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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
June 11, 1997 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Let me begin by welcoming a couple of people here. First we have a Dutch journalist, Mr. Jansen, Wilhelmus Jansen who is the Chief of the Foreign News Desk of a newspaper in Amsterdam called, I believe it's pronounced "How". Welcome.

Also, as many of you know, every year we run a rather major trip around the country for people who are outside the Defense Department, and we bring them here and try to educate them about what the men and women in the U.S. military are up to. It's called the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. That conference was in May of this year, I believe, and we have one of the alumni of that conference, Ms. Hope Boonshaft, who is with Sony Pictures. Welcome.

Let me make two operational announcements. The first is that the next iteration of EXERCISE COOPERATIVE NUGGET will begin on Monday, June 16th in Fort Polk, Louisiana. If you're interested in covering this, you should contact the Atlantic Command. This is being run by General Sheehan, the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Command.

As you know, these are very important exercises that occur every year. They involve members of the Partnership for Peace which are Central and Eastern European countries who come over here and go through exercises with our forces, but also forces from other NATO countries -- England, Germany, etc. It was held at Fort Polk two years ago, it was held at Camp Lejeune last year. Now it's going back to Fort Polk later this month.

Finally, I want to bring you up to date on what's happening in the Congo. Brazzaville. As you know, there's been some disorder in Brazzaville. Rival political factions have been fighting each other much like street gangs in Los Angeles, I suppose, but it's become quite dangerous. The U.S. military, EUCOM -- the European Command -- has sent down an assessment team of about a dozen people, primarily communicators, to augment the communication capacity of the embassy in Brazzaville, but also a few security people and some people who will be able to assess the situation, both the security in the area as well as the steps that might have to be taken if we're asked to help take Americans out of Brazzaville. So this assessment team arrived today at 10 o'clock in the morning our time from Germany on a C-130. There is room on the plane going out to take some Americans, and they do plan to take some Americans back out with them from Brazzaville.

The situation there is quite chaotic. We're relying now on the French for security in the area and also to help escort some of our people either to the airport or out of the country. The French have been performing very well, and they've been extremely helpful, so we thank them for that.

I want to just stress one other point. We have not made any decisions to evacuate Americans from the Congo Brazzaville. The ambassador remains in his post. I think there are about 15 or 16 diplomats in the embassy. It remains open. And it's always up to the ambassador to decide whether to evacuate Americans from a country where their security may be under threat. He has not made that decision.

Q: Can you quantify the size of the assessment team? Several dozen or...

A: No, no. I said about a dozen.

Q: How many Americans are in the Congo?

A: We think, in Brazzaville, there are about 60 or so. It's a little hard, it's been a declining figure because people have been leaving. We think there are around 60 now in Brazzaville. Brazzaville is the only place where there seems to be disorder at this stage. Outside of Brazzaville, things are pretty safe and calm.

Q: You can drive through the countryside.

A: If they could get out. The problem is, there's been quite a lot of fighting in the city, and it's been difficult or unsafe for people to get out of their houses and move around.

Q: What kind of forces are on alert if the ambassador order an evacuation?

A: I don't know whether we've gotten to the point of putting forces on alert. This will not be handled by the Kearsarge which is now in the Canary Islands and is headed on its way to the Mediterranean, so we would have to move in some forces from Europe to handle this. They would probably be Special Operations Forces that would move in quickly and do this.

The question is how much lift we'd need, etc. But I want to stress that the French are doing a very good job right now of providing security in certain areas, getting people to the airport, protecting them at the airport. They're working very hard to negotiate a cease-fire. They have had various cease-fires from time to time. They have also helped take out some Americans as well as people from other countries. So the French have, I believe, 1,300 troops in Brazzaville now that we're really relying on them at this stage. But we do have our own assessment team there.

Q: Do you know if Westerners are being targeted in any of this?

A: No. This is really a dispute among various rival factions, and it's happening prior to some elections that are coming up. We don't have any indication that foreigners are being targeted, but there have been some exchanges of fire, and it's been dangerous to be in certain parts of the city. I don't think they're targeting foreigners, but there has been some danger to various Western and other embassies there.

Q: In the wake of the Ralston affair, has the Secretary gone back to the candidates that he's been looking at, and asked them for assurances that they have no extramarital affairs or sexual shenanigans or anything in their background? He's made it clear to them that he wants to know...

