News

The White House Briefing Room


November 22, 1998

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO BASE PERSONNEL AND THEIR FAMILIES

3:46 P.M. (L)





                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Seoul, Republic of Korea) 
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                         November 22, 1998     

	
                            REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                     TO BASE PERSONNEL AND THEIR FAMILIES 
	
                              Osan Air Force Base
                              Republic of Korea  	
		

3:46 P.M. (L)
	
	THE PRESIDENT:  I think the Sergeant did a fine job under unusual 
circumstances.  Let's give him another hand here.  (Applause.)  He did tell 
Congressman Abercrombie not to make his introduction too short, but I think he 
was a little bit embarrassed by having the truth told.  
	
	Sergeant, we thank you for your heroism and your service.  We thank two 
of your fellow airmen who helped you in that rescue mission, Staff Sergeant 
Thomas Metheny and Brian Stump.  (Applause.)  And we thank all of you for your 
service.  And we thank all of you for your service.  (Applause.)

	I want to thank Congressman Abercrombie for his fine remarks.  He's here 
with a delegation that includes Senator Max Baucus of Montana, Congresswoman 
Patsy Mink of Hawaii, Congressman Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota.  Anybody here 
from North Dakota?  There is one man up there with his hand up.  Another one.  
The reason I introduce them is it's very warm here, for them, compared to North 
Dakota.  (Laughter.)  And Delegate Robert Underwood from Guam.  (Applause.)

	General Tilelli, General Hurd, General Dordal, General Dierker; members 
of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces; Ambassador and Mrs. Bosworth; our 
Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley and the National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, 
and all the other members of our administration who are here; the family members 
and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, 
I am honored to be here with you.  I'm glad to see you out here 
in good spirits.  I'm sorry you've had to wait a while in the 
cold wind, and I'm glad we're starting early.  (Applause.)  

	  Let me say  that I know that supply is an area of great 


expertise and importance -- (applause) -- but just looking around 
the crowd today, it seems to me that the parkas are a little 
unevenly distributed.  (Laughter.)  So I'll try to give a fairly 
brief speech. 

	  What I have to say to you is simple.  I am very proud 
of the work you do -- U.S. Forces Korea, the 7th Air Force, the 
51st Fighter wing, all the 607th Group, the 631st Air Mobility 
Support Squadron, the soldiers and airmen, the sailors, and 
Marines, the Korean military personnel who are here -- all of 
you.  And I came, more than anything else, to say on behalf of 
all the American people, we thank you for your service to the 
United States.  (Applause.)

	  As I also look at this vast sea of highly 
representative and diverse faces, I am reminded that it was 50 
years ago this year, in 1948, when President Harry Truman 
courageously ordered the integration of America's Armed Forces.  
Now our Armed Forces are a model of unity and diversity for the 
entire world -- people of different origins coming together, 
working together, for the common good.  
	  
	  I am proud of that, and so should you be, because 
though Harry Truman made the decision 50 years ago, it is you 50 
years later who have fulfilled his vision and made it work.  Osan 
Air Base is a community with stores and restaurants, homes, and 
classrooms.  In fact, back at the White House, we looked on the 
Internet and found the page of the Osan American High School.  
Listen to this.  This is what the students modestly described 
their website as.  They said it is, "the most masterfully 
designed high school website of them all."  (Applause.)  I want 
to commend the designer for his or her extraordinary confidence.  
(Laughter.)
	  
	  I'd also like to commend the Department of Defense 
school system, one of the unsung heroes of our military service.  
I thank the teachers and the administrators here and throughout 
the world for your commitment to our children's future.  
	  
	  Osan Air Base is an important symbol of our commitment 
to liberty.  It was just a few miles from here that United States 
soldiers first engaged enemy forces in the ground combat of the 
summer of 1950.  And Americans gave their lives in the Korean War 
on the very grounds of this base.  And Osan Air Base is a vital 
post in our ongoing determined effort to protect that liberty, 
shoulder to shoulder with our strong Korean allies.

	  No one should doubt today our joint commitment to 
freedom.  It is stronger than ever.  And Korea under the 
leadership of President Kim Dae-Jung, embodies that, for he as 
well as any person alive knows that the struggle for freedom 
requires strength, courage, and a lifetime of dedication.  

	  President Kim faced prison and persecution, death 
threats and death sentences, because he stood up for his belief 
in democracy and because he would not give up his hope that true 
democracy could flourish here in Korea.  Now our countries work 
together more closely than ever before for peace and human rights 
around the world.  And none of that could happen without you, the 
American and Korean military forces.  (Applause.)

	  You have maintained the peace for 45 years.  And let me 
say, again not so much to you because you know it, but through 
you and the media here to all of the American people back home -- 
sometimes it's easy to forget that even in peacetime, military 
work is difficult and dangerous.  Tensions have gone up and down 
on this peninsula over the years, but always there are risks.  

