Thank you for that kind introduction, and I thank FKI and CSIS organizers for giving me the opportunity to speak to this distinguished body of participants in Seoul and Washington.
As we celebrate the strength of the 70-year alliance and think about how, going forward, we can strengthen our partnership to meet the unique challenges of the 21st Century, we should remind ourselves of where we have been. Indeed, we have been through a lot together. Our relationship built on our common ideals of democracy, but often paid for in blood and sweat in places like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But nowhere has the price we paid together been higher than on the Korean Peninsula.
Recently, I was rereading the autobiography of United States Air Force Colonel Dean Hess, who commanded the mixed unit of U.S. and Republic of Korea fighter pilots during the first year of the Korean War. Things were desperate then, but through unity of purpose and the sacrifice of many of those brave American pilots and Korean pilots who did not survive the war helped lay the foundation for our ever-strengthening alliance that today is prepared to take on, and overcome, new challenges.
To be sure, the DPRK threat remains, and the PRC, which poured in so-called volunteers to prevent the unification of Korea in the 1950s, now looms large as not just a regional power but as an actor seeking to become a truly global power with the intent and, increasingly, the capability, to remake the international order. As Secretary of State Blinken said last October, this is a very different PRC. It is more repressive at home and aggressive abroad in challenging the interests and values of the United States and our allies and partners. Beijing continues its efforts to undermine the rules-based international order, the same order that allowed the Republic of Korea to emerge from that era and grow to become the thriving techno-economic power it is today, with a formidable defense industry supplying our friends and allies with modern armaments to protect themselves in troubled times.
But make no mistake – the United States remains fast and true to its unwavering commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea. Nearly one year ago, in the joint statement issued by President Biden and President Yoon, the United States reiterated our extended deterrence commitment to you, a commitment that includes conventional, missile, and nuclear capabilities, reminding all who might challenge us that these deterrents – and the United States – remain ready to defend the Republic of Korea. And with this same iron-clad commitment, we stand together with you to defend the rules-based global order that has brought peace, prosperity, and freedom, and not to just our two nations but other like-minded nations of the world.
Rules matter: Rules which we worked together to create, sustain, and strengthen. Rules that forged an international order based on a system of alliances, extended deterrence, and a commitment to the rule of law. Rules that have served the interests of peace and prosperity for seven decades, bringing incalculable benefits to humanity. Rules which enabled the greatest economic expansion in human history, fueling dynamic new economic industries and ecosystems, such as those in the Republic of Korea. It is a system through which, together, we have overcome the scourges of disease, famine, oppression, and poverty, enabling billions to live a life better than that of their parents. It has enabled fantastic scientific discoveries, from exploration of the cosmos to the practical manipulation of quantum physics.
And it is a system that is absolutely under threat from those who seek a different, darker future for humanity, inconsistent with the values of sovereignty, human rights, and rule of law that together we have worked so hard and long to sustain.
Treaties such as the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have served us well. We have seen in recent years, including over the past year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, how Russia and others have contravened these treaties or sought to misuse them for their own ends, treaties which the countries of the world have worked to uphold and strengthen, treaties intended to keep us all safe. Every time Putin suggests the use of nuclear weapons, the world – in a nearly unanimous voice – condemns his provocative rhetoric, affirming again that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons would be abhorrent.
It is also imperative that we remain focused on preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and the expansion of nuclear arsenals. The time is far past due for immediate negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. This is particularly urgent in light of the PRC’s opaque and rapid nuclear buildup. The PRC is he only Nuclear Weapons State that has not declared a moratorium on production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Nuclear Weapons States must behave in a responsible and transparent manner, now more than ever, in this challenging international security environment.
The regimes we all depend on are under threat, but they are still essential to peace, prosperity, and freedom. We must defend them. This is a time when law-abiding nations of the world, like us, must rally to uphold the international obligations and rules-based international order that have given us a thriving global economy and the longest period without great power conflict. The Republic of Korea’s role in multilateral efforts to strengthen these global norms is essential. Your leadership in export control regimes, international organizations, and in like-minded groups such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, sends an important message. In fact, in two months, the Republic of Korea will host over 100 nations to recognize the 20th anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI. It will be the first high-level political meeting of the PSI in Asia Pacific and reinforces not only the global importance of nonproliferation regimes, but highlights the Republic of Korea’s role as a pivotal nation in international security.
I fully understand the concerns you have regarding your neighbor to the north, as every week it launches a new missile or issues a new statement vowing to crush its perceived enemies. Countries like the DPRK, which aim to advance its security by undermining the global nonproliferation regime, end up finding themselves isolated. We all must continue to work together to uphold the global non-proliferation regime in the face of challenges from the DPRK and others.
To address this threat, we must work together to stem the flow of money that fuels the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. At the same time, we remain committed to diplomacy with the DPRK and stand ready to resume negotiations without preconditions.
As we strive to strengthen and enhance the regimes which have provided security over the last 70 years, we must also focus on ways to face new challenges and threats. And in doing this, our strong alliance can play a critical role in addressing forces that are taking us to a new era in innovations that can enhance, but also endanger, our security. Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and related technologies such as advanced microprocessors are defining our times. While the possibilities for transforming our lives for good are tremendous, there are also enormous risks.
We have seen how the PRC has blurred the lines between their military and commercial industries to illicitly funnel advanced technologies and the benefits of intellectual talents from other countries to enhance its own military capabilities. The protection of intellectual property has been, and must continue to be, among the foundations of our international order, whether it be in dual-use technologies, advanced computing, nuclear energy, or industrial production. Without these protections, there is no incentive to innovate, and without innovation, we stagnate.
The loss of intellectual property is not due just to theft. Foreign investment is another way in which individuals and companies, often unknowingly, support our adversaries. We need to scrutinize foreign investment in our technology sectors to guard against acquisition and infiltration. We need to scrutinize outbound investment flows and encourage responsible investments in sensitive technologies that do not benefit our adversaries and strategic competitors who would use our investment in technology against us. Similarly, we need to continue to align export controls and policy among like-minded partners to create a level playing field that facilitates continued trade in advanced technologies while protecting against their acquisition for uses that threaten our national security.
I mentioned earlier the promise President Biden affirmed, that we will protect our allies. We are taking steps to create a greater presence in the Indo-Pacific, increasing our soft power. We are also strengthening our alliances and partnerships in the region. AUKUS is one such initiative, which will promote stability and security in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, while at the same time setting the highest standard for non-proliferation.
In conclusion, I am confident that together we can build a better future. The security of our people relies not just on the assurance that come from our capabilities and partnership, but from the confidence bred by what we hold dear: our shared values and norms, as daily we stand side-by-side, ready again to pay a heavy price if necessary, while working to strengthen those regimes which have provided safety and prosperity over these last 70 years.
I thank you for attention and I wish you all a successful conference. Thank you.