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Tillerson Responds to North Korean Missile Launch With a 23-Word Statement ūüĎÄ

Posted: 12:49 am ET

 

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New Zealand Asks US Embassy Wellington Staffer to Leave

Posted: 03:14 am ET

 

New Zealand news media reported over the weekend that a U.S. diplomat was involved in an incident in Lower Hutt,¬†one of the four cities of the¬†Wellington metro area. ¬†It is not know what happened during the incident, only that¬†the diplomat was reportedly “left with a broken nose and a black eye.” According to NZHerald,¬†¬†the¬†Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) asked the US Embassy on Monday to waive the staffer’s¬†diplomatic immunity so police could investigate the incident. ¬†“The United States Government has today declined to waive the diplomat’s immunity,” the spokesman said.¬†“Therefore, MFAT has asked the United States to withdraw the staff member in question from New Zealand.” ¬†Some news reports have identified the diplomat but we have been unable to confirm the name or the status of the individual. US Embassy Wellington has not responded to our inquiry to-date.

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Tillerson of #NotBigMediaAccess Planet: NK ‘Imminent’ Threat, Fatigue News, Chinese Praise

Posted: 2:31 am ET

 

Secretary¬†Tillerson traveled to¬†Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing from March 15-18 ‚ÄĒ ¬†without his full traveling press, but with one pre-selected journalist (see¬†Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling¬†Press?). It sounds like this won’t be the last time he’s going to try to ditch his traveling press. Secretary Tillerson said that “we‚Äôre saving a lot of money by using this aircraft.” ¬†Since cost savings has now been repeatedly cited as an excuse, let’s see the cost saved from this trip, please.

The controversy about press access to the 69th secretary of state continues.  Secretary Tillerson gave an interview to his sole traveling press, and once more cited saving money as one of the reasons for not taking a full traveling press:

Primarily it‚Äôs driven ‚ÄĒ believe it or not, you won‚Äôt believe it ‚ÄĒ we‚Äôre trying to save money. I mean, quite frankly, we‚Äôre saving a lot of money by using this aircraft, which also flies faster, allows me to be more efficient, and we‚Äôre going to destinations that, by and large, the media outlets have significant presence already, so we‚Äôre not hiding from any coverage of what we‚Äôre doing. The fact that the press corps is not traveling on the plane with me, I understand that there are two aspects of that. One, there‚Äôs a convenience aspect. I get it. The other is, I guess, what I‚Äôm told is that there‚Äôs this long tradition that the Secretary spends time on the plane with the press. I don‚Äôt know that I‚Äôll do a lot of that. I‚Äôm just not ‚Ķ that‚Äôs not the way I tend to work. That‚Äôs not the way I tend to spend my time. I spend my time working on this airplane. The entire time we‚Äôre in the air, I‚Äôm working. Because there is a lot of work to do in the early stages. Maybe things will change and evolve in the future. But I hope people don‚Äôt misunderstand … there‚Äôs nothing else behind it than those simple objectives.

Apparently,¬†Secretary Tillerson is not a “big media access person” and personally doesn’t need it. Holymolyguacamole! Can somebody in Foggy Bottom, please explain to him that this is not about what he needs.

“I‚Äôm not a big media press access person. I personally don‚Äôt need it. I understand it‚Äôs important to get the message of what we‚Äôre doing out, but I also think there‚Äôs only a purpose in getting the message out when there‚Äôs something to be done. And so we have a lot of work to do, and when we‚Äôre ready to talk about what we‚Äôre trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don‚Äôt have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media. I view that the relationship that I want to have with the media, is the media is very important to help me communicate not just to the American people, but to others in the world that are listening. And when I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it. But if I don‚Äôt because we‚Äôre still formulating and we‚Äôre still deciding what we‚Äôre going to do, there is not going to be a lot to say. And I know that you‚Äôve asked me a lot of questions here that I didn‚Äôt answer, and I‚Äôm not answering them because we have some very, very complex strategic issues to make our way through with important countries around the world, and we‚Äôre not going to get through them by just messaging through the media. We get through them in face-to-face meetings behind closed doors. We can be very frank, open, and honest with one another and then we‚Äôll go out and we‚Äôll have something to share about that, but the truth of the matter is, all of the tactics and all of the things were going to do you will know them after they‚Äôve happened.”

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Top Philippine Diplomat Perfecto Yasay Ousted Over U.S. Citizenship Controversy

Posted: 3:02 am ET

 

We have a second post on the Philippines, today. ¬†On March 8, the country’s Commission of Appointments (CA) rejected the nomination of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. According to CNN,¬†the committee unanimously decided to reject Yasay’s nomination “for lying under oath and that he failed to declare his U.S. citizenship in 1986.”

We’ve listed the FAM citations for renunciation of U.S.citizenship and loss of nationality in the links below. This should be an interesting case study.

