By Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, Benjamin Franklin Room, Washington, DC
SECRETARY CLINTON: Before we begin, let me comment on today’s House votes concerning Libya. We would have preferred a different outcome on the Hastings resolution, but ultimately we are gratified that the House has decisively rejected efforts to limit funding for the Libyan mission.
The United States has entered into this mission along with our NATO allies and other international partners with the intent to protect civilians and under the strong authority and encouragement of the United Nations and the Arab League. We need to stand together across party lines and across both branches of government with the Libyan people and with our friends and allies and against Qadhafi.
We have a plan that we are executing for achieving our mission in Libya. It is on track and we need to see it through. Time and history are on our side, but only if we sustain the pressure. And so I am pleased that a very important statement was made today by the House on a bipartisan basis that recognizes the need for us to continue this important mission.
It is good for me once again to see my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Kim. I had the privilege of meeting him at his very lovely home in Seoul, and this is our fourth meeting here today in Washington.
Tomorrow marks the 61st anniversary of the start of the Korean War, and I want to take this opportunity to honor the men and women of our armed forces who have served and sacrificed together. For 61 years, our security alliance has supported regional security and prosperity. Today, we reaffirmed our continued commitment to work side by side to achieve lasting peace on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. Our position has not changed. While we remain open to direct engagement with North Korea, we remain firm in our resolve and our shared position that Pyongyang must improve its relations with the Republic of Korea. We are coordinating to hold another trilateral meeting on this issue later this summer with Foreign Minister Kim and Japanese Foreign Minister Matsumoto.
Our partnership truly has gone global. Today, we spoke about Korea’s plans to host the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012. We spoke about our cooperation in Afghanistan, where Korea has deployed a Provincial Reconstruction Team and is supporting the training of the Afghan security forces, and so much else.
Because our relationship, which is essential, is more than just the challenges we face. We have opportunities that we are seizing together. First, we are both committed to passing and implementing the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The trade agreement will create tens of thousands of new jobs in both our countries, and it will send a powerful message that the United States and the Republic of Korea are strategic partners for the long term, and that America is fully embracing our continuing role as a Pacific power.
Second, as we have just witnessed, the United States and Korea are partners in development as well. It has been inspiring to watch Korea’s rise within my own lifetime. I have commented on that several – on several occasions, including just yesterday. This was a poor, war-torn country that has risen to become the world’s 12th largest economy and a very vibrant, effective democracy.
We applaud Korea’s pledge to triple its development budget by 2015 and its leadership in hosting the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Korea approaches development with a unique credibility, as one of the great success stories of the 20th century, and we were delighted to sign the Development Assistance MOU today and to partner with Korea as it has moved from being an aid recipient to an important donor nation.
So this is an exciting moment in one of our most dynamic and important relationships, and the Republic of Korea is an exemplary country fulfilling its responsibilities at home and abroad, and also an exemplary friend. So I thank the foreign minister for this visit, and I look forward to seeing him again next month at the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Thank you, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) I would like to first express my gratitude to Madam Secretary of State for her kind words and warm welcome. We had just had an extremely valuable meeting on the full range of issues of common interest. The Republic of Korea and the United States share common values and mutual trust, and our two countries are maintaining the strongest alliance relationship ever. Despite a series of North Korea’s provocation last year, we were able to respond jointly with robust combined defense capabilities based on close consultation.
With regards to North Korea, ROK and U.S. agreed to pursue dialogue with North Korea despite North Korea’s recent provocative statements. We concurred that as the essential first step there needs to be a sincere and constructive inter-Korean dialogue on denuclearization. In addition, Secretary Clinton and I reaffirmed that the Six-Party Talks, once resumed, should yield substantive progress in denuclearization. To this end, we reaffirmed that North Korea must demonstrate its sincerity towards denuclearization through concrete actions.
We also share the view that at this juncture, close Korea-United States coordination is more important than ever in dealing with North Korea and its nuclear issues. We will continue to communicate closely through various channels at each level and cooperate with other participants of the Six-Party Talks based on our common position.
Republic of Korea and the United States are implementing alliance readjustment projects, including the wartime operational control transfer and relocation of U.S. Forces Korea bases. We also share the view that the issue of Agent Orange in Camp Carroll is a grave concern to the health and safety of both the Korean people and the U.S. forces in Korea and have conducted the joint investigation in a thorough and transparent manner.
