East Asia and the Pacific: Remarks at Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo

Date: 12/08/2014 Description: Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim addresses the international media after his meeting with Junichi Ihara, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Japan, on December 8, 2014. - State Dept Image

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: Good evening. It’s great to see you. I’m delighted to be back in Tokyo. As some of you know, I served in Tokyo about a decade ago, and of course I had a chance to work very closely with our Japanese colleagues in the Six-Party Talks. I’m delighted to be back for some deep consultations with our Japanese colleagues in my new capacity as Special Representative for North Korea Policy. We had a very productive discussion with Director General Ihara. I also had a chance to pay a courtesy call on Vice Foreign Minister Saiki. I expect that we will continue to have very close coordination and communication on all aspects of our North Korea policy with our Japanese colleagues. Now I will take some questions.

QUESTION: Ambassador, in the United Nations, North Korean human rights issues will be added to the urgent items discussed in the Security Council, and North Korea has denounced that kind of move, and it is threatening another nuclear test. So what would you say to the North Koreans? And I’m wondering whether the United States thinks that North Korean human rights issues should be referred to ICC.

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: Well, instead of denouncing the international community’s efforts on the human rights issue, I think the North Korean regime needs to spend more time worrying about its human rights situation, including the human rights situation for North Korean citizens. North Korea continues to have the worst human rights situation, and I think the fact that the human rights resolution passed so decisively, it’s a clear reflection of the international community’s concerns about the human rights situation in North Korea. And we look forward to cooperating with Japan and other partners in the international community to bring attention to this very important issue.

QUESTION: As the U.S. representative for North Korea policy, how are you going to combine these two issues – the human rights issue and the nuclear issue?

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: We’re going to commit to make a very strong effort. North Korea is committed to denuclearization in the Six-Party Talks. They are under various international obligations and commitments to cease their nuclear activities. We will work with our Six-Party partners to make sure the North Koreans live up to their commitments and obligations. We also want to work with the international community to try to improve the human rights situation in North Korea. As I said, the human rights resolution in the United Nations is a clear reflection of our concerns. We have very serious concerns about the situation in North Korea.

QUESTION: I have a question to you as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Japan and South Korea. How do you say about the current standoff between your two allies? Especially, I am wondering how you are evaluating the Japanese government’s efforts about the “comfort woman” issue.

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: Well, as we’ve said many times, Japan and Korea are two of our closest allies and two of our closest friends. Good relations among the three of us – and good relations between Japan and Korea – are not only in the interest of Japan and Korea, but also in the interest of the United States. So we would like to see our two close friends continue to have constructive relations. With regard to the “comfort woman” issue, we know that this is a very difficult and painful issue between our two friends. We know that both governments are making an effort, and we hope that there will be some progress on this issue sometime soon.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, what kind of discussion did you have about the abduction issue?

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: DG Ihara gave me a sense of where his efforts are with North Korea on the abduction issue. As you know, we continue to support Japan’s efforts on this very important humanitarian issue, and we hope that the North Koreans will cooperate and make some progress on this issue. We appreciate that the Japanese government has kept us informed of their efforts with the North Koreans. We do believe that close communication on all aspects of our efforts with the North Koreans is important.

QUESTION: Ambassador Kim, it has been reported in Russia that North Korea said they are ready to go back to the Six-Party Talks, but what are the conditions for the U.S. government to go back to the Six-Party Talks?

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: Given what has happened with this issue over the past few years, it’s not surprising that we want to see some clear signal or demonstration of commitment by the North Koreans to denuclearization before we rush back to negotiations. I have seen the press reporting on the discussions in Moscow, but frankly that does not give me confidence that the North Koreans are in fact ready to make a serious commitment, a serious effort toward denuclearization, and I think until we see some demonstration of their commitment to denuclearization, it’s difficult for us to return to negotiations.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate? What are the special commitments?

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I think the North Koreans understand what our expectations are. In fact, it’s not just U.S. expectations. There continues to be a very strong five-party consensus on what we should ask for, what we should expect before the resumption of serious negotiations. We are very much open to diplomacy. We would like to make a real effort toward denuclearization, but it’s hard to do so unless the North Koreans are ready to work with us, and that’s what we are waiting to see from the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, would you like to see some of the families whose members have been abducted by North Korea during your stay in Japan?

AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM: For scheduling reasons we could not arrange a meeting with the families association this time, but I look forward to meeting them on my next trip, and I will be seeing Mr. Mitani in the Prime Minister’s Office, who is coordinating the Japanese efforts on this important issue.

Thank you very much.