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Remarks Following Discussions With President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea

October 17, 1989

President Bush. There have been many high-level visits between Washington and Seoul recently, proof that good relations are important to both countries. But today it's been my special pleasure to welcome President Roh and his Cabinet to Washington. Mr. President, I hope you and your lovely First Lady have enjoyed your visit to the White House as much as Barbara and I enjoyed our visit to the Blue House last February.

This has been a busy day of discussions with President Roh on a range of important bilateral, regional, and multilateral issues; and we've confirmed that the Governments and peoples of the United States and the Republic of Korea are resolved to promote and defend economic growth and democracy. Our discussions have been intense and meaningful, and our partnership has been strengthened.

So, let no one doubt that the United States stands by its commitment to maintain the peace and prevent the outbreak of hostilities on the peninsula. As I said in Seoul in February, U.S. forces will remain as long as both Governments and both peoples believe it is in the interest of peace. And of course, our forces will remain as long as there is a threat from the North. I understand that President Roh, when asked about the American presence in South Korea generally, answered with a colorful American phrase: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And, Mr. President, my sentiments exactly.

At the same time, our two nations aspire to lessen tensions between the North and the South. And this and the creation of the conditions that favor reunification can only be the result of the vision and tireless efforts of the Korean people. The United States applaud President Roh's creative diplomacy and supports his plan to create a commonwealth between the North and the South as a step toward reunification. President Roh's unification formula is based on principles that we share -- independence, peace, and democracy -- and it is my hope that the resumption of other forums of inter-Korean dialog will lead to institutions that will serve as a basis for eventual reunification.

But the division of Korea is merely a part of a great divide between all the nations of the world. And it is in the other half of the world, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, that momentous change is underway. President Roh and I are of one mind in dealing with this change. Simply put, we will seek to strengthen security and peace by engaging the Communist world in constructive endeavor. President Roh's nordpolitik, a diplomatic endeavor to reach out to Communist countries in Europe as well as in Asia, complements the policy of the United States. And, Mr. President, may I follow your practice and quote a few Korean sayings: "World peace is not a pavilion in the sky." "If beans grow where beans are planted, then surely peace will grow where peace is planted."

Just as South Korea is taking a leading role in diplomacy, so it has also become a major economic force. South Korea is now the world's 10th largest trading nation and America's 7th largest trading partner. Korean workers and companies have benefited from U.S. open markets, but American workers and companies deserve equal access to Korean markets. As I told the National Assembly in February, protectionism offers a false prosperity. It may seem to be the easy way out, but it's really the quickest way down. And trade, free and fair, is the way up for the consumers and the workers of both nations. And that's why I'm pleased to note the progress made in the past few years in reducing trade barriers. And we applaud these moves and expect continued improvement on the trade front.

And last, but not least, President Roh and I today discussed the dramatic changes occurring in Korean society and politics. Under his leadership, the Republic of Korea has moved toward greater democracy and respect for human and civil rights. And the history of our own country suggests that such change is hard won. But our history also suggests that the struggle for democracy is crucial to a nation's political and economic and moral development. President Roh, you have my highest respect and support for your goals, and I wish you well in your nation's efforts for continued peace and the growth of democracy and prosperity in your great Republic.

President Roh. Mr. President and ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to convey to my American friends a message of warm friendship from the Korean people.

Today President Bush and I had very constructive and meaningful talks in which we reviewed the current international situation and discussed a wide range of issues of common interest. My meeting with President Bush this time, only 8 months after the meeting in Seoul last February, demonstrates how close and important the Korea-U.S. relationship has become. At today's meeting, President Bush and I reaffirmed that the traditional friendship and cooperation between our two nations remain firm and are growing stronger. Both of us shared the view that a new breeze of reform and openness currently blowing throughout the world is promoting reconciliation and harmony among nations and, thereby, spreading freedom in the Socialist world.

We noted the stark reality, however, that despite this encouraging trend of change, confrontation and tension have not abated on the Korean Peninsula. President Bush and I were of the same opinion that under such circumstances there should be no change in the current level of the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability. I feel reassured that President Bush reiterated the U.S. commitment to Korean security and that U.S. forces in Korea will remain as long as the Korean Government and people want them and as long as those forces continue to contribute to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula -- which are, in turn, vital to the whole of northeast Asia. We share the view that both direct dialog between the authorities of South and North Korea and the building of mutual confidence through increased exchanges in various fields are essential to the resolution of the Korean question.

I explained to President Bush the Korean national community reunification formula, which is based on the principles of self-determination, peace, and democracy. President Bush reassured me of his deep understanding and full support for this new initiative. The Republic of Korea will continue its efforts to persuade North Korea to positively respond to our rational and realistic proposals for the peaceful unification of Korea in line with the global trend of openness and reconciliation.

President Bush and I share the view that an expansion of commerce in the spirit of free trade is essential to the economic development of the world, and we agreed to continue our efforts to that end. We found satisfaction in the fact that major trade issues between our two countries have been solved through mutually beneficial negotiations and that our bilateral trade is expanding in a more balanced manner. I emphasized to President Bush that in spite of many domestic difficulties, the Korean Government, with strong faith in free and fair trade, has been moving toward economic liberalization and market opening. Our two governments agree to exert concerted efforts to build a prosperous Asia-Pacific area by enhancing regional cooperation. We also reaffirmed our understanding that Asia-Pacific cooperation is not intended to create a new economic bloc or promote regionalism but should serve the practical interests of the nations in the region. With this in mind, we agreed to participate actively in the ministerial conference to be held in Canberra next month.

I commended President Bush for his leadership in addressing problems we are facing together, such as drugs, terrorism, and the environment; and I expressed the readiness of the Korean Government to participate actively in international cooperation in these areas.

Mr. President, the Republic of Korea is progressing toward a democratic society, promoting general welfare. Economically, it is pursuing openness along with stability. Politically, it is traveling on the road to a full-fledged democracy. Korea, commensurate with its continued economic and political developments, will assume new roles and responsibilities in promoting peace and prosperity in northeast Asia and, in a broader context, in further promoting East-West reconciliation and North-South cooperation.

I once again thank the U.S. Government and the American people for the warm hospitality extended to me and my party on this visit. Thank you very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 1:23 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. President Roh spoke in Korean, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Earlier, the two Presidents met privately in the Oval Office and with South Korean and U.S. officials in the Cabinet Room. They then attended a luncheon in the Residence.

George Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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