(ATTN: ADDS defense chief's meeting with delegation in last 3 paras, photo)
By Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- The United States wants to work with like-minded countries, including South Korea, based on the shared values of democracy and freedom that are being challenged by an assertive China, a U.S. congressman said Wednesday.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) made the remark during a media event in Seoul, noting that standing by those values could be a path for South Korea to take, rather than the frame of having to "choose" either the U.S. or China amid their intensifying rivalry.
"We never expect this to be the United States versus China, but we do think there's a challenge of the types of values that the United States and Korea share together," Bera said in the press briefing.
Protecting the open sea lanes, maritime security, intellectual property and fair economic competition are among the values that Washington hopes to work with Seoul on going forward, Bera said.
"Korea has more bilateral trade with China than they do with the United States, so it's not a choice of either China or the United States. But I think it can be a choice on what the values are that the United States brings to the table," he said.
"I think we do look forward to that partnership of like-minded friends and allies based on those shared values ... We're looking for places where we can partner with Korean companies to solve mutual challenges," he said.
Bera was visiting Seoul this week along with seven other lawmakers, including Young Kim (R-CA), as members of the Congressional Study Group on Korea (CSGK), a bipartisan study group on South Korea.
The CSGK, consisting of about 54 U.S. lawmakers, was launched in 2018 as part of diplomatic efforts to deepen ties between the two allies.
Later in the day, First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun had a luncheon with the eight U.S. lawmakers. He called for congressional support for Seoul's efforts to foster lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, noting the two countries' alliance has developed into a "comprehensive, mutually beneficial" partnership.
Later in the day, Defense Minister Suh Wook met with the lawmakers and discussed key alliance issues and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, according to the defense ministry.
Suh asked for the U.S. Congress' continued backing for peace efforts involving North Korea, and the Group members vowed bipartisan support for a wide range of bilateral issues, such as vaccine cooperation and cyber security, the ministry said.
The defense chief, meanwhile, offered his condolences to the families of victims in the deadly condominium collapse in Florida.
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