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Statement by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter at U.S. Embassy Seoul

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Seoul, Republic of Korea, Monday, March 18, 2013

Well, good afternoon. Let me note the presence and hospitality of our excellent ambassador, my friend, whose premises we are on. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

I’ve just concluded an excellent set of consultations with senior members of President Park’s new team. It’s safe to report that the relationship between the Park and Obama administrations is off to a very productive start. My visit reflects the importance Secretary Hagel and I attach to this alliance.

The meetings today reflected the enduring strength of the United States-Republic of Korea Alliance.  This summer, we’ll note the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and celebrate an alliance that has met every challenge that it has confronted, promoted peace on the Korean peninsula, and facilitated the rapid rise that what is today a dynamic, prosperous, and democratic South Korea.

The key topic of our discussions today was North Korea and its continued pattern of provocative actions that pose a serious threat to the United States and Republic of Korea as well as to regional and global stability.

The United States is working with friends and allies around the world and is employing an integrated response to these unacceptable provocations: the United Nations Security Council resolutions with unprecedentedly strong sanctions, additional unilateral sanctions of great effect, and all together the progressive isolation of North Korea.

In the military sphere, the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to the Republic of Korea. Together, we are taking important steps to advance the alliance’s military capabilities.

In particular, we’ve remained steadfast to our commitment to extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella and will ensure that all of its capabilities remain available to the alliance. For example, I should note the presence of strategic bombers taking place in flight training in the Korea peninsula area in particular, for example, but this is routine, there will be a B-52 flight tomorrow.

Another step we’ve taken recently was announced by Secretary of Defense Hagel last Friday and that was to strengthen the missile defenses of the United States showing our determination to keep ahead of the progression of the North Korean missile -- intercontinental ballistic missile development.

The third example of our commitment to the alliance is the ongoing annual exercise Key Resolve and also Foal Eagle, and this afternoon I’ll have the opportunity to go with General Thurman to observe these exercises which demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and ensure the readiness of both of our forces to defend the Republic of Korea and deepen interoperability with U.S. and South Korean forces.

So I look forward to going to Command Post Tango to see American men and women in uniform serving side by side with their Korean counterparts, working to keep this nation – and this region - safe and secure. I’m always reminded of the tremendous dedication and sacrifice made by our superb service members on behalf of both our nations.

In the United States, our commitment to the alliance is part of our Asia-Pacific rebalance and we will ensure that all the pieces of our defense relationship continue to move forward, and I should say this will occur despite the budgetary pressures in the United States. The Asia-Pacific rebalance is a priority. It’s a historic priority. We have the resources to accomplish it and no matter what happens in the budget debates that go on in the United States, our commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance and our commitment to the United States-ROK Alliance will remain firm.

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