United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing, Thursday January 21,1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
January 21, 1999 2:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Doc Cooke got the President's Award. Otto was there. It was quite a moving ceremony.

At any rate, I'm ready to take your questions on Doc or anything else.

Q: Can you tell us, regarding the NATO forces that are on alert for possible action in Kosovo, how many U.S. planes are currently designated for that possible contingency? How many of them are already in the theater in Italy or in the area? And will the United States be moving any additional aircraft or designating any U.S.-based planes as part of that contingency?

A: We have not moved any planes from the United States to Europe.

As you probably recall last fall when NATO initially passed its activation order for a possible air campaign, there was an allied force that totaled 430 planes. Those were combat aircraft as well as support aircraft, tankers, etc., AWACS. That is what we're talking about. That is the largest possible force that was contemplated under the activation order last fall.

Most of those planes are already in Europe. They may be far away from where they would assemble to participate in any air campaign if NATO decided to take that route. As you know, all options are under consideration. That's one of the options under consideration. No decisions have been made.

For the United States, we have currently the carrier air wing of 72 planes. We have approximately 36 planes, I think, at Aviano. I can get you the exact number. Then we have planes elsewhere in Europe that could quickly be brought to bear if necessary and if the decision's made. So we would under the plan passed last fall, the largest possible plan, assemble an allied force of 430 planes.

Q: Last fall the Pentagon said that the B-2 stealth bomber was designated for possible duty if airstrikes were carried out. Is that plane still in the mix?

A: We basically have revived plans -- in fact we never stood down the plans because the activation order remained in effect. And as you know, all the planes initially covered by the activation order last fall remained on four- day or 96-hour alert. In the last several days that alert has been reduced to two days or 48 hours. But the package that was contemplated last fall is the same package that would come into play today if a decision were made to use military force.

Q: You said we have not moved any planes from the United States to Europe. Do you intend to move any planes?

A: That remains to be seen. Obviously we haven't yet, and should a decision be made to go ahead, we'd decide what to do. Long-range bombers, of course, can operate from the United States and return directly to the United States without stopping in between. That's what they're trained to do. So presumably we would be able to do that with current plans.

Should we stand up the full force, I imagine that some planes would have to be moved over from the United States, but no decision has been made to do that.

Q: It doesn't appear that there are many deliberative steps that still must be taken before any use of force would actually happen. Can you run through what still has to happen? There's [NAC] meetings, and there's other deliberations scheduled for next week. And then what does the NAC have to do politically, physically, to move something?

A: That's an important point, that it is a deliberative process and the deliberations continue, and no decision has been made.

What has to happen for a decision to be made? The contact group is meeting tomorrow, and the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, NATO, is also meeting tomorrow.

Before any decision to proceed with the use of force is made, two things would have to happen. One, the NAC would have to agree, the North Atlantic Council would have to agree, to an actual order to use force. What they've agreed to so far is an order setting up the force to be used if a decision were made to use force. For the NAC to reach that decision, obviously all the individual governments within the NAC would have to come to their own individual decisions and then dispatch their ambassadors to vote in Brussels. So in the simplest terms, that's what remains to be done.

We're pursuing a number of options. We hope that this can be settled diplomatically, but we haven't taken any options off the table at this stage.

Q: Three quick questions. One, does NAC have to be unanimous? Secondly, on the naval forces, are cruise-missile-equipped ships like the two Ticonderoga Class cruisers that are with the ENTERPRISE, are they within reach of Yugoslav targets yet, or will they be soon?

A: In response to the second question, I'm not sure. I can find out. I don't know precisely where they are now. But if they aren't within reach, they will be very, very soon.

All the forces are on, right now, this-48 hour alert, so they're prepared to execute military action within 48 hours of receiving an order to do so. So that would include the sea-based forces as well.

NATO operates by consensus. I don't know how you define consensus. Some people define it as unanimity. But it operates by consensus.

Q: At what point would...

Q: Both sides of this conflict, Slobodan Milosevic on one side and his folks and the UCK on the other, basically shooting at each other, apparently preparing for a wider war and completely ignoring every diplomatic effort on the part of the U.S. and the part of the West. Who or what would you bomb? With both sides basically telling you to stick it in your ear.

