SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The last two days build on what began last year, which is the launch of a strategic engagement with the region under the heading of the Indo-Pacific strategy. And over the past year, we’ve seen significant advances in complementary moves by other powers in the region, including Japan, India, Australia, but more importantly, among Southeast Asian states, an awareness of the importance of working more aggressively towards regional development, economic integration, and a common position on the key security questions of the day, to include transparent negotiations on a code of conduct for the South China Seas, and an emphasis on diversification and balancing of economic ties and awareness of the danger of embracing China too closely.
The discussions that took place over the two days reflected that evolution, with a keen awareness of the importance of keeping the forward momentum going.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: [Senior State Department Official Three], do you have anything to add? No. Okay. Jump in.
QUESTION: As far as that code of conduct goes, what’s the U.S. position? I know that there were some advancements earlier in the week between China and ASEAN. Do we feel like that’s something that we have a role in? Do we feel like we’re being kind of cut out of that process?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We’re privy to the discussions, but clearly not part of them since they and the PRC all insisted this is related to those with direct interest. However, the consensus seems to be that we already have a code of conduct globally, international code of conduct; it’s called the Law of the Sea.
QUESTION: Well, except that we’re not part of it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I don’t think that really matters. The fact is that that is the international rules and norms. We – actually, we comply with the UNCLOS. And so the fact is that there are standards that exist, and the region is more and more insisting that the code of conduct looks like what exists. And the reason to do that is you can’t have separate standards. Standards are standard for a reason. But the fact is that if you had different rules for flying over the U.S. than for flying over China or flying over India, you would have a lot of accidents. Where you operate in things like global commons, you have to have a single standard to prevent – I mean, the whole point of that is to prevent collisions and such.
So the only real answer to this whole code of conduct would be something that looks a lot like UNCLOS, so you don’t have to think through a brand new set of rules every time you transit —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And in fact, if I can just add to that, several of the countries that were present – and I would add including China – actually made reference to the need for continuity, building on practice, the importance of transparency, UNCLOS, 2002 DOC agreement, and building out the COC from that to update it for a more modern age. So I don’t think there can be any question that the starting premise is that there have to be transparent agreements on how to do freedom of navigation and overflight.
QUESTION: So what does China want in code of conduct? What would be a more favorable code of conduct to their interests? How would it differ from what we want?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well, let’s just speak to actions by stated policy. But Nine-Dash Line, they would want something applies to a mindset or a perspective that says historical and other precedent would drive things counter to what UNCLOS says, and that would be 200-mile EEZs, exclusive economic zones, based on territorial – existing territorial sovereignty.
So you have to ask the Chinese side about exactly what they want. But in general, you’ve got the Nine-Dash Line that conflicts directly with the UNCLOS-derived EEZs. And you’re seeing that right now in Vanguard Bank, where Vietnam is exploring for oil inside their own exclusive economic zone, and that you also have the Chinese who are attempting to interrupt that.
QUESTION: I’ve got a North Korea question, but I want to start – just to – since we’re on China: How concerned are you about the situation in Hong Kong? There were some people who took the Secretary’s remarks – answer to the question this morning of the Siam Society about not wanting to tip our hand about U.S. military intervention and – I mean, that’s not really on the table. We’re not going to – if the PLA invades or comes into Hong Kong, they – I mean, we don’t have a – was he really not ruling out military action? And then secondly, different note, the big thing here this week other than not having a meeting with the North Koreans, is really like kind of what we’re seeing is the rapid deterioration of the – Japan and South Korea. And so how concerned are you guys about that? And how did the trilat go? Because it certainly didn’t end with a happy photo op.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I guess I’ll go first to last. So first one, Hong Kong. Policy statements match the reality. This is one where the – we always want these things to be resolved through dialogue and peaceful processes vice bringing in – rolling in tanks and troops and all the things. But the problem with Hong Kong is – and our position is – that we should allow peaceful protest. I mean, this is the essence of democracy. And as we’ve heard from Beijing, we are trying to develop a new type of governance and that’s – those are their words – a new model of how the international – domestic Chinese and international model works where free speech, the freedom to disagree with the government, are not acceptable.
