the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Conference Call on the President's Upcoming Visit to the United Nations

PRESS BRIEFING
BY DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR
STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS BEN RHODES,
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.N. AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE,
AND
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF MULTILATERAL AFFAIRS SAMANTHA POWER
 
Via Conference Call

3:35 P.M. EDT

MR. CHANG:  Thanks, everybody, for waiting and thanks for joining our call today.  We have three senior officials joining us on the call right now:  Ambassador Susan Rice, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; and Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs.

They will be on the record, going over the President’s trip to New York to attend a variety of U.N. meetings.

With that, I'll hand it over to Ben Rhodes.

MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Ben, and thanks, everybody, for joining the call.  I'll just take this opportunity to walk you through the President’s schedule at the U.N. General Assembly this year, and I'll also just say off the bat that these are occasionally fluid in the sense that there’s a lot of business that we have to do up there, so if there are any additions or changes to the schedule between now and the end of the week we'll certainly let you know.

 

     But currently, we're planning to go up to New York on Wednesday afternoon.  The President will arrive and go directly to the United Nations building where he will deliver remarks at the Millennium Development Goals Conference that's being hosted at the United Nations this year.  His remarks will focus on what the United States is doing in pursuit of achieving the Millennium Development goals and focus on some of the key initiatives of our development policy writ large.  So that will be an important opportunity for the President to address America’s approach to development and our commitment to the Millennium Development goals.

Then he'll have a very busy day on Thursday.  It will begin with the President’s address to the U.N. General Assembly.  We'll have more details on the speech, obviously, as we get closer to Thursday.  I'll just say by way of a preview that this is an opportunity for the President to speak broadly about America’s foreign policy.  It’s an opportunity for him to really cover the waterfront of what we have done to date in the first 20 months of this administration to renew American leadership in the world, with particular focus on issues that are of great concern to the American people, such as our efforts to restart the global economy, to combat al Qaeda, to advance the cause of nonproliferation, and to pursue Middle East peace.

He'll also have the ability to look forward and to lay out in broad strokes what the United States is -- what the purpose of American leadership is in the world, as we continue to promote both peace and security and prosperity, but also democracy and human rights around the world.

Moving on from there, the President will have a bilateral meeting with Premier Wen of China.  This continues a very regular and high-level series of consultations that we have had with the Chinese, and the constructive and comprehensive relationship that we've forged with China over the first 20 months of the administration.

From there, the President will attend a luncheon hosted by the U.N. Secretary General, and will be able, on the margins of that luncheon, to also meet briefly with the President of the U.N. General Assembly and the Secretary General.

After that, in the afternoon, the President will be going to the Clinton Global Initiative, where he will be introducing the First Lady who will then be making more extended remarks to the Clinton Global Initiative.  And the President, knowing that the First Lady was going to speak there, wanted to be sure he had the opportunity to introduce her.

After he leaves CGI, the President will have a bilateral meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister.  This follows up on the good bilateral meeting that they had when they were at the G20 in Toronto.  And the President is looking forward to visiting Japan, of course, in November, and thinks that this is one of our most important alliances in the world and the nation with which we cooperate on a range of issues.  So he’s looking forward to the discussions with Prime Minister Kan.

Then that evening, the President will be hosting a reception at the Natural History Museum, the annual reception that we have for participants in the U.N. General Assembly.
 
; Friday, the President has a couple of bilats and a couple of multilateral meetings as well.  In the morning, he’ll be meeting with the President of Azerbaijan, who’s been a critical partner with the United States on a range of issues, including our efforts in Afghanistan.  
 
Then he’ll be meeting with the President of Colombia, who is obviously one of America’s most important allies and closest friends in this hemisphere.  And the President is very much looking forward to this opportunity to congratulate President Santos on his recent inauguration and discuss ways that we can strengthen our bilateral relationship going forward.
 
