WASHINGTON -- South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III today in the Pentagon to discuss the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance and to discuss ways to make that alliance even closer.
The president is in Washington as part of his state visit. President Joe Biden hosted his South Korean ally for talks and a State Dinner at the White House. Yoon also delivered a speech to Congress.
At the beginning of his remarks at the Pentagon, Yoon thanked the U.S. service members who stand together with their Korean allies.
Austin has made many trips to visit his counterpart in Seoul and met with the president during his last visit to Korea in January. North Korea continues its dangerous and destabilizing missile testing program. "I want to underscore, Mr. President, what I said in January: that the U.S. commitment to the defense of the [Republic of Korea] is ironclad and so is our extended deterrence commitment to your country which includes the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including conventional, nuclear and missile defense capabilities," Austin said.
Yoon told Austin through a translator that he has full confidence in the U.S. assurances about the extended deterrent capability. "If North Korea dares to use [its] nuclear arsenal, it will face decisive and overwhelming response by the Republic of Korea force and the allies including U.S. military capability," Yoon said. "Now is time that North Korea should realize that they will gain nothing from nuclear weapons, and I urge North Korea once again to make the right decision for denuclearization for a sustainable and genuine peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula."
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The U.S.-South Korea alliance dates to 1953. Austin noted that the country — once totally devastated by the Korean War — is now an economic and political powerhouse. "The Republic of Korea has been a steadfast friend for decades," he said. "We rely on you more and more each day, and we do so with immense gratitude. "Over the decades, we built one of the most robust, capable and interoperable alliances on Earth and we've deterred major conflict and aggression on the Korean peninsula."
The alliance is a major factor in guaranteeing a free and open Indo-Pacific. "I am confident that we will move forward together," Austin said. "I look forward to charting an ambitious path to advance our shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific."