UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 1998

13-15Launches of US Satellites / Safeguards System / House Vote on US Transfers of High Technology / Waiver of Loral Deal with Campaign Donation

DPB # 63
THURSDAY, MAY 21, 1998, 12:45 P.M.


QUESTION: Any comment on the House inquiry into high-technology sales to China?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the first point I'd make on this - and I hope those of you who are in the communications business, like journalists, understand what this is all about.

If you look at what happened yesterday when a satellite went down and people's pagers and communicators were not functioning, people will begin to understand why we believe that allowing the United States to pursue its competitive advantage in communications is part of the reason why we think it's important for the Chinese to launch American satellites.

We do not have the capability to launch American satellites as cheaply as China does, and we have a system of safeguards in place that has allowed three Administrations to conduct this process by which American technology is protected, but America's satellites are launched into orbit, and America's competitive advantage - part of the reason that we are a global superpower is because of our communications advantage over other countries. And as everyone saw so graphically yesterday, the absence of sufficient satellite capacity and the absence of back up satellites and the inability to have enough satellites in space can have a direct and material effect on not only the lives of Americans, but our competitive advantage in this area.

With respect to the decisions yesterday to cut off or assert the right to cut off such cooperation with the Chinese in this area - I'm sorry, I was sort of off on my satellite in space and had to come back down - (laughter) -- we were extremely disappointed by this vote in the House of Representatives. If passed in the Senate, this legislation will threaten American leadership in the commercial satellite business, and therefore threaten an area where America has a competitive advantage.

Moreover, it is based on incorrect information. No controlled information relative to ballistic missiles or warhead delivery technology has been authorized to be made available to Chinese authorities. The whole underlying suggestion that somehow we want to transfer technology to the Chinese as a result of I don't know what, is simply fatuous. And the more rational analysis, which I hope would come from the kind of people who've been covering this issue for some time, would certainly help bring to the American people an understanding that this process does not transfer technology by design. There was a case and, demonstrating the effectiveness of our safeguards, there is now an investigation going on. So we are not willfully transferring technology. On the contrary, we are willfully improving the lives and competitive advantage of the United States while protecting our technology that people are concerned about.

QUESTION: But at the same time, you use the satellite system going down yesterday and many Americans found that to be a graphic example of the need for these kinds of deals. At the same time, many Americans would find it very curious that the President waived the Loral deal with China in light of the fact that its chief executive officer donated a lot of money to the Democratic Party. Some might find that a little more than a coincidence. How would you respond to that?

MR. RUBIN: The answer to the question is that we have been pursuing the same policy under Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton. And if you want to invent a linkage for which there is no evidence, I can't really answer your question.

QUESTION: I don't think I'm inventing anything, I'm just giving you the facts of what is out there.

MR. RUBIN: No, you're inventing a linkage that there is simply no evidence for.

QUESTION: So you don't think Americans shouldn't find this at all something to take pause at?

MR. RUBIN: Americans should find things curious, especially when people are misleading them by amalgamating a whole serious of issues about campaign finance; about the Commerce-State issue on who controls the munitions list; on the question of willful desire to transfer technology, when in fact the same policy occurred under Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton. It's that simple.


QUESTION: I have just one more - is there any concern that the safeguards that you think are in place, especially for dual-use technology that satellites could be, that they are as foolproof? Because one of the things that Loral admitted to doing is that it actually sent the report to the Chinese before it had anyone in the Administration look at it. That was a mistake that Loral admitted to. So are you as confident that the safeguards in place for dual-use technology are foolproof?

MR. RUBIN: Let me distinguish - nothing in life is foolproof, okay? So the suggestion that something in life can be foolproof is an absurdity.

What we do in government is we weigh risks. And there's a risk if we don't allow satellites that American companies service the American people as well as provide us a competitive advantage. If they can't get off into space, we are worse off. There is a risk in not letting them do that. You nod your head, but that's an incredibly important factor.

Meanwhile, there is another risk - a risk that unauthorized technology might leak through the safeguards system. What we're trying to communicate to all of you is that for three Administrations in a row, we have been weighing the costs and benefits of those risks and pursuing the exact same policy for three Administrations. There is no new element to this policy.

What I am suggesting to you is the fact that we are now investigating what might have happened in one case demonstrates how effective the safeguard system is; because the moment you think something might have happened, you have laws that prohibit it and there are investigations. That's what safeguards are about. Is there a foolproof system to prevent anything from happening, anything in the world? There is no such thing as foolproof in the real world - only when people are writing articles and passing legislation.

[end of document]

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list