Subsequent to Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao’s meeting, Administration officials met with the press to answer questions regarding what was discussed between the two. Below is a transcript of that Q&A session. Stayed tuned to China Law & Policy as we delve deeper into some of the issues raised during the two Presidents’ meeting.
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 22, 2009
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
ON THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT HU OF CHINAPress Filing Center
New York, New York
6:00 P.M. EDT
MR. HAMMER: Good late afternoon. We’re going to do one more readout for today, and I know there’s a conference call beginning in about 15 minutes. So that’s the window that we have. We have a senior administration official who will brief on the President’s just concluded meeting with the Chinese President Hu.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. The President had an hour-and-a-half meeting with President Hu. It had been scheduled for an hour. The meeting I would describe as friendly, warm. It’s the second time the two have met. They’ve spoken often on the phone. It reflects the fact they’ve had many conversations and they’ve now become easy and comfortable with each other. It was a conversation; it was not simply a presentation of talking points on the two sides.
The emphasis was upon common interests, how far we’ve come in building the relationship, opportunities that we have to build the relationship further, discussion about how the President’s trip to China later this year could fit in with that objective, candid discussion of differences.
The principal topics that were discussed were North Korea, Iran, climate change, and global economic recovery and bilateral — the bilateral economic and trade relationship. I think I’ll leave it there and open it up to questions.
Q Could you elaborate on what they discussed regarding trade, and did they specifically discuss the tire decision, and were there frictions over that in their conversation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The tire issue came up. The Chinese remain concerned about it. The President emphasized the — noted that we had differences on the issue, and said that the U.S. remains firmly committed to free trade and resisting protectionism. The decision should not be read as a derogation of that position. It had to do with the facts of this particular case. And both sides emphasized the importance of close consultations in order to attempt to manage potential trade disputes in the future.
Q Did President Hu bring up their possible imposition of sanctions on U.S. agricultural or automotive parts?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me give you a two-part answer to that: Number one, I don’t want to speak for the Chinese; and two, the answer is no.
Q And can I follow up on that? Can you tell us anything about the Iran conversation and about the potential for cooperation to confront the nuclear issue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President emphasized the centrality of the Iran nuclear issue to U.S. interests and U.S. national security interests; that this was — if I can put it in the vernacular — not an ordinary issue, but a vital — a vital issue. He noted the kind of cooperation that we have had on the North Korea issue, which has been impressive. He said that we hoped to see the same kind of cooperation from China on the Iran issue. We know that the Chinese do not wish to see Iran develop nuclear weapons. And we want to work closely with them to ensure that that is not the case. It was — I would describe the President’s presentation on this as forceful.
Q And what was the response from the Chinese?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d really not — I mean, I really think it’s the Chinese responsibility to answer the questions. I just — as a matter of principle, I don’t want to answer for the Chinese.
Q Are you optimistic, though, that the Chinese do understand how the U.S. views the Iranian —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I think — as I say, the President was forceful in the presentation on Iran. I don’t believe there could be any mistake in the meeting about whether this was a run of the mill issue. So there’s no doubt in my mind that the Chinese understood how important this issue was to the United States and to the President. I have no doubt of that.
Q Could you talk a little bit about whether — the types of discussions you had about North Korea, and specifically about a Chinese role in helping set the stage for bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea, if there is such a role?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President emphasized the necessity of the continuation of the six-party talks and six-party framework; the necessity for North Korea to honor the commitments that they made in the six-party process, in particular in 2005. He noted that bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea could be useful if they contributed to restoration of that framework and a serious North Korean commitment to that — to those goals. And he stressed the importance of the U.S. and China continuing to vigorously implement the U.N. resolutions and for there to be demonstrable solidarity between the U.S. and China on this issue because, absent solidarity, that would provide openings for bad behavior on the part of the North Koreans.
Q Was non-proliferation mentioned more generally in terms of Chinese or American weapons?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, the non-proliferation theme ran through the discussions of both North Korea and Iran, and there were discussions of the importance of the non-proliferation regime and the importance of resolving these two issues to preserving that framework. But there was not a separate discussion of the non-proliferation issue separate, apart, and distinct from those two issues.
Q To go back to Iran for a second, was the President trying to gauge China’s potential support for further sanctions if the talks that begin on October 1 don’t go well? And did he get any sense of where China might be on further sanctions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don’t want to serve as a spokesman on Iran policy, which is a little beyond my area of responsibility. I think that the President conveyed a sense of hope that these talks might produce results, but a sense of realism about them, and said that we are going to need to coordinate very closely with the Chinese no matter what track we’re on, if we’re on a hopeful track or a less hopeful track. That would be the best I could do in putting it as a non-Iran expert.
Q Was there any discussion of the Chinese portfolio of U.S. government securities, either purchasing more or selling more?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there was not. There was a discussion of the importance of — as global economic recovery proceeds, that it be on a more balanced basis than it has been in the past; that the United States is moving away from an extreme consumption-led economy towards greater savings and towards management of our fiscal issues; and that the Chinese need to move towards an economy based on greater consumption at their end. That was the closest there was to the question you raised, but that specific issue was not raised.
Q Any mention of the dollar as an alternative currency?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, that issue was not raised.
Q Climate change?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Climate change was raised.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And the President emphasized that as the two leading emitters of greenhouse gases, the U.S. and China both have responsibilities in this area; that we needed to cooperate on clean energy, energy efficiency; and that for the Copenhagen conference to achieve its goals, the U.S. and China were an important part of the equation; and that — and there were — well, I’ll leave it at that.
MR. HAMMER: One last question, we’re running out of time.
Q On North Korea, did you get the support from Chinese to — about the idea of having direct talks with North Koreans? Is there any agreement on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I don’t want to speak for the Chinese. I just would say that the Chinese have a longstanding position that they believe that direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea would be valuable if — would be valuable and that they must be conducted in support of the six-party framework and denuclearization. So we had — I’d say that view was on display today and we are of common mind on that.
MR. HAMMER: All right, thank you very much, everybody.
END 6:11 P.M. EDT