April 25, 2024

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Anchorage, AK

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Anchorage, AK

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Anchorage, Alaska

2:01 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Good afternoon, everyone.  As you know, we’re on our way to Anchorage, Alaska.  And then from there, we’ll be heading to, as you all know, to Hiroshima, Japan, where the President is going to be meeting with the G7 — will be attending the G7 Summit Leaders. 
 
And as you can see, to my right I have the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, to talk about the trip and take any questions that you may all have. 
 
Go ahead, Jake.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Thank you, Karine.  And thanks, everybody, for taking a minute today.  As Karine just said, we’re headed off to the G7.  The President will start his engagements in Hiroshima with a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishida, where they will review the really quite extraordinary progress in the alliance over the course of the past two years, building on the trip that President Kishida made to Washington in January.
 
And in every dimension, whether it’s the military dimension of the alliance, the economic dimension, the recently concluded agreement on clean energy, the work we’re doing together on economic security, this alliance, I think, is at a genuine high-water mark from the point of view not just of recent years, but recent decades. 
 
And the two leaders will not just rest on their laurels, but press the teams to take the next step on a series of issues.  And we’ll give you a readout after the bilat concludes this evening. 
 
Then the main event begins with the President’s engagement with G7 leaders.  And, of course, as usual, it’s a packed schedule and a packed agenda. 
 
A few things that I would just highlight at the outset, and then happy to take your questions on any specifics. 
 
First, obviously, the war in Ukraine.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looms large and will be a significant topic of conversation.  There will be discussions about the state of play on the battlefield.  There will be discussions about the state of play on sanctions and the steps that the G7 will collectively commit to on enforcement in particular, making sure that we are shutting down evasion networks, closing loopholes in the sanctions so that the impact is amplified and magnified in the — in the months ahead.  And the U.S. will have a package of sanctions associated with a G7 statement that will center on this enforcement issue. 
 
There will also be talk about reconstruction, about economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine, and about how to set the appropriate conditions with progress on the battlefield shaping progress at an eventual negotiating table if and when Ukraine is prepared to do that down the road. 
 
Obviously, also high on the agenda will be supply chains and clean energy.  President von der Leyen was in Washington not too long ago to agree a very far-reaching joint statement between the United States and the European Union to align our approaches on clean energy.  And now that alignment will be taken out to the G7 as a whole. 
 
And we believe that the work we will do together in terms of deployment of capital to ensure clean energy technologies are built out — and not just in all of our countries, but globally — and the establishment of diversified, secure, resilient supply chains from critical minerals, to batteries, electric vehicles, and more — that you will see a degree of convergence on this that, from our perspective, can continue the conversion of the Inflation Reduction Act from a source of friction into a source of cooperation and strength between the United States and our G7 partners. 
 
Of course, the common concerns and issues associated with the policies and practices of the People’s Republic of China will come up.  And I think you will see, coming out of this summit, alignment and convergence around the fundamental principles of our approach to the People’s Republic of China.
 
Of course, each country has its own distinct relationship and its own distinct approach, but those relationships and approaches are built on a common basis.  And I think you will see that reflected in the outcomes of the G7. 
 
And then, the hosts, Japan, have emphasized the importance of economic security, of making sure that at the intersection of economics, technology, and national security, the G7 approaches are carefully coordinated and aligned.  And you will see outcomes reflected on that as well. 
 
The President will also co-host an event on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, where we will review the progress from last year, including some announcements of new investments and new deals, as well as a broader buildout of work with the private sector, including very senior private-sector representatives coming so that public investment is mobilizing private investment to drive infrastructure development in the — in the developing world and in emerging economies. 
 
There will be a host of other things on the agenda to talk about, from foreign policy, to economic policy, to climate policy. 
 
One last thing that I would — I would just lift up as a substantial topic of conversation will be artificial intelligence. 
 
The President and the Vice President and the senior team at the White House recently hosted the leaders of some of the major AI outfits in the United States.  He will report out on those discussions and on efforts by the Biden administration to ensure that we are helping facilitate the opportunities of AI while managing the risks in a responsible way that is coordinated closely with the advanced democracies of the world. 
 
So lots of other things will happen — bilateral meetings, trilateral meetings, and the like — but I think those are the main elements that I wanted to lay out at the outset. 
 
And, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
 
Q    Thanks, Jake.  Just starting at the 30,000-foot level, as we are here at 30,000-some-odd feet, you all have been saying for weeks now, in the lead-up to this trip, that the President can be the President wherever he is.  So could you speak to the President’s decision-making — why he felt he had to be in Washington and cut this trip short, giving, you know, the PRC the display of American, you know, inconsistency and lack of commitment in the region that it has been looking for and, in that effect, undercutting the very trip the President set out to plan when he — when — when this trip was announced a few weeks ago?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, first of all, I would just point out that this G7 comes after one of the most effective and impactful strings of American diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific in an incredibly long time. 
 
In January, you had Prime Minister Kishida in Washington, announcing absolutely historic investments in Japan’s defense capabilities. 
 
In February and March, you had the announcement of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement sites in the Philippines.  You had the announcement of an initiative on critical and emerging technologies with India. 
 
In April, you had a state visit from Korea that led to a historic Washington Declaration.  You had AUKUS and the President, with the Prime Minister of both the UK and Australia, in San Diego, announcing a first-in-60-years defense partnership on nuclear submarines. 
 
So when you look at all of those pieces coming together, we feel extremely good about where America’s position is in the Indo-Pacific. 
 
And the fact that he has to postpone a trip to Australia and to Papua New Guinea, when you lay that up against where we are with respect to our alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, we believe this notion that somehow the PRC is sitting there happy and comfortable about the situation is a convenient media narrative going into this trip, but it does not reflect reality in any way.
 
I would also say that the President felt it was critical that he be at the G7 because this particular format is so central to getting alignment and convergence with key countries — including, by the way, the countries in the Quad, because both Australia and India will be in Hiroshima, and he will have the opportunity to engage with them there — that that was a vital part of the trip. 
 
But that the work that we need to do bilaterally with Australia through the Quad and with the Pacific Islands is work that can be done at a later date, whereas the final stretch of negotiations over the debt limit or over the budget cannot be done at a later date, and that default can’t be postponed, but the trip can be postponed. 
 
So that’s where the President ultimately made his decision that he would do the first half of the trip and then postpone the second half of the trip to a later date. 
 
Q    But specifically, just talking about one missing piece, which is the meeting with the Pacific Island leaders, the strategic goal for that meeting was to deter those countries to establish closer security ties with China.  So how will you achieve that goal now that the leaders are disappointed that the President is not coming?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I would say that I believe that the leaders of the Pacific Island have longer memories than the — the question that you pose implies. 
 
The President hosted them not years ago, but months ago — less than a year ago at the White House in a first-of-its-kind summit of Pacific Island leaders at the White House last September, where we set out a road map for cooperation in the Pacific that we are delivering on — new embassies, new Peace Corps volunteers, new investments in security, new investments in humanitarian relief, in climate.  And that’s all flowing now, just in the months that have followed. 
 
So, from our perspective, we see a demand signal for the United States only growing among the Pacific Islands.  And we see those leaders eager to ensure that we continue the momentum that we built.
 
The stop in PNG would have helped that; there’s no doubt about that.  But we have a lot of momentum behind this.  And the President will have a chance in 2023 to be with all of the Pacific Island leaders.  That’s yet to be scheduled.  But we will get it on the books so that we continue the progress with — with the Pacific Islands.
 
Q    Can I, sort of, follow up on both of those questions?  Members of your own administration have said one of the most important things the United States can do to counter China is to show up.  And you said these visits are going to be postponed.  I mean, are there any dates yet, even date ranges?  Because it seems that the partners of the region would like to see a firm commitment to actually show up. 
 
So, any — I know this is all very recent.  It’s only happened in the last 24 hours.  But has there been any talk about dates to reschedule these engagements?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  You know, I do think there’s a kind of remarkable extrapolation from not going to two countries on a particular date to “the United States is not showing up in the region.”  And it’s, I think, completely belied by the actual delivery, both in presidential time of visits, of hosting of major leaders in Washington — most recently, just in the span of a week, the presidents of both the Philippines and the Republic of Korea. 
 
So, I mean, it’s not for me to give you advice on or to make a pitch to you on how you report things.  But I think there is a degree of fairly dramatic over-cranking in saying that pushing off a visit to Australia and PNG speaks to the fundamentals of American diplomacy at this time.
 
