A Busy Spring in DC!

Last month I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Global Chiefs of Mission conference.  This annual conference is organized by the Office of the Secretary of State and brings together Ambassadors and other Chiefs of Mission from around the world to discuss our goals and priorities.  It was a great opportunity for us to share ideas and collaborate on global and regional issues.  High-level State Department officials provided updates on everything from digital diplomacy to women’s rights.  I had the pleasure of seeing many of my good friends including Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador to China Max Baucus, and Ambassador to India Richard Verma.

We also heard from senior leadership of the State Department and White House.  Speakers this year included not only Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Vice President Joe Biden, but also President Obama, who was a surprise guest speaker!

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry at the 2016 Chiefs of Mission Conference (State Department photos)

President Obama spoke about continuing our fight against terrorism in a way that is consistent with our values.  He mentioned North Korea, and making sure that we’re enforcing effective sanctions and mobilizing the world to meet shared challenges like this one.  We must also continue to push ahead with our commitments on climate change, work on threats from cyber-attacks and global health, and fully implement trade agreements.

Thank you for the great speech Mr. President!

President Obama’s speech was inspiring and, at the end, he thanked us for our efforts and encouraged us to stay the course.  I also had the honor of attending a reception at the White House hosted by President Obama.  At the reception, I had the opportunity to speak with other Ambassadors about what is going on in the countries where we serve, and the President was very engaged and interested in these discussions.

I also had the opportunity to visit briefly with some other friends in DC, such as Senator Leahy, who is now the most senior senator in the U.S. Senate, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Senator Leahy’s tweet after our encounter in DC (@SenatorLeahy)

On the day following the Global Chiefs of Mission conference, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel, chaired a conference for the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region and discussed Asian security issues and shifting dynamics in the region.

Assistant Secretary Russel discusses East Asia Pacific security issues at the EAP Chiefs of Mission Conference. (Twitter: @USAsiaPacific)

I traveled back to Washington, D.C. a few weeks later to attend the trilateral meeting between the U.S., the ROK and Japan following the Nuclear Security Summit.  It was an important meeting where President Obama highlighted the strong relationship between our three countries, “bound together by treaty, by trade and by the enduring bonds between our peoples.”

President Obama meets with President Park and Japanese Prime Minister Abe during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. (AP photo)

This trilateral security cooperation is essential to maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia as we combine our efforts to defend against North Korea.  We have a shared commitment to defend against North Korea’s nuclear threat and proliferation.

In addition to Northeast Asian security, we also talked about issues ranging from plans for combatting climate change and ISIL to promoting the empowerment of women and girls.  We are also working together in cyber-space, outer-space, and on Vice President Biden’s effort to cure cancer.  And, as Deputy Secretary Blinken said, “our trilateral partnership reflects the great depth of all we share:  a belief in freedom, a respect for the rules, and an unyielding desire to win at baseball.” I think that sums it up well.

It was great to be back in DC and visit some of my old haunts, including one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Belga Café, and Grigsby’s favorite dog park!

The cherry blossoms were starting to bloom and, of course, the view around the Tidal Basin in downtown DC was beautiful.

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