THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Hello, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s briefing to preview President Biden’s upcoming visit to New Delhi for the G20 Leaders’ Summit, and Vice President Harris’s visit to Jakarta for the U.S.-ASEAN and East Asia Summits. As a reminder, this briefing is on the record and is being live recorded. We will post a transcript and a video of this briefing later today at our website: fpc.state.gov.
My name is Miranda Patterson, and our briefing today is John Kirby, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications. Following his opening remarks, he will take a few questions. Mr. Kirby, the podium is yours.
MR KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Actually – yeah, it is afternoon. All right. Good. So just a few things at the top here and then we’ll get right to your questions. I’m mainly here to preview the President’s trip to India for the G20 as well as, of course, his trip to Vietnam on the back end of that. He leaves tomorrow, and he’s very excited about the important initiatives that he will be championing at the G20. His focus is going to be on delivering economic opportunity for developing countries, making progress on key priorities for the American people, from climate to technology, and showing our commitment to the G20 itself as a viable, if not vital, forum to tackle these sorts of issues.
Of course, now, we’re grateful for Prime Minister Modi’s leadership during India’s presidency of the G20, and the President is certainly looking forward to his bilateral meeting with the prime minister shortly after his arrival in New Delhi. He’s also looking forward to warmly welcoming the African Union as a permanent member of the G20, the newest permanent member. And we believe that the African Union’s voice will make the G20 even stronger than it already is.
Here at home, President Biden has worked to, as you know, rebuild the American economy. And as you’ve heard him say, it’s basically from the bottom up, from the middle out. That’s the essence of Bidenomics, by making smart investments in the industries of the future while tackling climate change and empowering workers. He believes that those investments are paying off. And he also believes that countries around the world too can benefit from a similar type of approach. So a key to that outcome is going to be mobilizing investment opportunities.
So one of our main goals heading into the G20 is to help reshape and scale up multilateral development banks like the IMF, like the World Bank. We know that these institutions are some of the most effective tools for mobilizing transparent and high-quality investment in developing countries. And that’s why the United States has championed the major effort that is currently underway to evolve these institutions so that they’re up for the challenges of tomorrow. In fact, just last month, President Biden asked Congress for additional funds that would have the impact of helping increase World Bank financing by more than $25 billion, and we’re working with our partners to see if they can pursue similar contributions.
President Biden will also be calling on G20 members to provide meaningful debt relief so that low and middleincome countries can regain their footing after years of stress on their economies and their people. We’ll also be making progress on other key priorities, from climate to health, and as I said at the very top, the digital technology. In addition, we’ll spotlight the progress that we’ve been making on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment that the President calls PGII.
Now, we know that there will be continued focus on how the G20 deals with Russia’s illegal and ongoing war in Ukraine. The reality is that Russia’s war has already had devastating social, economic consequences, and the poorest countries on the planet are bearing the brunt of that. As he has done before, President Biden will call for a just and durable peace – one founded in respect for international law, the principles of the UN Charter, and the precepts of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. And we’ll also continue to emphasize that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes to redeem these principles.
Last but not least – and this is certainly important – you’ll see that the United States will make it clear that we remain committed to the G20 as a critical forum for all the major economies of the world to come together for global problem solving. The G20 itself, as a valuable and vital, as I said, venue, will be on the agenda. And in a sign of that commitment, the United States is looking forward to hosting the G20 ourselves in 2026.
And I want to end it on Russia and Ukraine, the war in Ukraine. I want to just pick up on that for just a second. As some of you have reported on, Russia is holding sham elections this week in the occupied areas of Ukraine as part of its annual, regional elections. The Kremlin hopes that these elections will demonstrate its control over these occupied territories, but this is nothing more than propaganda – nothing more than a propaganda exercise, at that. Some within the Russian Government are concerned about the perceived legitimacy in voter turnout for the elections in the occupied areas. The outcome will of course be predetermined, and it will be manipulated. We have information that the Russian Government will fabricate voting results across the occupied areas.
Now, these so-called elections inside Ukrainian territory are, again, just an illegitimate sham and an affront to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, the same UN Charter that we’ll be discussing in India at the G20, including on sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Ukrainian people are fighting to expel Russian forces from their territory. The vast majority of the world is united in supporting them in doing so. Last year, 143 countries voted at the United Nations to condemn Russia’s purported annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory. Now, the United States will never, never recognize Russian claims to any of Ukraine’s territory. We condemn Russia’s continued occupation unequivocally and their ongoing attacks against the people of Ukraine. The latest Russian attack just today – just today – claimed the lives of 16 Ukrainian civilians. Continues to be horrifying. They’re just killing civilians to try to break the will of the Ukrainian people, and as before, they will fail.
We will continue to work with our allies and partners to provide Ukraine with the military equipment that it needs to defend itself, including an additional aid package that we will have more to say about later today, and through new security assistance opportunities.
So with that, I’ll take some questions. In the front there.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for this. In the last hundred days, since –
MR KIRBY: Try it again.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you so much. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Since President Biden has mentioned many times he is looking forward to meeting or talking to President Xi Jinping, is President Biden disappointed that President Xi Jinping is not going to G20? And will he look for any further engagement with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who is going to attend G20?
