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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Preview of the State Visit of People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping

Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink
Washington, DC
September 22, 2015




2:00 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: (In progress) you. My name is Orna Blum. I’m the Director of the Washington Foreign Press Centers here. I’d like to welcome you very much, as well as for folks at the New York Foreign Press Center, who will be joining us via DVC. Today we have a preview of the state visit of the People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping. Today’s briefers, as you know, are National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink --

MR KRITENBRINK: Good afternoon.

MODERATOR: -- and the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel. We’ll begin with statements from each of our briefers and then we’ll follow up, and I’ll be pleased to moderate questions. So as one final reminder, thank you for either turning off your phones or putting them on vibrate, and with that, I turn it over to you, director. Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Great. Thank you, Orna. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Dan Kritenbrink. I’m the new Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. It’s an honor to be here, an honor to have this job, and I’m particularly pleased to be here for my first event at the Foreign Press Center. Thank you very much for participating in this briefing. I obviously have tremendous respect for all of you in the press, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about President Xi’s September 24-25 state visit to Washington D.C.

Today I plan to briefly walk you through the program for President Xi’s visit, situate his visit within our broader strategy, and then I’ll ask my friend, colleague, and mentor, Assistant Secretary Danny Russel, to provide brief framing comments, after which we’ll take your questions.

Okay, just a brief overview of the program. President Xi will arrive in Washington on the afternoon of September 24. That evening, President Obama and President Xi will have a private dinner, similar to the meal that they had at Sunnylands, at Yingtai last November. I expect they will use that meal for a strategic-level discussion on their respective priorities and visions for the future of our bilateral relationship.

President Obama and Mrs. Obama will host President Xi and Madam Peng Liyuan for a state visit on September 25. That program will begin, as you know, with an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn followed by meetings in the White House and then a joint press conference. From there, Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry will host President Xi and Madam Peng at the State Department for a state lunch. The President and Mrs. Obama will then host President Xi and Madam Peng for a state dinner at the White House that evening.

I wanted to say just a brief word about the context in which President Xi’s important state visit will take place. President Xi’s visit is an important element of our broader Asia engagement strategy for 2015. As my boss, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, said in her important speech on China yesterday at George Washington University, “Pursuing a productive relationship with China is a critical element of our larger strategy for the Asia Pacific.” In fact, President Xi’s visit follows Prime Minister Abe’s successful state visit in April and Vietnam General Secretary Trong’s historic visit to the White House this summer. In October, we will welcome President Park and President Widodo to the White House, and then in November, President Obama will visit the Philippines and Malaysia for APEC and the EAS. The high tempo of leader-level engagement with Asian leaders reflects the President’s commitment to advancing his rebalancing strategy. As the saying goes, if you want to understand where the White House places its priorities, pay attention to where the President spends his time. The President’s time is the most valuable commodity in Washington, and the President has invested it in advancing his rebalancing strategy.

Our rebalancing strategy is based on the recognition that Asia is the most dynamic region on the planet. The President has directed that our resources and attention should reflect our determination to shape the future of the region in accordance with our vital interests across the region. We are systematically implementing a regional strategy to enhance security, expand prosperity, reinforce a rules-based order, and advance human dignity. We do so via a variety of means, including through close cooperation with our treaty allies, as well as by forging new partnerships with emerging regional powers and by investing in regional institutions. That strategy is already paying dividends through increased trade, closer security ties, and more concerted action on global challenges.

Our strategy vis-a-vis China is, of course, another key pillar of our strategy for the Asia Pacific region. At the same time that we are deepening our relationships across the region, we also are maintaining a high tempo of senior-level engagement with China. This will be the fifth meeting between President Obama and President Xi in the last three years. I expect both leaders will have chances to engage further in 2016 as well. And in between those meetings, there have been phone calls, exchanges of letters, and visits by each other’s senior advisors. In other words, President Xi’s visit fits within a dense continuum of bilateral presidential-level engagement. In fact, President Obama has met with his Chinese counterparts more than any president in the history of the U.S.-China relationship. This has been a deliberate and conscious decision. It is a recognition of the fact that leader-level engagement with China is where problems get solved, business gets done, and agreements on cooperation get reached.

