United States - Republic of Korea Alliance: A Global Partnership

Washington, DC - On the occasion of President Obama’s visit to the Republic of Korea, the United States-Republic of Korea Alliance is stronger and deeper than ever.  Originally forged in the shared sacrifice of our peoples 61 years ago, our Alliance today is the linchpin of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and an increasingly comprehensive global partnership. 

Our two nations enjoy strong and longstanding security, economic, and people-to-people ties, and our shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are the foundation of our relationship.  From strengthening the nonproliferation regime to climate change, we are committed to deepening our cooperation on global challenges, and continue to work together to advance prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. 

The United States and Republic of Korea remain fully committed to continuing our close cooperation on the full range of issues related to North Korea toward our common goal, which is shared by the international community, of the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner.  Our two countries reaffirm the UN Security Council’s unanimous condemnation of the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches as clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094.  We strongly urge the DPRK to refrain from additional provocations in further violation of its international obligations and commitments.  We are also committed to working with the international community to ensure the full and transparent implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, and we urge the DPRK to refrain from further threatening actions.  The United States supports President Park's vision of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, free from the fear of war, and peacefully reunified on the basis of democratic and free-market principles, as articulated in her Dresden address.

We are dedicated to working together with our allies and partners in the international community to focus international attention on and improve the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea and to hold the DPRK accountable for its systematic and ongoing violations of the human rights of its people.

A Strong, Capable Alliance

The United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) continue to build a comprehensive strategic Alliance of bilateral, regional, and global scope based on common values and mutual trust.  We are strengthening our combined defense posture on the Korean Peninsula and enhancing cooperation for regional and global security in the 21st century.  As part of this effort to enhance our coordination, we plan to hold a foreign and defense ministers' (“2+2”) meeting in 2014.  The U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea’s security remains unwavering.

The United States and Republic of Korea have decided that due to the evolving security environment in the region, including the enduring North Korean nuclear and missile threat, the current timeline for the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) to a Republic of Korea-led defense in 2015 can be reconsidered.  Both the United States and Republic of Korea continue to develop interoperability and readiness through the use of annual joint and combined exercises such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve, and Foal Eagle.  The two sides are also working to ensure that the Republic of Korea is ready to lead the combined defense after OPCON transition takes place.  The leaders of both countries urged their teams to continue to work hard to determine appropriate timing and conditions.

As part of its commitment to strengthen Alliance capabilities, the Republic of Korea is continuing to procure major intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and weapons systems.  The Republic of Korea announced on March 24 that it intends to procure Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle systems, and announced its intent to procure F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.  Furthermore, the two governments exchanged views on strengthening cooperation regarding the anticipated U.S. Air Force T-X trainer replacement program.  The Republic of Korea is also developing its own interoperable ballistic missile defense systems and enhancing the interoperability of the Alliance’s command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems.  In order to respond to the North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the United States and Republic of Korea recognize the importance of trilateral information sharing among the United States, Republic of Korea, and Japan in a way that contributes to a comprehensive and cooperative response against such threats.

The United States welcomes the Republic of Korea’s ratification of a new five-year Special Measures Agreement, which establishes the framework for ROK contributions to offset the costs associated with the stationing of United States Forces Korea on the Korean Peninsula.  This agreement reflects our shared commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula and strengthens the U.S.-ROK Alliance’s capability to serve as the linchpin of regional peace and stability.

Following our work in the bilateral Extended Deterrence Policy Committee, our two countries endorsed a Tailored Deterrence Strategy in October 2013 to improve the effectiveness of extended deterrence against North Korean nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats.  Both countries signed the Counter Provocation Plan in March 2013 to enable us to respond immediately and decisively to any North Korean provocation.

Global Partnership for Peace and Security

The U.S.-ROK alliance is increasingly global in nature, and our countries are partners on a broad range of security, development, and economic initiatives around the world.  Our expanding cooperation benefits not only Northeast Asia, but also promotes peace and security for the international community. 

The United States and Republic of Korea are close partners on international efforts to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.  Our countries strongly support the P5+1 process and the P5+1-Iran Joint Plan of Action.  The United States appreciates the Republic of Korea’s assistance in implementing the Joint Plan of Action.

The United States and Republic of Korea continue to condemn the Syrian regime’s indiscriminate and continuing use of violence against civilians.  Both countries are committed to addressing the significant humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, and the United States welcomes the Republic of Korea’s contributions to the international community’s humanitarian assistance efforts.  We are close partners in supporting the UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Joint Mission and remain committed to ensuring the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.  Our two countries strongly support the goal of the complete elimination of chemical weapons stockpiles around the world, and urge those countries that have not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, including North Korea, to do so as soon as possible.

In Afghanistan, where American and Korean troops have served side by side, the Republic of Korea continues to provide generous assistance toward reconstruction and stabilization. 

The United States and Republic of Korea cooperate closely on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  The United States welcomed the Republic of Korea's co-hosting of the 3rd ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise with Thailand in May 2013.

