The State Journal-Register|
September 23, 1997
Clinton to push nuclear test ban
President Clinton, setting the stage for another arms-control battle with the
Republican Congress, Monday announced that he will soon send to the Senate the
nuclear test-ban treaty he signed a year ago.
The president's statement, which pits him against Senate Foreign Relations
Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., came during his annual speech at the
opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
Clinton used that speech as well to seek to put the longstanding U.S. dispute
with the United Nations over back dues "behind us once and for all," promising
to pay up but demanding that the world body be "more equitable" in assessing
Clinton called the treaty "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the
history of arms control," adding that it "will help prevent the nuclear powers
from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons."
That assessment is not universally shared by Republicans on Capitol Hill,
many of whom believe further testing is needed to maintain the American nuclear
deterrent. That resistance grew last month when Russia failed to provide
adequate explanation for a seismic disturbance that U.S. officials say could
have been either an earthquake or a nuclear test prohibited by the test ban.
Clinton was the first of 146 leaders to sign the treaty last year, but it was
put on hold until the Senate could ratify a chemical weapons treaty and while
discussions continued with Congressional leaders.
Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for defense policy and arms
control, denied there had been any significant delay on the part of the
"We've certainly not been idle. We've worked very, very hard on this for the
last year," he told reporters. He said it took that long to work out "the
crucial interpretations ... about what is prohibited and not prohibited under
He said the final issue to be settled prior to Senate submission was how to
fund the program.
Now, he said the administration's top goal is to achieve a committee hearing
But Helms has said he does not want to bring the treaty up until his
committee can deal with the issue of NATO expansion. The White House hopes that
hearings can begin this year with a ratification vote next year.
Clinton's speech helped open a General Assembly session that almost certainly
will test the continuing U.S. clout as Third World countries demand structural
changes to give them more say in the Security Council and U.N. decision-making.
With its focus on U.N. reform, the session may also prove tough for the
United States, which has encountered resistance to its demands that the
bureaucracy be reduced and that other countries begin to pay more for
The difficulties for the United States were signalled when Secretary General
Kofi Annan preceded Clinton to the dais and offered a pointed rebuke of the U.S.
stand on dues.
Traditionally, the secretary general does not speak at such sessions, but
Annan broke with precedent to urge that this be a "reform assembly" and to plead
for support for his reform agenda, adopted in large part to assuage critics in
the U.S. Congress.
But Annan coupled that call with a clear shot at the U.S. reluctance to pay
its dues over the last several years.
"Some of you," he said, "I ask you to do what your legal obligations require:
to liquidate your arrears, and to pay your future assessments in full, on time
and without conditions."
Clinton displayed weariness over the dispute, which has shadowed U.S.
dealings in the U.N. throughout his entire presidency and which has reduced
American sway in the world body.
"This year, for the first time since I have been president, we have an
opportunity to put the questions of debts and dues behind us once and for all
and to put the United Nations on a sounder financial footing for the future," he
While pointedly reminding the delegates from the 185 member nations that the
United States is now and always has been the "largest contributor" to the U.N.,
the president said he has made it "a priority to work with our Congress on
comprehensive legislation that would allow us to pay off the bulk of our
Bipartisan legislation backed by Helms is pending now in Congress that would
permit the payment of $ 819 million. That is well short of the more than $ 1.6
billion the U.N. contends it is owed and even short of the $ 1.1 billion figure
accepted by U.S. officials. But it would reinstate the United States as a
shaper of U.N. reforms and eliminate what increasingly has become a diplomatic
That legislation also imposes several "benchmarks" of U.N. reforms that must
be adopted if future dues are to be paid.
In his speech, the president called for a revamping of the assessment
formulas. The United States currently is assessed 25 percent of the U.N.'s
operating costs, which the Helms legislation would reduce to 20 percent.
For peacekeeping operations, the United States now pays 31 percent, which
would be capped by Helms at 25 percent.
Neither of these proposals is particularly popular or likely to be embraced
in the General Assembly.
On another issue of reform here, the president announced that he supports
expansion of the Security Council, the main governing body for the U.N., which
currently has 15 members, including five permanent members with vetoes.
The United States supports adding Germany and Japan as permanent members and
boosting membership to 20 or 21 by adding rotating members from Africa, Asia and
The president also called for the establishment of a permanent international
court to prosecute serious violations of humanitarian law.
There currently are tribunals for specific crimes in Rwanda and Bosnia, but
no permanent court exists.
On a broader scale, the president urged the adoption of "a new strategy of
security" with the development of new international institutions to take the
world out of the post-Cold War era and into "this new global era."
While here, the president also met one-on-one with the leaders of India and
Pakistan as well as Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Clinton left the
Primakov meeting, aides said, encouraged that the Kremlin will begin pushing for
ratification of the long-delayed START II treaty for strategic arms reduction.
Before returning to Washington, the president and first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton attended a showing of "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera.