Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the President’s Trip to Japan
Crowne Plaza Hiroshima
9:25 A.M. JST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody. Good morning. This podium is very high. (Laughter.)
Okay, it’s great to see you guys on the other side of the world. As you can see, to my left, we have National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan here, who’s going to just give a little bit of — a little bit of a — kind of a update on what we’ve seen the last couple of days here with the G7 in Japan.
And I’m just going to let him kick it off. Go ahead, Jake.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. And good to see everybody this morning. Thank you all for joining us.
On the flight over here from Hir- — to Hiroshima from D.C., I said that the summit would be a high-water mark for the G7 and that it would demonstrate real unity among the key democracies of the world on a range of critical issues.
And I think over the course of today, and particularly with the release of the joint statement of the leaders, you will see that in spades across the board, whether we’re talking about our support for Ukraine and holding Russia accountable, our approach to the PRC, our focus on economic security, our commitment to the clean energy transition. On a range of significant issues, you will see close alignment among the key countries of the G7 and a common approach to tackling the significant challenges of our day.
On Ukraine, we have now announced some 300 sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft. We are particularly focused on circumvention and evasion targets. We are focused on financial facilitators. And we have also made sure to continue to crack down on future energy and extractive capabilities, as well as other steps in the sanctions space to tighten the screws from the point of view of economic pressure against critical elements of the Russian defense industrial base and its ability to advance its economic and energy goals.
We are expanding our sanctions authorities to additional sectors of the Russian economy that are key to its military industrial complex. We’re imposing new bans to prevent Russia from benefiting from our services. And our actions are more tightly coordinated with the ones imposed by the EU and the UK to ensure that what they are doing, we are doing; what we are doing, they are doing; and that we have the kind of full alignment that has been a hallmark of our approach to economic pressure since the start of this conflict.
Just yesterday, as you all know, President Biden informed his G7 counterparts that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s.
Over the past few months, we and our allies and partners have really focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapon, and training that it needs to be able to conduct effective offensive operations this spring and summer. We have delivered what we promised. We have given Ukraine what it needs based on close consultations between our military and theirs. And now we have turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian air force as part of our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense.
So, as the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them, and how many.
Now, turning to today, a big focus of today will be on economic security. The G7 leaders will outline a common set of tools to address concerns that each of our countries face, including from economic coercion and from efforts at the intersection of technology and national security to undermine our collective interests and our collective security.
These tools — these economic security tools will include steps to build resilience in our supply chains. They will also include steps to protect sensitive technology, like export controls and outbound investment measures.
Relatedly, G7 leaders will also come out today with a statement on our shared approach, our aligned approach when it comes to the People’s Republic of China.
At the first G7 of President Biden’s time in office in Cornwall two years ago, China was, for the first time, discussed in the communiqué. And then last year, in Elmau, leaders built on that.
This year, what the communiqué will reflect is a statement of key elements on which all G7 countries are aligned when it comes to dealing with the PRC. The communiqué will note that each country has its own independent relationship and approach, but we are united and aligned around a set of common elements, and it will walk through those elements. And it will indicate that we do seek to cooperate with China on matters of mutual interest and also that we will work to address our significant concerns that we have with China in a range of areas.
We are — as President Biden has said, as I have said, as others have said, and, you know, to borrow a phrase from the European Union itself — looking to de-risk, not decouple, from China.
The other major element that the leaders will talk about today is how to ensure we’re fully aligned around the need to deliver bold action to accelerate the clean energy transition. We know that public and private investment are key to building resilient supply chains for critical minerals and other key materials that are essential for reducing dependence on any one country, and ensuring full supply as necessary to contribute to the deployment of clean energy and to contribute to long-lasting economic growth.
So I think you will see a clean energy statement coming out of the G7 that really, in a way, brings President Biden’s economic agenda to the global stage. His emphasis on climate action that creates good-paying jobs will serve as a blueprint for G7 action. And I think we can expect all G7 countries will deepen their commit- — commitments on a way forward there.
And the President had the opportunity also to discuss how we align the elements of the Inflation Reduction Act with the specific steps that other G7 members are taking to ensure that our approaches on these issues are mutually reinforcing and complementary.
The last thing that I just want to put on the table, which will play out today in the G7 context, is that since the formal launch of the Partnership on Global Infrastructure and Investment last year, we have seen a range of projects announced and the building out of a pipeline for significantly more projects in Africa and the Americas and Southeast Asia and elsewhere that go to physical clean energy digital infrastructure in emerging economies.
And so, later today, the G7 and key partner countries will come together for an event with PGII where further projects will be announced and also where we will bring significant private sector leaders to the table to ensure that public investment is also mobilizing private investment for this purpose.
And then, finally, outside of the G7, here in Hiroshima, the President will join the leaders of Australia, Japan, and India for the third in-person Quad Summit since President Biden took office. Of course, the first time leaders met at leaders’ level in the Quad format was in 2021 when President Biden convened them in Washington. And this will be the third such summit.
The President, of course, had to postpone his trip to Australia, but all of the leaders were determined to get together in person here, and you will see significant outcomes coming from that in terms of secure digital technology, submarine cables, infrastructure capacity building, and other important issues.
So, we’ve got a packed agenda. We’re only halfway home. There’s still a lot to accomplish. And I look forward to taking your questions.
