Exclusive: State Dept. Defends Kerry’s In-Person Climate Meeting with China, Claims They Are Not Ignoring Human Rights Abuses

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and former Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held the daily press briefing to discuss various topics …
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. State Department is defending Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s trips abroad to discuss climate change, including a meeting with an official in China, despite ongoing reports of the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious treatment of its own people in “re-education” camps, including widespread rape, forced abortions, and forced sterilization.

Vox reported on Kerry and made the point that climate change was the most pressing issue between China and the United States:

In December, U.S. foreign policy expert Thomas Wright wrote an article in the Atlantic with a provocative claim: That Kerry would prioritize extracting climate change-related concessions from China, and to do so would minimize America’s plans to push Beijing on trade, security, and human rights issues:

According to three people familiar with Kerry’s thinking, Kerry believes that cooperation with China is the key to progress on climate change and that climate is by far the most important issue in the relationship between the United States and China. Kerry thinks the U.S. president should use his political capital to press Beijing on this subject. Yes, the United States should stand firm when it disagrees with Beijing, as he believes it did during his tenure as secretary of state, but everything else, including geopolitical competition with China, is of secondary importance to this overarching threat.

Breitbart News asked the State Department, “How can climate change be the most important foreign policy issue with China when the Chinese Communist Party regularly violates its citizens human rights, including putting Muslims in re-education camps where it is reported that people are tortured and even killed?”

“Encouraging the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to commit to more aggressive climate goals does not require us to let up on other issues, including human rights. As noted in the April 17 joint statement on climate, tackling the climate crisis must be addressed with seriousness and urgency,” a spokesperson with the State Department responded via email.

“As Special Presidential Envoy Kerry has noted, climate is a critical standalone issue, and other aspects of the U.S.-China relationship will not be traded for U.S. interests and values, including human rights,” the spokesperson said. “We can compete with the PRC and call out their egregious actions, including their widespread human rights abuses, while working to tackle the climate crisis.”

The spokesperson said the “Biden-Harris” administration has been clear it “is aware PRC is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including imprisonment, torture, enforced sterilization, and persecution.”

The spokesperson called for China to “end these atrocities immediately.”

“The United States has called upon the leaders of the PRC to immediately release all arbitrarily detained people and abolish the internment camps; to cease enforced sterilizations; to end all torture; and to stop persecuting Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” spokesperson said, adding that the U.S. would “consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible and deter future abuses.”

The spokesperson said the U.S. has to “insist” China do more to reduce emissions given the “worldwide climate crisis.”

Breitbart News also asked what Kerry’s trip to China cost taxpayers and how he traveled.

“Special Presidential Envoy Kerry traveled to and from Asia via commercial air, with tickets purchased in full compliance with U.S. government travel guidelines,” the spokesperson said. “A regionally based U.S. military aircraft transferred the traveling delegation from South Korea to China in order to comply with negotiated requirements related to COVID protocols for foreign travelers.”

Breitbart News also asked whether the agency kept track of Kerry’s carbon footprint on the trip.

The spokesperson said State does not track the carbon footprint of diplomatic trips and defended the need for Kerry to talk to foreign leaders in person.

“It is vital we make strong progress this year to confront the climate crisis,” the spokesperson said. “Special Presidential Envoy Kerry is traveling because the progress we need demands in-person meetings to discuss these important issues and put the world on a path to net zero emissions by 2050.”

The spokesperson stated in addition to his professional capacity, Kerry is fighting climate change in his personal life.

“Special Presidential Envoy Kerry has acted to reduce his personal carbon footprint, including buying offsets for his personal travel, putting solar on his roof at home and driving an electric vehicle,” the spokesperson said. “He is also aware that no matter what any individual does, entire sectors and governments must take dramatic action to address climate change, and that’s what he’s committed to helping make that happen globally.”

Kerry has also traveled recently to the United Arab Emirates, India, and Bangladesh for climate change talks.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter or send news tips to pstarr@breitbart.com

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