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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
August 12, 1997 1:45 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Thanks for coming to the briefing.

First I'd like to welcome 18 foreign policy professionals from different countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Near East. They're here participating in a three-week U.S. studies program sponsored by the USIA. It's being held at Princeton University. They're in Washington to visit various government agencies including the Pentagon.

Second, I'd like formally to welcome Bryan Whitman who is going to be Colonel Bridge's Deputy in DDI. You all know Bryan from his days working on Persian Gulf Illnesses. Now he'll have a broader focus and cover the entire landscape of DDI. So welcome aboard.

With that, I'll take your questions on Bryan or anything else.

Q: NATO military representatives made clear yesterday that the so-called "special police" in Bosnia are illegal and will not be tolerated. These people protect people like Mladic and Karadzic. Is that a signal that the military may move against top officials...

A: Let me talk a little bit about the special police. Several weeks ago the SACEUR, General Wesley Clark, reached a conclusion after consultations with the North Atlantic Council and others, that he would give instructions to SFOR to crack down on the special police forces. These are actually paramilitary police groups that have the armaments of military groups sometimes -- tanks, artillery, APCs, etc. And many of them had rifles and automatic weapons rather than just the sidearms that normal police people carry.

Starting last weekend SFOR notified the factions that we were going to go in and inspect the headquarters and the barracks and the cantonment areas -- weapons cantonment areas -- of the special police forces, and we were going to treat them as military forces because of the way they're armed and because of the way some of them have acted. So that is underway now. Many special police units have been inspected or will be inspected. They will all be inspected soon, and those that have not declared weapons and lived up to Annex 1A of the Dayton Accords will have certain heavy weapons taken away from them.

If they follow the procedures, they will report their weapons and store them in cantonment areas where they're subject to inspection to make sure that the weapons aren't being used improperly or moved. That, of course, will make the weapons subject to the arms control limits that also have been imposed as part of the Dayton process. So this is ongoing. It fits into a broader policy that has really been underway for several months. In May, I believe, President Clinton called for a review of the Bosnia policy and he concluded, as he has stated many times along with Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright, that what we have to do is concentrate on how to make the Dayton process work between now and our scheduled withdrawal date of SFOR, which is June of 1998. In other words, we have to make every day count in terms of implementing the peace, laying a strong foundation for peace and stability in Bosnia. This is part of that overall plan.

Q: Is this weakening the protection for high profile war criminals?

A: This is an effort to take forces that we believe should have been treated as military forces, and treat them as military forces. Although they were called police forces, we believe they were actually military forces. And now we're treating them as military forces subject to the same weapons accounting procedures that apply to military forces.

Q: Has this been done in Pale?

A: Yes, it has been or is in the process of being done in Pale.

Q: Are any of these forces suspected of working with or protecting any of the wanted war criminals?

A: Some of the special police brigades are involved in the protection of VIPs, and they will continue to be involved in the protection of VIPs.

Q: That would include wanted war criminals?

A: Some could include wanted war criminals. But they are involved in protection of former officials in Bosnia -- in the Serb section of Bosnia. The difference here, this is not saying that they can no longer provide body guard functions, it's the armaments they use when they perform their functions that will be more tightly controlled and regulated.

Q: Would Mladic and Karadzic be on the list of people that some of these forces would be working with?

A: Certainly what happened after the fighting ended was that some military units became so-called special police brigades that were actually paramilitary units, and some of those have been involved in guarding former Serb officials, yes.

Q: Including Mladic and Karadzic?

A: Yes. Some have been involved in guarding Mladic and Karadzic.

Q: The fact that the special police have been using the arms that you mentioned is nothing new.

A: Right.

Q: I remember in Bosnia at least a year ago there were reports about Serb police carrying automatic weapons, things they weren't supposed to. Can you just sort of explain to us why NATO is coming to this decision now as opposed to a year ago when they were blatantly disregarding the agreement?

A: I think there are two reasons. The first reason I've already explained. That is that in May the United States -- President Clinton -- launched a review of our Bosnia policy and decided to take a number of actions, working with our allies, to improve implementation of the Dayton Accords. This was one of the initiatives that came out of that.

In addition, it was clear after some war criminals who had been subject to sealed indictment were captured by British troops several months ago, there was a period of harassment by Serbs directed at SFOR. Looking at that harassment and what may have caused it -- who was performing it -- it was decided that it would be wise to go ahead and include the paramilitary groups under Annex 1A. That's another reason why this change was made.

