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97293. U.S. to Question North Korean Defector

By Linda D. Kozaryn

American Forces Press Service

	WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials will get a chance to question a 

high-ranking North Korean defector who recently arrived in South 

Korea, DoD officials here said.

	Hwang Jang Yop and his aide Kim Dok Hung sought asylum at 

the Republic of Korea's consulate in Beijing more than two months 

ago. They arrived in Seoul April 20 after a stay in the 


	North Korea "is one of the most dangerous flash points in 

the world," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said on NBC Meet 

the Press April 21. Cohen said Republic of Korea officials 

assured him during his recent trip to Seoul that the United 

States will have access to the defector "to find out more about 

what's in the hearts and minds."

	U.S. officials consider Hwang, North Korea's leading 

ideologue -- a zealous advocate of the communist regime -- a very 

important defector, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said at a 

Pentagon briefing April 22. "The South Koreans have promised to 

share their information with us, and they have made it very clear 

we will have our own independent access to defector Hwang," Bacon 


	DoD officials expect to talk with Hwang in several weeks, he 

said. The United States is interested in information on nuclear 

weapons, military readiness, missile production and North Korean 

leadership, DoD officials said.

	Hwang told reporters in Seoul that North Korea is prepared 

to use its "formidable armed forces" to solve its "economic 

paralysis." Hwang said the North Korean people have "lost hope" 

and the nation has been reduced to "a beggar country," according 

to a New York Times report.

	North Korea, one of the world's last bastions of communism, 

is facing severe food shortages and malnutrition due to problems 

caused by the tightly-controlled, centralized system, DoD 

officials said. Severe flooding in the last several years have 

contributed to widespread famine. Despite economic failure and 

starvation among its people, North Korea has maintained powerful 

military forces.

	Defense officials consider North Korea's military capability 

troubling, Bacon said. They have the world's fourth largest army 

with 1.2 million troops, he said. "Fifty percent of it is arrayed 

along the demilitarized zone. They have extensive artillery 

trained on South Korea. They have worked very hard to build 

dangerous and threatening weapons." Their arsenal includes 

chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles, DoD 

officials said. 

	DoD takes the North Korean threat seriously and is 

interested in what intelligence defector Hwang can provide, Bacon 

said. But, he noted, there is no evidence of increased military 


	"Although this is a very powerful ... military force arrayed 

against the Republic of Korea and against our own forces, the 

general level of exercise and training has fallen off somewhat in 

the last several years from what it had been in the past," Bacon 

said. "We attribute this in part to the impact of their economic 


	The United States is committed to maintaining 100,000 troops 

to provide security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. 

About 37,000 troops are forward-deployed in the Republic of Korea 

and another 47,000 are stationed in Japan to counter the threat 

from the north. 

	Defense leaders beefed up these forces in 1994 in response 

to North Korea's developing nuclear program, Bacon said. At the 

time, U.S. officials believed North Korea had generated enough 

plutonium to make at least one nuclear weapon, he said. 

	"We persuaded them to stop through negotiations, which led 

to the Framework Agreement," Bacon said. "It is generally 

believed that the North Korean nuclear program is frozen. 

Although there can be no absolute assurance that it does not 

already possess a small number of nuclear weapons."

	The U.S. goal has been and continues to be to convince North 

Korea that it is futile to look for military solutions to their 

problems, Bacon said. "We believe we have a very powerful 

defensive force that could respond extremely quickly with 

devastating power to any attack made against us or the Republic 

of Korea," he said.