Thank you very much and I guess it’s still good morning, and to all of you who are on a different timezone, good evening as well. Thanks to both CSIS and JoongAng Ilbo for hosting what is a very timely forum. I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you on the heels of the recent APEC and G20 summits about what is indeed “an alliance in turbulent times.”
We need to remember though, there have been other term turbulent times, and when the U.S.-ROK alliance was first formed, times were also turbulent. The Cold War was in its infancy and the newly proclaimed People’s Republic of China and under Mao Zedong was at odds with an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union. Against this backdrop, President Elect Dwight D. Eisenhower came to Korea seventy years ago tomorrow on December 2, 1952, seeking a way to end the Korean War. Mere months into his presidency and before the signing of the armistice, Eisenhower delivered his “Chance for Peace” speech. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s a good time to do so again. In the speech, he laments the post-World War Two commitment to peace having dissipated and that the nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads, not unlike the battle between democracy and autocracy outlined by President Biden seventy years later. Eisenhower went on to underscore that no people on earth should be inherently viewed as an enemy, that every nation has the right to form a government and an economic system of its own choosing and that lasting peace lies in honest understanding between nations as opposed to increased militarization. All of that remains true. But Eisenhower also noted that no nation’s security and wellbeing can be lastingly achieved in isolation, but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations. And that’s where we have a huge advantage today.
First, in the years that followed Eisenhower’s term, the world succeeded in building a network of nations committed to what we’ve come to refer to as the rules-based international order: the framework of international legal and institutional risk regimes that encourage cooperation, mitigate against conflict, and enable us to address shared challenges through collaboration, even in a world dominated by competition. We must defend and modernize that order.
And second, we have a powerful tool to foster peace and prosperity that we didn’t in the spring of 1953– the U.S.-ROK alliance. The foundation we laid back then grew into a military alliance that provided a strong stable base for the people of this country to create a new life in the years following the Korean War. On that fundamental rock-solid foundation, we built an entire network of economic and social ties to make sure future generations of Koreans and Americans enjoy the same opportunities we do. Today, the advantages our alliance affords are no longer limited to our two countries. For decades, we crafted one of the most steadfast, resilient, and robust alliances in the world. Now it’s strong enough to continue to expand, and to adapt to address new security challenges, while simultaneously acting as a force for good across the globe, to share the very security, prosperity and freedom that we enjoy. That’s what our leaders tasked us with doing when they met earlier this year, when President Biden visited shortly after President Yoon’s inauguration, directing us to focus in a few key areas that include security cooperation, maintaining vigilance and readiness to combat known threats while anticipating and preparing for those on the horizon, economic cooperation, building diverse and resilient supply chains, as well as expanding manufacturing capabilities to meet critical needs, and working together, to promote human rights, democracy and good governance at home and abroad. Let me talk a little bit about each of those.
America’s commitment to the defense of Korea is ironclad, and our dedication to establishing a sustainable permanent peace on the Korean peninsula, unwavering. That won’t change. Yet today, as we face unprecedented threats posed by authoritarian states like China, Russia and North Korea, we’re redefining and reenforcing the future of our shared security with joint initiatives that are modern, forward-looking, and global. The bonds we first forged in Eisenhower’s time continue to make us safer by touching on every aspect of global security to include not only conventional defense, but also cybersecurity, the responsible use of space, crisis management and emergency response, health security, climate change mitigation, and much, much more.
Putting security first back in the early 50s afforded the stability necessary for the ROK to become one of the world’s largest economies. We want the U.S. to remain Korea’s economic partner of choice for increased trade, investment, and joint innovation to ensure continued economic security and prosperity for us all. America is Korea’s largest trade and investment partner, because leaders in business and industry see the mutual benefit in our bilateral economic cooperation, not only for the American and Korean people, but also for others around the globe. Why? Because it is rooted in our shared values and commitment to market principles, ensuring fair competition, and respect for intellectual property rights and human rights in everything we do.
