September 27, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Joint Press Availability with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa

21 min read

Honolulu, Hawaii

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I am very grateful to my colleagues, Foreign Ministers Hayashi and Chung, for a very productive set of meetings today.  And it’s good to be not just with colleagues, but with friends.  (Inaudible.)

For decades, the United States’ alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea have been among our most important not only in the Indo-Pacific, but around the world.  They’re rooted in an ironclad security relationship, America’s steadfast commitment to defend both allies, in our deep and growing economic and trade ties, and in the abiding bonds between our people.

But we increasingly recognize that if we’re going to meet the complex challenges of our time – and take full advantage of the opportunities for our people – the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States must do more together.  We have to learn to do trilaterally what’s become natural to do bilaterally.

That takes intense engagement, which is exactly what we’ve been pursuing.  The result is unprecedented cooperation among us, as evidenced by the substance of today’s meeting.  The U.S. is also committed to helping our partners work through challenges in their relations, which is manifestly in the collective interest of the region and of the people in all three of our countries.

The last time I was here at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center was in 2016, with the Vice President at the time, Joe Biden.  We were here for a trilateral meeting with the Republic of Korea and Japan.  And as the then Vice President said at that meeting, “We’re making trilateral engagements between our countries a habit…and good habits form good relationships.”

That’s why we’ve held three trilateral ministerial meetings in the last year.  We’re also making it a habit to work together across our governments – at every level – including when Deputy Secretary Sherman hosted her trilateral counterparts in November, and she will continue to carry that process forward.

It’s also essential to delivering on our strategy for a free and open Indo-Pacific, which we released yesterday.  That strategy reflects the fundamental truth that, more any other part of the world, what happens in this region is going to shape the lives of Americans and people around the world in this 21st century.  The strategy sets out several concrete ways that we’ll work to turn this vision into reality – benchmarks that we can hold ourselves to over the next couple of years.  Strengthening trilateral cooperation among Korea, Japan, and the United States is one of those benchmarks.  It’s indispensable to virtually everything we want to do in the region.  So, as with my entire trip, we’re not just talking about focusing on the Indo-Pacific; we’re actually doing it.

And that’s what we did in today’s trilateral meeting, across a range of important issues, reflected in the joint statement that we will issue.

We discussed ways to deepen our trilateral efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic, from boosting vaccine manufacturing and improving distribution, to increasing financing for global health security, so that we can detect and prevent the next pandemic.  The Republic of Korea and Japan will play key roles in a meeting that I’ll convene on Monday to set out a new Global Action Plan, which will drive greater coordination and urgency in our shared push to end the pandemic.

We explored ways that we can work together to meet the ambitious targets that each of our countries set when it comes to tackling climate change, and how we can team up to help other countries meet their goals.  That includes coordinating our investments in sustainable infrastructure and in building resilience to the inevitable changes that come from climate change.

And we focused on ways we can strengthen our economic security, which is increasingly interconnected.  That means shoring up vulnerabilities in our supply chains that have been exposed by the pandemic – from semiconductors to critical minerals – which will also make us less reliant on suppliers who violate human rights or flout environmental standards.  This, also, is much easier to do with three advanced economies than two or one.

Our economic security also depends on upholding the rules of the road that have enabled decades of unprecedented security for our people and prosperity across the region and around the world.  This includes ensuring that our workers and businesses can compete on a fair and level playing field, and protecting freedom of navigation and overflight, including in the South and East China Seas.

And it includes working together to shape new norms and standards that align with our values and interests, such as in emerging technologies, which are driving big sectors of our intertwined economies and touch on virtually every aspect of the lives of our people.

Finally, we discussed how to advance our shared goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and finding lasting peace there.  We condemn the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches and its unlawful nuclear and ballistic programs, which are clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions. And we continue to work to find ways to hold the DPRK accountable, as we did by imposing sanctions on eight DPRK-linked individuals and entities last month.

Together with our respective special representatives on this topic – Ambassador Sung Kim, who is here, Special Representative Noh, Director General Funakoshi – we discussed ways that we can deepen trilateral cooperation to deter the DPRK, limit the reach of its most dangerous weapons, defend against its provocations or use of force, and above all, keep the American, Japanese, and Korean people safe, which is our highest responsibility.

I want to underscore, we have no hostile intent toward the DPRK.  We remain open to dialogue without preconditions, if Pyongyang chooses that path.

Before I turn to my colleagues, and with their indulgence, let me give a brief update on the crisis in Ukraine, which we also discussed at some length in today’s meetings.

