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Joint Media Availability With Secretary Rumsfeld And Korean Defense Minister

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 05, 2002

Thursday, December 05, 2002 - 11:41 a.m. EST

(Joint Media Availability with Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jun)

Rumsfeld: Good morning. I am delighted personally to welcome the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Lee Jun, to Washington, D.C. and to the Pentagon.

Mr. Minister, welcome.

I particularly want to thank you for your willingness to accommodate us by meeting here in Washington, D.C. for this 34th Security Consultative Meeting. And the fact that my last Security Consultative Meeting was in 1976, which was the 8th meeting, is an indication of how long-lasting this solid relationship is between our two countries. The friendship that exists between the United States and the Republic of Korea is deep and longstanding, as is the alliance that has helped keep the peace in the Korean peninsula for some five decades now.

I want to begin by repeating what I told the minister earlier today, how profoundly we regret the death of the two Korean girls, Ms. Shim [Shim Mi-Son] and Ms. Shin [Shin Hyon-Sun], who were killed during a military training exercise last June. Our thoughts and our prayers are with their families, and as is said in Korean, "Kibun-i sulpung" (ph). Both the Republic of Korea and the United States are working closely together to prevent future accidents from occurring.

I expressed the deep appreciation for the Republic of Korea's strong support for the global war on terrorism, and the very helpful assistance it has provided, both to Operation Enduring Freedom, and to the coalition reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, which are now moving forward.

We discussed the threat that North Korea continues to pose, and the recent disclosure that North Korea has violated several international agreements, is pursuing nuclear weapons and is continuing to be the most active proliferator of ballistic missiles and ballistic missile technologies in the world.

The United States remains committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and to the stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia. In the new global security environment, friends and allies are vital to peace and security. We appreciate our strong friendship and durable alliance with the Republic of Korea, and we look forward to working together with them to ensure stability in Northeast Asia over the years ahead.

Minister Lee, welcome.

Lee: Moments ago, I co-chaired the 34th Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and we engaged in productive and in-depth consultations on issues of mutual interest. At a time when the international situation and the security environment on the Korean peninsula are undergoing rapid changes, today's meeting has allowed us to reaffirm the solidity of the alliance between Korea and the U.S, and my first meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld has allowed me to affirm the deep-reaching military trust and friendship between our two countries.

I will refrain from covering the contents of the meeting, as Secretary Rumsfeld has just kindly elaborated on them.

Rumsfeld: We -- we'll be happy to take -- I should also say that we've -- on the side of the room here, are the senior military and civilian officials, the delegation from the Republic of Korea and from the United States and -- who have been participating in the meeting.

We thought we'll be -- (to interpreter) -- go ahead. (Pause for interpretation.)

We thought what we'd do is take two questions from the U.S. side and two questions from the Korean side, in alternating order. And it would be preferable if there were no follow-up questions and if the questions were asked only to one of the two of us. But I also know that stating what might be preferable is simply stating what might be preferable, life being what it is.

Mr. Minister, we have a very strange practice here, where, for whatever reason I don't know, we always allow the first question to this gentleman sitting right there -- (laughter) -- Mr. Charlie Aldinger. And he has a question for -- ? Think of it as a tradition. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, the minister spoke of rapid changes on the Korean peninsula, and it would seem that recent changes are in a negative direction, like these: North Korea yesterday said that it would not accept an IAEA call for inspections of its nuclear facilities. I'd like your reaction to that. And could you tell us what is going to be the next step in persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program?

Rumsfeld: The minister and I discussed the situation with respect to North Korea. We both agreed that the efforts and discussions that are taking place between our respective presidents and the -- some neighboring countries -- Russia, the People's Republic of China, Japan and others -- are the appropriate approach at the present time. And only time will tell what progress or success might be achieved.

But there's no question but that the situation in North Korea is very serious. They have violated several agreements and proceeded on a very dangerous course.

Now from -- and from the Korean side?

Q: (Through interpreter.) The question is addressed to Secretary Rumsfeld regarding the SOFA status. I'd like to hear your views on the SOFA amendment. We heard our minister raise it very strongly with respect to improvement concerning operating procedures of SOFA -- whether this has happened during your meeting with Minister Lee, whether there has been any agreement on this matter.

Rumsfeld: That means that the next two questions will be for Minister Lee. (Laughter.) This is an alliance.

The minister raised this subject in our meeting, as his government has. We discussed it, and needless to say, the accident that occurred that caused this issue to be raised was a tragic accident. It's unfortunate that it happened. We can see -- I know that General LaPorte and the leadership in Korea have undertaken a series of steps to try to improve safety and to avoid such future accidents.

The SOFA was revised just two years ago. We see it as a mutually beneficial agreement, and we could not see any way that any change in it could have avoided the accident.


Q: Mr. Secretary, listening very carefully to your --

Rumsfeld: This is a question for Minister Lee? You must not have heard.

Q: He's welcome to answer it as well, but -- (laughter) --

Lee: Your popularity is a lot higher than mine. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughing) No, no, no! No, no!

