THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (Antigua, Guatemala) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 11, 1999 REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING CEREMONY AND SUMMIT CLOSING STATEMENTS Casa Santo Domingo, Convention Center Antigua, Guatemala 4:07 P.M. (L) PRESIDENT CLINTON: ............. Q President Clinton, did your administration ignore evidence of nuclear espionage by the Chinese in order to further your policy of engagement? And what do you have to say to Republicans calling for Sandy Berger's resignation? PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, we did not ignore evidence. Quite the contrary; we acted on it. Let me say for the benefit of all the press, both American and others, looking at this issue -- there are two questions that need to be looked at separately. One is, did we respond in an appropriate, timely, and aggressive way to indications of espionage. The second is, is our policy toward China of engagement the right one. Now, the answer to the first question is, I believe the record is clear that we did respond in an appropriate way. In 1996, we were notified that there was some indication of a breach of security at one of the energy labs and that the appropriate agencies were investigating. The appropriate congressional committees were notified at the same time. Since then, they have received at least 16 briefings on this issue. Now, in 1997, in July, we were notified that the scope of the potential espionage might be very broad, and might be directly related to lax security at the energy labs. At that time, we moved quickly and decisively not only with the continuing FBI investigation and with the CIA review, but also with an intense review of the counterintelligence capacities of our energy department labs. As a result of that, in February of '98, I signed a presidential directive to dramatically improve the counterintelligence capacities of the lab. In April of '98, we set up a counterintelligence office by the energy labs, headed by a 35-year FBI veteran with a record of dealing with espionage. We doubled the counterintelligence budget. We raised the standards for foreign visitors to the labs; we said foreign scientists had to be accompanied to the labs. I think we began to polygraph DOE employees at some point -- only two agencies, DOE and the CIA, have their employees subject to polygraphs. Simultaneous with that, in terms of technology controls, we subject China to the tightest restrictions of technology transfer that we have on any country that is not on an embargo list for the United States. So I think the record is that we acted aggressively. I think Mr. Berger acted appropriately and, therefore, I would not release him or ask for his resignation. I just don't think there's any evidence to support that. Now, let me say, the second question -- and this affects the welfare of everybody else in the world, if you realize how China is growing, both economically and the size of their population; this affects the welfare of every person in Central America -- whether the United States and China are at odds in a conflict or have a constructive relationship that has honest disagreements, where nobody is under any illusions that the facts are different than they are. I would argue that our efforts to have an honest and open policy with China, so that they don't think that we have made a decision in advance to try to contain and limit them in their economic growth and their development as a nation, has paid dividends. I do not believe that China would have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; I do not believe they would have practiced the restraint they have practiced in the transfer of various dangerous materials to countries like Iran and Pakistan if we had not been constructively engaged with them. I do not believe that we would have had the level of cooperation in Korea in trying to limit North Korea's ability to develop nuclear capacity that we have had. I do not believe we would have had the cooperation we have had in trying to limit the impact of the Asian financial crisis, which has plunged tens of millions of people from the middle class into poverty in Asia, and represents the biggest short-term threat to democracy and to stability in Asia. I do not believe those things would have occurred if we had not had an open, candid, honest relationship with China, aware of all the facts. Keep in mind, this is about a case that developed in the mid-'80s. We have known about China's nuclear capacity and their capacity to pose a strategic threat and, more or less, what the dimensions of that were since the 1980s. And this raises the question of whether some espionage in the '80s was somehow related to that capacity. We have investigated it; we continue to investigate it. We have dramatically increased our intelligence. I believe we have taken all appropriate steps. I do not believe that that evidence justifies an isolated no-contact relationship with China when we have gotten the benefits not only to ourselves, but to the rest of the world of our engagement policy.