I spoke by phone last night with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, where I raised our serious concerns that Moscow may be considering launching a military attack against Ukraine in the coming days.  I made clear, as President Biden did today in his conversation with President Putin, that a diplomatic path to resolving this crisis – a crisis created by the unprovoked massing of Russian forces all around Ukraine – that diplomatic path remains open.

The way for Moscow to show that it wants to pursue that path is simple: it should de-escalate, rather than escalate.  And it should not only talk about seeking a diplomatic outcome, but actually work toward one.  On our call, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the Russians are working on a response to the paper that we sent to Moscow more than two weeks ago proposing concrete areas for discussion.  It remains to be seen if they’ll follow through on that.  But if they do, we’ll be ready to engage, together with our allies and partners.

I also underscored that if Moscow chooses the path of aggression and further invades Ukraine, the response from the United States and our allies and partners will be swift, it will be united, it will be severe.

Yesterday, we ordered the departure of most of the Americans still at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.  The risk of Russian military action is high enough, and the threat is imminent enough, that this is the prudent thing to do.  No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident, which it then uses to justify military action it had planned all along.

A core team will remain in Ukraine with our dedicated Ukrainian colleagues as we continue to work relentlessly to resolve this crisis through deterrence and diplomacy.   Our security assistance to Ukraine – as well as aid for other sectors like public health, economic development – all of that will continue.

In the meeting that the three of us had, we discussed the threat that Russia’s aggression poses – not only to Ukraine, but to the entire international rules-based order, which has provided a foundation for decades of shared security and prosperity, for our people here in this region and, again, around the globe.

When one country seeks to flout the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another, when it seeks to change the borders of another by force, when it seeks to dictate to that country its choices, its policies, with whom it may associate; when it seeks to exert a sphere of influence to subjugate a neighbor to its will, that is profoundly corrosive and undermining of these very rules and norms that undermine – underscore our own security, and again, not just in Europe but around the world.  And if we allow that to go unchallenged, if we allow it to proceed with impunity, then we open a Pandora’s box – again, not just in Europe but around the world.  And that’s why we agreed to stick together in our response to Russia no matter which path it chooses.

Times like these are the reason that we’ve invested decades in building America’s unmatched set of alliances and partnerships.  They underscore why the work our three countries are doing here today is so crucial: so that we can meet this challenge, and others to come, from a position of unity, solidarity, and strength.

With that, let me turn it over to Foreign Minister Chung.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you.  This U.S-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral ministerial meeting has been convened successfully.  I extend my sincere appreciation to Secretary Blinken and the Government of the United States.  The meeting was indeed highly timely, constructive, and informative.  We have engaged in informative exchange of information amongst ourselves.  We welcome the Biden administration’s commitment to the value of alliances and its willingness to proactively engage in the Indo-Pacific and through the strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance and trilateral coordination among Korea, the U.S., and Japan. We are determined to continue working in concert.

Today, we addressed a top priority of our three countries, issues of the DPRK and its nuclear program, through in-depth discussion.  And at the same time, major regional and global pending issues were also covered during our highly fruitful conversation.  We reaffirmed our shared goals of achieving complete denuclearization and establishment of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy, and we reached consensus in three aspects.

First, we expressed concern over the DPRK’s recent series of missile launches and other actions that heightened tensions in the region, resolving to prevent the situation on the Korean Peninsula from deteriorating further by making proactive endeavors.

We reaffirmed that diplomacy and dialogue with the North is of greater importance than ever, and to bring forward engagement with Pyongyang we exchanged views on a variety of realistic measures.  Thus far, the Biden administration has confirmed that it held no hostile intent towards the DPRK, emphasizing its openness to meeting their country without any preconditions anywhere, anytime, on numerous occasions.  I call on the DPRK to reciprocate and promptly return to dialogue and diplomacy.

Third, going forward as well our three countries agreed to engage in active communication at various levels and closely coordinate on issues on the Korean Peninsula.  We have reaffirmed that regional and international peace, stability, and prosperity are our common interests and goals, and resolved also to step up our cooperation going further.

We are greatly concerned about violence and human rights infringement in Myanmar and to restore democracy and improve the human rights situation therein concurrent to work together with ASEAN and the international community.

On the situation in Ukraine as well, we shared our deep concern.  Through diplomacy and dialogue, Ukraine’s peace and stability should be re-established as early as possible, a position we reaffirmed.

Cooperation among Korea, the United States, and Japan ranges from ensuring stable global supply chains including for critical minerals and promoting other mutually beneficial, future-oriented, and practical cooperation to addressing global challenges such as economic and security cooperation, and its scope continues to expand.

