Press Availability in Beijing, China

Press Availability
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Beijing, China
October 14, 2009

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Thank you very much. I’m really sorry to keep you waiting. It’s a fairly busy schedule here in Beijing.

Let me just say that I’ve been here in Asia over the course of the last several days. We stopped in Hawaii to interact with the new leadership in CINCPAC, CINCPAC Fleet and CINCPAC, and we had our Chiefs of Missions Conference there. Ambassador Huntsman very ably represented the embassy here.

Then I had consultations in Tokyo with members of the new government, DPJ government, on a range of issues -- North Korea, Okinawa, issues associated with the upcoming visit of President Obama to Japan.

Then over the last two days I’ve been in China here having intensive consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Education Ministry, and the Ministry of Defense. Our agenda has been full and very broad. I’ve been trying to lay some of the ground work for the upcoming, historic visit of President Obama to China in mid-November. We’re working on many initiatives.

We also had detailed discussions on a range of regional and global matters. I compared notes on the recent visits of senior Chinese leaders to North Korea. We talked about the coordination among the six parties about the next steps associated with North Korea. Our Chinese friends briefed us on the trilateral meeting between the leaders of Japan, South Korea, and China that took place over the course of the weekend. We talked about efforts on the part of the United States to get greater Chinese support for our activities vis-à-vis Iran, making very clear our desire to diplomatically make clear to Iran our strong desire to have them suspend their nuclear activities. We talked about mutual efforts and goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I had a new set of discussions with Chinese interlocutors, to brief them on our recently concluded review of Burma policy and to tell them about the upcoming diplomatic steps that we will be taking. We talked a little bit about the United States’ efforts at APEC in Singapore and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit that will be held there.

We also reviewed the status of the deliberations on climate in advance of Copenhagen and what role issues associated with clean energy and commitments on negotiations would take when the President visits next month.

So a very broad agenda, set of initiatives. We also talked about architectural issues. Clearly there are many interesting and exciting proposals about how to deepen multilateral architectural endeavors in the Asia Pacific region. We talked about the G20 and how increasingly Asian powers like India and Indonesia and China and South Korea, Japan and the United States were playing a dominant role in these critical institutions. And I think we tried to underscore that the United States will look to play an active role in all of the diplomacy of the Asia Pacific region and that we seek major initiatives that touch on diplomacy and national security and trade and economic issues. We want to make sure that those initiatives and those bodies are transpacific in their character including the United States in an active and a pronounced way.

With that, that’s sort of the overall agenda. I’d be happy to take any questions on any subject.

Question: Wi Li from Global Times.

Talking about the Six-Party dialogue. Within the Six-Party dialogue, what kind of issues do you think the United States would like to discuss with North Korea, and what kind of issues that you will not touch in case the destruction of the institute?

Second, next month Mr. Ma Ying-jeou as the leader of Taiwan will come to Beijing for a visit. Do you have some special expectations of him? Thanks.

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Let me take the second question first. First of all, we’ve made very clear to our friends in Beijing and Taipei that the United States supports the peaceful dialogue that is underway between China and Taiwan. We obviously stand by all of our commitments, but we recognize the leadership and the effort that’s been taken on both sides, and we very much want to see that process continue.

We know there has been a lot of progress on economic issues and the like, and the United States believes that careful steps to improve relations in the future is prudent.

On the first issue that you raised, the United States over the course of the last several months has been involved in a very deep set of consultations - particularly with Japan, South Korea, and China - about how to better coordinate our policies vis-à-vis North Korea. And in that respect I have rarely seen better coordination between China and the United States in particular. We work very closely before, during, and after senior visits. So when Wu Dawei or Premier Wen go to North Korea, our coordination is tight and close.

There is a virtually unprecedented level of acceptance of basic goals and ambitions associated with the Six-Party Talks and negotiations with North Korea, and I’ll just underscore those quickly.

All the parties believe fundamentally that North Korea must come back to the Six-Party Talks and that it would be possible within that context to have bilateral interactions, not only between North Korea and the United States, but between North Korea and South Korea, and North Korea and Japan. We think that’s the appropriate way forward.

The United States will not entertain direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea absent a Six-Party commitment, so we’ve been very firm on that, as have our Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese friends.

Second, we must really insist that North Korea accepts and abides by the commitments they have made in the formal Six-Party framework, commitments to the denuclear steps on the Korean Peninsula as amplified in 2005 and 2007 agreements. So we’re going to need to see North Korea accepting those provisions for us to move forward over the course of the next several months.