The President spoke with Prime Minister Albanese yesterday and agreed that we would get the visit to Australia back on the books — we don’t have a date for that — but also that he would host him in Washington for a state visit, which — I don’t know when the last time the Prime Minister of Australia was hosted for a state visit at the White House, but I think it’s been quite a while.
 
Q    And just —
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we will see that.  And then within this calendar year, you will see the President convening the leaders of the Pacific Islands for a major summit, which will be the second time in 12 months he has done that, which will be the first time ever in history that has happened.  So I think a little bit of context is required in the overall thrust of the — of the — the kind of premise that underlies the — the last three questions.
 
Q    You’re — you’re calling part of it a media narrative, but they’re obviously disappointed.  So — and no doubt you heard some of that disappointment yesterday from them.  Are you concerned about the credibility question, or is the context that you’re sharing with us something that you’ve also shared with them?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I do not believe that the Australians doubt America’s commitment to the alliance.  And one of the reasons I believe that is because Prime Minister Albanese and President Biden reinforced their common commitment to the alliance yesterday. 
 
Another reason I believe that is — like, several weeks ago — you know, a couple months ago, he stood next to the Prime Minister and announced that we were going to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, which is something that they announced back in September of 2021.  Said, “In 18 months, we’ll have this done.”  And in 17 months and 30 days, we deliver on the most consequential, significant security agreement between the U.S. and Australia since the founding of the alliance, bar none.
 
So I think — the nature, I think, of these questions does not reflect the nature of how Australia is talking to us about what they think about the alliance.
 
Q    And Papua New Guinea?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  And as far as Papua New Guinea is concerned, I think they’re obviously disappointed that the President will not be the first-ever President of the United States to go to Papua New Guinea.  They are eager to see him there at some point.  But they are also very mindful of the fact that this President has done more, in terms of his personal engagement, with the Pacific Islands than any previous president.
 
So one of the things that I think is important to keep in mind is all of the work we do, month in, month out; the credibility we put in the bank through our actions, through our summits, through our trips, through the hosting that President Biden does. 
 
That credibility is for moments when we have to make schedule adjustments so that the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Prime Minister of Australia can know that Joe Biden is someone who, as President, has their back and that the United States can and will deliver for them. 
 
And the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we have delivered for both the Pacific Islands and for Australia in an — in an unprecedented way over the course of the past two and a half years.  That puts us in a position to be able to do this, to make these hard calls in balancing domestic imperatives for the President to be at home to deliver an outcome — a positive outcome — and also to sustain these relationships in a positive way.
 
And I would just argue that all of the gardening, all of the work of the last two and a half years has led us to a moment where we have the capacity to make these adjustments without it coming at a cost to our credibility in a way that, if we were coming in cold — had not done all the things we have done — people might — that the countries themselves might be asking the question more full-throatedly than they are now.
 
Q    Just to quickly clarify, is the President — when you say he postpones the Australia portion, when he makes that trip, will he also go to Papua New Guinea?  Or that part is — is canceled?  Because you just said he will not be the first President to — to make a visit to the island.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  No, no.  I just said — oh, I don’t know exactly how I formulated.  I’m saying he’s — the — the Prime Minister is sorry he won’t this week be the first President.  I wasn’t saying he won’t go.  As we put out yesterday, he’s postponed both legs of the trip.
 
Q    And then just to — again, I want to go back to Zeke’s original question about the President being able to do his job wherever he is.  Was there a calculation that the negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, were not going well enough that he had — like, I’m just curious when it changed from “the President can do his job anywhere,” from just a few days ago, “There’s no…” — you know, “We’re not going to cancel this trip,” to yesterday morning canceling the trip.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Without getting into the ins and outs of the negotiations, which I will leave to others, I would just say negotiations are dynamic, and you have to both look at the substance on the table and the days until the deadline and then make a determination about the allocation of the President’s time and energy.  That’s — that’s something you have to calculate every single day. 
 
And as we were getting prepared to take off on this trip, he took a final look at that and made the determination that, in the balance of his time, he needed to be back in Washington for the closing days before the deadline to ensure that the United States does not go over a cliff and to ensure that we get a deal that reflects his values and — and the best interests of the American people.
 
