the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle on the President's Upcoming Trip to Asia

10:05 A.M. EDT

      MR. EARNEST:  Good morning, everybody.  It’s good to see you a little earlier than usual.  We're going to try to use your time very efficiently this morning.  We're going to be focused on obviously the President’s overseas trip.  We obviously did a briefing yesterday to focus on the India portion of the trip.  We're going to do a briefing early next week to talk about the G20 and some of the other economic issues that are at play on the trip.  There are a lot of them and I know that there’s a lot of interest among you guys in covering those aspects of the trip.  But I ask you to hold those questions until that briefing on Monday.

      Gibbs is going to be out in a couple hours to do the regular daily briefing, so if there are questions about the midterm elections that you haven't asked in the last six weeks you’ll be able to ask him about those then.

      So just to lay out the ground rules, this is an off-camera briefing but it’s on the record, not embargoed in any way.  So you guys can report on this right away.

      So we'll start with -- here today is Ben Rhodes and Jeff Bader from the NSC who will sort of walk through the schedule for the other portion of the trip that comes after India and talk about some of the issues that the President will be confronting while he’s traveling there.

      So, Ben, do you want to start?

      MR. RHODES:  Well, thanks, everybody.  I'll just pick up the schedule from yesterday.  The President will conclude his visit to India on Tuesday, November 9th, and I'll just underscore a couple things off the bat.  First of all, as I said yesterday, the countries we're going to be talking about today are Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.  And this whole trip we do want to underscore is a part of the President’s Asia strategy -- and Jeff can speak to that -- a renewed engagement of the United States in Asia that is founded upon our core alliances in the region, and of course, South Korea and Japan are at the top of that list.

      Similarly it’s on deepening partnerships with emerging powers, and Indonesia is certainly on that list.  And it also includes increased engagement in America with the Asian architecture -- so that's Asian regional institutions such as ASEAN, which the President has met with a couple of times, and APEC, which he'll be going to on this trip.

      So we see this very much in the context of the focus we put on Asia as a region of the world with the most dynamic and growing markets that are going to be fundamental to our export initiative of doubling exports in the world, but also fundamental to a number of political and security concerns that will a subject of the President’s travel.

      The other thing I'd just underscore about all four of these countries, as I did yesterday, is that these are, all four, democracies, and again, we believe that each of these countries sends a strong signal of the ability of democracy to thrive within Asia and the ability of robust economic development to take place within emerging democracies as well as established ones.

      On the 9th, the President will travel to Indonesia.  As many of you know, we wanted to get to Indonesia for some time this year.  Unfortunately, circumstances intervened a couple of times, so the President was very happy to have this chance to go to Indonesia.  It’s obviously a country that he lived in when he was growing up and his sister, of course, Maya, has deep roots in Indonesia as well.  And so the President is very much looking forward to this opportunity to fulfill his commitment to go to Indonesia this year.

      Indonesia is an emerging economy, a member of the G20, and the President will be attending the G20 meetings on this trip.  We have a growing economic relationship with Indonesia.  They’re also an emerging democracy, quite an inspiring story of the emergence of democracy in Indonesia in the last decade.  They are the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.  So we see in Indonesia the intersection of a lot of key American interests and we see this as a partnership that is very important to the future of American interests in Asia and the world.

      The President will begin on the 9th with a bilateral meeting with President Yudhoyono in Jakarta.  He, after that meeting, will have a press conference with the two Presidents.  And then later that night, the Indonesians have graciously agreed to host an official dinner for the President in Jakarta.  So that will be the official portion of the program on the 9th.

      Then the morning of the 10th -- the 10th is Heroes Day in Indonesia, a major national holiday, so the President will begin the day by laying a wreath at the Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta.  From there he will go on and pay a visit to the Istiqlal Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Indonesia -- again, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

      Then from there the President will deliver a speech -- not from the mosque, but then he’ll go to another site, which we will -- we’re in the process of finalizing.  But he’ll deliver a speech to the Indonesian people, and in that speech he’ll have a chance talk about the partnership that we’re building with Indonesia, but also to talk about some of the themes of democracy and development and our outreach to Muslim communities around the world, while also speaking of Indonesia’s pluralism and tolerance as well.

      It’s -- while Muslim-majority, it’s host to a broad religious diversity.  So this speech will give the President an opportunity to discuss some of the themes that many of you have heard him talk about and to, again, in a country where he can speak to the importance of Indonesia to him, personally, having lived there for several years in Jakarta as a boy.

      After that, we’ll leave Jakarta and proceed on to Seoul, and spend the night in Seoul on the 10th.

      On the 11th, Veterans Day, the President will begin his day by commemorating Veterans Day by speaking to U.S. troops at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.  I’d just add a couple points on this. First of all, it is not only Veterans Day but it’s also the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War this year.  So I think he’ll have the opportunity to pay tribute to all of the U.S. servicemen and women who have served in the Korean War and then also on the Korean Peninsula in the decades that have followed.

      Secondly, in doing so, he’ll also have the opportunity to pay tribute to the extraordinary progress that the Republic of Korea has made in the 60 years since the beginning of the Korean War.  It’s one of the quite astonishing stories of the second half of the 20th century, the economic development of Korea and the development of its democracy, which of course is tied very closely to the strength of our alliance with them.

