Saturday, February 24, 2024
State Department officials discuss Secretary's upcoming travel.

State Department officials discuss Secretary’s upcoming travel.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for this call to preview Secretary Blinken’s upcoming travel to Tonga, New Zealand, and Australia. Our State Department officials today are State Department Official One and State Department Official Two. This call is on background, and our briefers can be identified as State Department officials. The information shared in this call will be embargoed until the conclusion. I will now turn it over to State Department Official One for some opening remarks.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you, [Moderator]. I would like to start by expressing our deep sadness for the tragic shooting in Auckland today. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and the entire community. Secretary Blinken’s upcoming trip will begin in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, where he will dedicate the new U.S. embassy and engage in key discussions with our Tongan partners. He will then proceed to New Zealand to hold important discussions on shared priorities with senior government partners, as well as support the U.S. Women’s National Team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The last leg of his visit will be in Australia, where he will participate in the 33rd annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other Australian counterparts. The Pacific region is a top foreign policy priority for the United States, and our partnerships and alliances in the region are stronger than ever. This trip reaffirms our commitment to working with our Pacific Island neighbors and advancing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Secretary Blinken’s visit to Tonga is particularly significant as he is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit the country. This trip underscores our dedication to deepening our alliance with Australia and strengthening our ability to address regional and global challenges. I would also like to highlight the visits of other high-level U.S. officials to the Pacific this month, including Second Gentleman Emhoff, Secretary Austin, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Thank you for joining us today, and now I will turn it over to State Department Official Two.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you, [State Department Official One]. I would like to extend our condolences to the people of New Zealand for the tragic event in Auckland. I want to highlight the Secretary’s support for the U.S. Women’s National Team during his visit to Wellington. Sports, including soccer, play a significant role in American culture and can foster positive change worldwide. The Secretary will attend the U.S. Women’s National Team match against the Netherlands and express gratitude for their leadership on and off the field. Sports have the power to provide access to education, promote economic equity, and empower women and girls. The United States uses sports as a diplomatic tool and engages at various levels, from elite competitions like the Women’s World Cup to grassroots exchanges that create meaningful connections in communities globally. The Secretary’s visit to New Zealand will showcase the impact of sports diplomacy and the potential it holds for positive change. Thank you, and back to you, [Moderator].

MODERATOR: Thank you both for your opening comments. We will now proceed to the Q&A session. If you have a question, please press 1 then 0. Let’s start with David Brunnstrom from Reuters. David, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you for this opportunity. Regarding the upcoming summit that President Biden has called for September, will Secretary Blinken’s trip be focused on preparing for this summit, and has a specific date been set for it? Additionally, I noticed that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will be visiting Palau and Micronesia, but not the Marshall Islands. Is there a particular reason for this?

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you for your question, David. While the summit may be discussed during the AUSMIN discussions, it is important to note that AUSMIN is an annual high-level engagement between the United States and Australia. It was planned independently of the summit and serves as a platform to review accomplishments and explore future cooperation. While the summit will be part of the broader discussions, it is not the primary focus of this meeting. Regarding Secretary Haaland’s visit, she is leading a presidential delegation to attend the inauguration of the new president of the Federated States of Micronesia. As for the Marshall Islands, there may be different considerations and scheduling conflicts that determined the itinerary.

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