the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/8/2013

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:07 P.M. EDT
 
MR. CARNEY:  Welcome.  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Thanks for being here.  I hate to startle to you with my relative punctuality -- (laughter) -- but I do have to -- I have to leave at 1:45-ish, 1:50, so I want to go straight to your questions.
 
Julie.
 
Q    Five Americans were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, including a 25-year-old diplomat.  Did that incident or any of the other recent violence we’ve seen in Afghanistan color the President’s decision-making as he’s looking to settle on a post-2014 force?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives, both military personnel as well as civil personnel, as well as to those who were wounded.  What is absolutely the case is Afghanistan remains a very violent place.  It is also true that we have made great strides in our efforts to train up the Afghanistan National Security Forces as they take increasing responsibility for the security in their country, and that process continues.
 
So, broadly, in answer to your question, the answer is no, that no specific incident is affecting a decision-making process in a policy that the President is convinced is the correct one and that he is engaged in with his national security team and military commanders.
 
Q    General Dempsey said that the U.S. should wait until the summer or perhaps even later to make the decision on the post-2014 force.  Is that the timeline that the President is operating on -- summer or perhaps later?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any preview to give you of that process except that the President is committed to it as in keeping with the stated policy objectives he’s made in the past, as well as our coordination with our allies.  But I have nothing further for you on that.
 
Q    And then, just quickly, this is sort of a big week on a lot of different fronts -- guns, immigration, the budget.  How does the White House view this week in terms of the President’s second-term agenda?  Do you see it as a pivotal week for him?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I wouldn’t distinguish this particular week from ones that have led to it or that will come after it except to say that we have a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people.  The President set forth in his State of the Union address and in his inaugural address a vision and a policy agenda that demonstrates his commitment in his second term to continue to build on the progress we made in the first. 
 
When it comes to jobs and economic growth, that remains his number-one priority.  The middle class, growing it and expanding it; providing ladders of opportunity to the middle class, for those who aspire to it -- that’s his North Star.
 
He is also committed to comprehensive immigration reform.  And you’ve seen the efforts that he’s made and we’ve made in concert with those working on it in Congress to help bring that about.  And we’ve been encouraged by the progress, the bipartisan progress on that effort. 
 
Actions to reduce gun violence -- very much a priority.  The President, as you know, is traveling later today to Connecticut to talk about the need for Congress to act, to vote on common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.  And at that event he will meet with families of Newtown victims, as you would expect.
 
These are all very important priorities.  And the President believes that he was sent back to this office and that lawmakers on the Hill were elected, or reelected, to do the business of the American people, and there’s no time to waste in getting about doing that business. 
 
So every one of these weeks is full of the possibility for progress on a range of fronts, and this is not unique in that case.  Certainly, Congress is back, and that affects what’s happening on Capitol Hill.  But the President, the White House, the administration are constantly trying to move forward on all of these issues.
 
Q    So on the subject of guns, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, there’s some sense that momentum may have stalled a little bit on the legislation.  And there are also reports that Senators Toomey and Manchin may be working towards a compromise on a background check -- that would focus on background checks but with some exemptions.  Would that be enough for the White House, or are you simply encouraged that there’s forward progress?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’ll say a few things.  One, we are working with those on Capitol Hill who are working towards solutions to the legislative priorities the President laid out.  Closing the loopholes in our background check system is a major priority, and it is something that we should be able to achieve; after all, more than 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks. 
 
Democrats, Republicans, independents; Americans from across the country, every region; gun owners, a majority -- a large majority -- support background checks.  It is a common-sense thing to do -- to take the system that exists and improve it so that those who should not obtain or be able to obtain a weapon under existing law cannot obtain them because of the loopholes that exist. 
 
So we are working with those who are trying to make progress on this issue of both parties on Capitol Hill and we’ll continue to do so.  You’ve seen the President’s proposals, or his ideas on this issue, and I would just say on the issue of background checks the President’s ideas include exemptions for family-to-family transfer or a loan of weapon, a firearm, between hunters who are friends.  So this is not -- I mean, I wouldn’t want to cabin that issue as particularly problematic.
 
But I’m not going to get into details about the negotiations going on between individual senators or groups of senators except to say that we continue to press for action by Congress.  And we continue to press for, as my colleague, Dan Pfeiffer, said yesterday, the absolute obligation of Congress to vote on each one of these proposals.
 