A: We've made no decision to bomb anything, and I think it's premature to talk about targets at this time. NATO is still considering a range of options, and I think all governments would like to achieve a diplomatic solution to this problem.

You make a very good point. When two sides don't want peace, it's very difficult to impose peace on them. But we are hopeful today that we can do what we were able to do last fall and bring reason to triumph over unreason. That's what we're achieving, that's what we're striving to do now. We'll continue to work on that. And as we do, all the options remain on the table.

Secretary Albright, I thought, was very clear today in her speech when she said that we can't take force off the table because that's all President Milosevic seems to understand. We hope it doesn't have to go that far, but that's why it remains a live option.

Q: In the step-wise process, can you speculate or speak to the issue of the verifiers? The verifiers would come out once there was another activation order issued by NAC, and could they come out by themselves without escort or would there have to be the protective forces [to] go in and get them out of Kosovo? Can you address this issue?

A: The verifiers are there; there are about 750 verifiers. Of those, about 150 are Americans. They're doing very important and courageous work. That is, they're serving as eyes and ears; they're helping to resolve disputes, to keep forces separated. They're not successful 100 percent of the time, obviously. They can't be everywhere at once. They're not armed. But they are doing an important job and they've been successful in helping to tamp down the level of violence. It's much lower today than it was last fall.

I think they are there on the ground working, and the government of Yugoslavia has made a commitment to protect them and to allow them to do their work, and we expect the government to live up to that commitment, and we expect them to be able to stay there.

They will stay there for the time being. If a decision is made to use force, obviously, they would get out before force was used. But as long as they can do their job effectively, they perform an important function, and they'll continue to do that.

Q: So the verifiers then could see to their own exit before any kind of force was used and they were in jeopardy?

A: We're expecting that they would be protected by the government of Yugoslavia. We expect that they will continue to do their work as long as they can work productively. I think we'll just leave it there right now. No one has made a decision for them to leave. They are continuing to perform a very important function.

Q: Can you clarify something you said earlier. Is the B-2 bomber in that package of aircraft that could be deployed if there was a decision to bring up all the forces that were earmarked last time?

A: Yes. It is the same force package we had last fall.

Q: Does that also include F-117 stealth fighters?

A: It includes a wide variety of aircraft.

Q: In using force in Kosovo are you going to accept any role from the U.N.?

A: The American view has been and remains that NATO can act without a U.N. resolution. That is the American view.

Q: Can you help clarify what U.S. policy is? Has the administration made a decision yet that it wants the NAC to give NATO's top general the authority to bomb if they need it? Is the government position that they want to wait and withhold that? It is unclear what decision makers are really pushing for other than peace, which is a nice general thing, but the strategy itself is...

A: We are pushing for that, and the preferred way to reach that and the best way to reach it is through diplomacy. Ambassador Pardew is in Belgrade today meeting with President Milosevic. He's there with Ambassador Hill from Macedonia. I don't know whether they're still meeting, but an hour or so ago they were still closeted with President Milosevic. So we are continuing to meet and argue for a diplomatic solution.

The contact group will meet tomorrow, and it may have some initiatives of its own. This is what we're pursuing right now. Without getting into the future we are working diplomatically, but we have taken no option off the table involving the use of force.

Q: Is it the position of the U.S. government that you would like to have the authority from NATO so that military force could be used without further stops in NAC? Would you like the NAC to authorize that ahead of time?

A: As I said, this is something that's evolving, and it's under very heated consideration by all governments in NATO. I think we all want a diplomatic solution, and we're working to get that. Should the use of force become necessary, that's a decision NATO will have to make, and I assume they'll make it at the appropriate time.

Q: A change of subject?

Q: What does Milosevic have to do to avoid airstrikes? After all, I mean he really hasn't even lived up to many of the promises he made last October when the ceasefire was agreed to in terms of removal of all his heavy weapons and troops. Does he have to come into full compliance of that agreement he reached last October? Or does he simply have to allow the verifiers to remain, William(sic)[Bill] Walker to remain, and permit an investigation of this latest incident in Racak? Just what does he have to do?

