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White House Press Briefing on Vice President Biden's Trip to China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea

Published November 27, 2013

Senior administration officials preview Vice President Joe Biden's trip to China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea during December 1-8, 2013. According to the briefing, the trip will underscore the Obama administration's "rebalance" to Asia.

Excerpt:

Q Reuters. Thanks very much for holding the call and for taking my question.

I wanted to continue to ask about how the Vice President will address the issue of the air defense identification zone that appears to be causing some tensions in the region. My question is: What is his role going to be with regard to that issue? Will it be to mediate between China and Japan? Or will it be to back up the Japanese who are a key U.S. ally?

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're talking about international air space. We're not talking about overflights of sovereign territory, and so there is legitimate interest by the United States, as well as by the international community in as much as commercial airlines and civil aircraft and in some cases military aircraft routinely overfly the area that is bounded by the ADIZ that China has declared.

So in the first instance there is a need for China to clarify its intentions, to answer a number of questions that this move generates, both as a civil aviation matter, but also as a strategic matter. I think that the U.S. commitment to the alliance with Japan and the alliance with the Republic of Korea -- both countries whose own existing air defense information zones, zones that have existed and functioned effectively for decades -- that our commitment to our allies is beyond question. But I don't think that is the matter at hand.

Others, including Taiwan, have a similar problem with respect to an overlap in the ADIZ. And, as I said, planes from countries throughout the world routinely overfly this.

In Japan and then in Korea, as I said, both of whom are directly affected by China's actions, and along with the U.S. and the international community, both of whom have a huge stake in freedom of overflight, in aviation safety, in lowering tensions, and in careful handling of these kinds of issues, the Vice President will have an opportunity to confer. And I think that is an important part of his role.

In China, he will have an opportunity, as I said, to make clear to the Chinese leadership that we have concerns and that we have questions. But I think that the underlying point here is that the strains caused by a series of actions by China in its relations with its Asian neighbors is not a good thing. It's not a good thing for the United States, it's not a good thing for anyone. And so I think that this visit allows the Vice President to discuss the issue of how China operates in international space, and how China deals with areas of disagreement with its neighbors.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I would just underscore that the Vice President will make clear that the United States has a rock-solid commitment to our allies, and at the same time, the United States also believes that the lowering of tensions and the avoiding of escalation in this region, when you're talking about the second and third largest economies in the world, is profoundly and deeply in the American national interest. And he'll be carrying those messages with him throughout his trip.

Q Hi, thanks very much. The Guardian. So do I understand correctly that the Vice President will not call for the rollback of China's ADIZ, simply the clarification of its purpose?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not going to have the Vice President's meetings for him on the phone with you before he gets there. And the statements already by Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel lay out our view.


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