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Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Sigonella


Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Sigonella, Italy

Secretary Colin L. Powell On Board Plane En Route Sigonella, Italy July 26, 2002

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks for coming, first of all, thanks for coming along. This is a long one and it will be a difficult one, but it ought to be a pretty good trip.

Of course, the first leg of it deals with India and Pakistan. I have two new colleagues to meet and work with this time, Mr. Sinha of India who replaced my friend Jaswant Singh, and then of course, Mr. Ul Haq, the Foreign Secretary in Pakistan. So two new colleagues to meet and to begin developing the kind of personal relationships I had with their predecessors, and principally to pursue bilateral agendas with the two countries.

I am anxious to talk about economic activities, trade, regional security discussions, proliferation and nonproliferation efforts; the campaign against terrorism; to build on the strategic partnership we're trying to create with each of the countries. And then of course we ll also talk about the situation in the region - two nations remain mobilized, although I think the tension level is down significantly from a month ago, but we don t want to just stand fast so I m going to be talking to both sides about what we can do to keep the momentum going, recognizing that we do have the elections in Kashmir coming up in late September and October and of course the Pakistani elections also in the fall.

So, I look forward to productive meetings in both countries. We will keep you informed of the results of those meetings as we go forward. Robin?

QUESTION: Can you tell us what specifically you re going to do on this trip to shore up America s counter terrorism cooperation among our various allies, partners, on this trip?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well obviously, with both India and Pakistan it will be a subject of discussion, Pakistan especially. I will discuss with my colleagues there, especially President Musharraf, the continued need to be vigilant with respect to Al Qaeda activities and Taliban activities drifting over the border into Pakistan. We've been pleased with the response of the Pakistani officials to requests for cooperation, and also as a result of the reduced tension over the past month, we were kind of concerned that Pakistan might remove some of its focus from the Afghan border but they have stayed with it. They re working closely with us.

The meetings with ASEAN colleagues who will be talking about terrorism, it s one of the important issues on the agenda. There are some statements that will be coming out and some joint statements we re working on. They re not quite there, but they will be there, I m quite confident, by the time I get to Brunei. That will be put out by the group.

With the Indonesians, I'm sure that we ll have much to discuss. I don t have anything specific to say to you other than I think they have done quite a bit since 9/11 initially. We had some disagreements with them but I think they ve come along nicely and all of those nations have increasingly realized that terrorism is a danger to each and every one of us. It s not just an American agenda. It has to be an international agenda. We can go around the world looking for terrorist incidents that have taken place since 9/11, which we enforced to everyone the importance of working on this as an international campaign on behalf of civilization.

My Philippine friends, I ll be able to take note of the successful work that we have done together, where United States forces have helped to make Philippine forces more capable.

We were able to reach the hostages, unfortunately two of the three were killed in the battle that ensued. Gracia Burnham is now back home and we will continue to explore with the Philippinos on how to move forward with our joint training exercises in a way that benefits them. We stand ready to assist our friends and work with our friends in ways that they want. We will have ideas, we have suggestions, but ultimately it has to be something that they want to do and they feel committed to do, and we stand ready to help them.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you expecting anything substantive in terms of further tension-reduction measures by either India or Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: Do I expect further tension reduction measures from the Indians and the Pakistanis? I will certainly explore possibilities and see what reciprocity might exist between the two sides, if either side took certain actions. My colleagues have been going into the region, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last week and others who kept this dialogue going. I really am pleased at what we've been able to do over the past month, month and a half. I'm not expecting a breakthrough yet of the kind we saw a month or so ago. Breakthrough isn t the word. I just want to make sure we re not just stopped and I want to see what both sides might be willing to do to keep us from going down that escalatory ladder that you heard me speak of on a number of occasions.

QUESTION: Is it possible, do you think, for a foreign dialogue on Kashmir to begin before the elections in Kashmir?

SECRETARY POWELL: I ll ask them how they want to get started with a dialogue. I think both sides now recognize the need for a dialogue - it's a question of timing and it s a question of expectations and conditions met. I think that the important part is that both sides understand the need for dialogue.

