Tagged: GenderEquality

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA,

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERET…

13/11/14

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you. 2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future. 3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly. Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA, TO THE FIRST SESSION OF THE ELEVENTH PARLIAMENT – “MOVING BOTSWANA FORWARD”

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you.

 

2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future.

 

3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly.  Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

 

4. Today’s gathering is an outcome of our 11th consecutive general election. As is our tradition, the ballot was conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. For this we can once more thank Batswana in general, as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other individuals and organisations that helped to ensure the poll’s success.

 

5. In any democracy elections are the means to the greater end of forming a Government capable of translating the popular will into public service delivery. We who have the honour of sitting in this House are accountable to the hundreds of thousands who entrusted us with their votes. Although divided in their choices, the voters were united by a shared desire for a better future. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that together we deliver that future by at all times putting the national interest before our own.

 

6. Last month my party, the Botswana Democratic Party, was re‐elected on the basis of a detailed manifesto that promised to secure our common future by building on our past achievements. Today, before this House I reaffirm our commitment to honour that pledge.

 

7. In as much as we recognise that a government of and by the people is not an event but a process; this administration shall continue to engage Batswana across the country about their concerns through various fora and media, from the venerable realm of dikgotla to the digital world of interactive online communication. It was as a result of wide-ranging consultation that our manifesto was predicated on what we understood to be our citizens’ core aspirations. These include achieving:

 

• Job creation for sustainable livelihoods and income generation;

• Food security through continued agricultural renewal;

• Expanded access to land and housing ownership;

• Access to world-class quality education that caters to current and future needs;

• Citizen, including youth, economic empowerment;

• Dignity for all through the eradication of poverty;

• Zero tolerance for corruption in all of its manifestations;

• Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and

• Government reform that leverages on the application of new technologies. 

 

8. Each of these commitments is based on realistic analysis of where our country is and needs to go in order to meet the reasonable expectations of its people, while improving our global standing in an ever more competitive world. Taken together they are consistent with our broader vision of achieving inclusive sustainable development that upholds the dignity of all.

 

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

 

9. Madam Speaker, owing to the prudent economic and financial management by my Government, the country was able to survive the 2008/09 global financial crisis and economic recession with minimum impact on the domestic economy. We were able to save jobs in both the public service and private sector, as well as continued to provide essential public services to our people.

 

10. Having successfully weathered the storm of the economic downturn, we can look forward to better days ahead, with economic growth buttressed by reduced inflation. These positive trends should allow us to revive some of our postponed projects, along with outstanding issues affecting the conditions of service among public employees. Our optimism is in part based on forecasts of continued, albeit still fragile, global economic recovery, with worldwide output projected to grow by 3.3% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015.

 

11. Turning to the domestic economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) at current prices stood at P124 billion in 2013 and it is projected to expand to P136.5 billion in 2014. In real terms, the GDP grew by 5.8% in 2013, and is projected to grow by 5.2% in the current year, driven by both the mining and non-mining sectors.   Within the non-mining sector, retail and hospitality industries, as well as agriculture are experiencing growth.

 

12. Average national inflation continued to decline from 8.5% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2012 to 5.9% in 2013 and further to 4.5% in September 2014, which is well within the Bank of Botswana objective range of 3 to 6%. This positive trend gives us confidence in our ability to maintain a low inflation environment, which is necessary for domestic enterprises to compete in the global market.

 

13. In terms of our fiscal management, Government succeeded in restoring a balanced budget during 2012/13 financial year, after four years of budget deficits. For the 2013/14 financial year we were able to collect P 48.9 billion, up from the P 41.7 billion received in 2012/13, while total expenditures and net lending for 2013/14 amounted to P 41.73 billion. This resulted in a budget surplus of P7.2 billion, largely due to the good performance of the mineral sector. For 2014/15 a budget surplus of P1.3 billion is currently projected. These savings will allow us to reduce our debt burden and rebuild our financial reserves.

 

14. To sustain a positive balance sheet will, however, require expanded revenues. Here I can report that we were able to collect P48.9 billion in the 2013-14 financial year, up from the P41.7 billion received in 2012-13. The 2013/14 outturn for expenditure and net lending was P41.7 billion.

 

EMPLOYMENT

 

15.  Madam Speaker, to be meaningful to Batswana, economic growth has to be accompanied by expanded employment, which is why our manifesto listed job creation at the top of our aspirations. To reiterate what I said in my own message to the voters, of all our campaign promises tackling unemployment is the most important one. While there has been some progress in recent years, current estimates put unemployment among those 18 and above at just over 17%. Although this reflects a modest reduction since 2007, it has been insufficient to absorb all those seeking employment, especially among our talented youth. We can and shall do more.

 

16. Our Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) is a key instrument for job creation. Since its 2010 inception, EDD has been facilitating employment generating business opportunities by promoting the consumption of local products. While our immediate focus has been leveraging public procurement in support of domestic industries, as we move forward our emphasis will shift to developing greater internal capacity for export-led growth, while continuing to value local goods and services.

 

17.  So far a total of P13.3 billion worth of goods and services were recorded since the inception of the initiative. Out of this figure, the value of local manufacturers and service providers (EDD purchases) amounted to P590.5 million for 2010/2011, P1.8 billion for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and P2.3 billion for 2013/2014. Over one thousand enterprises have so far been registered under the EDD Programme, which has contributed to the employment of 28,000 Batswana.

 

18. We have already begun implementing our EDD Medium to Long Term Strategy, to develop sustainable sectors for economic growth and diversification. A leading example is the Leather Sub-sector Strategy, which is focused on the establishment of a Leather Park in Lobatse at a total cost of about P225 million. Government has agreed to finance the park’s primary infrastructure, a Common Effluent Treatment Plant, estimated to cost P102 million, while other components of the project will be financed through private sector investment.

 

19. Government had also budgeted over P20 million to provide temporary assistance for over 12 months to support 34 textile companies, employing 2,912 workers.

 

20. While the nurturing of SMMEs, support for existing industries and value addition remain critical in our achievement of job creation, we further anticipate that over the next few years local formal sector employment will be generated with the emergence of new economic opportunities through the synergies generated by the development growth nodes or clusters across the country.

 

21. In the Chobe region, for example, we anticipate an expansion of opportunities in tourism, construction, transport services and agriculture resulting from the construction of the road and rail bridge at Kazangula and phase one of the water pipeline to Pandamatenga, along with associated infrastructure. It is estimated that when completed these two mega-projects will create over 9000 permanent jobs.

 

22. Additional emerging labour intensive opportunities are already being generated in our urban areas, as reflected in Selebi-Phikwe’s development as a metallurgical hub, the continued growth of Gaborone as a global diamond as well as regional technical services centre, and Francistown’s growth as a nexus for trade and transport. We further anticipate additional jobs through synergies generated by new mining activities, the continued expansion of commercial agriculture and the development of Trans-Kgalagadi road and potential rail corridor.

 

COMPETITIVENESS    

 

23. A key to unlocking these job creation opportunities will be increasing our global competitiveness. To improve our competitiveness ranking in the area of goods market efficiency we have tightened our market monitoring for greater efficiency in the provision of goods and services, while the Competition Authority is reviewing mergers and potential cartel activity involving both local and foreign companies.

 

24. Madam Speaker, job creation is inevitably linked to investment. In this respect the latest FDI Intelligence report indicates that Global Greenfield FDI showed signs of recovery, increasing by an estimated 11% from 2012 to 2013. The increase in local investment has been even greater, with UNCTAD’s 2014 World Investment report showing Botswana having grown by 27% in 2013.

 

25.  The Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC) continues to promote our country as a competitive location for investment, making business contacts and generating leads. During the 2013-2014 financial year, BITC helped realise a total combined investment capital of just over 1 billion pula, of which P 642 million was from foreign direct investment (FDI) and P449 million came from new domestic investments. In 2012/13, BITC further recorded P1.9 billion worth of goods and services exported into the region and beyond, of which P738 million was attributable to financial and international business services by the financial services cluster.

 

26. Botswana was ranked number one in the 2014 Baseline Profitability Index, surpassing Hong Kong as a location for medium to long term returns on investment. In essence the Index suggests that investors can expect to do well here once they have established themselves in our market.

 

27. Government is, furthermore, working to limit the number of licenses and permits, while allowing mixed land use zoning, adopting risk based approach for Environmental Impact Assessments and Management Plans, and decentralising the management of electricity connections.

 

28.  Government has also embarked on a National Work Ethic programme to promote productivity. So far, 254 facilitators have been assessed to implement the programme, which commenced in May 2014.

 

29. The drafting of a Bill which will provide the legal framework for the establishment of Special Economic Zones and the Special Economic Zone Authority is being finalized.

 

30. The Rural Development Council (RDC) has been upgraded as the national consultative body to promote and coordinate the implementation of rural development policies and programmes. As a result community based projects such as the Zutshwa Salt Project and the Mogobane Irrigation Scheme, to mention some, have been resuscitated.

 

CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT

 

31. Madam Speaker, it is pleasing to note that to date, CEDA has funded 5,462 enterprises with a total value of nearly P8.55 billion, in the process creating over 48,935 thousand jobs.  During the 2013/14 financial year, CEDA assisted 151 new enterprises with a total monetary value of P152 million, collectively generating 1042 new jobs.

 

32. Since its inception, LEA has also facilitated the creation of 4995 new jobs, including 568 in the ongoing financial year. The Authority has further trained a total of 9,317 entrepreneurs. In an effort to inculcate an entrepreneurial culture, LEA embarked upon the Entrepreneurship Awareness Workshops among secondary school leavers, vocational trainees and prison inmates; over 26,000 of whom have been trained.

 

33. Madam Speaker, through the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS), we have encouraged our small and medium enterprises to implement quality assurance activities within their businesses. Progress has been made in certification of goods especially in the building and construction industry. To further ensure that prescribed goods entering our borders comply with domestic standards, a BOBS office has been opened at the Tlokweng Border.

 

RULE OF LAW

 

34. Madam Speaker, adherence to the rule of law remains a cornerstone to our national development. It is thus encouraging that independent comparative surveys, as well as domestic polling, consistently place us among the best in the world as well as first in Africa in terms of our upholding the rule of law while ensuring the safety and security of all our citizens. These surveys include:

 

• 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, where we ranked first in the category of safety and security;

• World Justice Project’s 2014 Rule of Law Index, where we were ranked 25th in the world as well as first in Africa;

• 2014 Global Peace Index where we were at 36th place, ranking above half of European countries surveyed;

• 2014 Legatum Index for Governance and Rule of Law, where we were ranked 28th in the world; and

• 2013 Global Democracy Index, where besides ranking 35 out of 167 countries we achieved a near perfect score in the area of civil liberties.

 

35.  In light of such reputable findings it is unfortunate to say the least that some individuals, working through foreign as well as domestic media, including rumour mongering on social media, have attempted to instil the perception of Batswana living in fear. This is in an apparent effort to undermine this country’s longstanding and shared record of peace, order and good Government.

 

36. While the mass circulation of false and malicious reports intended to incite undue alarm may be aimed at promoting the political agenda of some, it is at the collective cost of tarnishing the image of the country as a whole. It is also a threat to the economy we all must depend upon for our livelihoods. Such disinformation should therefore be rejected with contempt by all peace-loving Batswana. All citizens, residents and potential visitors to Botswana can be confident that this Government will continue to both abide and uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

 

37. Let me, nonetheless, also observe that we have not, and shall not, allow past achievements or international accolades to breed complacency as we recognise that, here as elsewhere, criminal activity is constantly evolving and increasingly sophisticated. We therefore remain determined to pursue a zero tolerance approach to all forms of criminal activity, including corruption.

 

38. To counter emerging domestic and trans-national challenges the Police Service has deployed integrated law enforcement strategies to combat all forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour. This has involved an ongoing redirection of resources to deal with violent and intrusive, cross border and cyber based criminal activities.

 

39. Whilst total recorded crime excluding road traffic violations rose by 4.7% during the year 2013, significant reductions were, however, registered in respect of violent and intrusive crimes.  Offences in this category, which included burglary, store breaking, robbery, house breaking, threats to kill, murder, rape, motor vehicle and stock theft, declined by 15.4%.

 

40. Road traffic management poses an additional policing challenge. Analysis of road accidents shows a youth bias, expressed in reckless driving, often aggravated by the influence of alcohol. As a result of the increase in the intensity of road policing initiatives, the number of detected road traffic offences rose by 32.4%, while there was a corresponding decrease in the number of fatal road accidents by 2.6%.

 

41. Madam Speaker, the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation continues to improve security in the prisons and rehabilitation of offenders. While overcrowding has been a problem in some of the Prison institutions, there has been substantial reduction in congestion since 2008. In June 2014 there were 3824 offenders held in prisons, which was 13% below the authorised holding capacity.

 

42. Madam Speaker, the internal and external challenges of today’s constantly changing security landscape, call for a structurally aligned, strategically focused and adequately resourced, as well as highly trained and motivated, defence force. The BDF will thus continue to evolve its structures and strategies to defend the nation, while continuing to provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies in combating crime, including poaching.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 

43. Madam Speaker, as was most recently demonstrated in the Judgments of the High Court and the Court of Appeal upholding the constitutionality of the Standing Orders of this very House, our Judiciary continues to independently and effectively deliver on its constitutional mandate of settling disputes, both large and small, without fear or favour.  This Government will, as always, respect decisions of the Courts and expects all citizens to do the same.  Equally, we must all display tolerance and recognize everyone’s right to approach the Courts for the resolution of any legal issue no matter how strongly we may disagree.

 

44. To improve everyday access to justice several special court projects like the stock theft, maintenance, traffic, small claims and most recently corruption court have been put in place so as to speed up and improve the case disposal rates, while promoting greater access to justice by simplifying court rules and processes to make them more user friendly.  In addition a Court Annexed Mediation will be in place by the end of the current financial year.  This f

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 21, 2014

2:17 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily briefing. I am very, very sorry for the crazy time changes this week. It’s – I don’t like doing it either, but thank you for your patience and understanding. I have two items at the top, and then Lara, you will kick us off.

A travel update: Secretary Kerry has landed in Berlin, where tonight he will have a working dinner with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to discuss a range of regional and international issues. Tomorrow he will participate in an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And as you have seen, I am sure, from the statement I released just a few minutes ago, we can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to rejoin his family. We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him. While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them. And the U.S. Government will continue to work actively on both of their cases.

We thank the Government of Sweden for their tireless efforts. As you know, they are our protecting power in the DPRK. And we’ll provide additional details about his return home when we are able to do so. We won’t be able to provide a lot today, given he’s still en route back, but I will attempt to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So what more can you tell us about how this came about? What kind of tick-tock can you provide? Can you specify what Sweden did to facilitate this process? And also, is he going straight home to his family or is he going to a hospital? Is he going somewhere to be debriefed, or do you expect him to be in Dayton, your hometown, shortly?

MS. HARF: Close to my hometown. I’m from Columbus. Close.

QUESTION: Well, Ohio.

MS. HARF: Ohio. I know. It is some good news for the Buckeye State today. I don’t have a lot more details I can share at this point. I’ll tell you what I can. We’ll probably be able to provide additional details over the coming days.

As you know, we’ve been actively working for the release of all of the American citizens being detained in North Korea. We don’t always go into details about our efforts. We say it from this podium a lot that we are actively engaged in this, but we can’t talk about what that looks like. I think I can probably leave it at that for now.

He has been evaluated by a doctor and appears to be in good health. He has, however, been in detention in North Korea. We will continue to provide any necessary consular assistance to him. We obviously have been providing it to his family. We will continue to provide it to him in the coming days and weeks if he requires that.

I think we’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why they decided to do this, why now. But again, we are pleased that he was able to leave and urge the immediate release of the other two.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that the reason – one of the reasons why he was released and the other two have not been is that he has not been convicted of a crime at this point?

MS. HARF: I would let the DPRK speak to that.

QUESTION: Can you talk at all about how that might have played in some of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I am not going to, at all, get into our efforts here or outline those —

QUESTION: And then to clarify, there were no U.S. envoys on the ground here, right? This was mostly facilitated by the Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to give more details in general. But as we said, I think in the statement, this was a Department of Defense plane at the request of the State Department flew to Pyongyang to meet Mr. Fowle, left Pyongyang with him. This, again, was a DOD plane at the request of us. They have those resources.

QUESTION: Okay. So if I’m reading between the line, then I’m understanding that North Korea kind of arbitrarily or for whatever reasons decided to release Mr. Fowle, and that this was not a product of negotiators, whether from the United States or other countries, being on the ground pressing for this.

MS. HARF: I’m not telling you to read between the lines or indicating that. What I am saying is we are actively working to have the Americans returned home who are detained in North Korea, and we’re not going to outline what that looks like.

QUESTION: Can you maybe tell us who made the first contact? Or was this done through – you thanked the Swedes, but was Japan involved as well?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details to share with you about this, probably to any of the questions. I’m sorry, guys. This is obviously happening very fast, and if we do have any more details to share we will try to.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that he’s in Guam at the moment and that he’s en route?

MS. HARF: I can confirm that that is where the plane flew from Pyongyang. I don’t know exactly if they’re still on the ground or if they’re on their way back. But we won’t have additional details to share about his return to the United States today.

QUESTION: Can you talk about this window —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) how unusual it is for a DOD plane to be involved? I know there have been other captives released.

MS. HARF: Sometimes people fly commercial. This is – this was – as I said in my statement, there was a time issue that – let me just go to it here. The Defense Department was able to provide transportation for Mr. Fowle in the timeframe specified by the DPRK. I think it was a timing issue.

QUESTION: So they didn’t specifically ask for a government plane? They just said he needs to leave by – in this time?

MS. HARF: As a condition of his release, as I said in the statement, the DPRK authorities asked the United States Government to transport him out of the country. And again, in this timeframe, the Department of Defense was able to offer a plane.

QUESTION: Can you talk more —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: One quick question. So from what we understand, Pyongyang reached out to the U.S. on this one?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to give more details about the discussions. In part – I would remind people that there are two Americans still detained in North Korea, and obviously we want to preserve our ability to work actively to get them home as well.

QUESTION: Has any message been sent from Pyongyang about those two?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the North Korean Government to speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Are they next? Is anyone else next?

MS. HARF: Obviously, we hope they both are next.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the time period, one, for actually getting Mr. Fowle off North Korean territory? How long a window was that? 24 hours? 48 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Roz. Let me take —

QUESTION: 72 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. Let me take that question.

QUESTION: And how long were the discussions between the North Koreans, the Swedes – I’m assuming that they were acting as the interlocutors – and the U.S. on actually securing Mr. Fowle’s release?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to confirm any details about the discussions or the ways we try to get our American citizens home.

QUESTION: Did the North Koreans ask the U.S. to provide something in exchange for releasing Mr. Fowle without his having to set foot into a courtroom and possibly be punished?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to confirm or get into any more of the details of our efforts to get him or any American home.

QUESTION: When was —

QUESTION: Can you say whether these efforts accelerated after the three of them appeared on U.S. media last month?

MS. HARF: I think our efforts are always intense to try and get our Americans home.

QUESTION: Was there any change, though, in terms of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into any more discussions on that.

QUESTION: What was the time period that the North Koreans asked for? You were —

MS. HARF: I said to Roz I would check on that. What I referred to in my statement?

QUESTION: The one that – right, exactly.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. I can check on that. I don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Were you – was the United States Government surprised that the North Koreans had alerted them – you all – to say send a plane, he’s coming out?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that we think this is a positive step, but that does not change the fact that we remain concerned about Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. We work very hard in a variety of ways that we don’t publicly outline to get these Americans home.

QUESTION: You say you work very hard on ways to —

MS. HARF: We do.

QUESTION: — have American citizens released. Why can’t you say we have worked directly or indirectly with the North Koreans on this particular case?

MS. HARF: Because we’re not going to detail our efforts to get them home, in part because there are still —

QUESTION: But you are acknowledging that you are doing everything that you can —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — to have U.S. citizens released.

MS. HARF: But I am not going to get into the details about what that looks like, in part, Said, because there are still two Americans there that we feel need to be immediately released and returned home.

QUESTION: Did you have a reaction when Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years hard labor? Did you put out a statement?

MS. HARF: I think I have the statement. When I was asked about it at the briefing, I believe I said at the time that we have seen those reports and would urge the DPRK to immediately release him and return him home to his family.

QUESTION: Is it reasonable to assume that because the Pentagon was asked to remove Mr. Fowle from North Korean territory that he is going to stop first at a U.S. military installation in South Korea?

MS. HARF: I think – no, they went to Guam from Pyongyang, as I just said, where there is an American military installation, and then he will return home. I’m not going to detail the specifics of that travel, give him some time to get home and be reunited with his family.

QUESTION: And when was his family notified? And were they notified so quickly that they’re still here in the United States and weren’t able to travel to meet him part way, if not all the way?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into discussions about the discussions we have with the families. We have ongoing discussions with them. They were, of course, made aware of the fact that he would be coming home.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to get a sense of how sudden was this decision by North Korea to release him. I mean, ostensibly, if it looks as if something is in place, people are sometimes given the ability to move from where they start —

MS. HARF: You also, hypothetically, want to make sure that it’s real and you don’t want to get the hopes of families up in case it’s not. So obviously, when we talk about consular assistance in these kinds of cases, broadly speaking, you want to make sure that, before you actually notify a family that their loved one will be coming home, that that is, in fact, the case.

QUESTION: But in this case —

QUESTION: When did you actually do the notification? Because the lawyer said today that they had not received official notification that he was on his way home. So when did —

MS. HARF: Well, he wasn’t on his way home until today.

QUESTION: Right. And I’m saying —

MS. HARF: Right. So we —

QUESTION: — within the last hour —

MS. HARF: –in general —

QUESTION: — the lawyer put out a statement saying we’re hearing it in the media but we haven’t gotten official notification.

MS. HARF: In general – I’m not going to get into specifics about notification here for privacy considerations and personal considerations, obviously. But in general, we want to wait to make sure that, in fact, he – the loved one is returning home. We did that in this case and the proper notifications were made.

QUESTION: He had been in detention since, according to North Korean authorities, April 29th. And even though he was married to a woman who ostensibly needed his assistance to basically translate for her because she’s not a native U.S. citizen, he was over there by himself as a tourist and supposedly not proselytizing. Do you believe his story?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. And I would remind people that we have a very strict Travel Warning in place telling Americans not to travel to North Korea for a variety of reasons. But no, it’s not – I think today it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. We believe, as we did today, we did yesterday, that he should be immediately released, as he has been, that he should be returned home. I just don’t have more analysis on his time there to give you.

QUESTION: Is Pyongyang willing for the U.S. to send envoys to North Korea now for the other two people who are being detained?

MS. HARF: I will let them speak for that willingness. We’ve seen in the past that often happen, and we have said we are ready to send one if they invite them to return. But to my knowledge, their position hasn’t changed on that. But again, I’d refer you to them.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: ISIS.

QUESTION: No, no.

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: Okay. I probably don’t have much more to add, so let’s just do a few more.

QUESTION: Well, North Korea, but a different issue.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to comments made by North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador on a couple of fronts? One, he said that the U.S. has been masterminding international criticism of North Korea’s human rights record. Basically in a VOA interview, he accused the U.S. of a smear campaign and said if this continued that North Korea will review its policy towards America. He also stated that there is a new policy in North Korea and it will result in an expansion of nuclear weapons.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the specifics in that interview, but I’d say a few points. The first is on the human rights situation in North Korea. We call it how we see it, and we are deeply concerned – and remain deeply concerned – about the ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK. They are clearly documented by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry. This isn’t about the United States. This is about the world standing up and saying there’s a very serious human rights situation in North Korea.

