Press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at ASAN Institute for Policy Studies, Seoul, Repubic of Korea

  • 02 Nov. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 02 Nov. 2017 17:25

(As delivered)

Good evening,

It is a great pleasure to be in Seoul today. This is my first visit to East Asia as Secretary General of NATO.  I have been here before but it is always a pleasure to come back and to visit the Republic of Korea.

I’d like to begin by thanking the ASAN Institute for Policy Studies for hosting us today.

Over the past week, I have visited Japan and the Republic of Korea − as well as the Demilitarized Zone.  I have met with President Moon Jae-in and with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  As well as with cabinet ministers and with parliamentarians.  And with soldiers.

In my meetings, one powerful message has come through again and again:

The challenges of the 21st century are too complex for any one nation to face alone.

Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and cyber-attacks are truly global threats.  Which require global responses.

I am returning to Brussels more convinced than ever that NATO’s partnership with like-minded countries like the Republic of Korea are important for the Alliance.

Historically, events in this region have shaped NATO as we know it today.

The Korean War broke out just one year after the Alliance was founded in 1949. 

Forcing our members to realise that war in Europe was still possible.

In response, they transformed the North Atlantic Treaty into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Literally putting an “O” into “NATO”.

This involved creating the Secretary General.  Standing up a permanent military headquarters.  And appointing a Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

So our history and our security has long been connected with yours. 

And today, we continue to share strategic interests and concerns.

NATO and our partners are deeply concerned by the threat posed by North Korea. 

And we strongly condemn Pyongyang’s ballistic and nuclear tests.

North Korea is working to advance its nuclear and missile technologies. 

This is a clear and present danger to the Republic of Korea and Japan, our partners in the region.

It is also a threat to NATO Allies.  North Korea is developing ballistic missiles capable of hitting cities both in North America and in Europe.

NATO takes that threat very seriously.

The Alliance maintains a strong deterrence posture.  We have the capabilities and resolve to respond to any aggression.  Our position is clear:  North Korea must abandon its nuclear programme, once and for all.  It must suspend the development of ballistic missiles. 

And it must refrain from further testing.

NATO strongly supports a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In my talks with President Moon earlier today, we agreed on the need for pressure on the North Korean regime.  Robust and fully-implemented sanctions and strong political and diplomatic efforts.

North Korea must understand that complying with international law is not optional.

And that ruling by fear and menace puts the regime on the wrong side of history.  In a more complex world, we need close friends and strong partners.

The Republic of Korea was one of NATO’s first global partners to sign a tailor-made cooperation plan with the Alliance, back in 2012.  Since then, our cooperation has ranged from Afghanistan to Somalia, and from science to cyberspace.

In the fight against terrorism, the Republic of Korea has made outstanding contributions to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.

Including by leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Parwan.  And contributing 200 million dollars to support the Afghan National Army, with further pledges made.

In an effort to keep international waterways safe and secure, NATO and Korean ships have also worked together to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that NATO and the Republic of Korea have agreed a new partnership plan.  We will do more joint work on cyber defence.  The Republic of Korea has now joined NATO’s Malware Information Sharing Platform, allowing us to share warnings about cyber threats in real time.

We will step up our scientific cooperation.  Building on work we have done with Korean researchers on sensors and on drones, and big data processing.  

We can also strengthen our joint efforts in countering terrorism through information sharing and intelligence sharing.  And we will have more interaction between our forces.

NATO and the Republic of Korea have now begun military-to-military staff talks.

And I welcome that Seoul has offered to send military staff to the NATO Headquarters in Brussels.  So our partnership is growing broader and deeper than ever before.

NATO exists to defend the people and territory of 29 member nations.  And by working with our partners, like the Republic of Korea, we will help to build and preserve international peace beyond our borders.

The Republic of Korea is a valued partner of NATO.  And I look forward to deepening our cooperation even more in the future.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Any questions? Gentleman here, please.

JONATHAN CHENG (Wall Street Journal): Hi, over here, I'm Jonathan Cheng with the Wall Street Journal. I just wanted to ask about the threat to Guam by North Korea recently. I'm wondering whether that changed perception among NATO members at all about Article 5 and mutual defence. And if I can slip in another one, I know North Korea likes to use a lot of colourful language but they did describe you yesterday as a "little parrot", I believe, and I wanted to see if I could just get your thoughts on that. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): First, on Article 5 and NATO's collective defence clause. At the end that will be a political decision, but we have seen of course that a threat against territory also beyond this region has increased, and that means that not only Guam but also the mainland of the United States and also Europe is now starting to become within reach of the missiles of North Korea. And that's the reason why we have once again sent a very clear message that our deterrence, our resolve, our capabilities to respond, they are in place, and NATO is always ready to respond and to counter any attack from any direction.

