Sullivan Reacts to U.S.-China Diplomatic Meetings in Anchorage
WASHINGTON—On Friday, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) spoke with Mike Ross on Alaska’s News Source to give his reaction to the senior-level diplomatic meetings that took place in Anchorage between Chinese and U.S. officials. Senators Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were briefed on the discussions by Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan immediately following the meetings.
ROSS: Senator Dan Sullivan was briefed by Secretary of State Blinken after the US China talks wrapped up today in downtown Anchorage. The senator joins us now in our studio this evening. Senator Sullivan, thanks so much for taking time to speak with us.
SULLIVAN: Hey, Mike. Great to be back on the show. Thanks.
ROSS: Senator, you had about a 90-minute briefing from the secretary of state this afternoon I understand. What did he tell you about Alaska-related issues that may have come up in this meeting?
SULLIVAN: I raised a number of Alaska-related issues with the secretary and Jake Sullivan, who is the national security adviser, as they relate to all of these issues as it relates to China, because just by virtue of the fact that the meeting was here and selected to be here, shows how important we are from a strategic location standpoint. I think that was very clear to everybody who participated. And I also certainly agree with what Secretary Blinken said. The Chinese right now are very much saying publicly that China is on the rise and America is declining. I think It's always a bad bet to bet against the United States. As a matter of fact, every country that has over the last century has lost that bet. There are a number of issues that relate to Alaska that are what Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, and Secretary Blinken, called negotiating from a position of strength. And, Mike, I raised a number of those with them today. First of all, our military here—you may have seen the news about the Air Force increasing tankers in Alaska. We already have over one hundred fifth generation fighters. Some of those fighters were doing some practicing right when the Chinese arrived, which I thought was a great sign for them. But I pressed the Biden team on another really important comparative advantage we have over China, and that's energy. Our allies want our energy, whether it's LNG, whether it's oil, or our strategic and critical minerals. These are things that will help us in our competition with China, and that's going to be competition literally, in my view, for the next 50 to 100 years. I think, overall, it was important to have this here in Alaska and I pressed on a number of areas where our state can help our nation in this strategic competition that's really going to define the 21st century.
ROSS: Senator, as we heard in Rebecca's report a few moments ago, there's some very blunt statements being made by both sides of the meeting yesterday. Did that tone surprise you? Do you think that's going to be the tone of the relationship between the United States and China moving forward?
SULLIVAN: It did surprise me to some degree. I know for a fact that both the agreement was two minutes of opening statements. The Chinese turned that into 16 minutes, and I think it just shows their confidence. They are telling countries openly that China is rising. This is going to be their century and America and the West are declining. And, again, I think that with regard to the way in which the Biden administration has started this, importantly, focusing on our allies and, importantly, building on the Trump administration's China's strategy, which really highlighted the competition. One of the things that I think is really important, the Chinese say one of the weaknesses of America is our political division. Well, we have political divisions. There's no doubt. We've had that since the founding of the Republic, and it's very open and transparent for people to see. But here's something that's starting to happen in Washington that, I think, is Xi Jinping and the Communist Party's worst fear is Democrats and Republicans coming together, putting together a bipartisan, long-term strategy on how to deal with China. That is starting to happen and it started under President Trump. I think it's going to continue under President Biden, and that's something I'm working on. But it's also something the Chinese really fear, and we need to work together on that kind of long-term strategy with some of the issues I raised with Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan today.
ROSS: Was there anything that was said in that meeting yesterday that really raised your eyebrows and you said, “I can't believe I just heard that?”
SULLIVAN: The one thing is, the Chinese called themselves a democracy. They're not a democracy. They’re an authoritarian regime that's trying to export their model. The other thing is, when you have the Chinese lecture us on human rights, it's a little rich. There's no doubt we have to have a more perfect Union. We're always trying to better our country with regard to relationships with our fellow Americans. We're not perfect, but to have the Chinese who have more than one million Uighurs in concentration camps, both the Trump and Biden administrations have referred to that as genocide. I think it's a little rich having the Chinese lecture us on democracy and human rights.
ROSS: The new secretary of state under President Biden set some goals for this meeting, essentially letting the Chinese know that a lot of what they're doing in the administration's view and in our country's view is just not right. Do you think he accomplished that goal?
SULLIVAN: I know when I talked to them today that their goal was to set some of these areas where we just find their actions unacceptable—Hong Kong, for example—and also to give them the view that we have throughout the world on certain key issues. When the Chinese say Hong Kong or Taiwan are internal issues that we shouldn't care about, that's not true. I spent one of my first deployments as a U.S. Marine in the Taiwan Strait defending America's interest, but also defending the interests of an ally. That island is free and democratic because of the sacrifice of American citizens, of American military, of American taxpayer money. I think it was important for Secretary Blinken to say these aren't internal issues that just relate to China. Taiwan's freedom, Hong Kong's democracy, which is now being crushed, are matters that don't matter just to America, they matter to the whole world.
ROSS: After the tone of this initial meeting, at least the part that we were able to hear publicly, where do you think things go from here in the relationship between the United States and China?
SULLIVAN: I think one of the most important things we can do—and I'm going to be talking to the Secretary of Defense Austin on Sunday, getting a readout from his trips—is to continue to focus on our allies. One of our great strategic advantages in the world is we’re an ally-rich nation and our adversaries—China, Russia—are ally-poor. As a matter of fact, if you look at China, they have one ally, and it's North Korea. We have countries who are so nervous about the rise of China that they want to deepen their relationship with us—Japan, Korea, Australia—and new countries that I think we have huge opportunities with, like India, Vietnam and others. To me, continuing that focus on our allies as a key comparative advantage is one thing that we need to do. We need to continue to build up our military, particularly here. Like I said, I was glad the Air Force made the announcement today about more aircraft, more airmen in Alaska. And then, finally take advantage of comparative advantages like energy. To me, that's an issue I pressed hard on. Clean-burning Alaska natural gas to Asia is going to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally than almost anything you can imagine, and we need to take advantage of that as well.
ROSS: One last question on the topic. You mentioned the Air Force announcing today that four more KC-135 military refueling tanker aircraft are going to be based at Eielson. That's bringing the total up to 12, I believe. Also bringing 220 additional active duty personnel to Eielson. What does that mean for national security and Alaska's economy?
SULLIVAN: I think it's great. We’ve got two squadrons of F-35s that are in route as we speak to Eielson. That's several thousand airmen. This is another 220 that's literally in the Interior. That's hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of the boost to our economy, and this is just starting. The chief of staff of the Air Force called me. This is an issue I've been pressing the Air Force on for several years. The chief of staff of the Army last week called me to say they are putting out, which they did a couple days ago, their Arctic strategy. I will tell you this. Our state is going to be home to, very soon, over one hundred 5th generation fighters. Those are F-22s here in JBER in Anchorage and F-35s at Eielson. There's no place on the planet Earth that has over one hundred fifth generation fighters, and when you add more tanker capacity, which is what we just announced today, the Air Force did, those aircraft can be anywhere. It's a huge strategic advantage for America. I'm glad they announced it on the day of these meetings because the Chinese are certainly going to take note. It's great for our economy, but just as important, it's really important for our national security. I think everybody, whether it's the Chinese or the Biden administration or the previous Trump administration, recognizes just how strategically important we are in this meeting in the last few days. This just reaffirms that.
ROSS: Senator Dan Sullivan, thank you so much for joining us this evening and giving us some more insight on this very important international meeting that happened right here at home.
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