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Media Round Table with Peter Rodman, ASD ISA

Presenters: Peter W. Rodman, ASD ISA
August 22, 2001 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2001 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

(Media Round Table at the Pentagon)

Rear Adm. Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. In our -- the next of our series of round tables on the new members of the administration here in the Pentagon, we have Mr. Peter Rodman with us here this afternoon. This is all on the record and for direct attribution, please.

It's for you to get to know him and some of his portfolio, but I also wanted it as an opportunity for him to get to know you. So as he indicates to you to ask your question, would you please give him your name and the organization that you work for, and over a period of time, we'll start to put some names and faces together.

So with that, Mr. Rodman.

Rodman: Thank you.

Let's see. I've been on the job about four or five weeks. I'm Peter Rodman. I was sworn in on July 16th as assistant for International Security Affairs.

I'll just say a little bit about my background. Then I'll describe the job I'm doing. In fact, a lot of you have been here longer than I have, so I'll give you my sense of what the function is and how it's been reorganized. There's been a bit of a reorganization in the policy shop, and maybe I can say a little bit about that.

But let me say a little bit about myself. I have not served in this building before, but I've served in the U.S. government in four previous administrations, on the National Security Council staff or in the State Department. During the Reagan period, I was for a bit deputy assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. In the State Department, I was head of the policy planning staff. So I have some experience with the interagency process, with the outside world, with our foreign policy, and I think that is, I assume, why Secretary Rumsfeld thought I could be useful to him over here.

Now International Security Affairs, or ISA, as I'm sure you know, is part of the foreign policy arm of this department. The -- it's an office that was created in 1947. I looked at the pictures along the corridor, and the first holder of this office was in 1947.

So it is a person who advises the secretary and the deputy secretary on the foreign relations of the Department of Defense, in a sense.

Now, there is an undersecretary of Defense for policy. I hope you'll get a chance to meet Douglas Feith at some point. The undersecretary is really the head of the policy bureau, if you will. And Doug Feith 's domain includes everything. It includes arms control issues. It includes foreign affairs. It includes a lot of other things. The ISA portion of it is essentially regional affairs.

I have a counterpart parallel to me, assistant secretary for international security policy, and that's J.D. Crouch. And J.D. is responsible for arms control issues, multilateral conventions of various kinds, and also Russia and Europe. So J.D. has NATO issues, has Balkan crises and Russia, and, of course, the discussions going on right now about the strategic framework that we're pursuing with Russia.

But ISA has the rest of the world, outside of Europe -- East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America. And actually, for those of you who are aficionados of this, Latin America is a new wrinkle there, because in the previous administration, Latin American policy was entirely in the province of yet another assistant secretary called SOLIC, special operations and low-intensity conflict. And Latin America was treated in the province of -- it was related to the counternarcotics efforts and the low-intensity conflict. But it was seen, I think wisely, to take Latin America, the policy issues of our security relations in Latin America, and treat them as we would any other region of the world.

So I have Latin America back, though ISA lost Europe. In the previous administration, NATO affairs were part of ISA. But anyway, so I have the rest of the world. I have Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia. And so that's what I'm -- the in box filled up pretty quick. I was here as a consultant, as you know. One can do that before final confirmation. I got to see a little bit of how things work and read into issues. But the day I got sworn in by Doc Cooke, the in box appeared and filled up pretty fast with all the issues, issues that I'm sure you're all aware of and following very intently.

But I'm happy to stop there with, you know, the introductory stuff and take some questions.

Yes, sir.

Q: Secretary, Charlie Aldinger with Reuters. I might ask you a pretty broad subject, how mil-to-mil relations are progressing with both China and Indonesia, given the recent changes in Indonesia. But on China, are you moving forward rather rapidly and expanding the mil-to-mil ties? Cautiously? What is being done now?

Rodman: Well, the issues come across my desk, as you would expect. And it's case-by-case. It's still case-by-case. But a lot of them are being approved. I mean, at least a lot of the ones that I've seen so far are not particularly complicated. So I think you're seeing a resumption of these, but we haven't, you know, relinquished our right to look at each one individually and decide if it serves an interest of ours, if there's some balance and reciprocity in the program as a whole.

I think we're a little closer to sort of normalization of this particular situation as we head toward the president's trip. But again, we still look at each one very carefully. And, you know, what's being proposed, what's coming through -- I'm not the one who selects them, but those of us in the policy shop who are there look at them as ideas come to us.

Q: Has China agreed to be more open in this reciprocity, in other words, both countries benefiting? I think the secretary has made clear that he wants both countries to benefit from these ties, and for China not to hold back anything. In other words, if U.S. officers go to China, he wants them to see what Chinese officers would see. Has China agreed to that?

Rodman: Well, I think they make the same point, that there's a mutual interest here. And that's our attitude. But again, we're looking at each one and looking at the program as a whole and making sure that there are, you know, identifiable benefits to us and that the whole thing is -- that there's some balance in the whole program. I mean, there's nothing -- I don't want to get into anything more specific than that, but, you know, we're looking at them carefully and not -- it's not an automatic process, but a lot of these things that come through, you know, we think are reasonable things to undertake.

Q: Very briefly, a follow-up on Indonesia.