	  I talked about just a moment ago the distinguished 
gentleman who introduced me and his fellow airmen who risked 
their lives to aid others.  Just a few weeks ago, 50 miles from 
here, four Americans and one Korean soldier lost their lives 
returning from important training missions.  Let me say their 
names:  Private Joseph Biondo, Private First Class Joey Brantley, 
Specialist James Buis, Sergeant Brian Walshxx, Corporal Kim Yong 
Ku. 

	  We honor their service.  We mourn their loss in the 
cause of peace and security.  May the American people never 
forget this work is difficult and dangerous, and we owe you a lot 
for doing it.

	  America strongly supports President Kim's strategy of 
engagement with North Korea.  In the five years since I last met 
with our troops along the DMZ, we have seen some hopeful signs.  
There have been peace talks, and over the summer, for the very 
first time, United States Command and the North Korean military 
began General Officer talks aimed at preventing problems along 
the DMZ.

	  But, unfortunately, not all has gone well.  Lately, 
signs of danger have intensified, with incursions from the North, 
provocative missile tests, and the question of a suspect 
underground installation.  So we must remain vigilant.  And 
thanks to you, we are.

	  One of the greatest threats the world now faces is 
weapons of mass destruction.  And though our attention lately has 
been focused on Iraq's efforts in that area, North Korea is also 
a major concern.  Here at Osan, you are critical to this most 
dangerous battleground, deterring and, if necessary, defending 
against chemical and biological attacks.

	  Let me reaffirm the view of the United States:  North 
Korea must maintain its freeze on and move ahead to dismantle its 
nuclear weapons program, as it has agreed to do.  It must comply 
with its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  
It must halt its efforts to develop and proliferate chemical and 
biological weapons and ballistic missiles.  
	  
	  We will continue to press North Korea to take these 
steps for peace and security.  But until it fully commits itself 
to a constructive role on this peninsula, we must remain ready.  
And thanks to you, we will.  America will continue to do what it 
takes to promote the security of our citizens and our friends and 
allies, to be a force for peace as we have been in Haiti, in 
Northern Ireland, in Bosnia, in Kosovo in the Middle East.  
	  
	  Our ability to succeed in promoting peace is uniquely 
due to the fact that we can back up our diplomatic efforts when 
necessary with military strength.  And that depends on you, the 
finest Armed Forces in the world.

	  We ask so much of you, to travel far from home, to work 
long hours, to risk your lives.  We ask so much of you families  
-- lengthy separations, career and school transitions.  We owe an 
awful lot in return -- at least the training and support you 
need, the tools to do your job, from high-tech equipment to the 
most basic spare parts, and the quality of life you deserve.

	  I spend a lot of time addressing these issues with 
Secretary of Defense Cohen, with General Shelton of the Joint 
Chiefs, with other leaders of our military.  While our current 
state of readiness is sound, we have to ensure we're prepared for 
the future. To move us in the right direction I asked the 
Congress to approve $1.1 billion in additional funds for 
readiness and recruitment in this year's budget.  And I'm happy 
to say the Congress came through.  (Applause.)
	  
	  We obtained almost $2 billion in emergency funds to 
cover unanticipated operations in Bosnia.  We shifted another $1 
billion in existing defense funds to readiness needs.  I've asked 
Secretary Cohen to prepare budget and policy proposals aimed at 
addressing these needs for the long-term, and I've approved pay 
raises that will significantly reduce the gap between military 
and civilian pay.  (Applause.)  I ought to quit while I'm ahead.  
(Laughter.)


	  I want you to know that, working with Congress and the 
Joint Chiefs, we will continue to make our top priority your 
readiness -- readiness for our first-to-fight forces like the 
soldiers I met earlier today from the Second Infantry Division -- 
(applause) -- readiness for our sailors in ships at sea so vital 
to our efforts, particularly now, to contain the weapons of mass 
destruction threat of Saddam Hussein; readiness for our strategic 
and tactical air forces, crucial in meeting our security 
challenges in the Gulf, in Bosnia, here in Korea, indeed all 
around the world.

	  Thursday is Thanksgiving.  (Applause.)  I know that 
your loved ones back home are thinking about you here -- proud of 
your accomplishments, your service, your kindness, and your 
strength.  I'm happy today to be bringing to you some prepaid 
phone cards generously provided by AT&T -- (applause) -- so you 
can call your families and friends across the ocean for free.  
(Applause.)

	  I hope that all Americans -- all Americans, not just 
those who receive a call on Thanksgiving Day -- as they sit down 
to their turkey and give thanks for all our blessings, will 
consider the debt of gratitude we all owe to our men and women in 
uniform.  You have made the world a better place and you will 
continue to do so.  You have made us very proud and we will 
continue to be very proud.  
	  
	  I thank you.  I wish you well.  God bless you and God 
bless America. (Applause.) 

             END                      3:58 P.M. (L)