"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Nuclear Nonproliferation

The New Nuclear Proliferation Crisis

Daryl G. Kimball

For over five decades, the United States has sought to make the acquisition and development of nuclear weapons more technically challenging and less acceptable. Republican and Democratic leaders alike have worked to restrain unbridled nuclear weapons competition and to stop the spread of these deadly weapons through the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 and associated diplomatic strategies.

Even as the nonproliferation system has become more sophisticated, the challenges it confronts have become more complex. Over the last decade, the NPT has endured successive crises involving Iraqi and North Korean nuclear weapons programs. Iran now appears to be on the verge of a nuclear weapons capability. Non-NPT member states India, Pakistan, and Israel have advanced their nuclear weapons programs with relative impunity. The possibility of terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons has added a new layer of risk.

In the face of these problems, it has become fashionable for many U.S. policymakers to dismiss arms control and nonproliferation as ineffective. Instead, they emphasize the role of pre-emptive military action and the pursuit of new nuclear-weapon capabilities to dissuade and destroy adversaries seeking weapons of mass destruction. Such an approach would forfeit essential nonproliferation tools and provide a false sense of security.

In practical terms, military pre-emption is no substitute for a comprehensive and consistent preventive approach. As the recent U.S. experience in Iraq shows, wars cost lives and money and lead to unintended consequences; nonmilitary solutions should not be undervalued. Iraq’s nuclear program was actually dismantled through special international weapons inspections, which likely could have contained the Iraqi weapons threat if they had been allowed to continue.

Proliferation problems in North Korea and Iran defy easy military solutions. In both cases, multilateral diplomacy aimed at the verifiable halt of dangerous nuclear activities is the preferred course. Nuclear proliferation must be met with firm resolve but not in a way that creates an even more uncertain and dangerous future. Rather, the United States must strengthen and adapt—not abandon—preventive diplomacy and arms control. Nonproliferation efforts have succeeded when U.S. leadership has been consistent and steadfast.

The NPT security framework has led several states to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. The NPT is so broadly supported that, in addition to the original five nuclear-weapon states, only three clearly have nuclear arsenals and they are outside the NPT. Cooperation with international inspections and safeguards against proliferation are now a standard expectation of all states. U.S.-Soviet agreements corralled their nuclear arms competition and increased transparency, thereby reducing instability and the risk of nuclear war.

Nevertheless, the evolving nature of the nuclear threat requires a more comprehensive and robust global nonproliferation strategy. First, the United States should fully support strengthened international monitoring and inspection capabilities, which aid U.S. intelligence and provide the basis for collective action against noncompliance. Evidence of North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons work was discovered in 1992 as a result of that country joining the NPT and agreeing to inspections. The dangerous extent of Iran’s nuclear program has been revealed only through new international inspections.

Second, all cases of nuclear proliferation must be addressed. The United States and other global powers can no longer ignore the possession of nuclear weapons by their allies and friends. Although India and Pakistan are not a direct threat to the United States, they do threaten one another, and so long as Israel possesses nuclear weapons, others in the region will likely seek them too. China has aided Pakistan’s nuclear program, and in turn, Pakistan has aided North Korea and Iran.

It is also time for the international community to consider new ways to restrict access to dangerous nuclear technologies. The NPT guarantee of access to “peaceful” nuclear technology and the broad diffusion of that technology has allowed states such as Iran to acquire uranium-enrichment or plutonium-production facilities useful for weapons. The availability of the most weapons-relevant technologies can be limited without denying access to basic and legitimate nuclear power technology.

Finally, the United States and other nuclear-weapon states must reduce the role of nuclear weapons. To comply with their own NPT disarmament commitments, they must actually dismantle—not test and improve—their deadly stockpiles. In the long run, the continued possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons by a few undermines the security of all. Without more effective U.S. leadership in each of these areas, the struggle against proliferation will fall short and leave a more dangerous world for generations to come.





ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball's Prepared Remarks for the November 13, 2003 Workshop on "The Implications of a New Era in


Sponsored by the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

For Immediate Release: November 13, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107;

I want to thank the members of the Institute for putting this session together and for inviting me to provide some perspectives and observations on the subject of arms control in a new era of international relations and security. This panel is focused on the future of U.S./Russian arms control, which I believe remains of vital importance. I would also like to note that the Arms Control Association's concept of and program focus on arms control goes beyond U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons to cover the full range of conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear arms challenges, as well as the strategies to deal with them.

Adjusting and Redoubling Arms Control and Nonproliferation Efforts

Let me start by sketching out a diagnosis of and prescription for dealing with today's nuclear security challenges.

While there remain substantial, festering Cold War nuclear dangers, it is abundantly clear that today's Russia is certainly not yesterday's Soviet Union and the major threats to U.S. security are, as President George W. Bush has said repeatedly, international terrorism and the acquisition of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, and other WMD by additional states or non-state actors. We certainly are in a post-post Cold War era of international relations that requires a recalibration of our approaches to dealing with WMD threats and responses.

In my view-and of many in the broader arms control community-the situation demands renewed dedication to arms control and nonproliferation strategies that were pioneered and championed by the United States over the course of the last several decades. The historical record shows that these strategies have been highly successful, though they are clearly not foolproof. We and other states have not met every challenge with appropriate determination. Nor have we and other states been consistent in our pursuit of nonproliferation objectives. Nevertheless, they have been and continue to be an indispensable tool in our national security toolbox. While the new, immediate concern is the possession of dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous states and terrorists, the problem we face is not simply the intersection of WMD and terrorism, but ultimately it is the very existence of these weapons and the capability to build them, whether by so-called "friendly" or "unfriendly" actors.

