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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Press Conference with Chilean MoD in Santiago, Chile

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 18, 2002

(Joint Press Conference with Chilean Defense Minister Michelle Bachelet at La Moneda Presidential Palace, Santiago, Chile)

Bachelet: Good morning. Very briefly we inform you that this morning we held a bilateral meeting with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in which we discussed the main topics that will be subject of our discussions at the fifth Defense Ministerial of the Americas. Since this is the first meeting since the events of September 11th, the main idea is to review concepts about security; the mechanisms through which we have been responding to such security matters and the adjustments that they require to really face such topics. At the same time, we have reaffirmed our conviction that both countries and both ministries consider our main task to guarantee and continue guaranteeing that we can live in a peaceful region, as it is until now and, to do so, the commitment to continue seeking the tools that make it possible and assure it. I would say that those have been the main elements of today's work. Similarly, during the meeting with the president of the republic, important issues have been addressed in regional terms, and the fact that as of January 1, Chile will become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and therefore will have a more active role in terms of international security problems.

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon, I am delighted to be back in Chile, I have not been here since 1968 so it's a particular pleasure to be able to come back and see this lovely and exciting country. The fifth Defense Ministerial Meeting of the hemisphere is an important one. I am looking forward to it, and very much appreciate the hospitality of the minister of defense and of the president. We have just had an excellent visit with the president and, as the minister indicated, we discussed (Chile's) upcoming role as a member of the Security Council of the United Nations and a number of other matters. Regrettably, there is a conflict between this ministerial meeting and the summit meeting in Prague in the Czech Republic, which I am supposed to be attending simultaneously. So what I am going to do is participate tomorrow and then try to get over there and participate in Prague for a portion of that, but our delegation will remain here and be participating in all aspects of this conference. Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, the United States has a new policy regarding the war against terrorism. I would like to know what Latin America's role within that policy is. What do you expect from Latin America, and will this mean that the United States would transfer war materials to fulfill this mission?

Rumsfeld: The world--free nations all across the globe--face a new set of threats. Historically, the militaries have organized and trained and equipped to deal with armies and navies and air forces. Yet in the 21st century we find ourselves facing threats of a very different nature: terrorist threats. Terrorist threats potentially that can involve weapons of enormous lethality. My view and the president of the United States' view is that it is a global problem. He has worked very hard with Secretary Powell and others to fashion a coalition of some ninety nations in the world, more than half of the countries in the world, who are now participating and cooperating in the global war on terrorism. You asked about a role for Latin America. It seems to me that more precisely it is probably a role for any single country to determine for themselves and that is what has been happening. Each country looks at their circumstance and decides in what ways they believe it is best and most appropriate from their constitution, from their historical prospective, from their current circumstances and it has been just a wonderful thing to see these 90 nations coming forward and helping out: some helping out with sharing intelligence, some participating in shared law enforcement cooperation, still others assisting with maritime cooperation and interdiction, still others participating with troops in Afghanistan. From our standpoint it is important for each country to make its own judgment as to how it feels it can best approach this problem, which is a global problem and contribute to seeing that free people in fact are able to go about their lives and to say what they wish and think what they wish and go where they wish without fearing that they will be killed. People from 80 nations were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: people from all across the globe, of every religion.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask, Iraq said today that your charge, the United States' charge that it is violating the new UN sanction by firing at U.S. and British planes over the no-fly zones is simply an example of the United States looking for an excuse to go to war against Iraq. How do you respond to that, sir?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that the president of the United States has made a judgment with respect to that and your characterization of saying that your charge or somebody else's charge or characterizing it as something that would trigger action, I think would be incorrect. I think what I have said, and what the president and the White House have said, is that there is no question but that firing at coalition aircraft in the northern and southern no-fly zone is an act that is against the efforts of the coalition to enforce U.N. resolutions. The current U.N. resolution had words with respect to this and I'll leave it to the lawyers and others, but my guess is what you'll see is, you'll see Iraq continuing to do what it's been doing and make someone in the country or someone representing the government may make a statement and it may not necessarily be an accurate one.

Q: Retaking a bit of the subject in the first question, I would like to ask you about press reports that say that you have come to exert diplomatic pressure on Latin America to make it join the U.S. strategy in its fight against drug trafficking and terrorism. In the first place I would like to ask whether that is so. And second, in regard to Chile and several Latin American countries, whether their Armed Forces will be involved in the fight against drug trafficking. The United States believes that should be so. Should the United States not accept, how would that affect U.S.-Chile bilateral relations?

Rumsfeld: You asked three or four questions there, one of which that I am here to press Latin American countries to do something is that true, question mark. The answer is, "No." I am not here to press Latin American countries to do anything. I am down to participate as one of many ministers of defense in the fifth ministerial meeting of the hemisphere. I guess all I can do is repeat what I said earlier. I think that each country ought to look at the world in the 21st century and recognize that there are new threats and new capabilities that represent potential dangers to free countries given the nexus between terrorist states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks and that it's up to each country to make its own judgment as to what it thinks is the appropriate thing for that particular country to do with respect to the new threats that we face in the world. And I don't know how I can be more explicit than that.

Q: The second part of the question in regard to fight drug trafficking and the Armed Forces...

Rumsfeld: I think I have answered that twice now. Every country in the world has a somewhat different constitution, a somewhat different governmental arrangement. It is for each sovereign state to decide how it wants to organize itself, how it wants to arrange itself, and it certainly is not for Don Rumsfeld to opine as to what we think of the organizational arrangements. Ours are not perfect themselves, we are constantly looking at them and attempting to figure out how we can do what we do better, but I wouldn't think of offering advice.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, just yesterday after Iraq fired at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones in the north, you said that action was unacceptable. You said that the United Nations would judge Iraq on its pattern of behavior and today we learn that there has been another firing at U.S. planes in the northern no-fly zone almost in answer to your statement. My question is: Is Saddam Hussein digging his own grave with each shot he takes at U.S. and British planes?

Rumsfeld: You have very accurately quoted me and I appreciate that. I cannot imagine a secretary of defense of the United States--past, present or future--who would feel, let alone say, that firing at U.S. and British and coalition aircraft is acceptable. It's the only place on the face of the Earth where our forces are being fired on and the response is measured. I'm uncomfortable with the idea that we ask young men and young women to serve in flight crews; to fly over Iraq in the north and the south, for the purpose of seeing that the U.N. resolution that Saddam Hussein agreed to, that they would not send forces south to again do violence against the Shia in the south or invade Kuwait; that they would not send forces to the north and do violence to the Kurds, of which they have done before; and that is the purpose of the no-fly zone. I do find it unacceptable that Iraq fires and it is for the president of the United States and the U.N. Security Council to make judgments about what their view might be of Iraq's behavior over some reasonable period of time and those negotiations and discussions are just starting.

Q: As you have already answered in the previous two questions, the conference is about to discuss international terrorism as a new threat. Do you, as a Rio Treaty representative, believe that this document should be modified to include this topic? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: I have to come back to what I said earlier. I really believe that it is for each country to consider its circumstance, consider the circumstance of the world, consider the fact that terrorist organizations have spread across the globe and make their own judgments with respect to how they believe they can best assure the safety and the security of their people and of their friends and neighbors and allies. Thank you very much.