MND SPOKESPERSON: Good afternoon. I am the MND spokesman. We will now begin the joint press conference for the ROK-U.S. Defense ministers.
The session will proceed with opening statements by both ministers, followed by Q &A. First, the Korean Minister of National Defense, Cho Young-kil, will deliver some remarks.
MINISTER CHO: Today’s SCM carries added significance in that it was held in the year marking the 50th anniversary of our alliance, and on the occasion of Secretary Rumsfeld’s first visit to Korea since he returned to the Pentagon three years ago.
For my part, it is a great delight to hold my second meeting with the Secretary following our first in June. I appreciate that he could be here despite the pressure of his schedule stemming from the Iraqi stabilization campaign and military transformation tasks, among others, and believe this is emblematic of how much he values Korea.
During today’s meeting, the Secretary and I shared frank and in-depth discussions on major defense issues between Korea and the United States. Both sides reviewed and appraised the results of the future of the ROK-U.S. alliance policy initiative held throughout the past year, reaffirmed key items of agreement, and checked our plans for future implementation.
We also shared an extensive interlocution regarding issues of mutual interest, including North Korea’s military situation, the war on terror, and the new military strategy of the United States. In particular, Secretary Rumsfeld expressed his deep appreciation for the Korean government’s support for the war on terrorism, which he assessed would serve to further consolidate our alliance relationship and contribute to global peace and stability.
Furthermore, he stressed that discussions on realigning U.S. Forces in Korea and enhancing our combined military capabilities purported to strengthen our combined deterrence still further. Both sides agree to continue, in the coming year, deeper-reaching discussions on the long-term development of our alliance.
Today’s meeting has allowed us to reiterate the staunchness of our alliance relationship and produce the result of giving a concrete forum to options and implementation plans aimed at further enhancing our alliance, in accordance with the principles agreed to in the course of two ROK-U.S. summit meetings. For me, it was especially pleasing to have a chance to establish personal rapport with Secretary Rumsfeld through our second meeting.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you Mr. Minister.
MINISTER CHO: Next we invite U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to deliver his opening remarks.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, I am delighted to be back in the Republic of Korea. I must say that we had excellent meetings today of the standing consultative group. I participated in one of these meetings some 27 years ago, in 1976, more than half of the life of this alliance of 50 years ago. And I must say that after 50 years the U.S.-ROK alliance remains strong and healthy, as is the friendship between our two people. I would guess, but I don’t know this, but I would guess we may have had one of the most substantive SCM meetings ever.
Our alliance and friendship were forged in battle five decades ago and today U.S. and Korean forces are once again serving side by side in the cause of freedom in the global war on terrorism.
I expressed our appreciation for President Roh’s decision to provide additional Korean forces in Iraq and for his generous commitment of humanitarian support for Iraqi reconstruction.
As the U.S. and Korea look at the 21st century challenges and the new security environment we are in, we are working to transform our combined military posture to defend Korea and to strengthen security and the prospects for peace on this peninsula, which is why I indicated that this may have been one of the most substantive SCM meetings ever. We discussed ways to realign and consolidate U.S. forces based in Korea into two major hubs in two phases.
Tomorrow I will be visiting Camp Casey, Camp Humphreys, and Osan Air Base to tour those facilities and to thank the American men and women who are serving here in Korea.
I’ve assured the Minister that any changes to U.S. military posture in North-East Asia will be the product of the closest consultation with our key allies; most importantly, they will result in increased U.S. capabilities in the region.
Whatever adjustments we may make will reflect the new technologies that are available, the new capabilities, and they will strengthen our ability to deter and if necessary, defeat any aggressions against allies such as South Korea. And above all, nothing we do will diminish our commitment to Korea’s security or our ability to fulfill our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Finally, I look forward to meeting with President Roh later this afternoon.
Thank you, Mr. Minister.
MND SPOKESPERSON: We will now take questions for about 20 minutes, but in view of our limited time it would be appreciated if you could keep your questions short. Thank you.
Please raise your hands if you have any questions, and I as the spokesperson will designate the questioner.
QUESTION: I have two questions. The first question is for Secretary Rumsfeld. The Korean government is considering sending about 3,000 troops in support of Iraqi reconstruction, whereas the United States wants about 5,000 or more than 5,000 troops to perform stability operations there. Whether this issue was discussed during the SCM meeting this morning, whether there are any differences in view. If there are – what are those differences?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I’m sorry – whether there’s what?
QUESTION: What are the differences, if you have any differences?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, first let me say that we have now, I think, 33 nations with forces on the ground in Iraq. As you know, Korea has forces there already.
And we are appreciative of President Roh’s announcement with respect to troop deployments. The only thing I could add is that it is up to each country to decide in what ways it feels most appropriate to provide assistance in Iraq, Afghanistan or the global war on terrorism.
Given the fact that each country needs to decide the most appropriate way to provide assistance on an activity of this importance, there can’t be any difference because it is up to the Korean government to make those judgments.
QUESTION: And my second question goes to Minister Cho regarding the Yongsan Garrison location issue? It was stated in the joint communiqué that both sides had failed to reach an agreement on this issue. What is the background for this failure and what is the respective position of both governments regarding the residual presences of the UNC and CFC in Yongsan?