Q: What specific units are doing the breaking up, if any? Is it special forces? It is a mix of U.S. Army units that are involved in breaking up the special police?

A: No, it's the forces that are there as part of SFOR. Not just U.S. forces, but the allied forces in their individual sectors are addressing the special police brigades.

Q: Has there been any change during this review in the Department's feeling that the U.S. military should not, will not, go into arresting war criminals as part of the special police force?

A: Let me tell you what has not changed. That is the commitment by the United States and all our allies to help the International War Crimes Tribunal bring indicted war criminals to justice. That has been our goal from the beginning and it remains our goal. So nothing has changed in that respect.

Q: From this podium and other places you've said that you didn't want to get the military involved in a police force, that is a police function. You've said that several times, as has the Secretary...

A: I just want to tell you what has not changed, and that's our commitment to work with the International War Crimes Tribunal to bring war criminals to justice.

Q: Could that include having U.S. military in a special police force?

A: We believe that it is the job of the former warring factions to turn in indicted war criminals. That's what Ambassador Holbrooke said on his trip, and that remains our position.

Q: Are you moving out, using U.S. military forces for arresting suspected war criminals?

A: We believe that bringing war criminals to justice is a police function.

Q: Is it correct to say it is not the goal to disband the special police forces, just to disarm them with the heavy weapons they're carrying now, correct?

A: Yes. They are called police forces. It is to make sure that they act as police forces, not as paramilitary forces.

Q: What specifically is the distinction in terms of the armaments? Are we talking about taking everything away from them above a sidearm or a rifle...

A: Basically there's... To be specific, policemen generally carry sidearms and these people will be limited in their patrols to sidearms except there will be one long-barreled weapon for every ten people, for instance. There will also... As I said, if they have tanks and artillery and APCs, these will be counted as military equipment and they will be subject to inspection and subject to declaration by the units and they will have to keep these weapons in cantonment areas or barracks areas where they can be inspected by SFOR.

Every day there are a number of inspection missions by SFOR troops.

Q: Can these items not only be inspected, can they actually be used by the special police brigades...

A: They can't be moved.

Q: Is this essentially a confiscation of armaments above and beyond that one long-barreled rifle and pistols?

A: It is only a confiscation if... The procedures are very clear. They have to declare their armaments. They have to store their armaments in cantonment areas. They can't move their armaments out of those areas unless certain conditions are met. We can inspect those cantonment areas to make sure that everything that is supposed to be there is there. Essentially this freezes the use of certain military equipment. That's the rule that has applied to Army units. Now this will apply to the so-called special police brigades which we have determined are paramilitary units. So those weapons will not be used by them, cannot be used by them in their day-to-day operations.

Q: Is there a grace period, or is this already in effect for all units?

A: We've notified them and this will be done certainly by the end of the month, but the inspections are underway now. We've made some preliminary reconnaissance, I think, of many of these. Some have actually been inspected in the American sector, which is MND North -- Multinational Division North. We've completed inspections, I think, of six of eight of these paramilitary units or special police brigades.

Q: In the U.S. sector?

A: In the U.S. sector, right.

Q: Doesn't this strip away some of the security blanket around some of these war criminals and give them pause, and give them more concern?

A: Whether it gives indicted war criminals more concern is really up to them -- to describe their psychological state.

I want to correct one thing that I said earlier. I've received a note here that the SFOR guidance from SACEUR, from the Supreme Allied Commander, does prohibit special police protection for VIPs -- for indicted war criminals.

Q: The new guidelines or...

A: The SACEUR does prohibit special police protection for indicted war criminals.

Q: Is this part of the new May revision or has this always been the policy?

A: I believe that's always been the policy, but I'll double-check that. I don't have General Clark's letter here.

Q: Are these special police brigades considered to be rogue elements or out of control elements? Are they...

A: I don't think out of control would be the right term. SFOR is working very hard to maintain peace and stability in Bosnia and has been successful at doing that, so I don't think they've been out of control. This is part of a continuing effort to demilitarize forces in Bosnia.

Q: These people have essentially been sort of slipping through the cracks in terms of what's allowed and what's not allowed because of their ambiguous status, is that the case?

A: They describe themselves as police forces. We decided they were paramilitary forces and we're treating them as military forces. That means that their military weaponry will be basically contained, recorded, inspected, and they will have to operate with the normal paraphernalia of police.

