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Determined Alliance Counters North Korean Threats

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, Republic of Korea, July 30, 1999 – The United States aims to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula through "deterrence, dialogue and determination," according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

The secretary arrived here July 28 to review the security situation in the Asian-Pacific region with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Defense Minister Cho Sung-tae and others. Cohen said they all agree this is "a period of challenge and choice" on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean naval incursions and long-range ballistic missile testing threaten peace and stability, Cohen said at a press conference July 29. He stressed that further test launches will jeopardize North Korea's international relations.

"Right now, North Korea faces an important choice," Cohen said. "Pyongyang can take advantage of the opportunities for new economic and political openings, or it can reject these opportunities by launching a new missile ."

Testing another long-range ballistic missile, on the other hand, will signal North Korea's choice of "confrontation over cooperation and isolation over integration with the world," he said. Although the secretary would not give details, he said, another launch would result in "negative consequences."

"It would not be appropriate for me to try to spell out in advance exactly what those negative consequences would be," Cohen said. "But, certainly there would be diplomatic and economic consequences. Beyond that, we would have to reserve our judgment in terms of what would be an appropriate measure of response."

Whatever course North Korea selects, Cohen said, the United States and the Republic of Korea will continue to maintain its strong alliance based on shared values and close security cooperation."

U.S., Korean and Japanese officials are determined to contain North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program, Cohen said. They seek to resolve problems through dialog rather than confrontation, but at the same time, they remain prepared for any contingency.

Deterrence in the region is based on maintaining well-trained, well-equipped and well-led forces capable of prevailing against any challenge, the secretary pointed out. About 100,000 U.S. service members are based in the Asian-Pacific region, half in the Republic of Korea and the remainder in Japan.

Cohen noted that the Republic of Korea recently established a new nuclear, biological and chemical defense command and has taken other steps to defend against such weapons. "This will reduce the risk of any advantage that North Korea might think it could gain by using them," he said.

Wrapping up his Seoul visit July 30 before departing for Central Asia, Cohen concluded, "I am leaving the Republic of Korea with confidence that the U.S. and Korean forces are prepared for any security challenge. Our alliance is strong. Our resolve is steadfast and our forces are superior."

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