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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

June 11, 1998


Message Creation Date was at 11-JUN-1998 11:42:00
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate 
June 11, 1998     
National Geographic Society
                           Washington, D.C.   
10:32 A.M. EDT
 THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, President Fahey.  I don't know what to 
say about starting the day with this apparition.  (Laughter.)  But it's 
probably good practice for our line of work.  (Laughter.)  I try to read every 
issue of the National Geographic, and I will certainly look forward to that one.
 Chairman Grosvenor, members of Congress, members of the administration, and 
members of previous administrations who are here and others who care about the 
national security and national interests of the United States.  First let me, 
once again, thank the National Geographic Society for its hospitality, and for 
the very  important work that has done for so long now.  
 As all of you know, I will go to China in two weeks time.  It will be the 
first state visit by an American President this decade.  I'm going because I 
think it's the right thing to do for our country.  Today I want to talk with 
you about our relationship with China and how it fits into our broader concerns 
for the world of the 21st century and our concerns, in particular, for 
developments in Asia.  That relationship will in large measure help to 
determine whether the new century is one of security, peace, and prosperity for 
the American people.  
 Let me say that, all of you know the dimensions, but I think it is worth 
repeating a few of the facts about China.  It is already the world's most 
populous nation; it will increase by the size of America's current population 
every 20 years.  It's vast territory borders 15 countries.  It has one of the 
fastest growing economies on Earth.  It holds a permanent seat on the National 
Security Council of the United Nations.  Over the past 25 years, it has entered 
a period of profound change, emerging from isolation, turning a closed economy 
into an engine for growth, increasing cooperation with the rest of the world, 
raising the standard of living for hundreds of millions of its citizens.
 The role China chooses to play in preventing the spread of weapons of mass 
destruction are encouraging it in combatting or ignoring international crime 
and drug trafficking; in protecting or degrading the environment; in tearing 
down or building up trade barriers; in respecting or abusing human rights; in 
resolving difficult situations in Asia from the Indian subcontinent to the 
Korean Peninsula or aggravating them.  The role China chooses to play will 
powerfully shape the next century.  
 A stable, open, prosperous China that assumes its responsibilities for 
building a more peaceful world  is clearly and profoundly in our interests.  On 
that point all Americans agree.  But as we all know, there is serious 
disagreement over how best to encourage the emergence of that kind of China, 
and how to handle our differences, especially over human rights, in the 
 Some Americans believe we should try to isolate and contain China because of 
its undemocratic system and human rights violation, and in order to retard its 
capacity to become America's next great enemy.  Some believe increased 
commercial dealings alone will inevitably lead to a more open, more democratic 
 We have chosen a different course that I believe to be both principled and 
pragmatic:  expanding our areas of cooperation with China while dealing 
forthrightly with our differences.  This policy is supported by our key 
democratic allies in Asia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, the 
Philippines.  It has recently been publicly endorsed by a number of 
distinguished religious leaders, including Reverend Billy Graham and the Dalai 
Lama.  My trip has been recently supported by political opponents of the 
current Chinese government, including most recently, Wang Dan.  
 There is a reason for this.  Seeking to isolate China is clearly unworkable.  
Even our friends and allies around the world do not support us -- or would not 
support us in that.  We would succeed instead in isolating ourselves and our 
own policy.  
 Most important, choosing isolation over engagement would not make the world 
safer.  It would make it more dangerous.  It would undermine rather than 
strengthen our efforts to foster stability in Asia.  It would eliminate, not 
facilitate cooperation on issues relating to mass destruction.  It would 
hinder, not help the cause of democracy and human rights in China.  It would 
set back, not step up worldwide efforts to protect the environment.  It would 
cut off, not open up one of the world's most important markets.  It would 
encourage the Chinese to turn inward and to act in opposition to our interests 
and values.
 Consider the areas that matter most to America's peace, prosperity and 
security, and ask yourselves, would our interests and ideals be better served 
by advancing our work with, or isolating ourselves from China.
 First, think about our interests in a stable Asia, an interest that China 
shares.  The nuclear threats -- excuse me -- the nuclear tests by India and 
Pakistan are a threat to the stability we seek.  They risk a terrible outcome.  
A miscalculation between two adversaries with large armies would be bad.  A 
miscalculation between two adversaries with nuclear weapons could be 
catastrophic.  These tests were all the more unfortunate because they divert 
precious resources from countries with unlimited potential. 
 India is a very great nation, soon to be not only the world's most populous 
democracy, but its most populous country.  It is home to the world's largest 
middle class already and a remarkable culture that taught the modern world the 
power of nonviolence.  For 50 years Pakistan has been a vibrant Islamic state, 
and is today a robust democracy.  It is important for the world to recognize 
the remarkable contributions both these countries have made and will continue 
to make to the community of nations if they can proceed along the path of peace.
