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Remarks With South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Seoul, Korea
June 28, 2008

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FOREIGN MINISTER YU: (Via interpreter.) (In progress.) -- while possibly adjusting to the change of security environment and future needs. We welcome -- that agreement was reached at the fourth Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change held in Seoul on the 20th of June on the draft of the leaders’ declaration, which will be adopted at the G-8 expanded summit in Toyako, Japan on 9th of July.

We agree to promote bilateral cooperation – the field of energy, security, climate change and the development of renewable energy and relevant technologies. The governments of Korea and the U.S. will strengthen the institutional framework for the development of a future reoriented alliance by jointly working on promptly ratifying the Korea- U.S. FTA and the Korean participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program before the end of this year.

And with regard to the issue of U.S. beef imports, our two governments agreed to closely cooperate to restore the confidence of the Korean consumers and the U.S. beef by faithfully implementing relevant agreements, including the ones reached last week. We also agreed to actively seek ways to promote people-to-people exchanges, including expanding work, English study, and travel programs to U.S. for Korean students.

Secretary Rice and I had in-depth discussions and consultations on the completion of the disablement measures on the second phase, and on the initiation of negotiations on the third phase against the backdrop of the submission of the declaration by Pyongyang on June 26th. Secretary Rice and I share the view that the submission of the declaration is an important starting point for substantive progress in the denuclearization of North Korea and agree to pursue rigorous verification so that we can make a determination on the correctness and the completeness of the declaration. To that end, we agreed to focus on promptly establishing a verification regime at the next six-party talks and to make joint efforts to achieve the ultimate goal of a complete disarmament.

In particular, we share the view that the pace of disablement measures such as the discharge of the spent fuel rods should be accelerated to get together with the economic and energy assistance so that the second phase will be completed without delay. In this connection, we urge North Korea to demonstrate more sincerely with regard to Japan-North Korea bilateral issues, and hope that Japan will be able to participate in the economic and energy assistance without delay. We agree that it is necessary to hold the six-party ministerial meeting sooner than later to provide (inaudible) momentum for the six-party talks, and on that occasion, to make progress on discussions pertaining to the launch of the Northeast Asia peace and security mechanism. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Minister Yu. I appreciate very much your hospitality in having me here, and I look forward to our dinner tonight when we will continue to discuss the long list of topics that we agreed to discuss today. We have a very strong and close alliance, a very strong and close relationship. It is indeed a relationship that has helped to sustain peace and prosperity in this region and is indeed being put to use globally.

We had a very extensive discussion of the six-party talks, as you mentioned, and the recent steps to complete phase two of the six-party declaration of joint statement of September 2005. And we agree completely that the next phase is an extremely important one, but that as we move to that, we must have a sound and very thorough verification protocol so that we can verify the completeness and the accuracy of the declaration that we have been given by North Korea.

We talked also about the importance of moving forward on other issues, and thank you very much for your mention of the DPRK-Japan track. I was just in Japan, and I assured the Japanese that we continue to consider the abduction issue one that must be resolved and resolved quickly. And I appreciate your mentioning that as well. We had a briefing, in fact, from the people who were on the ground at the explosion, or implosion, of the Korean – the North Korean cooling tower. And we will continue to consult closely as we chart the next steps so that we can achieve the goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the abandonment by North Korea of all of its nuclear weapons and its programs.

I thank you too for the discussions that we’ve had on trade and economic matters. We are cooperating closely and will continue to closely cooperate on the concerns of the Korean population, about beef. I want to assure everyone that American beef is safe. We will continue to work with you to have consumer confidence to that – in that matter. And it is a very high priority of the Bush Administration to complete the FTA, the Free Trade Agreement, and to see it ratified in Congress. It is something that the President speaks about frequently, he speaks with – frequently with the members of Congress. It’s an extremely important agreement and we want to see it ratified.

And finally, I will just reiterate what the President said when he was with President Lee Myung-bak, which is that we strongly look forward to the day when the visa waiver agreement can go into effect, and would hope to see that by the end of the year.

So, thank you very much for the time we’ve spent together and I look forward to our dinner tonight.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll now begin the Q&A session with the members of the press. When designated, please announce your affiliation and name before you ask the question. And when asking your questions, please confirm to us whom – to whom you’re asking the question to.

First of all, Mr. Lee Woo-tak, please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Yes, I am from Yonhap News. My name is Lee

Woo-tak. Welcome for your – this – the current visit to Korea. I have some questions for you, Secretary of State Rice.

North Korea has made the submission of declaration and within this declaration, we have a list of the plutonium extraction-related information. However, we don’t have any information concerning the nuclear weapons and materials. There are also some suspicions about the spread of nuclear proliferation to Syria as well, as well as the UEP issue. So for those issues and verifying those issues, how do you plan to proceed with that? That’s my first question.

And when we go into the third phase, then the nuclear weapons or materials that are possessed by North Korea, how it is going to be sent out of the country will be an issue. So from that perspective, does the U.S. have any plans to, for example, purchase those materials and weapons and take them out of North Korea?

And lastly, I think there are many people who are expecting you to visit North Korea. You have already mentioned that this is not the time yet. However, what do you believe will be the appropriate conditions for you to visit North Korea?

My last question is for Foreign Minister Yu. Currently, concerning the submission of declaration by North Korea as well as the destruction of the cooling tower, I think that there are some who criticize about how the verification process may lack the participation of Korea. So how will Korea be able to activate a participation in that verification process? There are some cost issues involved as well as the need to acquire the specialists and experts. And is the Korean Government willing to pay for that?

