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John Kerry and Wang Yi, Remarks on North Korea, the South China Sea and other topics, February 23, 2016
SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome Minister Wang Yi back to the State Department to the Ben Franklin Room and back to Washington. And we had a – this is about the third time that we have now met in the last weeks, and we’ve had occasion to have a lot of conversations about all of the topics of interest between our countries.
As I have said many times, the United States and China share one of the most consequential relationships in the world. In recent months and years, our nations have worked together to bring about important progress on a range of global issues, including a landmark agreement on climate change in Paris last year, which began with President Xi and – actually, it began before that with our conversations even a year earlier, but ultimately with President Xi and President Obama standing in Beijing and announcing jointly what our intended reductions would be, and that significantly impacted the decisions of other countries leading up to and into Paris.
We also worked very closely together on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program. And China took a leading role with respect to the resolution of one of the very difficult issues, the Arak plutonium reactor, and we’re grateful for the cooperation and the partnership with China with respect to that particular solution to a complicated issue of nonproliferation.
And the reason that we’ve been able to cooperate in areas where our interests and our values are aligned, despite the fact that we have clear differences on some other issues, is that both the United States and China are deeply committed to an open and frank dialogue in which we both recognize our responsibilities to other countries all around the planet. We are two powerful nations, the two largest economies today, and we have an ability, therefore, to be able to make good things happen when we decide to. We’re aware of that, and that is the dialogue that we continued in our meeting here today.
First, we discussed North Korea’s increasingly provocative actions. The nuclear test that the DPRK conducted last month and its subsequent ballistic missile launches are provocative; they are threatening; they are a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. And China and the United States agree completely that this – these actions merit an appropriate response through the United Nations Security Council, which was promised if they violated a resolution, and it was promised in the last resolution.
There now have been several flagrant violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and those violations threaten not only the peninsula, but they also are a threat to international peace and security. We, therefore, need to respond accordingly. And we agreed today to continue our efforts to make certain that response is forthcoming rapidly.
Today, Foreign Minister Wang and I also discussed ways that we, along with our partners in the UN and the Six-Party Talks framework, can deepen our cooperation not only to respond to the actions that DPRK took but equally importantly because those reactions have a purpose and that purpose is to bring the DPRK back to the table for the purpose of the Six-Party Talks and particularly discussions about denuclearization.
We also talked today about the importance of reducing tensions and maintaining the space necessary for diplomatic solutions to the competing claims in the South China Sea. As I said in our meeting, we believe that it is important for a diplomatic solution, for a solution to occur which follows the rule of law that brings the countries to the table for a negotiated resolution not for unilateral actions. We want to halt the expansion and the militarization of occupied features. We think everybody benefits by true demilitarization, non-militarization. We also urge people to clarify the territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law and to commit to peacefully resolve and manage disputes, including through the use of such international mechanisms as authentic bilateral or multilateral negotiations or arbitration.
I also reiterated the commitment of the United States of America to freedom of navigation and over-flight, something which China says it does not stand in the way of; it agrees that there should be peaceful freedom of navigation. I stressed that any enforcement by any party of maritime claims by deploying their own aircraft over disputed areas are not compatible with the freedoms of navigation and of skies of access to flight operations.
We also discussed other issues, where our nations’ views differ as well, such as cyber security, human rights, the issues of nonproliferation, the importance of the nuclear summit that President Obama will host here in Washington at the end of March. I raised our concerns about the challenges on issues such as human trafficking and human rights, and we agreed to continue our discussion with specificity with respect to those issues.
I also emphasized our hope that the United States and China will work diligently together to continue, as we have in the past months, to try to help bring an end to the war in Syria. Less than two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Wang and I met in Munich for a meeting of the International Syria Support Group. We were joined by more than a dozen of our counterparts from around the world. But I must say, Foreign Minister Wang flew the farthest and longest in order to attend that meeting and made an important contribution to the success of our getting agreement, which has now led to Russia and the United States coming to agreement on a cessation of hostilities and a method for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
I’m pleased to say that because of the work we did – all of us together, not one nation or two nations but everybody, insisting on the full application of United Nations Security Resolution 2254 – because of that more than 114 trucks have now delivered humanitarian assistance, food and medicine, to people who literally in some cases have not had help in several years. More than 80,000 people now have enough food and supplies for at least a month. And if things work – if things work in the way that they have been set out, greater assistance can flow in the days, weeks, and hopefully even months ahead.
