U.S., South Korea Alliance ‘Incredible Bond,’ Obama Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2014 The special bond between Americans and South Koreans serves to strengthen U.S. commitment to the country’s security in the face of aggression, President Barack Obama told troops today during a visit to South Korea.
U.S. Forces Korea service members stand tall behind their commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, during his speech at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, April 26. The president took time out of his Asia-Pacific tour to thank service members and their families for their sacrifices and their role in strengthening the Republic of Korea-United States alliance. U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Church
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Speaking to U.S. troops in Yongsan, South Korea, the president noted the two nations aren’t just allies, but friends.
“This alliance is special, forged on the battlefield,” Obama said. “It has been fortified by the common values and mutual interest and mutual respect of our peoples.”
“The United States and Korea are more than allies -- we are friends,” he noted.
Obama said the foundation of trust, security and stability that allows both nations to thrive economically and socially is made possible by the service and sacrifice of U.S. service members and diplomats.
“You are the tip of the spear on freedom’s frontier,” he said. “You carry high the legacy left by all those who fought and served here.”
“And to the family members, both here in South Korea and awaiting your return back home,” Obama said, “I thank you for your service as well.”
The president lauded the audience for their service and said this alliance is “the linchpin of security and stability in the Asia Pacific.”
Because of that service and the service of generations before them, Obama said, the U.S. still stands with its founding principles shining, and nations around the world that once knew nothing but the “bitter taste of fear” now know the blessings of freedom.
Obama said during his visit he and South Korean President Park Gen-Hye received a briefing from U.S. Forces Korea commander, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, and signed the guest book on top of a table where the Korean War Armistice was signed.
“Both of those moments drove home the truth that, after more than 60 years, our alliance is as strong as it has ever been and as effective as it has ever been,” he said.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the professionalism and the interoperability of the two nations’ militaries, Obama said.
“That’s because our forces on duty here -- American and Korean -- are highly trained, closely coordinated, fit to fight tonight and every other night,” he said.
“In addition to dealing with the threat from North Korea, this is also an alliance that represents the incredible bonds between peoples,” Obama said.
The president noted that in 1950, just five years after the end of World War II, Communist armies first crossed the 38th Parallel.
“At the time, many Americans couldn’t place Korea on a map,” he said. “But we knew -- as much as we had already given, as weary as we were of war -- that we had a stake in what happened here on the Korean Peninsula.”
America had to roll back the tide of Communism and stand with its South Korean friends, Obama said. In September, the Americans arrived and the alliance landed in a surprise attack.
“And all told, nearly 1.8 million Americans would join the fight those next few years,” he said. In dangerous and brutal conditions, nearly 37,000 Americans would give their last full measure of devotion on this faraway soil, but not without pushing the invading armies back across the line they had dared to cross, Obama said.
The president said the Republic of Korea’s security is a “hard-earned, long-defended victory” for that nation, which has “risen from occupation and ruin, and become one of the most vibrant and open democracies in the world.”
Obama said when U.S. veterans see the progress in the Republic of Korea, “they can say with pride their efforts and their sacrifice was worth it.”
“They see the real results of what they’ve done -- a South Korea that is a world leader and a true partner in Asian security and stability,” he said.
“None of this was an accident,” Obama added. Freedom, democracy and progress are not accidents, but priorities that have to be fought for, he said.
“You’re part of that legacy,” he said. “They must be won. And they’ve got to be tended to constantly and defended without fail. And here, on freedom’s frontier, they are -- by every man and woman who has served and stood sentinel on this divided peninsula.”
Obama noted the stark contrast in the Republic of Korea and its neighbor to the north.
“The 38th Parallel now exists as much as a contrast between worlds as it does a border between nations;” he said, “between a society that’s open and one that is closed; between a democracy that is growing and a pariah state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.”
That’s not the result of war, Obama said, but of the path that North Korea has taken -- a path of confrontation and provocation that includes pursuing the world’s most dangerous weapons.
“I want to be clear,” he said. “The commitment that the United States of America has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in the face of aggression.”
“Our alliance does not waver with each bout of their attention-seeking,” Obama said. “It just gains the support of the rest of the world.”
The president said North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that leads only to more isolation.
“It’s not a sign of strength,” Obama said. Anybody can make threats, move an army or show off a missile, he said.
“That doesn’t make you strong,” he said. “It does not lead to security, opportunity, or respect. Those things don't come through force -- they have to be earned.”
Real strength, Obama said, is allowing an open and participatory democracy where people can choose their own leaders and their own destiny.
Additionally, he said, real strength is allowing a vibrant society where people can think, pray and speak their minds as they please, and there are free and open markets building a thriving middle class and lifting millions of people out of poverty.
“We don't use our military might to impose these things on others,” Obama said. “But we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life.”
Like all nations on Earth, Obama said, North Korea and its people have a choice -- continue down a lonely road of isolation, or join the rest of the world in seeking a future of greater opportunity, security, and greater respect.
This future, he noted, already exists for the citizens on the southern end of the Korean Peninsula.
“If [North Koreans] choose this path,” Obama said, “America and the Republic of Korea and the rest of the world will help them build that future.”
“But if they do not, they should know that the commitment of the United States of America to the security and defense of the Republic of Korea has not wavered once in more than 60 years,” he said. “It never has and it never will.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallAFPS)