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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy NSA Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Deputy NSA for Int'l Economic Affairs Mike Froman, and NSC Senior Director Daniel Russel

November 12, 2011


THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Office of the Press Secretary

_________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release November 12, 2011

PRESS BRIEFING

BY PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY,

DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS BEN RHODES,

DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC AFFAIRS MIKE FROMAN,

AND NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SENIOR DIRECTOR DANIEL RUSSEL

Moana Surfrider Hotel

Honolulu, Hawaii


6:12 P.M. HAST

MR. CARNEY: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. Thank you for you patience. I have with me this evening an abundance of policy expertise and intellectual firepower.

On my left, I have -- far left -- Deputy National Security Advisor to the President for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman; my near left, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; and on my right, Danny Russel, the Senior Director at the National Security Council for Asia.

Between us we will try to answer your questions about today’s events and then take -- well, we’ll do a brief readout of some of the bilats and then we’ll take your questions on today’s events.

Ben, did you want to start with Russia?

MR. RHODES: Why don’t you go ahead and do Russia?

MR. CARNEY: Okay. On Russia, the President had an excellent bilateral meeting with President Medvedev that was a full bilat and then ended with a one-on-one for about 15 or 20 minutes. They discussed a range of issues, including they agreed on the need to remain unified with regards to Iran in the wake of the IAEA report, and to continue to consult on next steps on Iran. Russia reaffirmed its agreement that Iran needs to uphold its international obligations, to live up to those international obligations.

The President of the United States, President Obama, congratulated President Medvedev, as you heard him say, on the invitation for Russia to join the WTO. And they discussed -- the two Presidents discussed deepening their bilateral, economic relations and ties.

The President, as you heard also, raised Jackson-Vanik and the need to work with Congress -- his commitment to work with Congress to repeal Jackson-Vanik, now that Russia has been invited to join the WTO.

And then they also discussed -- President Medvedev and President Obama discussed and President Medvedev made the point that in the period of transition upcoming in Russia, that the commitment to the reset of relations between the United States and Russia will continue.

And I can take -- we can take any questions on that bilat. And that I’ll turn it over to -- who wants to do --

MR. RHODES: On the China bilat, the focus was overwhelmingly on the economic agenda here at APEC. In addition, they were able to touch on a number of security issues on Iran. The President reinforced the need, again, to take very seriously the concerns in the IAEA report, and they agreed to stay in close contact on that going forward.

On North Korea, the President reinforced a need for the North Koreans to demonstrate a commitment to live up their obligations, to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the context of the effort to get back into Six-Party talks.

And looking ahead to the East Asia Summit, they addressed a range of issues, including maritime security. And the President made the point about the shared interest the United States and China have in terms of making sure that there are clear rules of road, as it applies to maritime security.

But, again, they also agreed to continue their discussions, because the meeting went so long, going forward tomorrow, so they’ll have some additional opportunity to consult on the margins of APEC. But the overwhelming majority of the discussion was on economic issues, so Mike can read that out.

MR. FROMAN: Thanks, Ben. Building on the decisions and commitments made at the G20 last weekend, where China agreed that it was determined to have greater flexibility in exchange rates and agreed to stimulate more domestic demand, the President raised those issues as critical to dealing with the current economic issues, pressed on both the currency issue and on rebalancing and domestic demand.

He also raised the broader economic issue around intellectual property rights protection, indigenous innovation, the role of state-owned enterprises, the role of subsidies; and very much underscored the importance we put on creating a level playing field for our American firms and business, workers, and farmers to compete with China in the global marketplace.

He made it very clear that the American people and the American business community were growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of change in the China economic policy and the evolution of the U.S.-China economic relationship, and pointed out the critical importance of working together to try and resolve outstanding issues and to make progress on these longstanding concerns in the economic relationship.

This is obviously part of a broader effort that started this morning with TPP, where the President talked about establishing international norms that would be good for the United States, good for Asia, good for the international trading system -- good for any country in dealing with issues like innovation and the discipline of state-owned enterprises, creating a competitive and level playing field. And it’s part of what he’ll do tomorrow at the APEC leaders meeting in talking about innovation principles as a new 21st century trade issue, in talking about regulatory coherence and good regulatory practices and how that could eliminate barriers to trade, and in talking about how to reduce barriers to exports in environmental goods and services, as well as, more generally, increasing trade and investment across the region, and reducing transaction costs and other friction.

