THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (State College, Pennsylvania) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 10, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Bryce Jordan Center Pennsylvania State University
2:25 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: -- (in progress) The Chinese will affirm publicly that they will not provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. The Chinese will confirm that in a public statement and the Chinese will also affirm publicly what they have told us in the course of our discussions, that they were unaware of the transfer of these ring magnets from a Chinese entity to a facility in Pakistan.
We look forward to consultations, ongoing consultations with the Chinese side at the technical level that will help us implement aspects of the agreement reached today. And then we'll continue our dialogue on proliferation matters. That's a significant part of our very broad constructive and strategic relationship with China.
Q Mike, once again, what you expect China to confirm tomorrow is?
MR. MCCURRY: They will confirm tomorrow that central Chinese authorities were unaware of the transfer of these magnets.
Q -- will not provide them?
MR. MCCURRY: They will also make a public commitment, a significant public commitment about their determination to avoid the transfer of technology to unsafeguarded facilities.
Q In their country, or outside their country?
MR. MCCURRY: Outside the country.
Q Mike, how come in -- how is their assertion that they were not aware of the transfer credible in such a tightly controlled society?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, first, the United States government has no information to contradict their assertion. The reason, in part, the Chinese site suggested is that the dollar volume of the transfer, which we estimated at $70,000, was an amount that normally might not be regulated by central authorities.
In China now entities have a fair amount of autonomy at the local level. And the magnets in question are not specifically on the nuclear suppliers trigger list -- a point that the Chinese side has made often publicly. While we remain concerned about their cooperation with the Kahn program, the Kahn laboratory in Pakistan, we don't have in our possession information that contradicts the assertions by the Chinese side.
That's about all I want to say on the technical side. There's just now been a very extensive briefing by Secretary Christopher's nonproliferation experts at the State Department, and they've covered most of these questions in some detail.
Q Mike, how might this manifest itself in other areas with China, where there are frictions right now?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our ability to reach a very satisfactory and amicable outcome based on the equality of our position and the Chinese position speaks to the success of a broad constructive engagement policy with the People's Republic.
We continue to have differences with the Chinese side, we know we will have differences. But when we have cases such as this involving proliferation or whether it's human rights or whether it's trade related issues, we have to work in a very intense diplomatic dialogue with the Chinese to resolve these differences, because the relationship is too important to allow it to slip into isolation or hostility.
Q Mike, are you hoping this will figure into the debate on MFN up on the Hill, where there seems to be growing opposition among some --
MR. MCCURRY: We would hope that it would figure favorably into the debate on Most Favored Nation status. It shows that when the United States and the People's Republic work together on an issue in which there are disagreements so we can reach satisfactory outcomes, and that speaks well to the overall nature of the relationship. We hope that will have a positive impact on the MFN debate.
Q Mike, a couple of questions on today's speech. First, the President mentioned the fall coming awards to National Service Scholars. Will that be the first time? Is that a new award?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that will be a new award and one that he has been working on with former Senator Wofford, who's here today, as you know, to really fine-tune the commitment the White House has to community service and to find ways to encourage participation, even at the high school, as well as the college level.
Q And the second question is, just to nail down, this $10 million that AmeriCorps presumably would give out through matching funds, you don't need new congressional approval for that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we do not need -- and for those who didn't hear the figures earlier, the AmeriCorps Program, as a result of the bipartisan agreement on the FY '96 budget that we reached was -- make sure I got these figures right, these I got from Bruce -- it was $403 million is the authorized level for FY '96. We have requested an additional $143 million for the program which would take it to $546 million total.
So out of that $546 million total, the President is suggesting $10 million be set aside for this program. That would be reprogrammed within the existing AmeriCorps Program and does not require any specific congressional approval.
The President is committed to maintaining this $10 million program within any level of appropriation we finally reach with Congress for the program itself. But as you know, the Congress, in a very wrong-handed way in the White House's view, has just had a budget submitted to it by the Republican leadership which would zero out all of these programs.
Q -- $500 award. Is that a cash award or is that a scholarship voucher?
MR. MCCURRY: Bruce? A cash award.
Q Mike, can I go back to China? What did we give to get this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, this is -- we gave nothing. This is the result of very persistent and determined diplomacy by our Secretary of State. The President pays high compliment to Secretary of State Christopher who has worked this issue and other nonproliferation experts in our government who have traveled back and forth to Beijing to very patiently and very firmly negotiate this conclusion.
The Secretary of State had a very significant April 19th meeting with his counterpart Qian Qichen in The Hague, Netherlands, in which the basic framework of this agreement today was discussed and finalized. And since then, there have been subsequent follow-up contacts to fine-tune aspects of the agreement that's now been reached.
