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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
May 15, 1997 1:55 PM EDT
[Joining Mr. Bacon at this briefing are Franklin D. Kramer, ASD International Security Affairs, and Dr. Andrzej Karkoszka, First Deputy Minister of National Defense, Republic of Poland.]

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Because I'm late, I brought special offerings for you in the form of Frank Kramer. We're going to have the briefing in two parts. First, Frank Kramer, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs will talk to you about some meetings that he's holding this week with Eastern European countries, and he's here with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland, Andrzej Karkoszka. He will make a brief statement about some meetings that they've held today, take some questions along with Mr. Karkoszka. Then when that's over, I will move forward with the regular briefing.

Mr. Kramer?

 

Mr. Kramer: Good afternoon.

We regularly run, as I think all of you know, so-called bilateral working groups -- they have different names -- with many countries. It so happens that this week, and this really is a fortuity, we had bilateral working groups both with the Czechs and with Poland. In light of the increased attention to NATO, we thought it might be useful to give you some information and then answer any questions that you might have, and then you can use that in any way you want.

I'm actually here both with the Deputy Defense Minister who is Andrzej Karkoszka, and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Rabin Ratzowizk, and the Ambassador. So we have a three-part lineup for you in addition to myself.

What these bilateral working groups are designed to do, in particular for the Central and Eastern European countries, is to focus on the military responsibilities and obligations that they will have with respect to working with the alliance, potentially as NATO members, or as members of the Partnership for Peace. We talk about what it means to be a member of the alliance, what it means from a country's point of view not to be a second class citizen -- which means not only that the rest of the alliance would not treat them as second class citizens, but that they themselves would shoulder their fair share of the responsibility and the burden.

The Polish side discussed, and Andrzej in particular discussed, for example, the defense budget outlook for Poland; modernization plans; force restructuring plans; interoperability issues. From our perspective we talked about issues on the assumption -- and as you all know, the United States government has made no decision on the assumption that there would be a Madrid meeting and there would be some selections. What would be priorities after Madrid, what does NATO look to with respect to interoperability, what's a post-Madrid road map. We also talked about regional issues. I think, as many of you know, Poland has done a substantial outreach, particularly with respect to Ukraine and Lithuania. There is a Polish/Ukrainian peacekeeping battalion being established. Not surprisingly, in light of yesterday's announcement, we talked about the NATO/Russia dialogue. We talked about the Baltic action plan which the United States and which Poland plays a part. And we will continue with very specific sub-groups this afternoon on issues like security assistance, IMET, the loan program, a NATO interoperability group, a defense planning group and the like.

Again, we wanted you to understand what we are doing with these countries, and then if it's of use to you to answer any questions. Let me ask Andrzej if he would like to make a statement.

Mr. Karkoszka: Thank you, Frank. Good afternoon.

My name is Andrzej Karkoszka. I am Secretary of State for National Defense of Poland, Deputy Minister of Defense.

I am here to attend the sixth bilateral working group on military cooperation with the United States. I must say it gives us great pleasure to take stock of the process of our last six years from the first group to today's meeting. We have come a long way and we are very proud of saying to each other that we have done good work.

At the same time, the time is on us. Soon we have the Madrid summit. We have some plans for joining, intentions and plans. And we, therefore, have to make a lot of preparations, a lot of programming and planning, and we have to also think of our resources, how to put them to best use. Since we intend to be equal members to all others, we want to take seriously our commitments which we are hopefully assuming soon. And the time is short.

So when we talk about the most important issues it's planning for establishing the right budget, the right programs in financing for the next few years. We want to achieve the basic interoperability by the time we're going to be admitted, hopefully, to the alliance, and that means a lot. That means schooling our officers in language, in NATO procedures, educating our staffs to cooperate on various levels with NATO countries. It means improving our airspace management and air defense. It means publishing maps en masse which are on NATO briefs, IFF equipment on our vehicles, some logistical preparations, and the like. So altogether it's a huge program which we are doing on our own, but of course we need support, assistance, discussion, consultation on many things, and here comes the bilateral cooperation which we have with the United States, first of all, as well as with the other alliance. Here the American assistance, good will, guidance in many areas is extremely valuable.

One of the issues which we covered today, of course, was the document which was signed yesterday between NATO and Russia. We have been all along the way, along the whole process, constantly consulted on the document. We have expressed our opinions on many subjects of substance. These consultations were very tight, very friendly, open, on both sides, actually, things were put straight. Today we also had the chance to discuss details of this document which we didn't have in hand, but we were able to ask pertinent questions. I can say that we are extremely satisfied with the fact that the document was signed. It will have extremely good influence on the process of NATO enlargement. It succinctly closes a certain range of uncertainties of contingencies which would be bad if the document would not be signed.

We are satisfied that most of our national interests, if not all, perhaps all, were taken into account. By us, I mean not only Poland, but the other East/Central European states. We know that the stationing of force is out as permanent, but it's possible for exercises, for some other reasons; that we need not, as you remember, station nuclear weapons, there's no need. In today's European atmosphere it would be actually foolhardy or provocative, unnecessary. But we have the option open. We know that most of the issues which are no discussed in Vienna on CFE are left for those negotiations with some guidance in charter which, as far as we know, are correct in terms of our interest being expressed.

So altogether we are very satisfied. We need this engagement of Russia while we open NATO. For Poland, it's a historical opportunity to establish a good security system with the West, and at the same time have good, mutually beneficial relations with one of the biggest neighbors which is Russia, and it's the first time in several hundred years that we can achieve this kind of arrangement.

Thank you.

 

Mr. Kramer: We'll be happy to take questions or anything that you like.

Q: The CFE issues still isn't settled. What this promises is to negotiate fully a CFE agreement. Do you think this whole thing could rise or fall on CFE?

A: No. Obviously, I think the charter will be beneficial in and of itself. We, of course, plan to and have already started, in effect, to work on CFE. That will take some time, but I think the charter will stand on its own merits.

Q: Did NATO get what it wanted in these negotiations with the Russians basically? Is Poland satisfied?

A: I'll do the NATO part, they can do the Poland part. I think the short answer is yes. We wanted the consultative mechanism that exists. We wanted to ensure that we could provide the appropriate defense through the concept of defense that NATO has now which, as you well know, is the power projection concept. We have that. We have the specifics, ensuring that we can do the necessary infrastructure. We ensure the right of independent action for NATO. I think those are the fundamentals, but let me ask Andrzej from his point of view.

Minister Karkoszka: From my point of view the whole game which was carried out throughout all this month was the Russian insistence of achieving such document which would undermine the commitments within the NATO enlargement process. Therefore, the validity of the Article 5 commitment. That means, first of all, infrastructure, and the charter as far as we know permits normal functioning of modern infrastructure for reception of forces for exercises, and if we can modernize it as is commensurate with the defense needs of our country and the alliance, first thing.

Second, we have no rules or limitations on station. If there is a need for bringing some unit for exercises, it can stay -- whether it's air or land. There is no need for stationing forces. As NATO has announced and to our pleasure, you are going to work not through stationing abroad, enlarging the foreign presence, but through modernization and augmentation of national forces.

The third aspect was this nuclear issue, and we are pleased with this announcement as it was -- no need, no intention and so on. But there is an open, so to say, ended thing in case, in worst case contingency.

We have also, as far as we know, as we were assured, there are no specific limitations embodied in the charter vis-a-vis Vienna talks on CFE.

Q: You stated that at the time you saw it, in order to proceed with these talks as soon as possible. My question is, is there any specific threat which is facing your country today?

A: No, we do not have today any threats, and we are not aiming at getting to NATO because of threats. We are coming to NATO as much as we can through European Union, as much as we develop the whole range of relations with democratic Western countries. That's the corollary to the process. Of course one could say that in the worst contingency, in unknown future, 10 or 15 years ahead, we wouldn't know what was going to happen. So NATO is, of course, there constantly with us. But the basic thing, we are very pleased with the developments in NATO as far as its role in stability projection, prevention kind of diplomacy, and activity, and so on. While at the same time we are very much interested in preserving NATO as a solid, reliable alliance.

