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MODERATOR:  Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia-Pacific Media Hub.  I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with U.S. National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran, State Department Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, and State Department Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols.  The speakers will discuss both the meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and the People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping and Secretary Blinken’s engagements during APEC Economic Leaders’ Week.

With that, let’s get started.  Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Natalie, thank you so much for the introduction, and good afternoon and good evening, everyone.  Really delighted to be speaking with you on the ground here in San Francisco along with my colleagues and friends Brian and Sarah.  I’d like to talk a little bit about the broader strategic context for our engagement across the Indo-Pacific region and also talk a little bit about Secretary Blinken’s meetings with his counterparts on the ground here in San Francisco.  I’ll then turn it to Brian for remarks, and then, finally, to Sarah who I think will talk specifically on the meeting between President Biden and President Xi yesterday.

But again, I want to start by reiterating, why are we here in San Francisco in the first place?  It’s because we are hosting APEC this year.  We’re absolutely honored to do so.  And I think it demonstrates our commitment to promoting free, fair, and open trade and investment across the entire region while also advancing inclusive and sustainable growth.

Again, our theme for APEC this year is “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All,” and we intend to do so for years to come.

Secretary Blinken has continually emphasized our positive economic agenda with his counterparts across the region, and he’s pushed for that agenda across a wide range of international economic fora, and of course he’s continued that important work this week here in San Francisco.

Another point I wanted to underscore really at the outset here is that in the face of unprecedented challenges around the globe, our commitment to this region and our focus on this region has never been stronger.  We are committed to our affirmative agenda and to strengthening our partnerships across the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Now, my friend, Ambassador and Senior Official for APEC Matt Murray spoke in great detail about the specifics of our APEC agenda.  I thought maybe here I could just talk a little bit about the context in which these meetings are taking place.

Secretary Blinken has traveled here to San Francisco after completing a trip just last week to Tokyo for meetings with our G7 partners to address today’s greatest challenges, and then afterwards he traveled to Seoul, where we strengthened coordination on a range of key issues.  I think it’s (inaudible) as part of that visit.  He also traveled to New Delhi to strengthen our partnership with India and specifically to carry out the 2+2 with our defense colleagues.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield led our delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands just a few days ago, again reiterating the strong U.S. commitment to Indo-Pacific priorities.  And the Secretary of Defense as we speak is visiting the region, having been in the ROK, followed by meetings in Indonesia with his ASEAN counterparts.

I think as everyone knows, President Biden and Vice President Harris have of course been deeply involved in leading these efforts.  Just earlier this week, President Biden hosted Indonesian President Joko Widodo for an important visit to Washington, where we upgraded our relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  We’ve also delivered on deeper climate, clean energy, and economic cooperation with Indonesia.

In October, President Biden hosted Australian Prime Minister Albanese for a successful state visit.  In September he hosted the Pacific Islands Forum Summit at the White House, and earlier this fall he upgraded our relationship with Vietnam to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  And of course Vice President Harris traveled to Indonesia for the U.S.-ASEAN and the East Asia Summits, and not too long before that I had the great privilege of attending the President’s summit at Camp David, where we raised our coordination with our Korean and Japanese allies to unprecedented heights.

This week both the President and Vice President are excited to host the APEC economic leaders here in San Francisco, further highlighting our longstanding economic ties with the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific region.  And of course Secretary Blinken has been here in support of that agenda as well.

As Secretary Blinken underscored earlier this week, the U.S. believes in a vision for an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community where economies are free to choose their own path and their own partners, their problems are dealt with openly, where rules are reached transparently and applied fairly, and where goods and ideas and people flow freely and lawfully.  This is a message the Secretary has conveyed in each of his meetings this week.

Here in San Francisco on Tuesday, the Secretary met trilaterally with Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa and ROK Foreign Minister Park, where the three reaffirmed the importance of our greater economic and security cooperation, building on the historic Camp David Summit.  Secretary Blinken also joined Secretary Raimondo and Foreign Minister Kamikawa and Japanese METI Minister Nishimura for a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Economic Policy Consultative Committee, which we call the Econ 2+2, where we had really important and fruitful discussions on advancing economic prosperity and security.