Rodman: Indonesia is --I think there's been a decision in this government to try to engage with the new government of Indonesia. It's a government on which rest the hopes of a lot of us and a lot of Indonesia's neighbors. So engaging with the military is a natural thing for us to do. And the only question is -- well, one question is good legislative restrictions that affect us in this country. And, of course, we obey the law and we're engaged in congressional consultations to see what flexibility there might be, whether there's a consensus between the two branches of government about perhaps relaxing some of the restrictions.

There are some additional things we're able to do, even within existing law, whether it's multilateral contacts or different kinds of educational exchanges. And I think we're exploring things we can do, you know, within the law. And beyond that, I think we obviously have to go to Congress and reach some understanding with them if we get deeper into military exchanges.

Q: Yeah, Bill Gertz, Washington Times. Just to follow up on Charlie's questions, the centerpiece of the Chinese mil-to-mil relationship was annual defense consultative talks at an undersecretary level here, and General Xiong Guangkai would come as part of those. Is there any plans to hold these defense consultative talks this year? Apparently it's an annual event.

Rodman: Yeah, I'm familiar with them in the past, but I'm just -- I don't think a decision has been made at this point, or at least it's not -- I'm not familiar with that. I know the issue, but it hasn't really come across my desk as yet.

Q: Okay, and a quick follow-up. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage was in Australia last week and he was asked about whether the United States expected Australia to join with the United States in the event of a conflict across the Taiwan Strait. Do you agree with that position?

Rodman: He asked the Australians?

Q: He was asked about it and said that he expected that it would be in Australia's interest to join with the United States in the defense of Taiwan.

Rodman: Yeah, I don't want to put words into the Australians' mouths or -- it's not something I'd want to characterize. We have a close alliance with Australia. And I saw this at first- hand. I was with Secretary Rumsfeld in Australia at the beginning of the month, with Secretary Powell. And it is one of the closest relationships we have, I think, in the security field.

Australia has been a good friend. And the fact that both Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld went out there says something about the closeness of it and the fact that we do see eye to eye on a whole lot of strategic subjects. They've been with us in every conflict in the 20th century. At least that's what everybody was saying. And I'm not going to talk about war plans or who's committed to what, and I don't want to put words in their mouth. I have every confidence that we and Australia are good friends and allies, and I don't want to say any more than that.

Yes, sir.

Q: I'm Jay Chen, Central News Agency, Taiwan. Mr. Secretary, the Chinese have conducted what some papers have described as one of the biggest war games in recent years along the southern coast of China. I'm wondering whether the Pentagon has seen anything worrying to either the United States or to Taiwan or to other neighbors in the region.

And related to that, if I may, as you know, the previous administration has had little success in persuading the Chinese to show some restraint in their missile deployment against Taiwan. Can we expect to see similar efforts along that line under the Bush administration?

Rodman: Well, let me take the second question first. I, too, have not seen restraint in China's missile deployments, and it is certainly something we raised with them. They raised the question of missile defense, and I think a reasonable answer to make to them is, well, the missile defense is prompted by the fact that there are missiles.

The exercises -- again, I wouldn't characterize them. They have done exercises on a regular basis. I'm sure they learned something from it. You know, they're modernizing their forces. They're exercising their forces. But, you know, we're watching them closely, and perhaps we can learn something from that exercise too. But I certainly don't see an imminent threat of a conflict. I think these are exercises. We have seen regular exercises before.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mr. Rodman, Bob Burns with Associated Press. I'd like to hear your thinking on the main security issues regarding North Korea, for example, moving ahead on the agreed framework for some follow-on in the conventional forces, so forth.

Rodman: Well, there's a stalemate now because they haven't accepted the talks as we have proposed. We've offered a certain agenda of topics that we're interested in, but we've also said these are not preconditions. We're happy to resume the U.S.-North Korea talks, and they're not -- you know, we haven't yet gotten a response. And, I don't know, Kim Jong Il is traveling around by train, which takes a little longer. (Laughs.) I don't know what the reason is. And obviously he has not yet responded to the South Korean offer or invitation of a summit. So it's hard to say what's going on or what is on the mind of Kim Jong Il. None of us can read his mind.

We think -- we and the South Koreans think there are very reasonable propositions on the table that we've put forward. We just don't really understand what is his reluctance to engage. But I think we're in a good position. I think there is a consensus between us and the South Koreans on this and with the Japanese. And Jim Kelly, who I talk to frequently, is going to be meeting with the Japanese and South Koreans again soon. So, you know, I mean, one key thing is that the allied countries stay together and have a common position and be comfortable in that position. And, you know, the ball is in North Korea's court. And, you know, I can't read his mind.

Q: I was interested in your level of anxiety, if there is any, about the nuclear program, for example. Are you satisfied that things are in a good state on that, or are --

Rodman: Well, I'm not an expert on the agreed framework. I mean, I think, you know, this administration is committed to it. We're happy to see it implemented. And part of the burden is on North Korea to implement its part. Again, I'm not an expert on it, but I'm not -- there's no immediate crisis in this regard. In fact, it seems to me there's an opportunity to move this dialogue or trialogue, or whatever how many parties are involved, ahead a little bit. And, you know, this administration is prepared for that.

In the back. Jack.

Q: John McWethy with ABC News. Can you define for us what you feel U.S. military relations with Yemen are at this point? And what might it take for the United States to even consider ever refueling a ship there again?

