Remarks at the U.S.-Republic of Korea 2+2 Ministerial Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, and South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo
Room 1107
Washington, DC
October 19, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon and welcome, everybody, to the fourth 2+2. We’re delighted – Secretary Carter and I are very delighted to welcome our counterparts here and we look forward to a very fruitful discussion on a number of topics. We have quite a broad array of an agenda, and we’re delighted to welcome the distinguished representatives of your government here from the Republic of Korea.

For decades, our alliance has underwritten the peace and the stability in the Korean Peninsula, and our bonds have really never been stronger. Now more than ever, the actions and the policies of North Korea are at the forefront of all of our concerns. The DPRK’s latest nuclear test and its repeated ballistic missile tests are a threat to regional stability and yet another blatant example of a violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. There should be no doubt that the United States will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves and to honor the security commitments that we have made to allies, including the Republic of Korea. And we will deploy as soon as possible a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to our Korean ally.

Every country has a responsibility to cooperate in rigorously enforcing sanctions that have been imposed by the UN Security Council. And we need to ensure, working together, that the DPRK pays a price for its dangerous actions, even – and I want to emphasize this – even as we work for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Our two presidents met just last month and reaffirmed our determination to stand united in our approach to the threat that is posed by North Korea. They also made clear that while our shared security is a central element of the dialogue between our governments today, we are also working to strengthen every aspect of our relationship. This includes efforts to promote strong and sustainable economic growth, to promote trilateral and multilateral cooperation, and to enhance respect for human rights, the principles of good governance, and the rule of law.

We also recognize that our partnership has to focus, as our citizens do, on issues of the future, including clean energy, the need to take strong and effective action to curb climate change, on global health security, countering terrorism, and to ensure that we have in place smart rules in order to guarantee the preservation of an open, secure, and reliable internet.

Together, we have built a dynamic partnership that is further strengthened by our academic ties. Each year, thousands of U.S. students have a chance to learn firsthand about Korea while an unprecedented number of Korean students are studying in America. And in the process, all of them are developing friendships that last a lifetime.

Today, there are more than 2 million Koreans and Korean Americans living throughout the United States, and their economic and social contributions to the United States and to our bilateral relationship are profound.

So our meeting today and the defense ministerial – that obviously the defense ministers will engage in tomorrow – they come at a pivotal moment for the security of our people, the prosperity of our economies, and the economics of our health, of our citizens, are all at stake.

Minister Yun, Minister Han, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, we thank you for your commitment to strengthening the U.S.-ROK alliance now and for future generations.

My pleasure to recognize my colleague and friend Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense.

SECRETARY CARTER: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. I appreciate it. Good afternoon, everyone. First of all, it’s an honor to join Secretary Kerry here today to welcome our counterparts from the Republic of Korea, Foreign Minister Yun and Defense Minister Han, to – here in Washington to discuss our strategic alliance and our shared future.

As Secretary Kerry said, for over 60 years we’ve built this alliance based on our common values, shared interests, and mutual trust. And we’ve stood together as a lynchpin of regional security and prosperity. Today and tomorrow, we’ll continue to modernize our alliance to seize new opportunities and to address evolving threats, and we’ll make the plans we need to strengthen peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the region, and around the world.

On the Korean Peninsula, the recent dramatic increase in North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches remind us of the grave threat it poses to our collective security. In light of these provocative acts, our combined defense posture must be robust and our deterrence must be credible.

As President Obama and I and Secretary Kerry have both stated – have all stated clearly, the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea is unwavering. This includes our commitment to provide extended deterrence guaranteed by the full spectrum of U.S. defense capabilities. Make no mistake, any attack on America or our allies will not only be defeated, but also any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response.

As we look at the Asia Pacific more broadly, the U.S. rebalance is entering its next phase and we’re seeing allies and partners come together in a principled and inclusive security network to contribute to regional security and uphold shared principles. One example is the growing trilateral cooperation among the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States, which is helping us all to coordinate our response to North Korean provocations. This week we’ll discuss ways to expand our cooperation and to ensure that the region’s principled and prosperous future is realized.

As we look beyond the Asia Pacific, the scope of our alliance is growing to address global challenges. In particular, we’re partnering on assistance to Afghanistan and accelerating the certain defeat of ISIL.

So today, we’ll talk about additional areas where our alliance can continue to contribute to global security. In this ministerial and in my meeting with Minister Han tomorrow at our Security Consultative Meeting, or SCM, we’ll reaffirm our commitment to our ironclad alliance. We’ll coordinate on how to address today’s challenges, especially North Korea. And we’ll make plans for our alliance’s future, working together in the Asia Pacific and beyond for decades to come.

Thank you and I look forward to our discussion.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Carter.

Foreign Minister Yun.

FOREIGN MINISTER YUN: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I believe it is very meaningful that I come to meet today both of you together in a 2+2 format in two years’ time and I express my special thanks to the two secretaries for graciously hosting this meeting today.