So this was very much central to the China discussion today, and the importance of addressing these issues as part of growing our economy, growing exports, and creating jobs in the U.S.

MR. CARNEY: Dan, if you want me to just touch on Japan real quick.

MR. RUSSEL: Sure. The President had a very productive, very constructive and substantive 40-plus meeting today with Prime Minister Noda. The two leaders reviewed a range of outstanding issues, including areas of cooperation upcoming in connection with the East Asia Summit, where they agreed to further bilateral and multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation, on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and also on maritime security.

Mike Froman alluded to TPP, and I think you all have seen from the readout that the President welcomed the important announcement that Prime Minister Noda made about his intent to work on eliminating the barriers to trade and deepening our economic relationship. They also discussed some other pending economic as well as political issues and security issues between us, including next steps with regard to moving forward on relocation of Futenma and some bilateral alliance and interoperability measures.

I would say just one word also on China. I think that this was a conversation with President Hu that fits into the continuum of the intense work that President Obama and senior U.S. officials have made -- have undertaken to ensure that we are dealing directly with the Chinese on not only the areas of cooperation, which as the President said, the region expects from us, but also on the areas of difference. And the President, again, as he always does, made very clear his expectation, high expectations for the Chinese that there will be concrete and visible results from the constructive partnership that the two leaders have worked hard to develop.

MR. CARNEY: With that, why don't we take some questions. Jake Tapper. Oh, sorry, Ben, I didn’t see you. But we'll just mix it up. Jake.

Q I'll defer to my --

MR. CARNEY: Okay. Tradition, constancy.

Q Don't screw it up.

Q Thank you. A question for you, Jay, or Ben. On Iran. So the President said when he was with President Medvedev that they both "reaffirmed our intention to shape a common response." And I guess I'm still trying to figure out what that means, whether he got anywhere with either Russia or China, anything new to support this theme of common response in the wake of the IAEA report.

MR. RHODES: I'd say a number of things, Ben. First of all, the international unity that has been expressed through the P5-plus-1 has been the foundation of all the pressure we've been able to apply on Iran in the last two years, including the sanctions in U.N. Security Council 1929 that we've been building out from, both on our own and with other nations.

Now that the IAEA report is out, we believe -- and we were very clear with both Russia and China -- that the report raises serious concerns that need to be addressed; that Iran has not sufficiently answered the questions raised by the report; and that, again, the report makes it clear that Iran is not meeting its international obligations. So, therefore, particularly in the discussion with President Medvedev, the two leaders agreed that they needed to consult about what the next steps were within the context of the P5-plus-1 about how to make it clear to Iran that this is unacceptable.

There will be consultations going forward. There will be a Board of Governors meeting of the IAEA in Vienna, so that's the next venue where this will be discussed in a multilateral basis. And it's obviously an appropriate venue given the fact that it's an IAEA report that we're responding to.

So, again, I think what the leaders underscored is a need to preserve that unity and to be consulting closely about how to respond to the very serious allegations against Iran in the report. And I think the next -- again, the next phase of this will play out at the Board of Governors meeting in Vienna.

Q And how did President Hu respond?

MR. RHODES: Again, President Hu said that from the beginning he reaffirmed that it was important -- and again, without necessarily characterizing at length his position, I think what's clear is that he's committed to pursuing a diplomatic process that opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons and that in that context it's important to address Iran's obligations with respect to its nuclear program.

They did not have an extensive discussion but they did agree that it was important to continue the process that's been established through the P5-plus-1, again, to work closely as it relates to holding Iran accountable for its failure to live up to its obligations. So I think we'll have continued consultation with the Chinese out of the meeting as well.

Q Can I ask a follow-up? The Russians have indicated that they don't believe necessarily in the credibility of the IAEA report. So did the President at least discuss that with Medvedev about whether or not the IAEA report is to be believed?

