ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN: Good afternoon and thank you for coming. It is great to be back in Seoul.
I want to thank General Han for his usual hospitality ... and for helping ensure that we had a very full day of meaningful discussions.
I also want to thank National Security Advisor Chun and Defense Minister Kim for meeting with me.
I deeply appreciate their time, especially given what I know are the pressing demands of their offices and the equally pressing demands of the common challenges we face in these difficult times.
That is why I am here, quite frankly -- to address those challenges, together ... to explore new ways we can overcome them, together ... and to reaffirm America's resolve to ensuring together with South Korea, our mutual security objectives on the peninsula and in the region.
This is no small task, as recent events attest. The regime in the north continues to isolate itself and to act in a manner detrimental to that security.
Their relentless and reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons -- highlighted by the brazen disclosure of a new uranium enrichment facility -- flies in the face of international sanctions, violates UN Security Council resolutions, and destabilizes the entire region.
Their aggressive artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island was not only unprovoked, it was lethal -- taking the lives of four South Koreans and raising to 50 the number of your countrymen killed this year by Democratic People's Republic of Korean hands.
The thoughts and prayers of my countrymen remain with you, but especially with the families of those lost in this attack and in the sinking of the Cheonan.
We have not forgotten your sacrifices, nor have we forgotten the leadership you have shown in reply.
Rather than meet belligerence in kind, you chose to meet it with restraint and resolve and with readiness.
The north should not mistake this restraint as a lack of resolve … nor should they interpret it as willingness to accept continued attacks to go unchallenged.
That said, the poise you have demonstrated befits the true strength of your position and the character of your people.
And so, to General Han specifically, let me just reiterate, sir, my admiration and my respect for your leadership.
Your readiness to defend your territory and your citizens is unmistakable, and my country's commitment to helping you do that is unquestioned.
We have been at your side for the last six decades. President Obama wanted me to assure you that we will be at your side for many more.
Our joint exercises last week off the west coast of the peninsula improved our interoperability in critical warfighting capabilities. It also sent a strong signal of our intent to deter future acts of aggression.
We must do more ... together.
What we discussed today was a long term view that ensures our near-term actions are guided by the strategic alliance 2015 framework we enacted in October … and ensuring our plans, training and exercises are focused on full-spectrum operations to deter -- and if necessary defeat -- a rapidly evolving threat.
I look forward to working closely with general sharp as he works closely with you to develop specific plans and exercises.
It is my hope that, to the degree possible, these will include participation by your neighbors and partners, in particular the Japanese.
I was very encouraged to see Republic of Korea observers involved in Keen Sword exercises near Japan this week, and as you know, Secretary Clinton just hosted back in Washington a truly historic tri-lateral meeting with minister Kim and with Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara.
Engagements such as these -- discussions such as these -- illustrate and deepen our relationships and, as Secretary Clinton put it, "cement our unified position" on the threat posed by North Korea.
The Japanese likewise have a stake in seeing this threat countered, and they have much to offer in terms of viable training opportunities and expertise.
Having been a Pacific sailor for most of my career, I can attest to their skill and to their earnest desire to contribute to regional security and stability.
Indeed, I leave this evening for Tokyo to discuss with Japanese military leaders ways in which we can leverage their experience and improve our defense cooperation.
I only wish China were as helpful.
As I told an audience last week, the Chinese have enormous influence over the north, influence that no other nation on Earth enjoys. And yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it.
Even tacit approval of Pyongyang’s brazenness leaves all their neighbors asking, “…what will be next?”
We appreciate Beijing's offer to propose an emergency six-party gathering, but as Secretary Clinton made clear, we first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks.
There is none, so long as North Korea persists in its illegal, ill-advised and dangerous behavior.
I do not believe we should continue to reward that behavior with bargaining or new incentives.
China has unique influence. Therefore, they bear unique responsibility.
Now is the time for Beijing to step up to that responsibility and help guide the north, and indeed, the entire region, towards a better future.
In the US-South Korean alliance, now is also the time for us to guide our partership into the future...to improve our joint capabilities and to advance security here on the peninsula.
Q: This is from MBN. I’d like to one question each to both the ROK CJCS and to the U.S. CJCS. First is directed to General Han. You talked about how we will continue our efforts to refine the ROK-supported, U.S.-supporting plans against local provocation. Can you elaborate on the sort of support that you’ll be receiving from the U.S. in terms of this refinement?
And the question I’d like to direct to Admiral Mullen is about the possibility of an all-out war. We are concerned that if the North Koreans decide to go ahead and additionally provoke us and then as we utilize our self-defense principle to respond, then there are possibilities of that situation developing into an all-out war. And therefore I would appreciate it if you could discuss what your view is about the possibility of an all-out war and what sort of measures that you are thinking of in order to encourage them to – (inaudible, audio interference).
(Note: General Han Min-koo’s comments are provided through interpreter.)
GENERAL HAN MIN-KOO: First I’d like to answer the question about the plans against local provocations. Up until now, the plans against the local provocations have been focusing mostly on ROK-only capabilities. However, as we’ve seen the – on the – through the recent attack on YP-do the North Korean provocations are becoming more bold.
And therefore we can foresee a situation that may require an alliance-level response and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve decided and agreed to develop this plan on an alliance level. And based on that plan we will devise an instantaneous as well as a very firm response if the North Koreans do decide to provoke us again.
