Press Availability With Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan After their Meeting
Secretary of State
FOREIGN MINISTER YU: (Via translator) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I wish to once again welcome Secretary Clinton on her visit to Seoul. During our meeting today, the Secretary and I reaffirmed the Korea-U.S. alliance is a cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia. And building on common values and mutual trust, our countries are developing an alliance relationship that now stands stronger and better than ever. And, furthermore, we had extensive discussions on ways to respond to the Cheonan incident, based on this robust alliance.
We also talked about the Korea-U.S. summit meeting scheduled for late June, and the 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial in late July.
With regards to the Cheonan incidence, Secretary Clinton conveyed her solid confidence in and support for the outcome of the joint investigation team's scientific and objective investigation, and expressed her regards for the calm and measured manner in which the Korean Government is dealing with the incident.
Moreover, we concurred that North Korea's attack constitutes a clear violation of the armistice agreement, the South-North Korea basic agreement of 1991, and the UN charter, and that North Korea should, accordingly, be held to full account. We and in-depth consultations on what concrete measures should be taken.
We also agreed that this -- it is when the international community criticizes North Korea's wrongful actions and furnishes a stern response, that we can help North Korea go down the right path. And in this regard we decided to cooperate closely together to ensure that the incident is taken up internationally in such forum as the UN, and that appropriate response is made.
Meanwhile, the Secretary and I agreed to work closely together so that the summit meeting in June and the 2+2 ministerial in late July can lead to productive discussions on appraising the successful development of our strategic alliance, strengthening our security posture, based on our combined defense capabilities, and enhancing cooperation at the regional and global levels by faithfully implementing the joint vision.
In addition, Secretary Clinton and I agreed to cooperate actively to ensure the success of the November G20 summit meeting and the 2012 nuclear security summit, both of which will be held in Korea, and we concurred that the (inaudible) FTA will serve to take our broader relationship to a higher level, and agreed to work together to bring about its early ratification.
Lastly, we affirmed that Secretary Clinton's visit underscores our common determination in dealing with the Cheonan incident, and will serve as an occasion for further strengthening the strategic alliance. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) Now we will be hearing from Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister Yu. And it is wonderful to be back here in Seoul today on such a beautiful day to express our strong solidarity and support for the people of Korea.
South Korea is a staunch ally, a friend, and a partner. And I want to thank President Lee for his hospitality and the very important discussions that we had today. The fortunes of our two nations have been bound together for many decades. We have stood watchful guard together for 60 years, vigilant in the cause of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the wider region. And for the United States, the security and sovereignty of South Korea is a solemn responsibility and a rock solid commitment. Our alliance is a source of strength and confidence, confidence that our two peoples will continue to enjoy security, prosperity, and shared progress in the days and years ahead.
But this relationship extends far beyond our security guarantees. The United States has been a partner to the people of South Korea as they embrace democracy, and embark on a historic economic transformation. Our people trade and study together. Generations of American service members have come to know and respect the Korean culture. And Korean Americans have contributed significantly to the economic, social, and cultural life of the United States.
Under President Lee's vision of global Korea, the ROK has accelerated its progress as a confident and respected player on the world stage. South Korea is a valued partner on regional and global challenges, including its contributions in Afghanistan, and its efforts to combat piracy, among many others. And we are very pleased that Seoul will host the G20 later this year, and the second nuclear security summit in 2012.
When President Obama and President Lee first met last year, they committed to a joint vision statement for our alliance in the 21st century. That speaks to our desire to turn our bilateral relationship into a truly global partnership. And in our meetings today we discussed how we can continue building upon this vision, and further strengthen the ties between our peoples and our nation.
But to seize the opportunities of tomorrow, we must first meet the challenges of today. As President Lee said in his strong and dignified speech to the nation, we cannot turn a blind eye to belligerence and provocation. Let me repeat publicly what I expressed privately to President Lee and Minister Yu. The United States offers our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the 46 sailors killed in the sinking of the Cheonan, and to all the peoples of South Korea. We will stand with you in this difficult hour, and we stand with you always.
I applaud President Lee and his government for the firm, patient, and deliberate way that they have pursued the truth, and then formulated a response. The international independent investigation was objective, the evidence overwhelming, the conclusion inescapable. This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea. And the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond. The measures that President Lee announced in his speech are prudent. They are absolutely appropriate. And they have the full support of the United States.
