"The Republic of Korea is one of our strongest allies," said President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. during a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak:
"South Koreans have served bravely with us in Afghanistan and Iraq. South Korean forces have partnered with us to counter piracy off the shores of Africa, and stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Once a recipient of aid, South Korea has become a donor nation, supporting development from Asia to Africa."
The two Presidents praised a free trade agreement, five years in the making and newly-ratified by the U.S. Congress. It is the biggest free trade agreement that the United States has signed since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. The new pact will not only significantly engance the already vibrant trade relationship between the two countries, but will draw the people of Korea and the United states even closer together.
"It’s a win for both our countries," said President Obama.
But the new emphasis on trade relations will not take a back seat to the decades-long cooperation between the two countries, traditionally anchored by their opposition to communist-governed North Korea. "Because we’ve stood together, the people of South Korea, from the ruins of war, were able to build an economic miracle and become one of our largest trading partners, creating jobs and opportunity for both our peoples. Because we stood together, South Koreans were able to build a strong and thriving democracy and become a steady partner in preserving security and freedom not only on the Korean peninsula, but beyond," said President Obama:
"As we expand our economic cooperation, we’re also deepening our security cooperation. Guided by our joint vision for the alliance, we agreed to continue strengthening our capabilities to deter any threat. I can never say it enough: The commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea will never waver."
"As we have for decades," said President Obama, "the United States will maintain our strong presence in the Asia Pacific, which is a foundation for security and prosperity in Asia in the 21st century."