SEOUL, South Korea – Vice President Dick Cheney closed his Asia tour with a speech to American troops stationed in Seoul, telling a cheering audience their enthusiastic reception was a highlight of the weeklong trip.
"Together ... we will destroy the remnants of violent, oppressive regimes — and together, we will win this essential victory in the war on terror," Cheney said Friday in an address to several thousand loudly cheering and chanting troops.
"That made the whole trip worthwhile," Cheney said of his reception by the servicemen and women stationed at the Youngsan Army Garrison (search) in downtown Seoul.
"Living on the border between freedom and tyranny, the people of Korea understand the urgency of our cause in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East," said Cheney.
After addressing the troops, Cheney boarded his jetliner for the long flight home to Washington.
At an earlier luncheon with South Korean leaders, Cheney saluted South Korea as "a nation that shares our values and shares part of our history."
"And again we are standing together," he said, calling South Korea "a valued and vital part of our coalition."
South Korea has troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq and the vice president said the United States applauds "your brave decision to support the cause of freedom."
Cheney visited as South Koreans voted in parliamentary elections that produced a victory for impeached President Roh Moo Hyun (search).
Cheney said the election showed "democracy is strong in the Republic of Korea."
During an earlier leg of his trip, Cheney said in a foreign policy speech in China that letting North Korea's weapons program go unchecked could spark a new arms race in the region and create a weapons bazaar for terrorists.
That speech was carried by China's state television without deletions or blackouts, which U.S. officials took as an encouraging sign of change.
Cheney praised China for setting up six-way talks to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, but he prodded Chinese leaders to be more aggressive in bringing pressure to bear on Pyongyang.
"We'll do our level best to achieve this objective through diplomatic means, and through negotiations," Cheney said. "But it is important that we make progress in this area."
The negotiations involve the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.
He suggested that North Korea represented a double threat — it could stock its own nuclear arsenal and sell weapons to the highest bidder, including Al Qaeda and other terror organizations.
Cheney said recent information gleaned from a top former Pakistani nuclear scientist provided compelling evidence that Pyongyang has an active atomic weapons program.
The reclusive communist government "must understand that no one in the region wants them to develop those weapons," Cheney said.
During Cheney's Asia trip, citizens from all three countries he visited — Japan, China and South Korea — were seized by militants in Iraq. Three Japanese hostages were released Thursday. The South Korean and Chinese hostages were freed earlier.
Cheney has engaged in unusually blunt talk in his travels, urging allies with troops in Iraq not to bow to pressure from militants and telling Chinese leaders that U.S. defensive military sales to Taiwan are largely a response to their own military buildup on the Taiwan Strait.
The vice president arrived in South Korea on Thursday shortly before polls closed in parliamentary elections. A liberal party loyal to South Korea's impeached president won the most seats.
The win by the Uri party could result in the crafting of a foreign policy more independent of the United States, South Korea's traditional ally, and the forging of closer ties with the North.
Cheney came seeking South Korea's support on the North Korea nuclear issue and its commitment to a promise to send more than 3,000 troops to Iraq.