So that’s how I would respond on the human rights side, but on the nuclear side, we and our parties in the Six-Party Talks have been very clear that our goal is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That is what we are working towards. That is what – if you talk about these talks in the past and what North Korea has said they were willing to do, we obviously believe that that needs to be the ultimate goal.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, can we —

QUESTION: Just very, very quickly, can you just clarify – you’ve said that you wanted to send an envoy and the North Koreans have refused. Have you offered to send anybody other than Robert King, or is it Robert King that you have said —

MS. HARF: Well, in the past, the invitation has been for him, and that offer stands on the table, if the invitation were to be re-extended. That’s what we’ve been focused on here.

QUESTION: But you haven’t put anybody else forward?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details about these discussions for you.

Said.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you – first of all, if you have an update on the situation in Kobani, can you share that with us?

MS. HARF: I don’t have much of an update. The situation, to my knowledge, hasn’t changed. Obviously, we did the resupply —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: — over the weekend, remains a serious fighting situation and contested area.

QUESTION: So is that like a one-day situation, or have we had airdrops since then on a continuous basis?

MS. HARF: We haven’t had airdrops since then, no.

QUESTION: So you haven’t?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: You have not?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: Is that because the Turks expressed displeasure with that?

MS. HARF: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It’s because we – this was something we decided to do over the weekend, and as I said yesterday and as my Defense Department colleagues have said, we have the option to do this again if we feel it’s necessary. I don’t know if we will or not.

QUESTION: Today, President Erdogan said that Kobani was a strategic – of strategic importance for Turkey but not for the United States of America. Have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see his comments, but we have talked very closely to Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, about our overall shared goal – a strategy we share – of taking the fight to ISIL. Obviously, when we told the Turkish Government that we would be taking this resupply near Kobani, it was because we believe it’s a very important location, that ISIL has increasingly put weapons and fighters and money and resources into. So we obviously believe it’s important or we wouldn’t be dropping weapons to the people fighting on the ground.

QUESTION: But the Turkish Government is doing everything it can to show that they don’t – you don’t have their shared goals and – because —

MS. HARF: I would strongly disagree with that, Said. Turkey’s announcement that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani —

QUESTION: Have you seen any of that (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: — is an important contribution to coalition efforts to support forces there. That is a very significant step that they said they would take yesterday, and I think there’s a hesitancy to overlook those kind – or a tendency, excuse me, to overlook those kinds of announcements and just focus on what they’re not doing. But I think they’re doing some fairly significant things.

QUESTION: I know you addressed this, but the president of Turkey made it very clear that they have four goals: They want a no-fly zone; they want a safe haven; they want to topple the regime; and they want to target Syrian forces and Syrian air assets and so on, which at least for now, in conflict with your immediate goals.

MS. HARF: Well, Turkey is a strategic ally and a valuable part of this coalition, and they are taking a number of steps as part of it, including their announcement that they would facilitate this crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. So we’ll continue to talk to them about what this looks like on the ground.

QUESTION: And the last question from me on this issue: During the campaign in Libya, some 26,000 air raids were conducted in Libya. Do you feel that what is going on or what has taken place since August 8th until now – and again, I’m trying to – at least in Iraq on August 8th it began – until now, had —

QUESTION: Syria. No, I was —

QUESTION: — in Iraq August 8th, but then last month it was in Syria. Since then, have they been able to, let’s say, deplete or to decrease the assets of ISIS on the way to their defeat?

MS. HARF: On the way what? What was that last one?

QUESTION: To their total defeat, as the stated goal is?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, we know the coalition airstrikes have been successful in hitting their targets. They’ve eliminated hundreds of ISIL terrorists, they’ve destroyed ISIL military equipment, and disrupted supply lines and communications. And the more we address ISIL directly, the more resources they have to put into the fight, and the less they’re able to focus on other parts of Iraq and Syria, particularly.

So we know we’ve had an impact, but we also know this is going to be a long fight, and this is not about any one day or one week or one month of action; this is a sustained campaign. We feel we’ve made progress, but this is going to be a long campaign with ups and downs and ebbs and flows.

QUESTION: On the issue of —

QUESTION: Can we go back to the air drops?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the Pentagon said that it had tried to deliver 28 bundles of weapons from the Iraqi Kurds to the fighters in Kobani. Twenty-seven made it; the twenty-eighth went off course. They destroyed it so that it wouldn’t fall into people’s hands.

MS. HARF: And – yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now there’s YouTube video of ISIL fighters claiming that they, in fact, did recover that wayward bundle, and they have grenades and RPGs and other small weapons. Given that the Pentagon says no, we took that out because we did not want that to happen, how prepared is the U.S. and its allies to deal with the propaganda value of whatever it is ISIL will do to try to change what the coalition says are the facts?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points: The first is we’ve seen that video, and we can’t confirm that what is in it is actually accurate. There’s obviously a lot of false information, particularly propaganda on the internet, and this may fall into that category. We’re seeking more information at this point, though. So can’t confirm it; seeking more information.

We know that part of ISIL’s strategy here is to wage a propaganda campaign. And that’s why one of our lines of efforts has been delegitimizing ISIL’s propaganda. And so that is something other countries can do; it’s something religious leaders can do. But that’s why, if you look at our five lines of effort, that’s one of them, which I think is pretty extraordinary.

QUESTION: So on the issue of the Peshmerga crossing the borders, it seems time is of the essence when it comes to Kobani. Are you in any kind of discussions with the Turkish Government about timeframe for this to happen, for the operation?

MS. HARF: Those discussions are continuing.

QUESTION: And who’s – and how is it going to happen? Who’s going to facilitate the movement of the Kurdish forces?

MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the Turkish Government. They may have more details on that. I – the answer is I don’t know what the timeframe is. I know we’re in discussions with them about it broadly.

QUESTION: But did you express any time preference?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. But again, I’m not the one having the discussions, so let me see if there’s more to share with you on that.

Anything else on ISIS?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Peshmerga: That – just the Peshmerga from Iraq. It would not include, let’s say, Kurdish fighters that could conceivably come from Turkey, could it —

MS. HARF: It’s – I’ll let the —

QUESTION: — that might include the PKK?

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Turks speak for themselves, but it is my understanding that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga.

QUESTION: Okay. So – and there are – even among the Peshmerga, there are some commanders that may be wanted by Turkey. Do they have immunity, to the best of your knowledge?

MS. HARF: From who?

QUESTION: From the Turks —

MS. HARF: Well, ask the Turks.

QUESTION: — that they would not arrest them as they cross?

MS. HARF: I would ask the Turks, Said.

QUESTION: But this is since a coalition effort.

MS. HARF: This is a coalition effort, but I would ask the Turks.

QUESTION: Would that be one of the conditions that you would say – tell the Turks, like —

MS. HARF: I don’t think we’re giving them conditions. This is an effort they’ve said they will undertake. They’ll have more details about it.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Any details on the deal with the Iraqi military to send 46,000 tanks?

MS. HARF: Yes, let me see what I have on that. Just give me one second.

On October 20th, the State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to Iraq for up to 46,000 rounds of M1A1 Abrams tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $600 million. This is part of our effort to expedite defense material to the Government of Iraq in support of the fight against ISIL. The proposed sale will contribute, obviously, to the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping improve the security of Iraq, a strategic partner. Obviously, the sale is subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which the Department and the Government of Iraq will conclude final administrative and technical details.

QUESTION: And when do you expect to deliver these tanks?

MS. HARF: When?

QUESTION: When, yeah.

MS. HARF: Well, I just said that it’s subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which we will finalize the sale.

QUESTION: Do you have any —

QUESTION: Is it tanks or just equipment and ammo?

MS. HARF: It is tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And how many tanks do you expect?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not tanks.

QUESTION: It’s tank ammunition.

MS. HARF: It’s 46 – up to 46,000 rounds of ammunition and associated equipment and parts.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on —

MS. HARF: I don’t know how many tanks that goes into.

QUESTION: — on the visit and statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi? In Tehran, he met with Rouhani and met with (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, Iran and Iraq share a long border. They have had long relations. I think this is a routine visit by the prime minister of Iraq to Iran. I think he’ll be doing similar visits around the region to other neighbors as well. And we’ve urged Iran to send a message to the Iraqi Government that they need to govern inclusively; that’s key. We’ve obviously said that for months now.

QUESTION: But in the fight against ISIS, obviously Iran is willing and probably is taking place in the fight against ISIS, but you still consider that to be not a good thing.

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. I’ve said from this podium that every country has a role to play —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — that Iran, if they encourage the Government of Iraq to govern inclusively, if they – the Iraqi Security Forces, support them as the ones who should be taking this fight – not militias, not anyone else on the ground. That would be a way they could contribute.

QUESTION: So let me ask you straightforward: Do you object to having Al-Quds Brigade, which is an Iranian fighting force that is in Iraq, fighting ISIS?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is the people on the ground that need to fight ISIL are the Iraqi Security Forces, not militias.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Prime Minister Abadi has talked about regulating militias, understands the historical challenges with Shia militia groups. We believe it should be the government security forces fighting ISIL.

QUESTION: But the Peshmerga is fighting them.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, the Peshmerga is not – at least is not technically part of the Iraqi army.

MS. HARF: Right. But – you’re right. But the Kurdish Regional Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, who are working at an unprecedented level together, like we haven’t seen in the past.

QUESTION: What’s the status of the Sinjar?

MS. HARF: Sinjar? There has been some renewed fighting there, and we are deeply concerned about reports of their increasingly intense attacks against communities near and on Mount Sinjar, including against Yezidis who are there trying to protect their main civilian population. We’re continuing to assess the situation and assess what assistance we may be able to provide to those in need.

QUESTION: Did you get a response to or an answer to my question yesterday about whether the U.S. would send weapons or supplies to the ministry of interior?

MS. HARF: I – you – whether there was going to be a change.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: I did and there is no change. There is not going to be any change – has no plans to change our security relationship with the Government of Iraq. And I think there were a lot of questions yesterday about certain ministers and who was aligned with what groups. I think a couple other points in response to that, one, we worked with members of Badr Organization who were part of the government in the previous government, and we will continue to do so here. I think it’s significant that these ministers, including this one, was approved by a majority of the Sunnis as well. So this is really all of the different parts of Iraq coming together, and if they’re willing to put their support behind these new ministers, I think that’s a pretty significant sign.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: To Vietnam?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the prominent dissident bloggers in Vietnam, Nguyen Van Hai – also known as Dieu Cay – has been released and is on his way to the U.S.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: Just wanted to know if you had a statement on that and what is the reason for his release, and why now, and is he going to be living here permanently?

MS. HARF: And welcome back, by the way.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Good to have you back in the briefing room.

QUESTION: Good to be back.

MS. HARF: We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release this prisoner of conscience. He decided to travel to the United States after his release from prison, will arrive on Tuesday October 21st – so today. He decided himself to travel to the U.S. We have consistently called for his release and the release of all other political prisoners in Vietnam.

QUESTION: Do you think there will be more releases soon?

MS. HARF: We hope there will be.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country —

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: — after he – can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country after he was released?

MS. HARF: I would check with the Vietnamese authorities on that. We know that he decided to come to the United States after his release.

QUESTION: Is he coming here for medical attention? Because there were reports that he was ill.

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to check.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey. As you maybe know, Cyprus says it will block any progress in Turkey’s talk to join the European Union in response to the Turkish illegal gas search in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. My question is that – did the Government of Cyprus ask for your help to stop Turkey’s aggression in – against Cyprus?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve —

QUESTION: If you cannot answer, can you take —

MS. HARF: I can’t tell if you had a follow-up.

QUESTION: Can you take the question to —

MS. HARF: Well, I can just say a little bit about Cyprus.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: As we’ve always said, the United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to strongly support the negotiation process conducted under UN good offices to reunify the island into a bizonal and bicommunal federation. That’s obviously been our policy for a long time.

QUESTION: The government spokesman said that what is happening actually Cyprus is another Turkey invasion against the island. What is your comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those comments, but we continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. And it’s important, I think, to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the attack in Quebec by a radicalized man who killed a police officer?

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: And how concerned are you with the monitoring of extremists by the RCMP?

MS. HARF: Well, we condemn this attack and extend our sympathies to the family and friends of the Canadian Forces soldiers. We have been in touch with Canadian officials and understand they are investigating the incident. Obviously, we deplore acts of violence towards military and law enforcement officials particularly, and stand ready to assist our Canadian partners as they investigate this act. I don’t have more details on it than that. They’ll probably have the latest on the investigation.

QUESTION: But is it a concern as it hits so close to home?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see what the investigation shows.

QUESTION: And about the monitoring of the extremists by the Canadian police? Is there –

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let them speak to their efforts here. But obviously, we know that one of the challenges is fighters who will go overseas to fight with some sort of extremist group, a terrorist group, return home to Europe, to the West, to Canada, to the United States. We know it’s a shared challenge, so it’s obviously something we’re very focused on.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yep. And then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Libyan Government gave orders to the Libyan forces to advance toward Tripoli and liberate it, as the government statement said. Do you support the government in this decision?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. I can check on that. I hadn’t seen them.

QUESTION: But the —

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen —

QUESTION: Anyway, do you support any move that the Libyan Government takes towards the militia and the gaining or getting back the capital?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve called on the Libyans to engage constructively in the UN-led political dialogue to resolve the ongoing crisis, to abstain from confrontation. But I hadn’t seen those reports, so let me check into those.

Yes, let’s go to Pam.

QUESTION: The ceasefire talks between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that were due to start today, of course, did not start. We have the team of military advisors that is still in the region. Can you shed light on whether the U.S. advisors are going to play any – have played or will play any kind of role in these negotiations?

MS. HARF: They have not. They have not. I don’t have a prediction going forward, but they have not up until this point.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the calls that Kerry has made with regard to – in the last day or two – developments on Turkey? And what about North Korea?

MS. HARF: I can —

QUESTION: Not that he called Pyongyang, but —

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) I don’t think he did. (Laughter.) That would be breaking news that I could make. I do not have the call list from today. Let me check after the briefing.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports that the Ukraine army had launched cluster bombs in Donetsk and other places?

MS. HARF: We did. We’ve seen the report. We are not in a position to confirm the use of cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine. I’d note the Ukrainian authorities have denied use of such munitions, but have called again on all sides to take steps to protect civilian lives.

QUESTION: What’s the level of conversation between the U.S. and Ukraine regarding these allegations?

MS. HARF: Regarding these specifically?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know the specifics.

QUESTION: Do you have comment on the apparent agreement between Russia and the Ukraine on the gas supply for the winter?

MS. HARF: We saw some of that coming out of the meetings in Milan that happened a few days ago. We obviously support the European Commission in its efforts to broker a commercially competitive compromise on gas sales that includes market pricing and payment of arrears. We have urged Russia to continue engaging with Ukraine and the EU on this issue. We hope a deal can be completed at the EC-brokered talks that are taking place in Berlin today. I don’t have the latest readout from Berlin, but we’ll get it.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comment on the resumption of indirect talks between Hamas and Israel regarding the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: We have seen those reports. I’d refer you to the parties to confirm their participation. Our teams in the region have continued to engage with the parties on the way forward in Gaza; of course, support efforts to reach a durable and sustainable long-term ceasefire.

QUESTION: Okay. So that would be my next question. Would the United States have any representative in these talks?

MS. HARF: I can check, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ebola?

QUESTION: Can I —

QUESTION: The Dominican —

MS. HARF: Did you have another on —

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to follow very quickly with a couple things.

MS. HARF: Okay. And then we’ll go to Ebola.

QUESTION: The Israeli authorities demolished three homes in Jerusalem today. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’ll get one for you. I didn’t see that. Sorry.

Ebola.

QUESTION: The Dominican Republic has joined other countries in banning entry to foreigners who’ve visited Ebola-affected countries. We know what the Obama Administration’s feel is, but is this in any way swaying you? There’s also new polls out today in which Americans are saying that they feel that there needs to be this travel ban.

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are not considering implementing visa bans at this time, but the Department of Homeland Security did today announce additional efforts and protective measures to prevent the spread of Ebola to the United States. And I’d refer you to them for the details, but just to give you a few of the top lines here, these measures go into effect tomorrow. They are that passengers arriving in the United States whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will be required to fly into one of the five airports that have the enhanced screening and additional resources in place. So we’re already working with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption – we – that’s the Department of Homeland Security.

And also, passengers flying into one of these airports – and to remind people, this is JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta, and Chicago – flying into these airports from flights originating in any of these three countries will be subject to secondary screening and added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States. These airports account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the U.S. from these countries, so —

QUESTION: Was the State Department consulted on this decision?

MS. HARF: Absolutely we were.

QUESTION: And did – and was this building supportive of it, given this building’s previous opposition to any sort of visa ban or visa restriction?

MS. HARF: Well, this is not a visa ban or a visa restriction. This is an additional procedure, a screening procedure that the Department of Homeland Security will do, so absolutely we were supportive of it.

Our position on visa bans hasn’t changed. You can’t control this epidemic through visas. And if you prevent people from traveling in legitimate ways, you’ll drive them underground, you’ll push them to illicit ways of traveling, which is even harder to track them and contain this. So our position on visa bans has not changed. The President said he’s not philosophically opposed to it, but our experts at this point have said it’s not the way to contain it. But we do support, certainly, the additional measures taken to protect us here in the United States.

QUESTION: My understanding is that these are flights that are coming directly from these West African countries.

MS. HARF: No. There are no direct, non-stop —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — commercial flights from any of these countries to any airport in the United States.

QUESTION: Right. So they would be flights from any of these countries that might route through London or Paris or Frankfurt or something.

MS. HARF: Route through other places.

QUESTION: Right, got it.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Marie, the forces – the U.S. forces, the military forces that were dispatched to sort of contain the – or to prevent the spread of the epidemic and so on – where are they, and what is their number? Could you update us on where they are now and what they are doing?

MS. HARF: I can – I don’t know if I have the latest on that. I’m happy to check with our team and my colleagues at the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Yeah, so – yeah, which countries and their number and so on, and what is exactly that they’re doing.

MS. HARF: Let me see if – I don’t think I have – let me check with our DOD colleagues. I know I got asked this earlier this week, but for some reason it is not in my book. It’s amazing that there’s something that’s not in this book.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the dispatching of Cuban aid workers —

MS. HARF: The Secretary spoke about it publicly last Friday —

QUESTION: He did?

MS. HARF: — when he said every country has a role to play, and —

QUESTION: Well, it seems that they have already – they sent more. They sent like 51 —

MS. HARF: Well, he’s spoken about the fact that they have provided a large number of resources, particularly given how small the country is, especially compared to other countries who have many more resources that they could be providing.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out whether there are any legal restrictions on the U.S. working with Cuba in something such as this health crisis?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t able to get an answer for you all on that. Let me see if I can keep pushing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:51 p.m.)

DPB#178

Remarks by the President at the Pentagon

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

October 08, 2014

The Pentagon
Washington, D.C.

4:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Hagel, Deputy Secretary Work, Chairman Dempsey, Vice Chairman Winnefeld, and all the outstanding leaders who are here today.  This is a periodic check-in that I have with not only our service commander but also our COCOMs.  And I thought, although usually we do this over the White House, now was a good time for me to come over to the Pentagon and have an opportunity to hear from our top military about the work that they’re doing.

And I’ve said this before and I want to repeat:  We put enormous burdens and enormous strains on our men and women of the armed forces, and each and every time, the members of our armed services, our troops perform in exemplary fashion.  I think at a time when there’s so much turbulence in the world, never during my presidency has it become more apparent how good our military is, but also how they can tackle a wide range of problems and not just a narrow set of problems.  It’s not just the finest military in the history of the world, it’s also just one of the best organizations we’ve ever seen at doing a whole bunch of different stuff.

And so I expressed my gratitude to the leadership, but also asked them to express to those under their command the thanks of the American people.

We had an opportunity to talk about ISIL and the campaign there.  After this meeting, we’ll have a National Security Council meeting in which General Lloyd Austin, who’s leading Central Command, will further brief us on the progress that’s been made by the coalition there. 

Our strikes continue alongside our partners.  It remains a difficult mission.  As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight.  The good news is, is that there is a broad-based consensus not just in the region but among nations of the world that ISIL is a threat to world peace, security and order, that their barbaric behavior has to be dealt with.  And we’re confident that we will be able to continue to make progress in partnership with the Iraqi government, because ultimately it’s going to be important for them to be able to, with our help, secure their own country and to find the kind of political accommodations that are necessary for long-term prosperity in the region.

We had a chance to talk about the fight against Ebola, and I got a briefing from General Rodriguez.  Our military is essentially building an infrastructure that does not exist in order to facilitate the transport of personnel and equipment and supplies to deal with this deadly epidemic and disease.  And we are doing it in a way that ensures our men and women in uniform are safe.  That has been my top priority, and I’ve instructed folks we’re not going to compromise the health and safety of our armed services.

But what’s true is, we have unique capabilities that nobody else has.  And as a consequence of us getting in early and building that platform, we’re now able to leverage resources from other countries and move with speed and effectiveness to curb that epidemic.

We had a discussion about global security generally, including the work that, with General Breedlove, we’re doing at NATO to mobilize Europe around the increased threats posed by Russian aggression in Ukraine and against some of its neighbors. We had a very successful meeting in Wales that showed the commitment from all 28 NATO countries to redouble the reassurance they can provide to frontline states to invest further in the joint capabilities that are necessary.  And I very much appreciate the leadership that General Breedlove has shown on that front.

And I got a chance to get a briefing from Admiral Locklear of the Pacific Command about the ongoing both challenges and opportunities in the Pacific.  It’s been noted that our alliances in that area have never been stronger.  We are very much welcomed as a Pacific power in the region.  And our ability to continue to maintain a presence that ensures freedom of navigation, that international law is observed is going to be critically important.  And we need to do that in a way that also reflects our interest in cooperation and effective communication with China, which obviously is a major player in the region. 

But the anchor of our presence there, our treaties and alliances with key countries like South Korea and Japan, obviously remain critically important.  And thanks to the work of some of the gentlemen sitting around this table and their staffs, those alliances have never been in better shape.

 Finally, we had a chance to talk briefly about defense budget and reforms.  We have done some enormous work, and I want to thank everybody sitting around this table to continue to make our forces leaner, meaner, more effective, more tailored to the particular challenges that we’re going to face in the 21st century.

 But we also have to make sure that Congress is working with us to avoid, for example, some of the Draconian cuts that are called for in sequestration, and to make sure that if we’re asking this much of our armed forces, that they’ve got the equipment and the technology that’s necessary for them to be able to succeed at their mission, and that we’re supporting their families at a time when, even after ending one war and winding down another, they continue to have enormous demands placed on them each and every day.

 So I want to thank everybody around this table.  A special thank-you to General Austin for the enormous amount of work that’s been done by CENTCOM in what is a very challenging situation.  We very much appreciate him.  I want to thank General Rodriguez for the great work in standing up our operations in West Africa. 

 And finally, I want to say publicly a hearty thank you to Jim Amos, who somewhere between eight to 10 days from now — (laughter) — will be retiring from his command.  He is the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, the first aviator to command our Marine Corps.  I know that he could not be prouder of the men and women under his command.  They continue to make us proud.  They certainly make him proud.  We want to thank him and Mrs. Amos and the entire family for the great service that they’ve rendered to our country.

 So thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 END4:29 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the Vice President at the John F. Kennedy Forum

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release

October 03, 2014

Harvard Kennedy School
Boston, Massachusetts

6:37 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Dean, you did that introduction exactly like my sister wrote it sounds like.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  That was very, very generous of you.