And we will closely coordinate between the ROK and the U.S. and then we will refine and complete this plan in a very quick manner.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN: The purpose of our visit today was to reaffirm and make very visible the importance of this alliance and to sustain the solidarity and the shoulder-to-shoulder approach that our two countries have.
The recent provocative acts, the Cheonan sinking, the unveiling of the uranium-enrichment facility, the artillery striking and killing four South Korean citizens – all are very destabilizing actions. And it is belligerent, reckless behavior that we believe must – (inaudible, audio interference).
As General Han said, we’re very committed to looking at options within the alliance, to understand what those options might be and to send a very strong message to North Korea and whoever might be supporting North Korea that these actions must stop and have – the goal clearly is to have a deterrent effect so that all-out war never occurs.
The United States is very committed to this alliance and to ensuring we do all we can to make sure that this region is sustained in a way that is peaceful and stable. But no one should underestimate our resolve together to work to ensure these provocations cease.
Q: Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal. Admiral Mullen, given Defense Minister Kim’s recent comments about retaliating with airstrikes, are you concerned that South Korea might take actions that could escalate hostilities in the event of another North Korean artillery strike? And have you specifically asked South Korea to refrain from using airstrikes as part of retaliation?
ADM. MULLEN: South Korea is a sovereign nation that has every right to protect its people and to respond as it sees fit in order to effectively carry out that responsibility. They also have the right to choose the method with which they respond. And certainly there are a variety of options that South Korea has, that the United States has inside the alliance to respond to further provocations.
And what we talked about today was making sure that we have planning options in place in order to essentially get to a place where these provocations are deterred. And then specifically, to answer your question as to whether or not I asked the South Koreans to take air options off the table, I did not.
Q: This is a question from – (inaudible). First, my question’s directed to Admiral Mullen. You talked about in your answer about the self-defense principle of the Republic of Korea. You particularly asserted that because of self-defense utilizing air access is something that is the sovereign right of the Republic of Korea, that the Republic of Korea need not to seek understanding from the United States in order to utilize their air assets in self-defense.
And I would like you to a little bit elaborate and – (inaudible) – your opponents directly and also if you are – if there were any agreements that would support such actions that – would take place.
My next question is to Chairman Han. If there were any negotiations or agreements about revising the rules of engagement, what sort of plans do you have about revising and refining the rules of engagement?
ADM. MULLEN: We all have the inherent right of self-defense. Certainly, I think General Han spoke very specifically about provocations and responding very quickly or instantly. And from that standpoint, I certainly understand consultation, coordination – a lot of actions take place routinely in our alliance, in our discussions. Some that occurred today, and we will continue to have these discussions.
And I won’t go into the specifics of how we individually or together would plan any kind of response except to say that the commitment on the part of the United States to participate in these planning kinds of activities, that is very much – (inaudible, audio interference).
GEN. HAN: I would like to answer the question regarding the revision of rules of engagement.
Because the rules of engagement falls under the responsibility of the United Nations Command commander, we did not discuss this matter with the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I have already suggested the direction that we would like to take in terms of revising and refining these rules of engagement. And we will continue to closely coordinate with the UNC commander regarding these issues.
Q: This is a question from – (inaudible) – Daily (ph). First question is directed to General Han. This morning, the North Korean military carried out an artillery training in an area that they proclaim to be their own waters. And I believe that there’s a possibility that they did so because of the ROK-U.S. CJCS consultative meeting that went on today.
And I would like to ask if in today’s discussions did you discuss the possible and anticipative provocations from the North? And I would greatly appreciate it if you can elaborate on your discussions about the subject.
And the second question, to Admiral Mullen: You discussed the participation of the Japanese in the ROK-U.S. combined training. And right now currently the Japanese participate as observers to the ROK-U.S. combined exercise. And the ROK participants participate in U.S.-Japanese training as observers.
What do you see as the Japanese role in the future in terms of this trilateral relationship? What sort of active role do you expect and look forward to from the Japanese?
GEN. HAN: I do believe that it’s very difficult for us to confirm that the reason why the North Koreans carried out their artillery training north of the NLL in the vicinity of PY-do because of the ROK-U.S. CJCS consultative meeting.
In terms of your question about the anticipated additional provocations from the North, the military – our militaries have various – identified possible forms of additional provocations – (inaudible, audio interference) – plan then to get a response to these anticipative forms. However, as we’ve seen on the recent attack on YP-do their provocations are going beyond our imagination. Therefore, we will continue to try our efforts to refine and analyze these new types of anticipative provocations and prepare our plans against it.
And as I’ve mentioned various times, if the North Koreans were to additionally provoke us, we will respond in a very firm manner out of self-defense and North Korea will have to pay a very deep price for their additional provocations.
That will be all for now.
ADM. MULLEN: Part of what we talked about today was the whole of government that would involve all the agencies from each of our governments. So on Monday, Secretary Clinton hosted a trilateral with the foreign ministers from both South Korea and Japan. And I have had previous meetings with General Riki, General Han and myself as well on a trilateral basis.
And the observers at the bilateral exercises are examples of steps moving in the direction where we can move, where we can get to a place where there is much more trilateral cooperation in the future than has been in the past.
This is a critical region where all the regional players matter. And as we look to the challenges that we face, the goal of sustaining stability, it’s important that we look to the future and work together in terms of making a difference in that stability. So I would hope that we will see more interaction – more trilateral interaction – and multilateral interaction in the region in the future to involve South Korea, the United States and Japan.
And as I said earlier, I went this past June to Tokyo to have consultations with General Riki in Japan.
Q: We will now conclude the joint press conference. Thank you very much.