Q -- what kind of transfer the Chinese will commit themselves to to avoid --
MR. MCCURRY: They will specifically commit themselves -- well, they will enhance their commitments under the Nonproliferation Treaty which they entered into as an adherent in 1992. They will assure that China will not provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. And that's what they will confirm in the statement we expect them to make tomorrow.
Q Mike, does the agreement today signal that you may have a positive result as well on intellectual property rights and avoid sanctions there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we still have a ways to go on the intellectual property concerns that we have. But it does show that when we patiently press our diplomacy on the basis of fairness and equality with the Chinese side, we can reach satisfactory outcomes. And we hope we can do that as well in the intellectual property area as the President indicated yesterday.
Q While we've been here, Gingrich and Dole said minimum wage will come up in the next two weeks, but it won't be clean. They're going to attach small business write-off provisions, worker education and tax credits. How clean is acceptable to the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: With each passing day now, the Republican leadership inches its way closer to what we hope will be the final outcome which is a straight, up and down, clean vote on a minimum wage increase. Yesterday Senator Dole tried to offer only the repeal of a gas tax without the other half of the equation that the President suggested would break the logjam. Today they inched a little bit further, but they've still got a poison pill attached to the minimum wage. And our strong suspicion is that some time sooner or later they will recognize that a vast majority of Congress wants to increase the minimum wage and they will do so.
Interestingly, as some of you know, there's a measure pending in the lower House here in Pennsylvania that would raise the minimum wage to $5.75. So around the country there are already steps underway, recognizing the American people want to see the minimum wage increase. Where state legislatures are moving, that surely will have an impact on the Republican leadership sooner or later.
Q Mike, back to the commencement address for a second, what are the themes of the next two commencement addresses and what do you hope people are left with after all the commencement addresses?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you saw the President do today, and he explicitly stated, he went back and revisited the speeches he gave in 1991, the three so-called "New Covenant" speeches and really came to the same themes again today and addressed -- put them in the context of America's 21st century.
You can expect that on May 22nd at the Coast Guard Academy, he will talk about America's global leadership, what we need to do to preserve American leadership in the world. And then at Princeton on June 4, he will take a lot of the issues related to economic growth and opportunity and put those in the context of what we can do to enhance the quality of life and raise incomes for the American working people in the 21st century. So you've got, you know, a statement of our purpose in the world on May 22nd, and what we can do here at home to further strengthen our economy on June 4th.
He has also -- from today there is a -- a large portion of today's speech dealt with the American family, and he has been toying with the idea, perhaps, of adding a fourth speech on family, but it would draw on some of the same issues related to pregnancy, welfare dependency, other things that he addressed today in this speech.
Q Mike, he called for Congress to overhaul welfare again. Is it his position that he would accept the Senate bill approved last September, 8712?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the debate has moved far beyond that now because of the significant impact that the governors have had on the debate and, importantly, the group that's been -- the work that's been done by a bipartisan group the President met with recently, the so-called Breaux-Chafee group.
The President has indicated that their ideas on welfare reform, while they don't necessarily embrace everything the administration suggested, would be a satisfactory way to achieve bipartisan welfare reform in the context of a balanced budget agreement. And, again, the President calls on the Republican leadership to get serious about negotiating a comprehensive balanced budget agreement that would include welfare reform.
Q Mike, the President was in the dinner late last night -- you said something about he worked on this speech until?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. He got back to the Residence I think sometime after midnight and worked on it until the wee hours of the morning. I think he said he was working on it until like 4:00, 4:30 in the morning.
Q The speech?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. And in two speeches coming up I think will also put a lot of personal attention to that.
Q What would the fourth venue be if it wasn't -
MR. MCCURRY: We were thinking about California, but that's not been determined yet. The President is interested, by the way, in doing that in either a community college or high school setting.
Q With today's emphasis again national service, the charge is inevitable to come up again that it's hitting the wrong constituency, that it amounts to a subsidy for middle class American kids.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's wrong. We have extensive college education assistance programs that we maintain. We maintain with strong support on both sides of the aisle, because the dream of a college education is part of the American Dream.
What the President has suggested, through the concept of national service, is in exchange for the opportunity extended by government, there's a responsibility on the part of the recipient to give something back to America -- in this case, specifically, working in communities to help better communities.
And that concept, that one of the mutual responsibilities or reciprocal responsibilities that citizens have to each other and that they have with their government that we the people form, has been a consistent theme of the President going back through the new covenant speeches, through his work in Arkansas, and reflects something of the philosophy that you'd expect of a new Democrat.
Thank you. Anything else before we shut down? All right. Hope you all get back safe and soundly.
Q Do you know what time the President got up this morning, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Probably not much before he started his program.
Okay. See you.
END 2:45 P.M. EDT