MR. RHODES: Absolutely, the IAEA report is, again, the finding of a very credible international organization. This is not simply the judgment of the United States or any one country. This is the finding of the preeminent international organization that deals with these issues. Therefore it's essential that the international community take those findings very seriously.

And I think, again, what the two leaders discussed was the need for the United States and Russia to continue to work together to address this issue and to review the report very carefully, to do so, again, with one another and in the broader context of our other P5-plus-1 partners and the IAEA Board of Governors. So I think there will be a continued review of information contained within the report.

Some of the concerns that you pointed to came out almost -- in the days before the report came out. I think we've had time to digest it, we've had time to review it carefully. And we'll have time to go over it further with the Russians and other countries. And I think the important point, as the President underscored, is to continue to forge a common response so it's clear to the Iranians that they can't flout their international obligations.

Now, there's a foundation for sanctions that exist because of the U.N. Security Council resolution that we'll continue to build up from. And as that's taken place the United States has moved very far with other like-minded nations. The Russians have taken significant steps, unprecedented steps, in terms of their own sanctions, in terms of even canceling some arms contracts. But the U.S. is building out from that with European and Asian partners as well. So there's space for us, again, to significantly dial up pressure as it relates to sanctions.

At the same time, it's important that Iran is isolated diplomatically and politically when it's outside of its international obligations. And that we believe has a very important impact on the Iranian government and on its position in the international community.

So, again, I think that, as we have been able to do over the last nearly three years, we'll be working constructively with the Russians on this going forward even as we're also working with other like-minded partners to develop new ways to apply pressure on the Iranians.

Q Ben, can I follow up? There's a report today that Putin had dinner with a group of reporters and told them that if the U.S. persists in its intent to deploy missile systems in his part of the world he will feel that it's important to respond in kind. Was this discussed today at all? You'll be dealing with him soon.

MR. RHODES: Yes, missile -- Jay, you might want to add to this, too -- but I'd say that missile defense has been an ongoing topic of cooperation with the Russians. And as you heard President Medvedev allude to, as Jay alluded to, it was a subject today.

We remain apart on the issue of missile defense in the sense that the United States has committed to deploying a missile defense system in Europe -- the phase adaptive approach -- which I'd add, for the first time is a missile defense system that protects all of Europe and the United States from the threat of ballistic missiles. Now, we've made clear to the Russians that this is based not against Russia, but against the threat of ballistic missiles from states that are outside of international norms. At the same time, we decided to pursue with the Russians a dialogue about missile defense.

But, again, we have our interests that we're very clear with the Russians about, which is that we believe there's a national security interest for the United States and our NATO allies to pursue this missile defense system.

So that's not a new development. That's been the longstanding position of our administration. We're going to continue to move forward with that. As we do, we'll continue to communicate with the Russians about how we can extend our cooperation on missile defense and how we can bridge those differences, making clear that we have, again, a commitment to the security of the American people and the security of our NATO allies.

MR. CARNEY: I would just say, Bill, that there was a direct discussion of the need to continue to work together, to consult and cooperate on this issue despite the differences that do exist. So there was an expressed commitment by the leaders not to let this -- the disagreements that do exist on this to impede further progress on the issue.

Q Yes, but the leader you'll be dealing with after next March even feels more strongly about this.

MR. CARNEY: Well, understand also, as I mentioned in the readout, that President Medvedev and President Obama discussed -- and President Medvedev made the point that the transition that he perceives happening in his country will continue the kind of progress that's been made under the reset in U.S.-Russian relations. And we obviously welcome that.

Q Back to Iran. Is it fair to say that both the Russians and the Chinese are just not showing the same sense of urgency that they showed -- actually two years ago when we'd have these briefings after violence, it was pretty clear that the Russians and Chinese were delicately coming to the U.S.'s side on this. You don't seem to be anywhere near that as far as the reaction to this IAEA report.

MR. RHODES: Well, I would dispute that characterization, Chuck, because it's taken at every juncture very painstaking diplomatic work with the Russians and Chinese. So the process of getting U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, you'll remember took a number of meetings with both the Russians and the Chinese; took a lot of diplomatic legwork. So these things, again, they take time and consultation because the issues are so important, because there has to be a careful review of the type of information that's embedded in the IAEA report, and because there are many different ways to formulate a response.

