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

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

Verifying Arms Control Agreements

An Interview With Hans Blix

Although the United States has stepped up its search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), no such weapons have yet been found.

Hans Blix, outgoing executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shared his perspective on a number of Iraq disarmament issues during a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today editor, Miles Pomper, and ACA research analyst, Paul Kerr.

[Note: What follows is an edited, excerpt of the full transcript. To access the complete version please click here.]


 

ACT: So let me just start with maybe the most general question, I’m sure one that you’ve heard before: Are you surprised that U.S. forces haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction [WMD] yet?

Blix: No, I would not say I am surprised, but nor would I have been surprised if they had found something. Our position was always that there was a great deal that was unaccounted for, which means that it could have been there and the Iraqis had not explained what had happened to it, except to say in a general way that it was all destroyed in the summer of 1991.

We warned, and I warned specifically and explicitly, against equating “not accounted for” with “existing.” And you’ll find that we consistently said that Iraq must present any proscribed items or provide evidence of what has happened to them. And if they do not succeed in providing evidence, then the conclusion for us is that one cannot have confidence that these are gone and that therefore, at least in the past, in terms of the past resolutions, there was not a ground for lifting sanctions.

I am surprised, on the other hand, that it seems that so many of the U.S. military seemed to have been convinced that there would be lots of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, for them to take care of as soon as they went in and that they would practically stumble on these things. If anyone had cared, in the military circles, to study what UNSCOM [the United Nations Special Commission] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.

ACT: What do you think accounts for the discrepancy between this assumption on the U.S. military side and what was in the UNSCOM reports and what you found in your investigations?

Blix: I think primarily little attention to the United Nations and what it does up in New York and more attention to the huge organization that is the U.S. military force.

ACT: It’s not a question of different intelligence methods of gathering things or political pressures or other factors?

Blix: No—well, of course there was a lot of political feeling that [then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] was bad, which was true, and which I shared. [Laughter.] But going from there to saying that “well, it was a foregone conclusion that there was a lot” [of WMD] was not really tenable logic. It is true that he had the intention and he had these programs; we all know that. And, in popular thinking, maybe, if you have someone committing a crime once, you are inclined to think there will be a second time. But if you are a lawyer, if you are in a court, you are not supposed to say that it is automatic that someone who is accused a second time is guilty because he was guilty the first time. I think the matters have to be looked at on the merits, and this is what we tried to do here, and…we were being cautious.

ACT: What do you think the lack of prohibited weapons finds says about the effectiveness of the investigations that you carried out and that the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] carried out? You got a lot of criticism at the time from the administration and other people about how effective they were, and do you think that this shows you were more effective than they claim?

Blix: Let’s distinguish between what is said at the official level with what is said at other levels. I mean, my relations with the U.S. mission here, with their representatives to the Security Council, with their representatives in the State Department, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, were—there was no criticism of what we were doing. On the contrary, there was support for it. And even at the time, when the media were suggesting that we were withholding some evidence, there was no such suggestion made on the Security Council. These were spins that came at a lower level.

ACT: On the substance of the question, do you think that your investigations were more effective than perceived at the time, whatever the origin of the criticism?

Blix: I think our investigations were quite effective, but we never claimed that we could get into the last cave or corner in Iraq, and, when I was at the IAEA, [current IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei and I both said that there will always be a residue of uncertainty, however far you can get. Now I think that given the many things unaccounted for we were relatively far from hitting that residue; so we were never conclusive about it. There is only one case when we really got very close to asserting that there was something left, and that was with the anthrax, where I think we certainly had strong indications that everything hadn’t been destroyed in 1991. But having gone through the evidence of that case with the particular scientists here, I came to the conclusion that the evidence was not compelling, so we stopped short of saying that it does exist.

Now, we too, of course, were aware that the Iraqis must have learned a lot about concealment in the years and knew a lot about the techniques of the inspectors. So, we could not be sure that there were not underground stores that exist. We, in fact, were looking for ways in which one could explore that particular area, but you can’t look into every cave in a big country. We were also looking into the question of mobile transport of WMD because it was alleged that they moved things around all the time, which is hardly plausible for a whole stock of chemical weapons for a country, but there could have been some. And this was an area in which we were really looking for things. So we didn’t exclude that we could stumble upon something. And the question came then when, you remember, we found the chemical weapons warheads, which were empty of any chemicals. But we found 12 of them and then another four, I think. And we asked ourselves, and I said to the Security Council: “Is this the tip of the iceberg? Or is it simply broken up pieces of an ice that has broken in the past?” And I wouldn’t answer it at the time, kept both possibilities open. As I look at it today, perhaps I’m a little more inclined to think that it was debris from the past.

We looked at the stash of documents which we found on the basis of a tip from an intelligence agency. And, again, this had been said from intelligence in the past that the Iraqis were farming out documents to farmhouses and individuals and did not have them in archives. So the find was fitted into that picture. Could it have been part of a more general behavior? We still don’t know. But it could also have been an individual scientist who brought documents home, even though some were confidential. Both possibilities are open, and we never found another one, but I don’t exclude that it could have happened.

ACT: Can you speculate on why—

Blix: Ah, one point more. That is that, if you study our latest report, in the appendix we have information about when did UNSCOM, in particular, find things and when did they destroy things. And you’ll find that, in the first place, UNSCOM hardly ever stumbled upon something or found something that really was concealed. It was declared—either the sites were declared or the weapons were declared. And they destroyed practically all—the vast majority was destroyed before the end of 1994. After 1994, through their investigations and through the Kamel papers,1 they managed to identify that a number of things had been tainted, had been used, in installations. Equipment had been used for the production of weapons. Then they decided, this must be destroyed. So the little things were destroyed of that but not weapons. And I think that it is a detail now that the U.S. hasn’t found anything and we didn’t find anything. I think it’s interesting to go back and see that, in fact, after 1994, not much was found and destroyed. That has escaped attention. I don’t think we have called much attention to it either, but it struck me, and so we brought that forward.

ACT: Let’s talk a little about the Kamel papers. One of the criticisms that was made before was that the investigators didn’t find things on their own, that they were basically relying on defector testimony. How would you rate [defector testimony] versus on-the-spot investigations in terms of their effectiveness of getting at weapons programs and what is there?

Blix: Well, of course, if you count Kamel as a defector, which he was, this was a very valuable source of documents. But it did not lead anybody to a new weapon that was hidden. It demonstrated that they had weaponized biological weapons and, according to what the Iraqis said, then destroyed them. So it was a very interesting piece of history. It showed that they’d been lying, but [defectors] didn’t lead directly to any weapons. In the nuclear field, it revealed that the Iraqis had a crash program under Kamel from the end of 1990 and to some part of 1991 in order to make a nuclear weapon out of fissionable material, which were under safeguards, and that they just didn’t have time to do it. However, it did not lead the IAEA to any more fissionable material. It had already been taken out of Iraq by the time they found the Kamel papers. So it was very interesting historically, revealed something that the Iraqis had kept quiet about, but it did not lead the IAEA to any weapons.

And when it comes to comparison between the value of defectors and the value of other intelligence or what the inspectors found, I would say that the IAEA, for which I was responsible at the time, did a pretty good job, with the exception of these crash programs about which we knew nothing. However, it was in discussions with Professor Jaffar [Dhai Jaffar, deputy chairman of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission] that the big revelations came about the program, and through very painstaking research by our team, led by Professor [Maurizio] Zifferero [former deputy director of the IAEA and head of the IAEA’s Iraq Action Team], not by David Kay [chief inspector of a nuclear weapons inspection team in Iraq and now special adviser for strategy to the Bush administration in the WMD search in Iraq]—he had no notion of their nuclear program. He was not a nuclear physicist. But Professor Zifferero, vilified by Mr. [Gary] Milhollin [director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control], he was the one who really traced the program and understood it.

ACT: You mentioned the mobile laboratories when we were talking a little bit earlier. If they were, as the Iraqis claim, not used for biological weapons but were actually producing hydrogen [for civilian purposes], why didn’t they declare them? Doesn’t it strike you as strange?

Blix: Yes, a little. I mean, we were the ones who said to the Security Council that we asked the Iraqis for the images or declarations of whatever could have been seen as mobile, and they gave us a number of photographs, and none of these really fit with the ones that have now been discovered. Maybe there is some explanation for it, but we are not aware of it. And I agree, it is puzzling—and not the only puzzling detail.

ACT: More broadly, let’s say that the Iraqis have been telling the truth all along and that they don’t have these weapons. Why would they not show the evidence of that and avoid a war?

Blix: Why didn’t they declare everything?

ACT: Yeah, why not come clean?

Blix: When it came to biological, clearly they were lying, and they knew that. Now, why did they do that if they had no weapons left? I’m not sure that the logic and the emotions and psychology works exactly the same way as they might do here. Maybe they felt ashamed to admit weaponization? I mean one theory why they—if they had no weapons after ’91, then of course there’s a much bigger enigma than that, and that is why did they behave all along as they did during the whole 1990s? Because they suffered through sanctions all the way through. And I’ve been speculating about it, and I think more people than I will speculate about it.

One speculation that’s been made in The Washington Post, which may have been plausible, is that, while on the one hand they would say to the Security Council, “We’ve done everything, now you lift sanctions.” On the other hand, maybe they did not mind that people say, “Well maybe they have something”—a deliberate ambiguity. It’s possible—the mystique of maybe having some biological weapons. Maybe they’re playing around. That is one possibility. Now, why should such a mystique—why should they pursue that until they are occupied? That seems a little peculiar. Maybe by the force of its own logic or by miscalculation, brinksmanship.

And I have one other speculation, and that’s regarding pride. I saw that the chief minder of the chemical sector—when he was asked this question—he talked about pride. And I think that goes fairly deeply into my view of how inspections should operate here, that the Iraqis are very proud, as are the Pashtuns in Pakistan. The Afghans are extremely proud people. And that [the Iraqis] felt that, okay, these resolutions are accepted by us. We will live by them but not one inch longer, not more intrusion than is absolutely [necessary]. And they were legalistic about this.

I find it very hard to understand some of their denials of access that they had otherwise, where they were quibbling about five inspectors or 10 inspectors going in and eventually going into a house that was totally empty. There must have been a strong element of pride, and that was why, when I came here from the very outset, I said we are in Iraq for effective and correct inspections. We are not there for the purpose of humiliating them, harassing them, or provoking them. There were many other elements too that we differed from UNSCOM, but this was one, and I still think that pride might have been an element. And while we had lots of frictions and difficulties with them, in any case, we had, I think, a less difficult relation than UNSCOM had. We had, in particular, never any denial of access, and we had a good deal of cooperation when it came to setting up the infrastructure. So did UNSCOM have cooperation, but they, of course, had many denials of access.

ACT: As you said, [the Iraqis] seemed to be getting a little more cooperative, at least giving you the semblance of cooperation toward the end. If the inspections had continued, do you think you would have been able to get more substantive cooperation out of them, or was it bogged down in this difficult process?

Blix: Well, it seems to me that the interview process would have been the most promising of them. Maybe they would have found some further documents, occasionally found some, but not very many. We thought that after we had found this stash of documents, that when they appointed [former Minister of Oil General Amer] Rashid, and it was the [Rashid] Commission that could get the documents all over the country. I thought that if they had them—now this is a moment for them to [turn over the documents] without loss of face—they would find themselves in the right. I applauded their department officials. The same way with the commission they appointed after we had found the 12 warheads. It is far better—this now could be done without loss of face. But nothing came of it.

Now what would have happened then, if we had not been able to clear up and give really solid evidence, was that there would have been more indications of cooperation in substance, yes, but still a lot of things would have—might have—remained unaccounted for, which wouldn’t have been very satisfactory. And we don’t know where we would have gone, maybe the U.S. would have said, “Well we are waiting for two months, this is it, that’s the end of it.” And others would have said, “They are really cooperating now, there are no problems.” What we really [would have been] in now is continued containment. Now, that was not a welcomed word in Washington. They didn’t like the idea of containment; they wanted something decisive. And, well, their patience was not even enough for us going until March, so at what time point would they have lost patience? I don’t know.

I’m not opposed to containment, and I said so at the time. I agree that containment has its drawbacks. In particular, and I think I mentioned it publicly, that there could be a fatigue in the Security Council, that the guard will be let down. I understand that also. So it has some shortcomings. At the same time, I think one must be—then see what shortcomings has the other solution. All of the lives lost, all of the destruction. And we haven’t seen all the other drawbacks that may come from it; nor have we seen all the benefits that could have come from it. They’ll be on there—the balance of that particular account is not finished. But I was not personally against aerial containment actually that we had for a long time.

And, in particular, when you look at the most important—I mean we, you and me, talk about WMD as if it were one homogenous area, which, of course, it is not. I mean, the nuclear is vastly more important, and there’s a question of whether we really want to call chemical weapons “weapons of mass destruction.” Biological [weapons are] more like terror weapons than weapons of mass destruction. However, in the nuclear field, I think that it was clear that it would have taken quite some time before they were up and running again because the whole infrastructure was destroyed. They could have, I agree they could have, succeeded in importing 18 kilograms of plutonium. They might have had the expertise to make a bomb, yes, but even that would have required some infrastructure; so the matter of intervention to prevent further development in the nuclear field was probably the weakest. It was the most important area, I agree, but it was the weakest.

ACT: When you had to leave Iraq, what were the disarmament tasks that were the most pressing, the issues you really wanted to get resolved?

Blix: I think that mobile business was. That and the underground [facilities for concealing prohibited weapons and related equipment]. And we had taken it up with the Iraqis, both of these items, and we were discussing concepts for how to approach the mobile business with the Iraqis and with others. We talked about having checks at the roads with Iraqi staff and us having helicopters, dashing in here and there, taking samples of these random checks and so forth. We never got to that; it wouldn’t have been easy. None of the police forces we talked with gave us a really good model for it, but we were working on that.

And this goes back—the mobile thing went back to my experience in the IAEA in 1991. After all, the calutrons were on trucks, and they were—it was an IAEA team headed by Mr. Kay, who helped to take pictures of it. So we had experience that the Iraqis did move things around on trucks, but whether they were live things or debris, that was another matter. In any case, they had the habit of moving things by trucks in the big country, so that was not implausible. This was one experience from the past. But as [General Amir] al-Saadi [a senior adviser to Saddam Hussein] said to me when we talked about moving biological stuff around, he shook his [head] and said merely the collision risk of all this stuff on the highways would have deterred him. I didn’t write it off because of his remark, but I understood him.

ACT: How would you describe…the U.S. participation and commitment to the inspection process before the war? Was the United States doing all it could do to enable your inspections to succeed? Were other countries, such as France and Russia, doing all they could do to support the inspections?

Blix: Well, in the early stages, there was not so much intelligence, and we asked for it from [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and others—Condoleezza Rice—and we were sure that we would get it. I would say that after 1441, the resolution, was adopted and after the president had met Mr. ElBaradei and myself, there was more intelligence given, and at no time did we really complain about lack of support—lack of intelligence, yes; but lack of support, no. No, they helped us to run courses here, offered us equipment, et cetera. We were not complaining about that.

And, as of January—some time around January, I guess—I did not also complain about the number of sites intelligence that we were getting. The problem was rather that the U.S. or elsewhere—I don’t want to distinguish between the various intelligence agencies—that they did not lead us to interesting sites. As I have said publicly several times, we went to a lot of sites given to us by intelligence from around the world, and in only three cases did we find anything; and in none of these cases did it relate to weapons of mass destruction. Now, at this stage, in the middle of June, when the U.S. inspectors have been there for quite some time and, I think, have probably gone to all of the rest of the sites, and they haven’t found them very helpful either. So should anyone be surprised then, in retrospect, that we did not?

Now where did [the information about] these sites come from? Some came from satellites, and it’s not so easy to see everything and conclude the right things from satellites, and many came from defectors. So while I by no means want to belittle the value of defectors’ information, I think I like the more experienced—the professionals in the intelligence [community] are very cautious about the information they get from defectors, and I think the whole case of the Iraqi affair bears out that you have to treat such affairs with prudence.

ACT: There is speculation that Iraq destroyed prohibited weapons pretty recently, before the U.S. invasion. Do you think this is possible, given UNMOVIC and IAEA’s presence, that they could have destroyed the weapons without your knowledge?

Blix: This is not the only explanation we heard. One explanation is that they took things to Syria. Another one was that they dug it down so deep that they didn’t have time to dig it up. The third one would be that they have already given it to terrorists. And the fourth one is they destroyed it just before the U.S. came or just before the inspectors came. Well, I see these explanations with increasing, accelerating interest and curiosity, but I’d like to see evidence of any one of them.

But to your precise question, I think it would have been difficult for them to hide the destruction of rather large stashes of chemical weapons under the noses of the inspectors. I don’t exclude anything in this world.

ACT: If you had to assess your own tenure there, how successful were you? How would you sum it up?

Blix: I would say that we have—we showed something that was not a foregone conclusion. Namely, that it was possible to create an international inspection mechanism that was effective, that worked under the Security Council, and that was independent of intelligence agencies but cooperated with them and had assistance from them. And I think that this is a valuable experience for the future because I think that there may yet be a need for international inspections. …

ACT: Now that you’re moving on, in terms of UNMOVIC, at this point, what role can and should UNMOVIC play?

Blix: Well, it’s entirely up to the Security Council. We are its humble servants.

ACT: Presumably, they might take your advice.

Blix: I’m not so sure. Well, maybe some of them. [Laughter.] No, I think there are two things that could be in the future. One is the verification of disarmament. A report by the inspectors who are there now would have greater international credibility if they were examined and if the reality were examined by international inspectors. Whether they are interested in that, I don’t know.

The second is long-term monitoring. Will they want to have long-term monitoring in Iraq? That’s still not rescinded from the resolutions. It was in all the resolutions, and the resolutions also talk about this future zone free of weapons of mass destruction. I think there’s something a little paradoxical about reducing the institutionalized transparency by doing away with something that was there, especially if we are looking for an enhanced verification for the region at some stage, including the Additional Protocol, [an agreement designed to provide for more rigorous IAEA inspections]. And you would do away then with any verification [that Iraq does not possess biological weapons]. So you would have inspectors presumably on safeguards and the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and chemicals, maybe. But they would be a step backwards on inspections. So for the long term, it’s a possibility, and I think that would be better in the hands of international inspectors than national ones.

But for the rest, the UN Security Council had in UNSCOM’s and UNMOVIC’s archives and personnel a unique, elite, trained force. Especially the roster of inspectors is a practical and inexpensive way of holding an inspectorate ready—valuable particularly regarding missiles, a priority for which you have no international organization. I do not think that the council wants to send ad hoc inspections every week, but it could be from time to time, and it would not need to have a very big stable force here. We would organize the training forces and organize the roster and the readiness.

For the rest, I think that they should write up the experiences here in some sort of digest because if they do not retain UNMOVIC, then maybe they will set up something in the future, and the document has experiences from both [UNSCOM and UNMOVIC] which are valuable. …


NOTE

1. Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law who directed Iraq’s illicit weapons programs, defected in 1995. Shortly after, Baghdad provided inspectors with papers from Kamel’s farm detailing Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program.

[Return to text]

 


 

 

U.S. Sanctions Firms in China, Iran, and Moldova

On May 9, the United States imposed sanctions on a Chinese company, an Iranian firm, and Moldovan entities for what the State Department described as missile-proliferation activities.

The Chinese and Iranian companies will be prohibited from signing contracts with the U.S. government or receiving U.S. aid for two years. They will also be forbidden from importing or exporting any civilian goods or services from the United States. The two Moldovan companies and one individual will be barred for two years from any U.S. contracts or deals for missile-related items.

The sanctions are expected to have the most impact on the Chinese company, North China Industries Corporation (NORINCO), because it conducts a lot of U.S. business. According to its Web site, NORINCO makes 4,000 different kinds of products, including oil field equipment, vehicles, explosives, and firearms. No penalties were imposed on the Chinese, Iranian, or Moldovan governments.

NORINCO has been sanctioned by the United States previously. A State Department official dryly noted May 23 that the recent event marks “chapter 20 in an ongoing story.”

It is uncertain whether the Chinese activities triggering the sanctions took place before or after the Chinese government issued its new policy regulating missile and missile-related exports in August 2002. Beijing unveiled the new guidelines, which parallel those followed by the United States and the 32 other members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), after extensive prodding by Washington. MTCR members, which do not include China, pledge to restrict transfers of missiles and related technologies that could deliver a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue said May 27 that China has “strictly and effectively implemented” its new guidelines and that NORINCO has done nothing wrong.

A Central Intelligence Agency report released in April on proliferation activities during the first half of 2002 stated that Chinese firms provided Iran, as well as others, with “dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, and/or assistance” to their missile programs.

Last year, the United States levied sanctions on several Chinese companies it accused of chemical, biological, and missile proliferation. (See ACT, September 2002.)

On May 9, the United States imposed sanctions on a Chinese company, an Iranian firm, and Moldovan entities for what the State Department described as missile-proliferation activities. (Continue)

U.S. Levels Accusations Against Iranian Weapons Programs

Paul Kerr

The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country, including harboring the al Qaeda terrorist network and pursuing weapons of mass destruction programs.

In a May 27 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer repeated U.S. charges that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and rejected Iranian claims that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes. “Our strong position is that Iran is preparing, instead, to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. That is what we see,” he said.

Possible IAEA Safeguards Violation

Washington has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to state whether Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (See ACT, April 2003.) Apparently in response to this pressure, the IAEA has made the question of Iran’s compliance with its Safeguards Agreement an agenda item for its June 16 Board of Governors meeting, a State Department official said in a May 21 interview.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill made a formal request during a March 17 Board of Governors meeting that IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report on the matter, the official said. Brill, as well as other governments, including the European Union, also made this request during a May 6 IAEA meeting. Safeguards agreements allow the IAEA to monitor the nuclear facilities belonging to an NPT member state.

Washington has long expressed the belief that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but the IAEA has never found any of Iran’s nuclear activities to be in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement.

The United States argues that recent disclosures about Tehran’s nuclear activities likely place it in violation of its safeguards agreement. Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated during a May 5 press conference in Russia that Iran is “in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards agreement with the IAEA,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Semmel was more measured during a May 2 speech at the meeting to prepare for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, stating that Washington “strongly suspect[s]” that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement.

If the IAEA Board of Governors finds that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement, it is required to report the matter to the UN Security Council, Bolton pointed out May 5. The IAEA presented such a report about North Korea’s nuclear activities to the council in February. (See ACT, March 2003.)

In a May 1 address during the NPT conference, Semmel called on Tehran to allow the IAEA “complete access” to its nuclear facilities and “fully disclose all information about its nuclear programs.” He also called on Iran to “answer the questions and concerns that have been raised, and take all measures necessary to restore confidence in its nuclear program.” (See ACT, June 2003.)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister G. Ali Khoshroo had already stated April 29 during the conference that Iran “is providing substantiated [sic] information in great detail and with complete transparency” to the agency.

Perhaps the most significant discovery about Iran’s nuclear program has been the revelation that Iran has made significant progress on its gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility located in a complex at Natanz. A State Department official told Arms Control Today in March that IAEA officials were surprised by the facility’s advanced state during a February visit. Uranium enrichment is one method for producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

Semmel stated May 2 during the NPT conference that Washington is “skeptical” that Tehran “could have developed…[the Natanz facility] without conducting pilot operations that were not reported to the IAEA.” A State Department official said in March that Iran might have introduced nuclear material into centrifuges at another location in order to test them.

An undeclared pilot program that has used nuclear material for testing purposes would be in violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement, an IAEA official confirmed in a March interview. The Natanz facility does not violate this agreement because Iran has not yet introduced nuclear material into it.

The State Department official provided new details about the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities during a May 20 interview, stating that the IAEA is checking a shipment of Chinese-supplied nuclear material, including uranium hexafluoride, to ensure that it is all accounted for. Uranium hexafluoride is the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel. If any of the material is missing, it “might suggest” that Iran has conducted activities in violation of its safeguards agreement, the official added. The official said China shipped the material in 1991.

