TITLE=U-S / KOREA (L ONLY)
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
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)
19-Sep-2000 05:13 AM LOC (19-Sep-2000 0913 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list