      From there, the President will go into a bilateral meeting with President Lee at the Blue House.  Jeff can speak a bit to the topics of that bilat.  Then President Lee will host a working lunch with President Obama at the Blue House, as he did during President Obama’s last visit to Korea last year.  Then following that bilat and lunch, we’ll have a press conference with President Lee as well.

      Then following the bilat and press conference with President Lee, the President will have a bilateral meeting with President Hu Jintao of China.  And Jeff, again, can speak to some of the subjects of that bilat.  This is again, I think, Jeff that -- I don't know that any Presidents had that many -- seventh bilat with Hu.  So this continues very robust high-level consultations that we’ve had with the Chinese.  I don't think any President in a similar period of time has had this meetings with a Chinese counterpart.

      Q    Seventh?

      MR. RHODES:  Seventh, yes.

      Then from there, the President will begin the program of the G20.  Again -- I'll just echo Josh -- we plan to have a separate briefing with the economic team to go through the themes of the G20 and to discuss issues related to the ongoing negotiations around the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement.  But I'll work through the schedule here.

      The G20 working dinner will be that night in Seoul at the National Museum.  Then the next day, Friday, November 12th, is the official program of the G20, which will include of course a morning plenary session, a family photo, a working lunch, an afternoon plenary session, similar to the previous G20s that you all have covered.

      At the close of the G20, the President will hold a press conference, as he normally does.  So I just do want to, for your own planning purposes, remind you that that's four press conferences that he’ll be holding on this trip, one with Prime Minister Singh, one with President Yudhoyono, one with President Lee, and then the concluding G20 conference.

      After that press conference, the President will leave South Korea and travel on to Yokohama, Japan, again, Korea and Japan being the foundation of our engagement in the region as our two very close allies in East Asia, and this being the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, which Jeff can speak to a little bit.  So we’re very much looking forward to the second visit the President will make to Japan, following the one he did last November.

      Saturday, November 13th, the President will begin the day by giving remarks to the CEO business summit that is attached to the APEC meetings.  And at this opportunity, he’ll be speaking about the economic advances that have been made throughout the trip -- that obviously begins with a fairly robust economic component of our India visit, as Mike Froman discussed yesterday, around our efforts to expand our exports into India and deepen our engagement with India’s economy, will proceed through the meetings and at the G20.  And so, this speech is an opportunity for the President to put in context our aggressive efforts to increase our economic engagement and our exports in Asia.

      Following that speech, he’ll have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kan of Japan.  He enjoyed meeting with Prime Minister Kan on the margins of the G20 in Toronto and waited to, before the APEC meetings, have this opportunity to meet with him in Yokohama.

      Following that, he’ll have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Gillard of Australia.  And, again, Jeff can speak to some of the subject matter of this bilat as well.  Australia is obviously one of our closest allies in the region -- and the world, as well.  This will be his first bilateral meeting with the new Prime Minister since her election.

      After these bilats, we’ll head into the APEC program, which begins with a working lunch and then a leaders retreat.  And then, that night there’s an official APEC dinner as well.

      The following day, we are planning to begin the day with a bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia.  And this, of course, is one of the President’s closest and most active relationships with any foreign leader.  And they’ll have an opportunity to discuss a number of issues, including the progress that’s been made recently in terms of U.S. support for Russia’s entry into the WTO, as well as our ongoing cooperation on issues like non-proliferation, nuclear security, and other security issues.

      After that, the APEC program will conclude with a leaders retreat and working lunch.  And then, following that working lunch, the President will pay a visit to the great Buddha statue that is nearby in Yokohama.  This is one of the marvels of Japanese culture, and the President had visited this particular Buddha statue as a child actually when he visited Japan, so he is very much looking forward to this opportunity to pay a return visit.

      And then after that, we will head home to the United States, arriving on the afternoon of the 14th.

      With that, Jeff, you want to --

      MR. BADER:  Thanks, Ben.  Just two overall comments on the themes of the Asia trip, just to supplement what Ben said.  Ben mentioned the President’s interest and stress on multilateral institutions in the region.  I’d just note that the President has decided that we’re joining the East Asia Summit, which is a grouping of 16 key countries in Asia that has annual meetings.  Secretary Clinton will be attending the meeting two days from now in Hanoi on October 30th as a guest of the chair.  But in the future, this will be on the President’s -- the President will participate.  That’s an important step that Asian countries welcome as a sign of our continuing involvement in Asia and evolving institutions.

      And the second thing I’d mention about the degree of attention that Asia has got in this administration regularly at multilateral meetings; meetings with Asians, I think it’s fair to say, have been prominent, if not dominant, in terms of the number of meetings -- recalling Toronto, something like six out of the seven bilaterals that the President had were with Asian countries.  So this is continuation of a long-term interest that the President has established.

      In terms of the individual countries, as Ben mentioned, the first off is Indonesia.  Indonesia -- we have tried to highlight Indonesia’s growing importance in this administration.  It’s not just the President’s biography, which of course makes him an enormously popular figure in Indonesia, but also the importance of the country, which is now a member of the G20.  It’s the largest Muslim-majority country in the world; it’s the largest, in terms of population, democracy in the world; and it’s the most important country in ASEAN, which is a grouping of over half a billion people.

