Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Joung Binn Lee
Press conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Seoul, Korea, June 23, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER LEE: We are very sorry to keep you waiting. Our meeting at the Blue House was delayed about thirty minutes.
It gives me great pleasure to hold this joint press conference with the Honorable Madame Secretary Madeleine Albright with whom I had a most productive meeting earlier this afternoon. Today the Secretary and I discussed the historical significance of the South -North Korea Summit and exchanged views on the major outcomes of the summit. Secretary Albright reaffirmed the unreserved support of the U.S. government for the summit outcome.
Based upon the outcome of the South-North Summit, we agreed to maintain close consultations between our two governments in the process of strengthening peace on the Korean Peninsula and in promoting inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation.
I expressed our government's full support for improved ties between the United States and North Korea. We agreed to cooperate in fostering the conditions necessary for North Korea's participation in the international community.
We emphasized the central role played by the U.S. troops in Korea for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and thus reaffirmed the importance of the ROK-U.S. security alliance. Furthermore, for further development of the relations between the two countries, we consulted on measures to resolve all the pending issues including the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] with a forthcoming attitude.
Secretary Albright and I are both participating in the meeting of the Community of Democracies in Warsaw beginning June 25th. As co-conveners of the gathering, we have agreed to continue the cooperation for the further spread of the shared values of democracy and human rights.
My microphone is here for you!
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, good evening and I want to thank Foreign Minister and President Kim Dae Jung for their very warm welcome to Seoul and for the opportunity to meet with them today. I am delighted to have had the chance to congratulate personally the President and other leaders of the Republic of Korea so soon after the success of last week's historic summit with Kim Jong Il of the Democratic Republic of North Korea.
On behalf of President Clinton and the United States, I express my hope that the agreements reached on family reunification and other matters so important to all the people of Korea will be fully implemented.
The United States strongly supports South Korea policy of engagement and we will do all we can to encourage further movement toward reconciliation, stability and peace so the full promise of the summit is achieved.
As part of this effort, we will continue to work together in discussions with officials in Pyongyang to address the range of long-standing security concerns. As President Kim Dae Jung has made clear, there is nothing inevitable about the tensions that exist on this peninsula. The Korean War was half a century ago. The Cold War is long since over. The opportunity is there to establish a new and more productive set of relationships that will yield security and greater prosperity for all.
Even as we remain mindful both of past disappointments and present risks, we are encouraged that the summit has created a new and refreshing spirit and made a bold first step towards a brighter future for the region and for all people here in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Although my visit this week is brief, I look forward to seeing the Foreign Minister again in Warsaw in just a couple of days and also next month at the ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] Regional Forum. As always, we will remain in close contact as events unfold.
QUESTION: Concerning the American forces on the Korean Peninsula, the question is to Madame Albright. With the improvements in South-North Korean relations, there is a debate that, if not a withdrawal of the U.S. forces in South Korea, perhaps a change in the status of the forces or perhaps a reduction in the size of your military presence here is inevitable. There is much talk about this going on at this point; and in this regard, Mr. Helms, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has in fact stated very recently that we must now be thinking about the withdrawal of the troops. What are your views on this issue, and along the same line, Minister Lee, what is our government's position on this issue?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well let me say in response to that question that it is very clear that American forces on the peninsula have been and continue to be important for two reasons. One is the reason of deterrence because it is obvious that, while the summit is hopeful as I have said, not all issues have been resolved. And the other is basically for stability in the region. With the American forces that are also in Okinawa, there are forces here in the region that help provide stability; and neither of those reasons has changed. Therefore, any discussions of lowering numbers or withdrawal are not appropriate and are premature.
FOREIGN MINISTER LEE: Since this same question was addressed to me, if I may answer that. President Kim did discuss or raise this issue in his summit talk with Chairman Kim Jung Il during the South-Korean Summit, and he made very clear that for peace on the Korean Peninsula, for stability in North-East Asia, the American troops on the Korean Peninsula play a vital role. And he explained this very clearly to the North Korean side and through the explanation, we believe that we have expanded the North Korean understanding on this particular issue.
