State Dept Presser, Mar 13, 2023
Washington supports the democratic and constitutional system in Pakistan, said Ned Price, addressing his last press conference as US State Department spokesperson on Mar 13, 2023
He also made it clear that US does not take any position between political parties. “We do not support any political leader.”
Price fielded questions on issues that ranged from the Middle East situation to the Ukraine war and China besides the usual hotspots
2:09 p.m. EST
QUESTION: I want to ask you about China’s involvement in the Middle East and what that means. Does this in fact side-line the United States to have China mediating between Iran and the Saudis? And also the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporting from Friday that the Saudis are pressuring the U.S. – in order to grant Israel diplomatic recognition, pressuring for some major concessions from the United States. If you could take both of those.
MR PRICE: Sure. So you’re asking in the first instance about the PRC’s role because of the announcement between Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent days of the steps that those countries have pledged to take. First, I think it’s worth noting that this has been a question that I have been asked over the past couple years from this podium. And each and every time, starting in 2021 and 2022, that I was asked this question, I made a very simple point: We support dialogue, we support direct diplomacy, we support anything that would serve to de-escalate tensions in the region and potentially help to prevent conflict. If this is the end result of what was announced in recent days, that would be a very good thing. This is something that has – this is a process that has unfolded over the course of some two years now. We have, as I said before, encouraged it. We have supported it. The substance of the joint statement that was issued late last week is quite similar to what has been discussed during previous rounds. This is a process that has gone through Oman. It has gone through Iraq. And we have been there supporting it in every – at every step of the way.
We’ve been doing that because, again, anything that would serve to de-escalate tensions and to prevent conflict is in our interest. It’s in the interest of the region. Any efforts that would help to end the war on Yemen, also manifestly in our interests; of course in the interests of the countries in the region as well. We believe it’s long overdue that Iran cease activities aimed at destabilizing its neighbours. Should Iran, as an outcome of this agreement, again, change its longstanding behaviour and actually take steps to respect the sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of its neighbours, that would be beneficial to the region; that would very much be in our interest.
When it comes to our role in the region, Andrea, and let me address your question, this was not about the PRC. This was about what Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia committed to. When it comes to our role in the region – and whether, as I’ve read, our role may be being supplanted, some allege – I have a difficult time wrapping my head around our role could be supplanted when no country on Earth has done more to help build a more stable, a more integrated region.
This goes back to the first days of this administration. I think one of the big – one of the first personnel announcements we made was the appointment of a special envoy for Yemen. We were determined in the earliest hours of this administration to do everything we could to bring an end to the violence in Yemen, to save lives, to inject humanitarian assistance. That’s precisely what we’ve helped to do over the course of these past two years. We’ve supported our Gulf partners as they’ve enhanced their defensive capabilities; we’ve done that in very real and tangible ways – these same partners that have been subject to outrageous attacks, including cross-border attacks from Yemen and from elsewhere as well.
Our engagement with the Gulf has led to more opportunities for people throughout the region: Omani airspace, Saudi airspace, other tangible steps; the Negev process that the United States has been deeply invested in, bringing together foreign ministers and senior leaders from countries throughout the region with Israel as part of our staunch efforts to build bridges across the region and beyond; I2U2, the partnership that we’ve conceived of together with our partners, to stitch together our own longstanding partnership with Israel, with India, and with the United Arab Emirates in a novel partnership that is reflective of our broader efforts to stitch together our longstanding allies and partners into something that helps to serve the common good; and of course our engagement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I don’t think there is any other country around the world who has worked more concertedly and intensively with Israelis, with Palestinians to, in the first instance, de-escalate tensions, and to preserve the viability of a negotiated two-state solution. You’ve seen us do that in particularly acute and even dangerous moments, as in mid-2021, in the conflict between Israel and Gaza then. You’ve seen us do that when tensions are at a heightened state in the West Bank; we’re in one of those periods now.
