Veterans remember Korean War 50 years on

Veterans and dignitaries gathered at South Korea's Demilitarized Zone with the North on Sunday to remember those who did not live to see the armistice that ended fighting on the peninsula 50 years ago.

    A US soldier stands guard in Panmunjom truce village, in the heavily fortified DMZ between the two Koreas.

    The ceremony combined remembrance with reminders of what

    New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark called the "very

    critical challenge" posed by communist North Korea's nuclear

    weapons aims.

    At 10 am on July 27, 1953, North Korea and the UN force

    signed an Armistice Agreement. It took effect 12 hours later

    and remains in force, meaning the Koreas are still technically at war

    - the heavily fortified DMZ is a vivid symbol of that.

    "We pray that true peace may come to this Korean peninsula,

    and that this divided country may restore its 5,000 years of

    history and become one again," retired missionary Horace G.

    Underwood, 85, who interpreted at the truce talks, told the 1,500 veterans and 200 dignitaries at

    Panmunjom truce village at the heart of the DMZ.


     

    "The armistice represents nothing short of victory, nothing short of an historic international stand against communist aggression."

    -US Army General Leon LaPorte

    Army General Leon LaPorte, commander of the 37,000 U.S.

    troops in South Korea, described the event in an upbeat rather

    than solemn speech as a "grand celebration" of the U.N. forces

    saving Chinese-backed North Korea from engulfing the South.

    "To some, the armistice represents an anti-climactic finish

    to a complex conflict," he told the crowd in a tent that

    shielded them from rain. "(But) the armistice represents

    nothing short of victory, nothing short of an historic

    international stand against communist aggression."

    North Korea, which says it won the war, has described the

    ceremony as a disgusting farce. A lone North Korean guard stood

    stone-faced on the far side of the dividing line.

    Moves to curb North's nuclear ambitions

    North Korea is edging toward talks with the United States

    and other powers in a crisis that erupted last October when

    Washington said Pyongyang had said it had a covert atomic

    programme.

    At the ceremony, UN forces unveiled a stone arrow curving

    toward the off-limits hut where US Lieutenant-General William

    Harrison and North Korean General Nam Il signed the truce.

    South Korean President

    Roh Moo-hyun

    used a speech at a separate South Korean memorial

    ceremony to call on North Korea to "abandon its nuclear

    ambition and to opt for the path toward peace and coexistence".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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