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Nuclear Nonproliferation

U.S. Shows More Flexibility in North Korea Talks

Paul Kerr

With another round of six-party talks concerning the North Korean nuclear crisis likely to take place, the Bush administration has signaled new flexibility in its bargaining position. Although U.S. policy is still far from fully formed, the biggest change appears to be that the United States will not insist that North Korea completely dismantle its nuclear facilities before Washington addresses some of North Korea’s concerns. Instead, Department of State officials say, they are looking at a step-by-step approach to reduce tensions.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sept. 22 that future multilateral discussions are likely, and officials from South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China—the other participants in the recent talks held in Beijing—have all expressed support for another round.

North Korea, however, has been ambivalent. An Aug. 30 statement from the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) indicated that Pyongyang was uninterested in further six-party talks. But a Sept. 2 agency statement reaffirmed Pyongyang’s “will to peacefully settle the nuclear issue…through dialogue.”

Subsequent North Korean statements have argued that future six-party talks will not be useful unless Washington changes its “hostile policy” of threatening a military attack and economic strangulation. Pyongyang officials have repeatedly demanded that the two countries conclude a non-aggression treaty before Pyongyang destroys its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang’s ambivalence toward future talks stems from its aversion to U.S. demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program before addressing any of North Korea’s concerns. Indeed, the United States has repeatedly insisted that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program as a necessary—although not necessarily sufficient—condition for improved bilateral relations.

North Korea contends that the United States continued to articulate this position during the Beijing talks. (See ACT, September 2003). However, a senior State Department official insisted during a Sept. 4 press briefing that the U.S. delegation actually displayed more flexibility than the North Koreans claim and that Pyongyang’s statements seemed “pre-scripted” rather than responsive to the actual discussions.

The official said the U.S. presentations were “different in tone and in content” from those made during talks with North Korea in Oct. 2002 and this past April. The official added that the U.S. delegation “made clear that we are not seeking to strangle North Korea…we can sincerely discuss security concerns in the context of nuclear dismantlement, and...we are willing to discuss a sequence of denuclearization measures with corresponding measures on both sides.” The United States did not specify what measures it would take, the official said.

This account of the U.S. position is somewhat consistent with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Aug. 29 statement that all parties had reached a “consensus” to solve the nuclear crisis “through synchronous and parallel implementation.” However, a Sept. 1 statement from the South Korean government said there were “sharp differences” between the two sides, and Wang told reporters the same day that—despite his earlier comments—Washington’s policy is the “main problem” preventing diplomatic progress.

Pyongyang’s Proposal

During the talks, North Korea reiterated and elaborated on its solution for resolving the standoff. According to an Aug. 29 KCNA statement, North Korea proposed a step-by-step solution, calling for the United States to conclude a “non-aggression treaty,” normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the 1994 Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid. In return, North Korea would dismantle its “nuclear facility,” as well as end missile testing and export of missiles and related components.

North Korea made a similar proposal during a round of trilateral talks held in Beijing in April. A Sept. 10 KCNA statement also said that Pyongyang would discuss verification measures for any agreement “only after the U.S. drops its hostile policy.”

“Nuclear facility” appears to refer to its plutonium-based nuclear reactor frozen under the Agreed Framework—the agreement that 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-based nuclear facilities. An August KCNA statement denied U.S. charges, first made during a bilateral meeting in Oct. 2002, that North Korea possesses a uranium-enrichment program—another method for producing fuel for nuclear weapons.

A Compromise?

Following meetings with Bush and Powell in early September, South Korean Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Yoon Young-kwan said in a statement that the United States would probably go to the next round of talks with a proposal that would likely address North Korea’s security concerns. Powell said in August that the United States could support some form of written security assurance to North Korea, although he ruled out a nonaggression treaty.

Although State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Sept. 5 said the United States is not “going to grant inducements to North Korea to change its behavior,” a State Department official interviewed by ACT Sept. 24 said Washington is “looking at a sequence of steps” toward North Korean dismantlement. The senior State Department official stated Sept. 4 said North Korea would not “have to do everything before they would hear anything.”

Still, U.S. policy is clearly in flux. For example, the senior State Department official said Washington has not “completely decided” on procedures for verifying any North Korean agreement. And although Bush said in May that the United States “will not tolerate” a nuclear-armed North Korea, the administration has not said how it will respond to North Korea’s producing nuclear weapons. Powell stated during a Sept. 22 interview with Business Week that the United States will say “Gee, that was interesting” if North Korea test nuclear weapons, contending that North Korea would only conduct such a test to “scare the international community.”

State Department Spokesman J. Peter Ereli said Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly is to meet his counterparts from South Korea and Japan Sept. 29-30 to coordinate their North Korea policies.

A Nuclear Doctrine?

North Korea articulated the circumstances under which it would use nuclear weapons in a Sept. 1 KCNA statement, which describes Pyongyang’s “nuclear deterrent” as “defensive,” adding that its weapons will “remain unused” unless another country “provokes” it. North Korea does not intend to sell its nuclear weapons or provide them to terrorists, the statement adds.

North Korea told the U.S. delegation during the April talks that it had nuclear weapons and made a veiled reference to testing them. According to the senior State Department official, during the August talks the North Korean delegation threatened to test nuclear weapons or “demonstrate the means that they would have to deliver” them—an apparent reference to their missiles. The Sept. 2 statement warned that North Korea “will have no option but to increase its nuclear deterrent force” if the United States does not change its policy.

KEDO’s Future

Meanwhile, Bush agreed Sept. 14 to waive the restrictions on funding to the Korean Peninsula Development Organization (KEDO), the U.S.-led consortium that is building the reactors under the Agreed Framework. Congress had prohibited funding KEDO unless Bush determined “that it is vital to the national security interests of the United States.” Bush’s decision provided “up to” $3.72 million for KEDO’s administrative expenses—not for the actual reactors, which the United States has never funded.

U.S. allies have opposed scrapping the reactor project. Minister Yoon said Seoul favors a “temporary suspension” of the project, as opposed to terminating it, according to a September press release.
Decisions about the reactor project’s future would be made at a KEDO Executive Board meeting, but no meeting has been scheduled, a KEDO official said during a Sept. 24 interview.

A North Korean Proposal

The following is the keynote speech given by Kim Yong II, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs, at the six-party talks in Beijing Aug. 27. It is the most detailed account to date of what the North Koreans proposed, and appeared in an article published by KCNA, the state-run news agency:

For a package solution, the U.S. should conclude a non-aggression treaty with the D.P.R.K., establish diplomatic relations with it, and guarantee the economic cooperation between the D.P.R.K. and Japan and between the north and the south of Korea. And it should also compensate for the loss of electricity caused by the delayed provision of light-water reactors [LWRs] and complete their construction.

For this, the D.P.R.K. should not make nuclear weapons and allow the nuclear inspection, finally dismantle its nuclear facility, put on ice the missile test fire, and stop its export.

According to the order of simultaneous actions, the U.S. should resume the supply of heavy-fuel oil and sharply increase the humanitarian food aid while the DPRK should declare its will to scrap its nuclear program.

According to this order, we will allow the refreeze of our nuclear facility and nuclear substance and monitoring and inspection of them from the time the U.S. has concluded a nonaggression treaty with the DPRK and compensated for the loss of electricity.

We will settle the missile issue when diplomatic relations are opened between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the DPRK and Japan. And we will dismantle our nuclear facility from the time the LWRs are completed.

First, the DPRK and the U.S. should make clear their will to clear up bilateral concerns.
The DPRK will clarify its will to dismantle its nuclear program if the U.S. makes clear its will to give up its hostile policy toward the DPRK.

Second, all the countries participating in the six-way talks should agree on the principle to implement the measures for solving the nuclear issue between the DPRK and the U.S. through simultaneous actions.

If our reasonable proposal is turned aside at the talks, we will judge that the U.S. does not intend to give up its attempt to stifle the DPRK by force at an appropriate time while persistently insisting the DPRK “scrap its nuclear program first” to waste time.

In this case, the DPRK cannot dismantle its nuclear deterrent force but will have no option but to increase it. Whether the nuclear issue will be settled or not depends on the U.S. attitude.

In His Own Words

The following are excerpts from the first public comments made by Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard, former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, since he resigned from the State Department in late August (prior to the Beijing talks) over the Bush administration’s approach toward North Korea. The comments were made during a Sept. 8 press briefing at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.:
“I’ll start off by saying…the prospects for success, unless the format is slightly altered, are very grim. [T]he six-party formulation is in fact the right one. Multiparty internationalization of the issue, particularly on the nuclear issue, is the right track to take…The change that has to occur is putting in the component of a true bilateral engagement between the United States and North Korea....
“What is required is a sustained involvement by the United States with North Korea. Does that mean that we’re going to resolve the problem bilaterally? No. We’re going to lay the ground work that will put it back into the six-party format….But it cannot occur without a sustained and serious dialogue between the United States and North Korea. You cannot get to the point where you understand who your opponent is at the negotiating table unless you have had continuous contact with them over a period of time….
“[I]t’s going to be very difficult to trust any arrangements that are made with the North Koreans. But the alternative is not acceptable. Allowing the North Koreans to become a declared nuclear weapons state, testing the nuclear weapons, and potentially having the ability to transfer the technology or the weapons is not acceptable. Nor is not negotiating acceptable….
“Rather than the drive-by meetings that occur, where we roll down the window and we kind of wave to the North Koreans and then move on, we’ve got to have a full-time negotiator who can do the coordination with North Korea, do the coordination of our policies with our allies Japan and South Korea on a continuous basis, and touch base with the Chinese and the Russians….”






With another round of six-party talks concerning the North Korean nuclear crisis likely to take place, the Bush administration has signaled new flexibility in its bargaining position. 

Summit Leaves Iran, North Korea Questions Unanswered

Christina Kucia

Despite what they described as “open, very frank” discussions about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their Sept. 26-27 talks at Camp David without any concrete decisions on how to address the crises.

At a joint press conference Sept. 27, Bush said the United States and Russia “share a goal…to make sure Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program.” Putin maintained that “Russia has no desire and no plans to contribute in any way to the creation of weapons of mass destruction, either in Iran or in any other spot, region in the world.” He noted that Russia’s decision to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr is in full compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and agreed with Bush that both countries will continue to urge Iran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.

The United States has criticized Russia’s assistance to Iran in constructing the $800 million reactor and providing nuclear fuel for the plant. Russia has maintained that it will require Iran to return any spent fuel, although the two countries have yet to sign an agreement enforcing this pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Concern over Iran’s nuclear energy program escalated in September after international investigators detected traces of highly enriched uranium in two facilities. (See “Concern Heats Up Over Iran’s Alleged Nuclear Program,” p. 20.)

Both presidents agreed that North Korea must cease its nuclear weapons program. At the press briefing, Bush reiterated his call for North Korea “to completely, verifiably, and irreversibly end its nuclear programs.” Putin, however, also pressed the United States to offer Pyongyang “guarantees in this sphere of security,” drawing attention to U.S. reluctance to provide such explicit guarantees. (See “U.S. Shows More Flexibility in North Korea Talks”) On the Iraq front, Bush failed to secure military or financial support from Putin for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Also during the summit, both sides discussed implementation of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which entered into force in May 2003. (See ACT, June 2003.) The Bilateral Implementation Commission, which is scheduled to meet twice yearly, has yet to convene. The commission’s first meeting may be scheduled later this fall, in late October or early November.




Despite what they described as “open, very frank” discussions about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President...

India, Pakistan Trade Barbs Over Nukes

Karen Yourish

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has denied reports that Pakistan shared its nuclear technology with other countries, namely North Korea. “All our [nuclear] assets are under strict control,” Musharraf asserted Sept. 25 at a gathering in Ottawa organized by the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. “I can guarantee they will not fall in the wrong hands.”

The Pakistani president rejected charges that “lower ranks” of the country’s military could be passing nuclear information to other countries or possible terrorists. He admitted having had “defense relations with North Korea” but said those were limited to surface-to-air missiles with conventional warheads. The U.S. government has been unable to prove reports that Pakistan’s Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) engaged in a nuclear-for-missile swap with North Korea. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee raised the allegations against Pakistan before the UN General Assembly in New York. He said member states should be “particularly concerned at the various recent revelations about clandestine transfers of weapons of mass destruction and their technologies. We face the frightening prospect of these weapons and technologies falling into the hands of terrorists.” The prime minister went on to criticize international conventions such as the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for their inability to reign in such exchanges. “Surely,” he argued, “something needs to be done about the helplessness of international regimes in preventing such transactions, which clearly threaten international security.”

“The same regimes expend considerable energy in imposing a variety of discriminatory technology-denial restrictions on responsible states,” the prime minister said.

India and Pakistan have refused to join the NPT or the CTBT, both of which would open up their nuclear arsenals to greater scrutiny. The two countries shocked the world in May 1998 when they detonated a series of nuclear devices weeks apart from each other.

In an address to the General Assembly Sept. 25, Musharraf attacked India for embarking on a “massive buildup” of its conventional and nonconventional military capabilities and warned countries who “oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” to review their decisions to offer major strategic systems to India.

India is seeking Washington’s blessing to buy the U.S.-Israeli Arrow anti-ballistic missile system from Israel. In August, the U.S. government gave Israel the green light to sell three Phalcon airborne early-warning radar command and control systems to India for an estimated $1 billion.

The Pakistani president warned that “sustainable security in South Asia requires India and Pakistan to institute measures to ensure mutual nuclear restraint and a conventional arms balance.” India’s interest in purchasing new weapons systems, he said, “will destabilize South Asia and erode strategic deterrence.”

President George W. Bush met with Musharraf Sept. 24 and had lunch with Vajpayee. According to the Department of State, the president discussed cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and support for the war on terror with both of the leaders. Musharraf said he raised concerns over India nuclear weapons purchases during his meeting with Bush.

India Consolidates Its Nuclear Force

The Political Council of India’s Nuclear Command Authority met Sept. 1 for the first time since it was established in January (See ACT, January/February 2003). The council, headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and set up to formulate political principles and administrative arrangements to manage India’s nuclear arsenal, took action to transfer ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons from India’s military services to the Strategic Forces Command now in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal. “These decisions will consolidate India’s nuclear deterrence,” a statement issued after the meeting said.






Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has denied reports that Pakistan shared its nuclear technology with other countries, namely North Korea. “

Interdiction Initiative Starts to Take Shape

Wade Boese

Aiming to give sea legs to their evolving effort to intercept global shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles, and related technologies to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern, participants of the 11-country Proliferation Security Initiative held their first maritime interdiction exercise in September. The group also approved a broad set of principles to guide their actions under the U.S.-led initiative.

In the Coral Sea on Sept. 12-13, a U.S. Navy destroyer joined ships from Australia and the Japanese Coast Guard, as well as French and Australian aircraft, in hunting down, boarding, and seizing the cargo of a merchant vessel pretending to carry WMD-related goods in an exercise dubbed “Pacific Protector.” Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom—the other seven members of the initiative—sent observers.

Pacific Protector marked the first in a series of 10 exercises envisioned over the next several months. Two are tentatively scheduled for October. France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States will lead some of the future practice interdictions, which will include ground, air, and sea scenarios.

The exercises’ objectives are two-fold. They are designed to improve the 11 countries’ capabilities to coordinate and carry out interdictions together and send a signal to potential proliferators that heightened attention is being paid to their dealings.

Senior U.S. government officials recently have argued that the initiative and its exercises are intended make proliferators take greater pains to hide their trade, making it more arduous and less profitable.

Though the initiative is ostensibly not targeted at any specific countries, top Bush administration officials, such as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, leave little doubt that North Korea is the country that Washington most wants to feel the initiative’s pinch. However, some U.S. officials, as well as diplomats of other governments, are quick to declare that the initiative is not a blockade of North Korea.

Pyongyang has reacted negatively to the initiative. North Korea’s state-run press described the exercises as “blatant military provocations” that could lead U.S.-North Korean relations to an “explosive phase.”

China, which hosted six-party talks in August to try and defuse tensions regarding North Korea’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons, also expressed criticism of the initiative, fearing it could further stress an already strained situation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kong Quan said Sept. 4, “Quite some countries have doubts over the legality and effectiveness of the [initiative]. Under such circumstances, one should act in a prudent manner.” He recommended that dialogue is the best way to prevent proliferation.

Concerns about the initiative also appear to extend to some capitals with close ties to Washington. Neither Canada nor South Korea has publicly joined the effort, though U.S. officials say the initiative is to be expanded as broadly as possible. China, Russia, and South Korea have all reportedly been consulted about the initiative.

The initiative is still in its formative stages. President George W. Bush announced the initiative May 31 and the participants held just their third formal meeting Sept. 3-4 in Paris, where they agreed upon a set of nonbinding principles framing the new interdiction strategy.

Participants pledged not to ship weapons of mass destruction or related delivery vehicles and technologies themselves and to “seriously consider” cooperating in letting their vessels or those flying their flags be stopped and searched if suspected of carrying such cargo. They also vowed to inspect vessels and airplanes reasonably suspected of transporting dangerous goods entering their territorial seas or airspace.

The initiative does not license its participants to conduct search and seizures unconditionally. A vessel in international waters, generally 24 kilometers and further from a coastline, is typically off-limits unless it is unmarked or the country whose flag the ship is flying gives permission for it to be boarded.

The initiative does not authorize or empower its adherents to do anything that they could not do before. It is more a spur to action to take greater advantage of existing national and international law to try and stop proliferation.

U.S. and foreign officials view sparse and tardy intelligence—not a lack of authority or forces—as the biggest hurdle to implementing the initiative. To remedy this shortcoming, the 11 countries committed to improve their procedures for sharing information on illicit or undesirable trade in a timely fashion to enable effective action.




Aiming to give sea legs to their evolving effort to intercept global shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles, and related technologies to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern...

Bush Calls on UN to Curb Proliferation

Christine Kucia

The Bush administration is urging the UN Security Council to adopt an anti-proliferation resolution that would call upon member states to “criminalize” the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In a Sept. 23 address at the opening of the UN General Assembly, President George W. Bush warned that “[t]he deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away.” He called on states to adopt tighter export controls, stronger legislation, and better border security to prevent the illicit transfer of materials and offered U.S. support to any country that needed help devising such programs.

Bush used the speech to justify further his handling of the war in Iraq and, amid criticism over Washington’s preemptive strike policy, called on member states to lend their support to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Speaking earlier in the day, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan harshly attacked the Bush administration’s position—without actually naming names. “Now, some say…states have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other states, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed.” Annan condemned such logic, warning it “could set precedents that result in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification.”

Beyond calling for the nonproliferation resolution, Bush offered no new initiatives and failed to mention the world’s most pressing proliferation concerns: Iran and North Korea. Instead, the president stuck to familiar themes, reiterating the existence of measures such as the newly formed Proliferation Security Initiative (see page 24) and the Nunn-Lugar program as examples of steps that are being taken to prevent dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

French President Jacques Chirac also stressed nonproliferation in his comments. He proposed holding a council summit meeting to frame a “genuine” UN action plan against proliferation, as well as creating a permanent corps of inspectors under the council’s authority.

In Their Own Words...Excerpts from the UN General Assembly Sept. 23

By President George W. Bush

A second challenge we must confront together is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons—and the means to deliver them—would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions. These weapons could be used by terrorists to bring sudden disaster and suffering on a scale we can scarcely imagine. The deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away. If such a danger is allowed to fully materialize, all words, all protests, will come too late. Nations of the world must have the wisdom and the will to stop grave threats before they arrive.

One crucial step is to secure the most dangerous materials at their source. For more than a decade, the United States has worked with Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union to dismantle, destroy, or secure weapons and dangerous materials left over from another era. Last year in Canada, the Group of Eight nations agreed to provide up to $20 billion—half of it from the United States—to fight this proliferation risk over the next 10 years. Since then, six additional countries have joined the effort. More are needed, and I urge other nations to help us meet this danger.

We’re also improving our capability to interdict lethal materials in transit. Through our Proliferation Security Initiative, 11 nations are preparing to search planes and ships, trains and trucks carrying suspect cargo, and to seize weapons or missile shipments that raise proliferation concerns. These nations have agreed on a set of interdiction principles, consistent with legal—current legal authorities. And we’re working to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative to other countries. We’re determined to keep the world’s most destructive weapons away from all our shores, and out of the hands of our common enemies.

Because proliferators will use any route or channel that is open to them, we need the broadest possible cooperation to stop them. Today, I ask the UN Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution. This resolution should call on all members of the UN to criminalize the proliferation of weapons—weapons of mass destruction—to enact strict export controls consistent with international standards, and to secure any and all sensitive materials within their own borders. The United States stands ready to help any nation draft these new laws, and to assist in their enforcement....

By President Jacques Chirac

In the face of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, we reject all faits accomplis. We must stand united in ensuring the universality of treaties and the effectiveness of nonproliferation regimes. We must strengthen our means of action in order to ensure compliance....

By Secretary General Kofi Annan

In the Korean Peninsula, and elsewhere, the threat of nuclear proliferation casts an ominous shadow across the landscape….

Weapons of mass destruction do not threaten only the western or Northern world. Ask the people of Iran, or of Halabja in Iraq. Where we disagree, it seems, is on how to respond to these threats….

The council needs to consider how it will deal with the possibility that individual states may use force preemptively against perceived threats. Its members may need to begin a discussion on the criteria for an early authorization of coercive measures to address certain types of threats; for instance, terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction….

Excellencies, we have come to a fork in the road. This may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded….




The Bush administration is urging the UN Security Council to adopt an anti-proliferation resolution that would call upon member states to “criminalize” the...

Concern Heats Up Over Iran's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution Sept. 12 that sets an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate fully with the agency’s efforts to resolve concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Tehran has sent mixed signals as to whether it will comply, possibly setting the stage for a showdown in the UN Security Council.