I was particularly pleased that we were able also to come to agreement with respect to the modalities for the implementation of this cessation of hostilities. Now let me emphasize this is supposed to begin on Saturday, but as I said in Munich, these are words on pieces of paper. They will only have meaning if they are implemented, and they will only be implemented if leaders in all of the different factions, entities, groups involved – whether it’s the Government of Syria or the opposition or other countries – they all have to make the right decisions in the next days.
But we need the parties to this conflict to commit to this cessation. Why is it so important? Because for four years every country has been saying the best way to resolve this crisis, to end the killing, to end the flow of refugees, to end this incredible division of the country and the region is to get to the table and negotiate a political transition according to the Geneva communiqué of 2012. That can only happen at the negotiating table. So it is vital for people to make that decision.
We understand Dr. Riyad Hijab and the High Negotiations Committee, the body formed to represent the Syrian opposition in the political process, are meeting now today and considering this proposed arrangement, and naturally, we hope to hear from the HNC that the maximum number of armed opposition factions will have come forth and expressed their readiness to participate in this cessation of hostilities.
We have an opportunity to halt the violence that the Syrian people have endured for far too long, including aerial bombardment by the regime and its backers. A task force, created by the International Syria Support Group, is going to meet this week in order to help monitor the cessation and in order to help design the methodology by which we will continue to prosecute the war against Nusrah and Daesh. We believe very deeply that it is time for all parties to facilitate the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including ultimately the political transition that respects the rights and the needs and the wishes of the people of Syria.
Lastly, today Foreign Minister Wang and I discussed what has become a major point of cooperation between our two countries: climate change. Because we are the world’s two largest economies, we’re also large emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. And therefore the United States and China can do more to energize the global effort to combat climate change than perhaps any other two nations together. There’s no question that the December agreement in Paris represented historic progress, but let me underscore right now: the United States is absolutely committed to joining the agreement in April. We look forward to signing it, we look forward to implementing it, and we look forward to meeting the targets that we have set.
The hard work doesn’t end in Paris. This is a generational challenge. It is going to take some years for us to transition to the new energy of the future, and it’s going to take dedication and resilience in order to get this job done. I know from our discussion today that the United States and China remain deeply committed to making that happen. It’s an important partnership and we will continue to find ways to work together with that goal in mind.
So thank you very much, and now my pleasure to introduce Foreign Minister Wang. The floor is yours.
FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) Friends from the media, good afternoon. Indeed, this is my third meeting with the Secretary of State in the last 30 days. This shows that both sides attach a lot of importance to our relationship and we hope to deepen mutual understanding through dialogue and to promote cooperation in various fields.
I know you are very interested in the talks that we’ve just had. In particular, you are interested in the issues on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. But actually, the Secretary of State has told you that we had a very extensive agenda. We discussed China-U.S. cooperation and we also discussed the problems that exist, but both sides know that China and United States have far more common interests than areas of disagreement. And we work together on so many areas that far outweigh areas of friction.
As diplomats, it is our responsibility to identify problems, face them, and resolve them so as to create a good environment and atmosphere for a strong bilateral relationship. So in some way, as foreign ministers it is our task to clear the way ahead and to remove obstacles to the smooth development of our bilateral relations.
Last year, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to the United States, and this year we’re going to implement the shared understandings. Both sides will do that and work hard to expand exchanges and cooperation in various fields and to make new progress in the building of a new model of major country relationship. We will maintain and strengthen dialogue and exchanges at various levels. China supports the United States in hosting the fourth nuclear security summit in Washington in late March, early April, and the United States supports China’s hosting of the G20 summit in Hangzhou in September. The two sides will work together to ensure the success of the next rounds of the S&ED, the CPE, the JCCT, and the joint high level dialogue on combating cyber crimes and related issues, as well as other regular dialogues.
