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Press Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld in Vietnam

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 05, 2006 09:00 AM EDT
SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I have the Ambassador with me in case there are any difficult questions.


            When the Minister of Defense was in Washington I think in 2003, and when the Prime Minister was there in 2005, they invited me to come to Vietnam.  I was very pleased to be able to do that.  It’s been an excellent trip.  I met much of the morning with the Minister of Defense and then of course the Prime Minister later this afternoon.


            The Ambassador was reminding me that the visit of the Prime Minister with President Bush, they talked about the desire to raise the level of the relationship between our countries to a new level politically, from an economic standpoint, and from a security standpoint.  And certainly that has happened. 


            The signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement and the movement of Vietnam towards WTO is a reflection of the fact that they have moved from a command economy to a market economy.  Anyone walking around these streets can see the energy and the vitality that exists in this country and the impressive progress they’ve made from an economic standpoint.


            In the meetings today with the Minister of Defense we discussed our mutual desire and their agreement that we should increase the levels of exchanges at all levels of the military, and in various ways to further strengthen the military to military relationship.


            We also talked about some additional things we can do to be helpful in the demining area.


            I was pleased that, first of all I was very pleased to have a chance to get briefed by the group that is working so hard and so effectively on people missing in action in this country, and as well as in Cambodia and Laos.  That activity preceded the normalization of relationships as you may have been briefed today, and the response we’ve gotten from the government here, and our appreciation for their support is real and continuing.  We still have work to do and as we all agree, we do not want to forget the importance of this so I was pleased to be able to be there and to see the positive response from the government of Vietnam on the work and to know of the good close relationship between our embassy and the folks we have working on it as well as the Vietnamese government.


            We’re going to a dinner this evening, and I’d be happy to respond to a question or two.


            QUESTION:  Sir, can you talk about any specifics that came out today?  You mentioned demining.  Just a couple of examples about what was agreed on.  Also what do the three gongs symbolize?  [Laughter]. 


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Do you remember?  Oh, my goodness, I apologize.  I thought I heard you asking the young lady who had briefed me.


            Voice:  She said some sort of security agreement.  [Laughter]. 


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Did she say that?


            Voice:  I can’t say.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  There are three things relating to life that were a part of it, and I wish I could remember.  Hank, what were they?  You were right next to me the whole time, I’m sure.  [Laughter]. 


            We’re going to have some sit-down discussions on the MIA and see if there aren’t ways that we can bring to bear some of our technologies in a way that will be helpful with respect to some areas that had been identified that are in water.  There will be, our people will be working with the Ministry and others to see if there aren’t additional ways that we can further that work.


            With respect to military exchanges, we’ve agreed to put our people together and see if there are delegations of Vietnamese that would like to come to the United States and be engaged in base visits, activity visits.  The one thing that was particularly mentioned, the Vietnamese government is supportive of the United Nations and recognizes the needs for peacekeepers and feels that they need better English language capability to be able to participate more fully in peacekeeping, and I think very likely we’ll see some activities in that area.


            Do you want to comment on that, Ambassador?


            Ambassador Marine:  In terms of the demining, we already have a very robust program with approximately $2.7 million worth of activities in the coming year, fiscal year.  What the Vietnamese were asking was for continued support in this area and to see if there are ways where we could expand and we’re always happy to sit down and talk to them and we will do that in the weeks ahead and find out the specific support they want.  But we didn’t go beyond that in today’s discussions.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  One other specific, and I don’t know if it will actually happen, but one of the things that was discussed which I found interesting was the, besides English language, the discussion about the possibility of some additional education exchanges with respect to medical matters.


            QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I’m curious whether the Pentagon’s report on China’s military spending came up in your conversation with the --




            QUESTION:  Did the subject come up at all?  China’s intentions, increase in military spending?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don’t think it came up in any of my meetings here in Vietnam. 


            Voice:  It did not.


