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DoD News Briefing for Tuesday, May 21, 1996 DoD News Briefing

Presenters: Kenneth Bacon, ASD Public Affairs
May 22, 1996 12:00 PM EDT

Tuesday, May 21, 1996, 2 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. A brief announcement -- that tomorrow Secretary Perry will address the Pacific Basin Economic Council at their annual meeting. He'll speak at 9 a.m. at the Sheraton Washington Hotel and he'll talk about preventive defense in Asia. He'll talk about our security relationship with Japan, particularly in the wake of the Okinawa agreement. He'll talk about China and he'll talk about Korea. And it will be piped back here. It will be piped back to the Pentagon. So, you don't have to -- you don't have to fight rush hour traffic anymore than usual. This is one of our many services to you guys.

I assume there will be, but I don't know for sure. Does anybody know if there will be Q & A?

Colonel Kennett: There's media coverage, so there must be Q & A.

Mr. Bacon: This is the group which the President spoke to yesterday when he talked about most favored nation. With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?

Q: Can you fill us in on the latest on Central African Republic, including how many Americans have been taken out so far and how many they're planning to take out? What's going on with the airport? Anybody been shot, etcetera?

A: Thirteen Americans have been evacuated so far. As I understand it, there are about 60 more Americans waiting to come out. There are a total of slightly more than 250 Americans in the Central African Republic. As you know, we now have 32 Marines protecting the embassy and there continues to be fighting. In fact, the State Department in its guidance describes it as mayhem. I can't improve on that. Mayhem throughout Bangui and there is looting going on in the commercial area. The airport is closed to commercial traffic. However, there is no indication of threatening gestures or fire directed at the American Embassy in the capital of the Central African Republic. That's about all I have for you right now.

Q: Why have the 13 been taken out so far?

A: Well, there was a problem of getting French security to and from the airport, a secure route to and from the airport. I gather when that's -- now, it's nighttime, of course. But, more will come out when we can work with the French to get a secure route to the airport.

Q: Are these people -- these people are not embassy people, I take it.

A: No, no. I don't know how many people are in the embassy. You'll have to talk to the State Department about that. But, it may be slightly more than 60 waiting to get out. It's around 60. It could be 63, 66, something like that still waiting to get out. Now, we don't know how -- I'm sorry. There are 19 embassy personnel there, including nine family members. We don't know how many of the American citizens in the capital will want to come out. I think it depends on the duration and tempo of the fighting, the seriousness of the fighting.

Q: This is unrelated. Can you bring us up to date on ships off Liberia and how many Marines are there and what they're doing?

A: There's two ships off Liberia, about 2,400 Marines. I think there are about 300 -- there are 2,400 Marines and what's left of the 22nd MEU. There are about 330 military people on the ground now in Monrovia protecting the embassy.

Q: Are you withdrawing more of those Marines? What's the status?

A: No, there's been about 300, plus or minus, for the last couple of weeks there on the ground in Monrovia. We have cut back the size of the MEU. There had been three ships and there had been a total of 2,900 Marines in the 22nd MEU. One ship departed and now we're down to a slightly smaller force. My expectation is that sometime in the future it will be cut back to a smaller force still. But that hasn't happened yet. Yes, Jamie?

Q: Secretary Perry apparently indicated in a editorial board with the Washington Times that he was of the opinion or that there had been a finding that Admiral Boorda was in some sort of technical violation in wearing these V devices. Could you just explain in more detail what technical violation or what -- have there been any determination or --

A: The Washington Times interview..., First of all, the story was very complete and accurately reported what he said. And secondly, it carried a verbatim section of the interview where he explained this and I have nothing more to add.

Q: Has there been any determination whether or not --

A: I have nothing more to add. You can read what he said and that's as far as -- I mean, I think he spoke very clearly. He laid it right out and I invite you to use it.

Q: Despite the clarity, if I could just ask one yes or no question. Do we know at this point, is there a definitive answer to the question of whether or not Admiral Boorda was entitled to wear these V's or is still an open question?

A: Secretary was asked for his opinion and he gave it.

Q: I'm asking so that's his opinion, but it doesn't necessarily foreclose other possibilities.

A: I think it's very -- what the Secretary said was very clear and I invite you to read it and use it any way you want.

Q: Yes, referring to the SS-18 Russian missiles and/or technology transfers to China. Can you be definitive, Ken, about whether China has tried to acquire whole entire SS-18 missiles and if that acquisition then would be for offensive or defensive intercontinental missile deployment. And secondly, it was mentioned that other countries had tried to buy SS-18 technology from Russia. Could you identify that? These are statements made I believe by Secretary Perry in the Washington Times yesterday.

A: First, I can't get into a lot of detail because this is all based on intelligence reporting obviously. Secondly, one of our biggest fears with the breakup of the Soviet Union is that weapons or know how, or weapons components would be sold by Russia and other former Soviet Union republics to willing buyers of which there are several around the world. We have worked very hard to prevent proliferation through this method.

We know that a number of..., China already, of course, has a strategic military force. It's not a huge force compared to the Russian force or the American force. Before the end of the Cold War, China was the third largest military power behind the Soviet Union and the United States. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, broke into separate countries, the third, fourth, and fifth largest military powers suddenly became the Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus. And as you know, we worked very aggressively with those three countries to get them to eliminate their nuclear forces, dismantle their rockets. Kazakstan has succeeded under the so-called Nunn/Lugar program. Now, it no longer has a strategic nuclear force. Ukraine will eliminate its strategic nuclear force this June and the Secretary will be there to witness that. And Belarus is close to eliminating its strategic nuclear force. That's one part of our effort to control proliferation, to dismantle these rockets. We have also been working to prevent through persuasion and other ways Russia and Ukraine and others from responding to invitations they're getting to sell rocket technology to other countries. As you know, China already has a small strategic rocket force. There are other countries that would like to build a strategic rocket force. It's not a easy thing to do. It would be much easier for them to build ICBMs if they got help from countries like Russia and Ukraine. So, we've been working to stop that.

Q: Ken, can you name which of those countries are? Is Iran one of those countries that's trying to get this technology?

A: I don't want to go into details about that. The Secretary has said in response to the Washington Times report that China has talked to Russian and Ukrainian officials about SS-18 technology. I want to point out that Russia in particular, but Ukraine also, has a real interest in controlling proliferation. They are surrounded by many more countries than we are and these countries are much closer to them than they are to us. So, they're surrounded not only by countries in Europe, but of course countries in the Middle East and in Asia. We believe that Russia shares our commitment to non-proliferation and it's something that we've discussed with them directly and will continue to discuss with them.

Q: Ken, can you be any more specific about what steps the United States is taking to ensure that this technology does not fall into the hands of the Chinese?

A: Well, the first step we've taken and the most tangible step we've taken is purchasing the 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Kazakstan [through] Project SAPPHIRE a year, 18 months ago. We've also working through the Nunn/Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to set up a number of programs to help employ scientists who were involved in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. We've helped convert former defense businesses into civilian manufacturers. You may have visited some of those. The Secretary has visited some in Ukraine and Russia. We've been working very hard to make sure that the scientists and engineers who helped build these weapons can remain employed in non-military businesses, but remain employed so that, out of desperation, they don't sell their services and their knowledge to other countries. We've also spoken explicitly and directly to the Russians about sales of nuclear hardware and know how to the Iranians and that's been public for some time. We've spoken to them about sales of rocket technology to China and we've made it very clear to all these countries that we all share an intense interest to non-proliferation.

Q: Did the United States issue a demarche?

A: Yes, in this particular case, the SS-18s we've issued a demarche to the governments of Russia and Ukraine.

Q: Can you tell us when the overtures were made by China to get this technology? And --

A: There have been a serious of discussions about this over time. I don't want to -- countries have discussions about technology all the time. We've had discussions with the Russians and the Ukrainians about technology. So, these discussions, I think some of them would probably be more properly called preliminary overtures, feelers, rather than hard offers.

Q: This year?

A: Within the last 12, six to 12 months.

Q: Has the United States been given assurances Moscow and Kiev that kind of stuff will not be done?

A: Well, we're in continual dialogue with them about non-proliferation. They've told us that they understand our concerns.

Q: Are the Chinese looking for components or scientists or actual missiles or all the above or what are they looking for?

A: I don't want to get into a lot of detail. Basically, they're looking for ways to help them advance their program.

Q: It's their ICBM program from the technology from Russia, isn't that right, to be the manufacturer of rockets? Is that right?

A: That's what the Secretary spoke about yesterday.

Q: Can you lay out the process for selecting a new CNO in terms of going from Dalton to Perry to the White House, sort of the time frame a little bit?

A: One participant you have to include, of course, is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in that chain. The first thing I can say about it is that we hope it will be fast. The Secretary hopes to move as quickly as he can. I look for the recommendation to the President in days rather than weeks. I can't quantify how many days, which is going to be your next question.

Many if not all of the Navy four-stars are in town now and he will have an opportunity to chat with some of them. Certainly, the Secretary and Navy will. Over the next few days, I expect the Secretary of the Navy and the Chairman and the Secretary to try to sit down and reach a consensus on what to do and send a recommendation on to the White House. But, this is really has not -- nothing particularly -- the process won't really begin in earnest until about now. They wanted to wait until after the memorial service and, as you know, that just ended within the hour. So, there will probably be just starting out.

Q: Will there be a release of the suicide note to the media?

A: That's really for the Navy to determine and you should keep in touch with them about that.

Q: Is there any update to the status of the B-2 fleet?

A: I'm sorry?

Q: The B-2 fleet?

A: Not that I have for you now.

Colonel Kennett: The Air Force has a release they can give you.

Mr. Bacon: OK. The Air Force has a release they can give you. Yes?

Q: It's been a month since the President went to Japan and made that declaration about the new agreement between the U.S. and Japan. Is there any progress past this month, like issues or the framework, or to capitalize?

A: Not that I'm aware, but we'll check. There could well be. They were going to set up working groups, Japan and the United States, and start working on this much the same way they worked on the Okinawa issue. And I'm just not aware of what the progress has been. But, we'll check and see if we can report anything back to you.

Q: Is meeting next week in Honolulu, Hawaii? Is that the working group?

A: Again, I just have not followed this closely enough to answer those questions with any clarity, any certainty. So, if you just check with DDI, they'll be able to get back to you.

Q: On the Former Soviet missile technology in China. Can you put a date on the U.S. demarche to Moscow and Kiev or a ballpark?

A: Within the last 30 to 45 days.

Q: Do you have anything new on the Ron Brown crash? The Air Force had hoped to bring us some kind of closure by the end of this month.

A: Well, of course, we're still sometime away from the end of the month, so I wouldn't rush to judgment until the Air Force has completed its investigation. They're still aiming for around the end of the month.

Q: So the Secretary of Defense hasn't got a report on that.

A: No, he has not. I'd say it's about two weeks off.

Q: Could you give me a few words about the meeting of Mr. Perry with the Philippine defense minister?

A: I'm afraid I was not at the meeting, but we'll get you a report. We'll get you an account of what happened. If you speak over here to Colonel Kennett, he'll be able to get you an account of that.

Press: Thank you.

Mr. Bacon: Your welcome.