ICAS Special Contribution


Strategic Views of the ROK-US Alliance

Jin Ha Hwang

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic sketch & Links: Jin Ha Hwang

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper
with written permission to ICAS of Jin Ha Hwang. sjk]

Keynote Speech delivered for 5th Seoul-Washington Forum
June 13, 2011, Washington, D.C.
by the Korea Foundation and the Brookings Institution

"Strategic Views of the ROK-US Alliance"

The Honorable Jin Ha Hwang
Member of National Assembly of the Republic of Korea

Dear Director of Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies of the Brookings Institution Richard Bush, Executive Vice President of the Korea Foundation Ambassador Hahn, Young-hee, distinguished Korea and US participants of 5th Seoul- Washington Forum, and guests.

It is my great pleasure and honor to be invited to 5th Seoul-Washington Forum and have a chance to deliver a keynote speech. I am currently serving at Committee of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Unification at National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. Taking this opportunity I would like to sincerely appreciate the Brookings institution and the Korea Foundation for organizing this meaningful and timely forum.

Today, I will discuss and focus my remarks on reviewing the past and present of the ROK-US alliance which have sustained for more than half a century after the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953. I will then propose goals of a future-oriented global alliance and what to do for attaining these goals.

I characterize the ROK-US alliance as:

A blood alliance under which we fought shoulder to shoulder in major wars such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan war.

A glorious alliance which we must take pride in for its remarkable contributions to the stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula and the region.

A hope alliance which we are transforming for promoting global peace and prosperity

In these respects, I first would like to introduce what we have achieved through successful development and sustainment of the ROK-US alliance over more than half a century. Among many successful outcomes of the ROK-US alliance, three main attainments are:

First, the ROK-US alliance has successfully achieved the stability of Northeast Asian region and prevented a war from occurring on the Korean peninsula. Although North Korea has conducted military provocations more than 2,500 times on South Korea since the Armistice agreement in 1953, Korea and the US have maintained peace and stability of the peninsula by successfully managing and overcoming these provocations with an unprecedented bilateral combined defense posture.

Second, the ROK-US military alliance achieved two miracles such as a remarkable economic growth and political democracy of Korea today which was completely turned into ruins because of the Korean War.

Korea’s per capita GDP has increased to over 20,000 US dollars from 67 in early 1950s. Now, Korea ranks no. 15 in the world by nominal GDP. Korea’s free democracy is a role model for undemocratic and democratizing countries in the world. The Economic Intelligence Unit released its 2010 edition of democracy index survey which ranks Korea as no. 1 in Asia and no. 20 in the world.

Third, Korea and the U.S. have achieved the most successful alliance despite of many challenges which were overcome owing to a mutual understanding and trust between the two nations.

This successful alliance gives the two nations a great pride and confidence, and a conviction of firm and solid alliance. Our close partnership over such a short period of half a century has evolved into a bilateral, regional, and finally global alliance which I believe an unprecedented and remarkable history in the world.

With bearing in mind these achievements, it is very crucial for us to assess the current situation surrounding the ROK-US alliance when considering the future shape of the alliance. We are required to pay a special attention to unchanged conditions which I think to be overcome. And these conditions should be considered as core issues for resolving problems on the Korean Peninsula, which I believe leading the future development of the ROK-US alliance.

First, the Korean peninsula remains divided.
There has been no change at all since the Armistice agreement in 1953. Despite of strenuous efforts for securing a peace treaty to supersede the Armistice agreement, it comes to see that our efforts would not bring about any improvement or progress unless North Korea changes itself. It is neither goal nor solution that the division of the Korean Peninsula becomes permanent.

Second, military and non-military threat posed by North Korea is still present and imminent, and further it escalates a level of its threats.
North Korea’s unification strategy for communizing South Korea and building a socialist state in the South still remains same in North Korean Constitution and Workers’ Party Bylaw. In addition, North Korea reinforced a family-based power succession system even tougher. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North Korea has continued provocations on South Korea. And, the recent provocations such as a planned torpedo attack on South Korean naval vessel and artillery attacks at Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 were an uncontroversial act of war which is by no means acceptable to the international community. North Korea’s current threat is a core cause of destabilizing the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the world. I strongly believe that North Korea would not abandon its plans and programs of building up its conventional and non-conventional military capabilities, developing nuclear weapon and ballistic missile, and uranium enrichment activities unless attaining its strategic goals.

