PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TOM DONILON
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 8, 2013
PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TOM DONILON
Westin Mission Hills
Palm Springs, California
2:27 P.M. PDT
MR. RHODES: Hey, everybody. Thanks for coming to this briefing to wrap up the meetings over the last two days between President Obama and President Xi. I’ll turn it over here to our National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to give a readout of those meetings. Afterwards we’ll take questions.
Tom, of course, has been very focused on this China meeting as a lead person for the President on U.S.-China relations, so he can speak to anything associated with that or other foreign policy questions. I’m happy to also take questions on the FISA-related stories that have been in the news recently. In that regard, I would draw your attention to a fact sheet that we sent to our press on the collection of intelligence pursuant to Section 702 of FISA, as it provides a very good baseline of details on that program.
But with that, I’ll turn it over to Tom to give you an opening presentation. Then we’ll take questions.
MR. DONILON: Thank you, Ben. Good afternoon, everybody. I’m sorry to be a little late. I wanted to talk today about the quite unique and important meetings that took place between President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China over the last couple of days here in California.
I’d say at the outset that the President had very good discussions in an informal atmosphere, uniquely informal atmosphere, with President Xi over the last two days. The discussions were positive and constructive, wide-ranging and quite successful in achieving the goals that we set forth for this meeting.
Before I turn to the specifics on the meeting, I wanted to give some context for this. The meeting, of course, is an important part of the President’s broad national security strategy we’ve outlined since the beginning of this administration, underscoring the importance of the United States having productive and constructive relationships with the important powers in the world. And our strategic observation that if those relationships are constructive and productive, then in fact the United States could more effectively pursue its national interest and that we could, with others, solve global problems more effectively.
This meeting is also central to our Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy. As I’ve said many times, the President believes that Asia’s future and the future of the United States are deeply and increasingly linked, and we judged early during our term in office -- actually during the transition -- that we were under-weighted in Asia, and we had been over-weighted in other parts of the world in the prior six or seven years, particularly with respect to our military operations in the Middle East and in South Asia.
So we undertook a determined strategy aimed at sustaining a stable security environment and a regional order rooted in economic openness and peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for the universal rights and freedoms in Asia.
Our rebalancing strategy, of course, has a number of elements: strengthening alliances, deepening partnerships with emerging powers, empowering regional institutions, helping to build regional economic architectures that can sustain shared prosperity -- TPP obviously is at the core of that. And of course it includes building a stable, productive and constructive relationship with China that we’ve been about from the outset of the administration.
With respect to this meeting, as I said at the outset, in many ways it was a unique meeting. And again, if you go back through studying each of the encounters between an American President and the leadership of China since President Nixon’s historic meeting in February of 1972 in China, I think the uniqueness and the importance of a number of aspects of this encounter really come to the fore.
Number one, the setting and the style. The setting here obviously was in a very informal setting and the style was informal between the President of the United States and the President of China, which is not the normal setting for these meetings if you’ve studied them over the years. I guess the closest meeting that came -- with respect to kind of style -- would have been the Crawford meeting in 2002 between President Bush and Jiang Zemin. But that meeting was at the end of his tenure, Jiang Zemin’s tenure, and the total meeting time was only, I think, an hour and a half or two hours. This meeting was entirely different obviously.
Secondly, the length of the discussions, which we calculated approaching eight hours, and the breadth and depth of the discussions, which were quite strategic and covered virtually every aspect of the United States-China relationship.
Third, the timing -- and the timing was quite important here. It is at the outset of President Obama’s second term in office as President of the United States. It is at the outset of President Xi’s tenure as President of China, an expected 10-year period. So, point one.
Point two, it also comes at an important moment of transition for the United States. As I said, we’re embarking on the President’s second term but also at a point where we really are looking at second-term priorities and our economy is recovering, I think, and a lot of the restoration work that we’ve done in the first term is coming to fruition. And third, we do face an intense range of bilateral, regional and global challenges on which U.S.-China cooperation is critical.
So the setting, the style, the length of discussion, the breadth of the issues discussed, and the timing I think all underscore the point that this is an important and unique meeting between the U.S. President and the leader of China. And again, I think if you go back through and do a careful study of the encounters between the leaders of the United States and China since 1972, I think that really does become quite clear.
How did this meeting come about? Let me discuss that for just a couple of minutes. We have, from the outset of the second term, undertaken to, in a deliberate and purposeful way, engage with the leadership of -- the new leadership of China. Indeed, President Obama had a telephone conversation with President Xi congratulating him on his election as President on March 14th, the day he was elected. I think he had literally just come from the meeting and President Obama talked to him that afternoon.
