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John Kerry and Wang Yi, Joint Press Conference, January 27, 2016

Press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Wang.
January 27, 2016

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Beijing, China
January 27, 2016

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Friends from the press, good afternoon. The foreign ministers of China and the United States have just had an in-depth and substantive discussion, and now, they are ready to meet the press. Now, Foreign Minister Wang will first make a statement.

FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) Friends from the press, we’re sorry to have kept you waiting, and even if you may have skipped lunch, I hope you’ve been provided with sandwich by the foreign ministry. Well, there is this delay because we’ve been having discussions and discussions. Building on what we have agreed, we hope we can present you with more points of agreement, and that, I believe, is what Secretary Kerry wants to achieve by flying all the way to Asia. And I want to say to all of you that Secretary Kerry and I have had positive, candid, and constructive meetings.

Both sides fully applaud the important progress that’s been made in the China-U.S. relationship in the past year. In particular, the successful state visit paid by President Xi Jinping to the United States helped both sides to set the blueprint for equal (inaudible) exchange and win-win cooperation between China and the United States in (inaudible) along the direction of building a new model of major country relationship.

The two sides went over the important agenda in the China-U.S. relationship in 2016. We both agree that we need to continue to work together to implement the series of important outcomes reached during President Xi’s visit to the United States. The two sides will maintain exchanges at the top and other levels, will have timely communications on major issues of shared interest. The two sides will ensure the success of the next round of S&ED, the high-level consultation on people-to-people exchange, the JCCT, and the second high-level joint dialogue on fighting cyber crime and related issues, and make sure positive outcomes will flow from these dialogues.

And we agree to accelerate the BIT negotiation to expand practical cooperation in specific economic and trade areas, to strengthen mil-to-mil exchanges and cooperation at all levels and in all fields, to intensify exchanges and cooperation on counterterrorism, fighting trans-national crime, anticorruption, repatriation of fugitives, and recovery of their ill-gotten gains, and also expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

We agree to continue to implement the joint announcement and the joint presidential statement on climate change between China and the United States, and to do a good job to follow up on the Paris climate change conference, and in the meantime, to deepen bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy and environmental protection.

Secretary Kerry and I have also had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on some important issues of mutual interest which helped us to deepen mutual understanding. I emphasized that Taiwan is the core issue affecting the China-U.S. relationship. No matter how the situation in Taiwan will evolve, there has been and will be no change to the basic fact that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China. The U.S. side should keep its commitment to the one-China policy, continue to abide by the three Sino-American joint communiques, and oppose Taiwan independence, and take concrete actions to support the peaceful development of cross-straits relations.

On the South China Sea issue, I pointed out to Secretary Kerry that the South China Sea Islands have historically been China’s territory. China has a right to protect its own territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime rights and interests. At the same time, China is committed to upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea. We’re committed to managing differences through dialogue and (inaudible) a peaceful settlement of the disputes through negotiation and consultation. It’s important that the two sides manage these sensitive issues in a constructive way so that they will not detract from the overall interests of China-U.S. cooperation.

Secretary Kerry and I have also had a very in-depth and comprehensive exchange of views on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. China is a large country and our position on this issue is transparent and above board. It’s also firm and consistent. Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment.

China’s basic position on this issue can be summarized as three commitments: We are committed to achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We are committed to upholding peace and stability on the peninsula. We are committed to resolving the issues with full dialogue and consultation. These three points are tied to each other and we cannot do without any one of them. The goal is to have peace and stability on the peninsula, and to do that, we must press ahead with denuclearization. Otherwise, there can be no tranquility on the peninsula or in our region.

And to achieve denuclearization, one has to take the path of negotiation and consultation. Sanctions are not an end in themselves. The key is to really resolve the issue. For many years, China has been working very hard to implement these three commitments. We’ve fulfilled our responsibility and we’ve delivered on our obligation.

Recently, the DPRK has conducted another nuclear test in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and that nuclear test disrupted the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. So of course, China made clear its opposition, and we also agree that the Security Council need to take further action and pass a new resolution. On the basis of necessary preparations, China will act in a responsible manner, and to have comprehensive and in-depth deliberations with the United States and other parties on this.

In the meantime, we must point out that the new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, (inaudible) destabilize the Korean Peninsula. Rather, the goal is to take the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula back to the right track of negotiation. I’ve had very forward, in-depth, and productive discussions with Secretary Kerry on this issue, which helped us to deepen mutual understanding and expand on our consensus. I want to point out that China and the United States share the same overall goal on this issue, and so far, the two sides have conducted continuous coordination and cooperation, and we are prepared to continue to work in that direction. China’s position on this issue is clear-cut, consistent, responsible and sensible, and we reject all groundless speculation or distortion of China’s position.

Before I conclude, I wish to say that it serves the fundamental interests of our two nations and it’s a general expectation of the international community to have sustained, healthy, and stable development of China-U.S. relations. China is prepared to work with the United States to earnestly implement the important understandings reached between our presidents, and to have more communication, mutual trust and cooperation, and to make even greater progress in our bilateral relationship in the year ahead. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Minster Wang, and now, Secretary Kerry will make some statements.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, and my joint apologies with my colleague for the fact that we are running a little bit late, but we had a long and intensive discussion and I think it was constructive, but I know we’ve kept you waiting. We apologize.

I’m delighted to be back in Beijing and really appreciate the opportunity to sit down with Foreign Minister Wang and to work on a broad range of issues that concern both the United States and China. We have just had – as the foreign minister said and I agree with him – a very comprehensive discussion over some of the regional issues, bilateral issues, and of course, the international issues of national security concern. I look forward to meeting with State Councilor Yang Jiechi and with President Xi later, and I know those meetings will not take as long by any means.

Let me emphasize that the United States and China are determined to cooperate where we can, and to deal with differences constructively where they exist. That determination continues to drive our approach on issues, and we’ve seen it play out as we have made progress and discussed the issues like cyber security, climate change, wildlife trafficking, implementing the Joint Plan of Action on Iran, the Ebola crisis, Afghanistan. There have been a significant number of places where China and the United States have been able to make a difference together. And I think it’s a simple fact of diplomatic and international life that when China and the United States are able to cooperate, we are better able to work towards a shared goal and we accomplish more for everybody.

Let me just say with respect to one of the issues that the foreign minister raised on Taiwan, that since they’ve just had an election and a new party has won, the United States does reaffirm the three communiques which have been the basis of our policy. We remain committed to a one-China policy. But we encourage cross-straits dialogue for resolution of that issue.

But the issue that topped our agenda today and on which we’ve spent most of the time that kept you waiting is the issue of North Korea. So let me be clear: Kim Jong-un’s actions are reckless and they are dangerous. Whether or not he achieved the explosion of the hydrogen weapon is not what makes the difference. It’s that he is trying, that he wants to do that, and made the attempt against all of the international sanctions and resolutions that have been passed by the global community to prohibit that behavior. As a result, North Korea poses an overt threat – a declared threat – to the world and it has stated its intention to develop a thermonuclear weapon.

In addition, it has made clear its intent to develop an international continental ballistic missile with the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead to other places in the world. This is a threat to any nation in the world, but particularly, we in the United States understand what his purpose is, and therefore, it is a threat that the United States must take extremely seriously. And the United States will do what is necessary to protect the people of our country and our friends and allies in the world.

All nations, particularly those who seek a global leadership role or who have a global leadership role, share a fundamental responsibility to meet this challenge with a united front. We were united as a world in making it clear to the nation of Iran that it should not develop a nuclear weapon, and indeed, we all joined together and worked cooperatively in the effort to make certain that we could get to the table and have negotiations. With all due respect, more significant and impactful sanctions were put in place against Iran, which did not have a nuclear weapon, than against North Korea, which does. And with Iran, we implemented an agreement in the end with the great cooperation of China, with China’s help, with Russia, Britain, France, Germany – all came together in order to assert a critical principle and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Now, the United States and China, along with countries and organizations across the international community, appropriately, quickly, and strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear test. This test was a blatant violation of the UN Security Council resolution, and as permanent members of the Security Council, our two countries and other countries are obligated to take action. So it is vital for us – and we talked about this today and agreed – that we need to reach consensus on a strong UN Security Council resolution. But we have yet to fill out the parameters of exactly what it will do or say.

But one of the things that we emphasized today is that there has been a lot of talk about North Korea through these past years. Now is the time, we believe, for action that can bring North Korea back to the table. I agree with my fellow minister. There is a goal in sanctions. It’s to get to the negotiations. And we must make it clear that is our objective – to negotiate the end to the nuclear program.

Let me emphasize the United States and China are united in our opposition to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and we agree – both of us – on the imperative of achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And you heard Foreign Minister Wang reiterate that on behalf of China a moment ago. It’s good to agree on the goal, but it’s not enough to agree on the goal. We believe we need to agree on the meaningful steps necessary to get to the achievement of the goal – to the negotiations that result in denuclearization.

And we look forward to working with China, which China agreed today to do, to engage in an accelerated effort at the United Nations, instructing both of our representatives to work together to try to achieve an understanding about the strong resolution that introduces significant new measures to curtail North Korea’s ability to advance its prescribed nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The last resolution that we passed was in the year 2013 – I believe the date is 22 January – and in that resolution, paragraph 19, the last paragraph before the decisions of the UN, stated that in highlighted language, we expressed our determination to take significant action in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test. And that is what we are seeking in the UN – is the appropriate, significant action that we could agree on that will bring us to negotiations.

