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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 1998





Senator Lott's Remarks re Transfer of Sensitive U.S. Technology to China


Alleged US Technology Used in China's Missile Systems




DPB # 85
TUESDAY, JULY 14, 1998 12:45 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is Tuesday; that would make yesterday Monday.

QUESTION: And tomorrow Wednesday.

MR. RUBIN: Precisely.


QUESTION: Just to see if this is the place for the answer - it may not be and that's fine - probably the White House is the place. Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott in a speech today said Senate investigators have determined that China received sensitive technology and military benefits from US satellite exports. He also went on to call the Administration export controls for satellite wholly inadequate. The democratic leader found some politics in the statement. Can you - is this the place to deal with the substance of that, since State is so actively trying to stem proliferation of dangerous technology?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly we're doing that. On the other hand, as you rightly indicated, we try as best as we can to keep politics outside the briefing room, and the State Department and I will continue to do that. Let me make two points.

Number one, we do believe that being able to have a policy which allows for the launching of American satellites is in the national interest of the United States.

It's in the national interest of the United States for four reasons: because it promotes the competitiveness that we believe is an advantage for the United States -- it's an area of competitive advantage for communications technology. Number two, it promotes openness in China. As we saw with the President's trip, the more communication there is in China and the more technology for communication, the greater the likelihood that the Chinese people will see and have an opportunity to see and hear a wide variety of views. Thirdly, it's part and parcel of our engagement policy; and that is that we want to engage the Chinese across the board to promote improvements in the areas of concern to the United States. And finally, it's an important part of our non-proliferation policy to the extent that allowing these kinds of satellite launches can be used to encourage China to improve its non-proliferation practices - that is, not providing assistance to other countries in the missile and nuclear and chemical and biological areas - that's important to the United States.

With respect to the substance, our view hasn't changed; and that is that we do not believe that this policy has contributed to China's ability to launch ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons; that capability was there before. The experts have testified, from our perspective, of what the various incidents have and haven't done, and that has not been their conclusion.

With respect to the overall question of the investigation and other statements that the Majority Leader said, I think it's best left to the White House to respond. But that is still our view on the policy and on the specific incident.

QUESTION: Jamie, sort of a related matter - there was a story today in one of the local newspapers saying that the satellite program had enabled or had pushed China down the road to deploying multiple warhead ballistic missiles. If you could address that --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, this is not a new issue. I can't, obviously, comment on any alleged intelligence reports that allegedly found itself to an alleged newspaper in an alleged city in an alleged country called the United States. But let me specifically deal with the question, and tell you that the United States has not authorized the providing of China with technology useful in upgrading its ballistic missiles; nor, to my knowledge, is there evidence that the US actually provided China with technology for the delivery of multiple satellites.

The dispenser for iridium satellites was built by the Chinese, using Chinese technology; it was not American technology for dispensing satellites that then could be useful for dispensing warheads on a multiple warhead missile. By definition, because it was Chinese technology that created the satellite dispenser, it reflects Chinese capabilities; and the United States, to my knowledge, has not added to those capabilities.

QUESTION: Can these multiple satellite dispensers also function as multiple warhead --

MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, there are many technical steps that need to go between that. The objectives of a MIRV capability and a satellite dispenser capability are significantly different. The release of a satellite in orbit does not require much accuracy and allows for a wide margin of error. A MIRV capability requires extreme accuracy for re-entry to ensure the warhead hits its target. If it doesn't, it can burn up in the atmosphere. Thus, the standards and requirements for release of satellites into orbit are far, far lower than those necessary for a MIRV capability. That's a technical matter.

As I understand it, in this case, the satellite dispenser that was used in the launch of Motorola iridium satellites was designed, developed and produced by the Chinese, and that Motorola provided only the technical data sufficient to ensure that the satellite would work with the Chinese dispenser system. So these are the technical reasons why we don't believe that the charges by some experts about what the result of all this is not - are just --

QUESTION: And in just sort of a step back in sort of a broader picture, do you or the Administration see a use, a reason for China to have a multiple warhead missile in a time when the rest of the world is kind of going the other way?

MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly, it is our view that we are moving in the direction of disarmament, not escalating the arms competition. And in our efforts with the Russians, we have made great strides in reducing the size and the capabilities in the offensive area of strategic nuclear forces. And to the extent possible, we would like to see all countries in the world moving in the disarmament direction, not in the nuclear arms race direction, as part of not only a reduced risk for each country, as evidenced by the de-targeting agreement that came up in China, but also by the signal it sends to other countries around the world that nuclear weapons are not going to make you safer, nuclear weapons are not going to make your standing in the international community increase. So that is our general view.


QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)


[end of document]

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