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Bush: U.S.-South Korean Alliance Symbolizes ‘Belief in Liberty’

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2008 – Fostering freedom is the foundation of the security alliance between the United States and South Korea, President Bush said today during a visit with U.S. and Korean troops in the capital city of Seoul.

“The bedrock of this alliance is our belief in liberty,” Bush said at the U.S. Army garrison in Yongsan, a section of Seoul. “And, there’s no place on Earth that more clearly demonstrates the contrast between free and open societies, and repressive, closed societies than the Korean peninsula.”

At the end of World War II, Korea was partitioned into two countries: a communist-run north and a capitalist south. North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. United Nations and U.S. troops were rushed to South Korea and managed to blunt the North Korean offensive just as they were preparing to overrun the entire peninsula. U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s surprise amphibious landing at Inchon fell upon the North Korean troops from the rear and caused them to retreat back to the north.

MacArthur’s forces pursued the North Korean forces nearly to the Chinese border, when thousands of Chinese troops attacked the combined U.S.-U.N. forces, which were forced to retreat southward. Although much bitter fighting continued, the war ended in a stalemate. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and the North-South Korean border was established at a 4-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone located at about the 38th parallel.

The United States has since helped South Korea “build a free and prosperous country out of the rubble of war,” Bush said, noting that a peaceful and free South Korea “enhances the security of the United States of America.”

South Korea today boasts one of world’s most powerful free-market economies, and it has built up its military to more than 680,000 active-duty troops and about 4.5 million reservists.

Over the years, the United States gradually has decreased its military presence in South Korea and now has about 28,000 troops there.

Bush noted that U.S. forces stationed in Yongsan soon will relocate to new facilities situated farther south.

“We’re closing unneeded installations, and we’re going to return this valuable land right here to the Korean people,” Bush said of the U.S. military move from Yongsan. The move, he said, signifies “the skill and the capabilities and professionalism” of South Korea’s military forces. Senior U.S. military officials are engaged in coordinating the planned realignment and relocation of U.S. forces south of Seoul as well as the transition of wartime control to a South Korean joint military command in April 2012.

Meanwhile, the six-way negotiations to end North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons continue among North Korea, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States. The ultimate goal of the talks, Bush said, is “a Korean peninsula where people are free from nuclear weapons and free from oppression.”

Freedom “is the surest path to move to a more peaceful world,” Bush told his audience, noting that Japan and America were enemies during World War II. Following the war, the Japanese adopted a democratic government, and Japan now is a prosperous and peaceful nation, Bush said.

“And in South Korea, freedom has helped turn a nation mired in poverty and recovering from war into a vibrant democracy and a strong partner,” Bush said. “And here we are in the beginning of the 21st century, and once again, freedom is called upon to lay the foundation for peace that we all want.”

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