Remarks to Press at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Seoul, South Korea
January 16, 2013

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Hi. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us here in the Foreign Ministry. We are part of an interagency team from the White House, from the State Department, from the Department of Defense. We are here in Seoul, and then we will be proceeding later today to Japan. But our first stop here is part of a mission to underscore our strongest possible support for our alliance, to pay our best wishes to the outgoing administration and the key officials who have served so well and admirably over the last couple of years, and also to have the opportunity to interact with the incoming team.

We met last night with the Defense Minister, this morning with Minister Yu, the Unification Minister. We had an opportunity to meet with Ambassador Chun from the President’s Office, The Blue House, and we have just come from a meeting with our friend, Vice Minister Kim, to discuss issues of our bilateral engagement between our two sides. In every meeting we have underscored our strong desire to maintain really the unprecedented level of dialogue and closeness that we have experienced between the United States and South Korea over the last couple of years.

We have shared perceptions on the Korean Peninsula, developments in North Korea, our desire to engage positively with our friends in Beijing, to ensure relations between Japan and South Korea are on an upward trajectory, and to underscore generally the strong determination of the second Obama Administration to maintain our deep commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.

We look forward this afternoon to have interactions with members of the transition team, and we will also be given the opportunity, the honor, to meet with President-elect Park, Madam Park. And we will be carrying with us a message from the United States government, from the President, and from Secretary Clinton.

So with that, let me just open up for a couple of questions. We will have another opportunity later today.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, what is Washington’s view in regards to the incoming government here in Seoul? The position, the policy direction toward North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We are very comfortable with the interactions that we have had. I think the key to strong policy is coordination. I think one of the reasons that we are here is to begin that process. We have every confidence that the United States and South Korea will maintain the closest possible partnership in coordination with respect to diplomacy towards North Korea.

QUESTION: Mr. Campbell, would you talk about with your counterparts how to rebuild a relationship of balance with South Korea? How to deal with possible sanctions, you know, such as additional (inaudible) statement or additional (inaudible).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, I am not going to get into details, but we did talk generally, and I think there is a strong determination in South Korea to make sure that relations between South Korea and Japan are positive going forward. We support that. We have very great confidence in the leadership in both Japan and South Korea to recognize that it is in the strongest, best interests of both countries to maintain that positive trajectory going forward.

QUESTION: Has U.S. government detected clear signs that North Korea conduct nuclear test anytime soon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, we did not get into hypotheticals. We are very clear in our position that provocative steps are to be discouraged. We are closely working with the key players, including South Korea, at the UN with respect to our diplomacy after the missile test late last year.

QUESTION: I think you already talked with South Korean government about next step at the UN Security Council against North Korea. So what kind of agreement, I guess you have consensus with South Korean government today. And what kind of agreement you have today? Next steps?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, we are the midst of really rather intense deliberations in New York, in the Security Council, led by our Ambassador, Ambassador Rice. We are in very close consultation with South Korean government about those deliberations. I think we have their understanding about the way forward, and I think you will see more developments in the days ahead.

QUESTION: In that sense, sorry, do you have any plan to talk with China about to ask more cooperation…

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Oh, we are in very detailed conversations with all the key players, including China, Russia, many key players in Europe, and in Asia as a whole, yes.

QUESTION: One month already passed since the rocket launch of North Korea. And what is the reason there is no specific reaction from United Nations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, look, there have been very clear individual national responses. The United States and South Korea both condemned the actions, made very clear that we thought that this was provocative and undermined peace and stability. As you well understand, there has been intervening period of holidays and the like. We are actively engaged in the diplomacy, and we recognize how important the outcome is, and we anticipate steps, formal steps in the Security Council in the immediate future.

Thank you all very much. We will have more to say later.