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Remarks by Deputy Secretary Work at a media availability at Osan Air Force Base, Republic of Korea

LT. CMDR COURTNEY HILLSON: Good afternoon, I am Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson the Public Affairs Officer for the Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. We have about ten minutes today (INAUDIBLE). With that, I would like to introduce you to the Deputy Secretary Bob Work.

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BOB WORK: Secretary Hagel has come to this the Pacific region six times as secretary of defense. And he's asked me, his deputy, to really focus in on all of the rebalance as it pertains to the Department of Defense and our alliances with South Korea, Japan and all of the other places where the United States may operate in.

We'll start the 10 minutes from here.

But I look forward to your questions, and it's really, really great to be here.

Lt. CMDR. HILLSON: Sir, if we can get you to stand behind the podium, please.

MR. WORK: Oh, sorry.

Q: My question is about Iraq. My name's (INAUDIBLE) -- but my -- my question comes out of that. Do we have the forces to take care of the Middle East and possibly Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific? Are -- aren't we stretched a little thin? And can -- can we really make this pivot? Is that really going to happen? Or is it happening?

MR. WORK: The question was do we have enough forces to really make the rebalance or the pivot really happen.

The answer is yes because rebalance isn't all about counting airplanes and counting ships. Because we are focused on having a safe and prosperous Asia-Pacific region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an important part of the rebalance that I don't think a lot of people remember.

And regardless of the number of airplanes and ships, it's revitalizing and strengthening our alliances. And the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance is the linchpin of security in the Northeast Asia region.

Similarly, we're spending a lot of time on revitalizing our alliance with Japan, which is similarly extremely important for the security of the region.

We've just made an agreement with Australia, a long-term agreement to allow Marines to train there. We have an access agreement with the Philippines. And we are going to have littoral combat ships in Singapore.

So, yes, I think the rebalance is real. It is -- reflects the importance that the United States puts on the Asia-Pacific region.

So, perhaps a question from television? Anybody here?

Q: Not television but Wall Street Journal. So in China (INAUDIBLE) -- lines of security and gaps in alliances with South Korea, how -- how does the U.S. -- (INAUDIBLE)? What's the position of (INAUDIBLE) in the future? I know they were talking about the air defense, inter-air defense and that's separate from the -- (INAUDIBLE).

MR. WORK: Well, first of all, as I said, our key strategic role is to have a safe and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. And we're focused on free trade, focused on maintaining the rule of law, we're focused on maintaining free flow across the ocean, across the [sic: air]. And most of all, we're focused on not having any nation try to create a situation in which there is a crisis or we go to war.

China's a great power. It's going to be an even greater power in the future. We welcome China's rise. And we do not see anything in the goals that I just expressed that in any way, shape or form work against a peaceful and prosperous relationship with China.

And there's nothing, in my mind, that could come between the strength of the alliance (here ?) with South Korea. As I said in my remarks -- I'm probably going to, well why don’t I give you a chance to translate. This has been a ride, it's been around for over 60 years. We have fought together. We have planned together. And today, we're meeting provocation and destabilizing behavior from North Korea together.

And so, there's nothing that I can see that would ever -- nothing, in my view, that would ever break that alliance.

Q: (INAUDIBLE) -- your assessment about North Korea's situation regarding (INAUDIBLE)?

My second question is about the missile defense system. South Korea is trying to develop its own -- (INAUDIBLE). United States is trying to, like, have South Korea to join -- (INAUDIBLE). So how are you, like, dealing with this kind of, tension? And what do you expect, like, things are going down the road?

MR. WORK: Well, North Korea's always had an awful lot of artillery. And this artillery ranges Seoul, which is one of the greatest cities in the world.

But now the North Koreans are really putting a lot of emphasis on missiles, as you said. And it is an extremely difficult problem. And in our view, the constant missile shots are provocative and are -- are essentially sending a threat.

So we believe that theater missile defense is absolutely critical to the alliance.

And on the specific question of the Korean air missile defense system, we want the Korean air and missile defense system to be independent and strong. What we hope to have is an extremely interoperable system between the United States and the Korean missile defense systems and the Korean air and missile defense system.

And we think that there are very, very low-cost, high-impact ways to link those systems together. So we just -- we really want interoperability. We don't want to take over the Korean air and missile defense system.

Q: I have more question, very quick. South Korea and the United States is discussing OPCON transfer. So can you give us some tips about how things are going, like the details of the conditions at this time related to transfer?

MR. WORK: The OPCON transfer is now -- we're under discussions on when and how this will occur. Both the presidents of our countries have agreed that we will consider delaying the OPCON transfer. And we are now in the process of working out all of the conditions by which that may occur.

LT. CMDR. HILLSON: We have time for one more question, sir.

MR. WORK: Well, I just want to -- I can't go into the specifics, but what I can say is what makes -- what I believe what makes this alliance so strong is that both sides can come together and say, frankly, "This is a big problem for us," or "We would like you to consider this." And we work these issues out together as an alliance.

And I've been very heartened by what I've heard over the last two days on the discussions that have been put.

So, I have time for one more question.

Yes, ma'am?

Q (through translator): Sir, I believe -- my name is (Anoko Suri ?) from Kyodo News. And I actually believe that your next stop is Japan right now. So please go ahead and explain briefly about your purpose of visiting Japan, and also your personal opinion on -- between China and Japan and Korea.

MR. WORK: Well, in my trip here to the Pacific, I stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii, which is the home of our Pacific Command. I spent a day on Guam to see what's happening there in terms of the build-up on Guam. I've spent two days in Korea, and I'll spend two days in Japan.

So, what I wanted to get out of this trip is to get a sense of what was happening in the region. I've been out of the Department of Defense for about a year. So, to bring myself up to speed on what is happening. I wanted to hear from the leaders of South Korea on their perspective on the state of our alliance, as well as all of the initiatives -- (INAUDIBLE).

I will do the same thing in the next two days in Japan. I would like to hear the perspectives of Japanese leaders and all of the initiatives that are occurring there.

We value our alliance with Japan equally with our value -- we value the alliance with South Korea. We think both of these alliances are absolutely critical to security in Northeast Asia, as well as the broader Asia-Pacific region.

And the thing that strikes me the most is we believe that sharing information from our three countries, the trilateral nature, is a thing that will improve security throughout the region.

So I look forward to talking to leaders of both countries on how we might be able to further the interactions between all three of our leaders and our militaries.

In closing, I'd like to thank you all for coming out this afternoon. I just came from CP Tango -- (INAUDIBLE). I think you all know Ulchi Freedom Guardian is going on right now. And I visited the floor and seen U.S. and South Korean and all of our allied forces working together gives me great, great confidence that this is an extremely strong alliance and that we will -- together, we will be able to deter North Korean provocative actions and continue to provide peace and security for Northeast Asia.

Thank you all.

Thank you again.