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Monday, July 22, 2024

Press Gaggle by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan | Thurmont, MD

Press Gaggle by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan | Thurmont, MD

Camp David
Thurmont, Maryland

8:34 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good morning.  Welcome to Camp David.  We’re really excited to have you all here.  As you all know, the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, is here to give a preview of this historic day: the trilateral summit here at Camp David.

With that, you — here comes Jake Sullivan.  Here you go.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thank you, Karine.  Thanks, everybody.  Hope you didn’t have too much trouble getting in this morning. 

It’s really great to be here at Camp David.  And today, President Biden will host Prime Minister Kishida of Japan and President Yoon of South — of the Republic of Korea for a historic trilateral summit. 

The summit marks the first visit here to Camp David by a foreign leader — and, in this case, it will be two foreign leaders — in the Biden administration. 

It’s actually the first foreign leader visit to Camp David since 2015.  And in keeping with the time-honored tradition of hosting significant, consequential diplomatic meetings at Camp David, this summit signifies a new era of trilateral cooperation for the U.S., Japan, and the ROK. 

In many ways, the summit has been in the making since the day that President Biden took office.  He has really focused on each of these relationships, each of these alliances — the bilateral relationship we have with Japan and with Korea, and then, of course, the trilateral cooperation among the three of us. 

In fact, his first two foreign leader visits to the White House back in 2021 were Japan and the ROK.  And his first two stops on his first foreign trip to Asia were Japan and the ROK. 

So, President Biden has really worked to strengthen and modernize our bilateral alliances and to take them to new heights.  And I think it would be fair to say that these alliances are stronger than they have been at any point in modern memory. 

And a lot of that, frankly, is due to the President’s focus and investment in the personal aspect of diplomacy, in cultivating leader-to-leader relationships with both the President of Korea and the Prime Minister of Japan. 

And the trust and respect that has been engendered by his investment in these relationships has led to significant bilateral accomplishments: the Washington Declaration with the Republic of Korea, the work the U.S. and Japan have done together to support Ukraine and to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities. 

One area that President Biden has particularly emphasized from his first conversations as president with both of these leaders was how to build stronger Japan-ROK ties and how that is in the fundamental national security interests of the United States. 

President Biden encouraged both leaders to take bold steps to improve their bilateral relationship, which could help set the foundation for the significant breakthrough in trilateral cooperation that will be on display today. 

And as the ROK and Japan broke new diplomatic ground, President Biden was there to reinforce and reassure.  And he directed his team to do the same.  So Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, myself — we’ve developed deep relationships on a trilateral basis with our counterparts from Japan and the ROK. 

And President Biden himself has held three summits already, although all of them on the margins of other meetings.  This, in fact, is the first time that there will be a standalone trilateral summit of the three leaders. 

So, what will happen today?  Today, we are going to lay a strong foundation for this trilateral partnership to make sure that it’s deep, it is strong, and that it’s built to last.  We’re opening a new era, and we’re making sure that era has staying power. 

So, that means regularizing meetings between our leaders and our senior officials on an annual basis to discuss the broad agenda of security technology, regional strategy, economic partnership, and more. 

We’re announcing significant steps to enhance trilateral security cooperation in the region in the face of North Korean provocations, including a multiyear exercise plan, deeper coordination and integration on ballistic missile defense, and improving information-sharing and crisis communication and the policy coordination that goes along with responding to contingencies in the Indo-Pacific. 

We’re unveiling new economic and energy security initiatives, including an early warning mechanism for supply chain disruptions. 

Our three countries will announce new regional initiatives to build partner capacity throughout the Indo-Pacific, including in the maritime security domain, which will ensure that our cooperation benefits not just the people of our three countries but the people of the entire region. 

Yesterday, Kurt and Mira walked through with you the specific deliverables, so I won’t go into more detail now.  Suffice it to say, this is a big deal.  It is a historic event, and it sets the conditions for a more peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific and a stronger and more secure United States of America. 

So, this is a worthy legacy for the President, for President Yoon, for Prime Minister Kishida, and for all of the teams that have done so much work to get us to this point and to see this point not just as the culmination, but the launch of this new era in trilateral cooperation that we believe will come to the strong benefit of each of our three countries. 

