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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Missile Proliferation

U.S. Explores North Korean Offer to Terminate Missile Program

In Exchange for Satellite Launch Aid

Alex Wagner

Washington and Moscow are taking seriously an offer North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il made to Russian President Vladimir Putin in July to terminate Pyongyang’s testing, development, and production of long-range ballistic missiles in exchange for international assistance with satellite launches. There has been confusion as to whether Kim made the offer in good faith since August 14, when South Korean media reported that Kim said he had been joking when he made the suggestion to Putin.

The United States sent Ambassador Wendy Sherman to Moscow August 28 to discuss North Korea’s missile program and Kim’s apparent offer. Sherman met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. A State Department official said that the two sides had “good discussions.” The United States and Russia agree that it is “important to explore” North Korea’s offer, and for now, Washington is “taking it seriously,” according to the official.

Putin had made the first-ever visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Pyongyang on July 19, stopping en route to Okinawa, Japan, for a meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. After a two-hour meeting, Putin told the Russian news agency Interfax that “North Korea on the whole is ready to use exclusively other nations’ rocket technologies if it receives rocket boosters for peaceful space exploration.”

Initially, the precise conditions of the proposal were unclear, and U.S. officials were concerned that North Korea wanted to import a booster-rocket capability, which could be used to launch weapons as well as satellites. The potential threat of North Korean ICBMs is one of Washington’s primary justifications for pursuing deployment of a limited national missile defense system. Russia has vehemently opposed the deployment of such a system, which would require amending the 1972 ABM Treaty, and has rejected the idea that North Korea presents a threat.

State Department spokesmen Adam Ereli told reporters July 20 that the United States was “very interested” in North Korea’s reported proposal, as long as it was done by “other countries, using launch services from existing launch providers under strict technology safeguards.”

On July 22, Putin presented an extensive account of his discussions with Kim Jong-Il to the heads of state at the G-8 summit. In a press conference later that day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov specified that the missile deal was “not a matter of launching from North Korean territory, but from the territory of other countries.”

The following week, at the July 28 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attempted to clarify the details of the Putin announcement with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun—the highest level U.S.-North Korean meeting to date. In describing her talks with Paek as “a substantively modest but symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past,” Albright admitted that she was “not able to glean” any further details about the missile offer from her North Korean counterpart.

The Washington Post reported in an August 3 article that in an exchange of “confidential letters” following the Putin-Kim meeting, North Korea had reaffirmed its offer to end its missile program and suggested that “concerned countries” pay for two or three satellite launches per year.

However, at an August 13 luncheon in Pyongyang, Kim reportedly informed an audience of 46 South Korean publishers and broadcasters that his missile proposal to Putin was merely meant “in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies,” according to the Korea Times. English excerpts from the lunch published in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo quoted Kim as saying, “I told Russian President Putin that we will stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites.”

Sherman will discuss the issue further with South Korea and Japan when she represents the United States in Seoul at a September 1 meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, which was set up for the three countries to coordinate policy on North Korea.

U.S. Explores North Korean Offer to Terminate Missile Program In Exchange for Satellite-Launch Aid

Alex Wagner

Washington and Moscow are taking seriously an offer North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il made to Russian President Vladimir Putin in July to terminate Pyongyang's testing, development, and production of long-range ballistic missiles in exchange for international assistance with satellite launches. There has been confusion as to whether Kim made the offer in good faith since August 14, when South Korean media reported that Kim said he had been joking when he made the suggestion to Putin.

The United States sent Ambassador Wendy Sherman to Moscow August 28 to discuss North Korea's missile program and Kim's apparent offer. Sherman met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. A State Department official said that the two sides had "good discussions." The United States and Russia agree that it is "important to explore" North Korea's offer, and for now, Washington is "taking it seriously," according to the official.

Putin had made the first-ever visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Pyongyang on July 19, stopping en route to Okinawa, Japan, for a meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. After a two-hour meeting, Putin told the Russian news agency Interfax that "North Korea on the whole is ready to use exclusively other nations' rocket technologies if it receives rocket boosters for peaceful space exploration."

Initially, the precise conditions of the proposal were unclear, and U.S. officials were concerned that North Korea wanted to import a booster-rocket capability, which could be used to launch weapons as well as satellites. The potential threat of North Korean ICBMs is one of Washington's primary justifications for pursuing deployment of a limited national missile defense system. Russia has vehemently opposed the deployment of such a system, which would require amending the 1972 ABM Treaty, and has rejected the idea that North Korea presents a threat.

State Department spokesmen Adam Ereli told reporters July 20 that the United States was "very interested" in North Korea's reported proposal, as long as it was done by "other countries, using launch services from existing launch providers under strict technology safeguards."

On July 22, Putin presented an extensive account of his discussions with Kim Jong-Il to the heads of state at the G-8 summit. In a press conference later that day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov specified that the missile deal was "not a matter of launching from North Korean territory, but from the territory of other countries."

The following week, at the July 28 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attempted to clarify the details of the Putin announcement with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun—the highest level U.S.-North Korean meeting to date. In describing her talks with Paek as "a substantively modest but symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past," Albright admitted that she was "not able to glean" any further details about the missile offer from her North Korean counterpart.

The Washington Post reported in an August 3 article that in an exchange of "confidential letters" following the Putin-Kim meeting, North Korea had reaffirmed its offer to end its missile program and suggested that "concerned countries" pay for two or three satellite launches per year.

However, at an August 13 luncheon in Pyongyang, Kim reportedly informed an audience of 46 South Korean publishers and broadcasters that his missile proposal to Putin was merely meant "in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies," according to the Korea Times. English excerpts from the lunch published in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo quoted Kim as saying, "I told Russian President Putin that we will stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites."

Sherman will discuss the issue further with South Korea and Japan when she represents the United States in Seoul at a September 1 meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, which was set up for the three countries to coordinate policy on North Korea.

U.S.-China Arms Talks Resume

J. Peter Scoblic

After a 19-month hiatus, the United States and China resumed arms control talks in July, but high-level visits to Beijing failed to resolve Washington's concerns about China's transfer of missile technology to Pakistan. Those concerns were fueled during the summer by new reported U.S. intelligence in late June and by the August release of a biannual CIA report on proliferation. The new information also bolstered support for legislation that would punish Beijing and Chinese firms found to be violating proliferation norms.

In late June and early July, The New York Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review reported that, according to U.S. intelligence sources, China has increased its assistance to Pakistan's missile program and may be helping Pakistan construct a second factory to build M-11 missiles. The M-11 is a nuclear-capable missile with a reported range of 300 kilometers, meaning that it falls within the purview of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). U.S. officials would not comment on the reports, but they noted that China's missile cooperation with Pakistan has been a matter of concern for years.