We would like to deepen the practical cooperation in various fields. Last year, our two-way trade reached U.S. $558.4 billion. China is now the biggest trading partner of the United States. Two-way investment exceeded $150 billion last year and two-way travel exceeded 4.75 million. We are ready to work with United States to speed up the BIT negotiation to implement the mil-to-mil exchange and cooperation and to advance our cooperation on counterterrorism, anticorruption, nonproliferation, energy, and environmental protection. We would also like to expand people-to-people cultural and subnational exchanges under the China-U.S. Tourism Year. We would like to enhance coordination and cooperation on international and global issues such as the Iranian nuclear issue, Syria, Afghanistan, climate change, and so on.
We reiterated our principled position on the Taiwan issue. We emphasized that peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and peaceful development of cross-straits relations serve the mutual strategic interests of China, United States. The United States says it will remain committed to the “one China” policy and its commitment of opposing Taiwan independence. We hope the United States will keep that commitment and handle Taiwan-related issues in a proper way.
And on the Syrian issue, be it humanitarian access or the cessation of hostilities, we welcome the progress that’s been made in recent days. And China has been playing a constructive role to bring that about. We hope the parties can overcome interference and obstacles and continue to move ahead in the direction pointed out by UN Resolution 2254 and to stick to the correct direction of seeking a political settlement so that the Syria issue will continue to be handled in a proper way.
And on the Iranian nuclear issue, as the Secretary said, we are making smooth progress implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. China was a party in the negotiation that produced this, and going forward, we will work with the relevant parties to make smooth progress in implementing that agreement.
Climate change is an issue that’s on the international agenda. China worked with the United States and others to realize the Paris agreement. And in the course of signing and implementing the Paris agreement, China will continue to work with United States and others to implement the Paris agreement.
And of course, we discussed the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, as we did on previous occasions. In order to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, both sides do not accept the DPRK’s nuclear missile program, and we do not recognize the DPRK as a nuclear weapon state. The UN Security Council is in consultation about a new resolution. I would like to tell you that important progress has been made in the consultations, and we are looking at the possibility of reaching agreement on the draft resolution and passing it in the near future. Once we pass that agreement, we can effectively limit further progress of the DPRK’s nuclear missile program. At the same time, China would like to emphasize that the Security Council resolution cannot provide a fundamental solution to the Korean nuclear issue. To really do that, we need to return to the track of dialogue and negotiation. And the Secretary and I discussed this many times, and we agree on this. That is, the goal is to get back to the negotiation.
China, as the chair of the Six-Party Talks, will continue to act in an objective and impartial way, and we will play our due role in exploring ways to resume the Six-Party Talks. In light of the evolving situation, we have put forward a basic proposal. That is, we want to pursue in parallel tracks the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the replacement of the Korean armistice with a peace agreement. We know certain parties have different views on this proposal. It has not come as a surprise to us, and China is open to new ideas or better ideas so that the relevant parties can have a proper discussion.
China sees the parallel track approach as a reasonable one. It highlights the overriding goal of denuclearizing the peninsula at the same time it seeks to address the major concerns of the various parties. We would like to have further discussions about this with interested parties, including the specific steps that may lead to a resumption of dialogue.
The Secretary and I also discussed the evolving situation on the peninsula. Both sides feel that we need to monitor the situation on the peninsula very closely in the coming two months. Various factors of instability might intertwine and have an impact, so under that situation it’s very important that the various parties have more dialogue so as to prevent the heightening of tension or escalation of the situation. In particular, we must prevent the situation on the peninsula from spinning out of control. That is a scenario that neither China nor the other parties wish to see, so China hopes that the relevant parties will not take any action that might heighten tension on the peninsula.
