|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Korean Foreign Minister Chong Ha Yoo
Press Conference at Minister's Official Residence
Seoul, Korea, February 22, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Seoul, Korea
February 23, 1997
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER YOO: First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary Albright once again on her assumption of office as Secretary of State, and I sincerely welcome her visit to Korea, scarcely a month after her swearing-in. When the North Korean nuclear issue was brought up to the U.N. Security Council in 1994, as Ambassadors to the U.N., Secretary Albright and I had the opportunity to work closely together. Hence, I believe her visit is very significant in more ways than one.
As I worked as Ambassador to the U.N. and worked closely with her when she was Ambassador to the U.N. on behalf of the United States, and I think it is very fortunate for me to have another opportunity to work with her as the Secretary of State for the United States together this time. It is something that I would like to encourage other ambassadors to look for a chance to have the same chance that I have now.
This morning, Secretary Albright and I had a broad and in-depth discussion regarding a variety of issues of mutual concern, including our concerted policy toward North Korea.
In view of the uncertainty and volatility of North Korea's present situation, we both agreed to continue to maintain the strong joint combined defensive posture based upon our sound relationship of alliance.
We also discussed the concerns of the ROK government regarding Taiwan's proposal to ship nuclear waste to North Korea.
Furthermore, we reaffirmed our commitment to pursue the light-water reactor project in accordance with the Geneva Agreed Framework, and also agreed to step up our effort to bring about the Four-Party Talks. In this regard, we welcome the North Korean decision to come to a joint briefing early in March.
In closing, Secretary Albright and I have mutually agreed that today's meeting was timely and fruitful. We have also agreed to establish an even closer working relationship between the two of us through frequent phone communications and exchanges of visits in the future.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Let me say what a great pleasure it is for me to be here in Seoul and to be here with my friend the Minister. We have, in fact, established a new kind of international networking. We have been colleagues and we will continue to be colleagues, and I think of the Minister as my "sun-bae."
Let me say that this is my first stop in Asia and I here want to stress American commitment to Asia. We have vital economic and security interests and five core bilateral alliances, including our alliance with the Republic of Korea. With our partners, we are building a new Pacific Community based on shared commitments to peace, stability, and prosperity.
Earlier today, I met with President Kim and now I have had these very productive meetings with Foreign Minister Yoo. And, a little later, we are traveling to the DMZ to pay tribute to our troops.
Preserving peace on the peninsula is at the top of our common agenda with the Republic of Korea. Our commitment is embodied by 37,000 U.S. troops here, a total of 100,000 in the region, and in our diplomatic efforts.
I am pleased to announce that we have agreed with North Korea on a joint Republic of Korea-U.S. briefing about our presidents' proposal to conduct Four-Party peace talks, which will take place on March 5 in New York..
Another product of our joint diplomacy is the Agreed Framework, which has made this region safer. The Foreign Minister and I discussed the need to keep the implementation of the agreement on schedule, including the light-water reactor construction, despite some of the frustrations of dealing with the North.
We discussed other issues related to the North, including the food crisis. We agree on the importance of responding in a humanitarian manner to the suffering, and both of our countries will contribute to the World Food Program initiative.
More broadly, we welcome the Republic of Korea's transformation from one of the world's developing nations into a major player on the world stage. We have a vigorous trade relationship, and we encourage the Republic of Korea to continue its transition to more open trading policies. This means knocking down trade barriers, treating imports and domestic products in the same manner, and following through on bilateral and multi-lateral trade agreements.
So I am very pleased with the meetings that we have had today; and the United States and the Republic of Korea will continue to consult regularly and on a variety of levels. As the Foreign Minister has said, we will reach out to each other and keep in touch.
QUESTION: This question is addressed to Secretary Albright. There is a lot of interest in what might happen since the defection of ranking north Korean, Hwang Chang Yop, and my question is whether you discussed this issue and if Secretary Albright has any views on how this issue will be resolved. I'd like to hear from you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, we did discuss the issue, obviously, because it is an issue of major import to the Peninsula. We believe that the issue is being handled properly and smoothly and that the Republic of Korea will be able to have a valuable discussion with Mr. Hwang.
