First of all, let me express my sincere thanks to President Jack Pritchard of KEI for inviting me to this evening’s Gala dinner. Today we are talking about the past, present, and the future of the ROK-USA alliance.
The future is being made based upon the past and the present. However, the future is not a simple extension of the present. As people evolve, society and the relations we create continue to evolve as well. So far, our alliance has provided a textbook model of a partnership that can lead to lasting security, sustainable economic development, and political democratization.
Our alliance has successfully withstood the test of time. What began as a military alliance 59 years ago during the war has now evolved into an alliance of values. Recently, we have witnessed the birth of a multi-dimensional strategic alliance with the launching of the Free Trade Agreement between our two countries, which adds an economic and future-oriented dimension to our unified longstanding security alliance. Together with our shared values and common strategic interests, our alliance will continue to bond us as we chart a path forward.
On the Korean Peninsula, our military alliance has been serving and will continue to serve as a strong deterrent against North Korea’s probable provocations. This alliance of deterrence will transform into an alliance of victory should war break out on the Korean peninsula as a result of the North Korean policy of military confrontation and brinkmanship. Our alliance is certain to outlive the North Korean regime and enjoy an even more enduring longevity after unification.
Our alliance of values will expand beyond the Korean Peninsula and serve as the cornerstone for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northeast Asia in the 21st century. The ROK-USA alliance is neither mutually exclusive nor a zero-sum relationship vis-à-vis other countries in the region and beyond. On the contrary, it is, and will continue to be, a mutually complementary, win-win partnership.
Moreover, our alliance will further expand into the international arena, and we will endeavor to work shoulder to shoulder to advance our common cause across the globe. The current joint efforts of peace-keeping and peace-building in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti, to name a few, are good examples in this regard. The robust alliance has been the backbone of the great transformation of the Korean economy from a recipient to a donor country in just six decades or in two generations’ time. A unified Korea will remain America’s global partner in advancing our common values and addressing challenges. Together, we will provide necessary public goods such as promoting stability, post-conflict reconstruction, and upholding democratic values in a fast-changing and increasingly interconnected world.
Last but not least, the ROK-US relationship will eventually evolve to a people-to-people alliance. There are currently 2.5 million Korean-Americans living in the US. Every year there are more than two million people visiting each other contry. These people, these Korean-Americans, their future generations and the increasing rate of people-to-people exchange will become the foundation of a rich and mutually beneficial relationship.
We still have a long way to travel. But for good friends, the journey is never too long.