Remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sheraton Grande Laguna
Laguna Phuket, Thailand
July 23, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Let me start by saying we’ve had a series of very productive sessions here in Phuket, and I’ve had the opportunity for the first time to engage with the nations of ASEAN and our regional partners on issues of common concern, to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and to lay the groundwork for even stronger partnerships as we move forward.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet one on one with a number of my counterparts. Earlier, I met with Foreign Minister Qureshi of Pakistan, and we talked about the encouraging signs in Pakistan’s fight against violent extremists, including the return of significant numbers of refugees to Buner and Swat. There are still great challenges ahead facing Pakistan, including the ongoing threat of violent extremism and continuing economic difficulty. But I assured the foreign minister that the United States stands ready to help the Pakistani Government and people. And I also advised him that I support the steps Pakistan and India have taken to find a more productive way forward.

I want to take this opportunity to discuss the situation in North Korea and our efforts here in the ASEAN Regional Forum to promote security in Northeast Asia. Yesterday, I held consultations with our allies and partners in the Six-Party process, and this morning, there was a very good discussion with the ASEAN nations and regional partners. I was gratified by how many countries from throughout the region spoke up and expressed directly to the North Korean delegation their concerns over the provocative behavior we have seen these past few months.

Unfortunately, the North Korean delegation offered only an insistent refusal to recognize that North Korea has been on the wrong course. In their presentation today, they evinced no willingness to pursue the path of denuclearization. And that was troubling not only to the United States, but to the region and the international community. So the question is, where do we go from here?

I think it’s important to stress that the international community’s response to North Korea’s actions has been unequivocal and nearly unanimous, leading to a new consensus around a common set of principles. The United States and its allies and partners cannot accept a North Korea that tries to maintain nuclear weapons to launch ballistic missiles or to proliferate nuclear materials. And we are committed to the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. Now this convergence of views reflected, as you will see later today in statements by ASEAN, and as you saw just a few weeks ago with the G-8 statement and others, produced two important Security Council actions – a presidential statement and a unanimous binding resolution.

Now these are more than expressions of condemnation. Resolution 1874, combined with the designations authorized by the UN Sanctions Committee, provides a powerful tool to curb North Korea’s unacceptable activities, and to put pressure on individuals and entities connected to the regime’s nuclear, ballistic missile, and other WMD-related programs. We believe that this resolution can be effective because it is unprecedented in scope, substance, and approach.

First, it differs from past efforts in that it is based on a global consensus, bringing to bear the combined weight of the international community, not just one nation or a small handful of nations. Second, it targets a spectrum of individuals, organizations, and institutions, not just one or two. Third, it fits into the broader framework of our approach to North Korea. It is accompanied by a message, as I reiterated this morning, that we are prepared to work with the North Koreans if they are willing to act on their previous commitments.

In short, our approach isolates North Korea, imposes meaningful pressure to force changes in its behavior, and provides an alterative path that would serve everyone’s interests. Our joint efforts to take Resolution 1874 from paper to practice are now underway. I asked Ambassador Philip Goldberg to lead an interagency team charged with implementing the sanctions, and he’s already traveled to the region to consolidate and coordinate our efforts. Russian and Chinese representatives have visited Washington to work together on these issues.

And in addition to this week’s meetings, I’ve spoken repeatedly with my counterparts in China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea about our common way forward. I intend to send Ambassador Goldberg back to the region in the near future to continue our common efforts to enforce the sanctions. And next Monday and Tuesday, as part of our strategic and economic dialogue with China, I will be holding intensive discussions with State Councilor Dai Bingguo on North Korea and the broader questions of peace and security in Asia.

In implementing 1874, we are asking our partners to help dissuade all nations from facilitating, directly or indirectly, North Korea’s attempts to enhance and proliferate its nuclear and missile technologies. We were gratified by Burma’s statement and those of many other countries announcing an intention to implement the resolution. Burma’s statement is significant because in the past, North Korea has provided Burma with materials now barred by Resolution 1874.

The bottom line is this: If North Korea intends to engage in international commerce, its vessels must conform to the terms of 1874 or find no port. Our goal in enforcing these sanctions and others imposed earlier is not to create suffering or to destabilize North Korea. Our quarrel is not with the North Korean people. In fact, it was the North Korean leadership that rejected humanitarian aid from the United States and forced us to suspend our food aid program.

So let me be clear: As we work to end the regime’s nuclear program, we remain committed to the well-being, dignity, and human rights of the people of North Korea. We will continue to work closely with other governments, international organizations, and NGOs to address human rights violations and abuses perpetuated by the regime. We will maintain our support of NGOs working to improve human rights in North Korea. And we will keep funding Korean language radio broadcasting for the same purposes, and we will soon announce a special envoy for North Korean human rights.

As we enforce sanctions, we are open to talks with North Korea, but we are not interested in half measures. We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table. We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take. And we have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.

We and our partners have a more ambitious agenda for any future talks. Such talks must lead to irreversible steps by North Korea to denuclearize. This, in turn, would lead us and our partners to reciprocate in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. Full normalization of relationships, a permanent peace regime, and significant energy and economic assistance are all possible in the context of full and verifiable denuclearization.

In the meantime, we will undertake the necessary defensive measures to protect our interests and our allies. North Korea’s ongoing threatening behavior does not inspire trust, nor does it permit us to sit idly by. Our partners in the region understand that a nuclear North Korea has far-reaching consequences for the security future of Northeast Asia. North Korea’s continued pursuit of its nuclear ambitions is sure to elevate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and could provoke an arms race in the region. This would serve no nation’s interests – not ours, not Japan’s, South Korea’s, China, nor Russia’s and nor, might I add, North Korea’s.

