Media Roundtable in Beijing, China

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Ambassador David Shear, Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Westin Hotel
Beijing, China
October 29, 2016


DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is, as Deputy Secretary, my 8th trip in 20 months to the region -- both Northeast and Southeast Asia. And I think it’s simply a reflection of the importance we attach to the rebalance, trying to align our focus and our resources with our interests, which is what the rebalance is all about. So I’ve probably spent more time in the Asia Pacific than anywhere else in my tenure. And, in particular, today what we’re doing is what is now, I think, the third —Interim Strategic Security Dialogue. The Strategic Security Dialogue happens the day before the Strategic Economic Dialogue. And we’ve also been doing these interim sessions to try to keep the momentum of the conversation going. I found these meetings to be very, very valuable in order to try to have an in-depth, sustained and particularly open conversation on the key issues that we have to deal with in the relationship, and much of this will be obvious. Things like DPRK, maritime, cyber. And I think it’s reflective of the overall approach we’ve taken to the relationship with China. On the one hand, working across these many years to broaden and deepen areas of cooperation, and there are real results to show for that. But, at the same time, to deal directly with our differences. Not try to push them under the rug, ignore them, but to actually confront them directly to try and narrow the differences, resolve them where we can. And then finally if we can’t, to manage them peacefully.

In terms of the progress we’ve made, I think a lot of this is very evident to folks who follow this every single day. But to state what may be obvious but no less important for being obvious, the work we’ve been able to do together on climate, on Ebola, on the Iran nuclear deal, on Afghanistan. Increasingly working cooperatively on development in third countries. And even in the military to military sphere, some of the confidence-building measures. These are real, they’re practical, they’re meaningful, and they demonstrate that we are deepening and broadening our cooperation.

At the same time we’ve seen, for all of the challenges, the economic relationship continues to move forward. Since 2009, our exports to China have doubled. It’s now the largest market for U.S.-made goods outside of North America, and also increasingly a large and top market for agricultural products and even services. And I say that against the backdrop of obviously some challenges that we have to manage in the economic sphere.

And I think there’s also been progress where there have been real differences, particularly in the cyber realm, and working with China to establish and act on the norm that we won’t use cyber for commercial gains, about cyber theft for commercial gain.

At the same time, and I’ll just end with this, we are very focused on dealing with challenges that we have to, hopefully, confront together. There is no more urgent, more important challenge than that posed by North Korea and its relentless pursuit of nuclear and missile programs. From our perspective, this is the top agenda issue because what we’ve seen over the past year in particular is a qualitative change in the threat posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs. There have now been, this year alone, 24 missile tests, two nuclear tests. And while you see these tests sometimes described as, quote/unquote, failures if a missile doesn’t go as far as it was expected to go, in fact each and every time North Korea is learning valuable information that can allow it to further perfect its arsenal. And it is getting closer to the day when it will be able to marry a miniaturized nuclear warhead to an ICBM that can reach the continental United States. That is simply unacceptable.

So we are working every single day to build a comprehensive and sustained pressure campaign on North Korea. Not to bring Kim Jong-un to his knees, but to bring him to his senses and back to the table to engage meaningfully on denuclearization. And in this effort, there is no more important partner than China. And that’s because China’s relationship with North Korea, as all of you know, is unique. Virtually all of the trade from-to North Korea goes from, to or through China. And that means that China has an ability more than any other country to try to affect the conduct of the regime.

China sometimes says that it has less influence than it used to with the DPRK. Maybe. But it continues to have extraordinary leverage, which is different than influence.

So we’re working very closely with China to exert the kind of pressure that has the potential to change the conduct of the regime. And of course a lot of that effort right now is taking place in New York where we’re working together on a new Security Council Resolution in the wake of the latest North Korean provocations.

Our strong preference is to work this cooperatively with China, but we’ve also been very clear that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves, to defend our allies and partners, and to insist on the implementation of sanctions against the regime.

Finally, we’re also of course engaged in the maritime domain on the South China Sea, East China Sea. We hope very much that China will seize the opportunity in the wake of the arbitration decision to take steps to lower tensions and indeed there are some signs, although not confirmed that, with regard to Scarborough, China may be acting in accordance with the arbitration decision. That would be a very positive development. There are other things that all of the claimants can do to reduce tensions and try to resolve differences peacefully in the wake of the arbitration decision.