And I have a quick follow-up, if I may, on what Jake Sullivan talked yesterday on Huawei. He said the United States is going to gather information about Huawei’s new cell phones’ character and composition. Does it mean we are going to look – expect further sanction on Huawei? And when can we expect a conclusion of your findings? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: I have nothing more to add on what Jake said yesterday. We are taking a look at this. I don’t have a timeline for you, and therefore I don’t want to get ahead of any decision-making process in terms of what might come as a result of that. You mentioned sanctions; I just don’t want to speculate about where we are. We’re taking a look at this development, and we haven’t come to any conclusions at this point.
On your first two questions, yes, of course he’s disappointed. He said so himself, that President Xi won’t be able to make it to the G20. We’ll let President Xi speak for himself on his travel plans, but the President had been looking forward to seeing him there, and it’s unfortunate that he won’t make it. There is an awful lot that will be discussed at the G20 which should be of interest to President Xi and to Beijing, particularly the – our efforts to help reform the World Bank. China’s a shareholder in the World Bank, so you would think that that would be of interest to them. So yes, it’s disappointing.
I don’t have any specific bilateral discussions to speak to or announce at this point. As you know, we are planning, of course, to have a bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Modi, but during the G20, which is a very dynamic couple of days, there’ll be all kinds of opportunity for foreign leaders to meet with one another and bilaterally. And we’ll have more to say about that as we get a little closer towards the end of the week. I just don’t have anything on the schedule to speak to.
Yes, in the front there.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Dong Kim from Yonhap News Agency. Under North Korea’s arms negotiations with Russia, other than publicly calling for the North Korea to stop negotiations, have you tried in any way to reach out to North Korea? And also, wouldn’t North Korea – the arms that they’ll provide, do you think it will have any meaningful impact on the course of the war in Ukraine?
MR KIRBY: I think I’ll all that depends on whether there’s actually an arms deal consummated or not. We have not seen the DPRK provide major munitions to the Russian military. We have seen them provide some rockets and artillery ammunition to the Wagner Group; now, this was a couple months ago. We’ve not seen them provide any wholesale assistance to the Russian military, and we continue to urge North Korea not to do that. And as Mr. Sullivan said yesterday, should they choose to go ahead, there will be repercussions for North Korea, not just from the United States but from the international community.
I would remind you that just a couple of weeks ago, the Treasury Department issued sanctions against three entities that were directly involved in trying to broker this particular arms deal. So we’ll see where it goes. We’ll see it where it goes. We don’t – as you know, we don’t have diplomatic relations directly with North Korea, so that’s – it would be difficult to have that kind of a conversation. But we have been very clear publicly. I myself have been, and others in the administration, very public about the information we’ve seen in terms of this growing affinity for one another and this growing effort to consummate an arms deal. And we will not shy away from continuing to call it like we see it.
Again, we urge Pyongyang not to get involved in military transfers with Russia, not to get themselves involved in a war, as I just said in my opening statement, which continues at Russia’s hand to kill innocent Ukrainians and to try to take by force that which is not, nor has never been theirs, Ukrainian territory.
Yeah. I’ll move around, I promise.
QUESTION: Thanks so much, Admiral. Welcome back. Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency. Back to the question of President Xi being a no-show. There’s another notable absentee: President Putin will not be there. Do you feel like there is some sort of coordinated effort, like coordination down there, to express sort of solidarity between them?
Secondly, broadly speaking, I want to get your reaction to Putin not being able to travel at all – the BRICS summit he had to skip. What kind of message do you want – do you think Russians should take away from this situation?
MR KIRBY: On your first question, I don’t know. You’d have to talk to President Xi and President Putin about the – about their travel plans. That’s not something we have insight to. And my message to Russia is: Leave Ukraine. Stop the war.
QUESTION: Thank you. And my final question on Ukraine: When President traveled to Kyiv, when you guys were first coming you informed us that you informed Russians in advance about the trip. Now we have (inaudible) line in Kyiv. Is it fair of us to expect that Russians knew about that trip in advance? And if so, what is your reaction to Kyiv being bombed right prior to Secretary’s arrival to —
MR KIRBY: We don’t inform Russia about U.S. leaders’ travel to Kyiv to see President Zelenskyy, to visit Ukraine. We certainly don’t inform them. And I’m sorry, your second question, it was —
QUESTION: Kyiv being —
MR KIRBY: It just shows the continued barbarity of Mr. Putin and Russian military forces that they continue to bombard the capital city. And it’s not just Kyiv. It’s Odesa, it’s Kherson, it’s the cities and villages throughout Ukraine. It’s not just the fighting that’s going on in the east and the south. We continue to see Russian forces try to break the will of the Ukrainian people and deliberately target – Kyiv is a good example – civilian infrastructure, energy infrastructure, schools, hospitals, residential buildings. It’s all a part of an effort by Mr. Putin to try to break their will. And it hasn’t succeeded, and we have absolutely zero reason to think that it will.
I’m going to go back over here. Yeah, and then – right there.
QUESTION: Thank you. You’ve mentioned, if I’m not mistaken, towards the end of your remarks that there will be another package of assistance for Ukraine.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And it is speculated in the U.S. media that in this new package, there will be depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds. Recently, cluster bombs were sent to Ukraine. If you can confirm those depleted uranium rounds, that would be great, but my general question is: Why do you think it is necessary now to send those somewhat controversial kinds of munitions for Ukraine?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, I’m not going to get ahead of announcements here. So I’m not in a position to confirm specific items. I would just tell you that as the war has evolved over time, the capabilities that we have provided Ukraine has evolved over time. And we’ll continue to take a look at what the needs are. If you just look at the fighting in – all the way from the Donbas area around Bakhmut, on that sweep down towards the southwest to the Zaporizhzhia area and then further east and south of that, it’s a gunfight. It’s heavy artillery, and it’s mines. And there is also long-range capabilities that both sides are trying to apply here to get behind each other’s lines.
And so I think you’ll see when we are in a position to detail this package – and it will later today; it won’t be long – you’ll see what you have seen in the past two to three months: capabilities that are designed to help Ukraine in this counteroffensive fight. And I think really that’s as far as I’m going to go.
QUESTION: Is it because the counteroffensive is not as successful as everybody hoped that you need to send more munitions, somewhat controversial? I will be —
MR KIRBY: It’s because this is an active, dynamic, violent gunfight, and they continue to need inventory. They continue to need capabilities – whether that’s artillery, whether that’s these long-range rockets, the advance rocket systems, whether it’s Patriot air defense ammunition – I can go on and on and on. You’ll see in this latest package that we are very much focused on helping them be successful in this counteroffensive.
And I would add to the premise of your question that they have made notable progress, particularly in the last few days, and particularly down in the south coming out of that Zaporizhzhia area. I’m mindful that I don’t want to be in a position where I’m armchair quarterbacking their operations; they should speak to their operations. But it is not fair to conclude that this thing has ground to some kind of standstill. They are on the move.
Now, it varies from place to place how far they’re going and how fast. But they have made some notable progress in recent days, and we want to do what we can to help them – help them continue to succeed.
Let me go over here. Blue shirt there, in the middle.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for doing this, Admiral. I have two questions. Reuters today published a report that G7 shelved the price cap of the Russian crude oil and petroleum products, that it’s reviewing regularly last couple of months, last few months. Can you confirm this report? And if it’s true, what would be the next step of the G7 countries in tightening the sanctions against Russia?
MR KIRBY: I cannot confirm those reports and I wouldn’t deign to speak for the G7 specifically. The price cap has been working, and we continue to encourage all countries to purchase oil only in accordance with that price cap. The idea is to limit the ability that Mr. Putin has to profit off the oil market while not adversely affecting global supply.
QUESTION: And my second question is India is – we know that India is an avid buyer of Russian energy products such as crude oil, lubricants, and fuels from Russia. Is President Biden planning to address this problem with his Indian counterpart during his trip at the G20 summit?
MR KIRBY: We – we encourage, as I said, all nations to purchase oil in accordance with the price cap. We also – for the United States perspective, we don’t believe that this is a time for business as usual with Mr. Putin and with Russia. Every nation has to make their own sovereign decisions. We have been nothing but clear and consistent with all of our allies and partners about where we come in on economic opportunities and trade with Russia. But every just – every sovereign nation has to make these decisions for themselves.
Yeah, next to him, right there in the —
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Admiral Kirby. My question is about the bilateral meeting that President Biden will have with Prime Minister Modi – President Biden will have with Prime Minister Modi. What will be the agenda? We have heard very little about this bilateral meeting. Could you just talk a little bit about the bilateral agenda?
MR KIRBY: Well, without getting too far ahead of the meeting that hasn’t happened, it’s certainly going to be an appropriate follow-on to their very robust bilateral discussions here when we had – when we hosted Prime Minister Modi at the White House not long ago for a very complete and official visit. I think you can expect that they will discuss the agenda for the G20, particularly the economic cooperation and multilateral investment opportunities that stand before the G20, and the President’s strong desire to see multilateral development bank reform and reshaping continue.
I have little doubt that they will also talk about the shared challenge of climate change and how much we are hoping to have a robust discussion at the G20 about a transition to clean energy technology and to see more countries, more G20 countries, invest in more clean energy technology as well as efforts to curb greenhouse gases. I have little doubt that they will also discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine and the effect, the deleterious effect that that war is having on low- and middle-income countries, which again comes right back to the economic cooperation issue. So – and then I think – I think just issues in general about security, economic, and diplomatic challenges throughout the Indo-Pacific will certainly be something that they discuss.
But again, I don’t want to get too far ahead of the meeting. We’ll have a fulsome readout, of course, when it’s over.
Back here. Yeah, you in the glasses there.