And we are currently working on a number of tracks ourselves in that we have a diplomatic track to forge, as the President said, a common response from the international community. We also have a pressure track where we can prepare our own pressure mechanisms with like-minded nations in terms of sanctions, which we're also doing at the same time.

So I think at every juncture of the Iran issue, we have taken -- we've done the hard work, again, at maintaining this international unity and then building out as much pressure as can possibly be applied on the Iranian government. And if it wasn’t for what we have done you wouldn't see the kind of pressure that exists on Iran today, with their own President saying that they've never had this type of sanctions applied, with their economy being grounded to a halt, in large part because of these sanctions; with their internal political leadership divided.

So, again, it's worth the ongoing effort at maintaining that strong international front against the Iranian government's failure to live up to their obligations, and it's also worth the time to prepare the mechanisms that we can apply with like-minded states to sanction and pressure Iran.

Q Did you get out of them that if you can prove the IAEA report true to them, that then they would then be supportive on increased sanctions?

MR. RHODES: Yes, they have absolutely made it clear, and did in the meetings today -- both Russia and China -- that they do not want to see the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran or, frankly, to any new state. And therefore, they remain committed to diplomatic efforts to compel Iran to live up to its obligations.

Q If this report is true, you do get that they -- if they believe this report is true, then that they would be with you on sanctions?

MR. RHODES: Well, they’re already with us on sanctions. I mean, again, first of all, there wouldn’t be any -- there would not be the multilateral framework for the sanctions that we’re applying if it weren’t for Russian and Chinese cooperation. So their ongoing -- again, not just 1929 itself, but their ongoing support for sanctions regime is what allows us to apply to pressure on the Iranians that we do.

And, again, I think that the information within the IAEA reports tells a factual story of a government that’s not meeting its obligations. And in that context, it’s necessary for the international community to respond. I think the Russians and the Chinese understand that. And we’re going to be working with them to formulate that response.

MR. CARNEY: I would just say in both bilats, in the discussion of this issue, there was no disagreement about, as Ben said, the need for Iran to live up to its international obligations or any discussion about disagreements about the report. The focus was on working together cooperatively, moving forward on the next steps.

MR. RHODES: Yes, that’s actually a good point. There was no disagreement in their discussions today. And in fact, in previous meetings there have been different junctures, times where we had to bridge disagreements. Today was very much an agreement that this report is an important new data point that we need to focus on and work together to maintain international unity.

So, again, I think Jay underscores a good point, which is that there wasn’t disagreement in either bilateral meeting.

Q Can I just ask -- there’s another big development with Berlusconi stepping down, expected of course. But what kind of -- we haven’t gotten any reaction yet from the administration on that. And can you put it in a larger context of where we are in the European debt crisis in picking up the pieces? It’s obviously a big day. So what are you thinking?

MR. RHODES: Mike will want to comment. I’ll just say one thing by way of introduction to this. The President was able to discuss at the G20 the importance of Italy taking steps to provide confidence going forward that it could deal with its challenges. He also spoke the other day to President Napolitano of Italy. And one of the principal subjects of that conversation was the effort that President Napolitano was undertaking to help forge the type of Italian response and the type of Italian government that could project the confidence necessary to deal with the challenges in Italy and the eurozone.

And President Obama very much welcomed and supported President Napolitano’s efforts at that time. As you heard him say today, he feels that this is an important opportunity for Italy to, again, meet those challenges.

But Mike, you may want to add something.

MR. FROMAN: I would just add that, clearly, the President is monitoring the situation very closely. He has been in touch, as Ben said, with President Napolitano, also with Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy late last week, on developments in Europe. And he continues to be confident that they have -- that they sense the urgency and have the capability to move forward with what needs to be done to manage the crisis.

MR. CARNEY: Did you have one?

Q Yes, I did. Mike, I was wondering if you can elaborate on the President’s message to President Hu about the impatience and frustration of American businesses and the American public with the pace of change in the relationship. It sounds to me as though the President was more pointed to his remarks to President Hu about the currency and these economic issues, like the intellectual property rights. Is that a fair characterization? And is it the President’s sense that this frustration has grown recently?

