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United States - Republic of Korea Alliance Night

By ADM Harry Harris | U.S. Pacific Command | Dec. 11, 2017

Adm. Harry Harris

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
United States - Republic of Korea Alliance Night
Four Seasons Hotel, Honolulu, HI

December 8, 2017
As Delivered


(Introduced by Ms. Yeom, ROK Advisor) 


Thanks for the kind introduction. I'd also like to acknowledge:

  • Our hosts, Consul General and Mrs. Kang… 
  • Deputy Consul General and Mrs. Kim; CAPT Song; Admiral Swift; General and Mrs. Brown… 
  • Members of the diplomatic and consular corps… 
  • Fellow flag and general officers; distinguished guests… 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be with all of you this evening to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the ironclad alliance between our two nations. I’m humbled to speak on such an esteemed occasion… and I'm proud to call the Republic of Korea an ally and friend.

Throughout my long career, I’ve been privileged to serve with the fine servicemen and women of the Republic of Korea’s armed forces. 

As warriors on the front lines of freedom, you, our South Korean allies, serve with courage and honor to deliver peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.

In war and during an uneasy peace, the armed forces of our two nations have reinforced this partnership – a special bond built on mutual trust and shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

This alliance has been forged in blood… Incheon, Wonsan, the Chosin Reservoir… hard fighting and sacrifice where Americans and Koreans paid the ultimate cost of freedom together. For over six decades, it’s been the privilege of the American armed forces to serve side-by-side with our Korean allies in this pursuit of freedom… because freedom is an idea worth fighting for – and, if need be, an idea worth dying for. 

Our alliance was born in the aftermath of the Korean War… a war that has always been with me. Thanks to my father, a Korean War veteran, I'm very familiar with this important chapter in global history. My dad was a Navy Chief Petty Officer stationed in Japan when the North invaded the South and caught the world by surprise. He saw plenty of time at sea as he sailed in support of operations ashore.

History was revealed to me as he spoke of the Pusan Perimeter, the Incheon Landing, the ‘Frozen Chosin,’ and mysterious places like Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill. After the war, Dad served in Chinhae as a trainer for South Korean Navy Sailors.

The Korean War would be the opening struggle in the long and difficult campaign of the Cold War… a struggle that culminated in the victory of democracy over communism, of freedom over oppression, of thoroughfares and gateways over blockades and barricades. 

For 64 years, the U.S. and ROK alliance has become the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. In fact, the strength of our alliance has never been more powerful, as we continue to bolster interoperability, combat proficiency, and military alignment between our two countries through greater information sharing and collaboration. 

For example, over the past year, we’ve strengthened alliance combat readiness through combined exercises to improve Anti-Submarine Warfare, Mine Counter Measures, and Ballistic Missile Defense. We’ve increased the frequency and intensity of our naval and air integrations in – and around – the Korean Peninsula. And our governments have approved a new framework that improves our deterrence posture through deeper coordination across our whole of respective government actions. 

Throughout its history, our alliance has shown remarkable resiliency in meeting regional challenges; however, today it faces a very serious threat. 

In only six years, Kim Jong-Un has launched more missiles than his father and grandfather combined, and he is actively exploring ways to expand their reach. 

As the world witnessed last week, North Korea has made significant advancements in their ballistic missile program with the launch of its most powerful missile to date. In response, Secretary of Defense Mattis expressed great concern over the technological advances on display in the 53-minute flight that went higher than any previous launch, stating that Pyongyang threatens “everywhere in the world.”

North Korea stands out as the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons in this century and is actively pursuing ballistic missile technology that will allow them to deliver a nuclear warhead. Linking these two capabilities, in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-Un, is a recipe for disaster.

U.S. and Republic of Korea forces have responded to North Korea's aggressive actions by executing a variety of response operations to showcase the unwavering strength and resolve of our alliance. 

And our commitment to this alliance – in the face of these threats – remains absolute. We’re prepared to defend ourselves and the Republic of Korea using all of the capabilities at our disposal. Any attack on our two nations will be defeated. And any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is both effective and overwhelming. These recent response operations demonstrate just a few of the capabilities we can choose from in a wide array of military options.

The U.S. and Republic of Korea share the same goal – to maximize pressure and sanctions on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons program in a peaceful manner. So diplomacy is the main battery, and our governments are working together to exert diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to work toward that goal.

The international community also stands with us in sending a clear message to the DPRK regime that the only path to survival is to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. President Trump reiterated this message in a visit to South Korea last month, stating QUOTE “the world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation.” UNQUOTE 

So while diplomats make every effort to resolve this global threat through peaceful means, the armed forces of the United States and the Republic of Korea provide credible combat power to back up our diplomatic efforts. 

Global security challenges require multilateral solutions. Our nations all benefit from a region that preserves security, stability, and the freedom necessary for enduring prosperity… a region where each nation gains security in concert with others. 

So today, we are vigilant together – day in and day out – against the tyranny and despair north of the 38th parallel. As we do so, we know that this is no longer just a military alliance forged in blood, but one that symbolizes democracy and freedom to the world, growing stronger with each passing year. 

Together, we show the world what our countries can accomplish when they serve the interests of their people, respect the sovereignty of their neighbors, and uphold the rule of law. In good times and bad, in moments of great hardship and great success, our two nations can always count on the close bonds and deep friendship we share as free, proud, and independent people.

Our ironclad alliance is both defined by its storied past and invigorated by its boundless future. So tonight, we celebrate 64 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance history, and we look forward with great optimism to many more years as allies and friends. I know that together… we will succeed. Katchi Kapshida, Katchi Kapshida, thank God Almighty, Katchi Kapshida.

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