Go to Contents Go to Navigation

Special contribution by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

All News 07:00 January 31, 2023

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- The following is the full text of a special contribution by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. He made the exclusive contribution to Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday before his scheduled talks with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup in Seoul with a focus on bolstering deterrence against North Korean threats.

The Alliance Stands Ready
By 28th U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

Earlier this month, 800 American and South Korean soldiers came together for a joint exercise that paved important new ground. The Republic of Korea (ROK) saw its elite new "TIGER" brigade make its debut exercising alongside U.S. forces. And on the American side, a U.S. Army Stryker Brigade Combat Team – a highly mobile, capable, and survivable unit with streamlined logistics requirements – practiced in the field in Korea for the first time.

That innovative and path-breaking exercise was just the latest reminder that for seven decades, the U.S. and ROK armed forces have worked shoulder-to-shoulder to adapt to a changing world, to ensure our alliance remains one of the most capable in history, and to bolster peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the wider Indo-Pacific.

This week, I am visiting the ROK—for my third time since being sworn in as Secretary of Defense in 2021—to deepen our cooperation and to discuss the security challenges that we share. I am also here to reaffirm that the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to the ROK is ironclad.

This is a time of heightened tension and provocation. So we must learn from the successes and sacrifices of the past 70 years while remaining clear-eyed about the dangers ahead.

That's why the United States and the ROK are taking clear, meaningful steps to modernize and strengthen our alliance. These steps will help deter conflict on the Peninsula and defend the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure, just as we have done together for the past seven decades. As President Biden has said, our shared challenges "can be tackled only when countries sharing the universal values of a liberal democracy and human rights come together."

It is no accident that the Korean Peninsula has gone for 70 years without armed conflict. It's a direct result of the efforts of the South Korean and American peoples, and of our two democracies' extraordinary militaries, which have proudly forged an unbreakable bond through decades of shared sacrifice.

The deep cooperation between our armed forces reflects the same fundamental truth that U.S. and ROK leaders affirmed when they signed the Mutual Defense Treaty: we are stronger and safer when we work together. And over the past seven decades, we have built one of the most capable, interoperable, and adaptable alliances in history.

Our combined capabilities include fifth-generation F-35 fighter aircraft; some of the most advanced missile-defense platforms in the world; and critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, including U-2 aircraft at Osan Air Base.

Underpinning all of these capabilities is the ironclad U.S. extended deterrence commitment to the ROK. This commitment includes U.S. conventional, nuclear, and missile-defense capabilities, as well as the forward presence of 28,500 U.S. uniformed personnel.

So our adversaries and competitors know that if they challenge one of us, they are challenging the U.S.-ROK alliance as a whole.

We must remain vigilant. Over the past several decades, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has developed its nuclear, ballistic-missile, and other weapons programs. And last year, it conducted an unprecedented number of missile launches—dangerous and destabilizing actions that violate international law and defy multiple resolutions from the U.N. Security Council.

The United States and the ROK are determined to confront this challenge as we have for the past 70 years: together.

That is why we are expanding the scope and scale of our combined exercises.

It's why we're incorporating live-fire elements, which will increase our interoperability and readiness to "Fight Tonight" if necessary.

It's why we are deepening trilateral cooperation with Japan, including conducting trilateral ballistic missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises. When the United States, the ROK, and Japan stand together, we are all safer.

And it's why the United States has deployed some of our most capable platforms to the Korean Peninsula at a faster tempo. This includes recent deployments of F-35 and F-22 aircraft and the visit of the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group. The deployment of advanced assets to the ROK on a rotational basis highlights our readiness for any contingency—and it stands as a clear reminder of America's unwavering commitment to the ROK's security.

The U.S. and ROK have also reinvigorated our dialogue on extended deterrence, ensuring strategic alignment and strengthening extended deterrence through a whole-of-government approach. Last year, we concluded several high-level discussions, and we are committed to doing even more, including increasingly complex scenario-based tabletop exercises focused on nuclear threats on the peninsula and visits to U.S. strategic sites housing our most advanced capabilities to demonstrate the role these capabilities may play in crisis or conflict. As our two presidents have agreed, we are also exploring with South Korea ways to expand our extended deterrence activities and mechanisms on the Peninsula and in the region.

We are also modernizing our alliance to ensure our two countries can continue to contribute to sustaining a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, including further discussions on helping our partners in Southeast Asia build their own capabilities.

I am back in Seoul to build on all this progress. As President Biden said when he visited South Korea in May, our relations with our ROK allies are "closer than they've ever been."

Our alliance was built out of the yearning for peace after a devastating war. And for seven decades, our work together has been founded on the shared sacrifice of Korean and American troops who fought and bled side by side as brothers-in-arms. We remember their dedication to freedom as we rededicate ourselves to keeping the peace on the Korean Peninsula—and to building a safer world for generations to come.

Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!