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13 October 1999

 
  

Transcript: President's Statement on Rejection of Test Ban Treaty

(Oct. 13: US will continue to fight spread of nuclear weapons) (1660)

President Clinton expressed his keen disappointment over the U.S.
Senate's failure to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
October 13 but said that nonetheless, "the United States will stay
true to our tradition of global leadership against the spread of
weapons of mass destruction."

Speaking with reporters at the White House, Clinton added, "The United
States will continue, under my presidency, the policy we have observed
since 1992 of not conducting nuclear tests." He urged the other
nuclear powers to do the same.

"I also encourage strongly countries that have not yet signed or
ratified this treaty to do so. And I will continue to press the case
that this treaty is in the interest of the American people."

The test ban treaty would "restrict the development of nuclear weapons
worldwide" and give the United States "the tools to strengthen our
security, including the global network of sensors to detect nuclear
tests, the opportunity to demand on-site inspections, and the means to
mobilize the world against potential violators. All these things, the
Republican majority in the Senate would gladly give away," Clinton
said, referring to the partisan vote that defeated the treaty
ratification. Senate Republicans also refused a compromise that would
have postponed the vote until 2001.

"Never before has a serious treaty involving nuclear weapons been
handled in such a reckless and ultimately partisan way," he said.

Ddespite this "detour" taken by the Senate, the President said,
"America eventually always returns to the main road, and we will do so
again. When all is said and done, the United States will ratify the
test ban treaty."

(Begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 13, 1999

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Outside Oval Office
8:37 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. I am very disappointed that the United
States Senate voted not to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty. This agreement is critical to protecting the American people
from the dangers of nuclear war. It is, therefore, well worth fighting
for. And I assure you, the fight is far from over.

I want to say to our citizens, and to people all around the world,
that the United States will stay true to our tradition of global
leadership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The Senate has taken us on a detour. But America eventually always
returns to the main road, and we will do so again. When all is said
and done, the United States will ratify the test ban treaty.

Opponents of the treaty have offered no alternative, no other means of
keeping countries around the world from developing nuclear arsenals
and threatening our security. So we have to press on and do the right
thing for our children's future. We will press on to strengthen the
worldwide consensus in favor of the treaty.

The United States will continue, under my presidency, the policy we
have observed since 1992 of not conducting nuclear tests. Russia,
China, Britain and France have joined us in this moratorium. Britain
and France have done the sensible thing and ratified this treaty. I
hope not only they, but also Russia, China, will all, along with other
countries, continue to refrain from nuclear testing.

I also encourage strongly countries that have not yet signed or
ratified this treaty to do so. And I will continue to press the case
that this treaty is in the interest of the American people.

The test ban treaty will restrict the development of nuclear weapons
worldwide at a time when America has an overwhelming military and
technological advantage. It will give us the tools to strengthen our
security, including the global network of sensors to detect nuclear
tests, the opportunity to demand on-site inspections, and the means to
mobilize the world against potential violators. All these things, the
Republican majority in the Senate would gladly give away.

The senators who voted against the treaty did more than disregard
these benefits. They turned aside the best advice -- let me say this
again -- they turned aside the best advice of our top military
leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and four
of his predecessors. They ignored the conclusion of 32 Nobel Prize
winners in physics, and many other leading scientists, including the
heads of our nuclear laboratories, that we can maintain a strong
nuclear force without testing.

They clearly disregarded the views of the American people who have
consistently and strongly supported this treaty ever since it was
first pursued by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. The American
people do not want to see unnecessary nuclear tests here or anywhere
around the world.

I know that some Senate Republicans favored this treaty. I know others
had honest questions, but simply didn't have enough time for thorough
answers. I know that many would have supported this treaty had they
been free to vote their conscience, and if they had been able to do
what we always do with such treaties, which is to add certain
safeguards, certain understandings that protect America's interest and
make clear the meaning of the words.

Unfortunately, the Senate majority made sure that no such safeguards
could be appended. Many who had questions about the treaty worked hard
to postpone the vote because they knew a defeat would be damaging to
America's interest and to our role in leading the world away from
nonproliferation. But for others, we all know that foreign policy,
national security policy has become just like every domestic issue --
politics, pure and simple.

For two years, the opponents of this treaty in the Senate refused to
hold a single hearing. Then they offered a take-or-leave-it deal: to
decide this crucial security issue in a week, with just three days of
hearings and 24 hours of debate. They rejected my request to delay the
vote and permit a serious process so that all the questions could be
evaluated. Even worse, many Republican senators apparently committed
to oppose this treaty before there was an agreement to bring it up,
before they ever heard a single witness or understood the issues.

Never before has a serious treaty involving nuclear weapons been
handled in such a reckless and ultimately partisan way.

The Senate has a solemn responsibility under our Constitution to
advise and consent in matters involving treaties. The Senate has
simply not fulfilled that responsibility here. This issue should be
beyond politics, because the stakes are so high. We have a fundamental
responsibility to do everything we can to limit the spread of nuclear
weapons and the chance of nuclear war. We must decide whether we're
going to meet it.

Will we ratify an agreement that can keep Russia and China from
testing and developing new, more sophisticated advanced weapons? An
agreement that could help constrain nuclear weapons programs in India,
Pakistan, and elsewhere, at a time of tremendous volatility,
especially on the Indian sub-continent? For now, the Senate has said,
no.

But I am sending a different message. We want to limit the nuclear
threat. We want to bring the test ban treaty into force.

I am profoundly grateful to the Senate proponents of this treaty,
including the brave Republicans who stood with us, for their
determination and their leadership. I am grateful to all those
advocates for arms control and national security, and all the
religious leaders who have joined us in this struggle.

The test ban treaty is strongly in America's interest. It is still on
the Senate calendar. It will not go away. It must not go away. I
believe that if we have a fair and thorough hearing process, the
overwhelming majority of the American people will still agree with us
that this treaty is in our interest. I believe in the wisdom of the
American people, and I am confident that in the end, it will prevail.

Q Mr. President, when you say the fight is far from over, sir, do you
mean that you expect this treaty to be brought up again during your
term in office?

THE PRESIDENT: I mean, I think that -- we could have had a regular
hearing process in which the serious issues that need to be discussed
would have been discussed, and in which, as the Senate leaders both
agreed yesterday when they thought there was an agreement and they
shook hands on an agreement, would have resulted in next year being
devoted to considering the treaty, dealing with its merits, and then,
barring extraordinary circumstances, would have put off a vote until
the following year.

By their actions today the Republican majority has said they want us
to continue to discuss and debate this. They weren't interested in the
safeguards; they weren't interested in a serious debate; they weren't
interested in a serious process. So they could have put this on a
track to be considered in an appropriate way, which I strongly
supported. They decided otherwise.

And we, therefore, have to make it clear -- those of us who agree --
that it is crazy for America to walk away from Britain and France, 11
of our NATO allies, the heads of our nuclear labs, the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, 32 Nobel laureates, and the whole world, having depended on us
for all these decades, to lead the fight for nonproliferation.
Therefore, we have to keep this issue alive and continue to argue it
in the strongest and most forceful terms.

I wish we could have had a responsible alternative. I worked until the
11th hour to achieve it. This was a political deal. And I hope it will
get the treatment from the American people it richly deserves.

Thank you.

(End transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State)