Q Thanks a lot, Jake. Thank you for doing this. I wanted to ask you a question about the decision to provide training for pilots to operate F-16s. President Biden, in February, did an interview with David Muir of ABC News. And in that particular interview, he said he doesn’t need F-16s now. And then, when he was pressed, he said, “There’s no basis upon which there is the rationale, according to our military, now to provide F-16s.”
Now, I realize you’re not providing F-16s, but you are providing training for those F-16s. What’s changed in any way?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, as President Biden said, whether in that interview or right around the same time, was we weren’t moving forward then, but he also indicated that we were not taking it off the table.
Nothing has changed. In fact, our approach to the provision of weapons, material, training to the Ukrainians has followed the exigencies of the conflict.
So, in the first phase, when Russian forces were bearing down on Kyiv, the key capability they needed were Stingers and Javelins. We provided them. In the second phase, when it was more of a ground fight in the Donbas, th- — the need was artillery and M777 155 ammunition.
As the fight has evolved, the capabilities that we have provided Ukraine have evolved. And what the President was really getting at back in February is that we were in the midst of a massive effort to ensure that Ukraine would have what it needed to be able to launch this counteroffensive this summer. And that was everything from tanks to Bradley Fighting Vehicles to further HIMARS and artillery ammunition, other capabilities.
F-16s are not part of that mix. And the President was indicating that for the purposes of this counteroffensive, the F-16 capabilities, compared with everything else I said, was not at the top of the list.
But now that we have delivered everything we said we were going to deliver so we put the Ukrainians in a position to make progress on the battlefield through the counteroffensive, we’ve reached a moment where it is time to look down the road and to say, “What is Ukraine going to need as part of a future force to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression as we go forward?”
F-16 fourth-generation fighter aircraft are part of that mix. The obvious first step there is to do the training and then to work with allies and partners and the Ukrainians to determine how to do the actual provision of planes as we move forward.
So this is part of a — an approach to providing the necessary equipment to Ukraine based on what we see from a military perspective, from the advice of the military commanders, is required at a given point in time and a given moment in the conflict. And that’s why we’ve arrived at the place we are today.
Q Just a quick follow-up. Training takes time. As relates to training on an F-16, would it have made sense — and maybe this is Monday-morning quarterbacking. But would it have made se- — made more sense to come to this conclusion about providing training on F-16s months earlier?
MR. SULLIVAN: Our view is that where the F-16 fits into the fight is not right now. So if we had it right now, this is not the main focus of what they need on the battlefield for this counteroffensive. So we feel like we will be in a position to give them what they need for that future force when they need it. And so, the timing, from our perspective, lines up to begin the training at this moment.
Q Jake, the President’s concern from the beginning had been that F-16s could be used to help escalate this war, to make it a wider conflict. What assurances, if any, has Ukraine given the United States that they would not use these F-16s or fighter jets in offensive fashion that would target Russian soil?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, all of the capabilities that the United States has proven to Ukraine come with the basic proposition that the United States is not enabling or supporting attacks on Russian territory. That will go for the support for the provision of F-16s by any party as well.
And the Ukrainians have consistently indicated that they are prepared to follow through on that. And, in fact, we have seen them follow through on that with the provision of Western equipment when we have given it to them.
Q Let me follow up on timing. We heard from the Assistant Secretary of Defense a matter of months ago that training could take as many as 18 months. Could be half that time, some other officials have indicated. In either case, that would take us to the two-year mark in this war. Isn’t that a long time to wait, to look down the road before they even have the capability to use these fighter jets?
MR. SULLIVAN: First, I’m not going to put a timetable on how long the training will take. That will get worked through military experts. And as we have seen with other training timelines, they can be set out in the abstract and then they actually bear out in practice, you know, whether it’s on the Patriot or HIMARS or — or other systems. So, I’m not going to circle a date on the calendar.
I would point out something that I think gets lost in the whole debate about fighter jets, which is that the Western coalition has, in fact, been supporting the provision of spare parts and other necessary components for Ukraine’s existing air force, which they are using in this fight. And, of course, we’ve provided HARM missiles and other things to enable those aircraft to be able to deliver a capability.
Some Western allies have, in fact, provided Soviet-era aircraft, MiG- — MiGs. And so, the question for us is: As that stock of MiGs, you know, begins to go down, as we look to a long-term transition to a Western fourth-generation fighter aircraft, how do we make sure to make it in a way where Ukraine will sustain an air capability throughout?
We feel confident that they will be able to do that, that they continue to have that air capability. As it degrades, of course, this new capability will come online.
Q Jake, just clarifying that the — the statement on outbound investment screening — that the entire G7 is going to endorse that concept. And what does that look like in practice, since I don’t think these countries actually have — including the U.S. — have a legal framework to actually do that?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, there will be a reference to outbound investment screening in the joint statement that comes out from leaders. I will not get ahead of that statement. You’ll see it when — when the statement lands.
It will not get into legal details or particular applications. It will speak to the broad tool. And then each country will have to determine for itself how it approaches that issue.
For our part in the United States, of course, it’s no secret that we have been working on developing the legal authorities for a targeted set of outbound investment controls. And at the appropriate moment, we will, of course, lay that out.
That moment, we felt, should come after we had the opportunity to do full consultations with G7 partners. So this is an important milestone as far as that goes.
Q Any timing — any timing on that, Jake?
MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t — I can’t share anything today.
Q What can you tell us about how President Zelenskyy is getting to Japan? And to what extent was the U.S. involved in keeping him safe on the way? And is President Biden going to meet him one on one while he’s here?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think it’s a safe bet that President Biden will meet him, but I don’t have a formal announcement of that. But the President looks forward to the opportunity to be able to sit down face to face with President Zelenskyy.
And then, in terms of how he’s getting here, I’ll leave that to the Ukrainians to share. I will say the United States was not the party — the country that flew him here.
Q Thanks, Jake. Is the President going to have the opportunity to engage with President Lula? And for — if there is that opportunity, both for him and for any of the engagement with President Modi, to what extent is he looking to pressure them or urge them to toughen their approach on both Russia and China?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think “pressure” is just the wrong word. I mean, that’s not how President Biden operates with these key leaders with whom he has deep relationships, like President Lula and President Modi.
But he will look for the opportunity to speak with both of them about the constructive role that each country can play in supporting the most basic and fundamental element of any outcome, which is sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is sacrosanct in the U.N. Charter.
And, of course, Brazil has supported several of the key U.N. General Assembly resolutions in this conflict. The President will thank President Lula for that. And the reason Brazil has supported them is because the underlying element of those resolutions has been this principle.
So that’s really where the President wants to drive things in the conversation with the — the key emerging economies who will be here. He will also want to talk about a lot of things beyond Ukraine, including PGII, how we mobilize investment in those countries, how we evolved the multilateral development banks, how we deal with the debt burdens these countries are facing.
So, Ukraine will be a topic, but one of several key topics that he will have with these countries.
Q Thanks, Jake. Has the President sought to or been asked to give any reassurances related to debt-limit negotiations that he’s continued to be engaged in? And, I guess, in your conversations, has anybody brought it up to you with any level of concern or discomfort?
MR. SULLIVAN: It is definitely a subject of interest here at the G7. You know, countries want to have a sense of how these negotiations are going to play out. And the President has expressed confidence that he believes that we can drive to an outcome where we do avoid default. And part of the reason that he’s returning home tomorrow rather than continuing with the rest of the trip is so that he can help lead the effort to bring it home.
This is not generating alarm or a kind of vibration in the room. I would just say that countries are keenly interested in what is a, you know, significant story. And the President has been able to tell them, you know, that he believes that we can get to a good result here.
Q Thanks, Jake. Just back to the F-16s. The provision of that down the line seems to follow the pattern — when it came to Abrams a few months ago, the MLRS systems last year — where the Ukrainians were calling for those weapons systems from the very outset of the conflict, and the U.S. said no and then ultimately relented.
You described earlier this private military-to-military consultations that drove the decision-making here. But President Zelenskyy, clearly in the case of F-16s, has been calling for them for more than a year.
So is the message in private from the Ukrainian military about what it needs on the battlefield different? Or is the sense that the U.S. knows more about what the Ukrainians need to fight this war than the Ukrainians do?
MR. SULLIVAN: So I’ll refer you to the Pentagon on this because I think they will be better able to go into the specifics of that question.
I would point out that on the list of capabilities, as our Pentagon officials have testified to the Hill, that Ukraine felt they needed for this counteroffensive for the spring — what was the thing that was going to make or break that counteroffensive? — F-16s were not near the top of the list for that.
Q Jake, thanks. You mentioned the concerns that you had previously about what was an escalatory weapon. And then you made the point that Ukrainians have not used them to attack Russia. Is there any weapon right now that the U.S. has, any conventional weapon the U.S. has right now that you think would be off the list? Is your fundamental thinking about escalations different than it was at the beginning of the war?
And also, could you go one more beat on the submarine cables discussion? And also, you didn’t mention the AI discussion.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah. So, taking those in reverse order: Actually, on artificial intelligence, they had a good discussion on that yesterday. So I guess I was kind of looking forward to today as opposed to reading out yesterday, which I should have done.
But in the section on the global economy, President Biden briefed leaders on the meeting — the high-level meeting held at the White House with the key CEOs of the frontier artificial intelligence companies — the actions that the U.S. government is taking to work with those companies on a framework that manages the risks while facilitating the opportunities of artificial intelligence.
Other G7 leaders spoke to this issue as well. I think this is a topic that is very much seizing the attention of leaders of all of these key, advanced democratic market economies.
And there are two elements to it. One, what is each country going to do within its own laws and regulations and its own work with the private sector in the respective jurisdictions. And then, second, how do we come together in an international format to effectively try to align approaches so that we’re dealing with this incredibly fast-moving technology with these incredibly far-reaching implications.
So yesterday’s discussion was a good start, a good basis for that. And leaders have tasked their teams to work together on what the right format would be for an international discussion around norms and standards going forward.
On submarine cables, I will let the Quad statement speak later today on that, and we can follow up with you on it. I’m not going to preempt the opportunity for the four leaders to come together. And then there will be an outcome document from it that will touch on that issue, among others.
Q What’s your concern there, though?
MR. SULLIVAN: What’s the concern?
Q The concern on the submarine cables.
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I would just say that there is a need — this goes to infrastructure — there is a need to continue to lay cable to be able to advance telecommunications and other connectivity issues.