It also has supported a structural strengthening of the bilateral relationship. We now take mechanisms like the annual Strategic & Economic Dialogue for granted, as well as the sustained and substantive nature of our bilateral military-to-military interactions, the regularity of exchanges between our health experts and scientists, and the constancy of communication between our diplomats. These channels do not solve problems in the bilateral relationship on their own, but they do create space for solutions to emerge and for opportunities for enhanced cooperation to become apparent. As Ambassador Rice said in her speech yesterday, it is determined, constant engagement that has allowed us to reach important agreements and to manage our differences. And that will be on display this week when President Xi visits Washington. I expect both leaders will use the opportunity of the state visit to address sources of tension and to work to consolidate and deepen existing cooperation and build out new areas for coordination.

If I could just make a few additional comments on our China policy – the best exposition of our China policy, of course, was Ambassador Rice’s speech yesterday. I highly commend it to you. She again said that our focus is on steadily and methodically expanding our cooperation while not shying away from pressing our concerns over our very real differences. We obviously take a balanced and clear-eyed approach to our relationship with China. The methodical leader-level engagement that I have been discussing here today since the start of this Administration has led to important progress on issues that matter to Americans: the climate breakthrough last November, close coordination on Iran, nearly a doubling of U.S. exports to China and a tenfold increase in Chinese investment in the United States, increased cooperation on clean energy solutions, coordination on Afghanistan, to name but a few examples. The United States and China also continue their close cooperation on the North Korean nuclear issue, and are working to bring North Korea back to the path of denuclearization.

While we’ll continue to engage China to contribute more to addressing global challenges, we also will not lose sight of the trend lines of our cooperation. The simple truth is that our two countries are cooperating in more meaningful ways on a more diverse set of issues than ever before. Even as we welcome this growing cooperation, we continue to be exceptionally candid in addressing sources of tension in the bilateral relationship. Whether on human rights, maritime issues, unfair economic practices, or cyber issues, we have real differences with China. We don’t try to hide them; we don’t paper over them.

The same will be true when President Obama hosts President Xi. They’ll pick up on their ongoing conversation on their respective priorities and concerns. The candor of their conversations with each other will be a reflection of their shared commitment to working to push forward our bilateral relationship, because the simple reality is that we will need to make progress together in both expanding our practical cooperation and narrowing our differences so that our relationship can reach its potential. That’s the challenge ahead of us, and that will be the central focus of the state visit.

So with that, I’d like now to turn to my friend and colleague Assistant Secretary Danny Russel to expand on some of these issues in his remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Great. Well, thank you, Dan. I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. I thought that that was a really terrific and clear overview. Thank you. And I want to begin by acknowledging how happy I am and how honored I am to have Dan Kritenbrink as a colleague in this important role as the Special Assistant to the President for Asia. I think we make a great team, along with our third colleague in the Defense Department, Dave Shear. I’m proud to be a member of that team.

The challenge of engineering a productive and a stable relationship with China is a critical element of our broader Asia Pacific strategy. Now, I’ve been here and talked through the rebalance and the elements that comprise it again and again, and I’m not going to rehash that. But when we take a look around and ask ourselves where things stand, I think the three things that really come to mind are, one, that collectively and over time we’ve made the rebalance real. It is a permanent element of U.S. strategic engagement because it’s rooted in a clear-eyed view of the U.S. national interest. We’re a Pacific nation.

President Xi Jinping’s just arrived in Seattle on the West Coast. I think it’s very, very appropriate that he begins his trip there. It’s not only an acknowledgment of the fact that China’s extraordinary economic growth is a direct function of trade with the United States, but I see it also as an acknowledgment that he, like the rest of the region, recognizes and accepts that America is, of course, a Pacific nation, and our Pacific destiny is inextricably intertwined with the well-being and the future of the countries of the Asia Pacific.

I think in that same vein, the rebalance clearly has achieved a kind of balance, if you will, or a distribution in terms of the allocation of mindshare and effort and investment across the spectrum of security, economic, diplomatic, political, people-to-people activities, as well as a geographic distribution when it comes to our engagement with northeast Asia, with southeast Asia, with the Pacific islands, and in fact, with India and the Indo-Pacific corridor as well.

Secondly, I think that right now we have a record demonstrating that the United States and our engagement with China and with the region remains true to our values. We are working and we will not stop working to promote healthy and balanced integration of a rising China in the global system, in an international and regional system based on rules, based on dialogue, based on compromise, and based on universal principles – not American values, universal principles.

