Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo And Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai At a Press Availability
FOREIGN MINISTER DON: Good day to you, members of press. Welcome to this press conference, the one which comes after our two meetings – two meetings meaning we have the four eyes and a group meeting before we come to meet you here. A very simple, simple meeting, a very good meeting that we had. And we’re particularly pleased to welcome Secretary Mike Pompeo, because this is the first time for him to come to Thailand as the United States Secretary of State. So we are happy and proud that we could warmly welcome our friends, our friends representing a country which Thailand has enjoyed relations more than 200 years.
The ties of friendship between our two countries has been time-tested. The issues we discussed, which I’ll mention very briefly, have been very healthy, making good progress in just all areas: people-to-people connectivity, education, government-to-government. And certainly, we look forward to the future of an enhanced relations between two countries under – particularly under his stewardship, the stewardship of the State Secretary, who looks after the foreign affairs of the United States of America.
Well, I will just keep it short for a while, and then I hope that questions will be going that direction. (Laughter.) Is that agreed? Okay, please.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great. Thank you. Good afternoon, and it’s a privilege to represent the United States of America on this visit to Thailand. Foreign Minister Don and I have been spending a lot of time together this week, as we should. Thailand is our oldest treaty partner here in Asia, and its leadership of ASEAN has been exemplary.
One of my missions throughout this week is to highlight what’s been true in the Indo-Pacific for decades – and in Thailand’s case, centuries – that the United States cultivates close ties with nations in the spirit of partnership. Last year marked the 200th anniversary of Thailand and the United States as good and great friends, as President Lincoln told His Majesty Rama IV back in 1862.
Today, the friendship between our two Pacific nations extends across multiple domains. One simple look at Bangkok’s skyline reveals how the private sector has helped support Thailand’s incredible economic transformation over the past few decades. American partners and investors help drive that growth. As just one example, Chevron has been here for 57 years, to the great benefit of the Thai people. So many other great American companies from Ford to Pepsi also have operations here.
Given the role of private enterprise in Thailand’s prosperity, our two countries are also proud to co-host the second Indo-Pacific Business Forum right here in Bangkok in November. We’ll show CEOs and government leaders what they can do together for the region and how they can plug in to start investing. Keep a lookout for new information.
As another statement of our partnerships, this week we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lower Mekong Initiative. The United States is proud to partner with Thailand to help support the millions of people who depend on the Mekong, the Mother of Rivers, for their livelihood. The foreign minister and I agreed that respect for national sovereignty, the rule of law, and sustainability are non-negotiable principles by which must all engage – all nations must engage with the Mekong and its associated waterways.
Our security cooperation is thriving too. Every year since 1982, American military personnel, our Thai counterparts, and troops from other Asian countries have held exercises called Cobra Gold, the Indo-Pacific’s largest annual multinational exercise. The foreign minister and I agreed to keep our security ties strong.
I conveyed too to the foreign minister what the U.S. is asking of all our Indo-Pacific partners: to maintain the sanctions that spurred diplomacy with North Korea; to speak out against Chinese coercion in the South China Sea; to advocate for the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of the Rohingya to their homeland; and to confront Iranian aggression.
2019 was a truly historic year for our Thai friends. Thailand saw the coronation of His Majesty the King. You held long-awaited elections and stood up a new civilian government, marking an end to five years of military rule. That was a big step in the right direction. We’re hoping the momentum towards participatory governments will continue.
And finally, I’m here this week to bolster ties with our many friends and partners in the Indo-Pacific through ASEAN-related meetings. I want to commend once again the ASEAN Indo-Pacific outlook, which fully converges with our own vision of the region. If nations adhere to the principles of sovereignty, the rule of law, transparency, openness, and others that ASEAN has set forth, there is no limit to how the United States, Thailand, and all the nations in the region can partner with – for our own peoples.
I want also to address something that came up in the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial meeting. Cambodia refuted reports that it is allowing a Chinese military installation to be built on its territory. The United States welcomes Cambodia’s strong defense of its national sovereignty, and we encourage other nations in the region to follow Cambodia’s lead in protecting it.
FOREIGN MINISTER DON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States of America, Your Excellency, Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, we will now proceed to the question-and-answer session. If I may invite the representative of the media from the Thai side to please pose a question.
QUESTION: I’m a journalist for the Bangkok Post. So I would like to know one of the most important proposal that the Thai premier made in the G20 summit was the closer collaboration between G20 countries and as a member-state to reduce the risk of volatile global market and support sustainable development. So I would like to know whether there is the discussion and follow-ups between foreign minister of both sides. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER DON: You are referring to the G20, I believe. Is that correct?
FOREIGN MINISTER DON: That is. Well, if you recall back in June, only last month, on the 23rd of June, the ASEAN Summit concluded its meeting. There were two important documents: one on the ASEAN leaders’ vision on partnership for sustainability; another was on the outlook, ASEAN outlook on Indo-Pacific.
And four days after that day, our prime minister attended the G20. He brought with him the idea of the outlook and put it into a concrete proposition, threw them – I think about four – threw them onto the table of the G20 – not directly on the lap of the leaders, but on the table, the first of which was on the maritime cooperation, particularly on the marine debris. This very much in direct response to one of the four functional areas of cooperation of the outlook.
The second was on the financial inclusion, sources of fund for a number of purposes, particularly on the needs for sustainable development projects.
And third is on the smart city networking. This has been planned already, in fact, in Thailand for such an event on the 22nd to 24th of August. Before we were there, there were – there have been a number of cities around the world, about 40 of them, expressed interest already to take part.
And fourth was on the human capital development. This has to do with all aspects of human resources in the aspect of education, health and otherwise.
So all those things were put on table of G20, asking the leaders whether they could spare times to dispatch delegations of parties or whoever interested in these respective areas to these activities in Thailand. So these are very concrete and just right after the very warm outlook issue of Indo-Pacific. At least it is the reflection of how the outlook should be treated. It would be not just only in the realm of ASEAN membership, but then it is most fitting to interact or other countries. It is not necessary that countries in Indo-Pacific G20s are comprised. G20 comprise some members which are not Indo-Pacific countries – some from Europe, from Latin America, but yet we welcome them.
So this, again, was reiterated just a while ago when we had a meeting with the EU delegation. We welcomed them with open hands. If will they come and join us, be it, we would be most happy because this is a concrete example that the outlook of ASEAN could be transpired.
Now, allow me – having said this, allow me to mention at least four characteristics of ASEAN outlook.
One, the ASEAN outlook’s goal is the collective gain of all involved, where the whole could be greater than the sum of its part. This is at least.
And two, outlook does not seek to dominate, challenge, or control. It’s not based on a zero-sum mindset. It’s neither offensive nor defensive in nature, nor does it seek to shrink the pie that could be shared by many and all. That was the second characteristic of outlook.
And third, ASEAN outlook is about sharing and promoting wealth, not tipping the scale in anyone’s favor. It is non-threatening. It is not about pointing fingers and – but holding hands and working together as equals, not in terms of military or economic might, but as partners and respectful stakeholders. This is how ASEAN saw it when we came up with the outlook.
And fourth, ASEAN now is about sink or swim together, not about trying to throw the opposing party overboard that that would invite a fierce pushback that could cause the entire ship to sink.
So this is at least to give you idea as to how ASEAN see our outlook, and we start off with this very simple but meaningful activities right there in front of the world leaders in Osaka. I hope this covered your question.
MS ORTAGUS: We’ll go with Tracy Wilkinson, the L.A. Times.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Mr. Secretary, have you had any North Korea-related meetings while you’re here? Any progress to report? Do their recent missile tests constitute an obstacle to further talks?
On China, you and your Chinese counterpart, Minister Wang, seem to have taken a more conciliatory tone today. Is there an agreement between the two of you to – that is somehow easing the tensions and you want to preserve?
And finally, have you offered to mediate between South Korea and Japan, or at least ask them for an immediate freeze in actions against each other? Thanks.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure. So we stand ready to continue our diplomatic conversation with the North Koreans. I regret that it looks like I’m not going to an opportunity to do that while I’m here in Bangkok, but we’re ready to go. We hope that Chairman Kim will deploy his team to meet with Special Representative Biegun so that we can continue the dialogue so that we can ultimately achieve what those two leaders set out back in Singapore in summer of last year. I’m optimistic that that will happen before too long, and we are looking forward to the chance to reconnect with them in a formal way diplomatically.
My meeting with my Chinese counterpart today was, as always, professional. We each are aimed at the singular objective of making sure that the relationship between the two countries is successful. While we’re here, we were wrapping up a set of trade negotiations – the United States was wrapping up a set of trade negotiations in China. We are working with them on many fronts. But we were also very candid about the places we are hoping China will behave in ways that they are not behaving today, and we talked about each of those as well. So it was a very professional discussion, the same way that the foreign minister and I have engaged each time that I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him either by phone or meet with him in person.
QUESTION: South Korea and Japan, (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to have a chance tomorrow to meet with each of the two countries. I had a couple minutes with the Japanese foreign minister today. We hope that they will find a way to move forward together. It is a – those are both – Japan and South Korea are both incredibly important relationships. They rate back closely to what I spoke about in the first part of your question about North Korea. We’re very hopeful that those two countries will together themselves find a path forward, a way to ease the tension that has risen between them over these past handful of weeks.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Because of the minister’s and the State Secretary’s tight schedule, we will have to end the press conference at the moment. Thank you very much for your attention and your time.