Press Walk-out at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Republic of Korea Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae Shin
Seoul, South Korea
June 10, 2011

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much, Minister. It’s wonderful to be back in Korea, even for a short visit. I was able to meet with the Foreign Minister and the excellent team here at the Foreign Ministry and review recent developments and close coordination between our two sides. I’ve just come from a series of stops -- in Beijing, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Indonesia -- a series of meetings, and I thought it was important to compare notes with our Korean friends about what we have learned on this visit.

In Beijing, we met with a range of close partners on the discussions concerning North Korea. In all of our meetings, we urged China to make best efforts to encourage North Korea to improve relations with South Korea. I think it would be fair to say that the Chinese interlocutors were concerned by the disruption in talks and a little surprised and very much want to see improvement in dialogue between the North and the South, and we’ve encouraged that process as well. In meetings with Japanese friends, very strong expressions of solidarity towards our friends in South Korea and strong support for the game plan that we have coordinated together on in terms of our engagement strategy with respect to North Korea.

In our meetings with the Foreign Ministry, we talked about a range of issues. As my colleague has indicated, Secretary Clinton, during her visit to Korea in April, invited Foreign Minister Kim to come to Washington. He graciously accepted and he will be coming to Washington on June 24 for intense consultations in terms of next steps with respect to our joint strategy on North Korea and other matters in Northeast Asia, including ASEAN Regional Forum and the upcoming East Asia Summit. We also talked about the very close coordination, cooperation, and the joint efforts that are taking place with respect to Camp Carroll. I briefed the Foreign Minister on steps in the United States to make sure that America has an outstanding pavilion in next year’s Yeosu Expo. They are excited about that, and the Foreign Minister asked to have a chance to meet with the American team when he visits Washington in the next few weeks.

I just want to underscore the strongest possible solidarity that exists between our two countries. U.S.-South Korean relations have never been stronger. We’re working on a range of issues in terms of the overall global Korea, our posture, Afghanistan - every aspect of development. And we look forward to close dialogue and coordination in the months ahead. We’d be happy to take a few questions.


QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, you mentioned China’s officials being surprised [inaudible] at the disruption of talks [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Kim Jong-il, I think as you know, had recently been in China. And when he was there, I don’t think the North Koreans gave any indication that they were about to so abruptly break off contact and so publicly with South Korea. And I think we expressed our concerns, and I think all of our Chinese interlocutors, I think, indicated that they had no knowledge in advance that such steps were being contemplated.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, what was the Chinese officials’ response to you urging them to push North Korea to mend ties to with the South? What was their response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think it’d be fair to say we have many areas of common approach between the United States and China, and South Korea and China, but also a few areas of difference. But I think we all agree that there has to be improvement between North and the South, and I think China wants to take efforts to help support that process.

EMBASSY STAFF: If there are no other questions?


QUESTION: Where are you in assessing food aid to North Korea. Have you finished your assessment?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you. No, we have not finished our assessment. We are still reviewing a substantial amount of data. We did very clearly communicate to South Korean friends that no decision has been taken, and that under any circumstances we will coordinate closely in advance with South Korea as we go forward.


QUESTION: During the Six-Party Talks, a process over many years, countries face the situation in which North Korea would kind of delay things, not do anything, and then sort of often say the U.S. needs to do something. This came to be – what then happened was that the other countries began to say, “U.S., why don’t you give in just a little bit? Why don’t you just change a little bit?” Then became kind of a syndrome called [inaudible] of low expectations, right? Is that happening now with South Korea and North Korea, in that North Korea has stretched this to such a point that the other countries are going to start putting pressure on South Korea and say “You’re going to have to bend just a little bit from the principle you have espoused.”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’ll try to answer from the American perspective. I, personally, and my government is very proud of the fact that we have stood , we have stood very closely next to South Korea and supported them through this process. I think that we have to recall that it is South Korea that has experienced the tragedies of the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of the island, and it is South Korea that has responded with dignity. We have enormous respect and support for how they have undertaken efforts to try to engage North Korea. We are closely in alignment in our strategies. And we believe that the essential approach that South Korea has laid out is the right one. We would like to see a resumption of talks and dialogue, but, we also believe that the South Korean approach will bear fruit.


QUESTION: Do you have any words about the U.S. forces dumping Orange Agent [sic] in Camp Carroll in Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I did say in my statement that we discussed this with the Foreign Minister. I will say that the United States and South Korea are working very closely, jointly on this. This is a very serious matter and we want to work expeditiously with our South Korean friends on this going forward.