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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 2, 1998
                        BRIEFING BY ROBERT BELL,
                          The Briefing Room

4:13 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. When the President delivered his State of the Union address to the nation the other evening, he indicated he would submit to the Senate for advice and consent the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Tomorrow when the President goes to New Mexico, he is going to visit a facility that is one of the reasons why the President has a high degree of confidence that pursuing the CTBT will be in this nation's national security interest.

I'd like to have the President's Senior Director at the National Security Council for Defense Policy and Arms Control to tell you more about our efforts to achieve advice and consent for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and then also to tell you a little bit about specifically what the President will be seeing tomorrow when he goes to Los Alamos.

Mr. Robert Bell.

Q Will you be back later for --

MR. MCCURRY: I can come back briefly if need be.

MR. BELL: Thank you, Mike. In his State of the Union address, the President said that by ending nuclear testing we could help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons, and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them. And that, in essence, is our bottom-line argument for the Senate to give its advice and consent this year to this treaty as the President requested in his speech.

In that address he was also very pleased to announce the support of four former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- General John Shalikashvili, General Colin Powell, General David Jones, and Admiral William Crowe -- for the treaty. And in the speech he gave at the National Defense University, NDU, last week, he also noted that he had discussed the CTB in the meeting with the Commanders in Chief, the CINCs, and that the CTB enjoyed the full support of the Commander in Chief of our strategic command, General Habiger.

Now, there are seven reasons why this treaty enjoys such widespread support, not only from senior military and national security leaders, the administration itself, but also an overwhelming percentage of the American public. First is that the treaty allows America to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent. The point of the treaty is to ban the bang, not to ban the bomb. And with the treaty we can maintain our nuclear deterrent.

Now second, as the President said, it constrains the development of more advanced nuclear weapons by the states that have already declared themselves being nuclear powers.

And third, it constrains rogue states or others that might seek to acquire nuclear weapons in their development of nuclear capabilities.

That in a sense then makes the fourth argument, which is that the CTB underpins our nonproliferation agenda across the board. It strengthens the nonproliferation treaty regime and underscores our ability to lead the world in terms of our nonproliferation efforts. Had we not negotiated this CTB, I do not believe we would have secured the indefinite and unconditional extension of the non-proliferation treaty in 1995, when that outcome was very much in doubt. And were the Senate to give its advice and consent to the CTB, I believe we could but the NPT at risk when it comes before the review conference in the year 2000.

Fifth, the CTB improves America's ability to detect and deter nuclear explosive testing. We're going to have to monitor nuclear test activities and nuclear proliferation activities with or without the CTB. With the CTB, our intelligence community gets extra tools to do a job which, for them, is a priority assignment in the first place.

Sixth, we believe, as was shown convincingly over the last nine months since the Senate gave its strong advice and consent to the Chemicals Weapon Convention by a bipartisan vote of 74 ayes and 26 noes, ratification of treaties by the United States encourages other countries to ratify those treaties.

And beyond that, seventh, ratification by the United States and others will constrain non-signatories to this treaty from conducting nuclear tests by, in effect, establishing an international norm against testing.

Now, the context for the President's visit to Los Alamos tomorrow is to underscore four of the six safeguards that the President has submitted to the Senate, together with the CTB, which establish the conditions under which the United States is prepared to enter into this treaty. For those of you who were at the time or covering it, you'll recall that in August of 1995 the President announced in this room his decision to seek a so-called zero yield, or true CTB, subject to six safeguards that had been very carefully negotiated and worked out in close consultation between Tony Lake, then the National Security Advisor, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shalikashvili; then-Secretary of Defense Bill Perry; and then-Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch; with further consultations with Secretary of Energy O'Leary and Secretary of State Christopher.

And at that time the President stated that the United States will retain strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile foreign leadership with access to strategic nuclear forces from acting against U.S. vital interest. And that in that context, the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile is a supreme national interest of the United States. Our visit to Los Alamos tomorrow is intended to underscore our efforts to make sure that we respect and maintain this supreme national interest of the United States in maintaining a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile.