Then the President will be hosting a luncheon of the ASEAN leaders.  This continues the President’s commitment to deepen America’s engagement with Asia more broadly.  We believe that Asia is absolutely fundamental to a number of our key priorities, for instance, our commitment to double U.S. exports and to deepen our security partnerships in this important part of the world.  So, building on the outreach the President did last year, he wanted to host the 10 ASEAN leaders for this luncheon and to discuss ways in which we can coordinate more closely going forward.  And this focus on Asia will, of course, continue, again, in November when the President is planning to travel to Asia.
 
Then the President will move to a multilateral meeting on Sudan.  This is an important meeting that the Secretary General is convening to make sure that the international community is fully coordinated in ensuring that we can move towards a successful referendum early next year, while also continuing to do all that we can on behalf of the people of Darfur.
 
And then, finally, the President will have his final bilateral meeting, and this will be with the President of Kyrgyzstan.  And again, the United States has provided humanitarian and diplomatic support for the people of Kyrgyzstan as they have sought to work through a very difficult period of time and establish a democracy that works for the rights and opportunities of their citizens.  So the President wanted to take this opportunity at the U.N. General Assembly to speak with the President of Kyrgyzstan and underscore our ongoing commitment to the Kyrgyz people.
 
So with that, I'll hand it over to Susan Rice, our very, very, very capable ambassador to the United Nations.  And just say, by way of introduction to Susan, who can walk through kind of what the atmosphere is at the United Nations, that this administration has pursued a range of our very top priorities through the U.N., whether it’s nonproliferation, counterterrorism or other issues.  And Susan, of course, has very capably managed a very broad and accurate portfolio.  
 
So, Susan, why don't you take it away?
 
AMBASSADOR RICE:  Thanks a lot, Ben.  Good afternoon, everybody.  This year’s visit to the U.N. General Assembly comes as we have successfully and dramatically changed our course at the United Nations.  We’ve ended needless American isolation.  We've worked to repair what were some badly frayed relationships and scrapped outdated positions.  And in the process, we’ve built a strong basis for cooperation that advances our security.  
 
At the same time, we’re very much involved in the critical work of reforming and transforming the United Nations to make it more cost-effective, transparent, and responsive.  This is all part and parcel of what President Obama has frequently called a “new era of engagement.”  And what we have worked to do is make that tangible in terms of results at the U.N. that make Americans safer and help us create a more peaceful and prosperous world.
 
Ben mentioned that we have been able to utilize coalitions and partnerships at the U.N. to advance the most important aspects of our national security policy.  We’ve made real strides on nonproliferation and counterterrorism, but obviously, very importantly, on Iran and North Korea, where we’ve managed to strengthen the sanctions regimes in place and make them tougher than they’ve ever been, and to build on those regimes with separate actions, both bilaterally and among like-minded groups like the EU and Japan and South Korea, so that the pressure is mounting and our dual-track approaches have teeth and increased prospects for progress.
 
On Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.N. missions are playing critical roles in backstopping the political processes, supporting elections, dealing with humanitarian issues, development and the fate of IDPs.  We’ve been instrumental in strengthening both those missions, their leadership and their effectiveness, and they're playing very important roles in service of our shared goals.
 
We’ve also strengthened critical peacekeeping missions and supported urgent development efforts in places from Haiti to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Sudan, Liberia, Lebanon and elsewhere.
 
     Over the course of the last year, there have been some notable changes and successes.  The U.S. played a leading role in establishing a new entity called U.N. Women.  Former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, has just been named to head this entity, which will consolidate what were previously four different U.N. agencies and organizations dealing with issues related to women, elevating them, streamlining them, and saving resources.
 
     We’ve also over the course of last year had a successful NPT review conference.  In contrast to the previous conference, we were driving the General Assembly’s adoption of what is called a global field support strategy for peacekeeping, which will speed deployment of operations and allow for greater efficiencies and cost savings going forward.
 
     We’ve also had critical negotiations over the U.N. budget, holding the U.S. share constant against great pressure from partners to force the American taxpayer to pay more. We’ve resisted that.  And we have worked constructively on the Millennium Development Goals summit outcome document, which will be the centerpiece of the program adopted this week at the MDG summit.
 