Q    Jake, when is the President going to be speaking with or next meeting with President Xi?  He said earlier — he was asked — whether or not it’s soon, but “we will be meeting.”  And I was just wondering if you have anything to share with us about when their next meeting or call is going to be.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have anything to announce today, but — I mean, just —
 
Q    Is the intention that it will be soon?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  What — you said the President said “whether or not it’s soon…”?
 
Q    Yeah.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ll leave the President’s words to stand as they are.
 
Q    Jake, when we — when we get to Japan, the President is going to the Peace Memorial Park on Friday.  Some people are — are hoping that he’ll apologize on behalf of the U.S.  Can we expect the President to issue an apology?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  The President won’t be making a statement at the Peace Memorial Park.  He’ll be participating with the other G7 leaders in a wreath-laying and a few other events.  But this is not, from his perspective, a bilateral moment.  This is him, as one of the G7 leaders, coming to pay respects and — respects both for history but also respects to Prime Minister Kishida, who of course is from Hiroshima.
 
Q    That’s a — Jake, that’s a “no”?  He does not — he does not intend to issue an apology on behalf of the United States for the use of the atomic bomb?

MR. SULLIVAN:  No.
 
Q    Jake, what can we expect from the G7 in terms of broader export bans to Russia, using Russian frozen assets for Ukraine reconstruction?  And can we expect any kind of engagement between G7 leaders and President Zelenskyy?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I — I think we are anticipating some kind of engagement between G7 leaders and President Zelenskyy.  The parameters of that are still being worked through, so when we have more to share on that, we will. 
 
I do not anticipate what has been reported, this kind of comprehensive export ban.  The main focus of sanctions implementation at the summit will be about enforcement and evasion. 

And on the question of Russian assets, the G7 will speak to that.  But I don’t — anything further to share today.
 
Q    Just to follow up on that, there was some reporting that the G7 and the EU would ban Russian gas imports on routes where Moscow has cut supplies.  Are you saying that’s not the case?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I will leave that to the EU.  They’re working that through.
 
Q    But the G7 piece of that?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  In terms of the —
 
Q    A joint announcement.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, like I said, I think that — that’s something the EU is working, and based on how that proceeds, we’ll see what happens with the G7.
 
Q    Jake, on the — on the issue of F-16s in Ukraine, acknowledging that the G7 is primarily an economic forum, but do you expect that issue to come up with European allies, given it appears there has been some softening, perhaps, in European capitals toward those jets going to Kyiv?  And any update on whether the administration’s thinking has changed over the past few weeks?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I have no update today on F-16s.
 
Q    Does the U.S. right now assess that Kyiv has begun its counteroffensive that it has — that it’s been preparing for for months?  Is that the current state of the battlefield that you were describing that they would discuss?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I remember extremely vividly when
Russia declared the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic as part of Russian territory, and then tanks rolled into them.  The questions for 24 hours: “Has the — has the invasion begun?  Has the invasion begun?”  And this has, like, shades of that.  “Has the counteroffensive begun?  Has the counteroffensive begun?”
 
As you know, this is not like a D-Day landing on a beach.  These types of military operations are more dynamic, more layered, more multifaceted. 
 
So, “has the counteroffensive begun” is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m not going to pronounce on it.  I’ll let the Ukrainians characterize and describe what they’re doing.  I would just say intense military activity is underway in parts of Ukraine, as we have seen recently from the fighting around Bakhmut.
 
Q    Jake, can we go back to your meeting with Wang Yi in Vienna?  A senior administration official who briefed us afterwards said that you talked about the spy balloon but called it an “unfortunate incident” that both sides are eager to move forward from.  Should we take this as the administration thinking that this is an issue to be put to bed with no consequences to China?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, it’s not an issue to quote, unquote, “be put to bed,” because, you know, the reality is that the President took down the balloon to send a clear message that we will not tolerate violations of U.S. airspace.  And that position is firm and fixed, and something the President has communicated quite clearly, both publicly and privately.
 
We feel that having taken the action and having sent the clear message about U.S. sovereignty, territorial airspace, territorial integrity, that we have made our point, and that’s where we are right now.
 
Q    What’s your take on the Turkish election?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, we’ll see what happens in the runoff.
 