As a consequence, I would summarize the overall nuclear security agenda over the next few years along the following lines:

· One set of key tasks involves making much more rapid progress on finishing the task of eliminating Cold War nuclear dangers, including the verifiable elimination of excessive and costly U.S. and Russian strategic and tactical arsenals and delivery systems, as well as expediting and improving our cooperative efforts to safeguard and dispose of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons assets in the former Soviet Union, and, where and when we can in other places, such as the recent U.S.-Russian announcement regarding efforts to retrieve spent HEU fuel from Eastern European states;

· Another priority must be to reinforce key elements of the still evolving nuclear nonproliferation regime, such as improved IAEA safeguards, better physical protection of nuclear facilities and accounting for nuclear materials worldwide, achieving agreement on a global halt to fissile material production for weapons, establishing more stringent controls over the nuclear fuel cycle to limit the proliferation of the most weapons-relevant technologies, and improved monitoring and verification capabilities and institutions in a range of areas.

All of these efforts and more are needed to prevent the emergence of new nuclear-armed states and are essential to impeding terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials.

Our nonproliferation strategies must also take into account that proliferation and arms racing is invariably motivated and driven by the existence of underlying political and security problems and the perception that nuclear weapons are credible and legitimate tools of foreign and military policy. Consequently, the United States must reconsider and truly diminish the role of nuclear weapons in our own foreign and military policies and strategies and refrain from developing a new class of nuclear weapons and reinforce, not erode, the global nuclear test moratorium. A "do as I say, not as I do" nuclear doctrine and nonproliferation policy is not a prudent long-term strategy.

To me this represents a monumental arms control agenda that requires vigorous U.S. commitment to achieving arms control and nonproliferation results. I do not claim that arms control and nonproliferation measures can address every security threat, nor is it likely that all of these initiatives can be achieved in the near term. But to meet today's proliferation challenges, the nonproliferation regime must be strengthened, not abandoned.

Arms Control Is Dead Because the Cold War Is Over? Wrong.

Nevertheless, it is fashionable these days in some circles to declare arms control, and strategic nuclear arms control in particular, a dead strategy because strategic nuclear arms control was a response to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War nuclear rivalry and the Cold War is over.

With Russia now listed for now in the "friendly state" category, and with new threats from new enemies on the horizon, the argument goes, the United States needs a more flexible approach to nuclear arms control that allows us to re-size, reconfigure, and possibly add new nuclear weapons capabilities.

That approach was outlined rather cogently by Linton Brooks and has been codified, so to speak, with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, and recent congressional authorization and appropriation decisions to allow research on new and modified nuclear warheads that could, at some future stage, lead to design engineering, development, testing, and production of new nuclear weapons.

Let me turn briefly to SORT, which is also known as the Moscow Treaty, and the pursuit of new U.S. nuclear capabilities, which have become the defining elements of the U.S./Russian strategic arms relationship.

The Moscow Treaty

In my view, it is simplistic and shortsighted to consider arms control a strategy of the past and to believe that the Moscow Treaty allows us to check off the strategic arms control box from the foreign policy to do list.

The Moscow Treaty is useful for what it is: a short statement that binds the United States and Russia to reduce operationally deployed nuclear weapons within a decade. It requires each side to reduce their deployed strategic warheads from about 5,000-6,000 today to no more than 2,200 by 2012.

The administration is to be commended for committing to force reductions that have been delayed for years. But beyond that, the Moscow Treaty is significant not so much for what it is, but what it isn't. In contrast to past agreements, such as START I, it does not restrict or mandate the destruction of strategic missiles and bombers.

The new treaty does not require the destruction of a single nuclear warhead. The new agreement does not even outline a timetable for withdrawing deployed strategic warheads from service. As a result, the treaty allows each side to store warheads withdrawn from service, making them more readily available for redeployment on strategic delivery systems.

At a July 9, 2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that the United States could increase its deployed strategic forces from 2,200 warheads to 4,600 warheads within three years of the treaty's 2012 deadline, which expires the same day that it enters into force.

As Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has noted, if Russia follows the U.S. storage policy, this will increase the long-term burden of safeguarding Russia's already vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex and require additional U.S. and European financial and technical assistance.

Quite simply, the United States should pursue its past goal of verifiably dismantling excess nuclear warheads and provide greater U.S. funding for assistance to Russia to do so.

In stark contrast to past agreements, the Moscow Treaty contains no additional verification provisions. The White House asserts that this "trust without verification" formulation suits the more amicable U.S.-Russian relationship. To ensure compliance, the Bush team suggests that our national technical means of intelligence gathering and existing START verification provisions will suffice. However, the START agreement is due to expire in 2009, three years before each side is due to comply with the terms of the new treaty. As a result, U.S. intelligence experts cannot assure that the United States can, with high confidence, verify Russia's warhead totals after 2009.

Though proposals to expand data sharing and improve confidence in compliance with the agreed force reductions were considered by U.S. and Russian negotiators, the two sides failed to close a deal on such measures.

President Bush has made the bold and erroneous claim that the treaty "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War." But in reality, the proposed size of the deployed U.S. arsenal ten years from now would be roughly the same as the 2,000-2,500 levels of the proposed START III framework approved by the U.S. Strategic Command in 1997.

Though the United States and Russia are no longer enemies, the force size allowed by the new treaty and dictated by the Pentagon's recent nuclear posture review is still very much based on Cold War requirements to counter Russia's nuclear and conventional military forces.

Absent such requirements, I challenge anyone in the administration to describe the future threat scenarios that require the deployment of more than a few hundred survivable nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200 warheads with thousands more available for rapid redeployment.

In sum, the agreement's emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship.

There is much left to be done. There are few signs at the moment that there is much interest doing them.

The False Promise of New Nukes

The Bush administration's vision for the role of nuclear weapons also includes the expansion of U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities designed to counter emerging nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

The pursuit of new nuclear weapons capabilities, now in the research phase, also represents an unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive response to the post-9/11 security threats to our nation. Expanding or adapting the U.S. nuclear arsenal to try to dissuade and deter new adversaries from pursuing, acquiring, and using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons provides little or no additional military value while it risks undermining vital efforts to prevent proliferation and mobilize international support against proliferators.

As President John F. Kennedy noted in 1963, "A nation's security does not always increase as its arms increase…and unlimited competition in the testing and development of new types of destructive nuclear weapons will not make the world safer." The pursuit of new nuclear weapons erodes the nonproliferation norms established over the last four decades and will likely encourage other states to match or counter the U.S. bid.

Proponents argue that, by reducing the weapons' explosive yields, collateral damage can be minimized to the point that they become "usable." But a "small" nuclear blast, with just 1/13 the power of the Hiroshima bomb, detonated at a depth of 20-50 feet, would eject more than a million cubic feet of radioactive debris. If used to target chemical or biological weapons, nuclear strikes would probably spread, rather than destroy, the deadly material.

It is possible to improve the depth of penetration of weapons to destroy deeper targets, but these weapons are hardly "usable." The "robust" bunker-busting nuclear warheads types now under study-the B61 and B83-are not small, but rather high-yield, city-busting behemoths with yields capable of exceeding 100 kilotons.

A nuclear weapon, however big or small, is still a weapon of mass destruction. So long as nuclear weapons exist, their role should be limited to deterring their use by others. The key to holding a potential adversary's buried chemical or biological weapons at risk is better intelligence and more effective conventional munitions, not the threat of nuclear attack.

During his 2000 election run, President Bush aptly called nuclear weapons "obsolete weapons of dead conflicts." He's right. How is the W88 warhead going to help us hunt down Osama? How will the B61 Mod. 11 help us deal with Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran? How will a new round of nuclear testing help us restrain Indo-Pakistani nuclear and missile competition that could increase the risk of a nuclear war in that region?

While the Cold War conflict may be gone, the weapons that grew out of that age are still with us and our decades-long addition to them has not yet ended. The role of nuclear weapons can and should be limited to deterring nuclear attacks by others, and with the likelihood of nuclear attack by Russia as low as it is today, our nuclear arsenal, and that of Russia can and should be irreversibly and verifiably reduced.

In sum, writing off nuclear arms control as a key element in U.S. national security in the interest of keeping open our nuclear weapons options is a losing strategy that shortchanges our security.

Thank you for your attention.

* Delivered remarks may have differed slightly from this text.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

Country Resources:

U.S. Civilian Nuclear Reactor to Produce Weapons Material

In a break from decades-long U.S. policy, a civilian nuclear power reactor will generate power (for homes and businesses) while producing materials for nuclear weapons. The Watts Bar Nuclear Station, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), returned to operation Oct. 20, equipped with rods that will allow TVA to produce tritium for the Department of Energy.

Workers began inserting tritium-producing burnable absorber rods at Watts Bar in early September. The rods will be removed in 18 months at the end of the reactor’s normal fuel cycle. The Energy Department will then send these bars to a tritium-extraction facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Tritium is a short-lived isotope of hydrogen used to boost the yield of nuclear weapons. Its half-life of 12 years requires that the material be replenished and regularly replaced in nuclear weapons. Renewed production at Watts Bar will allow the Energy Department to avoid tapping into its five-year tritium reserve, which it would otherwise be expected to do sometime in 2005. The U.S. government has not made tritium since 1988, when it stopped production at its Savannah River Site due to operational and safety problems. Since then, the United States has recycled tritium from dismantled nuclear weapons to meet its stockpile requirements.

The Energy Department chose to produce tritium in a commercial reactor despite criticism that such action would blur the distinction between nuclear technology used for civilian and military purposes and undermine the credibility of U.S. nonproliferation policies. However, the Energy Department determined that using commercial reactors would be more flexible and cost-effective than the alternative construction of a new reactor dedicated to tritium production. Last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved requests to allow tritium production at TVA’s Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear power facilities. (See ACT, November 2002.)

However, John Moulton, a TVA spokesman, said that there were “no plans at this time” to begin tritium production at the Sequoyah facility, although he acknowledged that the Sequoyah reactors remain in “standby phase” for future production of the material.

Bush Hints at North Korea Security Agreement

Some headway was made in October toward breaking the stalemate between the United States and North Korea, but it is far from clear that the year-long crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program will be settled anytime soon. President George W. Bush said Oct. 19 that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea—an indication that the United States will present a concrete offer to North Korea if future multilateral discussions are held. North Korea said Oct. 25 that it is willing to consider the still-developing U.S. proposal but announced earlier in the month that it is closer to developing additional nuclear weapons.

