Strengthening the Ironclad U.S.-ROK Alliance

Office of the Spokesperson

“America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.”
– President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., February 4, 2021

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will travel to Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK), March 17–18 to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening our Alliance and to highlight cooperation that promotes peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.

Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin will attend a U.S.-ROK Foreign and Defense Ministerial (“2+2”) hosted by the ROK’s Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Minister of Defense Suh Wook.  Secretary Blinken will meet with Foreign Minister Chung and other senior officials to discuss issues of bilateral and global importance.

Secretary Blinken will also meet virtually with Korean youth leaders and host a virtual roundtable with emerging Korean journalists to discuss the importance of a free press and the U.S.-ROK Alliance.

Addressing the Challenges of Today and the Future

  • The U.S.-ROK Alliance is the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity for Northeast Asia, a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and across the world. U.S.-ROK military and defense ties are unwavering, and our ever-increasing economic, technological, diplomatic, people-to-people, and values-based bonds are strong and enduring.
  • ROK engagement in the Indo-Pacific and across the world is essential, as demonstrated most recently by its response to COVID-19. In the early months of the pandemic, the United States and the ROK collaborated to establish robust travel screening measures to preserve air links between our countries and assisted with repatriating each other’s citizens.  The ROK donated critical medical supplies to the United States, including 2.5 million protective masks, and facilitated the purchase of 750,000 COVID-19 tests.  U.S. and ROK experts and policymakers continue to regularly share best practices on fighting COVID-19.
  • The ROK is a major donor and leader in development efforts, including health security, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian assistance. Through our ongoing dialogues on the Indo-Pacific in coordination with the ROK New Southern Policy, the U.S.-ROK Alliance is focused on a future-oriented partnership, including cooperation on health security, climate change, science and technology, renewable energy, law enforcement, cyber security, and cooperation with the Pacific Island countries the Mekong sub-region, and ASEAN.

Comprehensive Economic Ties between the Korean and American People

  • The United States is the ROK’s second largest trading partner, and the ROK is the United States’ sixth largest trading partner. The United States is the second largest investor in the Republic of Korea.
  • ROK foreign direct investment in the United States continues to grow and has more than tripled from $19.7 billion in 2011 to $61.1 billion in 2019, making the ROK the second-largest Asian source of foreign direct investment into the United States. The United States is the largest foreign direct investment destination for ROK investors, ahead of China and Vietnam.  In recent years, ROK companies have made major investment announcements in automotive components, industrial equipment, green energy, consumer electronics, and other sectors.  U.S. firms also play an important role in key sectors of the Korean economy.
  • The United States and the ROK hold an annual Senior Economic Dialogue during which policymakers coordinate on bilateral, regional, and global economic issues and advance regional economic cooperation.

An Alliance Built on People-to-People Ties

  • Over 1.7 million Korean students have enrolled in the United States since 1955. During the 2019/2020 academic year, more than 49,000 Korean students came to the United States.  The ROK is the largest per capita source of foreign students in the United States.
  • More than two million ROK citizens visit, work, or live in the United States, and over 200,000 U.S. citizens reside in the ROK. More than 10,000 U.S. and ROK citizens have participated in USG-sponsored exchanges, including 3600 Fulbrighters and almost 2000 International Visitor Leadership Program participants.
  • Prominent alumni include nine ROK Prime Ministers, countless dozens of National Assembly members, and two former ROK Presidents, including Kim Dae-jung, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Strengthening U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea Cooperation

  • The Biden-Harris Administration is working to strengthen America’s relationships with our allies, and the relationships between those allies. No relationship is more important than that between the ROK and Japan.  The United States continues to promote expanded U.S.-ROK-Japan cooperation to tackle COVID-19 and combat climate change, as well as reinvigorate trilateral cooperation on a broad range of global issues, including the denuclearization of the DPRK.
  • A robust and effective trilateral relationship between the United States, the ROK, and Japan is critical for our joint security and interests in defending freedom and democracy, upholding human rights, championing women’s empowerment, combating climate change, promoting regional and global peace, security, and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific and across the globe.

