MR BROWN: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to this on-the-record briefing entitled “Road to Nuuk: Economic Cooperation.”
Two weeks ago, Secretary Pompeo announced our plans to reopen a consulate in Nuuk, Greenland. The Governments of Greenland and Denmark had been working alongside the United States as we look at expanding our ongoing, longstanding ties with the people of Greenland. To complement the work of our reopened consulate in Nuuk, an important part of economic support and funding package will focus on expanding sustainable prosperity through a broad range of existing and new areas of economic and scientific cooperation.
To help address and elaborate on this broad range of cooperation, we have a fantastic slate of briefers for you today. Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Murphy from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs will kick things off with a brief introduction. Then we’ll hear from Assistant Secretary Frank Fannon, who heads our Bureau of Energy Resources. Then Jonathan Moore will address scientific and environmental cooperation, including through the Arctic Council, as the senior bureau official for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Last but not least, Deputy Assistant Administrator Gretchen Birkle will talk about USAID’s role in our economic support planning. After their introductory statements, our speakers will be available to answer your questions.
Reminder: the contents of this briefing are embargoed until the end of the call. Michael.
MR MURPHY: Thank you. My – thank you all for being here and being willing to listen to us today. My colleagues are going to drill down on some of the specifics of the current and future partnership with the Kingdom of Denmark and Greenland, so I want to frame the discussion a bit by addressing two questions: First, why does the United States care about the Arctic, and then second, why does the United States care about Greenland?
So I’ll start with: So why does the United States care about the Arctic? The simplest explanation is of course geographic. The United States acquired Alaska in 1867 and it became an Arctic country when it did so. And today, we are one of only eight countries with territory above the Arctic Circle. And the topline goal for U.S. policy for the Arctic region is straightforward and simple: We are seeking a secure and stable Arctic where U.S. interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and Arctic states work cooperatively to address shared challenges.
The region itself has incredible potential for economic growth, especially in light of technological advances and changes to the region’s natural environment that are making it more accessible, whether for tourists, for global shipping, or for resource and mineral exploration.
So as countries, companies, and citizens of the Arctic look for economic partners, we want, as Secretary Pompeo has said, to ensure that the United States is a partner of choice in the Arctic. We want the region to develop in a manner that benefits its inhabitants, that is sustainable, and that respects communities’ environmental and social interests. And it’s with all of this in mind that we plan to increase our engagement across the region and to deepen ties between the United States and our partners in the region, which brings me to the question: So why do we care about Greenland?
Now the United States as a matter of course has always prioritized maintaining a close relationship with the Kingdom of Denmark, which, as you all know, is an Arctic state and also a NATO member. This is important to the shared prosperity of the United States and the shared security of the United States and the Kingdom of Denmark itself. Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but, as you all know, it’s an autonomous territory within that Kingdom and enjoys its own decision making on key competencies, including economic development, education, and other sorts of social issues.
There is a rich history of cooperation between the United States, Greenland, and Denmark, and our plans to reopen our consulate in Nuuk are grounded in that shared history. And just by way of background facts, we previously operated a consulate in Nuuk between 1940 and 1953.
Greenland’s also extremely close to the United States. It is only 1,851 miles from New York City to Nuuk, by air of course. By contrast, New York to Los Angeles is 2,790 miles away – this is by car. So Greenland is a neighbor, geographically as well, of course, as it is a neighbor geopolitically. And the United States maintains, again, as I hope you all are familiar, its northernmost military installation, Thule Air Force Base, in Greenland.
Last fall I had the pleasure to travel to Greenland, and I can tell you firsthand that the Government of Greenland is eager to partner with the United States in very concrete ways that build upon our existing relationship. I heard from senior officials, including Greenland’s prime minister, that Greenland is looking outward to collaborate in order to spur investment and provide economic opportunities for its citizens, especially in the tourism and the mineral and mining sectors.
I also had the opportunity to see firsthand and gain a firsthand appreciation for Greenland’s incredible potential, potential for economic growth that’s sustainable, that produces benefits first and foremost for the people of Greenland.
And my colleagues will talk about how we have worked and will continue to work with Greenland and Denmark to best ensure that our partnership produces outcomes that reflect our shared goals, but I think we all have concluded that now is the time to invest in Greenland’s economic growth in a manner that Greenland wishes, developing sustainable industries that benefit its people while protecting its delicate ecosystem and of course its rich cultural heritage. The opening of the consulate in Nuuk and the $12.1 million investment in expanded and new partnership programs reflect both that broader investment by the administration in deepening U.S. ties with our Arctic allies and partners and more specifically our shared commitment to Greenland and Denmark.
