THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Birmingham, England) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 17, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE POOL
Outside of Hyatt Hotel Birmingham, England
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say a couple of things, and then I know you have some questions and I'll try to answer a few of them.
First of all, I want to commend Prime Minister Blair and all of his team for putting on what I thought was one of our best G-8 meetings. This shows the benefit of these meetings, not just for dealing with the issues that are in the news now -- Indonesia, India, Pakistan and other issues that are presently in the news -- but also dealing with the long-term challenges we face. We did some serious work here on employment issues, on environmental issues, on crime issues, on dealing with conversion of computers in all of our countries at the turn of the century and what kind of challenges will be presented by that and how we can work together on them. It was a very stimulating, interesting meeting that will actually have an impact on the lives of the people that we all represent. So I thought it was quite good, and I felt good about that.
Secondly, I just had a very, very good meeting with President Yeltsin in which, once again, he assured me that he was doing his best to ratify the START II Treaty in the Duma. And we agreed that we wanted to immediately begin work on START III as soon as the ratification is secured there. I think all of us, because of the India nuclear tests, feel an even greater sense of urgency to change the debate again over nuclear issues toward less, not more; to change the whole direction here. And I think if we can get early Duma ratification we know pretty well where we are on a lot of these big START III issues and we'd like to really get after it and turn this, the nuclear tide, back in the right direction -- away from more weapons toward fewer ones. So I was quite encouraged by that.
We still have some areas where we're working with them hard to get greater results and cooperation, especially in the whole area of technology transfer to Iran -- and all of you know about that. And we went over that in some significant detail and I think reached some understandings which will bear fruit in the days ahead, so I'm hopeful of that.
Anyway, it was a good meeting. He was in very, very good form, excited about his new government, proud of them; and seemed to be in as good a health and good a spirits as I've seen him in quite a long time.
Q Mr. President, Pakistan's Foreign Minister told Reuters that he was very close to certain his country would conduct a nuclear test. He told the Associated Press it's not a matter of if, but when. Sir, what does this do to regional stability? And could this have been avoided had, for example, Russia and France joined the U.S. in sanctions against India?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, based on our best information, it hasn't happened yet. I also saw the Foreign Minister on television last night making substantially the same statement, but I understand it's still being debating in the Cabinet.
I understand also that they're under a lot of pressure. You can only imagine what the pressures might be. But I will say this -- I still have hopes that the Prime Minister and the Pakistani government will not go through with a nuclear test. And I believe that we can, the rest of us who would support that can work with them in a way that meets their security interests without the test.
Furthermore, I think that over the long run, and indeed before then, the political, the economic, and the security interests of Pakistan and Pakistan's standing in the world would be dramatically increased if they walked away from a test. The whole rest of the world would think they were stronger and would be profoundly impressed, and I think it would help us to resolve these issues more if they did not. So I hope they will not. And if they do, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Now, do I think that the result would be different if everyone had as hard a line on this as we do? I can't really say that. I think if you go back and look at the statement we've put out here, this is a -- everybody condemned the Indian action, including countries that were very close to India. And every country said their relations would be affected by it. And when I came here, that's the most I thought we could get, because there are lots of countries in the world that basically are opposed to sanctions under almost all circumstances, and except under rare cases when the U.N. votes for them. So we just have a different view on that.
I'm glad that we've done what we've done, even though I have enormous admiration for India's democracy and for its progress in the last several years. But all I can tell you is I'm going to do what I can to get this back on track. I hope that Pakistan won't test. I think it will help us to get it back on track, and I think it will help Pakistan immeasurably in the world community and it will have, I believe, specific political, economic, and security benefits to the country if it does not test.
So I'll keep working on it.
Q Mr. President, if sanctions aren't possible, are there any other specific actions you want these other countries to take when they go home?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, for one thing, I think a lot of countries are taking economic action. Japan is, Canada is, a number of European countries are. The European Union is going to have to debate this. I think that's one of the reasons that Prime Minister Blair, who otherwise took quite a hard line here with us -- he was quite good on the language of the resolution -- but I think that he thinks, as head of the EU, he has to give all these other countries the chance to be heard. I think a number of European countries will take economic actions here.
And I think that we just have to -- we're going to have to work this situation to turn it back around, because what you don't want is the -- insofar as possible the best of all worlds would be that this is an isolated event and then India signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; then Pakistan says it will sign if India does, so they sign. That would be the best conceivable result.
The worst conceivable result would be for everybody that's ever worked on this to think they ought to conduct some sort of test and that this is now -- it's sort of the new measure of either national security or national greatness. That's a terrible signal for the rest of us to send the world, especially when the Russians and we are doing our very best to put everything in the opposite direction and to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.
So we just have to -- I'm going to spend a lot of time thinking through this and coming up with an affirmative strategy to try to deal with all the elements of it and all the aspects of the problem. And in the meantime, I hope that Pakistan will find the strength necessary to walk away from a test.
Q Mr. President, there's new evidence that the Chinese government funneled money into the American election campaign. Did you or anybody in your administration make decisions based on the influence of Chinese money?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q And what do you feel about that evidence?
THE PRESIDENT: For one thing, first of all, I understand there's a new allegation about that -- I have two things to say about it. First of all, all the foreign policy decisions we made were based on what we believed -- I and the rest of my administration -- were in the interests of the American people.
Now, if someone tried to influence them, that's a different issue and there ought to be an investigation into whether that happened. And I would support that. I have always supported that. But I can tell you that the decisions we made, we made because we thought they were in the interests of the American people.
Q -- the Chinese in your visit?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to see -- when I get back home, I want to see, number one, what is the substance of this, how serious is it, what are the facts, what evidence is there. Is this just somebody saying, or is there some reason to believe there is objective evidence to support this. But in any case I think the investigation ought to proceed, and then whatever the facts are, we'll take appropriate action at the time.
Q You mentioned President Yeltsin giving you assurances on START II ratification. He's done that in the past several times.
THE PRESIDENT: He has, but one of the things he pointed out this time is he said this thing is now in the Duma, it's actively being considered, there are a lot of committees working on it, and that he will, obviously, not only push for its ratification, but argue that it ought to be considered in an even more timely fashion now because of the Indian test.
Q Will you go to Moscow only if it is ratified, or do you have assurances now --
THE PRESIDENT: I think it ought to be ratified because then we can get more business done. We can't really do anything on START III until START II is ratified. And I'm hoping that it will. And I'd like to leave it there. I'd like to leave it there.
Q How long would it take to ratify START III?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. But I think -- but, actually -- I think START III could be done in fairly short order because we have been -- Boris Yeltsin and I have been talking about these issues for years now, and I think we know what the parameters of our two positions are, what our national security considerations are. And so I would expect that it could be done fairly quickly once we get START II out of the way.