Wolfowitz Praises DMZ Soldiers, Marines 'On the Front Lines of Freedom'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
SEOUL, South Korea, Jun. 1, 2003 U.S. soldiers and Marines deployed along the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea "are on the front lines of freedom," U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said June 1 during a visit to Camp Greaves located a mile from the DMZ.
"The country is grateful for your service," Wolfowitz told the 500 Army soldiers and Marines gathered inside the camp's gymnasium. He noted that both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "have asked me to send a message to you: that we appreciate what you're doing -- it is fantastic."
Wolfowitz and his traveling party flew about 35 miles north of Seoul on Army Black Hawk helicopters to visit with Camp Greaves' service members. After meeting with 2nd Infantry Division commander Army Maj. Gen. John Wood, who has jurisdiction over the camp, Wolfowitz got together with the troops.
The deputy defense secretary said he was in South Korea "to update my own knowledge about the situation in this country and particularly about the defense issues we have with (South) Korea."
Wolfowitz added he was slated to discuss mutual defense issues with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and other senior officials the next day in the capital city of Seoul.
Recalling the recent victory over Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq, Wolfowitz told the troops: "We have the best men and women anywhere in the world serving in our armed forces."
American troops, he continued, "are brave, they're professional, they fight joint, and they're probably the most humane warriors any country has ever fielded."
When U.S. and coalition troops were defeating Hussein's forces in Iraq, Wolfowitz noted, other American troops stationed along the DMZ "were preventing a war here in Korea."
It requires skill, dedication and professionalism to serve along the DMZ, he asserted.
Army Pfc. Corey Brown, 21, an artillery fire support specialist from Tucson, Ariz., said he volunteered to serve near the DMZ. He explained that his cousin, an Army staff sergeant, told him the DMZ "was the best place to come to learn your job."
Brown, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, noted that his cousin was right.
Army 2nd Lt. Mike Murphy, 22, a fire support officer in Brown's outfit, declared that duty along the DMZ has a special meaning.
"That's the reason most of us joined the military to help protect the freedoms that we have," Murphy, a Springfield, Mo., native, observed, "and to keep on with the tradition of helping South Koreans stay free." Duty along the DMZ is a joint endeavor, with U.S. Marines serving alongside U.S. soldiers. And Marine Corps Cpl. Lucious Robinson, 22, said he and his 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 4th Marine Regiment, buddies are training with Republic of Korea marines.
Robinson, who hails from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he's learning about Korean culture during his DMZ tour of duty. He complimented his ROK marine counterparts: "They are pretty tough guys."
Many soldiers were pulling 12-month, unaccompanied tours at Camp Greaves. Wolfowitz acknowledged that performing such duty "means long, long months away from your families and that is a huge sacrifice."
Yet, U.S. and South Korean troops serving on the DMZ, Wolfowitz asserted, have made and still make "a huge difference."
"With the protection that you and your comrades have provided over the years (and) with the dedication and commitment of your South Korean colleagues, we've enabled our allies to build one of the strongest democracies in the world," the deputy defense secretary pointed out.
However, North Korea's behavior over the past year, in both its public declarations and actions on its illicit nuclear weapons programs, "threatens regional and global stability," Wolfowitz said May 31 at a Singapore defense conference.
Wolfowitz pointed out to Singapore conference attendees that in October 2002 North Korea had declared it had violated and would continue to violate its promise not to press on with its uranium-enrichment programs.
And earlier this year, he continued, the North Koreans announced that they were reactivating their plutonium production program.
Also, just two weeks ago, the North Koreans characterized the 1992 North-South Korean denuclearization agreement they had signed as "a worthless piece of white paper," the deputy defense secretary noted.
It's evident that North Korea is "a state that has little regard for the commitments it undertakes," Wolfowitz said at the conference, "or for the delicate nature of the northeast Asia security environment."
Regarding North Korea's desire to deal exclusively with America in discussing its nuclear program, Wolfowitz declared in Singapore: "This is not and cannot be a bilateral issue, as Pyongyang would like it limited to a two-way dialogue between North Korea and the United States."
North Korea's nuclear program "affects the whole region," the deputy defense secretary observed at the conference, noting the issue therefore "requires a multilateral approach."
North Korea is "heading down a blind alley" in its pursuit of nuclear and other weapons, Wolfowitz asserted at Camp Greaves, a point he had made also in Singapore. The United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, he has often reminded audiences, all strongly oppose nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Wolfowitz told Camp Greaves' troops that the United States and South Korea rely on them to keep the peace by deterring possible North Korean aggression.
"I thank you for your service. I thank you for your dedication," Wolfowitz told the troops.
"Keep it up. Both our countries depend on you and I'm glad to be here this afternoon to say that," he concluded.