Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong Before Their Meeting

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

FOREIGN MINISTER CHUNG:  (Via interpreter.) I’d like to sincerely welcome Secretary Blinken on his visit to Korea.

The Korea-U.S. Alliance is the backbone of our diplomacy as well as the linchpin of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and across the world.  We see the continued development of the Korea-U.S. Alliance as the most important task of our diplomacy.

In this regard, we would like to extend our special welcome to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense of the Biden-Harris Administration who are visiting Korea in the very beginning of their terms in office.  It clearly shows the new U.S. administration’s emphasis on its allies.

In particular, the fact that we concluded negotiations for the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), which was a long-pending issue, just before the visit by Secretary Blinken reaffirms the strength of the Korea-U.S. Alliance.

President Moon Jae-in also appreciates the direction of Korea-U.S. relations since the inauguration of the Biden-Harris Administration.  Particularly, the President highly appreciates that we are holding the ROK-U.S. Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting for the first time in five years.

During his phone conversation with President Biden last February, President Moon mentioned that Korea has full trust in the leadership of America, and as an ally that shares values, we will actively cooperate not only on Korean Peninsula and regional issues but also on global affairs.

Following the ROK-U.S. Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting, I hope the Korea-U.S. Summit can be held in the near future so that we can carry on the momentum for developing Korea-U.S. relations.

On account of today’s meeting, I hope that today’s meeting will serve as an opportunity to advance Korea-U.S. relations in a sound, mutually-beneficial, and comprehensive way.  I also look forward to building the momentum towards the firm establishment and substantive progress on the Korean Peninsula peace process with the outcomes of today’s meeting

Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Mr. Minister, Eui-yong, thank you.  And it is so wonderful to be here with you.  We’ve had the opportunity to speak on the phone, and I was so looking forward to being here in person and to spending time with you and your team and our team.

If you’ll allow me, just before we begin today’s meeting, 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’re horrified by this violence, which has no place in America or anywhere, for that matter.  And I want to offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who died and to everyone in the Korean community who is shaken and deeply disturbed by this incident.  We are as well, and we will stand up for the right of our fellow Americans and Korean Americans to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect.

That’s a sentiment that I know my counterpart shares, because we are united, ultimately, by shared values.  And that’s really one of the fundamental reasons that I’m so glad to be back in Seoul as part of my first trip overseas as Secretary of State.  Mr. Minister, I want to congratulate you on your appointment.  Since our first conversation on February 11th, we’ve already become partners.  I’m looking forward to working very closely together to continue to strengthen what is an indispensable alliance between our countries.

As you know, I’m joined on this visit, as you referenced, by Secretary of Defense Austin.  We’ll be here tomorrow for the 2+2 ministerial meeting with the – with you and with minister of defense, and, of course, to witness the initialing of the SMA.  It’s no accident that we chose the Republic of Korea for the first Cabinet-level overseas travel of the Biden-Harris administration, along with Japan.  This alliance between us is, as we’ve said, the linchpin for peace, for security and prosperity, not just for our two nations but for the Indo-Pacific region and, indeed, for the world.  The alliance is unwavering, it’s ironclad, and it’s rooted in friendship, in mutual trust, and in shared values.

Secretary Austin and I are here to reaffirm the United States commitment to the alliance but also to build on it with you.  We want to achieve our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, anchored by respect for human rights, for democracy, for the rule of law.  And we’ll work together to address what are daunting challenges that we both face, including, of course, a pandemic that has affected literally billions of people and devastated economies; warming temperatures and rising seas; more sophisticated and harmful cyber attacks.  None are challenges that any one nation can effectively confront alone.  To deal with them effectively, we need to work together, and we need to work together ever more closely.  That’s why we’re committed to deepening our cooperation across the board, whether it’s stopping COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics, investing in clean energy transformation, shoring up our cyber capability, readiness and resilience.

