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Joint Press Conference - Secretary Rumsfeld and South Korea Defense Minister

Presenter: Secretary Of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 15, 2001 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EST

(Joint press conference with Minister of National Defense Kim Dong-Shin of the Republic of Korea. Minister Kim's remarks are through an interpreter.)

Rumsfeld: All right. Why don't I make an opening remark here, Mr. Minister?

Kim: (In English) Okay.

Rumsfeld: We are in the middle of the 33rd Annual Security Consultative Meeting between the United States and the Republic of Korea. And it's certainly a pleasure for me to welcome the Minister of National Defense, Kim Dong-Shin, to the United States, and particularly to the Pentagon.

I recall with pleasure participating in the 7th or 8th annual security meeting -- (laughter) -- in Hawaii, back in 1975 or '76. The relationship was strong then, and it is still strong today. And I particularly want to mention the appreciation we have to the Republic of Korea's government for the strong commitment of support in the war against terrorism. And we welcome Korea into the coalition of nations pledged to root out and destroy the common enemy of all mankind.

I think the fact that we're even having this meeting at a time when we are in a war is the indication of the strength of the alliance and the depth of our long-standing friendship.

Together, our combined military forces have provided an effective deterrent that's kept the peace for some five decades now, and that is indeed the very best thing that military forces can do, and that is to deter military conflict.

We, of course, have completed our Quadrennial Defense Review. We're going to be discussing it later this afternoon, and certainly it reflects the importance of Asia and the Pacific to the United States.

We continue to support the Republic of Korea's efforts at reconciliation and cooperation with the North.

We've been working to expedite ongoing consultations on the land partnership plan, which will consolidate U.S. military units and installations, to enhance force protection and readiness, and to provide for more efficient use of ROK land. And we'll be discussing that later this afternoon.

Mr. Minister, welcome.

Kim: Thank you. Thanks.

Well, the 33rd ASEAN is the second defense ministerial meeting between Secretary Rumsfeld and myself, following the one we held in June.

And Secretary Rumsfeld mentioned about his previous ASEAN experience, which was the sixth or the seventh ASEAN. At the time, I was attending a command and staff college in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and after graduating from the college, I came back to Korea and served as a liaison officer at the ROK-U.S. I Corps. And while I was at the JSA, the ax-murder incident occurred, and Secretary Rumsfeld was at the time the secretary of Defense, and he directed the Operation Paul Bunyan. And as a liaison officer, I was in a sense acting on his command. And so that gives me a tremendous sense of a close bond with Secretary Rumsfeld, and I'm very pleased to attend this year's ASEAN and very honored to be here.

Rumsfeld: For those that were still in high school, he's referring to an incident that occurred at the demilitarized zone back in 1976 or -- yes -- when there was a good deal of difficulty between North and South over an incident involving some axes and some trees and some people.

Kim: I believe that by holding this important meeting as planned, in the midst of the major operations against terrorism, we're sending a clear message throughout the world how important our two countries regard our alliance.

During the meeting, I expressed my deep condolences on behalf of the Korean people and President Kim, sympathizing with the American people, who have suffered terribly from the unprecedented attack. Furthermore, I reaffirmed that Republic of Korea will continue to provide close cooperation to the U.S. to achieve victory in the war against terrorism.

In response, Secretary Rumsfeld has expressed sincere appreciation for the ROK government's steadfast support for the American efforts in the war against terrorism, as well as our detailed support proposal to provide medical support teams as well as maritime and air transport assets.

And I hope that the terrorist attack may serve as an occasion to strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance and elevate it to the strategic partnership in the future.

With regard to the security environment in and around the Korean Peninsula and the matters of mutual interest, we exchanged our views as follows: First, we agreed that all necessary military support will be rendered to ensure successful hosting of the World Cup and the Asian Games in 2002 in Korea.

Second, we reaffirmed our support for steadfast promotion of the reconciliation and cooperation policy toward North Korea as well as resumption of U.S.-DPRK dialogue without any preconditions. We also reconfirmed the guiding principles of military confidence-building measures between the two Koreas based on the South-North basic agreement.

And as for the matters of SNA negotiations and the LPP and as well as the joint dialogues on the future of the ROK-U.S. alliance, we'll be continuing to discuss these matters.

And finally, on a personal note, I am pleased to build our mutual trust and friendship by holding our second meeting since the June defense ministerials talks.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Mr. Minister, we have a practice here where the senior member of the Pentagon press corps gets to ask the first question. But this morning he used such inflammatory language that -- (laughter) -- it's not -- it's not clear to me, with a distinguished guest that we want to do that. (Laughter.) And I -- I'm just debating what to do.

