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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 16, 2005
Press Gaggle by Mike Green, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Faryar Shirzad, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs
5:21 P.M. (Local)
MR. GREEN: The President lands tonight in Pusan, the Republic of Korea. And, of course, the APEC leaders meetings will be taking place in Pusan starting the day after tomorrow. But tomorrow, late afternoon, he'll go to Kyunzju, which is the ancient capital of Korea, a very beautiful site, and he'll look at some of the temples and historic sites there with President Roh.
Then they'll have a bilateral meeting to look at a number of issues -- first and foremost, the strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance. The President in his speech today spoke at length about how much the Republic of Korea has accomplished as a free and democratic society and strong economy, and how much the Republic of Korea is doing to bring those same freedoms to other parts of the world. They are the third largest contingent in Iraq; they have forces in Afghanistan. And our alliance is strong in not only defending the Republic of Korea and keeping Asia stable, but in bringing peace and freedom to other parts of the world.
The two Presidents will also monitor implementation of the historic agreement they have to realign our forces on the peninsula. Another big decision President Roh made, frankly, in the face of some considerable domestic opposition, but a decision that's now quite welcome in the Korean public, and that was to move our U.S. forces into more centralized garrisons, bring them down below the Han River, reduce the footprint and the burden on the people of South Korea, but give them a much more effective platform for maintaining peace and stability.
He'll emphasize this is an alliance built on our common values and interests. They'll talk about trade, Doha; and the Korean trade minister has been a strong friend and the Korean government also wants to see a successful Doha round, progress into APEC and then into the Hong Kong ministerial; about our own bilateral economic relations. They will talk about ways to strengthen bilateral coordination on foreign policy, and we'll have more to say about that tomorrow.
And, of course, they'll talk about North Korea. From the beginning, President Roh has made it clear that he finds the presence of any North Korean nuclear weapons unacceptable. And the Republic of Korea has been a key partner in the six-party talks. In September, as you know, we reached an agreement on a statement of principles, that North Korea also signed on to, which lays out a framework in which the North Koreans would have to eliminate all of their nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. But it also involves a broader discussion of steps to not only de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but enhance peace and stability. So these include things like working towards a peace mechanism or a peace treaty to replace the armistice that stopped fighting in the Korean War; addressing other issues of concern - humanitarian issues and so forth. And so they'll talk about how to strengthen implementation of that agreement, keep North Korea on board to eliminate all its nuclear programs as it stated it would in September; and to address the other issues, like how we would build a peace mechanism -- all of it linked, of course, to the de-nuclearization goal.
And then, of course, the next day is APEC, but I want to mostly just talk about what the President is going to be reviewing with President Roh at Kyunzju.
Q Hasn't the South Korean President been a little leery of how hard President Bush has wanted to press North Korea?
MR. GREEN: The President and President Roh have the same objective, which is to improve the lives of the people of the North; to have a verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear programs; to have confidence building measures and mechanisms to replace the armistice that will bring a real reduction in the threat and a lasting peace. It's the same agenda as the agenda that we, the Japanese, the Russians and the Chinese convinced the North Koreans to sign on to in September.
The tone is different sometimes because, of course, for the people of the Republic of Korea the demilitarized zone is right at their doorstep. Seoul is as close to the DMZ and North Korean artillery as the White House is to Dulles Airport. So it's very much a clear and present threat for the people of the Republic of Korea, and the President is fully aware of that. He's talked to President Roh and other Korean leaders about it. And that explains why sometimes you get a slightly different emphasis; but the commitment to the objectives and the South Korean help in getting those objectives put into our September agreement, that's clear.
Q Are there specific -- in terms of South Korea, to improve the Doha round and actually get a successful Doha round?
MR. GREEN: The Koreans have been pretty good, but one of the best things they're going to be able to do is help put together a strong position from the 21-member economies of APEC, since Korea is the chair this year. And I think we're moving towards a positive statement and using the APEC leaders summit to maintain momentum. And the Korean side has been extremely helpful in that.
Q What have they been doing, specifically?
MR. GREEN: Well, as the chair, they put together and bring together all the 21 economies behind one message from this region - which is a region made up overwhelmingly of free trade nations.
