Remarks Upon Arrival in South Korea

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Gimpo Airport
Seoul, DC, South Korea
February 2, 2010

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: So, good evening. Thank you very much for coming to the airport tonight. I am sorry that it is so late. It is nice to be back in Korea. I am very much looking forward to meetings with my counterparts at the Blue House, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Command. I was last here with President Obama in November - probably the best bilateral meeting I have ever seen between two leaders. [I am] very pleased that our relationship is on such a positive trajectory. We are going to coordinate very closely on North Korea, very interested to hear the proposal of President Lee Myung Bak, and we support his ideas for engagement, his plans with North Korea. And we are going to work very closely together going forward. I had good meetings with our friends in Japan, the new government, and we are coordinating closely on our respective issues. And the next couple of days are going to be exciting -- it is great to be back.

QUESTION: Can I ask you some questions?


QUESTION: Can I start by asking you to state more clearly the purpose of your trip to this region this time, and what do you plan to discuss with your South Korean counterparts and other officials here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Sure, thank you. I mean, my purpose of the visit in Japan was just periodic consultations with the new government. We have many important issues associated with our bases, with our respective strategies towards China, with what we are trying to accomplish in terms of maintaining solidarity in the Six-Party Process.

But also just to ensure that we are closely working together here in Seoul. I think we would like very much to be able to make sure that the United States and South Korea are as close as possible on all issues associated with Six-Party engagement, our mutual strategy towards North Korea. I would like very much to hear where South Korea believes next steps are in terms of the Korea [KORUS] Free Trade Agreement, something that I think very much that President Obama wants to take appropriate steps in 2010.

I think we will also want to talk a little bit about various regional issues, global Korea commitments that the Administration has taken. I think we want to express great satisfaction and thanks for the steps that Korea has taken in Afghanistan, and more recently, in Haiti. I think our relationship is on a very positive trajectory and I am really here just to support that process.

QUESTION: As part of the question of the issues that you just mentioned, is there [a] key issue sticking out or a key issue that you do need to discuss with your South Korean counterparts?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think in fact just making sure that all issues run smooth, are running positively in a good direction. We really want to make sure that we are closely aligned on North Korea, but I think all of the issues that I raised are going to be important as we go forward. Ok, thank you.

QUESTION: Just one more.


AIDE: Last question.

QUESTION: North Korea is saying that it will not return to the Six-Party Talks unless the UN sanctions are removed. Now, can the U.S. at least consider removing them, at least simultaneously with North Korea’s return to the Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think our, the belief is that it is going to be very important for North Korea to come back to the Six-Party Talks, to abide by its commitments made in 2005 and 2007, and that within that context, the United States is prepared to work with our partners in Japan, and South Korea and China in terms of next steps. But, it is still too early to be talking about sanctions relief, given that we have not had a resumption of talks. In fact, in recent days we have seen provocative actions, with artillery firing and the like. So, I think that is one of the things that we want to do while we are here in Seoul, is to communicate closely and coordinate with our partners here. Ok? Ok. Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you think there is going to be additional talks between [inaudible]?

AIDE: Thank you.