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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
March 08, 1996 11:00 AM EDT

Friday, March 8, 1996 - 11 a.m.

[This media activity takes place during a photo opportunity with Secretary Perry and His Highness Crown Prince Shaikh Hamad bin Isa

Al-Khalifa, of the State of Bahrain, at the Pentagon]

Q: Mr. Secretary, will the US response be to the China missile test and what message did you attempt to convey to the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister last night at dinner?

A: I'll hold that question for a moment, Jamie, and come back to it. I understand there's some Bahrain journalists here tonight and I'd like to give them the opportunity to ask questions first. Anybody from Bahrain here that would like to ask a question? Nobody? OK.

Yes, I did meet and did join Secretary Christopher and National Security Advisor Lake, at dinner last night. And I told the Chinese delegation that I thought the action that they took with these missile firings was reckless. It was not just that they were having missile tests in the open ocean -- which they've done before and we've done before -- but that they were firing them so close to Taiwan, to the populated areas there, that it could only be viewed as an act of coercion. And it had the danger that -- if the firings had any malfunctions at all -- that some parts of the missile could have landed on populated areas. That's why I thought it was reckless. So, I made that point very clearly and very unequivocally. I deplore that action and we made our position on that very clear.

Q: Secretary, can you tell us what actions the U.S. military is taking to monitor these tests and what the U.S. military may be doing beyond routine monitoring or observing of the tests?

A: We have, of course, a substantial naval presence in the western Pacific. We always do. In particular, we have, within a few hundred miles of Taiwan, we have a carrier, INDEPENDENCE. We have a guided missile cruiser and a guided missile destroyer also nearby. One of the guided missile cruisers is close enough that it actually was the one that observed the missile test and we also have some reconnaissance systems that observed the missile test.

So, we have besides our naval presence in the western Pacific, that is in that area, we have some specific craft that were there for observation purposes.

Q: Aircraft?

A: Aircraft and ships.


Q: Has the President contacted any other world leaders about the issue?

A: I'm going to refer that question to the White House to answer.

Q: Secretary, some in Congress have questioned the Administration's policy, which they call "strategic ambiguity." Should the United States send a clearer signal to the People's Republic of China that the U.S. is willing to defend Taiwan or not to tolerate any sort of aggressive action?

A: I believe the message which the President has communicated -- and the message which we communicated at dinner, last night -- was very clear and very straight forward. I do not want to go beyond that though.

Q: Mr. Secretary, how do you value your relations with Bahrain?

A: We value them very highly. I visited Bahrain last year, had a excellent meeting with the Crown Prince, with his father, and the other leaders of that country. We have a naval headquarters unit based there and that is a very key part to our being able to provide a forward presence of military power in the area. It plays a critical role, I think, in maintaining security and stability in the Gulf of the Arabia and in the surrounding countries. We have had a long, close relationship with Bahrain. It goes back many decades and, in particular, a very close working relationship with the Crown Prince, which we appreciate.

Press: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

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