And as we used to say in the Senate, please excuse the point of personal privilege.  There are three reasons why I’ve won the races I’ve won and why I sustained winning, and they’re right here in this front row.  The first one is my sister, but also the guy who got me through the 1972 campaign is one of the best political strategists I have ever known, and a man who is — as Frank — is that you, Frank, back there?  Frank Fahrenkopf, the former chairman of the Republican Party.  We’ve known each other a long time, back to the days when we really liked one another, Republicans and Democrats.  (Laughter.)  We still do.  It’s great to see you, Frank.

But as Frank can tell you and anyone else can tell you that the one thing when you hire a political consultant that you most are concerned about — and I mean this sincerely — is will they reflect your values.  This guy that I’m about to introduce to you has more integrity in his little finger than most people have their whole body, but is the reason I overcame that deficit — John Marttila, a native Bostonian here. 

And the guy sitting next to him who has fought in Vietnam and came back to fight against the war in Vietnam and has become my friend.  And if you ever have to — that old joke, if you have to be in a foxhole, this is the guy you want with you, Professor Tommy Vallely (ph).  Tommy, it’s great to see you.  I didn’t expect to see you.

And it’s great to be here.  And I have one plea, don’t jump.  (Laughter.)  Don’t jump.  It’s good to be back.

I understand that Senator Markey may be here.  I hope for his sake he’s not and he’s out campaigning because — but I was told he might be, and Congressman Delahunt, two fine friends.  If they’re here I want to acknowledge them.

Folks, “all’s changed, changed utterly.  A terrible beauty has been born.”  Those are the words written by an Irish poet William Butler Yeats about the Easter Rising in 1916 in Ireland.  They were meant to describe the status of the circumstance in Ireland at that time.  But I would argue that in recent years, they better describe the world as we see it today because all has changed.  The world has changed.

There’s been an incredible diffusion of power within states and among states that has led to greater instability.  Emerging economies like India and China have grown stronger, and they seek a great force in the global order and global affairs. 

Other powers like Russia are using new asymmetrical forms of coercion to seek advantage like corruption and “little green men,” foreign agents, soldiers with a mission but no official uniform.  New barriers and practices are challenging the principles of an open, fair, economic competition.  And in a globalized world, threats as diverse as terrorism and pandemic disease cross borders at blinding speeds.  The sheer rapidity and magnitude, the interconnectedness of the major global challenges demand a response — a different response, a global response involving more players, more diverse players than ever before.

This has all led to a number of immediate crises that demand our attention from ISIL to Ebola to Ukraine — just to name a few that are on our front door — as someone said to me earlier this week, the wolves closest to the door.

Each one in its own way is symptomatic of the fundamental changes that are taking place in the world.  These changes have also led to larger challenges.  The international order that we painstakingly built after World War II and defended over the past several decades is literally fraying at the seams right now.

The project of this administration, our administration at this moment in the 21st century, the project that President Obama spoke about last week at the United Nations is to update that order, to deal with these new realities, but also accommodate and continue to reflect our enduring interests and our enduring values.

And we’re doing this in a number of ways.  First, by strengthening our core alliances; second, building relationships with emerging powers; third, defending and extending the international rules of the road that are most vital; and fourthly, confronting the causes of violent extremism.  But all of this rests on building a strong, vibrant economy here at home to be able to underpin our ability to do anything abroad.

So tonight I want to talk to you about our efforts and provide, as best I can, an honest accounting of what it’s going to take for America to succeed in the beginning of the 21st century.

The first thing we have to do is to further strengthen our alliances.  Many of the challenges we face today require a collective response.  That’s why we start from a foundation of the strong alliance we’ve had historically in Europe and in Asia, a feature of American strength unmatched by any other nation in history and built on a sacred commitment to defend one another, but also built on shared political and economic values.

One of the cornerstones of our foreign policy is the vision we share with our NATO allies of a Europe whole and free, where every nation can choose the path it wishes with no interference.  But that vision has been recently challenged.  We’ve seen aggression on Europe’s frontier.  And that’s why we’ve moved to mobilize our NATO allies to step up and provide significant security assistance to Ukraine. 

Each of the 28 NATO allies has now committed to providing security assistance to Ukraine, including over $115 million from the United States.  And as we respond to the crisis in Ukraine, we are determined that NATO itself emerge stronger from the crisis thrust on us by Russia.  With our allies, we are increasing deployments on land, sea and in the skies over Central and Eastern Europe.

And at the most recent NATO Summit in Wales, the Alliance agreed to create a Rapid Response Force to make sure that NATO is ready and can respond to any contingency.  And we’re increasing exercises and capacity building with non-NATO nations, countries in European — on Europe’s eastern frontier to ensure that they too can exercise their right to choose their own future, and that NATO’s door remains open.

But beyond mutual defense, we’re working closely with Europe on everything from trade to counterterrorism to climate change.  But we have to be honest about this and look it squarely in the eye, the transatlantic relationship does not sustain itself by itself.  It cannot be sustained by America alone.  It requires investment and sacrifice on both sides of the Atlantic, and that means ensuring that every NATO country meets its commitment to devote 2 percent of its GDP to defense; establishing once and for all a European energy strategy so that Russia can no longer use its natural resources to hold its neighbors hostage.  Reaching a final agreement on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the new mechanism to try to strengthen the economic engines to sustain our mutual efforts in Europe and at home.

To the East, for six decades, America’s alliances in Asia have made possible the security and stability that has flowed from — that has allowed the economic miracle.  When I met not long ago and I met many, many hours with President Xi — I probably had dinner alone with him over 22, 23 hours over two five-day periods, talking about — I mentioned that America — I made clear that America is a Pacific power and we will remain a Pacific power.  And us in the area is the reason for the existence of a stability in Asia for the past 50 years.  That’s why it’s essential that we modernize our Pacific alliances, updating our posture and expanding our partnerships to meet the new challenges we face.

America today has more peacetime military engagements in the Asia Pacific than ever before.  By 2020, 60 percent of our naval assets and 60 percent of our air power will be stationed in the Pacific.  We’re supporting Japan’s efforts to interpret its constitution to allow it to play a larger security role.  We’ve signed enhanced defense cooperation agreements with the Philippines.  We’re strengthening our missile defense capabilities in the region to deter and defend against North Korea.  And three years ago, we had no forces in Australia; today, we have more than a thousand Marines rotationally deployed in Darwin.  And we have a growing partnership with Vietnam, in no small part — by the way — to the work of Tommy Vallely and his colleagues actively engaged in regional organizations like ASEAN.

We have an historic opportunity as well to build a new relationship with Burma if we get lucky.  But our Asian allies also have tough choices to make.  We cannot do this on our own.  It will relate to their willingness to work closely and more closely with one another.  As the President and I have done in meetings with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, we’re going to continue to promote trilateral cooperation among our allies and partners in the Pacific to make the most of those ties that will benefit the entire region if we succeed.

In the Middle East, our alliances are also crucial.  We will never waver from our steadfast support for Israel, and we’re working alongside a coalition of Arab partners and countries from around the world to confront ISIL. 

So even as we strengthen our traditional alliances, we’re building wider coalitions to bolster the world’s ability to respond to these emerging crises.

Take Ebola.  A horrific disease that is now a genuine global health emergency.  Our Centers for Disease Control, USAID and our military have taken charge of that world epidemic.  We are organizing the international response to this largest epidemic in history.  The President rallied the world at the United Nations last week, mobilizing countries from all around the world to act, and to act quickly.  We’re deploying over 3,000 American soldiers to West Africa to support regional civilian responses and advance the effort in fighting the disease of Ebola.

The second thing we have to do besides strengthening our alliances and cooperation, we have to effectively manage our relationships with emerging powers of the 21st century.  And that means putting in the effort to realize the potential of America’s friendship with emerging democratic partners like Brazil and President Dilma, President Peňa Nieto in Mexico, Prime Minister Modi in India, who just made a historic visit to the United States this week.

Each of these relationships has a significant potential to genuinely, genuinely promote shared interest and shared ideals.  But each one has to overcome domestic politics, bureaucratic inertia, and a significant legacy of mistrust over the last century.  But there is great potential here, but there is no guarantees.  There is no substitute for direct engagement and an unstinting effort to bridge the gap between where we are today and where we can and should be tomorrow.

The world in which emerging powers and responsible stakeholders promoting common security and prosperity has yet to arrive, but it’s within our grasp to see that happen.  That’s why we’ve embraced the G20 as a model for economic cooperation.  That’s why it’s also important that we fully support international institutions like the IMF, fund them and reform and modernize them to better serve all nations.

But managing our relationship with China is the single most essential part of the strategy at which we must succeed.  Even as we acknowledge that we will often be in competition, we seek deeper cooperation with China, not conflict. 

Nowhere is it written that there must be conflict between the United States and China.  There are no obvious, obvious impediments to building that relationship.  And we’re committed to building up that partnership where we can, but to push back where we must.  The President plans to visit China this fall as part of his second trip to Asia this year.  This is the kind of engagement that is necessary for us to come together and do consequential things.

At Sunnylands, when he met with President Xi last, they reached an historic agreement on the super pollutant known as HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons.  And our hope is that this year we can continue to expand our cooperation with China on climate and environment, but also be very direct about our differences.  That’s why in a five-hour meeting I had with President Xi this past December — after they had several days earlier announced unilaterally an air defense identification zone, contrary to international law — I sat with President Xi and I told him bluntly, Mr. President, understand one thing.  We do not recognize it, we do not honor it, and we’re flying a B-52 through it.  Understand. (Laughter.)  No, I’m serious.  I’m not asking you to do anything.  I’m not asking you to renege.  Just understand — we will pay no attention whatsoever to it.  It’s important.  It’s important that in emerging relationships there be absolute, frank, direct discussions.
 
That’s why we’ve made clear as well that freedom of navigation must be maintained in the South China Sea.  But that’s also why President Obama has been direct in public and private with China’s leaders on cyber theft.  And as the world watches Hong Kong’s young people take to the streets peacefully to demand respect for their own rights, we’ll also never stop standing up for the principles we believe in that are universal — democratic freedoms and human rights.

President Xi asked me, why do we focus on human rights so much?  I’m serious.  And I gave him a direct answer — which is almost unique to the United States; it doesn’t make us better or worse, but unique to the United States.  I said, Mr. President, even if a President of the United States did not want to raise human rights abuses with you to have a better relationship on the surface, it would be impossible for him or her to do that — for the vast majority of the American people came here to seek human rights and freedom.  It is stamped into our DNA.  It is impossible for us to remain silent.  Again, he took it on board — and it’s important to understand why we do it.  It is not a political tool.  It is who we are.
 
To build these robust relationships with emerging powers, we also have to demonstrate staying power — which is hard and costly — in places that will do the most to shape the world that our grandchildren are going to inherit.  That’s why our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region depends in no small part on completing a trade initiative known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And that’s the whole Pacific — from Peru all the way to Japan. 
It’s a partnership that will stitch together the economies of 12 Pacific nations, stretching from South America to Asia, united behind rising standards regarding labor, the environment, and fair completion.  Once completed, these trade agreements we are negotiating across the Atlantic and the Pacific will encompass nearly two-thirds of the global trade in the world, and can shape the character of the entire economic global economy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership also has a profound strategic — not just economic — strategic element to it.  Because deeper economic ties cement our partnerships but, most of all, help small nations resist the blackmail and coercion of larger powers using new asymmetric weapons to try to achieve their ends in other countries.

And this brings me to the Western Hemisphere, a vital part of the Pacific equation, but where there’s another great opportunity.  The President asked me to oversee our hemispheric relations.  And for the first time in history, you can truly envision a Western Hemisphere that is secure, democratic and middle class, from northern Canada to southern Chile, and everywhere in between.  But we have to overcome centuries of distrust.  We can no longer look at the region in terms of what we can do for it.  The question is what can we do together in this hemisphere.  And the possibilities are endless.

On energy, North America is literally — not figuratively — the epicenter of energy in the world today.  There are more rigs, gas and oil rigs in the United States pumping today than every other nation in the world combined.  Combined.  North America will account — meaning Mexico, China and Canada — for two-thirds of the growth of global energy supply over the next 20 years.  By 2018, the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas, and most projections show North America will be totally energy independent by 2020, and the United States shortly thereafter.
 
Look at the hemisphere in terms of trade.  Forty percent of all our exports stay in this hemisphere — 40 percent.  We have $1.3 trillion in trade in a yearly basis just in North America, including $1.3 billion per day with Mexico alone.
 
On security, we partnered with Colombia and Mexico and others to combat the scourge of drug trafficking.  We’re helping Central American countries address the root causes of poverty and violence and migration.

But to realize the potential of our partnerships in the region, we have to be present, we have to build that trust — which is why I’ve made five trips to Latin America just in the last — and to South America as well — just in the last 18 months.
 
It’s why we have to pass immigration reform here in the United States.  It’s one thing to say we respect the rest of the Americas, the majority of which are Hispanic.  But it’s another thing to say I respect them and yet not respect the immigrant population that’s the Hispanic community of the United States.  It does not connect.

The single most significant thing we can do to fundamentally change the relationship in terms of trust and commitment is to pass immigration reform.  Those of you who travel to or are from Central and South America know of what I speak.  Because respecting immigrants from the Americas is part of how we show that we really have changed our view, that South and Central America is no longer our back yard; it is our front yard.  It is our partner.  The relationship is changing.  And when it changes fully the benefits for us are astounding.

The third thing we need to do — and are doing — is to defend and extend the international rules of the road and deal with asymmetrical threats that are emerging.  The international system today is under strain from actors pushing and sometimes pushing past the limits of longstanding important international norms like nonproliferation and territorial integrity.  That’s why we insisted that Syria remove its chemical weapons stockpile and the means to manufacture them.  So we assembled under great criticism a coalition with Russia and others to remove Syria’s chemical stockpile.  That’s why have made it clear to Iran that we will not allow them to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve put together the single most effective, international sanctions in history to isolate Iran, and to push them back to the negotiating table.

Elsewhere, actors are subverting the fundamental principle of territorial integrity through the use of new asymmetric tactics, the use of proxies to quietly test the limits and probe the weaknesses across boundaries and borders on land and sea; the use of corruption as a foreign policy tool, unlike any time in modern history, to manipulate outcomes in other countries in order undermine the integrity of their governmental institutions.  That’s exactly what’s happening in Ukraine today. 

Putin — President Putin was determined to deny Ukraine and the Ukrainian people the power to make their choices about the future — whether to look east or west or both.  Under the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking populations, he not only encouraged and supported separatists in Ukraine, but he armed them.  He sent in Russian personnel out of uniform to take on the Ukrainian military, those little, green men.

    And when that wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to send Russian troops and tanks and sophisticated, air-defense systems across the border.  But we rallied the world to check his ambitions and defend Ukrainian sovereignty.  We didn’t put boots on the ground. 

Putin sought to prevent a free and open election.  We rallied the world to help Ukraine hold quite possibly the freest election in its history.  Putin sought to destabilize Ukraine’s economy.  We provided a billion dollars directly from the United States and worked with the IMF on a $27 billion international rescue package to keep them from going under.

Putin sought to keep Ukraine weak through corruption.  We’re helping those leaders fight back corruption, which by the way is an issue that demands our leadership around the world, by helping them write new laws, set up a new judiciary and much more.  Putin sought to hollow out Ukraine’s military the last 10 years, and he was very successful.  But we rallied NATO and NATO countries to begin to build that military capability back up.  Putin sought to keep secret Russian support for separatists who shot down a civilian airliner.  We exposed it to the world, and in turn rallied the world.  And remember this all began because Putin sought to block Ukraine’s accession agreement with the European Union.  Well, guess what:  That agreement was signed and ratified several weeks ago.

Throughout we’ve given Putin a simple choice:  Respect Ukraine’s sovereignty or face increasing consequences.  That has allowed us to rally the world’s major developed countries to impose real cost on Russia.

It is true they did not want to do that.  But again, it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oft times almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose costs.  And the results have been massive capital flight from Russia, a virtual freeze on foreign direct investment, a ruble at an all-time low against the dollar, and the Russian economy teetering on the brink of recession.

We don’t want Russia to collapse.  We want Russia to succeed.  But Putin has to make a choice.  These asymmetrical advances on another country cannot be tolerated.  The international system will collapse if they are.

And to state the obvious, it’s not over yet.  And there are no guarantees of success.  But unlike — the Ukrainian people have stood up.  And we are helping them, leading and acting strategically. 

The fourth element of our strategy is countering violent extremism.  As you know, we’ve engaged in a relentless campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan, in the so-called FATA, in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere.  This campaign against violent extremism predates our administration, and it will outlive our administration.  But we’ve made real progress against al Qaeda’s core and its affiliates since 9/11.  But this threat of violent extremism is something we’re going to have to contend with for a long time. 

Today, we’re confronting the latest iteration of that danger, so-called ISIL; a group that combines al Qaeda’s ideology with territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria and beyond, and the most blatant use of terrorist tactics the world has seen in a long, long time.  But we know how to deal with them.

Our comprehensive strategy to degrade and eventually defeat ISIL reflects the lessons we have learned post-9/11 age about how to use our power wisely.  And degrading them does not depend upon an unsustainable deployment of hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground.  It’s focused on building a coalition with concrete contributions from the countries in the region.  It recognizes outside military intervention alone will not be enough.  Ultimately, societies have to solve their own problems, which is why we’re pouring so much time and effort into supporting a Syrian opposition and Iraqi efforts to re-establish their democracy and defend their territory.  But this is going to require a lot of time and patience.

The truth is we will likely be dealing with these challenges of social upheaval not just in Iraq and Syria, but across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, which will take a generation or more to work itself out. 

We can’t solve each of these problems alone.  We can’t solve them ourselves.  But ultimately — and we can’t ultimately solve them with force, nor should we try.  But we can work to resolve these conflicts.  We can seek to empower the forces of moderation and pluralism and inclusive economic growth.  We can work with our partners to delegitimize ISIL in the Islamic world, and their perverse ideology. 

We can cut off the flow of terrorist finance and foreign fighters, as the President chaired the hearing in the United Nations Security Council on that issue just last week.  We can build the capacity of our partners from the Arab world to Afghanistan to solve their security problems in their own countries with our help and guidance.  The threat posed by violent extremists is real.  And I want to say here on the campus of Harvard University:  Our response must be deadly serious, but we should keep this in perspective.  The United States today faces threats that require attention.  But we face no existential threat to our way of life or our security.  Let me say it again:  We face no existential threat — none — to our way of life or our ultimate security.

You are twice as likely to be struck by lightning as you around to be affected by a terrorist event in the United States.

And while we face an adaptive, resilient enemy, let’s never forget that they’re no match for an even more resilient and adaptive group of people, the American people, who are so much tougher, smarter, realistic and gutsy than their political leadership gives them credit for.

We didn’t crumble after 9/11.  We didn’t falter after the Boston Marathon.  But we’re America.  Americans will never, ever stand down.  We endure.  We overcome.  We own the finish line.  So do not take out of proportion this threat to us.  None of you are being taught to dive under your desks in drills dealing with the possibility of a nuclear attack.  And I argue with all of my colleagues, including in the administration, the American people have already factored in the possibility that there will be another Boston Marathon someday.  But it will not, cannot — has no possibility of breaking our will, our resolve, and/or our ultimate security.

Which brings me to the fifth and final point, the strength of America’s economy.  Without a strong economic foundation, none of which I have spoken to is possible — none of it.  It all rests on America remaining the most vibrant and vital economy in the world. 

And America is back.  America remains the world’s leading economy.  I got elected when I was 29 years old, as was pointed out, and I was referred to in those days as a young idealist.  And I’m today — if you read about me among the many things that are often said, good and bad, I’m always referred to as the White House Optimist, as if somehow, as my grandpop would say, I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.  (Laughter.)

I’m optimistic because I know the history of the journey of this country.  And I have never been more optimistic about America’s future than I am today, and that is not hyperbole.  We are better positioned than any other nation in the world to remain the leading economy in the world in the 21st century. 

We have the world’s greatest research university.  We have the greatest energy resources in the world.  We have the most flexible venture-capitalist system, the most productive workers in the world.  That’s an objective assertion.  We have a legal system that adjudicates claims fairly, protects intellectual property.  Don’t take my word for it.  AT Kearney has been doing a survey for over the last I believe 30-some years.  They survey the 500 largest industrial outfits in the world.  They ask the same question:  Where is the best place in the world to invest?  This year, America not only remains the best place in the world to invest by a margin larger than any time in the record of the survey, but Boston Consulting Group right here, a first-rate outfit, surveys every year American corporations with manufacturing facilities in China and asks them what are they planning for next year.  This year, the response was 54 percent of those invested in China said they planned on coming home.

I don’t know how long I’ve been hearing about how China — and I want China to succeed, it’s in our interest they succeed economically — about how China is eating America’s lunch.  Folks, China has overwhelming problems.  China not only has an energy problem, they have no water.  No, no, not a joke — like California.  They have no water.  (Laughter.)  It is a gigantic and multi-trillion-dollar problem for them.  We should help them solve the problem. 

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your hand if you think our main competition is going to come from the EU in the next decade.  Put your hands up.  (Laughter.)  I’m not being facetious here now, I’m being deadly earnest.  We want — it is overwhelmingly our interest that the EU grow, and that China grows, because when they don’t grow, we don’t grow as fast.  But, ladies and gentlemen, relative terms, we are so well-positioned if we act rationally, if we invest in our people.

A recent study points out that American workers are three times as productive as workers in China.  It matters in terms of where people will invest their money, where jobs will be created.  And one of my — I was in and out of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina over twenty-some times.  As Maggie will remember, I was the voice that kept hectoring President Clinton to lift the arms embargo and take on Milosevic, which he did, to his great credit.

And one of my trips to Kosovo, I had a Kosovar driver, meaning he was Muslim, a Kosovar driver and who spoke a little English.  And I was going up to Fort Bondsteel, which is right outside of Pristina, a fort that was being built on a plateau.  And it was a rutted, muddy road, and we were — the tires were spinning to get up there, but there were all these cranes and bulldozers and all these incredible movement.  And my driver very proudly sort of looked down like this and looked out the window and he pointed at me and he said, Senator, America, America.  And we were literally at a gate – and, Tommy, you know, the old pike that came down across this rutted road in red and white striped.  And standing to the right of the gate, stopping us, were five American soldiers.  An African American woman, who was a master sergeant; a Chinese American — I forget the rank; an African American man; a woman colonel, and a Hispanic commanding officer.  And I tapped him on the soldier and I said, no, no, and I meant it so seriously — there’s America.  There’s America.  Until you figure out how to live together like we do, you will never, never, never make it. 

America’s strength ultimately lies in its people.  There’s nothing special about being American — none of you can define for me what an American is.  Can’t define it based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture.  The uniqueness of America is that we are a group of people who agreed on — whether we say it, whether we’re well-educated or not, whether we say it in terms of basic agreements but we really do believe without saying it, “We the People.”   “All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator.”  Sounds corny.  But that’s who we are.  That’s the essential strength and vibrancy of this country.

And that’s why it’s our obligation to lead.  It’s costly.  It takes sacrifice.  And sometimes it’s dangerous.  But we must lead — but lead in a more rational way, as I hope I’ve outlined for you, because we can.  We can deal with the present crisis, and it is within our power to make a better world.

You’re a lucky group of students.  I’m not being solicitous.  You’re lucky because you are about to take control at a time where one of those rare inflection points in the history of the world, in this country.  Remember from your physics class in high school, if you didn’t have to take it in college.  I remember my physics professor saying an inflection point is when you’re riding down the highway at 60 miles an hour and your hands are on the steering wheel, and you turn it abruptly 2, 5, 10 degrees one way or the other, and you can never get back on the path you were on.
 
