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DoD News Briefing - 28 May 96

Presenters: Kenneth A. Bacon, ASD (PA)
May 28, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, May 28, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

Maybe you could give us a briefing on the comparison between food in Paris and food in the Pentagon sometime.

I have a few announcements. The first is that tomorrow, General Fogleman will become the first Air Force Academy graduate to be a commencement speaker, and he will talk on air power leaders standing on the threshold of a new era. Copies should be available tomorrow morning.

And on Saturday, Secretary Perry will address the graduating class at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and he will talk about the challenges that soldiers face in this era and particularly the challenge that requires soldiers to be statesmen as well as soldiers, particularly in an era that places more and more emphasis on preventive defense.

Q: Will you have an advance on that?

A: I cannot promise that we'll have an advance on that but we will do our best to have embargo copies on Friday.


Secondly, Secretary Perry will leave on a trip on Sunday to Ukraine, Germany and Portugal. In Ukraine, he'll do two things. First, he'll go to some combined military exercises involving U.S., Ukrainian, Russian and Polish troops. There also will be troops from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Muldova, Slovakia and Romania as well. So, a combined military exercise involving about 150 of the German-based troops from the 1st Infantry Division along with 700 troops from the other countries. Then he will travel with Defense Minister Shmarov to Pervomaysk to watch the final stage in turning the missile field into an agricultural field. I think it will become actually a field of sunflowers. And this is the place he's been to several times before to watch the -- to watch the warheads taken off, and then the missile taken out of the silo, and then the silo exploded, blown up -- In January -- some of you were there. And finally, --

Q: Can you confirm if this is the last time he goes in?

A: I can't promise. I can't promise. This has been -- I can't promise you.

Q: [Inaudible] harvest the first crop?

A: Well, he may want to do that. As you know, they're also building houses there for the officers of the strategic rocket force. This is all under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, and it will involve the removal of 700 warheads that used to be targeted at the United States, and they are all gone, and the missile field will be a wheat field by the time he visits, or a sunflower field, by the time he visits. So, that will occur on June 4th in Pervomaysk.

In Germany, he'll address the graduating class of the Marshall Center. As you know, he's vowed to address every graduating class of this pioneering institution that is trying to teach military and civilian officials from former communist countries how to run militaries in democracies. And in Portugal, he will meet with civilian and military officials of that NATO ally to discuss military-to-military relationships.

We will have a briefing on this trip tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock here. With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?

Q: On the visit to Ukraine and the visit to Pervomaysk, what will actually happen? Is the Ukraine suppose to go non- nuclear that day? Have they already taken all the warheads off? Have they been shipped back to Russia? What's the -- He was supposed to go and mark the non-nuclearization or denuclearization, whatever you want to call it.

A: We will check on this. But, I believe that Ukraine is now non-nuclear. But I will check on that to be sure. This particular missile field clearly is no longer a missile field. I believe that at about this time, the Ukraine was scheduled to go non-nuclear and I believe it's already done that. As you know, Kazakstan went non-nuclear last year. It's I don't think widely appreciated that at the end of the Cold War there were five declared nuclear powers and when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia remained a major nuclear power obviously. But then three former Soviet states, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Belarus each became major nuclear powers. In fact, they became, within terms of number of warheads, the third, fourth, and fifth largest nuclear powers, eclipsing by orders of magnitude China, France, and England, and now those three countries, because of work that we have done in cooperation with Russia and in cooperation with those three countries, Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus, are almost all -- they're on their way to -- those three are on their way to being nuclear free.

Q: As a brief follow-up, could you take the question and see if you could find out maybe if Ukraine has told the United States State Department or Defense Department if, in fact, they have shipped the warheads back?

A: I will -- we will try to get the details for you on that. Any others? Yes, Joe?

Q: On North Korea. The pilot Lee who defected in his MiG is making statements that North Korea was ready to start something up. What indications are this building getting about any activity?

A: Our indications -- First of all, North Korea does have a very large standing army -- over a million people and many of them are stationed very close to the borders to the DMZ. It has -- it is a significant military force arrayed potentially against South Korea. Having said that, we do not -- we have not seen signs of active military training in the last six to twelve months. In fact, quite the opposite. Military training has been considerably less than normal, particularly of their land forces. And there have not been large scale military training exercises of their land forces during the winter training cycle which is usually their most active time. So, pilot Lee's information differs from what we have picked up and the South Koreans have picked up from our observations over the last year. It does appear that the North Korean Army has concentrated more on ideological education and less on training than in the past. We don't know why that is but it has been the case. It looked to us as though the North Korean Army is probably less well prepared for a major military action now than it has been in recent years. Still, it's a significant force. It's well armed. It has been very actively trained in the past. We continue to watch it very, very closely. And we were watching it closely before this pilot defected and we will watch it very closely since his defection. Yes?

Q: Can you give us an update on a new CNO?

A: I'm afraid I cannot give you -- oh, give you an update on the new CNO? The issue is still under consideration. As I've said before, we hope it will be resolved soon.

Q: Has the Secretary forwarded his recommendation to the White House? He said he expected to do it last week.

A: He has not yet forwarded his recommendation as far as I know.

Q: Can you tell us whether the Secretary or the Pentagon has a position on whether or not there ought to be an end to what's been referred to as the Tailhook certification, where the promotion files of Navy officers who are up for promotion are flagged if they attended the Tailhook convention?

A: Yes, we have twice asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to end the so-called flagging requirement. The first time was on April 20th, 1995, and then we again, repeated that request on October 17th, 1995. These were letters from Fred Pang, the Assistant Secretary of Defense to Senator Thurmond and also to Senator Nunn. That's the October 17th letter. His feeling, and the feeling of the Secretary, is that Tailhook happened five years ago. It's been extensively investigated. People have been disciplined. Careers have been sidetracked or ended because of Tailhook, and now after five years, it's time to move forward. It's time to put this behind us, and we hope that the Senate will agree to do that. Yes.

Q: A new subject. There was a report, I think at the end of last week, in one publication that the Clinton Administration might be arriving at some sort of compromise with congressional Republicans over the issue of how fast to deploy a missile defense, a national missile defense. Can you comment at all on whether or not there's any sort of common ground being reached there?

A: Well, first of all, the use of the word compromise, I think, was unfortunate and misleading. What's happened here is that the Republicans have been unable to so far assemble the votes needed to pass the so-called Defend America Act. That Act would require the deployment of a national missile defense system by 2003. The Clinton Administration takes very seriously the possible emerging threat of long range ballistic missiles. The threat does not exist now. We don't believe that countries beyond the declared nuclear powers have the ability to fire ICBMs towards the United States. We think that such a threat will be many years off. Nevertheless, we're actively developing a program to defend against a limited ballistic missile attack against the United States. We believe it would be best to develop that program over the next three years and then decide after it's developed whether to deploy it and not be locked into a deployment schedule now that isn't related specifically to the threat. If we develop a program now over the next three years and then stand ready to deploy after looking at the latest intelligence information, we think that we can better calibrate the program to the threat and not get stampeded into deploying a system too early. The longer we wait, of course, the more technologically sophisticated the system will be.

We think that this is not only the most sensible way to go, but it's clearly the most effective and probably the cheapest way to go and we're hoping that the Republicans will come around to our view now that they do appreciate that we're devoted to defending against a potential threat when and if one evolves. And we hope that they will agree that our approach is the best way. So, if they're willing to accept our plan, we will welcome them.

Q: Another subject. The Turkish Defense Minister is going to be here tomorrow to speak to the Secretary. Are they going to discuss PROVIDE COMFORT, perhaps changing the charter. There's a lot of political unrest going on in Turkey now. Parliament has extended PROVIDE COMFORT I think in March for maybe two or three months, and I think they're demanding a pressing for the charter to be changed perhaps just for the Turks to handle. Will that be discussed?

A: Well, we will certainly discuss the Operation PROVIDE COMFORT tomorrow. We'll discuss a range of other topics with the Turkish Defense Minister as well. I think it's premature now to discuss the outcome of those conversations because, of course, they haven't occurred yet.

Q: Well, is the United States willing to consider a possible change in PROVIDE COMFORT given the fact that Turkey is the host nation?

A: Well, I think that those questions are probably much more appropriate after the meeting than before the meeting.

Q: Ken?

A: Yes.

Q: President Mubarak of Egypt is quoted in one of the papers this morning as saying that he apparently has talked Moammar Gadhafi out of going ahead with his chemical plant. Has Mubarak expressed a similar -- given you information to confirm this?

A: David, I saw the report in the paper today. It's an encouraging report obviously. But, my understanding is that we have not been briefed yet on the meeting between Gadhafi and President Mubarak. Based on that report, obviously we're happy to read that Mr. Gadahfi says that he doesn't plan to go ahead with the chemical facility. We think that's the right decision and we hope that his actions meet his words. We're also very pleased that President Mubarak raised this issue. As I've pointed out several times, and other people have pointed out from this podium, that it's an important regional security issue, and it's one that should be approached regionally. Also, I might add that this is -- should Libya decide not to go ahead with constructing a chemical plant there, it would be a good example of preventive defense.

Q: Did the Secretary give... When we were returning from Egypt, the Secretary said that Hosni Mubarak would be given a detailed intelligence briefing. Has that actually occurred?

A: Well, let me -- I believe it has but let me make sure that it has. Certainly, he received some information directly from the Secretary and I know that a more detailed briefing was planned. I just don't know the date of it, but I assume it has taken place. We will confirm that.

Q: Has the United States had any physical evidence from intelligence that you know of to indicate that the Libyans might have stopped work on this other than these reports?

A: I can't answer that question because I don't know the answer.

Q: Would you take the question?

A: I will take the question. I can't promise that we'll answer it. Any more questions?

Press: Thank you.

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