Friday, April 12, 2024
Friday, April 12, 2024
Home » Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability

by Cody Doyle
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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good evening, everyone.  Let me start by saying how good it is to be back in Indonesia.

I came here from the NATO Summit in Vilnius, where our Alliance emerged stronger, larger, more united than ever – including in our support for Ukraine.  Allies enthusiastically welcomed President Erdogan’s commitment to submit Sweden’s NATO accession protocols to the Turkish Parliament.  I have been in constant communication with Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan, including here in Jakarta, as well as our friends in Sweden to help drive this forward both in the lead-up to Vilnius and in the days since, and we continue to encourage Türkiye to complete the accession process as swiftly as possible.

This is my fourth visit to Indonesia as Secretary of State, and I want to begin by thanking President Jokowi and my friend, Foreign Minister Retno, for their incredibly warm hospitality.  Indonesia is a vital U.S. partner, and a regional and global leader.

Earlier today, we had a very productive U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Dialogue, focused on everything from advancing economic cooperation through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, to collaborating on regional issues, to advancing shared priorities on public health, on climate, on cyber, and maritime security.

As we prepare next year to mark 75 years of diplomatic relations, our strategic partnership with Indonesia is stronger than ever, and I want to thank especially our ambassador here, Ambassador Sung Kim and his team, for their work to strengthen that partnership.

Today, I joined ministers from ASEAN and the region at the East Asia Summit Ministerial, the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum, where we discussed deepening cooperation to realize our shared vision:  a free, open, prosperous, secure, interconnected, and resilient Indo-Pacific.  And what does that mean?  That means a region where countries are free to choose their own path and their own partners; where problems are dealt with openly; where rules are reached transparently and applied fairly; where goods, where ideas, where people flow lawfully and freely.

At the heart of that approach is our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN, ASEAN centrality, and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

We’ve launched what President Biden calls “a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations” – defined by greater scope, greater collaboration, greater ambition.

Already in 2023, we’ve had high-level engagements on everything from transportation to transnational crime.  Next month, the U.S. will join ASEAN ministers for economic, energy, and climate meetings, in addition to convening the inaugural ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  I’m grateful to our Ambassador Yohannes Abraham and his team for elevating our partnership with ASEAN.

In today’s meetings, we discussed how we can leverage our combined strength through the U.S.-ASEAN partnership to deliver on the issues that matter most to our people.

The United States is ASEAN’s largest source of foreign direct investment, and over 6,200 American companies operate within ASEAN countries, generating inclusive and broad-based growth that will benefit all our people.  Last year, U.S. trade with ASEAN totaled more than half a trillion dollars, and that supported more than 625,000 jobs in the United States.  To make that trade faster, cheaper, more dependable, we’ve invested significantly in the ASEAN Single Window.  That’s an automated system for clearing customs across the region.

We’re partnering to address the climate crisis and to accelerate the clean energy transition.  That includes working to launch the U.S.-ASEAN Climate Solutions Hub – which will help ASEAN countries build greater resilience and meet their ambitious emissions reduction targets – and as well our collaboration on renewable battery storage and electricity transmission.  This was a subject of some discussion today.

We’re deepening the bonds between our combined one billion people.  Earlier today, I had a chance to meet with some of our Young Southeast Asian Leaders.  Since we launched YSEALI a decade ago, we’ve provided fellowships and in-person training to more than 6,000 trailblazers who are literally transforming their communities, and we’re going to double the size of YSEALI in the next three years.

As we work to advance this affirmative vision, this affirmative agenda for the region, we’re responding to challenges to our shared security and prosperity – and to the broader international order.

As the military regime in Myanmar continues to commit atrocities and undermine regional stability, there was broad support in today’s meetings for continuing to press the regime to end the violence and to fulfill its commitments under ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.

The DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs – including its latest ballistic missile launch just this week – also threaten the region and the global nonproliferation regime.  We remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, to countering the DPRK’s malicious cyber activities, to addressing its systematic human rights violations.  And as we’ve consistently said – both publicly and to Pyongyang – we are prepared to engage in dialogue without preconditions.  Unfortunately, to date, Pyongyang’s answer to that proposal has been to launch more missiles.

