[DoD clarification can be found in brackets, where applicable]
Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon. I have no announcements, so I will try and answer some of your questions. Yes, sir.
Q: Landmine policy. Can you talk just to any of the exceptions as we move towards, I guess, joining the Ottawa process? There was just a one-page release out of the White House. What can you tell us?
A: Well, let me first say that I think that probably everybody here has seen the announcement that was made by the White House yesterday that indicated that there is a delegation that has gone to Geneva for the purpose of looking at steps that we can take so that we could achieve our goals, which are primarily humanitarian, but at the same time also protect our national security interests.
And this Ottawa process, which has been going on for some time, has a number of nations that have participated. And what this delegation is seeking to do is to determine if we can affect the language in the treaty which will enable us to sign up to it in December.
As I mentioned just a second ago, our primary goal in all of this is to balance the humanitarian goal, which we have been pursuing for some time, with the goal to protect troops, which we have had since the beginning of our review of this whole issue.
But going to this process and participating in it, we hope to not only achieve these humanitarian goals, but we hope to also encourage some of the other nations who are participating in this process to undertake some of the very programs which we have underway and have had underway for a number of years in de-mining efforts.
I think many of you are aware that the United States and, indeed the Department of Defense, has been a real leader in tackling the issue of landmines, which have such a destructive power. We actually have a number of people and a number of programs underway in a significant number of countries to get rid of landmines. And those programs have been going on in their present form since 1993 and they will continue to go on.
Now with regard to the exceptions that you actually asked about initially, our primary concern in the Department of Defense is not only achieving this humanitarian goal, but also protecting the forces. I think everybody is aware that we believe that there is a requirement -- and believe very strongly in the requirement -- for landmines in the de-militarized zone in Korea. And so that's one.
We also believe that there needs to be an exception for anti-tank and anti-vehicular landmines, which have a sub-munition component which is anti-personnel in nature. There is another category of landmines, anti-personnel landmines -- in this building they're called pure anti-personnel landmines. And those landmines we do not feel are critical to our requirement to protect forces and so those are not part of the exemptions that we are seeking as we go forward in this process.
Q: And if I could just follow up. The part of that that's not exempted, the so-called pure. I guess, I don't -- does that include those mines that are capable of self-destructing after --
Q: -- some piece of time?
A: Yes, we're talking here in excess of eight million mines. Now, there are some other things too, but I don't want to get too deeply into the weeds in this thing primarily because the whole purpose of this group going over there is to see what we can negotiate in terms of language for the treaty and to see if we can, in the end, participate in the signing of this treaty.
We don't know at this point whether that's going to be possible. We hope that it will because we feel that this venue... this is an additional venue which offers opportunities that were not possible in the CD process because of the slow pace of activity there.
And the President and people in this building felt very strongly that this offered an opportunity that we should pursue and, therefore, this delegation has already departed and I believe they're in place now.
Q: From what I understand, the Joint Chiefs and some of the regional commanders are against getting rid of the self-destructing landmines until we have a system to replace it, to give our forces (inaudible) protection. What efforts are underway to develop any?
A: Well, first of all, I would take issue with what you have said there. What the Joint Chiefs and what this building has been concerned about from the very beginning is the force protection issue. And the force protection component that we believe, after a review of our policy in this building, the force protection component that we feel must be protected in all of this has to do with anti-tank and anti-vehicular mines, which by the way, are self-destructing.
We believe that the language needs to be such that these mines, which are a package when they are put down, need to be retained. What after this review we find is not essential to our mission has to do with the pure anti-personnel landmines -- self-destructing ones.
Q: Does that include those in Korea?
A: No. There's an exemption for Korea, which we feel strongly about. And then the language that we feel needs to be appropriately contained in this treaty must cover the anti-tank and anti-vehicular mines, which we feel are a very important force protection measure.
Q: Anywhere, not just Korea?
Q: But, Mike, within those packages, or clusters, or whatever you want to call them, there are anti-personnel --
A: There are anti-personnel munitions that are part of those packages. They are a component of the packages. They are not, however, pure anti-personnel mines.
Q: Nevertheless, if a child came near them --
A: No, that is not true, Charlie. What we have here and I think people need to understand what mines -- anti-tank and anti-vehicular mines -- are used for. These mines are used for the purposes of blocking, of controlling, opposing forces. Those mines that I am talking about are self-destructing mines. They self-destroy in either four, 48 hours -- 95 percent of them do and the other five percent self-destroy in several days.
We don't want mines that don't self-destroy because what this enables us to do is to delay the advance of the opposing force to the point that we could use air assets to destroy it. We don't want to have mines that are dumb mines and that have the capability to do what you're talking about, Charlie, which is to harm individual people, because often times our forces have to go through those very mine fields to reach their objective.
