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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Nuclear India at the Crossroads

Rajesh M. Basrur

Five years after first publicly testing nuclear weapons, India stands at a critical point in its strategic path. It faces today a crucial choice between maintaining a minimal deterrent and expanding its arsenal so as to sustain a Cold War-style posture toward its nuclear adversaries. Two factors are likely to shape its decision: its selection of a deterrence “model” based on two very diverse experiences with China and Pakistan and, more crucially, its own ability to comprehend and articulate the assumptions and ramifications of “minimum deterrence.”

The 1998 tests broke with a history of leisurely, covert, and often hesitant weaponization and forced on Indian leaders important issues relating to doctrine and organization. Yet, the Indian government has truly to grapple with these concerns. The Draft Nuclear Doctrine floated in 1999 was widely debated but yielded no detailed follow-up. After a long gap, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government in January 2003 released a short statement reiterating its commitment to “building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent.” (See ACT, January/February 2003.) It emphasized that India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons (except against biological or chemical weapons) but promised massive retaliation in response to a nuclear attack to inflict “unacceptable damage” on the enemy. It also announced the existence of a Nuclear Command Authority under civilian control and the appointment of a commander-in-chief of the Strategic Forces Command as the apex military decision-maker.1 Apart from gradual organizational consolidation, India has demonstrated its deterrent capabilities in two ways: through the range of tests carried out in 1998 and through the array of missiles undergoing various stages of development and induction into its forces.2

Still, India’s nuclear doctrine has yet to crystallize fully in the form of a clearly thought-out and articulated posture. On the one hand, there is a strong element of restraint in the fact that nuclear warheads have not been deployed on missiles but are stored in an unassembled state. On the other, the quest for a triad of launch platforms invites a continually expanding arsenal. As the organization of India’s nuclear assets proceeds, pressures to stretch capability beyond the confines of minimum deterrence—or simply to redefine “minimum” to encompass more—are likely to increase. The persistence of high-level threat perceptions will also encourage an expansionary process. Which path will India’s leaders take? Its relationships with China and Pakistan offer very different possibilities.

India and China: Oligopolistic Competition

It is often forgotten that India faces not one but two nuclear adversaries: China and Pakistan. With both rival nuclear powers, India must contend with territorial disputes, a history of war, and perceptions of nuclear threat. Yet, its relations with China and Pakistan are very different in tenor. India’s stable relationship with China is conducive to a relaxed and minimalistic nuclear posture; its tense and crisis-ridden confrontation with Pakistan facilitates a volatile and expansionary one.

The China factor was central to Indian nuclear strategic thinking from as far back as 1964, when China tested its first nuclear bomb just two years after it had inflicted a serious military defeat on India. The war left unsettled a territorial dispute over their long border that still engages the two countries in endless talks. It also left Indians distrustful of the Chinese for having “betrayed” their friendship. The threat of a Sino-Indian war has since arisen on more than one occasion, most significantly in 1986-1987 in the Sumdorong Chu valley in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an area which China to this day does not recognize as part of India. China threatened to “teach India a lesson,” and both sides mobilized several divisions.3 Eventually, a political compromise was reached, although full withdrawal of forces took place only in August 1995.

China was a primary cause for India’s decision to go nuclear, even though from the Indian standpoint, the Chinese threat was not direct or immediate. New Delhi viewed evidence of China’s assistance to Pakistan’s missile and nuclear programs as strong indication of less-than-benign Chinese intent.4 In a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton, Vajpayee justified his decision to test a nuclear weapon openly by pointing to the threat from China, which Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes more bluntly characterized as “potential threat number one.”5 Indian concerns about China’s nuclear aid to Pakistan and the larger issue of its efforts to contain India (through an enhanced presence in Myanmar, for example) are yet to be assuaged. Chinese concerns about India’s steadily expanding missile reach are likewise growing.6

Despite the persistence of sources of tension, India and China have managed their relationship remarkably well. The border problem has been kept in abeyance through the mechanism of annual talks since the early 1980s, and a Joint Working Group was established in 1988. Meanwhile, other aspects of the relationship have flourished. Trade grew from $1.1 billion in 1995 to nearly $3.5 billion in 2001.7 In April 2003, Fernandes visited China and expressed “a deep sense of satisfaction and the conviction that this visit will be the beginning for drawing a road map for the near future.”8 In July and August 2003, a confrontation between border patrols at the Line of Actual Control in the region of Arunachal Pradesh was met with a diplomatic rather than a military response.9

The overall picture that emerges is akin to “oligopolistic competition,” in which large rivals compete but do so in a stable market. India and China appear to have reached an understanding that their persistent differences on the border and on the nature of the Chinese-Pakistani relationship should not be allowed to prevent the stabilization of their strategic relationship as a whole. A measure of this stability is India’s disinterest in attempting to catch up with China’s nuclear arsenal either in qualitative or quantitative terms, although there is an ongoing effort to ensure its ability to reach additional Chinese targets through the development of the Agni-III missile, which has a range of more than 3,000 kilometers.10 Notably, while Indian and U.S. critics have fretted that the planned U.S. ballistic missile defense system will have a “cascading” effect on China, India, and Pakistan, generating expanding arsenals and consequent tensions, Indian officials have expressed no such fears.

India and Pakistan: Spiraling Hostility

The Indo-Pakistani relationship stands in stark contrast. The rising tensions accompanying the process of nuclearization have fed on a history of violent partition in 1947, which was followed by three wars in 1947-1948, 1965, and 1971. During the 1980s, the covert development of nuclear weapons by both countries brought increased tensions and what some have termed the “stability-instability paradox”—the persistence of low-level conflict between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.11 Pakistan encouraged the militant Khalistan movement in India’s Punjab state, and major crises involving the amassing of troops on both sides of the border occurred in 1986-1987 and 1990. An insurgency in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir obtained Pakistani support, and tensions escalated in the 1990s.

The 1998 nuclear tests, besides confirming a process of weaponization already well under way, ratcheted up tensions still further. Like other nuclear rivals before them, India and Pakistan attempted and failed to gain advantage over each other through coercive diplomacy.12 In 1999, Pakistan’s clandestine seizure of several mountain peaks in the Kargil region of Kashmir brought a short, sharp military clash that many regard as a war. Persistent terrorist violence in Kashmir culminating in an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 generated a fresh crisis. Indian leaders, blaming Pakistan for supporting the militants, responded with a massive mobilization of conventional forces, threatening an unspecified form of “limited war.” The crisis subsided only after a prolonged confrontation that endured until October 2002. Both events aroused global pressures for peace but brought no bilateral concessions. Rather, they left the belligerents dissatisfied, intimating the possibility of more to come.

In contrast with the Indo-Chinese case, the Indo-Pakistani relationship has been marked by a secular trend of rising confrontation, although interspersed with high-level attempts to negotiate (the summits of 1988, 1999, and 2000). Despite some successes in the past, such as the 1960 Indus Water Treaty and formal and informal nuclear confidence- building measures agreed on in 1988 and 1999, the trend has not been positive.13 Tit-for-tat nuclear and missile testing and contentious rhetoric have remained the most striking feature of the relationship. Trade links are marginal, cultural exchanges have all but dried up, and regional collaboration has suffered. The outlook for positive change is uncertain at best. Neither India nor Pakistan has a strong government or is likely to. Power will likely continue to be distributed between groups jostling uncertainly for control. With the religious right on the rise in both countries, there is much skepticism as to whether the most recent effort to cut the Gordian knot will yield results. The scope for compromise on Kashmir, which would require substantial concessions by both sides, seems limited. In contrast with the Indo-Chinese relationship, the Indo-Pakistani one presents a picture of spiraling competition, with the prospect of crises and arms racing ever hovering in the background.

India’s choices about the path ahead are likely to be pulled in different directions by the two kinds of strategic relationships it faces. New Delhi’s relationship with Beijing encourages a combination of restrained competition and limited but growing cooperation. The relatively smooth ties between the two countries will allow India to maintain a fairly stable nuclear force even if the Chinese force expands, while resisting arms racing, fears about vulnerability, and the risk-taking that tends toward recurrent crises. The Indo-Pakistani “spiral model,” on the other hand, is inherently unstable. It is highly competitive; thrives on a zero-sum view of the adversary; and encourages arms acquisition, concerns about vulnerability, and the direct or indirect manipulation of nuclear capability for coercive diplomacy.