And you’ve seen our officials engaging directly on the ground. Secretary Blinken was in the region. Jake Sullivan was in the region. Secretary of Defence Austin was in the region just last week, not to mention many other lower-level officials. And our humanitarian assistance to places like Yemen, to the Palestinian people, a relationship that we made an early point of restoring with the Palestinian Authority and with the Palestinian people.
So I think in any way you look at it, America is deeply engaged with the Middle East. We have, I think, demonstrated results in those efforts to leave a region that is more stable, is more integrated, is more prosperous. We have a long way to go, but everything we’ve done over the past couple years points to what we’re trying to achieve.
QUESTION: And the other question was: Is the United States going to even consider nuclear reactors or nuclear civilian reactors to the Saudis in exchange for them recognizing Israel?
MR PRICE: Let me just say that of course we support normalization between Israel and its Muslim and Arab majority neighbors. And I use that term “neighbors” loosely because we want to broaden the aperture and look at opportunities for countries around the world to normalize their relationship with Israel. Of course, we support normalization between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is going to have to be a process that those two countries, in the first instance, are engaged in, but we are going to do what we can as a partner to both to support that process. It’s something we’ve discussed at great length, the potential for normalization, but as for the content of those discussions, we’re going to leave that to what we’ve said behind closed doors.
QUESTION: Would you rule out the nuclear piece?
MR PRICE: I’m just not going to weigh in on a specific proposal.
QUESTION: Hi, Ned. On the Iran-Saudi deal, do you feel that this deal can actually bring tensions down? Does it scale back the tension that was building up and the fear of some sort of a military confrontation with Iran?
MR PRICE: If the deal is fully implemented, of course it has the potential to de-escalate tensions between these two rather large countries in the Gulf. Of course, it does. I think you have to take a look at where we were just a couple years ago and even in some ways just a couple months ago. Several years ago – 2019 I believe it was – the attack on the part of the Iranians to – against Saudi Arabia, the potential for attacks that our Saudi partners have endured since then, including as recently as late last year when the United States worked with our Saudi partners to enhance defensive and deterrence capabilities that ultimately mitigated what was the real – very real possibility of further Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia.
So yes, both in the theoretical sense and in a very real and practical sense, if Iran takes the steps that it has pledged to take, we believe it would.
QUESTION: Can I just do a follow-up on Andrea’s question and try to get you to talk a little bit about these conversations with Saudis on normalizing relations with Israel? Is it the U.S. assessment that after this Iran-Saudi development, it would be more complicated at least? Like, when you were in discussions with your Saudi partners, what did they say on the prospects of normalization? That’s very broad.
MR PRICE: So first, the potential implications of what we saw late last week on Israel, on normalization, on Israel’s security – this is – this is about an agreement that was reached between Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so of course this is going to be about those two countries. There is no greater supporter of Israel’s security than President Biden. As you’ve heard him say consistently, our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. We are going to continue to do everything we can not only to make good on that commitment to Israel’s security but, where we can, to help expand the bridges that have been built in recent years.
And I think you look at the engagement that we’ve undertaken in the region, including when President Biden travelled to the region, to Israel and to the Gulf last summer, you see the very tangible results of that. Saudi airspace that for the first time has been opened up, again, creating opportunities for Israelis, creating opportunities for people across the region. You see that in terms of what we’ve been able to achieve with the help of many of our partners around the world, including the UN, on Yemen. A more integrated, a more stable region is good for our interests, it is good for Israel, and it is good for people across the region.
QUESTION: You literally repeated what you answered to Andrea. But did the – I’m basically wondering what did the Saudis say? And then I’m going to repeat myself: What did the Saudis say on their normalization prospect, or what is your assessment whether you think it’s going to be more complicated, or is this going to somehow help at all?
MR PRICE: This ultimately is a question for Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is a process that we support. It’s a process that we’ve supported. It’s a process we’ve discussed with both of our partners. But this is a question for Israel and Saudi Arabia.
