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Press Briefing on Board Aircraft En Route To D.C.

Press Briefing on Board Aircraft En Route Washington, DC


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (En Route Washington, D.C.) For Immediate Release October 22, 2001

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Press Briefing on Board Aircraft En Route Washington, DC

October 21, 2001 Approximately 1:00 PM EDT

QUESTION: Did you give formal or informal notification of intent to withdraw from the ABM?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we did not give formal or informal notification of an intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. But the President has said repeatedly to President Putin and the Kremlin that we have to get beyond the constraints of the ABM Treaty, and he reinforced that again to President Putin last night, but he did not give, to answer your question precisely, either informal or formal notification of an intent to withdraw.

QUESTION: But was it a talking point?

SECRETARY POWELL: The only talking points that count were the ones that came out of the President last night. Look, talking points are prepared for officials all the time, everywhere. I get them all the time. Sometimes I even read them. But what the President said was that he did not give any formal or informal notification of the United States intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty under the provisions of the treaty. But, he reinforced to President Putin as he has done repeatedly, once again, that we've got to get beyond the constraints of the ABM Treaty because it keeps us from doing things that we need to pursue missile defenses.

QUESTION: Do you expect that you will give formal notification during the summit in Washington, in Crawford?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have not made a decision on that because, as both Presidents said last night, both sides are working in earnest to see if there is a way that we can go forward. That is what we are doing. My colleague, he's flying home right now, today is Monday? We'll talk sometime Monday and see how we follow up with our respective staffs. I'm sure Mr. Rumsfeld's staff will be doing the same thing. So I cannot tell you where we will be at Crawford. As Mr. Putin has said in the past, a unilateral withdrawal from our part is certainly an option for us, and he acknowledges that that's our option, an option that's on the table. But as both Presidents said last night, we are continuing to talk to each other and pursue a process.

QUESTION: Mr. Putin has said, as he is apparently telling his own people, that the treaty can stretch and he's ready to accommodate President Bush on the whole testing program. Does that mean the treaty could survive this process as he's arguing it should?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't quite heard him say that. Although -- but I have had discussions with some Russian colleagues of mine who suggest we can probably do more testing than we think we can under the treaty, or the 1997 New York protocol as it is called. We are looking at all of that. The important point in all of this, the President will not allow our missile development program to be constrained artificially by a treaty that he believes no longer serves a useful purpose in the 21st century.

QUESTION: (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: Elaine's asking if I can give an estimate of the range of times when it will come in conflict, and I can't. I really do have to defer on that because I'm really not into the technology of it all. Nor am I watching it as closely as I used to in my previous life.

Very often it becomes a matter of differing groups of lawyers making a legal interpretation of what the treaty permits you to do and not do. They have their lawyers. We have our lawyers. The State Department lawyers all have fascinating debates with the Defense Department lawyers. That's one of the reasons that we think that this treaty has outlived its usefulness. Some of you who have been around as long as Robin remember back in the eighties, when we used to argue over physical principles, remember that one, Robin? You were around then, too, Pat. We used to have these (inaudible) arguments about physical principles which can be used which are or not permitted. Those of you who were around that long will remember that we used to argue over broad versus narrow interpretations. Remember how my beloved friends, Cap Weinberger and George Shultz, used to go on about that month after month after month.

So the treaty, even though it is really easy to read -- you can read it in just a few moments -- it is subject to enormous interpretation. That's why we think that it is time to move beyond it, and we had a long discussion about it last night.

QUESTION: President Putin's comments to the contrary, do you all sense any give on the Russian side, and do you think that this discussion of drawing down offensive weapons is perhaps a way to give the Russians an ABM out as working?

SECRETARY POWELL: What I am trying to give them an out -- we are trying to persuade them that in this new -- we are not enemies. We are all in the 21st century. There is no Soviet Union. There is no evil empire. There is no Iron Curtain. We really do need a basic strategic framework that involves a number of pieces. One is a significant reduction in the number of strategic offensive weapons and we expect our colleagues at the Pentagon will provide the President with a number in the very near future that will serve as the basis for that part of the framework.

