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DoD News Briefing, Secretary of Defense Perry and Minister of National Defense Kim, November 1, 1996

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
November 01, 1996 11:45 PM EDT

Friday, November 1, 1996 - 11:45 a.m.

Mr. Bacon: Secretary Perry and Minister Kim will each make brief opening statements, and after that we'll take questions. The first question will come from the Republic of Korea press.

Secretary Perry?

Secretary Perry: Let me start off by welcoming my good friend and colleague, Minister Kim, to Washington. We have had a very productive, very constructive set of meetings. These meetings have reaffirmed my view that our alliance is as strong as it's ever been in its history. I want to thank Minister Kim for the assistance and for the good work in putting this meeting together.

During these discussions, Minister Kim and I reaffirmed our two nations' strong commitment to the alliance. The strength and the firmness of this alliance has maintained peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula for more than 40 years, but there is still no permanent peace which underscores the need for continued vigilance and continued solidarity of our combined forces.

The U.S. commitment is tangible. We have 37,000 U.S. troops serving side by side with their Korean counterparts. In the Asian Pacific region we have about 100,000 U.S. troops.

The recent submarine incursions of North Korea confirm that the North continues to pose a significant threat to peace on the Peninsula and stability in the entire region. I extended to Minister Kim my condolences to the South Korean families that lost loved ones at the hands of these infiltrators. Such acts are reprehensible and absolutely incompatible with efforts to move towards peace.

The Republic of Korea and the United States stand more firmly united than ever in their determination to oppose such provocations in the future. The only basis for permanently eliminating tensions on the Peninsula will be direct reconciliation between the South and the North. The Republic of Korea and the United States are still waiting for the North to respond positively to the offer of peace talks made by President Kim Young Sam and President Clinton this April. Their proposal was an unconditional and sincere gesture that highlights their commitment to finding peaceful solutions to the current tensions on the Peninsula. Until the promise of this proposal is realized, the Republic of Korea and the United States will continue to maintain a high state of readiness with emphasis on training and force modernization.

Our relationship remains firmly rooted in shared values and in shared aspirations. Our comprehensive security relationship will continue to grow and will adapt to the challenges ahead of us.

Let me introduce my friend, Minister Kim.

Minister Kim: [Translated] Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Secretary Perry and I have successfully completed the 28th U.S./Korea Security Consultative Meeting this morning. In taking this opportunity, I would like to extend my special thanks to Secretary Perry for his warm welcome for me and my delegation.

This year's SCM was meaningful and timely since it was held at a time when our two nations felt a strong need for security consultations due to North Korea's irresponsible and adventurous acts of the submarine infiltration in September this year.

I am certain that this year's meeting was satisfactory and productive, in that we confirmed the cooperative relationships of our combined armed forces and the firm security alliance of our two nations. I want to express my thanks to all the working officials for their contribution to this year's successful meeting.

Thank you.

Secretary Perry: Thank you, Minister Kim.

Mr. Bacon: We have a copy of the communiqués which summarize the meeting. Is there a questions from the South Korean press?

Q: Tension has been heightened on the Korean Peninsula due to the North Korean submarine incident last September. Even with this case, the light water reactor project should go on. While our Korean technicians and other people involved in this light water project would be visiting P'yongyang, and there should be some safety guarantee. Will you comment on this issue, Mr. Secretary?

Secretary Perry: The more we are concerned about the security threat posed by North Korea, the more important it is to maintain the freeze that currently exists on the North Korean nuclear weapon program. That's exactly what the Framework Agreement does. It has freezed the reprocessing and further reactor construction. It has effectively stopped their nuclear weapon program.

Both the United States and South Korea have agreed to continue to pursue implementation of the agreed framework and the four party peace proposal. At the same time, we seek to resolve the submarine incursion.

Q: Dr. Perry, I'd like to ask you a question on another subject, if I may. There's a report in today's Washington Post that the Saudis have arrested as many as 40 people in connection with the bombings there, and including apparently the driver of the truck. They suspect strongly, or have evidence showing that Iran was responsible for this. Can you comment on it, please?

Secretary Perry: The investigation on the Khobar Towers bombing being conducted by the Saudi Government in connection with our Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI. This investigation is still underway. I cannot comment on the status of this or any other investigation still being conducted. We have reached no conclusions about who was responsible for this.

Q: Are you satisfied with the Saudi cooperation with the FBI and the United States on this?