As for the contents of our discussions, just as a general rule, you know that we don’t read out private diplomatic conversations. But we’ve remained engaged on this and we’re going to do everything we can to be a supportive partner to both countries.
QUESTION: And one last thing. When the Saudis were informing you of what was happening, were you in turn informing Israelis? Like, were you keeping them in the loop on a daily basis or frequently?
MR PRICE: We have close relationships with both countries. We consult regularly. As we’ve said before, we were not taken by surprise by the announcement that came out on Friday. Our Saudi partners had kept us up to date. We engage regularly with our Israeli partners. Secretary Austin was there just last week, and there are many levels at which these conversations occur.
QUESTION: And I take it the Chinese weren’t in touch?
MR PRICE: I’m not aware that we heard from the PRC on this.
QUESTION: On that note actually, the newly named Chinese Minister of Defence General Li Shangfu has been subject to CAATSA sanctions since 2018. Those include visa restrictions. So what is the administration’s plan to potentially ameliorate some of that – the challenges that might pose to Secretary Austin being able to meet with his counterpart?
MR PRICE: Well, Secretary Austin now has on a couple of occasions attempted to reach out to his counterpart. Unfortunately, it has been the PRC that has failed to reciprocate. Each time we’ve made the point that we believe as a responsible country that it is in our interests, it’s in the interests of the PRC, it’s in the interest of countries around the world, for us to maintain open dialogue – multiple, even redundant channels of dialogue – as we attempt to perform what is our most important and pressing task: to establish a floor on the relationship and to establish those guardrails to see to it that the competitive aspects of the relationship between us can’t veer into conflict. That’s why Secretary Blinken has picked up the phone and been in touch with Wang Yi. That’s why he met Wang Yi in Munich. That’s why we’re regularly in touch with the PRC embassy in this country and vice versa from Beijing. When it comes to Secretary Austin, you saw the readout that the Defence Department put out several weeks ago now making clear that the PRC refused to engage.
When it comes to this individual, as I understand it, this is a largely ceremonial role. It’s a different one than the role that Secretary Austin has in our system. But we are prepared to engage when it’s in our interest to do so. We’ve made that clear from the very start. Many of you recall the first foreign trip that we took, took us to Japan, took us to South Korea. On the way back we stopped in Anchorage with Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan to engage very early on with our PRC counterparts. There have been in-person meetings since, there have been phone calls since, there have been video teleconferences ever since, precisely because we do believe what we say about establishing those communications channels as part of an effort to prevent that competition from veering into conflict.
QUESTION: Russia is sending apparently captured U.S. weapons to Iran. There’s a report about that. What is your level of concern on that?
And another one, we heard – we have seen videos of President Lukashenka meeting with Iranian president today, and one of the topics that they have been discussing was apparently basic coordination on how to evade sanctions. Iran wants to share its experience on that. I just want to get a reaction to that.
And lastly, there is an increasing tension between Azerbaijan and Iran after Iran last weekend tried to basically influence flights – jet, fighter jet, on the border, and just – may I get a reaction to that, as well? Thank you so much.
MR PRICE: So first, on Lukashenka’s visit to Iran, we see this as, in some ways, an extension of the deepening relationship between Iran and Russia. But it’s something we’re watching very closely. These are two birds of a feather, and oftentimes they do flock together.
When it comes to the Iranian weapons – or, excuse me, the weapons that have reportedly been captured, I’ve seen those reports. I’m not in a position to confirm those reports. As you know, we have a robust monitoring plan in place that takes a look at any potential instances of diversion. We are still where we have been for – since the start of this conflict. We have not seen any credible indications that security assistance that we have provided to our Ukrainian partners have been diverted to any other actor, but we’re watching this very closely.
And on Azerbaijan, and Iran, of course Iran has long been a malign actor in the region. Our approach has been to invest in our engagement with Azerbaijan, with Armenia in the South Caucasus to, as we were saying in a very different context a moment ago, to create a South Caucasus region that is more stable, that is less prone to conflict, that is less prone to tension.
QUESTION: Yeah. My question on the North Korea. North Korea launched strategic cruise missiles from a submarine last Sunday. What kind of diplomatic action is the United States currently taking in response to North Korea’s high-intensity provocations?
MR PRICE: So, Janne, we’re aware of the DPRK’s submarine launch cruise missile test. As we’ve said in the context of similar actions, these only serve to heighten tensions in the region. The DPRK’s unannounced cruise missile tests are yet another example of DPRK actions that threaten regional peace and stability. They also present an unacceptable safety risk to civil aviation and to maritime operations, as well.
We remain focused on close coordination with our allies and partners to address the multitude of threats that’s posed by the DPRK, and to advance the shared objective that we put forward in the early months of this administration, namely the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
We have had an opportunity in recent weeks to engage in depth with our Japanese allies, with our ROK allies. We’ve had the very happy opportunity to welcome deepened cooperation between those two allies, and to make the point that we are going to continue to engage bilaterally, but also trilaterally, knowing that the trilateral relationship between the United States, between the ROK, between Japan is critical to our shared efforts. Because we share, along with the ROK and Japan, a vision of an Indo-Pacific that is free and open. That’s going to be the crux of what you hear today from President Biden when he travels to San Diego and he meets with another one of our partners in the Indo-Pacific.
But Japan, and the ROK, the United States, others, we share this vision. The DPRK has consistently posed a challenge to the rules-based order and to the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. As we continue to see these provocations, we are going to work with our partners in the Indo-Pacific, we’re going to work with our partners on the other side of the Atlantic to hold the DPRK accountable.
We are going to look at additional ways to do that. Just within recent days you’ve heard from us on some of the steps that we have taken to clamp down on sanctions evasion and to pursue targets that support the DPRK’s WMD programs.
We are also going to continue to make the point, and to find ways to reinforce the point, that it requires concerted action on the part of – especially on the part of all members of the UN Security Council, especially permanent members of the UN Security Council. The DPRK is subject to a number of UN Security Council resolutions owing to the provocations that it has engaged in in recent years. Each and every one of these UN Security Council resolutions were voted on and approved by the permanent five members of the Security Council. It is incumbent on all five of those members – including Russia and the PRC – to uphold the commitments that they’ve made, to uphold the commitments that have been signed into international law, and to recognize that a DPRK that is not held to account, that is able to engage in these type of provocations without concerted accountability from the international community, is not in the interest of Russia, it’s not in the interest of China, it’s not in the interest of any country around the world.
And so our task is to continue to work with our partners and allies to hold the DPRK accountable while we are recommitting to the commitment we have to the security and to the defence of our treaty allies in this case.
QUESTION: Do you think North Korea will conduct another nuclear test during the U.S. and ROK’s joint military exercise now ongoing (inaudible)?
MR PRICE: I would hesitate to offer a prediction, but we’ve said for a number of months now that the DPRK has finalized all of the steps it would need to take to conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test. A seventh nuclear test would be a dangerous provocation that would itself constitute a significant threat to peace and security in the region. The entire world would need to respond in a case like that. Countries on the Security Council, especially the permanent five, we would expect to see – hope to see, I should say – concerted action in response to such a destabilizing event.
QUESTION: Hey, Ned. I’d like to ask you about a report that the Times had last week on the Biden administration so far refraining from turning over evidence of Russian war crimes to the International Criminal Court. And apparently the main reason that they’ve refrained from doing so is because the Pentagon objects to that action, saying that that might open the way in the future for easier prosecutions of U.S. troops. Can you address that and talk about the rationale behind this?
MR PRICE: Over the past two years, we have worked very hard to reset and to improve our relationship with the International Criminal Court. In the first instance, we lifted the sanctions that never should have been imposed in the first place. We returned to engagement with the court and the Assembly of States Parties. We have identified specific areas where we can support ICC investigations and prosecutions, including steps to support the court’s work in Darfur and assistance in locating and apprehending fugitives from international justice, and that includes high-profile fugitives like the LRA’s Joseph Kony. We also offer rewards for information leading to the arrest, the transfer, the conviction of foreign nationals accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity or genocide before the ICC. So we do provide many forms of support.
