OPENING STATEMENT: Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Interim Strategic Security Dialogue

January 21, 2016, Diaoyutai Guest House , Beijing, China

Well, thank you very, very much, and it is very good to be here and to see you at the start of the year as well, and to see all of our colleagues.  It is, as you say, I think a very important moment, both to think through the year ahead, but also to deal with some immediate issues of common concern to both our countries.

At the full SSD [Strategic Security Dialogue] in June last year, we agreed to limit the scope of the interim SSD, so that both sides could engage in a more in-depth, candid, and frank discussion, focusing on the key issues that you outlined among the very broad range of sensitive, strategic security issues that we discuss in the full SSD meeting. But I notice that even with our effort to limit the agenda, it’s still quite broad [chuckles].  So, we’ll try to get through it.

I’m very pleased to be joined by my colleagues from the Department of Defense and the White House, and I’m glad to see once again very strong civilian and military participation across the table.  And it’s particularly good to have Ambassador Baucus and Embassy colleagues here.  They are really the ones day in, day out, who are engaged in strengthening and working our relationship, and Washington — the President, the Secretary — depends on them every single day.  So we’re grateful for the Ambassador’s participation.

I think the presence of senior civilian and military officials from both our countries demonstrates the importance we attach to the SSD, and the potential the SSD has for building deeper mutual understanding and strategic trust.  Our relationship is important to both sides, to our neighbors, our partners — indeed, I would argue, to the entire world.  Following the commitment made by our two presidents, we continue to seek ways to increase our cooperation, and also to constructively manage our differences within what is a broad and complex bilateral relationship.

To that end, we must find ways to build and sustain momentum in our strategic discussions, and in that spirit, I would like to challenge both of us — both sides — to think about how we can derive concrete outcomes on these topics.  While mutual understanding and strategic trust are critical to managing our differences and areas of competition, we also need visible actions that demonstrate to our people and the world that we’re actually making progress in these discussions.  We’ve been able to accomplish this in our military-to-military channels with the recently concluded annexes to the confidence-building measures on air-to-air encounters and crisis communications.  These concrete outcomes not only help our two countries reduce risks in our military relationship, they are also a strong example to the region on how to manage differences through dialogue and clear lines of communication.

So, I hope that our candid discussions today will help develop concrete outcomes and identify next steps that we can then feed into the SSD and the Strategic and Economic Dialogue later this year. But it’s very good to be here, and very good to see you.  Thank you.