Sixty years ago today, North Korea brutally invaded the Republic of Korea. In doing so, Pyongyang revealed the true nature of its regime—its willingness to blatantly violate international agreements, its eagerness to use military attacks to achieve warped political objectives, and its utter disregard for the lives of the citizens of the Republic of Korea. Lest we forget, this is a regime whose brutal nature continues to this day and which is in fact trying to perpetuate itself at the moment through a second dynastic transition.
On the southern side of the border is the free and democratic Republic of Korea, whose leaders and citizens join those of the United States and the other nations that formed the United Nations Command to pay homage to the brave men and women who fought in that war. The armed forces of these nations fought North Korea, and later China, and persevered even when it seemed that hope had died. We humbly honor their service and remember that far too many brave young souls paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our shared values of freedom, democracy, and human rights.
Because it started in this manner, it is often said that the U.S.-Korean alliance has been “forged in blood.” That is surely true, because the true mettle of an enduring partnership such as that between our two countries, can only come when we have shared not only the best of times, but also of the worst of times.
Yet this alliance forged in blood has also been tempered by repeated crisis. The events of June 1950 are not merely a distant historical event. As Pyongyang’s heinous attack on the Cheonan naval ship—as well of its previous acts of terror and aggression–make all too clear, the need for vigilance has not diminished.
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At a time when the Republic of Korea has become a technological innovator of the 21st century economy, it remains threatened by a regime wedded to archaic strategies of threats and intimidation. The differences between the two systems—communism on one side and free markets and democracy on the other—is in stark contrast on the Korean Peninsula.
For all these reasons, this week is one more reminder of why the United States must remain a Pacific power, and must never waver in its commitment to defending beacons of freedom and democracy, including the Republic of Korea. This is a strategy that has produced a successful Korea and a peaceful Asia.
Edwin J. Feulner is President of The Heritage Foundation