MODERATOR: Good after – no, good morning, everybody. Sorry. Welcome to today’s call to preview Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman’s trip to Japan and Seattle, Washington. This call is on background and embargoed until its conclusion.
We are joined today by two senior State Department officials. For your information only and not for reporting, our two speakers are [Senior State Department Official One], and [Senior State Department Official Two], who will be referred to from this point on as Senior State Department Official Number One and Senior State Department Official Number Two respectively in our transcript.
We will have some time for questions at the end of our speakers’ opening remarks. But I’d like to kick it off this morning by turning it over to our first senior State Department official, [Senior State Department Official One], to begin with some opening comments. Then I’ll turn it over to our second State Department official, [Senior State Department Official Two].
[Senior State Department Official One], over to you, please.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, thank you very much, [Moderator], and thank you all on the line for joining us here this morning. I’ll be accompanying Deputy Secretary Sherman on her trip to Tokyo which will take place from October 24th to 26th. And I want to give you a brief overview of our goals for that trip and her upcoming meetings.
A major focus of the deputy secretary’s trip is to hold a trilateral meeting with her counterparts – Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo, and Republic of Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong. This will be the fourth trilateral meeting at the vice minister level with Japan and the Republic of Korea under the Biden administration. It follows the trilateral meeting Secretary Blinken held with Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Park Jin during the UN General Assembly in New York.
Japan and the Republic of Korea are two of America’s closest allies in the Indo-Pacific, and our trilateral partnership is vital to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the region and of the world. We will discuss a range of issues, including the DPRK’s numerous ballistic missile launches this year, the PRC, and Russia’s unprovoked and devastating war against Ukraine. We will examine how our countries can expand our ongoing trilateral cooperation not only in the face of ongoing security challenges, but also in our work with our Pacific Island partners, with ASEAN, and in tackling challenges such as climate change, supply chain bottlenecks, global health, and gender empowerment.
As a reminder, Deputy Secretary Sherman last spoke trilaterally with Vice Foreign Minister Mori and Vice Foreign Minister Cho on October 4, following a DPRK missile launch. And she last met in person with them on June 7th during her trip to Seoul. She also keeps in regular touch with both of them bilaterally on a regular basis.
While in Tokyo, Deputy Secretary Sherman will also have bilateral meetings with each vice foreign minister, and additional meetings with senior Japanese officials, including Foreign Minister Hayashi, National Security Secretary General Akiba, and Vice Minister of Defense Suzuki Atsuo, to discuss issues of mutual concern.
Deputy Secretary Sherman frequently uses her foreign travel to advocate for the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons and to champion women’s rights. In Tokyo, she will join a roundtable at Pride House to discuss marriage equality with a group of LGBTQI+ community leaders. She will also have a hybrid discussion with Japanese university students and Korean university students who will be joining virtually from Seoul on the importance of women’s empowerment.
I’m happy to take your questions on the Tokyo stop, but first I want to hand it over to my colleague.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. [Senior State Department Official Two], over to you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks very much, [Senior State Department Official One], and good evening, everyone, from Singapore, where I’ve spent the last two days working with key partners in the Asia Pacific discussing the importance of cyber security and our shared commitment to an open and interoperable internet.
Next week, I will be with Deputy Secretary Sherman in Seattle, just the Seattle portion of her trip, where we plan to build on last week’s productive engagements in Silicon Valley where I had the good fortune to travel with the Secretary, with the aim of harnessing innovation in support of a technology ecosystem that both reflects our core values and also protects our national security.
Technology obviously is critical to every aspect of our lives, and we need to cultivate strong partnerships with the private sector in order to ensure that we’re building a digital future that is inclusive and empowering and also secure. And that means engaging with companies to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to support their ability to compete in building next‑generation information infrastructure, like 5 and 6G.
[Senior State Department Official One] noted the importance of the Indo-Pacific region to our national security, and I would just make the point that U.S. foreign policy’s strength in the Indo‑Pacific, as everywhere, starts at home. We look forward to engaging with key partners in Seattle, including companies that are working on several different new and emerging technologies with state and local officials, and members of civil society.
The State Department needs a workforce that is agile and able to take smart risks. So I’m excited to meet alongside her with students at the University of Washington to try to persuade some of them to come join our mission at the State Department and to commit some portion of their careers – whether it’s four years or 40 years – to public service.
So with that, I too am happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: Excellent. Operator, would you mind please repeating the instructions for joining the question queue? And then we can dive into questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you, I’d be happy to. Once again, if you have a question or comment, please press 1 then 0. That’s 1 then 0.
MODERATOR: Excellent, thank you so much. For our first question, let’s please go to Tetsuo Shintomi from Kyodo News.
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you for doing this. I have two questions. First, can you explain a bit more in detail about your delegation’s schedule in Japan, like which day you are going to arrive at Tokyo, leave from Tokyo, and have a meeting with each high-profile government official? And second, do you have any expectation about seeing Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo? Thank you very much.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you for those questions. Let me take the second one first. I know that the Diet is in session while Deputy Secretary Sherman is in Tokyo, so we’re not sure if we’ll be able to schedule a meeting with the prime minister, but that would be certainly something that we would welcome.
As far as details of the schedule, I’m not comfortable on sharing those, other than the fact that the schedule will begin on Monday, Tokyo time in the evening, but the formal schedules will be Tuesday and Wednesday in Tokyo.
MODERATOR: Excellent. Thank you so much. Can we please go to the line of David Brunnstrom from Reuters?
QUESTION: Hi. Yes. Yeah, thank you very much for doing this. I just wonder, in Japan, will there be any discussion of Japanese defense reforms and also Taiwan, in the light of the warnings we’ve heard this week from Secretary Blinken and more recently from the chief of naval operations about the possibility of a Taiwan invasion timeline being sooner possibly than previously expected.
And also, wonder if you could tell us a little bit about current U.S. thinking concerning redeployment of battlefield nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, in the light of North Korean activity. There’s a lot more discussion on that issue, and also on the – if possible – future nuclearization of South Korea in South Korea at the moment. Many thanks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: My pleasure. There were a lot of semicolons in that question. So let me address the first one. On defense reforms in Japan, we are very lashed up with Tokyo on how we see the region and what we are trying to do jointly to ensure our commitment to defend Japan and the region. As you know, we just unveiled our own National Security Strategy, and the Japanese are working very closely on theirs as well. So I’m confident we will have talks about that.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, we intend to discuss the whole panoply of issues that deal with regional security, and Taiwan is a big part of that as well. As far as your third question involving the Korean Peninsula, for questions on specific force posture, I’d refer you, over to the Department of Defense.
But let me take this opportunity to talk about extended deterrence. President Biden affirmed the United States’ extended deterrence commitment to the Republic of Korea, using the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. The United States and the Republic of Korea have reactivated the high-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group, which met just last month. We also committed to further strengthen deterrence by reinforcing the combined defense posture and reiterated our joint commitment to a condition-based transition of wartime operational control. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Could we please go to the line of Nike Ching from Voice of America?
QUESTION: Good morning. Thank you so much for the phone briefing. Just a follow up on the question of redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons. Has South Korean Government asked the United States to redeploy technical nuclear weapons since North Korea’s increasing missile firing this month? The question is asked because on Tuesday, Ambassador Goldberg, during an event, rejected such talks and saying they were irresponsible and dangerous. Can you second his position and do you have anything to add? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think as we’ve made clear, Ambassador Goldberg’s comments were taken out of context. U.S. policy on this issue has not changed. The United States remains fully committed to working with the Republic of Korea on all DPRK issues. The United States condemns the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches and other provocative actions, and I believe we’re up to 44 that have taken place this year. These launches are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.
Together with the international community, we call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue. We are consulting closely with our allies and partners on this issue, and our commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Could we go to the line of Ryo Aoyama from Asahi Newspaper?
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you hear me?
QUESTION: Yeah, great. Thank you for taking my question. My question is about China and Taiwan. So in your opening remark you mentioned China will be discussed, and Taiwan is a part of discussion. But on U.S-Korea-Japan trilateral meeting and bilateral meeting with Japanese officials, what do you expect to discuss on China and Taiwan? Could you elaborate on this topic?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, of course. I mean, the entire world is watching the events in Beijing as the 20th party congress is taking place there. So there will be some discussion about that. There may be some outcomes that take place this weekend that would be worthy of discussion.
Talking about Taiwan, I just want to emphasize that the United States’ position on Taiwan remains the same. The United States has a longstanding “one China” policy which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint U.S.-PRC Communiqués, and the Six Assurances. We oppose any unilateral challenges to the status quo from either side. We do not support Taiwan independence and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Can we go to Janne Pak from the USA Journal Korea?
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi. Can you hear me?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you taking my question. On North Korea, North Korea has not stopped their provocations and is refusing to dialogue. With the North Koreans’ imminent nuclear test, China is not convincing North Korea. How is your U.S., South Korea, and Japan approach North Korea, which has refused to engage in dialogue and headed towards provocation? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you for that question. As you know, all three of our countries – Japan and the Republic of Korea, and Japan and the United States – are focused on the need to resolve the situation in the DPRK through diplomacy and dialogue. Recent developments – the 44 ballistic missile launches – only underscore the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy.
Our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We remain prepared to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy to make tangible progress towards that end. We remain prepared to meet with the DPRK without any preconditions whatsoever. It is unfortunate that the DPRK has not responded to our outreach, but we will continue.
MODERATOR: Thanks. We have time for one more question. That will go to Hye Jun Seo from Radio Free Asia.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. I’d like to follow up on the DPRK issue. And I’m wondering if the trilateral meeting is going to discuss any of the possibility of unilateral or UN sanctions on the DPRK for their recent provocations. And you briefly mentioned about human rights issue. Is that also another topic that is related to DPRK?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Of course the human rights shortcomings in the DPRK remain at the core of our concerns about the situation there. As you know quite well, both the Republic of Korea and Japan have both issued sanctions recently against entities that have been violating UN Security Council resolutions aimed at the DPRK. Those resolutions prohibit ship-to-ship transfers of any cargo to or from DPRK-flagged vessels and limit the DPRK’s import of refined petroleum products to 500,000 barrels per year, a cap that the DPRK has broken every single year since it was imposed in 2018. Any imports of refined petroleum to the DPRK under the cap are unlawful if they’re not reported to the UN 1718 Committee.
On October 7th, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC designated the entity New Eastern Shipping Company, Limited, along with the individuals Kwek Kee Seng and Chen Shih Huan for having participated in the transfer or delivery of refined petroleum products to the DPRK. OFAC also designated two entities who are owned or controlled by these individuals. By designating these entities and individuals, the United States is sending a clear message that we will continue to take actions against those who facilitate UN-prohibited activities and violate the sanctions put in place to address the DPRK’s continued weapons development program. And we welcome the cooperation we have with the Republic of Korea and Japan on doing so.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, everyone. That concludes today’s call. As a reminder, today’s call was on background, attributable to senior State Department officials. It has been embargoed until the conclusion of the call, which is now. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day. Thank you so much.