On the occasion of the launch of the new Biden Administration in the United States today, we have convened the plenary meeting of the National Security Council. Briefings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of National Defense will follow subsequently.
The Korean Government joins all Koreans in heartfelt congratulations upon the inauguration of the new Biden Administration. It is our hope that the United States will successfully build back better with unity among its people. We look forward to working together to enable the ROK-U.S. alliance to grow even stronger. Moreover, we hope that our two administrations will continue to closely cooperate in creating an inclusive and open global order based on the international solidarity and multilateralism that we both aspire to.
On the basis of the ironclad ROK-U.S. alliance, the Korean Government will assume a more proactive and leading role in responding to the changing international order and security environment. At the same time, we will bring the alliance forward to a more comprehensive, mutually beneficial and responsible partnership. In addition, cooperation will be enhanced to address the common challenges facing humanity, such as climate change and overcoming COVID-19.
The order of the Indo-Pacific region, which includes the Korean Peninsula, is entering a period of rapid transition. Now is the time for us to make sure that the current transition works to our advantage by further developing cooperative relations with neighboring countries along with the robust ROK-U.S. alliance.
Next year marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China, our largest trading partner and a major stakeholder in promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula. On this occasion, we have to establish a foundation upon which bilateral relations will be elevated to a new height.
With our neighbor Japan, we should gather our insights to forge constructive, forward-looking bilateral relations instead of dwelling on the past. Importantly, our two countries should cooperate to ensure that the Tokyo Olympics succeeds this year, safe from COVID-19. We should seize this event as an opportunity to advance both Korea-Japan relations and peace in Northeast Asia.
It is necessary to make the strategic cooperative partnership with Russia more substantive and further strengthen cooperation with ASEAN member states. In so doing, we will have to further expand the scope and depth of the New Southern and New Northern policies, which represent significant diplomatic achievements for my Administration.
Korea’s international status has risen beyond recognition – as a model country for epidemic prevention and control, a crisis-resistant economy and a soft power powerhouse. As our capabilities have further grown in line with our elevated status, I urge you to play a more active role in spearheading international solidarity and cooperation. In particular, as the host country of the 2nd P4G Summit, we must enhance our responsibility and role in international cooperation that aims to achieve 2050 carbon neutrality. As a proud middle power, we should also further expand our role as a bridge country that takes the lead in promoting mutual benefit and inclusiveness between developed and developing countries.
Our people should always be at the center of our diplomacy. Last year, the Government made all-out efforts to protect overseas Koreans from the threat of COVID-19 and bring them back home safely from all over the world. I applaud the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ role in demonstrating why a nation exists. I ask the Ministry to do all it can to ensure that our people are safeguarded and feel proud to be citizens of the Republic of Korea, no matter where they live.
The Korean Peninsula peace process is not an option but a path we must take. I urge you to do your best to get the clock of peace ticking again by creating new breakthroughs in U.S.-North Korean and inter-Korean talks and by quickly ending the long stalemate that followed the incomplete U.S.-North Korean summit in Hanoi.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. All Koreans aspire for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. The Government will continue to closely work together with the new Biden Administration to advance the Korean Peninsula peace process. All-out efforts will also be made to get back on the path of dialogue and cooperation with North Korea. I ask you to work with determination as our Administration has just one year remaining – but without rushing hastily. In particular, I would like each ministry and agency, as the master of the Korean Peninsula’s destiny, to work together with a more proactive attitude to secure a driving force to advance inter-Korean relations and the peace process.
A strong national defense is the foundation of peace. My Administration has increased the defense budget by over 7 percent every year since I came into office, ushering in the era of 50 trillion won in military spending last year. Now, Korea is building formidable defense capabilities that no one would dare challenge. In order to successfully complete Defense Reform 2.0, we must quickly implement the plan to modernize combat strength. At the same time, the military must prepare to counter new forms of future threats by actively adopting such cutting-edge Fourth Industrial Revolution technology as AI, robots and drones. In the process, we will also have to achieve a virtuous cycle with the advancement of the country’s private-sector industry. More must be done to achieve responsible national defense as well – in line with our elevated military capabilities and national status.
As with strong defense capabilities and cutting edge weapon systems, we must carry on our work to boost soldiers’ morale and improve military culture. In particular, I ask the military to faithfully fulfill its role as “a military of the people and for the people.” I am very grateful for the dedication our armed forces have shown in responding to COVID-19. I also ask them to demonstrate their excellent capabilities once more in order to transport vaccines safely.