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  • In this on-the-record briefing, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby discusses the upcoming Trilateral Leaders Summit of the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea, along with National Security news of the day.



MODERATOR:  Good Morning, my name is Doris Robinson, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  I am pleased to be able to welcome back to the Foreign Press Center podium NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.  He will brief us on the upcoming trilateral leaders’ summit of the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, as well as news of the day.  Today’s briefing is on the record and a transcript of the briefing will be posted later today at   

And with that, I will turn it over to John. 

MR KIRBY:  Hey, everybody.  Good morning. 

All right, as said, I’m here to kind of give you a little preview of the trilateral summit up at Camp David this week.  And that happens, of course, on Friday, where President Biden will host Prime Minister Kishida of Japan and President Yoon of the Republic of Korea for a historic Camp David trilateral summit.  

This summit is the first visit to Camp David by any foreign leader during the Biden-Harris administration, and the first one since 2015.  In keeping with the time-honored tradition of hosting significant meetings there at Camp David, this summit will mark a new era of trilateral cooperation for our three countries.  

At the outset of this administration, we sought to rebuild and reinvigorate our alliances and partnerships around the world, but especially within the Indo-Pacific region.  We are reaching new heights of collaboration with our allies and partners, and we also see them stepping up, too.  Our alliances with Japan and with the Republic of Korea are certainly representative of that.  Leaders of both countries have displayed remarkable leadership, and the ROK-Japan relationship is stronger now than it’s ever been due to the political courage of both President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida.  

Beyond modernizing our bilateral alliances with both countries, President Biden has taken key steps with both the prime minister and the president to improve and to make more routine cooperation throughout and across our governments, all aimed at addressing some of our most complex problems.  The United States, as a facilitator, has encouraged dialogue among the three countries on a broad spectrum of areas.  The significant uptick in engagements, particularly since President Biden took office, is indicative of a fresh commitment to trilateral alignment that has real strategic benefit.  

Since day one of the administration, we’ve held three leader-level meetings, including at the G7 Hiroshima summit, five engagements between our foreign ministers, 13 defense leader meetings, and three meetings just between our mutual national security advisors.  And that’s just the top level of engagement.  There is a spate of lower-level engagement, both in the diplomacy and the security and defense realm, and we’re of course moving forward in lockstep in all kinds of new, unprecedented ways.  

Now, our three countries will announce significant initiatives on Friday, which will help cement our trilateral cooperation going forward.  These initiatives will take our trilateral relationship to new heights as we work together to deliver benefits for our people and for people across the region.   

Trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea is not only for the present, of course, but for the future.  As our nations make history on Friday at Camp David, we will be just as focused on taking actions to preserve this progress so that we may sustain and hopefully someday further strengthen and improve that trilateral cooperation.  

This historic summit is going to be the result – has been the result – of tremendous leadership, the power of diplomacy and determination to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for generations to come.  The President is very excited about hosting both these leaders and to having a real, productive set of discussions on Friday.  

So much to do, much to talk about.  And I’m happy to take some questions.  Anybody.  Anybody in the front row?  Yeah, go ahead.  I think you’ve got to wait for the mike.  

QUESTION:   Thank you for doing the briefing.  I just wanted to ask, during the meeting – oh, yeah, sorry.  Robert Delaney, South China Morning Post.  

MR KIRBY:  Yeah.  

QUESTION:  Can you tell us what will be discussed, or will the subject come up about a possible closer integration of Japan into the NATO Alliance, or also Japan and South Korea?  And specifically, will there be any discussion of a possible Tokyo office for NATO, or anything of this nature in terms of tying Japan or South Korea closer into NATO?  Thank you.  

MR KIRBY:  In terms of the – an office, I would certainly refer you to the Japanese Government to speak to that.  Those are sovereign decisions that only Prime Minister Kishida can speak to, not – it wouldn’t be for us to talk about.  This is a meeting about our trilateral cooperation and not solely focused on the Indo-Pacific, but a lot of focus, as you’ll see, in the initiatives that we announce on Friday, very much focused on regional security and stability and economic opportunity.  Again, it’s not just solely on the Indo-Pacific.   

