Thanks for the kind introduction. I’d also like to acknowledge:
o Ambassador Cho from the Republic of Korea;
o Our hosts, Consul General and Mrs. Kang;
o Deputy Consul General and Mrs. Kim;
o Admirals Aquilino and Penoyer, Generals Berger and Yoo;
o Members of the diplomatic and consular corps;
o Fellow flag and general officers … distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be with all of you this evening to celebrate the 65th 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.
For over six decades, the armed forces of the Republic of Korea have stood the watch as guardians of the South Korean nation, serving with courage, honor, and distinction to deliver peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
This reputation was earned through incredible fortitude and tremendous sacrifice. From the Battle of Incheon to the shelling of Yeonpyeong, hard fighting Americans and Koreans have served side-by-side in this enduring pursuit of freedom … because freedom is an idea worth fighting for – and, if need be, an idea worth dying for.
In war and in armistice, the armed forces of our two nations have reinforced this historic alliance – a special bond built on mutual trust, friendship, and shared values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
As allies, the United States and the Republic of Korea have time and again demonstrated our steadfast resolve to the phrase ‘Katchi kapshida’ – we indeed go together. And we do so with strength and unity of purpose.
Our alliance was born in the aftermath of the Korean War …an important chapter in global history. Friendship formed on the battlefields became the foundation of our ironclad alliance … and we shall never forget the sacrifice of those brave men and women who answered the call of duty to serve and fight on the Korean Peninsula.
Indeed, 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 65 years, the United States and Republic of Korea alliance has become the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. In fact … as Secretary of State Pompeo just stated in a press conference with the South Korean Foreign Minister, ‘The U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance has been fortified by the trials of history and is unequivocally now stronger than ever.’
As the INDO-PACOM commander, I would agree wholeheartedly as we continue to bolster our interoperability, our combat proficiency, and military alignment between our two countries.
Throughout its history, our alliance has shown remarkable resiliency, however today it faces a very serious threat from North Korea.
A year ago, we saw rapid and comprehensive improvement in the DPRK’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities despite broad international condemnation and the imposition of additional United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
While some might dispute both the reliability and the quantity of the North’s strategic weapons, it is indisputable that the DPRK rapidly closed the gap between rhetoric and capability.
I'm absolutely encouraged by the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un earlier this week, and to be clear, the U.S. and Republic of Korea share the same goals – the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, as well as a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Our commitment to this alliance – now more than ever –remains absolute. We’re prepared to defend ourselves and the Republic of Korea using all of the capabilities at our disposal. Together … our two nations will continue to preserve peace on the Korean Peninsula through our unwavering strength and resolve.
Diplomacy is the main battery in achieving that goal, and the international community stands with us in sending a clear message to the DPRK regime that the only path to a secure and economically prosperous future is to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
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 will continue to provide the combat power needed to defend freedom, deter war, and maintain the rules which underwrite a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
For now, INDO-PACOM and the Department of Defense remain cautiously optimistic and in full support of our outstanding diplomats, and we are ready to respond with our allies and partners to the full range of contingency scenarios.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would add that the United States is a Pacific nation … both in geography and outlook … and we are committed to preserving the security, the stability, and the freedom necessary for enduring regional prosperity. And our mutually beneficial alliance with the Republic of Korea provides a durable, asymmetric, and strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match.
By working together, we amass the greatest possible strength for the long-term advancement of our interests, maintaining favorable balances of power that deter aggression and support the stability that generates economic growth.
As our two nations work to extend the boundaries of freedom, our security, our values, and our interests carry us forward with utmost confidence, strengthening our ironclad alliance with each passing year.
For more than 60 years, the Indo-Pacific has been largely peaceful … in many ways made possible by the rules-based security architecture that our armed forces helped create, sustain, and preserve.
While our military alliance was forged in blood, our shared political, economic, and cultural values allow us meet challenges as one team, knowing the free and open international order is best served by free and open nations.
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.
Indeed, our security, our values, and our interests are the bedrock from which we build our shared destiny. 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.
This alliance is both defined by its storied past and invigorated by its boundless future … symbolizing peace, prosperity, and freedom to the entire world.
So tonight, as we celebrate 65 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance history, we look forward with great optimism to a continued future as allies and friends. I know that together … we will succeed.
May God bless all of our servicemen and women across the globe who go boldly into harm’s way. May God bless this strong alliance. And may God continue to bless the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Thank you very much.