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A Conversation with Song Min-Soon [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Song Min-soon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea
Presider: Stephen W. Bosworth, Dean, The Fletcher School Of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
September 26, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

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STEPHEN W. BOSWORTH: Good afternoon. It's my great pleasure to welcome you all here for what I think is a very important opportunity for the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations. We are on the eve of a significant international event centered on the Korean Peninsula, the upcoming South-North summit, the second such summit in the last seven years. It's been a long time between summits, actually.

We're also deep into the process of implementing the agreements reached in the Six-Party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the building of some new relationships between participants in the Six-Party process and of course North Korea.

So I think it is a very timely event and a very important opportunity to welcome here to the Council on Foreign Relations my old friend, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Song Min-soon.

Minister Song was the deputy director general for North American affairs when I arrived in Korea about 10 years ago. His progression in the interim has been a little more rapid than mine. And he was -- he left as director general of North American affairs and went to Poland as the South Korean ambassador in 2001. He came back to the ministry in 2004 as deputy minister. And in January of 2006 he became the national security advisor to the president. In December of 2006 he was named minister of foreign affairs and trade. He is educated at Seoul National University. He has been a fellow at the Harvard Center for International Affairs where he now has a daughter, not at the Center for International Affairs, but at the university who is studying there.

And it's my great pleasure to welcome Song Min-soon here today.

Mr. Minister? (Applause.)

MINISTER SONG MIN-SOON: President Haas and Ambassador Bosworth, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen -- but before I start my speech, I got to know that when I hear from Ambassador Bosworth's introduction about my career, I just found that Korea is really a dynamic country. I was just moving up, up and so fast then in a very easy speed -- that much I might have not depth to share with you. But I'm -- today I'd like to share with you my thinking on our issues of our common interest.

I'm greatly honored to be here today at the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading institution in the field of foreign policy. I'd like to thank President Haas and the members of the Council for providing me this valuable opportunity to speak before such an eminent audience. Through its research and policy accommodations, the CFR has made a significant contribution to the study of Northeast Asia. It has also been instrumental in promoting Korea-U.S. relations.

As I understand, it the Council has recently embarked on a new project, indigenous security structure, focusing on Northeast Asia. I trust that this initiative will contribute to the development of practical and viable -- (inaudible) -- for the region.

Today, I would like to share with you my views on the current security situation in Northeast Asia surrounding North Korea nuclear issue. I will also discuss on the peace building process in the region as presented by the Six-Party talks as well as on the topic of how Korea and the U.S. can work together to enhance security in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, Northeast Asia is a region known for its dynamic economies as well as the complexity of its political and security situation. The combined economies of the Republic of Korea, Japan and China make up the third largest in the world following only the European Union and NAFTA. According to economy projections, the production of these Northeast Asian economies will catch up with that of the EU within a decade or two.

Despite its economic dynamism, Northeast Asia faces a number of problems in political and security areas. They include the North Korea nuclear issue, the cross-strait relations and territorial disputes, controversies over history and the national rivalries that present the growing potential for an arms race. Furthermore, the lack of institutionalized dialogue and corporation hinders the forging of durable peace and security in the region. Among these problems, the most urgent is North Korean nuclear challenge. Considering its gravity in regional politics as well as its implications for global nuclear nonproliferation and -- only a peaceful resolution of the problem is imperative for all of us.

At the same time, the process of resolving this challenge presents a major opportunity to build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and the region. History teaches us that crisis can be transformed into opportunities through creative efforts and bold initiatives. A strategic approach must be taken and this is the right time to resolve.

Distinguished guests, the North Korean nuclear problem and the security situation in Northeast Asia -- Northeast Asia should be addressed through multi-track approach. The first track is for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula for the resolution of North Korea nuclear problem.

The second is for the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula so that the deepening of inter-Korean ties and normalization of relations between the United States and North Korea.

And the third is to generate a Northeast Asia peace and security dialogue that goes beyond the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. These three tracks are closely interrelated. In order to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, the broader security environments on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia must be taken into account. A comprehensive approach is necessary in which the three tracks are addressed in tandem with the North Korean nuclear issue at its center.

