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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2015

South Korea: Remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

By Antony J. Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State

DEPUTY SECRETARY: Good morning. I just had a very, very good meeting with the Vice Foreign Minister. Let me say that this is my first trip as Deputy Secretary of State and it is no coincidence that that first trip is to Northeast Asia and the first stop is here in Seoul, in South Korea. It’s a reflection of the importance that President Obama and Secretary Kerry attach to the region and of the importance they attach to the relationship and the Alliance with the Republic of Korea. When I look at that relationship and that Alliance, it’s incredibly strong. We have shared interests across the board. We have growing ties between our peoples. We have growing ties between our economies. And the evolution of the relationship is also quite extraordinary. The foundation, of course, is our solidarity in dealing with threats on the Peninsula, from North Korea. But it’s grown remarkably in recent years to deal increasingly with opportunities and challenges in the region and more and more with opportunities and challenges around the world. Indeed, the partnership that we have is not only on the Peninsula. It’s not only in the region. It is increasingly global. And it’s something that the United States welcomes very much. So the strength of the Alliance is great. I think we have a very, very strong agenda. And of course we very much look forward to welcoming President Park to the United States later this year. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Do you think South Korea needs to be more clear on its stance on THAAD deployment?

DEPUTY SECRETARY: The question of THAAD is very clear. There is no decision on THAAD. There are no active discussions on THAAD. I think that if we get to the point of looking at THAAD we’ll do it in full consultation with the Republic of Korea. It’s a system that is purely defensive. It is aimed exclusively at dealing with the threat posed by North Korea and it happens to be a good system. But this is all premature because there is no decision on it and if we are to move forward, it will be in full consultation with the government here.

QUESTION: Do you think that the proposed sanctions bill on North Korea from the House goes too far? Is it counter-productive?

DEPUTY SECRETARY: Look, I think what we’ve seen working together, is that the pressure that the international community has exerted on North Korea has made a meaningful difference in its ability to acquire materials for its weapons and missile program, to put pressure on it to move in a different direction. But ultimately this is a decision for North Korea to make. It has to decide whether it is serious about getting back to denuclearization and having credible and authentic talks. We remain open to that. That is something that we would welcome. But until the North Koreans demonstrate that they are serious, it’s important to sustain the pressure on them and to sustain the solidarity of the international community.

IO: One more question.

QUESTION: Regarding the relationship between Japan and South Korea, did you discuss about this issue and what’s your advice to the South Korean government?

DEPUTY SECRETARY: Japan and South Korea are our closest partners. The relationship between them obviously matters profoundly to them, but also matters to us and so we want to see that relationship be as strong as possible. They are both great democracies with open economies. They have extraordinary shared interests on the Peninsula, in the region and around the world. And so we want to continue, and we will continue to encourage them to work through some of the difficult issues that they face, and that’s something that we will continue to do in the weeks ahead.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

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