ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
While honoring U.S. troops on Veterans Day at a U.S. Army base in South Korea, President Obama condemned North Korea, saying that the path it is on will only lead to more isolation and less security.
“Today, the Korean peninsula provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change,” Obama said at Yongsan Army Base in Seoul, South Korea. “It’s a contrast so stark you can see it from space, as the brilliant lights of Seoul give way to utter darkness in the north.”
The president said this is no accident of history, but rather a direct result of the path of “confrontation and provocation” taken by North Korea, including, he said, its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its attack on the South Korean ship Cheonan last March.
“In the wake of this aggression, Pyongyang should not be mistaken: The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea," Obama said. "Along the with the rest of the world, we have made it clear that North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation and less security.”
The president said that there is another path available to North Koreans: to fulfill their international obligations and offer their people “greater security and greater respect.”
The president’s remarks came largely though a Veterans Day message to troops.
“We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness," he said, "but we also remember that honoring those who’ve served is about more than the words we say on Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, it’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year.”
The president also paid tribute to those who fought – both from the U.S. and Korea – in the Korean War, as this year is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the war.
“Because the Korean War ended where it began geographically, some ended up using the phrase ‘Die for a Tie’ to describe the sacrifice of those who fought here,” Obama said. “But as we look around at this thriving democracy and its grateful, hopeful citizens, one thing is clear: This was no tie. This was a victory.”
Noting that the war is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War,” the president said the legacy of the soldiers’ service lives on in a free and prosperous Republic of Korea.
“I want you to know this: We remember," the president said. "We remember your courage. We remember your sacrifice.”
Sixty-two U.S. Korean War veterans were in attendance for the speech and the president asked them to stand to be recognized.
"There all standing,” he said. "Looks like they're doing great."
Afterward, President Obama laid a wreath at a war memorial on the base. After a presentation of arms with a U.S. and POW-MIA flag, an Army team did a 21-gun salute followed by the playing of taps.