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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, June 2, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
June 02, 1998 1:45 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I'd like to welcome a visitor from Azerbaijan here with the USIA program. Welcome.

Tomorrow, Secretary Cohen will meet his British counterpart George Robertson and have a full honors ceremony at 9 a.m. There will be a press availability, I believe, at 11 a.m. tomorrow with Minister Robertson and Secretary Cohen.

On Friday, Secretary Cohen and Deputy Secretary Hamre will go to Fort Belvoir to open the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office which is a follow-up to the Defense Reform Initiative. It's to be a central clearinghouse for figuring out ways to dispose of paperwork and bureaucracy and try to find faster ways to handle contracting, purchasing, etc. This is an office that will look at a whole variety of potential changes that we can make over the next couple of years.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Ken, there have been a number of reports from Pakistan that the Paks have tested new missiles. Has the United States anything on that? Have the Paks in recent days or weeks tested any new nuclear capable missiles? And to our knowledge, what's their longest range missile?

A: We have no evidence that they have tested new missiles. The last missile they tested, I believe, was in April -- I think April 6th. It was the Ghauri missile. It has a range of about 1300 kilometers.

We have seen some reports based on Pakistani press reports about missiles named the Shaheen-1 and the Shaheen-2, but we do not have any evidence that those missiles exist. It may be just a different name for existing missiles, or perhaps a garbled report.

Having said all that, the important thing is that both Pakistan and India are developing new missiles. They are testing these missiles. They have both talked of weaponizing these missiles by trying to put nuclear warheads on the missiles. We think this would be a mistake. We think that it would lead to an increase in tensions at a time when we hope that India and Pakistan will find ways to reduce tensions between them.

Q: This 1,300 kilometer missile, is that a new missile or just...

A: No. They tested it back in April. They've been working on it for some time. We described it extensively in the report, Proliferation Threat and Response, which we issued last November. If you've lost your copy we'd be glad to get you a new copy.

They also have been working on a shorter range missile called the Tarmuk. I believe that has a range of 500-600 kilometers, but I'd have to double check that. That's also discussed in the Proliferation Threat and Response report.

And of course the Indians also are working on a medium range missile called the Agni which has a range of about 2,000 kilometers.

Q: Do you know if the Pakistanis have been able to miniaturize the weapon enough to put it on a missile? Have they made that progression?

A: I don't have a clear answer to that. Our best guess is that it would probably take them a year or two to weaponize their nuclear weapons by putting them onto warheads. Of course that can depend a lot on how much they decide to test, what the state of their current program is now, how much security they want about whether it works. So there are many, many variables, but we think it would take some time for them to actually put a nuclear warhead onto a missile.

Q: How about India?

A: Probably in about the same time range, but there again there are a lot of variables and it's hard to be nailed down on this.

One of the things we're appealing to both countries to do is not to weaponize their nuclear warheads. We'd like them to stop testing; we'd like them to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; we'd like them to sign the Fissile Materials Agreement; and we'd like them not to weaponize the warheads that they have.

Q: Is there any evidence that Israel is helping the Indians in their nuclear weapons program?

A: I do not have any indications that they are, no.

Q: In your report last November, it mentions India's space launching program. It says, I'm paraphrasing, but theoretically, those vehicles could be converted eventually, in theory, to intermediate range missiles or to intercontinental missiles. The report says that at that time there was no evidence that India was doing that. Is that still true?

A: I believe it's still the case, yes.

Q: Can you give us some sense of what the talks with the Bahrain representative will be about?

A: They've occurred, or I guess they're going on now. Shaikh Essa is here.

First of all, we have a very close relationship with Bahrain. The U.S. Navy has operated out of Bahrain for 50 years. This is the 50th anniversary. Admiral Crowe once said that pound for pound, Bahrain is as good an ally as we have. They've been extremely supportive of our deployments in the Gulf, recently and in the past as well, and we anticipate they'll be very supportive in the future. So we'll talk about the range of our relationship, we'll talk about what's going on now with Iraq, and that has to do with some of the talks that Mr. Butler will have with the U.N. Security Council tomorrow.

