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Pentagon Spokesman Holds News Briefing

Aired April 24, 2001 - 14:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you out to the Pentagon now, the daily Department of Defense briefing being done today by Rear Admiral Craig Quigley. He has been talking actually about the efforts from the various military forces to assist in the upper Midwest with flooding conditions there, talking about some of the investment there.

But right now, he's answering reporters' questions, which began with some questions about the Taiwan arms sales. Let's listen.

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: ... this list of systems, if the Taiwanese wish to purchase them. And the way ahead from here is that the Taiwanese will take this list back home and they will discuss it within their government, within their military in the weeks and months ahead, and make an assessment as to whether or not the individual items on the list are affordable.

Is this a system that fits into their overall blueprint and architecture for their defense capabilities in the years ahead? Will I have training systems, maintenance systems in place or can I hire those out? How will I support these systems once I have them in my inventory?

And it's entirely conceivable in truth, many times in past years, that an item that we say will be approved should the Taiwanese ask for it, the Taiwanese never ask. And after further assessment on their part, they determine that it's not affordable or not desirable for some reason or another and just simply never ask.

But if there's an item on the list that they do wish to pursue, then it's a separate and individual exchange of letters. It's a request for a sale and it goes through the normal process that you're more familiar with, I think, in our normal discourse between nations, where you ultimately have the notification of the Congress and the whole bit.

So this is the first step, really, in this process that will go on for another year. It's an additive process, of course. The sales of equipments from prior years all go into the assessment that we do to try to determine the legitimate defensive needs of Taiwan.

QUESTION: Just a brief follow-up again. What incentive do the Taiwanese have to buy Kidds if they're still holding out the prospect of Aegis? And how do you response to Chinese charges that submarines are offensive weapons and not defensive weapons? QUIGLEY: Well, to the first question, the next step from here, once we have expressed our willingness to approve the sale or transfer of the four Kidd-class destroyers, the Taiwanese then take that back, and they say, "OK, do we want four?"

"Do we want a number different than four? How would we man them? How would we train our sailors to operate them? How would they fit into our overall defense architecture?"

And it's possible that they would not ask for those four Kidd- class destroyers to be made available to them. It's entirely possible.

So that the next step from here is, them to take this list back home and to go through it, item by item, look at it holistically -- "How does it approve my defense capabilities? Is it affordable? Is it maintainable?" -- and things of that sort.

So the answer to your first question, at this point, really rests with the Taiwanese.

QUESTION: On the submarines, how about the charge by the Chinese that submarines are offensive weapons? And we don't build diesel- class subs. How would that be handled?

QUIGLEY: Well, we don't know the answer to the, "How it would be handled," yet. I mean, we're just not to that -- first things first.

And first, the Taiwanese would have to express their interest in pursuing the acquisition of diesel-electric submarines and that there are a variety of designs available in the world today. But we just have to take that one step at a time, and we're not that far yet.

QUESTION: The Chinese say that they are offensive weapons.

QUIGLEY: Well, I would disagree with that and say that the spirit in which we would preapprove them for sale to the Taiwanese was as a system that would meet the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan.

QUESTION: Are you raising the possibility of building new diesel submarines for Taiwan?

QUIGLEY: Don't know the answer to that one yet. Like I say, first things first. There are a variety of good diesel-electric submarine designs available today. You could manufacture them in several different places. You could do licensing agreements. I just don't know which way that would go.

QUESTION: German diesel submarines?

QUIGLEY: The Germans have a good design. The Dutch have a good design. I believe the Italians -- there are good designs for diesel- electric submarines out there.

QUESTION: They would build them and we would supply them to Taiwan? QUIGLEY: Don't know that step.

QUESTION: The Germans and the Dutch are the two main manufacturers of private subs. And both of their governments said today that they haven't even been approached or sounded out on the issue of licenses.

QUIGLEY: Right, that's because we're not to that step yet. The next step, as I've said, is the Taiwanese to express their interest in pursuing this. This is our willingness to approve their request -- in advance, preapproval, if you will -- should they so desire.

Now there's no requirement for them -- they take this back, they assess this. They could ask for a smaller number. They could ask for the same number with particular design details in mind. We just don't know. We're just not to that point.

