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Colin L. Powell Remarks to Korean Youth Town Hall

Colin L. Powell Remarks to Korean Youth Town Hall

Remarks to Korean Youth Town Hall

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Habib House, Residence of the U.S. Ambassador
Seoul, Republic of Korea
October 26, 2004

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well Mr. Secretary, let me say that it is a great pleasure to have you here. There should be about 30 students here from all over Korea . They came by planes, buses, trains, cars, some of them had to walk in fact (laughter) as this is an opportunity to have a dialogue with you Mr. Secretary. To all of you students, let me, by way of introduction, explain that this is my boss. (Laughter) He came from a long way to see how we're doing here in Korea . So, without further ado, Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you very much, Chris (laughter.) I've got a high chair and I've got a lot of sound, I think we're all right now.

Thank you very much Chris. It's a great pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to young people. As I travel around the world, I always try to carve out part of my schedule to meet with the next generation of leaders, and I've done it in so many places around the world. I've done it in Sarajevo . I've done it in Moscow . I've done it in Berlin . I've done it in Jakarta . And I always learn more than I give out, because young people will ask good questions, and sometimes, not just ask a good question, but give me a good commentary on what is on your mind what do you care about, what do you think about, what are you worried about, what do you want to tell the American Secretary of State so I can go back and tell the American people about your hopes and dreams and feelings and beliefs.

I always love coming to Korea . I don't know what you may know about my background, but I lived here as a battalion commander in the infantry from 1973 to 1974, and I loved every day of my tour in Korea , and I became such a great admirer of Korean culture, Korean food, Korean people, the energy that exists within this society of yours. I also became deeply aware of the connection that exists between all Koreans, whether you are in South Korea or the DPRK. You are one people, separated politically by this boundary, but you are still one people, and that's why coming together again is such an essential part of the Korean culture, and something I understand.

Over the last 30 years, I have come back to Korea many times. I've been here as National Security Adviser to President Reagan, I've been here several times as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I've been here I think three or four times now as Secretary of State. So, Korea's never very far from my mind and heart and I'm such an admirer of what the Korean people have done, in terms of putting in place a solid democracy resting on the foundation of law and free elections and debates and arguments within the political system. I've watched students speak out (laughter) over the years, if I can put it that way, but that's what a democracy is all about people speaking up. I've watched how your economy has grown to become one of the strongest in the world, which reflects the energy and determination of your people; and so I'm a great admirer, and I'm also pleased that now we are standing side-by-side in Iraq and in Afghanistan .

For fifty years, we stood side-by-side here on the Peninsula to defend South Korea from aggression from the North, and it was that security arrangement we had, that allowed Korea to grow its democracy and to grow its economy, knowing that you had a strong friend. You still have a strong friend, even as we move our forces around because it's a new world, it's the 21 st century, not the last century.

It's such a symbol of the importance that Korean represents to us that you would send your troops to Iraq and Afghanistan , places far away, where you now are standing alongside the United States and others to help others, Afghans and Iraqis, obtain their freedom, their democracy. It's expensive, it's difficult, it's hard work, but it's work that's important, and valuable and worth it. You saw evidence of that last weekend, two weekends ago, when the Afghan people went to the polls and voted to include three and a half million refugees who came back to the country once the country was liberated.

And so, with these opening remarks and with a statement of appreciation for the friendship that the Korean people have always extended to the United States and to me, I would like to open this up to your comments or questions. I see people with all kinds of notes (laughter) I hope you haven't been studying too hard. It's no fun when you read me your thesis (laughter), but let's see, who wants to start? (Laughter)

QUESTION: I am Min Hee, and I am a student of Seomoon Girls' High School. Before I start the question, I am so glad to meet you, and this is the coolest moment of my life! (Laughter)

SECRETARY POWELL: We have to talk if this is the coolest moment. (Laughter)

QUESTION: May I ask something that is not political?

SECRETARY POWELL: Go ahead, anything you want.

QUESTION: I read your book, "My American Journey," and I've become curious about something called a song "Calypso," that you have mentioned in your book, so if you don't mind, could you sing for me I mean, for us? (Laughter) And, just one more thing, can I have your autograph here, after this? (Laughter)

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll do the autograph right after. Calypso. My people, my family, were immigrants from Jamaica to the United States . They came to America in the 1920s. Two people, my mother, my father, immigrants, with nothing, and they came to the United States, met each other, got married, had children the American story. I was born in America and raised in an American home, but which was also a Jamaican home, because my people never lost their connection to Jamaica .

One popular feature of Jamaican life is Calypso, which is both a song and a dance. I won't dance (laughter). I can, but I won't not with those cameras on (laughter). I've gotten in enough trouble dancing on camera recently (laughter). But, Calypso is a wonderful, lilting form of music that tells a story, and it tends to be a very funny story, or sometimes it's just a very sweet story. It's changed over the years, but I still remember it fondly from my youth. Harry Belafonte was a famous Calypso singer back in my youth, and he still is. And one of the songs that he sang and that everybody remembers is oh, I'm not going to do this with, not with these cameras (Secretary sings) "Down the way where the nights are gay and the sun shines daily on the mountaintop." Something like that (applause and laughter). We'll stop there, that will give you just enough so I don't get in trouble (laughter). But, thank you for that question, and I'm glad that this is the coolest moment that you've had (laughter). Okay? Let's see, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you sir, for this opportunity. I'm Joo Hyun, and I'm a high school senior. I just wanted to ask you, I'm not sure if this is too personal, but how much of your job as Secretary of State is acting upon your own judgment, and how much of it comes from following the directions of your administration?

SECRETARY POWELL: Ultimately, everything I do is in the name of the president. The president decides what our foreign policy should be on any issue. Within his statement of our foreign policy on an issue, he then gives us guidance and under that guidance I have considerable latitude to interpret what he wants to have done.

Now, governments are complex things, and within a government, you'll find different points of view. Good governments have different points of view within it. You should have a clash of ideas, a debate on the major issues of the day to get the right answer. And so, I discuss all of these things with my colleagues, with the Secretary of Commerce, or the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense very often and we pull our best ideas together, we debate them, we argue them, we present our positions to the president. He then makes a decision, and once he's made that decision, it is our obligation to go out and implement his decision. But, within that decision we have considerable latitude. So, for example, for the last three days I have been in Beijing and I have been in Tokyo and now Seoul talking about the North Korean issue, talking about the IAEA and so many other issues, and I don't have to call him every hour. If I say something wrong then I will get a call (laughter). But within the overall guidance I have considerable latitude to do what I need to do with all of the countries that I have to work with.

QUESTION: Sir, have you every found yourself in a situation where you have to do something that you don't believe in completely?

SECRETARY POWELL: You often will find yourself in senior levels of government you can find this in lower levels, as well where you may prefer a different outcome. But, if you are working for the individual who has been given the authority to make the decision, and in the case of a democracy, it is the president who is elected, by the American people, or your President, who is elected by the Korean people, So he is the person who makes the judgment, and then, it is an obligation you have to carry out that judgment, even if it isn't the judgment you would have made. If you cannot faithfully carry out that judgment, because it is just so inconsistent with what you believe, not so much what you think but what you believe, then the alternative is to step aside and let someone else do it. I am pleased to work for a president that allows all views to be heard, makes a clear, firm decision and then carries it out. And I am pleased to have been the Secretary of State to help him execute his foreign policy for the last four years.

We need a guy (laughter) all these women and ladies with their hand...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it's my great honor to be here. My name is Choi Byung Joon, study .

SECRETARY POWELL : Is this your coolest day too (laughter)?

