(Press availability with Senators Chuck Hagel and Jack Reid, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore.)
Wolfowitz: Good afternoon, I’m Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and with me is Senator Jack Reid from the state of Rhode Island and Senator Chuck Hagel from the state of Nebraska. I think we’re all delighted to be here in Singapore, and to be here at the second Shangri-La Conference. I appreciate very much the effort that’s been made by our host, the government of Singapore, and by the organizers of the conference, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, to pull together government officials and non-government experts on defense and security matters from throughout the Pacific region for this second annual conference.
We have conferences of this kind on a fairly regular basis in Europe. There’s a famous one that’s been taking place in Munich for some 40 years that I know all three of us have been to. Asia needs more of this kind of consultation and dialogue and three of us are here to give our support to that kind of effort. I think I would say if there’s one important message, and I think you’ll here from them in just a minute, I think I’m speaking for a bi-partisan consensus between both the executive branch and the congress in the United States, and that is that the U.S. is committed to security and stability in this important part of the world.
We understand how important the Asia Pacific region is to the future of the whole world. It’s particularly important to the future of our country and we understand that America’s role in Asian security has been crucial over the last 50 years. Right now one can in fact say that the Pacific, i.e. peaceful, is a term that applies correctly to this region but it’s not been often in history that you can say that. I think the American commitment to this region is an important part of keeping this a peaceful part of the world. We are here to understand better how the U.S. can continue to play that role and to convey our views about the major security issues of the day. Senator Hagel --
Hagel: Secretary Wolfowitz, thank you, and I’ll be very brief. Senator Reid and I were here last year as Secretary Wolfowitz noted, and just as the Secretary noted, we came last year as we come back this year to once again assure our friends and our allies that this part of the world remains a critical part of the interest of the U.S. It has for some time. It will for a long time in the future.
It’s important that Secretary Wolfowitz be here because he represents the administration’s view of the priorities we place in this part of the world. Our friends, our allies, and we are interconnected in every way. One other point I would make is Secretary Wolfowitz’s comment regarding the congressional and the executive branches of government in some unison on this issue I think he is exactly right. This is an issue that crosses all governmental boundaries and party boundaries and that is America’s interest in Asia and our future being bound to this region of the world and it is very important that we stay close to our friends and our allies. We continue to reach out and we strengthen our relationships and our friendships and we listen to our friends and allies and that’s as much why we’re here as any other reason. Secretary Reid -- Senator Reid -- I’m sorry (Laughter.).
Reid: Thank you Senator Hagel. I don’t know if I’ve been promoted or demoted. (Laughter). I will be equally succinct as Senator Hagel. It is a pleasure to be here for the second year in a row and I think it’s important, and what we’re saying is that Asia is an important area of the world and my coming here and listening to our colleagues and our contemporaries, we’re learning more, specifically about the issues that are here, that the issues affect not just the people of this region but the whole world and I think that again seconding Senator Hagel’s important and Secretary Wolfowitz is here because he represents the administration and both Senator Hagel and I come from the Congress, from both sides of the aisle -- Democrat, Republican -- so this is an issue that is one of consensus.
We understand the importance of Asia. We understand this dynamic world, we have to know more and the best way to find out more is to listen to the leaders that are assembled here. Thank you.
Q: I’d like to ask you about Indonesia. Something you know a lot about. What’s your assessment of the performance of the Indonesian military action in the first two weeks of May and in light of that, when would the administration consider distributing the IMET (International Military Education and Training) money which Congress has authorized and which they haven’t done so far and when you take that into consideration how far would you consider the amendment that was passed was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week asking for more co-operation by Indonesia’s military with the FBI (Inaudible.) --
Wolfowitz: Actually we’re meeting with the Indonesian defense minister shortly and I think I’ll save most of the answer for that. But I think it is important in our belief that ultimately the solution in Aceh has to be a political one, and we’re disappointed that the talks broke down, but we still think that ultimately there has to be some kind of a political solution to that problem.
Q: But what about the military action in the past two weeks?
Wolfowitz: You’ll get another shot after the Indonesian defense minister. Yes sir?
Q: What can you tell us about the LA Times story regarding the realignment of U.S. forces in Asia, including the pulling out of substantial number of marines from Okinawa?
Wolfowitz: There’s a lot in that story, including that point that’s simply wrong. But let me put it this way. We are in the process of taking a fundamental look at our military posture worldwide, including the United States. We’re facing a very different threat than the one we have faced historically. Our forces have very different kinds of capabilities, dramatically different kinds of capabilities, than we’ve had before. And its appropriate to look at how those forces are postured, how we can get the most effectiveness out of them, in this region, the same basic commitments to stability and deterrence that we’ve had all along. But there are things in that story including the speculation that we might take our Marines out of Okinawa and move them to Australia that simply have no foundation.
Q: There was an article published yesterday in Vanity Fair which quoted you as saying that weapons of mass destruction were chosen for bureaucratic reasons to justify war in Iraq.
Wolfowitz: I’m sorry, first of all, that isn’t even the way the article puts it, but if you want to know what I actually said I would suggest you read the transcript of the interview which is on our website. What I said very clearly is that we have from the beginning had three concerns. One was weapons of mass destruction, second was terrorism, and the third -- and all three of these by the way are in Secretary Powell’s presentation at the U.N. -- the third was the abuse of Iraqis by their own government. And in a sense there was a fourth overriding one, which was the connection between those first two, the connection between the weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. All three of those have been there, they’ve always been part of the rationale and I think it’s been very clear. One last one --
Q: Has the war in Iraq created tensions with Muslim countries in this region that you’re going to need to smooth over? Over this weekend?
Wolfowitz: Well, I came here to listen, and as I said I’ll be meeting the Indonesian defense minister shortly. My impression from talking just this week with our ambassador to Indonesia is that the effects in many ways have been much less than people feared, and as these mass graves are uncovered in Iraq, I think it’s increasingly clear to everybody, Muslims particularly, that this horrible regime in Iraq was one that abused Muslims perhaps worse than any other government in the world.
There’s an opportunity now of working together, and we welcome help from any direction to give the people of Iraq a chance to build a much better free democratic country that can be an example for the Muslim world.
Thanks very much.