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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks With Defense Minister Suh Wook of the Republic of Korea in Seoul, Korea

DEFENSE MINISTER SUH WOOK (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  First, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Secretary Austin and the U.S. delegation on your visit to the Republic of Korea.  Despite the busy schedule and challenging circumstances including the COVID -19 pandemic.  Along the same lines, I again express my congratulations on the successful launch of the Biden administration and becoming the 28th United States secretary of defense.

This meeting is the first of its kind of the ROK minister of national defense and the U.S. secretary of defense at the start of the Biden administration, and it's also our first in-person meeting after our phone conversation a few months ago following your swearing in.

In that phone conversation, I remember your mentioning that you wanted -- you wanted for us to meet soon and construct close, bilateral cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the United States.  I thank you, Mr. Secretary, for following through on exactly those words in just over a couple months.  I believe such a quick visit to the Republic of Korea by you, Secretary Austin, resulted from the high value the Biden administration placed on our ROK-U.S. alliance.

For the ROK – U.S. alliance, born in the fire of the Korean War seven decades ago, forged in the blood shed together by our forefathers, both Korean and American.  Since then, the alliance has conquered this lynchpin of peace and stability for not only the Korean Peninsula, but also, Northeast Asia.  Our alliance continues to develop in a mutually-reciprocal manner following the start of the Biden administration.  Our bilateral coordination mechanisms have never been more robust, and will continue to be strengthened.

(Inaudible) paramount in the process of our alliance's development is the maintenance of combined defense posture, formidable deterrence against North Korea.  Going forward, the ROK and the U.S. will continue to further strengthen our bonds in the military alliance.  Furthermore, I am certain we'll continue to develop (inaudible), mutual complementary and future-oriented global alliance, expanding the horizons of our cooperation.

Mr. Secretary, due to the firm trust we built between you and me, and between the ROK minister of national defense and the U.S. Department of -- of Defense, I hope our great institutions will be able to contribute immensely with the Biden and the Moon Jae-in administrations to upgrade our alliance (inaudible).

I believe trust and cooperation are the core of the ROK-U.S. alliance's development.  I hope today's meeting will be a great start for the meaningful development of our alliance following the launch of the Biden White House.  At the same time, I also hope the ROK minister of national defense and the U.S. Department of Defense, based on our shared values and trust, will continue leading the way for reciprocal cooperation between our two countries.

One thing Secretary Austin and I have in common is that we both enjoyed long careers in the militaries of our respective nations.  By the end of today's meeting I hope, and certainly look forward to sharing much more in common with Mr. Secretary in many more areas.

Again, my warmest welcome to Secretary Austin.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Minister Suh and distinguished Korean friends, I am honored to be here with you in Seoul.  And at the outset, Mr. Suh, please convey my thanks to your wonderful troops, who -- who really provided a -- a tremendous show of professionalism for us upon our arrival.  We are very impressed.  They are marvelous.

And Minister Suh, thank you for your gracious hospitality during my first overseas trip as secretary of defense to the Republic of Korea.  Our commitment to the U.S.-ROK alliance, which has been steadfast for seven -- over 70 years, remains ironclad, and it is the linchpin of peace, security and prosperity for Northeast Asia, a free and open Indo-Pacific region and across the world.

Our alliance is founded on shared interest and values.  It is among the most combined interoperable, capable and dynamic bilateral alliances in the world.  The ROK is also a critical partner for our shared priorities in the region.  Principle among them is upholding the rules-based international order.  You have become a key provider of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and for that, we are grateful.  Given the unprecedented challenges posed by both the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and China, the U.S.-ROK alliance has never been more important.

I am here today to reaffirm to the United States' commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea.  You and I can both agree that military readiness is a top priority, and our combined readiness must ensure that we are ready to fight tonight, if needed.  And I look forward to discussing a range of strategic and operational issues that will prepare our alliance to address our shared challenges in the years ahead.

Tomorrow, I also look forward to the initialing of the new Special Measures Agreement.  Now, this agreement reflects our president's commitment to reinvigorating and modernizing our democratic alliances around the world to advance our shared security and prosperity.  The United States and the Republic of Korea have faced many challenges together over the past several decades.  We have risen to the occasion each time, driven by our mission to ensure the security and stability and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region.  It is obvious that we still are.  Since its establishment in 1953, the U.S.-ROK alliance has proven strong and durable in the face of shifting global dynamics.  I am confident that we will remain focused on our mutual ironclad commitment to each other's security as we build upon our long-standing trust and friendship.  We will continue to go together into the future. “Katchi Kapshida”

TRANSLATOR:  We go together.