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Joint Press Conference with Secretary Cohen and Minister Troncoso

Presenters: Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Chilean Minister of Defense Raul Troncoso
May 25, 1998

Q: I would like to ask you about the very important process that's been going on for over a year in Chile - that is, the purchase of fighter aircraft, among which of course there is a possibility that a U.S. aircraft might be chosen. However, the analysis has been made that no matter how superior a plane might be, if it doesn't have the necessary weaponry, it's useless. There are doubts - is the U.S. willing to transfer all the technology that would make an F-16 or F-18 completely operative?

  • ("Quisiera preguntarle por el proceso importante que se está viendo hace más de un año en Chile, de la compra de aviones, entre los cuales existen posibilidades de que la nave elegida sea de Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, también se ha hecho el análisis de que una nave por sí sola, por muy buena que sea no vale si no tiene el armamento adecuadao. Hay toda una serie de dudas sobre si Estados Unidos está dispuesto a traspasar a Chile toda esa tecnología que es lo que haría totalmente operativo a un avión F-16 o F-18?").
  • A: (Cohen): Thank you very much for your question. I was going to open and make a few remarks before answering your questions. I just want to say that my wife and I have been in your beautiful city for only a few hours, but we have met many friends, and Minister Troncoso has been just very gracious and generous with his time, and we have discussed many issues, including the issue that you just raised.

First of all, let me say that the relationship between the United States and Chile transcends any one sales transaction. It is much broader, much deeper, and as President Clinton indicated during his visit, this is something that we look forward to in working together, to deal with common threats in the future that we share an interest in. With respect to the sales of any technology, obviously the United States would like very much to be in a position to sell what we believe to be its superior aircraft to Chile. Your country must make a determination in terms of what is needed, what is desirable, what is affordable, and what is in the overall long term best interests of your people. And we respect the decision-making process. As a matter of fact, I had occasion to compliment the Minister for the very professional way in which the air force has gone about examining all of the technical information in order to make a prudent decision, recommendation to your government. We, if we were chosen to have our aircraft sold to Chile, would obviously want to provide it with capability. And obviously your government would not be interested in purchasing aircraft that did not fulfill its requirements. So that is a part of the process that's underway, to examine what would be required and what would be provided. And we would expect to be very competitive. In fact, we believe we have not only to transfer superior technology but the personnel, the logistical supply, the people who would be associated with the aircraft, and all that is involved in military- to-military contact. We believe it provides an overall superior product, but that's again something that your government will make its own decision on, and we will respect it. We hope it will be favorable, but our relationship is much more important than any one sale.

Q: Mr. Cohen, is the United States' desire to sell aircraft to the Chilean Air Force linked with a desire to have Chile broaden its participation in international peace keeping operations?

("Señor Cohen, está vinculado el deseo que tiene Estados Unidos de vender aviones a la fuerza aérea de Chile, con el deseo que tiene también Estados Unidos de que Chile amplíe su participación en las operaciones internacionales de paz?")

A: (Cohen): The answer is no and yes. No, in the sense that the proposed sale is in any way tied to any conditionality. This is something that we believe should be made on its own merits. But let me say that we are very, very enthusiastic about what Chile is doing in contributing to international peace and stability.

We applaud your participation in the UNSCOM effort, the UN inspectors' effort in the Gulf. We applaud your support for the peacekeeping effort in Bosnia. And we are very enthusiastic about Chile's contribution to world stability in that regard. But there is absolutely no connection or conditions that will be imposed by any sale or any expectation based upon any sale. We believe that we have mutual interests. There are mutual problems to be contended with in the future. The Minister and I talked about those at some length this morning, dealing with immigration flows, environmental hazards, with the issue of cyberterrorism, chemical and biological types of weapons that are being developed and disseminated.

So these are issues on which we intend to cooperate on a very close basis into the future. So the answer is no conditionality, but we hope that we will be successful in our efforts here .

