U.S. to Expand Security Role in Pacific Region

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)