What’s Topping Obama’s Agenda at the United Nations

The White House previewed the president’s schedule for the MDG Summit and the opening of the UN General Assembly this week.  President Obama will be in New York for three days.  He will arrive in New York on Wednesday to address the Millennium Development Goals summit. On Thursday he will give his General Assembly speech and hold a number of one-on-one meetings with have a number of other leaders before heading across town to the Clinton Global Initiative to introduce the First Lady.

On Friday, Obama will attend two big meetings. The first is a luncheon he is hosting for ASEAN.  The second is the much anticipated meeting on Sudan. (More on that later).

One of the more interesting diplomatic parlor games around UN week is to wax on the significance of the various bilerateral meetings that the United States president will hold with his head-0f-state counterparts. This year, president Obama will hold “bi-lats” with the Chinese, Japanese, Azerbaijani, Columbia, and Kyrgyzstan heads of state.  The latter is particularly interesting, given mounting evidence of a state sponsored pogrom of ethnic Uzbeks earlier this year.

Finally, it is interesting to note where Obama will not be this week. On Friday, the UN is launching a $2 billion funding appeal for Pakistan relief efforts. At least for now, Obama is not scheduled to be at that conference.  In fact, Pakistan was not mentioned once in today’s press conference with reporters to preview President Obama’s New York schedule. This is sort of surprising.  The United States is literally leading the world in contributions to Pakistan relief efforts. Bizarre that they would not that the opportunity to tout that.

Here’s the full text of a press briefing with Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power and Susan Rice. Sudan watchers will be particularly interested to see Power and Rice’s remarks.






MR. CHANG:  Thanks, everybody, for waiting and thanks for joining
our call today.  We have three senior officials joining us on the call
right now:  Ambassador Susan Rice, our Permanent Representative to the
United Nations; Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for
Strategic Communications; and Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the
President and Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs.

They will be on the record, going over the President’s trip to New
York to attend a variety of U.N. meetings.

With that, I’ll hand it over to Ben Rhodes.

MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Ben, and thanks, everybody, for joining the
call.  I’ll just take this opportunity to walk you through the
President’s schedule at the U.N. General Assembly this year, and I’ll
also just say off the bat that these are occasionally fluid in the sense
that there’s a lot of business that we have to do up there, so if there
are any additions or changes to the schedule between now and the end of
the week we’ll certainly let you know.

But currently, we’re planning to go up to New York on Wednesday
afternoon.  The President will arrive and go directly to the United
Nations building where he will deliver remarks at the Millennium
Development Goals Conference that’s being hosted at the United Nations
this year.  His remarks will focus on what the United States is doing in
pursuit of achieving the Millennium Development goals and focus on some
of the key initiatives of our development policy writ large.  So that
will be an important opportunity for the President to address America’s
approach to development and our commitment to the Millennium Development

Then he’ll have a very busy day on Thursday.  It will begin with
the President’s address to the U.N. General Assembly.  We’ll have more
details on the speech, obviously, as we get closer to Thursday.  I’ll
just say by way of a preview that this is an opportunity for the
President to speak broadly about America’s foreign policy.  It’s an
opportunity for him to really cover the waterfront of what we have done
to date in the first 20 months of this administration to renew American
leadership in the world, with particular focus on issues that are of
great concern to the American people, such as our efforts to restart the
global economy, to combat al Qaeda, to advance the cause of
nonproliferation, and to pursue Middle East peace.

He’ll also have the ability to look forward and to lay out in broad
strokes what the United States is — what the purpose of American
leadership is in the world, as we continue to promote both peace and
security and prosperity, but also democracy and human rights around the

Moving on from there, the President will have a bilateral meeting
with Premier Wen of China.  This continues a very regular and high-level
series of consultations that we have had with the Chinese, and the
constructive and comprehensive relationship that we’ve forged with China
over the first 20 months of the administration.

From there, the President will attend a luncheon hosted by the U.N.
Secretary General, and will be able, on the margins of that luncheon, to
also meet briefly with the President of the U.N. General Assembly and
the Secretary General.

After that, in the afternoon, the President will be going to the
Clinton Global Initiative, where he will be introducing the First Lady
who will then be making more extended remarks to the Clinton Global
Initiative.  And the President, knowing that the First Lady was going to
speak there, wanted to be sure he had the opportunity to introduce her.

