks like a pretty full -- it's like a full house.
MR. CARNEY: I promise I will brief tomorrow on camera.
Q: Can radio use your sound?
MR. CARNEY: I'm sorry?
Q: Can radio use your sound?
MR. CARNEY: Sure. Is that how we do it? I don't know.
MR. EARNEST: I don't know. How have we usually done that?
Q: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: We have a room full of honest brokers today.
Q: I'm always honest --
MR. CARNEY: It's fine, it's fine with me if you use the sound.
Q: Can we hear from the President today then?
MR. CARNEY: You mean otherwise I'm an adequate substitute for the President?
Q: No, no, we'd like to hear from him.
MR. CARNEY: I have no announcements for a public appearance by the President.
Q: So then if we could move on to Libya.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, yes.
Q: You guys have been talking in terms of handing control over to someone other than the United States on military action there in terms of days, not weeks, for almost a week now. So are we still operating under that timeline? And did you guys lay out that timeline because you thought that you'd be able to hand over control to someone else sooner than you've been able to?
MR. CARNEY: We are still operating under that timeline that it will be days, not weeks. We are at less than a week at the moment and we have been in consultations with our allies and partners on the issue of making that transition and we're confident that it will happen relatively soon. As you know, discussions ongoing at NATO and we feel very confident that it will happen soon.
Q: Did you think it would happen by now, though?
MR. CARNEY: No, we're still in days. In fact, I think if you measure this -- you don't get to weeks until you get beyond one, which would be two weeks. So we're not even halfway to two weeks yet. (Laughter.) Right? No disagreement, right? Okay. (Laughter.)
Q: Can you talk about your reaction to the Turkish parliament vote on the NATO operation and what that means in terms of putting together a coalition?
MR. CARNEY: We are discussing with the Turkish government, regularly consulting on this issue. As you know, the President spoke with Prime Minister Erdogan the other day. And we're very confident that we're going to reach an agreement on command and control and other aspects of what we would probably describe as phase two of this operation in the near future, and that includes working with the Turks on it.
Q: What does the President envision as the U.S. role once this agreement is reached?
MR. CARNEY: The United States will continue to have a role but it will not be a lead role in the enforcement of the no-fly zone; it will be in a support and assist role. We've talked about jamming, as well as intelligence and other things that we can bring to bear, some of the capabilities we have. But we will not be leading the effort to enforce the no-fly zone.
Our engagement will have been at its most intense in the early stage of this because of the capacities we have to do some of the things you saw U.S. forces do in this -- in the first several days of this operation
Q: Just a related topic. What is the White House's relationship with the military? The military was very clear about their concerns about the Libya operation ahead of this, and there were obviously some tensions with the military during the Afghan review. And I'm just wondering if you could characterize the relationship with the military.
MR. CARNEY: I think the relationship with the military is excellent. The President consults regularly with his military commanders, with Secretary Gates. And I would point you, in terms of the military's role and perspective on this operation to the appearances by Admiral Mullen the other day and to the briefings the Pentagon has been giving on this operation since it began.
As I said in the past when the questions were about why weren't we moving more quickly to install and enforce a no-fly zone or why weren't we doing this or that, that the comments by Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton and others about the complexities of a no-fly zone and what a no-fly zone would mean, should we go down that route, which the President insisted along remain an option on the table, were important to put out there, because people needed to understand, as we've seen, that a no-fly zone is not just a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue. It's a serious enterprise that involves what we have seen. And that is part of the discussion that was had in public prior to the President taking this action. And we think it's an important part of the process of informing the public.
Q: First of all, we missed you, Jay. Welcome back.
Do you guys have any comment on the fact that the no-fly zone was violated for the first time by the Libyan air force, and the French took out a Libyan plane? Do you have any response to that?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that it proves that it's a bad idea to violate the no-fly zone.
