|DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
Monday, April 28, 1997 - 8:45 a.m. EDT
Cohen's keynote address at the Conference on Terrorism,
Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy at the Georgia
Center, Mahler Auditorium, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
The event is part of the Sam Nunn Policy Forum being hosted by
the University of Georgia. Secretary Cohen is joined by Sen. Sam
Nunn and Sen. Richard G. Lugar.]
Secretary Cohen: Senator Nunn, thank you very much. As
Senator Nunn has indicated, he and I have worked for many years
together, along with Senator Lugar. The two of these gentlemen I
feel are perhaps the most courageous and visionary to have
served in the Senate. They were largely responsible, of course,
for adopting the so-called Nunn/Lugar legislation.
I'll comment on that later during the course of the morning,
but I've had occasion to meet with a number of Russian
counterparts, and as we go through various translations of the
communications that we're having, the two words they are able to
articulate very clearly, they say 'Nunn/Lugar, Nunn/Lugar. So
they know exactly what that means, and that means the
Cooperative Thre'at Reduction Act that these two gentlemen were
indispensable in shepherding through the United States Congress.
It was Nunn/Lugar I that dealt with the reduction of nuclear
weapons between the United States and the Soviet Union in terms
of trying to come to grips with how we helped the Russians
dismantle hundreds of their nuclear weapons, and also helped
them with their destruction of chemical weapons. But they, of
course, have looked beyond simply that particular relationship,
which is very important, but also looking to the future that we
face as far as the rise of terrorism -- both international and
domestic; and finding ways in which the Department of Defense
can become involved in helping local states and local agencies
to deal with the threat of terrorism which is quite likely to
increase in the coming years.
It's a pleasure for me to be here. Both Senator Nunn and
Senator Lugar are close friends and I look forward to, I think,
a very productive seminar. Once again demonstrating that
although Senator Nunn has left public service in the Senate, he
has not left public service as far as the nation is concerned.
It's a pleasure for me to be here, Sam.
Senator Nunn: Thank you very much, Bill.
. ..Let me ask if there are any questions for Secretary of
Q: The dual containment policy in Iran and Iraq, do you think
that's conducive to regional stability in that region? And do
you think can cause further terrorism in the United States? That
type of containment policy in the Middle East.
A: I think Secretary Albright articulated our policy as far
as dealing with Iraq, that it's clear that we have been unable
to strike any kind of a productive relationship with Saddam
Hussein, and as soon as Saddam Hussein is no longer the head of
that government, that there's new regime that follows him, that
we will look forward to finding ways in which we could engage
them in a much more productive fashion, particularly after they
comply with all of the UN sanctions. There's an eagerness on our
part to do that. But I think as long as he remains in office as
the head of that state, it's unlikely that we could have
anything but the current policy in place, with very little
prospects for relief.
With respect to Iran, I think Iran continues to present a
long term threat to the region. They are acquiring and have
acquired weapons of mass destruction, substantial levels of
chemicals and we believe biological weapons as well. They have
made an effort to acquire nuclear capability. So I think that
our policy of dual containment is the right one, and we are
going to encourage our allies to support that one.
Q: What does it mean that Clinton (inaudible) proliferation?
A: To the extent that we see the level of communication
available today, the Internet and other types of interwoven
communicative skills and abilities, we're going to see
information continue to spread as to how these weapons can be,
in fact, manufactured in a home-grown laboratory, as such. So
it's a serious problem as far as living in the information age
that people who are acquiring this kind of information will not
act responsibly, but rather act in a terrorist type of fashion.
We've seen by way of example of the World Trade Center the
international aspects of international terrorism coming to our
home territory. We've also seen domestic terrorism with the
Oklahoma bombing. So it's a real threat that's here today. It's
likely to intensify in the years to come as more and more groups
have access to this kind of information and the ability to
Q: How prepared is the U.S. Government to deal with
A: I think we have to really intensify our efforts. That's
the reason for the Nunn/Lugar II program. That's the reason why
it's a local responsibility, as such, but the Department of
Defense is going to be taking the lead as far as supervising the
interagency working groups, and to make the assessments as to
what needs to be done. So we're going to identify those 120
cities and work with them very closely to make sure that they
can prepare themselves for what is likely to be a threat well
into the future.
Q: Let me ask you specifically about last week's scare here
in Washington, and what we might have learned from how prepared
we are to deal with that (inaudible), at B'nai Brith.
A: Well, it points out the nature of the
threat. It turned out to be a false threat under the
circumstances. But as we've learned in the intelligence
community, we had something called -- and we have James Woolsey
here to perhaps even address this question about phantom moles.
The mere fear that there is a mole within an agency can set off
a chain reaction and a hunt for that particular mole which can
paralyze the agency for weeks and months and years even, in a
search. The same thing is true about just the false scare of a
threat of using some kind of a chemical weapon or a biological
one. There are some reports, for example, that some countries
have been trying to construct something like an Ebola Virus, and
that would be a very dangerous phenomenon, to say the least.
Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some
scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types
of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could
just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are
designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that
can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco-
type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off
So there are plenty of ingenious minds out
there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak
terror upon other nations. It's real, and that's the reason why
we have to intensify our efforts, and that's why this is so
Q: What is response to (inaudible)?
A: We hope we will have access to the defector. In fact I was
recently in South Korea and talked with various officials in
South Korea. As soon as they complete their own interrogation of
this defector, we will have access to that individual. But much
of what he has said to date is reflected in the writings that he
prepared last year. This is prior to his defection. One would
not expect a potential defector to be writing about anything
other than what the official doctrine or dogma is of the North
Korean government at that time. He is saying essentially what we
have known for a long, long time. Namely, that North Korea poses
a very serious threat against South Korea, and potentially even
Japan, by virtue of having the fourth largest army in the world,
by having 600,000 or more troops poised within 100 kilometers of
Seoul, of possessing many SCUD missiles, also the potential of
chemically armed warheads, the attempt to acquire nuclear
weapons. So we know they have this potential, and the question
really is going to be what's in their hearts and minds at this
point? Do they intend to try to launch such an attack in the
immediate, foreseeable future? That we can only speculate about,
but that's the reason why we are so well prepared to defend
against such an attack to deter it; and to send a message that
it would be absolutely an act of suicide for the North Koreans
to launch an attack. They could do great damage in the short
run, but they would be devastated in response. So we're hoping
we can find ways to bring them to the bargaining table -- the
Party of Four Talks -- and see if we can't put them on a path
toward peace instead of threatening any kind of devastating
attack upon the South.
Q: . ..a little bit about the situation in (inaudible)?
A: I really don't have much more information than has been in
the press at this point. The Department has not been called upon
to act in this regard just yet, so I'm not at liberty to give
you any more information than you already have.
Q: . ..the Administration's plans to expand NATO to more
European countries. Is there a terrorism element? Or will
expanding NATO help you in any way in terms of (inaudible)? Or
is it really unrelated?
A: I think the two are unrelated. There is a legitimate
debate that will take place in terms of the pace of enlargement
or whether there should be enlargement. Secretary Albright and I
testified last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee,
and it was a very, I think, productive debate. It's something
that Senator Nunn, I think, feels very strongly about as well.
The two of us, I think, found ourselves on the Senate Floor last
year saying it was time for the American people to start
debating this issue. So it's very important and there will be
legitimate differences of opinion, but it's important that we
bring this to the Senate for full debate and disclosure, and
bring it to the American people. But I doubt if it's related to
the spread of terrorism whatsoever.
Senator Nunn: Thank you very much.