You will get some material shortly that Mike's staff will hand out, including a fact sheet on the six CTB safeguards. And as I said, this visit to Los Alamos shows the crucial role that that laboratory -- together with the other two nuclear laboratories, that is, the ones at Lawrence Livermore in California and Sandia, also in Albuquerque, the role that they play in four of the six safeguards.

The first is conducting the science-based stockpile stewardship program by which we'll maintain a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons absent testing.

The second is maintaining very modern laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology to make sure we have the facilities, the expertise, and the personnel to do this job.

The third is to resume -- is to maintain the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities should the treaty no longer be in force for whatever reason in the future.

And last, it's the President's understanding that if we were to fail at this task -- which we don't think is at all likely -- of maintaining very high confidence in our nuclear weapons through stockpile stewardship absent nuclear testing, and if he is advised by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy in consultations with the Nuclear Weapons Council, the directors of the labs, and the commander of our strategic command, that they can't certify there high confidence in our weapons, that the President in consultation with Congress would be prepared to withdraw from the CTB under the supreme national interest clause of that accord.

Now, at Los Alamos, the President will be briefed on the four basic objectives of our stockpile stewardship program. The first is to maintain a safe and reliable stockpile as weapons age. We're extremely confident in our nuclear stockpile now. The last nuclear test was in 1992, and at that time everyone was very confident that for at least a decade, we had very, very high levels of confidence in the inventory. The challenge of the stockpile stewardship program is to bring on line over that next decade, the facilities we need to offset for the loss of testing.

The second objective of the program is to enhance our capability to replace and certify nuclear weapons components as needed.

The third is to train new weapons scientists, capable of doing this job.

And the fourth is to maintain an operational manufacturing capability to repair and remanufacture weapons over time as they age.

Now, you will be given a fact sheet on the stockpile stewardship program that explains this in more detail, including the supercomputer facility that the President will see at Los Alamos, which is part of our accelerated strategic computational initiative -- also called ASCI -- which will provide the computers and weapons simulations for making critical decisions about the safety and reliability of the weapons stockpile.

And at that point, I think I'll stop and take your questions about specific aspects of the visit, once he gets to the lab tomorrow.

Q You talked about a lot of details about the CTB and nonproliferation and the different objectives and so forth. Why is it so important for the President to be visiting Los Alamos to highlight these -- underscore these objectives tomorrow?

MR. BELL: Well, the President was going to Albuquerque anyway. He's giving an address at the Civic Center related to the budget roll-out. And since he's going to be in the vicinity of one of the premier nuclear laboratories -- indeed one of the crucial building blocks of our stockpile stewardship program -- it only made sense for him to visit that, get briefed himself, so that as we have this discussion with the Senate this year he can speak from firsthand experience.

Q Are you trying to scare Saddam?

MR. BELL: No, I don't think so, Helen. We had been looking for an opportunity to go to the labs long before this current crisis arose.

Q Is he actually going to see any simulations of weapons?

MR. BELL: Yes, they will run three different simulations off this so-called Blue Mountain supercomputer: one dealing with how the computer can help with transportation prediction problems; one on environmental issues, or weather prediction; and the third is a nuclear test simulation itself.

Q The idea is that if we can run these simulations we don't actually have to explode actual devices?

MR. BELL: That's right. Of course, there's no claim that with one computer you can offset or compensate for all nuclear testing. And the point of the briefing that the President will get is to show the full complex of facilities, not only at Los Alamos, but at Livermore and Sandia as well, that will allow us to compensate.

Q Hasn't he already gone to Los Alamos?

MR. BELL: He went to Los Alamos in 1993, and at that point we had just directed the establishment of this program. So he's coming back, really five years later, to see the progress we've made.

END 4:24 P.M. EST