THE NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center. This briefing today is on U.S. priorities for UNGA 2023 and foreign policy news of the day. As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record and we will post a transcript of the briefing at fpc.state.gov later today.
Our distinguished briefer today is John Kirby, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications. He will start with some opening remarks and then take your questions. And when he calls on you, please make sure you state your name and your media outlet.
And with that, it’s a pleasure as always to turn the floor over to John. Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Thank you, Doris. Hey, everybody.
MR KIRBY: Thanks very much for allowing me to spend some time with you today, and I’m looking forward to that. As you all know – y’all certainly don’t need me to remind you – that world leaders are coming together here in New York for the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. President Biden is here in town. He’ll be visiting through Wednesday. And he’s very much eager to use this trip to advance U.S. interests and our values on a range of issues, from mobilizing financial resources for the Global South for development and infrastructure, to galvanizing cooperation to tackle the climate crisis, to strengthening global support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s war of aggression.
Tomorrow, President Biden will deliver his annual address to the General Assembly. And in that speech, I think you can expect that he will lay out for the world the steps that he and this administration have taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the promise and the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems. As you may have heard National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan say last week, we have “put a lot of points on the board,” to quote Jake, and the President will talk about how those steps that he’s taken has helped contribute to a larger foreign policy vision.
In addition to speaking before the General Assembly, the President will also have a chance to meet with UN Secretary General Mr. Guterres, and they will discuss pressing global issues, including mobilizing additional resources for sustainable development, combatting climate change, and upholding the UN’s foundational principles.
The President will also have a chance to meet with the presidents of five Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This will be the first ever C5+1 presidential summit. This inaugural summit will allow for the leaders to discuss a range of issues, from regional security to trade and connectivity, to climate change of course, and to ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law.
The President will also host a traditional reception, of course, with world leaders, where he’ll have the chance to engage with dozens of heads of state and government from around the world.
Then on Wednesday, the President will have the opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with President Lula of Brazil, as well as to join him in an event with labor leaders from Brazil and from the United States to highlight the central and critical role that workers play in building a sustainable, democratic, equitable, and peaceful world.
Also on Wednesday, President Biden will sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on our shared democratic values – the same democratic values that we share between the United States and with Israel, and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and, quite frankly, an integrated Middle East – as well as to compare notes on how we are effectively countering and deterring Iran.
We will have more information, of course, to follow on the President’s engagements on Wednesday, but just allow me to finish with this. The President is heading here into the UN General Assembly with the United States from a – in a position of strength and confidence, with strong allies, new partners, a vision for institutional reform at the UN and at the World Bank and elsewhere, with initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate, and other global public goods. And we come here, again, with the wind at our back, but understanding that the work of achieving the President’s foreign policy vision is going to take concerted effort – not just continued effort by the United States, but a continued effort collaborative with our allies and our partners.
And with that, let me take some questions. Ma’am.
QUESTION: Thank you, John, for doing this. Magda Sakowska, Polsat news of Poland. This year, such leaders as President Xi, President Macron, and Prime Minister Sunak will skip the General Assembly so that President Biden is the only leader among the leaders of the five permanent members of Security Council. How will President Biden make use of this situation, that he’s the only one?
MR KIRBY: Certainly we would not speak for other foreign leaders and their decision to attend or not to attend. The President came here to work. And that’s not going to change his – what he’s trying to achieve, all the things I talked about in my opening statement – the meetings he’s going to have, the progress we’re going to try to pursue, wouldn’t change regardless of what other members of the – permanent members of the Security Council were here or not. They get to decide, of course, what their attendance looks like. But the President’s confident that, again, we’re pursuing a concrete, tangible set of initiatives here, from climate change to global development to global health. And again, that’s not going to be dependent on any one leader being here or not.
Yeah, back there in the black jacket.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Appreciate deeply. Good to see you again here in New York. From a strategic point of view, which countries in Asia are the United States’ strategic partners? And what’s the United States foreign policy, what look like in the near future towards this country – these countries in the region?
