Hagel marks, praises 60 years of U.S.-South Korea alliance
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 – The 60-year alliance between the United States and South Korea started as a military treaty to defend the south from the communist north, but it has grown to become an unbreakable bond between two countries that share friendship and values, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here yesterday.
Hagel spoke at a dinner at the Smithsonian Institution honoring the alliance along with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The alliance was forged during the 1950-53 Korean War when nations around the world stood united against aggression. More than 33,600 U.S. service members were killed in the conflict.
Hagel saluted American Korean War veterans who attended the dinner and said their sacrifices made possible the alliance, “which remains vital to the interests of both of our nations and a cornerstone of stability in Northeast Asia.”
The alliance has been extremely successful, with South Korea rising from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest over the past 60 years.
U.S. and South Korean service members work in concert on the peninsula and also around the world, Hagel said. He remembers standing shoulder-to-shoulder with South Korean infantrymen who deployed to Vietnam in the 1960s.
“I served alongside South Korean soldiers in Vietnam in 1968,” the secretary said. “They were some of the toughest, bravest fighting men I have ever encountered, and some of the most dependable.”
They continue to be steadfast allies. “In Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea once again stepped forward,” Hagel said.
U.S. and South Korean service members work together around the world for global security, “and we will stand together in the future,” Hagel said. From the Horn of Africa, to South Sudan, to a number of United Nations peacekeeping efforts, South Korea contributes to global security.
The United States remains fully committed to South Korea’s security, and will provide personnel and military capabilities needed to maintain security on the Korean Peninsula, the defense secretary said.
Hagel praised Park for her leadership during a very challenging time, and said he looks forward to visiting South Korea later this year to help deepen “this partnership that for so long been a force for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.”
Park met with President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday, and she will speak to a joint session of Congress today.