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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
January 18, 1996 1:00 PM EDT

Thursday, January 18, 1996 - 1 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our third briefing of the day. I think it will probably be our last, but it's a two-part briefing. We're going to start with Colonel Earl Simms, who is the Army's Adjutant General, and he's going to talk about getting mail to our troops in Bosnia. After that, we'll have the normal Pentagon briefing.

[Briefing by Colonel Simms]

Mr. Bacon: I regret to tell you that a soldier in Hungary died last night becoming the first fatality in the Bosnian operation. It was a non-combat fatality. He died of an apparent heart attack, although we're still looking into the details. His name, Sergeant Clement E. Southall, Jr., 39 years old. He was assigned to the 191st Ordnance Battalion in Taszar, Hungary.

Q: Do you know where he's from?

A: He was a wheeled vehicle operator with the 23rd Ordnance Company in Miesau, Germany.

Q: And in the U.S.?

A: The Army has further details on that.

Q: What were the circumstances?

A: The circumstances were that he began experiencing nausea and breathing difficulties about 11:30 p.m. Life support teams were sent to his quarters. He died shortly after midnight this morning.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: The Secretary said he was going to wait to make comments on the deadline of the 19th until the briefing, NATO's briefing on Saturday. Do you all plan anything here tomorrow on the deadline?

A: We're not planning anything on compliance here. There will be a series of briefings. We believe that General Walker will make a statement on Saturday in Sarajevo -- about noon our time, Saturday. It's likely not to be a very detailed statement, because we need to -- IFOR needs to brief the North Atlantic Council and NATO on the state of compliance, and that won't happen until early next week. We hope also to have a briefing for you from the theater, early next week, on the state of compliance by whiz-bang technology. So you will be adequately briefed on that, but it will take us awhile, it will take IFOR awhile to assess the degree of compliance.

Q: We were briefed this morning by a couple of senior officials about the intelligence support for the operation. Could you just comment about how critical intelligence is to the success of this mission? How important it is.

A: Intelligence is critical to the success of every military mission, and particularly this one in Bosnia.

Secretary Perry and the Director of Central Intelligence, John Deutch, have put a high premium on reducing the amount of time it takes to get intelligence from the collectors and the analysts into the hands of the soldiers and the pilots and the sailors who actually have to use the intelligence on a day to day basis. We are perfecting our ability to reduce the so-called sensor - to - shooter time in all our operations. We think we've achieved a much shorter connection time in Bosnia than we have in any other operation. You were briefed on a number of those details this morning.

It's very important, the quick provision of intelligence is very important for several reasons. One, of course, is protecting the safety of our own troops, alerting them to threats.

Two is helping them to direct their own operations as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Third, is to help monitor compliance with the Dayton Accords.

Q: Is the U.S./China Defense Conversion Program a way that sensitive technological communications equipment is being funneled into China? Is there a split in this building on the types of equipment that should go to China?

A: This is a complex question. Let me answer it.

I think you're probably referring to a series of articles that have run recently in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Let me start off by saying that those articles which have attempted to make a link between the U.S./China Joint Defense Conversion Commission and the sale of telecommunications technology to China, those articles are filled with errors. The most fundamental error made in those articles is to link the U.S./China Joint Defense Conversion Commission with the sale of telecommunications equipment to China. Telecommunications is not one of the issues that's been considered by this commission.

So with that introduction, let me walk back and talk a little bit about defense conversion and then a little bit about telecommunications equipment sales to China.

The U.S./China Joint Defense Conversion Commission was set up in 1994, and it had its first and only meeting in Beijing, not Chongqing as reported in the Far Eastern Economic Review. It had its first and only meeting in Beijing on October 17, 1994.

At that meeting, they discussed basically two specific projects. One was a way to demilitarize and improve China's air traffic control system. This is a project that is very similar to what we're undertaking in former Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe under the Regional Airspace Initiative, where we're taking air traffic control systems that used to be entirely controlled by the military, and sort of switching them over to a more Western style, civilian management.

The reason for doing this in China is very clear. It's the fastest growing air traffic market in the world. It has inadequate capacity for managing all the flights that are now taking place there and will take place in the future. For both reasons of safety and reasons of convenience, the system has to be improved and it has to be, we believe, run in a more Western style, and that is a civilian operation. So that's the first initiative, and we've had FAA people over there talking with Chinese officials.

The second initiative is the electric car initiative. The Chinese are interested in developing vehicles that are less polluting than their current fleet of vehicles. If you've been to Beijing, you've seen it's just filled with thousands upon thousands of these little yellow cabs and other gas-fueled vehicles. So they would like to develop electric vehicles, and they have asked us to help them on that.

There are a number of other issues that have come up, but they really have to do with the trading of lists, of projects in China that are good defense conversion candidates. By defense conversion, what we're talking about is projects that do not involve any transfer of technology to the Chinese military, but they involve ways, ultimately, to transform companies that make goods primarily for the military into civilian production for the broader Chinese economy. So those are the only two projects that have been discussed explicitly -- air traffic control and electric vehicles.

The Joint Defense Conversion Commission has never discussed telecommunications. It's not on its agenda. So it's had nothing to do with the telecommunications project in Guangzhou, China that's been written about by the Far Eastern Economic Review.

To address the other part of your question, is technology being transferred to China that will bolster its military capability? The answer is no.

There is a small demonstration project that's been built connecting rooms in four hotels in Guangzhou, China to demonstrate a new digital business communications system that can transmit data, voice, video, etc., just like modern communication systems in the United States. This system has been described, erroneously, as a state of the art system. It operates at less than a quarter of the speed of systems that are working now between say Washington and New York. It's also very similar to systems that are being installed in cities all over the world -- Jakarta, Moscow, New Delhi, including cities in Europe and the United States, Rio de Janeiro, cities throughout South America.

So what we're talking about is a demonstration project to show how the newest type of communications technology works in China. This is the type of communications technology that's being installed wherever anybody is installing a phone system today.

If you were to buy a TV today, you would probably buy a color TV rather than a black and white TV. If you were to buy a bicycle today you would probably buy a 15-speed bicycle rather than a 3-speed bicycle. This is the 15-speed bicycle or the 21-speed bicycle of the communication system, not the 3-speed, copper wire type bicycles of the past.

So to answer your question, one, defense conversion is not involved. Two, we are not transferring sensitive technology to China. This is technology that's generally available, made by companies all around the world. It's just in one small demonstration project in Guangzhou.

Q: Did Perry use his influence in order to get...

A: Absolutely not. That's another fundamental error of the articles. These articles are unbelievable. They refer to a lieutenant colonel as a lieutenant general. They say that Secretary Perry was the first U.S. Defense Secretary to go to China when he was the third. They said, as I mentioned already, that the meeting took place in Chongqing, it took place in Beijing.

At the time that this project first came up in 1993, export licenses were required for various types of exports to China and a number of other countries. The export control laws were changed at the end of 1993 and the early part of 1994 to exempt a number of computers and telecommunications equipment, types of equipment, from export licensing if they're used for civilian use. Whatever was shipped to China, this AT&T equipment that's readily available elsewhere, was shipped without an export license because none was required. There was absolutely no effort made by Secretary Perry or anybody else in this building to clear the way for the shipment of this equipment. It was a completely above board, highly transparent, highly visible transaction that was very much in line with the export control regulations at the time.

Q: Other than that, it was a pretty good series of articles. (Laughter)

A: I'd be glad to run through other... There's a laundry list of inaccuracies in these articles, and I think it's important because there frequently are misconceptions about technology transfer. But what we're talking about here is off the shelf technology that you can buy from Siemens, you can buy from Alcatel, you can buy from Northern Telecom, you can buy from AT&T. As I said, these systems are being installed all over the place. Almost all are being installed by private/public partnerships as this one was in Guangzhou, China.

Q: Is there a split in the Administration over appraisals of the Russians' handling of Chechnya? The Secretary's comments yesterday were interpreted as being somewhat more sympathetic than others. What is the Defense Department's view of the way the Russians are handling Chechnya?

A: I don't see how you can use the word sympathetic to what the Secretary said. The Secretary and the entire U.S. Government, in fact people of good sense and good faith all over the world, are opposed to hostage taking, and the Secretary is very much opposed to hostage taking. What he said was that when hostages are taken, a strong response is justified. He's not in favor of excessive responses, and he made that very clear, but he said a strong response was appropriate. He believes that very strongly. It happens to be the role of the United States Government that we don't negotiate with hostage takers. We respond quickly and sharply to hostage takers.

Q: Does the Secretary or this Department feel that these events, these escalations of terror and such between Chechnya and Russia threaten to destabilize Russia herself politically, or could?

A: The Secretary said very clearly yesterday that democracy in Russia has endured many challenges, and we expect it to endure this challenge. This is an internal problem that Russia is struggling to deal with as best it can.

Q: Secretary Perry yesterday also expressed, I guess, a mild concern about the rate that foreign forces in Bosnia were leaving and the hitches of prisoner exchanges and other things of compliance that are supposed to be done by the deadline tomorrow. Is there any more progress to report on any of those fronts today?

A: First of all, the deadline for prisoner exchanges is not until tomorrow. We are hopeful that the deadline will be met on all sides. The Bosnian Muslims have raised some concerns. We understand those concerns, but the fact is, the deadlines in the Dayton agreement aren't subject to conditions. It's pretty clear what's supposed to happen there. Mr. Holbrooke is in the area today talking about these various issues with the parties. We're hopeful and in fact expectant that the deadlines will be met.

Q: Can you report anything at this time about the zone of separation part of the Dayton Accords? Let me ask it this way. Is there anything impeding this withdrawal and the in-filling of the IFOR troops, such as is now impeding the prisoner exchange, or is this going smoothly?

A: All our evidence is that the sides are separating; they have been separating for several days, in some cases even longer than that. We are quite confident that the zones of separations will be honored.

We may run into a situation here or a situation there where the forces aren't totally separated as of the deadline, which is midnight tomorrow, at the end of tomorrow. We anticipate general compliance, overwhelming compliance, and we would expect all of these problems to be worked out.

Q: Has IFOR reconnoitered all of the zones of separation in Bosnia now, and are the boundaries delineated?

A: I believe that's the case. That's basically what's been going on for the last couple of weeks. The forces have been getting established, and we've been putting out, marking out our patrol areas and checkpoints and others, and the other members of IFOR have been doing the same thing.

Q: You're saying that you don't actually expect 100 percent compliance by the deadline, but...

A: What I meant to say was, we do expect 100 percent compliance, and we see every sign that the parties are going to comply. Can I assure you with 100 percent certainty that there won't be some little corner or zig or zag along the zone of separation where the two sides will each have pulled back 2.5 kilometers? No. Right now I can't assure you that everybody will have done that by midnight. I expect that if they have not, it will be done shortly thereafter when we have a chance to monitor the disposition of the forces. But basically, the important thing to focus on is that the forces have been already moving out of the zone of separation, already reestablishing themselves on either side, and that's very encouraging, because it drives home what we've been seeing from the beginning of this agreement, that the parties want peace, and that they're willing to comply with the provisions of the Dayton agreement.

Q: One more on the subject of the attache in China. Diane Feinstein, in China, the Times remarked, "Our attache inadvertently entered a Chinese restricted area and got caught." Was he in a restricted area inadvertently?

A: Senator Feinstein's statement is accurate.

Q: It is accurate. So we were in error, is that correct?

A: I just wanted to say that Senator Feinstein's statement is accurate. Whatever happened has not justified the way the attache was treated by the Chinese in violation of the Vienna Convention. We protested that. But her description of what happened is accurate.

Q: The last time this happened, I remember the guys were riding on bicycles.

A: We're getting more advanced technologically. (Laughter)

Q: What were the details on these guys who were arrested? Were they in a car a mile from a base, or what? There have been few details released on their arrest.

A: I don't think I want to go beyond the details that have been released by Senator Feinstein and others.

Press: Thank you.

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