I recently watched the State of the Union address again, and it is a powerful moment, it is worth reviewing when the President called on Congress to vote on each of these measures because Gabby Giffords deserves it; because Hadiya Pendleton deserves it; because the children of Newtown deserve it.  And members of both parties stood and applauded.  So they ought to fulfill the message they sent by applauding by allowing a vote on every one of these issues.
 
Q    Can you confirm, too, that, as a distinguished colleague is reporting, that parents of the victims of Newtown are traveling with him on Air Force One?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I can tell you two things, which is -- regarding that.  First, prior to delivering his remarks, the President will meet with families of victims and survivors of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as with first responders.  Following the remarks, 11 family members of victims will return to Washington, D.C. with the President onboard Air Force One.
 
These are family members who are planning to be in Washington to speak with Congress about the importance of taking action to reduce gun violence.  And in order to make sure they were able to attend the event in Connecticut and still be in Washington when they needed to be, we invited those family members to fly back with the President.
 
Q    I just had a question about North Korea as well.  Over the weekend, some senior Chinese officials, Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang made comments alluding to North Korea.  It seemed to be statements that were encouraging North Korea to stand down a little bit.  Is the United States encouraged by those statements?  Do you have any reaction to that?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I can tell you that we welcome efforts by Beijing and Moscow to encourage Pyongyang to refrain from provocative rhetoric and threats.  We will continue to work 
with our Chinese, Russian and other partners to get North Korea to abide by its international obligations.
 
As we’ve said in the past, we have been working with the Chinese and the Russians, and encouraging those nations and those governments to use their influence with the North Koreans to persuade the North Koreans to cease these provocative actions and this provocative rhetoric, because stability in the region is obviously in the interest of every country in the region.
 
Q    Jay, these 11 family members that will be coming back with the President and lobbying members of Congress this week, how important is their role?  And what kind of an impact do you think they can have up on Capitol Hill?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I think those family members who have felt the pain of the Sandy Hook tragedy most keenly are important voices in this discussion.  I think it’s almost self-evident.  When the President recently held a roundtable in Denver at the police academy there last week, there were family -- there was parents of a victim in Aurora, and they spoke passionately about how their lives had been torn apart and turned upside-down by the loss of their child in that movie theater, and how they were then committed for the rest of their lives to work for improvements in our laws that can reduce gun violence.  And I think that that message is very powerful.
 
So it’s been stated in recent weeks that somehow the memory of Newtown has faded, at least in Washington, and I think it’s important to remember for those families and for everyone in that community and for so many people across America, those memories will never fade.  The pain will never go away.  And it is the obligation of the members of Congress who stood and applauded when the President called on them to vote on these issues to live up to that applause when the cameras were on, and not to take the less courageous route by using procedural measures to block a vote.  Imagine that.  Imagine what would they say to the families of the victims of Newtown about why a certain measure never came to a vote because they filibustered it or used other procedural measures to block it.  That would certainly be inappropriate.
 
Q    It seems the key players right now are Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin.  Has the President been in touch with either of them or both of them?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I will simply say that at the White House we have been in contact with all of those who are working towards solutions to making progress on these issues.  I don't want to get into specific conversations with anyone here at the White House and those lawmakers involved in that process.  There are a number of fronts in this effort, as you know.  And we are engaged with everyone involved in the effort, in a good-faith effort, to try to accomplish the goals the President set out.
 
Q    And will the President, lastly, be satisfied if at the end of this process, all he is able to accomplish -- and even this is in doubt -- but all that he’s able to accomplish is improving the background check system?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would say a couple of things.  The President supports every element in the comprehensive proposal he put forward, every legislative piece of those proposals.  And he supports them all strongly, and he urges Congress to vote on all of them because it is the right thing to do, in the memory at least of the victims of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Oak Creek.
 
The idea that passing significant legislation to improve background checks would be something you would describe as “only,” when if you would imagine the prospects that political prognosticators would have given such legislation six months ago, I think says something about the road we’ve traveled since then.
 
And the fact is there are a number of elements, legislative elements, that have moved forward and we hope will move forward.  And the President hopes that every one of these bills, that every piece of this legislative package is voted on and passed.  But he has also said from the beginning that this would be hard and every element of it would be hard.  It was wrong to suggest, as some did a month or two ago, that somehow background checks, getting universal background checks would be a cakewalk.  I think that might even be a quote from someone.  That was never going to be the case.  If it were the case, if it had been the case, it would have happened long ago, and that's true with every piece of this.
 
