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Media Availability with Deputy Secretary Carter at the United States Embassy, Seoul, South Korea

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter
March 18, 2013

            DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON B. CARTER: Well, good afternoon. Let me note the presence and hospitality of our excellent ambassador, my friend, whose premises we are on. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. 

            I’ve just concluded an excellent set of consultations with senior members of President Park’s new team. It’s safe to report that the relationship between the Park and Obama administrations is off to a very productive start. My visit reflects the importance Secretary Hagel and I attach to this alliance. 

            The meetings today reflected the enduring strength of the United States-Republic of Korea Alliance.  This summer, we’ll note the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and celebrate an alliance that has met every challenge that it has confronted, promoted peace on the Korean peninsula, and facilitated the rapid rise that what is today a dynamic, prosperous, and democratic South Korea. 

            The key topic of our discussions today was North Korea and its continued pattern of provocative actions that pose a serious threat to the United States and Republic of Korea as well as to regional and global stability. 

            The United States is working with friends and allies around the world and is employing an integrated response to these unacceptable provocations: the United Nations Security Council resolutions with unprecedentedly strong sanctions, additional unilateral sanctions of great effect, and all together the progressive isolation of North Korea. 

            In the military sphere, the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to the Republic of Korea. Together, we are taking important steps to advance the alliance’s military capabilities. 

            In particular, we’ve remained steadfast to our commitment to extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella and will ensure that all of its capabilities remain available to the alliance. For example, I should note the presence of strategic bombers taking place in flight training in the Korea peninsula area in particular, for example, but this is routine, there will be a B-52 flight tomorrow. 

            Another step we’ve taken recently was announced by Secretary of Defense Hagel last Friday and that was to strengthen the missile defenses of the United States showing our determination to keep ahead of the progression of the North Korean missile -- intercontinental ballistic missile development. 

            The third example of our commitment to the alliance is the ongoing annual exercise Key Resolve and also Foal Eagle, and this afternoon I’ll have the opportunity to go with General Thurman to observe these exercises which demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and ensure the readiness of both of our forces to defend the Republic of Korea and deepen interoperability with U.S. and South Korean forces. 

            I look forward to going to Command Post Tango to see American men and women in uniform serving side by side with their Korean counterparts, working to keep this nation – and this region - safe and secure. I’m always reminded of the tremendous dedication and sacrifice made by our superb service members on behalf of both our nations. 

            In the United States, our commitment to the alliance is part of our Asia-Pacific rebalance and we will ensure that all the pieces of our defense relationship continue to move forward, and I should say this will occur despite the budgetary pressures in the United States. The Asia-Pacific rebalance is a priority. It’s a historic priority. We have the resources to accomplish it and no matter what happens in the budget debates that go on in the United States, our commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance and our commitment to the United States-ROK Alliance will remain firm. 

            JAMES SWARTOUT: Now we have time to take two questions. Please identify your name and your organization that you're representing. 

            Q: I'm Mr. Kim from Yonhap News. First Secretary Carter, thank you very much for your statement. I would like to first hear your assessment on the current on North Korean provocational threats and my second question lies on the sequestration that the U.S. government is going through right now and my question is have you negotiated with the ROK government for sharing the defense budget on Korean Peninsula. I understand that a certain amount of budget is covered by the United States and certain amount is covered by the Republic of Korea and my question is lying on whether the U.S. government has asked the ROK government to increase their share of the defense burden from 42 percent which I understand what is now to 50 percent. 

            DR. CARTER: Well, let me start with the North Korean provocations. Those are very serious. If the North Koreans think this kind of thing is going to get them anywhere, they're mistaken. The only affect it's having is to bring down upon North Korea the opprobrium of the entire world. 

            I've described some of the steps that the United Nations has taken, some of the steps the United States has taken. Obviously, the sphere that I represent is the military sphere and there the U.S. and allied reaction is to deepen even further, strengthen even further, our military capabilities and I gave you a few examples of that. The United States is adding ground based interceptors to its missile defense system. The United States and the Republic of Korea and other countries of the region are increasingly integrating their missile defenses.  We're integrating a lot of our capabilities here on the Korean Peninsula.  That's what the exercise that I'll be participating this afternoon is all about. 

            Q: Provocations North Korea strong continued capability [inaudible] 

            DR. CARTER: With respect to sequester, no, the United States has not asked the Republic of Korea to funds associated with sequester. We don't intend for sequestration which is a  temporary budget turbulence imposed by the Congress of the United States that will last through this fiscal year, that is until October 1st of this year. And we will deal with that turmoil in a way that does not affect the Korean Peninsula. That's the direction I've given and so operations and actions on the Korean Peninsula aren't affected.  So, we do not intend to ask the Republic of Korea for any funding [inaudible]. 

            More broadly on sequestration, after October 1st, by October 1st I should say, our Congress will have decided upon the future defense budgets of the United States, and I don't know what their decisions will be but the defense budget of the United States will still be in any conceivable circumstances adequate to support our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific theater.

            It's interesting to have to say that because most often people are coming at me from the other direction like pointing out to me that the U.S. defense budget [inaudible] it's ironic that anyone with that view about the Asia-Pacific rebalance and that's true actually and by the way most of the rest of the world are spent by friends and allies. And on top of that you have to add the fact that as we, in the era of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are able to shift a great amount of military weight from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Alliance.  For all those reasons, there is no doubt the United States can carry out this Asia-Pacific rebalance. 

            MR. SWARTOUT: We'll have time to take one more question. 

            Q: Voice of America, Steve Herman. I was just wondering in your meetings today with the South Korean officials, how they projected to you their concern about these statements coming out of North Korean?  Do they seem to be more serious than usual like we've heard before or do they seem to be alarmed? 

            DR. CARTER: I found that my colleagues at the South Korean government shared our assessment.  After all, we have a common foundation of intelligence about North Korea, so we see things the same way.