A May 9 State Department statement detailing China’s nuclear cooperation with Iran indicates that China agreed in 1997 “not to undertake new nuclear cooperation with Iran and…[to] cancel cooperation on a uranium conversion facility.” Such a facility is used to convert uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride, an essential component of a gas-centrifuge-based nuclear program. China also agreed “to complete…two existing contracts for non-sensitive assistance”—a reference to a research reactor and a facility to produce cladding for nuclear fuel rods, according to a 2001 Department of Defense report. The statement does not mention the 1991 shipment.

The official added that the United States hopes the IAEA “requests access to all suspect sites” in Iran, including a site occupied by the Kala Electric company. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the Mujahideen-e Khalq resistance group that publicly revealed the existence of the Natanz facility in August 2002, referred to Kala Electric as a “front company” for the uranium-enrichment project.

Iran is involved in other nuclear activities, but none have yet been found in violation of its safeguards agreement.

Semmel’s May 2 speech addressed another U.S. concern about Iran’s nuclear program: its construction of a heavy-water plant near a town called Arak. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated May 9 that the heavy-water plant is part of a plan for Iran to develop an additional capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons via plutonium reprocessing. Iran has no such reactor at present and is currently constructing light-water reactors, which are less suited for plutonium production, Boucher said.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said in a May 6 speech during the NPT conference that Iran will be building Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU)-type heavy-water nuclear reactors, but he said their construction would not be a proliferation concern because they would operate under IAEA safeguards.

A State Department official said in a May 28 interview that heavy-water reactors pose a greater proliferation risk than light-water reactors because it is easier to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium from the spent fuel. Additionally, CANDU reactors use natural uranium for nuclear fuel, which allows countries to bypass the uranium-enrichment stage and use indigenous uranium, the official said. The use of natural uranium can also potentially complicate efforts to monitor the diversion of nuclear fuel, he added.

The United States first expressed concern about the plant in December, but construction of the heavy-water plant does not itself violate Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Semmel also cited Iran’s “aggressive pursuit of a full nuclear fuel cycle capability” as evidence that the country is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced in February that it has started mining uranium and is developing the facilities necessary for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani announced in March that Iran would begin operating its uranium-conversion facility, completed by Iran after China pulled out of the project.

In addition, Russia is constructing a light-water nuclear reactor at Bushehr in Iran. Washington has long opposed the project out of concern Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program, although the reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished. Russia rejects the claim that its cooperation contributes to an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Russia has agreed to supply Iran with reactor fuel but only with the condition that Iran return the spent fuel. That agreement has still not been finalized, the State Department official said May 20, adding that Moscow’s condition remains in effect.

Russia also expressed some concern about Iran’s nuclear activities, although it has not stopped its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Referring to the IAEA’s investigation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov said May 19 that Moscow has “questions” about Iran’s nuclear activities, although he did not say Moscow has any reason to believe Iran is violating its safeguards agreement. He also expressed hope that Iran would sign an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement, which is designed to provide for more rigorous inspections.

Tehran agreed in February to discuss concluding an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, but Iran placed conditions on this agreement in March.

Aghazadeh reiterated Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for generating electricity, arguing that the reduced use of fossil fuels for electricity will save Iran money and protect its environment. He also argued that Iran needs to produce its own nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on foreign suppliers. He added that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would not enhance its security and that all programs will operate under IAEA safeguards.

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

The United States has also had long-standing concerns about Iran’s missile program. Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch testified before Congress in March that Tehran could “flight test” a missile capable of reaching the United States “by mid-decade,” but a December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate places this date at 2015.

Chemical Weapons

Meanwhile, the Bush administration also reprimanded Iran for its suspected chemical weapons activities. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker accused Iran of violating its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in an April 28 speech at the First Review Conference of the treaty—a claim the United States has repeatedly made in the past. (See ACT, June 2003.) Tehran has stated that it is not producing chemical weapons.

 

 

 

The United States has been levying charges against Iran similar to those it made against Iraq prior to the March invasion of that country...

North Korea Chronology

Paul Kerr

2002

October 3-5, 2002: James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, visits North Korea. The highest-ranking administration official to visit Pyongyang, Kelly reiterates U.S. concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, export of missile components, conventional force posture, human rights violations, and humanitarian situation. Kelly informs North Korea that it could improve bilateral relations through a “comprehensive settlement” addressing these issues. No future meetings are announced.

Referring to Kelly’s approach as “high handed and arrogant,” North Korea argues that the U.S. policy “compels the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to take all necessary countermeasures, pursuant to the army-based policy whose validity has been proven.”

October 16, 2002: The United States announces that North Korea admitted to having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons after Kelly confronted representatives from Pyongyang during an October 3-5 visit. Kelly later explained that the North Korean admission came the day after he informed them that the United States was aware of the program. North Korea has denied several times that it admitted to having this program.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher states that “North Korea’s secret nuclear weapons program is a serious violation of North Korea’s commitments under the Agreed Framework as well as under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Boucher also says that the United States wants North Korea to comply with its nonproliferation commitments and seeks “a peaceful resolution of this situation.”

November 5, 2002: North Korea threatens to end its moratorium on ballistic missile tests if North Korea-Japan normalization talks do not achieve progress.

November 14, 2002: The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which is responsible for building the two light-water reactors the United States agreed to supply in the 1994 Agreed Framework, announces that it is suspending heavy-fuel oil deliveries to North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s October 4 acknowledgement that it has a uranium-enrichment program. The last shipment reaches North Korea November 18.

November 29, 2002: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopts a resolution calling upon North Korea to “clarify” its “reported uranium-enrichment program.” North Korea rejects the resolution, saying the IAEA’s position is biased in favor of the United States.

December 9, 2002: Spanish and U.S. forces intercept and search a ship carrying North Korean Scud missiles and related cargo to Yemen. The United States allows the shipment to be delivered because it lacks the necessary legal authority to seize the cargo. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says that Washington had intelligence that the ship was carrying missiles to the Middle East and was concerned that its ultimate destination might have been Iraq.

December 12, 2002: North Korea sends a letter to the IAEA announcing that it is restarting its one functional reactor and is reopening the other nuclear facilities frozen under the Agreed Framework. The letter requests that the IAEA remove the seals and monitoring equipment from its nuclear facilities. A North Korean spokesman blames the United States for violating the Agreed Framework and says that the purpose of restarting the reactor is to generate electricity—an assertion disputed by U.S. officials.

A November 27 Congressional Research Service report states that the reactor could produce enough plutonium annually for one bomb. The CIA states in a 2002 report to Congress that the spent fuel rods “contain enough plutonium for several more [nuclear] weapons.”

U.S. estimates on North Korea’s current nuclear status differ. A State Department official said January 3, 2003, that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear weapons made from plutonium produced before the negotiation of the Agreed Framework. A January 2003 CIA report to Congress estimates that Pyongyang “has produced enough plutonium” for one or two weapons.

December 14, 2002: North Korea states in a letter to the IAEA that the status of its nuclear facilities is a matter between the United States and North Korea and “not pursuant to any agreement” with the IAEA. The letter further declares that North Korea will take unilateral action to remove seals and monitoring cameras if the IAEA does not act.

December 22-24, 2002: North Korea cuts all seals and disrupts IAEA surveillance equipment on its nuclear facilities and materials. An IAEA spokesman says December 26 that North Korea started moving fresh fuel rods into the reactor, suggesting that it might be restarted soon.

December 27, 2002: North Korea orders IAEA inspectors out of the country. They leave December 31.

2003

January 6, 2003: The IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution condemning North Korea’s decision to restart its nuclear reactor and resume operation of its related facilities. The resolution “deplores” North Korea’s action “in the strongest terms” and calls on Pyongyang to meet “immediately, as a first step” with IAEA officials. It also calls on North Korea to re-establish the seals and monitoring equipment it dismantled, to comply fully with agency safeguards, to clarify details about its reported uranium-enrichment program, and to allow the agency to verify that all its nuclear material is “declared and…subject to safeguards.”
January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), effective January 11. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months’ notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argues that it has satisfied this requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding. An IAEA spokesman says the agency considers North Korea to have a safeguards agreement in place for the remainder of the three-month period from Pyongyang’s withdrawal announcement, suggesting the IAEA still considers North Korea to be party to the NPT.

