US Secretary of State slams North Korea, China during visit to S. Korea

Posted on : 2021-03-18 16:24 KST Modified on : 2021-03-18 16:24 KST
Blinken met with Chung Eui-yong to discuss a range of issues from the North Korean nuclear issue to China strategy
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken bump elbows for the media before their meeting Wednesday at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (photo pool)
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken bump elbows for the media before their meeting Wednesday at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (photo pool)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared pointed remarks about North Korea and China Wednesday while visiting South Korea with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Blinken and Austin’s visit is the first simultaneous South Korea visit by the US Secretaries of State and Defense in 11 years.

The two of them arrived from Japan, the site of the first overseas visit by Cabinet members under the administration of President Joe Biden. Blinken’s tour is scheduled to end with senior-level US-China discussions in Alaska.

After arriving at Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province that afternoon, Blinken met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong at 6:30 pm at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs complex in Seoul.

Ahead of the meeting, Chung said, “We see the continued development of the Korea-U.S. Alliance as the most important task of our diplomacy.”

“I also look forward to building the momentum towards the firm establishment and substantive progress on the Korean Peninsula peace process with the outcomes of today’s meeting,” he added.

In response, Blinken said, “This alliance between us is, as we’ve said, the linchpin for peace, for security and prosperity, not just for our two nations but for the Indo-Pacific region and, indeed, for the world.”

“The alliance is unwavering, it’s ironclad, and it’s rooted in friendship, in mutual trust, and in shared values,” he added. “We need to work together ever more closely.”

Blinken went on to deliver forceful remarks directed at North Korea and China.

He said, “We’ll continue to work together with the ROK and other allies and partners, including Japan, toward denuclearization of the DPRK,” commenting on the North Korean nuclear issue, which has been the focus of intense attention.

He also said that China was “using coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law.”

“And the authoritarian regime in North Korea continues to commit systemic and widespread abuses against its own people,” he continued.

In line with Blinken’s pointed introductory remarks, heated discussions on the North Korean nuclear program and other Korean Peninsula issues, as well as policies toward China, appear to have taken place during the meeting that day.

While the US does not appear to have applied immediate pressure on South Korea to take part in the Quad — a strategic dialogue framework between the US, Japan, Australia and India aimed at containing China — it is very likely to have demanded that South Korea actively keep step with the US-led efforts to rein China in.

In the area of North Korea policy, South Korea is believed to have reaffirmed the need for a step-by-step approach toward the peninsula’s complete denuclearization based on the Joint Statement issued by the North Korean and US leaders at their Singapore summit on June 12, 2018.

The Biden administration’s position was evident in a Tuesday joint statement by the US-Japan ministers of foreign affairs and national defense (two plus two), which reaffirmed the goal of North Korea’s “complete denuclearization” and “urged Pyongyang to abide by its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.”

But with the Biden administration emphasizing that it was discussing matters with South Korea and other allies, it may have heard out Seoul’s opinions during the latest meeting.

Other key focuses of attention in the talks included the improvement of South Korea-Japan relations and stronger trilateral cooperation on that basis, which have been emphasized by the Biden administration.

In their joint statement the day before, the US and Japan described trilateral cooperation as being “critical for our shared security, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Blinken and Chung are believed to have also exchanged views on a range of other issues, including the schedule for a face-to-face meeting with the South Korean and US heads of state, the recent coup in Myanmar, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the morning of Thursday, the fifth “two plus two” meeting of the South Korean and US ministers of foreign affairs and national defense took place. The last one occurred five years ago in 2016.

Blinken and Austin were also scheduled to pay a courtesy visit to President Moon Jae-in and meet with Blue House National Security Office Director Suh Hoon later in the day.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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