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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


10-11US-Russia Discussions on National Missile Defense and ABM Treaty
10Actions by Russia and China At UN Regarding the ABM Treaty

DPB #133
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1999, 1:10 P.M.


QUESTION: Did you see or did you notice the move at the United Nations by Russia and China to preserve - to totally preserve - not to revise, trim, redefine, abort or any of the other maneuvers that are being considered - the ABM Treaty? And I wondered whether that isn't really the answer, too, that John Holum is getting in Moscow?

MR. FOLEY: First of all, there have been a number of reports, in the last few days, concerning some of the ideas that the United States has offered for discussion with Russia, relating to our cooperation on the issue of missile defense and the ABM Treaty. And some of those reports are overblown, in the sense that they assume that there have been formal offers that have been formally rejected, when, in fact, we're at the very early stages of our discussions with the Russians on this matter.

You're correct to point out that there's a senior US team, led by Under Secretary Holum, in Moscow today for follow-up discussions on the ABM, National Missile Defense and other arms control issues. But as I said, this is an early stage of the process. The discussions with Ambassador Holum are underway, still, in Moscow. We have offered some ideas for discussion, but there's been no proposals, of a formal nature, that have been placed on the table.

I note your point about what's happened at the Security Council in New York. Our view is that the ABM Treaty remains a cornerstone of strategic stability. We are committed to work with Russia to negotiate changes to the ABM Treaty required for possible deployment of a National Missile Defense, and to make progress on further strategic arms reductions.

QUESTION: It's a cornerstone but you want to chip away at the cornerstone.

MR. FOLEY: We believe --

QUESTION: Doesn't it weaken the structure --

MR. FOLEY: We are committed --

QUESTION: -- to fiddle with the cornerstone?

MR. FOLEY: We are committed to the development of a limited National Missile Defense. We believe that the world has changed a great deal since the signing of the ABM Treaty, and that we are facing a new set of threats. And these are threats that are faced not only by the United States, but by Russia and other nations around the world: as technology spreads; as rogue regimes are acquiring missile capabilities and therefore the capability eventually to threaten US soil, Russian soil, and threaten friends and allies around the world.

The President has not taken a decision on whether to proceed with deployment. That's going to occur in the year 2000, on whether to deploy a limited National Missile Defense, but we are committed to developing a national missile defense. It is our view that it is possible to negotiate changes to the ABM Treaty that would permit, under the treaty, deployment of a limited National Missile Defense, and that's what we're working on with the Russians. Again, this is in the early stages. I'm certainly aware of the comments that have been made publicly in Moscow, but this is an effort that we're committed to.


(The briefing concluded at 1:55 P.M.)

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