Secretary of Defense Cohen Sept. 22 Tokyo Press Conference

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Press Conference U.S. Embassy, Tokyo September 22, 2000 (as delivered) QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have two questions if possible. The first one concerns theater missile defense. China and Russia are still highly critical and they are suggesting that American plans are going to destroy the whole system of stability. So, my question is, what your plans are, are you going to make it a closed system for only the United States and Japan and possibly Taiwan to participate, or maybe you are going to make it an open system and there is a possibility for such countries as China and Russia to participate, too. And my second question is about Russian nuclear submarine Kursk which capsized last month. Russians are suggesting that one of the possible reasons is a collision with a NATO or American submarine, they are asking to let them, well, have a look at a couple of United States submarines and the answer from the American side is no; so I ask, why not? And what is your own explanation of that particular accident. Thank you. SECDEF: With respect to national missile defense, as you know, President Clinton has decided to defer a decision on deployment of that system, on a system, until the next administration. I have had conversations with President Putin and other leaders in Russia to explain that this system as contemplated by the United States is in response to the continued proliferation of missile technology, particularly in the hands of those states formerly known as rogue states, now known as states of concern. But their possession does in fact pose a threat to the security of the United States and the question then becomes, can a system be designed and constructed that would require some modification of the ABM treaty, but would be limited in nature and provide the kind of limited protection that the United States feels is needed. President Clinton had met with President Putin, and President Putin said two things. Number one, he agreed that there was an emerging threat. Number two, he said, why don't we see if there can be a NATO-Russian participation on theater missile defenses, and number two, why don't we explore the possibility of a joint research and development project on something called a boost phase intercept system. We are open to exploring a boost-phase intercept system; in fact we sent a team of experts to Moscow to meet with the Russian experts. And what we found was there was very little interest on the part of the Russian experts to discuss any concept or plan for a boost-phase intercept system. So at this point, we would like to work with the Russians but we have nothing that they have produced to date that we would find, be the basis for, a boost-phase intercept system. With respect to the Kursk, we had made it very clear that the United States, that our ships had no role in that terrible tragedy. We have communicated that, we believe that our word, indeed, has been categorical. I have received every assurance and I know that all our ships are operational and could not possibly have been involved in any kind of contact with the Russian submarine. So frankly, there is no need for inspections, since ours are completely operational, there was no contact whatsoever with the Kursk. I hope that the Russian authorities find out the cause of it. All I can do is speculate at this point, that there were internal blasts that led to the loss of that ship and the fine men aboard her.