Background Briefing on China, Lebanon, and Georgia

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
New York City
September 26, 2011


QUESTION: How are you?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s dark and gloomy in here this morning.

We are delighted this morning to have [Senior State Department Official One] to read out on background the Secretary’s meeting this morning with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang. Hereafter, he’ll be referred to as Senior State Department Official. We will do the Yang readout and questions on the Yang meeting, and then [Senior State Department Official One] needs to leave, and I will give you the other two meetings that happened this morning.

Over to you, [Senior State Department Official One].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you very much, [Senior State Department Official Two]. And it’s a pleasure to work with you, and I appreciate you creating opportunities for us to be able to sit down and talk with folks.

I’ll try to give you an overview, sort of point by point, of the meeting. And then I’d be happy to take any questions. First, let me just say that this is a regular feature in our global diplomacy, and Secretary Clinton meets regularly with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. And this session this morning at the United Nations – or before the United Nations meeting – took about an hour, and we were able to review in broad brush the various issues in the U.S.-China relationship.

Secretary Clinton began by stating clearly our overarching framework, a desire for a strong, comprehensive, robust relationship between the United States and China. And she underscored the hard work that had been done by the Obama Administration over the course of the last few years and our determination to continue that good work, and to see U.S.-China relations progress in the period ahead. She then quickly reviewed the upcoming diplomatic calendar and said that over the course of the next two months, we would have a very intense period of diplomatic engagement in which U.S.-China cooperation would be key.

Foreign Minister Yang thanked the Secretary, said indeed that U.S.-China relations remained of critical importance to Beijing. And he then proceeded almost immediately to say, however, there are issues that require great care in their handling, and he then proceeded to go through and register, again, Chinese concerns with regard to the recently announced – last Wednesday – arms sales to Taiwan. He underscored that the American Ambassador in Beijing had been called in. I have been called in on several occasions. And he was making very serious representations to Secretary Clinton, asked the Obama Administration to reconsider this decision and indicated that it would harm the trust and confidence that was established between the two sides.

Secretary Clinton responded very clearly that the United States had a strategic interest in the maintenance and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and that the Taiwan Relations Act is quite clear that it provides for a strong rationale for the provision of defensive capabilities and weapons to Taiwan as part of a larger context to preserve that peace and stability. She underscored her view that, in fact, it was the confidence that – the strong support of the United States that had provided Taiwan with the confidence to reach out in diplomacy with Beijing over the course of the last several years. She underscored that the United States supports the improvement in relations, the building of educational, financial, people-to-people links between the mainland and Taiwan. We support that, and she indicated that she’d like to see that series of interactions and trust and confidence across the Taiwan Straits increase and grow in the time ahead.

Secretary Clinton then turned to some of the critical issues, regional issues in our bilateral relationship. She indicated that we appreciated the recent statement out of Beijing calling for North Korea to take steps to ensure that we can make progress towards the Six-Party Talks. The two foreign ministers quickly reviewed the recent meeting between North and South that has just concluded in Beijing. It was a useful meeting, but clearly no breakthroughs. We continued to call on China to use its good offices to encourage North Korea to respond appropriately in the North-South context and also to abide by the specific criteria of the 2005 statement and also to favorably consider the pre-steps laid out by the Obama Administration and our interlocutors in late July.

Foreign Minister Yang then addressed the critical issues in the global economy. I think both the Secretary and the foreign minister both underscored a very delicate and sensitive period. They reviewed quickly some of the concerns about developments in Europe and they both underscored the responsibilities of the United States and China to take the necessary steps to spur global growth. There was a heavy focus on mutual responsibilities at the upcoming multilateral sessions of the G-20, APEC, and the like.

Secretary Clinton then spoke about a number of other diplomatic and regional security issues important to the United States. She called on China to begin a dialogue with the United States on Pakistan. We have stated this before, but there’s clearly an urgency given recent developments and also given the close relationship that exists between Pakistan and China.

The two foreign ministers reviewed recent steps with regard to the South China Sea. Foreign Minister Yang thanked Secretary Clinton for her statement welcoming the progress in diplomacy between ASEAN and China that took place at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali in July. The Secretary said that she thought it was a good first step, but more work needed to be done to build on trust and confidence between the claimant states and China.

We also – the United States clearly underscored that the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea and the preservation of freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas, is a critical component of that peace and stability, and that is something that underscores our approach not just in the South China Sea but globally. And the Secretary indicated that this was an underpinning of our view of global commerce on the oceans and that this was not something that one country bestowed on another but was an essential feature to global maritime stability going forward.

There was, I think, a further discussion on the various issues with regard to the bilateral economic interactions, and I think both sides agreed that there will be important meetings both at the Commerce Department and at APEC coming up.

In terms of the overall calendar, both noted the incredibly intense period of diplomacy that lies directly ahead. We will have another round of the Asia Pacific consultations in October. Obviously, there will be high-level bilateral engagements at the East Asia Summit and APEC, and Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the American reciprocal invitation to Vice President Xi Jinping to come back to the United States.

I think it would be fair to say that – the Secretary also underscored the American desire to see China take appropriate steps with respect to Syria. We indicated that we were seeking to put – sorry, I can’t reach – sorry. Yeah. In the Security Council resolution, the Secretary indicated that the process that we saw with respect to Syria is quite different from what had transpired earlier in the year with respect to Libya and sought the strong support of China in this regard.

I think there were a couple of other issues just quickly. Yeah. And also a quick discussion just generally about the Middle East peace and the process. And I think the Secretary did indicate her belief that this process would play out over some time and that there should be no quick rush to an immediate judgment.