MR. FROMAN: Well, the President and his administration -- Secretary Geithner, Ambassador Kirk, or others, Secretary Clinton -- have consistently over the last three years been pressing on the issues with China like currency, IPR, indigenous innovation, SOEs, et cetera. So this is part of an ongoing discussion. I think they’ve had 10 meetings now. It is a subject at every one of those meetings. It’s at the centerpiece of the strategic and economic dialogue. It’s at the centerpiece of the JCCT. So this something that is a constant issue that the administration presses with China.

I think today the President was making the observation that while traditionally, the American business community, for example, has been the strongest proponents of the U.S.-China relationship, that over the last couple of years there has been more and more concern and frustration on the part of parts of the American business community about their treatment in China and their desire for China to take further action. And that, plus increasing frustration in the American public more generally, I think created a context for conveying to the Chinese leadership the importance of getting these issues addressed sooner than later.

Q Do you think that message was taken on board?

MR. FROMAN: I think President Hu and his delegation heard the message and understood the implications of it. And we’ll see as they work together -- as we work with them in the weeks and months ahead to try and address those issues.

MR. RHODES: And I'd just to say one thing. I think it’s also important to note, Karen, that even as we’re raising these issues on a bilateral basis with the Chinese, it’s precisely these types of issues that we’re addressing through the APEC agenda and through the TPP, where we’re able to work with countries that embrace standards on innovation policy, on IPR, to have high-quality trade relationships going forward.

So, again, even as we raise these issues in the bilateral meeting, we’re also working with other nations who are with us on these issues to forge a trade agreement to the TPP that will be a win-win outcome for the United States and the other nations involved -- and through the APEC agenda and the G20 as well so that we’re raising the standards of the ways that countries interact on these issues.

Q A question for Danny Russel. Could you expand on the Futenma discussions? Was the President -- what kind of message was he sending to Prime Minister Noda --

MR. RUSSEL: I would describe this as Prime Minister Noda following up on the conversation that the two leaders had in September in New York, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, and reporting out the work that his government has done in moving forward on the path towards implementing the Futenma relocation program. We know how difficult it is. And the steps that the Prime Minister described, while modest, are specific and reflect a commitment on his part to ensure that the U.S.-Japan security relationship remains in good health -- because as both leaders said, it is an essential cornerstone to the stability and the security of the Asia Pacific region.

Q So taking specific -- specific next steps?

MR. RUSSEL: The Prime Minister gave a general update about what is currently underway, but I don’t think that reading it out in that level of precision is consistent with conventional diplomatic protocol.

MR. CARNEY: Jackie, then Margaret.

Q When you say the President conveyed this sense of the public’s and the business community’s frustration with China, did he also in that context convey just how much of an issue this has become in the Republican Party, with some people who want to take his job, especially considering the Republican Party used to be sort of a homogenous free trade partner --

MR. CARNEY: I’ll let Mike elaborate. But I think the President was very direct, and he did make he point that this is a problem that is more broad than it has been in the past -- views that are held more broadly across both the political spectrum and in the business community.

Q Would it -- and anything he said -- would have taken from that he was referring to the 2012 political environment in the U.S. --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to get too specific. But I think he was, in general, just very -- it was a very good exchange and the President, our President, President Obama, was very direct.

Margaret.

Q So, Mike, I think, or Ben, you said that President Hu understood the implications of this rising across-the-board frustration. And I wonder if you could spell out for us what he understands those implications to be. Also, you guys said that President Obama and President Hu will probably meet again tomorrow in the margins. Can you tell us anything more about why the meeting and what they'll be talking about? And did President Hu say anything about if he feels China’s future role in the TPP would be?

MR. CARNEY: Why don’t you guys take those.

MR. RHODES: I’ll say a couple of comments, and Mike may want to jump in. They did not discuss the TPP. As it relates to meeting tomorrow, I think they simply -- because the President had to host a dinner and President Hu had an additional meeting, and felt that they had additional conversations that they could have, not in a formal bilateral meeting, but on the margins tomorrow. So it was a matter of the President having to go host a dinner after a very long bilateral meeting.