Secretary Perry: In my discussions with senior Saudi officials, I have made very clear the importance to our Defense Department of full cooperation in this investigation. They have promised us at the highest levels of the Saudi Government full cooperation. Any further comments on that would need to come from the FBI. They are the ones that are actually conducting the investigation with the Saudis.

Q: I'd like to ask a question to Minister Kim and Secretary Perry. Firstly, I want to ask a question to Minister Kim. Since this SCM meeting, security meeting, is held right after the submarine incident last September, I want to ask whether or not there was discussion on Team Spirit military exercises? Team Spirit military exercise has been on hold for the past three years.

Secretary Perry, I want to ask one more question. As the head of the Defense Department of the allied nation of Korea, how do you see the characteristics of the North Korean submarine infiltration? And in the event of similar provocations, how will the U.S. and Korea react?

Minister Kim: [Translated] About Team Spirit, although we haven't conducted Team Spirit for a year, technically, we have a different type of a joint military exercise. This military exercise has been quite productive in terms of quality and its content. These other joint military exercises have contributed a great deal to enhancing the combined readiness of our two armed forces.

As a matter of fact, we have discussed the Team Spirit issue at this security meeting, but we haven't reached any conclusion regarding this. If there is going to be any decision, it will be made at the end of this year or early next year.

Q: Depending on the situation, does that mean we can have Team Spirit military exercises?

Minister Kim: [Translated] Depending on the situation we can plan and implement Team Spirit jointly.

Secretary Perry: Let me add to that that our exercise program is not only strong, indeed, it is stronger than it has ever been in our history before. And our forces are strong and well prepared.

The submarine incident was a provocative, hostile act. The United States Government has strongly condemned it, including a statement by President Clinton at the United Nations. I would not forecast specific actions that would be taken in response to this or future such provocations, but any such actions would be taken jointly by the United States and the Republic of Korea as partners in full consultation with each other.

Q: Could I ask both Secretary Perry and Minister Kim if you could comment on a CNN report yesterday quoting sources saying that the Republic of Korea considered sending troops into the DMZ in response to the submarine incursion, and more broadly, whether or not any sort of military retaliation was under consideration at any time because of this incident.

Minister Kim: [Translated] I have no information about the CNN news release yesterday, but I can tell you that there are already troops from both sides to manage the DMZ zone itself. We have definitely no plans to send in retaliation our troops into the DMZ.

Secretary Perry: I will simply confirm the Minister's statement, and add to that that any military action we would consider for any provocation would be taken by the combined forces in Korea and, therefore, would be fully coordinated.

Q: The joint communiqué says that both ministers share the view that the robust schedule of combined exercises is vital to deterring war. Could you be more specific, how robust the combined exercise will be? And the next question is about how the outcome of this meeting, do you have any plans to put a change in the current deployment of the U.S. ... in Japan? And one more small question. Could you give us an update as to the current status of the preparation by North Koreans to launch missiles into the Japan Sea? Thank you.

Secretary Perry: Let me comment on one aspect of that question. General Tilelli, our combined forces commander, continually reviews the capability of the forces in Korea, both with respect to the threat, how the threat changes, and with respect to opportunities to modernize those forces. During the past year, the military threat posed by North Korea has not increased and, therefore, that does not provide a basis for making an increase in U.S. forces. There have been some areas where it has increased, some areas where it has decreased. On balance, it has not increased.

On the other hand, we continue to make modernization improvements in our forces and, as those modernization improvements are made, we do make changes and improvements in our deployed forces in Korea. There have been many such changes of that sort made in the last two years, and the net result is that the forces deployed in South Korea today are substantially more capable than they were a year ago and than they were two years ago. That statement applies both to the U.S. forces in the Republic of Korea, and to the Republic of Korea forces.

Minister Kim: [Translated] About the North Korean missile test, we have information that they were going to have test fire of one missile, but actually we don't have any idea whether or not they actually fired, launched a missile itself.

Q: Secretary Perry, several weeks ago a Korean American naval intelligence worker was arrested as a spy for the Republic of Korea. How has this case affected defense or intelligence relations, and were you given any assurances in this meeting that this type of espionage will not be repeated?

Secretary Perry: We did not in the SCM meeting discuss the Robert Kim spy case. I might add to that that this is a case which is now being handled by the Justice Department, so it would be improper for me to make any comments about the progress of that case.

Press: Thank you very much.

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