Q    But you seem to be suggesting if the background checks are all you get, the glass is still half full.
 
MR. CARNEY:  I’m saying that we need to take action everywhere we can.  And the President will implement all 23 of the executive actions that were part of his proposal, and he is pushing for every piece of the legislative agenda that he’s put forward and that Congress is deliberating on right now.  They are all important and they all should be voted on, and they all, in the President’s view, should be passed.
 
Q    Governor Bill Richardson was on “Meet the Press,” yesterday -- this is on the issue of the budget -- and he was discussing the sequester and saying, “at least in the hinterlands, it has not been that devastating.”  Would the President agree with that assessment?
 
MR. CARNEY:  With former Governor Richardson?  I didn't see those comments.  On that, I would simply say, ask the families who have lost a slot in Head Start, or the families of the individuals themselves who have been furloughed or lost their jobs, and then ask those economists who have said quite clearly that if the sequester remains in place, our economy will grow more slowly, it will create up to three-quarters of a million fewer jobs, and then assess whether or not it’s being felt, or it will be felt.  I mean, these are simple facts.
 
It’s bad policy.  It was designed as bad policy, although it has been embraced as a political victory, a tea party victory by Republicans in the House who only a few months ago decried the horror that would come with imposition of the sequester.  The fact is what was true then is true now.  It was never meant to become law.  It’s arbitrary by nature and by design.  It’s not the way to go about reducing our deficit, as Republicans and Democrats made clear when it was crafted.  And it achieves none of the goals that those who now embrace it say they want when it comes to long-term deficit and debt reduction.  It does almost no good, and it does a lot of harm.
 
Q    Jay, on the background checks, as you know, The Washington Post has now given the President three Pinocchios for using a statistic:  About 40 percent, I believe, of all gun purchases, he has said, are done without background checks.  And it turns out that's a study from a couple of decades ago.  Is the White House pulling back from using that?  Do you have any regrets in making your case that this was a bogus stat?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think that a substantial number of purchases of weapons are achievable without background checks.  I mean, that's a fact.  Everybody who has worked on this issue, Republicans and Democrats alike, understand that.  And simply making sure that the background check system does not have loopholes -- giant loopholes that allow criminals and others who should not by law be permitted to buy a weapon to buy them -- that is a basic, common-sense proposal that has enjoyed the support, at least rhetorically of legislators of both parties, in other words Republicans, not just Democrats, that is supported by more than 90 percent of the American people, and that must be voted on and must be passed and signed into law. 
 
This is a common-sense measure that takes not a single firearm away from a law-abiding citizen, that protects our Second Amendment rights, and that will help in the cause of reducing gun violence in America so that what happened in -- that lives are saved -- the kinds of lives that were lost in Newtown and Aurora and elsewhere.
 
And the President made clear in the State of the Union address -- in his State of the Union address that we will not -- nothing we can do now will prevent all senseless acts of violence.  And there’s no question that there will be victims of gun violence even if all of these measures are enacted.  But that number will be reduced and those lives saved are worth saving.
 
Q    A moment ago you said the President is pushing for all of his legislative proposals on this.  On January 16th, he mentioned -- when he took those executive actions that you’ve noted -- he talked about wanting Congress to fund research into the effect of violent video games.  Why don't we hear him talking about that?  When you’re asked about this issue, you don't talk about it.  Mental health, as well, at the beginning of this was talked a lot about.  I know the President took some executive action on that.  But why does it appear that you're not pushing Congress on violent video games, violent movies, and mental health?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’d say a couple of things.  One is we’re pushing on all fronts.  These are very important issues.  It is a fact that there were efforts in the past to prevent -- supported by the usual suspects -- to prevent the federal government from doing research, the CDC and others from doing research on the impacts of violent video games, for example, on violence.  And the President is committed to making sure that that research is done.  It is very important.
 
He is also committed -- mental health is an important aspect of this problem.  And he’s committed, as evidenced by his proposal, and you will see in a variety ways in the coming days and weeks, how strong that commitment is. 
 
