US Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Security Council Meeting on the Situation on the Korean Peninsula
We welcome this opportunity for the Security Council to discuss recent events on the Korean peninsula. In doing so, it is important that we keep in mind that this tense situation springs from one source and one source alone: the consistently provocative behavior of North Korea. In July, this Council issued a statement after the North Korean sinking of the South Korean vessel, the Cheonan.
The statement condemned the attack and underscored the importance of preventing further such attacks or hostilities against the Republic of Korea. It also called for full adherence to the Armistice Agreement. Nonetheless, North Korea has continued to defy the Council. The regime recently disclosed a uranium enrichment program-activity that directly contravenes Resolutions 1718 and 1874, as well as the 2005 Joint Declaration's clear demand for an end to North Korea's existing nuclear programs.
On November 23, North Korea launched a premeditated and unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyong. North Korea's deliberate and premeditated armed attack resulted in the death of two Republic of Korea Marine Corps personnel and two South Korean civilians. The attack injured sixteen Republic of Korea Marine Corps personnel and twenty-nine South Korean civilians.
It also caused considerable damage to military facilities and destruction of civilian homes and property. A UN Command report, which included participants from nine UN Command-sending states and observers from the Swedish, Polish and Swiss delegations, concluded that this attack constitutes a violation of the Armistice Agreement.
The Republic of Korea Marine Corps' response firing on Mu-Do and Gaemeori is justified under the right of self-defense given the necessary, proportional, and timely nature of the response. The Republic of Korea Marine Corps' action in self-defense to the Korean People's Army's armed attack and in response to the Korean People's Army's serious violation of the Armistice Agreement is not a violation of the letter or the spirit of any provision of the Armistice Agreement.
The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission report also confirmed the UN Command finding that the North Korean attack violated the Armistice Agreement and that the Republic of South Korea response was an inherent right of self defense.
This Council's responsibility to ensure peace and stability weighs heaviest at moments such as these. Yet there has been no statement from this body to clearly condemn the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyong island - an important step to identify and respond to this outrageous act. I would also like to address the concerns that some have expressed regarding plans by South Korea to hold a defensive live fire exercise in the coming days.
As a starting point, it is important to recognize that that there is nothing unusual about these planned drills. They are exclusively defensive in nature, and they have been regularly conducted for years-oftentimes on the order of every three months. The conduct of defensive exercises is nothing less than prudent given that North Korean belligerence has cost 50 South Korean lives in the last nine months alone.
Despite this litany of provocations, the international community has yet to sufficiently and effectively condemn these acts to the extent that they deserve. South Korea's planned exercises have been widely notified, and the South Koreans have been unceasingly transparent in providing information to airmen and mariners through all of the proper channels.
Moreover, the area where the exercises will occur is well south of the Northern Limit Line and south of the five islands which, in accordance with the terms of the Armistice Agreement, are controlled by the UN Commander and have been administered by South Korea since 1953. So, let us be very clear: These defensive exercises pose no danger to North Korea and threaten no North Korean lives. Despite all of this, North Korea has made extensive public threats to undertake massive military action against South Korea if these routine exercises proceed.
It is important for this Council to send a strong message that it is not acceptable to threaten military action against a UN member state for conducting a legitimate exercise to provide for its self-defense.
The U.S. takes its responsibilities to support peace and stability in the Korean peninsula with the utmost seriousness. We are a treaty ally of South Korea, and we will stand with our ally in the face of threat or attack. At the same time, we have consistently urged calm and restraint to avoid breaches of the Armistice Agreement or UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874.
We have enthusiastically supported confidence building measures and direct talks between north and south. We have, and will continue to support all efforts to ensure a nuclear weapons free peninsula. And, we have engaged in vigorous diplomacy in an effort to reduce the tensions caused by these latest North Korean provocations. Last week, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg traveled to Beijing where he had productive and positive discussions with senior Chinese leaders on this very topic.
We continue to work closely with our Six Party partners to find a diplomatic path that protects peace and stability on the peninsula and fulfills the goals of the 2005 Six Party Joint Statement. We believe we can make progress in cooperation with our partners in Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, and Seoul. The door is open to Pyongyang to join and benefit from such an effort, but only if it abandons the misguided notion that violence, threats and provocation are the path toward achievement of its goals.