The U.S. proposal is still a work in progress and will be developed in consultation with the other participants in the six-party talks. Although the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Oct. 30 that North Korea has “in principle” accepted a new round of multilateral talks, no date has been set.

The crisis began in October 2002 when a U.S. delegation told North Korean officials that Washington possessed intelligence confirming Pyongyang’s pursuit of a uranium enrichment program. Such a program can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Since then, the crisis has escalated. North Korea pulled out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), restarted its plutonium-based nuclear facilities frozen under the 1994 Agreed Framework, and regularly reported advances in its nuclear weapons capabilities. The Agreed Framework defused the first North Korean nuclear crisis by providing North Korea with heavy-fuel oil and two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors in exchange for freezing its plutonium program. Construction on the reactors has not been terminated, but the oil shipments were suspended in November 2002 in an effort to pressure North Korea.

The apparent decision to negotiate with North Korea is part of an evolution in stated U.S. policy. Administration officials had previously dismissed the idea of negotiating a settlement to the crisis as giving in to blackmail.

Two rounds of talks aimed at resolving the crisis have taken place in Beijing since October 2002. The United States, North Korea, and China took part in the first round in April and were joined by Japan, Russia, and South Korea for a second round in August. Neither round yielded an agreement. The United States has said its delegation to the August talks did not make an explicit offer but signaled Washington’s willingness to compromise with North Korea. North Korea argues that Washington simply restated its previous policy, however, and U.S. allies have said they want the administration to be more flexible. (See ACT, October 2003.) Bush’s statement came during a trip to Asia earlier this month, where he consulted with other participants in the six-party talks.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that Washington has no intention of attacking North Korea and have indicated their willingness to provide a written agreement to this effect. Department of State officials said in September that the United States is willing to employ a step-by-step approach to resolve the crisis, rather than continuing to insist that North Korea first completely dismantle its nuclear facilities.

Still, the administration has also emphasized multilateral diplomacy with Pyongyang and said it wants any security agreement to be concluded within the context of the six-party talks. Bush said Oct. 19 that previous bilateral agreements with North Korea have failed, asserting that North Korea “cheated” on the Agreed Framework. Administration officials have previously argued that multilateral negotiations will be more effective than bilateral ones because North Korea will feel increased pressure to comply in a multilateral setting.

Although the Agreed Framework is a bilateral agreement, its implementation is multilateral in nature. For example, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union share membership on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization’s (KEDO) executive board. KEDO is the U.S.-led consortium that is charged with supplying the heavy-fuel oil and building the reactors under the Agreed Framework.
The United States has not yet decided on a precise formulation for a security arrangement, but the United States has addressed the question in past official statements. For example, the Agreed Framework requires the United States to “provide formal assurances” to North Korea that the United States will not threaten or use nuclear weapons. Additionally, the two countries stated in an October 2000 Joint Communiqué that neither “would have hostile intent toward the other.”

The Way Forward

After initially dismissing Bush’s statement Oct. 21 as “laughable,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Oct. 25 that Pyongyang would “consider” Bush’s comments, according to KCNA. The spokesman added, however, that any U.S. proposal would have to come with “the intention” for the two countries to “coexist” and be part of a step-by-step solution to the crisis. Pyongyang is currently evaluating the “intentions” behind Bush’s remark, the spokesman said, labeling discussions of further six-party talks “premature.” Secretary of State Colin Powell said Oct. 26 that North Korea contacted the United States about the matter two days before.

There are several potential obstacles to a settlement. One question is whether the U.S. proposal will be sufficient to satisfy North Korea’s concerns about its relations with the United States. Pyongyang has condemned Washington’s preference for multilateral solutions as a tactic intended to divert attention away from what Pyongyang regards as the real issue: Washington’s “hostile policy” of placing economic pressure on North Korea and threatening it with military force, including use of nuclear weapons.
In particular, North Korea cites a September 2002 document describing the U.S. National Security Strategy, which explicitly mentions North Korea and emphasizes pre-emptive action to counter threats from countries developing weapons of mass destruction. To justify their stated fears of a pre-emptive nuclear attack, North Korean officials cite a leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review, which lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in the event of a military confrontation.

The administration has pursued other aspects of a containment policy, such as attempting to persuade allies such as Japan and Australia to interdict Pyongyang’s sources of hard currency. Moreover, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued in May that other regional powers should threaten to cut off aid to North Korea if it does not change its objectionable policies.

Bush made it clear during an Oct. 19 press conference that a formal nonaggression pact—a persistent North Korean demand—was “off the table.” North Korea said Oct. 7 that it wants U.S. security assurances to come in the form of a treaty because it does not trust Congress or future administrations to adhere to policies made by any president, according to a KCNA statement. North Korea has frequently argued that the United States did not live up to its commitments under the Agreed Framework, citing delays in the reactors’ construction and the administration’s “hostile policy.”

North Korea has also previously rejected the idea of a multilateral security agreement. An Aug. 19 KCNA statement dismissed such a plan as a diversionary tactic and referred to “the concept of ‘collective security’” as “an insult” to North Korea, suggesting that Pyongyang wants to be seen as an equal to the United States in any negotiations.