Charlie, are you going to be on your best behavior now? (Laughter.) All right.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Yeah. (Laughs.)

Q: I'd like to ask both of you gentlemen, is there any sign, any evidence, that Pyongyang has provided either chem-bio weapons or chem-bio technology to al Qaeda or any other terrorist group?

Rumsfeld: The question was, is there any evidence -- and I guess my answer would be, for myself, that I have nothing that I would want to announce with respect to that. We see scraps of things over time, but I don't have anything that is, I suppose, what you'd characterize as a dictionary definition of "evidence" with respect to that particular country on those particular subjects, with respect to that particular network.

Q: Or any other?

Rumsfeld: We do know that North Korea has engaged in terrorist acts itself, that it is on the terrorist list, and that it has been an active proliferator of a variety of technologies.

Did you have any comment on that, Mr. Minister?

Kim: Well, since our two governments share all the military intelligence regarding North Korea's military threat, I think my answer would be identical to Secretary Rumsfeld's.

Q: Mr. Secretary, part of the rationale for the United States going forward to building a missile defense system is what is perceived to be North Korea's capability to hit the Western mainland -- Alaska and California -- with an intercontinental missile as early as 2004. Is that still, in your opinion, and in Minister Kim's opinion, a realistic threat?

Rumsfeld: As you know, our strategy has been shifting from a threat-based strategy to a capabilities-based strategy. It is beyond question or doubt but that North Korea has been actively developing an intercontinental ballistic capability. It's also beyond doubt but that they've been actively marketing those missile technologies to any number of countries around the globe. It's also clear they've been making efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. And certainly, the capabilities that they're seeking and that they're selling do, in fact, constitute the threat that has been posed and discussed and is very real.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Minister, on your FX procurement program, I believe it's been relayed to you that if Korea doesn't make a decision in the next couple of months, the American offer may be off the table because the F-15 line will shut down. And Senator Bond said today that that could create problems for U.S.-Korea relations. I'm wondering how seriously you take that, and what your timetable is for making a decision.

And Mr. Secretary, I'm wondering if you brought this topic up during your meeting.

Kim: Because the press briefing was scheduled at 2:00, we had to stop our meeting and come down here. And right before we adjourned the meeting, the U.S. side discussed about the F-15 -- the FX procurement project.

When we select the candidates for the FX program, we have to consider many various factors. But one of the most important factors is the interoperability and how it'll fare in our combined operations. So far, four types of airplanes have participated in the FX project. And the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense is following the regulations and procedures for the FX project. And we will be reviewing not only the performance but the technology transfer offsets and price. And all these factors will be viewed comprehensively and will be -- and the candidate will be determined in a transparent and fair manner.

And I'd like to emphasize that the ROK MND will not preclude or select any particular type of airplane because of its nationality. And it will be -- the plane will be selected through a fair competition. And the plane that will be selected should benefit our national interest the most.

Rumsfeld: We'll take two last questions. Yes, this lady here.

Q: Yes, Secretary Kim, I'd like to ask you two questions for you. And you say that four countries. Do you know which countries, particular countries, FX --

Kim: Program?

Q: Yes.

Kim: (Speaks in Korean, not translated.)

Q: Okay, another question for you. (Speaks in Korean; translated.) This question is also for Minister Kim. If -- (inaudible) -- ask you to dispatch combat troops to the area where they have to fight terrorists, wherever, would you be willing to respond positively by sending troops there?

Kim: Based on the spirit of ROK-U.S. mutual security treaty, the Korean government maintains that we will provide all the necessary support to aid the U.S. government's efforts in the war against terrorism. And the U.S. side has expressed their sincere appreciation for the ROK government's steadfast support in its operations against terrorism. And they expressed their appreciation for our medical support team and the maritime and air transport assets. And all these forces are noncombat units.

And there was no specific request for combat units.

Rumsfeld: Yes. Let's make this the last question please.

Q: This question is for Secretary Rumsfeld. For the past 30 years, whenever you had SCM, there was always conclusion agreed upon between the two sides that United States would do -- provide nuclear umbrella for the south -- for South Korea. At this time, during the 33rd SCM, I do not hear there has been any resolution or agreement to the same effect. Does this mean there has been change in policy? More specifically, does this mean that United States would not provide nuclear umbrella for South Korea anymore, or it means something else in connection with U.S. policy toward North Korea?

Rumsfeld: I'm trying to think how to answer that question. There has been no change in U.S.-Republic of Korea policy in that regard. And second, we have not issued the communique yet because the meeting has not concluded. [ Communique ]

Thank you.

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