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Secretary Kerry's Remarks at Remarks at American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, April 2013

Author: John F. Kerry
Published April 12, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on April 12, 2013, at the American Chamber of Commerece in Seoul after his meetings with South Korean President Park and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun. He discussed economic cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the United States and nuclear issues in the region.

Excerpt from Kerry's speech:

"The path to less nuclear threat and to less nuclear material and less potential for nuclear terror does not pass through countries that today decide to nuclearize, and that includes North Korea and that includes Iran. It is patently clear that if one country unilaterally moves into the nuclear status today, it will force other countries to do the same because of the action/reaction nature of deterrence and threat perception and the realities of populations driving their countries and putting them into nuclear corners that we don't want them in.

So this is not a small principle that we're arguing about. And tomorrow I will go to China and meet with Chinese leaders. There is no group of leaders on the face of the planet who have more capacity to make a difference in this than the Chinese, and everybody knows it, including, I believe, them. I know they take it seriously; I know they want to see us try to reach an amicable resolution to this. But you have to begin with a reality, and the reality is that if your policy is denuclearization – and it is theirs as it is ours as it is everybody's except the North's at this moment – if that's your policy, you've got to put some teeth into it. You've got to try to be successful in achieving it. And in this case, it is profoundly important to the security of this region, the economic future, as well as the social values-based future of people here.

So we're going to continue to stand our ground. We are prepared, as we have said, and the President – if there's one phrase that sticks out in me that the President has used with me a number of times, beginning with when I was talking to him about this job and taking it on and I wanted to be certain that I wasn't misrepresenting him anywhere in the world about his position with respect to Iran or elsewhere, he said to me very simply, "I don't bluff." And I think that those who have seen him execute on his promise that if he had actionable information he would do what he needed to do with it, even if it meant crossing another country's border and taking action, we saw with respect to Usama bin Ladin that the President doesn't bluff.

So we're going to continue to try to press for a peaceful resolution here, but the most important thing that we want to do is continue – the important message that I want to share with you tonight at this celebration is that I can't think of a moment in 60 years where the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea has been stronger than it is today. We have great clarity about our goals, and the Republic of Korea has stepped up in significant and important ways way beyond its interests with respect to this peninsula or this region. Korea is helping us with Syria, helping with humanitarian assistance. Korea is helping with respect to Iran and the enforcement of sanctions by making tough choices itself about sources of fuel and oil and consumption. Korea is helping us with respect to the United Nations, where they have played a critical role as a member of the Security Council, and now, because of their significant contributions and capacity, a re-elected member of the Security Council.

So I think as all of you sit here and think about the future, you should be pretty bullish. The United States is going to remain focused. A lot of words have been used to describe the sort of attention being given to Asia. None of them, I think, capture properly what is simply an appropriate focus, because this is an enormously important part of the world with the incredibly vital and energized economies with enormous technological and creative capacity, all of which can help us to deal with developmental problems and with large populations in lots of countries that have yet to share in the possibilities of the future. So there's a huge amount of growth potential, and to realize that potential we need to focus on the need for stability in the region, for viable choices centered around rule of law and understandable rules of the game, rules of the road in business and otherwise.

To that end, we want to encourage people to continue to work at making sure that all of the KORUS commitments are realized, that the playing field issues that remain are being adequately addressed, and that the full economic and strategic benefits of this agreement are fully shared in the days ahead. We are eager in the United States to compete for new markets and we're eager to collaborate on new ideas, especially in this region. And we want to do as much business as we can in the Asia Pacific region, and we want others to do as much business with us and with the rest of the world, because there is no more stabilizing force than benefits that flow to populations where they can see their quality of life rising, their opportunities growing, and their choices in life getting better than they are today.

AmCham is contributing to that in so many different ways, and I thank you for the privilege of coming here tonight to celebrate 60 years of really positive engagement and set of initiatives that are living up to the fullest of the best dreams we could have had 60 years ago when this great experiment was undertaken. I can think of many stories in the world – Japan, Korea, a few others, Germany, Western Europe – where out of the ashes of war, out of the divisions of sectarianism, of horrendous ideological excess, have come remarkable stories of re-emergence and resurgence and rebirth for whole peoples that stand as a really glowing example to the world of what can happen if you make the right choices.

And all you have to do is look to the north of the 38th parallel to see a people who are still in bondage, to see a people who are relegated to gulags, where they engage in slave labor, where people are being starved because of the narrow ambitions of a small regime in power that exercises that power in a totally contrarian way to what we have witnessed and celebrate here and in these other places that I've talked about. It's really a stark contrast, and I have absolute confidence that given a choice, there isn't anybody in the world who wouldn't opt to be part of this story and not the other. Thank you all very much for the privilege of being with you."

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