And thirdly, I think that, of course, the visit of President Xi comes at a time when the resilience of the U.S. economy is clearly on display. The ability of the U.S. to innovate and to grow its way out of a significant recession is one important point. I think that the imminent completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP, represents an impending major step forward in the promotion of a rules-based order and in promoting shared growth here.

Now, when it comes to the U.S. and China, it’s fair to say that we have an immensely complex relationship, an important relationship that’s anchored in the commitment of the two presidents to prevent a descent into strategic rivalry and to ensure that we’re working to reconcile our respective legitimate interests.

This relationship is one of interdependence, not of zero-sum, and our cooperation is going to be a major determinant of how successful we can be in contributing to the solution of global problems. That’s the very reason, as Dan pointed out, that this will be President Obama’s fifth face-to-face meeting with President Xi Jinping. I’ve lost count, but maybe we’re above 20 in terms of President Obama’s meetings with Chinese leaders.

MR. KRITENBRINK: I bet so.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: And it’s clear that high-level engagement is – remains a critical element in achieving our goals and keeping the relationship on a sustainable and a positive track. As always, we use this and other high-level visits as a backstop, a kind of fulcrum for engineering practical progress on the ongoing work of governments. And we have multiple areas of cooperation – global, regional, bilateral areas. Dan mentioned a number of important ones: counter-proliferation, Iran and DPRK; global economy and bilateral trade and investment. But there are many others: global health and the aftermath of the Ebola crisis; certainly climate, as I think you mentioned – renewable, clean energy, but the building out from the landmark agreement the two presidents reached in November of last year heading toward the important international conference, [Conference of Parties] COP21, that will be held in Paris in the beginning of December; peacekeeping and cooperation in international organizations, as befits two permanent members of the Security Council in the run-up to the UN General Assembly; Afghanistan and other hotspots; development and humanitarian assistance; the work that our two militaries are doing in promoting cooperation, communication, and good de-confliction practices; and importantly, people-to-people and educational exchanges, which form an important underpinning to the bilateral relationship.

But importantly, as Dan pointed out and as the National Security Advisor made very, very clear at George Washington University yesterday, we’re also digging down on the problem areas, and that’s going to be, I predict, a very significant dimension of the upcoming summit. We are not just monitoring areas of friction; we are working to reduce or eliminate them. We do not paper over our differences with China on important issues. We don’t barter Chinese cooperation on global issues for our acquiescence on fundamental matters of principle. We’re not trading China’s help in the region or in international affairs in exchange for a willingness to turn a blind eye to behavior that is clearly problematic. It doesn’t happen. And the converse is also true: we don’t refuse to cooperate or withhold cooperation from China on the areas where we can be helpful as a way of expressing our indignation over problems.

It is true, however, that because we are a democracy, our ability – the political space that makes it possible for any administration, not just this one, to extend full cooperation to China on the range of issues is circumscribed by unabated problematic behavior when that occurs. And look, we have serious differences. We have differences about what constitutes acceptable behavior in cyber space. We have differences on what constitutes acceptable behavior in maritime space, particularly in the South China Sea and in the not-too-distant past in the East China Sea; on human rights and on the treatment of civil society, including our own NGOs and charities and foundations and groups and journalists; as well as on financial and regulatory policy.

But the point I would like to make, and I think what will come across clearly as the two leaders again meet to consult and to confer, is that confronting the problem areas and engaging on what we consider to be problematic behavior by China is not containing China. It is not a hostile policy. To the contrary, it is a key to ensuring stable relations, not only between China and the United States but between China and all of its neighbors.

Thank you. Over to you, Orna.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, gentlemen. I’d like to remind everyone --

MR. KRITENBRINK: (Laughter.) Wow, that’s exciting.

MODERATOR: I’m glad there’s so much enthusiasm. (Laughter.) I’d like to remind everyone to please state your name as well as the outlet that you’re representing. For those of you in New York, please kindly step to the podium or the microphone so that I can see you and we’ll call on folks in due time. And I will try to work my way around the room. I don’t know you all right now, so I’m going to do my best. But thank you very much.

Let’s start with you.

QUESTION: Hi, Melissa Sim from The Straits Times in Singapore. Just any chance you could preview any announcements that will be coming up in the next few days, and also any comments on the arms control accord for cyber space that was reported in the New York Times today? Thank you.