I think the United States has learned several lessons in terms of diplomacy vis-à-vis North Korea. We are trying to be patient. We are trying to coordinate extraordinarily closely. And we’re trying to make sure that there are very clear expectations of what bottom line agreements need to be reached before we can move forward with active diplomacy with North Korea.

Question: (Inaudible). What do you think about the South Korean concern that until now North Korea has just sliced up the salami as we’ve gone along, looking for the grand bargain all in one. Do you think that’s feasible? Is it desirable and is it feasible?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: First of all, all countries involved in diplomacy of North Korea have tried to make clear that if North Korea is to take major steps to dismantle its nuclear capabilities that there must be a corresponding set of initiatives on the part of not only the United States but South Korea, China, and Japan. The details of this I think are still in formation, and we’re at the very earliest possible stages of diplomacy, renewed diplomacy with North Korea.

So I think as a conceptual approach, I think all the partners accept that a range of initiatives will be necessary if North Korea is indeed serious about their previous commitments on denuclearization, and those steps will involve humanitarian assistance, political gestures, and a variety of other initiatives yet to be determined.

Question: Can they all be done at once? The same way as --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I’m not sure.

Question: NPR. We’ve heard that the U.S. will be inviting Chinese officials to Washington to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan issues. I’d like to know if this trip is going to happen, what sort of cooperation the U.S. will be seeking, and what evidence there is that the U.S. can overcome this deep unease China has about U.S. military presence on its western (inaudible).

Assistant Secretary Campbell: That’s an excellent question. Ambassador Holbrooke I think has had a series of productive interactions with his Chinese interlocutors about Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think on this trip we did extend an invitation for a working group to come to talk about some specifics associated with President Obama’s trip in the hope that we can find areas where China and the United States and other countries involved in Afghanistan can work together.

As you know, China has taken some independent steps in Afghanistan and we would like to see some of the humanitarian and other initiatives increase and expand. We’re hopeful that through further dialogue that the United States can help dispel some of the concerns that exist about our activities there.

Question: I’m sorry, can you just elaborate, what steps China is taking?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: There have been some modest steps that they’ve taken of a humanitarian nature obviously in Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan as well, and I think Ambassador Holbrooke has some specific ideas that he is going to expand upon when the Chinese Working Group visits Washington, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

Question: Stephanie Ho, Voice of America. I just wanted to ask if you could talk about the contents of your discussions (inaudible). Are there any agreements or (inaudible)?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I think it would be fair to say that more deliberations are going to take place at a higher level and a greater intensity in coming weeks and months.

I think the United States has made clear to China that we are accepting the advice of the international community to work as hard as possible on a diplomatic initiative vis-à-vis Iran, obviously working closely with the Europeans and the Russians. But if we’re to make real progress in sending a consolidated message to Iran, we are going to need the support of China.

You noted the statement the Chinese made at the P5+1 on the edges of the Pittsburgh G20 meeting. I think that’s a step in the right direction, but we’re going to need to see more cooperation and coordination between the United States and China if we’re going to be effective in Iran.

Question: Thank you, from Reuters. First of all, in the review of Burma policy could you tell us more about your discussions here? In particular, what role you see China playing in that country, and what potential role you see in shifting policy there.

Also I was wondering if you could sketch out your expectations for President Obama’s visit. Especially you mentioned discussion on climate change. What do you see emerging there?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I don’t want to dodge your second question, but I do want to say there is an incredibly intricate set of working groups - technical and political - that are underway between the United States and China, and those negotiations are advanced and they take place on a daily basis. I’m really not up to date to the moment.

I think my biggest role in our deliberations with Chinese friends is to underscore how important it is for the United States and China to take a leadership role and that we have to be very wary of how much is resting on our need to coordinate in this regard.

On the question of Burma policy, one of the things that Senator Webb, who is the head of our East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee in the United States Senate, has been very clear about is his strong desire that the United States - in addition to a dialogue with the junta and with elements of the opposition and ethnic groups within Burma - that there will also be a stepped-up regional diplomacy that would involve not only the key nations of ASEAN, Southeast Asian countries who have a very deep interest in Burma – Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and others - but also to engage in a much deeper dialogue between India and China.

I would say that this was our first meeting that I’m aware of in which Burma was a principal topic of discussion. My role here was to explain in great detail the process that we took in terms of arriving at our conclusions and our policy review, make clear to China that we would seek their support in this endeavor, and ask for their assessments about what they’re seeing inside - developments both leading up to the 2010 elections and how they see the various military offenses that have been underway inside the country.