     Let me just end by saying that we know very well that changing the way the U.N. operates and making it perform more effectively and efficiently is not an easy task.  It never will be and it certainly won’t happen overnight.  But we’re seeing that every day our efforts at reform are having a real impact and they’re helping to break down entrenched divides between North and South, developed and developing countries, and old blocs such that we’re able to forge coalitions time and again that serve U.S. interests in the way that I’ve just briefly summarized.
 
Thanks, Ben.
 
MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Susan.  
 
Before we take your questions, Samantha Power, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs here at the White House and a close advisor of the President, will just give a brief preview of our Sudan multilateral meet.  
 
Samantha.
 
MS. POWERS:  Great. Thanks, Ben.  On the date that the Sudan event occurs -- and this is an event hosted by the Secretary General of the U.N., attended by the Chairman of the African Union and a range of other very senior multilateral officials -- it will be September 24th, and there will be fewer than 110 days to go before the critical referenda are to take place for the people of South Sudan and the people in the Abyei region of Sudan.
 
     The President decided to participate in this event, which was actually at one point originally intended as a ministerial, because this could not be a more critical time in the life of Sudan and also in the life of international efforts to ensure that these referenda go off on time and peacefully.
 
     The President’s participation has already increased the representation from around the world.  A number of other heads of state are now attending who weren’t before.  The parties -- Vice President Taha from the government of Sudan, and the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir -- will both be in attendance.  And this event will give the President an opportunity to deliver his own personal message to the parties in a series of remarks.  And these will be quite substantial remarks on Sudan and on his vision for how to go forward there.  But moreover, it gives the opportunity for the international community to stand together again and send a very forceful message at a critical make-or-break time.
 
     It’s no secret that the parties, in any conflict, but in this one, as well, have often thought to play countries within the international community off one another, and this is an event that will show that the world is united and that the parties need to move very, very briskly and responsibly to ensure that these votes take place on time.
 
     Thanks.
 
     Q    Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today, and thank you for your service.  This question is directed at Ms. Power and Ms. Rice.  I'm wondering if you could please explain what the President’s message will be in the meeting on Sudan?  Also, do you believe that enough pressures have been brought to bear on the government in Khartoum in order to ensure that they will take the steps necessary to have a free and fair election?  And what sanctions or pressures, if any, would be brought to bear, and under what circumstances?  Thank you.
 
     MS. POWER:  I can start, maybe, and, Susan, do you want to follow up?  Just to follow on my earlier remarks, again, the number one message is with regard to the CPA and the need for rapid implementation.  The parties are behind schedule.  You’re aware of that.  Everybody is aware of that.  And as I mentioned, this event we always intended as an action-forcing event, and indeed in the last two weeks we’ve seen more progress in terms of sending voter material to the right committee and technical fixes in the inauguration of the Secretary General for the referendum commission, et cetera, than we’ve seen in several months beforehand.  We’ve also seen, with Ambassador Rice’s help, a press statement out of New York that, again, shows the unity of the international community.
 
     So the number one message is that these referenda must go off on time, that they must be peaceful, and they must reflect the will of the people of South Sudan.
 
     Additionally, of course, we’ve experienced some very -- a spike in violence in Darfur.  We continue to see unacceptable conditions for the people living in camps and the fact that they -- none of them feel safe enough to return to their homes.  So he will, of course, speak to the need for enhanced security and dignity for the people of Darfur and the need for accountability, as well.
 
     In addition, because this event is being held at the U.N., he will place an emphasis, I’m sure, on humanitarian access and the importance of peacekeepers and aid workers being allowed the mobility, the security, and the access they need to do their jobs and to improve the welfare of the people both in Darfur and in South Sudan and beyond.
 
     AMBASSADOR RICE:  And let me just add -- thanks, Sam -- I would echo everything she said, and just add that at this critical moment in the run-up to the referenda, we are reminding the parties that it is, first and foremost, their responsibility to implement the commitments they have made under the CPA and to their people.  And we are there, with others from the international community, to spur them and support them as they do.
 