All I’d say in the first instance is part of what -- part of what I’d say to answer your question is what we’re talking back here are international norms and standards. And so when you look at the concerns we raise on intellectual property, on innovation policy, on related matters, these are concerns that aren’t just the United States; many nations have similar concerns. And that’s why we addressed this through the G20 agenda. That’s why we addressed it in the TPP itself, which sets a very high standard for nations to come on board and be a part of that trade relationship. And we’re setting a high standard at the APEC agenda, through what we’re doing on innovation policy, regulatory conversions, and green growth.

So I think part of what the message is, is this is not simply a matter of the United States, again, raising these issues bilaterally. It’s the type of progress that’s being made on a multilateral basis here in the Asia Pacific region and in the international community, and the fact that there are standards and norms associated with being part of that progress.

Q Does the President believe that these issues with China and these disagreements can be resolved through negotiation? Or does he think that we may come to a point where legislation might be necessary to declare China a currency manipulator and take appropriate -- take steps to impose some sanctions against China?

MR. FROMAN: I think the President and his administration are pursuing all avenues to try and address these issues. As Ben said, it’s in every bilateral discussion, but it also plays a central role in these other fora, like the G20, APEC and the TPP. And the objective is to encourage a change of policy and a creation of a level playing field so that there can be broad support for the U.S.-China relationship.

Q It was a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate, as you know, on this matter. Did this come up at all in the bilat?

MR. FROMAN: No.

Q -- currency frustration?

MR. CARNEY: Go ahead. You should finish what you started. (Laughter.)

MR. FROMAN: No, the bill did not come in there. And I think the administration -- the President's view on the bill is well known, that we share the objectives of the legislation but obviously want to ensure that anything we do is going to be effective and consistent with our international obligations.

Q Part of the justification of giving China -- letting them in the WTO was that issues like intellectual property and copyright would be sorted out by that. Is there the feeling now that perhaps those hopes were unjustified?

MR. FROMAN: One of the values of having China in the WTO -- any country in the WTO -- is that it creates a set of rules and a set of disciplines and also a mechanism for resolving disputes. And so we have been very active in bringing cases in the WTO when we've identified policies and actions and practices that are clearly WTO-inconsistent, and we've been quite successful in that effort. And we will continue to bring cases as we see incidents that merit cases being brought.

So the WTO I think has been a very good forum for ensuring that behavior has a mechanism for being dealt with in the dispute-resolution process. It doesn't necessarily cover all disciplines, or all disciplines equally well, and that's why we need to continue to push in every instance, or as Ben says, help create international norms around some of these issues to ensure that there's a level playing field for our businesses.

MR. CARNEY: Mike.

Q Yes, question and a clarification. The clarification first. On the TPP, do we envision that at some point having China join that? Or is it seen more as a counterweight? And then I also want to just ask you, Jay, if the White House had any reaction to the GOP foreign policy debate today, particularly the pounding the President's Iran strategy took?

MR. CARNEY: I'll let Ben take that, and then do you want to clarify on TPP?

MR. FROMAN: On TPP, as the President said earlier today, we view it as a high-standard agreement that is dealing with new trade issues as well, so it goes beyond trade agreements that have existed in the past. And we view it as a platform for this region, where countries that are able to achieve that level of ambition and are willing to address the major trade issues that they may have with other partners, can aspire to join and begin consultations with other countries to join. And you saw Prime Minister Noda's announcement a day or so ago, about Japan's intention to begin consultations towards joining the TPP. So it is an open platform for those countries who can credibly achieve a level of openness and ambition that we expect of all TPP partners.

MR. RHODES: I'd just say, with respect to our Iran policy -- in the previous eight years before President Obama took office, you saw Iran go from having zero centrifuges spinning to thousands of centrifuges spinning. At the point in time when we took office, the international community was divided as it relates to Iran, and Iran was internally united. Today, we see the international community united in applying pressure on Iran, and we see unprecedented internal divisions within Iran's political system.

