ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
CHIEF OF MISSION RESIDENCE
MARCH 18, 2021
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I understand that you will soon leave the country to have a meeting with China, and I would like to thank you very much for selecting SBS for your last interview before leaving the country.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) So my first question will be whether you’re overall satisfied with this various consultation that you had with the ROK Government during your visit this time.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The short answer is yes, we had very productive meetings. And this is my first overseas trip as Secretary of State. I was joined here by our Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, also his first overseas trip. And it’s no accident that we made that first trip here to Korea as well as to Japan. It was very important to President Biden to demonstrate the value that we place upon the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, an alliance that has stood us in such good stead over many, many years.
We talk about the linchpin of peace, security and prosperity in the region, and we wanted to reaffirm that alliance, but not just reaffirm it – build on it. And I think over the last 36 hours or so, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve had very productive meetings with our counterparts. We were honored to be received by President Moon. And I think we have a very good work program going forward on so many different issues, issues – bilateral issues between the United States and Korea, regional issues, and global issues. We’re working on all of those different fronts.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) So I understand that you just came out of a meeting with President Moon, and I was wondering whether you talked about resuming this Korean Peninsula peace process, whether it was brought up during your meeting with President Moon. And also, I understand that next month, President Biden will have a face-to-face meeting for the first time in a long while with the prime minister of Japan. I was wondering whether you have a similar plan with President Moon.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It was an honor to be received by President Moon. We had a very good conversation about the many issues that we discussed in our ministerial meetings over the last day. And yes, we certainly discussed the Korean Peninsula issues, the DPRK. And we’re in the midst of a review of our policy that President Biden instructed us to conduct. And a critical part of that review is to consult very closely with Korea as well as with Japan and other allies and partners. We’re in the midst of doing that, and the last 24 hours were incredibly helpful to us in hearing from our partners here their perspectives, their views, which will be fully integrated into the work that we’re doing.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) So maybe because you visited South Korea, North Korea started reacting to it and came out with some statements. And Foreign Minister Chung said that’s North Korea’s own way of expressing that it’s interested in this. So what do you think of that comment by North Korea?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I’m aware of the statements made by North Korea, but the statements I’m most interested in right now are the ones coming from our allies and partners to make sure that we have all of their views and perspectives as we undertake this review of our North Korea policy. So that’s what I’m focused on right now.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I understand that you have strongly criticized human rights abuse in China and North Korea, but due to Korea’s complex relationship with China and North Korea, Korea hasn’t really fully come out strongly condemning such situation in North Korea. Do you think Korea should change its policy direction in terms of human rights issues?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: President Biden feels very strongly that for the United States, we need to put human rights and democracy back at the heart of our foreign policy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. But we’re not doing it on a selective basis. When we see countries abusing in egregious ways human rights, we will speak up and speak out, and so that’s what we’re doing. But that’s the focus that the President has asked us to bring to our foreign policy, and we’re acting on that.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) During Obama administration, you were working as a deputy secretary, and during those time, you were involved in addressing North Korean nuclear issue. And back then, you were saying the pressure campaign against North Korea through China and other countries are effective way to deal with North Korea. But that has – that’s been a long time ever since you did that, and then North Korea came out with the statement that we need new change and direction of dealing with all this. And then some people are saying North Korea has almost completed its nuclear arsenal.
So do you still believe that sanctions and pressure campaign is still effective measure to deal with North Korea?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of our review or the results of our review, but what I can tell you is we have a very open mind as we’re conducting the review. We’re considering all different perspectives on the issue, especially the perspectives of our closest partners here in South Korea and Japan, but I don’t want to get ahead of the results.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) You emphasized the trilateral coordination between Korea, Japan, and the United States as very important for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific area, and now we’re – already had a Quad meeting happen and there – some people are discussing or – discussing or thinking of a possibility of extending the Quad group. So what do you think Korea’s role in participating in any way in the Quad?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, on the trilateral cooperation, I found that to be extremely productive, and I think it is vital to our common security that we engage together on the issue of North Korea with South Korea, with Japan. And when I was working on these issues before as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, the trilateral cooperation was extremely productive not just on – in terms of North Korea, but on many, many issues that our three countries have in common and have to deal with together to deal with them effectively. So we’ve already, in the context of the review that we’re undertaking, had trilateral conversations led on our side by the former ambassador here, Sung Kim, and I look forward to doing more on that.
We’re also involved in a number of informal sub-regional gatherings like the Quad, like the trilateral cooperation with Japan and Korea. We’re working closely with Korea on its own strategy for the South. And I’m sure we’ll find ways to cooperate and do things with the Quad as well.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) When you were deputy secretary before, you created this consultative body between the U.S. and Korea and Japan to handle this comfort women issue, but compared to that, current state of Korea and Japan relationship is very, very worse compared to that. So what do you think the State Department can do to take part in this issue, and if you have any initiative or ideas or concept to how you’d like – involved in this? Do you – can you share that with us?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we know, of course, that there are very sensitive and difficult issues of history between our partners. And what I would say is that we would, as we have in the past, encourage them to try to work through them in a spirit of reconciliation. At the same time, we have challenges today, challenges we’ll face tomorrow, that I think make it imperative that we find ways to work together. And so I hope that even as Korea and Japan are addressing these issues of history, we’re also finding ways to work together to deal with the issues of today.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My last question would be: Currently, the special ambassador or envoy to handle the North Korea nuclear issue is still empty. When do we know who is going to be in that position?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’re, of course, just, what, about two months into the administration. We’re working very, very hard to fill the most senior positions, including envoys and ambassadors. And so I think you’ll see that in relatively short order in the weeks or certainly the months ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thanks very much. Nice to see you again.