Great Seal

[EXCERPTS] U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1998

16-17High-Level Misrepresentations to US
17-18Declaration as Nuclear State / UNSC Permanent Member / Definition of Nuclear State
17Talbott Mission & Meetings

DPB #61
FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1998, 12:45 P.M.


QUESTION: Let me lump India and Pakistan into a nuclear competition. The question, part one, is India has claimed that its lower-level officials did not know that the five nuclear tests were coming; and there have been accusations that they have been deceitful towards the United States. Could you address that issue, number one? And secondly, tell us what, if any, progress Mr. Talbott and General Zinni have made?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. The question of what India told us or didn't tell us, I think I dealt with rather clearly yesterday; but I'll be happy to repeat it for you. On more than a dozen occasions, high-level representations were made to the United States that restraint would continue, that a lengthy review would take place. Therefore, we regard those representations as misrepresentations, in light of the decisions that were taken by the government of India to conduct nuclear explosions.

As I indicated yesterday, we feel seriously misled; and it is very hard to conduct diplomacy with another country when high-level officials have misled you so severely and so seriously. Whether that means they didn't know or they did know and now they're saying they didn't know, we have no way of knowing. What we know is that we have to be able to rely on the representations of senior Indian officials in order to conduct diplomacy with them. That's why this is so troubling.

With respect to the trip of Deputy Secretary Talbott, I just spoke to the delegation. They have completed a full set of meetings. They spent an hour with Prime Minister Sharif. They met with the chief of staff of the army; they met with the Foreign Minister and other officials from the Foreign Ministry. They were able to consult with the leaders. They will report to President Clinton in Birmingham.

The discussions were good. As far as we can tell, the Pakistani Government is analyzing the situation in determining what its next steps will be. We did not receive assurances one way or the other with regard to their testing plans. But they are analyzing very carefully the international reaction. We did discuss various issues with them that all I can say about is that we made very, very clear to them the seriously negative consequences that would ensue from testing; and the fact that they would be far, far better off if they chose the diplomatic road, the high road, the road of the rest of the world, and didn't go forward with testing.

Deputy Secretary Talbott is going to be reporting to the President. He spoke to Secretary Albright earlier today. At that point, we will know more. But let me say this - that we believe that testing is a live possibility. We're very aware of the political pressures that exist in Pakistan, but we hope that as a result of this mission, that the government there analyzes the situation and concludes that not going forward with the testing program will redown to the advantage of Pakistan and testing will not.

QUESTION: Jamie, this morning India's Prime Minister initially said we have a big bomb. Later, apparently, another statement was released from the Prime Minister's office saying they have the capacity for a big bomb, but not necessarily the big bomb itself. It seems like a big mistake, in terms of words. What's the State Department's take on that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, with regard to India's apparent declaration of itself as a nuclear weapons state, we regard this action as another deplorable step that further escalates an already unfortunate situation. We hope India refrains from taking any further steps to further isolate itself from the international community.

According to international law, a nuclear weapons state, by definition, must have detonated a nuclear device before 1968. So at this point, what I can say is I'm not going to be in a position to make an analysis of what kind of nuclear capability India has. Clearly, explosions took place; clearly they were nuclear explosions; and clearly, India is paying a very, very heavy price for doing so.

QUESTION: You're saying they can't classify as a nuclear state --

MR. RUBIN: According to the NPT --

QUESTION: No, no, I hear you, but you know what they're saying about the Test Ban Treaty and all - that they would come in as a nuclear state. You're saying that's precluded, or is it still unclear?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I mean, it would require an amendment to the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty, which would be quite an enterprise. But I'm not suggesting we would even consider it; I'm just simply pointing out the legal situation.

We do believe that India should join the Comprehensive Test Ban, and should put on the brakes on its slide towards being outside the mainstream of countries. But as far as what they're saying about their particular nuclear capability, it would require me to make an assessment of what they have, other than saying that this whole situation is astounding to us, having been misled so seriously by the Indian Government, and how they seem to care more about narrow political interests and the role of India in the world. I've heard talk of India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council; and when apprised of their views in this time frame, I believe Secretary Albright's comment was that she didn't regard that as very likely, given the current circumstance. If they think they've helped themselves move to a status that will permit them to be a permanent member of the Security Council, they should think again; because Germany and Japan - two countries that we have supported for permanent membership in the Security Council - are members in good standing, unlike India, of the Nonproliferation Treaty.


(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)

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