AMBASSADOR DAVIES: What I would like to do very much – first of all, let me thank you all for coming out. I appreciate that very much. I would like to say something at the beginning since it’s been a long visit here to North Asia and I’ve had good talks in Tokyo. First of all, I want to thank Director General Ihara and Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanehara for giving me so much time today here in Tokyo. We had very in-depth and useful talks, and I believe that our visit here today and the talks I’ve had in Tokyo today demonstrate our close collaboration on North Korea.
We talked of course about the nuclear issue. Japan and the United States are in complete agreement, complete sync about that. We also talked about North Korean human rights – we’ll do more of that in a minute at lunch – and touched on the abductions issue. And we’ll again have more to say about that at lunch. I want to reiterate again, as I always do here in Tokyo, about how we in the United States share the pain and the suffering of abductee families and the Japanese people and pledge once again that we will work tirelessly in cooperation with Japan to try to resolve this important matter.
But as I wrap up a very productive week in the three key North Asian capitals – Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo – I want to report a strong convergence of views on North Korea. All of us are in quite close alignment, and I believe Russia, an essential partner in the Six-Party process, agrees that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. There are of course some differences among the five – but not at all among the three allies, who are in complete solidarity – but some differences over secondary issues such as the precise threshold or timing of talks, but there is unanimity on what North Korea must do: North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons and agree to begin that process.
So we are looking for concrete indications from Pyongyang of its commitment to do that. This is because the core purpose of the Six-Party process is the complete, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on a clear and quick timetable.
North Korea, however, is moving in the opposite direction. They have made clear through words and actions that they reject that premise. We have heard them say repeatedly that instead they demand acceptance as a nuclear weapons state, that they demand prior lifting of sanctions, that they demand a weakening of the U.S.-ROK alliance, which has kept the peace on the Korean Peninsula now for 60 years. I’ve spoken – I did so in Beijing – about North Korea’s “Byungjin” policy of prioritizing nuclear weapons development, which I call a dead end.
I also want to underscore that Pyongyang’s attempts to engage in dialogue while keeping its program running are completely unacceptable. So it’s understandable, we believe, after so many broken promises, after the nuclear and missile tests, the threats against its neighbors and the United States, that not just its negotiating partners in the Six-Party process, but the international community writ large would have high standards of evidence to measure North Korean intentions.
That’s why the United States and its allies call on North Korea to make convincing indications, take concrete steps to demonstrate its seriousness of purpose. We will continue this process of joining with our partners – especially China, given its unique role – to keep the onus for action on North Korea.
With that, I’m very happy to take any questions that you have.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific about what is the concrete step you want North Korea to take?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, this is now a matter of diplomatic discussion among the diplomatic partners in the five-party process, so I don’t want to go into a great deal of detail now. We’re talking about this between governments. We commend China for its tireless efforts to try to move forward on this discussion of what the appropriate threshold for Six-Party Talks would look like. My friend and colleague Ambassador Wu Dawei was just in Washington, some weeks ago, and we had the opportunity there to talk about it, and of course I followed up in Beijing on that same subject. And of course the discussions we had in Washington with separately the ROK and Japan, and then we had a trilateral session, and then again out here in the region – all are meant to define to our collective satisfaction what the threshold for talks should look like. So with your permission I do not plan at this stage to go into a great deal of detail about it.
The North Koreans know full well the kinds of things that we are looking for and talking about. We’ve been at this diplomacy now for a generation, through bilateral talks, trilateral talks, quadrilateral talks and Six-Party Talks, and we’ll keep it up.
QUESTION: Ambassador Davies, what is the U.S. currently doing to pull its citizen out of North Korea, and did you discuss it with the allies?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Of course. This issue of the fate of American citizens who are in North Korean custody is one that we’ve raised – that I’ve raised at each stop, but particularly in Beijing, given their relationship with North Korea. I’m not going to get into, again, the specific discussion of the measures that we’re taking, but I will use this occasion to once again call on North Korea to make the right decision and to respect our concerns and let American citizens who are there go free. I also want to commend our Swedish protecting power. The Government of Sweden has been magnificent in trying every day to work on these issues in Pyongyang with the North Korean government, and that is very important. It is very important to us that this be resolved, that it be resolved quickly.
QUESTION: There have been reports that it is Mr. Newman who has been detained. Can you confirm that identity?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I’m not at liberty to do that. We have a law that we take very seriously in the United States called the Privacy Act, and because there is no signed Privacy Act waiver, I’m not in position to speak specifically about that issue, out of respect for the law.
QUESTION: Ambassador, your opening remark was very strong, and it comes obviously after the deal with Iran. Is the United States ready to deepen the sanctions, to make the sanctions more strict, to make them more effective?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, look, I’m glad you raised that. I actually – since I knew you’d raise the issue of Iran, and this gives me an occasion to talk about it, so let me say some general things about that, since I know it’s the topic of the moment. Other than the nuclear denominator, the cases could not be more different, frankly, between Iran and North Korea. The two states, simply put, are on opposite sides of the nuclear weapons divide. I would point you to the remarks just made by Secretary of State Kerry. He pointed out that there is the very significant difference on the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons that, as I think many of you know, North Korea is the only nation on earth to have first signed that treaty and then renounced its signature. Iran is a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. Also North Korea has said repeatedly, with increasing frequency, has asserted that it is a nuclear weapons state. They have now placed provisions in their constitution to enshrine that. They’ve sought acceptance as a nuclear weapons state. Iran in contrast has pledged not to build nuclear weapons.