The United States first imposed sanctions on Pakistani and Chinese entities in 1991 under provisions of the 1990 Defense Authorization Act governing the transfer of missile technology. However, the sanctions were waived the next year after Beijing agreed to abide by the terms of the MTCR, though it did not formally join the regime. In 1993, the United States again imposed sanctions against China and Pakistan for the transfer of M-11 related equipment and technology. Once again, the sanctions were lifted the next year after China promised to adhere to MTCR guidelines.

John Holum, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, discussed U.S. concerns about China's continued transfer of missile technology to Pakistan during a trip to Beijing in early July. The visit marked the first round of formal U.S.-Chinese arms control talks since November 1998. Beijing stopped all discussions with Washington following the May 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the U.S.-led airwar against Yugoslavia.

In a July 8 press briefing, Holum said that while he did address Chinese-Pakistani missile cooperation during his meetings with Chinese officials, the issue "remains unresolved." During the briefing, however, Holum stressed that China has dramatically improved its commitment to non-proliferation in recent years and said that there are "many more areas of agreement than disagreement" between the two countries.

Holum's trip was followed by a visit by Defense Secretary William Cohen, who arrived in Beijing on July 12 for talks on re-establishing military-to-military contacts. In a press conference after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, General Chi Haotian, Cohen said that China had denied transferring missile technology to Pakistan or any other country but that "the matter is still under discussion."

Chinese officials insist that Beijing has not continued to aid Lahore's M-11 program. According to a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Washington, "There is not a missile cooperation program between China and Pakistan." The spokesman went on to say that Beijing is "seriously considering" joining the MTCR. However, an unclassified CIA report presented biannual to Congress and released August 8 noted that "Chinese entities provided increased assistance to Pakistan's ballistic missile program during the second half of 1999."

 

Thompson Bill

The media coverage and the CIA report were used by Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) as further justification for a bill he introduced May 25 termed the China Nonproliferation Act (S. 2645). As originally written, the law would require the president to submit an annual report to Congress on any Chinese entities engaged in exporting items that could be used in weapons of mass destruction, ballistic and cruise missiles, or advanced conventional weapons. The act mandates sanctions against those entities and the Chinese government.

Although the bill has bipartisan support, it was not brought to a vote this summer, partly because of resistance from the White House. The administration objected to the non-proliferation bill's exclusive focus on China and the fact that it would limit the ways in which the president could respond to evidence of proliferation. Disagreement over the bill held up legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China—a high priority for the Clinton administration.

Following meetings with congressional leaders and administration representatives, Thompson announced July 25 that he had revised the bill. Specifically, he said that the scope of the bill had been enlarged to include not just China but all proliferating countries, as identified by the CIA, and that the modified legislation gave the president more leeway in imposing sanctions.

The revised legislation has not yet been formally submitted, and the Senate recessed for August without taking any action. According to a Thompson staffer, it is not likely that the legislation will be brought to a floor as a stand-alone bill. Thompson may therefore choose to attach the China Nonproliferation Act to the PNTR legislation in order to ensure action this fall, the staffer said.

U.S.-China Arms Talks Resume

Slovakia Begins Dismantling SS-23s

In a move Slovak officials have termed a sign of goodwill to the West, Slovakia began scrapping its technologically defunct SS-23 missiles in mid-May. Under the auspices of a memorandum signed in late April, the United States will provide approximately $385,000 to finance the destruction of the six remaining SS-23s and two remaining mobile launchers, an operation that is expected to be concluded by October.

The SS-23 has a range of 400 to 500 kilometers and is capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Slovakia acquired its SS-23s following the 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which had received the missiles from the Soviet Union. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary all liquidated their SS-23 systems years ago. The Soviet Union dismantled all its SS-23s under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The Slovak SS-23s reached the end of their service lives in 1998, but Slovakia did not have the financial resources to dispose of the missiles.

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright of the plan to scrap the missiles during a visit to Washington in late April. Kukan also reiterated Slovakia's desire to join NATO, a goal that Albright assured Kukan would receive full U.S. support. Slovakia joined nine Central and Eastern European countries May 19 to lobby collectively for admission to NATO.

Slovakia Begins Dismantling SS-23s

Negotiating an End to North Korea's Missile-Making

Leon V. Sigal

In the debate over national missile defense, threatmongers are hyping the missile menace from so-called rogue states to justify spending $60 billion on defenses. Exhibit A for missile defense proponents has been North Korea. But the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) has refrained from testing a ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States, and even worst-case estimates put it a decade away from deploying one. Long before that, Washington could negotiate a ban on development, production, and export of Pyongyang's medium- and longer-range missiles—a less risky way to counter the threat than unproven missile defenses.

In a major stride toward such a ban, North Korea agreed last September to suspend testing while missile talks proceed. It was expected to send a high-level representative to Washington to conduct the talks, assuring equally high-level attention in the U.S. government. In return, the United States announced on September 17 that it would ease its decades-long economic embargo on North Korea.

North Korea has kept its end of the bargain; there has been no untoward activity at its missile test sites since September. The United States has been slow to reciprocate but is now committed to relaxing sanctions soon. Until it does, however, North Korea's high-level representative will not come to Washington, and lower-level nuclear and missile talks are likely to go nowhere fast.

A summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, scheduled for June 12-14 in Pyongyang, could improve prospects for a negotiated end to the North's medium- and longer-range missile program. So could normalization talks between Japan and North Korea, resumed this year after an almost eight-year lapse.

Both Tokyo and Seoul recognize that an end to adversarial relations with Pyongyang is the best way to halt proliferation and improve security in Northeast Asia, but that lesson has not yet been absorbed in much of Washington. U.S. policy-makers must ask themselves why North Korea would move to disarm if the United States remains intent on treating it like a foe.

To negotiate an end to North Korea's missile threat, the United States and the D.P.R.K. need to set political relations on a new course by declaring an end to enmity. As a practical step toward that end, the United States should call off its economic embargo now. In return, the D.P.R.K. would agree in writing to a formal moratorium on missile testing as a first step toward a comprehensive ban.

Pyongyang's Missile Game

Most experts assume North Korea is racing headlong to develop long-range missiles, but if Pyongyang had wanted missiles worth deploying or selling, it should have been perfecting the No Dong, Taepo Dong-1, and Taepo Dong-2 with repeated testing. Instead, it has conducted just two medium- or longer-range missile tests in the past decade—one of the No Dong on May 29, 1993, and another of the Taepo Dong-1 on August 31, 1998—both of them failures.

