The future of East Asia and the 21st century

2022. 5. 31. 20:04
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I recently had the honor to attend the inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol as part of the U.S. presidential delegation, led by Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

Ami Bera The author is a member of U.S. House of Representatives who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation, and co-chair of the Congressional Korea Caucus and the Congressional Study Group on Korea.

I recently had the honor to attend the inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol as part of the U.S. presidential delegation, led by Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff. As a senior member of the U.S. Congress who has led many congressional delegations to South Korea, I was very pleased with the vision presented by President Yoon — a vision of freedom, a rules based order for commerce and competition, the advancement of liberal democracies around the world, and a vision of a Korea that is prepared to look beyond just peace and prosperity on the peninsula and towards a future where the Republic of Korea takes its place as a “trusted member of the international community.”

It is this last vision that is both the most important and perhaps the most challenging. As friends and allies for close to seventy years, the U.S. and ROK must work together to realize the opportunities that lay ahead of us. The Korean miracle is a living example for what is possible with hard work and vision. As the United States worked with Korea when it went from a developing nation to a developed nation, to the world’s 10th largest economy, we must now partner together to help the developing and developed economies in Southeast Asia and elsewhere realize their full potential. We must partner to address global health challenges and develop new vaccines and therapeutics to not just end this pandemic, but to prevent the next. And as the people of Korea have already experienced, we must make sure our economies and supply chains are not overly reliant on a single source or country that they are vulnerable to coercion or bullying, but rather that we have reliable partners that will work with us to the benefit of all.

Let’s also be clear eyed about the potential challenges that we face. In his inauguration speech, President Yoon used the word freedom more than any other word in presenting his vision for the Republic of Korea. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both of our countries must be steadfast in our support of the people of Ukraine in their fight for their freedom by sending both military and humanitarian assistance, and ensuring a Russian defeat. In the Indo-Pacific, we must similarly protect the right of the people of Taiwan to determine their path forward.

And as the people of both our nations face the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, anti-intellectualism, and global conflict, we must make sure our citizens understand that these issues can only be addressed by sound domestic policy, paired with enhanced global leadership. As President Yoon stated, “It is futile to differentiate between domestic issues and international issues. When we assume a greater international role, we can also find the right solution for many of our domestic challenges.”

With Kim Jong-un’s increased saber rattling, we fully expect North Korea to test the Yoon administration in its early days. As President Yoon laid out, “Peace on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia is the same our region cannot be exempt from threats that endanger the peace of other regions.” The Biden Administration has taken this approach with early engagement and planned high-level visits to both South Korea and Japan. To address North Korean aggression, the democracies of Northeast Asia must stand together and speak with one voice in support of international law and norms. President Biden’s recent visit to both countries reiterates the United States’ commitment to North Korea’s denuclearization and to “bringing lasting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.”

As the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I am enthusiastic about working with the Yoon Administration to realize the vision laid forth. It will not be easy. But as we saw when the people of the United States and South Korea worked together to defend freedom and support prosperity in the dynamic country that is the Republic of Korea, it is now time for the ROK, with the support and partnership of the United States and other liberal democracies, in President Yoon’s words “to work with our fellow citizens around the globe to solve problems not only within our own borders but also those that take place outside.”

In President Yoon’s words, “Human history shows that when political and economic freedom reigns supreme, that is where prosperity and abundance flourished. When prosperity and economic freedom flourishes, that is when freedom reaches even the darkest corners.”

We know we can do it. Because we’ve done it before. Together.

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