THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center’s briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Lambert from our Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. My name is Wes Robertson; I’m the moderator for today’s briefing. DAS Lambert will give a readout of President Biden’s recent trip to Korea and Japan.
And now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. We will post a transcript and video of this briefing later today on our website, which is fpc.state.gov. Please make sure that your Zoom profile has your full name and the media outlet you represent.
DAS Lambert will now give opening remarks, and then we will open it up for questions. Over to you, sir.
MR LAMBERT: Thank you very much, Wes. And good morning to our friends in the media. It is a delight to be with you all to discuss President Biden’s trip to the ROK and Japan, including his participation in the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo, and the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
This was his first trip to Asia as President, and it couldn’t come at a better time, on the heels of a successful U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit.
Our commitment to the Indo-Pacific, as laid out in our Indo-Pacific Strategy, is most evident by the many senior-level visits to the region. These started with Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin’s first overseas trip, which was to Tokyo and Seoul. I know that there are several senior-level trips currently in the work as I speak. And you will all remember that the very first foreign leaders President Biden hosted at the White House were former Japanese Prime Minister Suga, followed shortly thereafter by a visit by former Republic of Korea President Moon.
Our alliance with these two countries anchor our priorities in the Indo-Pacific, and we are delighted to have such close ties to both countries at every level, starting most importantly at the people-to-people level.
In the last few years, regional and global challenges have brought us even closer together. For instance, since the start of Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, the ROK and Japan have stood shoulder to shoulder not just with us, but with our other regional and international partners in imposing costs on Russia, and supporting Ukraine through security, economic, and humanitarian assistance. The degree to which our three countries are aligned on many of the world’s most pressing challenges sends a powerful message of unity to friends and foes alike.
Now a word about this trip. While in Seoul, the President was delighted to meet and establish a personal relationship with newly inaugurated ROK President Yoon. The summit demonstrated our country’s commitment to the alliance and the potential for us to work together to ensure security and achieve prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
As the President noted in his remarks, our cooperation with the ROK is not just isolated to the Korean Peninsula; it’s evident around the world. Our two presidents also recognize that the future of the alliance will be defined by our common efforts to address the 21st century’s challenges, and so decided to deepen our cooperation on critical and emerging technologies, economic and energy security, the pandemic, and addressing the climate crisis, among many other issues.
Finally, our presidents reaffirmed their commitments to a global, comprehensive strategic alliance firmly rooted in the shared values of promoting democracy and the rules-based international order, fighting corruption, and advancing human rights.
I should also note that the two presidents reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the defense of the ROK, and that our two presidents decided to further strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance’s cooperation on extended deterrence.
The two presidents reiterated their common goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and agreed to strengthen our coordination to this objective.
The presidents emphasized that the path of dialogue remains open toward peaceful and diplomatic resolution with the DPRK, and called on the DPRK to return to negotiations. They emphasized the importance for ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral cooperation to respond to DPRK provocations, and to protecting shared security and prosperity, upholding common values, and bolstering the rules-based international order.
In Japan, the President was welcomed by Prime Minister Kishida, with whom he has spoken several times in recent months. Japan has a very special place in President Biden’s heart. After the devastating Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, then Vice President Biden traveled to Japan to assess needs and help with the recovery.
In Tokyo this week, the President and Prime Minister Kishida affirmed the deep partnership between our two nations, one that is stronger and deeper than at any other time in its history. As global partners, Japan and the United States affirmed the rules-based international order is indivisible, and that threats to international law and the free and fair economic order anywhere constitute a challenge to our values and interests everywhere.
Our leaders committed to deepening defense cooperation. President Biden strongly supported Prime Minister Kishida’s determination to fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defense capabilities and secure the substantial increase of its defense budget needed to effect it.
They also discussed opportunities to further cooperate to secure our shared prosperity, including the planned ministerial level U.S.-Japan Economic Policy and Consultative Committee, also known as the Economic 2+2, meeting this July.
