Read Out of Secretary Kerry's Meeting With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
New York City
September 26, 2013

MODERATOR: Hi. So we have our second briefing of the day, senior – someone – it’s the --

QUESTION: No, that’s the – your chair is on the cord.

MODERATOR: My chair, oh, okay. Sorry, Matt. I think everyone knows [Senior State Department Official]. He will be a Senior State Department Official on background. He’s going to do a readout of this morning’s meetings – or meeting, excuse me, with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and happy to answer any questions. I will turn it over to him.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Thank you very much, [Moderator], and thanks for all of you for coming. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met over breakfast this morning for something on the hour of – something on the order of an hour. We have been using and used this morning the innovation of simultaneous interpretation, which has the benefit of allowing us to pack much more substance into an hour than we can do with consecutive interpretation. And that’s an innovation that we hope to be able to sustain.

I’ve now – well, put it this way: Secretary Kerry has now held multiple meetings with Foreign Minister Wang since the Secretary took office. They’ve also had multiple telephone calls. And the strong sense I’ve gotten is that the two have hit their stride in terms of pragmatic, constructive, and honest line of communication. These two people clearly know how to talk to each other and are, I think, consulting at a high level.

The conversation covered a lot of ground. They talked about Syria, they talked about Iran, they talked about North Korea, they talked about South China Sea, and they also discussed human rights and issues relating to Americans and American interests in China.

On Syria, both ministers were in strong agreement on the need for a mandatory and binding UN Security Council resolution. They discussed the value of unity among the P-5, and both felt it is important for the Council to act quickly and for OPCW to similarly act quickly.

On Iran, they were coordinating in the run-up to today’s P-5+1 meeting. They both agreed that it’s important for Iran to respond positively to the proposals that have been put forward in the P-5+1 context. They talked through the elements of the diplomatic track as well as the sanctions track. The Secretary inquired and the Foreign Minister shared a bit of his thinking with regard to the new leadership in Iran, inasmuch as the Foreign Minister had, along with the President of China, recently held meetings with their Iranian counterparts in Bishkek on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting.

On North Korea, where they picked up the discussion they had been holding on Thursday when Foreign Minister Wang was in Washington, they both reaffirmed a strong and joint commitment of the U.S. and China to denuclearization and agreed to continue close cooperation in an effort to make clear to North Korea that it has no alternative to denuclearization. The Secretary acknowledged the importance of the step China has recently taken to issue an export control list, and they discussed both the significance of that particular step symbolically and practically, as well as other steps that are within the power of China and others to take that would push in the same direction.

They both expressed agreement that it is important to approach North Korea with a view to breaking the, quote-un-quote, “vicious cycle.” And I think the vicious cycle here is a longstanding pattern of talking to North Korea, North Korea making promises, North Korea breaking promises, and rinse and repeat. They were each clear that the purpose of negotiations is to end North Korea’s nuclear program in its entirety, and neither side is interested in holding talks for talks’ sake.

They discussed the situation in the South China Sea. Both ministers noted that the South China Sea is a topic for discussion by leaders at the East Asia Summit in Brunei. They each saw some signs of progress in the outcome of meetings held in the last few weeks between China and ASEAN. But the Secretary underscored the U.S. view that it is very important for all claimants to clarify their claims in ways that are consistent with international law and he reaffirmed the U.S. position that the conduct in disputed areas must be careful and without intimidation; that the U.S. strongly urges diplomatic and peaceful means only to address these areas of difference; and restated the long-held U.S. principles that are at stake in the South China Sea.

And lastly, the Secretary raised his concerns about human rights, particularly recent detentions in China which have an adverse effect on our bilateral relations. He raised some issues specific to the U.S. and to U.S. citizens including – you will all be glad to hear, I’m sure – the issue of visas for U.S. journalists and strongly encouraged the Chinese to accommodate the legitimate desire of foreign media to freely cover events in China and to be able to make their reports available to the Chinese public as well. And both committed to continuing the various dialogues that the U.S. and China maintain on human rights and on legal matters.

