- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2004

SEOUL — U.S. and allied forces deployed in South Korea are on the front line of freedom and democracy, Vice President Dick Cheney told U.S. troops here yesterday.

“Here at freedom’s frontier you are protecting millions on the Korean Peninsula, and keeping the peace in a dangerous region,” Mr. Cheney told about 2,300 U.S. troops inside a gymnasium at the Army’s Yongsan Garrison, the U.S. military headquarters.

“By deterring aggression and defending freedom, you are enhancing the security of our own country,” he said.

Mr. Cheney stopped in South Korea following two days in China and a day after South Korean voters went to the polls and strengthened the liberal Uri party’s grip on power. The once-opposition party gained seats in the parliamentary voting, strengthening the political standing of current President Roh Mu-hyun.

The vice president was received warmly by cheering troops waving American flags. His remarks were interrupted several times by cheers from the troops.



Without mentioning North Korea by name, Mr. Cheney told the troops “the difference between freedom and tyranny is evident to all who live here.” He added, “It’s the difference between a life of opportunity and hope and an existence defined by repression and fear. It’s a difference between a government sustained by freedom and tolerance and one that thrives on terror.”

Economically, South Korea’s economy “lifts people up,” while that in the North “reduces its citizens to starvation.” The troops were part of the 37,000 soldiers in South Korea that are beginning a force reorganization that will move large numbers of soldiers further south from the demilitarized zone to bases in central South Korea.

Mr. Cheney said U.S. military personnel are bearing “the hardest responsibilities” in the global war on terrorism.

He also praised South Korea for its role in sending some 3,600 troops to Iraq, the third-largest contributor of troops to Iraq after the United States and Britain.

“Living on the border between freedom and tyranny, the people of Korea understand the urgency of our cause in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney said Washington has made a pledge to the troops: “We will give our armed forces the material support you need.” In an apparent appeal for military votes, Mr. Cheney noted that President Bush has signed into law three pay increases for the military.

Mr. Cheney left Seoul yesterday afternoon after a seven-day visit to Asia that also included stops in Japan and China.

At a gathering of American and South Korean reporters, Mr. Cheney congratulated the Korean people on a successful election. He also said both the United States and South Korea agree that North Korea must give up its nuclear arms program.

“As allies and partners in the six-party talks, we are committed to a peaceful resolution of this problem,” he said. “And all of us look forward to the day that all Koreans can live in freedom, security and peace.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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