And in the sciences, we’re working together in so many fields: protecting and promoting critical technologies, space cooperation, cancer research, overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, and preventing future pandemics, climate change, nuclear energy collaboration, just to name some of them.
The Secretary was also able to join the Japan leg of this trip, and I know that he had several productive meetings, including with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi, where they discussed the DPRK’s increasingly provocative actions on the Korean Peninsula, as well as Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
The Secretary also met with Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar of India, and new Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
On the Quad Leaders’ Summit, the President, Prime Minister Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Modi, and new Australian Prime Minister Albanese met to discuss progress on initiatives that our coordinations have been working on for some time now. It is safe to say at this point that the Quad truly has been institutionalized.
The Secretary joined President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida, and other regional leaders for the official launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a 21st-century economic arrangement designed to tackle 21st-century economic challenges. The framework focused on four pillars: trade facilitation, supply chains, clean economy and decarbonization, and anti-corruption and tax reform.
The agenda here is clear: a fairer, more resilient economy for families, workers, and businesses, both here in the United States and in the Indo-Pacific.
I’ll stop here and I’ll take your questions. So Wes, back over to you.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you for your opening remarks.
If you have questions, please go to the participant field and virtually raise your hand. We will call on you, and you can unmute yourself and ask your question. You can also submit questions in the chat box. If you’ve not already done so, please take the time now to rename your Zoom profile with your full name and the name of your media outlet.
I do see we have several hands raised. We will go ahead and go to our first question, which was from Eunjung Cho of VOA, if you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes, DAS Lambert, thank you very much for this press conference today. What is your reaction to North Korea firing three missiles today, including a supposed ICBM? Do you take it as North Korea’s response to President Biden’s offer to provide COVID vaccines? Thank you.
MR LAMBERT: No. With the launches yesterday, the DPRK has now launched 23 ballistic missile tests this year, all of which violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and demonstrate that the DPRK continues to advance the capabilities of its unlawful WMD and ballistic missiles programs. It is a testament of our strong coordination with the ROK in Japan that Secretary Blinken held separate calls yesterday with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi following the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches.
All three officials strongly condemned the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches as a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. Secretary Blinken noted that the United States commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad, and affirmed the importance of continued close trilateral cooperation with the ROK and Japan to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The DPRK’s ongoing provocations pose a threat to all nations, and undermine regional peace and security. It is incumbent upon the international community to join us in condemning the DPRK’s flagrant and repeated violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and to uphold their obligations under all relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Now, you asked about COVID assistance. We are alarmed by the serious outbreak of COVID-19 in the DPRK, and concerned about how this might affect the North Korean people, the economy, the already dire food situation there. We also worry about how this outbreak and the DPRK’s response to it could affect stability and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.
The U.S. position remains unchanged, even in light of these most recent escalatory actions. We continue to support humanitarian assistance and the provision of COVID-19-related assistance, including MRNA vaccines to the DPRK. We have always viewed humanitarian assistance as a separate issue from making progress on achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we strongly support and encourage the efforts of U.S. and international aid and health organizations seeking to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the DPRK and to providing critical humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable North Koreans living there. The United States remains open to dialogue with the DPRK on any issue and without precondition. We urge the DPRK to work with the international community to facilitate the rapid vaccination of its population.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go to our next question from Sho Watanabe of Nippon TV. If you’d like to go ahead and unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi, Mark-san. Thank you very much for doing this. Do you hear me?
MR LAMBERT: Yes, I do.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask about President’s comment about Taiwan during his trip, as you know that he said that the U.S. would commit military if China to event – invade Taiwan. Of course, after that he himself and also White House followed up with a statement that there would be no change in the policy towards Taiwan. But when a leader said the same thing three times, it would be usually recognized as a policy at least of the leader himself. So is there any risks, do you think, that the President’s remark escalate the tensions between U.S. and China? Thank you.