Secondly, moving beyond the ABM Treaty so that we can develop missile defense, which at the new lower numbers on both sides will not be a threat to either side. And third, you have to consider all of the proliferation issues that are involved in this so that we are not creating other ballistic missile armed nuclear entities that could upset the balance. So we think -- I would not couch it as we are trying to give the Russians an out -- we are trying to show them what we think is the correct way, how to look at it at this point. To look at this problem right now.

But as you have heard from them, repeatedly, and Mr. Putin said it again yesterday in his meeting with President Jiang Zemin, that they still view the ABM Treaty as one of the cornerstones of this strategic framework. We think it no longer serves that role. The Russians have been forthcoming enough to say yeah, we do realize it is an audible environment and let's continue to talk about this and let the process continue. That's what we are trying to help make happen. We are under, and I don't want to use the word deadline, we are under no constraints with respect to our thinking. We'll see where we are in three weeks' time in Crawford.

QUESTION: That's the Russians. Let's talk about the Chinese who still on missile defense have strong concerns. Can you explain how missile defense doesn't erode the Chinese deterrent and how any attempt they make to build up a response to that does not signal an arms race, doesn't set off an arms race between Pakistan and India?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Chinese have always kept a relatively small amount of intercontinental ballistic missiles and they have never viewed them the same way as the United States and Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did during the years of the Cold War where we were constantly building up. You know, if we put them in SSBNs, they'd put them in SSBNs. If we moved, they moved. If we had a triad, they had a triad. It was this competition. The Chinese were never a part of that competition in the same way. We tried to have treaties with the Russians, not the Chinese. They built a relatively small number of (inaudible) first strike intercontinental ballistic missiles that had in the theology of this steel (inaudible). They were not designed to go after somebody else's nuclear forces to keep those forces from striking you. They were designed to go after something of enormous value, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and as long as they could do that, their nuclear forces were serving their purpose. It is expected that over time, we would modernize, one would modernize such a force. Can't keep an old force around forever. The Chinese have been working to modernize that force. Modernizing also tends to make it way more stable and safe (inaudible).

I have seen nothing to suggest that the Chinese are so concerned about missiles defense that they are poised for a breakout in the sense that they would significantly by factors of two, three, four, or five, increase the numbers of their intercontinental ballistic missiles in order to get through a shield, not to go to a counter for strategy, but to get through a shield. We have been talking to the Chinese (inaudible). It came up again this trip, but it wasn't a lingering conversation. Even when I was here in July and I had a long conversation over the long lunch table with Foreign Minister Tang, I took him through all what I'm giving you now and he listened, and they all listened, and when I finished, they said thank you. So they are taking it all aboard and I'm sure they are making their calculations and we will try to give them every assurance that we can that this is not directed against them. We are directing it against others in their neighborhood who are pursuing this kind of capability that we're worried about. People who are not under what we would consider responsible leadership, and we will continue to make that case with the Chinese government. If I were a Chinese general, I would still have to have one small part of my brain continuing to look at that capability and wondering no matter what they say it is for, perhaps it can be a way of defending against my missiles as well. We will have to see what they do with this whole calculus, but frankly, they have been rather subdued about it in recent months in my discussions with the (inaudible). They listen. They want to learn more. We send briefers over. But they have been rather subdued. Yesterday, Jiang Zemin reaffirmed the ABM Treaty to which he is not a signatory.

QUESTION: But what if you were an Indian general?

SECRETARY POWELL: If I was an Indian general, it wouldn't trouble me because they are really, the Indians and the Pakistanis, are really concerned about the problems in their neighborhood. I don't think any of the nations, China, India, Pakisan, in light of this new 21st century world, view America as the kind of nation they are likely to get into conflict with. Bu nonetheless, I can't really speak for an Indian or Pakistani general, or for that matter, I don't speak for American generals anymore, either.

