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Clinton's Remarks With South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, March 2012

Speakers: Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Kim Sung-hwan
Published March 9, 2012

Secretary of State Clinton gave these remarks with South Korean foreign minister Kim on March 9, 2012 in Washington, DC.

SECRETARY CLINTON:Well, good morning, and welcome to the State Department. It's always a pleasure to have Foreign Minister Kim back in Washington. And I also have the honor of greeting incoming Ambassador Choi, who presented his credentials at the State Department this morning. I look forward to working with him as well.

We have been consulting very closely and coordinating on a range of issues now for several years. And the reason is obvious: Korea is economic, political, and strategic leader, not only in the Asia Pacific, but around the world. That's why President Lee speaks of a global Korea, and it's why the United States and Korea are building a global partnership.

Today, once again, we discussed ways that we are strengthening our alliance, which is a lynchpin of America's strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific. We spoke about our recent diplomacy with North Korea. And I want to be very clear: Any effort by anyone to drive a wedge between the United States and the Republic of Korea will fail. We consult closely on all aspects of our diplomacy. This will not change.

The minister and I also discussed the importance of coordinating closely with Japan, and we asked our teams to hold a trilateral meeting soon.

Of course, we went over the recent agreement by the DPRK to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment. The North also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities, and to confirm the disablement of the five-megawatt reactor and associated facilities. This is a modest step in the right direction, and we will be watching closely and judging North Korea's leaders by their actions.

We also discussed the United States' announcement that we would provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance for the most vulnerable populations in North Korea. Our team just met in Beijing with North Korean officials to discuss the administrative details of this program, and we are working to move it forward soon.

This is an important time for our critical partnership. In just six days, our free trade agreement will take effect, opening up new opportunities for jobs and commerce between our people. We believe that this agreement will create tens of thousands of jobs in both of our countries. And later this month, President Obama will travel to Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit, where we will continue our efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.

So on these and all the other issues on which we work together, I want to thank the foreign minister for another very productive meeting. Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I thought we weren't going to do English. I thought we were just going to do Korean. Yeah, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no no. You're not going to translate me. We're just going to translate the minister.

INTERPRETER: Great, great.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would've stopped between – I would've never have subjected you to that. (Laughter.)

MR. KIM: (In Korean.)

FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone. I would like to express my special gratitude to Secretary Clinton for her invitation and warm hospitality. Today, as Secretary Clinton just mentioned, we had a very fruitful consultation on a wide range of issues. The ROK-U.S. alliance, considered to be in its best ever shape, has been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia for the last 60 years based on our common values and convictions, namely free democracy and market economy.

Secretary Clinton and I both recognized that the ROK-U.S. strategic alliance has been broadening and deepening itself since the adoption of our joint vision for the alliance in 2009, and we reaffirmed that our strategic alliance will be expanding its role in dealing with the issues on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as well as global issues on the basis of our common values.

With regard to the North Korea nuclear issue, I reaffirmed my government's position that we welcomed the result of the U.S.-DPRK discussions that took place in Beijing last month, and appreciated the close ROK-U.S. coordination that was intact throughout the dialogue process between Washington and Pyongyang. Furthermore, we shared the view that the outcome of the recent Beijing discussions is a meaningful first step towards resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, and underscored that faithful implementation of the necessary measures such as moratorium on Yongbyon nuclear activities and the return of IAEA inspectors is important. Secretary Clinton emphasized that there will not be a fundamental improvement of relations between Washington and Pyongyang without an improvement of inter-Korean relations. And we both agreed that dialogue should be promoted and relations should be improved between the two Koreas.

I mentioned that North Korea's recent denunciations of the South are an attempt to render influence on the elections and the domestic politics of the ROK, and that they have relevance to North Korea's own internal situations. Secretary Clinton shared this view and we agreed to continue our close communication on this situation within North Korea. Secretary Clinton and I agreed that continued coordination between the ROK and the U.S. will be the single most important factor in the coming discussions on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, and we agreed to communicate closely at each level through channels such as the ROK-U.S. summit meeting that is scheduled to take place during the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Also, the KORUS FTA, which will take effect next week, has upgraded our alliance to a higher level. Secretary Clinton and I agreed to cooperate toward early realization of the tangible benefits that KORUS FTA will bring to us, such as job creation, expansion of trade, and sharpening of our competitiveness. We also agreed, based on such a comprehensive strategic alliance and going beyond the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, that the ROK and the U.S. will further strengthen our cooperation in global issues such as nonproliferation, including the Iranian nuclear issue, nuclear security, terrorism, development cooperation, human rights, and environment. In particular, we are working together for the success of the second Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Seoul this month, building upon the accomplishments we had at the last Washington summit.

