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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 1998

3-4Purpose of President's travel; US national interest lies in China engagement
3Encouraging signs in PRC restriction of critical proliferation weapons sales
3-4Administration policy on satellite waivers; prohibition on sensitive tech transfers

DPB # 64
TUESDAY, MAY 26, 1998, 1:15 P.M.


QUESTION: On China. The Republicans have been saying that the President should not be going to China next month. I wonder if you could tell us why it's necessary for him to go, in light of continuing evidence that the Chinese have tried to interfere in domestic politics here?

MR. RUBIN: Let me answer the question this way. The State Department and Secretary Albright are interested in the national interests of the United States of America. We believe it is in the national interest of the United States and the people of the United States to engage directly with the Chinese Government to advance America's interests. In several areas over recent years we've seen concrete benefits from this policy of engagement. Whether it's been the release of dissidents, whether it's been the Chinese announcement of their decision to sign international covenants on civil rights and other rights, whether we've seen religious leaders be released from prison, in the whole human rights field, America's interests have been advanced by our policy of engagement. Part of that policy of engagement has been to lead up to a trip by the President to China. Secretary Albright strongly supports that trip.

The other area that I think we can point to that seems to be forgotten in all the reporting about nonproliferation is the wholesale change in Chinese nonproliferation policies and practices. We've gone from a time prior to the engagement work that President Bush and President Clinton have done, when China was prepared to sell widely dangerous weapons to dangerous countries. We're now at a point where China has made national decisions that we believe they are implementing not to go forward with critical proliferation sales - sales we were concerned would endanger the American people.

So we are improving the security of the United States and the world by keeping China on a course where its nonproliferation practices are in sync with the rest of the world and improve the security of the world by denying to other countries the ability to make nuclear weapons and to purchase intermediate range missiles.

We also believe that the suggestion in various quarters that the United States has given, under some policy of the President, a high technology to China is simply wrong. China does not benefit militarily from US commercial satellite launches, in which proper export licensing procedures are followed. US commercial satellites are subject to strict control, and our policy specifically excludes the transfer of sensitive technology.

Let me repeat that: contrary to what everyone is casually saying, there are no policies to transfer sensitive technologies to China. On the contrary, we go through enormous hoops to try to prevent the transfer of high technology items to China, even while advancing America's interest in getting satellites in space. So in all these cases, what we are doing is advancing American interests. Our safeguards policy on these matters specifically precludes US companies from providing assistance to China with respect to the design, development, operation, maintenance, modification or repair of launch vehicles. The very things people are suggesting have happened are specifically prohibited by our licensing practices.

There is, of course, a Department of Justice investigation underway to determine if two US companies provided information to China outside the technology safeguards - meaning, acting in contravention of our policies - and it is for the Department of Justice to comment on that. But broadly speaking, we believe that America's interests are advanced in the human rights field, in the nonproliferation area, in the trade area, in the environmental area, in the anti-narcotics trafficking area, in the international crime area by our engagement with China, and that is what the President's visit is all about.


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