USIS Washington File

07 April 2000

Transcript: Arms Control Advisor Holum April 5 on Non-Proliferation

The United States is still committed to arms control as part of its
security policy, says President's Senior Advisor for Arms Control,
Non-Proliferation and Security Affairs John Holum.

In an April 5 Worldnet Dialogue with Sydney and Canberra, the
presidential advisor stressed the point that "despite the setback of
the Senate's failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," the
Clinton Administration still "believes in and relies upon arms control
as a central element in our international security policy."

On the issue of whether the United States should proceed with a
national missile defense (NMD), Holum stressed that "the decision to
proceed with national missile defense has not yet been made" by
President Clinton.

If President Clinton does decide to move forward with NMD, Holum said,
the United States would "deploy no more than 100 interceptors in
Alaska, and one ABM radar, and then some upgrades of existing early
warning radars -- five of them."

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Holum said, "already provides
for 100 interceptors. They can be in a regional defense as opposed to
a national defense." However, Holum added, "they do require an
amendment to the treaty."

Beijing, Holum conceded, is "vocally and actively opposed to any
adjustment to the ABM Treaty, and to any U.S. deployment of a national
missile defense."

While the United States can make the case to Russia that the proposed
NMD "would not have any capability against their strategic forces,"
Holum said, "that case is harder to make with respect to China."

But, Holum added, the United States can show China that the proposed
system "is not aimed against them, that we have no interest in an arms
race with China."

China's primary concern, he suggested, whether it is looking at
"national missile defense, theater missile defense, or other aspects
of our relationship, is Taiwan."

"To the extent that the Taiwan issue is more difficult, the national
missile defense will loom larger as a complication in our
relationship. To the extent that the Taiwan relationship can be
restored to a more stable path, then I think NMD won't be that
complicated," he said.


Following is a transcript of the program:

(begin transcript)


GUEST:    John Holum, President's Senior Advisor for
Arms Control, Non-Proliferation and Security Affairs

TOPIC:    Non-Proliferation Issues

POSTS:    Canberra, Sydney

HOST:     Ken Richards 

DATE:     April 5, 2000


MR. RICHARDS: Thank you, Sydney. Let's now return to Canberra for more
questions. Please go ahead, Canberra.

Q: Mr. Holum, my name is Pete Van Ness (ph). I am from the
Contemporary China Center at Australian National University. I'd like
to ask you about the implications of the ballistic missile defense
initiative in the United States for U.S. relations with China, and
most particularly for China's participation in arms control
agreements. And, if I may, I would like to put it in a little bit of
context. We have been following the debate in the United States on the
issue of, Is arms control dead? -- for example in Washington Quarterly
in winter of this year. And when we look at what's been happening --
for example, your agency being folded into the Department of State,
the Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that has
been discussed, and now the Clinton administration's efforts to revise
very substantially the ABM Treaty in negotiations with Russia --
increasingly people wonder whether the ABM or rather the ballistic
missile defense initiative in the United States is really -- whether
it's undermine arms control commitments by the United States.

With regard to China, it seems to me that through six administrations
the effort has been to bring China bit by bit into agreement on the
key arms control agreements, and by and large that's been successful.
But now with the American commitment to the national missile defense
program, plus the theater missile defense program, as you know China
is very unhappy about both, and organizations like the International
Institute for Strategic Studies in London have confirmed that if the
United States goes ahead with a national missile defense program that
this would potentially very much undermine the Chinese nuclear
deterrent. Obviously they're also concerned about the theater missile
defense idea as it relates to Taiwan. I am wondering if you could
discuss for us the implications for China of these ballistic missile
defense initiatives by the U.S.

MR. HOLUM: Yes, thank you. I would like to put the answer also in
context, because it's important to note that we are not proposing a
substantial revision of the ABM Treaty. I just want to lay that on the
table, because here's what we are proposing to do, if the president
decides to proceed: to deploy no more than 100 interceptors in Alaska,
and one ABM radar, and then some upgrades of existing early warning
radars -- five of them. Now, the treaty already provides for 100
interceptors. They can be in a regional defense as opposed to a
national defense. So they do require an amendment to the treaty. But
we don't regard this as a major alteration of the treaty but rather a
very modest one that can take into account new international
realities, new potential threats, without undercutting the core
purpose of the treaty for strategic stability and permitting continued
reductions of offensive forces.

