News

The White House Briefing Room


January 21, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY ROBERT BELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE AND ARMS CONTROL

1:34 P.M. EST

	     


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                            January 21, 1999     


	     
                         PRESS BRIEFING BY 
          ROBERT BELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT 
                FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE AND ARMS CONTROL
	     
	     
                         The Briefing Room   
	     

	     
1:34 P.M. EST
	     
	     
	     Q	  Has there been any response yet from Yeltsin?

	     MR. BELL:  Helen, if I could just begin with a 
statement, then I'll ask you to pose the first question, please.
It's related to the ABM treaty, Sam.

	     For the last three years, the United States has been 
committed to the development, by the year 2000, of a limited national 
missile defense system, that is being designed primarily to counter 
emerging rogue state missile threats.  Now, I say "for the last three 
years" because it was in April of 1996 that then-Secretary of Defense 
Perry made the decision to upgrade our national missile defense 
research efforts from a technology-demonstration status to what we 
have called a deployment-readiness status.

	     Yesterday, Secretary Cohen announced a restructuring of 
this program that would orient the developmental efforts towards 
fielding the system in the year 2005, instead of 2003 as previously 
envisioned, assuming -- assuming -- a go-ahead deployment decision 
were to be made in the summer of the year 2000.

	     I want to emphasize this point:  No decision has been 
taken on whether to proceed with deployment.  A decision on whether 
to deploy a limited national missile defense will not be made, as I 
said, until the year 2000 or later.

	     The Secretary also confirmed yesterday that, when the 
President's next six-year budget for the Pentagon is presented to 
Congress in a few weeks, it will include funds that would be 
necessary -- should we later decide to deploy this limited national 
missile defense system.  The amount added to the President's budget 
for fiscal years 1999 through 2005 to cover the contingency that we 
decide on deployment amounts to nearly $7 billion.  But none of the 
deployment dollars that are being added are in the fiscal year 1999 
or fiscal year 2000 budget years.

	     Again, no decision has been taken on whether to proceed 
with deployment.  A decision on whether to deploy will not be made 
until the year 2000 or later, at which point we will again assess our 
evaluation of the threat, review the program in terms of its 
technology and its maturity and program risk as of that date, 
assessing flight tests that we hope to have conducted by that date, 
and further refine our cost estimate.

	     Now, adding this money, then, does not represent a 
change in policy.  Rather, we are adding this money to protect the 
deployment option in the event a decision is made in the year 2000 or 
later to field this system.


	     I would also emphasize that all issues involving the 
national missile defense program must, of course, be addressed within 
the context of the ABM treaty.  The ABM treaty remains, in the view 
of this administration, a cornerstone of strategic stability, and the 
United States is committed to continued efforts to strengthen the 
treaty and enhance its viability and effectiveness.  Secretary Cohen 
underscored yesterday that he believes it's in our overall interests 
to maintain the treaty, and that the treaty is important to 
maintaining the limitations on offensive missiles that are contained 
in the START Treaties. 
	     
	     Quoting him:  "To the extent there is no ABM Treaty, 
then, certainly Russia or other countries would feel free to develop 
as many offensive weapons as they wanted, which would then set in 
motion a comparable dynamic to offset that with more missiles here.  

	     In short, as Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed at 
the 1997 Helsinki Summit, the ABM Treaty is of fundamental 
significance to realizing our strategic arms reduction objectives 
under the START II and START III treaties.  Now, in this regard, it 
has been our longstanding policy to conduct activities related to the 
development -- the development -- of this limited system in full 
compliance with the ABM Treaty, and senior DOD officials have 
repeatedly and recently testified to Congress that the program is in 
complete and strict compliance with the Treaty.  

	     Finally, with regard to the option, the possibility of 
actually fielding this system should that decision be taken, we have 
said many times before that deployment may or may not require 
modifications to the Treaty.  If deployment required modifications, 
we would, in good faith, seek agreement on the needed amendments.  
We've not made a proposal to negotiate ABM amendments as some have 
reported because, as Secretary Cohen made clear yesterday, we have 
not yet made determinations as to what specific amendments might be 
required to accommodate the various options that are being considered 
in the Pentagon with respect to a final architecture for this 
defensive system.