We’re also trying to clarify the choices for both sides and make it clear, using all the tools at our disposal, that there are opportunities for a better future, for improvements in their relationships with the United States and the international community, if they fully and faithfully meet their obligations under the CPA and with respect to the government on Darfur.  And we want to make the upside opportunity clear and well understood.
 
At the same time, we’ve also been clear that if they fail to follow through, that there will be -- as we have always said in the context of our policy -- consequences.  Those might take the form of unilateral and/or multilateral, and we’ve got a number that are potentially at our disposal.
 
But our aim is to spur them forward in their own interest, consistent with their own commitments, and to be supportive of the parties as they do so in the critical time where the stakes are high for the people of Sudan, for the region and, indeed, for international peace and security.
 
 
Q    Hi, thank you for doing this.  I’m wondering if you could elaborate a little on the topics of discussion for the President’s bilateral with Chinese Premier Wen, and especially whether the leaders plan to discuss Iran and the effects of international sanctions.
 
MR. RHODES:  Sure, I’ll take that for starters, and I’ll just say a couple of things.  Again, first of all, the President has engaged repeatedly with his Chinese counterparts, President Hu, and in this instance, Premier Wen, on a very broad agenda. We’ve had a very clear view of the U.S.-China relationship, which is that it is one of the absolutely most important bilateral relationships in the world.  It’s essential for dealing with a range of challenges; that we can build constructive and positive cooperation on issues where we have common interests, where there are many, while also disagreeing on those issues where we differ.
 
In terms of the issues that will be addressed, I would say that this meeting will build on the bilateral meetings that the President had over many months and the consultations he and his team have had through the strengthen and economic dialogue.  That would, of course, include nonproliferation and it would include Iran.  Chinese support was very critical to the resolution that Susan helped take the lead in negotiating up in New York, which sent a very clear message to Iran that there are consequences for its actions.
 
In fact, the President, in his speech last year at the U.N., said very clearly that we were extending Iran the opportunity of a better relationship with the United States and the international community should it live up to its obligations.  The President also said last year at the U.N. that there needed to be consequences for Iran if it didn't meet those obligations, because, again, international law must mean something.  And Iran’s continued violations of the NPT and failure to live up to its nonproliferation obligations needed to lead to consequences.
 
And I think we’ve delivered on that.  The U.N. Security Council resolution with, again, uniform support from the P-5, delivered the first round of those consequences, and then you’ve seen some follow-on national actions from the United States and likeminded partners.
 
So Iran will be one topic of discussion, but it will be among many.  As is usually the case in our relationship with China, we’ll certainly address the global economy and our ongoing coordination with the Chinese and many other nations to ensure balance and sustainable growth that can create jobs and lasting economic growth in our country and around the world.  They’ll also address non-proliferation broadly, which would include not just Iran but, of course, North Korea and its need to live up to its obligations.  And they’ll have an opportunity to discuss the President’s upcoming trip where he’ll be able to engage further with China at the G20 and APEC.
 
So I expect there to be a broad agenda at his bilateral meeting and I expect it to build on the kinds of talks he’s had with the Chinese since coming into office, while also setting the table for some of the work that we’ll be doing at the G20 and APEC out in Asia in November.
 
Q    Thank you very much for doing this.  My question is to Ben.  Does the President intend to rally support, international support, for his new peace effort as part of the UNGA speech or his bilats?  And does he intend to touch base or in bilateral meetings meet with President -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu while in New York?
 
MR. RHODES:  Sure, I’d just say a couple things.  I think the short answer is, yes, the President of course believes that Middle East peace is in the interest of the United States, it’s in the interest of Israel, it’s in the interest of Palestinians, and it’s also in the interest of the world.  And I think that the message that he’ll be looking to deliver is the same one that he referenced at the launching of direct talks the beginning of September, which is that this is a moment of opportunity and it’s a moment of opportunity that needs to be seized.  
 
We all know the obstacles to peace.  We all know that there are rejectionists who will try to disrupt the process.  And we all know that there are hurdles as a part of the process, and that the parties themselves need to take difficult steps in pursuit of peace; the United States needs to do what we can to support the movement towards peace; but that the region and the international community also has a role to play here in supporting the direct talks that are taking place and the ultimate goal of two states, Israel and Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security.
 
So that will be a part of his comments before the General Assembly.  And I’m sure that given the interest in this issue around the world, it would not surprise me if it came up as part of his bilateral consultations in a number of these bilateral meetings.  It’s certainly been something that has been on the mind of a number of the leaders that the President has spoken with recently.    So I do think it will be a topic of conversation.
 
In terms of meetings, we don’t have anything currently scheduled.  Of course, the last round of direct talks just concluded in Sharm el Sheikh, with Secretary Clinton representing the United States, along with Senator Mitchell, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.
 
I would have to defer to the Israelis and the Palestinians about the schedule of their leaders.  But again, we’ll keep you abreast of any additions that are made to our schedule, but currently the President is not planning on holding specific meetings with the two leaders.
 
Next question?
 
Q    Thanks for taking the call.  This is a quick question for Ben, just to follow up on the China and Japan bilat, and it goes to issue of the economy.  Do you expect currency manipulation and currency intervention to come up in connection with his meetings with either of those leaders?
 
MR. RHODES:  I'd just say a couple of things.  First of all, I do just want to underscore, again, the importance that the President places on Asia broadly as a part of our economic agenda.  We believe very strongly that, again, initiatives such as our export initiative and our efforts to promote balanced and sustainable growth through the G20 must hinge in good part on our relations with Asia.  
 
And that accounts for the fact that there’s, again, a strong Asian representation in the bilateral meetings he’s having and in the multilateral meeting that he’s hosting with the ASEAN countries, because, again, this just is not simply a bilateral issue, in terms of economic growth and deepening our economic relations, commercial relationships in Asia.  He doesn’t just see it as a bilateral issue with China or Japan.  He sees it as a regional issue, which is why, in addition to meeting with the two largest economies in Asia, China and Japan, we’re also hosting this meeting of the ASEAN leaders.
 
With specific regard to currency, again, I think it’s a part of our ongoing discussions with the Chinese, in terms of our efforts, again, to ensure that growth is balanced and sustained. I'd refer you to the specific comments that Secretary Geithner made the other day about currency as the clearest representation of our position on these issues.  And actually I believe the President addressed it today, too, at the CNBC Town Hall.  But suffice to say in terms of our broader dialogue about, again, how to foster balanced, sustainable growth, it will be a part of the discussions.
 
Next question.
 
Q    Thanks very much for doing this.  A follow-up on the reference to Iran that I think you made, Ben, and I think the Ambassador made, as well.  As you said, last year, the President issued both an invitation for engagement and a warning about the price to be paid.  So the sanctions are in effect now.  And I’m not quite sure I understand yet what his message going forward is.  Is he going to discuss escalating costs if there are continued defiance of the U.N. resolutions, or not?  And if you could answer the same question on North Korea.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, I’d make some comments and I’d invite Susan to, as well.
 
I’d just say, first of all, it’s worth reflecting back, as you know, David, and I think reviewing the trajectory of this over the course of the last year because last year at this point in time, the United States -- it was right about the time that we were pursuing the possibility of a competence-building measure through the TRR.  Iran never fully followed through on the commitments that they had made to the P5-plus-1.  We had said that we were going to pursue sanctions and accountability measures.  There was some doubt as to whether or not, one, those measures could really get through the United Nations, and, two, whether they’d have any serious bite to them.
 
And I think what we’ve done in a very methodical way is lay out an escalating series of consequences for the Iranian government.  The foundation of that, of course, was the U.N. Security Counsel resolution that my colleague negotiated.
 
I think the follow-on measures that have been taken by the United States, by our European allies, by our Japanese, Korean, Australian allies, and a number of nations and private sector entities around the world, have created a situation where the cost that Iran is facing is even greater than it expected with regard to sanctions.  And, frankly, you’ve even seen that in some of the public comments out of Iran.  
 
And so right now, we are in a phase where the effect of these sanctions is becoming clear to the Iranian government; the cost of their continued failure to live up to their obligations is becoming clear to the Iranian government.  So I think that it’s important, again, to -- given the fact that we’ve spent the summer putting these sanctions in place -- to, again, emphasize and underscore that cost.
 
And, frankly, that cost will grow on its own as banks, as private sector entities see the cost of doing business in Iran go up.  I think you are already seeing a kind of natural escalation of how those sanctions are imposed.
 
That said, in terms of your question as to how the President intends to talk about this, I think he intends to make very clear what he has always said, which is that the door is open to the Iranian government.  The door is open to engagement.  The door is open to them having a better relationship with the United States and with the international community.  However, in order to walk through that door, Iran is going to have to demonstrate its commitment to show its peaceful intent around its nuclear program and to meet its obligations to the international community under the NPT and a range of U.N. Security Counsel resolutions. So I think the President again will want to underscore and continue to underscore that this is a dual-track approach.  Sanctions are not an end in themselves.  They're a means of holding Iran accountable.
 
And again, Iran has that opportunity to take another course. And I think the U.N. is a useful forum to underscore that point because our case has always been that this is not a bilateral irritant.  The United States is not imposing sanctions on Iran because we have a bilateral grievance with Iran.  We and the international community are enforcing sanctions because they are violating international law and international obligations, again, most clearly the NPT and U.N. Security Counsel resolutions.
 
So this is an issue between Iran and the international community, and that's kind of the core of our case. So I think we’ll be both extending that hand of engagement to the Iranians, and that opportunity of engagement to the Iranians, while also underscoring that there are growing consequences as we demonstrated should they not live up to those obligations.
 
I don't know if you have anything to add to that, having negotiated the resolution.
 
AMBASSADOR RICE:  Ben, that was very comprehensive.  The only thing I would underscore is just how serious the effect that these sanctions -- both the U.N. Security Counsel Resolution 1929, which was both broad and deep in its impact, and the subsequent measures that came from the Europeans our Asian allies and others, as well as our own actions from Congress, are actually having -- the impact we are seeing in some very concrete and meaningful ways.  
 
And as Ben said, it’s beginning to be acknowledged even in the domestic political debate inside of Iran.  And we expect that these measures will increasingly influence the course that the Iranian decision-makers pursue.
 
The other thing I wanted to add is that we’ll continue during this week at the General Assembly to coordinate very closely with our P5-plus-1 partners who are here, whom we’ll met as we traditionally do at the ministerial level.  And that will be an opportunity both to take stock of where we are on both sides of the pressure track -- the dual-track approach, the pressure side, as well as engagement and to speak in one voice and to make clear to the Iranians, as my colleague said, that they do face a choice and that they have the opportunity to improve relations with the international community, should they choose to stand up and meet their obligation.
 
MR. RHODES:  Susan, I forgot to get into North Korea, and you may want to, as well.  The only thing I'd say on North Korea is, of course, it’s similar in the sense that the same rules apply, in terms of North Korea needs to meets its obligations in terms of, again, both the international community but also the commitments its made to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
 
This will be a subject, I’m sure, again, not just in the President’s comments but in his bilateral meetings with Japan and China, who are of course members of the six parties.  
 
But, Susan, you’ve been at the middle of the North Korea situation, too, so I don't know if you have anything to add to that.
 
AMBASSADOR RICE:  No, Ben, I won’t add anything on this one.
 
     MR. RHODES:  Okay.
 
Q    So I take it there will be no bilats with any ASEAN members?  And when will the President follow up Secretary Clinton’s suggestion in Hanoi to ASEAN members with these claims to the disputed territories in the South China Sea, that they should deal collectively with China, to settle the disputes?  And how long is the U.S. ASEAN meeting scheduled for?
 
MR. RHODES:  Sure.  Let me just address a number of those.  I'll just say a couple of things.  First of all, we do not have currently scheduled any bilateral meetings on the margins of the ASEAN meeting.  Again, I think that the President wanted to take the opportunity of getting all the leaders together to have a discussion about a range of issues that are important to the United States and to the ASEAN countries.
 
