Remarks With Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea Yun Byung-se After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
So for decades, the United States and the Republic of South Korea, Republic of Korea, have worked side-by-side as allies, and we have, I think, stood up to a wide range of challenges over that period of time, not just in the Asia Pacific, but in other parts of the world as well. When you look back at our common commitment to democracy, to human rights and to rule of law, it’s no wonder that we have been such natural partners. Our alliance, which is in this moment of its 60th anniversary celebration, remains critical to American engagement in Asia. And it is a linchpin of peace and stability in the region. The United States is completely committed to deepening this relationship in the years ahead, and that’s one of the reasons why I will be visiting Seoul next week, and the President of Korea will be – of the Republic of Korea will be here in Washington to meet with President Obama in early May.
Today, we discussed all of the issues that you would obviously imagine we would and even more. We covered a great deal, but I will start with North Korea. We’ve heard an extraordinary amount of unacceptable rhetoric from the North Korean Government in the last days. So let me be perfectly clear here today: The United States will defend and protect ourselves and our treaty ally, the Republic of Korea. The Foreign Minister and I also think it’s important to stay absolutely focused on our shared goal of a peaceful Korean Peninsula, free of nuclear weapons. And we agree that improved relations between North and South would ultimately help to move us towards that goal. That is a stated goal of the new President of the Republic of Korea, and we look forward to working with her to achieve that goal.
We also discussed our collaboration on global security issues. South Korea has done great work on the UN Security Council helping to curb civilian casualties in combat zones. And they have done that work not just in the Far East, but around the world. We’re also grateful for South Korea’s continued commitment to reducing Iranian oil imports. This has not been easy. It’s at a cost to their economy. It’s difficult. But they have played their role and taken their part in helping to have an impact on trying to change the behavior of Iran. Iran knows exactly what it needs to do in order to address international concerns about its nuclear program, and it can start doing so next weekend in Almaty at the P-5+1 talks.
We also discussed ways to work more closely on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and I thanked the Republic of Korea for their support on the humanitarian concerns in that area. We also have shared initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we thank them for that.
In terms of bilateral issues, the Foreign Minister and I both want to promote the smooth implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. This agreement is good for both countries, and it will strengthen our broad economic ties, it will spur growth, it will help create jobs in both countries and in both regions.
We also had a good discussion on the bilateral civilian nuclear agreement. We have a long record of close cooperation on this issue, and we are committed to finding a workable, expeditious way forward.
And finally, we also are both deeply concerned about addressing the problem of climate change. We discussed that. We will have further discussions when I go to Seoul next week. We both support clean energy development, and we will be looking for ways to work closely on these issues as we enter a period of new negotiations on climate change over the course of the next few years.
So this was a very productive meeting, I hope the first of many in the years ahead. And Mr. Foreign Minister, I look forward to seeing you again in a very short period of time. And I thank you for your commitment to this important partnership, and I thank you for taking time to come and visit here today to prepare for the important meetings of our leaders in early May. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: Thank you. Good afternoon. I would like to thank Secretary Kerry for his invitation and (inaudible). We discussed a wide range of key issues, including our alliance, North Korea, regional and global agendas.
As Secretary Kerry mentioned, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. alliance. In Korea, 60 years symbolizes maturity and wisdom. As we celebrate what many describe as one of the strongest alliances in history, we reaffirm the need to further consolidate our comprehensive strategic alliance befitting the 21st century. In this regard, we share the view that President Park’s visit to the United States in May, which will be her very first overseas visit as head of the state, will elevate our 60-year-old alliance to a new height. Secretary Kerry and I pledged to make every effort to ensure a successful summit.
More than anything else, I discussed with Secretary Kerry the serious nature of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s (inaudible) nuclear testing as well as the series of threats from the North. We agreed to further strengthen credible and robust deterrence vis-a-vis North Korea’s nuclear and conventional provocations. In particular, the Secretary and I expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the tailored extended deterrence and the counter-provocation plan.