The resolution is the IAEA board’s strongest action to date regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In June the board issued a statement calling on Iran to resolve concerns created by its failure to report certain nuclear activities, as mandated by its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Such agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes. Iran ratified the NPT in 1970 and has repeatedly denied that it is pursuing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The IAEA action follows months of pressure from Washington. The Bush administration expressed satisfaction with the resolution, with White House press secretary Scott McClellan describing it Sept. 25 as “one last chance for Iran to comply” and adding that the matter “should be reported to the Security Council” if Iran fails to do so. Although President George W. Bush said Sept. 25 that “there will be universal condemnation” if Iran does not cooperate, McClellan would not speculate on what course of action the administration would recommend if the matter is referred to the Security Council. The board is to evaluate Iran’s progress shortly after the deadline.

The United States has long had suspicions that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but international concern accelerated during the last year as more details about Iran’s uranium-and plutonium-based nuclear programs emerged. When operational, both programs could produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a report in June summarizing the agency’s investigation into Iran’s nuclear programs and concluding that Iran had violated its safeguards agreements. A second report in August provided more details on Iran’s programs and revealed inconsistencies in previous Iranian statements to the agency, raising more questions about Tehran’s nuclear intentions.

Tehran has suggested that it is willing to cooperate with the IAEA but has voiced concerns that such cooperation will not be sufficient to meet U.S. demands. The IAEA is sending a team to Iran Oct. 2 to begin inspections and get a more complete picture of Iran’s nuclear activities, an IAEA official said in a Sept. 29 interview.

The Resolution

The most important component of the resolution calls on Iran to take “all necessary actions…to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities” by the deadline, expressing particular concern about Iran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program. A pilot gas centrifuge plant near the town of Natanz contained more than 100 centrifuges as of February, when ElBaradei first visited the facility. Centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride gas in cylinders to increase the concentration of the relevant isotopes. Tehran is also building a commercial facility that could hold enough centrifuges to produce fissile material for 25 nuclear devices per year. (See ACT, June 2003.)

The February discovery of the Natanz facility’s advanced state produced suspicions that Iran had secretly tested its centrifuges with nuclear material—an action that would violate its safeguards agreement. Under the agreement, Tehran can only conduct such tests if IAEA inspectors are notified. Iran has said it tested the centrifuges without nuclear material, but IAEA experts dismiss its claim.

In June, Iran adhered to the letter if not the spirit of its agreement by introducing nuclear material into the Natanz facility’s centrifuges under IAEA safeguards. That action came despite a board of governors’ request earlier that month that Tehran refrain from doing so. Iran accelerated its tests in August. The resolution “calls on Iran to suspend all further uranium-enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz,” but there is no indication that Iran has stopped.

The resolution further calls on Iran to comply with the agency’s investigation into the matter by “providing a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme.” ElBaradei reported in August that environmental samples taken by IAEA inspectors revealed the presence of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at the pilot facility. Iran has explained the findings by claiming that it imported contaminated components, but the material’s presence may also indicate that Iran tested its centrifuges with nuclear material.

Iran’s acknowledgment that it had obtained some of the components through “foreign intermediaries” contradicted the country’s past contention that its enrichment program was entirely indigenous.
The centrifuge technology’s origin is unknown. Although a French report in May asserted that the technology is likely of Pakistani origin, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Asefi told reporters Sept. 1 that Iran has not cooperated with Pakistan. The August IAEA report says that the machines are of “an early European design,” but that does not exclude the possibility that they originated in Pakistan. (See ACT, September 2003.)

The IAEA resolution also requires Iran to allow inspectors to conduct environmental sampling in “whatever locations the IAEA deems necessary” to complete its verification tasks. Conducting samples has been a particularly contentious issue. Iran delayed allowing inspectors to conduct samples at a location called the Kalaye Electric Company for months after inspectors first requested access. When inspectors conducted sampling in August, they found “considerable modification” of the facility which could adversely impact the samples’ accuracy.

The IAEA has been particularly interested in the Kalaye site because Tehran acknowledged it produced centrifuge components there and the agency believes that sampling could help verify the government’s claim that it has not tested centrifuges with nuclear material. The IAEA has not revealed the results of the sampling, but the Associated Press reported Sept. 29 that Ali Akbar Salehi, Tehran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, acknowledged that inspectors found HEU at the site. He again blamed contaminated components.

Will Iran Comply?

Whether Iran will comply with the IAEA’s demands is an open question. Asefi said Tehran’s response to the resolution “is still being examined and…Iran’s final stance will be declared in due time,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Sept. 21. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, however, said in a television interview that Iran is “determined to cooperate” with the agency, according to a Sept. 28 Associated Press report.

Earlier in the month, Tehran seemed to issue a veiled threat to pull out of the NPT. Iran’s representatives walked out of the IAEA meeting when the resolution was adopted, and Asefi told reporters Sept.14 that Iran would “review its cooperation” with the IAEA. However, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh told the IAEA General Conference Sept. 16 that, although Iran “objects” to the resolution, it is still “fully committed to its NPT responsibility.”

Salehi discussed his government’s thoughts in more detail with Der Spiegel on Sept. 15, saying Iran would take “appropriate measures” if the United States tries to force it to forgo all uranium-enrichment activities. These measures could include limiting its cooperation with the IAEA to the minimum level required by its original safeguards agreement, “completely” ending cooperation with the agency, or pulling out of the NPT, he said. During the course of the agency’s investigation, Iran has allowed the IAEA to conduct inspections beyond those required by Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Additional Protocol

The resolution reiterates the IAEA’s June request that Iran “promptly and unconditionally” implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. An additional protocol allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities that countries have not declared to the agency in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs.

The IAEA and Iran have had ongoing discussions about the agreement, and Salehi said Sept. 15 that Iran is ready to begin negotiations “leading to our signing it.” IAEA spokesperson Melissa Flemming said that concluding the protocol was unnecessary for the agency to conduct its current investigation, Agence France Presse reported Sept. 25.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in August that Iran signing the additional protocol would not be sufficient to satisfy Washington’s concerns about that country’s nuclear programs.

Moscow-Tehran Cooperation Continues

Russia continues to move forward on the construction of a light-water nuclear reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. Russia has agreed to provide fuel for the reactor, with the condition that Iran sign an agreement to return the spent fuel, but Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev could not say when this agreement will be concluded, Agence France Presse reported Sept. 19.

Iran has also introduced a new variable. Russian Deputy Minister for Nuclear Energy Valery Govorukhin said that Iran now wants Russia to pay for the removal of the spent fuel, the Itar-Tass news agency reported Sept. 10. Rumyantsev added Sept. 19 that the two sides are negotiating this new demand—a process that could further delay conclusion of the agreement.

Although a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Iran Sept. 13 to conclude an additional protocol and cooperate with the IAEA, Govorukhin added that Russia’s provision of reactor fuel is not conditioned on Iran signing the protocol. Moscow has hinted at such linkage in the past.

Washington has long opposed the Bushehr project because of concerns that Iran will gain access to expertise and dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program. Russia contends that the reactors will not contribute to a nuclear weapons program and will operate under IAEA safeguards.

Russian officials have said they may build more reactors in Iran and IRNA reported Aug. 26 that Russia has delivered feasibility studies to Iran for a second reactor being planned for Bushehr. The two governments agreed to conduct the studies in December 2002. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Govorukhin said Sept. 10 that the Bushehr reactor will be completed in 2005, but the Aug. 26 IRNA report placed the date at 2004.

How Long Until a Weapon?

Major General Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, the head of Israeli military intelligence, told Jane’s Intelligence Review that Iran can develop a nuclear device “within two years” after gaining the ability to produce sufficient uranium, according to a Sept. 13 Agence France Presse report. Iran has said that it plans to start installing centrifuges into the commercial Natanz facility in 2005.