What I will have to do with both the Indians and the Pakistanis is to see when they are comfortable beginning a dialogue. Will it be when the escalation goes down? Will it be when there s greater assurance that there s no cross-border infiltration? Will it be when the Kashmiri elections are over? All of these are possibilities that I will explore with the two sides, and see if we can even begin talking about talks at some point in the near future, because ultimately we have to get to dialogue or else we will just be stuck on a plateau which would not serve our interests. We don t want to be back where we were a few months ago, a few months from now.

QUESTION: Is there now discussion about a meeting between either yourself or Assistant Secretary Kelly with the North Koreans in Brunei? Is it getting to be more of a possibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: The question has to do with North Korea. As you know, in the last couple of days, they've made some of what I consider very positive statements, that we have welcomed, acknowledging responsibility for the naval incident that took place a few weeks back. Also once again indicating receptivity to a dialogue with the United States. We welcome that, we'll be following up on it. Whether there is an opportunity for me to pursue that in Brunei remains to be seen, and I ll be discussing this with Assistant Secretary Kelly when I catch up with him.

QUESTION: Are you open to it?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President s policy has been that we are open to a dialogue. In fact, we stated that last summer with the "any time, any place." We were prepared to enter into that dialogue by now except for the naval incident that sort of suggested it was not an appropriate time to send a team to Pyongyang. So we have now had another turn of the wheel and we will follow it up.

QUESTION: Question on Thailand. There seems to be a disagreement within Thailand about how great a threat Islamic militancy poses there. The Thai Prime Minister was quite rude to his intelligence when they suggested they might have an Al Qaeda presence. What's the US assessment of the level of threat there?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have a particular intelligence assessment in my head, but I think that wherever there's the likelihood of an Al Qaeda presence, it ought to be taken seriously. No country should be anxious to provide a welcoming environment for Al Qaeda. They will take advantage of it and it will be to the detriment of that country. They are terrorists. They are interested in killing innocent people. They are not adherents of any faith other than the cult of terrorism, and I don t think any country should provide a welcoming atmosphere for an Al Qaeda presence. I m sure I ll have conversations with the leaders in Thailand to get their assessment of the extent to which they believe that that presence is in Thailand.

QUESTION: Are you concerned they might be underplaying the threat?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I'll wait until I talk to them before I make a judgment.

QUESTION: If I could follow up on Korea. Are you not ruling out then the possibility that you might have a chat with some North Koreans in Brunei?

SECRETARY: I m not ruling anything in or out, it s an open question right now. We ll see.

QUESTION: You had ruled it out in an interview a couple of weeks ago.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don t think I did. I saw a report that I had ruled it out, and I immediately called my staff and said, when did I do that? And they said, you didn t. I don t think I can find me ruling it out, or Richard, for that matter. Have you? Did you ever?

RICHARD BOUCHER: I didn t.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, it's my understanding from talking to some of my colleagues in India that the Indian government is angry with this travel ban that the US had put in place with India and then the evacuation and whatnot.

Is there a particular reason that you're not meeting with the Prime Minister, and are you going with any ideas as to how to improve the atmosphere between the two?

SECRETARY POWELL: Richard will correct me, but I think that we have lowered the level of concern. We have lowered it. And the reason we raised it is that I have a responsibility to protect American personnel stationed in these countries as well as American travelers and American citizens who live in these other countries. I have to review, with the help of my staff and intelligence and law enforcement communities, the potential threat that exists at any one time.

A month or two ago, two months ago I guess it is now, the threat was very high. There was a high probability that the situation could become more dangerous. You might want to look at the stories that were being written at the time as an indication of the environment that we were dealing with. So for that country, we raised the level of concern and began some departures. The situation I think has stabilized a bit, tensions have gone down, and we immediately try to adjust. Because we don't want to inconvenience people or unnecessarily raise the threat level. And I will be seeing Prime Minister Vajpayee

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, yesterday an Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman said you will get an earful from the Indian side during your talks because they have major concerns about infiltration across the line of control by Islamic militants. Do you have any idea what they're talking about?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I'll wait to respond until after my ear has been filled. There is constant discussion and debate as to the extent of infiltration across the line of control. It s not the most - it s not the easiest thing to measure, and it s hard to measure with any level of precision. So I have sources of information that I ll review with the Indians, of course (inaudible) wish to present to me, and then make a judgment. And then I will discuss all of that of course, and receive President Musharraf s judgment when I get to Islamabad.