The strategy we have taken has, again, applied so much pressure that the Iranian economy has ground to a halt. Iran's own President acknowledges that these sanctions are having an extraordinary toll on their economy. They're more isolated in the region than they have been in some time, and in the international community than at, frankly, any point that we've seen in recent memory.

Their principal ally in the region -- Syria -- is under extraordinary pressure from not just the United States and our allies, but today the Arab League reduced their diplomatic relations with Syria and recalled their ambassadors.

So what we've put in place is a very robust strategy to pressure and isolate Iran, and impose very seriously costs and consequences on Iran for its failure to live up to its obligations.

Similarly, we have applied pressure as relates to human rights. We've been very vocal in support of the universal rights of the Iranian people. We've applied very strong sanctions on Iranian leaders who are associated with human rights abuses. We have a very robust military presence in the Persian Gulf. And for instance, some of the ideas that have been out there as relates to what we need to do with Iran are things that we are already doing -- whether it's applying sanctions, whether it's having a very robust military presence in the Persian Gulf region, or whether it's speaking out for and sanctioning the Iranian government on human rights violations.

So I think what you see from our administration is a very strong and coordinated strategy to apply as much pressure as we can on the Iranian government to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that runs across the board. And that's what we're here to continue focusing on, both in the meetings today and going forward.

Q Jay, just to be a little bit more specific about what was said in this debate tonight -- or today, Hawaii time. Both Romney and Gingrich said that they would be willing to go to war to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons if all else failed. Can one of you contrast that sort of view with how you see your policies playing out?

MR. RHODES: Well, look, we've consistently said that, as it relates to Iran, all options are on the table in terms of our interest in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. President Obama said that; we've always said that. And so that is very much the view of this administration.

I think what we're committed to doing is using all the measures that we can to apply pressure on Iran to increase the costs on the Iranian government for pursuing a nuclear program. And that's why we pursue the economic measures we are currently pursuing. That's why we pursue the political isolation that we're pursuing.

So, again, this administration has expressed a very firm commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And I think our strategy exemplifies how you build an international coalition to apply pressure on a country like Iran that is outside of its international obligations. And again, the United States does not take any option off the table in terms of how we're going to deal with that.

Q Would war be part of the vocabulary under that firm commitment heading?

MR. RHODES: Well, look, I think that what we want to do is we want to solve the challenge. And so, again, I don't think you solve a serious foreign policy challenge through rhetoric alone. I think you do it through action. And I think you've seen this President has never hesitated to take whatever action he felt was necessary to protect the United States, whether it's, on the one hand, finally killing Osama bin Laden and decimating al Qaeda; on the other hand, responsibly ending the war in Iraq after very many years. So I think we have a record of action that sends a clear message about this President's commitment to our national security.

Q A couple of things. Did the issue of timing of the TPP negotiations come up in the bilateral Prime Minister Noda today? And can you just kind of clarify how the U.S. see Japan's candidacy with TPP right now? If they make some maneuvers they could be on a parallel track. Could you just clarify for that?

MR. FROMAN: I think that the TPP partners agreed to this morning, was that they would continue to work to flesh out the details of the agreement and to work aggressively towards that objective, and at the same time and in parallel, launch consultations with countries like Japan, who have expressed interest in potentially joining TPP to see whether they are prepared to achieve a level of ambition consistent with TPP and address the outstanding trade issues. For example, the U.S. agriculture services and manufacturing sectors, including on tariff measures and the manufacturing sectors. So we expect those to go along parallel tracks, and we'll try to make progress on both sides.

Q Did it come up in the bilat?

MR. FROMAN: No, it did not come up.

MR. CARNEY: NPR.

Q Thank you. The President said this morning that although there will be tough fiscal decisions ahead, commitment to Asia has to remain a priority. Could you put some meat on those bones? Is he promising not to cut budgets of economic or security programs related to Asia? What exactly is he promising?

MR. RHODES: First of all -- I think I'd say two things. First of all, we have made it clear that we feel like we have been underweighted in Asia. We have not been focused on it sufficiently over the course of the last decade and so that, as we end the wars in Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan, we are redirecting a lot of our diplomatic attention to the Asia-Pacific. That will also allow us to redirect some of our political and security focus on Asia.

