Joint Remarks to Press at ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs With Ambassador Cho Tae-yong

Glyn Davies
Special Representative for North Korea Policy 
Seoul, South Korea
January 29, 2014

AMBASSADOR CHO: Thank you very much. This is an important time because we believe that we have to work harder to make progress in our efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear challenge. Ambassador Glyn Davies’ visit to China and to this region is very timely and very important. His visit follows Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s visit to Washington, D.C. and Deputy Secretary Burns’ visit to Seoul and his visit will be followed by Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to this region as well. So this is a very important time and we have had as always, a very productive and substantive discussion. One thing we found again is that indeed our two countries are on the same page as Secretary Kerry said in Washington, D.C., there is no, absolutely no sliver of light between the two countries’ positions. Ambassador Davies and I will keep on keeping sure that this is the case and I’m very optimistic about that after having conversations with Ambassador Davies.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Thank you very much, Tae-yong. I would like to endorse everything that Ambassador Cho has said. We had an excellent discussion this morning. We’ll have a chance tonight to speak a bit more over dinner and I thank the Ambassador in advance for that invitation. We did talk about all aspects of this issue, but of course, principally about the nuclear issue and how best to keep the onus on North Korea. Keep the focus on North Korea so that it understands that what it is we need is not just a change in attitude, but a change in direction and in fact, concrete steps from North Korea. This visit to Seoul is the centerpiece of my visit to the region, as it always is and so I was very pleased to have an opportunity to report in-depth to the Ambassador and to his team about the discussions that we had with Ambassador Wu Dawei and other officials in Beijing. I will go on from here to have discussions with our colleagues at United States Forces Korea. I’ll return to have a meeting with Vice Minister Kim here at the Ministry and will also go over to the Unification Ministry to have a meeting with my good friend, the Vice Minister over there and I look forward to many frequent future occasions to, as Ambassador Cho said, ensure that there is no daylight between our two great nations. We have an exceedingly strong alliance. It proves itself every day and we are prepared for whatever occurs in the future and so with that, I’m very happy, if the Ambassador is willing, to take one or two questions.

QUESTION: What is the prospect of resuming Six-Party Talks in light of North Korea’s charm offensive and the execution of Jang Song-thaek?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well I’m happy to take that question. I’ve spoken to this, I spoke to it yesterday in Beijing, so I don’t think I need to say much at length, but we’ve said it, the Ambassador said it here. What we’re looking for from North Korea is sincerity, its movement, action. They know what it is they agreed to do back in September of 2005. They know what the United Nations Security Council has decided about their nuclear and missile activities, and so that’s what we’re looking for is change to come from North Korea. So far, North Korea has been a no show on the nuclear issue and we hope that they begin to change their attitude, change their actions, and give us all the hope and the prospect of a better 2014 going forward, and that’s why I’m so happy to be here at the very beginning of this year to talk about how together the Republic of Korea and the United States can help set the scene for diplomatic progress in coming months.

AMBASSADOR CHO: I just want to add a couple of points. First of all, I endorse every point my good friend Glyn made and also just want to add a couple of things. One is that we’ll have to make sure that North Korean leadership will change its strategic calculations and finds that possessing nuclear weapons is not actually in its key strategic interests, so our two countries will keep working on a number of initiatives and efforts so that we will be able to have the Six-Party Talks back on solid ground on which we can expect substantive progress and also we can expect a solution, a fundamental solution of the North Korean nuclear issue when the talks are resumed. So on that perspective, we are talking and speaking of the same mind.

QUESTION: Let me ask about the joint military exercises. I think both of you talked about this; North Korea called for it to be called off, cancelled. Could you tell me what did you talk about this and both of your nations’ position and are you concerned about provocative action from North Korea now?

AMBASSADOR CHO: Well, the world knows that the joint exercises conducted by the ROK and the United States are annual and defensive in nature. Not one country is taking issue with our exercises except one, and whatever decision we are making about the exercises is all up to our two governments and the other parties have no part in this decision making. So we’re going to keep planning and conducting our joint exercises which are defensive in nature, and which will continue year after year.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Let me just associate myself directly and completely with what Tae-yong has just said. There’s a reason why for the last three generations, 60 years, there has been in general, peace and security on the Korean peninsula and that is because of the strength and solidarity of our two nations and on the military side that relates directly to our ability to be able to respond to any contingencies and so we will continue on a transparent basis to conduct these defensive exercises so that we are ready should, God forbid, any contingency arise.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I think at this stage since we’re running late we do have to run along. Again, Tae-yong, thank you very much.

QUESTION: [Inaudible – Question regarding possible trip by Secretary Kerry to Korea in February 2014]

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: We haven’t made any announcements yet. Thank you.