This Week at State: September 22, 2017

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This Week at State: September 22, 2017

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are the highlights from This Week at State:

#USAatUNGA: President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, and Senior U.S. Officials Participate in UNGA High-Level Week

World leaders gathered in New York City this week for the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72). During this session of UNGA, the United States had opportunities to engage multilaterally and bilaterally to advance U.S. priorities in several key areas, including: addressing the threat to global peace and security posed by North Korea; deescalating the conflict in Syria; broadening multilateral counterterrorism efforts to defeat ISIS and other terrorist organizations; taking bold steps on UN reform; and bolstering support for humanitarian assistance to ongoing emergencies.

President Trump Delivers Remarks to the UN General Assembly

President Donald J. Trump delivered remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, in which he addressed efforts to promote peace, promote prosperity, and uphold sovereignty and accountability. The President discussed common challenges, such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and underscored that peace depends on the contributions of all nations and respect for state sovereignty and the rule of law.

President Trump Calls for UN Reform

One of President Trump’s core objectives for U.S. participation in this year’s UN General Assembly meeting is to pursue reform at the United Nations, to ensure the organization is accountable to member states and is run more effectively and efficiently.  The President delivered remarks at the Reforming the United Nations: Management, Security, and Development Meeting.  Vice President Pence also addressed the topic during remarks before the United Nations Security Council on peacekeeping operations.

Secretary Tillerson Participates in UN Meeting on Nuclear Non-Proliferation

On September 21, Secretary Tillerson delivered remarks to the United Nations Security Council’s Session on Nuclear Non-Proliferation. In a statement to member countries, the Secretary outlined for ways all member countries can come together to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

 “As a body committed to security, we must treat nuclear proliferation with the seriousness it deserves. For those of us on the Security Council, counteracting nuclear threats begins with full enforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions all member-states are bound to implement. To make sure all nations are able to play their part, we must continue to work for full and effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. But signing treaties and passing resolutions is not enough. Stopping nuclear proliferation also entails exercising other levers of power, whether diplomatic, economic, digital, moral, or, if necessary, military. Ultimately, we each have a sovereign responsibility to ensure that we keep the world safe from nuclear warfare, the aftermath of which will transgress all borders.” – Secretary Tillerson’s Remarks to UNSC Meeting on Nonproliferation]

United States Expands Authorities for U.S. Sanctions With Respect to North Korea

On September 21, President Trump held a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Japan and the Republic of Korea in New York City and issued a new Executive Order that expands authorities for U.S. sanctions with respect to North Korea.

Throughout the week, several U.S. officials addressed the situation on the Korean Peninsula.  Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton provided an update at the New York Foreign Press Center.

Secretary Tillerson Chairs Meeting on the Situation in Syria

On September 18, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a ministerial meeting on Syria on the margins of UNGA 72. The meeting focused on the defeat of ISIS, ending the violence in Syria, and finding a political solution.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield provided a readout of the ministerial meeting, emphasizing the clear consensus to “defeat Daesh, priority; end the violence, priority; basic stabilization to address the humanitarian situation in Syria produced by the violence; allow the return of displaced persons both within Syria to their homes but also from outside Syria back into the country.”

United States Participates in Global Counterterrorism Forum

Throughout UNGA 72, the United States engaged with foreign partners to build political support for American counterterrorism objectives and policies. The United States is focusing on whole-of-government efforts to defeat ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and other global terrorist groups.

On September 20, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Tom Bossert, delivered remarks to the Global Counterterrorism Forum; afterwards, U.S Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan A. Sales provided a readout of the Forum’s discussions.

Secretary Tillerson Participates in Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Meeting on Iraq

On September 22, Secretary Tillerson participated in a D-ISIS Coalition Meeting on the margins of UNGA.  This meeting, which was a follow-up to the March 2017 meeting of the entire Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, convened a smaller group of foreign ministers to discuss the next phase of the campaign.

Afterwards, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk gave a readout following the Global Coalition meeting. The Secretary led the meeting by thanking our coalition partners for really their incredibly generous support, their ongoing support, and also emphasizing that while we’re making extraordinary progress... we need to make sure we keep our foot on the gas and follow through. 

United States Calls for End to Violence and Support for Aid in Burma

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on September 19. During this conversation, Secretary Tillerson welcomed the Burmese government’s commitment to end the violence in Rakhine State and urged them to do more to facilitate humanitarian aid. 

On September 20, Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Simon Henshaw gave a special briefing on U.S. humanitarian assistance to Burma. The briefing followed the Department of State’s announcement of an additional nearly $32 million in humanitarian assistance to assist internally displaced persons in Burma and refugees from Burma in the region. 

Acting Assistant Secretary Henshaw noted this additional funding brings the total amount of assistance to nearly $95 million for the fiscal year and “reflects U.S. leadership in addressing the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian needs in the region.”

USAID Disaster Experts Deploy to Assist Victims of Mexico Earthquake

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered thoughts and U.S. assistance to the people and government of Mexico following the September 19 earthquake. During a press availability on September 20, Secretary Tillerson said that President Trump had spoken to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and had offered a large search and rescue team to assist with the relief efforts.

The United States deployed an elite team of disaster experts from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and an urban search-and-rescue team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department to support the Government of Mexico by conducting damage assessments and coordinating with local authorities and aid groups to bring critical assistance to local people

As Hurricane Maria affected the Caribbean, the United States expressed its solidarity with the people of the region. During a press availability on September 20, Secretary Tillerson said, “I want to begin, first, by extending our condolences to all those who have suffered, continue to suffer, from the devastation from the natural disasters that we are witnessing around the Western Hemisphere.”

U.S. citizens who have been affected by the hurricanes in the Caribbean should go to for additional information.

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Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.