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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with French Defense Minister

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 09, 2001 12:30 PM EDT

Monday, July 9, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. EDT

(Joint media availability with French Defense Minister Alain Richard)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. (Sound of jets passing overhead.) (To Minister Richard.) That's a flyover in your honor. The minister of Defense of France has been here for, I guess, your second visit during my tenure --

Richard: Three.

Rumsfeld: Third?

Richard: Yes, third.

Rumsfeld: -- during my time, and we've also met previously in Europe on occasion for various NATO meetings, and we had a good discussion on range of issues involving Europe and the United States and a host of matters, so we'd be happy to respond to some questions.

First, do you want to say a word or two?

Richard: Well, of course, this is a new visit I have been very pleased to give to the U.S. Defense secretary and, of course, as close allies with a lot of traditional but also new issues between us, the discussion has been very rich and very complete. But I am pleased to say that the relationship between allies and the agreement on the main issues on which we have to work now is really satisfactory for me.

Q: Has the United States decided to commit troops to the operation in Macedonia, and if so, how many?

(Jet noise.)

Rumsfeld: The question was about Macedonia and whether the U.S. has made any decisions, and the answer is that those discussions are taking place in NATO, in Brussels and in capitals, at the present time. The arrangements between the parties in Macedonia have not been completely concluded and, of course, any NATO activity would be dependent upon the resolution of those understandings which are currently being negotiated.

The United States has indicated that the United States would participate in a variety of ways involving essentially enabling and logistics and intelligence gathering and helicopter capability, that type of thing, with respect to medical evacuation and the like.

A number of other countries have indicated that they would participate in various ways, and of course it all depends on the situation on the ground in Macedonia.

Q: Mr. Secretary, this Saturday's next scheduled major test for ballistic missile defense is an intercept test. How critical is that test? How important is it that that be a success?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know as well as any, the Ballistic Missile Defense Office has had a series of tests over a series of years, and this is one more in what is a reasonably robust test series. And of course each one will be watched with interest.

A number of the things that are tested have been tested before and work; a number of the things that they are undertaking to test have not been tested. And my guess is that the outcome will be, unfortunately, simplified when it's over as either succeeding or not succeeding. But of course in any advanced technology activity, it is seldom that simple. It is often -- and most often -- a situation where some -- a variety of things work properly and a variety of things may not, and more information may be needed. And I suspect that that will very likely be the outcome in this instance.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what is your view on whether or not the administration should study resuming underground nuclear testing? Are you in favor of studying that question? Do you feel that the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] is now simply a "dead letter?" And I'd like to ask the same question of the French minister -- his view on the U.S. studying the question of resuming underground testing.

Rumsfeld: Well, for myself I can say that the question of the safety and reliability of the nuclear capability of the United States of course falls within the Department of Energy and General Gordon's area of responsibility. I've had several meetings with him. He is, needless to say, very knowledgeable, very interested and aware of the importance of taking a variety of steps on the part of the United States to assure the reliability and safety of the stockpile. And I don't think that -- there's not anything particular to announce or anything that's changed except --

Q: What I'm asking is your opinion. What do you think about it?

Rumsfeld: With respect to what?

Q: Resuming underground -- opening the door to resuming underground nuclear testing. Is the administration --

Rumsfeld: It's my understanding that the people in charge of that program have indicated that, at the present time, there is not any need for additional testing at the moment.

Richard: Well, as you know, our country has practiced a lot of tests over time and has decided to stop them in '96. And we have been supporting the Test Ban Treaty. We try to make this treaty progress further, but we have also to understand that, given the responsibility of other countries -- we are involved -- we may need further talks and contacts.

Q: What would be the reaction of your government if the United States made moves to resume underground testing or began to study the question?

Richard: I can't comment on that, which is a mere eventuality.

Q: Did you discuss the national missile defense proposal, and what kind of indications were you given?

Richard: Yes, we have been spending quite a time discussing on this issue, as we do at every meeting between defense ministers. And we are going on comparing our assessments of the threats, the regional situation that can surround the existence of these weapons, and the balance between deterrence, missile defense as such, and legal instruments to limit proliferation. And this discussion is going on between allies in a confident atmosphere.

Q: Do your assessment of threats differ from the United States assessment?

Richard: Well, we are still in the course of consultation on that. It's true that among allies we may have various approaches to that, but they need not be incompatible.

Staff: Thanks very much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, folks.