And the Quad, both geographically and in terms of policy, wants to play a role in ensuring that we are in the game when it comes to the provision of financing for those cables and that it gets constructed in a way that’s trusted and secure.
And then, finally, on your first question: When it comes to the question of escalation, of course, you know, the United States government is a learning organism. This conflict has been dynamic. It has unfolded over time. We have not just had a static view of either the battlefield or the participants on the battlefield, the Russians and the Ukrainians.
So, of course, our view has had to keep up with what we have seen to be the steps taken by Russia, the reactions to the provision of assistance over time.
But, fundamentally, the President’s core precept, which is that we are going to do everything we can to support Ukraine in its defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we are also going to proceed in a way that avoids World War Three — that precept has remained intact. How that gets applied in practice, we have tried to fit to the circumstances as we find them along the way.
Q Thanks, Jake. I have two questions. G7 leaders are focusing on nuclear disarmament to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. What groundbreaking ideas — could North Korea give up its nuclear weapons? And do you foresee the time to discuss nuclear disarmament with North Korea?
MR. SULLIVAN: This discussion came up last night. Of course, it’s a matter of very significant importance to Prime Minister Kishida, right here in his hometown of Hiroshima. And the leaders expressed their desire to move towards that ultimate objective while dealing with the very real and significant nuclear threats that we face today, including the one from the DPRK.
The leaders agreed to stand behind the basic proposition that we seek the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we will continue working towards that. Can’t put a timeframe on it, of course. And we will have to continue to align our approaches carefully, particularly with Japan and the ROK, but also with other countries that want to reduce the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and by the possibility of proliferation.
Q On the arms support to Ukraine, at what level does the United States want its allies to carry out arms support to Ukraine? And do you expect South Korea to support lethal arms to Ukraine? Are you going to also to discuss this issue South Korea and Japan, U.S. trilateral meeting this time?
MR. SULLIVAN: So we have obviously worked across continents and across countries to source everything from artillery ammunition to air defense supplies to other capabilities. It has been a significant part of my day job, of Secretary Austin’s day job, as he leads this Ramstein process. And we’ve worked with dozens of countries to be able to source weapons for Ukraine.
The specifics of that for any given country can be sensitive, so I’m not going to speak to any one country. I will just say this remains a high priority for the President to try to get as much materiel as is both available and necessary for Ukraine to be able to carry forward the fight.
Q Jake, you’ve talked about, on China, the idea of developing tools to fight economic coercion. What exactly are those tools?
And then separately, prior to the G7, the administration announced that Secretary Raimondo, Ambassador Tai will be meeting with their counterparts in China. Where is this i- — is this approach of rescheduling the Secretary Blinken trip to Beijing? And do you think the communiqué — how it lays out the case against China — will infringe or impinge upon either setting up these meetings or even a call with the President and President Xi?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think that would not make sense because I think you will find the China language to be totally straightforward. It is not hostile or gratuitous. It is just direct and candid. And there are key elements of it, right from the top of that language, that speak to the desire for stable relations with China and the desire to work together on issues of mutual interest.
It also spells out our concerns, but those concerns are well known to China. So there should be nothing about it from the point of view of, you know, a surprise. It is what we have been saying, and it is now a reflection of the alignment that has occurred.
And, by the way, this statement didn’t happen by accident or by osmosis. It happened because we have had intensive consultations with our partners about the PRC and about how we approach that relationship in an effective and managed way. And over the last two and a half years, I think that has resulted in a convergence that we did not see several years ago on the key issues.
But it’s not a cartoonish or one-dimensional policy. It is a multi-dimensional complex policy for a complex relationship with a really important country.
I don’t have further news for you on the sequence of steps. I don’t think there was ever an announcement of Raimondo and Tai going to meet their counterparts. The question of economic engagement there has been raised. We anticipate that that can and should happen.
What the timing is on calls, visits, meetings, we are still working through that with the Chinese side. And when we have more to report, we will.
It sounds like, from Karine, I got to go. But I’ll just take one more question here.
Q Yes, Jake, you said that the communiqué on China would add — would note that each country has its own approach. This is — I believe this is the first in-person engagement with President Macron after his visit and his statement on China. Do you really have a common approach on China, not — regardless of the statement?
And I have another question on Zelenskyy visit to Jeddah. One year ago, nobody would have imagined this visit could happen. What message can carry this visit? And how do you think Russia received it?
MR. SULLIVAN: The visit to where?
Q To Jeddah —
MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, Jeddah. Okay.
Q — Saudi Arabia, yesterday.
So, on China and Zelenskyy.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, so, on the first question, you guys will be able to read for yourself what the communiqué says and ask does it or does it not reflect the basic approach of France and every other G7 member. I think you will find that it does. So I don’t think there’s anything in it where there’s a difference between word and deed.
And then, as far as President Macron is concerned more broadly, the President had the opportunity to speak with him by phone following his visit and to go into some detail on how that visit unfolded. And they had a very good, constructive conversation about that.
On Zelenskyy and Jeddah, we haven’t had the opportunity, of course, to hear from the Ukrainians directly on that visit because they’ve been in transit. But, of course, President Biden will have the chance to hear from President Zelenskyy how that visit went.