That's the way NATO has handled ballistic threats for decades. That was the way we responded to the threats of ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, during the Cold War, from the 1950s and onwards, and that's fundamentally the same way we respond to nuclear threats today also when they are coming from North Korea. So I think that's my message.

When it comes to the way North Korea are characterizing me and NATO, I think I will not comment on that. I just focus on the message we are sending to them, that NATO is united, NATO is strong, and NATO is able to respond to any threat and any attack.

MODERATOR: Other questions please. Lady here, please.

Q (AFP): [Inaudible] from AFP. I'm just curious what's your assessment of the risk of an actual armed clash on the peninsula, and if there happens to be a war under NATO's security guarantee of collective defence does it mean that the NATO member states will send troops to fight alongside South Korean and U.S. troops?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Tensions have increased and North Korea has through its provocative behaviour and through its accelerated development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons increased the threat against neighbours. At the same time, I think it's important not to dramatize the situation, not to be alarmist, and therefore we are conveying a message about a predictable, firm, and strong approach, but at the same time we try to avoid increasing tensions and avoid creating an even more challenging situation.

NATO's main responsibility is to protect all NATO allies, 29 allies, which of course also includes the United States, and the only time NATO has invoked our collective defence, clause Article 5, was after an attack on the United States, 9/11, in 2011, a terrorist attack. And Article 5 and our collective defence clause of course is the most important part of the alliance, it's the backbone of the alliance. South Korea or the Republic of Korea is not a member of NATO, the United States is present here, and the United States has clearly reiterated their security guarantees and a strong alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States, but it's not part of the NATO treaty and NATO security obligations.

MODERATOR: Other questions please. Gentleman over here, please.

Q (YTN): [Inaudible], YTN News, a cable TV news channel in Korea. My question is about the relationship between NATO and the United States, the Trump administration. As far as I know, President Donald Trump requested, wanted a proactive, more proactive contribution from NATO countries when around his inauguration, and many months passed and then I would like to know how is your response about that request, and can you share some experiences with this kind of alliance matters?

JENS STOLTENBERG: President Trump and his security team have many times expressed their strong support to NATO and to the transatlantic bond. They have done so in meetings with me, they have done so publically, they have done so…, they have conveyed the same message many times in different ways, so there's no doubt about the commitment of the United States to NATO and to the transatlantic alliance.  Not only in words but also in deeds because we have seen that the United States, after many years of reducing their military presence in Europe, now they're actually increasing for the first time since the end of the Cold War their military presence in Europe with a new armoured brigade, with more pre-positioned equipment, supplies and more exercises.

President Trump has clearly expressed some expectations to NATO and that has been especially linked to burden sharing and NATO's role in the fight against terrorism. And I agree with President Trump that we need fairer burden sharing in the alliance and we need NATO to step up the efforts in the fight against terrorism.

The good news is that NATO is delivering, NATO is doing exactly that because we have seen that defence spending has started to increase. We made our decision on defence spending at a summit in 2014 to stop the cuts, to gradually increase, and to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence. 2015 was the first year after many years with decline that we saw an increase in defence spending across Europe and Canada, and it continued to increase even more in 2016 and the estimates for 2017 is further increase.

So we still have a long way to go, but more and more countries meet the 2% guideline, spending 2% of GDP on defence, and spending across Europe and Canada has now increased for three consecutive years. My task is to make sure that that continues in the years to follow.

On fighting terrorism, NATO has played a key role for many years in the fight against terrorism, not least in Afghanistan; the biggest military operation ever has been in Afghanistan. We have joined the global coalition to defeat ISIS; we provide practical support to the coalition with our AWACS surveillance planes, but we also started training of Iraqi forces, and we also work with other nations in the region to strengthen their capability to fight terrorism.

We have developed or we have established a new intelligence division because we strongly believe that intelligence, better sharing of intelligence is also an important part of the fight against terrorism. So NATO is stepping up both when it comes to spending but also when it comes to the fight against terrorism.

MODERATOR: We have time for just a couple more. The gentleman here, please.

Frithjof Jacobsen (VG): Yes, Frithjof Jacobsen from Norwegian newspaper VG. I wondered, is the threat from North Korea, as it is steadily developing both with more nuclear testing and also missile testing, come to a point where a military strike or some kind of pre-emptive or preventive strike is an option that cannot be ruled out? And what is the NATO view on such an action to prevent North Korea from further developing their nuclear arsenal?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The focus now is on how can we put pressure on North Korea to induce them to engage in real constructive talks, and we have seen some movements in the right direction by the fact that the U.N. has agreed additional sanctions, they did so in September, and we have seen that the sanctions are now more implemented by more nations than we have seen before. That has increased the pressure on North Korea, and pressure on North Korea with economic means, diplomatic means, and political means is the best way to make sure that the crisis on the Korean Peninsula is solved in a peaceful, negotiated way. That's the main focus of NATO.

Then, we have also conveyed very clearly that of course we have the capabilities; we have the resolve to respond to any attack. That's the credible deterrence which has been the way we have been responded to ballistic and nuclear threats for decades, and that's also of course valid for threats from North Korea. Then I think that it will be wrong if I now started to speculate about hypothetical situations because we have to find a balance between conveying a firm, predictable, united approach, as an alliance, but at the same time not speculate too much about all possible options because that may actually add to the tensions and make a peaceful resolution more difficult. We have the military capabilities, we have the deterrence, we have the resolve, but our main goal is a peaceful, negotiated solution.

MODERATOR: We have time for just one final question. We'll go to the gentleman here, please.

JOEL LEE (Korea Herald): Thank you, my name is Joel Lee, for the Korean Herald, the English newspaper, and perhaps my question is a bit sensitive but I want to you share as much as you can. The threat of a cyber attack and hacking has increased from North Korea, but by drawing on the experience of NATO in dealing with Russia, because such attacks between the U.S. and Russia has increased, is there something that the current government can learn from NATO's experience in terms of strengthening its deterrence in the cyber realm, preventing cyber attacks and terrorism, and also going further and using this method to kind of change North Korea, pressure North Korea internally through information?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The answer is yes, of course we can learn from each other when it comes to cyber threats and how to respond to cyber threats and how to develop the best possible cyber defence. And that's exactly one of the elements in the new plan for our cooperation which we signed yesterday, because we see that cyber threats are becoming more and more serious, we see that frequency of cyberattacks has increased significantly. Just NATO has experienced 60% more cyber attacks last year than the year before, with several hundred attacks on NATO networks. Then of course there are also many attacks against NATO allies and their cyber networks.

We can learn from the Republic of Korea because this is a country with a lot of expertise, technology, and understanding on how to defend cyber networks, but at the same time NATO has developed expertise and knowledge, and we have agreed that we should strengthen our cooperation, and that's about sharing best practice, that's about exercising, that's about learning from each other when it comes to different technologies, that's about identifying who is behind the cyber attack attribution, which is key, and it is also about what we have just decided to do and that is that the Republic of Korea will now join the NATO platform for sharing information about malware, which is extremely important and which was very useful when we had recent big cyber attacks this spring.

So we will work more closely together with the Republic of Korea on how to develop our cyber defences and cyber systems to defend ourselves. The last question I have already forgotten.

MODERATOR: Did you have a further question, sir?

JENS STOLTENBERG: No, I think that was the one.

MODERATOR: Then final question over here please.

STEFFEN GRAM (Danish Broadcasting): Danish Broadcasting, Steffen Gram. What is it that makes you believe that sanctions will make the North Korean regime give up their nuclear option?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Sanctions is the best alternative because if we compare sanctions with the other alternatives there can be no doubt that pressure with political means, diplomatic means, underpinned by economic sanctions, is the best alternative. Because the alternative to sanctions and pressure is to either do nothing, which is absolutely irresponsible, or military means, and I think we all understand that a war will be catastrophic and will be extremely dangerous not only for the people living in this region but for global peace and security. And that's the reason why we have to try to create a room in between doing nothing and war, military action. And again, what the U.N. does, what the U.N. Security Council does, what NATO allies do to increase pressure on North Korea is exactly this room in between nothing and military action. It's not an easy way, but compared to the alternative it's the best way.

Second, we have had some progress, meaning that we have seen some increased support from both Russia and China, being permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, so they have agreed to strengthen the sanctions, not least with imposing also sanctions on the imports of oil products to North Korea - that was agreed in September.  So we believe that stronger sanctions is the best way to put pressure on North Korea. It's not only about agreeing the sanctions but it's also to making sure that they are fully implemented in a transparent way.

Then of course it's not possible to compare North Korea with any other country, but I think we have to remember that while we see many challenges, we see many problems, and it's a hard way forward to make sure that North Korea abandons its nuclear and ballistic programs.  But at the same time we have to remember that the Non-Proliferation Treaty has been quite successful. Over the years we have been able to make sure that countries like Ukraine, Belarus, South Africa, Libya, and some others, have been willing to abandon their weapons of mass destruction. Iran has been willing to at least agree on a deal severely restricting and limiting their nuclear programs.  So we have seen before that it is possible to abandon, restrict the development of nuclear weapons, so therefore I also believe it is absolutely possible when it comes to North Korea.

MODERATOR: I'm afraid that's all we have time for. Thank you all very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.

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