Background Briefing: Readout of the Secretary's Meeting With Japanese Foreign Mininster Koichiro Gemba and Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan
Senior State Department Official
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 28, 2012
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As you know, the Secretary met this morning in trilateral format with Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba and Korean Foreign Minister Kim. This was the fourth trilateral session in the last two years at ministerial level. The last time they met was in Phnom Penh on the margins of the ASEAN Regional Forum meetings. This trilateral format is now becoming firmly institutionalized. In addition to the level – meetings at ministerial level, there are also meetings at assistant secretary level, the level of Kurt Campbell, at the working level. And the group has now established a steering group to take the work forward between ministerial sessions at the desk director level.
Today, they talked about North Korea, as they always do. They talked about territorial issues and tensions. They talked about Burma. And they talked about a full range of global issues – Iran, Libya, and Syria.
On the DPRK, all ministers emphasized the importance of unity as the best way to maintain peace and security and avoid further provocative behavior, both in the trilateral context and in the context of the six parties. We are watching developments in North Korea closely, monitoring them, and our – the U.S.-North Korea Six Party Talks Envoy Glyn Davies will be making another trip to the region for consultations sometime later in October.
On the territorial issues, the Secretary, as she has been doing for months now, again stressed that peace and security in Northeast Asia, in the waters of Asia more generally, is best managed by dialogue among the parties. In the Japan-Korea context, she urged dialogue among our allies, again using the term that we used yesterday, to calm the waters, maintain cool heads. She underscored that the U.S. has no intention in any of these disputes, whether we are talking about Japan-Korea, Japan-China, China-ASEAN, to play a mediating role. We have no intention of playing a mediating role. We believe that bilateral relations are strong enough that China-ASEAN relations are strong enough for these issues to be resolved and tensions to be cooled through direct dialogue among affected parties.
In the South China Sea context, all the ministers in the trilateral meeting took note of the fact that China and ASEAN are now having informal and formal conversations. They were all supportive of that. Japan and Korea both noted that they have opened missions to ASEAN now, and that is something that we strongly support.
In addition to working well beyond the North Asia context, the trilateral ministers also talked about other regional issues. They talked about Burma today, the fact that all three countries are strongly supporting the reform efforts underway in Burma and also working hard with the Burmese Government to encourage it to cut all ties with the DPRK.
On global issues, they of course discussed Iran. The Secretary gave a debrief on the P-5+1 minus Iran meeting, and they all reaffirmed support for the dual-track strategy of diplomacy and pressure on Iran.
Both Minister Kim and Minister Gemba expressed condolences for the loss of Ambassador Stevens and our three other colleagues in Benghazi. In Libya, the ROK noted that they have been active. Their companies are working to invest there, and they also have a number of humanitarian initiatives underway.
They also compared notes on Syria, the importance of maintaining pressure on the Assad regime while supporting the opposition. And Foreign Minister Gemba noted that Japan will host the next meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People Sanctions Working Group. This is our working group to tighten international sanctions on the Assad regime.
Before the trilateral meeting, the Secretary also had a chance to meet bilaterally with Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba. In that context, the Secretary urged, with regard to the Senkakus Island dispute, that Japan move carefully, deliberately, and effectively in its bilateral diplomacy with China.
Questions? Please. Tell me who you are.
QUESTION: I’m Janine Harper from Fuji Television. Just wanted to know, how long did the trilateral meeting last, and what percentage of that was just discussing the disputed territories?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think the meeting was about 45 minutes. I would say the time was evenly distributed among the issues, so probably a quarter DPRK, a quarter territorial, some Burma, and then the global issues.
QUESTION: During the meeting, were the disputed territories referred to as Dokdo or Takeshima?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think that any side used any term in that context. It was simply as discussion about the need to proceed in – through dialogue and through direct discussions.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a little bit more about the – what is the implication about the – (inaudible) could use the term carefully (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think I’m going to let those words stand, and you can parse the adjectives however you’d like.
Anything else? Please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from TV Asahi. Did South Korea mention anything about (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It did not come up in this meeting – has come up in the past, as you know.
QUESTION: Mr. Campbell told this morning the U.S. will not mediating (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think I just said that, right?
QUESTION: Yeah, but just right after a meeting, seems like mediating (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. As I said in my opening remarks, we have made absolutely clear, whether it’s in the Japan-Korea context, whether it’s in the Japan-China context, or whether it’s in the China-ASEAN context, we will not play a mediating role. We will play the role, as we have played in the past, of encouraging direct diplomacy among affected parties; that we believe these relationships are strong enough that they can talk about these issues directly.
QUESTION: Did they talk about that speech – today’s speech by the Korean Foreign Minister?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think any of them spoke about the national speeches. I think it was expected that everybody heard everybody else’s speeches.
QUESTION: How long was the bilateral with Gemba beforehand? How long did that --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I didn’t see them go in, and it was extremely small. I think it was probably 10 to 15 minutes, something like that.
QUESTION: And was there any particular reason that Clinton was the one hosting the trilateral?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we are in the U.S., right? And so that would be traditional.
Anything else? Please.
QUESTION: On North Korea --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- was there any sense that there are any new steps that could be taken, or any sense that there might be any opening for the Six-Party talks to get back on track?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t have anything particular to announce. I think the mood in the room was very much to remain unified, to deter any provocative actions, but also to watch closely what the new leader does. But I don’t think anybody has drawn any conclusions at this stage.
Okay? Good. Thanks very much. That concludes our briefing program here in this room. Thank you all for joining us.
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