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Sec. Rice & S. Korean Song Min-Soon After Meeting


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
November 7, 2007

Remarks With South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Song Min-Soon After Their Meeting

SECRETARY RICE: Good evening. I would like very much to welcome my colleague, Song Min-Soon. It's good to have you here for what has been -- what is now several meetings that we have had together since he became the Foreign Minister. And we've had a wide-ranging discussion of the very good relationship -- the United States and South Korea enjoy a relationship that is based, first of all, on values, a relationship that is based on numerous strategic interests. We've had a discussion of the continued activities in support of Afghanistan in which South Korea is involved, the PRT work that they're doing, their work in supporting the people of Iraq. Their forces have been there on the ground.

We also had a chance to talk a little bit about the Middle East because Min-Soon reminds me that you have a growing interest in the Middle East and recently made a trip there and of course, South Korea is a contributor to UNIFIL and Lebanon. We've, of course, reviewed the circumstances of the six-party talks. We agree that there has been progress in terms of the disabling phase and we will do everything that we can to continue moving toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula because it is our very strong joint view that the full and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will lead to a more peaceful Korean Peninsula and indeed, a more peaceful Asia.

And so thank you very much for being here and the floor is yours.

FOREIGN MINISTER SONG: Well, Condi, usually I'm very poor in counting numbers, but I just counted, in official setting, you and I met already six time, including today's one in -- here and in other places. As usual, we have discussed both bilateral and -- bilateral issue as well as international issues on regional matters in the Middle East and others. We evaluated that ROK-U.S. alliance is moving ahead in a direction that is suitable to the -- our common future needs for our two countries.

We talked about the North Korean nuclear issue as well and we had common assessments that disablement activities on North Korean nuclear program is going in right direction and in right pace. And we also discussed how to move from the present disabling phase to dismantlement phase in the coming days. We agreed that there should not be any hiatus from disabling to dismantlement. We fully share the view that this, in accordance with the progress in disabling and dismantling North Korean nuclear program, we will start the peace negotiation -- peace regime negotiation will start at the right timing.

We are -- we will continue to help closely coordinate this ongoing process. We'll move ahead as we have envisioned together and at a certain time, if it's needed to -- and if it's agreed that -- to expedite this dismantling process, in case we do have some strong political thrust to expedite this process, then we will continue to review whether it's (inaudible) by the top level is needed and then we'll continue to coordinate on this subject.

Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have time for one question (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you fully satisfied with the degree and pace of North Korean progress and cooperation on dismantlement and are you confident that you would know if they were not fulfilling all of their obligations?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would assess positively, thus far, the progress on disablement. Now this is a step-by-step process and we are watching very closely the level of cooperation, the level of agreement and the reports from the field are, thus far, good. I would note that it is a very sophisticated and very experienced team of experts that are carrying out this process of disablement and so, so far so good, I would say.

Now if, indeed, we are to continue to make progress, I think Minister Song has made a very important point, which is the disablement is very important by the end of the year, but really, the phase that we need to get to is dismantlement of the entire nuclear program and an accounting for that program. I would just note that there is to be a complete declaration as well by the end of this year. So we have a lot of steps still to take, but the reports from the experts in the field is that the cooperation is going well.

QUESTION: My question goes to Secretary Rice. Minister Song said earlier this week that the discussions on the peace regime on the Korean Peninsula can start either early next year or late this year because North Korea has started the disablement process. And he -- also today, he just mentioned that at the right time, the discussions on the peace regime will start.

Do you agree with that, the peace -- the discussions of the peace regime can start either late this year or early next year? Do you think it's an appropriate time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just first note where this notion of the peace regime comes from. It goes all the way back to the September 19th agreement in 2005, that one of the elements of a program of full denuclearization and confidence-building measures on the political side would be to try and build a peace regime. It also envisions a Northeast Asia dialogue on security matters. So those are all things that we want to have happen.

I do believe that, as the Minister said, we need to look for the right time and clearly, we would want to have evidence of real denuclearization that is really a strategic choice by North Korea, that they're not going to try to reverse course. I think we'll just continue to assess when the appropriate time would be, but obviously, it's something we're keeping an eye on because it's a part of the agreement that we all signed in September of 2005.

FOREIGN MINISTER SONG: Let me add just one point on top of the -- Condi's statement. We have full agreement that -- to check this progress of disabling and dismantlement in a very close consultation manner. The right (inaudible) timing, we will look into carefully about this disabling, dismantling process including the -- North Korea's efforts toward the overall nonproliferation as well. Let's see. The right timing will be decided by our two countries, including other directly related parties on how -- when and how to launch that peace negotiation.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

2007/977
Released on November 7, 2007

ENDS

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