950413 Non-proliferation (by John Holum)  Return to: Index of "Arms Control, Counter-terrorism and Military Affairs || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage


                              BREIFING BY
                         JOHN HOLUM, DIRECTOR, 
                     ON NON-PROLIFERATION ISSUES
                            APRIL 13, 1995
     MR. BURNS:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the State Department. 
     I'm pleased to introduce today John Holum, Director of the Arms 
Control and Disarmament Agency. 
     Director Holum, along with Secretary Christopher and Under 
Secretary Lynn Davis, have worked tirelessly over the past year to 
secure the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Non-
Proliferation Treaty. 
     As you know, the President mentioned in his State of the Union 
Address in January that the indefinite extension of the NPT is a major 
foreign policy priority for this Administration. 
     As part of this commitment, Secretary Christopher will travel next 
week to the United Nations to make the opening remarks at the NPT Review 
     That conference begins on Monday, April 17, and will last four 
weeks, ending on May 12. 
     While in New York, Secretary Christopher will hold a series of 
bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Qian of China, Foreign Minister 
Gurria of Mexico, and representatives from the ASEAN countries, from the 
countries of Southern Africa, and countries from the Middle East. 
     We're going to post a schedule for the Secretary's trip to New York 
in the Press Office after this briefing. 
     So now to Director Holum, and after his presentation and questions 
we'll resume the Press Briefing. 
     MR. HOLUM:  Thank you very much, Nick. 
     As Nick has mentioned, this conference begins next week in New 
York, and I'd just like to make in opening remarks three points about 
      The first one is that this is a fundamentally historic decision.  
The NPT is the centerpiece of all of our post-Cold War arms control 
efforts.  As non-proliferation has become increasingly a matter of 
concern, the NPT has loomed ever more important.  If you want to think 
about how important it is, think of what the Gulf War would have been 
like if Iraq had acquired nuclear weapons prior to that conflict, or 
think of what New York would have looked like if the World Trade Center 
bombers had managed to acquire even primitive nuclear devices before 
they engaged in that assault. 
     In addition to its impact on making nuclear weapons harder to 
acquire for anyone, the NPT forms the framework for the reductions in 
nuclear weapons that are now underway between the United States and the 
former Soviet Union --  really dramatic reductions already approaching 
60 percent, in our case, of the Cold War high nuclear arsenal. 
     So this may be the most fateful decision that the delegates to this 
conference will ever be called upon to make -- practically speaking, the 
only chance available under the terms of the treaty to make it permanent 
by a simple majority vote.  This chance will never come again. 
     The second point I'd like to make is that President Clinton has 
made the key decisions leading up to this decision in New York that make 
a favorable outcome possible.  As Nick mentioned, he has made the Non-
Proliferation Treaty central to our diplomacy over the last year or so.  
Last year he named Tom Graham, my predecessor at the Arms Control and 
Disarmament Agency, as a special representative for Non-Proliferation, 
Arms Control and Disarmament, to pursue votes globally.  Tom has been 
traveling extensively; but it's also grown into a Government-wide effort 
involving the Department of State, the President, the Secretary of 
Defense, and other national leaders.  It's truly been a comprehensive 
     The President has also made important policy decisions that make a 
favorable outcome possible, including -- most importantly -- the 
decision in l993 to pursue negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban, 
and also negotiations to pursue a cutoff in the production of fissile 
material for weapons.  Both of those were subjects that the negotiators 
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty had in mind in l968 when they negotiated 
the Article VI obligation in the treaty calling for the nuclear weapon 
states to pursue good-faith negotiations toward disarmament. 
     Recently, the President has also decided to extend the moratorium 
on United States nuclear tests until the test ban negotiations are 
completed -- assuming they're completed by next September.  What that 
means, in practical terms, is that the United States is prepared for a 
conclusion that we have already conducted our last nuclear test. 
     That's a powerful message to the delegates to the NPT Conference in 
New York. 
     Finally, I'd just like to say that the immediate run-up to the NPT 
Conference has been favorable.  We believe that the non-nuclear 
countries are recognizing their enormous security stake in this treaty, 
that it is fundamental to their security, and they are treating it with 
a seriousness it deserves. 
     In addition, last week in Geneva, four of the five nuclear weapon 
states confirmed their support for a test ban in a joint statement and 
also for the fissile cutoff, and affirmed solemnly that their ultimate 
goal is nuclear disarmament. 