      During the trip the President will launch at the presidential level what we’re calling the comprehensive partnership between the U.S. and Indonesia, which is a way to try to deepen and broaden the relationship on political security issues, economic issues, and people-to-people issues.  We’ll be announcing plans for increased assistance to education in Indonesia.

      We’re looking at a five-year program, a substantial five-year program, cooperation with the Indonesians on climate change, where Indonesia has been a leader in the developing world, taking -- President Yudhoyono taking a very aggressive position on curtailment of emissions.  And I’m sure we’ll also consult closely with the Indonesians on issues such as Iran, where they have influence; on South China Sea; counterterrorism; and Burma. The elections will have just occurred in Burma a few days earlier -- elections which we -- will not be free and fair, in our view, but we will certainly want to talk to President Yudhoyono about next steps.

      Korea, the next stop -- the purpose of the visit, of course, is to attend the G20.  The G20, it’s a noteworthy development in terms of Korean history.  This is kind of a coming out for South Korea on the global stage.  President Lee has spoken about a global Korea -- that was his phrase -- and the G20, I think, is an important watershed in the developments of this global Korea. And in 2012, we’re looking at the Nuclear Security Summit -- that would be another step in this process, which we have encouraged.

      We’ve dramatically altered our relationship for the better with South Korea since January 2009.  We have a very close alignment with South Korea on all issues.  I will highlight particularly on issues relating to North Korea and the six-party talks.  We have consulted with them intensively since day one, and there's no daylight between us.  The President has discussed this in detail with President Lee every time they’ve met and in  their phone conversations; I'm sure that will be a significant topic in their meetings.

      The steps we’ve taken -- we took steps to demonstrate our solidarity with the South Koreans in the wake of the sinking of the Cheonan.  There have been joint exercises on both sides of the Korean Peninsula.  And there's a close bond between the two Presidents.  I think the two Presidents clearly respect and like each other.  The South Koreans, under President Obama and President Lee, sent a PRT to Afghanistan, which we’ve welcomed, which is operating well there.  And of course I’m sure obviously the subject of the Korea-U.S. FTA will be a major subject on the trip, but that's, I guess, the subject of the briefing in a day or two when we do the econ issues.

      Japan -- the purpose of that stop is the APEC meeting, which Japan is hosting and we will be hosting next year.  We’ll have a broad agenda of political security and economic issues.  As Ben mentioned, this is the 50th anniversary of the alliance and we’ll be highlighting that.

      I'd say we’re more closely aligned with Japan on strategic issues than we have been at any time since the President came into office.  Japan, obviously, has gone through a period of historic change with the election last year, the election of a DPJ -- Democratic Party of Japan -- led government for the first time in modern Japan, except for a brief period in 1994, when any party besides the Liberal Democratic Party has run Japan.  So it’s been a time of transition and a time of some difficulties in Japan.  There have been a few prime ministers in our year and a half.

      But now we are, as I say, more closely aligned than we’ve been at any time -- I would say specifically on the issues of Okinawa, where we’ve made considerable progress towards a final base agreement on the relocation of the Marine Air Terminal at the Marine Air Base at Futenma; and also on the issue of the East Asia architecture, where you recall a year and a half ago the Japanese were talking about their own ideas for an East Asia community that did not necessarily include the United States.  But now, Japan strongly supports the East Asia Summit and the U.S. decision to participate.

      Our policy has been one of patience and working out whatever differences arise within the context of the alliance.  And with Prime Minister Kan, we’ve been successful in doing so.

      The issues that I expect to be on the agenda when the President and the Prime Minister meet would be Korea, where we’re closely aligned; Iran, where Japan was really exemplary and a leader in the breadth and scope of the sanctions on Iran that they put in place in the wake of the Security Council resolution; maritime issues in the region; and Afghanistan, where Japan has been the single largest funder of the Afghan police.

      Finally, just a word or two on the Asia-related bilateral meetings that we expect.  The President will meet with President Hu Jintao of China in Seoul.  That meeting will be on November 11th.  As has been said, this is the seventh time they’ve met.  We expect this meeting to build on the cooperation that we’ve established in I think 21 months since President Obama took office.

      In terms of topics, I think that most likely -- we will undoubtedly talk about economic issues, how we continue to work together to assure the global economy recovers on a balanced and sustainable basis; trade issues.  We have differences on issues such as IPR and China’s so-called indigenous innovation policy.  We’ll talk about security issues and political issues.  I can’t say for sure how many issues will be discussed during the meeting -- there are time constraints -- but issues such as Iran, such as North Korea, such as Sudan, and human rights I would expect to figure in the agenda.

      Finally, Australia.  As been noted, we’ll meet with Prime Minister Gillard for the first time in Yokohama.  The President called Prime Minister Gillard to congratulate her when she was selected after a hotly contested election in Australia.  Australia is a close ally.  I’m sure that the President and the Prime Minister will talk about alliance issues.  Australia has been very supportive of what we’re doing in Afghanistan, in fact, increased their troop presence in Afghanistan by 40 percent since President Obama came into office.  I expect we will talk about economic and trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations that have been going on, in which Australia and the U.S. are both parties, and other regional issues such as North Korea.