QUESTION: Thank you. Nirmal Ghosh from The Straits Times. Could I bring you to the President’s next stop in Vietnam? What do you – what is the agenda? What do you expect? What are you looking for from the —
MR KIRBY: Well, Vietnam has been a strong partner in the region, and the relationship between Vietnam has grown and matured and certainly changed over these many years. And we share common challenges with Vietnam; we share common interests with Vietnam, particularly when it comes to tensions in the Indo-Pacific and in that particular part of the world. Again, I don’t want to get too far ahead of a readout of it, but I think you can expect that we will be looking for ways – we already have a strong partnership with Vietnam. We will be looking for ways to strengthen that partnership in tangible, demonstrable ways, and I think you can expect President Biden to be able to speak to that once his discussions are done. But it’s a great opportunity to advance a growing friendship and a growing partnership that we very much value in the region. Thank you for that question.
Yeah, over here. The – yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. Donghui Yu with China Review News Agency of Hong Kong. I have two follow-up question. First one: Even though President Xi will not attend the G20 summit, can we expect a more intensive diplomacy between the U.S. and China in the next couples of months to culminate in a Biden-Xi summit in San Francisco in November?
And second follow-up question: And now that Huawei has already got the technology breakthrough, does the U.S. consider adjusting the policy toward Huawei? Like, Mr. Sullivan said yesterday U.S. will continue the “high fence, small yard” policy.
MR KIRBY: Excuse me. Sorry.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. adjust the policy and make the yard smaller and let the U.S. companies get the opportunity in Chinese market? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Again, I’d go back to my first answer. I just don’t have anything more to add than what Mr. Sullivan said yesterday. We’re taking a look at this. We need to learn more, know more before we make any kind of decisions one way or another. That’s just where we are.
On your first couple of questions, we already are involved in determined diplomacy with the PRC to try to get this relationship back on the track that it had been at the last G20 a year ago in Bali, after President Xi and President Biden spent some three hours together. And both of them agreed in that meeting that it was important that they handle this most consequential of bilateral relationships in a responsible way and that we handle the competition between our countries – and the President does view it as a competition – in a responsible way. That’s where the President wants to get to, and it’s a good thing that we have been able to have Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State, and other staff-level discussions with the PRC just in the last couple of months. That’s all to the good.
So you’re asking me is there going to be more intensive diplomacy. My answer is there has been intensive diplomacy, determined diplomacy, and we are determined to keep that going forward, because we believe it’s important that – especially when there are these tensions and they are high – dialogue and conversation is a practical and demonstrable way to work through some of those challenges. You want to look for ways to decrease the risk of miscalculation. You certainly aren’t – nobody’s looking for conflict here, so having these diplomatic exchanges are very valuable.
And then as for your question about whether this is leading up to a meeting with President Xi in San Francisco in the fall, I don’t know. I just don’t know. We don’t – we’re not that far along here to know for sure. What I can tell you for sure is that President Biden, as he has said just the other day, that he fully intends to have another discussion with President Xi at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way, and we’ll do that. But I don’t think either side knows when that’s going to be or what form that’s going to take, so we’ll just keep working at it. But it is good that we have had these exchanges in recent months.
There is still – and I think this is an important point to make – I mean, there’s still a lot of work to do. We still don’t have the military-to-military channel of communication open right now, and that’s really a critical one. I’m not saying it’s the only important one, but it is a critical one, particularly given the tensions in the South China Sea and in and around the strait – the Taiwan Strait. So we want to get that channel open too. So there’s still a lot of, to use your phrase, intensive diplomacy yet to come.
Okay, in the back there. The black jacket. I think it’s black.
QUESTION: I’m from Ukrainian TV, 1+1 Media. It seems like India put Ukraine on a ban during this summit, because President Zelenskyy is not invited, neither in person nor virtually, to summit. So how he could be engaged in these talks while he is not there?
MR KIRBY: I can’t just speak to that process, ma’am. That’s really for the G20 presidency, which is now held by India, to speak to what’s on the agenda and what’s not. So I’m just not in a position to comment one way or the other.
I would add that we have our Secretary of State in Kyiv as we speak and that President Zelenskyy has had and will continue to have opportunities to talk to leaders across the international community about what’s going on in the counteroffensive, what Ukraine’s security defense needs are going forward, and about all the other efforts that he is tackling, particularly when it comes to corruption. So I just – I’m just not in a position to say one way or another why there’s not a commensurate opportunity here at the G20.
Let me go over to this side a little bit. Ma’am, right there.
QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. This is Leah Griffith with the Asahi Shimbun. So I’d like to know your views on China’s ban on Japanese seafood after the release of the treated water from the Fukushima plan.
MR KIRBY: On the – I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. On their ban on —
QUESTION: Seafood imports from —
MR KIRBY: Oh, oh, and this is because of the Fukushima treated water. We’ve talked about this before. We’re comfortable – and the President has said this – that Japan has taken all of the necessary steps to apply to – with international standards, including standards put forward by the IAEA with regard to the release of this treated water, and there should be no reason for any country to because of that – to try to exert some sort of punitive economic measure as a result. The Japanese Government took this very seriously. They applied to and applied with international standards for the release of this treated water, and again, as the President has said, we’re comfortable that they have taken all the appropriate steps in that regard.
