Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 1998

1US attempts to create a coordinated international response
1US to arrange initial international meeting to discuss Asian sub-continent
2Meeting next week will be at ministerial-level of UN Security Council permreps
2-3China's role in current crisis discussed
3-4Tentative Secretarial decision not to recall US ambassador
4Strongly-worded message sent to Pakistan and India last night
4-5Goal of meeting is to discuss ways to defuse tensions, promote dialogue with India
6US view of how, why Pakistan decided to test nuclear weapons
5Secretary has decided to send US Ambassador Celeste back soon
6-7Belief that North Korea supplied ballistic missiles to Pakistan

DPB # 66
FRIDAY, MAY 29, 1998, 1:30 P.M.

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing on this Friday. Let me start by announcing that at the direction of President Clinton, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering plans to lead a senior-level delegation to Nigeria within the next two weeks. The purpose of the visit is to share our concerns about the transition program that's not happening there, and to discuss steps we think could lead to democratic civilian government in Nigeria.

The trip underscores the importance we attach to our relationship with Nigeria and to democracy and reform in Africa. Accompanying Under Secretary Pickering will be Assistant Secretary Susan Rice, NSC Senior Director for African Affairs Joe Wilson and Deputy Commander-in-Chief, European Command, General James Jamerson.

If there are any questions on that or any other subjects, let me turn the questioning over to George Gedda from The Associated Press.

QUESTION: I wanted to turn to Pakistan. Do you have any evaluation of the international response - the NATO allies, with one or two exceptions, don't seem too enthusiastic about the idea of sanctions. How do you see it?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, sanctions are not an end in themselves; sanctions are a tool. Obviously in this case, the sanctions did not deter the Indians or the Pakistanis from engaging in testing. So the task of the international community is not sanctions for sanctions' sake.

Let me say, on the other hand, I think the international community's response has been very much in line with the President's response and the Secretary's response; in particular, the North Atlantic Council, the Permanent Joint Council, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council - that means over 44 nations at meetings yesterday in Luxembourg -- all made clear their opposition to this test. So the international community is very united on its views.

What Secretary Albright has been doing in the last two days is trying to develop a more coordinated international response along the following lines: She had a series of small meetings with Foreign Minister Primakov, with Foreign Minister Cook, with Foreign Minister Vedrine, and she has been on the phone twice with the Chinese Foreign Minister, as a result of which the statement just passed the Security Council strongly deploring the Pakistani test. They also have been discussing, and she hopes to make it possible for the Permanent Five members of the Security Council to meet in the coming week at the ministerial level to address this problem.

Clearly the situation in South Asia - the security situation has deteriorated, and so Secretary Albright has launched a process, beginning with a ministerial-level meeting that we hope to arrange as early as next week for discussions on the key issues that make the risk of conflict greater now in South Asia - that is, conflict both by miscalculation or intentional. So the purposes of this meeting and any subsequent meetings - and we would expect there to be a larger group that would begin to discuss this after that initial session - the purposes of this initial session would be to develop a coordinated, common approach to this grave situation. In particular, to see that there are no more nuclear tests or escalations in the region; to reaffirm the world's commitment to the maintenance of the global non-proliferation regime; to find ways to engage India and Pakistan in a process that will lead to their signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban; support for the fissile material cut-off; ensuring that they don't take further escalatory steps in the ballistic missile area; and finally, to find ways to de-escalate the underlying tensions, including promoting dialogue between India and Pakistan both on the current security situation and on the underlying conflict in Kashmir so that the underlying dispute that has made it so worrying and so troublesome that they have both tested nuclear weapons and have gone to war with each other several times in recent decades can be addressed.

This is the beginning of a long and complicated process. It's evident, I think, as a result of the meetings that Secretary Albright has had and the decisions that Pakistan has made that the outside world's ability to have decisive influence in the area of nuclear testing was very limited, and that the key driving factors were the regional dynamic that was created by India's test and many of the events that preceded that, as well as the enormous political pressure that Prime Minister Sharif was under.

So despite the limited leverage the outside world has, the concerns are so deep and the danger is sufficient so that we hope to arrange this initial meeting next week.

QUESTION: Where will it be and who will be invited?

MR. RUBIN: The meeting would be the permanent members of the Security Council at the ministerial level. We have not settled on a venue yet, but this is -- in real-time, it would be the five foreign ministers from the permanent members of the Security Council.

QUESTION: Have they agreed to come?

MR. RUBIN: As I said, we're hoping to arrange it. We've received, in a series of discussions, general support for this idea. Now we're nailing down the venue and timing and agenda. But the agenda that we would be looking toward would be the kind of objectives that I just set forth.

