Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Vancouver Convention Centre
January 16, 2018
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, first let me thank Foreign Minister Freeland for agreeing to cohost this event, and also thanks to Canada for allowing us to meet in Vancouver as well. North Korea is just one of many security issues of which the United States knows we can rely on our neighbor and friend, Canada, for close alignment. I also want to recognize Foreign Minister Kang, the Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister Kono, and thank them for joining us as well. As allies, their nations have been at the center of the maximum pressure campaign against the DPRK, and our lockstep coordination with them will continue. The United States extends its appreciation to all nations here for their efforts to date in the pressure campaign.
This assembly of representative countries of the original UN Command sending states are all represented by foreign ministers and diplomats. These are nations that answered the call almost or about 60 years ago to fight for freedom on the Korean Peninsula, to ensure freedom would be preserved on the Korean Peninsula, and through great sacrifice secured freedom on the Korean Peninsula for the people of the Republic of Korea. And while that conflict remains frozen in time with an armistice, all of these nations have never lost their interest in ensuring freedom is maintained on the peninsula.
And I think as President Trump highlighted so well in his remarks to the Republic of Korea’s General Assembly in November, the differences between freedom and democracy for the people of the Republic of Korea is striking when compared to the conditions of life for the people who live under the tyranny of the regime in North Korea. And it is only a threat of this nature, a serious nuclear weapons threat, that would unite what were once enemies – the sending states with China – in a common goal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. And the sending states stand shoulder-to-shoulder with China, with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with Russia, and is now joined by the entire international community in saying to the regime in North Korea we cannot and will not accept you as a nuclear state.
It has been nearly one year since the United States in concert with our allies and partners initiated the global campaign to maximize pressure against North Korea. As it was in the beginning, the great goal of the pressure campaign is to cut off the sources of funding that the DPRK uses to finance its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Additionally, we must increase the cost of the regime’s behavior to the point that North Korea comes to the table for credible negotiations.
The object of negotiations, if and when we get there, is the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. All nations here today are united on that goal. Let me clear: We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or our solidarity. We reject a “freeze-for-freeze” approach in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK’s unlawful actions.
The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to denuclearize. This is a strategy that has and will require patience, but thanks to everyone’s support at this table and around the world, the regime is already facing costs that it is having difficulty bearing. The purpose of our meetings today is to improve the effectiveness of the maximum pressure campaign and combat North Korea’s attempts to evade sanctions. The United States looks forward to hearing from all participants on how we can best do that.
Today the United States is encouraged by the steps that nations around the world have already taken. In 2017, the UN Security Council passed three unanimous resolutions, levying the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea. And nations around the world have taken their own unilateral actions, such as expelling North Korean laborers, closing North Korean embassies, and banning the importation of North Korean goods. The United States commends those nations for taking these actions.
This progress is encouraging, but we cannot be complacent. Kim Jong-un’s regime continues to threaten international peace and security through unlawful ballistic missile and nuclear tests. I ask you to take a look at a map behind me, and this is to make the point of the equivalency of military – defensive military exercises and their irresponsible testing. The map is a snapchat of air traffic in Asia on the morning of Friday, January the 12th – a rather ordinary day. Each plane icon represents a plane passing through the region, and as you can see, a lot of activity is in the skies each day.
The potential for a North Korean missile or parts of it to affect civilian aircraft is real. On November 28th, individuals on the flight traveling from San Francisco to Hong Kong witnessed with their own eyes parts of the North Korea ICBM test flying through the sky. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the flight was 280 nautical miles from point of impact, and at the time there were nine other flights within that range. Over the course of that day, according to the Department of Defense, an estimated 716 flights were due to pass within that range. The FAA says the total available seats on those 716 flights were 152,110. That’s a lot of people from a lot of countries being put at risk by an irresponsible testing of ballistic missiles.
My point is this: North Korea’s willingness to launch missiles at any time presents a threat to people of all nationalities in the region’s air space each day. Based on its past recklessness, we cannot expect North Korea to have any regard for what might get in the way of one of its missiles or part of a missile breaking apart. This is to say nothing of potential technological errors associated with a launch that could result in disaster.
Of course, this is hardly the only threat or likeliest threat posed by North Korean missiles. Twice last year, North Korea launched missiles over Japan, which could have fallen on population centers. The North Korean threat has many dimensions, all of which must be countered. The regime has shown a recklessness among the nations of the world. Based on its actions now, we can see what North Korea may very well do later if it obtains complete nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.
When we consider the DPRK has avowed strikes on civilian targets, that Oslo is nearer to Pyongyang than Seattle, that London is nearer to North Korea than Los Angeles, that Amsterdam, Ankara, Brussels, Beijing, Paris, and Moscow are nearer than New York City, we see a global problem requiring a global solution. In light of North Korea’s steep trajectory of regression, we must implement a permanent and peaceful solution to avert a future crisis. North Korea’s provocations have been and continue to be met with clear and substantial consequences, as are appropriate.
First, we all must insist a full enforcement of UN Security Council sanctions, as this is the letter of the law. We especially urge Russia and China in this matter. Full implementation is an essential measure for the security of their people and a clear indication of their willingness to honor their international commitments. We cannot abide lapses or sanctions evasions. We will continue to call attention to and designate entities and individuals complicit in such evasive actions.
Second, we all must work together to improve maritime interdiction operations. We must put an end to illicit ship-to-ship transfers that undermine UN sanctions. And third, there must be new consequences for the regime whenever new aggression occurs.
We recognize that no one action or resolution will compel North Korea to give up its nuclear program, but if all countries cut off or significantly limit their economic and diplomatic engagements with North Korea, the sum total of our individual national efforts will increase the chances of a negotiated resolution. Our nations desire a future for North Korea, but the ultimate responsibility for producing that new future lies with North Korea. Only by abandoning its current path can North Korea achieve the security and stability it desires and a prosperous future for its people.
On behalf of the United States, I look forward to sharing ideas today with our allies and partners to strengthen the maximum pressure campaign and provide a pathway to security for all of our people as a result. Thank you.