NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION (Senate - May 13, 1998)

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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I commend my colleague from New York for his comments about the problems with nuclear proliferation. I thank my colleague from Nebraska for commenting about discussions that we have had over the years about the issues of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

I intend to speak directly to a subject that I had talked to the Senator from Nebraska about, and that is the need to have activism by the President of the United States in trying to deal with nuclear proliferation on the subcontinent. In fact, Senator Hank Brown and I had visited with Indian Prime Minister Rao in August of 1995 and also with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. I then wrote to the President on this precise subject. I intend to discuss that at some length during the course of the remarks that I am about to make.

I believe that the nuclear detonation in India makes it more important than ever that the United States move ahead with leadership to try to defuse the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and that the Senate should act promptly to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We have had, already, in the course of the last 24 hours, indications of a chain reaction. We have had a response from Pakistan that they may well, too, test nuclear weapons. We have had a report from North Korea, which appears in this morning's press, that `North Korean officials have announced that they are suspending their efforts to carry out the 1994 nuclear freeze agreement that was intended to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program. United States officials said the program was intended to produce weapons in North Korea.'

So we see what is happening on the international scene. There needs to be a very positive response by the United States to the likes of these very, very threatening developments.

As I started to comment earlier, Mr. President, Senator Hank Brown and I had occasion to meet with both the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani Prime Minister back on August 26 and 27 of 1995. It is summarized best in a letter that I wrote to the President from Damascus, dated August 28, 1995, which reads as follows:

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I think it important to call to your personal attention the substance of meetings which Senator Hank Brown and I have had in the last two days with Indian Prime Minister Rao and Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Prime Minister Rao stated that he would be very interested in negotiations which would lead to the elimination of any nuclear weapons on his subcontinent within ten or fifteen years including renouncing first use of such weapons. His interest in such negotiations with Pakistan would cover bilateral talks or a regional conference which would include the United States, China and Russia in addition to India and Pakistan.

When we mentioned this conversation to Prime Minister Bhutto this morning, she expressed great interest in such negotiations. When we told her of our conversation with Prime Minister Rao, she asked if we could get him to put that in writing.

When we asked Prime Minister Bhutto when she had last talked to Prime Minister Rao, she said that she had no conversations with him during her tenure as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Bhutto did say that she had initiated a contact through an intermediary but that was terminated when a new controversy arose between Pakistan and India.

From our conversations with Prime Minister Rao and Prime Minister Bhutto, it is my sense that both would be very receptive to discussions initiated and brokered by the United States as to nuclear weapons and also delivery missile systems.

I am dictating this letter to you by telephone from Damascus so that you will have it at the earliest moment. I am also telefaxing a copy of this letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

When the news broke about the action by the government of India in detonating the nuclear weapon, I wrote to the President yesterday as follows:

With this letter, I am enclosing a copy of a letter I sent to you on August 28, 1995, concerning the United States brokering arrangements between India and Pakistan to make their subcontinent nuclear free.

You may recall that I have discussed this issue with you on several occasions after I sent you that letter. In light of the news reports today that India has set off nuclear devices, I again urge you to act to try to head off or otherwise deal with the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race.

I continue to believe that an invitation from you to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan to meet in the Oval Office, after appropriate preparations, could ameliorate this very serious problem.

I am taking the liberty of sending a copy of this letter to Secretary Albright.


When I discussed the meeting which Senator Brown and I had with both Prime Ministers in late 1995, the President said that was an item which he would put on his agenda following the 1996 elections. Since those elections, I have had occasion again to talk to the President about this subject, and he expressed concern as to what the response of the Senate would be and what would happen with respect to the concerns of China. I expressed the opinion to President Clinton that I thought our colleagues in the Senate would be very interested in moving ahead to try to diffuse the obvious tension between India and Pakistan on nuclear weapons.

That is all prolog. What we have now is a testing of a nuclear device by India as a matter of national pride. And I think that is what it is.

The new Government of India did give adequate notice, although, here again, I believe there might have been some sharp focus of attention by the CIA. Perhaps it is necessary to talk to the White House even about columns which appear in the New York Times, or some formal way to warn of this threat in a more precise and focused manner, although I quite agree with what the Senator from Nebraska, Senator Kerrey, said--that it was obvious what the Government of India had intended to do.

But as I say, that is prolog. Now I think there is an urgent necessity for leadership from the President to try to diffuse this situation. At the same time, Mr. President, I think there is an urgent need that the Senate of the United States proceed to the consideration and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The essence of that treaty provides that it is an obligation not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. That treaty has been considered by a number of countries, has been ratified by many countries, but it is still awaiting action by the United States.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services held a hearing on this subject on October 27, of last year and March 18, of this year, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development held a similar hearing on October 29 of last year. But as yet, there has been no action by the Foreign Relations Committee. It seems to me imperative that the matter be brought to the Senate floor as early as possible and whatever hearings are deemed necessary be held so that the Senate may consider this matter.

There are some considerations as to objections to the treaty as to whether we can know in a comprehensive way the adequacy of our nuclear weapons. But it seems to me that whatever the arguments may be, they ought to be aired in a hearing process before the Foreign Relations Committee and on the floor of this Senate and then brought for a vote by the U.S. Senate.

This is a matter of life and death. When we talk about nuclear weapons, we are talking about the force and the power which can destroy civilization as we know it. During the tenure that I had as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I took a look at the governmental structure in the United States on weapons of mass destruction, saw that some 96 separate agencies had operations, and, in conjunction with the then-Director John Deutch, inserted the provision to establish the commission to consider the

governmental structure of the United States in dealing with weapons of mass destruction. That commission is now in operation. John Deutch is the chairman and I serve as vice chairman.

But it is certainly necessary that matters of this magnitude receive early attention at all levels of the government, including the President and the U.S. Senate. Where there is concern in the Senate on the subject of testing to know the capabilities of our weapons, it should be noted that article X of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty does provide for the right to withdraw if the Government decides that extraordinary events relating to the subject matter of this treaty would jeopardize the supreme interests, referring to the supreme interests of any nation. President Clinton has stated that he would consider withdrawing if we came to that kind of a situation.

President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on September 24, 1996. Now we are more than a year and a half later without any real significant action having been taken by the U.S. Senate.

The 149 states have signed the treaty, and 13 have ratified it as of April of 1998. There is obviously a problem with what is going to happen with Iraq, Iran, or other countries which seek to develop nuclear weapons. There is obviously a problem with other nations which have nuclear weapons. But the ban on nuclear testing would certainly be a significant step forward in diffusing the situation and in acting to try to have comprehensive arms control on this very, very important subject.

I urge the President to take action, to use his good offices with sufficient preparation, as noted in my letter to him of yesterday, for a meeting in the Oval Office. Very few foreign leaders decline meetings in the Oval Office. That should be of the highest priority on the President's agenda, and similarly on the Senate agenda. Consideration and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ought to be a very high priority on the Senate's agenda.

Mr. President, in the absence of any other Senator on the floor, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.