East Asia and the Pacific: Remarks at a Media Roundtable

QUESTION: We’ve got the summit season coming up, is there any clear indication of whether the President’s actually going to go to the Philippines and also to Vietnam?

MR. MATTHEWS: So I think they formally made an announcement yesterday, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know if there’s a White House release on it, but I believe there’s a confirmation that we expect the President to follow-through on his commitment to attend both APEC and the EAS.

And he’s got a broader set of visits in mind, but this will be part of the structure of the trip. He made the commitment to attend APEC and the EAS quite some time ago, and that was a bit unusual, but part of it was just as a part and parcel reassurance that the United States is committed to the region; it’s committed to the key institutional frameworks that define the Asia–Pacific, ASEAN and the broader interaction that takes place within the East Asia Summit on the political security side, and APEC for economic policy across the Asia-Pacific—those are two key elements that he wanted to clearly enunciate that the United States is committed to engagement in these institutions, as we are at every level, but all the way up through leaders. And so he made an early commitment to do that and I believe he is going to be following through on that.

QUESTION: Is there any indication of whether he’s going to do any other trips in the region while he’s here?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well I think there’s other stops that are being planned—if you’re coming all this way then you take advantage and you pit stop with a few other things. So if they haven’t actually specifically set it out, I’ll just tell you we anticipate there will be additional stops to take full advantage of his being out in Asia.

QUESTION: There’s obviously the overlay of North Korea…

MR. MATTHEWS: I think what you can guess is that obviously we’ll be focused on economic policy issues at APEC. That means we’re focused on ensuring that our fellow economies in APEC are as committed as we are to ensuring that we’ve got a very robust, ambitious policy programme at APEC—one that’s designed to encourage the implementation of high standards across all of the APEC economies.

We view that in this administration as a way of facilitating preparation going forward for any APEC economy to contemplate doing a high-standard type FTA with the United States at some future date, so we’ll see how that progresses. But the administration is both committed to APEC as a regional undertaking for raising standards, and then of course having separately a set of bilateral undertakings that will help promote clear and open trade throughout our partners in the Pacific.

So, there’s that piece. But then for DPRK, in addition to all the work that’s being done in the UN—you note that we had two unanimous UN Security Council Resolutions recently in response to really dangerous, provocative behavior by the DPRK, both with intercontinental ballistic missile tests over the top of Japan and their nuclear tests as well in contravention of existing Security Council Resolutions, but you know, we are in the process of upping the ante and increasing pressure on North Korea to change its behavior.

So at EAS, I’m sure a topic of discussion will be this and how we can work as a broader regional grouping of nations to help send a clear and unequivocal statement to the DPRK that it needs to bring its behavior into line with its UN Security Council obligations.

STAFF: I’ll just interject really quick—the announcement was that President Trump will tour Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Hawaii from November 3–14.

QUESTION: As far at the FTAs agenda is concerned—what’s been said?

MR. MATTHEWS: So just as a general policy approach, the administration believes it can obtain the best outcomes in bilateral frameworks, so they tend to put the bulk of their effort into that. With regard to the Asia–Pacific, the administration is already deep into negotiations on updating NAFTA with two other of our APEC partners, Mexico and Canada.

We are in the opening stages of an economic dialogue with Japan, which has a kind of a three-part framework: one of which is trade; one of which is macro-economic policy; one of which is kind of a grab-bag of other things including infrastructure—a number of different topics. We’ve got ongoing discussions with the Republic of Korea, within the framework of the KORUS.

There’s a commission that is structured to address issues as they arise through implementation over time and we’re using that mechanism for both sides to raise and address concerns that have come up over the course of implementation of that deal since it came into force.

And then of course we’ve got the US–China economic dialogue, and there’s already been a number of rounds of discussion under that and they’ll continue to move forward with work there to deal with bilateral issues that both sides have and looking for ways in which we can remove impediments—market access issues for U.S. firms in China etc., and China has its sets of concerns as well, so there’s ongoing discussion there.

So there’s already these dialogue-type discussions and then of course the KORUS update which has already been initiated. In addition to that, USTR is looking at other potential partners for bilateral FTAs in the future.

I think we also have to keep in mind you can only be doing so many FTA negotiations at any one time—we have a limited number of negotiators available and they’re going to be pretty busy between NAFTA, KORUS and a couple of other undertakings, but we’ll wait to see how all this stuff matures. But that’s the general plan.

So the goal is to set a pretty clear signal to the region that we’re also a very big part of the Asia–Pacific economy and we intend to remain so and that we’ll have a pretty active negotiating profile to ensure that remains the case.

QUESTION: So that KORUS update—some of the negotiations—will be in the visit to South Korea?

MR. MATTHEWS: I think the presidential visit is one thing. Negotiators—that’s really an experts-related thing, so the timing of that, they’re not going to time around for the President’s visit. The fact that the visits are taking place kind of just energizes the process—I guess I would look at it that way.

QUESTION: It’s all essentially North Asia—as you say there’s only so much you can do at the moment…

MR. MATTHEWS: Well the first part is the North Asia part, the second part is South-East Asia—Vietnam…

QUESTION: In terms of the FTA negotiations?

MR. MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think those discussions there’s already more progress.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the South China Sea? I was just in the Philippines, and I guess the sense I got, which is very public anyway, but is that the Philippines having been a very a very strong ally of the US is now cosying up to China on this particular issue. They were using words like, ‘we want to be warming our relationship with China; we want a win-win to come out of this whole process’. So I guess, how concerned are you about the fact that the Philippines, which kind of led the international fight is now kind of distancing itself from that in terms of the US’s position in the South China Sea?

MR. MATTHEWS: I think that I’m not the best expert to talk about that. But I would say that if you go back and take a look at the Foreign Minsters’ statement from the ASEAN Foreign Minsters ministerial, you’ll see it actually was some very constructive language on the South China Sea and on DPRK, so I think we came away from that thinking that there’s still lots of room for constructive discussion to be taking place on how to go about ensuring that the rules-based system is honored by all players in the region and that the international fora that have an impact, including UNCLOS, is honored.

I don’t think we’re pessimistic about the ability to actually engineer some good outcomes as long as there’s continued ongoing efforts afoot to promote the code of conduct and actual clear adherence to international standards when it comes to operating in the South China Sea—and that of course includes freedom of navigation and open access.

For us, of course, we don’t want to see militarization in the South China Sea, and I think there’s kind of a general agreement that that’s a better course, going forward. We’ll see with the EAS—I anticipate there’ll be additional language on there as well.

QUESTION: I guess Duterte said that he basically has done an agreement with China on that in terms of the South China Sea. And then the Foreign Minister in NY, I think he gave a speech at the Asia Society basically saying it’s not a priority for them having some of the access there and allowing China to use some of those maritime areas. While at the same time, I guess you could say the example with Vietnam was quite illustrative as well…

MR. MATTHEWS: …In what respect?

QUESTION: In terms of the aggressiveness of which China is treating the South China Sea. Is it possible to get any idea, I know that Pacific Command was talking about some sort of schedule around freedom of navigation exercises, but is there some sort of concern that essentially these nations are sort of doing their own deals now with China over access and there’s not really much that can be done.

MR. MATTHEWS: I don’t think there’s any sense that there’s not much that can be done. As I said, I think the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ statement is an example that they’re able to address the issue and continue to constructively engage on it.

There were elements in that statement that China probably didn’t want to see, but it’s, I believe, helpful for them in the shaping process and recognition that these are issues that won’t go away.

It’s a fact that each claimant in the South China Sea has the option to both deal on a regional basis through ASEAN and they’ve never sacrificed the opportunity to make sovereign decisions of their own about how they want to pursue their own claims—that’s up to each claimant’s state.

And we don’t take a position on the validity of the claims themselves, we just simply have always had a very clear position that it should be done consistent with international rules and norms and international institutions that have taken positions with relation to the validity of claims in the South China Sea. We want to see all those things honored, but at the end of the day it’s up to the claimants to come to an understanding about how they want to proceed.

I think that what you see is that there’s two tracks going on, and that shouldn’t surprise anybody, that on the one hand they continue to use ASEAN and the interaction between ASEAN and China to come up with ways of mitigating and creating better consensus about how they need to proceed and then bilaterally they all have a relationship with China and that has to proceed at the same time as well—I don’t think they’re done exclusive of one another.

QUESTION: One thing I’m not sure about—what’s the view of the Belt and Road initiative from China? The Labor Party here’s obviously trying to sort of embrace that a bit more positively in the last week. Is there an administration view of the whole project?

MR. MATTHEWS: I think that the most fundamental approach that we’ve got is one that applies to other initiatives that China’s put forward, including AIIB, which is that it’s fine, it’s clear that there’s a need for additional infrastructural investment in the region.

There’s a number of ways of pursuing that, energizing the ADB to more effectively and more efficiently support infrastructural development, and that to the extent that the Belt and Road initiative what China’s come up with is going to play a role then our position is quite clear, which is that the work they do should meet the same standards that international financial institutions adhere to for transparency, for sustainability, to ensure that the work that’s done has the desired economic outcomes that strengthen economies and support good governance in the region.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that it will not?

MR. MATTHEWS: What we need to do is to see that China does actually commit to those similar standards just as they’ve done in the AIIB. I think they have taken that challenge on in a serious way, and they did it in partnership with other economies that have, for a long time, adhered to those high standards, and they’ve welcomed input from partners in the AIIB context to do precisely that.

I haven’t seen them actually reach the same point, because the Belt and Road initiative fundamentally is a Chinese initiative, so we’ll see, but our goal would be to see that they actually do undertake to meet those kinds of standards, to ensure that what they do is supportive of the kind of work we’ve done with the existing international architecture. But if they want to inject more funds into the system, great, just make sure you adhere to those standards.

QUESTION: And what about in terms of strategically — what’s happened with Pakistan and those sort of things, are there concerns about those maybe that it’s being used, as some on the outside of politics have talked about, in a way to further strategic goals?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well look, so of course China will have strategic goals assigned with major efforts that they undertake, but again, just to get back to that key point, the core thing for the long-term health of the global economy is that the work that they do to build infrastructure and to support better economic growth has to meet those high standards that’re set up by the international financial institutions, otherwise we doubt that actually the goals that they claim they want to achieve can actually be met.

So, that’s really the focus, otherwise then you have a set of strategic objectives without actually good economic outcomes. China is a rising power, it’s going to have a bigger role in the region, there’s no question about it. But the point is that they can provide the greatest benefit to other nations in the region by adhering to high international standards.

QUESTION: So in terms of the militarization of ports though, that sort of thing?

MR. MATTHEWS: That’s not helpful, right.

QUESTION: On that whole issue as well—Pakistan’s sort of quite related to that—but Cambodia and countries like that, Cambodia just kicked out a whole bunch of American NGOs and is a clear example where China’s tried to heavy some sort of influence there, which has had an impact on ASEAN and consensus in regional institutions like that. What’s the view on that, is there any sense that something has to be done about that?

MR. MATTHEWS: I’m getting out the scope of my expertise, that’s under somebody else’s portfolio at the East Asia Bureau. But generally speaking, what we’ve been working assiduously on with Cambodia is to ensure that there’s a healthy development of civil society and so on and so forth.

And frankly, it’s come under greater stress recently and so we’re working to the extent we can to ensure that there is room for active and healthy civil society participation in the governance and political process of Cambodia and we’ll continue to work to that goal.

QUESTION: This might seem a little bit left field, but I’ve got an ongoing interest in what Russia’s doing in the region—partly because we don’t talk about it here. We tend to see Russia as a sort of European issue—

MR. MATTHEWS: And they’re really less of a player in the Pacific at the end of the day, right?

QUESTION: And that’s right, but it’s certainly been put to me that they’ve become more ambitious in the region in the last couple of years than they were previously. I don’t know if that’s an assessment that you share.

MR. MATTHEWS: I don’t really have a view on that; I hate to say it, but I don’t. The way I interact with them is within APEC, actually. And there, they’re not as forward leaning as we would like them to be on what we would consider the more important elements of the reform programme within APEC that we believe will help generate greater future dynamic growth—that is the liberalization of services, that is free and open digital economy and digital trade and so on—but you know, we work with them there and hopefully we’ll end up with some good outcomes.

QUESTION: So is there any sort of reasonably clear agenda coming up for this APEC meeting?

MR. MATTHEWS: The agenda of the work plans that we’ve got are pretty straight forward. So, in the trade category, work that’s being done under the committee of trade and investment, the core elements of that are the work plans for the free trade area of the Pacific. And there again, it’s an exercise in each economy undertaking a set of robust commitments to raise the standards, open up their economies to make themselves better partners in the region. There’s that.

There’s the specific work plans that we’ve got under the liberalization of services, and that work plan process is going forward. And then there’s the digital trade stuff, and there’s trade facilitation work, and ease of doing business under structural reform work that we do at APEC.

