Back in 1953 – at the time of the Korean Armistice and the year of my birth – the Republic of Korea (ROK) was a war-stricken, destitute country reliant on U.S. military and economic assistance for its survival. Now, more than sixty years later, as the minister of foreign affairs, I take pride in the ROK’s remarkable metamorphosis – not only into a robust democracy with a thriving economy, but also into an active and responsible member of the international community and a trusted partner of the United States.
During this transformational process, the ROKUS alliance has played a pivotal role. Based on a shared commitment to universal values – such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law – the alliance has contributed to peace and stability not only on the Korean peninsula, but also in the Northeast Asian region and beyond.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and I publicly declared at the Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting held in Washington, DC last October: “Our alliance is stronger than ever before, developing into more than the linchpin of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.”
Indeed, this sentiment was eloquently reflected in the latest Congressional Research Service Report on U.S.-South Korea Relations, which stated that relations are “at their best state in decades.”
That is not mere rhetoric.
"Our alliance has evolved into a comprehensive strategic one. Our cooperation encompasses not only security, but also economic and social issues. In this regard, the KORUS Free Trade Agreement (FTA) embodies the commitment of the ROK and the United States to a shared future of growth and prosperity."
As a matter of fact, such an excellent relationship manifests itself in many different and diverse areas. Regarding North Korea, the combined defense posture of the ROK and the United States has successfully met the security challenges on the Korean peninsula.
The ROK and the United States are also firmly united on North Korea, including its nuclear problem. Secretary Kerry and I have reaffirmed on many occasions that “there is not an inch of daylight” between our two countries.
In particular, the United States strongly supports President Park Geun-hye’s steadfast and principled approach to North Korea, and the international community is standing with us.
And as the ROK government steps up its efforts to overcome the division of the Korean Peninsula – now in its seventieth year – and to pave the way for unification, the United States is a staunch supporter, with President Barack Obama stating that “the deep longing for freedom and dignity will not go away, and the Korean people, at long last, will be whole and free.”
Our alliance has evolved into a comprehensive strategic one. Our cooperation encompasses not only security, but also economic and social issues. In this regard, the KORUS Free Trade Agreement (FTA) embodies the commitment of the ROK and the United States to a shared future of growth and prosperity.
As we celebrate the third anniversary of the KORUS FTA this year, the overall trade volume of both manufactured goods and services has increased, providing more opportunities for the people of both countries.
The KORUS FTA serves as a useful model free-trade agreement for the region, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Another indispensable element of our comprehensive strategic alliance is our global partnership. President Park has long believed that our alliance should aim far — that it should ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous world.
In fact, the ROK and the United States, as global partners, stand shoulder-to- shoulder in tackling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, the Ebola outbreak, piracy, cyberattacks, climate change, and poverty.
Additionally, our collaboration covers newly launched multilateral initiatives, with the United States and Korea taking turns in hosting the Group of Twenty meeting, the Nuclear Security Summit, as well as the upcoming Global Health Security Agenda meeting.
I am confident that the U.S.-ROK alliance will continue to play a crucial role in achieving sustainable peace and ultimate unification in the Korean Peninsula.
In a turbulent, fast-changing world, Korea, together with the United States, will make every effort to further strengthen our alliance and usher in a new kind of Korea, a new kind of Asia-Pacific, and a new kind of world.