A: First, going back to the agreement last fall, I think it's important to note that it's been successful in one very significant way, and that is, it did avert a humanitarian disaster last fall. Remember, there were 200,000 to 300,000 displaced people, refugees, who had left their villages and their homes and almost all of them were able to come back and spend the winter, or the worst part of the winter, in their homes and not out under trees or tents. So it's been successful in that respect.

Secondly, it has led to a reduction in the level of violence. The level of violence has been much less since the agreement than before, but it hasn't been perfect. It hasn't been airtight. And there have been violations on both sides--by the Kosovar Albanians and by the Serbs. This latest set of atrocities, we believe, is the work of Serb forces, and we are holding the Serbs responsible for that, and we are asking President Milosevic to order an investigation.

Some Serb officials have made other statements that they aren't responsible. Let's have a full international investigation to find out who is responsible and bring those people to justice.

NATO laid out a series of requirements on Sunday. They involve letting in the international criminal court, the War Crimes Tribunal. So far they haven't done that. It involves allowing the OSCE to do its work. As you know, they have threatened to throw out the leader of the Kosovo verification mission, Ambassador Walker. He's still there, in my understanding, but they've threatened to throw him out.

And we have, NATO has also asked that he restore his, draw down his forces. He did initially draw down forces and he did bring his army troops into barracks, but there has been straying from that agreement in two respects. First, some special police have come back into Kosovo; probably more than 1,000 have crept back in in violation of the agreement. And second, many of the army, so-called VJ units that were in garrison, have left their garrisons and fanned out into the country again. So we would demand that he return to the smaller forces of before and the force dispositions before.

On the side of the Kosovar Albanians, they have also aggravated a messy situation. They have attacked Serbs and killed some Serb policemen. They captured some Serb soldiers and held them for awhile.

The verification mission played a very important and crucial role in getting those soldiers freed. It's another example of the good work that is done there.

But we need both sides to show restraint, and so far neither side is showing enough restraint.

Q: Last fall U.S. officials complained that they couldn't find Kosovar Albanian leaders who can reliably speak for the KLA fighters. They couldn't find anybody to talk to. Does that situation remain the same? They couldn't find the specific leadership of the UCK in order to hold a negotiation. There were people, the thing is so fragmented that it was hard to pin it down.

A: It is a fragmented movement, and we have had a hard time finding leaders who can speak for the entire movement. That's true. That's one of the reasons that this is so complex.

Q: One other issue that came to my mind was how can the Yugoslav police in Kosovo, the number that's legitimate, how can they be expected to protect the verifiers and to keep the peace in Kosovo when they have this guerrilla war going on if they're not allowed to draw on forces that are in Serbia? Does NATO expect they can do the job with a set number of people under all conditions?

A: We believe that the Serbs led by President Milosevic triggered this problem in the first place. And they triggered it by a bridging or taking away rights that the Kosovar Albanians had. Since then there has been fighting on both sides, but the primary responsibility for triggering this problem is President Milosevic and his government.

We believe both sides should show restraint and reach for a political settlement. That was our position in the fall, that's our position today, and that's what we're working to achieve.

Q: Has it been established what goal would be set in terms of what airstrikes would be expected to accomplish? In other words, would it just be to permit verifiers to do their job? Would it be to force the Serbs to withdraw their troops and special police? Would it be to force both sides to the peace table? What would be the goal of any possible airstrikes?

A: Let's be clear. The best option is a diplomatic option. That's what we're working to achieve.

No decision has been made to use force yet, and I think it's better to reserve discussing questions like that until or unless... If we reach the time when we use force, then we'll discuss issues like that.

Q: Can you comment on Mr. Robert Taylor's statement that the NATO planes are not going to become the air force of KLA?

A: That's one of the issues, and Secretary Cohen has said the same thing.

Q: Missile defense? Today, Bob Bell at the White House said that the administration had not made a decision to approach the Russians about modifying the ABM Treaty. Yesterday, Secretary Cohen said we will propose to explore with the Russians modifications that would allow for a limited system of missile defense. That's exactly what he said. How do you square those two? Who is right here?