Furthermore, Secretary Clinton and I shared the view that for a sustained development of the relationship between our two countries, support from the people of both nations is vital, and that both governments will make active efforts to this end. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister.

MS. NULAND: We have time for two questions today. We'll start with Mr. Choi from KBS.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Choi Kyoosik from KBS. My question goes to Secretary Clinton with regard to the North Korean refugee issue. With regard to the situation that is going on in China, there are concerns arising in the international community. The Chinese Government considers the North Korean defectors as economic migrants, and they are repatriating them with – regardless of how they enter China. I would like to ask Secretary Clinton if the U.S. Government considers the North Korean defectors as refugees under the international agreements, and also I would like to ask if – what are the short-term and long-term policies of the U.S. Government with regard to this issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying that the United States shares the concerns by both the government and the people of the Republic of Korea about the human rights situation in North Korea and the treatment of North Korean refugees. We urge every country to act according to international obligations. And those international obligations regarding the treatment of refugees are prescribed in the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the 1967 protocol.

We believe that refugees should not be repatriated and subjected once again to the dangers that they fled from. The treatment of North Korean refugees is an issue on which we have ongoing engagement with our partners, both in Korea and in China. We had Ambassador Davies raise our concerns about the North Korean refugees detained in China with senior Chinese officials when he was last in China in February. And we urge all countries in the region to cooperate in the protection of North Korean refugees within their territories. We continue to work with

international organizations in order to protect these refugees and to find durable, permanent solutions for them.

MS. NULAND: Last question. ABC, Luis Martinez.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want – does she want to translate – I think yeah. I think our young woman here will translate me.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: I'll just (inaudible) ask question. Okay.

MS. NULAND: Well, each –

PARTICIPANT: (In Korean.)

MS. NULAND: This is our last question. ABC, Luis Martinez.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, Madam Secretary, as part of your discussions today, did you discuss a waiver on the Iranian oil sanction that are upcoming? And Madam Secretary, what is the progress of the talks with Japan on the similar waiver? And if I could ask – also ask you about – are you both optimistic that the Six-Party Talks will actually resume?

And switching to Syria, Madam Secretary --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait a minute. (Laughter.) I think two questions is your limit today. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, Madam. Well, if I could, just a brief one on Syria: Four generals have defected to Turkey today. Is this a sign that the Assad regime is unraveling?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. It's Friday. (Laughter.) I want to begin by saying we are deeply gratified by the support that we have received from the Republic of Korea in building a global coalition to pressure Iran to change course. And we share the concerns of our Congress that the international community needs to take even stronger steps to stop the flow of cash to the Iranian regime from its oil sector. In that context, we have been working very closely with the Republic of Korea on ways that it can look for alternatives to Iranian oil and oil products.

Our goal is simple. We want the Iranian regime to feel the full weight of the international community from these measures, and to demonstrate unequivocally to them that the world is united against their efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. No country understands the threat of nuclear weapons from a neighbor better than the Republic of Korea.

And so we are continuing our very close, expert engagement. We're not only talking with our friends like the Republic of Korea, but also oil producing partners about boosting production to shore up price stability and offer alternative avenues of supply. And I would be the first to say, we recognize the difficult decisions and even the sacrifices that we are asking from other countries in order to increase this pressure on Iran. Reigning in a dangerous government is not easy. That's why we are so closely cooperating with respect to our approach toward North Korea, but also with our unified international approach toward Iran. We've got to stay united, and we have no better partner and ally than our friends in Korea. And so I think we will just continue our work together. We're making progress and I think that is our assessment at this time.

With respect to Syria, we continue to hear about defections. There were reports today of four generals defecting. We continue to urge the Syrian army not to turn their weapons against their own people – defenseless civilians, women, and children. We continue to urge the international community to come together to take action; first, to provide humanitarian relief; and second, to work toward a political transition that would have a change in leadership to one that would respect the rights and dignity of the Syrian people.

I've made several calls today regarding the upcoming Arab League meeting in Cairo. I talked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a few days ago about our hope that Russia will play a constructive role in ending the bloodshed and working toward a political transition in Syria, and I will be following up and meeting with him in New York on Monday. So we have an intense effort going on, and we are supporting the Arab League and their continuing leadership.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (In Korean.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don't have a way to translate that. Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We can provide a Korean readout to any Korean reporter.

FOREIGN MINISTER SUNG-HWAN: (Via interpreter) As for our Republic of ROK as well, we are participating in the sanctions on Iran, and we'll keep discussing the specific measures to do that as well in the future. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all for your patience and have a good weekend.

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