U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: East Asia and Pacific Bureau

U.S. Department of State
96/05/10 Briefing on China and Non-Proliferation/Nuclear Issues
Office of the Spokesman


May 10, 1996

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the State Department briefing.

I want to read a U.S. Government statement on China and non- proliferation. After I read the statement, I want to make a couple of comments to put this into context, and then I'll be glad to answer a few questions. I say "a few questions," because what I would like to do, fairly quickly, is to move this off camera and then to go to a BACKGROUND briefing by the people who negotiated the agreement that I'm going to announce.

Let me read the statement. This is a statement by the U.S. Government on China and non-proliferation:

In the last few months, the United States and China have engaged in intensive discussions on the question of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear-related exports. These discussions have addressed United States concerns about Chinese nuclear cooperation with other countries, including the transfer of ring magnets.

In the course of these discussions, especially the April 19th meeting in The Hague between Secretary of State Christopher and Vice Premier Qian Qichen, the Chinese provided clarifications and assurances regarding China's policies towards nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear cooperation with other countries.

Of particular significance, the Chinese assured us that China will not provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and the Chinese will now confirm this in a public statement. In addition, senior Chinese officials have informed us that the Government of China was unaware of any transfers of ring magnets by a Chinese entity, and they have confirmed our understanding that China's policy of not assisting unsafeguarded nuclear programs will preclude future transfers of ring magnets to unsafeguarded facilities.

On the basis of a close review of the evidence available in this case, and the clarifications and assurances provided by China regarding past transfers and Chinese nuclear export control policies, the Secretary of State has concluded that there is not a sufficient basis to warrant a determination that sanctionable activity occurred under Section 825 of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994. Accordingly, sanctions will not be imposed in the current situation, and Export-Import Bank operations in support of United States exports to China are now returned to normal.

The United States looks forward to continuing consultations with China on export control policies and other related issues. These consultations can help us to develop a common understanding on fully effective export control policies and practices and to strengthen national export control systems, and thus will help avoid future problems and provide an additional avenue to advance our common non- proliferation goals.

That is the end of the United States Government statement. Let me try to put this into some context for you. Barry, are you taking a filing break?


MR. BURNS: Okay. AP has called a filing break. Since the start of the Clinton Administration in 1993, the President and the Secretary of State have made preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of nuclear weapons, one of its highest priorities.

The understanding worked out with China on the question of nuclear exports embodied in the statement that I've just read to you, and the Chinese statement that will be issued tomorrow morning in Beijing, is another important step on the road to our goal. Through intense high- level discussions, including between Secretary of State Christopher and Chinese Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian, last month, we believe the United States and China have reached a better understanding regarding China's policies towards nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear cooperation with other countries.

The Chinese have given us, in the decision that we arrived at this morning, clarifications and commitments regarding their nuclear export policy. Specifically, I want to draw your attention to four important elements that have emerged from the discussions between the United States and China.

First is that China will issue a public statement. I expect that that will be Saturday morning Beijing-time. For all of you that will mean, of course -- that statement will probably appear sometime this evening here in the East Coast of the United States. They will issue a statement that China will not provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear programs in any country.

We believe the Chinese undertaking represents a significant, new public commitment by China with respect to its nuclear cooperation with other countries. That's the first thing I wanted to point out.

Second, the Chinese have confirmed our understanding that this new commitment means that they will not transfer ring magnets in the future to unsafeguarded facilities.

Third, China has agreed with the United States to hold consultations on national export policies and practices. The understanding we've arrived at provides for continued consultations on export controls.

These will help the United States and China to develop common understandings on export control policies for nuclear-related items, but they will also facilitate cooperating in strengthening the export control systems. It will also serve as a promising foundation, we think, for advancing the broader goal we have of eliminating, preventing the spread of dangerous weapons.

On the Ex-Im question, Secretary Christopher sent a letter to the Ex-Im this morning apprising the Ex-Im of the understanding that we've reached with China. As a result of the receipt of that letter in Ex-Im -- and it has been received -- Ex-Im operations will now return to normal, meaning that final decisions on loan applications for American companies pertaining to China can now be made.

I would also draw your attention to another point. The statement that I've read, and the commitments obtained from the Chinese, were precisely what we would have sought as a basis to remove sanctions had it been necessary to impose sanctions. I think that is a particularly important point.

I can also tell you that once the decision was made this morning, the Secretary began a series of Congressional calls. He was assisted in this by others in the Department of State -- other senior officials here. We have contacted a number of members of Congress to inform them of the decision. We, of course, are also contacting a number of governments, including the Government of Pakistan to inform them of the decision that we have made.