So I think it’s a good question, because it’s a reminder that the legislative action taking place around gun trafficking, banning military-style assault weapons, or limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, or closing the loopholes in our background checks systems, those are all very important but they’re not the whole story.  And what we said from the beginning and the President said from the beginning that this is a problem that a single piece of legislation will not resolve and a gun law alone will not resolve.  There are many aspects to this problem.
 
Q    So last thing on that.  When Jon asked you, I believe you said that on the gun part of this, we’ve talked to all parties, lawmakers, whether it’s Pat Toomey, whatever -- without specific names, he’s talked to everyone.  Has he talked to Chris Dodd at the Motion Picture Association, any of his friends in Hollywood about violent movies?  I know the Vice President I believe met with the Motion Picture Association January 10th or so, or early part of this year, but has the President gotten these folks on the phone?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Again, I’m not going to read out specific conversations of the President or any others that we haven’t already made public.  The fact is we’re pushing on all fronts.  Part of the process that led to the set of proposals that the Vice President provided to the President and the President presented to the public was a look at that particular aspect of it and included meetings with representatives of industry, and we will continue on that front.
 
Yes, Peter.
 
Q    Jay, you spoke a minute ago about the potential for filibuster.  Right now we’ve heard from a series of Republicans that that’s something they’re considering very seriously right now.  Is the White House considering a plan B of sorts, if that is to be the case?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I would simply say that if there’s a member of Congress who’s contemplating filibustering some of this, it would be interesting to see if they stood and applauded at the State of the Union address when the President said that these victims deserve a vote.  And regardless, if they oppose this legislation, have the courage to say so on the floor and vote no.  Don’t block it.  Don’t hide behind a procedural action to prevent a vote.  That’s the wrong thing to do.  And that’s how the President clearly feels. 
 
Q    If that happens, as they continue to threaten, then what happens?  What does the White House plan to do?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t want to predict an outcome like that or to engage in hypothetical strategic planning from the podium.  I would simply say that the President believes it is vitally important and a matter of honoring the memory of these victims to allow votes on all of these issues.
 
Q    I want to ask you about immigration, briefly, if I can.  There appears to be some bit of inconsistency on that.  Chuck Schumer, Senator from New York, just said that the Gang of Eight was hoping to have legislation brought to the floor by the end of this week.  Lindsey Graham said it would likely be longer than that -- two, perhaps three weeks.  What’s the White House’s expectation on when immigration is taken up in earnest here?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Soon.  I would simply say that we are encouraged by the progress we’ve seen.  We are working with those of both parties who are making progress on this issue and putting together legislation.  The President made clear at the beginning of this process that he thought the best way to create success was for the Senate to take the lead through the Gang of Eight.  And there has been significant progress, and I don’t think anybody can contest that.

The President still believes that we should not waste time; that this is an issue that is essential to act on, where there should be and has been substantial bipartisan agreement, and there is evidence that bipartisan agreement is there.  And we are encouraged by what we have seen.  But we’re not there yet, so we’re not going to prejudge legislation or the language contained in it before it arrives.
 
But whether it’s Senator Schumer’s comments or Senator Graham’s comments, the fact is most of what we are seeing are comments that reflect the progress, the positive progress that’s been made.  And the President is encouraged by that.
 
Q    And then, finally, acknowledging that the White House put out a statement for the President a short time ago regarding the passing of the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, I’m just curious for some of the thoughts that you can share in terms of the President’s view of Margaret Thatcher, the impact she had, and his thoughts on this day.
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the statement reflects the President’s views.  I mean, this is a loss certainly for Great Britain, but also for the world.  Baroness Thatcher, former Prime Minister, was one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and a true friend of the United States.  She forged an important and special relationship with her counterpart in President Reagan.  And she was an unapologetic supporter of the transatlantic alliance between our two nations, which has continued to be so unique and vital to the United States, as well as to Great Britain.
 
So he is certainly saddened by her passing, and I think there are a great many Americans who feel the same way.
 
Q    Has the President offered his condolences to Prime Minister Cameron to this point?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a conversation to read out at this time.
 
Q    Jay, two members of Congress have written to the Treasury Department expressing concern about the trip to Cuba last week by Beyoncé and Jay-Z.  Does the White House share the concerns that somehow the travel restrictions have been pulled out a little bit; that people-to-people travel is not allowed for tourism?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would say a couple of things.  Decisions made about cultural travel and academic travel are made by the Treasury Department, and I would refer you for specific cases to the Treasury Department.  It is certainly the case that under this administration we have eased the ability to travel to Cuba for those purposes.  But the decisions at the individual level are made at the Treasury Department, not here. 
 
