Press Availability at the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press Availability
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary of State
Seoul, South Korea
January 21, 2014

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Good morning. It’s always good to be back in Seoul. I want first to thank Vice Foreign Minister Kim for the warmth of his hospitality and for a very productive set of discussions this morning, continuing the conversations we had in Washington last month during our annual Strategic Dialogue. 2013 was an exceptional year in the relationship between our two countries as we celebrated together the sixtieth anniversary of our alliance.

President Park had an excellent visit to Washington and Vice President Biden had a similarly successful visit to Seoul at the end of last year. We’re determined, as our two Foreign Ministers discussed in Washington a week or so ago, to make a very strong start in 2014 as we begin the first year of the next 60 years of our alliance. We had the opportunity today to talk about a range of the most important issues on our common agenda.

First on security, I reemphasized the strong continuing commitment of the United States to work closely and consult closely with our partners and allies in the Republic of Korea in dealing with the challenges posed by the DPRK leadership. We talked about the importance of moving together towards verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula. I expressed once again the strong American support for President Park’s principled approach to the DPRK and stressed once again the strong American support for the defense and security of the Republic of Korea. And I would add that the recent progress that we made on the Special Measures Agreement is a reflection, I think, of the strength of our security relationship.

Second, we talked about the economic dimension of our partnership. The progress we’re making is in the interests of both of our societies, and both of our economies, as we implement the Free Trade Agreement.

The progress that we’re making on civil nuclear cooperation and extending our current 123 Agreement and moving towards a successor agreement is also important.

I also said again that we welcome South Korea’s expression of interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and we look forward to continued bilateral consultations on that issue.

Third, we talked about global cooperation, the ways in which we continue to work together on issues ranging from Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear issue, to Syria, the support that we continue to provide to the Republic of Korea’s efforts to deepen its ties to ASEAN, the ways in which we’ve welcomed South Korea’s humanitarian efforts in the Philippines in recent months.

And fourth and finally, we talked about the importance of deepening people-to-people ties between our two societies. More than 70,000 young Koreans are studying in the United States now and more and more Americans are studying here in Korea. I think that offers a very strong foundation for the kind of people-to-people ties that can complement strong government-to-government ties.

So once again, it’s a great pleasure to be here and I look forward to taking a couple questions.

QUESTION: Yonhap News Agency. What’s your stance and reaction to North Korea’s important proposal last week and their charm offensive?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: As I said before, the United States is committed to the strongest possible cooperation and consultation between our two governments. We share the same aim which is the verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula and I welcome the opportunity today to talk through in detail a common approach to those issues.

QUESTION: NHK, how do you view the current situation in North Korea, unstable or stable? How do view the possibility of a provocation in the near future?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I think the United States and our friends here in the Republic of Korea share a lot of concern about the recent behavior of the DPRK leadership and the dangers of further reckless behavior and provocation in the future. As I said, both of us remain committed to a resumption of credible and authentic negotiations aimed at denuclearization. I think it’s very, very important that the United States and the Republic of Korea continue to demonstrate our solidarity in the pursuit of that aim and in responding and thinking through how best to respond to the actions that are taken by the DPRK leadership.

Thank you all very much.