 It is important for the world to recognize that both India and Pakistan have 
security concerns that are legitimate.  But it is equally important for India 
and Pakistan to recognize that developing weapons of mass destruction is the 
wrong way to define their greatness, to protect their security, or to advance 
their concerns.  
 I believe that we now have a self-defeating, dangerous, and costly course 
underway.  I believe that this course, if continued, not moderated and 
ultimately changed, will make both the people of Indian and the people of 
Pakistan poorer, not richer, and less, not more, secure.  Resolving this 
requires us to cooperate with China.  
 Last week, China chaired a meeting of the permanent members of the U.N. 
Security Council to forge a common strategy for moving India and Pakistan back 
from the nuclear arms race edge.  It has condemned both countries for 
conducting nuclear tests.  It has joined us in urging them to conduct no more 
tests, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to avoid deploying or testing 
missiles, to tone down the rhetoric, to work to resolve their differences 
including over Kashmir through dialogue.  Because of its history with both 
countries, China must be a part of any ultimate resolution of this matter.  
 On the Korean Peninsula, China has become a force for peace and stability, 
helping us to convince North Korea to freeze its dangerous nuclear program, 
playing a constructive role in the four-party peace talks.  And China has been 
a helpful partner in international efforts to stabilize the Asian financial 
crisis.  In resisting the temptation to devalue its currency, China has seen 
that its own interests lie in preventing another round of competitive 
devaluations that would have severely damaged prospects for regional recovery.  
It has also contributed to the rescue packages for affected economies.  
 Now, for each of these problems we should ask ourselves, are we better off 
working with China or without it?  When I travel to China this month, I will 
work with President Jiang to advance our Asian security agenda, keeping the 
pressure on India and Pakistan to curb their nuclear arms race and to commence 
a dialogue;  using the strength of our economies and our influence to bolster 
Asian economies battered by the economic crisis; and discussing steps we can 
take to advance peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.  I will encourage 
President Jiang to pursue the cross-strait discussion the PRC recently resumed 
with Taiwan, and where we have already seen a reduction in tensions.
 Second, stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is 
clearly one of our most urgent security challenges.  As a nuclear power with 
increasingly sophisticated industrial and technological capabilities, China can 
choose either to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  
 For years, China stood outside the international arms control regime.  In the 
last decade it has joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical 
Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive 
Test Ban Treaty, each with clear rules, reporting requirements and inspection 
systems.  In the past, China has been a major exporter of sophisticated 
weapons-related technologies.  That is why in virtually all our high-level 
contacts with China's leadership, and in my summit meeting with President Jiang 
last October, nonproliferation has been high on the agenda.
 Had we been trying to isolate China rather than work with it, would China have 
agreed to stop assistance to Iran for its nuclear program,?  To terminate its 
assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities such as those in Pakistan?  To 
tighten its export control system, to sell no more anti-ship cruise missiles to 
Iran?  These vital decisions were all in our interest, and they clearly were 
the fruit of our engagement.
 I will continue to press China on proliferation.  I will seek stronger 
controls on the sale of missiles, missile technology, dual-use products, and 
chemical and biological weapons.  I will argue that it is in China's interest, 
because the spread of weapons and technologies would increasingly destabilize 
areas near China's own borders.  
 Third, the United States has a profound stake in combatting international 
organized crime and drug trafficking.  International criminal syndicates 
threaten to undermine confidence in new but fragile market democracies.  They 
bilk people out of billions of dollars and bring violence and despair to our 
schools and neighborhoods.  These are problems from which none of us are 
isolated and which, as I said at the United Nations a few days ago, no nation 
is so big it can fight alone.
 With a land mass spanning from Russia in the north to Vietnam and Thailand in 
the south, from India and Pakistan in the west to Korea and Japan in the east, 
China has become a transshipment point for drugs and the proceeds of illegal 
activities.  Last month a special liaison group that President Jiang and I 
established brought together leading Chinese and American law enforcement 
officials to step up our cooperation against organized crime, alien smuggling, 
and counterfeiting.
 Next month the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States will open an 
office in Beijing.  Here, too, pursuing practical cooperation with China is 
making a difference for America's future.
 Fourth, China and the United States share the same global environment, an 
interest in preserving it for this and future generations.  China is 
experiencing an environmental crisis perhaps greater than any other nation in 
history at a comparable stage of its development.  Every substantial body of 
water in China is polluted.  In many places, water is in short supply.  
Respiratory illness is the number one health problem for China's people because 
of air pollution.  
 Early in the next century, China will surpass the United States as the world's 
largest emitter of greenhouse gases, which are dangerously warming our planet.  