It’s amazing really, every day to see the rapidly expanding Korea-U.S. business partnership in a vast array of fields. Last year alone, Korean and U.S. firms committed tens of billions of dollars to joint ventures and investments in critical sectors like semiconductors, high capacity batteries, solar panels, and the broader supply chain of critical materials, parts, and equipment to expand production capacity. Our scientists, researchers, and engineers are among the best in the world. There is no better example of what we can accomplish together than Korean firms producing vaccines and test kits developed in the U.S. to fight COVID. Continuing to work together on scientific advances will ensure they serve citizens of both of our countries, and the global good. Together we’re focused on joint research and development initiatives tied to critical and emerging technologies, because we know America and Korea have a proven history of excellence in innovation. The world needs us to work together to support a free and open digital economy and to push for innovations in biotechnology, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence. And we’re natural partners in areas our people care about most, like clean energy technology, higher education, and sustainable agriculture.
Both Koreans and Americans care deeply about the future of our planet and what the climate crisis means for future generations. The U.S. and Korea committed to leading the fight against climate change by vowing to cut our greenhouse gas emissions drastically in less than a decade. To meet such aggressive targets, we’ll need to work together with unprecedented determination and encourage others to do the same.
Likewise, as both historic allies and equal, like-minded partners, the U.S. and the ROK are uniquely positioned to work together to promote democratic values in ways that undermine the influence of authoritarian regimes across the region, and globally. Korea has emerged as a world leader and now plays a critical role in fostering emerging democracies as well as upholding democratic principles. From standing with Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked and brutal war of aggression, to condemning human rights violations by the regime in North Korea, working to hold the junta in Burma to account, or defending the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The U.S. and the ROK promote democratic values in ways that undermine the influence of authoritarian regimes across the globe and across this region.
As a further demonstration of leadership and promoting respect for human rights and democratic government, the ROK will co-host the second Summit for Democracy next March. The summit will underscore how democracies deliver for their citizens, and are best equipped to address the world’s most pressing challenges. As allies, we’re deeply committed to the principle that transparent, accountable governance remains the best way to ensure lasting prosperity, peace, and justice.
I mentioned a bit earlier that history cause us to now use this mighty, multifaceted Alliance we built as a force for good across the globe. Korea’s rapidly expanding political, economic, and cultural influence gives Koreans a say in what happens in the world. And you clearly take that responsibility seriously. We look forward to identifying synergies between the Yoon administration’s new Indo-Pacific strategy and our own. We’re already working together to ensure freedom of navigation, provide critical humanitarian aid, and help countries in the Indo-Pacific and especially in the Pacific Islands developed sustainability with reliable infrastructure and human capital needed to build a better future. The ROK is essential, equal, and capable as a partner with the U.S. in all these efforts, but we’re not alone. We have other friends in the neighborhood who would like to do the same. And we’re even stronger when the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan, work together to promote security, market principles, and democratic values while addressing the most difficult 21st century challenges, not just in Northeast Asia, or the Indo-Pacific, but around the world. It’s in the fundamental interest of each and every one of us to support closer cooperation. And our leaders recommitted to doing just that in Phnom Penh a few weeks ago.
As Dwight Eisenhower reminded the generation that came before us, “The free world knows out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty. It knows that aggression in Korea and in Southeast Asia are threats to the whole free community, to be met only through united action.” He went on to express optimism about a world defined by trust and mutual respect between nations. One where countries work together to aid in development, stimulate profitable and fair world trade, and ensure all people know freedom. We continue to share these fundamental goals as allies today.
So as I conclude, I want to note one important detail about the “Chance for Peace” speech, that President Eisenhower delivered it in Washington to the National Association of Newspaper Editors. Because as he pointed out, journalists are both representatives of and responsible to the people they serve, playing a vital role in promoting understanding and the knowledge of the world we live in. So we recognize that often a heavy burden to be a bear in a democratic society. So I want to give special thanks to JoongAng Ilbo, for co-hosting us here today, and to the journalists covering this important Forum for the work that you do every day. Thank you very much.