Q: If the no-fly zone is such a complicated process, and if forging this coalition "on the fly," as the Secretary of Defense put it, is the situation, why was it on the fly? Why was -- there had been weeks of discussing a no-fly zone, and then all of a sudden everything changed last Tuesday, and President Obama decided he wanted to get more aggressive. Why was it "on the fly," as the Secretary of Defense put it? Why had there not been weeks of planning for this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there had been discussion of a no-fly zone. The fact of the matter is -- and as you know we've discussed this many times -- from the first protest to the actions taken by the U.N. nine days later, to the actions taken by the U.N. with the Security Council Resolution 1973 were unbelievably fast, by any historical precedent. So I think the -- when you're talking about a military operation with multi-partners like we have in Libya, these are relatively complex in terms of command and control, and I think ideally would allow -- in the preparations for them would allow for more time, potentially. But the fact is, the President faced an imminent humanitarian crisis in Libya with the very unequivocal threats that Qaddafi was making about what he would do to the citizens of Benghazi. And the President and our international partners, the U.N. and the Arab League and others, felt that it was absolutely essential to act quickly to save lives.
And I think there is no question that lives have been saved because of the action taken by the United States and by our partners in moving against Qaddafi's forces in the way that we have.
Q: Had there been planning before last week?
MR. CARNEY: Of course. No question this has been a discussion, but the fact is we had to move quickly. And I think that we moved quickly with phase one. Again, we go back into this sort of debate about this sort of surreal world we live in in terms of timeframes here that we're talking six -- what, five days now since this began, and we will resolve very shortly the issues of command and control for the next phase of this operation. This is very quick by any standard.
Q: Last week the White House was under the impression that the UAE was going to be contributing, making military contributions. In a readout that you guys provided to the conversation that Vice President Biden had with the Crown Prince, there was only mention of humanitarian contributions. What happened to the UAE?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are very pleased by the offers of help that the UAE and other countries have made, and contributions can come in different forms. As you know, Qatar has offered to supply and participate with -- by supplying aircraft. We welcome that. We welcome the interest shown by other Arab governments, including the Jordanians and the UAE -- I mean, sorry, Jordanians to contributing. We look -- this is -- we're still in the first phases of this operation, and there will be many ways for our partners in this endeavor to contribute going forward.
Q: Why would they change their mind? Or was it a miscommunication to begin with?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't want to speak for another government. I think that we welcome this participation that they have indicated they want to provide.
Q: Okay. Last question is, Defense Secretary Gates on Yemen said, "we haven't done any post-Saleh planning, if you will." There's no planning for what might happen if the President of Yemen falls?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we've said, Jake, many times that the resolution of the situation in Yemen, as is the case with the unrest in so many of these countries, has to be, in our view, peaceful. It has to be brought about through political dialogue. And we're not in the business of choosing for the peoples of these countries who their leaders ought to be. However the future of Yemen, whatever the leadership in the future looks like for Yemen, that's got to be decided by the people of Yemen and not by the people of the United States.
We do not build our policy in any country around a single person, and we obviously will look forward to having a solid relationship to the leader of Yemen.
Q: But there's no post --
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I'm think -- I'm not going to dissect the language here. I just -- I mean, the answer I just gave you, I think that we are focused on offering our judgment that in Yemen, as in other countries, force is not the appropriate response to the unrest, and we call on all sides to refrain from violence and we call on all sides to engage in a political dialogue, as President Saleh has indicated he wants to do. So we think that's a positive thing, and we're not going to prejudge the outcome of that dialogue.
Q: Does the administration have a full understanding of who the opposition is in Libya and who could potentially step in if Qaddafi does to step down?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, we're not in the business, to go back to the question -- the answer I just gave to Jake about another country -- we're not in the business of picking leaders. As I think I stated --
Q: But if you're trying to get one leader out, I think there should be --
MR. CARNEY: There's no question --
Q: -- some concern about who's going to step in.
MR. CARNEY: Well, there's no question that the principles we have enunciated with regards to unrest throughout the region apply to Libya, which is that we support those who support the idea of transition to a democratic and representative government, a government that is responsive to the aspirations and grievances of its people. And we, as I've said and others have said, have been, since well before this military mission began, been in discussions with opposition leaders. The Secretary of State met with the opposition in Paris prior to the -- last week, prior to the initiation of this military endeavor, and we are continuing those contacts.
And again, it's not about individuals. Our support is for a process that creates a government that is democratic and responsive to the aspirations and grievances of the people of Libya. And it's for Libyans to decide who their leaders are.
Q: Does the President think that he needs to do more up on the Hill to ease some of the concerns of lawmakers who don't feel that they've been sort of fully brought in to the discussions on Libya?