And so what we're looking for and what we have developed over the last 20 years is this self-destructing capability which does not provide any kind of danger to innocent civilians who may wander through the field at some later week, month, year in the future.
Q: So these are protected, these anti-armor, anti-tank, anti-vehicular mines are protected by anti-personnel mines.
A: They have the sub-munition component, the purpose of which is to prevent the opposing force from going in there and detonating the anti-tank mines so that they become ineffective. That is their purpose. Let me say the overall purpose of these anti-tank mines is that they are to provide a protection and a control mechanism for our forces so that enemy forces are delayed and controlled in such a way that our air assets can destroy them.
Q: I understand that, but could not civilians set off those small protective mines?
A: Charlie, I reject that because on the battlefield you simply don't have civilians wandering around trying to detonate anti-tank mines. These are packages.
A: But, Charlie, I think what you're talking about here and what we need to be very clear on is that the anti-personnel landmines that are crippling people and killing people are mines that the United States does not manufacture, does not export, and does not use anywhere except on the Korean peninsula in the demilitarized zone.
We are in the process of getting rid of those mines and we have gotten rid of more than a million of them at this point -- these dumb mines. And one of our big concerns in all of this is that we want to be part of a treaty that actually has some effect on this problem. In order to do that it has to have the capability of affecting those nations which manufacture and export anti-personnel landmines that do this. We are not talking about mines that are manufactured by the United States.
Q: Also, you talked about two different exceptions there, one for... what you're talking about, you want a time limit, you want a time limit on the smart anti-personnel mines to give you time to develop some replacement for it which--
A: No, this is not what I'm saying. We already have what we need in the self-destructing mines.
Q: The smart mines.
A: The smart mines.
Q: But you want a replacement for those, so you want some kind of time limit, time constraint, time factor, within...
A: Charlie, I can't give you a time constraint on all of this because at this point I'm not sure. One of the big concerns that we have regarding time in all of this is the amount of time it will actually take to destroy the existing stockpiles and we do not have a good sense of that. But we do have a program underway to develop alternative measures -- but we are not talking about delaying in order to develop alternative measures. That is not a part of this component. [DoD clarification: U.S. position is there must be a transition period, the length of which has not been specified.]
Q: Mike, we're saying that one of the things we want to do on this is to affect the nations that manufacture and export landmines.
Q: But isn't it true that China and some of the other major manufacturers are not part of this (inaudible) agreement?
A: That is true. They are not part at present of the Ottawa agreement. We do intend to pursue the Conference on Disarmament because that approach includes such countries. Our hope, however, is that by also pursuing the approach in the Ottawa process that those who sign up for that treaty may also ultimately be brought into the other treaty.
Q: Or who don't sign onto Ottawa as well--
A: And who don't may also, but we're pursuing both.
Q: It's, a multi-track...
A: It's a multi-track approach.
Q: Mike, Two informational points.
Q: First of all, are there any other areas of the world besides Korea that the Defense Department thinks it needs an exception for and, secondly, how long does an exception have to last? How long is the U.S. asking for? Is there some limit on it or is it unlimited?
A: Well, you mean for Korea? Until we have a situation in Korea where we don't need them and I can't predict how long that would be.
Q: (Inaudible) an exception for the whole peninsula?
A: Well, I think we want an exception on the Korean peninsula that protects our ability to protect not only U.S. forces, but also Republic of Korea forces as long as there is a threat from the north.
Q: Would that be just for the DMZ or would it be for the whole peninsula?
A: Well, that's where the mine fields that are presently in existence are located.
Q: How many mines are in those fields?
Q: What about Cuba or anywhere else? Are there any others?
A: In Cuba, there have been dumb mines. Those mines are being removed. I think about half of them have been removed and all of them will be removed by 1999. That process started some time ago, even before the president's announcement a year ago.
Q: How many do you have in Korea now?
A: How many --
Q: Anti-personnel mines?
A: We do not specify how many we have there.
Q: Why not?
A: For security reasons.
Q: Do you know if the Joint Chiefs wrote in a letter to Senator Thurmond that one of the additional exemptions they did want was for anti-personnel mines that could explode on their own apart from anti-tank munitions?
A: The present doctrine that military forces use for the most part calls for the use of those two mines together -- that is to say anti-tank mines used in combination with anti-personnel mines. And so we feel that the category of mines which are self-destructing anti-personnel landmines are not a separate requirement that we need to retain.
Q: (Inaudible) there's a letter to Senator Thurmond apparently--
A: I think if you go back and take a look at that, what they primarily were interested in was a force protection capability that was keyed on anti-tank, anti-vehicular mines that have this sub-munition component that is anti-personnel in nature.