Let me start with the first track, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The six-party talks are the principle vehicle for addressing this issue. The 2005 Joint Statement and the 2007 agreement on initial action plans present the basic framework for the peaceful resolution of this problem. A new of round of the Six-party talks will start tomorrow in Beijing. This time, the parties will aim at adopting an implementation plan to disable North Korea's nuclear facilities by the end of this year. The focal point is the scope and the timeline of the disablement and the corresponding political and economic measures to be taken by other parties, particularly in the context of the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations.

North Korea nuclear facilities must be disabled in a way that makes it very difficult to diverse the process and bring back to operation. It should also be noted at this point that relations between North Korea and Japan need to be improved.

On the second track, a peace regime will be established to formally end the state of war and to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula. This process will involve the deepening of inter-Korean relations as well as the normalization of U.S.-North Korean ties.

With the progress in this process the armistice on the Korean Peninsula will be replaced by a peace arrangement. Inter-Korean relations will be brought up to a higher level with the summit meeting to be held in Pyongyang next week between President Roh Moo-hyun and Chairman Kim Jong-il. The summit will first of all aim at consolidating peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea will be encouraged to move forward on the past continue accreditation. The summit will be a good occasion to give North Korea a better understanding of what benefits it will get as progress is made in denuclearization. The leaders will also discuss how to establish a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an early date.

In the same vein, the leaders will explore ways to increase mutual trust through political and military confidence building measures as well as ways to lay the groundwork for an eventual inter-Korean economic community.

As President Bush made it clear, Washington is also ready to have a normal relations with Pyongyang once the nuclear issue is resolved. It is evident that the more the progress is made at the Six-Party, talks the closer the normalization of U.S.-North Korean ties will become to reality. Meaningful improvements in inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korean relations will signify that substantive change can take place in the Korean armistice. As progress is being made toward disabling of North Korea's nuclear facilities by the end of this year. I expect that negotiations for peace regime on the Korean Peninsula will be launched accordingly.

One the third track, a multi-lateral security dialogue in Northeast Asia is a pressing necessity. With progress in denuclearization, the groundwork for such a dialogue is being laid. The nations in the region are currently working within the context of the Six-Party talks to identify common denominators for the regional security. These include a -- federal guiding principles for peace and security in Northeast Asia, and that will lead to a more comprehensive security dialogue in the future.

Distinguished guests, the goals we pursue on these three tracks are shared by Korea and the United States and they form the basis for a stronger Korea-U.S. alliance. The two countries have worked together from the early stages to formulate the action plans to achieve these goals. For example, the common and broad approach which -- and this is a comprehensive roadmap to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem -- was jointly worked out by the two presidents in September last year.

Korea and the United States have been successfully aligning the alliance to make it more suitable to reach the goals and the vision we share. U.S. military bases in Korea are being consolidated, and the 2nd Infantry Division of the United States Army will be relocated from the DNG area to Pyongtaek, about 50 miles south of Seoul, not north of Seoul. The Yongsan military base will be moved there as well. With the transfer of wartime operational control in 2013, the Korean military will assume the main responsibility for guarding the DNG and attending to the country. The United Forces in Korea while maintaining their primary role of supporting Korean defense will also be more able to enhance regional security. Such changes would be consistent with both the Korean's people aspiration for a future and the strategic executives of United States in the region which involves maintaining and strengthening the peace and stability of Northeast Asia in political, security and economic terms.

The foundations of the Korea-U.S. alliance will be further expanded and consolidated as we conclude the Korea-U.S. free trade agreements and Korea begins its participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver program. The Korea-U.S. FTA was negotiated on the basis of economic logic. I think I have to say that Ambassador Keane, who was the architect of the Korea-U.S. FTA who is present here -- I should say all the truth in front of him. The wide range of benefits expected from the FTA -- they are, increase the trade investments in the opening of the services market and enhance the productivity and efficiency among others. Am I right? (Laughter.)

A balance of interest has been struck between the two countries. At the same time the strategic implications of the FTA for both Korea and the United States as well as for the region as a whole should not go unnoticed. The FTA will have the task of upgrading the alliance to a higher level as Korea and the United States take on even greater interdependence in every area. Early this month, the Korean government submitted FTA to the National Assembly and is endeavoring to obtain its approval as soon as possible. We hope that the United States Congress will also do its part at an early date.

Ladies and gentlemen, the shared values of democracy and market economy, and Korea is a strategic location and its growing responsibilities in global affairs have made the Korea-U.S. alliance closer than ever before. Our two countries are cooperating to resolve not only issues concerning the North Korean -- the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia but also many global problems -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon are just a few examples where the United States and Korea are working together for peace, stability and reconstruction.

At the core of Korean-U.S. cooperation today lies the efforts to resolve North Korean nuclear problem. The only and peaceful resolution of this issue will open a new horizon for Northeast Asia's security, political and economic future. It will also serve as a useful example of a negotiated solution for similar problems in other parts of the world, including those in the Middle East. At the same time it will provide a great moment in strengthening the MPT regime which is often said to be at a crossroads and facing much more challenges.

What we are dealing with today is a great potential crisis that could be and should be turned into an opportunity. Whether we seize the opportunity or let it pass is on our shoulders. As for me, I believe in our collective wisdom. As an ancient Asian historian once said, "Great excellence do not wait for petty scraps and abundant fortune does not travel with niceties."

This is the time for us to have a broadest view and take bold and strategic actions. This is the time to remind ourselves that it is the war, not the battle, that we should win. In realizing these endeavors -- that is resolving the North Korean nuclear problem, establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and creating a Northeast Asia security dialogue, public support is indispensible. Institutes like the Council on Foreign Relations as leader of public opinion does have an important role to play. I'm sincerely grateful for your wisdom and insight and devotion to these important tasks.

Thank you. (Applause.)

BOSWORTH: Minister, thank you very much for those remarks. I think you've laid out in a very comprehensive and compelling fashion the challenges that lie ahead in Northeast Asia.

I think one of the concerns that you will probably hear here -- in fact you may have already heard on your visit to the U.S. -- is how do we and you and the other members of the Six-Party process synchronize all of these different channels going forward? In other words, your president is going to meet with Kim Jong-il next week and talk, I assume, mainly about the peace regime. How do we have -- what kind of confidence can we have that the peace regime developments are going to be kept in synchronization with the nuclear program?

SONG: Well, you are now talking about these, now two events going on both -- in parallel; one in Pyongyang and one in North of -- in Beijing --

BOSWORTH: Right.

SONG: Well, it was not designed so. Actually the inter-Korean summit was about to be held a month ago. It happened so. But we do have -- without the timing of these two events, we do have a quite firm position. And in the inter-Korean summit, we will make it clear as I said here -- we will make it clear to North Koreans that a tangible progress in denuclearization is the key to have a total improvement and further progress in inter-Korean relations. That's the first thing to be discussed in Pyongyang -- but even though Pyongyang is not the main venue to negotiate denuclearization. The main venue is in Beijing. But inter-Korean summit and the talks in Beijing will be mutually reinforcing. That's the situation now. And we'll also show North Koreans that in case we make real tangible progress in denuclearization, North Korea will get much more than it will lose. So this point will be clearly made understood to North Korea.

BOSWORTH: So your president would intend to make -- lay great stress on the need to have movement on denuclearization as a precondition to further steps forward on the peace regime?

SONG: I cannot say this is a precondition because this is too delicate to make it conditional. But as I said, these two tracks will be mutually reinforcing.

One other point we -- I have to tell you is that this North Korea's disabling and eventual dismantling of their nuclear program, it's -- naturally entails -- it is to be matched by economic assistance of North Korea, also the United States lifting of its sanctions and the moving forward in the normalization of relations with North Korea. Without this -- the corresponding measures by United States and others like our economic and -- (inaudible) -- North Korea would not need to keep up their nuclear plan.

And now what I want to say is once relations between United States and North Korea is normalized -- or are going to be normalized and inter-Korean relations are further deepened, then it naturally entails the process of peace regime. With the normalized relations on the Korean relations -- we do not need to have this armistice mission. But at this time it is a little too early whether -- when we can have an institutionalized peace arrangement but what we have to do is to start the process of making a peace regime on the peninsula.

BOSWORTH: Great emphasis seems to being placed on the disablement part in the nuclear program -- denuclearization program. At what -- how much work has been done on the question of how one defines disablement?

