Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces Day
ROK Consulate, Honolulu, HI
September 28, 2016
Folks, I’d like to give a special shout out to our Korean War veterans – let’s give them a round of applause.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s always an honor to have a great friend like Consul General (Walter) Paik invite me to attend events as important as the one we’re here to commemorate tonight. Thank you for affording me the opportunity to speak on such a cherished occasion.
I'd like to start by saying our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in the ROK Navy, who lost three crewmen during a helicopter mishap in the East Sea. The incident took place on Sunday during a bilateral training mission with the U.S. Navy in response to this month’s nuclear test by North Korea.
As these incidents demonstrate, the work of our military forces is a dangerous business. But with threats like North Korea, it’s critical that we continue to train in all environments so that we can respond to all contingencies in peace and war. As allies, the United States and the Republic of Korea have time and again demonstrated our resolve to the phrase ‘Katchi kapshida’ – we go together.
Today, we also grieve together.
Accidents like this are deeply felt, not only by the South Korean and U.S. militaries, but by those who support us. It reminds those of us in uniform how important it is to be supported by people like everyone here tonight. So it’s fitting that we gather to celebrate both Korean National Day and ROK Armed Forces Day.
For all Koreans, National Day honors a long history – more than four millennia – thousands of years of Korean culture and civilization.
In its recent history – the last 68 years, to be precise – the armed forces of the Republic of Korea have stood the watch as guardians of the South Korean nation. In that time, it has been the privilege of the American armed forces to serve side-by-side with our Korean allies.
Throughout our own history, the United States has fought alongside people seeking to extend the boundaries of freedom. As warriors always on the front lines of this idea, you, our South Korean allies, are rock-solid. Your brave men and women serve with courage and honor. This reputation was not attained easily. No, it was earned through tremendous sacrifice. In recent memory, on the island of Y-Pdo and onboard the ROK Ship Cheonan. And in the past, on the hallowed grounds of historic battlefields like Incheon and the Chosin Reservoir, where Americans and Koreans paid the ultimate cost of freedom together.
In war and during an uneasy peace, the armed forces of our two nations have reinforced our iron-clad alliance – a special bond based on trust, friendship, and shared values.
Katchi kapshida – we go together – with strength and unity of purpose.
That spirit of camaraderie continues today, as we maintain our vigilant stand together – day in and day out – as the bulwark against the tyranny and despair north of the 38th parallel.
There’s no doubt that North Korea would erase much of the Korean history we celebrate tonight, replacing it with a perverse cult of personality that deifies a tyrant and exalts brutality. North Korea, under the repressive Kim regime, is the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons in this century.
The nuclear test earlier this month, North Korea’s largest ever and second this year, follows an unprecedented campaign of ballistic missile launches. Pyongyang acknowledges these actions are intended to test delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons targeting South Korea and the United States.
The provocative actions of North Korea threaten all of us here tonight. We must continue to loudly condemn this sort of aberrational behavior.
Today, despite the threats facing it, the Republic of Korea is a vibrant democracy giving its citizens a level of liberty and prosperity to which previous generations could only aspire.
Throughout my long career, I’ve been privileged to serve with the fine servicemen and women of the Republic of Korea’s armed forces. They’ve protected, and will continue to safeguard the Korean people. They will continue to work towards a peaceful, prosperous future on the Korean peninsula. I know that together, as allies, we will succeed.
Thank you again for allowing me to share this celebration with you. May God bless all of our servicemen and women across the globe who go boldly into harm's way. May God bless this strong alliance… and may God continue to bless the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Thank you.