ICYMI: Murkowski Meets with Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan
Presses Alaska Specific Priorities: US-China Relations, Canada Cruise Bans, Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-AK, on Friday met with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan, and the National Security Council’s Asia coordinator Kurt Campbell as they traveled back to the U.S. after meetings in Japan and South Korea.
(Pictured left to right: Senator Sullivan, Secretary Blinken, NSA Sullivan, Senator Murkowski.)
“To be able to sit down not only with Secretary Blinken but also Jake Sullivan and Kurt Campbell to get debriefed on their meetings was significant. Secretary Blinken shared that they had 10 hours of discussion between the two days in Alaska and extensive conversations—including areas of cooperation and areas of disagreement. We must recognize not only the importance of this discussion with China but also the significance of the timing following Secretary Blinken’s meetings with South Korea and Japan. This is critical in terms of focusing on the alliance we have with these nations.”
In addition to a substantive debrief from the secretary, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan raised a number of Alaska specific issues, including America’s strategic role in the Arctic, Canada’s recent cruise ship ban, the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, America’s reliance on foreign production of critical minerals, and US-China trade relations.
During the meeting, Senator Murkowski urged the new administration to prioritize the Arctic and asked them to commit to helping America strengthen its presence in the region.
- “It’s helpful to have someone like Jake Sullivan that has been immersed in Arctic issues previously. Secretary Blinken said he ‘found religion’ in the Arctic the last time that he was in government service here. So to have individuals that appreciate and understand the significance of the role that can be played is important.”
- “I shared with Secretary Blinken and Mr. Sullivan that they have a unique opportunity in the Arctic. There is so much interest in the region and not just from Arctic states, but also from those who would like to be perceived as closer or be nearer, including China who designates themselves as a ‘near-Arctic state’. This self-titling speaks to where and how they view themselves in these positions of opportunity.”
Canadian Travel Bans:
Senator Murkowski shared with Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan the harsh realities of Canada’s recent cruise ship ban and the impacts it is having on Alaska’s economy. She also raised some of the unanswered requests that the Alaska Delegation has made of Prime Minister Trudeau in their effort to find common-sense solutions to current COVID-19 travel bans.
- “We sent two letters to Prime Minister Trudeau. It’s hard, because we’re all operating in a time of COVID so we don’t want to imply that we want to risk health and safety for the purpose of our economy, but we are seeking areas of cooperation as to how we can move people safely. To do that Canada must be willing to work with us.”
- “We don’t have many points of entry that they have to worry about but they have cut off all points of entry—by land and by sea. We are truly an island.”
Ted Stevens Security Center for the Arctic:
In December 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), which included a provision secured by Senators Murkowski and Sullivan authorizing a new regional Department of Defense (DOD) Center named the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. Senator Murkowski highlighted the opportunities of the new center to Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan, describing it as “a convening place for like-minded people focused on the region.”
Both Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan confirmed their support for the Ted Stevens Security Center for the Arctic and committed to helping advance the Center’s development.
Senator Murkowski has long supported increasing America’s domestic production of critical minerals to decrease foreign reliance on countries such as China. During the meeting, Senator Murkowski reiterated opportunities for domestic production of critical minerals.
- “Everyone is now talking about critical minerals. We know we have to be in charge of our own supply chain.
- “Alaska hosts significant critical minerals but more importantly rare-earth minerals. Our problem is, we can’t get a permit in Alaska not only to begin a mine, but we also can’t get a permit to put a small road in to do any exploration.”
- “If we are worried about China in any space, we all know it is in this area of critical minerals. They not only have the resources, but more importantly, they are the only ones who are processing them. Even if we produce our own, we still send them to China and then have to ask for permission to bring them back.”
Senator Murkowski also raised US-China trade as it relates to Alaska.
- “We asked that during Secretary Blinken’s next meeting with the Chinese, they help ensure China removes their 30% tariffs which are deeply challenging Alaska’s seafood industry.”
- “We raised the issues of retaliatory tariffs coming out of China and the impact on our timber.”