Remarks to Journalists in Seoul, Republic of Korea

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Seoul, South Korea
June 17, 2010

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, let me just thank my friend and partner, the Deputy Minister, for hosting us for lunch today. Our team, which includes members from the White House, the National Security Council … also our excellent Ambassador for Six-Party Talks. We have been here in Korea over the course of the last day and a half for high level meetings with our counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, at the Blue House, and with others.

Our goal, of course, is to prepare the way for upcoming high level diplomacy in Canada next week between our two leaders - between President Lee Myung-bak and President Obama - and then, subsequently in July, for the first ever 2+2 Meeting that will be held here in Seoul. I just want to underscore how grateful we are for the support and the deeply reassuring sessions that we’ve had between our two sides.

I think it would be fair to say that we all understand that this is a defining moment for our alliance. We understand the stakes, and we feel that given our close coordination, cooperation that we are fully up to the challenge. The most important message from President Obama to Seoul and to the people of Korea is that 60 years later after the start of the Korean War, the United States is standing closer than ever with South Korea. Our alliance is stronger, deeper, and more profound - not just on the peninsula, but globally - than it has ever been before.

And I think working together in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, the Cheonan sinking, we have assisted with every effort - beginning first with the rescue, subsequently the salvage, the forensic, the scientific, the technical aspects, the UN Security Council briefings - every dimension we have attempted to stand by our South Korean friends and work as closely as possible with them.

Together, through these efforts, and the support of many nations, the strongest support of many nations, we have built widespread international support for the ROK. And we have, we faced North Korean provocations from a position of profound strength; and the strength and resolve of our position will be demonstrated in a number of ways in the coming days. First at the UN, at the United Nations, where I think the United States and South Korea are completely aligned in our mutual approach, in our bilateral actions, which we have worked closely on appropriate and responsible joint-military activities and in other national ways in specific steps. We will continue to stand with South Korea, and we leave Seoul today for Tokyo deeply reassured and quite confident of the path that we are on together. We are fairly rushing to make an airplane, but I think the minister and I would be more than pleased to take a few questions -- hopefully most of them directed to him. So yes, thank you. (Laughter)

QUESTION: Perhaps one question to you sir, Steve Herman from Voice of America. It appears that South Korea has actually been backing off on taking a number of measures that you just mentioned. What is your perception of that and what would you like to see done unilaterally and why?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don’t see any sign of the South Korean government backing off. What I see is extraordinarily close coordination between the two sides. When Secretary Clinton met with President Lee Myung-bak two weeks ago, when Secretary Gates met with him at the Shangri-La Dialogue last week in Singapore, I think we have been very struck by how deliberate, how careful, how statesman-like, how calm and responsible the response from the South Korean government, and particularly from President Lee Myung-bak, and I see no sign of the South Korean government wavering in a very clear, very responsible approach.

QUESTION: Can you tell us more about your visit to China and what you hope to accomplish there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Actually I was in China a couple of weeks ago with the Secretary.

QUESTION: Oh, I am sorry, Japan.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Japan, that other country in Asia. (Laughter) Well, we are very much looking forward to meeting key members of the new government. I think, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of our alliance. We have had some very intense interactions in recent months about some specific issues associated with our military bases. I think the reason for this particular visit is to broaden the scope of our deliberations, to make clear that this is an extraordinarily important alliance on a range of issues, both [sic] regional, bilateral, and global. And I think we will be looking to take steps to embark upon a deeper strategic interaction with our new colleagues in Japan and also our long-standing counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and elsewhere. So, very much looking forward to these discussions.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Are the United States and South Korea thinking of ways, of other options for preventing the DPRK provocations?


QUESTION: Are you thinking of other options for preventing the DPRK from . . . its provocations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we feel very strongly that the international community must take a strong stance in the face of these, of this provocation and that is one of the things that we discussed in great detail. We have been very clear that sending a strong message of vigilance, both in terms of the alliance but also a very clear message of how unacceptable this sort of provocation, this undermining of the armistice, is. And I think the United States and South Korea are taking the appropriate steps to send a very strong message to North Korea in the current environment.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, you mentioned that there might be some developments and responses in upcoming days. Do you have any estimate on when any UN action might be delivered or a definite goal in mind?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don’t and I would refer you to our . . . Our job is to set the broad parameters. We have extraordinarily able teams in New York that will be responsible for those deliberations not just in the bilateral context but, as you know, there are a number of key states involved. And we have frankly, been quite gratified in recent days by the very strong statements of public support from states and nations such as France and Great Britain.

QUESTION: (Speaking Korean)


QUESTION: (Speaking Korean)


QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, was there any discussion of transfer of wartime operational control today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We did not discuss that matter in great detail, no.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, regarding the sinking of the Cheonan ship, it is our general understanding that China does not seem to be on the same page with South Korea and with the U.S. Do you see any, what kind of progress in that respect? What kind of efforts or discussions did you have especially today in Seoul?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think it would be fair to say that we have had, both the United States and South Korea, have had extensive discussions with China over the course of several weeks. Secretary Clinton had deep interactions with State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Premier Wen Jiabao. I think it would be fair to say that China understands the gravity of the situation and currently South Korea and the United States are making very best efforts to ensure that we are working closely with China on the way ahead.

We’ll take one more question.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, can you say something about a South Korean civic group letter to the United Nations Security Council.


QUESTION: A Korean civic group letter to the United Nations Security Council.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I must apologize to you, sir. I actually am not sure what you are referring to, so perhaps my colleague can answer that in greater detail.

QUESTION: (inaudible) …a Korean civic group sent a letter, NGO, to the UN Security Council.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I would simply say that, not just the United States, but several nations, were involved in an extraordinarily thorough, technically sound, and extensive evaluation of the Cheonan sinking. And we believe, profoundly and deeply, that there, that all doubt has been removed about the cause of the Cheonan sinking and the clear perpetrator of this act was North Korea. And I think we would respectfully suggest that for all groups to look carefully first at the very careful results that have been produced by this investigation. And I think that anyone who looks at them seriously and considers the full breadth of the evidence will be convinced of the veracity of the findings.

I thank you very much and it’s great to be back in Seoul. See you on the next trip.