We then undertook a series of encounters with the Chinese. Secretary Lew went out almost immediately to discuss economic issues. General Dempsey, the head of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, went out to discuss military and security issues. Secretary Kerry went out to discuss diplomatic issues and foreign policy issues. And I followed the three of those meetings with my own travel to China just a couple of weeks ago to discuss the broad range of issues facing the United States and China, and to lay the foundation for this meeting. So again, we've had a purposeful and deliberate effort to engage with the leadership of China and to work on this relationship as we go into our second term.
Next, we asked ourselves, when should the President and President Xi meet each other. And on the current schedule, that wouldn’t have been until the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg this September. And it struck us as being too long of a time; the vacuum would have been too great. And the President decided that he would undertake to try to schedule a meeting at an earlier date. And that, of course, is this meeting.
We also thought hard about the style of the meeting and what the purpose would be. And we had as a goal, a specific goal to build a personal relationship between the President and President Xi, and have an opportunity not under the pressure of being on the margins of another multilateral meeting to really sit down and explore the contours of the U.S.-China relationship.
The structure of the meetings: The meetings began, as you know, yesterday afternoon, and the initial topics for discussion were the priorities that each President has for his country today in order to set the strategic context for the discussion. So President Xi talked at some length about his plans for his presidency and his government's plan to cross a range of issues, starting with the economic issues. President Obama talked about his plans for his second term and how he saw things unfolding, and then they had a broader conversation about how these -- the strategic context affected U.S.-China relations.
So that is, again, I think a unique conversation between a President of the United States and a President of China to have, again, at the outset of President Obama's second term and at the beginning of President Xi's term, a quite lengthy discussion about how they see where their countries are domestically and what their priorities are internationally. That was the first set of sessions.
Secondly, last night, over dinner, we discussed a full range of bilateral issues, including security issues, and have a lengthy conversation last night about North Korea, which I can talk about if you'd like to do that.
This morning, President Obama and President Xi went for a walk to have a one-on-one meeting -- a true one-on-one meeting -- with just interpreters present -- went for a walk around the property here and then found a place to sit down. That meeting lasted for about 50 minutes this morning -- and again, talking about a number of the key issues between the United States and China.
They came back from that meeting, and we sat down again at the conference table and then undertook a quite extensive discussion about economic issues, including cyber issues -- which of course we believe needs to be at the center of the economic discussions that the United States and China are having.
As I said, last night at dinner we had a lengthy discussion about North Korea, and let me talk about that just for a couple of minutes. As I said, it was a significant discussion last night during the dinner. And as you all know who cover this issue, China has taken a number of steps in recent months to send a clear message to North Korea, including through enhanced enforcement of sanctions and through public statements by the senior leadership in China.
The Presidents agreed last night that this is a key area for U.S.-China enhanced cooperation. They agreed that North Korea has to denuclearize; that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state; and that we would work together to deepen U.S.-China cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization. The President also stressed to President Xi that the United States will take any steps that we need to take to defend ourselves and our allies from the threat of that North Korea presents.
The two sides stressed the importance of continuing to apply pressure both to halt North Korea's ability to proliferate and to make clear that its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is incompatible with its economic development goals. The discussions on this issue I believe will allow us to continue to move ahead and work in a careful way in terms of our cooperation to work together to achieve our ends.
I think the bottom line is I think we had quite a bit of alignment on the Korean issue -- North Korean issue, and absolute agreement that we would continue to work together on concrete steps in order to achieve the joint goals that the United States and China have with respect to the North Korean nuclear program.
As I said during the economic discussion that we had today, cybersecurity and cyber issues were an important topic. And again, I think they took -- actually those issues took up most of the discussion this morning between President Obama and President Xi. Obviously, given the importance of our economic ties, the President made clear the threat posed to our economic and national security by cyber-enabled economic espionage. And I want to be clear on exactly what we're talking about here. What we're talking about here are efforts by entities in China to, through cyber attacks, engage in the theft of public and private property -- intellectual property and other property in the United States. And that is the focus here, which is why it was in the economic discussion this morning.
And again, we had a detailed discussion on this. The President underscored that resolving this issue is really key to the future of U.S.-China economic relations. He asked President Xi to continue to look seriously at the problem that we've raised here.
And again, I gave a speech on this in March in New York, and went through exactly what the agenda would be for us with respect to China, and number one is to acknowledge this concern. And I think this concern is acknowledged at this point. Number two -- to investigate specifically the types of activities that we have identified here -- and the Chinese have agreed to look at this. And third, to engage in a dialogue with the United States on norms and rules -- that is what is acceptable and what's not acceptable in the realm of cyber. The two Presidents provided guidance to the new cyber working group, which, as you know, has been set up under out strategic economic dialogue, which will engage in a dialogue, as I said, on the rules and norms of behavior in cyberspace that will explore confidence-building measures. And we instructed the teams to report back on their discussions to the leaders.