On the South China Sea issue, the Secretary and I have exchanged views on multiple occasions. The South China Sea islands have historically been China’s territory. China has a right to uphold its territorial integrity and lawful, legitimate maritime rights and interests. At the same time, we are committed to resolving the disputes through dialogue and negotiation in a peaceful way. The South China Sea issue is not and should not become an issue between China and United States. The Secretary and I have agreed to have further dialogue on the South China Sea to deepen our mutual understanding. In particular, it’s important to prevent any miscalculation.
As a matter of fact, China, United States share common interests regarding the South China Sea. For example, both sides hope to maintain peace and stability there. Both sides hope to resolve disputes peacefully. The Secretary made mention of non-militarization. China, United States, and ASEAN countries have all committed to non-militarization. We hope the parties will work together in the same direction – that is to say, non-militarization is not the responsibility of one party alone; it’s something that we share. And I wish to state to you that the general situation in the South China Sea is stable compared with other parts of the world. And I think you would agree with me in that assessment.
And there have not been any problems with regard to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and recently many ship owners or insurers have said that they do not feel there are any problems in this regard, and insurance premium has not gone up. And no commercial vessel has encountered any problem in the area of freedom of navigation.
China and ASEAN countries have the capability to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, which we see in our own interests. And we don’t hope to see any more close-up military reconnaissance or the dispatch of missile destroyers or strategic bombers to the South China Sea. This is something that we have a responsibility for under our non-militarization commitment.
We are confident that through the joint efforts of both sides, we can surely make steady steps forward and make new and greater progress in the China-U.S. relationship. Thank you.
MR KIRBY: The first of our just two questions today will come from Voice of America.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for this opportunity. Mr. Secretary, on DPRK, could you please elaborate on the discussions of the language of a new UN Security Council resolution that is highly anticipated to move on this week? What’s the difference comparing to previous resolutions?
And secondly, on South China Sea, what is your take on a Washington think tank report that China is building radar facilities on islands in the disputed South China Sea? And I have a question for Foreign Minister Wang.
SECRETARY KERRY: Can you just – China building what?
QUESTION: Radar facilities –
SECRETARY KERRY: Radar.
QUESTION: -- on islands in the disputed South China Sea.
(Via interpreter) Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during the meeting, have you agreed on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks?
And if any, what other steps on the South China Sea? You mentioned that basically there is stability in the South China – mentioned the principle of no militarization. Does China support reaching a binding South China Sea code of conduct with ASEAN? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want to go first or –
FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: Please, you can go first.
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to elaborate with any detail on the proposed resolution because it is currently being evaluated by our teams in both Beijing and here in Washington. But the fact that it has reached a stage of where it is being evaluated is significant. It is fair to say, as Minister Wang Yi said a few minutes ago, we have made significant progress; it has been very constructive in the last days; and there is no question that if the resolution is approved, it will go beyond anything that we have previously passed.
That was specifically called for in the last resolution in 2013. We passed a resolution then that said if China – if China – if DPRK – if DPRK violated the resolution and they either tested or engaged in a missile launch, there would be, quote, “significant impacts,” or steps taken as a consequence of that. I believe that what we are considering is significant, but as I say, it is in the appropriate evaluative stages and we both hope that this can move forward very soon.
I also would emphasize what the foreign minister has said, and I think I said this in my opening comments, the goal of this is not to be in a series of cycling, repetitive punishments. That doesn’t lead anywhere. The goal is to try to get Kim Jong-un and the DPRK to recognize that all of the countries of the world are united, as we were with respect to Iran, in saying that the world will not be safer with additional nuclear weapons. That’s a fundamental decision. And what we need is for the DPRK to understand that it can rejoin the community of nations, it can actually ultimately have a peace agreement with the United States of America that resolves the unresolved issues of the Korean Peninsula, if it will come to the table and negotiate the denuclearization.
So that’s the road ahead. That is precisely what this is about. We want a negotiated outcome. And it’s up to the DPRK to make a sensible decision and not deprive their people, as they are today, of the normal commerce of nations and the normal standard of living which their people could have, were they to reach a reasonable agreement.