Over the last week I have consulted with leaders in Japan and China, and we have stayed in close contact with our friends here in Seoul about the best way forward. We will be working together to chart a course of action in the United Nations Security Council, and I want to acknowledge Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's strong statement on this issue.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries have announced plans for joint exercises, and we will explore further enhancements to our posture on the Peninsula, to ensure readiness, and to deter future attacks. The United States is also reviewing additional options and authorities to hold North Korea and its leaders accountable. We call on North Korea to halt its provocation and its policy of threats and belligerence toward its neighbors, and take steps now to fulfill its denuclearization commitments, and comply with international law.
North Korea can still choose another path. Instead of isolation, poverty, conflict, and condemnation, North Korea could enjoy integration, prosperity, peace, and respect. Its people could finally experience a better life. We know this is possible. Here in South Korea we see it every day, the talent and creativity of the Korean people flourishing in a vibrant democracy. North Korea's future depends on the choices that its leaders make today.
For our part, we remain resolute in our defense of South Korea, unyielding in our pursuit of justice, and determined to achieve security and stability across the Asia Pacific region. The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea will continue to be a cornerstone of peace and prosperity for both our nations.
So, thank you again, Minister Yu, for your hospitality and your friendship. I look forward to continuing our consultations in the days and weeks to come. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) Next we will be receiving questions from the floor. First there will be a question from Fong Ki Jong from KBS.
QUESTION: (Via translator) My question goes to Mr. Yu. I wonder if there were -- what details were discussed regarding the measures today in your meeting. And also, there can be some painful measures, such as cutting off financial channels through the BDA. If such measures were to be taken, when and how do you plan to execute such measures?
And also, there was a statement saying that -- and do you plan to take this to the UN Security Council after you persuade China, or are you going to take this to the UN Security Council first, before --
FOREIGN MINISTER YU: (Via translator) Well, first of all, our two countries, in response to the Cheonan incident, we are cooperating fully, and there is no difference in our position, whatsoever.
Regarding our measures, on May 13th President Lee has already given a statement to the people, and he has announced various measures, including restrictions in terms of trade. And the U.S. is also going through its various domestic laws and regulations to take measures against North Korea within its domestic framework. And the details that were discussed, I don't think it's appropriate for me to mention that here. We will, of course, take various measures in the future, depending on how North Korea reacts.
And regarding Mr. Wu Dawei, the head of the Six-Party Talks, he did mention China's position, and I also expressed our position, as well. We will continue to cooperate, the two countries, the U.S. and Korea, and we will -- especially when it comes to the issue of the UN Security Council, because Korea is not a standing member, and because the U.S. has the ability to communicate there, we will continue to make our communications with standing members, non-standing members, and I am sure that that will help us to achieve our goals.
The measures that we will take towards North Korea, the measures themselves are not an end. They are just a means to send a clear message to North Korea that it is in response to their actions, and it is also a means to lead North Korea down the right road. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) Next, from Wall Street Journal, we have Mr. Jay Solomon.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. This question, I guess, is for both Secretary Clinton and Minister Yu. Is there -- initially it appeared that South Korea would possibly go this week, as early as this week, to the Security Council. Is there any sense of the timing of when this might happen?
And I am also interested in -- there have been past crises between North and South Korea, but that was before North Korea developed a nuclear capability. I am curious, particularly from Minister Yu, how North Korea's nuclear capability kind of constrains how the U.S. and South Korea respond. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER YU: For the denuclearization of North Korea, for a long period of time -- over seven years -- we have made various efforts. However, unfortunately, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests twice.
Regarding North Korea's nuclear capabilities, we have not been able to verify those capabilities, so it is difficult for me to publicly make a statement on that. But with the Cheonan incident, I think the Cheonan incident will serve as an occasion to solve the nuclear issue, as well. The -- and it's not to bring North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks, per se, but to see progress in North Korea taking steps towards denuclearization. And we have once again affirmed that -- through this incident -- that it is very important for North Korea to denuclearize.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) Yes, we will receive a second question from the Korean journalists.
Now, let's first receive a response from --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Jay, with respect to your question about Security Council action, we are very confident in the South Korean leadership, and their decision about how and when to move forward is one that we respect and will support. I have to say that I found both Minister Yu and President Lee very confident, very relaxed, just very resolute. It was an opportunity for me to exchange views, but to clearly underscore the fact that the United States will be supporting South Korea as it makes the decision, moving forward, on matters such as timing, content, approach to the Security Council.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) Second question from the Korean journalists is Mr. Kinyung Shi from (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via translator) My question goes to Secretary Clinton. You asked for -- you urged China for its cooperation on this incident. So how -- what do you expect China to do, and how did you persuade China?