QUESTION: studying computer science in my university. I am currently participating in YES program, which is in part being sponsored by U.S. Embassy in Korea, so with this program, I was able to learn much about the U.S., such as American culture and political issues. My question is, does the U.S. State Department have any plans to more actively engage with people around the world, especially where the anti-American sentiment is growing?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we are trying to do more, and we want to do more. Programs like the one you just described, we are trying to have programs like that around the world. I was in Brazil two weeks ago, and met with young students about your age that we had brought to the United States and had them spend two weeks in the United States and then go back to Brazil . We have our Fulbright scholars program. We have so many similar programs of that nature. The only thing that limits me is how much money I have available from Congress. I'm always asking Congress for more money, because I think that when we bring you to the United States, or through programs like YES we bring the United States to you, you get a better understanding of what we're all about, you can ask questions of us, and you can see what we're like and what we're about, and I just think it makes young people better informed and better able to sort through the charges that are occasionally made about the United States. And so the answer to your question is yes, we're doing everything we can to expand these kinds of programs, and especially in those places where there has been increasing anti-American attitudes, such as in the Middle East . We have the Middle East Partnership Initiative where we're putting a lot of money into schools and training of teachers, and helping the countries in the Middle East to improve their educational systems. Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it's pretty obvious that you're a really busy guy and you have a lot of things to do (laughter). I was just kind of curious, could you give us a sort of day in the life of the Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POWELL: Are you sure you want to hear this (laughter)? Well, I get up at 5:30 (cross-talk), that's what I think. I get up at 5:30, and get ready for the day, and I will usually start to look at the news clips on the Internet. I'll go online and see what overnight message I've received, start to look at the news. I leave for the office at about 6:25, 6:30. It's about a 15-minute drive. I'm in the office at about a quarter to seven, and then from quarter to seven to 8:30, I'm reading newspapers and intelligence reports, and I'm talking to some of my principal staff officers about what's happened overnight, and what we have to do today. And then at 8:30, I have my first formal meeting of the day when I meet with all of the senior members of my staff, and we go around the room and I hear from them what's going on in their world, they part of the State Department, and I tell them what I want done that day. And then from roughly a few minutes before nine, for the rest of the day, I am either in meetings of our interagency group, where we all come together, you know all the Secretaries Commerce, Treasury, intelligence people, Secretary of Defense, Dr. Rice - we all come together to discuss an issue or a meeting with the president or a meeting with foreign visitors. A large number of foreign visitors come to the United States to see the American Secretary of State so on a typical day I might see anywhere from one foreign minister to some days, I've had as many as five different foreign ministers come in for meetings, usually 30 to 45 minutes. I spend an enormous amount of time on the telephone. And remember now, I'm sitting in Washington, and Seoul and Tokyo are twelve hours that way, and Europe is six hours that way, and the Middle East is eight hours that way, so I have to time my calls to get people while they're still awake. So, I literally follow the sun (laughter) while I'm making phone calls, and I will make many, many calls in the course of the day.

I also have to work with our Congress and keep our Congress informed as to what we're doing. Very often Congress pulls me up to the Congress to testify and defend. And I spend a lot of time giving television interviews and interview to reporters. And a lot of speeches. You're expected to make remarks whenever a visitor comes, and we go out front and we talk to the press. And formal speeches that I give to various audiences.

And then, on a regular basis, I travel, like today. This is not a long trip, I have to get back because we're in the last week of our election campaign, and we all sort of need to be nearby. But a typical trip for me is this one, where I've done three countries in roughly three and a half days plus a day traveling on either end, and I do that on a regular basis. So, it's always a balance between how much travel do you do, and how much time do you spend in the office. Keeping in mind that your principal job is to advise the president and part of the job is traveling and visiting our friends around the world, but also being available to the president.

A lot of my time is just spent managing a large organization. I have tens of thousands of people in the State Department. I have two hundred Embassies and other kinds of facilities around the world that I have to worry about and know about and learn about, places such as this.

So, it's a busy day, and usually about five or six, we have another meeting with my small executive staff, to see how the day went, what we have to do tomorrow, and I will try to get home between seven and eight at night with usually two big briefcases for homework, and then I do my homework (sigh). You don't want to be a Secretary of State (laughter). And all of my foreign ministers around the world are the same. Your foreign minister, Foreign Minister Ban, works the same kind of schedule, the same kind of hours. It's the way you have to do the job. Okay, who's next?

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Bo, it's very nice to meet you. You look even younger than I expected (laughter).


QUESTION: You're welcome.

