Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Nuclear and Space Arms Negotiations

 

January 22, 1988

 

Today the President directed our negotiators at the nuclear and space talks in Geneva to table a draft treaty in the defense and space forum of the negotiations. This step is in fulfillment of the agreement which the President and General Secretary Gorbachev reached at their recent summit in Washington.

 

In the joint statement following the summit, the United States and Soviet delegations in Geneva were instructed to work out an agreement that would commit the two sides to observe the ABM treaty as signed in 1972 while conducting their research, development, and testing as required, which are permitted by the ABM treaty, and not to withdraw from the ABM treaty for a specified period of time. It was also agreed that such an agreement must have the same legal status as the treaty on strategic offensive arms, the ABM treaty, and other similar legally binding agreements.

 

The U.S. draft treaty we tabled today would accomplish and advance these goals. It calls for a separate and new treaty that faithfully embodies the elements of agreement reached at the summit. It would help to provide a jointly managed, predictable, precise, and stable basis for developing, testing, and -- when proven feasible -- deploying advanced defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. Such defenses would decrease the risk of war.

 

We hope that the Soviet delegation will join us in serious discussions to conclude a defense and space treaty that achieves the important goals which the two leaders identified at the Washington summit. At the same time, we will press ahead with our negotiations to conclude a treaty providing for 50-percent reductions in U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive arms. We hope, with today's tabling of a draft defense and space treaty, to hasten progress toward a safer and more stable world, one with reduced levels of nuclear arms and an enhanced ability to deter war based on the increasing contribution of effective strategic defenses against ballistic missile attack.