MR. MORRELL: Hi, guys. Good afternoon. Good to see you all. It's been a while. In fact, I think the last time I was out here at the podium was before Thanksgiving. You shouldn't take that personally; I'm not trying to dodge you. It's just that we've been traveling nearly nonstop, as many of you know, over the past several weeks, and in fact I'm going to start off by announcing yet another trip.
This afternoon, Secretary Gates flies to Ottawa, where he had expected to join his counterparts from Mexico and Canada tomorrow for the first-ever trilateral meeting of the North American defense ministers. This session was originally planned for last July, but had to be postponed due to an outbreak of violence in Mexico. Now, unfortunately, we've received word that, due to illness, the Mexican secretary of national defense, General Guillermo Galván Galván, will not be able to attend tomorrow's session as he had hoped, and the trilateral meeting will have to be postponed once again.
The secretary, however, will still go on to Ottawa, and now they will conduct a bilateral engagement with Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay. They will discuss ongoing U.S.-Canada defense issues and areas of cooperation including, of course, our mutual efforts in Afghanistan.
As for Mexico, the secretary will look for other opportunities in the future to engage with his counterpart there, but nothing to announce in terms of a make-up date at this point.
From Ottawa, the secretary will head down to Omaha, Nebraska in order to participate in Friday's change-of-command ceremony for Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. This event will give the secretary a chance to thank General Kevin "Chilli" Chilton for his decades of service in the military and welcome his successor at STRATCOM, General Bob Kehler, who has most recently been the commander of Air Force Space Command.
Also participating in Friday's STRATCOM change of command is Chairman [Adm. Mike] Mullen. The chairman will be flying in straight from Brussels, where he arrived today to attend the NATO Military Committee Chiefs of Defense meeting. The chairman also met today with his Russian counterpart, General Nikolai Makarov, as well as part of the NATO-Russia Council session that took place today.
Also on Friday, for you who are -- those of you who are not traveling with us, back here in this very room, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Cliff Stanley as well as General [James] Hoss Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will conduct the first of what will likely be a series of briefings on how we are proceeding with the implementation of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." So I'm sure many of you will be interested in that, likely Friday afternoon, I think. I think they've got some Hill engagements in the morning, and then we'll meet with you all mid-afternoon.
So with that, Lita, welcome back.
Q: Thank you. Geoff, on that actual subject, "don't ask, don't tell," the president mentioned it briefly last night, talking about wanting to move forward. Can you at least give us a sense of how quickly the military is going to move forward on this, particularly in terms of training the force? Are there going to be some --
MR. MORRELL: That -- Lita, let me interrupt -- so you can think of another question while I deflect this one. That's why we're having the briefing on Friday. Those are the experts; those are the guys running this. They will address those and other issues. Trust me. So stay tuned to Friday. I'm not going to elaborate beyond that. I'm not.
MR. MORRELL: I am not. Okay. You've got another one, or we want to come back? All right. All right.
Q: Geoff, is the secretary working on authorizing additional military commission charges in Guantanamo? And does he think that the new military commission system will result in verdicts that will have international credibility in order to put these cases behind us once and for all?
MR. MORRELL: Al, I think as you know, there was an executive order signed by the president of the United States literally days after he took office, right about now -- two years ago, right about now, that deals with this. This is a matter that I think is probably best addressed to the White House as they go about trying to figure out how to proceed with the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and how to proceed with the adjudication of those who are still being held there and who cannot be returned to their home countries.
But I have no developments on that front to share with you today.
Q: I understood the secretary had to authorize resuming -- or rather starting new procedures. Is that factual?
MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, when the executive order was signed back in January of 2009, the secretary had to sign a subsequent order for this department in terms of how it was going to proceed to stay in compliance with the executive order. So that's all it was. It was direction to the department based upon the order from the president.
That does, in fact, remain in effect while the -- while the interagency still works on trying to figure out how we're going to permanently close Guantanamo Bay and how we're going to deal with those people there who cannot be returned to their home country safety, those who can be adjudicated or those who may have to be held on a permanent basis somewhere.
But that -- I have nothing new to provide for you on that front. Perhaps my friends at Justice or at the White House do. Okay.
Q: Geoff, is it true that prosecutors have not been able to tie Private [Bradley] Manning to Julian Assange and essentially make a link between the two in the case?
MR. MORRELL: Well, what I would say on this is, as much as I'd like to weigh into this, this is, as you know, an ongoing criminal investigation. So it would be inappropriate for me to speak to any -- with any specificity to these issues.
But I would avail myself of this opportunity to admonish or warn you all to be extraordinarily careful about how you report on this story, because one thing I can -- I do feel comfortable in telling you is that this case is being taken extremely seriously by the investigators both here in the Defense Department and, of course, at the Department of Justice. They are hard at work at on building a case here.
So any pronouncements about a connection or lack of connection, those that have been found or are yet to be found, are just premature at this point. So I'd urge everybody to proceed with caution on this, and probably most stories, for that matter.
So I'm not in a position, unfortunately, to tackle that as directly as I'd like to. But that's my admonition to you all, including Mr. [Jim “Mik”] Miklaszewski in the front row.
Q: Well, why is he being held in solitary confinement?
MR. MORRELL: He's not being held in solitary confinement. That's a misnomer, among many in the reporting of this case. What I -- let me describe how Private First Class Manning is being held. He is not in solitary confinement. He is not in isolation. He is in max -- he is a maximum-custody detainee in a prevention-of-injury status. He is not on suicide watch. He is being held in the same quarter section with other pretrial detainees. He's allowed to watch television. He's allowed to read newspapers. He's allowed one hour per day of exercise.
He is in a cell by himself, but that is like every single other pretrial detainee at the brig. It just so happens that the configuration of the brig is that every individual is confined to his or her own cell. He's being provided well-balanced, nutritious meals three times a day. He receives visitors and mail, and can write letters. He routinely meets with doctors, as well as his attorney. He's allowed to make telephone calls. And he is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig.
So assertions by liberal bloggers, or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate. And I'm glad you asked the question, so I had the opportunity, hopefully, to clear that matter up once and for all.
Q: Could I just follow up on that? I mean, all of that being said, he still does spend 23 out of every 24 hours in that cell by himself. He's not allowed to exercise in the cell. He's not allowed to arbitrarily just write letters. He has to specifically ask for anything more than, say, one book at a time. Are -- is there any concern that -- because from what we've heard, even the forensic psychologist who spoke with him and examined him recommended that he not be on this protective order. I think that there's a -- there's a question out there as to exactly how the brig commander -- what criteria is being used to keep him under this order for such a long period of time, considering he's still in a pre-trial status.
MR. MORRELL: Just as though he is not being treated any worse than any other detainee, he is not being treated any better than any other detainee. He is not going to receive special privileges, which is essentially what you are asking him to receive. He is being treated exactly like everyone else in the brig is being treated. That's what's appropriate. We treat them all equally. And I don't understand why there would be a need for an exception to those rules to be made for Private Manning -- or anyone else, for that matter.
Q: Well, are there other prisoners who have been under this protective order for the length of time that Private Manning has?
MR. MORRELL: That's probably a question that's best addressed to my colleagues at Quantico, in terms of the population at the brig there, how long some have been there versus others. I don't believe that this is an unusually long period of time. A case is being built to prosecute him on the charges that were -- again, to correct another mis-report yesterday that -- you know, there were cable news reports yesterday that somehow Private Manning was being held without charge -- not just that he was being held in conditions that the media thought were inappropriate, but that he was being held without charge -- and how un-American that is.
As you all know who work in this building, who received the charge sheet back in July, he most certainly has been charged. And he has not only been charged with illegally downloading classified information, but he has been charged with disseminating classified information to people unauthorized to receive it. So those are very serious charges levied against him, related to a very discrete incident involving mostly the downloading of Apache gunship video from Iraq, but also some cables as well were mentioned in the charging sheet back in July. He is, as we mentioned a person of interest in the much larger leak by WikiLeaks of additional classified documents, cables and tactical field reports and so forth. But I think the manner in which he is being held is completely appropriate and completely consistent with how any and all detainees at the brig are treated.
Q: One last question --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I'll get -- Mik, I promise you I will give you a chance.
Q: The protective order is not designed to punish him for being charged with those crimes. It's supposed to protect him. I guess we're trying to --
MR. MORRELL: The protective order -- I would -- I would imagine that one -- when one is confined in the brig, it is not just for their protection that we are worried. We are always worried about our protection. He is charged with very serious crimes. That's why you isolate someone behind bars. That's why you confine someone, so that they cannot escape, cannot possibly commit the crimes that they are alleged to have done again.
So it's not -- he is -- I think you have it a little backwards. I think you have it that he is being held for his own protection in the manner which he's being held. That may be, that there -- there are reasons that they think that it is for his own benefit that he be held so. But it can also be that he's being held behind bars because he is a -- deemed a threat, that he has been alleged to have committed a very serious crime that potentially undermines our nation's security, and therefore he needs to be confined during the course of a trial.
But I would just -- what I come back to time and time again, Chris, is the notion that the manner of his confinement is not in the least different from the manner in which anyone else at the brig is being held.
Q: But not everybody's under that protective order.
MR. MORRELL: I'm -- I -- you keep coming back to this protective order. I'm not so sure I know what you're talking about. I described conditions to you, the manner in which he's being held. And my understanding is that is consistent with how every other person in the brig is being held.
Now, the one exception to that could be this suicide-watch issue. He was placed on suicide watch, as I understand it, for two days. So that can be a difference between how others in the brig are being held. But my understanding is that the manner in which he is being held is not punishment for any behavior, but this is the standard protocol for how people at the brig are held, especially people with the gravity of the charges he is facing.
Q: Well, since you mentioned me by name and, through implication, tied me to incorrect reporting, which would be incorrect, I do have a couple of questions.
MR. MORRELL: Fire away.
Q: Was the brig commander at Quantico in error in putting Private Manning on suicide watch for two days last week? Did he violate protocol?
MR. MORRELL: My understanding is that he did not and that, despite your reporting, which suggests that only doctors at the facility can make a call of that nature, what I've been told is that the brig commander is ultimately responsible for the well-being and confinement of everyone in his charge. And so he has the wherewithal to make decisions based upon input from others, including doctors, about how it is best to treat people given the current circumstances.
He made a judgment call. It sounds like that he put him under suicide watch for a period of two days. But as I understand it, he was well within his rights to do so as the commander of the brig.
Q: And is it within his authority to put somebody on suicide watch for a disciplinary purpose?
MR. MORRELL: I frankly am not aware of all the regulations that he operates under. But I would imagine that, as the brig commander, he has extraordinary discretion in terms of how best to run that facility, how best to protect the well-being of the people he -- who he's charged with safekeeping. And I don't know all that goes into, frankly, Mik, making a decision about one -- about when one needs to be watched more carefully in the event they may be considering doing harm to themselves.
Q: And was Manning taken off suicide watch at the urging of Army lawyers?
MR. MORRELL: I don't know. I don't know. But even if it were at the urging of Army lawyers, it would ultimately have to be a -- the judgment of the brig commander that that was the appropriate course of action. And he would not have done it unless he thought that was the best way to proceed, both for his facility and the well-being of people there and, of course, for Private Manning's well-being.
Okay? What else?
Q: Yeah -- no, I wanted to --
MR. MORRELL: Okay.
Q: Can you tell us today if, in fact, there is evidence that Private Manning was ever in direct contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?
MR. MORRELL: I think I've answered this question when it was put to me by Jennifer. And I'm happy to repeat it if you like. But as much as I would like to answer that more directly, I'm not in a position to.
And I'm not going to elaborate on why I'm not in a position to other than to say that it would be inappropriate, given the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, for me to answer that with the specificity that I'd like to.
And I'd once again urge you and all to be very careful, given the fact that this is an ongoing investigation. It's being -- you know, this has -- this has received the highest-level attention in this department, in the Department of Justice. There are many, many resources devoted to investigating this and also bringing a case against those responsible for this breach of national security. So I think it is way too soon to make pronouncements with the kind of definitiveness that I've seen in some of the reporting, given where we still are in this investigation.
Q: Are you implying that you have information that, in fact, Manning was in direct contact with Julian Assange? Because --
MR. MORRELL: I am not -- Mik, Mik, I am not implying -- Mik, I'm not --
Q: (Inaudible) -- you don't want to reveal the specifics?
MR. MORRELL: I'm not implying --
Q: That's the -- that's the implication you made.
MR. MORRELL: You can infer what you -- Mik --
Q: You said you'd like to respond with the specificity.
MR. MORRELL: Mik, you can infer what you like, but I am not implying anything other than what I said, which was very clear. I'm not going to wade into the ongoing investigation. But I urge you all to be very careful, because it is still very much in progress. And it would be premature to draw any definitive conclusions about where we are vis-à-visdirect connections, a web of connections, found, not found, any of that. We're not and you are not -- no one is in a position yet to draw those conclusions.
Q: Are there third-parties being investigated?
MR. MORRELL: This investigation is broad. I think the best -- the best question -- it's best directed at the Justice Department. But my understanding is that this is a very broad, very robust investigation that will look any and every place to find all those who may or may not have been involved in the leak of this classified information.
Q: A follow up, Geoff?
MR. MORRELL: Are you on this?
MR. MORRELL: Okay. Let me -- let me finish this up, and then we'll come over to you.
Q: All right. Thank you. First of all, we're meeting first time: Happy New Year.
MR. MORRELL: Happy New Year.
Q: My question is that because of WikiLeaks, as far as this connection and he is behind bars, one, many high-level Indian military officials are under investigation but they are in jail now because of WikiLeaks. And now what my question is, as far as WikiLeaks is concerned, this man is behind bars here. Have you stopped, as far as WikiLeaks is concerned, for the future? What have you done? Because many other countries also involved as far as WikiLeaks and U.S. defense and --
MR. MORRELL: For the future of what?
Q: Have you stopped the WikiLeaks in the -- for the future? And no more WikiLeaks are coming? Or have you done something --
MR. MORRELL: Listen, you'd have to -- you'd have to talk to Mr. Assange and his cronies. I don't know what they have still up their sleeve. You'd have to -- you'd have to talk to them.
Q: (Inaudible) -- really, as far as U.S. and international, global military-to-military relations are concerned, especially with India now because of this WikiLeaks, many high-level military officers are in -- behind bars or under investigation. Do you have any -- if anybody has approached this building in connection with WikiLeaks with the U.S. and India, military to military?
MR. MORRELL: I am -- I am not aware of any specific engagements with regards to or conversations with regards to fallout from anything that's been disclosed by WikiLeaks in the U.S.-India military-to-military relationship. We have gone to great lengths in all of our bilateral relationships to give advanced warning to our friends and allies around the world about what were potentially in these documents. I know our colleagues at State have done the same thing on a diplomatic basis. So we've been very forthright about this, and obviously it's been an embarrassing -- and I think -- I think people have lost sight a little bit about how damaging this has been in terms of diplomatic relations, in terms of potential harm to those named in these documents and in terms of the fallout in terms of intelligence-sharing relationships. These are very real consequences that have not received probably as much attention as they deserve to receive.
Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Can I follow up? On the trip to -- the secretary is taking starting today, there's been a lot of controversy in Canada over the past few months about the F-35, cost of it, whether they can afford it, et cetera.
MR. MORRELL: Right.
Q: To what degree is the secretary concerned about Canadian wavering on the F-35? And how much a part of it will he make in his discussions with his counterparts in Ottawa?
MR. MORRELL: I think that clearly -- I understand the politics are -- up there are such that this is a hot-button issue. I understand that the -- that the opposition party is making a great deal of it. I am sure it will be a matter for discussion between Secretary Gates and Minister MacKay. I'm sure it will be a matter that will come up when the two of them conduct a press conference tomorrow afternoon.
So I think he'll be able to speak more directly to this issue tomorrow. I mean, if you have a more specific question for me in terms of the program and how we're administering it and our commitment to it, I'm happy to answer it.
But obviously our international partners are crucial to this -- to keeping this program cost-effective. It has obviously ballooned in cost, at upwards of $90 million a copyright right now. That is too high, and we are determined to drive those costs down.