Ze’evi-Farkash, however, added that Israel believes 2004 is “the point of no return” because Iranian scientists will have by then acquired all the “necessary knowledge” for building a nuclear device.

Public U.S. estimates give a slightly longer time frame. A January 2003 Congressional Research Service report states that “the consensus among U.S. experts appears to be that Iran is still about eight to ten years away from a nuclear weapons capability, although foreign help or Iranian procurement abroad of fissionable materials could shorten that timetable.” A February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate says Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material. Whether these estimates take into account the most recent Iranian nuclear developments is unknown.

Additionally, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton argued during a June congressional hearing that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the Bushehr reactor for 5-6 years, and chose to withdraw from the NPT.

The IAEA Resolution: An Excerpt

1. Calls on Iran to provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency to allow the Agency to provide at an early date the assurances required by Member States;
2. Calls on Iran to ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report pursuant to its safeguards agreement;
3. Reiterates the Board’s statement in June 2003 encouraging Iran not to introduce nuclear material into its pilot enrichment cascade in Natanz, and in this context calls on Iran to suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz, and, as a confidence-building measure, any reprocessing activities, pending provision by the Director General of the assurances required by Member States, and pending satisfactory application of the provisions of the additional protocol;
4. Decides it is essential and urgent in order to ensure IAEA verification of non-diversion of nuclear material that Iran remedy all failures identified by the Agency and cooperate fully with the Agency to ensure verification of compliance with Iran’s safeguards agreement by taking all necessary actions by the end of October 2003, including:
(i) providing a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme, especially imported equipment and components stated to have been contaminated with high enriched uranium particles, and collaborating with the Agency in identifying the source and date of receipt of such imports and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran;
(ii) granting unrestricted access, including environmental sampling, for the Agency to whatever locations the Agency deems necessary for the purposes of verification of the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations;
(iii) resolving questions regarding the conclusion of Agency experts that process testing on gas centrifuges must have been conducted in order for Iran to develop its enrichment technology to its current extent;
(iv) providing complete information regarding the conduct of uranium conversion experiments;
(v) providing such other information and explanations, and taking such other steps as are deemed necessary by the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities, including environmental sampling results;
5. Requests all third countries to cooperate closely and fully with the Agency in the clarification of open questions on the Iranian nuclear programme;
6. Requests Iran to work with the Secretariat to promptly and unconditionally sign, ratify and fully implement the additional protocol, and, as a confidence-building measure, henceforth to act in accordance with the additional protocol;
7. Requests the Director General to continue his efforts to implement the Agency’s safeguards agreement with Iran, and to submit a report in November 2003, or earlier if appropriate, on the implementation of this resolution, enabling the Board to draw definitive conclusions....




The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution Sept. 12 that sets an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate fully...

Bolton Accuses Syria of Developing WMD

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has reiterated U.S. concerns that Syria is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). During a Sept. 16 hearing before the House International Relations Committee, Bolton repeated charges that Syria is developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but his testimony provided no new information. (See ACT, May 2003.)

Bolton accused Damascus of possessing “one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities” and “continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability.” He also warned that Syria’s nuclear research and development program, as well as its civil nuclear cooperation with Russia, could enable a nuclear weapons program. Syria is not known to have produced biological weapons agents, and the Pentagon stated in 2001 that Syria is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Under international law, Damascus is not prohibited from possessing chemical weapons because it is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

During his testimony, Bolton reiterated other U.S. concerns about Syria’s behavior, including the fear that Damascus could transfer WMD to terrorist organizations although he added that “[t]here is currently no information” that Syria has done so or “would permit such groups to acquire them.” Bolton also acknowledged that he could not confirm reports that Iraq had transferred prohibited weapons to Syria.

Bolton said Washington “will stress peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the proliferation threat,” but added that states seeking WMD “must see and feel the logic of adverse consequences.” He said Washington needs to have the option to employ “every tool in our nonproliferation toolbox,” which he said includes economic sanctions and interdiction of WMD materials.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has reiterated U.S. concerns that Syria is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Independence-Dependence Paradox: Stability Dilemmas in South

Feroz Hassan Khan

Has a new era of détente and stability emerged in South Asia five years after India and Pakistan first openly tested nuclear weapons? In the process, have India and Pakistan effectively demonstrated the value of nuclear weapons in deterring war? Deterrence optimists claim that fear of the ultimate weapon has restrained the otherwise rough actors who have been at each others’ throats more often than any other nuclear neighbors in the nuclear age. Empirical evidence also suggests that the region has been spared from major wars, despite recurrent crises during the past two decades.

Deterrence pessimists, however, dispute that nuclear weapons have had a stabilizing impact in the region. Indeed, the advent of nuclear weapons has witnessed increased tensions, a growing arms race, and a half-dozen crises nearing war. The region has come close to full blows at least twice since the open 1998 nuclear weapons tests—in 1999 and 2001-2002—and thrice earlier in the covert nuclear period—in 1984, 1986-1987, and 1989-1990. In fact, the three most recent crises—in 1990, 1999, and 2001-2002—only avoided escalating into a full-scale war because of intense U.S. diplomacy.

In fact, it could be argued that the deterrence equation in South Asia now implicitly depends on U.S. intervention. In essence, India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear policies involve what might be called the “independence-dependence paradox.” These two proud countries have attempted to wean themselves from outside support by using nuclear weapons. But this strategy has ironically served to make them more dependent on other powers who are forced to mitigate the consequences of this arms race. No other country has played a more crucial role than the United States.

In many ways, this paradox does more to explain the difficulty in constraining conflicts that threaten to involve the two countries’ nuclear arsenals than the much ballyhooed “stability-instability” paradox. That term originated during the Cold War when analysts such as Glenn Snyder and Robert Jervis sought to explain why, in the first nuclear age, the superpowers managed to avoid conventional armed conflicts that could have precipitated into nuclear exchange, instead using proxy wars to gain advantage over the other.1 In recent years, many theorists have sought to apply the Cold War term to the standoff between India and Pakistan.2 But that has only highlighted the crucial differences between the Cold War and the new, complex realities in South Asia.

In the case of India and Pakistan, nuclear weapons are entangled with bitter regional disputes, exacerbating the instability half of the original stability-instability paradox. Yet, the other half—stability—is still evolving and has yet to mature.3 Because the issues concerned are critical to India’s and Pakistan’s core national identities, the two states have exercised force and coerced each other several times, pushing crises to the brink. De-escalation has, more often than not, required successful, outside (read, U.S.) intervention. Having achieved requisite nuclear deterrence, neither side is prepared to concede to the other, each testing the vulnerability of the other in a game of “chicken.” This brinkmanship strategy has placed the region into a delicate balance whose repeated crises have only made it more dependent on the United States.

