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Cohen Visits Far East to Strengthen U.S.-Asia Ties

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 1998 – Defense Secretary William Cohen left Jan. 10 on an 12-day trip to Asia to meet with senior U.S. political and military officials and troops based there.

The longest trip Cohen has taken as defense secretary includes stops in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea. The trip is designed to show U.S. commitment to security not just in Korea and Japan, where the bulk of U.S. forces are based, but to Southeast Asia and China as well, officials said.

Besides scheduled meetings, the secretary was to participate in a wide range of activities. Visits with U.S. troops highlight stops in Singapore and Korea. About 150 U.S. service members are stationed in Singapore, while more than 36,500 are currently based in the Republic of Korea.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Cohen took part in the Pacific Dialog, a charter group of Asian-Pacific statesmen, to talk about mutual regional security and the United States. In Singapore, he will give the keynote address at the opening of the Strategic Studies Institute.

While in Beijing, Cohen was to sign the recently negotiated maritime agreement that establishes guidelines for U.S.-Chinese interaction when their navies come into proximity to one another.

In Japan, Cohen and Japanese defense officials were to conduct intensive discussions about the U.S.-Japanese bilateral security relationship, including continued reduction of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

On the final stop, in Seoul, the secretary was to meet with both current and newly elected government leaders.

The secretary's visit coincides with Asia's escalating financial crisis. A Pentagon spokesman said the trip demonstrates U.S. willingness to stand with its Asian friends in good times, as well as through difficult and uncertain times.

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