As I have said publicly before – it’s not a secret – the United States believes very strongly that China has a particular ability because of its special role and its connections to North Korea, an ability to be able to help us significantly to resolve this challenge. And for our part, the United States will take all necessary steps to defend American people and to honor our security commitments to allies in the region. I say that making clear that we don’t want to raise military tensions, we’re not seeking additional steps other than the Security Council resolution, the negotiations – but we will not walk away from any options that may be necessary to achieve the goal.

It is the policy of this Administration since it came into office, it has been the policy of the United States for always, that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and we glad that China agrees with us and we are united in that conclusion. Now, both the foreign minister and I agree that there has to be another side to the stick, if you want to call it that. There has to be another side to the sanctions, and there is, and we are prepared to restate it publicly as we have said previously: If Pyongyang will instead choose a different path, it could open the door to sanctions relief, economic cooperation, energy and food aid, more direct humanitarian assistance, and a whole range of other possibilities.

We also had a constructive exchange of the subject of the concerns that exist about tensions between China and many neighbors over the South China Sea and the East China Seas. Let me emphasize again the United States does not take sides on the sovereignty questions underlying the territorial disputes. We ask that all parties clarify their claims under international law, that they exercise restraint, and that they adhere to peaceful and diplomatic ways of addressing disagreements. I stressed the importance of finding common ground among the claimants and avoiding a destabilizing cycle of mistrust or escalation.

We talked about the possibility of a diplomatic way forward, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi accepted the idea that it would be worth exploring whether or not there is a way to try to reduce the tensions and solve some of the challenges through diplomacy, and we agreed to explore these possibilities. I mentioned the issue of our bilateral discussion, including the issue which we always raise and talk about, which is the question of human rights. But I do want to point out that we agreed early on – and we will continually agree on this – on the importance of our countries working together in order to combat violent extremism. Every country has an interest in fighting back against the violence that is emerging in various parts of the world, and we are committed together to cooperate, exchange information, and do our best to protect our people as well as resolve some of the crises and disputes in other parts of the world.

So here’s the bottom line on today: We worked hard to understand each other’s approach and the best ways of trying to resolve the challenge of North Korea. We agreed on the importance of a strong UN Security Council resolution, and we agreed to accelerate our work at the UN immediately in order to try to reach an understanding of what should be in it and how we achieve our goal.

And what should guide all of us as we leave here is that China and the United States have surprised people in the last few years. We’ve proved through our work on climate change, our work on Iran, and other things that when we put our minds together, we have the ability to get things done. We approached the talks today with that spirit in mind, and we are leaving here committed to try to find progress on these difficult issues. I have no doubt that our differences will continue to test us, but they should not prevent us from cooperating in other arenas, as we have in the past. For the world to do better to find prosperity and security, the United States and China need to be able to work together. That is what this moment demands and that will be our responsibility in the years and months to come.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary Kerry. Now will begin the Q&A session. Each journalist, please limit yourself to one question only. First, an American journalist to Secretary Kerry.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, what measures specifically are you looking for the Chinese to take? And are you satisfied with the answers from the foreign minister about what China would do? Is the U.S. prepared to impose secondary sanctions and increase its defenses in the region?

Also, President Xi said when he was at the White House China had no intention of militarizing the South China Sea. Do you think that China’s recent actions there are consistent with that statement?

And Foreign Minister Wang, why has China been reluctant to more heavily punish North Korea? After meeting with Secretary Kerry, do you anticipate China taking more robust action? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: So I don’t want to go into all of the specific options because I want to leave us the space to be able to negotiate going forward, and I think that that’s important. But let me just, in general, in sort of generic sectors – there are certain goods and services that flow between Korea, North Korea/DPRK and China; there are movements of ships, ports, so forth; aviation is an area and a sector of concern; various resource exchanges, whether it’s coal or fuel – all of these are areas where there are border customs, different things. There are many different ways we think in which non-punitive to the people of North Korea but nevertheless effective steps can be taken.

In fairness, this is what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to negotiate, we’re going to talk in the next days in an accelerated basis, and I don’t want to get excessively specific about one thing versus another, because I think it’s important for us to have the space to be able to have that discussion, and we will. So we’ll see where we are. I think that what was important today is I heard from the foreign minister a commitment clearly to passing a resolution and make it strong, and adhere to the last resolution. And we now need to fill that out, and I think that’s what’s important.