At present, the Indian posture lies somewhere in between these two approaches. India has chosen not to have its nuclear forces deployed for immediate launch and has not expressed many public worries about the balance of forces vis-à-vis China. Also, the aggressive nuclear rhetoric in which India and Pakistan have periodically engaged has not been paralleled by threat and counter-threat in terms of deployed strategic forces. At the same time, in other ways, India has favored an expansionary nuclear weapons policy, supporting open-ended development of its nuclear force, notably the long-term drive for a diversely constituted nuclear triad. New Delhi has also continued to try to practice coercive diplomacy under the nuclear shadow. Should this dichotomy persist, the “realist” outlook of those who press for an expansionary nuclear policy is likely to prove triumphant, as it is hard to resist the apparent security of greater numbers and technological sophistication in an environment of high tension. The redirection of nuclear strategy by India in this way would almost inevitably be followed by a replication by India and Pakistan of Cold War postures and politics on an “affordable” but still risk-laden scale.

The key question then is, How might such a shift be prevented? There are two ways in which this could be done. India’s and Pakistan’s bitter competition could be transformed into a more manageable relationship like the one New Delhi enjoys with Beijing. If that does not prove possible, restraint and stability might still be induced by means of a clearer understanding of minimum deterrence and its basic assumptions. In the first case, the United States can play a valuable role. In the second, it cannot.

Common Interests and Behavioral Restraint

One key to tamping down nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan is to focus on vital interests that are common to both countries. In a nuclear relationship, nothing can be more vital than the necessity of preventing war and nuclear catastrophe. India and Pakistan have to arrive at the understanding that, although Kashmir might be central to their respective identities as nations, avoiding nuclear conflict comes first. This means separating the dispute over Kashmir from the larger nuclear relationship so as to maintain a broad stability in the way that India and China have done.

India needs to comprehend that large-scale mobilizations such as the one it carried out during 2001 and 2002 significantly raise nuclear risks. The fact that war did not break out is hardly reassuring, because one could just as well occur in the next crisis, and although Pakistan might view supporting terrorist groups active in India as a low-cost strategy, it is actually counterproductive to Islamabad’s broader security interests. Many of the “freedom fighters” of Kashmir have links with al Qaeda and the larger objective of global Islamic revolution, which includes overthrowing the Pakistani state.14 In addition, they have already come close to triggering a subcontinental war through the attack on India’s parliament. Their capacity to do so again remains undiminished, particularly by means of an act of nuclear or radiological terrorism.

Maintaining the present posture of deterrence without active deployment of nuclear weapons is in the interests of both countries. If India and Pakistan choose to deploy their weapons, tensions would inevitably rise. The possibility of an accidental war triggered by a false alarm of nuclear attack would go up sharply. Nuclear weapons are also targets for terrorists. A terrorist attack on either side’s nuclear forces could be misinterpreted as an enemy assault, which would further raise the risk of nuclear war. The coexistence of terrorism and nuclear infrastructures on both sides of the border creates a common interest between the two states, because neither would like the region’s terror groups or al Qaeda to acquire nuclear capability. A strategy of minimum deterrence also has a built-in advantage if an arsenal is kept down to small numbers. The smaller the number of weapons, the less the likelihood of “normal accidents,” and the fewer the targets for terrorists.15

The United States has played both a catalyzing and a dampening role in the complex nuclear politics of the region. U.S. intervention has reduced the likelihood of an actual war, but its propensity to intervene in the continual conflicts of the region has enabled India and Pakistan to employ a novel strategy: the generation of crises to invite U.S. intervention and put its adversary under pressure. This has worked in part; the Kargil conflict, although a serious diplomatic reverse for Pakistan, did give Kashmir a prominent place on the global agenda of the United States. Similarly, although India did not succeed in ending cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, it did place Pakistan under an intense and diplomatically disadvantageous spotlight. The United States has astutely avoided becoming entangled in an attempt to resolve the Kashmir issue, but it could do more to separate the political problem of Kashmir from the military-strategic problem of nuclear instability.

Unlike the United States and the Soviet Union, India and Pakistan have shown an inclination for arms control fairly early in their development as nuclear powers. As far back as 1988, Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto agreed to exchange lists of nuclear facilities annually and promised not to attack them in case of war. Soon after the 1998 nuclear tests, under the 1999 Lahore Memorandum of Understanding, India and Pakistan agreed, among other things, to notify each other of impending missile tests. By and large, they have adhered to these agreements even at the height of tension and crisis. The key is to persuade them to go further.

The United States can play a significant role in at least three ways. First, its active presence in the region acts as a restraining factor in times of high tension. Second, it can promote organizational “best practices” in weapons safety and security during storage and transportation. Third, electronic systems such as permissive action links (PALS) to prevent unauthorized launch or sabotage can be offered. The most common objections to providing such assistance are that it would violate the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), that it will amount to “rewarding” proliferators, and that the possession of electronic safety locks will encourage active deployment and increase the element of risk. The first argument misinterprets the NPT. Article I of the treaty, which obliges its signatories not to “transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly,” cannot be understood to proscribe anything which contributes to its own stress on the dangers of nuclear war to “all mankind” and the “need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war.” The term “control,” within the meaning of the treaty, clearly refers to enabling functions, not restrictive ones designed to prevent war. The second argument rests on the facile assumption that states’ decisions to proliferate are affected by the prospect of reward. There is no evidence to support this. The third fails to weigh the benefits of more effective command and control against the risks, undoubtedly real, of false confidence derived from technical sophistication. In volatile situations involving armed confrontation amid a high level of terrorist activity, the former should take precedence.

Understanding Minimum Deterrence

At the same time, the concept of “minimum deterrence” has not been adequately spelled out and hence might be undermined by pressures emanating from perceived threats or by groups with vested interests. For instance, India’s stress on the “credibility” of deterrence reflects a lack of clarity as to what exactly constitutes deterrence. Because of the enormity of their effects, nuclear weapons need not be certain to inflict massive damage. Even a small risk of large-scale devastation suffices to deter. Beyond creating that risk, an emphasis on credibility serves only to try and reassure oneself that one’s weapons will “work.” If we go a step further and consider that any decision to go to war presumes the weighing of potential costs against potential benefits, then it becomes very difficult in most cases, including the Indo-Pakistani case, to consider war as rationally desirable: it is hard to conceive of potential benefits that might outweigh even a small risk of nuclear attack.

In short, deterrence is sufficiently “credible” if it creates a small risk in the adversary’s mind. This central assumption generates a wide array of strategic rules: a few nuclear weapons are adequate for deterrence to be effective; deployment is not necessary except under conditions of grave threat; numerical balances or imbalances are meaningless; one “leg” of a potential triad is enough to deter; and the risk of escalation makes a counterforce-countervalue distinction irrelevant. Missile defense is not problematic for two reasons: minimum deterrence is tolerant of numerical imbalances in forces, and the risk of some missiles penetrating a defense shield can never be eliminated.16 Above all, second-strike capability, which is the basis of stable deterrence, does not require large, invulnerable forces that can certainly strike back. A small force that might be able to strike back creates a sufficient risk in the mind of the adversary to deter a first-strike decision.

This implies that, even if strategic relations with a particular adversary take a turn for the worse, there is no need for a change in nuclear posture. A rational adversary will invariably try to avoid nuclear conflict, even when threatening it. A study of Indo-Pakistani conflicts shows just this. In Kargil, Pakistan bore the humiliation of retreat; in 2002, India accepted failure by eventually “redeploying” (read, withdrawing) its troops. Neither wanted to risk war when the other responded with the threat of force. Likewise, President John F. Kennedy did not risk a strike on Cuba, where the “balance” of forces appeared to be tilted overwhelmingly in his favor. The last is a striking example of how minimum deterrence actually operates even under a very different doctrine and force posture. Logically, even if Pakistan were to develop a sizably larger force than India, this would not change the strategic equation between them. It would be no more significant than the numerical “imbalance” between Indian and Chinese forces.

Yet, Indian thinking in many ways contradicts the rules of minimum deterrence. Apart from the unnecessary emphasis on credibility, the officially stated threat of massive retaliation against a first strike is superfluous, because the adversary cannot know where India will strike and with what result but must assume as much because of the scale of the risk. Similarly, the quest for a triad is an exercise in superfluity. The risk of massive damage posed by any leg of the triad is sufficient to deter. The Indian emphasis on being able to target Beijing in order to deter China effectively is also hard to fathom. It assumes that the Chinese would tolerate the loss of thousands of their citizens residing in smaller cities. The simple test of assessing the requirements of minimum deterrence is to ask, What would it take to deter me/us? The requirements for credibility are quickly brought down.

