“The authoritarian regime in North Korea continues to commit systemic and widespread abuses against its own people,” Blinken said during the start of his first face-to-face talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in Seoul.
“We must stand for fundamental rights and freedoms and against those who oppress it,” he added.
Blinken also stressed that the United States will continue to work together with South Korea, Japan, and other allies to achieve eventual denuclearization of North Korea.
“This alliance between us is a linchpin for peace security and prosperity not just for our two nations but for the Indo-Pacific region and indeed the world,” he said, reaffirming the Joe Biden administration’s commitment to an “unwavering” alliance with Seoul.
“We want to achieve our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and for human rights, democracy and rule of law.”
In response, Chung said that South Korea’s alliance with the United States is the “foundation” of its diplomacy in the region and worldwide.
In a press release, the Foreign Ministry acknowledged that both Chung and Blinken shared an understanding that North Korea’s nuclear and human rights issues are “significant matters that need to be urgently dealt with” and that they should enforce a “fully coordinated” strategy on the reclusive state.
Blinken later took a jab at China, saying that the United States is highly concerned about Beijing’s hardline policies related to Hong Kong and other regions. China’s extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, which are contested by Japan and other countries in the region, have become a high-priority issue.
Due to Beijing’s claims, Japan has sought even closer relations with the United States. Seoul, however, does not appear to want to provoke China which is South Korea’s largest economic partner and an ally of North Korea.
“China is 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,” Blinken said.
He also condemned a string of shootings in Atlanta on Tuesday night that appeared to target Asian Americans.
“I want to mention the attacks that happened just a few hours ago in Atlanta, in which several women were killed, including, we believe, four women of Korean descent. We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” he said.
“We will stand up for the right of our fellow Americans and Korean Americans to be safe and to be treated with dignity.”
Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are set to meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.