The specifics of implementing any agreement may well prove to be another sticking point. Pyongyang has resisted the notion of dismantling its reactor before concluding an agreement with the United States because it believes the United States will simply pocket any concessions. Washington has yet to finalize either the specific steps required by each side or the sequence in which they will be implemented.
It is also unclear how the United States intends to address other North Korean demands. Pyongyang has called on the United States to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid.

Pyongyang’s declaration that it would discuss verification measures for any agreement “only after the [United States] drops its hostile policy” could also complicate a settlement.

Upping the Ante

Meanwhile, North Korea again upped the ante in the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, announcing earlier this month that it had completed reprocessing the spent fuel rods from its five-megawatt nuclear reactor and implying that it was using the resulting plutonium to construct nuclear weapons. Pyongyang further increased concern Oct. 16 by issuing what may have been a veiled threat to test nuclear weapons.

North Korea had privately made the reprocessing claim earlier, but an Oct. 2 KCNA statement marked Pyongyang’s first public pronouncement.

An Oct. 3 KCNA statement said that the country completed reprocessing the spent fuel rods in June, and an Oct. 2 statement noted that Pyongyang “made a switchover in the use” of the spent fuel “in the direction increasing [sic] its nuclear deterrent force.” The earlier statement added that North Korea would continue to produce and reprocess additional spent fuel when deemed necessary.

According to Powell and other U.S. diplomats, North Korean officials on more than one occasion have told their U.S. counterparts that they had completed reprocessing the spent fuel.

But U.S. officials have expressed skepticism about the earlier announcements and continue to cast doubt on the North Korean claims. Powell told reporters Oct. 2 that Washington has “no evidence” that Pyongyang has reprocessed the spent fuel rods, adding that the United States would “continue to pursue diplomacy.” North Korean officials have said Pyongyang possesses nuclear weapons, but it is unclear whether this is the case.

North Korea’s possible suggestion that it may test nuclear weapons came in a Oct. 16 announcement from KCNA, which stated that Pyongyang will “take a measure to open its nuclear deterrent to the public as a physical force” if the United States refuses to change its negotiating stance.

The Oct. 2 KCNA statement also said that Pyongyang is “stepping up the preparations for the construction of a graphite-moderated reactor.” Whether this statement refers to incomplete reactors whose construction was frozen under the Agreed Framework is uncertain, but the announcement could be a signal that North Korea intends to produce additional fissile material for nuclear weapons. Graphite-moderated reactors are better suited for producing nuclear weapons-grade fuel than their light-water replacements. These plants could produce enough fuel for approximately 30 nuclear devices per year, according to an August Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

Powell has said that North Korea’s fuel rods could yield enough plutonium for as many as six nuclear devices, and the CRS report estimates the reactor could produce enough fissile material for one weapon per year.

North Korea produced the spent fuel rods before agreeing to freeze operating the reactor and its related facilities in accordance with the Agreed Framework. North Korea announced in December that it was restarting the reactor, and U.S. officials confirmed in February that it had done so.

At the same time it announced its reprocessing claim, North Korea also reiterated two previous claims regarding its nuclear intentions. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said North Korea has no intention of exporting nuclear material to other countries, Xinhua News Agency reported Oct. 2. Additionally, the Oct. 2 KCNA statement repeated North Korea’s claim that its nuclear weapons are solely for defensive purposes.



Some headway was made in October toward breaking the stalemate between the United States and North Korea, but it is far from clear that the year-long crisis surrounding...

Congressional Delegation Cancels Trip to North Korea at White House Request

A bipartisan congressional delegation led by Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) postponed a late October trip to North Korea after the White House expressed opposition to the visit. “At the eleventh hour, the White House withdrew its support,” Weldon said in a statement. The congressman, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, described the delay as temporary and said a new date for the visit is forthcoming.

The postponement follows indications from the North Koreans that they might consider President George W. Bush’s proposal to provide a written guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea as part of a multilateral agreement.

“Discussions continue between our delegation and North Korean officials,” Weldon stressed. “The members of the delegation still believe that a congressional visit will positively impact relations between our two nations. In that regard, the North Koreans continue to make overtures that our delegation will have access to the Yongbyon nuclear facility,” where the North Koreans say they have reprocessed spent fuel rods to use in their nuclear weapons program.

Representative Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Texas), a member of the delegation, told Arms Control Today he is “dumbfounded” by the administration’s stance. “We were going there because we think we can be supportive of the administration,” Ortiz said. Ortiz credits the delegation’s June 2003 visit with helping to bring the North Koreans to the six-party talks. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

India, Pakistan Move Forward With New Weapons

South Asia’s ballistic missile competition moved to a new phase in October. Amid news that India’s Agni I and II ballistic missiles were ready for deployment and had been handed over to the army, Pakistan conducted a round of three ballistic missile tests that concluded Oct. 14. In other developments, India announced it had established a credible second-strike capability. Nevertheless, both countries avowed their peaceful intentions.

Indian Prime Minister Bihari Vajpayee said that India’s establishment of new alternative military command centers did not mark a more aggressive stance by New Delhi. Vajpayee stressed that India’s nuclear policy is “firmly predicated” on the principle of a no-first-use policy. “Our nuclear weapons are meant to deter irresponsible military adventurism, not to fight a nuclear war,” he said in an interview with the Thai newspaper Matichon during a visit to Thailand Oct. 9.

Pakistani officials tried to play down the strategic significance of their country’s missile tests, calling the round a purely technical effort rather than a provocative gesture toward India and stressing that it had been in the works for some time. “These tests do not have any specific reasons beyond military purposes,” Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan Khan told Voice of America Oct. 14. “These tests have been done only to validate the design parameters, which are purely technical reasons. There is no message to be sent across, and these are not in any [way] a tit-for-tat response.”

