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SecDef Media Availability at the Pentagon with MoD of Korea

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 21, 2001 12:45 PM EDT

June 21, 2001 - 12:45 p.m.

(Joint media availability at the Pentagon with Minister of Defense Kim Dong-shin of South Korea. Kim's remarks are through an interpreter.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. The minister has been here in the United States and we just had an excellent lunch and meeting and discussed the long-standing relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea. I told the minister that the United States of America values that relationship and that alliance and considers it important to peace and stability in that part of the world.

And we discussed a host of other issues, including the threat that North Korea poses, the policies that the United States and the Republic of Korea have coordinated with respect to the relationship with the North, and the fact that we've had a defense review here in the United States and that it underlines the importance of the relationship between our two countries.

Mr. Minister?

Kim: I am pleased that Secretary Rumsfeld and I held the first RoK-U.S. defense ministerial talks since the inauguration of the current U.S. government. We exchanged our frank and honest opinions on major issues of mutual concern. It is my pleasure to announce that we reaffirmed the solidarity of the RoK-U.S. security alliance. As security dynamics change with the advent of a new era, we reemphasized the importance of the RoK-U.S. alliance.

The U.S. is preparing its national defense review and has completed its reexamination of the engagement policy toward North Korea. After our in-depth discussions on the major issues, including North Korea policy, we agreed as follows:

First, it is necessary to maintain USFK [U.S. Forces Korea] in the Korean peninsula in the long term so that we may continue to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, as well as northeast Asia. Second, we shall strengthen military readiness against North Korea and further develop RoK-U.S. combined defense posture for the 21st century. Third, the U.S. reaffirmed its strong support for President Kim Dae Jung's engagement policy toward North Korea and Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed to support our two governments' North Korea policy by maintaining strong RoK-U.S. combined defense posture.

Fourth, we shared our understanding in implementing military confidence-building measures between the two Koreas by maintaining close RoK-U.S. consultation and coordination. Finally, North Korea is posing threats to the security of the Korean peninsula and the region through its nuclear and missile programs. In this regard we agreed that it is necessary for North Korea to accept an inspection by IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and for the issues concerning North Korea's missile program to be resolved as soon as possible.

I am pleased that the U.S. reaffirmed its strong support for the RoK's engagement policy towards North Korea. It is significant that we agreed to further strengthen and develop the RoK-U.S. alliance with the common vision for the future to reflect our tradition of half a century. I am also delighted that this meeting served as an occasion for Secretary Rumsfeld and I to develop our personal friendship.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: I should add that in the 25 years since I was secretary of Defense before, the minister has gone from major to general to minister, and I'm exactly where I started! (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, could I ask, the minister mentioned engagement, both U.S. and South Korean engagement with North Korea. Has Pyongyang indicated any interest or acceptance in U.S. calls to include conventional forces in the new arms talks with North Korea? And will you continue to press the issue to cut North Korean forces along the border?

Rumsfeld: I can speak for myself. That is the policy of the United States to encourage that. And to my knowledge, there has not been progress.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the minister mentioned that you concluded a review of the North Korean engagement policy. Do you foresee any changes in the U.S. approach to engaging North Korea as a result of that review?

Rumsfeld: Well, the -- Secretary Powell has -- and the president have both commented on this, and the important thing that we discussed is that the United States and the Republic of Korea stay closely connected and in close consultation with respect to the implementation of that policy.

Q: (Off mike) -- today with the indictments by the administration in the Khobar Towers case, does this essentially take the prospect of military retaliation off the table, in your mind, or is it even still potentially any sort of option down the road?

Rumsfeld: I am going to leave the subject of the indictments with respect to Khobar to the Department of Justice, that they have made their -- I understand they have just made their announcement today. And I'm needless to say aware of it. And I have nothing else I would add to it.

Q: (Off mike) -- there was any agreement between the RoK and the U.S. concerning -- (off mike) -- and about the threat from North Korean conventional forces?

Kim: (In Korean; no translation of remarks provided.)

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yeah?

Q: Your department is still in the process of reviewing its defense policy. I would like to know, once it is completed, how it will affect the status of U.S. forces in South Korea.

Rumsfeld: Well, we have made very good progress this year with respect to our defense policy review.

We are now briefing and testifying before Congress on the subject. The president has been engaged in the process.

The next step is to do what is called in the United States a Quadrennial Defense Review, and it will be looking at the specific guidance, the terms of reference that we have given them, and they will then come back to the chiefs and to the chairman and to the senior civilian officials in the department, discuss what the review proposes with respect to specifics. Since we're not at that stage yet, I can't give you a definitive answer. I can say this: Throughout this process, everything I have seen reinforces the importance of the U.S.-RoK relationship and our involvement in that important part of the world.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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