Q    But do you have any kind of further thoughts in terms of, you know, Turkey’s position as our NATO Ally, as far as what happens in the election?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I believe that whoever prevails in the election, whether it’s the incumbent or whether it’s the challenger, that we will continue to work with Turkey on a range of issues, whether it’s on Ukraine, on regional issues in the Middle East, or on NA- — on Turkey’s role, as you said, as a NATO Ally.  So that — that’s going to continue regardless of who the leader of Turkey is. 
 
You know, what we want to continue to see is, you know, robust democracy in Turkey.  And they had a first round, they’ll have a second round, and we will be prepared to work with whoever is the winner of the election.
 
Q    On the issue of Chinese economic coercion, are you anticipating the language in the communiqué is going to be, sort of, a broad agreement that that should be countered and — or are there going to be specific steps recommended for member countries to — to take back included in that document as well?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to get ahead of that communiqué with respect to the issue of coercion and economic security.  That’s a theme, an issue that will be addressed in the communiqué.  But on your specific question, we’ll share with you the results of the negotiations once the communiqué is finalized.
 
Q    Jake, can you tell us: Do you expect the President to hold a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  That is basically a matter of scheduling.  There is goodwill on all three parts to do it, particularly to recognize the real progress that has been made between the ROK and Japan with U.S. support, and the stronger bilateral ties between the ROK and Japan mean a stronger trilateral relationship.  So if we can find time in what is a very packed schedule, we will try to hold a trilateral.  But we don’t have anything to confirm yet because we’re still working through a number of these scheduling pieces.
 
Q    You — you had a break-in in your home recently.  Can you tell us how you experienced that and to what extent your faith in the Secret Service has been challenged by this incident?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have any comment on the incident.  But I have total faith in the Secret Service, and they do a remarkable job every day as professionals protecting me.
 
Q   Can I ask you one on the —
 
Q    Can we go back on the Papua New Guinea —
 
Q    In the bilat with Kishida, does the President plan to raise the case of — the Alkonis case with Kishida? 
 
And then separately, with regards to Turkey as well, it looked like there might have been an extension in the Black Sea deal as we were wheels up, if you have any comment on that.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Yeah, there has been extension to the Black Sea grain deal, which is good.  Unfortunately, Russia continues, even in a moment of extension, to rhetorically hold it hostage in various ways, to suggest its days are numbered and so forth.  And we just think the world deserves certainty that this corridor for grain will be there on a sustainable basis so that the world can continue to be fed — and, in particular, poor countries. 
 
But it’s a good thing that it’s been extended.  We will continue to support efforts to ensure that grain gets to global markets. 
 
What was your other question?
 
Q    Alkonis.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, as you know, the President is very focused on all cases of Americans being detained overseas.  He takes a personal interest in them.  He also tries to handle them in a way in which we balance what we say publicly with what we’re doing privately so that we maximize the chances of getting people home fast. 
 
So, I don’t have anything to share with you publicly about how we are approaching that particular case, other than it is very much top of mind for us.  But I’ll leave it at that, on the record.
 
Q    Just to confirm, on Papua New Guinea, Jake, what about all the deals that the President was supposed to sign there — the security, surveillance, climate change with Papua New Guinea?
 
And do you have any update on the Lombrum Naval Base that Vice President Mike Pence announced he was going to hel- — or the U.S. was going to help revamp?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we will certainly be moving forward with a range of different agreements with Papua New Guinea.  How and when they get signed is something that we are still working through with them so that we can maximize the lift that they give.  But from a substantive perspective, the rescheduling doesn’t disrupt the work that we’re doing in all of these areas. 
 
I don’t have an update for you on the military base.
 
Q    Other —
 
Q    Well, I guess, just one last one — and maybe Karine can speak to this too.  Can the President guarantee to our allies this week that the U.S. will avoid default?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, the President is confident that we can avoid default, but the reason he’s going back is to make sure that that happens.  So, what he will tell them is he is going home to do what a President does, which is uphold the relevant parties together to get to a deal that — that produces a positive outcome.  And he will express confidence to them that he will be able to do that.  And I’ll leave it at that. 
 
    Q    Thank you, Jake.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks, Jake.
 
Hi.
 
Q    Take it away.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I — take it away.  Whoever — you want to go —
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Zeke?
 
Q    First, on this — can you s- — go further into the President’s decision-making, why he felt — what specifically he felt he needed to do in Washington that he couldn’t do by phone or by Zoom? 
 