But I wouldn’t expect that you’re going to see any deliverables or any demonstrable discussion about some sort of NATO alignment.  That of course would also – those kinds of discussions would also only have to take place in the context of the Alliance, and that wouldn’t be appropriate in this setting, to have a lengthy discussion about that.  

Yes, sir.  

QUESTION:  Hello.  I’m David Smith of the Guardian.  Will threats to Taiwan from China be on the agenda in this meeting?  And I wonder more generally, just as in your security assessment of if the worst happened and Taiwan was invaded by China, what do you assess – do you think the people of Taiwan, how would they respond?  Do you get a sense they would fight, or is the willpower not there, and people say, well, perhaps the Chinese have infiltrated Taiwanese military to an extent, and so on? 

MR KIRBY:  Our goal – President Biden’s goal is to make sure that that day doesn’t come.  Nobody wants to see a conflict over Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, and there’s no reason for it to come to that.  Quite frankly, there’s been no change to American policy when it comes to the “one China” policy.  We don’t support independence for Taiwan, and we’ve said time and time and time again that we don’t want to see the status quo changed in a unilateral fashion, and we certainly don’t want to see it change by force.   

So President Biden’s whole approach here to the relationship with the PRC and to our relationships in the region – as I said in my opening statement, we’ve really focused a lot on restoring and reinvigorating alliances and partnerships – is to deter conflict, to not see that happen.   

And then as for what’s on the agenda, I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions too much, in too much detail here today, except to say that this trilateral summit is all about taking affirmative steps towards improving our cooperation with each other in a three-way sort of situation.  And looking for – and you’re going to see this when you see the initiatives that are announced on Friday.  It’s really about moving our relationships with each other and amongst each other to a whole new level.  And – so there’ll be a range of topics discussed, everything from economics to diplomacy to certainly the security realm.  But it is not about the PC, and it’s not about a specific challenge in the region.  It is really about the broader challenge of improving our trilateral cooperation. 

And I think it’s important to remember how far Japan and the Republic of Korea have come together through the leadership; and I’m not – it’s not overstating it, as in my opening statement, to talk about the political courage for President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida to really advance their own bilateral relations.  It’s significant.  And obviously, we – we’re happy to see that happen, but we also think there’s room for growth, particularly in a trilateral format, and that’s really what this is all about. 

Yes, sir.  In the front there. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Thank you for doing this.  This is Ken Harada from Jiji Press, Japan.  I have one question.  So there is a concern that if the administration changes, not only in the United States but also in Korea, the momentum of this rapprochement will disappear.  Same – so how will the leaders of three nations address these concerns? 

MR KIRBY:  I think one of the things you’re going to see in the initiatives that are announced is that they’re very forward-looking, and commit ourselves to long-term initiatives improving trilateral cooperation.  It’ll be self-evident, when you see what the three leaders are able to announce on Friday, that all three of them are looking at the future – and not just the near future, but the far future – and making sure that, to the degree that is possible, we cement this level of cooperation and look for active ways to keep it going.  Nobody can predict perfectly what the future is going to look like.   

But what I can tell you, if Friday is technically still the future from here, that on Friday you’re going to see these leaders really buckle down and commit to a tangible, demonstrable set of initiatives that have real teeth.  And it’s certainly our hope and our expectation that that momentum, that will – that’s already kind of started, but Friday will really accelerate, that that momentum can continue for the long haul.  That’s our goal.  That’s President Biden’s desire, is to see this trilateral cooperation just continue to improve.   

And it’s not – it’s not just going to happen rhetorically.  It’s not going to happen without energy.  It’s – you’ve got to keep applying yourself.  You’ve got to keep applying leadership.  You’ve got to keep thinking of creative ways to advance that cooperation.  It’s not just going to happen on its own.  And what you’ll see Friday, again, is a series of initiatives that I think moves to a level of specificity that these leaders are really committed to keeping this progress going.   

Yes, sir, in the back there with the white jacket. 

QUESTION:  Thank you, John.  This is the Rudaw Media Network.  I have two questions of the — 

MR KIRBY:  You’re with who? 

QUESTION:  Rudaw Media Network. 

MR KIRBY:  Okay. 

QUESTION:  Yeah, I have two questions on Iran.  The first one:  Is there any understanding between the United States and Iran on the issues like supplying drones to Russia in the war in Ukraine, and also on the enrichment of uranium, and also on the Iranian-backed groups’ threats on the U.S. posts in Iraq and also in Syria.  Is there an understanding between you and Iran? 

MR KIRBY:  An understanding? 

QUESTION:  Understanding, yeah.  Because there is a lot of reports that say that this agreement that you have with Iran on exchanging the prisoners is a part of the greater understanding that you reached with Iran in Oman and — 

MR KIRBY:  We’re trying to get – we’re trying to get American citizens home.  That’s what this is about.   

QUESTION:  Do you deny that there is no understanding with Iran on the —    

MR KIRBY:  Well, look, if you’re asking about understanding, I mean, hopefully Tehran understands that it’s unacceptable for them to be providing drones so that Russia can kill more Ukrainians.  It’s unacceptable that they support terrorist networks throughout the region.  It’s unacceptable that they continue to attack maritime shipping in the gulf.  That’s why the United States is plussing up our military presence right now, as a matter of fact.  So I can’t tell you what the regime in Tehran understands.  I can only tell you what we have said and what we continue to emphasize with regard to Iran’s destabilizing activities.   

Now, look, as I said last week, if Iran has taken steps to curtail or slow enrichment – I’m not in a position to verify that – but if that’s happened, that’s a good thing.  Clearly that’s a good thing, and we would welcome it.  But that doesn’t mean that we just – that we’re just wiping our hands of all the other destabilizing activity and the threats that Iran poses in the region and beyond.  We are in active negotiations right now, as you and I are speaking, to get those Americans home.  And I’m not going to say anything up here that’s going to put those negotiations at jeopardy, but that’s what we’re talking to the Iranians about, getting these Americans home safe to their families where they belong.   

QUESTION:  Is there any discussion with the Iranian beyond this exchanging prisoners?  

MR KIRBY:  Our focus is on getting these Americans home.  

QUESTION:  And one more question – could you speak a little bit of the Iranian seized oil off Texas?  Today, a group of U.S. lawmakers sent a correspondent to President Biden and urged the administration to resolve the offloading delay of that Iranian oil in the Texas.  And why this has happened for the months?  And do you have any fear of the repercussion from Iran to that?   

MR KIRBY:  I’m not going to have much to say on that today.  I’d refer you to the Justice Department.  That’s really for them to speak to.   

Yeah, go ahead.  

QUESTION:  Thank you very much for taking my question, John.  Dmytro Anopchenko, D.C. correspondent for Ukrainian television.  Two short questions on Ukraine, if I may.  Firstly, could you give an update on trainings for F-16?  It’s – everything (inaudible) in Ukraine so when President Zelenskyy told that the training might start in August, he got his reasons.  So could you get – can we get an update on which stage are we now?  Is it on the Europeans who has not provided the training plan or it’s something else?   

And second, if I may, from a very reliable source, I heard that it’s an idea discussed in the White House that Ukraine may become the NATO member just in the borders, which will be liberated at that exact moment.  And after that, Ukraine will start to struggle for the rest of the territory diplomatically but not militarily.  Are you – I appreciate the position of the administration that it’s up to Ukraine how to end this war, but do you think the administration might support the idea to take the part of Ukraine just to have a security guarantee to end the war and just to struggle for the rest of the territory later?   

MR KIRBY:  If you’re asking – that you’ve heard there’s an understanding that we give Ukraine NATO membership in exchange for ending the war?   

QUESTION:  There is (inaudible) the borders, which will – the territory, which will be liberated at that point.  And the territory which will not be —    

MR KIRBY:  The Russian-occupied territory would be excluded from that?  Yeah, there’s nothing to that.  That’s not accurate.  We’ve already talked about trying to help find a path towards membership.  We’ve said publicly that NATO is going to be in Ukraine’s future, and we – at the Vilnius Summit, the Alliance stood behind that idea and got behind a notion wherein a pathway can be developed for that eventual membership.   

