Obama, Thurman Commemorate Korean Armistice Anniversary

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)