We’ve been — all been through the last three years where we didn’t do a whole lot of in-person meetings.  You know, did he — did he think about inviting Kevin McCarthy to Papua New Guinea or to Sydney so he can carry out these meetings?  You know, why does he feel the need that he has to be the one to go back to Washington?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  So, I think I’m just going reiterate a little bit of what Jake Sullivan said, which is: As we get to the X-date we start looking at the President’s time — right? — the — and really focusing on the allocation of his time. 
 
And we know the X-date, right?  The Treasury — the Treasury Department has been very clear that it’s coming up.  And so, the President wanted to make sure that — that the conversation that he wanted to have clearly continued.  As you know, the — the staff has — has been meeting every day.  It’s been productive.  He has — he’s optimistic about it.  You heard him speak about it directly today in the Roosevelt Room before he took off. 
 
And the President just wants to make sure that — that this gets done.  Right? 
 
We — we are a country that is — that pays our debt.  We are not a deadbeat nation.  And so the President has been very clear about that.  And he needs and wants Congress to do their job. 
 
And so, again, he’s coming back a little bit earlier, as we get closer to that X-date, to make sure that Congress does its job.  It’s as simple as that. 
 
And you all had been asking for weeks and weeks and — not weeks and weeks and weeks, but for some time, that — asking about his schedule.  And, you know, the President took a look at it, just as Jake said — he took a look at it.  He looked at the X-date.  He looked at what needed to be done.  And the President wanted to come back — come back a little bit early, postpone those two other stops that he was going to make, to make sure that Congress actually did its job. 
 
And let’s not forget: There’s also the — the budget negotiation that’s currently happening — the spending, the appropriations, that regular order of making sure that we get that done as well.  And that is a bipartisan agreement, a reasonable agreement, that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress can vote — can vote on and it can get to the President’s desk.
 
Q    Do you have a sense of what the schedule of talks will be over the next couple days?  Can you give us some detail about how that’s going to play out?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things — and I believe the President may have said this.  If not, I’ll share this with all of you.  As you all know, and this is something that you know already, the staff members — the senior staff members will be meeting regularly.  They — they met this — I believe they met earlier today.  And so they’ll have those meetings today.  They’re going to meet tomorrow.  They’re going to meet the next couple of days.  So that’ll be really important as we continue these productive conversations. 
 
As it relates to the President, the President is looking forward to connecting with the leaders later this week via phone and then also having a meeting with all of them when he gets back overseas.
 
Q    On the negotiations themselves, one of the biggest hurdles has been spending caps and how long they should last.  Republicans want 10 years; Democrats want 2.  Has there been any progress toward narrowing that gap?  Have they agreed on how long those should last?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get into negotiations in public.  As you know, the teams have been meeting.  We feel that it’s been productive. 
 
The President met with the four leaders yesterday — again, productive, headed in the right direction.  He’s optimistic.  As you just heard from the National Security Advisor, the President is confident, which is something he said himself. 
 
So, we’re going to let those conversations continue.  The President has been very clear.  We’ve laid out our — our budget on — on March 9th.  You saw it.  You’ve heard us talk about it multiple times. 
 
It’s a budget that shows spending — a cut in deficit over 10 years by $3 trillion, adding — really continuing the work that the President has done the last two years and getting — cutting those wasteful spending as it relates to Big Pharma, as it relates to oil — Big Oil as well. 
 
And so, we’ve been very clear about how we see the values of this country moving forward, how we see delivering for American families.  And those conversations are just going to continue.
 
Q    I know you said the President would be speaking to leaders later this week for an update.  But is he going to be updated more frequently on the staff-level talks?  And what are the — what’s the frequency of that going to be, and who’s going to be updating him?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would expect that the President will get — will get updated regularly, daily, maybe multiple times.  This is critical, right?  This is important, and getting this done. 
 
It — he’ll be — certainly, co- — be updated by senior advisors, as he has or — for the past — the past couple of days when they — when these staffers have been — high-level staffers have been having conversations with members of Congress staff.
 
Q    Karine, we know that the President was invited by Prime Minister Albanese to speak in front of Australian Parliament.  What would have been his message?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I mean, I — I’m not going to get into the specifics of what the President’s message would have been.  I think you heard from the National Security Advisor how important that region is, how important continuing and building on the Indo- — Indo-Pacific relationship.  That’s why the Quad — that’s why we — the Quad partnership was just something — as you know, was something that came out of this administration.  We want to continue that partnership. 
 
And Jake laid out all of the things that we have done as an administration, as the President has done these past couple of months, most recently, to continue building on that relationship.
 
Not going to get into what the President was going to say.  But clearly, that region is important for many, many reasons.  And again, that — as Jake said, that — those two stops have been postponed.  And we’ re looking forward to — to getting that back on the books.  And the Prime Minister has been invited for official state visit. 
 
And both — both parties in respective governments are going to be — the staff — the staff level — on the staff level, talking about when we can lock that in, which is going to be, I think, incredibly important and will show how important the — this relationship is to this administration. 
 
Q    Karine, what’s the White House’s message to progressives who are worried that the White House is going to give away too much to Republicans in negotiations, especially on work requirements?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, this is a President that they could be reassured is fighting for clean energy, is fighting for manufacturing, is fighting for healthcare.  That’s something that the President has been very clear that he’s fighting for. 
 
And, look, you know, Republicans have put proposals — a proposal on the table that increases poverty, that cuts healthcare for millions of people.  And some of those proposals doesn’t cut much — much money at all.  Right?
 
And so, look, the President is going to continue to fight for these — for these incredibly important things that American families truly need — healthcare, as I just relayed it, and fighting against increasing poverty. 
 
So, look, that is something I — that I think progressives in Congress could take away with and understand the President is fighting for the American people.  And you see that; you see that in the budget that he put forward.
 
Q    What is acceptable, in terms of work requirements, to the President?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not — I’m just not going to negotiate from here.  The President spoke — I think he was asked this question twice today and answered it — and answered it. 
 
And so, I’m just going to leave it to what the President said.  I’m just not going to get into it. 
 
Q    Karine, on Ukraine, there’s some concern that the — the aid package that Congress approved in December could dry up this summer.  Is there any discussions at the White House of a new package?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to share on any conversations with Congress or any conversation about aid.  I think one thing you can take away — and I know many Americans have — is this past year you’ve seen our commitment to the Ukrainian people with the aid packages that we have either drawdown or — or given to Ukraine, because we believe the importance of the Ukrainian people be — having the ability to fight for their freedom, for their territorial integrity. 
 
And, look, at the end of the day — and you’ve heard us say this over and over again, which is: This war can end today.  This is a war that was started by Russia.  This is Russia’s aggression against a democratic country, and it could end today.  The fighting, the bloodshed — all of it could end today if Russia would leave Ukraine. 
 
Q    Karine, I know the President spoke to Prime Minister Albanese yesterday.  Why hasn’t he spoken to the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea?  Does he intend to have a personal conversation there?  Why did the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea not get the same courtesy that the Prime Minister — Prime Minister of Australia did?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, it’s a very good question.  I think in my statement I stated that senior — senior staffers from NSC spoke with — spoke with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. 
 
I don’t have a call to read out to you.  But I’m sure there’ll be a conversation at some point — the President will have a conversation at some point with the Prime Minister.
 
Q    Just to follow up on that question, though, Karine, Xi Jinping has been to Papua New Guinea three times.  And this would be the first time the President — an American President came and he cancelled.  And he’s not even calling?  (Inaudible.)
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I want to be very, very clear: not canceled, postponed. 
 
And Jake just — just said to all of you that we are hoping and planning at some point — we don’t have a date locked in — to get the President there.  It is, like, this week he will not be the first President to — U.S. President to visit Papua New Guinea.  But again, we have postponed the trip, and the hope is that we’ll get the President there at some point. 
 
Q    What’s your — this is a kind of a political-ish question.  What’s your take on the Republican criticism of President Biden leaving the country at all right now when these talks are happening?  There’s — there’s been some from Speaker McCarthy and others that would suggest that it’s irresponsible for Biden to be leaving at all. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as you know, he’s attending the G7 Summit Leaders in — in Japan.  And one of the responsibilities that an American President has is our leadership on the global stage, which is incredibly important and critical. 
 
And we’re talking about global economy — right? –strengthening the global economy.  We’re talking about climate change.  We’re talking about Ukraine, and how these countries are going to continue to work together to provide assistance — security assistance, humanitarian aid to a country that is fighting — where the people are fighting for their freedom. 
 
That is important.  That is an important part of the job of a President.  Those are — there are critical issues, yes, domestically, but also internationally that the President has to take on. 
 