But the focus right now has got to be on helping Ukraine beat back Russian aggression and continue to claw back territory that rightfully belongs to them.  And they are.  They are making progress every day.  Even they have said it’s not going to far or as fast as they would like, but they are making progress.  And we’re going to continue to support them.  You just saw another announcement of security assistance from the United States just this week, so that’s what our focus is on.   

Your second question – or your first question with – on F-16s – I don’t have an update for you on F-16 training.  Obviously, coming out of Vilnius and the G7, the President made a strong commitment that we do support F-16 – eventual F-16 delivery to Ukraine.  And you got to start with training, and we have been working with our European allies in particular to see if we can get that training going as soon as possible.  But that’s still a focus.  I don’t have an update for you on when it’s going to start or where, but we are actively working with our European allies and friends to see if we can get that training started as soon as we can.   

And hang on a second.  You’re from Ukraine?  You still have family there?  You still have family in the country.  And how are they?   

QUESTION:  I pray every day.   

MR KIRBY:  Yeah, where do they live?   

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)   

MR KIRBY:  Odesa is – yeah, Odesa is not all that safe right now.  So – but you check in on them and – all right.  Give them our best.   

Yes, sir.   

QUESTION:  Thank you, John.  Marcin Wrona, TVN Poland.  A series of events are coming out of Belarus.  In recent days, two Belarusian helicopters entered Poland’s territory and were over NATO territory, in fact, for 10 minutes.  Lithuania has just announced that it’s closing two of the border crossings with Belarus because of the threat from 4,000 Wagner mercenaries in Belarus.  Latvia is seeing a sudden increase in what could be called hybrid warfare – basically, about 100 illegal border crossings a day between Belarus and Latvia – and it reminds us of what happened two years ago when Lukashenka was using immigrants as a weapon, building up tensions between Belarus and Poland.   

So what’s your assessment of the Belarusian activities, the threat coming from Belarus?  And a question that you’ve been asked many, many times:  Is this high time to send more troops, strengthen NATO eastern flanks and more troops to Poland, for example? 

MR KIRBY:  We are watching what’s going on in Belarus very, very closely, certainly taking note of some of the provocative actions there and certainly the bellicose, pugilistic rhetoric that continues to come out of the government there in Belarus.  All I can tell you is that we’re in constant contact with our NATO Allies, particularly on the eastern flank.  We understand the concern.  We share the concern, and the only other thing I’d say is that nothing has changed at all about our commitment to defend our NATO Allies and defend every inch of NATO territory should it come to that.  So we’re watching this very closely and we’re certainly in close contact with our Polish allies, who we know this is not some rhetorical exercise for them, it’s real for them.  They live with that every single day, and we respect that.  We understand that.  But make no mistake that we’re serious about our Article 5 commitment. 

And that’s a segue to the other question you had, which is about additional force.  I don’t have, certainly, any troop announcements to make today or anything like that.  As you’ve seen, President Biden has already increased by some 20,000 the American troop presence in NATO, particularly on the eastern flank, and he has put in place processes where we can keep that presence there for the long haul – rotational, but that they’ll be able to stay.  So we’re up around 100,000 troops in the European theater right now, which is the most in many, many years since the Cold War.  So President is committed to that, and look, again, no decisions to make today, but we’re in constant communication with our allies, and if there needs to be an adjustment to that, certainly that’s a discussion that we’re willing to have.  But right now I don’t see – there’s no indications that’s required. 

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.) 

MR KIRBY:  The Wagner threat from Belarus?  Again, we’re watching this closely.  It’s not really clear exactly where all the Wagner guys are.  We know some of them went to Belarus.  We know some of them went to Africa.  We believe that there’s probably some contingents that are either still in Ukraine or close by, but we’re not exactly clear what the numbers are, and it’s not clear to us what legitimate territorial threat they pose, at least in Europe.  They continue to pose a significant concern on the African continent by the way they continue to destabilize governments there, support terrorists, and that kind of thing, but we’re watching this as closely as we can. 

Again, all I can tell you is we take it seriously.  We listen to what’s coming out of Minsk.  We’re certainly mindful of the movement.  We certainly are mindful of these recent events, but we’re at – we haven’t moved anything as a result, and if we need to do that, certainly we could.  We take it seriously.  Yeah. 

