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News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Monday, October 12, 1998
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen


Q: Mr. Secretary, I just wanted to ask you about the proposed regional defense missile system. What sort of response have you had from the Gulf countries you've visited so far? What's the estimated cost of such a system? And what missiles would it use?

A: As I've indicated to all of the Gulf states that I've visited so far, there is a proliferation of missile technology that is starting to spread here in the Gulf Region. I can point to Iran for example with the testing of the Shahab-3. There will be other countries who will also test missiles that have longer and longer range. And so, that will place in jeopardy troops and people in the region. We are developing -- the United States is spending enormous amounts of money developing a series of theater missile defenses. We would hope to be in a position to cooperate with our friends in the region to either have them share and join in that research and development or to in some way cooperate in the future as far as their deployment is concerned. But we intend to protect our forces and we believe that the theater missile defense system is an imperative and we are rushing it as fast as we reasonably can in developing that technology. It's very sophisticated, it will require lots of effort and we are pursuing that course. So we are talking in general terms, now, and not with specific systems in specific countries, but generally the nature of the threat and what's going to be required to defeat that threat.

Q: The reaction?

A: Everyone in the Gulf understands what is taking place. And they will follow it, we will work with them and we will see if we can't continue this research and development on as fast a pace as we can and in the future we'll see what unfolds, but I think it's namely alerting them to the danger of the threat and to what we are doing and finding ways in which we can cooperate in the future. It's been very general so far and the response, I think, has been quite positive.


Q: (Inaudible) ....missile systems....Arial Sharon is the new defense (sic) minister....

A: As I've indicated when the question was raised in Bahrain, that sometimes you find that those who are seen as being hawks or conservatives are able to make peace agreements. And I've taken pains to point out -- that you may recall Yitzhah Rabin was once viewed as a very hard liner, and yet became a person pursuing peace. We have seen President Reagan, when he was first elected, they said, 'My heavens, we're not going to ever have any good relationship with the Russians.' He was able to help negotiate START 1. And so there are many cases, Richard Nixon, a conservative president who was elected, opened the door to China. So, I think there is opportunity for Mr. Sharon to also be able to achieve a peaceful agreement, a peace agreement. And I'm frankly quite optimistic that this week when Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu go to Washington that they will make some serious progress.


Press: Thank you.


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