And so, look, it goes back to the President — I think it goes back to your — your first question, Zeke, that the President, indeed, could be a president anywhere. 
 
But this is an important — an important group of leaders, if you think about it, G7, the — the largest economies — right? — world economies across the country.  And we have to continue to have these conversations on those pieces as I just laid out.  Okay?
 
Q    Doesn’t — doesn’t it — I mean, doesn’t it make the President look like he’s caving to Republican demands by making this last-second decision to cancel it after this criticism from Republicans had come up, instead of making a proactive decision to do it a few days ago, or just continuing on with the trip and telling Kevin McCarthy, you know, “Call me with an update”? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the Speaker — the Speaker put us in this position.  Right?  Let’s not forget.  He put us in a position where he is taking the American economy hostage.
 
We are — we are looking at a situation where America could potentially default on their — on paying their bills, which is something that we have never done before, which is something — would be the first time ever.  And you’ve heard me say these stats over and over again: We’ve done this 78 times since 1960. 
 
So, I get the question, but Speaker McCarthy and MAGA Republicans got us here.  They are the ones who got — we can — they can actually take care of this or could have taken care of this months ago, weeks ago, by just doing their constitutional duty and dealing with the debt limit. 
 
Again, last three — three times in — in the Trump administration, Democrats put — put to the side their political disagreements with the Republican Party, met them — met them in the middle, and were able to put forth and actually deal with the debt limit. 
 
So, what’s — “what’s different now?” is the question to them. 
 
Q    Karine, following up on that, do you — do you believe that the Speaker, by putting the President in this situation, has endangered national security by not allowing the President to continue on the rest of this trip, by forcing him to truncate it?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t — I can’t speak to that.  What I can speak to — I — I’ll just say: don’t believe that is the case.  Right?  What we believe is that the — there are critical issues, domestically and internationally, that the President has to deal with at all times, and he’s going to deal with them. 
 
And — and it’s important that Congress does their job and deal with the debt limit as they have done, again, 78 times since 1960s, as they’ve done three times in the past administration. 
 
And the President wants to go back to regular order and — as we have been doing in these budget negotiations and talking about how we’re going to move forward with the economy for the American people. 
 
Q    Kevin McCarthy, right before we left, said that there was a big obstacle in the White House toward a deal, which sort of conflicted with some of the good vibes coming out of the meeting yesterday.  Any — I guess, any idea why he would say that?  Or does the deal seem farther off than the sort of end-of-week hope that was expressed yesterday?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not Speaker McCarthy’s press secretary, so I can’t speak for why — what he said and what he doesn’t say.  That’s up to him and his people to speak to. 
 
What I can speak to is what the President has said.  He’s confident.  He’s optimistic.  It has been a productive conversation.  Last — yesterday was a productive conversation.  The staff-level meetings have been productive.  So, I will leave it there. 
 
Of course — of course, as it relates to the budget negotiation, we want to get this done as soon as possible.  As it relates to the debt limit, Congress needs to act.  We’ve held the line.  We’ve been very clear on that.  They need to get this done as soon as possible.
 
Q    Not to beat around the bush, Karine, but President Biden is the third Democratic President who had to cancel a foreign trip because of budget negotiations and our debt ceiling, after President Clinton and President Obama.  What does this say about the dynamic between a Democratic White House and a Republican Congress on —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Honestly, that’s for Republicans in Congress to speak to.  That is for them to speak to.  They have to answer that question:  Why is it — why is this happening now?  That’s something for them to answer. 
 
All right. 
 
Q    Karine, after the — the veto override in North Carolina last night, has the President talked to Governor Cooper?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have a call to read out to you.  I — what I can say: It is so out of touch that — what — what we saw occur with that bill and just how extreme the — this abortion bill is and what we’ve been seeing across the country on the attacks on women’s healthcare, women’s reproductive rights that we’ve seen from Republicans.  Again, out of touch with where North Carolina — where North Carolinians are. 
 
And the President and this administration has been very clear that we’re going to continue to fight for women’s healthcare, women’s reproductive act — women reproductive rights, and that we’re going to continue to call on Congress to make Roe the — the law of the land.
 
Thanks, everybody.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
2:45 P.M. EDT
 

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/05/17/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivan-en-route-anchorage-ak/