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Remarks on Action Against Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia and Most-Favored-Nation Trade Status for China

June 03, 1998

Good morning. Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger and I have just had a meeting before Secretary Albright leaves to go to Geneva for tomorrow's meeting of the Permanent Five Foreign Ministers, convened at our initiative, on the situation in South Asia. Our goal is to forge a common strategy to move India and Pakistan back from their nuclear arms race and to begin to build a more peaceful, stable region.

Secretary Albright will speak to our agenda in Geneva in just a moment, and I understand later will be at the State Department to answer further questions. But I'd like to take a few moments to put this problem in its proper context. The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan stand in stark contrast to the progress the world has made over the past several years in reducing stockpiles and containing the spread of nuclear weapons. It is also contrary to the ideals of nonviolent democratic freedom and independence at the heart of Gandhi's struggle to end colonialism on the Indian subcontinent.

Through the START treaties, the United States and Russia are on their way to cutting nuclear arsenals by two-thirds from their cold war height. With our help, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan agreed to return to Russia the nuclear weapons left on their land when the Soviet Union dissolved. We secured the indefinite, unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa each voluntarily renounced their nuclear programs, choosing to spend their vital resources instead on the power of their people. And to date, 149 nations have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which bans all nuclear explosions, making it more difficult for nuclear powers to produce more advanced weapons and for nonnuclear states to develop them.

Two years ago, I was the first to sign this treaty at the United Nations on behalf of the United States. The present situation in South Asia makes it all the more important that the Senate debate and vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without delay. The CTBT will strengthen our ability to deter, to detect, and to deter testing. If we are calling on other nations to act responsibly, America must set the example.

India and Pakistan are great nations with boundless potential, but developing weapons of mass destruction is self-defeating, wasteful, and dangerous. It will make their people poorer and less secure. The international community must now come together to move them to a diverse course and to avoid a dangerous arms race in Asia.

In just the last week, NATO, the NATO Joint Council with Russia, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and today the OAS condemned the tests. That is about 80 other nations who want to work with us to move the world to a safer place.

And we must do more. We are determined to work with any countries who are willing to help us, and we want very much to work with both India and Pakistan to help them resolve their differences and to restore a future of hope, not fear, to the region.

Let me now express my appreciation to China for chairing the P-5 meeting to which Secretary Albright is going. This is further evidence of the important role China can play in meeting the challenges of the 21st century and the constructive Chinese leadership that will be essential to the long-term resolutions of issues involving South Asia.

This is an important example of how our engagement with China serves America's interests: stability in Asia, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, combating international crime and drug trafficking, protecting the environment. At the same time, we continue to deal forthrightly with China on those issues where we disagree, notably on human rights, and there have clearly been some concrete results as a result of this engagement as well.

Trade is also an important part of our relationship with China. Our exports have tripled over the last decade and now support over 170,000 American jobs. But just as important, trade is a force for change in China, exposing China to our ideas and our ideals and integrating China into the global economy.

For these reasons, I intend to renew MFN status with China. This status does not convey any special privilege. It is simply ordinary, natural tariff treatment offered to virtually every nation on Earth. Since 1980, when MFN was first extended to China, every Republican and Democratic President who has faced this issue has extended it. Not to renew would be to sever our economic and, to a large measure, our strategic relationship with China, turning our back on a fourth of the world at a time when our cooperation for world peace and security is especially important, in light of the recent events in South Asia.

This policy clearly is in our Nation's interest, and I urge Congress to support it. Now I'd like to ask Secretary Albright to say a few words about our objectives in Geneva in the days and weeks ahead.

Madam Secretary.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The transcript made available by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. The memorandum on most-favored-nation trade status for China is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Action Against Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia and Most-Favored-Nation Trade Status for China Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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