News

USIS Washington 
File

11 May 1998

US IS 'DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED' BY INDIA'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS TESTS

(But Clinton still plans to visit India, Berger says) (580)

By Wendy S. Ross

USIA White House Correspondent



Washington -- The United States is "deeply disappointed" by India's
decision to test nuclear weapons, says President Clinton's National
Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger.


"Our position has been very clear," Berger told a press conference May
11. "We have urged countries to exercise restraint in the testing of
nuclear weapons, either countries that are declared nuclear powers, or
countries that are not. We, ourselves along with the other five
declared nuclear states, have stopped nuclear testing ... and we think
this is an unfortunate development."


Berger said the United States has "no independent confirmation" that
India did indeed explode three nuclear weapons underground May 11, but
noted India has "so stated", and "We have no reason to believe they
haven't."


The government of India announced that it tested underground three low
yield thermonuclear devices May 11 in the western desert state of
Rajasthan.


"We would like to see restraint on the part of India and on the part
of Pakistan both with respect to its nuclear weapons programs and with
respect to its ballistic weapons programs," Berger said. "We would
hope that this would not provoke a new round of escalation" in the
area.


The United States has laws that apply to so-called non-declared
nuclear states, he said. "We will examine those laws very carefully in
the context of the reported actions today, and we will obviously
enforce the laws... We are reviewing those laws to determine what the
facts are, what the law is and whether the law applies to these
facts," he said.


He noted that in South Asia, and in the larger region, there has been
"a dynamic of proliferation ... for over 20 years." The United States,
he said, has "tried over the years to urge restraint. In some cases we
have been successful, in some cases we haven't. We will continue to
work toward that goal."


Berger confirmed that President Clinton still plans to visit India
this autumn. "Our plans remain unchanged," he said. "It remains
important that we continue our dialogue with Pakistan, with India." He
pointed out that India and the United States are the two largest
democracies in the world, and that they share "an enormous amount" of
common interest. "We have a better chance at slowing these kinds of
actions if we remain engaged, than if we don't," he said.


White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said it is his understanding
that the United States "had no advance notification that the tests
would occur."


He said the Indian government's decision to conduct them "runs counter
to the effort the international community is making to promulgate a
comprehensive ban on such testing."


Clinton, said McCurry, "has authorized a formal presentation of our
displeasure to be made to the government in New Delhi. While it was
foreseen, given the electoral program of the newly-elected party that
they might take this step, it still flies in the face of an
international consensus about the need to promulgate and nurture the
new regime on a comprehensive test ban, and we will certainly be
sharing those thoughts and others with the new government in India."


The United States, McCurry said, "will continue to spare no effort in
encouraging countries to both promulgate and ratify the comprehensive
test ban. If anything, these tests underscore the importance of that
international regime."