So, with that, I’d be happy to take some questions.


Q    So, there’s been some analysis that the new missiles that North Korea has, kind of, shown the world rely on some technology that may be coming from Russia.  What’s your current analysis of — of the degree to which they are collaborating on nuclear and missile-related technology and how big of an issue is it?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We are concerned about the relationship, including the technology and security relationship between Russia and the DPRK. 

In terms of this specific report you’re referring to about Russian missi- — missile technology and North Korean missiles, I don’t have anything to add to that today.  I will say it’s something our intelligence community is taking a hard look at. 

And this is also a dynamic picture because, as we have seen, Russia has been seeking to get materiel for its war effort in Ukraine from Pyongyang, from North Korea.  And as they have done with other countries, like Iran, when they asked, they usually also offer some types of security cooperation in return.  So, that’s something that we’re taking a hard look at. 

And I would just point out that North Korea is subject to multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council; it has a heightened responsibility to comply with those Security Council resolutions.  And to the extent it is not doing so, including with respect to ballistic missile defense technology and other things, Russia would be, you know, in — sort of flouting and in flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. 

I’m not asserting that that is the case today, so I’m not validating that report.  I am saying it is a matter of concern and it is a matter that we are very much looking into. 

Q    And I know this is not what you’re announcing today, but is the goal eventually — 5 years out, 10 years out, 20 years out — to have actually a formal alliance and a mutual defense, kind of, pact here between these three countries?  Is that where we should be headed?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We have not set that as an explicit goal.  We have not set an endpoint of a formal trilateral alliance.  We have strong and deep and decades-long bilateral alliances with both Japan and the ROK.  We would like to see them continue to strengthen their cooperation and for this three-way cooperation to get deeper and more institutionalized. 

Today, we’re announcing a commitment to consult among the three countries.  That itself is a very significant step because it means that the three countries recognize their common interests in having a coherent and coordinated response to — to any contingencies — security contingency.

But I’m not pointing an arrow towards a defined endpoint of the kind you’re talking about.  Yeah.

Q    Hey, Jake.  The Washington (inaudible) — or the Washington Post reported overnight that the U.S. does not expect Ukraine’s military to be able to reach Melitopol.  Is that an accurate assessment of their counteroffensive right now? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I’m not going to speak to intelligence reports.  I will say that over the course of the past two years, there have been a lot of analyses of how this war would unfold coming from a lot of quarters.  And we’ve seen numerous changes in those analyses over time as dynamic battlefield con- — battlefield conditions change. 

So, what we have said from multiple podiums and multiple briefings remains the same, which is we’re doing everything we can to support Ukraine in its counteroffensive.  We’re not going to handicap the outcome.  We’re not going to predict what’s going to happen because this war has been inherently unpredictable. 

And that’s all I can say today, other than I believe and have confidence in the capacity and especially the bravery of the Ukrainian fighters to continue to make progress on the battlefield. 

Q    Can you speak to the decision to approve the F- — the F-16 transfer?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Back at the G7 in Hiroshima, President Biden indicated — both to his colleagues, his allies, and to the world — that he would support an effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. 

What we did this week is formalized, through a letter from Secretary Blinken to his counterparts in Europe, that upon the completion of that training, the United States would be prepared, in consultation with Congress, to approve third-party transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.  That is the natural extension of what the President announced in Hiroshima. 

There have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, been questions about whether we were actually going to do that.  So, to put all of those questions to rest, then, in fact, the training will be followed by the transfer as we work with Congress to effectuate that and with our allies. 

You know, we underlined, underscored, and put an exclamation point on that this week. 


Q    Thank you.  Officials have said there have been efforts to make it difficult to backtrack from the commitments made today during future administrations here, in South Korea, and Japan.  Can you just expand on the staying power you described earlier and what assurances this trilateral alliance can take away that the work of the summit will last beyond these administrations?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’d answer that in three ways.  First, in terms of the actual mechanisms of collaboration.  So, the three countries are putting pen to paper to say, “We will meet annually at leader level and at every significant level of our government.”  And the work between those meetings will set up further substantive progress. 

That alone — that kind of long-term perspective on the cooperation between our three countries, the trilateral partnership — we’ve never seen that before.  So, that’s on the process side. 

Second, you can see in specific outcomes of today that same multiyear perspective.  So, for example, we’ve had one-off exercises in the past, particularly in response to DPRK provocations. 

What the leaders will commit to today is a multiyear planning process for the military exercises in all domains: air, land, sea, undersea, cyber, et cetera.  And that means that you will start to see a kind of momentum and inertia built into the planning processes of our three national security establishments with a horizon that extends not just a year out or three years out, but quite extensively. 

And then finally, the sheer breadth of the commitments being made today and the ways in which these commitments will stitch together our systems across economics, technology, people-to-people regional cooperation, the traditional security domain mean that we believe that today is going to establish the kind of foundation that will make this trilateral partnership built to last. 

You know, of course, every leader is going to have to make decisions, but the architecture, the framework, the structure that’s being put in place now, from our perspective, is — has a tailwind behind it that will propel it forward and be very difficult to knock off course. 


Q    Republicans in the House Oversight Committee are currently investigating the Biden family’s ties to foreign entities.  The House specifically pointed to Hunter Biden’s financial ties with China.  Does the administration view this investigation as legitimate?  And is the administration concerned that Hunter Biden’s ties to China pose a national security issue?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have any comment on that. 


Q    Thank you, Jake.  Could you just clarify if the U.S. has authorized the transfer of the F-16 syllabus materials to the European partners?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m sorry? 

Q    Can you please clarify if the U.S. has authorized a transfer of the F-16 syllabus material to the European partners? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yes, of course.  We’re working closely with our European partners on every element of the training program, including the manuals, as well as our people are working with their people.  Our trainers are working with their trainers.  So, there is a full integration of the effort at this point. 

Q    Does the U.S. consider extending the NATO invitation to Ukraine that would potentially, like, exclude the territory that un- — that are not under Kyiv’s control. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Right now, we have not gone further than what is stated in the Vilnius document.  And the Vilnius document is what governs NATO’s attitude toward and approach to Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO and the invitation that we’ve made. 

Q    And do you have any updates on the Chinese hackers who breached the U.S. federal network and high-level officials such as the Secretary of Commerce? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have an update for you today. 

Yep.  Last one. 

Q    Thank you.  China has been critical of this trilateral meeting.  Why should they not see what’s happening today and the greater cooperation that you’re talking about as the beginning of some kind of mini-NATO for the Pacific?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, first, it’s explicitly not a NATO for the Pacific.  We’ve said that.  We will continue to underscore that and so will both Japan and Korea.

Second, we’ve had a combined 150 years of alliance cooperation with Japan and Korea.  So, this is — in that sense, the work that we are doing with these two countries is not new.  What is new is that we are now stitching all of that work together to try to enhance regional stability and security. 

And I would just point out that in all of those decades of cooperation we’ve had with Japan and the ROK, we have helped safeguard stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.  And that has created the conditions for all of the countries of the region to do well economically — by the way, including China. 

And then finally, I would just underscore that this summit today, this partnership is not against anyone.  It is for something.  It is for a vision of the Indo-Pacific that is free, open, secure, and prosperous.  This is an affirmative agenda. 

If you look at the deliverables, if you look at the joint statement, if you look at the principles that are coming out of today, they are not taking aim at a country.  They are taking aim at an affirmative vision for how we can deliver results for the peoples of our countries, but also for people across the Pacific. 

And so, we are very proud of the work we are doing.  We see it as a contributor — a net contributor to security in the region, to stability in the region, and to enhance prosperity in the region. 

And we think it will be broadly welcomed by countries throughout the Indo-Pacific — from the Pacific Islands to ASEAN to South Asia. 

So, from our perspective, today is a day that is not about being against anything.  It is about being for something.  And that’s the kind of affirmative valence you are going to see throughout both the substance and the statements of the leaders at the end of the day. 

Q    Jake, is the Vietnam trip confirmed? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I got nothing to announce today.  Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Jake.  And that concludes our press briefing of — at Camp David today.  Thanks, everybody. 

8:50 A.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/08/18/press-gaggle-by-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivan-thurmont-md/

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