A: Is everybody okay on that one? Good.
Q: There were published reports yesterday, Mike, that the PRC was continuing to ship nuclear-related type equipment to Pakistan in violation of their word given last fall. And then I think more importantly I'd like you to address this: Benjamin Gilman yesterday, Congressman Gilman, said in India, I believe it was, that this effort on the part of the Chinese to aid Pakistan was intended to make India unstable militarily. Can you -- how does the DoD view that particular statement?
A: Well, I think you're aware, Bill, that we watch very closely the shipment and sale of weapons, but with regard to the allegations that you cite there, I don't really have anything for you on that.
Q: You haven't seen Mr. Gilman's statement?
A: I have not seen those.
Q: Can you give us a readout on the instructions given to the special police brigades over in the Bosnia area in a meeting last Friday?
A: No, I think on any of those you ought to talk to the folks over at SFOR. They'd be happy to give you a lot of detail on that. And, in fact, we may actually have some of the transcripts from some of the briefings that have been given.
Q: Different subject?
Q: The New York Times story today where Sheehan said that he talked to former members of the Presidential Committee on Gulf War Illnesses, which is slightly less than half of the membership, saying that they favored revisiting and revising the earlier conclusion by the committee that Gulf War Illness or illnesses or sicknesses in large part were caused apparently by stress, possibly by battlefield stress and probably not by chemical or biological weapons. What does the Pentagon have to say about that?
A: Well, I'm sure you're aware that we're very much interested in the final supplemental report which is being assembled by the PAC [Presidential Advisory Committee]. That report, as far as I know, has not been written and I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to comment on a report that has not yet been written.
Q: When is --
A: Having said that though, I will point out that we have for a long time been involved in research on various hypotheses that have been projected about what might be causing illnesses which are afflicting some of the Gulf War veterans. We have research going on right now into the effects of low-level chemical exposure. We have proposals out for other research to be conducted on the effects of various other possible sources of these illnesses.
But the bottom line to all of this, at this point, Charlie, is that at this point in time, we know of no single cause for the illnesses that some of the Gulf War veterans have.
Q: When the report came out, the Pentagon by-and-large agreed with the committee's conclusion that these probably, that a large part of the illnesses was probably not caused by chemical or biological weapons. Have you seen anything to change that or do you still believe that --
A: I think, Charlie, one of the things that I've learned as I've stood up here over the last five or six years is to make no definitive statements with regard to Gulf War Illnesses. The things that I can tell you have to do with what we are doing; and that is, we are looking into the matter. We continue to look into the matter. We have research ongoing at the present time.
We don't have any final answer, any single answer as to what might be causing Gulf War Illnesses. The other thing that I would like to point out -- which I do at each occasion -- is that veterans who are ill and on active duty, need do no more than seek treatment from a military medical facility. They will find it there. Veterans who are ill should go to the appropriate Veterans Administration medical facility to receive treatment there.
The bottom line is that people who are sick because of what they believe to be a Gulf War Illness -- many of those individuals -- are being treated and we have a very wide-ranging research effort ongoing at the present time to try and find out anything we can about what might be causing these illnesses.
Q: It was reported extensively in Athens that the 6th Fleet is going to be deployed permanently in the Aegean Sea. Do you have anything on that?
A: Permanently in the Aegean Sea?
A: That does not sound right to me. The 6th Fleet operates in the Mediterranean area and has for many years. There are very few components of the 6th Fleet that are actually based in the European theater. The 6th Fleet flag ship is home ported in Gaeta, Italy, and there are some other assets that are over there. But I know of no plan to permanently deploy any part of the 6th Fleet in that part of the world.
In fact, I would go a step further. One of the beauties of naval assets is that they can be moved around. To talk about permanently deploying any asset in one location is kind of against the very purpose that we have naval assets.
Q: Is there any plan at this particular period to do something to this effect?
A: I don't know. You would have to talk to the people at 6th Fleet. I don't have any detail on what their deployment schedules are. It is possible that they could be going up into that area from time to time.
Q: Do you know where the issue of the three frigates to Turkey stands today? From the Pentagon point of view?
A: The Turkish frigates, there are three Perry Class frigates which are being provided to Turkey. One is being leased and two of them are being provided as excess defense articles. The leased vessel -- there was congressional notification made a year ago, but the lease was placed on hold on the 1st of April in 1996 until the two excess defense article transfers' notifications were complete.
Those two frigates, the excess defense articles, are currently in the process of waiting for a 30-day congressional notification period to be completed. That period expires at the close of business on the 23rd of August.
