SOURCE: U.S. State Department
Daily Press Briefing
March 19, 2015
QUESTION: Apparently Russian military jets have been using Cam Ranh Bay Air Base in the – in Vietnam to refuel as part of their showing their military might in the Asia Pacific region. Has the U.S. talked to Vietnam about this? Does the U.S. want Vietnam to stop allowing Russian military craft from refueling?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are certainly – we’ve urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region. Obviously we’ve done that privately with Vietnamese Government officials, and certainly our preference is that they would not.
QUESTION: Has there been any inclination from the Vietnamese to comply with the U.S. request?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other updates on that, beyond what I just conveyed.
QUESTION: Why is it a problem for the Russian military to be flying its jets along the southeastern edge of Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I referenced, I think our concern is about steps that raise tensions in the region.
QUESTION: Perhaps – so you believe that Russian flights have been raising tension —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have —
QUESTION: — in the region?
MS. PSAKI: — confirmation that they have. I think there have been reports. We obviously don’t want them to use Cam Ranh Bay.
QUESTION: Right. But if they haven’t been raising tension, why would you ask the Vietnamese to stop? I mean, first of all, Cam Ranh Bay used to be yours, but hasn’t been since 1975, and it was the Russians’ more recently.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s why we’re talking to our —
QUESTION: So —
MS. PSAKI: — counterparts in other countries. Right.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. But I mean, why can’t the Vietnamese – or why can’t they allow the Russian jets to refuel if you don’t – if you’re not accusing them – these flights of raising tensions, which I don’t think you are – maybe you are, but —
MS. PSAKI: We believe that they could. That’s why. That’s the issue we’re raising.
QUESTION: But that they could?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have confirmation of what’s happened or hasn’t happened to date. We’re referring to conversations about concerns that allowing them to use Cam Ranh Bay could raise tensions in the region.
QUESTION: So – yeah. Okay. But you don’t have – you’re not basing that on anything that has actually —
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have —
QUESTION: — already happened?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on what’s happened, Matt, but I’m —
QUESTION: Okay. Could you find out if there have been Russian flights that you believe have —
MS. PSAKI: Have landed? Sure. I can see if there —
QUESTION: — raised tensions? Well, no, no, not have landed, but that their activity in this area has been raising tensions?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. But regardless of whether it has to date, we could still express a concern about what it could do in the future, which is the point I’m making.
QUESTION: Sure. You could express that concern, but it’s a little – it’s a step from going to expressing concern to actually telling the Vietnamese: Hey, we don’t think you should refuel – you should allow them to – allow them access to this base. That’s – I —
QUESTION: Is there a concern that this is putting a strain on U.S.-Vietnamese relations?
MS. PSAKI: No. I wasn’t suggesting that. Certainly we raise concerns as we have them.
I can only do kind of two more here.