Press Availability with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Minister of Defense Yoon Kwang-Ung in Seoul, South Korea
Announcer (through interpreter): Ladies and Gentlemen, Secretary Rumsfeld and Minster Yoon.
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am the Defense Ministry programmer. We will now begin a joint press conference of the ROK and U.S. Defense Ministers.
The press conference will proceed with opening statements by both ministers followed by Q and A session.
Due to lack of time, we will have a 15-minute Q and A session. With consideration of interpretation, we would appreciate it if you could keep your questions short and we also request that you address one person only. Thank you very much for your cooperation.
ROK Minister (through interpreter): This morning I had a productive session with Secretary Rumsfeld at the 37th SCM regarding security issues which proved to be very productive.
We had first assessed the security circumstances on the Korean Peninsula, discussed all of the measures, strengths of the combined defense posture, and all of the issues of USFK realigning such as Yongsan relocation and the future Orient-development of the alliance.
Moreover, we have also exchanged our views on the recent international state of affairs such as the global war on terror and discussed our cooperation to counter terrorism as part of the preparation for the 8th APEC talks to be held in November.
I am very much pleased that the secretary and I have reaffirmed the strength of our alliance on and around the Peninsula and shared the view on the future of our alliance at the meeting today where the Peninsula and the international security environment are not going to be changing.
Thank you very much.
U.S. Secretary of Defense: Thank you very much Mr. Minister, it is good to be back in Seoul. I thank you and the people of the Republic of Korea for the warm hospitality.
Our delegations, as you see behind us, have had good discussions on a wide range of evolving issues including, as the Minister said, the transformation of the posture and make-up of U.S. Forces in and around the Peninsula; as well as the Republic of Korea_s plan to transform its forces and to take on more of the responsibility for its defense.
I thank you, Minister, for Korea’s contribution of more than 3,000 soldiers for stability and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And this is certainly a good example of how the Republic of Korea has emerged as a leading force for peace and stability across the globe.
Later today, I will visit with U.S. troops serving with U.S. Forces Korea to convey my thanks and the American people_s thanks for their service so many thousands of miles from their homes.
The commitment of the United States of America to the defense of the people of South Korea has been a significant one.
Today we see the relationship between our two countries evolving to recognize the important changes that have taken place over the past five decades.
The Republic of Korea, an impoverished and devastated nation over a half-a-century ago, now has one of the world_s most powerful economies and is an important democracy with a large and increasingly capable armed force.
In the past three years, we have made a number of adjustments in our relationship and alliance.
And as changes take place in our global posture on this Peninsula and elsewhere, we will preserve and strengthen the credibility of the deterrent against either over aggression nuclear blackmail.
With that, Mr. Minister, we can take some question.
Announcer (through interpreter): Please raise your hand if you have a question.
QUESTION: [inaudible] operation and control issue was in controversy. I think the conclusion after this SCM is that the two sides agreed to speak about the progress, but this seemed to be an ambiguous statement; can you please clarify this?
U.S. Secretary of Defense: Who is it directed to?
Interpreter: To Secretary Rumsfeld.
U.S. Secretary of Defense: I don_t know if I can clear it up. I don_t know if there is any confusion that needs to be cleared up.
It is hard to clear up something that is already clear.
We have a relationship that has evolved over 50 years now and it will continue to evolve in the years ahead.
And as the capabilities of the Republic of Korea grow, obviously, they will assume more and more responsibility as they have been doing in recent years.
And as that happens, in an orderly way over time, clearly there will be adjustments in the command relationship and those are the kinds of things that allies discuss.
Does that sound about right? (looking towards Minister Yoon Kwang Ung)
QUESTION: (From BBC): Charles Cameron from BBC News, just a brief follow-up on that, at what stage then do you think that South Korea would in a position to assume responsibility for war-time control? And the other point is this, there had been concern ----
U.S. Secretary of Defense: I thought we were only going to ask one question?
QUESTION: Well, that was a follow-up.
U.S. Secretary of Defense: Are you going to let him break your rules like that? (Looking towards the announcer)
Question from BBC continues: That was a follow-up, the other question is this: There has been a concern in the recent months, since the beginning of this year, from groups to bring down the statue of General MacArthur in Incheon. I would also note the increase of culture that consistently show that a large number of South Koreans see the U.S. as a bigger threat to the region and Peninsula than North Korea -- or a bigger threat to peace. I_ve been seeing the issues of South Korea to view the U.S. more of a menace than a friend?
U.S. Secretary of Defense: Well, as to your first follow-on question, as to when the shift might take place, it would take place at that moment when the Republic of Korea and the United States of America decided that it was appropriate.
And was the second question to me as well?
BBC REPORTER: Yes.
U.S. Secretary of Defense: Sometimes I like to engage my brain before my mouth.
The United States of America has invested the lives of a great many Americans to help the Republic of Korea to be free.
We have invested a great deal of money, American people_s money, to help the people of Korea to be free and for this peninsula to be peaceful and stable.
We are a part of this alliance at the request of the Republic of Korea_s government.
And thanks to the industriousness of the people of the Republic of Korea and to the peace and stability that the alliance between our two countries have provided this peninsula, you have seen the economic growth and success and energy and vitality and opportunity for the people of this country over a period of many decades now.
And if there is anything that is clear in this world is that conflict and instability prevent economic opportunity and prosperity.
And the people of the United States and the United States government are proud to have made that contribution to this peninsula in the interest of the people of this country and of the people of this region.
Announcer: Last question.
QUESTION: (From the Washington Times): My question is about the North Korean nuclear program. Overshadowing this meeting is the fact that North Korea is continuing to develop nuclear weapons. My question is for Minster Ung, how serious of a threat is posed by the North Korean nuclear program and would North Korea be willing to make -- would South Korea be willing to make concessions, such as providing light [inaudible] reactors before North Korea de-nuclearizes or do you support the U.S. decision that a denuclearization should come first?
ROK Minister of National Defense: (through interpreter): Today_s meeting -- during today_s meeting, we had no discussions on this issue. This is an issue that is being dealt with between U.S. Department of State and the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; however, what I can say is that the [inaudible] agreed to a joint statement last September at the Six-Party talks, that has provided us with a statement of purpose and principle with how we are going to approach this peacefully and diplomatically.
QUESTION: I have two questions for Secretary Rumsfeld----
U.S. Secretary of Defense: (Looking towards the interpreter) We are back at two questions? That worked for me and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I think we pick one of them. Pick the best one. You are the judge.
QUESTION: First question is Korea proposed to you the purchase of _Global Hawk_ but we understand that the U.S. refused to purchase the proposal made by Korea, so what is the background of your refusal? And second question is with regards to U.S. army alliance within Korea, there has been rumors that USFK -- the size of USFK will continue to be reduced and the commander will be just a three-star general instead of a four-star general; can you please explain the background and the thought?
U.S. Secretary of Defense: I have no knowledge of the first question. But the second question, I know of no plan of that; although, the separate militaries have their major assignments planned. They look forward, they think what the world might look like and how it might be arranged, but I know of no current plans for that.