THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SOUTH ASIA AFFAIRS ROBIN RAPHEL, AND DIRECTOR OF NEAR EAST AND SOUTH ASIAN AFFAIRS FOR NSC ELLEN LAIPSON
The Briefing Room
2:32 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me just get things going. I'll be available at the end of this briefing for any of you who want to ask about other subjects. But I've asked Robin Raphel, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, and Ellen Laipson, who is the Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, to take some questions to follow up on the presentations you've just heard from the President and the Prime Minister following their very successful bilateral chat this morning.
Q Will the President sign the waiver to allow this release of the jets, and what else can he do on the Hill to get her her jets?
MS. LAIPSON: He has no waiver authority.
Q He doesn't?
MS. LAIPSON: He has no waiver authority.
Q So what is he going to do? He offered to try to work something out. What happens?
MS. LAIPSON: What happens next is there will be consultations with Congress. We were aware that a number of members are exploring this same issue themselves, and they have some of their own ideas. I think there's a range of possibilities of what legislative vehicles could be used that has to be explored with Congress.
Q Such as?
MS. LAIPSON: New legislation. It could go on the various legislative vehicles, State Department authorization bill. It could -- I think it will be up to the Congress to determine what some of the best options available may be.
Q Will the President seek the release of these jets under new legislation or is there something short of the release of the jets that the President intends to seek in new legislation?
MS. LAIPSON: I think he made clear that what he is talking about is flexibility. The first consultations with the Hill are going to be about flexibility in areas other than the airplanes, such as ability to work together in economic areas in counterterrorism, various aspect of the relationships that have been adversely affected by the Pressler Amendment. That kind of flexibility would also require new legislation, and that's what he was talking about.
Q How damaging does the administration consider the Pressler Amendment in terms of overall U.S.-Pakistani relations?
MS. LAIPSON: I think our general assessment -- and Robin may want to join me on this -- is that it has been damaging both to our bilateral relationship and to our ability to achieve our nonproliferation goals in the region.
Q How responsive have you found Congress on the flexibility or whatever you're trying to get?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Well,this Congress has had a series of hearings on this issue, both as to relations with South Asia and specifically on the Pressler Amendment. So there's a lot of interest in trying to understand the whole situation, the background to it, what it has meant. So there's a great deal of interest. There is -- at first blush, always people will say, well, this doesn't seem fair. But when they look at the totality of the situation, I think there is an appreciation, and it's a very complex issue.
Q Prime Minister Bhutto has been saying in the last two days that the U.S. administration says that Pakistan doesn't have a nuclear weapon, nuclear device. What is the position as far as the administration is concerned? Does or does not Pakistan have a nuclear device?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Let me repeat what we've often said on this very question, and that is that we believe that Pakistan could assemble a relatively small number of nuclear devices on relatively -- in a relatively short time frame. We say precisely the same about India.
Q But hasn't U.S. intelligence determined that Pakistan has, in fact, developed a nuclear weapon, has, in fact, assembled at least one nuclear weapon?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: The President said in 1990 when the Pressler Amendment was invoked that he could not certify that Pakistan did not have a nuclear device.
Q When was the money for the airplanes given by Pakistan? Was it after 1990 or before 1990?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: It was before 1990.
Q Has any other country ever been impacted and directly affected by the Pressler Amendment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: The Pressler Amendment is country-specific.
Q It is? Only directed to Pakistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Yes.
Q Either one of you -- in addition to talking about, you know -- you talk about flexibility. The President, particularly in response to that last question, said very flatly and sort of strongly that he thought this was wrong and unfair. So if you say that his first move will be to seek other areas of cooperation, economic assistance, counterterrorism, drug enforcement, whatever, does he have a preferred course about rectifying this situation about the planes that he thinks is unfair? Does he want to waive the maintenance fees? Is there a rank order of things about the planes that he could --
MS. LAIPSON: I think that's all under consideration now. I don't think he has any specific list in a particular order that he wants to pursue. I think he's also very conscious of the range of opinion on the Hill and wants to work with what is achievable and where there is consensus on the Hill that some new flexibility is in order.