January 12, 2003: Choe Jin Su, North Korea’s ambassador to China, signals that Pyongyang might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, saying that Pyongyang believes it “cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer,” according to a January 12 Los Angeles Times article.

February 12, 2003: Responding to North Korea’s rejection of the November 2002 and January 2003 IAEA resolutions, the IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution declaring Pyongyang in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the NPT. The board decides to report the matter to the UN Security Council, in accordance with agency mandates.

February 27, 2003: U.S. officials confirm North Korea has restarted the five-megawatt nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the Agreed Framework.

March 19, 2003: North Korea again signals that it might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, asserting in a March 19 Korean Central News Agency statement that it has the “sovereign right” to have a “peaceful” missile program. North Korea conducted missile tests February 24 and March 10, but both tests involved short-range missiles that did not violate the moratorium.

March 24, 2003: The United States imposes sanctions on the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation of North Korea for transferring missile technology to Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan. The laboratory was sanctioned for receiving the items. Philip Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman, said April 1 that the sanctions were imposed only for a “missile-related transfer” and not the transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to North Korea.

April 23-25, 2003: The United States, North Korea, and China hold trilateral talks in Beijing. North Korea tells the U.S. delegation that it possesses nuclear weapons, according to Boucher on April 28—the first time that Pyongyang has made such an admission.

North Korea also tells the U.S. delegation that it has completed reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel from the five-megawatt reactor frozen under the Agreed Framework, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell during an April 30 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Boucher adds that the North Korean delegation told the U.S. officials that Pyongyang “might get rid of all their nuclear programs…[and] stop their missile exports.” Powell states April 28 that North Korea expects “something considerable in return” for this effort.

 

Congress Divided on North Korea, Confused by Bush Policy

Jonathan M. Katz

Complaining that the Bush administration has offered little guidance as to how to interpret the behavior of Kim Jong Il’s government, members of Congress have been putting forward their own solutions to the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang.

The congressional ferment served as a backdrop to Bush’s May meetings with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Some legislators went as far as traveling to North Korea. A bipartisan group of six lawmakers began a fact-finding visit to North Korea May 30 in an effort to ease tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. Curt Weldon (R-PA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, led the group, which included Republican Representatives Joe Wilson (SC) and Jeff Miller (FL) and Democratic Representatives Eliot Engel (NY) and Texans Solomon Ortiz and Silvestre Reyes.

Some congressional leaders remain committed to diplomacy. One round of talks between North Korea, the United States, and China dissolved earlier than expected April 25 when Pyongyang declared itself a nuclear power. But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN), for one, remains convinced that problems could be resolved in a future round of negotiations.

“At the moment, we really need to let the diplomatic route in which we are very active proceed,” Lugar said. “[The negotiations are] not for show or going through the motions.”

Roh’s meeting with Bush was a sign that cooperation is possible on the peninsula, Lugar said in an interview two days before Koizumi’s visit to Crawford, Texas. Lugar said he was further encouraged by plans for a June meeting between Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Although he thinks diplomatic pressure is the most sensible way to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, Lugar said he believes the threat of force will strengthen the stance of U.S. negotiators at the table. He worries, however, about the possibility of accidental war stemming from misunderstandings, according to a senior staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The senator himself called the prospect of war “undesirable” and said with some concern that military action “had not been ruled out.”

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he also believes in negotiations. Levin has been critical of what he describes as the Bush administration’s aggressive stance. The assistance of South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia will also be necessary to deal with Pyongyang, Levin said.

On the other hand, some on Capitol Hill want the Bush administration to take a firmer approach with North Korea. The Missile Threat Reduction Act of 2003, which is being prepared for a vote in the House, would threaten sanctions against North Korea and any country that purchases nuclear technologies from Pyongyang. The item, a section of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, was introduced by Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), ranking member on the House International Relations Committee.

The act is intended to provide a legal framework for preventing incidents such as Yemen’s December 2002 purchase of North Korean Scud missiles. That missile shipment was intercepted en route to Yemen—and released. The United States did not have authority to hold the missiles, White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said at the time.

Citing a Bush policy he described as “all hat and no cowboy,” a House International Relations Committee aide said the act would force the administration to be tougher on Pyongyang by imposing sanctions against governments who sponsor corporations and individuals involved in missile trading. Lantos’ bill would double the current two-year period of sanctions. The legislation also proposes a three-year probationary period of close scrutiny, making an effective penalty period of seven years.

The framers of the act seek to end a tradition of dismissing sanctions against proliferators through entirely classified proceedings, the staffer said. The desire not to embarrass allied countries has led the United States to waive sanctions behind closed doors in years past, he said. The Bush administration would still be able to waive sanctions against governments and individuals but would be asked to file an open document noting that the initial violation occurred.

The Lantos measure would provide up to $750 million to countries not listed on the State Department’s terrorist list that shut down their nuclear programs. Because it is on that list, North Korea would not be eligible for the program. But Lantos’ staffer said the intended effect would be to discourage other countries that have shown an interest in acquiring nuclear capabilities from following North Korea’s path.

Another bill in the House would end the transfer of nuclear-related technologies to the North. Under the Clinton administration’s 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea’s energy needs were to be partly met through the U.S. transfer of technology, such as light-water nuclear reactors, in exchange for North Korea’s agreement to shut down its plutonium program.

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), who sponsored the amendment to the 2003 Energy Policy act, has vehemently pushed the Bush administration and Energy Department to stop such transfers.

“Whatever steps are taken in future negotiations to reduce the threat posed by the government in Pyongyang, providing additional nuclear technology and know-how should be off the table,” said Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA), the bill’s other sponsor. The House passed the full bill, including the Cox-Markey amendment, in April. It is now pending before the Senate.

Frustration with the tenets of the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea is pervasive in the Senate as well.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, was scathing in his criticism of the Clinton administration’s bargain with Pyongyang. “The greatest foreign policy failure of the Clinton administration was entering into a deal that they could not verify or enforce,” McCain said.

Clinton administration officials have defended the agreement as necessary to bring the 1994 conflict over the North’s attempts to develop a nuclear weapons program to a peaceful resolution. For example, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, a key architect of the Agreed Framework, challenged McCain and other critics to come up with a workable framework of their own.

Indeed, in the current crisis, lawmakers are also not relying solely on diplomatic “sticks.” As “carrots,” Lugar, Levin, and other leaders have said that humanitarian assistance to the famished people of North Korea could be on the table. Many on the Hill have also said that they would consider assisting Pyongyang’s energy needs as long as they could be assured that the power would not be used to produce weapons.

 

Complaining that the Bush administration has offered little guidance as to how to interpret the behavior of Kim Jong Il’s government, members of Congress have been...

North Korea Ups the Ante in Nuclear Standoff

Paul Kerr

North Korea accused the United States of violating the spirit of a 1992 agreement to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, calling the agreement a “dead document” in a May 12 statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Meanwhile, Washington and its allies worked to formulate their next moves in the diplomatic standoff surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program, but no decisions have been made on whether another round of talks with North Korea will take place.

The 1992 Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula mandates that the two countries “not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” The agreement also calls for the two countries to conduct inspections in order to verify the agreement, but the inspections have never been implemented.

Pyongyang did not explicitly repudiate the agreement but blamed the United States for causing the nuclear confrontation and singled out the Bush administration’s policies for especially severe criticism. The May 12 statement cited President George W. Bush’s 2001 termination of negotiations over North Korea’s missile programs, his inclusion of North Korea in his “axis of evil,” the administration’s policy of pre-emption, and the U.S. attack on Iraq as evidence that the United States poses a threat to North Korea. North Korea has repeatedly made similar charges in the past. (See ACT, May 2003.)

The statement also says that North Korea needs a “physical deterrent force”—a possible reference to nuclear weapons—to protect itself from a U.S. attack. Bush and other U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea.

In a May 13 statement, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker termed Pyongyang’s announcement a “regrettable step…in the wrong direction.”