Our partners are needed, obviously, because the more quantity you buy, the price per copy will drop. So we are obviously always trying to work with those countries that are committed to this, to keep them committed, because it's for the overall good, not just for the program but of our defense posture around the world. This is going to be the backbone of our tactical air fleet for decades to come, and it will be, hopefully, for our allies as well. And there will not be a plane in the sky that can match its capabilities, save for the F-22.
So we are still firmly committed to this program.
Q: The question is, is Canada or is the secretary concerned --
MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, we're going to have to talk about it. We're going to talk about it. We certainly hope they are. I've never heard any wavering on the part of Minister MacKay on this issue. But there are domestic politics at work in Canada like there are in many of the countries where we visit, and we have to be understanding and respectful of those concerns. But ultimately there are national security considerations that the Canadian government and -- needs to take into consideration, just as we and our other allies have.
Q: Geoff --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
Q: -- some of the reports were involving also the Mexican military. Do you think it's going to be hard to have a good relationship with the Mexican military that have been increased in the latest years after the release of these documents in WikiLeaks?
MR. MORRELL: I don't know why it will be any harder with the Mexican military than with any other military that's been named in the security breach. You know, we are having to work double time to reassure our allies that we are trustworthy, that we can -- we can protect classified information, that we can guard secrets, and that they can trust us. That is an ongoing process. It's going to take probably many months, if not years, to rebuild that credibility.
But at the end of the day, as the secretary said here a few months ago, countries don't do business with us necessarily because they like us or even trust us. They do business with us because it is in their national interest, in their -- particularly in their national security interest to do so. That's why more countries, more militaries than, I think, ever before are partnering with us, exercising with us, planning with us, cooperating with us.
Q: Secretary Clinton mentioned on Monday that the U.S. is going to provide $500 million to Mexico as part of the continuation of the Merida Initiative. What is -- how the Pentagon is going to participate in this new --
MR. MORRELL: I don't have anything new for you on that.
Q: So we have seen lately major changes in Tunisia, Lebanon, and what we are seeing now in Egypt, massive protests. Is Secretary Gates concerned about these changes? And could these changes affect the U.S. relationship with its partners in the region vis-à-vis, for example, the military aid?
MR. MORRELL: Well, let me -- that's a lot, and I think these are three separate fast-moving situations that the secretary and others here in this department and, frankly, obviously throughout the government are monitoring closely as they evolve.
Let me remind you, we have no [clarification; limited] military-to-military relationship with Tunisia. We have a long-standing military-to-military relationship with Egypt. And we have an evolving military-to-military relationship with Lebanon, I think since 2006. Since the Syrians pulled their forces out of -- out of Lebanon, we've pursued a closer military-to-military relationship, I think investing -- or providing assistance upwards of $600 million to Lebanon since 2006.
So I think if your question deals with where do we go from here in light of developments in Lebanon and Egypt vis-à-visour military assistance, I would probably urge you to, first and foremost, talk to State, because aid and assistance is run out of there. But we're looking at this closely. I mean, in the case of Lebanon, we're monitoring the situation as the constitutional process plays out. We will need to see what the final makeup of the Lebanese government looks like before we make any decisions regarding our relationship, including military assistance. Now, a Hezbollah-controlled government would obviously have an effect on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon. But I think State should take it from here, in terms of the ultimate impact that may or may not have on our military-to-military relationship and financial assistance.
With regards to Egypt, just as point of fact, I mean, these protests that have -- that have sprung up in the last couple of days, I think the White House has spoken to at length -- the president last night, Robert Gibbs today. There's a transcript out that you should take a look at. But we actually this week are hosting senior Egyptian military leaders at the Pentagon for our annual bilateral defense talks, referred to at the Military Cooperation Committee, which is chaired jointly by Assistant Secretary of Defense Sandy Vershbow and Lieutenant General Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces. So that's just an example of how engaged we are with the Egyptians, even as these developments have taken place on the streets in Cairo and elsewhere, which I think State and the White House have spoken to in terms of our concerns about how they proceed in terms of non-violence and how they are reacted to by the government and so forth.
Q: A couple more.
MR. MORRELL: I got about seven minutes, yeah.
Q: Just quick questions. Tomorrow the Senate Armed Services Committee is going to be looking at the leak of data in the tanker competition to both competitors. Back in November, when the Air Force disclosed it, Colonel [David] Lapan said that the department agrees it was a clerical error with no impact on the source selection. Fast-forward a couple of months. Does the department still hold that view, that this clerical error doesn't -- did not, or will not have an impact on the source selection?
MR. MORRELL: Well, I don't think our position on this matter has changed. I mean, it was unfortunate. It was a mistake. But ultimately, the forensics that were done have assured us that it -- that it did not result in any proprietary or consequential information being unfairly shared. So I think -- oh, I -- well, let me put it this way. We have, subsequent to that, taken measures, just to be safe, to ensure that if indeed either party or both parties had seen what was inadvertently sent to them, that they both had equal access to the same information. So we've also taken measures, in terms of an after-action, to figure out how the heck this error occurred.
Obviously, it is our hope, it is our expectation, that this would not affect either the awarding of the contract -- which there's no reason for it to -- or anyone's decision in the wake of that award to protest. So anyway -- but there's going to be hearing on this matter that you should, given your interest in this subject, tune into.
Q: Okay, second question. And Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld's memoirs are coming out on the week of February 8th. Has this -- has this building vetted his memoirs for -- done a security review of them at all? Do you know that one way or the other?
MR. MORRELL: I'm sure whatever the protocols are that are appropriate for a former secretary of Defense have been taken. I'm not privy to what specifically was done in the case of Secretary Rumsfeld, but I'm sure the appropriate protocols were followed.
Q: Well, there'll be interest in this in a couple of weeks when the book's going to be published. So you might have some of your guys check into that, because there may be a question on that.
MR. MORRELL: You're welcome to speak to my guys, too.
MR. MORRELL: My colleagues -- they're not my guys, they're my colleagues.
Q: Your august colleagues.
MR. MORRELL: All right, we don't have much time, because I've got to run.
Mik, you've had your shot.
Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Wait a minute --
MR. MORRELL: No, Mik, you wait a minute.
Q: Back to F-35 real quick.
MR. MORRELL: Okay.
Q: Could you elaborate on the decision to grant Lockheed permission to speak with Japanese companies on the F-35?
MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, when we were in Japan, and you guys are all aware of this, we spoke to our Japanese counterparts about their desire to upgrade their tactical air fleet. We think there are at least three American-made products that they should strongly consider, and we offered to provide them with the kind of technical information they would need to ultimately make a decision as to which aircraft they want to pursue.
I mean, the F-35 is one of three. The F/A-18 as well as the F-15, I think, were the others, was the other. Anyway, but we'll get -- we can get you that if not. But that's where that stands.
On a similar -- if I may sort of divert to an unrelated but somewhat related topic, the J-20 stories, frankly, that I've seen over the past couple weeks since we've been back, I think, have been a little -- have been a little over the top. I read these things, and people state sort of definitively that there was "a successful test of the J-20." And I think that is another case of us all being a little premature here.
What we know is that a plane that looks different than any other they produced, that they claim to be their J-20, had a short test flight when we were in Beijing. But we don't know, frankly, much about the capabilities of that plane, which you saw photographs and some video of. We don't know yet what the capabilities are of the engine that propelled that plane. We don't know if it's a fifth-gen engine. We don't know if, indeed, it is as stealthy as they claim it to be.
It is too early for us to have made those determinations. But I think it's equally early for you all to be making pronouncements about the success of -- or the achievement of fifth-gen capability.
And, you know, furthermore, these notions that we've been sort of caught by surprise on this are also off base. We've talked about their pursuit of the J-20 for a long time, and that's why we have pursued not just the F-22, which we have in more than enough numbers to deal with any scenario involving China, but also the F-35, to the tune of nearly 2,500 planes is still the program of record.
So we were well aware of this evolving capability. And what we saw last week has not changed the strategic calculus at all, because we don't yet -- what Gates had always talked about on this issue was that by the time they have operationally significant numbers of this aircraft, we will not just have the 187 F-22s, which will be unmatched, but we will also have an abundance of F-35s, in addition to all the other, you know, F/A-18s and F-16s that are, you know, fourth or 4.5-gen quality.