Q    But the trip was sort of built by them and by the Cuban government as a tourism trip.
 
MR. CARNEY:  Again, that’s not a White House matter.  That’s a Treasury matter, and I would refer you to Treasury.
 
Q    But you guys wrote the rules that prohibit tourism from --
 
MR. CARNEY:  Right.  And there’s a process in place where those who would like to travel seek a license to travel, and that’s done through Treasury, it’s not done through here.  So it’s not something we have any insight into or comment on.
 
Q    Jay, you talked a lot about judicial nominees.  Harry Reid on Friday said that he’s prepared to go ahead with the nuclear option -- change the rules of the simple majority of Republicans keep on delaying it, blocking nominations.  Is the President prepared to support Reid on that if he goes ahead and uses that nuclear option?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, you’ve heard me in recent days and weeks express the President’s view and our view here that it is highly unfortunate that the President’s nominees have been delayed considerably longer -- three or four times longer -- than President W. Bush’s nominees, and that we consistently see a pattern where a nominee who is cleared out of committee unanimously is then blocked for months or longer. 
 
And then, when that obstacle is removed, an obstacle that often had nothing to do with the qualifications of the nominee or even with the nominee himself or herself, that nominee is confirmed by the Senate 91 to nothing, or 93 to 2, or something like that.  And that's just -- it’s a problem for our judicial system, and it’s I think a source of immense frustration for those who work within it.
 
So having said that, I also have noted that there have been some signs of improvement, and we acknowledge that improvement and hope that it continues.
 
Q    But a nuclear option, is that something that the White House is considering?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think I will simply say that we share Senator Reid’s frustration and we hope that the Senate continues to improve in its consideration of and confirmation of the President’s judicial nominees. 
 
Yes, Alexis.
 
Q    Jay, I want to follow up on something you were saying earlier about reviewing the State of the Union video.  You mentioned the range of lawmakers who stood up during the President’s speech.  Were you trying to draw our attention to the forthcoming video advertising the Newtown --
 
MR. CARNEY:  No, no, no.  I’m simply saying that it was a memorable moment for those of us who were in the hall or watched it on television.  And we have spoken of late about the President’s call at that time to allow a vote on all of these measures.  In other words, do not block them procedurally; do not prevent them from coming to a vote.
 
If you feel that you have to vote no, vote no and explain why.  Don't hide behind procedure.  Vote your conscience and explain why you're against universal background checks, if you are.  That's all.  And I just think -- because it had been talked about recently, I took a look, and I was reminded of how powerful a moment it was.
 
Chris.
 
Q    Jay, in recent weeks, we’ve seen an avalanche of support for marriage equality on Capitol Hill.  Just last week, six new senators announced their support for same-sex marriage.  It’s easy to forget that it hasn’t even been a year since the President himself came out in support of the right for gay couples to get married.  By making that announcement in May, does the President deserve credit for setting the stage for seeing the announcements that we’re seeing now?
 
MR. CARNEY:  The country deserves credit.  It’s been a remarkable evolution and represents an embrace of the basic principles of equality that the President feels strongly about but Americans across the country feel strongly about.  And I think I can safely say that the President hopes it continues.
 
Q    There are still four Democratic senators who don't support marriage equality:  Mary Landrieu, Tim Johnson, Joe Manchin, and Mark Pryor.  Does the President want them to make similar announcements in favor?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Obviously, each individual -- whether an elected lawmaker or anyone else -- makes this evaluation, decision, himself or herself.  So the President spoke about his views in that interview that you made reference to, and other lawmakers have been doing so recently as there have been other issues related to this being debated and discussed.  But I wouldn’t -- he’s not here -- he was not and is not in a position to pass judgment on others simply to say what he believes very strongly.
 
Andrei.
 
Q    Thank you.  Mr. Donilon is scheduled to Moscow, so can you tell us anything about the trip; whether he’s bringing a message from the President, anything at all?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I’m afraid I don't have anything more for you beyond the fact that obviously the National Security Advisor travels frequently to meet with his counterparts around the world, and I know he’s looking forward to this meeting.
 