The United States has argued for months that North Korea violated the 1992 agreement by pursuing a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. U.S. officials said in October that North Korea admitted to having such a program during a meeting earlier that month when a U.S. delegation visited North Korea. North Korea has denied making such an admission. (See ACT, November 2002.)

North Korea, however, told the United States during trilateral talks held in April with China in Beijing that it possesses nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Appropriations Committee during an April 30 hearing that North Korea also threatened to transfer the weapons to other countries or “display them”—a possible reference to nuclear testing.

The state of Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains unclear. Powell stated April 30 that North Korean officials told the U.S. delegation during the April talks that it “reprocessed all the fuel rods” stored in North Korea as a result of the 1994 Agreed Framework. Sun Joun-yung, South Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, was less definite in a May 15 speech, saying that North Korea declared during the talks that it “had nearly completed” reprocessing.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not comment on whether North Korea has started reprocessing during a May 8 press briefing. Whether North Korea actually possesses nuclear weapons is also unknown, but Powell said during a May 4 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press that North Korea could generate enough plutonium for “five or six” nuclear devices by reprocessing the fuel rods.

Washington Evaluates Options

Meanwhile, Bush held meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders to coordinate policy on the nuclear standoff. A May 14 joint statement issued after a meeting that day between Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said the two countries “will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea” and expressed their “commitment to work for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program through peaceful means based on international cooperation.”

The statement added that “increased threats to peace and stability on the peninsula would require consideration of further steps,” but it did not specify what those steps might be.

Additionally, the joint statement reiterated the U.S. claim that it cannot implement its “bold approach” unless North Korea eliminates its nuclear programs. Administration officials have described this policy as involving “economic and political steps” to help North Korea and improve relations between the two countries, although it is not clear whether North Korean concessions on its nuclear program would be sufficient for Washington to implement these measures.

Bush said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi following a bilateral May 23 meeting that talks with North Korea “must…include Japan and South Korea.” Washington has argued that multilateral talks are necessary because the crisis affects many countries and because such talks will be more effective than bilateral negotiations.

Whether the United States will pursue future talks with North Korea is unknown. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stated during a May 14 speech that the United States would be “willing” to conduct further talks with North Korea “if we believe that they are useful at some point in time.”

But Rice also stated in a May 12 interview with Reuters that the United States will not “respond point by point” to a proposal North Korean delegates made during the April talks. Boucher said in April that North Korea had offered to eliminate its two nuclear programs and halt its missile exports in exchange for U.S. compliance with a list of demands. Rice characterized the North Korean proposal as “blackmail” during the May 14 speech.

Ambassador Sun stated in his May 15 speech that North Korea’s demands included the resumption of heavy-fuel oil deliveries, the completion of the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, the “normalization of relations” between the two countries, and an “assurance of non-aggression.”

North Korea has repeatedly demanded a nonaggression pact and an end to U.S. economic sanctions in its public statements. Washington insists that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for discussions on other issues.

North Korea argued in a May 13 KCNA statement that it is only asking the United States to live up to promises made in past agreements. The first three of its demands are explicitly covered under the Agreed Framework, which also requires the United States to “provide formal assurances to [North Korea], against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.”

A May 24 KCNA statement indicated that Pyongyang will accept multilateral talks but wants to have bilateral talks with Washington “for a candid discussion on each other’s policies” before participating in multilateral discussions.

Bush administration officials also indicated that Washington might pursue a more robust interdiction policy to halt illicit North Korean exports. Rice indicated May 12 that the United States would step up its efforts to interdict North Korean shipments of missiles and narcotics. Powell said in a May 5 press briefing that the United States would work to prevent any exports of nuclear material. The United States intercepted a shipment of Scud missiles bound for Yemen in December but let the cargo go through. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer would not say during a May 23 press briefing whether the United States was pursuing sanctions against North Korea.

A North Korean army spokesman said in February that North Korea would “abandon its commitment” to the 1953 Armistice Agreement signed at the end of the Korean War if the United States imposes a blockade.

Allied Policy

Differences remain among Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington over North Korea policy. Roh expressed support for continuing negotiations with North Korea during a May 15 interview on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, arguing that “there is a high likelihood” that North Korea will give up its nuclear program if the United States, South Korea, China, and Japan offer North Korea “security guarantees and…an opportunity to reform and open up its economy.” “It’s quite common to arrive at a compromise through giving and taking,” Roh added.

Despite Roh’s pro-negotiation stance, the U.S.-South Korean statement also says that “future inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation will be conducted in light of developments on the North Korean nuclear issue”—an indication that Seoul is taking a harder line in its bilateral relations with North Korea. South Korea has previously held talks on economic cooperation and other issues without any linkage to North Korea’s nuclear program.

In the May 15 interview, Roh also stated that North Korea “will not be allowed to reprocess…plutonium to make new nuclear weapons”—a tougher stance than the United States has taken. In a May 8 statement, Reeker said only that reprocessing “would be a matter of deep concern.”
North Korea reacted negatively in a May 21 KCNA statement to the Bush-Roh meeting’s outcome, criticizing Seoul for its apparent policy shift and arguing that increased pressure on Pyongyang would increase the risk “of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.”

Tokyo’s North Korea policy statements have been more in line with Washington’s view than with South Korea. Koizumi, however, took a position on further talks with North Korea that reflected Seoul’s stance, saying May 23 that “continuation of the multilateral talks is important.”

Koizumi also said the same day that Tokyo would not normalize relations with Pyongyang until the latter resolves concerns about its nuclear program, its development of ballistic missiles, and abduction of Japanese citizens. The two countries agreed during a September 2002 meeting to meet to discuss normalizing diplomatic relations, but progress has been stalled by reports of North Korea’s claim to have a nuclear weapons program and Japanese anger over Pyongyang’s September 2002 admission that it had abducted Japanese citizens.

Addressing concerns about illegal exports to North Korea, Koizumi added that “Japan will crack down more rigorously in [sic] illegal activities,” apparently referring to more stringent enforcement measures on Japanese firms that have been trading with North Korea. A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, however, said in a May 20 statement that Japan “has not been considering” sanctions on North Korea.

A May 27 joint Chinese-Russian statement expresses support for the “nuclear-free status of [the] Korean peninsula and observance there of the regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” but it adds that “power pressure or the use of force to resolve the problems existing there are unacceptable” and that the issue should be resolve diplomatically.

The statement seems to express greater support for the North Korean negotiating position, saying that North Korea’s security “must be guaranteed and favorable conditions…established for its socio-economic development.” It also says that these activities should occur “simultaneously” with nonproliferation efforts.

A May 27 Chinese Foreign Ministry statement expressed support for the continuation of multilateral talks but added that the United States and North Korea should make future trilateral talks a “top priority.”

 

North Korea accused the United States of violating the spirit of a 1992 agreement to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons...

New NNSA Head Appointed Amid Controversy

Christine Kucia

Ambassador Linton Brooks was installed May 16 as administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and undersecretary of energy for nuclear security after his confirmation by the Senate May 1. Brooks, who has been acting director of the semi-autonomous Department of Energy (DOE) agency responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile for nearly one year, officially assumed leadership amid management controversies at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and as Congress moved toward granting approval for new nuclear weapons research.

The most recent controversy stirred at Los Alamos in late November 2002, when investigators discovered that the laboratory could not account for $2.7 million in computers and equipment and thousands of dollars in questionable credit card transactions. The problems subsequently led to the resignation of Los Alamos director John Browne in early January 2003.

Problems with the laboratory’s safety in handling radioactive materials, including piping contaminated with plutonium, emerged April 18 when DOE cited Los Alamos “for violations of nuclear safety rules and procedures” in September 2002. The Energy Department stated that Los Alamos failed “to ensure that previously identified work control problems were effectively identified, controlled and corrected.”

Recent dissatisfaction with the University of California’s management—which has run Los Alamos for the Energy Department since 1943—led DOE to decide April 30 to open competition for the laboratory’s management and operations. The university’s contract expires in September 2005.

During a May 1 House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, members of Congress criticized the department for failing to properly supervise Los Alamos, whose scientists and programs are key to maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons security. Brooks and Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow were taken to task for poor oversight of the laboratory as the problems unfolded over several months. Representative James Greenwood (R-PA) wanted to know whose “job it was to provide this oversight? And what consequences do they face?”

