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DATE=3/17/2000
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
TITLE=CHINA KOREA (L-ONLY)
NUMBER=2-260307
BYLINE=JIM RANDLE
DATELINE=SEOUL, KOREA
CONTENT=
INTERNET=YES
INTRO:  The commander of U-S Forces in Korea says 
U-S intelligence is watching North Korea with 
special care in case Pyongyang tries to launch 
any surprise military action while Washington is 
preoccupied by the tensions between neighboring 
China and Taiwan.  General Thomas Schwartz also 
says North Korean forces are getting steadily 
better, in spite of severe economic problems. V-
O-A's Jim Randle reports from Seoul, where top U-
S and South Korean officials are discussing 
defense issues.
Text:  General Schwartz told reporters North 
Korean military activity seemed "about normal" 
over the past few weeks.  But the U-S Army 
General says North Korean forces are getting 
better, day to day, year to year, doing more 
training and moving units closer to the border 
with South Korea.
Other Pentagon officials say the renewed training 
is mostly by North Korea's massive artillery 
units, and comes after a period when economic 
problems appeared to limit military activity.
North and South Korea have been in a state of 
armed truce for decades following several years 
of bitter war in the early 1950's (1950-1953). 
Northern forces are more numerous, with more than 
a million soldiers and thousands of pieces of 
artillery.  South Korean forces are smaller, but 
equipped with more advanced weapons, sensors and 
communications gear. South Korea fields about 
600-thousand troops, backed by 38-thousand 
Americans.
The one point eight billion dollar annual cost of 
keeping those U-S soldiers, sailors, airmen and 
marines on watch in Korea is one of the issues on 
the agenda Saturday as U-S Defense Secretary 
William Cohen holds talks with Korea's Minister 
of National Defense, President and other leaders.
The Government in Seoul now pays about 38 per 
cent of the bill, but some members of the U-S 
Congress would like Korea to pay more.  But South 
Korea is just emerging from an economic crisis, 
and is reluctant to pay more for the military.
The two sides will also talk about allegations 
that U-S troops killed hundreds of Korean 
civilians in the early, chaotic days of the 
Korean war at a village called No Gun Ri.  News 
accounts of the incident say the Americans feared 
North Korean troops were hiding among the 
refugees.
South Korea is the final stop on an Asian journey 
that has taken Defense Secretary William Cohen to 
Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam. (Signed)
NEB/PT
17-Mar-2000 19:44 PM EDT (18-Mar-2000 0044 UTC)
NNNN
Source: Voice of America
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