Background Press Call Previewing the Vice President’s Upcoming Travel to Japan and the Republic of Korea
12:36 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Hey, thanks so much, Brad. And hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
Today we’re going to be previewing the Vice President’s travel to Japan and the Republic of Korea. This call will be on background, attributed to a senior administration official. And there is no embargo on the contents of this call, so it will be immediately reportable after the call concludes.
And again, by joining the call, you’re agreeing to those ground rules.
So, for your information only, our speaker today is [senior administration official], who hereinafter will be referred to as a “senior administration official.” And he’ll kick us off with some opening remarks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining.
The Vice President is traveling to Japan, obviously, on a solemn occasion — Prime Minister Abe’s funeral — but I want to say that we’re also looking forward to a busy and productive visit, covering a lot of issues that are critical to us and our allies and partners.
The purpose of this trip is threefold. First, obviously again, to honor the legacy of Prime Minister Abe and support the Japanese people as they mourn the tragedy of his assassination. Second, to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to our allies in an increasingly complex security environment. And third, to deepen our overall engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
As you all know, the Vice President traveled to Vietnam and Singapore last summer, and we view this trip as building on that engagement in the wider region, including with a focus on security and economic issues and also as a follow-up to President Biden’s trip this past May to Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Following her trip to the region, the Vice President has had a number of other meetings with leaders from the region, including at the recent ASEAN Summit here in Washington, and we can expect she’ll continue her focus on this broader region because she recognizes how critically important it is for the security and prosperity of the American people.
So, with that, let me just give you a sense of her schedule and what she’ll be discussing at each stop along the way.
On Monday, the Vice President will arrive in Tokyo. She will have, that evening, a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishida. In addition to expressing condolences and discussing Prime Minister Abe’s legacy, we anticipate that they will also have a discussion on issues such as the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance; our broad cooperation on many issues including space; and also, a range of regional and global issues including the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and the importance of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Following that, Prime Minister Kishida is generously hosting a dinner for the Vice President and the presidential delegation. The Vice President really appreciates this warm gesture of hospitality by the Prime Minister, which, again, we think underscores the really close relationship that the United States has with Japan.
On Tuesday, the Vice President will have two meetings with other world leaders also — who will also be present in Tokyo for the funeral. She’ll meet with Prime Minister Albanese of Australia and will discuss developments throughout the Indo-Pacific, including our work through the Quad, and our collective work to address the climate crisis, including the historic investments we are making through the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Vice President will also meet with Prime Minister Han of the Republic of Korea, who will be in Tokyo for the funeral. And that will be a real opportunity for the Vice President to discuss with him our upcoming visit to Seoul and how the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance is a linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and the Biden-Harris administration’s vision for a broader alliance that takes on global challenges beyond the Korean Peninsula.
The Vice President will then lead the presidential delegation to the state funeral for Prime Minister Abe and pay respects on behalf of President Biden and the American people. Prime Minister Kishida has put together a fine tribute to a great leader, a great friend of the United States, and we appreciate his efforts to bring together in Tokyo — to bring us together in Tokyo to recognize the accomplishments of former Prime Minister Abe and to mourn his tragic assassination.
On Wednesday, the Vice President will convene a group of Japanese business executives from companies in the semiconductor industry for a discussion on the CHIPS and Science Act that the President signed into law, and she’ll talk about the benefits it provides, not just for the United States, but for our allies and partners as well.
There will be three key topics: the investments in manufacturing in the United States; two, supply chain resilience and the importance of diversification to protect to protect from disruptions; and three, research and development and how we will take the strong history of collaboration with the Japanese and others to the next level with this new law.
When the Vice President travels abroad, I think you know she’s always advocating for American businesses and American workers, and this event and this engagement are part of those efforts. She will also highlight the strong economic relationship between our two countries, the first and third largest economies in the world, and how it directly benefits the American people.
Later on Wednesday, the Vice President will travel to Yokosuka Naval Base. She will receive a briefing and a tour of the USS Howard, a naval destroyer. She will meet with commanders and sailors of our forward-deployed naval forces, and she will then deliver remarks.
Just as the roundtable with CEOs highlights the economic benefits of our engagement in the region, this stop will highlight the security ties and the strength of our alliance and importance of our military presence.
In the remarks, you can anticipate that the Vice President will discuss our enduring interests in the region and our enduring commitments to the region; our work with our allies and partners; how our military presence is ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific; and the importance of upholding the international rules-based order, which is a theme that you have heard her speak about on numerous occasions in recent months and, essentially, since the start of the administration.
On Thursday, the Vice President will travel to Seoul, Republic of Korea, and have a bilateral meeting with President Yoon, where she will underscore the strength of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and discuss the threat posed by the DPRK, the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, our growing economic and technology partnership, and a range of regional and global issues.
After that, she will convene a roundtable discussion with a group of what we’re calling “groundbreaking Korean women.” These are prominent women from different industries who have made strides in building a more inclusive and equitable society. This meeting will demonstrate the importance the Vice President places on gender equity issues around the world.
Recognizing the barriers that many Korean women face, this is an important issue for us in the ROK and around the world, and the Vice President very much wants to lend her voice and her leadership to lift up women and expand opportunities for them.
So, you see, it’s a rich agenda. And with that, I will pause and take some questions you might have. Thanks a lot.
Q Thanks for taking questions. You mentioned that the Taiwan Strait would be a topic of conversation on Thursday with Yoon. Do you expect that to be a topic of conversation with Kishida as well? And what is planned in terms of discussions about deterring China from an attack on Taiwan? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I think you can assume that Taiwan will come up in the various bilateral meetings both in Japan and Korea. Obviously, it’s been a focus recently, where we’ve made clear our concerns about Chinese actions in and around Taiwan recently.
I think, you know, the United States has made its position clear. And one of the aspects of our approach to Taiwan is the importance of working together with partners and allies. And, obviously, Japan, the Republic of Korea, you know, has a lot at stake in Taiwan and the region.
And I think we are very much aligned with our partners. And this will be an opportunity for the Vice President to discuss, you know, the recent developments and the way forward with the leaders of both Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Q Hi there. Can you hear me?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yep, go right ahead.
Q Fantastic. What are you — thank you for having the call, as well. What are you tracking in terms of whether or not North Korea could do any sort of nuclear test, any sort of test launch during the VP’s visit?
And then also, I’m hoping just to follow up on the question around China’s aggression against Taiwan. Can you speak to how the President’s recent statements — both during his trip to Tokyo, saying that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense in very direct terms, as well as repeating that statement in an interview with “60 Minutes” — how that impacts this trip and the messaging that you’ll be delivering to allies in the region?
And is there any sort of heightened anxiety amongst allies after those statements? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I’ll take those inverse — in reverse order.
I don’t have anything to add to what the President said. He’s been asked a number of times if the United States would come to Taiwan’s assistance. And he said the other day, as he had said in Tokyo previously, “Yes.”
But he has also said, and we’ve made clear, that our policy on Taiwan hasn’t changed. We have the One China policy. We oppose unilateral changes to the status quo. And as I said a minute ago, you know, in discussing Taiwan in the context of this trip, it’s important to us to be aligned with our allies and partners on that issue, and we think — we think that we are.
On the first, I don’t have any, you know, predictions or announcements on the possibility of a North Korea nuclear test. You’ve seen, you know, public speculation about that. It is — it is possible. We’ve previously said that the DPRK is preparing to conduct a nuclear test. We’ve made clear that such a test would result in additional action by the United States to demonstrate our ironclad commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea and to our Japanese allies.
And so, I think, you know, it’s another topic, no doubt, the Vice President will discuss with her counterparts there. We are — we’ve made clear how concerned we’ve been by North Korean, you know, provocations and destabilizing behavior, and a nuclear test would certainly be in that category.
Q Hi, there. Thanks so much for doing the call. So just to follow up on some of these questions. First, I know that when President Biden was heading to Asia, there was some consideration that he would visit the DMZ. So I’m wondering: For the Vice President, since her trip mirrors his in a lot of ways, is there any consideration from your team of whether or not she would visit that area?
And then when it comes to the possibility of a North Korea — you know, following through with a nuclear test, I wonder if you can talk about, you know, how the U.S. is prepared
to protect the Vice President if that should happen were she — while she was in Asia.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Jasmine. I don’t have anything further to announce about the schedule beyond what I outlined. But what I will say about the DMZ/DPRK is, you know, part of the reason for this visit is an opportunity for the Vice President to demonstrate our solidarity with our South Korean allies on the threat posed by the North.
So, you know, quite apart from any visits or the schedule itself, as I said in response to a previous call — the destabilizing behavior of the north with ballistic missile tests and possible contingencies of a nuclear test — she wants to go there and make clear that the United States has a very strong commitment to the Republic of Korea and its security. And that’s what she’s going to be signaling, and that’s what she’s going to be conveying to the President and other interlocutors.
And, you know, beyond that, I won’t comment on security of the Vice President, other than the fact that obviously the professionals are going to do their job and make sure she’s safe whatever she does.
Q Hi, everybody. I have two questions. First, the funeral for former Prime Minister Abe is very controversial in Japan. I’m wondering how that, you think, will affect the Vice President’s visit in Japan.
And then, secondly, could this visit help further efforts to repair ties between Japan and South Korea? What work will the Vice President be doing on that, and why is that important that they see progress there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thanks for that. Look, I’m not going to comment on any internal Japanese attitudes. All I can say from our point of view is that Prime Minister Abe was a great friend of the United States. He was a great leader for Japan.
He was one of the main forces behind this vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which we share and are seeking to advance on this trip. He really made great strides towards a stronger U.S.-Japan alliance, which is an important legacy and, again, one that we’ve been building on in this administration and intend to carry forward.
So that’s, you know, from our point of view, why it’s so important for the Vice President to be leading this presidential delegation to respect and honor that important legacy.
I’m glad you mentioned Japan and South Korea relations. Obviously, we want to see the closest possible relationship between our two allies. We’re encouraged to see that leadership on both sides seems to be prioritizing that issue and meeting with each other.
You know, it’s not for us to get in the middle of such a negotiation, but it’s certainly for us to express our support for what they’re doing and anything we can do to help, but mainly just to encourage that process, because the more we can be aligned bilaterally with them and them with each other, the stronger we are in the region and throughout the world.
Q Thanks so much for having the call. Can you guys hear me?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I’m hearing you just fine. Go ahead.
Q Okay, thanks. Two questions. I know the primary purpose of the visit is Abe’s funeral, but are you guys tracking any deliverables or announcements — anything that should have our antenna up?
And the second question is about South Korea. I know much has been made about the lack of female representation in powerful positions, including in government. I know the schedule says Harris is doing, you know, a roundtable, symbolic events. Does she plan to address the issue specifically with President Yoon?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, on the first, I don’t have any deliverables to announce. What, you know, I think I signaled is that beyond the core mission of the trip to honor Prime Minister Abe’s legacy and attend the state funeral, there is opportunity to, you know, work on areas of mutual concern. And so, you know, you can call that “deliverables” if you want.
But just advancing our alliance with Japan and building on the Prime Minister’s legacy, that is delivering important results. And I mentioned, you know, we want to do that on the security side, and she’s doing the CHIPS engagement and will address other economic issues. So, in that sense, at least, I think this trip is an opportunity for to deliver for the American people and the people in the region.
As for the issue of women and gender in the ROK, yes, I mean, this event is an opportunity to address what the Vice President believes is an important issue. And I think her hearing from some of these groundbreaking female Korean leaders will be important to her and, hopefully, will highlight the issue within that country.
And, you know, without getting into details of bilateral discussions, it’s obviously an issue of importance to the Vice President, so I suspect she’ll raise it in some of her meetings as well.
Q Yes. Thank you for doing this. Can you hear me?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yep, go right ahead.
Q Yes. I have a question. One of the delegates is USTR Katherine Tai. Does she have any meetings — planned meetings with Japanese government officials?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can’t speak to the USTR schedule. I suggest you check with them on that.
The Vice President is honored to have her a part of the delegation. It’s great to have a Cabinet member and an important U.S. official. But you’ll have to check with USTR about her own schedule.
Q Hi, thanks for taking my question. I was just wondering if you could provide just a little more detail about VP’s visit to South Korea, whether she has any plans to visit USFK installations at least. If not, why not? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can say she’ll have the opportunity to engage with troops. I don’t have anything further to announce on her schedule. But, obviously, you know her appreciation for our troops serving in both countries is immense, and she definitely wants to recognize that. But I don’t have — I don’t have further announcements about the schedule itself.
MODERATOR: Okay, that’s all the time we have today. Thank you, everyone, for joining.
Again, this call is on background attributed to a “senior administration official.” And I’m sorry if we didn’t get to your questions, but please reach out to the OVP Press Office and we’ll be in touch. All right, thank you all.
END 12:57 P.M. EDT