At the hearing, Brooks said, “I believe that the problem with the department oversight was not primarily failure of individuals, but failure of structure.” In reply, Greenwood stated, “But somebody has the responsibility to create that structure.”

After he was appointed acting director in July 2002, Brooks sought to improve accountability and oversight of NNSA facilities. Brooks noted in a December 18, 2002, announcement of an overall NNSA reorganization that the effort focused on “streamlining operations and oversight while clarifying roles and responsibilities. The new, more responsive organization will improve federal management of our nuclear weapons complex.”

The problems at Los Alamos are symptomatic of broader structural problems that Brooks will confront as head of NNSA. An April 2002 study by the Commission on Science and Security, a nongovernmental panel tasked by DOE to assess the challenges the department faces in managing its science facilities, reported that “DOE’s policies and practices risk undermining its security and compromising its science and technology programs.” A May 2003 report from the DOE Office of the Inspector General criticized the planning mechanism NNSA is employing to plan the rebuilding and improvement of the nuclear weapons complex’s physical infrastructure. The study emphasized that, without reliable site plans, “NNSA may be at risk of being unable to ensure the vitality and readiness of the nuclear weapons complex.”

In addition to existing challenges in the laboratories and NNSA management, Brooks will oversee work to develop new nuclear weapons capabilities and enhance the U.S. nuclear test posture. A three-year study on a robust nuclear earth-penetrating weapon is underway following congressional approval last year. (See ACT, December 2002.) In its fiscal year 2004 appropriations request, NNSA has asked for funding to shorten the preparation time for a nuclear test from as long as 36 months to just 18 months.

Meanwhile, Congress is poised to lift the decade-long ban on researching low-yield nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2003.) Brooks supports this initiative to allow scientists greater scope for their nuclear weapons work. Although Brooks testified at an April 8 Senate hearing that “we have no requirement to actually develop any new weapons at this time,” he claimed during a May 15 visit to California’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory that such weapons would usefully act as a deterrent by persuading aggressor states that the U.S. nuclear threat is real.

 

 

 

Ambassador Linton Brooks was installed May 16 as administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and undersecretary of energy for nuclear security after his confirmation...

NPT Meeting Confronts New Nuclear Threats

Christine Kucia

While upholding the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as “the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament,” states-parties meeting in Geneva April 28-May 9 confronted the myriad of threats to the integrity of the arms control agreement that had surfaced in the past year.

Delegates welcomed Cuba, which acceded to the NPT November 4, 2002, after joining the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which delineates a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Caribbean and Latin America, October 23. In addition, East Timor joined the NPT May 5 when it deposited its instruments of ratification with the United States, a depository state. The only major countries outside the NPT are Israel, India, and Pakistan.

Proliferation concerns dominated the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) proceedings for the 2005 NPT Review Conference with countries highlighting ongoing problems with Iraq, newfound allegations of an extensive nuclear program in Iran, and North Korea’s destabilizing withdrawal from the 33-year-old accord. Delegates boldly “named names” of countries suspected of violating the treaty during the diplomatic gathering, which ordinarily shies away from levying such strong accusations directly.

Delegates at the gathering could not help but discuss North Korea’s withdrawal—the NPT’s first—despite an effort by PrepCom Chairman László Molnár of Hungary to minimize its impact on the meeting. Inaction by the UN Security Council provided the chair with no guidance, and Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the treaty’s depositories—did not agree on how to handle North Korea’s status upon its April 10 withdrawal date, so the United Nations could not address the issue prior to convening the PrepCom.

States-parties themselves were divided about whether to acknowledge North Korea’s withdrawal or to overlook it, so the conference faced “a stumbling block that could drive us into a procedural quagmire,” Molnár said in a May 27 interview. Deciding on an approach that Molnár acknowledged was “unusual,” he took custody of North Korea’s nameplate, literally removing the issue from the table. In this way, he explained, the conference’s progress would not be bogged down with the procedural matter of how to handle North Korea’s announcement.

Delegates still expressed dismay at North Korea’s announcement in their general statements at the meeting’s outset, stressing the need for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Hubert de la Fortelle, France’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, went a step further in his April 28 remarks. He noted that “naturally, a clear commitment is also needed from the United Nations Security Council with a view to contributing to a peaceful resolution to the crisis.” After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution on North Korea’s noncompliance and referred the matter to the UN Security Council, action in New York has been stymied by China. (See ACT, May 2003.)

U.S. Policy

The United States focused its comments on Iran. (See ACT, June 2003.) Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf emphasized in his April 28 statement, “[e]very NPT party has a stake in seeing the veil of secrecy lifted on Iran’s nuclear program,” calling Iran’s recently discovered nuclear activity “the most fundamental challenge ever faced by the NPT.” Successive U.S. statements at the meeting repeatedly highlighted Iran’s rapid development of a uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, in possible breach of its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Semmell raised concerns in May 2 comments that “Iran kept secret and hidden a vast, longstanding program” to build the enrichment facility as well as a heavy-water reactor. Other countries, including France and the United Kingdom, backed up U.S. allegations about Iran’s program in their own remarks.

In response, G. Ali Khoshroo, Iranian deputy foreign minister, reaffirmed April 29 that Iran “is more than fully committed to all its obligations under the Treaty and is in the meantime determined to vigorously exploit its inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” Khoshroo then turned the tables, questioning U.S. policy and its disarmament commitments under the NPT. “Which other nuclear-weapon states have named non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT as the targets of their nuclear weapons? None.…Which NPT party other than the United States has left such a record of undermining so many international instruments, on disarmament and other issues alike? None.”

Delegates emphasized their concerns about recent U.S. actions that suggest nuclear weapons modifications or development might be imminent and that Washington might be reneging on its “negative security assurance” pledge made in the context of the NPT. China spoke out April 28 against proposed U.S. research and development on low-yield nuclear weapons “aimed at probable battlefield use and the policy of lowering [the] threshold of use of nuclear weapons.” (See ACT, June 2003.)

In response, the United States highlighted the strategic reduction strides it made with Russia by signing the Moscow Treaty in May 2002. Wolf broadly addressed complaints from other countries by countering, “[I]t is not credible to argue that we are not on a steady downward path toward the goals of Article VI,” the NPT treaty section that outlines the goal of disarmament for the nuclear-weapon states. Later in the conference, the United States and Russia issued a joint statement on the Moscow Treaty, which noted that the agreement “is an important link in the chain of agreements in the area of strategic offensive arms reductions.” Yet, the New Agenda countries—including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden—questioned “whether the legacy of the Cold War has really been left behind.” They added, “Reductions in the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear warheads are not a substitute for irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, nuclear weapons.”

The New Agenda Coalition also called the past year “an inauspicious one for the NPT in general and for the issue of nuclear disarmament in particular.” Collectively, they offered a draft protocol on negative security assurances, which would ensure that nuclear-weapon states would not use their nuclear forces against non-nuclear-weapon states unless such a state attacked in alliance with a state possessing nuclear weapons. Citing the 2000 NPT Review Conference final document, which calls for nuclear weapon states to explore a legally binding agreement on negative security assurances, the coalition of governments suggested that their framework should be negotiated and later appended to the NPT.

Molnár stressed that the states-parties approved procedural reports at the PrepCom, but the meeting’s format did not require agreement on a substantive report of the debate; the delegates probably would have been unable to achieve consensus on such a report. But the third PrepCom meeting, set to take place April 26-May 7, 2004, at UN headquarters in New York, is expected to make every effort to produce recommendations by consensus that will be used to structure the 2005 NPT Review Conference. The divisive stances among states-parties during this year’s meeting “does not bode well for the future,” Molnár said.

 

 

 

While upholding the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as “the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament,”...

