South Korean president calls for stronger security ties with U.S. and Japan

Yoon condemns North Korea before joint session of Congress
By Eugene Whong for RFA
South Korean president calls for stronger security ties with U.S. and Japan South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol waves after addressing a joint meeting of Congress, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Washington.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned North Korea on Thursday for its nuclear ambitions and called for a stronger trilateral security relationship between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to counter North Korean nuclear threats.

Yoon’s remarks came during a speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress that celebrated the 70-year South Korea-U.S. alliance that helped defend South Korea as it rose from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to become one of the world’s leading economies.   

“But even as [South Korea and the U.S.] walked in unison for freedom for 70 years, there is one regime determined to pursue a wrong path. That is North Korea,” Yoon said. “North Korea’s nuclear program and missile provocations pose a serious threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2023. Credit: AP

The Yoon administration has been less willing to grant concessions to North Korea than that of his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, and other previous administrations.

Yoon borrowed a Cold War-era quote from a previous U.S. president to illustrate his point that the alliance must stand united against North Korea’s “reckless behavior.”

“As President Reagan once said: ‘There is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance,’” Yoon said. “We must make his words clear to North Korea,”

Yoon spoke of his summit meeting with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, where the two leaders agreed to strengthen nuclear deterrence. 

“Along with close Korea-U.S. coordination, we need to speed up Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation to counter increasing North Korean nuclear threats,” Yoon said. 

Yoon’s stance on cooperation with Japan is controversial in South Korea due to their turbulent historical relationship.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol addresses a joint meeting of Congress, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Washington. Credit: AP

Yoon vowed that Seoul would respond firmly to North Korean provocations, but stressed that South Korea and its allies were open to dialogue on denuclearization and would work toward that end.

“North Korea's obsession with nuclear weapons and missiles is throwing its population into a severe economic crisis and human rights abuses,” he said, as he called for the international community to pay attention to North Korea’s human rights situation.

“We must not shy away from our duty to promote freedom for North Koreans … I ask for your help in improving North Korea's grim conditions,” said Yoon.

Yoon arrived in Washington on Monday for a six-day official visit. He participated in a summit with Biden on Wednesday and attended an official state dinner that night.

Yoon will head to Massachusetts on Friday to visit two universities and will fly back to Seoul on Saturday. 

Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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