So they packed a lot into one hour. It was a good atmosphere and very productive.


QUESTION: Is North Korea restarting its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and did this come up in the discussion in the meeting today, what would – what was decided to do about it and what might this say about – either about China’s influence on North Korea’s nuclear program and the American hope that China can exert influence to stop this program? Because previously, it’s been asserted that China was having a big effect on North Korea’s nuclear aspirations.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm. They didn’t discuss the specifics of North Korea’s particular behavior or the question of what the status is of either its plutonium or its uranium enrichment program. I would say, though, that they – the tenor of their conversation was such as to reinforce the fact that it is North Korea’s behavior that is at issue, not its proclamations and not its promises.

And the decision by the Chinese to impose an export control system that will impede North Korea’s ability to proliferate, impede North Korea’s ability to further its nuclear and other WMD programs I think is indicative of a shared concern that, notwithstanding any sweet sounding comments that foreign diplomats may think they’ve heard from the North Koreans, the troubling behavior by North Korea continues – specifically North Korea’s efforts to acquire a nuclear missile capability continue. And that is the problem that needs to be addressed through a combination of diplomatic and pressure means.

QUESTION: And is North Korea moving to restart the reactor at Yongbyon?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll leave it to others to answer that question.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, there was the – there was a report in the Wall Street – well, a report on a report in the Wall Street Journal, it came out talking about how North Korea is increasing their uranium enrichment capabilities and potentially even manufacturing their own parts within North Korea, which might undercut sanctions efforts. Was that discussed, or sanctions efforts in general?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sanctions efforts in general were explicitly discussed, and both leaders agreed that it is important for us to coordinate closely to signal to North Korea that it has no alternative but to denuclearize. And the Chinese decision to impose restrictions on what goes in and what comes out of North Korea, I think, is clearly indicative of their level of concern.

QUESTION: On – forgive me if I missed this at the beginning, but did the forthcoming resolution on Syria chemical weapons come up? And what’s your understanding of China’s view on that whole issue?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It definitely did come up. They both expressed determination to work quickly toward a mandatory and binding UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, is there --

QUESTION: Did he discuss enforcement – enforcement mechanism, Chapter 7? Did that come up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think that gets us into the molecular structure of the --

QUESTION: That is the issue, isn’t it, the Council resolution?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- conversation. That’s a greater level of detail than I can go into.

QUESTION: Is there such a thing as a resolution that is not binding and mandatory on the Security Council?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I will refer that question to the lawyers and to the philosophers.

QUESTION: Did they actually – regardless of whether they talked specifically about Chapter 7, did they talk about the details of the language of a proposed resolution, whatever that language might say? Was it that granular?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This was not a negotiating session; this was a strategy session.

QUESTION: And have you – has the U.S. Government yet, or did it in this context, share the results of the discussions with the Russians about the shape of such a resolution with the Chinese?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That question – I don’t – goes beyond the scope of the --

QUESTION: Did (inaudible) come up? I’m just trying to figure out if the Secretary’s conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov the other day about the shape of the resolution have now been briefed fully to the Chinese so that they have a sense of what it’s about.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I would simply say that there was good and open communication between the two about the current status, but that this was a strategy session and not a negotiating session.

QUESTION: Right. But maybe you can put it this way. Did – I mean, did you have the sense that the Chinese will – whatever is – if the U.S. and Russia can come to an agreement, will the Chinese go along with it?


QUESTION: It has been common –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- question started with an “if.”

QUESTION: The conventional wisdom has always been, as you well know, that on this issue in particular, the Chinese will follow the Russians’ lead. Do you have any reason to think that they will not do so in this case?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can’t point to anything that I heard this morning that would provide an indicator one way or another.

QUESTION: So you’re not convinced that the Chinese will go along with a U.S.-Russia-agreed resolution?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not in the business of predicting what the Chinese will do.

