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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea

July 02, 1991

President Bush. Distinguished guests and members of the Korean delegation, and Mrs. Roh, President Roh: It is my great honor, on behalf of the American people, to welcome all of you to the White House.

Mr. President, we meet at a time of tremendous change, as the long era of cold war and conflict draws to a close and the world confronts the challenge of fashioning a new order where freedom can flourish.

The cold war cast its shadow across Korea for more than four decades. Mr. President, the Republic of Korea has stood fast at the frontier of freedom, your proud capital, Seoul, a scant 25 miles from the DMZ, the razor's edge that cuts a nation in two. Yet, through four decades of armed and uneasy peace, the Republic of Korea has prospered. You're building a thriving democracy, a dynamic economy that has prospered through free and more open access to the world's economies.

Korea's success stands as a testament to the resolve of the Korean people, but much credit belongs to you, sir, for the steady leadership that guides your nation. Just 4 years ago, you went before the Korean nation to proclaim a new commitment to democracy. In the succession of elections since then, the voice of the Korean people has spoken through their votes, and the message is clear: Korea's commitment to democracy is steadfast and strong.

And so, sir, we meet today to chart a common course that moves forward in this world of change.

Mr. President, when we met one year ago, Korea was on the eve of a new opening in the Soviet Union, an opening that we fully support. That opening to the Soviet Union has eased tensions and increased the prospects for peace and stability not just for the Republic of Korea but across the Pacific Rim. Let me be very clear: Korea and the United States share an interest in seeing economic and political reform in the Soviet Union move forward.

But lasting peace will come to Korea only when Korea is made whole. And here, too, there is hope. Mr. President, only Koreans, North and South, can solve the problem of unification. But all Korea, North and South, should know that the United States stands ready to act in the interests of lasting peace.

Mr. President, our two nations are linked by ties of trade, by the bonds of friendship and family, the more than three-quarter of a million Americans of Korean ancestry who call this Nation their home. But here in America, Korea will always be far more than a distant land or just a name on a map. One week ago the remains of U.S. servicemen lost long ago in Korea came home to rest, a reminder that Korea will always be the place where America came to freedom's defense.

In the summer of 1950, when the forces of the North swept down on the free Republic of Korea, the United Nations swiftly condemned the invasion and formed the UN Command to repel the aggressor. The United States and 17 other nations answered the call. Mr. President, the United States remains today fully committed to protecting the peace and security of Korea, even as Korea assumes a leading role in its own defense.

In 1950, the fate of the Republic of Korea was a test of the international ideal, a proving ground for the proposition that aggression meets a collective response. Forty years later, this same spirit of internationalism shines forth in Korea's contributions to Desert Storm, in the Korean medical unit that treated coalition casualties from the battle of Kafji.

Korea's commitment to internationalism has never wavered. This fall, at long last, four decades after the United Nations fought to keep Korea free, the Republic of Korea will take its rightful place among the family of nations in the United Nations. Mr. President, America, your ally, shares your pride.

Once again, Mr. President, it is a great pleasure to have this chance to meet and renew our friendship. Welcome to the White House, and may God bless the Republic of Korea.

President Roh. President and Mrs. Bush and citizens of the United States: I am deeply grateful to you, Mr. President, for your invitation to visit this great country and for the warm and cordial welcome extended to me and my delegation. I am also very pleased to bring warm greetings of friendship from the Korean people to the people of the United States.

The world has changed enormously over the past 2 years. The Iron Curtain, which used to divide the world into two camps, has collapsed, and the cold war has come to an end. With the sweeping reforms in Eastern and Central Europe as well as in the Soviet Union, freedom, human dignity, democratic pluralism, and market economy are becoming universal values.

Mankind has been living in constant fears of war due to the East-West confrontation. Today, however, we share the belief that we may now successfully build a more peaceful world.

During the recent Gulf war, all peace-loving nations of the world rallied around the United Nations flag. The coalition victory made it clear once and for all that aggression will not stand. I pay my respects to you, Mr. President, for your superb leadership and to the American people for having inspired brighter hopes for a new era.

Having proudly joined the long march toward freedom shoulder-to-shoulder with the American people, the Korean people are very pleased to offer congratulations to America on its success. Because their land remains divided and because they acutely remember the tragedies of war, the Korean people are hoping that the current of peace and reconciliation will soon reach the shores of Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. President, since we met in June of last year, significant activities have, in fact, been taking place in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. The changing U.S.-Soviet relations, of course, lead the list of events. But we have also seen exchanges between China and the Soviet Union, and contacts between the Soviet Union and Japan, as well as between Japan and North Korea.

At the same time, the Republic of Korea ended decades of enmity and established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. More significant, North Korea reversed its former position and announced a decision to apply for United Nations membership along with us. These encouraging activities have, of course, been spurred on by close cooperation between your country and mine.

We must now focus our attention to removing the legacies of the cold war from the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia so that a durable peace and stability may be secured for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Our rapid economic development has made Korea a showcase to the former Socialist countries by demonstrating the merits of a capitalist economy and made us a model to the less developed countries by proving the efficiency of a free market economy and an open society.

Based on these achievements and having experienced enormous social-political difficulties, Korea has now entered an era of full-fledged democracy. As the world saw during the 1988 Seoul Olympic games, Korea's dynamic energies and cooperative spirit encourage a new faith in freedom and hope for prosperity around the world.

The Korean people have now become a dependable' friend and ally of the American people, and they promise to assume appropriate international responsibilities and make a greater contribution to the international community. The United States has initiated the current change around the world and is successfully carrying out their leadership role. And our two countries will march together into the 21st century as partners in trust, as we have come thus far.

Our coming meeting, Mr. President, will be my fourth opportunity to confer with you. Through it, and in my talks with other American leaders, I shall reaffirm my faith in a bright future for our two countries.

I wish you, Mr. President and Mrs. Bush, the best of health, and with the American people, everlasting peace and prosperity.
Thank you, and God bless America.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Roh was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Roh spoke in Korean, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for 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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