We share democracy, human rights, market economy, and other core values as likeminded countries, and as such agree to continue to our cooperation for global peace and prosperity. Notably, to address COVID-19 and the immediate challenge facing the entire humanity, we’re actively and making endeavors in this regard and supporting U.S. initiative for the COVID-19 Global Action Plan.

Today, we reaffirmed importance and usefulness of trilateral cooperation among Korea, the U.S., and Japan.  As we move forward, we’ll be getting together often on various occasions, including multilateral meetings, to continue our strategic communication and coordination.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  I just concluded Japan-U.S.-ROK foreign ministers meeting with Secretary Blinken and Minister Chung.  We had a very fruitful discussion, and I would like to thank Secretary Blinken once again for the wonderful hospitality.

To begin with, regarding North Korea, we shared serious concerns over North Korea’s recent and repeated launches of ballistic missiles, including the latest launch of IRBM class ballistic missile on January 30th.  Based on the shared understanding that North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities pose a threat to the peace and stability of the region and the international community, we aligned our recognition on future measures.

Firstly, we concurred to further strengthen regional deterrence.  While the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as U.S.-ROK alliance each play an important role in this regard, we concurred on advancing security cooperation among Japan, U.S., and the ROK.

Second, we agreed on the importance of fully implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions and concurred to coordinate even more closely on future responses by the Security Council.

Thirdly, we shared the recognition that even in such a situation diplomatic efforts are important and we agreed to deepen the discussion among Japan, U.S., and ROK.  In this vein, Prime Minister Kishida had repeatedly expressed his determination to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un face to face.

I also asked for continued understanding and cooperation from the two ministers on abductions issue, and to which they expressed their strong support.

We also had a candid discussion on the regional affairs with the recognition about the collaboration among Japan, U.S., and the ROK is of strategic importance beyond North Korean related issue.  In this context, I once again welcomed the Indo-Pacific strategy that the U.S. announced yesterday.  We also affirmed to expand cooperation and collaboration for the peace and stability of the region with our shared concern about activities that undermine the rules-based international order and concurred that we strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to alter the status quo and increase tensions in the region.  We are strongly opposed to unilateral action that seeks to alter status quo.

We also exchanged our views – furthermore, we also discussed global issues such as climate change and COVID-19 and other global health issues now pressing challenge for international community.  We concurred on the continued cooperation among Japan, U.S. and ROK in dealing with such challenges.

Lastly, we agreed to further enhance the collaboration among Japan, U.S., and ROK at multiple levels.  Based on today’s discussion as well as joint statement we issued, I would like to work even more closely with you as and ROK for the peace, stability, and prosperity of the region and the international community, including dealing with North Korea.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  We’ll now turn to questions.  We’ll take one question from each delegation.  The first question goes to Nike Ching of VOA.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon, gentlemen.  Aloha.

For Secretary Blinken, would the United States consider bold steps toward North Korea, and are you concerned that the dispute between Japan and South Korea over island sovereignty and historical issues are getting in the way?  How close are the United, is the United States watching the presidential election in South Korea?

And for Foreign Minister Chung, for Foreign Minister Chung, do you have a assessment of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un’s health?  What do you think is the intention, and how do you evaluate recent missiles launches by North Korea?

And for Foreign Minister Hayashi, do you assess the result of the presidential election in South Korea may complicate a joint trilateral approach toward North Korea?

And separately, if I may, on Ukraine for both Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Chung, has the United States asked Japan to provide more LNG, liquified natural gas, to Europe, supplies to Europe?  And are Japan and South Korea worried over the economic disruptions of a war, and what assurances have you gotten?

(In Japanese and Korean.)  Thank you very much, gentlemen.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Nike, thank you for the excellent multipart, multiperson question.  (Laughter.)  You covered a lot of ground.  I’m happy to start and then hand it over to my colleagues.

I think it is clear to all of us that the DPRK is in a phase of provocation.  We condemned the recent missile launches, violations of UN Security Council resolutions.  We will continue to hold the DPRK accountable even as we seek to engage in diplomacy.  As you know, we imposed sanctions on eight DPRK-linked individuals and entities last month, and we are very closely consulting together on further steps.

At the same time, we remain prepared to meet without preconditions to pursue practical steps toward diplomacy.  The goal remains the same and it’s a shared goal.  It’s the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and it is lasting peace.  We have no hostile intent toward North Korea.  And again, we unfortunately have seen their response to our making it clear that we’re prepared to pursue diplomacy with – unfortunately, that response has been a series now of provocative actions.

