Cohen: Deterrence Key to Diplomacy
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 21, 2000 "Diplomacy can only succeed if deterrence remains strong," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said during a recent visit to Seoul, South Korea.
Diplomatic initiatives must be based on strong military defenses, Cohen said after meeting with President Kim Dae- jung and other Republic of Korea officials March 17 and 18. "Our deterrence is indeed strong. Both the United States and the ROK are working together every day to make sure our forces are trained and equipped and alert enough to overwhelm any attack."
The United States, Japan and South Korea are attempting to develop new, more open relationships with North Korea. Government-to-government dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang is a necessary precondition to lowering tensions on the peninsula, he said.
During a joint press conference, Cohen and South Korean Defense Minister Cho Song-tae said North Korea has carried out extensive military exercises in the last year. The defense leaders said they would maintain a close watch on the North, and in case of armed attack, they would respond promptly and resolutely.
Cohen and Cho said they had discussed a number of bilateral issues including preventing encroachment into military training land due to urbanization and scarcity of available grounds. They agreed to resume discussions on the status of forces agreement in April.
Noting the upcoming 50th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the secretary said the U.S.-South Korean alliance has grown steadily stronger.
"For half a century, the U.S. and ROK troops have stood shoulder to shoulder for free people and free markets," Cohen said. "The ROK has prospered behind this shield. Democracy has flourished and living conditions have improved. The South Korean economy has considerably demonstrated its strength and resilience.
At the start of his visit, Cohen stopped briefly at Osan Air Base and later visited 2nd Infantry Division soldiers at Camp Stanley, about 50 kilometers from the Demilitarized Zone. Speaking to about 800 soldiers there, the secretary commended the troops for their dedication and hard work and highlighted recent DoD initiatives to improve quality of life. He presented medals to four soldiers, re-enlisted three and promoted two others.
Cohen later told reporters: "After visiting U.S. troops at Osan Air Base and Camp Stanley yesterday and meeting with government officials today, I leave Seoul convinced we are prepared to defeat those who would wage war and embrace those who would work for peace."