The American forces will be needed here even after the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. The American forces will continue to play the role of a guarantor of the balance of power and a stabilizing force in this part of the world. And so, this is the government's position, and our position is also that this issue is something that should be discussed between the Republic of Korea and the United States. And on this position there is no change.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can we pursue stability a little more please, because I am not sure I understand. It is a phrase, but I do not know the meaning of it. What situation are the troops providing stability for? Is there some other threat other than North Korea? Could you be more specific? There has been some speculation that they have to deter China from certain actions. What are the troops there for, might they never go home because the world is essentially unstable? And could you tell us please, in your relationship, if that is the right word, with North Korea, what do you see please further down the line, what type of negotiations might be on the horizon?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is very clear that the United States is a Pacific power as well as in an Atlantic power - that we have interests in Europe as well as in Asia, that our forces, when they are stationed somewhere, provide evidence of the American interest and, as the Foreign Minister said, have a role in providing a balance of power. The situation with North Korea, as we have said, while promising has not been resolved. We have alliance structures with the Koreans and a relationship with the Japanese, so it is essential that we fulfill our responsibilities. I think that is the general reason, and I think we don't put a time limit on our responsibilities or on pursuing our national interest.
And in terms with the North, we have had talks in Rome that have to do with the framework agreement. We are looking forward to having our missile talks soon, and we will obviously follow very carefully the discussions that the South and North will be having in terms of their procedure of family reunification. And we also obviously continue to have various discussions with the North Koreans through our people in New York. So there are number of issues but they primarily have to do with our concerns about the nuclear and fulfilling the agreed framework, KEDO [Korea Electric Development Organization] obligations, and the missile discussions.
We also have made our contributions through the World Food Program appeal, and we will continue to do that as necessary. And as you know, we have eased some of the sanctions, so we presume that there will be some business transactions on a small scale by American business people who might be interested in some investments.
QUESTION: The question is to Madam Albright. Ironically, with the occasion of the South-Korean Summit the anti-American sentiment here in the South has tended to go up. At the root of the problem lies the feeling among the many civic organizations. The frustrations surrounding the unequal treaty that is the SOFA regarding the status of the American troops here. Many issues are involved including the issue of the changing in the timing of the transfer of the custody involving criminal cases, the need for the inclusion of new regulations concerning the environment into the agreement. Regulations concerning better rights for Korean nationals who work for the American troops here. So with the view to elevating this growing anti sentiment atmosphere here, do you intend to fully cooperate, do you have a forthcoming attitude of these matters?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We discussed some of the elements of the SOFA today, both with the Foreign Minister and the President, and Ambassador Bosworth will be carrying on discussions. Obviously, these kinds of agreements are complicated and require cooperation and, I think, a positive attitude from both sides. I believe that the citizens of the Republic of Korea and Americans have benefited from this relationship for the many years that it has taken place. And I have felt this often whether I have been here or meeting with my South Korean colleagues in other places. But there is a bond between our two countries that is very deep. And that we can always work out various issues because there is that kind of confidence in each other.
QUESTION: For the Foreign Minister: How important is public sentiment in South Korea for the continued presence of the U.S. troops? Is it essential that the public continue to support that presence for the troops to stay? And do you envision the people of South Korea continuing to support a troop presence in the perhaps medium to distant future where there is no threat from the North and where the presence is simply a base of operations for the United States to continue a presence in the Pacific?
FOREIGN MINISTER LEE: I already answered your question regarding the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula. I can tell you most people of South Korea want stable and constructive U.S.-ROK relations. And as I said before, the U.S. presence here not only helps stability on the Korean peninsula but also plays a role of stabilizer in the entire region. And in my view, the people of Korea appreciate the U.S. military presence here. But the only thing is that there are small incidents that appear to be negative, therefore creating some negative prospective toward the United States. We see these things appear, but nevertheless, our people do deeply understand the importance of the U.S. military role here. And I think as long as there are some grievances regarding some of the undesirable things that happen here and there, we can certainly continue our constructive discussions. And based upon close cooperation between the two countries, I am very optimistic that we can resolve these issues of a minor nature.
