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And as I said in April in Tokyo, President Obama has made, I think, a very smart and strategic decision to rebalance our interests and our investments in Asia, and that initiative continues with as much intensity as it was commenced.
As a Pacific nation that takes our Pacific partnership very, very seriously, the United States is going to continue to build on our active and our enduring presence in every respect. And as I said this morning at the outset of the ASEAN-U.S. ministerial meeting, one of the most important ways that we’re going to do that is in our partnership with ASEAN and its membership states. This is a partnership that we are advancing through cooperation on a wide range of issues and through the undertaking of a number of projects together, including the Lower Mekong Initiative, and that’s a meeting that I will be chairing a little bit later.
I’m personally very, very much looking forward to meeting with the foreign ministers from Indonesia and Vietnam tomorrow, as well as seeing all of my colleagues from ASEAN.
The ministerial meetings that we’re holding here are a very important opportunity to be able to work with ASEAN and other regional partners on the many challenges that we face together right now. Strengthening the multilateral architecture of security in this region and strengthening it throughout Asia Pacific will, in the end, bolster the international rules and norms by which all nations undertake their actions, and in the end, will bolster peace and stability within the region. That’s why supporting the region’s institutions – ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit – are all of them a very important part of the United States rebalance to this region.
Our agenda here touches on almost all of the top challenges that we face together as individual nations and as a region, and it also touches on all of the opportunities that we share. And the opportunities, frankly, are very exciting. They should energize everybody here. Today and tomorrow, we have been discussing and we will continue to discuss maritime issues, issues of security with respect to the maritime issues, nuclear and nonproliferation – I just finished a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Republic of Korea and Japan, and we obviously talked seriously about North Korea and the challenges of denuclearization. We talked about climate change.
I just met with my foreign minister counterpart from China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and we talked about the economic challenges, about North Korea, about our partnership, about the good results that came out of the summit – the historic summit between President Obama and President Xi Jinping – President Xi. We talked also, obviously, about Mr. Snowden and other issues that have taken place. But most importantly we focused on the bigger issues, on the nature of our relationship, on the capacity of China and United States to have an impact on some of the security challenges that we face in the world, as well as some of the economic challenges.
What we all understand in coming to a meeting like this is that cooperation – cooperation is critical, and cooperation can make a difference to regional peace, and it can make a difference to all of our economies. So I look forward to discussing, more today and tomorrow with my colleagues, tangible ways of making progress. We don’t want this just to be words – we want this to translate into actions. And the more that it can translate into multilateral actions, the stronger the consequences, the better the consequences will be for all of us.
I’m grateful to all of the ministers with whom I’ve had the bilateral meetings today, including Lady Catherine Ashton, and I look forward to continue those meetings in the course of this afternoon and this evening, and then again tomorrow.
I want to emphasize, in my meetings with the Chinese Foreign Minister as well as the Republic of Korea Minister, and Japanese Minister, all of us – all four of us – are absolutely united and absolutely firm in our insistence that the future with respect to North Korea must include denuclearization. China made it clear to me they have made very firm statements and very firm steps that they have taken with respect to the implementation of that policy. And in the end, we know that the only way we will find the stability that we want and the peace that we want is for North Korea to honor its commitments made under the September 19th, 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks, which refers very specifically to verifiable denuclearization.
We confirmed that there is a better path open to North Korea, and we want North Korea to understand that, that the region will be better with the denuclearization and the possibilities of normal relationships – not just between the South and the North or China and North Korea, but between the United States and North Korea and the rest of the world – lies at the end of engaging in a serious set of steps to denuclearize and serious negotiations that could accompany that.
So we stressed the need for North Korea to fully comply with the UN Security Council resolutions, and we agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the community in order to ensure full and transparent implementation of those resolutions.
I also had a chance – well, tomorrow, I will be meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and I will be talking with him about the key role that Turkey can continue to play with respect to the question of Syria. And in addition, as many of you I think know, I will be meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tomorrow, and I will be talking, yes, about Syria, about the possibilities of Geneva 2, but I will also be talking with him about the upcoming visit to Moscow of President Obama and the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in September.
With respect to Syria, we remain committed, particularly given the increases in violence, to the notion that there must be a negotiation. And I’ll have that conversation in full with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and hopefully together we might have something to be able to report to you after that conversation.
So I just want to stress that the regional meetings of all of my fellow ministers and I over these two days are really of the highest importance. And they’re important not only to the regional peace and prosperity of the Asia Pacific, but they really will have an impact on global security. America is firmly committed to working with our regional allies and our partners and to multilateral institutions such as ASEAN. That’s why I’m here, and President Obama is deeply committed to these kinds of initiatives in an effort to try to find greater cooperation on economics, on peace, on stability, and most importantly also on people-to-people exchanges and proving the ability to be able to reach greater understanding.
