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US, Korea affirm steadfast alliance

“What you do so well in addition to those physical things is working behind the scenes and in between the lines to create the tightest possible connection between our two countries and peoples, and that is the remarkable work we salute you for.”

Amid concerns and uncertainties over the bilateral alliance, the Korea America Friendship Society dispelled the skepticism and vindicated the two nation’s time-tested resolve to deter North Korea’s military threat at an annual reception on Wednesday.

The Korea America Friendship Night at Grand Hyatt Seoul gathered some 600 military servicepersons, diplomats, university presidents, business leaders, journalists and their spouses.

“Tonight, we organized this event to comfort and encourage all the exemplary soldiers of the United States Forces Korea who came here far away from their home to protect our freedom and democracy,” said the society’s President Han Chul-soo in a speech. 

Military officers, soldiers, diplomats of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea and their spouses pose at the Korea America Friendship Night at Grand Hyatt Seoul on Wednesday. (Korea America Friendship Society)
Military officers, soldiers, diplomats of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea and their spouses pose at the Korea America Friendship Night at Grand Hyatt Seoul on Wednesday. (Korea America Friendship Society)
Korea America Friendship Society President Han Chul-soo (Korea America Friendship Society)
Korea America Friendship Society President Han Chul-soo (Korea America Friendship Society)

“I would like to take this opportunity to honor the American soldiers’ noble sacrifices and express our deepest appreciation to all Korean War veterans, who fought bravely to defend our republic and people they never knew and met. They will forever remain our heroes.”

The event awarded the US Army 229th Signal Company’s First Lt. Jean Kwon, US Navy’s Gunners Mate First Class Petty Officer Branden Eric Simmons, US Air Force 6th Intelligence Squadron’s Airman First Class Jasmyne A. Christopher, US Marine Corps’ Staff Sgt. Pablo Abad, and the Department of Defense’s Civilian and Director of Emergency Services Robert Nelson, for their outstanding activities strengthening the bilateral alliance.

Since being established in 1991, the organization has served as a bridge between the two countries through commemorative and cultural events.

Pointing to North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile menace, Han urged the earliest possible deployment of the US anti-missile defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, adding “only the full utilization of the six launchers in a THAAD battery can achieve its operational purpose” of intercepting and destroying an enemy’s missile attack. 

The Korea America Friendship Night awarded the US Army 229th Signal Company’s First Lt. Jean Kwon (right), US Navy’s Gunners Mate First Class Petty Officer Branden Eric Simmons (second from right), US Air Force 6th Intelligence Squadron’s Airman First Class Jasmyne A. Christopher (center), US Marine Corps’ Staff Sgt. Pablo Abad (second from left), and the Department of Defense’s Civilian and Director of Emergency Services Robert Nelson, for their outstanding activities strengthening the bilateral alliance. (Korea America Friendship Society)
The Korea America Friendship Night awarded the US Army 229th Signal Company’s First Lt. Jean Kwon (right), US Navy’s Gunners Mate First Class Petty Officer Branden Eric Simmons (second from right), US Air Force 6th Intelligence Squadron’s Airman First Class Jasmyne A. Christopher (center), US Marine Corps’ Staff Sgt. Pablo Abad (second from left), and the Department of Defense’s Civilian and Director of Emergency Services Robert Nelson, for their outstanding activities strengthening the bilateral alliance. (Korea America Friendship Society)
Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea (Korea America Friendship Society)
Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea (Korea America Friendship Society)

Lauding the soldiers for their contributions, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea, said, “What you do so well in addition to those physical things is working behind the scenes and in between the lines to create the tightest possible connection between our two countries and peoples, and that is the remarkable work we salute you for.”

Denouncing North Korea’s military brinksmanship and Kim Jong-un’s “reckless pursuits and oppression of the North Korean people,” the general said “Our unwavering, ironclad ROK-US alliance remains ready now.”

Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam said the alliance had evolved into a “comprehensive strategic alliance of bilateral, regional and global scope based on common values and mutual interests,” expanding into economic, social and cultural cooperation.

Lim pinned hopes on the prospective summit meeting between Korean President Moon Jae-in and his counterpart Donald Trump in Washington from June 29-30, saying, “We expect the two leaders will reconfirm our alliance as the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the Asia-Pacific region.” 

Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (Korea America Friendship Society)
Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (Korea America Friendship Society)
Marc Knapper, charge d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Seoul (Korea America Friendship Society)
Marc Knapper, charge d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Seoul (Korea America Friendship Society)

“Korea is one of the very few countries that has stood shoulder to shoulder with the US at every critical juncture in modern history, including the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq,” the vice foreign minister highlighted. “Our alliance is truly mutually beneficial, as Korea has made substantial contributions in burden sharing, exemplified by the relocation of the USFK bases to Camp Humphreys.”

Lim also expressed his condolences to the bereaved family of the late Otto Warmbier, a young American who was detained in North Korea for 17 months and returned in a coma from which he died later on June 19. “North Korea’s disrespect for universal human rights is truly deplorable,” the diplomat said.

Marc Knapper, charge d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Seoul, said, “Our two countries must remain vigilant and continue to work together to disrupt North Korea’s plans to threaten our peace and security by strengthening our deterrence and working with the international community.”

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
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