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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
US troops to stay in Korea
Troops and Cohen
Mr Cohen says US troops are a stabilising force
US Defence Secretary William Cohen has said the South Korean president wants American troops to remain on the peninsula despite signs of improving relations with North Korea.

Mr Cohen, who is visiting Seoul, said after talks with President Kim Dae-jung that he had warned of a dangerous power vacuum if the 37,000-strong American force left.

We must remain militarily strong and we must remain completely united

William Cohen
The announcement coincided with a meeting of officials from the two Koreas in the border village of Panmunjom.

They have been finalising arrangements for the meeting in Hong Kong next week of defence ministers from North and South Korea - the first such meeting since the Korean War.

'Stabilising force'

The US remains suspicious of North Korea's military power
Speaking to reporters Mr Cohen said he believed the North Koreans also felt the US troops should remain as a stabilising force in Asia, even after any formal reconciliation between the two Koreas.

"We support President Kim's efforts to bring about a more peaceful environment and ultimately a reconciliation," he said, referring to the South Korea president's so-called "sunshine policy" towards the North.

"But we must remain militarily strong and we must remain completely united and continue to co-ordinate in every way that we can," he said.

On Thursday, Mr Cohen's team will take part in the annual US-South Korea Security Consultative Meeting.

Family reunions

Korean border wire
The Korean war has not yet been formally ended
As part of the Korean reconciliation process, Red Cross officials from the two countries began talks on Wednesday on plans to re-unite more families separated since the end of the Korean War.

A South Korean Red Cross official, Chon Jong-keun, said the meeting at Mount Kumgang of North Korea would work out plans for more family reunions to take place in October and November.

Reports from South Korea say as many as 90,000 families have applied to take part in the next round of reunions.

In August more than 100 Korean families who had not seen their relatives for more than half a century were re-united.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
South Korea: US troops 'must stay'
15 Sep 00 | Olympics2000
Korean athletes march as one
11 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
New steps towards Korean thaw
02 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean communists go home
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas end propaganda war
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