THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 1, 1998 3:48 P.M. (L)
PRESS BRIEFING BY
ROBERT BELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS;
TED WARNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE POLICY,
STRATEGY AND THREAT REDUCTION;
GARY SAMORE, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION, NSC;
DEBRA CAGAN, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS
FOR RUSSIA AND THE NEW INDEPENDENT STATES
COLONEL CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Behind some of the issues that have drawn many of the headlines this week with regard to the summit meeting -- on economics, on politics -- there are some of the traditional security, nonproliferation, and arms control issues that have been among the cornerstones of the U.S.-Russia relationship and U.S.-Russia partnership. So here to brief on some of those aspects today we'll provide you with two briefers and then four distinguished individuals to answer your questions afterwards.
Briefing first will be Robert Bell, who is the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, to talk about agreement on exchange of information on missile launches and early warning. And he will be followed by Gary Samore, who is the Senior Director for Nonproliferation at the National Security Council, who will talk about an agreement regarding plutonium disposition.
We'll start off with Bob Bell.
MR. BELL: Thank you, P.J.
I'll begin with a brief statement on the early warning agreement, and then Ted Warner and myself will be happy to take any questions you have on that. Ted has been very involved in the military-to-military talks that preceded the summit and the diplomatic meetings that we've had in recent weeks that led up to the agreement as well.
The principal achievement for this summit in the area of arms control is the agreement the two Presidents will sign tomorrow committing the United States and Russia to the sharing of early warning data on the launches, worldwide, of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. As part of this initiative, the two Presidents also have agreed to establish a multilateral missile pre-launch notification regime.
As some of you know who have been with us before, at past summits, including in 1995 and 1997, the two Presidents had directed that their two militaries explore early warning sharing as it relates to theater missile defenses. With this agreement today, this cooperation will now be expanded into the strategic arena. We believe this is a very important initiative for two reasons. First, the agreement strengthens strategic stability by establishing further protection against the possibility of a nuclear launch by one side triggered by the misinterpretation of data concerning the origin, aim point or missile type associated with a particular launch.
Many of you are quite familiar with the much reported incident in January 1995, when the Russian command and control system appeared to have been temporarily confused by the detection of a Norwegian scientific rocket launch. This agreement today on early warning sharing is especially relevant at a time when Russia's early warning system is under stress from budget difficulties, systems failures and the closure of early warning radars on the soil of nations outside Russia.
For example, pursuant to an agreement between Russia and Latvia, the Russian early warning radar at Skrunda was shut down just yesterday. And I would note that Senator Jeff Bingaman, who is accompanying the President on this trip, has been particularly engaged over the last several years on this issue of strategic stability and his concern about the Russian command and control system.
Second, the agreement takes account of the continuing worldwide proliferation of ballistic missiles and of missile technologies, and represents a major step forward by the United States and Russia in cooperating to address this common threat.
Now, in terms of the specific aspects of this sharing arrangement, I would emphasize that while key elements have been agreed in the military-to-military discussions and diplomatic exchanges that preceded the summit, there are many details that experts will still need to agree upon in the coming months. But let me mention first the five key elements that have been agreed to by the two Presidents today.
First, the data sharing will be reciprocal and continuous. We will provide information to them, they will provide information to us on a continuous and virtual real time basis. Second, the data will include information on strategic ballistic missiles, theater and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and space-launched vehicles launched worldwide. Third, the data will include information derived from each country's launch detection satellites and their ground-based radars. Fourth, each side will process its own early warning data at their own national centers before providing it on to the other state. And, fifth, the multilateral pre-launch notification regime for ballistic missile and space launch vehicle launches will be open on a voluntary basis to all countries that choose to participate.
Now, in this regard I think it's important to note that in addition to praising the U.S.-Russian early warning agreement, the United Kingdom is announcing today that henceforth it will provide five days advance notice of all launches of its Trident missile system.
Now, remaining to be decided are questions relating to the exact scope and specificity of the data being provided and the architecture for relaying and receiving it. For example, the United States and Russia will need to consider whether, in addition to the national centers each nation will establish to provide the other with the early warning data, whether we should include a separate or third center that would be operated and manned by both nations. At such a center the United States and Russia could have military officers sitting side by side to answer questions about each other's data, or to initiate communications back to their own respective command and control systems to try to resolve any ambiguities. And the joint statement that the two Presidents will sign tomorrow makes specific mention of the possibility of establishing such a common center operated by the United States and Russia.
These and other remaining technical questions will be addressed by experts from the two sides, including Ted Warner and myself, with the goal of completing a detailed plan for the approval of the two governments as quickly as possible, leading to the actual exchange of data as soon as practical.
In conclusion, I would simply say that we believe this agreement, which follows in the tradition of other important strategic stability measures -- including the hot line, the nuclear risk reduction centers, the detargeting accord -- will move us another important step back from the nuclear precipice of the Cold War and help make it a safer world.
MR. SAMORE: Hello. I'd like to brief you on an important agreement that the Presidents will sign tomorrow on the management and disposition of weapons plutonium, which is significant both from the standpoint of arms control and from the standpoint of nonproliferation. And afterwards, myself and Debra Cagan, who helped to negotiate the statement, will be happy to answer your questions.
Under the terms of this statement, both the United States and Russia have agreed to withdraw approximately 50 metric tons of weapons plutonium from their nuclear weapons program, which is enough plutonium for thousands of nuclear weapons and represents a very significant portion of the total plutonium holdings in both countries.
Furthermore, both countries have agreed to cooperate in transforming this weapons plutonium into a form that cannot be used -- physically cannot be used for nuclear weapons. And we and the Russians have identified two technical methods that we believe are most appropriate for carrying out this transformation. One is the use of this material as fuel in nuclear power reactors to generate power. And second is to mix the plutonium with high-level radioactive waste and then store it in a nuclear waste repository. Both of these techniques have the advantage of changing the plutonium so that it can no longer be used for nuclear weapons and, therefore, could not be used either in our arsenal, the Russian arsenal, nor would it be available for other countries.
In addition, the two Presidents have directed their experts to begin negotiations promptly and to seek to complete a detailed bilateral agreement by the end of this year which would lay out the timetable and a number of the details necessary in order to carry out this very ambitious program.
Such an agreement would include the schedule for building facilities both in the United States and Russia in order to carry out these two processes. It would include international verification measures so that both countries would be confident that the transformation was taking place and that the material could not be returned to nuclear weapons. It would include appropriate provisions for safety and for the protection of the environment. It would include security and accounting procedures for the nuclear material. And finally, it would have to include financial arrangements.
Although I can't give you a precise figure, this is likely to be a very expensive program, running into hundreds of millions of dollars in both countries, and so, therefore, we'll have to work with the Russians to establish appropriate financial arrangements. And in that regard we are hoping that other countries which share our interest in arms control and nonproliferation will be willing to contribute in this project -- and, in particular, the G-8 have expressed an interest in working with the U.S. and Russia, both technically and financially in order to carry out this program as quickly as possible.
And finally, I want to mention that Senator Domenici, who is with us, with the President's delegation here in Moscow, has been a very strong supporter of this program, and we're counting on the Senator's leadership in Congress in order to help us carry this program out. Thank you.
Q I have a question. Is this data sharing
supposed to be non-selective? Your point 4 says that each side processes the data that it has before it provides it to the other side. But is it meant that it cannot say, well, we won't send this particular set of data on this particular launch, or, in fact, will each side get to pick and choose what it sends?
MR. BELL: Well, first I think you have to appreciate, Sam, that we already have a requirement to process the data. You can't -- the users of any information, including our own military commands around the world, couldn't just take the raw data and work with it. So we already have facilities that are set up.
One important one is in Denver at Buckley Air Force Base, for strategic ballistic missile information. Another one is at Falcon Air Station, now called Shriever Air Station, in Colorado Springs. And they take the down-link from the various systems and fuse it, process it, and provide it to users at the tactical level. The users are commanders in chief of regional commands around the world who may need this information for war fighting. In some cases we're sharing tactical information with other countries, including our NATO allies.
So there's already a system set up to down-link, process, and pass on the information. What we're proposing to do here is to expand the extension of that to Russia, A; and, B, to give them not only information derived from our tactical ballistic missile warning system, but also strategic warning.
Q -- all the information that our own users get of the types of data that you described? We won't select, and they won't select out particular launches or particular instances?
MR. BELL: There are some key details that are still to be resolved here. We're going to have to get the military together now to get down to the fine print in terms of the exact definition of the scope and specificity, as I said, of the data.
But we want to be as forward leaning as we can in this, because if it's going to promote the goal of enhancing strategic stability to the maximum degree it can, it needs to be as complete a provision of data as we can make it.
Q You know what I'm asking. Do we get to withhold particular points if, in our judgment, it should be withheld, and do they get to withhold particular points, or is the commitment whatever data we have on these types that you described that we will give each other -- it goes once we've processed it?
MR. BELL: I don't want to speculate at this point, Sam, about what might or could be withheld. I just want to make the point that we're going to have to have centers that fuse and process all this data and then pass it on, and we're going to have to work out the details on that scope question with the Russians once we get into the detailed discussions next month.
Ted, do you want to add anything to that?
MR. WARNER: I think the allusion we were making on the question of getting the parameters was really not along the line you were talking about, it's trying to decide which are the appropriate parameters for warning. And we will have to work out -- as you do that fusing of data and filter it, it's not an issue of trying to leave out a particular launch, it's just within any launches, what are the right parameters that each side needs for warning purposes.
Q So you wouldn't leave out a particular launch?
MR. WARNER: That's not the general direction.
Q On a related subject -- one is the nature of the discussions between the United States and Russia on the North Korean launch; and secondly, the status of our efforts to get Russian support to persuade the Indians to cease their nuclear program.
MR. BELL: I cannot comment on the second one because I've not been debriefed by Strobe after his most recent engagement with the Indians, except to point out the obvious, which is that we've been pressing the Indians and the Pakistani government to show restraint in terms of their missile programs. On the first one --
Q But I mean to try to get the Russians to help us in that effort.
MR. BELL: Exactly. I have not been in touch with the President since his meetings this morning, so I don't know whether the North Korean launch came up. But I would point out that that launch, had it occurred with this system up and running, this is exactly the kind of information that we would have passed on to the Russians under this arrangement -- the arrangement about the Taepo Dong-1 launch and where it went.
Q Can I just ask you a question on the plutonium? How much plutonium does the U.S. and Russians have? Have the Russians made any commitment as to what they might do with the plutonium that they're left with, or do they intend to retain that as some sort of good? And basically -- I know you haven't worked out the details, but how long a process is this likely to be? Two years? Ten years?
MR. SAMORE: Those are all very questions. I can't tell you exactly what the Russian stockpile is, but we believe that the 50 tons that we're talking about does represent a significant amount, as much as 25 percent of their total holdings. On the U.S. side, it's even a larger percentage, as much as 50 percent of our total holdings of plutonium.
Now, obviously both the U.S. and Russia -- and my colleague, Bob Bell, could speak to this better than I can -- we have embarked on a very ambitious arms control program. As we reduce the number of nuclear weapons, that frees up more plutonium and more highly-enriched uranium, which we then have to figure out a way to safely store it until we can dispose of it. And one of the most important cooperative efforts we have in place with the Russians is to find a way to utilize that material so that it's no longer available for nuclear weapons and can't possibly contribute to proliferation.
In terms of the time frame, we would like to do this as quickly as possible, but because it's such a large amount, and because there are limits on the extent to which you can burn this material in existing reactors, I think we are talking about a number of years. So at least on an interim basis, for several years at least, we're going to have to focus on making sure that this material is safely stored. In fact, we have a program in place with the Russians to build a storage facility at Mayak, which is scheduled to be completed in the next few years. We will try to burn the plutonium as quickly as possible, but I think it's likely to be at least five years and perhaps more until we can get through this 50 tons.
Q Are you saying that as weapons are dismantled the stores of plutonium increase, even as plutonium is being stored and disposed of in some way?
MR. SAMORE: The 50 tons is a big chunk for us to deal with right now, so I can't tell you what we will do as we get down to lower and lower numbers, and therefore additional material becomes available. But, in theory, obviously, as we have less need for plutonium and highly-enriched uranium as our nuclear weapons arsenals become smaller, I think we then have to start thinking about how to, A, store that material, and, B, how to dispose of it.
Q Just one last quick question. Bob, this ballistic warning sharing arrangement, I know you haven't finished it yet, in terms of the details, but you project this becoming operational when? This year, next year, before the year 2000?
MR. BELL: The United States would like to have the final detailed plan ready for the governments to approve within a few months. And if the experts can make good progress, we're hopeful of meeting that time line. Then it's just a matter of standing it up. In past cases where we've had sharing arrangements, for example, at the tactical level with our NATO allies, we were able to translate that into an operational capability in a year or two. So we would hope that that's a time frame that might be met in this case certainly before President Clinton ends his term in office.
Q The President talked yesterday about the danger of Russian arms or Russian nuclear products falling into the wrong hands, particularly with the pressure of economic troubles. What's your assessment of the current situation and whether there's an increased danger of the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies because of what's going on right now?
MR. BELL: Well, I think the whole point of the President being here and the engagement that he's involved in with President Yeltsin today is to keep us on a path where Russia is making political and economic reform and the command and control of the military remains very intact and very secure. That's certainly been the assessment of senior American military leadership up to now. When General Habiger was here just a few months ago and was given unprecedented access to the Russian nuclear establishment, including the first visit by a senior American military official to a tactical nuclear storage facility and a submarine launch ballistic missile base, his conclusion was that Russian nuclear weapons are under secure control.
We have seen, of course, nothing in the last week that would put that assessment at risk and I just don't want to speculate about scenarios in terms of which way this current crisis could proceed down the road that would bring that into question.
Ted Warner is the Senior defense official in charge of the Nunn-Lugar program, which is designed precisely to maintain this pattern of cooperation with the Russians in this area. So let's ask Ted to comment.
MR. WARNER: That would be another point, beginning with the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction program in the early 1990s, some of its early emphasis was on the security of the Russian nuclear weapons and nuclear material at their various depots and as they were moved about, particularly in that early stage when we were reducing the -- bringing weapons out of other parts of the former Soviet Union.
We have continued that effort. When Secretary Cohen was here in February, he and Marshal Sergayev went out -- -- Pasad, northwest of Moscow, and visited a facility which is really the transfer point for additional materials -- both physical materials for physical security and materials to keep working on the personal security issues. We continue to cooperate in that area. I mean, it had been a high priority for us; it remains a high priority. The Department of Energy has similarly been working with the institutes in Minatom on that kind of security in the research establishment.
So this is a longtime staple of our strategic partnership of this decade. It's one that remains very important and in this situation I think is even more important. We will continue that cooperation.
Q Could you describe a little bit about the early warning system and how much danger there is now of accidental launch of a Russian missile --
MR. WARNER: We do not believe that -- we've been through this discussion in the United States with some outside experts. We do not believe that there are significant dangers today, but we believe that these steps will even further reduce what we think were already very low possibilities.
What this will do will provide the Russians with yet further sources of information. And I might go back to the pre-launch notification regime, that when combined with better pre-launch notification on a global basis of anyone who's going to test such missiles -- those that voluntarily choose to do this -- now with the sharing of the information to monitor and be able to cross-check against one's different systems, I think we've reduces what was already a very low danger even much lower.
Q Is the end result of the direction you're going with this agreement the abolition of all nuclear materials so that there could be no -- for weapons purposes, that is -- so there will be no nuclear weapons? Is this route the route that will get there?
