Tuesday, June 25, 1996 - 10:30 a.m. (EDT)
welcoming Minister of National Defense Ian McLachlan, of the Commonwealth of Australia, to the Pentagon.]
Secretary Perry: Minister McLachlan, let me welcome you to the Pentagon.
Minister McLachlan: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Q: Would you shake hands one more time please?
Secretary Perry: All right. Happy too.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you frustrated at all by the fact that the latest revelation from the Pentagon about the possible exposure of Gulf War soldiers to chemical agents has produced another round of criticism that the Pentagon's not being forthcoming on effort to get to the bottom of Gulf War syndrome?
A: We are being... Of course the latest round of information came from a Pentagon release of information, and as we gather more information on the problem we make it available to the public. I think we're being quite responsible on this. We have no evidence yet that the information -- that there was some chemicals in the weapons cache which we destroyed during the Gulf War -- we have no evidence yet that this has had any effect on any of the soldiers; but we think it is responsible to go and check with all the soldiers that were anywhere in the vicinity to see if there's any indication of that. We're in the process of doing that now. And as we do this we're reporting it to the public.
Q: Mr. Secretary, does the U.S. Government want to establish a base in northern Australia, or even preposition troops and hardware there?
A: We will have discussions with the minister today and again in our Australian ministerial meeting in July about the desire of General Krulak to conduct an enhanced set of exercises. That's the only thing that we plan to be discussing at this time.
Q: What kind of exercises?
A: Exercises. Amphibious exercises with the Marines. We already are conducting some small scale exercises. General Krulak would like to explore conducting somewhat larger scale exercises. Those would be done perhaps once maybe twice a year.
Q: Could you say that actually establishing a base would be something that you would rule out?
A: We're not planning to discuss that. It is not a matter of present consideration.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is the extra training that you were just referring to a way of relieving the pressure on Okinawa for training opportunities there?
A: We have been training in Australia for some time. This is simply expanding the training there -- Proposed to be expanding the training there so that we can conduct larger scale amphibious exercises. There's much more space to conduct large scale amphibious exercises in Australia than there is in any other base that we have access to in the western Pacific.
Q: Mr. McLachlan, you've been talking about prepositioning. Is that now not an issue?
Minister Mclachlan: I don't anticipate we'll be talking about that today, but I'm looking forward very much to the proposals that will be on the table this morning and we'll have a press conference about what comes out of that tomorrow.
Q: But you're still keen on the idea?
A: No, it would.... The idea of prepositioning came out of some proposals, well not proposals, but a suggestion that was put last year. It was just one of the possibilities, but it's not on the table today.
Q: What do you [inaudible] to discuss today?
Unidentified speaker: Thank you Minister. Mr. Secretary, ladies and gentlemen.
Minister McLachlan: Thank you very much.