Biden: U.S.-South Korea Alliance Key to Regional Security
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2013 The security alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is key to the Asia-Pacific region’s peace and stability, Vice President Joe Biden said in Seoul, South Korea.
Speaking to Yonsei University students about the U.S. rebalance toward the region, Biden assured his audience of the U.S. commitment.
“President Obama is absolutely committed to rebalance,” Biden said. “No one should underestimate or question our staying power. Just look at the last 60 years in Korea.
“Ask the people of Japan -- the Mutual Defense Treaty since 1960 and still going strong,” Biden continued. “Ask the people of the Philippines -- American helicopters, small ships, medical services, road clearing -- all responding on the backs of U.S. Marines when one of the most fierce tropical storms in history devastated their country.”
The vice president said the course of Asia-Pacific affairs in the 21st century is still being written.
“The rise of economies up and down the Pacific Rim are literally remaking the world,” Biden said. “But with this growth have come new risks and tensions above and beyond the enduring threats that we face.”
He continued, “And the rules and norms that help advance security and prosperity are still evolving to keep pace with the remarkable changes of the 21st century.”
Biden recalled how South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has spoken of a shared journey toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. The United States, he said, could not have any better partner to share that journey with than South Korea.
“President Park's vision of our journey is already taking shape, our alliance as a lynchpin for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific,” Biden said. “We not only stand side-by-side in the Korean Peninsula with all of you -- we stand watch around the world,” Biden said. “Korean sailors are fighting piracy off the shores of Somalia. Korean troops are showing their mettle alongside our own in Afghanistan.”
The vice president said this vision isn’t just limited to security, noting the U.S. and South Korea are together fighting disease, illiteracy, hunger, and natural disasters as well as championing the rights of women around the world.
“Witness the response to the crisis in the Philippines,” Biden said. “The Republic of Korea is one of the only countries in the world whose development budget has actually gone up over the past years. You have not forgotten, apparently, what allowed you to rise again.”
Biden said the American people are “all in” for the economic, diplomatic and military rebalancing policy in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We're determined to strengthen our alliances, cultivate new partners in the Pacific Basin, build constructive relations with China, pursue major agreements that further integrate our economies, and join and strengthen the institutions of the Asia-Pacific and of the East Asian Summit,” he said.
Biden said the United States seeks an open, transparent economic order in the Asia-Pacific to deliver growth for all because in growth resides peace.
In addition to security, Biden said the way to sustain and enhance the Asia-Pacific region’s “remarkable economic progress” is by eliminating trade barriers to enable all to participate in and benefit from the marketplace.
“These are the principles behind the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement,” he noted. “Trade between our countries has already grown 65 percent from $80 billion a year in the year 2000 to $130 billion in 2012.”
This means employment, Biden said, which facilitates the ability to live a middle-class life resulting in stability.
“Of course, all that we hope to accomplish economically for our people depends upon our physical security,” the vice president said. “And that starts with our alliances -- South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand -- all in the Basin.”
The United States is “modernizing our alliances to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Biden said. “And we’re promoting better cooperation among our allies.”
Biden said the Asia-Pacific region will be more stable and secure if democracies such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S. are able to improve their relations and cooperation with one another.
He also noted as the countries work together to build prosperity and security, that it should be accomplished upon shared values such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, and democratic principles.
“These are the values that will power success for countries in the 21st century,” he said. “And it’s what’s allowed my country and yours to succeed.”
Biden said he’s confident the U.S. and South Korea will continue to be “allies and kindred spirits for a long time to come.”
“It’s not merely our economic, our political and our strategic necessity for one another; it is ultimately based on shared common values,” he said. “And so I think your future is bright.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)