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Media Availability with Secretary Gates at Camp Casey, South Korea

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
July 20, 2010

                MR. MORRELL:  Anything you’ve got for the secretary?

                Q     Secretary, could you talk about the meeting of yours and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to DMZ tomorrow morning?

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think that we first of all want to make a gesture of respect for both the Korean and U.S. and other soldiers who are up there.  I think it’s a useful reminder that we are in an armistice and that this is a volatile region as we saw with the Cheonan.  And basically is I think a gesture of solidarity with our Korean allies and recognition that the issues of missile and nuclear proliferation in the North continue to be serious challenges for us and for our allies and we intend to take them seriously.

                Q     Are you going to give a speech there?

                SEC. GATES:  No.  No.  I don’t think so.  I think it’s mainly to go up there and to have a bit of a tour of the facilities.  And, as I say, thank the men and women in the service up there.

                Q     Mr. Secretary, what are you concerns that these exercise might upset China?  There’s been some talk in Beijing that exercises in international waters up its coast would be seen negatively?

                SEC. GATES:  Well, these exercises are off the coast of Korea, not off the coast of China.  These are exercises like we have conducted for decades in the past.  We have conducted them in both the West and East Seas.  And so there’s nothing provocative about them at all. 

                Q     Will the George Washington be going to the East Sea because China didn’t want it in the West?

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think one of the things we’ll discuss is the sequence - tomorrow is the sequencing of exercises, but there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that we intend to exercise in both seas. 

                Q     But will the George Washington exercise specifically in the -

                SEC. GATES:  We haven’t decided that.  Okay.

                Q     Mr. Secretary, do you feel that North Korea has paid enough of a price for this incident at this point and that the exercise is another attempt to sort of raise the stakes for them?

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think North Korea, first of all, is about as isolated as a country can get in terms of the number of U.N. sanctions that have been voted against them.  There’s a great deal of hardship in the North due to the policies of the leadership.  I think that the U.N. - the president’s letter was pretty clear and pretty firm in the condemnation.  I think it was important that all of the nations signed on to it, particularly those who’ve been involved in the six-party talks.  So I think this is an ongoing challenge that has to be managed over a period of years and I think that the pressures continue slowly to build on the North.

                Q     What kind of priority the Afghanistan issue will be in the two-plus-two meeting tomorrow?

                SEC. GATES:  It will be discussed, but I would say that the primary focus of the talks are going to be on our bilateral relationships and on the next step forward in the alliance.

                MR. MORRELL:  Okay, fellows?