By Steven Donald Smith
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2006 – The United States and its ally South Korea will welcome the day when the light of freedom and progress covers all of Korea and the peninsula is peacefully reconciled, Vice President Dick Cheney said here today. "Until then, stability and peace will be maintained by our great military alliance," Cheney said during a speech at a National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial here. "Tens of thousands of American troops proudly serve in Korea today."
The United States and South Korea will continue to stand together in defending civilization against global terror and building the peace that freedom brings, he said. Cheney said American veterans of the Korean War made great sacrifices to the cause of freedom more than a half century ago.
"On this anniversary, gathered at this place of remembrance and reflection, our thoughts turn to a generation of Americans who lived and breathed the ideals of courage and honor, service and sacrifice," he said. "There could be no more eloquent testimony to the character of our country than those words from an American who served in that war. And it is fitting that every year on the 27th of July we honor them all and offer the respect of a grateful nation."
The United States and its allies held off the aggressive expansion of communism and helped make possible the prosperity enjoyed today by 48 million South Koreans, the vice president said.
The Korean War began due to the division of the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel following World War II in 1945. In 1948, the South proclaimed the Republic of Korea, and the North established the People's Republic of Korea. Border skirmishes soon followed and, in June 1950, North Korean forces invaded the South. That year the United States joined the fighting on the side of the South, while communist China joined the war on the North's side. A cease-fire agreement was signed July 27, 1953. The armistice ended the fighting, but Korea remains divided along a military demarcation line.
Relations between the two Koreas have remained tense, and earlier this month North Korean test-fired seven ballistic missiles, causing international condemnation. Cheney praised today's servicemembers who are stationed in Korea and those fighting in the global war on terrorism. He said American troops stationed in South Korea follow in the finest tradition of the 1.8 million Americans who fought there during the Korean War.
"The American people have been inspired once again by the bravery and the selflessness of our armed forces," Cheney said. "Freedom is not free -- and all of us are deep in the debt of the men and women who go out and pay the price for our liberty."