Remarks With Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan and Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
Today we discussed how our partnership has advanced in the three years since our two presidents set forth their joint vision for the alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States. We are combating piracy together in the Indian Ocean, investing in sustainable development in Africa, promoting democracy and the rule of law and human rights around the world. It would be difficult to list all the ways we are working together.
We touched on how we are deepening our economic cooperation. Just a few months ago, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement officially entered into force, and it is already creating jobs and opportunities on both sides of the Pacific.
It is fitting that today is the Global Economic Statecraft Day at the State Department, because around the world in all of our embassies we are highlighting economic cooperation. And our relationship with the Republic of Korea is a textbook example of how our economic statecraft agenda can boost growth and create jobs.
As Korea has developed into an economic powerhouse, it has also steadily assumed greater responsibilities as a global leader. Today, it is an anchor of stability in the Asia Pacific and a go-to partner for the United States.
On the security side of our dialogue, we reaffirmed our commitment to the strategic alliance between our countries. Secretary Panetta will speak to our military cooperation, but I want to emphasize that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Korea, and we will meet all of our security commitments. As part of this, we discussed further enhancements of our missile defense and ways to improve the interoperability of our systems.
Today we also agreed to expand our security cooperation to cover the increasing number of threats from cyberspace. I am pleased to announce that the United States and Korea will launch a bilateral dialogue on cyber issues. Working together, we can improve the security of our government, military, and commercial infrastructure, and better protect against cyber attacks.
With regard to North Korea, our message remains unchanged. North Korea must comply with its international obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. It must abandon its nuclear weapons and all existing nuclear programs, including programs for uranium enrichment. And it must finally put the welfare of its own people first and respect the rights of its own citizens. Only under these circumstances will North Korea be able to end its isolation from the international community and alleviate the suffering of its people.
So again let me thank the ministers for our excellent discussions. And let me thank the Korean people for the friendship between our countries that continues to grow.
And now let me turn it over to Foreign Minister Kim.
FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Let me first thank Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta for inviting Minister Kim and I to the ROK-U.S. 2+2 ministerial meeting. This meeting was first held for the first time in 2000 in Seoul. That was 60 years since the Korean War. And I am pleased that we held today the second 2+2 ministerial meeting this time in Washington. We took note that a number of alliance issues are proceeding as planned, and we had our agreement in that this will contribute to a greater combined defense system.
And we also agreed that should North Korea provoke again, then that we will show a very decisive response to such provocation. But we also shared our view that the road to dialogue and cooperation is open should North Korea stop its provocation and show a genuine change in its attitude by taking concrete measures.
Also, in order to enhance deterrence against North Korea’s potential provocation using nuclear and conventional forces, we decided to develop more effective and concrete (inaudible) policies. We also agreed to promote bilateral cooperation regarding North Korea, just as Secretary Clinton just mentioned, against cyber security threats, and will in this regard launch a whole-of-government consultative body.
We are concerned the human rights situation, the quality of life of the North Korean people, have reached a serious level and urge the North Korean Government to respect the human rights of its people and to improve their living condition.
The Republic of Korea welcomes the U.S. policy that places emphasis on the Asia Pacific. We agree that the increased U.S. role within the Asia Pacific region will greatly contribute to peace and stability in this region. We welcome the efforts of the Government of Myanmar to advance democracy and improve human rights and continue supporting such efforts.
Today’s meeting was very productive and meaningful in that it allowed us to review the current status of the alliance. And we also agreed to discuss a way forward for our strategic cooperation. We’ll continue to hold this 2+2 ministerial meeting in the future.
SECRETARY PANETTA: Secretary Clinton, Ministers, I was very pleased to be able to participate in this very important 2+2 meeting. I want to commend Secretary Clinton for her leadership in guiding us through this discussion, and also thank both ministers for their participation.
I’ve been very fortunate over the past year, since becoming Secretary of Defense, to have developed a very strong working relationship with my Korean counterparts. I’ve been – I made a visit to Korea last fall, and we have had a series of consultations such as this 2+2. I just returned, as many of you know, from a two-week trip to the Asia Pacific region, where I met with Minister Kim at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. And at the time, I made clear that the United States has made an enduring commitment to the security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region, including the Korean Peninsula.
I also made clear that our military will rebalance towards the Asia Pacific region as part of our new defense strategy. As part of that strategy, even though the U.S. military will be smaller in the future, we will maintain a strong force presence in Korea which reflects the importance that we attach to that relationship and to the security mission that we are both involved with.