Q: Mr. Minister, I'm Charles Aldinger with Reuters. I cover the Pentagon, and I'd like to know, do you or your country feel pressured by the United States, overall pressured by the United States to buy U.S. aircraft and do you worry that if you don't, that perhaps U.S.-Chilean economic and security relations would suffer? A: (Minister Troncoso): I'll start with the last part of your question to say that this is a matter that was already discussed during the meeting held by President Frei and President Clinton during his recent visit to Chile some weeks ago. And during that meeting it was made extremely clear that the purchase would not be tied to any condition nor modification in terms of other interests that could be affected, or might be pending at this moment in the relationship between both countries. We do not feel pressured in any case. We feel absolutely free. I believe, as Secretary Cohen just said, that we are doing a very serious job addressing the technical aspects, and we are going to make other evaluations in the future, for example, concerning technical and financial aspects. As I say, we do not feel pressured, and there is no doubt that we will make the best decision for Chile.

("Comienzo por la parte final de su respuesta para decir que este es un tema que se conversó también en la reunión que tuvo el presidente Frei con el Presidente Clinton con motivo de su reciente visita a Chile hace algunas semanas. Y se fue en esa reunión extremadamente claro para decir de que la compra no estaba ligada a ninguna condición y a ninguna modificación en términos de otros intereses que pudieran estar afectados, o que pudieran estar pendientes en este momento en la relación entre los dos países. Nosotros no nos sentimos en ningún caso presionados, nos sentimos absolutamente libres. Creo que estamos haciendo, tal como ha señalado el secretario Cohen un trabajo serio en el orden técnico y vamos a hacer las evaluaciones en el futuro en otros aspectos como, por ejemplo, los aspectos técnico-financieros. Como le digo no nos sentimos presionados y tomaremos la mejor decisión para Chile, sin lugar a dudas.")

Q: A: (Troncoso): Right now, we are still in the process of the Chilean Air Force's evaluation. The aircraft suppliers have requested a delay in the deadline to make their best and final offers and that deadline expires this week. Once we have those final offers, the Chilean Air Force has some additional analyses to make, and afterwards it will work jointly with the Defense Ministry and the Defense Minister to examine all the factors. The Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force announced a few days ago that in any case the decision will be made during the next six months.

("Nosotros estamos en este momento todavía en un proceso de evaluación en la Fuerza Aérea de Chile. Los proveedores de aviones han pedido prórroga de los plazos para hacer su mejor oferta y esos plazos se vencen esta semana. Una vez que estén esas respuestas, la Fuerza Aérea de Chile hará todavía algunos análisis adicionales y después trabajrá en conjunto con el ministerio de Defensa, con el ministro de Defensa, para examinar ya todos los antecedentes. El comandante en jefe de la Fuerza Aérea ha hecho hace algunos días un anuncio diciendo que la decisión será tomada, en todo caso, en el curso del próximo semestre.")

A: (Cohen): Could I add just one word? Minister Troncoso invited me to Chile months ago, and I was supposed to have visited with you back in the early part of the year and had to postpone my visit on two occasions, by virtue of Saddam Hussein's activities in the Gulf. And so my presence here now has been as a result of a long invitation of the minister, and I was delighted that we were able to work it out for this time.

A: (Troncoso): In reference to what the Secretary of Defense mentioned, I'd like to add that we have had previous opportunities to speak by phone and that this was a visit long expected, not because of the issue of the aircraft, because I believe that we now have with the United States a broad range of relations to bolster, of situations in which we have common interests, or an extraordinarily broad set of interests about which we have positions in common. So this is a relationship that has been developing mainly since 1996, when the binational commission was established, which, as you all know, has three subcommittees: defense, science and technology, and civilian training. All this is to say that Secretary Cohen's visit has mainly a political and political-strategic character, and in general, deals with everything related to defense.

