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Yonhap News Symposium highlights 70 years of ROK-US alliance, looks to future

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric Burks
  • 7th Air Force Public Affairs

The past, present and future of the ROK-U.S. alliance was in focus June 29, 2023, at the 9th annual Yonhap News Symposium in Seoul.

The annual symposium, co-hosted by the Yonhap News Agency and the ROK Ministry of Unification, provides an opportunity for experts from around the world to evaluate and discuss issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Pleus, U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander and Seventh Air Force commander, spoke during a special session highlighting the strength of the ROK-US alliance over the past 70 years amid Korea’s growth.

“For the past 73 years, there have been U.S. servicemembers stationed on the Korean peninsula,” Pleus said. “I can think of no better display of our commitment to the alliance.”

While we celebrate the alliance with our nations’ ironclad commitments, he said, it also serves as a reminder that the armistice did not end the Korean War.

“While the peninsula is still in armistice, the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] continues to develop capabilities that threaten peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world,” Pleus said.

In just the past five months, he noted, over 20 missile tests have challenged the regional security of northeast Asia.

“In the face of this ongoing threat, the ROK-US alliance remains as important as ever to the sovereignty of both of our nations,” he said.

“Based on previous experience, we should expect more provocations, and our militaries must be prepared together to protect the freedom, prosperity and lives of our two nations,” Pleus said.

“Future exercises between U.S. Strategic Command, USFK, and the currently forming ROK Strategic Command will ensure synchronization of these efforts,” he said. “As we deter together, and as our alliance continues to expand, we will keep building off our commitments, not only to the security of northeast Asia, but also to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and a free and open global commerce.”

Philip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, and Choi Joong-kyung, Korea-America Association Chairman and President, also spoke during the session, while Park Jin, ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a keynote speech.

“Following the 1953 armistice, Koreans committed to making better lives for themselves and their nation persevered,” Goldberg said.

“Mere months into that journey, the Republic of Korea signed a mutual defense treaty with the United States,” he said. “This October, we’ll celebrate that day as a momentous step that would provide Korea’s democracy the firm foundation of security it needed to prosper, and ultimately become one of America’s strongest allies.”

The ROK has emerged as a global leader and key partner for the United States in fostering emerging democracies, Goldberg said, as well as upholding democratic values around the world.

“As allies, we’re deeply committed to the principle that transparent, accountable governance remains the best way to ensure lasting prosperity, peace, and justice,” he said.

The alliance has also driven changes in economic and technological advances, Goldberg added.

“As global strategic partners, we’re countering economic coercion by diversifying essential supply chains, enhancing cyber security, and defining the peaceful use of space, not just for our own people, but for the benefit of others beyond our shores,” he said. “We’re focused on joint research and development initiatives tied to critical and emerging technologies because our shared history of excellence and innovation should serve the greater good.”

The world can count on U.S. and ROK businesses and industries to work together, he said, making progress in areas such as the regional economy, biotechnology, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and clean energy technology.

“Be it solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, or next-generation nuclear power, our successful transition to sustainable green economies is interdependent, and progress on mitigating global climate change requires our shared commitment.”

The alliance remains ready to protect the shared interests of the U.S. and ROK, Pleus said.

“The ROK has a vibrant democracy – it is a pillar of security, stability and peace in northeast Asia,” he said. “What South Korea has accomplished is worth defending.”