USIS Washington File

14 October 1999

Clinton Says U.S. Will Continue to Adhere to CTBT Commitments

(Blames Senate rejection of CTBT on partisan politics) (1010)
By Wendy S. Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- Despite Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT), the United States will continue to honor its
commitments under the Treaty, President Clinton told reporters at an
hour long news conference October 14 devoted largely to the arms
control issue.

"I will not let yesterday's partisanship stand as our final word on
the nuclear Test Ban Treaty," Clinton told reporters gathered in the
East Room of the White House.

The United States, he said, will not resume nuclear testing and "will
continue to pursue the fight against the spread of nuclear
weapons....We will continue the policy we have maintained since 1992
of not conducting nuclear tests."

Clinton called on Russia, China, Britain, France and all other
countries to continue to refrain from testing, and he urged nations
that have not done so to sign and ratify the Treaty.

He said he will continue to do all he can "to make that case to the
Senate" for ratifying the CTBT. "When all is said and done, I have no
doubt that the United States will ratify this Treaty," he said.

Clinton accused "hard-line Republicans" in the Senate of
"irresponsibly" forcing a vote against the Treaty and said the
Senate's rejection of it late October 13 was because of blatant
"partisan politics of the worst kind" that pose risks "to the safety
of the American people and the world."

The near party-line vote of 51-48 against the Treaty, with one
Democrat voting "present" was 19 votes short of the 67 needed to
ratify the Treaty. Only four Republicans joined Democrats in voting
for it.

By this vote, Clinton said, "the Senate majority has turned its back
on 50 years of American leadership against the spread of weapons of
mass destruction. They are saying America does not need to lead either
by effort or by example. They are saying we don't need our friends or
allies. They are betting our children's future on the reckless
proposition that we can go it alone, that at the height of our and
prosperity, we should bury our heads in the sand behind a wall."

Clinton spoke of "signs of a new isolationism" among some of the
opponents of the Treaty.

"You see it in the refusal to pay our UN dues. You see it in the
woefully inadequate budget for foreign affairs that includes meeting
our obligations to the Middle East peace process, and to the
continuing efforts to destroy and safeguard Russian nuclear
materials," the President said.

"You see it in the refusal to adopt our proposals to do our part to
stem the tide of global warming, even though these proposals plainly
would create American jobs," he said.

But, he said, "That is not where I stand, and that is not where the
American people stand. They understand that to be strong, we must not
only have a powerful military; we must also lead, as we have done time
and again, and as the whole world expects us to do, to build a more
responsible, interdependent world."

Clinton also warned India and Pakistan not to "take yesterday's vote
as a sign that America doesn't care whether you resume nuclear testing
and build up your nuclear arsenals. "We do care," he said. "You
shouldn't do it. It's not necessary. It will hurt your economy and
endanger your future."

The President said he hoped that Pakistan, where the military earlier
this week took control of the government, "will move to a civilian
government as quickly as possible."

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart told reporters that America
has always taken a leadership role around the world in
nonproliferation and will continue playing such a role.

The vote rejecting ratification of the Treaty, he said, "is a detour
but we will get back to the main road, we will continue to play a
leadership role around the world; it is our obligation to the rest of
the world as the most powerful country in the world."

The United States, he said, will continue its position of not testing
and using the technology available to it to keep its deterrents strong
and will continue to work with other countries.

"It is our job to make sure, and the President will make sure, that
the rest of the world understands that we will continue to play a
leadership role in nonproliferation because it's manifestally in our
national security interests," to do so.

Lockhart blamed the Senate vote on "a toxic brew of reckless
partisanship and dangerous isolationism." He said a small number of
Republicans "have influenced and enacted their view over that of the
majority of the Senate."

He acknowledged that it's hard for Americans and the rest of the world
to understand, "how a majority, a strong majority in the Senate, was
for putting this vote off and why the vote took place."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, in a Republican response to the
President's news conference, said when the Senate voted down the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, it was not because of personalities or
politics, but rather because of "the substance of the Treaty." Lott
said the Treaty was rejected because it "was flawed, was not
verifiable, and was not enforceable."

No Senator was pressured to vote anything but their conscience on the
ratification, he said.

"Some of the most thoughtful Senators that have ever served in this
body said this Treaty was not verifiable, that it was fundamentally
flawed, and it should not be ratified," Lott said.

The list of those, he said, included "Senators that really know a lot
about the subject of nuclear weapons" including Senate Foreign
Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Senator
Richard Lugar, a senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee,
and Armed Services Committee chairman Senator John Warner of Virginia.

(The Washington File is a product of the U.S. Department of State.)