DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
Thursday, July 20, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. EDT
Bacon: Good afternoon. Let me welcome -- is Bill Gertz here? Do you have your interns? Eight interns brought by Bill Gertz from -- working at -- are they all working at the Washington Times this summer?
Bacon: Well, welcome to our briefing.
In addition, we have 10 first and second-year law students here spending the summer with the general counsel, working in the Pentagon. So welcome to you. As you can always tell, it's summer when big groups show up.
Tomorrow, as most of you know, Admiral Jay Johnson will retire as the chief of Naval Operations at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. And he will be succeeded by Admiral Vern Clark as chief of Naval Operations. We have details on that ceremony, biographies of Admiral Johnson and Admiral Clark, if you'd like them. And this is the end of the distinguished career by Admiral Johnson, but I'm sure that he'll be doing something interesting and productive after this.
And finally, I'd like to welcome Mr. Seiki Nemoto, who's an editorial writer from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. He's here visiting under the auspices of the State Department's International Visitors Program.
With that I'll take your questions. Charlie.
Q: Ken, one housekeeping question first. The SecDef's going to speak, tomorrow, isn't he, at that change of ceremony?
Bacon: He is. He is.
Q: Are you going to pipe it back here, Ken?
Bacon: I think we're working on that. I think that he's speaking along with Senator McCain, Admiral Johnson and Admiral Clark, who will all be speaking.
Q: And number two, has the SecDef and Secretary Albright and Berger been briefed yet on the new NIE by the CIA? They were supposed to be briefed this week, I understand.
Bacon: Well, I think you should ask the CIA about their briefing schedule on that.
Q: So you can't --
Bacon: I'm not going to shed any light on it.
Q: Well, you can't tell us anything about the NIE then, as -- if --
Bacon: Well, I'm certainly not going to tell you anything about the NIE. That's --
Q: Do you think it -- will an unclassified version of that be coming out?
Bacon: The CIA does plan to release an unclassified version, perhaps next week.
Q: But the NIE will figure heavily, will it not, in the president's decision on whether or not to go ahead with NMD?
Bacon: Well, that's up for the president to decide, what weight to give to the NIE.
Q: What kind of problems in -- I understand one of the main parts of the NIE will be whether or not North Korea, you still feel that North Korea would be able to send a long-range missile to the United States by 2005. Has this Putin announcement that the North Koreans are ready to give up their missile program, has that created problems, created questions about this whole thing?
Bacon: Well, first of all, if North Korea takes steps to stop work on developing or building long-range missiles, that does not create problems for us, that is good. Our goal is to get North Korea to stop work on building intercontinental ballistic range missiles and to stop exporting this technology to other countries.
I don't know exactly what the Putin-Kim Jong Il agreement involves. President Putin and Kim Jong Il made statements in Korea. They talked in terms of satellite launch. They didn't talk in terms of stopping work on ICBM missile programs. I think we need to seek more details about what they meant.
In principle, we agree with the strategy of using existing space powers to launch satellites for other countries that want satellite so that they do not have to go through the cost and the time of developing their own space-launch capability. We do think that the development of space-launch capability is frequently a way to move toward ICBM capability, and so we are in favor of helping countries get into space without developing that capability. We would be willing to explore further with North Korea ways to help them meet their space needs, short of having them develop their own missile program.
Q: Can we take it that the United States would oppose any country, such as Russia, providing missiles or providing rockets on which to launch those satellites to North Korea, as opposed to launching them from Russia, because of reverse technology --
Bacon: Well, we think that providing technology to North Korea would be a type of technology transfer that would lead to -- possibly lead to proliferation. So in principle, we'd be opposed to that.
But I want to be clear, we don't know the details of the discussions between President Putin and Chairman Kim and, therefore, we're seeking clarification from the Russians and from others on this. We don't know whether we'll get that clarification or not.
Q: Are you concerned that a space-launch program could be used as a cover for building ballistic missiles?
Bacon: That is our concern, yes. But one way to read the comments made by President Putin and Chairman Kim is that other countries would launch satellites for North Korea. As I say, there are details that need to be explained, and we don't have a full picture of what they discussed. We hope we can get those details in the future.
Q: Given North Korea's economic -- domestic economic situation, you said you'd be willing to help -- to explore with them a space-launch program. But given their economic situation, what kind of space-launch program are you willing to talk to them about that you think that they --
Bacon: I think these are all good questions, but they're premature at this stage because we don't know what they have in mind or what the Russians have in mind.
Clearly, we would be willing, and have been willing, to explore with North Korea ways to dissuade them from developing intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. And we will continue those efforts. But in terms of exactly what the Russians and the North Koreans agreed to, I can't shed any light on that. That's really up to them to say more at this stage.
Q: Just to sort of get your latest assessment, what is your assessment on how much the North Koreans are simply exporting their missile technology offshore and putting it somewhere else? While they say, you know, they're not going to have a missile program in their country, they have a long history of supporting missile programs in other places. Do you see more of that going on these days? Do you --
Bacon: Well, the North Koreans have always used the sale of military technology and/or weapons as a way to earn foreign currency. They don't have many ways of earning foreign currency, and weapon sales or military technology has been one of those ways. So I think it's hard to separate their own development program, their own weapons development programs, on the one hand, from their foreign currency or cash-raising programs, on the other hand. They've been intimately related.
What the future will bring, if the North Korean economy opens up and if new investment comes in from South Korea or Japan or other countries, remains to be seen. Our hope clearly is that by engaging North Korea, it will become less isolated, more engaged in the world economy, and share more in the benefits of prosperity that have been so evident in Asia in almost everywhere but North Korea. So the hopeful sign is that maybe the North Koreans have realized that there are ways for them to share in the regional prosperity that they've been missing out on.
Q: Any readout on the talks, high-level talks here at the Pentagon between the Greek Under Secretary Akis Apostolakos and the U.S. Assistant Secretary Franklin Kramer?
Bacon: I don't have a readout. The talks began today, and I think there are two days of talks scheduled. So I do not have a readout. But I'm sure that you can -- you can talk to Mr. Apostolakos later in the day or tomorrow and get your own readout of the talks.
Q: I also would like to hear something from your side, too.
Bacon: Right. As I said --
Q: (Inaudible) --
Bacon: -- it's premature because the talks are ongoing.
Q: On a different topic, back to South Korea, U.S. forces in Korea today apparently issued a warning or recommendation to U.S. troops to restrict their movements in Korea and that they were going to step up security patrols and that sort of thing. Could you bring us up to date on this announcement and why it has been issued and what has led to this?
Bacon: Well, as you know, an American major was murdered in the shopping district of Itaewon recently and there have been other -- there have been demonstrations against Americans and there was an attack against two spouses of American servicemen, also in a shopping area.
So in response to this, the commanders of U.S. forces in Korea have reiterated their long-standing security policies, and one of those is that soldiers and other personnel are supposed to maintain a buddy system; in other words, not travel around alone but travel in groups or, at least, in pairs. They've urged them to be more aware of the situation around them, not to get into big crowds or angry crowds. They've urged them to report any suspicious activity to MPs immediately. They have also given them cards to carry around that contain reporting information so they can get through to MPs or law enforcement agencies very quickly. And we have also enhanced patrols in various areas in Korea, areas where Americans tend to go -- security patrols to help the local authorities look out for Americans.
There have been periods from time to time when there have been some demonstrations against the American presence. The American presence continues to be strongly supported by the South Korean government but, as you know, South Korea is a democracy and there are opposing views expressed occasionally, and we seem to be in one of those periods now.
I can't say that there is a link between the murder of the American doctor, the Army major, on the one hand and the demonstrations on the other hand. I think it's premature to say that. But I'd say murder is not a rational, democratically allowed activity, and demonstrations are.
Q: But when you combine this also with events in Okinawa, do you see any trend of anti-U.S. military sentiment in the Pacific?
Bacon: In the Pacific? I don't think I see anything particularly new in the Pacific. I think that we have a situation where the governments of South Korea and the government of Japan and the vast majority of the people support our security presence there. We have nearly a hundred thousand American troops forward deployed in Asia, and they provide a foundation for prosperity and peace and stability in the area. And I think people realize that. I think that the presence of American troops has been a very stabilizing force and has made it possible for other countries to enjoy a level of prosperity that they wouldn't -- and investment in non-military economic growth that would have been impossible without the American presence.
There have always been pockets of resistance. And I think that that's what we're seeing in these two countries. It -- the pockets, the resisters are episodically more energetic sometimes than they are at other times. And I think because of the summit in Okinawa and because of some recent political developments in South Korea we're seeing perhaps a little spike in some of the resistance groups. But as I say, the governments remain steadfast in their support of the American presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Q: On the anthrax vaccine, I understand that troops coming back to the United States will no longer have to take the vaccine, coming back from Southwest Asia and Korea. Should those troops return to those areas, would they just pick up where they left off with the protocol, or will they have to start it all over again? Has that been determined?
Bacon: That's a very good question, and I don't have a complete answer. It depends on how much time, I believe the answer will be. And this is being studied by our own doctors now and by the FDA. I believe the answer will be time-dependent. That is to say, if there's a relatively small gap of interruption in the protocol that they can start where they finished -- in other words, if they finished at the third shot and there hasn't been a very -- a long hiatus, they can begin with the fourth shot.
But exactly what those times -- the allowable hiatus will be, the allowable gaps will be, I think that's still being worked out. Admiral Quigley may know more about that because he's followed it more closely.
Quigley: That's exactly true. But I'd add one more thing, and that's how long are the people that are going back to the high-threat areas going to remain on the ground?
Q: It has to be over 30 days, right?
Bacon: So our goal is to get everybody vaccinated with their regular annual boosters as soon as possible, but we'll have to wait until the production facility gets up and running before we can do that.
Q: Have you essentially determined how that will work for those going back?
Bacon: Well, I suppose that the -- I know that we're in the process of having discussions with the Food and Drug Administration now on exactly what the best protocol will be, and we'd like to get that resolved as soon as possible. So I would guess that we'll get it resolved sometime this summer. I mean, obviously, it's something we need to resolve.
Q: With the current concerns of troop safety in the Pacific, the GAO yesterday released a report that said that the DoD is not fully funding a lot of anti-terrorism projects, and Pacific commands were particularly underfunded. Does the Pentagon plan to push the services to improve funding?
Bacon: Well first, the GAO report made a sweeping conclusion that force protection is much better now than it was three years ago, when they did their last report. And of course, force protection is a prime responsibility of all commanders, and it's one to which we've devoted a huge amount of attention and resources since 1996 when the Khobar Towers tragedy took place in Saudi Arabia.
We agree with a number -- with two of the recommendations in the GAO report. We did not agree with their finding that there were large numbers of unfunded projects. And in fact, in the letter we sent back to the GAO, we specifically challenged that finding that there were unfunded projects. We did, though, agree with some other recommendations about training and responding to vulnerabilities. And we welcome any study that helps us focus more efficiently on force protection, and we greet this study with that spirit.
Q: Thank you.
Bacon: Thank you.
This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington, DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400.