On April 27 South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will deliver a speech at a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress as part of his visit to mark the 70th anniversary of the United States-South Korea security alliance.
Mr. Yoon is the first South Korean president in a decade to address a joint session of Congress.
In his remarks, President Yoon will speak to the achievements of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and the importance Seoul places in strengthening ties with Washington for its security.
He will also emphasize the shared values that serves as the basis for the alliance and both countries’ commitment to peace on the Korean peninsula.
President Yoon will arrive on Capitol Hill fortified by his April 26 White House visit with President Biden during which time the Washington Declaration was signed. The declaration states the U.S. will involve Seoul in its nuclear weapons planning in addition to deploying U.S. nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea on a rotational basis.
As part of the agreement South Korea pledged to not develop its own nuclear weapons program.
President Yoon also received assurance from President Biden that a North Korean nuclear attack against the U.S., its allies or partners is unacceptable and would result in the end of the regime in Pyongyang.
Securing these security commitments was important for Yoon politically, as an increasing number of people have raised doubts about America’s commitment and ability to protect the South.
South Korean concerns over U.S. defense promises stem in part from worries that American voters will elect a future president who is less supportive of security agreements overseas. They fear an isolationist coming to power who will reduce or remove altogether America’s troop presence from the peninsula.
Other contributing factors to South Korea’s worries involve recent geopolitical developments, i.e., North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear weapons program, Putin’s war on Ukraine, China’s expansion of its nuclear weapons arsenal and the People’s Liberation Army’s mock invasions of Taiwan.
For its part, Washington is keen to strengthen ties with its stalwart ally which plays an important role counterbalancing China’s rising influence and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. To this end, the Biden administration has made efforts to convince South Korea to abandon its rules against sending weapons to nations at war and provide Ukraine with badly-needed artillery shells.
President Yoon’s April 27 speech will focus on the alliance’s accomplishments since he has been in office.
These include the agreement Mr. Yoon and Mr. Biden struck to resume joint military exercises; Seoul’s repairing of relations with Tokyo; and working with Washington to reduce supply chain reliance on China.
Additionally, President Yoon would do well to emphasize both accomplishments and aspirations of the alliance, such as:
•The SK Group’s $22 billion investment in the United States on green energy, semiconductors and bioscience which is contributing to U.S. job creation and easing global supply chain pressures.
•The need for collaboration to produce next-generation technologies to increase joint economic security and supply chain resiliency.
•Providing tax incentives to Hyundai and Kia to build factories in the U.S. for electric vehicle production.
•New joint-research initiatives focusing on quantum information science, AI, cyber law enforcement and space situational awareness (SSA).
Furthermore, Yoon can tout how both countries have fought alongside one another in every major conflict since the Korean War and have worked together to defend the rules-based order. While Washington has upgraded the defense relationship in a meaningful way this week, since entering office last year Mr. Yoon has invested billions in the American economy while contributing to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Lastly, Yoon should speak to how both Washington and Seoul have worked to make their 70-year alliance more resilient to meet the challenges of our time. Such a statement would convey both states’ commitment to one another’s strategic interests and common values.