Another shared challenge, of course, is North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, which are a threat to the region and to the world.  We’ll continue to work together with the ROK and other allies and partners, including Japan, toward denuclearization of the DPRK.

And, of course, we’re standing together in support of our shared values.  We believe in democracy because we’ve seen how it makes our own country stronger and because democracies are more likely to be stable, secure, open, committed to human rights, all of which is in the interests of the American people and the Korean people.

It’s critical that we stand up for these values, especially now, because we are witnessing a dangerous erosion of democracy around the world, including in this region.  In Burma, the military is attempting to overturn the results of a democratic election, brutally repressing peaceful protesters, gunning down youth who are simply demanding a say in their country’s future.  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.  And the authoritarian regime in North Korea continues to commit systemic and widespread abuses against its own people.  We must stand with people demanding their fundamental rights and freedoms and against those who repress them.

For decades, the alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States has ensured the security and well-being of our people, and I think it’s our job not only to maintain our alliance, but to strengthen it so it can continue to provide that foundation for years – indeed, for decades – to come.  That’s why we’re here today, and I’m so grateful to you for this hospitality and look forward to getting down to work.  Thank you.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging Lucia Andrea Gatta, a former resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, with tax evasion and failing to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), among other offenses, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida.
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  • Countering Violent Extremism: DHS Needs to Improve Grants Management and Data Collection
    In U.S GAO News
    While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) followed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance for announcing the 2016 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Grant Program and reviewing applications, DHS did not document the basis for its final award decisions. In June 2017, DHS awarded a total of $10 million in CVE grants to 26 grantees for a 2-year performance period (2017 to 2019). Consistent with OMB guidance, DHS included program priorities and eligibility requirements in its grant announcement and described the process for reviewing and selecting grant applications for award. However, after DHS announced its selection of 31 applications for awards, it ran a new process resulting in revised selections, which was based on additional selection criteria not expressly listed in the grant announcement. While DHS officials explained to GAO how these additional criteria aligned with the grant announcement, these explanations do not appear in DHS's award documentation. Without such documentation, DHS cannot clearly demonstrate that its award decisions were based on the process described in the grant announcement. Figure: Location and Number of Deaths Associated with Domestic Extremist Attacks, 2010-2019 DHS did not obtain the necessary data from grantees to evaluate the overall CVE grant program. DHS required grant organizations to develop, collect, and submit their own output and outcome-related information to help enable the department to evaluate individual grantees and the overall grant program. However, a DHS review of four grant projects concluded that the grantees did not collect the type of performance information DHS needed to determine the grants' effectiveness, such as data at various time intervals to assess change in attitudinal behavior. Taking steps to ensure grantees collect and submit appropriate performance data would enable DHS to evaluate the extent that individual grant projects and the overall grant program are achieving results. Such information would help DHS manage the program and make adjustments as warranted. From 2010 through 2019, data collected through the Extremist Crime Database show that 205 deaths resulted from 59 violent extremist attacks in the United States. DHS received funding in 2016 to establish a new CVE Grant Program to support efforts by state and local governments and nongovernmental organizations to reduce risk factors associated with violent extremism. GAO was asked to review management of the CVE Grant Program. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which DHS (1) announced, reviewed, and awarded CVE grants in accordance with OMB guidance and (2) evaluated the performance of CVE grantees and the overall program. GAO reviewed documentation of DHS's actions in announcing, reviewing and awarding CVE grants; and documentation on steps taken to assess the performance of grantees and the overall program; as compared to requirements in key documents, including the CVE grant announcement, elements of internal control, and a DHS 2017 report to Congress. GAO recommends that DHS, for future CVE-related grant programs: (1) develop policy to document the rationale for award decisions, and (2) take steps to ensure that grantees collect and submit data on project performance that enable evaluation of individual grants and the overall grant program toward intended outcomes. DHS concurred with both recommendations. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or mcneilt@gao.gov.
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  • Former South Carolina Sheriff and Former Deputies Convicted of Conspiracy, Misuse of Funds, and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