MR. KRITENBRINK: Great. Could I take an initial stab at those? So one is previewing an announcement and the other you said is the arms control accord in New York Times. I’m reluctant to preview any announcements before they’re announced – (laughter) – and I want to leave that to our two presidents, who hopefully will have something to say on the outcomes of their discussions on Friday afternoon when they do their joint press conference.

But could I just build on a little bit of what I said and what Danny said about some of the areas where we’re working? I think the general way that I’ve looked at this visit and this point in time in our relationship is I think we’re building on a number of areas where we’ve had prior cooperation, including at last November’s state visit, and we want to build out further from that.

I think the two presidents will spend a good deal of time talking about climate, as Danny said, on the road to Paris. And I think what we’re trying to work toward is making sure that we are the two – the world’s two largest economies, consumers of energy, and emitters of carbon are closely coordinating to combat climate change, including in the context of the Paris talks. We want to make sure that we have an understanding of our respective national policies and the actions we can take to, again, contribute to the fight to combat climate change and other areas where we can cooperate. So that will be an area that they will discuss, but I will save any comment on what may or may not be announced for when there’s something to say on that.

I think there are a broad range of other areas. We are cooperating on a range of global challenges, from global health, building on our cooperation in West Africa to fight Ebola. I think you can expect that, given the importance of clarity, transparency, and confidence between our two militaries, I think you can expect that to be an important area of conversation. And I’m hopeful that we can make further progress in that area.

I know that last November there was a lot of excitement around the announcement on the extension of visa validity between our two countries. And so we hope to continue to build on that kind of people-to-people cooperation. I’m hopeful that we can make some progress there. Those are a few areas.

You asked about the arms control story in the New York Times. This is in the context of cyber, as I understand it. I don’t really have anything to say on that, other than I do just want to underscore a comment that Danny made earlier. Ambassador Susan Rice, I think, was very clear on this yesterday in her speech. President Obama has been quite candid and clear in his remarks in recent days. We have fundamental concerns with certain Chinese actions in cyber space. Particularly, Chinese state-sponsored, cyber-enabled theft of U.S. companies’ intellectual property and trade secrets for the benefit of Chinese companies is something that is simply unacceptable and has to stop. And that will be a key issue, I think, discussed between the two presidents. It’s difficult for me to say right now whether or not progress will be made on that issue, but that will certainly be a key issue of discussion. And I hope that answers your question.

Do you want to add anything to that, Danny?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Yeah, I do. Just on the second part of your question, and at risk of inserting a personal opinion, I find it a little bit misleading to read and people talking about our engagement with the Chinese on the challenge of regulating cyber space and protecting our respective interest as arms control. I think that sets it up as a more adversarial, almost military enterprise than it really is.

To me, the closer analogy is the cooperation that the U.S. and China built in the ‘90s on nonproliferation, because the challenges of cyber space threaten all countries. Increasingly in an internet economy and in a knowledge economy and in a digital economy, we cannot afford to have our intellectual property and our critical infrastructure put at risk. And governments, frankly, have a clear responsibility in cyber space. So it is, I think, not exclusively an issue of what the governments do as opposed to what private actors do. But it is very much an issue of the governments acting on their responsibility to safeguard and to prevent the use of cyber space in ways that are inconsistent with acceptable practice or international law.

Now, you will have seen the interview that Xi Jinping gave in the Wall Street Journal, in which he stated very clearly that cyber intrusion, cyber attacks are illegal in China, that the government doesn’t abet it. To me, that’s a positive signal. And I know that we, like others, will be looking for evidence that the Chinese Government is pursuing policies based on those principles.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Donghui Yu with China Review News Agency of Hong Kong. And we know last time when Prime Minister Abe came to this town he was taken by President Obama to Lincoln Memorial. I’m wondering whether or where that President Xi will be taken to this time in the evening of 24. And can we expect a joint statement between the two countries or just a unilateral – separate, unilateral statement? Thank you.

MR. KRITENBRINK: Sure. Let me take a stab at answering both of those. I don’t have anything to offer you right now on the location of the dinner of September 24. But again, the goal is to create an intimate and somewhat informal atmosphere where the two leaders can have a strategic discussion, just as they’ve done in the past. And I anticipate we’ll have more to say on that as we get closer to the visit.