We have a very important relationship with Russia.  We have a number of issues, including North Korea, as I mentioned earlier, that are subjects of discussion right now with the Russian leadership.  So I’m sure that that will be one of the many subjects that Mr. Donilon will discuss with his counterparts on this visit.
 
Yes, Victoria.
 
Q    Jay, there have been a couple of oil spills just in the last week, and there was one in Canada as well.  Are these impacting or factoring into the President’s decision on Keystone?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I got this question last week, and I would simply say that, as you know, the process of evaluating an application for a pipeline like Keystone because it crosses international boundaries is something that is undertaken by the State Department in keeping with longstanding procedures under administrations of both parties.  And that process is underway.  For status updates on it, I would refer you to the State Department, but I have nothing further for you on it from here.
 
Q    And also on the question of immigration, Senator Grassley and some other senators have said that they want to know from the Gang of Eight by the end of today exactly what’s going on.  They say that it’s time for transparency.  They don't want anything more to be behind closed doors.  Are you concerned that if everything gets out into the open too quickly that the cat could be out of the bag and that the whole thing could get derailed?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would simply point to the fact that the Gang of Eight, the so-called Gang of Eight, is comprised of an even mix of Democrats and Republicans who I’m quite sure are reporting and discussing issues -- reporting to and discussing issues with their leadership, and that they’ve made progress, as I think members of the Gang of Eight have stated clearly and publicly.
 
The procedures that take place on Capitol Hill and how this bill moves forward, I’ll leave to leaders there -- committee chairmen and the like.  Our focus is on helping that progress continue, to nudging it forward and having it conclude in a bill that represents or reflects the President’s principles and that can earn the support of Democrats and Republicans.
 
And again, as I've said earlier, we are encouraged by the progress that’s been made thus far.  And we are urging those senators involved in the process to keep it up and to bring it to conclusion. 
 
Donovan, last one.
 
Q    Thanks, Jay.  Quick question.  McClatchy has reported, citing Israeli and Palestinian officials, that the President when he was in the Middle East was able to persuade Israel to stop announcing new settlement activities, and also to persuade the Palestinians to stop taking unilateral actions at the U.N., for example, for two months to create a diplomatic window for Secretary of State Kerry to possibly renew talks based on the Saudi Arabia initiative from 11 years ago.  And I was curious if you could confirm those reports, and also talk to us about what he hopes to achieve there.
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, I cannot confirm that specific report, because I think what is true is simply what the President has long said and others have long said, which is that we discourage actively both sides from taking unilateral action that makes it more difficult to come together to negotiate over the issues that divide them, and to negotiate in a way that can bring them to peace.
 
That has long been the case, and I can absolutely confirm that the President repeated that message to both parties -- that unilateral actions are not helpful to moving towards peace.  But a specific construct like that, I cannot confirm.  I can simply say that that is our position, and remain -- has been and is our position.
 
Q    Did they agree, though, to this two-month window?
 
MR. CARNEY:  I would let the parties speak for themselves.  And again, I'm trying to be relatively clear here, which is that the -- I can't confirm a construct like that.  I can simply confirm that it is our position, and it is a position the President reflected in his conversations, that it is counterproductive for either side -- whether it's the Palestinians through the U.N., or the Israelis through settlement construction -- to take unilateral action that makes it more difficult to engage in constructive negotiations towards peace.
 
Thanks, everybody.
 
Q    Jay, we may have missed it -- North Korea.  Does the White House see any imminent threat of a nuclear missile launch at some point from North Korea?
 
MR. CARNEY:  Well, we have been taking prudent measures in response to the increased provocative behavior and rhetoric emanating from Pyongyang.  That is a matter of concern, and it is something that we obviously are in regular consultation about with our allies in Seoul and Tokyo, as well as with our partners around the region and the world.  I spoke earlier about our conversations with the Chinese and the Russians, asking them to use their influence with the North Koreans to get them to -- to persuade them to cease this kind of provocative behavior.
 
Having said that, I think it's important to note, as veterans of this issue from past administrations have made clear, that this is a pattern of behavior we have seen before.  And it has never achieved anything substantial for the North Korean people who continue to suffer from the decisions made by the regime to pursue a path that is in direct contradiction with their international obligations, and that comes at the expense of the health and welfare of the North Korean people.

Thanks, everybody.

END
1:45 P.M. EDT