Other issues that were discussed at some length obviously was the economy -- and we can go into some depth on that if you'd like to -- human rights, and importantly, military-to-military relationships between the United States and China.
This has been an important aspect of our discussions with China in the last year and a half or two years, and the fact is, of course, that it's the military-to-military relationship that lag behind our political and our economic relationship. This was acknowledged on the Chinese side, and we actually have some momentum behind increasing and deepening these relationships as we go forward here, as we try to build a comprehensive and positive relationship with China.
I think, again, that the Presidents' meetings here at Sunnyland were, as I said, without a doubt unique. And as President Obama said yesterday, the challenge that he and President Xi face us to turn the aspiration of charting a new course here for our relationship into a reality, and to build out what President Xi and President Obama call the new model of relations between great powers.
So, with that, I'd be glad to take your questions. I could also go on for another hour or two about the details of the meeting. (Laughter.)
Q Tom, you said that the concern about cyber is acknowledged at this point by the Chinese. How specific are they in this acknowledgement in the private meetings, given that in public they tend to avoid acknowledging this? And Xi also mentioned last night at the bilat that China has been a victim of cyber-hacking as well. Are they saying that the U.S. is targeting China, or are they leaving that sort of more broad in these discussions?
MR. DONILON: A couple of things -- and, thanks, Julie. Number one, as I said, it's important to understand exactly what we're talking about here. The discussion that we're having with China with respect to this topic is really not focused on cyber-hacking and cyber crime. These are problems that we've faced and we've faced jointly, and we need to work together in a joint way to defend ourselves against these and to come up with norms of rules of the road with respect to those problems that we face as two nations whose economy and whose full range of activities are increasingly online and increasingly linked up to the Internet, which makes them vulnerable.
That's not the focus of the discussion, though, that we had today -- except to the extent that we both acknowledge that this is a problem and for the two large economies in the world addressing them is important.
The specific issue that President Obama talked to President Xi about today is the issue of cyber-enabled economic theft -- theft of intellectual property and other kinds of property in the public and private realm in the United States by entities based in China. And the President went through this in some detail today with some specifics today and asked the Chinese government engage on this issue and understand that it is -- if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States' property, that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential.
We've undertaken, as you know, a systematic effort with respect to this issue. We have had conversations with the Chinese about it over the course of the last year or so. We've raised it publicly. I did so -- the first administration official to do it. And we have had increasingly direct conversations with the Chinese through the various dialogues that we've set up.
What's critical, though, I think is that it is now really at the center of the relationship. It is not an adjunct issue, it's an issue that is very much on the table at this point.
With respect to the question that you asked directly about whether they acknowledge it, it's interesting, you could ask whether or not the Chinese government at the most senior levels was aware of all the activities that have been underway with respect to the cyber-enabled theft -- you can't answer that question, though, today. You'd have to -- it's quite directly and it's quite obvious now that the Chinese senior leadership understand clearly the importance of this issue to the United States, the importance of the United States of seeking resolution of this issue.
Q If I could just draw you out a little bit more on that, Tom. You said that the President went through some very specific information about cyber-hacking. Did he outline some specific cases of theft? And if you could go into North Korea a little bit -- what specifically did they agree to do? Did they -- are there going to be more talks? Go back to the United Nations? What exactly?
MR. DONILON: With respect to cyber, I think it's accurate to say that the President described to President Xi the exact kinds of types of problems that we're concerned about, and underscored that the United States did not have any doubt about what was going on here, that in fact, that these activities had been underway and that they were inconsistent with the kind of relationship that we want to build with China, which is a comprehensive partnership. Having a comprehensive partnership at the same time when you have large-scale theft underway is not -- well, it's going to be very difficult to do.
But this, as I was saying to Julie, I think what's important here is this is a broad relationship with China. We have a full range of issues. We have a half-a-trillion-dollar-a-year trade relationship with China. We have all manner of interaction between the United States and China. We are highly interdependent countries and societies and economies, and again, we have a range of issues. And this is an issue that's come to the fore and it's one that is going to have to be resolved, again, in the context of this broad relationship.
With respect to North Korea, I think the important point here is full agreement on the goals -- that is denuclearization; full agreement that in fact the Security Council resolutions which put pressure on North Korea need to be enforced, and full agreement that we will work together to look at steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the goal.
Why? Now, let's talk about that for just a second also with respect to motivations here. How have the Chinese and the United States come to the same view with respect to North Korea and the absolute unacceptability of a full-on nuclear weapons program.
And I think it comes to this. It comes to the impacts, if you will, of North Korea continuing to pursue a nuclear weapons program which would allow them to become a proliferator, which would allow them to present a threat to the United States, as we’ve discussed and I’ve discussed with this group before, and which would allow them to really upend, if you will, security in Northeast Asia.