SONG: Well, the -- actually this disabling, is a part of dismantling. We can say that the earlier part of this dismantling process is named a sort of disabling. Disabling does not mean that it is a so-called completely irreversible procedure but once it is disabled as we -- and this is now -- it would be very much difficult for North Koreans to reverse the process and to bring these facilities back to operation because now the agreement is among six parties, and five parties are now closely watching at North Koreans whether they tamper with these already disabled facilities.

BOSWORTH: Well, you also have IAEA inspectors.

SONG: Yes, we do have -- we will have the IAEA inspectors in place and to watch whether they tamper with this -- the agreed disabled condition of the facilities.

BOSWORTH: Okay.

I'm going to open this up to general questions from the audience as soon as I see some manifestation of desire to join the conversation.

Yes? Jason?

QUESTIONER: Yes. Minister , Jason Chapman (sp) from Project Renewal. I'd like to follow up on a question Ambassador Bosworth just touched on -- disablement and dismantlement.

Do you believe North Korea -- if it dismantles as the talks seem to be encouraging -- if it dismantles, do you believe they will ship out their existing fuel? And if they don't ship out their existing fuel that already exists, is that something South Korea could be comfortable with and Japan or the U.S.?

SONG: Well, now you -- once we reach an agreement and then implement this agreement, it includes the materials -- the processed materials should be inter -- entirely disabled. And if it is not a realistic option then it should be shipped out. And these materials should not be left at the disposal of North Korea.

BOSWORTH: That includes the fissile material or the plutonium that's already been produced.

SONG: Yes, certainly. In our Joint Statement of September 2005 we -- including North Korea -- we agreed that North Korea will abandon all its nuclear weapons (which they have) and -- (I am globally saying) -- and all their nuclear programs. So all their nuclear weapons and all their nuclear programs -- weapons and programs include fissile materials and everything -- that's what understood by six-parties.

But when they will keep up this fissile materials or any devices, it's still to be negotiated. Well, many of my friends here are in the hall and we do have an experience of negotiating away the really important things at the last stage -- with that-- the habits of negotiation, we have to think that these materials -- to negotiate them out of North Korean hands, we have to also do something, as I said, some bold and strategic actions.

BOSWORTH: Don?

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) Don Oberdorfer. You know the talk of a peace regime leaves me a little confused. It has a good name of course -- anything with peace in it sounds very good -- but I'm not sure what it is. I mean, you're talking about changing the armistice to putting the same countries basically under a different name to make it more permanent, but armistice has lasted since 1953 without any particular problem. And the peace regime -- you want to have improved relations, good relations, which would normalize between the United States and DPRK. So what does -- other than that, what is the meaning of the concept of peace regime? In what way would it be different than what we have now?

SONG: I have to say that armistice is armistice. Armistice is the truth, the stopping of the war -- technically we are at war. So in this matter I have to approach from two track -- one is informality from armistice to a peace regime, from truth to peace regime. And the other one is in substance. We have to have a mutual trust and constant building measures in place including the normalized relations between the parties concerned.

The one is the inter-Korean relations should be deepened. Presently, the inter-Korean relations are not normal. We cannot move freely to North and to South. We cannot allow the free flow of information or goods and services in an inter-Korean track.

And between -- the United States and North Korea are virtually at war. And without the normalizing relations between Pyongyang and Washington and between Pyongyang and Seoul we cannot say there is peace. So these two sets of normalizations along with -- along with political and military confidence building measures in place are needed. And that (matching ?) these actual developments with some legal instruments is needed -- the legal instrument -- for example, the actual parties to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula in the future must be South and North Korea.

In past -- in the armistice, the United States participated as representatives of the United Nations Command and that China participated in the name of People's Volunteers Army, named the PVA . So China and the United States are so much directly or indirectly related. So these four parties, we think, should be a part of making some legal instrument. That I think has -- will come sometime at a later stage. What I'm saying is we have to actively engage in this process of making the formal and the virtual transition from armistice to the peace.

BOSWORTH: Yes. Robin.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, thank you for your comments. You touched very briefly on Japan. I'm Robin Duke, U.S.-Japan Foundation, and I'm wondering several things. There's a change of leadership now in Japan from Mr. Abe to Mr. Fukuda and there are some indelicate issues such as the comfort ladies and that has never been really resolved. And I just wondered if you saw with that change maybe an opportunity to renegotiate some of the issues that you have with Japan? Thank you.