Finally, there’s a lot of engagement in the area of our economic relationship. Other colleagues focus of course more on that. That’s not going to be front and center in our discussions today, but it is vitally important and we’re of course still looking to see if we can complete the Bilateral Investment Treaty by the end of the year. Some real progress has been made in that direction, but a lot of work is also yet to be done.

So let me stop talking and I’ll try and take any questions.

MODERATOR: Thanks.

QUESTION: You started off mentioning the rebalance. There is a sort of strong narrative that the rebalance is in quite a bit of trouble. TPP obviously is struggling. We’ve got President Duterte in the Philippines who is publically questioning U.S. ties and U.S. military troops almost every day. So what’s your -- it’s a narrative of American decline or lack of commitment and China’s inexorable rise and other Asian nations recalibrating their positions in the light of that reality. What’s your thoughts on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s not a narrative that I see, or that I’m experiencing.

First, the rebalance is really a comprehensive reorientation of our resources and focus on the region. Again, for reasons that you all know very, very well. When we look to the future, we see an Asia Pacific future for the United States. We have treaty allies here. We see many of our fastest growing trading partners. We see incredibly, in many places, an incredibly young, connected, wired population. We see two-thirds of the world’s middle class being in this region within the next ten years. So we’re very oriented in making sure that again, with the way we align our resources and our attention and time, that we are acting on those interests.

So we’ve done a number of things to do that and set a strong foundation for that kind of future.

We have significantly strengthened our core alliances. I’ll come to the Philippines in a minute. Again, I just came from Japan and Korea, and I think it’s fair to say that the core alliances with Japan and Korea have never been stronger. Very significant agreements reached with both countries in the last few years have strengthened those alliances.

At the same time, we’ve been developing relations with emerging countries in the region that are also extremely significant and, seen against the backdrop of history, quite remarkable. None more so than Vietnam and Myanmar.

We just had, again, one of the senior leaders of the Vietnamese communist party in Washington hosted by Secretary Kerry. Of course President Obama was in Vietnam. And we had the Secretary General of the Vietnamese communist party in the Oval Office of the White House a little over a year ago. When you step back, it’s quite remarkable given the history. And we’ve been a major supporter of the democratic evolution in Myanmar. So we’re developing those relationships. And of course with other significant countries.

Third, we have been working very hard to strengthen the institutions in the region, and a lot of that can be seen simply in the engagement, starting with President Obama, that we’ve put into those institutions. Whether it’s ASEAN, whether it’s EAS, whether it’s APEC. And that creates both some fora in which countries can work together on common challenges. It also allows countries that may be small in size to magnify their voices by speaking increasingly collectively.

Now all of that’s a work in progress, but it’s been meaningful.

Next, the trade piece of this. And you’re exactly right. TPP is at the heart of that. And we do have a question mark on TPP because we have to see if we can get it ratified. But I can say that this is a top priority for the President in the remainder of his administration, and let’s see where we go over the next few weeks, couple of months.

We’ve also, in this context, been working in very interesting ways to create new connections and networks among countries in the region. We were just in Tokyo and Seoul, as I mentioned. The reason we were in Tokyo is because we had our fifth trilateral meeting at my level, of the Vice Foreign Ministers among the United States, the Japanese and the Koreans. And that’s resulted in more than 20 cooperative trilateral projects. It’s resulted in much deeper cooperation and coordination dealing with DPRK among the three countries. And there’s tremendous practical promise in that. And there are other pieces of this geometry.

And then finally, there is the relationship with China. The rebalance is not aimed at China. China is a part of it. And in the way that I tried to set out at the beginning.

So you’re right that there are some question marks. TPP is one. And of course the relationship with the Philippines is another.

I would just say this. One, when you actually look at the relationship between our countries, the, not only the duration but the depth of that relationship is extraordinary and we see it, for example, in poll after poll. It shows that regard for the United States amongst Filipinos is remarkably high. I think one recent survey I saw had about a 90 percent approval rate. A lot of this goes to the connections between the United States and Philippines that are at the people to people level. So many Filipino Americans. And by the way, those Filipino Americans provide about $8 billion a year in remittances to the Filipino economy. Similarly, just on economic connectivity, we have, as you know, a critical part of the Filipino economy, are call centers. They’re providing about $22 billion a year to the economy. Three-quarters of those call centers are for American businesses.

And of course the work that we’ve done, that my colleagues can speak to more eloquently, in terms of support for the Filipino military and security forces over the years, has been quite exceptional. And indeed helping the Philippines develop an effective counter-drug policy and capacity.