Let me go to – over here.  Yes, ma’am, you in the glasses.  Yeah.  I’ll keep working back.  I’ll keep working back.  Don’t worry.  We got time.  This  lady here with the blue – yeah, thank you. 


MR KIRBY:  Sure.  We’ll go to you first and then I’ll come back to you, if it’s fine.   

QUESTION:  Thanks for taking my question.  I’m Yoojin Kim from Kyunghyang Daily News, and I’m curious whether this standalone trilateral summit will be the first of many more to come in the future years or future months.  And also, how will the trilateral cooperation – will it take the more formal structure, such as many laterals like Quad or AUKUS?  And some speculate that as trilateral security cooperation really speeds up, it might actually function as a de facto alliance binding Korea and Japan, and obviously you might be aware that there are some reservations about that due to the historical military causes from both Korean and Japanese people, so I’m wondering whether you could address those concerns as well. 

MR KIRBY:  So I think it’s important to remember that we actually do have binding bilateral alliances with both the Republic of Korea and with Japan.  In fact, five of our seven treaty alliances for the United States are in the Indo-Pacific region, so there’s already an alliance structure bilaterally with Korea and with Japan.  This is not about forging some formal trilateral alliance.  That’s not what this summit’s about.  The summit is about looking for ways to improve our trilateral cooperation across a range of issues.  And I understand the great interest in the security realm, and certainly there will be things to talk about on Friday in the security realm, where we’re going to try to improve that cooperation.   

But that’s not all of what this summit is after.  It’s really after improving people-to-people ties, improving economic opportunity and prosperity for the region; it’s certainly improving our cooperation diplomatically.  There’s a lot here.  It’s not just about security.  It is not about forming some sort of binding alliance outside of the already binding security alliances that we have with Japan and with Korea independently.   

To that – oh, and then you asked about whether there’ll be another one.  We’re focused on the one here on Friday.  I can’t predict at what point there’ll be another trilateral summit.  I can assure you, however, that following the summit on Friday, there will continue to be meetings and discussions and opportunities to engage trilaterally across all our three administrations going forward.  There’ll be all kinds of opportunities for that.  Now, whether there’ll be – when and whether there’ll be another summit at this level, I just don’t – I just don’t have anything on the calendar for – to speak to.   

Ma’am.  Go ahead.   

QUESTION:  Thank you.  This is Miyu Yamanaka, NHK Japan.  We really appreciate your time.  I was wondering if you could speak more to the significance of the timing and also the location, the historic location that the trilateral summit is taking place in.  There was a point on momentum, but I was wondering if there are – you could expand on any of the factors that came into the decision behind – the decision to have the summit now and also to have it at Camp David.   

MR KIRBY:  So let’s take the first part now.  This really does build on months and months, actually since the first day of the administration.  I mean, the first two foreign leaders that visited the White House were the leaders of Japan and South Korea, way back in the first couple of months or so of the administration.  First trip that Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin took was to those two countries.  So this summit really builds on an incredible amount of engagement at various levels, all the way from leaders on down, over the last two and a half years.  And it is – it really comes not – we’re not trying to mark a date on the calendar.  And – we’re – it really comes as a culmination of all this great work and the significant commitment by all three leaders to advance that, to improve it.   

I think we’re all very proud of the way these relationships have developed over the last two and a half years.  And we should be, because there’s an awful lot to celebrate there.  But we also recognize, all three of us, that the Indo-Pacific region is only becoming more strategic and more important, and in some ways not as stable and secure as we’d like it to be.  So there is an awful lot of work to be done, and that’s what they’re going to sit down, buckle down, and do on Friday is see if we can’t nail down some of these initiatives to take our cooperation forward.  It really is about an affirmative declaration of how much more capacity and capability and opportunity there is in this trilateral relationship, and really seeing if they can wring that out and what can we get out of it.  So it’s just a natural culmination point of everything we’ve done and everything we want to do going forward.   

As for Camp David, I mean, Camp David has – there’s a long tradition of historic, significant meetings and discussions being held there.  And the President felt, given how much he has prioritized that region, how much he has prioritized these two relationships and these two alliances and the trilateral cooperation – it’s been such a – at the forefront of his mind since taking office – that he felt it was appropriate that he hold this trilateral summit at Camp David to recognize the political courage by President Yoon and by Prime Minister Kishida and all the great work that has been done in both those countries to improve their relationship, but also to signify and to demonstrate how seriously he’s taking our relationships with them.  And that’s what Camp David sort of stands for.  It stands for that significance; it stands for that gravity and that weight.  And the President wanted to demonstrate that, and he’s very, very excited about having them there on Friday.   

Let me go back over here.  Yes, sir. 

QUESTION:  John, thank you so much.  Welcome back.  Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency.  I want to go back to Ukraine very quickly, and I have another question on the South Caucasus.  Your latest security package did not include long-range missiles, despite requests publicly were made by Ukrainian foreign ministry.  I sort of know what are you going to say about the sense of —  

MR KIRBY:  So if you know what I’m going to say — 

QUESTION:  But let me cut to the chase —  

MR KIRBY:  Let’s just get to your next question.    

QUESTION:  But let me cut to the chase.  How close are we to the ultimate decision, since President told us in June that it was in play?  Is it under active consideration at least?  And second question, on South Caucasus, this month marked 15 years since Russia’s invasion – Georgia.  I was wondering if, given everything you have done on Ukraine by – starting from beginning of depriving Russia from pushing its propaganda – and helping Ukraine – does it change your effort to Georgia problem?  Is there anything you can do now, again, given current circumstances, to help Georgia to restore its territorial integrity?  And finally, on Azerbaijan-Armenia, I know that State Department has been generous in terms of explaining the administration’s policy on that, but on your end, NSC has been involved separately.  Is there anything on your end being discussed?   

MR KIRBY:  That was Azerbaijan, you asked?  

QUESTION:  And Armenia, mm-hmm.  Thank you.    

MR KIRBY:  Okay, well there’s an awful lot there.  I don’t have any updates on ATACMS for you.  The President said they’re in play, they’re in play.  I’m not going to get into internal discussions one way or another about the security assistance that that we are providing Ukraine.  We certainly tell you guys all every time we announce something new like we did this week.  We’ll do that.  No decisions that are pending on ATACMS at this point.  We’re focused on making sure that Ukraine has what it needs in the counteroffensive.  And I can assure you that in the talks between our two militaries, everything they asked for this counteroffensive, they got, and they’re still getting, and we’re going to continue to have that conversation with them.  We have not been afraid to evolve the security assistance as the situation on the ground has evolved.  But I don’t have any updates for you on that.   

On Georgia, nothing – you asked if anything changed, and I guess the short answer is no.  We still believe that South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that’s Georgian territory despite the fact that Russian forces are occupying it.  We fully support Georgia’s independence, their sovereignty, territorial integrity – nothing’s changed there – within internationally recognized borders, and of course we call on Russia to fulfill its obligations from 2008 to a ceasefire, and that includes the withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions to allow unfettered access and delivery of humanitarian needs.   

On Azerbaijan, I think, as we’ve said many times, we certainly remain deeply concerned about the continued closure of that corridor in Nagorno-Karabakh to commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles.  We want to see that corridor opened up again.  We continue to urge the Government of Azerbaijan to restore free transit of commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles through the corridor expeditiously.   

And as you said in your question, we have maintained a level of dialogue and diplomacy at various levels, and that continues – all the way from the National Security Council, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Finer, to over at the State Department.  I mean, we are engaged on a routine basis to see if we can achieve a better outcome diplomatically. 

Another one on Azerbaijan?  Go ahead. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Rabia Turan from Anadolu Agency.  According to some recent reports, India is involved in supplying arms to Armenia, including Pinaka rocket systems.  Azerbaijani media recently released a video showing military cargo crossing a border checkpoint in Iran to Armenia.  I was wondering, what is your assessment of these reports?  How do you see these reports of India supplying arms to Armenia through Iran at a time when Armenia and Azerbaijan are negotiating a peace treaty?  