North Korea's restraint is just one sign of its interest in a diplomatic resolution of the missile issue. Since 1992 it has expressed its willingness to stop exporting missiles, for a price. In October 1992, Israel took up a North Korean invitation to open talks in Pyongyang. In January 1993, the director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Eitan Bentsur, made an offer of diplomatic relations and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and technical assistance in mining and agriculture as inducements for North Korea to halt its missile exports to Iran, Pakistan, and others. But Israel broke off negotiations at the insistence of the United States, which wanted to keep pressure on Pyongyang to force it to give up its nuclear weapons program.

In 1996, the United States opened missile talks of its own with the D.P.R.K., but in the ensuing two years Washington held just two rounds of talks, hardly an indication of seriousness. On June 16, 1998, North Korea made public an offer to negotiate an end not only to its exports but also to "development"—its word—of new missiles. Development is usually understood to cover both tests and the production of missiles for the purpose of testing. With that offer came a threat to resume tests if negotiations were not held.

The June 16 statement, carried in English by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, was very explicit: "Our missile export is aimed at obtaining money we need at present. As the United States has pursued economic isolation of the D.P.R.K. for more than half a century, our resources of foreign money have been circumscribed. ... If the United States really wants to prevent our missile export, it should lift the economic embargo as soon as possible and make compensation for the losses to be caused by discontinued missile export."

In a breakthrough, the statement went beyond the issue of exports: "The discontinuation of our missile development is a matter which can be discussed after a peace agreement is signed between the D.P.R.K. and the United States and the U.S. military threat [is] completely removed. If the U.S. concern about our missiles is truly related to the peace and security of Northeast Asia, the United States should immediately accept the D.P.R.K.-proposed peace agreement for the establishment of a durable peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula." By a "peace agreement" North Korea means something less formal than a peace treaty. A change in the political relationship between the United States and the D.P.R.K. would remove the "U.S. military threat" as perceived by Pyongyang; the withdrawal of U.S. forces would not because the North would still be at risk from U.S. forces offshore. The "peace mechanism" is a military-to-military channel involving the United States, South Korea, and North Korea that Pyongyang has sought to replace the Military Armistice Commission, set up to monitor the cease-fire ending the Korean War.

When the United States did not take up this offer, North Korea carried out its threat to resume tests, launching a three-stage rocket on August 31 in a failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit.

In short, for eight years the D.P.R.K. has been expressing interest in a missile deal, but it was unwilling to give up its missiles without getting something in return. Most observers took this as a desperate ploy by a regime on the ropes to obtain foreign aid in order to revive its moribund economy. Instead, what North Korea wanted most of all was a political accommodation with the United States, South Korea, and Japan to ensure its security.

This is nothing new. Pyongyang has been trying to reach out to all three countries since the late 1980s.

Whenever the United States moved to accommodate it, the D.P.R.K. responded in kind. When President George Bush announced the withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear arms from South Korea in September 1991, Pyongyang signed a denuclearization accord with Seoul and a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It backed up its words with deeds. To make nuclear arms, North Korea would have had to shut down its reactor, take out the spent fuel, and reprocess it to extract plutonium, the explosive ingredient in nuclear weapons. In a step later verified by IAEA inspectors, it halted reprocessing in autumn 1991. It also delayed removing spent nuclear fuel from its reactor until May 1994, long after the IAEA and the United States expected it to. In October 1994, it concluded the Agreed Framework, freezing its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has adhered to the Agreed Framework even though the United States failed to deliver promised heavy-fuel oil on time, has been even slower to ease its economic embargo, and has yet to start construction of replacement reactors through the consortium it leads.

North Korea has showed some self-restraint in its missile program as well. On at least two occasions, in May 1994 and in October 1996, the North suspended preparations for missile tests at the request of the United States. Meanwhile, the United States kept South Korea from developing longer-range missiles. At the time of the Taepo Dong-1 test in August 1998, the United States had just opened talks with North Korea about gaining access to the suspect nuclear site at Kumchang-ni. Ever since Washington resumed those talks after a brief recess, Pyongyang has refrained from testing the longer-range Taepo Dong-2, a test that U.S. intelligence has assessed as "likely."1 In May 1999, North Korea granted access to the underground site at Kumchang-ni. Last September it agreed to suspend missile testing in return for an end to sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

By contrast, when Washington did not engage in diplomatic give-and-take or failed to carry out its agreements, Pyongyang retaliated. When Washington ignored Pyongyang's proposal for replacement reactors in June 1992 and instead resumed "Team Spirit" military exercises with South Korea in March 1993, Pyongyang gave notice of its intent to renounce the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Similarly, when the United States intervened to stop Israel from trying to negotiate an end to its missile exports, North Korea conducted its first and only No Dong test on March 29.

While exercising some restraint, Pyongyang has kept its nuclear and missile options open. That has led many observers to conclude that it is engaged in blackmail, intended to coerce Washington into providing economic aid. It is not. It has been playing tit-for-tat, cooperating whenever the United States cooperated, retaliating whenever the United States reneged, in an effort to get Washington to negotiate in earnest.2

Needless to say, North Korea's bristling bargaining behavior has not made cooperation politically easier in Washington. But the way to stop playing tit-for-tat is not to threaten the North but instead to try cooperation and see whether Pyongyang reciprocates. As former Secretary of Defense William Perry wisely counseled, "Keep your powder dry."

If the past is prologue, cooperating with Pyongyang works. The Agreed Framework has frozen North Korea's known nuclear program. Enough plutonium for five warheads is now stored in casks under the watchful eyes of the IAEA, awaiting shipment out of Yongbyon. The reactor at Yongbyon capable of generating more plutonium-laden spent fuel is shut down, along with a nearby reprocessing plant, and construction of two larger reactors has been halted.

Moscow, Beijing, and Tokyo Get It

Russia and China are well aware of North Korea's desire for a diplomatic resolution of the missile issue. That is why Russian President Vladimir Putin recently offered to work with the United States to induce North Korea to cease development of longer-range ballistic missiles.3 That is also why Beijing has concluded that U.S. missile defenses are aimed at it, not North Korea. "The U.S. is a huge superpower and you're afraid of little North Korea?" Sha Zukang, China's director-general for arms control and disarmament, said recently.4

China's possible reaction to U.S. missile defenses has also encouraged other states in the region to support a diplomatic resolution with North Korea. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that China is intent on modernizing its missile forces regardless of what the United States does about missile defenses. That wisdom is fatally flawed because it ignores both the potential magnitude of China's response and the political ramifications of that response for the U.S. position in Asia.

As of 1995, China had deployed just 18 missiles capable of reaching the United States, although it has long had the capacity to build more.5 If the United States decides to deploy defenses, China's armed forces will not only deploy more missiles to counter them, but will also demand a hike in defense spending to pay for the missiles rather than cut back on conventional arming. At a time of slowed economic growth, such a reallocation of resources from domestic needs to defense will prompt an intense struggle between the military and the regional authorities, who want more spent on domestic needs. In that struggle, the United States will be cast as China's foe, possibly setting off a new cold war in Asia and making U.S.-China cooperation all but impossible.