Yet, even as India and Pakistan count on U.S. intervention to restrain its adversary and ensure stability, paradoxically they are adamant about their professed independence in nuclear matters. Historically, the two South Asian states developed their nuclear arsenals much against the will and nonproliferation efforts of the West. Even today, India and Pakistan take little heed of outside powers as they develop and possibly deploy strategic weapons. That attitude has constrained the ability of the United States to promote stability, especially in the early phases of a crisis or a potential war.4

Nuclear Weapons as a Means of Achieving Strategic Independence

Underlying India’s and Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons was their quest for genuine independence, which began in the wake of painful experiences with outside powers: first, under British rule and, later, under the umbrella of Soviet and U.S.-led alliances in 1960 and the early 1970s. In particular, the South Asian states pursued the nuclear option after repeated defeats on the conventional battlefield and perceived abandonment by outside allies. For India, its loss to China in a 1962 border conflict proved decisive; for Pakistan, its twin losses to India in 1965 and 1971 pushed it down the nuclear path. Nuclear weapons were intended to replace outside dependence and were seen as a source of security and political independence. Stephen Cohen has likened Pakistan’s strategic decisions to those of Israel: “Both [Israel and Pakistan] sought an entangling alliance with various outside powers (at various times, Britain, France, China and the U.S.), both ultimately concluded that outsiders could not be trusted in a moment of extreme crisis, and this led them to develop nuclear weapons.”5

Soon after embarking on its nuclear program, Pakistan formally bid farewell to the U.S.-led Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and Central Treaty Organization alliances and joined India as a member of the Non-aligned Movement. Pakistan nevertheless slowed down open development of nuclear weapons owing to its need to ensure a reliable delivery system for nuclear weapons as well as maintaining good relations with the United States. This was formally crystallized in 1985 through a U.S. law known as the Pressler amendment, after its sponsor, Senator Larry Pressler (R-S.D.). That law effectively tied Pakistan’s purchase of F-16 fighter jets to a presidential certification that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons.6 That meant Pakistan had to calibrate its strategic policy carefully, keeping its nuclear weapons development discreet and a short screwdriver’s turn away from operation.

India likewise continued its nuclear weapons development in secret although, after conducting a “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974, India publicly denied that it was proceeding to develop a nuclear- weapon capability. Until the 1998 nuclear tests, both countries remained ambiguous about the status of their nuclear weapons programs. In rhetorical terms, both sides frequently used phrases such as “peaceful nuclear program” and “keeping open the nuclear option,” implying commitment to “not only [retaining] freedom of action in the narrow nuclear-strategic realm but also the wider principle of state sovereignty in international relations.”7 In the context of the larger strategic policy, a nuclear deterrent was said to fulfill various objectives: dissuade the adversary from contemplating aggression; deter potential enemies; increase bargaining leverage; reduce dependence on allies; and acquire military independence by reducing dependence on external sources of military hardware.8

Threatening Instability and Engaging the United States

Before the introduction of nuclear weapons to South Asia, the United States had lesser stakes in resolving the Indo-Pakistani rivalry. The last serious and proactive attempt made by the United States was in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy sent Ambassador Averell Harriman as special envoy to the region on a fact-finding mission. South Asia then had come into U.S. focus primarily due to several developments in the region that related to Cold War dynamics, including the 1960 shooting of a U-2 spy plane that had departed from its base in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the growing Indo-Chinese problems that eventually led to the India-China war in October 1962.

In regard to the Indo-Pakistani dispute, Harriman concluded that the Kashmir problem was too intractable.9 After Kennedy’s assassination, and especially during the Johnson administration, other issues and events lessened U.S. interest in the region.10 From then until about the end of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union managed to keep the standoff within bounds. But as the superpower conflict was winding down, both India and Pakistan were moving apace with their nuclear programs. As their capabilities increased, they began testing each others’ limits. An examination of the five South Asian crises over the past two decades reveals that India and Pakistan managed earlier crises without overt outside intervention, but as their capabilities increased, the level of crises also worsened. In fact, each crisis was more severe than the previous one, and the United States incrementally became more involved.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration quietly urged India and Pakistan to back down over crises, such as India’s 1984 occupation of the Siachin glacier and India’s 1986-1987 attempt to revive plans for a “preventive war” in the garb of a military exercise, known as Brasstacks.11 But the regional leaders themselves made the overt gestures, such as President Zia ul- Haq’s famous cricket diplomacy during the 1986-1987 crisis. In the three crises during the 1990s, on the other hand, the United States has been directly engaged, from Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates in 1990-1991 to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot in 1999 and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in 2001-2002.

The last few years following India’s and Pakistan’s overt nuclear tests show that nuclear deterrence has not prevented crisis. This fact was evident most notably in the 1999 Kargil crisis and in the crises of 2001-2002. In 1999 the Kargil crisis came under the clear shadow of demonstrated nuclear capability and a much-trumpeted bilateral meeting in the spring of that year at Lahore. Pakistan sponsored an attack across the Line of Control and captured an area in the vicinity of Kargil that threatened a strategic highway in northern parts of disputed Kashmir, which triggered the crisis. From Pakistan’s perspective, this was a continuum of the Kashmir dynamics that was dragging on regardless of other developments in the region.

For the rest of the world, there was a new reality in South Asia. After demonstrating their nuclear capabilities, India and Pakistan were required to manage their neighborly relations differently. In the view of some analysts, Pakistan might have overestimated the value of its nuclear deterrence by hoping that India’s response to the Kargil crisis would be tempered because it feared nuclear escalation.12 Although Pakistan’s official version of the event is ambiguous and muted on some questions, from hindsight and available published reports it can be concluded that Pakistan’s military assessment grossly underestimated India’s response as well as the diplomatic fallout. The Kargil episode illustrated the limits of nuclear dependence. Nuclear deterrence might assure security from an ultimate aggression but does not free the state to pursue a course of causing “deliberate instability” at a lower level.

The other major crisis since the 1998 tests began with the 2001 terrorist attack against the Indian parliament. On December 13, 2001,terrorists attacked the Indian parliament. India accused Pakistan of complicity and mobilized conventional forces and demanded that Islamabad cease support to insurgents in Kashmir and hand over leading militants—essentially coercing Islamabad to throw in the towel. By deploying troops along the Pakistan border and posing a physical threat to Pakistan, India compelled the United States to view the Kashmir insurgency on a par with terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In turn, Pakistan matched India with a reciprocal deployment. By mid-May 2002, another crisis erupted when terrorists attacked an Indian army camp in Kashmir. This time, the crisis reached the brink of war, a situation unprecedented since the 1971 war. Islamabad then further fueled the crisis by conducting three missile tests in late May 2002. Simultaneously, Pakistan threatened to withdraw forces that were deployed on its western border in support of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and hinted at requesting the withdrawal of the U.S. base at Jacobabad in Pakistan if war with India broke out.13

These moves not only sent a message to India but also affected the United States and other Western countries, kindling fear that the countries might pass the nuclear threshold if conventional war broke out. But Islamabad also sought to avoid panic and thus offered peaceful reassurance to both India and the United States.14 The United States acted to calm the crisis through phone calls from President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to the leaders of India and Pakistan and then by sending Armitage and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the region. These actions were largely responsible for preventing escalation.

Cold War wisdom suggests that, when two states have the capability to assure each others’ destruction, the cost of war and the risk of inadvertent escalation must outweigh any potential gains either state could countenance.15 India and Pakistan, however, have paid some costs; but it remains unclear if either side has learned the lessons, if any, and what costs are at stake. India believes that, in 2001-2002, it successfully compelled the United States to act and extract a public commitment from Pakistan to end support for militants in Kashmir. Yet, India continues to believe it has space to wage a limited conventional war that it can win. Pakistan believes that its policy of reciprocal deployment and deterrent signaling, such as testing missiles, prevented India from going any further and that the risk of nuclear escalation checkmates any conventional adventure India might contemplate. It nevertheless took 10 months of mobilization and force deployment for India finally to conclude that the risks and potential cost of a general conflict “trumped any desire to resolve the Kashmir dispute by force.”16

Still, as both sides fell back to their respective positions, they repeated their familiar pattern: India alleged that Pakistan supported militant infiltration into India, then Pakistan denied this, and so India refused to start a dialogue. Once again it fell to the United States to goad both sides into some sort of thaw.17 Finally on April 17, 2003, after procrastinating for several months, Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee held out a hand of friendship. Since then, both sides have shown flexibility and cautiously crawled back to the basics of state-to-state relations: exchanging envoys, resuming bus service, easing some visa issues, and other small steps. But so far, they have shied away from tackling major issues, especially the core issue of Kashmir, which both states believe belongs rightfully to them. Although the recent efforts are positive, the fear remains that terrorists in the region might strike and blow away the fledgling peace steps at any moment. But there is still hope that more comprehensive bilateral talks might begin at some point.

A Strategy of Brinkmanship

In the final analysis, the nuclear reality and the overall political and strategic framework make a war infeasible for both countries. India has assured asymmetric destruction—both conventional and nuclear—in its favor. India’s aim is to crush the insurgency in Kashmir, keep the limited conventional war option open, and hold Pakistan under threat of massive nuclear retaliation in the event Pakistan contemplates the threat or use of the nuclear card. This concept assumes that India could design a war with limited scope, retain escalation control, and thereby erode Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent against conventional aggression by calling its nuclear bluff.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s strategy is to deny India space for waging a conventional war and to be prepared to expand any war, retain the nuclear use option, and make costs exceed any benefits that India might calculate—basically, to deny India victory on the cheap. Even if Pakistan risks survival in a prolonged all-out war due to structural asymmetries with India, Islamabad keeps close to its chest a repertoire of strategies to offset and “design around” India’s numerical conventional force advantage and its own geophysical vulnerabilities. In such a deterrence construct, both sides seek room to elbow each other out, engage in brinkmanship, and test the others’ resolve.

Professor Robert Powell from the University of California at Berkeley has explained the conundrum of nuclear deterrence stability within the dynamics of brinkmanship.18 States might seek to exert coercive pressure on each other by raising the risk that events will spiral out of control. How much risk they are willing to bear will be limited by the relative value each state places on the issues at stake relative to the risks involved. This logic implies that brinkmanship is not reckless behavior but a means to test the resolve of an opponent and run risks to outbid the other, especially in situations where all-out wars are prohibitively costly. Powell also asserts that brinkmanship crises only occur if the balance of resolve is uncertain. When each state believes that it is likely to be more resolute than the other state, then each might escalate in the expectation that the other will back down.19

This logic is vividly applicable in the case of South Asia. Both countries hurl themselves into crises that deepen, escalate, and reach a point of spiraling out of control, only to unwind with outside intervention—notably by the United States. One author has suggested that “India and Pakistan brinkmanship is not wild-eyed but designed to meet policy objectives…. Pakistan ratchets up tensions to garner external (mainly U.S.) pressure on India to come to [the] bargaining table, India uses coercive diplomacy to bring pressure on Pakistan to halt support for militants…. In using brinkmanship both India and Pakistan want ultimately [to be] held back while having the United States push their interests forward.” 20 But this strategy leaves the region in a dangerous limbo because the decision is left to the United States to determine whether it intervenes or not.21

The South Asian protagonists have thus become more dependent than ever on the United States. Yet, much to the chagrin of the region, the United States has neither the time nor the patience to accord priority to the region, which President Bill Clinton once described as the “most dangerous place.”22 Consequently, a dangerous pattern has set in: India and Pakistan push a crisis to the brink, anticipating U.S. intervention, and the United States might take its time in the belief that South Asian crises are manageable through “firefighting diplomacy” and that there is no urgency to launch a proactive process of conflict resolution. The brinkmanship is not aimed to fight a war but to win the crisis, and both hope that the U.S. intervention would be helpful. One scholar has noted, “Each has misread its closer ties to the United States as evidence that Washington has embraced its perspective. Each has treated the intense engagement and military presence of the United States as insurance against escalation to war.”23

The outcome of the latest crisis, in fact, offers a cautionary tale for the future and a new twist on the stability-instability paradox. India believed that ensuring nuclear stability provided space to consider a limited war and coerce a nuclear neighbor. But a semblance of instability—through missile signaling (dubbed as missile antics by India)—worked to deter the adversary as well as induce diplomacy. War was prevented, but this set a dangerous precedent. India might believe that conventional force mobilization did not prove sufficiently credible in this crisis; the next time it would test the resolve by seeking a higher threat that might include waging a war that would certainly spiral out of control.

The U.S. Role

The United States faces several challenges in the region. First, it must balance its interests regarding India and Pakistan with its global responsibilities. U.S. interests are different, less intense, and more sporadic than those of local actors, which serve to limit U.S. influence even though U.S. clout in the region has never been as influential as it is now, especially with India. The second challenge for the United States is to manage the tension between its twin objectives of war prevention and nonproliferation. The larger U.S. objective is to prevent nuclear states from going to war and prevent war-prone states from going nuclear. Efforts to solve regional problems, such as technical assistance for nuclear command, control, and communication in South Asia, might create undesirable precedents. Third, the United States faces a dilemma in how to balance between India and Pakistan, best exemplified by the difficulties it faces in providing military aid. U.S. efforts to increase one country’s security might increase the other side’s insecurity, such as providing F-16s to Pakistan to redress her air force deficiency or missile defenses to India to protect against Pakistan’s potent missile force.24

Clearly, the United States is preoccupied with other global issues, so it is mostly up to India and Pakistan to resolve their problems and reduce their dependence on outside powers. Both sides must initiate nuclear risk reduction measures; expand the existing links to include links with respective nuclear command authorities; revive the spirit of the existing confidence-building measures and initiate new ones; and expand economic ties to create more local incentives for cooperation.

Meanwhile, the United States can play its part by engaging now rather than waiting to take part in crisis management. The next South Asia crisis is likely to test the “uncertainty of resolve”25 of both India and Pakistan, and the threshold and time of crises is likely to be compressed, leaving no time for scheduling a crisis management visit to the region. At a minimum, the United States should appoint a high-level ambassador to the region, as Kennedy did with Harriman in 1962, along with a strong team of U.S. experts on the region. The diplomacy process should start at two levels. At the first level, the United States must not only encourage India and Pakistan to proceed on bilateral substantive talks on a wide range of political and strategic issues, including risk reduction measures and economic links, but also monitor and record the substance of the work in progress. At another level, U.S. experts should produce a fact-finding report that the United States would use to prepare a “road map” and methodology for engaging the region that must include not just India and Pakistan but the dynamics emerging from the Afghanistan situation. A constructive, broad-based engagement by the United States— including political resolution to the conflict, strategic restraints on conventional and nuclear forces, and harnessing trade—would enable the region to maintain a path of stability and also calibrate their self-imposed paradoxes.





1. Glenn Snyder, “The Balance of Power and the Balance of Terror,” in The Balance of Power, ed. Paul Seabury (San Francisco: Chandler, 1965). Robert Jervis, The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989).

2. Michael Krepon “Nuclear Risk Reduction: Is Cold War Experience Applicable to Southern Asia?” in The Stability-Instability Paradox: Nuclear Weapons and Brinksmanship in South Asia, eds. Michael Krepon and Chris Gagne, Henry L. Stimson Center paper no. 38, June 2001.

3. Feroz Hassan Khan, “Challenges to Nuclear Stability in South Asia,” Nonproliferation Review, vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 2003) pp. 59-73.

4. Peter Lavoy and Feroz Hassan Khan, Presentation made to the Fifth Nuclear Stability Round Table Seminar on “Strategic Stability in a Turbulent World” at Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Virginia, April 28-29, 2003.

5. Stephen Cohen, India: Emerging Power (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001), p. 204.

6. The Pressler amendment required the U.S. president to certify each year to Congress that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons.