So, it’s a long way of saying that I think the relationship is such that even when we have differences, or even when there are different personalities involved, the foundation is extraordinarily strong and I have a lot of confidence in it.

QUESTION: Could you explain more about China as a part of the rebalance? It’s a relatively new idea.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think it’s a new idea. I think it’s actually part of the conception from the very start.

As I said, what motivated the rebalance was when we looked at where our strategic interests lie, when we look at where our economic interests lie, we were pulled inexorably to the Asia Pacific. And at the very heart of that is China. It’s hard to imagine the next decades without thinking about and acting on the relationship between the United States and China. And if we get it right, it will be to the advantage of people in both countries and around the world. If we get it wrong, it will create problems for everyone.

So we have a real incentive and a real stake to engage in a very deep but also sustained way in the relationship and it is, again, part of this focus on the region.

In that context, at the heart of our vision, and I think it’s a vision that makes sense for everyone, is sustaining, strengthening, and as necessary adapting the rules-based, norms-based, institutions-based order that has done so much to actually create space in which countries in the region could grow, emerge, prosper, starting with China. And we very much want China to be a partner and part of that effort.

Now we have different visions sometimes about the way, the direction in which to take things, but at least in my experience over the past few years, I don’t think there’s been a time when we have talked as clearly, as directly, as openly, moving beyond just reading talking points and trying to work through the areas where we have differences, even as we’re trying to deepen cooperation.

So we see China as being very much at the heart of the rebalance. It’s not directed at them.

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: If I could add to that Tony, Secretary Carter has said we want to build a principled, inclusive security network throughout the region, and when we say inclusive we don’t just mean our allies, we mean China as well. And that’s why we’ve engaged China very intensively in building our military to military relationship, in concluding a variety of confidence-building measures, and we’re looking at other ways of building confidence and including more confidence-building measures. And that’s why we invited the Chinese Navy to participate in RIMPAC this year.

So we have a very broad military to military relationship with China and that’s also a fundamental part of the rebalance.

QUESTION: I’d just like to ask on that score. You have gotten an agreement with Malaysia to fly P-8s out of Malaysia, and I understand that that agreement is actually going to expand a bit. Can you talk about that?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: I’m not going to get into the details of our discussions with the Malaysians, but in general the demand signal for U.S. presence and U.S. engagement in the region is very strong. That includes the Malaysians, and we’re looking for ways of further cooperating with them and working with them to, as I say, build that principled inclusive security network. They will be part of that.

QUESTION: So the P-8s have started flying?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: We do conduct rotational P-8 operations out of Malaysia.

QUESTION: And will they expand?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: That’s a matter of discussion between the U.S. and Malaysia, and I’m not going to get into how we might alter our operations.

QUESTION: I have a question related to Donald Trump and the [inaudible] Chinese [inaudible]. I don’t know how these kinds of remarks might be playing out here in China.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, one of the great things about this job that I’m in now as a diplomat, it means I don’t do politics. So I will happily pass on any comments on the American election or American politics.

QUESTION: I think that you just said that China’s showing some signs that it wants to act in accordance with the arbitration ruling on the Scarborough Shoal. I wonder if you could elaborate on that, tell us what specifically you’re seeing.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: There was a report yesterday which I haven’t seen confirmed, so that’s why I would attach a large caveat to this, but there was a report yesterday that said that Chinese boats have pulled back from Scarborough, Filipino fishermen were getting access. If that is accurate, that would suggest that China is acting consistently with the arbitration ruling. It may well be a product of President Duterte’s trip to Beijing, but that would be a positive development. If it’s confirmed. But I want to emphasize, I can’t confirm that. I just saw the report.

QUESTION: On North Korea, you’re focused very much on coal exports to China, and trying to close that kind of loophole. You mentioned earlier you weren’t trying to bring Kim Jong-un to his knees but to his senses. Obviously from that point of view and perhaps from the Chinese point of view, closing that loophole would be crippling to the North Korean economy.

I was wondering, how do you sort of see, how do you square the circle?

And secondly, how has the Chinese response to deployment of the THAAD missile defense hindered the prospects for a breakthrough on this point?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: With regard to the first part of the question, we’ve seen through experience that if you approach sanctions, pressure, isolation in a sustained and comprehensive way, you can have a real effect in changing conduct. And there’s no better example recently of course than Iran, which made the fundamentally important decision after years of mounting pressure to freeze its program, allow in inspectors, start to roll the program back in some respects. And that created time and space in which we were able to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.

