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Secretary Perry, General Shalikashvili and Senator Cohen - Dec. 9, 1996

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, Chairman, JCS and Senator William Cohen
December 09, 1996

Monday, December 9, 1996

Secretary Perry: The purpose of this morning meeting is to bring all of us up to date on the operational issues of the day; what operations are planned. We, first of all, turn to General Shali to talk about what is new in the intelligence affecting operations -- what new deployments are being considered.

John, why don't you describe what's actually is done in these sort of sessions.

General Shalikashvili: It's probably most important that the Secretary is fully aware of what operational issues came up overnight and what's ahead for the day. We also ...

Secretary Perry: That's is precluding calling me up in the middle of the night. (Laughter)

General Shalikashvili: One of the things -- something the Secretary always takes very seriously, and rightfully so -- is that, in any given day, we have a number of deployments that are ongoing; and he approves each one of them, personally. So, if there is something other than a routine deployment, we'll talk about it here at this meeting, and then later on we'll bring in the paperwork; because, whether we deploy one soldier or a battalion, it involves a written message that goes out from me to the field that he has approved that deployment.

Secretary Perry: If it's a big enough deployment, or a significant enough deployment, then I will refer it to the President. Generally, we're operating within the authority of the President on this, but the legal authority to sign the deployment order is with the Secretary of Defense.

Q: How has the briefing been coming along so far?

Senator Cohen: It's been very helpful and a very casual of having lunch with the Secretary and giving me some pointers and advice.

Q: Are you all up to speed yet? [Laughter]

Senator Cohen: I'm reputed to be a fast learner, but not quite that fast. [Laughter]

Q: Tell us a little bit about your transition thoughts. Have you formulated any personnel changes? What are your thoughts, looking into the ...

Senator Cohen: I think it's a bit premature to talk about transition strategies, right now. This is my first meeting, and there will be more to follow in the next several weeks.

Q: Do you see any pitfalls ahead?

Senator Cohen: Not that I'm aware of, yet.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you see some pitfalls ahead? [Laughter]

Secretary Perry: We don't call them "pitfalls," we call them landmines. And, there's a whole land mine out there which all of us in this position have to learn how to avoid as well as we can.


The purpose of these meetings is to facilitate a smooth transition. I am delighted with the President's designating Senator Cohen for this position, and all of us here are dedicated to making the transitioning job as smooth as possible. So, we're starting now a series of briefings, letting him know what the issues and problems are that we're working on; to familiarize himself with that, so that if this process goes smoothly -- as we expect -- and the Senate goes ahead with the confirmation, then, when he becomes Secretary, he'll be able to hit the deck running.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us anything about your meetings with China's Defense Minister? Now that you've had an initial meeting, can you give us anything further -- in summary?

Secretary Perry: We had very good discussions on what I would characterize as focusing on confidence building measures. We have a number of specific agreements that we made at the meeting, all of which were designed to bring the Chinese Defense Department and the U.S. Defense Department working together more effectively. For example, we are working on a maritime agreement which would minimize the risk of some sort of an accidental or unintended confrontation at sea. We have ships and they have ships, both sailing the same waters at sea, and it's very important that we have a clear and detailed understanding so that we reduce any likelihood at all that our ships will somehow come into an accidental confrontation. Those are the kinds of things we're talking about.

Q: The Administration is already coming under some criticism for warmly receiving the Defense Minister, based on largely his role in the Tiananmen Square situation. Do you have any response to those critics?

Secretary Perry: China is one of the great powers of the world. It is critically important for the United States to be able to engage China, to deal with them on issues which are important to the security not only of the United States and China, but to the whole Asia/Pacific region. Those issues, we ought to be able to discuss other than by cables. We discussed them by meeting face-to-face. The purpose of this meeting with the Chinese Minister was to meet face-to-face to discuss issues.

For example, the one that I described to you is what actions can we take to avoid the possibility of unintended, accidental confrontations at sea.

Thank you very much. It's good to talk to you.

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