Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink And Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu On the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel to Japan, Republic of Korea, and India

MR TEK:  Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining our call previewing the Secretary’s upcoming travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and India.  Our call this morning will be on the record, and it is embargoed until its conclusion.

Joining us today are Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu. Our speakers will provide brief opening remarks, and then we’ll turn the floor over to your questions.  And so with that, I’d like to turn the floor over to our first speaker, Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink.  Sir, go ahead.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Thank you, Nathan.  And good morning, everyone.  Really appreciate all our friends in the media for joining us, especially so early in the day.  As we announced just a few minutes ago, the Secretary will be traveling to Tokyo and Seoul, following his visit to Israel and Jordan.

In Tokyo, the Secretary will attend the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.  Now, I don’t want to get too far ahead of our Japanese hosts or get into too many details about the G7 components of this stop, but I do want to note just how extremely pleased we are with Japan’s G7 host year.  I think Japan has been an outstanding chair.  Our Japanese friends have kept the G7 laser‑focused on the most pressing issues both globally and regionally, including Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war in Ukraine. With Japan’s leadership, the G7 has also made great strides in increasing our cooperation and coordination on India-Pacific related matters as well.

While in Tokyo, the Secretary will have separate meetings with Prime Minister Kishida and Foreign Minister Kamikawa.  We anticipate that discussions in those meetings will focus on events in the Middle East, support for Ukraine, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, a range of bilateral issues, and of course trilateral cooperation as well with the ROK, maintaining momentum following the historic trilateral Camp David summit. The U.S.-Japan alliance has served as the cornerstone to peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and across the world for over seven decades and has never been stronger.

The Secretary will then travel to Seoul for a series of bilateral engagements with President Yoon, Foreign Minister Park, and National Security Advisor Cho.  Discussions there we anticipate will focus on addressing the security implications of DPRK-Russia military cooperation, extended deterrence, and shared economic growth, on top of a range of other regional and global issues as well.

This year we celebrate 70 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance.  We were honored, of course, to welcome President Yoon to the United States in April for a state visit, during which we celebrated our achievements.  And of course, we look forward to the next 70 years in our alliance.  I can say with confidence our partnership with the ROK has never been stronger than today.  On almost every front and in almost every field we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Korean partners.

Now Japan and the ROK are two of our strongest and closest allies in their own right, but when we work together trilaterally, we are even stronger.  Prime Minister Kishida and President Yoon have both shown tremendous leadership and courage over the past year to bring their countries closer together.  Challenges in the Indo-Pacific, not least of which is the DRRK’s continued and reckless provocations in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, necessitate our three countries to work hand-in-hand on a broad range of issues, even beyond this North Korea threat.  We want to continue the momentum from the Camp David summit to build even greater cooperation going forward.

I’ll also add that the Secretary’s trip to the region demonstrates our enduring commitment to and focus on the Indo-Pacific, even amidst other global challenges.

I’ll stop here and hand it over to my good friend Assistant Secretary Don Lu to discuss the Secretary’s travel to India.  Over to you, Don.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  Thanks, Dan.  Good morning, colleagues.

Secretary Blinken will be in India on November 10.  He will be joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.  They will be traveling to India for the annual 2+2 Dialogue, in which they have extended discussions with their ministerial counterparts. The 2+2 Dialogue was created in 2018.  It allows our two countries to have high-level discussions about strategic and defense issues. In addition, the Secretary will hold meetings with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and other senior Indian officials.

This is a key part of the Secretary’s trip to Asia.  One of the many discussion points will be our cooperation with India to keep the Indo-Pacific free, open, prosperous, and secure.  The leaders will also discuss the conflict between Israel and Hamas and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

On Israel-Hamas, the Indian Government was direct in its condemnation of the Hamas terrorist attack and has also joined a chorus of nations, including the United States, that have called for sustained humanitarian access to Gaza.  With India, we share the goals of preventing this conflict from spreading, preserving stability in the Middle East, and advancing a two-state solution.

In recent years, a key part of the 2+2 Dialogue has also been defense co-production with India.  Our intention is to encourage more collaboration to produce world-class defense equipment to meet Indian defense needs and contribute to greater global security.

Finally, the four cabinet officials, our two secretaries and their counterparts, will also discuss our efforts to advance democracy and human rights, as well as our expanded cooperation in clean energy, counterterrorism, artificial intelligence, space, and semiconductor manufacture.  I’ll turn it back it over to Nathan.

