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Obviously what I said yesterday is that I very much look forward to being here in Seoul, South Korea, on the first stop of a three-city visit to North Asia. I started out last night, had an excellent dinner conversation with representatives of the President-elect’s transition team. We talked about all the issues. This morning, I checked in briefly with my very good friend Ambassador Sung Kim, met with General Thurman at U.S. Forces Korea. But the most important meeting I have had so far today was the one I just came from with my excellent friend and colleague and partner Ambassador Lim Sung-nam, and we talked about all aspects of the North Korea issue.
I will go on from here to meet with Vice Minister Kim at the Ministry of Unification, and will finish up my formal meetings by going to the Blue House to meet with Ambassador Chun, and I look forward very much to that. Then off to Beijing tomorrow and Tokyo on Saturday.
As I said at the airport, my visit occurs against the backdrop of the action taken by the United Nations Security Council and the passage of Resolution 2087, which condemns the December 12 launch by North Korea of a three-stage intercontinental-type ballistic missile. It imposes strong sanctions on North Korean companies, agencies, individuals. It strengthens the nonproliferation provisions and increases vigilance with regard to DPRK financial activities. This tough resolution, these tightened sanctions are reasonable, necessary, and justified in the face of the DPRK’s unacceptable violation of its obligations under previous United Nations Security Council actions.
We now call on all UN member states to do their part in implementing the provisions of the resolutions. The sanctions will help to impede the growth of weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea and reduce the threat of proliferation by targeting entities and individuals directly involved in these programs.
I think it is exceedingly important, as I said at the airport, that this was passed by unanimous consent of 16 nations from all corners of the world. And this, of course, follows up the very broad coalition of nations, some 60 countries and international organizations which condemned the launch when it occurred. This broad and growing consensus sends a unified message to Pyongyang. And the message is: “Live up to your obligations. Keep your promises. Start down the path of denuclearization. Keep the commitment you made in 2005 in the Joint Statement of that year. Or you will only further isolate your nation and impoverish your people.”
Now, you know all of that already. Ambassador Susan Rice, my colleague in New York at UN headquarters, went into detail about the resolutions, so I will not say anything further about that at this moment.
Why am I here? Why am I here with Syd Seiler of the White House staff and colleagues from the State Department? Because we want to reinforce a message that our President and Secretary of State have sent. That message is that we, the United States of America, are still open to authentic and credible negotiations to implement the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. We are willing to extend our hand if Pyongyang chooses the path of peace and progress by letting go of its nuclear weapons and its multi-stage missiles. If North Korea comes into compliance with Security Council resolutions and takes irreversible steps leading to denuclearization, the United States said we believe our other partners in the Six-Party process will do the hard work with the DPRK of finding a peaceful way forward.
So our mission, starting here in Seoul, is to explore ideas for how we might move forward, how might we achieve authentic and credible negotiations. It is very much up to Pyongyang to decide. And here in Seoul especially, we want to stress one key point: Without sustained improvement in inter-Korean relations, U.S.-DPRK ties cannot fundamentally improve. This is why our talks here in Seoul are so important to us. Our alliance with the ROK is strong. It is getting stronger. We look forward with great anticipation to deepening our ties under this vibrant democracy’s new president.
With that, let me go to your questions very quickly before I think we have to clear out.
QUESTION: Ambassador, is the U.S. and South Korea going to impose its own additional sanctions on North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I think the first step we take, certainly on the part of the United States, will be to implement the provisions of the sanctions contained in the resolution just passed by the United Nations Security Council. We will do that, and then we will take a look at what further steps might be necessary. And of course I cannot speak for the Republic of Korea. It is up to the government here in Seoul to make that decision for themselves.
QUESTION: Will these authentic and credible negotiations be unconditional, that they won’t be conditioned on denuclearization? Following North Korean Foreign Ministry statement yesterday, how does this, you know, willingness to continue dialogue fit in?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, our policy toward North Korea has been the same for a while now. It has been a dual-track policy of engagement when possible, pressure when necessary. We are, of course, in a bit of a pressure phase. But I am here because my role in this as a diplomat representing the United States is to try always creatively to look for ways forward. And we are interested, as we have been all along, as we demonstrated back in 2011 and 2012 through our 10-month effort to talk to North Korea, always interested in trying to find ways forward diplomatically with the North. I think that that has to be ultimately a multilateral process going forward.
So, I am not going to get into conditionality for any diplomatic process going forward. There are obvious things that you know well about. Further provocations are not going to help the process forward. They would only retard it, make it much more difficult for us to engage. It is very important, I stressed this in my statement at the beginning, very important that North-South relations improve, and that is very much up to Pyongyang to accept any overtures it receives, not to further provoke South Korea. So all of these strictures remain in place. All of these conditions remain in place, but beyond that, it does not serve any interest for me to go into further negotiating with North Korea through my discussion here with you today.
QUESTION: What’s your prospect about North Korea’s nuclear test?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I addressed this at the airport yesterday. Whether North Korea tests or not is up to North Korea. We hope they do not do it. We call on them not to do it. It would be a mistake and a missed opportunity if they were to do it. This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula. This is a moment to seize the opportunity that has been out there with the new government in Seoul, with the renewal of the mandate of the President of the United States, who has always been interested in finding diplomatic ways forward. This is an opportunity to try to find a way forward in that respect.
So, that is why I am here to emphasize that particular point. Last question.
QUESTION: Can the U.S. government confirm that North Korea is indeed ready for a nuclear test? Because there are reports in South Korea that they are waiting on the political decision.
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: All of you want to write articles about nuclear tests. And you all want to talk about how this is something that North Korea could do in reaction to steps that we take and all of the rest of it. Again, these underground tests, it is not for me to predict whether they will test or not. We hope they do not. We call on them not to do it. It would be highly provocative. It would set back the cause of trying to find a solution to these long-standing problems that have prevented the peninsula from becoming reunited. I think it is very important that they do not test. And I hope you will forgive me, but I am not going to get into talking about what is happening at Punggye, or what is not happening at Punggye, will they test, won’t they test. My point is a diplomatic point, that testing a nuclear device would be a supremely unhelpful and retrograde step by North Korea, were they to choose to do it.
Anyway, I have got to go. I think you have your president coming down. I want to get out of his way. Thank you all very much. This has been my pleasure. I hope to see you all again soon. Thank you.