Obama, Thurman Commemorate Korean Armistice Anniversary
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2011 - As President Barack Obama commemorated the anniversary of the armistice agreement that established a demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and brought an end to fighting there, the top U.S. officer in Korea emphasized today the need for international cooperation to curb the North Korean aggression the armistice was drafted to prevent.
Speaking during armistice anniversary ceremonies along the demilitarized zone, Army Gen. James D. Thurman echoed the message Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen delivered earlier this month in the South Korean capital of Seoul.
"We ask the global community to assist in convincing North Korea that its path to security and prosperity lies in the cessation of its provocative behavior, better relations with its neighbors and complete, irreversible denuclearization," Thurman said.
Thurman offered his comments as a top North Korean diplomat visits New York at Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's invitation for talks aimed at restarting the stalled Six-Party Talks.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan was slated to meet today with Stephen Bosworth, the Obama administration's envoy for North Korea, at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Obama marked the armistice anniversary recognizing the service members who fought for South Korea's freedom in that conflict and continue to help protect it today.
The president declared today National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, marking 58 years since the signing of what was thought to be a temporary measure to end open hostilities on the Korean peninsula until a peace treaty could be signed.
No peace treaty has ever been agreed to, however, leaving a tentative peace between North and South Korea that sometimes has erupted into conflict.
North Korea launched a torpedo attack in March 2010 that sunk the South Korean navy ship Cheonan and killed 46 sailors. In November, a North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed four, including two South Korean service members.
Today, Obama took the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of those who sacrificed after the Korean peninsula erupted in conflict on June 25, 1950, and continue to defend South Korea today.
"Today, we express our unending gratitude to all who fought and died in pursuit of freedom and democracy for the Korean peninsula," he said in his proclamation.
"For three years, our armed forces fought to help keep Korea free, suffering bitter reversals and winning stunning victories before the Military Armistice Agreement at Panmunjon secured the border near the 38th Parallel," he said. "Together, American service members and allied forces were part of a generation that, in the words inscribed at their memorial in Washington, defended 'a country they never knew and a people they never met.'"
The veterans' courage and sacrifice enabled South Korea to flourish, and the U.S.-South Korean alliance remains "stronger than ever" today, Obama said.
Together, the United States and South Korea continue to advance freedom and stability not only on the peninsula, but across East Asia and around the world, he said.
Obama paid special tribute to the tens of thousands of troops who died protecting South Korea and recognized those who have continued to guard the border since hostilities officially concluded. "Their selfless sacrifices have had a profound impact on the promotion of freedom across the globe," he said.
The president emphasized the nation's responsibility to care for these veterans and their families.
"On National Korean War Armistice Day, we recommit to supporting our venerable warriors and their families, and we pay our deepest respects to those who laid down their lives," he said.
Army Gen. James D. Thurman