We are at an inflection point.  The world is changing whether we like it or not, but we have our hands on the wheel.  The only time you get a chance to bend history a little bit are these moments of great change.  And if we’re wise, if we have courage and resolve, and with a little bit of luck we can all make the world a better place — for real.
 
God bless you all and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

END
7:20 P.M. EDT

Press Releases: Statement as Chair of Ministerial Debate of the UN Security Council on Iraq

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Your Excellency, Mr. al-Jafari, for a very important statement, and we appreciate very much your leadership and the new government’s efforts. Now it’s my privilege to make a statement in my capacity as Secretary of State of the United States.

Let me start again by thanking every single one of you for participating in this session. I’ve seen in the last weeks traveling around how extraordinarily busy everybody is and how committed to this effort everyone is, through their actions as well as through their incredibly busy schedules. So I’m convinced that the fact that so many countries are represented here from so many parts of the world really underscores the clear need for all of us to come together to welcome and to support the new, inclusive government in Iraq, and, of course, to put an end to ISIL’s unfettered barbarity.

I want to thank Secretary-General Ban and welcome our new Iraqi counterpart, Foreign Minister al-Jafari. I don’t need to remind anyone here that the last two times the eyes of the world were focused on Iraq was when its government was in confrontation with the international community, with great consequences. Today, however, we come together in support of the new Iraqi Government that has already made great strides in a short amount of time, and we must not miss this moment.

Last week, I made my second trip to Baghdad in just over two months, in order to meet with the new Iraqi Government. And I was very encouraged to hear them reaffirm their commitment to govern in the interests of all Iraqis and to finally begin to address the deep divisions that we’re all aware of, including those over energy resources, regional autonomy, and the composition of the security forces. All of these have plagued Iraq throughout its modern history. They’re also committed to empowering local communities to mobilize, to maintain security control in their area, and work with the international community to defeat ISIL.

Indeed, Iraq has responded to the ISIL threat with a spirit of unity that the country has not experienced in decades, if ever. Last month, an Iraqi Arab pilot, Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi, flew an Iraqi Air Force helicopter with a Kurdish crew and a Yezidi member of parliament and with the single goal of rescuing Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. Tragically, the helicopter crashed. General Saadi was the only one killed. But before he died, he told a New York Times reporter that the mission to rescue the Yezidis was the most important thing he had ever done in his entire life and career as an Iraqi pilot. This historic level of cooperation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces has resonated deeply in both communities.

As the President explained earlier this month – my President – ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way. In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are actually unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners, kneeling them down, tying their hands behind their back, a bullet through their heads. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists, Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. ISIL simply poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, and if left unchecked, these terrorists certainly would pose a growing threat beyond the region because they have already promised to.

Ultimately, history will judge how the world responds to this moment, to this challenge. In the face of this sort of evil, we have only one option: To confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable of degrading and destroying this terrorist threat; to confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable enough to ensure whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere, ISIL cannot find safe haven.

As President Obama has clearly explained, and as I think everyone in this room is well aware of at this point, the coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only, or even primarily, military in nature. It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort. It’s about taking out an entire network – decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement. The fact is there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran, whose foreign minister is here with us here today. ISIL poses a threat to all of us, and we’re committed to working in close partnership with the new Iraqi Government and countries around the world to defeat it. That’s why I spent the past week consulting with my Iraqi counterparts and traveling in the Middle East and in Europe, building partnerships; and that’s why we were so focused on hosting this session here today.

And I thank Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s leadership in hosting their conference in Jeddah, and I thank President Hollande and Laurent Fabius in France for their leadership in hosting the conference in Paris. From each of these has come a greater and greater commitment to do what we need to do. – I have to tell you that in many of the meetings that I’ve had so far, leaders aren’t talking about if they should support our campaign against ISIL; they’re asking how. And already across each of the lines of effort that we’re focused on, we have seen more than 50 countries come forward with critical commitments.

First, on military support, countries in the region and around the world are already providing assistance both in terms of kinetic action, but also in the form of training, advising, equipping, providing logistical support, and so on. In the region, countries like Egypt have committed to significantly enhance the coordination between its forces and Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But even further from away from Iraq, countries like Australia are committing to deploying fighter jets and support aircraft and personnel. Germany, in recognition of the grave threat posed by ISIL, reversed its longstanding policy against offering lethal aid. France, last night, conducted its first air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. These forms of assistance, provided at the request of Iraq, and with full respect for its sovereignty, are essential to combating ISIL – but they are only one part of a comprehensive approach that is required.

We’re also seeing overwhelming support when it comes to humanitarian assistance. Dozens of countries from throughout the international community have so far committed almost $1 billion to the UN-led humanitarian response in Iraq. That includes donations from countries within the region – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere – as well as funds from countries on the other side of the world – Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and more.

We’re seeing encouraging progress in the effort to dry up ISIL’s illicit funding, as well. And Bahrain has offered to host an international conference in the near future to further develop a global action plan to counter terrorist financing. – As we’ll discuss next week at the session that President Obama will chair, we must also stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to ISIL – men and women who carry passports from countries around the world, including nearly every country represented in this room. This is yet another area where countries have already begun to take important steps, including legislation criminalizing the recruitment, preparation, and participation of their citizens in combat activities of terrorism abroad.

And finally, there is an urgent need to counter the poisonous propaganda and gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading far and wide. It is time to put an end to a group, so extreme in its rejection of modernity, that it bans math and social studies for children. It’s time to put an end to the sermons by extremists that brainwash young men to join these terrorist groups and commit mass atrocities in the name of God. This is something that leaders in the region are very focused on. Saudi Arabia’s top clerics this week came out publicly and declared terrorism a “heinous crime” under Sharia law and called ISIL in particular “the order of Satan.”

All of this is vital, because we know that in preventing an individual from joining ISIL, or from getting to the battlefield in the first place, that’s the most effective measure you can take.

But for this campaign to have any chance of success, Iraq itself – and its security forces on the front lines – must be leading the way. – That’s one of the reasons why it’s imperative that we all go the extra mile to help Iraq fully re-integrate into the region and into the global community of nations. And that’s starting to happen. Last week, the Iraqis, long estranged from their neighbors and isolated from the world, were not just invited, but were warmly welcomed at international meetings in Jeddah and Paris, and now here in New York, before the Security Council and before the entire world.

And what is different about today’s meeting – and this is one reason why we’re so grateful to so many minsters for traveling here – is that the last meetings the world did not share in the deliberation or the discussion formally as it went on; they heard afterwards. Today, the world can listen to each of the ministers, and they will understand the breadth and scope of the support for this effort.

So we’re well on our way, but that doesn’t mean that we’re where we need to be. I hope that today the progress that I’ve described will continue, and over the course of this week that more partners will come forward and more commitments to these efforts will be announced.

Make no mistake: Our work to build and enhance this coalition will continue well after this week is over. I commit that to you and President Obama firmly commits that. And one of our most respected military experts sitting right here behind me, General John Allen, who served in Afghanistan in command of our forces there for two years and also in Iraq, who knows many of the people in Iraq for his service in Anbar – has agreed to come to the State Department with a presidential appointment and oversee the U.S. effort to match up each country’s capabilities with the coalition’s total needs so the line of effort is coordinated.

I look forward to hearing from all of you in the course of this afternoon. Again, I’d just close by thanking everybody for joining this discussion, and I’m absolutely confident that through a global campaign that is comprehensive and committed, we can support the promise of the new government in Iraq and we can defeat the ISIL threat – wherever it exists.

Remarks to the American Legion

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2014

Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina

12:07 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat.  Hello, Legionnaires!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank Commander Dellinger for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the Army.  And as you conclude your tenure as Commander, thank you for your tireless commitment to America’s veterans. 

I want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director in Washington, Peter Gaytan; Nancy Brown-Park, all the spouses, daughters — (applause) — hey! — sisters of the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion.  (Applause.)  And let me say that I join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you — an Army veteran and a great Legionnaire from North Carolina, Jerry Hedrick.  (Applause.) 

To Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, Mayor Dan Clodfelter — thank you for welcoming us to the great state of North Carolina and to Charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans.

And I do have to mention the President of Boys Nation –Matthew Ellow, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama.  I welcomed Matthew and all the incredible young people of Boys and Girls Nation to the White House last month.  I was running a little bit late, so they just started singing, filling the White House with patriotic songs.  And then they sang Happy Birthday to me, so I was pretty moved.  And they’re a tribute to the Legion and to our country.   

I’ve brought with me today our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald.  (Applause.)  And for those of you who are not aware, Bob is one of America’s most accomplished business leaders.  He comes from a military family.  He excelled at West Point, served as an Army Airborne Ranger — so he’s got a reputation for jumping into tough situations.  (Laughter.)  And he’s hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, hearing directly from veterans and helping us change the way the VA does business.  And by the way, Washington doesn’t agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97 to 0.  (Applause.)  People understand he’s the right man for the job.  He has my full support.  And, Bob, I want to thank you for once again serving your country.  (Applause.) 

It’s an honor to be back with the American Legion.  In the story of your service we see the spirit of America.  When your country needed you most, you stepped forward.  You raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath.  You put on that uniform and earned the title you carry to this day — whether Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman.   

Among you are proud veterans of World War II; of Korea; of Vietnam; of Desert Storm and the Balkans; and our newest veterans — from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Across the generations, you served with honor.  You made us proud.  And you carry the memory of friends who never came home — our fallen, our prisoners of war, those missing in action — heroes that our nation can never forget.

When you took off that uniform, you earned another title –the title of veteran.  And you never stopped serving.  As Legionnaires, you put on that cap, wore that emblem — “for God and country” — and took care of one another, making sure our veterans receive the care and the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve. 

And just as you defended America over there, you helped build America here at home — as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs and business owners, as champions for a strong national defense.  You helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

Now, these are challenging times.  I don’t have to tell you that.  Around the world as well as here at home.  You turn on the TV and we’re saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy.  And it can be easy to grow cynical or give in to the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach.  But as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better.  You know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation.  And so, even as we face, yes, the hard tasks of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.

Think about it — six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — in some ways, the crisis had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression — thanks to the decisions we made to rescue our economy, thanks to the determination of the American people, we are stronger at home.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs — the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history.  Construction and housing are rebounding.  Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming.  Our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  Millions more Americans now have quality, affordable health care.  We’ve cut the deficit by more than half.  And now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress, so our economy works for every working American.

And just as we’re stronger at home, the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth.  It’s not even close.  We have the most powerful military in history — that’s certainly not close.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled.  Our economy is the most dynamic.  We’ve got the best workers.  We’ve got the best businesses.  We have the best universities and the best scientists.  With our domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we’re more energy independent.  Our technologies connect the world.  Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who “yearn to breathe free.”  Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty.  That’s who we are.  That’s what America is.  

And moreover, nobody else can do what we do.  No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends.  In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace.  In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly.  No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies.  No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease, and realize their dignity.  Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call — they call us.  That’s what American leadership looks like.  That’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.   

Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely.  History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.  And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war.  You’re the ones who carry the scars.  You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through.  (Applause.)  You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.

And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home.  It was the right thing to do.  It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security.  In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end.  And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe. 

And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress.  And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, as I’ve always made clear, the blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat.  Al Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland — we’ve seen that in Yemen.  Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria.  As Commander-in-Chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there.  (Applause.)

And let me say it again:  American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq.  I will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.  Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.  (Applause.)  The limited strikes we’re conducting have been necessary to protect our people, and have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists.  We’ve also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on a mountain.  And our airdrops of food and water and medicine show American leadership at our best.  And we salute the brave pilots and crews who are making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day.  (Applause.) 

And more broadly, the crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today’s evolving terrorist threat.  The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time, and end up feeding extremism.  Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL. 

So we’re strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria.  We’re urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists.  And we’re urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists.

Today, our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother Jim.  But our message to anyone who harms our people is simple:  America does not forget.  Our reach is long.  We are patient.  Justice will be done.  We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — (applause) — to go after those who harm Americans.  (Applause.) 

And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.  And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick.  But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.

So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant.  We will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs.  And as today’s generation of servicemembers keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them, just as they meet their responsibilities to America.  (Applause.)

When I was here at the Legion three years ago, I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation. 

And working together, we have made real progress.  Think about it.  Working with the Legion and other veterans service organizations, we’ve been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding.  We’ve protected veterans health care from Washington politics with advanced appropriations.  We’ve been able to make VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who didn’t have them before, including more Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange.  (Applause.)  We’ve dedicated major new resources for mental health care.  We’ve helped more than 1 million veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    And moreover, as the Legion and other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door the care you receive from the VA is often very good.  The specialized care is among the best in the world.  And many of the hardworking folks at the VA are veterans themselves — veterans serving veterans.  And we can never thank them enough for their good work. 

But what we’ve come to learn is that the misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities — with long wait times, and veterans denied care, and folks cooking the books — is outrageous and inexcusable.  (Applause.)

As soon as it was disclosed, I got before the American people and I said we would not tolerate it.  And we will not.  And I know the Legion has been on the frontlines, fanning out across the country, helping veterans who’ve been affected.  And I know Bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we’re taking.  But what I want you to know, directly from me, is that we’re focused on this at the highest levels.  We are going to get to the bottom of these problems.  We’re going to fix what is wrong.  We’re going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families.  And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here.  (Applause.)

Already we’re making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable.  We’re reaching out to veterans — more than a quarter million so far  — to get them off wait lists and into clinics.  We’re moving ahead with reforms at the Veterans Health Administration.  And to help get that done, you supported, and Congress passed, and I signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which means more resources to help the VA hire more doctors and nurses and staff.  It means if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or your VA doctors can’t see you fast enough, we’ll help you go to a doctor outside the VA.

And we’re instituting a new culture of accountability.  Bob doesn’t play.  Bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from West Point, which should be the ethos of all of us:  “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”  And with the new legislation that I signed into law, Bob and the VA now have the authority to more quickly remove senior executives who don’t meet our high standards.  If you engage in unethical practices, or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired.  (Applause.)

And by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher-ups because you’ve identified a legitimate problem, you shouldn’t be punished, you should be protected.  (Applause.)

So my bottom line is this:  Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there.  And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first.  And I will not be satisfied until that happens.  (Applause.)

And we’re in the midst of a new wave of veterans — more than a million servicemembers returning to civilian life.  So we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year, but for decades to come.  We’re going to have to stay focused on the five priorities that I outlined last year.  And I just want to reiterate them for you just so you know what it is that we’re committing to.

Number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve.  And the new funding we just helped — we just passed with the help of Senators Burr and Kay, that helps.  But as you know, it’s not enough.  Even in these tough fiscal times, I’ve, therefore, proposed another increase in veterans funding for next year.  And I’ll continue to resist any effort to exploit the recent problems at the VA to turn veterans health care into a voucher system.  We don’t need vouchers.  You need VA health care that you have earned and that you can depend on.  (Applause.)  We need to make the system work.

Second, we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care you need when you need it.  Reforming the VHA and more doctors and staff is a good step.  But with this new wave of veterans, we’ve got to deliver the care our newest veterans need most.  And that includes tailored care that treats our women veterans with respect and dignity.  (Applause.)  It means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.  And we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans.  (Applause.)  As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy. 

So we’re doing even more — more than ever — more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care.  So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn’t get the support that they need, that means we haven’t done enough.  And we all know we need to do more.  Veterans called for it.  We heard you — which is why today I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their families.  (Applause.)

So just one example:  We’re expanding suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help.  We’ll improve access to care, with more peer support — veterans counseling veterans — at VA hospitals and clinics.  We’re calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that’s on par with the coverage for other medical conditions.  And we’re going to make it easier for servicemembers being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the VA, so automatically connecting them with the support they need, making sure they don’t lose access to any medications they may be taking.

And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength.  Talk to a friend.  Pick up the phone.  You are not alone.  We are here for you.  And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help.  They were there for America.  We now need to be there for them.  (Applause.) 

Our third priority:  We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog.  Now, the good news is, since its peak last year, we’ve worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50 percent.  There had been a surge in the backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans; in part because we opened it up for folks who had PTSD, folks with Agent Orange symptoms.  And now we’ve had to work that backlog back down.  The trend lines are good.  But we don’t just want those claims processed fast; we need to make sure they get processed right. 

So we’re going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all.  And as we do, we’re going to keep working to liberate you from those mountains of paper.  We’ve got to move towards a paperless system — electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life, and that could cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so that you’re getting the benefits that you’ve earned a little bit faster.  (Applause.)   

Number four:  We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  Again, we’ve got good news to report.  Today, I can announce that, working together over the last few years, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one-third.  (Applause.)  And that means on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters.  But we’re not going to stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America.  That’s a basic commitment that we have to uphold.  (Applause.)   

And finally, we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.  That includes a home of their own.  You know, under the law, our servicemembers are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they’re eligible, which means a lot of folks don’t get the low rates they deserve.

So, today, we’re turning that around.  We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify servicemembers who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll.  In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.  (Applause.)

We’re also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life.  Because of the work we’ve done together, if you already have a military truck driver’s license, every state now waives the skills test so it’s easier for you to get a commercial driver’s license.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans.  If you could do a job in a warzone, if you’re a medic in a warzone, you shouldn’t have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital here in the United States.  (Applause.)  If you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a warzone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home.  If you can do the kinds of jobs so many of you have done in the most extreme circumstances, I’m pretty confident you can do that job right here at home.  (Applause.)

To help our troops and veterans pursue their education, we worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our servicemembers at 6 percent.  For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families.  So far, about 6,000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of excellence, promising to do right by our veterans.  And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted our “8 Keys” to make sure that they’re truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus.  And by the way, every school in America should join them.  You should be proud if you’re educating a veteran, and you should be doing right by them.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to keep helping our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible talents.  Our new online Veterans Employment Center is a single one-stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now.  And we’re joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans.  And with Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden leading the call, America’s businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses — more than half a million so far, and growing. 

So veterans’ unemployment is going down, and it’s now actually lower than the national average.  It was higher to begin with, and we have been driving it down.  But we’ve got more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans.  So we’re going to keep saying to every business in America, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done, no matter the mission, hire a veteran.  Hire a vet.  (Applause.)

So fixing what’s broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you’ve earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended — these are our commitments to you.  This is what we’re focused on.  This is what we can do together — especially as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans.

There are a lot of them here tonight.  We salute Captain Scott Miller of Indiana, a proud Hoosier and a proud Marine.  In Afghanistan, he went out on dangerous patrols, traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible.  So thank you, Scott.  Where is Scott here today?  (Applause.)  We are proud of him.  There here is.

We salute Master Sergeant Carol Barker of Greensboro, North Carolina.  As a first sergeant of her medevac unit, she was responsible for more than a hundred troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance.  And here at the Legion, she continues to serve, helping homeless veterans come in off the streets, and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads.  Thank you, Carol.  Where’s Carol?  (Applause.)

We salute Sergeant Joe Grassi, who grew up just outside New York City.  After his hometown was attacked on 9/11, he left his civilian job, he joined the Army.  A squad leader in Afghanistan, he spent most of his time on the flight line, in the 120-degree heat, supplying our helicopter crews.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve, helping veterans complete their disability claims, and raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense, because, he says, “Some things are worth fighting for.  America is worth fighting for.”  Thank you, Joe.  We’re proud of you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

Scott, Carol, Joe — they’re among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And I would ask all our Post-9/11 Generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.  I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun.  And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups alone.  I want every American to take this commitment seriously.  Please stand, Post-9/11 Generation, all of you who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re grateful for you.  (Applause.)

This is not just a job of government.  It’s not just a job of the veterans’ organizations.  Every American needs to join us in taking care of those who’ve taken care of us.  Because only 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans benefit from that 1 percent.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our troops.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our veterans.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our military families.  (Applause.)  

And everybody can do something.  Every American.  Every business.  Every profession.  Every school.  Every community.  Every state.  All of us, as one American team.  That’s how we will truly honor our veterans.  That’s how we will truly say thank you.  That’s how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who’ve served in our name.

God bless you.  God bless our veterans.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

PM delivers remarks in Brampton

Brampton, Ontario – 12 August 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks at India’s National Day Gala in Brampton:

“Thank you very much.

“Good evening.

“Namaste.

“I want to thank everybody for that warm welcome and just tell you how delighted I am to be here.

“Thanks of course to our masters of ceremonies, to Parm Gill and Angie Seth for kicking us off tonight.

“Also special greetings to all guests from all levels of government who are here with us tonight, both Canadian and international, to Consul General Mishra.

“Particularly to my colleagues from the Government of Canada, and I know they’ve already been introduced.

“There are way too many for me to name but look we’ve got a great turn out.

“I’d like them all to stand up one more time.

“Give all my colleagues from the Parliament of Canada your warm greeting.

“You will know ladies and gentleman that our Government has, in fact we’re proud to have, eight Canadians of Indian descent serving in our caucus.

“In fact, there are today more men and women who were born in India serving in Canada’s Parliament than at any other time in our country’s history.

“Let me also just recognize a few people who worked so hard to make this occasion such a tremendous success.

“Obviously first, my introducer, for her leading role in helping to drive the organization of this great event – she asked me 67 times to attend – let’s give her one more round of applause, my introducer, Dr. Senator Asha Seth.

“Now to be fair, the Senator was working with a great team, so let’s also show our appreciation once again to the other members of the Canada India Friendship Group and to members of the Advisory Board.

“Thank all of them for their great work in putting this tremendous event together.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, I know tonight we’re a couple of days early but I would like to personally wish each of you, I would like to in fact wish all Indo-Canadians a very happy India Independence Day.

“In a matter of days, Prime Minister Modi will do, for the first time, what each of his predecessors have done: raise the deep saffron, white and green flag of India above the Red Fort in New Delhi.

“So, on behalf of the Government of Canada and indeed, I know, all of the people of Canada, let’s extend our best to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian people as they mark 67 years of independence.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, Canada’s relationship with India is special because despite the great differences between our two countries, we have growing economic ties, we have vast people-to-people ties, and all of these things are cemented together by common values: democracy, justice, pluralism, peace, human rights, the rule of law.

“And in what is a very uncertain and divided world, it is comforting to know that Canada has certain friends, like India, who share these values.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, in preparation for tonight’s event, I could not help but reflect on how much has changed here in Canada and around the world since my first visit to India back in 2009.

“Five years ago, our Government was navigating Canada through the midst of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“Indeed, much has changed.

“With regards to the global recession, whereas Canada was the last G-7 country to feel its impact, we have been the first country to recover from it.

“And today, despite challenges and uncertainties around the world – challenges and uncertainties that do continue to impact us – Canada’s economy is strong, it is growing, creating good jobs and opportunities for hard-working Canadians.

“There are more Canadians working today than at any time in our country’s history.

“Today, Canada is also widely rated as the best country in the G-20 in which to do business.

“We have the soundest financial sector in the world.

“And we have the most prosperous middle class, among significant developed economies.

“We have lowered taxes and, next year, years ahead of other countries, we are going to balance the budget here in Canada.

“Now thinking again back to my trip to India in 2009, Canada then had free trade agreements with only five countries in the entire world.

“Since then, we have expanded that by almost 10 times.

“Today, we have free trade agreements, agreements in principle, with 43 countries.

“Put another way, Canada has secured free trade agreements with nearly a quarter of the world’s countries, and Canadian businesses are going to have tariff-free access to more than half of the total global economy, including, as you know, with the European Union and the Republic of Korea.

“Now it’s my hope – it’s our Government’s hope – that over the years to come Canada and India will continue to develop our own economic and trading relationship.

“And that is, of course, another area where things have changed greatly since 2009.

