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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Philippine President

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 20, 2001

Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 10:47 a.m. EST

(Media availability with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)

Rumsfeld: Good morning. The president of the Republic of the Philippines and I have just had a discussion up there with her senior officials and my senior officials. This year, of course, marks the 50th anniversary of the mutual defense treaty between our two countries. And Madame President's father and uncle were both signatories to that document some 50 years ago.

The United States is, of course, working as a partner and ally with the Philippines in the effort against terrorism. It is a problem that has hit both of our countries. And certainly we value the very vocal and substantive support that your country has offered to us and to this important effort.

Macapagal-Arroyo: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

As Secretary Rumsfeld said, this is the 50th anniversary of our mutual defense treaty. That's the occasion of President Bush's invitation for me to come to Washington at this time. But of course, right now the talks will be on terrorism, but the mutual defense treaty just demonstrates that we are really allies. We have been with you in the Second World War; we have been with you in the Cold War; we have been with you in the Korean War; we have been with you in the war against terrorism; we've been with you in the Vietnam War. And we are strategic allies not only in defense and security matters but also in economic matters.

The U.S. is cumulatively the number-one investor in the Philippines. It is also our biggest trading partner.

And the Filipino-American community in the U.S. is a very big contributor to your economy. They are 3 million strong. They are among the most educated and with the highest levels of income among the Asian immigrants to the United States. So we have many things in common with regard to our strategic partnership. That's why I'm very glad to be here at this time.

Q: Madam President, I wonder if we might ask: have you come with requests for attack helicopters and utility helicopters, C-130s, and other equipment to battle Muslim breakaway factions in your country?

And Mr. Secretary, how would the United States view such requests for military equipment to help the Philippines?

Macapagal-Arroyo: Do you want to answer first?

Rumsfeld: (Off mike.)

Macapagal-Arroyo: Well, in our war against terrorism in the southwestern part of our country, which borders on common seas with Malaysia and Indonesia, our neighbors in ASEAN, we have a strategic framework for fighting terrorism, and it is a framework that our officials are discussing with the officials of the United States. So -- so both countries are looking at this framework and looking at where the -- where the partnership in fighting terrorism domestically, regionally and globally can become more effective.

Q: Would you like to have military equipment from the United States to help in the fight against terrorism?

Macapagal-Arroyo: If that's what is needed to make the partnership more efficient, yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Well, needless to say, our two countries have worked together closely from a military standpoint over many, many years, both in terms of training and technical assistance and -- as well as equipment and cooperative efforts. I think one other thing that wasn't mentioned -- we're currently cooperating in East Timor as well --

Macapagal-Arroyo: That's right.

Rumsfeld: -- as well as the list that Madame President posed. Those are discussions that take place generally with Admiral Blair, the combatant commander in that region. And as I understand it, the minister of Defense of the Philippines will be meeting with Admiral Blair on some of those subjects later this month.

Q: Is the United States willing to provide such equipment if it's required?

Rumsfeld: Well, I agree with the president that those are the things that need to be discussed and sorted out, so that what makes sense can be discussed and worked out.

Q: Mr. Secretary, it now appears that there is a negotiation, a very strong one, under way for the surrender of large numbers of forces in Kunduz. Yesterday you said you were not interested in a surrender if it meant that some of the fighters would go free. It does appear that some have already surrendered. Is there anything the U.S. can do under this situation to prevent some of the -- especially the Chechens and the Arabs from going free?

Rumsfeld: Well, the United States is -- has been working with the Northern Alliance forces that are surrounding Kunduz, and I'm sure that they're providing the kind of advice that's appropriate, and that is that it would be most unfortunate if the foreigners in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda and the Chechens and others who have been there working with the Taliban -- if those folks were set free and in any way allowed to go to another country and cause the same kind of terrorist acts, it would be most unfortunate.

Q: Madam President, I have a question. Is there any intelligence or evidence that al Qaeda elements in your country are helping the Abu Sayyaf movement at this point?

Macapagal-Arroyo: Well, there are -- there's evidence of connection between them and the Abu Sayyaf up to 1995. In fact, in 1995, our police officers were able to arrest some link -- some people who were linked to both, and uncovered documentary evidence, which in fact led to the conviction of the first bombers of the World Trade Center.

Q: Is there any current evidence, though?

Macapagal-Arroyo: Well, after 1995 -- or after that arrest, after the testimony that our policemen gave, the front organizations that we know of of al Qaeda left the Philippines. I think they found the Philippines not hospitable for international terrorists.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Can you just --

Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question right here. It's getting too cold for the press, I can see that.

Q: Will you send the troops to the Philippines to curb the Muslim rebellion if the government asks for it?

Rumsfeld: Well, look. The United States has had a long relationship with the Philippines. We've had a cooperative relationship. They have a very fine army and they have been working on this problem, and we are happy to provide the kinds of assistance that they feel is appropriate, and we have been doing so.

And thank you very much.

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