In this sphere, the role of the United States is at best negligible, at worst seriously problematic. U.S. doctrine, still struggling to divest itself of the Cold War doctrine of assured destruction, provides no basis for a stable minimum deterrence posture. On the contrary, it might actually be a hindrance to stability in the region. For instance, although minimum deterrence allows large quantitative and qualitative gaps of the kind that exist between India and China, American thinking would tend to focus on the vulnerability associated with such gaps. Indian strategic thinkers would do well not to think like most of their American counterparts.17

Room for Optimism

What, one might ask, if Pakistan does not respond appropriately? So far, Pakistan too has shown a mix of the two strategic models outlined above. It has shown caution in the deployment of its conventional forces and in the nondeployment of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it has demonstrated risktaking and belligerence in its clandestine Kargil operation and in its support for terrorists operating in Kashmir. The possibility of inducing a shift in Pakistani thinking lies in the diplomatic realm—in persuading it of the risks associated with its current strategy and of the minimal loss involved in a gradual shift to negotiation on nuclear issues without backtracking on political commitments. This would be more feasible than attempting to devise a full solution when the political ground for it is infertile.

A little appreciated aspect of the Indo-Pakistani relationship is that Indians and Pakistanis think and behave in remarkably similar ways. Both have minimalistic strategic cultures characterized by long, slow, and covert weapons development; a history of military targeting in war that eschews indiscriminate destruction; an unwillingness to be overly exercised by numerical differences in nuclear weaponry; and a belief that deployment is not a prerequisite for deterrence to be effective.18 Above all, both countries tend to treat nuclear weapons more as political instruments than as military ones. A disadvantage of this is their tendency to generate crises in order to obtain strategic benefit. A positive aspect is that arms control is likely to be much easier to accomplish, unburdened by the operational minutiae that dogged negotiators during the Cold War.

Indian diplomacy needs to focus on transforming the Indo-Pakistani relationship into something resembling the Indo-Chinese one. The Vajpayee government’s sustained commitment to its current peace initiative in spite of a series of terrorist assaults provides ground for optimism. Even if Pakistan were to balk, an Indian commitment to minimum deterrence in the sense described here would in no way affect the strategic relationship to India’s fresh disadvantage. Equally, a sizeable expansion of India’s nuclear arsenal would not benefit India because it would bring economic and political costs, not to speak of strategic risks. Minimum deterrence is an absolute concept, not a relative one. India would do well to shape its deterrence posture accordingly and avail of its benefits while minimizing its costs and risks.

 


Return to Text

Table 1.

 

MISSILE
STATUS
RANGE/PAYLOAD
ORIGIN
Prithvi-1
Operational
150 km/ 1,000 kg
Indigenous
Prithvi-2
Operational
250 km/ 500 kg
Indigenous
Dhanush/ Prithvi-3
Development/Tested
350 km/ 1,000 kg
Indigenous
Agni-1 Variant
Development/Tested
725 km/ ~1,000 kg
Indigenous
Agni-1
Tested
1,500 km/ 1,000 kg
Indigenous
Agni-2
Serial Production
2,000+ km/ 1,000 kg
Indigenous
Agni-3
Development
3,000-5,000 km/ ?kg
Indigenous
Surya
Development
5,500+ km/ 2,000 kg Indigenous/Russia
Sagarika (SLBM)
Development
350 km/ 500 kg
Indigenous/Russia

Note: Some uncertainty in range estimates are inevitable given the direct relationship between range and payload for ballistic missiles. For example, reductions in payload can increase range.

Sources: ACA, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, U.S. Department of the Air Force, National Air Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Defense

 


NOTES

1. Indian Ministry of External Affairs, “The Cabinet Committee on Security Reviews Operationalization of India’s Nuclear Doctrine,” January 4, 2003, www.meadev.nic.in/news/official/20030104/official.htm.

2. Anthony H. Cordesman, The India-Pakistan Military Balance (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 2002), pp. 27-34. India’s missile program includes short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles utilizing land-, air-, and sea-based platforms, although the last are in a relatively early phase of development.

3. V. Natarajan, “The Sumdorong Chu Incident,” Bharat Rakshak Monitor, 3, no. 3 (November-December 2000), www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE3-3/natarajan.html.

4. John W. Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 2001), pp. 324-331.

5. Ibid., pp. 336-337.

6. Jing-dong Yuan, “India’s Rise after Pokhran II: Chinese Analyses and Assessments,” Asian Survey 41, no. 6 (November-December 2000), pp. 978-1001.

7. Indian Ministry of External Affairs, “India-China Trade Statistics, Table 1: India-China Trade (1995-2001), www.meadev.nic.in/foreign/ind-china.htm.

8. “China, India Should Enhance Ties: Jiang Zemin,” Times of India, April 26, 2003.

9. Amit Baruah, “Indian, Chinese Foreign Ministers to Meet Later This Year,” Hindu, August 8, 2003.

10. The Agni-III is scheduled for initial test launching in 2003. “India Preparing to Test-fire Agni-III: Fernandes,” Times of India, April 6, 2003.

11. Michael Krepon and Chris Gagné, eds., The Stability-Instability Paradox: Nuclear Weapons and Brinkmanship in South Asia (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, June 2001).

12. Verghese Koithara, Coercion and Risk-Taking in Nuclear South Asia (Stanford University: Center for International Security and Cooperation, March 2003).

13. The Indus Water Treaty provides for the sharing of the waters of the transborder Indus river basin. For a detailed review of confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan, see Michael Krepon et al. A Handbook of Confidence Building Measures for Regional Security, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, March 1998), pp. 129-200.

14. Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. 208-209.

15. Scott D. Sagan, The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents and Nuclear Weapons (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 28-45.

16. In addition, India need not worry about an expansionary Chinese response to U.S. missile defense; that would take the form of a larger inventory of long-range missiles, whereas China targets India with intermediate-range missiles.

17. There are certainly powerful arguments in American writings that are in accord with minimum doctrine, but these are largely ignored by the policy-making community.

18. On India, see Rajesh M. Basrur, “Nuclear Weapons and Indian Strategic Culture,” Journal of Peace Research, 38, no. 2 (March 2001), pp. 181-198.

 


Rajesh M. Basrur is Director of the Center for Global Studies in Mumbai, India. At the time he wrote this article, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

 

 

IAEA Report Highlights Inconsistencies in Iranian Statements About

Paul Kerr

On August 26, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues,” about Tehran’s nuclear programs that require “urgent resolution.” The report updates the agency’s Iran investigation, presents new information about Iran’s nuclear activities, and reveals some inconsistencies in information Iran had previously provided to the IAEA about these programs. The agency will continue to investigate the unresolved issues about Iran’s nuclear activities, the report says.

Uranium Enrichment

Gas Centrifuges

One of the most important portions of the report concerns Iran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program. Washington publicly confirmed in December that Iran has a uranium-enrichment facility at the Iranian town of Natanz. Uranium enrichment can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, but it also has civilian energy applications.

Iran has made substantial progress on the facility. By February, Iran had installed more than 100 centrifuges at the Natanz facility’s pilot plant, but Tehran says it plans to install more than 1,000 by the end of 2003. A commercial plant also located at the site is expected to contain enough centrifuges to produce the equivalent of 25-nuclear bombs worth of fissile material each year.

The centrifuge technology’s origin is unclear. A French report presented at the May meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group asserted that the technology is likely of Pakistani origin, but the August 26 IAEA report says the machines are of “an early European design.”

The advanced state of the pilot facility has raised questions about whether Iran has tested centrifuges with nuclear material. The existence of the facility does not in itself violate Iran’s safeguards agreement, but testing centrifuges with nuclear material without declaring such tests to the IAEA would do so.

Tehran clams it used simulations to test the centrifuges without nuclear material. The report, however, dismisses this explanation and states that environmental samples taken at Natanz by agency inspectors in March and June “revealed particles of high [sic] enriched uranium.” Agency inspectors use sampling to determine if nuclear materials are present in a given location—a possible indication of past nuclear activity.

Iran had not declared that it possesses highly enriched uranium. Tehran has cited its importation of contaminated centrifuge components to explain the material’s presence. The report comments that “it is possible to envisage a number of possible scenarios to explain the presence of high enriched uranium” in the samples, adding that the IAEA will evaluate these unspecified scenarios during the course of its investigation.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today in June that Iran might have used uranium hexafluoride—the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel—imported from China in 1991 to test centrifuges. A June 6 IAEA report revealed Tehran’s failure to disclose that it imported this material, although its safeguards agreement required it to do so. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) The report added that some of this material was found to be missing and Iran had not accounted for its absence. Iran asserts that it either evaporated or leaked from its containers. The agency is continuing to investigate the issue.

