Remarks to Press at Incheon International Airport

Glyn Davies
Special Representative for North Korea Policy 
Incheon, South Korea
January 23, 2013

This video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I simply want to say that it is a great pleasure to be back in Seoul. I think our last trip here was in October of last year. I am here with a delegation from the State Department, but also joined by Mr. Syd Seiler, the Korea director at the White House, and tomorrow, we will be joined by Ford Hart, Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks.

We are here for discussions with officials of both the current government and also representatives of the President-elect. In terms of the current government, we will be talking to colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Unification. We will also have an opportunity to speak with General Thurman and with Ambassador Sung Kim and their staffs – very much looking forward to that. But in particular, the discussions with my good friend and colleague Ambassador Lim Sung-nam and with representatives of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition team will be of particular interest to us.

Now, I come at, I think, a very important moment. I learned that while we were on the flight, the Security Council passed unanimously a resolution that reacts to the provocative launch by North Korea of a modified Taepodong-2 missile last month. This is a very important development for, I think, the entire international community. You will recall that some 60 nations responded when North Korea launched that rocket condemning the North Korean action, so this step by the Security Council makes clear, this unanimous action by the Security Council makes clear that the international community is sending a strong signal to North Korea.

Now, it is still the case, and this is why I am here in Seoul, South Korea, and will go on from the Republic of Korea to first China and then Tokyo. I am here because the United States, as President Obama articulated in a speech late last year in Burma, remains committed to diplomacy if we can find a way forward. This is up to North Korea. North Korea needs to live up to its obligations, live up to its commitments, and choose the path of peace and prosperity.

So I am here to talk with Korean authorities and the President-elect’s team about how we might move forward on the issue of North Korea. With that, let me take your questions.

QUESTION: North Korea hinted earlier today it conduct nuclear test. What is U.S. government response to that?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I am sorry. I have not read the – I knew there was a North Korean reaction. But did they say that they plan to conduct a nuclear test?


AMBASSADOR DAVIES: They hinted. Well, they have been hinting at that, I suppose, for some time. We think that that would be a mistake, obviously. We call on North Korea, as does the entire international community, not to engage in any further provocations. It is important that they heed the voice of the international community as contained in the Security Council resolution. And again, if they live up to their obligations, in particular if they can get back to the spirit of the September 2005 Joint Statement, and begin to take concrete steps to indicate their interest in returning to diplomacy, they may find in their negotiating partners willing partners in that process. But it is very much up to North Korea, up to the DPRK, to draw the appropriate lessons from this action by the United Nations Security Council, and what I will be doing is discussing with Korean counterparts today, tomorrow and briefly, I think, on the following day, steps that we can take now that the Security Council has acted.

It is very important, I think, that all of us act in the spirit expressed by President-elect Park Geun-hye in her Foreign Affairs article that was published several months ago, in which she talked about various paths forward on North Korea. And I am here really to do much more listening than talking to learn more from Korean counterparts about their thinking and to see how we might work together as close allies to deepen our alliance and to find ways forward on North Korea.

Any other questions?

QUESTION: There are clear signs that nuclear test take place anytime soon.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Yes, I understand you want me to react to this issue of a nuclear test. The truth is, it is up to North Korea whether they test or not. This is not something that they can credibly claim is in reaction to steps taken by the international community. We would call on them not to engage in further provocations, and we are joined by the international community in that appeal.

Now is not a time to make the situation on the Korean Peninsula any more tense. Now is a time to begin to think about a path forward away from provocation, a path forward toward peace, toward prosperity, and toward meeting the needs of the North Korean people. And as I say, and as President Obama has articulated, the United States will always extend a hand if North Korea takes the path of peace. So, what I do not want to do is hold all of my discussions with Republic of Korea officials here at the airport with you. I would like to go talk to them. So with your permission, what I will do is go on into Seoul and I look very much forward to my discussions with Korean counterparts.

Thank you very much. Appreciate that. Thank you.