U.S.-South Korea Relations

Robert J. Einhorn
Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control 
American Center Korea
Seoul, Korea,South
December 5, 2011

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: Thank you very much and I thank all of you for coming out on such short notice. The United States-Republic of Korea bilateral relationship is strong today and it keeps getting stronger. The State visit of Lee Myung Bak to Washington was a great success and that was followed by meetings between Secretary Clinton and the President and Foreign Minister in Busan more recently. For the sake of peace and prosperity in the world, it’s important that our two countries cooperate closely not just on issues involving the Korean peninsula, but on global issues as well.

One issue on which we have to cooperate closely is the situation in Iran. The situation in Iran has become more and more worrisome over recent months. Iran makes steady progress on its nuclear program enriching uranium to near 20% level. Recently the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report which contained the conclusion that Iran has been engaged in activities directly related to nuclear weapons. And soon after that, the Board of Governors of the IAEA adopted a resolution by the vote of 32 to 2, essentially endorsing the conclusions of that report and calling on Iran finally to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigations.

On that same day, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Iran for sponsoring a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Washington. More recently the UN General Assembly adopted by the widest margin ever a resolution criticizing Iran’s abuses of human rights. And the efforts of the United States and other countries to engage Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program have not been reciprocated by the Iranians. They have shown little interest in seriously negotiating over their nuclear program. And recently while Iranian police forces were standing by passively, a mob of young Iranians no doubt sanctioned by the Iranian government, ransacked, destroyed the British Embassy in Tehran.

So Iran is violating its international obligations. It’s violating international norms. It is becoming a pariah state. What is required is for the international community to send a clear and unified message that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. The United States for its part, on November 21, adopted a number of additional sanctions measures. President Obama issued a new Executive Order that allowed the United States to impose sanctions on foreign companies that provide goods and services to Iranian developmental activities in the oil and gas sector. The same Executive Order allowed the U.S. to impose penalties on foreign companies providing goods and services to Iran’s petrochemical industry.

Separately, we began a diplomatic campaign to encourage purchasers of Iranian petrochemicals around the world, to encourage them to find alternative sources of petrochemicals, to discontinue their import of petrochemicals from Iran and to find alternative sources of petrochemical supply. We also imposed sanctions on eleven Iranian entities that were involved in the procurement of goods for Iran’s nuclear program.

And finally, the U.S. Treasury Department under the USA Patriot Act found the jurisdiction of Iran was quote “a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.” And what that meant, it was a warning to financial institutions all over the world of the risks of doing business with Iran.

The United States was not alone. On that same day, November 21, the United Kingdom and Canada announced complementary measures. And since then President Sarkozy of France has issued a public appeal for European and other countries around the world to adopt strong measures against Iran. So the United States is reaching out to our friends around the world to send, to join us in sending a strong message and naturally we look to the R.O.K. to be with us in sending a unified, clear signal. We very much appreciate the measures that were taken by the Republic of Korea government in September 2010 to put pressure on Iran. Very much appreciate that.

And now we’re asking our partners all over the world to take additional steps and naturally we are coming to Korea to see what the Republic of Korea can do to sharpen the choice for the leaders of Iran. The goal of this pressure is to encourage the leaders of Iran to stop defying the international community and start cooperating, to enter into serious and concrete negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Pressure is not an end in itself. Pressure is a means to encourage Iran’s leaders to make the correct choice and begin to negotiate seriously.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the situation in Iran is getting more and more worrisome. The timeline for Iran’s nuclear program is beginning to get shorter, so it’s important that we take these strong steps on an urgent basis. If we do not, pressures will grow for a much stronger kind of action. The United States favors a diplomatic solution, but if we cannot achieve a diplomatic solution soon, then inevitably interest will grow in a different kind of solution. That’s why we need to act soon, and we need to act in a strong unified manner. And that’s why we want to work with all of our partners around the world including the R.O.K. to send the right signal to Iran. Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.

LISA WILLIAMS, BBC NEWS: When you say that a diplomatic solution needs to be found soon, is that weeks, months, years? What kind of timeline are you looking at?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: I don’t mean to put a specific date on it. All I’m saying is that there is considerable momentum in Iran’s program. Concerns are growing about the direction of that program and the pace of that program, and so we need to realize that we face some time pressures here and so we need to move quickly with concerted international action.