A: The Secretary is very much against witch hunts. He has been from the beginning. He's applying a rule of reason to this entire search, as he has from the beginning.

The vetting process basically will involve at some point sitting down and saying to the people is there anything I should know that could be an impediment to your winning confirmation for this job or being able to do the job adequately. You basically select somebody for a job of this importance on trust, and he will assure himself by talking to the candidates that he can have confidence in their ability to do the job without impediment.

Q: It's not just the ability, though... It seems to be not just the ability to do the job, but...

A: To do the job and to be confirmed, as I mentioned earlier. He will ask them if they're aware of any problems that could arise in the course of their confirmation hearing or the press scrutiny that they'll get prior to the confirmation hearing.

Q: Can you discuss the vetting process?

Q: Did he ask the question of General Ralston?

A: He did not reach that stage in the vetting. Yesterday there was a background briefer here and he went into some of the details, but they had not reached the point, they were going to do that after General Ralston came back from his trip, of sitting down, eye to eye, and saying is there anything I should know that could present a problem.

Q: For the archives, why would the Pentagon spokesman want to go on background for a situation like that?

A: The briefer described this -- for the archives -- in the briefing yesterday. What he said at the time and what I will say today is that the decision was made to focus attention on the statements which we thought were the important part of the story yesterday, the statements by Secretary Cohen, General Ralston, General Shalikashvili, and ultimately the President, and...

Q: Did you see anything in there that you were uncomfortable going on the record on? I didn't.

A: I don't think there was anything anybody was uncomfortable going on the record on.

Q: Then why did you not go on the record?

A: I said that the idea was just to focus on the statements.

Q: Can you go through the vetting process for someone in a position like that? We know what the civilian is. The FBI goes in, they look, background check. Can you discuss if there is any difference, how it is any different? Or if it's just assumed to have been taken care of in the process of getting to the fourth star?

A: First, general officers are reviewed, they are essentially confirmed by the Senate. They're all reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. All moves by three and four star officers have to be cleared by the Senate Armed Services Committee, and they're free to have hearings if they want to have hearings on this. That's the first point.

The universe of candidates to be Chairman is quite small. By law, it consists of the Vice Chairman, of the Service Chiefs, or of the commanders of unified commands such as the European Command or the Southern Command or the Strategic Command or the Transportation Command or the Atlantic Command. I won't name all of them, but you shouldn't take from the fact that I only named a few that we're only focusing on a few. But it's those so-called CINCs, Commanders in Chiefs, and the Service Chiefs, and the Vice who are the universe. Now the President can make an exception to that. He can pick the best person regardless of that person's post by basically waiving the requirement that they come from the small universe of people.

All senior officers, of course, have top level security clearances, and those clearances are reviewed every five years, so there are basically, right away, two institutional vettings that go on regularly. One is for the security clearance, and the second is clearance by the Senate when they change jobs after they get to be into the four star ranks.

In addition, of course, for a job as important as the Chairman, the Secretary, and the Staff will sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion with the people when they get to the final stages of the selection process. That's some weeks off. The Secretary won't really sit down and start concentrating on that until after he comes back from his trip, which is scheduled to end on the 18th, his trip to Europe and the Middle East. Then he'll start concentrating on that.

There's not a huge sense of urgency here. We'd like to get it done as early as possible, but General Shalikashvili reminded me that his nomination was not announced until September of the year in which he became Chairman. As you know, his term expires now on September 30th.

Q: You were talking about the process that three and four stars go through, and reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. They fill out a form, if I'm not mistaken, and on that form is a question, "Is there anything in your background that might cause trouble, essentially, within the ranks or for your confirmation process?"

As I understand it, Ralston filled out this form several different times as he has had different jobs, and moving to different rank. Did he ever in any of those questionnaires raise this issue of his adulteress affair?

A: First of all, those forms are the property of the Senate Armed Services Committee and you should ask them for the information on those forms.

But in general, General Ralston does not believe, Secretary Cohen does not believe, and most reasonable people -- maybe all reasonable people -- do not believe that a relationship between consenting adults during a period when a person is separated from his wife and undergoing marital turmoil, is a disqualification for a job in the military or a job in the government, or I daresay, a job with a broadcasting company or any other private business.

