“Over two decades of working with the Republic of Korea, I’ve seen the alliance modernize and relations between our countries grow and evolve,” U .S. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said recently in Washington, DC.
“The growth in our relationship, and the scope of what our two nations do together, has been driven in large part by South Korea’s incredible progress, in just a few generations, from a nation ravaged and impoverished by war, to a modern, democratic, prosperous global power.”
The United States and the Republic of Korea have continued to deepen their relationship. The threat posed by North Korea has been a focal point of the alliance for over 60 years. However, the U.S.-Republic of Korea relationship today extends beyond a defensive alliance. Assistant Secretary Russel pointed to the close economic relationship, noting that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which took effect two years ago, helped facilitate $125 billion in bilateral trade last year.
“[As] South Korea has strengthened its alliance with the U.S., it has also pursued peace and prosperity in a very complicated neighborhood,” he said. “[South Korea] has been consistently extending a hand to the North and . . . demonstrated convincingly how the North could benefit economically from steps toward reconciliation and denuclearization. The United States firmly supports this vision for peaceful reunification.”
The United States also supports South Korea’s efforts to build strong ties with its neighbors.
“The flourishing relationship between China and South Korea clearly demonstrates that our alliances in the region are a force for stability and integration, and that active U.S. engagement is good for the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
On meeting new opportunities, Assistant Secretary Russel said that “we are working together to build up the region’s political and economic institutions, which . . . is a key aspect of the ‘rebalance [to Asia strategy].”
South Korea has stepped up interactions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; actively participated in the East Asia Summit, an ASEAN-convened meeting of 18 of the region’s leaders; and expressed interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a comprehensive and high standard agreement that will promote growth and create jobs in economies that represent nearly 40 percent of global gross domestic product.
“Northeast Asia is a complex region with shifting dynamics,” Assistant Secretary Russel concluded. “There is one constant: the friendship between the American people and the Korean people, backed by our unwavering alliance commitment.”