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SPEECH | July 27, 2016

Armistice Agreement Commemoration Ceremony Remarks by Gen. Vincent K. Brooks

Your Excellencies, Representatives from the United Nations Command Sending States, Members of the Diplomatic Community, Representatives of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, Members of the United Nations Command Headquarters and the United Nations Military Armistice Commission, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, General Jang Jun Gyu, the Chief of Staff of the ROK Army, and General Kim Hyun Jip, Deputy Commander of Combined Forces Command, it’s a delight to have you here today and thank you so much for joining us.

Today is truly a special day here in Panmunjom, as we commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement. This agreement, which took two years and 17 days of challenging negotiations to reach, ended over three years of bloodshed and aimed to provide a framework for reconciliation. While we have not reached that final conclusion of peace, the Armistice Agreement remains an effective instrument to settle disputes and limit misunderstandings between the differing parties. It endures as an agreement that provides buffers, such as provisions for United Nations Command troops and the four-kilometer deep De-Militarized Zone, as well as procedures, which call for dialogue over disputed actions. Together, these have helped calm tensions by settling many issues over the past six decades and continue to mitigate the risk of miscalculation and the resumption of hostilities.

There are many events that happened over the past 63 years, and that without the Armistice, could have reignited into another Korean War. Without the Agreement and its buffers, we would almost have certainly seen several of the provocations, the provocative border skirmishes of the past six decades spread like wild fire into larger battles. Without the Armistice, the 1976 killing of two U.S. Soldiers within the Joint Security Area could have quickly spread a flame of fury across the Peninsula; but the agreement helped guide the reaction as a strong, yet restrained response. And tragedies such as the sinking of the Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean sailors, or the artillery attack against YeonPyeong Island killing two South Korean Marines and two South Korean civilians—these could have escalated also into all-out war had it not been for an internationally backed agreement that helped tailor a suitable response.

Even this last summer, with the egregious land-mine attack that wounded two South Korean Soldiers and the escalation of tensions that followed in the succeeding weeks, the Armistice Agreement caused the responses to be measured, not unlimited.

But maintaining the Armistice comes with costs—in time, effort, and resources. Our United Nations Command Service Members are among these resources, and they all remain dedicated to defending the Republic of Korea, creating conditions for further development and prosperity, and one day, reunification. I want to commend the honorable men and women who have committed themselves to this duty. They represent and honor the sacrifice of nearly 180,000 men and women who died while fighting under the UN flag. I’m honored to serve as their Commander. And they are serving the finest traditions of the United Nations Command and its storied history.

I also want to commend the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission and the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission who monitor and investigate any reported violations of the agreement. They provide an impartial view and they ensure transparency of the complex situation on the Korean Peninsula. And as we stand here today, we must also remember the Korean War Veterans from around the world, as their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, only an hour after the signing of the Armistice, stated that, “Wisdom, there is, in this moment of sober satisfaction, one thought that must discipline our emotions and steady our resolution. It is this: we have won an armistice on a single battleground—not peace in the world. We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest… we and our United Nations Allies must be vigilant against the possibility of untoward developments,” end quote.

These words continue to resound here in the Republic of Korea as we celebrate the end to hostilities while remaining vigilant to the threats that remain.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you again for being here today and for continuing to “go together” as Allies. Gamsahamnida, Katchi Kapshida!

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