Back over here. Right there. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Tetsuo Shintomi with Japan Kyodo News. I’d like to ask regarding the travel planning this time. If President Biden participated in the ASEAN meeting in Indonesia this time, he could have had engagement with many leaders in the Pacific region which he repeatedly expressed his priority. So my question is, have you ever considered about the option that President Biden would go to Indonesia and Vice President Harris would go to India? And I also would like to know why. Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Your question – the way it was put, did – did he consider the importance the meeting with ASEAN leaders, and the short answer is, of course. He’s met with ASEAN leaders in three summits since he became President, including the first ever U.S.-ASEAN Summit here in the United States. So any argument that he somehow is not paying enough attention to ASEAN leaders or to issues of the – of concern to Southeast Asian nations is just false on its face, absolutely false. Three summits that he’s participated in, and that doesn’t include individual bilateral discussions he has had with many of these leaders since he became president.
Vice President Harris is representing the President at ASEAN. She’s already had some key meetings, including with President Widodo in Jakarta. And this is her third visit to the region – the most visited region since she became Vice President. She’s visited this region more than any other. And she focuses keenly and very assertively on issues of our national security interests and our economic interests in Southeast Asia specifically. So this has been a focus of her leadership and her efforts since taking office as well. The President has and will remain committed to these relationships, and you’ll see that going forward without question.
The visit to Vietnam, as I said earlier to the question, is an important visit. This is an important relationship as well with a country that, again, we have a long and in the distant past certainly a troubled history but a history that we’ve both been able to literally put behind us and work on some key issues together. And the President is very focused and very much looking forward to advancing some of those shared interests and addressing the shared challenges that we face with Vietnam. There’s plenty of work to be done by everybody in the Indo-Pacific region, and it is a region writ large that this president has put an awful lot of focus on.
The first two foreign leaders that he had to the White House were from Japan and South Korea. We just had a summit at Camp David with the leaders with Japan and South Korea, improving our trilateral cooperation. We signed on to the AUKUS deal to assist Australia in obtaining a nuclear-powered submarine capability. We have revitalized our vast network of alliances and partnerships, including partnerships in Southeast Asia, since he became president. And we’ve invigorated the Indo-Pacific Quad so – I mean, I could go on and on and on. Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Indo-Pacific region.
So I just absolutely reject out of hand any suggestion that President Biden or Vice President Harris haven’t put the appropriate amount of focus on the Indo-Pacific region, and including and especially in Southeast Asia. And we’re looking forward to Vice President Harris’s continued engagement there at ASEAN and to hearing directly from her on what’s she’s learned and the perspectives that she’ll be able to bring back to Washington.
Yes, sir. Right there.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, sir. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV, Pakistan. As this summit is being held in India, there is too much tension in the region due to the current situation of Afghanistan. Groups like ISIS, al-Qaida, and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, many others, also gained the control of the military equipment, about $7 billion, left behind by American forces. So, sir, is there any —
MR KIRBY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, say that last part again?
QUESTION: So they also gained the control of the military equipment left behind by American forces in Afghanistan.
MR KIRBY: Yeah, just let me stop you right there.
MR KIRBY: There was no equipment left behind by American forces. There was a small amount of equipment and some aircraft at the airport when we finished our evacuation efforts, but they were all rendered unusable as we left. In fact, the only thing that we left – we left that the Taliban could take advantage of was some airport mechanic capabilities: tow trucks and trucks with ladders on them, and that kind of thing; I think some firefighting equipment.
The equipment that you’re talking about, and I don’t mean to get pugilistic here, but it’s an important point – the equipment that people are saying the Americans left behind, that was equipment that was transferred well in advance of our departure to the Afghan National Security Forces. It belonged to the Afghan National Security Forces, because that was part of the mission that our troops were involved in Afghanistan to do in the first place, which was to train up and to support Afghan national security forces as they took charge of security in their country. And they needed equipment to do that, and so there – yeah, there was turnover of American equipment to them. They – as the Taliban advanced on Kabul and other places throughout the country, they abandoned that equipment, not the United States. Sorry to interrupt you, but that’s an important point, and I wanted to make sure I made that.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for this. And secondly, sir, a few months ago President Biden in his remarks said that Pakistan is the most dangerous country with the nuclear weapons. What kind of concerns President Biden have about Pakistan? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: We know that the Pakistani people continue to suffer the threat from terrorism, particularly along that border, that border with Afghanistan. And we’re going to continue to work with Pakistan – to the degree that they’re comfortable with, of course – to help address those kinds of security threats to their own people and to their own borders because it’s not an insignificant threat. There’s a – there is a lot of danger that’s still posed to the Pakistani people, and the President understands that, and he’s committed to continue to work with Pakistan.
Over here. Yes, ma’am. Right – there you go.
QUESTION: Reena Bhardwaj, ANI. In New Delhi, how optimistic is the United States of a joint declaration in this G20?