Q: As far as you know or you are willing to say, he did not raise this on any disclosure forms, this issue which has caused him now to not have the Chairmanship, he didn't raise this on those forms?

A: General Ralston did nothing to disqualify himself to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That's what Secretary Cohen decided last week when he reviewed this information. I don't believe that General Ralston or any other reasonable person would believe that this personal event that happened a decade or more ago would disqualify him to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What happened here was a public relations disaster because of a perceived double standard in comparison to other cases. It had nothing to do with the merits of General Ralston's case. That's one of the elements that was so cruel about this entire incident. He was the victim of something entirely different. He was not the victim of something he had done ten years ago.

Q: Did General Ralston break any criminal laws in the State of Pennsylvania by his adulteress activities there?

A: No, he did not.

Q: Did he have any adulteress activities here in Virginia while he was still legally...

A: This is history. I see no good to be derived from discussing this.

Q: But Ken, what I'm getting at is, there is a misdemeanor, fourth class misdemeanor infraction for adultery in the State of Virginia. It seems like it would apply to all service personnel who are living and serving here in the State of Virginia, and certainly the Pentagon would not want service personnel to be in criminal violation due to adultery, is that correct?

A: I have not studied the Virginia adultery laws, and I don't intend to. But I thank you for that information about your interpretation of them.

This episode is over. General Ralston is on his job today as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He's Acting Chairman because General Shalikashvili is in Europe. He's been chairing meetings, meeting with the Secretary, he's been to the White House on several occasions. Life goes on.

Q: Could you give us an update on the investigation into the handling of the laser incident on the West Coast?

A: Yeah. Basically that is, I believe, nearing completion. I don't know how much longer it will take.

One of the things that we've done or that the Navy has done in order to complete this investigation is to test a series of lasers, to compare their signatures, their impact, their performance characteristics, etc. They have either completed those tests or they're in the final stages of completing those tests, and then they'll analyze their findings. At some point, we'll make a report.

Q: In terms of the medical aspects, have the doctors determined, apparently they were treated in San Antonio, whether the Navy lieutenant was in fact injured, suffered eye injuries as the result of a laser?

A: There are contradictory reports on the cause of the eye injury and that's one of the issues that will be resolved in the final report, if it can be resolved. There may be issues here that cannot be resolved, but we are attempting to pull everything together and finish it all at once.

Q: The Navy has said that they're not going to release the photograph showing a beam of light coming from the bridge of the ship, which is contrary to what Secretary Cohen said would happen. Has he changed his mind on that, or has he been overruled by the Office of Naval Intelligence?

A: I don't believe the Secretary is aware that the Navy has said something different about his plans.

Q: Can I clarify the word contradictory? You said contradictory reports from medical people about whether there was exposure? Or contradictory eye witnesses? You said contradictory reports.

A: The medical conclusion is inconclusive. How's that? In other words, the doctors have reached different conclusions about what happened. One of the things they'll attempt to do is reconcile these different diagnoses. It may be easy to do, I don't know. But they're at various stages, and this... I don't think there's anything particularly nefarious about this, in fact there's nothing nefarious about it. They were examined at different times in different places by doctors with different levels of expertise. Therefore, there were several different descriptions of what happened to them and they are not all on the same track. So one of the issues will be to try to sort this out.

Q: Some doctors think they did sustain some injury due to a laser...

A: It's a possibility. But as I say, the medical diagnosis on this is not conclusive.

Q: What's the status of those three initiatives that the Secretary announced over the weekend? Are they going forward?

A: Absolutely. Let me bring you up to date on those three initiatives.

The first is to set up a panel to review mixed gender training. Actually the name of the panel will be the Advisory Committee on Gender Integrated Training and Related Issues in the Military Services. I don't think we have an acronym yet. It will be up to you to come up with an acronym for that. This is the panel that will be headed by former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker. After it's set up it will have about six months to issue its report. It will have nine members on it. We should be able to announce the other nine members relatively soon. Four of the members will be retired military officers, or retired military people -- they might not all be officers. It has a broad mandate to study gender integrated training in the military and associated issues such as do the barracks have to be changed in some places, are they adequate? How well are drill instructors trained to deal with mixed gender training? Is there an adequate complaint process? Are women and men properly counseled? Is the training for putting basically groups of teenagers together in mixed gender situations adequate? Both for the trainees coming in and also for the drill instructors who are leading them. That's the type of issue that we're looking at.