I think with that, I’d be happy to take questions, and anything else you have I’d be happy to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can I just clarify a decision that you (inaudible) to take at the UN Security Council. She’s asking Syria for support for UN --


QUESTION: Asking China.


QUESTION: She’s asking China to impose sanctions – join the West in imposing sanctions on --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: On the Security Council using – I don’t know the number, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The conversation was somewhat more general than that. It had to do with the need for a strong UN Security Council resolution that calls for the violence to end. And I think it’s fair to say that Foreign Minister Yang understood and forwarded the notion of the Security Council taking further action and they agreed to have our ambassadors work on this in coming days.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think it’d be fair to say on many of the Middle East issues, I think recognition – there was already a dialogue underway. And I think both just sought to underscore the continuation of that discussion. I think on the – I would agree with [Senior State Department Official Two]. I don’t think the Chinese did sign off on sanctions. I think they just underscored the importance of the UN Security Council role in this.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the foreign ministers talked about several items that required great care and handling, and you said – using plural. Then you only mentioned one –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. He only mentioned one. But he did underscore great – the issues that required great care and handling. But he only focused, in this instance, on – he did talk about some economic issues, but I think more in general terms later in the session. The primary focus of this really was on Taiwan.

QUESTION: Okay. Did he give any – you said that he asked – he put in the request, which the Chinese already made for the administration to reconsider.


QUESTION: Assuming that it’s not going to, which it’s not, did he say that there would be any consequences for this, any –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Not in this meeting, but in other meetings I’ve had and others have had with Chinese officials, the Chinese have underscored a series of steps that they will be taking in response to the U.S. decision.

QUESTION: And would those be the traditional steps that they had taken in the past?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think they have indicated that they’re going to suspend or to cancel or postpone a series of mil-to-mil engagements, yes, military-to-military engagements.

QUESTION: But not – but nothing else, as far as you know?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Nothing at this juncture, but it’s not unusual that sometimes this takes more time than just a few days.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Other questions for [Senior State Department Official One]?


QUESTION: (Inaudible) you said mil-to-mil is going to be canceled?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, not all mil-to-mil. Some activities, as part of the military-to-military program, will be postponed, rescheduled or canceled. And as I indicated, it’s not unusual that some of those will come over time, not announced immediately.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Anything else? Thank you very much, as usual.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thanks. Thank you all very much. We’ll see you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. I have a few other quick things, and then I have to head upstairs. As you know, the Secretary also spent half an hour this morning with Lebanese Prime Minister Miqati, productive meeting. The Secretary took the opportunity of that meeting to remind Lebanon of its international obligations regarding the special tribunal for Lebanon and stability in the south. The Secretary and the prime minister also discussed Syria.

The Secretary also saw Georgian Foreign Minister Vashadze this morning for about 25 minutes. The bulk of that meeting was spent discussing the Swiss effort to mediate between Russia and Georgia with regard to issues outstanding in Russia’s application to join the World Trade Organization. And as she did with Foreign Minister Lavrov last week, Secretary urged Foreign Minister Vashadze to make the most of the Swiss mediation proposal and to try to make progress to close the gaps when the delegations meet in the next week and a half.

They also discussed Afghanistan, where Georgia is on its way to becoming the largest non-NATO troop contributor. The Secretary thanked Foreign Minister Vashadze and Georgia for the recent commitment of an extra battalion of Georgian troops for Afghanistan, which will bring the Georgian total to 1,700. They also talked at some length about medical care and support that the U.S. is providing for Georgian soldiers wounded in combat in Afghanistan and U.S. military support for Georgian forces in Afghanistan.

And the final issue in that meeting was the Secretary’s stressing of the importance, as Georgia enters an election season in 2012 and 2013, of free, fair, and transparent elections in Georgia. And both Georgian Foreign Minister Vashadze and National Security Advisor Bokeria stressed that Georgia intends to make a qualitative leap forward in the quality of its elections and thank the U.S. for the help it provides through IRI and NDI to continue to improve Georgian election process.

Any questions on either of those? Kirit.

QUESTION: On the Lebanese could you just (inaudible) on the discussion of the Middle East peace process (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I just have what I have. Let me take that question and get back to you. Okay. I, unfortunately, did not make that meeting myself.

QUESTION: Any plan to meet the hikers today?


QUESTION: Can you say whether the Secretary plans to meet the hikers today?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Not to my knowledge. As you know, they’ve only just gotten home.

QUESTION: What about (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Not to my knowledge. It’s not currently on her schedule.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official Two], can you – I have a question on that, but I (inaudible). Are you going to be over here for a couple seconds?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’ve got to go to her 1 o’clock. I’m already late. I’ll be back, though.

QUESTION: Can you just explain what is going – what is the process in the Security Council now? What are you expecting them to do?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: With regard to the Middle East peace situation?



QUESTION: Well, the Palestinian situation.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. My understanding is that the Security Council has a first discussion of this – it’s either today or tomorrow. And then we see where it goes from there.

QUESTION: So it’s not definitely today?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: They are – I believe it is today. I was in a meeting where this was discussed, but frankly, I’m not confident whether it’s today or tomorrow, but it’s certainly in the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Well, what do they do when they discuss it? They just say, “Hey this is here”?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think each one of these is different and we need to let that meeting go forward and see what we can tell you about it afterwards.

QUESTION: Is there a way to – well, I mean, can you find – or is it a problem to find out --


QUESTION: -- exactly what you guys are looking for out of this? Obviously, you don’t want a vote and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be one, but what exactly – I mean, did they form a committee to study it? Did they – what would you like – what was – what does the Administration want to see out of this meeting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Let me get with our colleagues at USUN and try to get you a little more information this afternoon about what we expect, okay?

Thanks, guys.

PRN: 2011/1598