The meeting is currently scheduled for two hours, so it’s a long meeting.  I think it’s the longest meeting we have scheduled probably, actually.  And again, that’s so the President could relay his views and how important he believes ASEAN is, and the relationship between the United States and ASEAN to the future of Asia and to critical priorities to the United States as the ASEAN countries.
 
I think the President will have the opportunity to, again, speak to each of the leaders in a kind of formal and informal basis over lunch as well.  He’s enjoyed the ties that he’s been able to forge with a number of the ASEAN leaders, including the leader of the Philippines, which is, of course, one of America’s very close friends and allies in that part of the world.

With regard to the South China Sea, I would expect it would be an issue that will come up.  It’s obviously an issue of interest and concern to the ASEAN countries and to the United States.  Secretary Clinton, as you said, articulated some very important views during her recent meetings with ASEAN.  And so I do believe the President will follow on those discussions.  
 
And part of the reason why we -- in Japan last year, the President said that he wanted to reengage basically an Asian architecture and the Asian economic and security architecture in organizations such as ASEAN and APEC is because the United States had been absent.  We’ve been an empty chair at the table or we have not fully engaged in these organizations for a number of years, particularly as we were focused on other priorities.
 
And again, given the centrality of Asia to America’s priorities, we believed that it was essential not just to strengthen those core alliances which are the foundation of our engagement with Asia, and not just to deepen our cooperation with countries like China, who of course are so important to the range of priorities for the world, but to engage in a very serious way with these regional organizations, because the President believes that they can play an important role in coordinating our efforts on the economic and security side.  ASEAN, of course, often focused on a range of economic issues.
 
So we’re going to continue to engage ASEAN.  We’re going to continue to engage APEC.  And we’re going to continue to be a very strong voice in the dialogue about the future of Asian architecture as it relates to both political and security and economic issues.
 
I don't know if Susan -- do you have anything to add kind of on the Asia front or by way of close?
 
AMBASSADOR RICE:  Just to underscore that as you’ve said repeatedly in this call, the relationships that we have and are continuing to build in Asia, both with ASEAN countries and the region more broadly, are crucial to our overall foreign and national security policy.  And they’re very central to the work we do at the United Nations, both on the Security Council and the General Assembly, where our partnerships and alliances serve us every day on issues of core importance to our national security, and our efforts to advance respect for democracy and human rights, and the important work of reform that we do here at the United Nations.
 
MR. RHODES:  Great. Well, thanks, everybody, for joining the call.  And like I said, what we’ll do is, again, we believe that we’ll have a very robust set of briefings up in New York.  The President, of course -- I should have added, we basically anticipate, for most of these bilateral meetings, he’ll be able to make comments at the top of the meeting.  So you’ll be hearing from the President a lot throughout the course of the week.
 
I forgot one important event, which is, in addition to the President’s schedule, I just want to underscore -- and some of you may have received some of this guidance -- the First Lady, as I mentioned, is speaking at CGI.  She’ll be joining the President at the reception at the National History Museum.  
 
And then on Friday she’ll be hosting a special event for the spouses of those chiefs of delegations and heads of government who are participating in the UNGA at the Stone Barn Center, which is a non-profit farm and education center north of New York City.
 
And this of course continues the First Lady’s focus on nutrition, sustainable food, and children’s education.  And this builds on some of the conversations she’s had with her counterparts, including at a dinner that was hosted at the Pittsburgh G20 summit at a working farm that addressed some of these similar issues.  So the First Lady will be hosting her counterparts at this event on Friday, again, around the notion of sustainable food and nutrition and children’s education.
 
And with that, we’ll stay in touch with you all throughout the course of the week.  UNGA things inevitably may change or slide a little bit, or a meeting may get added.  So if any of that happens, we’ll keep you updated.  But meanwhile, looking forward to seeing some of you in New York.
 
Thanks, everybody.

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4:14 P.M. EDT