Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
MR PRICE: The Secretary and Foreign Minister Park are now signing the protocol to amend and extend the U.S.-Republic of Korea Science and Technology Agreement. The first iteration of the agreement was signed in 1992. A new one was signed in 1999 and has been renewed since then. However, this amended version adds important new components to strengthen our science and technology agreement and extends the agreement for an additional 10 years.
(The agreement was signed.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am delighted to welcome Foreign Minister Park back to Washington.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s very, very good to be with my colleague and my friend.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The Republic of Korea is a vital and longstanding strategic partner, and I’m particularly grateful to have such a close friend in Jin to bring this alliance between our countries even closer. Before I talk about the productive discussions that we had today and the agreement we just signed – Jin, if you’ll allow me – I’d just like to briefly address the presence of the Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace.
I spoke this morning with Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi to convey that in light of China’s unacceptable action, I am postponing my planned travel this weekend to China. As you know, President Biden and President Xi agreed during their meetings in Bali in November that I would travel to Beijing to follow up on their discussions. We’ve been working across the U.S. Government to prepare for a substantive set of discussions on issues that matter to the American people and to people around the world. And we’ve been engaging for some time with our counterparts in Beijing to prepare for these meetings.
Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced that we had detected and were tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that remains over the continental United States. We continue to track and monitor the balloon closely. We’re confident this is a Chinese surveillance balloon. Once we detected the balloon, the U.S. Government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.
We communicated with the PRC Government directly through multiple channels about this issue. Members of my team consulted with our partners in other agencies and in Congress. We also engaged our close allies and partners to inform them of the presence of the surveillance balloon in our airspace. We concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time.
In my call today with Director Wang Yi, I made clear that the presence of this surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law, that it’s an irresponsible act, and that the PRC’s decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have. I told Director Wang that the United States remains committed to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when conditions allow.
In the meantime, the United States will continue to maintain open lines of communication with China, including to address this ongoing incident. Indeed, that’s why we need direct and regular communications in the first place, and that’s why it’s critical that such lines remain open at all times to help avoid miscalculation and conflict.
One final but important note. The world expects the United States and China to manage our relationship responsibly. And indeed, addressing many of today’s global challenges – challenges that affect the lives of our people and people around the world – demands that we find a way to work together as well. The United States will continue to act in a way that reflects that responsibility. We look to our PRC counterparts to do the same.
Now, the foreign minister and I just signed an important agreement that will guide our country’s cooperation on science and technology in the years ahead. The agreement builds on one that we signed in 1992, which helped foster three decades of consequential collaboration. Our universities have conducted joint research on cancer and climate change. Our governments have worked together to reduce air pollution, to promote research and development on semiconductors which power modern technologies from cars to smartphones. Our businesses have partnered on life saving vaccines and treatments, like the collaboration between the U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna and South Korean biotechnology company Samsung Biologics to manufacture and – a safe and effective COVID vaccine for the region.
Today’s arrangement – today’s agreement will expand the scope of that cooperation, both in areas that we’ve long worked together on like space but also in emerging fields like biotechnology, quantum, artificial intelligence. Scientific cooperation is just one of many areas where our nations are working together to the benefit of our populations.
Another is our shared security, an area where we have enduring ties, as our troops continue to train and conduct joint exercises side by side. As President Biden has said, our alliance is the linchpin of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. And it’s poised to grow stronger still with the launch of the Republic of Korea’s new Indo-Pacific strategy this past December, which reflects our own shared interests and shared approaches to the region’s most pressing challenges.
But, today, we reaffirmed our commitment to improving our allied defense against common threats, as well as our commitment to defending the Republic of Korea using the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Austin met with President Yoon as well as Defense Minister Lee in Seoul to boost our deterrence planning, including through even deeper information sharing on North Korean nuclear threats. We remain committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The Foreign Minister and I also discussed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We’re increasing our trilateral security cooperation with Japan, which puts us on stronger footing to address shared security threats, including the DPRK’s unlawful and reckless missile launches. We held a series of joint ballistic missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises this past fall. We’re also deepening our trilateral collaboration on other security challenges, as well as on helping Pacific Island countries adapt to the growing impacts of climate change.
We’re working with other countries to advance joint priorities, like boosting inclusive economic prosperity through the Indo-Pacific and beyond, including through the Indo-Pacific Framework for Prosperity and the Minerals Security Partnership.
Of course, our partnership extends well beyond the Indo-Pacific. Since President Putin launched his brutal and unprovoked war on Ukraine, our countries have stood together, along with other allies and partners, to impose unprecedented sanctions and export controls designed to deprive Russia’s war machine of resources, as well as to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their country. Here, too, we’re working in concert with broad coalitions. Earlier this week, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg traveled to the Republic of Korea and Japan as part of his regular engagement with NATO’s Asia-Pacific partners, demonstrating the growing synergy between our Atlantic and Pacific alliances.
We applaud, too, the Republican Korea’s $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, aid that has brought vaccines to children, emergency medical supplies to families, power generators to communities – to replace the ones Russia has deliberately bombed as it tries to deprive Ukrainian civilians of heat, light, and water.
This October we’ll celebrate the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance. At the treaty signing 70 years ago, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Pyon remarked that he was sure – and I quote – “This written bond of solidarity would bring joy and encouragement to all … friends of freedom.” Secretary of State Dulles said that the alliance was – and I quote – “firmly dedicated to peace.” For the past seven decades, our alliance has indeed sustained peace. And with the progress that we’ve made today, I’m confident that we’ve taken another step toward a more secure and prosperous future to the benefit of the people of our countries, of the Indo-Pacific, and of the world.
And with that, Jin, over to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: Well, thank you, Tony, for your warm remarks and for welcoming me back to Washington. I would also like to thank your superb team for arranging today’s meeting. This year marks, as you said, the historic 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance, and I’m delighted to kick off year-long commemorations with my good friend, Secretary Blinken.
The ROK-U.S. alliance is one of the most durable and successful alliances in history. It is special not only due to his longevity, but because it is a vibrant, adaptive partnership that consistently rises to the challenges of our times. And President Yoon and President Biden met in Seoul in May last year and declared that we would develop an upgraded global comprehensive strategic alliance. And we will expand the scope of the alliance to encompass not only political, military, economic partnership, but also technological and cultural dimensions. Alliance for the Future, the 70th anniversary slogan, aptly encapsulates this forward-looking spirit and an alliance in action.
Today, Secretary Blinken and I had a productive and comprehensive discussion on a wide range of topics. First and foremost, we discussed ways to build on the agreements reached by our two leaders last year to lay out a blueprint for the next 70 years. In particular, we agreed to focus on issues that benefit our businesses and reassure and enrich the lives of our citizen in tangible ways. From extended deterrence to supply chain stability, to cutting edge technologies and space cooperation, our two governments will continue to enhance strategic communication at all levels across these critical areas.
Secretary Blinken and I also reaffirmed our unwavering determination to denuclearize North Korea. This is at the forefront and center of our joint efforts to establish sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula. Peace without denuclearization is fake peace. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a direct and serious threat to not only Korea, but also international peace and security. They undermine the very foundation of the global non-proliferation regime. The ROK and the U.S. will continue our water-tight coordination to achieve genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula. We are committed to strengthening extended deterrence while maintaining a robust combined defense posture. Any provocations by North Korea will be met with a firm and united response.
The Secretary and I also agreed to strengthen efforts to close loopholes and fully implement UN Security Council resolutions as well as to cut off Pyongyang’s unlawful revenue streams. Countering North Korea’s illicit cyber activities must be a priority. We agreed that China has the distinct capability and the responsibility to influence Pyongyang’s behavior. Denuclearization of North Korea has long been an area of cooperation for China as well as ROK and the United States, and it needs to stay that way.
We will also embolden Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation to address North Korea’s escalating threat. We also discussed maintaining focus on the egregious human rights situation in North Korea. In this vein, I welcome the nomination of Ms. Julie Turner as a new U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights.
The Secretary and I also discussed ways to scale up cooperation on economic security and cutting-edge technology. Just a few moments ago, I was pleased to sign with Secretary Blinken the Protocol Amending and Extending Scientific and Technical Cooperation Agreement between the ROK and the U.S. It will strengthen partnership on critical technologies by promoting research and development cooperation as well as exchange of experts and knowledge.
We agreed that space is the next frontier in our expanding partnership. President Yoon has stated that Korea will launch a new aerospace agency within this year. I was delighted to meet with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson yesterday to discuss cooperation on space that will benefit our civil, commercial, and security domains. This year we plan to hold the ROK-U.S. Space Forum through which we hope to further strengthen space cooperation.
The Secretary and I agreed to continue close coordination to address disruptions in the global supply chain. We will explore potential for cooperation under the CHIPS and Science Act. We will also work together to ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act is implemented in ways that address Korea’s – Korean companies’ concerns and benefit both our businesses and industries.
As you may know, last year Korea announced our own Indo-Pacific strategy. No region is more directly tied to global peace and prosperity than the Indo-Pacific. Our respective Indo-Pacific strategies squarely embrace this fact. We will complement and amplify our engagements in this region in accordance with the core values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law, and in partnership with other countries that share these values.