This possibility puts America's allies, Taiwan and Japan, in a bind. While they are reluctant to offend a Congress that makes missile defenses the litmus test of alliance, they do not want to provoke China's hostility either. It is for that reason that the newly elected leadership in Taiwan quietly favors a negotiated solution to the missile threats in Northeast Asia.

That is the same reason why Japan, once it got over the shock of the August 1998 Taepo Dong-1 overflight, moved smartly under the late Keizo Obuchi and his successor, Yoshiro Mori, to resume long-deferred normalization talks with North Korea. For eight years Tokyo had demanded, as a precondition for talks, to be told the whereabouts of 10 Japanese citizens it believes were abducted by Pyongyang; but it dropped that demand. Instead, Japan decided to address the issue in parallel talks, much as the United States is handling the issue of Americans missing in action from the Korean War. In Red Cross talks in March, the D.P.R.K. said it had started a thoroughgoing search for the 10 Japanese citizens.

In normalization talks Pyongyang wants Japan to make amends for its harsh treatment of Koreans after it annexed Korea in 1910. It wants compensation, including the return of cultural artifacts looted under Japanese misrule, and an improvement in the legal status of ethnic Koreans residing in Japan. When Japan normalized ties with South Korea in 1965, it extended $500 million in grants and loans in return for renunciation of claims to Korean assets seized in the past. Pyongyang will want more of an apology and recompense than Seoul got from Tokyo.

Japan is prepared to be generous with its words and its yen. As a sign of its priorities, it has quietly set aside much more money for aid and investment for North Korea than it has allocated for research on missile defenses. It could eventually stop barring Pyongyang's admission to the Asian Development Bank—a step that would put Tokyo in a position to provide the lion's share of any quid pro quo for a ban on tests, production, and ultimately deployment of North Korea's medium- and longer-range missiles. It would also put Japan in a position to negotiate a missile deal of its own with North Korea if U.S.-D.P.R.K. talks falter.

Other states are ready to do their share as well. Israel has expressed renewed interest in providing economic aid and full diplomatic recognition if North Korea restrains its missile exports. "We are willing to support North Korea's agricultural industry if Pyongyang requests our aid," Israel's ambassador to Seoul, Arie Azari, told a reporter in February. "Whether [diplomatic] relations can take shape or not depends mainly on the North's willingness to stop its missile exports."6 Italy, which does not want to see Libya or others in North Africa acquire missile technology, also established diplomatic relations with the D.P.R.K. at the beginning of this year.

The North-South Summit

Under Kim Dae Jung, South Korea has been even more resolute than Japan in taking a cooperative course with the North. At the outset of his administration, Kim spoke of separating economics from politics and encouraging businesses from the South to invest in the North. Over 100 firms have done so, helping to boost North-South trade to a record $330 million last year. This policy was symbolized by Hyundai-operated tours to Mount Kumgang, which brought thousands of South Koreans to the North for the first time and provided Pyongyang with tens of millions of dollars in much-needed hard currency. Kim also encouraged charities to aid the D.P.R.K.

In his New Year's Day address this year, Kim moved beyond encouraging private investment and aid to propose government-to-government talks to found an inter-Korean economic community. Then, in a speech in Berlin on March 9, he announced that the South Korean government is ready to help North Korea through its economic difficulties. He reiterated that the South's "immediate objective is to put an end to the cold war confrontation and settle peace rather than attempting to accomplish reunification," and he again urged the North to arrange reunions of families divided by the Korean War. His venue added resonance to his message that, as a Berliner might word it, Ostpolitik, not Anschluss was the order of the day. Kim closed by renewing his invitation for a dialogue between "government authorities" to open "without delay."

Eight days later, on March 17, ministers from the North and South held secret talks in Shanghai. After several unofficial contacts, they met again in Beijing on April 7 and 8 and agreed to the June summit meeting. North Korea's acceptance came just days before National Assembly elections with polls showing President Kim's party about to lose ground. Instead, it picked up seats, although it still fell short of a majority.

If held, the meeting would be Kim Jong Il's second with any head of state since he succeeded his father and the first North-South summit ever. An earlier attempt arranged by Jimmy Carter in June 1994 collapsed after Kim Il Sung died, setting off a vain attempt by Seoul to disparage his successor and destabilize the North. Kim Dae Jung's prospective visit to Pyongyang and a return visit by Kim Jong Il to Seoul could have the impact that Anwar Sadat's transforming trip to Israel did—but only if the two leaders get the political relationship right.

South Korea is full of talk about economic aid for North Korea, but the opposition has criticized the government for not tying aid to Pyongyang's acceptance of family reunions. That linkage has the unfortunate connotation of trading in human life. Kim Dae Jung is right to put the emphasis on the political purpose of aid—reassuring the North that the South does not seek its collapse. The June summit could exceed expectations if the sides take steps to end their half-century-long civil war.

A pledge to end adversarial relations is the key to family reunions. Only when the civil war between North and South is over can families divided by that war come together again. Declaring an end to enmity would also reinvigorate four-party talks, which aim at a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. For a peace treaty to be meaningful, it is necessary to reduce the risk of inadvertent war on the peninsula. The North signaled its desire for that when it accompanied its acceptance of a summit with a pullback of FROG-7 rockets from the Demilitarized Zone and Silkworm missiles from the Northern Limit Line, as well as a reduction in the operating tempo of its naval patrols.7

A first step could be a peace agreement to replace the Military Armistice Commission with the new three-way "peace mechanism" sought by Pyongyang. That military-to-military mechanism, which would involve the three countries with armed forces on the peninsula, would become a channel for working out the details of a gradual pullback and drawdown of forces poised along the Demilitarized Zone. In that context, the presence of U.S. forces is not likely to be the issue; their role will be. The North envisions them serving as a potential stabilizing force on the peninsula—but only if the United States changes its political posture from that of a foe to that of a partner of sorts.

A change in political relations is critical to preventing proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. Once the political conditions are put in place, economic engagement with the South could help curb the North's appetite for nuclear weapons and missiles. As North Korea begins producing other goods for a world market, it will have ways to acquire hard currency other than exporting missiles. With construction of replacement reactors under the Agreed Framework years behind schedule, Pyongyang has also sought to make up for the loss of electricity.8 It has proposed linking the North to South Korean transmission lines. As South Korean firms increase investment in the North, they will need a reliable supply of electricity and could help defray the cost of the hookup.

