Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official and Senior Administration Official
Seoul, South Korea
April 11, 2013


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you very much, everyone. I hope the trip’s been good so far. You’re going to the most exciting part of the trip. (Laughter.) I mean that. And I wanted to give you all a little bit of background on what we want to do, where we’re going, and how Senator Kerry – or Secretary Kerry, I’m sorry – sees the trip. You’re going at a very interesting time. We’ll be going, of course, to Seoul. We’ll be there in about 14, 15 hours. We’re going to spend one night there, thereafter go on to Beijing, spend another night there, and on Sunday, we’ll be in Tokyo.

To me, the most interesting part is the kind of interaction that Secretary Kerry will have with the leadership in all three countries. As you know, they have a new leadership in every one of them. It’s actually quite interesting. We have Park Geun-hye, of course, in Korea, the first woman president, I think, in all of Northeast Asia. And of course, also just chosen is Xi Jinping, leader in – President in China, and of course, Prime Minister Abe.

Another interesting common thing they have in common is they were all born around the same time. They’re all late 50s. I don’t think any one of them is 60 yet. And another thing they all have in common is they’re all second-generation politicians. Their parents – in Park Geun-hye’s case of course, her father is a famous Korean President, Park Chung-hee. And of course, Xi Jinping’s father was a very well-known leader in the Politburo Standing Committee, and well-known Communist Party leader in China. And Abe’s father was foreign minister. His grandfather on the mother’s side was prime minister. So we do have a generation of leaders who are used to dealing, at least observing, how power is exercised, how decisions are made. And of course, this is really the first time that we are engaging all three of them, any senior USG official is engaging all three of them in the same trip.

And Senator Kerry – I’m sorry, Secretary Kerry, actually – he’s a very well-known quantity in Asia. He has a rich history in Asia, of course, in Vietnam, where he was instrumental, I would say, in normalizing U.S.-Vietnamese relations. And similarly, he worked hard very recently in Burma for us to reengage when he was senator. And he has a long history also with Philippines, where he was very active during the end of Marcos era, beginning of the democracy there. He has also been very active in Cambodian issues. I don't know whether you know, but the current Cambodian Khmer Rouge tribunal was something we worked very, very hard about – I would say about 15 years ago. It took a long time getting this unique tribunal set up, which would make trials. And it’s still ongoing, some of the genocide events that took place during Khmer Rouge. And it was also active, quite active, in Indonesia at the end of Suharto era. So there is a rich history.

I would say there are three themes that I know set the Secretary (inaudible). One is, of course, on North Korea. U.S. witnessed many aspects of the recent missile crisis as well as nuclear tests.

QUESTION: You need to speak up.

MODERATOR: Hold it a little closer.

QUESTION: Sorry.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Nuclear tests. And also, it seems quite clear that they’re preparing at least for another missile test. So for the Secretary, it will be very important, number one, to show to our allies that – in Tokyo and in Seoul, that we are prepared and that alliance matters, that we will defend them, and also the preparation will be on both sides. On the ally side, they are preparing, and so we are ready and well-prepared. And in Beijing also, he will really want to convey that we cannot (inaudible) denuclearization. We must agree on denuclearization, that any engagement must be done based on the agreements that North Korea’s made, specifically the 2005 Joint Statement, as well as, of course, the commitment that all of the UN has made in various UN Security Council resolutions.

There will be other security issues he will want to deal with. Clearly, with the allies, there is what I would call alliance management issues, and alliance modernization issues. In Korea, he will want to discuss, for example, the move from downtown Seoul to south of the Han River we call the Yongsan relocation program. In Japan, of course, he will want to get the latest of what is happening in Okinawa in terms of the Futenma replacement facility. So those alliance management issues are very much part of, I would say, our security aspects of this trip.

Other aspects of security will include energy security. Certainly, that will be a big issue, energy security. Certainly, that will be a big issue in all three stops, probably especially so in China, because there is – they have a big challenge in terms of climate change, clean energy. So we will really want to forward especially clean energy agenda with China. Another security issue is clearly cyber security issues. This is spread throughout the region, and this will be high on our agenda with the Chinese.

Beyond security issues, there are really most of what I call global issues. How do we work in the region, both bilaterally and multilaterally? How do we play – deal within multilateral forums like ASEAN, ARF? The Secretary will be going to ARF meetings that will be held in Brunei in June. How – what should we do with our ARF agenda? What to do about a lot of maritime security issues, including various claims in South China Sea and so on?

Lastly, I would also emphasize economic agenda. This year, this – in Korea, we will be celebrating one year of U.S.-ROK Free Trade Agreement. And we’ve seen a lot of gains in them. In Japan, as you know, the Japanese Prime Minister Abe has indicated that he would like to plan to join TPP. So that’s the (inaudible) for them too. And in China, of course, we have a host of issues dealing with bilateral economic issues as well as what we do in multilateral forums with Chinese economic issue.

So with that, let me ask my colleague --

MODERATOR: Senior Administration Official Number Two.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- [Senior Administration Official] to give a few comments.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I’d like to add one point about timing. I think that the timing of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Asia is hugely important for a couple of reasons. First of all, we’re entering a new stage both in terms of new leadership in Northeast Asia, as my colleague described, but also entering the second term of the Obama Administration, a new approach to the Asia Pacific region from a very, very strong vantage point. The heavy investment that the President made over the course of the past four years in what he describes as just strategic priority, namely America’s focus on an engagement in the Asia Pacific region, has bolstered our credibility, bolstered our influence, and set the stage for Secretary Kerry to begin the interactive process of sketching out a common vision for what we can achieve together over the next four years. And I think there is both, a warm welcome and a profound interest in the opportunity to hear from him and to exchange views in each of the three stops.

The second timing issue that I think makes this so important is that in each of the three capitals he will visit, the new leaders have had an opportunity to get their feet under them and to begin the process of organizing themselves for the policy priorities that face them. So the President of Korea was inaugurated in late February, has sent her Foreign Minister already to Washington for close consultations with the Secretary, and is preparing to visit the United States next month. And so the discussions that she and her minister will have with Secretary Kerry will be very informative and, frankly, dispositive in terms of what we will get done.

In China, the leadership has completed its 18th Party Congress and has put in place government officials responsible for foreign policy and national security who are now ready to engage directly with Secretary Kerry. These senior officials are well-known to us. There has been a high-level and intense dialogue between Washington and Beijing, which is continuing, and President Obama was very clear in conveying on his telephone call to President Xi Jinping that Secretary Kerry would be visiting to begin a deeper conversation about how the two countries can work together across a range of global, regional, bilateral issues.

And then in Japan, Secretary Kerry participated in the President’s meetings with Prime Minister Abe. He’s held several sessions already with the new Japanese Foreign Minister, and he will have an opportunity in Tokyo, with both of them, to pick up on some of the themes that have been struck and to map out a program of work for the alliance in the path ahead.



PRN: 2013/ T03-10

[This is a mobile copy of Background Briefing En Route Seoul, Korea]