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28 May 1998

TRANSCRIPT: TALBOTT BRIEFS ON PAKISTAN, INDIA NUCLEAR TESTS

(U.S. to continue intensive diplomatic efforts to stop testing) (5300)


Washington -- The United States will continue intensive diplomatic
efforts to prevent India and Pakistan from continuing nuclear weapons
tests, says Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.


During a briefing May 28, Talbott told reporters that the immediate
goals of the United States are to have the two countries renounce any
further testing, sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and take
decisive steps in reducing tensions between them.


U.S. long-range goals, he said, are to establish a political dialogue
between India and Pakistan, foster peace in South Asia, and prevent an
arms race.


"There may be a spiraling arms race here, but we do not think it is
inevitable," Talbott said.


Following is the transcript of Talbott's briefing:



(Begin transcript)



DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Good afternoon, everybody. You've already
heard today from the President and from Secretary Albright, so I do
not have a great deal to add by way of opening comments. I'm sure
you're eager to get as quickly as possible to your questions.


Let me just make a general observation or two, at the risk of perhaps
belaboring the obvious a little bit. Clearly, this is an
extraordinarily serious situation that has developed as a result of
first the Indian test and then the Pakistani test. It is a regional
issue of immense importance, complexity and, I would say, danger; and
it does have global implications, which is one of several reasons that
the United States has applied itself as vigorously and persistently as
it has. And it's for that reason that the United States Government --
notably including the President himself, the Secretary of State and
the entire Administration -- are going to be continuing to put our
shoulders to the wheel here.


The back-to-back tests by India and Pakistan unquestionably represent
a set-back for the search for peace and security and stability in the
South Asian Subcontinent, and indeed, a set-back for the global cause
of non-proliferation and moving towards a world where fewer and fewer
states are relying on nuclear weapons for their greatness or for their
defense.


But that cause, if anything, is even more important today than it was
yesterday and several weeks ago, before the Indian test. The United
States is going to stay at it, and we are working very hard today to
come up with the most promising and appropriate next steps.


Our long-range goals here are fairly simple. They are peace in South
Asia; military stability and balance, which is to say no arms race
between India and Pakistan -- particularly given the fact that neither
of those countries can afford an expensive, not to mention dangerous,
arms race; and also our long-term goals include a political dialogue
between India and Pakistan that we all hope would lead eventually to
normal and even friendly and genuinely cooperative and mutually
trusting and mutually respectful relations between these two very
important countries.


Our immediate goals are that the two countries renounce any further
testing, since I would hope it would be clear to both of them that
this pair of tests has not made either feel more secure; second, that
both sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; third, that they take
decisive steps in reducing tensions between them; fourth, that they
seriously join negotiations on a cut-off of the production of fissile
material and a treaty to enshrine that cut-off; and fifth, that they
undertake not to weaponize or deploy ballistic missiles.


Now, how exactly we use the considerable energy and determination that
I think you have seen displayed on the part of the international
community, including in the meetings that Secretary Albright had with
key allies and with the Russian Foreign Minister today, and how we use
our own unilateral instruments available to us is the subject that
we're all working on, even as I stand before you speaking. But I'd be
glad to try to take any questions that you have.


Q: You talked about global implications. Could you flesh that out? Are
inhibitions being reduced elsewhere, beyond South Asia, vis--vis
nuclear testing?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: The global implications are really several.
One, this is not a good example that India and Pakistan have set for
other countries. Both of these countries have taken steps which are
very much against the direction in which the international community
as a whole was moving. As we approach the famous 21st century, there
was a growing consensus that while we're still a long way from
eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth, we were making
-- and I think are continuing to make -- very real progress in the
right direction.


The United States and Russia, which are custodians of, of course, the
largest nuclear arsenals have been moving in that direction towards
reduction under the rubric of START II. When President Clinton and
President Yeltsin met in Birmingham, they talked about the prospects
for further reductions in START III.


The NPT itself, the CTBT were definitely steps in the right direction.
A number of countries -- Argentina, Brazil, South Africa -- have
actually moved back from the brink of being nuclear weapons states. So
India and Pakistan have moved in the opposite direction and, as I said
earlier, not in ways that we feel enhance their security; in fact,
quite the contrary. That makes it all the more important that they
understand the global implications that these steps have for them. And
that's the real message of the American sanctions that will be applied
firmly and promptly to both of these countries.


In the case of India, India is known to have aspirations for
leadership positions in international bodies. And as Secretary
Albright has said on a number of occasions, to take a step which is so
clearly in violation of international norms and the way that humanity
as a whole is not to advance those goals for India.


