DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, May 12, 1998 - 1:50 P.M.
Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


Q: There are apparently some questions being raised on the Hill and elsewhere about the fact that official Washington and the U.S. intelligence community were caught flat footed yesterday by the Indian nuclear test. Senator Shelby said today that they're going to hold intelligence committee hearings on this.

Did the DIA have any inkling of these tests and if not, why not?

A: Well, first of all, You can appreciate I can't talk about intelligence matters in this case or any other case. I can tell you that the CIA will be announcing later today, maybe even announcing today, right now, as we talk, the appointment of a review official, Admiral David Jeremiah, to look into what the intelligence community knew about this and when it knew it. And I would refer you to CPT Bill Harlow at the CIA for further information on that.

Q: But there will be any subsequent study as well as DIA?

A: Well, he's being appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence to do an intelligence committee survey. As you know, we have a very cooperative arrangement among our various intelligence organizations that work together. Their tasking is agreed upon centrally and then the various parts of the intelligence team carry out the analysis and observation that's necessary to complete the overall tasking.

Q: Well, would you in any way challenge these suggestions, charges, whatever you want to call them, that the intelligence community simply did not know this was going to happen?

A: Well, I think, Charlie, I'd like to let this independent reviewer do his work and make his report to the President and also to the intelligence committees in Congress. That's what being announced by the CIA today. And he will complete this report in a relatively short amount of time, seven to ten days, and that report will be available for review by the White House and by Congress. I doubt if it will be for public review but, as you pointed out, there are members of Congress who plan to hold hearings on this, and all of this will be eventually aired.

Q: Will there be an internal Pentagon review of this? And is the Secretary concerned about it?

A: Well, the Secretary is obviously determined to make sure that our intelligence operates as well as possible, and he will cooperate fully with the review that's set up by the Director of Central Intelligence.

Q: Could you tell us if there is any decision to invoke sanctions, what might that affect in military-to-military relations with India? What kind of military sales or anything of that kind that might come under that umbrella?

A: Well, first of all, as you can appreciate, I don't make the decision on sanctions and this building doesn't make a decision on sanctions. The President, I think, made it very clear this morning that he intends to implement the law fully. And you can draw from that what you want. I assume there will be an announcement on that later this afternoon.

In terms of the impact of sanctions if they were applied to India, they would be sweeping in an economic sense. They would limit military contact. But we do not have extensive military contact with India at this time. I think the impact would be primarily economic.

We do have a relatively small international military education and training program -- IMET -- with India. That would cease. We do have a small number of exchanges or training exercises with India. They would cease. There's relatively little military assistance provided to India and so the impact would be primarily economic, not military.

Q: What about foreign military sales? Is there FMS?

A: There is nothing to speak of in terms of FMS to India.

Q: What's the total on IMET?

A: I'm afraid I don't have the figures on that. We will get the figures.

Q: What about Pakistan?

A: Well -- what about Pakistan?

Q: Well, Pakistan is also considering, you know, whether to detonate nuclear devices -- (inaudible).

A: We urge restraint on Pakistan. We urge restraint on India and China. This is clearly a very dangerous area of the world and it's an area where there have been three wars between India and Pakistan since Indian independence. There's been a war between China and India, a border war in 1962, and their borders remain unsettled.

As you know, Indian officials have said that they consider China their primary threat. We believe that proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them is dangerous and destabilizing in this area. That's one of the reasons we're so concerned about the nuclear test that India announced yesterday.

Q: Will you be asking any of the militaries or governments of other nations -- allies like the UK, France, or even Russia -- to support us on any of these military-oriented sanctions? Do you want to see those countries terminate their military relationship with India?

A: A number of countries have expressed distress and disappointment over what India did and I would anticipate that they will be looking at their own military-to-military relationships with India and re-evaluating them. I assume that this is something we will discuss but I don't have any specifics now.

Q: You don't know whether Secretary Cohen has spoken to any of his MOD counterparts in other countries?

A: As of today he has not.

Q: What's the Pentagon's assessment of both India and Pakistan's nuclear capabilities at this point in terms of number of weapons each might have or the fuel that they have -- the number that they can possibly make?

A: I can't go much beyond what's been reported publicly on that. There were some IISS figures stated in the press today. I think that we've known for a long while that both countries have been developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons. They have both been testing missiles. And we have been asking both countries to show restraint for a number of years and we continue to ask them to show restraint.

Q: Does this -- this matter of testing yesterday was telegraphed last week by the defense minister Fernandes, the new defense minister of India, who did say that the greatest threat to India was the Chinese build-up on its borders and, specifically, the storage of nuclear weapons, missiles, and upgrading of air fields in Tibet that could directly threaten India.

Can you comment at all about the validity of that Chinese threat toward India? And could you comment about what India did -- what's clearly a demonstration to say, don't tread on us? Is that not an accurate way of looking at this?

A: I think I would rather let the Indians comment on their own perceived threat and their own reaction to it. They showed no reluctance to make those comments so I don't think I need to add my voice to what they've been saying.

Q: But isn't this -- why are we bashing India for standing up to possible threats from China?

A: We have been very clear that we want all countries in the Indian sub-continent area to show restraint. This is an area where there have been wars in the past. It's an area where if there were conflict in the future, they could well involve weapons of mass destruction. It's the most heavily populated area in the world today. It's a huge area, and it's an area where I think everybody would benefit from spending more time on economic development and less time on military development.

That's the position of the U.S. Government and we've made that position very clear and we've been working very hard to press that position. I think it's unfortunate that people are -- that in the area, the arms race is continuing despite this.

Q: Has India received any outside assistance in the development of its nuclear program?

A: I can't comment on that. Yes?

Q: Just two things. One, do you have any further details on the tests themselves that took place yesterday and, two, has there been any thought given to the impact on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty both internationally and domestically?

A: There's been a lot of thought given to the impact on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we don't think that there's a significant impact on that.

It is very clear that we and other countries in the world have the ability to detect nuclear tests when they occur. That, in fact, happened in this case. No one disputes that we were able to detect this test when it occurred, and the international community is in the process of setting up an international monitoring organization to enforce compliance, or to detect noncompliance, I should say, with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

So there's nothing -- there's no issue here with our ability to detect nuclear tests around the world. That's not the issue that's been raised here.

Q: Then why yesterday afternoon was Sandy Berger unable to confirm that a test had taken place, saying that the U.S. had no independent confirmation?

A: That's a question you'll have to ask Sandy Berger, but we have seismic information about that test which we're in the process of evaluating.

Q: I'm sorry, you've mentioned seismic just now. Is that your sole source of data on this?

A: No, we have more than one source of data. What we have one source is the Indian government, the prime minister making a statement.

Q: Do you believe the Indian government has seismic data?

A: We have seismic and other detection techniques.

Q: The reason I ask, it's a follow-up on Tammy's question. At the Defense Writers' Group this morning, John Holum said you were able to detect that something had occurred, but as of today you have not been able to detect three discrete separate events. Is there any update on that?

A: We're in the process of evaluating the data. It takes some time.