Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

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BRIEFING INDEX
Wednesday, July 2, 1997
Briefer: Nick Burns
CHINA/TAIWAN
9Diversion of Supercomputers
10Inspections and Verification of Commitments

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 98
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 1997 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
....................
QUESTION: Speaking of your confidence in Chinese commitments, do you have anything to say about the refusal --
MR. BURNS: Our expectation that China will meet its commitments.
QUESTION: -- to allow the Clinton Administration to verify any use of supercomputers?
MR. BURNS: I said that we had - I want to make sure the record is correct here - I said we expected China to meet its commitments. In diplomatic language, you know what that means. On the issue of supercomputers, I can tell you that there were come sub-Cabinet discussions in Hong Kong between American and Chinese officials on the issue of supercomputers.
Secretary Albright at the end of her meeting with Vice Premier Qian raised the issue of supercomputers as one that had to be tracked very closely. She did not, however, get into the substance of any of the recent concerns that we have had about supercomputers. But I think we have been open with you about them. But we are concerned that there have some recent diversions of supercomputers from civilian to military use in China.
We are looking into all of those. We are talking to the American companies involved, and we are talking to the Chinese Government. These are supercomputers with an MTOP level which is quite low, which does not lead us to believe that the most advanced supercomputer technology has been diverted to military use. But, nonetheless, this is a very important issue. We expect the Chinese Government will look into this as closely as we are.
QUESTION: Well, in this one case, though, the Chinese have misled you from several different stages with the Sun Microsystems, which was sold to a company in Hong Kong, been diverted to a civilian user in China, and then on to a military use also in China. So it's four steps where you would have had the opportunity to verify it. The American contractor is throwing up its hands, apparently saying it didn't know anything. And the Chinese are refusing to let you verify it. What's the story --
MR. BURNS: Sid, I can't accept all the assumptions that are injected in your question. I can just tell you that we have some concerns about alleged diversions. I have told you that. We are looking into them. We expect the Chinese Government to meet all of its commitments and to treat this as a priority issue with us.
The Department of Commerce is also talking to American firms about improved methods where the firms can report to us on any indication that there may have been diversions. Any sale of supercomputers to China is done with one motive in mind by the American companies and by the American Government that issues export licenses, and that is to make sure that these sales are for civilian use, not for military end-use.
QUESTION: But in this one case, the one that is written about in The New York Times today, which I just described, that you seem to be unable to verify --
MR. BURNS: Not unable, unwilling. Unwilling to get into the details of conversations that are best left private.
QUESTION: Would you like to go to the site, the military site in China, and verify the use of that computer?
MR. BURNS: I don't have plane reservations. You want me to go to the site of the - no, really, I'm trying to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Not you. The Administration --
MR. BURNS: The Administration is going to do everything it can to uphold - everything it must to uphold American law and to make sure that, because we have such profound proliferation concerns with China, that China understands this is serious business; that if we allow the exportation from the United States of supercomputers - even low-level supercomputers, not high-level -- that we expect that the Chinese Government will make every effort with its own companies to prevent any illicit, illegal diversion of that technology to military end-use. That is a very serious issue.
Secretary Albright identified that as a serious issue at the end of her meeting with Minister Qian. We will continue our discussions and we will uphold our laws.
QUESTION: What about --
QUESTION: Can you --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, excuse me, Sid still has the floor.
QUESTION: Just this issue of the Chinese allowing you to inspect the use of that particular computer from Sun Microsystems -- is that something you all would like to do?
MR. BURNS: I can assure you we are going to make every effort to get to the bottom of all of these alleged diversions and the ones of concern to us. We would expect full cooperation from the Chinese Government, full cooperation. I hope that answers your question.
QUESTION: Can you really trust the Chinese?
(Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: I'm going to give you a Reaganesque response. Governments always verify. Governments can't afford to trust in relationships like this. We expect that commitments will be upheld, commitments that are seriously undertaken. But we always have independent means to verify that commitments are being upheld. That is how governments operate in relationships like this. Judd.
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