With respect to the think tank and China’s radar, we have been very clear that it is important for all of the nations – China, Philippines, Vietnam, others – not to engage in any unilateral steps of reclamation, of building, of militarization. And the fact is that there have been steps by China, by Vietnam, by others that have unfortunately created an escalatory cycle. What we’re trying to do is break that. We want President Xi’s statement when he came to Washington that there would be no militarization in the islands to be upheld by everybody, and that means, strictly speaking, true no militarization. Now, if a radar is there for some sort of normal navigation process and there’s no missile attached to it, there are ways to work these things out.
But regrettably, there are missiles and fighter aircraft and guns, artillery, and other things that have been placed into the South China Sea, and this is of great concern to everyone who transits and relies on the South China Sea for peaceful trade, commerce, and use. So our hope is, and we take the foreign minister at his word today that he wants to see this resolved through dialogue. That’s what we want. We agree that we will have continued dialogue and begin to try to see if there isn’t – and we discussed this in Munich also – whether there isn’t some way to proceed forward and find a negotiated resolution to these challenges of jurisdiction claim, and ultimately, to behavior.
Now, China has put forward six very constructive principles about no reclamation, no militarization, freedom of navigation, freedom of use of the skies, et cetera. And if we could organize around those principles, then conceivably, there might be a way to go forward, but we have yet to get there and yet to find that road. We certainly welcome the offer for dialogue because that is obviously the best way to try to resolve whatever tensions there are.
Mr. Minister, the floor is yours.
FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) The Chinese side, as the host party of the Six-Party Talks, of course wants to have an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks. And I remember last time I said that in today’s world any hotspot issue will require a solution based on negotiations, and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is no exception. But resumption of the peaceful talks require the concerted efforts of all parties and requires all parties to meet each other halfway. And we hope that in the near future there will be an opportunity emerging for the resumption of the peace talks, of the Six-Party Talks. And the Chinese side for this purpose is ready to take up our responsibility as the host party and to continue to play our constructive role and express our objective and just position.
Just now it was mentioned whether China is willing to reach a binding COC with ASEAN countries. What I would like to inform to the friends in the media is that, first of all, China, with ASEAN countries – in terms of implementing the DOC, China and ASEAN countries are working together. The DOC is signed on by China and 11 ASEAN countries, and such a document – it is binding. And Article 4 of DOC stipulates that disputes will be resolved through peaceful negotiations by the directly concerned parties. China and the Chinese side has always faithfully acted to implement the DOC. And it is exactly one country – and let me not avoid mentioning the name – that is, the Philippines has violated the stipulation of Article 4 of DOC and has given up on the dialogue and negotiations with the direct concerned parties of China, which is regrettable and which is ill-advised.
And of course, we will not stop implementing the DOC because of one country’s violation, and we will not, just because of the Philippines’s disregard of the DOC’s binding clauses, not push forward the negotiations for the COCs, because it is stipulated by the DOC in the last article that all parties, on the basis of seeking consensus, shall reach a COC at an early time. In fact, only two years have passed since adoption of DOC, but major progress has already been made. We’ve reached two important agreements and reached a period of having negotiations on important and crucial and complex issues. We’ve also signed on a document which includes the key elements for the negotiations. And we will continue to consider the overall interest of peace and stability in the South China Sea and work together with ASEAN countries and in accordance with DOC and push forward the process of the COC negotiation.
Just now it was mentioned – and the issue of radar was mentioned. Although you raise that question for Secretary Kerry, yet I know that the origin of that question might be based on some recent reports, which are about China’s – whether there has been Chinese construction of radar facilities. I hope friends in the media will not only see the radar but more importantly, perhaps, that every day the advanced armaments and equipments emerging in the South China Sea, including the strategic bombers, the missile destroyers – why people have chosen to disregard or ignore them? Please do not just look at what kind of possible radars that China will build. Maybe more importantly, it’s important to notice that in recent decades some countries have illegally occupied China’s reefs and atolls and have engaged in large-scale military constructions not only of radars, but also of missiles and all kinds of cannons and artilleries. This is an objective fact that we are facing. It is exactly China – because of China has taken a – attitude of constraint and a commitment to peaceful talks that we have maintained overall the peace and stability of the South China Sea. We will continue to, based on our commitment, make our efforts, and at the same time we hope and just it was mentioned before that everybody will towards the goal of no militarization take concrete actions rather than engaging in double standards or multiple standards. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Now I would like to give the – a chance to reporter from CCTV. Thank you.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. My first question goes to Secretary Kerry.
(In English.) (Inaudible) by the conversations you’ve had with Minister Wang with regard to the THAAD – the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea. Is the U.S. concerned about potential Chinese and Russian opposition?
And I would like to follow up quickly, if you don’t mind, on the broader question about U.S.-China relationship. This relationship seems to be developing on two different tracks. On the security side, you have your colleague, Secretary Carter, specifying China two weeks ago as the most stressing competitor, and asked for more budget to upgrade America’s weaponry and capabilities in Asia Pacific. However, on the diplomatic and economic side, part of which led by you – you have this largest trading relationship in the world and you have increasing China-U.S. partnership on Iran, on climate change, for example. So at this point, do you think the Pentagon, the PACOM, and the State Department led by you really want the same thing for this relationship? Thank you.
(Via interpreter) Foreign Minister Wang Yi, I have a question for you. Many observers are viewing that China-U.S. relations are not developing on two tracks: one hand, we are seeing more of China-U.S. economic and trade, people-to-people exchanges, cooperation on issues such as climate change and the Iranian nuclear issue; on the other hand, however, we see in strategic security and in human rights it seems that the two countries have deep mistrust of each other’s intentions. In your view, do you think such a double-track development will become a new normal of China-U.S. relations in the near term? Because of the South China Sea issue, will there be more prominent side of confrontation in China-U.S. relations? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) Let me answer your second question. China-U.S. relations is one of the most important bilateral relationship in the world, but at the same time, it is a very complicated and diversified relationship, and oftentimes one cannot simply give a definition to it. What’s happening is that if the cooperation opportunities are not grasped, it can turn into differences. If differences can be handled well, it can become a bright spot of cooperation, such as, and for example, on climate change and on the cyber. We can cite many of such examples.
In my view, the development of China-U.S. relationship should do good on one plus and one minus. By one plus, it means to expand cooperation and constantly accumulate the positive side of the dimension of China-U.S. relations and expand the positive energy of such a relationship. As I said just now, last year, China has already become the U.S. biggest trading partner. There is a deepening of our economic – of our interests’ convergence, from fighting terrorism to combating infectious disease; from nonproliferation to the Middle East peace and Africa’s development. All of these require China and the U.S. to work in cooperation and collaboration, and require the two countries to have participation in them. And one can be sure that cooperation can only increase rather than decrease, and there can be only more, not fewer, fields of potential areas of cooperation between the two countries. We should not only think about what we should let each other countries do, but think about what together the two countries can bring about – namely, we should make the cake or the pie of our common interests bigger.
By minus, I mean managing our differences. China and the U.S. are the biggest developing and developed country. It’s normal for them to have some differences. When all differences disappear, new differences might emerge. First of all, we need to confront them squarely, and secondly, through effective and close communication, we can promptly increase understanding, remove misunderstanding – particularly avoid miscalculation, misjudgment, and prevent smaller problems from becoming bigger problems or troubles. And in sum, we need to take a telescope to visionize the future rather than using a microscope to amplify the problems. And I hope that our two sides can continue to take a long-term perspective and a strategic objective to view and advance the development of China-U.S. relations. And I think that is the responsibility bestowed on us by the people of China and the U.S. It’s also international community’s expectation. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Russia and China have obviously both expressed concerns about THAAD. We have made it very clear that we are not hungry or anxious or looking for an opportunity to be able to deploy THAAD. The only reason for THAAD being in consultation – a decision has not yet been made; it is not deployed – but the reason the consultation is taking place is because of the provocative actions of North Korea, which has publicly announced it is focused on the United States and which is developing weapons which have the ability to attack the United States. THAAD is a purely defensive mechanism – weapon. It’s not an offensive weapon, doesn’t have offensive capability. It is purely capable of shooting down a ballistic missile that it intercepts, and it is there for the protection of Korea and the protection of the United States, if it were to be there.