And also, I am sure that Korea and the U.S. is cooperating for joint measures, but how is the U.S. responding? And does the U.S. also -- do you also have a resolution in the UN Security Council in mind? And also, if North Korea is to retaliate militarily, how will the U.S. respond?
Another question is I am sure that you will also go -- look into the policies that you have towards North Korea. What do you have in mind, in terms of a vision to deter an attack and bring about stability? Any long-term visions? And what kind of a vision that you have personally.
Sorry for having so many questions, but it just reflects my interest.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. With respect to China, I briefed both the minister and President Lee about our two-and-a-half days of meetings with our Chinese counterparts. And you know that Premier Wen will be coming to Seoul on Friday. So the South Korean Government will be able to engage the Chinese Government at the highest levels. And I believe that the Chinese understand the seriousness of this issue, and are willing to listen to the concerns expressed by both South Korea and the United States. We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response to this provocation by North Korea.
We have also underscored our rock solid commitment to the defense of South Korea. There should be no mistaking that by anyone. As you know, the U.S. and South Korean militaries will be engaging in joint exercises, and the President has ordered that our military, working with the South Korean military, look at what additional enhancements can be made to ensure readiness and deter future attacks.
I think both the United States and South Korea share the vision that was articulated by President Lee, which I referred to in my opening remarks, that there is a different path for North Korea. And we believe it's in everyone's interests, including China, to make a persuasive case for North Korea to change direction.
We can't predict what the actual response of the North Korean leadership would be. But there is an opportunity here for the North Koreans to understand that their behavior is unacceptable. And, therefore, they need to look internally toward what they could do to improve the standing of their own people, and provide a different future. But we will be working very closely with our South Korean friends on all of these issues.
Really, there is the immediate crisis caused by the sinking of the naval vessel, which requires a strong but measured response. But there is the longer-term challenge of changing the direction of North Korea, making a convincing case to everyone in the region to work together to achieve that outcome, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and offering the opportunities for a better life for the people of the north. So, we have to work on both of those tracks simultaneously, and that's what we are attempting to do.
MODERATOR: (Via translator) The last question is from BBC.
QUESTION: A question to you, Madam Secretary, first, and then one to both. You describe the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan as objective. So the conclusions were inescapable. What will it take to convince the Chinese that this is indeed what really happened?
And a question to both. The situation doesn't seem to be settling. How concerned are you that this could get out of hand? And how does the fear of an escalation limit your actions and what you do, when it comes to dealing with North Korea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the report, I believe it was 400 pages long. It was very thorough, highly professional and, in the opinions of objective experts, very convincing. We have urged our Chinese counterparts to study that report. We have offered additional information and briefings about the underlying facts of the event, and I know that the South Koreans have done the same. So, we hope that China will take us up on our offer to really understand the details of what happened, and the objectivity of the investigation that led to the conclusions.
There are two objectives that President Lee has outlined. One is to unite the international community in an appropriate response to this provocation. And the other is to avoid escalation and greater conflict. I believe strongly that that is the right approach to take. So, as we work with South Korea and other partners internationally, we are keeping in mind President Lee's very strong, effective speech, a real act of statesmanship that laid out the problems, offered the measures that South Korea would take, but pointed toward a different future.
So, I think that South Korea has done this extraordinarily well under very difficult circumstances. And I really commend the government and the people of South Korea. Because when something like this happens, it is easy to respond very emotionally and viscerally. But what South Korea has done is to say, "No, first we will get the facts. We will turn that over to an independent group of five nations. And we will wait for those conclusions. And then we will determine what way to act." And I have the greatest admiration for how this has been handled.
FOREIGN MINISTER YU: Well, during the process of investigation going to the root of the Cheonan incident, we had a joint investigation team, including the U.S., Britain, Australia, Sweden, Canada, a total of 24 experts, foreign experts, were on board this joint investigation team. And they analyzed and they discussed the issue and made a lot of effort to get the results.
And also, China and Russia were also provided with the objective data and material beforehand. And, if they requested, we were willing to receive experts to discuss the issue. And we did actually make that proposal. And that shows -- and that is because we believe that objective data has to speak, and no political judgment should play a role in that kind of data. And that is based on fact. And I think that that kind of factual data is the basis for us taking this issue to the UN Security Council.
China and Russia, of course, will take time, I am sure. But they will not be able to deny the facts. And we have, up until now, exerted all of our efforts, and we will continue to do so in the future to bring about further cooperation. Thank you.
MODERATOR: With that we would like to conclude the joint press availability. Thank you very much.
# # #