After he leaves CGI, the President will have a bilateral meeting
with the Japanese Prime Minister.  This follows up on the good bilateral
meeting that they had when they were at the G20 in Toronto.  And the
President is looking forward to visiting Japan, of course, in November,
and thinks that this is one of our most important alliances in the world
and the nation with which we cooperate on a range of issues.  So he’s
looking forward to the discussions with Prime Minister Kan.

Then that evening, the President will be hosting a reception at the
Natural History Museum, the annual reception that we have for
participants in the U.N. General Assembly.

Friday, the President has a couple of bilats and a couple of
multilateral meetings as well.  In the morning, he’ll be meeting with
the President of Azerbaijan, who’s been a critical partner with the
United States on a range of issues, including our efforts in

Then he’ll be meeting with the President of Colombia, who is
obviously one of America’s most important allies and closest friends in
this hemisphere.  And the President is very much looking forward to this
opportunity to congratulate President Santos on his recent inauguration
and discuss ways that we can strengthen our bilateral relationship going

Then the President will be hosting a luncheon of the ASEAN leaders.
This continues the President’s commitment to deepen America’s engagement
with Asia more broadly.  We believe that Asia is absolutely fundamental
to a number of our key priorities, for instance, our commitment to
double U.S. exports and to deepen our security partnerships in this
important part of the world.  So, building on the outreach the President
did last year, he wanted to host the 10 ASEAN leaders for this luncheon
and to discuss ways in which we can coordinate more closely going
forward.  And this focus on Asia will, of course, continue, again, in
November when the President is planning to travel to Asia.

Then the President will move to a multilateral meeting on Sudan.
This is an important meeting that the Secretary General is convening to
make sure that the international community is fully coordinated in
ensuring that we can move towards a successful referendum early next
year, while also continuing to do all that we can on behalf of the
people of Darfur.

And then, finally, the President will have his final bilateral meeting,
and this will be with the President of Kyrgyzstan.  And again, the
United States has provided humanitarian and diplomatic support for the
people of Kyrgyzstan as they have sought to work through a very
difficult period of time and establish a democracy that works for the
rights and opportunities of their citizens.  So the President wanted to
take this opportunity at the U.N. General Assembly to speak with the
President of Kyrgyzstan and underscore our ongoing commitment to the
Kyrgyz people.

So with that, I’ll hand it over to Susan Rice, our very, very, very
capable ambassador to the United Nations.  And just say, by way of
introduction to Susan, who can walk through kind of what the atmosphere
is at the United Nations, that this administration has pursued a range
of our very top priorities through the U.N., whether it’s
nonproliferation, counterterrorism or other issues.  And Susan, of
course, has very capably managed a very broad and accurate portfolio.

So, Susan, why don’t you take it away?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Thanks a lot, Ben.  Good afternoon, everybody.  This
year’s visit to the U.N. General Assembly comes as we have successfully
and dramatically changed our course at the United Nations.  We’ve ended
needless American isolation.  We’ve worked to repair what were some
badly frayed relationships and scrapped outdated positions.  And in the
process, we’ve built a strong basis for cooperation that advances our

At the same time, we’re very much involved in the critical work of
reforming and transforming the United Nations to make it more
cost-effective, transparent, and responsive.  This is all part and
parcel of what President Obama has frequently called a “new era of
engagement.”  And what we have worked to do is make that tangible in
terms of results at the U.N. that make Americans safer and help us
create a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Ben mentioned that we have been able to utilize coalitions and
partnerships at the U.N. to advance the most important aspects of our
national security policy.  We’ve made real strides on nonproliferation
and counterterrorism, but obviously, very importantly, on Iran and North
Korea, where we’ve managed to strengthen the sanctions regimes in place
and make them tougher than they’ve ever been, and to build on those
regimes with separate actions, both bilaterally and among like-minded
groups like the EU and Japan and South Korea, so that the pressure is
mounting and our dual-track approaches have teeth and increased
prospects for progress.

On Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.N. missions are playing critical
roles in backstopping the political processes, supporting elections,
dealing with humanitarian issues, development and the fate of IDPs.
We’ve been instrumental in strengthening both those missions, their
leadership and their effectiveness, and they’re playing very important
roles in service of our shared goals.

