Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the Security Council Stakeout, on the Situation on the Korean Peninsula

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 19, 2010


Ambassador Rice:  Good evening.  It's been a long day. As you know we spent eight hours both behind closed doors in consultations, on the margins, and then of course in the chamber for a private meeting of the Council.  I issued my own statement that I made in my national capacity in the Security Council private session.  The gist of it is that the United States has strongly condemned, as we did at the time, the November 23rd attack by North Korea on Yeonpyong Island, and the deaths that resulted from it.  We have condemned the sinking of the Cheonan, and we think that it is very important for the Council to be able to speak with clarity and unity to condemn these attacks as unprovoked aggression by DPRK against the Republic of Korea.  We also outlined our position that it is important for the two sides to act in a fashion that promotes peace and security.  And we believe that the Republic of Korea has throughout exercised enormous restraint.  The planned exercises are fully consistent with South Korea's legal right to self-defense.  It has been done and notified transparently, responsibly, and will not occur in a fashion that we believe gives North Korea any excuse to respond in the
fashion that it has threatened to do.

We have also spent much of today trying to discuss, in the context of the Council, how we might respond to the call of the Russian Federation for a Council press statement.  I want to say very clearly that we thank the Russian Federation for the constructive role it has played.  We worked very very closely with them and others in an effort to try and come together.  The majority of Council members made clear their view that it was important to clearly condemn the events of November 23 and the attack by DPRK on Yeonpyong Island, but that view did not ultimately achieve consensus and while we still are awaiting  firm clear instructions from every capital, I think it's safe to predict that the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged.  With that, I'm happy to take a few questions.

Reporter:  Ambassador, North Korea now has a history of making many hollow threats about all out war.  But can you assess the risks that are involved here in calling their bluff If South Korea were to go through with these tests?

Ambassador Rice:  I'm not in a position in any scientific way to assess the risks.  Obviously, our view-the U.S. view-is that North Korea has no right to threaten, to attack, another member of the United Nations  when that member of the United Nations is purely conducting routine defensive exercises.  If the events of the last year have shown anything, it is that the Republic of Korea has every need and right to ready its self defense, having lost 50 citizens simply over the course of the last nine months.  So that's well within their rights and that's something that they have every justification for doing.

Reporter:  I think you said you're going to try and continue talks.  You just said you don't think the gaps could be bridged.   Can you explain why you don't think they can be bridged?  And secondly um, forgot my question..

Ambassador Rice:  We'll work on your first one while you're thinking about it.  First of all I said that obviously we will wait to hear if
every delegation has cleared instructions from capital.  We don't have that at this point.  But I say that I think its unlikely that the gap
will be bridged based on what I heard over the last eight hours, where the vast majority of the Council was insisting on a clear-cut
condemnation of the November 23rd attack by DPRK on the ROK, were willing to accept language to that effect, but there was not unanimity on that point.

Reporter:  Ambassador can you give us your thoughts (cross talk) consequences for not coming up with a unified Council statement?

Ambassador Rice:  I think that it would have been all of our preference to be able to do so, provided that such a statement contributed to the maintenance  of peace and security. I think the vast majority of the members of the Council believes that it would not be productive for there to be a statement that was ambiguous in some fashion about what had transpired in the run up to today and simply to pretend that time began today. That's not the case. There is a history, there have been two very serious attacks by DPRK on the Republic of Korea over the last nine months. The vast majority of the Council thinks that that needs to be clearly stated and condemned.

Reporter:  Ambassador, can you give us your thoughts on the Secretary General's role in all this and whether or not you think employing a special envoy would help the situation or hurt it and of course, coming from South Korea do you think it helps or hurts the situation?

Ambassador Rice:  Well I would agree with what Ambassador Churkin said earlier and that is that the Secretary General represents the world regardless of his or her nationality. And, we certainly respect his role in that regard. I think also, as you heard Ambassador Churkin say, had there been the ability to agree on a statement of the sort that we were discussing with all the necessary elements, I think there would have been probably room for agreement in some form of recommendation that the Secretary General consider what he might be able to do in his good offices capacity.

Reporter:  Saturday, twice Churkin said that the U.S. should have convened the meeting Saturday, had it done so there would have been more time to bridge these gaps. Is there a reason there wasn't a meeting yesterday?

Ambassador Rice:  The reason there wasn't a meeting yesterday was because several delegations asked for, several key delegations, asked for time to obtain instructions from their capital. And since we are arguing over the same thing the Council has been arguing about since November 23, I am not sure an additional 24 hours would have made it easier to bridge those gaps. Thank you very much.


PRN: 2010/338