So I would just urge everybody to be -- to slow down a little bit on our characterizations of the -- of the J-20 at this point, given what little we know of it.
Q: Can I ask one thing? It wasn't in the China report this year or last year, so how can you say we've been warning about this for a year? The J-20 was not mentioned in this China report.
MR. MORRELL: I'd have to go back and look at the report.
MR. MORRELL: Okay, okay, hold on. I'd have to go back and look at the report.
MR. MORRELL: Can I finish my thought?
MR. MORRELL: I'd have to go back and look the report. But I would find it hard to believe -- excuse me, let me finish --
MR. MORRELL: I'd find it hard to believe that China's pursuit of a fifth-gen aircraft would not have been noted in the report. But we can go back and take a look, and we can provide you with an answer, if you like, from Policy, on why it wasn't in there. Okay? All right.
Q: Is there evidence that there was stolen U.S. technology in that plane?
MR. MORRELL: Listen. Not as far as I know, but as I'm telling you, we don't know a whole lot about what's in this plane right now. That's why I'm urging you to be cautious.
And as for -- you know, listen, here are the Chinese, who have not spoken -- previous to our visit and previous to the public testing of this aircraft, have never, really, as far as I know, publicly even acknowledged the program. Now all of a sudden you're seeing people speak, you know, at length about it, including a report I noticed yesterday from somebody within the Chinese military stating that it's insulting for people to insinuate that they got this by procuring, you know, parts of an old U.S. aircraft that may have gone down in Kosovo, and reverse engineered it to come up with their own stealth capability.
They say that's not the case. I have no reason to disbelieve them. But I also don't know yet whether there is stealth capability on that aircraft or that there is a new engine on that aircraft. We don't know yet.
So that's why I'm urging you guys to just be careful and perhaps a little skeptical as you are in your questioning of us and our capabilities. Okay.
I've really got to go, but if there's -- these two, and then I've got to go. Yeah.
Q: Thank you, Geoff.
MR. MORRELL: Yes, quickly, though. I mean --
Q: President Obama and Hu Jintao had a meeting last week. And the president mentioned -- has mentioned about -- on the issue of the redeployed U.S. troops. You know, what is the redeployed U.S. troops -- what areas that -- will the U.S. troops redeploy in? The Korean Peninsula? What?
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I think I'm getting your question. The issue was in light of the threat that we see emanating from the peninsula from Pyongyang, I think -- I think you're suggesting that we have said that we will do what is necessary to protect ourselves here as well as our forward-deployed forces; as well as our allies, who we have security commitments to.
And so -- you know, obviously we have 28,500 troops in -- on the Korean Peninsula. We've got, I think, north of 50,000 troops in Japan. So we have significant assets already there.
And over the long-term lay-down of our forces in the Pacific, we are looking at ways to even bolster that, not necessarily in Korea and Japan, but along the Pacific Rim, particularly in Southeast Asia. We -- you know, when you guys were with us in Australia, we talked about, you know, having access -- not permanent deployment of troops in Australia, but having access to certain facilities. We -- you know, obviously we have -- we have access and a good relationship in Singapore. There are -- Guam, obviously would be the best example of us changing our lay down and our footprint in the region, enhancing it in Southeast Asia.
So that's that. I've got to go, but, quickly, what is it?
Q: (Inaudible) -- Secretary Gates told reporters in -- two weeks ago that --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I was there, yeah.
Q: -- North Korea was becoming a direct threat to the United States.
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, not immediately, but not -- within the next --
Q: So I was wondering how you would evaluate their current ability of weaponizing the warheads.
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I don't think I care to elaborate on anything he said. I think what he said is they're becoming a direct threat to the United States. By that, he doesn't mean at this very moment. But given their pursuit of both the nuclear weapons and their ballistic-missile capabilities, that he sees them being a direct threat not within five years, but sooner than that.
And that's of real concern to us. That's why we worked with the Chinese, with the Japanese, with others, to try to impress upon the North that they've got to -- they've got to cut out this provocative behavior, the destabilizing behavior, and they've got to seriously reevaluate their pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles.
Okay, thank you.