We’ve also strengthened critical peacekeeping missions and
supported urgent development efforts in places from Haiti to the
Democratic Republic of Congo, to Sudan, Liberia, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Over the course of the last year, there have been some notable
changes and successes.  The U.S. played a leading role in establishing a
new entity called U.N. Women.  Former President of Chile, Michelle
Bachelet, has just been named to head this entity, which will
consolidate what were previously four different U.N. agencies and
organizations dealing with issues related to women, elevating them,
streamlining them, and saving resources.

We’ve also over the course of last year had a successful MPT review
conference.  In contrast to the previous conference, we were driving the
General Assembly’s adoption of what is called a global field support
strategy for peacekeeping, which will speed deployment of operations and
allow for greater efficiencies and cost savings going forward.

We’ve also had critical negotiations over the U.N. budget, holding
the U.S. share constant against great pressure from partners to force
the American taxpayer to pay more.  We’ve resisted that.  And we have
worked constructively on the Millennium Development Goals summit outcome
document, which will be the centerpiece of the program adopted this week
at the MDG summit.

Let me just end by saying that we know very well that changing the
way the U.N. operates and making it perform more effectively and
efficiently is not an easy task.  It never will be and it certainly
won’t happen overnight.  But we’re seeing that every day our efforts at
reform are having a real impact and they’re helping to break down
entrenched divides between North and South, developed and developing
countries, and old blocs such that we’re able to forge coalitions time
and again that serve U.S. interests in the way that I’ve just briefly

Thanks, Ben.

MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Susan.

Before we take your questions, Samantha Power, Senior Director for
Multilateral Affairs here at the White House and a close advisor of the
President, will just give a brief preview of our Sudan multilateral


MS. POWERS:  Great.  Thanks, Ben.  On the date that the Sudan event
occurs — and this is an event hosted by the Secretary General of the
U.N., attended by the Chairman of the African Union and a range of other
very senior multilateral officials — it will be September 24th, and
there will be fewer than 110 days to go before the critical referenda
are to take place for the people of South Sudan and the people in the
Abyei region of Sudan.

The President decided to participate in this event, which was
actually at one point originally intended as a ministerial, because this
could not be a more critical time in the life of Sudan and also in the
life of international efforts to ensure that these referenda go off on
time and peacefully.

The President’s participation has already increased the
representation from around the world.  A number of other heads of state
are now attending who weren’t before.  The parties — Vice President
Taha from the government of Sudan, and the President of South Sudan
Salva Kiir — will both be in attendance.  And this event will give the
President an opportunity to deliver his own personal message to the
parties in a series of remarks.  And these will be quite substantial
remarks on Sudan and on his vision for how to go forward there.  But
moreover, it gives the opportunity for the international community to
stand together again and send a very forceful message at a critical
make-or-break time.

It’s no secret that the parties, in any conflict, but in this one,
as well, have often thought to play countries within the international
community off one another, and this is an event that will show that the
world is united and that the parties need to move very, very briskly and
responsibly to ensure that these votes take place on time.


Q    Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us
today, and thank you for your service.  This question is directed at Ms.
Power and Ms. Rice.  I’m wondering if you could please explain what the
President’s message will be in the meeting on Sudan?  Also, do you
believe that enough pressures have been brought to bear on the
government in Khartoum in order to ensure that they will take the steps
necessary to have a free and fair election?  And what sanctions or
pressures, if any, would be brought to bear, and under what
circumstances?  Thank you.

MS. POWER:  I can start, maybe, and, Susan, do you want to follow
up?  Just to follow on my earlier remarks, again, the number one message
is with regard to the CPA and the need for rapid implementation.  The
parties are behind schedule.  You’re aware of that.  Everybody is aware
of that.  And as I mentioned, this event we always intended as an
action-forcing event, and indeed in the last two weeks we’ve seen more
progress in terms of sending voter material to the right committee and
technical fixes in the inauguration of the Secretary General for the
referendum commission, et cetera, than we’ve seen in several months
beforehand.  We’ve also seen, with Ambassador Rice’s help, a press
statement out of New York that, again, shows the unity of the
international community.

So the number one message is that these referenda must go off on
time, that they must be peaceful, and they must reflect the will of the
people of South Sudan.

Additionally, of course, we’ve experienced some very — a spike in
violence in Darfur.  We continue to see unacceptable conditions for the
people living in camps and the fact that they — none of them feel safe
enough to return to their homes.  So he will, of course, speak to the
need for enhanced security and dignity for the people of Darfur and the
need for accountability, as well.

In addition, because this event is being held at the U.N., he will
place an emphasis, I’m sure, on humanitarian access and the importance
of peacekeepers and aid workers being allowed the mobility, the
security, and the access they need to do their jobs and to improve the
welfare of the people both in Darfur and in South Sudan and beyond.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  And let me just add — thanks, Sam — I would
echo everything she said, and just add that at this critical moment in
the run-up to the referenda, we are reminding the parties that it is,
first and foremost, their responsibility to implement the commitments
they have made under the CPA and to their people.  And we are there,
with others from the international community, to spur them and support
them as they do.

We’re also trying to clarify the choices for both sides and make it
clear, using all the tools at our disposal, that there are opportunities
for a better future, for improvements in their relationships with the
United States and the international community, if they fully and
faithfully meet their obligations under the CPA and with respect to the
government on Darfur.  And we want to make the upside opportunity clear
and well understood.

At the same time, we’ve also been clear that if they fail to follow
through, that there will be — as we have always said in the context of
our policy — consequences.  Those might take the form of unilateral
and/or multilateral, and we’ve got a number that are potentially at our

But our aim is to spur them forward in their own interest, consistent
with their own commitments, and to be supportive of the parties as they
do so in the critical time where the stakes are high for the people of
Sudan, for the region and, indeed, for international peace and security.

Q    Hi, thank you for doing this.  I’m wondering if you could elaborate
a little on the topics of discussion for the President’s bilateral with
Chinese Premier Wen, and especially whether the leaders plan to discuss
Iran and the effects of international sanctions.

MR. RHODES:  Sure, I’ll take that for starters, and I’ll just say a
couple of things.  Again, first of all, the President has engaged
repeatedly with his Chinese counterparts, President Hu, and in this
instance, Premier Wen, on a very broad agenda.  We’ve had a very clear
view of the U.S.-China relationship, which is that it is one of the
absolutely most important bilateral relationships in the world.  It’s
essential for dealing with a range of challenges; that we can build
constructive and positive cooperation on issues where we have common
interests, where there are many, while also disagreeing on those issues
where we differ.

In terms of the issues that will be addressed, I would say that this
meeting will build on the bilateral meetings that the President had over
many months and the consultations he and his team have had through the
strengthen and economic dialogue.  That would, of course, include
nonproliferation and it would include Iran.  Chinese support was very
critical to the resolution that Susan helped take the lead in
negotiating up in New York, which sent a very clear message to Iran that
there are consequences for its actions.

In fact, the President, in his speech last year at the U.N., said very
clearly that we were extending Iran the opportunity of a better
relationship with the United States and the international community
should it live up to its obligations.  The President also said last year
at the U.N. that there needed to be consequences for Iran if it didn’t
meet those obligations, because, again, international law must mean
something.  And Iran’s continued violations of the MPT and failure to
live up to its nonproliferation obligations needed to lead to

And I think we’ve delivered on that.  The U.N. Security Council
resolution with, again, uniform support from the P-5, delivered the
first round of those consequences, and then you’ve seen some follow-on
national actions from the United States and likeminded partners.

So Iran will be one topic of discussion, but it will be among many.
As is usually the case in our relationship with China, we’ll certainly
address the global economy and our ongoing coordination with the Chinese
and many other nations to ensure balance and sustainable growth that can
create jobs and lasting economic growth in our country and around the
world.  They’ll also address non-proliferation broadly, which would
include not just Iran but, of course, North Korea and its need to live
up to its obligations.  And they’ll have an opportunity to discuss the
President’s upcoming trip where he’ll be able to engage further with
China at the G20 and APEC.

So I expect there to be a broad agenda at his bilateral meeting and
I expect it to build on the kinds of talks he’s had with the Chinese
since coming into office, while also setting the table for some of the
work that we’ll be doing at the G20 and APEC out in Asia in November.

Q    Thank you very much for doing this.  My question is to Ben.
Does the President intend to rally support, international support, for
his new peace effort as part of the UNGA speech or his bilats?  And does
he intend to touch base or in bilateral meetings meet with President —
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu while in
New York?

MR. RHODES:  Sure, I’d just say a couple things.  I think the short
answer is, yes, the President of course believes that Middle East peace
is in the interest of the United States, it’s in the interest of Israel,
it’s in the interest of Palestinians, and it’s also in the interest of
the world.  And I think that the message that he’ll be looking to
deliver is the same one that he referenced at the launching of direct
talks the beginning of September, which is that this is a moment of
opportunity and it’s a moment of opportunity that needs to be seized.

We all know the obstacles to peace.  We all know that there are
rejectionists who will try to disrupt the process.  And we all know that
there are hurdles as a part of the process, and that the parties
themselves need to take difficult steps in pursuit of peace; the United
States needs to do what we can to support the movement towards peace;
but that the region and the international community also has a role to
play here in supporting the direct talks that are taking place and the
ultimate goal of two states, Israel and Palestinian, living side by side
in peace and security.

So that will be a part of his comments before the General Assembly.
And I’m sure that given the interest in this issue around the world, it
would not surprise me if it came up as part of his bilateral
consultations in a number of these bilateral meetings.  It’s certainly
been something that has been on the mind of a number of the leaders that
the President has spoken with recently.    So I do think it will be a
topic of conversation.

In terms of meetings, we don’t have anything currently scheduled.
Of course, the last round of direct talks just concluded in Sharm el
Sheikh, with Secretary Clinton representing the United States, along
with Senator Mitchell, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and
President Abbas.

I would have to defer to the Israelis and the Palestinians about
the schedule of their leaders.  But again, we’ll keep you abreast of any
additions that are made to our schedule, but currently the President is
not planning on holding specific meetings with the two leaders.

Next question?

Q    Thanks for taking the call.  This is a quick question for Ben,
just to follow up on the China and Japan bilat, and it goes to issue of
the economy.  Do you expect currency manipulation and currency
intervention to come up in connection with his meetings with either of
those leaders?

MR. RHODES:  I’d just say a couple of things.  First of all, I do
just want to underscore, again, the importance that the President places
on Asia broadly as a part of our economic agenda.  We believe very
strongly that, again, initiatives such as our export initiative and our
efforts to promote balanced and sustainable growth through the G20 must
hinge in good part on our relations with Asia.

And that accounts for the fact that there’s, again, a strong Asian
representation in the bilateral meetings he’s having and in the
multilateral meeting that he’s hosting with the ASEAN countries,
because, again, this just is not simply a bilateral issue, in terms of
economic growth and deepening our economic relations, commercial
relationships in Asia.  He doesn’t just see it as a bilateral issue with
China or Japan.  He sees it as a regional issue, which is why, in
addition to meeting with the two largest economies in Asia, China and
Japan, we’re also hosting this meeting of the ASEAN leaders.

With specific regard to currency, again, I think it’s a part of our
ongoing discussions with the Chinese, in terms of our efforts, again, to
ensure that growth is balanced and sustained. I’d refer you to the
specific comments that Secretary Geithner made the other day about
currency as the clearest representation of our position on these issues.
And actually I believe the President addressed it today, too, at the
CNBC Town Hall.  But suffice to say in terms of our broader dialogue
about, again, how to foster balanced, sustainable growth, it will be a
part of the discussions.

Next question.

Q    Thanks very much for doing this.  A follow-up on the reference
to Iran that I think you made, Ben, and I think the Ambassador made, as
well.  As you said, last year, the President issued both an invitation
for engagement and a warning about the price to be paid.  So the
sanctions are in effect now.  And I’m not quite sure I understand yet
what his message going forward is.  Is he going to discuss escalating
costs if there are continued defiance of the U.N. resolutions, or not?
And if you could answer the same question on North Korea.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, I’d make some comments and
I’d invite Susan to, as well.

I’d just say, first of all, it’s worth reflecting back, as you
know, David, and I think reviewing the trajectory of this over the
course of the last year because last year at this point in time, the
United States — it was right about the time that we were pursuing the
possibility of a competence-building measure through the TRR.  Iran
never fully followed through on the commitments that they had made to
the P5-plus-1.  We had said that we were going to pursue sanctions and
accountability measures.  There was some doubt as to whether or not,
one, those measures could really get through the United Nations, and,
two, whether they’d have any serious bite to them.