And so what the – but the big issue is the fact that it’s resolving – it’s resorting to violence inside Hong Kong. There are questions as to why, whether it’s being instigated or whether it’s just happening, it’s the Hong Kong people doing that. But the fact is they’re clearly expressing their interest in being able to determine their own future, in accordance with the agreement in 1997, 50 years of relative autonomy. So it’s – the will of the people is being heard, or at least it’s being expressed. I don’t know if it’s being heard.
As far as the current situation in Northeast Asia, the trilat went well. The fact that we met, the fact that you saw all three parties there, means there is interest in, of course, finding a solution to this or at least resolution. And yeah, the foreign ministers are talking, and U.S. has no interest in arbitrating or mediating. That fact remains. As far as details on that, to lay that out here would unnecessarily prejudice the outcomes of this discussion.
QUESTION: Are you hopeful they can de-escalate things before they get out of control? I mean, the South Koreans are talking about ending this intel cooperation agreement and —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well, clearly that’s the message to them is, as this relationship comes apart – that’s probably overstated – U.S. interests are at stake as well, right, U.S. security interests. And then for [Senior State Department Official Four]’s world here —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: In regards to North Korea, why don’t we —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: In regards to North Korea —
QUESTION: State Department Official Number Three.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: In regards to North Korea —
QUESTION: Could I just – the thing you just said —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Will you let him finish?
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: The united front in this case has worked very well, and if it comes apart it will certainly make it more difficult for us to encourage the North Koreans to do – at least to complete what they signed up to do.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Do you want to add anything?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: I’d just say that while the current tensions have been described accurately, this doesn’t apply to every dimension of U.S. cooperation with Japan and South Korea. In fact, cooperation on North Korea is uninterrupted and has been unaffected by tensions in other parts of the relationships, demonstrating that both countries, when they see their national interests coinciding, they’re still capable of working together. And we think that’s a very important sign of, hopefully, that we’ve reached the bottom on this. But specifically in regard to North Korea, there is complete openness to work together, as demonstrated this weekend, this week during their meetings with the U.S. on the topic.
QUESTION: I’ll shut up after this, but so did they tell you affirmatively in the trilat today that their work on North Korea is not going to be affected by this other thing? And then two, what happened? You guys were – I don’t want to say begging, but you made it very clear that you were open to a meeting with the North Koreans here, and then they didn’t show up. And so is –do you take that as a snub?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: So in regard to cooperation on North Korea, the Japanese and South Korean diplomats met with the U.S. special representative today, and it was clear from the course of those discussions that the cooperation between the three parties is going to be uninterrupted by tensions in other parts of the relationship. There’s too much at stake, and all three parties know this.
In regards to the non-appearance of the North Koreans at the ASEAN Regional Forum, I think that it was a surprise to the hosts. It was noticed by virtually all the delegations that – with which the United States met. That didn’t keep North Korea from being a major topic of discussion between the special representative and his counterparts and between the Secretary and his counterparts. If anything, the absence of North Korea allowed for a more open and candid discussion on how to achieve the goals of diplomacy that President Trump has laid out. And the missile tests, the two rounds of missile tests that happened during the course of this three-day meeting, actually seemed to have galvanized cooperation in that regard.
So not just with countries like Japan and South Korea, who are longstanding allies of the United States, but even in discussions with the Chinese and with the Russians it’s clear that there is strong alignment still, 14 months after we began this process at the summit in Singapore. And it was unfortunate that the North Koreans missed this opportunity, but it probably hurt their own interests.
QUESTION: Even if they didn’t appear, is the U.S. still in contact with North Korea? Are you hearing from them? How do you analyze all these missile launches in the past few weeks? Where do you think we are right now with North Korea?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: So there is ongoing communications with the North Koreans on a regular basis. While we would like to be further along in restarting working-level negotiations, we are in regular contact with the North Koreans. And I think it’s fair to say that the President and the Secretary of State are expecting that we will be resuming those negotiations relatively soon. We don’t have a time and a location set yet.
The unwillingness of the North Koreans to do that in the timeframe that they laid out at the President’s meeting in Panmunjom a month ago was noticed and is not a positive or constructive response by them. But we remain – we expect still that they will resume in working-level negotiations with our special representative, and we’re prepared to do so when they’re ready.
QUESTION: And the missile launch are constructive or positive message?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Yeah, obviously, any kind of provocations are unwelcome in this environment, and those provocations, paired with a failure to follow through on their own commitments to reengage in diplomacy, were noticed by virtually every country attending this summit meeting over the last three days. It was a subject of virtually every discussion, and there is a common view that this is a huge mistake and a self-inflicted damage on their own part. And that view isn’t just the view of the United States of America. It’s the view of our Asian allies, even countries with whom we don’t necessarily cooperate on as many matters, like China and Russia. There’s a unified view, a unified message going to the North Koreans, that they need to cease the provocations, reengage in diplomacy to achieve complete denuclearization.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: And I think that message is just as strong today, if not stronger, than it was before the Secretary arrived here.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think in the ministerial today, almost every single country at some point in the remarks —
QUESTION: Which one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Which one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The one that was – what was it, around noon?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The big one with the —
QUESTION: The East Asia —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, the ministerial.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, yeah. Almost every single country referenced North Korea in their remarks in the way – in the manner of – and in every meeting the three of us have been in, almost every single meeting with the Secretary as well.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: United States leaves this – leaves these meetings reassured that we have strong international support.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I want to get – let’s get —
QUESTION: But just one thing. The President said it’s not a problem, the missile launches. You said it’s a huge mistake and a provocation.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Our goal is —
QUESTION: No, no, not showing up is —
QUESTION: Or not showing up.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Yeah. Our goal is the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. The missile launches, any kind of provocations, are not helpful to advancing the cause of diplomacy, but we are prepared to engage with the North Koreans to achieve the strategic goal that we and virtually every other country that’s present this week here at the ASEAN events is sharing.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Let’s get Tracy in.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a couple of things. You said that even China believe that –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Yeah.
QUESTION: — conveyed that to you. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? And then –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: And – okay, yeah.
QUESTION: And then – and you say there is communication going on. At what level? They have yet to not – to name a team, right? Is that not true?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: So on your first question, the – I had an opportunity to – my – excuse me. The Chinese special representative for North Korea is not at this meeting. Because of the way they divide up the portfolio in the foreign ministry, ASEAN summits are actually the responsibility of international organizations entity inside the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not the Asia portfolio.
But the U.S. special representative did have an opportunity to speak by phone during the course of these three days to coordinate more closely with his Chinese counterpart. This is not the first time that they’ve talked. It’s been an ongoing conversation. This is a relatively new person in the ministry replacing a long-time diplomat who’s now moved on to a different post inside the ministry.
Foreign Minster Wang and Secretary Pompeo discussed a broad set of issues during their bilateral meeting, but noteworthy in that was despite several areas of tension and disagreement in the U.S.-China relationship, areas that both sides need to continue to work on, there is one area that is clearly an exceptional case of cooperation between the United States and China, and that’s on North Korea.
I am confident that the Chinese would confirm what I will tell you, that – which is that Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Wang had broad agreement on the necessary approach with North Korea and the objectives of our diplomacy. China’s not doing that as a favor for the United States. China’s doing that because it’s in their national interests just as much as it’s in the United States’ national interests. But it was a very good discussion between the Secretary and foreign minister on that issue, and it reaffirms our assumption that this will still be a foundation for cooperation between the United States and China going forward.
QUESTION: And the communication with North Korea?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Communication with North Korea happens – to some extent, it continues at the President’s level. You will have seen bits and snatches of some of the communications between the President and Chairman Kim in – even in the few weeks since the two leaders met for a brief meeting at Panmunjom village. But also that communication is happening at levels below the President, including the U.S. special representative and his team. And while we do not yet have a time and a location for the restart of working-level negotiations, it is a subject of discussion between the two sides, and the communications would suggest that both sides expect that to happen in the not too distant future.
QUESTION: But they don’t have a team yet? They haven’t (inaudible) as far as you know, as far as it is known?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: North Korea generally doesn’t publicize much about its internal decision-making. We know who we’re talking to, and we know – we’re very familiar with the people who are responsible for these issues inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in North Korea. They’ve worked with us for a very long time. We had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time together in Panmunjom village while the two leaders were meeting with their foreign minister and Secretary of State. So I have – we have confidence that we know the people with whom we’ll be working, and we’re prepared to engage with them as soon as they’re ready.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) NHK. So have you ever talked about the standstill agreement with Japan and ROK? And what did the Secretary propose to these two countries at the ministerial?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: One of the – I’m learning this – one of the key elements in diplomacy is time. Situations that may look intractable currently, right now, as – over time, the situation and background changes, and the relative positions get closer and farther apart. So in any negotiation, time can be an enemy, but in general if there is a problem that we’re just not finding any solutions, generally it’s okay to wait before you take any hard decisions that may put you in a position where you cannot – force you into a position that you didn’t want to be in.
Again, not all – I don’t think the business world looks at time the same way. The military world doesn’t look at time the same way. But in diplomacy, time is an important thing, so given enough time, you can find some sort of a resolution to almost anything. So, yeah, there’s —
QUESTION: So you don’t deny that the standstill – so-called standstill agreement —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: There’s no such thing as a standstill agreement, so no, no. There’s – but, clearly, a little more time in this case would probably have been helpful so.
QUESTION: Can anyone shed light on the Secretary in the availability yesterday made reference to Cambodia denying that – the story about this port, one? And two, can anyone address the significance of China squeezing the water coming down in the Mekong Delta?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: So for the last one, as far as the Mekong, we heard not just – we heard murmurs of the Lower Mekong Initiative, the mainland, Southeast Asian countries that are interested in the Mekong mention the fact that while the flows have not been the same as they were, and there was an indication by at least some that that water’s being held up. So now you have all the upstream problems that you have in Turkey, Syria, Jordan like that. So I have no personal knowledge of any restricted water flows, but that was – it’s clearly of interest to the folks that – who need that water for survival.
And the first question was?
QUESTION: Cambodian port?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: The Cambodian port. There’s different reports. There’s what you’re hearing from the rest of the region than what you’re hearing from Phnom Penh, and they don’t seem to quite match. There’s also been Chinese activity – certainly a lot of building and such there in that area. So there’s been denials in some points from the Cambodian side, and there’s been contradictory language as well, so the general sense is that given the non – lack of transparency around exactly what’s going on at that port would lead one to believe that there’s probably other intentions than stated.
QUESTION: So – he welcomed it, the Secretary. He welcomed their refutation.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There was much greater focus in the two days of discussion among the member states of the security concerns they had of encroachment by the Chinese, and part of that was reflected in the statements by governments like Cambodia, which walked back perceptions that they were ceding ground to China.
QUESTION: I lived in Cambodia for five years.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: On questions like building out a military force, they were actually quite specific – they were actually quite specific about it, so in the context of what we’re dealing with here, that’s an evolution. It is a recognition that business as usual in working with China on issues like infrastructure projects in the region, on issues like security cooperation, on issues like code of conduct for the South China Sea requires a much more muscular approach from governments in the region responding to what their own interests are and how they protect them. And the statement by the Cambodians was a reflection of the pressure they were under to explain what exactly was the arrangement they were coming to with China.
QUESTION: Yeah, but three years ago the Cambodians held up the joint communique. As I just said, I mean, I lived there for five years and Hun Sen is basically selling out the entire country to the Chinese. It’s – that’s a fact. So what – the Secretary sounded like he believed the foreign minister’s refutation of theJournal story about the port, but it now sounds like you guys aren’t sure that they’re telling the truth.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well, I think he just reiterated what we heard the Cambodian side say —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: — is that despite —
QUESTION: No, I know. But I mean –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: — despite the suspicions all around, the Cambodian side committed that this was not going to be militarized. So we’re just – we’re thankful for that clarification.
QUESTION: So just to underline, when you say “what we’re dealing with,” that’s a long-term Chinese campaign to use every instrument of its influence and power to encroach in the region?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There certainly was discussion across the board of what exactly was involved with Chinese investment in certain projects in the region. And the discussion went further than that in looking at the broader Indian Ocean, so looking at projects in Myanmar, looking at projects in Sri Lanka, and the concern expressed was general. When you’re interpreting what the Secretary said yesterday, it’s exactly as what was just referenced – a statement of fact repeating what the Cambodians felt they had to explain to ASEAN as a whole. That is an evolution in Cambodia’s position. No one’s denying that there isn’t significant relations between Cambodia and China on an economic level. What there was is at least a reaction by Cambodia recognizing that what they were doing was impacting the security and strategic objectives of other partners in the ASEAN region. That was extremely clear across the two days of discussion.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re at – yeah. And we’re getting close to 30.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Senior Official number four has to catch a plane. So you got anything else real quick?
QUESTION: Enjoy Pyongyang. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: Anything else?
QUESTION: Could you just tell us a little bit quickly just your sense of what these provocations actually mean. And is there a point where – I mean, how do you reconcile – sure, there’s still talks happening, but then you see provocations continuing to happen. How does that – how are you in your mind able to reconcile that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: There’s a long history of diplomacy between the international community and North Korea, between the United States and North Korea, and provocations have always been part of the playbook of the North Koreans – provocations and also efforts to feel and find the seams between the interests of other international parties. And one of the very reassuring things that the Secretary of State is leaving this three days in ASEAN with is that, in fact, those efforts are failing. The provocations only further galvanize the international community and its commitment to achieve the goals of complete denuclearization, and international unity is intact and, if anything, as strong as it’s been in a very long time.
The close cooperation, consultation between the U.S. special representative and his counterparts in all the countries involved in ASEAN – Japan, South Korea, China, Russia – all continue to show close alignment, and the United States is prepared to work with all of its partners and allies and friends in achieving our shared goals. So whatever the goal is, we don’t know. We don’t know the strategy in Pyongyang. It’s theirs to decide, but it’s not working.
QUESTION: Was there anything that would change the posture from diplomatic to other means?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: The President’s been very clear that he is committed to a diplomatic process to achieve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, along with complete denuclearization. The – of course there are provocations that would potentially result in more consequential response from the rest of the countries in the world. Other countries, the UN Security Council, have made perfectly clear that there are limits to what they’re willing to accept. But right now, the window’s open for diplomacy.
The President is fully committed to that course. He’s directed the Secretary of State and his team to pursue it, and as we said a moment ago, that we’re expecting in the not too distant future we’ll be back – back in a sustained negotiating process with the North Koreans.
QUESTION: The missiles are being characterized as new missiles. Are you concerned that North Korea is just buying time while they make advances in their missile program?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: We would certainly like to be farther along in our diplomacy in ending all of North Korea’s missile programs and weapons of mass destruction. That’s the goal of the United States. That’s what is clearly laid out in the UN Security Council resolutions, that all ballistic misses, all weapons of mass destruction needed to be – need – that North Korea needs to rid itself of all of them. That continues to be the view of the UN Security Council; it continues to be the view of the United States. And so whatever the strategy is – and we don’t know – we can’t read their minds – whatever it is, it’s not working.
QUESTION: So do you believe that time is on their side or our side?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOUR: We’re not in a hurry to get a bad deal. The door’s open for diplomacy. The North Koreans are under enormous pressure from international sanctions. Our goal is not to bring them to their knees. The goal of U.S. policy is to give the North Koreans a very clear choice for a brighter future for their country. President Trump is fully committed to that objective, fully committed to achieving that objective through diplomacy. So we’re not in a hurry to achieve this. The President has said that many times. And the door is open for diplomacy. Whatever the North Korean strategy today – it hasn’t worked for them.
QUESTION: If I can go back to the Japan and ROK. My name is Atsushi Takemoto with Kyodo News. Good to see you. I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit about the GSOMIA issue. How much are you concerned of the probability of the South Korea Government eliminating GSOMIA? And how do you assess the impact of that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: The – GSOMIA has come up in the conversation, but it’s much broader than that. It’s the relationship itself. Both depend on the other just as much as we depend on them to maintain security in northeast Asia. Individual parts of that cooperation – losing any one of those is important, and it downgrades our ability to defend each other. The attacks can happen on any of the three countries, which is why we – it’s in all of our interests, U.S., Japan, and Korea, to cooperate. The more cooperation the better. There’s no downside to cooperation. And the word from the White House and from U.S. Government all along has been let’s find a way – and it’s between Korea and Japan – find a way to resolve this issue. There is – there are – yes, it’s an emotional issue, certainly on the Korean Peninsula, but also for the Japanese side. But that’s what governments do, is they apply rationality and a long-term view to prevent these things from getting out of hand. So —
QUESTION: Did the Secretary during the trilateral share his views on Japan’s recent decision to remove South Korea from its list of preferential trade partners? Did he actually say whether he was disappointed in the decision? Did he take any kind of stand?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well – these meeting behind closed doors for a reason, because as we reveal these – your specific question, then it obviates options and you end up jamming yourself. So I’m not going to talk about exactly what was discussed. But the fact that we all were able to get in the same room together and express each other’s positions and identify the – where each other’s interests are was a key step to getting back together. The U.S. is very interested in this for reasons I described. It touches on the interests of all three. And so —
QUESTION: Did I hear you say that the U.S. definitely will not be a mediator in this dispute?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: There are arbitration and mediation caveats, codicils, in the 1965 agreement. I mean, the process – and there’s other international agreements and such like that. So the U.S. is involved, but there’s no upside to getting in the middle of this. There is no positive outcome to that. This is between Seoul and Tokyo. This is not the first time this has happened. The timing of this is unfortunate, and we need definitely to get past this soon. Certainly don’t need to take any further steps – any further steps need to rebuild the relationship vice take it apart.
QUESTION: Well, did you get the sense in the trilat that that was a possibility, or is this something that the foreign ministers can’t really – this is something that’s got to be done at the head-of-state, head-of-government level to calm things down?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We were – we did not talk about specific further steps.
QUESTION: No, no, no, I know. But I mean, did you get a sense that there was any interest? I mean, it just seemed today like it was one thing after another. It was like, “Screw you,” “No, screw you,” “No, screw you.” And it was just like we were looking at the complete elimination of any relationship, friendly relationship by midnight tonight. Did you get a sense that that —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, both sides are very interested in finding – to resolving this. So I mean, that’s obvious.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but they’re interested in resolving it with the other side capitulating. So I mean, is there any – like – do you get a sense that there’s any attempt to find some kind of middle ground?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I think so. I mean, if what you said was true, then we wouldn’t have had the meeting. Both sides would have just said, why – would stand off to the side and not be seen as even trying to resolve this.
QUESTION: Was there any reluctance to do the trilateral at all?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We had a meeting. I mean, I think that says it all.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All right, guys. We’re getting at 40 minutes. Do we have anything final? [Senior State Department Official Two], any final words?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Strike that name from the – (laughter).
QUESTION: So you think it’s fair to say that the advantage of our strategic position now vis-a-vis China and the region is that we can portray ourselves, in reality are kind of running with the grain of the interests of these countries? We can say, “We’re interested in your sovereignty, we’re interested in good investment that doesn’t have strings attached, it’s not going to screw you in the long run,” et cetera, et cetera?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Absolutely. And in terms of the themes, when the various nations and their representatives were speaking about their core interests, it wasn’t just the strategic level. It was heavily focused on economic questions, development questions, cooperation in the region, attracting outside investment, addressing changing realities in global trade relations, and not simply looking at it through the prism of conflict with China or between China and the United States.
There is a strong awareness of the growing potential of the region, and not just reflected in the amount of U.S. foreign direct investment or the trade with the United States; looking more broadly at what the potential is as a buildout and deal with the Pacific region as a whole, the Indian Ocean as a whole. A very different dynamic at work – what started as a more reflective, intellectual, conceptual discussion a year ago is being fleshed out with very clear ideas. And what we’re going to see as we move forward to the East Asia Summit on November 4th is, I think, a greater focus on those very practical questions which impact the welfare of hundreds of millions of people in this region.
So it definitely is a forward-looking discussion in which people are proactively working out new strategies to put flesh on the bones of concepts.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. You’re welcome, kids.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this.
QUESTION: Thank you.