Rodman: I haven't studied the particular issue of, you know, what our plans are for ship visits. You know, I do know from past experience that the relationship with Yemen is an accomplishment of American policy over 10 years. I mean, there was a time -- I'm old enough to remember when Yemen was an adversary, particularly South Yemen. And yet for a long time Yemen has joined the Arab mainstream and become a country that we had reasonable relations with. And so, in principle, the idea of visiting Yemen seemed like a good thing. And, you know, I presume, again, as an amateur at these things, I presume that it's possible for us to do that in ways that protect the safety of our ships.

I can't comment on what our plans are about going back there, but I think the political relationship with Yemen is something that is interesting to us. And I think it serves broad foreign policy interests, and I would hate to see that become a casualty of this tragic event, which was not -- it was obviously not the government of Yemen that sought such a result. I mean, I would like to see this relationship repaired in some way, because I think it would serve an American interest.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Yes, do you have any update for the EP-3 bill? And is it going to be solved before the president's trip?

Rodman: I'm not sure what there is left to do. You know, we gave the Chinese an answer. They did receive -- our embassy personnel were prepared to come in and explain our reply and present a check. And the Chinese were unhappy with our reply, didn't accept the check. I'm not sure what happens next. I mean, they're asking us to reconsider.

I don't think we're -- I mean, I think we're comfortable on the answer we gave them, which was well thought-out. Really I'm not sure what happens next. Perhaps it's up to China. I don't know. I don't want to characterize that either. But it would be good to put this episode behind us, you know, and move on to something perhaps more constructive in the relationship.

Yes.

Q: I'm Tom Gjelton with NPR. Can you say what you see going on between Syria and Iraq in terms of possible security cooperation? And slightly larger than that, in the event of a Middle East war, what do you see as sort of the alignment of Arab states there right now and the likelihood that they would be able to work together?

Rodman: Well, I don't want to talk about a Middle East war. It's something I think about, but I'd rather not -- I don't think we should be talking about it. It is a dangerous situation in the region now, for obvious reasons. And the very fact that you would ask a question like that is a symptom of, you know, how precarious things are.

The Syrian-Iraqi relationship is intriguing. There's a rivalry that goes back many decades, yet in the present environment they seem to have common ground in trying to complicate life for the United States and for Israel. So there's a trend toward radicalization. I shouldn't -- well, I wouldn't -- maybe that's overstating it. But it has its practical implications. There's a pipeline which, you know, the Syrians made some promises to Secretary Powell about, something we're looking at very closely.

I don't know what -- I mean, I think there is a danger of conflict in the Middle East that is disturbing, but I don't want to speculate. I don't want to fuel speculation about what it might look like. I think we have friends in the Arab world, I think, whose relationship with us is solid. There are plenty of these friends of ours in the Arab world who understand the risks that you're discussing.

So I think we're a long way away from, you know, the kind of cataclysm that you're asking about, precisely because I think a lot of mature folks out there understand why it's necessary to avoid that. So let me just try to steer away in the opposite direction and say, you know, people are conscious of it, and for that reason I'm confident that wiser heads, cooler heads, can prevail and not let things slide further down the road to that kind of a conflict.

Yes, sir.

Q: Yeah, Richard Finney with Radio Free Asia. When's the next step now in our missile non-proliferation talks with the Chinese?

Rodman: Well, it's an issue we're going to -- it's on our agenda. I think there are expert talks coming up, and it's a subject we obviously will raise at any high-level discussion with the Chinese, but nothing more I can say about that.

Q: Jonathan Landay with Knight-Ridder. This administration has made it clear it seeks much closer ties with India. I'm wondering if you could talk about how you see India and those closer ties fitting into overall U.S. security strategy in Asia and how that might impact -- and what the impact would be on U.S. ties with Pakistan.

Rodman: Well, I think this administration, from the president on down, see India as an opportunity. But I think it's important to characterize it in the right way. India is not going to become an ally of the United States. I think India values its independence. It values its non-alignment. So I don't think any should suspect that India is going to become -- you know, going to collude with us.

I think what is happening is that with the end of the Cold War, both we and India have new options that we perhaps didn't use before or didn't have before. Whatever inhibitions there were during the Cold War that blocked U.S.-India relations no longer exist. India is a great power, an emerging great power. There are a lot of things we have in common. And, you know, people have always said this over the years. So there are a lot of logical reasons for us and India to re- engage.

And we in this building, we specialize in security relations, military-to-military contacts. And so, again, assuming they're willing, which they seem to be, then we can engage in ways that we have not with them in the past. So each of us has options that we didn't have before, and I think it's a positive thing. It's not aimed at anybody. It's not a threat to anybody. It's just something that it makes sense to do. And again, India will not -- I certainly don't expect India to compromise its independence and non-alignment.

Pakistan is also a country that I think the relationship -- you know, our relationship with Pakistan is valuable to us, and I don't think this administration is going to lose sight of that. It's not the same. The relationship with India is different. But Pakistan has been an ally over many decades. We've done things together, such as during the Afghan conflict, the first Afghan conflict.

And I don't think we, as a great power, should be dispensing with allies when, you know, we think conditions have changed. It's an Islamic country in a very complicated region of the world. I think it is useful for the United States to have a friend in that part of the world. And again, the military is an institution that we have had contacts with, and it would seem useful to us to maintain a relationship.