What I would like to do is propose that if you have any general questions about this, about the context of these decisions, I'll be glad to answer them. If you have specific questions about the negotiations themselves, about how we arrived at this, what I'd like to suggest is that we turn off the lights, take a short break to allow the wires to file -- a short break of maybe 10 minutes or so -- and then I'll bring up to the podium our two senior State Department officials who were responsible for negotiating this with the Chinese.


Q Does the United States Government accept the Chinese Government's statement as true, that it had no idea that ring magnets were being exported to Pakistan?

MR. BURNS: First of all, David, I think as a result of the very intensive, complex set of discussions that we've had over a considerable period of time, where we've worked very hard to arrive at an understanding of what happened and whether or not these activities were sanctionable, I think two things are evident.

First, I think there's no question that there was a ring magnet transfer to Pakistan on the part of the State entity in China. The Chinese, however, have assured us that the government in Beijing -- the policymakers in Beijing -- were not aware of this transfer. There's a statement that I've made today. I've characterized that in the U.S. statement that we've made. Certainly, we accept that now as a result of the work that we've done with the Chinese. I think you'll see that in what the Chinese release tomorrow.


Q Do I understand you to say there will be no sanctions of any kind, not under a Chafee Amendment, not under any kind of decision to come from the White House against any Chinese company or entity involved in this transfer?

MR. BURNS: Yes, pertaining to this issue of the allegation of ring magnet transfers. Yes, that's right.

Q So no sanctions -- just to be clear -- against the Chinese Nuclear Fuel Corporation of any kind.

MR. BURNS: That's right, Steve, yes.

Q Nick, what makes these assurances from the Chinese more credible or persuasive than the assurances they gave that they would stop pirating software, or a few years ago the assurances they gave they were not exporting Silkworm missiles or any number of other assurances that turned out not to be the case.

Q Prison labor.

MR. BURNS: Norm, I think it's very important that not only did we have expert-level discussions over the last couple of months with the Chinese on this issue, but Secretary Christopher was able to have an important discussion with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian in The Hague. They had a lengthy discussion of that.

There's been a high-level discussion of this. There's been a good deal of cable traffic, of telephone conversations, of diplomatic conversations. The commitments that they have made to us are important commitments, and we accept those as commitments by the Government of China.

Of course, the United States will monitor this agreement very carefully. Of course, we'll want to make sure, as well as the Government of China, that there are no such transfers in the future. In monitoring this agreement, we will see then the proof of the agreement. But we certainly expect that this agreement is going to be carried out to the letter.


Q Can you bring us up to date on the other issue involving the transfer of M-11 missiles, where that investigation stands now and whether any conclusions were drawn as a result of these long, protracted --

MR. BURNS: I can tell you, Bob, that we've not made any decisions on that particular issue. But let me do this: Let me leave that for our BACKGROUND briefing, because one of the officials that's going to brief is expert on that expert.


Q Nick, will the Chinese accept that there was a transfer, because they denied it publicly consistently and repeatedly ever since we first put that allegation forward? Do they now admit that there was such a transfer of ring magnets?

MR. BURNS: Jeff, let me do this. I think what I'd like to do is on specific questions about what was said in the course of the discussions over the last couple of months, I'd rather let our background briefers get into that and present it to you in a comprehensive way. If you have any questions at the end of their presentation, we'll go to that.

Q The reason I asked is that I think it goes to the heart of whether the Chinese accept that something here was done that properly raised U.S. concerns.

MR. BURNS: Jeff, I think it's self-evident from the statement I've made that we believe, and I think on the basis of the agreement it's understood by all, that there was a transfer of ring magnets. What is really critical about this agreement, of course, is that the Government of China -- the policy-makers in China, the senior level -- have assured us that they were unaware of the transfer of ring magnets.

I think I can answer your question in that respect. But I do want to give our background briefers a chance to lay this out to you in a fairly comprehensive way. They're the people who have negotiated this agreement.

Let me go to Jim and then Sid and then maybe Steve, and then I think we're going to wrap it up and we'll go to the BACKGROUND briefing.

Q There are two parties involved in this transaction. Is there any blame or any sanctions attached to Pakistan?

MR. BURNS: I think that in the case of Pakistan, we certainly informed the Government of Pakistan of the decision that we've made, and I can tell you that the Brown Amendment is in place, and there's no reason, I think, to change the Brown Amendment. So we'll go ahead with the Government of Pakistan as we can.

Q Well, according to your information sheet -- the background sheet -- the Glenn Amendment provides economic sanctions for countries "that deliver or receive nuclear reprocessing equipment or technology." That would appear to include Pakistan.

MR. BURNS: In the case of Pakistan -- and I think the background briefers can give you a lot of detail on this -- there will be no change in the implementation of Brown. But some items are covered by Symington in the case of Pakistan, but let our background briefers go into that in more detail.