Q: One of your points that you said was an immediate goal was to try
to get the two sides to undertake not to weaponize and deploy
nuclear-tipped missiles. But the Pakistani statement this morning
announcing the tests also said that they have every intention of
deploying such missiles. How do you hope to try to convince them not
to? Have you got any methods of persuasion in mind, and are you
planning any missions to Pakistan and India?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I think the most honest way to deal with
that question is not to answer it with great specificity -- or at
least, that wouldn't be both honest and responsible. We're well aware
of the statements that have been made by both sides. And I might add
that there have been statements made by both sides which strike us as
carrying the potential of further provocation and escalation and
deterioration of what is already a dangerous situation.


We take those statements very seriously. We also think that we have
some powerful arguments, which we have deployed with the parties. The
fact that Pakistan, very much contrary to the advice and expressed
hope of not just the United States, but the international community as
a whole, felt unable to take that advice in the case of the test
doesn't mean that they are deaf or blind to arguments, particularly
ones that appeal to their self-interest.


So we will remain very much engaged in the diplomatic process, which
has a bilateral dimension to it, but also a multilateral dimension, to
try to do what we can to see that cooler heads prevail here.


Q: Just a follow-up, I understand a Pakistan delegation is going to be
here this weekend in New York and Washington. Can you tell us the goal
and the tone of those talks; and if you think these developments may
have an impact on those talks?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: It will certainly have an impact. The tone
of the talks will depend in part on what their end of the dialogue is.
But we have not made a decision yet on exactly how to handle those
particular visitors at this time, given the events of not too many
hours ago.


Q:  Will they still meet with officials here?



DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I said we haven't decided how we're going to
deal with the visit.


Q: You point out, as well as the President and Secretary Albright,
that Pakistan did not provoke this arm race; India did -- they started
it, not Pakistan. In light of that, is the US considering being a
little more lenient toward Pakistan in economic sanctions and other
methods of punishment, considering the fact it's a regional affair and
Pakistan didn't start this?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Even though you quoted my President, I'm
going to quarrel a little bit with the premise of your questions.
Among other things, you didn't quote him precisely.


I don't think it is useful or appropriate to get into either a debate
about where original sin lies here. There is no question -- that is to
say, you will hear people not just in India argue that the history of
this whole episode is more complex than your question would suggest.


What is not complex, what is indisputable and very simple is that on
the threshold issue of testing a weaponized nuclear device, India did
it first and put Pakistan under horrendous pressure. That is a fact.
As Jamie mentioned in introducing me, I was in Islamabad with several
colleagues -- General Tony Zinni and Rick Inderfurth and Bruce Rydell
from the National Security Council -- a couple of weeks ago. One thing
that was very clear to us is that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his
colleagues understood our arguments, they listened to our arguments,
but they played very straight with us. They told us that they felt
under not just extraordinary pressure, but mounting pressure as a
result of both public opinion, congressional pressure -- that is to
say parliamentary pressure in what is, after all, a democratic state
-- and as a result of the dynamics in the region.


Now, to go to what I think is the nub of your question, we will follow
the law here. We will apply the various sanctions laws, the Glenn
Amendment and others, in a way that is firm and prompt and very much
in the spirit as well as the letter of the law. But we will also -- as
I am confident members of Congress, including sponsors of these pieces
of legislation would want us to do -- we will try to use these laws as
instruments for achieving our long-term strategic objectives, which
are not to punish for the sake of punishment. The purpose of these
laws, at least in the new reality that we're faced with now that India
and Pakistan have both tested, is to try to induce these two countries
to do what is in their own mutual as well as individual interests.


Q: If I could just follow up really quickly on this. So it doesn't
sound -- it sounds to me from listening to your conversations with
officials over in the region and Prime Minister Sharif, that you're
understanding the difference in positions from Pakistan and India as
far as testing goes and how they each conducted the test. Is that
fair?


MR. TALBOTT: I don't think so. Testing of a weaponized nuclear device
-- and I'm stressing that, of course, because, as you all know, India
did test what it claimed was a peaceful nuclear explosive device back
in 1974 -- Smiling Buddha, if you all recall. This is an absolute
step. This means that they have -- both of these countries have now
decided to go from one status to another and, in so doing, have
contributed to a general sense of mounting danger and instability on
the Subcontinent. And, as such, both of them will feel the brunt,
which is considerable, of American sanctions law.


What I was trying to make clear is that in dealing with both of these
countries we will try to use the law and the application of the law as
part of a strategy that looks ahead -- specifically to things that we
hope very much they have the good sense not to do now that they have
both made these colossal mistakes.


Q: On the issue of sanctions, how confident are you that you would get
international support to the extent from your European allies? I'm
specifically mentioning France and Germany, Russia and Britain in
enforcing these sanctions internationally.


MR. TALBOTT: We are working, including today, through the offices of
the Secretary of State, herself in Luxembourg, to develop a plan and a
program for international and multilateral efforts toward a goal on
which I think there is a very high degree of consensus. The United
States has clearly been more robust with regard to the application of
sanctions, but that is perhaps in many ways appropriate. We see
ourselves as having both an opportunity and an obligation to work with
others in leading the international community here.


Q: Mr. Secretary, both nations, Pakistan and India, said that they
factored in the sanctions into making their decision on whether or not
to go ahead and conduct their tests, and determined that their own
interests were more important than the sanctions. You say that we need
to look ahead and use the sanctions perhaps to deter others. How will
we do this if, in this case, it failed to deter India and Pakistan?


MR. TALBOTT: Well, with regard to the two countries immediately at
issue, I don't think any one of my colleagues who has worked this
issue was ever under the misimpression that either India or Pakistan
would refrain from doing something that it felt was in its interest
simply because of the threat of American sanctions. But an important
part of our message has been, and will continue to be, that going down
this road that they have taken with the tests leads not to greater
security, but to less. It leads to a diminishment rather than an
enhancement of their military security.


Security also has an important economic dimension. These are two large
countries with large populations, many of whom live in great poverty.
And as I said earlier, they can not afford an arms race. What we have
to hope is that now that Pakistan has established what might be called
this symmetry, that both will see the wisdom of moving in a quite
different direction from here on out. And I think that the American
sanctions will not only be a demonstration of our very strong views on
the subject, but will also underscore the economic incentives they
have not to get deeper into an arms race than they already are.


Q: I've got a couple of questions, if you would bear with me. There
was a claim this morning that Indian troops were preparing to attack
the Pakistan nuclear site. Can you offer anything to clear that up? Do
you have any reason to believe that that was the case?


MR. TALBOTT: No, I have seen nothing on that. I've nothing to give you
on that. There have been -- I will just say as a general matter,
without wanting you to over-apply this to some specific piece of
information that I have not seen -- I'm pretty sure I would have seen
it if it was taken very seriously by our folks -- that there have been
a lot of charges and counter-charges, many of them, as best we can
tell, without foundation.


I think the point there is that the atmosphere, the political
atmosphere that exists between these two countries, is very volatile,
which is all the more reason that you don't want nuclear weapons in
the mix. But I have nothing on the specific. Did you have a follow-up?


Q: Yes, a technical question. Are you preparing to recall Ambassador
Simons?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: We are considering, during the course of
today, a number of next steps diplomatically. Don't assume anything
one way or the other by my not answering that straight up. That's
obviously something to think about. At the same time, we, as you can
tell from everything else I've said, are going to have lots to talk to
both the Pakistani and the Indian Governments about during the days
ahead.


Q:  Mr. Secretary, there seems to have been a dearth --



Q: Just one final one, please. Is the United States now prepared to
recognize both nations as nuclear weapons states and have them treated
as such in the various international treaties you cited wanting them
to sign?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: The short answer to that is no, we are not.
The NPT, which is the one I think you're referring to, back in '67-'68
specified nuclear weapons states -- that is, who was on the list and
who wasn't. We think that for all kinds of reasons, both with regard
to the immediate situation on the Subcontinent and also because of its
global implications, we don't think it's wise to get into the business
of amending that treaty.


Q: Mr. Secretary, there seems to have been a major dearth of American
comment on a missing part of this whole equation, and that's China.
For years this country has accumulated reams of evidence that China
was directly responsible in providing Pakistan with the technical
capability to build a bomb and build the missile systems to deliver
it. Yet the President is going to China next month; in fact, he's
praised China's help in trying to ameliorate the situation. Yet we see
the results of Chinese help. Is it still this Administration's
position that China contributed to the current crisis in South Asia?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: We have had, including recently, including
in the context of preparations for the President's trip, a very full
multi-item, multidimensional dialogue with China, notably including on
non-proliferation issues featuring those on which we have not agreed
and where we have had points of real difference. That will continue to
be the case. At the same time, there has been, as a result of that
dialogue, some progress on some issues.


With respect to what has happened in the Subcontinent in the last
couple of weeks, I know that some officials on the Indian side have
pointed to China as in some sense the justification for the Indian
test. Our view is that even if it were true, it would not be
justification, for reasons we've already talked about. Also, it's our
view that the motivation on the Indian side for their test, which led
directly to the Pakistani test, was not security concerns about China.


But I assure you that we will continue to work the non-proliferation
agenda with China, as we will with lots of other countries.


