Troop Talk Highlights Cohen's Korea Visit
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
SEOUL, Jan. 21, 1999 After arriving here mid-afternoon Jan. 14, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen flew directly to Camp Humphreys, south of here, to meet U.S. soldiers before returning to the capital for talks with Korean officials.
Arriving by UH-60 helicopter, the secretary toured the 6th Cavalry Regiment before re-enlisting or presenting medals to several enlisted service members and warrant officers. Cohen presided over the re-enlistments of Sgt. Lorena Morehead of Los Angeles and Sgt. Richard DeLeon of Danville, Ill. He presented the Meritorious Service Medal to Chief Warrant Officer Michael Semeniuk of Alsip, Ill., and the Legion of Merit to Chief Warrant Officer James Shackleford of Anniston, Ala.
Addressing a large, enthusiastic audience inside an AH-64 Apache maintenance hangar, Cohen praised the soldiers for their service away from family and friends and for helping the United States and Republic of Korea maintain vigilance against the ongoing threat from North Korea. "We are the most respected military in the world," he told them. He said all Americans benefit from their service.
Cohen also visited the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation), where he toured an RC-7B airborne reconnaissance low-multifunction aircraft and again talked with troops. After giving battalion members a simple "thank you," he added, "I don't think you hear that enough. We are truly indebted to you for your sacrifices every day."
Cold winds and nightfall greeted the secretary and his entourage as they returned to the UH-60 and flew back to Seoul.
Hosted by National Defense Minister Chun Yong-Taek, the secretary received honors Jan. 15 at the Korean War Memorial before participating in the 30th Republic of Korea and U.S. security consultative meeting. At a joint press conference following the meeting, Cohen and Chun announced that they've agreed to strengthen their nations' military alliance.
"As the first [security consultative meeting] since the launch of a new Korean administration, this morning's talks laid the groundwork for us so we can further consolidate our bilateral alliance in preparation for the 21st century," Chun said. Chun said he and Cohen discussed ways to counter the North Korean threat and prepare for any future crisis on the Korean Peninsula. He said the two leaders view a coordinated North Korea policy should be undercoated by a strong combined defense policy.
Both defense chiefs expressed concern over North Korea's missile program, continued infiltration into South Korea and suspected development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. They said the combined forces of the United States and South Korea must steadfastly maintain defense readiness against a wide range of threats.
Cohen also praised South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of opening up avenues of communication between the North and South Korean governments. He said negotiation is preferable to confrontation.
"We're living in a period of opportunity and risk, and President Kim's policy of engaging North Korea and the four-party talks [between the United States, China, and South and North Korea] raise the possibility of diplomatic progress for reconciliation and peace," Cohen said. However, North Korean actions, including upgrading its missile program and resisting U.S. inspection of the suspect nuclear facility, "threaten to frustrate that promise," he said.
"In the face of this uncertainty, our policy is and must remain clear and unwavering," Cohen said. "We will maintain a strong deterrent as we pursue dialogue with North Korea. But hopeful diplomacy rests on the reality of that deterrence, and our deterrence is stronger than ever."
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton joined Cohen at the defense ministry. He arrived in Seoul a day earlier than the secretary to take part in the annual military committee meeting at the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters. This meeting also focused on the North Korean threat and ways to bolster deterrence. Participants discussed ways to quickly deploy U.S. reinforcements to combat any North Korean aggression and reaffirmed their mutual commitment to defend South Korea.
The secretary also met with Hong Soon Young, South Korea's foreign affairs and trade minister, and finally with President Kim before returning to Washington Jan. 15. (Army Spc. Christopher P. Swartz, Area III public affairs, Korea, contributed to this report)