Similarly with North Korea. We believe that if we can apply, build and apply this kind of pressure in a sustained and comprehensive way, then as the leadership looks at its interests it may come to the conclusion that its interests lie in moving back toward denuclearization, not persisting in trying to advance its weapons programs and forsaking the interests of its people, and guaranteeing its isolation and further weakening.

Now, our purpose is not to crater the Norther Korean economy. It’s to exert enough sustained pressure that it has an effect on Kim Jong-un’s calculus. That will take time. But most importantly, it will take China because of the relationship.

Coal is critical because last year, by our assessment, North Korea got about a little over a billion dollars in revenue from selling coal. Unfortunately, in a number of months over the summer, China’s coal imports from North Korea were up over the same month the previous year. Despite 2270. And there is a difference between us, there has been a difference between us on 2270. The plain language of 2270 makes it very clear that the export of coal or the importation of coal to China is prohibited unless you can demonstrate that the transaction in question goes to the livelihood of the North Korean people.

The Chinese have reversed the presumption and their approach has been that the trade in coal is allowed unless you can demonstrate that it’s going to the weapons program. But that’s not what 2270 says.

So we’re trying in New York now as well as here to focus on what was the very clear premise of 2270, and we’re convinced that can have a significant impact on North Korea’s thinking.

The interesting thing about sanctions is that when you look at the sweep of these things throughout history, they’re a failure until they succeed. But you have to do it in a comprehensive and sustained way.

With regard to THAAD, one of the things that I mentioned earlier that, at least from my perspective, the relationship has never been more clear, more open, more direct, and we’re not in the business of trying to surprise each other. We try to put our cards on the table and just be very clear about our interests, just as China is. And the steps that we plan to take.

So we said for many, many, many months before the decision was made to deploy THAAD to South Korea that this is something we’re going to have to strongly consider and ultimately do if there is not a clear change in the trajectory in North Korea. And we, this is not directed at China. It’s a purely defensive system. It won’t affect China’s strategic deterrent. But we understand you don’t like it. And of course if there were no threat from North Korea we wouldn’t need to do it. But unfortunately, not only is there a threat, but it is getting more and more acute.

So we’ve also been clear that the decision to deploy THAAD was the latest but not the last defensive step that we would have to take in the event the threat persists.

My own sense is that has not affected the discussions or negotiations in New York. To the contrary, I think showing that we are dead serious about defending our security and that of our allies and partners and will take any step necessary to do that hopefully will motivate China to work with us to change the conduct of the North Korean regime. That’s ultimately the best way for us not to have to take steps going forward that add to our defenses. Again, none of which are directed at China, but which we acknowledge China is not usually enthusiastic about.

QUESTION: As a quick follow up, has China directly linked the two issues in your discussions on the new sanctions?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: It sounds like maybe from your side you have, in the sense that there’s sort of an implicit threat that if --

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s --

QUESTION: -- if new measures can’t be found to restrain North Korea then there could be further steps to --

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah. There’s no threat. It’s just a statement of fact. And we’ve been very clear and direct in explaining that from our perspective the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs has, is moving to a qualitatively different place. And that threat and its continuation is not acceptable from the perspective of U.S. national interests. And our strong, strong desire is to work cooperatively with China.

Now China has the same broad interest and the same objective that we do which is denuclearization. We’re on the same page. But it’s also fair to say, as everyone knows, that China puts a premium on stability. And that’s totally understandable. But the problem is, the greatest source of instability is the North Korean regime and its actions. And the best way actually to uphold China’s interest in preserving stability is to deal with this problem. And we can’t deal with the problem effectively without China playing a leading role.

So that’s the nature of the conversation. But it’s not about threats. It’s really just about facts and a clear assessment of our interests and the steps that we have to take to protect our interests.

QUESTION: As a tangent to the THAAD issue, elsewhere in Asia, in Southeast Asia for example, you had mentioned expanded ties with Vietnam earlier. Under what circumstances could you see sort of a continued expansion of military weapons transfers in that region?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’ll let David Shear address that, but I would say just briefly, that you saw when the President went to Vietnam the lifting of the prohibition on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam. We are engaged in supporting the development of their maritime capacity. I think there’s tremendous potential in that relationship going forward.

