U.S.-ROK Leaders’ Joint Statement
MAY 21, 2021 • STATEMENTS AND RELEASES
Over seventy years ago, the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea was forged on the battlefield, as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in war. Bonded in common sacrifice, our partnership has helped to keep the peace in the decades since, allowing both of our countries and our peoples to thrive. The linchpin for stability and prosperity, our alliance has continued to evolve as the world around us has changed. Now, as the regional security environment in the Indo-Pacific grows more complex, and existential issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the threat of climate change, reshape the globe, we recommit ourselves to an ironclad alliance.
The United States and the Republic of Korea share a vision for a region governed by democratic norms, human rights, and the rule of law at home and abroad. We seek a partnership that continues to provide peace and prosperity for our peoples, while serving as a linchpin for the regional and global order. Above all, we are united in our determination to reinvigorate and modernize our ties for a new era. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is honored to welcome President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea to Washington to begin a new chapter in our partnership.
The Alliance: Opening a New Chapter
President Biden and President Moon reaffirm their mutual commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and their combined defense posture under the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, and President Biden affirms the U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence using its full range of capabilities. We commit to strengthening the alliance deterrence posture, share the importance of maintaining joint military readiness, and reiterate our firm commitment to a conditions-based transition of wartime operational control. We also agree to deepen cooperation in other domains, including cyber and space, to ensure an effective joint response against emerging threats. We welcome the signing of a multi-year Special Measures Agreement, which enhances our combined defense posture and represents our dedication to the alliance.
The two sides reaffirm that close coordination on all matters related to global nonproliferation and safe, secure, and safeguarded uses of nuclear technology remain key characteristics of the alliance, and the United States recognizes the ROK’s global role in promoting nonproliferation efforts. Following consultations with the United States, the ROK announces the termination of its Revised Missile Guidelines, and the Presidents acknowledged the decision.
President Biden and President Moon emphasize their shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and their intent to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We call for the full implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions by the international community, including the DPRK. President Moon welcomes the conclusion of the United States’ DPRK policy review, which takes a calibrated and practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States and the Republic of Korea. We also reaffirm our common belief that diplomacy and dialogue, based on previous inter-Korean and U.S.-DPRK commitments such as the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and Singapore Joint Statement, are essential to achieve the complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. President Biden also expresses his support for inter-Korean dialogue, engagement, and cooperation. We agree to work together to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK and commit to continue facilitating the provision of humanitarian aid to the neediest North Koreans. We also share our willingness to help facilitate the reunion of separated families of the two Koreas. We also agree to coordinate our approaches to the DPRK in lockstep. We underscore the fundamental importance of U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation for addressing the DPRK, protecting our shared security and prosperity, upholding common values, and bolstering the rules-based order.
The significance of the U.S.-ROK relationship extends far beyond the Korean Peninsula: it is grounded in our shared values and anchors our respective approaches to the Indo-Pacific region. We agree we will work to align the ROK’s New Southern Policy and the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and that our countries will cooperate to create a safe, prosperous, and dynamic region. The United States and the ROK reaffirm support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture. We agree to expand regional coordination on law enforcement, cybersecurity, public health and promoting a green recovery. We agree to work closely together to promote greater connectivity and foster digital innovation within ASEAN, while developing deeper people-to-people ties among Americans, Koreans, and the people of Southeast Asia. We will also consider opportunities for joint efforts to promote sustainable development, energy security, and responsible water management in the Mekong sub-region. The United States and the ROK also reaffirm support for enhanced cooperation with Pacific Island Countries and acknowledge the importance of open, transparent, and inclusive regional multilateralism including the Quad.
The United States and the Republic of Korea oppose all activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order and commit to maintaining an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific. We pledge to maintain peace and stability, lawful unimpeded commerce, and respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and beyond. President Biden and President Moon emphasize the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. As democracies that value pluralism and individual liberty, we share our intent to promote human rights and rule of law issues, both at home and abroad.