QUESTION: Following up in India and Pakistan, that group of I's and P's, you have another group of I's and P's that are at each other's throats now. The tensions rose quite significantly, during your time away next week in both places. How do you see that calming down, if you do, and what's the effect of that on the coalition?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, this was not a good week in the Middle East. It started out as a promising week. The first day was the most promising day I had seen in many months with the Israelis opening up some crossing sites, pulling back their forces from Hebron or a number of other places. You may recall Mr. Sharon, also that same day, once again, indicated in due course the existence of a Palestinian state. We had security meetings going on (inaudible) getting better.

So for the first time in a long time, I was seeing some progress toward the Mitchell plan and I was very encouraged. But the very next day, we had a terrorist attack, killed a minister who had just left government. He would have been out of the government in another hour and he left the government because Mr. Sharon had been asking actions that were starting to move in a direction of trying to get the process going. So it could not have been a more tragic incident as a personal matter of course for the minister and his family, but for the region. So, as a result, we had a deterioration all week long with the Israelis feeling the need to go back into a number of these Zone A cities and towns and making demands on the Palestinians with respect to arresting the perpetrators. Mr. Arafat is trying to find the perpetrators.

New demands have been placed on the table. I spent most of yesterday working on this. I spoke to Prime Minister Sharon. I spoke to Mr. Arafat, Foreign Minister Maher, King Abdullah, Igor Ivan, of course, maybe a couple of others that Richard can get to you. And trying to see, not forget where we have been a week before.

Mr. Sharon had indicated he felt it absolutely necessary to go in and arrest those who are planning terror and he did not want to remain in those zones and would be coming out as soon as he could. I encouraged him to exercise all the restraint that he could because we have to think about the day after. I also encouraged Chairman Arafat to do all he could in order to arrest those who are responsible for this latest act of terror and to continue to do all that he could to reduce the violence to hopefully zero, the lowest level possible. So it was not a great four days. So far today, there's been violence but it hasn't been as bad as yesterday. We will see where we are tomorrow. It's a day by day thing, I regret to say.

QUESTION: Did the Palestinian party just outlaw the armed group of the PFLP?

SECRETARY POWELL: I heard they were getting ready to do that, and I think that is a good move. I think the (inaudible) have given instructions to his various organizations to implement a cease-fire. If they don't follow his instructions and violate that, it's a challenge to his authority. I'm glad to see that he's responding to that challenge.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: I would hope that both sides would make whatever reciprocal moves they can in order to reduce tension. As I said a moment ago, Mr. Sharon said he does not want to stay into these occupied areas, so as the violence is ended in those areas, in the Zone A areas he went into(inaudible). As soon as the violence has gone down and he has done whatever arresting he planned to do, he wants to come back out. He also gave me his assurance that he is still committed to the Mitchell committee process. I look forward to my conversations with Foreign Minister Peres. I can't give you a specific yes, if they do that, they should do that. I can just give you a general, I hope both sides will look for every opportunity to go back down the ladder of escalation and try to do everything they can to reduce tensions.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: I do that; I do that almost every day. I do it in a way, in different ways, in different methods, in different channels, and this isn't one of the channels that I want to use today.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, I don't know nearly as much arms control as you do, so please explain to me what the difference is when you say the Chinese have a small arsenal that's meant to go after all the cities you mentioned. No, I know the Chinese have said that in the past. So what is the difference between a small Chinese arsenal that targets American cities and a rogue state, whether it be North Korea, Iraq or Iran, that has a small arsenal? How is our missile defense system not something that might spark China to build in a more expansive way than they might have otherwise?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a possibility, as I tried to answer Bill's question. I'm sure part of their calculus, they wonder if that is appropriate. But I think they are all speculating to see how our program develops and make a judgment as to whether or not they still feel secure with the level they have now and the strategy they have now. I hope as they see our program develop, and see how it is being developed against certain rather specific kinds of threats, very limited in nature, they will not find the need to explode the size of their arsenal. I don't think they'll find such a need or see such a need.

QUESTION: While we were refueling, my desk said that Javier Solana had come out and said he hoped that the Afghan King would soon be able to form a new government. You just spoke with him. Did he say anything that specific that the former king would be able to form a new government? That sounded a little odd to me. I know that we're never saying that we have an (inaudible) and the Afghans have to choose. Do you know whether or not -- have you heard?

SECRETARY POWELLL: I talked to Javier yesterday as he was getting ready to travel. He is heading to the Middle East. We talked about Afghanistan, in general terms, about the need for a new government to be considered and work to be done to put one together in a post-Taliban regime to be ready. I don't think we've gone so far so to say that it is the king that would be the head of this country. I think we all recognize that the king has unique authority and unique ability to perhaps convene the different parties (inaudible).

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: Until I hear what he says, until I've heard what he's said and see it myself, I don't think that I would wish to characterize it as strange.

QUESTION: You've talked about trying to go to the next stage -- building, reconstruction, humanitarian aid and so forth. Now that you've got this strategy in place, can you tell us about what you're going to be doing about that? And, secondly, on the force that may be going in, there are two very different kinds of ideas - an Islamic force, and a UN force. Can you tell us?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the first question, what I will be doing this week is getting a report from Richard Haass, who had good discussions last week, not only on the political piece of it, but also some of the ideas with respect to rebuilding. Many of the APEC nations or APEC economies, as they euphemistically prefer to call them, were very interested in participating in the reconstruction effort. I think there will be solid support for that, and a number of them said, and I think it was Prime Minister Koizumi said at one point, this is not a country that needs to have its industry rebuilt. It isn't a huge Marshall Plan kind of investment. We are talking about an agrarian society, some extracted industries, some oil and gas potential, but fairly modest investment could do wonders, and we're looking at that. I think that part will fall into place fairly quickly once there is stability. There seems to be a solid understanding within the coalition, where we say APEC, NATO, EU and OIC, that we all have to get together to help with this rebuilding, reconstruction, whatever one chooses to call it.

On the military force, I don't have the view on it, but the alternatives are pretty straightforward. You can put in something under Blue Helmet, a UN force, or you can try to assemble willing nations who might put in a force, not necessarily under the UN but will work with whatever UN presence is in the region. That is another way to do it.

Another alternative is, just to exhaust them all, is to just see if you can rapidly put together an Afghan force. That seems to be tricky until you've established some form of government and some form of understanding among the various groupings as to how they will share power and authority before you can really put an army together or a police establishment in place.

So right now, it is not that there is a fight going in. It's that we are trying to debate it, trying to figure out what the right answer is. Some reporting last week suggested that we were at odds with Mr. Brahimi in the UN. I think a better way to characterize it is that we're looking at alternatives to see what would be best supported.

QUESTION: Do you think your trip to Pakistan and India did more than just buy time for the war on terrorism? Given India's continued deep mistrust of Musharraf, how would you assess the stability of Musharraf as a leader and both the relations between India and Pakistan in general?

SECRETARY POWELL: I found President Musharraf to be very much in charge. I think he has a very good understanding of the situation that he's in, and he has good support for the decisions that his government has taken. He has also popular discontent with respect to the military actions in Afghanistan and, as he said several times during our press conference, he would like to see those actions go on for as short of a period as possible. So would we all. But it is more important to make sure that we accomplish the mission, and he also understands that. So I found him to be in secure position. But nevertheless, we are trying to do whatever we can to help him with respect to economic aid, which is what he wanted more than anything else. He emblazoned two words on me, which I think that I have used, which is debt relief, so we're going to try to get him all the assistance we can.

Obviously, there's tension between India and Pakistan still and that flared up on my last night in Pakistan on my way to India the next morning when we saw the firing over the line of control. At the same time, I think both sides are realizing, even though this is a very difficult issue for them, they can't let it get out of control. The stakes are too high. Both sides are committed to the coalition. Both sides are helping the United States and other coalition members. Both sides are working with us on a future for Afghanistan, and both sides realize that for peace and stability in their part of the world, they've got to get this right. So I sense that even though there's tension, I understand that they have to act with enormous restraint. Both sides said that they are anxious to get a dialogue started. They are having a little difficulty getting that dialogue started. I will try to be helpful in that regard. I think they are both committed to the campaign against terrorism, and I was pretty satisfied with the trip.

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