Our two countries continue to collaborate on a wide range of nonproliferation and counter-proliferation issues, including nuclear security, nuclear safeguards, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies, and preventing nuclear terrorism.  The United States and Republic of Korea have long partnered to ensure that nuclear materials cannot be sold or stolen and then used for nuclear weapons. 

The United States and Republic of Korea are partners in the global counter-piracy effort.  Both countries have contributed naval assets to protect the safety of civilian maritime trade and are active leaders in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. 

The United States convened the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC in 2010, and the Republic of Korea hosted the second Summit in Seoul in 2012.  At this year’s Summit in The Hague, the three Summit hosts sponsored a joint statement on Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation, issued by 35 countries, who committed to take certain actions to improve the effectiveness of their nuclear security systems and contribute to the continuous improvement of nuclear security.  In addition, the United States and Republic of Korea, along with three other countries, announced they are collaborating to develop new high-density low-enriched uranium fuels as part of an effort to minimize the amount of highly-enriched uranium in civilian use.  Our two countries are closely cooperating to promote the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), including through joint efforts to lead a Security Council open debate in May 2014, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the resolution.

The United States and Republic of Korea are also close partners on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, a multilateral partnership that strengthens our global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.  We also collaborate in the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, an initiative to prevent terrorists or states that support them from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction.

Climate Change and Energy Cooperation

The United States and Republic of Korea share the view that climate change represents a threat to the security and economic development of all nations, and we are committed to taking ambitious action together.  The Republic of Korea hosts the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and we cooperate in the Major Economies Forum and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.  Both countries intend to continue to make efforts toward the successful operationalization of the GCF.  As part of our regular consultations on this issue, the Department of State’s Special Envoy for Climate Change hosted his ROK counterpart for a bilateral dialogue on climate change in January 2014.  The United States and Republic of Korea reaffirm their commitment on using expertise and the institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as set out in the G-20 St. Petersburg Leader’s Communique.

Our countries also collaborate closely on climate change science and clean energy research.  The Republic of Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy plans to host a Clean Energy Policy Dialogue with the U.S. Department of Energy in June to discuss cooperation on clean energy technology research and development, including microgrids, energy storage, and fuel cells.  The United States and Republic of Korea continue to discuss possibilities for promoting information sharing regarding shale gas.

In May, the Republic of Korea is hosting and the U.S. Secretary of Energy plans to attend the 5th Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.

Advancing International Development

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in April 2014 that highlights our strengthened collaboration on maternal and child health in Ghana and Ethiopia, our cooperation on developing the energy sector in Ghana in support of the Power Africa Initiative, our cooperation on climate change in Vietnam, and our partnership on innovative approaches such as Grand Challenges for Development and public-private partnerships.

Additionally, USAID, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is providing nearly $270,000 to strengthen the ROK’s disaster response capacity by supporting civil society partners in the areas of assessments, contingency planning, and application of humanitarian standards in disaster response.  This partnership is expected to enhance the capacity of national-level disaster and emergency first responders.  Our two countries have already seen benefits from this collaboration, particularly during our coordinated response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Partnering for Prosperity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The United States and Republic of Korea marked the second anniversary of the entry into force of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) on March 15, 2014.  Now in its third year, this landmark agreement continues to provide tangible benefits for consumers, businesses, workers, and farmers in both countries.  The United States and Republic of Korea have reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen our efforts to fully implement the KORUS FTA to ensure that the economic benefits of the agreement are realized for both sides. 

The KORUS FTA has provided a strong foundation for increased foreign direct investment in the United States by Korean companies.  In October 2013, Hankook Tire Co. announced it would build its first manufacturing plant in Tennessee, investing $800 million and creating 1,800 jobs in the process.  Hyundai, Samsung, Kia, LG, SK, and Hanjin Shipping also have made major investments in the United States in recent years.  In 2012 and 2013, the United States had a $4.4 billion surplus in foreign direct investment flows with the Republic of Korea.  The Republic of Korea also welcomes the recent investments made by U.S. companies such as GE, Boeing, and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and is hopeful that the KORUS FTA will expand opportunities for more investments by U.S. companies.

The United States reaffirmed that it welcomes the Republic of Korea’s interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its commitment to continue to consult closely with the Republic of Korea on meeting the high standards of the TPP and to address specific issues of concern.

The United States and Republic of Korea share the view that creativity and ingenuity are keys to enhancing our shared prosperity and building sustainable economic growth.  During the first U.S.-ROK Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Forum in November 2013, both sides decided to pursue collaboration on ICT policy that promotes innovation and fosters the global and open nature of the Internet.  The United States and Republic of Korea look forward to further cooperation on innovation and entrepreneurship in the second round of the U.S.-ROK ICT Policy Forum in Seoul in the second half of 2014.

The United States and Republic of Korea also work closely together to monitor global financial conditions and to strengthen cooperation, including through the G-20, on policies that strengthen financial stability and promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth.

On March 26, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) added the Republic of Korea to the list of countries eligible to export poultry products to the United States.  FSIS determined that the Republic of Korea’s poultry laws, regulations, and inspection system, as implemented, met U.S. standards.  This decision allows U.S. consumers to enjoy products such as samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) imported from the ROK.