Q: They must have been considered to be somewhat roguish if SFOR decided to take action against them, though.

A: As I said, it came about in the wake of a review of our Bosnian policy and ways of advancing the Dayton Accords.

Q: It's come to light that Mr. Karadzic, at least he and perhaps others, have been receiving large revenues from black marketing in, I guess in Srpska and beyond. What is IFOR's role, if any, in cutting off his revenues so he can't support the kinds of armed guards that he has?

A: SFOR is not a customs force, it's a military force. It's there to impose a peace. If they are running corrupt operations and skimming money off of various business ventures they're involved in, presumably they're doing it at the expense of the Serb people. And the Serb people and their police ought to enforce their own rules against corruption.

Q: Without any pressure from IFOR, SFOR?

A: As I said, SFOR is not a customs operation, it's a military operation.

Q: Has General Clark or anyone else received any indication of a willingness to comply with these new guidelines or an unwillingness to comply?

A: So far the operation seems to be going very smoothly. I think that's true throughout the areas in the Federation and Bosnia where the special police brigades have been operating. SFOR troops have not encountered difficulties. They've received letters, they've met with local commanders. Major General Grange who heads the American forces there has issued press releases explaining exactly what he's done. We can give you copies of those releases if you'd like. But my information from Tuzla this morning is that this operation is going quite smoothly.

Q: Has there been any signal received of intentions to not comply?

A: No, there have not, that I'm aware of. That's as of 8:00 this morning, from Tuzla. We've received no signals that there was any intention to avoid compliance.

Q: Does this in any way signal there's a new sheriff in town with General Clark -- given his experience in bringing together the parties in the first place? In his new role as the NATO Chief?

A: General Clark, as General Joulwan before him, is committed to making the Dayton Accords work. As I said, this is one of the actions that has followed a fairly broad administration review of Bosnia policy. In May that review was continuing. I think it's clear that a number of the allies, I would guess all our allies, share our commitment to do everything we can to make the Dayton process work between now and June of '98 when SFOR troops are coming out.

Q: The letter you mentioned from him, is that something you can make available?

A: The Clark letter? I don't see why not. I'll double-check on that. I read it three or four weeks ago. I can give you the Grange press release, obviously. We actually distribute press releases with no reluctance. I'd be glad to give that to you and I'll check into the Clark letter, which I think by now is three or four weeks old.

Q: You said that you want to bring the war criminals to justice and that's a police function, yet when NATO troops and SFOR troops, NATO-led troops, were involved directly in the snatch of those war criminals last month -- the U.S. provided ten different types, or ten airplanes, actually, in a support role, and dozens of U.S. troops as backup. So on one side you're saying you're going to let the local police forces bring these people to justice, yet on the other side we've seen what really happened. It was NATO-led forces bringing these people, and SFOR people bringing these people to justice. That doesn't make sense.

A: That incident was well described at the time. But just to refresh your memory: the British had encountered these characters in the normal course of their patrols and business and had decided to pick them up, which they're allowed to do if they encounter indicted war criminals. They did that. We provided some area security and some transportation to help them get to the Hague. We provided support.

Q: On that point, just to be clear... Is there any moderation or change in the Department's position? Is the fire break any less between what you see as military functions and police functions, or is your position just where you left it several months ago where you, in effect, verbally put a fire break between arresting people and doing military duty? And this would include ... NATO police force? Has there been any moderation in your position?

A: I'd just repeat what I said earlier. It is primarily the responsibility of the warring factions to bring indicted war criminals to justice -- to turn them over. Ambassador Holbrooke made that very clear in his trip to Bosnia, and in his trip to Serbia as well. We think that it's the job of police to bring these people to justice.

Q: So no change, as far as you're concerned.

A: I've said many times it's a police function to bring these people to justice.

Q: These special police, was one of their roles, at least in the U.S. opinion, to actually arrest the war criminals people? In addition to protect them? Where do they fall into this police function that you keep talking about in terms of who should arrest war criminals?

A: Well, they should be arrested. That's one of the points we've been making with President Milosovic and others. That's one of the points that Ambassador Holbrooke and Mr. Gelbard made when they were over there, that these people should be arrested by the appropriate police force and sent to the Hague for trial.

Q: I guess my question is, are these special police one of those appropriate forces?

A: That would be up to the local authorities to decide which forces to use to arrest these people.

Q: You say in the American sector that six of eight inspections have already taken place. What heavy weapons have they found and...