As well as women’s economic empowerment where we actually are planning to announce the actual implementation of a women’s economic sub-fund and that will provide funding for capacity building to remove barriers for women’s economic participation in economies across APEC, and do so on a sustainable basis so that that stream of work, which is predicated on the idea that no economy can actually maximize its performance without ensuring that all members of society have an equal chance to contribute to society, and that means finding where we have policy barriers, where there are cultural barriers that have prevented women from freely participating in the economy, and doing what we can to eliminate those barriers to increase the economic participation rate of women in the economy. Because it’s been a clear unequivocal outcome that as women’s economic participation rises, growth potential improves, outcomes in families and businesses get better.

So I don’t think there’s any kind of debate about the benefit of doing it, but there’s a lot of work to be done to actually make it happen. Even in the United States, women’s economic participation rate has kind of fluctuated between 64% and 67%. There was a large increase between the depression and the 90s, and since the 90s it’s just kind of tailored off a bit, so I mean I think there’s work to be done in the United States, but there’s certainly work to be done in a lot of other economies.

One thing I would say positively about that is that Vietnam has been very supportive of it, that Chile has taken on women’s economic empowerment as a core area that they intend to work on in 2019—they’ll be the economy that hosts APEC following Papua New Guinea—so I feel pretty confident that we’ve got a healthy set of undertakings and I look for good outcomes.

QUESTION: Bilaterally, things seem to have settled down around — I mean, I’ve got to say I found the transcripts between… [laughter]

MR. MATTHEWS: Well I think actually our relationship is where it should be, which is it’s very healthy; it’s very positive. The degree of high-level interaction is where we want it to be.

Whether it was the Vice President’s visit here; whether it was Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis coming for AUSMIN; whether it’s conversations taking place between the President and Prime Minister Turnbull or—Julie Bishop’s just recently completed a visit to New York for the UNGA and to Washington—conversations between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister on core issues that they wanted to address and their ready ability to be able to follow up, I think they’ve got a good strong relationship.

Mattis has a very good relationship with Minister Payne who was just in Washington and other ministers, again, are interacting in a really constructive way. It’s exactly what we’d expect of this kind of very close and effective alliance relationship. I’m feeling really good about it right now.

QUESTION: Compared with where it was…

MR. MATTHEWS: …yeah, it got a rocky start, right?

QUESTION: And I don’t just mean the phone calls and things like that, but that question of establishing all those administration-to-administration relationships.

MR. MATTHEWS: So this is part and parcel of what you should expect to experience in a transition, particularly one where we’re switching parties and there’s just a bigger challenge to get all the people in place and to actually transfer all of the experience of the relationship into the new players.

But I think it has actually taken place pretty rapidly, because in Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, our national security adviser HR McMaster, and General Kelly who’s now the Chief of Staff for the President and the Vice President, they’re all major supporters of this Alliance relationship.

So I feel like at the very top and of course at all the working levels thereon down, there’s a lot of very strong support. I just think it’s working very fluently and very effectively.

QUESTION: Is it at all detrimental to the relationship though the fact that we haven’t had an Ambassador here for a year and that in the US, I know that our Embassy—like at the ministerial level there’s communication, but at the ambassadorial level, our Embassy in the US doesn’t have counterparts at the State Department because there’s just such a vacuum at the moment of positions that haven’t actually been filled. Is that at all detrimental do you think at the diplomatic level?

MR. MATTHEWS: When I say the Alliance relationship is functioning effectively, I mean it. So when there are gaps in positions, the fact of it is we always have people coming up and acting in roles.

And Susan Thornton who was our acting Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific—a incredibly capable diplomat and one who I think has been able to step up and do everything that the Secretary has hoped we would be able to do in this relationship supportively.

And Jim Carouso, our Chargé d’Affaires here, is an amazingly capable diplomat and there was a reason why we selected Jim in the first place. It was because we knew we would be going through a transition and we knew we needed someone who had previous experience in Australia, but very deep and broad experience across Asia, and Jim has all of that. He’s just an incredibly capable guy. So I think we have a very healthy and open set of lines of communication.

The Turnbull administration has been very committed to ensuring that we use every person and tool possible to make sure that we’re getting the work done that we need to get done and they’ve worked very closely with Jim. So I don’t think that we’ve been at a disadvantage in that regard.

It will be nice ultimately to get a Senate-confirmed candidate in, but I don’t think there’s any absolute need to rush. The fact of it is that the process of identifying and nominating candidates for senior positions in the government has taken a bit longer this go around for this administration. It’s just perhaps an indicator of underlying processes that they are going through and their vetting process.