FOREIGN MINISTER YOO: We discussed the North Korean situation this morning, understanding that the future of North Korea might be very fluid, but we also agreed on this assessment of the North Korean situation being volatile. But the important thing we have agreed upon is that we have to avoid any clashes, armed clashes, between the two sides of the Korean Peninsula, and we discussed what actions we can take jointly to prevent any clashes of that nature. Our agreement, in this regard, was to bring about the Four-Party talks with the purpose and objective to reduce tension and eventually establish a peace structure through dialogue.
QUESTION: I would like to ask you one question, if that's possible. Why the United States is still, well, shows a kind of reluctance to accept Moscow's proposal about the international conference on Korea with wider participation than the two plus two formula. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that our two presidents [U.S. and ROK] had met last summer and believe that the most appropriate way to pursue peace on the peninsula is to have these Four-Party talks. We believe that the briefing about them that is going to take place, as I announced, is a very important step forward. We obviously will be consulting with other countries about the results, and as these talks progress. But I think that the best track, as determined by our presidents, is to go forward with the Four-Party talks as the best venue.
QUESTION: Madam. Secretary, I wonder if you could discuss with us -- and Mr. Minister if you'd like, as well -- the erratic nature of North Korean behavior, and whether indeed they've succeeded in keeping the U.S. and South Korea particularly off balance. Aren't they pretty much calling the tune now? Aren't you forced to send food aid when they arrange for a response; aren't they keeping you off balance and sort of shaping your policies?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me take a crack at this first. I believe that no country actually plans a famine and to be there as a beggar on the international stage. I also think that the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea and our methods of consulting and a long-term policy are very useful and, frankly, exemplary in terms of a close-alliance relationship. So we have together with the Republic of Korea a plan; we are pursuing it and are quite clear on the direction in which we are going. Let me also say that it is a part of the direction in which we are going and an agreement that what both the United States and the Republic of Korea want is a North-South dialogue. That is a part of where we are going, and we both agree on that, and there is never a disagreement between us and the Republic of Korea on that particular agenda item.
FOREIGN MINISTER YOO: The issue of North Korea's food shortage is one of the important issues that we are dealing with. But we do apply a principle to this, and that principle is that when we have Four-Party talks to reduce tension, we can also discuss their food problem as well. But they wanted to hear what the Four-Party talks will be about, and we are providing a briefing for them, but that should not be a condition that we would provide food aid to them. That is against our principle and we're not going to do that and that's something we have agreed between the United States and ourselves. But once they come to the Four-Party talks, then we can also discuss the reduction of tension and building mutual confidence as well as the issue of the North Korean food shortage, and this is all open. But we are not going to provide food just because they want food by saying, "We'll come to the talks if you give us food." And that's something we do not prove as a principle.
QUESTION: I'd like to address two questions to the Secretary of State. The first question is, what will be the U.S. role in dealing with the issue of Taiwan's interest in exporting or transporting, shipping nuclear waste to North Korea? The second part of the question would be the prospects of opening up, exchanging liaison offices between North Korea and the United States.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say on the first question, we obviously are concerned about the environmental prospects if such a shipment takes place, and we are urging the Taiwanese to abide by environmental safeguards. They are going to be dealing with the IAEA on the subject, and we are going to be pressing them to in fact to do everything they can to make sure that all environmental safeguards are met. We are concerned about the issue along with the Republic of Korea. We are interested in having a liaison office, and that will come at the appropriate time, but the issue here is that nothing that North Korea does can drive a wedge between the United States and the Republic of Korea. Our relationship is very close, and will continue to be so, because our objectives are the same, which is a peaceful peninsula.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you prepared to go forward with the human rights resolution on China? And more broadly, do you think that your discussions in Beijing are going to be circumscribed in any way because of the mourning period?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are consulting with the cosponsors at the EU about going forward with such a resolution, the possibility of it, and it is something that is on our minds as we go forward with assessing where the Chinese situation is on human rights. As far as my visit is concerned, I am going forward with it. Thus far there are only indications that it will be curtailed on the social side, not in terms of the business meetings. But obviously I will be respectful of the mourning period that the Chinese government has asked for. Thank you.
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