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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Recent shake-up no cause of concern: U.S. ambassador

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U.S. Ambassador to Korea Philip Goldberg at the 12th Korea-U.S. alliance forum in Seoul on Thurday. [YONHAP]
U.S. Ambassador to Korea Philip Goldberg at the 12th Korea-U.S. alliance forum in Seoul on Thurday. [YONHAP]

The recent shake-up in President Yoon Suk Yeol’s foreign policy and security team less than a month before his state visit to Washington is not a cause for concern, U.S. Ambassador to Korea Philip Goldberg said Thursday.

“No, we’re looking very much forward to the visit of President Yoon,” Goldberg said when asked whether he was worried about the recent replacement of national security advisor, Kim Sung-han, by Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Tae-yong.

He was speaking to a group of reporters at the annual forum on the Korea-U.S. alliance hosted by the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation in Seoul.

After reports earlier in the week that Kim could be replaced over a planning issue related to Yoon’s upcoming summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in April, Kim announced his resignation on Wednesday.

The presidential office announced the same day that Cho, who has served as Yoon’s first ambassador to the United States since last year, would be the new national security adviser.

First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong was reportedly being tapped by the presidential office to be the next Korean ambassador to the United States.

Attending the annual forum on the Korea-U.S. alliance on Thursday as a speaker, Goldberg emphasized the alliance’s history forged in the 1950-53 Korean War, in which the United States sent the largest number of troops among the 16 countries that fought with South Korea under the flag of the United Nations against the North Korean invasion aided by Chinese forces.

“The U.S. commitment to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea remains ironclad,” Goldberg said in his speech. “And today, we are also inseparable partners in shared growth and prosperity.”

Though he didn’t specifically mention China or Russia in his speech, he alluded to their actions causing geopolitical consequences.

“Today, as we face unprecedented threats and open aggression by authoritarian states, we are reaching out with our ROK allies to redefine and reinforce the future of our shared security with multilateral initiatives that touch on every aspect of global security,” he said, referring to South Korea by the acronym of its full name, the Republic of Korea.

“We are going beyond our borders to create an alliance that benefits not just us, but all in the Indo-Pacific region and the world.”

Also speaking at the forum, via a video message, was the ambassador of Ukraine to Korea, Dmytro Ponomarenko, who urged Korea to consider supporting Ukraine with lethal weapons.

Korea has supported Ukraine with humanitarian assistance since the Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

Despite repeated requests from Ukraine for lethal weapons such as anti-aircraft weapons, including from its President Volodymyr Zelensky in his televised address to the Korean parliament last April, Korea has not responded.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]