Index

June 28, 2000

PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT


                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For
Immediate Release                             June 28, 2000


                     PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT

                               The East Room


1:45 P.M. EDT

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


     Q    Mr President, we hear increasingly from senior officials here and
at the Pentagon that when it comes to national missile defense, your
inclined essentially to split the difference, authorize the contracting,
but leave the decision about whether to break from the ABM Treaty to the
next President.  Is that a fair reflection of your thinking?

     THE PRESIDENT:  The most important thing I can say to you about that
today is that I have not made a final decision and that most of this
speculation that is coming in the press is coming from people who have not
talked to me about it.

     Let me try to at least set up the thing, because I'm working hard on
it now.  Remember when we put out -- when Congress passed a law about this
a couple years ago, you remember, and we had to sort of come up with some
timetables, I said two things that I want to repeat today.

     First of all, insofar as there might be technology available which
would protect us and other people around the world from missile attacks
with warheads of weapons of mass destruction, obviously, anybody would have
a moral obligation to explore that technology and its potential.  I believe
that.

     Secondly, whether I would make a decision to go forward with
deployment would depend upon four things:  one, the nature of the threat;
two, the feasibility of the technology; three, the cost and, therefore, the
relative cost of doing this as compared with something else to protect the
national security; and, four, the overall impact on our national security,
which includes our nuclear allies and our European alliance, our
relationships with Russia, our relationships with China, what the boomerang
effect might be about whatever China might do in South Asia, with the
Indians and then the Pakistanis, and so on.

     So what I have tried to do since then is to say as little as possible,
except to explore what would have to be done in our relationships with the
Europeans, our allies and with the Russians, in the first instance, to keep
our options open -- could we get an agreed upon modification to the ABM
Treaty.

     Even the Russians -- keep in mind, don't minimize -- everybody talked
about how we didn't reach an agreement, Mr. Putin and I, when I was in
Russia.  And that's absolutely true, we didn't.  But we did get a document
out of there which I think is quite important, because the Russians
acknowledged that there are new and different security threats on the
horizon.  That is, that it's quite possible that in the next few years,
countries not part of the arms control regimes of the last three decades
could develop both long-range missile delivery capability and weapons of
mass destruction which they could put on warheads, and that none of this
would be covered by, essentially, the mutual deterrence structure of the
ABM Treaty and all the things we've done since then.

     So they recognize, too, that we, in the new century, in the coming
decades, are going to have to make adjustments.  Now, what they don't say
is they don't want America unilaterally building a missile defense that
they think someday can undermine their deterrent capacity.  That's kind of
where they are now, and we're still talking about all that.

     But, John, the truly accurate thing is that I have not yet formulated
a position which I am prepared to go to the American people with, but I
will do so some time over the next several weeks based on those four
criteria and what I think is the right thing to do.


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


     Q    Mr. President, if I could return you to missile defense for a
moment.  The missile defense plan was based in large part on the threat
from North Korea.  You've now seen a first warming of relations between
North and South.  South Korea is not enthused about the missile defense
plan.  I'm wondering whether you now view it as urgent as you did -- the
threat as urgent as you did a few months ago.  I'm also wondering whether
you would be willing to meet with Kim Chong-il of North Korea?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first let me say, I got a report both from
President Kim on the phone and from his representatives in person about the
Summit of the Koreas.  And I thought it was a very, very important
development, and a great tribute to President Kim's vision and courage and
persistence.  And I also think it justified the American policy, which is
that we would never allow ourselves to be put in the middle between the two
Koreas, that we wanted them to meet and work together.

     So we, I think, contributed to it; the Chinese and others did as well.
I think this is good for everybody, and I'm encouraged by it.  I'm also
encouraged by the moratorium that the North Koreans have on testing.  But
they still have a missile program, and so it's still something that the
United States has to be mindful of and to prepare to deal with and to keep
up with.  And, of course, I hope it will go away as a problem.  I hope it
for the people of North Korea, too.

     All these countries that have a lot of people in great need that are
spending vast sums of money on defense, it's one of the great tragedies of
the world today.  So, would I like it to go away?  Of course I would.  Do I
think it's gone away because of this meeting?  I don't.  Do I think it
might?  It might, and I hope it will, but we don't know that yet.

     Thank you.

                              END               2:45 P.M. EDT