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Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Press Conference with Japanese Vice FM and ROK First Vice FM
October 26, 2022


VFM Mori:  Thank you.  It is a great pleasure to welcome U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyundong to Tokyo and to have the Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea vice ministers meeting.

The security environment is becoming rapidly more severe.  Against that backdrop, the trilateral cooperation is ever more important, not only in terms of response to North Korea, but also for peace and stability of the region and the international community and to realize free and open Indo-Pacific.

In June this year the trilateral summit meeting was held also on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.  In September trilateral foreign ministers meeting was held.  It was most meaningful that immediately afterwards we were able to hold this vice ministers meeting today and have a frank and strategic discussion about regional issues such as the response to North Korea, which is increasing its nuclear missile activities, the Ukrainian situation, and the regional situation pertaining to China and the Pacific Rim countries, and other common issues such as economic security and climate change.

At this meeting, with regard to North Korea, we once again renewed our shared recognition that North Korea is intensifying its nuclear missile activities, including the extremely frequent ballistic missile launches, representing a clear and serious challenge to the international community.

In this regard we agreed to further strengthen the deterrence and the response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance and the U.S.-Korea alliance, as well as to further promote the trilateral security cooperation.  Bearing in mind the possibility of further provocation, including nuclear tests going forward towards the complete denuclearization of North Korea, we agreed on closer coordination from the standpoint of strengthening regional deterrence as well as in terms of response in the United Nations, including the Security Council and diplomatic efforts.

Now with regard to the issue of abduction, I requested continued understanding and cooperation, received full support from my two colleagues.  I would like to thank you both for your kind support.

With regard to Russian aggression against Ukraine, we once again firmly condemned this act as an act which threatens the very foundation of international order that includes not only Europe but Asia as well.  Russia implying the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine represents a grave situation.  I stressed that we should not neglect the possible history where nuclear tests for nuclear weapons have not been used for 77 years, and we should understand that use as well as threat to use nuclear weapons by Russia are unacceptable.

We confirmed that false claims made by Russia that Ukraine was preparing for the use of dirty bombs cannot be accepted.  We agreed that further escalation by Russia cannot be condoned, regardless of their excuse.

We also discussed the situation relating to the East China Sea and the South China Sea and shared understanding that unilateral attempts to change the status quo is not acceptable.  Also we confirmed the recognition that the peace and stability of Taiwan Strait is important.

Furthermore with regard to China we agreed to closely monitor this trend in the light of the Communist Party Congress and the election of the new leadership.

Also, we exchanged views on the situation in Southeast Asia as well as Pacific Island countries and common issues faced by the international community, such as climate change, economic security and the environment of women.  We agreed that we will further deepen trilateral cooperation in these regions and areas as well.

Based on today’s discussion, we hope to further advance close coordination and cooperation through multi-faceted communications between the three countries.

That is all, thank you very much.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.

Madame Deputy Secretary of State Sherman, over to you.

Deputy Secretary Sherman:  Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us.  It’s always wonderful to be back in Tokyo.

I want to thank Vice Foreign Minister Mori and the government of Japan for their hospitality in hosting us today.  I also want to thank First Vice Foreign Minister Cho for traveling from Seoul to join us for this incredibly important meeting, which further demonstrates our commitment to trilateral cooperation with Japan and the Republic of Korea, and which follows a productive trilateral meeting held at the ministerial level last month in New York.

Today’s meeting was deeply substantive and covered the wide range of issues you just heard about from Vice Minister Mori, and it speaks to the level of friendship and trust that has been built amongst us.

Japan and the Republic of Korea are strong and close allies to the United States.  Our commitment to defending both countries is ironclad, and we are clearly bound together by common security interests.

But we are also connected by our economic ties, by our common values of democracy and freedom, and by our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.  There is so much we can achieve and are achieving when our countries work together.

Our meeting today underscores the Biden-Harris administration’s steadfast commitment to our longstanding alliances.  Investing in those alliances, including with Japan and the Republic of Korea, is critical for building the future we want to see.

Today we discussed our cooperation on shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.  That includes working together to advance our shared goal of full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

This year the DPRK has launched an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles, one of which flew over Japan, posing a serious threat to the Japanese public.  Even more troubling, the DPRK has characterized its recent launches as preparations for the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons.

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And it is impossible to forget sitting here in Tokyo all of the Japanese citizens ruthlessly abducted by the DPRK over the years.  All of this behavior, all of it, is reckless and deeply destabilizing to the region.  We urge the DPRK to refrain from further provocations, and we remain committed to dialogue with the DPRK without preconditions.

We also discussed Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.  In just the past month, Russia has attempted to annex Ukrainian territory — a gross violation of the UN Charter — and engaged in repeated attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In the past couple of days, Russia has made a transparently false allegation that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory.  The whole world would see through any Russian attempt to use this false allegation as a pretext for escalation.  Any loose talk about nuclear weapons or dirty bombs is inherently reckless and destabilizing.

I want to thank Japan and the Republic of Korea for their government’s steadfast support for the Ukrainian people.  Our countries will continue to stand together to oppose any attempts to change another country’s borders by force or to determine another country’s political future, or to dictate the terms of its alliance and partnerships anywhere in the world.  What is happening in Europe could happen anywhere if this goes unchallenged.

On the People’s Republic of China, this meeting helped ensure our three countries are aligned in our approach.  As President Biden stated in the recently released U.S. National Security Strategy, the People’s Republic of China is the one country with the means to advance a different vision of the international order, and its actions suggest that they intend to do so.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to the rules-based international order — the very system which allowed China to rise in the first place.  And while there are indeed elements of competition in our relationship with Beijing, we do also continue to seek its cooperation on common challenges, including climate change, health security and nuclear nonproliferation.

We are also partnering to preserve an open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.  ASEAN is critical for regional stability, and we see great potential for cooperation between ASEAN and our three countries represented here today on issues ranging from law enforcement to developing the Mekong region.

We also had productive discussions about how we can support the priorities of our Pacific Island partners including on climate change and economic development, and as was mentioned, we also discussed women’s economic empowerment.

Looking ahead, the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea will continue our regular consultations in close collaboration to advance a secure and prosperous future, and I look forward to our next meeting which will be held in the United States in the first quarter of 2023.

Again, I thank Vice Minister Mori and First Vice Foreign Minister Cho for a productive trilateral relationship and for our meeting today.  Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.

Next, First Vice Foreign Minister Cho.  Over to you.

FVFM Cho:  The successful opening of Japan, U.S. and Korea vice foreign ministerial meeting, for this success my thanks go to Vice Minister Mori, and it is my great pleasure to meet with the Deputy Secretary of State.  The value and importance of the trilateral relationship has been valued throughout this meeting, and it was a good occasion.  And in 2022, I think the trilateral cooperation has entered a new stage.  There was the summit meeting between Korea and the United States after five years.  There was also defense level meetings as well as other high level talks.

With regard to the scope of the trilateral cooperation, it has been expanding ever since.  That means the solid determination of the three countries will be going to be bedrock and for further cooperation.

With regard to North Korea, the provocative measures by North Korea pose a threat to the Indo-Pacific region but also throughout the world, and President Yoon Suk-yeol made a statement at the Parliament that the government will promote defense cooperation between Korea and the United States in order to defend the country against the threat of North Korea.  And if there is going to be a dialogue offered from them, we will be ready to provide any assistance with them.

The trilateral collaboration is going to address the threat by North Korea, and the three countries condemned the provocative measures.  And if North Korea is going to continue with the use of the threat by nuclear weapons, the three countries need to maintain close collaboration and cooperation.  In particular the seventh nuclear weapon test, if it is going to be carried out, there should be strong resistance and opposition to such measures, illegal actions, and should be abandoned immediately and North Korea should come back into the international negotiating table.  And for that, international cooperation should be further enhanced.

With regard to the trilateral collaboration, we are against the idea of use of threat or the change in the status quo in this region.

The invasion by Russia into Ukraine which was condemned and annexation of the territory should not be tolerated by Russia.  Recently, there is a reference to the possible use of nuclear weapons, and we expressed common concern against them.