The August report revealed some other inconsistencies regarding Iran’s explanation of the enrichment program. For example, Iran had claimed the program was entirely indigenous and began in 1997 but has now acknowledged importing centrifuge components and gives 1985 as the correct starting date. Additionally, Iran initially claimed to have tested its centrifuges with inert gases but now says this is not the case.

Kala Electric Company

Inspectors took environmental samples at the Kala Electric Company during an August 9-12 visit, something Iran had previously refused to allow. The IAEA has been particularly interested in conducting sampling at this 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 samples are still being analyzed, but the most recent report notes that “considerable modification” of the Kala Electric Company site since inspectors’ first visit in March could adversely impact the samples’ accuracy.

Iran Plunges Ahead

Although the IAEA Board of Governors asked Iran in June to refrain from introducing nuclear material into the centrifuges at the Natanz facility, Iran did so on June 25 to test a single centrifuge, according to the August report. Iran began testing a small cascade of 10 centrifuges on August 19. A cascade is a series of connected centrifuges used to ensure that the uranium is enriched sufficiently. Tehran is following the appropriate safeguards measures for the facility, the report adds.

Laser Enrichment

The recent report also discusses Iran’s laser-based uranium-enrichment program—an alternate method of enriching uranium mentioned as an issue of concern in the June report. The report states that “Iran has a substantial [research and development] program on lasers,” but Iran claims not to have an enrichment program. IAEA inspectors visited two sites, one at Ramandeh and the other at Lashkar Ab’ad. Only the latter was identified as having a laser testing facility, but inspectors did not find any activities related to uranium enrichment being conducted there. The IAEA has asked Iran to confirm that there had not been any past “activities related to uranium laser enrichment” at any location in the country and to allow environmental sampling at that location—a request the government is considering. Tehran had previously refused access to these sites.

Other Issues of Concern

The report also says Tehran has provided additional information about its heavy-water reactor program. The government has said it plans to construct a heavy-water research reactor at Arak, where it has also been constructing a heavy-water production plant, starting in 2004. A State Department official interviewed in June said the reactor might be part of a nuclear weapons program because it is too small to contribute significantly to a civilian energy program but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material.

According to the report, Iran claims the reactor is for producing isotopes for civilian purposes and that its size is appropriate for that purpose. The report, however, notes that Iran did not provide information about hot cells, which the IAEA says it would expect to find at a facility meant to produce isotopes. Hot cells are facilities used in isotope production, but they can also be used in reprocessing spent nuclear reactor fuel. The IAEA has asked Iran to look into the matter further, citing reports that Tehran is attempting to procure equipment used in hot cells.

The report also addresses Iran’s claim that it is building a facility that would convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride without having tested it with nuclear material. Iran first told the agency that it obtained design and testing information about the facility from another country but has now admitted that it conducted uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990s, according to the report. An Iranian official announced the facility’s completion in March.

In addition, the August report contains new information about Iran’s conversion of imported uranium tetrafluoride into uranium metal. Tehran has told the IAEA that it had undertaken these conversion experiments because it had once considered constructing a uranium metal-fueled reactor. The United States is especially concerned about this issue because the most likely use Iran would have for uranium metal would be in nuclear warheads, a State Department official said in June.

Excerpts From the IAEA August 26, 2003 Report

D. Findings, Assessments and Next Steps
47. In connection with the nuclear material imported by Iran in 1991, Iran has submitted ICRs, PILs and MBRs, as well as relevant DIQs. The Agency has verified nuclear material presented to it and is currently auditing relevant source data. The issue of depleted uranium in the UF4 remains to be resolved, and the environmental samples taken in connection with the UF6 cylinders need to be analysed. To confirm that the pellet irradiation experiments have been solely for radioisotope production, the Agency has taken samples from the hot cells and lead shielded cells at the laboratories of the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre. The analytical results are not yet available.
48. In its letter of 19 August 2003, Iran acknowledged that it had carried out uranium conversion experiments in the early 1990s, experiments that Iran should have reported in accordance with its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement. Iran has stated, however, that it is taking corrective action in that regard. The Agency will continue its evaluation of the uranium conversion programme.
49. As regards enrichment, and as mentioned earlier, during the meeting of 9–12 August 2003, the Agency team received new information about the chronology and details of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment programme. Agency evaluation of the new information will require, inter alia, an assessment of the various phases of the programme and analysis of environmental samples taken at the Kalaye Electric Company workshop.
50. Additional work is also required to enable the Agency to arrive at conclusions about Iran’s statements that there have been no uranium enrichment activities in Iran involving nuclear material. The Agency intends to continue its assessment of the Iranian statement that the high enriched uranium particles identified in samples taken at Natanz could be attributable to contamination from imported components. As agreed to by Iran, this process will involve discussions in Iran with Iranian officials and staff involved in the R&D efforts and visits by Agency inspectors and enrichment technology experts to facilities and other relevant locations. In that connection, Iran has agreed to provide the Agency with all information about the centrifuge components and other contaminated equipment it obtained from abroad, including their origin and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran, as well as access to those locations so that the Agency may take environmental samples. It is also essential that the Agency receive information from Member States either from which nuclear related equipment or other assistance relevant to the development of Iran’s nuclear programme has been exported to Iran, or which have information on such assistance.
51. In connection with the Agency’s investigation of Iran’s heavy water reactor programme, the Agency is currently evaluating design information provided on the heavy water reactor.
52. Since the last report was issued, Iran has demonstrated an increased degree of co-operation in relation to the amount and detail of information provided to the Agency and in allowing access requested by the Agency to additional locations and the taking of associated environmental samples. The decision by Iran to start the negotiations with the Agency for the conclusion of an Additional Protocol is also a positive step. However, it should be noted that information and access were at times slow in coming and incremental, and that, as noted above, some of the information was in contrast to that previously provided by Iran. In addition, as also noted above, there remain a number of important outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran’s enrichment programme, that require urgent resolution. Continued and accelerated co-operation and full transparency on the part of Iran are essential for the Agency to be in a position to provide at an early date the assurances required by Member States.
53. The Director General will inform the Board of additional developments for its further consideration at the November meeting of the Board, or earlier, as appropriate.

 

 


 

On August 26, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues"...

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on China, North Korea

Jonathan Yang

In July, Paula DeSutter, U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, testified that China has so far failed to implement and enforce acceptable export controls. Meanwhile, the United States imposed sanctions on five Chinese companies for exporting materials that could be used for producing weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

DeSutter told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission—an advisory body that reports to Congress—during a July 24 hearing that China is not doing enough to enforce its missile nonproliferation commitments. The State Department has repeatedly accused Chinese state-owned companies of transferring missile technology to countries such as Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and Libya. China often defends the companies, denying the alleged proliferation activities occurred.

In 2002, China issued new export control laws aimed at curbing the spread of biological and chemical weapons technology and missiles and related technologies. (See ACT, November 2002.) DeSutter, however, said that China is not living up to the commitment it has made on paper. China is not properly enforcing its borders, and “it must establish a system of end-use verification checks to ensure that items approved for transfer are not diverted,” she stated.

Meanwhile, on July 3 the United States imposed sanctions on one North Korean and five Chinese companies for exporting materials to Iran that could be used for weapons of mass destruction programs. According to the sanctions, the exports occurred during the first half of 2002. The sanctions, imposed pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, took effect June 26 and will last for two years. The sanctions limit the dealings that these entities may have with the United States.

Additionally, the North Korean company—Changgwang Sinyong Corporation—was sanctioned July 25 pursuant to the 1976 Arms Export Control Act and the 1979 Export Administration Act (EAA); those sanctions last three years and eight months. Five days later, sanctions were also placed, for an indefinite period of time, on China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation (CPMIEC), pursuant to Executive Orders 12938 and 13094.

In addition to CPMIEC, the Chinese firms affected are Taian Foreign Trade General Corporation, Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Group Company, and China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). All of these companies, except Taian Foreign Trade General, are already under sanctions for previous nonproliferation violations.

The State Department refused to provide further details regarding the transfers these companies made that violated the Iran Nonproliferation Act. The sanctions imposed under the act prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing goods or services from and providing assistance to these entities. All sales of goods on the U.S. Munitions List or other defense-related materials and services to these entities are also prohibited. Additionally, any existing export licenses for the transfer of dual-use material to sanctioned entities are suspended, and no new licenses may be granted.

