DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
-- This activity follows an Honor Cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar, of Malaysia, to the Pentagon.
Secretary Cohen: Let me express my welcome to the Minister. We have a very close working relationship with Malaysia. The Minister and I have met before -- although I in a different at that time -- and we are going to explore a continuation of this very strong and growing relationship that we have with Malaysia. I understand there are representatives here from the Malaysia press and we welcome your comments or questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could we ask you about a report in the Washington Post this morning that there isn't, still, enough security for U.S. military installations for service people in the Gulf.
A: I'm familiar with the report that was filed with the NSC and others and we take it very seriously. Obviously, in the wake of the Khobar Towers bombing, in the wake of the Downing Report, we have taken a number of measures. Out of the 81 recommendations in the Downing Report we have completed some 79. We'll complete the balance in the very near future. We have made substantial investments in force protection, and anytime that anyone makes an assessment that we're in anyway deficient, we take it very seriously. As a matter of fact, Deputy Secretary of Defense John White is in the area now on a long planned mission to look at our security measures. He obviously will follow-up and analyze any of the deficiencies that may have been cited, or have been cited by the so-called Simon report.
But, I should point that we can never provide 100 percent full protection for our forces who are dispersed throughout the world. We will take whatever measures are necessary to provide the best possible guarantee against terrorist attacks against our forces, but there can be no 100 percent foolproof guarantee and we understand that. We're taking, we think, adequate measures and we'll look at the Simon report very carefully and take whatever additional measures [that] need to be taken.
Q: Are you troubled at all by the acquisition of advanced weapons systems by countries in the Southeast Asian region? Do you see an arms race developing there? Either of you gentlemen can comment.
A: Well we don't see an arms race developing. We understand that the individual countries have a need for their own security requirements and we try to accommodate them on a case-by-case basis. We proceed with great caution. We coordinate our arms transfers and arms cooperation very closely. That's the purpose of meetings such as this, to make sure that we're not contributing to an arms race, but rather satisfying the requirements of the individual countries with whom we have strong and close bilateral relationships.
Q: Can you tell us where the situation stands in Zaire? Are we looking at a possible evacuation of U.S. citizens there? What are we doing to prepare for that?
A: We're following it very closely. We are in very close touch with our ambassador and obviously follow the recommendations of the ambassador who's on the ground. In addition to that we have an assessment team on the ground right now, making an assessment in terms of what is necessary. As soon as we receive that recommendation we will take follow-up action. As with any area in which we have this sort of a situation, we have contingent arrangements to provide for the safe evacuation of American citizens and we are following it on a very close basis.
Press: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.