Our Secretary of Defense: A Good Friend of Korea

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited Korea.  He has a long-standing history with this country, having worked on issues dealing with the Korean Peninsula for almost 25 years. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration and was instrumental in the Perry Process on North Korea in the late 90s. He was engaged on Korea issues as a professor at Harvard, and has been a great friend of Korea when he held three different senior positions during the Obama Administration: Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; Deputy Secretary of Defense – during which he gave a made an important visit to Seoul during one of North Korea’s provocation cycles in 2013; and now as Secretary of Defense.

 Great to see a good friend again

While in Korea, Secretary Carter met with President Park, ROK Defense Minister Han Min-koo, and Chief of the National Security Office Kim Kwan-Jin to reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and to further develop a robust partnership and deterrence effort against the threat from North Korea.

Secretary Carter greets President Park

Secretary Carter also had a chance to visit with U.S. troops at Osan Air Base and the Joint Air Operations Center as well as to visit the wreckage of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.  He is committed to constantly improving our capabilities and prioritizing the defense of the Peninsula against North Korea despite any budget challenges.  He will ensure we continue to have the best technology and undertake the best initiatives available and is focused on deepening alliance cooperation in areas such as cyber and space.

 Secretary Carter meets with U.S. troops at Osan Air Base

Secretary Carter and Minister Han look at the wreckage of the Cheonan

The Secretary gave a great statement to the press while in Korea, and you can read more at http://go.usa.gov/3WQAk.

Back in Washington a few years ago, we worked together at the Pentagon.  At the time, I was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, and we worked closely with General Scaparrotti, who was then Director of the Joint Staff.  I always learn something new when I’m around Secretary Carter.  I continue to gain insights on foreign and defense policy issues  each time we are able to talk, and I consider him one of the best strategic thinkers I’ve worked with. He has an interesting background, and has been in and out of the government sector.  He received a BA with an interesting double major of Physics and Medieval History and co-authored a book with Bill Perry, the former Secretary of Defense, called Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America.

Secretary Carter is a good friend and we have a few other things in common.  His daughter attends Stanford - my alma mater - and we share the same sense of humor and joke around a lot together.  Most of all, the phrase “Katchi Kapshida” is our favorite!  He loves the meaning and feels that it embodies the spirit of the cooperation of the Alliance.  We go together!

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