MS. CAGAN: No, I think that we, of course, are committed to, as we said in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, eventually to nuclear disarmament. But we're not at that point yet so we're not moving in that direction yet. What we are doing is, both the United States and Russia are firmly committed to further reducing their nuclear stockpiles. And as we break up the remnants of the Cold War, we have to do something with this material.
The Plutonium Disposition Agreement, like the Highly-Enriched Uranium Agreement, are designed to dispose of this material in an irreversible way so that it can never again be used in a nuclear weapon. Now, the reasoning behind this if you just have it laying out there it become potentially a target for someone who might want to smuggle it -- which is why we had a couple of years ago the G-8 action plan on illicit nuclear smuggling, which has worked very, very effectively. And the idea is to take the material out of the nuclear warhead, dismantle it appropriately, store it safely and securely -- which is the program that Ted was talking about, some of the DOE programs on materials, physical protection control and accounting, and then get rid of them through plutonium through either MOX fuel or as Gary said, immobilization or in uranium, through blending the uraniums to be used in commercial reactors. And that's what we're trying to do, so it's not just laying around out there for easy pickings.
Q About the plutonium, you said that it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. I guess the Russians can't be too thrilled about that, and I was wondering whether the G-8 participation in the financial aspect would be a condition for the Russians to sign on --
MR. SAMORE: Obviously, one of the most important details we'll have to work out of the financial arrangements. So I can't tell you exactly what that's going to look like. Certainly the U.S. hopes --
Q -- there was interest in the G-8 --
MR. SAMORE: Yes, certainly the countries in the G-8 that have been most interested in working with the U.S. and Russia to deal with this problem are Japan, France and Germany. And we certainly hope that we can expand that to the other G-8 countries. We think this is a goal that all of the G-8 share and we hope that there will be a role for all of the G-8 countries to play. But that's something that we'll need to work out in the course of this year as we pursue these negotiations.
Q But the financial agreements would have to be sorted out before the Russians sign on the deal, or no?
MR. SAMORE: No, I think the two things work in parallel. I mean, we've already identified the technical processes that make the most sense in terms of transforming this material as quickly as possible -- the two techniques that I mentioned to you. We still need to work out a lot of details, not only the finances, but also verification arrangements and safeguards and so forth.
I think it's quite possible this is a situation where you have to work on both the finances and those other kinds of details at the same time, and I hope that the agreement we reach with the Russians at the end of this year would include a framework for both finances as well as the technical and the political aspects of it.
Q Would both these agreements require a ratification by the two, by the Duma and the Congress before they become effective? And secondly, on the early warning system, which other countries have expressed interest in possibly joining this arrangement?
MR. BELL: The agreements per se do not require congressional approval. But to the extent that the agreements require authorization of appropriation of funding to implement them, Congress, of course, will have a role, and we'll be fully consulting with Congress as we go forward on this.
On the early warning sharing agreement, we have not -- we're just reaching agreement on that today. We've not advertised that to a wider audience and, indeed, it's the U.S. view that this should begin as a bilateral arrangement. We can consider -- we, together with the Russians, can consider later down the road whether the early warning data sharing ought to be extended to other countries.
But as Ted Warner said, a very important complement to this early warning sharing will be a multilateral pre-launch notification regime, where conceivably every country in the world that tests ballistic missiles can file information about those launches at a central clearinghouse that we would operate with the Russians, so that your early warning systems are cued in advance that there's going to be a launch to detect.
Q Two questions. Just checking the facts. Was it 50 tons on each side, or combined?
MR. SAMORE: Yes, 50 tons on each side.
Q And the second question -- is there any hope that a country like North Korea would join such an early warning system for ballistic missiles?
MR. BELL: Well, I don't know. That proposition has not been tested. The first question is whether North Korea would join the voluntary multilateral pre-launch notification regime that we're announcing today, and we certainly hope they would. We have worked with North Korea on other issues where they've shown cooperation. For example, in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban agreement, North Agreement had joined the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva before that was finished. They did not obstruct or oppose the conclusion of that treaty. But in terms of where they would come out on your specific question, I just don't know the answer.
