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Obama Pays Tribute to US Troops in Korea

President Barack Obama is introduced at a Veteran's Day event at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea, 11 Nov 2010

President Barack Obama is introduced at a Veteran's Day event at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea, 11 Nov 2010

On the U.S. Veterans Day holiday, the U.S.President Barack Obama traveled to the U.S.Army Garrison at Yongsan and addressed a gathering that included members of the 8th Army, 7th Air Force, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Navy forces.

Referring to a sacred trust between the United States and those in the military who defend it, he referred to the 60th anniversary this year of the start of the Korean War, when Communist forces from the North crossed the 38th parallel.

The president paid tribute to the 37,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the war, and to Korean troops who fought by their side. Sixty-two Korean war veterans were at Yongsan on Thursday to hear Mr. Obama speak.

Mr. Obama said the legacy of their sacrifice can be seen today in the prosperity of a democratic Republic of Korea, and the strength of the U.S. - South Korea alliance.

"Because the Korean War ended where it began geographically, some used the phrase Die for a Tie to describe the sacrifices of those who fought here. But as we look around at this thriving democracy and its grateful, hopeful citizens, one thing is clear: This was no tie. This was victory," he said. "This was a victory then, and is a victory today. And 60 years later, a friendship that was forged in a war has become an alliance that has led to greater security and untold progress - not only in the Republic of Korea, but throughout Asia."

The visit with U.S. troops was also designed as a clear message to North Korea about the strength of the U.S. - South Korea alliance.

Mr. Obama said the Korean peninsula today provides the clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed, a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change.

North Korea, the president said, has pursued a path of confrontation and provocation, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons and the attack earlier this year on the South Korean Navy vessel the Cheonan.

Mr. Obama said Pyongyang still has an opportunity to change its path from one that promises only continued isolation.

"There is another path available to North Korea," he said. "If they choose to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to the international community, they will have the chance to offer their people lives of growing opportunity instead of crushing poverty - a future of greater security and greater respect; a future that includes the prosperity and opportunity available to citizens on this end of the Korean peninsula."

President Obama's Veteran's Day speech to U.S. forces came on the first full day of the G-20 (Group of 20) summit in Seoul where advanced and emerging economies are discussing ongoing stabilization and recovery from the financial crisis.