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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, South Korean Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-Young, and South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yu Myung-Hwan July 21, 2010

Joint Press Conference with Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, and South Korean Officials from Seoul, South Korea

(Note: The South Korean ministers' remarks were provided through an interpreter.)

MIN YU : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start by welcoming once again Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates on their visit to Seoul to attend the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers meeting.

As all of you know, today's meeting is being held on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, in accordance with a joint decision by President Lee and President Obama last November, and marks the first of its kind between the ROK and the U.S.

Given the special significance of today's gathering, the four of us visited the joint security area at Panmunjom village this morning. We were reminded of the cold reality of a divided Korea and that the ROK-U.S. alliance will continue to remain vital in deterring war and maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Later in the day, we visited the war memorial to honor the selfless sacrifice of the fallen men and women of the Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as those of the United Nations, in the service of freedom and peace during the Korean War, and the sailors who perished with the Cheonan.

These visits have allowed us to reflect upon the noble foundations of our blood-forged alliance. At today's meeting, we appraised the successful development of the ROK-U.S. alliance over the last six decades and held far-reaching and in-depth consultations on topics of mutual interest and major issues such as our security commitment and strengthening of the alliance, North Korea, as well as regional and global cooperation.

We also reaffirmed the robust commitment and strong desire of both our government's to promote the future-oriented developments of our alliance. First of all, we share the view that over the last 60 years, the ROK-U.S. alliance has been effectively deterring North Korea's military threat, playing a vital role in supporting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and evolving into the most-successful alliance relationship.

We also decided to actively pursue the development of a strategic ROK-U.S. alliance of the 21st century based on the joint vision agreed to by our two presidents in June 2009.

In addition both sides reaffirmed the robust security commitment and firm readiness posture of our two countries. We were also briefed on the progress being made in the consultations between our defense authorities, for implementing the adjustment of the timing of wartime OPCON transition, pursuant to the agreement by our two leaders several weeks ago. And it directed that a final plan be produced by the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting this October.

With regard to the Cheonan incident, we concur that such armed provocation by North Korea poses serious threats to peace and stability, on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and that the U.N. Security Council presidential statement was highly significant in that it represented the unified voice of the international community, in condemning North Korea's attack, and stressed the importance of preventing further provocations and welcomed the close ROK-U.S. coordination.

Furthermore we were in full accord that North Korea should accept stern international demands for it to take responsibility and refrain from engaging in further provocations and that otherwise there would be serious consequences.

Also we approved a plan for holding a series of combined ROK-U.S. military exercises including combined naval and other exercises, which was officially announced at yesterday's defense ministers meeting.

In particular we made it clear that these exercises are aimed at deterring war and maintaining peace on the peninsula and decided to ensure they unmistakably demonstrate the firmness of the ROK, U.S. alliance in the face of North Korea's military provocation. In addition, both sides acknowledged the close bilateral cooperation regarding the North Korean nuclear issue and urged North Korea to carry out the complete and verifiable abandonment of all its nuclear programs in pursuit of nuclear weapons and demonstrate through concrete actions it’s genuine will to denuclearize.

Moreover, during today’s consultations, both sides concurred that the ROK, U.S. alliance is emerging as a global partnership contributing to addressing regional and global challenges beyond the Korean peninsula and acknowledged our close bilateral cooperation on reconstruction and stabilization in such places as Afghanistan and Haiti as well as with regard to the G-20 summit and the security summit.

What is more, the two sides pledged to work actively together towards ratification of the KORUS FTA based on the strong commitment and decision of our two leaders at the joint meeting in Toronto.

Lastly, both sides noted that today’s meeting was very productive and useful in furthering the development of the strategic ROK, U.S. alliance, and decided to consider holding further foreign and defense ministers meetings as necessary. We also agreed to continue strengthening policy cooperation and coordination for ROK, US foreign and defense officials meetings at the deputy minister, assistant secretary level.

SEC. CLINTON: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be in Seoul again for the first ever two-plus-two meeting between Korea and the United States. I'd like to thank Foreign Minister Yu and Defense Minister Kim for their hospitality and the substantive discussions.

Secretary Gates and I are here in part to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. This morning we visited the DMZ and the war memorial, powerful reminders of our shared history. The people of South Korea and the United States have stood together for six decades, through the struggle of war and an uneasy peace, through a transition to democracy and open markets that have transformed life -- (off mike).

A cornerstone of our alliance is our commitment to South Korea's security and sovereignty, which we have demonstrated in the face of North Korea's latest provocation. We have consulted closely throughout this process and worked together to secure a unanimous United Nations Security Council statement condemning the sinking of the Cheonan. And today I'm announcing a series of measures to increase our ability to prevent North Korea's proliferation, to halt their illicit activities that help fund their weapons programs and discourage further provocative actions.

