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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
May 16, 1997 4:30 PM EDT
[This media activity follows an Honor Cordon welcoming President Vaclav Havel and Minister of Defense Miloslav Vyborny, of the Czech Republic, to the Pentagon.]

Secretary Cohen: It is my pleasure to welcome President Havel to the Pentagon. He is a man of course of worldwide repute. Regarded certainly as a man of action among men of letters and a man of letters among men of action, both as a playwright and president he has been renowned for his pursuit and advocacy of human rights.

For many east and west were divided as far as our values are concerned; and now the East and west are joined in our vision for the future. So we will take this opportunity to discuss prospects of NATO enlargement; what we can do promote the values of the western democracies; and other issues including how the new members who are seeking admission into NATO must be producers and not consumers [are] but a variety of issues that we will touch upon in terms of promoting the values that President Havel and I and most are now very much in agreement with and are interested in promoting.

President Havel to you care to ...(inaudible).

President Havel: I am very glad that I have the opportunity during this, my short working visit in the United States, to discuss with Minister Cohen not only about enlargement of NATO -- it perhaps will be the main thing -- but also about bilateral cooperation between our armies and about the will of our country to invest to its defense and to participate over the collective defense of the Euro-Atlantic region.

Q: Mr. Secretary do you think the military budget of the Czech Republic is adequate as it is now to become a member of NATO?

A: Well this is a matter that we will discuss. I've had the opportunity to discuss this subject with the Minister of Defense who is here with us to today. You brought Minister Vyborny. We have discussed it in the past. We will discuss it again today.

Obviously those members who are seeking admission into NATO must measure up to the responsibilities of having the capability of fulfilling their Article V a requirements. That means that resources will have to be devoted increasing their defense capabilities. We will discuss this obviously as we will with every member who is seeking admission into NATO.

Q: How concerned are you about the restrictions that are included in the agreement between NATO and Russia.

A: I think that it is a good agreement, that nobody made any compromises in it.

Q: Secretary Cohen, could you give us a situational update on Zaire and whether or not you feel there is a need for an evacuation soon of Americans that may still be there?

A: Well, as you know, Mr. Mobutu apparently has left Zaire. One would hope that this would have a calming effect in Zaire and there would be no need for an evacuation operation. But we still watch this very closely. We stay with the issue, hour by hour, and we are in direct contact with our ambassador to get direction from him. We hope that things remain calm, but they're unpredictable and so we are on the ready and standing by to conduct a NEO if necessary.

Q: Thank you Mr. President.