DATE=9/19/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=U-S / KOREA (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-266763 BYLINE=GARY THOMAS DATELINE=BANGKOK CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: U-S Defense Secretary William Cohen is urging caution in dealing with the rapid political changes on the Korean peninsula. Speaking in Thailand Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said North Korea's huge military presence along the North-South Korean border is cause for concern. VOA Southeast Asia Correspondent Gary Thomas reports. TEXT: Speaking in Bangkok, Defense Secretary Cohen says there is cause for both optimism and concern on the Korean peninsula. Mr. Cohen - who spoke before his departure for Seoul - said tensions have subsided along the North-South Korean border. But he says the actions taken so far are only the first steps. /// COHEN ACT /// I think it's clear that there has been a reduction in the tensions that have previously existed. But I think that we're in the first stages in this move toward reconciliation or rapprochement or some state of positive affairs between North and South (Korea). And I think that that we have to be very cautious. /// END ACT /// After years of hostility, relations between North and South Korea are thawing. The North and South Korean leaders have held a summit meeting. A long-abandoned north-south railroad line is being rebuilt, along with a highway, which will be the first direct transport links between the two sides since the Korean War. Mr. Cohen says the United States is heartened by these moves. But he also warns that North Korea's massive troop presence along the border is still worrisome. /// COHEN ACT TWO /// We are encouraged by the steps that we see being taken. But we must remain vigilant because of the size of the army that the North Koreans still maintain, their status of being forward deployed, with as many as 800-thousand that are still forward deployed with the large amount of artillery that could certainly pose a serious threat to the people in Seoul and beyond. So it's important that as these steps are taken that we remain vigilant, and I think prudence is the watchword for all concerned. /// END ACT // Mr. Cohen is on an Asian tour for defense consultations with Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. During his visit to South Korea, Mr. Cohen will meet with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and top defense officials. The two sides are to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement, which governs the legal status of the 37-thousand U-S troops stationed in South Korea. Mr. Cohen says good progress has been made on reaching a new agreement, but that he does not expect the a new pact to be concluded during his brief visit there. (signed) NEB/HK/GPT/JO 19-Sep-2000 05:13 AM LOC (19-Sep-2000 0913 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|