Washington Lags Behind

If the North-South summit meeting is a testament to South Korean President Kim's enduring faith that cooperating with Pyongyang works, it is also a testament to the Perry process. The Clinton administration's North Korea policy had been dangerously adrift from 1995 until 1998, when Perry's policy review set it on a cooperative course with Pyongyang. That helped persuade Pyongyang to agree to a summit meeting with Seoul. But the Clinton administration has been slow to act. If dialogue is to end the cold war in Korea, the United States will have to do its part.

President Clinton warmly endorsed the summit meeting. Some in his administration, tired of trying to coax partisan opponents in Congress into paying the price of cooperation with Pyongyang, are only too happy to have Seoul in the driver's seat with Pyongyang. Others are less sanguine. Their fear is that Seoul will move too far, too fast with Pyongyang without addressing the nuclear and missile matters that preoccupy Washington. Both the South and the North prefer not to let those issues get in the way of Korean cooperation. Any interference by Washington would reawaken resentment by South Korean officials, who recall efforts by the Bush administration to impede the North-South dialogue in 1991 and 1992.

In Seoul there is rash talk about a "post-Perry process" now that the North is engaged in direct dialogue with the South. While impatience with Washington's hesitation is growing in Seoul and Pyongyang, South Koreans who assume that the North is eager to move ahead with the South while letting relations with the United States lag far behind are likely to be disappointed.

Some North Koreans speak of Washington as a "harmonizer" of relations between North and South. They have in mind not Camp David, where the United States mediated between former enemies, but something more subtly supportive of reconciliation between North and South Korea.

Reconciliation between Washington and Pyongyang is the key to reconciliation between North and South Korea. Washington can begin by carrying out its promise to lift sanctions.

An Agreed Framework on Missiles

The lifting of sanctions would lead to high-level talks in Washington, which could clear the way for a second agreed framework, freezing the North's missile program and drawing up a road map for its eventual elimination. In the talks, Pyongyang is seeking something like the 1972 Shanghai communiqué between the United States and China, which set relations with Washington on a new course. That means declaring an end to the 50-year enmity between the two sides. In return, North Korea stands ready to agree in writing to a moratorium on missile tests.

To obtain the agreed framework on missiles, however, the United States must first carry out its end of the October 1994 Agreed Framework. In Pyongyang's view, that means, above all, putting an end to sanctions.

The 1994 accord provided that "the two sides will move toward full normalization of political and economic relations." With respect to sanctions, it stipulated only that "within three months of the date of this document, both sides will reduce barriers to trade and investment, including restrictions on telecom services and financial transactions." Further easing of sanctions, in the U.S. interpretation, was linked to resolution of the missile and terrorism issues, among other things, and to North-South dialogue—a linkage it forged in the negotiations, though not in the language of the accord. The Agreed Framework merely states, "As progress is made on issues of concern to each side, the U.S. and D.P.R.K. will upgrade bilateral relations to the ambassadorial level." Reverse linkage can be read into the provision on inter-Korean matters: "The D.P.R.K. will engage in North-South dialogue, as this Agreed Framework will help create an atmosphere that promotes such dialogue." In any event, Pyongyang has now suspended missile tests and set a date for a North-South summit, inviting an easing of the embargo.

Pyongyang also wants Washington to end sanctions under U.S. anti-terrorism statutes. "We cannot visit the United States [wearing] the cap of a terrorist," North Korea's ambassador to China put it, underscoring the North's view that both sides had to be in an equal position for talks to succeed.9 The United States has been unwilling to take North Korea off its list of state sponsors of terrorism even though there is no evidence of Pyongyang's involvement in any terrorist act since 1987. In recognition of that fact, in October 1990 the Bush administration dropped terrorism from its list of preconditions for holding high-level talks with the North.

During talks in mid-March 2000, the United States asked the D.P.R.K. to issue a statement condemning terrorism, which it has since done, and to sign international conventions dealing with terrorism, which it is willing to do. The sole sticking point is that Pyongyang still harbors a handful of aging Red Army members whom Tokyo holds responsible for the 1970 hijacking of a Japanese airliner. Yet Pyongyang says it is ready to repatriate them. In the course of their normalization talks, Japan and the D.P.R.K. should be able to resolve the issue. That would remove any reason for the United States to maintain anti-terrorism sanctions against Pyongyang.

Once the political conditions are right, a verifiable ban on North Korean missile tests would not take long to work out. It would proscribe tests of missiles with a range in excess of 300 kilometers, a prohibition that could be verified by national technical means alone. A ban on the sale or transfer of missiles and missile technology would be more difficult to monitor. Ultimately, what is needed is a more detailed ban on missile production and deployment, which could be negotiated subsequently and would be modeled on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. That would provide for on-site verification to ensure that the North is not producing medium- or longer-range missiles for export or any other purpose.

An accommodation with Pyongyang would improve the political atmosphere for resolving leftover nuclear issues as well. The North has agreed to continue the nuclear talks. These talks have yielded access to the suspect nuclear site at Kumchang-ni, where two visits by U.S. inspectors have uncovered no evidence of any violation of the Agreed Framework. Pyongyang has indicated its willingness to allow continuous monitoring there by the United States. Other pending nuclear issues include getting Pyongyang to preserve the operating history of the Yongbyon reactor, which could contribute to ascertaining how much plutonium Pyongyang reprocessed in the past; expediting North Korean efforts under the Agreed Framework "to come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement," including "taking all steps that may be deemed necessary by the I.A.E.A."; and clearing up U.S. suspicions about North Korean efforts to acquire uranium-enrichment technology. The best strategy for ending North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and ensuring peace in Northeast Asia is cooperative threat reduction—combining reassurance with reciprocity, providing inducements on condition that potential proliferators accept nuclear restraints. Short of war, coercive strategies have had no success in preventing proliferation in the D.P.R.K. or anywhere else. Mutual accommodation through diplomatic give-and-take has already halted North Korea's known nuclear program and suspended its missile tests. Ending adversarial relations with the D.P.R.K. will put an end to the proliferation danger in Korea.

In the late 1980s North Korea's Kim Il Sung decided to reach out to the United States, South Korea, and Japan and transform political relations. Now, for the first time, Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo are ready to reciprocate. That will make it possible to put an end to the North Korean missile threat—without deploying untested missile defenses.


NOTES

The author would like to thank Samuel Huntington, Nikolai Sokov and Kimberly Zisk for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

1. Robert Walpole, national intelligence officer for strategic warning, "Testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services," February 9, 2000.

2. Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1985) demonstrates how cooperation can emerge from conflict and mistrust by following a tit-for-tat strategy.

3. Walter Pincus, "Russia Has Offer on Missile Defense," The Washington Post, April 29, 2000, p. A1.

4. Erik Eckholm, "China Says U.S. Missile Shield Could Force an Arms Buildup," The New York Times, May 11, 2000, p. A1.

5. Michael R. Gordon and Steven Lee Myers, "Risk of Arms Race Seen in U.S. Design of Missile Defense," The New York Times, May 28, 2000, p. A1.