So with that, I’m happy to take a couple questions, and I thank all of you for your attention.
MS. HARF: Thank you. Is this – hello. So the first question today is coming from Shaun Tandon of AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Following up a little bit on the meetings that you just spoke to us about, you spoke with Representative Ashton. There’s been quite a lot of concern in the past couple days from the European Union over allegations the United States has been bugging the Washington offices of the European Union – of European embassies. The justice commissioner of the EU even said that this could affect trade talks; the trade talks wouldn’t be able to go forward if these allegations were true. Is there truth to this? Has the United States been bugging the European allies of the United States? And what did you tell Representative Ashton? How did you try to bring the relationship forward in light of these allegations?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I --
QUESTION: And to just – could I just follow-up on your meeting? You mentioned – just you mentioned that you talked about Mr. Snowden with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang. Could you explain a little bit more about that? Did that affect – are you happy with the explanation that he had? And are you happy with how the relationship between China and the U.S. could progress in light of the Snowden incident? Thanks.
SECRETARY KERRY: Two good questions. With respect to the question of the bugging, let me just tell you, I have been so deeply immersed in the work on the Middle East in the last days, and so, as I think you know, engaged in very late night and early morning negotiations, that I honestly hadn’t heard about it and haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any of those reports. And I want to see the allegations, number one, and then number two I need to find out what the truth – what the situation is. But Lady Ashton did, indeed, raise it with me today, and we agreed to stay in touch. I agreed to find out exactly what the situation is, and I would get back to her.
I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security, and all kinds of information contributes to that, and all I know is that that is not unusual for lots of nations. But beyond that, I’m not going to comment any further until I have all of the facts and find out precisely what the situation is.
With respect to the conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister, I think it’s safe to say that the United States of America – the Administration, the Obama Administration – believes that our friends in China could, in fact, have made a difference here. But we have a lot of issues that we’re dealing with right now. There are issues of major maritime security. We are cooperating in a way that next week we will meet in a Security and Economic Dialogue in Washington. Secretary Jack Lew and I will chair that meeting. We will be talking about this and other issues. And as I have said, we have major, major issues with respect to North Korea, and China is cooperating with us with respect to that. And China has helped to make a difference in that equation.
So life in international relationships is often complicated by the fact that you have many things you have to work on simultaneously, and so we will continue to do that, even as we are obviously concerned about what happened with Mr. Snowden.
MS. HARF: Thank you. The next question is from the Brunei Times, from Quratul-Ain, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, since you’ve taken office, your actions seem to indicate a policy shift within the State Department towards the Middle East and Europe. How does --
SECRETARY KERRY: Can you bring it closer to you?
QUESTION: Sorry. Since you’ve taken office, your actions seem to indicate a policy shift within the State Department towards the Middle East and Europe. How does this bode for U.S. engagement with ASEAN and the Obama Administration’s pivot to Asia?
SECRETARY KERRY: I have no idea what policy shift you might be referring to. There – I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is no policy shift. I’m here. (Laughter.) And this is my second visit. And I gave a big speech in Tokyo talking about the importance of this region and a vision, a new vision for this region, which President Obama shares. President Obama is visiting here and has visited. Vice President Biden, Secretary Hagel was out here recently. I’m here now. And I reaffirmed in my comments earlier the strong belief we have in the rebalance and in the importance of Asia and Southeast Asia.
I will be back here at least several times in the course of the year for – I mean, we have the East Asia Summit, we have APEC, we have a bunch of meetings. And I look forward to visiting a number of countries who are already being planned for visits. We had to delay a couple of those visits this time because of the efforts in the Middle East peace process.
But one thing I can assure you is that the United States of America operates globally. And the fact that we might be in one place engaged in the important effort of trying to make peace does not detract from the fact that we have under secretaries and assistant secretaries and deputy secretaries and ambassadors and countless numbers of trade representatives and defense secretaries and others constantly engaged in this region advancing our mutual interests. So rest assured, please.
In fact, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, the New Zealand Foreign Minister, when he visited me in Washington, and the Japanese Foreign Minister, and the South Korea Foreign Minister all raised the subject of Middle East peace and said how can we help, it is important to all of us that we have peace in the Middle East. And so I believe that the United States must continue to engage in our global responsibilities, even as we engage in regional initiatives. And that’s precisely what I am doing in being here today. And I want you to be absolutely confident, over the next three and a half years of the Obama presidency, you will see an energized and serious engagement in continuing the rebalance efforts.
But one thing we have always said is the rebalance should not come at the expense of some other nation or interest. It comes in addition to it. And that’s exactly what the responsibility that we are now carrying out. So I look forward to being here, and I look forward to being back here and back here and back here. And we’ll get to know each other pretty well, I hope.
On that note --
MS. HARF: Great. Yes. Thank you all very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: I have another meeting to go to, and I apologize, folks. But thank you all very, very much. Thanks.
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