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  • Congratulatory Message on the 30th Anniversary of the Visegrád Group (V4)
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  • John Kerry Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate Day One Closing Remarks
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
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  • Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports: Access and Quality Problems in Managed Care Demand Improved Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    At the state and federal levels, GAO found weaknesses in the oversight of Medicaid managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS), which assist individuals with basic needs like bathing or eating. Through various monitoring approaches, six selected states identified significant problems in their MLTSS programs with managed care organization (MCO) performance of care management, which includes assessing beneficiary needs, authorizing services, and monitoring service provision to ensure quality and access to care. State efforts may not be identifying all care management problems due to limitations in the information they use to monitor MCOs, allowing some performance problems to continue over multiple years. Performance Problems in Managed Care Organization (MCO) Care Management, Identified by Selected States GAO found that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) oversight of state implementation of its 2016 requirements, and of access and quality in MLTSS more broadly, was limited. This hinders the agency's ability to hold states and MCOs accountable for quality and access problems beneficiaries may face. Oversight did not detect quality and access problems. GAO identified cases where CMS learned about problems not through its regular oversight, but instead from beneficiary complaints, media reports, or GAO. CMS officials said that states had not reported these problems to the agency. Lack of national oversight strategy and assessment of problems in MLTSS. Weaknesses in oversight reflect a broader area of concern—namely, that CMS lacks a strategy for oversight. CMS also has not assessed the nature and extent of access and quality problems across states. Without a strategy and more robust information, CMS risks being unable to identify and help address problems facing beneficiaries. As of July 2020, CMS had convened a new workgroup focused on MLTSS oversight, though the goals and time frames for its work were unclear. An increasing number of states are using managed care to deliver long-term services and supports in their Medicaid programs, thus delegating decisions around the amounts and types of care beneficiaries receive to MCOs. Federal guidance requires that MLTSS programs include monitoring procedures to ensure the appropriateness of those decisions for this complex population, which includes adults and children who may have physical, cognitive, and mental disabilities. GAO was asked to review care management in MLTSS programs. Among other things, this report examines state monitoring of care management, and CMS oversight of state implementation of 2016 requirements related to MLTSS quality and access. GAO examined documentation of monitoring procedures and problems identified in six states selected for variation in program age and location. GAO reviewed federal regulations and oversight documents, interviewed state and federal Medicaid officials, and assessed CMS's policies and procedures against federal internal control standards. GAO is making two recommendations to CMS to (1) develop a national strategy for overseeing MLTSS, and (2) assess the nature and prevalence of MLTSS quality and access problems across states. CMS did not concur with the recommendations. GAO maintains the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in this report. For more information, contact at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down San Diego Return Preparer
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California seeking to bar a San Diego tax return preparer from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing federal income tax returns for others.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Virtual U.S.-Nigeria Health Partnership Event
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  • VA Construction: VA Should Enhance the Lessons-Learned Process for Its Real-Property Donation Pilot Program
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received one real property donation through a partnership pilot program authorized by the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016 (CHIP-IN Act) and is planning for a second. This Act authorized VA to accept donated real property—such as buildings or facility construction or improvements—and to contribute certain appropriated funds to donors that are entering into donation agreements with VA. Under VA's interpretation, its ability to contribute to such funds is limited to major construction projects (over $20 million). The first CHIP-IN project—an ambulatory care center in Omaha, Nebraska—opened in August 2020. Pending requested appropriations for a second CHIP-IN project, VA intends to partner with another donor group to construct an inpatient medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (See figure.) Other potential donors have approached VA about opportunities that could potentially fit the CHIP-IN pilot, but these project ideas have not proceeded for various reasons, including the large donations required. VA officials told us they have developed a draft legislative proposal that seeks to address a challenge in finding CHIP-IN partnerships. For example, officials anticipate that a modification allowing VA to make funding contributions to smaller projects of $20 million and under would attract