Press Availability in Beijing, China

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
The Westin
Beijing, China
June 7, 2016

MR KIRBY: The Secretary does not have an opening statement, and so we will go right to questions. We only have time for two tonight. The first one will be from Yeganeh Torbati from Reuters. Where are you? There she is. Somebody get her a microphone, please?

SECRETARY KERRY: Good evening, everybody. Let me just say to you all that I apologize for, obviously, it being very late. Secretary Lew and I were supposed to be here together, but we did have an extended meeting with President Xi, a very productive meeting, and then subsequently we had another event, the Smart Cities Low-Carbon event with State Councilor Yang Jiechi. So we’re just literally running behind, and I apologize for that. I’m going to let the statement that I made earlier with Secretary Lew and with the vice premier and state councilor – that’s effectively the summary of what took place in the statement, so I thought we could just go straight into a question.

MR KIRBY: Go ahead, Yeganeh.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thank you so much for this. We heard you had some very tough talks over human rights issues over the past couple days. What do you see as the dangers of the foreign NGO law, and what do you think the consequences will be as a result?

And then secondly, I know you’re not – your role is not to comment on politics, but I wanted to get your reflections on the news of today, which is that your predecessor, Hillary Clinton, has now become the first woman in American history to clinch the nomination of a major presidential party. Thank you very much. Major party. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m sorry, the – what time is it here? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It’s about 8:30, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, okay. So the primary hasn’t happened yet, has it?

QUESTION: Right. But she – AP has called the race.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh. Well, I haven’t heard that, so – (laughter).

With respect to the NGO law, we had a very in-depth, thorough discussion of not just the NGO law but of several laws that have been put in place. But I was, frankly, given reason to feel that we have registered very significantly the feelings of NGOs, of businesses, of various entities in various parts of the world, all of whom have expressed some concern about these laws. As you know, the government held a period of consultation or information gathering about it in response. We were among those who responded. So there’s already been some calculation or adjustment accordingly.

And what we heard today and I what I heard directly from President Xi, actually, was that China intends to remain open, to stay open, to open up even more than it is today, and that it does not see that these laws are going to be applied in any way whatsoever that affects the ability to open up and to do business and for people to feel confident about what they’re doing here, and was very clear that if indeed there were some judgment to the contrary, that they would have to think that through very carefully because of their interest in attracting business, doing business, having foreign direct investment, and continuing to grow and take part in the global community.

So I think that we have to sort of show some patience, if you will, to see how, in fact, it is interpreted. We could not have registered our concerns more directly or forcefully, and I think we have to see what happens in the days ahead. But I thought it was not insignificant that the president of the country spoke very directly to what he wants to see happen in its application, and now the question is: Is that, in fact, what happens? So we have to wait and see.

MR KIRBY: Our final question tonight comes from Chen Weiwei from CCTV.

QUESTION: Thank you. My question is about the speech of Chinese President Xi made at the opening ceremony. He called for deepened communication and control difference constructively, and he said that the Pacific Ocean should not become an arena for rivalry but a platform for inclusive cooperation. So Mr. Secretary, how do you respond to this? Would you –

SECRETARY KERRY: A platform for what?

QUESTION: A platform for inclusive cooperation.

SECRETARY KERRY: Inclusive cooperation. Well, we would agree fundamentally with that statement. We don’t want – I think President Obama has said very similar things, that the Pacific is large enough for everybody and that if the rules and norms of maritime behavior are respected, then there shouldn’t be any challenge whatsoever.

I think that our position is very clear with respect to maritime law. We want the traditional historic freedom of navigation and overflight to be respected. China has said it will be respected. And so hopefully, as we go forward, President Obama’s policy that he has expressed many times will, in fact, dovetail with the stated policy of China, which is that this should be resolved – whatever differences there are should be resolved by negotiation, should be resolved by consultation, and should be resolved, as President Obama has said, by adherence to rule of law.

And China has said to us in the last couple of days repeatedly that they believe that it needs to be resolved under the terms of the Law of the Sea and the terms of the code of conduct, which needs to be completed. So if those things take place, hopefully restraint and common sense will rule the day and we can see these issues resolved. I think it’s important, and we’ve said this many times, that no claimant – none, not any country – engage in unilateral actions that could be deemed by somebody else to be provocative and therefore problematic.

So I took the president’s speech as a constructive speech. I thought overall the president set a good tone for the Security & Economic Dialogue[1], and we were very pleased that the president took the time to come and to open the last two days of discussions. I think that he articulated a program that really, in the end, became the focus of most of our discussions over the course of the next couple of days, which as you’ve heard from everybody I think, were very productive. We didn’t agree on everything, as I said in the statement earlier this afternoon, and as each of the Chinese leaders said, we do have some differences. But what we did over the last two days was professionally, respectfully, I think thoughtfully, articulate those differences and agreed on ways in which we can try to find progress.

There is no question, as we – I think each of us said in our comments this afternoon, that there is far more agreement than disagreement and far more places on which we are now cooperating, whether it’s in science or education or people-to-people, sports exchanges, business, different educational opportunities – there’s just a massive amount. Law enforcement, Iran, the UN, the resolution on North Korea – you can run a list of places where the United States and China have found common ground and been able to create progress. The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental example of that, and our cooperation on Ebola, our cooperation on health – there are just many frontiers of cooperation.

And so yes, there are some differences, but even those we are trying to find a thoughtful and constructive way to manage so that the two largest economies in the world and two countries representing very significant parts of the world and interests and value systems and cultural differences and history could come together and help to shape a world that, frankly, needs some shaping. And we are looking at the big picture because we think that the big picture is what many people want two important nations like ours to focus on, not to be dragged down into squabbles that lend more sense of disarray or chaos or failed leadership to a world that already has enough challenges.

So I found this to be an extremely constructive two days. I think it was the most productive of the four Security & Economic Dialogues[2] that I’ve taken part in, and I think it did a good job to help set the stage for a very productive G20 and a very productive meeting between our two presidents when they come together in a few months.

Thank you all. Appreciate it.

MR KIRBY: Thanks very much, everybody. Thank you.


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[1] Strategic & Economic Dialogue

[2] Strategic & Economic Dialogues