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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcomes Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Well, Mr. President, it's great to see you again and it was a pleasure meeting with you in Seoul in January. Thanks for being such a great host. And I'm delighted to host you and your delegation at the Pentagon as a part of your state visit. Your visit underscores the strength of our alliance and the importance of working together with allies and partners to build a more secure and prosperous world.

The Republic of Korea has been a steadfast friend for decades. We rely on you more and more each day and we do so with immense gratitude. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance, and over the decades, we've built one of the most robust, capable and interoperable alliances on Earth. And we've deterred major conflict and aggression on the Korean Peninsula.

We still face ongoing challenges from North Korea, including its dangerous and destabilizing missile testing program, and from others who would undermine the rules-based international order. So I want to underscore, Mr. President, what I said in January, that the U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK is ironclad. And so is our extended deterrence commitment to your country, which includes a full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including conventional, nuclear and missile defense capabilities.

For seven decades, U.S. and ROK service members have worked shoulder to shoulder, and we honor their service by ensuring that the U.S.- ROK alliance remains a foundation for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific for decades more. The ROK today is a spectacular economic success and a thriving democracy, and under your leadership, Mr. President, it is emerging as, in your words, “a global, pivotal state.”

The ROK and the United States have a shared vision rooted in freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Our alliance stands as a pillar of a free and open Indo-Pacific and I'm confident that we will move forward together and I look forward to charting an ambitious path to advance our shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific.

So Mr. President, thanks again so much for being here and thank you for your enduring commitment to our alliance.

PRES. YOON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Mr. Secretary, it's my pleasure to meet you here at the Pentagon, following our meeting (inaudible) last January. And also, I would like to thank Chairman Milley and other DOD officials for your warm hospitality. I also want to thank General LaCamera and all USFK service members for standing together with the ROK forces and for robustly defending the peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Now the world order faces a profound challenge. There is a deepening competition between the free world and autocracies, and now, as the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia is under serious conditions.

Despite strong warnings from the international community, North Korea is -- keep advancing its nuclear and missile capability and conducting acts of provocation with unprecedented frequency and magnitude. Recently, (inaudible) revealed a smaller-sized nuclear warhead and they publicly mentioned the -- about the use of its tactical nuclear weapons, and also they tested and launched a solid propelled ICBM. Going forward it is likely that, through diverse acts of provocations, North Korea will continue to put pressure on the ROK-U.S. alliance and try to drive a wedge between our alliance.

Mr. Secretary, the Korean government -- based on our robust combined defense posture, we will be -- we resolutely and affirmatively respond to North Korean threats. Against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, we will be prepared with our capability for punishment and with our overwhelming response capability, including Korea's (inaudible) system. We will also step up our exercises and training as a combined force, and also we will increase our security cooperation between the three countries, Korea, the United States and Japan.

Yesterday President Biden and I, with a view to responding more strongly and effectively against North Korea's nuclear threat, we agreed to strengthen the US extended deterrence. We agreed to work to enable our both countries to find out practical ways to strengthen the extended deterrence including joint planning exercises and tabletop exercise simulations.

Mr. Secretary, I have full confidence in U.S. commitment to the extended deterrence. If North Korea dares to use nuclear arsenal, it will face a decisive and overwhelming response by the Republic of Korea forces and the alliance, including the U.S. nuclear capability.

Now it is time that North Korea should realize that it cannot -- they will gain nothing from a (inaudible) and I urge North Korea once again to make this right decision towards denuclearization for a sustainable and genuine peace, and join in prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. Secretary, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the ROK - U.S. alliance. Over the past seven decades, it has been the linchpin maintaining the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia.

Our alliances sharing our common, universal values, I hope that we could enhance our cooperation as global confidence and strategic alliance moving towards a future together. Our alliance is robust and watertight and we can overcome any challenges of the future. It is my view that enhancing our security together through our cooperation.

Mr. Secretary, once again, I thank you for a warm welcome and your hospitality. Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN:  Mr. President, welcome again to the Pentagon. We're delighted to have you here and look forward to a great discussion. Thanks, everybody.