MR. CARNEY: We believe and the President believes very strongly that consultations with Congress are important. It's part of his responsibility as President on an issue like this to consult with members of Congress, and he has done that. He has instructed senior staff here to do that. And we have in a very substantial way consulted with Congress, and we'll continue to do that.
I mean, I just want to make sure that everybody is aware of the variety of ways in briefings and in hearings that senior people in the administration, as well as the President, have been engaged in consultations with Congress, going back as far as February 28th when national intelligence officers from the DNI briefed House members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where they had a closed session on Libya and Somalia; March 1st there was a similar closed briefing with Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members, with issues in the Middle East, North Africa, including Libya. Secretary Clinton testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on assessing U.S. foreign policy priorities and needs, which included a substantial discussion of Libya. That was on March 1st. March 2nd, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen testified at a hearing on Defense Department appropriations, again including a discussion -- an ample discussion of a potential Libyan no-fly zone. Also on March 2nd, Secretary Clinton, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, included a discussion on Libya and possible policy options.
The list goes on. March 4th, March 10th, March 14th, the ODNI briefed Speaker Boehner on Libya in a classified briefing -- that was March 14th. On March 17th, Under Secretary Burns testified in open session to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on popular uprisings in the Middle East, but the main focus was on Libya. On March 17th --
Q: Jay, isn't it apples and oranges --
MR. CARNEY: Let me just continue, because it's important that the American people understand how much consultation there has been. And then, as you know, March 17th, there was an all-senators briefing on Libya developments and possible U.S. government and international responses, including potential military options, by an interagency team led by Under Secretary of State Bill Burns but including the ODNI and DOD.
And I should mention, as you all know, that on March 1st -- I believe it was March 1st where the Senate passed a resolution calling on actions to be -- that they believed should be taken by the United States and international partners, which was extremely similar to the actions that, of course, we did take several weeks later.
On March 18th, the President invited members of Congress, a bipartisan, bicameral leadership meeting at the White House to consult on Libya and to brief them on the limited, discreet and well-defined participation that he envisioned for the United States to help implement the U.N. resolution.
Members of Congress who participated included Majority Leader Reid, Democratic Whip Hoyer, Senator Levin, Senator Lugar, Senator Chambliss, Representative Rogers, Representative Ruppersberger, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, Democratic Leader Pelosi, Senator Durbin, Senator McConnell, Senator Kyl, Senator Kerry, Senator Feinstein, Representative McKeon, Representative Ros-lehtinen and Representative Berman.
Consultations continued on the 18th and 19th and forward, and they will continue from this day forward.
Q: So then why -- why then -- you read off that long list of consultations -- why then are these concerns coming from the Hill --
MR. CARNEY: We think the --
Q: Is this just whining?
MR. CARNEY: No, no. We think that it is important to consult with members of Congress. We think the questions that have been asked have been legitimate. There has been some, obviously -- not members of Congress, but elsewhere I think some commentary that has been perhaps driven by politics. But in terms of members of Congress, we think their questions and concerns are legitimate and need to be answered, which is why the President has, on numerous occasions, not just consulted with Congress but taken your questions and made statements about Libya just in the last week, nearly every day, in fact, and will continue to do that.
And I would say that the questions that are outlined by members of Congress have by and large been answered by the President himself, by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Admiral Mullen, Denis McDonough, Ben Rhodes, me. And we'll continue to do that.
Q: So do you think all of the questions that John Boehner asks in his letter have already been answered?
MR. CARNEY: We have certainly endeavored to answer those questions already and --
Q: So you're not planning any kind of response to him?
MR. CARNEY: I didn't -- I don't know of any specific response to the letter. I'm not precluding one, but I just -- this is an ongoing process. We will continue to consult with the leaders of Congress and with rank-and-file members.
Q: So I guess you believe that when John Boehner said in his letter no opportunity was afforded to consult with congressional leaders, you believe he's wildly off the mark?
MR. CARNEY: I would just point you to the list of consultations that I enumerated with you, the public statements, private closed briefings that were given, and also make the point that we -- even within that, because this only goes back to February 28th and today is March 24th, this has obviously been a very tight timeframe. And it was driven in part by what was happening on the ground, which was fast-moving and evolving.
