Opening Statements in Meeting at the Ministry of National Defense

James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Sang Hee
Seoul, South Korea
June 3, 2009

MINISTER LEE: (via interpreter) I would like to sincerely welcome the U.S. Government delegates to MND. [Deputy] Secretary Steinberg, [Assistant] Secretary Gregson, it is good to see you again after the Shangri-La Dialogues last week. And it is also very good to see [Under] Secretary Levey as well as other DOD personnel that are here for the first time. During the ROK-U.S. Defense Ministerial talks as well as the ROK, U.S. and Japan trilateral talks at Singapore last week, I believe we announced our bilateral commitment to cooperate over the North Korean threats, both to the Peninsula to the world. I also believe we have sent a powerful message to North Korea. And your visit to the Ministry of National Defense, given the current situation in the North, is a testament to the close ties of cooperation between our two nations. I hope this meeting will serve as a good forum of discussion to assess the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, share perceptions, and seek common responses. I believe that in all cases, we must make North Korea clearly recognize that it will not gain anything for bad behavior.

I would like to begin by introducing the ROK participants. First, we have Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Kim Tae Young; next we have Combined Forces Command General Sharp. And I have introduced General Sharp as a ROK participant a) because he has a Korean name already, Song Han-pil, and secondly because our President refers to him as ‘our Combined Forces Commander.’ Next we have the JCS J-5 General Kim; next we have the JCS Chief Director of Joint Ops [LTG Jang]; and the Director of KDIA [LTG Hwang]. To the right we have Deputy Minister for Defense Policy [LTG Kim]; the Director General for Policy Planning [MG Kwon]; and the Director General for International Policy [Mr. Cho].

For our discussion today we will first ask for some opening remarks from [Deputy] Secretary Steinberg. Afterwards, Brigadier General Jeon In-bung from the J-5 will give a 15 minute briefing on the current North Korea situation from a military perspective. After that we will have an approximately 30 minute discussion.

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Minister Lee, thank you so much for that warm welcome. I think it is a testament to our close partnership that we have the opportunity to meet again so soon after our discussions in Shangri-La, and I think it was important that, as in Shangri-La where we had representatives both from Secretary Gates and the Pentagon and also the State Department, here too we have a very broad-based interagency team. And our bilateral cooperation was reinforced by the very important trilateral meeting that we had in Singapore with our Japanese counterparts as well. But nothing could symbolize our partnership more clearly than the presence of General Sharp on your side of the table. Both in Singapore and in my meetings earlier today, I have been struck by the strong common view that the United States and the Republic of Korea have of the challenges in front of us and the deep commitment to work together to address them. I think we have a common view of the dangers posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear developments, and a common commitment to try to find a path forward to reverse this, and to move towards complete and verifiable de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Critical to achieving that is our strong security cooperation and the fact that we work together so closely that we are deeply committed to each other’s security, and I think that the opportunity to hear from your officials and for ours to exchange views on this question is extremely important to make sure that there is no doubt in the minds of the leaders of North Korea that we are determined to assure each other’s security and safety. So before we turn to our briefing let me briefly introduce our delegation as well. Of course you all know Ambassador Stephens. Ambassador Bosworth, who has done all of his various capacities here in Seoul ; the equally well-known Undersecretary of the Treasury Mr. Levey; Admiral Winnefeld from the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador DeTrani from our intelligence community; and over here is Assistant Secretary Gregson, who was with us in Singapore; Ambassador Bader from the National Security Council; and Mr. Hammer also from the National Security Council.