We will talk about what we see our deployment needs in the future to be, both the drawdown that's going on now, the reduction in the size of our force to a still robust but smaller force, and what we might have to do to build up the force in the future if the circumstances change, because part of this plan is a rapid reinforcement capability.

Those are among the things we'll talk about. Obviously of great interest to Shaikh Essa is Iran, and I suspect there will be some conversation about Iran as well as Iraq.

Q: Has the AEF left...

A: It's begun to leave. I think a B-1 has left already and some support personnel and planes have left from Bahrain. I believe the whole AEF will be out relatively soon, but it's begun to rotate out.

Q: Number of aircraft?

A: I think we're down from 290 aircraft in the theater to 275 in late... 290 in late May, May 28th, to 275 today. Some B-52s have left, a B-1 has left, and some support aircraft have left. Eight B-52s, one B-1, one KC-10, a couple of HC-130s, and an E-3.

Q: Those are the ones that have left?

A: These have left, yeah. These have left in the last week.

Q: How many 130s?

A: Three HC-130s.

Q: Was there another type of aircraft after that?

A: Yes. Eight B-52s, one B-1, one KC-10, one E-3, and three HC-130s have left since May 28th, so we've begun to bring the planes out.

Q: And the F-117s, when do you expect...

A: I don't know the exact date of their departure. Basically what I'll do is tell you when the planes leave. I don't think I'll get into the forecasting business of the exact day they're scheduled to leave because these forecasts often bounce around...

Q: There is still one B-1... There were two...

A: I believe there is still one B-1 there, yeah.

Q: Bahrain has supported naval operations for many years, as you said. Is there going to be some permanent facilities for a vast ramp-up of air operations like this air expeditionary force that's just leaving now, for the future?

A: Without getting into precise details, a crucial part of the plan that President Clinton signed off on was a rapid reinforcement capability, and that means that some designated forces in the United States or elsewhere including B-1s, B-52s, and strike aircraft, are basically going to be at the ready to deploy very quickly if they have to within a set number of hours or days. This will all be laid out in carefully crafted plans. So our rapid redeployment capability will be real and tangible in that we've identified the forces, we've trained the forces, and they will be, as I say, at the ready to go within a designated amount of time.

Q: Will they have a place to land?

A: They will have a place to land, and I'm not going to get into where they're going to land, but you can be sure that they'll have places to deploy to.

Q: COSCO, the Chinese Ocean Shipping Company, has come back in the news again because the House is seeking to remove the President's ability to waive the ban on transfer of the Long Beach Naval Station to COSCO, to lease it on the grounds that there is no national security threat. The Senate's going to take that up sometime this week, I guess.

Last year the Secretary and you from this podium, I think, declared that COSCO was not a threat to national security. Does that position still hold?

A: We have, in compliance with last year's legislation, done another analysis, and that analysis is not complete. It's in the final stages of being completed. So I can't talk about what that says, but you're absolutely right. Last year Secretary Cohen in a letter to Senator Boxer and also to Senator Feinstein did say that COSCO had been operating in U.S. ports for a number of years, since 1980. It operates in six U.S. ports around the country including Baltimore, Long Beach, and I think Seattle is another port into which it operates. It made 130 port calls to the West Coast last year -- COSCO ships did. He said at the time a review of Department of Defense records reveals no significant national security concerns resulting from this commerce.

As I say, the Navy is in the final stages of completing another report and when that report's done, I presume it will be available.

Q: Do you know whether that will be finished before the Senate completes action on the authorization?

A: I don't know exactly. I would hope that it will be done in time, but I don't know that.

Q: Why was another review conducted or requested?

A: It was requested, required by Congress. You can ask them...

Q: When was the request made?

A: It was included in Section 2826 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998. One of the provisions of that section was that the Navy do another review of the national security concerns.

Q: Do you have any reaction to the report that South Korean President Kim Daejung has called on the United States and other countries to end sanctions against North Korea in order to, I guess, promote more of a dialogue?

A: We're looking forward to discussing that with him when he comes here on his state visit. He has, of course, taken the lead in suggesting ways to reduce tensions between the North and the South, and we strongly support his efforts to do that. As to this specific suggestion, I think we need more discussion with him and we look forward to having those discussions.

Q: Is this something you'd have to consider in terms of how it might affect the security of South Korea in terms of the United States commitment to help defend South Korea?

A: I think this is at a very early stage. What we've read is his comments in a newspaper article, and it's important that we have a chance to sit down with him and talk about what he has in mind and what sort of schedule he has in mind and whether this is workable or not.

As I say, we look forward to having those discussions. We haven't had them yet. I think it's premature to talk about this in any detail until we've had an opportunity to talk with President Kim.

Q: Would his views likely weigh heavily on any decision on this?

A: You're leaping way ahead. We are looking for a series of ways to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. President Clinton started the four party talks a couple of years ago and they have gotten off the ground, but barely. They've started, and they really haven't gone anywhere. There have been a number of increased dealings with North Korea, but North Korea remains a very militaristic, difficult regime to deal with and I think we just have to wait and see what happens. But the first thing we have to do is sit down with President Kim and get clarification from him, have him explain what he meant. That will happen when he comes here and meets with President Clinton and others.

Q: Is the Pentagon providing lawyers to folks like Doc Cooke who are testifying before the Grand Jury in Alexandria?

A: First of all, lawyers aren't allowed into Grand Jury proceedings, but yes, Doc Cooke was represented by the Pentagon there.

Q: And other folks who are also testifying before the Grand Jury?

A: I believe that anybody who is in that position has the benefit of Pentagon legal support, yes.

Q: Given the defeat of Secretary Cohen's effort to close further military bases, Mr. Gansler is suggesting that it may be time now to cut some major acquisition programs. Has he come out with a list or is he just mulling that over in public trying to threaten people...

A: Mr. Gansler didn't think that he was accurately quoted in that article. [Correction: Mr. Gansler was quoted accurately.] Obviously, to the extent that Congress does not allow us to make the savings we need to pay for readiness and to pay for modernization, we're going to have to look at what our options are. Theoretically, one of the options is to slow down procurement. We haven't reached that decision yet. That's the type of question that will be looked at in the current budget cycle and the next budget cycle. I don't believe that Secretary Cohen has given up totally on new rounds of BRAC. It's a compelling idea. It's the best way to save money.

It's foolish to pay for infrastructure we don't need, and we are hopeful that we will be able to convince Congress in the future that BRAC is the way to go. Ultimately Congress is going to have to face exactly the same choice that we will have to face in this building. That choice is, given a set amount of money you have a choice between making savings on the one hand to pay for programs that are necessary for the modernization of our military; or not making those savings. If you don't make the savings and if you don't get more money, something has to give. The question is what? We haven't made that decision yet, but clearly those questions will have to be looked at.

Q: Would you consider cutting further civilian employment? Cutting Department, Pentagon, OSD civilian employment at a faster rate than you're doing now?

A: That's the type of thing that we might look at, yes. I think that absent the types of savings that Secretary Cohen built into the Quadrennial Defense Review, we're going to have to either look for new savings that are more palatable, or we're going to have to look for ways to slow spending. I think when you face those choices, you come back again to the compelling argument for BRAC. It doesn't make sense to pay for infrastructure we don't need.

Q: Do you have a comment to the Xing out of the Bosnia funds in the...

A: I think this remains in play. It's an act of one committee, as I understand it. The congressional process hasn't finished. I read in a wire service report that members of that committee expressed the belief that ultimately the Bosnia funds will be made available in one way or another. So stay tuned, we'll continue to work through this congressional process.

I think everybody understands that if we don't get extra money to pay for the deployment in Bosnia, it's going to have to come out of readiness or something else. We're trying to avoid having readiness take a hit. I think Congress shares that view, and I think Congress wants to work through this, and I'm hopeful that they will.