     Yesterday, in addition, the United Nations Security Council 
approved a resolution reflecting for the first time a common approach 
among the nuclear weapon states -- all five -- on security assurances to 
non-nuclear weapon states. 
     All of this leads to the conclusion that if the vote were held 
today -- and this is based on extensive discussions globally -- we 
believe we would have the necessary majority for indefinite extension. 
     That doesn't mean that the outcome is assured.  A great deal can 
happen between now and probably the second week in May, when the voting 
will occur.  This is a long and arduous conference ahead.  A great deal 
of bilateral diplomacy is yet to be undertaken.  So we're not counting 
on anything.  But we believe the outlook, as we go into the conference, 
is quite favorable. 
     I'd be happy to take your questions. 
     Q     As we all know, the NPT doesn't exist in a vacuum; and you've 
mentioned two of the steps the President has taken that I suppose would 
be assuring to other countries.  Let me ask you about two other things, 
     Is there an Administration policy that the elimination of nuclear 
weapons should be a goal of the United States? 
     And, secondly, on testing, is there an Administration policy that a 
certain range of tests in the laboratory or whatever should be 
     MR. HOLUM:  On the former, the statement that I referred to -- the 
P4 statement in Geneva -- confirmed nuclear disarmament as our ultimate 
goal.  For the United States, that was really repeating a commitment 
that President Clinton had made last May in a joint statement with Prime 
Minister Rao of India.  So that is our policy. 
     In terms of the experiments that will be conducted, or the 
activities that will be conducted within a test ban, we have a policy 
decision.  I can't tell you specifically how that translates into 
activities, but the policy decision is that the United States must be 
able to maintain the safety and reliability of our stockpile under a 
test ban, and we will -- 
     Q     (Inaudible) test ban kind of? 
     MR. HOLUM:  No -- 
     Q     In other words, it's not really a test ban; it's a ban on the 
kind of tests that the world has been familiar with, but you'll keep 
testing in the laboratory up to a certain range with the same excuse the 
previous Administrations have used to make sure the weapons are up-to-
date and they don't turn moldy and all that kind of stuff. 
     If that's true, how is that supposed to inspire other countries to 
support you on NPT? 
     MR. HOLUM:  No, this is not a threshold test ban.  What we are 
proposing is a comprehensive test ban.  Within the terms of a 
comprehensive test ban, we will continue activities that are necessary 
to assure the safety and reliability of the stockpile. 
     We expect other nuclear weapon states will do the same thing. 
     This is not a determination, and no one regards it as a 
determination in itself to abolish nuclear weapons.  So safety and 
reliability remain important. 
     At the same time, this test ban will not permit activities that 
would allow the development of new weapons.  So it is a tangible, 
positive step toward arms control. 
     Q     What do you mean "activities," sir?  What do you mean 
     MR. HOLUM:  There are a whole variety of things that will be done.  
The Department of Energy can give you a comprehensive set, but examples 
would include taking weapons apart and putting them back together again 
to make sure that the parts aren't corroding or that the materials 
aren't degrading. 
     There would be activities such as hydrodynamic testing, which is 
setting off the part of the explosion that doesn't involve nuclear 
materials but is rather the conventional explosions to make sure that 
the process is still effective -- that kind of activity, of laboratory 
or computer simulations -- that kind of activity. 
     Q     There have been a couple of other ideas floating around the 
Preparation Conference in New York.  One of them, I guess from 
Venezuela, is proposing a 25-year extension rather than an indefinite 
one -- another one, by some other Latin Americans, about a l0-year exit 
window.  Would the United States be prepared to sign on to either of 
those ideas if it meant a difference between extending it or not? 
     MR. HOLUM:  I don't think we'll have to face that question, and we 
are not looking at those kinds of fallbacks.  The reason is that those 
are not just one step back from an indefinite extension.  They are 
dramatically different. 
     As I indicated in my statement, this is the one opportunity we have 
to make the treaty permanent without going to national legislatures.  
This chance will not come again.  If we adopted either of those 
alternatives, that opportunity would be gone forever. 
     A 25-year extension might seem like a long period. Twenty-five 
years with a decision at the end to extend again may seem like a fairly 
reassuring environment.  But, first of all, in comparison to indefinite 
or permanence, even 25 years is not very long -- especially given the 
way countries plan their national security. 
     In addition to that, we believe we need to take advantage of this 
one chance to make it permanent. 