The State Department’s additional sanctions on the North Korean firm reflect its alleged transfer of Scud missiles to Yemen in December 2002. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) These latter sanctions are similar to those imposed under the Iran Nonproliferation Act but also ban the importation of products produced by the sanctioned company into the United States. In addition, because North Korea has “a non-market economy that is not a former member of the Warsaw Pact,” the Helms amendment to the EAA extends these sanctions to the North Korean government. The sanctions have little effect, however, because North Korea conducts negligible trade with the United States.

 

In July, Paula DeSutter, U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, testified that China has so far failed to implement and enforce acceptable export controls. 

Bush Emphasis on Proliferation Sanctions Stirs Debate

Wade Boese

In a radical departure from its predecessor’s practice, the Bush administration has been gung-ho about imposing proliferation sanctions, levying penalties against foreign companies and individuals 34 times in 2002 and 21 times so far this year.

The rate at which the Bush administration is imposing sanctions is three times greater than that of the Clinton administration, which averaged eight sanctions per year, according to June congressional testimony by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

The change has less to do with changes in the underlying U.S. laws authorizing sanctions than a change in philosophy. Of the laws cited in the administration’s sanctions announcements, with the notable exception of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, most were also in effect during much of the Clinton administration’s two terms.

Top Bush administration officials are confident that imposing sanctions can change the cost/benefit analysis of potential proliferators and deter future proliferation. The administration repeatedly warns that countries can do business with the United States or with rogue regimes and terrorists, but not both. But skeptics, including some former top Clinton administration officials, contend that, although the threat of sanctions can be a useful lever to try and change behavior, actually imposing sanctions can have limited utility and be merely symbolic.

The Bush Administration and Sanctions


The driving force behind the policy shift is Bolton, a former senior vice president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute who advocates an in-your-face approach to dealing with rogue regimes. The undersecretary has pushed the State Department to impose sanctions to the fullest extent and has discouraged using legal provisions that allow the president to waive sanctions out of concern for broader national security interests.

In the past, and still to some degree today, various U.S. government entities have been reluctant to impose sanctions because they are generally acknowledged to be a double-edged sword. The State Department, which puts a premium on fostering good relations with foreign governments, has concerns about imposing sanctions for fear of upsetting other capitals, while the intelligence community is cautious about potentially exposing U.S. sources and methods critical to tracking proliferation. Backed by U.S. businesses worried about losing trade opportunities, the Commerce Department has generally opposed sanctions.

The Bush administration is proud of its aggressive sanctions style. Bolton noted in June that “for the first time, the State Department is reviewing every known transfer to Iran” to identify items that could aid Tehran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has imposed sanctions on a total of 32 foreign entities—a term for both companies and individuals. The United States has penalized 18 of those entities multiple times since January 2001. A North Korean firm, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, ranks as the top sanctions recipient with seven, the latest publicly announced July 25.

Chinese entities appear most frequently on the sanctioned roster. Of the 32 entities, 19 are Chinese. Indian and Moldovan entities are the next most numerous at three apiece. Two Armenian, two Pakistani, one Iranian, one Jordanian, and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation account for the others. No entities from Russia, which is frequently cited in U.S. intelligence reports as a proliferation source, have been publicly penalized.

U.S. proliferation sanctions generally prohibit the charged entity from signing contracts, receiving aid, or importing arms and dual-use goods from the U.S. government for two years. Sometimes, the penalties can be imposed for longer periods, such as the July 30 announcement that the China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation would be sanctioned indefinitely.

Washington may also authorize stiffer sanctions barring commercial imports and exports with the United States. Earlier this year, the United States slapped such sanctions on the Chinese firm China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), which is expected to lose about $160 million annually while the sanctions are in force.

But NORINCO is an exception. Many of the sanctioned entities do not trade with the United States or receive U.S. assistance. For these reasons, sanction critics assert that sanctions are often ineffectual and provide more psychological satisfaction than practical results.

Bush administration officials disagree. They claim that, even though the United States might do little business with sanctioned entities, the aim is to shame governments to better regulate their trade and brand proliferators as bad actors to discourage any business with them and to serve as warnings to others. Moreover, the officials argue that there has to be some penalty for proliferation to show that the United States is serious about stopping it.

Although administration officials say their sanctions are starting to have an impact, they would not cite specific examples. A senior State Department official interviewed August 25 said that it would take some time before results become evident but also remarked that this administration’s high number of sanctions point to the failure of its predecessor’s approach. This administration is “trying to see what happens when you impose sanctions and leave them in place,” the official stated.

The Clinton Approach

The Clinton administration preferred a more diplomatic approach. It often issued demarches—formal diplomatic notes—to notify foreign governments of activities by its entities that Washington wanted stopped. Sanctions were viewed as an option if demarches and diplomacy did not prove fruitful.

A current State Department official interviewed August 1 described the demarche approach as flawed because demarches reveal more information than sanctions announcements. Proliferators, according to the official, used demarches to better hide their dangerous dealings.

Noting that the intelligence community must approve all demarches, John Holum, Bolton’s predecessor in the Clinton administration, defended demarches August 22. He explained that foreign governments would not know what behavior the United States wanted changed without some details. Holum further stated that the U.S. objective was to change future behavior, not merely to punish offenders.

Bush administration officials say they still use demarches but more selectively than before. Washington might send demarches, rather than immediately applying sanctions, to governments that Washington considers close allies or that have demonstrated histories of responding to or acting upon past demarches.

China Under Scrutiny


No one country better reflects the two administrations’ contrasting styles than China. Between May 21, 1997, and the end of the Clinton administration, no new sanctions were imposed on Chinese entities.

During that period, the Clinton administration’s China policy was often at the center of a political firestorm over the direction of U.S.-Chinese relations. The Clinton administration was trying to negotiate China’s accession to the World Trade Organization against strong opposition from diverse quarters, including those who objected to Beijing’s human rights record and others who saw China as a growing threat to U.S. security. This latter constituency was bolstered by high-profile charges of Chinese nuclear espionage and illegal U.S. business assistance to China’s missile programs.

With regard to nonproliferation issues, Holum said the Clinton administration committed itself to improving the Chinese government’s export controls through intensive talks rather than punishing Chinese entities with sanctions and risking a decline in Chinese cooperation. Although the United States did not sanction any Chinese entities, it did suspend the right of U.S. companies to launch satellites on Chinese rockets. The Clinton administration talks led to a November 2000 Chinese commitment not to export missiles or related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

The Bush administration has taken the opposite tack. Beginning June 26, 2001, it has sanctioned Chinese entities 37 times. Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, said July 24 that Chinese “entities are involved in too many sensitive transfers for the problem merely to be one of imperfect enforcement.”

Robert Einhorn, former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, said in July that the current administration does not always explain to China why its entities are being sanctioned and what Beijing can do to avoid future penalties. “The frequent imposition of sanctions, moreover, has diluted their value as a means of influencing Chinese behavior,” he added.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Liu Jieyi, a top Chinese arms control official, echoed Einhorn, claiming that Washington does not inform China what its entities are doing wrong. Liu speculated that Chinese firms are being punished for simply exporting to Iran.

Bush administration officials argue otherwise. They claim troublesome trade from China continues, despite Beijing’s unveiling last year of new rules regulating missile and dual-use chemical and biological exports. “In dealing with the issue of China and nonproliferation, we have our work cut out for us,” DeSutter said.


Bush Record on Proliferation Sanctions

Wade Boese

Can more flies be caught with honey or vinegar? The Bush and Clinton administrations would undoubtedly answer the question differently.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has taken a different tack to dealing with proliferation problems than its predecessor. Whereas the Clinton administration generally tried to engage proliferators and entice them to behave better, the Bush administration often seeks to change behavior through isolation and punishment. Although the Clinton administration did penalize and the Bush administration does talk, both have clearly demonstrated their policy preferences.

The two administrations’ different philosophies are reflected in their sanctions records. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has imposed sanctions 55 times on 30 different foreign entities—a term for both companies and individuals. In comparison, the Clinton administration imposed sanctions eight times per year, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said in June congressional testimony.

The bar graph shows how many times the United States has imposed sanctions over the past four years. The table shows the different entities that the Bush administration has sanctioned. More than half of those entities have been sanctioned multiple times.

Careful readers will note a discrepancy between the two graphics. The total number of sanctions in the table equals 61, while the bar graph shows that the Bush administration has imposed sanctions a total of 63 times. This difference reflects the fact that State Department officials in interviews insisted the Bush administration imposed sanctions eight times in 2001, but specific evidence could only be produced for six.