(Yo quisiera decir también en relación con lo que señala el secretario de Defensa, habíamos tenido antes oportunidad de conversar telefónicamente y esta era una visita largamente esperada, y no por el tema de los aviones, porque yo creo que tenemos en este momento con los Estados Unidos todo un amplio campo de relaciones que incrementar, de situaciones en las cuales tenemos intereses comunes, o respecto de las cuales tenemos posiciones comunes que son extraordinariamente amplias. De modo que esta es una relación que por lo demás se viene desarrollando principalmente desde 1996, cuando se creó la comisión binacional chilena-norteamericana que como ustedes saben contempla el funcionamiento de tres subcomisiones que trabajan en temas de defensa propiamente tal, en ciencia y tecnología y en formación de civiles. Esto es para decir que la visita del secretario Cohen es una visita que tiene principlamente un carácter de relación política, política-estratégica y, en general de todo lo que tiene que ver con el ámbito de la defensa.")

Q: Secretary Cohen, David Plum from Bridge News. I wanted to ask you, do you believe that the sale of U.S. fighter jets to Chile in any way could spark an arms race in the region?

A: (Cohen): The short answer to that is no, and I would say that President Menem's statement just yesterday in Argentina would confirm that. The question was asked of President Menem and he was very clear on this - did Argentina have any question or qualms about Chile possibly acquiring either F-16s or F-18s. And his answer was an unequivocal no, that each democracy must make decisions for its common defense, and because of the relationships that now exist throughout the region and the level of cooperation that exists, there's absolutely no concern about this stimulating an arms race.

Q: I'm Mario Contreras from Radio Cooperativa. Secretary Cohen, my question has two parts. You have said, according to Santiago newspaper "El Mercurio," and quoting the wire services, that your visit to Chile is to encourage and examine the efforts destined to institutionalize civilian control over the military. In the first place, I would like to know what do you mean by "examine". My second question is: what is your vision, as Secretary of Defense of the United States, regarding the position that the Chilean armed forces have regarding the fight against drug trafficking?

("Ministro Cohen, mi pregunta tiene dos partes. Usted ha dicho, según el diario El Mercurio de Santiago, citando a agencias que vienen viajando con usted que su visita a Chile es para alentar y examinar los esfuerzos destinados a institucionalizar el control de lo militar por lo civil. En primer lugar me gustaría saber qué quiere decir con eso de "examinar", por una parte. Mi segunda pregunta es cuál es la visión que tiene usted como secretario de Defensa de Estados Unidos respecto de la postura que tienen las fuerzas armadas chilenas en torno a la lucha contra el narcotráfico?")

A: (Cohen): Could I inquire, was that a direct quote of mine in terms of "examination?" Sometimes the press is in error - occasionally, occasionally (laughter). If it's a direct quote, that's fine, let me talk about what I believe to be the case here in Chile. You have in fact civilian control over the military. That is very important. It's important for democracy. Obviously a democracy cannot survive and flourish if there's not civilian control over the military. I think that Chile is a prime example of a flourishing democracy, so there's no need for me to "examine" what is taking place in Chile, or in Argentina.

  • So, I'm not sure of the context in which this statement was made or quoted, but obviously we are here to exchange views, to talk about common threats, and to seek ways in which we can share information. One subject matter that we did discuss during our meeting was how do we protect our information systems against external attack, so-called "cyber" type of terrorism. So we will have to engage in a sharing of that kind of information as well. How do we share information about terrorists' potential use of biological agents? The kind of threats that are likely to be faced by the entire region and the globe? And I mentioned just a moment ago, environmental types of degradation - how do we address those as ministers of defense?
  • And as our respective representatives in that regard, how do we deal with the issue of illegal immigration flows, instability and so forth, in various parts of the world? Because what's taking place in Indonesia certainly can have an impact in Santiago. And so the world has become much smaller. And that was in the context in which I said I'd be coming and sharing information, but there's no need for the United States to examine the democracy that exists here. It's a very shining example of a democratic society. I'm sorry, would you repeat the second part?

Q: ( Radio Cooperativa): What is your view as Secretary of Defense in reference to the role that the Chilean Armed Forces have regarding the fight against drug trafficking?

("Cuál es la visión que tiene usted como secretario de defensa en torno a la postura que tienen las fuerzas armadas chilenas respecto de la lucha contra el narcotráfico?")

A: (Cohen): That is a decision that only the government of Chile can make. The United States would not seek in any way to try to impose or intervene, or even give advice in this regard. This is something that an autonomous country must decide for itself, in terms of how it will deal with illegal drug activity in its country. So we do not seek to, in any way, to impose views in this regard.

