01 September 1998
TRANSCRIPT: NSC, DOD, STATE BRIEFING, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 1, 1998
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
Q: And the second question -- is there any hope that a country like
North Korea would join such an early warning system for ballistic
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
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
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 -
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.
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
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.
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