Once the notification process is completed and Congress has expressed no objections -- if Congress expresses no objections -- the Navy can start the process by making the transfer of the vessels as early as Monday the 25th of August, and the Navy will work directly with the Turkish Navy to effect the transfer.
I would point out that there is a period of time that will be required to bring the ships up to the point that they could actually be sailed, but the process could begin as early as Monday, the 25th.
Q: Does that depend on a condition to Turkey, you know, that --
A: Congressional notification is the condition and there is a lease involved in it.
Q: Thank you.
A: That's for the third one. For the first two is this an excess defense articles process.
Q: Yesterday, the U.S. and South Korea started military exercises and North Korea's been protesting saying that we're making threatening moves. Does the Pentagon have a response to that? And don't you think that the timing is a little bit off there considering it is a little inappropriate considering the Four Party talks?
A: First of all, I think that, although I can't cite for you any details on exercises that are going on, our exercises in that part of the world are defensive in nature. We operate and exercise from time to time with the forces of the Republic of Korea. They go on almost year-round in some form or another. They are certainly not meant to be provocative in any way.
Q: Yes, thank you. Let me ask a China-related question. The talks -- I'll tell you the relation as we go along here -- talks in Panama on a drug base are not going well. The United States could lose its last opportunity to continue to maintain a presence in Panama.
And the relation to the Chinese is since it is a conglomerate that is very closely related to the PRC, the PLA especially, is going to be managing both ends of the Panama Canal, the ports at both ends. And doesn't the Secretary in this Department want to continue to keep a military presence in Panama in the Canal Zone?
A: Bill, what you have just said there sounds kind of mixed up to me. The Chinese component of this thing is -- what is it? Is it a company of some sort?
Q: Yeah. The people that have gotten the contracts for Cristobal and the Port of Balboa are very closely linked to the PLA. And they will, of course, be taking over those ports and the U.S. could completely lose its presence in the Panama Canal Zone if the deal isn't made to continue the drug base. So, I'm asking...
A: But it seems to me, Bill, that it has been known for years and years that ever since President Carter decided that we were going to withdraw from Panama that, indeed, that was going to occur. That process is ongoing right now.
The process that you are talking about having to do with our counter-drug activities is a separate issue, but the military forces who are located there at the present time will be departing and we've made no secret about it.
Q: But my question is, doesn't this Department and the Secretary wish that this drug deal will go on, that U.S. forces might continue to --
A: We will continue that process, but the counter-drug activities and any presence that would be related to those have absolutely nothing to do with the Panama Canal -- absolutely nothing to do with the Panama Canal.
Q: A quick question. Now that the grand jury in Texas has declined to indict the Marine for the death of the goat herder, what's the timetable? Are they speeding it up, the Pentagon, for determining whether to put U.S. troops back in the border patrol duty?
A: No. You know, we've got a review going on, and until we complete that review, we won't know exactly whether we're going to return to any kind of ground force involvement there.
Q: What is the timetable for the review? They have been going at it for more than a month now.
A: Well, I know it's been going on, and I don't think that there is any timetable set. They just want to make sure that they get it right.
Q: If I could just go back to landmines for just one second, with the risk of flogging a dead horse here. If landmines are considered useful in the Korean theater, why are they, or could they not be considered useful elsewhere?
A: Well, I think you have a situation in Korea that is considerably different from a lot of the other potential hot spots in the world. You have essentially a very large force -- the majority of which is perched on that border and which could move on very short notice and be in a major population center.
And I think that that is a unique situation which, in the minds of military experts, calls for the use of these mine fields that are so much a part of the doctrine there. We believe, in that particular scenario, that those mines would essentially give us a capability to forestall an invasion and would give us a better chance of protecting the Republic of Korea. We feel that it is an important element there because of the large numbers of troops and the way those troops are presently deployed.
Q: Did the Chairman recommend to the Secretary that the unique anti-personnel landmines separate from those anti-tank ones, that those be retained through an exemption going into the Geneva process for Ottawa?
A: Say that one more time.
Q: Did the Chiefs recommend to the Secretary that so-called pure anti-personnel landmines be exempt?
A: Be exempt? For what period of time? At this point, no treaty has been signed.
Q: Members of the U.S. negotiating position that was announced yesterday... outlining those systems that are exempt: Korea, for example, and the anti-tank systems. Did the Chiefs also recommend that a third exemption be undertaken, and that being the so-called stand-alone anti-personnel landmine?
A: No. The Chiefs are on board with the approach which is being pursued by the negotiators at this point.
Q: What is their initial recommendation?
A: Well, I may not have made myself clear. There has been a review which has been going on for some number of months, and the end result of that review has been that the chiefs decided that this was one component which was not absolutely essential to the force protection measures that they felt needed to be part of any treaty that we would sign up to.
Press: Thank you.