SONG: Negotiate on --

QUESTIONER: Well --

BOSWORTH: Improving the relationship.

QUESTIONER: -- improving the relationships with Japan which are somewhat critical.

SONG: Japan and Korea or --

BOSWORTH: Yes.

QUESTIONER: Japan and Korea, of course.

SONG: Yes. We have been -- for last several years the waters dividing Korea and Japan were somewhat troubled. We -- both of countries wanted to secede from pacify the waters between our two countries. There have been -- at working level things were going as quite normal and we are increasing trade and increasing number of visitors between the two countries. But as you mentioned because of -- in the top level it was not that much, I have to say, comfortable. We hope that these two neighboring countries should be -- relations between the two countries should be amicable and more cooperative and we have our positions is always -- our doors are always open to have more improved and more strength and the more amicable relation with Japan. I think the change in government in Tokyo will make a broader horizon for better relations between the two countries. I wonder if I give you a clear answer but we -- I hope for it -- (inaudible).

BOSWORTH: Yes?

QUESTIONER: Jeff Laurente (sp) at the Century Foundation. Minister Song, in your opening remarks you had spoken about northeast Asia security dialogue. I wonder if you could locate that for us in the context of the other security arrangements that are cropping up around. You have a U.S.-Japan-Australia-India axis seeming to be coming together, allegedly directed against China. Then you have at a global level, you know, Japan, India, others looking for a permanent place on the Security Council while in Washington you have plans to try to get around the whole China-Russia blockage in the Security Council with a global NATO or coalition or alliance of democracies. Where do you see Korea fitting into these alternatives and where does the northeast Asia security dialogue fit in when you have these somewhat more robust forms of security alignments?

SONG: Well, the -- we think the security stability in northeast Asia does not lie in dividing the powers in the Asian land mass and powers in the Pacific. We see rather the more security and the better -- the safe environments is to have a -- some more concerted efforts between the countries in the region as a whole. You mentioned just talk -- you just mentioned about the United States, Japan, Australia, India, and this kind of line to our view does not serve much for our long-term future. That may cause, as I indicated in my opening remarks, cause and elevate the potential for arms race in the region. That is the reason why we -- I emphasize that the need -- an imperative need to have northeast Asian regional security and cooperation dialogue. That is very much conspicuous by absence.

You see in whole of Asia -- in Southeast Asian you have ASEAN and in south Asia we do have a SARK (sp) for example, but in northeast Asia we don't have this kind of -- (audio break) -- so far in the governmental level security dialogue. We need it. We have to know what China is thinking about its future security. What Japan -- what is Japan's future security policy? What is the role of the United States in the region as I just insinuated as a stabilizing factor? So what did Korea -- what Korea be divided or unified can envisage -- it's a future security landscape. All these things should be discussed in a more formal way. Unfortunately, this formal setting is absent now. That is the reason why I emphasize this -- (inaudible).

BOSWORTH: Yes?

QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, I'm Lee Siegel. I want to follow up Don Oberdorfer's question in particular. One of the things that's been suggested as an interim step to a peace treaty is a peace declaration that might be among the U.S., South Korea, North Korea to say that we intend to move toward a peace treaty and then to spell out -- perhaps set up certain mechanisms for working out confidence-building measures. So the first question I have is is that one of the things that is on the table in the near term, and secondly, you can't have a peace treaty without boundaries -- without borders being set.

SONG: Without what?

QUESTIONER: Without borders.

SONG: I see.

QUESTIONER: Okay? And one of the issues that seems to be needing a resolution at some point is the so-called northern limit line -- what is the sea boundary between north and south. Is that also something that can be discussed in the near term working forward toward a peace treaty?

SONG: When you mentioned this sea boundary that this means so-called we technically think and the so-called NNN (ph).

BOSWORTH: Yes.