So now I want to turn it over to Frank to talk more specifically about the first part of all this. Frank, over to you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FANNON: Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Michael. Thank you all for spending some time with us this Friday. I’d like to first start off and to recognize that our engagement with Greenland directly parallels the way in which we engage with other countries around the world. What we do is we work with countries based on their own respective development path, their own geologic, natural endowment, and their own unique ambitions. And so what we seek to do is understand that and see where the U.S. Government can help them achieve that ambition.
This also coincides – our work with Greenland coincides with our global Energy Resource Governance Initiative, ERGI, which promotes sound mining sector governance and support to a resilient energy-related mineral supply chains. We see this tremendous global demand for renewable energy, electric vehicles, battery energy storage technology, and this will in turn create unprecedented demand for energy resource minerals. Through ERGI, we bring together countries to share leading industry best practice, foster hope in transparent markets, and encourage a level playing field for investment.
Greenland is geologically blessed with minerals and has a high potential for hydrocarbon resources. Yes, the region is largely under-explored. The Greenland Government has sought to develop its resources, help drive economic development opportunities for the people, and wants to make sure it does so under the best conditions The United States has extensive experience in overseeing development of its mineral and hydrocarbon sectors and are also positioned to support Greenland to achieve its ambition.
We have had a longstanding cooperative relationship with Greenland’s Ministry of Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Energy, Industry, Research and Labour. I’ve enjoyed meeting with the ministers as well as Greenland’s Premier Kim Kielsen. These ministries have very smart and capable people, and I was really impressed with our ongoing engagement.
Last year, I signed two separate memoranda of understanding with both ministries, which provide the frameworks for U.S. cooperation in capacity building and bilateral partnership. We’re managing the assistance funding dedicated for mineral and energy sector technical advisory support. The scope of that falls within three key areas, which I’ll speak to in more detail. The first, helping Greenland to understand its resources; second, supporting the resource development management; and third, helping develop Greenland’s domestic capability.
So going to the first area, we want to help Greenland to – with its desire to better understand its resource space. Greenland’s mineral resource geology is very complex, and so it’s critically – it’s critical that Greenland understand what they have, the scale of the quality, et cetera. To do that, we partnered with the Ministry of Mineral Resources to come conduct the first ever high-resolution, hyper-spectral airborne survey that covered mineral (inaudible) Greenland. That data will be used by the ministry to build its database as well as to promote investment in Greenland. Beginning this year, we will offer expert advisory support for technical staff and decision makers at the ministry to support its priorities with respect to understanding Greenland’s resource space. We anticipate this could include additional geotechnical analysis of data from the survey, expert advisor support to help the ministry achieve its desire to establish a comprehensive mineral resource database, and thirdly, in-depth technical and economic studies as the ministry may request.
Secondly, a focus on resource development and management. We plan to share the U.S. experience in international leading best practice to help Greenland prepare for sound resource development and sector management. Greenland has a long history of mining, but most of that mining was done prior to the establishment of modern global industry standards. And Greenland wants to ensure that anything that they proceed to do is done safely, sustainably, and to attract the maximum appropriate level of investment. I’ve heard from Greenland’s leadership that they want to attract the best, and good partners who are also good stewards. Sound regulation are as important to companies as they are to governments. All investments come with a cost and companies need to know clearly what is expected.
A host government also needs to know how to minimize any risks on their end, and that those companies are true partners. Finding that right balance of fiscal terms is not always easy, and doing so is important to Greenland so it can attract the best companies and maximize the value of its resources for the benefit of its people.
To do so, we are working with Greenland to strengthen regulations based on leading practices elsewhere in the Arctic and around the world; second, providing expert analysis that ranks Greenland’s fiscal terms for the mineral resource sector and those of other countries; and third, provide a technical study that will offer recommendations for renewable energy for the mining sector strategy.
On this last item, I’d like to highlight we have an excellent relationship with Greenland’s national utility, Nukissiorfiit. Since we started our first bilateral discussions in 2016, that included the sharing of Alaska’s renewable energy experience, and we hope to partner with it to support renewable energy deployment in some of Greenland’s remote settlements.
Finally, it’s important that – for Greenland that they develop their own domestic capabilities, and we plan to help them to do that, to build their own workforce to – so that they can advance their own economy. We will undertake an in-depth project to support the Greenland School of Mines and Petroleum’s curriculum and access to peer institutions in the United States. This work will help to train Greenland’s next generation of industry tradesmen and sector professionals.