Q: Some people said that this consultative body could be used by Russia to disrupt the unity of NATO. What do you say to that?

 

Mr. Kramer: I think that will not turn out to be the case, and let me give you a specific on that. The agreement states in terms, and when you see it you'll see the language, that each side retains its right of independent action, and it does not require consultations in order to undertake that right of independent action. So NATO can do what it chooses to.

Obviously, if we have an ability to work with the Russians on something that's all the more positive. Bosnia is the obvious example of that where we have worked very successfully. You'll recall it took awhile to get that work out. But the practicality, on the ground actuality of it is that it's working very, very well.

Q: ...you discussed Poland's interest in purchasing advanced fighters? And where does that program stand anyway right now?

Mr. Kramer: We discussed that only in, at the moment, only in general terms. There may be some further discussion later today. I'll leave it to the Minister to talk about where it stands from Poland's point of view.

Mr. Karkoszka: This issue is well on track. It's not slowed down or speeding up. It's up to our modernization plans which we are setting up now on the governmental level, according to our resources, so to say, and according to legal processes, We are now in terms of this process, we are at the beginning. We are setting up the military operation requirements which were the basis for requests for proposals at the end of the year, possibly, and we have the process going on. So it's well on track, but I don't think it's very soon.

Q: The Polish modernization program in general, how important do you view U.S. equipment in that? What role will the U.S. play -- not just tactical fighters, but across the board.

A: Setting aside our great wishes and wish lists, we think that the program is now 15 years and we have to stick to the priorities. Priorities are first, as I mentioned, basic interoperability -- language, communication, control, air defense, IFF, maps, all these things which make us a good partner and enable us to cooperate in peacekeeping, in Partnership for Peace, and in some other contingencies. Then later on as the Polish economy develops with the pace of five, six percent growth of GNP yearly, it makes it possible in three, four, five years to think about purchases of other equipment.

Obviously the American equipment is known to us and we are very interested in this across the board, but we operate under certain rules -- a rule of normal, competing market economy, and therefore, when we open the request for proposals, we expect a range of proposals, we will analyze them under military terms, under financial terms -- very important, on the point of view of how it is bringing in the technology to our industry or that the offsets, the industrial cooperation scheme, and then altogether this analysis will bring us to the decision. If it's an American one, I would be very happy.

Mr. Kramer: I just want to underscore one point which is that interoperability is really the key, and you get interoperability a great deal through what you might call lower level activities -- communications, training, compatible language and the like.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you very much.

The spelling of Mr. Karkoszka's name is K-A-R-K-O-S-Z-K-A.

Let me start with a couple of announcements. The first is that tomorrow morning at 10, Secretary Cohen will speak at Andrews Air Force Base in honor of Armed Forces Day which is tomorrow. This is obviously open to the press. It will be broadcast on Pentagon Channel 13, just the audio portion. If you want to go out to Andrews you can contact their public information office out there.

Q: Will this be a particular theme, or will it be just a message to the troops?

A: It will be a message to the troops that will focus on our strategy as enunciated in the Quadrennial Defense Review. He'll talk about the three-pronged strategy of shape, respond, prepare. He'll talk about that, how that will shape our forces in the future, and some of the goals of the Quadrennial Defense Review, namely to strengthen our military's ability to respond across a whole spectrum of contingencies.

Second, I'd like to announce that we're releasing today a report from the Secretary of Defense on the achievements of the first year of President Clinton's demining initiative. This is the proposal that he announced last year on May 16th to abolish the use of antipersonnel landmines. As you know, it's a multi- part proposal that involves, principally, negotiating through the conference on disarmament, a worldwide agreement against the use and deployment of antipersonnel landmines.

The report details how we started the negotiations, but it also talks about an increase in humanitarian demining operations by the Department of Defense, which is one part of the President's policy. It also discusses increased money we put into research and development to come up with new ways of detecting and removing antipersonnel landmines -- the work we're doing in that regard.