A recognized nuclear weapon state in Pyongyang, weapons program in Pyongyang would of course have profound implications in the rest of Northeast Asia, and these are obviously results that the Chinese don’t want to see. They’re results the United States doesn’t want to see. So I think what you have essentially underway here is a shared threat analysis and a shared analysis as to what the implications and impact would be of North Korea pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
MR. DONILON: Hi, Mark.
Q Can I ask a FISA question?
MR. DONILON: Yes, but I’d rather --
Q Sorry. Can I ask a FISA question? Can you tell me what kind of investigation the President wants into the leaks of the FISA material? Does he want a criminal investigation?
MR. DONILON: Ben, do you want to take this?
MR. RHODES: Yes, I’ll take this. First of all, Mark, what we’re focused on doing right now, and you’ve seen this in the DNI statement, is, frankly, doing an assessment of the damage that is being done to U.S. national security by the revelation of this information, which is necessarily secret because the United States needs to be able to conduct intelligence activities without those methods being revealed to the world.
So currently there’s a review underway, of course, to understand what potential damage may be done. As it relates to any potential investigations, we’re still in the early stages of this. Obviously the Justice Department would have to be involved in that. So this is something that I think will be addressed in the coming days by the Justice Department of the intelligence community in consultation with the full interagency that’s been affected by these very disturbing leaks of national security information.
Q And one question on China -- on the lighter side. Can you tell me about the bench that was given as a gift? Did President Xi --
MR. DONILON: You want to do the bench?
MR. RHODES: Yes.
MR. DONILON: I’ll let Ben do the bench.
Q Did the President deliver it?
MR. RHODES: I understand a few facts about the bench. The bench was made out of a redwood, which is obviously very unique to this part of the United States. And the Protocol Office I think can give you more details, but I think Tom mentioned that the two leaders were able to take a walk and were able to sit on what became the bench that the Chinese will be taking with them.
But again, I think it’s illustrative of the beautiful part of the world that we’re in, of course, extending up farther north. And we can get you additional details from our protocol people.
MR. DONILON: Mark, just a couple of things to add on, though, not with respect to the bench specifically but with respect to the personal interaction between President Obama and President Xi. We, as I said earlier, really saw this as an opportunity for the two Presidents at an important moment here to deepen their personal relationship, to establish and deepen their personal relationship as a foundation for going forward; to address the range of issues that we have to address.
And I think from that perspective that this meeting was quite successful -- a lot of time together, a lot of personal time together including -- again, quite unusual for the President of China and the President of the United States to spend pure one-on-one time together without any aids present, just interpreters, as I said, for an extended period of time.
A very lively dinner last evening, and also at the end of the sessions today, Mark, the President also was able to spend some time with President Xi and his spouse, Madam Peng, this afternoon for about 30 minutes before the Chinese delegation left for Beijing.
So I wanted to give you a sense of kind of all those elements that we think are important to building the kind of relationship that we’d like to see built between the two leaders as well as the relationship that we’re building between the two governments.
MR. RHODES: Jessica.
Q I’ve got two questions --
MR. DONILON: Okay.
Q I think President Xi invited President Obama to China. It’s important to follow up on that quickly to build on this relationship. Could you talk briefly about a little bit of the color in the meeting with the First Lady of China?
And then turning to the FISA question, now that the DNI declassified some information about PRISM, maybe you can speak a little bit more freely about it. Can you help people understand, now that the administration says only non-U.S. persons are targeted, The Guardian reports that 3 billion digital items were collected off U.S. servers just in March. How can you explain that and assure Americans that surveillance was limited to non-Americans?
MR. DONILON: Thanks, Jessica. With respect to the visits, again, this was a unique visit to California by President Xi. And by the way, what’s also another interesting aspect of this is that the United States proposed this and there was really quite quick acceptance by President Xi of the invitation to have this meeting quite early in his term. With respect to future visits, which is your question, I think they come in two categories, and we discussed them in the meetings. One would be a similar informal visit to China and the other would be the more formal reciprocal exchange of state visits. And the Presidents discussed both those issues and agreed to have their teams work on the timing and attempt to schedule this.
I think the bottom line is this, though, Jessica. Number one is that the President would like to have a similar session in China, outside the capital in a more relaxed setting to have the kind of informal give-and-take that he had here. And certainly we will work to put together the next, if you will, cycle of exchanges of state visits to Washington and Beijing.
With respect to the meeting that the President had with Madam Peng and President Xi, it was about 30 minutes. It took place in the sunroom if you -- in the Annenberg House. They discussed a number of things, including her career and her activities as First Lady of China.
Ben, do you want to take this one?
MR. RHODES: Yes. Jessica, first of all, I'd point you to the DNI facts on PRISM, which I think put out a lot of information, including the fact that the U.S. government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is a foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition of that information.
