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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Malaysian Defense Minister

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 02, 2002

(Joint media availability with Malaysian Defense Minister Dato' Sri Najib Bin Abdul Razak)

Rumsfeld: Good morning. The minister of defense of Malaysia and I have just had an excellent meeting. He is visiting our country and has had occasion to meet with members of the United States Congress, officials of the United States government as well as some of the more important think tanks here in town. And I had occasion to look over the -- some of the remarks he has been making as he's visited through here, and it is impressive the extent to which Malaysia is a cooperating partner in the global war on terrorism; the extent to which the relationship between our two countries, from a military-to-military standpoint, have evolved and strengthened since they were initially established back in the mid-1980s, I believe. And one item I would cite is that there have been something in the neighborhood of 1,500 of the officers and personnel from the Malaysian armed forces that have been participating in the IMET program, which I happen to be an enormous supporter of and believer in.

So, Mr. Minister, we thank you for being here and would -- I've encouraged him to possibly consider commenting on some of the activities that his country is engaged in with respect to the war on terrorism and our relationships.

Mr. Minister.

Najib: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Malaysia is resolute and steadfast in our fight against global terror. Some of the steps we have taken include the arrests of something like 62 militants and terrorists in Malaysia; cooperating with our neighbors. We have excellent exchange of military intelligence between Malaysia and the United States and our other allies and friends.

We have approved more than a thousand overflights per year by the United States, and the number has increased quite dramatically since September 11. We have opened some of our facilities in Malaysia for the training of American personnel. U.S. Navy Seals train in Malaysia twice a year. Some of your Special Forces train in our jungle-warfare training school. We have excellent bilateral training under BITAG, which was signed in 1984 by our prime minister, Dr. Mahathir, who was then the defense minister and Secretary Weinberger. Our military-to-military ties are actually -- is at its all-time high today. And I'm delighted that we are cooperating, collaborating with the United States and with other countries on the global war against terror.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Yes, Charlie.

Q: I wonder if I might ask on another subject, sir: Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, I understand, met with Army Secretary White yesterday and gave him 30 days to cancel the Crusader artillery program and come up with alternative technologies to replace it. And shortly thereafter, I understand, a fax went from this building over to the Hill from Army Legislative Affairs, with talking points saying that the Army's ground ability was being threatened. And the talking points apparently had rallied members of Congo -- some members of Congress. Do you feel the decision to cancel the Crusader, I guess, in short, the Army is moving to try to undermine that?

Rumsfeld: Well, Charlie, that's a difficult question. First of all, it has been a process that has proceeded along for some weeks. We're close to concluding the defense planning guidance. As I mentioned the other day to you, it is a classified document. And it will have various ways of treating guidance. It will fall in four categories. Some will specifically say "Go do this." Others will say, "We need some options from you on this subject, and include this specific one." Still others will say, "Come back with some options." And the last would be "Just come back with a plan to deal with something."

I was advised by Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Aldridge sometime yesterday that that is where the -- that with respect to Crusader, a decision was made and a meeting was held where they advised the secretary of the Army that they wanted a study within 30 days that would look at a specific alternative that would assume that Crusader was cancelled, and it would address a variety of ways to accelerate some capabilities that would be able to strengthen the United States Army and those capabilities.

I think that technically, the way I understood Dr. Wolfowitz was not the way you phrased the question, but that it was that in 30 days they will come back with that information, and that presumably it clearly suggests that that's the intention, to cancel it. On the other hand, until -- you wouldn't be asking for a study if you had made a final decision with respect to cancellation. So my impression from what Dr. Wolfowitz said was that when the study comes back, a final decision would be made.

Q: Then do you expect the Army to follow that and come up with an alternative, or to try to rally the troops, so to speak, on the Hill to fight it?

Rumsfeld: Well, again, when you say the Army, I guess the question is, are you talking about every single human being in the Army is going to behalf himself or herself? Not likely. Ought a president and a secretary of Defense and a deputy secretary of Defense be able to expect that the leadership and the overwhelming majority will in fact be supportive once a decision is made? Of course.

Q: Are you concerned the Army is essentially fighting a rear-guard action against you on Capitol Hill? When I say "Army," I mean "Army leaders."

Rumsfeld: I'd like some names.

Q: Secretary White.

Q: For instance, the Office of Legislative Affairs in the Army that sent this memo up to the Hill with talking points to save the Crusader.

Rumsfeld: We are looking into that right now, I'm told. I believe that before Secretary Wolfowitz left yesterday, he met with some folks on that subject, and there are people preparing some information, which should be available sometime later this week.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what can you --

Rumsfeld: I would add that -- needless to say, I have a minimum of high regard for that kind of behavior.

Q: What can you tell us about Operation Snipe that's going on in Afghanistan right now? What is its mission exactly? How big is it? Is this one of the biggest missions -- military missions in Afghanistan? What's it all about?

Rumsfeld: Can't address it.

Q: Why not? The British have talked about it on television this morning.

Rumsfeld: God bless 'em! (laughter) Write your story off what they say.

Q: What distinguishes this mission from the many others that you have discussed in at least some detail, or that others here at the Pentagon have discussed in public in some detail?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a fair question. I'll take that under advisement, and either I'll get back or Torie will get back with an answer on that.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on your relationship with Malaysia, you say you had excellent talks and that things are going well. What would you like to see in addition? Is there anything else out there that the two countries will be cooperating on?

Rumsfeld: Well, the -- as the minister said, the relationship has evolved and strengthened and improved almost every year since the mid-1980s. It is a good relationship, a healthy relationship. The minister, as a matter of fact, invited me to visit Malaysia sometime later this year, when I might be able to be in the region, and I accepted and look forward to that.

In terms of specifics, we don't have any specific new element of the relationship to announce today, other than to say that it's going along quite well.

Q: Do you anticipate that the training will be continuing apace or would that by any way, shape or form increase in number?

Rumsfeld: The training has been continuing, and whether it's calibrated to go up or down or modestly change in some way, I'm not knowledgeable about for the coming year.

Q: You met -- excuse me. You met with Lee Kuan Yew this morning. And Singapore, of course, also is cooperating with the United States in the war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld: It is.

Q: One absent here is --

Rumsfeld: One what?

Q: -- is a representative of Indonesia. You haven't had anybody from Indonesia here because of the mil-to-mil ties. Are you satisfied with cooperation the United States is receiving from Indonesia in the war on terrorism?

Rumsfeld: Well, as -- and we'll make that the last question. I, personally, have for a great many years, over 30 years, been a great believer in the military-to-military relationships that the United States has developed with other countries over the decades. I have seen many, many instances where it has enormously benefited our country, where people from other nations have come over here and developed relationships, had an opportunity to see how our military functions in a professional way with civilian control. They -- linkages last over careers.

And I think it is unfortunate that the United States does not today have military-to-military relationships with Indonesia, and I am certainly hopeful that we will be able to reestablish them in one way or another in the period ahead.

Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

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