As relates to our specific military posture and defense posture, I think that's something we're going to be focusing on in the coming days. So I think the President will have an opportunity to speak to this specifically in his stop in Australia and at the East Asia Summit. And I think what he will be laying out is a way in which the United States is going to both keep its commitment as an anchor of security and stability in the Pacific, but also update the ways in which we are engaging in the region to deal with the realities of the 21st century.

So I think this will be an increasing focus of the President's over the course of the trip. And there will be opportunities for him to, again, speak with some specificity to this.

MR. CARNEY: Al Jazeera.

Q You said the Iranian economy has "ground to a halt," so why do you need Russia and China? What would additional sanctions do? And did the President detail exactly what kind of sanctions he wants to see?

MR. RHODES: No, we didn't -- again, we didn't get into that type of discussion -- because, again, we have the basis for the sanctions that are being applied on the Iranian government through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 and, again, that provides a multilateral framework for the sanctions that are in place. And then what we've been able to do is build out from those where nations will take their own steps. And we've done so in a coordinated basis with a lot of our EU partners, a lot of our Asian allies, some countries in the region.

So there is space from within the existing framework of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 to continue building out economic pressure on the Iranian government. I think that there are steps to be taken, too, as relates to political isolation, as relates to strong statements from the international community that Iran failing to live up to its obligations is unacceptable.

So there's a range of measures that we want to continue to pursue, but we believe that there's a strong basis already for us to continue to build out U.S. sanctions and to coordinate those sanctions with other like-minded partners. And again, we fully expect and have -- it has been the case that there have been nations in Europe and Asia that have, again, pushed that agenda very hard with us, and we'll continue to work with them to do so.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. RHODES: Yes, I think that there -- we believe that there's still space to apply pressure on the Iranian government in different sectors. And so without getting too specific, I think we're looking at different sectors involving Iran's -- both its economy and also the activities of its government and the IRGC, so that we are applying pressure in a way that imposes a serious cost on Iran and, again, is doing so in a way that is effectively coordinated among different nations.

Q Mr. Froman, you mentioned that more than a day ago, Prime Minister Noda had made the announcement of his intention of (inaudible) -- TPP. Why not invite them to the meeting this morning? Was there a feeling that it would slow the process down?

MR. FROMAN: The meeting this morning was among the nine existing TPP members, and it was directed towards agreeing on the broad outlines of the agreement, endorsing the reports from the ministers, and laying out and discussing next steps in terms of taking the negotiations forward and dealing with additional countries who might want to join. So that was the purpose of the meeting this morning.

The President obviously had a bilat later in the day with Prime Minister Noda, and it was discussed between them, and so there was a good interaction about Japan's intent and the Prime Minister's announcement.

Q What would be the next formal procedure for Japan to investigate in the possibility of joining?

MR. FROMAN: Well, the step that all TPP countries have gone through is a series of consultations with other TPP members, as well as through their own domestic processes. We will go through extensive consultations with our stakeholders, with Congress, as well as with the Japanese to go through the issues -- and I mentioned agriculture, services, manufacturing, including non-tariff measures, and to discuss the ambition level of the TPP and Japan's willingness to address trade liberalization in a sort of comprehensive way that would make them a good candidate for membership.

Q According to the White House readout on the U.S.-Japan bilateral meeting, the President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Noda's statement he would put all goods and services on the negotiation table. But according to the Japanese government, they said -- they insisted that the Prime Minister Noda never said that he puts all the goods and services on the table during the bilateral. So I am wondering -- and also, Japanese government may want the White House to correct the statement. So how would you respond to this? And I am wondering whether is Japanese government trying to hide something he really said, or the White House incorrect to what he said?

MR. FROMAN: Well, you'll have to ask the Japanese government, I think, some of those questions. I would stand by the statement that we issued earlier, that they discussed the comprehensiveness of TPP, the various issues that will have to be resolved between the two countries, and the consultation process that is the first step in that direction.

Q But they may want the White House to correct that statement. So --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I think Mike just said we stand by the statement -- that we haven't heard anything like that.

Thank you all very much. Thanks for being here. Hope you get out and enjoy the weather.

END 7:00 P.M. HAST