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Press Conference with Secretary of Defense and Minister of Defense Yoma

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
November 17, 1999

Joint Press Conference with Chilean Minister Of Defense Edmundo Perez Yoma in Santiago, Chile

Signing ceremony of the joint statement on defense related environmental cooperation between the Chilean Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Among the agreements of mutual cooperation between the governments of Chile and the United States is the subject of the environment. In this regard, both nations share concerns on the quality of the environment, stability and security of nations. Consequently, and in the existing legal framework, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Chilean Ministry of Defense share their desires to explore initiatives to cooperate in environmental matters related to defense. This cooperation is an attempt to learn from the experience of U.S. defense organizations on the issue and begin an exchange of information about programs, research and development, as well as the exchange of personnel through visits, courses and workshops. Today, and as part of U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen's visit, a joint cooperation statement will be signed in regard to environmental issues in the area of defense. This joint statement will establish the basis to begin joint educational and training environmental programs, and the development and implementation of an environmental policy in our Armed Forces.

STATEMENT BY CHILEAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE EDMUNDO PEREZ YOMA: We have gathered today to discuss the security defense agenda that is of importance for our two countries. I wish to underscore that since 1996, when we institutionalized bilateral relations at the highest level in the area of defense, we have maintained a permanent consultative mechanism between our two ministries as a sign of the good development of relations between our two countries. We have seen and I would like to underscore the good state of relations between our two countries. We share a sense of mission for democracy, human rights, international free trade, social justice and peace. In matters of international security, Chile and the United States share the will to maintain international peace and stability. We exchanged viewpoints about the international situation and about the tasks the United Nations is undertaking in this area through its peacekeeping operations. As minister of National Defense, I informed Secretary Cohen of our desire to increase our participation in UN peacekeeping operations. In this framework, I also informed him of our desire to take part in the UN's peace efforts in Eastern Timor and of our willingness to join United Nations forces in Western Sahara if necessary. In this area, we also agreed on the importance of preserving the environment for the development and safety of nations, and based on our points of agreement, decided to begin a new area of cooperation on environmental matters between the ministries and Armed Forces of our two countries. We agree with Secretary Cohen about the importance of continuing to promote peace, stability, transparency and trust among nations of our hemisphere on matters of regional security, and we exchanged viewpoints about the situation in the region. Our continent is one of the most stable regions of the world. The countries of this hemisphere have resolved historic conflicts through dialogue and negotiation and the region has today one of the lowest rates of defense expenses. At the same time we have begun a promising stage of cooperation in the framework of the hemisphere's economic integration process and sub-regional integration. We have also informed Secretary Cohen of the progress in our bilateral relations with Argentina and most recently with Peru. In bilateral issues in the area of defense, we also share views and a common will to develop an agenda that becomes increasingly wider. We also discussed the state of our bilateral defense agenda. Currently, there are important cooperative programs between the ministries and Armed Forces of our two countries. Especially this year, we have moved forward by establishing areas of cooperation related to natural disasters. We have also discussed the modernization process of Chile's Armed Forces. We have told Secretary Cohen that this modernization is geared to renewing material that has completed its life cycle, and that it will be done according to our defense policy which is defensive in nature but based on deterrence.

STATEMENT BY U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM COHEN: The joint statement on defense related environmental cooperation that we just signed is another example how the militaries of Chile and the United States are working together in new, and very significant ways. The arrangement is going to facilitate the exchange of information and personnel, training programs, consultations on the ways to minimize air and water pollution from military operations. And the idea for such cooperation actually grew out of the Defense Consultative Commission, that is the main forum that we have for managing our defense relationship. Chile and the United States are sovereign democracies with commitments to peace and stability in South America and the Pacific, and our militaries work very closely together, the relationship is getting better all the time as we carry out joint exercises and training programs. Two major forces behind the friendly, productive relations between our militaries are the values that Chile and the United States share as democracies with civilian control over armed forces and the leadership provided by Minister Perez Yoma. He has worked extremely hard and successfully to make Chile's armed forces a force for regional peace and stability. He has also contributed to stability while serving as Ambassador to Argentina when Chile and Argentina were successfully resolving their last border disputes. I just want to say for all of you that I am honored to be back in Santiago working with Minister Perez Yoma to expand the partnership for peace between Chile and the United States. We are friends and he is someone I admire a great deal.

QUESTION: Secretary Cohen, taking into account that apparently the United States will sell second hand aircraft to Chile, do you believe that the negative feelings that resulted after the application of the Kennedy Amendment on the Chilean Armed Forces has disappeared?

SECRETARY COHEN: First of all let me indicate that the Chilean government will decide what is best for its military needs, and I believe that they have approached all aspects of military sales from a variety of countries with a great deal of professionalism, of prudence, and scrutiny. And I believe that they will choose that equipment that best suits their defense needs. With respect to the future, I've indicated to Minister Perez Yoma that the United States will be a reliable supplier, that our relationship is strong and growing and expected to be even stronger in the future.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister and Mr. Secretary, did you discuss the issue of General Pinochet.