Q Mike, when you say the tone is a little different, hasn't South Korea been a little more willing to provide incentives to North Korea before North Korea verifiably completely dismantles its nuclear program?
MR. GREEN: The Republic of Korea has for some time now had a policy of reconciliation with the North. And the President has been clear that he supports North-South reconciliation, because he believes that one of the best ways to make sure you have a lasting peace on the peninsula is for the North to open up and see that they're not threatened by the South, they're not threatened by the U.S.; that the people of South Korea want the people of North Korea to have better lives.
So the objective and process of North-South reconciliation is something the President supports. It includes things that are important humanitarian concerns, like the desire of South Korean citizens to have meetings with their relatives who are still in the North, before they all are gone. So the President understands this is very important for the people of South Korea, and it's in the interest, ultimately, of the region and the U.S. to have this reconciliation.
The two leaders are going to talk about that; they compare notes frequently on developments in the North. President Roh has been clear that the process of North-South reconciliation will move in concert with the process in the six-party talks to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program and address broader issues to bring peace and stability to the peninsula. He'll talk about it; they'll have something to say about it. And the idea is to have close cooperation and coordination so that these two tracks are mutually reinforcing. And that's a message I think both leaders will be conveying together.
Q You're not bending on your insistence that there be no assistance for North Korea before they verifiably dismantle their nuclear program?
MR. GREEN: When it comes to helping the North Korean people, we want to help the North Korean people. And we over the years have given significant humanitarian assistance, when we can be sure it's getting to the people who need it and not being diverted. And we're prepared to keep doing that, provided we have the right monitoring and so forth. The ROK has given a lot of assistance to help the people of North Korea.
So when it's the kind of help that improves the lives of the North Korean people, it's the right thing to do. And we're in constant discussion with the government of the Republic of Korea so that, as I said, their North-South reconciliation policy tracks well with the de-nuclearization objective. And I would point out, for example, that when Unification Minister Chung met with Kim Jong-il, he made it very clear that the de-nuclearization of North Korea was going to be a factor in how North-South talks proceeded. And the government of Seoul has been very consistent about that as they deal with the North. And it used to be that the North would not let the South Korean side bring up things like nuclear weapons, but thanks to the six-party talks, where we have empowered the Republic of Korea and Japan and the neighbors to be full partners in pushing for de-nuclearization, now the North has no choice but to let the South bring up these kind of issues. And that's exactly what we wanted out of these six-party talks, for all of North Korea's neighbors in all of their talks with North Korea to be pushing on the nuclear issue.
Q Could I ask about trade again? What's the objective behind using the APEC forum to - could you explain how APEC is going to play a role in these WTO talks coming up in December? And is the objective here to put some pressure on the Europeans and their agricultural subsidy issue?
MR. SHIRZAD: APEC has had a history of being very forward-leaning and very ambitious on the WTO agenda. They were helpful going into Cancun and coming out of the Cancun ministerial and giving momentum to the WTO talks. It's a region that consists of countries that are very heavily trade dependent. And I think together the APEC economies consist of about half - represent about half of global trade.
And so what APEC can do when it speaks with one voice on an issue like the WTO agenda, is that they represent a significant bloc in the WTO membership. And so when they speak and lay out an agenda of ambition, it's an agenda that the membership at the WTO takes note of and helps drive the negotiating dynamics in a constructive way. And so our hope is - and I think the Koreans have been very helpful this year - is to use this APEC meeting to yet, again, send a signal of ambition, especially as we go into a very sensitive and important time in the WTO talks with the Hong Kong ministerial coming and about a year and two months to go before the self-declared deadline for the talks at the end of 2006.
MR. GREEN: That's a good quote; can I say it was me? (Laughter.)
Q South Korea is the third largest supplier of what in Iraq?
MR. GREEN: It's U.S., UK, South Korea. They're up near Irgil, in that area, and they're also in Afghanistan, by the way. But in Iraq they have - they've had about a brigade-size unit, which is quite significant.
Q Sir, roughly, how many is that?
MR. GREEN: The number has been around 3,600 - but it's moved up and down, I'm not sure exactly where it is. It's over 3,000.
END 5:33 P.M. (Local)