SONG: Well, first of all, you mentioned about the peace declaration or something. My government has a position that peace does not come with a single declaration, and peace does not exist all of a sudden just with a single signature. For peace we need confidence-building measures. That is the reason why I emphasized this political and military confidence-building measure is so important and through -- to -- but to proceed with this confidence-building measures we need to launch a formal process to expedite, and secondly, on this so-called sea boundary it -- we in 2000 -- 1992, the South and North Korea agreed that the boundary in sea will be discussed. At the same time until we agree on the existing boundary will develop, and this was included into Korean nonaggression protocol and so on. In this protocol we already stipulated that, the two sides, what we had in this political and military confidence-building measures. Without a certain confidence-building measures in place we cannot touch on these lines, both on land and in sea.

BOSWORTH: I'd like to come back to this question of the potential for friction between the peace discussions and the progress on the denuclearization agreement. Great emphasis has been placed -- and you did it today as well -- on disablement of the North Korean program in return for which other countries included the U.S. would do certain things that would be of value to North Korea. I heard discussed at least that the U.S. would take North Korea off the terrorism list. Yet the continued existence in North Korea of fissile material, particularly plutonium, is sort of the ultimate threat. What is your estimate as to the time table of addressing that, and how do you then tie that back in to future meetings on the question of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula?

SONG: Well, they are -- these two subjects you just mentioned are closely interrelated. I think North Korea would not keep up their nuclear option until they feel really assured of their safety in many terms -- I mean, their safety in many terms. That is the reason why we have to take some bold and strategic actions to get rid of all this problem. We do not have any set time line but we have to make it quite clear in an equitable way what North Korea can get once they clearly agree upon giving up all this nuclear options.

I personally think that we do not have full and errorless communication between North Korea and outside world -- for example, Seoul and Pyongyang or Washington and Pyongyang. I personally have been in many negotiations and consultations with North Koreans and also consulting with United States, and that experience tells me that we need a very clear signal toward each other. One of some persuasive elements that -- or elements that can persuade North Korea to give up its -- their nuclear option is the normalized relations between North Korea and the United States. That's -- and just normalized relations as I tell -- told it entails some peace process as well.

BOSWORTH: Uh-huh. It does seem to me there is a kind of chicken and egg problem here though. Normalized relations implies that we no longer feel threatened nor does South Korea by the nuclear program.

SONG: That is the reason why it is a little, as you mentioned, chicken and egg problem. That is the reason why the -- for North Koreans they think that United States and South Korea and others should take steps first. You come first and then we'll see. And then on our side, particularly the United States, think that you take your action first and then we will see, and this kind of approach it's like just an engine idling -- idling engine, and this kind of approach will not -- I think with that approach we cannot go up to the very steep hill that is ahead of us. The hill we just covered so far is not that much steep.

BOSWORTH: No.

SONG: But hills ahead of us are much steeper than before, and to that I don't think we can -- we cannot maintain this approach we can get the goal. What we -- I personally emphasizing more is a sort of sequential approach.

BOSWORTH: Action for action.

SONG: Action for action but somebody has to take action first, with minimum gap between the actions.

BOSWORTH: Yes -- Fred?

QUESTIONER: Fred Smith. Mr. Prime Minister, I wonder if you would -- shifting the discussion a little bit out of the region to Syria -- I wonder if you would comment on the recent incidents that took place between Israel and Syria were caused reportedly by North Korea cooperating with Syria. What is your reaction to that and would any of these negotiations and measures that you're discussing or suggesting -- would it preclude that type of activity in the future?

SONG: Fred Smith and I have been in very tough negotiations many years ago about --

BOSWORTH: we negotiated the last --

(Cross talk.)

SONG: -- agreement to make what at that time we said to make a better and comfortable environment for stationing American forces in Korea due to his wisdom and our cooperation we could come over the difficulties and now having this issue behind us. Now we are talking about this different subject. But frankly speaking I do not know at this moment about what's really going on but we are concerned about some report and rumors that -- some cooperation between North Korea and Syria.

We have to first ascertain some evidence about this rumor, but I have to say in principle we in the Six-Party Talks are talking about the denuclearization and the basics -- the underlying spirit of this talk is nonproliferation. So as far as nonproliferation is concerned, whether it is indigenous development or whether you are importing some technology and some materials from outside or you are exporting -- proliferating outward, all these things should be stopped. That is the reason why we have -- we put more utility in these upcoming Six-Party Talks in Beijing. We will discuss whether there is anything that can substantiate these rumors and at the same time my talks -- I will have some more talks and coordination about some information and intelligence things with my counterpart.

