Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference in Seoul

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Press Centre, Seoul, South Korea
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1115-1155.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3370
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Energy, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Terrorism, Women, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Prime Minister

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure and an honour to be the first British prime minister to visit the Republic of Korea. My objective is to cement the very good relations which were developed by President Chun 's visit to Britain last month—a visit which was very successful.

As you know, we in Britain have a long association with Korea, and in the course of my short tour I shall be visiting several memorials, including the Gloster Valley, to Britons who died in defending the freedom of Korea. I am very much looking forward to that visit and also to Panmunjon and later to the demilitarised zone and seeing something again also of your industry tomorrow in and around Pusan.

I have just had talks with President Chun and also with the Lho , Shin-Yongprime minister. President Chun and I of course discussed our common approach to the need to defend freedom and the need to be secure in one's defence and secure in one's allies. We also discussed matters which will come up at the Tokyo Summit where I am certain that one will see [end p1] a great display of unity among all western industrialised nations.

We discussed the need for a global approach both to matters of defence and also to matters of trade where, as you know, Korea and we do support a new GATT round and hope it will not be long before it starts.

We are both naturally very anxious to have tangible expression to a heightened relationship and friendship between Britain and Korea. We started some discussions in London and, as you know, a number of our businessmen were in London and a number more will be coming to London in September and there are a number of trade relations under way and under consideration.

The President has authorised me to say that the Marconi-Ferranti order for some £30 million for a naval command and control system will be coming to Britain; that the negotiations will be brought to a speedy conclusion and will be in favour of Britain.

I also, as you know, will be visiting the steel plant tomorrow and President …   . of Posco, the plant which I shall be visiting, has authorised me to say that today Posco and Davis Sheffield have signed a £3.5 million contract for the modernisation of the Posco hot strip mill, originally built by Mitsubishi. So that is two very important contracts which will be visible signs of the increasing friendship and cooperation between Korea and Great Britain. May I also say that I am very happy that they come on the even of my own [end p2] seventh anniversary as Prime Minister of Great Britain, so I hope that I shall still continue to do very good work for Britain.

I am sorry it is such a flying visit. We marvel at the achievements of the Korean people, not only your liberties, but also the tremendous economic achievements which you have made, and finally, President Chun did tell me a little bit about the great constitutional question in which there are now great discussions going on in Korea between the majority and minority parties about any possible changes, and he indicated that these questions are now being extensively discussed.

I think perhaps that is all I have to say immediately. Over to you for questions. [end p3]


Inaudible but regarding the Soviet Union

Prime Minister

We constantly have to be on guard to defend liberty. You here have great occasion to know that, but so have we in Europe, and I think that is what the President and I were saying this morning when we said that security has to be considered on a global basis, and we are very much aware of that, as you know, and we still have a few soldiers here. We are very much aware of the need always to defend Korea's liberty and will continue to be so.


Prime Minister, I wonder if I might take you forward to the Tokyo Summit and particularly the likelihood that you will discuss there the Soviet handling of the nuclear accident, and what you perhaps might be saying there about the way they have handled that affair and the effect that might have on future arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union?

Prime Minister

I think the way in which the Soviet Union has handled the nuclear accident and the information about it shows very vividly the difference between the closed Communist society and open western society. If you care to contrast very quickly the way in which the United States handled the space shuttle accident—open, open about the possible causes, [end p4] open about the information, immediately. Contrast that with the way in which the Soviet Union has handled the nuclear accident and it is still very difficult to get precise information about that. That shows all the differences between the closed and the open society.

Now, I think the second point I would like to make is this: it has not been easy—indeed, it has not been possible to verify what has happened in that nuclear accident, and that of course has a great effect on the armaments talks, because so many of them are now bogged down on verification issues, and if you are to be secure and you are to make new arms control agreements, really the acid test of security is whether you can verify what you agree, and if you find it very difficult to verify what has happened in a peaceful accident of this kind, it means that you must be even more careful on the verification procedures for armaments.

I think also it has demonstrated to the rest of the world that the Communist system and its closed society is still the same as it was. I think people were perhaps becoming a little bit bewitched with the idea that it might have changed under Mr. Gorbachev who is very good with western public opinion, and I think now they know that the system has not changed at all.


If I could just have a quick follow-up on your last remark, does that mean he is no longer a man you can do business with? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Oh no, I never had any doubts about the fact that the Communist system itself is not changing. Its objectives remain the same, its methods remain the same. I think you can do business with people when you have made a correct assessment of their approach and their methods. I had always made that correct assessment, and it is on the basis of that correct assessment that you have heard me say so many times on all arms control agreements that verification is of the essence, and we must strive to attain that. Nevertheless, it is still in the interests both of the Soviet Union and of western societies, providing we can verify agreements, to spend less on armaments.


inaudible: Anglo-Korean cooperation

Prime Minister

How to cooperate? We are trying to cooperate in two ways: first, by more businessmen coming here and maintaining missions here, and by more Korean businessmen coming to Britain, where they will have a very warm welcome. We do want more inward investment from Korea into Britain. That is the direct contact. We also have to ensure that we have standards which are the same.

For example, there are now some difficulties between, I think, a number of western countries and the United States and Korea over copyright law and over patent law. As you know, [end p6] more and more industry is going to be of high technology. That requires a great deal of money spent on research and development, whether it be for new drugs, new pharmaceuticals, new electronics. Firms are not going to spend enormous sums of money on research and development and then have joint ventures with Korean firms if at the same time their top secrets which have been patented or their new drugs are then going to be produced by those who have not to spend the money on research and development and who refuse to spend any money on royalties, so we have to get sorted out the copyright law and the patent law and make it illegal for those matters to be just copied without royalty or without observing the patent. I think we shall have to look at this as part of the global standards, and also we have to make certain again the world over—we agreed double taxation agreements; now, there are certain phrases in those agreements which mean the same the world over and one has to be certain that they do mean the same.

Those are the technical matters which governments can get sorted out. I think there is a third matter. We will try to pursue the idea that the European Economic Community has an office here. We would like it to have if we can persuade it to do so, because as you know, the European Community is the biggest importer of goods the world over and therefore it would seem to make sense for them perhaps also to have an office here if we can persuade them to do so [end p7] and bring that about.

But as between the people of Korea and the people of Great Britain, we have a very great deal in common, in that we have fought for liberty and wish to defend it. We are both peoples who believe in enterprise and effort and we are also peoples who believe in going out into the world to get more trade and more exports. In other words, exports are a very big part of our standard of living and therefore we have to observe international rules when we go to get business.



Prime Minister

That is quite a deep question. I can only assure you it can be done and you have to remember that life comes one day at a time. You are looking at the achievement of quite a long lifetime, of effort and work and training. To me, it all came one day at a time and just making best use of the opportunities that were available.

Korean women will be very highly trained and educated. They will also be just as able to keep their family life going. It has been of enormous help to me to have a family behind me. First, it keeps one human; second, it keeps one down to earth; and thirdly, your family can often say things to you which no-one else can, and that is very good for prime ministers.

So to the ladies of Korea: just raise your sights. You can also achieve great things and having a family behind [end p8] you will help, but do not think that it is just exceptionally difficult. It just means taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way and always working hard on whatever it is you want to do.


Prime Minister, in your remarks before, you mentioned your admiration for the liberty of South Korea. Which particular liberty are you referring to? Do you include, for instance, the freedom of speech in the several liberties you outlined?

Prime Minister

May I make it clear that we have discussed with President Chun this morning the constitutional questions and the natural desire of President Chun and most of the people of Korea to come to full democratic value. I am very conscious of what it must be like to have the frontier of freedom going just twenty-five miles or so north of Seoul and what that means and we have discussed the increasing move towards fuller democracy, which I think augurs extremely well.

I think the question will be very much aware that there have been eight post-war constitutions of Korea and what, therefore, Korea will be straining for now would be, if there are to be any changes, stability and certainty of procedures for succession and I am sure that all of those things are very [end p9] much in people's minds and I am very interested in what will come out of the discussions and the great debate which has begun on the next steps towards full democratic values.

Question (American Television)

Considering everything that has happened since the US bombing raid on Libya, the political flak you have taken at home, violence towards Britons in Lebanon, the near tragedy at Heathrow airport, if you had to make that decision again, how would you handle it?

Prime Minister

The same way, the same decision. For all the reasons which I gave during a very length statement and speech in the House of Commons. Terrorism had been mounting. Terrorism is a kind of form of warfare against innocent people without warning and relentless and it was state-sponsored terrorism.

The United States had been asking other nations, including Europe, to take more and more peaceful measures against Libya to counter it that way. The General Assembly had had resolutions, the President of the Security Council had made statements. Terrorism went on mounting.

Free nations are reluctant to use force. It is always a shock when we have to use force and therefore it was right that we would consider it very very carefully indeed. But if free nations are to forego the right of self-defence, if free nations are never to meet force with force, then liberty would [end p10] soon have died. We should no longer be here in Seoul in the Republic of Korea, a free country, talking as we are now, and Europe would not have been free, as she is now.

So you are very very reluctant to use force and that is right, that we should be reluctant; that it is only used under certain circumstances and I thought that the President was justified in making his request and that we were absolutely right to respond to it the way we did. If you never use force, if only tyrants use force and no-one will use force against them, then the tyrants win, and freedom dies.


Can I ask the Prime Minister how she assesses the latest prospects for a new East-West Summit?

Prime Minister

I believe that there will be a second Summit. I believe that people's expectations are such that they are communicated both to President Reagan and to General Secretary Gorbachev and I think that it is not a question of whether there will be another Summit, but what is the best time to hold it.