Here's a question for Minister Lee.

Q: For Minister -- I don't want to cut off the august McIntyre, though if you've got one for him.

But for Minister Lee, I have a question about the status of North Korea's ballistic missile program. Do you have any indication that North Korea plans to resume flight testing of its Taepo Dong 2 missiles?

Lee: So far, we have found no indications indicating that North Korea will resume test-firing of those missiles. However, with regard to their negotiations with Japan, they have raised the possibility that they will reconsider their moratorium.

Q: Mr. Secretary, one question about Iraq, if we may.

Rumsfeld: We may come back to you, but it's debatable. But -- (laughter) -- is there a question from the Korean side?


Q: (Through interpreter) I would like to ask a question to each of you.

Rumsfeld: My Korean must be imperfect. (Laughs; laughter.) This is for Minister Lee.

Q: The question is addressed to Minister Lee. When Undersecretary Feith came to Korea, I understand he told Minister Lee unless we coordinate the speed of dialogue with North Korea, absent resolution of [the] nuclear issue, it could possibly create some problem. My question is whether this topic was raised during your meeting this morning, and whether there has been any agreement on view?

The second part of my question is just to Secretary Rumsfeld. That is, if the situation worsens on the Korean peninsula, I understand you have discussed contingency plans. What strategic contingency plans have you discussed and agreed on?

Lee: In general, Korea and the U.S. harbor concurring views with regard to North Korea's nuclear issue. The North Korean nuclear issue is a serious problem that threatens peace on the Korean peninsula, Northeast Asia and the world, and this can be tolerated under no circumstances. Now that North Korea has confessed to developing nuclear weapons, I believe that Kim Jong Il must assume full responsibility in resolving this issue in a verifiable manner.

We also harbor similar views with regard to the fact that we should undertake close trilateral coordination among Korea, Japan and the U.S. in addressing this issue, and we should also encompass Russia, China and the E.U. in undertaking diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.

With regard to various ongoing exchanging cooperation projects with North Korea, I told my counterpart, Secretary Rumsfeld, that we have to maintain these projects because they allow us to maintain a dialogue channel with North Korea. While we should exert pressure, we must also seek to devise a harmonious resolution.

That is all.

Q: Mr. Secretary, don't make me beg; it's unseemly. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) You're terrific.

Since the question was asked to both of us, we'll have one last question from the American side, and I'll respond first to you.

You asked if the subject came up. The answer is yes. You asked what we discussed, and the answer is we don't discuss contingency plans publicly. Our job at defense ministries is to plan; it's to be -- to arrange, to deter and to defend our people. It means we need to plan and be arranged for any conceivable contingency, and that's what we've done successfully for some 50 years, that's what we're doing today, and that's what we'll do in the future.

Now, Jamie McIntyre of CNN.

Q: Mr. Secretary, listening very carefully to what you've said this week, what President Bush has said this week, what Deputy --

Rumsfeld: Sounds a lot alike, doesn't it?

Q: -- what Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz has said this week, it appears that Iraq's compliance will be judged not on what the U.N. inspectors find or don't find, or what the U.N. Security Council does or doesn't do, but on the sole judgment of whether Saddam Hussein has, in the judgment of the President, changed his behavior of the past 11 years. Is that in fact the criteria that will decide whether the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, that judgment by the President?

Rumsfeld: The answer is this; the Iraqis are faced with a decision. Inspections work only if the country being inspected decides to cooperate fully. If a country decides not to cooperate, it is terribly difficult for a U.N. monitoring and inspection team to tackle a country of that size if the government is determined to deny and deceive and lie.

So the response by Iraq, the declaration, as well as their dealings with the inspectors, will determine -- will reflect what decision's been made by the Iraqi leadership. They could decide that the game's up, and Saddam Hussein and his family could leave the country, which would be a nice outcome.

He could decide the game is up and open up his country and say, "Here are our weapons of mass destruction. Here's where they're located. Here are the people who made them. Here are the people who were working on them. And we've decided that we would rather stay in power and become responsible members of the world community and stop repressing our people and stop threatening our neighbors." And that's a choice he has also.

Or he could follow the pattern of previous years and say, "The game is not up. I'm going to continue to lie and deceive and deny and string along the inspectors and prevent them from finding out, to the extent I'm able, that we're lying and deceiving and denying."

Now those are his choices, and he -- but how he answers it, which one he picks, he will either deal with the problem of disarming or he will tell the world community that he is unwilling to.

And the next choice, as the President has suggested, is with the United Nations and the members of the Security Council. And if they -- they have to make a judgment as to whether or not the resolution that they passed unanimously is being complied with. And if they determine it's not being complied with, then they have to face the reality that for the United Nations to be a relevant institution, they simply cannot allow still one more resolution to be ignored by the Iraqi regime.

So it's at that point, and as a direct answer to your question, that every member of the Security Council and every country in the world that participates in the United Nations would have to make a decision, not simply one country.

And with that, we thank you very much.

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