QUESTION: With regard to Kashmir, it doesn't sound as if you're going to be particularly aggressive in trying to push the two sides toward a dialogue. How urgent do you feel the problem is?

SECRETARY: I think it's important for dialogue to begin. What I'm going to encourage both sides to work on now - on the Indian side, to have free, open, fair, inclusive elections in Kashmir and to permit an international presence. People from outside to travel to Kashmir during that period, widely and openly, to help the Indians show the international community, show the world, that it is a free, open, fair election. I will be encouraging them to encourage moderate participation., participation of all parties in the election process.

I will be encouraging the Pakistani side to do everything to make sure that nothing is done which would disturb these elections. So that will be an area of concentration. Throughout all of the discussions I will be talking about the need for a dialogue. With respect to its urgency, I think it s important for a dialogue to begin, but I think the conditions have to be right. So I don t know that the sense of urgency in the form of you ve got to get it tomorrow will be the approach that I would take. This is going to take some additional work. We re going to have to see some more additional changes on the ground and I will just do everything I can to begin the talks to begin the talks.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you tell me if you are relatively happy with the level of support you've been getting from the Administration, if there are differences in opinion between what you would like to see done and what the Administration would like to see done. Do you think they re settled in a way that you could work with?

SECRETARY POWELL: I get solid support from within the Administration. I briefed the President and my other colleagues, the Vice-President, Secretary of Defense, Dr. Rice, Mr. Tenet and others yesterday and again this morning, between yesterday and this morning, and they re fully aware of what I m trying to accomplish on the trip. We worked out all our positions and it s pretty solid. Was that your question, or did you want to go to the other one?

QUESTION: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Indonesia and whether you expect any progress during this visit on the military relationship?

SECRETARY: I do want to explore that with the Indonesian authorities. We have some ideas, and I hope you ll bear with me. Let me have the discussion with them and we may be able to give you greater texture in this, as they say, later. Is that it? Okay, Todd.

QUESTION: It's really probably just a corollary of Karen's. I was going to ask you about the Philippines. Do you take it as a given that another round of training exercises will in fact begin this fall? Is that part of what you want to talk about?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure we'll talk about that with President Arroyo, but the details of that and the sequencing and the timing of all that, I would leave to Don Rumsfeld and his colleagues to work out. So I don t think that I would get into the intricacies of it, just to take note of how successful I think the operations have been, the training, with Philippine forces. It s up to the Philippine government to decide what else they might want to do with us, and then I ll let my colleagues in the Pentagon get into the details of that, but I certainly look forward to having some discussion with President Macapagal-Arroyo.

QUESTION: Do you feel comfortable with the differences that are sometimes, not necessarily evident, but certainly you have different issues that the others do not.

SECRETARY POWELL: There are differences within any administration.

I've been in administrations on and off for 15 years. I ve been a Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now Secretary, and even before all that, I was military assistant to Cap Weinberger during the days of the Reagan Administration. So I ve seen all of this for close to 20 years.

There are always differences. A President is well served by differences. A President is well served by an open clash of ideas, and especially well served when this clash of ideas serves to sharpen differences and also get the best information before a President for him to make a decision. It is especially valuable when all the people doing it are old friends who have worked with each other in one capacity or another for many many years. I have found in my years in government that Presidents are not well served if they don t have this kind of competition among advisors. It brings out all of the issues. It serves the President well, and it serves the nation well. The President appreciates it, very often enjoys it, and thinks he is well served by such a process, as do my other colleagues.

[End]

Released on July 27, 2002


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