We think it’s a very good and significant thing that he was at the Arab League and had the opportunity to make the case from the Ukrainian perspective for the world to support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Q Thanks, Jake.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, thank you so much, Jake.
Just a couple things at the top. I know there’s a lot of interest in the debt limit, so I just want to say a few things here.
There continues to be real difference — differences between the parties on these issues. We’ve been clear about what the President’s priorities are and his belief that we should come together to continue the economic progress we’ve made and invest in the future while also cutting wasteful spending and cutting the deficit.
That’s what the budget he released on March 9th — more than two months ago — that’s what it does. It reduces the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years by cutting wasteful spending on things like subsidies for Big Oil, which made $200 billion in profits just last year, while at the same time building on the progress we’ve made reassuring American jobs, cutting costs for Americans, and investing in our future.
The President has already shown that while he is not insisting on his approach, if Republicans in Congress were serious about cutting the deficit and about finding a bipartisan agreement — reasonable bipartisan agreement — that can reach the President’s desk. They’d be looking at cutting that kind of unnecessary wasteful spending.
So, look, there’s no question we have serious differences and this is going to continue to be a difficult conversation. That’s not lost on us.
But the President’s team is going to continue to work hard towards a reasonable bipartisan solution that can pass the House and the Senate, because we need Republican and Democrats on this — on this budget negotiation, moving that forward in the House and the Senate.
The stakes could not be higher. A default would plunge our economy into recession. Economists estimate that millions of Americans would — could lose their jobs, hardworking families could lose their retirement savings.
So, our team will stay at it. We will stay focused. And we hope that Speaker McCarthy’s team will negotiate in good faith as well.
One last thing before I take questions: the week ahead for all of you.
As you all know, on Sunday evening, the President will return to the White House from Hiroshima, Japan.
On Friday, the President and the First Lady will welcome the Louisiana State University Tigers women’s basketball team and the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team to the White House to celebrate their 2022-2023 NCAA championship seasons in two ceremonies in the East Room, honoring each team’s victory.
The Vice President and the Second Gentleman will attend the ceremony honoring LSU Tigers women’s basketball team, and the Second Gentleman will attend the ceremony honoring the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team.
In the evening, the President and the First Lady will travel to Camp David.
On Sunday, the President and the First Lady will travel from Camp David to Wilmington, Delaware. In the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will return to the White House from Wilmington, Delaware.
On Monday, the President will host a breakfast in honor of Memorial Day in the East Room.
After, the President and First Lady will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The fri- — the Vice President and the Second Gentleman will attend as well.
Then the President will deliver the Memorial Day address at the 155th National Memorial Day Observance at Memorial Amp- — Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. The Vice President, the First Lady, the Second Gentleman will all attend as well.
Later, the President and the First Lady will travel to Wilmington, Delaware. Of course, we will have more to share on the President’s travel calendar as we — schedule — as we get closer to those days.
With that — okay, go ahead, Josh. Hello.
Q Hi, Karine. Given the stakes you’ve laid out regarding a default, will you tell the American people what you think the differences are so that they can understand the situation? And how confident are you that some kind of deal can occur before the start of June?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President is confident that there’s a path forward. If both sides come in good faith, he believes that we can get this done, when it comes to the budget, when it comes to laying out how we see the budget moving for the American people. He’s optimistic. But again, it has to happen in good faith.
And, look, these are — these are how negotiations work, right? It’s a little bit of give-and-take. This is the core of democracy. That’s what we’re seeing at play here. And — as long as everyone understands that you don’t get everything that you want when you have negotiations.
And so, this is a President that understands this. He has been very clear how imperative it is to get this done.
And — and so, look, we’re confident, we’re optimistic. We’re going to give the negotiators — the budget negotiators — some space, some room to have these conversations. As you know, they met evening in local time, and it just broke up right before we came to the podium.
And so, we’re just going to make sure that the President’s team continues to do their hard work and gets to — and gets to a deal.
Q And any transparency on those differences?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, we’ve been very clear. We’ve laid out what our budget is. I just said at the top — right? — the President has been very focused on continuing to cut the deficit. That’s — remember, the first two years — we’ve talked about it — $1.7 trillion. The President wants to build on that. There’s $3 trillion over 10 years.
And so, we’ve been very clear. And I’ve said at the top and I’ve said many times: If — if Republicans are very serious about cutting the deficit, then they would do that. Then they would look at the wasteful spending that we’re seeing — that — those subsidies that go to Big Oil companies, that go to Big Pharma. The President laid out how he’s going to do that. Two hundred billion dollars in profits — that’s not necessary.
And so, instead of putting forth ideas or a proposal that’s going to hurt the neediest among us, that’s not how we should move forward.
And so, it’s been clear. We put out our budget in March, almost two months ago. We’ve seen what the House Republicans passed at the end of April. And so, it’s clear where each side stands.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Go ahead.
Q Thanks. Just two on the debt limit. What exactly is it that the White House has told Republicans that they — that you all might not be able to sell to Democratic members? Is it spending caps?
And also, is the President going to speak — or does he have plans to speak to Speaker McCarthy, given the sort of hiccup that happened in the talks last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m going to start with your — your last question first.
Just to give a little bit of color, the President was — was updated by his team last night. I’m assuming — I’m — he will be updated momentarily by the team. So — and, you know, I can — we can anticipate that.
