An official website of the United States government

The U.S.-ROK Relationship: An Alliance for the Greater Good
December 1, 2022

Thank you so much to the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club and to President Choi for the opportunity to speak with you today.  I hope we have a good dialogue. I firmly believe that the ever-growing international press residence here in Seoul is essential to communicate the important role the Republic of Korea plays in global affairs.  People who stand to benefit from the strong, democratic voice of the ROK in discussions among nations that may change their lives. And you, of course, are all responsible for that.  Some of that, of course is for Foreign Minister Park to tell, it’s his story.  Today I’d like to focus on an even greater force for good in the world – the exponentially stronger power democracies like the United States and our Republic of Korea allies have when we speak together toward common goals. 

We focus heavily on the critical role the U.S.-ROK alliance played over the past decades in promoting peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula, but we don’t talk nearly enough about what our rapidly expanding bilateral relationship means for those living beyond these shores.  As Korea becomes a Global Pivotal State, how might its close partnership with the United States benefit someone living in a Pacific Island or in sub-Saharan Africa?  How could a military alliance that dates back to the 1950s benefit their lives today? 

The answer is that after decades of crafting one of the most steadfast, resilient, robust alliances in the world, it’s now strong enough to continue to expand and adapt to address new challenges, while at the same time being used as a force for good across the globe to improve the lives of others.  To share the very security, prosperity, and freedoms we enjoy, that global spread is absolutely essential. Our leaders charged us with this when they met earlier this year, when President Biden visited Seoul just ten days after the inauguration of President Yoon, and they directed us to focus in a few key areas:   

  • Security cooperation – maintaining vigilance and readiness to combat known threats while anticipating and preparing for those on the horizon, whether here on the Korean Peninsula or thousands of miles away. 
  • Economic cooperation – building reliable and resilient supply chains that people across the globe can depend on, as well as expanding manufacturing capabilities to meet their critical needs in ways that are more environmentally sustainable.   
  • And working together to promote human rights, democracy, and good governance – both in our two countries and every other. 

Let me talk just a bit about each one of those areas. 

As we prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance, the principal on which it was founded remains – the best way to protect ourselves is by protecting others.  Specifically, by building a network of nations committed to defending democratic principles and the “rules-based international order,” the framework of international legal and institutional regimes that encourages cooperation, mitigates against conflict, and enables us to address shared challenges through collaboration – even in a world dominated by competition. 

So today, as we face unprecedented threats posed by authoritarian states, we are redefining and reinforcing the future of our shared security with joint U.S.-ROK initiatives that touch on every aspect of global security to include not only conventional defense, but also cybersecurity, the responsible use of space, crisis management and humanitarian assistance, health security, climate change mitigation, and much more.  That’s what it means to have an alliance for the greater good. 

Our efforts to enhance global security go hand in hand with promoting prosperity.  As allies, we want to provide people outside our respective borders a chance to thrive, because we know that the world is safer place for us all when others enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that we do.  South Korea is an essential partner with the United States to diversify supply chains to bolster economic security.  Massive disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic disrupted businesses and frustrated the consumers they serve in communities around the world.  We all need stable supplies of the products on which we rely for communication, transportation, health, and well-being –   and diverse sources of the materials needed to make them.  Fortunately, the U.S.-ROK alliance is helping us get there through initiatives like the Minerals Security Partnership.  Last year, Korean and U.S. firms committed tens of billions of dollars to joint ventures and investments in areas critical to the global economy like semiconductors and high-capacity batteries.  Bilaterally and through cooperation under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, U.S.-ROK economic engagement will continue to be marked by the kind of openness, transparency, and inclusiveness that benefits all. 

As winter sets in and with talk of a “tripledemic” looming, there may be no better example of what the U.S.-ROK alliance can accomplish than Korean firms producing vaccines and Covid test kits developed in the United States.  Continuing to work together on such scientific advances will ensure they serve the citizens of all countries.  We are focused on joint research and development initiatives tied to critical and emerging technologies for the same reason, because our shared history of excellence in innovation should serve the greater good.  The world can count on American and Korean businesses and industries to work together, making continued progress in areas like the digital economy, biotechnology, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and clean energy technology.   

We’re equally committed to helping other countries help themselves by developing sustainably with the reliable infrastructure and human capital needed to build a better future.  And because our economic cooperation is rooted in shared values, we trust our companies to respect human rights in the countries where they work and hold them accountable if they don’t.  That’s what it means to have an alliance for the greater good. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development cooperates closely with ROK government agencies and the Korean private sector to contribute to these efforts as well. Our two countries have a deep bilateral development relationship and we collaborate on a range of initiatives worldwide, including humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, combating climate change in the Pacific Islands, enhancing cybersecurity in Southeast Asia, and strengthening health systems through clean electrification in Africa.  

Likewise, Korea has emerged as a global leader and key partner for the United States to foster emerging democracies, as well as to uphold democratic principles around the world.  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, the United States and Republic of Korea promote democratic values in ways that undermine the influence of authoritarian regimes across the region and globally.   

As a further demonstration of leadership in promoting respect for human rights and democratic governance, the Republic of Korea will co-host the second Summit for Democracy next March.  President Yoon will be present here in Seoul, just as President Biden will be in Washington.  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 are deeply committed to the principle that transparent, accountable, governance remains the best way to ensure lasting prosperity, peace, and justice.

Together, we will continue to strengthen our powerful alliance for the greater good.  Mr. Choi started out by talking about North Korea, but it goes well beyond that.  And we hope to partner with each of your respective countries to do so.

Thanks for listening, and I look forward to your questions.