SEOUL — The new U.S. Forces Korea commander used the anniversary of the armistice that halted Korean War hostilities to criticize North Korea for violating the pact repeatedly over the years.

“We desire cooperation in addressing North Korea’s aggressive behavior, and we ask the global community to assist in convincing North Korea that its path to security and prosperity lies in the cessation of its provocative behavior, better relations with its neighbors and complete, irreversible denuclearization,” Gen. James Thurman said.

The Korean War began in 1950 and, although a peace treaty was never signed, it essentially ended with the signing of an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953. While the two Koreas are still technically at war, the pact provided for the transfer of prisoners, the creation of the Demilitarized Zone and the end of open hostilities.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 58th anniversary of the armistice in a conference room at the DMZ, Thurman said the pact enabled South Korea to become a “vibrant democracy” and the 13th largest economy in the world.

“Regrettably, North Korea has chosen a different path,” he said to a crowd of about 75. “They have gone down the path of violating the human rights of their own people. This different path has tested the armistice many times over the last six decades, most recently last year with the attacks on the Cheonan and the Northwest Islands.”

Thurman was referring to the sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in which four people were killed.

“The best way to preserve peace on the peninsula is through the mechanism of the armistice agreement,” Thurman said. “We will continue to utilize the Korean Armistice Agreement as the basis for all military-to-military negotiations between United Nations Command and North Korea.”

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