A: The issue here, there are a number of tanks and artillery pieces. But if the weaponry is declared and if it is contained in cantonment areas or contained in barracks areas and not moved out of those areas -- in other words, not used -- it's okay for them to maintain those weapons. As long as they don't boost them above various arms control limits, then some of the weapons might have to be destroyed. I'm not familiar enough with the arms control limits to be able to tell you whether they're in that position yet. But the issue isn't that they can't have the weapons, it's that they can't use the weapons. The procedures are designed to prevent the weapons from being used.

Q: . ..to be accounted for.

A: They have to be accounted for. They have to be declared, accounted for, and then they have to be subject to regular inspections. So if some group declared that it had five tanks and we go in there and inspect and only find three tanks, then we can ask them what happened to the other two tanks, find them, and destroy them if they're being used inappropriately.

Q: If they have not declared any tanks because they consider themselves to be a police force...

A: The notification was, over the weekend, that they have to...

Q: It's not retroactive?

A: No. That they will be treated as military units and their equipment will be subject to accounting.

Q: Beginning with the inspections now. It's not retroactive.

A: It's not retroactive, right.

Q: What steps are contemplated if there is in fact non-compliance -- three tanks instead of five?

A: The same thing we do now. We go out and find the tanks, we demand that they bring the tanks back. That's the first thing. Usually that's enough. Usually they will return the equipment. If they don't and we find the equipment, we can destroy the equipment.

Q: Is this mission creep?

A: No. This has been allowed under the Dayton Accords from the very beginning. What... I don't know why it's so hard to grasp the idea that we'll continue, as time goes on, as we accomplish one mission we have time to accomplish a new mission, or to look at areas where we think there is additional enforcement required. This was one area, we decided, where additional attention was required, and now it's being given.

Q: Have the people who run these police forces given any indication that they might resist these inspections, and...

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: . ..are there any heightened security by U.S. forces?

A: I'm not aware that they have suggested that. So far the operation seems to be working well.

Q: How much equipment are we talking about here? Are we talking about special police brigades totaling 400 people or 4,000? Are we talking 20 tanks or 200?

A: In total there are probably several thousand, but I don't have exact numbers of how many. We may be able to find that out.

Q: . ..somewhere between the...

A: I think it's more broad than that.

Q: Is this same thing taking place in the other sectors, as well?

A: Yes, it is. Not in all the other sectors... It's taking place in the Bosnian/Serb sector and in the Federation. Those are the two areas that have these special police forces. The Croatians don't apparently have these forces.

Q: You said that some of these inspections had taken place in Pale. Have...

A: There has been reconnaissance in Pale. There basically are several stages here. The final stage is an actual, formal inspection. There's a reconnaissance of what's there, there's an accounting -- a declaration of what they have there -- then an inspection to make sure that the number of vehicles, tanks, artillery, APCs, whatever equipment, guns, measure up to what had been declared.

Q: Have the special forces been protecting Mladic and Karadzic...?

A: Those are in the U.S. sector. I know that some of the special police forces, special police brigade in Pale have been inspected. I don't know which ones.

Q: Secretary Cohen has lamented several times that when he was a Senator he had to file a Freedom of Information Act to find out what the Air Force was up to in closing bases in his own state and he changed the law as a result of it. Given that philosophy, is he in accord with the recent directive put out by Louis Finch, which is a gag order on saying anything about what they learn on field trips, about readiness of forces, until the final report is in? He says, "will be classified." "All participants may not communicate with each other. No report will contain names of anyone..." Why secrecy on unclassified readiness situations?

A: I haven't discussed this letter with Secretary Cohen, and I'm not sure he's aware of it. He said that in this, the Lou Finch memo, I think Finch is taking the position that preliminary reports should be treated like reporters' notes. That until actual reporting is finished on a project, the information may be partial; it may be subject to further check for accuracy; and he would like to wait until the reports are complete rather than come out piecemeal in an unchecked fashion. He also talks here that the commanders and leaders in the field, and also in the building, must have, that they must be able to win the confidence and respect of these commanders by showing that they can treat the information sensitively and use it to build a complete picture of what's happening.

Q: Reporters don't classify their notes. Isn't this a real leap into putting a secrecy stamp on everyday information that's subject to congressional hearings? Should it be open to the public?