This matters profoundly to the American people, because what comes out of a 
smokestack or goes into a river in China can do grievous harm beyond its 
borders.  It is a fool's errand to believe that we can deal with our present 
and future global environmental challenges without strong cooperation with 
 A year ago, the Vice President launched a dialogue with the Chinese on the 
environment to help them pursue growth and protect the environment at the same 
time.  I have to tell you that this is one of the central challenges we face -- 
convincing all developing nations, but especially China, and other very large 
ones, that it is actually possible to grow their economies in the 21st century 
without following the pattern of energy use and environmental damages that 
characterize economic growth in this century.  And we need all the help we can 
to make that case.
 In Beijing, I will explore with President Jiang how American clean energy 
technology can help to improve air quality and bring electricity to more of 
China's rural residents.  We will discuss innovative tools for financing clean 
energy development that were established under the Kyoto climate change 
 Fifth, America clearly benefits from an increasingly free, fair and open 
global trading system.  Over the past six years, trade has generated more than 
one-third of the remarkable economic growth we have enjoyed.  If we are to 
continue generating 20 percent of the world's wealth with just four percent of 
its population, we must continue to trade with the other 96 percent of the 
people with whom we share this small planet.
 One in every four people is Chinese.  And China boasts a growth rate that has 
averaged 10 percent for the past 20 years.  Over the next 20 years, it is 
projected that the developing economies will grow at three times the rate of 
the already developed economies.  It is manifestly, therefore, in our interest 
to bring the Chinese people more and more fully into the global trading system 
to get the benefits and share the responsibilities of emerging economic 
 Already China is one of the fastest growing markets for our goods and 
services.  As we look into the next century, it will clearly support hundreds 
of thousands of jobs all across our country.  But access to China's markets 
also remains restricted for many of our companies and products.  What is the 
best way to level the playing field?  We could erect trade barriers.  We could 
deny China the normal trading status we give to so many other countries with 
whom we have significant disagreements.  But that would only penalize our 
consumers, invite retaliation from China on $13 billion in United States 
exports, and create a self-defeating cycle of protectionism that the world has 
seen before.
 Or we can continue to press China to open its markets -- it's goods markets, 
its services markets, its agricultural markets -- as it engages in sweeping 
economic reform.  We can work toward China's admission to the WTO on 
commercially meaningful terms, where it will be subject to international rules 
of free and fair trade.  And we can renew normal trade treatment for China, as 
every President has done since 1980, strengthening instead of undermining our 
economic relationship.  
 In each of these crucial areas, working with China is the best way to advance 
our interests.  But we also know that how China evolves inside its borders will 
influence how it acts beyond them.  We, therefore, have a profound interest in 
encouraging China to embrace the ideals upon which our nation was founded and 
which have now been universally embraced -- the right to life, liberty and the 
pursuit of happiness; to debate, dissent, associate and worship without state 
interference.  These ideas are now the birthright of people everywhere, a part 
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They are part of the fabric of 
all truly free societies.
 We have a fundamental difference with China's leadership over this.  The 
question we Americans must answer is not whether we support human rights in 
China -- surely, all of us do -- but, rather, what is the best way to advance 
them.  By integrating China into the community of nations and the global 
economy, helping its leadership understand that greater freedom profoundly 
serves China's interests, and standing up for our principles, we can most 
effectively serve the cause of democracy and human rights within China.
 Over time, the more we bring China into the world the more the world will 
bring freedom to China.  China's remarkable economic growth is making China 
more and more dependent on other nations for investment, for markets, for 
energy, for ideas.  These ties increase the need for the  stronger rule of law, 
openness, and accountability.  And they carry with them powerful agents of 
change -- fax machines and photocopiers, computers and the Internet.  Over the 
past decade the number of mobile phones has jumped from 50,000 to more than 13 
million in China, and China is heading from about 400,000 Internet accounts 
last year to more than 20 million early in the next century.  Already, one in 
five residents in Beijing has access to satellite transmissions.  Some of the 
American satellites China sends into space beam CNN and other independent 
sources of news and ideas into China.
 The licensing of American commercial satellite launches on Chinese rockets was 
approved by President Reagan, begun by President Bush, continued under my 
administration, for the simple reason that the demand for American satellites 
far out-strips America's launch capacity, and because others, including Russian 
and European nations, can do this job at much less cost.
 It is important for every American to understand that there are strict 
safeguards, including a Department of Defense plan for each launch, to prevent 
any assistance to China's missile programs.  Licensing these launches allows us 
to meet the demand for American satellites and helps people on every continent 
share ideas, information, and images, through television, cell phones, and 
pagers.  In the case of China, the policy also furthers our efforts to stop the 
spread of missile technology by providing China incentives to observe 
nonproliferation agreements.  This policy clearly has served our national 
 Over time, I believe China's leaders must accept freedom's progress because 
China can only reach its full potential if its people are free to  reach theirs.
