AP's Matt Lee to State Dept: Is It Time To Recognize Things For What They Are And Not This "Fantasy"?

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From Wednesday's State Department press briefing:

MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And then the last one is – and every time this happens, the line comes out from people in this Administration and other governments as well, is that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and yet, it is. You also say this about other things too. You say you will never accept Crimea as a part of Russia. And yet, it is. Isn’t it time to recognize these things for what they are and not live in this illusion or fantasy where you pretend that things that are, are not?

ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The short answer is no.

QUESTION: No?

MR KIRBY: But I would challenge --

QUESTION: It’s preferable to live in a fantasy world?

MR KIRBY: I would challenge this idea that it’s a fantasy world. Just because – let me put it this way. At this level of foreign policy, you have to make choices. And you don’t have to accept everything --

QUESTION: You have to accept reality, though.

MR KIRBY: -- even at face value. No, you – we are not going to accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and we’re not going to recognize that. We are, however, going to deal with their efforts --

QUESTION: The fact that they are a nuclear-armed state.

MR KIRBY: -- their efforts at developing that program.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you understand my confusion? I know this – I think it’s illogical to say that you’re not going to recognize them as a nuclear-armed state when, in fact, they are and you are operating in a way --

MR KIRBY: We are certain --

QUESTION: -- to make them not a nuclear-armed state --

MR KIRBY: There’s a difference between --

QUESTION: -- something that you say you don’t recognize.

MR KIRBY: There is a difference between dealing with what we know they’re developing and what we know they’re doing, and officially accepting or recognizing it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: There’s a big difference there and you understand that better than most, Matt, about the difference there.

QUESTION: Well, I just think it – well, go ahead.

QUESTION: John, can I also follow up on this one? The White House said it was not surprised by this attack – I mean by this test. What signs have there been over the last months or weeks that the U.S. was not surprised at it, or was it the scale of it that might have taken you aback?

MR KIRBY: Well, that gets into intelligence issues. And I think you can understand, particularly in the case of North Korea, why we’re going to be reticent to talk about intelligence matters and capabilities.

QUESTION: So you were expecting this?

MR KIRBY: I won’t go any further than what my colleagues at the White House have gone in terms of --

QUESTION: And then I have --

MR KIRBY: -- level of knowledge. But look, it is – without getting into the specifics of this test and what we knew, when we knew it, to Matt’s point, however sharply made, that this is not – this kind of activity is not new for the regime nor is their pursuit of this kind of capability. It’s something that we watch as best we can and monitor as best we can.

Now, look, it’s also imperfect because this is an incredibly opaque regime about which we don’t have perfect knowledge. And intelligence is never a perfect science to begin with. It’s particularly challenging in a place like or with a regime like that of Kim Jong-un and his father. So it’s not perfect. But again, I just – I won’t go into – it wouldn’t be prudent for me to go into the specifics.

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