Q: Mr. Secretary, in her statement this morning, Secretary Albright
included a sentence in her statement on this particular issue. She
included the sentence --


MR. TALBOTT:  I agree with it.



Q: -- that we've always had the option to use NATO's strength beyond
its borders to protect our security interests. Is it the position of
the United States that there could be a role for NATO in South Asia?


MR. TALBOTT: Tom, I know the statement very well. I think you're
missing a segue there. I believe that was the first sentence after the
passage on the South Asian situation. The Secretary was turning from
the question of South Asia to the question of NATO and the original
agenda that brought her to Luxembourg. I would not make too much of a
connective bridge between the two.


Q: At any time during the time that you were in Islamabad, did you get
the impression that what you were offering them, what you were
discussing to keep them from testing, interested them to a point to
where you felt they were really seriously considering it? You said
that Sharif was leveling with you, or you felt that he was leveling
with you. Did you at any time feel that you nearly had it?


MR. TALBOTT: I came away, as I think Rick and General Zinni and Bruce
Riedel did, from Islamabad with a very sober awareness of how hard
this problem was for the Prime Minister and his colleagues. We felt
that we got a fair hearing.


I want to make very clear that we did not go with a bag of goodies,
saying if you will just not test, we'll reward you. Obviously, we
talked about ways in which the US and the international community
would recognize the Pakistani restraint, had there been Pakistani
restraint on the question of testing. But we were under no illusions
that they could be, as it were, bought off with anything that the
United States or the international community could do if they were
absolutely convinced that they had to test for reasons of their own
interest.


It was quite clear that prominent among the considerations weighing on
the other side of the arguments that we put before them were domestic
pressures, parliamentary pressures, and what they understand to be the
dynamics of the region.


And I want also to say that the Pakistani leadership never put to us a
wish list of things which, if we could have met, would have led them
not to test. So we came back from that trip hoping that our arguments
would prevail, but well aware of the chances that precisely what has
happened would happen.


Q: In your long-range goals you said that one of the items would be a
military balance. Although it's not ideal, once India tested, is there
not a certain inherent safety in having Pakistan test as well --
"mutual assured destruction" and all that?


MR. TALBOTT: As I understand the question, Jim, the symmetry that now
exists is -- I think it was a William Blake line -- it's a fearful
symmetry. It comes in a context of two countries that, alas, have not
had a lot of experience in mutual deterrence of a stable kind. And I
don't say that, by the way, in a fashion that I mean to sound
patronizing in any way. The United States and the Soviet Union spent a
long time getting this problem right, and we had a lot of hairy
moments along the way.


But we now have a very compressed situation in which there is both an
escalation of at least the testing race - we hope not the deployment
race -- at a time when political tensions are at a very high level.
What we have been arguing to both parties is that there are real costs
associated with continuing this escalation, and there are real
benefits associated in showing restraint. Even though both have proved
unwilling or unable to show restraint on the critical question of
testing nuclear devices underground, there are still plenty of
opportunities for them to show restraint in the period now ahead and,
alas, there are also plenty of dangers for them to fail to show
restraint.


Q: Given the dangers of inexperience and a lack of technical expertise
in detecting attacks and responding and such, has the United States
given any thought of lending its command and control expertise to
either side to prevent an accidental war?


MR. TALBOTT: The short answer is, that is well down the road -- which
is not to say that you should consider that as a live option. I can
assure you that we will be very imaginative in looking for every
possible way we can in order to help the two parties diffuse the --
literally as well as figuratively -- explosive situation that has now
developed between them. But we are not yet at the point. They have to
make the decision themselves. Each has to make the decision on its own
that they are embarked on a dangerous course here. Our first objective
is to get them both to see that. If they then can make the turn and
move in the right direction, there is a lot that the United States and
other members of the international community can do to help them keep
moving in the right direction.


I'm about to get the hook here.



MR. RUBIN: Let me make a suggestion that we take three more questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary, with Glenn and Pressler, hasn't the United States
lost all of its leverage with these countries at this point and, if
not, what do you have left to work with?


MR. TALBOTT: Glenn -- we certainly have Glenn; let's put Pressler
aside. We have, as you know, as an Administration, long felt and said
that the Pressler Amendment was unfair in the way that it singled out
one country. Glenn, as the Pakistanis are now learning -- I think they
were aware of this -- does not apply just to one country, namely to
India. It applies to both countries.


I don't think it is correct to see what has happened here as a totally
transforming event. The leverage that we have as a result of American
sanctions law and as a result of American diplomatic and strategic
resolve are not an all-or-nothing thing. They did not disappear in the
sands of the Rajistan and Pakistani deserts. We still have that
leverage and we will use it.