So I commend this to your attention. It's filled with information. The White House, I believe, is also issuing a statement on the one-year anniversary of the announcement of the President's policy.

Finally, I'd like to announce that the United States and North Korea have reached agreement on two important measures to allow us to continue with our efforts to sort out what happened to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action from the Korean War.

As you know, meetings were held in New York last week, and they ended without agreement. But after those meetings, we were able to reach agreement on two of the three issues we had raised with the North Koreans. Those issues are joint recovery operations for remains in North Korea. Both sides have agreed that the U.S. will be able to conduct three joint recovery operations. U.S. teams working with North Koreans in North Korea will be able to conduct three recovery operations this year. Second, U.S. researchers will be able to go to the archives in Pyongyang to look for archival information that may be left over from the Korean War. They also will work in a joint team with the North Koreans.

The third issue was our request that we be allowed to interview American defectors in North Korea. We believe that six Americans defected to North Korea in the 1960s, and we believe that four of those are still alive in North Korea. We've asked for permission to go interview them in order to learn if they have information about POWs they might have met from the Korean War era. There has been no agreement yet to allow us to do that, so discussions on that issue will continue.

These are, I believe,significant breakthroughs from our week of negotiations with the North Koreans last week. They, in a joint statement that was issued in Pyongyang and we will issue it to you today, both sides expressed hope that the agreement will build trust between the two countries and make positive contributions towards developing the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. I want to be very clear, though, that these two agreements apply only to our efforts to find out as much information as we can about POWs and MIAs.

Colonel Larry Greer is here to answer questions, if you have questions on this issue. If you do, why don't I turn the podium over to him right now, and then we can proceed with the rest of the briefing. Do you have questions on this specific issue?

Q: What was the timeframe of the six defectors and from where did they defect?

Colonel Greer: Specialist Jerry Wayne Parish defected in December of 1963. Hometown, Morganfield, Kentucky.

All of these guys, obviously, as you'll hear the dates, did not defect during the Korean War. They defected some time later.

Sergeant Charles Jenkins defected January of '65.

Private Larry Allen Abshier defected May of '62.

 

Private First Class James Dreznock defected August '62.

Private First Class Chung, June '79.

Private First Class White, August of '82.

I have a lot more details on all of those if you wish to...

Q: From where? Did they go across the DMZ?

A: No, not at all. Many of them went in circumspect ways. Germany, back. I'll give you the details that I have here, which you can have -- a lot more than you want to hear me talk about.

Q: Can you say when the first of these joint recovery efforts will be initiated?

A: We have already built the logistics plans to do them as soon as possible. We and the North Koreans agreed to do three this year. We'd hoped to get in four, but it's apparent from the weather schedule, if you will, that we're only going to have time to do three. So we're prepared to do the first one very, very soon -- within the month. The farthest that we can go out is perhaps into the fall when the ground freezes. It makes it impossible.

Q: Can you tell us the location of the excavation?

A: I can't tell you that yet, because that's part of the technical talks that we intend to hold with the North Korean experts in that area, then we'll decide on specific locations.

Q: Are these like individual crash sites or individual graves? Or might these be mass burial sites?

A: All of the above. The sites that we hope to visit, no doubt, will be a mixture of those. Just like when we went in last year, in July of '96, the site that we had picked and that we got the North Koreans' concurrence with, was one where an individual U.S. airplane had crashed. We had hoped to find the pilot there. We did not find him there, but in the course of interviewing local villagers, they told us about another area where they knew that an American was buried; he was an American soldier. We went there, we found him, returned his remains in July. So the types of sites we're looking for are individual airplane crashes as well as mass burial sites.

Q: What type of monetary transactions have to be made in order to get permission to go in and to do this?

A: In general our agreement, just as it is with the Southeast Asian nations, is that we will reimburse for fair and reasonable expenses associated on the host nation's part in allowing us to go in or to work jointly with us. In this case the agreement says that we will pay them $105,500 for each of the three joint operations. That's to cover logistics expenses like labor costs, like the investigations, travel, lodging and what not of witnesses, perhaps by the hundreds, that need to be moved around, mission support, gasoline, food, storage of our vehicles -- some of which are already over there from the last operation. That kind of thing. That's what we will pay to the North Koreans for the expenses associated with those costs.

