Great Seal

[EXCERPTS] U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1998

7Deputy Secretary Talbott's Mission/Discussions with the Pakistani Government
8-9Pakistan's Security Concerns
9-10Discussions with Indian Regarding Nuclear Program
10-11Assessment of US Embassy Reporting on Situation

DPB # 60
THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1998, 1:15 P.M.


QUESTION: New subject - South Asia. Have you received any assurances from the Pakistanis that they won't take any action until after the Talbott mission is completed?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - we are deeply concerned about the possibility of Pakistan following suit and conducting nuclear weapons explosions. We are aware of the strong political pressure that now exists in Pakistan to do that, and we have reason to believe that that is a live possibility.

With regard to the timing of any such activity, I really can't comment; other than to say that President Clinton made clear to the Prime Minister of Pakistan the importance of restraint. He has now sent Deputy Secretary Talbott along with General Zinni and others, to Pakistan. They left last night; they're expected to arrive in Pakistan tomorrow. The hope is that as a result of those discussions, the Pakistani Government will see that it will be in a much better position by not testing, and that it will be in a much worse position by testing.

Other than saying that we recognize and have reason to believe it is a live possibility that Pakistan will follow suit, I am not in a position to get into matters that fall into that I-word that we don't use around here.

QUESTION: Are they stopping anywhere else? That's a long flight.

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure there will be refueling stops. But the sole location - or rather, the sole destination for their mission is Pakistan.

QUESTION: Is there going - can you talk at all about whether there might be some incentives offered to the Pakistanis to not do this?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'd rather give the officials an opportunity to have those discussions directly with Pakistan before discussing them publicly. But as I just indicated, their hope in what I think is obviously an extremely difficult mission, but their hope is through their discussions, to make clear the advantages to Pakistan of not testing - and as the sanctions decision by the President indicates, the extreme disadvantages of testing. So that is the hope.

QUESTION: You're not prepared to say whether Talbott and company will try to find a way around the Pressler Amendment or to find a way to get the F-16s, which are sitting in Arizona, to the Pakistanis?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I can say they're not going empty-handed; but I don't want to get into the details of what it is that they are bringing with them before they've had a chance to discuss it with the Pakistanis.

QUESTION: When you say not going empty-handed, are you saying they're going with something to allay their security concerns?

MR. RUBIN: Clearly, the mission is well-prepared; but again, it's an excruciatingly difficult task, given the current political pressures that exist in Pakistan, to try to combat what that pressure that is a result of this outrageous decision by the Indian Government to violate international norms, to put itself outside the mainstream of countries that are trying to move the world away from proliferation towards this unfathomable decision that has put South Asia in a much more dangerous situation.

With respect to what they are bringing and the specific issues that you mentioned, again, I would prefer to let them get there and discuss that with the Pakistanis before we discuss it publicly.

QUESTION: Leaving aside any specific incentives in the security area, is there some way the United States can allay their security concerns? Because they are legitimate concerns, clearly, because of what India has done. In other words, in other parts of the world, take, for example Israel, we have supplied even some very hi-tech weapons and developed them with Israel for protection, and other places we've given security guarantees - our own security guarantees. What is the thinking in these areas now?

MR. RUBIN: To answer that question properly would be to give the same answer that I didn't want to give to George, which is to discuss publicly, in advance of their mission, on a subject of extreme importance to the security of the world and the security of the Indian Subcontinent, what precisely they're going to be discussing. And it is too important to risk any untoward effect from premature public discussion.

QUESTION: Well, you said that your mission was very well prepared. I mean, I think it was just announced, and then they flew off. How could you have a very thorough --

MR. RUBIN: If you'd like to get into a quibbling discussion with me, we'll do it after the briefing.

QUESTION: Jamie, on April 3 of this year, the Pakistani Prime Minister sent a letter to the President and Secretary Albright warning that, according to the Pakistanis, they felt that the operationalizing of India's nuclear program was imminent; and the US ambassador from Pakistan says that those concerns, he felt, were not taken that seriously. Two weeks later, Ambassador Richardson and Assistant Secretary of State Inderfurth arrived in India. Mr. Richardson was full of praise for the restraint of the new Indian Government; and Mr. Inderfurth said that the centerpiece of our relationship with India should be economic and commercial concerns. Were there any mixed messages sent?

MR. RUBIN: No. I think you may not have read my discussion of this yesterday, but I will be happy to repeat it for you.

