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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Yonhap News

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 19, 2003
Q:  At the risk of beating this issue to death, when you say you express gratitude to South Korea’s position on troop dispatch to Iraq, what were you exactly appreciating?  The decision to send a second contingent or the decision to send 3,000 non-combatants to a certain region for reconstruction?

 

     Rumsfeld:  The United States went out to a great many countries and said that we would like them to participate in one way or another in Iraq.  Some thirty-three countries, including the Republic of Korea, currently have forces on the ground there.  We are appreciative of that.  That takes political courage.  It takes physical courage.  And, it is something that places those countries in a way that they are committed to the success of the effort.  The additional decision by the government of Korea was something that was, as they say, that we value and appreciate.  My attitude on this is that each country needs to think through how they want to help, if at all, and then step forward and do what they think fits their circumstance.  And, we respect that.

 

     Q:  So you appreciate the 3,000?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I would leave it to countries to characterize what they want to do.  And, we appreciate the leadership that the Republic of Korea has provided in joining a large coalition of countries and trying to help set Iraq on a path towards a freer economic system, a freer political system, and as a more stable and peaceful neighbor in that region.

 

     Q:  Now, I’m sure you’ve been told of what South Korea has in mind in sending the new group of troops.  Is there a regional --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well what do you think the nature of the troops are?

 

     Q:  Well, President Roh has said, I’m sure, non-combatants, rehabilitation.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, I’m going to wait until there is a public announcement.  It’s not clear to me that that’s what he said, is it?  I haven’t seen that in the press.  Maybe he has.

 

     Q:  Well, you just came back from the talks at the Blue House with President Roh Mo Hyun, didn’t you?  Didn’t he mention?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don’t talk about what he tells me privately.  And, I’m not going to answer a question that presumes that you know what he said to me.  I’m going to let the government of Korea make their own announcements as to what they feel they want to say, when they want to say something.

 

     Q:  So, are you going away with an impression that South Korea has not made the final decision on what to send to Iraq?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I’m going away with the impression that I have had excellent meetings here.  The SCM meetings were very constructive.  The meeting with the President was very useful and substantive.  And I have full confidence that the government of Korea can handle their own public announcements and don’t need me to participate or assist.

 

     Q:  Would it be safe to assume that the United States will not be using some of its forces in South Korea for operations in Iraq?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, that’s a question that, I think, is unanswerable.  We rotate people all the time.  I’m sure there will be somebody here, that served in Korea, who will end up serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or Okinawa.

 

     Q:  So, that possibility has not been ruled out, though?

 

     Rumsfeld:  You’re not asking the question that I’ve answered.  You’re talking about forces in Korea serving in Iraq.  And our forces rotate in and out of Korea all the time.  And, they are going to rotate in and out of Iraq all the time.  And, I don’t doubt for a minute that somebody that has served in Korea will end up serving in Iraq.

 

     Q:  But, pulling out a certain division?  That still means, people rotate.  Is that what you mean?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.  I think what you mean to be asking, which is a little different than I’m answering, is, you are asking, “Are we going to take major units and subtract from our capability on the Korean peninsula and put them somewhere else, whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan or what have you?”  And the answer is no.  We don’t have any plans to do that.

 

     Q:  It’s not something of a major force being taken out from South Korea to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Right.  I’ve not heard of any proposal by any of our services that would propose doing that.  I’m not going to sit here and say no, never, never, never.  But, we have no plans or discussions going on to do anything like that that I’ve heard.

 

     Q:  That’s understood.  You’ve been talking about preliminary conclusions and positing some ideas about the global strategy of configuration of the United States.  Does that include a change in the size and the type of troops that are stationed in South Korea?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We’re in discussions with the government of Korea and what we have is a set of, well we have about two years of work of thinking through how the new technologies and new challenges and threats of the 21st century require us to adjust our posture, our footprint, our organization, our equipment, our relationships.  And, we’ve gone through a lengthy process and we’ve developed a set of concepts that we think are important.  We’re now in the process of discussing them with various countries where we have forces, and, I would add, various countries where we don’t.  And, we're beginning the process of talking to our Congress about various aspects of this.  My guess is that over the coming, I would guess, six months, we’ll probably be moving that process along.  And, then, I would think, once we discuss this with our friends and allies, what will happen will be that we will make changes in what the concepts are, because we learn where there are opportunities and where there aren’t.  And then, what will happen is we’ll probably roll out over a period of four, six, eight years, maybe ten years, to get readjusted.  We really have to go from a 20th century and the Cold War static defense concept to the 21st century, global war on terror, a much more flexible, lethal set of capabilities that enable us to do a lot more things differently than we have been in the past.

 

     Q:  But, did you initiate the discussions with the South Korean officials?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh sure.  Those discussions have been underway for some period of time.  I don’t know exactly how long.  But, we’ve had some discussions.

 

     Q:  What reactions have you been getting?

 

     Rumsfeld:  They’ve been good.

 

     Q:  Positive?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, I don’t want to characterize other people’s reactions.  From my standpoint, I can’t speak for anyone else, but from our standpoint, we feel that we’ve had good discussions here in Korea and in Europe and in other parts of the world, for the most part. 

 

     Q:  So, troop reduction is not a ruled-out possibility then?  As long as the capabilities, the lethality and the deterrence are bolstered?  It doesn’t matter what the --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Yeah, the idea -- let’s say you have five ships in the Mediterranean.  And, you work out all your things and pretty soon you decide, “Well, let’s replace five ships with three.”  And the three ships have lethality and capability that equal eight ships.  So, instead of five ships you’ve got three, but your capability has gone up 50%, close enough to 50%.

 

     Q:  Capability?  So, the number of men, to the Pentagon, to Washington, it doesn’t matter?

 

     Rumsfeld:  To us, numbers of ships, tanks, planes, people.  For example, we are increasingly using a thing called "reachback," where we may deploy an element, but leave back in the United States, the personnel system, the intelligence capability, some of the support-type things, because of the capabilities we have these days to communicate and manage from distance.  Another example might be, if you have ten bombs, for the sake of argument, or artillery shells that are dumb.  And, it takes ten to get one target, and you replace it with precision-guided munitions.  And, it takes one to do that job of ten; suddenly what you’ve done is you’ve reduced your logistics tail.  So, the number of people you need has just dropped by a big fraction.  And, there are dozens of examples of this that take place today.  To be agile, to be able to do something in hours or days, is what the premium is today, and not weeks or months.  Things are moving too fast.  And intelligence is sufficiently (Inaudible.) that things are time sensitive.  And either you take advantage of what you know at a given moment or you don’t.  And speed changes everything.  The ability to do something fast changes the mass that’s required.  If you’re going to do it slow, you need mass.  If you can do something fast, you don’t need mass.

 

     Q:  You need less people.

 

     Rumsfeld:  That’s a physics principle and I can tell you were laughing because you’ve taken physics.

 

     Q:  Did you already tell South Korean officials, at least in ballpark figures, what this reconfiguration would mean in terms of year, when it begins, the size, anything that’s involved in this reconfiguration?  Did you tell us any numbers?

 

     Rumsfeld:  When you are working with another country, you don’t go in and say “Here’s what’s going to happen,” you go in and say, “Here’s what we think might ought to happen and why and what do you think and how might you reconfigure?”  So, when I met with the nineteen NATO ministers of defense at Colorado Springs recently, I sat down with them and said “Here’s how we think we’re going to transform our capabilities.  And here are some thoughts as to how the NATO countries and the NATO institution might think about transforming.”  And what we need to do is do it over time.  It takes time to do this.  And, so, we’ve tried to connect our NATO allies and Japan and, certainly, eventually, Republic of Korea, get all of them eventually connected to what we call our transformation command, the Joint Forces Command.  So that as things evolve, we’ll be evolving together, and the synergy that’s achieved because of that is comparable to the synergy that’s achieved when you develop the ability for your army, navy, air force and Marines to work intimately together, as opposed to separately, but de-conflicting the duties.  The leverage, in terms of the outcome, is substantial.

 

     Defense Official:  We’re about finished.  One more question.

 

     Q:  The reconfiguration, that’s bound to impel further talks on cost sharing, because of the change in logistics.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, it takes further talks.  It will take talks over a period of years, I’m sure.

 

     Q:  Is the U.S. ready to put out more for the cost of making those changes with the troops occur?  Isn’t that one of the assumptions that must follow?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We have been discussing with, I try to keep generalizing, rather than particularizing, and needless to say, you being from the Republic of Korea trying to particularize, but, what we’ve done with all our allies and friends around the world, is to recognize that we bring certain things to the table and they bring certain things to the table.  And we are making substantial investments.  I don’t know what was the final number -- but, think about our budget, what’s our budget?  What did we just get passed?

 

     Defense Official:  $400 billion.

 

     Rumsfeld:  400 billion dollars.  But, we can identify a whole series of investments we’re making that advantage the relationship we have here and this alliance.  And, that’s a lot of money.   That’s a lot of, I don’t know what period of time that’s over?

 

     Defense Official:  Four years.

 

     Q:  Thank you very much.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I gave you answers that were too long.  I could see you were wishing for shorter --

 

     Q:  No.  We were looking to get targeted answers.

 

     Rumsfeld:  And, I’m not.  I’m in the business of looking at things on a macro basis, the world.  And I’m inclined to always let the countries we’re dealing with talk about it themselves, because they’ve got different perspectives, different histories, different cultures.  I like to let them do it.

 

     Q:  Did you give anything, any message, to President Roh from President Bush?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.

 

     Q:  No?  No letter?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.  We had a written communiqué that we released today.