November 9, 1987

Today in Geneva the United States and the Soviet Union will begin formal, stage-by-stage negotiations on nuclear testing. I have long advocated a logical approach to nuclear testing limitations which preserves our national security interests while achieving verifiable agreements with the Soviet Union. I am gratified that we have now agreed on this step-by-step approach.

As a first step, the United States and the Soviet Union will negotiate improved verification measures for two existing but unratified nuclear testing treaties, the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty. Once our verification concerns have been satisfied and the treaties ratified, we will propose that the United States and the Soviet Union immediately enter into negotiations on ways to implement a step-by-step program -- in association with a program to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons -- of limiting and ultimately ending nuclear testing.

It is important to recall at this time that our nuclear deterrent has for over 40 years kept the peace. As successful as this policy has been, I believe we cannot be content for the indefinite future with a deterrence relationship based exclusively on the threat of offensive retaliation. We must continue our search through our Strategic Defense Initiative for a means of deterring aggression through increased reliance on defenses that threaten no one.

For as long as we must continue to rely on nuclear weapons for our security, however, we must ensure that those weapons are safe, secure, reliable, effective, and survivable -- in other words, that our nuclear deterrent remains credible. This requires nuclear testing, as permitted by existing treaties. It is only within the context of decreasing reliance on nuclear weapons that we can look forward to a time when our needs for nuclear testing would also decrease. That is my objective and one the United States is prepared to work energetically toward.