So, he’s being kept up to date daily, as we have said, multipi- — multiple times a day. So the President is all over this and is going to continue to follow — follow the negotiation and stay in touch with his team throughout the weekend. So, we can expect that.
As it relates to your first question, the spending caps: Look, not going to negotiate in public. The conversations are clearly happening earlier — earlier this morning our time, later in the evening, clearly, their time.
And so, we are optimistic, the President is optimistic that we’re going to get to a reasonable budget — budget negotiation, a budget agreement here — a bipartisan budget agreement, as I stated at the top. This is something that has to pass the House and the Senate. It’s going to need both Democrats and Republicans.
Just not going to negotiate from here. But we’ve been very clear where the President stands on his budget, as you know. As I mentioned, he released that on March 9th, as you all know.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Your tone has shifted a little bit from 24 hours ago, in terms of optimism versus focusing on serious differences. Can you give a sense of how that shift occurred and how — and how you expect to bridge those gaps?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, we wanted to be very clear with all of you where we saw the differences were, because you all have been covering this very closely and hearing from folks back home. But we are still optimistic. There is a path forward. There is definitely a path forward.
We all know negotiations, as I just stated moments ago, is very difficult. We know that. But it is imperative to get this done for the American people. There is a sense of urgency that we have been very clear about.
But the President continues to be optimistic if both sides come in good faith.
Q But you’re saying “if both sides come in good faith.” Is that — should we conclude from that that right now the White House does not believe Republicans are negotiating in good faith?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think what’s important is that they — there was conversations that just — that just concluded moments ago. I think that’s important. Right? And I think — we think we need to give them this — the negotiators, the budget negotiators, some space, some time to continue that conversation.
But we are optimistic. I don’t want to take that off the table. We are indeed optimistic. We think and we believe that there is a path forward.
And so, we’re going to give them, the negotiators, some time and some space to do that. The President is going to continue to stay abreast and certainly stay very focused on — on the — on this — on the negotiations as we move forward.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, the last time that we got this close to a debt ceiling default, President Obama deputized his Vice President to lead the negotiations. Why doesn’t President Biden trust Vice President Harris to lead these negotiations —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q — while he’s in Asia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I disagree with your — the premise of your question. The President does — does —
Q She’s in Los Angeles.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well — well, let me —
Q She could be at the Capitol. Why isn’t she?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President entrusts the Vice President, as we all know, as we have stated many times.
She — she was in the meeting that — with the congressional members that occurred very recently, right before the President left for Japan. She has been in regular conversations, as well, and has been in — in conversations with the President. He has taken her consult and listened to her advice, as he always does on many issues. This is one of many issues. And so, that has not changed.
And I think you actually said something that is incredibly important: The President has been there before. Right? He has dealt with these types of negotiations, these types of conversations before. He knows how this all works. This is not new to him.
And this is why he is optimistic. And this is why these conversations are going to continue and he’s going to stay on top of them.
Q And you just said that you’re assuming the President will be updated momentarily by the team. What was he doing for the last several hours while they were in these meetings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the — they were having conversations. Right? They were on the Hill, the negotiators.
Q Right. And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But how — how would he —
Q And it’s the middle of the night here. I’m just curious what he did —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, but how would he be updated if they’re still having conversations on the Hill? It just ended moments ago.
Q Couldn’t he call in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — look, Peter —
Q He just conducted —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — wait — look, Peter —
Q — the first year of his term, he conducted — because of the COVID pandemic — by video conference. Is that not possible right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, Peter, we’re going to give the
the space to these negotiators — the time and the space — to have these conversations. That’s what we’re going to do.
The President is going to continue to be updated regularly, daily, as he has been for the past couple of days. And that’s how we’re moving forward. That’s how we’re — we’re seeing this process.
The President has sat down twice with congressional leaders very recently to hear them out, to have a conversation, to talk about his budget, to talk about the urgency of getting — of getting the debt limit done, of Congress doing their job.
And so, he continues to — he continue to hold the line in that very — in that way.
And so, look, we’re going to have the negotiators have their conversation. They just ended their last convening, if you will, and they’re going to reconvene. I’m certain of that.
And so, the President is going to get an update from his team, as he did last night, as he’s done the last couple of days.
I’m just going to keep going. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you give us any sense if a short-term extension is still on the table if the parties can’t, like, get to the — to an agreement before the X-date arrives?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — look, I’m not going to go- — negotiate from here.
Going to be very clear: We see a path forward. We think there’s a path forward. We’re optimistic about that.
We believe that it is imperative to get this done on behalf of the American people, and we’re going to let those conversations continue.
Q And just one other one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q Is it, sort of, still the position of the White House that the White House is not negotiating over the debt ceiling?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We are not. We are very, very clear about that. The President has been very clear about that.
What we’re having — we’re having a separate conversation about the budget, as we have been doing, as the — our — our negotiators here have been doing and the President has directed.
And so, we’ve been very clear: We cannot default. We are not a country that defaults on our debt. And the President is — and I have been very clear about that. And so that’s what we want to see.
Q Why is it important to hold on to the semantics? Because, like, clearly, there are discussions about Democrats giving away things that they would never, ever want to give away. So, I mean, there is a negotiation, and it’s being prompted by something. So, if not the debt limit, then what is this negotiation being prompted by?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s a budget negotiation. This happens every year, when you talk about appropriations, when you talk about spending. They are — they — there are conversations happening about the budget. That is not new; that is regular order. That’s what we’ve been calling for: to go back to regular order.