In order to reconstruct the country in Ukraine, there should be further cooperation in the international community for the continued support in Ukraine.

ASEAN and the Pacific Island nations, we have to promote collaboration through the trilateral cooperation for assistance to those countries.  The assistance to the Island Nations will be complementary when it comes into the offers taken by the three countries.

In terms of cooperation with the ASEAN countries, the three countries will pursue further cooperation and then the rule of law is going to be enhanced in this region.  And through this kind of collaboration, this collaboration is going to serve as an important mechanism.

With regard to global cooperation, rules-based economic order and the supply chain stability and the advancement of state of art technologies, the three countries should continue their cooperation.  Energy, food security and technologies and other, health care threats, we have to continue the momentum for cooperation.

Since the launch of the new government, this is supposed to be the second trilateral talks.  Not only North Korea but also Indo-Pacific region as well as the international issues need to be further addressed through trilateral cooperation.

I would like to stay in contact with Vice Minister Mori and Deputy Secretary Sherman going forward.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  Now we’ll take questions.

Please raise your hand when you have a question.  When you are called upon, please move to a nearby microphone stand.  Please identify yourself and your affiliation before you state a question.

In the interest of time, please make one question only, and identify to whom your question is directed.

First the Japanese press.  Tanaka san of Digi Press.

Question:  Thank you, my name is Tanaka of Digi Press.  I’d like to ask a question to Vice Minister Mori.

Vice Minister, North Korea has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles since the end of September and has continued with shelling near delimitations through Japan and the Yellow Sea.  There are hints that they may go ahead with the seventh nuclear test.

What discussions did you have for the North Korean situation today?  Were you able to confirm any response for the future including the outlook of further provocations?

Also, there is a new leadership team in Chinese Communist Party.  Did you discuss regional issues such as China who is intensifying its pressure on Taiwan?  And what about your discussion about Ukraine?

I would appreciate your response, Mr. Mori, please.

VFM Mori:  Thank you for your question.

So at this vice ministers meeting, at the trilateral meeting, one important topic was naturally the issue pertaining to North Korea.  We had discussions about North Korea.  North Korea is intensifying its nuclear and missile activities, and this represents a clear and serious challenge to the whole of the international community.  We once again renewed this shared recognition as was mentioned earlier.

How do we see the situation with regard to details?  We were able to elaborate and I believe to a great extent we were able to come to a very strongly shared recognition that was impressive.  Also, we agreed to further promote trilateral security cooperation, and we were able to once again express our resolve to do so.  And we will be deepening our cooperation going forward.  That was also confirmed.

Now bearing in mind the possibility of further provocation including a possible nuclear test going forward, naturally we discussed this matter as well.

Towards complete denuclearization of North Korea, we need to strengthen regional deterrence and also we need to carry out response with other nations including Security Council, and we need to pursue diplomatic efforts with the utmost effort.

On these we understand, but we also agreed on closer coordination.

We also had discussions about China as well, and we had frank discussion about the situation related to East China Sea and the South China Sea.  We agreed that our position to this issue has not changed.  We had very frank discussions.  We share the understanding that unilateral action for them to change the status quo is not acceptable.  We once again shared that understanding.

Also we confirmed the recognition that peace and stability of Taiwan Straits was important.  We were able to reconfirm this once again.

We also had discussions about the Russian aggression against Ukraine.  Again, we completely agree on our defensive position.

Also as I mentioned earlier in my opening remarks, I stressed that Russia implying the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine represents a grave situation.  And the threat of use or use of nuclear weapons for Russia are by no means acceptable.

Also we discussed the false claim by Russia that Ukraine was preparing for use of dirty bomb.  And we agreed that any further escalation by Russia in any form cannot be condoned.  We agreed on this point as well.

Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  Next, the U.S. press.  New York Times.

Question:  This is for Deputy Secretary Sherman.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Given President Biden’s recent reiteration of the U.S. intention to protect Taiwan militarily in the event of invasion or attack, what have you communicated to both the Japan and the South Korean head of the U.S. expectations of the military participation in such an event?