Related items:

7 FAM 1280 | LOSS OF NATIONALITY AND TAKING UP A POSITION IN A FOREIGN GOVERNMENT

7 FAM 1260  | RENUNCIATION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP ABROAD

7 FAM 1220  | DEVELOPING A LOSS-OF-NATIONALITY CASE

7 FAM 1200 APPENDIX B  | U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON LOSS OF NATIONALITY

Secretary of State McCord Punches Philippine President in the Face, Embassy Protests – Seriously!

Posted: 1:54 am ET

 

According to rappler.com, from July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths linked to the “war on drugs” in the Philippines ‚Äď both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation). ¬†Photographer¬†James Nachtwey did a¬†series¬†In Manila Death Comes by Night.¬†¬†Local photographers are also documenting¬†Duterte’s war on drugs¬†in the Philippines. On March 6, the National Geographic’s Explorer started its 10th season with¬†Episode 1 highlighting¬†Philippine¬†President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs.

Meanwhile, in the fictional world, Madam Secretary is scheduled to air¬†an episode entitled “Break in Diplomacy” on March 12. ¬†In the trailer below, the series’ Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), is seen throwing a punch at a character Datu Andrada, the purported¬†Philippine President in the show. ¬†Apparently, after the fictional Philippine President¬† makes a sexually suggestive move¬†at Secretary McCord¬†during a private meeting, she punched and bloodied his nose.¬†We have it in good authority that Secretary McCord did not/did not try to wash President Andrada’s mouth¬†with Lifeboy soap.

On March 6, the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. issued a statement protesting the um, “highly negative depiction” of the Philippine President in the episode.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. wrote to CBS Corporation today, 06 March 2017, to strongly protest the highly negative depiction of a character purported to be the Philippine President on the next episode of the TV series Madam Secretary.

The trailer of Season 3 Episode 15 “Break in Diplomacy” shows the character – described in the episode’s synopsis as the “Philippines’ unconventional new president” – exhibiting inappropriate behavior towards the female lead character, US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord.

The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday, 12 March 2017.

While¬†Madam Secretary¬†is a work of fiction, it tracks and mirrors current events. It is, therefore, inevitable that its depiction of world leaders will have an impact on how its audience views the real personages and the countries they represent. This highly negative portrayal of¬†our Head of State¬†not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also denigrates that way our nation navigates foreign affairs. It also tarnishes the Philippines’ longstanding advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality.

In view of the injurious effects that this program will have on the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino people, the Philippine Embassy urgently calls on CBS to take the necessary corrective actions.

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US Embassy New Zealand’s Chancery Rehab Project: Safety and Health Concerns With Ongoing Construction

Posted: 12:53 am ET

 

In November 2013, the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) announced the¬†construction award, through “best value” determination of the major rehabilitation project of the chancery of the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand. ¬†This project, according to the announcement would¬†include seismic strengthening, security improvements, and general building upgrades.

Below is a brief description of the project estimated to cost between $36-50 million:

SAQMMA-13-R0094, Wellington, New Zealand, Chancery Major Rehabilitation.

The 3,000 gross square meters Chancery building, originally constructed by the USG in 1977, sits on a 1.4 acre compound, located in the Thorndon section of Wellington, in close proximity to a number of other embassies and just north of the New Zealand government offices.  The compound is situated at the edge of a residential scale neighborhood of mostly two- to four-story buildings and is across the street from a neighborhood of much taller (up to approximately 16 stories), more densely sited commercial and mixed use buildings.

Anticipated renovation work includes:  retrofitting the exterior of the Chancery building façade to meet DOS standards for seismic and blast protection, systems upgrades throughout the building (electrical, telecommunication, mechanical, plumbing, fire and life-safety, and technical security), seismically bracing all building equipment and infrastructure, handicapped accessibility upgrade, constructing a 110 gsm addition to enlarge the work area, and space utilization improvements.  Site work includes: a physical security upgrade at the two vehicular entrances; new parking configuration; and new landscaped areas.

The project will require extensive use of swing space and construction phasing, as the Chancery office functions must be fully operational for the entirety of the project.

Via US Embassy Wellington, NZ

Photo by US Embassy Wellington, NZ

This week, we’ve received several¬†concerns about the ongoing¬†construction project:

Safety issues: “Work is going on while this building is still occupied by dozens of employees, creating a largely unsafe working environment. Repeated inquiries to Worksafe NZ have gone unanswered, despite the fact that there have been serious injuries on this project. At this point it‚Äôs just a matter of time until someone is killed on this site. ¬†The building has been evacuated repeatedly due to fire alarms, and building-wide power outages are a routine occurrence.”

Structural concerns: “The building suffered damage from the Kaikoura earthquake in November, and staff were required to return to work before a structural assessment was completed.”

Health concerns: ¬†“Employees in all sections are routinely subjected to excessively high levels of noise, dust and smoke. Dozens of employees have complained of respiratory and vision problems since the project began in 2014.”¬†

Communication issues: ¬†“A dozen employees were recently evacuated to the British High Commission due to this project, and their workplaces were subsequently consumed by the work. After the High Commission‚Äôs closure these staff had to return to the Embassy, except now they effectively have no workspaces. There is no timeline for completion of the project, or for when the rest of the staff might expect any improvement in the work environment.”