QUESTION: Well, who phrased the offer to them of submarines?

QUIGLEY: Diesel-electric submarines; no particular design.

QUESTION: Why are we offering them something that we don't have? Why is the U.S. even inserted into that process? If they want them, why don't they just go directly to manufacturers of them? Why are we involved?

QUIGLEY: Well, again, let me just -- if the Taiwanese choose to come to us and ask for the acquisition of diesel-electric submarines, we're saying that we would say yes to that request.

QUESTION: But we don't have them, so...

QUIGLEY: And much homework would then be required after that step.

QUESTION: Could you please explain -- because I think a lot of people don't understand -- why the United States is giving permission for them to purchase from us or from someone else a weapon that we don't have to give them?

QUIGLEY: Well, I think you have to take it one step at a time. I don't have all the details, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: I'm not asking for the details; I'm asking for the arrangement that we have with Taiwan. Why are we giving them permission to buy or lease or get a weapons system that we don't have at the moment?

QUIGLEY: We would help them find a way, if that is something they wish to pursue.

QUESTION: And why wouldn't they just turn to someone else who has it and get it directly from them?

QUIGLEY: I can't answer that one. I don't know. QUESTION: Is this list made up somewhat from the Taiwanese giving some inputs as to some of the things they're interested in? Does that go into making up this list?

QUIGLEY: It is an element of that, yes. But it's also an individual U.S. assessment every year as to trying to determine the most pressing and legitimate of their defense needs. So it is a combination of that.

QUESTION: How did the submarines get on our list in the first place? I mean, somebody had to say, "Well, I wonder if they'd be interested in diesel-electric submarines." How did that get on our list of things that we'd be willing to sell them?

QUIGLEY: I don't know the derivation of that.

QUESTION: The White House spokesman today said that there would not have been an offer to provide diesel submarines to the Taiwanese if the United States was not reasonably certain it could make good on that offer, suggesting that some groundwork has already been done on this. This isn't just, sort of, out of mid-air.

Can you describe any kind of preparation work that the Pentagon has done to see that this deal can go down? Or are you saying that no preparation work whatsoever has been done by the Pentagon to look into seeing whether these submarines can be provided?

QUIGLEY: We are reasonably sure that if the Taiwanese wish to come through us to obtain submarines, then going back to Pam's question, we will find a way to make that work. But to the best of my knowledge, no advance prep work -- as those of you who have been rapid to pick up the phone and call the Dutch and the German governments have found that there has been no interaction with their governments because it's premature to do so at this point. But if they express that interest, we are confident that we can find a way to make that happen.

QUESTION: Craig, on the point of the Taiwanese interest...

CHEN: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley taking some rather pointed questions today at the Pentagon from reporters asking questions about the types of weaponry systems included in the list offered up by the Bush administration, what types and why they were included in this list.

And it was quite a controversial decision of the Bush administration, the president had to make to allow fairly sophisticated arms systems to be sold to the Taiwanese, although not including the Aegis systems, which, of course, had been at the focus of all the controversy.

Left open in the Bush administration's decision is whether the Aegis might be sold at some later date to the Taiwanese.

Some of the questions today included why the Taiwan government would include -- why would the Taiwan government would decide to buy, say, the Kidd class destroyers, which are on the approved list, and not wait for the possibility of the Aegis becoming available to them later. Taking some tough questions at the Pentagon today, Admiral Craig Quigley.

Following up not from the military side of this but from the diplomatic side of this controversial issue, CNN's Jeanne Meserve joins us now from our Washington bureau -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, there's been some curiosity about what the diplomatic fallout from this decision would be. It has begun. CNN's Elise Labott reporting from the State Department that the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. went to the State Department today and met with the undersecretary of state, Marc Grossman. He's the undersecretary of state for political and military affairs. And with him the Chinese ambassador filed a formal protest over this arms sale to Taiwan, basing it on press reports of what was going to be included in the package.

Of course, as has been mentioned repeatedly, this package did not include the Aegis radar system. Nonetheless, the Chinese traveling to the State Department today to register their formal complaint about what has been sold.

Joie, back to you.

CHEN: Jeanne Meserve from our Washington studio today.

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