	     Q	  Could you give us an example of --

	     Q	  But -- can I say "but"?  But Cohen also pointed out 
that we would withdraw -- probably would withdraw if Russia doesn't 
go along.

	     MR. BELL:  Well, I think it's important to be clear on 
exactly what the Secretary said.  The Secretary did not threaten to 
withdraw from the treaty as has been reported; the Secretary merely 
noted that the ABM Treaty, as in the case with every arms control 
treaty, contains a clause that gives that option. 

	     Q	  Well, my follow-up is, are these -- I mean, 
Albright yesterday or today said that we have the nuclear situation 
under control with North Korea.  I mean, what are we really worried 
about?

	     MR. BELL:  We are concerned with the recent accelerated 
trends in the threat, particularly with regard to long-range 
missiles.  There has been a real and growing threat for some time 
with respect to shorter and theater-range missiles against which 
we're also developing and in some cases deploying now very 
sophisticated theater missile defenses.

	     What has changed over the last six or seven months has 
been an acceleration in the threat with respect to the programs that 
various rogue states, including North Korea and Iran have in the 
category of long-range missiles -- missiles that have the 
potential to reach our homeland if launched.

	     Now, what the Secretary said yesterday as well as the 

other officials who testified in the Pentagon is that we now expect, 
our assumption is that those trend lines, by the time we get to the 
point where we will address a deployment decision for the first time 
at the earliest is 18 months from now, our expectation is that we 
will conclude, then, that this threat criterion that we've been 
talking about for two years now has been met.  But we will see when 
we get there, and we don't need to decide that today.

	     Q	  Secretary Albright's trip, is she going to discuss 
this with the people she sees on her trip?

	     MR. BELL:  Certainly.
	     
	     Q	  In what sense?  The same way you've just explained 
it, or how?

	     MR. BELL:  Well, I imagine the Russians will have a 
number of questions of their own.  We have been in touch with their 
government at various levels, almost every level, over the last week 
or so, as has been our practice throughout the development of this 
limited national missile defense option.
	     
	     Q	  Tell us what their initial reaction is.

	     MR. BELL:  The Russian government is wary of changes in 
the ABM Treaty that could be construed to constitute a threat to 
their strategic deterrent, that they would deem to have the actual or 
potential capability to counter their strategic forces.  We have been 
very clear in all our discussions with the Russian government that 
that is not the design or intention of this limited national missile 
defense program.  

	     This program is aimed at providing us with the 
capability of defending the American people against a rogue state 
that acquires, either through an indigenous development program or an 
outright sale or transfer, a handful, at the most, of long-range 
missiles on top of which they could equip either chemical or 
biological, or in the worst case, nuclear weapons.
	     
	     Q	  Are you saying that the object, then, of a possible 
decision to deploy would be to deploy the type of system that could 
deter rogue state missiles but would not deter a Russian missile 
attack?

	     MR. BELL:  The word "deterrence" is important, Sam.  We 
would hope that any state, rogue or otherwise, that contemplated 
attacking our homeland with long-range missiles would be deterred not 
only by the prospect of a defense in being if we decide to deploy 
this NND option, but also deterred from doing so by the certitude of 
what our reaction would be with our considerable military 
capabilities against the state itself.  But in the case of Russia, 
there is no requirement that's been identified by the Joint Staff in 
this planning process that we are working against that envisions a 
defense so robust that it would provide a capability to negate 
Russia's strategic force.

	     Q	  A question -- you say "so robust" -- is that the 
key?  In other words, we could deploy a system which would be 
sufficiently strong to take out a North Korean missile, but could be 
overcome by Russian attack?