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It did not.  No, I can’t imagine where it would have.  It hasn’t.


            QUESTION:  Can I ask you, can you talk a little bit about what your hopes and expectations are as you go to Indonesia?  What is it you’re hoping to accomplish there?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Indonesia is one of the world’s largest democracies and that is an historic movement on the part of that country.  It is an important part of the Pacific region and I had a chance to meet with the President when he was in Washington, D.C.  As you know, we’ve moved from good military to military relationships to literally no military to military relationships for a long period, and more recently to the opportunities for military to military relationships again.


            The Indonesian military is very likely the institution that has the greatest reach in that large, highly populated country.  It is an important part of their government.  We believe that it is in the interests of the United States and in the mutual interests of our two countries to reestablish a relationship, a military to military relationship between our countries, and so we are in the early stages of doing that.  But we want to do it in a way that is comfortable for our country and comfortable for their country and we’ll be discussing those types of things.


            QUESTION:  Do you think human rights will come up [inaudible]?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I haven’t even gone there yet.


            QUESTION:  You talked quite a bit about Japan and how [inaudible].  Your first trip you mentioned to us here was late ‘60s, in the middle of a very divisive war.  Now you’re back in a little different circumstances.  Can you talk a bit about that, and also --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I actually came in ’65, ’67 and ’95.


QUESTION:  Can you talk a bit about how it’s changed, what you’ve noticed about it.  Are there any lessons for the divisive war right now [inaudible]?  Down the future [inaudible] more friendly relationships [inaudible]?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Clearly the times I came here as a member of Congress in the ‘60s were totally different from when I visited in ’95. The visit today, the contrast, the changes that have taken place in this country are dramatic.  I think the program they’re on to move from a command economy to a market economy is succeeding.  I think they’re making progress with it.  I think it’s visible.  It’s tangible.  You can feel it.  And it has been a very successful government in that regard and program.


            I think it ought not to be surprising, it seems to me, that the United States is developing a very good relationship with Vietnam.  Just as it ought not to have been surprising that we did so with countries that were engaged on the other side in previous conflicts, whether World War II or Korea.


QUESTION:  [Inaudible]?  Is it too early to ask if there are specific things you’re looking for in terms of counter-terrorism, [inaudible]?  The kind of things you’re looking for.  Are you looking for intelligence [inaudible] beyond [inaudible]?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  First of all, you’ve been around the Pentagon long enough to know that I’m not one who on a trip decides that I need to make deliverables or receive deliverables from others.  It seems to me the time to have relationships is when you don’t need them, when it isn’t urgent or a crisis.  It’s a good thing to tend to relationships on a regular basis.  As I say, Indonesia is a very important country in the world.


            We do cooperate on counter-terrorism activities.  Indonesia also is a country that is along the Straits of Malacca and is cooperating with some of the neighboring states there which we believe is an important thing to do.


            On our earlier meetings we obviously have discussed as we do with all of the partners we have in the world that are concerned about terrorism, about sharing intelligence and yes, that is something that always can be improved but I wouldn’t want to elevate it as a specific other than to say that we do have, we both recognize that no one country can deal with this problem of terrorism in the world.  It does take cooperation among many countries, and certainly sharing intelligence can save lives.


            QUESTION:  Can you follow up on --


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I think we’re probably just about through, so we’ll make this the last question.


            QUESTION:  When you said it ought not be surprising that the relationship with Vietnam is progressing the way it is.  Did anything surprise you during this visit?  Or did anything impress you?


            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I was and remain struck by the economic success that you can see and the activity and the change in this city in terms of its vibrancy and the energy you feel here.  It is dramatic from 11 years ago.  I don’t know how long their economic program has been in place, but for the sake of argument probably 15 or 20 years.  But it is bearing fruit.  It is paying dividends.  And anyone that was here ten years ago in Hanoi and saw it and compared it with today would be really struck by the change.


            Thanks, folks.

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