 In the Information Age, the wealth of any nation, including China, lies in its 
people -- in their capacity to create, to communicate, to innovate.  The 
Chinese people must have the freedom to speak, to publish, to associate, to 
worship without fear of reprisal.  Only then will China reach its full 
potential for growth and greatness.
 I have told President Jiang that when it comes to human rights and religious 
freedom, China remains on the wrong side of history.  Unlike some, I do not 
believe increased commercial dealings alone will inevitably lead to greater 
openness and freedom.  We must work to speed history's course.  Complacency or 
silence would run counter to everything we stand for as Americans.  It would 
deny those fighting for human rights and religious freedom inside China the 
outside support that is a source of strength and comfort.  Indeed, one of the 
most important benefits of our engagement with China is that it gives us an 
effective means to urge China's leaders publicly and privately to change 
 Our message remains strong and constant:  Do not arrest people for their 
political beliefs.  Release those who are in jail for that reason.  Renounce 
coercive population control practices. Resume your dialogue with the Dalai 
Lama.  Allow people to worship when, where, and how they choose.  And recognize 
that our relationship simply cannot reach its full potential so long as Chinese 
people are denied fundamental human rights.  
 In support of that message, we are strengthening Radio Free Asia.  We are 
working with China to expand the rule of law and civil society programs in 
China so that rights already on the books there can become rights in reality.  
 This principled, pragmatic approach has produced significant results, although 
still far from enough.  Over the past year, China has released from jail two 
prominent dissidents -- Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan -- and Catholic Bishop 
Zeng.  It announced its intention to sign the International Covenant on Civil 
and Political Rights, which will subject China's human rights practices to 
regular scrutiny by independent international observers.  President Jiang 
received a delegation of prominent American religious leaders and invited them 
to visit Tibet.
 Seeking to isolate China will not free one more political dissident, will not 
open one more church to those who wish to worship, will do nothing to encourage 
China to live by the laws it has written.  Instead, it will limit our ability 
to advance human rights and religious and political freedom.
 When I travel to China I will take part in an official greeting ceremony in 
front of the Great Hall of the People, across from Tiananmen Square.  I will do 
so because that is where the Chinese government receives visiting heads of 
state and government, including President Chirac of France and, most recently, 
Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.  Some have suggested I should refuse to 
take part in this traditional ceremony, that somehow going there would absolve 
the Chinese government of its responsibility for the terrible killings at 
Tiananmen Square nine years ago, or indicate that America is no longer 
concerned about such conduct.  They are wrong.  
 Protocol and honoring a nation's traditional practices should not be confused 
with principle.  China's leaders, as I have repeatedly said, can only move 
beyond the events of June 1989, when they recognize the reality that what the 
government did was wrong.  Sooner or later they must do that.  And, perhaps 
even more important, they must change course on this fundamentally important 
 In my meetings with President Jiang and other Chinese leaders, and in my 
discussions with the Chinese people I will press ahead on human rights and 
religious freedom, urging that China follow through on its intention to sign 
the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that it release more individuals in 
prison for expressing their opinions, that it take concrete steps to preserve 
Tibet's cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage.
 We do not ignore the value of symbols.  But, in the end, if the choice is 
between making a symbolic point and making a real difference, I choose to make 
the difference.  And when it comes to advancing human rights and religious 
freedom, dealing directly and speaking honestly to the Chinese is clearly the 
best way to make a difference.
 China has known more millennia than the United States has known centuries.  
But for more than 220 years, we have been conducting a great experiment in 
democracy.  We must never lose confidence in the power of American experience 
or the strength of our example.  The more we share our ideas with the world, 
the more the world will come to share the ideals that animate America.  And 
they will become the aspirations of people everywhere.
 I should also say we should never lose sight of the fact that we have never 
succeeded in perfectly realizing our ideals here at home.  That calls for a 
little bit of humility and continued efforts on our part on the home front.
 China will choose its own destiny, but we can influence that choice by making 
the right choice ourselves -- working with China where we can, dealing directly 
with our differences where we must.  Bringing China into the community of 
nations rather than trying to shut it out is plainly the best way to advance 
both our interests and our values.  It is the best way to encourage China to 
follow the path of stability, openness, nonaggression; to embrace free markets, 
political pluralism, the rule of law; to join us in building a stable 
international order where free people can make the most of their lives and give 
vent to their children's dreams.
 That kind of China, rather than one turned inward and confrontational, is 
profoundly in our interests.  That kind of China can help to shape a 21st 
century that is the most peaceful and prosperous era the world has ever known.  
 Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
END 11:00 A.M. EDT

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