I think what’s important and that comes out of today, and this will be reflected in the joint statement that we’ll put out shortly, is that we are absolutely united in our approach, in our determination.  And that unity of purpose is, I think, vitally important for dealing with the challenge posed by the DPRK and also pursuing a more – a more hopeful future.  But I’ll – I invite you to take a look at the joint statement.

When it comes to elections and the like, happily, in my job I don’t do politics.  I don’t do them in my own country.  I don’t do them in other countries.  So I’ll leave it at that.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:  Thank you. (Via interpreter) Well, there was a question regarding the relations between Korea and Japan.  Although the question was not directed towards myself, regarding the Dokdo Island issue the Korean Government’s position is very clear, so I do not want to repeat that view myself.  But that does not have any impact whatsoever regarding our relations concerning the issue of the DPRK.  In the recent month, the DPRK’s test-firing of ballistic missiles is a conduct that is clearly wrong.  And regarding such launches we have – we are deeply concerned and we expressed regret, and we are strongly urging North Korea to not repeat such testing.

But as was just stated by Secretary Blinken, complete denuclearization and establishment of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, our commitment to that goal has never changed.  And for us to be able to achieve these shared goals, diplomacy and dialogue is a way to go for us.  Our commitment to that goal and approach is also unchanged.

Recently, the DPRK is making its own decisions and has been talking about the possibility of lifting its self-imposed moratorium on missile launches.  We are deeply concerned about that, and I strongly urged the DPRK not to put its words into action.

Concerning the situation in Ukraine, the developments have been going into the wrong direction.  And regarding the support of LNG to Europe, if there are any difficulties in that regard concerning the assistance of gas supply to Europe, we are taking that matter into account proactively.  I hope that through diplomacy and dialogue we hope to see the resolution of the situation in Ukraine as well.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  I had a frank exchange of views during the bilateral discussions and through the trilateral meeting.  Please refer to the announcement that will be shared later. The position of Takeshima is already known.

And about the special elections in South Korea – there was a question raised – that is a internal affair of a different country, so I will refer from answering the question.

And to supply of natural gas was requested from U.S. and Europe, and Japan has decided to supply the natural gas.  And recently we – there was appreciation expressed from American government as well.

MR PRICE:  Gyu Kim, JTBC.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Ned.

(Via interpreter)  First of all, I have a question to Minister Chung.  The three countries have been actually urging on North Korea to come to dialogue, but we have not been able to see any concrete measures, though.  In order to accelerate their involvement, have you discussed any realistic measures?  I think you said that in your statement.  So what are some concrete measures that you are going to propose to North Korea?  Could you give us more details?

I have a question to Secretary Blinken.  In relation to the Ukraine’s situations, for example, do you believe that ICBM can be launched by North Korea in line with the current situation that’s worsening in Ukraine?  Would you think that United States will be able to manage these two situations at the same time?

And also going beyond urging dialogue from North Korea, perhaps sending a personal letter from President Biden to North Korea?  There are some people who are saying that there should be high-level intervention.

And last, I have a question to Minister Hayashi.  You said that you understand the need to have a trilateral coordination between the three countries.  Perhaps the three leaders have to get together.  So in terms of the bilateral meeting between the Japan and Korea on this, and also there are some historical issues that are underway.

INTERPRETER:  I’m very sorry, but there are disruptions to the feedback – the sound feed that we’re getting from the speaker.  The interpretation booth was not able to get any sound from the microphone.  I believe that the last question by the journalist would have to be repeated again.  There were some technical issues.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter)  So three countries understand the importance of trilateral cooperation.  In order to emphasize and underscore that, we need to have a leader-level meeting at the highest level.  So for example, between the bilateral – the bilateral summit between Korea and Japan, and between the trilateral meetings.  So what is the commitment from Japan?

And also because of the historical issues, do you see a stalemate between the bilateral relations between Korea and Japan?  Of course, two countries would have to work harder.  Are there any specific efforts that are currently undertaken by the Japanese Government in order to improve relations with Korea?

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI:  (Via interpreter) I believe the first question was posed to me, so let met me answer that question.  Yes, we actually discussed a lot of measures to deal with this issue, but we are unable to disclose that information at this point of time.  At an opportune time in the future, I believe that information will be disclosed to the public in due course.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I certainly don’t rule out that North Korea could engage in further provocative actions as things are happening in other parts of the world, including in Europe with regard to Ukraine.  In fact, as we’ve been dealing with the challenge posed by Russia’s threats of aggression against Ukraine, we’ve, of course, had a series of missile launches and tests by North Korea that we’ve responded to in solidarity with our allies and partners.

The bottom line is – and I think in a sense this week is a reasonable demonstration of that – we walk and chew gum at the same time.  Even as I’ve spent the week in the Indo-Pacific region – in Australia, in Fiji, now here in Hawaii, working with the Quad countries, working with our partners in the Pacific Islands, and of course, here today with our close allies and partners from Japan and Korea – I’ve also been engaged, we’ve also been engaged, in managing the challenge that Russia is currently posing to security in Europe and Ukraine.

And in a sense, these things are also inherently linked, because whether it is provocative actions undertaken by the DPRK, Russian aggression toward Ukraine, other actions in this region by large countries that seek to undermine the rules-based order that we have established together, these are – these are of a piece.  And the common denominator is when basic principles that we’ve established together that are vital to the security and the prosperity of people in all of our countries are being challenged, we stand up together to defend them.

Our three countries – and again, I think this will come out in the joint statement – we have a profoundly affirmative vision for what we want to do together for the future, for the citizens of our countries and for people around the world.  But we’re also committed together as allies and partners to stand up and defend the rules-based order and to act together in solidarity when the principles of that order are being challenged, wherever that challenge is taking place, whether it’s in Europe or here in the Indo-Pacific region.

And that’s, again, I think a hallmark and the reason why the United States over many years has established these partnerships, these alliances, bringing countries together in common cause and common purpose.  That enables us very effectively to deal with multiple challenges at the same time.  And again, beyond that I think there’s a common denominator to all of them, which is why, as you’ve heard from my colleagues today, there is tremendous solidarity not only when it comes to dealing with challenges immediately in the Indo-Pacific but when it comes to dealing with the threat of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

FOREIGN  MINISTER CHUNG:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  Cooperation between U.S. and South Korea is essential for the peace and stability in this region.  (Inaudible) North Korea, we discussed about the recent situation, including China and Ukraine, and we had a very good exchange of views.  So going forward for the peace and stability for the region, cooperation between the three countries should be further developed.

INTERPRETER:  Yes, one correction from Japanese-to-English interpreter.  When Minister Hayashi made initial statement, the interpreter skipped one paragraph, which reads as follows:

We also exchanged our views on Ukraine while sharing views about tensions are escalating.  We confirmed our unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and concurred to continued close coordination.  Apology from interpreter.

MR PRICE:  Thank you.  Our final question will come from Yuichi Nobira from Asahi Shimbun.

QUESTION:  Nobira from Asahi Shimbun.  I have a question to the three ministers.  Although regional stability cooperation between the three countries is important, but currently China is enhancing its advancement into the sea.  And both Japan, the U.S., at the defense ministerial meeting in January and sort of online meeting, they confirmed the strengthening of the alliance.  Between Japan, U.S. and ROK, do you plan to take common measure with agreement with respect to the approaches to China?  How do you think such approaches would be important?  I have question to all of you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I would again invite you to look at the joint statement that we will issue shortly after this meeting comes to an end.  We discussed and I think the statement reflects the shared concern that we have about activities that undermine the rules-based international order, as we were just discussing.  We reaffirmed the desire that we share for a peaceful and stable region that would allow all countries to reach their full potential free from coercion.  We strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to alter the status quo and increase tensions in the region.  And we reiterated our very strong support, longstanding support, for international law, highlighting in particular the importance of compliance with international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.

So I think you’ll see that in the joint statement.  We also emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.  So I invite you to look at the statement when we put it out shortly.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:  (In Korean) (Via interpreter)  Thank you.  As far as we’re concerned in this Northeast Asian region, based on order –

INTERPRETER: My apologies, the audio feed is cut off.

FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG: (Via interpreter) We have reached a full agreement on that aspect.  Maintaining peace and stability in the region is extremely important, and any conduct that goes against maintaining the status quo is something that we opposed.

FOREIGN MINISTER HAYASHI: (In Japanese) (Via interpreter)  So as a solution that both ministers of the three countries must expand, it’s cooperation that was confirmed and the activities that are damaging to international cooperation, which is made in rule or attempts to change the status quo and other actions of trying to enhance tension, is something we agree to strongly oppose such action.

As I have mentioned, cooperation between U.S., ROK, and Japan (inaudible) measures against North Korea, but these are essential for peace and stability of the whole region.  So in addition to responses of North Korea, we had a frank exchange of views of the recent situation, including the situation of China and Ukraine.  So we want to further develop the cooperation between our three countries for the peace and stability of the region.

Based on the rules – I misspoke on my – let me make my apologies.  The order, based on rules, the rules-based order.  International order is something that we value.

MR PRICE:  That concludes the press conference.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, everyone.  I invite you to go outside and enjoy the day. 

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