Q: Back to the Chairmanship issue. Are you aware, can you talk to what qualities the Secretary is looking for in a new Chairman? Any particular type of experience, any area of expertise?

A: I explained to you the population from which the Chairman has to come. All of these people, of course, are seasoned military officers. They're all seasoned commanders. But basically, he's looking for somebody of very extensive experience, combat and leadership experience, and firm judgment.

The crucial thing about a Chairman is the relationship the Chairman has first to the President, to whom he is the primary military advisor, and also with the Secretary of Defense. So both the Secretary who recommends a name to the President, and the President himself, have to be comfortable that they can work easily and quickly with this person, and that when he calls them up and gives them.. when the President calls the Chairman up and says give me your best judgment, that it really is the best available judgment at the time.

Q: A quick clarification from yesterday. You mentioned that General Ralston's term is up in February. I guess the job of Vice Chairman hasn't been around all that long, but I would assume he would be eligible to serve two terms as Vice Chairman. Has there been any decision as to whether or not he would step down in February? Or is it still open that he could be around for a couple more years?

A: You're right. He is eligible to serve another term. In June we have not decided what's going to happen in February.

Q: Under old business, the Secretary said that after the QDR he was going to be able to concentrate on the Khobar Towers report. Where are we on that, and can we expect that to come out before he goes on his trip?

A: We cannot expect it to come out before he goes on his trip; therefore, it will come out after he returns from his trip.

Q: Is it out of his in-basket or has he not gotten a chance...

A: He's in the process of studying the report now. He has not completed his review of the report. He has been discussing it with his advisors and working his way through a fairly voluminous document -- not just the report, but there are a lot of attachments to it, as well. He has been burrowing through that as time allows. He's had a few distractions over the last few days. I suspect he's getting back to it now, but he has been spending a lot of time on that report.

Q: The President of Macedonia is visiting next week, and before you leave, what is the policy now? Are we going to just stay there forever with troops, or is there an end in sight?

A: First of all, there's a UN mandate under which our troops, the UNRPREDEP troops are there. And we serve, of course, with troops from other countries including Scandinavian troops, other European troops.

I do not anticipate that the troops will be there forever. They were put in to prevent the warfare in the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia from spilling over into Macedonia. As you know, those countries have been, Bosnia's been at peace since the fall of 1995. So I can't predict how long they will be there. They'll be there awhile longer, but not forever.

Q: How many do we have there today?

A: I can't remember the exact... It might be 700. We'll get the exact number for you. It varies a little. It might be 500 to 700, but don't hold me to that. We'll get you the number.

Let me finish an answer that I began earlier about the status of the initiatives that Secretary Cohen launched on Saturday.

The first, of course, was the one on gender integrated training, and I brought you up to date on where that stands. The second is the task force to look at maintaining good order and discipline in the all volunteer force, to make sure that those rules are fair and effective. That task force will be comprised of the Under Secretaries of the military departments, the Vice Chiefs of the Services, and the Director of the Joint Staff. That's in the process of being set up now. It will work under the chairmanship of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. It will report its findings, its preliminary findings or recommendations in 90 days. It primarily will focus on these issues -- fraternization, the relationships between superiors and subordinates -- that's outside of relationships that may involve fraternization, the relationships between military and civilian employees of the Defense Department, and also the relationships between instructors and students or trainees. It can focus on other things as well, but those are the main areas it will begin focusing on.

Then the final one is something that the General Counsel will be directing or setting up, and that's to look at the explanatory language in the Manual for Courts Martial that helps commanders sort out issues that may involve adultery.

As you know, it is very rare in the military for somebody to be charged only with adultery. Adultery is almost always a charge that comes up in connection with other alleged offenses. In Kelly Flinn's case, the other offenses were lying, disobeying an order, fraternization with an enlisted person, and conduct unbecoming to an officer. Also, of course, in the military, as you all know by now, adultery itself is not prescribed. It's only when it prejudices good order and discipline. So they will be looking at the language in the Manual for Courts Martial to make sure that it's clear for commanders and the goal here is to make sure that the rules, or Section 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be enforced as consistently as possible across the whole range of military units.

