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Background Call for POTUS Asia Trip

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PALLADINO: Good morning, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome from the National Security Council at the White House. Thank you for joining us for this on background conference call to discuss the President’s upcoming travel to Asia. We’re joined today on background attributable to [two Senior White House Officials]. [They] will preview the President’s trip.

Senior White House Official 1: Thanks very much.  Good morning everyone.  The President will make his first official trip from November 3 to 14 with stops in Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. During his stops in Vietnam and the Phillipines, he is going to participate in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and the U.S.- ASEAN Summit. The President’s travel will underscore the commitment to longstanding U.S. Alliances and partnerships and reaffirm U.S. leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. This trip is a continuation of the President’s extensive diplomatic engagement with countries from the Indo-Pacific region. Since his inauguration, the President has made 42 telephone calls to Indo-Pacific leaders. He has hosted bilateral meetings with leaders from Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. Also, the President has hosted two trilateral meetings with Hapan and South Korea to discuss trilateral cooperation on North Korea policy. This trip is going to be the longest duration of any presidential trip to Asia in more than 25 years, since President George H.W. Bush’s trip in December 1991. No president has visited more countries in this region on any one trip since George W. Bush traveled there in October 2003.

On November 3, the President will visit Hawaii and receive a briefing from the U.S. Pacific Command. He will visit Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona memorial. The President will commence his visit to Asia, when he lands in Japan on November 5th.  In Japan, President Trump will reaffirm the U.S.- Japan alliance as a cornerstone for regional peace and security the President’s meetings in Japan will focus on ways for the U.S. and Japan to work together to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. While in Japan, President Trump will speak to American and Japanese service members at Yokota Air Base and participate in bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe will host the President for a meeting with the families of Japanese citizens abducted by the North Korean regime.

During this state visit to the Republic of Korea on November 7, the President will participate in bilateral meetings with President Moon Jae-Een and visit American and South Korean service members. On November 8, the President will speak at South Korea’s National Assembly, where he will celebrate the enduring alliance and friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea and call on the international community to join together in maximizing pressure on North Korea.  He will also visit the national cemetery to pay his respects to fallen service members. You can expect President Trump to highlight the enduring strength U.S.-Korea alliance, which is stronger than ever in the face of North Korean aggression.

On November 8, the President will arrive in Beijing for a series of bilateral, commercial, and cultural events including meetings with President Xi Jinping. This also is a state visit. I anticipate that the President will seek to secure China’s commitments to exert pressure on North Korea and to rebalance economic relations with the United States. The visit will send the message that for bilateral economic relations to be sustainable over the long term, China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to U.S. firms and cease predatory trade and investment policies.

The President will travel to Danang, Vietnam on November 10. There he’ll participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders Meeting and deliver a speech at the APEC CEO Summit.  In the speech, the President will present the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and underscore the important role the region plays in advancing America’s economic prosperity. The President engagements at APEC will reinforce a commitment to equitable, sustainable, rules-based international economic system based on market principles. On November 11, the President will travel to Hanoi for an official visit and bilateral engagements with President Tron Dai and other senior Vietnamese leaders. This will be his second meeting with Vietnamese leadership following PM Fuk’s WH visit this past May underscoring the importance of the U.S. and Vietnam’s partnership.

President Trump will arrive in Manila in the Philippines on November 12 to participate in the special gala celebration dinner for the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The next morning he will attend a ceremony that launches ASEAN celebrations as well as the East Asia Summit and he will spend that day in the U.S.-ASEAN Summit participating in bilateral meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and other leaders. The President’s participation in ASEAN events will advance U.S. leadership promote in promoting Indo-Pacific infrastructure freedom, openness, and adherence to rule of law. In short, this will be the President’s longest trip to date and underscore the importance of the region.

PALLADINO: Thank you. Now let’s turn it over […] for some introductory comments.

Senior White House Official 2: Thank you for that great overview. To emphasize the point made very well, this trip is an extended visit.  It’s one of the longest trips that a President has made to the region in many years. It demonstrates the President commitment to economic engagement across the region and working to help countries grow and thrive economically. The President is looking for countries to embrace an international trading system based on respect for the rule of law, high standards, fair and equitable trading relationships through the removal of unfair trade barriers, and reduction of chronic trade deficits. He believes this can be achieved through promotion of free, fair and reciprocal trade. This means that countries open their markets to each other, refrain from picking and promoting  champions at the expense of market-driven growth, and they stop trying to gain competitive advantage through the theft of intellectual property, or demanding that innovators turn over intellectual property as a price of doing business in the region.  The President’s first stop in Japan, a major bilateral trading relationship. Over 30% of the world’s GDP is represented by the United States and Japan’s relationship.  We expect the President will build on the momentum of the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue which he founded, and tasked Vice President Pence and the Deputy Prime Minister Aso to chair throughout the year. We’ve had two meetings of the dialogue this year and we have used that as a mechanism to set a path for balancing our trade relationship and deepening our economic cooperation. During the visit the President is likely to discuss ways that the U.S. and Japan can work together to promote an open and fair investment climate in the Indo-Pacific.  Areas of conversation might include the need for development financing for major infrastructure projects that is consistent with market competition, transparency, and high standards of good governance. Both nations also share a concern with ensuring that third party subsidizing do not distort global markets, and both nations also share a goal of energy security in the region including through promotion of energy-efficient LNG infrastructure.

The next stop will be South Korea. Korea is a major trading partner for the U.S. President Trump and President Moon have committed to fair and balanced trade while creating reciprocal benefits and fair treatment between the two countries. In that regard the two sides have further committed to fostering a truly fair and level playing field , including together to address concerns in working together on bilateral agreements with South Korea. In China, the President will be seeking to promote a rebalancing of our trade relationship. The reality is in order to ensure that economic relations are sustainable over the long term, China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to U.S. firms, trade and investment practices. This is becoming increasingly difficult in recent years. It reflects a slowdown and even a retreat in China’s move toward a market oriented economy. The current trajectory is unsustainable not only for China’s economic future but for those in region and the U.S. Therefore it is no surprise that the President will press China to follow through on commitments it made when it joined WTO to become a market-oriented economy. It will need to take a hard look at the best way to achieve its goals.

In Vietnam, the President will travel to Hanoi for official meetings, as well as  Danang to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. This will demonstrate the President’s commitment to engagement with likeminded parties in the region to promote the goals of APEC and to advance a robust and practical agenda to further enhance U.S. competitiveness and prosperity in the region. The President’s participation in APEC will give him an opportunity to address many of the nation’s leaders, as well as the CEO Summit and to emphasize his vision and priorities for the region. First, the administration is interested in emphasizing forms of fair and balanced trade. He will encourage all APEC members to strengthen efforts address trade distorting practices. Second, he will promote digital trade as a key driver of growth in the region. That means to identify solutions and best practices to address obstacles in facilitating growth digital trade. Third, structural reform we’ll be looking to create level playing field, increase transparency, and reduce corruption. Fourth, improving services trade competitiveness is a priority of the United States where services represents more than 70% of our GDP. We will encourage APEC economies to continue working to increase service competitiveness by lowering barriers that impede service exports and investment. The last priority, I will highlight here in the APEC forum is advancing of women’s economic participation.  The United States will continue to emphasize women’s economic participation in Da Nang which we believe will spur economic growth around the region. These five areas – fair and balanced trade,  the digital economy, structural reform, services trade competitiveness, and women’s economic participation – are just a few of our top priorities. But the President will also participate in the ASEAN forum again emphasizing the importance of fair and reciprocal treatment and the need to advance market driven economic growth throughout region. Thank you.

PALLADINO: Thank you. Tony, let’s turn it over to you for questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. If you have a question, you may call in by dialing *1 at this time. Once again, for your questions you may place yourselves in queue by pressing star, followed one. We’ll take our first question comes from David Wroe with the Sydney Morning Herald. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: Yeah, thanks guys for giving us this opportunity. Um, David Wroe from the Sydney Morning Herald. I just wondered if the President has any plans to meet on the sidelines anywhere with Malcolm Turnbull, our Prime Minister, and is there any particular message for Australia on North Korea. Just in particular what did the U.S government make of the letter that North Korea sent to the Australian Parliament? Because Julie Bishop, our Foreign Minister, interpreted it as sign that North Korea is starting to feeling the bite of economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure. Ms. Bishop has been pretty consistently bullish about the effectiveness of sanctions and is quite convinced that they will work in the long run. So I wondered what the U.S. take on that at the moment?

Speaker: Thanks for the question. Yes President Trump will certainly have time to meet with Prime Minister Turnbull during the course of his swing through Southeast Asia. We are working on the details, but I can confirm that they’re going to be meeting. The letter from the North Korean regime, to our minds, it’s a sign that the international pressure campaign against North Korea is having the effects that we would want it to have. It is increasing their sense of diplomatic isolation, it is constraining their ability to generate cash for their programs – building missiles and nuclear devices – and I think it’s a sign of desperation on the part of Kim that he’s sending letters like that.

MEDIA: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Pia Brago with the Philippines Star. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: The Philippines and U.S. sides are working on a bilateral meeting between President Duterte and President Trump. Can you confirm if the meetings will push through and will there be a discussion on U.S. concerns over human rights and the claims of President Duterte that the CIA is behind a destabilization plot against his government? Thank you.

SPEAKER: Thank you. I missed the very last part of your question, if you could repeat that, please?

MEDIA: Will there be discussion on the U.S. concerns over human rights and the President’s claim that the CIA is backing a destabilization plot against his government?

SPEAKER: President Trump is very much looking forward to seeing President Duterte, to extend his congratulations on the Philippines hosting the Summit and also just to reaffirm the longstanding bilateral relationship and alliance between the United States and the Philippines. They have had a phone conversation before, they’ve been in touch since, and I know that President Trump is very much looking forward to seeing him. They’ll talk about a range of issues in the relationship, the U.S. is always forthright with our friends and allies about human rights issues, and the importance of rule of law, but I think the real thrust of the meeting is to expand on the very warm rapport that the two leaders have already built. As for the conspiracy theory that you laid out, it does not jive with reality, there is no such plot. Thanks.

MEDIA: Thank you, sir.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Sao Phal Niseiy with Thmey Thmey. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: Hello. Hello, can you hear me?

MODERATOR: Yes, your line is open. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: Thank you for allowing me to ask a question. Actually the first thing is the visit to the Philippines and participation in the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in the Philippines as well. My question to you, I am wondering if the President will meet with some regional leaders particularly the Cambodian leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen because diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cambodia become more deteriorated in recent months. And I have another question for you: if the President won’t participate in East Asian Summit due to the schedule problem, my question to you is how President Trump is going to use his trip to underline the administration’s commitment to the region because there are some discussion on his interests in the region because he won’t be participating in the East Asian Summit. Thank you.

SPEAKER: The President is going to be in Manila on the 12th and 13th, so he will be meeting with all of the East Asian Summit leaders. The gala dinner on the 12th and the ceremony the following morning actually launches all of those Summits, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say he is not attending the East Asia Summit. He’s going to be meeting with and speaking to that Summit. And I think the narrative that there is uncertainty about the President’s commitment to the region is kind of an odd one in light of the fact that this is, again,  the longest trip to the region by an American president in more than a quarter of a century, with stops in Da Nang for APEC, Hanoi for official meetings there, Manila to launch the EAS and attend the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and celebrate 40 years of US-ASEAN ties and 50 years of ASEAN’s existence, so I am not sure about that. On Cambodia, we have noted, certainly with some consternation, the kinds of rhetoric that has emanated from the Cambodian government about supposed interference by the United States in their affairs. It also does not comport with reality. We’ve also been disturbed by steps there to roll back the political opposition ahead of elections next year. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks.

MEDIA: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Nirmal Ghosh with Straits Times. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: Hi, good morning. Thanks for this. I think you already answered one of my questions about the attendance at the East Asia Summit. Just another quick one, is the First Lady accompanying the President throughout his trip? I’m just checking on that, please. Thank you.

SPEAKER: The First Lady is going to be accompanying the President for at least part of the trip, but her schedule has not yet been announced. So we’ll just have to wait until her schedule is announced. Thanks. And Tony, we’ve got five minutes left, so maybe one more question. Thanks.

MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question is from Reasey Poch with VOA. Please go ahead.

MEDIA: Hi, how are you. Thank you for taking my question. My question is related to, I mean, you talk a lot about the focus on trade and fair play and a level playing field, but will President Trump talk about human rights in Southeast Asia and ASEAN countries in general? For example, in Cambodia, and in Burma, the issue with Rohingya and Cambodia with the crackdown on the opposition party, the NRP?

SPEAKER: Thanks for the question. The President has been watching with real concern the humanitarian crisis that’s taking place across the border of Rakhine State and Bangladesh. I am sure that he will be talking with fellow leaders in the region about that issue and other issues directly related to human rights in the region. Thanks.

PALLADINO: Tony, we’ve got time for one more.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Allow me just a moment. We’ll take the next question from David Wroe. One moment. Your line is open, sir.

MEDIA: Yes, thanks again. Guys, look I just wondered if you could outline in a little bit more detail what sort of further contributions you’re looking for from the region on North Korea. Obviously it’s a major topic and I’m just wondering what you’re looking for and in particular with the 19th Party Congress out of the way, whether you feel that Xi Jingping has been more clear on that front and whether you could just address that, please.

SPEAKER: On North Korea, it is very much a matter between the world and North Korea. There are a number of steps that countries have taken in the wake of the UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed successively earlier this year, including the one last month. What we’re looking for is countries to fully implement those resolutions but also to look at other ways to bilaterally take unilateral steps against North Korea, to expel North Korean workers, to shut down North Korean businesses and other fronts in their countries that serve to funnel cash back to the regime, to downgrade or even end their diplomatic relations with North Korea. And so we’ve seen countries all over the world taking increased steps. The President has been very engaged diplomatically with those leaders to offer his thanks in all of those cases, but we are watching very closely and just seeking to marshal additional will on the part of the international community to keep isolating the North Koreans.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I’ll turn the call back over to our presenters for any closing comments.

PALLADINO: Thanks, Tony. That will conclude today’s call and I want to thank our officials for participating. I’d like to thank the Bureau of Public Affairs at the State Department for all their help in setting the call up with the Media Hub in Manila. If you have further questions about today’s call, please contact our Hub Director Mary Beth Polley. Thank you very much for participating.

MODERATOR: Thank you, and ladies and gentlemen this call will be available for replay after 10:30 Eastern time today running through November 1 at midnight. You may access the playback by dialing 800 475 6701 and using the access code 432570. International parties may dial 320 365 3844. Once again, the numbers are 800 475 6701 and 320 365 3844, using the access code of 432570. This does conclude our conference call. Thank you for participation and for using AT&T. You may now disconnect.


This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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