DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
[This media activity follows an Honor Cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Jean Pol Poncelet of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Pentagon.]
Secretary Cohen: This is my first opportunity to welcome Minister Poncelet to the Pentagon since I've become Secretary of Defense. We had a chance to discuss many issues when I recently visited Brussels. We have a great deal to talk about today.
First, we're going to discuss NATO enlargement. Belgium and the United States both agree that more than three countries should join NATO. We're going to discuss the importance of keeping the door open to countries that are not invited to join in the first round.
Secondly, the Balkans. Belgian troops have been doing a superb job in East Slavonia. The success of the April elections should allow a reduction in the U.N. peacekeeping force there, enable Belgium to soon bring home some of its 830 soldiers. Belgian troops also serve in Bosnia; and we're going to discuss the steps that have to be taken to strengthen the implementation of the civilian side of the Dayton Accords so that the mandate, which ends in June of next year, of course can be completed.
Third, Central Africa. This is an area of historical interest and influence for Belgium. Brussels had been very supportive of the African crisis response initiative and the new multilateral African peacekeeping force. Indeed, Belgium is a leader in peacekeeping with some 13,000 of its troops currently serving peacekeeping missions throughout the world.
Minister Poncelet, I offer the podium to you for remarks.
Minister Poncelet: Thank you.
Good morning gentlemen. I only wanted to stress the importance for me of this meeting, with regards to our presence with the United Nations mission in Eastern Slavonia. Of course, as you know, since '92, Belgium,[has been] the leader of this peacekeeping mission in the Balkans, and I happy to have the opportunity to discuss this matter with my colleague. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Minister, could you tell us which nations you believe should enter NATO beyond the first round.
A: We will discuss this matter in a few minutes.
Q: You don't have any favorites...
A: No. Thank you.
Q: Sir, do you believe that, at this point, an expansion with only three is a fait accompli?
A: This is the matter of our next discussion.
Q: Mr. Cohen if I could ask you about Aberdeen. A lieutenant colonel has been disciplined there so far. And my question to you is do you anticipate more disciplinary actions to be taken or should one lieutenant colonel shoulder the load here?
Secretary Cohen: Well, it's not a decision for me to make, certainly at this point. This is being handled by the Army. The Army is conducting a very thorough investigation, trying to get to the bottom of the facts surrounding all of the allegations pertaining to Aberdeen. It's a decision within the Army's discretion at this point. I certainly will await further developments. But I should not comment at this time any further.
Q: Sir, do you believe that General Reimer should be brought into the legal hearing involving Sergeant Major McKinney? Should he be testifying or offering testimony.
A: I really don't have any comment concerning General Reimer's activities. I assume that, during the course of any trial, witness can be brought to testify as to one's character. But in terms of the time, under what circumstances, that remains to be determined. I don't have any judgment as to whether General Reimer should or should not testify at this point.
Press: Thank you.