The United States and the Republic of Korea face many common security challenges in the Asia Pacific region and around the world, and today, we affirmed our commitment to forging a common strategic approach to addressing those challenges. I’m very pleased that we are progressing on our schedule to achieve the goals that we outlined in our Strategic Alliance 2015 base plan. We remain on track to transition operational control by December 2015 in accordance with the base plan timeline.
As the Strategic Alliance 2015 initiative proceeds, we will continue to consult closely with the Republic of Korea in order to ensure that the steps that we are taking are mutually beneficial and strengthen our alliance. During our meeting, we also discussed ways that we can further strengthen our alliance, including greater cooperation in the area of cyber security. To that end, we are making our bilateral military exercises more realistic through the introduction of cyber and network elements.
Another way to strengthen and modernize our alliance is by expanding our ongoing trilateral collaboration with Japan. On my trip to Asia, I was pleased to participate in a trilateral discussion that included the Republic of Korea and Japan, because this kind of security cooperation helps strengthen regional security and provides the additional deterrent with respect to North Korea. I’d like to thank the ministers again for their commitment to this alliance, and I look forward to hosting Minister Kim in Washington for the 44th Security Consultative Meeting in October. This alliance has stood the test of time, and today, we affirmed that it will remain an essential force for security and for prosperity in the 21st century.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Defense Minister.
DEFENSE MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Today’s 2+2 ministerial meeting was held at a strategically critical moment amid continuing provocation threats from North Korea and volatile security environment in North Korea, a time which calls for a proactive alliance response.
Through today’s meeting, the two countries confirmed once again that the ROK-U.S. alliance is more solid than ever, and made it very clear that the alliance will strongly and consistently respond to any North Korean provocation, in particular regarding North Korean nuclear and missile threat. The ROK and the U.S. agreed to strengthen policy coordination to reaffirm the strong U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrents and to develop extended deterrent policies in an effective and substantial way. We also agreed to strengthen alliance capability against North Korea’s increasing asymmetric threats such as cyber threats like the DDoS attack and GPS jammings.
Furthermore, the two countries confirmed that the 2015 transition of operational control and the building of a new combined defense system are progressing as planned. We also confirmed that they were – ROK military will acquire the critical – military capabilities needed to lead the combined defense, and the U.S. military will provide bridging and engineering capabilities.
The two countries also confirmed that USFK bases relocation projects such as YRP and LPP are well underway and agreed to work to ensure that these projects are completed in time. We assess that combined exercises in the West Sea and Northwest Islands deter North Korean provocation and greatly contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. We agreed to continue these exercises under close bilateral coordination.
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance which was born in 1953 with the signing of the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. In the past six decades, the two countries worked to ensure a perfect security of the peninsula and have developed the alliance into the most successful alliance in history. In the future, the two countries will expand and deepen the scope and level of defense cooperation from the Korean Peninsula, and to the regional and global security issues, will continue evolving the alliance into the best alliance in the world for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, and of the world. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Scott starts.
QUESTION: Can we do it the reverse? I’m sorry. Scott and I always do this, get it a little confused. But in any case, thank you, Madam Secretary. I’d like to start out with Egypt, please. What is your reaction to dissolving parliament? Is this a step backwards?
And then also on Syria: For the second day in the media and the news, we’re talking about the weapons and the helicopters. By making this such a high-profile issue – and by pinning your strategy of shaming the Russians, are you running the risk of allowing Moscow to define what happens or doesn’t happen in Syria? In other words, I guess, where is the American strategy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with regard to Egypt, we are obviously monitoring the situation. We are engaged with Cairo about the implications of today’s court decision. So I won’t comment on the specifics until we know more.
But that said, throughout this process, the United States has stood in support of the aspirations of the Egyptian people for a peaceful, credible, and permanent democratic transition. Now ultimately, it is up to the Egyptian people to determine their own future. And we expect that this weekend’s presidential election will be held in an atmosphere that is conducive to it being peaceful, fair, and free. And in keeping with the commitments that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces made to the Egyptian people, we expect to see a full transfer of power to a democratically elected, civilian government.
There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people. The decisions on specific issues, of course, belong to the Egyptian people and their elected leaders. And they’ve made it clear that they want a president, a parliament, and a constitutional order that will reflect their will and advance their aspirations for political and economic reform. And that is exactly what they deserve to have.
Let me also note that we are concerned about recent decrees issued by the SCAF. Even if they are temporary, they appear to expand the power of the military to detain civilians and to roll back civil liberties.
Now regarding Syria, I spoke extensively about Syria yesterday. Our consultations with the United Nations, our allies and partners, and the Syrian opposition continue on the best way forward. Today, my deputy, Bill Burns, had a constructive meeting in Kabul with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. We don’t see eye to eye on all of the issues, but our discussions continue. And President Obama will see President Putin during the G-20 in Mexico.
We’re also intensifying our work with Special Envoy Kofi Annan on a viable post-Assad transition strategy. And I look forward to talking to him in the days ahead about setting parameters for the conference that he and I have discussed and that he is discussing with many international partners. Our work with the Syrian opposition also continues. Ambassador Ford is in Istanbul today for a conference with the opposition that Turkey is hosting.
So we’re working on multiple fronts. I think our strategy is very clear. We want to see an end to the violence, and we want to see the full implementation of Kofi Annan’s plans, including the political transition so that the people of Syria have the same opportunity that the people of the Republic of Korea or the United States have to choose their own leaders and to build their own future. And the work is urgent, because as you know, the Syrian Government continues to attack its own people, and the bloodshed has not ceased. And we have to do everything we can to end the violence and create a framework for a transition.
MS. NULAND: Next question: Kang Eui-Young from Yonhap News, please.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you for the opportunity to give you question. I’m – name is Kang from the Yonhap News Agency. My question is for Minister – Defense Minister Kim. It is written in this statement that you have decided to develop a comprehensive alliance approach towards the missile defense. I want to know what this means. If you are referring to the missile defense, are you intending to build a Korea air missile defense or are you saying that you will be integrated into a U.S.-led missile defense? Could you elaborate on what missile defense system you are envisioning? You mention comprehensive alliance defense system. What – how does this build into the U.S.-led assistance?
DEFENSE MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) The position of the ROK military regarding the missile defense is this given the terrain of the Korean Peninsula. The most effective approach is a low-tier defense. And how will this be linked to the U.S. missile defense system? This is of the analysis – the studies that are being conducted right now. That’s what I mean by saying an effective combined air defense system.
QUESTION: Secretary Panetta, is the United States expanding intelligence gathering across Africa using small, unarmed, turbo-prop aircraft disguised as private planes, as reported by The Washington Post?
SECRETARY PANETTA: Well, I’m not going to discuss classified operations in that region, other than to say that we make an effort to work with all of the nations in that region to confront common threats and common challenges. And we have closely consulted and closely worked with our partners to develop approaches that make sure that the nations of that very important region do not confront the kind of serious threats that could jeopardize their peace and prosperity.
MODERATOR: Today’s last question will be from Ju Young Jim of SBS.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Reporter from the SBS, Ju. This is a question for Defense Minister Kim and Secretary Panetta. Right now, the Korean media is dealing – covering very extensively about the range extension of the Korean ballistic missiles and that the ROK side is insisting on 800 kilometer whereas the U.S. is insisting on 500 kilometer, where although the countries have agreed on the payload. Senator Carl Levin said that he is positive when it comes to the range extension. Has this issue been discussed at the 2+2, and will the two countries be able to show a concrete outcome by the end of the year?
One additional question is – this one is for Secretary Clinton. Kim Jong-un, the new leader, he has taken over his father, deceased father, and is now already six month as the new leader. How do you assess his leadership so far?
DEFENSE MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Let me first address this range extension issue. This is still being discussed on the working level. This issue was not dealt at today’s 2+2 ministerial meeting.
SECRETARY PANETTA: In consultation and negotiations with the Republic of Korea with regards to this area, I think we’re making good progress. And our hope is that we can arrive at an agreeable solution soon.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Regarding the new leader in North Korea, I believe leaders are judged by what they do to help their people have better lives, whether they create stability and security, prosperity, opportunity. And this new young leader has a choice to make, and we are hoping that he will make a choice that benefits all of his people.
And we also believe strongly that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement and work toward a better future. And so we hope that the new leadership in Pyongyang will live up to its agreements, will not engage in threats and provocations, will put the North Korean people first. Rather than spending money on implements of war, feed your people, provide education and healthcare, and lift your people out of poverty and isolation.
This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader. Or he can continue the model of the past and eventually North Korea will change, because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions – starving to death, being put into gulags, and having their basic human rights denied. So we’re hoping that he will chart a different course for his people.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.