Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces Day
ROK Consulate, Honolulu, HI
October 2, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be with you this evening to celebrate Korean history, heritage, and honor. I'm humbled to speak on such a cherished occasion and I'm proud to call the Republic of Korea an ally and friend.
Tonight we celebrate thousands of years of Korean culture and civilization across the globe. National Day is a day of reverence and tremendous pride for all Koreans, marking the birth of Korean society and way of life. And tonight, we honor the armed forces of the Republic of Korea, who’ve stood the watch as guardians of South Korean sovereignty, knowing that freedom is an idea worth fighting for – and, if need be, an idea worth dying for.
Throughout our history, the United States has fought alongside people seeking to extend the boundaries of freedom. As warriors always on the front lines of this idea, you, our South Korean allies, serve with courage and honor to deliver peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula.
In war and during an uneasy peace, the armed forces of our two nations have reinforced our ironclad alliance – a special bond rooted in shared values, shared commitments, and shared expectations. It’s been my privilege to serve side-by-side with our Korean allies in this pursuit of freedom.
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. For example, over the last two years, our Navies worked together on a number of warfighting improvements to include Anti-Submarine Warfare Cooperation, Mine Counter Measures, and Ballistic Missile Defense.
We stood up the first joint Combined Maritime Intelligence Operations Center in the Pacific, posturing Republic of Korea and U.S. Navy forces for crisis and contingency response.
These actions were recognized by the Republic of Korea as the most significant enhancements to combined naval activities in the history of our alliance, and resulted in the Presidential Unit Citation being awarded to the U.S. Commander of Naval Forces Korea for meritorious service just last week.
Together, we are committed to maintaining stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula.
Our alliance, however, faces a serious threat, as Kim Jong-Un’s missiles point in every direction, and he is actively exploring ways to expand their reach.
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.
Our commitment to our allies in the face of these threats remains absolute. We’re prepared to defend ourselves and our allies using all of the capabilities at our disposal. 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 -- the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula 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 a secure and economically prosperous future is to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
So while diplomats, like many in this room tonight, 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 backup our diplomatic efforts.
Koreans, and Americans, should be reassured that Kim Jong-Un's regime is grossly overmatched by our alliance combat power. As President Moon Jae-In recently stated at the Armed Forces Day celebration, the people of Korea can enjoy their normal lives thanks to those who are diligently doing their duties in defending land, sea, and air, at home and abroad.
Today, despite the threats facing it, the Republic of Korea is a beacon of freedom in Asia that pulses with hope and optimism. It is a vibrant democracy with endless opportunity, delivering liberty and prosperity to all its citizens, and peace and stability to the region.
Together, our two nations stand shoulder to shoulder, ready to answer freedom’s call 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. Truly, we have each other’s back.
Ladies and gentlemen, the United States and Republic of Korea continue to draw strength from those who fought for freedom in the Korean War. And our nations continue to draw strength from those who are serving in our armed forces today, from those who will serve tomorrow, and from those who will serve far, far into the future – an unbroken chain, linking Americans and Koreans, generation to generation.
Our strength as free nations also comes from our loyal citizens -- Koreans and Americans who are aware of the challenges, the opportunities, and the dangers we face. I know that together, as allies and the closest of friends, we will succeed in being the world’s strongest force for good on the face of the Earth.
Thank you again for allowing me to share this celebration with you. May God bless all of our armed forces 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.