11 May 1998
(But Clinton still plans to visit India, Berger says) (580) By Wendy S. Ross USIA White House Correspondent Washington -- The United States is "deeply disappointed" by India's decision to test nuclear weapons, says President Clinton's National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger. "Our position has been very clear," Berger told a press conference May 11. "We have urged countries to exercise restraint in the testing of nuclear weapons, either countries that are declared nuclear powers, or countries that are not. We, ourselves along with the other five declared nuclear states, have stopped nuclear testing ... and we think this is an unfortunate development." Berger said the United States has "no independent confirmation" that India did indeed explode three nuclear weapons underground May 11, but noted India has "so stated", and "We have no reason to believe they haven't." The government of India announced that it tested underground three low yield thermonuclear devices May 11 in the western desert state of Rajasthan. "We would like to see restraint on the part of India and on the part of Pakistan both with respect to its nuclear weapons programs and with respect to its ballistic weapons programs," Berger said. "We would hope that this would not provoke a new round of escalation" in the area. The United States has laws that apply to so-called non-declared nuclear states, he said. "We will examine those laws very carefully in the context of the reported actions today, and we will obviously enforce the laws... We are reviewing those laws to determine what the facts are, what the law is and whether the law applies to these facts," he said. He noted that in South Asia, and in the larger region, there has been "a dynamic of proliferation ... for over 20 years." The United States, he said, has "tried over the years to urge restraint. In some cases we have been successful, in some cases we haven't. We will continue to work toward that goal." Berger confirmed that President Clinton still plans to visit India this autumn. "Our plans remain unchanged," he said. "It remains important that we continue our dialogue with Pakistan, with India." He pointed out that India and the United States are the two largest democracies in the world, and that they share "an enormous amount" of common interest. "We have a better chance at slowing these kinds of actions if we remain engaged, than if we don't," he said. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said it is his understanding that the United States "had no advance notification that the tests would occur." He said the Indian government's decision to conduct them "runs counter to the effort the international community is making to promulgate a comprehensive ban on such testing." Clinton, said McCurry, "has authorized a formal presentation of our displeasure to be made to the government in New Delhi. While it was foreseen, given the electoral program of the newly-elected party that they might take this step, it still flies in the face of an international consensus about the need to promulgate and nurture the new regime on a comprehensive test ban, and we will certainly be sharing those thoughts and others with the new government in India." The United States, McCurry said, "will continue to spare no effort in encouraging countries to both promulgate and ratify the comprehensive test ban. If anything, these tests underscore the importance of that international regime."