I reaffirmed my government’s strong commitment to work closely with the United States on North Korea policy. Both Secretary Kerry and I agreed that North Korea should abandon its nuclear ambitions and bellicose rhetoric. We also agreed to collaborate to ensure full implementation of the UN’s Security Council Resolution 2094.
I also updated Secretary Kerry on my government’s policy of building trust between Seoul and Pyongyang as North Korea makes the right choice. I also emphasized that President Park’s new policy to promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia is in line with the United States policy toward Asia and that they mutually reinforce each other. As we celebrate the first anniversary of the KORUS FTA, both Secretary Kerry and I were pleased with the smooth implementation of the agreement. I also took the opportunity to reaffirm my government’s strong commitment to open economy and free trade.
Moreover, I stressed the importance of further strengthening our cooperation in the field of science and technology, renewable energy, space, and climate change. Finally, I stressed to Secretary Kerry the importance of revising the Korea-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement in a mutually beneficial, timely, and forward-looking manner. Both sides will continue consultations in this regard.
Let me conclude by saying that I am pleased with the results of today’s meeting. I look forward to welcoming Secretary Kerry in Seoul next week where we’ll continue our consultation. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.
MS. NULAND: Good. We’ll take four questions today. We’ll start with CNN. Elise Labott, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I’d like to ask you about what you think North Korea’s intentions are. Do you think that these threats are just bluster, specifically, the recent threat to restart its nuclear facility? And is there a danger of not taking these threats too seriously that that might provoke them into actually doing something? Or is there a chance, do you think, that they could pull back and be ready for diplomacy at some point?
Mr. Foreign Minister, the Six-Party talks and the whole process has always really relied on China to rein in the North, if you will. Lately, it doesn’t really seem that the North is listening to China in any meaningful way. And I’m wondering if you think that this is a safeguard that the parties cannot rely on anymore. Has the influence China had kind of been used up? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Go ahead, please.
FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: Regarding (inaudible), basically as we saw in the latest adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2094, China is now very cooperative, and they made very clear that they will fully implement the resolution of the UN Security Council Resolution 2094. Regarding the Six-Party talks, actually in this resolution now, Six-Party members and members of the Council also made it clear the Six-Party Talks is still a very useful tool to implement – to actually make efforts towards denuclearization of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Even though this is a very difficult task, we believe that with China and with members of the Six-Party talks, we should continue these efforts with patience. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to speculate on what the intent is or whether there’s a strategy or not a strategy. The bottom line is very simply that what Kim Jong-un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless, and the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state. And I reiterate again the United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies, Korea and Japan. We are fully prepared and capable of doing so, and I think the DPRK understands that.
Now, that said, no one takes lightly, least of all the President of the United States, what has been happening, which is precisely why the President made the decision to redeploy missile defense with respect to the United States itself as well as to take other preparations in the region and to send a very clear signal to our allies and the North alike that the United States will defend our allies and that we will not be subject to irrational or reckless provocation.
But – and here’s an important but – we make it clear, as we have consistently, that the United States believes there is a very simple way for North Korea to rejoin the community of nations and make it clear that they want to pursue a peaceful path. And they can come back to the table and join all of those other countries, including their nearest neighbor and partner, China, obviously shared nearest neighbor with the Republic of Korea, but China which has such an important role to play and which has always maintained a closer relationship to the North than any other country.
So they have an option, and that option is to enter into negotiations for the denuclearization, which is China’s policy also, and to begin to focus on the needs of their people, which we also have made it clear we are prepared to help them with if they will bring their behavior in line with the United Nations and global community requirements. So it’s very simple: We are going to proceed thoughtfully and carefully, as the President has indicated, but we take nothing for granted. And we also are not indifferent to the meaning of the risks that are involved.
SECRETARY KERRY: Beg your pardon?
QUESTION: Do you believe they’ll restart their nuclear facility, as they threatened to do?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, if they restart their nuclear facility at Yongbyon, that is in direct violation of their international obligations, so that in itself would be a breach of international standard and requirement, it would be a provocative act and completely contrary to the road that we have traveled all of these years from the Agreed Framework forward. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens with respect to that, but it is a direct violation of their international obligations and would be a very serious step.
MS. NULAND: Next one, Im Min-hyuk from Chosun Ilbo, please.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) The first question goes out to Secretary Kerry. Right now a lot of Korean people are deeply interested in the negotiation of the U.S.-Korea civil nuclear agreement. Mr. Secretary, some people are concerned that if Korea’s request to low enrichment for peaceful purposes is not accepted, then this may harm U.S.-Korea relationship. And Mr. Secretary, do you have any intention of proactively accepting Korea’s request and before the visit of President Park do you see some tangible progress happening in this area?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we welcome – President Obama and the United States welcomes South Korea’s emergence as a nuclear energy leader, peaceful nuclear energy leader. And we are working together on a civil nuclear agreement that will build on a very strong nuclear energy cooperation that we’ve enjoyed for literally over 50-plus years. We see no reason that that will not continue in an agreed-upon fashion.
And the Foreign Minister and I had a very good discussion about that agreement. We’ve exchanged some ideas, and I will follow up on those when I visit Seoul in about a week. And I am very hopeful, and I think the Foreign Minister shares this hope, that this can be resolved before the visit of President Park. But we’re quite confident that is a relationship that can and will continue in its proper form.
MS. NULAND: Next one, Scott Stearns from VOA, please.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in Cairo last month, you freed up $250 million in additional support for the Morsy government following promises from the president that he would make some political and economic reforms. Since then --
SECRETARY KERRY: That he would make what?
QUESTION: That he would make some political and economic reforms. Since then, his government appears to have spent more time pursuing television satirists than those responsible for sexual assault in public places. Was that your expectation when you met with him in Cairo?
And if I might, last week in Baghdad, you spoke of the need for Iraq to more closely monitor flights from Iran to Syria. The government there has said this weekend that it will do that. Have you seen any evidence of that so far?
Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. With respect to Egypt, we share a very real concern in the Obama Administration about the direction that Egypt is apparently moving in. And this is a key moment for Egypt. It’s really a tipping point for Egypt. And we have been working very, very hard in the last weeks to try to get the Government of Egypt to reach out to the opposition, to deal with the IMF, to come to an agreement which will allow Egypt to begin to transform its economy and improve the lives of its citizens. We share with everybody concerns about the political and economic challenges, and I communicated those concerns with everybody when I was there. I met with the civil society. I met with the opposition. I met and talked to members of the business community, and I met with members of the government. And we have put a series of very real choices to the Government of Egypt, but in the end they have to make those choices. And I’m still – the IMF is going there this week; there will be discussions with them.
But it is only fair to say that President Obama and the Administration share real concerns about the direction that Egypt appears to be moving in. It is our hope that there is still time to be able to turn the corner. But the recent arrests, the violence in the streets, the lack of inclusivity with respect to the opposition in public ways that make a difference to the people of Egypt, are all of concern today. And President Obama would make it clear to everybody that the United States went there, as I said, not to support any one person and certainly not to support one party over another, but to try to help the people of Egypt to realize the dreams that they expressed in Tahrir Square and the dreams that they try and have tried to put into reality through their election and through their faith in the democratic process. I think there’s still time for that promise to be delivered, but in the end it is the Government of Egypt and the people of Egypt who will make that decision.
MS. NULAND: Iraq and Syria.
SECRETARY KERRY: Iraq – with respect to Iraq, I’m encouraged that Prime Minister Maliki responded to our requests with respect to the flights from Iran through Iraqi airspace into Syria, and we are working right now with the government on several things. One, we are working on the question of how those inspections might take place and how frequently.
Number two, we are working on trying to bring the Kurds and the Sunni together with Prime Minister Maliki in a discussion that hopefully can bring people back together and get the democratic process back on track. There’s been a real breach of that with respect to the Kurds. President Barzani has not visited Baghdad in about two years, and increasingly Speaker Nujaifi and the Sunni feel as if they have been pushed away from the governing process.
Democracy is hard. It’s hard work. It’s particularly hard work for people who haven’t experienced it ever or recently. And so we all need to work closely together, which is exactly what we are doing now, with hopes that the Prime Minister will make the right choices to bring people together, to offer people a united election when it takes place in a few weeks, and to ultimately offer people the democracy that Americans invested in so heavily with their treasure of their young men and women who gave their lives and with a large amount of American taxpayer dollars.
MS. NULAND: Last one today, Lee Woo-tak of Yonhap News, please.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) Korea Peninsula with its Korea Peninsula peace process. My question is: Do you have any plans on suggesting a dialogue with the North Koreans first – for instance, reopening the Mount Kumgang tourist visit?
And my question going out to Secretary Kerry: Ever since you were a member of the Senate, I know that you’ve always emphasized the importance of diplomacy and dialogue. I know that this was one of your standing principles, and I know you also spoke about that kind of principle when dealing with the North Koreans. And Mr. Secretary, under what circumstances or what situation would the United States be prepared to resume dialogue with the North Koreans? Do you have any specific conditions in mind in order to resume dialogue with the North Koreans, and if so, Mr. Secretary, do you have any plans on sending a special envoy to North Korea in order to resume talks with the North Koreans?
FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: (Via interpreter) First of all, situation on the Korean Peninsula or tension is getting higher on the Korean Peninsula, and is critically important for the U.S. and South Korea to enhance its defense capabilities. And as we said repeatedly, we will always be – we will address, in case of North Korean provocation, but if North Korea decides to give up its nuclear ambitions and to become a member of the international community, we are prepared to resume our talks in terms of putting in place a peace process on the Korean Peninsula.
SECRETARY KERRY: North Korea needs to make it clear that they are prepared to have a serious discussion about denuclearization. And they know exactly what the goal is; they know exactly what the terms are. And we are prepared. President Obama has said repeatedly we are prepared to enter into a dialogue negotiation if they are serious, if they will stop the provocations and engage in a serious discussion. We have always said that we would like to try to resolve the problems of the entire peninsula. That means making peace. But making peace does not involve having a nuclear north and a disadvantaged Republic of Korea to the south. So they know very well what the terms are here.
And with the respect to the question of an envoy, we have an envoy. Ambassador Glyn Davies is appointed already. He’s there – I mean, he’s there – he’s here, but if the circumstances are correct, when North Korea meets or it issues an indication that it is serious about trying to resolve this issue.
And I would just say this and I think it’s important. We face this danger not just to the Republic of Korea but a danger to the entire region and the world of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And we face it with respect to Iran. President Obama could not have been more clear with respect to both. His policy is the denuclearization of North Korea – the DPRK – because that is the only way to begin to end the conflict and create safety in the region. The last thing the world needs is more nuclear nations at the very time that the nuclear nations are trying to reduce their current numbers of nuclear weapons and control this danger.
Secondly, we face the question of Iran. And Iran knows very well it has an opportunity this weekend. The Iranian people are a great people. They have a long, long history, many times longer than the United States of America, thousands of years. They have an ability to rejoin the community of nations, to get out from under this isolation, if they will choose the simple ways of proving, as other nations proved, that they have peaceful nuclear energy. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated.
And our hope is that that initiative can begin in earnest this weekend in Almaty, where we will have a team prepared to negotiate, and that in the days ahead we can reach an understanding that will also move as we are trying, with respect to the Korea Peninsula, to make the world safer. That’s what this is about. It’s not about – we have no ambitions there, and I think they know that. We want to see a peaceful community of nations trading with each other, working to improve the lives of their citizens; and that is in direct contrast to the North, which maintains gulags, has thousands of political prisoners, treats people in the most inhumane way, and now starves their people in order to build nuclear weapons. That couldn’t be a bigger choice. And that’s the choice that we are standing here presenting to the community of nations that have made a different choice.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: Thank you.