Our success in putting this resolution into action will also have implications beyond North Korea. It will demonstrate to other countries with nuclear ambitions, such as Iran’s, that we can and will impose costly penalties for those who violate international agreements and undermine global security. And it will give us a blueprint for how to manage any similar challenges that might arise in the future.

So our policy is clear. North Korea knows what it has to do: return to denuclearization talks and fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and return at an early date to the nonproliferation treaty and to IAEA safeguards. The path is open, and it is up to North Korea to take it.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thanks. Madame Secretary, the North Korean representatives today spoke just behind us over there and said that the Six-Party Talks were dead; there is no way they’re coming back, and that whatever we have to offer them in terms of incentives is nothing new to them, and they won’t accept it.

The foreign ministry at the same time issued a statement with actual attacks and insults personally aimed at you. I wonder whether you think that perhaps the time has come to replace the Six-Party framework with perhaps a broader framework. You just suggested that there’s a broad consensus today here about what to do with North Korea. And since China has been reluctant to put it – amend the resolution so far, what would you want them to do when you meet with them on Monday and Tuesday in Washington?

Oh, and one more: Aren’t you exhausted?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Aren’t you?

QUESTION: I am. That’s why I’m asking.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that China has been very vigorous in working with us in support of full implementation of 1874. Just as we have, they created an interagency task force which is working with our own people. There has already been a meeting in Beijing, and I said, there will be a follow-on meeting in Washington.

The Chinese have been very supportive in our efforts to deliver a strong message to North Korea and to other nations that they expect, as we do, that the international community will enforce 1874. They played a very helpful role in the matter of the North Korean ship that was on its way to Burma.

In addition, today, the Six-Party members who were present, with the exception of North Korea, reiterated their commitment to this process and made it very clear that there is no place to go for North Korea. They have no friends left that will protect them from the international community’s efforts to move toward denuclearization. So I think it’s fair to say that not only were Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea very strong in making the points which they did this morning, but those points were echoed by so many of the ASEAN members and other regional partners.

So the message is coming out loudly and clearly to North Korea. And I don’t think we’ve seen at all the way this will eventually develop. I think we’re just still at the beginning of determining how they’re going to respond.

QUESTION: What framework (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: The framework is the Six-Party Talks.

MR. KELLY: Next question (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what evidence do you have of Burma’s cooperation in enforcing the UN Security Council resolution? How did your talks with Burmese officials go last night? And most importantly, how do you reconcile your appreciation and gratitude that they are promising to enforce that with your two days of public, strong comments about concerns of military and even nuclear cooperation between Burma and North Korea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve expressed that very clearly and forcefully, but I do think there is a positive direction that we’ve seen with Burma, both in the already existing cooperation they showed with respect to the North Korean ship, in their statements to us and others that they intend to do their part to enforce 1874. Now, obviously, we have to see that unfold, but that’s never happened before, and we’re very encouraged by that. At the same time, we know that there has been cooperation between North Korea and Burma in the past, and we are going to be vigilant to make sure that it doesn’t occur in the future.

I was not part of any talks. Others in our Administration were, and we made it very clear, both privately and publicly, that there are expectations on our part that Aung Sun Suu Kyi be released unconditionally, that there begin a process of release of political prisoners, that the election scheduled for next year be open and fair and transparent and credible. And that view was echoed by many people in the room. It was not just a U.S. view. It was very widely and, I must say, heart – it was really expressed from the heart by so many people.

So we hope that there is going to be recognition on the part of the Burmese leadership that they have more to gain by joining the international community and by effectively taking care of their people and putting Burma on the path to democracy. We don’t expect to see a change overnight, but we’re – it’s better to have those positive statements than the negative ones. So we think that gives us at least something to work with.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. And I spoke to foreign ministers in the area, asking their help in speaking to their Burmese counterpart. And they did so, and whether or not it was a proximate cause, shortly after, the ship turned around.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from (inaudible) in Asia. I just wanted to clarify, when you said U.S. will take any defensive measurements, what exactly that mean? Is it going to be like U.S. ready to start a war with North Korea at any time? And how ASEAN, especially in Myanmar, is going to pick on that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. But I wanted to make very clear that the United States does not seek any kind of offensive action against North Korea. We have said that over and over again. The North Koreans said in a meeting today that they’ve been subjected to nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula aimed at them. That hasn’t happened for decades. So I think they are living in a historical time period that doesn’t reflect today’s realities.

We are very open to a positive relation with North Korea on the condition that they denuclearize. But if they refuse to do so, as they have in the last months, and refuse to follow the obligations they themselves signed up to in 2005 and -06, then our allies in South Korea and Japan and other countries in the region begin to worry about what North Korea’s intentions are. And we want to make clear that the United States will continue to work for the defense of allies like Japan and South Korea. And that’s unfortunately our obligation, one that we will be serious in fulfilling. But it’s not directed in any offensive manner against North Korea.

We also wish to avoid an arms race in Northeast Asia. If the North Koreans are going to continue to test nuclear weapons and their missiles, then other countries are going to start saying, well, we don’t know what they’re going to do, we’d better start taking care of ourselves and doing that and to have that capacity.

We think that would be a terrible mistake. So we’re trying to make clear that we will protect and defend our allies, but we still hope that there is an opportunity to work with North Korea toward denuclearization.

MR. KELLY: Okay, thank you.


PRN: 2009/T9-16