And I think what we’ve done in a very methodical way is lay out an
escalating series of consequences for the Iranian government.  The
foundation of that, of course, was the U.N. Security Counsel resolution
that my colleague negotiated.

I think the follow-on measures that have been taken by the United
States, by our European allies, by our Japanese, Korean, Australian
allies, and a number of nations and private sector entities around the
world, have created a situation where the cost that Iran is facing is
even greater than it expected with regard to sanctions.  And, frankly,
you’ve even seen that in some of the public comments out of Iran.

And so right now, we are in a phase where the effect of these sanctions
is becoming clear to the Iranian government; the cost of their continued
failure to live up to their obligations is becoming clear to the Iranian
government.  So I think that it’s important, again, to — given the fact
that we’ve spent the summer putting these sanctions in place — to,
again, emphasize and underscore that cost.

And, frankly, that cost will grow on its own as banks, as private
sector entities see the cost of doing business in Iran go up.  I think
you are already seeing a kind of natural escalation of how those
sanctions are imposed.

That said, in terms of your question as to how the President
intends to talk about this, I think he intends to make very clear what
he has always said, which is that the door is open to the Iranian
government.  The door is open to engagement.  The door is open to them
having a better relationship with the United States and with the
international community.  However, in order to walk through that door,
Iran is going to have to demonstrate its commitment to show its peaceful
intent around its nuclear program and to meet its obligations to the
international community under the NPT and a range of U.N. Security
Counsel resolutions.  So I think the President again will want to
underscore and continue to underscore that this is a dual-track
approach.  Sanctions are not an end in themselves.  They’re a means of
holding Iran accountable.

And again, Iran has that opportunity to take another course. And I
think the U.N. is a useful forum to underscore that point because our
case has always been that this is not a bilateral irritant.  The United
States is not imposing sanctions on Iran because we have a bilateral
grievance with Iran.  We and the international community are enforcing
sanctions because they are violating international law and international
obligations, again, most clearly the NPT and U.N. Security Counsel

So this is an issue between Iran and the international community,
and that’s kind of the core of our case.  So I think we’ll be both
extending that hand of engagement to the Iranians, and that opportunity
of engagement to the Iranians, while also underscoring that there are
growing consequences as we demonstrated should they not live up to those

I don’t know if you have anything to add to that, having negotiated
the resolution.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Ben, that was very comprehensive.  The only thing
I would underscore is just how serious the effect that these sanctions
— both the U.N. Security Counsel Resolution 1929, which was both broad
and deep in its impact, and the subsequent measures that came from the
Europeans our Asian allies and others, as well as our own actions from
Congress, are actually having — the impact we are seeing in some very
concrete and meaningful ways.

And as Ben said, it’s beginning to be acknowledged even in the domestic
political debate inside of Iran.  And we expect that these measures will
increasingly influence the course that the Iranian decision-makers

The other thing I wanted to add is that we’ll continue during this
week at the General Assembly to coordinate very closely with our
P5-plus-1 partners who are here, whom we’ll met as we traditionally do
at the ministerial level.  And that will be an opportunity both to take
stock of where we are on both sides of the pressure track — the
dual-track approach, the pressure side, as well as engagement and to
speak in one voice and to make clear to the Iranians, as my colleague
said, that they do face a choice and that they have the opportunity to
improve relations with the international community, should they choose
to stand up and meet their obligation.

MR. RHODES:  Susan, I forgot to get into North Korea, and you may
want to, as well.  The only thing I’d say on North Korea is, of course,
it’s similar in the sense that the same rules apply, in terms of North
Korea needs to meets its obligations in terms of, again, both the
international community but also the commitments its made to
denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

This will be a subject, I’m sure, again, not just in the
President’s comments but in his bilateral meetings with Japan and China,
who are of course members of the six parties.

But, Susan, you’ve been at the middle of the North Korea situation, too,
so I don’t know if you have anything to add to that.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  No, Ben, I won’t add anything on this one.

MR. RHODES:  Okay.

Q    So I take it there will be no bilats with any ASEAN members?
And when will the President follow up Secretary Clinton’s suggestion in
Hanoi to ASEAN members with these claims to the disputed territories in
the South China Sea, that they should deal collectively with China, to
settle the disputes?  And how long is the U.S. ASEAN meeting scheduled

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  Let me just address a number of those.  I’ll
just say a couple of things.  First of all, we do not have currently
scheduled any bilateral meetings on the margins of the ASEAN meeting.
Again, I think that the President wanted to take the opportunity of
getting all the leaders together to have a discussion about a range of
issues that are important to the United States and to the ASEAN

The meeting is currently scheduled for two hours, so it’s a long
meeting.  I think it’s the longest meeting we have scheduled probably,
actually.  And again, that’s so the President could relay his views and
how important he believes ASEAN is, and the relationship between the
United States and ASEAN to the future of Asia and to critical priorities
to the United States as the ASEAN countries.

I think the President will have the opportunity to, again, speak to
each of the leaders in a kind of formal and informal basis over lunch as
well.  He’s enjoyed the ties that he’s been able to forge with a number
of the ASEAN leaders, including the leader of the Philippines, which is,
of course, one of America’s very close friends and allies in that part
of the world.

With regard to the South China Sea, I would expect it would be an
issue that will come up.  It’s obviously an issue of interest and
concern to the ASEAN countries and to the United States.  Secretary
Clinton, as you said, articulated some very important views during her
recent meetings with ASEAN.  And so I do believe the President will
follow on those discussions.

And part of the reason why we — in Japan last year, the President
said that he wanted to reengage basically an Asian architecture and the
Asian economic and security architecture in organizations such as ASEAN
and APEC is because the United States had been absent.  We’ve been an
empty chair at the table or we have not fully engaged in these
organizations for a number of years, particularly as we were focused on
other priorities.

And again, given the centrality of Asia to America’s priorities, we
believed that it was essential not just to strengthen those core
alliances which are the foundation of our engagement with Asia, and not
just to deepen our cooperation with countries like China, who of course
are so important to the range of priorities for the world, but to engage
in a very serious way with these regional organizations, because the
President believes that they can play an important role in coordinating
our efforts on the economic and security side.  ASEAN, of course, often
focused on a range of economic issues.

So we’re going to continue to engage ASEAN.  We’re going to
continue to engage APEC.  And we’re going to continue to be a very
strong voice in the dialogue about the future of Asian architecture as
it relates to both political and security and economic issues.

I don’t know if Susan — do you have anything to add kind of on the
Asia front or by way of close?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Just to underscore that as you’ve said repeatedly
in this call, the relationships that we have and are continuing to build
in Asia, both with ASEAN countries and the region more broadly, are
crucial to our overall foreign and national security policy.  And
they’re very central to the work we do at the United Nations, both on
the Security Council and the General Assembly, where our partnerships
and alliances serve us every day on issues of core importance to our
national security, and our efforts to advance respect for democracy and
human rights, and the important work of reform that we do here at the
United Nations.

MR. RHODES:  Great.  Well, thanks, everybody, for joining the call.  And
like I said, what we’ll do is, again, we believe that we’ll have a very
robust set of briefings up in New York.  The President, of course — I
should have added, we basically anticipate, for most of these bilateral
meetings, he’ll be able to make comments at the top of the meeting.  So
you’ll be hearing from the President a lot throughout the course of the

I forgot one important event, which is, in addition to the President’s
schedule, I just want to underscore — and some of you may have received
some of this guidance — the First Lady, as I mentioned, is speaking at
CGI.  She’ll be joining the President at the reception at the National
History Museum.

And then on Friday she’ll be hosting a special event for the spouses of
those chiefs of delegations and heads of government who are
participating in the UNGA at the Stone Barn Center, which is a
non-profit farm and education center north of New York City.

And this of course continues the First Lady’s focus on nutrition,
sustainable food, and children’s education.  And this builds on some of
the conversations she’s had with her counterparts, including at a dinner
that was hosted at the Pittsburgh G20 summit at a working farm that
addressed some of these similar issues.  So the First Lady will be
hosting her counterparts at this event on Friday, again, around the
notion of sustainable food and nutrition and children’s education.

And with that, we’ll stay in touch with you all throughout the course of
the week.  UNGA things inevitably may change or slide a little bit, or a
meeting may get added.  So if any of that happens, we’ll keep you
updated.  But meanwhile, looking forward to seeing some of you in New