SECRETARY RICE: Let me begin by saying that we consider the verification process that is about to begin to be one that is a six-party verification process and in which all parties need to be actively engaged. And in fact, the Foreign Minister and I had an extensive discussion about moving forward on verification. We are looking forward to the discussions about how the verification protocol will be carried out.

In fact, on the weapons and other related nuclear programs and materials, it is fully understood that in order to have abandonment of weapons and materials, one also has to have an accounting of them. Now the phase that we’ve just gone through in which the North Koreans have made a declaration about the amount of plutonium produced and in which they have given representations of a willingness to have that number verified through access to the reactor, through documents that we do have in hand, it is a natural step to know how much plutonium was made as one moves to understanding what has happened with weaponization. But I want to assure everyone that in this next phase, we do have to move on abandonment. That is the purpose of the six-party talks and that is what was agreed in the September 2005 statement.

As to the other elements, the proliferation and the HEU program, it is – there are documents that are referred to in the declaration concerning those two issues, HEU and proliferation. I have said before and I will say again that thus far, we don’t have the answers that we need about either. But I expect that the North will live up to the obligation that it’s undertaken to take those concerns seriously and to address them. And so at the end of this – let me just emphasize, again, at the end of this, we have to have the abandonment of all programs, weapons, and materials.

FOREIGN MINISTER YU: (Via interpreter.) Yes, in terms of progress in nonproliferation, I think during the six-party talks, all of the related governments have had close cooperation. And we will continue to play an active role in those discussions and cooperation. What we have done so far in terms of active participation, I think Secretary of State Rice can be a good witness to the efforts that have been made so far.

In terms of the verification mechanism, when we have the six-party talks in the near future, in terms of who this will be conducted for and who will be paying for the costs, these are all of the issues that need to be agreed upon during the six-party talks. In terms of the verification process, our government believes that verification is a very important process to confirm the correctness and the completeness of the declaration. Therefore, we will be actively participating.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question to Blaine Harden.

QUESTION: Yes, Blaine Harden, Washington Post. My question is for Secretary Rice. President Bush was scheduled to come to South Korea – I’ll try again.

President Bush was scheduled to come to South Korea on July 9th, but that visit is off, apparently, because of the continuing street demonstrations about U.S. beef. Is part of your agenda here today in Seoul to explain to President Bush – to President Lee why President Bush is not coming, and perhaps to soothe ruffled feathers?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there was a – the President is going to the G-8, and the President’s schedule has never been determined beyond the G-8. He will go to the G-8. He looks forward to accepting the return hospitality of President Lee. We talked about that. President Lee had a wonderful visit to Camp David and he has told President Bush that he wants the President to accept a return visit. The President has every intention of doing that and doing it at a time that is convenient to both sides.

The presidents, I think, will also see each other at the G-8 in Japan, and they will have an opportunity for discussions there. But the President very much looks forward to coming to South Korea at a convenient time for both parties.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) We’ll take the next question, Yoon Chang Hyun.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) My name is Yoon Chang Hyun from SBS. I have a question for Secretary Rice. I think it’s a similar question to the previous question. Recently, regarding the U.S. beef import, there are a lot of controversies. And the Korean Government has asked for an additional negotiation. And some people in the media are saying that this might weaken the U.S.-Korean alliance. And the Korean Government has said that the U.S. Government has agreed to the additional negotiation in respect of the KORUS alliance.

How do you feel about this statement? And currently, what do you think of the current status and the challenges of KORUS alliance?

SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible) very strong alliance and it’s gotten stronger over the years. It’s based on common values. It’s based on the fact that we are, in many ways, global partners. I know, for instance, that the contributions that South Korea has made in Iraq and Afghanistan have been very much appreciated. In fact, the Foreign Minister and I were together at a number of conferences that really are about the global role that the United States and Korea are playing together.

But in terms of difficulties that sometimes arise from trade disputes, they are normal in relations between states. And indeed, the United States has agreed, and I think we have already, in fact, looked at a new framework or new set of agreements concerning the opening of the market to beef. But we’re going to continue to cooperate very closely with our friend and our ally on this matter. We want there to be consumer confidence in American beef, and we’re going to continue to cooperate.

And the goalpost ahead of us, and what we really are working together on, is to get the FTA. This is a very good agreement. It’s a very good agreement for both Korea and for the United States. The President talks about it all of the time. He talks about it when he’s with the Congress. And we’re going to continue to try to get that agreement ratified.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question, Janine Zacharia.

QUESTION: Hi, Janine Zacharia with Bloomberg News. My question is for Foreign Minister Yu. Mr. Minister, as part of the agreement reached last week, the United States is going to certify that the beef is younger in age. But why, in order to restore confidence here, doesn’t South Korea – or will it ask that this – the beef be certified as not having mad cow? Also, can you – do you have any indications when President Lee will announce his cabinet reshuffle? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER YU: (Via interpreter.) Concerning the second question, I think it is difficult for me to answer that question. The Korean public, in terms of the issue of import of beef cuts from cattle over 30 months, there is a recognition, or, more or less, a concern from the Korean society that it is risky. Now, it will take time for that risk to be erased from the minds of the Korean public. And this is an agreement that stays between the two governments to make certain that we strive to get that confidence back. So we will continue to do that.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) With this, we conclude the press conference and I’d like to ask the Korean journalists to remain in their seats until both ministers are out of the room. Thank you.


Released on June 28, 2008

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