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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Press Conference in Seoul

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 02, 2003

(Press Conference in Seoul, Republic of Korea.)


     Wolfowitz:  Just a few remarks to start.  First of all, in just a few days we’ll be marking the anniversary of a very sad event -- the death of two young schoolgirls who were killed last year on June 13.  It was a tragic accident that devastated two families and that created doubt and anger about our military presence here in Korea.  I join with other Americans, including President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld, in offering my deepest apologies to the families of these two girls.  I assure you the U.S. military has not forgotten these two beautiful young girls.  In remembering their lives and regretting their tragic deaths, we must work together to prevent such tragedies from happening.  In the past year, U.S. Forces Korea and the Korean government have worked hard to develop new procedures to prevent a recurrence of such tragic events.  And this past Friday, our two countries signed an agreement to implement new safety procedures. 


     The second most important reason for my coming here was to discuss with President Roh and with Defense Minister Cho and Foreign Minister Yoon, and also in an excellent meeting this morning with a number of Assemblymen from both the government party and the opposition party in the Assembly, the U.S. commitment to maintaining deterrence here in Korea and the ideas we have in mind as we proceed with the study that was agreed on by our two defense ministers last December to study the future of the alliance.  The purpose of that study, to use General LaPorte’s words, is to enhance, shape, and align our two forces to better meet the requirements of deterrence and defense in the first part of the 21st century.  We have demonstrated in two recent wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, that the United States has some new military capabilities that are truly transformational. 


     General LaPorte announced last week that we are going to be investing a substantial amount of money over the next four years in some 150 programs to enhance U.S. capabilities here on the peninsula.  And we want in this study to look at how best to align our forces to take advantage of those new capabilities and how best to invest in new capabilities for the Korean forces so that they can contribute maximally their share to deterrence and defense. 


     But I want to emphasize that the purpose of these changes is to enhance deterrence, not to weaken it.  Our commitment to the defense of Korea remains firm.  It has been the basis of a half a century of democratic and economic progress here on the peninsula that has benefited both our countries.  We want to continue building the foundations for another half century of close partnership between our two nations.  We believe that the kinds of capabilities that both our countries can introduce can substantially counter the asymmetric advantages that North Korea pursues and further contribute to deterring war on this peninsula, which is our most fundamental objective.


     Finally, I’d just like to say how pleased we are that Korea is contributing to the efforts of peacekeeping and reconstruction in Afghanistan and now in Iraq.  I think it’s appropriate that as Korea emerges as one of the leading countries of the world, it contributes to other countries the way it has benefited from help from others in the past. 


     As mass graves are uncovered nearly every day in Iraq, they bear witness to the fact that Saddam Hussein has been responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than probably any other human being ever.  The Iraqi people deserve much better than that.  The Korean people, who have suffered under war and tyranny, understand that and can be proud of their contribution and of the courage of their government in making that contribution to building a future Iraq that is free.


     Two quick thank-yous.  First, to our Korean hosts, to Defense Minister Cho, who gave us an absolutely wonderful dinner last night, with a stunning performance of classical and traditional Korean music.  And to President Roh, who gave us a great deal of his valuable time for a very good meeting this morning.  And the second thank-you is to the men and women of our armed forces and of Korea’s armed forces, who contribute every day to the defense of peace and freedom here on the peninsula.   


     Q:  Judy Cho from the Washington Post.  Yesterday you’ve been reported to have addressed North Korea as an enemy.  Doesn’t this terminology add to a regime of paranoia that already believes that U.S. is ready to attack them?


     Wolfowitz:  Yesterday I was right up at the Demilitarized Zone where brave men and women of both the U.S. forces and Korean forces have to stand guard every day against an enormous threat that’s just on the other side of the border.  There’s no need for that threat.   North Korea can’t afford it.  It would be a better world and a better peninsula as soon as they understand that it’s time to have a different policy, a policy that promotes peace on this peninsula and promotes a better future for the people of North Korea, which we would like to see. 


     The thing that has impressed me very much over more than 20 years of traveling in Asia and working with people in this part of the world is their ability to deal with problems and to solve problems.  I think that the beginning of solving problems is to recognize them, not to hide from them.


     Q:  Carol Giacomo with Reuters.  Can you say explicitly that your anticipated changes will affect the 2nd ID even if you haven’t agreed on what those changes might be?  Do you expect five party talks with the North Koreans in Malaysia in June?


     Wolfowitz:  Of course any basic changes we make to our ground forces here will affect the Second Infantry Division.  That’s the heart of what we have here in peacetime.  The essence of what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the forces we have here on the peninsula can respond quickly and immediately, even before reinforcements arrive, if there were ever to be an attack.  And I think the ability to do so is something that will not only strengthen deterrence, but save lives in the horrible event that a war should occur.  It’s important to have that early capability.  We want to align our forces, including the Second Infantry Division, so they can be most effective from the beginning. 