And I would remind you that standing at this podium -- as now what seems like an eternity ago, probably two weeks or less -- one of your colleagues repeatedly asked me how many people have to die before the U.S. acts, okay? And how many people have to die before the international community takes action?
And I would say that the President acted and took action because he felt that it was incumbent upon him, and the leaders of the coalition agreed, that something had to be done to prevent Qaddafi's forces from committing a massacre in Benghazi. And we feel it's very important that the actions that were taken prevented that kind of massacre from taking place.
American military action, international military action has saved an enormous number of lives in the past five days, and that is something that Americans should be very proud of.
Q: Back on the issues of consultations, one of their arguments is there's a difference between consultation and briefings and notification. They believe that they've been briefed and notified about what the administration was doing, but when it came time to make the final decision, they do not believe they had an opportunity to make counter-arguments that the administration would consider in making its final decision, that there was no real consultation, there was just notification.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to read out the meetings we had. Certainly I've listed some of the members who participated in some of these briefings, and you should --
Q: But they're saying it only counts at the very end.
MR. CARNEY: You should ask them what kind of questions were raised then and the answers they got from the President and others.
I would simply say that, again, we believe consultation is vitally important as part of the process. The President is committed to it and will continue to do it. He also believes that he is the Commander-in-Chief, and leadership requires him to take action when action will save lives and delaying action will cost lives. And in this case, had we waited for Congress to get back, there is no question I think in anybody's minds -- in our military, in our foreign policy establishment, national security establishment, or in the minds of reporters who cover it on the ground -- that there -- Qaddafi's forces would control Benghazi and there would have been a great deal of people killed in the process.
Q: Quick clarification from the President's press conference the other day when he said, "When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone." That means zero U.S. planes?
MR. CARNEY: That's my understanding, that in terms of maintaining and enforcing the no-fly zone, the United States will not be participating in that way. We will be in the support and assist role.
Q: And then he continued. He said, "It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily involved in enforcing the arms embargo." By saying "necessarily," was he leaving wiggle room there?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm not going to improve upon the President's words there. I will simply say that we will obviously have a continued role in a support and assist posture, that we will not be leading the effort. And since the actions that had been taken thus far have been designed to create the environment for the enforcement of a no-fly zone, and that we had unique capacities, capabilities, in order to make that happen, we -- the intense efforts of the United States military were frontloaded in this in phase one. So we will obviously continue to participate as part of the coalition in phase two and beyond.
Q: Jay, what about the assertion by Speaker Boehner and other Republicans, at least, that the U.S. is now involved in a third military conflict without the President having prepared the American public? Been calls from Senator Kirk, for example, for an Oval Office address? Does the President feel that that is not necessary?
MR. CARNEY: The President looks forward to communicating to the American public about Libya, as he has on multiple occasions already, but he will obviously continue to do it. I don't have an announcement on the forum for the way in which he will do that next, but I can assure you it will be more than one time in the future, as it has already been five or six times in the past.
And I think that -- we believe that it actually -- it absolutely is important for the President to speak to the American public to inform them of what he's doing. He's done that on multiple occasions thus far and will continue to do that.
Q: Does he feel the involvement was not extensive enough to warrant, for example, a primetime address to the American public?
MR. CARNEY: I think the -- again, the issue of format and forum is not the question here, it's the fact that he has addressed this on multiple occasions, will continue to address this. And I'm not ruling out format and forum for the future in any way. I'm just making the point that the President has spoken about his thinking, his decisions on Libya on multiple occasions. He's also written a letter, as required by the War Powers Act, notifying Congress in detail of what our mission is and what the goals are. And again, he will continue to speak to the public going forward.
Q: What is this military action? We've been asking, is it a war? And if it is not a war --
MR. CARNEY: It is a time-limited, scope-limited military action, in concert with our international partners, with the objective of protecting civilian life in Libya from Muammar Qaddafi and his forces.
Q: But not a war.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to get into the terminology. I think what it is certainly not is, as others have said, a large-scale military -- open-ended military action, the kind of which might otherwise be described as a war. There's no ground troops, as the President said. There's no land invasion. I think there is precedent for -- multiple, multiple precedents for this by presidents of both parties in terms of taking this kind of military action.
