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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 16, 2000

THE PRESIDENT: I am grateful for the opportunity to address the Carnegie Endowment's Annual Nonproliferation Conference. I thank you for coming together again to focus on the crucial task of curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. All of you know how serious this challenge is; from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, to ongoing risks that sensitive materials and technologies will spread from the former Soviet Union, including to Iran, to the imperative of bringing China into global nonproliferation regimes, to the continuing need for vigilance against Saddam Hussein.

Stemming this tide has been a critical priority for me for seven years now, and it will be for this year as well. In a few days, I'll travel to South Asia. There are those in the region who hope we will simply accept its nuclear status quo and move on. I will not do that. India and Pakistan have legitimate security concerns. But I will make clear our view that a nuclear future is a dangerous future for them and for the world. And I'll stress that narrowing our differences on nonproliferation is important to moving toward a broader relationship.

I know there are some who have never seen an arms control agreement they like -- because rules can be violated, because perfect verification is impossible, because we can't always count on others to keep their word. Still, I believe we must work to broaden and strengthen verifiable arms agreements. The alternative is a world with no rules, no verification and no trust at all.

It would be foolish to rely on treaties alone to protect our security. But it would also be foolish to throw away the tools that sound treaties do offer: A more predictable security environment, monitoring inspections, the ability to shine a light on threatening behavior and mobilize the entire world against it. So this year, we will work to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. We'll increase momentum for universal adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And as to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, I am determined that last year's unfortunate Senate vote will not be America's last word.

With the leadership of General Shalikashvili, we will work hard this year to build bipartisan support for ratification. I will continue to call on other nations to forgo testing and join the treaty. We must not lose the chance to end nuclear testing forever. We must also take the next essential step: A treaty to cut off production of fissile material.

I know this conference will assess the potential impact of our program directed at emerging missile threats, such as from North Korea, Iran and Iraq. I've stressed that a U.S. decision on a limited missile defense will take into account not only the threat, feasibility and cost, but also the overall impact on our security and arms control.

The ABM Treaty remains important to our security. Today, dealing with dangerous new missile threats is also vital to global security. So we will continue to work with Russia on how to amend the treaty to permit limited defenses while keeping its central protections, and we'll continue to seek a START III treaty that will cut our strategic arsenals to 20 percent of their Cold War levels.

Let me conclude by wishing you a productive meeting. I value your advice, I count on your dedication, and I thank you for all you're doing to build a safer world.