BOSWORTH: Let me ask one final question perhaps and this -- I don't mean to be provocative.

SONG: Go on. (Laughter.)

BOSWORTH: I -- my own crystal ball for the future is very foggy but -- and I'm -- I emphasize that I'm a believer in talking to the North Koreans and talking and talking and talking. But it does strike me, coming back a little bit to Don Oberdorfer's question that when we start talking about a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and perhaps I'm influenced by having heard former president Kim Dae-Jung yesterday talk about a peace regime and confederation and then federation and eventually reunification.

All of this talk in some ways strikes me as not really taking account of the very fundamental nature of North Korean regime and the stark differences between North Korea and South Korea in terms of how governments are organized and run. I mean, South Korea is a very transparent system. It is a system which Lord knows is the government is very accountable to the press and the public and it is held to account. In North Korea there is not even a vestige of accountability. So how do we really -- and I stress again I want these talks to continue -- I think that's the only solution. But how do we take account of these very fundamental differences between the nature of governance in South Korea and the nature of governance in North Korea? And how do you -- how does South Korea -- the architects of all of this -- how do you account for that in your own strategic approach to North Korea, a peace regime, reconciliation, eventually reunification?

SONG: Well, I have to say first in our relation or your -- in our interaction with North Korea that the trust is based on action, not by words -- not by just agreements on paper. You just indicated -- you mentioned the stark contrast between South Korea and North Korea. Actually, many of you might have landed in the Incheon Airport and state of art facilities and hardware and software. Just about 40 miles away there is city of Kaesong -- older city of Kaesong. I think some of you might have been in this city. And then you might feel that the time gap between Incheon Airport and older city of Kaesong is almost a century.

BOSWORTH: At least.

SONG: Almost -- at least -- probably almost -- or at least a century. That's much different. So under these circumstances what we cannot -- what we can do is we cannot just switch North Korea all of a sudden into this 19th -- I mean, 19th century to 21st century. What we have to do is to change North Korea through more contact. We think it is not that much palatable but we are avoiding the disasters, as Kenneth Galbraith said. We prefer something unpalatable even though it does not taste good. We avoid the disasters. That is the approach we are doing. That is the reason why I explained here now many people -- audience here does not really accept my idea because the explanation I did here might be -- the assessment itself that much -- not much clear and probably my way of communication is not good enough but assessment itself we -- I cannot just force something very crisp and very clear and shallow -- swallow at the moment.

We need to have more contact -- more contact and change, and secondly, I don't think time is on North Korea's side. We -- for example, when North Korea was quite in need of something we quietly tested it and then I don't think -- to my experience I cannot verify it but my instinct and my experience -- to say that time is on our side. So let's to -- what we hope is North Korea, if they can take the road -- the route taken by a country like Vietnam, for example, would be one of good -- one of options.

BOSWORTH: Would certainly be better than where we are now.

SONG: Yeah. So the -- we do not just rely on the word told by them. We are going to rely on the action taken and -- to be taken by them. Well, actually these -- if we go ahead in just disabling of North Korean nuclear facilities we are actually succeeding in swimming into uncharted waters. We are going into some, you know, (uncharted ?) territories of disabling and dismantling a nuclear program of the country in a negotiated manner.

BOSWORTH: We've been here before -- (laughter) -- and some of us were very directly involved in that, and I very much hope that we move on from here this time. And I commend you, Mr. Minister, for your candor, for your energy, for your intelligence and for your willingness to engage in this dialogue with a group of Americans who are fundamentally very interested in the future of your country and the rest of the Korean Peninsula. So please join me in thanking Minister Song. (Applause.)

SONG: Before I stand up and leave this hall, I would like to once again ask you -- give us some good advice. Some time when we are working with, people, I myself may not have some broad -- broader perspective but when you see it from the -- with some distance you can have some better and objective ideas. When we do play a chess game and someone who is looking from the outside can have better wisdom and better solution to solve the problem. So please continue to give us your wisdom and your insight in the tasks -- this daunting task as I present it in my remarks. Once again, thank you very much.

BOSWORTH: Thank you. (Applause.)

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