I would point you to the action taken by President Clinton in Bosnia, which was similar in that it involved the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone. And I'm not sure how Fox describes it or other outlets describe that action, but it is of the similar kind of action -- although this would be, we believe, more limited in time and scope, in terms of U.S. involvement.
Q: And one final question on that. Can we expect the President to speak to us in some format when the U.S. actually does step back and --
MR. CARNEY: I think that without, again, specifying precisely when or on what occasion, I think you will be hearing from the President on this with relative frequency and relatively soon.
Q: Does the objective, as you just articulated, objective of protecting civilian life from Muammar Qaddafi's forces require that Muammar Qaddafi leave power?
MR. CARNEY: We made very clear -- and I think this is an important thing because it goes to some of the questions that have been raised -- that the military mission that is described in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, specifically deals with using all necessary means to protect civilians in Libya. That is the military mission. It is separate from that, it is the policy and position of this administration, this government, that Muammar Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and that he should step down, that he should remove himself from power.
And as part of our -- that policy position, we have engaged in a number of actions -- unilateral and multilateral -- aimed at putting pressure on Muammar Qaddafi and those around him to convince him or those around him that he should leave power.
Ultimately it is for the Libyan people to decide who their leaders should be and should not be.
Q: So you preclude the use of military power to oust Qaddafi?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Our -- in terms of our engagement in this military action under 1973 --
Q: Whether implementing the Security Council resolution or U.S. administration policy? It sounds like --
MR. CARNEY: We are not engaged in militarily driven regime change. That is absolutely correct.
Q: Okay. What happens in days, not weeks, precisely? You said support and assist role. Last Saturday in Paris, the Secretary said we are not the lead in this. Yesterday, Denis McDonough, the Deputy National Security Advisor, says we brought the U.N. along. If we're not -- what is the chain of command going to be? Will U.S. forces be taking orders from non-U.S. commanders, for example? What --
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to --
Q: Can you define support and assist? What happens in days, not weeks?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what will happen is the transition of command and control from the United States to another lead.
Q: So those --
MR. CARNEY: And it's been I think amply described now that NATO will have a key role to play in that command and control structure in the next phase of this operation.
Q: And since NATO is commanded by an American general, then U.S. -- there will be no U.S. forces operating under the control of a foreign general, for example?
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to announce to you from here what has not been finally decided upon.
Q: But you're leaving open the possibility that American military personnel could be commanded by a non-military --
MR. CARNEY: I'm doing no such thing. I'm simply saying I don't have an announcement on what that command and control will look like. What we have said and what will be the case is that we will not be in the lead in terms of the phase two. Command and control will be controlled elsewhere. We have also said that U.S. military aircraft will not be engaged in enforcement of the no-fly zone.
Q: Finally, Representative George Miller, a relatively high-ranking Democrat, I know you've enumerated all the instances where the administration consulted with Congress. He says -- he said on air this morning he sees no evidence that there was such a consultation and that he finds the procedures that were used disturbing. Is he -- he's mistaken?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say that we have consulted, we will continue to consult. We believe consulting with Congress is very important in this. And answering questions that members of Congress have is a very important part of this process, and we'll continue to do that.
Q: So in response to Speaker Boehner's letter, that those were good questions that he raised, you're basically saying they're good questions raised, and they've been answered.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have certainly, I believe, answered many of those questions and especially the ones about what the mission is and what it isn't. I mean, the President has answered that on multiple occasions, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Press Secretary, Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Advisor. We continue to stand ready and are eager to answer the questions that members of Congress have. And we take them all very seriously.
My point is simply, without going through the list put forward by the Speaker, is that we have answered a lot of those questions and we will continue to answer them and clarify them where questions are raised.
Q: It just sounds like you're kind of trying to have a -- this is legitimate --
MR. CARNEY: We believe it is --
Q: -- but, no, it's not legitimate because we already answered all these questions.
MR. CARNEY: No, you're putting words in my mouth. I think it is legitimate, and one -- I think evidence of the fact that we think it's legitimate and an important part of this process is that we have taken those questions and tried to answer them in a full way.
Again, on the question of what the mission is and isn't, the military mission, I think the President has been very clear. He has been asked and answered this question numerous times by members of the press, most recently on this trip that we just took, and he will, I'm sure, continue to answer those questions, as will other members of his administration.