I think that at the next Summit it is important that there are specific results which come out of it on the arms control front and therefore it does require that there are very concentrated negotiations at the negotiating table at Geneva to ensure that there can be some steps forward at the next Summit. I do not believe that any of the latest events [end p11] reduce the need for a Summit. I think that the need is as great as it was before and I believe that it will come about.

Brian Barron (BBC)

Question regarding whether the Prime Minister achieved much in her stop-over at Anchorage and if the very fact that she did stop over is a sign of a great concern at the drop off of tourists, American and otherwise, to the UK

Prime Minister

At Anchorage, as you know, we did not just stay in the transit lounge. First, we went out and looked at Anchorage and then there were two local television stations who came and talked to me.

Yes, of course I am concerned at reports of fewer American people coming to Britain, particularly as London is every bit as safe, and safer, than some American cities, and it is very very easy to get a false impression from television and from the papers. I am not blaming television for that. By the very nature of news, you tend obviously to report the difficult things that are going on and if you get a continual diet of that, it is very difficult for people some distance away to keep things in perspective and the perspective is that Britain is as safe a country as any to come to, has been, and will remain so, and she has one of the best police forces the world over and, of course, all the things are going on normally in Britain and I hope that the American people will look and [end p12] see that just very shortly after we gave permission for the American bases to be used, all the public celebrations in connection with the Queen's sixtieth birthday went on, all the preparations and all the events went on in connection with a very important state visit. Of course they went on, of course we carry on. That is the kind of freedom under the law and I hope that America and the people of America will demonstrate the same faith and conviction of freedom under the law and the same loyalty to people who tried to help the United States when she needed answers to her specific requests, as we have demonstrated to our great friend and ally, the United States.

Question (Mr. Barron)

Is what you are just saying hoping that the Americans will demonstrate the same sorth of faith and loyalty a reference to the length of time it is taking to get the revised extradition treaty through Congress in Washington?

Prime Minister

No. I was really talking about the official visits, a number of either trading visits or cultural visits, and also the tourism.

I think that what has happened has been a very temporary reaction and people soon will be booking places on aeroplanes and again in hotels and will be back in Britain again.

No, the Administration has been very active indeed in [end p13] trying to help to get that extradition treaty through the Senate and many senators are very active. You cannot fight terrorism only on one front. It is no good fighting one kind of terrorism and then leaving Irish terrorism, which is just as much against the Republic of Ireland and democracy there as it is against us—leaving those terrorists free to find a safe haven in the United States—and I think most people realise that.

I very much hope that extradition treaty will go through. It will be an earnest of the United States' faith and total determination to fight terrorism wherever it appears, and that is the kind of determination we all have to show.



Prime Minister

We will be glad to support the application when it comes of the Republic of Korea to enter the United Nations and if it is the wish to have both the Republic of Korea and North Korea entering at the same time, then I think we would support that.


Regarding problems. How does the Prime Minister view the future of the Atlantic Alliance?

[end p14]

Prime Minister

The NATO alliance is absolutely vital for the defence of the free world. It will continue. I believe that implicitly.

The European Economic Community is not a defence unit, but nevertheless, we are increasingly having talks among ourselves to make certain that Europe does play her full part in the NATO alliance, but it is absolutely vital in the defence of freedom and I am certain that the British people fully appreciate that and I believe that people over Europe appreciate that and indeed, can I just point out that when they had a referendum in Spain about whether they stay in the NATO alliance, the result was positive. That augurs well for the defence of liberty the world over.

I feel guilty about cutting you short. Have you got another couple of quickie questions, quick questions? Yes, all right, at the back. You put it quickly, I will put the answer quickly.



Prime Minister

I hope to win a third general election. All right? I promised you a short answer. I hope to win a third general election. That is my purpose.


Inaudible: Regarding demonstrations and violations in Korea

[end p15]

Prime Minister

It is not for me to get too much involved in Korean politics. As I have indicated, President Chun and I have had a brief discussion this morning, and he has been telling me that the constitutional question has been raised and there will be a great debate on it and he was telling me his approach to it, which I believe you know.

Question (Radio Korea)

Prime Minister's opinion on the British Government's viewpoint on nuclear power plant development

Prime Minister

In Britain, as far as our nuclear power plants are concerned, both in Britain and with those that we have exported, safety has been of paramount importance. Safety has been designed into the plant. It has always been of paramount importance in operating the plant and in maintaining it, so we do not believe that the accident that happened in the Soviet Union could happen in Britain with all the safety precautions that we have taken, as I have indicated.

What I think that accident means for the world is that the standards which we have adopted at home will have to become international and we shall have to have international standards of safety to which all nations willingly and gladly comply and I think we will be pursuing that through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Thank you very much for coming.