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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability en route to Estonia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 07, 2002 12:00 PM EDT

(Media availability en route to Tallinn, Estonia.)

Q: We wanted to ask you if you could tell us a little bit about the situation that happened today in the Philippines? Were you and other U.S. authorities fully consulted, adequately consulted, in advance?

Rumsfeld: The situation in the Philippines as you'll recall is that we went in to do some training. We've been doing it. The Philippine government has been planning for some time to try and deal with their hostage problem which has been going on now for a good year plus. They have on occasion made plans to do something and for whatever reason made other plans. It's not an easy thing to do. They've had intelligence from time to time that looked good and then wasn't so good. I'm told by folks in the Pentagon that we learned about it when the public did -- that is to say, when the, I believe, the Filipino army made an announcement as to what took place.

Q: Was that sufficient for you?

Rumsfeld: We were asked for assistance with respect, I believe, to medical evacuations and have been involved in that.

Q: Two medical evacuations?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. I'm told there was Mrs. Burnham and some Filipinos and I believe there were some Philippine military who needed to be evacuated, but I do not know that. They could have been the hostage takers.

Q: How many U.S. helicopters went in?

Rumsfeld: Oh, to the medical evacuation? I don't know.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you whether Mr. Burnham's body has been recovered yet?

Rumsfeld: (Nods head, indicating no)

Q: It hasn't, or you don't know?

Rumsfeld: I don't know.

Q: Do you know how he was shot? Was he shot by --?

Rumsfeld: I don't know.

Q: Do you regret the way -- now knowing the outcome, do you regret that it took place?

Rumsfeld: No. You know every hostage situation is a dangerous situation and I have no more facts than you do at the moment. Obviously, one would hope and pray that hostages that are taken would end up being released alive. The Burnhams have not been well and have been in captivity a very long time and it seems to me that the attempt that was made to save their lives was understandable.

Q: What does that say about the future of operations there -- U.S. operations, training operations or other operations?

Rumsfeld: Oh, we'll continue to do the training.

Q: Did the helicopters go in after the shooting had stopped? Were any U.S. forces in a combat situation?

Rumsfeld: I'm told there were no U.S. forces involved at all, in any aspect.

Q: Well they did the medevac, or am I missing something?

Rumsfeld: Not until after it was over.

Q: Okay, that's what I wanted to know.

Q: Sir, any news on the India-Pakistan situation? Do you know or believe that Mr. Armitage's mission may have cooled things off, number one and number two, are you and Armitage working on some sort of coordinated one-two punch diplomatically?

Rumsfeld: You can be sure that the United States government is well wired together. The president's been involved and Secretary Powell has been involved. Rich is now involved. There is an awful lot of cable traffic, an awful lot of phone calls that take place. I'll be meeting with Rich Armitage (inaudible) either in person or by telephone.

Q: Will that be this weekend?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. It'll be after he's completed his situation and when I'm free; then the two of us can connect either physically or by phone.

Q: What about the first part of my question? That is, do you think his mission may have cooled things off?

Rumsfeld: Oh, it's way too soon to tell. I certainly hope so.

Q: There is a report this morning that the U.S. and Britain is reviewing the idea of putting troops along the line of control. Has that reached your attention in any way?

Rumsfeld: I've been reading about it in the papers.

Q: Is it an idea you would support?

Rumsfeld: I'd want sit down and talk to Rich and talk to Colin and see where we are with it. If and when it becomes time, it would be a government decision not an individual's decision.

Q: To be clearer, was your response to Tom's question, no, there is no such plan under consideration to use U.S. troops in that way?

Rumsfeld: No, not that I know of, but that's not for me to (inaudible).

Q: Sir, do you have anything specific in mind right now that you want to talk to the heads of state about India and Pakistan, or is it largely --?

Rumsfeld: You bet.

Q: So it's not just dependent on what --

Rumsfeld: No.

Q: And could you give us any sense of the kind of message you're going to put out, without going into specifics?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't want to get into it because I'm going investing a lot of time between now and then on the subject and reading cable traffic and thinking it through and talking to the people who have been involved and developing an approach that will be current and appropriate.

Q: Have you spoken to any of the Indian and Pakistani leaders?

Q: [Norway Minister of Defense] Devold just told us that for the United States and Europe to come together politically wise, that there needs to be more intelligence sharing between the two countries. And she said that she thinks with your briefing yesterday, that that has started. Is this a change? Are you going to be sharing more intelligence with the European countries to try and get them to our way of thinking?

Rumsfeld: Any time you see roughly like-thinking people looking at the world differently you have to ask yourself, are they working off the same set of facts? In 1973 and 4 and 5, I started a series of intelligence briefings for NATO countries that began with the U.S. briefing and then migrated into a NATO-developed briefing on the subject. It was briefed in capitals across the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I consider it very important and we are doing it now. We intend to brief this briefing in capitals. Lord Robertson is thinking about the possibility of developing a NATO briefing that's rooted in all of the countries' intelligence and thinking about having them then brief capitals. But there is no question but that if everyone has roughly the same understanding of the circumstance, reasonable people tend to find their way to roughly the same decision. So I think her point is a good one.

Q: Have you seen within the last several days any specific changes in the disposition of Indian or Pakistani military forces both conventional and nuclear? Have they come down in either of those in their level of readiness and alertness?

Rumsfeld: I'm probably you know 12 hours out of date, or 15 out of it.

Q: We'll take it.

Rumsfeld: I've got a bunch of cables to read up there and I'm going to be on the phone in a few minutes with CentCom, which keeps their eye on Pakistan --

Q: But you know there is this (inaudible) -- so what's the latest?

Rumsfeld: -- and I have not seen anything significant in terms of adjustments up or down on either side, and I guess that's current as of last night at about eleven o'clock.

Q: I've certainly heard you many times express great respect for the sovereignty of other nations. The Philippines is a sovereign state. But given the incredible level of military cooperation and the fact that these were American citizens, are you surprised you weren't alerted first? Do you wish you were alerted first?

Rumsfeld: All I said was, to my knowledge, I'm told by people at the Pentagon that to their knowledge that this was a Philippine operation. And that's understandable. In the United States we do operations; other countries don't come in and do operations in the United States. Also, as you recall, they have a constitution that to some extent prohibits foreign forces from operating in other than exercise or training modes, if I'm not mistaken. I don't know quite what the language is and there is some debate about it, so that is an aspect of it, I am sure.

Q: But don't you think you should have been consulted (inaudible) than participate?

Rumsfeld: Look, you know when something does not go perfectly there are always a lot of people who come along want to flash back and say this or say that. I'm not one of those people. I'm just not built that way. You can be darn sure the people trying to do it cared deeply and wanted to do it and wanted it to succeed fully.

You can also be sure if you look at the past hostage situations over the past two decades, that they tend to be situations where it is very, very fortunate that it works out very well, and in a number of cases it works out imperfectly. That's just the nature of it.

On the other hand, hostage takers ought not to be rewarded. It encourages them and makes them believe that that's a business they can engage in and either win political points or earn money. And the money then goes to other terrorist activities such as taking more hostages. We have hostages taken all the time. How many were there in Colombia just in the last 12 months? There have been others in the Philippines; there have been others in other countries. It is a world where people have decided that they can make money or make a political point by taking hostages. And I agree with the policy that says that we have to avoid rewarding hostage takers because that's the way to have more of it. We don't want more of it we want less of it.

Q: So go after them is what you're saying?

Rumsfeld: I tend to have that view.

Q: Sir, on India and Pakistan, as far as we know President Musharraf does not have final control over nuclear weapons and it's in the hands of the military. Is that something that concerns you?

Rumsfeld: I think you better check your facts.

Q: Does that mean he does actually have --?

Rumsfeld: I think you better check your facts. I think the premise of your question ought to be checked.

Q: Do you believe he has control over the nuclear arsenal?

Rumsfeld: I think, without revealing anything, I think intelligent people can make a reasonable assumption that leaders of countries with nuclear weapons are not inattentive to the management of those weapons.

Q: Have you spoken to any officials in India or Pakistan during this trip about the situation?

Rumsfeld: On the phone, no, I have not yet.

Thank you.

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