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Rumsfeld Visits Troops, Officials in Pacific Rim Countries

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

TAMUNING, Guam, Nov. 13, 2003 - The United States needs to shed its Cold War-era force posture and position itself to fight modern threats, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

The secretary's remarks came midway through his 17-hour flight from Washington to Guam, where he will visit U.S. military forces on the island and meet with local officials before heading to Japan and South Korea for talks with military and civilian leaders, as well as troop visits in those countries.

"The U.S. has for several years now been very systematically reviewing our arrangements in the world with various countries, our force deployment and stationings, and have come to some preliminary conclusions that we're now at a stage to begin discussing with our allies and with the Congress," he told reporters traveling with him.

Rumsfeld declined to share his "preliminary conclusions," but explained hypothetically how such discussion might go.

"Illustratively, you might say theoretically it would be nice to be able to have some access to the certain location, and there may be three places where that might make sense," he explained. "You would begin having preliminary discussions with those countries, with neighboring countries, with Congress, and then, at some point, you develop a little greater conviction and visibility as to what's possible and what's desirable.

"And then," he continued, "at some point after those preliminary discussions, you might come back with a recommendation."

The secretary said it might be several years before decisions are made, approved by all parties and implemented. No decisions are expected to be released during this week's visit.

"I wouldn't want to preview what might ultimately be decided, because we're just not at that stage," he said.

Representatives from the United States and South Korea have been discussing the shape of the U.S. footprint in that country for about a year, a senior defense official said. Japan and the United States have more recently begun discussing such issues.

A shift in thinking and posture is necessary because the threat has shifted, Rumsfeld said. The day of static defensive positions is past.

"We're moving worldwide from a static defense to a different footprint - a footprint that recognizes that it's not possible today to predict with precision where a threat may come from or exactly what kind of a threat it might be," he said. "We can reasonably well identify capabilities that are dangerous. And what the United States and our friends and allies around the world have to be prepared to do is, to the extent possible, deter and, if not, defend against those kinds of capabilities that are increasingly available in the world."

Defending against such threats requires more agility and access to more far- flung areas of the world.

The continuing nuclear threat posed by North Korea is sure to be a topic of discussion during Rumsfeld's visit to the region as well. The secretary noted that President Bush has chosen a diplomatic track to resolve the problem.