      MR. EARNEST:  We’ve got some time for a few questions.

      Q    Would you expect issues of rare earth to come up in the meeting with Hu?

      MR. BADER:  It could.  I can’t say if it will.  It depends on time.  As I mentioned, there are a lot of important issues.  This is an important issue.  Secretary Clinton is going to be seeing State Counselor Dai Bingguo on Hainan Island in China in a few days.  I think it’s likely that the issue will come up in either or both.  I can’t say for sure.

      I noticed a report today on a statement by the spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Technology asserting that China is not manipulating or seeking to manipulate exports of rare earth.  We’ve seen lots of reports over the last month or two indicating there have been constraints on Chinese exports.  The facts are murky.  This is a discussion that -- an issue that Secretary Clinton talked about yesterday with the Japanese Foreign Minister, will be talking about with other leaders, including China.  The goal is to ensure that the international market functions without hindrance in ways that satisfies the needs of major producers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

      Q    You mentioned on the Indonesia leg that education and climate change probably are on the agenda.  At every G20, climate change and international assistance has been part of the agenda. And I’m wondering what impact the U.S. elections and U.S. politics are going to play in the President’s ability to bring these things to the table and to make promises that he was perhaps more freely -- a little more freely made in previous G20s.

      MR. RHODES:  I’d just say a number of things.  Our commitment to combat climate change is something that we’ll obviously continue no matter what the results of the election.  I think that what we’ve tried to do in our approach to the issue on the international stage is to say that we need a new framework for reducing emissions and that that framework needs to include the United States, as we had kind of been withdrawn from it following the Kyoto process, but it also needs to include emerging economies like China and India and Indonesia.  And the Copenhagen Accord of course is the clearest manifestation of that.

      And again, there’s a range of actions that can be taken.  I think through the G20 for instance, it was -- and again, when we do the G20 briefing, Mike Froman will be best positioned to discuss this -- but the phasing out of certain kinds of fossil fuel subsidies was the topic that we’re pushing in the G20 and which we’ll continue to pursue.

      So I think there’s a range of actions we can take to strengthen our investments in clean energy at home, to reduce our dependence on oil, and to, again, also reengage on the international stage.  And what we’ve done is -- there’s also a bilateral component to this, which you’ll see on the trip.  With India and with Indonesia, for instance, we’ve developed a number of clean energy partnerships that include shared investments, centers of excellence related to clean energy and climate change. And I expect that we’ll have more on kind of a bilateral partnership between the United States and Indonesia on this.

      So obviously there’s domestic energy steps that need to be addressed and explored, and you’ve heard the President speak to that.  But we’re going to continue to engage on a bilateral basis, through the G20 and through the framework established in Copenhagen, to continue to try to forge a global accord that can reduce emissions.

      Q    I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit on the visit to the mosque in Indonesia and the President’s speech.  I was wondering if, in light of the controversy here over the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan, does the President feel that he needs to send a stronger message of outreach to the Muslim world or repair some damage that perhaps has come out of that debate?

      MR. RHODES:  I would not conflate the two.  When we planned to go to Indonesia in March, we planned to go to this same mosque.  I think that when the President visited Egypt, for instance, he traveled to a mosque -- visited a mosque.  When he went to Turkey, he visited a mosque.  So I think he’s generally  -- when he’s visited Muslim-majority countries as President, has often visited the most prominent mosques in the sites that he’s visiting.

      I think that Indonesia, as the, again, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, sets a very positive example in terms of both its close relationship with the United States, in terms of its religious diversity and in terms of its democracy, but in a Muslim-majority context.  So in many respects, Indonesia sets a very positive example to the world, not simply the Muslim world but to the world more broadly.  And so visiting this mosque and in his speech, I think he’ll have the opportunity to underscore the themes that he’s made in terms of outreach to Muslim communities around the world, but also he’ll be able to speak to Indonesia’s rise as a democracy, Indonesia’s rise as an emerging economy, and the pluralism that its story represents -- similar to India’s, in that respect.

      Q    So is the speech mostly -- are those, the two themes of the speech, mostly about his Muslim outreach and also Indonesia’s place as a tolerant democracy?

      MR. RHODES:  I'd say we’ll basically be looking at several themes to the speech.  The first, as Jeff described, is what we’re terming a comprehensive partnership, which is a deep and bilateral relationship.  We’ll talk about that with President Yudhoyono.  We'll look at some of the themes of the close ties between the U.S. and Indonesia in his speech.

      However, I think he’ll also hit on these themes.  I think we understand that there will be great interest in Indonesia but also in other Muslim-majority communities around the world in what he has to say.  So I think he will hit on some of those themes that he has before in terms of his outreach to the Muslim world in his speech.

      And similarly, though, I think we see it’s an important opportunity to hold up Indonesia’s emerging democracy.  Again, in Southeast Asia, in a part of the world in which there's a mix of democracies and states that have not yet embraced democracy, Indonesia sets a positive example and we want to highlight that.

      So I think, yes, the bilateral relationship, the outreach to the Muslim world, and also, again, highlighting Indonesia’s success as a democracy, as an emerging economy, as a pluralistic society, will be a part of his speech.

