The White House Briefing Room

March 11, 1999


4:07 P.M. (L)


                                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)


	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 
	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 

	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.