But the starkest contrast of all – and I think this is the most important point to make – is that in the 21st century, North Korea is the only nation on earth that has exploded nuclear devices. They’ve done it not once, not twice, but three times.
There are other differences between the two cases. North Korea walked away from its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, the agency where I spent several years representing the United States, that is now under the direction of Director General Yukiya Amano. Iran is and has always been a very active and engaged member of the IAEA although we have often had differences with them in the past. I would also remind that I’ve alluded to this before, that North Korea has elevated the pursuit of nuclear weapons to one of its two strategic priorities in its “Byungjin” policy that I spoke to a minute ago.
One way the cases are similar – and I think this is very important – is that pressure, particularly in the form of sanctions, do play a critical role. Sanctions helped convince Iran to agree to this interim deal that’s just been announced. We believe sanctions and pressure are key to sharpening the choices that Pyongyang faces. So given North Korea’s continued flouting of its international obligations and international law, given its testing of nuclear devices, given its repeated threats of nuclear attack, its elevation of its nuclear weapons program pursuit to its highest national priority, we will continue to keep pressure on North Korea, to keep the screws to North Korea.
But it’s pressure not for its own sake; it’s pressure with a purpose, and this is important because what we seek is a negotiated, diplomatic solution to this long-running problem. Here we believe we are making progress with our partners to define an appropriate threshold for resumed multilateral talks, and we will keep that up.
QUESTION: There have been many rumors that the two countries, Iran and North Korea, have been cooperating on nuclear programs. How do you address these concerns?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, proliferation is a concern. It’s a big concern, and it’s something that we work on every day and about which we have conversations with our partners. I’m not going to get into what we do or don’t know about the state of affairs between North Korea and Iran. That would dip into intelligence matters which I can’t comment on, but this issue of proliferation of the spread of nuclear technologies, in particular from North Korea, remains an area of key concern to us, and of vigorous action.
QUESTION: Ambassador, regarding the sanctions, are you suggesting that we don’t have the right level or the right mix as we stand?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sanctions are always a work in progress. I mean, I think that there are always more sanctions we could put in place if needed. But what I want to put the emphasis on here is what I said at the end of my earlier remarks, that we want the sanctions to help clarify for Pyongyang the choices that they face. If they continue to defy the international community, pursue nuclear weapons and missile technologies, all they will do is continue to isolate themselves, quite frankly to impoverish their people, to keep North Korea outside the community of nations. So we’re saying to North Korea – and we’re doing this increasingly with one voice across not just the six parties, not just the northeast Asian region, but across the world – take a different approach; take a different decision; come in the direction of the concerns of the international community; give up your nuclear weapons; pledge to eliminate your nuclear program; stop this relentless pursuit of these technologies; stop threatening the outside world, testing weapons and declaring yourself at odds with the international community.
If you do that, there is hope going forward for diplomacy, but we’ve seen just the opposite. I’ve detailed that. I won’t go back into that. And that’s why we’re so concerned, that North Korea seems uninterested in meeting the concerns of the international community, and that’s where pressure and sanctions come into play. And so we will keep the pressure on North Korea, and if necessary if they cannot in the near term go in a different direction, we’ll have to ramp up that pressure in order to continue to try to bring home to them that this is a mistake, it’s not in their interest, and that if they wish a better relationship with the United States, their neighbors in the world, they have to give up the nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: What is the latest (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I’ve talked about this before. I actually talked about it at length in Beijing, and I don’t want to really repeat myself. What I said was that it remains a matter of some wonderment that they haven’t understood that if, as they say, they want a better relationship with the United States, one thing they could do is release these Americans and answer our calls to take seriously our concerns about the fate of those being held there. And you know Kenneth Bae has been there for over a year. He’s been in North Korean custody longer than any American in quite a while. His family is understandably concerned. We talk to them frequently. They are keeping their hope up, and I believe that’s the case with the family of the other individual concerned. And we want them to know that we’re with them, and we’re doing everything we can to convince North Korea to let these men go.
QUESTION: The current level of sanctions hasn’t quite persuaded North Korea to think as you suggested. Is it time for a different tactic?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, that time will come soon, but we’re not there yet. There’s still room for diplomacy. We’d like to get something going here, and that’s why the pace of diplomacy has increased, to see if we can’t agree on an appropriate threshold for Six-Party Talks. But at the same time, we keep up our pressure. We keep up our sanctions, and if we do not see signs of North Korean sincerity, if they do not act to demonstrate that they understand they must fulfill their obligations to give up their nuclear weapons, then there is more pressure that will be brought to bear on them.
QUESTION: Did you give them a deadline?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: You know, I’m not in the business of giving deadlines. I’m not going to do that. Let me – if there’s one more question, I’m happy to take it, but I’ve been invited to lunch by Director General Ihara, and I would not like to be rude. I want to show up for that lunch, so any other questions here? No? Excellent. Thank you very much for coming here and listening to me. I really appreciate it. I look forward to seeing many of you in the near future either in Washington or back here in Tokyo. Thanks again. All the best.