SECRETARY POWELL: I like you. (Laughter)

QUESTION: I like you too (laughter). My question is, someone described this world "borderless world with highly interdependent economies." So, let me put it this way. I believe that without the other countries' assistance, even powerful countries couldn't live alone. So, how could you conduct your diplomatic policy in order to strengthen cooperation among countries?

SECRETARY POWELL: Principally economic cooperation?

QUESTION : Or politically.

SECRETARY POWELL: And political?


SECRETARY POWELL: You're absolutely right in that. The United States is generally regarded as perhaps the most powerful nation on earth, militarily, the strength of our economy, the strength of our democratic system, the strength of our alliances. But even we can't do it along, nor do we want to. We believe in alliances, we believe in partnerships. We believe in building on those partnerships and alliances. But at the same time, you always must retain the right to act alone if it's necessary to defend what you think is a vital interest of yours. But the approach that President Bush has taken on all of these issues is always try to create a partnership. When it comes, for example, to the problem with the DPRK, we didn't do it unilaterally, we asked the Republic of Korea and Japan and China and Russia to work with us, to approach the North Koreans and say "look, let's find out a way to get rid of your nuclear programs because so many benefits will flow to you, economic benefits will flow to you, if you do this. We did the same thing when we worked on Libya . We worked with the British to get Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction. With Iran , we are working with the British, the French and the Germans and other members of the European Union. I spend a lot of time going to NATO meetings, and EU meetings and OSCE meetings and Organization of the American States meetings. So, you can't do it along, and partnerships and friendships are important, and we work very hard at that.

That is especially the case with respect to economic relations, because this 21 st Century globalized world people can argue whether globalization is good or bad. Have fun, argue, all I know is, it's here, and it's not going away, it's not going to change. The power of the Internet, the end of the Cold War, the end of the Bamboo War in Asia , where products are flowing back and forth, where intellectual ability is flowing back and forth. We have to get rid of trade barriers and we have to have a more open trading system so that the benefits of free trade flow to those nations that are desperately in need, those that are poor. You can give aid to a nation that is poor and we have doubled the amount of aid that we are giving to nations that are in need. And in addition to doubling it, we have added a new program altogether that adds billions of dollars more to aid to developing nations, but that's not the purpose of aid, not to keep them going, but to create an environment in those countries, to help those countries reach a point where people want to invest in them, because what they really need is trade, not aid. Aid, you know, it's like somebody giving you some assistance, but what you really want is to have a job, so that you're proud that you go and you work and you earn money and you bring it home and everybody in your family sees that you bring the money home. Nobody's giving it to you, you're earning it. Well, that's what we want nations to do, that's what we want developing nations to do, to become a nation that stands on it's own two feet and says "thank you for the assistance, but now we have fixed our education system, we have gotten rid of corruption, we have the rule of law, and we are earning our own living, as a nation, that we are proud to do that." And so, that comes from partnership, it comes from cooperation, it comes from open economic systems, and that's what the United States tries to do.

We're often accused of being unilateral, " America , you just go off and do whatever you want." But if you examine the history, carefully, of what we have done over the last four years especially, but in the course of our history, you'll see we have reached out to our friends and partners around the world to create alliances, alliances of the kind we have with the Republic of Korea . Okay?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Mr. Secretary, we have time for one more question (cries of dismay and protest from students).

SECRETARY POWELL: Did you ask one already?


SECRETARY POWELL: Sure? (Laughter) Okay You've got to say something nice, now, like .we lost the microphone. Where's the microphone?

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. So, may I ask a last question for you, and as you mentioned already, an anti-American sentiment is growing in Korea right now, so, but by 2008, the U.S. troops based in South Korea will cut by one-third, right? So, it will cause, is already causing a sense of insecurity among Koreans who used to take Americans as the most reliable friends in the world. So, what do you think about this thing, because it could make the Korean people stray more more stray away from America, I think.