Securing Peace, Stability, and Prosperity in Northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific

  • The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK remains ironclad.  The Alliance continues to work toward our shared goals of securing peace, stability, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the Indo-Pacific.
  • The United States and the ROK work together to combat regional and global threats, as well as promote peace, security, and prosperity.  The United States maintains U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula in support of its commitment under the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty to help meet the common danger posed by external threats. North Korea poses a serious threat to international peace and security and the global nonproliferation regime.  The United States remains committed to strengthening deterrence against and the denuclearization of North Korea, as well as the protection and promotion of human rights in North Korea.
  • The Biden-Harris Administration is conducting a North Korea policy review in close consultation with the ROK, Japan, and other key partners, including reviewing  the potential for future diplomacy.

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    The Department of Defense (DOD) has reviewed the financial assistance it provides for off-base child care services and taken steps to standardize this assistance across the military services. Specifically, in August 2018, representatives of each service agreed to work toward a goal of standardizing the only element of the fee assistance calculation that varies among the services—the maximum provider rate. DOD officials said that they assess progress toward this goal each year, but have not set a definite deadline for full standardization. With respect to assistance for off-base child care at high-cost duty stations, DOD's 2020 report on its child care programs states that the Air Force, Marines, and Navy review high-cost locations annually, and the services may approve increased provider rate caps for specific high-cost locations. In addition, it states that the services may grant waivers allowing increased fee assistance for individual families experiencing hardship. DOD has also assessed factors that contribute to wait lists for on-base child care. According to DOD’s report, DOD found that wait lists are the result of a myriad of factors, including staff shortages and facility conditions that vary across service locations. Officials said DOD has worked for several years to analyze and address wait lists. In 2017, DOD launched a web portal that consolidates child care data across the services and in August 2019, DOD officials began monthly monitoring of wait list data from this portal. These data allowed DOD to identify four geographic regions and six additional locations that account for the majority of wait lists, and focus their efforts on addressing the issues affecting these regions and locations, according to the report. DOD officials said that any requests for additional resources to help address wait lists must be handled through the individual services’ budgeting processes. DOD offers child care in a variety of on- and off-base settings for children of military families. In fiscal year 2020 these child care programs received nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds; in addition, parents pay a portion of the costs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 required DOD to report on elements of its financial assistance to off-base child care providers and wait lists for on-base child care, and included a provision for GAO to review DOD's report. This report describes DOD's assessment of (1) financial assistance provided to off-base child care providers, and (2) its efforts to reduce wait lists for child care at military bases. GAO reviewed DOD's report on this assessment, interviewed DOD officials, and reviewed relevant federal law. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Settles with Transportation and Logistics Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with IAS Logistics DFW LLC, d/b/a Pinnacle Logistics (Pinnacle Logistics), a transportation and logistics company headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.  
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  • GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance Conferences
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO began 37 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of GAO's 37 requested entrance conferences for those audits, DOD scheduled 33 within 14 days and held 34 within 30 days of GAO's notification. Entrance conferences are initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff that allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. The four entrance conferences that were scheduled more than 14 days after notification were scheduled late due to either difficulties in identifying a primary action officer or aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. The three entrance conferences that were held more than 30 days after notification were scheduled late due to difficulties in aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of their receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the final of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first three quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that it sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received GAO's notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the GAO team conducting each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Maine Man Sentenced for Federal Hate Crime Convictions
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced the sentencing of Maurice Diggins, 36, of Biddeford, Maine, in federal court for his role in a series of racially motivated assaults against black men in Maine.
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  • Annual Bankruptcy Filings Fall 29.7 Percent
    In U.S Courts