So I think this administration is looking at ways to re-engage with Pakistan, as we are with India. Now, again, it's not identical, and the issues -- the sanctions problems with Pakistan include issues of the military government and so forth, which are not the same. But in the nuclear area, I think there are some things we can do with Pakistan as we might do with India. But I think this administration is very conscious of the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is something that it's in our interest to preserve to the extent that we can.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mike Lavallee with Tokyo Broadcasting. With all the recent problems with U.S. forces in Japan, there have been some strong requests to review the SOFA with Japan. And I know that you're renegotiating the status-of-forces agreement with North Korea. Looking at that, is there any chance that, now or in the future, you may consider review of the SOFA in Japan?

Rodman: Well, revision is not really in the cards. I don't think either side is really interested in significant changes. We have an issue that came up because of the rape case. And both sides have some concerns, and those are being addressed. I mean, I think -- I'm not sure how -- I think both sides want to address it in a constructive spirit because we both value this alliance.

The president is going to Tokyo as well. And I think both sides understand that the relationship is valuable and we need to have a relationship that's strong enough and well-crafted enough to withstand and to be able to deal with episodes of that kind. But that's my understanding of the issue.

With the South Koreans -- if you meant South Korea -- I don't think it's a SOFA issue. As far as I know there's some financial discussion, not a SOFA revision.

Yes, sir.

Q: Sir, Vincent Chen with the United Daily News, Taiwan. I'm just wondering, have you decided on the new pattern to replace any arms sales made into Taiwan yet? My second question is about there are some reports saying that this administration is having closer mil-to-mil contacts with Taiwan. Can you confirm that?

Rodman: The arms sales question, as I understand it, is we're trying to make it a more normal relationship; that we don't save everything up for an annual presentation, but that issues would come up as they come up. And I'm not aware of anything that has come up in the last few months, but I think that is the new pattern that's supposed to replace the old pattern. I think we're all still trying to digest what was discussed at the last round.

We have contacts with the Taiwanese military, regular contacts of different kinds. There were some conversations in Monterey. I think that was a month ago; well, several weeks back. And, you know, I think we think that communication is important. It doesn't serve anybody's interest for us and Taiwan not to be able to communicate on security matters.

It is something we're still looking at. You know, how to handle these contacts is something we're looking at. I don't have -- there are no decisions to announce yet, but I think we value that relationship. We think, again, there's a general interest that is served by having contact and being able to communicate, and in addition to the interest that the United States has expressed many times, including in the Taiwan Relations Act, that, you know, our intention to deter the use of force. So that is an often-expressed American interest.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Lisa Burgess with Stars & Stripes. What are the top three issues that you're looking at in your office now?

Rodman: Well, a lot of them are Asian issues that we've been just discussing and Iraq and Colombia. These are some of the exciting things. I shouldn't give you a list of targets to shoot at, but these are some of the things that were in my domain that we're obviously looking at.

Yes, in the back. You, sir.

Q: Charlie Snyder of the Hong Kong I-Mail and the Taipei Times. Ever since the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, U.S. ship visits to Hong Kong seem to have become a pawn of the sort of ebbs and flows of U.S.-China relations. Is that likely to continue, or is there any effort now to try and sort of normalize those visits so that they're not on a case-by-case basis?

Rodman: Yeah, I have to say, I'm just not up to speed on that. I mean, I'm asking myself some of the same questions, but I just haven't studied it enough to make an intelligent comment.

Bill.

Q: Yeah, one of the big issues in U.S.-China relations has been proliferation. There have been reports that China is selling missile technology to Pakistan, and this is going to be a subject at the discussions. And one of the sidelines from that is that the Chinese would like restrictions lifted on U.S. exports of satellites. Now, the last time this happened, in the late '90s, there were some illegalities related to missile technology. What's your position on these proliferation issues and whether or not there should be a relaxation of satellite exports?

Rodman: Well, there's a connection, as you suggest, but I'm not going to get into any more detail about it. It's an issue in our relations with China and our discussions with China, and I'd rather leave it at that.

Yes, sir, in the back.

Q: An Israel-Middle East question. Some human rights groups and a couple of members of Congress, including John Conyers, have suggested that Israel was improperly moving U.S.-provided equipments, F-16s and Apache helicopter, for example, in their retaliation against individual Palestinians or Palestinian cell groups. Has the administration now looked at that issue in terms of whether Israel has violated any of the strings that come with some of the purchase of our equipment?

Rodman: Well, it's something in general is an issue. But I'd have to say it hasn't in the recent context I don't think it has -- at least not to my knowledge.

Next here.

Q: Mike Hedges with the Houston Chronicle. You mentioned Colombia is an area you are looking at. Can you give us a little bit of an insight into your thinking about how things are unfolding there and what the next round will be in the training there?

Rodman: Well, it's -- all I can say is it's an issue we are looking at, and there -- I mean, there is a formal review going on, as you would expect, and I think the new administration does want to look at it and come to its own conclusions about what the right strategy is. This is an issue of which there is enormous congressional sensitivity. And so I think whatever policy we end up with ought to reflect not only an administration judgment about what it makes sense to do, but as much of a bipartisan consensus as it's possible to achieve. I mean, I can't say anymore about where we are heading, because there are no conclusions yet. But it's something -- it's -- some agonizing decisions there, and I think there's a consensus that there's an important American interest, but there is not necessarily a consensus about what the right way to serve that interest is. And, as I said, we are going through an intellectual process at the moment, the new administration, and I wouldn't attempt to point to where we are going to come out.