You asked as well – I’m sorry, your second question?

QUESTION: Joint statement.

MR. KRITENBRINK: Joint statement. I think that what you’ll see – what our objective is for this state visit is to largely recreate the way that we announced our outcomes and described our discussions at last November’s state visit. So I think you’ll see – on the U.S. side I think you’ll see our presidents making comments in the joint press conference. I think you’ll see the United States issue a series of fact sheets announcing some of the outcomes. And beyond that, we’ll have to see whether there is any kind of a joint statement.

But what I would say, we don’t have any plans to issue a grand joint statement on the overall bilateral relationship as you’ve sometimes seen in the past. So there are no plans to do that. Hope that answers your question.

MODERATOR: Let’s work our way around. Let’s start in the middle.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jemin Son with Kyunghyang Daily News [of South Korea]. Susan Rice yesterday said the two leaders will sharpen Pyongyang’s choices between nuclear arms and economic development. I wanted to ask you how the two leaders will sharpen Pyongyang’s choices between launching satellites between and nothing – doing nothing.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Right. Well --

MR KRITENBRINK: Go ahead.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Both nations and both leaders have an abiding interest in the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the summit is an opportunity for them publicly to reaffirm that unshakeable commitment. By the same token, both leaders – in fact, all five of the partner countries in the Six-Party Talks process – entered a solemn commitment to North Korea that subject to its irreversible steps to denuclearize and to come into compliance with its obligations and its commitments, the partners would assist North Korea in a variety of ways ranging from work on a peace arrangement to replace and supersede the armistice, to diplomatic normalization, to economic assistance. And heaven knows North Korea needs it.

The misguided policies of pursuing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in direct contravention of international law has caused immense deprivation to the people of North Korea, and the development gap between North and South is huge and continues to grow. The confluence of strategic interests between China and the United States – and I’d add between China, the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Russia – are such that we are even more steadfast in our insistence that North Korea halt, roll back, and ultimately relinquish its nuclear stockpile and its ballistic missile program.

But we are equally firm in our commitment to extend a helping hand to North Korea, to the North Korean people, in their effort to recover their lost economic capabilities and to support both inter-Korean reconciliation and development in the North, but to do so only as a function of North Korea’s implementing through credible and verifiable steps its denuclearization commitments.

MODERATOR: Okay, a kind reminder to those in New York before we continue is that if you have a question, please step forward. Did you have something –

MR KRITENBRINK: Great. Could I just add just one comment? Again, to reiterate, I do think that this will be one of the key issues discussed between President Obama and President Xi, and I anticipate they will spend substantial time discussing it in private. And hopefully, I would imagine that it would also be a subject of the joint press conference on the 25th as well.

MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s go to the back (inaudible). Raise your hand. I’m trying to do my best to work around the room (inaudible).

QUESTION: Hi. Ruth Sherlock from the [UK’s] Daily Telegraph. Yeah, I was wondering if you could expand a little bit more on the key challenges in intellectual property theft and cyber space. What are the numbers that we’re looking at in America and potential repercussions for that? There was some talk of the Treasury Department imposing sanctions. Is that something that’s going to be floated during this visit? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Sure, I’d be happy to expand on that a bit. Again, as the President and Ambassador Rice and others have made clear, this is truly a critical issue to the United States. This is not a minor irritant in the bilateral relationship. This has become one of the most important issues, unfortunately, between the United States and China. And I think the point that the President is trying to make is that this is a national security issue. It’s also an issue key to the future health of our economy, which is increasingly a knowledge-based economy.

The President has made clear that all countries collect information in the name of their national security. What we are pointing out is that for a state to steal information involving the propriety trade secrets, intellectual property, or other information of a foreign company and then provide it to its own companies for their economic benefit is something that we find unacceptable and outside the norms of acceptable state behavior. And that is why it has been such a focus of our discussions and why it will continue to be so.

I think the President has made clear that there are a range of options available to him. He’s also made clear that he’s determined to make sure that we continue to act in defense of our interests in this area. I know that it’s something that’s been discussed between our two presidents before. I’m confident it will be discussed again. And again, the goal is to try to get this sort of behavior to stop. I hope that’s useful.

Do you want to add anything to that, Dan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: It’s good.

MR KRITENBRINK: Okay.

MODERATOR: Okay. I’d like to – yes, sir, to my right.

QUESTION: Hi. Diao Haiyang with China News Service [of China]. I have a question on BIT. Can we expect any progress of this round of the meeting between both leaders on [the Bilateral Investment Treaty] BIT? And if not, what is – we have tens of rounds of discussions on this. So if not, what – where are we now? Are we close to finalize the agreement, or we have a long way to go? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Yeah, thank you very much for that. Let me take an initial stab at it. I mean, what I would say on the BIT is first of all, the U.S. Trade Representative is, of course, in charge of those negotiations. But I think, as Ambassador Froman has said, that it really – it’s the substance that will drive the timing of any potential agreement there. I think we remain in intensive discussions on the issue, and I would encourage you to watch carefully to see what may come from the President’s discussions this week. But I don’t have anything for you in detail on timing or detailed progress.

QUESTION: John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. I have a Taiwan question, actually.

MR KRITENBRINK: I think that’s my mike, or maybe it’s yours. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: With the Taiwan presidential elections scheduled for like four months away and the DPP candidate poised at this time to win, how would the Taiwan issue fare in the Obama-Xi summit? What is the bottom line of the U.S. position on the Taiwan issue? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Thank you. I’d be happy to address that – (laughter) – and I’d be happy to let – Danny, if you don’t mind, I just wanted to say a couple of things. First of all, we respect Taiwan’s democratic process; we will not interfere in it. And as Ambassador Rice made clear yesterday, our longstanding position on cross-strait issues remains unchanged. The U.S. One-China policy based on both three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act remains unchanged. Our fundamental interest is in cross-strait stability. Those key elements there, those are our bottom lines. Those will not change. And any discussion on Taiwan cross-strait issues between our two presidents will take place along those lines.

Danny, I’m sorry, did you want to add to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: It’s normal for a senior Chinese official or a Chinese leader to raise Taiwan in a bilateral meeting with the U.S. And we will always make clear when the issue arises that we place great importance on the maintenance of stability across the strait, that we respect, as Dan said, the right of the people on Taiwan to exercise democratic rights, and we’ll continue to counsel restraint on the part of Beijing in order to maintain and to build trust and stability there.

QUESTION: Gregory Ho from Radio Free Asia, [United States]. The first question is to the national security advisor. A follow-up on the sanction issue: Are we confident that we can win the war on cyber space with China? If we really pushed a sanction after the visit, are you confident in that we can win the war?

Second question is to Mr. Secretary Danny. Since tomorrow you are going to meet the father of Hong Kong democracy, Mr. Martin Lee, and young leader Joshua Wong, who was the student leader for the umbrella movement last year. So I’m not sure whether Hong Kong will pay an issue or – during the Obama and Xi’s visit since the day that China has talking so much about the chief executive of Hong Kong should be transcend above the law, which in other words, they – he can be above the law. Will American voice the Hong Kong issue that will benefit American interests and business for a rule-based society that should – that no one should be above the law, including the chief executive? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Let me address your first question on cyber. Again, I think the key here for us is we want to keep a focus on what we believe is the source of this problem. And again, as I’ve said, that’s Chinese state-sponsored cyber-enabled theft of American companies’ intellectual property and trade secrets for the benefit of Chinese companies. I think that’s where the focus needs to remain. I think that we have tried to demonstrate very clearly that this is a serious economic and national security issue for the United States, and I anticipate that’s exactly the message that President Obama will convey to President Xi when they meet face to face. As I mentioned, I think the President has made clear there are a range of options available to him going forward. But again, the focus needs to be on the source of the problem. And our objective is to try to resolve the problem.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: On Hong Kong – look, I meet with a wide spectrum of representatives and voices from – throughout China, including Hong Kong. I’ve known Martin Lee for years, and when prominent figures from Chinese society visit the United States and I’m in town, I’m happy to meet with them.

The United States, like the international community, watches with great care the developments in Hong Kong. It matters greatly to us that the authorities in Beijing honor their commitments under the basic law and work to promote a high degree of autonomy for the people of Hong Kong. This is an area of focus, and we will continue to encourage all parties in Hong Kong to work towards that common purpose.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s Jennifer Chen, reporter with Shenzhen Media Group (SZMG), China. I would like to know, during President Xi’s visit in D.C., will be possible for both president consider and discuss a concrete, strategic plan for the better – I mean, long term, maybe three of five years – for better narrow down the differences on the areas like South China Sea or cyber space? Thanks.

MR KRITENBRINK: Well, certainly that would be our objective. And I think it really is important to underscore the importance of these kind of leader-level strategic discussions. I think that’s particularly important with respect to the dinner on the night of the 24th. I think in that atmosphere, in a smaller, more intimate, informal setting, that’s precisely the kind of conversation that we hope our two presidents will have and that I think they will have. I think it will build on the previous conversations they’ve had at Sunnylands and Yingtai.

This is an investment in this relationship and in its long-term health. And I think you have to build through each interaction, and I think we can do that, we hope to do that by having our two presidents understand one another. And the goal though that kind of interaction is to take a step back under slightly less time pressure and to be able to talk broadly. What are our strategic objectives in our foreign policy? What are some of our priorities in terms of our respective domestic policies that help drive us forward? And then to take that to the next level and to get at the areas where there may be misunderstandings. And that’s what you hope to do. That’s what we hope to do. And over time you can – through that enhanced mutual understanding and an understanding of one another’s critical interests, we hope to be able to, where we can, narrow differences if not resolve them. At a minimum, we want to ensure that we achieve clarity and understanding of one another’s positions.

Danny, I don’t know if you wanted to --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: There is no question about that President Obama approaches these meetings with the long-term strategic goals in mind. This is not a today and a tomorrow problem. This is, in fact, a long-term, multi-year problem. When we engage on the issue of the South China Sea, for example, at the heart of it is not the problem of piling sand on a low-tide elevation and slapping a concrete runway on it. What is at stake are universal principles, the principles of peaceful resolution of dispute; compliance with treaty obligations under international law, such as [the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea] UNCLOS; the recognition that the same rights that apply to the big and the strong apply similarly to the small and to the weak in international affairs.

The principle that freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight isn’t a right that one country grants to another; it’s an inherent right of all countries that must be respected, and that it is not enough to say, “I have the right to do this.” Countries, especially strong and important countries like China, have to ensure that smaller neighbors have the ability to exercise those same rights. What’s at question in the South China Sea, ultimately, is the degree to which China’s behavior will comport with international law and the quality and the nature of the relationship that China will forge with its neighbors.

The United States benefits from a China whose actions are consistent with norms and laws of the region and of the globe. The United States benefits immensely from a China that enjoys good, constructive, peaceful, friendly relations with all of its neighbors. We are not containing China. We are not combating China. We are not taking a position on the respective merits of the sovereignty claims by any of the claimants. We do, however, insist that all claims, including China’s, be made in a manner that’s consistent with customary international law, including the Law of the Sea. And we do insist that the universal right to unimpeded access in international waters and unimpeded commerce be respected and be protected. That is the long-term goal to which I know President Obama continues to work.

QUESTION: May I have a follow-up?

MR KRITENBRINK: Could I just reinforce that, if you don’t – I just want to reinforce Danny’s excellent and eloquent remarks, and I think it really gets at a really core principle of our rebalance strategy, which is sustaining and supporting liberal rules-based order that apply, as Danny said, equally to all countries. They apply to the United States; they apply to China; they apply to all countries in the region. That’s one of our fundamental goals through the rebalance. That’s why we care about these issues – has nothing to do with supposedly trying to contain China, and President Obama has repeatedly and publicly – my boss, Ambassador Rice, reiterated that yesterday. The United States welcomes a successful, prosperous, stable China that plays a larger role in international relations. We want to ensure that whether it’s China or any other country, that we’re all following the same rules of the road.

QUESTION: Can I have --

MODERATOR: I beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen. (Laughter.) Sorry. We have time for about one or two more questions.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Yeah, let’s get two.

MODERATOR: In the center, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is [Hiroaki] Wada. I’m with Japan’s Mainichi newspaper. You just mentioned the United States desire for China to have very good relationship with its neighbors. Japan is one of them, and Japan is one of your closest allies, and getting closer ties with allies is one of the key pillars of your rebalance. Japan recently passed new laws allowing its Self-Defense Forces to play a greater roles overseas and also have greater cooperation with the United States. China obviously doesn’t like it. How the – President Obama is going to explain to President Xi the importance of Japan-U.S. ties getting closer in furtherance of more stable, more prosperous region in Asia Pacific? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Sure. Maybe I could take an initial stab at that and then ask Danny. I think you hit the nail right on the head. Another absolutely core element of our rebalance to the Asia Pacific are close ties with our treaty alliances, including with Japan, and we’ve made clear that those relationships are key platforms that contribute to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the Asia Pacific, and they have for decades and will continue for decades to come. And that peace and stability is something from which all countries in the region have benefited, including China. And I’m confident that that is something that will be discussed as well. I’m confident as well that President Obama would make clear that good and stable relations between Japan and China is also in America’s interest and in the region’s interest.

