The Republic of Korea: a partner in tackling global security challenges

  • Last updated: 09 Dec. 2013 12:28

Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently became the first NATO Secretary General to visit the Republic of Korea. The three-day visit, from 11 to 13 April, had been planned for a long time and was aimed at exploring opportunities to expand cooperation. However, as it coincided with mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula, this was also an important topic of discussion with President Park Guen-hye and top members of her administration.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visits the National Cemetery in Seoul

“NATO’s partnership with the Republic of Korea is still young. But it has great potential,” said Fogh Rasmussen, addressing the National Press Club in the capital, Seoul. “We share values and a common approach to security. […] Our partnership is based on converging global priorities: stability in Afghanistan, cyber security, counter-piracy, defence against terrorism, and non-proliferation.”

The Secretary General underlined that NATO’s global perspective did not mean that it was seeking a presence in the Asia-Pacific region but rather that it is seeking to engage with key partners there. “Today’s challenges are global. And in many cases, the most effective way to deal with them is to work with partners from around the globe,” he explained.

Expanding cooperation

Dialogue with the Republic of Korea was launched in 1995, when the then Foreign Minister and current Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, visited NATO Headquarters and addressed the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political decision-making body. Since then, high-level dialogue has become a regular feature of relations and practical cooperation has developed in a number of areas, notably in Afghanistan.

The Republic of Korea is a significant contributor to stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan, where it led an integrated civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) of some 470 personnel in Parwan Province from 2010 to 2013. The government has also pledged a generous US$ 500 million over five years to support the development of the Afghan National Security Forces and the socio-economic development of Afghanistan.

The naval forces of the Republic of Korea have also been cooperating with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Relations were deepened with the signature of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme in September 2012, which formalised relations and identified in a number of joint priority areas for dialogue and cooperation. These include enhancing the ability of the armed forces of the Republic Korea to work alongside allied forces in multinational peace-support operations, countering the threat of terrorism and emerging security challenges such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and cyber security, as well as disaster-relief effort and cooperation under NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula

During his trip, the Secretary General reiterated NATO’s strong condemnation of North Korea’s provocative rhetoric and actions, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability.

“North Korea stands in continued defiance of the will of the international community. I urge the North Korean authorities to immediately stop such destabilising actions and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which are a blatant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” he said.

Fogh Rasmussen ended his trip with a short visit to the Demilitarized Zone, where he received a briefing by the Assistant Secretary of the United Nations Command, Military Armistice Commission.