    Bankruptcy filings fell sharply for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2020, despite a significant surge in unemployment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
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  • Man Charged with $1.9 Million COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Nevada man was charged in an indictment Wednesday for his alleged participation in a scheme to defraud multiple financial institutions by filing bank loan applications that fraudulently sought more than $1.9 million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Cincinnati, Ohio Landlord
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that landlord John Klosterman and his wife, Susan Klosterman, will pay $177,500 to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that John Klosterman sexually harassed female tenants since at least 2013 at residential properties the couple owned in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
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  • New York Fisherman and Fish Dealer Charged with Conspiracy, Fraud, and Obstruction
    In Crime News
    Today, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York unsealed the indictment of one fisherman, a wholesale fish dealer, and two of its managers for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and obstruction in connection with a scheme to illegally overharvest fluke and black sea bass. All four defendants are from Montauk.
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  • Climate Change: USAID Is Taking Steps to Increase Projects’ Resilience, but Could Improve Reporting of Adaptation Funding
    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided at least $810 million to directly and indirectly support climate adaptation from fiscal years 2014 through 2018—the latest available data at the time of GAO's analysis. However, USAID ended new funding for programming activities that directly address climate adaptation (i.e., direct funding) in fiscal year 2017 in part due to a shift in administration priorities, according to agency officials. However, following a congressional directive in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations act, USAID restored direct funding for adaptation programming. GAO found that USAID did not consistently report all funding data for activities that indirectly addressed climate adaptation, which does not align with expectations in foreign assistance guidance and internal controls standards. USAID's direct adaptation assistance had the primary program goal of enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerability. For example, in the Philippines, a USAID activity assisted communities in preparing for extreme weather events by developing maps of potential hazards to aid in evacuation planning. USAID attributed funding that indirectly addresses climate adaptation assistance (i.e., indirect funding) from programs with other goals such as agriculture, where priorities include supporting food production and distribution. For example, in Guatemala, a USAID agricultural activity worked with farmers to transition to crops with greater economic benefits that are also drought tolerant. However, not all missions with indirect adaptation assistance reported these funding data and reporting has varied, in part, because the agency has not clearly communicated the expectation to do so. Without addressing this issue, USAID risks providing incomplete and inconsistent data to Congress and others. A Community Leader Shows the Hazard Map Prepared as Part of a U.S. Agency for International Development Project to Help Adapt to Climate Change in the Philippines Since October 2016, USAID has generally required projects and activities to conduct climate risk management, which is the process of assessing and managing the effects of climate change. USAID requires documentation of this process and GAO's review found 95 percent compliance for USAID's priority countries for adaption funding. USAID has experienced some challenges with its initial implementation of climate risk management and is assessing these challenges and identifying improvements. For example, mission officials said that some technical staff lack expertise to do climate risk management and that their environment offices had a small number of staff to provide assistance. To help staff conduct climate risk management, USAID is building staff capacity through trainings and is in the process of evaluating implementation of the policy and whether it requires any changes, among other efforts. USAID is the primary U.S. government agency helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change. USAID has provided this assistance through activities that directly address climate adaptation as well as indirectly through activities that received funding for other purposes, such as agriculture, but which also support climate adaptation goals. GAO was asked to review issues related to U.S. foreign assistance for climate adaptation. For USAID, this report examines (1) funding the agency provided for climate adaptation assistance in fiscal years 2014 through 2018, and (2) how climate risk management is implemented. GAO analyzed funding data and documentation of agency activities and climate risk management; interviewed agency and project officials; and conducted fieldwork in three countries receiving adaptation assistance—Guatemala, the Philippines, and Uganda. GAO selected these countries based on the amount of funding they received for climate adaptation activities, geographic diversity, and variety of observed and projected climate effects, among other factors. GAO recommends that USAID communicate to its missions and bureaus that they are expected to report all data on funding that indirectly addresses climate adaptation. USAID agreed with the recommendation and outlined a number of steps the agency plans to take to improve the reporting of these data. For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or gootnickd@gao.gov.
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    In Justice News
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