And I also want to emphasize the decision to proceed with national
missile defense has not yet been made by the president. What he has
done, and what we have agreed upon, is on notional architecture that I
just described, if the president were to decide to go ahead. And the
reason we have made that decision is so we have a basis for
negotiating with the Russians. What we are trying to do is to amend
the treaty to allow this defense rather than walk away from the
treaty. The decision will be based on four criteria -- this is a long
way of getting to your question. One is cost, one is threat, one is
technology, and the fourth is something we've called the fourth
criteria because it's rather broad -- it includes arms control, the
strategic environment. It also includes our relationships with our
allies, the overall arms control impact, and of course our
relationship with China, which is an extremely important relationship.
And one of the things we'll do is make sure that when the president
approaches this decision some time this summer that he will have
before him all of the potential implications for all of those

Now, as to China, it is clearly the case that they are vocally and
actively opposed to any adjustment to the ABM Treaty, and to any U.S.
deployment of a national missile defense. We can make fairly easily
the case to Russia that this system would not have any capability
against their strategic forces. That case is harder to make with
respect to China. But what we can point out to the Chinese is that
this system is not aimed against them, that we have no interest in an
arms race with China. My own estimate or calculus is that China's
primary concern, whether it looks at national missile defense, theater
missile defense, or other aspects of our relationship, is Taiwan. To
the extent that the Taiwan issue is more difficult, the national
missile defense will loom larger as a complication in our
relationship. To the extent that the Taiwan relationship can be
restored to a more stable path, then I think NMD won't be that

Remember that China over the course of its entire nuclear experience
has not had in place a quick response retaliatory capability. Its
limited number of ICBMs are deployed in such a way that they couldn't
retaliate promptly were there to be an attack. I don't think China
anticipates a first strike by the United States, and hasn't maintained
forces to deal with that eventuality. I also believe that it's
unlikely that this system would have a significant capability against
the forces that China is likely to have deployed in any case, with or
without national missile defense, because of its strategic
modernization program.

But you raise a very important point. This is a complicated set of
questions, one that the president will have to weigh very carefully,
because it certainly is something the Chinese have been very adamant


Q: If I could follow up, isn't there -- as you have discussed these
questions with us, I wonder if there isn't a fundamental contradiction
between the whole concept of arms control and ballistic missile
defenses? I mean, the ballistic missile defenses seem to have their
roots in a notion that somehow we are going to be able, or you are
going to be able in the United States to be able to defend yourself
against any eventuality, whereas arms control is a notion of trying to
make a safer world for everybody, and particularly in the presidential
election context, and the positions taken by the Bush campaign. At
least here some of us get the impression that if Bush is elected
president that arms control, if not totally discarded, will be very
much secondary to this concern about defending the United States with
ballistic missile defenses.

MR. HOLUM: Well, I don't want to get into electoral politics, but I do
think it's important to see national missile defense in a context that
prefers arms control solutions. We have worked very hard -- through
the Perry initiative -- to try to curtail North Korea's WMD and
missile capabilities. Prevention is our first preference and priority.
Arms control is more reliable -- it's certainly much less expensive
than defense. And so that is our first preference, and we are not
neglecting it, either with respect to North Korea or with respect to
Iran, which are the two more immediate or near-term risks of WMD,
weapons of mass destruction, and missile, inter-continental range

Now, the way I see missile defense fitting into this is as when arms
control doesn't entirely succeed, then what do you do? Well, the first
thing we rely on is deterrence. But there are reasons to believe, in
the case of a country like North Korea or Iran, that the traditional
notions of deterrence might not work. And I'm not thinking here that
North Korea would launch an attack on the United States out of the
blue. We have an alliance relationship with South Korea. North Korea
might believe that if they had a nuclear and missile capability that
could wipe out a U.S. city that in an emergency we would be less
likely to come to the aid of our ally. So it's a reverse deterrence --
an effort to deter us from living up to our security commitments that
we're concerned about.

Now, some would argue that if you are in that circumstance you have
that concern, why not preempt? Why not attack this capability rather
than let it emerge? I don't like that option very much, and I don't
think it would be acceptable internationally, although it's something
that some would advocate. It seems to me under those circumstances
that defending is a reasonable option, so long as you can have some
confidence that it will work, that it's affordable, and that it won't
upset the arms control and strategic structure that you want to
preserve internationally. That's the kind of analysis that we are in
the process of going through here.

There is nothing inherently negative or evil about defense. If it
weren't for the role that the ABM Treaty plays in the arms control
process between the United States and Russia in particular, I think
people generally would say defense is a good thing. It doesn't
threaten anybody except someone who wants to attack you. It doesn't
strike anyone or anything except an incoming missile or warhead.

But I think so long as we can fit it within the context of a workable
security strategy and arms control strategy that defense is something
that merits looking very carefully at.


Q: Geoffrey Barker (ph) again, Mr. Holum. You said earlier that there
was nothing -- I think the terms you used were "negative or evil"
about defenses. But why isn't it reasonable to conclude that the
development and deployment of TMD or NMD would at least risk starting
a new arms race just because countries like China and Russia and
possibly others might be moved to develop new offensive weapons
capable of penetrating the limited shield envisaged by the United

MR. HOLUM: No, I said nothing inherently -- or at least if I didn't
use that qualifier, I should have -- nothing inherently bad about
defending. In fact, over the long term -- and this is truly a
visionary concept -- not originating with me -- but over the long term
I suspect that as we get down to zero nuclear weapons in the world,
which is our ultimate objective, that there will be a very strong
argument for defenses that will be available to every country, just in
case someone cheats or someone develops an offensive capability.
That's what I mean by not inherently negative. But certainly we have
to take into account the implications of moving ahead with defenses
for the strategic balance and for the possibility of an
offense-defense arms race. The entire premise of the ABM Treaty, as
you know, is to facilitate reductions in offensive arms, because
nobody things the other -- neither side thinks the other will gain an
advantage. And that aspect of the issue will have to be considered
very carefully when the president addresses this issue later this

But, again, I believe that it is possible to proceed with a very
limited system, very limited capabilities aimed at third country, very
primitive offensive systems, without undercutting the basic purposes
of the ABM Treaty or provoking an arms race with either Russia or


Q: Mr. Holum, my name is Jeff Mulhearn (ph) from Sydney University
Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific. Going back if I might to
the NMD issue, in particular the proposal for a limited capability --
I think you mentioned 100 interceptors, a radar center in Alaska, that
would hopefully be able to be fitted within the other regime of the
ABM Treaty and so forth. Is it not true though that one of the major
concerns of China and Russia is that if the U.S. is going to spend the
money, the time, the effort to invest in a limited capability that
inevitably as technology changes, as the perceived need changes, these
third states, these states that aren't part of the proliferation NPT
regime continue with their development, that inevitably after you have
reached that limited state you will want to go further and do further
enhancing, further development, and hence basically that China and
Russia's and others perhaps maybe don't trust that U.S. intent? How do
you answer that question?

MR. HOLUM: Well, it certainly is a point that they have raised. I
don't think that the military experts in Russia fear this initial
deployment. Frankly, I don't even think they're concerned about the
phase two that may come not as part of this initial negotiation, but
is certainly something the defense experts are looking ahead to. I
don't even think the Russians are concerned about that -- that would
go up to as many as 250 interceptors, and more ABM radars. But their
missile forces are clearly capable of overwhelming or defeating a
system of this kind.

What they are concerned about is precisely what you say: that this
permits the infrastructure for a larger system that would provide a
hot production capability for interceptors.

One answer, and I think a fundamentally important one, for that is
that we are prepared to pursue in the context of adjustments to the
treaty additional confidence-building and verification measures that
would confirm that those steps aren't happening and aren't imminent.

The ABM Treaty, as you know, was negotiated in 1972, that relies
entirely on national technical means of verification. No intrusive
on-site inspections -- anything of that kind.

Now, when the treaty was amended to clarify the dividing line between
permitted theater missile defenses and prohibited national missile
defenses, we included some new verification measures, and we
contemplate doing the same thing. So one answer is that they can have
assurance based on new confidence-building and verification measures
that such steps are not being taken.

Another argument is sort of a negative one, not one I prefer, and that
is to say this treaty has been amended before, we should be able to
amend it consistently with its purposes to allow limited national
missile defense. And what's the alternative? Is it a good idea to
force the president of the United States to choose between a limited
defense that he thinks based on good intelligence is necessary for the
defense of the country -- to choose between that and the treaty -- to
force the president to choose, if he decides he has to proceed, to
abandon the ABM Treaty. I am not saying the president would decide
that. I don't know what he would decide. He will have all the
information in front of him when he confronts that decision. I hope he
doesn't have to. I think it's in both the United States' interests and
Russia's interests to avoid forcing that choice by making a reasonable
accommodation so that defenses can proceed, but nonetheless remain
constrained by the treaty.

And I frankly think that any president would look very hard, if we are
allowed to proceed under the treaty with the kind of defenses that are
justifiable in the near term -- I think any president of either party
would respect the arms control commitments of the United States. I am
not pretending to speak for a new administration of either party, but
looking at history recall that President Reagan was very anxious to
deploy a national missile defense. Yet during all of the years of that
administration in the pursuit of research and development on Star Wars
and other concepts, President Reagan never abandoned the ABM Treaty.
He proposed dramatic amendments to the treaty in the Standing
Consultative Commissions, but never proposed to abandon the treaty. I
think the United States will take its arms control commitments
seriously, so long as they serve its security interests.


(end transcript)

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