I think the serious scholars of this issue -- the people who understand the Indian Subcontinent well -- believed that engagement with India and engagement with Pakistan were the best ways to bring home to them the advantages of not going outside the mainstream in the nuclear area. We did so, but never did we downgrade the importance that we assigned to restraint in the nuclear and missile area. We had, in recent weeks and months, 20 very high-level contacts with the Indian Government in which we made clear the consequences of a failure to have restraint; and frankly, they engaged in a campaign of duplicity. If that's going to go on, I think it's all fine and good for the Monday morning quarterbacks to know everything perfectly, but we did what we could to make clear to them what the dangers of failure to act with restraint would be, and obviously, we were mislead.

QUESTION: Jamie, Indonesia for a minute?

QUESTION: No, no, wait - duplicity - that's the first time you've used that word, isn't it?

MR. RUBIN: You'll have to check the transcript.

QUESTION: No, no, but I mean, that's close to - you've been careful to say the Indian Government didn't lie about this issue, and that sounds --

MR. RUBIN: Do you want me to repeat my statement?

QUESTION: No, but am I misunderstanding something here? I mean, it sounds --

MR. RUBIN: I haven't used that word before.

QUESTION: Okay, we'll leave it at duplicity.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I'm sorry - you wanted to move back to Indonesia for minute. Any more on India, Pakistan?

QUESTION: Yes, one more. It was a fact that the BJP, when they came into power, they didn't hide at all what they wanted to do and I'm sure - could you just tell us a little bit about the actual discussions that Richardson or Ambassador Pickering might have had on this particular issue; because in one sense it maybe came as a surprise, but in another sense it was also --

MR. RUBIN: Well, all I can say is that following this election in the month of April and prior to that, although we had heard these kind of things publicly - and, as some members of Congress point out, we can read -- we did directly address these questions with the Indian Government. The reaction we got was that they would continue their policy of restraint, and that they were engaged in a several-month review.

Therefore, when the nuclear explosive devices were set off in recent days, they were acting inconsistent with high-level representations made to the United States Government. And although we always understood that this was a possibility, as a result of reading as well as other factors, that does not mean that if there is a serious misleading of our highest level officials that we are in a position to read the minds of other people.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any provocative actions vis-à-vis Pakistan's nuclear program that Pakistan might have engaged in during the very month of April?

MR. RUBIN: There was a missile test, but with regard to the nuclear program, I'm not aware of that; and frankly, I've seen the government of India's explanations for this testing and they just simply don't hold water. The situation has not deteriorated. They raise the question of China and they raise the question of Pakistan; but frankly, the recent months have seen a time when security was not decreased substantially for the Indian Government. Clearly, the desire to do this was for political reasons because we do not believe that they have improved their security by potentially setting off a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

QUESTION: Jamie, when you accuse them of duplicity and misleading top US officials, it implies that you really have evidence you can document. That statement is a very strong statement. Could you provide the documentation to us, or more details of exactly what was said?

MR. RUBIN: Within the realm of what is normally provided publicly; I'd be happy to describe meetings. But beyond that, I'm not a position to do that.

QUESTION: Well, it's just that if they're lying or deliberately misleading, then it certainly makes your case all the stronger to back it up with facts.

MR. RUBIN: Again, I will endeavor to provide what information I can, but I am drawing conclusions based on conversations with the players who were misled from my discussions with them. That includes the top officials of our government. I'm telling you that we feel misled.

QUESTION: Secondly, was there - do you think that the embassy in Delhi reported with sufficient depth and breadth the --

MR. RUBIN: You know, this happened two days ago. When we have time to do a full-fledged review of all of the cables and all of the information we received from the embassy, we will do so. I am sure it will be part and parcel of any review the Administration will conduct, including other agencies will conduct.

But again, I think all of you who are looking for scapegoats in the United States should target your attention on the government of India's decision to mislead the rest of the world and act on their determination to launch nuclear explosives. This is a world in which all knowledge cannot be had in advance.

QUESTION: I thought you might have said, in fact, in this case that the embassy's information was, in fact, the source of this questioning done at the very highest level. I mean, it's possible the embassy did thoroughly prepare you and that's why you now feel that you were told --

MR. RUBIN: Roy, I know you'd like to plum the depths of these details, and it's just not possible to do that in an open forum.

QUESTION: Jamie, -- (inaudible) -- include the meeting in India with the Secretary?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that occurred last year, as you know, so that was prior to this new government.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns that the Indians may be planning any other steps that you might consider destabilizing? There have been reports, for example, that they may be considering testing some longer-range missiles than they've so far.

MR. RUBIN: Right, I'm always interested to see reports about military matters that I can't speak about from the podium.

QUESTION: You sometimes warn people off, though, actions that you fear they may take.

MR. RUBIN: Certainly not in this forum.


(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)

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