	     MR. BELL:  It operates on two levels.  First, there is 
an issue of numbers.  Fundamentally, you would have to have a very 
large number of interceptors deployed to have any fighting chance, if 
you will, of negating the Russian strategic force.  A subordinate 
question is whether an individual missile -- for 
example, if an individual Russian, or for that matter Chinese ICBM 
was launched by accident or inadvertence, whether this system in a 
technical sense would have the capability to intercept a very 
sophisticated missile that had, for example, multiple warheads or 
penetration devices to help those warheads get through.

	     We have tried in many ways to make sure, particularly in 
the case of Russia, that we remove that threat of an accidental or an 
unauthorized launch of even a single missile, for example through the 
detargeting agreement.  But the design of this system is primarily 
aimed at the capability to defeat a rogue state that acquires a very 
small number of ICBMs equipped with weapons of mass destruction 
warheads, that that state might presumably try to use for nuclear or 
attack blackmail purposes in some regional crisis.
	     
	     Q	  Bob, did you say what the status is of any of 
Russian ABM program?  Are they still working on anything now?  And 
secondly, there have been proposals over the last few years, feelers 
put out by the Russians talking about a collaborative effort with the 
United States on some kind of a limited system, and it seems like 
these proposals, which I think there was something only a few months 
ago to this extent, have really not met much of a response from the 
U.S. side -- at the point there was no concern, where ABM systems 
were not at all discussed, this is understood.  But now that the 
issue is coming up again, is there any consideration of some kind of 
a proposal -- collaboration to also assure the Russians that this is 
not directed against them?

	     MR. BELL:  I think you raise two very important points.  
The first is that it is important to recognize that the government of 
Russia has maintained an ABM system around Moscow throughout the 
period following the end of the Cold War; in fact, the ABM limited 
defense of Moscow that's deployed around that city, that capital 
city, is now in its fourth generation.

	     Q	  Which is allowed under the treaty.

	     MR. BELL:  It is permitted under the treaty.  The ABM 
treaty, as Sam correctly points out, does not prohibit limited ABM 
systems, it strictly regulates the numbers and locations of those 
defenses.  But this is not a case in which Russia, not only during 
the era of the Cold War as the Soviet Union, but since the end of the 
Cold War, has foresworn limited ABM defenses of its capitol, it has 
maintained and upgraded those system over the years. 

	     With respect to collaborative efforts, we work very hard 
to try to identify opportunities to cooperate with Russia, not only 
at the level of theater missile defenses -- where we've done joint 
exercises, proposing missile-data-warning sharing to allow them to 
use the information we have about incoming threats that their TMDs 
could counter.  But actually planning to field, side by side, Russian 
and American TMD systems, operated by our respective forces, to get 
some sense of the interoperability of those systems, were we 
operating together in some coalition warfare situation.

	     But even at the national missile defense level, I think 
it's important to recognize that there has been a program of 
collaboration with the Russians.  In fact, we are now waiting -- the 
test was scrubbed yesterday, and today as well, because of weather -- 
but we have a major exercise planned, to be launched our of Alaska, 
now scheduled for tomorrow morning, about dawn, that involves 
collaboration between Johns Hopkins Advanced Physics Laboratory in 
Baltimore and the Russian Academy of Science, where they're going to 
actually explode a plasma generator in the ionosphere -- with Russian 
participation -- to help test this issue of being able to 
discriminate warheads as they enter the atmosphere.

	     So this is a case where we have contracts with Russia, 
with the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Ballistic Missile 
Defense Office is pursuing an important collaborative program.

	     Q	  Between India and Pakistan, first it was missile 
testing, then nuclear testing, and now, again, Pakistan is ready to 
test another missile, and then India will follow.  So what do -- the 
solution?

	     MR. BELL:  Well, I'm going to refer that question to the 
State Department and Jamie Rubin.  As you know, the Deputy Secretary 
of State, Strobe Talbott, has engaged in a series of visits, both to 
Islamabad and to New Delhi.  Part of our agenda is to urge restraint 
on the part of both parties with regard to further missile tests and 
further deployments, not to mention any further nuclear test or 
weaponization of nuclear capabilities that both countries have 
demonstrated to date.