What we don’t do, however, is detail in specific forms what that support looks like or what we may be providing directly to the ICC. And we don’t do that for a very simple reason: this is an international court that is pursuing accountability, it’s pursuing justice. We don’t want to do anything or to say anything that could jeopardize the sanctity of an investigation, that could set back the pursuit of that justice.
I’d make one other point on this, Edward, that your paper reported on one form of support that we’re allegedly not providing, but you’ve heard us over the course of the past year speak to the efforts we are resorting to around the world to empower a number of organizations to collect, to preserve, to analyze, to disseminate precisely the kinds of information that would be court admissible, that international tribunals – whether it’s the ICC, whether it’s the UN’s Commission of Inquiry, whether it’s the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism – could in fact use to pursue and to advance cases that could culminate in accountability and justice for those who are responsible for some of the most heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity that we’ve seen in Ukraine.
The virtue of this type of support is we are empowering organizations to collect open-source information, information that is available to everyone but that in turn these organizations package in such a way that they are comprehensive, they are done in a rigorous way, and they’re court admissible.
So beyond the categories of support that I just listed, we are enabling a number of actors around the world to do what they can to support the ICC, to support other venues including courts of national jurisdiction in places like Ukraine and other countries around the world that have universal jurisdiction where war criminals – or accused war criminals, I should say, could be tried.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Jackson Richman with The Epoch Times. I have two questions. The first one is: Based on reports from the field, the conflict in Ukraine shows no signs of ending any time soon. Meanwhile, public support for continued U.S. assistance for Kyiv appears to be waning. In light of these realities, is the State Department prepared to reconsider its policy of backing Ukraine, quote/unquote, “for as long as it takes”?
And then my second question is: Two big name banks in the U.S., Silicon Valley Bank and Signature, have been shut down by the Feds. This has ramifications not just in the U.S. but also abroad. How do these shutdowns reflect the United States on the global stage?
MR PRICE: So a couple things. First, let me just take the second question first. I’m going to let my colleagues at the Treasury Department, the FDIC, and other colleagues handle these questions. I don’t want to say anything from here that could roil financial markets, certainly not on my last day. (Laughter.)
Your first question – your first question about standing with Ukraine. We are committed to standing with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We are committed to our Ukrainian partners. But ultimately, what we are committed to is, to go back to Edward’s question, the rules-based order. What is at play when it comes to Russian aggression against Ukraine is yes, about Ukraine in the first instance, Russia attempting to deny Ukraine the right to exist, to dictate Ukraine’s foreign policy, the choices that should be and must only be up – only to Ukrainians.
But in some ways, this is much larger than Ukraine or any single country. It is about the basic notions that are at the heart of the UN Charter, that are at the heart of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, at the heart of international law. And they basically boil down to, whether you call it the rules-based order or the rules of the road, but very simple premises: big countries can’t bully small countries; might doesn’t make right; countries have a sovereign right to determine their own future, their own partnerships, their own alliances, their own aspirations.
If Russia is permitted to challenge that in an unchecked way in Ukraine, countries around the world may well take license to challenge that in other regions. When the rules-based international order comes under threat anywhere, we believe it comes under threat everywhere. And so it’s important for the United States to be resolute, along with the dozens of countries around the world who have not only stood with Ukraine but endorsed the UN system, the UN Charter, international law, the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
More than 140 countries around the world have done that three times now. And that is because this is not a Western construct, it is not an American construct; this is an order that countries around the world believe in. It is an order that countries around the world have witnessed undergird unprecedented levels of stability, of security, of prosperity since – over the 80 years or so since the end of the Second World War.