And, look, the President has been very clear: Default is not negotiable. You cannot negotiate on — on — on the American — American — as Americans paying our bills. That has been very clear.
So, again, we are confident and optimistic that we can reach a reasonable budget agreement, a bipartisan one that can pass the House and the Senate.
This is a conversation that usually happens — right? — every year and trying to negotiate on the budget and how we move forward.
When it comes to default, it is not negotiable. And we should not — we should be doing — moving that forward without conditions.
Q (Inaudible) and regular order under, sort of, extraordinary circumstances, perhaps.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re having a separate discussion — a separate discussion on budget and spending priorities. That is something that should be happening. That is something that is part of regular order. That is what you’re seeing on the Hill. That is what the President has directed his team to do, is to come to an agreement on the budget.
Q Just to follow up on Annie’s line of questioning there —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q If there’s no deal on the budget, then the debt ceiling doesn’t get lifted. Correct?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s the thing: That shouldn’t be the case. It should not be the case. The debt limit should be dealt with, as it has 78 times since 1960. You hear us say that all the time because it is the fact. That is how it’s been dealt with 78 times since 1960.
So, that should not be the case. Congress can deal with this. It is their constitutional duty to move forward in dealing with the debt limit.
We’re going to continue to talk about the budget. We’re going to continue to talk about how we get to a place that both sides can agree in a good-faith way and that it can pass the House and the Senate.
Q I understand you’re saying that should not be the case, but we’re talking about what is happening right now, which seems very clear to be an ongoing set of negotiations over a potential economic catastrophe for not only the U.S. but the rest of the world.
So I’m just wondering what the message is — you know, Jake was just asked about this — to allies here about what these ongoing negotiations are and also what the — you know, what the end result here is.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is a country that does not — does not — does not pay their debt — we pay our debt. We are not a deadbeat country. The President has been very clear. And the President is optimistic that we can get this done.
And so, look, that’s kind of where we’ve been. That’s the message that we’re sending, certainly, to not just Americans, but to the world: that we are not a deadbeat country. When it comes to default, it is not negotiable. And we have to — Congress has to get this done.
Q Thank you, Karine. Doesn’t White House participation in negotiations, though, set a dangerous precedent that if Republicans hold out on raising the debt limit, they can bring the White House to the table and possibly bring concessions on spending?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part again?
Q I said if Republicans hold out and refuse to raise the debt ceiling, they can bring the White House to the table and bring concessions on spending.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, here’s the thing: They cannot be holding the American economy hostage. They can’t. It is going to trigger a recession. It’s going to — we potentially could lose millions of jobs. This is the — these are the facts coming from economists. This should not be happening. And it’s going to hurt — devastate retirement accounts.
There are consequences here if the debt limit doesn’t get done. And so it cannot be held hostage by Republicans — we have been very clear — by these MAGA Republicans, by the Speaker. We’ve been very clear about that.
We have continued to lay out what the consequences could be, not just to members of the Hill but to the American people so that they know this could — this could be what happens if Congress doesn’t act.
So, look, the President has held the line on this. It is not negotiable. We should not be negotiating on the debt. This should be done without conditions.
Now, we’re holding the separate conversation on the budget. That is something that we have been doing for some time now. The President has been clear how he sees moving forward with the budget. And so, we’re going to have those conversations.
But it is — it could — it could lead to a catastrophic economic circumstances if this doesn’t get done.
Q I have a question about the logistics of this, because you say that they’re separate conversations. But what’s going to happen when the legislation hits Congress and in it is to raise the debt ceiling but it comes with fiscal spending cuts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’re not even there yet. Right now, we’re — the negotiations are happening on the budget. That’s where we are. We’re — we believe that we can get to a good place if it happens in good faith. And so, that’s where — that’s how we’re moving with this process.
It needs to be done in a responsible, bipartisan agreement, in a bipartisan agreement that has to be put forth to the House and the Senate so both Democrats and Republicans can review and vote on this bipartisan agreement. So that’s how we’re moving forward. We think —
Q But do you think he’ll lift the ceiling for fiscal spending cuts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve been very clear: These are two track — two separate conversations that are happening. One is saying that, look, default is not negotiable — we’ve been very, very clear about that — and having a conversation about the budget, which is something that is supposed to be happening. That is not unusual.
The budget conversation is regular order. Appropriations conversation is regular order. Spending conversation is regular order. And that’s what you’re seeing from negotia- — negotiators on — on the Hill right now.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, a new poll is showing that 58 percent of Democrats support raising a debt ceiling while reducing the federal deficit. The House Speaker is saying the President still wants to increase spending next year. Is the President out of touch on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, the President is not out of touch at all. I just laid out at the top what the President’s budget looks like. It looks like decreasing the deficit by another trillion dollars over a decade. And this is adding to what the President has done the first two years — decreasing the deficit by $1.7 trillion.
The President has been very clear that he wants to get rid of that wasteful spending. That’s why he’s making sure that the wealthy pay their fair share, right? When you think about these subsidies that go to the oil — the oil companies, subsidies that go to Big Pharma. If we’re really serious about cutting the deficit, then we would look at these wasteful spendings.
That’s what I have said. That’s what the President has been very clear. It lays it out right — right — very clearly in his budget on March 9th.
Q So — and the fact that there’s an interest from other world leaders in our debt ceiling talks, has the lack of a deal cost the President’s stature here to take a hit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not at all.
Q Hi. Just following up on that point about the reaction of the foreign leaders. Jake was saying countries want to have a sense, they’re keenly interested. Is that a slightly mild way of putting it? I mean, presumably they’re more than just keenly interested. They must be dying to know what’s happening, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you heard from the National Security Advisor, who’s been in the — in these meetings over the past 24, 36 hours. And he’s laid out what he’s been hearing and where these leaders are. I’m just not going to add to that.
And so, look, he said there are in- — there’s interest, but it’s not a — you know, it’s not a — a, you know, hair-on-fire type of situation. But there is certainly interest.
Look, these are the largest economies — right? — in the world that the President is meeting with. We’ve talked about how strengthening the global economy is incredibly important. And so — but I’m not going to go beyond what Jake has stated here.
Q Could you just briefly talk about how — the difficulties of the President choosing which part of the trip to cancel — how to weigh, you know, the one terrible situation with being out of the country if things were falling apart or the other terrible situation of saying to the world, “Sorry, I can’t come and talk to you because I’m dealing with something at home”? How have you reached the balance (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, he’s going to meet — he’s going to have that Quad meeting today, where he’s going to be meeting with the — with the leaders that he was going to have a sit-down — kind of sit-down conversation with — in Australia. So, I think that’ll be very important.
You all will have — will see that at the top, will be a pool spray that we’ve all provided. So, that — so that conversation is going to continue, but here instead of — clearly, instead of Australia.
That’s how important the President believed it would be. I put out a statement on this just last night — why the President wanted to do this, because he believed having that conversation — the Indo-Pacific is clearly incredibly important. And he wanted to meet the — with the leaders, and it’s going to happen here.
So, I would, you know, just make sure that we highlight — wanted to highlight that.
Look, we’ve said this many times before: The President could be the President anywhere. Of course, he understands that that X-date that the Treasury Department put out, which is right around the corner, right? He wanted to get — to get back in time to deal with the situation and to be — and to be — to be back in the States and to make sure that these things get done.
All right, I think we’re going to have to wrap it up soon.
Q Thanks. Thanks, Karine. Can you explain the White House position about what happened in the past 24 hours? My understanding, just less than half a day ago, was that the President was optimistic that there was going to be movement towards a deal; half a world away, the Speaker of the House also talking about a path to getting an agreement. Then something changed. So what’s your perspective about what changed between those comments and today when you’re before us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to negotiate from here. But clearly, there — there are differences between the parties on budget issues. And these types of negotiations are never easy. They’re — they’re just not. When it comes to negotiations, they’re just not easy.
And so, look, the President’s team continues to be hard at work to reach a reasonable bipartisan budget agreement — that’s what you’re going to see from the President’s team — and some — a budget agreement that can pass the House and the Senate. That’s what you’re going to see from the President’s team.
And he is optimistic — optimistic that if everyone keeps working in good faith, that we can get to — we can get this done.
So, the optimism continues to be there. Clearly, negotiations are never — never easy; they’re very difficult. That’s what makes our democracy — the core of our democracy is having these types of give and take. And everyone has to understand that you don’t get everything that you want. And that’s how this works.
Q You’ve spoken many times about the disastrous consequences if there is a default on U.S. debt obligations. Is a plan B, so you don’t get to that point, having a short-term extension and making certain that we don’t get — we, as a country, don’t get to that point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a good question, and I was just asked that question moments ago.
Look, the focus right now is to stay steady, to continue to let Congress know that they have to do their constitutional duty, they have to get this done. I just don’t have anything to share on any — any decisions right now.
But, look, this is — this is not negotiable. This has been done 78 times since 1960. The President has said we are not a deadbeat nation. This is something that we have to get done on the — on behalf of the American family.
And so, we’re going to continue to call on Congress to act.
All right, guys. I’m going to take one last one.
Q Thank you. It’s been seven years since the G7 was last held in Asia, and concern about China has risen dramatically over that time. As important as Zelenskyy’s visit is here, is there any concern from the U.S. that it would dilute the focus on China that the G7 was going to have?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, not at all. This is a — as I’ve stated many times before, this is a President that can manage different — different things at the same time. Not going to get into, you know, President Zelenskyy’s travel. I think, you know, Jake was very clear on that.
And, you know, the President always looks forward to having a conversation with President Zelenskyy. I think it’s important that he continues to — to — to be here at these types of summits and share — and share an update of what’s going on and what’s happening. And as he has seen, as you all have seen, from th- — from the G7 world leaders, and Europe more broadly, and other countries across the world, that we have come together to make sure that Ukrainians are able to fight for their freedom and continue to fight for their inte- — integral — integral terr- — territory integrity.
And so, it is incredibly important that this continues. We’re going to stay behind the Ukrainian people as they continue to fight Russia’s aggression.
And so, that’s important. The conversation about China continues to be important. And so, that’s something that the President can do: can handle multiple issues at once.
Thank you, everybody.
10:21 A.M. JST
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/05/20/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivan-on-the-presidents-trip-to-japan/