Q Is this a written understanding, or is this verbal?

MR. BURNS: The understanding is expressed in the statement that I read to you, which is the United States Government statement, and also the statement that will be issued by the Government of China. The reason why we are announcing -- reading to you the United States Government statement is because we arrived at this decision this morning.

We wanted to announce this decision as soon thereafter as possible. We've made that commitment to you. We hadn't forgotten that. But given the time difference, it's really not possible for the Chinese to make their statement at 2:20 in the morning, so they'll do that in just a couple of hours.

Q Will there be instruments exchanged -- written instruments exchanged that reflect this arrangement?

MR. BURNS: What we have here are two statements: one by the United States Government, one by the Chinese Government. They know what's in our statement. We know what's in their statement. I think we know what this agreement is. We're confident that it is a good agreement, and we're confident that it can be implemented effectively.

Let me go to Steve, Carol, because I promised him I would do that.

Q Nick, you said that the statement by the Chinese is what you would have expected from them had sanctions been imposed and then subsequently lifted. This was a requirement. Did Secretary of State Christopher make this proposal to Qian Qichen in The Hague, and did it take them nearly a month for the Chinese to agree to this? Was there then -- what I'm asking is was there a threat in The Hague that sanctions would be imposed if you do not make this agreement?

MR. BURNS: I think the Chinese knew that -- have known all along during the course of these discussions that we were concerned about the allegations of the sale of ring magnets, and we believe that transfer did take place, and sanctions was always a possibility. But because we were able to work through this issue and gain the assurances that we have received, we do not believe that it is proper to go to sanctions based on the understandings that we have, and we believe that that's fully consistent, obviously, with the law here.

Q Did the Secretary, though, say, "If you don't make such a statement in public, we will impose sanctions after the meeting"?

MR. BURNS: It's not fruitful or helpful for me to go into what the Secretary said privately to Foreign Minister Qian. I don't want to do that.


Q Nick, is it your understanding that this is broader than just ring magnets? It's a commitment that goes beyond that specific case?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I tried to highlight for you when I got into the context after the statement what we think is important about this. I would just refer you to the four points that I read. But certainly it does, because it gets to the issue of non-proliferation in general, about the commitment of China to that, about the commitment to consultations with us about national export practices, about strengthening capabilities. That's very important, and we do look forward to those discussions.

Q And what do you think turned them around?

MR. BURNS: I think that's certainly a question for the Chinese Government, but I think we were able to communicate to them over the course of very long, difficult discussions, and I think Secretary of State Christopher was able to do this quite convincingly on April 19 -- that this is a major concern of the United States. This is not an issue that can be treated as a secondary or tertiary issue. It's a central issue in our foreign policy concerns globally -- not just in our relationship with China.

The other concern, I think, that we expressed quite effectively to the Chinese is that the United States Government is accountable to American law and all of us here in this building are. We had to make sure, as we worked through this issue, that obviously any result of these discussions was fully consistent with our law, and it is. I think those points were impressive points for the Chinese side.

Q Nick, can I just ask you quickly, Christopher said today in his speech, the line between domestic and foreign policy has disappeared. Did you wait until after Dole backed MFN to make this decision today?

MR. BURNS: No. I can tell you this, Steve, because I followed the issue closely enough to know, and I've certainly been in the meetings with the Secretary as he's deliberated over a very long time. Had we been able to achieve the understanding that we achieved this morning -- had we been able to achieve it two weeks ago or three weeks ago or four weeks ago, we would have announced it, because we had no interest in prolonging this debate.

You were asking about it every day. It was a thorn in the side of the U.S.-China relationship. We did not link it to Senator Dole's speech. We did not link it to the IPR problem that has arisen, the implementation of the intellectual property rights agreement.

We have to take these issues on a case-by-case basis, and we've done so today.

Q Then what was it that happened this morning, or what made the Chinese decide this this morning? And, secondly, do you accept the Chinese assurances? You've said three or four times that the Chinese have given us assurances that they did not know in Beijing at the policy-making level about this transfer. Do you accept that as a correct statement?

MR. BURNS: Jeff, on your first question, we simply concluded the discussions today. When you're in the middle of discussions --and we know this from our experience in the Middle East shuttle -- sometimes you're not quite sure what the end point is going to be. You can't forecast. This gets back to Steve's question about linkage. You can't forecast in the middle of a complex set of negotiations when you're going to come out at the end.

We were able to agree on the final documents and the final letter of the documents this morning, and that's why we've gone forward with an announcement today.

On your second question, we certainly accept the assurances of the Chinese Government.

Thank you.


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