We resolutely condemn violence by the Myanmar military and police against civilians, and commit to continuing to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy. We call on all nations to join us in providing safe haven to Burmese nationals and in prohibiting arms sales to Myanmar.
The Way Forward: Comprehensive Partnership for a Better Future
President Biden and President Moon acknowledge that contemporary threats and challenges require us to deepen our partnership in new areas. We commit to forging new ties on climate, global health, emerging technologies, including 5G and 6G technology and semi-conductors, supply chain resilience, migration and development, and in our people-to-people relationship.
President Moon welcomes U.S. leadership to enhance global climate ambitions through its hosting of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate on April 22, 2021. President Biden looks forward to the Republic of Korea’s contributions to achieve inclusive, international green recovery and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by hosting the P4G Seoul Summit on May 30-31. The United States has submitted an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution, and welcomes the Republic of Korea’s plan to release early in October its provisional enhanced 2030 target, and by COP 26 its final enhanced 2030 target, aligned with efforts to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius and with the global goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. We will cooperate to enhance our efforts to achieve our 2030 targets and 2050 goals, including long-term strategies, set examples among the world leaders in reducing carbon emissions, conserve and enhance natural carbon sinks such as oceans and forests, and expand much-needed collaboration on technology and innovation to help achieve our long-term goals.
Building on President Moon’s declaration to end public financing for new overseas coal fired power plants and President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis, the Republic of Korea and United States will work together at the OECD and in other international venues to end all forms of new public financing for unabated overseas coal-fired power plants.
The Republic of Korea and the United States will align official international financing with the global achievement of net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and deep emission reductions in the 2020s. The Republic of Korea looks forward to joining with the United States and other countries in contributing climate finance towards the new post-2025 mobilization goal under the Paris Agreement.
The United States and the Republic of Korea have been critical allies in the COVID-19 pandemic and on longstanding global health challenges, and President Biden expresses his gratitude for the ROK’s donation of critical medical supplies to the United States at its time of dire need. Against this backdrop, we agree to establish a comprehensive KORUS Global Vaccine Partnership to strengthen joint response capabilities for infectious disease through international vaccine cooperation, including focus areas on global expansion of production and related materials, as well as scientific and technological cooperation. Drawing on each of our strengths, Korea and the United States will work collaboratively to expand manufacturing of vaccines that have been demonstrated safe and effective, as assessed by Stringent Regulatory Authorities and/or the World Health Organization, for global benefit. The United States and Korea will partner to meet increasing demand for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner. Based on the partnership, we will actively cooperate on greatly scaling up global COVID-19 vaccine supply, including through COVAX and in coordination with CEPI, to countries around the world toward ending the pandemic in the nearest future and preparing for the next biological threat. To this end, we will launch a senior-level experts group, the KORUS Global Vaccine Partnership Experts Group, to implement the partnership, comprised of scientists, experts and officials from our governments. Both countries will actively work together to ensure the success of COVAX, and the ROK commends the United States on its bold $4 billion contribution this year. To this end, and in recognition that we are both leaders in this fight, the ROK will increase its pledge to COVAX AMC substantially this year.
We agree to work together to strengthen and reform the World Health Organization by strengthening its ability to prevent pandemics through early and effective prevention, detection, and response to potential health emergencies, and by increasing its transparency and ensuring its independence. We will also support a transparent and independent evaluation and analysis of the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak and for investigating outbreaks of unknown origin in the future. We resolve to take decisive action to help the Indo-Pacific build better regional pandemic preparedness, and will work together and multilaterally to build the capacity of all countries to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. To move towards this goal, the ROK commits to increase its engagement in the Global Health Security Agenda Steering Group and Action Package Working Groups, and the ROK pledges a new $200M commitment for 2021-2025 period to support the GHSA target and help partner countries fill their gaps. The United States and the ROK will also work together with likeminded countries to create a new sustainable, catalytic health security financing mechanism.
The United States and the ROK are among each other’s largest trading and investment partners, and these strong economic ties, particularly the U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), are a bedrock. The Presidents agreed to cooperate closely on the reform of the WTO and expressed their shared commitment to oppose unfair trade practices.
With the technological landscape rapidly changing, we agree to strengthen our partnership on critical and emerging technologies to promote our shared security and prosperity. We agree on the importance of careful screening of foreign investments and cooperation on export controls on critical technologies. Recognizing the importance of telecommunications security and vendor diversity, President Biden and President Moon commit to work together to develop open, transparent, and efficient 5G and 6G network architectures using Open-RAN technology. To this end, we agree to cooperate to increase resiliency in our supply chains, including in priority sectors such as semiconductors, eco-friendly EV batteries, strategic and critical materials, and pharmaceuticals. We also agree to work together to increase the global supply of legacy chips for automobiles, and to support leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in both countries through the promotion of increased mutual investments as well as research and development cooperation. President Biden and President Moon commit to work together to develop a future-oriented partnership by leading innovation in the areas of clean energy, such as next generation batteries, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage, and in the emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, next generation communications network (6G), open-RAN technology, quantum technology, and bio-technology.
President Biden and President Moon also commit to strengthening their partnership in civil space exploration, science, and aeronautics research and will cooperate towards the ROK signing the Artemis Accords. Moreover, we commit to develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects, while ensuring the highest standards of international nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation are maintained.
President Biden and President Moon welcome the chance to strengthen development ties between the United States and the ROK. We are pleased to expand our partnership to facilitate closer collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Korea International Cooperation Agency. We also recognize the importance of addressing the root causes of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries to the United States. To this end, the ROK pledges to increase its financial commitment to development cooperation in the Northern Triangle countries to $220 million for the 2021-2024 period. The United States also welcomes the ROK’s initiatives to increase cooperation with the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region, including digital and green cooperation.
The enduring friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea is fed by our vibrant people-to-people ties. Over 1.7 million Korean students have enrolled in United States educational institutions since 1955. More than two million ROK citizens visit, work, or live in the United States, and over 200,000 U.S. citizens reside in the ROK. More than 10,000 U.S. and ROK citizens have participated in sponsored exchange programs, including ROK political leaders. We take great pride in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first Korean and American Fulbright grantees to visit each other’s countries, which demonstrates the depth and strength of the longstanding ties between the people of the United States and the ROK. Our extensive exchange programs promote common purpose between our countries; we agree to increase two-way exchanges of young environmental leaders to strengthen our ability to cooperate in this critical area. Moving forward, we place particular emphasis on supporting greater interaction between experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and empowering women and girls in these fields, to build a solid foundation for secure and sustainable innovation and economic resilience in both countries.
President Biden and President Moon also agree to redouble their commitment to democratic values, and the promotion of human rights at home and abroad. The strength of our democracies depends on women’s full participation in them. Together we will strive to end the abuse of women and girls, including domestic violence and cyber-exploitation, and to exchange best practices to close the gender wage gap–a challenge both our countries share. We agree to expand cooperation to combat corruption, and ensure the freedoms of expression and religion and belief. Finally, we join voices in condemning violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and pledge to work together to ensure that all Americans, including Korean-Americans, are treated with dignity and respect.
At a time of considerable international hardship and rapid global change, President Biden and President Moon are cognizant of the hurdles facing the United States, the ROK, and the world. We recognize that, with our cooperation, the U.S.-ROK alliance will play an increasingly global role, allowing us to rise to these defining challenges. For over seven decades, and thanks to its reciprocity and dynamism, our alliance has been a source of steadfast national strength; we look forward to working closely together to ensure it remains one for decades to come. President Moon expresses his gratitude to President Biden for the warm hospitality and extends an invitation for President Biden to visit the ROK.
문재인-바이든 정상회담 발언
Remarks by President Biden and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea Before Bilateral Meeting
MAY 21, 2021 • SPEECHES AND REMARKS
State Dining Room
3:55 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I am honored to have President Moon here at the White House today for the second foreign leader visit, head-of-state visit in my presidency.