A: I don't think there's any reason to assume that the information, when it's in its final form, won't be open to people who -- in Congress or elsewhere -- who want to look at it. This deals, as you know from having read the memo -- and if you don't have a complete copy of the memo I'd be glad to give it to you -- this basically deals with the preliminary work required to complete a final report. It doesn't seem unreasonable that preliminary work be protected while the actual study is continuing.

Q: . ..information will, where appropriate, be classified. That's a lot different than protecting. That's using a secrecy stamp, isn't it?

A: Well...

Q: . ..Isn't that a misuse...

A: I'm not a lawyer and I can't comment on the classification rules, but it does say where appropriate. I suppose there's a lot of judgment in what's appropriate here and what isn't appropriate.

Q: The timing of the letter is a little interesting. Can you tell us whether or not this was prompted by the Washington Times story last week on the Air Force spare parts shortages and how that was affecting readiness?

A: I don't want to psychoanalyze Mr. Finch, but clearly that illustrates the type of problem that can arise when incomplete information is released before studies are finished.

Q: Were any of Finch's final reports ever consistently made available to the press?

A: I'm not aware of that. As you know, the readiness levels of forces generally are classified. We have made public announcements about readiness. The last time we did that was in the fall of 1994 when we concluded that there was a readiness shortfall that we had not anticipated when we announced it. We announced it first to Congress and then to the press within an hour on the same day. So we have not tried to hide the readiness level of our forces.

Q: That's two-and-a-half years ago. There was a major pronouncement on the level of readiness.

A: Yeah. It was two-and-a-half years ago since we realized we had to make a public announcement, and we haven't seen necessary to do that since then.

Q: . ..not contain the names of anyone visiting the field? What's so secret about that?

A: George, you've read the announcement here. What this is involved in, my understanding here, is the preliminary work that's being done as these reports are being put together.

Q: I can't imagine Congress standing still for it, but we'll go on to something else.

Q: It also mentioned that participants in these assessments cannot electronically share notes. Can you explain that one? If they're just sharing it with each other and not leaking it to the press or...

A: Obviously the Air Force report was sent around in an e-mail and was leaked to the press, so this is an effort to stop that from happening.

Look, you know as well as I do that the specific readiness of units is classified information. It doesn't make a lot of sense that every stage of determining readiness up to the final readiness determination be made public. It would clearly defeat the purpose of maintaining some degree of confidentiality about readiness. Readiness is classified for legitimate reasons, I believe. When we have found that there were readiness problems, we have addressed those problems forthrightly. We've admitted them to the press. My anticipation is that if there's a disconnect between what we've said publicly and what we discover from our readiness reports that we will, again, make this clear to Congress and to the press. I'm not aware that's a problem right now.

Q: I want to focus for a second on the section of the memo that refers to no editorializing or opinions or speculation of team members. There's been a lot of testimony on the Hill that much of what you do to measure readiness is subjective. The folks that go out and do these measurements now are not going to be allowed to pass along their judgments based on what they see?

A: This letter, memo, deals very specifically with trip information collected in the field before it is brought back to Washington and fully reviewed. I think the memo's very clear about that. I made the analogy earlier to reporters' notes, and I think it's a legitimate analogy. In the course of collecting information you want the ability to collect it all before you reach conclusions. I think that this memo makes it clear that Mr. Finch expects conclusions to be based on the fullness of all the information gathered, not on parts of the information gathered.

Q: The Secretary is on vacation until when, and is Mr. Hamre acting in his stead? What's the...

A: Mr. Hamre is on the Colorado River, and Secretary Cohen is out of town, and General Shalikashvili is here, the Secretary of the Army is here fulfilling some of the functions, and other functions are being filled by other civilian officials. But Secretary Cohen is within reach by phone and fax and is in a position to make any decision that has to be made very quickly.

Q: Is there an acting? Usually when the big boys go somewhere...

A: I believe that Secretary West is acting at this stage.

Q: Can you give us a report on the soon-to-be-made determination on landmines? Has the Pentagon given the White House a final recommendation on the Department's position in regards to the landmine issue? What is that overall timeline?

A: The Pentagon, as of this morning, had not given a final recommendation to the White House. Let me explain to you basically what's going on here.

President Clinton has made it very clear that he supports the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines, and the Joint Chiefs have subscribed to that. We actually have played a leadership role in the world in moving toward that. We are unilaterally destroying our inventory of so-called dumb landmines which are the kind that cause the humanitarian problems that have been highlighted so much recently.