So in other words, even for foreign persons there has to be an additional step to identify a nexus to foreign intelligence collection to pursue additional information. For U.S. citizens and U.S. persons and people in the United States, they cannot be intentionally targeted by this program, so they are not a part of what the goal of this collection is. Furthermore, if any U.S. citizen were to become engaged in -- was engaged in activities that were of interest to the government, we would have to -- just as with the phone situation, we would have to go back and obtain a warrant to pursue further collection on the content of any U.S. individual's communications.
So there would have to be an additional layer beyond PRISM for the U.S. government to pursue, review information associated with a U.S. persons potential connection to, for instance, terrorism.
Q Can you comment on that volume of data, and, if possible, how that volume of data relates to non-U.S. persons?
MR. RHODES: I can't comment -- I mean, the NSA and the intelligence community are probably the people that could comment on the volume of this data. To be clear here, it's not as if there are people sitting there reading every piece of information that may be in the universe of collection that the U.S. government has. As we discussed with the phone program, there is a type of data that we call metadata that is more extensive but more anonymous type of collection.
I think the point that’s very important for Americans to understand is that for the U.S. government to decide to pursue an investigation of an American citizen or a U.S. person, there would have to be an additional step beyond these programs that have been described to get a warrant and to essentially pursue a lead if there's a suspected nexus to terrorism.
So just as the President said, we're not listening to anybody's phone calls. We're also not going out and seeking to read people's electronic communications. If we were able to detect a potential nexus to terrorism, we'd have to go back to a judge and pursue a warrant to try to investigate that lead, just as we would in any other intelligence or criminal procedure.
So as the fact sheet makes clear, these are broad programs that do not, again, target U.S. persons or people in the United States. And to go a step deeper, we'd have to go back and go through all the procedures of getting an additional warrant.
I think that the fact sheet also lays out, as we said with the information related to telephone data, that this is rigorously overseen by all three branches of government. So this is a FISA provision, so the court is involved in all of this activity. This is also overseen by Congress in their semi-annual reports, for instance, provided to Congress on these activities. And they're obviously part of the Patriot Act that has been reauthorized by Congress in 2009, 2011. And of course, the executive branch has built-in procedures for reviewing these programs through inspector generals and other mechanisms to make sure that there's not abuse and to make sure they were putting in place appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.
Q Follow up --
MR. RHODES: We'll get to you. But I want to -- let's go to Jackie here.
Q Hi. Just on two separate things real quick. Did you discuss at all the TransPacific Partnership, and did China indicate a willingness to join those discussions? And on the climate change -- it's quite a significant agreement that you released. You said before the meeting there would be no deliverables. Does this not qualify as a deliverable? Was it a surprise that this came together?
MR. DONILON: Thanks, Jackie. With respect to the second question -- I'll come back to the first in a minute -- it's not a surprise. We have been working on it. Earlier this year, Secretary Kerry set up a working group on climate to develop practical steps that we could take together to address climate change. And during the course of the meeting, by the way, more generally, the Presidents did discuss climate and, of course, agreed that we have a strong joint interest in addressing the climate issue -- a strong joint interest from a lot of perspectives, including sustainable economic growth.
As a result of the working group's efforts, there was ready today an example of practical cooperation. And it was, Jackie, just ready for the two Presidents to agree to today to work together to address the impact of the hydrofluorocarbons on climate change. The U.S. has been leading the effort to use a Montreal Protocol process to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. More than 100 countries support the effort, and today, importantly, China agreed to work with the U.S. on this initiative. HFCs, as you know, are a potent source of greenhouse gases. I think we passed out a detailed fact sheet with respect to this agreement.
But again, I think -- I'd just underscore, it's the sort of practical cooperation we're working on to see more of in the climate change area and in other areas of our relationship. So the bottom line there is that we had the working group set up. The work had been done. It was ready to be agreed to, and we didn’t see any need -- any reasons that the Presidents across the table just shouldn’t agree to it today and put it out formally, with respect to our joint work now at the Montreal and the Montreal process.
Second question, the other question you asked was about TPP. A couple of points on that. As you know, the TransPacific Partnership is one of the major initiatives that the administration has underway. It's really the principal thrust of our economic work and our rebalancing effort in Asia. We hope to try to complete the TPP by later this year, and maybe as early as October. And as I said, it's been a very important project for us.
It was discussed a bit today, with President Xi indicating that China was interested in having information on the process as it went forward and being briefed on the process and maybe setting up a more formal mechanism for the Chinese to get information on the process and the progress that we're making with respect to the TPP negotiation. Of course, we've agreed to do that. Essentially, it was a request for some transparency with respect to the effort. And again, we expect to complete that effort this year.
That, of course, is one of the major trade initiatives that we have underway, and another one will be discussed when we go to Northern Ireland at the G8 later this month, which is the trade and investment we seek to negotiate and complete with the Europeans, which are, I think, two of the major economic interests in the world right now.
Q So at this point, China will just be kept informed? It's not --
MR. DONILON: At this point -- that was their request, yes. Just to be direct --
Q Diplomacy and --
MR. DONILON: Well, at this point -- as I said, we have been working very hard on this. We are substantially along the path with respect to this agreement. We hope to complete it this year. And President Xi's point today was that the Chinese would like to be kept informed and have some transparency into the process. And I've given you everything that was said on it. Thanks, Jackie.
Q Thank you. Was there anything President Obama told Mr. Xi about the tension between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands?
MR. DONILON: They discussed the Senkaku Island issue at some length last night at the dinner. The United States' view on this, as you know, is we don’t take a position, ultimately, on the sovereignty issue. But the President's points last night were along these lines -- that the parties should seek to de-escalate, not escalate; and the parties should seek to have conversations about this through diplomatic channels and not through actions out of the East China Sea. That’s essentially the conversation that took place last night.
Q I wanted to talk you specifically about Sunnylands. Why did you choose the Annenberg Estate? And did the Presidents have a chance to golf, go fishing? Does the President have plans to use the golf course? And were you guys a little bit disappointed that President Xi did not stay at the estate?
MR. DONILON: Well, thank you for the question. Number one, we came to the facility here because we were familiar with it as an available conference center for presidential meetings and secretary of state meetings. So we had had a file on Sunnylands, if you would, as a possible summit place, number one.
Number two, as I said earlier, we were seeking to have an early meeting between President Obama and President Xi. President Xi was traveling to Latin America, President Obama was going to be on the West Coast in the month of June, and we lighted on the idea that one way to do this in a relaxed setting would be to -- and to do it early -- would be to have it in California -- again, connected with President Xi's visit to Mexico and Central America, and to President Obama's planned visits out here to Northern California and Los Angeles. So it fit together.
And as you know, it's a facility which is intentionally and precisely designed for exactly these kinds of meetings. And it was a terrific facility for us to use today. I don’t know -- President Obama was staying here and the Chinese delegation stayed at its hotel. That’s the normal -- that would be the normal approach that -- it would be unusual for them to stay in the same place.
Q What about the golf?
MR. DONILON: I don’t know about golf.
MR. RHODES: We'll keep you updated on golf. (Laughter.)
Q It's a big deal out here.
MR. DONILON: I do a lot of things in my current position, and one of them is not golf. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. Donilon, what type of outreach is the administration going to do with other Asian allies, specifically about this meeting, in order to reassure them in a situation where the U.S. and China are getting much closer that it's not at the cost of the other allies being edged out? And then, secondly, on the timing of your announced departure, it seemed a little odd that it came just days before this summit. Could you maybe explain the context of that timing, and why it was before and not after?
MR. DONILON: Okay. Number one, with -- it's an excellent question on the allies and partners in the region. We have been in touch with allies and partners in the region prior to this meeting to go through with them what we expected to be the issues and our approach. I personally talked to senior officials in most of the allied governments prior to the session. We certainly will be in direct touch with them after the session. I think I actually have meetings with representatives on Tuesday to go through a complete debrief, and I expect that the President will be in touch with his counterparts of the key allies to go through this.
Again, this is part of our rebalancing effort here. And our rebalancing effort to Asia is a comprehensive effort to correct what we saw as an imbalance in our efforts globally, to invest more in Asia because we see our future linked to Asia increasingly as we go into the 21st century.
And as I said earlier, that rebalancing effort has many elements to it. It includes, first and foremost, reinvigoration of our alliances, and I think we’ve been quite successful on that, frankly, from the time we’ve come into office. It includes engaging and deepening our relationship with emerging powers such as India and Indonesia, and we’ve been quite active on that. It involves our working on, if you will, the security and political architecture in Asia, and we have been working very hard on that -- including, by the way, the President’s decision to participate at the summit level in the East Asia Summit and our determination to make that institution be the premiere diplomatic and security institution in Asia. And I think that’s made a big difference.
It includes our efforts, as I was just discussing with Jackie, on the economic side where we’re trying to build out the economic architecture and come up with win-win approaches here, and the TPP is our principal effort right now with respect to economics. And it includes building a productive and constructive relationship with China.
Our partners and allies in the region expect us to meet our obligations to them. They expect the United States to continue to undertake the security efforts, forming a platform, if you will, which has been the basis on which the economic and social development of Asia has been built, and continue to provide all that. But they also expect us to engage in a productive and constructive relationship with China. And we have those dual expectations, and as a principal power in Asia, we go about meeting those expectations.