QUESTION: I’m not – I’m not –

MODERATOR: I don’t think that’s what he said, Matt. He said he didn’t get an indication either way this morning about what they might do. All – as we’ve all talked about --


MODERATOR: Wait, let me finish. We’ve said that we’re talking to all of our P-5 counterparts about this. All of the tactical and strategic discussions are going on with Secretary Kerry, Samantha Power, everybody else working on it.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s not my question. You said at the beginning there was strong agreement on the need for mandatory – between the U.S. and China – on the need for mandatory and binding UN Security Council resolution, that they discussed the value of unity among the P-5, and both felt it was important for the council to act quickly and for the OPCW to act quickly. That’s verbatim what you said at the top.


QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that the Chinese will not support – or will support, either way – what the U.S. and Russia come to an agreement on?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can’t make a judgment on that question.

QUESTION: Well, then that sounds like – then I don’t understand how you can say that there was a strong agreement on the need for a mandatory and binding Security Council resolution.

MODERATOR: Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, Matt.

QUESTION: They are.

MODERATOR: They’re not mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) They are.

MODERATOR: They’re not, actually.

QUESTION: They’ll either support it or they don’t.

MODERATOR: But you’re saying this is like a zero-sum game, that the U.S. and Russia are going to decide --

QUESTION: No, I’m not. I’m just looking for a straight answer.

QUESTION: Why don’t we let the briefer brief?

QUESTION: So you don’t have a sense of whether they will back this or not?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There – can you give me some nouns and not indefinite articles?

QUESTION: I’m just trying to follow up on Matt’s question. So you’re saying that you don’t have a sense of whether China will back a U.S.-Russia agreement?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to make a judgment about what China might or might not do.

QUESTION: So you don’t have a sense, or you’re not – you’re just not going to answer?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to make a judgment about what the Chinese may or may not do.

QUESTION: But I mean, you were in this briefing and you heard them discuss it at length, and talk about agreements. So I don’t think it’s an unfair question we’re asking. We’re not trying to trap you. We’re just trying to get --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t have the basis to make a judgment about what the Chinese may or may not do. I do not know.

QUESTION: And there’s nothing about what they said that gives you a sense either way?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not – didn’t give me a sense. I don’t know if it gave the Secretary a sense.

QUESTION: Was there any lobbying on the Secretary’s part to the Foreign Minister on support for this resolution?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It really wasn’t a negotiating session. Clearly, the Secretary was and is a very forceful, and I would venture to say a pretty persuasive, advocate for our strategy.

QUESTION: Did Prime Minister Abe’s remarks last night come up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of Japan in the breakfast.

QUESTION: Can I go back to – can I ask about Iran (inaudible) question? You said that they both agree to support for Iran to respond to the offer that’s on the table. Was there further discussions on that, and could you share with us perhaps some of Foreign Minister Wang’s thinking about the new leadership in Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, there was not a detailed discussion about the P-5+1 offer or proposals per se, simply an affirmation that both the U.S. and China believe that Iran should cooperate with the P-5+1 and should respond positively to the proposals that are on the table. I’ll leave it to the Chinese to read out their meetings with the – and their impressions about the Iranian leadership.

QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up on that, if I may. When you’re talking about proposals that are on the table, you are obviously – you’re obviously talking about the proposals that were made in Almaty in February? There’s nothing new that’s now on the table, correct?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There was nothing I heard specific to which particular proposal it would --

QUESTION: Great. And then just one other one on North Korea. Obviously, as you noted, the Chinese decision or announcement on dual-use export controls is a big one. Did you get a sense on how rigorously they may actually implement this, and did you get any sense of additional steps that they might be willing to take to try to motivate North Korea to give up its nuclear programs?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of the details of implementation, although there was an exchange between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Wang on additional steps that potentially China could take.

QUESTION: Such as?

MODERATOR: I think – go ahead.

QUESTION: Such as?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be specific.

MODERATOR: I think that’s all the time we have --

QUESTION: Can I just ask one last question?

MODERATOR: I think [Senior State Department Official] has to run. I’m sorry. Go quick, please, please.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask China to help on Kenneth Bae at all? Did he come up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The – well, this was not their first conversation on North Korea. That was a topic that they had discussed on Thursday.

MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Thank you.

PRN: 2013/1189