QUESTION: China has been criticized in the past for aiding Pakistan's nuclear program. Without getting into great detail about that, how do you assess the role of China in the future in curbing a potential arms race on the sub-continent?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think the fact the Chinese Foreign Minister agreed to attend this meeting is a signal that they want to be as supportive as they can to ensure that the troubling events in recent weeks in South Asia do not spin out of control. They were very much in sync with the United States in terms of trying to convince Pakistan not to test; in terms of their very strong response to India's initial test, in terms of their decision, despite their obvious close relationship with Pakistan, to allow this statement to go through just a few hours ago in New York, as a result of this conversation Secretary Albright had with the Chinese Foreign Minister.

That is not to say there are not serious concerns that we've had in the past about China's cooperation with Pakistan. But I think we all have to bear in mind the evolution that has occurred in China's policies, including a commitment that we believe they are honoring not to assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, especially those in Pakistan and other countries of concern.

So there's no question there were problems in the past. I think we've spoken to those very clearly. But one can either live in the past, or one can focus on what's happened in recent years in terms of their non-proliferation policy and what is evidently a desire on their part to work with the United States and the other leading countries. Let me say in that regard that President Yeltsin and President Clinton had a very important discussion about the need for cooperation along the lines of this kind of permanent member meeting in South Asia to deter the sides from taking further dangerous steps, and to try to see what the major powers can do collectively through their various diplomatic means and the different leverage they have on the different parties to prevent this situation from spinning out of control.

QUESTION: Jamie, Mike McCurry has talked about a strongly-worded diplomatic cable having been sent to both Islamabad and to New Delhi. Can you, without obviously going into the exact wording, characterize some of the concerns expressed in such a cable? And can you bring us up to date on whether or not Ambassador Simons is going to be recalled or not and Ambassador Celeste?

MR. RUBIN: Tentatively, it's my understanding the Secretary has decided not to recall Ambassador Simons, and Ambassador Celeste will be sent back to the region, to India, very shortly. We obviously have a lot of discussions that have to take place now in this situation. We think it's appropriate to have ambassadors in country to try to work with the governments involved so that the decisions they take in the coming days and weeks will turn around the troublesome, dangerous trend that we've seen in recent weeks.

With regard to our specific concerns, again, it would be difficult to say too much in public; other than to say we are concerned about the danger of additional action that would escalate the situation. A very strongly worded message was sent to Pakistan last night, urging them not to take any additional action that could further unravel the peace and stability that is currently in existence there. We are trying to turn around the trend, and it is a very difficult thing to do from outside when you have such an emotional national issue as the underlying dispute over Kashmir, and you have the cycle of action in tests of missiles and tests of nuclear weapons and counter-tests that are occurring, and the outside world's views are not as important as the feelings that exist in those countries.

Nevertheless, we're going to continue to stay in contact with them, and we hope that as a result of the kind of meeting we're trying to arrange, that the various permanent members of the Council can bring to bear some leverage and turn this process around before it's too late.

QUESTION: A follow up - you mentioned a strongly worded cable to Pakistan - was one not sent to New Delhi?

MR. RUBIN: It's my understanding there was one to both.

QUESTION: At this meeting of the Permanent Five, can you give us any insight into what possible items might be on the agenda - the way in which, at least the United States is thinking - is there any thought given to a mediation effort between Pakistan and India?

MR. RUBIN: We've had a longstanding position that we would be prepared to be helpful if the parties saw that as wise and wanted us to do that, and that is our view.

I think the important point is that it's a meeting that hasn't yet taken place. It's a meeting that is in the process of being arranged, and although I do like to be able to give you real-time information as much as I can, I'd hope you wouldn't expect us to be in a position a week in advance of a meeting to tell you exactly what we're going to do at that meeting before we've even had it and discussed it with the countries.

Nevertheless, the basic goal is, as I've said, to try to see how we can encourage the parties to take steps to reduce the possibility of escalation; to reduce the possibility of conflict in Kashmir; and to deal with the underlying dispute in Kashmir; and to promote a bilateral dialogue between them. Hopefully, with the major powers in the world having taken on this issue in this way, we will be in a position to urge them successfully to do more to see that their underlying dispute does not cause the kind of horrifying conflict that is now imaginable.

QUESTION: Jamie, yesterday Deputy Secretary Talbott said there were a series of meetings to figure out what exactly to do. Apart from the proposed P-5 meeting and the decision on the ambassadors and the strong telegram, is any other concrete action --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, there are concrete actions that we are considering.

