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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 3, 1998
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                           The Rose Garden

10:05 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger and I have just had a meeting before Secretary Albright leaves to go to Geneva for tomorrow's meeting of the Permanent Five foreign ministers convened at our initiative on the situation in South Asia. Our goal is to forge a common strategy to move India and Pakistan back from their nuclear arms race and to begin to build a more peaceful, stable region.

Secretary Albright will speak to our agenda in Geneva in just a moment, and I understand later will be at the State Department to answer further questions. But I would like to take a few moments to put this problem in its proper context. The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan stand in stark contrast to the progress the world has made over the past several years in reducing stockpiles and containing the spread of nuclear weapons. It is also contrary to the ideals of nonviolent democratic freedom and independence at the heart of Gandhi's struggle to end colonialism on the Indian subcontinent.

Through the START treaties, the United States and Russia are on their way to cutting nuclear arsenals by two-thirds from their Cold War height. With our help, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to return to Russia the nuclear weapons left on their land when the Soviet Union dissolved. We secured the indefinite, unconditional extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Brazil, Argentina and South Africa each voluntarily renounced their nuclear programs, choosing to spend their vital resources instead on the power of their people. And to date, 149 nations have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which bans all nuclear explosions, making it more difficult for nuclear powers to produce more advanced weapons and for non-nuclear states to develop them.

Two years ago, I was the first to sign this treaty at the United Nations on behalf of the United States. The present situation in South Asia makes it all the more important that the Senate debate and vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without delay. The CTBT will strengthen our ability to deter, to detect, and to deter testing. If we are calling on other nations to act responsibly, America must set the example.

India and Pakistan are great nations with boundless potential, but developing weapons of mass destruction is self-defeating, wasteful, and dangerous. It will make their people poorer and less secure. The international community must now come together to move them through a diverse course and to avoid a dangerous arms race in Asia.

In just the last week, NATO, the NATO Joint Council with Russia, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and, today, the OAS condemned the tests. That is about 80 other nations who want to work with us to move the world to a safer place.

And we must do more. We are determined work with any countries who are willing to help us, and we want very much to work with both India and Pakistan to help them resolve their differences and to restore a future of hope, not fear, to the region.

Let me now express my appreciation to China for chairing the P5 meeting to which Secretary Albright is going. This is further evidence of the important role China can play in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century and the constructive Chinese leadership that will be essential to the long-term resolutions of issues involving South Asia.

This is an important example of how our engagement with China serves America's interests: stability in Asia, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, combatting international crime and drug-trafficking, protecting the environment. At the same time, we continue to deal forthrightly with China on those issues where we disagree -- notably, on human rights; and there have clearly been some concrete results as a result of this engagement as well.

Trade is also an important part of our relationship with China. Our exports have tripled over the last decade and now support over 170,000 American jobs. But just as important, trade is a force for change in China, exposing China to our ideas and our ideals and integrating China into the global economy.

For these reasons, I intend to renew MFN status with China. This status does not convey any special privilege. It is simply ordinary, natural tariff treatment offered to virtually every nation on earth. Since 1980, when MFN was first extended to China, every Republican and Democratic president who has faced this issue has extended it. Not to renew would be to sever our economic and, to a large measure, our strategic relationship with China, turning our back on a fourth of the world at a time when our cooperation for world peace and security is especially important, in light of the recent events in South Asia.

This policy clearly is in our nation's interest and I urge Congress to support it. Now, I'd like to ask Secretary Albright to say a few words about our objectives in Geneva in the days and weeks ahead.

Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me add to your comments to explain why our meeting in Geneva and what we wish to do there. As the President has pointed out, the nuclear tests pose an immediate threat to international peace and security, and as permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom have a responsibility to forge a coordinated strategy for responding to that threat.

As the NPT nuclear weapon states, we also have a special responsibility to protect the viability of the nonproliferation regime and a responsibility which we must reaffirm in Geneva to reduce further the level of our nuclear arsenals and the likelihood of nuclear war.

Unlike the United States and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, India and Pakistan do not have the benefit of a vast ocean between them. They are next door neighbors with a past of conflict and a present of bitter mistrust. Under the circumstances, the citizens of each nation should understand what is obvious to the world -- that both Indians and Pakistanis are far less secure today than they were three weeks ago.

Right now, the most important thing both sides can do is to cool it and take a deep breath and to begin to climb out of the hole they have dug themselves into. This, then, is the first of the three goals we have set for ourselves in Geneva and the days ahead. We must do all we can as outside powers to prevent the currently very bad situation from growing worse.

Our message to India and Pakistan must be that there should be no further nuclear testing, no deployment or testing of missiles, no more inflammatory rhetoric and no more provocative military activity. Our second, longer-term goal is to avert a regional arms race and to reexamine options for easing the underlying political problems between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir.

We will also be urging India and Pakistan to sign the CTBT now and without conditions to stop producing fissile material and to agree on a process for regional arms control. The NPT will not be amended to accommodate either country. We will, however, consider measures to help them maintain peace, and we will stand ready to help them resolve their differences through dialogue.

Finally, we will affirm our resolve to bolster the global nonproliferation regime. And this means taking steps to discourage other countries from following the disastrous examples set by India and Pakistan. And in addition, as President Clinton has just indicated, for the United States, this means urging the Senate very strongly to approve the CTBT. If we want India and Pakistan to stop testing and keep others from starting, this is the most basic, minimal, obvious step we can take on this critical issue at this perilous time, American leadership should be unambiguous, decisive and clear.

The meeting in Geneva is far from the beginning of our efforts to make the world safe from dangers of nuclear war, and it will certainly not be the end of those efforts. Technology dictates that this will always be a work in progress. We seek to reduce risks knowing we can not eliminate them, but we can not make progress even in this effort without the cooperation and assistance of others.

As the President pointed out, for example, we need to maintain a constructive relationship with China. We need a relationship that allows us to speak honestly when we disagree, but also to cooperate when our interests coincide, as they clearly do in this effort and with respect to MFN. It is very clear that the better the relations are between the United States and China and the United States and Russia, the better we can protect and serve the American people.

Our mission to Geneva is important, and I will do my very best for the President and the American people. But do not make a mistake: The risks of the moment are high and, for the moment, the key choices will be made in New Delhi and Islamabad. We must all hope and pray those choices are the right ones.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

END 10:25 A.M. EDT