MR KIRBY: We hope so. We certainly hope so. But, I mean, I think you know it’s difficult to get 20 clocks to chime at the same time, so we’re going to have to – we’re going to work on this. We know that the Indians also would like to see a joint communique, if you will, so we’ll see where it goes. Oftentimes the sticking point tends to be the war in Ukraine because countries like Russia and China are less likely to sign on to language that the rest of the international community is more uncomfortable signing on to, so we’ll see where it goes. But we’d like to see that, absolutely.
Yes sir, here in the front.
MR KIRBY: Wait for the microphone.
QUESTION: Kausar Javaid, Bol News. President Biden is going to India, very important summit. There is an unresolved issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, worst-ever human rights violation and crimes against the humanity witnessed there. Is the Kashmir will be the part of discussion?
Secondly, Pakistan offered many times to India peace talks, but India is avoiding that. Could you comment on that?
MR KIRBY: I won’t comment on the second question. That’s for Indian leaders to speak to. And as for Kashmir, our policy has not changed. We believe that that is – that the tensions there are best resolved by the parties themselves.
Now, broadly speaking – not specifically to Kashmir, but you talked about human rights – we – human rights is a cornerstone of President Biden’s foreign policy, and he never shies away nor will he ever shy away from raising concerns about human rights with his counterparts overseas. And that was the case when Prime Minister Modi visited here to Washington, D.C. not long ago, and it will be the case going forward. I mean, he absolutely will not shy away from mentioning our concerns and raising our concerns about civil and human rights all around the world, including there.
In the back there. Guy there with the green shirt.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. My question is about the northeast —
QUESTION: The name?
MR KIRBY: Who you are and who you work for.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I’m Servet with Anadolu Agency. Thank you for doing this. My question would be on northeast Syria. I would like to get an assessment about the situation there.
MR KIRBY: What’s changed there?
QUESTION: Situation, the latest situation.
MR KIRBY: The situation in northeast Syria?
QUESTION: Yes. There is an apparent cycle of violence right now between SDF and the Arab tribes, and some senior U.S. officials were there as well this weekend. And my question is that – is there any outcome of that talks there? And do you think the SDF is going too far in the region? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything to read out in terms of recent talks. I’d refer you to the State Department on that. We’re certainly mindful of the violence and the tensions in northeast Syria. I would remind you that our presence there is specifically targeted against ISIS, and the work that we’re doing with the SDF in northeast Syria is specifically targeted against ISIS. That is why we’re there. That is our focus, and that’s the basis for that partnership with the SDF.
We have never shied away from talking about, as I said earlier, the human rights, civil rights concerns with any of our partners anywhere around the world. We want to see the focus – again, because we’ve got less than a thousand troops there – we’re focused on the ISIS threat, which remains viable and credible, and we certainly want to keep our SDF partners focused on that threat, on that mission.
Yeah, in the glasses there. Yellow.
QUESTION: Hey, hello. My name is Alejandra Arredondo from EFE News Agency. So the Pentagon just confirmed that in the aid package to Ukraine, it’s included the munitions containing depleted uranium. They just sent out the press release.
MR KIRBY: Okay. I didn’t know about it.
QUESTION: So I wanted to ask you back about that. (Laughter.) Why does the U.S. consider that this kind of weapons are important in Ukraine, considering how controversial the use of this kind of weapons has been? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Depleted uranium rounds are denser. They’re heavier than normal tank rounds, and they are very effective against armored targets like enemy tanks. And so in – back to my answer before, we want to make sure that the Ukrainians can be as effective as possible in this counteroffensive. And it’s our belief that depleted uranium rounds will help them be more effective on the battlefield.
Now, let me tackle this because you used the word “controversial” too. Depleted uranium rounds – and there are scientific studies, including by the CDC, that backs this up – pose no radioactive threat. They are simply denser than more conventional tank rounds. But there’s no carcinogenic or radioactive threat posed by depleted uranium rounds. That’s number one.
Number two, many militaries – many – use depleted uranium rounds, not just the United States – including, I would add, Russia uses depleted uranium rounds. So there’s no great controversy here except the one that Russia is trying to make of it. They are used for – as anti- tank ammunition; they are effective on the battlefield. They don’t pose any radioactive threat to people. And we want the Ukrainians to be as effective as possible. End of story.
Yeah. Yeah, you, right next to her.
QUESTION: Thank you, John, for doing this. My name is Mushfiqul Fazal representing Just News media and South Asia perspectives. You answered my colleague question —
MR MILLER: Good, we’ll go to the next guy then.
QUESTION: But my – my – (laughter) – two small question. Bangladesh ruling prime minister accused the USA by saying that – last month – in the name of democracy, free, fair election, and human rights, they wants to gain control over the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal region, making excuse to attack and to destroy other countries. What is your response?
And I want to ask another question, if I may. I want to draw your attention in New York Times details report titled “Quietly Crushing a Democracy: Millions on Trial in Bangladesh,” including the former prime minister and the Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus facing, quote, “judicial harassment,” and 180 global leaders, including more than 100 Nobel laureates, call for Stanford Professor Muhammad Yunus – including President Barack Obama and the Secretary Hillary Clinton. What is your position about Professor Yunus?