G-8 Gauges Progress of Threat Reduction Partnership

Christine Kucia

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries meeting in Evian, France, June 1-3 will review progress achieved to help Russia meet threat reduction goals as part of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which was adopted at last year’s summit. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)

The partnership, dubbed “10 plus 10 over 10,” will provide Russia in the next 10 years with up to $10 billion in U.S. funding, matched by up to $10 billion from the European G-8 members and Japan. Some other countries outside of the G-8, such as Norway and Switzerland, are also helping Russia secure and destroy its weapons of mass destruction and related materials through the program. The United States already offers roughly $1 billion in assistance to Russia through the Cooperative Threat Reduction program and other associated projects.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf said in May 8 testimony to Congress that G-8 partner countries have committed $6 billion to the program, despite pressure from the State Department to meet the $10 billion goal with international pledges before the Evian summit.

“It’s been too long that Europe and Japan haven’t done enough to…help these threat-reduction projects that we’ve been working on for a decade,” Wolf said.

One reason for the lack of financial pledges is that G-8 states are pressing Russia to cut a deal on tax and liability issues. (See ACT, November 2002.) In an attempt to improve government-to-government cooperation on these issues, the United States, the European Union, and Russia May 21 signed the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation (MNEPR). At the signing ceremony for the agreement, which provides 110 million euros ($130 million) for a variety of radioactive waste disposal projects, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov noted that the MNEPR contains the “legal framework” for meeting the implementation goals in the G-8 program. “It is of fundamental importance that we will now be able to use this Agreement as a guide in working out bilateral accords under the Global Partnership,” he said.

Russia’s chief priorities for new foreign assistance include dismantlement of more than 100 decommissioned nuclear submarines, which, due to budget constraints, languish in ports with the nuclear fuel still onboard the boats. Assistance with destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile—the world’s largest at an estimated 40,000 tonnes—is also viewed as imperative; experts indicate that the poorly guarded, poorly maintained munitions pose a proliferation risk as well as an environmental challenge.

Despite U.S. criticism of Europe and Japan, Russia recently hailed assistance from Germany and Japan as “the greatest advance in project development.” Russia announced April 18 that Germany has pledged 30 million euros ($35 million), primarily for construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility at Kambarka, Interfax reported.

Since promising assistance for dismantling Russian weapons in the early 1990s, Japan has committed $200 million to Russia for nonproliferation projects, but bureaucratic issues have impeded detailed agreement between the capitals. At a February 13 meeting, however, Japan and Russia made significant strides toward finalizing a program to dismantle a Victor III-class submarine. Earlier, Japan had agreed to fund construction of a $36 million radioactive waste treatment plant, which started operation in 2001.

 

 

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries meeting in Evian, France, June 1-3 will review progress achieved to help Russia meet threat reduction goals as part of the G-8...

Slow Moving Diplomacy in South Asia Makes Headway

Rose Gordon

After more than a year and a half of silence, peppered by occasional threats and accusations, India and Pakistan are considering a range of options in order to re-establish ties that have been severely strained since the December 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. These include assigning an ambassador to each other’s capital; resuming civil air, rail, and road links; hosting bilateral sporting events or other people-to-people exchanges; and making a serious effort to address the decades-old dispute over Kashmir.

The first hint of the possibility for improved relations between the two countries came from a speech by Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee while he was visiting the Indian-held portion of the Kashmir region April 18-19. Vajpayee spoke of “extending the hand of friendship” to Pakistan and of the possibility for new talks between the two countries. At a press conference before returning to New Delhi, however, he indicated that India has its own conditions, saying, “Let us see how Pakistan responds to this” and indicating that talks would depend on whether there is a decrease in the number of anti-India militants crossing from Pakistan into India’s portion of Kashmir.

Pakistan responded in a press briefing several days later, saying that it welcomed Vajpayee’s initiative and hoped that negotiations would begin immediately.

Diplomatic efforts were further bolstered by an April 28 telephone call from Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali to Vajpayee. According to statements by both leaders, the conversation focused on new peace possibilities between India and Pakistan. Following the telephone conversation, Pakistan released a number of Indian prisoners and suggested the resumption of bus services between Pakistan and India. India responded to these gestures by releasing Pakistani prisoners and approving a Delhi-Lahore bus service simultaneously May 26.

Despite these steps, concrete progress has so far been limited. India appointed Shivshankar Menon May 13 to be the next high commissioner to Islamabad, and Pakistan followed up by naming Aziz Ahmed Khan as its commissioner two weeks later. But it is uncertain when either will take his position. Furthermore, although both India and Pakistan have agreed to resume aviation ties, flights have yet to begin.

Leaders and diplomats in both countries have said that this new peace initiative will be a slow, step-by-step process.

The efforts at resuming dialogue have been strongly backed by the United States, which views its relationship with the two countries as strategically significant. President George W. Bush plans to receive Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf June 24 at Camp David to discuss ways to “further deepen and broaden the bilateral ties between the United States and Pakistan,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said May 20. Vice President Dick Cheney is also expected to meet with India’s Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani this June in Washington.

During a May visit to South Asia, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he is “cautiously optimistic” that recent events could lead to substantial improvements in Indian-Pakistani relations. Armitage met with Vajpayee and Jamali, as well as Musharraf, during a previously scheduled trip to the region May 5 to May 11.

U.S. Policy in the Region

“[I]t has become very clear that the most vital interests of the United States are affected by events in South Asia,” Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, testified to the House International Relations Committee in March. “The continuing success of our alliance against terror and other initiatives in South Asia depends on productive and effective long-term relationships with each of the countries in the region, combined with economic growth, stability, and the strengthening of democratic institutions,” she added.

Since September 11, 2001, Pakistan has become an increasingly important U.S. ally, including arresting some al Qaeda members within its borders. In exchange for Pakistan’s help in the war on terror, the United States has increased economic assistance to Pakistan in the education and health sectors, as well as in law enforcement and military aid. As recently as May 20, Fleischer called Pakistan a “stalwart ally in the war on terror.”

Meanwhile, the military relationship between India and the United States has been growing. For example, Washington recently informed New Delhi that the United States no longer objects to Israel and India going ahead with a deal for an advanced airborne early warning system called the Phalcon. The United States, which convinced Israel to abandon a similar sale to China in July 2000, had tacitly approved the Israeli sale of the Phalcon to India more than a year ago, but Washington had urged Israel to postpone the sale because of heightened tensions in South Asia at that time. Delivery of the Phalcon to India will likely take place about two years after a deal is finalized.

U.S. and Indian officials are also expected to meet in July to discuss the possibility of boosting high technology trade, including some dual-use goods that have civilian and military applications, as part of an agreement signed in February by U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Kenneth Juster and Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.

The Kashmir Dilemma

Many U.S. and South Asian analysts say India and Pakistan must resolve their dispute over Kashmir in order to achieve true stability in South Asia. The two countries agree that the issue is important, but they propose different avenues for solving it. India believes the issue of Kashmir is up to India and Pakistan alone to resolve. The United States might help facilitate the peace process, but real progress will have to be made on outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, an Indian diplomat in Washington said during a May 16 interview.

Pakistan, however, has expressed an interest in having a third party intervene. Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said he hopes the United States “remains engaged in South Asia” during a May 15 speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., adding that “sometimes we need friends” to get a conversation started.

It is unclear exactly what role the United States is willing to play. Armitage was reluctant to take a position on Kashmir or to offer the United States as a mediator. “We’ve often said that this is a problem to be solved between the two parties and a dialogue between the two parties…If we can be helpful in sort of setting the atmosphere surrounding that, then we’re delighted to do so,” Armitage told Pakistani media during his May visit.

The issues of Kashmir and terrorism have proved to be more than just minor hurdles in the latest round of peace initiatives. India asserts that attacks on Indian targets by militants crossing the border from within Pakistan must stop before high-level talks can take place. Pakistan denies that it offers anything more than moral support to the militants.

Meanwhile, India continued to test its ballistic missile arsenal. India’s Ministry of Defense annouced a successful launch of the Prithvi II on April 29 and the first test of the Astra on May 9. The Hindu also reported tests of the Astra on May 11 and the Akash on May 29. Pakistan did not respond with its own tests. Such tests have stirred animosity and reciprocal testing in the past, but the two countries seem to have scaled back the usual hostile responses in the wake of the diplomatic movement. “The mood on both sides is not as bad as two months ago,” the Indian diplomat said.

 

After more than a year and a half of silence, peppered by occasional threats and accusations, India and Pakistan are considering a range of options in order to re-establish...

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