Joint Press Conference of Secretary Pompeo, ROK FM Kang and Japanese FM Kono

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Seoul, South Korea

[View Video: 2’34”]

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to now begin the Korea, U.S., and Japan Foreign Ministers Meeting joint press conference. Today, we have been joined by the Minister Kang Kyung-wha, the Secretary Pompeo, and Foreign Minister Kono. They will speak for five minutes. And as was consulted previously, Minister Kang is going to speak in the Korean language – the English language.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press from Korea, from the U.S., from Japan, I also think. It is my great pleasure and honor to welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Mike Pompeo and my Japanese counterpart the Foreign Minister Taro Kono here in Seoul.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to Secretary Pompeo for coming to Seoul right after the historic summit meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea on June 12th in Singapore. This is also Secretary Pompeo’s first visit to Seoul as Secretary of State. So welcome, Mr. Secretary. Your presence here today demonstrates better than anything how closely we work together to strengthen our alliance and to achieve our shared goals.

I would also like to convey my deep gratitude to Minister Kono for maintaining close coordination for the success of the U.S.-DPRK summit, and it’s very good to have him here back in Seoul so soon after his visit in April.

During the meeting today, Secretary Pompeo briefed us on the outcome of the June 12th U.S.-DPRK summit. I congratulated him and President Trump for the success of the summit, which will be recorded as a historic turning point towards completely ridding the Korean Peninsula of the last remnant of the Korean War, resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, and securing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The following are the key points of our meeting today.

First, on the U.S.-DPRK summit, the three of us welcomed the adoption of the joint statement in Singapore where Chairman Kim reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the peninsula, while President Trump committed to provide North Korea with the security guarantees. This is the first time that the highest authority of North Korea promised the President of the United States to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which we believe has bolstered the political momentum for action to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

Secondly, we shared our understanding that the June 12th summit is not the end but a new beginning towards a denuclearized and peaceful Korean Peninsula. In this regard, it is our shared expectation to see substantial progress in the denuclearization process through follow-up negotiations building upon the outcome of the U.S.-DPRK summit. We also hope that this process will spell out a more concrete picture of a brighter and more prosperous future for North Korea.

Thirdly, the three of us agreed that we would not have been here where – here where we are today without the close cooperation of our leaders, especially the frequent and close communication and the trust forged between President Moon and President Trump have been the driving force that has led to the summit in Singapore and ensured its success.

In this regard, I look forward to continuing the no-daylight cooperation and consultation with Secretary Pompeo as well as Minister Kono towards the complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We will continue our close cooperation with other neighboring countries as well, as well as our friends and supporters of the international community.

And lastly, Secretary Pompeo and I reaffirmed that the ROK-U.S. alliance, which celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, is robust as ever, that the United States forces in Korea has played and will continue to play a crucial role for deterrence and peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

In conclusion, let me say how grateful I am to Secretary Pompeo and Minister Kono for the fruitful exchanges of views today. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Now I would like to invite Secretary Pompeo to make a statement.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s truly an honor to be here in Seoul standing with Foreign Minister Kang and Foreign Minister Kono. It is an incredibly pivotal moment in history following on the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un. The trilateral cooperation among the United States, South Korea, and Japan has been crucial to the effectiveness regarding our efforts regarding – regarding our efforts related to the denuclearization of North Korea, and it was certainly key to our opportunity for the summit in Singapore.

The discussions we held today amongst the three of us reflect our three countries’ commitment to continue working together towards the ultimate success of this effort. Today, the foreign minister and I discussed the outcome of President Trump’s summit with Chairman Kim Jong-un and the importance of staying closely coordinated throughout the entire process of denuclearization.

The President’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un two days ago does indeed mark a turning point in the U.S.-North Korea relationship. Kim Jong-un’s public commitment to completely denuclearize is an important step towards bringing lasting peace and stability to Northeast Asia and indeed to the entire world.

As the President said, this will be a process and not an easy one. Staying closely aligned with our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, will be critical to the success of that outcome. The world should rest assured that the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan remain committed to achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. The U.S. alliances with these two countries are absolutely ironclad. Minister Kang and Minister Kono and I have developed a close friendship, and together we will continue to closely coordinate with respect to North Korea as we move forward together.

President Trump has also made it clear that if Kim Jong-un denuclearizes, there is a bright future for North Korea and its people. He outlined that vision beautifully here in Seoul when he spoke at the national assembly last November. We envision a strong, connected, secure, and prosperous North Korea that is fully integrated within the community of nations. Kim Jong-un indicated in Singapore that he shared that vision. We are eager to see him take the next steps to achieve it because the United States is ready for a new chapter in our history. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. Now we would like to invite Foreign Minister Kono to begin his opening statement.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Minister Kang Kyung-wha for hosting this trilateral foreign ministers meeting immediately after the first U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore. This is the first trilateral meeting since Secretary Mike Pompeo assumed the current position. Minister Kang and I are pleased to welcome Secretary Pompeo to join us.

Today I will also like to thank Secretary Pompeo for providing us with a timely and firsthand briefing of the summit meeting where Chairman Kim Jong-un committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Taking this opportunity, I will like to express my heartfelt respect for the strong leadership of President Trump and hard work by Secretary Pompeo. This is only the beginning of a challenging yet significant process to achieve our common goal – peace and stability in the region and beyond through North Korea’s complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges.

Following Secretary Pompeo’s briefing, we had a frank discussion on how we urge North Korea to take concrete actions toward the full implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions based on the outcome of the summit. We all reaffirmed that the three countries continue our joint effort to this end.

With regard to security guarantees to North Korea, in the joint statement North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while the United States is committed to provide the security guarantee to North Korea. We understand that the United States will advance the discussion on provision of security guarantees while carefully monitoring whether North Korea takes concrete steps to fulfill its commitment to denuclearization. And we also know that no security guarantees have been given yet.

In addition, concerning U.S.-ROK exercise, we believe that the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as the deterrents based on them play an essential role in security in the Northeast Asia. With regard to the pause in U.S.-ROK exercise, the detail will be discussed between the United States and ROK. In any case, we understand that any pause in exercise is contingent upon DPRK action towards denuclearization.

We also understand that United States maintains its commitment to defend allies and Japan-U.S. security commitment, and U.S. forces in Japan posture remain unchanged. In any case, we would like to maintain close contact with them since these issues may also affect the security of Japan and the region.

Japan continues to seek to normalize its relations with North Korea in accordance with Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration through complete comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern such as nuclear missile and abductees issues as well as through the settlement of unfortunate past. Japan will continue to play an important role in realizing peace and stability in Northeast Asia in close coordination with the United States and ROK. I am looking forward to further working with both Secretary Pompeo and Minister Kang Kyung-wha in the future. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Foreign Minister Kono. We’d like to now invite questions from the members of the media corps. Given the time constraints, we would like to invite just one journalist from each country, the three countries, to pose questions to the foreign ministers.

First, (inaudible) of the Chosun Daily. And please, (inaudible) the foreign minister that you would like to receive the answer from.

QUESTION: So representing the Korean media, I’d like to pose a question. My name is (inaudible) that the Korean journalists have one question each for the foreign ministers, the first of Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Trump – President Trump has mentioned of the postponement of the joint military exercise and possible withdrawal of the U.S. troops in Korea. Has this been coordinated previously with the Korean Government? Then, and if not, I’d like to know if this refers to the all-out exercises or part of the joint exercises. And with regards to Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the joint military exercise which is scheduled for August, there is a report by the CNN that this will be announced on the 14th of June with regards to this Ulchi Freedom exercise.

(In English.) My second question is for Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, joint statement signed in Singapore lacks many details which were included in previous agreements with North Korea. For example, 26 years ago in South-North agreement in 1992, North Korea pledged it’s not to produce, maintain, use any nuclear weapons. And they also agreed not to have uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing facilities. And 13 years ago in 2005 in joint statements generated from Six-Party Talks, they agreed to verifiable denuclearization and promised to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

And President Trump and you have mentioned so many times the U.S. would not repeat past mistakes, but how can you believe North Korea’s sincerity when they refuse to clarify the specific timeline and measures of denuclearization in a written form? So do you believe North Korea because North Korea mentioned some initial steps including the closure of missile engine testing sites? And how can you be sure you’re not repeating past mistakes or even making worse mistakes by allowing North Korea continue endless negotiations and try to run out the clock? And do you have specific measures in mind to verify North Korea’s denuclearization?

(Via interpreter.) The last question is to Minister Kono. And it has been reported that Japan and North Korea a summit meeting may be held. If there are no progress seen heretofore for the nuclear, missile or abduction issues, do you plan to also forge ahead for the summit?

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: (Via interpreter) The question posed to me, I’d like to provide you an answer. With regards to President Trump’s statement, he has held in-depth discussions with Chairman Kim Jong-un, and President Kim has made a statement after that meeting, and I think it is to strengthen the momentum that has been created between the two sides. That’s my interpretation.

With regards to the Korea-U.S. joint military exercise, this is an issue that involves the Korea-U.S. alliance, and this regards consultations between the military authorities of the two countries, Korea and the United States, and it will be the case in the future as well. I believe that the issue of KORUS alliance is basically we have the preconditions that we would like to maintain an ironclad posture, defense postures, as an alliance. And between the three ministers this issue has not been discussed in depth, and I believe that this is an issue to be further consulted and coordinated between the military authorities of Korea and the United States.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me – you asked several questions there. Let me try and address them comprehensively. Three things that are worth mentioning.

First, there is not any difference between the three ministers and our leaders up here with respect to how we are going to address the denuclearization of North Korea. The agreement that was signed made very clear that this would be the complete denuclearization and made express reference and incorporated into that the very well-done document, the Panmunjom Declaration, which itself incorporates all previous agreements between inter-Korean agreements. I think that’s important as we come to understand the agreement that was signed between the United States and North Korea.

What happened in Singapore created an enormous opportunity, and when we refer to the mistakes of the past they were providing economic and financial relief before the complete denuclearization had taken place. That is not going to happen. President Trump made that clear not only in his press conference, but made it clear when he was with Chairman Kim Jong-un himself, that the sequence will be different this time. That’s important. It is central to the understanding.