Also, my second part of question is: What is the United States foreign policy towards Afghanistan, as so many people, including the U.S. lawmakers, say that the current situation in Afghanistan is the legacy of your administration, Biden administration? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Look, there’s an awful lot there. I’ll try to keep this crisp. First of all, the President has prioritized the Indo-Pacific region since the very, very beginning of this administration. The first two leaders that he had to the White House were the leaders of Japan and South Korea, and you just saw a trilateral summit at Camp David a few weeks ago where we really put to paper an emphasis on increased trilateral cooperation between our three countries. That’s point number one.
Point number two: I think a lot of people forget that five of the seven treaty alliances that the United States has are in the Indo-Pacific region. Five of seven. So we have significant national security commitments, not just to individual countries, but to a multilateral framework of nations in the Indo-Pacific.
Number three: In addition to those five treaty alliances, we are participating in, encouraging, engendering, and supporting a range of other, as I said, multilateral arrangements, like the Indo-Pacific Quad. Vice President Harris was just recently representing the United States at the U.S.-ASEAN summit, and through a series of other more informal venues, the United States continues to pursue and to strengthen our vast network of alliances and partnerships.
No other nation in the world enjoys the kind of support we have in a multilateral way all around the world. No other nation enjoys our network of allies and partners. And the President has really put a premium – and you’re going to hear him talk about this tomorrow – really put a premium on revitalizing those alliances and partnerships, clearly in the Indo-Pacific but also around the world – I mean, NATO is now bigger and much more relevant than it was just a couple of years ago, and certainly Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine has played a factor in that, but so too, quite frankly, has President Biden’s leadership on the world stage.
Now as for Afghanistan, I don’t know if I’m going to answer this question the way you asked it or not, so if I don’t, you tell me if I’m wrong. We have not recognized the Taliban. There are no plans to do that at this point. If they want to be seen as legitimate, then they need to legitimately meet the commitments they made to the international community about how they would govern, particularly when it comes to the treatment of women and girls. And they have not only not done that, they’ve gone the other way. So there’s no plans right now to recognize the Taliban.
And as for any threat of terrorism, I think you saw the Intelligence Community make a statement a week or so ago that certainly the al-Qaida threat is vastly, vastly diminished and unlikely to return in Afghanistan. We’re keeping an eye, of course, on other terrorist networks that could use ungoverned spaces there and elsewhere. And as the President has made clear and has – and our military has proven, we have improved and have maintained a viable counter – over the rise in counterterrorism capability to continue to look after, again, our national security interests and those of our friends.
Let me move around. I promise I’ll get to everybody. Yes, ma’am. Or I’ll get to everybody I can in the 45 minutes I have.
QUESTION: Corriere della Sera, Viviana Mazza. There is – Zelenskyy is going to talk here, and he’s going to be at the center of the attention. And the Global South, countries of the Global South, are worried that their priorities are not going to be listened to. What is President Biden going to do? What can he do, and is he aware of this need to reassure these countries that the U.S. is there and their priorities financially will be met?
And second thing: Sullivan met with Wang Yi in Malta, and Wang Yi went to see Lavrov and talked about strategic cooperation. Has anything changed after Sullivan met him in terms of Biden and Xi seeing each other, but in other terms as well? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: On the second question, not that I’m aware of, no. We still don’t have a scheduled meeting between President Biden and President Xi. As you’ve heard President Biden say many times, he looks forward to having another conversation, another meeting with President Xi, and that’ll happen at the appropriate time and in the appropriate amount of space. We’re just not there yet.
What has happened in recent months and what we hope will continue – and Jake’s trip to Malta is an example of this – is keeping the lines of communication open, getting them open again and keeping them open. So though we’ve had Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Commerce, Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry – certainly Secretary Blinken, the Secretary of State, kind of kicked it off with a trip to Beijing. And those have been productive conversations on key issues economically and diplomatically that we’re facing.
What hasn’t happened is the military-to-military lines of communication are still not open, and we still want to pursue an avenue to do that because that’s where the tensions in and around the Western Pacific are at risk of miscalculation. Miscalculation could lead to decisions that neither one of us want to see happen. Nobody’s looking for conflict here. So we want to see those military-to-military lines opened up.