Q: Excuse me. By "congressional concerns," are you talking about, number one, putting U.S. -- possibly putting U.S. troops in harm's way; and, number two, human rights concerns? Is that what you're --

Rodman: Well, I'm not speculating about it. But just -- I was struck in my own hearing and in confirmation hearings of some of my colleagues in the Armed Services Committee that there are a lot of -- there's concerns about are we getting deeper into a conflict or not, or what is at stake -- is it just narcotics, or is there some wider stake we may have in the survival of a friendly democratic government. And I was sort of intrigued to hear senators on both sides of the aisle with different views on it. So, as I said, I think we as a country are not quite sure where we are heading, and there is a process going on now rethinking which, you know, I hope -- I mean, I think it's maybe possible for us to form some sort of consensus in the country about what it makes sense to do. I certainly wouldn't speculate about whether it will end up.

Yes?

Q: Jim Dao from the New York Times. Following up on that, when you talk about review, are you referring to specifically on relations with Colombia, or is it more broadly about the military's role in drug interdiction? And could you talk a little bit about --

Rodman: It's an interagency review, and I don't think it has any limitation. You know, how should we handle the drug review? Should there be -- you know, should our policy on engagement, which obviously includes a military component, should it -- you know, should it have a rationale beyond just narcotics? Again, I don't want to prejudge where it's going to end up, but I think any new administration would have come in and looked and say, Where are we heading there, given the military engagement? And yet, given our stake in Colombia, as a democratic government in our own hemisphere, you know, that we have a stake in. So, again, I don't want to -- I can't give you any more of a clue about where we are going.

Q: Is there a timetable for finishing the review?

Rodman: I don't think so. I mean, it's something -- you know, we were kind of late getting started. I mean, there were -- it -- it's only in the summer that we -- at least as I was aware of -- a systematic review, and it's underway, and I am not aware of a deadline.

Yes?

Q: Assistant secretary, Otto Kreisher from Copley News Service. In the Asian theater there is a lot of turmoil around our basing situation there, you know, the potential problem with Okinawa. But there has been talk about possibly relocating some of our forces -- Guam has been mentioned, Australia has been mentioned. Do you see any -- do you have any active site underway of where our people in the Asian theater should be? And are they likely to be relocated, those people, or start new bases or training areas?

Rodman: Well, I'm not -- I don't have any answers for you. A lot of that is part of the internal review here, the QDR and the defense planning guidance -- you know, how do we structure our forces in the region -- and I am not ready to give you any answers on that. It is also, as you suggested, a function of our relations with these countries. And these two things are interrelated. I mean, we would consult with them -- we will certainly consult with our friends on any conclusions that we are heading towards in our internal review.

I -- you know, I think again with South Korea and Japan, you know, our allies in Northeast Asia, the alliance with both is pretty solid, and there is a consensus on basic strategy and why the alliance is necessary. And I think you know the problems are manageable. And you are right, these are these episodes that come up, and there are -- the issue of our presence being not necessarily in not necessarily in the most ideal place as these countries have grown in population. So they are practical issues, but I think they are soluble.

Yes, sir?

Q: In your written response to questions from Congress before your confirmation, on Iran you said that the administration was going through another review towards its policy towards Iran. What's the status of that review, where are you in it, and how are you going about doing that?

Rodman: Well, there is an interagency review, a group of people of which I am a part, that are just asking some basic questions about what is going on in Iran and where our interests are, what we might do. But there again there is no deadline for this to reach a conclusion, and I really can't tell you any more about where it is heading. I mean, Iran is a major country. You know, I think there are a lot of questions that the new administration wants to look at. But I can't give you any indicator of what conclusions we are going to come to.

Ma'am?

Q: Yes, Ester Schrader, Los Angeles Times. Can you give us an understanding of the administration's thinking as to the use of private contractors in fighting the drug war again in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America?

Rodman: Well, it's another topic that I am not an expert on. I know that there is a personnel cap on our personnel in Colombia that includes -- under which we have some private contractors and some U.S. personnel. You know, I really don't have anything very illuminating to say about that. I mean, the fact that there is I think a legislative cap shows that the Congress is interested in the question. So I think that it is -- it's important that there be again some consensus between the executive branch and the Congress about how we engage in some of these areas, whether it's contractors or direct U.S. personnel. It's not a very illuminating answer. But I -- that's the way it is.

Jim?

Q: Jim Miklaszewski with NBC News. When the Bush administration came into office it appeared prepared to aggressively pursue a new approach to dealing with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. But now that smart sanctions appear to be off the table, can you tell us if the administration has any additional new ideas in dealing with Saddam, or is content to continue the current policy of keeping him in a box, no-fly zone, et cetera, et cetera?

Rodman: Well, "content" is certainly not the right word. This is -- I have to say we have not forgotten about Iraq. There is a review. I know it sounds evasive to keep saying it's under review, but this too is a question that I had said before is something that I am involved in. So we have not forgotten about Iraq, and some of the basic issues are being addressed.

The sanctions -- I defer to my State Department friends. I don't know where that -- you know, that may still be alive. It's an important effort we are making to see if the sanctions policy can be improved, and we haven't abandoned that effort at all.

But you are right, there are other elements of the policy, like the no-fly zones. There is the Iraq Liberation Act on the books which is -- you know, reflects the supposed bipartisan consensus to look at more fundamental issues.