With respect to my plans, my conversation with the President with respect to my retiring from this current job began really at the end of last year. The President asked me to stay on through the middle of this year. We had a number of projects that we had underway, including a trip that we’ve taken, including to the Middle East and other places; a number of the economic initiatives that I’ve talked about here; and working on the China relationship, which we have done.
I wanted to have a -- those of you who know me, it’s not going to surprise you -- I wanted to have a structured and timely transition. I wanted to have enough time for Ambassador Rice to work with me day in and day out as she begins her tenure as National Security Advisor on July 1, right at the middle of the year. And this was the timing that worked for that, frankly. This has been carefully considered. It has been the subject of multiple conversations between me and the President and me and Ambassador Rice, and it was the right time.
Now, why before the meetings today? I thought it was important, frankly, to be as transparent with my Chinese counterparts as possible. I have been, as you know, the principal White House person dealing with the senior Chinese leadership since we’ve come into office. I have spent tens and tens of hours with the senior leadership in China over the last four and a half years. And frankly, I would not have been comfortable coming to a summit with individuals with whom I’ve been working on some of the most sensitive issues in the world and not be totally upfront with them about what my plans were going to be.
Q Thank you. President Obama mentioned that the U.S. and China should have a healthy competition. So could you elaborate on what a healthy competition will be like, what areas those competition will come from, and what we will expect from the U.S. to work with China to build that healthy competition? Thank you.
MR. DONILON: Yes. To build a healthy competition you would expect between any two large countries -- so within that context, it’s the kind of healthy competition that you would expect between any two large countries in all manner of areas, including in the economic area. And so it was I think a pretty straightforward observation about the relationship.
Now, what, though, we have also been talking about here is the importance of not having the relationship deteriorate unnecessarily into strategic rivalry, if you will. And again, this is really what’s at the root of this new model of great power relations that President Xi and President Obama have talked about, that President Clinton -- that Secretary Clinton also talked about in a very important speech she gave last year at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
What is the root of this? Why have we come on to this? And it’s rooted in the conversation that you and I are having. It’s rooted in the observation and the view by many people, particularly in the international relations field and some people in the United States and some people in China, that a rising power and an existing power are in some manner destined for conflict; that in fact this just an inexorable dynamic between an arising power and an existing power.
We reject that, and the Chinese government rejects that. And the building out of the so-called new relationships, new model of relation between great powers is the effort to ensure that doesn’t happen; is an effort to ensure that we don’t succumb to the idea that somehow relations between countries are some immutable law of physics -- that, in fact, this is about leadership, it’s about conscious decisions and it’s about doing what’s best for your respective people.
MR. RHODES: Okay, we'll take a couple more. I'll go to The Guardian here.
Q Thanks for taking the question. I had a broad national security policy question which I’d like to address to the National Security Advisor if possible because it’s not specifically about FISA. Yesterday, the President said that the American people shouldn’t be alarmed at what they’ve learned this week about surveillance because there was sufficient oversight from both Congress and the judiciary. What would you say to those who say that you have been invoking special privilege on numerous occasions to stop appeals reaching court? And in the case of congressional oversight, very recently Congress was told that you didn’t count how many times U.S. data was accessed, whereas today, through the informant data mining tool that we’ve written about today, we find out you count every last IP number -- IP address. So how can you reassure the American people that that congressional and judicial oversight is working in the way the President says it is?
MR. DONILON: Well, that’s a specific question you asked and I’ll turn that over to Ben. But I think I can say this, though, is that these programs are very important to the United States and its ability to protect itself, number one. Number two, as the President said yesterday, these programs are subject to oversight not just in the executive branch, which has very careful procedures and processes to ensure particularly that the privacy and civil liberties of Americans are protected, but also subject to very careful oversight by a court, an independent branch of government of the United States, and through careful and persistent briefing and oversight by the Congress. And that’s I think a very important aspect of this entire discussion, as the President laid out yesterday.
MR. RHODES: On the specifics, you had a couple of questions there. First of all, I think as NSA provided in a statement to The Guardian, they do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication that they’re collecting. So it’s not as if they have an ability to answer specifically the question of what are the identities and numbers of the individuals associated with collection.
What they do do is apply a range of tools, both automated and manual, to review and characterize communications and to ensure the protections of the American people. So essentially what that means is there are safeguards built into the way in which they collect and review data to ensure that privacy rights are respected. And as I said, any additional investigation associated with anybody would require additional authorities being granted by a judge.
With respect to the Congress, on the Section 702 program that was declassified today, this was reauthorized by Congress in December 2012, and it has a reporting requirement to Congress. So the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General have to provide semiannual reports that assess compliance with the targeting procedures as well as the minimization procedures associated with targeting. And there are additional briefings that are made to both the Intelligence and the Judiciary Committees in Congress associated with this particular program.
I would also note for people, and we’ve made this available, that with respect to the other provisions associated with telephone data under FISA, we I think made available to people that there had been numerous -- I think 13 -- briefings that we identified that have been given over the recent -- in the recent past on that provision of FISA -- and also the relevant intelligence oversight committee is the Intelligence Committee. And I think you’ve seen a letter from Senators Feinstein and Chambliss from last February -- or February of 2011 that offered to provide briefings to other members of Congress who had additional questions about this particular program authorized by FISA.
So the point is people have asked about what is the President’s view generally. And I’ve been with the President since early 2007, and he expressed concerns about some of the lack of oversight and safeguards associated with programs in the past -- for instance, when you had warrantless wiretapping that did not have that full oversight of a judge. What he’s done as President is say which programs are necessary, which capabilities are necessary to protect the American people, and which aren’t.
So for instance, the enhanced interrogation technique program that we felt amounted to torture we did not feel was appropriate with our values or necessary for our national security, so we ended that program. With respect to some of these other programs that have been in the news recently, the principle that he brings to bear is how do we ensure that there are appropriate checks and balances and oversight built into everything that we do. So, for instance, how do we make sure that all three branches of government have eyes on these programs?
They are necessarily secret. We have an intelligence community for a reason. We have a threat from terrorism that we have to combat. We have an enemy that deliberately tries to work around our methods of intelligence collection. So we can’t simply broadcast to our terrorist enemy, here’s how we collect intelligence on you. That’s why, given the fact that it’s secret, you need to bring in the courts and you need to bring in Congress.
So everything that has been done and reported on in the last several days involves programs that have congressional oversight -- and regularized congressional oversight -- from the relevant committees. Also, through the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, in other briefings -- there’s opportunities for other members to be briefed on these programs. So the elected representatives of the American people do have eyes on these programs.
With respect to the courts, it’s a FISA program. So by definition there is a judge who must sign off on these activities. And as I said, there must be additional signoff if there is going to be efforts to pursue an investigation. And we build in checks within the executive branch. So we’ve established, under our administration, very regularized inspector general reports of everything that we’re doing.
So within the context of necessarily secret programs, we make sure that there are layers of oversight from all three branches of government. And that’s something that the President believes is necessary to ensure that their privacy and civil liberties concerns are taken into account, to ensure that we’re reviewing whether these programs are effective and necessary given the nature of the threat that we’re facing. And that’s the principle that he’ll continue to bring to bear.
And the debate that’s been sparked by these revelations, as he said, while we do not think that the revelation of secret programs is in the national security interest of the United States, the broader debate about privacy and civil liberties, he lifted up himself in his speech at NDU the other day, when he went out of his way to identify this as one of the tradeoffs that we have to wrestle with, given the fact that if we did everything necessary for our security, we would sacrifice too much privacy and civil liberties, but if we did everything necessary to have 100 percent privacy and civil liberties protections, we wouldn’t be taking common-sense steps to protect the American people.
So we’ll have that debate. We welcome congressional interest in these issues. We welcome the interest of the Americans people and of course the media in these issues. But we feel confident that we have done what we need to do to strike this balance between privacy and security by building in these rigorous oversight mechanisms.
Q With regard to North Korea, did they discuss about the resuming Six-Party talks or about strengthening the sanctions against North Korea? And my second question is did they discuss about the repatriation of North Korean defectors? Thank you very much.
MR. DONILON: Yes. With respect to North Korea, there was a discussion about the importance of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolutions and increase -- and continuing that pressure on North Korea so that the choice is very clear to North Korea.
On the Six-Party talks, it was a discussion about the importance of any talks going forward being authentic and credible, that is, talks that would actually lead to a sensible result. And we really haven’t seen from the North Koreans at this point that kind of commitment on the substance of potential talks, I think, at this point to move forward.
And I didn’t -- on the --
Q North Korea defectors.
MR. DONILON: That was not discussed.
MR. RHODES: The last question will go to Kristin.
Q Thank you.
MR. DONILON: Hey.
Q Hi, Tom. How far in advance did you realize that the Chinese First Lady would be coming to this summit, and did you think about including Mrs. Obama in the events at all?
MR. DONILON: I don’t know the exact timeline, but my understanding is that when we scheduled the meetings here, that there was a discussion about Madam Peng coming and that it was indicated at that point that Mrs. Obama’s schedule would not permit her to come on these dates here. And the dates, of course, are driven by a number of other factors -- President Xi’s travel schedule, President Obama’s travel schedule. And so that was understood well in advance of the meetings.
MR. RHODES: Okay, thanks, everybody.
MR. DONILON: I just want to say thank you. They were really thoughtful questions. It’s obviously an enormously important relationship and an enormously important moment for this relationship and the thoughtful questions really are appreciated. And I’ll see you in Northern Ireland and in Germany.
Okay, thanks, everybody. Thank you.
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