Table 1. Proliferation Sanctions Levied by the U.S. Government from 2000-2003

Table 2. Entities Receiving Proliferation Sanctions from the Bush Administration

Entity
Country
Times Sanctions Imposed
Changgwang Sinyong Corporation North Korea 7
Q.C. Chen* China 4
China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 3
China Precision Machinery Import/ Export Corporation China 3
Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals & Technologoy Import and Export Corporation China 3
Wha Cheong Tai Company China 3
Mohammed Al-Khatib* Jordan 2
China Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation China 2
China National Machinery and Equipment Import Export Corporation China 2
China North Industries Corporation, NORINCO China 2
China Shipbuilding Trading Company China 2
CMEC Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 2
CMEC Machinery and Electrical Import Export Company, Ltd. China 2
Cuanta, SA Moldova 2
Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group Iran 2
Hans Raj Shiv* India 2
Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov* Moldova 2
Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, aka Chemet Global Ltd. China 2
China Metallurgical Equipment Corp. China 1
China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation China 1
China National Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 1
Computer & Communications SRL Moldova 1
Khan Research Laboratories Pakistan 1
Liyang Chemical Equipment China 1
Liyang Yunlong China 1
Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Group Company China 1
Lizen Open Joint Stock Company Armenia 1
National Development Complex Pakistan 1
NEC Engineers Private, Ltd. India 1
Protech Consultants Private, Ltd. India 1
Armen Sargsian* Armenia 1
Taian Foreign Trade General Corp. China 1
Total Number of Sanctions   61

* Individuals personally sanctioned

Sources For Tables 1 and 2: Federal Register and conversations with State Department officials

 

In a radical departure from its predecessor’s practice, the Bush administration has been gung-ho about imposing proliferation sanctions...

Countries Draft Guidelines for Intercepting Proliferation

Wade Boese

The United States and 10 of its closest allies are drafting a document of principles to guide their efforts to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, and related technologies to terrorists and states of concern. This “rules of the road” document, which would not be legally binding, could be approved at a September 2003 meeting of the 11 countries in Paris.

Washington is leading the effort to draft the new document as part of its evolving Proliferation Security Initiative, which President George W. Bush first announced May 31. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) The initiative is intended to enhance participating countries’ capabilities individually and collectively to halt proliferation around the globe.

Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have joined the U.S. initiative. Other countries might also be asked to participate or aid interdictions in the future.

Although the participating countries have identified North Korea and Iran as top proliferation threats, the initiative is ostensibly not directed at any particular country or countries. Government officials from the United States and other countries have refuted descriptions of the initiative as a blockade of North Korea.

In addition to working on the initiative’s guiding principles, the 11 countries agreed at a July 9-10 meeting in Brisbane, Australia, to begin conducting joint exercises to learn how better to coordinate and perform interdictions at sea, on land, and in the air. For the near term, these joint exercises will largely piggyback on or be conducted in conjunction with previously planned training missions and operations. The first exercise, which Australia will host, is scheduled for early September and will take place in the Coral Sea.

The 11 countries are confident they can carry out interdictions successfully, but there is uncertainty about whether they can gather sufficient intelligence to act. Speaking to reporters July 10, Paul O’Sullivan, deputy secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that perhaps the biggest challenge would be obtaining “enough information about the proliferation activities that are going on in a timely way.”

Crafting new international laws to facilitate interdictions is not a goal of the initiative. Although the chairman’s statement urged participating countries to “take robust and creative steps now,” it also underscored that any actions taken should “be consistent with existing domestic and international legal frameworks.”

Participating countries are still trying to figure out what types of actions are legally permissible. Speaking for the U.S. government, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said August 13, “We ourselves
haven’t hit on the total complete answer to our questions about liability and about international legality.”

One diplomat familiar with the initiative said in a July 30 interview, “Each country needs to do their own homework to find out what they can do.” The official added that the primary objective is to pinpoint “what we are able to do rather than pontificate over what we can’t do.”

Although Taiwan is not part of the initiative, a U.S. State Department official said Taiwan’s early August detainment of a ship bound for North Korea until it offloaded dual-use chemicals was “conceptually” in line with the possible types of action foreseen under the initiative.


 

The United States and 10 of its closest allies are drafting a document of principles to guide their efforts to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction...

Bush Emphasis on Proliferation Sanctions Stirs Debate

Wade Boese

In a radical departure from its predecessor’s practice, the Bush administration has been gung-ho about imposing proliferation sanctions, levying penalties against foreign companies and individuals 34 times in 2002 and 21 times so far this year.

The rate at which the Bush administration is imposing sanctions is three times greater than that of the Clinton administration, which averaged eight sanctions per year, according to June congressional testimony by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

The change has less to do with changes in the underlying U.S. laws authorizing sanctions than a change in philosophy. Of the laws cited in the administration’s sanctions announcements, with the notable exception of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, most were also in effect during much of the Clinton administration’s two terms.

Top Bush administration officials are confident that imposing sanctions can change the cost/benefit analysis of potential proliferators and deter future proliferation. The administration repeatedly warns that countries can do business with the United States or with rogue regimes and terrorists, but not both. But skeptics, including some former top Clinton administration officials, contend that, although the threat of sanctions can be a useful lever to try and change behavior, actually imposing sanctions can have limited utility and be merely symbolic.

The Bush Administration and Sanctions


The driving force behind the policy shift is Bolton, a former senior vice president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute who advocates an in-your-face approach to dealing with rogue regimes. The undersecretary has pushed the State Department to impose sanctions to the fullest extent and has discouraged using legal provisions that allow the president to waive sanctions out of concern for broader national security interests.

In the past, and still to some degree today, various U.S. government entities have been reluctant to impose sanctions because they are generally acknowledged to be a double-edged sword. The State Department, which puts a premium on fostering good relations with foreign governments, has concerns about imposing sanctions for fear of upsetting other capitals, while the intelligence community is cautious about potentially exposing U.S. sources and methods critical to tracking proliferation. Backed by U.S. businesses worried about losing trade opportunities, the Commerce Department has generally opposed sanctions.

The Bush administration is proud of its aggressive sanctions style. Bolton noted in June that “for the first time, the State Department is reviewing every known transfer to Iran” to identify items that could aid Tehran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has imposed sanctions on a total of 32 foreign entities—a term for both companies and individuals. The United States has penalized 18 of those entities multiple times since January 2001. A North Korean firm, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, ranks as the top sanctions recipient with seven, the latest publicly announced July 25.

Chinese entities appear most frequently on the sanctioned roster. Of the 32 entities, 19 are Chinese. Indian and Moldovan entities are the next most numerous at three apiece. Two Armenian, two Pakistani, one Iranian, one Jordanian, and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation account for the others. No entities from Russia, which is frequently cited in U.S. intelligence reports as a proliferation source, have been publicly penalized.

U.S. proliferation sanctions generally prohibit the charged entity from signing contracts, receiving aid, or importing arms and dual-use goods from the U.S. government for two years. Sometimes, the penalties can be imposed for longer periods, such as the July 30 announcement that the China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation would be sanctioned indefinitely.

Washington may also authorize stiffer sanctions barring commercial imports and exports with the United States. Earlier this year, the United States slapped such sanctions on the Chinese firm China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), which is expected to lose about $160 million annually while the sanctions are in force.

But NORINCO is an exception. Many of the sanctioned entities do not trade with the United States or receive U.S. assistance. For these reasons, sanction critics assert that sanctions are often ineffectual and provide more psychological satisfaction than practical results.

Bush administration officials disagree. They claim that, even though the United States might do little business with sanctioned entities, the aim is to shame governments to better regulate their trade and brand proliferators as bad actors to discourage any business with them and to serve as warnings to others. Moreover, the officials argue that there has to be some penalty for proliferation to show that the United States is serious about stopping it.

Although administration officials say their sanctions are starting to have an impact, they would not cite specific examples. A senior State Department official interviewed August 25 said that it would take some time before results become evident but also remarked that this administration’s high number of sanctions point to the failure of its predecessor’s approach. This administration is “trying to see what happens when you impose sanctions and leave them in place,” the official stated.

The Clinton Approach

The Clinton administration preferred a more diplomatic approach. It often issued demarches—formal diplomatic notes—to notify foreign governments of activities by its entities that Washington wanted stopped. Sanctions were viewed as an option if demarches and diplomacy did not prove fruitful.

A current State Department official interviewed August 1 described the demarche approach as flawed because demarches reveal more information than sanctions announcements. Proliferators, according to the official, used demarches to better hide their dangerous dealings.

Noting that the intelligence community must approve all demarches, John Holum, Bolton’s predecessor in the Clinton administration, defended demarches August 22. He explained that foreign governments would not know what behavior the United States wanted changed without some details. Holum further stated that the U.S. objective was to change future behavior, not merely to punish offenders.