MR TEK:  Thanks very much.  And just to offer what we can on the G7, the Secretary will participate in the second G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of 2023, where G7 foreign ministers will build on the commitments made by leaders at the G7 Hiroshima Summit.  Secretary Blinken will thank Japan for its successful G7 presidency.

The G7 Foreign Ministers’ meetings are important opportunities to demonstrate leadership on shared goals and values and to find new ways to collaborate on many international challenges.  Secretary Blinken is, once again, looking forward to the opportunity to engage with counterparts on a range of important issues, including the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and advancing an affirmative vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

With that, could our AT&T moderator please just repeat the questions for joining the question queue?   And we’ll open up the floor to questions.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Again, ladies and gentlemen on the phone lines, if you wish to ask a question today, please press 1 followed by the 0.  You’re going to hear a tone that acknowledges you’re queuing up.  And then you can take yourself out of the queue by pressing the 1, 0 command again.  Again for questions, please press 1, 0.  Now we’re going to go to the line of Shaun Tandon.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hey.  Good morning.  Thanks for doing this call.  Could I ask a question briefly to both of you?  To Don, I was wondering how much the India – the India-Canada row is going to figure in.  I mean, maybe it’s been a little bit less tense these days, but do you see any role for the United States beyond what it’s done so far in terms of helping move along relations between these two countries?  And where do you see things going now?

And I think this one is more for Don.  At the G7, obviously there’s been quite a bit of G7 unanimity regarding Ukraine.  How much unanimity are looking for regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict?  I’ve noticed that lots of the Secretary’s statements have been with his European colleagues and not necessarily with the Japanese, who are the hosts, although they’ve also made their own statements.  How much are you actually expecting a G7 statements regarding – or G7 unanimity regarding Israel-Hamas?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  Shaun, let me try to take that first part of the question.  So we have publicly and privately urged the Indian Government to cooperate with Canada on the investigation into the allegations made by Prime Minister Trudeau.  I know that we have been in constant contact with our Canadian partners, and we are hopeful that Canada’s investigation will proceed, and the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

MR TEK:  Thanks.  And Shaun —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  Nathan, do you want to take G7?

MR TEK:  Yeah, just on the G7 question, Shaun, we’re just not in a place where we’re going to want to get ahead of our principals and certainly not the Secretary on the meetings.  So we’ll have more to share as we get closer to Japan, and certainly we’ll have more to share after the meeting as well.

With that, could we please go to the line of Sang-ho Song from the Yonhap News Agency?

QUESTION:  Thank you very much for doing this.  And I have two questions.  One is, does Secretary Blinken have any plan in Seoul to make an official request to South Korea regarding additional military or humanitarian or other forms of assistance regarding the war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas militant group?

And my second question is, North Korea is preparing for what would be a third attempt to launch a spy satellite.  And would there be any discussion on this front?  And would there be any discussion regarding matters to respond to that launch if that happens, because the response should be different as it would come in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions and amid the international condemnation.  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Thanks very much for your questions.  Look, here’s what I would say: we’ve been incredibly gratified by the number of Asian allies and partners who have stepped up to meet the challenge posed by Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion – further invasion of Ukraine, and that’s certainly included our Korean allies.  We’ve been incredibly gratified by the range of steps that Seoul has taken and the really unprecedented assistance that Korea has provided, again, to assist our friends in Ukraine and to counter this threat that Russia’s invasion poses to the entire rules-based international order.  And I’m confident that such pressing global matters will feature prominently on Secretary Blinken’s agenda while he’s in Seoul.

On the other part of your question, it’s only natural that the Secretary and his Korean counterparts will also discuss, I think, the continued and growing threat posed by a range of North Korean actions, particularly its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  I just want to underscore here that I’m confident the Secretary will reiterate our ironclad commitment to the security of our Korean and our Japanese allies and our unshakeable commitment to working with our partners to counter this threat.  We will take robust steps in terms of our military preparedness in cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo, and we’ll continue to strictly implement a range of UN Security Council resolutions, again, to counter the North Korean threat.  Thank you.

MR TEK:  Thanks so much.  Can we please go the line of David Brunnstrom from Reuters?

QUESTION:  Yes, hi.  Thank you very much for doing this.  I wonder if I could follow up on the G7 question.  I mean, how confident are you you’re going to be able to get a robust joint statement on Israel-Hamas?  And I ask because we’re hearing that Japan has insisted on a balanced response despite pressure to fall in line with U.S. efforts for a more pro-Israel stance.  Does the G7 see eye-to-eye on this?