First, we will implement new country-specific sanctions aimed at North Korea's sale and procurement of arms and related materiel and the procurement of luxury goods and other illicit activities. These new measures will strengthen our enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, and they also provide new authorities to target illicit North Korean activities.

In addition to these new measures, we will expand and strengthen our work under existing authority to identify, pressure, and put out of business North Korean entities involved in proliferation and other illicit practices overseas.

This intensified effort includes, among others, additional State and Treasury designations of entities and individuals supporting proliferation, and subjecting them to an asset freeze; new effort from key governments to stop the DPRK trading companies engaged in illicit activities from operating in countries and prevent the banks of other countries from facilitating these illicit transactions; expanded cooperation globally to prevent the travel of individuals designated under Security Council resolutions as well as other key North Korean proliferators; greater emphasis on North Korea's repeated abuse of its diplomatic privileges in order to engage in activities banned by the Security Council; and finally, we will press countries not to purchase banned items from North Korea or to sell North Korea proliferation-related goods.

All of this builds on our efforts to enforce vigorously resolutions 1718 and 1874 and our cooperation through the Proliferation Security Initiative. My special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, Robert Einhorn, will coordinate U.S. efforts and will travel to the region soon to consult on sanctions implementations with South Korea and other allies and partners.

Let me stress that these measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided and maligned priorities of their government. They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government.

From the beginning of the Obama administration, we have made clear that there is a path open to the DPRK to achieve the security and international respect it seeks. North Korea can halt its provocative behavior, its threats and belligerence toward its neighbors, take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law. And if North Korea chooses that path, sanctions will be lifted, energy and other economic assistance will be provided, its relations with the United States will be normalized, and the current armistice on the Peninsula will be replaced by a permanent peace agreement.

But as long as the North Korean leadership takes a different choice, continuing defiance, provocation and belligerence, it will continue to suffer the consequences.

Secretary Gates and I had a good talk on a range of other issues with the foreign minister and defense minister. I will leave it to Secretary Gates to discuss our ongoing military-to-military cooperation and other related matters, including our agreement to transfer operational control for alliance activities in 2015.

But I want to emphasize that every step we take, every diplomatic effort and joint military exercise, is aimed at strengthening our alliance, upholding our commitments and promoting peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, across the region and, increasingly, around the world.

I applaud South Korea's contributions to peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and its efforts in Afghanistan, its generous support for the people of Haiti, its commitment to triple official development assistance by 2015 and its upcoming role as host of the G-20 later this year and the Nuclear Security Summit in 2012.

South Korea is a responsible and dynamic partner on the world stage, helping to solve shared problems and promoting broader security and prosperity. This is a testament to President Lee's plan for a global Korea and to the 2009 joint vision statement put out by both President Obama and President Lee.

We also reaffirmed a central pillar of our relationship: our commitment to the KORUS Free Trade Agreement. This agreement will benefit the people of both our countries, boosting commerce, growing our economies, creating good-paying jobs.

We are working to resolve the outstanding issues, including leveling the playing field for U.S. workers and producers in key sectors of autos and beef, and we expect intensive discussions in the months ahead.

South Korea is already America's seventh-largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods alone reaching nearly $70 billion last year. And we believe this is only the beginning of our shared economic potential. As President Obama said at the G-20 recently, we are committed to getting the free trade agreement passed.

So again, let me thank our hosts, and I look forward to continuing our work in the days and months ahead.

MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) Next we will open up the floor to journalists to get three questions each from the Korean side and the U.S. side.

Q (Through interpreter.) First, my question is for Minister Yu. I read the joint statement, and I assume that you must have had in-depth discussions during the actual meeting. The focus, I believe, is perhaps finalizing positions on future policies on North Korea on the part of both the ROK and U.S. Some say that today's meeting should serve as the occasion to start reviewing an exit strategy on the Cheonan incident by way of the six-party talks. Others say that it is too early.

I believe that in the long run, a review on an exit strategy is the right way to go. To what extent has this topic been addressed during the meeting?

More specifically, if the Cheonan incident is seen to be settled for the time being with a UNSC presidential statement, how much longer do you think the pressure measures against North Korea, announced on the -- on May 24th, will go on?

MIN. YU: Yes. During the two-plus-two ministers' meeting on the aftermath of the Cheonan incident, we talked about policy coordination between ROK and the U.S.

With regard to the Cheonan incident specifically, we urge North Korea to quickly admit to responsibility and offer an apology, and also promise to prevent further similar provocations from occurring, and we will coordinate all efforts to that end.

North Korea to date has been saying that it will not come to the six-party talks table. So discussing that topic and talking about denuclearization at the six-party talks should come after the peace agreement, as requested by North Korea. And we need to discuss on a playing field.

And they also asked us to eliminate U.N. Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and North Korea has made other series of requests.