But I think in the interim, we’re operating very effectively and I’m not concerned about any particular issue that has not been addressed that requires the attention and the care and feeding of core people on both sides.

QUESTION: Speaking of vetting procedures, the refugee arrangements—where is that up to from the US perspective?

MR. MATTHEWS: So I think we’re in very good shape on that. This is one thing that the Vice President recommitted to— reasserted our commitment to ensuring that the undertakings on refugees were honored.

And the most recent proof of that of course was the issuance of waivers both by the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security which allowed for the early transfer of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru to the United States, and the first groups have already arrived, I think last week as a matter of fact.

The administration is committed to, I think, a quota of 45,000 refugees in the coming year and the other refugees that have been interviewed both by Australian immigration specialists and by folks from the PRM bureau of the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, those folks who are in the process of being processed, I think can anticipate that once they meet the requirements—those that meet the requirements—will in due course over the coming fiscal year also have the opportunity to travel to the United States.

I don’t know what ultimate number is per se, I know there was an understanding of as many as 1250, I don’t know what the actual number will be, but there certainly will be an ongoing pipeline of people moving forward under that program. Again, just another example that yes, we can get the job done.

QUESTION: You just mentioned the fiscal year numbers, is there a number you can take this year versus next fiscal year, or it will just happen as people get vetted?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well not in this case. Previous years, I think the last several years we’ve taken 50,000 was the set overall figure that the administration undertook to bring into the United States, and in the coming year the Trump administration has set the figure at 45,000, but I don’t think that there’s any impediment to fulfilling our obligations under our understandings with regard to refugees on Manus and Nauru with that kind of a broader overall quota in mind.

QUESTION: Is there any deadline with that either? Is it just open ended — can you take some each fiscal year for the next like three years?

MR. MATTHEWS: I don’t actually know the specifics of it. I mean, the point is to interview as many as possible and get this process done. The idea’s not to stretch it out over a long period of time. My understanding is that they are prepared to have additional refugees travel to the United States in the coming year, but I can’t tell you what number is.

QUESTION: Your sense is basically …

MR. MATTHEWS: The programme is moving smoothly.

QUESTION: And everybody in the administration there has basically got their heads around it now?

MR. MATTHEWS: They do.

QUESTION: I’m curious about the Philippines and the military effort in Marawi—do you anticipate that the US will join Australia in sending in defence force personnel for a training and advisory mission? And I guess beyond that, what is the level of concern in the US that the Philippines is basically the new hub for Islamic State and then that could, like Jemaah Islamiyah in the past, spread into Indonesia and closer to Australia?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well it is a little bit outside of my specific area of expertise, but in general, because within the framework of AUSMIN, one thing that the US and Australia undertake to cooperate together with on is counterterrorism and dealing with the consequences and the challenges of the return of foreign fighters from the Middle East into South East Asia in particular, but not only there. And so it’s a natural area for us to be cooperating with the Philippines on. The United States actually has had special forces in the Philippines for a good number of years providing assistance and training and we still do provide assistance and training, but I think—

QUESTION: Are they still there?

MR. MATTHEWS: A smaller number, but yes they are still present and providing that training as well. And so the good news story part is that Australia has a lot of expertise in this area as well, and have stepped up and are willing to provide some of that as well, so I just think that’s incredibly helpful.

QUESTION: There was talk basically about Australia stepping in as well considering there’s been some bad blood between—obviously Duterte’s makes a lot of statements, but one of the statements he’s made a lot is about hostility towards the US and that kind of thing. Is there a sense of Australia stepping in where there has been some difficulty in that relationship?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well I think actually that the military relationship in the Philippines is really robust and it’s healthy and I think it runs very smoothly. I think that everybody appreciates that fact, but I think at the same time, it’s super helpful for any country that’s undergoing a challenging kind of undertaking, as the Philippines is in Marawi, that there are other players in the region who are willing to step in and help provide assistance. And so for Australia to do that, that’s very good. I think Indonesia has also registered an interest in trying to be able to play a constructive role as well, so that’s kind of what you expect neighbours to do, right.

QUESTION: Just on the Pacific, in terms of South Pacific … earlier this year, the head of DFAT here was talking about concerns over Chinese projects and investment in the Pacific, heavy indebtedness and difficulties facing those countries as a result of huge loans, and at the same time, China’s been really involved in building technology—for example, internet, those sort of things—for some of these countries. What’s the attitude there?

