Remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Seoul, South Korea
January 26, 2011

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Good afternoon everybody. I’ve just come from an excellent set of conversations with the Foreign Minister and his extraordinarily talented team here at the Ministry. We had a chance to review our common efforts to deal with the challenges on the Korean peninsula as well as the broader set of relationships between the United States and South Korea. As always I found that our views are very much in sync; that we are working together enormously effectively. Indeed, as we thought together about how to characterize the relationship, we concluded that the United States and South Korea are like sticky rice cake: we are together and we are working together enormously effectively.

We’re particularly grateful for the strong leadership that President Lee and the Foreign Minister have shown in making clear that we’re determined to move forward in a constructive way in dealing with the challenges of North Korea’s provocations and its nuclear program, but that in order to move forward North Korea does need to demonstrate that it’s sincerely prepared to step back from the provocations and to engage in a meaningful dialogue that will lead to concrete steps to deal with its nuclear program.

We had a chance to brief the Foreign Minister on the meetings that President Obama and President Hu had in Washington, and I think we both agreed that through our common efforts we’re beginning to make progress in persuading all the parties that we need to see concrete steps and a sincere move by North Korea to move forward and that if North Korea is prepared to move in that direction that we are prepared to do so as well.

I expressed appreciation for the efforts and the initiatives that the government here has made including its proposal for military-to-military talks with North Korea and we are very supportive of the efforts that the government here has taken in that respect. And as I say in all respects, I think we see very much eye to eye on the path forward and will continue to work together very closely to that end.

QUESTION: Does China also see the need for the two Koreas to discuss denuclearization before the Six Party Talks?

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I think it was very clear from the conversations that took place both before the summit and during the summit with President Obama and President Hu that China understands the importance of moving forward initially with North-South dialogue. That rebuilding trust here in South Korea is a critical first step towards being able to move forward to more broad based dialogue. So in that sense I think there is a shared view among all of us about the centrality and importance of moving forward on the North South dimension.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the tough diplomatic and military line that South Korea has been taking has helped change North Korea’s tune recently?

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I think it’s been very important that North Korea understand that these provocations will not be tolerated by any of us and I think the strong coordination and cooperation between the United States and South Korea both on the military and the political level has sent a strong message to North Korea that they’re not going to achieve their objectives through intimidation and through coercion and that, on the contrary, that all they will do is deepen their isolation and lead to even more effective implementation of the measures that we have adopted in response to previous provocations. So the message to the North is clear. I hope that their recent moves reflect a recognition that if they want to move on the agenda that they say that want to move into-- the more constructive relationship with South Korea and the rest of us -- that they’ll need to show some sincere moves away from the path of provocation and towards a meaningful and sincere dialogue.

QUESTION: Do you think that chances of taking the uranium to the UN Security Council are higher now than before the summit meeting?

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: I think the Minister and I both agreed that it’s very important that the international community send a strong message that the uranium enrichment program, indeed any uranium enrichment program by North Korea would be inconsistent with its international obligations, with Security Council resolutions, and with its own commitments under the Joint Declaration, the 2005 Joint Declaration. And that the stronger that we can make that message and the more different opportunities that we have to do that, the more I think we’ll be successful in persuading the North that it needs to go back to its commitments under the Joint Statement. So I think the strong position that we’ve all taken and I think the clear message coming out of the summit between President Obama and President Hu should help drive that message home.

Thank you very much.