Heed Warnings, Cohen Urges Troops in Japan, Korea
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
SYDNEY, Australia, Jul. 17, 2000 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen urged U.S. military personnel in Okinawa, Japan and South Korea to heed warnings regarding local anti-American sentiments.
Cohen said tensions are high in Okinawa due to an incident involving the alleged molestation of a schoolgirl by a U.S. Marine and the coming G-8 summit."
"I think there are likely to be more rallies and so forth to try to impress upon the G-8 leaders the concerns of the Okinawan people," he said. The world's top economic powers, the Group of Eight meet July 21 in Okinawa. Member nations are the United States, France, Britain, Japan, Canada, Germany, Russia and Italy.
Cohen noted that there have been no indications of violence in connection with the anti-American protests in Okinawa. But, he said, defense officials are watching the situation closely.
Anti-Americanism is not a widespread sentiment in Korea, Cohen said. President Kim Dae-jung has already indicated U.S. troops will remain indefinitely, even if there is some kind of a unification or association" between North and South, he said.
"During these times when there are fundamental changes under way, there are likely to be political sentiments expressed, and we just have to be cautious about them," Cohen said.
U.S. troops deployed in Okinawa and in South Korea are fulfilling U.S. national security needs, he stressed. "This is fundamental to our forward-deployment strategy of helping to shape events so it's a national security issue for us."
U.S. troops are also supporting the objectives of the host nation, he said. "We are there at the invitation and the will of the sovereign governments of Japan and South Korea and we intend to remain there."