United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks Enroute to Lithuania

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 22, 2005
Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks Enroute to Lithuania

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I guess some of you folks are going to be leaving us.  I'd be happy to respond to some questions.  I think about the only thing I'd open with would be that I don't think anyone can go to Asia and not come away with a sense of the energy and the activity and the vitality and the opportunities that are being created, each in a somewhat different way. 


            The People's Republic of China, still on a path that is expanding economic interaction with the rest of the world in a very aggressive and successful way which I personally think is a good thing, something that will connect them more with other countries, countries with free political systems and free economic systems. 


            The Republic of Korea, you can't fly over that in a helicopter or drive around those streets and not just be amazed at the economic success they've had.  And of course the contrast with their friends in the North is just so dramatic.  In the 30 years I've been going there, the change is just dramatic.


            We're in an interesting place in that relationship.  Here's a country with twice the population of the North.  I don't know, what GDP per capita is probably 25 or 30 times the North's.  They have every year increased their capabilities militarily.  They're now in the process of taking some steps, transforming their military in ways that we believe are going to much better enable them to take over more and more of the responsibility and their own security which is a proper thing after 60 years and the success they've had.


            Mongolia, I don't know how much of a sense of it you got, but their leadership is impressive.  They have clearly made a commitment towards free political and free economic systems.  They're an interesting country in the sense that they're landlocked between two very large neighbors and they've charted a path that is an interesting one and one that I certainly hope they're successful with.  They have been very helpful to us in the Global War on Terror -- helpful in Afghanistan, helpful in Iraq.  I believe that they're establishing a model that other Central Asian countries can observe and conceivably learn from.


            In one of the meetings, one of the most senior officials made the comment that some countries offer automobiles, some countries offer oil, some countries offer fine wines or something else, but America offers freedom, and by example.  They're interested in being connected to us in political ways and economic ways as well as military to military relationships.


            The next stop of course is going to be basically about Ukraine.  Ukraine is, needless to say, a large, important country that has once again decided that it wants to be with those nations that have free economic systems and free political systems, and is oriented towards the West, towards NATO, and has been a very active participant in the NATO Partnership for Peace program.  We'll be meeting with them there.  They just made some changes in their government but the Minister of Defense is continuing.


            I'd be happy to respond to a couple of questions.


            PRESS:  -- China.  You talk about how as they grow economically they're becoming more in touch and reaching out, a player on the world stage, reaching out and dealing with other countries.  In your comments in China it seemed to me that you were trying to help them understand what that meant in terms of their military spending.


            Can you give us some sense of where you think they are in that progression of becoming a player on the world stage, being a responsible citizen of the world, dealing with other countries.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I guess I would characterize my thinking as slightly different from that.  The reason I think it's a good thing that they're engaging the world from an economic standpoint and have made what appears to be a very conscious, purposeful decision to expand their economy is that it puts them in touch with other nations of the world.  Their interest is in dealing with countries that are successful, and the countries that are successful are the ones that have free political systems and free economic systems. 


            Because of being in touch with them, and for the PRC to continue to be successful I believe they're going to have to emulate those systems in various ways, either consciously or unconsciously.  You cannot be successful in what they're trying to do with respect to the growth of their economy without extensive interaction.  That means there are going to be people from around the world from different countries in China.  It means there are going to be people from China in other countries around the world, and they're going to simply have to -- I shouldn't say for sure.  Nothing is for sure in life.  But I would suspect that they will find themselves having more computers, having more access to information and that inevitably will cause their political system to have to cope with that information, that knowledge, those experiences, those relationships in the world, and I think that's a good thing.


            I suspect that to the extent it causes tension between their political system, which obviously they wouldn't have it if they didn't want to preserve it, so we know they want to preserve that political system.  But they also want to have the economic opportunities that will be created by the growth, and I think that creates somewhat of a tension.  I implicitly, maybe I'm basically an optimistic person over the long term.  If I had to put some money down I would guess that the winner will be the desire for growth and that over a period of time we'll find, unless there's some discontinuity of some kind I think over a period of time we'll find that it will affect their country and the people in their country in a favorable way.


            PRESS:  Given the changes that you've seen between your original visits and this time, in the long term does it worry you that they can do that much to build up Beijing, and doesn't it worry you what they can do to their military and what impact that could have in some future conflict?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well clearly you have to be attentive to that.


            I've always benefitted by trying to put myself in other people's shoes.  If I put myself in their shoes, on the one hand you see kind of a smooth road out ahead, that everything seems to be going pretty well for them.  They're managing their relationships with their neighbors in a rather sophisticated way.  They are hosting the Olympics.  They have been successful in establishing economic relationships around the world.


            If you look at the other side of the coin, they've got some situations that they have to deal with.  Their government structures still are what they are.  Their economic structures, they have a lot of large governments plagued by governmental entities that are not terribly efficient, but they're in the process of trying to modernize and make more efficient.  That means you reduce people.  So they have a large un and under-employed elements of the population.  They have a considerable disparity between the cities and the rural areas.  They are a very large country with a variety of dialects that has a history of not being quite as cohesive as some other nations.  They've got some, I don't know what the word is, they've managed their population in a way that there are some -- It is not a smooth curve from one year olds to the senior population.  There are some things that they've made decisions about that resulted in some lumps and some smaller [inaudible], which as you go through the period ahead they undoubtedly have other -- they've got health issues.  They've got 1.3 billion -- think of it.  We don't even have 300 million.  That is an enormous task to manage.  Who knows where it will be.


            So they've got a lot of things on the plus side and a lot of things that are going for them, and they've got some things they're going to have to wrestle with like other countries do.


            PRESS:  [Inaudible]?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Who knows?  We'll see.  Think of what they lose.  Think of all they lose if they behave in a way that frightens their neighbors, that frightens the rest of the world.


            PRESS:  -- suggested that freedom, open democracy [inaudible] economic growth.  Most of the nations of East Asia from Taiwan to Korea, Singapore, their greatest fear, their [inaudible] autocratic regimes.  Do you think that China should move away from that and move more toward the U.S. model?  Do you think China --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don't think any one model fits every country, nor do I think any one model fits even one country at every point in its evolution, as it evolves.


            You're quite right.  There are countries in that part of the world that have been enormously successful economically with a system that's distinctively different from ours.  On the other hand, over time we've seen what's happened.  Their political systems have evolved.


            PRESS:  -- more patience with China, to let them [inaudible]?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don't think it's for us to tell them what model fits for them at any one point in their thousands of year history.  No.  I mean all we can do is to encourage the kinds of impulses and directions that we believe are constructive for the world and for the region and try to reward those.  To the extent there are impulses on the other side, try to not reward them.


            PRESS:  Can I ask about North Korea?  The Joint Statement in South Korea talked about the need for a verification regime.  Realistically do you think that North Korea will agree to a verification regime [inaudible] program?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Ask me that tonight.  [Laughter].


            PRESS:  You won't be on the record tonight.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I know, that's my point.


            PRESS:  [Inaudible]?  Your unclassified take on North Korea and [inaudible].


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Does he still have plugs in his ears?  [Laughter].


            PRESS:  Can you give some context -- There's a lot the Pentagon's doing in Asia with IMET training in Mongolia, lots of new military to military relations with India, Vietnam you've just established IMET training, I think you're restarting IMET with Indonesia.  Just looking at Asia in a broad context, can you give me from a strategic point what's going on or how you see --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  For five years we've felt that Asia is enormously important and because of 9/11 and various other things the press focus has been elsewhere.  But we've been attentive to Asia throughout this period.  I met with the Indians, for example I believe, after I'd been in office one month at the Vercunda Conference in February of 2001.   We've continued to recognize the importance of that part of the world and the growing importance of that part of the world, the size of that population in that portion of the world, and the fact that it merits attention, it merits our relationships, and that to the extent those relationships can be constructive from their standpoint, that's good, and I think that progress is being made in terms of what's taking place in that part of the world.


            What else?


            PRESS:  Why didn’t you take Montana out for a test drive [referring to the horse presented to the Secretary by the Mongolian Government]?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I would have.  No bridle.  I didn't even need a saddle.  [Laughter].


            PRESS:  I was surprised that General LaPorte basically in his interview was asked, it sounded like he thought economically engaging North Korea is working.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I tend to support the President's policies.  I think that if you talk to the people in Asia, they believe that the North Korean government is trying in some ways to open its economy, to seeing some of the benefits and advantages that will accrue from a more open economy.  That is what you will hear from some of the leadership in Asia.  I'm not knowledgeable enough to know the extent to which they're really doing that and the extent to which if they are doing it it is or is not successful. Sometimes, of course, when you do something like that, the early period is more difficult.  You're shifting from one thing to another.  It's not easy.  And so I just am not knowledgeable enough.  It's a closed society.  It's hard with only modest, at best modest stability there.