MR KIRBY: We obviously support democratic institutions in Bangladesh. We support the will of the Bangladeshi people. We support the need for free and fair elections. Nothing’s changed about that. We want to see the aspirations of the Bangladeshi people fully realized, and the United States will consistently try to champion those aspirations.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m (inaudible) from SBS. Well, it’s kind of following question. In the Camp David bilateral meeting, three leaders signed the commitment to consult. The arms deal between Russia and North Korea might be a threat or challenge to – not just to Ukraine but also the three countries. So is there any response or cooperation underway between three countries? And at G20, is there any plan for a trilateral or bilateral meeting among three country leaders? Just because —
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything more on the agenda at the G20 in terms of bilateral or, in this case, a trilateral meeting to talk about. We’ll keep you guys informed as the President’s schedule unfolds at the G20. The only bilateral meeting that I’m in a position to speak to today is the one with Prime Minister Modi on Friday evening. But again, as they – as his schedule fleshes out and these meetings get added on, which they inevitably do, we’ll certainly keep you informed.
There has been no deal consummated between Pyongyang and Moscow with respect to arms, so there’s no active consultations going on between the United States, Japan, and South Korea with respect to that since there’s no arms deal to talk about. But your point is a really valid one: that should there be a deal – and Mr. Sullivan talked about this a little bit yesterday – one could presume, one must presume that Pyongyang would benefit from that.
Now, it’s not clear to us exactly what benefits Mr. Kim is looking for. Could it be food? Could it be advanced arms and technology from Russia? We just don’t know. But we’ll be watching this very, very closely. And clearly, that – having said that and putting that aside, we take our treaty commitments very, very seriously to both Japan and to South Korea. And obviously we take very seriously the opportunities before us to consult and to cooperate in a trilateral way.
So let’s just see where things go. We again call on Pyongyang not to enter into a deal with Mr. Putin to kill more Ukrainians.
Let’s see, we’ll go in the back there. Yes, sir. You – you back there, yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, John. I’m Pil Gyu Kim from JTBC in South Korea. There was a recent report that North Korea leader Kim Jong-un also will visit Russia to see Putin, and also President Putin said that he has a plan to see President Xi in China. After the Camp David summit between U.S., South Korea, and Japan, it looks like another trilateral cooperation between North Korea, Russia, China has strengthened. And some argue that Northeast Asia – Northeast Asia security is destabilizing due to – after the Camp David summit. What is your response there?
MR KIRBY: We’ll let these three countries speak for themselves in terms of what level of interaction they desire or that they’re pursuing. We have certainly watched and been mindful of the growing and deepening relationship between the PRC and Russia. We’re certainly mindful of and talking about publicly this possibility of an arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow. And all these things are concerning; of course they’re concerning.
No other nation in the world should be stepping up to try to help Mr. Putin in his illegal war in Ukraine. No. None other – no other nation should. No, every nation has to decide for itself what it’s going to do or what it’s not going to do. But we’ve been very, very clear that this is not a time for business as usual with Mr. Putin and what his forces are doing in Ukraine, which rises to the level of crimes against humanity, let alone a completely unprovoked war that’s now stretching into 18 months.
So we’ll watch all this very, very closely, and as I said earlier, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action if we need to – unilaterally, but also with our allies and partners – to hold people accountable who attempt to make it easier for Mr. Putin to kill innocent Ukrainians by evading sanctions or by providing arms and ammunition. I would add that we’ve not seen the PRC provide any lethal capabilities to the Russian military. They still – they have not done that. And Mr. Xi has, in the past, made public comments criticizing the way Mr. Putin has executed some aspects of this war. But we’ll just have to watch and see where it goes.
No, you already had a question.
MR KIRBY: No, no, no, no, no, no. No double dipping. There’s no double dipping. Back here, the grey jacket. Can you wait for the mike, please?
QUESTION: I’m Oskar Gorzynski from Polish Press Agency. So North Korea and Russia – you guys said that – it says a lot that Russia is turning to North Korea for weapons, but how much does it actually say? Do you have visibility into the – into how much – how deep is the shortage of Russian ammunition? I mean, is it a desperate move, in your view?
And related to that, Jake has said that he spends, like, half an hour every day thinking about your own supplies of 155 shells for Ukraine. Has this problem improved? Do – are you confident that you can indeed supply Ukraine for as long as it takes?
MR KIRBY: The short answer to your second question is yes, we’re confident that we can continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. When the President says that, he means that. And yes, the Defense Department is working with the defense industry to increase production of 155 artillery shells. And I can’t tell you standing here what the production rate is right now; you’d have to go to the DOD. I just don’t have that kind of – those kind of figures with me. But I know that they are working a plan to steadily increase production of 155millimeter shells for our own inventory, but also so that we can continue to support Ukraine, because as I said earlier, particularly right now, it is a gun fight and artillery shells are very much in demand.
