Remarks to Press at Incheon International Airport
Special Representative for North Korea Policy
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Hello, everybody. It is great to be here in Seoul. This is, I think, my fifth or sixth trip since starting this job at the end of 2011. I am looking forward very much to meetings with the new government -- in particular a session with my good friend Ambassador Lim Sung Nam -- but I will also go to the Ministry of Unification and to the Blue House to meet with colleagues there. And of course I will have a chance to talk to my very good friend and colleague Ambassador Sung Kim, and we will go to USFK and talk to General Thurman. So, it is great to be here. Any questions from anybody?
QUESTION: Mr. Davies, North Korea seems to find a way to ease the tension on the Korean Peninsula these days. How do you evaluate the current situation on North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, sometimes North Korea creates the impression that they are easing tension because they cease doing provocative and dangerous and destabilizing things. But I do not think that is the same as easing tension. I think easing tension and making diplomatic progress will come when North Korea begins to live up to its obligations and to meet its expectations and gets back on the path of diplomacy and denuclearization. And that is really why I am here in South Korea, to talk to the ROK government about how best to send the right signals to North Korea so that it understands that it should get away from this kind of endless cycle of provocations, followed by periods of silence, followed by more provocations. What we need to do is to get back on a positive path toward diplomacy and toward real progress, and that starts with North Korea taking steps to demonstrate that it is serious about living up to its obligations.
QUESTION: Mr. Davies, the Bank of China publicly announced last week that it closed the account of North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. With regard to China’s decision, how do you assess China’s movement?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I think that is a very interesting and potentially important development that the steps are being taken by a number of Chinese banks. You know, this is my first stop. I go on from here in a couple of days to Beijing. And then after several days there, I will go to Tokyo, so I am spending the whole week in North Asia.
But I plan when I am in Beijing to talk to Chinese officials about the steps they have taken and see if there are not more ways that we can send very strong, united signals to North Korea that it is time to really return to the path of denuclearization and begin to take steps to demonstrate that they are serious about their intent to get back to diplomacy. So I find it a very interesting and very hopeful sign. And when I get to Beijing we will find out more from the Chinese about what it is it all means.
QUESTION: So do you believe it is a sign of a shift in China’s policy stance on North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I think the Chinese attitude toward North Korea – I mean, I cannot speak for Beijing, I am not a Chinese diplomat – but from the American perspective it looks as if their thinking continues to evolve in Beijing. It is a new government in China, and they, of course, have their own set of interests in North Korea. They have a unique relationship with North Korea as its largest trading partner and political ties. So we will see what it means and we will see whether this signifies any kind of a real shift in how the Chinese are operating. But I find it quite interesting, it is hopeful, and I cannot wait to learn more from Wu Dawei and colleagues in Beijing.
QUESTION: When President Obama and President Park met last week, there seems to be a little difference between the ROK and the U.S. in terms of attitude toward Japan. So are you going to attempt to narrow the gap here in Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well the point is North Korea is such an important issue. We have this shared interest, a similar, strong interest in all of us in the five-party process, the five-party partners, in trying to find a way to clarify for North Korea the choices that it faces.
So, I think North Korea is too important an issue really to get drawn into some of these other ongoing questions that are out there. That particular issue is not one that I work on, this issue of regional relationships so much. But again, from the North Korea perspective, we think it is very important that we continue to find ways to work together. The five parties, certainly the three allies, should find ways to work together on it because we all have the same interest in seeing progress made and seeing progress in particular on denuclearization.
I have to get into Seoul now and have some meetings, if that is OK with you, so thank you very much.