The United States and the Republic of Korea are allies with a long history of shared sacrifice. And in a personal note, I want to thank the President for being with me today as I had the great honor of presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to a Ranger in his mid-90s who was — showed incredible acts of valor and bravery in Korea during the Korean War. The President was kind enough to come spend the entire time there and personally congratulate our honoree.
And I also want to point out that our history of shared sacrifice and our cooperation is vital to maintaining peace and stability in a critical region of the world. President Moon and I and our teams have had good meetings addressing our shared agenda. We had a private meeting in which my staff kept coming out and saying, “You’re over time. You’re over time.” But I enjoyed our meeting so much that we caused us to move everything back.
But I look forward to continuing our discussion today here and in growing the U.S.-ROK relationship further as we take on new challenges and we take them on together.
Mr. President, the floor is yours.
PRESIDENT MOON: (As interpreted.) Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to express my deep gratitude to President Biden and the American people for extending such a warm hospitality to me and my delegation. And my congratulations on how the U.S. is becoming an example of the — for the world as it succeeds in overcoming COVID-19, achieving economic recovery, and uniting the nation under President Biden’s leadership.
And I’m very pleased to visit the U.S. as my first overseas trip destination since the spread of COVID-19 and meet President Biden and his new team.
Even in the midst of COVID-19 crisis, our two countries left the door open to each other, helped with each other’s fight against the virus, and kept our people and goods flow.
And we are seeing increasing cases of successful cooperation between our two countries’ businesses and industries that will shape the post-COVID-19 era, such as semiconductors, batteries, and communication. An expanding cooperation between the U.S. — a center of global business — and Korea — a rising economic hub of East Asia — will be a breakthrough in economic recovery for not only the two countries, but the entire world.
In previous meetings with President Biden, we affirmed our joint commitment to strengthening the ROK-U.S. alliance and bringing peace on the Korean Peninsula. I believe our peoples will be delighted to hear this a day shy of our 139th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.
And Korea will closely work with the U.S. to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The world is welcoming America’s return and keeping their hopes high for America’s leaders to do more than ever before. President Biden, himself, also underscored the importance of building back better and expressed his willingness to resolve common challenges of humanity with the power of example.
Although tricky challenges lie ahead of us, as allies that share core values, our two countries will actively work together to address global challenges such as COVID-19, economic recovery, and climate change. And we will usher in a new era.
Following our meeting today, I look forward to welcoming President Biden again in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, in not-too-distant future. Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, do you think the ceasefire will hold in Israel?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’ll have time to answer your questions later. Thank you.
4:03 P.M. EDT
Remarks by President Biden at Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Army Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr.
MAY 21, 2021 • SPEECHES AND REMARKS
1:16 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the White House.
President Moon, it’s a real honor to have you here participating in this ceremony today. The strength of the alliance between the United States, the Republic of Korea was born out of the courage, determination, sacrifice, and of the Korean troops fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops. And having you here today is an important recognition of all that our nation has achieved together — both of them — in the decades since.
And I’m joined by my wife, Jill, who’s as excited about this event as I am; the Vice President and the Second Gentleman are here as well; our Secretary of Defense; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the officials of the United States Army; as well as several members of Congress — Representative Ferguson, Representative Crow, and Senator Ernst.
Because, today, we are hosting a true American hero and awarding an honor that is long overdue — more than 70 years overdue. Seventy years ago, on a frozen hilltop deep in what is now North Korea, a young First Lieutenant bravely, out of West Point — and barely out of West Point — acted with bravery and — that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second-highest honor.
Today, after more than a decade of effort — including support from my good friend, John McCain, God rest his soul, shortly before he passed away — I’m incredibly proud to give Colonel Ralph Puckett’s act of valor the full recognition they have always deserved.
Colonel, I’m humbled to have you here today, I really am, along with your loving family, and to award you the Medal of Honor. And though I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask, “Why all the fuss?” (Laughter.)
“Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me?” (Laughter.)
I was going to make a joke about the Post Office, but I decided not to do that. (Laughter.) Colonel Puckett, after 70 years, rather than mail it to you, I would’ve walked it to you. (Laughter.) You know, your lifetime of service to our nation, I think, deserves a little bit of fuss — a little bit of fuss.
You know, when I called to tell the Colonel that I had approved this award, I also spoke to Jeannie. Excuse me for using your first name, but that was my mom’s name too. And you and my mom have the same eyes, although you’re much — you’re too young to be my mom. And they’ve been married for 68 years. We have something else in — we have one thing in common: We both married way up. (Laughter.) We both married way up.
COLONEL PUCKETT: (Inaudible.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: That’s exactly right. (Laughs.) Well, Jeannie and Ralph actually met while he was recovering from his wounds. They were married two years to the day after the battle that we’re recognizing him today for his bravery.
By the way, you all can sit down, I think. It just dawned on me you all — (laughter). I understand why you’re standing. I’d be standing too, but —
Jeannie, it’s wonderful to welcome you, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Jill and I know firsthand that it’s not just the person who wears the uniform who serves; military families make enormous sacrifices for our nation.
So let me add our thanks to you and your life of service as well. I told you earlier that expression by the poet, “They also stand who only — they also serve who only stand and wait.” And you waited a long, long time under many, many, many circumstances.
And that goes to the entire family: Marty and her husband Anthony. Thomas and partner Chip — I don’t know if they’re here; I didn’t see them yet. And I know the other daughter, Jeannie, isn’t with us anymore. Just like I wish our son, Beau, were able to be here to see this, he’s not with us either. She’s here in spirit and represented by her family. And I know she’s always in your heart, Colonel, and never leaves.
I also want recognize Master Sergeant Merle Simpson who fought beside the Colonel in Korea. Where are you? Stand up, sir. Come on. (Applause.) Who made the trip to Washington today to represent all of their fallen brothers from the Eighth Army Ranger Company. It’s an honor — it’s an honor for all of their memories as well.
Hill 205 was just 60 miles from the border with China. And then-Lieutenant Puckett and the Rangers had their orders to take that hill.
As a young officer, Lieutenant Puckett knew that something wasn’t quite right. The intelligence briefing indicated
that there were 25,000 Chinese troops in the area, outnumbering U.S. and Korean forces two to three — or excuse me, three to two. And Lieutenant Puckett though the numbers — thought the numbers for the attack didn’t align with the basic military doctrine.
The Lieutenant believed in the fundamentals. It was how he trained his men. It was how he’d hand-picked them and chose them from the ranks of cooks and clerks and mechanics to the first Ranger company since World War II. Physical conditioning. Tactical training. Working as a team. Get the basics right, then build from there.
But Lieutenant Puckett also believed in being there for the fight. He’d volunteered for the Army Air Corps Enlisted Reserve
to try to join — to fight in World War II. He volunteered to go to Korea, instead of the safer posting in Japan. He volunteered for the new Ranger company, and then he prayed, “Dear God, don’t let me get a bunch of guys — good guys — killed,” when he was chosen to command that company.
So, on the morning of November 25, 1950, mounted on the decks of the tanks, 51 of Puckett’s Rangers and 9 Korean enlisted soldiers set out to take Hill 205.
To make their charge, they had to cross about half mile
of frozen rice paddies under fire.
And when an enemy machine gunners slowed the Rangers’ advance, Puckett risked his life by running across the area to draw fire that would reveal where the location of the nest. He did it once. He did it again. It took three runs intentionally exposing himself to the enemy to pick off the gunner.
Of course, Colonel Puckett had developed a dangerous hobby, as he recounted in his book, of challenging himself to run in front of speeding cars when he was four years old. (Laughter.) So self-preservation, it seemed, was never a primary concern of the Colonel.
