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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, July 20, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. EDT
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Q: And number two, has the SecDef and Secretary Albright and Berger been briefed yet on the new NIE by the CIA? They were supposed to be briefed this week, I understand.

Bacon: Well, I think you should ask the CIA about their briefing schedule on that.

Q: So you can't --

Bacon: I'm not going to shed any light on it.

Q: Well, you can't tell us anything about the NIE then, as -- if --

Bacon: Well, I'm certainly not going to tell you anything about the NIE. That's --

Q: Do you think it -- will an unclassified version of that be coming out?

Bacon: The CIA does plan to release an unclassified version, perhaps next week.

Q: But the NIE will figure heavily, will it not, in the president's decision on whether or not to go ahead with NMD?

Bacon: Well, that's up for the president to decide, what weight to give to the NIE.

Q: What kind of problems in -- I understand one of the main parts of the NIE will be whether or not North Korea, you still feel that North Korea would be able to send a long-range missile to the United States by 2005. Has this Putin announcement that the North Koreans are ready to give up their missile program, has that created problems, created questions about this whole thing?

Bacon: Well, first of all, if North Korea takes steps to stop work on developing or building long-range missiles, that does not create problems for us, that is good. Our goal is to get North Korea to stop work on building intercontinental ballistic range missiles and to stop exporting this technology to other countries.

I don't know exactly what the Putin-Kim Jong Il agreement involves. President Putin and Kim Jong Il made statements in Korea. They talked in terms of satellite launch. They didn't talk in terms of stopping work on ICBM missile programs. I think we need to seek more details about what they meant.

In principle, we agree with the strategy of using existing space powers to launch satellites for other countries that want satellite so that they do not have to go through the cost and the time of developing their own space-launch capability. We do think that the development of space-launch capability is frequently a way to move toward ICBM capability, and so we are in favor of helping countries get into space without developing that capability. We would be willing to explore further with North Korea ways to help them meet their space needs, short of having them develop their own missile program.

Q: Can we take it that the United States would oppose any country, such as Russia, providing missiles or providing rockets on which to launch those satellites to North Korea, as opposed to launching them from Russia, because of reverse technology --

Bacon: Well, we think that providing technology to North Korea would be a type of technology transfer that would lead to -- possibly lead to proliferation. So in principle, we'd be opposed to that.

But I want to be clear, we don't know the details of the discussions between President Putin and Chairman Kim and, therefore, we're seeking clarification from the Russians and from others on this. We don't know whether we'll get that clarification or not.

Q: Are you concerned that a space-launch program could be used as a cover for building ballistic missiles?

Bacon: That is our concern, yes. But one way to read the comments made by President Putin and Chairman Kim is that other countries would launch satellites for North Korea. As I say, there are details that need to be explained, and we don't have a full picture of what they discussed. We hope we can get those details in the future.


Q: Given North Korea's economic -- domestic economic situation, you said you'd be willing to help -- to explore with them a space-launch program. But given their economic situation, what kind of space-launch program are you willing to talk to them about that you think that they --

Bacon: I think these are all good questions, but they're premature at this stage because we don't know what they have in mind or what the Russians have in mind.

Clearly, we would be willing, and have been willing, to explore with North Korea ways to dissuade them from developing intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. And we will continue those efforts. But in terms of exactly what the Russians and the North Koreans agreed to, I can't shed any light on that. That's really up to them to say more at this stage.

Q: Just to sort of get your latest assessment, what is your assessment on how much the North Koreans are simply exporting their missile technology offshore and putting it somewhere else? While they say, you know, they're not going to have a missile program in their country, they have a long history of supporting missile programs in other places. Do you see more of that going on these days? Do you --

Bacon: Well, the North Koreans have always used the sale of military technology and/or weapons as a way to earn foreign currency. They don't have many ways of earning foreign currency, and weapon sales or military technology has been one of those ways. So I think it's hard to separate their own development program, their own weapons development programs, on the one hand, from their foreign currency or cash-raising programs, on the other hand. They've been intimately related.

What the future will bring, if the North Korean economy opens up and if new investment comes in from South Korea or Japan or other countries, remains to be seen. Our hope clearly is that by engaging North Korea, it will become less isolated, more engaged in the world economy, and share more in the benefits of prosperity that have been so evident in Asia in almost everywhere but North Korea. So the hopeful sign is that maybe the North Koreans have realized that there are ways for them to share in the regional prosperity that they've been missing out on.


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