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President Clinton Speaks To Military Personnel in Korea

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Seoul, Republic of Korea)

For Immediate Release November 22, 1998


Osan Air Force Base
Republic of Korea

3:46 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: I think the Sergeant did a fine job under unusualcircumstances. Let's give him another hand here. (Applause.) He did tellCongressman Abercrombie not to make his introduction too short, but I think hewas a little bit embarrassed by having the truth told.

Sergeant, we thank you for your heroism and your service. We thank twoof your fellow airmen who helped you in that rescue mission, Staff SergeantThomas Metheny and Brian Stump. (Applause.) And we thank all of you foryourservice. And we thank all of you for your service. (Applause.)

I want to thank Congressman Abercrombie for his fine remarks. He's herewith a delegation that includes Senator Max Baucus of Montana,CongresswomanPatsy Mink of Hawaii, Congressman Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota. Anybodyherefrom North Dakota? There is one man up there with his hand up. Anotherone.The reason I introduce them is it's very warm here, for them, compared toNorthDakota. (Laughter.) And Delegate Robert Underwood from Guam. (Applause.)

General Tilelli, General Hurd, General Dordal, General Dierker;membersof the Republic of Korea Armed Forces; Ambassador and Mrs. Bosworth; ourSecretary of Commerce Bill Daley and the National Security Advisor SandyBerger,and all the other members of our administration who are here; the familymembersand the men and women of the United States Armed Forces,I am honored to be here with you. I'm glad to see you out herein good spirits. I'm sorry you've had to wait a while in thecold wind, and I'm glad we're starting early. (Applause.)

Let me say that I know that supply is an area of greatexpertise and importance -- (applause) -- but just looking aroundthe crowd today, it seems to me that the parkas are a littleunevenly distributed. (Laughter.) So I'll try to give a fairlybrief speech.

What I have to say to you is simple. I am very proudof the work you do -- U.S. Forces Korea, the 7th Air Force, the51st Fighter wing, all the 607th Group, the 631st Air MobilitySupport Squadron, the soldiers and airmen, the sailors, andMarines, the Korean military personnel who are here -- all ofyou. And I came, more than anything else, to say on behalf ofall the American people, we thank you for your service to theUnited States. (Applause.)

As I also look at this vast sea of highlyrepresentative and diverse faces, I am reminded that it was 50years ago this year, in 1948, when President Harry Trumancourageously ordered the integration of America's Armed Forces.Now our Armed Forces are a model of unity and diversity for theentire world -- people of different origins coming together,working together, for the common good.

I am proud of that, and so should you be, becausethough Harry Truman made the decision 50 years ago, it is you 50years later who have fulfilled his vision and made it work. OsanAir Base is a community with stores and restaurants, homes, andclassrooms. In fact, back at the White House, we looked on theInternet and found the page of the Osan American High School.Listen to this. This is what the students modestly describedtheir website as. They said it is, "the most masterfullydesigned high school website of them all." (Applause.) I wantto commend the designer for his or her extraordinary confidence.(Laughter.)

I'd also like to commend the Department of Defenseschool system, one of the unsung heroes of our military service.I thank the teachers and the administrators here and throughoutthe world for your commitment to our children's future.

Osan Air Base is an important symbol of our commitmentto liberty. It was just a few miles from here that United Statessoldiers first engaged enemy forces in the ground combat of thesummer of 1950. And Americans gave their lives in the Korean Waron the very grounds of this base. And Osan Air Base is a vitalpost in our ongoing determined effort to protect that liberty,shoulder to shoulder with our strong Korean allies.

No one should doubt today our joint commitment tofreedom. It is stronger than ever. And Korea under theleadership of President Kim Dae-Jung, embodies that, for he aswell as any person alive knows that the struggle for freedomrequires strength, courage, and a lifetime of dedication.

President Kim faced prison and persecution, deaththreats and death sentences, because he stood up for his beliefin democracy and because he would not give up his hope that truedemocracy could flourish here in Korea. Now our countries worktogether more closely than ever before for peace and human rightsaround the world. And none of that could happen without you, theAmerican and Korean military forces. (Applause.)

You have maintained the peace for 45 years. And let mesay, again not so much to you because you know it, but throughyou and the media here to all of the American people back home --sometimes it's easy to forget that even in peacetime, militarywork is difficult and dangerous. Tensions have gone up and downon this peninsula over the years, but always there are risks.

I talked about just a moment ago the distinguishedgentleman who introduced me and his fellow airmen who riskedtheir lives to aid others. Just a few weeks ago, 50 miles fromhere, four Americans and one Korean soldier lost their livesreturning from important training missions. Let me say theirnames: Private Joseph Biondo, Private First Class Joey Brantley,Specialist James Buis, Sergeant Brian Walshxx, Corporal Kim YongKu.

We honor their service. We mourn their loss in thecause of peace and security. May the American people neverforget this work is difficult and dangerous, and we owe you a lotfor doing it.

America strongly supports President Kim's strategy ofengagement with North Korea. In the five years since I last metwith our troops along the DMZ, we have seen some hopeful signs.There have been peace talks, and over the summer, for the veryfirst time, United States Command and the North Korean militarybegan General Officer talks aimed at preventing problems alongthe DMZ.

But, unfortunately, not all has gone well. Lately,signs of danger have intensified, with incursions from the North,provocative missile tests, and the question of a suspectunderground installation. So we must remain vigilant. Andthanks to you, we are.

One of the greatest threats the world now faces isweapons of mass destruction. And though our attention lately hasbeen focused on Iraq's efforts in that area, North Korea is alsoa major concern. Here at Osan, you are critical to this mostdangerous battleground, deterring and, if necessary, defendingagainst chemical and biological attacks.

Let me reaffirm the view of the United States: NorthKorea must maintain its freeze on and move ahead to dismantle itsnuclear weapons program, as it has agreed to do. It must complywith its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.It must halt its efforts to develop and proliferate chemical andbiological weapons and ballistic missiles.

We will continue to press North Korea to take thesesteps for peace and security. But until it fully commits itselfto a constructive role on this peninsula, we must remain ready.And thanks to you, we will. America will continue to do what ittakes to promote the security of our citizens and our friends andallies, to be a force for peace as we have been in Haiti, inNorthern Ireland, in Bosnia, in Kosovo in the Middle East.

Our ability to succeed in promoting peace is uniquelydue to the fact that we can back up our diplomatic efforts whennecessary with military strength. And that depends on you, thefinest Armed Forces in the world.

We ask so much of you, to travel far from home, to worklong hours, to risk your lives. We ask so much of you families-- lengthy separations, career and school transitions. We owe anawful lot in return -- at least the training and support youneed, the tools to do your job, from high-tech equipment to themost basic spare parts, and the quality of life you deserve.

I spend a lot of time addressing these issues withSecretary of Defense Cohen, with General Shelton of the JointChiefs, with other leaders of our military. While our currentstate of readiness is sound, we have to ensure we're prepared forthe future. To move us in the right direction I asked theCongress to approve $1.1 billion in additional funds forreadiness and recruitment in this year's budget. And I'm happyto say the Congress came through. (Applause.)

We obtained almost $2 billion in emergency funds tocover unanticipated operations in Bosnia. We shifted another $1billion in existing defense funds to readiness needs. I've askedSecretary Cohen to prepare budget and policy proposals aimed ataddressing these needs for the long-term, and I've approved payraises that will significantly reduce the gap between militaryand civilian pay. (Applause.) I ought to quit while I'm ahead.(Laughter.)

I want you to know that, working with Congress and theJoint Chiefs, we will continue to make our top priority yourreadiness -- readiness for our first-to-fight forces like thesoldiers I met earlier today from the Second Infantry Division --(applause) -- readiness for our sailors in ships at sea so vitalto our efforts, particularly now, to contain the weapons of massdestruction threat of Saddam Hussein; readiness for our strategicand tactical air forces, crucial in meeting our securitychallenges in the Gulf, in Bosnia, here in Korea, indeed allaround the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. (Applause.) I know thatyour loved ones back home are thinking about you here -- proud ofyour accomplishments, your service, your kindness, and yourstrength. I'm happy today to be bringing to you some prepaidphone cards generously provided by AT&T -- (applause) -- so youcan call your families and friends across the ocean for free.(Applause.)

I hope that all Americans -- all Americans, not justthose who receive a call on Thanksgiving Day -- as they sit downto their turkey and give thanks for all our blessings, willconsider the debt of gratitude we all owe to our men and women inuniform. You have made the world a better place and you willcontinue to do so. You have made us very proud and we willcontinue to be very proud.

I thank you. I wish you well. God bless you and Godbless America. (Applause.)

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Speeches on November 22, 1998

President Clinton Speaks To Military Personnel in Korea