In this regard, 2022 was a breakthrough year for ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral cooperation. In June our leaders met for the first time in five years on the occasion of the NATO summit. They met again in Phnom Penh and announced the need to qualitatively expand trilateral cooperation to deter economic coercion, bolster economic security, and tackle 21st century challenges together. Secretary Blinken and I also agreed to continue efforts towards a swift conclusion of the war in Ukraine and the restoration of peace to its incredibly brave and resilient people.
Secretary Blinken and I covered a wide range of issues today. This is a testament to how closely our two countries have been working hand in glove at all levels. This is truly an alliance in action, an alliance for the future that is based on common interests and a common vision. I look forward to deepening my partnership and friendship with Tony in this seminal and historic year for the ROK-U.S. alliance. Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thank you. We’ll now turn to questions. We’ll start with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister.
Mr. Secretary, this is the first time, according to the Pentagon, that China has sent a surveillance balloon over the U.S. for such duration. And as you have just said, it’s the first time on the eve of a planned visit by an American secretary of state to China. Is canceling your trip, or postponing your trip, enough of a consequence? What are the other consequences that China should have to take for these actions?
And secondly, if I may, what are the opportunity costs of not meeting with the Chinese and with the Chinese president at a time of such tensions with Taiwan and continuing U.S. concerns over China’s support for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Andrea. Let me start with this: It’s very important to emphasize that the presence of this surveillance balloon over the United States in our skies is a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law, and clearly unacceptable. And we’ve made that clear to China. Any country that has its airspace violated in this way I think would response similarly, and I can only imagine what the reaction would be in China if they were on the other end.
And what this has done is created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip, including ongoing efforts to build a floor under the relationship and to address a broad range of issues that are of concern to the American people, I believe to the Chinese people, and certainly as well to people around the world. So we took the step that I announced earlier today in postponing the planned visit for this weekend.
Meanwhile, we are going to remain engaged with the PRC as this ongoing issue is resolved. The first step is getting the surveillance asset out of our airspace, and that’s what we’re focused on. And I thought it was very important for Wang Yi, the senior foreign policy official in Beijing, to hear this directly from me.
It would be premature for me to weigh in on any other specifics as this surveillance balloon remains in our airspace. As I said, job one is getting it out of our airspace. We continue to believe that having open lines of communication is important. Indeed, this incident only underscores the importance. And that’s why we will maintain them, and that’s also why, when conditions permit, I plan to go to China. But the most important thing right now in the moment is to see that this surveillance asset gets out of our airspace, and we’ll take it from there.
QUESTION: But shouldn’t there be – shouldn’t there be other consequences, sir?
MR PRICE: Seungmo Nam of SBS.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t there be another announcement —
MR PRICE: Andrea, Andrea, we need to move on.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, I don’t want to get ahead of anything other than to say that the first step is to get the surveillance craft out of our airspace.
MR PRICE: Seungmo Nam of SBS.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions. Firstly, Mr. Secretary, Secretary Blinken, North Korea’s nuclear threats are increasing every day, even openly, especially to South Korea. Now many Koreans don’t feel safe even with the U.S. commitments to the nuclear umbrella. The U.S. says there is no better guarantee than the U.S. Forces Korea. Right, but credibility has declined due to the discussions on withdrawal during the Trump administration. And as you know, it’s not the first time.
This is why there are growing calls for South Korea to have nuclear weapons. My question is: Why is the extended deterrence currently being discussed by the U.S. and South Korea more reliable than existing nuclear umbrella (inaudible)? Please give me some examples that can reassure Koreans in this.
And my next question is to Minister Park. (Via interpreter) For the U.S. Government, U.S. Government is not making other people to make a choice, but while U.S. is trying to establish it’s own supply chains, Korean companies are forced to make a change. So U.S. supply chains – regarding that, what is U.S. asking us and for our companies and our economy? What’s ROK Government’s position to handle this while we can’t really make one choice or the other?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much, and I’m happy to start. Let me be very clear: Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea as well as to Japan is ironclad. And in that light, we’re also committed to strengthening our trilateral cooperation, which enhances both deterrence and the defense of our countries.
We take extended deterrence very seriously. And just in the last year, we’ve renewed our Working Group on Extended Deterrence, we’ve engaged in multiple exercises, and we have colleagues who at this very moment are working to strengthen and deepen even further our collaboration on extended deterrence.
