Press Availability With Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chinese Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, and Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe
Secretary of State
Presidents Trump and Xi launched this dialogue as a venue for candid discussions on issues affecting the U.S.-China relationship, and we advanced these discussions today in preparation for the upcoming meeting between our two leaders at the G20.
As President Trump has made clear, the United States seeks a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect. Personal relationships of trust and candor will go a long way in achieving these ends.
This is why I was truly pleased to engage in friendly, constructive dialogue with Director Yang and Minister Wei today on a host of opportunities and challenges between our two countries.
Even as our countries confront important differences in the bilateral relationship between the nations, our cooperation remains essential on many, many central issues. For example, I expressed in our meeting today the importance of remaining united in the pursuit of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to be Chairman Kim in Singapore. This means maintaining pressure through the continued strict enforcement of all UN Security Council resolutions.
China’s cooperation in enforcing those UN Security Council resolutions will help achieve meaningful breakthroughs on this important denuclearization issue.
I also expressed our desire to see further cooperation from China in addressing Iran’s nuclear missile programs and other malign activities. We hope to work with the Chinese Government and Chinese energy companies in this regard. Bringing Iran’s oil export revenues to zero is a critical component of this campaign, and we discussed this today.
We also discussed how we can strengthen the commitments made at last year’s dialogue, including deepening bilateral exchanges on military and security issues and risk reduction in times of crisis.
In addition to these opportunities to strengthen our cooperation, I was forthright in addressing significant differences between our nations.
I was clear, for example, that we have continued concern about China’s activities and militarization in the South China Sea. We pressed China to live up to its past commitments in this area.
Regarding our strong ties with a democratic Taiwan, I reiterated the U.S. policy has not changed and that we are concerned about China’s increasing efforts to coerce others, constraining Taiwan’s international space. And finally, I stated the United States and the international communities will continue to express our concerns with respect to China’s repression of religious groups – Christian, Buddhists, and 800,000 to possibly millions of Muslims that have been denied their freedoms.
In closing, I want to state that this was an incredibly productive conversation. The United States is not pursuing a Cold War or containment policy with China.
Rather, we want to ensure that China acts responsibly and fairly in support of security and prosperity of each of our two countries.
I hope that our discussions today as well as the upcoming discussions between Presidents Trump and Xi will yield tangible results towards this goal. I am confident that they will.
Thank you. And I’d now like to invite Director Yang to make his statement. Thank you, sir.
POLITBURO MEMBER YANG: (Via interpreter) Dear friends from the press, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and I are very delighted to come to Washington, D.C. and co-chair together with Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense General Mattis for the second round of Diplomatic & Security Dialogue.
Let me first thank our U.S. host for their gracious hospitality. This morning, centering on the summit between President Xi and President Trump during the G20 summit in Argentina in November, we had an in-depth discussion, and we have had full communication on China-U.S. bilateral relationship and major international regional issues of shared interest. The dialogue is candid, constructive, and productive.
We highly commend the strategic guidance of summit diplomacy for China-U.S. relations, and we believe that under the current circumstances the meeting between our two presidents is of great importance to maintaining the steady and healthy development of China-U.S. relations. We agree to act upon the phone call of the two presidents on November the 1st to step up communication and coordination and make good preparations for the summit to ensure its positive outcomes.
We also elaborate on our respective strategic intentions and domestic and foreign policies. The Chinese side stresses that China is firm on pursuing socialist – socialism with Chinese characteristics. Everything that we do is to deliver a better life for the Chinese people, to realize rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is not intended to challenge or displease anyone. China will stay on the course of reform and opening up and a path of peaceful development. And we are committed to working with other countries for a community with a shared future for mankind.
China will remain a contributor to world peace and global development, as well as a defender of the international order. China has all along committed itself to working with the United States for non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual respect, and win-win outcome, and to make positive contribution to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and beyond.
We believe that as the top two economies in the world, the largest developing country and developed country, a healthy and steady growth of China-U.S. relations is in the best interest of the two peoples and people of the world. It is also the shared desire of the two peoples. The two sides will follow the direction and principles set out by the two president, manage differences with mutual respect, and expand cooperation in a mutually beneficial manner and work together to pursue a China-U.S. relationship that is characterized by coordination and cooperation.