Bush administration officials say they still use demarches but more selectively than before. Washington might send demarches, rather than immediately applying sanctions, to governments that Washington considers close allies or that have demonstrated histories of responding to or acting upon past demarches.

China Under Scrutiny


No one country better reflects the two administrations’ contrasting styles than China. Between May 21, 1997, and the end of the Clinton administration, no new sanctions were imposed on Chinese entities.

During that period, the Clinton administration’s China policy was often at the center of a political firestorm over the direction of U.S.-Chinese relations. The Clinton administration was trying to negotiate China’s accession to the World Trade Organization against strong opposition from diverse quarters, including those who objected to Beijing’s human rights record and others who saw China as a growing threat to U.S. security. This latter constituency was bolstered by high-profile charges of Chinese nuclear espionage and illegal U.S. business assistance to China’s missile programs.

With regard to nonproliferation issues, Holum said the Clinton administration committed itself to improving the Chinese government’s export controls through intensive talks rather than punishing Chinese entities with sanctions and risking a decline in Chinese cooperation. Although the United States did not sanction any Chinese entities, it did suspend the right of U.S. companies to launch satellites on Chinese rockets. The Clinton administration talks led to a November 2000 Chinese commitment not to export missiles or related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

The Bush administration has taken the opposite tack. Beginning June 26, 2001, it has sanctioned Chinese entities 37 times. Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, said July 24 that Chinese “entities are involved in too many sensitive transfers for the problem merely to be one of imperfect enforcement.”

Robert Einhorn, former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, said in July that the current administration does not always explain to China why its entities are being sanctioned and what Beijing can do to avoid future penalties. “The frequent imposition of sanctions, moreover, has diluted their value as a means of influencing Chinese behavior,” he added.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Liu Jieyi, a top Chinese arms control official, echoed Einhorn, claiming that Washington does not inform China what its entities are doing wrong. Liu speculated that Chinese firms are being punished for simply exporting to Iran.

Bush administration officials argue otherwise. They claim troublesome trade from China continues, despite Beijing’s unveiling last year of new rules regulating missile and dual-use chemical and biological exports. “In dealing with the issue of China and nonproliferation, we have our work cut out for us,” DeSutter said.


Bush Record on Proliferation Sanctions

Wade Boese

Can more flies be caught with honey or vinegar? The Bush and Clinton administrations would undoubtedly answer the question differently.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has taken a different tack to dealing with proliferation problems than its predecessor. Whereas the Clinton administration generally tried to engage proliferators and entice them to behave better, the Bush administration often seeks to change behavior through isolation and punishment. Although the Clinton administration did penalize and the Bush administration does talk, both have clearly demonstrated their policy preferences.

The two administrations’ different philosophies are reflected in their sanctions records. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has imposed sanctions 55 times on 30 different foreign entities—a term for both companies and individuals. In comparison, the Clinton administration imposed sanctions eight times per year, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said in June congressional testimony.

The bar graph shows how many times the United States has imposed sanctions over the past four years. The table shows the different entities that the Bush administration has sanctioned. More than half of those entities have been sanctioned multiple times.

Careful readers will note a discrepancy between the two graphics. The total number of sanctions in the table equals 61, while the bar graph shows that the Bush administration has imposed sanctions a total of 63 times. This difference reflects the fact that State Department officials in interviews insisted the Bush administration imposed sanctions eight times in 2001, but specific evidence could only be produced for six.

Table 1. Proliferation Sanctions Levied by the U.S. Government from 2000-2003

Table 2. Entities Receiving Proliferation Sanctions from the Bush Administration

Entity
Country
Times Sanctions Imposed
Changgwang Sinyong Corporation North Korea 7
Q.C. Chen* China 4
China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 3
China Precision Machinery Import/ Export Corporation China 3
Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals & Technologoy Import and Export Corporation China 3
Wha Cheong Tai Company China 3
Mohammed Al-Khatib* Jordan 2
China Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation China 2
China National Machinery and Equipment Import Export Corporation China 2
China North Industries Corporation, NORINCO China 2
China Shipbuilding Trading Company China 2
CMEC Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 2
CMEC Machinery and Electrical Import Export Company, Ltd. China 2
Cuanta, SA Moldova 2
Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group Iran 2
Hans Raj Shiv* India 2
Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov* Moldova 2
Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, aka Chemet Global Ltd. China 2
China Metallurgical Equipment Corp. China 1
China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation China 1
China National Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company China 1
Computer & Communications SRL Moldova 1
Khan Research Laboratories Pakistan 1
Liyang Chemical Equipment China 1
Liyang Yunlong China 1
Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Group Company China 1
Lizen Open Joint Stock Company Armenia 1
National Development Complex Pakistan 1
NEC Engineers Private, Ltd. India 1
Protech Consultants Private, Ltd. India 1
Armen Sargsian* Armenia 1
Taian Foreign Trade General Corp. China 1
Total Number of Sanctions   61

* Individuals personally sanctioned

Sources For Tables 1 and 2: Federal Register and conversations with State Department officials

 

In a radical departure from its predecessor’s practice, the Bush administration has been gung-ho about imposing proliferation sanctions...

U.S. Lawmakers, Officials Seek End to NK Nuclear Aid

Charles Crain, Medill News Service

As diplomats seek to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, some U.S. lawmakers and Bush administration officials are pushing to end a program designed to provide North Korea with civilian nuclear energy.

Since last year, the United States and several allies have been building two light-water reactors in North Korea whose construction was a key component of the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program in exchange for the reactors and other aid. In 1995 the United States, South Korea, and Japan established the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to build the two reactors. KEDO remains in the early stages of its work—having established basic infrastructure and poured concrete for the first reactor—but none of the nuclear components for the reactor have yet been delivered.

Reuters reported on August 26, the day before negotiations commenced between North Korea and the United States and four other countries, that the program to build nuclear reactors in North Korea would probably be suspended in September. Citing U.S. officials, the report said the suspension was a compromise between the United States, which wants to end the program entirely, and South Korea and Japan, which prefer a suspension.
In addition, a June South Korean embassy release had said the United States has proposed stopping the construction of two reactors in North Korea, but the release said South Korea opposes such a move.

A State Department source, however, said August 26 the United States was not lobbying for a suspension. He said decisions about KEDO’s future would be made by its board when it meets in September.

A diplomatic source familiar with KEDO and with the negotiations said a suspension of KEDO’s work would probably result in the program’s demise. “KEDO is like a train—it’s hard to stop and hard to get back on track,” the source said. He said there was less than a 50 percent chance the program would be restarted after a suspension.

Meanwhile, some members of the U.S. Congress are seeking to ensure that KEDO will not continue, regardless of decisions taken by the Bush administration or other KEDO member states.

An amendment to the House energy appropriations bill that passed July 18 would prohibit the government from allowing U.S. hardware or technical information from being transferred, directly or indirectly, to states the United States identifies as sponsors of terrorism.

Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) said he is confident the Senate will approve similar language to end U.S. support for the reactors project and that President George W. Bush would sign it into law. A spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) said he expected one or more senators would add similar language to the Senate bill.

Cox said he has spoken with a number of senators’ offices and has received especially strong support from Senator John Kyl (R-AZ). In an August 20 op-ed in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Kyl wrote, “After eight years of the Agreed Framework…the result was not one, but two North Korean nuclear weapons programs.” He advocated a hard-line stance, adding, “History shows it is futile to negotiate with Pyongyang as if it were a normal government.”

Cox and Kyl, along with Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), have opposed the project since its inception. In January, Kyl sponsored a bill to prohibit “certain” aid to North Korea or KEDO. The bill had seven co-sponsors, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a senior member on the Armed Services Committee; Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence; and Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), an Armed Services Committee member.

Congressional critics of the legislation have suggested that it is irrelevant because the Bush administration has decided not to request funding for KEDO. Cox disagreed: “I think that’s exactly wrong, because they’re still pouring concrete.” He added, “We haven’t put our foot down and said no yet.”
In addition, Cox said simply declining to fund KEDO would be an unclear and ineffective signal because it would leave open the possibility of other countries continuing to build the reactors with U.S. technical support. Cox said the language in the amendment would prevent even foreign countries and companies from continuing construction, since U.S. technology is vital to the designs. “If this language remains in the legislation, this will be the end of it,” Cox said. “There remains this haze of ambiguity, and I want to make sure this is all transparent.”

But the State Department source said congressional action would not necessarily limit the administration’s options or spell the end of KEDO. “One of the nice things about the Congress is that Congress can pass one bill today and tomorrow, if conditions change, pass another bill,” he said.