MR KIRBY:  I haven’t seen those reports, so I’m going to – I’ll take your question and we’ll see if we can get you a better answer.  I haven’t seen that.  All I can say is that we’re going to continue to stay engaged diplomatically to encourage a peaceful resolution here for – and an easing of tensions, and certainly to get the corridor open again in Nagorno-Karabakh so that humanitarian assistance and supplies can get to the people that need it most.  But I just – you’re just going to have to let me take your question because I haven’t seen that report and I don’t want to speculate.   

Yeah.  Let’s see, back in the – right next to the young lady that just asked that question.  White shirt there.   

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Jaewoo Park from Radio Free Asia.  I’ll ask one general question and one specific question.  In terms of North Korea —  

MR KIRBY:  Do I get to pick which one I get to answer?   

QUESTION:  Yeah.   

MR KIRBY:  I take the general one.   

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  Okay.   

MR KIRBY:  Those are easier.   

QUESTION:  So what would be the specific topic or initiative the three leader talk about in terms of North Korea in upcoming summit?  And also, my second question is in terms of North Korea.  They released a statement yesterday about Travis King.  So they said in the statement that Travis King seek asylum because U.S. military treat him inhumanly.  So do you think North Korea put this statement intentionally, specific this time?  And also, do you have any comment on that?   

MR KIRBY:  The – I think anything that comes out of Pyongyang you’ve got to look at skeptically.  I mean, it’s Kim Jong-un we’re talking about.  So we don’t tend to put a lot of stock in statements coming out of Pyongyang, and I don’t think we’re going to do much hand-wringing over a statement coming out of there.   

That said – and this is an important follow-up – we still want to know where Private King is.  We still want to know what condition he’s being held in because our fears are certainly for the worst, and we have – sadly have all too good reason to fear for his safety.  And we have made it clear to Pyongyang in other channels, and we’ll continue to make it clear, that we want him back.  He’s an American soldier and we want him back.  But we don’t have a lot of information right now about where he is or how he is.  And so it’s very difficult, and it would be irresponsible for us to take at face value anything that’s coming out of Pyongyang. 

And on your first question, again, I want to stress that this trilateral summit is really about taking affirmative steps to improve our trilateral cooperation, including on the security front, but not exclusively.  And we have already in just recent months, let alone the last year or so, worked to improve our trilateral military cooperation and interoperability.  Again, remember, we’re – the United States is treaty allies with both Korea and Japan, so we already have a terrific sense of integration and interoperability, and we’re working – all three of us have been working to improve that in a trilateral way.  And there’s been a terrific amount of progress in that regard.   

And again, without getting ahead of the leaders on Friday, I think you’re going to continue to see that sort of focus on the security front going forward to improve military interoperability and integration and coordination.  And certainly, a key reason why we all feel a need to improve that security cooperation is because of the continued provocative actions by Pyongyang and what – what’s coming out of North Korea: the missile launches, the continued advancement of their program, their continued nuclear ambitions.  All of that is of great concern.  And it’s not just a concern on the peninsula; it is a concern in the region.  And certainly, the Japanese have spoken to that, and rightly so.   

So I do think that that will certainly be a topic of discussion, but I want to stress that this is –this summit is more than just about the security environment.  There’s an awful lot of ways in which we can improve our relationships across a broad spectrum of issues, not just military.   

I’ve got time for just one or two more, depending on how long and how many the questions are.  Yes, ma’am. 

QUESTION:  Thank you for taking my question.  My name is Ryo Kiyomiya from the Asahi newspaper, Japan.  I have two questions on the upcoming trilateral summit.  So firstly, one of the of the topic of the summit will be North Korea, but how much will the trilateral summit focus on challenges from China?  And secondly, on different topic in April, U.S. and South Korea announced Washington Declaration and created nuclear consultative group, and do you hope to create a new trilateral framework on nuclear deterrence among U.S., Japan, ROK which is similar to NCG in the near future?   

MR KIRBY:  Yeah.  I think I already addressed the first question to a previous question.  This is – this summit is not about the PRC.  It’s about what we can do trilaterally to improve and enhance our level of cooperation.  That’s what this is.   