Still, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri claimed during the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia Oct. 14 that India’s plans to buy the Phalcon airborne early-warning radar system and other defense systems “pose[] a credible threat to Pakistan” and that Pakistan “will be forced to acquire new generation defense systems,” according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

In March, India and Pakistan did engage in what was seen as a tit for tat when each country tested short-range nuclear-capable missiles on the same day. (See ACT, April 2003.)

Tests Successful

The recent round of testing began on Oct. 3 with the firing of Pakistan’s Hatf-3 Ghaznavi, a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying payloads of 500 kg up to a range of 290 kilometers (182 miles). The Pakistani military said in a statement that the test, the second of the Ghaznavi missile, showed all design parameters had been successfully validated.

The following two tests, on Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, were both conducted using the medium-range Hatf-4. Also known as Shaheen-1, the surface-to-surface missile is capable of carrying payloads of 500 kg up to 700 kilometers (or about 435 miles, i.e., deep into India). The Pakistani military said the tests were successful and that a longer-range version of the Hatf series will be tested in the future. (See ACA missile fact sheet, www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/missiles.asp.) Both missiles tested this month are capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

Indian Command Centers Set Up

Meanwhile, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said the country’s nuclear command chain is in place. In declaring Oct. 5 that India’s Agni I and Agni II ballistic missiles have been handed over to the army for deployment, Fernandes acknowledged that India has established alternative nuclear command centers to ensure retaliation from a nuclear strike and has set up nuclear shelters and bunkers to protect officials in case of an attack. “We have established more than one [nuclear control] nerve center,” Fernandes told The Press Trust of India. “India as a declared nuclear-weapon state has been on this job from day one.”

The Agni I has a range of up to 700 kilometers (435 miles), and the Agni II has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). Each is capable of carrying payloads of 1,000 kg.

U.S. Cautions Restraint

Responding to Pakistan’s missile tests, the United States continued to urge India and Pakistan to “take steps to restrain their nuclear-weapon and missile programs, including no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles,” Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher said during a press briefing Oct. 14. The United States is also encouraging both countries to begin a dialogue on “confidence-building measures that could reduce the likelihood that such weapons would ever be used,” Boucher added. Boucher’s comments followed meetings between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Pakistani officials in Islamabad Oct. 6. Near the end of the month India announced some dozen “peace” proposals and Pakistan was deciding how to respond.



South Asia’s ballistic missile competition moved to a new phase in October. Amid news that India’s Agni I and II ballistic missiles were ready for deployment and had been handed over to the army...

White House Ready to Support Sanctions on Syria

Karen Yourish

A bill that would levy sanctions on Syria is winding its way through Congress and is expected to be signed by President George W. Bush when it lands on his desk later this fall. The House of Representatives voted 398-4 on Oct. 15 to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria unless it immediately halts development of ballistic missiles and production of biological and chemical weapons, stops supporting terrorism, and withdraws its forces from Lebanon. A similar measure in the Senate is expected to be sent to the floor for a vote in mid-November.

As passed by the House, the “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003” (H.R. 1828) requires the president to impose two or more sanctions from a list of six if Syria fails to comply. The sanctions include a ban on exports other than food and medicine; restrictions on travel for Syrian diplomats in the United States; a prohibition on U.S. investments or business operations in Syria; a ban on any aircraft owned or controlled by Syria from taking off from, landing in, or flying over the United States; a reduction of U.S. diplomatic contacts; and a freeze on Syrian assets in the United States. The bill allows the president to waive the imposition of sanctions for six-month periods for national security reasons.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) will seek to modify the Senate version of the bill (S. 982) before it is sent to the floor, to provide the president with maximum flexibility. “Senator Lugar has always been philosophically opposed to sanctions,” said Mark Helmke, a committee staffer. The committee held a hearing on the bill Oct. 30.

Last year, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other administration officials only barely thwarted a similar bid by lawmakers, contending at that time that imposing sanctions on Syria would make peace efforts in the Middle East more difficult. This time around, they have dropped their opposition, and everyone seems to be on the same page. “The administration informed Congress…this week that we did not…object to the Syria Accountability Act,” Adam Ereli, Department of State deputy spokesperson, said during a briefing Oct. 9. “I think this is a recognition of the fact, frankly, that…we were very clear with Syria about what we thought it needed to do to act effectively against terrorism.” Ereli said Powell told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in May that there would be consequences if Syria failed to take steps to ameliorate U.S. concerns.





A bill that would levy sanctions on Syria is winding its way through Congress and is expected to be signed by President George W. Bush when...

Former Negotiator Warns Bush: Last Chance for Diplomacy with North

One glance at the wall in Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard’s new office lined with magazine covers of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il makes clear that the veteran diplomat may have left the State Department, but his interest in striking a deal to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons remains undiminished.

Pritchard left his post as chief U.S. interlocutor with North Korea in late August. Since leaving the executive branch, this often lonely voice for more intensive diplomacy has prodded the Bush administration to engage Kim’s regime in arms control talks, a case he made in a 45-minute interview with Arms Control Today Oct. 28.

The United States wants North Korea to dismantle its recently-restarted plutonium-based nuclear facilities and suspected clandestine uranium enrichment program, both of which can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Two previous rounds of talks have not resulted in agreements.