SECRETARY POWELL: It's an interesting issue you raise because I've faced it in other parts of the world. When I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twelve years ago, and we were reducing the size of our forces in Germany from 300,000 down to 100,000, that was 200,000 that left. And some of my German friends came to me, especially the military, and said, "You know, one disadvantage is there will be few Americans for us to see and get to know, and there'll be a sense among the German people that maybe you don't have the same commitment to us." But we demonstrated over time that the commitment was strong, the alliance was strong.

Same thing will be the case here in Korea . When I was in Korea, about 30 years ago as a battalion commander, there were a lot more troops than the 37,000 that we're drawing down from now. I think it was close to 50,000 at that time. There were two whole divisions, not just the 2 nd I.D. but the 7 th I.D. had left. But it was a large force, and it was reduced in size over the years without any weakening of the commitment. So, I think that our military will be able to demonstrate to the Korean people that even thought the numbers have gone down, the technology has gotten better, their ability has gotten better, and there will be no weakening of the deterrence value of the U.S. presence, and there will be absolutely no weakening of the political alliance between our two countries. That's unshakeable. There's no way in which the United States would ever turn away from Korea and say, "Fine, you're on your own." I mean, look what we have been through together for the last over 50 years. This creates a bond that just doesn't go away. It will stay as long as the Korean people want us to stay and believe our presence is valuable. Even during periods of anti-American sentiment when people were protesting our presence, I think most Korean people understood that it was that American presence that was creating a condition of security and stability in North East Asia that allowed Korea to thrive. I'm afraid that I have to go (students make noise of disappointment). Okay, this is the last one.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. This is a question that I really wanted to ask you. After September 11 terrorist attack, President Bush declared North Korea and Iraq as "Axis of Evil," and the U.S. is currently in the process of the reconstruction in Iraq after its war on terrorism. If North Korea does not comply with the U.S., Japan, China and South Korea's interest in terminating WMD trade in black markets and the continuous development of nuclear weapons, does the U.S. have intentions of directly attacking North Korea? If not, what kind of steps do you have in mind to establish a better relationship with North Korea ?

SECRETARY POWELL: No we have no plans to attack North Korea . We're not doing this because it's just in our interest to do it. We're doing it because we believe it is in the interest of the North Korean people as well. The North Korean people are in need, they're in economic need. We all know that. And we believe that the international community, but especially North Korea 's neighbors, and the United States , are in a position to help North Korea . But, it has to begin with the elimination of this threat, which is a threat as much to its neighbors as it is to the United States, in fact more of a threat to its neighbors than to the United States. None of North Korea 's neighbors want to see a nuclear capability in North Korea . And so, what we're looking for is a mutuality of interest, for everybody to realize that there are benefits for all, including North Korea , from eliminating this capability. The North Koreans have said, in our Six-Party Talks, that they are prepared to denuclearize the peninsula and get rid of their program. What we're discussing and the difficulty we're having in the negotiating, is how to get to that process that leads us to denuclearization in a way that the North Koreans find that they are secure and they're not under threat of attack, and they're not, and to persuade them of that, and also they're anxious to see how they will be affected economically, what benefits would flow from them complying. The president believes that a diplomatic solution is possible, and his instructions to me are, "That's what you're supposed to work on." And that's what I do, and that's what I've been doing for the last three days in my meetings here in Seoul as well as in Beijing and in Tokyo . And so our focus is on diplomacy, working with partners, working with friends. We never take any option off the table. We never say we're never going to do something, because that's not wise and that's not the way to negotiate. But our focus right now is on diplomacy and the political process.

I'm sorry, but I do have to go. We have time for two things. One, to sign her book, and take a picture. Can we take a picture? Can everybody get behind me? Does anybody have a camera?

QUESTION: Oh, this is so cool!

SECRETARY POWELL: So cool, how do you say that in Hangul? (Laughter) What is this? What is this?

QUESTION: A star-shaped pen.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, everybody get behind me so we can .

QUESTION: Oh my God, thank you!

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, come on, come on, come on. Anybody have a camera? Oh, here comes a camera. Oh no, this isn't going to work, can you get everybody in?

Think you got it? Okay, I have to go do two television interviews, so I'll see you (Laughter). Bye, bye everybody bye, bye. We'll see you.




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