MR. MATTHEWS: So the key approach again matches the same basic idea I’ve stated a couple of times, which is that for China to be a constructive player in the region, it needs to ensure that the work it engages in, the projects that it undertakes with players in the Pacific, or anywhere in the world for that matter, but certainly in the case of the Pacific, that it meets the highest standards of international financial institutions so that the outcome of the projects that are undertaken, that they actually do generate greater potential for growth for those economies; that it’s a repayable project, it’s not one that creates debt but then no cash flow, going forward; that can sustain fiscal viability of those countries. We want to make sure that that’s the approach that we’re taking.

So we share that view, I think, with New Zealand and Australia and others, and it’s helpful that the World Bank is increasing the amount of funding it’s going to be providing to the Pacific, as I think the ADB will be stepping up its game as well. But we just hope that in this environment that China, which does have a lot of funds available, uses those funds in a way that improves their governance, that improves their economic vitality and viability, and isn’t concentrated on vanity projects that create a high level of debt and yet no economic outcomes of any meaningful sort. Our message on that one is clear and consistent, and I think we have a shared view on that.

QUESTION: Jumping back to North Asia and crazy people, there’s been discussion about the possibility of Japan becoming a nuclear armed power, what are the pluses and minuses of that in a strategic sense?

MR. MATTHEWS: State Department Official: That’s really getting beyond me. I don’t think they’re going that route, but that’s beyond my portfolio.

QUESTION: There is a debate in Australia about Trump and whether or not he’s raising—obviously Kim Jong-Un is raising the temperature, but there’s a perception in Australia that Trump is also raising the temperature, and considering Turnbull’s comments about the Alliance and that sort of thing in terms of assisting America if there comes to be some sort of conflict, what do you think of that? Do you think there’s an awareness in Washington about that strong debate here about the Alliance, and secondly, how should people view that perceived conflict between the presidential tweets and the Secretary of State’s actions and Mattis’ actions?

MR. MATTHEWS: So I think just the general comment would be that you know the administration’s position is that strategic patience as a policy approach has not borne the fruit as we hoped it would, which is to say—show a very reasonable patient, deliberative response to the years of provocative behavior from North Korea with the hope that they will ultimately see the light through a serious of conversations, but that hasn’t been the case.

So the policy approach of the administration is to raise pressure on North Korea, to increase the cost of that behavior which is inconsistent with their UN commitments, that which is provocative and is leading them down a path which is very destabilizing for the region.

And the pressure can come in any number of forms. It can come in the form of UN Security Council Resolutions, which increase sanctions on them; it can come in the form of signaling by administration officials in any number of ways both that there are opportunities for discussions and there are costs for refusing to undertake reasonable undertakings to bring their behavior into a manner which is consistent with their UN obligations.

And some of the rhetoric may seem a bit, how would you say — it’s stronger than you’re used to, but that’s kind of the nature of a pressure campaign. But what you need to keep in mind is that there are numerous channels of conversation going on designed to bring North Korea into an effective negotiation that will lead them on a path towards denuclearization — that’s the goal.

QUESTION: On North Korea, it’s a difficult question to ask, but where do you see it actually going? Because do you think that there’s a risk that in raising the temperature of this you kind of have an Obama scenario with the red line in Syria, that you kind of create these red lines — perhaps it is military action — that the U.S. isn’t actually willing to cross?

MR. MATTHEWS: I just think that what you’ve got to see is that we’re — the Secretary of State was just in Beijing, the purpose there is to clearly set out our commitment to both pressure, but also providing opportunities for the North Koreans to engage in a constructive process which will lead to their denuclearization.

And we remain hopeful that with an adequate set of consistent signaling, through a process of gradually ratcheting up pressure on them in a way that actually makes them realise there’s consequences to their illegal behaviour, that they will ultimately respond.

QUESTION: The debate in Australia or allies in the U.S. about the U.S. alliance, and hostility towards Trump in opinion polls?

MR. MATTHEWS: Look, I just think that the Alliance is incredibly robust and vital and there is deep support on both sides, in the United States and Australia, for the Alliance relationship, and I think we’re doing the kinds of things where, if folks pay attention to what we’re actually doing, they’ll feel that the work that we do in an alliance is still consistent with Australia’s national interests and is supportive of providing a secure and stable environment for Australia to continue to grow and flourish in the region and globally. So I feel pretty optimistic about it.

QUESTION: I was actually talking about.—.do you think there’s an awareness in Washington about these debates?

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, we’re definitely aware of the discussions.

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