Let me just say we have not forgotten about these issues at all. And, you know, again it is not for me to prejudge how the president will decide these things or exactly when, but we are not through with the issue. That's certain.

Q: If I could follow up?

Rodman: Yeah.

Q: On the Iraq Liberation Act, the previous administration was reluctant to spend any money on those efforts. Is this administration more likely to spend money on the Iraq Liberation Act and funding some of the --

Rodman: Well, I can't answer the question directly. But I'd say again this administration includes a number of people, including myself, that came in to office interested in a more vigorous policy along those lines. And -- but it is being discussed in the administration. And because it's one of the most serious issues on our plate, you know, again it's being done -- it is being looked at in a very deliberate way, and I don't want to characterize it at this stage.

Q: In terms of it being looked at in a deliberate way, just to continue the Iraq discussion, is there any difference now in U.S. policy toward Iraq than there was in the past administration?

Rodman: Well, I think the new administration has not yet, you know, come to its conclusions, and the new administration has not yet come forward with its own approach. And --

Q: So it's the same, so far.

Rodman: -- until we come to some conclusions, which I wouldn't exclude.

Yes, sir?

Q: (Off mike) - Hampton Stephens with the Defense Information Electronics Report. The Export Administration Act expired yesterday, and President Bush has extended that until such time as the Congress passes new legislation. I was wondering what your view of the president's changes to modernize those export controls on advanced technology.

Rodman: Well, I'll take an easy way of avoiding that. The export control is not part of my portfolio. I do have arms transfers -- that agency is under ISA. But export controls is not, as it is currently constituted, you know, part of my responsibilities. But, you know, it's -- again, it's an issue I know my colleagues care about. I am just not sure what the new policy is going to be.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Anne Plummer with Inside the Pentagon. Bush had promised to review our commitment in the Balkans, scale back troops in Bosnia. And with the increasing violence in Macedonia and U.S. troops helping out there, can we expect anything out of a new policy within the next six months to a year on the matter?

Rodman: Well, I am going to take the coward's way out on that too. When I came into this job, I was hoping to keep Europe in the portfolio of ISA, which it was under my predecessor. But the Europe issues are now part of J.D. Crouch's responsibility, and the Balkans are, I am sorry to say, you know, he has inherited. So I am not in the middle of Macedonia policy. I am just going to stay out of that one.

Yes, sir?

Q: Mr. Secretary, there was some talk about the United States shifting some of its focus from Europe to Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and there appear to be some obvious signs of that, including the basing of cruise missiles and more attack submarines in Guam. Can you comment on that? Can you tell what's happening?

Rodman: Well, I am not going to comment on the defense planning decisions which, again, are not all made yet and are for others to announce. But the general issue I can talk about. And I think it's wrong to say there's a shift from Europe to Asia. I think the United States remains a global power. We have global interests. We have interests in Europe, as the previous question indicated. But Europe and Asia at this phase of history are in different situations. I mean, Europe is to a great extent the beneficiary of the end of the Cold War and the absence of the Soviet threat. Asia is more complicated and turbulent. So, you know, some of our attention is on Asian contingencies for obvious reasons -- not because we are less concerned about the stability of Europe. I mean, I'll just -- I mean, that's a general philosophical point which may be worth making.

You know, what conclusions there are for force posture is something the secretary of Defense and the president will be deciding fairly soon, and I'll leave it to them to announce what they've come up with.

Yes, sir?

Q: You've talked -- John Hall of Media General. You talked a little while ago about communications with Taiwan. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about the difficulty of the play there. Is it hard to deal with the Taiwanese with China looking over our shoulder, and with restrictions on movement?

Rodman: Well, it has just been that there have been limits on the rank -- level of people that are, you know, we permit to engage with them. And those are self-imposed limits. And you know there's some cost I suppose if you don't have communications at a high political or military level. But, again, I am not predicting any imminent change, but I am saying we are looking at the issue of our contacts with Taiwan from a practical point of view -- not necessarily to change -- I mean, we are not proposing to change the basic resource of the United States vis-a-vis the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. But we are looking at practical issues in our relations with Taiwan, both as I say the practical issue of improving our understanding of each other's thinking and strategic outlook, and also to strengthen deterrence, which is a clearly stated objective that we have. That's what I meant. I mean, you were referring yourself to the restrictions we've placed on contacts, and that's what I meant. It's something we are looking at.

Q: Are they able to come into the building here? What is the highest rank of a Taiwanese officer --

Rodman: Well, we have --

Q: -- who can come in to the meeting room?

Rodman: I think the chief of staff has often come, but he's not in the building. And that's been a previous -- that's been the past practice. And I may be wrong on that.

Yes, in the back?

Q: (Off mike) -- Jiji Press, Japan newspaper. I would like to ask about North Korea. Do you think the reduction of the conventional forces as is important missile issues, or the missile issues should be a priority for the United States?

Rodman: I think it is reasonable for one side in the dialogue to raise issues that concern it. So I think it was imminently reasonable for the United States and South Korea to say, you know, part of the conflict -- in fact the heart of the conflict from our point of view is the massive conventional -- the confrontation of conventional forces. So it is certainly reasonable for us to have it on our agenda. What kind of a dialogue is it if one side is not permitted to raise the issues that it thinks are at the heart of the matter? So, no, it's one of the topics we think are important. Now, we are also not making it a precondition of a dialogue. So that's -- you know, that's what we are saying.

Yes?

Q: I'd like to take it back to Colombia, if I could for a second, just for a clarification. President Bush did say that this was a priority area for him. You said that the review is looking at whether our engagement there should have some rationale beyond narcotics. Might the United States have an interest in the military defeat, over and above the narcotics issue, might the United States have an interest in the military defeat of the rebel forces there?

Rodman: Well, I would just say we have an -- I mean, one could argue that we have an interest in a friendly democratic government and its ability to exert or exercise its sovereign authority over its territory. But it's not an unreasonable thing to think about. But, as you know, our policy up till now has focused on the narcotics, and that's for a combination of reasons, including the importance of the narcotics issue to this country, and also to that -- that seems to be what there was a consensus on, given the sensitivities. So, again, we are looking at that. And I think Congress ultimately has to play a role here to see if we can get -- well, I don't want to invent any new formulations on this, precisely because it's so sensitive, and because we haven't come to conclusions. But I mean you are right to say that's -- anyway, many different interests that one could identify in that situation.

Yes, in the back?

Q: A North Korean question. Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg. One of the pacing factors of the missile defense plan of the administration is fear of North Korean long-range Taepo Dong IIs and IIIs. To the best you can, can you give us a sense of how much North Korea continues its ground testing and fabrication of those systems? They clearly are not flight testing, but ground testing and development?

Rodman: Well, I don't have access to their flight test -- I mean, their ground test schedule. I think it's -- you are right that the concerns do exist. I am not sure what else I could say. The concern exists, and it is not only North Korea. It is I think a generic problem. This is an age where ballistic missiles are proliferating in many hands. And as the Rumsfeld Commission on ballistic missiles pointed out, a lot of these countries cooperate with each other clandestinely. So it's a generic problem. I think our efforts in this field are a way -- it's a natural military response to a new problem that we confront in many different parts of the world. And if the technology offers us some hope, some ability to counter these weapons, it makes imminent sense to do it. So I mean I wouldn't -- in other words, even if they slowed down their test schedule, I don't think it would -- I mean, you are drawing a link between what they're doing and what we are doing?

Q: Well, if you could address the issue of what their particularly ground -- fabrication of those missiles?

Rodman: I can't -- I mean, I have had some briefings on it, but I wouldn't want to say anymore. They're obviously -- they seem to still retain an interest in these things, so, you know, they are showing some restraint. But how long this continues, we have no idea. There is no agreement with us, and this is the situation where I think prudence still dictates that we look at ballistic missile defenses.

Yes?

Q: Could I stay on that topic? Critics of the administration's policy have expressed concerns about sort of this knock-on effect of deployment of U.S. national missile defense, China intensifying its modernization program, causing India to intensify its nuclear weapons program, causing Pakistan to do the same. Could you comment on that and your view of that?

Rodman: I think again -- I think we may be straying into an area which again is not my -- not my specific responsibility. But I am a little skeptical of that logic, or this so-called cascade effect. I think what the Chinese do, what the Russians do, what the Indians do -- I am sure they don't know what they are going to do yet. They are waiting to see more about what we are doing.

India, you know, interestingly enough, is not a critic of our missile defense plans. What -- the Chinese are modernizing their missiles anyway. There is no indication that if we refrain from missile defense they would, you know, not do what they are already clearly doing in modernizing their ICBM force. So what the Russians are doing -- again, I wouldn't -- again, there is -- I am sure they are waiting to see what we -- not only what we are doing in missile defense, but what else we can offer them in the other areas that we are discussing.

So I think the international reaction is much more let me say up in the air or uncertain, or manageable, than what a lot of people have thought. Well, let me stop there. Well, a quick follow-up.

Q: One of your jobs before you took this was that you were part of a 12-member commission that looked at CIA reporting on China, found some problems. Now that you are a major consumer of that, are you, without getting into classified information, are you concerned about the CIA's reporting on China? Do you think it could be better, or are you satisfied with what you've seen?

Rodman: Yes, I think I am going to stay away from talking about intelligence matters.

Yes, sir?

Q: John Liang with insidedefense.com. On Egypt, do you foresee any change in the U.S.-Egypt mil-to-mil relationship, or is this also, quote, "under study"?

Rodman: No, it's not under study. I think it's going -- I mean, this is something that's on track. I am going to be going myself to Cairo in a couple of weeks for some talks with counterparts there or the Egyptian military.

I think when there are storms brewing, it's smart to hold onto something that is solid, and I think there is a relationship with Egypt that is strong. You know, there are a lot of things that bring us -- hold us together. They've made some basic commitments. I am old enough to remember the Nasser period. I mean, the relationship with Egypt I think is strong and including in the military field. We have disagreements over other policy issues -- the Palestinian conflict makes things -- you know, it's a complicating factor. But as far as I can tell, our relationship with Egypt is -- well, one of the elements of it are solid and, you know, it is part of my area of responsibility. I hope to contribute to that.

Yes?

Q: Robert Wall with Aviation Week. The Japanese have been a small participant in one of our missile defense programs. Have you been able to engage with the new administration there to find out if they want to continue, or even expand their activities in that area with us?

Rodman: Well, I shouldn't be speaking for them. My -- I mean, I had some Japanese counterparts in the building a couple of weeks ago. I think they -- they are obviously continuing with the current agreement, which is a research and development cooperation program. I don't think they've made any decisions on what would follow on after that.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Would you support the Japanese revision of their constitution for national -- (inaudible) -- ?