6. Shin Yong-bae, "Israel Willing to Aid N.K.'s Farm Industry in Return for Halting Missile Exports," The Korea Herald (Seoul), February 1, 2000.

7. "Two Koreas Set to Hold Crucial Talks for Summit, Military Tension Eases," Agence France-Presse, April 26, 2000.

8. "DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on DPRK-US Talks," Korean Central News Agency, March 18, 2000.

9. John Pomfret, "N. Korea Threatens to Skip Talks," The Washington Post, March 29, 2000, p. A20.


Leon V. Sigal is director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York and author of Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea. [Back to top]

Leaked Documents Detail U.S. ABM Strategy; GOP Says Limited NMD Plans Are Not Enough

May 2000

By Wade Boese

Aiming to win Russian acquiescence to a limited U.S. national missile defense (NMD), the Clinton administration provided Russia with a draft protocol for amending the ABM Treaty and "talking points" detailing why the NMD system would not jeopardize Moscow's nuclear deterrent. Though Washington outlined the proposed defense's limited capabilities and Russia's current and future ability to overwhelm the system, top Russian officials continued to reject negotiations to permit deployment of a U.S. NMD, while senior Senate Republicans warned President Bill Clinton that an agreement along the lines he has proposed would not likely win the Senate's approval.

The 1972 ABM Treaty bars defenses capable of protecting a country's entire territory from strategic ballistic missiles, as well as the base for such a defense, though it allows 100 interceptors to be deployed at a single site around a country's capital or an ICBM field. Air-, sea-, space-, and mobile land-based missile defense systems and components are all prohibited. The Clinton administration is seeking to amend the accord to avoid having to withdraw from the treaty if the president opts later this year to deploy the limited NMD, which would violate the treaty.

In January, the United States gave Russian officials a draft ABM Treaty protocol that would permit both Russia and the United States to deploy national missile defenses limited to 100 launchers and 100 interceptor missiles "within one deployment region within their national territory." The protocol would also permit the upgrading of existing attack-warning radar systems to enable them to "perform ABM radar functions" and allow each country to deploy a single additional ABM radar anywhere within its territory. The protocol and associated U.S. talking points were leaked to The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and made public April 28. (See document.)

The protocol would only cover the initial phase of the administration's NMD plans, which calls for deployment of 100 interceptors and the construction of a new radar in Alaska. The administration plans to eventually field a second site of 125 interceptors, presumably in North Dakota, and an additional 25 interceptors in Alaska, as well as additional radar upgrades and deployment of a satellite system for tracking incoming warheads.

To facilitate future NMD expansion, the draft protocol includes an article that allows one party to request further negotiations anytime after March 1, 2001, to "take into account further changes in the strategic situation…which therefore might require deployment of more effective limited national territorial defense systems." In the leaked documents, the United States said that if the ballistic missile threat grows, which Washington said it believes will happen, the United States would seek further negotiations to deploy "more effective" defenses.

Trying to allay Russian concerns that the proposed NMD system would undercut Russia's nuclear deterrent, the U.S. talking points assert that the initial 100-interceptor system would, in the "best case," be able to destroy 20 to 25 warheads accompanied by primitive defense penetration aids. The "bottom line," according to the talking points, is that the proposed NMD "could protect only against a few dozen ICBM warheads accompanied by sophisticated defense penetration aids."

Dismissing the concern that the proposed missile defense would abet a disarming U.S. first strike, Washington argued that Russia would still be capable of an "annihilating counterattack" if Moscow's nuclear forces are kept on constant alert, thereby allowing a Russian response to be launched before U.S. warheads reached Russian soil. Moreover, the U.S. documents contend that the sheer size and diversity of the Russian nuclear arsenal, with its advanced decoys and penetration aids, could easily overcome the planned defense. Washington noted that under Russia's proposal for START III both countries could have some 1,500 to 2,000 warheads and deploy more than 1,000 ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles "over the next decade and thereafter."

The United States had not previously indicated that it would consider reducing to a level of 1,500 deployed warheads. Instead, Washington has publicly insisted that a START III agreement cap deployed warheads at a level of 2,000 to 2,500. But National Security Adviser Samuel Berger told The Washington Post at the end of April that the United States might consider lower START III levels within the context of ABM Treaty talks.

 

Russia Remains Resolute in Its Opposition to NMD

Moscow maintains it is not interested in amending the ABM Treaty. In its April 14 approval of START II, which cuts deployed U.S. and Russian strategic forces to no more than 3,500 deployed nuclear warheads each, the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, linked Moscow's future adherence to the arms reduction accord with Washington remaining party to the ABM Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would withdraw from all arms control treaties, strategic and conventional, if the United States withdraws from the ABM Treaty.

In an April 25 statement to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that collapse of the ABM Treaty would "undermine the entirety of disarmament agreements concluded over the last 30 years." He further warned that "compliance with the ABM Treaty in its present form without any modifications is a prerequisite for further negotiations on nuclear disarmament."

To counter what Washington considers rising missile threats posed by the so-called rogue states—an assessment not shared by Russia, China, and most other countries—Ivanov repeated a Russian proposal for a global missile confidence-building and non-proliferation regime. (See news story.) In addition, Ivanov and Putin have said that Russia is willing to discuss and cooperate on non-strategic missile defenses not prohibited by the ABM Treaty.

Following two days of talks in Washington to prepare for a June 4-5 Moscow summit between Clinton and Putin, Ivanov said on April 27 that he believes "there is a desire to find solutions to the issues where we differ." But Ivanov stated that "there are certain differences of view, sometimes considerable differences" between Moscow and Washington on U.S. NMD plans.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his remarks to the NPT conference, identified "pressure to deploy national missile defenses" as the most recent challenge facing nuclear disarmament. Annan cautioned that this pressure "could well lead to a new arms race...and create new incentives for missile proliferation." France, China, and other nations made strong statements in support of the ABM Treaty at the conference. (See news story.)

 

GOP Senators Warn Against Limited NMD

Based on administration briefings, 25 Republican senators—including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC), Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ)—sent a letter April 17 to Clinton warning that they opposed "in the strongest terms the effort to conclude an agreement that would purchase Russian consent to the U.S. NMD system in exchange for U.S. reaffirmation of a new, very limiting, legally binding accord." Such an agreement, according to the letter, would have "little hope" of winning Senate approval.

A single NMD site, the Senate critics charged, "cannot effectively protect the United States." To defend against anticipated threats, "more than a single site is necessary," they wrote.

