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Clinton Remembers War Dead in Guam

November 23, 1998

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) _ After spotlighting American military might in South Korea, President Clinton paid respects Monday to the thousands of Americans killed in liberating this Pacific island from a harsh occupation in World War II.

Clinton also promised the people of Guam to ensure ``that your voices are heard in Washington, that you are treated fairly and sensitively by the federal government, that you are consulted before policies are made that affect your lives.″

While residents of Guam are American citizens, they cannot vote for president and they are represented in Congress by one non-voting delegate in the House. Clinton won cheers with a pledge to turn over to Guam 7,300 acres of federal property including the former naval air station and ship repair facililty.

At a hilltop overlooking the sea, the president placed a wreath at a war memorial engraved with the names of Americans and Guamanians who were killed a half century ago. He looked down at the beach where the Americans from the 3rd Marine Division landed to lead the liberation struggle.

He opened his visit with remarks to leaders of Guam, the Northern Marianas, Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, the Marhsall Islands and Micronesia. Clinton said U.S. ties with the islands ``have enabled us to work together to preserve peace, to foster economic development across more than a million square miles of the Pacific. It is a relationship the United States takes very seriously.″

Guam’s sunny, hot weather was a sharp contrast to the bone-chilling cold Sunday in South Korea where Clinton visited armored troops at an Army outpost near the Demilitarized Zone and spoke at an Air Force U-2 spy plane hangar. His visit demonstrated U.S. military solidarity with Seoul against a still-hostile North Korea.

``North Korea must maintain its freeze on _ and move ahead to dismantle _ its nuclear weapons program,″ Clinton declared to hundreds of troops and their families huddled in sub-freezing cold outside a hangar that houses U-2s of the ``Black Cat″ 5th Reconnaissance Squadron.

On his way back to Washington, Clinton stopped in Guam, the Pacific island U.S. territory that hosts Andersen Air Force Base, a staging base for American warplanes that would be used in a war in Asia. From Guam, Clinton was returning to Washington after a five-day Asia tour.

Clinton’s Guam visit included a stop at the War in the Pacific National Park on Asan Bay. Guam was seized by Japan in concert with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the people were subjected to a harsh occupation.

The island was liberated by the United States in July 1944 after a bloody battle in which thousands of U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Japanese forces lost their lives. Almost all structures on the island were destroyed.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. government had control of more than 65 percent of the island’s 212 square miles, and now has about 33 percent, including the sprawling Andersen Air Force Base and several Navy posts. It is under local pressure to give up even more. About 6,900 U.S. military men and women are stationed on Guam.

At Osan Air Base in South Korea, Clinton demanded that North Korea _ whose forces have been arrayed against U.S. and South Korean troops along the Demilitarized Zone for more than four decades _ also stop developing and exporting chemical weapons and ballistic missiles.

``Until it fully commits itself to a constructive role on this peninsula,″ Clinton said, ``we must remain ready. And thanks to you, we will,″ he told the troops, assembled from the ranks of the 37,000-strong U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.

Clinton used his weekend in South Korea to focus mainly on the security threat to the South from the communist North, whose military is large but limited by an economy that is in shambles. Clinton last visited U.S. troops in South Korea in 1993, shortly after he took office.

``In the five years since I last met with our troops along the DMZ, we have seen some hopeful signs,″ Clinton said at Osan, home of the 51st Fighter Wing and 7th Air Force headquarters. Behind him sat two A-10 Warthog ground-attack planes and one F-16 fighter.

The North has engaged in preliminary talks on a peace treaty to replace the so-called temporary armistice that brought the 1950-53 Korean War to an end, Clinton noted. And U.S. and North Korean military officers have held talks aimed at preventing problems along the DMZ.

Earlier Sunday, Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, flew by helicopter north of Seoul to the Korean Training Center where units of the American Army’s 2nd Infantry Division train between the rocky mountain ridges about 10 miles from the DMZ.

Clinton reviewed a row of U.S. and Korean armored vehicles, including M-1 battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, and shared a lunch of Meals-Ready-to-Eat _ the packaged, high-caloric food that sustains soldiers in the field _ with troops in a heated hut.

Setting a light mood, Clinton announced to a crowd of troops that it was Sgt. Maj. Charles Thomas’s 45th birthday, and he led them in singing ``Happy Birthday″ to Thomas, of Dale City, Va. Thomas said later, ``I really appreciate him doing it. It definitely caught me off guard.″

The troops crowded around their commander-in-chief, shook hands, posed for pictures with him and followed him with video cameras.

``It’s cool,″ Spc. Terron Dixon, of Charlotte, N.C., said as he watched the president from afar. Coming to the front lines to see the troops ``shows a good side of Clinton,″ he said.

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