David, do you want to address that?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: Our broad relationship with Vietnam has grown considerably over the past few years including the military to military relationship.

Of course, arms sales are a potential part of that relationship with the lifting of the arms ban. But we have a much broader set of military to military exchanges with the Vietnamese and those are based on a very strong set of common interests that we share with them.

And we will continue to look for opportunities to work with the Vietnamese. We’re working with them under the Maritime Security Initiative which is a $425 million five-year program covering the region in which the Vietnamese participate. Focused on maritime security. We’re working with them in areas like de-mining and removal of unexploded ordnance, as well as the decontamination of areas contaminated by Agent Orange.

So we have this broad set of activities we conduct with the Vietnamese including but not limited to potential arms sales.

QUESTION: You just mentioned about U.S. welcome to China to become part of a rule-based and order-based region. But we don’t always share the same definition about rule and order, such as China regards its not to obey the arbitration as a rule, but it is obviously that the United States doesn’t think so. How would you discuss such differences with your Chinese colleagues?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: We discuss them very openly and very directly. We’ve had many conversations and discussions about the South China Sea generally; the arbitration decision more specifically. And what we’ve said is, look, the Chinese will say to us in effect, this is not your business. You’re not a claimant. That’s exactly true. We’re not a claimant when it comes to the South China Sea. But we do have a profound interest in some of the basic principles that are at stake, and in particular in freedom of navigation given the amount of commerce that flows through the seas here that is vital to all of our economies and to our people. A very clear interest in the peaceful resolution of disputes without coercion, because the alternative is conflict which is not in anyone’s interest. And a profound interest in acting in accordance with international law, norms. Because that has been a foundation of predictability and stability that’s allowed the region, including China, to flourish over these many decades since the end of the 2nd World War.

So when we’re engaged on these issues it is for the purpose of upholding these principles when we see them challenged by anyone -- China or anyone else. So that’s the nature of the engagement. But you know, never tell another country its own interests, we’re not in the business of doing that. But we do believe that China has its own stake, especially as it emerges more and more in a predictable rules-based order. So if it takes actions that undermine that order, actually it’s going to be acting against its own interests. That’s the nature of the conversation.

Now, it’s also fair to say I think that when this system first evolved after the 2nd World War, China obviously was not in the same place, didn’t hold the same position that it holds today. And it rightfully says that it also wants to make sure that it has a voice and a clear role in shaping the order, shaping the rules. And that’s absolutely legitimate. And we want it to be a partner in those efforts. But it has to start with not undermining the order in the first place.

QUESTION: You mentioned the freedom of navigation exercises. I mean periodically in Washington you come under criticism for not pursuing them robustly enough, for not more explicitly challenging territorial waters, you know, the fact that some of these rocks don’t [command] territorial waters. You’ve come in for criticism for not explicitly saying that the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines, for example, would cover actions in territorial waters. And you know, the fact remains that nothing you’ve done arguably has stopped the Chinese from continuing to build on some of these disputed rocks.

So I guess the question is, what can you do now to sort of, you know, can you take more robust actions to ensure the interests of not only the United States, but of freedom of navigation of your allies and friends in the region. What’s in your arsenal to do?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Let me start, and then I’ll turn to David.

We’ve been very very clear, both by word and deed, that we will drive our boats, fly our planes wherever international law allows it. Period. That’s exactly what, not only what we said, but what we’ve done. And the purpose, again, is to uphold these basic principles including freedom of navigation. So there’s no change in what we’ve said and what we’ve done in that regard.

To the contrary, the idea is not to be provocative or to somehow instigate conflict, it’s simply to uphold the norms and principles, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in a practical way.

At the same time, we’re not the only voice and we’re not the only vote on these issues. Countries throughout the region have interests, and there are claimants, there are others who are not directly claimants but who have a clear interest also in preserving freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, avoiding instability, avoiding conflict. And I think they’ve looked with increasing concern at some of the actions taken by China when it comes to these outposts, when it comes to construction, when it comes to militarization. And as David said a moment go, that’s actually only increased the demand signal for U.S. engagement and U.S. presence in the region.

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: FON Ops have certainly gotten a lot of attention and they’re an important way in which we demonstrate our commitment to freedom of navigation, the rule of law and the law of the sea. But they’re not the only component of our strategy in the region.