The senators criticized the administration's "phased approach" negotiating strategy as establishing a "permanent cycle of confrontation with Russia," and expressed concern that it would prevent deployment of other "promising missile defense technologies," such as space-based sensors, the Airborne Laser, and sea-based systems, all of which the senators believe are "necessary to achieve a fully-effective defense against the full range of possible threats."

Speaking before the Senate on April 26, Helms argued that Clinton's planned NMD will "leave the United States defenseless." Any modified ABM Treaty negotiated by the administration, according to Helms, will be "dead-on-arrival." He concluded by saying, "The Russian government should not be under any illusion whatsoever that any commitments made by this lame-duck administration will be binding on the next administration."

Secretary of Defense William Cohen, as well as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, responded that the administration would continue its efforts to win an ABM agreement. Cohen asserted that the president is "determined to go forward."

Though the leaked U.S. documents included a statement that Clinton is "counting on making the decision to deploy" the NMD system, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart insisted April 28 that no decision has been made. Lockhart reiterated that the president will base his decision on four oft-stated criteria: technological readiness, the maturity of the threat, cost, and arms control considerations.

Leaked Documents Detail U.S. ABM Strategy; GOP Says Limited NMD Plans Are Not Enough

Iran, DPRK Sanctioned for Missile Transfers

According to an April 14 announcement, the Clinton administration has imposed sanctions on four firms in Iran and one in North Korea for "missile technology proliferation activities." The targeted firms are Changgwang Sinyong Corporation in North Korea; and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Aerospace Industries Organization, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, and Sanam Industrial Group, all in Iran.

While State Department officials would not identify the exact nature of the transfers, spokesman James Rubin said that they involved Category I items as defined by the Missile Technology Control Regime. Category I items include complete rocket systems that exceed range and payload guidelines of 300 kilometers and 500 kilograms, production facilities for such systems, individual rocket stages, re-entry vehicles and related technologies, certain types of rocket engines, and advanced guidance systems.

Rubin also implied a connection between the North Korean and Iranian firms. Iran has a long history of receiving missile technology assistance from North Korea, first receiving Scud-type missiles during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. In his April 14 remarks, Rubin reiterated continuing U.S. concerns about North Korea's export of Scud missiles, which are the basis for its Nodong short-range ballistic missile. Citing U.S. intelligence sources, The Washington Times reported in February that North Korea had transferred several Nodong rocket engines to Iran last November.

The five firms will be denied U.S. government contracts, export licenses for certain controlled items, and the ability to sell any products in the U.S. market for two years. The sanctions' economic impact will be limited, however, as the U.S. government currently does no business with any of the targeted organizations.

The official Korean Central News Agency responded vehemently to the sanctions April 19, noting, "We cannot but take a serious view of this as it is a virulent challenge to the process for the normalization of the D.P.R.K.-U.S. relations." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi denied any cooperation with the North Koreans. "Our missile program is made locally without any foreign assistance," he said in a statement on Tehran radio April 16.

 Iran, DPRK Sanctioned for Missile Transfers

Negotiations on North Korean High-Level Visit End Without Resolution

Matthew Rice


IN THE FIRST TRIP CONTINUING THEIR EFFORTS to hammer out details for a high-level North Korean visit to Washington and to address U.S. concerns about Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, delegations led by U.S. Ambassador Charles Kartman and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan met in New York from March 7 to 15. This third round of talks, which built on previous negotiations in Berlin in November and January, ended without details on a future visit having been settled but with a commitment from North Korea to schedule further discussions on the topic.

That no date was set for the visit came as a disappointment after a senior State Department official expressed optimism March 3 for a positive conclusion to the talks and anticipated the arrival of a North Korean official in "about a month." The official said that the major issues remaining to be resolved include minor scheduling issues and the crafting of a U.S.-North Korean joint statement detailing progress in the bilateral relationship. With further meetings needed but not yet scheduled, the visit is likely to be pushed back. Kim officially accepted the U.S. invitation for a high-level Washington visit in January.

During the talks, Ambassador Michael Sheehan, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, met with his North Korean counterpart to discuss measures necessary for the removal of North Korea from the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism, which includes, among others, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. According to a senior State Department official, in order to be removed from the list, Pyongyang must take several steps, including expelling members of the Japanese Red Army from North Korea and issuing a strong public statement condemning acts of terror worldwide.

While the State Department remained confident that the North Korean government will go through with the visit, Chu Chang Jun, the North Korean ambassador to China, claimed that removal from the terrorist list was a precondition to a high-level visit. "We cannot visit the United States with the cap of a terrorist," he said March 28.

The North Korean delegation also confirmed its agreement to a second U.S. visit to Kumchang-ni, the site of suspected nuclear weapons-related activities, in May. U.S. officials first inspected the site in May 1999 and found no evidence of nuclear activity or that North Korea had violated the 1994 Agreed Framework. (See ACT, April/May 1999.)

 

Agreed Framework Funding

U.S. funding of the Agreed Framework remained on track when, on February 24, President Clinton exercised his waiver authority to authorize the disbursement of $15 million to support the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization's delivery of heavy fuel oil to North Korea.

Congress requires that the president make several certifications before funds may be released to the organization: that North Korea remains in compliance with the Agreed Framework; that implementation of the 1992 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is progressing; that steps have been taken to increase dialogue between North and South Korea; that North Korea has not diverted U.S. assistance (food or fuel oil) to military purposes; and that North Korea is not seeking to produce fissile material.

Clinton certified the first three conditions but waived the last two, deeming it "vital to the national security interests of the United States." Asked why the president could not certify the other conditions, Wendy Sherman, counselor to the Department of State, testified March 16 before the House International Relations Committee that the administration believed that North Korea might be diverting small amounts of U.S. assistance. Concerning the production of fissile material, she said, "The way that that certification is written, it goes to the intention of North Korea. And to tell you quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, having sat across from North Koreans, it's very hard to conceive of what their intentions are."

Negotiations on North Korean High-Level Visit End Without Resolution

Proliferation Threats Continue, Administration Officials Says

Matthew Rice

OFFERING THE GRIM assessment that proliferation threats will continue to grow, several senior administration officials visited Capitol Hill in early February to discuss a wide range of security issues facing the United States. While addressing many potential dangers, their reports gave special attention to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), with an emphasis on the spread of ballistic missile technology. Vice Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified February 2 before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that "the prospects for limiting proliferation are slim, and the global WMD threat to U.S. allied territory, interests, forces and facilities will increase significantly."

In addition to Wilson, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and J. Stapleton Roy, assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, also appeared before the committee February 2 to present their annual reports. Robert Walpole, national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services on February 9.

