The Korea America Friendship Society celebrated the 65th anniversary of the alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States, paying homage to fallen and living soldiers alike while crediting their comradeship that led to the two historic summits this year aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Nov. 7 will mark the 40th anniversary of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command, created in 1978.
“I would like to take this opportunity to honor the noble sacrifices of United States Forces Korea soldiers, and express our deepest appreciation to all the Korean War veterans who fought bravely to defend Korea and its people whom they never knew or met,” said the society’s President Han Chul-soo at the 2018 Korea-America Friendship Night in Seoul on Thursday.
“It was their blood, sweat and tears that became the seeds of the ROK’s freedom, peace and prosperity as well as the cornerstone transforming our war-torn nation into an economic powerhouse. Our people will never forget their noble sacrifices and aid. They will forever remain in our hearts as true heroes.”
To prevent South Korea from being communized by the North during the internecine war of 1950-53, according to the Pentagon over 44,000 American soldiers gave their lives, along with more than 4,000 others from the United Nations Command. Many more were injured or taken prisoner.
Seoul and Washington not only fought shoulder to shoulder in conflicts on the peninsula as well as in Asia and the Mideast, he added, but have fostered a myriad of global partnerships, expanded mutual economic exchanges and shepherded the world toward peace and security.
Pointing to the 40th anniversary of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command, Han lauded the binational headquarters for its “high mutual trust, punctilious cohesion, efficient operational interoperability as well as effective information sharing and command and control.”
Han was a lieutenant general in the South Korea Army, and also served as the deputy commander in chief of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command before becoming ambassador to Taiwan and Brazil.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea, said in a speech, “We have cause to celebrate tonight because it is not like it was a year ago.”
“This alliance that we have enables us to stand through the wind and cold, heat and rain,” he stressed, arguing the alliance could handle any adversity.
Marc Knapper, charge d’affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Seoul, who has acted as Washington’s top envoy to Korea since January last year in the absence of an ambassador, said the two countries may see “greater peace and prosperity” following the North-South summit at Panmunjeom on April 27 and Pyongyang-Washington summit in Singapore on June 12.
The American diplomat pointed out that the joint statement produced between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump affirmed a commitment to recover prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
North Korea’s state propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said Sunday, “It is our unfaltering position to open a new future for world peace and security.” It claimed it has played its part in establishing new bilateral relations with Washington and making joint efforts to build a “lasting and stable” peace regime on the peninsula.
The process of repatriating the remains of American troops killed during the Korean War proceeded over the weekend, with the US military sending 100 wooden temporary transit cases to the inter-Korean border to receive the soldiers’ bodies. Separately on Saturday, it moved 158 metal coffins to Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province.
The reception at Grand Hyatt Seoul was attended by some 300 American soldiers, officers and diplomats as well as another 300 Korean supporters of the bilateral alliance. Five individuals were awarded that night: Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Michael Manuel of the US Army; Personal Specialist Two Antonio Hill of the US Navy; Master Sgt. Christopher Thompson of the US Air Force; Corp. Jose Casiastapia of the US Marine Corps; and Richard Scott of the Department of Defense.
“These recipients not only committed themselves to their mission of defending Korea, but also engaged in various community activities. They demonstrated a deep affection for and understanding of the local communities in which they served,” said South Korean Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun. “Every one of the 1.4 million young Americans, who served here to defend the freedom of ‘a country they never knew’ and ‘a people they never met,’ are heroes.”
Mentioning the Pyongyang-Washington summit -- built on the Panmunjeom Declaration and agreed to the North’s “complete denuclearization,” normalizing the North Korea-US relations and establishing a peace regime -- the diplomat said the “institutional framework” of the joint statement would set in motion a “virtuous cycle” for ensuing negotiations.
“The cornerstone of the Korean Peninsula’s prospective denuclearization and establishment of a peace regime is the watertight coordination between the ROK and the US,” Cho stressed. “Our close, strategic cooperation provided the critical driving force leading to today’s historic turning point. Our presidents have held four summit meetings and 17 telephone conversations to discuss steps needed for achieving their common goals.”
Assuaging concerns over the prospective suspension of the South Korea-US biannual military exercises and its fallout, Cho underscored that the two countries’ foreign ministers recently affirmed their combined defense posture “will be maintained under any circumstances.”
“And I cannot emphasize enough that any issues related to the alliance will be addressed only through close consultation between the ROK and US,” the diplomat added.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org