      Q    Will it be an outdoor venue where ordinary people can attend?

      MR. RHODES:  Yes, we’re looking for an outdoor venue.

      Q    So a big crowd probably for Barack Obama --

      MR. RHODES:  Possibly, yes.  We haven’t locked in the site, but we’re looking.  I think he wanted to speak to -- he’s very popular, as Jeff said, because of his biography, in some respects, and because of his policies in others.  I think that there is great anticipation of his visit in Indonesia.  And so he wanted to not just have kind of official business.  He wanted to have the opportunity to reach more Indonesian people, and that's the manner in which we’ve planned the speech.

      Q    On the Korea stop and the speech he’s going to give on Veterans Day, aside from the anniversary and the patriotic occasion, will he use that speech to send any signals to or about North Korea and the transition that's underway there and the ongoing threats there?

      MR. RHODES:  I'll say a few things and I know Jeff may want to add, but I think the signal he’ll send is the strength of the alliance.  We took some steps after the sinking of the Cheonan, for instance, to underscore this, including the delay of operational control transfer to South Korea, including some of the exercises that Jeff talked about.

      But I think there’s actually not a stronger message to North Korea and to the world than the alignment of the U.S. in South Korea in terms of our approach to the six-party talks, but also in terms of just the strength of South Korea -- its remarkable economic rise, which stands in very stark contrast to the economic despair that can be found on the northern side of the border.

      And if you reflect upon the six years that have passed where South Korea and North Korea were basically equally developed six years ago, and now you see a South Korea that is closely aligned with the United States, that has embraced democracy, that has embraced open market reforms, is one of the most dynamic growing economies and powers on the East Asia stage but also the world stage, as evidence by hosting the G20.

      So I think the message sent to Korea -- North Korea will be one of complete alignment between the U.S. and South Korea at this important juncture, South Korea being a country that’s stronger than it’s ever been, and of the United States being -- not withdrawing from the region but also increasing our engagement both in East Asia, in Korea, and in these international and regional architecture.

      MR. BADER:  Endorsing what Ben said and just two other points.  One is I think that the message that will be sent from the meeting, in addition to what Ben said, is that North Korea needs to understand that it is going to have to take steps not only to address our concerns but South Korea’s; that we stand shoulder to shoulder with South Korea; that North Korea cannot simply take steps towards the United States and think that we will react unless they’re addressing the concerns that South Korea has long had and which are even more intense in the wake of the sinking of the Cheonan.

      And the second message, if you will, to use the wording of your question, is that the U.S. would welcome a process with North Korea that leads to North Korea having normal relations with its neighbors and with the United States, and we’re prepared to pursue that.  But before that happens, North Korea needs to address with sincerity and with demonstrable behavior the denuclearization issue; that these things are not going to happen -- the benefits that they’re looking for are not going to happen until they demonstrate two things, that they are going to improve their relations with the South, and some sincerity on the denuclearization issue, not simply a return to the tactics of the past.

      Q    What’s the 2010 definition of the need for the ongoing, what is it, 30,000-plus U.S. military presence in South Korea?  What’s the -- I mean, what is this era’s definition of the need for this that’s existed for so long there?

      MR. RHODES:  Again, we think that the United States’ military presence in the region has been fundamental to its security and stability.  It’s enabled the peaceful rise of multiple powers.  It’s supported the security of our allies, Japan and Korea.  And I think the sinking of the Cheonan demonstrates again the essential need for the United States to remain engaged and sends a strong signal that we are not in any way reducing our commitment to the security of our allies or the region.  So I think that that military presence is as necessary as it’s ever been.  It’s been a cornerstone of civility and prosperity, and it will continue to be into the future.

      Q    Just one logistical question.  Is he going to the DMZ?  I don’t think he has ever been there, right?

      MR. RHODES:  I don’t think so, no.  We just don’t have -- with the G20, there’s just not time for that kind of visit.

      Q    Ben, yesterday you talked about the theory of your relationship with China, that there are some things you will agree on, there are some things you disagree on, but you don’t want to kind of have the relations dominated by disagreements.  Some of the administration’s critics are starting to argue that the areas of disagreement with China have actually deepened over the last two years.  Could you sort of respond to that?

      And, secondly, can you talk about this idea you see in the Asian press quite a lot that the real strategic goal of the U.S. in Southeast Asia particularly is to take advantage of some nervousness among ASEAN countries about China’s trajectory?

      MR. RHODES:  I’ll say a couple things about the second question and Jeff is the best positioned to answer on China.  I think on Southeast Asia, we see this as a very important region. And I think what we found when we came into office is that the United States had kind of disengaged from Southeast Asia, that you had ASEAN meetings, the preeminent regional forum, that weren’t even attended at a high level by the United States at the end of the previous administration, which sent a signal of U.S. kind of disengagement from the region; and that our reason for engaging is that we believe it’s fundamentally in our interest to be a key player in Southeast Asia.

      These are very dynamic, growing markets from Indonesia to Vietnam to Thailand, and therefore, we want to have deeper economic cooperation with them.  These are growing from just emerging economies to the kinds of economies where we’ll be able to export our goods; we’ll be able to support American jobs through our trade relationships with them.  So they’re directly relevant to the United States in that economic respect.