     Q     In other words, you would vote against a treaty amended in 
those words? 
     MR. HOLUM:  Our position -- and we are not looking at compromises -
- is for an indefinite, unconditional extension of the treaty, and we 
are not looking at alternatives. 
     I'm convinced that that issue won't come up.  The greatest number 
of votes, clearly now, are in favor of indefinite extension.  These 
other alternatives have less support than the outcome we prefer. 
     Q     You said last month -- early March -- at the White House that 
you were looking for an overwhelming majority and you thought you could 
put one together.  Today, you say you think -- if a vote happened today 
-- you think you'd have the necessary majority.  Have you abandoned the 
idea of an overwhelming majority? 
     MR. HOLUM:  I don't think I ever said an "overwhelming majority."  
If I did, I'd take it back.  Because our position has always been that a 
simple majority is sufficient, and that we shouldn't up an artificial 
barrier that calls for more than a simple majority. 
     At the same time, you may have heard me say that I believe that as 
we get past a simple majority, additional countries will join the 
consensus, or a larger majority.  But I don't think we should set a 
standard higher than that established in the treaty itself. 
     Q     Speaking of certain countries, will Mexico vote with the 
United States? 
     MR. HOLUM:  That's uncertain.  Mexico has raised concerns about the 
indefinite extension question.  They've had a lot of activity over the 
years in disarmament conferences.  It's unclear how Mexico will vote at 
this point. 
     Q     In an article in the Washington Times today, Larry Pressler 
is quoted as having been briefed by Central Intelligence that convinced 
him that Pakistan has more than a nuclear capability.  He says five 
nuclear weapons, he estimates; India has, he thinks, about 10 nuclear 
     With regard to that region, what has been done?  What will be done 
to get both of these countries to roll back their nuclear programs and 
their delivery capabilities, especially fearing -- the Indians fearing 
that China -- they need a deterrent to the Chinese? 
     MR. HOLUM:  The first thing I'd like to emphasize is that the 
situation in South Asia underscores the importance of the Non-
Proliferation Treaty, because it demonstrates the precarious 
circumstances and complicated existence that countries outside the NPT 
get into in coming to terms with these systems and weapons.  So it's an 
object lesson in the importance of the NPT. 
     In terms of what we can do specifically, I personally think the 
most hopeful enterprise underway is the negotiation to put a cap on the 
production of fissile material for weapons; we just have a negotiating 
mandate in Geneva for that effort.  That is the one way to at least put 
a lid on the Indian and Pakistan potential weapons programs.  After 
that, the next step would be to roll back those programs through a 
variety of diplomatic methods. 
     I'm not saying -- there's early promise in the broader effort, but 
it's something we need to stay at. 
     Q     Has this process begun?  I believe Secretary Perry was 
working specifically on setting up a framework for talks. 
     MR. HOLUM:  We have a continuous dialogue with both countries, and 
we have pursued as well regional efforts to address the nuclear danger 
and also the missile danger, because if the nuclear potential of either 
of countries, or both, were married with a missile technology, there 
would be a very high risk of conflict. 
     Q     John, two of the countries whose votes you don't seem to be 
sure of -- Mexico and Egypt -- are rather substantial recipients of 
American aid.  Are there any penalties for voting against the United 
States at this conference? 
     MR. HOLUM:  Notwithstanding my single-minded interest in the Non-
Proliferation Treaty, I've not been in favor of linking assistance -- 
explicitly linking assistance to the vote on the NPT, in the main part 
because our assistance to those countries wouldn't be in place if it 
weren't in our interest in other respects.  So we would be punishing 
ourselves as we punish them. 
     In addition, I tend to think that kind of explicit pressure would 
tend to be counterproductive.  The main burden of our message throughout 
this process -- and I think it's why we are approaching success -- is 
that the countries who are members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty need 
it for their own security.  It protects them against regional nuclear 
dangers and the potential for an arms race. 
     Q     In your discussions with the Chinese, have they indicated 
their support for the NPT extension?  If they have, what kind of a stand 
have they indicated to you on the test ban? 
     MR. HOLUM:  As Nick indicated, I guess yesterday in his briefing, I 
was one of the officials who met with the Vice Foreign Minister.  I met 
with him this morning. 
     Their position is that they have favored a smooth extension of the 
Non-Proliferation Treaty.  We don't have anything beyond that.  At 
least, I don't at this stage.  Their Foreign Minister will be speaking 
to the NPT Conference next Tuesday, I believe, and we'll expect more at 
that time. 
     Q     On the test ban? 
     MR. HOLUM:  They're engaged in the negotiations in Geneva.  They 
have some positions that we find problematic.  In the meantime, I don't 
see any indication that their test program is going to end prior to 
completion of the test ban. 
     Q     Some of us were told this morning that the official French 
position on this conference is, extend the treaty indefinitely; that's 
it.  Accomplish that.  A great accomplishment.  That should be the 
business of this conference. 
     I'm trying to figure out if the U.S. sees more that might be done 
at this conference?  For instance, are you happy -- are you going to try 
to make some changes in the inspection provisions, bearing such things 
as North Korea and Iraq, those examples in mind? 
     Does the U.S. have a larger program, a larger agenda for New York 
than the British and French, for instance? 
     MR. HOLUM:  I don't want to comment on theirs, because I wouldn't 
characterize it that way.  But I certainly would characterize ours as 
being quite broad.  The most important decision, obviously, is the 
decision on extension.  But this is both a review and an extension 
conference.  All aspects of the treaty should and will be reviewed. 
     There will be an examination, for example, of technical cooperation 
with non-nuclear weapon states parties to the treaty in the areas of 
agriculture, health, and nuclear energy, and so on.  That is a 
contentious issue, in some quarters. 
     There will be a review of progress on disarmament, the Article VI 
obligation, and we expect to be very forthcoming in our discussion of 
those issues. 
     Q     How about safeguards? 
     MR. HOLUM:  And safeguards as well.  The International Atomic 
Energy Agency is in the process of advancing a comprehensive program 
called "Ninety-Three Plus Two" that expands the use of sensors, for 
example, and other methods to detect violations of safeguards 
agreements.  That also will be part of the discussion.  So there will be 
a range of things on the table. 
     Q     How do you this when you can't amend the treaty? 
     MR. HOLUM:  None of those areas require amendment.  All of those 
provisions are in the treaty. 
     Q     (Inaudible) interpretation of an provision; right? 
     MR. HOLUM:  Right.  And reporting and review of progress on where 
we stand. 
     Q     If I could just go back to your discussions with the Chinese.  
You say you find some of their -- on the test ban -- you find some of 
their positions problematic.  If you could expand on that a little bit?  
I take it that their -- I mean, they have committed to a test ban but 
they want to test some more before the negotiations will be complete?  
And why?  Why do they want to test some more? 
     MR. HOLUM:  I'd refer you to them for their reasoning. 
     Q     What they said to you. 
     MR. HOLUM:  I don't want to report on the specific content of the 
discussions.  I can respond on positions they've taken publicly that we 
find problematic.  One is that they believe there should be a right for 
peaceful nuclear explosions under a test ban. 
     I don't see any -- and we haven't been able to discern any way to 
tell the difference between a peaceful explosion and an explosion that 
gives you military benefits.  Also, I don't think that position is 
negotiable; not only because we would oppose it but because I think most 
countries in the Conference on Disarmament would oppose it.  So that's 
an example of positions that we have concerns with. 
     Q     The non-aligned countries will be meeting right on the eve of 
the conference, or even I guess after -- 
     MR. HOLUM:  Yesterday and today. 
     Q     -- it starts, the Foreign Ministers, Indonesia.  China is a 
member of that.  Do you have an sense that they will be helpful or, in 
fact, otherwise to trying to persuade members to vote for indefinite 
     MR. HOLUM:  I don't have any sense of that, of what specific role 
they're likely to play. 
     China is in an interesting position, in terms of their evolution on 
arms control and non-proliferation issues.  They joined the Non-
Proliferation Treaty in 1992.  Up until that time, they tended to remain 
apart from global regimes.  I think that was an important step forward.  
They've made some progress in the test ban negotiations in the sense 
that they are for negotiations and expect to have it concluded in 1996. 
     We've recently made some progress with them -- although we still 
have more to do -- in the Missile Technology Control Regime area; but we 
also have a great problems with it -- also, in the missile technology 
area, in the testing area, and in some others. 
     I would call this an evolving relationship, and it's evolving in an 
encouraging way. 
     Q     Do you have any word on how the talks in Berlin went with the 
North Koreans? 
     MR. HOLUM:  This is a good segue into Nick.  (Laughter)  I believe 
he had some points on that. 
     MR. BURNS:  Thank you, John. 

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