And also, I’m just wondering how much of the Asia leg of this trip will be – how much there will be for some preparation for the APEC meeting coming up.  Thank you.

MR TEK:  I’m happy to take the first part of that question, and David, just again to reiterate, we’re just not in a position to get ahead of the discussions going on that will happen in Japan.  We’ll certainly have more to share later on.  There’s no question that the G7 is an important forum for addressing critical global challenges like the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but we’re just not able to get – say anymore beyond that.

A/S Kritenbrink, I don’t know if you want to comment on the APEC portion of that question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, no, David, I really appreciate the question.  I would just say a couple of things to reiterate what I said at the top.  I do think that the Secretary’s trip to the region really does underscore our enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific.  I think that’s been demonstrated through the range of actions the United States has taken recently and the range of visits, quite frankly, we’ve hosted here in Washington including the second U.S. Pacific Island Forum Summit that the President hosted recently at the White House, the state visit he opened – he hosted, rather, for Australian Prime Minister Albanese last week, and, of course, our hosting of the Chinese Director and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

And certainly, we’re very much looking forward to hosting APEC in San Francisco later this month, which, again, I think just further proves our commitment to and focus on this vital region.  And I’m confident that a general discussion of APEC preparations will feature on the agenda for the Secretary’s upcoming trip as well.

MR TEK:  Thank you so much.  Can we please go to the line of Ryo Kiyomiya from Asahi Shimbun?

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you so much.  So Secretary will visit Japan, South Korea, and India after he visited Israel and Jordan because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and now U.S. confronts (inaudible) including Middle East and Europe.  So what kind of messages would Secretary deliver regarding the U.S. commitment to Asia, especially during this ongoing war in Middle East and Ukraine?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Yeah, no, thanks very much for the question.  I’ll just reiterate my comments that I made just a moment ago and in the opening.  We remain laser-focused on the Indo-Pacific.  Peace and security across the Indo-Pacific region will remain central, will remain vital to America’s own peace and prosperity and security in the coming century.  I think we’ve demonstrated that through the range of steps we’ve taken over the last three years, not to mention the last several decades.  And certainly, I think the fact that the Secretary is again traveling to the region, even amidst these global challenges, just further reinforces that point.

And of course, as I mentioned a moment ago, there have been a range of steps just in the last few weeks, including here in Washington, that further demonstrate our enduring commitment to this vital region.

Don, did you want to add anything to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  Nope, you got it just right, Dan.  Thanks.

MR TEK:  Great.  Can we please go to the line of Nike Ching from Voice of America?

QUESTION:  Good morning.  Thank you very much for this phone briefing.  On North Korea, I would like to ask if the United States have an assessment to North Korea’s closing several embassies.  Do you think it’s a sign of domestic, economic problems?

And separately, I understand Secretary Blinken has met with South Korean Foreign Minister PJ and President Yoon in other locations, but for – is this – would this be his first face-to-face meeting with both President Yoon and Foreign Minister PJ in Seoul?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Hey, Nike.  Thanks – thanks very much for both of your questions.  Look, on North Korea’s embassies, I think that it’s probably safer that I don’t speculate on the reasons for these closures that we’ve seen in the press.  I’ve seen some of the speculation in the press.  I really don’t have a comment on that, even though we’ve certainly noted it.

On the second question, look, I’d say two things.  First, the U.S.-ROK alliance has never been stronger, and you’ve seen this unprecedented pace of activity and cooperation really, again, at an unprecedented level over the last few years.  I do know that the Secretary, I believe on his first overseas trip as the Secretary of State, visited Seoul.  I believe this will be his first trip to Seoul since then.  Obviously, the President was there last year for a really historic state visit shortly after President Yoon’s election, and then the President was honored to host President Yoon here as well.  So as you noted, the Secretary has met with President Yoon and Foreign Minister Park Jin multiple times, but I do think this will actually be the first time for them to meet in Seoul.  I know the Secretary is very much looking forward to this trip.

MR TEK:  Thank you so much.  Can we please go to the line of Jonhyung Cho from the ROK?

QUESTION:  Hi.  Can you listen to me?


