Korean Bilateral Meeting and Preview of the Japan Bilateral and Japan-Australia Trilateral Meetings at 2 p.m.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m sorry to be a little late, guys. As you know, it’s sort of a daily chore just to find an elevator that actually takes you up to a floor, so thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: That’s okay. Let me, if I could, brief just generally on three things – first, the meeting that we just concluded, about an hour-long meeting, between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Yu of Korea, and then talk a little bit about our upcoming sessions this afternoon with Japanese foreign minister – new Japanese foreign minister, and our trilateral meeting between the United States, Australia and Japan which was rescheduled from the ASEAN Regional Forum in July this year.
First of all, we had another very strong meeting between the United States and South Korea in which the two principals, the two ministers, reviewed our various issues. I think at the top of the list was the desire of both countries to remain in very close contact when it comes to North Korea. I think we agreed on several principles that will guide our work together over the course of the coming months.
The first is the United States and South Korea committed very strongly to continue our work together on implementation of 1874. Both the Secretary and the minister agreed that we were starting to see effective coordination not just among a few of the Asian states, but in the Middle East and elsewhere. Several states have taken steps without pressing from the United States or other countries. They have unilaterally chose to either inspect cargoes or turn ships back to port in North Korea. We’ve also had a series of sanctions against financial entities in Northeast Asia that were involved in one way or another in provocative activities – nuclear and other related activities of North Korea. And I think the United States, South Korea, Japan, and China have agreed that continuing along these lines is an essential part of our strategy going forward.
Number two: I think, as you know, there have been a series of interactions between the United States and its partners in the Six-Party framework. Ambassador Bosworth and Ambassador Kim returned last week from extensive meetings in each one of the capitals. The essential focus from each of our partners is this – that it is essential that we return to a Six-Party framework, and that we will encourage, strongly, North Korean interlocutors to accept that reality.
Interestingly enough, the country that has been clearest and firmest about this is probably China, about the fact that all of our previous engagements with North Korea – our previous understandings have been embedded in the Six-Party framework, the 2005 and 2007 agreements. And so there is a recognition that should the United States in the near future decide to have some bilateral interactions with North Korea, they are as part of a process to get back to a Six-Party framework. And in addition, a strong agreement among all the parties that North Korea must accept the fundamental conditions which it signed up for in 2005, 2007 – aspects of diplomacy, which are essentially a commitment to a nuclear-free – verifiable set of steps towards a nuclear-free peninsula in Korea – in North Korea.
Third, I think we’ve agreed privately among several of – states that we need very close coordination and dialogue about developments inside North Korea. It’s an uncertain time. We appear to be witnessing some issues associated with future transition, uncertain health of Kim Jong-il. So, quiet dialogue and discussion about developments there is essential.
And fourth and finally, I think particularly from South Korean friends, is a desire that if and when North Korea requires further humanitarian assistance, obviously we separate humanitarian assistance from economic assistance. And we think that’s essential to move forward with, but that humanitarian assistance be handled carefully, with clear ability to verify delivery, and the necessity of meeting various guidelines associated with the distribution of that food, medicine, and aid.
In addition to the discussions on North Korea, the two sides reviewed the plans for the movement of U.S. forces and the completion of a new American embassy. And I think we basically underscored that we are making good progress towards these goals. I think the South Korean friends underscored their commitment to the G-20 and their desire to play an important role in that venue going forward.
I think we also discussed the importance of both the United States and South Korea to have very strong dialogue with the new Japanese Government to underscore the importance of a strong, vibrant, independent Japanese role in Northeast Asian security. I’ve been in many of these meetings over the years. I must say that I think right now, the United States and South Korean relations are in a particularly good keel. There’s a lot of confidence between our two sides. I think there’s an enormous amount of communication and South Korean friends looking forward to continuing a dialogue with the Secretary, and hopefully with the President in the coming weeks and months. I can go into other details about that meeting.
Let me just conclude very quickly. We will be meeting with the Japanese foreign minister, Minister Okada today. I just got – I returned from Japan yesterday. I had initial meetings with the Democratic Party of Japan. I think we tried to underscore how important it is for us to get off to a good start in the U.S.-Japanese relationship under this new Administration. I think we tried to underscore how important it is for us to listen – for the United States to work closely with Japan to listen to how they want to undertake a major review of various aspects of our alliance relations.
We’ve told our Japanese friends how we’re going to conduct our business. In public, we’re going to be very clear about how important it is to respect each other as equals. The United States intends to underscore its support of a strong and independent Japanese foreign policy. In private, we will, however, underscore areas where we think continuity in policy is important and also in areas that we’re prepared to have further dialogue.
After that bilateral meeting, there will be a trilateral session between the United States, Australia, Japan. Australia and Japan, in many respects, are two of our closest allies in Asia. There’s much that we work on together in terms of climate change, combating terrorism, concerns on the Korean Peninsula, how to best coordinate in terms of the rise of China. And we’re looking forward to this session going forward. I think it was an important initiative started in the Bush Administration, and we look to continue it going forward.
That’s the overarching sort of themes and issues that we’re dealing with. I’m happy to take any questions and go from there.