And that is why we also believe one of the things that Mr. Putin is looking for from Pyongyang is artillery, amongst other types of munitions. I couldn’t tell you – I don’t know what his inventory looks like, Mr. Putin’s inventory. That’s not data that we would have a very finite tactile sense of fidelity on, exactly how much he’s got. But we do know that he is using artillery fires at an increasing rate as he tries to stave off the Ukrainian counteroffensive moves, particularly in that southern area around Zaporizhzhia.
So it’s clear to us that he’s working through artillery clips at a pretty fast rate, which would explain why he’s reaching out to other countries to try to replace them, because we know that his own defense industrial base is struggling to keep up with the demand of his expenditure of munitions. And I’m not just talking about artillery shells – I’m talking about precision guided munitions, rockets, missiles, that kind of thing. And we know that one reason why his defense industrial base is having trouble keeping up is because of the export countries and the sanctions that the United States and our allies and partners have put in place to make it harder for his defense industrial base to continue to manufacture these things.
Now, that’s not to say that they don’t have the capacity or capability to produce – they do and they are. But we know that it has suffered under the sanctions and export controls that have been put in place, and we’re going to continue to explore opportunities to put even more pressure on Mr. Putin. But the – that he’s reaching out to Pyongyang for munitions and artillery shells, that he has to reach out to Iran for drones and to work with Iran on potentially some sort of joint manufacturing capability for drones, that speaks volumes of how desperate Mr. Putin is to keep his war machine going. It speaks volumes to the pressure that he’s under, and quite frankly, I think it speaks volumes to the fact that he knows – even though he may never admit it – that this war in Ukraine has been a strategic failure for him.
I can take one more and then I’m going to have to call it a day. Yes, ma’am. Did you get a question already? No? Okay. Because I know – we’re not going to do any double dipping here.
QUESTION: No, no, no. That’s not me. That’s him.
MR KIRBY: All right. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Magda Sakowska of Polsat.
MR KIRBY: And don’t ask his question for him. (Laughter)
MR KIRBY: That’s what you did. You probably gave her your question.
QUESTION: Magda Sakowska of Polsat News, Poland. I would like to follow up regarding the cooperation – Moscow, Pyongyang, Tehran, and also Peking* is in some kind – and this coalition is – have been building. How dangerous it is for the global security? Are we facing a new axis of evil or —
MR KIRBY: That is not – that is not how we would describe this. These – I think – so perspective matters here. This is a really good question. Obviously we take these growing relationships seriously, because we have to. These are countries – Iran, North Korea, Russia, and certainly – and certainly the PRC – that want to challenge – and I know it sounds like a bureaucratic term but it’s true – this rules-based order that the United States and so many of our allies and partners built after World War II and engendered and grew during the years of the Cold War and beyond. This rules-based order respects the UN Charter, it respects sovereignty, it respects territorial integrity, and these are all nations that want to challenge that order. These are all nations that see in the United States particularly some sort of common enemy, and so we obviously are watching their budding relationships closely. And if we didn’t take it seriously, we wouldn’t be up here talking about it and we wouldn’t have downgraded some information as we’ve done, particularly with this potential arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow.
That said, these are not nations who have (A) many friends, (B) any kind of network of alliances and partnerships the way the United States enjoys, and (C) a long history of working with each other and mutual trust and confidence the way the United States and our allies and partners have with one another. So I think we need to keep it in perspective in terms of what the potential is here. These are countries that are coming together for very discrete purposes because they’re bristling at world leadership that is trying to respect the UN Charter, and that UN Charter – for whatever reason – they believe stands in contrast to what they’re trying to – which they’re trying to dismantle.
So we’ve got to keep it in perspective, but we’re going to watch this closely. But no, we’re not – we’re not labeling this some sort of new axis or a new alliance. Again, these are not nations that are known for working with others well, working with each other well, and have some sort of history of cooperation. Does that answer your question?
MR KIRBY: Oh, so —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) their rights?
MR KIRBY: Yeah. So again, we’re taking this seriously, as we must. And what we’ve said remains true today: When other nations are looking for transactional relationships – particularly with Russia, for instance, and here I’m talking largely about Pyongyang and Iran, not so much the PRC – that’s a concern that we have for the people of Ukraine. Any additional military capability that Mr. Putin gets is obviously not good for the war in Ukraine and not good for the Ukrainian people, and you don’t have to look any further than the Iranian drones that continue to rain down on civilian infrastructure and residential buildings throughout Ukraine. They are literally – the Iranians are literally helping Mr. Putin kill innocent people in Ukraine. But that same transactional relationship could have repercussions and ramifications in the Middle East if Iran were to benefit from it by getting Russian military capabilities to add to their inventory and to their capabilities. So that would be a potential threat, a concern for our national security interests in the region as well as those of our allies and partners.
Now, we have not seen an arms deal consummated between Pyongyang and Russia, but should that occur – and I think this gets to your question, sir – obviously that would be of concern to that region as well if Pyongyang was able to acquire through some sort of transactional relationship advanced Russian capabilities that they don’t have. And we know there are – there is some similarity between North Korean military capabilities and Russian capabilities, some interoperability there. That would clearly be of concern, which is another reason why we’re calling it out.
Okay. Thanks, everybody. I’ve got to go. I appreciate it.