- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

ELEMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday he is optimistic that North and South Korea will be reunified.

“I do see a day when this peninsula will be unified. I don’t know when it will happen. I sure hope and pray it’s in my lifetime,” Mr. Rumsfeld told a group of roughly 1,000 servicemen at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

Mr. Rumsfeld, 71, said the suffering of North Koreans under the current regime “is a crime, literally a crime.”

Illustrating South Korea’s progress, the defense secretary said North Korea viewed from space is almost completely dark while the illumination across South Korea is a sign of a vibrant economy.

“That is the difference between tyranny and freedom,” he said. “The success of the Republic of Korea didn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen overnight. It happened for several reasons, one of which was the United States of America. Our families, your families, made a commitment to security on this peninsula.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said the reunification efforts will be difficult because of the differences between the communist North Korea and democratic South Korea.

“If and when it happens, I suppose one could look at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the situation in East and West Germany,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “It is complicated. The two halves are so different in nature that it is not an easy thing to bring them together. But I think it can happen and I hope and pray it does happen one day.”

The defense secretary spoke on the last day of a visit to Japan and South Korea. Earlier, he visited Camp Casey, located 12 miles from the North Korean border.

South Korea has evolved from an authoritarian system to a democracy in the 50 years that U.S. troops have been stationed in the country. Mr. Rumsfeld said a unified Korean Peninsula would reduce the need for the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

“Clearly, if this peninsula were unified and peaceful, that would be a wonderful thing and a wonderful accomplishment and the folks that serve here would not have to serve here because the threat would have been reduced.”

Mr. Rumsfeld reminded the troops of the sacrifices of American and allied soldiers during the Korean War and said South Koreans should be willing to do the same in Iraq.

He said a South Korean reporter had asked him why South Korea should send troops to Iraq. “I said I suppose for the exact same reason that the American people sent their young men and women over to Korea 50 years ago,” he said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly yesterday shed no light on the timing of talks about concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but said his visit to Tokyo set a “good basis” for discussions with China and South Korea.

Mr. Kelly, in Tokyo on a three-day visit, was to travel to Beijing before flying to Seoul today for a three-day stay.

South Korean National Security Adviser Ra Jong-yil said Monday that six-way talks were likely to be held Dec. 17-18, although nothing had been decided.

The United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia held an inconclusive first round of talks in Beijing in August on the North’s nuclear program.


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