With respect to the militarization issue, et cetera, we had a good discussion about what is the definition of militarization and what began first, who began what, et cetera, which is one of the reasons why you need to get into a legitimate kind of diplomatic process, negotiation, try to resolve it. It’s not going to be resolved at a table here in the afternoon in one day, but it is something that needs to have focused, ongoing attention in order to try to reduce the tensions in the region.

There are processes that we have advocated under the Law of the Sea, arbitration, rule of law, direct bilateral negotiation, other things. I was encouraged that the foreign minister today suggested that we should pursue the diplomatic track. They’ve offered that. They’re prepared, they say, to engage in it. And it may be – and there are certainly some countries prepared to do that, others not yet, but perhaps over the course of some effort, we can at least explore that.

I think those were the two questions that you gave to me. Am I correct?

I want to thank – I gave our translator a mouthful, but he’s up to the job. He’s been doing this since the day – I think, if I’m correct – since the days of Nixon and Mao, so he knows what he’s doing.

INTERPRETER: Not quite that early. Thank you, sir.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) I hope we can all abide by rules. Of course, I respect your intention to raise more than one question. Next question, Xinhua News Agency.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My minister is – my question is addressed to Minister Wang. We’re just a few days into 2016, but already we’re seeing that the international situation is quite turbulent, the global economy is in turmoil, and terrorism is on the rise. China and the United States are two major countries. What is the significance and effect of an enhanced level of strategic cooperation between China and the United States?

FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) Well, this is a very good question, but I guess many of your colleagues are not interested in this question. They feel this has little to do with them. But let me say this question has a lot to do with the welfare of the Chinese and American peoples. And to satisfy you, I will make a couple of more points on South China Sea and the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula as well.

China is a responsible country, so of course, we will abide by all the UN Security Council resolutions we have voted for. There should not be any doubt about it, and no one should question China on this, but we will implement the entirety of the Security Council resolutions, not just specific formulations from them.

I had long discussions with Secretary Kerry today on the issue of – the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and our most important agreement is that given the new developments in the recent period, it’s important that we pass a new UN Security Council resolution on this issue for consultation. And we will as soon as possible begin comprehensive and in-depth deliberations on that. At the same time, sanctions are not an end in themselves. Our goal should be to bring the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula back to the track of negotiation. That would be in the interests of all countries concerned and the people of our region.

On the South China Sea issue, China has given a commitment of not engaging in so-called militarization, and we will honor that commitment. And we cannot accept the allegation that China’s words are not being matched by actions. And on the islands and the reefs stationed by China, we have built up quite a few civilian installations and facilities that are able to provide public service. In addition to that, there are some necessary facilities for self-defense, but the international law has given all sovereign countries the right of self-protection and self-defense. And if one equates such a right to militarization, then the South China Sea has been militarized long ago, and mind you, China was not the first party that started the militarization.

Now, coming back to your question, China and the United States account for a quarter of the world’s population, a third of the world’s economy, and together, we are responsible for almost one-half of global growth. These figures should show that China and the United States have shouldered important responsibility for international peace and development, and an enhanced level of strategic cooperation between us has overall and global significance.

President Xi Jinping has said when China and the United States work together, we can accomplish great things in the interest of our two nations and the whole world, and I believe President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made similar remarks. Since the Sunnylands meeting in 2013, the leaders of China and the United States have made the strategic decision to work together to build a new model of major country relationship between China and the United States. Since then, we have carried out close coordination on international and regional issues, we’ve combined our efforts to meet challenges that affect the future of mankind, and together, we have created a new situation in our strategic cooperation.

China and the United States have worked together to deal with the global financial crisis and push global recovery. We have worked alongside the relevant parties to arrive at the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, to stabilize the turbulent situation in South Sudan, and to reinforce Afghanistan’s commitment to political reconciliation. China and the United States have signed an MOU on development cooperation and we have determined to expand tripartite cooperation in Africa and Asia. China and the United States have broadened our scope of cooperation to include cyber security, energy security, and nuclear security. And we have joined force to address global climate change and to bring about the Paris agreement.

China and the United States are permanent members of the UN Security Council – not only that, we’re also important members of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the IMF, the World Bank, and the G20. China is the world’s largest developing country, and the United States the largest developed country. When China and the United States maintain effective communication and cooperation, we can work together to push forward reform of the international system and the improvement of global governance.

China is prepared to enhance strategic cooperation with the United States, to advance the building of a new model of major country relationship between us, and to leave to our two nations and people in the world a more positive, healthy, and sustainable China-U.S. relationship. Together, we must make our due contribution to the preservation and promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity in the world. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) That concludes the press conference. Thank you, Foreign Minister Wang and Secretary Kerry. Thank you for coming.