And then on your second question, again, I’m not – I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.   But – so I think I probably just need to not get too far out here.  I – except to say that we take our security commitments to Korea and Japan extremely seriously.  And we understand that there’s a strategic component to that, a strategic deterrent proponent to that, and we take that seriously as well.  And that when it comes to those security commitments with both countries, we also take seriously our intrinsic obligation to communicate and to consult with leaders across the board.  And I think I’m just going to need to leave it at that for today.   

I can take one more.  Yes, sir, you in the front there.  I may be able to get a couple more.   

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I’m Takagi from – Ryohei Takagi from Kyodo News, Japan’s news agency.  Thank you.   

MR KIRBY:  Yes.   

QUESTION:  I have a follow-up question about your sustainability of trilateral cooperation. 

MR KIRBY:  Yeah.   

QUESTION:  Some experts said it might be fragile, uncertain, because the United States will have a presidential election next year, and if you have possible next – I don’t know, but next – another president say, “I don’t like it and let’s repeal it,” it’s gonna be gone.  So could you help us understand how the institutionalization of bilateral cooperation will work longer? 

MR KIRBY:  Yeah.  You’ll hear more from the leaders on this on Friday.  But I – as I said earlier, you’re also going to see in the very tangible nature of these initiatives that they are built for – they’re built for the – for distance, that we understand that improving trilateral cooperation is – to use the sports analogy, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  And we’ve been sprinting pretty hard the last two and a half years.  And what these three leaders are going to get together on Friday and do is make sure that we’re ready for the marathon distance when it comes to improving and enhancing this cooperation. 

These are three democracies, and that’s something special too, that these three incredibly powerful and vibrant democracies can get together and commit themselves to this kind of long-term effort to improve and to deepen cooperation. 

And again, I would just say President Biden is laser-focused on cementing as much of this cooperation as can possibly be cemented, and to continuing to have that discussion going forward.  Friday is not going to be the end of it.  In many ways, Friday is the beginning of a lot of new things.  And throughout the rest of his time in office, all I can do – and I can only speak for him – is assure you that for as long as he’s President of the United States, he is going to stay focused on these two important relationships and the trilateral relationship itself.  He has prioritized it since literally coming into the Oval Office in that first couple of months, and that ain’t gonna stop going forward.   

I got one more.  Yes, ma’am, in the dress there.   

QUESTION:  Hi.  Reema with Al-Araby TV.  A question on Sudan, if I may.  What is – or what could the U.S. do to stop the fighting there?  And one on Niger.  Would the U.S. support military intervention by ECOWAS?  

MR KIRBY:  I’m sorry.  Can you – say the —  

QUESTION:  Would the U.S. — 

MR KIRBY:  Slow that one down a little bit – slow it down. 

QUESTION:  Oh – on Niger, would the U.S. support military intervention by the ECOWAS? 

MR KIRBY:  Okay.   

QUESTION:  So there is one.  And on Sudan, what is the U.S. doing to stop the fighting there?   

MR KIRBY:  We’re still engaged diplomatically to try to get the violence stopped in Sudan.  Even though we removed our ambassador, we’re still very much focused on staying engaged diplomatically outside the country, and we’re doing that.  And it’s way past time for these two military factions to put down their arms, to allow humanitarian assistance in, and to do what the people of Sudan want to see done, which is accountable civil authority.  That’s what they expect and that’s what they deserve, and we’re going to continue to engage both sides diplomatically.  You’ve seen us hold both sides properly accountable for some of this violence, and I suspect you will continue to see that going forward.  

On Niger, we also want to see President Bazoum’s administration sustained.  He’s the democratically – rightfully democratically elected leader of Niger, and we want to see him and his family released.  We want to see his administration sustained and preserved, as was the will of the Nigerien people, and that’s important.  And I’m not going to speculate about intervention one way or another from ECOWAS or anybody else.  We still believe that there’s time and space for diplomacy to get us to a resolution here which respects the will of the Nigerien people.  And that’s what our focus is on, is exploring how much opportunity there might still be left in that diplomatic space.  Okay?  

Listen, guys, I’ve got to go.  Thanks.  Sorry.  Good to see you again.  All right.   

U.S. Department of State

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