South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday called for greater defense and security cooperation with the U.S. ahead of a key summit later this week with President Biden and Japan’s prime minister.
In a nationally televised address, Yoon told South Koreans that the threat from North Korea’s “communist totalitarian” state “is a reality” and was persisting against their vision for peace and liberal democracy.
“We must never succumb to the forces of communist totalitarianism,” Yoon said in the speech marking the 78th Liberation Day, which commemorates the day South Korea broke free from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.
“We must not be deceived by those who follow and serve them,” he added. “At this critical juncture, having faith is of utmost importance. We must stand united in the spirit of solidarity, with an enduring conviction that freedom and democracy will always prevail.”
Yoon also underscored his commitment to working with allies across the globe to promote peace and security, including with the U.S. and Japan, now a key ally in the Indo-Pacific region.
The South Korean leader said it was important the allies had agreed to better share their data on missile launches from adversaries and said the country would also work to enhance ties in Europe.
“Security of the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region is deeply linked to the security in the Atlantic and Europe,” he said. “Accordingly, strengthening cooperation with NATO is also of great importance.”
The speech sends a strong message from South Korea’s leader ahead of the highly anticipated trilateral summit with Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Camp David, Md., on Friday.
Leaders at the summit are expected to discuss rising tensions with North Korea and China in the Indo-Pacific. They will also announce a plan to expand military cooperation on ballistic missile defense and technology development, according to The Associated Press.
North Korea has rapidly expanded its nuclear arsenal and missile tests, creating more uncertainty in the Koreas. Seoul and Washington have begun conducting more military drills on the Korean Peninsula, to the anger of Pyongyang.
China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific and threats against Taiwan are also of deep concern for the U.S. and its allies in the region.
Asked to comment on the upcoming trilateral summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday said China “opposes relevant countries assembling exclusionary groupings, and practices that intensify antagonism and undermine the strategic security of other countries.”
“China hopes that relevant countries will act in line with the trend of the times and contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity,” Wang said in a press briefing.
Yoon on Tuesday said the summit will “set a new milestone in trilateral cooperation contributing to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region.”
“Since I took office, my administration has vigorously sought cooperation on security and cutting-edge technology with countries that share universal values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” Yoon said. “The [South Korea]-U.S. alliance, forged from universal values, is an alliance of peace and prosperity. Korea and Japan are now partners who share universal values and pursue common interests.”
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