Q On North Korea, I was just wondering if anybody could give us an update on the nuclear missile test, what you now know about the missile, if there are any further tests planned, any contacts with the Japanese or the South Koreans, and has there been any reaction from the President?
MR. SAMORE: I think we've made clear that we think this is a serious development, but certainly not one that has surprised us. We're certainly aware that North Korea was working on this missile, the Taepo Dong-1. It's based on the same kind of technology as the existing North Korean force, the SCUD and the Nodong missiles, a liquid-fueled system.
I think that the test indicates obviously a step forward, but we do not view this as the same as the deployment of this system. There still may be a considerable amount of time before they're in a position to deploy if they make that decision.
We have discussions that are ongoing with the North Koreans -- that is to say, the U.S. has discussions that are ongoing with the North Koreans in New York this week. Obviously, we are raising this with the North Koreans, expressing our concerns. We hope to be in a position to resume the missile talks with the North Koreans that we've had over the last couple of years. One of the objectives of that is to try to persuade the North Koreans to restrain both their own missile development as well as their missile exports, which is a very serious concern -- in particular, North Korean missile exports to the Middle East, which we think is very destabilizing.
And, obviously, we're going to be working very closely with our good allies, South Korea and Japan, in order to coordinate an effort to make clear to the North Koreans that we view further development of their missile program as a threat to stability in northeast Asia.
Q -- South Korea before anything at this --
MR. SAMORE: Well, we've certainly been in touch with them. Since I haven't been directly engaged in that I can't tell you where we are. But, yes, we've been in very close touch with them and we had shared with them beforehand our expectation that this test was likely to happen.
MR. BELL: There's no question that the test of the Taepo Dong-1 will factor into the congressional debate on national missile defense. But I just wanted to point out, in case you have not yet seen it, that on the 24th of August the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton, wrote a letter to Senator Inhofe on the issue of whether or not in the wake of the Rumsfeld Commission findings, where the Rumsfeld Commission was of the view that we might have little or no warning of the development and deployment -- or the actual fielding of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that could hit parts of the United States.
General Shelton wrote back on the 24th of August and stated the very strong and unanimous consensus view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that they remain confident that we will have strategic warning of the emergence of an ICBM threat. Certainly, it's their view that we'll have at least three years warning, which is the amount of time we require under the Defense Department's three-plus-three national missile defense program to field the kind of national missile defense system we're developing.
And in the letter that General Shelton wrote on the 24th of August, he specifically noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were carefully following the Taepo Dong-1 program and that their confidence that we would have at least three years warning of an ICBM threat, such as the Taepo Dong-2, reflected an assumption that the North Koreans would go forward with a Taepo Dong-1.
One of the reasons that we are confident that we will have three years strategic warning of an intercontinental-range threat is that the degree of technical challenge going from an intermediate-range missile like the Taepo Dong-1 to an intercontinental-range missile like the Taepo Dong-2 is really quite profound. It's not a simple scaling up in terms of the power of the missile. The technical challenge of going from a theater range system to an intercontinental-range system is quite daunting and unique. And that's one reason the administration, including the Chiefs, are confident that we'll have the warning that General Shelton notes in his letter.
Q Was North Korea -- discussed in today's summit meeting?
COLONEL CROWLEY: That's a very nice segue that following the President's speech we'll have some other senior officials come into kind of read out the day in terms of topics and then also the economic discussion. So we'll save that question to the briefing that follows the President's speech.
We'll have some factsheets on the items discussed here that we'll put out shortly, but our thanks to Robert Bell; to Gary Samore; to Ted Warner, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy, Strategy and Threat Reduction; and Debra Cagan, the Director of Policy and Regional Affairs within the State Department for Russia and the Newly Independent States.
So, following the President's speech, we'll be back with a thorough briefing of the day's events, and I think we'll be able to handle that at that time.
THE PRESS: Thank you.