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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with CNN

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 01, 2002

(Interview with Maria Ressa, CNN Jakarta, in Singapore.)

Ressa: How would you assess the situation between India and Pakistan?

Wolfowitz: We're very concerned. The tensions are building. There are serious forces deployed on both sides of the border. Both sides are wanting control. Continued infiltration and incidents along that line of control in Kashmir, and it's a very tragic situation. That's why the State Dept ordered this voluntary departure.

Ressa: In your meeting yesterday with the secretary from India, the minister of defense, did you come out with anything that helped ease some of the tensions in your mind?

Wolfowitz: I think my purpose is more to get a better understanding from him of the situation as he sees it, as his government sees it. It's really going to be deputy secretary Armitage later. Secretary Rumsfeld will be going out formerly talking to both governments with whatever the clear message is that the US wants to send. Obviously I reinforced our basic concern and this is a situation that would have enormous potential for spinning out of control and great dangers for both parties, for the U.S., for the whole region, the whole world.

Ressa: In your conversation did you feel that he had that sense also?

Wolfowitz: George Schultz taught me not to characterize other people's views -- you'd have to ask him!

Ressa: What's the extent of al Qaeda's reach here in Southeast Asia?

Wolfowitz: It's there. I think it's serious so I want to point out, it's there in Europe, it's there in the U.S. It's serious in those places because sometimes when we start to talk about their reach into Southeast Asia particularly into Indonesia. Indonesia's reacted as thought we're accusing Indonesia. We're not any more than I'm accusing the U.S. These people are there, but they take advantage of places to hide and there's some attraction to them being obviously in being in a country with a large Muslim population but we're talking about tiny numbers relative to the enormous country.

Ressa: Last night the senior minister talked about how al Qaeda in effect hijacked regional movements in Southeast Asia. First, do you agree with his assessment and his assessment of how much conflicts like the Moluccas -- how much of conflicts that were once thought of domestic issues in your assessment are fueled by al Qaeda?

Wolfowitz: There's a real potential there and it's dangerous to go to different parts of the world -- Chechnya. It's disturbing how much that outside of al Qaeda presence what a role it played in starting the second Chechnyan war. It was -- who turned out to be an al Qaeda Arab. It was his incursion into Pakistan that dragged a relatively moderate Chechnyan government into something that they had no desire to be in. And it makes sense, I mean these are people who profit when divisions and cleavages and conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims occur so I don't know whether -- I suspect they were not behind the Christian Muslim violence in Indonesia, for example, but I'm quite sure they were delighted by it if they can figure out a way to get in there and exploit it. That's on their agenda.

Ressa: How do you deal also with some of the nations you're dealing with in Southeast Asia are good at denial in some ways, the denial in the Philippines for example the denial of the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] committing terrorism in Indonesia? The vice president just said two days ago that if Indonesia were to arrest any terrorists he would be the first that they should arrest. How do you work with this?

Wolfowitz: I'm not sure it's denial. To tell you the truth, by and large over 20 years, more than 20 years really by now, I'd hate to think how long it's been but working with many different governments. I think at core there's a lot of realism in this part of the world. Sometimes that realism is guarded a little bit in the way people express that. In fact there's a lot of realism. The case you mentioned is I would say a phenomenon of something we haven't had to think about in the Indonesian context for a long time which is that it's a democratic country with some people with very very different views and politicians courting what they think is public opinion, or popular opinion. I have heard other people express the view that Mr. Hamzah Haz made a miscalculation in thinking that move would appeal to the Indonesian public opinion. I hope that's right because I think the mainstream of Indonesian Muslims are very moderate.

Ressa: There've been lots of arrests though from Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. One arrest in Indonesia, not for terrorism, in your view is Indonesia doing enough in the war against terrorism?

Wolfowitz: They've actually done a little more than that. Some of that they don't want to acknowledge and some of it has been helping the Philippines make one of those arrests you referred to. I think the Indonesian situation is more delicate than the other three you mentioned. I think each of the neighbors would probably acknowledge that readily and our FBI director was in Indonesia just a month or two ago and express general satisfaction with the efforts they're making and I think those efforts have only improved in time since then.

Ressa: Last night the -- I'll just follow up on the military in Indonesia -- senior minister said that push for active engagement. How did you react to that?

Wolfowitz: I think I indicated myself in public, especially after meeting with the Indonesian defense minister yesterday, that we believe that for democracy to succeed in Indonesia, it needs two things from its military. It needs reform so that the military stops some of the abusive practices of the past that are destructive to democracy. But also it needs, particularly in Indonesia, it needs a military that can be effective in preserving civil order and preserving the rights of minorities in preventing violence between religious communities which could ultimately tear that country apart so one has to do both at the same time and we hope -- we're trying to move forward on both agendas.

Ressa: About 1,000 US troops in the Philippines are headed there in the next two days. How long will the troops stay there and with regard to the hostages -- will they be -- will they pull out without any result on that front?

Wolfowitz: The basic result that we're working for is to help the Philippine armed forces be as effective as they possibly can protecting their own country and I know profoundly from some intense work with the Philippines back when I was [assistant] secretary of state a long time ago, just how strongly Filipinos feel about their sovereignty, their independence and we are the former colonial power -- we want to help but we do not want to intrude and I think we'll consider our mission accomplished when we brought the Philippine armed forces up to the level they're capable of achieving.

Ressa: If you're requested to stay, will the U.S. forces want to stay?

Wolfowitz: We are always open to discussions with good friends like the Philippines and I'm going to be going there and I'm looking forward to meeting with President Arroyo and going down to Zamboanga and meeting our troops.

Thank you.

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