Remarks to the Press at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Seoul, South Korea
February 1, 2012

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KURT CAMPBELL: Good morning everyone. I have just a quick statement and then I will be happy to take a couple of questions. I apologize; we are running a little behind, so I won’t be able to take too many, but I will be pleased to answer a few.

First of all, let me just say, as always, it is wonderful to be back in Seoul, particularly to see the lovely snowfall last night. I had the honor of addressing the 55th anniversary dinner of the Korea Society last night, with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and other dignitaries in attendance. And we were able to pay tribute to an organization that has done a tremendous amount of work to foster and strengthen all aspects of U.S.-Korean relations, and we look forward to supporting their many programs, particularly youth exchanges, and people-to-people interactions, going forward.

I want to particularly thank my Korean interlocutors for the opportunity to exchange views on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues this morning, including North Korea. I had a series of detailed and substantive discussions with my counterpart Deputy Minister Kim, with Ambassador Lim Sung-nam, and senior officials at the Blue House this morning.

The United States – ROK partnership is stronger than ever and we continue to take steps to deepen our security alliance and identify ways to expand cooperation on a range of issues. In particular, the intensity, rigor, pace, and quality of our cooperation, coordination and engagement between the United States and the ROK on North Korea is unprecedented. We are continuing, almost on a weekly basis, to have close consultations on a whole range of issues. At every level of our government – from the President, the Secretary of State and below – we are working closely with our ROK colleagues. Our excellent Ambassador here in Seoul, Ambassador Sung Kim, plays an indispensable role in maintaining these close consultations, as does my friend and colleague the ROK Ambassador in Washington, Ambassador Han.

Since I was last here, Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies and I hosted our Korean and Japanese counterparts in Washington for trilateral meetings, in which we discussed mutual perceptions of developments there. That session reflects a commitment from our three countries to intensify and deepen three-way coordination, and we look forward to holding another session of our trilateral engagement in the coming months. I think as you all know, Ambassador Glyn Davies is in Moscow with Ford Hart for discussions with Russian counterparts, and we discussed that today with our Korean interlocutors.

Today, in my meetings we reaffirmed again our commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, including its core goal of the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, and we agreed that a path is open to North Korea towards the resumption of talks and improved relations with the United States, and the Republic of Korea through dialogue. We also underscored again, very clearly, that the road to these improved relations runs through Seoul for North Korea.

I also appreciated the opportunity to update my Korean friends on U.S.-China relations, including the upcoming visit of Vice President Xi Jinping to the United States later this month. We also discussed the agenda for the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, which President Obama is very much looking forward to visiting. We also exchanged situation views on the situation in Iran, on how to work closely together on implementing sanctions legislation. We spoke together about our mutual desire to engage constructively in Burma, what you all call Myanmar, and our commitment to increased cooperation in the Pacific region and ASEAN in the upcoming year.

Later today I will depart for Cambodia and Vietnam to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the upcoming ASEAN meetings and the East Asia Summit. I would be pleased to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Chinese Government expressed intent to carry out food assistance to DPRK recently. How do you assess?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, we have had discussions with Chinese friends about developments in North Korea, and their line has been the desire to see maintenance of peace and stability. And, I think we believe that they have taken steps to underscore their commitment to the transition in power in North Korea, and those steps might include further provision of assistance, given the circumstances in North Korea. Frankly, it is an evolving situation, we are watching it closely, and we want to continue a close dialogue with China. We want them to share with us more their perspectives and their plans, and I think that is an issue that South Korea and the United States share very similar views on.

QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister recently said that the Six-Party Talks could possibly resume sometime in the first half of this year. Does Washington have anything to say in regards to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, obviously we noted his statement. I would simply say that the United States believes that we have laid out a way forward, and as I indicated in my statements, we are open to diplomacy with North Korea, but there is a very clear set of steps that we think are necessary. Those steps have been closely coordinated with Japan, and particularly with South Korea. And we are still waiting to see whether the new government in North Korea is prepared to take the necessary steps.

QUESTION: Have you reached an agreement on South Korea exemption from U.S. sanctions on Iran or on the level of crude imports?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No. We have had, we discussed this issue this morning. We underscored that adherence to these new sanctions is important for the United States. We obviously are aware of the sensitivities of this legislation with respect to South Korea and its economy. And I think we agreed that it is important to remain in very close consultations, and we did welcome a prospective South Korean team coming to Washington to discuss specific aspects of various energy-related and financial interactions between South Korea and Iran. Last question.

QUESTION: Following up on that, the South Korean officials have said to us that they are very confused about what ‘significant’ means as far as the reductions of crude oil.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: To be honest, that is a fair question, and I think that is one of the reasons why we want very much to have these discussions. We are very clear on the determination to send a message to Iran that their path on the nuclear front is unacceptable, and we believe that this is an appropriate next step in terms of the kinds of sanctions that have been put in place. But we want to work closely with key countries, like South Korea and Japan, who have particular vulnerabilities in this regard. Okay? Thank you all very much.