Like many countries in the region, we’re concerned by the PRC’s increasing assertiveness in the South and East China Seas and in the Taiwan Strait.  We remain committed to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea – a critical throughway for global commerce and connectivity – and we support ASEAN’s negotiation of a code of conduct consistent with international law.

The United States also seeks to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is in the interest of all nations.  Fifty percent of global commerce goes through that strait every single day.  Some 70 percent of the semiconductors made for the world are made in Taiwan.  We continue to oppose unilateral changes to the status quo by either side.

The United States will continue to responsibly manage our relationship with China, including by strengthening channels of communication to make clear our positions and intentions around these and other issues, as well as to explore areas where the U.S. and the PRC might cooperate on shared challenges.

Yesterday, following up on my trip to China a few weeks ago, Director Wang and I had a candid and constructive conversation on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues.  These included Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and cross-strait relations.  Despite very clear areas of disagreement, the United States is also prepared to work with Beijing on challenges that affect people in the United States, the PRC, and around the world.

Finally, Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine continues to harm not only Ukrainians but people across this region.  It is essential that we extend and expand the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Russia is threatening to end once again on July 18.  If Moscow follows through on its threat, developing countries – including in the region – will pay the price, including quite literally with higher food prices, as well as greater food scarcity.

As we work to extend the initiative, we also stand ready to support a just and lasting peace to the conflict based on the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence – principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter and ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and that reflect the desire of people and nations in every part of the world to be able to choose their own path free from the use of force, coercion, or aggression.

The U.S. and ASEAN will continue to champion these principles together as we tackle shared challenges and realize the promise of this extraordinarily dynamic region.

With that, I’m happy to take some questions.

MR PATEL:  We’ll first go to Abigail Williams with NBC News.

QUESTION:  Thanks so much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Abbie.

QUESTION:  What was your message to Director Wang about the recent attack on State Department and Commerce email accounts?  Was your own account targeted, or were those of other senior officials at the State Department?  And what consequences will Beijing face?

And if I may, one more:  What progress has been made on the cases of wrongfully detained Americans Mark Swidan, Kai Li, and David Lin?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Let me start with the second part of the question first.  As always, when we engage with our Chinese counterparts, we are raising and working on the cases of detained Americans, and did so again yesterday.  This is something we’re working on.  It was a subject of some discussion when I was in Beijing as well, and we will continue to work on that until we succeed in bringing people home.

With regard to the cyber incident that you referenced, here’s what I can tell you.  First of all, this is something that the State Department actually detected last month, and we took immediate steps to protect our systems, to report the incident – in this case, notifying a company, Microsoft, of the event.  I can’t discuss details of our response beyond that, and most critically this incident remains under investigation.

As a general matter, we have consistently made clear to China as well as to other countries that any action that targets the U.S. Government or U.S. companies, American citizens, is of deep concern to us, and we will take appropriate action in response.

MR PATEL:  We’ll go to Yvette Tanamal with The Jakarta Post.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My first question for you today would be:  What is some of the U.S. practical steps to maintain safety and stability in the region, while upkeeping ASEAN centrality?  How is the SEANWFZ negotiations going, and how close is the U.S. to possibly acceding to the treaty?

My second question is:  What would be your respond to the criticisms saying that the U.S.’s increased military presence in the Pacific will inevitably provoke what it’s trying to deter, which is conflict?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  First, with regard to the SEANWFZ Treaty, the United States is deeply committed to a rules-based nonproliferation regime, and this is true across the board.  We very much appreciate ASEAN’s leadership on this issue, and we very much look forward to continuing and in fact intensifying our consultations with ASEAN.

Our engagement in the region is focused intensely on an affirmative agenda, on working collaboratively with countries in the region both individually, bilaterally, and through ASEAN on the issues that are of most concern to the citizens of all of the countries in the region and people in the United States.  And I mentioned some of them earlier.  If you look at the ASEAN agenda, when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, when it comes to advancing renewable energy, when it comes to global health, when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to education, science and technology, the digital economy – these are all areas where we are deeply engaged with ASEAN, and that’s really the focus of what we’re doing.

At the same time, if you look at the ASEAN Outlook, and you look at our own strategy, they’re extraordinarily coincident in what we’re trying to achieve together, and that starts with a shared vision for the region: one that is free, open, secure, prosperous, connected, and resilient.  And part of that, in order to achieve that vision, is making sure, among other things, that we continue to have freedom of commerce, freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, that we have a rules-based order and every country plays by the same rules that are established together transparently.

One foundational aspect of that rules-based order for the region is the UNCLOS, the Law of the Sea.  And we’re committed to working with countries around the region to uphold it.  But I think it’s very instructive that what we see and certainly a big part of the conversation today is a determination of all of the countries in the region independent of the United States to make sure that the Law of the Sea and more broadly freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce, freedom of overflight are all upheld on the basis of international law.  So we’ll continue to collaborate there as well.  That really is a big part of the basis of ensuring that we have a region that is genuinely free, open, prosperous, secure, connected, and resilient.

MR PATEL:  We’ll next go to Shaun Tandon with the AFP.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Shaun.

QUESTION:  I was digging the shirt earlier, but —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I was tempted to keep it on for you, but —

QUESTION:  Something more comfortable.  I wanted to ask you about another person who was here.  You mentioned your talks with the Chinese foreign minister.  Of course, Sergey Lavrov was also here – the Russian foreign minister.  The last time you were in a room with him in Delhi in March you did have a conversation.  I wanted to see if you had any engagement at all even informally with him.  If not, why not?  Did you find his use – his appearance here at all constructive?  How did that go?  And more broadly, Southeast Asia, how do you see them on the invasion?  Do you see that they’re largely in line with the U.S. stance on that?

And if you allow me something different, you mentioned on Burma/Myanmar, there’s broad support in ASEAN for pressuring the junta.  Thailand recently has been engaging the junta.  How do you see that?  Do you see that as a step forward?  Do you see that as contradicting ASEAN efforts?  Thanks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Shaun.  So – look, I don’t – I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speak for the members of ASEAN.  I’ll let them speak for themselves.  I think it’s fair to say that based on what we heard from Foreign Minister Lavrov today his interventions and engagements were not constructive or productive on any issue.  He focused – unlike the United States and unlike many other countries – on a totally negative presentation and agenda in which he effectively ascribed every problem in the world to the United States.  We were resolutely focused on the affirmative agenda that we have with ASEAN, including many of the issues that I’ve already had an opportunity to discuss, but I’ll leave it – I’ll leave it to you to see how others heard that.  But I think there was a very stark difference in the focus that we brought to this affirmative agenda and this shared vision for the future of the region, and what we heard from Foreign Minister Lavrov.

The countries of Southeast Asia, including by the way in the statement that the foreign ministers released yesterday – the ASEAN statement – but also independently or through the United Nations, other international organizations, have made very clear that they’re committed to the basic principles that underly the United Nations Charter and the ASEAN Treaty of Amity that are being aggressed by Russia in Ukraine along with the Ukrainian people: territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence.  I think virtually every country in the region has spoken clearly to that in one way or another – again, either through statements yesterday at the United Nations or independently.

There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming majority of global opinion, including in Southeast Asia, stands strongly for these principles, principles that are being violated every single day by Russia in its aggression against Ukraine.  And again, I didn’t hear anything from Foreign Minister Lavrov that suggested any change in direction when it comes to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

I would note also that the effect is being felt profoundly here in the region.  I mentioned earlier just the effect on food prices, on energy prices by the Russian aggression.  When it comes to food prices, we’ve had over the last years this perfect storm between climate change, COVID, and conflict, including Russia’s aggression – terrible impact on food prices.  And in the case of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as you know, initially they were blockading the port of Odesa and prohibiting Ukraine from exporting its wheat and other food products to the rest of the world – and Ukraine has been one of the breadbaskets of the world – and the result was prices going even higher, supply going even lower.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which the United Nations and Türkiye helped produce with the support of many other countries, at least had the effect of getting Ukrainian grain and wheat and other products moving out of Ukraine and back onto world markets.  And the result of that initiative has been the delivery of the equivalent of 18 billion – 18 billion – loaves of bread, primarily to developing countries, and also, for everyone, a lowering of prices.  The fact that Russia is now once again using that as a weapon and threatening to end it is targeting not just Ukraine but targeting people throughout this region and around the world.  So I think it’s everyone’s expectation that Russia extend and, indeed, expand this initiative.

And the last thing I’ll say on this is, of course, it never should have been necessary in the first place.  The only reason it proved necessary, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, is because Russia invaded Ukraine and then prohibited it from exporting its food products.  So I think there’s a clear demand signal from around the world, including countries in this region, that, at the very least, if Russia is not going to end its horrific war of aggression against Ukraine, at the very least, it extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative so that these food products can get out to the world, keeping prices down, keeping supply up.

And finally, with regard to your last question on Burma, look, we support any effort that can advance the five-point consensus and its implementation and adherence to that consensus by the regime in Myanmar.

MR PATEL:  We’ll next go to Iqbal Himawan from Metro TV.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  It might be the follow-up questions from the previous question, is about the Russian war in Ukraine.  President Biden emphasized in the NATO Summit in Vilnius that Ukraine cannot enter the Alliance when the war has not ends in – the Russian war in Ukraine has not ends.  And it seems like the war has not ends – it’s still far from ends.  So what will the U.S. next step toward this situation?  Will there be any concrete measures that U.S. take?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think you saw just this week in Vilnius dozens of countries take very concrete measures in continuing support of Ukraine as it tries to defend its territory, as it tries to retake land that was seized from it by Russia, as it works to protect its people, its freedom, and its future.  You saw that in the very robust package of support that all of the NATO countries provided to Ukraine, both politically and practically, including measures that will extend over many years to strengthen Ukraine’s defense institutions to help pursue the process of reforming them to make them more interoperable with NATO.

You saw that as well in something that was announced by the G7 countries with some other partners, a commitment to Ukraine’s security and to now negotiating on a bilateral basis – with these countries and Ukraine – security programs, security assurances that will strengthen for years to come Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and to deter aggression.  And that’s important for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons it’s important is that it may be the best way to disabuse Vladimir Putin of the idea that he can somehow outlast Ukraine and outlast the dozens of countries that are supporting Ukraine in defense of its freedom and its future.

And that’s the quickest way probably to bring this war to an end, because as long as Putin believes he can just continue this indefinitely despite the horrific costs that he’s incurred on Russia itself – the damage that he’s done to his own country is extraordinary across the board.  It is militarily, economically much weaker than it was.  Its standing in the world has plummeted.  A million Russians have left the country.  So many have been killed on the battlefield in a meat grinder of Putin’s own making.  Europe has moved away from energy dependence on Russia.  In so many ways, this has been a profound strategic setback for Russia.  And again, this is all of Putin’s making.

But as long as he continues to believe that somehow he will prevail, he’s likely to continue.  He needs to be disabused of that notion.  These long-term commitments to Ukraine’s security but also to its economic well-being, as well as humanitarian assistance, are probably the best way to do that.  But fundamentally, as President Biden said yesterday, Putin has already lost in terms of what he was trying to achieve in Ukraine.  Remember, this was about, for Putin, erasing Ukraine from the map, ending its independence, subsuming it into Russia.  That’s failed and cannot succeed.

The question now is exactly where and how this ends.  Fundamentally, these decisions need to be up to Ukraine because it’s about its future, it’s about its people, it’s about its land, its freedom.  No one wants the war to end sooner than the Ukrainian people themselves.  They’re on the receiving end of this horrific violence day-in, day-out, and we strongly support any country that can find a way to – move forward toward a just and durable solution, one that is consistent with the UN Charter, territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty.  But thus far, as I said earlier, we haven’t seen any signs from Russia that it’s actually willing to engage in meaningful diplomacy and end the war that it started.

MR PATEL:  Thanks, everybody.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MR PATEL:  Thank you.

Source : state.gov

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