Some supporters of negotiations with North Korea express concern that terminating support for KEDO could make matters worse. Erasing ambiguity might be counterproductive, according to the foreign diplomat familiar with KEDO. He said suspending the reactors project and making its resumption contingent on North Korean cooperation would be a valuable bargaining tool, which would be lost if the program is canceled. “You need the carrot and the stick—everybody sees the stick, after Iraq, but you also need to show the carrot,” he said.

The diplomat also said unilateral action by the United States might strain relations with South Korea and other U.S. allies at a time when the international community is seeking to present a united front. South Korea, in particular, has advocated for negotiations with North Korea. “If you want to really get rid of this difficulty with North Korea, and if at the same time you want to avoid a war, that means you have to engage them,” he said.

 

As diplomats seek to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, some U.S. lawmakers and Bush administration officials are pushing to end a program designed to provide...

IAEA to Discuss Advances in Iran's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors will hold a crucial meeting on Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities this month to address concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The meeting comes after the agency released an August 26 report saying that “there remain a number of important outstanding issues” about Tehran’s nuclear program that require “urgent resolution.”

That report was the latest in a series of warnings by the IAEA about Tehran’s nuclear activities. Prompted by the United States and other countries, a June IAEA Board of Governors statement called on Iran to resolve concerns created by the government’s failure to report nuclear activities “as required by its safeguards obligations.” The statement specifically called on Tehran to sign an additional protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement and allow the agency to conduct environmental sampling at the Kala Electric Company—a site where Iran might have carried out illegal uranium-enrichment activities. Safeguards agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran ratified in 1970, to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes.

The Board’s statement came just after the IAEA issued a report June 6 about Iran’s undeclared nuclear activities. Agency experts have visited Iran several times during the past two months to verify information Iran subsequently provided about these activities.

The United States has long expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program—a charge Iran has repeatedly denied. A State Department official interviewed August 28 said that the most recent report provides “further incriminating evidence” of Iran’s violations of its safeguards agreement, adding that the IAEA needs to continue to pursue these matters.

Iran Considers Additional Protocol

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visited Iran July 9 to urge Tehran to conclude an additional protocol, and a group of IAEA experts followed up on his visit on August 5-6 for further discussions about the matter. Since 1997, the IAEA has encouraged NPT member states to sign an additional protocol, which allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities that countries have not declared to the IAEA, in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs.

Although Iran has not yet agreed to sign it, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said that “Iran views the additional…protocol positively” and will continue discussions with the IAEA, according to an August 13 Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report. The discussions are for clarifying details about the protocol, he said. Iran told the agency that Iran is “prepared to begin negotiation with the [IAEA] on the Additional Protocol,” according to the August 26 report.

Iran might have softened its stance on the issue of an additional protocol. Although a June IRNA report stated that Iran was conditioning its signing of the protocol on Western countries lifting restrictions on supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Aghazadeh said August 13 that “conditions are not important.” He implied, however, that Iran still wants access to nuclear technology, suggesting that the policy has not changed substantially. Article IV of the NPT says that states-parties “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” The United States has laws against exporting dual-use goods and technology to Iran, and Washington has urged Russia to end its assistance for a nuclear program in Iran that Tehran and Moscow claim is for civilian purposes. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said August 1 that Iran signing the Additional Protocol wouldn’t be sufficient to satisfy Washington’s concerns about that country’s nuclear programs.

 

 




 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors will hold a crucial meeting on Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities this month to address concerns that Iran is...

Iran Touts Missile Capability

Wade Boese

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service. If true, the missile, which has an estimated range of up to 1,300 kilometers, could target Israel.

Israel and the United States have long criticized and tried to stop Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, described the latest development as an “extremely grave concern.”

Iran, which is also assessed by U.S. intelligence as pursuing nuclear weapons and exploring more powerful rockets than the Shahab-3, contends its ballistic missile programs are solely for defensive purposes.

The Shahab-3 is no surprise to Israel and the United States. In an April intelligence report on ballistic missile threats, the United States described the Shahab-3 as being in the “late stages” of development. Appearing July 11 on “John McLaughlin’s One on One,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon said the Iranians “have not perfected the system yet, but they are working very hard on it.”

Beginning in July 1998, the Shahab-3 has reportedly accrued a mixed record in several flight tests, the last of which took place just weeks before the July 20 ceremony. Tehran described the last test as a success.

Much ambiguity still shrouds the missile. The Shahab-3 is modeled in part on North Korea’s Nodong missile, but U.S. government officials refused to comment on whether Iran could indigenously produce the missile. It is also not public how many Shahab-3s might be available for potential use. The Central Intelligence Agency reported in 1999 that Iran probably had a “limited number” of prototype Shahab-3s that could be deployed in an operational mode.

Israel says it is prepared to defend itself against an Iranian ballistic missile attack. Tel Aviv has deployed two batteries of Arrow anti-missile interceptors and is preparing to field another. Built in cooperation with the United States and designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the Arrow has yet to be used in battle.

 

 




 

In a July military ceremony broadcast on state-run television, Iran announced that the medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile is ready for service...

Iraq's WMD: Myth and Reality

Daryl G. Kimball

The 2003 “pre-emptive” war against Iraq has been lauded by its proponents as a new model to address growing dangers posed by “rogue” states with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To this day, senior U.S. officials such as Undersecretary of State John Bolton insist that the war was necessary because “the international regime that tried to enforce restrictions on Iraq obviously didn’t succeed.” Or did it?

A far different story has emerged than the one told by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although Iraq clearly failed to fully comply with UN disarmament mandates, by March 2003 it was apparent from the work of the UN inspectors that Iraq did not retain weapons of mass destruction that could pose an urgent threat. Years of intrusive UN inspections had dismantled the bulk of Iraq’s unconventional arsenal and effectively contained what remained of its WMD capabilities.

Meanwhile, U.S. and British intelligence did not uncover reliable, new information about Iraqi WMD activity to justify the abandonment of inspections. Nevertheless, senior U.S. and British leaders systematically misrepresented earlier national intelligence assessments in order to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and cast doubt on the utility of inspections. Over the last few weeks, each of their key charges has been discredited.

An ongoing public inquiry in the United Kingdom has shown that the September 2003 British claim that Iraq could “deploy some WMD within 45 minutes” was based on questionable single-source intelligence and was included over the objections of some British intelligence analysts. To date, no chemical or biological weapons have been uncovered.

In Washington, a similar pattern of deception occurred. National Security Council officials repeatedly ignored high-level CIA and State Department objections to the charge that Iraq was seeking processed uranium for weapons from Africa. As a result, the discredited uranium allegation was not only repeated in Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address but in numerous other prewar statements and op-eds by top officials.

Another contested U.S. claim was that Iraq sought high-strength aluminum tubes for enriching uranium. In a classified October 2002 intelligence estimate, however, State and Energy Department intelligence agencies dismissed that interpretation as “highly dubious.” Nevertheless, Bush and his cabinet repeated the claim without qualification. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigated the claim and found that the tubes probably were for rockets, U.S. officials questioned the IAEA’s credibility.

The administration also charged that Iraq had unmanned aircraft “probably intended to deliver biological warfare agent” and could be used to carry out attacks on U.S. cities. The Air Force intelligence office, however, disagreed, saying that the small aircraft were for reconnaissance. Fresh evidence from Iraq now supports the Air Force assessment.

Another major U.S. charge was that Iraq had mobile facilities to produce biological weapons agents. In April and May, the United States discovered two mobile labs, and claimed they were used for bioweapons agent production. But the Defense Intelligence Agency now indicates the trailers were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.

A defensive White House might be hoping that the U.S. Iraq Survey Group will discover new proof of prewar WMD programs. Such findings would not alter the fact that the administration’s most dramatic claims about unconventional Iraqi weapons were wrong. The key question before the war was not whether Iraq had WMD programs in the past. Rather, did Iraq have active programs or weapons posing an imminent threat?

Taken together, the evidence shows that after a decade of inspections and sanctions, Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was dormant. Its chemical and biological weapons programs, while illegal and potentially dangerous, were probably geared to support rapid production capabilities rather than maintaining active stockpiles.

Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. The conduct of the Bush and Blair administrations on Iraq has severely damaged the credibility of their governments, their intelligence assessments, and their leadership on other global issues.

The Iraq episode underscores the fact that international weapons monitoring and inspections are vital to augment limited national intelligence capabilities and provide an objective, factual basis for collective international enforcement of the nonproliferation regime. As the United States faces the next round of WMD proliferation challenges, it cannot afford to abandon its first and best line of defense against global WMD dangers: intrusive inspections and the arms control rules and institutions that make them possible.

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