Armistice anniversary marks milestone for alliance
American and South Korean officials and veterans will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement in the United States and South Korea this week.
Signed on July 27, 1953, the ceasefire agreement brought the brutal three-year conflict to an end and marked the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history.
The negotiations took place during 158 meetings over two years and 17 days, while fighting continued to rage across the Korean Peninsula.
According to Eighth Army Historian Ron Miller, language differences complicated negotiations as discussions were translated into English, Korean and Chinese.
The armistice agreement created the 155-mile-long by 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that serves as a buffer zone and de-facto border between totalitarian North Korea and democratic South Korea.
The armistice agreement also established the truce village of Panmunjom where negotiations are still held between the two Koreas.
The Korean War Armistice has never been followed by peace treaty and the two Koreas are technically still at war. Miller said North Korea has violated the armistice thousands of times. More than 450 South Korean and 100 American troops have been killed in the line of duty during North Korean provocations since 1953.
As a part of the Republic of Korea-United States Alliance, 28,500 American troops serve in South Korea to provide security on the Korean Peninsula and stability in Northeast Asia. Arriving in 1950, Eighth Army commanded all United Nations Command ground forces as the only U.S. Field Army in the Korean War. Eighth Army has served in Korea since the armistice was signed.
Miller credits the armistice with South Korea's success today.
"The Korean War Armistice Agreement has successfully suspended full-scale hostilities on the peninsula for 60 years," said Miller, a native of Odessa, Texas. "As a result, the Republic of Korea has developed into a full-fledged, modern democracy. It is a prosperous, productive and responsible member of the global community."
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, the Joint Duty Officer for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission, said UNCMAC continues to fulfill its mission of armistice implementation.
As one of the few U.S. military officers who maintain contact with the North Korean military, McShane works out of an office just 27 feet south of the border.
"This anniversary is very important," said McShane, a naval aviator from Charlotte, N.C. "The commemorations of the armistice anniversary can be seen as a clear signal that the sending nations of the United Nations Command are still dedicated to upholding the agreements that we made 60 years ago to preclude hostilities and maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Lt. Col. Lee Seok-jae, who commands the Yongsan Garrison-based Republic of Korea Army Support Group and the 3,400 Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army troops who support Eighth Army, used the upcoming armistice anniversary to express his gratitude for the U.S. military's contribution to security in Korea.
"A true friend can be defined when you face a difficult situation and the friend does not just ignore the situation, but comes in assistance and even takes the risk of sacrificing oneself for you," wrote Lee in a message to Eighth Army leaders. "This is how the Korean people during the Korean War in 1950 came to recognize who their friends were.
"In the midst of being under attack by the North to the point where the country was on the verge of crumbling down, forces of 350,000 men from 16 nations led by the United States joined in the war in aid of the Republic of Korea," wrote Lee. "Especially, more than 300,000 United States soldiers participated in the war."
Lee said the U.S. military continues to serve with South Korean forces on the Korean Peninsula almost 60 years after the armistice was signed.
"The U.S. military continues to have its presence in the Republic of Korea to deter the aggression of North Korea and guard the liberty and democracy we enjoy in the Republic of Korea," wrote Lee.