Q: The UCMJ itself is a congressional act.

A: That's right.

Q: But the language within the Manual for Courts Martial which is, I assume, what we're talking about, that is within the prerogative of DoD, I assume.

A: Absolutely. There is something called the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice which is made up of Judge Advocates General of the services and maybe other people as well. They review language in the manual every year. There is a format for reviewing that language to make sure that it's as clear as possible.

Q: Can you detail some of the steps, on a different topic, that the Comptroller's taken to deal with the fact that the supplemental bill is now well behind schedule?

A: These issues are always tricky and what we do hinges on basically the answer to one question. That question is, do we believe that the supplemental ultimately will be passed? If you believe it will be passed, then there is a certain amount of flexibility that commanders and others have in rearranging spending patterns, borrowing from one sort of account and paying them back later.

If you don't believe that the supplemental is going to be passed, then you have to actually begin cutting. Right now it is our belief that the supplemental will go back to Congress and that there will be a new supplemental, and that we will get the money we need -- one, to pay for operations in Bosnia; and two, to sustain the readiness of our forces. So it's just a question now of rearranging some spending patterns until we get the money.

Q: Have there been any readiness problems that have cropped up as yet?

A: I don't believe there have yet, but we are on the brink of readiness problems, and in fact, we're possibly on the brink. One of the things the Secretary has done is asked all the services to report to him on any possible readiness problems that could emerge from the delay in the supplemental or the failure to get the supplemental, because we clearly need to address these problems as quickly as possible and make any adjustments necessary to minimize the size of readiness problems. But if we can get the money relatively soon, I think we can avoid readiness problems.

I've been informed here by Colonel Bridges that I was close if you take the bottom end of my range of troops in Macedonia. There are 495 U.S. troops in Macedonia. I think I said 500 to 700. The number has varied from time to time, but it's actually been coming down a little over the last couple of deployments I think.

Q: There have been some allegations on Wall Street that the Pentagon is dragging its feet when it comes to giving the green light to some of these proposed mergers -- Boeing/McDonnell Douglas, Raytheon/Texas Instruments/Hughes. Can you tell us a little bit about where the policy stands now? Are there second thoughts about some of these mergers? Why would some folks on Wall Street believe that?

A: I can't psychoanalyze people on Wall Street. There are many of them up there and they have many different views about what's happening in the world.

Q: But as far as the policy, has it changed?

A: I don't believe the policy has changed. These are complex issues. The merger's currently before the government, not just before us. We're, in a way, subsidiary here. It's the Federal Trade Commission that really has the authority over these mergers. We provide advice to them or recommendations to them.

It takes awhile. You may have off the top of your head how long it took us to comment on the Lockheed/Martin merger. I don't know whether we're inside that envelope or outside that envelope.

Q: On the industrial front similarly, is there any heartburn around here about the restrictions that are underway on people, maintenance, how much can you privatize? And similarly, are you at all alarmed about the effort to prevent you from having another BRAC round? Are you up to speed on that?

A: I think actually, Secretary Cohen has been gratified by the response his proposal has gotten, and somewhat encouraged. A number of people have agreed, leading Senators and Members of the House have agreed that we cannot carry too much infrastructure, that we have to slim down and the infrastructure has to be suited to the force of the moment. They realize that it's wasteful to carry too much infrastructure, and that if we really want an agile, ready force we have to cut down some on excess bases.

I think we're encouraged so far by the response we've gotten. Now it still has to go through the congressional process.

Q: The Committee is marking up and has excluded that from the bill.

A: That's the very beginning of the process. Everybody expected that committee to come out against BRAC. You know how a bill becomes a law -- there are many, many steps. Finally, it ends up being resolved in a conference committee, and then it has to be voted on by both Houses and goes to the President. We're quite confident -- I shouldn't say confident. We are encouraged so far by the open-minded response we've gotten to the proposal. No one wants to carry excess infrastructure. No one wants to pay the cost of excess infrastructure.

We're going into a period of moving towards a balance budget. Dollars have to be spent as wisely as possible. The Secretary is making the point that dollars spent on excess infrastructure are dollars misspent.

Q: Are you currently addressing that ratification to the depot maintenance progress...

A: It's a complex issue. We'll keep hammering away on that.

Q: But you're not discouraged by the efforts to limit you on that front?