Q: Can you repeat that figure?

A: $105,500 per each of the three joint operations.

Q: Can you explain why these agreements weren't reached during the negotiating sessions, and what happened later that...

A: I can tell you what happened. I may not be able to explain why.

As many of you know, we negotiated from Sunday last all the way up through Friday night, this past Friday night at midnight. we had made a number of proposals to the North Koreans; they responded to a few of them in an informal way across the table. But then toward the end of the sessions, they said they needed to check with Pyongyang, their central government, and to get feedback and approval before they could respond constructively.

They never were able to respond before the end of the negotiations Friday at midnight. So we said well, without any response from you this is no agreement, and we're going to pack it up and go home. They asked us to please extend them by a couple of days. We said no, we're going home. We went home Friday night and Saturday morning. Then after we got back here to Washington we got a phone call from the North Korean UN mission in New York. They asked if we would come back and talk again with them. We said no, we would be interested in hearing what your response is, though. And through telephone conversations between the leader of their delegation, the leader of our delegation, we exchanged a lot of information, and ultimately arriving at an agreement which we eventually exchanged in writing.

Q: When?

A: Yesterday.

Q: On the American defectors you mentioned at the very beginning, do you know how many of those we think are still alive?

A: We think four of the six who defected are still alive. We have seen them, as some of you know, in propaganda publications, magazines, films, what not, and as far as we know, they're still alive.

Q: Do you think that recent statements attributed to some of them really came from them, or did they come from people who are now believed to be dead?

A: I have no idea. I don't know.

Q: Do you have any estimates of how many sets of remains we hope to find?

A: As you know, there are more than 8,100 American servicemen missing in action from the Korean War. Of those, realistically, we would expect to be able to go to locations where we might find 3,500 to 4,000. But obviously, until we get there, we really don't have a good feel for what those numbers might be.

Q: At least one of these defectors is reported to have expressed interest in returning home. If that is the case, if one or more decides that he would like to come back, and some of them have families, we understand, how will you handle that?

A: Our interest in talking with the American defectors over there is very, very narrow, and that is to try to obtain information from them that they might know, might be able to shed some light on these reports that we see periodically about other Americans being held or living in North Korea. At the moment we are not going there to talk to them about returning or anything like that. The reports that we hear about that are second, third, and fourth-hand, so that's just not an issue that we're bringing to the table in our discussions with them.

Q: Pardon my ignorance on the topic, but does this agreement open the door for dialogue between the South and the North for similar reasons, for similar recovery of remains?

A: I don't think I really understand your question.

Q: What you're doing with the North Koreans, the South Koreans are not involved in that, is that correct?

A: No, they're not. I mean we brief the South periodically on our contact with the North, keep them updated. They know before we go, they know what our interests are, they know the topics that we intend to discuss... We keep the South informed.

Q: My question was could what you're doing open the door to dialogue between the South and the North on similar matters?

A: I really don't know. I am not at all involved in the discussions between the North and the South on POW matters, except those associated with U.S. POW/MIAs.

Q: Thank you.

Mr. Bacon: I have no more rabbits to pull out of my hat. (Laughter)

We do have copies of the release and the joint statement available in back, and also copies of the demining report.

Q: On the report in the New York Times about Secretary Widnall perhaps being open to the idea, or telling associates that she'd be open to the idea, of granting a request in lieu of court martial for Lieutenant Flinn. We've gotten a statement from the Air Force, but is it proper for a Service Secretary to have such conversations with associates prior to such a legal case coming perhaps before her, since she is the ultimate authority?

A: The New York Times article didn't name people with whom she'd had conversations, that I recall. I can't really comment on those conversations or with whom she may have held the conversations. I can walk you through what the options are facing anybody who's facing a court martial, if that would be helpful, but I can't comment on this specific case...

Q: Well, the question really is in general. For example, would it be proper for Togo West to be talking about giving perhaps Sergeant Major McKinney a request for resignation in lieu of court martial? The issue is, is there a barrier for a Service Secretary to talk about cases like this with associates? Since they are a legal appellate authority.

A: I'm not prepared to talk about this particular case, and you've asked me a question that relates directly to this particular case. I can talk generally about what the regulations are and what rights are available to a soldier or anybody in the military who's been charged in a court martial proceeding.

Q: I'm asking about the Service Secretary or any Service Secretary.

A: I think I've made it very clear that I'm not going to comment on that specific question.

Q: Can you comment about whether, would it be highly unusual for someone who requested a discharge in lieu of court martial to be given an honorable discharge? Is that something that happens very often in the military? Just generally speaking.

A: I've not done a systematic search of the records on resignations in lieu of court martials. I have, through my staff, queried the Air Force on the number of honorable discharges granted in situations like this. The report we got back from the Air Force is that they're not aware that any have been granted in the last three years. That is honorable discharges in situations where somebody has applied for and received a resignation in lieu of a court martial.

There are three types of discharges -- honorable, general, and less than honorable, or granted with less than honorable circumstances. And the cases that have come up and that have received resignations in lieu of discharges have generally received, have received general or less than honorable discharges.

Q: So would it be fair to say that if someone filed a petition for a discharge in lieu of... Resigning in lieu of court martial, and they received an honorable discharge, it would be unusual?

A: I think the records show that that would be a fair conclusion, but this is something that has to be considered in regular channels by the Air Force or by any service if there's a situation like this and the situation, the circumstances have to be weighed. That's all I can say in this particular case.

Q: Maybe you can take this question, but by telling us that the Air Force responded to your query by saying that they weren't aware of any in the last three years, it raises the question about whether or not such an action would be unprecedented. Could we just have someone perhaps check a little more thoroughly and see if this has happened at any time recently, in any of the branches of the military?

A: We will ask that question. I can't guarantee a quick answer.

Q: Could you please comment on the reports that through remediation, Greece and Turkey succeeded to reach an agreement on some air corridors over the Aegean during the recent Greek/U.S. talks on the island of Crete.

A: I'm sorry. Could you ask me that question one more time?

Q: I didn't think we changed the subject, had we? Other questions on the subject, first?

A: Are there any other questions on the subject?

Q: No. (Laughter)

A: Would you like to talk about the Aegean?

Q: Could you please comment on the reports that through remediation Greece and Turkey succeeded to reach an agreement on some air corridors over the Aegean during the recent Greek/U.S. talks on the island of Crete.

A: There was a meeting on Crete earlier this, I guess it was last week, actually. To the best of my knowledge, the question of air corridors was not discussed.

What was discussed was a proposal that's been made by Javier Solana, the Secretary General of NATO, for a series of confidence- building measures in the Aegean. You're probably aware of that five-part program. That was discussed.

I am not aware that at this meeting, which is the high level consultative committee, that's what it's known as, that this air corridor idea was discussed.

Q: It was discussed in Crete or in Brussels with the NATO Secretary...

A: Crete. You asked me about the meeting in Crete. What they did discuss in Crete were the proposals that have been made by the Secretary General of NATO for easing tensions in the Aegean.

Q: Can you tell us about the meeting the Secretary held with members of Congress this morning on the QDR? Who was there, and what was their reaction to it when he told them?

A: First of all, it was a meeting of a group we refer to as the Big Eight, which is comprised of the Chairman and the ranking minority member of four committees. Those are basically the authorizing committees and the appropriating committees for defense in the House and the Senate.

I believe that of the big eight, seven people came. Chairman Livingston, I understand, was not able to come.

The Secretary laid out his thinking about the QDR, the rationale for the decisions he made. He talked about some of the decisions and he framed it in terms of the tough choices that are necessary in order to come up with the funding and to support the strategy we have for the next 15 to 20 years. I think that the Congress understood that the Defense Department has made a lot of tough decisions; it has had a very in-depth review of what our strategy should be; it has determined, as the Secretary said, that we're not able right now to make significant changes in our force structure or in the number of people that we have in the military. We're going to remain forward deployed, that we're going to remain very actively engaged in world affairs, and that our military structure is generally appropriate to carry out that strategy.