QUESTION: What are the areas where you’d like to see continuity in terms of discussions with the Japanese when you’re talking about Okinawa and the base movements? And on North Korea, you said China is one of the strongest (inaudible) in coming back to the Six-Party Talks. Have they given you any indication to suggest that they’re willing to squeeze or push the North Koreans a little harder to come back, or indeed, if they expect them to come back?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, we think over the course of the next – let me take the second question first, and thank you. We think over the course of the next several weeks, there’s going to be a series of very high-level engagements between North Korea and China. I think as you know, Dai Bingguo recently returned from China, Wen Jiabao is looking to make a visit to North Korea – excuse me, North Korea, not China – North Korea in early October.
And I think during these meetings, we expect China to take a fairly clear line about their desire to see North Korea resume interactions as part of a Six-Party framework. I think it’s fair to say that Chinese friends are often very careful about how they describe their bilateral interactions with the North Koreans, with us and others. However, we have been very gratified by much of what we have heard from the Chinese in terms of their desire to work closely, not just with us, but with other partners in ensuring that North Korea returns to a responsible diplomatic set of interactions.
On the first issue, what we tried to underscore with Japanese friends is that we would not at this early phase – and remember, this is like day four of the new Japanese Government. So they are going through their initial transition. We’ve just emerged from a rather prolonged transition ourselves. I think as such, we are at very early stages. We have, and others in the U.S. Government, have underscored that there’s certain areas on Okinawa and elsewhere that we think a degree of continuity is critical and the best way forward.
However, the truth is that the United States, as an alliance partner and a strong friend of Japan, at this early stage, we cannot be in a position to dictate. We must make clear that we’re committed to a process of dialogue and discussion. And so I think I’d like to leave it at that and just expect that we’ve underscored how important it will be to have a series of high-level interactions.
The Secretary – I was in – just returned from Japan – the Secretary will meet with the foreign minister today, the President with the prime minister of Japan tomorrow. Deputy Steinberg will be in Japan next week, Secretary Gates the following week. So we have a series of interactions which are designed to accomplish the deepest possible dialogue at this early phase with our Japanese friends.
QUESTION: A couple weeks ago, maybe a week and a half ago, P.J. Crowley seemed to suggest that a Bosworth trip to North Korea was a slam-dunk sure thing, and it seems like maybe we’ve pulled back from that. What is the situation with that? I mean, is he going to go –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I –
QUESTION: – Bosworth accepting their invitation to visit North Korea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think it’d be fair to say that no final decision has been taken at this juncture about the next steps and any prospective diplomacy with North Korea. Our sessions with our South Korean friends were really designed today to get feedback from them. And I think their underlying message was that they were prepared for the United States to engage in careful bilateral interactions with North Korea.
They’re very interested to see that North Koreans take specific steps, both in terms of who the interlocutors would be for any bilateral interaction, and also that the result of such a session would set the process in place for a ready and speedy resumption of Six-Party interactions. So our South Korean friends were very clear that that was their goal going forward. And I think the United States respects and shares a similar set of views.
QUESTION: So this was a probability?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, I didn’t actually say that, either. Really, I actually said that, sort of, no decision has been taken yet and we were really here to listen to the South Koreans about what – if we decided to go forward, what were their critical parameters.
QUESTION: The South Korean president today at the Council of Foreign Relations said the South Koreans wanted to offer a grand bargain on North Korea. Could you talk a little about that? That’s (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Actually, I – to be perfectly honest, I was not aware of that. Nothing of the sort came up in our session with the South Korean counterparts. In fact, the point that we tried to make was how careful that we need to be at this juncture to be consolidated in our approach, and that if we’re to move together, it has to be in response to responsible steps on the part of the – North Korea.
I would imagine what the President was underscoring was that if North Korea take a – makes a serious commitment, a responsible commitment to all the principles that they’ve underscored in 2005 and 2007, then the international community – not just the United States, but South Korea, Japan and others – would be prepared to put together a package of things. I assume that’s what he’s saying, but I hadn’t seen his response. And that has been the general position going forward for many months now. The problem is we’re at the very, very early stages of this. And what we’re trying to get is the North Koreans to make small, but fundamental steps so that we can at least take some early actions going forth.
QUESTION: The Japanese new foreign minister, Mr. Okada, said that he will start investigating a secret agreement that U.S. Government and Japanese Government has had in the Cold War days. How will the Secretary react to it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, this is a domestic matter at this juncture for Japan. The United States, through the Freedom of Information Act and a variety of historical documents, has laid out a pretty clear picture of what transpired in U.S.-Japan relations during the 1940s, 19 – in early 1950s, 1960s as they relate to nuclear weapons. And so the historical record really speaks for itself, and I think it’s part of a diplomacy that took place during the Cold War between Washington and Tokyo.
We would simply say that we’ll have little to add to that historical record, and it is up to the Japanese Government how they want to explore this. We do feel very strongly that these issues not be linked to current issues associated with nuclear weapons. For instance, the United States very much wants to underscore its commitment to extended nuclear deterrence. It wants to take credible steps associated with President Obama’s speech in Prague to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in American foreign policy, and it wants to do what it can to reduce the nuclear dangers posed by North Korea. And so we think the review is a historical one and has little bearing on the nuclear issues that are confronting the alliance in the United States and Japan, in Asia and the world today.
Others? I’ll wait a second. Anyone else? Thank you all very much. I’m sure I’ll see you in the remainder of the week. Thank you.