Another round of six party talks is likely to occur, Pritchard said, but he warned that they might well be Washington’s final opportunity to shut down North Korea’s weapons programs. And he fretted that despite President George W. Bush’s recent statements that he will support a security agreement with North Korea, the administration has so far put “no substance on the table.”

“The North Koreans, if they believe that there’s nothing in it for them and we haven’t got our act together” will not return for a next round of talks, Pritchard said. A diplomatic breakdown, he warned, could lead to a sizeable North Korean nuclear arsenal. “This thing has the potential of getting well out of hand,” he said.

In particular, Pritchard said it was possible that North Korea would sell nuclear materials to terrorists or other rogue states if negotiations fail. He acknowledged that his assessment of the likelihood of that threat had changed in the last few years. Until “a couple of years ago,” Pritchard said, North Koreans were “trending away from what we would view as legitimate state sponsors of terrorism.”

Asked why the administration has not gone further in its diplomatic efforts, Pritchard said that “a wide range of views within the administration” has inhibited the administration’s ability to develop “a single, focused effort.”

To maximize the possibilities for a diplomatic breakthrough, Pritchard said the United States should concentrate on persuading North Korea to freeze its plutonium-based nuclear facilities, arguing that the less-developed uranium enrichment program is a much longer-term threat. Pyongyang’s current efforts to reprocess the spent fuel from previous operations of its reactor have “the potential” to yield enough material to give North Korea a total of between six and ten nuclear devices “in the very near future,” he said.

Obtaining such a freeze and addressing North Korea’s perceptions of a military threat from the United States “simultaneously and early will set the stage for the longer-term prospects that would include some form of economic developmental assistance” that could be coupled with a termination of the uranium enrichment program, he continued.

Commenting on preparations for a next round of talks, Pritchard expressed concern that the administration will agree to a date for a next round of talks before having a complete proposal. This approach will allow “those who are opposed to this level and direction” of diplomacy to “stall” the process. If that happens, “time will run out and then there will be a compromise and something less than sufficient will go forward.”

Pritchard stressed the need for a “sustained bilateral dialogue” between the United States and North Korea and recommended that the United States initiate a multilateral working-level meeting “ahead of the six-party talks to get most of the substantive work done.”

Speaking on how an agreement could be verified, an issue which “remains unresolved within the administration,” Pritchard cautioned that obtaining a completely verifiable deal from North Korea ought not become a stumbling block to a settlement. He characterized as “ridiculous” the notion held by some U.S. officials that an acceptable agreement must be “100 percent verifiable.”

Pritchard added that verifiably shutting down North Korea’s plutonium-based nuclear program in a manner acceptable to Pyongyang would be “relatively easy.” He admitted that verifying the elimination of the uranium enrichment program would “be a little bit trickier,” but said the United States should accept a deal if it “looks reasonable” because “if they cheat in the future, we will find out” through national intelligence sources.

He also warned against the alternatives to successful negotiations, arguing that increasing pressure on North Korea in hopes of overthrowing Kim Jong-Il’s regime would fail. Describing the North Korean government as “relatively stable,” Pritchard continued: “In the near term, is there anything on the horizon that suggests that regime change is imminent? No. Nothing. Zero.” He added that, based on accounts of recent visitors to North Korea, its economy “is inexplicably better off than it was a year ago…if you’re looking for things to implode because they’re getting worse, [they don’t] appear to be.”

Moreover, he said that key regional powers, particularly China, would be unlikely to support U.S. efforts to further pressure Pyongyang. “We’ve reached a peak” with Beijing in terms of its willingness to pressure North Korea “because of what the Chinese have perceived as a relatively poor showing by the [United States] in the April and August talks,” Pritchard said. The Chinese “fully expected that the [United States] would have a more mature and flexible approach in April. That was absolutely not the case.” At the time, in fact, he worried that the Chinese “might very well have walked away from their commitment to the six party talks” as a consequence.

Pritchard further cautioned that Washington should not use the talks merely as a means to gain support for a containment policy as opposed to reaching a genuine diplomatic resolution. “The other parties will not buy into it,” he warned.



One glance at the wall in Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard’s new office lined with magazine covers of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il makes clear that the veteran diplomat may...

Interdiction Initiative Participants Agree on End, Differ on Means

The United States has enlisted 10 other countries for its plan to seize shipments of deadly arms to terrorists and countries suspected of pursuing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. However, they have yet to reach consensus on all the measures to accomplish this mission.

Diplomats at an Oct. 9-10 meeting in London discussed what legal steps would be needed to follow through on President George W. Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and board vessels suspected of carrying dangerous cargo. Yet, they did not complete work on a model agreement to guide future interdictions because of differing interpretations on what is permissible, according to diplomats familiar with the fourth plenary meeting of PSI participants.

Like-minded countries within the initiative may still draft a boarding agreement, but it would not be a binding document. A chairman’s statement by the British government at the meeting’s end urged countries to share swiftly further comments on a boarding agreement presented by the United States so those “interested can move forward with concluding the agreement.”

The diplomats, who spoke on background, downplayed the differences as not being detrimental to the initiative’s future operation. They said the lack of an agreement reflects the flexible and informal nature of the initiative, which the chairman’s statement described as “an activity not an organisation.”

Per that understanding, the diplomats did not foresee a big expansion of the core group of countries involved in the initiative even though more than 50 countries have reportedly expressed support for its objectives. Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the current participants.

