- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

South Korea and Hungary, whose citizens have recently been killed in Iraq, yesterday refused to cancel troop deployments to the terror-racked nation, prompting praise from President Bush.

“What’s important for the Iraqis to know is that the world stands with them as a free society emerges,” Mr. Bush said in a joint Oval Office appearance with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy.

Responding to the beheading of South Korean businessman Kim Sun-il by Iraqi insurgents, Mr. Bush called on South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to carry out the planned deployment of 3,000 troops to Iraq.

“I would hope that President Roh would understand that the free world cannot be intimidated by the brutal action of these barbaric people,” he said.

A short time later, South Korea announced it would indeed go through with the deployment, although it urged civilians to leave Iraq immediately. Mr. Kim’s captors had demanded South Korea reverse its decision to deploy troops.

“See, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to shake our will and our confidence,” Mr. Bush said. “They’re trying to get us to withdraw from the world so that they can impose their dark vision on people.”

Mr. Medgyessy also assured Mr. Bush that Hungary would not withdraw its 300 troops from Iraq, despite the death of a 27-year-old Hungarian soldier in an explosion south of Baghdad last week. Hungary deployed the troops in September with a parliamentary mandate to remain until the end of the year.

“We are reliable and predictable partners,” Mr. Medgyessy told Mr. Bush yesterday. “Our troops will not be removed before the term.”

The promise clearly pleased Mr. Bush, who has been accused by Democrats of failing to sufficiently internationalize the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

“I appreciate a man who sticks by his word,” Mr. Bush said. “When the prime minister gives you his word, he means it.”

While the United States has lost hundreds of troops in Iraq, Mr. Bush went out of his way to pay tribute to Hungary’s sole fatality.

“Your great country lost a brave soldier,” he said to Mr. Medgyessy. “I extend the deepest condolences, to the family of that soldier, from the United States of America.

“I appreciate his sacrifice,” he added. “And I want his folks to know that we will complete our task and the world will be more peaceful and more free because Iraq will be free and peaceful.”

In addition to pressing ahead with its plan to deploy 3,000 troops in August, South Korea announced it would not withdraw 370 military engineers and medics who have been in Iraq since May 2003. Such a withdrawal had been demanded by Mr. Kim’s captors.

“In order to impose their vision, they want us to leave,” Mr. Bush said of the terrorists. “They want us to cower in the face of their brutal killings.

“And the United States will not be intimidated by these people, because we believe strongly in freedom and liberty and human rights and human dignity, freedom to worship as you see fit, freedom to speak your mind,” he said. “And I believe President Roh understands that.”

Mr. Medgyessy added: “And we share the same values with the United States.”

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