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Cohen Calls for North Korean Cooperation on Missiles

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, July 28, 1999 – "The United States, Japan and South Korea all want cooperation -- not confrontation -- with North Korea," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said at a July 28 press conference here.

Cohen arrived in Tokyo July 26 to meet with U.S. forces and local government leaders. He met July 28 with members of Japan's parliament, the Diet, and his Japanese counterpart, Defense Agency Director General Hosei Norota.

"We all share the view that another missile test by North Korea would create an element of instability and uncertainty in the region," Cohen told reporters.

North Korea tested a Taepo Dong I ballistic missile in August 1998 that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific. U.S. officials say North Korea may now be preparing to test a more advanced missile, Taepo Dong II, capable of reaching U.S. territory.

The United States has urged North Korea to stop developing, testing, and exporting missiles and missile technology. Another test launch will jeopardize North Korea's relations with the international community, Cohen said.

"We are prepared to work with North Korea to open economic and political opportunities and North Korea should seize this chance to build a new and positive relationship," Cohen said. "A refusal to show restraint, however, would have serious negative implications on our relationship, stalling or stopping cooperation that could benefit North Korea and all of Asia."

His remarks echoed a warning issued a day earlier in Singapore following a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. At a press conference July 27, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and South Korean Foreign Minister Hong Sun-yong warned North Korea that another long-range missile launch would have serious consequences.

Although Cohen would not provide details, he said the three nations have closely coordinated political and economic steps they could take if North Korea does not exercise restraint.

"We see this as an opportunity for North Korea to embrace some economic and diplomatic initiatives that would lead to a lessening of tensions and an integration of North Korea into the international community," Cohen explained. Rejecting this opportunity "could lead to greater instability and tensions in the region that would not be of benefit to anyone."

In light of the growing missile threat posed by North Korea, the United States and Japan soon expect to sign a memorandum of understanding establishing a framework for collaboration on theater missile defense research, Cohen said. The agreement will also cover subsequent development and production "if this is the path that Japan selects," he added.

"It's important to note that theater missile defense is purely a defensive system both for the United States and Japan," Cohen stressed. "Our work on this project should not be a threat to anyone."

While North Korea's missile program was on the top of the agenda, the secretary said he discussed a range of topics with his Japanese counterparts, including their new Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation. The guidelines create a solid base for cooperation under normal circumstances, in case of an attack against Japan and in regional contingencies.

Cohen said they also discussed progress toward implementing recommendations by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, particularly finding a replacement for Futenma Airfield. No firm deadline has been set, he said, but he hoped substantial progress can be made in the coming months.

In 1995, the United States and Japan formed the committee to find ways to reduce the burden U.S. activity creates for the Okinawans. Based on the committee's recommendations, U.S. military officials adjusted operational and administrative procedures, and efforts are under way to consolidate U.S. facilities and return about 12,000 acres to Japanese control.

Overall, Cohen concluded, the security relationship between the United States and Japan "is as strong as it's ever been, and this relationship continues to be an important force for stability in Asia."

America's defense ties with Japan go back to the end of World War II. With the occupation from 1945 to 1952, the United States assumed responsibility for the island nation's defense. In 1969, the two governments signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, providing the basis for close defense ties.

Today, about 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, including about 28,000 on Okinawa. Headquarters, U.S. Forces Japan is at Yokota Air Base, about 25 miles west of Tokyo. About 2,000 soldiers, 15,000 airmen, 21,000 sailors and 19,000 Marines are assigned to the command.

Japan's self-defense forces are primarily responsible for defending Japan's homeland, territorial seas and skies. Japan has forsworn nuclear arms and forbids arms sales abroad. A 1983 U.S.-Japan agreement, however, allows the export of Japanese defense and dual-use technology to the United States.

Japan defrays the costs of maintaining U.S. forces as well as the cost of bilateral planning, training and exercises. In 1995, for instance, it paid $4.25 billion of the $7.6 billion U.S. troop maintenance costs.

In 1996, President Clinton and Japan's Prime Minister Hashimoto signed the U.S.-Japan Joint Declaration on Security, reaffirming continuing commitment to the security alliance.

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