We have moved, for our tactical operations -- with the exception of the Korean Peninsula which is a separate situation and so noted -- toward a different type of tactical systems, the so-called smart mine that self destruct. So they do not lurk as hidden killers in the ground. They typically have a life of four hours, 48 hours. They can be set, but they self destruct. They do so with a very, very high degree of reliability, over 99.99 percent.

So we have, one, taken the lead in proclaiming our determination to move away from the use of anti-personnel landmines. We have moved away from dangerous anti-personnel landmines that pose such a threat to civilians, and we are destroying our inventory of these dangerous so-called dumb mines.

What the President has said is that he wants a worldwide ban that is comprehensive, that is global, and that is verifiable. The question that the Administration is looking at right now is how best to achieve that.

Our current policy is to work through the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. As you know, there's another track which involves the Ottawa Conference. We have not subscribed to the Ottawa Conference -- or the Ottawa Process, as it's called -- because it is not comprehensive and global. It does not involve other countries that have huge inventories of mines and actually export mines which we no longer do.

So the question is which way to go, and that's currently under review -- whether we stick with the Conference of Disarmament or whether we move to the Ottawa Process or try to do both. That's what's under consideration right now. The Chiefs are fully engaged in ways to maintain our leadership role in trying to reduce and ultimately eliminate the humanitarian problems posed by anti-personnel landmines.

Q: The Army Vice last night on television made it pretty clear that, seemingly, he would support such a ban as long as it excluded those smart mines that he talked about.

A: I think what we want to do is... Right now the military believes that to protect the men and women in the military -- sons and daughters of America protecting our interests -- that anti-personnel landmines, the smart, self-destroying mines, are necessary in very limited tactical situations. Should we achieve a worldwide ban on the use of antipersonnel landmines and develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines -- both of which we're working on -- then we would no longer have to use these. We don't want to put ourselves in a disadvantage and we are actually working on alternatives to antipersonnel landmines. That's part of our program.

Let me also point out that we are working very hard to pick up antipersonnel landmines that have been sewn in countries around the world including Bosnia, including Laos. We have done considerable work in Cambodia, in many, many countries around the world. We've had briefings down here on the demining efforts. I'd be glad to have another briefer come down and talk to you about the demining efforts if you'd like more details on that.

Q: The New York Times called that position "narrow and mistaken" in today's editorial. Any response to that? And they're talking specifically about the exception for so-called smart mines. Any response to that?

A: First of all, I want to stress again that the United States has taken a leadership role in dealing with this humanitarian problem. We've done that in a number of ways. One, by expressing our determination to work toward a worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines. Two, by moving unilaterally away from using these lurking killers to mines that do not pose a humanitarian threat. We have taken a lead on that. Other countries can follow. They have not yet followed. Three, we are working to destroy our inventory of so-called dumb mines, the type of mines that do pose these hidden and lurking problems. And four, we are aggressively training deminers all around the world to address the specific problems that's such a threat to farmers and shepherds and others. So I think this has been a progressive program that balances the humanitarian needs on the one hand with the clear demand that we protect the men and women who go into uniform to protect our national security interests around the world should this protection be needed in battle.

I think it's a progressive and balanced approach, so I reject that.

Q: Can I get one more on landmines?

A: Sure.

Q: You stated that it's U.S. policy, but can you tell us whether or not that in addition to Korea there would be any room for exceptions? I've heard some rumblings, especially in the special forces community that they may be put at undue risk if such a ban would be approved, on certain kinds of dumb mines.

A: We are working to develop alternatives or replacements. These would be barriers or other types of obstacles, impediments that could protect our forces. We'll continue to work on that.

Q: Over the weekend, at least I think since you last briefed, the World Food Program announced that there had been a two month dearth of rain in North Korea and that their corn crops were scorched and they would probably lose most of their corn crop requiring them to continue food subsidy perhaps into October of next year, was mentioned. Can DoD confirm that this is the kind of weather that's affecting North Korea?

A: I can't confirm that. I'll look into it. I just don't happen to know what the recent weather patterns have been in North Korea. But the fact that there is...

Q: (inaudible)

A: The fact that there is a food problem in North Korea has a number of causes, one of which is the basic inefficiency of their agricultural production system; another of which involves floods that have occurred in the past that have caused a vast amount of erosion; and one of the causes of which is also some recent drought. Yes, there are very severe food problems there. I'll try to find out information on recent weather patterns.

Press: Thank you.