The project’s, of course, implementation has been impacted like everything else by the ongoing pandemic. We are in close touch with our counterparts remotely and we’re extremely pleased with the progress we’ve made so far in our planning efforts. All of this work fits within our global energy diplomacy and assistance approach, which is, again, to help Greenland achieve its own aspirations in its own unique way. We’re committed for the long term to seeing our cooperation with Greenland move ahead.
With that, I’ll stop my remarks and pass the baton over to you, Jonathan.
MR MOORE: Frank, thank you very much. I’m very pleased to be part of this. Michael noted that thanks to our geography and our fellow citizens in Alaska, the United States is, of course, an Arctic nation, one of only eight members of the Council. Secretary Pompeo has stressed on multiple occasions that there are no near-Arctic states. We reject attempts by non-Arctic states to undermine the leadership role of the Arctic Council and its members.
The United States is committed to ensuring that the Arctic remains free of conflict and that Arctic economies and resources are developed in a sustainable, transparent manner. Frank just described this with respect to energy and natural resources. The United States is also committed to efforts to protect and promote the interests and cultures of indigenous peoples and local inhabitants – I’ll talk about that in a minute – as well as encouraging supporting scientific collaboration and respecting and mitigating the environmental impacts of engagement and development.
Our continued cooperation with the other members of the Arctic Council embodies these values and efforts, as does our partnership with Greenland and the Kingdom of Denmark, which, as you heard from Michael, is led by our Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. The United States continues to lead in the Arctic on governance, sustainable development, and maritime issues. We are proud to work so closely with Greenland and the Kingdom of Denmark on these shared issues and priorities, including through the Arctic Council, where the OES Bureau has the lead, and we look forward to continuing and enhancing that work in the future.
The Council has produced numerous cutting-edge assessments and programs and has engendered peaceful cooperation among the eight Arctic states as well as among the indigenous groups. Those efforts are reflected in our plans for expanded engagement with Greenland and Denmark. Our efforts to re-establish a U.S. consulate in Nuuk underscore the importance of this relationship and the significance we place on the Arctic region as a whole. We are increasing our engagement with and our investment in the Arctic region, and the Council is a key part of this strategy.
Through the Arctic Council and direct engagement, the United States facilitates the work of scientists, encourages data sharing, and promotes robust capabilities for pollution response and life-saving search-and-rescue in the Arctic, to give a few specific examples. All of this advances sustainable development in the Arctic.
Conscious of our time limitations, I’d like to mention some illustrative further examples of our Arctic efforts that have a connection with Greenland. As I said, we deeply respect the Arctic’s indigenous communities and work closely with them to help sustain their traditions and economic livelihood. This involves communities in the United States. Several of the indigenous communities are permanent participants of the Arctic Council. Four of those have U.S. participation. I was honored to meet them and their leaders recently by phone. These include the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Aleut International Association, the Gwich’in Council International, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. The latter includes Greenland as well.
Supporting public health, an issue very much on all of our minds for Greenlanders, Danes, and the Americans, we are proud to co-lead the longstanding circumpolar One Arctic – One Health project which convenes experts in emergency management, health, animal, and environmental sciences to improve preparedness for health emergencies such as infectious disease outbreaks and natural disasters. Greenlandic and other experts, including from Denmark, have participated in a number of One Arctic – One Health events, including in 2017 and 2019. We had, in fact, prepared to host an event this March in Alaska on health in the Arctic, but as we all know in other contexts, the event had to be postponed because of the pandemic. But health cooperation continues to be a priority.
We work very closely with the U.S. Coast Guard in their engagement in Greenland, including exploring options for Greenland to establish its own volunteer auxiliary force similar to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, capable of search-and-rescue, marine environmental protection, and other activities.
With regard to the environment in the Arctic, as elsewhere, the United States supports a balanced approach that promotes economic growth and improves energy security while protecting the environment with affordable and reliable clean energy technologies.
Another key issue that we – is on our minds constantly: endangered species. Polar bears are, of course, an endangered species. The United States and Greenland cooperate with others in the polar bear range – that also includes Canada, Norway, and Russia – to conserve and manage polar bears. In March 2020, the polar bear range states further committed to implementing a circumpolar action plan previously agreed to in 2016 to ensure the longevity of the species.
With regard to environmental stewardship, the United States has agreed with our Arctic partners on ways to prevent and respond to pollution incidents and work to recommend best practices for ecotourism and cruise ships to minimize their impact on Greenland’s environment.
For fisheries, which are so important for the food security and the economic base and livelihood of the Arctic, the United States ratified the agreement to prevent unregulated high-seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean in August 2019. That takes a proactive approach to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean.
And finally, on the scientific front, NASA tracks and shares information on ice-sheet conditions, a key component of the ICESat-2 mission. The National Science Foundation funds a year-round research hub Summit Station on Greenland as well. Again, just to give you a few examples.
I will now turn it over to Gretchen.
MS BIRKLE: Thank you, Jonathan, and thank you all for the opportunity to address USAID’s immediate plans and our role in supporting the expansion of U.S. engagement with Greenland.
Allow me first to start with the big picture. USAID’s mission is to promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad, and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world on behalf of the American people. As such, one of our key goals is to help our partners build their self-reliance by supporting their plans to strengthen citizen-responsive governance, reduce poverty, and stimulate economic growth. To be successful, we must work collaboratively with partner governments and be stewards of taxpayer resources. USAID has a wealth of expertise in helping partners develop their economic potential. We will harness this expertise to support Greenland’s economic and community development objectives.
USAID will assign a senior development advisor to Nuuk starting in July or August of this year to provide technical support to Greenland. In partnership with the governments of Greenland and Denmark, the senior development advisor will support an assessment of the economic growth and community development potential in Greenland, with an emphasis on identifying opportunities for private sector investment.
USAID’s role in Greenland will be different, obviously, from the roles we play in countries that have not achieved similar levels of development. However, the assessment skills that USAID can bring to the whole-of-U.S. Government approach for Greenland will support the economic growth goals of a long-time ally and partner.
As my colleagues have noted, the private sector can help to grow and diversify Greenland’s economy through tourism expansion, export development, and community development. USAID’s assessment will also identify how all of Greenland’s population, including youth, women, and indigenous groups, can best benefit from economic growth. Recommendations from the assessment can also inform the design of future U.S. Government and technical assistance to Greenland.
USAID – USAID’s support to Greenland, funded through the State Department, reflects a model of partnership grounded in shared democratic values, leveraging USAID’s expertise and promoting enterprise-driven, broad-based economic growth. USAID looks forward to partnering with the government and the people of Greenland to support their efforts to grow and diversify their economy.
Thank you, and with that I will turn it over to Deputy Spokesperson Brown.
MR BROWN: Okay. I think we have time for some questions, so let’s go to Matt Lee.
QUESTION: Two things. I’ll be very brief, though. One is you mentioned the indigenous populations, and you also – there was also a mention of polar bears and the ice sheet. I’m curious, does the emphasis on mining and oil – or exploitation of natural resources mean that you guys are ready to say that you’ve just kind of thrown in the towel on trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, particularly on ice and sea – sea-level rise? Because those are the issues that the indigenous people, even in Rovaniemi last year, were most concerned about.
And then secondly, I’m just curious as to why only 12 million. If you’re – is this an absorption or a capacity thing? If you’re that intent on promoting or increasing your cooperation with Greenland, why is it only 12 million, which seems to me – it’s significant but it’s a drop in the bucket, kind of, compared to the rest of the budget. Thank you.
MR MURPHY: Let me – this is Michael. Let me answer the second question and then I’ll turn it over to Frank and Jonathan for the first. The short and simple answer with regards to the $12.1 million is you’ve got to start somewhere. It takes time, energy, and effort to put together new programs in the United States Government, to open new consulates, and this is where we’re starting. I don’t think it defines the limits of our potential partnership, it just defines the beginning of it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FANNON: Yeah, thanks. This is Frank Fannon. The – I guess I’d go back to how I started my remarks, which is our (inaudible) is pursuant to the calls of Greenland. And this is an area that they’ve asked to – for us to pursue, helping them to develop their resources sector and do it in a way that meets best practice around the world, because they do highly value the quality – their quality of life and the quality of their environment for the long term. So we see this as consistent, and it’s pursuant to their request.
MR BROWN: Okay, next question. Let’s go to the line of Robbie Gramer.
MR MOORE: Did you want more points on indigenous just to respond to Matt’s question?
MR BROWN: Sure, if there’s more of an answer to Matt’s question, go ahead.
MR MOORE: Yeah, thank you. The – Jonathan Moore here just to say that of course, I mean, part of the dialogue with the indigenous communities is making sure we respect what their needs are. They have traditional activities and needs based on fisheries, based on species on which they depend, like the porcupine caribou herd that they were telling me about the other day. All of the questions for development are couched in this spirit and this understanding of making sure that the work is sustainable and that the environment is still protected while their economies are still able to sustain them.
MR BROWN: Okay, let’s go to Robbie’s line.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR BROWN: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. The first: What is your message to the Greenlandic Government if foreign governments that we aren’t very friendly with – I’m thinking of China here – approaches them and offers their own foreign investment and development? Because I know you guys have been concerned about that.
And then second, after your last announcement a few weeks ago, we spoke to Danes and Greenlanders about U.S. plans to give aid to help Greenland’s economy develop, and one thing that they’ve consistently brought up to us is that’s great, but at this point it pales in comparison to the over $400 million in contracts that Greenlandic firms lost out to American firms to support the Thule Air Base. So I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to that criticism. Thanks.
MR MURPHY: Let me – this is Michael. Let me start with the second question first and then I’ll take the first question, and then Frank may have some things he wants to add about that as well. We are having conversations with the Greenlanders through what’s known as the Permanent Committee, which is a body that exists between the Kingdom of Denmark – Denmark, Greenland, and our Department of Defense, with State Department representatives – talk about Thule, issues related to Thule Air Base, including the maintenance contract. So we are having conversations with them about that contract and I don’t want to go further than that right now because I don’t want to get out in front of the policy makers, but rest assured that we’re engaging on it and the Greenlandic Government knows that we are engaging on it, so I’m confident that we’re going to be able to find a solution to that issue in a way that respects the rules, regulations, and laws of the United States of America but also some of the interests of the Greenlanders.
On the question about China, the Secretary has been clear that we’ve never argued that Chinese investment or trade with China is bad in and of itself. The problem is looking – scrutinizing the proposed deals and ensuring that you’re not being asked to compromise your national security, ensure that you’re not being asked to take on an unsustainable debt, ensure that the practices governing the trade or the business deals are consistent with the international norms and standards that we’ve all come to expect with sound business investment, that environmental standards are respected.
So our message to the Greenlanders is the same message that we have to the rest of the world, to our European partners, and to ourselves here in the United States, is you need to have in place mechanisms that screen and scrutinize these investment deals and that take a look at them through the national security prism. And if the proposals are consistent with international norms and best global businesses practices, they’re not a problem. The problem, of course, comes when they fall below that, and unfortunately we’ve seen the effects of that globally with the PRC. And we certainly don’t want to see more of it in Greenland or anywhere in the Arctic, for that matter. Over.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FANNON: Yeah, this is Frank. Just a couple additional points. Yeah, the – again, the Greenlanders want to develop their economy and they look at their mineral and energy resource potential as a way to do that. Mining in Greenland has been going on for a long time, as I said at the outset, but it has not – it’s always – it’s not – it was prior to the best practice around the world. There is no established track record for large-scale commercially based mineral or energy resource project development and operation in Greenland. So what we’re seeking to do is help develop this so that they’re able to attract best-in-class investors to Greenland to support their own economy.
And investor confidence relies on sound government policy, fiscal stability, clear and predictable laws and regulations, competitive and transparent playing fields for investors, amongst other factors. And as Michael indicated, we think if everyone plays by a shared set of rules, then there’s no issue. And that’s what – certainly what the Greenlanders, that’s what they would like to see, is that kind of level playing field, and create the confidence to attract best-in-class investors. Thanks.
MR BROWN: Okay, next question. Let’s go to the line of Tracy Wilkinson. If anybody else wants to ask a question, please go ahead and queue up.
QUESTION: Okay, hi, thank you. This is (inaudible) follow up Matt’s question. But looking more broadly at the Arctic Council, beyond Greenland, you say you want to be the partner of choice, the preferred partner, but you don’t talk about climate change and global warming, which is the top priority of the Arctic Council. So how can you hope to be their preferred partner if you don’t talk about that issue? You kind of talk many ways around it, but you don’t confront it head on. Thanks.
MR MOORE: I think we’re very well aware – this is Jonathan Moore speaking, from OES at State – we’re very well aware of the concerns and the dialogue and the discussion. The administration position is clear. We talk all the time with the other members of the council and of course countries all around the world where we are looking at this combination of economic growth and improving energy security while trying to protect the environment and deal with things in that realistic arena, making sure specifically with regard to the Arctic that we listen to practical suggestions, we deal with some of the concrete matters, including pollution and cleanup, and at same time I mentioned two of the scientific efforts that are supported by the U.S. Government, by NASA and the National Science Foundation, that are trying to track the actual situation on the ground.
