News

May 12, 1998

[EXCERPTS] PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY





                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary

_____________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                            May 12, 1998


                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY


                          The Briefing Room


11:23 A.M. EDT


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


	     
	     Q	  Did the President get a letter, receive a letter 
from the Indian Prime Minister?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'll have to check on that.
	     
	     Q	  In the last 24 hours?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'll have to check on that.
	     
	     Q	  Can you say anything more about whether he might 
change his trip plans to India?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think the President is, as he just 
indicated, very concerned by the tests that's been conducted by the 
government of India.  We certainly are going to have to assess that 
development as we consider his itinerary.
	     

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


	     
	     Q	  Also, on India, the President's statement today, he 
was talking about he will follow the law.  So that means that the 
administration is definitely deciding to impose economic sanctions?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Under the statute, the imposition of 
sanctions is dealt with almost as a certainty.  We are examining 
exactly what that will mean and what the consequences are.  We 
certainly are going to want to explore with the government of India 
what its intentions are at this point.  We're very interested in the 
answer to some of the questions posed by the President today, or his 
admonition, really, that they immediately join the comprehensive test 
ban regime.  We'll be quite interested in hearing what responses the 
government of India has to that and other questions that we intend to 
pose.
	     
	     Q	  Haven't you heard -- you haven't heard anything yet 
from India?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'll check.  Eric, Helen had a question of 
whether we have gotten a letter from Vajpayee.  I'm not aware of 
that, but we'll try to find out.
	     
	    
.............

	     
	     Q	  Can you tell us, has the President changed his 
travel plans to India, and might he change them depending on India's 
commitment to stop testing nuclear weapons?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think I indicated earlier that we 
certainly have to take into account this development as we assess his 
future itinerary.
	     
...................	    


	     
	     Q	  These talks with India -- are they going to be 
going on?  How is that going to be done?  Is that going to be done 
via the embassy?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  It will be done through appropriate 
diplomatic channels.  I don't want to speculate at this point --
	     
	     Q	  Do you think it's a matter of days before the 
decision is made about sanctions, or --
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  It's a matter that we are addressing with 
some urgency now.
	     
	     Q	  Mike, who is talking to Pakistan, and which level 
of U.S. government are you having contact with Pakistan?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  We'll have to see -- through the embassy 
there and here.
	     
	     Q	  Mike, is it possible --
	     
	     Q	  Have you filed a formal protest yet, Mike?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I believe we have communicated that.  I'll 
have to ask the NSC to follow up exactly the form of the 
communication.  Obviously, Ambassador Celeste we've recalled for 
consultation, so he was not the one who delivered the demarche, but 
I'm sure that it has been appropriately communicated.
	     
	     Q	  The President -- that's a very strong statement.
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  It's a very strong statement and intended 
to be communicated to the government of India as a strong statement.
	     
	     Q	  He surely would not go to India if we have 
sanctions against them.
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I've answered that twice now.
	     
	     Q	  Have you recalled the Ambassador for consultation?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  He has been recalled for consultations.  
Yes.
	     
	     Q	  Where is he now?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  He was en route to New Delhi and has 
returned to Washington for consultations.


.............
	     
	     Q	  Mike, on India again, is it possible that the 
administration will go beyond the congressional mandates and sanction 
India further?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  We're looking at the full range of 
sanctions that are contained in the act that are law.  They are quite 
stringent and as Senator Glenn wrote them, he meant them to be quite 
stringent, so we are looking at those now and seeing what their 
applications are and seeing what the practical effect will be.
	     
	     Q	  Celeste was on his way out to India and just did a 
U-turn?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I believe that's correct.  I think he had 
been here and was headed back at the time of the tests and he turned 
around and came back.  That's my understanding.  That's correct.
	     
	     Q	  Mike, currently the level of direct assistance from 
the United States is less than $100 million and arguably only about 
$40 million.
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  The level of direct assistance, that's 
correct, but there are a number of implications in the act.  If you 
look at it carefully, including IFI lending and other issues that I 
think would have significant impact on India.
	     
	     Q	  But do you think that the reduction of U.S. aid 
over the last few years does have an impact on U.S. influence when 
things like this occur?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think it's not only aid; remember, there 
are a full range of assistance programs and support that the 
international community renders to India, including lending through 
the World Bank, that is suggested in the act as conceivable 
responses.  We're going to look very carefully at all of that.
	     
	     Q	  Mike, is it true that there was no indication at 
all to the U.S. government by India that they were going to do this?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  As I said yesterday that we certainly 
didn't receive any notification in advance, and the subject of how 
much we knew about it is certainly something that we'll be looking at 
carefully.
	     
	     Q	  Will this be a topic at the G-8 and will you ask 
Japan to curtail its aid since it's the biggest donor?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Very possible that it will be a subject at 
the G-8.  It wasn't formally on the calendar, but given the 
significance of the development, it's conceivable the leaders would 
want to address it.
	     
	     Q	  There's been a flurry of diplomatic visits to 
India; Ambassador Richardson was there and I think Ambassador 
Pickering after the election, and the issue of the testing had 
already come up when a new government was elected.  Was this a topic 
of discussion and what response did the Indians give to U.S. concerns 
with regard to this?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Our proliferation concerns generally have 
been on the agenda.  The disposition of the government of India 
towards the Comprehensive Test Ban is one that we've explored 
regularly with the government.  I can't suggest that that was 
specifically a part of Ambassador Richardson's agenda when he was 
there, but I know that it has been raised at high levels when we've 
exchanged visits with the government of India in the past.  Of 
course, this is, as you know, a new government.  I'm not sure; our 
most recent high-level meeting with them was probably Ambassador 
Richardson's.  I just don't know whether it came up in the context of 
his meeting.
	     
	     Q	  Mike, what did you mean when you said "the subject 
of how much we knew is something that we'll be looking at carefully"?  
Do you think there might have been some intelligence on this that 
didn't get communicated?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think it's safe to say that given the 
significance of the event, we'll go back and look and see how much we 
knew and how we knew it.
	 

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

	     
	     Q	  Mike, you said that -- dealt with almost as a 
certainty.  Is there any possibility that India could make some of 
the commitments that you suggested and then avoid sanctions?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  It would be very important to hear from 
the government of India what they would want to do to address the 
concern that's now been expressed by the international community.  
Whether or not Congress would take that into account as it considers 
the avenues that are available would remain to be seen, depending on 
the level of commitment made by the government of India.
	     
..................


	     
	     Q	  Have there been any new troop movements noticed by 
either India or Pakistan?  Is the situation calm?
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I haven't checked our assessment of that.
	     
	     Q	  It sounds like India was very successful in being 
able to cover up against our satellites and so forth versus previous 
occasions.  I'm not putting it well, but --
	     
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That would appear to be the case, but as 
you know, that's not a matter I can discuss here.
	     
	     Okay, we'll see you all when we return from Europe, 
those of you not going, and happy journeys to those of you who are.
	     
	     Q	  Don't forget to write.  
	     
	     THE PRESS:  Thank you.
	     
             END                          11:36 A.M. EDT