            PRESS:  Mr. Secretary, after your first successful week with your Asia trip, I'm sure you're made aware, you saw the tapes of the burning of the bodies in Afghanistan.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  [Inaudible].


            PRESS:  Well, I'm sure you've heard reports of them.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Larry has told me about the reports, yeah.


            PRESS:  Particularly coming after what looks like a successful election in Iraq and progress in Afghanistan, how troubling were those reports to you and --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, needless to say in my position I am told by the lawyers that I have to be careful of what's called command influence, opining on something that ends up in the military code of justice process.  But any allegations of wrongdoing are things that concern me deeply and concern the Department of Defense.  My understanding is from Larry that the leadership there, I don't know if it was General Eikenberry or whoever, made an announcement that they are going to energetically pursue an investigation and determine what the facts are.  That's exactly what they should do.


            Clearly, any time the facts indicate that something happened that should not have happened, then the legal process proceeds as it should.


            Setting that aside since the facts are not known yet, the reality is that charges of that type are harmful.  They don't represent the overwhelmingly positive behavior of the men and women in uniform who do such a wonderful job and it's always disappointing when there are charges like that.  It's particularly disappointing when they're true, and that needs to be determined.  But one hates to see the adverse effects of it if it is true.  You also recognize the damage that can be done by the allegations alone if they're not true or if there's some explanation of some sort.  But that's the world we live in.


            My hope is that the people, the commands that are responsible for their troops will find ways to accelerate the process that they have to go through, to provide for the rights of the people who may or may not be accused of something, but to accelerate it, because the world we're living in, you have to live with months and months of damage because of an unverified allegation.  As yet invalidated allegation.  You suffer a great deal of damage.


            You saw the damage that was done with bias when the allegations on the Koran were made.


            So we've got to find a way to have the military justice system operate at a pace that reflects the world of the 21st Century with 24 hour news and a desire to report things that are dramatic and making news.  To repeat them over and over again until for some reason they're disproved or they are concluded, and the longer that period is the more harmful it is for our country.  That's not helpful.


            PRESS:  Have you done anything to try to get the services to speed it up, or DoD to speed this --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  DoD doesn't do it really.  As you know, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is what it is and we not only do not do it, we actively do not do it.  And the process is in law, it operates, and the short answer is yes.  I've talked to people and explained what the effect is and that there has to be a way for them to, not to abbreviate the process but to put a sense of urgency on it that it merits given the damage that's done during periods of uncertainty.


            PRESS:  In your Town Hall in Seoul you made a very interesting point to the soldier who asked about the media and the Global War on Terror.  You said if America does have [at least] a plan, it's not working very well.  Your own Defense Science Board said there should be an interagency approach to that.  But will DoD be coming up with some kind of strategic communications policy either out of the QDR or out of your office?  It matters not really one guiding principle, but clearly the military abroad, it's very important in [inaudible].


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  This responsibility has been assigned to the Department of State on that subject.  And I would go so far as to say that were the Department of Defense to come up with a strategy, it would be undoubtedly roundly criticized in the media, day after day after day until congressional hearings were held and it was by law prohibited, even though it had not started yet.


            PRESS:  If I could swim through that irony I would say that you're also being criticized for not having a policy.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  You probably are right.  You could probably go in any given month and find criticism for having a poor policy, having a policy that's good but is being badly implemented, and for not having one at all, and probably the same reporters within the same month.


            PRESS:  [Inaudible] any kind of communication policy.  My question was in the QDR there is a team looking at that exact question.


            Larry DiRita:  There is.  As a component of how the department's organized --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Oh, the organization.  Absolutely we're looking at.


            Larry DiRita:  And how we also interact with the other agencies within government for the purposes of communicating.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Yeah, we're looking at that.  I thought you were thinking that we were going to fashion and announce a strategic communications plan for the Department of Defense, and that I doubt.


            PRESS:  How you're organized will have some impact on what is done.


            PRESS:  Can you give us some of your thoughts on how DoD might be better organized for this issue?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  No.  I think the first thing we ought to do is to charge you folks parking fees.


            PRESS:  Parking fees?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  [Laughter].


            PRESS:  [Inaudible].


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Everyone else in town pays for their own parking!  [Laughter].  I'm just kidding.  That wasn't on the cameras.


            All right.

Additional Links

Stay Connected