Today’s meeting carries great significance and comes at a timely juncture because now we face a security environment more grave than ever since the inception of the 2+2 meeting in 2010. Before our first meeting in 2010 was held in the face of the most serious threat of a direct conventional strike since the signing of the armistice agreement triggered by North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan naval ship, today’s meeting is held in the face of the gravest nuclear missile threat ever since the armistice.

Despite our countless endeavors to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem over the past two decades, Pyongyang has never relented in its pursuit of a nuclear program. This year alone, which happens to be the 10th year since its first nuclear test, the North conducted two nuclear tests, fired 23 ballistic missiles, and even reprocessed plutonium. This means not only that the North flagrantly violated the toughest ever resolution, 2270 and others, at least 26 times, but also that it is nearing the final stage of nuclear weaponization.

JCS Commander General Dunford recently assessed that North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the mainland U.S. My president also likened the threat to a dagger at our throat. These assessments demonstrate that Korea and the U.S. are seeing eye to eye when it comes to the threat posed by the North. Moreover, the advancement and acceleration of the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities not only threaten global peace and safety, but also it’s a direct menace to national and homeland security of both our nations. Now both our countries are pressed for a comprehensive and concrete action at the diplomatic and military levels.

As I mentioned at the NATO council in early October, as the North’s threat has become different in dimension from the past, we must take an extraordinary action with the global community. Over the last 60 years, our alliance has successfully countered numerous North Korean provocations while safeguarding peace and stability in northeast Asia. As such, I have no doubt that our alliance possesses capacity and wisdom to rise just as successfully to the daunting challenges posed by North Korea today.

The Park Geun-Hye and Obama administrations are taking concrete and effective measures based on their defense commitments, which are more robust than ever. Allow me to stress the following four points in this regard. First, we must update our comprehensive response strategy to deter the threat of North Korea. Like the two blades of scissors, diplomatic pressure and military deterrence must be in full sync. All tools in our toolkit, including the ones from the so-called DIME – that is diplomatic pressures, information, military measures, and economic sanctions – must be fully mobilized to this end.

Second, we must concretize and institutionalize extended deterrence so as to effectively forestall the threats that are now becoming a fact of life, and heighten the public’s sense of security. The ROK-U.S. alliance’s deterrence strategy has evolved from the nuclear umbrella doctrine in 1978 to extended deterrence of today. I hope that we will focus on fleshing out extended deterrence and devising relevant institutional support during this meeting, as is discussed by our leaders in early September. What’s most important, continuously – what is most important is to continuously demonstrate our capabilities and means for invaluable deterrence with our commitments and actions so that Pyongyang can feel the panic under their skins.

Third, we must take a holistic approach that goes beyond deterrence in order to induce a genuine change in North Korea. As North Korea’s nuclear issue is part of a larger North Korean problem, we need to apply pressure most intensively in areas of direct impact, such as by addressing its human rights abuses, including (inaudible) slave labor, as well as sending information into the North. I look forward to concrete discussions on this front.

Finally, I would like to address our alliance and this 2+2 meeting in terms of the roles and spectrum of cooperation. While faithfully carrying out our pressing tasks, such as countering North Korea’s nuclear threats and defending the peninsula, our two countries must continue to expand and deepen their cooperation to live up to the name of our mutually beneficial comprehensive strategic alliance. To this end, we need to continue to develop the 2+2 meeting as a platform for our cooperation and deliberation that are gaining greater significance. I hope that the achievements of the alliance we have obtained together during the past two – past three and a half years will be continuously brought to new heights under your new administration. Without a doubt, we will serve as a vital stepping stone towards this end – this meeting is.

Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Minister Han.

DEFENSE MINISTER HAN: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. I would like to first thank Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry for their endeavors to host this 2+2 meeting despite their very busy schedules. The ROK-U.S. alliance established in 1953 with the signing of the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty has been safeguarding peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula from the DPRK’s provocations and threats for the past 63 years. Even as we speak, our ironclad combined defense posture is firmly in place. I am grateful for the contributions of our ally, the U.S., to the security of ROK and the advancement of our alliance, as well as for the support of the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to these ends. North Korea has been advancing its nuclear missile capabilities, publicly threatening the ROK and the U.S., as well as the international community as a whole. Under such a grave security environment, it is more timely than ever for our two nations’ foreign affairs and defense ministers to discuss actions against the North and its threat, including the issue of its denuclearization, as well as a way forward for our alliance.

This year alone, North Korea pressed ahead with two nuclear tests and explicitly threatened our two nations and the international community by blathering on about its nuclear weaponization and striking the continental U.S. This mounting threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as was stated by President Park Geun-hye, is like a dagger against our throats, a pressing issue that must be urgently resolved.

If North Korea’s threats continue unabated, as now, it will pose a direct and real threat not only on the Korean Peninsula but also to the U.S. and beyond. As such, I hope that we will derive more solid and watertight measures against Pyongyang at this meeting today. I look forward to discussing ways to promote firm, extended deterrence and build an even more robust, combined readiness posture on the Korean Peninsula to enable us to strongly respond to any threats and provocations of North Korea.

Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you to each of our colleagues for their quick summaries here. Now I would ask our friends from the media if they would leave us in privacy so we can begin our conversations. We appreciate it very much. Thank you for being here with us.