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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Chicago, Illinois)
For Immediate Release                                    October 9, 1999
                             TO THE NATION
                             Hilton Towers
                           Chicago, Illinois

9:06 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Tuesday, the Senate plans to vote on whether to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty. Today, I want to emphasize why this agreement is critical to the security and future of all Americans.

Just imagine a world in which more and more countries obtained nuclear weapons and more and more destructive varieties. That may be the single, greatest threat to our children's future. And the single, best way to reduce it is to stop other countries from testing nuclear explosives in the first place. That's exactly what the test ban treaty will do.

The treaty is even more essential today than it was when President Eisenhower proposed it more than 40 years ago, or when President Kennedy pursued it. It's more essential, even, than when we signed it three years ago. Because, every year, the threat grows that nuclear weapons will spread -- in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Asia, to areas where American troops are deployed, to regions with intense rivalries, to rogue leaders and perhaps even to terrorists.

The test ban treaty gives us our best chance to control this threat. A hundred and fifty-four countries have already signed it, including Russia, China, Japan, Israel, Iran and all our European allies. Many nations have already ratified it, including 11 of our NATO allies, including nuclear powers France and Britain. But for two years after I submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, there had been absolutely no action.

Now, only a week has been allotted to consider it. That is especially disturbing since the issue has been politicized -- apparently with large numbers of Republican Senators committing to their leader to vote against it without even giving the issue serious consideration or hearing the arguments.

Now, a week is not enough time for an issue of this profound importance. That's why I've said I want to see the vote postponed so we can have a thorough debate that addresses all the legitimate concerns.

The stakes are high. If our Senate rejected this treaty outright, it would be the first time the Senate has rejected a treaty since the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations after World War I. We all know what America's walking away from the world after World War I brought us -- in the Depression and the Second World War. If our Senate rejected this treaty, it would be a dangerous u-turn away from our role as the world's leader against the spread of nuclear weapons. It would say to every country in the world, well, the United States isn't going to test, but we're giving all of you a green light to test, develop and deploy nuclear weapons.

Last year rival nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan shook the world. Now both countries have indicated their willingness to sign the test ban treaty. But if our Senate defeats it, can we convince India and Pakistan to forego more tests? America has been the world's leader against the proliferation of nuclear weapons for more than four decades. If our Senate defeats it, we won't be anymore. If our Senate defeats it, what will prevent China, Russia or others from testing and deploying new and ever more destructive weapons?

Some oppose the treaty because they say we still need to test nuclear weapons ourselves to make sure they're reliable. But this week, 32 American Nobel Prize winning physicists, and other leading scientists told the Senate that America doesn't need to test more nuclear weapons to keep a safe and reliable nuclear force. After all, we stopped testing back in 1992. And now we're spending about $4.5 billion a year on proven program, using our advanced technology to maintain a superior nuclear force without testing. Since we don't need nuclear tests to protect our security, this treaty does not require us to do anything we haven't already done.

It's about preventing other countries from nuclear testing; about constraining nuclear weapons development around the world, at a time when we have an overwhelming advantage.

I've told the Senate I would be prepared to withdraw from this treaty if our national security ever required us to resume nuclear tests in the future. And I've urged them to work with me to include safeguards in their ratification act, as they normally do.

Some also say these treaties are too risky because some people might cheat on them. But with no treaty, other countries can test without cheating and without limit. The treaty will strengthen our ability to determine whether other countries are engaged in suspicious activity, with on-site inspections and a global network of over 300 censors, including 33 in Russia, 11 in China, 17 in the Middle East. We could catch cheaters and mobilize the world against them. None of that will happen if we don't ratify the treaty.

That's why four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the current chairman have all endorsed the nuclear test ban treaty. So have a broad spectrum of religious leaders and many other leading Americans, both Republicans and Democrats.

So I say to the senators who haven't endorsed it, heed the best national security advice of our military leaders. Hear our allies who are looking to us to lead. Listen to the scientists; listen to the American people who have long supported the treaty. And since you're not prepared for whatever reason to seize the priceless chance to fulfill the dream of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy for a safer world, delay the vote on the treaty, debate it thoroughly, and work with us on a bipartisan basis to address legitimate concerns. And then you'll be able to vote yes for our country, and our children's future.

Thanks for listening.

                                    9:11 A.M. EDT