A: That, I think, may emerge as a somewhat tougher issue than BRAC, but we hope that people will listen to reason. One of the issues here is how do we modify, transform, deregulate our acquisition process, our maintenance process, in a way that gives us the freedom to spend money as wisely and as soundly as possible. We think that more flexibility in that area would help us. We're trying to make that point to Congress.

Q: The New York Times reported today that 46 super computers have been exported from the United States to China. Is the Pentagon concerned that those computers are assisting China's nuclear and other weapons development programs?

A: First of all let me explain what the law is. Starting in 1995, we liberalized our policy for exporting computers to China and Russia. Previously, licenses had been required for most, if not all, exports. We determined that certain really low performance, so-called super computers or high performance computers, could be exported without specific licenses under a general export license. If they went to commercial or academic uses. All computers exported for military use require an export license. But if an exporter has a credible belief that the computer is going for non-military purposes, it can be exported without a specific license.

What we're talking about here are computers up to a speed of, get ready for this, 7,000 MTOPS, which stands for millions of theoretical operations per second. I want to put this into perspective. A pentium computer does about 400 MTOPS, runs at about 400 MTOPS, so the one you might have on your desk is 400 MTOPS. The cutoff here between requiring a license for commercial purposes and not requiring a license is 7,000 MTOPS. The most sophisticated, high powered computers in operation in the United States today are well over 100,000 MTOPS, so that sort of frames the range of computers we're talking about here.

Under this policy, computers are being exported to China and to Russia, as a matter of fact, without specific export licenses. We do not have, that I'm aware of, information that these are being misused for military purposes.

Q: Both China and Russia?

A: You asked me about China. I believe that we do not have... The story said that some officials are suspicious that some of these may be misused but they don't have direct evidence. We do not have evidence that they've been misused. We've been following these fairly closely. But we will investigate all charges of misuse of these computers because we do take the new policy seriously.

Q: If you don't require them to get an export license, how can you track...

A: They have to maintain a paper trail of to whom they export these, and they have to be able to support their contention that they have a credible belief that the computers are being used for commercial or academic purposes, not for military purposes.

There are several things that can happen here. The first is that if they have any questions about who is buying these computers and how they're going to be used, they can come to us and talk to people in the government who may have knowledge about the purchaser. Second, because they have to maintain a paper trail of these transactions if questions arise, government people from the Commerce Department and elsewhere can go to them and ask them to show how they reach their conclusion. They can then check on the facts that they've reviewed.

Q: With the forthcoming visit of the Defense secretary to the Gulf area. Now you contend that they did not offer the F-16s to the Saudis because they did not request them. Did the Emirates request the sale...

A: I believe the Emirates have requested information on the F-16 and we have provided information. The UAE is looking right now at several possible planes to purchase, and the F-16 is among those.

Q: Would the Defense Secretary be promoting the sales of F-16s...?

A: The Secretary of Defense is not an arms salesman. He is going to the Gulf for an entirely different reason.

First, he's going there to meet his counterparts and the leaders of the Gulf states because we share very important security concerns in the area. Two, he's going there to talk about the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the importance of the Gulf states working together to bolster their security. Three, he's going there to discuss long range strategic concerns which involve reaction by the U.S. and in the area, in the Gulf area, to activities taking place in Iraq and Iran.

Q: Will the matter of the three islands be raised?

A: I can't say specifically that they will or they won't. I just don't know.

Q: One more on Korea. It was reported that South Korea and the U.S. have made a deal not to give any more large grain shipments to North Korea unless there were four party talks. North Korea went forward on that. The State Department says that's not true, the U.S. is not doing grain blackmail in this matter. But what does the Defense Department think of this policy that South Korea would use against the North?

A: We've always said that we will not use food as a weapon. That is our policy. We're hopeful that the North Koreans will see the wisdom of joining the four party talks, and will do that sooner rather than later, but we are not going to use food as a weapon.

Q: As far as you're concerned, then, this is an erroneous report that the U.S. is not on board with South Korea and Japan in this...

A: We have already agreed to supply $25 million worth of food aid to North Korea. That's in the process of being delivered now. I think a shipment will be delivered this month and one early next month. We are continuing to monitor the food situation very closely in North Korea, and to discuss it with them as they bring it up.

Press: Thank you, sir.