We are committed to defending the Republic of Korea using the full range of our capabilities – nuclear, conventional, missile defense capabilities. So there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind, starting with Pyongyang, of our commitment to defend our allies, our partners, our friends, and to extended deterrence.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: (Via interpreter) Regarding your second question, for the international supply chains there is a very rapid change, as you all know, and Korea is trying its best to make it beneficial, make the environmental – this international conditions beneficial for us, and we’re trying very hard for it.
The Korea’s network of economy and trading, we have to use it very well so that we can benefit our national interests, and our Korean Government is doing everything that it can do. The most important thing is to stabilize the supply chains based on the U.S.-ROK alliance. In this regard, so we are participating in IPEF and also we initiated or initially participated in the Fab 4 meetings so that we can benefit or serve our national interests and to create environment conducive for our national interests.
However, this doesn’t mean that pick one thing over the other. We are still maintaining relationship, economic relationship with China, and we are exporting a lot to China in terms of semiconductor business. And Samsung and SK, they have presence in China. So export control policies and its effect on us needs to be considered comprehensively so that we can come up with the most suitable policy for Korean situation.
MR PRICE: Iain Marlow, Bloomberg.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, you’ve described the U.S.-China relationship as the most consequential one in the world, and yet the Department of Defense also described this Chinese spy balloon as not really representing a national security threat. What would you say to those who might suggest canceling this very important trip, as you’ve outlined, is in part related to optics and being seen to respond to criticism that the Biden administration might be soft on China, or at least needs to take a tough response?
And separately, you’ve said that you’ll go when conditions allow. I’m wondering if you might elaborate on that. Are we talking a week or a month?
And Foreign Minister Park, could you offer a little bit of an assessment on what you think the U.S., South Korea, and Japan can do to cut off these illicit revenue streams for North Korea, especially including the sale of ammunition to Russia or cryptocurrency theft? And how do you think China can be brought into those discussions? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Iain. China’s decision to fly a surveillance balloon over the continental United States is both unacceptable and irresponsible. That’s what this is about. It’s a violation of our sovereignty. It’s a violation of international law. And it was very important that we, of course, take the actions we did to protect any sensitive information, to protect our people, and to make clear to China that, again, this is an unacceptable as well as irresponsible action.
It’s even more irresponsible coming on the eve of a long-planned visit that followed from the meeting between the two presidents in Bali on the margins of the G20. And in our judgment, it created conditions that undermine the very purpose of the trip, including ongoing efforts, as I said, to build a floor under the relationship as well as to address a very broad range of issues that are important to Americans, to Chinese, to the entire world.
So that is why I conveyed to Wang Yi, the senior foreign policy official in China, this morning that I was postponing the travel and that we will look to see about doing the trip when conditions allow. I’m not going to put a date or time on that because what we’re focused right now is on making sure that this ongoing issue is actually resolved. The first step, as I said, is getting the surveillance asset out of our airspace.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: With regard to your question about North Korea’s illicit cyber activities, as you may know, after the UN Security Council adopted stronger sanctions starting in 2016, North Korea’s foreign exchange reserve decreased significantly. Since then, North Korea has been stepping up its illegal cyber activities to circumvent the sanctions regime, and reportedly, it has stolen more than 1.2 billion U.S. dollars by hacking since 2017. It is more worrisome that Pyongyang uses such revenue to develop nuclear and missile programs. In this regard, its illicit cyber activities constitute a grave threat not only to the global economy and industries, but also to international peace and security.
So we must consolidate international efforts to block North Korea’s illicit revenue stream. And I think Republic of Korea, the United States, and Japan should cooperate to deal with these challenges, and by doing so we will leave Pyongyang with no option but to return to dialogue and give up its nuclear development.
MR PRICE: We’ll take a final question from Dong Hyun Kim of Yonhap News.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Secretary Blinken, today you discussed many ways to strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance. Would a April state visit by President Yoon be considered as one of those measures?
And Minister Park, just last week the Chinese military aircraft entered Korean air defense identification zone, and now there’s a Chinese surveillance balloon in the U.S. airspace. Do you consider this kind of behaviors to be a threat to the alliance?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. President Biden very much values his relationship and partnership with President Yoon, but I would refer you to the White House for any information about any visits.
FOREIGN MINISTER PARK: Secretary Blinken gave me very detailed explanations about the Chinese balloon incident, and I sufficiently understand the decision to postpone Secretary’s visit to China and I think that China should make a swift and very sincere explanations about what happened. But at the same time, the U.S.-China relationship is a very important relationship in international relations, so at some point in the future, I hope that President — Blinken can have a chance to visit China and to communicate with Beijing.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Minister. Thank you, everyone. That concludes the press conference.