additional donors. Completed Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Ambulatory Care Center in Omaha, NE, and Rendering of Proposed Inpatient Facility in Tulsa, OK VA has discussed and documented some lessons learned from the Omaha project. For example, VA officials and the Omaha donor group identified and documented the benefits of a design review software that helped shorten timeframes and reduce costs compared to VA's typical review process. However, VA has not consistently followed a lessons-learned process, and as a result, other lessons, such as the decision-making that went into developing the Omaha project's donation agreement, have not been documented. Failure to document and disseminate lessons learned puts VA at risk of losing valuable insights from the CHIP-IN pilot that could inform future CHIP-IN projects or other VA construction efforts. VA has pressing infrastructure demands and a backlog of real property projects. VA can accept up to five real property donations through the CHIP-IN pilot program, which is authorized through 2021. GAO previously reported on the CHIP-IN pilot program in 2018. The CHIP-IN Act includes a provision for GAO to report on donation agreements entered into under the pilot program. This report examines: (1) the status of VA's efforts to execute CHIP-IN partnerships and identify additional potential partners and (2) the extent to which VA has collected lessons learned from the pilot, among other objectives. GAO reviewed VA documents, including project plans and budget information, and interviewed VA officials, donor groups for projects in Omaha and Tulsa, and selected non-profits with experience in fundraising. GAO compared VA's efforts to collect lessons learned with key practices for an overall lessons-learned process. GAO is making two recommendations to VA to implement a lessons-learned process. Recommendations include documenting and disseminating lessons learned from CHIP-IN pilot projects. VA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Requires Divestiture of Credit Karma Tax for Intuit to Proceed with Acquisition of Credit Karma
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Intuit Inc. and Credit Karma Inc. (Credit Karma) to divest Credit Karma’s tax business, Credit Karma Tax, to Square Inc. in order for Intuit, the creator of TurboTax, to proceed with its $7.1 billion acquisition of Credit Karma.  The department said that without this divestiture, the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition for digital do-it-yourself (DDIY) tax preparation products, which are software programs used by American taxpayers to prepare and file their federal and state returns.
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  • United States Seizes 27 Additional Domain Names Used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Further a Global, Covert Influence Campaign
    In Crime News
    The United States has seized 27 domain names that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unlawfully used to further a global covert influence campaign.
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  • Former CEO and Founder of Technology Company Pleads Guilty to Investment Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    The former chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Trustify, Inc. (Trustify), a privately-held technology company founded in 2015 and based in Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to his involvement in a fraud scheme resulting in millions of dollars of losses to investors.
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  • Readout of U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s Call with Mexico Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero
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  • The Future of AI in Health and Human Services
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  • The Justice Department Announces Statement of Interest Filed in Lawsuit Challenging Philadelphia’s Moratorium that Cancelled the Veterans Day Parade
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced that a Statement of Interest (SOI) was filed today in a case pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that challenges the City of Philadelphia’s “Event Moratorium” that prohibits issuing permits for gatherings of 150 or more people on public property.
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  • Joint Statement of the U.S.-India Counternarcotics Working Group
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Syria Sanctions Designations on the Anniversary of Assad’s Attack Against the People of Douma, Syria
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  • Jersey/Swiss Financial Services Firm Admits to Conspiring with U.S. Taxpayers to Hide Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts
    In Crime News
    Strachans SA in Liquidation pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to hide income and assets in offshore entities and bank accounts from the IRS, and was sentenced in accordance with the guilty plea, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna, and Chief James Lee of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
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  • Engineering Firm And Its Former Executive Indicted On Antitrust And Fraud Charges
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina returned an indictment charging Contech Engineered Solutions LLC and Brent Brewbaker, a former executive at the company, for participating in long-standing conspiracies to rig bids and defraud the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the Department of Justice announced.
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with South African Foreign Minister Pandor
    In Crime Control and Security News
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