Having said that, we still have to make some tough choices in coming up with money to pay for necessary modernization initiatives that we think will improve our forces in the future. He outlined those choices, and I think the congressmen can speak for themselves -- some already have. But from what I saw, the members basically accepted the fact that we have made a number of very tough choices, and they also accept the fact that they are going to have to review and make the same tough choices.

Q: As you've said from this podium many times before, one of the ways the Department wants to come up with a lot of that funding, is reducing infrastructure. Now under infrastructure there are, obviously, a lot of very political issues -- base closings and things like that, out sourcing maintenance. Did that come up at all during these meetings? Did the Secretary either ask for their support in helping get some of these things going, or did the lawmakers...

A: He did talk about some of the difficult decisions he's had to make on infrastructure, yes.

Q: Is there any further analysis, secondary conclusions, from that mysterious laser incident from that Russian missile last month off the coast of Washington?

A: No. That analysis is continuing...

As the Secretary said yesterday, the reviews have been inconclusive. The reason for that is on the one hand, an American naval officer, Lieutenant Daly, reported painful eye damage from something that he thought was a laser, and the symptoms of what happened to his eyes were compatible with what could be produced by a laser.

The search of the ship did not reveal a laser. There were pictures taken of the ship, and one of the pictures did reveal a red dot on the port side of the ship. Upon examination, many naval officers and intelligence officers believe that red dot is the port running light. If you look at the bridge of the ship, there is a corresponding green dot on the starboard side, and as you know, green running lights are on the starboard ship and red running lights are on the port side.

So on the one hand the red dot in the picture looks like a running light and is symmetrically placed with a green dot on the other side of the bridge, presumably a green light. The Coast guard checked out these lights and found them to be normal running lights which are on all the time, and were on at the time of this incident, and found no evidence of a laser. But we do have the pilot's report, so this continues to be reviewed. It was inconclusive after the initial review back in early April, and it remains inconclusive today.

Q: Previous stories talk about the search was particularly looking for the laser, but the thing that triggered the interest in that ship in the first place was the excessive and unusual array of antenna. Did the search also check the spaces for EW, electronic listening devices?

A: I can't answer that question. I just don't know the answer. My attention has been focused on the laser issue, as has the press' attention.

Q: Has anybody come up with any other explanation for the eye burns, other than a laser?

A: Not that I'm aware of, but that's one of the things we're looking at. Could there be other explanations for the eye pain that Lieutenant Daly felt.

Q: Is he okay now?

A: Yes, I believe they're both... Well, the Canadians are okay. They've returned to duty. The American has returned to duty as well.

Q: A quick question on Army training. There's a story in the Washington Post by Dana Priest who's telling an anecdote about the soldier who felt like she didn't have to follow orders any more. This is the kind of stories we heard when we were covering the trial in Aberdeen from some of the drill sergeants who said that they weren't able to exercise the same amount of authority over trainees because of the current climate.

Can you comment at all about whether or not this is a growing problem or a problem or concern, or are these just isolated incidents that we're hearing about?

A: First of all, any incident of a soldier not following orders or of a series of reports that soldiers aren't following orders is a matter of concern. That's exactly why fraternization is not allowed in the military, because it does undermine good order and discipline.

In this particular case, I read the story. I can't comment on it particularly, but I can tell you that the Secretary of the Army has put together a high level study group that has been looking at training in the Army and has been looking at specifically the relationship between sergeants and trainees, the command relationships at training bases, and that group will issue its report some time next month. I expect they have gone into these issues in considerable detail. There also, as you know, is an Army Inspector General investigation going on looking at the circumstances surrounding the problems at Aberdeen and elsewhere.