When the Rangers finally reached the top of Hill 205, they found it abandoned, but Puckett knew the fight wasn’t nearly over. His men established a defensive perimeter, and then went to coordinate the artillery support he was sure they would need, and, while he was there, to load up on ammunition and grenades — the basics.
Shortly after he returned, the first onslaught began. Mortars followed by a ground assault from the entire Chinese battalion. Puckett’s Rangers were outnumbered almost ten to one.
During the fight, Puckett abandoned the relative safety of his foxhole, moving from man to man, encouraging them in the fight, checking that the perimeter was holding.
He took a grenade fragment in his left thigh, but Puckett refused to be evacuated. He was a Ranger. He led his men from the front. And over the course of the next several hours, four more waves of assaults came.
Each time, Puckett made his rounds, passing out extra ammo
and extra encouragement to rally his men.
Each time, he was able to call in artillery support —
sometimes “danger close” — to help break the advance of the Chinese soldiers.
Each time, the Rangers held the hill, pushing the enemy back — at times, with hand-to-hand fighting. About 2:30 a.m., after more than four hours of near nonstop fighting, the sixth wave began.
By this time, the Rangers had — many Rangers had been killed, and those who are left were exhausted, outnumbered, and dangerly [sic] short of amm- — dangerously short of ammunition and grenades.
Lieutenant Puckett had sustained a second wound, this time in his left shoulder. He had distributed all the ammo to his men, keeping only eight bullets and a bayonet for himself.
For the last time, Puckett called in artillery support, only to be told that the guns were supporting other besieged units.
Then two mortar rounds landed directly in Puckett’s foxhole, tearing through both his feet and his backside and his left arm and shoulder.
Puckett’s Rangers had been overwhelmed, and he himself was badly wounded. He ordered one of his men who found him on the ground to leave him behind. But that’s not the Ranger creed.
A Private ran for help, and soon two other Rangers charged back up the hill, fighting off advancing Chinese soldiers, retrieving their commander.
They had to drag him down the hill, with Lieutenant Puckett reminding them, and himself, that he could take the pain. Quote, “I’m a Ranger.”
Before his men loaded him on a tank to evacuate, Lieutenant Puckett called for one final barrage on Hill 205. And the Eighth Army unloaded artillery, while phosphorus on the Rangers’ former — and phosph- — phosphorus on the Rangers’ former position. They did not hold the hill, but the Rangers extracted a high price.
Korea is sometimes called the “Forgotten War.” But those men who were there under Lieutenant Puckett’s command — they’ll never forget his bravery. They never forget that he was right by their side throughout every minute of it.
And the people of the Republic of Korea haven’t forgotten, as evidenced by the fact that the
Prime Minister [President] of Korea is here for this ceremony. I doubt this has ever happened before — I can’t say that for certain, but I doubt it’s happened before. The Americans — all Americans, like Ralph Puckett, joined in their fight.
And while the enduring partnership between our two nations began in war, it has flourished through peace. It’s the — it’s a testament, I think, to the extraordinary strength of our alliance.
And we’re joined today, as I said, by President Moon, who — I can’t tell you how happy I am he’s able to be here. And if I may, I’d like to invite President Moon to say a few words, if that is okay.
PRESIDENT MOON: (As interpreted.) Mr. President, thank you for your words. I find it truly meaningful to join the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony for Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr., U.S. Army Retired, upon President Biden’s invitation.
I learned that I’m the first foreign leader to ever attend a ceremony of such kind. As President of the Republic of Korea, it is a great honor and pleasure.
Colonel Puckett is a true hero of the Korean War. With extraordinary valor and leadership, he completed missions until the very end, defending Hill 205 and fighting many more battles requiring equal valiance. Without the sacrifice of veterans, including Colonel Puckett and the Eighth Army Ranger Company, freedom and democracy we enjoy today couldn’t have blossomed in Korea.
Earlier, Colonel Puckett told me that when he was in Korea during the Korean War, it was absolutely destroyed. That was true, but from the ashes of the Korean War, we rose, we came back. And that was thanks to the Korean War veterans who fought for Korea’s peace and freedom.
