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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

COHEN / KOREA

Voice of America 4/9/97

BYLINE=DAVID GOLLUST
DATELINE=SEOUL
CONTENT=
VOICED AT: 
INTRO:  THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA ARE 
CONDUCTING HIGH-LEVEL DEFENSE CONSULTATIONS IN 
SEOUL ON THE SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA.  U-S DEFENSE 
SECRETARY WILLIAM COHEN AND THE JOINT CHIEFS OF 
STAFF CHAIRMAN, JOHN SHALIKASHVILI, ARE MEETING 
WITH THEIR SOUTH KOREAN COUNTERPARTS.  VOA'S DAVID 
GOLLUST HAS DETAILS FROM SEOUL.
TEXT:  THE TWO SIDES ARE EXCHANGING WHAT INFORMATION
THEY HAVE ABOUT CONDITIONS INSIDE THE OPAQUE NORTH 
KOREAN SOCIETY, AND SECRETARY COHEN SAYS THE 
EVIDENCE IS MOUNTING THAT THE FOOD SITUATION IS 
VERY SEVERE.
THE DEFENSE SECRETARY SPOKE TO REPORTERS AS HE 
ARRIVED IN SEOUL FOR A ROUND OF BRIEFINGS BY TOP 
U-S MILITARY COMMANDERS, INCLUDING GENERAL 
SHALIKASHVILI -- TO BE FOLLOWED THURSDAY BY
MEETINGS WITH PRESIDENT KIM YOUNG-SAM AND 
OTHER SOUTH KOREAN LEADERS.
MR. COHEN SAYS THE UNITED STATES' MAIN CONCERN 
IS THAT THE FOOD CRISIS MIGHT PROMPT A DESPERATE 
PYONGYANG GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH A PRE-EMPTIVE 
MILITARY ACTION AGAINST THE SOUTH.
DESPITE ITS DIRE ECONOMIC SITUATION, NORTH KOREA 
STILL FIELDS THE WORLD'S FOURTH-LARGEST ARMY.  MUCH
OF IT, INCLUDING HEAVY ARTILLERY AND GROUND-TO-GROUND
MISSILES, IS DEPLOYED, NEAR THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE WITHIN
STRIKING DISTANCE OF SEOUL.
HOWEVER, THE DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS THE BATTLE 
READINESS OF NORTH KOREAN FORCES HAS BEEN ERODING 
IN RECENT YEARS, AND DESPITE A RECENT SET OF LARGE-SCALE
MANEUVERS, THERE ARE  NO  SIGNS AN ATTACK IS IMMINENT.
MR. COHEN SAID IF THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION DECIDES
TO COMMIT  ADDITIONAL FOOD AID TO NORTH, IT WILL BE 
DONE IN CLOSE CONSULTATION WITH SOUTH KOREA AND 
JAPAN.
HE ALSO SAID THE UNITED STATES IS WARY OF PROVIDING
ANY ASSISTANCE THAT WOULD HAVE THE EFFECT OF 
PROPPING UP NORTH KOREA'S STALINIST GOVERNMENT, 
WHILE INNOCENT PEOPLE THERE CONTINUED TO STARVE.
AS HE DID IN HIS PREVIOUS STOP IN JAPAN, THE DEFENSE 
SECRETARY IS GIVING ASSURANCES HERE THAT THE 
FAR-REACHING PENTAGON (U.S. DEFENSE) POLICY REVIEW
NOW UNDER WAY, WILL  NOT  MEAN A REDUCTION
IN THE 100-THOUSAND-TROOP U-S PRESENCE IN ASIA.
HE SAYS HE WILL TELL PRESIDENT KIM THE 37-THOUSAND 
AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN SOUTH KOREA WILL REMAIN  FOR 
THE INDEFINITE FUTURE, AS EFFORTS CONTINUE TO BRING 
THE NORTH KOREANS INTO PROPOSED FOUR-PARTY 
NEGOTIATIONS.  THE GOAL OF THE TALKS WOULD BE TO
FASHION A PERMANENT PEACE ACCORD TO REPLACE 
THE 1950'S KOREAN WAR ARMISTICE.
U-S OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN UPSET OVER THE POSSIBILITY 
SOUTH KOREA MAY BUY RUSSIAN S-A-12 ANTI-AIRCRAFT 
MISSILES, WHICH THEY SAY ARE NOT  INTER-OPERABLE 
WITH OTHER WEAPONS AND COULD THREATEN AMERICAN
AIRCRAFT IN A COMBAT SITUATION.
BUT MR. COHEN SOUNDED A CONCILIATORY TONE IN HIS 
COMMNENTS TO REPORTERS TRAVELLING WITH HIM.  HE 
SAID THE UNITED STATES WOULD NOT  OBJECT IF SOUTH 
KOREA ACQUIRED SOME OF THE MISSILES FOR TESTING 
PURPOSES -- AND THAT IN ANY CASE, THE ISSUE WILL  NOT
SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECT AN OVERALL RELATIONSHIP HE
CALLED STRONG AND DURABLE.  (SIGNED)
NEB/DAG/FC/CF
09-Apr-97 6:11 AM EDT (1011 UTC)
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