QUESTION: Then why not send Ukraine fighter jets and enact maximum sanctions against Russia similar to the U.S. maximum pressure campaign on Iran?
QUESTION: Well, I think you look at the sanctions that we’ve enacted against Russia, and what you see is a comprehensive sanctions regime that has in the first instance crippled the Russian economy. It has caused the Kremlin to have to resort to extraordinary measures to prop up Moscow’s economy, to prop up the currency, to prop up financial markets in a way that is just not sustainable over the longer term. And you look at the broader set of measures, the export controls that we’ve put in place that have systematically deprived Russia of the ability to import the raw materials that it will need over the longer term to project aggression against Ukraine or any other country for that matter. And so however you look at it – whatever economic, financial metric you look at, you see that the sanctions the United States and our dozens of partners around the world have implemented have had tremendous effect.
On the question of the F-16, what we have done is to provide our Ukrainian partners with what they need for the battle they are facing at the moment and the direction in which that battle is evolving. And you don’t have to take our word for the effectiveness of that approach. You can look at the determination, the resilience, the grit of our Ukrainian partners but also the success that that has translated to, and that in some ways has been enabled by the massive amounts of security assistance that the United States and some 50 countries around the world have provided. These are decisions that we make on a dynamic basis, looking at precisely what the needs are in conversation with our Ukrainian partners, in conversation with our partners in Europe, in NATO, and around the world as well.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned, and congratulations on your last briefing.
MR PRICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: I would be remiss not to ask you one of your favourite topics: On Afghanistan. Representative Michael McCaul told CBS on Sunday that he’s given the Secretary until March 23rd to hand over what he describes as outstanding documentation regarding the administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. That includes a dissent cable, Ambassador Dan Smith’s after-action report, and the Kabul Embassy emergency action plan. I was just wondering if you had a response to what he said.
MR PRICE: Sure. Look, we are committed to working with all congressional committees with jurisdiction to appropriately accommodate their need for information to help them conduct their oversight for legislative purposes. We had a very productive, very constructive relationship with the 117th Congress. We hope and expect to have a very similar relationship with this Congress. We have provided more than 150 briefings to bipartisan members and staff on Afghanistan policy since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Additionally, senior officials from this department have appeared in public hearings and answered questions on Afghanistan, and the department has responded to numerous requests for information from members and their staffs related to Afghanistan policy.
As Chairman McCaul said, I believe, on your network yesterday, he and the Secretary had a very constructive discussion when the chairman was here at the department earlier this year. It was then that the Secretary reaffirmed directly to Chairman McCaul his commitment to cooperate with the committee’s work, and we’ve since provided hundreds of pages of documents responsive to the chairman’s requests on Afghanistan. We’re working as expeditiously as possible to accommodate what was just about by any measure an extensive and detailed request, and our provision of information and documents to the committee will continue as we collect and process additional responsive records.
QUESTION: Xi Jinping last week accused the U.S. of containing – trying to contain China. How is sending American submarines and helping Australia build Virginia-class submarines not an example of the U.S. containing China?
MR PRICE: On the broader question, however – and this is something we talked about last week – our goal is not to contain China. It is not the case that we or any other country could even if we wanted to, and again, that is not our goal. Our goal is not to hold China back. Our goal is to uphold the rules-based order that applies equally in the Indo-Pacific as it does in Europe and places in between. Our concern is that contrary to our goal of preserving, defending, promoting the rules-based order, we have seen the PRC attempt to challenge it, to challenge it in a number of important and in some ways destabilizing and dangerous ways.
We share the vision – the vision we share with our partners in the Indo-Pacific, and it’s certainly the vision we share with our Australian allies, in this case, is one of a region that is free and open. That is what our work together in the Indo-Pacific is about. Every time we see the PRC attempt to challenge the rules-based international order, attempt to challenge the status quo in various places, that is of concern to us. It’s of concern to countries around the world.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. done enough not only to deter China with militarily but also with investments and political participation, especially in the Pacific Islands? Some people still criticize you for not having enough of an answer, for example – Chinese investment, Chinese 5G, and only threatening people when they consider partnering with China.