Q: When you said that -- on the trip you said that you would welcome an expression of support from Congress. Would you also welcome a debate in Congress that may result in an expression of support and may not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, we are not going to tell Congress what it should or shouldn't do. We would welcome expressions of support. There are obviously numerous members of Congress, not cited by you, oddly, at this briefing, who have expressed support for the actions that we've taken. But again, it's a process that we are fully engaged in and will participate in.
Q: Lastly, do you have an estimate of what the cost of this mission is? The President said it could be done within the current budget authority, but what is --
MR. CARNEY: I don't have numbers for you. I can tell you that that is what we believe -- that there are contingency funds that are built in to the Defense Department budget for this kind of thing.
Q: But how could you not have even a ballpark amount?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, people, I'm sure, are working on that. I just -- I don't have numbers for you. I think some of the numbers that had been floated out there are far higher than we expect them to be, but I don't want to get into numbers, because I'm not an economist. (Laughter.)
Q: I just don't understand why --
MR. CARNEY: Sorry.
Q: I don't understand why -- how you can be so confident that you don't need any extra money if you don't know how much it's going to cost.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't have a specific figure for you. What I can say is the mission, as defined, which involved a lot of frontloaded or early stage participation by the United States military -- obviously that costs money, but it is a time-limited and scope-limited operation, which will then result in less cost as we move to further stages of the operations. So we are confident that, based on the mission, that those costs can be covered with existing funds.
MR. EARNEST: Jay, I think you just got time for a couple more.
MR. CARNEY: Sorry, we want to turn this not into a --
Q: -- on Japan, please?
MR. CARNEY: Let me get to Mr. Knoller and then, yes, a Japan question.
Q: When you point out the dichotomy between the U.N. resolution objectives and the administration's objectives, that doesn't, in your mind, convey a mixed message?
MR. CARNEY: Look, we understand that it needs to be explained, which is why the President has explained it. And we believe that the kind of action that was taken is very important in this case, the nature of the military action. What we do not think, as we've said many times since the unrest began in this region, what we do not think would be the kind of action that would be helpful in the long term, in terms of American interest, would be unilateral military action to effect regime change in any country, frankly, in this circumstance.
So one of the things that has been spoken to many times, it has been very important, about the decision to take -- to use military force in this case, is that it has been not just American, not just Western, not just European, but international in nature and in a vitally important way, supported by countries in the region. And I think that explains a lot of things, but it also explains why when a plane malfunctioned, a U.S. fighter jet malfunctioned and one of the pilots fell into Libyan hands, that he was treated with such great dignity and respect.
Yes, sir. I'm sorry, wait, let me get Japan and then I'll come to you. Yes.
Q: Is the President concerned about the safety of food being exported from Japan to the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: I would just say that the President is obviously focused very much on the situation in Japan. I think he tried to make that clear, amidst all the other questions -- the important trip he was making to Latin America and all the questions that he got about the situation in Libya, that he was still very focused on developments in Japan.
In terms of U.S. safety issues, the agencies that handle food safety are there for just this kind of circumstance, and obviously ensure the safety of imported food in the United States.
Q: So he's confident that they're making the right decisions?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, yes. I'm going to take two more after this, because we're gaggling.
Q: There's a meeting next week -- March 29th meeting of foreign ministers. I assume the Secretary of State will be going to that. Can you talk about the importance of that to the mission and the handoff?
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to go into great detail about it. State Department should do that. But obviously this is part of a series of intense consultations that have been taking place. It will be an important meeting.
Q: Would it be considered a key part of the handoff?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't want to put a date or a time on the transition that we've talked about, whether it's that day or another day. But we feel confident that the issues that have been discussed with our allies will be resolved soon and that we will be able to move to that stage very quickly.
Last one, yes.
Q: Is the President disappointed that Germany abstained from the Security Council and does he still believe that the Chancellor deserves the Medal of Freedom? And last, can you confirm that Angela Merkel is coming to Washington in June?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything for you on travel. The President obviously feels that the medal was and is deserved. And the reservations that the Germans had had been expressed well in advance.
END 1:29 P.M. EDT
Jay Carney, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/289673