“We can rightly say that the chill that characterized relations between Canada and India for decades is a thing of the past.

“Before our Conservative Government came to office, Canada’s relationship with India had been essentially frozen for most of the period since the 1970s.

“Since taking office our Government has worked hard to revitalize and strengthen Canada-India relations.

“We have concluded a Social Security Agreement, an historic Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, and we have launched our own bilateral Canada-India free trade negotiations.

“Know that our Government will continue to work to break-down barriers that hinder bilateral trade and investment, and that senior members of our Government will continue to visit India.

“Just a couple of years ago I had the great fortune, as the Senator mentioned, of returning to India.

“Because one trip was obviously not near enough to even to scratch the surface of that large, ancient and fascinating civilisation.

“In fact, my second trip to India was the longest bilateral visit any Canadian Prime Minister has ever made to any country in the world.

“And we have been following up on that – we now have eight Canadian consular and trade promotion offices operating across the Republic of India, a number we are looking to add to.

“These offices are helping to facilitate visa and immigration applications, and they’re helping to create more opportunities for Canadian businesses in places such as New Delhi and Bangalore, Chandigarh in Punjab, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

“The state of Gujarat in particular – the state where Prime Minister Modi served as chief minister for more than a decade – is home to some of the brightest and best entrepreneurial minds in the world.

“Our Government sees tremendous potential for growth in collaboration with this regional economic powerhouse and we have been working hard to make this a priority for several years.

“Canada was pleased to serve as an official partner for Vibrant Gujarat 2011.

“And two years later, at Vibrant Gujarat 2013, not only did Canada serve as an official partner, but Minister Jason Kenney travelled all the way to Gujarat to represent Canada at the summit and to address all of its attendees.

“Ladies and gentlemen the bottom line is this: the bottom line is that the friendship between Canada and India is stronger, it is stronger than it has ever been and that is something that we all, in both of our countries, should be very proud of.

“Now ladies and gentlemen you should also know that our Government’s efforts to strengthen Canada-India relations go beyond expanding bilateral trade and investment, for example, through immigration reform.

“Canada’s past has been shaped by the millions who came from elsewhere and Canada’s future will depend on the millions yet to come.

“Yet, for far too long, previous governments, as you know, chose to ignore problems in Canada’s immigration system as if they would just fix themselves.

“Instead, the problems only intensified and the wait times got longer.

“Back then, if you had applied to become a permanent resident from India you could expect to wait five or six years for your application to be processed.

“It was that bad.

“As the immigration backlog grew, so too did the irritation of those patiently waiting their turn.

“Worse still, economic opportunities were denied not just to individuals from India, to immigrants, but to Canada itself.

“When our Government took office, we immediately got to work and tackled those problems head on.

“And I should tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that our Government’s reforms have been working and they have been working well.

“Today, the permanent residency approval rate for applicants from India is more than 85 per cent.

“I should add that these men and women don’t have to wait another four or five or six years for their residency because our Government has reduced processing times for recent applicants down to just one year.

“In 2005, fewer than twenty-five hundred student visas were granted to Indian students.

“Last year, our Government granted more than fourteen thousand such visas.

“More Indian students than ever before are studying at Canadian universities, and because our Government has made it easier for these bright young minds to qualify for permanent residency and to work, we hope these students, many of them, will stay and put their Canadian degrees to use right here in Canada.

“Our Government has also made the CAN+ program in India a permanent feature of our immigration system, meaning that persons who have travelled to Canada or the United States in the recent past can be fast-tracked for a visitor visa.

“Our CAN+ program has a 95 per cent approval rate, making more Indians able to visit Canada as tourists or to do business.

“By the way, did I mention ladies and gentlemen that this newest change to our immigration program was just announced by Chris Alexander last month in New Delhi, during his first trip to India as Canada’s new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration – congratulations!

“Look we all know that immigration enriches this country, and our Government’s ongoing reforms mean that more immigrants will be able to contribute to their maximum of their capacity, and that is good for everyone.  

“Today, India is Canada’s top source country for immigrants.

“And of course, this explains why Canada’s Indo-Canadian community is more than 1.2 million strong and continuing to grow.

“The Indo-Canadian community has a proud and rich history in our country.

“This community – the Indo-Canadian community – is comprised of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in business and in finance, in academia and medicine, in technology and agriculture, to list just a few areas.

“I want to give you just one example.

“Close to ten years ago, Naval Bajaj came to Canada from India with only $600 in his pocket.

“But he had big dreams, and he had energy and ambition.

“And ladies and gentlemen, in Canada, he also had opportunity.

“With hard work and determination, Naval eventually became a business consultant with 7-Eleven Canada and he is also a business owner himself.

“He has led two trade missions for Canada back to his home country.

“And he was the youngest ever elected president of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“He also happens to be a member of the Canada India Friendship Group Advisory Board.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, I tell you that in my travels across Canada I meet many people like Naval.

“Men and women relentlessly pursuing their goals to build a better, more prosperous life for themselves and their families, and helping this country immensely in the process.

“In fact, I know that this room is full of people just like that.

“In my travels, I have also observed that wherever Indian immigrants settle, wherever they choose to put down roots, to start businesses, to raise families, be it Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto or right here in Brampton, not by coincidence, those places thrive.

“I believe this is because Indo-Canadians possess a strong ethic of work and education, and an unwavering commitment to faith and to family.

“And these are the things that underlie not only the Indo-Canadian community’s success, but Canada’s success as a country as well.

“So look, let me just conclude tonight – I know you’re all anxious to get on with the meal – let me just conclude by taking this opportunity to thank each one of you.

“To thank all of you for choosing Canada.

“Thank you for contributing to Canada.

“Thank you for loving Canada.

“Because whether you’ve been here for one, 10 or 50 years, Canada is your country.

“Again, congratulations everyone on this tremendous event, and thanks once more for the invitation.”

Secretary’s Remarks: U.S. Vision for Asia-Pacific Engagement

MR. MORRISON: Well, thank you. Aloha. I want to welcome everyone. And for our online audience, and also for the Secretary, I’d like to describe who is here in our audience. We have the mayor of Honolulu, Mayor Caldwell. We have our senator, Mazie Hirono. We have our former governor, George Ariyoshi, and our other former governor, John Waihee. We have many members of the business and intellectual and public affairs community here in Honolulu. We have members of the diplomatic corps. We have members of our men and women in uniform. We have the members of the board of governors of the East-West Center. We have the staff of the East-West Center. We have friends of the East-West Center. And most importantly, we have future leaders of the Asia Pacific region. And I was just telling the Secretary, I think yesterday we welcomed 130 new participants from the United States and 40 other countries. They’re here on a unique program to prepare them for being future regional and global leaders.

Now, how do you introduce a man who is so well-known for his own leadership and —

SECRETARY KERRY: First thing, you can just tell everybody to sit down.

MR. MORRISON: Oh. (Laughter.) Please sit down, yes. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Anyway, as you know, he has served in war and peace. He was a senator for 28 years; 59 million Americans voted for him for president, including 54 percent of the voters of Hawaii. (Laughter and applause.) But as a former senate staff person, I thought the way to really check him out was to see how his confirmation hearing went. Now, the issues were controversial but the nominee was not controversial, and what his former colleagues said about him, Republicans and Democrats, I think give the essence of the man: extremely well prepared, born in a Foreign Service family, served all 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, four years as the chairman of that committee. He knows the languages – several foreign languages, countries, leaders, and issues. He is a man of incredible moral and intellectual integrity. He brings conviction and compassion to his job and great energy. He has been, I think, on his seventh trip to Asia, coming back and so we want to welcome him back to the United States. We want to welcome him to our most Asia Pacific state, and we want to welcome him to the East-West Center, an institution that’s building community with this vast region which is so systemically important to the future of the United States.

Mr. Secretary of State. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Aloha. It’s wonderful to be here in Hawaii, and man, I can’t tell you how I wish I was as relaxed as some of you in your beautiful shirts. (Laughter.) Here I am in my – whatever you call it – uniform. Uniform, some would say. But it is such a pleasure to be here. Mr. Mayor, it’s great to be here with you. And Mazie, thank you. It’s wonderful to see you, Senator. I’m very happy to see you. Thanks for being here. And governors, thank you for being here very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests all, it’s a great, great pleasure for me to be able to be here. And President Morrison, thank you very much for that generous introduction. I appreciate it very much.

Charles was way ahead of the curve, folks, in seeing the trend towards regionalism in the Asia Pacific in the early 1990s. And he was calling for community-building within East Asia well before it became a standard topic of discussion on the think tank circuit. So clearly, and to everyone’s benefit, he’s had an ability to focus on the long game. And that is a talent that he actually shares with one of the founding fathers of this institution, a former colleague, beloved to all of you, who became a great friend to me, and that’s Senator Dan Inouye. During my sort of latter years, I actually moved up to about seventh in seniority or something in the United States Senate, and had I not been appointed to this job, with all of the retirements that are taking place, I don’t know, I might have been third or fourth or something, which is kind of intimidating. But as a result of that, I got to sit beside the great Dan Inouye for four or five years in the Senate. Our desks were beside each other, and we became very good friends. He was one of the early supporters of mine when I decided to run for President in ’04, ’03. But most importantly, Dan Inouye, as all of you know, was a patriot above all who commanded remarkable respect and affection of all of his colleagues. And Hawaii was so wise to keep him in office for so many years.

Having just visited yesterday Guadalcanal, having stood up on what was called Bloody Ridge, Edson’s Ridge, and walked into one of the still remaining bunkers that Marines were dug in on against 3,000-plus Japanese who kept coming at them wave after wave in the evening, it’s – it was a remarkable sense of the battle that turned the war. And no place knows the meaning of all of that better than here in Hawaii.

Yesterday commemorated really one of the great battles of the Second World War, and so it gave me a chance to reflect with special pride and with humility about Dan’s service to our country. He was a hero in the war, against difficult circumstances which we all understand too well. But he became the first Japanese American to serve in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, against all the odds of what was still a prevailing sense in our country of misunderstanding between people. And he just never let that get in the way. He shared a very personal commitment to strengthening ties between the United States and the Asia Pacific. And that’s why he championed the East-West Center for decades, and I want you to know that President Obama and I strongly support your mission of bringing people together to think creatively about the future of our role in the region and how we overcome the kinds of inherent, visceral differences that sometimes are allowed to get in the way of relationships, and frankly, in the way of common sense.

We remember too well in America that slavery was written into our Constitution long before it was written out of it. And we all know the struggle that it took – excuse me – to write it out. So as we look at the world today – complicated, difficult, tumultuous, volatile – for so many of us who have spent decades working on issues central to the Asia Pacific, there’s actually something particularly exciting about this moment. It’s almost exhilarating when you look at Asia’s transformation. And like Dan Inouye, I have had the privilege, as many of you have here I can see, you’ve lived a lot of that transformation firsthand.

A number of my – (coughing) – excuse me, it’s the virtue of many hours in an airplane. A number of my ancestors from Boston and from Massachusetts were merchants whose ships dropped anchor in Hong Kong as they plied the lonely trade routes to China. My grandfather, actually, was born in Shanghai and was a businessman who had a partnership with a Chinese businessman. So in our family and in Massachusetts, we’ve had a long sense of the possibilities and of this relationship. Today, East Asia is one of the largest, fastest growing, most dynamic regions in the entire world. And when the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are complete, about 40 percent of global GDP will be linked by a high-standard trade agreement, a trade agreement that creates a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, where people understand the rules of engagement and there’s accountability and transparency, and business and capital know exactly what the rules of the road will be so they’re attracted to invest each in each other’s countries.

After college, I had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy. And I went through Pearl Harbor. I had a remarkable several days here as a young officer on a frigate before we set sail to cross the Pacific. And I drove all over the island everywhere, in places I probably wasn’t supposed to. But I loved it and then spent a second tour in the rivers of Vietnam. And back then, the word Vietnam – just saying Vietnam – carried with it an ominous meaning. It meant war. It meant huge dissent in America, families torn apart. But today, Vietnam, when you say it, has a whole different meaning to most people. It’s now a dynamic country filled with economic opportunity. It’s a market for our businesses and our investors. It’s a classroom for our children. It has one of the largest Fulbright programs in the world. And it’s a partner in tackling regional economic and security challenges.

Such extraordinary transformations have actually become almost the norm in this region. I’ll never forget, 15 years ago, I visited in then Burma – no confusion with Myanmar but now people choose what they want to call it. But I visited with Daw Aung Sung Sui Kyi in the very home in which she was imprisoned for nearly two decades. And this week, I had the privilege of again going back to the very same house – it hadn’t changed, looked the same. She, by the way, 20 years later looks the same. And she is now free to speak her mind as a member of parliament.

It’s remarkable. It doesn’t mean all the president are solved. But these transformations are just some of what makes Asia the most exciting and promising places on the planet.

I am returning, as President Morrison has said, from actually my sixth trip to the Asia Pacific in 18 months as Secretary of State. And later today, I’ll be meeting with our outstanding Commander of United States Forces in the Pacific to review a range of America’s formidable military presence issues. I have returned again and again to this region – I can’t tell you how many times I went, Mazie, as a senator to the region. And we are now – we take our enduring interests there, obviously, very, very seriously.

We know that America’s security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to the Asia Pacific. And that’s why President Obama began what is known as the rebalance to Asia in 2009. That’s why he’s asked me to redouble my own efforts in the region over the next two and half years. And that’s why I want to talk to you today about four specific opportunities: creating sustainable economic growth, powering a clean energy revolution, promoting regional cooperation, and empowering people.

Now, these important opportunities can and should be realized through a rules-based regional order, a stable regional order on common rules and norms of behavior that are reinforced by institutions. And that’s what holds the greatest potential for all of us for making progress. We support this approach, frankly, because it encourages cooperative behavior. It fosters regional integration. It ensures that all countries, big and small – and the small part is really important – that they have a say in how we work together on shared challenges. I want you to know that the United States is deeply committed to realizing this vision. President Obama is excited about it. He wants us all to be committed to fostering it and also to understanding why we’re doing it. And frankly, it is this vision that is the underlying reason that so many countries in Asia choose to work with the United States.

You hear some people today talking about the United States retrenching or disengaging. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think we’re more engaged and more active in more countries and more parts of the world than any time in American history. And I can tell you that because just driving over here I was on the phone to people in the Middle East, talking about a ceasefire which is now going to be in place in the next days; talking about the road ahead. Just came back from Afghanistan, where we’re working on the transition to the people of Afghanistan, to their future. We’re engaged with Iran, working on the nuclear program; with the DPRK, with China, and Sudan, and Central Africa. We just had 50-plus African leaders to Washington to talk about the future of American engagement there. We are deeply engaged in a very, very complex world.

But this speech and this moment here at the university and at the center, and the trip that I just made to Asia, are meant to underscore that even as we focus on those crises that I’ve just listed and on conflicts that dominate the headlines on a daily basis and demand our leadership – even as we do that, we will never forget the long-term strategic imperatives for American interests. As Secretary of State, my job isn’t just to respond to crises. It’s also about defining and seizing the long-term opportunities for the United States. And having just traveled to Burma, Australia, and the Solomon Islands, I can tell you that nowhere are those strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia Pacific.

That’s why we are currently negotiating a comprehensive and ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that will create thousands of new jobs here in America as well as in other countries, and it will spur this race to the top, not to the bottom. It raises the standards by which we do business. That’s why we’re elevating our engagement in multilateral institutions, from the ASEAN Regional Forum to the East Asia Summit. And that’s why we are revitalizing our security partnerships with our treaty allies: Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the Philippines. And that’s why we are standing up for the human rights and the fundamental freedoms that people in Asia cherish as much as any people in the world.

I have no illusions about the challenges, and nor does President Obama. They are complex in this 21st century, in many ways far more complex than the bipolar, East-West, Soviet Union-versus-West world – the Cold War that many of us grew up in. This is far more complicated. It’s far more, in many ways, like 19th century and 18th century diplomacy, with states asserting their interests in different ways and with more economic players in the planet than we had in the 20th century with power and with a sense of independence. But what I want to emphasize to you all today is there is a way forward. This is not so daunting that it’s indescribable as to what we can do.

So how do we make our shared vision a reality for the region and ensure that Asia contributes to global peace and prosperity? First, we need to turn today’s economic nationalism and fragmentation into tomorrow’s sustainable growth. I say it all the time: Foreign Policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. They are one and the same. There’s no denying that particularly in Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is an engine of global economic growth, but we can’t take that growth for granted.

Because what we face something that is really a common challenge. Across the world, we have seen a staggering growth in youth populations. At the Africa summit it was just underscored to us there are 700 million people under the age of 30. We’ve seen staggering growth in these youth populations. And guess what. In the 21st century, in 2014 when everybody’s running around with a mobile device and everybody’s in touch with everybody every day all the time, all of these people are demanding an opportunity. They’re demanding dignity. And juxtaposed to their hopes, a cadre of extremists, of resisters, of naysayers are waiting to seduce many of those young people into accepting a dead end. And let me tell you, when people don’t have a job, when they can’t get an education, when they can’t aspire to a better future for themselves and for their families, when their voices are silenced by draconian laws or violence and oppression, we have all witnessed the instability that follows.

Now happily, many, if not most governments, in Asia are working to present booming youth populations with an alternative, with a quality education, with skills for the modern world, with jobs that allow them to build a life and a confidence in their countries. That is part of the reason why the young people in Asia are joining the ranks of the middle class, not the ranks of violent extremists. And the fact is that too many countries around the world are struggling to provide those opportunities. There’s a lack of governance, and we ignore the importance of this collective challenge to address the question of failed and failing states in other parts of the world.

In the 21st century, a nation’s interests and the well-being of its people are advanced not just by troops or diplomats, but they’re advanced by entrepreneurs, by chief executives of companies, by the businesses that are good corporate citizens, by the workers that they employ, by the students that they train, and the shared prosperity that they create. That is why we are working with partners across the Asia Pacific to maintain and raise standards as we expand trade and investment by pursuing a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Now, the TPP represents really an exciting new chapter in the long history of America’s mutually beneficial trade partnerships with the countries of the Asia Pacific. It is a state-of-the-art, 21st century trade agreement, and it is consistent not just with our shared economic interests, but also with our shared values. It’s about generating growth for our economies and jobs for our people by unleashing a wave of trade, investment, and entrepreneurship. It’s about standing up for our workers, or protecting the environment, and promoting innovation. And it’s about reaching for high standards to guide the growth of this dynamic regional economy. And all of that is just plain good for businesses, it’s good for workers, it’s good for our economies. And that’s why we must get this done.

Now, every time I travel to Asia, I have the privilege of meeting with young entrepreneurs and business leaders. In fact, at the Africa summit the other day we had this wonderful group of young African leaders – all entrepreneurs, all these young kids in their 20s doing extraordinary things. It’s call the Young African Leaders Initiative, which President Obama started.

In Hanoi last December, I launched the Governance for Inclusive Growth Program to support Vietnam’s transition to a market-based economy. I’ve met with entrepreneurs in Seoul and Manila to talk about how we can drive innovation. On Saturday, I discussed with my ASEAN counterparts the framework for creating business opportunities and jobs that we call Expanded Economic Engagement, or E3. And just yesterday, I met with business leaders in Sydney, Australia to explore ways to reduce the barriers to trade and investment.

To broaden the base of support for this strategy, we need to focus not only on rapid growth, but we also need to focus on sustainability. And that means making the best use of regional institutions. President Obama will join APEC economic leaders in Beijing this fall to focus on promoting clean and renewable fuels and supporting small businesses and women’s participation in the economy and expanding educational exchanges. And just a few days ago, I met with ministers from the Lower Mekong Initiative countries to deepen our partnership and help them wrestle with the challenges of food and water and energy security on the Mekong River.

Ultimately, the true measure of our success will not be just whether our economies continue to grow, but how they continue to grow. And that brings me to our second challenge: We need to turn today’s climate crisis into tomorrow’s clean energy revolution. Now, all of this – all of us in this room understand climate change is not a crisis of the future. Climate change is here now. It’s happening, happening all over the world. It’s not a challenge that’s somehow remote and that people can’t grab onto.

But here’s the key: It’s happening at a rate that should be alarming to all of us because everything the scientists predicted – and I’ll tell you a little addendum. Al Gore – I had the privilege of working with Al Gore and Tim Worth and a group of senators – Jack Heinz – back in the 1980s when we held the first hearing on climate change in 1988. That’s when Jim Hansen from NASA came forward and said it’s happening. It’s happening now in 1988. In 1992 we had a forum down in Brazil, Rio, the Earth Summit. George Herbert Walker Bush participated. We came up with a voluntary framework to deal with climate change, but voluntary didn’t work. And for 20 years nothing much happened. Then we went to Kyoto. We went to all these places to try to do something, and here we are in 2014 with a chance next year in 2015 to do it.

And what’s happening is the science is screaming at us. Ask any kid in school. They understand what a greenhouse is, how it works, why we call it the greenhouse effect. They get it. And here’s what – if you accept the science, if you accept that the science is causing climate to change, you have to heed what those same scientists are telling us about how you prevent the inevitable consequences and impacts. You can’t – that’s why President Obama has made climate change a top priority. He’s doing by executive authority what we’re not able to get the Congress to do. And we’re working very hard to implement the Climate Action Plan and lead by example. We’re doubling the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks on America’s roads. We’ve developed new standards that ensure that existing power plants are as clean as possible and as efficient as possible. And we’re committed to reducing greenhouse gases and emissions in the range of about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

So we’re heading in the right direction. But make no mistake about it: Our response has to be all hands on deck. By definition, rescuing the planet’s climate is a global challenge that requires a global solution. And nowhere is all of this more evident than in the Asia Pacific. And no two nations can have a greater impact or influence on this debate or this challenge than China and the United States.

During the Strategic and Economic Dialogue last month, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and I were in Beijing for two days. And we and China together sent a clear message: The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, are committed to advancing a low-carbon economic growth pattern and significantly reduce our countries’ greenhouse gases. And we’re working together to launch demonstration projects on carbon capture, utilization, and storage. We’re adopting stronger fuel efficiency standards for heavy- and light-duty vehicles. We’re advancing a new initiative on climate change and forests, because we know that the threat of deforestation and its implications of a changing climate are real and they’re grave and they’re growing. And I’ll just say to you this is not an issue on which you can be half pregnant. No such issue. If you accept the science, you have to accept that you have to do these things about it.

Now, the United States and China have a special role to play in reducing emissions and developing a clean energy future. But everybody – every nation – has a stake in getting it right. I just came from the Solomon Islands yesterday, a thousand islands, some of which could be wiped out if we don’t make the right choices. The Pacific Islands across the entire Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And just yesterday, I saw with my own eyes what sea level rise would do to parts of it: It would be devastating – entire habitats destroyed, entire populations displaced from their homes, in some cases entire cultures wiped out. They just had flash flooding in Guadalcanal – unprecedented amounts of rainfall. And that’s what’s happened with climate change – unprecedented storms, unprecedented typhoons, unprecedented hurricanes, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented fires, major damage, billions and billions of dollars of damage being done that we’re paying for instead of investing those billions of dollars in avoiding this in the first place.

That’s why we are deepening our partnerships with the Pacific Island nations and others to meet immediate threats and long-term development challenges. And we’re working through USAID and other multilateral institutions to increase the resilience of communities. And we’re elevating our engagement through the Pacific Islands Forum. And we’ve signed maritime boundaries, new maritime boundaries with Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia in order to promote good governance of the Pacific Ocean and peaceful relations among island nations. And we’re also working on a Pacific Pathway of marine protected areas that includes President Obama’s commitment to explore a protected area of more than a million square miles in size in the U.S. remote Pacific.