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We’ve asked State/OBO about these concerns and allegations. We also wanted to know what the bureau has done to mitigate the disruption, and the health and security concerns regarding the ongoing construction. Below is the full¬†response from the State/OBO spox:

In September 2013 the Department awarded a contract to rehabilitate the existing chancery in Wellington to meet seismic and security requirements, as well as address needed improvements to building systems.  The extensive construction work underway is required to retrofit and seismically strengthen the building.  The project was carefully planned in phases in order to maintain business operations of the embassy during the construction period and phasing plans and impacts were discussed and briefed to stakeholders prior to executing the project.  The project is scheduled for completion in early 2018.

Construction of an occupied building is always a difficult under taking and is inconvenient, but measures have been in place since the inception of the project to ensure the safety of both construction workers and embassy staff working in the building.  The project is being managed in accordance with the procedures and policies of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) and the Department.

OBO is aware of complaints such as those raised and has reviewed the matter.¬† Though the project has encountered challenges — as is expected with a project of this complexity ‚Äď the review confirmed that there is an appropriate safety program administered by the construction contractor and enforced by OBO project management, and that there have not been violations of required policies and procedures.

The original note¬†sent to us says that “There is no timeline for completion of the project” but the OBO spox readily told us that¬†project is scheduled for completion in early 2018. That indicates to us that there may be a hiccup in the communication line between employees and the project folks. ¬†Somebody please fix that. ¬†Whatever discussions or briefs were done to “stakeholders” were not heard or understood.

A¬†separate source told us that US Embassy Wellington and OBO were “looking into having some staff work at home”, or “occupy an office in the British High Commission”, to avoid disruptions while the chancery is renovated. ¬†A check with the BHC, however, ¬†indicates that the¬†British High Commission in Wellington announced on November 24, 2016 that its¬†building will be closed until further notice. ¬†Damage from the recent earthquakes has apparently been discovered in their offices¬†following an inspection so the building was temporarily closed for safety reasons. ¬†Now folks still have work but no workspaces? ¬†What’s the secret to making that work?

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Related items:

FedBiz listing: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/State/A-LM-AQM/A-LM-AQM/SAQMMA-13-R0094/listing.html

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Announces the Construction Award for Major Rehabilitation of U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC -11/12/13

 

Related posts:

 

 

POTUS and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Visit Pearl Harbor

Posted: 2:54 pm PT

 

“As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war. ¬†We must never repeat the horrors of war again. ¬†This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken. And since the war, we have created a free and democratic country that values the rule of law and has resolutely upheld our vow never again to wage war.”

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Political Violence Against Americans in 2015: Highest in Near East Asia, Lowest in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The Political Violence Against Americans publication is produced annually by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) to provide a comprehensive picture of the spectrum of politically motivated threats and violence that American citizens and interests encounter worldwide. This report includes incidents of violence involving U.S. citizens and facilities with the exception of incidents against American military personnel serving in combat positions.

Of the 61 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 19 are believed to have resulted from intentionally targeting Americans while 42 are incidents where Americans or American interests were not targeted due to nationality.

The highest targets occurred in Near East Asia (NEA), followed by Africa (AF), and South Central Asia (SCA). In NEA, the most number of attacks were directed at private U.S. entities; in AF, the most number of attacks were directed at U.S. Government (USG) entities while in SCA, they were directed at the U.S. military. ¬†The top three most common types of attack are 1) “armed attacks” followed by 2) “stray round,” and¬†3) “bomb” tied with¬†“attack with vehicle.”

The region with the lowest number of attacks is the Western Hemisphere (WHA) with one incident of vandalism directed at the USG. The second region with the lowest number of attacks is East Asia Pacific (EAP) with three incidents (attempted murder, bomb, violent demonstration) all directed at the USG.

Via state.gov/ds

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More on Trump’s Taiwan Call Plus Video Clips From Secretary of State Candidates #suspense

Posted: 2:07 am ET

 

A view from Taiwan, a Trump-Tsai Ing-wen tag team, watch:

Now for the auditions, with some exciting clips below:

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US Embassy Manila: Ambassador Sung Kim Presents His Credentials to President Duterte

Posted: 10:07 am PT

 

On November 4, Ambassador Sung Kim was sworn-in by Secretary Kerry as the new ambassador to the Philippines (see Secretary @JohnKerry Swears-In Sung Kim as U.S. Ambassador to the #Philippines. He arrived in the Philippines last week; had burgers and fries with his residence and security staff and has already been to a basketball game.   On December 6, he presented his credentials to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the two spoke for around an hour without other officials in the room.  Ambassador Kim made a statement to the press at the Malacanang Palace after his meeting with the Philippine president.

 

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