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Press conference by ROK Minister Chun and Secretary Cohen, Seoul, South Korea

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
January 19, 1999

Press conference by ROK Minister Chun and Secretary Cohen, Seoul, South Korea

Minister Chun: Secretary Cohen and I have concluded the 30th ROK/US Security Consultative Meeting, during which we discussed a range of issues in a very frank and candid manner. As the first SCM since the launch of a new Korean administration, this morning's talks laid the groundwork for us so we can further consolidate our bilateral alliance, in preparation for the 21st Century. Based on deep mutual trust between the leaders of our two nations, as well as close interaction between key military leaders, the current ROK/US alliance is at the pinnacle of success. Taking into account the uncertainty of the Korean peninsula security environment, between North Korea's missile launch and suspected underground facilities, Secretary Cohen and I held in-depth discussions on military diplomatic countermeasures to manage Korean security in a stable and efficient manner, in the event of contingencies on the peninsula. During the talks we agreed to develop a team providing the best posture including the full range of cooperation of intelligence exchanges, combined with operation, in order to counter diverse security challenges posed by North Korea. Also, we closely consulted on ways to prevent a crisis in advance. Secretary Cohen and I reconfirmed the unswerving U.S. support of Korea's policy toward North Korea. We also consolidated the ROK/US coordination on North Korea policy with regard to such issues as to agreed framework, four-party talks, and the U.S./North Korea talks. We shared the view that the promotion of policies pertaining to these matters should be undercoated by a strong combined defense policy. In addition, Secretary Cohen and I discussed various ways to further produce cooperation in the areas of defense industry and logistics, in lieu of the current economic difficulties in Korea. Also, we are very pleased that the SCM was concluded in a very satisfactory manner, and this once again reflects the strength and the spirit of our alliance. The 30th SCM has provided me with the opportunity to further my personal [unintelligible] to Secretary Cohen, and I'd like to extend my heart-felt appreciation to the Secretary and all the members of the U.S./Korea delegation for participating in the 30th SCM.

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much. Minister Chun, thank you for your very fine comments. As the Minister has indicated, we have just concluded the 30th Security Consultative Meeting between our two countries.

These meetings began with a showing of a seven minute film, and it captured all of those meetings that have taken place during the past decades. I very much appreciated the film and what it represented to our two countries. These meetings illustrate the enduring security partnership that is the key to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. We are living in a period of opportunity and risk. President Kim's policy of engaging North Korea in the Four-party talks raises the possibility of diplomatic progress toward reconciliation and peace.

  • North Korea's continuing infiltration attempts, recent Taepo Dong missile launch, and the resistance to allow inspections of an underground facility that could be an attempt to evade the Agreed Framework threaten to frustrate that promise. In the face of this uncertainty, our policy is and must remain clear and unwavering.
  • We will maintain a strong deterrent, as we pursue dialogue with North Korea. The hope of diplomacy rests on reality of that deterrence, and our deterrence is stronger than ever. In the last few years, both the Republic of Korea and the United States have modernized our forces. Our forces have updated plans for all contingencies on the Korean peninsula, and they have conducted more realistic and demanding combined training exercises.

Our efforts have been guided by close consultations at all levels. For example, this is my fifth meeting with my Korean counterpart in just two years. As General Tilelli has said, "We achieve strength through alliance," and our allied military capability has never been stronger, nor more sure of decisive victory, if attacked. North Korea will dash any hope of realizing the benefits of dialogue and engagement, if it undermines the Agreed Framework. The United States will continue to work to preserve that agreement, but we cannot do it alone.

At a time when north Korea can not feed its own people, the entire peninsula would benefit from policies in the North that encourage the benefits of cooperation rather than raise the risks of confrontation. Our commitment to dialogue is guided by a firm determination to protect our security interests, and one reason that the security partnership between the United States and the Republic of Korea is so strong and durable is because both of our countries do our respective shares.

I am pleased by the new agreement to help offset the costs of stationing U.S. troops here, and the fact that our Korean allies made this commitment, the first of a three year package, in the face of its economic difficulties, demonstrates its commitment to a strong deterrence and a strong alliance. I look forward to hosting our next SCM meeting in Washington this fall.

  • Q: This question is directed to Minister Chun. There are straying rumors in Korea that a crisis will emerge on the Korean peninsula in either March or May. Is this true, and what measures is Korea taking to cope with such rumors?
  • A: (Chun): I think that the rumors of a crisis on the Korean peninsula is caused by potential North Korea changes - the changes in North Korea as a result of its weapons of mass destruction, it's missile launch, and nuclear program, and in its provocations. Also, it owes to the difficulties that the Korean economy now faces. The highlight of this rumor is that North Korea's missile launch. I'm sure that should North Korea launch a second missile, this would, indeed, undermine stability on the Korean peninsula. Therefore, Korea is closely working with the U.S. and other international members to prevent North Korea from developing, deploying, and exporting these missiles. As far as the suspected nuclear facility, Secretary Cohen and I agree that we should first acquire, again, conclusive evidence, and then work on joint countermeasures. I believe that we face a crisis when we are unable to evaluate the situations that lay ahead of us. However, Korea and the U.S., are based on very strong and solid exchanges of intelligence and cooperation, and are able to assess the situation in a very clear manner. I believe that a crisis on the Korean peninsula will not evolve.
  • Q: You have several times on the trip, and again today, praised President Kim's so-called "Sunshine Policy" - for more openness and better ties with North Korea. The United States has balked against direct diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in the past. Are you now willing to consider direct ties with Pyongyang, more openness, more aid, diplomatically and in other ways, in return for receiving access to the site in North Korea?
  • A: (Cohen): What we have indicated in the past is that we support the Four-Party talks, and we will continue to participate in the Four-Party talks as such.