Q: Sir, I'm sorry, perhaps I misspoke; my question wasn't clear. But
it seems to me with the testing that has occurred, the Glenn Amendment
now goes into full effect.


MR. TALBOTT:  Right.



Q: We've lost that leverage; it's been used. Is there anything left
that the United States has to prevent them, for example, from going
forward to deployment.


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Yes, including under the application of
American law. There is a very, very high threshold in the Glenn
Amendment for a relief of any kind, but it is not off in the
stratosphere. We think that, for all kinds of reasons, most of all
going back to the core point here which has to do with their own
interests, both countries should want to take steps which will at
least ameliorate international sanctions, including those of the
United States.


Q: Mr. Secretary, Pakistan is supposed to be a US ally, and now
Pakistan clearly ignored President Clinton and the United States.
Also, when India tested their weapons, the US Ambassador to India was
recalled immediately, and now you said you are thinking about the US
Ambassador to Pakistan. And the US Ambassador is still here.


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: And we're thinking about what Ambassador
Celeste should do. So we're thinking about both of these things. I
think there's no inconsistency there.


Q: And how about that Pakistan is supposed to be US ally, now ignoring
the United States clearly, and you have tried to help Pakistan in any
way and every way in the past?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I think there's a difference between saying
that Pakistan ignored the United States, which I don't think is true.
I think the Pakistani leadership, the Prime Minister in his several
telephone conversations with President Clinton paid very close
attention to what President Clinton had to say. He did not take the
advice the President and others have put before him, but that's quite
different from saying that they've ignored what we had to say.


We certainly have reason to hope and to expect that they will take
into account the views that we share with them during coming days.


Q: Mr. Secretary, you and others in the Administration have worked for
some time, not just this past month, to prevent an arms race in South
Asia. You say now that you're prepared to offer imaginative ideas to
prevent it from escalating. Looking back with hindsight, can you point
to bumps in the road, turning points where you could have been more
imaginative in preventing this arms race from occurring?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I'll think about that one, and perhaps
ruminate along those lines on some other occasion. I don't want to be
flippant in answering your question. I mean, this is an
extraordinarily difficult issue. The ill feeling between these two
countries goes back to literally their birth as independent free
countries. The military and, indeed, nuclear dimension of that ill
will between them has also been around for a long time.


And by the way, ladies and gentlemen, in that particular sense, the
situation that has occurred as a result of the tests has not been
transforming. It is not as though this is the first time any of us
focused on the nuclear danger on the Subcontinent. Because it has
proved difficult, because there have been setbacks, including in the
last couple of weeks and, indeed, in the last half day, does not mean
that we should either abandon our fundamental objectives or relent in
any way in our efforts to achieve those objectives. In fact, I would
say quite the contrary, and that's exactly what we intend to do.


Q: Mr. Secretary, what do you think is next? Realistically, do you
think that there is going to be an arms race and that can't be
prevented? Realistically, do you think that both sides will, in fact,
weaponize missiles and point them at each other? And you talked about
other steps that can be taken and the steps of the Glenn Amendment,
you indicated, are going to be triggered. You talked about
international sanctions. Are you going for sanctions within the UN
Security Council, and what specific sanctions might that be?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, you've asked me a lot of specific
questions, and I'm only going to give you a general answer. One reason
I'm only going to give --


Q:  A specific answer would be good, too.



DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I know you'd appreciate that. But to
be serious, I would be pre-empting a deliberative process that's
underway here in Washington and, of course, with the Secretary. I've
been on the phone three times to her today.


We are working this in real-time. I came out of a meeting on this
subject in order to come down and meet with you, and I'm going right
back into one. So on the specifics, we will get back to you and to the
parties at the appropriate time when we have come up with what we
think are the most promising answers.


But the question you started with, yes, there may be a spiraling arms
race here. But we do not think it is inevitable. In fact, we would
hope that as the parties ponder the consequences of what they have
done, they will agree with us and with others in the international
community that this would be the height of folly and danger for them
and that they will therefore be somewhat more receptive to the good
arguments that they will be hearing during the days and weeks to come.


Q: You have cited as one of the immediate US goals a cut-off in the
production of fissile material -- negotiations on a fissile material
cut-off. Have both India and Pakistan resumed production of fissile
material?


DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I do not want to tackle that particular
technical question. I think that Jamie is arranging with colleagues
elsewhere in the government for there to be a briefing on some of the
technical issues that obviously arise later today. Is that correct,
Jamie?


MR. RUBIN:  Information will be provided to that effect, yes.



DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT:  Good. Okay. Thank you very much.



(End transcript)