SEOUL, Republic of Korea, –
[Following remarks by South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo]
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:
Thank you Minister Song and it's a pleasure to see you again after meeting in Singapore earlier this month, of course in Hawaii as well, as we continue with what you accurately described as our water tight consultations.
I thank you for the warm welcome, I'm happy to be back in South Korea and I'm also very happy to be in the ROK when the rains have paused for a short period of time. We always have candid discussions, and those are possible only with such a steadfast and trusted ally.
Minister Song, you and I stand side-by-side today, a firm reminder that the U.S.-ROK alliance continues to withstand the test of time. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty and 50 years of close consultation through our joint security consultative meetings.
I look forward to welcoming you back to Washington, D.C. this October for the next meeting. These milestones signify the strong U.S.-ROK relationship of the past and the continued strength of our alliance for the future.
We are reinforced by shared democratic values and by common security interests. The U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad, and the U.S. will continue to use the full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold these commitments.
This includes maintaining the current U.S. force levels on the Korean peninsula. As outlined in President Trump's whole-of-government Indo-Pacific strategy, the U.S. maintains an enduring commitment to a peaceful, secure, prosperous, free and open Indo-Pacific.
As evidence of this commitment, this trip marks my seventh visit to the Indo-Pacific as the secretary of defense. Earlier this month at Singapore’s Shangri-La dialogue, I called on all in the region to strive toward a shared destiny, one steeped in common values and respect for international law.
And as with past visits, I welcome the opportunity to reinforce concrete relationships with stalwart allies while opening avenues for substantive dialogue with others in the region, as I did in China these last few days. And as always, in close consultation with our Republic of Korea and other partners, our diplomats continue their work to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The recent decision to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise creates increased opportunity for our diplomats to negotiate, increasing prospects for a peaceful solution on the peninsula. At the same time, the U.S. and ROK forces remain united, vigilant and ready to defend against any challenge.
Minister Song, during our January meeting in Hawaii you said, and I quote, "as an alliance we always go together." And in that spirit, I look forward to today's discussion of ways to go together -- or katchi kapshida -- further strengthening the U.S.-ROK alliance in pursuit of our shared goals for peace in the region.
So thank you (inaudible).