But there’s been a fair amount of dialogue and communication, and the President has really put a premium on that. He’d like to get back to a point where we were in Bali at the G20 last year when the two of them had a chance to meet and talked about how to responsibly manage this relationship going forward.
So again, things are moving in a better direction, and the President’s convinced that it’s important that we continue to have a sense of dialogue. So – now, as for Mr. Wang Yi’s visit to Moscow, they can talk about that and what their meeting agenda is going to be all about. But for us, it really is a matter of keeping these lines open. So a good set of discussions there with Jake and Wang Yi.
Your first question about President Zelenskyy – I’m sorry, and it was —
QUESTION: Global South priorities.
MR KIRBY: Global South? So it’s a great question. And I think you’re certainly going to hear the President talk about the Global South in his remarks tomorrow and talk about all that we’ve been doing in this administration to pay attention to the global health, the economic, the food insecurity concerns, and the investment needs, infrastructure investment needs of the Global South. It was President Biden who spearheaded at last year’s G7 this idea of the Program for Global Investment and Infrastructure, PGI we shortened it to. And that is up and running, and the United States continues to contribute to that and so have other nations. We have – at this last G20, we announced a ship and rail corridor that will connect India to Europe through the Middle East and Italy. So he’s very much focused on meeting the needs and addressing the concerns of the Global South, and it’s been a priority for him since – again, since day one. You will hear him talk about this tomorrow.
One of the other things that he spearheaded at this G20 – the most recent G20 here a couple of weeks ago – and I think you’ll hear him talk about again tomorrow is the need for reform of multilateral development banks to provide lower- and middle-income countries high-quality and more transparent alternatives to seek financing and support for infrastructure and investment – economic investment across the board, but largely for infrastructure. So we want to make sure – and he has asked Congress for additional funding, several billion dollars, that we can provide to the World Bank that will hopefully encourage other like contributions by other nations, which could lead to more than $20 billion worth of available financing from the World Bank for the Global South.
So there’s been an awful lot of focus by President Biden on the Global South, and again, I think I’m not getting too far ahead of my boss in telling you that he will fully be prepared to talk about that tomorrow. I mean, take a look at – on Wednesday when he meets with President Lula, they’re going to – and labor leaders – to really talk about how we can improve workers’ lives, again, in places like the Global South. Better compensation, better benefits, safer work environments and working conditions – all those things are – I think are a testament to how seriously the President takes that challenge.
I’ll say one more thing on the Global South and then I’ll shut up. A lot of the challenges that they’re facing – not all; I’m not suggesting all – but a lot of them have been exacerbated, if in – if not caused, by Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine. Now, the Russians would have you believe it’s the West’s fault, that they’re not at fault. They’re never at fault. But they are. The food insecurity, the economic problems – a lot of that has been caused – the inflation that many of these nations are facing – a lot of that has been caused by Mr. Putin’s war on Ukraine, and particularly when it comes to food insecurity. And now they have, of course, just recently decided not to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative. So who’s going to pay the highest cost of that? Obviously, the Ukrainian people continue to pay the highest cost, but it will also be borne by lower- and middle-income countries in the Global South.
That answer your question? Yeah, sorry. That answered probably questions you didn’t even ask me. (Laughter.)
Yeah, in the blue shirt there.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, sir. I have a short, country-specific question. Robert Poredos from Slovenia Press —
MR KIRBY: Hopefully I have a short answer for you.
QUESTION: No, you can be long as much as you want. (Laughter.) Robert Poredos from the Slovenia Press Agency. Are you happy with Slovenia’s election to the Security Council? And do you have any issues, questions that you expect the closest coordination, cooperation with Slovenia Security Council in the next two years?
MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly applaud their ascendancy and look forward to working with Slovenia as they take the mantle. Slovenia, as you know, is a NATO Ally, a trusted and valued NATO Ally. We have already been working closely with Slovenia with respect to the war in Ukraine and trying to do what we can to support Ukraine, and I have no doubt that that level of cooperation and communication with Slovenia will continue, certainly when it comes to supporting President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian armed forces as well as the Ukrainian people. But there’ll be a spate of other issues, I have no doubt, that we’ll want to continue to work closely with Slovenia on, from climate change to economic development and infrastructure improvement in lower-middle-income countries, global health, cyber and artificial intelligence. There’s a range of issues that we look forward to working with them on.
Let me go back over here. Yes, in the back – yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Jiha Ham with Voice of America. The Russian foreign minister said that they have not declared the sanctions on North Korea, but the Security Council did that. That’s what Mr. Lavrov said. So we have heard many —
MR KIRBY: Last I checked, the Russians were permanent member of the Security Council. Is that right?
QUESTION: Right, so that – yeah.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. Okay.
MR KIRBY: So I – I’m not sure I’m buying that argument.
QUESTION: Okay. So yeah, so my question was what would be your response, but I guess —
MR KIRBY: Well, there you go. There’s my response.
QUESTION: Right. And also the Russians presented Kim Jong-un with six drones, and some UN-sanctioned North Korean individuals traveled to Russia with Kim Jong-un, meaning that they have violated multiple UN sanctions with Russia and North Korea, both countries. So will there be any punitive measures or do you have any plan to – or to raise this issue during the President’s visit?
MR KIRBY: We’ll certainly continue – let me back up. We have been monitoring this burgeoning relationship between North Korea and Russia for quite some time. In fact, we made public some of our concerns about what we saw was the potential for some sort of leader-level engagement. And we’ve also urged North Korea to meet its own commitments, public commitments that it would not support Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine.
We saw the comments coming out of Kim Jong-un’s meeting, comments coming from the Kremlin that there was no deal announced. We’ll take that with a grain of salt and we’ll watch. We’ll continue to monitor it, as we said we would. Any deal would be a violation of UNSC resolutions – resolutions that, as I said earlier, the Russians signed up to – and we will certainly continue to talk with our partners here at the UN about how we might work together to hold both sides accountable should they move in that direction.
Over here. Back there with glasses there, red tie. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Paolo Mastrolilli with the Italian daily La Repubblica. You said that the President will encourage a revision of the architecture of the Security Council. Is he thinking of proposing new permanent member with veto powers from the Global South?
MR KIRBY: The President last year when he was here – and I think he’ll make the same case this year – would like to see a more inclusive Security Council, both permanent and non-permanent. I don’t have anything to announce or speak to today in terms of what the mechanics of that would look like, but in general, the President believes that the Security Council should be more inclusive of more nations around the world. More voices should be heard, including from the Global South.
Let me go back over here in the back there – blue.
QUESTION: Yes. Sara Canals from Cadena Ser, Spain. Just to follow up on China, I understand there’s a meeting between Secretary Blinken and Chinese vice president shortly here in New York, if you could provide any details on that. Was it already scheduled before yesterday’s meeting in Malta? Just a little bit of background here.
MR KIRBY: I’m afraid I’m not going be much help on that one. I’d refer you to the State Department. And I don’t know when that – I don’t know when that visit was scheduled, and I am – I have no doubt that Secretary Blinken’s team will provide a readout for you of what they discussed after it’s over. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful on that.
QUESTION: No, that’s okay.
MR KIRBY: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: If I can —
MR KIRBY: Wait for the microphone.
MODERATOR: Please state your name.
QUESTION: Sorry. Oh. Thank you, thank you.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. Tell me who you are.
QUESTION: Diana Castrillón from Caracol Radio, Colombia. So President Petro, Colombian president, said recently yesterday that members of the administration, the Biden administration, requested Colombia to build up some sort of wall in between Colombia and Panama to reduce migration, illegal migration up to the United States. Is that correct? And also I just wanted to know if there is any information about how this could actually reduce irregular migration to the United States.
