South Korea, U.S. Hold Defense, Foreign Affairs Talks
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 – The U.S.-South Korea alliance is a force for peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today at the start of the “Two-Plus-Two” talks with South Korea.
Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta hosted talks with their counterparts in the South Korean government -- Kim Sung-hwan, minister of foreign affairs and trade, and Kim Kwan-jin, minister of national defense – at the State Department.
The meeting covered a full range of issues from combating piracy in the Indian Ocean to investing in development in Africa to promoting democracy and the rule of law around the world. “It would be difficult to list all the ways we are working together,” Clinton said.
The two nations agreed to increase cooperation on cybersecurity and will add realistic cyber portions to bilateral exercises, Panetta said.
“The talks strengthen our cooperation,” Clinton said. “We enjoy unprecedented coordination on a number of bilateral, regional and global issues.”
The talks are an example of the close, regular conversations on mutual issues and on developments in North Korea, Clinton said. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Republic of Korea allies in the face of threats and provocations,” she said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Kim said through an interpreter that the meetings are necessary to keep pace with the changes in the security environment. “It is significant that we are here today to review the changes that we need to continue making,” he said.
Underlying the alliance is the solid trust between the United States and South Korea, he said.
Kim said North Korea continues to be a threat. In 2010, the North sank the South Korean ship Cheonan and shelled a South Korean island. Earlier this year, Pyongyang tried to launch a missile over the objections of the international community.
The U.S.-ROK alliance has “shown an almost perfect cooperation,” he said. “We have also handled some complex alliance issues such as the operational control transition or the base relocation.”
But the allies must not become complacent, Kim said. “Hopefully, today’s meeting will not only strengthen our alliance and send a clear message to North Korea, but also try to seek what we can contribute to the region and the world,” he said.
Panetta said the alliance has been built on shared sacrifices that began during the Korean War and continue today. “As we face the many security challenges and opportunities on the horizon, on the peninsula regionally and globally, we must forge a common, strategic approach and address these issues collectively – rooted in friendship and in mutual interest,” he said.
Korea is a lynchpin of the new defense strategy that rebalances U.S. forces to the Pacific. “One of the cornerstones to our ability to effectively implement that strategy is the close partnership and relationship that we have with the Republic of Korea,” Panetta said. “That’s why it is so important for us to come together to meet, to discuss our common views on the shared security challenges we face and to forge a common strategic approach to those challenges.”
Defense Minister Kim said the alliance between South Korea and the United States is “developing into a multidimensional strategic alliance addressing not only security issues of the Korean peninsula but moves out into the Asia-Pacific and the world.” He added that more than 80 percent of Koreans agree with that.
In defense issues, the two nations have managed well during the transition in North Korea following the death last year of leader Kim Jong Il “through a policy of very close military cooperation, especially in intelligence sharing,” Kim said.
This was the second “Two-Plus-Two” meeting, so named because it combines foreign affairs and national security chiefs. South Korea hosted the first meeting in Seoul in 2010. All parties said the Two-Plus-Two talks will continue.