	     But I can't give you an update on the status of those 
talks.  You'd be better served by going to State for that question.

	     Q	  Has there been any one issue or event that has 
brought this to the fore?  Bob Dole, for years, and the Republicans 
have said that we needed this, and the administration hasn't moved on 
it as fast, but was it the North Korean nuclear test precisely?  Or 
was it some other incident in the world that made you think that this 
was, now, a credible threat, and would be?

	     MR. BELL:  First, let me remind you as I said in the 
opening that it was three years ago, April in 1996, that we made the 
deliberate decision to upgrade our NMD effort from a technology 
program to what we intentionally called a deployment readiness 
program.  Now, three years ago we said that we were going to try to 
get our NMD option moved to the point where it would be available for 
deployment if we deemed the threat warranted.  
	     
	     Now, what's changed in the last number of months going 
back, let's say to last summer, I think the Rumsfeld Commission made 
a very important contribution in terms of a peer review of how our 
intelligence community was assessing the possibility of a faster than 
predicted emergence of the threat, particularly with foreign states 
transferring technology know-how or equipment.  There was the fact of 
the North Korean three-stage test that tried but failed to put a 
satellite in orbit, but demonstrated at least a rudimentary technical 
capability to move a missile, the third stage of that missile, to 
ranges that began to come into a zone that encompassed Hawaii, for 
example.
	     
	     But finally, I would just note, that we have been saying 
for over two years that we had a three-plus-three program in the 
first three, if you will, came due in the summer of 2000.  We have 
just finished putting together our budget proposal for fiscal year 
2000.  So the other thing that's changed is that that bill has come 
due, if you will, in terms of moving another year towards that 
milepost that we had identified back in 1996 for how we wanted to 
conduct the program. 
	     
	     That said, I need to emphasize again that the money is 
being put in the budget to protect the contingency, to protect the 
option of deploying if we conclude, at the earliest in the summer of 
the year 2000, that this system is ready in terms of technology and 
technical risk; that it's costs are under control; and again taking 
another check on where the threat has moved from now to the summer of 
2000, the urgency of the threat as of that decision point.
	     
	     Q	  A nation being able to launch rockets is one thing, 
but how many rogue states do we know that have or are close to 
getting to the intercontinental ballistic missile type which will be 
required, which this system would defend against --
	     
	     MR. BELL:  The reality is that the threat becomes real 
when one state now gets -- or just based on the pattern of 
proliferation we've seen -- and this, I believe, was just one of the 
real contributions that the Rumsfeld Commission made to our 
appreciation of the problem.  
	     
	     North Korea is exporting its missile capabilities.  They 
are quite blatant about their intentions in that regard.  They see it 
as not only something that no one has any business talking to them 
about, though we do continue to press our agenda for missile 
restraint with them in the talks, but beyond that they see it as a 
major source of export earnings.  We cannot assume that if North 
Korea perfects a three-stage ICBM capable of striking the American 
homeland with a meaningful military warhead, particularly one that 
has weapons of mass destruction capability, that North Korea will not 
seek to sell that capability to other states.
	     
	     Q	  Basically the difference then between this and Star 
Wars is essentially anticipating the volume of --
	     
	     MR. BELL:  Well, this is not Star Wars.  Let me be very 
clear.  I've been present at the creation of this saga going back to 
1983.  Remember the day that the Pentagon testified before the Senate 
Arms Control Committee in 1983, in April, that we had no requirement 
for a more robust missile defense program.  And the next day 
President Reagan gave a Start Wars speech.  President Reagan was 
talking about an extremely capable and robust space-based total 
shield defense, one that would be capable of stopping a determined 
attack from the Soviet Union in excess of the START I levels.  This 
was before START I had been completed.  In other words, he was 
projecting the vision of a defense that could stop tens of thousands 
of incoming warheads from a determined adversary like the Soviet 
Union.  
	     
