Remarks With Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin of Republic of Korea

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Seoul, South Korea
March 12, 2011

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, good afternoon to everyone. Thank you very much for coming out today. I want to thank very much my friend Deputy Minister Park [sic – Kim] for hosting me here at the Foreign Ministry. As he indicated, we had excellent meetings today, and I had a chance to convey an official invitation to him and also to Foreign Minister Kim to visit Washington in the near future to continue our close consultations. Let me just begin with a few words on the tragedy that has befallen Japan. This is a tragic set of developments, the earthquake, followed by the tsunami. Untold damage. And I just want to underscore that the United States -- working closely with South Korea -- we are committed to doing everything possible to address the terrible humanitarian challenge that the Japanese people will be confronting over the course of the next several hours, days, weeks, and months ahead. Our heart goes out to the people of Japan. Our prayers are with them, and we will be doing everything possible, as I said earlier, to support them through this very difficult time.

In our deliberations today, as the Minister indicated, we talked closely about our joint strategy with respect to North Korea. I just want to underscore again that the United States is fully supportive of South Korean efforts to engage responsibly North Korea. We believe that it is appropriate that there be a re-engagement between the North and the South before other steps can take place. And we are fully integrated in all manner of consultations with our South Korean friends. We also talked about our joint efforts in Afghanistan, steps that we want to take together in terms of promoting a non-proliferation agenda at the East Asia Summit. We also are closely working on a variety of issues. One of the things that we did not discuss, but I will just take the opportunity just to underscore here today, the United States is making very real progress on our commitment to making sure that the Expo next year in Korea is a success. We are very excited about the American exhibit, and we are closely coordinating on steps in that respect. I just want to say that I don’t think U.S.-South Korean relations have ever been better. [We are] very gratified by the very close support that we have received from the Foreign Ministry and other departments of the Korean government. We are looking for opportunities for higher level engagement between our two sides in the months ahead. I think with that we can take a few questions. Thank you.

QUESTION: Frank Smith, Press TV. Some observers here in South Korea suggest that perhaps South Korea and American pressure towards North Korean sanctions and now perhaps a presidential statement drives North Korea away from engagement. I was wondering how you can, how you would answer that criticism of American policy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first off, thank you very much. I think what South Korea and the United States have consistently tried to underscore is that we are prepared for dialogue with North Korea, but we want it to be different than the kind of dialogue that we have seen in the past. We want a sincere effort on the part of our North Korean interlocutors to engage responsibly across the full range of issues – nuclear issues, other, missile and North-South developments, in order to ensure peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion about food aid to North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes, we both compared notes on developments associated with assessments that have been taking place, both the World Food Program assessments, and also some American non-profit organizations that have been involved in assessing the humanitarian situation in North Korea. And I think we conveyed very clearly to our South Korean friends that we were still in the process of evaluating the situation on the ground, and that we would continue to consult closely with the South Koreans as we move forward.

QUESTION: Just to follow, some people say that there is a difference between the U.S. and South Korea on this subject, that the U.S. is pressuring for food aid and South Korea is reluctant to provide it. Is there any truth to that --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, there is no truth to that at all.

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: Regarding the humanitarian assistance to North Korea, Korea and the United States have the same view. So if it is needed, we will give, but we need to think about the timing and the circumstances. So we are waiting for the report from the WFP.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We are very closely in consultation. I think we see this issue in very similar terms. We will take one more question.

QUESTION: How soon do you think the UN will deliver some kind of action on North Korea’s uranium enrichment program and is that the pre-condition to resuming the Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I just want to say that we are in close consultations with South Korean, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese interlocutors about steps at the Security Council in New York. I think I will probably learn more about that on my return to Washington.

(to Dep. Min. Kim) Okay.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: (to Dep. Min. Kim) Thank you very much.

(to the press) Thank you all very much.