December 3, 2021

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Deputy Secretary Wendy R. Sherman At a Press Availability

20 min read

Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Dean Acheson Room

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Hi there.  Thank you for your patience; greatly appreciate it.  So, good afternoon.  Thank you for being here.  I’m Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state and the host of today’s trilateral.  Republic of Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Choi, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori, and I just concluded our second constructive trilateral meeting at our level since President Biden took office.  We held our first wide-ranging trilateral meeting at the vice ministerial level in Tokyo in July, and it was an honor to welcome my counterparts and friends to Washington today. 

I want to note at the outset that, as has been the case for some time, there are some bilateral differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea that are continuing to be resolved, and one of those differences which is unrelated to today’s meeting has led to the change in format for today’s press availability.

Nonetheless, we had a very constructive trilateral meeting today, which demonstrates exactly why the trilateral format with the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea is so important and powerful.  America’s deep and enduring relationships with our allies and partners are one of our greatest strengths.  For decades, our alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea have been central to promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Now we are deepening our trilateral cooperation, collaboration, and partnership to address the most pressing challenges of the 21st century.  We are working together to address the climate crisis – investing in clean energy, clean transportation, and resilient infrastructure in our own countries and across the Indo-Pacific – because we know we can go further, faster by acting together.

We are working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, including by donating millions of vaccine doses bilaterally and through COVAX to third countries in need.  And we are working together to build back better from the pandemic in our own countries and around the world, including creating jobs and improving our national security by building more secure and resilient supply chains.

Today’s trilateral meeting was friendly, constructive, substantive, and lasted more than three hours.  Vice Foreign Minister Mori, First Vice Foreign Minister Choi, and I covered a wide range of economic, security, and regional issues, including our mutual commitment to advancing our shared democratic values and upholding human rights.  We discussed our three countries’ commitment to maintaining an inclusive, free, peaceful, stable, and open Indo-Pacific region, and our opposition to activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order.  We discussed the importance of respecting international law in the Indo-Pacific, including maintaining freedom of navigation in overflight in the South China Sea and the East Sea, and of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

We reiterated our countries’ support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture.  The United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea all recognize the important economic and security role played by ASEAN nations, including in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we are committed to working in partnership with ASEAN.

We also discussed our shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  As we have said publicly, the United States does not harbor hostile intent toward the DPRK.  We believe that diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing a permanent peace.

I want to thank First Vice Foreign Minister Choi and Vice Foreign Minister Mori again for traveling to Washington for this important trilateral meeting, so we can continue to make progress on these and many other issues.  I very much look forward to our third trilateral in the new year.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

MR ICE:  For our first question, we’ll go to Nike Ching of Voice of America.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Madam Deputy Secretary Sherman, South Korean high-ranking officials have said that U.S. and South Korea have reached agreement on end-of-war declaration.  Could you please provide more details?  Also, do you have anything or is there a plan to break the stalemate and include North Koreans back to the negotiation table? 

If I may, the following is on behalf of other coworkers who are not here:  At the recent CSIS event, ROK’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi described China as a strategic partner for the ROK, and he underscored that ROK trade volume with China is larger than ROK’s trade volume with the U.S. and Japan combined.  So, question is:  Could you please shed some light on what discussions you have with Korean and Japanese officials, regarding dealing with potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait?  Would their economic relationship with China prevent them from allying with the United States?  Thank you very much. 

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  So, everyone, I think, is supposed to have one question, and so I don’t want you to set an example that is bad for your colleagues but let me briefly answer you.  On the issue around end-of-war statement, I’m very satisfied, the United States is very satisfied with the consultations we are having both with the Republic of Korea and with Japan, and with other allies and partners, on the best way forward to ensure the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  And I look forward to those continued consultations.

Regarding the People’s Republic of China, we, of course, discussed all kinds of matters today, including our relationship with the People’s Republic of China.  I think you’re all well aware that President Biden just held a virtual meeting with President Xi Jinping of China.  And I think that we are all agreed that there are areas in which we are cooperating with the PRC, there are areas where we will compete and compete vigorously, and there are areas where we will challenge the PRC when our interests diverge and when we think there are risks to peace and security, and prosperity for the world.  What I think is very important is that the United States, Korea, and Japan are of one mind in our work together to ensure global prosperity, peace, and security for citizens in every country.

MR ICE:  For our next question, we’re going to go to Hiroshi Tajima of Yomiuri Shimbun.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  And if – yeah, go ahead. 

QUESTION:   Thank you.  I ask this on behalf of Japanese media.  My name is Tajima of the Yomiuri Shimbun.  In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, posing a threat to regional security.  How do you plan to deal with easing tensions while striving for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, specifically through the lens of cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and Japan?  I’d also like to ask for your thought on South Korea’s proposal of formal declaration of the end of the Korean War.  Do you agree or disagree to have the declaration at this timing?  Lastly, in light of the virtual U.S.-China summit, I’d like to ask how the three nations plan to cooperate with each other trilaterally on policy toward China, particularly on jointly upholding the rules-based international order.  Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  So, there is no question that Japan, South Korea, and the United States all agree that we need to stay compliant with UN Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on North Korea for launching missiles that it should not.  We look at each of these instances.  We coordinate and consult with each other and make sure that we are taking the appropriate action.  There is no sense whatsoever that we will do anything but apply sanctions, make statements, join with others when North Korea takes actions that violate those resolutions and create risks for our nations and for nations around the world. 

On end of war, I’ve already made a statement to one of your journalistic colleagues that we are having good consultations amongst us and with other allies and partners, and we will continue to do so. 

And regarding the People’s Republic of China, we have had deep and ongoing coordination and consultation, appreciating that we all have different kinds of relationships.  But we are all strong democratic nations that believe in the rule of law.  We believe in the rules-based international order, which allowed countries to rise, including China.  And so, we believe that the PRC should live by that rules-based international order.  And we will continue to work together collectively to keep those rules in place.

MR ICE:  And for our last question, we’ll go to Hyun-Young Park of Joongang Ilbo.

QUESTION:  Hello, I’m Hyun-Young Park with Joongang Ilbo.  I’ll have to ask you – I’ll have to phrase a different question.  National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last month that we may have somewhat different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps on the end-of-war declaration discussions between U.S. and South Korea.  Vice Minister Choi, upon his arrival to D.C. last Sunday, said that he expected a good result from discussions with the U.S. on the end-of-war declaration proposal, in the not-too-distant future.  So, we have this different sentiment from both sides.

So, my question is:  Did the U.S. and South Korea resolve their somewhat different perspectives on the sequence, timing, or conditions?  If so, what would be the background that U.S. came to the conclusion that this is a viable proposition at this point?  Will you be announcing something soon?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  So, what I have said and will repeat is that we are having ongoing consultations and coordination with the Republic of – Republic of Korea and Japan and other interested allies and partners.  And I think that whenever we all consult and coordinate with each other, we always come out with a good result that ensures the interests of each of our countries and the overall interest of the world in peace and security.

MR ICE:  And with that, we have reached the end of our press briefing today.  I’d like to thank Deputy Secretary Sherman for being here with us.  Thank you so much, ma’am.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Thank you very much.  Thank you all and have a good rest of the day.  Thank you.

More from: Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State
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