MR BROWN: Okay, next question – and right now it’s last in the queue, so if you want to ask a question, please dial 1 and 0 – let’s open the line of Daphne from Reuters.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) advantage of the COVID situation and is advancing its interests in the Arctic. And if so, what are some concrete examples of how China is doing this and what the U.S. is doing to counter it? And if I may, I also wanted to ask about the patrol exercise performed on May 4th by three U.S. destroyers, a supply ship, and the UK HMS Kent in the Barents Sea. Was this the first such move in three years – in, sorry, 30 years, and why did the U.S. feel the need to make this move? Is this kind of the new normal over there? What was the goal of that?
MR MURPHY: Well, this is Michael, and I’ll try to tackle the second question. And I want to frame it a little – frame my answer a little bit by going back to something I think it’s important that the Secretary said in Finland last year. He emphasized the importance of the cooperative and collaborative work we’ve been doing in the Arctic through organizations like the Arctic Council and with the Arctic states since 1996, which I believe is the date when the Arctic Council was established. And he praised it, and he said quite clearly this work needs to continue. And that’s – whether that’s search and rescue, oil spill pollution, coast guard cooperation, joint scientific research, all that needs to continue.
But he also acknowledged that there’s been a change in the geostrategic environment globally – not just in the Arctic, but globally. China and Russia are seeking to more actively challenge American and Western and allied interests, whether that’s in Ukraine, whether that’s in North Africa, whether that’s in the South China Sea, and we’re seeing the same sort of challenges in the Arctic region. And that region isn’t immune from that. And he made clear that the United States was going to need to adjust its focus to put those types of issues back on the agenda in the way that we addressed the challenges in the Arctic.
And part of that – and our Pentagon has a role to play here – part of that is a response to Russia’s military presence in the Arctic, which is growing. I mean, it’s established a new Arctic command there; it’s created new Arctic brigades; it’s refurbished old infrastructure from the Cold War, ports and air fields; it’s built new infrastructure; they’ve announced plans to deploy an S-400 system there in the Kola Peninsula; and that military buildup goes beyond territorial defense. It’s designed in part to project power into the North Atlantic in order to prevent the United States and Canada from responding and reinforcing in the event of a crisis through – by putting the Greenland/Iceland/UK gap at threat.
And the – I’ll let the Pentagon talk about the exercise specifics, but I think they’ve been clear – you go all the way back to the Trident Juncture exercise more than a year ago, when we had a – parts of a carrier strike force go up into the Arctic for the first time in years, that the United States is going to be while strategically predictable tactically unpredictable as part of our national military and national defense strategy. For more details about the planning of the exercise itself, what was involved with the Brits and others, I would have to refer you over to the Pentagon. But that’s the context in which all of this has happened. Over.
MR BROWN: Yeah, did everyone get the first part, the first question? I know part of it was cut off. Daphne, do you want to reiterate it?
QUESTION: Sorry about that. Do you think China has taken advantage of the COVID situation and is advancing its interests in the Arctic? If so, what are some concrete examples of how China’s doing this, and what is the U.S. doing to counter it?
MR MURPHY: I think China is seeking to take advantage – and the Secretary has talked about this – of the COVID-19 situation in a number of different ways: by spreading disinformation about the origins of the disease, about the United States; by attempting to drive wedges between the United States and its partners through – I think the term that’s been used is assistance diplomacy. I can’t give you a specific example of a specific event in Reykjavik, for example, or north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, but those – whether it’s Norway or Sweden or Finland or Canada or Iceland, all of those countries are experiencing the same things we are experiencing with regards to disinformation and with regards to Chinese efforts to obfuscate about the current pandemic, its origins, and its, quite frankly, mishandling of it at its source and at the beginning of it, which has cost the world time and cost the world lives.
All of us have been responding to that by trying to put out the truth, the narrative that – the story that corrects the narrative the Chinese have been putting out. And you’ve seen the countries of Sweden, for example, have been quite clear in challenging some of the things that the Chinese have been saying. The Norwegians and others have done the same.
So I don’t – I can’t give you on X date Y happened, but that general problem that we’re all facing globally and in Europe with our allies is also affecting our allies who are Arctic states.
MR BROWN: Okay, thanks. It looks like that was the last question in the queue. I want to say thanks to all of our briefers who joined today for taking the time out of your afternoons to brief us all. And for those who joined from the press corps, thanks and have a great weekend. Since it’s the end of the call, the embargo is lifted.