     I think I’d better leave to the State Department the prediction of when and where we will get multilateral talks going, but I think we’ve been clear over and over again that the key to progress on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program is in fact to address it on a multilateral basis with all the five major powers in Northeast Asia presenting a common position to North Korea.  We very much want to see a peaceful resolution to that problem and we are hopeful that a peaceful resolution can not only remove a threat to the peninsula, but can remove an enormous burden from the North Korean people who already suffer too much, and can hopefully open the way to a better future for the long-suffering people of North Korea.


     Q:  Yonhap News.  You mentioned that it’s the 50th anniversary of the alliance.  You mentioned that there are two main issues:  the North Korean nuclear crisis and the review of our current relationship.  What’s important is the facts.  What we know is what the North have told us.  They’ve admitted to an enhanced program and said they have nuclear weapons.  Do we have concrete evidence?  Second, do you think that the military enhancements that the U.S. is planning will add to or reduce tension on the peninsula in terms of the nuclear crisis?   Third, can you say something about the Korean desire to have reunification through reconciliation?


     Wolfowitz:  On the question of whether North Korea actually has nuclear weapons, you’re right.  We know what they say.  We know some things that can verify some of what they say.  We don’t know everything.  Our intelligence is not perfect, particularly when you try to understand what goes on in a country as closed as North Korea is.  But certainly what we know suggests that we should take what they’re saying very seriously.  The fact that we can’t get a definitive answer underscores the fact that what we really need is a verifiable end to whatever nuclear program they have, both those things that we know and some appropriate measures to verify what we don’t know. 


     On the second part of your question, the enhancements we’re talking about are clearly defensive in nature and are designed to enhance deterrence.  While people may issue rhetoric about those kinds of enhancements, I think in both the short run and the long run enhancing deterrence contributes to less tension on the peninsula, not more.  What would contribute most to reducing tensions here would be for North Korea to end this enormous diversion of its very limited resources to building nuclear weapons and missiles and tanks and cannons – and instead devote those resources to the welfare of its people.  If it chooses to go down that very different road, it will certainly find us willing to respond in a positive way. 


     Finally, I think the vision of a unified Korean peninsula, where all the people of this part of the world can prosper in freedom as the people of South Korea have, would be a great thing.  We would like to get there.  It’s hard to get there, but it’s important to keep that goal in mind.


     Q:  SBS.  We heard reports that this morning you met with the Defense Committee members of the National Assembly and that in this meeting you requested an increase in South Korea’s defense budget.  Is this true?  What’s the relation between this and the U.S.’s enhancement plan?


     Wolfowitz:  We did talk about the need for more investment in defense by South Korea.  I believe now the defense burden is 2.7% of GNP.  I think South Korea can certainly do more.  My country does more.  Doing more, even in relatively moderate increases, could make a huge difference. 


     Let me give you one example, which made a big impression on me while I was here.  The commander of our Special Forces here in Korea said that Korean Special Forces are as good as any he’s seen anywhere in the world.  But they still work with paper and pencil, instead of with the modern communications gear that our Special Forces took with them to Afghanistan, that demonstrated a really revolutionary capability.  That’s the kind of enhancement that South Korea could make to its existing Special Forces with relatively modest investments that would multiply many, many times the effectiveness of those forces to defend this country. 


     We’re talking about measures that will save both Korean and American lives in the event that there’s a war.  Even more important, they’d contribute to deterrence, reducing the likelihood that a war will take place. So I think it’s a wise investment.  I think Korea can afford it. 


     You might ask why I have any business commenting on it.  The answer is that we’re in this together.  We are allies together.  We’re investing a great deal to enhance our capabilities.  I think it’s appropriate for South Korea to do the same.


     Q:  CBS.  There’s a report that relations with North Korea might be worse after the deployment of modernized weapons like Patriot missiles to Korea.  What is your President’s policy toward North Korea, a stick policy or carrot policy?


     Wolfowitz:  We wouldn’t be having to talk about Patriot missiles here if North Korea hadn’t built missiles to threaten South Korea.  The Patriot missile is a purely defensive system.  It is a very valuable one.  It saved American and Arab lives in the recent war in the Persian Gulf, and it’s something that could help save lives here in the event that it becomes necessary.  I can’t see at all why it should be considered something that contributes to tension. 


     As to the second part of your question, any negotiation, particularly with a government like North Korea’s, requires both disincentives and incentives.  The way I like to think of it, though, is that North Korea really does face a fundamental choice -- a choice between going down the blind alley that they’ve been going down for some time now, or taking a different course, a course that can build a brighter future for the people of North Korea, that can give that country a chance of surviving, and that can contribute to peace on the whole peninsula.  That’s what we would like to see.  The way to get there, as President Bush has emphasized over and over again, is for the five major countries of this region -- our two great allies South Korea and Japan, along with the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and Russia -- to try to convince them to make that change of course. 


     I’m sorry we don’t have more time for questions.  It’s fun to come back to Korea.  I wish I could sometime get to stay here a little longer.  It’s a great country.  The progress is stunning.  It’s nice to come back from time to time and see it. 


     Thank you very much.

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