We have very strong overall military presence in the region including in the South China Sea. We have conducted operations in the region for decades. And those operations are designed in part to demonstrate our commitment to the rule of law and freedom of navigation. In part to deter aggression from any quarter. And in part to reassure our allies. And that’s what we’re doing via FON Ops and by a broader strategy of maintaining our presence throughout the region. So FON Ops are again, important, but they’re only a piece of the broader strategy.

QUESTION: At this point, what is the latest thinking on whether U.S. military facilities in the Philippines are at risk?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: Can you repeat the question?

QUESTION: Yeah. What’s your thinking at this point about whether U.S. military bases and facilities in the Philippines are at risk?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: Well, as we’ve said before, we have a longstanding, very close relationship with the Philippines. Our alliance is 60 years old. And we’ve had ups and downs in this alliance before, and we’ll get through the current uncertainties associated with our relationship with the Philippines.

Our commitment is clear. We’re going to maintain our obligations under the treaty and we expect the Philippines will do the same.

We’re going to, in the coming days and weeks, we’ll be consulting with our Philippine counterparts to determine what their intentions are, but I’m sure that over time this alliance will flourish.

QUESTION: And the last FON Op, the one around the Paracels, was that the first time that you’ve done that with ships as opposed to with planes?

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: No, we’ve done FON Ops on the Paracels before. I believe we did one last year. I can’t remember exactly what the date was. But this isn’t the first time we’ve done a FON Op in --

QUESTION: Specifically with naval ships as opposed to with aircraft.

AMBASSADOR SHEAR: Correct.

QUESTION: You think the sanctions will work to denuclearize the DPRK, but the U.S. National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, has said economic engagement with the DPRK may be a better policy to dealing with the nuclear capabilities of the country, [a U-turn] from the U.S. government to pressure and sanctions against the Kims’ regime. So what’s your comment on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Just that there’s no change in our policy. The approach we believe offers the greatest prospect of success is to sharpen the choice for Kim Jong-un between continuing to pursue his missile and nuclear programs or addressing the needs of his people and North Korea’s isolation. And that choice, if he chooses the latter, requires denuclearization. So that’s our policy. That’s our approach. There’s no change. And I don’t anticipate any change with the new administration either.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. accommodate the DPRK’s security concerns?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve said very clearly, not only said, we have an agreement dating back to 2005, the so-called Joint Statement, and that the DPRK also signed onto, as did China, that provided the DPRK takes credible, authentic, meaningful and irreversible steps toward denuclearization, then any issues of concern can be discussed and negotiated, including looking at the armistice agreement and considering a peace agreement to succeed it. But the path to that future, if there is to be one, must go through denuclearization.

Unfortunately, and we’ve made every effort over the last several years to engage North Korea and to try to restart a dialogue on denuclearization and engagement, and we have been rebuffed every single time. North Korea has shown no interest in engaging on denuclearization and it refuses to even acknowledge that that’s an issue that it must address and talk about.

So given that, the only alternative is to see if we can, through meaningful, sustained pressure, convince Kim Jong-un that his interests lie in reengaging on denuclearization, not pursuing this incredibly dangerous and destabilizing course of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons and missile tests.

QUESTION: The Chinese media once pointed out Hillary was not welcomed by the Chinese people. And so how do you envision the relationship between China and the U.S. if she is elected?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, we don’t do politics.

QUESTION: Personal opinion.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I also don’t do personal views –

(Laughter)

Look, without addressing our election or what’s going to come of it one way or the other, I think what is very safe to say is that to both the United States and China, I’d argue there’s no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with each other. We both have a profound interest in strengthening that relationship as we’ve been doing; trying to deepen and broaden areas of cooperation; and also engage very directly in our differences and try to resolve them. And certainly avoid any conflicts. That fundamental interest on the part of both countries, I believe, endures, no matter who is leading one country or the other. So I believe there’s been a consistent, in many ways consistent trajectory in the relationship going back including several administrations in the case of the United States and China, and my hope and expectation is that the trajectory, with all of its challenges and difficulties, will continue. And that trajectory is deepening and broadening the relationship, finding ways to work more and more cooperatively around the world. And, as I said, dealing directly with our differences, not ignoring them.

QUESTION: Can you talk more about BIT?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’d leave that to some of the more expert colleagues in Washington or at the embassy. We’ve made progress, but there’s more to be done if we’re going to get to a conclusion by the end of the year. That is an objective, but there are still some important decisions that China has to make in terms of whether it’s market access issues, whether it is the so-called negative list. Again, progress but we’re not there yet.

Thank you.