President Moon Jae-in said his government will push for talks with North Korea on excavating troop remains in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which bisects the peninsula.
In a message to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement that put a de facto end to the Korean War, Moon stressed the importance of sending the remains of Korean, American and other countries' service members killed in the three-year conflict to their families.
He cited a remains recovery work under way on Arrowhead Ridge inside the DMZ, where fierce battles were fought during the war, under an inter-Korean agreement signed on Sept. 19 last year.
"Once the remains excavation is completed on Arrowhead Ridge, (we) will expand it to the whole DMZ through South-North consultations," Moon said in the speech to a hotel meeting of Korean War veterans in Pentagon City on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. on Saturday (local time).
It was read by South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Cho Yoon-je, as Moon did not attend the event.
Moon's remarks reflect his resolve to accelerate the Korea peace process despite the North's recent saber-rattling, including the launch of short-range ballistic missiles last week.
The president vowed more efforts to account for American soldiers who were killed or missing in action in cooperation with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency headquartered in the U.S. capital.
Moon described it as part of works to turn the "sacrifice and dedication" of Korean War veterans into the "history of today," not just the past.
He added South Korea will make sure that the construction of a "Memorial Wall of Remembrance" will be done by 2022 as scheduled within the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington.
He recalled a historic meeting on June 30 between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the DMZ truce village of Panmunjom, where the Armistice Agreement was signed 66 years earlier.
The U.S. president stepped over the Military Demarcation Line into the communist North, and he had a trilateral gathering with Kim and Moon.
All of those were the "first-ever incidents in history," Moon said. "A peace era is opening in the last Cold War frontier on Earth."
Korean War Veterans hold a ceremony to mark the 66th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. on July 27, 2019. (Yonhap)
He expressed hope for war veterans' support for a campaign to bring permanent peace and prosperity to Korea without fear of another war.
Moon emphasized the significance of the Seoul-Washington alliance, as shown in the Korean War.
He said his parents were among the refugees who fled the 1950 Chosin Reservoir battle, to South Korea aboard the U.S. ship the SS Meredith Victory. (Yonhap)