7. Devin Hagerty, “Preventing Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia,” Asia Society (New York, 1995).

8. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, “Nuclear Developments in Pakistan: Future Directions,” in Nuclear Non-Proliferation in India and Pakistan: South Asia Perspectives, eds. PR Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Iftikharuzzaman, Regional Center for Strategic Studies, Colombo (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1996), pp. 131-132.

9. U.S. Department of State, “Report of the Harriman Commission,” pp. 5-8, S/S Files. South Asia, DSR, NA, cited by Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001) p. 135.

10. Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies

11. Scott D. Sagan, “The Perils of Proliferation in South Asia,” in South Asia in 2020: Future Strategic Balances and Alliances, ed. Michael Chambers (Carlisle Barracks Pennsylvania: Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College, 2002), pp. 197-199.

12. Lee Feinstein, “Avoiding Another Close Call in South Asia,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2002, pp. 3-4.

13. “The Delicate Balance in South Asia,” in Strategic Survey 2002/2003 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press), p. 210.

14. Bruce Blair, “Alerting in Crisis and Conventional War,” in Managing Nuclear Operations, eds. Ashton Carter et al. (Washington DC: Brookings, 1987), p. 76. Around the first week of June 2002, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf made reconciliatory statements that nuclear-weapon use was unthinkable and no sane person could think of using nuclear weapons.

15. Michael Krepon, “The Stability-Instability Paradox, Misperception, and Escalation Control in South Asia,” Henry L. Stimson Center paper, May 2003.

16. “The Delicate Balance in South Asia,” p. 206.

17. After the de-escalation, the U.S. Department of State applied considerable pressure on both sides to start a dialogue. Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca and Director of Policy Planning Richard Haass made several visits to the region to urge both sides, especially India, to commence a dialogue. Despite the thaw, at the time of this writing, there are hints but no official commitment to start a comprehensive dialogue.

18. Robert Powell, “Nuclear Deterrence Theory, Nuclear Proliferation, and National Missile Defense,” International Security, vol. 7, no. 4 (Spring 2003), pp. 86-118.

19. Ibid, p. 93.

20. Satu Limaye, “Mediating Kashmir: A Bridge Too Far,” The Washington Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 1 (Winter 2002-2003), p. 159.

21. For example, in the 2002 crisis, it took two weeks for Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to schedule a visit to the region when war was imminent and could have broken out under sheer momentum of the dynamics of mobilizations and deployments.

22. Judith Miller and James Risen, “The United States is Worried About an Increased Threat of Nuclear Conflict Over Kashmir,” The New York Times, August 8, 2000.

23. Polly Nayak, “Reducing Collateral Damage to Indo-Pakistani Relations from the War on Terrorism,” Policy Brief no. 107 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, September 2002), p. 2.

24. Conclusions presented by Peter Lavoy in the Fifth Nuclear Stability Round Table Seminar on “Strategic Stability in a Turbulent World” at Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Virginia, April 28-29, 2003.

25. Powell, “Nuclear Deterrence Theory, Nuclear Proliferation, and National Missile Defense,” pp. 91-100.


Brigadier General Feroz Hassan Khan is the former director of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division of the Joint Services Headquarters of Pakistan. He is currently a visiting faculty member at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California.



NNSA Folds Advisory Council

Christine Kucia

In a surprise decision, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) shut down an advisory committee established to review the agency’s research and development portfolio and make recommendations for strengthening its science and technology work. The action drew harsh criticism from several members of Congress.

The committee, which was created June 25, 2001, had a two-year term for its work, and the NNSA decided not to renew it. Committee members included physicists and other scientists with technical knowledge about nuclear weapons, as well as former government officials and experts with experience on a complex range of nuclear policy issues. The committee was created soon after the NNSA was established as a semi-autonomous agency of the Energy Department, when General John Gordon—the first head of NNSA—tasked the committee to “provide advice and recommendations on matters of technology, policy, and operation.” The charter also indicated that the advisory group “is expected to be needed on a continuing basis.” The committee met five times during its two-year term.

The committee’s termination occurred soon after Ambassador Linton Brooks was sworn in as NNSA’s administrator in May. (See ACT, June 2003). According to NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes, the group’s members should not have been surprised by its termination because federal advisory committees stand only for two years unless a specific renewal request is made. He added that, in the absence of the committee, the Nuclear Weapons Council—comprised of Brooks and two officials from the military and the Defense Department—will continue to develop guidance on nuclear weapons policy. “Ambassador Brooks has no shortage of advice,” Wilkes said.

Some former committee members disagree. “A committee like this was a very useful thing for NNSA to have,” Raymond Jeanloz, a University of California professor of planetary science, told ACT August 20. He explained that the committee provided analysis, recommendations, and constructive criticism for the agency. “We made recommendations that ended up being implemented. And we served a ‘checks and balances’ role,” he said.

Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist on the committee, had harsher words about the group’s lapse. “I presume they did not value us or found us a nuisance,” he said, according to a July 31 article in The Guardian.

Congressional objections drew attention to the committee’s demise. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) blasted the decision in a July 29 press release. “[I]nstead of seeking balanced expert advice and analysis about this important topic, the Department of Energy has disbanded the one forum for honest, unbiased external review of its nuclear weapons policies,” he said.

Markey also sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, asking for an accounting of the committee under the rules governing groups established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The letter called for copies of the group’s final report to be provided to the Library of Congress; asked whether the committee fulfilled its mandate after holding only five meetings over the two-year term; and inquired how NNSA’s administrator will be advised in the future on complex technical and policy issues in the absence of “the only independent contemplative body studying nuclear weapons.”

Despite Markey’s efforts, NNSA continues to guard the committee’s final report. After his office requested copies, NNSA officials sent the final document to its Office of General Counsel, where it awaits further review by the agency. NNSA refuses to estimate when the report will be publicly available.

Jeanloz said he was “surprised” by the department’s decision to withhold the report, which he said was entirely unclassified. “I can’t think of anything in the report that would be detrimental or negative for the current NNSA leadership or NNSA in general,” he said, adding that refusing to issue the report “may make the document seem far more provocative than what it concludes.”


In a surprise decision, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) shut down an advisory committee established to review the agency’s research...

U.S. Disposes of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it achieved significant milestones in two programs: a project to convert weapons-grade fissile material to nuclear fuel for power stations and the cleanup of a former U.S. nuclear weapons facility site.

As part of the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Blend-Down Program, South Carolina’s Savannah River Site in mid-July sent its first shipment of low-enriched uranium—converted from excess weapons-grade, HEU—to Nuclear Fuel Services in Tennessee. There, the uranium will be converted into fuel that will be used for civilian energy purposes at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama. The project will continue through 2007.

In addition, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced August 19 that Rocky Flats, the former plutonium trigger production site near Denver, sent out its last shipment of fissile material as part of its shutdown process. Manufacturing of plutonium pits—which trigger detonation of a thermonuclear weapon—ended at the site in 1989 after it was deemed an environmental hazard and shut down. Initial studies estimated that cleanup and closure would take up to 65 years, but in 1995 the DOE and its contractors established an accelerated schedule due to the potential danger posed by the large amount of plutonium at the site and its proximity to a heavily populated area.

Plutonium from Rocky Flats is being shipped to Savannah River Site, where it will later be converted into fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Despite political wrangling between Abraham and South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges (D) over shipping Rocky Flats’ plutonium to Savannah River Site in 2002, the Rocky Flats site is on track to be completely closed down by 2006. (See ACT, May 2002.)


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