According to their testimony, U.S. conventional military dominance is likely to remain unmatched in the foreseeable future, even with declining defense budgets. But the U.S. advantage may only intensify proliferation trends as "many potential adversaries believe they can preclude U.S. force options and offset U.S. conventional military superiority by developing WMD and missiles," Wilson explained.

The Intelligence Community's Nonproliferation Center further outlined the threat in its biannual report to Congress, also released in early February. According to the report, Iran has continued to develop an infrastructure for chemical and biological weapons production, the latter aided by contacts within the former Soviet Union. While there is no direct evidence that Iraq has begun rebuilding its WMD programs, the report noted recent construction activity at sites destroyed during Operation Desert Fox indicates that Iraq is "likely" doing so. The report also said that Libya and Syria have continued chemical-weapons-related procurement activities, though UN sanctions have limited those efforts.

Missile Proliferation Emphasized

The combined threat assessments agreed that the prospect for long-range ballistic missile use against the United States, while growing, remains low. Strong relationships with the United States and the U.S. deterrent make a Russian or Chinese ICBM attack "unlikely," Roy explained. The U.S. deterrent may also constrain programs in the so-called "rogue" states. "Given the credibility of U.S. retaliatory capabilities in the face of any nuclear attack on the American homeland, we would assign the North Korean threat to a tertiary level," Roy said. However, in his testimony, Walpole noted that over the next 15 years North Korea, Iran and potentially Iraq could emerge as long-range missile threats.

More likely in the short to medium term would be an attack by an alternative delivery mechanism, which, until long-range programs became more robust, would have the advantage of lower cost, greater accuracy and an increased ability to effectively disseminate chemical or biological agents, Walpole said. But alternative delivery means are not likely to prevent continuing efforts to develop long-range missiles given their unique ability to "provide a level of prestige, coercive diplomacy and deterrence that non-missile means do not." Walpole argued that missiles designed for such reasons would not need to be deployed in large numbers and would have reduced requirements for accuracy and reliability, potentially cutting the time needed for development and deployment.

The North Korean and Iranian programs were given special attention. With continued aid from Russian and Chinese entities, Iran's missile program in particular could approach self-sufficiency in the coming years, according to the Nonproliferation Center report. In addition, its Shahab-3 program, a medium-range ballistic missile with a reach of 1,300 kilometers, has achieved what the report termed "emergency operational capability"—the ability to deploy a limited number of delivery vehicles in a crisis situation.

North Korea continued work on its Taepo Dong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile, though a testing freeze negotiated with the United States remained intact. Chinese entities continued to provide raw materials and missile components in aid of this program. According to Roy, while the North Koreans have agreed to a freeze, they have yet to clarify the terms by which they would be willing to give up missile export activities, which have continued, particularly to countries in the Middle East.

While Iraq was designated the least likely of the three to deploy an ICBM within the next 15 years, the Nonproliferation Center report noted that its Al-Samoud ballistic missile, legally pursued under a UN-imposed range limit of 150 kilometers, could be reconfigured for a range of 180 kilometers. The report further explained that "once economic sanctions against Iraq are lifted, Baghdad probably will begin converting these efforts into longer range missile systems, unless restricted by future UN monitoring."

In addition to progress in these programs, Tenet warned of the emergence of "secondary suppliers"—countries that have long relied on imports of technology and expertise for the development of their own missile programs may begin to export their own knowledge and indigenously produced missiles or missile components. In the near term, this would likely be confined to the provision of shorter-range missiles and related materials. But as domestic infrastructures mature, longer-range delivery vehicles could be exported as well. Iran, for example, might be able to supply not only domestically produced Scuds, but the more advanced Shahab-3 as well, Tenet said.

Strategic Threats and NMD

For the foreseeable future, Russia and China will remain the only powers with the ability to accurately and reliably target U.S. cities with weapons of mass destruction, but the size and sophistication of their arsenals may vary depending on developments in their economies and their relationship with the United States, the officials concurred.

While the efficacy of missile defenses was not discussed, potential reactions to their deployment were mentioned. Roy noted that while "the aggregate nuclear-armed ICBM threat against the United States is declining dramatically" due to arms control obligations and Russian economic woes, "this situation could change for the worse if Moscow (and secondarily, Beijing) concluded that the United States was pursuing interests in fundamental conflict with their own." Altered threat perceptions could prompt Russia to halt nuclear reductions at or above 2,000 deployed warheads instead of the 1,500 it has suggested as a START III level.

Roy said that China could use multiple re-entry vehicles to triple its existing ICBM arsenal, which currently consists of about 20 Dong Feng-5 ICBMs, but Walpole added that China was not expected to do so in the near future. Roy also warned of a harsh reaction to U.S. missile defense plans. "The most serious potential threat to the United States would be Chinese military action, possibly in response to a perceived U.S. challenge to vital PRC interests…includ[ing] implementation of a robust theater missile defense system that nullified Chinese deterrence or included Taiwan," he said.

In addition, the deployment of missile defenses could spur trade in missile decoys and penetration aids. Russia and China would probably be willing to sell such technology, Walpole noted, and currently existing technologies could allow new proliferants to deploy countermeasures by the time that they flight test their missiles.

U.S., North Korea Resume Bilateral Talks

January/February 2000

Representatives of the United States and North Korea met in Berlin from January 22-28 in a continuing effort to improve their bilateral relationship and to address U.S. concerns about North Korea's ballistic missile program. Ambassador Charles Kartman, U.S. special envoy for the Korean peace talks, led a delegation to meet the North Koreans, headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan. Though no substantive matters were settled, the parties agreed to meet again at the end of February to cement the agenda for a March visit to Washington by a high-level North Korean delegation. In September 1999, similar high-level discussions preceded a partial lifting of U.S. economic sanctions and a corresponding North Korean pledge to suspend missile testing for the duration of the ongoing talks. (See ACT, September/October 1999.)

Pyongyang's missile pledge was brought to the fore immediately prior to the commencement of the January talks. The Korean Central News Agency, the press organ of the North Korean government, quoted a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official who indicated that the January 18 test of the U.S. national missile defense system could lead to the resumption of Pyongyang's missile program. "The U.S. behavior has compelled the DPRK to take our moratorium into a serious consideration. We will make an appropriate decision, watching its future movement," he said.

The meeting also followed another minor controversy about the relative sophistication of North Korea's missile program. Commercial satellite photographs first made public January 3 by the Cable News Network revealed a primitive missile facility lacking several components commonly associated with Western test programs, including rail links, substantial infrastructure and propellant storage areas, suggesting the danger from North Korea might not be as great as Washington has maintained. State Department spokesman James Rubin dismissed the notion that the threat was exaggerated: "It is our judgment from a panoply of intelligence sources and methods...that there is a genuine threat and a risk from the potential missile program of North Korea."

U.S., North Korea Resume Bilateral Talks

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