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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
March 24, 1997 11:00 AM EDT
-- This activity follows an Honor Cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Jorgen Kosmo, of the Kingdom of Norway, to the Pentagon.

Secretary Cohen: I'm just taking this occasion to welcome the Defense Minister here. He is a good friend, formerly with Secretary Perry. He had a great friendship with Secretary Perry. We intend to continue the friendship and to renew it and to build upon the relationship that we've had with Norway for many, many years. They're a strong ally of NATO and the United States, and so it's with great deal of pleasure that I welcome Minister Kosmo here to spend the morning and into the lunch hour discussing issues of mutual interest.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us whether the possible U.S. evacuation -- military mission -- in Zaire, has that been put on hold for now? Do you see any need that you may have to do that?

A: Well there's still planning underway to see that our citizens are safe and we of course take direction from the State Department, our ambassador who is on the ground. We are in the preparatory stage to make sure we can act if action is called for.

Q: Well, do you see any need for that action at this point?

A: That depends on a day-by-day assessment. It could be an hour-by-hour assessment. We are following it very closely and, as usual, we will take every measure possible to make sure that our citizens are safe.

Q: Mr. Secretary, your reaction to legislation introduced on the Hill by Representatives Spence and Kasich requiring withdrawal of U.S. troops from Bosnia by the end of the year. Does that kind of action in the Congress erode U.S. credibility with NATO allies?

A: Are you directing that to me?

Q: You're welcome too.

Minister Kosmo: I can certainly answer that because U.S. credibility in NATO is superb. We know that we will stick together until the mission is solved. We have, for SFOR, 18 months and that's the way that we plan for U.S. troops, Norwegian troops, Russian troops, working together in the same area. We will be there until the mission is solved; or until we have decided how to go on for the future in Bosnia.

Secretary Cohen: Jamie, if you'd like me to respond to that. I think the introduction of that legislation obviously reflects a sentiment shared by some on Capitol Hill. I'm not sure at all that it reflects a majority opinion, but nonetheless it does reflect some sentiment, and it's something that I've expressed to our NATO allies; that it's going to be very difficult, but achievable, to ensure that the United States stays until June of 1998 as NATO has pledged, as the President of the United States has pledged, and we will seek to carry that out. But it recognizes that there is a disagreement on the Hill on the part of some members. But, I think that's been known for some time.

Press: Thank you Mr. Secretary.

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