Remarks With South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Seoul, South Korea
February 3, 2010

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER LEE (in Korean): Good afternoon. Today’s meeting was my second meeting with A/S Campbell since his appointment as the Assistant Secretary. The meeting lasted for about an hour and ten minutes. We mostly discussed various security cooperation issues including the USFK. We also discussed regional issues including North Korea and trilateral cooperation among Korea, China, and Japan. We also talked about various international issues such as Afghanistan and Haiti. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War and for this, we discussed about stronger cooperative relations including senior level talks and exchanges.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Let me thank the Minister for his hospitality, and for hosting my delegation and myself here in Seoul. We have had very good meetings over the course of the last day and a half. In our meetings today here at MOFAT, we reviewed, first of all, the very strong visit that President Obama paid here to Seoul, South Korea in November, and I passed on the gratitude from the White House for what really was the best stop on the whole visit, the whole trip. During our deliberations I had the opportunity to thank the Government of Korea for its many contributions over the course of the last several months, what it has done in terms of the Copenhagen meeting on climate change, it’s very generous support for the tragedy in Haiti, for what it will do in Afghanistan, for what it has done in the past in Iraq and elsewhere. And we underscored that at a fundamental level, U.S.-South Korea relations have never been better, and that the level of trust and confidence between our two leaders and our two governments is extraordinarily impressive.

We talked about the upcoming schedule, the excitement that we all feel about the G20 that will be held later this year in Seoul, the agenda for a 2+2 meeting between our senior officials from both of our governments. And we also talked about the specific regional challenges that we both face, and we reviewed the diplomatic agenda, things that we want to accomplish over the course of the next few years. So I would just simply say that I think U.S. – ROK relations are very strong; our dialogue on North Korea could not be better; and we are in lock step in terms of what we believe is the appropriate next steps in terms of the return to the Six-Party Talks. With that, let me again thank my South Korean friends and I am happy to take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Are there any preconditions the United States would like to see achieved before there would be a meeting between the South Korean and North Korean leaders?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think what we have tried to state very clearly is that we believe the central next step in diplomacy, in relation to North Korea, is a return to the Six-Party Talks. And, as part of that, North Korea needs to commit to abide by its commitments made in 2005 and 2007. We think the improvement of relations between North and South can be a critical component of that, and we welcome efforts by the South Korean President to reach across the divide to North Korea. We are in close consultation -- they consulted with us in advance on ideas associated with a comprehensive outreach to North Korea. We support that effort. We are working as closely together as possible. What is essential, however, is to make very clear to our North Korean interlocutors that the essential next step is really the Six-Party Talks, not discussions about other matters. It is possible to have discussions on other matters within the Six-Party framework, but that Six-Party framework is essential going forward.

QUESTION: Can South Korea ever [inaudible] ballistic [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think there have been some discussions between our militaries about next steps on ballistic missile defense. I am not completely aware of that, but I can get back to you on that if you give me a chance.

QUESTION: Can you shed any further light on the second American being detained in North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We know a little more about the first, but we are still gathering information about the second. We are seeking consular access, and more information as we go. We will report that as we gather it.

QUESTION (Korean): I have a question for Deputy Minister Lee. You said you discussed security cooperation issues between the ROK and the United States. Did you deliver some people’s concerns with respect to the OPCON transfer? What did you discuss on this issue?

DEPUTY MINISTER LEE (Korean): I cannot elaborate on details. We consulted on OPCON transfer while discussing about the base relocation issue and the Yongsan Plan. For now, both countries share the same thoughts and the same understanding on OPCON transfer. We have no special differences in opinion.
QUESTION (Korean): On redeployment of the USFK?

DEPUTY MINISTER LEE (Korean): You mean strategic flexibility?

QUESTION (Korean): With the tour normalization, they will be redeployed?

DEPUTY MINISTER LEE (Korean): On strategic flexibility, in 2006, the ROK and the United States had already reached basic agreement. Foreign affairs and defense authorities of both countries are consulting on how to implement in concrete steps.

QUESTION (Korean): One more question for the Deputy Minister. There was a press report about a joint military exercise among the ROK, the United States and Japan. Did you discuss this?

DEPUTY MINISTER LEE (Korean): I have no information about that.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion of [nuclear] reprocessing, of Korean reprocessing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Not in this meeting, no.

QUESTION: Sir, what information were you referring to before, about Robert Park, you said you learned a little bit more?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, we think he has moved to Pyongyang, and we are working with our hosts and representative Embassies in Pyongyang to get greater access and knowledge about his condition.

QUESTION: Is there any scenario in which the United States can contemplate discussing a peace agreement and the normalization of relations with North Korea as part of a greater bargain to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me just say that this is a step-by-step process, and the next step is for North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks and to abide by its previous commitments. Within that context, I think there are a number of things that can be discussed, of a political, strategic, economic, and financial nature. And I think I will leave it at that, but the essential precondition, again, is North Korea coming back to those talks.

QUESTION: Sanctions will not come off before that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Sanctions will not come off before that. Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: What do you think about the North Korea artillery going off in the Yellow Sea? Any comments?