MIN. BAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I had very good, meaningful discussions with Secretary Rice concerning many issues on Korean peninsula, including the bilateral alliance relationship as well as most importantly on the recent development of situation over North Korean nuclear issue.

First of all, on our bilateral relationship, Secretary Rice and I reconfirmed the vitality and importance of our very important alliance relationship. In fact, during last two years, we have gone through a very important historic transformation in our bilateral alliance relationship. We have resolved for our mutual satisfaction several important issues, such as relocation of U.S. forces in Korea, including the Yongsan garrison. And we also agreed to a partial reduction of American forces through mutual win-win solution enhancing -- in a way to enhance the combined defense capabilities so that these forces could maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

Returning to North Korea nuclear issue, Secretary Rice and I reconfirmed the principles and importance of reserving this issue within the six-party framework in a peaceful and diplomatic way.

We assessed the motivations of North Korea's recent announcement and their statement that they have manufactured nuclear weapons. We agreed to assess the current situation very carefully and also agreed to intensify our diplomatic efforts among the parties concerned, among the countries participating in the six-party process.

We urge North Korea that North Korea should return to six-party forum without any preconditions. And we also urge North Koreans to make strategic decisions realizing that much better future will lie ahead if they abandon nuclear development program and participate as a responsible member of the international community. And we will very closely work together in this regard and will continue our diplomatic efforts to realize the early resumption of six-party talks.

Thank you.

Q Minister Ban, there's a report in the New York Times this morning that the United States has a tool kit of measures it would like to see implemented to pressure North Korea to return to the talks and give up its nuclear weapons program. What do you know about such a tool kit? And do you believe that South Korea supports increasing pressure on North Korea to come back to the talks and give up its nuclear ambitions?

MIN. BAN: I think at this time we need to intensify our diplomatic efforts to reserve this issue. This is the principle which has been agreed upon between the two leaders, President Bush and President Roh, in November last year when they had meetings in Santiago, Chile. We will continue our efforts through peaceful and diplomatic way.

Q You don't like the idea of pressure?

MIN. BAN: At this time, we will focus our efforts on diplomatic way.

Q (Off mike.)

MIN. BAN: Will you speak loudly, because I cannot hear a word.

Q Do you have a timetable for the six-party talks?

MIN. BAN: Timetable?

Q Yes.

MIN. BAN: I'm not able to tell you anything about timetable at this time. The only thing I can emphasize again to North Korea, and emphasize our position, is that North Korea should return to dialogue table without any preconditions as soon as possible. This is the consensus opinion of the international community, and this is the expectations as a whole of the international community.


Q (Off mike.)

MIN. BAN: I don't think this is the subject which needs to be considered at this stage.

One more final question.

Q Do you think there's a chance that North Korea will go back to the six-party talks, and if not, the measures that you're willing to consider.

MIN. BAN: With this increased and intensified diplomatic effort, I am confident that, in the end, North Korea will come back to the dialogue table. I think that is to their benefit, if they return to the dialogue table and commit themselves to abandon their nuclear weapons development program and get international economic assistance as well as security assurances, which they need.

Thank you very much. Thank you.