	     This is an extremely limited defense that's designed 
primarily, as I said, to be able to provide real defense against a 
rogue state that gets a handful, at the most, of missiles that it 
tries to blackmail us with or actually use against us in a crisis.  
And there's a considerable difference, not only land-based in terms 
of the architecture, which presents much better prospects of being 
able to accommodate the ABM Treaty to meet this requirement -- if we 
determine that's necessary, as opposed to space-based, which I think 
by anyone's calculation meant the ABM Treaty would be at a point of 
history in terms of any way you could imagine such a set of changes 
in the treat to accommodate that system.
	     
	     Q	  Is there no way, Bob, to penetrate their computers 
and somehow countermand the orders from their computer electronically 
without going through all of this?
	     
	     MR. BELL:  Well, there are a lot of options available in 
any crisis if you feel that you're being threatened by, or someone's 
attempting to blackmail you with, any military capability, whether 
it's a missile or any other military system.  But you still owe it to 
yourself -- it's just a matter of simple prudence -- to provide as 
wide a range of options as you can to deal with that crisis.  You 
don't want to reduce yourself to simply a pre-emption option to take 
the threat away.

	     That doesn't mean, though, that you decide to deploy 
something that is not going to work.  It doesn't do your national 
security any good to deploy a system that hasn't proven it will work.

	     Q	  Bob, are you talking about a limited NMD option?  
What's the difference, then, between that and the theater 
high-altitude systems that the U.S. has already been --

	     MR. BELL:  The THAAD system -- Theater High-Altitude 
Area Defense, THAAD -- the THAAD theater missile defense system, that 
has been under development but has undergone a series of setbacks in 
its test program, is a TMD, a theater missile defense system, for 
purposes of the ABM treaty, or, for that matter, for purposes of our 
regional defense strategy.  We would use THAAD, for example, to 
deploy with a force in the Gulf, if we were engaged in a war with 
Iraq, or in Korea, if we were in hostilities on the peninsula.

	     But the THAAD system has been formally assessed and 
certified to Congress as not having a technical capability to 
intercept an incoming ICBM warhead, and thus, for purposes of this 
demarcation, or distinguishing, for purposes of the treaty, between 
an ABM that is restricted, and TMDs that are unrestricted, we have 
formally reported to Congress that the THAAD system is not an ABM and 
is therefore not captured, if you will, by the terms of the treaty. 
	     	    

	     Q	  Is that distinction because of the range of the 
THAAD system or other specifications?

	     MR. BELL:  Capability is a function, essentially, of the 
inter-relationship between the interceptor missile speed -- the 
faster, the more capable, on the one hand -- and the power of the 
radar on the other.  With tactical or theater systems, particularly 
ones that are mounted on ships, you necessarily have to limit the 
power of the radar.  

	     If you take an AMB radar, like the one we built at Grand 
Forks back in the '70s and then decommissioned, and put it on a 
cruiser, you would get a very capably TMD -- it would also sink the 
cruiser because the radar would weigh too much.  So there are always 
trade-offs here for a tactical system like THAAD that's going to 
accompany forces that are in a maneuver warfare situation, where the 
radar power is restricted necessarily,  and in an AMB system, where 
you can build a huge, powerful radar because it's not intended to go 
anywhere.

	     Q	  Bob, China is still continuing missile technology  
to Pakistan and other countries.  Is the U.S. doing anything or    
having more talks with Chinese?  Because they promised in the past 
they will not do again, but they are still continuing.

	     MR. BELL:  I'm going to defer that question as well. 
Gary Samore, our Senior Director for Nonproliferation, has the 

expertise on that subject and I think you ought to go to the source.

	     Q	  Is the system you're talking about, is this going 
to be based on kinetic weapons, missile-to-missile, or are you going 
to be using more exotic technology?

	     MR. BELL:  This is intended and will be a kinetic kill 
system.  It's not nuclear.  It's designed to hit the target and 
destroy it through that collision.

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Thank you very much.

               END                      1:59 P.M. EST