MR KIRBY: I know of no such request of President Petro, so we’re going to have to take that question and try to get you an answer. I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: All right, okay. He said members of Biden administration requested to Colombia to build up a wall in Tapón del Darién, which is border between Colombia and Panama, to reduce illegal migration up to United States. I just wanted you to know —
MR KIRBY: Again, I know of no such request, but we’ll have to research that and get back to you.
What I would tell you is that we continue to work with partners in the region in the Western Hemisphere to do what we all can do to stem the flow of migration from south to north driven by, of course, smugglers and human traffickers and this illegal pathway, which is why we are working with so many countries in the region to develop physical locations where migrants can go to pursue legal entries, at least into the United States of course, and to reduce their risks of making that dangerous journey before they even – before they even get started. So we’re looking at all kinds of ways to address the legal migration, and we are working with many nations to do that.
But I am not aware of any requests for some sort of wall or a physical barrier, and so we’ll owe you a better answer on that. But that has not been – aside from improving security at our border, and the President has asked Congress for more funds and more resources for the Border Patrol, aside from trying to, again, boost our resources at our border, again, I know of no such requests to do anything like that. Does that answer your question? Okay, you’re smiling so that’s a good thing. (Laughter.)
Ma’am, in the back there. Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yoshita Singh with Press Trust of India. You referred to President Biden’s visit for the G20 summit in Delhi very recently. Taking that forward, this week at the UNGA can we expect anything bilaterally between India and the U.S. on a multi – or during a forum such as Quad to take forward the vision of the Indo-Pacific and Global South priorities? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: I know of no bilateral discussions on the President’s agenda with the Indian delegation here. Just had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with Prime Minister Modi bilaterally in addition to the G20 agenda, so I’m not aware of any specific India-focused meetings on his agenda while he’s here in New York.
But again, we – he came away from the G20 feeling very positive and optimistic about the direction. I mean, there was an awful lot of great work done at the G20 and we’re all grateful to Prime Minister Modi for his presidency, for India’s presidency of it, but also for the way the agenda was executed. It was a very, very productive couple of days.
I’m going to go over here. I already went to the back row. You, right there. Yeah, you’re – wait, wait for the microphone.
MR KIRBY: You guys, you got to remember the rule. (Laughter.) All right.
QUESTION: So this is Juan Silva from W Radio, Colombia. Just a short question. Colombia had an increase of illicit crops in coca recently. Will there be more resources for security from the United States to Colombia during Petro’s administration in spite of, for example, the growth of illicit crops or other problems of security?
MR KIRBY: Are you asking me are we – can the – will there be more resources applied by the United States?
QUESTION: Yes, and —
MR KIRBY: Specifically on —
QUESTION: Or which is the state of our – of the relation between the United States and Colombia in terms of security, of support.
MR KIRBY: Well look, I mean, we commend President Petro’s efforts to expand the scope of peace in Colombia, and the Colombian Government in general has taken many steps in recent years to do exactly that, to expand peace. We certainly welcome the news of the six-month ceasefire that was agreed last month between the government and the ELN. We remain skeptical, to be quite honest with you, about the ELN’s intention to adhere to the terms of that ceasefire, but we did welcome the news of it. I mean, all of that is of a piece of President Petro’s desire to really, as I said, expand the scope of peace there.
I’ll also tell you on drug trafficking, I mean, we’re going to maintain a strong interest, of course, in preventing impunity for drug traffickers in general and for terrorists. And of course, we’re going to continue to work with the government to bring traffickers to justice. That’s the best way I can answer that question.
Yes, ma’am, you in the – with the red scarf there, black jacket.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I am Sin Young Park from Korea Economic Daily. At this time, what are the conditions of Biden administration’s for lifting restrictions for Chinese semiconductor?
MR KIRBY: Lifting the restrictions?
QUESTION: Restrictions for Chinese semiconductors.
MR KIRBY: So let me just take – let me take that question a little bit higher. And one of the things that we certainly learned during the pandemic was the fragile nature of our supply chain, and part of that we saw in the field of semiconductors, which is why the President is working hard to shore up our supply chain. As he has said, he wants the United States to be at the beginning of it, not the end of it. And it’s also why we’ve taken action through an executive order not long ago to restrict investments – U.S. investments in certain industries in China for our national security purposes, and some of that does include microelectronics and semiconductors.
But – and this is an important “but”; as my mom used to say, the most important part of any sentence is what comes after the word “but” – but it is limited to national security interests. It’s not some complete ban. And we’re not interested in decoupling completely from the Chinese economy. We know there’s a level of interdependence there, so this isn’t about decoupling. It is about taking the risk down. And some of that risk is in the semiconductor field because there’s a national security component to it and the President wants to make sure we can maintain it. So it’s a combination of supply chain resilience and national security needs, and that’s what’s driving our decisions. I hope that answered your question.
QUESTION: I am Christiane Jacke from the German Press Agency DPA. I have a few quick questions about the visit of President Zelenskyy here.
First, will there be an informal visit of the President with Mrs. Zelenskyy before they sit down in D.C. on Thursday, like here in New York? Also, would the President join Mr. Zelenskyy at the Security Council meeting on Wednesday? And do you have any more on the Washington leg of the trip? Will there be an address to – will he address Congress, or will it just be a meeting with congressional leaders?
And just an overall question. Do you —
MR KIRBY: How many questions is this? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It’s just very quick ones.
MR KIRBY: That’s 17. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, those were three very quick ones.
MR KIRBY: Sounds like 17.
QUESTION: And the other one is: Do you expect him to strike a slightly different tone that he’s visiting now, maybe stressing more the gratitude part of what —
MR KIRBY: President Zelenskyy?
QUESTION: Yeah, the gratitude for the support given all the – like, the growing hesitancy in ongoing support in parts of the political spectrum.
MR KIRBY: Okay. So on 1A, I’m not aware – I’m not tracking any meeting between President Biden and Mrs. Zelenska. I’m not – I don’t believe there is an engagement there between the two. The President is very much looking forward to hosting President Zelenskyy back in Washington at a meeting at the White House. They have met – I think this will be the third or fourth time meeting at the White House between the two of them, and of course they speak on a fairly regular basis over the phone.
So it’s – the meeting comes at – as Jake said the other day, it comes at a very critical time, as the Ukrainians continue to make progress in their counteroffensive, as Russia continues to reach out to rogue regimes like North Korea for support, and as the international community continues to gather, as they are in Germany this week – the Ukraine Defense Contact Group – to discuss ways that we can continue to support their forces in the field.
So it comes at a critical time, and the President’s looking forward to hearing from President Zelenskyy about their counteroffensive and about the progress they’re making, sort of his assessment of what the battlefield looks like. But he also looks forward to making it very clear to President Zelenskyy that the United States – when we say we’re with them for as long as it takes, we mean it, and that he fully expects that that support will continue.
Now it is true that President Zelenskyy will be visiting with members of Congress up on Capitol Hill, which, again, we think is a very useful exercise. It’s important for members of Congress to hear directly from President Zelenskyy about all the same things that President Biden will hear from him. I can’t speak, nor would I, for President Zelenskyy and what he intends to say specifically or the tone in which he intends to deliver it. That’s really for him.
But I do want to address one thing that you just kind of briefly mentioned, though: the gratitude. President Zelenskyy has continuously, publicly and privately, expressed his gratitude for everything that this administration is doing to support Ukrainian forces in the field, as well as the support he knows has come from members of Congress and the American people who elected them in the first place. I would – I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say that we can expect that President Zelenskyy will express that gratitude again, as he has consistently and as we know he really feels right down to his core.
QUESTION: May I follow Ukraine?
MR KIRBY: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you, Jon. Dmytro Anopchenko, Ukrainian television D.C. correspondent. Just one more reason to be grateful to America, it’s the new capabilities United States provided to my country already and expected to provide. I know it’s not in your power to announce something ahead of the President, so let – yep, so —
MR KIRBY: That’s a good way for me to get fired.
QUESTION: Yep. So let me keep it this way: May one expect that the new package for Ukraine will be announced or provided during this day or during the meeting day in Washington?
MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get ahead of my boss, but what I would tell you is that we have continually, on an almost-regular basis, provided additional security assistance packages to Ukraine. I mean, in terms of drawdown authority, this is material that comes off the shelves from the Pentagon. There – we are announcing those almost every couple of weeks, so I think you can – you should expect to continue to see additional security assistance packages for Ukraine. But what’s in the next one and when’s it going to get announced and who’s going to announce it, I’m going to leave that for others to speak to.
But what President Zelenskyy – and I know I don’t need to say this because he knows this. But as he comes here to New York and then to D.C., he should have and we want him to have every expectation that additional security assistance will be provided by the United States, and just as importantly – and this get lost a lot in the shuffles – from our allies and partners around the world too. Some 50-some-odd other nations are contributing to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Some of them are sending weapons, tanks, armored vehicles, cruise missiles. Others are providing financial assistance. But it’s pretty clear to President Biden that the international community really continues to coalesce in trying to support Ukraine in the field. And President Zelenskyy should feel good about that support and that that support will continue.
QUESTION: Thanks so much, Mr. Kirby. My name is Alan Bulkaty from RIA Novosti news agency. Do you foresee any bilateral meetings with Russian delegation at the margins of the GA High-Level Week? And when should one expect the response from the U.S. side to the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats from Moscow? Will you inform Russia? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: No bilateral discussions that I know of. And I have – I don’t have anything to share on any possible response or reaction to the U.S. diplomats. That’s really a better question put to our State Department.
Yes, sir. I’ll come back to you, I promise. Go ahead. I’ve got time for just —
QUESTION: Thank you. Rafal Stanczyk, Polish Television. I have a question on the grain ban, I mean the grains from Ukraine. Ukraine is going to sue Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary for not dropping the ban on the grains from Ukraine. Tomorrow President Duda is going to discuss with President Zelenskyy in person here in New York City about this issue. But is the White House aware of this growing tension between allies? It’s trying to help solve this problem? It could be a threat for the unity of the pro-Ukrainian coalition.
MR KIRBY: So there’s a lot there. I – yes, we are aware of concerns by some of our European partners about importing Ukrainian grain, point number one. Point number two, these are sovereign decisions. The whole fight in Ukraine – and you’ll hear this from the President tomorrow – it’s about the idea of sovereignty, which is embedded in the UN Charter. And wouldn’t it be hypocritical of the United States to be browbeating other nations about sovereign decisions that they’re making that they believe are in the best interest of their population?
So we’re aware. I’m not aware of any specific discussions that are going on with respect to these decisions about grain imports. We – I would just say that, one, we want to see the grain deal put back in place and obviously continue to be extended. Russia’s the holdup on that. And two, we believe that that Ukrainian grain – because Ukraine is such a breadbasket for the world – can do a lot to alleviate suffering, economic inequality, famine, around the world. So we want to see that grain to market. But each nation has to decide for itself here.
And you had another question?
QUESTION: The weapons to (inaudible) partners (inaudible).
MR KIRBY: I would just tell you that – I would just tell you that we have and will continue to talk to our partners about their concerns with respect to, in this case, grain imports. But I don’t have anything specific to read out or detail for you.
Yeah, go ahead. Right there.
QUESTION: Thank you, John. Oskar Gorzynski, Polish Press Agency. One question on the Malta meeting and the – and Wang Yi going to Moscow immediately afterward. Have you – do you have any indication that China is preparing to change its approach to supplying Russia? And have you communicated anything to – about that?
And another question. You mentioned President Biden will call for the reform of Security Council. But you said that he’s going to call for including new members. But isn’t the main source of dysfunction in the Security Council the veto power of powers like Russia, which now are openly trampling on the very foundation of the charter? So would you support reforming the council in this way, like by stripping or maybe just limiting the veto powers of permanent members? Thank you.
MR KIRBY: The President’s main focus is on having a more inclusive and a larger Security Council, both permanent and non-permanent. As for what Russia has been doing, I mean, they can make it a lot easier on everybody if they just pulled their troops out of Ukraine and stopped violating the very UN Charter that they’ve signed up to, and actually met the obligations they signed up to for UN Security Council resolutions with respect to the transfer of arms, particularly in and out of North Korea. All they got to do is behave the way they voted, and that’s what we want to see Russia do, in addition to, of course, leaving Ukraine.
And I’m sorry. You had a – the first question was —
MR KIRBY: Malta. We have not seen any indication that the PRC has changed their calculus or has decided to provide lethal capabilities to Russia and to the Russian armed forces. And we continue to believe that it would not be in the PRC’s best interest to do so. So we’re going to continue to watch this, but no indication that there’s been any kind of a change in that regard.
Guys, I can – I can take one more, and then I really do have to go. Iran?
QUESTION: Will you take one on Iran?
MR KIRBY: Iran?
QUESTION: On Israel.
QUESTION: On Iran.
MR KIRBY: Well, what a choice. What a choice. I’ll take both, but they’ve got to be really quick. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you for —
MR KIRBY: Because that’s a devil’s bargain there, really.
QUESTION: Yeah. This is Alejandro Rincon with NTN 24 international news channel. So following the release earlier today of American citizens that were being held in Iran, is the U.S. Government moving forward or making progress with other possible discussions that you may be having with other regimes, maybe the Venezuelan regime with Nicolas Maduro? There’s been chatters that there might be some lifting of sanctions just to secure the release of more Americans abroad.
MR KIRBY: No, I do not have an update on any other negotiations involved with seeing the release of wrongfully detained Americans around the world. Today’s a very good day, and five American families will very shortly be reunited and whole again. And I think we all need to take just a moment to pause and consider what that means for these five families who have suffered and waited and worried, and not to mention their loved ones, who didn’t just wait but actually physically and mentally suffered in abominable conditions in Iran. So it’s a good day in that regard, and we’re glad to see that they’re coming home, as you saw from President Biden’s statement.
But all I can tell you is even though today’s a good day for those families, we know that there are still bad days happening for other American families. And we are continuing to work very, very hard to get all of our wrongfully detained Americans home where they belong, wherever they are. And that work is perpetual and I can assure those families who are waiting and worrying still that we are still at that task and we won’t forget them, and we certainly won’t forget their loved ones.
QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral, for doing this. Neria Kraus from Israeli Channel 13 News. First of all, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are meeting this week. Why is it not happening at the White House, and does Biden plan on talking about the judicial overhaul?
MR KIRBY: I am not going to get – go ahead. Did you have something else?
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Are the discussions about the normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel progressing? Because we’ve been hearing different reports. I just heard the foreign affairs minister Saudi – of Saudi Arabia saying that there is no solution to Israel – to Israeli and Palestine situation without an independent Palestinian country.
MR KIRBY: We are still committed to normalization. We believe that normalization and the integration of Israel into the region is good for everybody. It’s good for the region, and certainly it’s good for the Israeli people as well as their neighbors. And the President is going to continue to do whatever we can to see that outcome achieved.
We understand, however, that the path towards normalization, it’s a sovereign path. It has to be decided by both Israel and Saudi Arabia. And we respect that. But in their efforts to move towards normalization, they will find no better friend than the United States or President Joe Biden.
Look, I’m not going to get too much ahead of the meeting on Wednesday between the prime minister and the President. We’ll let those two leaders speak for themselves when they get a chance to sit down. President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu know each other well. They have had a long, long relationship with one another, and no president is more pro-Israel than Joe Biden. And that – all the way to his time back in the Senate, he has voted, he has acted, he has decided consistent for and in support of Israel and Israel’s freedom, Israel’s sovereignty, and peace.
He also continues to believe strongly that a two-state solution is not only viable, but vital, and he will obviously always raise his interest in a two-state solution when he meets with leaders in Israel and in the region. So – and that won’t change from President Biden.
And look, as for the venue, both men were coming to the General Assembly, so it made eminent sense that both men would take advantage of the opportunity to sit down and have another discussion. I’ll leave it at that.
Thanks, everybody. I’ve got to get going to my next thing. Appreciate it. Thank you.