QUESTION: What are they?

MR. RUBIN: Those are concrete actions that, when we're prepared to discuss publicly, we will. I just told you three things that were happening. I know your appetite is large, but I'm doing the best I can, Jim.

QUESTION: For example, let me ask a specific thing that has been proposed by some experts around town. Has the United States followed through to set up a hotline between India and Pakistan, for example?

MR. RUBIN: We're well aware of the value of better communication to avoid the risk of unintended conflict. But at this point, we're a day into this process, and we are pursuing what we think are the best initial steps and talking publicly about what we think are the best initial steps. They are to get the permanent members of the Security Council together to try to bring to bear their leverage for the agenda that I laid out.

Obviously, the concern about unintended escalation, as the countries increase their military capabilities, is one of the problems. If we have anything further to say on tools to do that, we will do so.

QUESTION: Beyond the cable you mentioned, are there any other direct discussions between the US Government and either India or Pakistan going on now or planned for the weekend to discuss in any way the terms of a stand-down from the current situation -- any other contacts?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any particular steps that are being considered at this point, other than returning Ambassador Celeste, which I think is an important step, and making clear through our embassy our views. The President had, as you know, five separate phone calls with Prime Minister Sharif over the recent weeks. If there are additional telephone contacts that we have and choose to report, I'll be happy to do that for you.

We are aware that a delegation from Pakistan is expected here today. We expect them to have meetings in the coming weeks with senior American officials as well as members of Congress. That delegation, however, is led by the chairman of their foreign relations committee, but it would be a channel for some discussion. Any additional communication that we have, we will report as appropriate.

QUESTION: Are they coming here today or New York today?

MR. RUBIN: I believe they're arriving in the United States today. I don't think there are any meetings scheduled here in the Department today. I think the meetings would begin next week.

QUESTION: You said, just in answer to Jim's question a few minutes ago, that we're a day into this process. But India tested over two-and-a-half weeks ago. Was any thought given to convening the Permanent Five after the Indian test, to possibly head off Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: You mean you're asking me, did we consider an idea that we didn't implement?


MR. RUBIN: We consider a lot of ideas.

QUESTION: No, I'm asking, why did you wait - (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: Right. The implication in your question is that the outside world was capable of stopping Pakistan from testing; and I think we've spoken to this quite clearly. We believe that the immense political pressure that the Prime Minister of Pakistan was under and the regional dynamic that was created by India's test and events that preceded that made it excruciatingly difficult for the Pakistani Prime Minister to do anything but what he did.

The President of the United States spoke to him five times in a series of lengthy phone calls; and we believe that we did what we can. And we hope that as the American people and those who comment on American foreign policy examine this issue, they bear in mind the fact that the United States is not in a position to control every event that occurs in the world. There will be bad things that happen in this world that we have not been able to stop, regardless of what we do. We have considered a lot of steps. As you know, Deputy Secretary Talbott went to see the Pakistanis. A number of ideas were put forward between the United States and Pakistan through the President's phone calls with the Prime Minister. But at the end of the day, it was the political pressures and the regional dynamic that were too overwhelming.

Now, that event having occurred, it seems appropriate for us to try a different way to bring to bear pressure on both parties, not just on one -- which is obviously what the time now is ripe for. That is why we've decided to pursue this particular meeting as a first step in the process.


MR. RUBIN: Everyone finished with India-Pakistan?

QUESTION: No. The Japanese Government is afraid - they believe that the North Koreans have supplied Pakistan with up to 12 of the Rodong II missiles. And they are afraid that this, perhaps, is going to lead to Pakistan sharing some nuclear technology or weapons technology with the North Koreans. What is the United States' concern on that?

MR. RUBIN: Like Japan, we are concerned about the possibility that nuclear technology could be shared with any country in the world. We have sanctioned companies with regard to sales between North Korea and Pakistan; we're well aware of that. But we are not aware of any plan on the part of Pakistan to share their nuclear technology with North Korea.

Moreover, North Korea is under a very elaborate agreement, pursuant to the 1994 Nuclear Framework Agreement, that froze their nuclear weapons program and that we believe is being honored by North Korea. Is there always an inherent risk that nuclear weapons capabilities can be sold? Absolutely; that's one of the reasons we thought it was so important to stop North Korea's program. It's one of the reasons we're trying to prevent Pakistan's and India's program from growing. It's one of the reasons we've spent enormous sums of money and political and diplomatic leverage on trying to prevent material that may have existed in the former Soviet Union to become available for sale. But do we have any specific information about a specific sale? No.


(The briefing concluded at 2:00 P.M.)

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