And now, thanks to their support and efforts, we are enjoying prosperity. On behalf of the Korean people, I express deep gratitude and respect to them. Through the war veterans, the Korean people saw a great soul of America that marches toward freedom and peace. Their acts of gallantry, sacrifice, and friendship will forever be remembered.
The ROK-U.S. alliance, forged in blood of heroes, has become a linchpin of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. Colonel Puckett and his fellow warriors are link that strongly binds Korea and the U.S. together. I pray that they stay with us in good health for a long time.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, thank you, President Moon. Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Ralph Puckett’s service to our nation did not end in the Korean War.
It did not end after his service in the Vietnam War, where he earned a second Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, and two Bronze Stars with “V” for Valor. And add to that, during his service, five Purple Hearts for injuries suffered in combat.
And it didn’t end after his retirement from active duty or his induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame. It didn’t end there either, when he served as the Honorary Colonel for the 75th Ranger Regiment, where he’d help new generations of Rangers during their training missions.
Even now — even now, you can find him out at Fort Benning, cheering on the Rangers and letting them know he’s there with them.
Over his career, he mentored countless young people. He’s always believed that all that mattered to be a Ranger was if you had the guts and the brains. That’s the standard he applied when he picked that first Ranger unit in Korea.
In an Army that had only recently been integrated, he chose with — his team included a Black, a Latino, and Asian American members. As my mother would say, “God love you, man.”
In 2015, during the Obama-Biden administration, when the military was considering opening all combat positions to women, including Rangers, Colonel Puckett let it be known that he thought women could meet the standards, and said: “I want to see them do it.”
He leads from the front. He leads by example. He leads with heart. He is a Ranger, and that’s how Rangers lead — that’s how you lead.
So now, it is my great honor to ask for the citation to be read and to award Colonel Puckett, Jr. — Ralph Puckett, Jr., with the Medal of Honor.
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Ralph Puckett, Jr., United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
First Lieutenant Ralph Puckett, Jr., distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the commander 8th U.S. Army Ranger Company during the period of 25 November, 1950, through 26 November, 1950, in Korea.
As his unit commenced a daylight attack on Hill 205, the enemy directed mortar, machine gun, and small-arms fire against the advancing force. To obtain fire, First Lieutenant Puckett mounted the closest tank, exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he shouted words of encouragement to his men and began to lead the Rangers in the attack.
Almost immediately, enemy fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position, with full knowledge of the danger, First Lieutenant Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing the Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy positions and to seize Hill 205.
During the night, the enemy launched a counterattack that lasted four hours. Over the course of the counterattack, the Rangers were inspired and motivated by the extraordinary leadership and courageous example exhibited by First Lieutenant Puckett. As a result, five human-wave attacks by a battalion-strength enemy — enemy element were repulsed.
During the first attack, First Lieutenant Puckett was wounded by grenade fragments, but refused evacuation and continually directed artillery support that decimated attacking enemy formations.
He repeatedly abandoned positions of relative safety to make his way from foxhole to foxhole, to check the company’s perimeter and to distribute ammunition amongst the Rangers.
When the enemy launched a sixth attack, it became clear to First Lieutenant Puckett that the position was untenable due to the unavailability of supporting artillery fire. During this attack, two enemy mortar rounds landed in his foxhole, inflicting grievous wounds, which limited his mobility.
Knowing his men were in a precarious situation, First Lieutenant Puckett commanded the Rangers to leave him behind and evacuate the area. Feeling a sense of duty to aid him, the Rangers refused the order and staged an effort to retrieve him from the foxhole while still under fire from the enemy.
Ultimately, the Rangers succeeded in retrieving First Lieutenant Puckett and they moved to the bottom of the hill, where First Lieutenant Puckett called for devastating artillery fire on the top of the enemy-controlled hill.
First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Let me invite the family up. Come on, get the family up here — all of you, including the grandkids.
END 1:40 P.M. EDT