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NEWS | Nov. 16, 2023

Defense Vision of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

U.S. Department of Defense

In 1953 the United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) signed the Mutual Defense Treaty pledging to promote peace, defend against external threats, and strengthen collective defense in the Pacific region. Seventy years later, the U.S.-ROK Alliance now stands as one of the world's premier alliances. Its presence is a staple for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region and a stalwart protector of international norms. In recognition of the changing security environment, the Alliance must adopt a forward-looking posture that is responsive to its foundational and most pressing threat — the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) — while also contributing to the security of the region and the world.

The Alliance has successfully deterred conflict on the Korean Peninsula for 70 years. The United States continues to demonstrate its extended deterrence commitment starting with the 28,500 U.S. service personnel stationed in the ROK and appreciates ROK contributions to support the stable stationing of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). Together, the Alliance stands ready to "fight tonight" alongside the United Nations Command, which stands firm in its pledge to demonstrate international solidarity in defense of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. The weight of this commitment safeguards the safety and security of the American and Korean people from adversarial attempts to undermine peace in the region. 

Our Alliance is now broadening in scale and scope. Looking forward, the United States and the ROK will continue to withstand the strains of broader geopolitical dynamics, protect democratic values, and uphold the rules-based order. Together, the Alliance will proactively seek out an agenda for cooperation to shape discussions and activities in the region and around the globe in line with our common values and goals. We will also maintain a shared commitment to the security and growing prosperity of countries in the region as we pursue our primary objectives of maintaining a stable and peaceful Korean Peninsula and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

In commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, Secretary Austin and Minister Shin affirm this vision will address the Alliance's most pressing defense priorities and establish a shared security outlook ahead of its centennial in the decades to come. The Defense Vision seeks to build on the momentum of the 2023 Washington Declaration and Camp David Summit to outline a transformational way forward for the security and defense of the two countries. 

First, Secretary Austin and Minister Shin reaffirm the importance of deterring strategic attacks and aggression from hostile actors in the region, including the DPRK, through continued extended deterrence efforts. To this end, the United States commits to uphold its ironclad extended deterrence commitment as set out by the Washington Declaration. This includes close consultations by way of bilateral deterrence dialogues such as the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) and the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG). The Alliance intends to work to enable joint execution and planning for ROK conventional support to U.S. nuclear operations in a contingency to enhance the integrity of deterrence capabilities against the DPRK. The revised Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) should inform the Alliance's mutual approach to deterrence and provide a stronger and more flexible strategic framework to deter the DPRK. The Alliance also intends to increase the scale and scope of combined exercises and training, including combined joint live-fire exercises, to demonstrate combined defense capabilities and readiness. 

Second, the United States and the ROK are determined to modernize capabilities to strengthen the combined defense architecture of the Alliance. This includes supporting ROK efforts to increase its defense capabilities for the systematic and stable transition of operational control (OPCON), thus strengthening the Alliance combined defense. Through existing bilateral dialogues, our two nations resolve to optimize defense industrial cooperation and supply chain resiliency to not only achieve interoperability and interchangeability of defense systems, but also bolster economic security in the region. The Alliance intends to continue to upgrade missile response capabilities by reinforcing the ROK 3K Defense, which enhances our combined abilities to effectively deter and respond to DPRK missile threats, and utilize consultative mechanisms such as the Counter Missile Working Group (CMWG) to maintain close bilateral consultations on missile defense. In addition to maintaining close space and cyber cooperation, the United States and the ROK also seek to expand science and technology collaboration by leveraging the U.S. and ROK positions as high-end security partners to bring cutting-edge technologies to the warfighter. 

Finally, the United States supports the ROK vision to increase its contributions to the Indo-Pacific as a Global Pivotal State. As such, the Alliance seeks to play a more active role in contributing to regional security, including by bolstering defense cooperation with Southeast Asia and Pacific Island Countries to cultivate a well-networked region, which is critical to protect the values of freedom, peace, and prosperity. The United States and the ROK intend to hold close consultations to reflect synergies in each nation's respective Indo-Pacific strategies and identify lines of effort through consultative bodies such as the Regional Cooperation Working Group (RCWG). Secretary Austin and Minister Shin also recognize the importance of increasing trilateral security cooperation with Japan as stated in the Camp David Principles, which will preserve stability and defend against threats in the region.

To more effectively advance these three strategic priorities, Secretary Austin and Minister Shin seek to restructure existing bilateral Alliance dialogue mechanisms to ensure that the Alliance is well-postured for the future.

Our vision is that of a peaceful Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in which the United States and the ROK stand together at the forefront of tackling the most significant and consequential security challenges. Allies are a critical part of promoting democracy, maintaining a rules-based order, and mitigating threats posed by adversaries. Working in concert with and through our allies and partners based on the U.S.-ROK Alliance has a compounding effect.

By identifying our priorities and aligning our respective defense strategies, the U.S.-ROK Alliance commits to capitalize on synergies and operate across the region with greater bilateral and multilateral political-military alignment to realize this vision of a true global comprehensive strategic Alliance and a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.