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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
We've also seen domestic terrorism with the
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.
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.
turned out to be a false threat under the circumstances.
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
earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of
So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at
work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other
It's real, and that's the reason why we have to
intensify our efforts, and that's why this is so important.
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
As soon as they complete their own interrogation of
this defector, we will have access to that individual.
of what he has said to date is reflected in the writings that he
prepared last year.
This is prior to his defection.
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
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
..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.
..the Administration's plans to expand NATO to more
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.
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
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
But I doubt if it's related to the spread of
Senator Nunn: Thank you very much.