We just held a conference on the oceans in Washington the other day with nations all over the world came to it – unbelievably productive. We produced $1.8 billion of commitments to help with fisheries enforcement, anti-pollution, dealing with acidification, and to protect these areas as marine sanctuaries.

The good news is in the end – and this really – it really is good news. Sometimes you have an issue – Mr. Mayor, I know you know this. Governors, you know this. You’re looking at an issue and, man, you scratch your head and you’re not quite sure what the solution is, right? And you work through it. Well, the good news is the biggest challenge of all that we face right now, which is climate change in terms of international global effect, is an opportunity. It’s actually an extraordinary opportunity because it’s not a problem without a solution. The solution to climate change is simple. It’s called energy policy. Energy policy. Make the right choices about how you produce your energy – without emissions, without coal-fired power plants that don’t have carbon capture and storage or aren’t burning clean – then you can begin to produce clean energy.

And the new energy market that we’re looking at is the biggest market the world has ever seen. Think about that for a moment. The wealth that was generated in the 1990s – I don’t know if you know this, but most people think that America got the richest during the 1920s when you had the so-called, even in the late 1800s, robber baron years, and then you had the great names of wealth – Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Rockefeller, and so forth. And no income tax – wow, gonna make a lot of money.

Guess what. America made more wealth and more money for more people in the 1990s than at any other time in our history. And what it came from, the wealth that was generated then, was the high-tech computer revolution of the 1990s, and guess what. It came from a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users, 1 for 1. The energy market that we’re looking at in the world today is six times bigger, by far more important. It’s a $6 trillion market today with 4 to 5 billion users today, and it will go up to 7 to 9 billion users in the next 30 years. The fastest segment by far of growth in that market is clean energy.

We need to build a grid in America. We need to – we could use solar thermal to produce heat in Massachusetts, in Minnesota, take wind power from our states, sell it somewhere else. We can’t even do that because we don’t have that grid in place.

So I want to emphasize to all of you: We’re not going to find a sustainable energy mix in the 19th century or 20th century solutions. Those are the problems. We need a formula for 21st century that will sustainably power us into the 22nd century. And I believe that, working together, the United States and countries across the Asia Pacific can make this leap. That’s an exciting opportunity and that’s what we’re working on with China today.

The bottom line is we don’t have time to waste. If we’re going to power a clean energy revolution, we have to work together to dampen security competition and rivalry in the Asia Pacific and focus on these other constructive efforts. And so our third challenge is clear: We need to turn maritime conflicts into regional cooperation.

All of us in this room understand that these disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere, they’re really about more than claims to islands and reefs and rocks and the economic interests that flow from them. They’re about whether might makes right or whether global rules and norms and rule of law and international law will prevail. I want to be absolutely clear: The United States of America takes no position on questions of sovereignty in the South and East China Sea, but we do care about how those questions are resolved. We care about behavior. We firmly oppose the use of intimidation and coercion or force to assert a territorial claim by anyone in the region. And we firmly oppose any suggestion that freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by a big state to a small one. All claimants must work together to solve the claims through peaceful means, big or small. And these principles bind all nations equally, and all nations have a responsibility to uphold them.

Now, I just participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we were encouraged there to – we encouraged the claimants there to defuse these tensions and to create the political space for resolution. We urged the claimants to voluntarily freeze steps that threatened to escalate the disputes and to cause instability. And frankly, I think that’s common sense and I suspect you share that. I’m pleased to say that ASEAN agreed that the time has come to seek consensus on what some of those actions to be avoided might be, based on the commitments that they’ve already made in the 2002 Declaration on Conduct.

Now, we cannot impose solutions on the claimants in the region, and we’re not seeking to do that. But the recent settlement between Indonesia and the Philippines is an example of how these disputes could be resolved through good-faith negotiations. Japan and Taiwan, likewise, showed last year that it’s possible to promote regional stability despite conflicting claims. And we support the Philippines’ taking steps to resolve its maritime dispute with China peacefully, including through the right to pursue arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And while we already live by its principles, the United States needs to finish the job and pass that Treaty once and for all.

Now, one thing that I know will contribute to maintaining regional peace and stability is a constructive relationship between the United States and China. President Obama has made it clear that the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable China – one that plays a responsible role in Asia and the world and supports rules and norms on economic and security issues. The President has been clear, as have I, that we are committed to avoiding the trap of strategic rivalry and intent on forging a relationship in which we can broaden our cooperation on common interests and constructively manage our differences and disagreements.

But make no mistake: This constructive relationship, this “new model” relationship of great powers, is not going to happen simply by talking about it. It’s not going to happen by engaging in a slogan or pursuing a sphere of influence. It will be defined by more and better cooperation on shared challenges. And it will be defined by a mutual embrace of the rules, the norms, and institutions that have served both of our nations and the region so well. I am very pleased that China and the United States are cooperating effectively on the Iran nuclear talks and we’ve increased our dialogue on the DPRK. We’re also cooperating significantly on climate change possibilities, counter-piracy operations, and South Sudan.

So we are busy trying to define a great power relationship by the places where we can find mutual agreement and cooperation. We’ve seen the benefits of partnerships based on common values and common approaches to regional and global security. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and I met with our Australian counterparts in Sydney earlier this week and we reviewed the U.S.-Australian alliance from all sides. And though we live in very different hemispheres, obviously, and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States and Australia are today as close as nations can get. Our time-honored alliance has helped both of our countries to achieve important goals: standing with the people of Ukraine, supporting long-term progress in Afghanistan, promoting shared prosperity in the Asia Pacific, and collaborating on the United Nations Security Council. And we also agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan, and that will allow us to further modernize the U.S.-Japan alliance as we address a broader array of security challenges. Similarly, with our ally South Korea, our partnership on a growing range of regional and global challenges has brought much greater security to Asia and beyond.

History shows us that countries whose policies respect and reflect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms are likely to be peaceful and prosperous, far more effective at tapping the talents of their people, and far better partners in the long term.

That is why our fourth and final challenge is so important: We need to turn human rights problems into opportunities for human empowerment. Across the region, there are bright spots. But we also see backsliding, such as the setback to democracy in Thailand.

We all know that some countries in the region hold different views on democratic governance and the protection of human rights. But though we may sometimes disagree on these issues with the governments, I don’t think we have any fundamental disagreement with their people.

Given a choice, I don’t think too many young people in China would choose to have less access to uncensored information, rather than more. I don’t think too many people in Vietnam would say: “I’d rather not be allowed to organize and speak out for better working conditions or a healthy environment.” And I can’t imagine that anyone in Asia would watch more than a 130 million people go to the polls in Indonesia to choose a president after a healthy, vigorous, and peaceful debate and then say: “I don’t want that right for myself.” I also think most people would agree that freedom of speech and the press is essential to checking corruption, and it is essential that rule of law is needed to protect innovation and to enable businesses to thrive. That’s why support for these values is both universal and pragmatic.

I visited Indonesia in February, and I saw the promise of a democratic future. The world’s third largest democracy sets a terrific example for the world. And the United States is deeply committed to our comprehensive partnership. Indonesia is not just an expression of different cultures and languages and faiths. By deepening its democracy, and preserving its traditions of tolerance, it can be a model for how Asian values and democratic principles inform and strengthen one another.

In Thailand, a close friend and ally, we’re very disturbed by the setback to democracy and we hope it is a temporary bump in the road. We call on the Thai authorities to lift restrictions on political activity and speech, to return – to restore civilian rule, and return quickly to democracy through free and fair elections.

In Burma last week, I saw firsthand the initial progress the people and the government have made. And I’m proud of the role – and you should be too – that the United States has played for a quarter of a century in encouraging that progress.

But Burma still has a long way to go, and those leading its democratic transformation are only now addressing the deepest challenges: Defining a new role for the military; reforming the constitution and supporting free and fair elections; ending a decades-long civil war; and guaranteeing in law the human rights that Burma’s people have been promised in name. All of this while trying to attract more investment, combating corruption, protecting the country’s forests and other resources. These are the great tests of Burma’s transition. And we intend to try to help, but in the end the leadership will have to make the critical choices.

The United States is going to do everything we can to help the reformers in Burma, especially by supporting nationwide elections next year. And we will keep urging the government – as I did last week – to take steps to ease the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, and push back against hate speech and religious violence, implement constitutional reform, and protect freedom of assembly and expression. The government owes it to the people of those – of that movement to do those things.

And so, my friends, in the great tradition of our country, we will continue to promote human rights and democracy in Asia, without arrogance but also without apology.

Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea’s proliferation activities pose a very serious threat to the United States, the region, and the world. And we are taking steps to deter and defend against North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capability. But make no mistake: We are also speaking out about the horrific human rights situation. We strongly supported the extraordinary United Nations investigation this year that revealed the utter, grotesque cruelty of North Korea’s system of labor camps and executions. Such deprivation of human dignity just has no place in the 21st century. North Korea’s gulags should be shut down – not tomorrow, not next week, but now. And we will continue to speak out on this topic.

So you’ve heard me for longer than you might have wanted to – (laughter) – describing a pretty ambitious agenda. And you’re right; it’s a big deal. We are super engaged. We are ambitious for this process: completing the TPP negotiations, creating sustainable growth, powering a clean energy revolution, managing regional rivalries by promoting cooperation, and empowering people from all walks of life – that’s how we’re going to realize the promise of the Asia Pacific. And this is a region whose countries can and should come together, because there is much more that unites us than divides us. This is a region that can and should meet danger and difficulty with courage and collaboration. And we are determined to deliver on the strategic and historic opportunities that we can create together.

That’s why, together with our Asian partners, we’re developing modern rules for a changing world – rules that help economies grow strong and fair and just, with protections for the environment, safeguards for the people who have both too often been left behind.

That’s why we’re building a region where Asia’s major cities are no longer clouded with smog and smoke, and where people can depend on safe food and water, and clean oceans, clean air, and shared resources from its rivers and its oceans, and with a sense of responsibility one generation passes on to the next to preserve all of that for the future.

That’s why we’re building a region where countries peacefully resolve their differences over islands, reefs, rocks by finding the common ground on the basis of international law.

And that’s why we’re building a region that protects the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms that make all nations stronger.

There is still a long road ahead. But nothing gives me more hope in the next miles of the journey than the courage of those who have reached a different and more hopeful kind of future. And that is the story that I want to leave you with today.

When I became a senator, getting increasingly more and more involved in the region as a young member of the committee and then later as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, the first trip I took in 1986 was to the Philippines. Strongman Ferdinand Marcos had called a sham “snap” election to fake everybody to prove how in charge he was, to preserve his grasp on power. President Reagan asked Senator Richard Lugar and me to be part of a delegation to observe those elections.

And I will never forget arriving in Manila and seeing this unbelievable flood of people in the streets all decked out in their canary yellow shirts and banners of pro-democracy protest. Some of us knew at that time there were allegations of fraud. I was sent down initially to Mindanao to observe the morning votes and then came back to Manila, and was sitting in the hotel there when a woman came up to me crying and said, “Senator, you must come with me to the cathedral. There are women there who fear for their lives.”

And I left my dinner and I ran down to the cathedral. I came in to the Sacristi of the cathedral and talked with these 13 women who were crying and huddled together, intimidated for their lives. And I listened to their story about how they were counting the raw tally of the votes that was coming in from all across the nation, but the raw tally of votes they were counting was not showing up on the computer tote board recording the votes. They blew the whistle on a dictator. We held an international press conference right there in the cathedral right in front of the alter, and they spoke out, and that was the signal to Marcos it was over. Their courage and the courage of the Filipino people lit a spark that traveled throughout the world, inspiring not just a freshman senator from Massachusetts, but popular movements from Eastern Europe to Burma.

Now, I think about that moment even today, about the power of people to make their voices felt. I think about how Cory Aquino rose to the presidency atop a wave of people power when few believed that she could. I think about how her husband fought for democracy, even at the cost of his own life. And I think about how, decades later, their son would rise to the presidency in democratic elections. In his inaugural address, President Benigno Aquino said: “My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.”

My friends, today we must all summon up some of that courage, we must all carry that torch forward. The cause of democracy and peace, and the prosperity that they bring, can bring our legacy in the Asian Pacific, it can define it. Our commitment to that future, believe me it is strong. Our principles are just. And we are in this for the long haul – clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Press Releases: Remarks With Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and Australian Minister of Defense David Johnston

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have welcomed to Sydney and to AUSMIN Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, and this is the second AUSMIN meeting that the four principals here have participated in. The United States alliance is the most important security relationship for Australia, and AUSMIN is an annual opportunity for us to take stock of this relationship. And today’s discussion was broad in its scope. We were frank in our exchanges, and there was a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavor. There’s a desire to share the burden of implementing our mutual vision and mutual goal of regional and global peace and prosperity, security and stability.

At a bilateral level, we signed the Force Posture Initiatives, the formal, legally binding document about a presence of U.S. Marines in the north of our country, and we focused particularly on the humanitarian disaster relief aspects of having the assistance of the U.S. in our region, which is, sadly, prone to natural disasters and other tragedies. Now at a regional level, we discussed the tensions in the South China Sea. Secretary Kerry and I have just returned from the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, where the South China Sea was discussed at length, and we went over some of those issues. But we also discussed the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and our mutual desire to see North Korea denuclearized in a verifiable way and returned to the Six Party Talks.

We discussed the regional architecture and the need for the East Asia Summit to be the premier regional forum. It has the right mandate, the right membership to discuss matters of regional strategic significance. We talked about the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is where the U.S. rebalance finds its economic expression and how important the TPP will be to opening up and liberalizing markets in our region. We discussed the emergence of China and other major powers in our region.

Globally, in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, we talked about the situation in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s intentions and the behavior of Russia in recent months and weeks involving the breach of sovereignty in Ukraine and elsewhere. We had a long discussion on the Middle East and the significant conflicts there, whether it be Syria, Iraq, or in Gaza, and we also talked about Afghanistan and our commitment to Afghanistan post-2014.

A considerable focus of our discussion was on counterterrorism and, more specifically, on the issue of foreign fighters. People going to fight in conflicts around the world, leaving their countries, going to Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere and becoming radicalized and taking part in extremist terrorist activities is, in fact, an international problem. It’s a concern for Australia, it’s a concern for the United States, but it’s a topic that’s raised increasingly in countries in our region and across Europe. It’s an international problem, but the barbaric ideology that these extremists embrace is, in fact, a threat to our way of life, a threat to our values, and we discussed ways that we can bring this issue to international attention. So a major focus on the issue of foreign fighters.

Overall, it was a most productive and most useful exchange from Australia’s point of view. We came up with a number of significant initiatives. The communiqué sets out the detail of it, but I want to thank both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel for making the trip down under. We are always delighted to see you in our part of the world. You’ve been in Asia and Southeast Asia on so many occasions, and we always want you to come to Australia and count us in on your discussions. The relationship has never been stronger, and we have appreciated your commitment and focus on the issues that are of mutual concern and of concern to Australia’s national interest.

I’ll ask the Minister for Defense to say a few words and then pass over to our American friends.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: Well, thank you, Julie. To Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, firstly, thank you for the magnanimous, generous, and gracious way that you’ve entered into our discussions. I must say I know I speak for Julie, it’s an absolute delight to be with you in your busy schedules to discuss matters that are regionally significant, but also in the wider area of world events, the problems we both are worried about, how best to confront them and how best Australia can help the United States in its very excellent leadership, particularly in this region.

Part of that is, of course, the rebalance, and we’re delighted to have 1,200 – approximately 1,200 U.S. Marines in Darwin. That, ladies and gentlemen, is going very seamlessly, very well, and it is a classic win-win situation. So today’s discussions have gone very cordially, very constructively, and very frankly as you would expect with partners and friends of long standing. So the rebalance has been, from our point of view, delivering the Marines into Darwin very, very successful so that our region has, of course, benefitted – and I reiterate this to the Secretaries – benefitted from the stability of the past 20, 30 years. That stability has been delivered by U.S. leadership and of course the booming middle class of Southeast and East Asia has been the end dividend of that stability.

And so today we’ve enjoyed discussing the challenges, what we perceive coming over the horizon in the future, matters such as counterterrorism, foreign fighters, which we both, as two countries have to deal with. Can I say that both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry bring enormous amount of wisdom and wit to our discussions. And I must say to you the discussions have been most enjoyable. We share interoperability across so many fronts. We have very large numbers of people embedded in the United States in the U.S. military. We’ve got 400 people still in Afghanistan working with the Americans and our other ISAF partners going forward. I want to end on that note by just saying thank you very much for the trust. When we are doing things together in the defense space, trust is a really important part of that, and trust leads to great friendship, and I think we have great friendship, and I thank you both for that.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Julie. Good afternoon to all of you. And let me just – let me begin by saying that I am really delighted to be here with Secretary Hagel at the Australia-United States Ministerial Meeting. This is my first AUSMIN, as we call it, in Australia, and I really want to thank Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for their unbelievably warm welcome over the course of these two days. We had a very productive dinner discussion last night just over the way from here, and today we both join together in thanking Governor-General Cosgrove for opening up his magnificent residence to us. It afforded a really superb venue to be able to sit here quietly and be able to really dig in in very personal ways to very complicated issues, and we thank them for this special venue and special friendship that goes with it.

Secretary Hagel and I both want to begin any comments that we make here today with an expression of our deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the 38 Australians who lost their lives in the Flight 17 – Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. We both want to affirm to Australia and to the world that we absolutely demand, as does Australia, justice for this unconscionable crime. And just as we stand together on so many issues from the Asia Pacific to the Middle East to Afghanistan and beyond, we will see this through together.

I’ve also had the very good fortune to work with our Australian friends for many years, 29 years in the United States Senate and a number of years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So when Secretary Hagel and I served in Vietnam – slightly different times, but we both served there – we also fought alongside, side by side, with our Australian brothers who are great soldiers and great friends. In fact, Australian men and American men and women – men and women on both sides – have fought side by side in every major conflict since World War I, and we’re proud of the friendship and the trust, as Minister Johnston was just saying, that has grown out of this longtime relationship.

I was very privileged to join Secretary Hagel and Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston last year at Arlington National Secretary where we honored this special bond between Australians and the United States, a bond that can only be forged through the sacrifice of war, which we both understand. So I thank Australia at this moment, particularly for stepping up yet again with their offer of humanitarian assistance in Iraq at this moment of crisis. The new Iraqi leadership has a very difficult challenge. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively, but also by taking steps to demonstrate their resolve, and we’re going to continue to stand with the Iraqi people during this time of transition.

And though we live in different hemispheres and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States could ask for no better friend and no closer ally than Australia. Australia is a vital partner in so many different endeavors. It is vital as we deepen the U.S. economic engagement throughout the Asia Pacific, as we engage in the rebalances of – both ministers have referred to it, which will bring the United States even more to the effort to help create a larger economic transformation in the region and to bring about a rule of law-based structure where everybody understands the rules and where it is a race to the top, not to the bottom. We also are working hard together to try to complete a critical component of that race to the top, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

We also discussed, as has been mentioned by both ministers, difficult regional and global security challenges. We didn’t need to struggle to find commonality in our understanding of the fact that we are living in one of the most complicated moments of transformation and transition all across this planet. Instant communications, massive numbers of mobile devices, massive amounts of information moving at lightning speed around the globe informing everybody about everything all of the time. And that has changed politics, and it has changed international relations. It raises expectations among people all over the world. And it challenges politics in terms of building consensus around decisions.

So we face a lot of these challenges together in today’s world, and that is why it is so important to have the kind of discussion that we had here today where we lay out every one of those challenges and try to figure out how do we do this better, how can we have greater impact, how do we bring more people to the table in order to affect change. It has enabled both of our countries to stand with the people of Ukraine, support long-term progress in Afghanistan, reduce tensions in the South China Sea, collaborate in the United Nations Security Council on everything from Iran to Syria to restricting trade in illicit small arms and weapons and even in our fellow human beings.

Today’s session allowed us to consult and coordinate in depth on these issues and on the challenges that we face in Iraq and Gaza, and we also agreed in conjunction with our discussion about the foreign fighters that Julie raised a moment ago that we are going to work together to assemble a compendium of the best practices in the world today regarding those foreign fighters, and we intend to join together in order to bring this to the United Nations meeting next month and put it on the agenda in a way that will elicit support from source countries as well as those countries of concern.

Earlier today, as you all know, we signed a Force Posture Agreement that will further strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Australian defense relationship, and we agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan. So you can see that we covered a range of very important issues in the Asia Pacific region, including our commitment to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And the United States – I want to make this clear – is absolutely prepared to improve relations with North Korea if North Korea will honor its international obligations. It’s that simple. But make no mistake we are also prepared to increase pressure, including through strong sanctions and further isolation if North Korea chooses the path of confrontation.

So I join Secretary Hagel in thanking Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for very productive discussions over the past day, and we all look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come in order to address these complex challenges.

SECRETARY HAGEL: John, thank you, and I, too, appreciate an opportunity to be with Secretary Kerry here for the AUSMIN meetings that we are concluding this afternoon. I want to add my thanks as well to our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and also to Governor-General Cosgrove for his hospitality here at Admiralty House. So thank you.

On a visit to the United States in 1960, the great Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, said that strength is admirable, but only for the responsibilities it accepts and discharges. America, Australia, and this historic alliance has always, always sought to live up to those responsibilities around the world. Today’s agenda for the U.S.-Australia alliance, you have heard, span issues ranging from the South China Sea to Iraq where Secretary Kerry and I expressed our appreciation for Australia’s offer to contribute to the humanitarian and relief operations and where America is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress towards political reform.

We also addressed the crisis in Ukraine as has been noted and Australia’s tragic loss of 38 citizens and residents aboard MH-17. And as I have said, as Secretary has – Secretary Kerry has expressed, our condolences to the people of Australia and especially the families of those who were lost in that tragedy. America will continue to work with Australia as we have said clearly and plainly to provide requested support and assistance.

Today we have reinforced the foundation of our alliances, defense, and security cooperation by, as Secretary Kerry noted, signing the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American Airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security and advance America’s ongoing strategic rebalance in the Asia Pacific. At today’s AUSMIN having just come from New Delhi and having consulted closely with our Japanese and Korean allies and ASEAN defense ministers, I see a new, committed resolve to work together, to work together to build a security system across this Indo-Pacific region, recognizing the independent sovereignty of nations, respecting that sovereignty, but also recognizing the common interests that we all have for a stable, peaceful, secure world.

The U.S. Australia alliance is spurring this progress and will remain a bedrock for a stable and secure order. Along with Secretary Kerry, let me again thank our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and Governor-General Cosgrove for hosting this year’s AUSMIN and what they continue to do as we continue to collaborate and work together on some of the great issues of our time. As Secretary Kerry has noted, we live in an immensely complicated world, but a world that is still full of hope and promise if we endeavor to bring resolute, strong leadership, leadership that is committed to these virtues and values and principles that we all share and living up to the highest responsibilities as Prime Minister Menzies once said. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. We’re now going to have four questions, and I think Laura, you’re going to kick off. Thank you.

QUESTION: Laura Jayes from Sky News. Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, thank you. Ministers, thank you. I wanted to first go to Russia, and our Australian Government has talked about greater sanctions on Russia, leaving that option open, uranium perhaps. Secretary Kerry, is that a path you would like to see Australia go down? There’s also the question of Vladimir Putin attending the G20 Summit. I wondered if you have a comment on that.

And also, as I guess a little bit out of that direct realm, China in all of this. We’ve seen the U.S. and EU impose quite strong sanctions against Russia in the last couple of months, but China has, I think, helped to dilute that in some ways, if you, Secretary Kerry, could address those questions, also, Minister Bishop as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. On the subject of sanctions with respect to Russia, we are very understanding of our friend, Australia’s deep, deep anger and its need for justice with respect to what has happened. This is an unconscionable crime on a huge international order that findings already, without the full investigation being done – and we are pressing for a full investigation, because nothing is complete until you have a full investigation. But there is no question – and we’ve said this publicly previously, but that this type of weapon and all the evidence of it was seen on our imagery. We saw the takeoff. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this airplane disappear from the radar screen. So there’s really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.

But we need to have the complete investigation, obviously, to legitimize whatever steps are going to be taken as we go down the road, and that’s why we’re all pressing so hard for that. The foreign minister of Australia traveled to New York, made an eloquent plea working with our ambassador and others there, Frans Timmermans of – the Dutch foreign minister spoke eloquently about what had happened. And the world can’t just sort of move by this and gloss by it. People need to remember this, because holding people accountable is essential not just to justice for what happened, but to deterrence and prevention in the future, and we don’t want to see these kinds of things ever repeated again.

So we’re open, but we haven’t made any decisions. I’m not sure Australia has either yet. We need to see what’s happening, but our hope and prayer – our hope is that in the next days and weeks we can find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary in the east to facilitate the thoroughness of the investigation, to begin to bring the separatists to the degree that they are Ukrainian into the political process, and for those who are not Ukrainian, they need to leave the country, and there needs to be a process worked out where the supplies stop coming in both in money and arms and support and people and Ukraine is allowed to begin to protect its sovereignty and define its future. Our hope is that that can happen through the diplomatic process, but we’ve all learned that we need to be cautious and strong at the same time in our responses and clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

With respect to the G20 Summit, et cetera, no decisions have been made at this point in time. I think a lot of the attitudes about the – about that issue from the various countries attending can, frankly, be determined and impacted to some degree in what happens in these next days and weeks.

And finally, with respect to China and what is going on, we have said again and again – and we just had a Strategic and Economic Dialogue in China, Secretary Jack Lew of the Treasury and I were there, with two days of discussions, and we made it very clear to China that we welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully, as a powerful economy, as a full participating, constructive member of the international community, and we want China to participate in constructive ways, whether it’s in the South China Sea or with respect to Japan and South Korea, with North Korea, with other issues that we face. We are not seeking conflict and confrontation, and our hope is that China will, likewise, take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it to be that cooperative partner.

And so there are always differences, shades – there are differences with respect to certain issues, and we’ve agreed to try to find those things where we can really cooperate. We’re cooperating in Afghanistan, we’re cooperating on nonproliferation with respect to Iran, we’re cooperating to get the chemical weapons out of Syria, we’re cooperating on counterterrorism, we’re cooperating on nuclear weaponry and on the reduction of nuclear arms. So there are plenty of big issues on which we cooperate with Russia even now every day, and our hope is that on those things where we’ve obviously had some disagreements with China or with Russia that we can both find a diplomatic path forward, because everybody in the world understands the world will be better off if great power nations are finding ways to cooperate, not to confront each other.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: If I could put this question of sanctions in context, MH-17 was a commercial airplane flying in commercial airspace carrying 298 civilians. Passenger numbers included 80 children, and this plane was shot down, we believe, by a surface-to-air missile just inside eastern Ukraine. The deaths of so many people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents was shocking, and the implications for international aviation are profound. So after completing our humanitarian mission of removing the remains and personal effects from the crash site, we are now focused on the investigation into how this came to be, how this plane was shot down, and who did it, because those culpable for creating the circumstances or for actually causing the downing of this plane must be held to account, and the grief of our citizens demands answers. They must be held to account, the perpetrators, and brought to justice.

All the while, when Australian and Dutch teams, unarmed police, humanitarian teams were seeking to get to the crash site, all the while, Russia was supplying more armed personnel, more heavy weaponry over the border into eastern Ukraine. They didn’t cease, and in fact increased their efforts. And instead of listening to international concerns about a ceasefire and the need for a humanitarian corridor for us to conclude our work, on the very day that Australia was holding a national day of mourning to grieve the loss of so many Australian lives, Russia chose to impose sanctions on Australia through an embargo on our agricultural exports.

We are rightly focused on the investigation, supporting the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, and Ukraine as part of an investigation team. But on the question of sanctions, we will consider the options available to us, but our focus at present is to bring closure to the families who are still grieving over this barbaric act of shooting down a plane that killed their loved ones.

As far as the G20 is concerned, as Secretary Kerry indicated, there’s been no decision. The G20 is an economic forum. There would have to be a consensus view as to whether or not steps should be taken in relation to President Putin’s presence here in Australia.

On China, I must say that China was extremely supportive of our resolution in the United Nations Security Council. As you’d be aware, it was a unanimous resolution. It was supported by all 15 members of the UN Security Council, and China has suffered a great loss through the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370. Australia has done what we can to help in that search effort, and I have committed to Foreign Minister Wang Yi last weekend that Australia will continue to help search for that missing plane. So China grieves with us over the loss of people aboard airplanes that have crashed or disappeared in such extraordinary circumstances.

On the question of China’s support beyond MH-17, Russia’s behavior in recent months has been to breach the sovereignty of Ukraine, a neighbor, and this is not behavior that China, one would think, would condone. It’s behavior that China has pointed out to others would be unacceptable if it were to occur in China’s sphere of the world. So we’ll continue to consult, discuss with China the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian tensions, the conflict, the need for ceasefire, the need for humanitarian assistance and hope that China sees it as we do, an unacceptable breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and urge Russia to stop the flow of weapons, stop the flow of armed personnel. Russia claims to be concerned about a humanitarian situation in Ukraine when the first thing it should do is stop sending weapons and armed personnel to the so-called separatists.

QUESTION: I’m (inaudible). I’m a reporter with Bloomberg News. Questions on Iraq first to Secretary Hagel: What kind of direct military assistance is the Pentagon prepared to offer the Kurds, and does it include sending heavy weapons to them?

And if I can ask Secretary Kerry: Can you talk a little bit more about what the United States is prepared to do once there is a new Iraqi Government? And both of you, do you share any concern that directly aiding and supporting the Kurds could potentially encourage them to break away from a united Iraq in the future?

And to the Australian officials, the U.S. has said it will assist and train Iraqi troops to combat ISIL. And have you been asked and are you prepared to send any of your troops to train the Iraqi forces? Thank you.

SECRETARY HAGEL: The United States Government is working with the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi security forces to get military equipment to the Peshmerga. That is Iraqi military equipment. We – our American forces through CENTCOM are helping get that equipment to Erbil. As to your question regarding a breakaway status of the Kurds into an independent Kurdistan, I think it’s important that – and we have taken this position and Secretary Kerry, who has been directly involved in this, may want to amplify on this point – but it’s important to note that America’s position is a unified Iraq.

You all know that the Council of Representatives announced today that it had selected a new prime minister, a new Shia prime minister. That then completes the new senior officers that the Counsel of Representatives have put forth, a new speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister. That’s good news. Now the next step has to move forward in getting that government ratified and in place, and we look forward to working with that new government.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well – sorry, go ahead. No, please.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: With respect to the Australian contribution to those people who are in the mountains around Erbil, we are going to be participate and deliver humanitarian relief in the nature of being able to drop supplies to them, and that is a (inaudible) capability we have long held probably since East Timor. And that’s the role that we’ll carry out, and we’ll fit into and be part of the planning of the United States and other partners who want to assist on that humanitarian basis, and that’s the way we’ll go forward. Sorry, John.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no. That’s important, and I appreciate it. Let me just begin by congratulating Dr. Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, which now offers him an opportunity to be able to form a government over the next 30 days. And we urge him to form a new cabinet as swiftly as possible, and the U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi Government, particularly in its fight against ISIL.

Now I’m not going to get into the details today before a new prime minister is there and a government is there and we’ve talked to them and we know what they think their needs are and how they define the road ahead, but I will tell you that without any question, we are prepared to consider additional political, economic, and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions. Those will be the guidelines.

We also would note that there are already a significant group of programs in place under the strategic framework agreement, and we, with a new government in place, would absolutely look to provide additional options, and we would consider those options for sure in an effort to strengthen an effort. Let me be very clear we have always wanted an inclusive, participatory government that represents the interests of Shia, Kurd, Sunni, minorities, all Iraqis. That’s the goal. And our hope is that when there is a new government, we will all of us in the international community be able to work with them in order to guarantee that outstanding issues that have just stood there absolutely frozen for years now, like the oil revenue law or the constitutional reform, all of these things need to be resolved, and that will really determine the road ahead.

Now with respect to the Kurds, we welcome increased coordination and support between the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish forces. That is taking place right now. It’s quite unique, and we think that’s a signal of a growing potential for cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. So as we’ve said last week, ISIL has secured certain heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms, and what is happening now is through the government in Baghdad, some of that assistance is being provided directly to the Kurds. I think that raises as many questions about the possibility of greater cooperation as it does with the possibility of further efforts for separation.

What I do know is from my own meetings with President Barzani recently, he is very committed to this transition in Baghdad, in Iraq, in the government. He is committed to trying to be a force for a strong federal government that works for all Iraqis, and that’s the only subject on the table at this point in time.

QUESTION: Secretaries, Ministers, Greg Jennett from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is to any or all of you, but perhaps starting with you, Secretary Kerry. Following on from that question on Iraq and noting that you don’t want to get into details, but that stabilizing security is an option that the U.S. is prepared to explore with the government there, what are the circumstances in which the U.S. could look to allies, including Australia, to support security with further military commitments, if you could outline at least the parameters in which you would start that conversation.

And also on homecoming jihadists from the Middle East, what is the shared approach? Practically, what sort of initiatives are we talking about? As this – things before prosecution, after incarceration, before interrogation, is there any example of the types of actions you’d like to see the world take jointly?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me let a couple of my colleagues – I’ll turn to Julie to address the issue on the foreign fighters, because we had a pretty robust discussion, and perhaps even Mr. Johnston and Hagel want to tackle that. So let me just answer the first part of the question, and they can answer the second.

The question is: How can we look towards this issue of stabilization and military assistance? And you said: Where would the discussion begin? Well, let me tell you in the simplest terms where the discussion begins. There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. That is the beginning of the discussion. This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq, and our hope is and the reason President Obama has been so clear about wanting to get the government formation before beginning to tackle ISIL in the most significant way excepting the kind of emergency circumstances that have arisen is because if you don’t have a government that is inclusive and that works, nothing else will work plain and simply.

So you have to have a government that can begin to be inclusive where the forces of Iraq are not a personal force defined by one particular sect and sworn to allegiance to one particular leader, but they truly represent Iraq, and Iraq’s future in a broad-based sense. And I think that everybody understands that is the direction that we have to go. Lots of countries who have an interest in stability in the region have already offered different kinds of assistance of one kind or another, but nobody, I think, is looking towards a return to the road that we’ve traveled. What we’re really looking for here is a way to support Iraq, support their forces with either training or equipment or assistance of one kind or another that can help them to stand on their own two feet and defend their nation. That’s the goal. That’s where the conversation begins, whoever is prime minister, and I think everybody is crystal clear about that.

We are convinced that with a unified effort by Iraqis, and particularly if there is a return to the kind of localized efforts that existed in the Sons of Anbar or the Iraqi Anbar Awakening, as it’s referred to, that there will be plenty of opportunity here for a pushback against ISIL forces which is why the restoration of a unified, inclusive government is so critical as a starting point. I think the President felt that that process was well enough along the way with the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and the clear movement of people towards a candidate for prime minister that he felt comfortable that the urgency of the situation, of protecting potential people moving towards Erbil or the extraordinary atrocities that were beginning to take place with respect to the Yazidis that it was critical to begin to move in that regard, and that’s why he made that decision, and I think it was a wise decision.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Australia has long joined the international community in calling for a more inclusive government in Iraq, and the political instability that we have seen that hasn’t addressed the concerns of the Sunnis, hasn’t addressed the concerns of minorities, is of course a matter of grave concern. So political stability is the key for Iraq encountering the influence and impact of these extremist groups, including ISIL. And that brings me to the issue of foreign fighters. The Australian media has, this week, published some truly shocking photographs I assume have been verified of an Australian family in the Middle East holding up a severed head, a seven year-old child is involved in this barbarous display of ideology, and they’re Australian citizens.

So when the government says that there is a real domestic security threat from the phenomenon of foreign fighters, we have evidence that there are a significant number of Australian citizens who are taking part in activities in Iraq and parts of Syria, extremist activities, terrorist activities. Our fear is that they will return home to Australia as hardened, homegrown terrorists and seek to continue their work here in Australia. And it’s not a concern just of this country. As I mentioned earlier, at the East Asia Summit, a number of countries raised this issue of foreign fighters leaving countries, going to fight in these conflicts and coming home with a set of skills and experience as terrorists. That truly poses one of the most significant threats that we’ve seen in a very long time.

Our discussion today focused on what we can do to counter this risk. Australia, as the Australian media would be well aware, has announced a series of legislative reforms that deal with matters including the burden of proof for people’s presence in prescribed areas like Mosul, and why Australian citizens would be defying the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice to not go to Mosul demands explanation. We are looking at issues involving passports and the cancellation and the ability to suspend passports so that we can investigate the activities of people within Australia and deal with them on their turn.

We know that one of the Australian citizens involved in these activities in the Middle East in Iraq had, in fact, been convicted of terrorist activities in Australia, had served time and then left Australia under a false identity. We also know that in coming weeks and months, a significant number of those convicted of terrorist activities in Indonesia will be released. Now the question is: Have they been de-radicalized in their time in prison? Clearly in the case of the Australian citizen, not. And we hold similar fears for those inmates leaving Indonesian jails. So the whole question of what we can do when these people are detained and what we can do if they’re prosecuted and found guilty and spend time in jail, they are matters that we have to look at. The whole question of reaching out to the communities in Australia and getting communities to assist us in fighting this extremist threat is important.

So as we were discussing these issues, Secretary Kerry said this is something we’ve got to bring to the attention of the international community. It’s a shared issue across Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Europe, in Pakistan, in Great Britain, Canada. There are a number of countries across the globe reporting instances of citizens becoming extremist fighters in the Middle East. And so this idea of having a forum, discussion at UNGA Leaders’ Week is something that I believe will be well supported because so many countries are facing this threat, and if we can exchange ideas and practices and suggestions as how we can deal with it, then I think we will have made a great step forward, and so we certainly will support the United States and work very hard to ensure that we collectively deal with this growing threat to the security of our nation.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I add one thing to that?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Sure.

SECRETARY KERRY: I apologize, but I just want to underscore this image, perhaps even an iconic photograph that Julie has just referred to is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed, this seven year-old child holding a severed head out with pride and with the support and encouragement of a parent with brothers there. That child should be in school, that child should be out learning about a future, that child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat. This is utterly disgraceful, and it underscores the degree to which ISIL is so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups, that al-Qaida shunted them aside. And that’s why they represent the threat that they represent. And it’s no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL.

So this threat is so real, an African – north African president of a country recently told me that 1,800 identified citizens of that country have gone to Syria to fight. Believe it or not, 1,100 of them they knew had already been killed because their bodies had been returned or they were tallied as killed. Well, that leaves 7 or 800 still out there that they fear are going to return to that country knowing how to fix an IED, knowing how to arm weapons, knowing how to explode a bomb, knowing how to build a suicide vest or something like that. And this ideology is without one redeeming quality of offering people a job or healthcare or an education or anything other than saying don’t live any other way but the way we tell you.

So this is serious business, and we understand that, and I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the fact, the degree to which this is unacceptable. And we have a responsibility to take this to the United Nations and to the world so that all countries involved take measures ahead of time to prevent the return of these fighters and the chaos and havoc that could come with that, and I just wanted to underscore that with the – with Minister Bishop, because we’re all joined together in this effort, and that’s why we’re going to take it to the United Nations in the fall and try to get best practices put together by which all countries can begin to act together in unison in order to react to it.

QUESTION: Leslie Wroughton from Reuters. Please excuse if I don’t stand up. I’ve got too much equipment going here. Turning back to Iraq, you said that the U.S. was prepared to consider security, political, and economic options as Iraq forms this new government. Can you get into more specifics about that? We’ve heard some vague statements on how you ought to prepare to support. Does this include further airstrikes to push back ISIS? Once the government comes in, how do you secure that stability?

And then number two, on Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said today there’s a high probability of a Russian intervention in Ukraine. What specific steps, again, are you taking through diplomatic channels to address this. You talked about your hopes in the next days and weeks to – that you could find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians. Are you talking about a new diplomatic effort here? And what are you talking about? Thanks.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me make it clear with respect to Ukraine, diplomatic efforts have never ceased. It’s not a question of a new one; it’s a question of ongoing diplomatic efforts. We have never stopped. The President has not stopped, the Vice President, myself have all been in touch with the top leadership of Ukraine, with leadership of Russia, and others. The President of the United States talked to President Putin a few days ago. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov just a couple days ago. I talked to President Poroshenko a few days ago. There are a lot of conversations taking place.

And even now as we stand here, there are efforts being made with our friends, with Germany, with the Ukrainians, with Russia, with others to try to see if there’s a way to work out a way forward on the humanitarian delivery with direct contact with the ICRC. There is direct contact with the Germans and others in this effort, and the hope is that through the meetings that will take place this week, there is a way to find a means that is acceptable to deliver humanitarian assistance without the guise of a military delivery in an effort to do so against the will and wishes of the country where it is being delivered and against the norms of the ICRC, the International Red Cross, and how it would react to that.

So that’s the effort that’s underway now. It’s been a consistent, continued diplomatic effort to try to find a way forward, but obviously the humanitarian assistance needs to get there, and there are a clear set of meetings scheduled, so there’s a timeframe within which we think we’re operating, which is why I mention that.

With respect to Iraq and the stability, I want – I think Chuck Hagel should speak specifically to any of the security components of that, but I’d just say on the economic and political front, the best thing for stability in Iraq is for an inclusive government to bring the disaffected parties to the table and work with them in order to make sure there is the kind of sharing of power and decision making that people feel confident the government represents all of their interests. And if that begins to happen, then there is a way for both investment, trade, economic, other realities to help sustain and build that kind of stability.

But if you don’t have the prerequisite, which President Obama identified at the outset, of an inclusive, working government, there’s no chance for any of that. That’s why we think the steps taken, the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and now a prime minister-designate who has an opportunity to be able to form a government are just essential prerequisites to this process of providing stability.

Do you want to talk to the security?

SECRETARY HAGEL: I’ll just mention a couple of things. One, as you know, it was the Iraqi Government that requested the U.S. Government’s assistance with humanitarian delivery on Mount Sinjar. And we complied with that request, agreed with that request for carrying out those missions. It was also the Iraqi Government’s request of the United States Government to assist them in transferring, transporting military equipment to Erbil to help the Peshmerga. As Secretary Kerry noted and as President Obama has said, as a new government begins, takes shape, we would consider further requests from that new government.

But I would just also reemphasize what Secretary Kerry has already noted, and President Obama has made this very clear, the future of Iraq will be determined by the people of Iraq. It will not be determined by a military solution. It will require a political solution, and I think Secretary Kerry’s comments about an inclusive participatory, a functioning government is critically important to the future of Iraq. So we would wait and see what future requests that this new government would ask of us, and we would consider those based on those requests.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Just on Ukraine, Australia welcomes the efforts of the United States to assist in preventative diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia. As I made, I hope, very clear to Vice Minister Morgulov in Naypyidaw over the weekend, yes, there is a humanitarian situation in Ukraine that is serious, and it’s likely to worsen. But if Russia were concerned about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the first step is to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into eastern Ukraine and the so-called separatists are very professional, very well armed with the most sophisticated of weaponry and equipment, so to cease that flow of personnel and weapons would be a start.

I also hope I made very clear that any intervention by Russia into Ukraine under the guise of a humanitarian crisis would be seen as the transparent artifice that it is, and Australia would condemn in the strongest possible terms any effort by Russia to enter Ukraine under the guise of carrying out some sort of humanitarian mission. Clearly that kind of support must come from donor countries, from the UN, from the International Red Cross, and that is our expectation.

I think that’s it, (inaudible). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. We will now depart, and I just want to place on record again our thanks to Secretaries Kerry and Hagel for taking part in this AUSMIN, and we look forward to seeing them next year.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

# # #

Press Releases: Joint Communique AUSMIN 2014

Begin Text:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met on 12 August in Sydney for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

On the 29th anniversary of the first AUSMIN, the talks reaffirmed the Alliance’s important contribution to the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as well as its enduring value in addressing contemporary and evolving challenges in the regions and throughout the world. The Alliance is a cornerstone of our strong and dynamic bilateral relationship, which is based on shared values and close friendship.

1. The Australia-United States Alliance

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the strong state of bilateral defence and security cooperation under the Alliance, as demonstrated through a decade of operations together in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With the signature today of the legally-binding Force Posture Agreement between Australia and the United States, we reaffirmed our commitment to work towards full implementation of the Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. The agreement provides a robust policy and legal framework and financial principles for implementation of the force posture initiatives announced in 2011. It demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and Australia’s firm support for the US rebalance. The agreement also reaffirms our mutual intent to deepen our relationship and regional security through expanded cooperation together and with other countries in the region.

Australia and the United States welcomed the larger US Marine Corps presence under the third rotational deployment currently in Darwin and discussed the way forward for enhanced aircraft cooperation. They discussed the potential for additional bilateral naval cooperation and welcomed the significant, wide-ranging series of port visits planned for 2015. They also asked their respective officials to develop practical options to enhance naval training and exercises in Australia and the region.

Acknowledging the high-level of interoperability between Australian and US Special Forces, both sides supported fostering these links to address shared threats and enhance capacity within the region.

The two countries committed to continue to work together to counter the growing threat of ballistic missiles in the Asia Pacific region, including by establishing a bilateral working group to examine options for potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue strategic planning collaboration between their respective defence departments, to develop common approaches to regional security challenges, and to harness opportunities for greater defence cooperation across the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

They highlighted the importance of the bilateral Exercise Talisman Sabre to continue to enhance Australia-US interoperability, practise our joint collective capabilities, and demonstrate mutual resolve in maintaining joint defence readiness under the Alliance. They emphasised the importance of civilian agency participation in the Exercise and the desire to strengthen our capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and incorporate ‘women, peace and security’ objectives into our combined planning. They planned to hold the next round of the bilateral Political-Military Talks at the earliest opportunity.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to practical space cooperation, encouraged by recent steps towards establishing combined operations. They welcomed the significant progress made toward establishing the C-Band space surveillance radar and the Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia. They reiterated support for regional and global efforts to strengthen the safety, security and sustainability of space, including finalising the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

Australia and the United States welcomed continued high-level bilateral cooperation on defence science and technology. The rise of increasingly sophisticated and complex threat environments, combined with continued resource pressures, makes the development of affordable capabilities an imperative. This includes diverse areas such as cyber, electronic warfare, hypersonics, as well as integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies.

Australia and the United States reflected on defence industry collaboration between the two countries. Over the last decade, Australia has agreed to purchase important capabilities from the United States, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, EA-18G Growler, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail early warning aircraft. These shared platforms and capabilities provide opportunities to maintain and enhance bilateral interoperability.

Both countries emphasised that international law, including the United Nations Charter and, where relevant, international humanitarian law, applies to state conduct in cyberspace and reaffirmed that Australia and the United States would act in accordance with their obligations.

Both countries welcomed the expansion of bilateral trade and investment, driven by the strong affinities between our economies. They noted the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including the significant level of business engagement across a broad spectrum of economic activity. Both countries looked forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement on 1 January 2015. The Agreement has deepened economic integration and boosted both economies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the importance of their people-to-people ties. The two countries also noted this year as the 65th anniversary of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, which has supported the professional growth of close to 5,000 students and scholars, and enriched bilateral relations.

