Briefing on the Republic of Korea

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Briefing for the traveling press corps
Beijing, China
May 24, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: I want to commend President Lee for his strong and dignified speech today. It was a testament to his leadership, and to the character and resolve of the South Korean people.

We have consulted closely with the Republic of Korea, and we will continue to do so as we move forward. I will be traveling to Seoul on Wednesday for further discussions. I have also had in-depth conversations with the Japanese leadership, and I am in the midst of intensive consultations with the Chinese Government on this issue. My colleagues in the United States Government, including Secretary Gates and others, are also actively engaging countries in the region.

The United States fully supports President Lee's responsible handling of the Cheonan incident, and the objective investigation that followed, which we and other international observers joined. The measures that President Lee announced in his speech are both prudent and entirely appropriate.

The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States, as President Obama made clear when he spoke to President Lee last week.

First, we endorse President Lee's call on North Korea to come forward with the facts regarding this act of aggression and, above all, stop its belligerence and threatening behavior.

Second, our support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression. As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the Peninsula.

Third, we support President Lee's call to bring this issue to the United Nations Security Council. I will be working with Ambassador Rice and our Korean counterparts, as well as Japan, China, and other UN Security Council member states to reach agreement on a way forward in the Council.

Fourth, President Obama has directed U.S. Government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to North Korea, to ensure that we have adequate measures in place, and to identify areas where adjustments would be appropriate.

As I have said, the path that will lead North Korea to security and prosperity is to stop its provocative behavior, halt its policy of threats and belligerence toward its neighbors, and take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments, and comply with international law.

Let me also briefly address another matter that several of you have inquired about. I want to commend Prime Minister Hatoyama for making the difficult, but nevertheless correct, decision to relocate the Futenma facility inside Okinawa. We are working with the Japanese Government to ensure that our agreement adopts Japanese proposals that will lighten the impact on the people of Okinawa. We are confident that the relocation plan that Japan and the United States are working to conclude will help establish the basis for future alliance cooperation.

As a former politician, I know how hard Prime Minister Hatoyama's decision was, and I thank him for his courage and determination to fulfill his commitments. This is truly the foundation for our future work as allies in the Asia Pacific region.

I will be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, on North and South Korea, can you specify precisely what kinds of things the U.S. Government will look at as it studies policies and authority regarding North Korea? Are you, for example, specifically looking at the possibility of putting them back on the state-sponsor of terrorism list?

Regarding the military coordination that the President has ordered, will that include such things as joint anti-submarine warfare measures to try to prevent precisely this kind of incident from happening again?

And you've said that you will -- that you fully support South Korea taking this matter to the UN Security Council. Do you think that North Korea should actually face additional sanctions, sanctions that go beyond 1874, in the Council?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, we are obviously continuing to review and consult closely on these matters, some of which are quite sensitive. And I look forward to discussing them in depth when I am in Seoul on Wednesday. We will provide additional details at the appropriate time.

With respect to your specific question about the state-sponsor of terrorism list, the United States will apply the law as the facts warrant. The legislation, as you know, sets out specific criteria for the Secretary of State to base a determination. And the Department of State continually reviews North Korea's actions to determine if the evidence supports its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. If the evidence warrants, the Department of State will take action.

Currently, several North Korean entities, financial institutions and individuals, are subject to sanctions due to their involvement in or their support of North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.

You may also know that the White House issued a statement a few hours ago. We are closely coordinating what we're doing in Washington and here in the region, and I think the requests that President Lee made in his speech are fully appropriate, and are being analyzed. So there will be more to report in the days ahead.



QUESTION: I was wondering how much you can tell us what the Chinese are telling you, as far as their response to the Cheonan issue. There has been a lot of anger in South Korea that the Chinese haven't been more proactive in condemning the North, and I would like -- maybe you could say what the Chinese are telling you.

And also, how serious is this situation? I mean, are you concerned this could escalate into a war? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. As I said, we are in the midst of very intensive consultations with the Chinese Government on this issue. It would, again, be premature for me to discuss details of those conversations. But I can say that the Chinese recognize the gravity of the situation we face. The Chinese understand the reaction by the South Koreans, and they also understand our unique responsibility for the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

As I said in my statement earlier today, we have cooperated very well with China to respond to North Korea's provocative actions last year, and we are discussing how we will be able to cooperate equally effectively in this context, as well. It is part of the -- obviously, a category of its own, when it comes to the strategic and economic dialogue.

But I have to say that we are off to a very good start, with respect to the dialogues. We spent in a very small group at dinner last night about two-and-a-half hours discussing important matters. I have just completed another small group discussion with about -- of about two-and-a-half hours. So, the Chinese are taking this very seriously, and recognize the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. And we will continue to work with them on the way forward.

We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation. This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region. And it is one that every country that neighbors or is in proximity to North Korea understands must be contained. So that is what we are working to achieve. And, at the same time, to send a message to North Korea that we are not simply resuming business as usual, that we intend to work with the international community to create a climate in which both consequences are felt by North Korea, and working to change their behavior, going forward, to avoid the kind of escalation that would be very regrettable.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.


PRN: 2010/T29-9