Secretary Clinton and I have agreed to continue our efforts to complete the ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA within this summer both in Korea and the United States. Two countries – in our countries, the understanding on the economic and strategic benefits of the FTA is widely shared. We hope that this ratification of Korea-U.S. FTA will enter into force in the near future so that it brings economic benefits, including more jobs and more trade to both countries.
Two countries, based on a comprehensive strategic alliance of the 21st century have cooperated on global issues, including Afghanistan, Middle East, nonproliferation, and development, and is making contribution to international peace and stability. The two countries are closely cooperating for the successful hosting of the 2011 Forum on Aid Effectiveness, 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, and 2012 Yeosu Expo.
We have just signed the statement of intent to cooperate on global development, and this we believe will further strengthen our bilateral cooperation in the development area. I look forward to meeting Secretary Clinton once again during the ASEAN Regional Forum. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: We will now have one question from the American side and one question from the Korean side. From the American side, Jill Dougherty, CNN.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, you were talking about the Libya vote, but I have another issue which is out there. That is this flotilla that says that it will be moving toward Israel.
The Americans who are in that say that the State Department actually should not be condemning them, that it should be supporting them and protecting them because they are American citizens. What is your message to them, and potentially how serious could this be if there were violence?
And then just one on North Korea. Sorry, this is not very loud. On North Korea, the – is there any discernible movement on talks with North Korea? How concerned are you that the longer this goes on, the more destabilizing it becomes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Jill, we have made our views very clear about the flotilla that is currently heading toward Gaza and any others that might consider doing the same. We don’t think it’s useful or productive or helpful to the people of Gaza. We believe that a far better approach is to support the work that is being done through the United Nations that the United States is supporting to ensure that the people of Gaza get access to materials and humanitarian assistance in a safe and timely way.
So we have certainly encouraged that American citizens not participate in the flotilla, and we are urging that all precautions be taken to avoid any kind of confrontation.
The United States is a very generous donor to the Palestinian people, and that includes the people of Gaza, who are unfortunately the victims of the decisions that have been made over the past years by Hamas. The contrast between the rising standard of living and economic opportunity and educational and health services in the West Bank compared to Gaza, I think tell a very compelling story. So we hope that there will be changes in the governing and management of Gaza from within, and we will do all we can to support that and we would urge Americans to do the same.
With respect to North Korea, I think as Minister Kim said, both the United States and the Republic of Korea are firmly committed to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We are pursuing a dual-track approach to North Korea that includes a willingness to engage but only under circumstances that properly acknowledge the role that both the North and the South have to play in resolving their own concerns and disputes between them; and of course, we remain committed to a sanctions regime to prevent the further development of a nuclear program by the North and the proliferation of nuclear materials.
This certainly is a longstanding policy, and I think we have reiterated it again today.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. I would like to ask a question to each minister. First, I would like to ask Secretary Clinton; recently a team of U.S. officials and experts visited North Korea for the assessment of food situation in North Korea. It seems that the decision is being delayed somewhat. Is it because of the assessment that the situation in North Korea is not as dire, and when do you think a decision on food aid will be made?
The next question is for Minister Kim. It seems that there is some ambiguity whether South Korea starts linking the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents with the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. So what is the government’s exact position? Would it be possible to resume the Six-Party Talks without North Korea’s apology?
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to your question about food aid, I want to begin by saying that of course, the United States is deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people. But we have made no decision about providing food aid to North Korea at this time. Any such decision must be based on legitimate humanitarian needs, competing needs elsewhere around the world, and our ability to ensure and monitor that whatever food aid is provided actually reaches the people who are in need. And therefore, North Korea must address our serious concerns about monitoring and outstanding issues related to North Korea’s suspension of previous food aid programs before we can consider any decision.
It’s also important that the United States’ longstanding position through administrations of both Republican and Democratic presidents that we do provide humanitarian assistance be separated from political and security concerns. They are not considered in the same category at all. So what we are looking at is whether there’s a real need, what the competing needs are, because we are living at a time of rising food insecurity in many places in the world, and whether we can put into place sufficient monitoring mechanisms so that the food that is delivered actually gets to the people who need it.
FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Regarding the apology about the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incident, you are saying that the Korean Government position is somewhat ambiguous. The Cheonan incident is a North-South Korean issue, and Six-Party Talks is a denuclearization issue. Under the situation, we believe that denuclearization is also involved with South Korea, so we cannot turn our eyes away from it. So that is – that would be my answer to the question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.