A: We have kept the Russians informed at every step of the way. We've been talking to them. We have informed them about this decision to devote $6.6 billion to the deployment of a national missile defense system. We have, and we will continue to discuss this issue with them. Secretary Albright will discuss this issue when she's in Moscow.

Q: Modification of the treaty?

A: We have not... No. She will continue to talk to the Russians about what we're doing. But let's be clear. Secretary Cohen said yesterday that we have made no decision to deploy and that won't be made for 17 months, until June of the year 2000. That's when we will address the deployment issue.

We have not decided on the architecture of the system, and, therefore, we can't discuss specific modifications until we decide what the system is going to be. All of this will be resolved over the next 17 months, obviously, as we get closer to the deployment decision and as we carry out tests and continue with the development work. But we haven't done that yet.

Q: The Secretary made it pretty clear, I thought, that the intention is not only to discuss it with the Russians, because it would be necessary in order to deploy a system, that the intention also was to go ahead and deploy a system when it's ready.

A: That...

Q: The White House is now saying that none of those decisions have been...

A: I think the Secretary also made it very clear that no deployment decision has been made. He said that in his statement very, very clearly. I can read it to you if you want. But he said that no deployment decision had been made.

What we're doing is positioning ourselves to deploy or to make a decision to deploy in the year 2000, and realizing... In order to make that a real option we have to allocate funds, and that's what we've done.

Q: In order to make it a real option, you also have to modify the treaty, right?

A: I think we have to decide what the architecture of the system is. As you know right now the ABM Treaty allows both sides to have 100 interceptors at one site. Russia has, we believe, 100 interceptors around Moscow. We have no interceptors. Our one site is in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We haven't had interceptors there for probably a quarter of a century. So if we were to use that site in Grand Forks, North Dakota, it would be authorized under the ABM Treaty and there would not be any change.

But what we're trying to decide is whether we can use that site or we're going to have to move the site to Alaska. Should we do that, that would require a modification. If we need more than one site, that would require a modification.

What we have told the Russians every step of the way is that we feel that we are facing increased threats from smaller nations with embryonic ICBM forces, but that these forces are going to become more of a threat if they continue to test them, and the nations obviously are nations such as North Korea, Iran, possibly Iraq. But North Korea and Iran are primary ones right now.

We are not building this... If we go ahead and deploy this system, it will not be a threat to the Russians. It will not be designed to deal with the type of attack that Russia could launch with its large nuclear arsenal.

We maintain an equally large sophisticated nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against any country that would attack us. We'll continue to maintain that arsenal. Deterrence has worked since our nuclear forces were established in the 1940s, and we believe it will continue to work against countries such as Russia. We don't anticipate an attack from them.

What we're trying to do is decide whether and when to deploy a limited national missile defense system that could protect this country against a very small attack from a rogue nation or perhaps a misfire from another nation. That's what's on the table here.

How we do that, how it's designed, where it's set up, all has to be decided in the future. So when we reach those decisions, then we will decide what we have to discuss with the Russians.

Q: Just to be perfectly clear, you're saying that the United States has made no decision to deploy a national missile defense.

A: That's what I'm saying, and that's what Secretary Cohen said yesterday.

Q: Despite the fact that when Cohen discussed yesterday the fact that a decision would be made in June of 2000, he gave the clear impression that this was not a decision of whether to deploy, but when to deploy. In fact he went on to explain that if the, that they could even deploy sooner if all went well.

A: Let me be perfectly clear. Let me repeat what he said yesterday. He said, "No deployment decision has been made at this time. That will be made in June of 2000." That's what he said. In fact that is correct. But we have to position ourselves to be able to deploy, and that's what the significance of allocating $6.6 billion for the program is.

Q: Is there an intention to deploy if it is found to be technologically feasible? He also said that the threat criterion basically had been met.

A: On that, I have nothing to add to what he said yesterday. He was perfectly clear about that. There's no way I can be clearer.

Q: Have the Russians responded in any way?

A: I'm not aware that they have responded. I don't believe this came as a surprise to them. As I said, we've been consulting informally with them. There were stories in the press several weeks ago about a major augmentation of our spending on national missile defense. We consulted with them around that time before those stories ran, so those stories weren't a surprise to them, and we consulted with them before yesterday's announcement, and we will consult with them when Secretary Albright meets with them next week.

So they've been kept well informed of what we've been doing. Not just over the last few weeks, either, but over a long period of time. And we've made it, in every single intervention with the Russians, every single discussion we've had with them, we've made it very clear that this is not a system that is designed to thwart them in any way. This is dealing with a new emerging threat that we believe we face, and for all I know Russia itself may face some day. But this is a threat we believe we face, and it's a threat we believe is growing nearer every day.

Q: When President Reagan first brought up SDI, he said he'd share the system with the Russians. Is that still our intention with this system?

A: I'm not in a position to discuss that aspect because I don't know the answer. But let's remember that these are totally different systems. The SDI system was designed to provide sort of an impermeable umbrella over the nation, a missile shield so to speak; and this is a much more limited hit-to-kill system designed to deal with a small number of attacking missiles.

But that's exactly why the system is not a threat to the Russians. And as I say, the Russians already have a very extensive interceptor system ringing Moscow, an ABM system.

Q: Can't we just buy their system? (Laughter)

Q: Their system is not a national system. The ABM Treaty prohibits a national system. We're talking about a national system here. So that notion by itself would require changes in the treaty, regardless of if you had only one site, right?

A: We are talking about a national system, but I go back to what I said earlier. We can't talk specifics until we have a clear idea of what the architecture of our system is.

Q: It's a generality, but that generality is encompassed in the treaty that says no, you can't do that, regardless of what the specifics are.

A: I think... It's very clear that we have started discussing this with the Russians. If the treaty has to be amended to fit the system we will discuss that with them, but right now it's premature to say that because we haven't even designed, we haven't designed the system yet or made fundamental decisions about where it's going to be based, what it's going to be, etc. Those will all come relatively quickly in the next 17 months or so but they haven't been made yet.

Q: On ballistic missile defense again. Yesterday, after General Lyles was finished, he was asked about the Arrow system that the Israelis had such a success with, and he said the technology from Arrow was going into our missile system, I presume THAAD.

My first question is, if the Arrow is working and THAAD is not, then why? And secondly, I asked you before about using the Arrow. Is the Arrow not useable for medium-range missiles because it has such a short range, or because it's unidirectional? Why isn't Arrow itself a feasible defense that could be used for certain applications?

A: I don't know the full answer to that question and rather than fumble around, let me try to get an answer.

Q: But can you say anything about the technology of Arrow?

A: Well, no, I just said I...

Q: Oh. I thought you said you didn't know...

A: No. Chris, do you have a question?

Q: Actually I need to ask about another subject.

Q: Go ahead.

Q: The anthrax vaccine issue has come up again. Some members of the Connecticut Air National Guard have refused to take it, and I think some of them have even resigned over the issue. Do you have anything on that?

A: I do. What do you want? (Laughter)

Q: Get out the old boilerplate.

A: First of all, the reason we're requiring members of the military to receive anthrax shots is that we think it's a very important and very safe force protection measure. As you know, biological warfare is one of the emerging threats we face, and the anthrax vaccine was certified by the Food and Drug Administration in 1970. It's been used since then by veterinarians, by people who deal with cattle, and by some soldiers and others with a very good record of safety. It's proven itself safe and reliable. It works, and it does not have side effects.

We have given now I think shots to nearly 170,000 people in the military starting with Secretary Cohen and General Shelton and Deputy Secretary Hamre in this building. Secretary Danzig, Secretary of the Navy Danzig had shots more than a year ago, a year and a half ago when he was under secretary of the Navy. All these people are fine.

We think that this has been proven safe, and we think it is a very good way to deal with the risk that people could face on the battlefield. The reason members of the 103rd Fighter Wing of the Connecticut Air National Guard based at Bradley Field outside of Hartford were being given these shots is that they're scheduled to deploy to the Gulf later this year. And therefore, because we are giving these shots first to people going to Southwest Asia, and, secondly, to people in or going to Korea, and then after that, people who are likely to deploy to these or other hot spots, they're in line to get these shots.

So I think eight or nine people have resigned rather than take the shots. This has been generally an extremely successful program, and I think that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines understand that this is for their own protection. We have found that almost all willingly take these shots.

Q: Is it a good safety record?

A: I think it's had; I'm not aware that there are problems with this vaccine.

Q: Nobody has fallen ill as a result of taking the anthrax shot that you're aware?

A: Every vaccine imposes some risk to people who might have other symptoms or some sort of syndromes. And there have been some reactions to the vaccine. But the reactions are very, very small numbers, and tend to be extremely minor, a little redness on the arm, for instance. A severe reaction is one that might involve a slightly elevated fever -- a serious reaction.

Q: (inaudible)

A: I think over 400,000 shots have been given. As of January 12th, which is my last record, 463,226 shots have been given to 166,233 service members.

Q: In the past when some of these shots were refused, they were generally by lower-ranking enlisted personnel. These apparently involved officers. Do they have any legitimate health concern here, or is this just ignorance? Is it irrational fear of these shots? Why would these officers refuse to take these shots?

A: My understanding, I have not talked to these officers, but my understanding is that eight have resigned or said they plan to resign. Six of those, during exit interviews, said that anthrax was one of many factors that entered into their decision to resign. Some may have found that the pressures of staying in the Air Guard and training were hard to maintain with their family lives or their business lives; some may not have wanted to deploy to the Gulf for family or business or other personal reasons. I don't know what those other reasons are. But anthrax was, as I said, cited as only one of the reasons in the case of six people who got out.

Q: Couldn't the Pentagon or the military court martial these officers for refusing to take these shots? And why was that not...

A: Because they resigned. There are a number of options available. One is court martial, one is non-judicial punishment, another is discharge, another is retirement, and another is reassignment. Basically people who have not taken the shot have tended to get out of the service. It's an all volunteer service.

Q: But this is not a voluntary program, right?

A: It is not a voluntary program. People who are going to be... Eventually everybody in the military will have to take these shots. But right now people going to the Gulf must take these shots.

Mr. Lambros?

Q: Another subject?

Q: Have you taken the shot?

A: I haven't. I've thought often about it. I certainly have no hesitation to take the shot.

Q: Why are you hesitating then? (Laughter)

A: You know, I probably should review my entire shot record and go in and get new DPT shots and everything else that are probably up to date for my children but not up to date for me.

Q: You go to the Persian Gulf regularly.

A: I do. I do. That's why I thought that I should take these shots. Maybe some day I'll come here and tell you that I've taken the shot.

More questions on this Connecticut National Guard? (No response)


Q: How you can assure Greece that those Patriot missiles you are placing around Incirlik base in Turkey are not going to be used by Turkey against Greek air forces over the Aegean in case of conflict? Is there any kind of mechanism or guarantee?

A: First of all, the missiles are American missiles controlled by American forces, and they're there for a very specific reason. They were requested by Turkey because Turkey was fearful of an attack from Iraq after some bellicose comments that had been made by Iraqi officials. They asked us to put the missiles there and we did. They have nothing to do with the Aegean, they have everything to do with Iraq and protecting Incirlik Air Base from Iraq.

Q: How long they are going to stay?

A: I think it's a relatively brief deployment. They're there for 30 to 60 days is my understanding.

Q: How many pieces?

A: It is something called a Minimum Engagement Package, and I think there are three launchers.

Q: Last question. Any comment on the decision for the multinational force for Balkans to be stationed in Greece?

A: I'm not aware that there's been a decision to station it there. My understanding is that this important multinational peacekeeping force, which is the product of the Southeastern Europe defense ministerial process...Those meetings started in 1997, I think the first one was in Bulgaria, the next one was in Macedonia,(sic)[Romania] and the latest one was in Greece---there have been three so far. Countries in that neighborhood decided to put together a humanitarian peacekeeping force.

My understanding is that the headquarters of this force is going to rotate every four years, and that the first headquarters will be established in Bulgaria; the next headquarters, after four years it will move to Romania; and then four years later it will move to Turkey; and four years after that it will move to Greece. So at that point Greece will have to decide where to station the force, and that's a decision for the Greek government to make.

Q:...or Macedonia?

A: In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As you know, I use the abbreviation frequently. Because I'm accused of being too wordy I like to trim down the phrases.

Q: There's been two military plane crashes in Japan in as many days, and I wondered if you have any comment on that? Will there be any stand down of those planes to review safety procedures?

A: We take seriously every plane crash, and every one is thoroughly investigated. I'm not aware of any particular decision for a stand down in Japan. Obviously, if the commanders decide that that's necessary, it would be up to them to make that decision, and they could do that.

Secretary Cohen did order a stand down in 1997 after there had been several air crashes. He monitors safety very, very carefully. He's aware of these crashes and will be very interested in the reports as to why they occurred. But right now we don't see any pattern, and I don't believe that anybody has seen a reason for a stand down. Should that change, we'll let you know.

Q: These jets are under the mission of the low-altitude flight training?

A: I'm afraid I don't know the exact facts of each crash. Maybe we can get with you afterwards and tell you when they happened and how.

Q: When was the last time U.S. planes patrolled the northern no-fly zone in Iraq, and when will the patrols resume?

A: We don't talk about future operations for reasons you can well understand, particularly given the aggressive response that Iraq has been making to these monitoring flights, so I won't talk about what's going to happen in the future. There have been a combination of circumstances, primarily bad weather and the end of Ramadan, that has caused a slight pause in the flying, but this pause is not unusual. We have pauses from time to time, and there's nothing out of the ordinary.

Q: Has the monitoring flights or the enforcement of the no-fly zone altered or been curtailed in any way because of the threats from Iraqi missile...

A: Absolutely not. We responded aggressively to the threats in the north. And I might add that we are able to monitor the no-fly zone without flying over Turkey, so we have continued -- without flying over northern Iraq -- so we have continued to do that and we're very aware of what's going on there.

Q: Have there been violations of the no-fly zone while...

A: There was a violation. There was one violation today, yes.

Q: The reason that U.S. airplanes haven't been shot at over the northern no-fly zone is that they've been flying away from the SAM batteries of the Iraqis; they've been staying out of range. Is that correct? Why hasn't there been any action for six days?

A: As I said, there's been a pause in flying because of bad weather and because of the end of Ramadan. When that pause will end, I'm not going to discuss. Obviously, there have been no challenges to flights that haven't taken place, but there were...

Q: When did it begin, the pause?

A: It's been several days.

Q: So the last incident, the last major incident was on, I believe, Thursday of last week when an F-16 fired a HARM and an F-15 dropped an AGM-130. Since then there haven't been any major incidents, but that's because there's been this pause in the flying, is that correct?

A: I don't know that, because I don't know when it began. I think there may have been one day of flying after that, but I don't know that for a fact.

Q: A question about South Korea, the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean President today said that North Korea has adopted a strategy of rapid preemptive military strikes using weapons of mass destruction against South Korea. Does the Pentagon share that view of the North Korean strategy? And also, did Secretary Cohen discuss U.S. use of nuclear weapons in response to that kind of a threat during his trip to South Korea?

A: I haven't seen the statement by President Kim and I think I'd rather wait to see it before I comment on it.

Just let me say in general that we know that North Korea maintains a formidable military capability. It has nearly a million soldiers under arms close to the demilitarized zone. The North Korean side is very heavily armed with artillery and SCUD missiles and other types of attack weapons.

We believe that we have a very substantial, well trained, and well equipped counterforce of American and Republic of Korea soldiers and weapons, and we would prevail in any military engagement on the Korean Peninsula. We're very clear about that.

Obviously there are talks going on today in Geneva. I believe they're still going on, the Four Party Talks. They have been recent. We have launched a process initiated by President Clinton several years ago to engage the two Koreas, China, and the United States in an effort to try to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Those Four Party Talks have set up two subcommittees that have been dealing with...one is reducing tensions on the peninsula -- that's directly related to the question you asked. This process will continue.

Q: In terms of the nuclear question, would the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea apply in the event of a North Korean...

A: Suffice it to say that we have at our command an extremely large and lethal force and we believe that we and our South Korean allies would prevail decisively and quickly in any battle on the Korean Peninsula.

Q: Are there any indications at the moment that North Korea is preparing for the test of another Taipo Dong missile?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Press: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected