WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 — President Barack Obama today reaffirmed the U.S. intention to take a larger role in the future of security in the Asia-Pacific region.
During a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in conjunction with the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea’s capital of Seoul, Obama talked about upcoming plans for the Asia-Pacific region.
“My visit to Korea reflects the fact that the United States is leading again in the Asia-Pacific — a region that will affect American security and prosperity in the 21st century like no other,” he said.
The president noted that in a November speech to the Australian parliament, he said the United States, as a Pacific nation, will play a larger and long-term role in shaping the region and its future. “And the cornerstone of our efforts is our strong alliances, including our alliance with the Republic of Korea,” he added.
Obama said South Korea is on track to assume operational control on the Korean peninsula for the alliance in 2015.
“We reviewed our ongoing efforts to modernize our security alliance,” he said. “We agreed to have our foreign and defense ministers meet in June to discuss concrete measures we can take to continue strengthening that alliance.”
Obama also said he and Lee discussed the future in light of fiscal constraints that will reduce U.S. defense spending.
“I reaffirmed, as I said in Australia, that reductions in U.S. defense spending will not come at the expense of the Asia Pacific — and that includes South Korea,” he said. “America’s armed forces are going to stay ready for the full range of contingencies and threats. And the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea remains unshakable.”
Obama said he and Lee also discussed regional security, which starts with the issue of North Korea. Lee said he and Obama will continue to enhance and strengthen the two nations’ combined defense capabilities, and he called on North Korea to end its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
“We will firmly respond to any threats or provocations from the North,” the South Korean president said. Both countries can work together along with the international community, he added, if North Korea gives up nuclear weapon and missile development.
Both presidents noted North Korea’s contradiction of its own recent commitments to the international community.
“Last month, North Korea agreed to a series of steps, including a moratorium on long-range missile launches,” Obama said. “This month, North Korea announced its intention to conduct a missile launch. This would constitute a direct violation of Pyongyang’s own commitments and its international obligations. Moreover, it would only deepen North Korea’s isolation, damage further its relations with its neighbors, and seriously undermine the prospect of future negotiations.”
Lee said the United States and South Korea agree that North Korea’s announcement that it will test-fire its long-range missile is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, not to mention the latest agreement between the U.S. and North Korea.
“Therefore,” he said, “President Obama and I both agreed that North Korea must immediately repeal its decision and abide by its international obligations.”
Noting that he and Obama reaffirmed the value and importance of the U.S.-South Korean alliance in their meeting today, Lee said they also discussed their vision of the partnership’s future.
“Following the adoption of the future vision of the alliance, which was adopted in June 2009, our alliance is evolving into a truly global partnership where we are working shoulder-to-shoulder to resolve global challenges,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)