MINISTER CHO: With regard to the relocation issue, both sides have reached an agreement in principle on the broader outlines of this issue. However, it must be noted that, with regard to the headquarters of the CFC and related facilities, we have yet to undertake working-level consultations on where exactly to deploy them. But I assure you that we will undertake great efforts to make sure that we reach a final conclusion on this matter prior to the end of this year.
This is not an issue that simply concerns the area of the land, but more pertinent is that this concerns cooperation between the CFC and the MND and so forth…so we will make sure that this issue is brought to a conclusion by the end of this year and make sure that this proceeds without setback.
MND SPOKESPERSON: And now we will take questions from a foreign journalist.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, I’d like to ask you. There is much that has been reported about and perhaps much controversy over the realignment of U.S. forces within Korea, and perhaps even the future withdrawal of some of those forces from South Korea. Sir, are you confident of South Korea’s military ability to hold the line at the DMZ as American troops uphold southward and why?
MINISTER CHO: We are moving forward with plans to bring about Yongsan relocation and redeployment of the Second Infantry Division. However, during today’s meeting, we didn’t have any discussions regarding any possible reduction of U.S. forces, and I believe that we have not yet reached that stage to bring about that discussion.
QUESTION: Sir, are you confident of South Korea’s military ability to hold the line if American forces are not there?
MINISTER CHO: We are moving forward to transfer ten missions currently assumed by USFK and transfer those responsibilities to Korean forces. Among the ten, eight of them would pose no problems, even if they were to be transferred at an early stage to Korean forces. However I would like to note that, with regard to the JSA security mission and the counter-fire headquarters mission, we must also take into account the political situation and trends on the Korean peninsula as well as ROK force capabilities. So, I would also state that it would be somewhat quick or premature to implement this transfer immediately, but nonetheless, we will continue to engage in checking our future progress on this matter.
MND SPOKESPERSON: And now we will take further questions.
QUESTION: First of all, I would like to ask the same question, which I do not feel too good about, but nevertheless, I would like to ask Mr. Rumsfeld the same question. The question is whether you would respect the Korean government’s decision to…
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sorry I missed this, I am missing some words…
QUESTION: The question is whether you respect the Korean government’s decision to send additional troops primarily to provide humanitarian support in Iraq and with the number of about 3,000 troops, rather than conducting stabilization operations in Iraq. And my second part of the question is in reference to paragraph four of the Joint Communiqué. I see there is emphasis on the strategic flexibility on the part of the U.S. Forces in Korea and I understand this would not undermine the deterrent that is on the Korean peninsula. But, whether this would affect the current situation here in Korea, and I understand there would be rapid mobility requirements on the part of the United States Armed Forces in the future. But, nevertheless, people still constantly talk about the possibility of troop reduction and I’d like to have your firm word on the prospect of troop reduction.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: My goodness gracious! First, I think I answered your first question earlier when I said that each country needs to decide for itself, each sovereign nation how it can best contribute to the global war on terror whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, and obviously we would respect whatever decision this government makes.
With respect to the second part of your question on flexibility of forces, we understand that weakness can be provocative. That weakness can invite people into doing things that they otherwise might not even consider. This alliance has been successful for 50 years. It is an enormously successful record. And it’s been successful because we have had the ability to deter and defend and, if necessary, prevail and that has been well understood. I can assure you it will be well understood in the years ahead, and needless to say, neither of our governments would do anything that would in anyway weaken the deterrent and the capability to defend. I think the way to think about it is that what deters and what gives you the capability to defend are military capabilities. It is not numbers of things; it is capability to impose lethal power when needed, where needed, with the greatest flexibility and with the greatest agility. Whatever adjustments are made, A) will be made in the closest consultation with the government of Korea and second, they will leave the alliance stronger, with a healthier deterrent and a healthier capability of defending. Let there be no doubt.
MND SPOKESPERSON: Due to the lack of time we will take one further question from a foreign press member.
QUESTION: It’s a question for Secretary Rumsfeld. North Korea has claimed persistently in recent months that it’s reprocessed spent fuel rods and strengthened its nuclear deterrent. What’s your current assessment of the North’s nuclear capability and would you support any security guarantees for North Korea before it gives up any weapons it may have and the two separate programs?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t do assessments; the Central Intelligence Agency does that.
As I say, I really don’t do assessments of that type. The intelligence community does, in our country and other countries. We know what the North Koreans have said, and we know they have a closed society and that, therefore, there are things we know don’t know with certain knowledge.
For the second part of the question, I think what I will do is respond this way: the United States, the President, and our country have been working closely with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with the People’s Republic of China, and other countries to move along a diplomatic track in the hopes that they can persuade the North Korean government to conduct itself in a manner that is peaceful and consistent with the hopes and aspirations of peaceful nations all across the world.
We have good people from each of these countries working hard on what obviously is an important issue. It’s an important issue for the peninsula, but it’s also an important issue for the world, because of the problem of proliferation of these technologies, and all I can say is I wish them well.
MND SPOKESPERSON: That concludes today’s joint press conference, thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.