You suggested that there was some risk that the clock would run out and that they would delay. We believe that Chairman Kim Jong-un understands the urgency of the timing of completing this denuclearization, that he understands that we must do this quickly, and that sanctions relief – we should recall these are UN sanctions – that sanctions relief cannot take place until such time as we have demonstrated that North Korea has been completely denuclearized.

The summit created this enormous historic opportunity for us to move forward together and fundamentally reshape the relationship between the United States and North Korea. Verification is central to that. Complete denuclearization certainly encompasses that idea very clearly. And I know each of the three of us leaders here today are tasked with making sure that we implement that in a way that is as quick and as complete as we can achieve over the coming days and weeks.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) For Japanese Government’s position is as stated in Japan-DPRK Pyongyang declaration that we need to have comprehensive solution of the nuclear, missile, and abduction issues and to normalize our diplomatic relations, and then to provide economic assistance to North Korea, and our position is not changed in this regard.

And through various channels the communication between North Korea and Japan has been continued, but for the prime ministers to have a direct dialogue with North Korea it is not just having dialogue for dialogue purposes, but we need to seek the dialogue which would lead to solutions of these issues. That should be the aim and purpose of the summit. We would like to closely work with Republic of Korea and United States and also to work closely with the international community so that firmly we will be able to seek the efforts between Japan and North Korea for the abduction issue. But at this point in time, to have any direct high-level dialogue has not been planned at all between North Korea and Japan.

MODERATOR: Next question we’ll give chance to Josh from AP.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Secretary Pompeo, President Trump, just after returning to Washington, said people can sleep well tonight because there’s, quote, “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” Isn’t that premature when North Korea has just as many nuclear weapons today as it did a week ago? And do you understand why that might make your allies nervous that the Trump administration is too trusting of Kim Jong-un?

And to Ministers Kono and Kang, have you received any assurances from Pompeo that the KCNA report is false, that the U.S. has not agreed to a phased approach where concessions are made before denuclearization is complete? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I’ll take both questions. Foreign Minister Kang obviously can answer for herself, but let me be very blunt. President Trump has been incredibly clear about the sequencing of denuclearizations and relief from the sanctions. He has been – he said this from the very beginning, he said it again to Chairman Kim, and he said it in his press conference following – following his meeting with Chairman Kim.

With respect to your first question, the one that was actually directed to me —

QUESTION: Can you tell us what that sequencing is then since —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I just did. I just did. We’re going to get complete denuclearization; only then will there be relief from the sanctions.

With respect to your first question, what the President was speaking to there is the moment that we had in Singapore, the moment where for the first time an American leader sat down, a sitting American president sat down with the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and had a blunt conversation about the changes that would need to be undertaken in order for North Korea to rejoin the community of nations.

When he talked about the reduction in threat that followed from that, it was with eyes wide open. He said this in his press conference. It could be the case that our effort will not work, but we are determined to set the conditions so that we can right this failure of decades and reset the conditions for North Koreans – for North Korea’s participation in the community of nations.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Thank you. I am absolutely assured of our shared goal, our shared approach, and how we will proceed to reach complete denuclearization. I have been assured of that from day one working with Mr. Pompeo, and so I didn’t need an additional assurance today. This is a fundamental basis, a premise that we work together on.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: Sequence has been clear and confirmed since meeting with Secretary Pompeo, first meeting with him in a month right after he assumed the position, so there’s no doubt about it between U.S. and Japan.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Now we invite journalists from Japan. (Inaudible) is from the Jiji Press. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is (inaudible) from Jiji Press. I would like to raise a question on the abduction issue of the Japanese. At the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, how was the question raised? And this is to Secretary Pompeo. And what was the response from North Korea? And if you could also share with us your impression of their communication.

And based upon this, I would also like to ask Minister Kono: Prime Minister Abe is showing his willingness to have a direct dialogue with North Korea based upon the results of the U.S.-North Korea summit. How will Japan proceed going forward?

To Minister Kang, how will Korean Government work with Japan on this issue?

SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump indeed raised this issue. He raised it on more than one occasion. He has spoken at some length. I remember sitting in the Rose Garden when Prime Minister Abe and the President were both there. The President could not have been more clear about his expectations with respect to North Korea’s obligations for the return of the abductees. He has been unequivocal. He’s been very clear. He was so with Chairman Kim as well.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: Could I just add, because my answer is also pretty much the same.

(Via interpreter) President Moon Jae-in has raised this issue to Chairman Kim Jong-un himself between Japan and the DPRK at bilateral level. President Moon has urged that the two sides come together for a resolution of this issue.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) Prime Minister Abe is saying that in his own responsibility that he is indicating his willingness to bring solution to this issue. Through various channels and routes a dialogue has been held between Japan and North Korea. But as I have said earlier, it is not that the solution will be brought about if the leaders meet. We need to have a summit meeting which would definitely lead to solution of the issue. So towards that direction we will be making the various coordination and adjustments going forward.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This concludes the joint press conference. Once again, the press representatives and also the three minister, thank you very much.