China is unique in the sense that they have very high-level, consistent dialogue with members of the military establishment, so we think their insights and their role and support behind the scenes could be very valuable going forward.

I think it would be fair to say that this is still a preliminary consultation. We dealt with an aspect of the Asian Affairs Directorate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has had remarkably little contact with the United States. So we’re going to work with them over the course of the next couple of months as our initial diplomatic steps with Burma unfold.

Question: Can you talk about your consultation with [the Democratic Party of Japan]? So any (inaudible) about how the new Japanese government (inaudible) new Asia diplomacy, what kind of (inaudible) U.S.-Japan (inaudible)?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Let me just answer that question in a couple of ways. First, one of the things that is most exciting about this election in Japan is the expression of democracy and a peaceful election that has brought a sea change in Japanese politics after one party has dominated power for most of the last 50 or so years.

I think one of the elements that we’re very pleased by in terms of the DPJ government, at least the signals sent so far by Prime Minister Hatoyama, his very, very strong intention to build stronger ties between Japan and South Korea and Japan and China. He’s made that very clear in his initial trips and in his diplomacy.

It is sometimes said that the United States is ambivalent about that. That is wrong. I want to underscore that. We believe that it is very much in Japan’s interest to have better and deeper ties with South Korea and China, and we could not be more supportive of this set of initiatives.

Overall, we are very confident that the relationship between the United States and Japan will continue to be a cornerstone of our engagement of the Asia Pacific region and we are deeply engaged in a number of reviews associated with looking at every aspect of our political, economic, and security relationship. And I see a really healthy revitalization, a challenging set of questions and a deep commitment on the part of the Japanese leadership to revive a partnership that I think has played a really important role in the history of the Asia Pacific region. I think their view, unless we take powerful, positive steps to reaffirm this relationship between the United States and Japan, that it would be doomed to less significance over the course of the future.

So we embrace this opportunity and work closely with Japanese friends to enact it.

Question: Chris Bodeen, AP. (Inaudible) have told us before that China doesn’t really talk about its relations with North Korea with the U.S. It seems now that maybe they are.

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Who has said that?

Question: People at the Embassy before. That it’s kind of an insular relationship and they don’t really talk about their bilateral contacts.

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I don’t think that’s right. I feel that the consultations that take place between the United States and China about developments in North Korea are full, very detailed, and there is a very honest exchange of views on a range of issues, and it is in many respect comparable to the dialogues that we have with South Korea and Japan on North Korea.

Indeed, I think Chinese friends share many of the same challenges, some of the same perspectives, and I think the coordination has been quite deep. I expect that to continue into the future.

I must say also, if I may, the alignment in views for instance about the Six-Party framework has been rather deeply reassuring for us, and we’ve seen China be very clear with North Korea about the need to get back quickly and responsibly to that framework going forward.

Question: Are you immune to setting a timetable for --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I would say that we’ve had extensive deliberations among the Six-Party partners and we are now reviewing steps in the near future. I’ll just say that.

Question: Marianne with AFP. I was just wondering, following up on that question, you said we’re reviewing steps in the near future. What do you mean? Do you actually --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I’ll kind of leave it at that. No firm decisions have been taken yet. We are having some exploratory discussions within the Six-Party framework, but we want to be very clear. Honestly, we wanted to get a sense of what Chinese friends learned on their most recent visit and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here, is to learn from China what they think is the right approach and what they learned from the Wen Jiabao visit.

Question: And does that mean then that North Korea is definitely coming back to the Six-Party Talks?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: If you’ve worked on this issue for a while, as I’m sure you have, I think you know already the diplomacy with North Korea is very challenging, and sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s going to transpire in terms of your interactions with Pyongyang. I would simply say that the United States is trying to approach this in a responsible, patient manner fully, completely coordinated with all of our partners in this endeavor.

I think we’ll have more to say about this shortly, but I think I’ll stand by that now.

Question: Mike Forsythe, Bloomberg. What is (inaudible) about the negotiations had in Pyongyang? Also, can you tell us a little bit about the talks you had with the Ministry of Defense?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: My talks with the Ministry of Defense are later today, but we’ve had some discussions around the edges. My primary discussion with the Ministry of Defense will be to underscore the importance of the mil-to-mil dimension in our relationship and to make sure that active steps are taken so that we can build more trust and confidence between our national security establishments. I think there has been somewhat of a lag in terms of dialogue and engagement between our two sides in this respect, and I think that’s going to be important to make sure that we keep pace with other aspects of our complex and important relationship.