Third, it becomes much clearer to us that the stability on the Korean Peninsula has been the linchpin for a regional stability and peace.
In the past, before the outbreak of the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula has been invaded from outsiders more than 930 times. So, the peninsula was a key ground of power struggle among regional powers. A Cold War remnant division of the peninsula and North Korea’s constant provocations are the most serious destabilizing factor to security environment of Asia and the world. Thus, in the past and present, the stability of the Korean Peninsula is a crucial determinant of regional peace and security.

These are unchanged elements which are still threatening us and on the other hand adversities to be overcome. And, we need to look at changed elements owing to our mutual efforts and successful alliance.

First, Korea’s national capability and international status are remarkably changed. Korea currently ranks 15th in the world by nominal GDP. In terms of political development, Korea is illustrated as one of the most successful democratized countries. Korea is now very actively and proactively participating in international activities. As you all aware Korea successfully hosted G-20 Summit last November, and will host nuclear summit next year. The Korean government prioritizes a national goal of increasing international contributions to the global community. These contributions include increasing official development assistance (ODA), expanding peacekeeping operations, transferring and sharing economic development experience and knowledge, and others.

Second, power and center of the international politics shifted to Asia from the West. We are saying that the 21st century is Asia-Pacific Era. Asian Development Bank (ADB) released its report "Asia 2050-Realizin the Asian Century" last May, and speculates that if Asia continues the current trend of economic growth, Asia would occupy more than 50% of world GDP, trade, and investment by 2050. In political area, Asian countries make strenuous efforts to overcome their differences and promoting political integration through diverse functions of regional government and non-government organizations.

Third, the rise of China is a formidable element to be strategically considered. It is not doubtful that the rise of China is the most significant change of the international politics in the 21st century. Owing to magnificient economic growth, China replaced Japan as no. 2 economy in 2010. In terms of politics, its recent patterns of foreign policy are uncovered as an aggressive stance on international issues directly related to China’s national interests. As a regional and global power, China spurs military modernization and development of high-tech military weapons. Although the size of China’s annual military expenditure, now no.2 in the world, is nearly one forth of US military budget, China has maintained a double-digit increase of its military budget since the mid-1990s. It is commonly understood that China is stick to strengthening its national power and expanding a sphere of influence in dealing international issues.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now, it is our responsibility to further develop our alliance partnership in a strategic context of the said unchanged and changed elements. And, we have to pass down a successful partnership to a following generation. In these respects, I would like to stress a few issues in need of a new perspective and bold action for creating a successful future-oriented global alliance.

First, the ROK-US Alliance should be even further developed as more comprehensive one through KOR-US FTA ratification and implementation, as it is used to be a security centric alliance.

Second, the issues on the Korean Peninsula are no longer dependent variables on US Asia and global strategy, but should be considered as independent variables on designing US strategy. Korea is a core country with Japan and China for a US strategic context in the region. As I explained above, during more than five thousand years, it should be remembered that when peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the region was stable and peaceful.

Third, it should be sublated that our mutual relationship is dependent on one party’s decision. I am confident that making decisions through close consultation and wide support from the public will make a better balanced decision for doing better our job. We have experienced the recent difficulties and never forget the lessons given.

Fourth, the ROK and US government must work together to demonstrate a strategic synergy of the alliance.
Finding a way of integrating each country’s differentiated capabilities and strengths leads to increase the roles and responsibilities of the alliance at the global community. We are well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our nations. I believe that when merging our strengths, we gain more strength and overcome our differences.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a strong will and obvious goal for the future of the ROK-US alliance.

The Joint Vision signed in June 2009 by President Barack Obama and President Lee, Myung- bak clearly stated our strong will and obvious goals. Although I do not introduce the details of the Joint Vision here, our fundamental will and goals are:

Primarily contributing to peace and security for the Korean Peninsula,

Promoting and strengthening our partnership for a peaceful reunification of the divided South and North.

And, with a solid foundation of respecting and pursuing common values of free democracy and market economy, the ROK-US alliance must move toward promoting and increasing its responsibilities and roles for global peace and prosperity.

Distinguished Guests!

There are 28 thousand US servicemen and women currently serving shoulder to shoulder with Koreans for the defense of Korea. All of they shout out in chorus "Let’s go together." And we have our precious asset to keep and develop.

More than 2 million Korean Americans living in the United States. More than 1.5 million visitors travelling every year between the two nations, We have many more precious assets of sustaining the ROK-US alliance and its future development.

Together with them and you here, I would like to shout out Join me "Let’s go together!"

Thank you very much for your attention.

This page last updated June 20, 2011 jdb