MR LAMBERT: Watanabe-san, as the President said, our policy has not changed, full stop. He reiterated our “one China” policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.
QUESTION: Okay. So let me just follow up. So what did the President really intended to say by the comment and say yes to the question?
MR LAMBERT: Watanabe-san, I think I’ve answered the question. Our policy has not changed. He reiterated our “one China” policy and our commitment to peace and security across the Taiwan Strait. And he also underscored our commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go ahead and go to another question. This one was submitted in advance, so I’ll go ahead and read it. It’s from Jacob Fromer from the South China Morning Post. He asks, “What barriers still remain that are preventing the highest level of trilateral cooperation, and do you think they can be overcome during the Biden-Yoon-Kishida administrations? Thank you.”
MR LAMBERT: Yes, I do think they can be overcome. A robust and effective trilateral relationship between and among the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan is critical for our shared security and common interests. The United States does not take sides in bilateral disputes between our allies. We encourage Japan and the Republic of Korea to continue discussions to ensure a lasting solution to historical and other issues. We have a positive, forward-looking agenda with our Korean and Japanese allies that is focused on tackling the world’s most pressing challenges both today and tomorrow. We see opportunities for trilateral security cooperation, including exercises and capacity-building initiatives on topics such as security cooperation, defending and promoting human rights, gender equity, and the international rules-based order, and addressing economic and energy security, supply chain resiliency, the climate crisis, and epidemic. There are good people and smart men and women in Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington committed to this.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go to our next question from Kiyoshi Ouchi of Sankei Shimbun Japan. If you want to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. Can you hear me?
MR LAMBERT: Yes, I can.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. Thank you for doing this. I want to ask about – well, the – something related to the previous question about trilateral cooperation. Well, I was wondering about the possible nuclear tests that DPRK may conduct. Will it enhance the trilateral cooperation rather than being confusing factors for three countries? That’s —
MR LAMBERT: Ouchi-san, what I’ll say in response to that is it will not deter the Japanese, the South Korean, and the United States Governments from working closely together to keep ourselves secure.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit?
MR LAMBERT: Our enhanced trilateral cooperation is strong. It was something that was discussed in the meetings in Seoul and in Tokyo. And I can just underscore to you nothing the North Koreans will do will deter us from that.
QUESTION: It’s – given the change of the government in ROK from – and the change of policy in ROK, this may have – how do I say – different aspect in the face of possible nuclear test, do you think?
MR LAMBERT: Oh, geez, I think I’ve been fairly clear on this. We will not be deterred from cooperating together to keep our three countries and our interests secure.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll move on to our next question. Next question will be from Yansoon Kim from Korea Broadcasting Service. If you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR LAMBERT: I can, thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Nice to see you again. Thank you for having us, and I have a question about the DPRK’s intention that they launched missile, because the Korean president council, they said that they have an intention – DPRK’s intention is to test the new government, the leadership of the U.S. and ROK. And do you agree of that?
And also, it is predicted that they are having another nuclear test sooner or later. And as the two president agreed for the extended deterrence, are there any changes or are the deterrence, extended deterrence strategy for council or group meeting (inaudible)?
MR LAMBERT: The – during the meetings both in Seoul and in Tokyo, there was extensive discussion about extended deterrence. As I’ve mentioned previously, our three countries are lashed up firmly in working together to make sure that our interests are protected and our three countries are protected, irrespective of what happens. I no longer work directly on DPRK issues, but I’ve learned enough to know it’s not a wise game to predict what the North Koreans are going to do or to try to analyze too deeply their motivation.
QUESTION: What about the readiness, the military readiness? Is it – they’ve said the deterrence is agreed to be a force, and are there any changes to the military readiness?
MR LAMBERT: The United States is – remains committed to providing extended deterrence to both Japan and the Republic of Korea.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll move to our next question now. Our next hand will go – our next question will go to Alex Raufoglu from Turan News. If you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much, Wes. And Deputy Assistant Secretary Lambert, thank you so much for making yourself available for us today. Let me ask you about Ukraine, something that you touched upon in your opening introduction. The President made his case clearly that the world faces dark hour with Ukraine war, and this is more than just a European issue, it’s a global issue.
So my question is, in terms of deliverables, are you satisfied by the Quad members’ stand – stands on Russia-Ukraine given that we have noticed divergent views among the leaders over the crisis? Were you expecting more on this? I mean, I see – I should particularly highlight India, noting that unlike other Quad countries, nearly every other U.S. ally – India hasn’t imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware. Thank you so much.
MR LAMBERT: Thank you for your question. I think part of your question would be better referred to our partners in India. What I can do is talk more clearly about what Australia and Japan have done. I think it’s quite significant that Japan has responded so quickly, providing humanitarian assistance, providing assistance to Europe on energy needs, and making extremely strong statements about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a similar fashion, Australia has provided military hardware as well as humanitarian assistance, and has made equally strong protestations of the invasion around the world.
This is still, as you well know, an ongoing challenge that we’re all facing, and I think it is incumbent on all of us to lash together and to stand up for the principles that are at stake as a result of this invasion.
QUESTION: Thanks so much.
MODERATOR: All right, our next hand raised is Donghui Yu of the China Review News Agency. If you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Sure. Thank you very much. I have a follow-up question on Taiwan. I know you were providing a standard answer, but because President Biden again and again confirmed the commitment of defending Taiwan, it seems that it’s not only providing weapon for Taiwan to defend itself. So I would like to know if President Biden just slip of tongue or speak from the heart. Did you communicate with your Chinese counterparts to explain about President’s statement?
And secondly, I noticed that this time the joint statement of Quad did not mention the Taiwan Strait. What’s the reason behind that? Thank you.
MR LAMBERT: Well, Yu xiansheng, I think that we were – I was pretty clear when I’ve answered this question twice before, but in case you missed it, let me explain it one more time. The President said our Taiwan policy has not changed. He reiterated our “one China” policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself. I think that speaks for itself.
QUESTION: How about the Quad question? The Quad statement did not mention the Taiwan Strait as before. So what’s the reason behind it?
MR LAMBERT: I am not prepared to answer that question now; I will try to look into it, though.
MODERATOR: All right, we’ll move on to some more questions. We have a number that were submitted in the chat box. Some of these have already been addressed, but there’s one I will read out from Min Seok from Chosunilbo, and the question is: “The U.S. Government is using the term ‘denuclearization of Korean Peninsula’ and the Korean Yoon administration is using the term ‘denuclearization of North Korea’ because denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula means not only the de-nuke of North Korea, but also the complete withdrawal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and that’s exactly what North Korea wants. Do you assess the two terms are different in meaning?”
MR LAMBERT: I think you’re reading far too much into that, splitting hairs on language. We are completely aligned with the government in Seoul on extended deterrence and on our strategic goals with denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
MODERATOR: All right. Our next question – we have another raised hand – is from Eunjung Cho of VOA. If you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you, DAS Lambert, for taking my question again. I have another question. President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea in an interview with the CNN said the age of appeasing North Korea is over. Does the Biden administration have the same stance that the age of appeasing North Korea is over?
MR LAMBERT: I would suggest that you direct that question towards the White House. I believe that newly elected President Yoon speaks for himself. Our policy on DPRK and what needs to be done I spelled out just a moment ago, and that’s what I have to say on that issue.
MODERATOR: Okay, I think that’s all we have time for. I know DAS Lambert’s time is very short, but we appreciate the time that he’s spent with us today. So this concludes our briefing. I want to give special thanks to DAS Lambert for sharing his time with us and to those of you who participated. Thank you and good day.
MR LAMBERT: Thank you, Wes.
QUESTION: Thank you.