I’m sorry, your first question?

Question: What did you learn from --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: We garnered several points. I will underscore several things that Chinese friends told us.

First of all, that Kim Jung Il was very actively involved in every aspect of the diplomacy, and he sent sort of a personal picture of a vigorous engagement in all aspects of interactions with Chinese interlocutors.

Our Chinese friends made clear that Beijing was very firm about what their expectations were going forward on both Six-Party and commitments on denuclearization. Their message to us was that North Korea is prepared to have a bilateral engagement with the United States, and if that goes well, that they are prepared to reengage in a Six-Party framework.

There are probably some other details, but that was the fundamental message that Chinese friends delivered, and we listened carefully and will take that back to Washington.

Question: Jeff Dobson, Financial Times. I wanted to ask you about the climate change (inaudible). At this stage is it your expectation to (inaudible) some sort of substantial agreement that will have a big impact on the Copenhagen process? Should we be thinking about this as some kind of game-changing moment?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: The honest answer is I don’t know. I do know that in all of my interactions with Chinese friends in the Foreign Ministry and elsewhere, they are underscoring the importance of forward progress, not only multilateral, but bilaterally on a range of issues associated with climate. Energy efficiency, joint projects, a whole host of things associated with transportation, building efficiencies. Again, I would defer to our negotiators in terms of what we’ll likely see in a month. But I was comforted by the level, and you always look at, you have a list of things you’re going to need to go through in any interaction, and near the top of the list this time around was climate change.

Question: Hi, I’m Mary Kay Magistad, Public Radio International. I’m wondering how you read the military parade on October 1, which was on an unprecedented scale. Also in general, whether you're sensing a shift in how China sees its security role in the future and how that might affect the U.S. security role in the future.

Assistant Secretary Campbell: It’s an excellent question. We just had a wonderful session with some young Chinese journalists, and that was one of the questions that they asked me.

I think the first thing, when I watched it, I was curious about who was the dominant audience? Was it a domestic audience or an international audience? Obviously in today’s day and age it’s difficult to differentiate, and there’s obviously components to both.

Look, the United States accepts that as China rises it will play an increasingly important role not just in economics and politics and financial matters, but China’s going to be a major military player in the Asia Pacific region. It is incumbent on the United States and China to take steps to build trust and confidence on a range of issues. Not just, again, on the financial or economic side, but take steps so that as our two militaries increasingly operate in proximity of one another, that we establish procedures and rules of the road and expectations of both sides so that we can avoid crises and unintended miscalculations on either side.

We’ve taken some preliminary steps in this regard. We have some agreements like the military maritime agreement. We have high-level communications between our defense establishments and involving the White House, but more still needs to be done here to ensure that our defense and military establishments both have greater contact and interaction with one another, but also develop what might be termed as some of the rules of the road for how we will operate in the future.

The United States, despite the fact that we are deeply engaged in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are increasing our military capabilities in the Asia Pacific region and we are actively involved in a series of multilateral initiatives and training exercises, and we really welcome China’s participation in a host of endeavors like humanitarian operations, search and rescue, and you're seeing more cooperation. It’s slow, but it’s clearly moving in the right direction. We need to see these initiatives stepped up into the future.

Question: From Reuters, again. If I could ask a follow-up question about North Korea. You talked about this very fruitful dialogue with China. Does that dialogue include discussion about contingencies in North Korea?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: I’d just say we talk about every aspect of North Korea, and I don’t think I’d want to characterize it beyond that.

Our primary focus right now is on what steps can constructively be taken to get North Korea to come back to the Six-Party framework, to accept its previous commitments, and work together to try to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons program, to open it up to more active engagement with the East Asian community, and reduce threats to peace and stability on the Peninsula. That’s our primary focus. But our dialogue is full and productive across a whole range of issues.

Question: This is Tenjing Bei from Xinhua. China, Japan, and South Korea leaders just held a summit and the three countries agree on committing to realizing the East Asia Community. Do you welcome this kind of East Asian Community which doesn’t include the U.S.? And do the Americans want to participate in this East Asia Community?

The second question is, you visit Japan and China this time. What do you think of the possibility for the U.S. and China and Japan to hold a G3 Summit?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Thank you. Those are excellent questions.

First of all, one of the important discussions that we had with Chinese interlocutors was about next steps in multilateral architecture in Asia. The truth is we have so many initiatives now underway. Kevin Rudd has an important idea. We have the ASEAN Regional Forum. We have APEC. We have the East Asia Summit. We have the EAP Plus 3. We have now some initiatives on the part of the Japanese government.

I think the United States is committed to several principles. One of the most important is that we believe that critical dialogues that touch on security, economic, and commercial issues should involve the United States. And one of the things that was very reassuring was to hear from Chinese friends that their belief is that any fundamental dialogue in Asia has to include the United States. I must say one of the reasons that Secretary Clinton signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, if you look at the East Asia Summit, one of its principal and only requirements is that whoever wants to participate has to sign that agreement. So we’ve signed that now, and we’re going to be looking and exploring our options going forward.

I will say, though - and I think you all appreciate this - with all this institutional stuff at play, it’s important to focus on fundamentals. The most important fundamental that’s occurred over the course of the last several weeks is the arrival of the G20 as the major financial institution and organizing principle in global politics. What that really is about in many respects is the advent of major Asian economies and nations within the diplomacy of global politics. That means China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Japan, the United States, together in an extraordinarily innovative forum. We cannot tackle several simultaneous new initiatives or they’ll all be doomed to failure.

So our primary focus over the course of the next year or two, in my view, is to make sure that the G20 is successful and that we transition effectively from the G8, although elements of the G8 will continue, into the [G20]. There will be important architectural innovations in Asia, whether it will be with APEC or ASEAN, Northeast Asia, it’s not clear yet. That’s one of the reasons I’m here, is to begin a dialogue with Chinese friends.

I just want to assure you, though, the United States is going to be part of this party. We are an active player and we’re going to want an invitation as well.

Question: Jason (inaudible), Wall Street Journal. You said (inaudible) the Chinese and the North Koreans (inaudible) that they want a dialogue with the U.S. and that it might be open to --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: No, that’s not what they said. I’m sorry. The Chinese, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about that. I apologize.

The Chinese were very clear with the North Koreans, extremely clear and very firm, that a stand-alone, bilateral dialogue with the United States is not in the cards. They conveyed directly to North Korea, as has all of our interactions from South Korea, Japan, and from the United States, that we would be prepared for an initial interaction between the United States and North Korea that would lead rapidly to a Six-Party resumption of talks. And within the context of the Six-Party framework, that it’s possible to have a number of bilateral or trilateral or other discussions that would take place within that context. But the Six-Party framework is essential, and there is a complete identity of views between Beijing and Washington on that point.

And we think we heard, the Chinese indicated that they think they heard from North Korea, that they are prepared to accept that framework. But again, we will have to test that and explore that and see if that is indeed the case.

Question: One question about your talks on Afghanistan with the Chinese authorities. Did you get any impression that they were drawing upon their institutional memory of the ‘80s when, of course, China and the U.S. did work together against the Soviets in Afghanistan? And indeed, China’s not working on a blank slate here. They actually got their hands very dirty. There are Chinese diplomats who were concretely involved in organizing (inaudible) caravans of Stingers to the Mujahedeen. They have some experience with what that whole environment, the tribal politics and everything, is all about. Are any of those guys now involved in these talks?

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Melinda, I’m not deeply engaged in this aspect. This is really an effort that is primarily spearheaded by Ambassador Holbrooke. But from what I understand and from my interactions with our Chinese friends, this is a very different group of folks that we’re talking with this time, and the efforts here have nothing to do with Stingers on horseback, they’re much more about fresh water and wells, schools, and things like that. And if the Chinese were to be more actively involved, I can pretty much assure you that it will be in this area and not in the kinds of things that we saw during the struggles against the Soviets in the 1970s.

Question: So just to follow up, you’re discouraging us from thinking there might be an intelligence component to the types of cooperation.

Assistant Secretary Campbell: The elements that I have been associated with, and that I have been interacting with my colleagues on in China, are on the humanitarian front, and also asking for China to use its good offices to assist in passing messages and encouraging more positive regional dynamics, not just in Afghanistan but other countries.

Question: But is it possible there is an intelligence component being undertaken, spearheaded by a whole different group of people on the U.S. side and a whole different group of people on the Chinese --

Assistant Secretary Campbell: Melinda, I’m sure it’s possible. It’s just not an area that I work on so I wouldn’t even know how to answer that question.

Thank you all very much.