The two sides agree to handle differences and sensitive issues in a constructive manner. China reaffirmed its position on economic and trade issues. The two sides agree to follow up on the consensus reached by the two presidents in their latest phone call, to support the two economic teams, to step up engagement and pursue consultation on issues of mutual concerns, and to seek a mutually acceptable solution.
The Chinese side highlights that China is firmly resolved to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The “one China” principle is the political foundation for China-U.S. relations. Taiwan independent forces and their separatist activities pose the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. should recognize it clearly. We urge the United States to abide by the “one China” principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques and cautiously handle Taiwan-related matters.
The Chinese side also stressed that proper handling of the Middle East situation, in particular matters related to Iran, is very important. About the deal on Iran, it needs to be continued to be implemented and observed to – and the two sides should make – contribute – make continued contribution to peace and stability of the region.
The Chinese side is committed to peace and development in the Asia Pacific. We respect the United States interest in the Asia Pacific. At the same time, we expect the United States to respect China’s security interests in the Asia Pacific, China’s sovereignty and development interests. China has undertaken some constructions on its islands and reefs. Most of them are civilian facilities. The purpose is to serve the interest of the Chinese people and also to provide public goods to others.
At the same time, it is necessary for China to build certain security facilities in response to possible threats from outside. We believe that no country should use any excuse to engage in militarization in the region. Actually, to pursue militarization in the region will not only undermine interest of regional countries, but will hurt the countries who take these actions themselves. There’s no such a problem of the freedom of navigation and overflight being obstructed, so to use the freedom of navigation and overflight as an excuse to pursue military actions is unjustifiable.
China respects human rights as other countries must do the same. As President Xi points out, there is always room for improvement on human rights. In China, people have the freedom to believe or not believe in religion. They are all Chinese citizens. Their human rights have been fully respected and protected. It is our hope that the United States could respect the fact. All in all, China and the United States should step up communication on the basis of mutual respect and work to handle well its own affairs.
We believe that the strategic guidance provided by our two presidents is very important, and we need to follow up on the consensus that they have reached and further expand areas for cooperation – potential for cooperation.
We agreed to continue to advance communication in mil-to-mil relations, counterterrorism, law enforcement, counternarcotics, and the abuse and smuggling of fentanyl, and also coordination and cooperation in people-to-people exchange and at national levels and on major international regional issues, to better benefit our two peoples and provide more public goods for the world.
The two sides discussed in an in-depth manner the Korean Peninsula issue. China reaffirmed its position and commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, and a solution through consultation and negotiation. China will continue to enforce strictly relevant UN Security Council resolutions. China supports direct dialogue between the United States and the DPRK and hopes that the two sides will meet each other halfway, accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns, build trust, and advance denuclearization process and the establishment of a peace mechanism in tandem.
The two sides also exchanged views on Afghanistan and other regional and international issues and agreed to step up communication and coordination and play a positive role in seeking proper settlement to relevant issues.
Ladies and gentlemen, next year marks the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. For the past four decades, China-U.S. relations have been moving forward despite all the twists and turns and have made historic progress and have delivered benefits to both countries and the world. History and reality prove that cooperation is the only right choice for both countries, and win-win can lead to a better life. For the fundamental interest of the two peoples and people in other parts of the world, we hope that our two sides will work in concert and come together, focus on cooperation, manage differences, and advance China-U.S. relations along the right track. Thank you.
SECRETARY MATTIS: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s been a pleasure to join Secretary Pompeo in welcoming Director Yang and Minister Wei to Washington for our U.S.-China Diplomatic & Security Dialogue. And we thank you both for making the long trip, along with your delegation, from Beijing.
Your visit reminds us that we build on a deep history between the United States and China, one that stretches back to the earliest days of our American experiment in democracy. Our meeting today is evidence of America’s efforts to work toward a brighter future for both our peoples. President Trump’s National Security Strategy makes it clear that competition does not mean hostility, nor must it lead to conflict. While our two Pacific nations may not always agree, we recognize it serves both our people’s interests to cooperate where we can.
High-level dialogues like this help diminish the space between us as we explore areas where we share common interest and common purpose. To that end, as Secretary Pompeo stated, today we discussed our shared desire to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. We reaffirmed our nation’s commitments to enforcing the unanimous Security Council resolutions in pursuit of that goal for the good of all mankind.
As the Secretary of State touched on, we also discussed the importance for all military, law enforcement, and civilian vessels and aircraft, including those in the PLA Navy, the Chinese Coast Guard, and the PRC Maritime Militia, to operate in a safe and professional manner, in accordance with international law, as we seek peaceful resolution of all disputes in the South China Sea. Through candid discussions, we sought ways to lessen tension, maintain open lines of communication between our militaries, and reduce the risk of miscalculation. And we made clear that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.
The U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is underpinned by the rules-based international order and regional stability, is unwavering. Director Yang, Minister Wei, within our pursuit to realize this vision for the region, I echo Secretary of State Pompeo’s words that the United States seeks a constructive, reciprocal, and results-oriented U.S.-China relationship, one that benefits the Indo-Pacific and the world.
We continue our commitment to explore new areas of cooperation on strategic issues of mutual concern like space, cyber, and nuclear capabilities, as well as reinforce the importance of military-to-military exchanges for our bilateral relationship. For we recognize our military ties can serve as a source of stability for our two nations as long as we remain transparent and communicate sincerely with one another.
Along that line, the United States is committed to finalizing a military-to-military crisis deconfliction and communication framework with China while we seek ways to implement and enhance the existing confidence-building measures, including what we call the Joint Staff Dialogue Mechanism.
Director Yang, Minister Wei, thank you again for coming to Washington today. Minister Wei, I look forward to continuing this morning’s constructive conversation at our bilateral meeting this afternoon. And I now invite you to make your remarks.
STATE COUNCILOR WEI: (Via interpreter) Friends from the press, good morning. It gives me great pleasure to meet with you here in Washington at the invitation of Secretary Mattis for an official visit to the U.S. and also for the second round of Diplomatic & Security Dialogue. I want to thank our host, the Secretary Mattis, for your gracious hospitality to my delegation.
Just now, the two sides had candid and in-depth discussion on how to follow up on the important common understanding reached between our two presidents. I think this is a productive and positive dialogue. The two sides share the view that the two sides need to further step up strategic trust, properly handle differences, promote exchanges and cooperation, so that this military relationship will be a source of stability for the overall bilateral ties.
As two major countries, we stand to gain from cooperation and to lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only option for us. Peaceful coexistence and cooperation between the two militaries will be good news for our two countries and for the whole world, while confrontation or conflict between the two militaries will spell disaster to all.
China is committed to peaceful development. It follows a defense policy that is defensive in nature. We will definitely not seek hegemony however strong we may grow. The development of China’s defense capability represents a growing force for world peace. The Chinese military stands firmly against any separatist activities. We have an unwavering resolve in safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests.
China always approaches its mil-to-mil relationship with the U.S. with utmost sincerity and would likewise expect the U.S. to respect China’s core interests and major concerns so that the two sides can work toward the same goal and achieve a relationship defined by no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and willing cooperation, and contribute our part to peace and stability in our region and beyond.
MR PALLADINO: Thank you. We now have time for four reporters to ask questions. We will call on reporters, and we ask that each reporter limit their question to one. For the first question, I would like to call on the Voice of America, Ms. Nike Ching.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Good morning. Secretary Pompeo and Mattis, on South China Sea, what are specific things the U.S. and China are doing to build up military mechanism to avoid conflict, and if there are operational changes?
Mr. Secretary, how were Uighur and Taiwan issues being discussed during your meeting with the Chinese counterparts? What is the U.S. asking for? Is strengthening U.S.-China – is strengthening U.S.-Taiwan ties an irritant in U.S.-China relations?
(Via interpreter) Director Yang, the world at large has expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Tibet and Xinjiang. The Chinese Government has said it opposes interference into domestic affairs of China. But is China ready to invite and facilitate visits by U.S. officers and officials to visit those areas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Did you want to go first?
SECRETARY MATTIS: Sure. In regards to our exercises and operations in the South China Sea, the United States adheres strictly to international law and the international maritime rules of the road, and we continue to operate anywhere in international waters, international air space, as all nations are entitled to. So the most important thing is that we all pay equal attention to international law.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Your question to me was with respect to Taiwan and the issue with the Uighur population. The U.S. policy has not changed since this administration took office with respect to Taiwan; we honor the “one China” policy and the three communiques. Every action that we have taken is consistent with that, and we will continue to take actions that are consistent with honoring that commitment that is a longstanding United States commitment.
And the United States is also unequivocal when it comes to human rights. We ask every country, China included – we have discussions to make sure that they treat the people of their nations with the respect and dignity that every human being is entitled to. And when it comes to religious minorities in China, we had a conversation about how it is that we hope the Chinese will treat their religious minorities and our concerns with respect to that. It was a good conversation and one that is important to each of our two countries, I know.
POLITBURO MEMBER YANG: In my opening remarks, I said that in our discussion we talked about the issue of the South China Sea. China reaffirmed its principled position on this issue and pointed out that China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in Nansha and its adjacent waters. On its own territory, China is undertaking some constructions to build civilian facilities and necessary defense facilities. That is the right of preservations and self-defense that international law has provided for sovereign state that has nothing to do with militarization. They are legitimate. China is committed to addressing disputes through dialogue and negotiation with parties directly concerned. China is working with ASEAN countries to fully implement, fully and comprehensively, the DOC, and the consultation now COC is making good progress. Well, right now the situation in the South China Sea is trending toward greater stability.
In our discussion just now, the Chinese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine China’s sovereignty and security interest. And we urge the United States to play constructive role for peace and stability in the South China Sea. That will certainly help reduce security risks.
Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. On the basis of the “one China” principle. China has established diplomatic relations with over 170 countries. We will continue to remain committed to the “one China” principle that bears on China’s sovereignty and dignity, its security and territorial integrity. That is an issue of principle. Matters related to Xinjiang are China’s internal affairs. Foreign countries have no right to interfere.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to social and economic development in Xinjiang and it has taken a host of measures to promote stability, development, unity and people’s wellbeing. At the same time, within the confines of law, the government has taken steps to crack down on ethnic separatist activities and violent terrorist crimes to safeguard national security and life or property of the people. These measure have paid off. Right now, Xinjiang enjoys social stability. It’s economy is growing with a strong momentum, and ethnic groups are existing with each other in harmony. We hope that the United States could respect the fact and look at relevant matters in an objective light, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. In Tibet, there is ethnic minorities are having good relations, and their rights and interests are protected. A lot of foreign people have been to Tibet and Xinjiang. Facts are facts. Thank you.
STATE COUNCILOR WEI: Well, Taiwan is an inseparable part from China. This is a position repeated by Director Yang. To achieve reunification is a mission for our party and country. In the oath of allegiance to the U.S., there is this sentence saying this is a nation under the God, indivisible. So it is the same with Taiwan. It is an inalienable part of China. So if there – it’s – this territorial integrity is under threat, we will do it at any cost just like what the U.S. side had in Civil War.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now I will give the floor to Chinese journalists, one question at one time.
QUESTION: From Xinhua News Agency, I have a question for Minister Wei. Could you brief us on China’s defense policy and mil-to-mil relationship between China and the U.S.?
STATE COUNCILOR WEI: Well, President Xi and President Trump attach great importance to mil-to-mil relationship. So in every meeting they had, they always talk about this issue. So under the guidance of the two presidents, mil-to-mil relationship is moving forward and maintained stable growth on the whole, despite some problems. To make this mil-to-mil relationship a source of stability to the overall relationship is a consensus between our two sides. Now, we have kept the channel for strategic communication open. We have established dialogue and consultation mechanisms at various levels in counterterrorism, in peacekeeping, in humanitarian assistance. We have carried out many practical cooperation. By the end of this year, we will have maritime security consultation and also a joint military exercise on maritime humanitarian rescue and search.
This year, we had three meetings with Secretary Mattis. We have exchanged visits in Singapore. We also had in-depth discussion. This kind of meeting and consultation have been conducted in constructive, candid manner. In enhancing mil-to-mil relationship and building strategic trust and promoting practical cooperation, we had many candid discussion and reached important common understandings.
So in short, we believe that a stable mil-to-mil relationship is very important for a stable overall bilateral relationship. It serves the interests of both countries. Now, at the crossroads of our bilateral relationship, it is important for us to follow up on the consensus between our presidents. We need to prevent frictions from other regions to spread into the military sector to keep this mil-to-mil relationship a source of stability.
China is committed to peaceful development. It follows a defense policy that is defensive in nature. It is enshrined in our constitution and the charter of the Communist Party of China. It is a solemn pledge we made. I’m not just repeating official line. We will never seek hegemony or aggression or expansion or arms race. The – development of China’s defense capability represents a growing force for world peace and the development of China’s defense capability is transparent. It is only for the protection of China itself to protect Chinese people from war, to give them a life of peace.
And this capability-building is also transparent. It is conducted in commensurate with the need to safeguard China’s sovereignty, stability, and defense interests. China’s military spending also transparent. I have consulted my colleagues at the ministry of finance. Our military spending is made public to the world. We always report that to the United Nations. I think this can be made clear to all of you. China has been part of that UN report on military expenditure. Thank you.
MR PALLADINO: The next question, please. Wall Street Journal, Courtney McBride.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Trump administration has cited China as one reason for its planned withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And I wondered, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis, whether you have raised the possibility of China participating instead in arms control and what the response was, if so. And alternatively, should the U.S. withdraw, this could open the door for U.S. deployment of missiles in Asia, and I’m curious from the director and the minister what the Chinese response to that possibility would be.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. We did not spend time talking in detail about that issue today.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) With CCTV.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Director Yang, can you elaborate on China’s efforts for world peace and development, and in your view, how the current China-U.S. economic and trade issues should be addressed? And can you comment on the prospect of China-U.S. relations? Thank you.
POLITBURO MEMBER YANG: (Via interpreter) For the past four decades of reform and opening up, China has taken 700 million people out of poverty, and the whole nation of nearly 1.4 billion people are enjoying much better lives. The post-global financial crisis years have seen China accounting for over 30 percent of global economic growth annually. Today China is the third-largest contributor to the UN regular budget and the second-largest to its peacekeeping budget. China provides more peacekeepers than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council. China is fully committed to the norms of international relations that are centered on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and China is more than ready to develop friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world.
Our trade and economic relations are mutually beneficial by nature and have delivered tangible gains to both countries and peoples. As part and parcel of the global industrial chain, China-U.S. trade and economic relations help allocate resources globally in a more efficient way, hence it is critical to the world economy. According to the U.S.-China Business Council, trade and economic relations with China help every American family save $850 annually and creates as many as 6 million jobs in this country, while the issues that exist in our economic and trade relations are the result of our different economic structures, development stages, and these issues can be resolved through dialogue and consultation. A trade war, instead of leading to any solution, will only end up hurting both sides and the global economy.
The Chinese side has kept the channel of dialogue open. The door to negotiation remains open, and let’s not forget how our two sides have successfully navigated through previous rough patches in our economic and trade relations. I hope that our economic teams will follow through on what the president agreed upon in their November the 1st phone call, carry out equal-footed and good faith dialogue and communication, and before long find a mutually acceptable solution.
We are going to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. For many years in the past, I have been to many states in this country, and I have made many American friends. In my conversation and encounters with them, I could feel their genuine friendship and goodwill toward China. Likewise, the Chinese people have this deep friendship toward the American people. I for one believe that our friendship has sunken deep roots in the hearts of our two peoples and will grow into a big tree with thick foliage. The further development of China-U.S. relations will for sure give our two peoples a greater sense of gain and satisfaction.
As we mark the 40th anniversary next year, we need to prove with greater progress that the great statesmen from both countries made the right decision to open the door of exchange with each other and to establish diplomatic relations, and that decision is the right one and that has delivered real, tangible benefits to our two peoples. And I hope that in the next 40 years and longer, with our concerted efforts on the basis of coordination and cooperation, China-U.S. relations will score greater progress and achievements to bring greater benefits to our two peoples and people across the world.
MR PALLADINO: And with that, our press conference concludes. Thank you to all of our principals, thank you to all of you. (In Mandarin.)