We do not, in any way, want to substitute the United States for the direct dialogue that should occur between the North and the South. But, yes, we support President Kim's engagement policy. We hope that that will produce a very positive result, but we do not want, in any way, to either undercut that or interfere with that, because we believe that the best hope for resolving tensions and issues that exist between North Korea and South Korea should be resolved between the two.

So, we will be helpful, we will be supportive, and we will try to contribute in any way we can, but we believe the direct tie in that relationship should take place and should take place between the North and the South.

  • Q: So, you're not objecting to direct - at this time - to direct diplomatic ties between Pyongyang and Washington?
  • A: (Cohen): I am neither objecting nor directing nor contradicting. What I'm simply saying is that our policy is to encourage -- he Four-Party talks, we will continue to participate in that forum, but it should be between the North and the South to have direct dialogue to resolve differences. We will be of assistance, but we do not want to be in a position of having the North seek to separate out the dialogue between North and South, and try to make it one between Washington and the North.
  • Q: My question is for Secretary Cohen. First question: I believe you had a special visit in Japan and you mentioned about a possible military options to cope with North Korea's possible threat and suspected underground facilities. What are the military options? Second question was: We believe when Minister Chun discussed reckoning of -- to eliminate the North Korean missiles, what agreement has been reached?
  • A: (Cohen): With respect to your first question, we did not have any discussions in Japan dealing with military options against the North. As I've indicated before, we intend to maintain a very strong deterrence in conjunction with our partner, the Republic of Korea. We believe that deterrence must continue to be strengthened, and that we have the determination to remain and to have a strong defense and deterrent capability. It is our hope that the North will see fit to reduce tensions, to resist the temptation to launch more Taepo Dong missiles and to create instability in the region. But we did not have any discussions about military options wile I was in Japan.

With respect to the second question, I believe we have reached an acceptable accommodation to deal with the situation as far as the threat posed by the North, and that agreement is satisfactory with the United States.

  • Q: Secretary Cohen, can you confirm the reports today that you have authorized heavy bombing of air defenses in Northern Iraq to begin after Ramadan?
  • A: (Cohen): I've heard the question before about a rumor circulating in Korea about certain actions - a crisis that was going to take place in February, March, April, or May of this year. Rumors that are reported long enough are sometimes reported as fact.

There's no basis to the rumor about any action taken against Northern Iraq following Ramadan. Saddam Hussein is under an obligation to comply with the U.N. Security Council Resolutions. As we've indicated before, on many, many occasions, we intend to continue our containment policy. We intend to continue to prevent him from posing a threat to his neighbors and attacking his neighbors and in developing weapons of mass destruction, capable of threatening his neighbors. That is our policy and that will remain intact. So, there is no basis to the rumor that you have just raised.

I've also indicated that, as Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat to our pilots, who are enforcing the no-fly zones, that the United States and our partner, Great Britain, will take as great an action as is necessary to protect the lives of those pilots.

  • Q: This is a question to Secretary Cohen. The U.S. has gained conclusive evidence with regards to the Kunchangri underground facility and the high explosives facility at Yongduk Dong. These were based on soil gatherings from these areas, as well as photograph - satellite photographs. Is this true? If so, would this mean that North Korea is breaking the Geneva agreement?
  • A: (Cohen): First let me indicate that the United States has not taken a position that there is conclusive evidence of a violation of the Agreed Framework. What we have indicated is that there is sufficient reason to suspect that there is a question as to whether or not this might constitute a violation of the Agreed Framework, which is the reason why we're insisting upon having the right to inspect that facility - to satisfy ourselves that the North Koreans are, in fact, complying with the agreement.

So, we are not suggesting that there is conclusive evidence. We believe that there is sufficient evidence for us to be suspicious of that site, and those suspicions must be addressed in order to satisfy ourselves, that the agreement is being complied with.

  • Q: Mr. Secretary, in the past week there has been attacks just about every day in the no-fly zone. Has the point now been reached where Iraqi SAM's in those zones, [unintelligible] or not, should be considered posing a threat to U.S. policy [unintelligible]?
  • A: (Cohen): As I've indicated on several occasions during the past week, we will take whatever action is necessary to protect the lives of our pilots and those of our British friends, who are enforcing the no-fly zones, both in the North and the South. That is our policy and a policy that we continue. Thank You.

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