News

October 5, 1999

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON DEPARTURE TO PENTAGON





                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release
October 5, 1999

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        UPON DEPARTURE TO PENTAGON

                               South Portico

3:13 P.M. EDT

...............

          Q    Mr. President, do you think you could try to postpone a vote
on the treaty?
          THE PRESIDENT:  On the test ban treaty?
          Q    Yes.
          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me say this:  I think for the Senate to
reject it would send a terrible message.  It would say to the whole world,
look, America's not going to test, but if you want to test, go right ahead.
We're not interested in leading the world toward nonproliferation anymore.
          I'm going to have a dinner tonight and talk to a number of
senators about it.  I think a lot of thoughtful Republicans who normally
support us in matters like this are, number one, under enormous political
pressure not to do so; and, number two, have the legitimate feeling that
this very important issue, which in previous Congresses would have received
8, 10, 12 days of hearings, a week or more of debate, is for some reason
being rushed at an almost unprecedented pace.
          So we're going to talk through this.  I'm going to make the best
case I can.  I'm going to tell them why I think it's in the national
interest.  But I think it is a very curious position that some of the
leaders of the opposite party are taking that they don't really want us to
start testing again and they know we have the most sophisticated system in
the world for maintaining our nuclear stockpile without testing -- but they
don't want to vote for this treaty even if that says to Pakistan, to India,
to China, to Russia, to Iran, to everybody else, you all go on and do
whatever you want to do, but we're not going to do it.  I think that's a
very curious thing to do and would be very, very damaging to the interests
of the United States and, even more important, to the safety of children in
the 21st century all across the world.
          We have been a leader for nonproliferation, including for the
concept of the test ban treaty since the time of Dwight Eisenhower.  He's
the first person who recommended this.  And before this Congress it would
have been unthinkable that a treaty of this kind, with these protections --
particularly with the strengthening reservations that I have offered to
work with Congress to put in -- it would have been unthinkable before this
Congress that such a treaty would not pass.  So I'm going to work and do
the best I can, and we'll see what happens.
          Q    Sir, there seems to be the complaint it cannot be verified,
and that the integrity of the arsenal cannot be maintained absolutely --
          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I would like to respond to those two
things.  Number one, on the compliance issue.  Keep in mind what the
reports say -- that you cannot, with 100 percent certainty, detect small
nuclear tests everywhere in the world.  That's all they say.  Our national
security people, including all of our people at the Pentagon, say that any
test of the magnitude that would present any sort of threat to the United
States could, in fact, be detected, number one.
          Number two, if we don't pass this treaty, such smaller tests will
be even more likely to go undetected.  Why?  Because if the treaty goes
into force, we'll have over 300 sophisticated sensors put out in places all
across the world, and we'll have the right to on-site inspection, and we
will also have the deterrent effect of people being found violating the
treaty.
          Now, if you don't put the treaty into force -- no sensors, no
on-site inspections, no deterrent -- and if the United States walks away
from it, the rest of the world will think they've been given a green light.
So I think that argument has literally no merit, because nothing changes
except our ability to increase our determination of such tests with the
passage of the treaty.
          Now, on the first argument -- the idea that, some say, we can't
with absolute, 100 percent certainty, maintain the integrity of the
stockpiles.  That is not what the people who lead the energy labs say.
That's not what the Joint Chiefs say.  Some people disagree -- they do;
they say they're not sure that forever and a day we'll be able to do that.
I have offered the Senate a reservation to the treaty which makes it clear
that if ever there comes a time we think we can't preserve the integrity of
our nuclear stockpile, we can take appropriate steps to do so, number one.
          Number two, we spend $4.5 billion a year, with by far the most
sophisticated system in the world, to maintain that.  Now, if all the --
this treaty doesn't go into effect unless all the nuclear powers and
several dozen other countries agree to it -- 44 in total must agree.  If
they all agree, I'm sure that all the people who are making this argument
would acknowledge that our system of maintaining the integrity of our
stockpile without tests is far in advance of what anybody else has.  So our
relative security will be increased, regardless.
          Final point I want to make:  None of these people will stand up
and say, let's start testing again.  So what they're saying is, okay,
America won't test, but if everybody else tests, well, so be it.  I think
it would be a big mistake.
                    END  3:30 P.M. EDT