And some out there talk about an exit strategy with regard to the Cheonan incident, but our view is that it is not a ripe time for such an exit strategy at this time.

And another point is that at the UNSC presently, we are coordinating efforts between the ROK and the U.S., and as a result of that effort, the presidential statement has been released. And the ROK-U.S. joint civilian-military investigation group has identified that North Korea played a part in the Cheonan incident, and the statement strongly condemns the provocations of the North Korea.

So to put that into context, and we have the May 24th measures announced by the Korean government, and our North Korea policies should continue on that front.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) Next question comes from Mr. Andrew Quinn from the Reuters.

Q (Off mike.) And is this a return to the strategy that we saw before, such as targeting Banco Delta Asia, where we're really trying to hit North Korea in the pocketbook? Thank you.

SEC. CLINTON: We have a three-part strategy for dealing with North Korea. We are intensively engaged in diplomatic efforts with our allies and partners, like the Republic of Korea, and all of the other members of the six-party framework, as well as the United Nations through the Security Council. And the results of those efforts in the last 18 months have led to Resolution 1874, which are the toughest general set of sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea, which we think has had an effect.

Secondly, we engage in strengthening our alliance with South Korea and our efforts at deterrence, which will be evidenced by the military exercises in the coming weeks. The very clear message that the United States stands to defend the security and sovereignty of South Korea is unmistakable.

And then finally, we are aiming very specifically -- after much intensive research, built on what was done before, but not limited to that -- to target the leadership, to target their assets. As you recall, several years ago we did get some action from the North Koreans as a result of the steps that were taken at that time. And intensive efforts by the State Department and Treasury Department to identify the activities and the individuals who we think deserve such sanctioning and who themselves are either part of the leadership or can influence leadership is what is contained in this next set of pressures.

MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) Second question from the Korean side comes from Mr. Yohamdu from NBC.

Q (Through interpreter.) I have two questions directed to Secretary Clinton. I understand that both the ROK and U.S. are of the position that we must reverify North Korea's will to denuclearize before resuming the six-party talks. But there seems to be confusion arising from this. For example, if North Korea as early as tomorrow comes out and says that it will come to the six-party talks to discuss denuclearization with no preconditions, could the talks actually take place?

And also, can the talks resume even without an apology from North Korea or actions for punishment against the culprit with regard to the Cheonan incident? What does North Korea actually have to do for the six-party talks to resume?

And another question. You talked about the U.N. Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and the need to strengthen these resolution provisions. I have a question concerning the conditions and the term of these provisions, whether to suspend them or to ease them. Would that depend on the apologies or the punishment on the culprits? The provisions of 1718 and 1874, are all of the measures be applied on an equal level?

SEC. CLINTON: Well, your question about what does the DPRK have to do is truly the right question. And we think they know the answer; they just refuse to actually do it. They know very well that they made commitments over the last years to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which they have reneged on and which we expect them to once again adhere to. We are looking for the irreversible denuclearization.

We saw steps taken by North Korea which, as you know, they then decided to reverse. And it's our position that we're seeking irreversible steps.

Secondly, the idea of returning to the six-party talks, as Minister Yu pointed out, is not something we are looking at yet, because we do expect to see North Korea take certain steps that would acknowledge their responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan, which would demonstrate their commitment to the irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula, which would end the provocative and belligerent actions.

Now, we will consult closely with South Korea and the other partners in the six-party talks. And of course, if we all concluded that there was a very promising effort that could be undertaken because of signals that North Korea sent, we would give that serious consideration. But to date we have seen nothing that gives us any reason to believe that North Korea is ready to end its provocative, belligerent behaviors, to take the irreversible steps that they clearly know about because they previously committed to doing so, and to remedy the actions that they have taken against South Korea with the attack on the Cheonan.

MODERATOR: Next we will invite Mr. Dan De Luce from AFP for the next question.

Q First part of the question for Mr. Gates, and then the second part for all of you.

The man nominated to be the next U.S. director of National Intelligence, that you have endorsed, Mr. Clapper, spoke about his concerns about that we may be seeing the beginning of a new wave of attacks from North Korea. And do you agree with that assessment? And if so, why?

And then for all of you, as far as these planned military exercises, what leads you to be -- to hope that this will actually deter North Korea and not possibly actually provoke or raise tensions or create further problems?

SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, I would say that there has been some indication over the last number of months that, as a succession process gets under way in the North, that there might be provocations, and particularly since the sinking of the Cheonan. So I think it is something that we have to look at very closely. We have to keep it in mind and be very vigilant.

By the same token, I think taking steps that further strengthen deterrence and also demonstrate our determination not to be intimidated are very important. And yesterday we briefed in some detail on the first exercise that will take place, beginning in a week or so. And we have recommitted to the fact that we will continue these bilateral exercises and we will -- we will conduct them both in the East Sea and in the West Sea.