Now, we have said very clearly many times that the way to not only prevent THAAD from being deployed but also to see America be in a position to have less troops on the peninsula – maybe, one day – is by resolving the issue of the nuclear program in the DPRK and ultimately making peace on the peninsula. We are still living under the same armistice which ended the war back in the 1950s. So what our hope is is that we could move down those tracks one way or the other over a period of time. And we have said that if we can get to denuclearization, there’s no need to deploy THAAD. I don’t think anything could be a better articulation of our desire. We’ve stated publicly, openly, and clearly what the conditions are for not having to consider its deployment, and that would be the denuclearization. That’s all – not even if North Korea fundamentally changed, but if it denuclearized, then this particular threat goes away.
So we’re very clear about it. We hope very much that over the course of the next weeks and months the DPRK will come to some wisdom with regard to its program, recognizing that we are joined together with other nations at the United Nations in our readiness to put in place some additional tough measures to make clear that we are serious.
Now, with respect to – it’s a very, very good question about the two tracks. Let me make this as clear as I can. There is only one foreign policy in the United States, and I have expressed that policy with respect to our desire to resolve the problem of North Korea, to pursue a negotiated resolution of the challenges of the South China Sea. And PACOM and DOD and State Department and CIA and all of our national security team are on the same page with respect to our policy with respect to the region.
Our job is to put out the policy, work on the policy, try to implement the policy, and particularly, to try to pursue the diplomatic opportunities for peaceful resolution and a negotiated settlement to one conflict or another. But it is PACOM’s job and it is the Department of Defense’s job and it is the Secretary of Defense’s job to address what happens if those measures fail. Those are the departments of preparedness. They are the people who have to be prepared for any eventuality in the event that we are unsuccessful in pursuing the other track. So they will see the world in terms of potential future threats. And by the way, the PLA does the same thing. They see the world in terms of potential future conflict.
Our job – Foreign Minister Wang Yi and myself and the President’s job – first of all, is to exhaust the options of diplomacy. The United States has usually done that and we’re at our best when we do. And so that is what we’re going to continue to do here, but make no mistake, nobody is in search of conflict. We are simply trying to be in a position where we can defend against any and all threats.
And the most important thing that can happen over a period of time is for military-to-military cooperation to also take place so people understand what the other people are doing. I watched, as we all did, 50 years in the Cold War and an arms race. And we and the former Soviet Union went up to some 50,000 nuclear warheads aimed at each other – 50,000 – until finally, Gorbachev and Reagan met at Reykjavik and decided this was insanity and we needed to move in a different direction. And we did. And now we’ve ratified the START agreement and we’re down to some – or we will be at 1,500 or so, a huge difference from where we were as we went into a very dangerous course of move and countermove and lack of any understanding of what we were doing.
That’s why diplomacy is important, that’s why these relationships are important – so that we understand each other, so that we know what the eventualities and possibilities are. And when the Defense Department makes the statement it made, it makes it based on its best judgment about how to deal with eventualities. But the more we can work together, the more we resolve these issues peacefully, the less need there is, obviously, for the measure of expenditure that is taking place in those other sectors, particularly in a world where counterterrorism is so urgent, and counter violent extremism and expenditures to try to deal with failed and failing states is far more important than a bi-state arms race. And I think that’s something we all ought to think about very carefully.
MR KIRBY: That concludes today’s press conference. Thank you very much.
Our end of the year Talking Points newsletter reports on U.S.-China notables who passed in 2017.
"Finding Solutions" will focus on the work of individuals, companies, and NGOs to address some of China’s pressing challenges. We hope you will be able to join this important discussion on April 6.