Q: Ken, there have been two kinds of reports on this. One suggests that this study that's going on wants to form a common rule among all the services on fraternization; and the other suggests that at the same time, perhaps they want to soften the idea of the rules against fraternization a bit, because it's just becoming more common, more women in the services now, working more closely together. Can you comment?

A: Let me be clear here. You have moved to a different topic from the one Jamie raised.

Q: I'm talking about the study you just referred to.

A: No, you've moved to a different study. I want to be very clear, I was talking to the study the Secretary of the Army launched after the Aberdeen problem surfaced. You're now referring to something else. I'll move on to that, but I wanted to make very clear that we're talking about apples and mangoes here... We'll move to mangoes. (Laughter)

You're referring to a review of regulations that has been launched by Assistant Secretary [of Defense for Force Management Fred] Pang. He's asked his staff to compare the regulations on fraternization of the four services -- three services, basically, because the Marines, I believe, use the Navy regulations. That's ongoing. That is basically a lawyer's exercise at this stage. They are getting these regulations and doing a compare and contrast, essentially, a side-by-side review. That is ongoing and it will probably take another month or so before they come up with some conclusions.

It is not being done with any preconceived notion that the regulation should be relaxed or that the regulation should be tightened. It's simply being done to focus on the differences in regulations between the services and to then decide if those differences are significant and if they're significant, if there should be some adjustment made.

Q: Is it possible the regulations might be relaxed?

A: I think it's premature to say, but it's not being done with relaxation in mind. This is a lawyer's exercise right now.

Q: In strategic matters here, General Shalikashvili yesterday in Beijing at the Defense University stated, warned the Chinese that North Korea was what we know to be the greatest threat to peace, and that was because of its inability to feed its people, it has become the most dangerous factor in Asian Pacific relations. General Shali said also that the United States welcomes the intercession of China on the Peninsula. And I would ask if basically this Department, does this government agree with General Shali's assessment? And do we welcome the Chinese to help feed the North Koreans?

A: We welcome efforts by all countries to try to reduce the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. I think our policy on that has been very clear.

As you know, President Clinton last year proposed four-party talks to bring about peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. Those talks involve China, the United States, North Korea, and the Republic of Korea. So we are very much in favor of Chinese involvement in efforts to bring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Q: Also on this topic, Mr. Rodionov yesterday told this reporter that Russia was very concerned about the state in North Korea, the instability, and he expressed an interest in working with the United States to help alleviate these problems of desperation. He called it desperation. Was this matter discussed between the Secretary and Mr. Rodionov?

A: Yes, it was discussed, and I believe they mentioned that at the press conference. I'd have to go back and check the record, but they did, in fact, discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Russia borders Korea, and like China, it has a real interest in peace and stability and reconciliation on the Peninsula.

Q: Have the United States and Saudi Arabia reached any sort of agreement on the sale of those F-16s, the 100 F-16s?

A: I'm not aware that it's been discussed recently.

Q: But no negotiations on it?

A: I'm not aware that there have been. I know of no agreement at this stage.

Q: Do you have anything specific on those NATO proposals on (inaudible). over the Aegean? As you said, they've been discussed during your talks on the island of Crete. May I assume that they touch also the air corridors of the Aegean?

A: The five proposals are a moratorium on military exercises between June 15th and September 15th; that only unarmed flights will participate in training missions. That's the second one. The third is that planes will use IFF, which is identification friend or foe devices, to preclude intercepts and reduce the possibility of mistakes in dogfights. The fourth is direct communication between Greek and Turkish air defense operation centers; and the fifth is the establishment of a center at AFSOUTH to monitor the Aegean regional airspace operations. Those are the five confidence building measures that have been proposed by Secretary General Solana from NATO.

Q: They have agreed (inaudible)? Did they agree to this proposal?

A: I'm not aware that there has been an agreement on these yet, but I think that that's something that both countries should consider very carefully, because I think it's an important contribution. This proposal from Mr. Solana is an important contribution to stability in the Aegean. I think it's something that both countries could benefit from accepting, and I'm sure that the governments of Turkey and Greece are considering them very carefully and I understand that the Turks are prepared to accept them.

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