And so I think that we have to -- there is certainly no certainty about further provocations. I think that General Clapper was just warming up for his new job, assuming that he's confirmed by the Senate. But I think it is an important point, and it's something we have to be on the lookout for, to be vigilant, but also to be strong, and frankly, I think, sending the signal of unity that this two-plus-two meeting sends. That we -- that this is a very strong and a very close alliance and that we will act together going forward is an important message, I hope, in deterring future provocations.

MODERATOR: Next we will have a question from Mr. Sung Seou-li from NBN .

Q (Through interpreter.) This question goes to the -- Defense Minister Kim. Actually, during the SCM this October, I understand that your plan for adjusting the timing of the wartime OPCON transition will be finalized. So can you tell us the broad framework for that plan? And then what are the complementary needs that you have identified so far?

And also, what do you think about the possibility of a contingency within North Korea due to the internal issues, such as the deteriorating health of Kim Jong Il? And due to the economic issues, such as the financial crisis, I understand that there is a pressure within the U.S. to reduce the military spending. Doesn't that impact the outlook of U.S. alliance? And I also understand that there is a view that you need to increase the military spending. How -- what is your comments on this?

MIN. KIM: Now, let me answer that question first.

Yes, at the SCM meeting scheduled for October this year, we will further finalize detailed plans regarding the adjustment and the timing of the wartime OPCON. The progress so far has been focused on the OPCON transition initially slated for 2012 but has been postponed to 2015. So we are not just extending the period for -- of the transition by three years, but also, in the process of maintaining strong ally relationship between the two countries, we would like to complement any areas for further improvement.

And we are trying to fill in those nooks and crannies for further improvement to strengthen the alliance. So we will further discuss some important items and continue to consult to further evolve our alliance, and detailed discussions will take place to finalize a new plan by October in the next SCM meeting to come up with a broad picture of the future.

Regard to the North Korean contingency possibility, we are always closely keeping an eye on North Korea and like -- as you concur with us, there's always a possibility of a North Korean contingency, for sure, but there are no clear-cut signs of one at this point. But the possibility for one to come is quite high, and on that front, the ROK and U.S. is closely coordinating policies and improved closer ties to deal with that.

SEC. GATES: Can I just say one thing to a point you raised about U.S. defense spending? Because I think it's an important point for our Korean -- South Korean allies. And let me be very clear. What the Obama administration is doing at this time with respect to American defense spending is not cutting defense spending but trying to sustain our force structure, our capabilities, our numbers and our future investments through a reallocation of money within the defense budget from overhead and administrative programs and weak programs to the -- to our forces.

And so in terms of our alliance, all of the efforts that we have under way at the Department of Defense are intended to keep the forces that we have as strong as possible and to make those forces stronger in the future with greater investment.

We see no pressures -- I see no pressures in the foreseeable future that would cause us in any way to reduce our capabilities or in any way weaken our military strength.

MODERATOR: (Name and affiliation inaudible.)

Q Hi. My first question is for Mrs. Clinton and related to Gates. Last month in China, you had a lot of discussions with the Chinese about North Korea, and we had the impression that the Chinese would be taking a tough position on the North Korea situation and possibly inviting Mr. Gates to Beijing. Are you disappointed with the Chinese position so far on North Korea? And what message will you be bringing to them in Hanoi in the -- at the regional forum?

And for Minister Yu, a lot -- a lot of the discussion today has been about North Korea's nuclear program, but South Korea's going to be beginning new negotiations with the U.S. on its civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. What is the status of negotiations? And do you see any problems coming to conclusion with the U.S. on South Korea's hopes to reprocess its own nuclear fuel? Thank you.

SEC. GATES: Let me -- let me begin, from the U.S. standpoint. First of all, I would have to say that -- and I would defer to Secretary Clinton on this, but I think it was important that China voted for the presidential statement at the U.N., thereby allowing a unanimous vote that everybody recognized was a condemnation of North Korea's provocation.

I continue to believe that an open and growing dialogue, military to military, between the United States and China, is in the best interests of both countries. President Yu -- Hu and President Obama agreed to this in their meeting last year.

Obviously we were disappointed that the Ministry of Defense postponed the visit, withdrew the invitation, however you want to characterize it. But I think we have to look to the future, and I would say that I remain open to rebuilding and strengthening the military-to-military dialogue between the United States and China, because I think it can play an important role in preventing miscalculations and misunderstandings.

And so I look forward to that. We'll see. We are obviously concerned by some of the things China has said, some of the things China's doing in the military arena. They are worrying but that's all the more reason to open this dialogue.

MIN. YU: (In Korean. No interpretation provided.)

MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) This concludes the press availability meeting of the ROK-U.S. foreign and defense ministers' meeting. Thank you.


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