Yesterday the Secretary joined President Biden for his important summit meeting with PRC President Xi Jinping, and I know Sarah will talk a little bit about that in just a few moments from now.

Now, just a few minutes ago the Secretary had a successful meeting with the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, and just when we finish our call here I’ll be joining the Secretary for his meeting with Philippine President Marcos and Secretaries Lotilla and Manalo for the signing ceremony of the U.S.-Philippines civil nuclear cooperation agreement, or a 123 Agreement, which will support the Philippines’ transition to clean energy.

I think this ought to give you a clear picture of our continued commitment and focus on support for the region.  We’re delighted to be hosting APEC this year, where we can advance all this important work.

Why don’t I stop there and turn it over to Brian.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We’ll turn it over now to Assistant Secretary Nichols for your opening remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Thank you so much.  APEC 2023 is a great continuation of the efforts that President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and the entire administration have had to promote our goals like greater access to clean energy; growing the digital economy; improving health care; improving worker training, salaries, and opportunities; growing economies from the bottom up and from the middle out.  Those initiatives that we’re seeing this week in San Francisco with APEC are a continuation in many ways of the work that we saw at the Summit of the Americas last year in Los Angeles, in the Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver earlier this year, and our bilateral initiatives with key partners on this side of the Pacific.

Mexico and Canada – two key APEC members – are the United States’ largest trading partners.  Just with Mexico, we do $1.5 million in trade every minute.  The agenda that President Biden and Secretary Blinken have had here has advanced those trade issues, security cooperation on things like countering illicit fentanyl trafficking, and a number of other regional priorities for us.

On Tuesday, Secretary Blinken met with his new Peruvian counterpart, Javier Gonzalez-Olaechea, to talk about our cooperation with Peru.  Peru will host the 2024 APEC Summit in Lima.  President Biden will formally hand over the chair of APEC at the end of the summit, tomorrow, to President Boluarte of Peru.

The President will also meet with Mexican President Lopez Obrador tomorrow to talk about a range of issues, including migration, cooperation to combat the scourge of fentanyl trafficking, growing our incredibly vibrant economic cooperation with Mexico, and building on the broad cooperation that we have on a whole host of issues.

The opportunities that we’re seeing here in APEC, in San Francisco, also follow on the Washington, D.C., Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Summit that the President hosted at the beginning of November.  And to echo what Dan said, it’s really incredible that the President, the Secretary, so many members of the cabinet are dedicating so much time and attention to this region and to our partners in the Americas, who are members of APEC as well as the broader Pacific Rim.

I’ll leave it there.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Nichols.  I’ll turn it over to Director – Senior Director Sarah Beran for opening remarks.

BERAN: Great. Thank you so much.  And folks, good to have you on the line tonight.  I thought I’d take a few minutes just to talk through the President’s summit with President Xi Jinping at Woodside, California, yesterday. 

Overall, the summit lasted about four hours.  It included both an expanded bilateral meeting and a working lunch.  The President and Xi Jinping have known each other for quite some time.  They have a frank and candid relationship, frank and candid conversations in the bilateral meeting.  The exchange covered a wide range of important issues, including many difficult issues on which the United States and the PRC have differing views.

President Biden raised concerns regarding the PRC’s dangerous and unlawful actions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea; China’s support for Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine; its coercive trade and economic practices; and its actions against U.S. citizens, to include detention and exit bans.

President Biden underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, he raised concerns regarding the DPRK’s illicit ballistic and nuclear programs, and reviewed the situation in the Middle East.  He also made clear we will always stand by our allies.

President Biden also raised concerns regarding PRC human rights abuses, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet.  Now, obviously there are many areas where we disagree; we find this direct leader-to-leader diplomacy is critical for maintaining channels of communication and responsibly managing competition.

There are also areas where we have overlapping interests, and we worked hard for this summit to ensure that we had a few key deliverables to announce.  There was incremental but positive and important steps on several issues.

First, on fentanyl and counternarcotics, the leaders agreed to restart bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics, with a particular focus on reducing the flow of precursor chemicals.  Now, this is critical because in 2019, the crisis was focused around fentanyl.  The drug trade has since shifted, and now we’re seeing the flow of precursor chemicals, which are dual-use, flowing from China to the United States and Mexico, where they are then used to produce fentanyl.

China agreed to take actions to warn its chemical industry against supplying drug cartels and make some of this trade and trafficking in precursor chemicals illegal.  They issued a public notice to warn the chemical industry, and have agreed to take law enforcement actions against companies involved in illicit trade.  Additionally, and for longer-term coordination, the leaders agreed to establish a working group through which our law enforcement officials can expand counternarcotics cooperation.

Second, the leaders agreed to establish military-to-military communications at high levels, at operator levels, and between our theater commanders.  These types of channels of communication are absolutely critical for reducing the risk of a military accident that could spark a broader conflict.  This is a critical part of managing competition and, again, ensuring we don’t veer into conflict.

Third, on AI, the leaders discussed artificial intelligence and agreed to launch bilateral talks on risks and safety related to AI.

And then lastly, the leaders discussed the importance of people-to-people ties and resolved to seek an increase in the number of direct flights between the United States and China and to support exchanges, including educational, youth, and other people-to-people ties.

Now, of course the leaders also discussed a number of important transnational issues, including health security, debt and developing countries, and the urgent need to accelerate efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Overall, our view is that this summit was absolutely critical to introduce greater stability into the U.S.-PRC relationship.  Of course, our China policy remains focused on invest, align, compete, but this diplomacy is exactly what we need to try to manage this competitive relationship.

Now, my boss – National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan – often says that we need intense diplomacy to manage intense competition, and that’s exactly what the meeting yesterday in Woodside was about.

We’ll look forward to any questions that the group has, and I’ll end it there.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you.  We’re going to now turn it over to the question-and-answer portion.  The first question will go to Brent O’Halloran of Sky News, who submitted his question ahead of the call.  “Was there any discussion about AUKUS, the Quad, or any other regional pacts during the Xi-Biden summit?  What did each side have to say?  What assurances, if any, did the U.S. side give China about the intents of these pacts and the United States’ bid to be more engaged in the Pacific?”

BERAN: Thanks so much. Dan, do you want to take that one?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Sure, I’d be delighted to, and then if you’d obviously like to chime in.  I do appreciate the question.  Look, I guess what I would say is that I think it was natural in the course of the conversation between Presidents Biden and Xi for them to talk about both their respective domestic and foreign policy priorities.  And in that context, President Biden made absolutely clear that the United States under his leadership remains committed to an affirmative agenda across the Indo-Pacific that is focused primarily on strengthening our ties with allies and partners.

And the President made clear that that is our – that is our affirmative agenda.  It’s not an agenda aimed at any one county.  It’s about us.  It’s about our values, our shared values with partners.  And it’s about our desire to strengthen the rules-based international order from which we all benefit.  And I think the President made clear, again, we’re always going to focus first and foremost on our allied and partner relationships, and he did talk a little bit about some of the new – the new initiatives under his administration to increasingly network some of those key allied and partner relationships.  I think that is – that was the primary focus of the President’s comments on those remarks.

Sarah, what would you add to that?

BERAN: No, I think that’s spot on. I think the President made clear that this focus on partners and allies in the region and globally has been absolutely critical to his foreign policy since he was elected.  He sees that really as key to U.S. foreign policy.  This is not aimed at China, as Dan said, but of course partners and allies often have concerns about China, and we do have close coordination and cooperation on those concerns. 

MODERATOR:  Great.  Our next question, also submitted in advance, comes from Juan Silva from W Radio Colombia based in Washington, D.C.  “One of the main topics on Xi and Biden meeting is fentanyl.  What strategies are you applying to prevent Latin American countries getting involved in the process of distribution of fentanyl?  Which countries do you think are near to these risks?  Thank you.”

BERAN: Brian, you may have some views on this, but let me take it at least from the Biden-Xi summit angle and talk a little bit about the measures that we agreed to as part of that.

I think, look, fentanyl is not just a – and these precursor chemicals are not just a U.S.-China bilateral issues.  This is a global problem.  And I think voices from Mexico, Canada, and other partners in speaking up and pointing to the risks of this illicit trade are part of why we see China starting to move in the direction of better control of these dual-use chemicals.

I think I would expect – and in fact the notice that the Chinese side issued this morning to their companies included Mexico, United States as countries of concern where companies need to be particularly careful in shipping these precursor chemicals to.  But I think Xi’s public – President Xi’s public commitment to take action on counternarcotics should give other countries as well an opening to have these conversations with China in how they can enhance law enforcement cooperation around counternarcotics and drug smuggling.

So let me leave it there, and if there’s anything Latin-America-specific for Brian to answer.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Thanks very much.  I’d just add that during the High-Level Security Dialogue in Mexico, President Lopez Obrador reiterated his government’s commitment to cooperate to combat the illicit trafficking of fentanyl precursors, as well as the diversion of legitimately purchased chemicals into fentanyl production.  Our cooperation with Mexico and countries throughout the hemisphere on counternarcotics and transnational crime issues is quite comprehensive.

The challenge that we all face is that fentanyl is a highly addictive drug, and even those who may feel that they’re not at risk now, as the profits of fentanyl trafficking are quite high, we’re all at risk.  And governments realize that, and throughout the hemisphere I’ve heard nothing but support for united action to deal with this problem in a broad global coalition.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Our next question – excuse me – will go to Emily Feng from NPR news.  For the sake of time, I will read your question in the – from the Q&A tab here.  “China asked the U.S. to stop arming Taiwan and support Taiwan’s peaceful reunification with China.  Are these either things the U.S. would do?”

BERAN: Thanks so much for the question, Emily. Look, I think the President was very clear that the U.S. is sticking by the U.S. “one China” policy, peace and stability, status quo, and made clear that PRC military coercion around Taiwan or associated with the election is absolutely unacceptable.  I think there have been some press inquiries or questions around the PRC statement related to peaceful reunification.  I think that’s pretty standard language that we see or we hear from PRC officials in meetings. 

Now, the U.S. does not take a position on that.  We’re quite clear that, again, our policy, longstanding policy, is no support for Taiwan independence, the importance of maintaining stability, peace – sorry, peace and stability and status quo across the strait.  So I think we’re very clear that our policy has not changed, and we’ll continue to focus on that message as we approach this sensitive period ahead with the Taiwan elections.  Over.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  I would just underscore Sarah’s really outstanding answer and just reiterate what she said.  There’s been absolutely no change to longstanding U.S. “one China” policy based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, the Six Assurances (inaudible). President Xi outlined China’s longstanding position on the matter.  I think President Biden outlined our longstanding “one China” policy (inaudible).  Over.

MODERATOR:  The next question will go to Colin Clark, and I will – again, for the sake of time, I’ll read your question from the Q&A queue.  “We are really interested in any specifics about the resumption of mil-mil contacts beyond is it going to happen someday.  Perhaps the two sides agreed to some meetings already and you can disclose when they might occur and at what level.

BERAN: Thanks so much for the question. Look, I think the leaders – we needed a signal from the very top turning the military-military channels of communication back on, and that’s what we sought out of this summit.  So again, this is both at senior levels – right now, of course, the Secretary of Defense does not have a counterpart; there is no minister of defense.  So we’re going to have to probably wait on that one.  But the operator level, the policy channel, and the theater command will be – we’ll turn that over to our Department of Defense to figure out sequencing now with their Chinese counterparts.

MODERATOR:  Next question goes to Masakatsu Ota from Kyodo News, Tokyo.  “The two leaders agreed to start U.S.-China bilateral dialogue on AI.  Was there any discussion on the nexus between AI and nuclear command control during the summit meeting?  Would you consider the future dialogue would target this specific agenda, which may have a specific impact on strategic stability among two nuclear powers?”

BERAN: Thanks for the question. Look, in the leader-level communications, we kept the it (inaudible) the President just very briefly touched on AI as a transformative technology and focused on the need to better understand both the safety and risks associated with it.  So we’ll look to do that as part of this launch of the government-to-government discussions around AI.

MODERATOR:  Okay, next question goes to Dong Kim from the Yonhap News Agency in Washington – based in Washington.  “Can you provide more insight into the discussion on the Korean Peninsula issue?  Did President Biden ask for China’s cooperation on this issue, and did he raise concerns about North Korea and Russia’s military cooperation?”

BERAN: Thanks for the question. I’ll – maybe I’ll take a first crack at it, and Dan, I’m sure, will have some thoughts to add as well.  In a number of different engagements, we focused on our concerns with the growing relationship between the DPRK and Russia, what that means for denuclearization of the peninsula, what that could mean for UN Security Council – Russia’s UN Security Council obligations and the potential for the test of – another nuclear test.  So I think we’ve been pretty consistent in raising those concerns and urging the Chinese to think seriously about what it means – what the impact would be on regional security as well. 


ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Yeah, no, I fully agree with everything Sarah has said.  Again, I think at virtually every senior level (inaudible) China over the last six months (inaudible) of this culminating (inaudible) yesterday.  But the United States has made clear both how important it is to maintain stability (inaudible) focus on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that (inaudible) are absolute ironclad commitments (inaudible) of our treaty allies in the Republic of Korea.  And in that context, (inaudible) for all nations, but in this context I think (inaudible) particularly in the People’s Republic of China to play a responsible role in countering and deterring North Korea’s nuclear and missile-related programs, and also encouraging North Korea to return to a dialogue on these matters.

So I think it’s not – it is not surprising that we would continue to raise these issues with our Chinese counterparts.  And I think also, as Sarah noted, we have been deeply concerned by increasing cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang.  And that’s a matter that we discuss very candidly with our Chinese counterparts as well.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I think we have time for one more question.  We’re going to go to Christopher Woody from the Business Insider.  “Can you elaborate on what President Biden said about the U.S.’s networking of partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific and describe China’s view of this effort?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Sarah, would you like to take that on or should I take an initial crack at it?

BERAN: No, go for it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, as I indicated earlier, I think that really a hallmark of President Biden’s foreign policy has been to strengthen our ties with allies and – allies, partners, and friends across the entire region – again, advancing our affirmative agenda and supporting our shared interests: peace, prosperity, and security, and freedom across the entire region.  And as I indicated in my initial answer, increasingly we’ve worked to network or build a latticework of those interlocking partnerships across the region.

I think it’s safe to say that, both in yesterday’s summit meetings and in our previous senior-level meetings with China, we’ve had an opportunity to explain our strategy and what it is and what it is not.  And, of course, our Chinese counterparts have had an opportunity to explain their priorities and their views and how they view our strategy.

I think the important point here is that we’re going to remain focused on our commitment to this region.  We think our future security and prosperity is inextricably tied to the Indo-Pacific region, and we’ll continue to support work going forward.  And of course, within that larger context, it’s important that we also continue to manage our important relationship and competition with the People’s Republic of China.

Sarah, what would you add to that?

BERAN: No, I think – I think you hit it spot on. Thanks so much, Dan.

MODERATOR:  That brings us to the end of our time for today.  Thank you for your questions, and thank you to Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary Nichols, and Senior Director Beran for joining us.  We will provide a transcript of this briefing to participating journalists as soon as it is available.  We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time at  Thank you again for your participation, and we hope you can join us for another briefing soon.

U.S. Department of State

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