SECRETARY COHEN: We did not discuss that issue.

QUESTION: What is your opinion on how should the Armed Forces fight drug trafficking in Chile, considering the U.S. policy toward Latin America, and your Armed Forces' intervention in the fight against drug trafficking?

SECRETARY COHEN: We believe that the scourge of illegal drug trafficking poses a danger to all democracies. It can corrupt societies, it can promote acts of terrorism, it can lead to illegal immigration, it can undermine the very foundations of any society, particularly democracies. So we are concerned with the flow of drugs going across international lines. With respect to Chile, I assume that each government must make its own determination, in terms of how it will best combat the flow of narcotics into each country. In Colombia, by a way of example, we are providing support for President Pastrana's efforts to combat the narcotics problems in his country. We are not engaged militarily, we will not become engaged militarily, because this is something that Colombia must resolve for itself. We think that diplomatically, as well as dealing with it on a military basis, but it must be resolved by the use of diplomacy as well. And I believe that, based on my discussions, other countries of the region are also concerned with both the flow of drugs into their country, and that hopefully there can be a sharing of information, perhaps a sharing of intelligence, but it will be up to each country to deal with the flow of drugs as it sees fit, and the United States will take no position in terms of how each country should respond to it other than, I think, a recognition that, if we can cooperate, share information, share intelligence, perhaps share some technology, and then allow each sovereign country to resolve it for itself, is the best policy.

QUESTION: Minister Perez Yoma, I would like to know which is the advantage -- from the military and defense point of view -- to purchase used aircraft. I would like to know whether you have talked with Secretary Cohen if the United States is willing to sell F-16s, and state-of-the-art missiles, for instance?

MINISTER PEREZ YOMA: Obviously, we have discussed the aircraft issue with Secretary Cohen, Chile's eventual acquisition of U.S. aircraft. The kind of purchase, when it would be done, how, and which type, is something that is yet to be determined by the Chilean government. We are doing the appropriate assessments, and, basically, the government's underlying policy is to maintain the basic paradigm of the Fighter 2000 Program, by making it compatible with the country's current financial possibilities. That might, and it's most likely that it will, lead us to acquire not new aircraft, but ones that have been upgraded with what is a medium life upgrade, in order to serve the Chilean Air Force needs.

QUESTION: Minister PĂ©rez Yoma, I would like to know how has the Pinochet case influenced the Chilean government's decision to buy U.S. aircraft.

MINISTER PEREZ YOMA: Not at all, because the truth is that we took the decision four years ago and it was suspended in 1997 due to the Asian crisis. It has been retaken now in view that we believe that the effects of the recession have been overcome.

QUESTION: Mr. Cohen, I would like to know whether the United States feels it is in some way promoting an arms race in the region by starting to sell arms of all kinds.

SECRETARY COHEN: The answer to that is no. Chile is a democracy as other countries throughout the Americas are democracies. Each democracy must decide for itself what is required to protect its national security interest. That decision is made through careful deliberation and debate by the countries' leaders in conjunction with its parliamentarians, congressmen, and countrymen. And so this is a decision that Chile must make for itself: What does it need to protect its interests, to the extent that Chile as a flourishing democracy decides it needs to upgrade some of its old, obsolete equipment in order to protect its sovereign interest, the United States believes that we should be a competitor with other countries who are seeking to provide that kind of equipment. We specifically do not intend to fuel any arms race. There is great effort undertaken, there has been great effort undertaken by Chile to be open, to be transparent, to have an arrangement now in terms of its accounting process, so that it can send the appropriate signals to Argentina and to other countries in the region, that everything is open, so that they can understand exactly what Chile is spending, what is required, so that there is no arms race. But each country, Argentina, Brazil, other countries, they're all looking at ways in which they can modernize their forces to make sure that they can protect their sovereign interest. Chile is no different. Because of this strong relationship we have with Chile, we would like to be able to compete on a fair and open basis with any other country as we seek to supply their modernization needs.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of Defense, I would like to know if the U.S. Congress is trying to make the CIA release documents about its alleged participation in the 1973 military coup. I would like to know how would that affect the relations between countries.

SECRETARY COHEN: Well, as you have indicated, the United States is in the process of releasing information dating back to 1969, I believe, all the way through '91. Two out of the three tranches of information have been released. The next one we expect to be released sometime next year. I believe that that is consistent with concerns expressed by those, either surviving families of the victims of oppression, and by members of Congress. And, we believe that information will be made, should be made public, and this will have no impact, in my judgment, upon our relations with Chile. We are open, both open democracies, we share information. I think that the Chilean government understands our processes of being an open democracy, and I don't think it will have any bearing upon our relationship. Our relationship is strong by virtue of the contacts that we have maintained in recent years, on President Frei's leadership, and Minister Perez Yoma's leadership, we have very strong relations, and I expect that that will continue, notwithstanding any disclosures of information going back to the Sixties and Seventies.

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