Full Transcript: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

PANETTA: We begin with the fundamental premise here. The fundamental premise is that neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon.

International community's been unified. We've put very tough sanctions on them as a result of that, and we are – you know, we are prepared for any contingency in that part of the world. But our hope is that these matters can be resolved diplomatically.

TAPPER: Right.

PANETTA: And that's what's going on. That's what going on in Baghdad, hopefully that's what will continue to go on in Russia. And we have to put pressure on them to suspend their nuclear enrichment and to operate pursuant to international rules and regulations.

That's our goal. We keep pushing on it. Hopefully this can be resolved diplomatically. But make no mistake about it, we will prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon.

TAPPER: Well, the ambassador to Israel, the American Ambassador to Israel said a few days ago that the U.S. is quote "ready from a military perspective to carry out a strike on Iran." That's true?

PANETTA: One of the things that we do at the Defense Department, Jake, is plan. And we have – we have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves.

TAPPER: All these hot spots we just touched on, and yet the administration is talking about how it's focusing now on the Pacific. Even though everything we've just spent the last 20 minutes talking about --

PANETTA: We do have a few problems!


TAPPER: Yes, exactly!

So, you are headed to Asia, and you will be meeting with your Chinese counterpart in Singapore. You've said that we face the possibility of a cyber attack. This is one of the things you talked about last time with me, about how this was a very big, serious issue of concern for you. And you said it could be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor.

The Pentagon has acknowledged recently China is the biggest source of cyber attacks against this country, including stealing our military secrets. Newt Gingrich spoke about this threat on the campaign trail often. He said cyber attacks, cyber spying, are quote, "acts of war." Do you agree? Are they acts of war, and how would the United States respond?

PANETTA: Well, there's no question that if a cyber attack, you know, crippled our power grid in this country, took down our financial systems, took down our government systems, that that would constitute an act of war.

But what we're involved with here is the effort to make sure that never happens. And in order to do that, we've got to engage. You know, I think it's important for us to engage China in this effort. That's one of the issues I raised when the minister of defense came here from China. How can we better engage on this issue, to share information and to ensure that those kinds of attacks never happen, because this is an area where the technology is developing quickly and where clearly it is becoming an adjunct in terms of any country that moves against another country militarily.

This is something we've got to pay attention to. And it's not only with China. We've got to engage Russia. We've got to engage other countries in an effort to try to develop some kind of standards here that will assure us that just as we did in the nuclear area, we can take steps to prevent a mistake that could be very damaging to our security.

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