Transcript

Remarks by Acting Secretary Shanahan at an Enhanced Honor Cordon and Meeting Welcoming Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Jeong to the Pentagon

April 1, 2019
Acting Secretary Of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan; Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo

ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN:  Well, Mr. Minister, welcome back to the Pentagon.  I'm very pleased to be able to host you today on some very timely and important discussions.

Our teams play a vital role in support of the (inaudible).

I greatly appreciate your personal engagement as we work through these recent exercises.  And we're very fortunate to have General Abrams here to give us our grade.

(LAUGHTER)

I know they've been very successful, though we've also learned about improvements that we can make in our fall exercises.

I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you some of what you've learned about defense reform.

And as we always say, "katchi kapshida," "we go together."  And we solve many problems.  But more importantly, we'll create more solutions.

Please?

ROK MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENSE JEONG KYEONG-DOO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  First of all, I'd like to thank the secretary, as well as DOD officials, for the warm welcome that you have provided for the Korean delegation.

And as the minister of national defense and on behalf of the Korean government, I'd like to thank you, as well as Chairman Dunford and now General Abrams, for all your support and the (inaudible) provided for us in the Republic of Korea's efforts for the denuclearization of and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

And at the recent hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, you've shown your full commitment for the -- for the ROK-U.S. alliance.  And I think this goes on to show how strong the ROK-U.S. alliance is and how deep of a level of trust that we enjoy between everyone involved in the alliance.

And in particular, when General Abrams, in an interview with the Korean press, mentioned his full support for the September 9th comprehensive military agreement between the two Koreas, this went on to show the strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the firm commitment we have together as a team.

And the way in which we work together as a team, sharing our thoughts together and coming to agreements on the different ways to approach the implementation of the comprehensive military agreement, goes on to show the true spirit of the ROK-U.S. alliance, based on a firm and deep level of trust that we enjoy between our countries.

And I'd also like to thank General Abrams for his hard work and excellent leadership in leading the efforts of South Korea and the United States (inaudible).

And we would also like to reaffirm the strength of the alliance through the successful (inaudible) exercise we held recently.  The new (inaudible) exercise gave us a meaningful opportunity for us to maintain the combined defense posture of the alliance as well as also prepare ourselves for the certification of IOC in preparation for (inaudible).

And I also believe that the exercise was an exemplary model in which we provided our military support to the diplomatic efforts of our countries, of our governments when it comes to the complete denuclearization of and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

And through such combined exercises that is symbolic of the history of the strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance, as well as these exercises that contain and embody the spirit of the alliance, I believe that the ROK-U.S. alliance, as well as the ROK-U.S. combined defense posture, can only grow stronger.

Moreover, the Korean government is systematically and actively pursuing (inaudible) transition.  In particular, for the Korean military to acquire critical military capabilities that will allow for the Korean military to take the lead in future combined defense posture within the alliance.

We are trying to expedite the process.  And in that regard, we have also increased our defense budget by 8.2 percent compared to the 2018, and we are focusing all of our efforts to create and establish a responsible defense.

And if you look at some of our recent efforts that we are making, in order for us to meet the first condition for (inaudible) transition in acquiring critical military capabilities to the Korean military, and to perform the ROK-U.S. joint assessment of the projects that we have, our having monthly special meetings between General Park Han-Ki, our chairman of the joint chiefs, and General Abrams.

And in particular, I'd like to thank General Abrams for the high level of interest and effort that you have put -- been putting in so that we can cooperate together as a team to reach practical results and reach much progress.

And I'd like to ask -- moving forward, I'd like to ask you, Mr. Secretary, as well as, though not here with us, I'd like to ask Chairman Dunford as well that we'll be able to smoothly transition into making progress with the (inaudible) transition.

And also, I believe that this year's meeting, the meeting we have today, will contribute greatly to strengthening the ROK-U.S. alliance, as well as reaffirming the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and coming to a common agreement and a common understanding of how we see the current situation that we are in.

And in particular, I hope that the upcoming April 11th ROK-U.S. summit will also allow us opportunities to continue dialogue with North Korea in our efforts to completely denuclearize and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.  And I hope that moving on forward,that the defense authorities of both of our countries can continue to provide our full support to our diplomatic and political efforts of our countries and our governments.

Thank you.

SEC. SHANAHAN:  Thank you.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, has the Pentagon been asked to support the closure of the southern border?

SEC. SHANAHAN:  The -- (inaudible) this morning, but as you're -- you're tracking, it's a very dynamic (inaudible).  And I'll be having conversations with the secretary of state today, and, most likely, Secretary Nielsen.

Q:  And what would those actions look like?

SEC. SHANAHAN:  Which actions?  Our conversations?

Q:  To close the southern border.

SEC. SHANAHAN:  Well, that's why I'd call him, just to find out, you know, some of the specifics there and how we can continue in our support role.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Mr. Secretary and Mr. Defense Minister, a quick question.  Do you have any comment on (inaudible) testimony by General Abrams that North Korea has still not ramped back its efforts, both in the military capabilities and nuclear (inaudible)?

SEC. SHANAHAN:  General Abrams is here.  He can talk for himself.

(LAUGHTER)

Do you have any comments about your comments?

(LAUGHTER)

OK.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, do you plan to ask South Korea to pay for the joint use of (inaudible)?  Are those discussions underway currently?

SEC. SHANAHAN:  Those discussions weren't part of today's, unless the minister wants to bring them up.

Q:  Do you -- do you (inaudible) scaling back these joint military exercises could hurt readiness?

SEC. SHANAHAN:  I don't think we're scaling back exercises.  I think we're building capability up.

That's why we have General Abrams here.  He's a master of readiness.

But really, as we do operational control and transfer, we want to make sure that there are no gaps or seams, and that we continue to build on these exercises.  We're going to talk about the September exercises and the lessons learned from these ones in March.

Thank you very much.  Appreciate it