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Remarks by Vice President Biden in Seoul

Speaker: Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Published December 6, 2013

During his trip to Asia, Vice President Joe Biden met with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hungwon, President Park Geun-Hye, and students at Yonsei University.

Excerpt from his remarks at Yonsei University on the rebalance to Asia:

Along with our allies, we're building new security partnerships with the ASEAN on emerging challenges -- maritime security, nonproliferation, disaster relief. We're also working to get our relationships with China right, with the right standards. We're committed to sustain a positive, cooperative U.S.-Chinese relationship -- because, again, we're at one of those inflexion points. It is not written anywhere that this competition is destined to be conflict. I reject that notion. Leaders make a difference. It's not only in our interest, it's in the interest of the region, the interest of the world that we get that relationship right with China. As I said, there will be competition, but the President and I refuse to accept the proposition that it's inevitably going to result in conflict. We don't believe that.

We're determined not to repeat the patterns of the past. And that requires direct, straightforward, and extremely candid discussions with one another. I'm sure you've read, to the extent you read anything about me, that I'm known for being candid. (Laughter.) No one ever doubts that I mean what I say. The problem is sometimes I say all that I mean. (Laughter.)

You know, you're studying international relations and you hear about what the most important elements of good relations are. In international relations, all politics is personal -- I presume to say to you professors -- because it's all ultimately based on trust. And trust only flows from personal -- not friendly -- personal, candid relationships with your counterpart, so you don't have to wonder about intentions.

That's how my many hours of discussions with the Chinese leaders this last week were conducted. They were very direct. I was very direct about my country's position on China's sudden announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone. This announcement, to state the obvious, has created considerable apprehension across the region. But I was absolutely clear on behalf of my President: We do not recognize the zone. It will have no effect on American operations. Just ask my General. None. Zero.

I've also made it clear that we expect China not to take action that increases tensions at the risk of escalation. And I was crystal-clear about our commitment to our allies, Korea and Japan. More broadly, I've made clear that there are practical steps countries can take and should take to lower the temperature, to reduce the risk of conflict, including avoiding actions that seem provocative, establishing lines of communication between militaries to manage incidents and prevent escalation.

My dad used to have an expression -- he'd say, "Joe, the only conflict worse than one that is intended is one that is unintended." The possibility of miscalculation, mistake is real, and could have profound consequences for your generation.

I discussed this today with President Park, and we agreed on the need for continued close coordination among Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington. Countries across this region -- whether the issue is the East China Sea or the South China Sea -- have to develop a common understanding of what constitutes acceptable behavior: No intimidation; no coercion; and a commitment, backed by actions, to reduce the risk of mistake and miscalculation.

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