Q I have a question for Secretary Raphel, please. Are we now in a stage where the initiative that the administration undertook that sent Mr. Talbott out to India and Pakistan is now a thing of the past? Has that been consigned to a previous chapter? Are we now entering some new phase, or would you describe this is part of that initial --
ASST. SECRETARY RAPHAEL: I would view it all on a continuum. It's all part of the same effort to resolve the same problem -- how do we move forward in our relationship with Pakistan in the context of our regional global nonproliferation responsibilities.
Q Prime Minister Bhutto said that she was glad that the Clinton administration accepts that Kashmir is a disputed territory. We've been hearing different positions on the Kashmir issue and on whether this administration believes it is a disputed territory or whether it's an internal problem of India and needs to be resolved bilaterally. What is the latest position of the Clinton administration on Kashmir, Ms. Raphael?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Actually, our position has remained constant; the U.S. position even before the Clinton administration has remained constant. We view the entire formal princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as disputed territory. In our view, India and Pakistan need to get together and have serious negotiations on how to resolve this dispute and other problems between them.
We have said that it is important, of course, and a practical necessity that the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir be taken into account in this process. That has constantly been our position; it hasn't changed.
Q Will the President call for a one-time waiver of the Pressler Amendment? Is that something he might think of calling for?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: You might be confusing the effort which began a year and a half ago for a one-time exception to allow the release of the planes in exchange for a verifiable cap on Pakistan's nuclear program. Pakistan was not able to accept that proposal. Technically and theoretically, it's still on the table, but, in fact, Pakistan has said that they are unable to act unilaterally.
Q Will Pakistan have to do anything to get the planes -- will Pakistan have to do anything at all to get those planes back, or are they going to get it irrespective of what they do or don't do?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: I think however this matter is resolved, it will have to be in the context of our nonproliferation policy.
Q My question regarding mediation that Prime Minister Bhutto has offered, what initiative now lies with the United States? Will the United States take any lead role in asking India to take the same positive role as Pakistan is taking? How do you respond to that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Two things. Number one, as the President said I think a couple of times, we are willing to do whatever we can, and if both countries ask us to play a more active role, to play a mediator's role, we'd be happy to consider it. But the fact of the matter is right now, while Pakistan would like that, India would not. And so in a practical sense, there's nothing further we can do in that way.
But we continue to urge both India and Pakistan to sit down together at a high level and seriously discuss this, and we were encouraged to learn from the Prime Minister that the President of Pakistan is going to New Delhi to the SAARC meeting, the upcoming SAARC meeting and hopes to meet with the Indian Prime Minister.
Q to Pakistan, then don't you think that India would also start buying matching equipment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: India has a three-to-one advantage in fighter aircraft over Pakistan already.
Q You don't think so? You don't think they --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: They might. I'm just stating the fact that there's a --
Q Does it not mean that we're getting an arms race, building up arms in the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: I'm sorry. I didn't hear.
Q Does it not mean that India would again start building up -- I mean, the pat 40 years, not much money has been spent on defense. So that if the F-16s go to Pakistan, don't you think that India would also look at other aircrafts?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: Again, they would have to decide what was in their interest, but they do have a three-to-one advantage in fighter aircraft.
Q What other military equipment is there? The President mentioned other military equipment, aside from planes. What else is sitting here that we haven't given them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RAPHEL: There are various spare parts and smaller types of equipment. It was -- the F-16 was the big, big-ticket item.
Q Mike, is there anything to be made about the fact that since mid-March there have been a number of Islamic heads of state visiting President Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: All of these have been part of the schedule of bilateral meetings that the President agreed to at the beginning of the year. No particular significance to that, but the President has, on several occasions, expressed his respect for Islam. We have indicated on numerous occasions we have no quarrel with Islam as a religion. Our complaint has often been with only terrorism and extremism sometimes done in the name of Islam.
END 2:43 P.M. EDT