Rodman: That's for the Japanese to decide. It may well be that the new administration there is tackling this question in a way that had not been tackled before. But again, it's for them -- it's for Japan to do, Japan to decide. You know, we are not -- we are not giving them advice. I think as a matter of general principle, we value Japan's contribution to the alliance. If Japan is able to do more, I think we would, you know, be happy with that. But these are obviously decisions that mean a lot to the Japanese, and they are debated a lot in Japan. And again, these are decisions the Japanese have to make, and that we would respect either way.

Yes?

Q: Marc Selinger from Aerospace Daily. Given the decision recently to go ahead with the production of the F-22, is the administration going to make any kind of special effort to help Israel acquire that plane at some point down the road, given how expensive that plane is going to be?

Rodman: I have not heard that issue come up. You know, again, it may be my ignorance at this stage, but there's not much I can say about that.

Yes, in the back?

Q: A follow-up arms control -- I mean arms sale question. What is the status of the Taiwan package that was announced in April? What systems would you logically see coming down over the next five or six weeks that Taiwan would send in a formal letter of law, a letter of request?

Rodman: Yeah, I couldn't anticipate what -- I think -- you know, this is still under discussion with them, and I wouldn't predict what would come out. It again may be my ignorance on the issue, but I couldn't give you an answer at this point.

Yes?

Q: What's the administration's thinking now on a possible theater missile defense system and the possible inclusion of Taiwan in that?

Rodman: It's premature. We are not at the stage of looking into that.

Yes?

Q: Sir, are you going to -- Vincent Chen with the United Daily News of Taiwan. Are you going to have a new East Asia security report this year? And if there is going to be that kind of report, what will you focus on on the report?

Rodman: Well, there's no plan at the moment to do a new report. I am familiar with the reports you are talking about. It's something that my office has been responsible for. I think we are spending this calendar year getting on our feet and getting into business. And we haven't yet made any decisions about drafting new reports. I think -- I mean, on the face of it I think they are a useful contribution, and it's something -- you know, the new administration ought at some point to present its concepts in every geographic area. But there is certainly nothing in the works right now.

Staff: Okay, we have time for a couple more.

Q: What countries in your basket have expressed interest in the Joint Strike Fighter program?

Rodman: I am not familiar with that at this point.

Staff: There's one reporter in the back --

Q: Barbara Starr --

Rodman: Oh, I'm sorry --

Q: -- that's okay -- ABC News. I guess I am left a little bit confused about your answers on Iraq policy. Can you offer any more clarity on a couple of points? What is holding up the decision-making process? Are you feeling any sense of urgency from the White House for the interagency group to come up with an answer? Because at least what I am left with here is you are keeping the Clinton administration policy in effect, and I am wondering if you feel any sense of what the political ramifications would be if a pilot were to be shot down while this administration leaves the Clinton policy in effect. What urgency is there to get something done here?

Rodman: Well, I don't want to pick any adjectives to characterize it. I would just say that there's a very deliberate process. It involves every institution in the government. There are some complicated issues, some very consequential decisions to make, and we are going about it carefully. I don't think we have to apologize for that. All of the aspects you mentioned are in people's minds, and we are aware of it. And again, I don't want to -- I certainly am not in a position to, you know, prejudge it or say where it is going to come out. But I have to say this is an issue which is being taken with utmost seriousness, and is being looked at with great care. And --

Q: Can I just follow up?

Rodman: Yes, please.

Q: Do you think -- do you personally think that the opposition movements would benefit from additional military assistance from the U.S.? Could that make them more successful?

Rodman: Well, it's a decision -- that's a decision or a judgment the U.S. government has to make. You know, if we do it or not do it -- I mean, we have to -- that's one of the factors we have to be thinking about. I apologize for just not -- I don't want to characterize -- it's not for me to announce anything or give an indication of where this may come out, because the decisions are not yet made. All I wanted to say was that these things are being reviewed, you know, with some care. And just to remind everybody that Iraq is still being -- you know, we are paying a lot of -- we have not forgotten about it. I mean, I can't say any more. I am just sorry I can't, shouldn't. I don't want that to indicate anything -- that shouldn't imply anything one way or the other. But it's an issue I am spending some time on, and a lot of other people in the government are spending time on. So I am just saying, you know, we are thinking very hard about it right now.

Q: Did we just understand you to say that one of the things being considered on this list of ideas is additional military assistance?

Rodman: No, I -- I'm going to -- I'm not in a position to lead you one way or the other on it. It's just not for me to characterize what is being -- what in particular is being discussed or where we are headed. And I am sorry about that, but it is just not for me to make new policy here.

Staff: I think this is the last one.

Q: When you speak of complicated issues and "consequential decisions" as you put it, does the current violence in the Middle East make this even much more difficult, in the fact that many Arabs are looking at the Bush administration's reticence to become involved in the peace process as siding with -- has this made it more difficult?

Rodman: It's a factor. Obviously all these -- there's some connection between these issues, and to some degree they are also separate. Again, it's a big philosophical debate which I don't want to get into here. I think Iraq is a problem in its own right. But you are absolutely right, our relations with our Arab friends are complicated at this moment by these other issues. But, again, I'm deliberately trying to avoid you know steering you in one direction or another, and I apologize for that.

Q: Thank you.

Rodman: All right. Thank you.