QUESTION: To Foreign Minister Lee: Regarding the English expression "independently," we believe the meaning to be "self-determination," one point of the June 15th Joint Declaration that is the outcome of the summit indicates that the two Koreas will try to resolve the issues independently, meaning self-determination. Some have read that to mean the exclusion of outside influences. The government has explained that it does not mean so - that it is only there to underscore the importance of the centrality of South and North Korea, but there is growing concern within and outside the country about the interpretation of this term. Did you discuss this problem with Madam Secretary and, if so, what was the content of your discussion and, if not, what is your own view on this issue, Minister?
FOREIGN MINISTER LEE: Let me begin to answer that question by repeating once again that the term does not mean the exclusion of outside forces. As President Kim clearly and repeatedly explained to the Chairman during his summit talks in the North, this is there to underscore the importance of the principle roles that South and North Korea must play in resolving all the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful fashion. But he also underscored very much that, in the process of doing so, it is very necessary to have the support and cooperation of the international community, in particular the four surrounding powers. And so, as South and North Korea take charge to resolve all the issues that have divided the two sides, it is very important to maintain the close cooperation and support of the surrounding powers and we will be maintaining that cooperation.
In this regard, yes, Madam Secretary and I had an extensive exchange of views and we agreed that the close trilateral coordination between South Korea, the United States, and Japan must be maintained. And only by doing so can we progress to improve South-North Korean relations and this idea of independence or self-determination is not at all in conflict with this idea of maintaining the cooperation and coordination, with the surrounding powers. In fact, we think of them as being mutually complimentary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Could I just add that what has been very evident to me throughout these discussions, whether before President Kim went to Pyongyang or after, how very closely we have been working with the government of the Republic of Korea, how much we admire what President Kim has done and how that very close coordination was not only evident before, but today, and will obviously continue because these are issues that we are working on together.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, when President Kim returned from the North, said that they were here to make overtures ......(inaudible) What are those overtures....?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: President Kim just, I think in a general way, talked about the importance of our also having contacts with the North Koreans, which we obviously well do through these various talks that I mentioned previously. There is some thought that the Foreign Minister of the DPRK [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea] will be at the ASEAN Regional Forum and we will see how that progresses. I am hoping to meet with lots of people and will see how it - well, stay tuned.
QUESTION: Regarding the outcome of the South-North summit meeting, obviously being a water shed in terms of the reduction of tension and the promotion of inter-Korean reconciliation, we see that on the other hand we also hear that the United States is unchanged in its plans for the National Missile Defense. With the reduced tension here in this part of the world, doesn't that undermine the rationale for your NMD [National Missile Defense] plans? In fact, with the continuing reduction of tensions, with continued reconciliation, wouldn't such a plan in fact further the tension, increase the tension, and lead to an arms race in this region? Would that not be throwing cold water at the atmosphere of the reconciliation? That question to you, Madam Secretary, and to our Minister, what is our government's position on this issue?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that the discussion that is taking place around the possible NMD deployment has to do with the threats that face the United States generally and the responsibility that the leaders of the United States have to protect our national interest.
We have said many times that the President, in making a decision about NMD, will keep four criteria in mind. That is the threat, which is not just from this region; the technology, whether it works or not; the cost of a program; and, the general effect that a deployment would have on arms control generally and on the overall national security environment. These are the four criteria that the President will have in mind as he makes his decision.
The North Koreans - there is a missile testing moratorium, but they have tested and not all issues have been resolved, even though we fully agree that the summit has been historic.
FOREIGN MINISTER LEE: Our government's position on this, the American NMD plan, is that, in light to the fact that the plan has been triggered by the new missile threats coming from such countries as North Korea and Iran, what would be most important would be joint international efforts to deter the missile developments.
As the U.S. government has repeatedly said, and as Madam Albright has also said, at this point we do hope that the American government takes into consideration the four key factors that have been outlined in a comprehensive manner in coming to a conclusion on this issue.
Thank you, this concludes the press conference.
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