Q: Mr. Cohen, your visit to the region also includes visits to other countries that are in the process of upgrading their aircraft. How does the U.S. think that the Chilean decision might have influence throughout the region, and if the decision is favorable to the U.S., up to what point would that tie together both countries in their future relations?

("Sr. Cohen, su visita a la región incluye además otros países que también están en la decisión de renovar aviones, ¿cómo ve Estados Unidos en qué medida la decisión que tome Chile puede influir en la región y en qué medida si esta decisión es favorable a EE.UU., eso va a dejar unidos a los dos países para el futuro en sus relaciones?"}.

A: (Cohen): Well, there are other countries, as you pointed out, which have an interest in acquiring superior technology it is true, for example, in Argentina, (which) continues to acquire, to modernize its systems and is doing so in a non-threatening way, something that does not threaten Chile. And as I mentioned just before, President Menem, when asked the question whether the acquisition of U.S. aircraft potentially would in any way be unsettling or pose any sort of a threat, he said absolutely no.

And so what we think is that by cooperating diplomatically, economically, environmentally, and militarily, we are sharing information, expertise and receiving the benefit of your country's , and those of others, experience in the same field. So we see it as being mutually reinforcing. We see it as building upon the ties that have been established by President Clinton and President Frei, and we think that is mutually beneficial.

So, I think as long as there is transparency, and here I would like to pay tribute to Chile once again - you are the first country in Latin America to publish a white paper on defense - to say that we have nothing to hide, everything is transparent, we are open, this is what we are doing so no one should engage in any suspicion or distrust or misapprehension, and that is to Chile's great credit. And we hope that that example would be followed and emulated by other countries in the region, because the more transparency, the greater of the sense of security that no one country is trying to gain an advantage over the other, and in that fashion, with open dialogue and discussion and candor, the promotion of peace and stability is that much easier.

Q: (La Epoca) Mr. Cohen, my question was partially answered before, but I would like to refer to a strictly military matter. There has been much speculation in Chile over the lobbying that you are doing now, or that President Clinton did in April during his visit, to get Chile to buy U.S. fighter craft. It has also been said that if Chile opts to buy a European fighter, this could in some way pose problems for the delivery of U.S. weapons and defense systems to Chile, such as the Black Hawk helicopters. How much truth is there in that?

("Sr. Cohen, mi pregunta en parte ya fue contestada anteriormente, pero yo me voy a referir al tema estrictamente militar. Mucho se ha especulado en Chile sobre el lobby que usted está haciendo ahora o que el Presidente Clinton ha hecho cuando vino en abril a Chile para que nuestro país compre los aviones norteamericanos en el proceso caza 2000 de la FACH y también se ha dicho que si Chile se decide por un avión europeo eso podría en alguna medida poner problemas para el suministro de armas y sistemas de defensa norteamericanos a Chile, como por ejemplo los helicópteros Blackhawk. ¿Qúe hay de efectivo en eso?")

A: (Cohen ): It is untrue. The short answer is there is no basis for that statement. President Clinton made very clear that our relationship is deeper and broader than any one sale of any one type of equipment. My mission here is not one of lobbying, but of exchanging views with your Minister. And there has been a (wide) variety of subject matters we have discussed, and to the extent that we can compete effectively and supply Chile with its needs and requirements, we are eager to do so.

But whatever Chile decides, our relationship will continue in a wide variety of areas. It would include military, it would include economic, it would include trade, educational, cultural - it is much broader than any one system. And so there is no basis for any conclusion that has been drawn or argument that has been made that a failure to acquire U.S. technology somehow forecloses other opportunities or other areas of cooperation.

A: (Troncoso): To conclude, I would like to thank you for attending this press conference, and to say that in regard to what Secretary Cohen has just stated, we are in full agreement.

("Para terminar quisiera agradecerles la asistencia a esta conferencia de prensa y en relacion con lo ultimo que ha afirmado el Secretario Cohen expresar que nosotros estamos plenamente de acuerdo en lo que él ha dicho.")