MR PRICE: Nick, look, you’ve heard consistently from us (that) this is not about forcing countries to choose between the United States and China, the United States and any other country. This is about providing countries around the world with choices – affirmative choices, desirable choices, choices that would allow the United States and countries in the Indo-Pacific, in this case, to pursue our collective interests.
We talked about the funding and the infrastructure element a bit during the budget rollout late last week. But the point I made then is that we are not seeking to match the PRC dollar for dollar in the amounts that they provide to let’s call them infrastructure projects around the world. In some ways we couldn’t do that, given that they have a state-run economy and a command-style economy that we don’t, obviously.
But what we bring to bear is a whole-of-society approach, an approach that not only harnesses what the federal government does, and obviously the budget request the President sent forward on Thursday to Congress has a tremendous amount of resources that would allow us to compete and ultimately to outcompete with the PRC in the Indo-Pacific. But we have an American private sector. We have ingenuity within the American people. We have a system of alliances and partnerships that is unmatched by any other country.
And when you bring all of those to bear, we believe that the United States, and acting together with our allies and partners, present that affirmative, desirable choice that so many countries around the world want and seek. One tangible illustration of this is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. Again, this is not about matching the PRC’s spending dollar for dollar from the federal budget, but this is bringing to bear funding from our respective governments, the governments with whom we partner on PGII, but also the private sector to mobilize over the course of five years hundreds of billions of dollars for high-quality, transparent, eco-friendly infrastructure projects the likes of which no other country could provide and the likes of which would be a difficult proposition to turn down for any country in that region or elsewhere.
QUESTION: I want to start – just one question about the UK. Ambassador Craig Murray just tweeted a couple of days ago that President Biden has basically removed the former prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, from power. And since he has been removed, 80 cases have been registered against him, which includes terrorism, murder, sedition, and all these things. And I’ve heard you say this several times standing here, that President Biden stands with countries, not individuals. So, anything about that? Like, what is the stand on Pakistan? For 11 months, I’m very confused what’s the position of Biden’s administration on Pakistan.
MR PRICE: Well, you just said it yourself. I think we’ve been clear and consistent on this. We support the peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional, and legal principles around the world, and of course that includes in Pakistan. Regarding the specifics of domestic politics between parties, we don’t take a position. We don’t favor one political candidate. We don’t favor one party over another. What we do favor is a constitutional system, is a legal framework, and all parties – including in Pakistan – abiding by that constitutional framework.
QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible). So, on reports that Xi Jinping is going to talk to Vladimir Zelenskyy after his Moscow visit, an attempt to become more engaged in negotiation and conflict resolving, does the U.S. believe that these efforts can lead to any meaningful and positive outcomes? What are your expectations?
MR PRICE: Well, we would certainly like to see and hope to see an engagement between President Xi and President Zelenskyy. It’s our understanding from our Ukrainian partners that there is not an engagement yet on the books, but we’ll see what develops and what the parties say.
There are countries around the world that have a relationship with Russia that we do not have. China is at the top of that list in terms of the relationship it has with Russia and the leverage that it has with Russia. We would like to see counties around the world use those relationships and use that leverage to help encourage the Russians to end this brutal war of aggression, to put an end to the violence and the killing that has claimed far too many Ukrainian and far too many Russian lives as well.
Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see the PRC do that. Even as the PRC professes to have this veneer of neutrality, the PRC has supported Russia’s aggression in important ways – economic support, political support, diplomatic support, rhetorical support in terms of parroting and echoing the dangerous messaging and lies that we’ve heard from Moscow.
So we would certainly like to see the PRC use the leverage that it does have to bring about an end to this invasion. We haven’t seen that yet. We’ll wait and see if there’s an engagement between President Xi and President Zelenskyy. ###
(The briefing was concluded at 3:40 p.m.)
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