Other governments may be invited on an ad hoc basis to participate in or observe interdiction exercises or called upon to help perform or permit an actual cargo seizure, but such involvement will not necessarily signify formal membership. One of the diplomats explained that the initiative is a “much looser arrangement than typical arms control agreements.”

China and Russia are not counted among the 50-some countries endorsing the initiative, although both have been consulted about it. Moscow and Beijing question the legality and implications of the U.S.-led effort.

Due to their ties to Iran and North Korea—two of the initiative’s targets, in the eyes of the United States—and their own proliferation records, China and Russia could ultimately determine the initiative’s effectiveness. One diplomat said constructive Chinese behavior is essential to constraining North Korea’s weapons trade. Absent Chinese support, North Korea could bypass an initiative dragnet by importing or exporting WMD or related goods via Chinese territory or airspace.

Although the British chairman’s statement declared that the initiative’s participants are prepared to stop WMD trade “at any time and in any place,” there are legal limits to what actions they can take. Participants cannot seize cargo that is within another country’s borders or territorial seas without that government’s permission. The initiative’s participants also do not have freedom of action in international waters or airspace. For example, a ship on the high seas can only be stopped under certain scenarios, such as when it is not flying a national flag. Participants agree that the initiative needs to respect existing international law, the diplomats said.

Still, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton holds out the hope that the initiative will lead countries to act more aggressively within current law and, in effect, change it. In comments published Oct. 21 by The Wall Street Journal, Bolton said, “As state practice changes, customary international law changes.”

In any case, ensuring that they have the necessary legal authority to act does not rank high among the participants’ worries. They are more concerned about gathering and sharing accurate intelligence in a timely manner to enable interdictions.

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Walter Doran, told reporters in early October that a key issue in stopping smuggling and unwanted shipments is “situational awareness—what do we know about what’s moving on the ocean.” At this time, “[w]e don’t know enough,” Doran was quoted as saying.

The 11 participants continue to prepare for the moment when they have enough information. On Oct. 8, officials met in London for a simulated exercise of how to deal with an aircraft transporting dangerous goods. An Italian-sponsored exercise involving real aircraft is set for early December.

A U.S. naval ship and surveillance aircraft also participated in an Oct. 14-17 maritime interdiction exercise, SANSO 03, in the Mediterranean Sea. Hosted by Spain, the exercise included France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Another naval exercise is scheduled for late November.

Although continuing to hone their interdiction capabilities, the participants are going to take a short rest from plenary meetings. Portugal will host the next plenary in early 2004.


The United States has enlisted 10 other countries for its plan to seize shipments of deadly arms to terrorists and countries suspected of pursuing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. 

Battle Brewing Over Congressional Investigations

As Congress probes the Bush administration’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, battle lines are forming over how far the investigations should go. The Republican chairs of both the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence are eager to limit political damage to the White House and have limited their inquiries to examining how the intelligence community carried out its work.

Democrats insist the panels need to look beyond the quality of information that was supplied to President George W. Bush. They also want the investigations to look at whether Bush or his aides intentionally exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons capabilities in order to bolster their case for war. “I think the central question here is, frankly: Was there a predetermination to go to war on the part of the administration….Or was there faulty intelligence,” Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an appearance Oct. 26 on Meet the Press.

Republicans dispute the idea that Bush intentionally misled the American people. Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told USA Today and the Washington Post that his inquiry found no evidence that the White House pressured intelligence officials.

Roberts’ assessment was bolstered to some extent by remarks from Carl W. Ford Jr., the State Department’s newly retired intelligence chief. The intelligence community “has to bear the major responsibility for WMD information in Iraq and other intelligence failures,” Ford said in remarks published in the Oct. 29 Los Angeles Times. “We badly underperformed for a number of years,” he
added, “and the information we were giving the policy community was off the mark.”

But at a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Oct. 24, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence committee’s inquiry is “missing half” the issue. Levin is conducting his own inquiry, and Rockefeller has said he will launch an additional committee review to look at the administration’s use of intelligence if the majority refuses to do so.

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans grouse about the administration’s willingness to cooperate with the investigations. On Oct. 29, Roberts and Rockefeller sent a sharply-worded letter to CIA Director George Tenet after he demanded that top CIA officials be given the opportunity to respond to the panel’s preliminary findings. The letter called for the agency to provide the panel with needed information and schedule any interviews within two days. “The committee has been patient,” the senators wrote, “but we need immediate access to this information.”

The battle over the congressional investigations follows news that the Iraq Survey Group has so far failed to find actual weapons in Iraq. The head weapons inspector of that group, David Kay, received a mixed response from Congress when he briefed the House and Senate intelligence committees Oct. 2 on his “interim progress” report. Neither party could be said to be overjoyed, however, particularly after Kay told lawmakers that he needed another six to nine months and more than half-a-billion dollars to complete what many see as a fruitless investigation. The Bush administration is seeking an additional $600 million for Kay to continue his search, part of an $87 billion fiscal 2004 supplemental spending bill to pay for reconstruction costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To be sure, there were some Republicans who saw bright spots in the report. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, took an entirely different spin from his colleagues. “Basically, I think the news is extremely good,” he stated, contending that Kay’s report actually reaffirms the administration’s decision to go to war. —With Roxane Assaf






As Congress probes the Bush administration’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, battle lines are forming over how far the investigations should go.


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