Q: There's a suggestion also made that actually some of the senators would like to see the overall spending levels increased.

A: I saw that.

Q: Is there any position on that in the Pentagon?

A: We're operating within the parameters of a budget agreement right now. Obviously if Congress wants to increase defense spending, we have a lot of very good ways we could spend it. But there is a budget agreement and we are doing our best to do our part to adhere to that agreement.

Q: Does Secretary Cohen support a lifting of that cap?

A: I think that's a sentence that begins with a conditional, and right now we're working in the budget process and we'll have to see how it goes.

Q: The Central News Agency of Taiwan yesterday quoted the Department of Defense, that they were going to sell $160 million worth of specialized targeting and navigational equipment to Taiwan. Could you either confirm the sale or the coming congressional approval of that sale, and what that might do if it goes through? What that might do with the talks to China later this month?

A: First of all, I believe we announced today that we have notified Congress... Yesterday we announced that we notified Congress of this planned sale. We don't believe it will change the military balance at all in the area.

As you know, we do sell limited defensive equipment to Taiwan, and this fits in that program.

Q: Back to North Korea for a second. What is your assessment of North Korea's contribution to Pakistan's military, particularly their missile program?

A: I think that Pakistan basically has an indigenous program with its nuclear program. They have looked to other countries for help on their missile program. I don't have a clear view right now of what the North Korean contribution is, if any.

Q: Some people say the Ghauri is essentially the No Dong of Pakistan.

A: I have seen that, and I'm just not clear right now how robust the North Korean contribution has been, or if there has been a North Korean contribution. It's something we may be able to find out.

Q: Is the Ghauri the No Dong, though? More specifically?

A: That is an interesting question. I'll give the same answer I just gave.

Q: There were some reports about preemptive strike against nuclear sites in Pakistan by either Israel or India. Would you comment on such events if it does occur?

A: First of all, those reports from last week we think were just wrong. We have no indication that any such strike was being planned or was likely to happen.

Q: You may think they're wrong, but there are a lot of people who think that Pakistan certainly believed that they were real things. There may have been no basis for that, but that's the whole thing that makes things dangerous.

A: Yes.

Q: Did you observe Pakistan reacting as if they were real threats that they were facing?

A: The Pakistani officials made public statements to the news media here including some people in this room, or people who are usually in this room. So I don't think they made any secret of what their fears were.

We had no intelligence to back up their charge that India was preparing to do this.

Q: Did we share that insight with Pakistan?

A: We did share that with them and we announced that at the time, that we had actually shared this information with Pakistan.

Q: Did we warn Israel or India about such action, not to take such action?

A: We didn't believe that such action was imminent. We didn't see any signs that such action was imminent. We so told Pakistan that. This is something that happened last week, I want to point out. It was well reported at the time.

Q: In the last week or so can you tell us if there have been any changes in the disposition of conventional forces, either in Pakistan or India and along the disputed border in Kashmir?

A: There hasn't been anything particularly significant in the last week or so. Skirmishing is pretty much a fact of life in Jammu and Kashmir, and that continues. We did see some heightening of air defense alert last week...

Q: Both countries or just Pakistan?

A: Both countries, around certain installations.

I want to stress that this is an extremely dangerous and potentially volatile situation. I'm not trying to minimize it. It remains extremely dangerous and volatile, and we're very concerned about the possibility of miscalculation. That's one of the reasons that we've been so explicit to both countries in stressing the need for looking for ways to reduce the tensions.

Q: Are the conventional forces on a hair trigger stance? Or would it take weeks before you have a generalized call-up and mobilization?

A: I wouldn't call it a hair trigger stance. Most of what we saw was defensive on both sides.

Q: I guess we would be remiss if we didn't ask you whether you had been subpoenaed to appear before the Alexandria Grand Jury?

A: You wouldn't be remiss if you didn't ask me that. [Laughter]

Any more questions? [Laughter]

Q: Have you?

Press: Thank you.