CHOI SANG HOON, NEW YORK TIMES: When you say petrochemicals, do you include South Korean imports of crude oil from Iran? And also, can you provide us an update on your talks on revising the nuclear proliferation treaty with South Korea? How are you dealing with the South Korean request for reprocessing and enrichment?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: I mentioned in my remarks that we were encouraging purchasers of Iranian petrochemicals to find alternative suppliers for petrochemicals. This does not affect purchases of crude oil from Iran, so that’s quite separate. Now, later this week in Seoul, I will be meeting with my Korean counterpart and his team to talk about our talks regarding negotiation of a successor agreement on civil nuclear cooperation. We need to achieve agreement on a successor agreement because the current agreement expires in a few years. We’re working very cooperatively together. We want a successor agreement that will expand the level of cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Korea in the civil nuclear energy area and that will reflect the increased importance that the Republic of Korea is playing in the global nuclear energy arena. And so, we look forward to a promising set of talks.

CHO SEUNG WOO, DONG A ILBO: According to recent CRS reports, some of the reports say that the WMD materials leaving North Korea were transferred to Iran. Can you confirm that report? And I know that you are in charge of the sanctions against North Korea, and according to the recent reports, despite the sanctions by the United Nations, there have been an increasing number of luxury goods into North Korea. Can you assess the effectiveness of the current North Korean sanctions?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: My mission to Seoul now is not to focus so much on the North Korea issue, but other issues as well, so I won’t comment at length. Only to say that our efforts to pressure the North Korean regime continue. We have a comprehensive set of sanctions we’ve imposed on North Korea and these measures are fully consistent with and build upon the UN Security Council resolutions. One of the provisions of those resolutions has to do with luxury goods and where we can we’re locating the sources of luxury good transfers to North Korea and trying to put a halt to them. But I don’t want to comment on the report; I’m not familiar actually with the conclusions of the CRS report in that regard.

[Unclear] GERMAN PRESS AGENCY: The North Korean enrichment program seems much more advanced than that of Iran’s. Do you think that the diplomatic means have failed in the case of North Korea? And second, do we apply the lessons learned from the North Korea example to Iran, in the way you deal with Iran?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: No, I don’t believe the efforts with respect to North Korea have failed. We continue to pursue our concerns about the North Korean program. As you know, we’re concerned about the North Korean enrichment facility at Yongbyon. That’s not the only element of the North Korean program that we’re concerned about and as you know, we have been urging the North to suspend the operations at that Yongbyon enrichment facility. That remains an issue that’s under discussion now, but we continue to believe that this is an important step for North Korea to take if we are to have a resumption of the Six Party Talks on a promising basis.
So this is a matter that is currently under discussion involving the United States. We consult regularly and very closely with the R.O.K. government on this question, and as you know we’ve had some bilateral contacts with the North where this is a key subject. In terms of the relationship between North Korea and Iran, it’s clear that each of those governments is looking at what the United States is doing with the other one and drawing some conclusions in that regard. So, we want to take a consistent line as much as we can in dealing with those cases, but we certainly are aware that both of those governments are very attentive to our actions in each of these cases.

HONG SANG HEE, YTN: When it comes to the U.S. additional sanctions against Iran, I’m wondering if the U.S. government has already asked the South Korean government to stop buying petrochemical products from Iran. And you just mentioned that this does not apply to the crude oil from Iran, and if that’s the case, do you have any specific items that you asked the South Korean government about the ban of purchases from Iran?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: When Secretary Clinton announced the November 21 sanctions, she made clear that we were beginning already to go to our partners around the world and encourage them to switch suppliers of petrochemicals. We’ve begun to do that, and we have made some contacts with the ROK government and with governments all over the world to discourage them from continuing the purchase of petrochemicals. We haven’t asked them to stop importing crude oil from Iran.

But let me make a broader point. We would like to see a reduction in Iran’s revenues from the sale of crude oil, and so we would like to discourage countries from around the world from continuing to import crude oil in large quantities. In other words, we’d like to see reduced purchases of crude oil. But at the present time, the oil market is very tight. There’s not much excess production capacity. At such time as excess production capacity increases, it would be possible for countries to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude and to make up the shortfall by acquiring crude from other producers. But we’re very conscious of the energy security needs of countries like South Korea and we don’t want to interfere with those energy security needs.

DON KIRK, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: What kind of response are you getting to this kind of pressure that you’re exerting on the R.O.K.? What are they saying in response to your remarks?

SPECIAL ADVISOR EINHORN: First of all, as I explained before you arrived, we’re going to all of our partners around the world, not just the ROK, and urging them to join us in putting effective pressure on Iran. The R.O.K. government was very responsive to our earlier calls for sanctions measures. The September 2010 package that the R.O.K. adopted was very strong and we appreciate that, and I think the R.O.K. government recognizes the importance at this particular juncture of sending a clear, unified message to Iran. So we have I think gotten a positive reaction. The R.O.K. government is continuing to give consideration to what additional measures it wishes to take, and we’re going to be in constant contact with R.O.K. authorities.