And finally, if I could just say, as we’ve often stated and I’m confident we’ll have the opportunity to state it again, for 70 years Japan has demonstrated a commitment to peace, democracy, the rule of law. I think this should be commended, should be recognized, and we look forward to Japan continuing to do so.

Danny, did you want to add anything? Please.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: We welcome the constructive, direct bilateral engagement between President Xi and Prime Minister Abe that we’ve seen over the course of 2015, as well as last November in Beijing itself. I’m heartened at the news that the three leaders, including President Park of South Korea, plan to get together this fall. We believe that the constructive engagement among the three and certainly between Japan and China serves everybody’s interest. The economic ties between the world’s second and third-largest economies, the cultural ties, and frankly the space for meaningful political cooperation on global challenges, on regional issues warrants continued progress in their bilateral relationship as well as in multilateral engagements.

It will not come as a surprise to President Xi Jinping that the United States strongly welcomes the enhanced ability of Japan to contribute to regional security. This is all to the good. We have immense confidence that the legislation that Japan has adopted in combination with the revised defense guidelines that our two countries have promulgated will advance the collective interests of the entire region. The fact of the matter is that the United States and Japan, as two major democracies, two free market economies, two nations whose governments’ legitimacy is renewed again and again and again through free and fair elections, have a great deal in common. None of that constitutes a threat in any way to China.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up. That Japanese (inaudible) --

MODERATOR: I’m sorry. I beg your pardon. We have only time for one more question, so I want to my best. Yes, ma’am, you’ve been waiting for – you may – in the front. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Bingru Wong with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV. I wonder if you have more comment on President Xi’s interview with Wall Street Journal. It seems like he tried to downplay the conflicts between the two countries, if you have more take on this. And also, on President Obama’s legacy on foreign policy, he already achieved a long list. Does he have anything for U.S.-China relation that he wants to be as part of his legacy? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Let me take a stab at both of those. You asked me to comment on what you characterized as President Xi’s effort to downplay differences in the relationship. I don’t have a specific comment on that. I would just say this: We take a balanced approach to our relationship with China, and what I don’t want to have happen is to have the tremendous cooperation that takes place between our two countries be overshadowed by discussion of our differences, our very real differences. And so I do hope and I do expect there will be many opportunities during the state visit to shine a very bright light on the areas where our two countries are cooperating very effectively to the benefits of our two peoples and to the international community. And so I think that’s laudable and again will be a key element of the visit.

But I do also want to underscore neither side, I think, does or will – and I can assure you that President Obama will not – paper over the very real differences between us. We think that’s an effective way to manage this relationship in the long run and to allow it to reach its potential. We’ve talked about some of those issues here today – cyber, maritime, some of the economic issues. We haven’t talked very much about human rights in this setting here today, but I’m also confident that that will be a key area of discussion between our two presidents – both with relation to U.S. expectations about how the Chinese state – or any state – would act vis-a-vis its own citizens in respecting their universal rights, and also with some of the concerning steps we’ve seen China take recently with relation to various national security laws or a draft NGO law that is quite concerning to us that we think targets and restricts the activities of many American and other foreign NGOs, foundations, business associations, and universities that have made a direct and important contribution to China’s own development and the very substantial development in our bilateral relationship.

So again, I think you’ll see us take a very balanced approach, which is very reflective of our approach to China – not losing sight of the real and positive cooperation, not papering over our differences. Regarding the President’s legacy, candidly speaking, I think his rebalance policy to the Asia Pacific, of which our engagement with China is a core element, I think that those will be key legacies going forward for the President. And I look forward to working every minute of every day I have available to support him in that mission.

Danny, did you want to add anything to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: No. (Laughter.) Thank you so much. This was fantastic. Great to see all of you.

MODERATOR: Mr. Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary Russel, thank you. That concludes our briefing for the day.

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