And also on North Korea, if there is a nuclear weapons test there has been discussion of going to the UN Security Council.  If China were to resist any move for increased sanctions, would you consider secondary sanctions against China?

Thank you very much.

Deputy Secretary Sherman:  Thank you.

First of all let me be clear about U.S. policy regarding Taiwan.  Our policy has not changed.  We believe intensely that we need to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait and no one should take unilateral action to change that status quo.

We have for a long time had our One China policy.  That includes as well the Six Assurances and the Taiwan Relations Act passed by our legislature, which means that we will support Taiwan in its ability to defend itself.  And our stance regarding Taiwan remains as it has been for many years now.

We discussed, as you heard from Vice Minister Mori, that indeed we discussed this issue, that we all agree there needs to be peace in the Taiwan Strait.  It is critical for the commerce of the world.  It is critical for peace and security.  The United States has repeated publicly that we do not support Taiwan’s independence, but we want to ensure that there is peace.  And so we will be doing whatever we can to support Taiwan and to work with Japan and with the Republic of Korea to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself.

Regarding North Korea, you’ve heard from both of my colleagues our concern about not just the saber rattling and the missile rattling but the nuclear test rattling, and indeed allusions that all of this work is a test run for the use of a tactical nuclear weapon.  As we have all said, this is very destabilizing, very dangerous, very concerning for the region.

I think one thing that is very evident to all three of us is that when things happen in one part of the world they have an impact on the entire world.  My colleagues from Japan and from the Republic of Korea helped all of the world understand that if in fact a country in Europe like Russia decides that it can invade the sovereign territory of Ukraine, that that may create a permission slip for other countries to take action in other parts of the world and also exacerbate food insecurity and energy insecurity and economic security of the world.

And indeed, anything that happens here, such as a North Korean nuclear test, or if they in fact see this as a test run for the use of a tactical nuclear weapon, has implications for the security of the entire world.

We hope, indeed, that everyone on the Security Council would understand that any use of a nuclear weapon would change the world in incredible ways.  And so we all must continue to affirm what in fact the P5 said in a statement, I believe in January, which is that a nuclear war cannot be won, so it should never be fought.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Lastly, the Korean Press.  Korean Daily.

Question:  With regard to the common attitude toward North Korea among the three countries, in order to strengthen this relationship I think there should be the improvement in terms of the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea, and I wonder if there was any discussion with regard to that.

And Vice Minister Cho, the foundation is going to pay in subrogation with regard to the former civilians issue.  There is going to be the foundation and to make a payment.  I think this is going to be problematic with regard to similar, and to the comfort women issue.

I also would like him to make a comment on this topic.  According to the ’65 treaty on the issue of the compensation was over, but when it comes to the moral responsibility there should be a kind of contact with the private sector companies payment, compensation payment.  Is that going to be, this logic is going to be rationalized?

Thank you very much.

FVFM Cho:  This is supposed to be the vice foreign ministerial meeting, so we have very detailed discussion on the trilateral cooperation.  So with regard to the bilateral relationship issues, we did not step into those issues.

But that said, there was a question, so I would like to respond to that question.

Improvement of the bilateral relationship between Japan and Korea is extremely important, and in particular when it comes to the former civilian workers of the Korean Peninsula, this is supposed to be one of the priority issues to be addressed.  Therefore from the viewpoint of the government of ROK there should be the consultation in [five] as well as the private sector and the government level negotiation and consultation was made in order to gain the largest common understanding among the stakeholders, and the government is paying much attention and making every effort in that regard.

Moderator:  With that, the press conference comes to an end.  Please remain seated.

VFM Mori:  Allow me to make one response, if I may.  I think this was fully responded by the First Vice Minister.  This meeting today is a trilateral vice ministers meeting.  It is about discussing trilateral cooperation so with regard to Japan-Korean relations, we had no discussions in this format.

Inclusive of the response to North Korea, as I mentioned earlier is the beginning for the regional peace and stability, Japan with ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is essential.  This was reconfirmed in the discussion today.  As far as Japan is concerned, we would like through multi-faceted communication between the three countries, we want to further solidify and strengthen and promote the trilateral cooperation.

Thank you, that is all.