Both countries welcomed the growth in cooperation on innovation, energy, science, technology and health. Bilateral innovation cooperation will strengthen our work on cutting edge issues, ranging from neuroscience to clean energy and energy efficiency, to research on global ocean acidification, to information technology and bio-preparedness.

2. Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive engagement in the rapidly developing Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Australia expressed support for the United States’ role in underpinning the regions’ security, stability and prosperity. The United States welcomed the important contribution that Australia’s wide-ranging engagement in those regions continues to make to security and stability.

They recognised regional economic integration and development as essential to the future prosperity of Australia and the United States, and of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as a whole. They supported economic initiatives that foster growth and market openness, and deepen economic integration in those regions and globally.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their strong commitment to concluding an ambitious, high quality, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) as soon as possible. This will deepen regional integration, open new trade and investment opportunities, create jobs, and support economic growth.

They pledged to work closely in support of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) agenda to advance economic integration across the Asia Pacific region, especially in the areas of trade and investment liberalisation, structural reform and regulatory coherence, enhancing global value chains, improving supply-chain performance, combating corruption, promoting cross-border education cooperation, and women’s economic empowerment.

Australia and the United States shared their views that the East Asia Summit (EAS) is the premier regional forum for dialogue and cooperation on the political, security, strategic and relevant economic challenges confronting the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They will work more closely together, and with EAS partners, in continuing to enhance the EAS’ role, through deepening its agenda on maritime security, non-proliferation and disaster response, and building synergies with other regional forums.

Australia and the United States welcomed the practical cooperation fostered under the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and expect to cooperate closely to ensure an open dialogue on key regional security issues. They intend to build confidence through maritime security and maritime domain awareness, non-proliferation and disarmament, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, space and cyber security. Both countries strongly supported the ARF’s work on preventive diplomacy and also noted their partnership in encouraging the ARF and ADMM+ to develop a regional strategic multi-year exercise plan to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. They reaffirmed their support for the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) as an important avenue for regional discussion of maritime issues. They are working closely together in taking forward a workshop on maritime environmental pollution in October 2014 under the US-led Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training (EAST) initiative.

The two countries underscored their shared interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China and the South China Seas. They called on claimants to refrain from actions that could increase tensions and to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. They reaffirmed support for the rights of claimants to seek peaceful resolution of disputes, including through legal mechanisms such as arbitration under the Law of the Sea Convention. They opposed unilateral attempts to change facts on the ground or water through the threat or use of force or coercion.

The two countries emphasised the need for South China Sea claimant states to build upon the framework for managing disputes set forth in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, including the commitment of ASEAN states and China to “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.” They encouraged claimant states to reach consensus on what types of activities should be permissible and what types of activities should be avoided in areas that are in dispute. They underscored that such a voluntary arrangement would serve as a good faith gesture among all parties and could help facilitate the early completion of a meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The United States and Australia affirmed their support for a voluntary ‘freeze’ by claimants on activities in disputed maritime areas.

Australia and the United States acknowledged the significance of Indonesia’s third direct presidential election. They recognised the significant contributions of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in leading his country, and welcomed Indonesia’s leadership role in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Both countries look forward to working closely with Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo and his administration after his inauguration in October. They affirmed their desire to seek opportunities to enhance joint cooperation with Indonesia on defence as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Affirming the longstanding and enduring friendship among Australia, the United States and the people of Thailand, both countries recognised that Thailand faced complex challenges that only the Thai people could address. They noted that Australia and the United States had expressed concern about the military coup. They looked forward to a transition to civilian rule and a return to democracy, stressing the importance of inclusive processes which reflect the will of the Thai people. They also stressed the importance of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Australia and the United States welcomed Burma’s commitment to political, economic and social reforms and encouraged further efforts towards constitutional reform, free and fair elections in 2015, and protecting the rights of all people in Burma. They also welcomed ongoing efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire with ethnic armed groups and encouraged an inclusive political dialogue with stakeholders to achieve a lasting peace. They acknowledged steps that Burma has taken regarding non-proliferation, including its signature of the Additional Protocol with the IAEA in September 2013, and agreed on the importance of Burma severing all proscribed activities with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. They supported Burma’s deepening engagement with the international community and acknowledged its chairmanship of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit in 2014.

Australia and the United States welcomed Japan’s efforts to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including through its decision to allow for the exercise of its UN Charter right to collective self-defence. They undertook to maintain strong bilateral security relationships with Japan and committed to enhance trilateral security and defence cooperation, including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and further developing existing trilateral exercises.

The two countries committed to intensify their collaboration with the Republic of Korea to promote stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the wider region and globally, through expanded trilateral security and defence cooperation and by working together in bodies such as the UN Security Council, including on peacekeeping, counter-proliferation, maritime cooperation and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to building positive and constructive relations with China, including by pursuing dialogue on strategic security issues and by expanding practical cooperation in support of their common interest in maintaining regional peace and stability, and respect for international law. They will endeavour to strengthen their comprehensive and cooperative relations with China, including through stronger economic engagement, and to encourage China to make further progress in respect for human rights. They welcomed China’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations and international efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, as well as its participation in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). They looked forward to joining China for the inaugural iteration of Exercise Kowari, a trilateral defence exercise to be conducted in Australia in October.

Australia and the United States underscored their serious concern that Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) behaviour undermined the stability of the entire region and called on the DPRK to cease its threats and provocations, comply with its international commitments and obligations, including by abandoning its nuclear, missile and proliferation activities. They expressed their deep concern for the welfare of the North Korean people and the abducted citizens of other countries, called on the DPRK to implement the UN Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations for ending the ongoing systematic, widespread, and extreme violations of human rights, and reiterated that those responsible must be held to account.

Both countries welcomed their close cooperation with affected countries in the region and beyond during the initial surface search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. This joint effort was a powerful example of regional cooperation. Australia, Malaysia and China continue the search, with an intensive underwater search of 60,000 km2 due to start in early September after a bathymetric survey.

Australia and the United States recognised India’s position as the world’s largest democracy and an important economic and strategic power in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to work with India to expand trilateral cooperation, including on shared challenges such as maritime security, energy security, and ensuring economic growth, and through collaboration in regional institutions.

They recognised the important role that the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) played as the only ministerial-level grouping that spans the Indian Ocean region. They intend to continue to support IORA’s work to facilitate closer cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. As IORA Chair, Australia reaffirmed its intention to develop a stronger policy agenda for IORA and welcomed the United States’ participation as a Dialogue Partner at the Council of Ministers Meeting to be held in Perth on 9 October.

The two countries expect to further enhance maritime security cooperation, including combating piracy and promoting regional security, stability and freedom of navigation, by working closely together under the US-led Combined Maritime Forces in the Indian Ocean and through the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which the United States will join in September.

Australia and the United States encouraged Fiji’s progress toward holding elections on 17 September. They will continue to work together with other international partners to support elections and democratic reforms in Fiji.

They reaffirmed their commitment to assist the Pacific Island countries in realising their goal of a stable, secure and prosperous region. They welcomed the adoption of a new Framework for Pacific Regionalism by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their July meeting. Both countries welcomed the election of Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea as the first female Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

They undertook to continue to work together in pursuit of the sustainable management of oceans and fisheries, which are among the key development challenges in the Pacific and globally. They reaffirmed their commitment to cooperative efforts to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Australia and the United States will endeavour to continue to provide development assistance that fosters economic growth and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to continue supporting development programs that reduce poverty by promoting innovation, gender equality, education and health, and collaborate on the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their shared commitment to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls. In particular, they recognised that women’s economic empowerment is a significant driver of growth and development, and planned to work together to promote women’s employment and economic opportunity, particularly in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

3. Global challenges

Australia and the United States plan to work together through the G20 toward achieving their shared goals of promoting strong, sustainable, and balanced global economic growth and employment, and increasing the resilience of the global economy, including by strengthening infrastructure investment, enhancing trade and building cooperation on energy, including on energy efficiency. The United States shared Australia’s ambition for G20 members to boost the collective GDP of members by more than two per cent above current projections over the next five years.

Recognising the challenges climate change poses to security, Australia and the United States intend to continue to work through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process to negotiate a new, ambitious climate agreement applicable to all countries by 2015 to take effect in 2020.

The United States welcomed Australia’s engagement on the Global Health Security Agenda, which seeks to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority.

The United States welcomed Australia’s strong contribution during its term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and our shared efforts to reach constructive and practical solutions to international peace and security issues. Both countries are continuing to work closely to tackle serious challenges before the Council, including the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, protection of civilians in conflict zones, effective implementation of sanctions, countering the international terrorist threat and regional weapons proliferation.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea has no basis in international law.

Both countries condemned Russia’s support for and enabling of the continued destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; destabilisation which led to the shooting down of a passenger airliner, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, killing all 298 on board. Both countries affirmed their commitment to completing a full international investigation into the attack¬¬– an appalling tragedy and terrible act of senseless violence – including through implementation of UNSC Resolution 2166 on MH17.

Australia and the United States condemned in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed opposition groups in Iraq. They welcomed the nomination of Dr Haider al-Abadi as Prime Minister-designate, and encouraged him to form a new and inclusive Iraqi Government as soon as possible. They called on all Iraqi leaders to work closely together and adopt a unified approach to addressing the country’s challenges. The two countries indicated their deep concern about recent developments in northern Iraq and their commitment to work together and with other partners to undertake humanitarian operations to relieve besieged communities and to combat the threat posed by ISIL.

The two countries discussed the worsening humanitarian, social and political crisis in Syria and reaffirmed the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict consistent with the Geneva Communiqué. They also called for all nations to cooperate in applying pressure to those responsible for the crisis, the Assad regime and violent radical extremists, and to provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population suffering from the conflict. They expressed their intention to continue to work through the UNSC to press the parties to the conflict, and particularly the Syrian regime, to adhere to the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2139 on the protection of civilians and humanitarian access and UNSC Resolution 2165 on humanitarian access.

They intend to continue to work closely together and with the international community to address the national security risks posed by foreign fighters in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the impact of their return, particularly in Southeast Asia. They will work together also in developing a set of established best practices for addressing this threat at the national level, including through legislation, border security, immigration and consular policies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue assisting the Government of Afghanistan as it assumes full responsibility for the security of Afghanistan post-2014 and works to increase stability and prosperity. They welcomed the commitment of the parties to form a government of national unity.

They acknowledged the importance of Pakistan to South Asian stability and welcomed Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to economic reform. They committed to continue to work with Pakistan to help it address ongoing security and development challenges, including its critical energy needs.

Australia and the United States called on Iran to continue engaging constructively with the P5+1 to negotiate a joint comprehensive plan of action to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program, and called on Iran to resolve all outstanding issues related to its nuclear program – particularly those concerning its possible military dimensions – and fully and urgently to implement Iran’s Framework for Cooperation agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They urged Iran to take tangible steps to improve the country’s human rights situation and to cooperate fully with the UN Special Rapporteur.

Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to working with Israel and the Palestinians, the United Nations and international partners to support the resumption of direct negotiations towards a just and lasting two-state solution. They expressed the need for an unconditional, prolonged ceasefire that significantly de-escalates the violence and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities. Both countries are providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza in addition to carrying through with existing commitments for development assistance to the Palestinian Territories.

The two countries called on Egypt to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive democracy, economic reform, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the interests of long-term stability. They expressed their deep disappointment about the recent decision by an Egyptian court to impose lengthy jail sentences on journalists, including Australian reporter Peter Greste. They pledged to continue representations at senior levels of the Egyptian Government to underline their concerns about the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of journalists simply for doing their jobs. They called for the resolution of these cases as soon as possible.

Australia and the United States continued to support counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity building in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Africa, and through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. Australia and the United States reaffirmed intelligence cooperation and sharing as core elements of the Alliance that make a vital contribution to managing threats.

They reaffirmed their shared commitment to continue to work closely and cooperatively to help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The use of chemical weapons in Syria served as a stark reminder of the gravity of this threat and the two sides reiterated their condemnation of Syria’s actions. They noted the contributions of the annual Australia-US Counterproliferation Dialogue in coordinating responses to proliferation threats in the Southeast Asia region and elsewhere, and committed to continue to put priority on this cooperation in the future.

The two countries encouraged the earliest entry into force and effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), while recognising that the international trade in arms is a legitimate commercial activity. The ATT provides an important means of preventing and eradicating illicit trade in small arms.

4. AUSMIN 2015

The United States offered to host the next AUSMIN meeting in 2015.

End Text

Press Releases: Remarks at the Rollout of the 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. How are you?

AUDIENCE: Morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: Is everybody good? So I’m going to make – David, I want you out here with me, if you would. Tom, why don’t you come out here on the other side. Thank you, sir. I’m going to make a statement, and then I need to rush out of here because I have a phone call literally in about 10 minutes. And I’ll leave Tom Malinowski and David here with you. David is a nominee, and therefore not going to be able to say anything at this point in time, but I wanted to have a chance to introduce him to all of you as we release the International Religious Freedom Report, which we believe is a very important statement that underscores a major challenge around the world. It is also a pleasure for me to introduce President Obama’s nominee to serve as our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. And he, when confirmed and if confirmed by the United States Senate, is going to lead our efforts to make progress on these issues of religious freedom across the globe, and that is Rabbi David Saperstein.

Before we begin, I just want to say a very few words quickly about the events in Gaza and what is happening and what we’re trying to do. As you all know, I just returned from the Middle East and from Paris, where I had a series of discussions aimed at de-escalating the conflict, ending the rocket and tunnel attacks against Israeli civilians, and easing the suffering of innocent people everywhere – in Gaza, in Israel, in the West Bank. Today, we are continuing to work toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, one that could honor Eid, which begins now, and that will stop the fighting, allow desperately needed food and medicine and other supplies into Gaza, and enable Israel to address the threat which we fully understand and which is real – the threat posed by tunnel attacks – and to be able to do so without having to resort to combat. That is what could come from a cease-fire.

We believe the momentum generated by a humanitarian cease-fire is the best way to be able to begin to negotiate and find out if you can put in place a sustainable cease-fire, one that addresses all of the concerns – the long-term concerns as well; begin to talk about the underlying causes of the conflict in Gaza, though those obviously will not all be resolved in the context of a cease-fire, sustainable cease-fire discussion. But it is important to try to build, to begin, and to move in a process, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. That is the only way, ultimately, this conflict is going to be resolved.

Hopefully, if we can make some progress, the people in this region, who deserve peace, can take one step towards that elusive goal by stopping the violence which catches innocents on all sides in the crossfire, and begin to try to build a sustainable way forward.

We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups. And we will work closely with Israel and regional partners and the international community in support of this goal.

So we continue to have these discussions. Our discussions over there succeeded in putting a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire in place. Then, as the rollover time for that occurred, regrettably there were misunderstandings about 12 hours versus 24, 4 hours versus 24. And so we’re trying to work hard to see if these issues can be clarified in a way that allow the party – that allow Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian factions, the other countries involved, working through the Egyptian initiative, to be able to find a way to silence the weapons long enough to be able to begin to negotiate.

Now, the cause of peace and understanding is what brings us here today. Sixteen years ago, I was very proud to join my colleagues in the United States Congress in passing the International Religious Freedom Act, the law that mandates this annual State Department report in order to shine a light on the obstacles that so many people face as they seek nothing more than the ability to be able to worship as they wish. And the release of this report here today is a demonstration of the abiding commitment of the American people and the entire U.S. Government to the advancement of freedom of religion worldwide.

Freedom of religion is at the core of who we are as Americans. It’s been at the center of our very identify since the pilgrims fled religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts. And many settled in the city of Salem, which takes its name from the words “salam,” “shalom,” meaning peace.

But we’re reminded that before long, even there – even there in Salem, newly founded in order to get away from religious strife, unfortunately religious persecution arrived on the scene. Women were accused of witchcraft, and some were burned at the stake. Emerging differences between religious leaders in Massachusetts and some congregations were led, as a result of that, to break away and to found new settlements. Rhode Island was founded by people who wandered through the woods leaving Massachusetts and wandered for an entire winter until they broke out on this expanse of water, and they named it Providence, for obvious reasons.

One hundred years after the pilgrims set sail for religious freedom, a Catholic woman was executed on the Boston Common for the crime of praying her rosary. So we approach this issue – I certainly do – very mindful of our past and of how as Americans we have at times had to push and work and struggle to live up fully to the promise of our own founding.

John Winthrop, born in England, but his passionate faith and his disagreements with the Anglican church inspired him to lead a ship full of religious dissidents to come to America to seek freedom of worship. And on the deck of the Arabella, he famously said in a sermon that he delivered before they landed, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” And they have been ever since then, and they are today.

And though we are obviously far from perfect and we know that, no place has ever welcomed so many different faiths to worship as freely as here in the United States of America. It’s something that we are extraordinarily proud of. But freedom of religion is not an American invention; it’s a universal value. And it’s enshrined in our Constitution and it’s engrained in every human heart. The freedom to profess and practice one’s faith is the birthright of every human being, and that’s what we believe. These rights are properly recognized under international law. The promotion of international religious freedom is a priority for President Obama and it is a priority for me as Secretary of State.

I am making certain, and I will continue to, that religious freedom remains an integral part of our global diplomatic engagement. The release of this report is an important part of those efforts. This report is a clear-eyed objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world, and when necessary, yes, it does directly shine a light in a way that makes some countries – even some of our friends – uncomfortable. But it does so in order to try to make progress.

Today of all days, we acknowledge a basic truth: Religious freedom is human freedom. And that’s why I’m especially proud to be joined today by President Obama’s newly minted nominee as our next Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rabbi David Saperstein. When it comes to the work of protecting religious freedom, it is safe to say that David Saperstein represents the gold standard. Think about the progress of the last 20 years in elevating this fight, and David has been at the lead every step of the way – serving as the first chair of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Commission, Director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and as a member of the White House Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

But David’s resume is not just a list of titles or positions. That’s why he pushed for the U.S. Government to engage in partnerships with communities that work across faith lines. That’s why he’s worked to forge deeper partnerships with women of faith networks to advance peace and development. And that’s why he’s worked to engage American Muslim communities and their groups on global Muslim engagement affairs. And that’s why he made it his mission to promote tolerance and mutual understanding in Sudan.

I have witnessed his exceptional skill, his patience, his ability to listen, his sense of humor, and his tenacity as an advocate over the course of my years on Capitol Hill. He is simply one of America’s most compelling and committed voices on religion in public life. And I could not be more grateful for his willingness to now serve on the front lines of our global push to expand religious freedom, and I look forward, I hope, to his rapid confirmation by the United States Senate.

One thing is for sure: Rabbi Saperstein is joining an important effort at a very important time. When countries undermine or attack religious freedom, they not only unjustly threaten the people that they target; they also threaten their country’s own stability. That’s why we, today, add Turkmenistan to the list of Countries of Particular Concern. We have seen reports that people in Turkmenistan are detained, beaten, and tortured because of their religious beliefs. The Government of Turkmenistan has passed religious laws that prohibit people from wearing religious attire in public places or that impose fines for distributing religious literature. And the authorities continue to arrest and imprison Jehovah’s Witnesses who are conscientious objectors to military service.

I want to emphasize: This effort isn’t about naming countries to lists in order to make us feel somehow that we’ve spoken the truth. I want our CPC designations to be grounded in plans, action that help to change the reality on the ground and actually help people. That’s why we are committed to working with governments as partners to help them ensure full respect for the human rights of all of their citizens.

And when 75 percent of the world’s population still lives in countries that don’t respect religious freedoms, let me tell you, we have a long journey ahead of us. We have a long way to go when governments kill, detain, or torture people based on a religious belief.

North Korea stands out again in this year’s report for its absolute and brutal repression of religious activity. Members of religious minorities are ripped from their families and isolated in political prison camps. They’re arrested and beaten, tortured, and killed. And we’ve seen reports that individuals have been arrested for doing nothing more than carrying a Bible.

And North Korea is not alone. Earlier this month, Chinese officials sentenced Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie to 12 years in prison for peaceful advocacy on behalf of his church community. And just last week, I welcomed the release of Meriam Ishag, a mother of two young children who had been imprisoned on charges of apostasy in Sudan. From South Asia to Sahel, governments have silenced members of religious groups with oppressive laws, harsh punishments, and brutal tactics that have no place in the 21st century.

In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it. And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Baha’is to Ahmadi Muslims.

So we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights. We also have a long way to go when governments use national security as an excuse to repress members of minority religious groups.

In Russia, the government has used a succession of ever more punitive laws against what they call extremism to justify crude measures against people of faith. In China, authorities harass Christians. They arrest Tibetan Buddhists simply for possessing the Dalai Lama’s photograph. And they prevent Uighur Muslims from providing religious education to their children or fasting during Ramadan. And in Uzbekistan, the government continues to imprison its citizens, raid religious gatherings, and confiscate and destroy religious literature. These tactics continue to pose an incredible test. But make no mistake: These tactics will fail the test of history.

One of the troubling trends identified in this year’s report is how sectarian violence continues to displace families and devastate communities. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been displaced in Burma in the wake of sectarian violence, and tens of thousands more are living in squalid camps without adequate medical care.

In Pakistan, militants killed more than 500 Shia Muslims in sectarian bloodletting and brutally murdered 80 Christians in a single church bombing last year. The Pakistani Government has yet to take adequate steps to bring those responsible to justice.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed more than 1,000 people over the last year alone, and that includes Christian and Muslim religious leaders, individuals who were near – near – churches and mosques, worshipers, and bystanders alike. And we have all seen the savagery and incredible brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape, executions, and use of women and children as human shields.

All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes. Just the other week, ISIL declared that any remaining Christians in Mosul must convert, pay a tax, or be executed on the spot. Around the world, repressive governments and extremist groups have been crystal clear about what they stand against. So we have to be equally clear about what we must stand for. We stand for greater freedom, greater tolerance, greater respect for rights of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.

With this report, I emphasize we are not arrogantly telling people what to believe. We’re not telling people how they have to live every day. We’re asking for the universal value of tolerance, of the ability of people to have a respect for their own individuality and their own choices. We are asserting a universal principle for tolerance. The Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – have to find new meaning in the old notion of our shared descent. What really is our common inheritance? What does it mean to be brothers and sisters and to express our beliefs in mutual tolerance and understanding? Answering those questions is our mission today. Edmund Burke once famously said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This report is the work of good men and women who are doing something profound in the face of bigotry and injustice.

And let me share with, you around the world, some of today’s greatest advocates in this cause are doing their part every day, some of them at great risk and in great danger. They are doing it in order to force light into darkness. In Pakistan, following the militant attacks I just mentioned, members of the Muslim community formed human chains around churches to demonstrate solidarity against senseless sectarian violence. In Egypt, Muslim men stood in front of a Catholic church to protect the congregation from attacks. And in London, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch team helped Muslim leaders protect their mosque and prevent future attacks.

There are many, many, many examples of people standing up for this universal value of tolerance and doing so for themselves at great risk. There are many whose names and communities and watch teams we will never know. But they will not receive prizes; they may not ever receive recognition. Their courage goes unremarked, but that makes it all the more remarkable, because they put their lives on the line in face of beatings and imprisonment and even death, in the near certainty that their sacrifice will be anonymous. Believe me, that’s the definition of courage.

So while serious challenges to religious freedom remain, I know that the power of the human spirit can and will triumph over them. It is not just up to the rabbis, the bishops, and the imams. It’s up to all of us to find the common ground and draw on what must be our common resolve to put our universal commitments into action.

Tom Malinowski will speak further, be prepared to answer any questions, and I’m very grateful to you all for being here for this important report and for allowing me to introduce you to the President’s nominee. Thank you.