      On the security front, this is also a region that has a terrorism issue.  There are al Qaeda-affiliated groups in the region such as Jemaah Islamiyah, for instance, in Indonesia.  And we have very close counterterrorism cooperation with the Philippines and Indonesia and others to ensure that al Qaeda doesn’t get a foothold in this part of the world.  As we’ve seen them use -- we saw, for instance, the 9/11 plot.  You had Kuala Lumpur and other areas where the 9/11 hijackers passed through.  So our counterterrorism cooperation in Southeast Asia is directly relevant to our security back here.

      And so, we see this as an important region to our interests and to our values.  I think there’s a -- on democracy and human rights, it’s a mixed picture in the sense that you have some countries like Indonesia that are embracing democracy and expanding human rights to their citizens, and others like Burma where you’ve seen a retrenchment.

      So across these issues, we see core U.S. national interests that will be advanced by us playing a key role in helping to shape the future of the region and making clear that we’re a nation and a Pacific power.  And I think that that U.S. engagement has been welcomed by the ASEAN countries, as evidenced by the close coordination we have with them at the U.N. in New York when the President hosted the ASEAN leaders.

      So, sure, it’s part of the broader Asia context that includes our relationship with China and India.  But we also see direct engagement with the 10 ASEAN countries as serving its own -- having its own merit and not simply being in the context of our relationship with China.

      MR. BADER:  Just to add to what Ben said, I mean, this has been something we’ve been doing from the beginning.  Secretary Clinton went to Indonesia on her first trip abroad in February 2009.  She announced that we were acceding to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which the U.S. had not favored for the previous 25 years.

      And then, the President met with the ASEAN 10 leaders in Singapore last year and met with them in New York in September.  And the President has announced his intention to join the ASEAN-centered East Asia Summit.  So there’s been a whole slew of steps from day one.  This has been kind of the strategic policy of ours; it’s not been a reaction to events.

      On China, since day one we have had a clear-eyed and realistic assessment of what can be done in the China relationship.  Look, I’ve been -- if I can get personal for a moment, I have been doing China for 30 years.  And this relationship has never been an easy relationship.  It’s never been a relationship where everything is on the positive side of the ledger.  There’s always been a balance sheet of issues we were cooperating on and issues where we were not cooperating.  So the attention to some of the areas of difference and some of the areas of friction lately, I understand that, but there's nothing new about that, or that in itself is not new.

      We came in -- I would say that there are three fundamental pillars, if you will, or principles to how we’re dealing with China.  Number one, we are seeking, as Ben indicates, to broaden areas of cooperation.  We’re seeking the mantra of a positive, cooperative, constructive relationship.  We mean that.  That's why the Presidents have met seven times, and the President has met with Wen Jiabao -- Premier Wen Jiabao three times.  We’ve had -- I guarantee you that's unprecedented in modern history.

      We established the strategic and economic dialogue.  We’ve been favorable to greater Chinese participation, a greater role in the IMF and World Bank.  We’ve worked with China I think quite well on Iran, on the U.N.-Security Council resolution, which was a stronger resolution than anyone I think inside or outside the government would have anticipated when that process started.

      Other issues -- the parallel efforts we undertook in 2009 on our stimulus packages to try to restore, revive the global economy -- I think we were the two major players in restoring global growth.

      Other issues, like climate change, North Korea, they’re complicated.  There have been elements of cooperation, elements of less cooperative conduct in our relationship on those two.

      I think the second principle has been to strengthen our relationships with partners and allies throughout the region.  China is part of a broader Asia policy, and we want to shape the context in which China’s emergence is occurring.  We want to be a -- we want to assure that China’s emergence, China’s rise contributes rather than detracts from Asian stability, and that's not going to happen if we allow our other relationships in the region to fray.

      And the third thing I'd mention is our insistence and expectation that China will abide by global norms and international law in its emergence.  And I'd cite as examples of that the approach we’ve taken on the South China Sea, what Secretary Clinton said in Hanoi at the ASEAN Regional Forum, and a dialogue with them on currency issues and the IMF and the G20.

      So I guess that's a way of saying there's not a bumper sticker answer to China policy.  It’s a complicated business with things in each column.  And I think we’re on a good track.  And we’re heading towards a visit by President Hu to the United States in the first part of next year.  President Obama and President Hu, I’m sure, will be discussing that and the issues on the agenda in their meeting in Seoul.

      Q    On Indonesia, is the President -- what is the President doing to kind of recognize the time he spent there when he was young?  Is he going anywhere that he’s spent time, or whatever?  Is he going to speak to it in his --

      MR. RHODES:  I think the speech is the main opportunity for him to speak to his experiences in Indonesia, and I think that will be a key part of his speech, describing the impressions that he had as a young person in Indonesia, the impressions that he’s written about extensively, including in both of his books.

      So this trip is rather condensed because of just the nature of the schedule and the fact that he’s got to get to the G20, which -- so it doesn’t allow a longer period of time for him to potentially visit some of the sites associated with his youth.  But I think he’ll certainly speak to it in his speech and his remarks with President Yudhoyono.

      And I think frankly he’ll also, given just the nature of summit schedules -- right, Jeff -- have additional opportunities to visit Indonesia in the years to come, too.  So this won’t be the last visit.

      Q    If you could -- what are the implications or your interpretation of the apparent dynastic succession in North Korea, Kim Jong Un, in terms of some of these points of friction that you mentioned -- nuclear arms, technology shipments, things of that nature?

      MR. BADER:  Well, they are clearly in the process of a transition, somewhat early in it.  They’ve announced some changes in personnel, but I don't think that the final outlines of what it looks like are completely clear or will be clear for some time.

      Our objectives are not geared to personalities or towards particular leaders there.  We have policies that we’re looking for the North Korean regime, regardless of who’s running it, to address -- The amount of speculation, which I'd rather not do, about whether one individual or another individual would be more likely to be -- to undertake the hard steps that they’ve been -- to undertake the steps they’ve been unwilling to take in the past.

      So we’re watching the transition closely.  We talk to our regional partners about it to try to understand what’s going on, but our policy is not fundamentally geared to whether A or B emerges in charge.  It’s geared to some principles that we look for the North Korean government to adhere to, regardless.

      Q    But does the transition present an opportunity for an opening?

      MR. BADER:  As I say, this is -- it would be entirely speculative.  I mean, one can argue that before there's a transition, there are opportunities; argue that there would be better opportunities after a transition.  I, frankly, don't take -- I don't have a view on that.  And I don't think we take a position on that.  We are making proposals; we’re looking for them to do things.  and if they do them before the transition occurs because the current leader is looking for a legacy, that would be great.  But I don't think we can pin a policy on an assumption that that would be the case.

      MR. EARNEST:  Michelle.

      Q    Two questions on the Japan leg.  One, do you expect any sort of U.S.-Japan joint declaration, joint statement on the alliance?  And secondly, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a lot of anticipation on the Japanese side, and was it ever under serious consideration and why did it not make it into the final itinerary?

      MR. RHODES:  On the second question, the President got this when he was in Japan and, again, I think his view is these are -- he understands the importance to the Japanese people.  It’s something that he’d be interested in doing at some point in the future.  This particular trip, of course, is focused heavily on the APEC meetings, so there’s really just not a lot of time that he has to consider any additional visits beyond kind of the official business that he’s doing.

      So we didn’t even really have the chance to consider a broader program in Japan.  The only visit he’s doing outside of the official program is at the very end, paying a visit to the Buddhist statue that is in the neighborhood of Yokohama that he visited as a child.  So in this particular instance, it was just not something that we considered.

      MR. BADER:  Joint declaration -- I, frankly, do not expect a joint declaration.  As Ben indicated, this is primarily a multilateral visit.  I don’t think -- it’s not the occasion for a joint declaration.

      The only thing I’d add to what Ben said on Hiroshima is that the administration did authorize our ambassador to Japan, John Roos, to attend the anniversary of the bombing last August, and that was the first time an American ambassador had been to an anniversary event.

      MR. EARNEST:  Christi.

      Q    Ben, I’m thinking about the speech the President is going to give in Jakarta and it makes me wonder how you assess the state of the President’s outreach to the Muslim world.  It’s been a year and a half maybe since the Cairo speech.  Are things better?  Are things progressing along the way you had hoped they would by this point?  And how do you assess it?

      MR. RHODES:  I think -- I’d say a couple things on that.  First, obviously the amount of tension, the amount of suspicion that provided the context for the President coming to office between the United States and the Muslim world was very deep and, as he said at the top of the Cairo speech, not the kind of thing that was going to go away with one speech.

      What that speech was trying to do and did is lay out a framework for how the United States and Muslims around the world can move beyond their differences.  And I think, frankly, what’s useful in the speech -- to your question -- is the speech essentially has a checklist.  He works through an enumerated list of issues and I think on those issues, you can see there’s progress on some and less progress on others.

      On the first instance he discusses the need to combat terrorism and extremism.  We’ve had some success in terms of degrading al Qaeda and targeting its leadership.  We obviously have more to do, particularly as it relates to drawing up the recruitment and the metastasizing of al Qaeda in different place -- even as we continue to target and degrade its leadership.

      He talked about Iraq.  And there I think we’ve delivered on precisely what he promised in Cairo, which is we’ve removed 100,000 troops; we’ve shifted over to Iraqi control and we’ve ended our combat mission and continue to move towards the goal and the agreement that we have with the Iraqis, removing all our troops.  So there I think we have seen some good progress.

      He talks in the speech about the Middle East, of course, and the peace process.  And that, of course, is -- particularly in the Arab world, but in the broader Muslim world, as well, an issue of huge interest and concern.  And there we’ve seen mixed progress.  We’ve seen, again, some false starts in our efforts from June 4th, which is the date of the Cairo speech in 2009.  But, however, we’ve seen the promise of the meetings here in Washington and Egypt, in Sharm el Sheikh, between the Israelis and the Palestinians, moving into their first direct talks in some time -- although right now we’re trying to work with the parties to make sure that those talks continue.  We’ve seen some loosening of the flow of goods into Gaza, which is of great concern to Arabs and Muslims around the world.

      But on the other hand, the core issues are not resolved.  And so that breeds frustration, as well.  So I think on Middle East peace, it’s very much a mixed bag.

      On nonproliferation, he spoke about Iran.  And there we’ve seen, again, Iran has failed to live up to its obligations.  But we’ve also seen countries, including countries that haven’t traditionally -- have been reluctant to speak out on these types of issues join the international effort, some with sanctions and some just simply with their diplomatic activity, to call upon Iran to meet its obligations.  So there’s been a broader international coalition.

      And I think the President has made clear -- and this is important to, I think, Muslims around the world -- that we’re not singling out Iran here.  It’s about Iran’s obligations as a member of the NPT.  And Iran is not being denied anything that any other country would be able to have in terms of peaceful nuclear energy.  So I think he’s changed the context a little bit as to how that issue is approached.

      And then at the backend of the speech, we laid out a number of engagement programs.  And some of those are going quite well. We had a very successful entrepreneurship summit here that the President hosted earlier this year.  And in fact, actually, that's an interesting story because we brought together entrepreneurs from over 40 Muslim-majority countries to meet with the President, to meet with one another, to meet with U.S. business leaders, to get connected to foundations and the like.
      And what it’s done is it spawned a global process.  And there are follow-on summits.  In fact, Indonesia is hosting one during the President’s trip, because President Yudhoyono has personally gotten interested in the issue of entrepreneurship and partnering with the United States on that.

      Prime Minister Erdogan, despite some of the friction in the U.S.-Turkey relationship, has agreed to host the follow-on global summit on entrepreneurship.  So it’s laid the groundwork for a longer-term process.

      And on a host of issues related to educational exchanges and science and technological envoys that are discussed at the end of the speech, we feel like we have made progress in laying the groundwork for success.

      So I think again, it’s a mixed bag.  We have a lot further to go.  And I think the speech is a chance to kind of pick up the thread from the Cairo speech and to discuss where we’re headed -- again, keeping in mind also that our relationship with Indonesia is broader than simply the fact that it’s a Muslim-majority country.  It’s also a key economic and security partner for the United States.  So it is a bit of a check-in and the speech provides the checklist to hold us accountable.

      MR. EARNEST:  Tricia -- last question.

      Q    Briefly on Russia?  One on Russia, briefly?

      MR. EARNEST:  Tricia?

      Q    I wanted to ask about Iran.  You mentioned that Iran would come up in Indonesia.  Can you talk about -- more about in what context?  And also in a larger sense for the trip, what are you hoping for or looking for on the Iran issue?

      MR. BADER:  I expect Iran will come up in most of the bilateral meetings.  Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, a country that has relations with Iran, a country that's an influential actor in the OIC -- the Organization of Islamic Countries -- and whose adherence to sanctions is an important part of the sanctions regime.  So I think that would be context in Indonesia.

      In China, as I say, we’re looking for Chinese enforcement of sanctions, which they were helpful in passing the resolution.  And since the resolution has passed, there have been concerns about whether or not, as other countries withdrew their energy investments from Iran, whether China would backfill.  And they have not.  In the months, since the resolution, we have not seen new announcements or expansion of Chinese energy investments in Iran.

      And similarly, Korea and Japan -- I mentioned Japan before, but Korea and Japan took exemplary actions, along with Australia, in terms of the scope of the sanctions that they put in place, the number of entities they covered, banks that were forbidden to do business.  So I’m sure that the discussion in those countries will be about sanctions enforcement and how we try to get Iran to change course.

      MR. EARNEST:  Ben, you have some final thoughts?

      MR. RHODES:  Yes, I just want to -- as we pivot -- we’ll have one more briefing on the economy, the G20.  I think I just want to -- just to put in context what we’ve been talking about today.  On this Asia trip, generally speaking, the focus on foreign policy and national security is so often on, understandably, the Middle East and our efforts against terrorism.  But I think one of the points we’re trying to underscore is that if you look at the trend lines in the 21st century, the rise of Asia -- the rise of individual countries within Asia is one of the defining stories of our time; that this is -- I mean, if you look at where the economic growth is taking place, it is hugely oriented towards Asia.  When you look at where -- so if you look at the United States economy and where we’re going to have to export our goods and create jobs and deepen our partnerships, it’s very much in Asia.

      Similarly, on the political and security side, when you look at the rise of India and China as global powers and you also look at the emergence of regional powers like Indonesia that are in the G20, these countries are going to play a fundamental role in all these priorities we discussed today, whether it’s Iran, non-proliferation, terrorism, nuclear security.

      So I guess the point that we want to just make sure we run the thread through these three briefings is why Asia is so much at the center of our foreign policy, because, again, it’s fundamental to the economic prosperity of individual Americans, because of the need to balance global growth through our exports there and it’s fundamental to our security in terms of being the basis of our non-proliferation regime and our efforts against terrorism.

      So that’s -- I’ll just close on that.  And we’ll pick up the thread with the G20 briefing, which can focus on the balanced global growth agenda, issues related to currency, issues related to the Korea free trade agreement that I know are of great interest to people.  And we look forward to seeing you on the trip.

      MR. EARNEST:  Gibbs will be down in about an hour, guys.

                                        END                             11:03 A.M. EDT