Wolfowitz to Stress That Terror Threat Is Real
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, May 31, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said while support from Asian countries for the war on terrorism has been outstanding, the people of these countries don't seem to feel the threat of terrorism as keenly as they should.
Wolfowitz will participate in the Asia Security Conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies here. He spoke to reporters aboard a KC-10 aircraft today while en route to this island nation. Singapore is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.
"One of the important themes of this conference is going to be managing two big challenges at the same time," he said. The first challenge is fighting and winning the global war on terrorism. The second is studying how to provide defense in the future.
Asia, he said, is not paying enough attention to the first challenge. "One of our messages is that the war on terrorism is important not just to the United States -- it is very important to Asia," he said.
Wolfowitz pointed out that one of the worst acts of terrorism prior to Sept. 11 happened in Asia -- the loosing of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. "But beyond that, I think that any country makes a mistake if they think only the United States is in the terrorists' gun sites -- we all are."
The deputy secretary said the governments of the area recognize the threat of terror and have cooperated fully with the United States. "Some of them, like our host, Singapore, have been very impressive in going after domestic terrorism," he said. "I think it was a big shock for them to discover they had a large cadre right here."
Wolfowitz said he would re-emphasize why the United States is so concerned about terrorism. He said he is worried that Asians may "underestimate our seriousness." He said it is not a case of simply helping the United States, but helping themselves also.
Start to think of the countries of the Pacific Rim, he said, and "by my count, more than half a billion Muslims" live there. He said the Muslims of the area represent some of the most moderate and tolerant strains of Islam, and the area could serve as a bridge between the West and the Muslim world.
Wolfowitz said the terrorists want to take the Muslim world back to "medieval darkness."
"I believe firmly that the great majority of the world's Muslims want the same benefits of prosperity, democracy and freedom that Americans and increasing numbers of other democratic countries are enjoying," he said. "All of the progress East Asia has made over the last 20 to 30 years is an inspiration to other countries trying to lift themselves from poverty."