QUESTION:  Okay, okay.  The assistant secretary just said that Russia’s growing military cooperation with the DPRK is going to be on the agenda of Secretary Blinken’s East Asia – visit to East Asia.  What kind of specific actions are you going to talk with South Korean and Japan partners in order to punish and deter arms transport between North Korea and Russia?  Thank you very much.  I’m Yonhap News Agency.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Yeah, thanks – thanks very much.  Look, I think I noted the depth of our concern by this increased cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang.  It’s something that we, together with our partners and allies in the region and other partners around the world, are tracking very closely.  And as I said at the top, we will take a range of steps – we will continue to take a range of steps to counter the threat posed by the DPRK.  Our security commitments to our Korean and Japanese allies remains ironclad, and we will also continue to take a number of steps to hold accountable these actions that we believe violate not just UN Security Council resolutions, but also pose a threat to peace and stability.  Thank you.

MR TEK:  Thanks.  And we’ve got time for just one more question and that will go to Iain Marlow from Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hey, thanks, guys, for doing this.  One quick one for Don and then a slightly longer one for Dan.  You guys just had Wang Yi here in Washington for a pretty extensive conversation.

For Don, I’m just wondering how China will feature in the conversation you guys have to plan – or sorry, that you guys plan to have in New Delhi, and – both in terms of the geopolitical stuff and also defense.

And for Dan, is there anything you can tell us about what you’ll be telling Asian allies with regard to those conversations with Wang Yi and U.S. China ties more broadly ahead of this planned leaders’ summit later this month?  Of course, there’s been a lot of meetings, and not a lot of the fundamentals in the U.S.-China relationship have changed since the Secretary went on that icebreaking trip back in June.  We’ve seen increasingly dangerous intercepts, which were precisely the thing that were on the agenda back then.

And I’m just wondering – the overall relationship still looks very fragile – is there any pressure or interest coming from Asian allies, including the ones you’ll meet on this trip, to see more sort of concrete improvement in terms of U.S.-China relations?  I know that’s not specifically just up to you guys on this, it’s the Chinese side as well, but is there any push from them that you’re expecting to hear on this trip in terms of the overall U.S.-China relationship?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  Iain, let me try to take the first part of that.  So absolutely, as I mentioned, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in terms of our efforts to support a free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific is very much formally on the agenda.  I think we will be interested to hear how India’s discussions with China are going related to border issues, and I’m sure our Indian counterparts will be very interested to hear about Wang Yi’s visit to the United States and the announced meeting between President Biden and President Xi at the APEC Summit.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Iain, on your broader question to me about recent U.S.-China interactions, I would underscore that our approach to China remains consistent.  We remain focused on our “invest, align, compete” strategy with the PRC, and I agree with you, Iain, that the fundamentals of the U.S.-China relationship have not changed.

As we outline, however, I think the goals of our diplomacy remain very clear, and I think that our diplomacy vis-à-vis the PRC has been welcomed by our partners.  And I think it’s been welcomed because partners like the United – just like the United States believe that the responsible management of the U.S.-China relationship and the responsible management of our competition is really critically important to peace and stability across the region.

As you saw during Wang Yi’s visit, the Secretary discussed a range of issues.  He was very clear about the concerns we have regarding PRC actions related to issues in the maritime domain and on other issues related to human rights.  We had very candid exchanges on a range of important international matters, including Israel, Gaza, Russia, Ukraine, and the Korean Peninsula as well.  And we also explored areas where we can potentially cooperate with Beijing, where our interests overlap.

That kind of, I think, clear-eyed and realistic approach is something that is very much welcomed by partners across the region.  I think partners across the region want to see the United States engaged and committed to the region.  They want to see us acting to support and buttress the rules-based international order and counter any challenges that are posed to that order.  But they also want to see us, again, responsibly managing our competition with China.  So we’re going to continue to stay the course.  Those are the goals that we’ve outlined for our diplomacy with Beijing, and we’ll continue to pursue that going forward.

But I will also underscore, Iain, that our commitment to the Indo-Pacific remains enduring, and the fundamental focus of our diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific remains strengthening our ties with allies, partners, and friends and growing their collective capacity, our shared capacity to support the rules-based international order.  Thanks very much.

MR TEK:  Thanks so much.  And that does unfortunately conclude our time for questions.  I’d just like to check with our speakers if they’d like to offer any sort of concluding remarks.  Otherwise, we can wrap up.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  No, thank you, Nathan.  And thanks again to all of our friends in the press for joining us so early in the morning.  Really looking forward to this important trip by the Secretary, and we particularly look forward to talking with you afterwards to discuss the results as well.  Thank you.

MR TEK:  Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LU:  I just hope to see some of you out there on the trip.

MR TEK:  Excellent.  Thank you so much, everyone, for joining our call this morning.  As a reminder, this call was on the record and is embargoed until its conclusion, which is now.  Thank you all for joining us, and have a great rest of your day.  Thanks.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS