Via Teleconference

11:36 A.M. EST

MODERATOR:  Hello, everyone.  Thank you so much for joining us.  This is a background call to read out the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan.  As a reminder, this call is on background, and it is attributable to “senior administration official.”  And the contents of the call are embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

For your awareness but not for reporting, our speaker on the call today is [senior administration official].

With that, I’ll turn it over to you for some opening remarks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much.  And thank you all for joining us today.  Again, I’m [redacted], but you’ve already heard how the meeting will be described.

So, let me just say that we just concluded, a little while ago, a 90 — yes, we just concluded a 90-minute session — a virtual session between Prime Minister Kishida and President Biden. 

This was their second meeting.  They had a session in Glasgow during COP26 and agreed they looked forward to a meeting in — early in the new year.  I think the hope was, obviously, to do this in person, but given the COVID circumstances both in the United States and Japan, agreed it was important to do this virtually.

I think I would describe — I’ll just — we’ve already put out a readout but I’ll give you a little bit of the highlights and then happy to take questions.

I think it — just at a general level, the discussion was exceptionally broad, very warm, and wide-ranging.  And I think it was clear — we had a substantial group with the President in the Situation Room, including Deputy Secretary Sherman; Secretary Raimondo; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; our outgoing ambassador to Japan who will be leaving tomorrow, Rahm Emanuel, who was celebrated and joked about during the session; and then myself and a few others — Dan Kritenbrink from the State Department and Chris Johnstone from the National Security Council.

I think what was clear is that the — sort of the solidarity and the close alignment between the United States and Japan was really on full display. 

So, very broad discussion on security, on views about the challenges in the Indo-Pacific. 

And I think they were in very close alignment on the challenges that Russia is presenting to Ukraine.  I think Japan — the Prime Minister complimented the President on his handling and made clear that Japan would be fully behind the United States in the challenging days ahead.

Very in-depth discussion on sharing perspectives on China, a desire to promote and defend a free and open Indo-Pacific, concerns about some of the steps that China had taken across the board in terms of intimidating neighbors, taking steps that were predatory, and trade — and other (inaudible) particularly concerned about the nuclear buildup in China and what that augured for regional security more generally.

Discussions about the importance of mutual commitments to support regional security and architecture. 

The Prime Minister complimented President Biden on his role in convening the Quad — two meetings of the Quad last year — and also AUKUS.  The President thanked the Prime Minister for his support and indicated much more to come.

Prime Minister Kishida invited President Biden to come for an official visit to Japan and, at the same time, his intention to host a Quad meeting in late spring.  I think President Biden graciously accepted that invitation.

The Prime Minister laid out a number of things to illuminate his goals and objectives as Prime Minister.  I think they spent quite a bit of time talking about their respective views, which were very much in alignment with respect to a desire to revitalize their societies from the working people, middle class out, underscoring the importance in investment in education.  A lot of harmony in those interactions.

Prime Minister Kishida also indicated that the security environment in Northeast Asia demanded that Japan step up, and he indicated that he had increased in the supplemental budget defense and security spending by 8 percent.  It’s unprecedented.  With respect to Japan, President Biden welcomed that and supported it more generally.

The two leaders also announced the inauguration of a new economic forum, the so-called 2+2, that will include Secretary Blinken and the Secretary of Commerce, with the express intention to focus on new areas of technology and supply chains; an agreement that a close partnership between Japan and the United States was going to be essential going forward across the board, whether it’s in semiconductors or in energy.

Lots of discussion about green innovation and the need to continue to push forward on initiatives announced at COP26 more generally.  Close coordination and cooperation on COVID more generally.

And I think, you know, the President was quite gratified that Prime Minister Kishida was so clear and firm in his resolve to support the United States as we engage in the challenges currently with respect to Russia more generally.

If I could say, guys, just, I think, the importance of the call.  Obviously, lots of focus right now both on domestic policy in the United States.  The President underscored to Prime Minister Kishida that as he was concluding this meeting, he was going to go into another meeting with senators and congressmen to talk about the importance of the CHIP Act and moving ahead on investment and technology in the United States, but also challenges in Central Europe right now. 

At the same time, the President wanted it to be known clearly that he was going to continue to step up our game in the Indo-Pacific, across the board on issues ranging from diplomacy to military security, and also to trade. 

The two leaders had a robust discussion about the importance of the United States playing an active role in the trade and commercial architecture of Asia.  And the President engaged actively on those issues.

So I think it was a very valuable meeting of the minds.  I think both leaders came away wanting more discussion.  I think the President, at the end of the session with Prime Minister Kishida, said, “This meeting has made me even more optimistic and hopeful about our relationship with Japan and what we can accomplish going forward.”

There’s much more to discuss, but I think that’s a good, sort of, down payment on the initial issues.  I’m happy to take any questions, and we’ll take it from there. 

Thank you.

Q    Hi, thank you for doing this.  Just to clarify, should we interpret that the President committed to going to Japan or just, sort of, welcomed the invitation with specifics and then an RSVP, you know, to come?

And more broadly, can you give us an update — the readout mentions discussion briefly of a commitment to resolve trade disputes.  Where are we on that, specifically the 232 tariffs?  How are negotiations going?  And when do you expect you might be at a point to discuss lifting, in whole or in part, those tariffs?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks.  I think the President indicated his intention would be to visit Japan in the late spring for an official visit and for the Quad.  We didn’t get into specific dates, obviously.  But I think he did accept the invitation, obviously, with details to be worked out.  And obviously, we have to see how COVID plays out.  But I think that’s his intention.  And he was very appreciative of the invitation.  And the invitation came to President Biden and also Dr. Biden as well.

I think, as you know, the negotiation — or negotiations on 232 are being handled by Secretary of Commerce Raimondo.  I think the President made clear that his hope would be that these negotiations would be concluded rapidly.  And I know that Secretary Raimondo is in regular contact with her Japanese interlocutor.  I think our hope and expectation would be to have these wrapped up in short order. 

And I think anything further, I’d recommend, Josh, you just go to the Commerce Department. 

But I think the intention, given Secretary Raimondo’s ambitions to talk about so many other issues, is to make sure that this issue is dealt with in a way that can be explained and understood on both sides of the Pacific.

     Q    Hi.  Thank you so much for doing this.  I know the readout was just sent out, but I’m wondering if you could give us more detail about what the two leaders discussed in regards to North Korea and how they will apply more pressure on North Korea as it continues to test and fire missiles. 

And another question on the Quad Summit.  So, building on the last Quad Summit and today’s meeting, could you give us more detail on what the two leaders hope to achieve in the next Quad Summit next spring?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  Let me take — if you don’t mind, Esther, can I take the last question, first, and then I’ll come back to the first one.

So, on the Quad Summit, I think the — look, they talked about a number of issues that we want to make sure that we are focusing on as we go forward.

One is we want to review the progress to date on our commitment to deliver a billion doses in 2022.  And I think the idea will be not only to look at the production of those vaccine doses in India, but their distribution not only in Southeast Asia but elsewhere.  And I think the leaders want to discuss that and discuss next steps.

Secondly, we’ve made quite a lot of efforts among the four countries on some infrastructure steps that we think the four countries might be able to take together.  And we look forward to announcing some of those efforts going forward.

We will be able to formally announce the establishment of the Quad — the Quad Educational Initiative that will bring students from all four countries to American universities for graduate and advanced work in STEM and other applied areas. 

I think we want to look at some initiatives that we can take, perhaps, to deal with countries that are suffering from debt traps. 

There are a number of initiatives that we’ve worked on with respect to cooperation in space, in maritime domain awareness, and fishing.

So, I think the goal will be for the four countries to both advance the work that has already begun, update it, and also launch, carefully, some new initiatives that are designed to animate cooperation among our four countries.  Much of the focus will be on ensuring close engagement of the Quad in Southeast Asia, in ASEAN, and also ensuring that we’re working to follow through on our commitments more generally.

And can you remind me, now that I finished that, the first question again?  Just prompt me just quickly, Esther, if you would.  I’m sorry.

OPERATOR:  One moment, sir.  Let me get her line back open.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Esther, I’m sorry.  Can you just prompt me on the first?  I apologize. 

Q    Sure.  Yeah. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I left my pen on the — yeah, go ahead.

Q    That’s totally okay.  I wanted to ask about North Korea —


Q    — and how they plan to apply pressure.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  So, first of all, both countries obviously strongly condemned the provocations that we’ve seen from North Korea, made clear that the two countries were prepared for diplomacy.

But under the — given what North Korea had undertaken, thought it was extremely important to have a clear statement of vigilance and purpose.

I think the President made clear that we would be working closely with South Korea and Japan on next steps to discourage possible provocations that might follow on. 

I think we’ll have more to say from other parts of our government in the next couple of days. 

It is also the case that the President strongly supported Prime Minister Kishida’s — the group of people that had been taken from Japan to North Korea — underscored the United States’ continuing efforts to support Japan in trying to determine the fate of these people — these Japanese taken from their homes — and promised that our teams would continue the closest possible coordination, both on potential arenas of diplomacy and on areas of common purpose to send a strong message of deterrence.

Q    Hi.  I have a follow-up question on North Korea.  So, North Korea make up some kind of (inaudible) that there are possibility that they’re going to resume the test of nuclear and then ICBM.  So, do you have any reaction to this possibility from North Korea?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Look, we noted that statement.  We are obviously following developments closely.  We’re concerned by those statements.  We are in close consultation with all our allies and partners and other countries in the Indo-Pacific.  And we’ve sent a very clear message to North Korea in an effort to dissuade them for further provocative steps. 

The United States and South Korea remain open to diplomacy.  But such a set of steps would be most unwelcome, particularly at this delicate time in Northeast Asia, and globally more generally.

Q    Hey, good morning.  Thank you.  Just two quick questions.  The first is: Did Prime Minister Kishida say that Japan would join the U.S. in imposing sanctions on Russia if they do invade Ukraine?

And, secondly, the Economic 2+2 that you had — that the two leaders announced, does that mean that the U.S. and Japan are going to do more to harmonize or coordinate on export controls?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so, on the second question, I think there is an agreement that there — that the 2+2 agenda has not been fully worked out.  But the expectation is that they will work in a number of areas including export controls, but most directly in the current environment — supply chains, technology investments, and standard setting.  We think those are areas that the United States and Japan can step up their game and take a much more active role in such a critical period. 

I think Japan indicated that it — that the United States and Japan are closely aligned on concerns about Russian threats.  I think Japan indicated that they had worked and will continue to work with the G7.  Prime Minister Kishida welcomed and thanked President Biden’s leadership in sending such a clear message — deterrent message — with respect to Russia potential actions in Ukraine; indicated that Japan would be with the United States going forward. 

We did not get into the specifics about possible, you know, steps that would be taken in the event that we see these actions transpire. 

And I think both leaders promised that each side would be in close consultations.  We are briefing Japan regularly on developments and concerns in Ukraine.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you, everyone.  Thanks again for joining.  As a reminder, this call was on background, attributable to “senior administration official.”  And the embargo on the contents of the call will lift at the conclusion of this call. 

Thanks again for your time and have a great day. 


11:56 A.M. EST

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