Collaboration on Science, Technology, Cyber, and Health Issues

The United States and Republic of Korea have had a strong partnership in the field of peaceful nuclear cooperation for more than a half century, and the United States is pleased that the Republic of Korea has become one of the world’s leading nations in the development of peaceful nuclear technology.  To advance this collaboration, the United States and Republic of Korea are negotiating a successor nuclear cooperation agreement that is intended to reflect the Republic of Korea’s status as a major global nuclear supplier and the great importance both governments place on maintaining high standards of nuclear safety and security upon which we are continuously improving, as well as a strong commitment to nonproliferation.  Our two countries are confident that a new agreement can greatly advance our bilateral cooperation and address the Republic of Korea’s civil nuclear energy priorities of assured fuel supply, used fuel management, and competitiveness in the global nuclear energy market. 

The United States and Republic of Korea enjoy longstanding cooperation in science and technology, reflecting the two nations’ mutual recognition that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, scientific research, and technology development are essential to economic prosperity, enhanced public health, environmental sustainability, and national security.  We look forward to holding the next Joint Commission for Science and Technology Cooperation May 19-20 in Washington to expand collaboration on a wide range of science, technology, and health issues.  We plan to revise the U.S.-ROK Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement to enhance the valuable exchange of science and technology ideas, information, skills, and techniques between our two countries. 

U.S.-ROK cooperation on cyber issues continues to expand, and the United States welcomed Seoul’s hosting of the October 2013 Seoul Conference on Cyberspace.  In 2013, the United States and Republic of Korea continued our efforts to enhance cybersecurity through increased cooperation between our computer security incident response teams as well as the creation of a cyber cooperation working group between our militaries.  The United States and Republic of Korea plan to hold the third round of the U.S.-ROK Cyber Dialogue in the summer of 2014, and will continue to promote a common vision of an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Republic of Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare continue to work cooperatively to improve the health of Republic of Korea and U.S. citizens, particularly through our research collaboration in basic science and public health, and our cooperation on public health emergency preparedness and response.  The United States welcomes the Republic of Korea’s support for the U.S. Global Health Security Agenda, which seeks to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority.

As a part of this cooperation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response have hosted Republic of Korea public health emergency preparedness and response fellows.  In 2013, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute created a joint fellowship program and offered 16 Korean post-doctoral researchers two-year stipends for research at NIH.  The United States and Republic of Korea also continue to partner on areas such as biosecurity, biosurveillance, and biodefense through the annual interagency Able Response exercise.

Enduring Ties Between Our Peoples

Our people-to-people ties with the Republic of Korea are broad and deep.  Over 1.7 million U.S. citizens are of Korean descent, including U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Sung Kim, and Republic of Korea citizens are the ninth-largest nationality of visitors to the United States.  The Republic of Korea sends over 70,000 students annually – more students per capita than any other major country – while the number of U.S. citizens studying in the Republic of Korea continues to grow. 

Recognizing the importance both countries place on protecting cultural heritage, the United States is pleased to return to the Republic of Korea 9 cultural artifacts, including one national seal of the Korean Empire.  The repatriation of the nine artifacts was conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea Cultural Heritage Administration.

On October 29, 2013, our two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding renewing the Work, English Study, Travel (WEST) program, which allows Korean university students and recent graduates to study English, work as interns, and travel in the United States.  Over 2,000 Korean youth have participated in the program since its inception.  Since 2011, the WEST program also has given North Korea-born youth now living in the Republic of Korea the opportunity to improve their English language ability and gain business skills and international experience, to help them to serve as a bridge between the United States and the North Korean community.

Since 1950, the Fulbright program has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and Republic of Korea, and since 1992 over 1,100 U.S.-citizen college graduates have spent a year or more as teachers in rural regions of the Republic of Korea as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program.  Including Fulbright program alumni, there are nearly 6,000 U.S. government exchange program alumni in the Republic of Korea.

Recognizing that expanding economic opportunities for women and ensuring their full participation in the workforce is a challenge shared by both countries, the United States is pleased to announce its intent to invite five Republic of Korea participants to attend the White House Summit on Working Families, which President Obama plans to host on June 23, 2014.  The Summit aims to bring together businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates, and ordinary citizens to discuss how we can create a 21st century workplace that meets the needs of a 21st century workforce.  Following the Summit, the participants plan to meet with policymakers and businesspeople to discuss how to make workplaces better for families, with an eye towards improving women’s labor force participation. 

In 2014, six North Korea-born high school students participated in two separate Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs SportsUnited basketball programs in the United States.  Three boys and three girls who had escaped from North Korea and are now ROK citizens spent two weeks in the United States playing basketball and learning about nutrition, fitness, life skills, conflict resolution, and how sports help to build bridges of understanding. 

The United States is pleased to announce that White House Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy Sam Kass plans to travel to the Republic of Korea in summer 2014 to share First Lady Michelle Obama’s work to help the United States raise a healthier generation of young people.  In addition to sharing his experience cooking at the White House for President Obama and foreign dignitaries, Chef Kass looks forward to learning about and sampling the rich diversity of Korean cuisine. 

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