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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Nuclear Inspectors Return to Iraq, Pentagon Balks

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards. Meanwhile, coalition forces have yet to turn up any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and the CIA has tapped a former IAEA inspector to help them in the search.

The IAEA announced June 6 that it is conducting an inventory of nuclear material at a storage site near the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, following reports that nuclear material had been looted there during the recent invasion.

The nuclear material stored at Tuwaitha had been under IAEA safeguards from 1991 until just before the recent conflict. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring safeguards agreements undertaken by states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. IAEA inspectors last visited the site in February.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated that “the initial report [from inspectors] is that most of the material is accounted for,” according to a June 22 Reuters article.

But Pentagon officials emphasized in a June 5 press briefing that these inspections do “not set any precedent for future IAEA involvement in Iraq” and are only for securing the site at Tuwaitha as per the IAEA’s safeguards agreement. Such inspections of a declared installation are separate from those the IAEA conducted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons and related facilities.

The officials emphasized that the inspection is a “cooperative effort” and that coalition forces are providing logistics support and security.

A knowledgeable U.S. official said in a June 20 interview that Washington will “revisit” UN weapons inspectors’ mandates, as per UN Security Council Resolution 1483, and has not ruled out readmitting the inspectors. The resolution, adopted in May, “reaffirms that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations...and underlines the intention of the Council to revisit the mandates” of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the IAEA. UNMOVIC was charged with verifying that Iraq had dismantled its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and destroyed its missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers.

The United States, however, has indicated little interest in allowing the inspectors to return to Iraq. Pentagon officials said June 5 that Washington is concerned for the inspectors’ security. U.S. officials have also said that there is no need for UN inspectors because coalition forces are already performing disarmament tasks.

Hans Blix, who retired July 1 as executive chairman of UNMOVIC, told Arms Control Today June 16 that UN inspectors should verify that Iraq is free of WMD because that process “would have greater international credibility.” He added that UN inspectors could also perform a long-term monitoring function to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its prohibited weapons programs. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The UN inspectors left Iraq March 18, the day before the coalition invasion started and after almost four months of work. Their departure followed U.S. failure to gain support from Security Council members opposed to the immediate use of force against Iraq.

Although coalition forces have discovered two trailers that U.S. officials believe were components of mobile facilities designed to produce biological weapons agents, no actual weapons have been discovered. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

Washington Augments Inspections

The Pentagon also provided new details about the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), formed in May to ferret out Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Major General Keith Dayton, currently with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been assigned to head the group. The ISG will have between 1,300 and 1,400 personnel, with 200-300 devoted to searching for weapons on the ground.

During a May 30 press briefing, Dayton contrasted the ISG’s methods with the current coalition search. Rather than selecting sites for weapons searches from an existing list of possible sites, the ISG will consolidate intelligence capabilities in order to exploit new intelligence and identify sites where weapons are likely to be found. Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone stated during the same briefing that forces first assigned to locate weapons were supposed “to support the combat forces…[and] weren’t prepared…to do the kind of wide-scale analytic work” that the ISG will perform.

The CIA announced June 11 that George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, has appointed former IAEA inspector David Kay as special adviser for strategy regarding Iraqi WMD programs. Kay’s task is “refining the overall approach for the search for Iraq’s” WMD while working with the ISG, the agency said.

Administration officials continue to assert that coalition forces will locate prohibited weapons in Iraq, attributing the lack of discoveries to Iraq’s skill at concealing weapons, the need to interview scientists knowledgeable about Iraq’s weapons programs, the looting and burning of evidence at suspected weapons sites, the need to review relevant documents, and the possibility that Iraq might have destroyed or moved prohibited weapons. (See ACT, May and June 2003.)

 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards.

IAEA Presses Iran to Comply With Nuclear Safeguards

Paul Kerr

Increasing pressure on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors issued a statement June 19 expressing “concern” that Tehran has failed to report nuclear “material, facilities, and activities as required by its safeguards obligations.”

The statement stops short of saying that Iran is in violation of its safeguards agreement. Such agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes. But the board urged Iran to remedy its failures and “resolve” open questions about its nuclear activities.

The board also called on Iran to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol to its existing safeguards agreement. The Additional Protocol would provide for more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities Iran has not declared to the IAEA, to check for clandestine nuclear programs. The foreign ministers of the European Union also called on Iran to conclude the agreement in a June 16 statement. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The United States, which welcomed the board’s statement, has long had concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and has objected to Russia’s construction of a light-water reactor at Bushehr. Those concerns were exacerbated last August, when an Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at the Iranian town of Natanz and a heavy-water reactor program at Arak. Washington publicly confirmed the existence of those facilities in December, and Tehran has since declared that it is mining uranium and pursuing a complete nuclear-fuel cycle. (See ACT, March 2003.) Iran maintains that it is not developing nuclear weapons and that its nuclear program is for producing energy, but the United States has repeatedly dismissed this explanation.

The Board of Governors statement that Iran has engaged in clandestine nuclear activity has heightened concern about the situation. The statement was based on a June 6 IAEA report, produced as the result of a series of inspections in Iran, and a February visit by the agency’s director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei.

The report identified several areas in which Iran has not complied with its safeguards agreement: Tehran failed to disclose its importation of nuclear material; the use of that material in various nuclear activities; and the facilities where the material, as well as nuclear waste, was stored and processed. The report acknowledged that Iran has now declared much of this activity and provided some relevant information about the facilities in question but said, “The process of verifying the correctness and completeness of the Iranian declarations is still ongoing.”

The Specifics

Among the report’s chief findings was that Iran imported 1,800 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, uranium tetrafluoride, and uranium dioxide in 1991, an action it never reported to the IAEA. Iran acknowledged the imports but says it did not believe it was obligated to report such a small quantity of material. The report stated that Iran was, in fact, obligated to do so. China supplied the material, a State Department official said last month. (See ACT, June 2003.)

Significantly, the report said that some of the uranium hexafluoride—the material introduced into gas centrifuges for processing into reactor-grade fuel—has not been accounted for, suggesting that Iran has been pursuing covert nuclear activities in violation of its safeguards agreement. Although the matter is still under investigation, a State Department official interviewed June 19 said that Iran may have used some of the material to test centrifuges in its uranium enrichment program at Natanz. Uranium enrichment has civilian applications, but it can also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

During his February visit, ElBaradei discovered that the Natanz facility, which consists of a pilot plant and a larger commercial plant, was more advanced than the agency had realized. Iran told the IAEA that the pilot enrichment plant is scheduled to start operating in June 2003 and that centrifuges are to be placed in the commercial plant starting in early 2005. The pilot plant, which had more than 100 centrifuges installed when ElBaradei visited the facility in February, is to contain 1,000 centrifuges by the end of 2003. The commercial plant will ultimately contain “over 50,000 centrifuges,” enough to produce fissile material for at least 25 nuclear weapons per year.

Constructing the centrifuges and facility buildings has not violated Iran’s safeguards agreement, but testing the centrifuges without declaring such tests to the IAEA would. According to the IAEA report, Iran has denied doing so, claiming that it tested the centrifuges via simulations. The State Department official called Iran’s explanation “extremely implausible,” adding that there is no precedent for testing centrifuges through simulations.

The question could be resolved through further examination of a site known as the Kala Electric company, where, according to the June report, Tehran acknowledged that it had produced “centrifuge components.” The IAEA asked to conduct inspections and environmental sampling to verify “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities,” which would help determine if Iran has tested centrifuges with nuclear material. After some hesitation, Iranian officials allowed the inspectors to visit the facility but have not yet allowed environmental sampling.

Additionally, the report provided details about Iran’s heavy-water reactor program. Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh publicly disclosed the program in a speech the day after Iran notified the IAEA in a May 5 letter that it plans to construct a heavy-water research reactor at Arak. Construction of the reactor is to start in 2004. Iran has also been constructing a heavy-water production plant at Arak. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

The State Department official said the reactor may be part of a nuclear weapons program because its small size will not contribute significantly to a civilian energy program (it will produce only 40 megawatts) but could generate plutonium for reprocessing into fissile material. Another State Department official interviewed in May said heavy-water reactors pose a greater proliferation risk than the proliferation-resistant light-water reactor being built at Bushehr because their spent fuel is easier to reprocess into weapons-grade plutonium. Additionally the Iranian reactor’s design uses natural uranium for nuclear fuel, which will allow Iran to bypass the uranium-enrichment process and use indigenous uranium. It could also complicate efforts to monitor the diversion of nuclear fuel.

The report also provided a number of other pieces of information that Iran had not previously made public: In addition to the gas centrifuge program, Iran has acknowledged “a substantial” laser-based uranium enrichment program, which the IAEA is also investigating. The IAEA report also questioned Iran’s claim that it is building a facility that would convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride without having tested it with nuclear material. Finally, the report added that Iran told the agency it converted most of the imported uranium tetrafluoride into uranium metal in 2000, although neither of Iran’s nuclear reactor programs require the material for fuel. The State Department official said that, under these circumstances, the main use of uranium metal would be for nuclear warheads. The IAEA is continuing to investigate the matter, the report said.

Next Steps

The IAEA is continuing its investigation into Iran’s nuclear program. The June 19 Board of Governors statement said that the IAEA expects “Iran to grant…all access deemed necessary by the Agency” to alleviate concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and to allow inspectors to take environmental samples at the Kala company. The board also requested that Iran refrain from introducing nuclear material into the centrifuges at the pilot enrichment plant “pending the resolution” of other issues surrounding the nuclear program.

Although President George W. Bush stated June 18 that the United States “will not tolerate” an Iranian nuclear weapon, the United States appears willing to let the IAEA take the lead for now. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said June 19 that the United States “welcomes” the June 6 report, and a State Department official interviewed June 19 said that the United States is awaiting the results of further IAEA investigations, which will be discussed at an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in September.

Whether Iran will cooperate with the IAEA, however, is another matter. An Iranian government spokesman stated that Iran welcomes “any measure for confidence building among the international community for peaceful use” of nuclear energy, according to a June 23 Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report. But Aghazadeh left doubts about the extent of this cooperation. Although saying that Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA would be “comprehensive” and “at a level acceptable to the agency,” Aghazadeh added that Iran would go ahead with its plans to enrich uranium, according to a June 22 Associated Press report. Additionally, he suggested during a June 20 Iranian television broadcast that Iran would not permit environmental sampling at the Kala company.

Tehran’s position on the Additional Protocol is also unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists during a June 20 press conference that Iran “plans to sign” the Additional Protocol, but a June 23 IRNA report stated that Iran continues to condition its signing of the protocol on Western countries lifting restrictions on supplying nuclear technology to Iran. U.S. economic sanctions on Iran are an example of such restrictions.

Moscow continues to work on the Bushehr reactor—now expected to be finished in 2004, according to IRNA—and Russian officials have said that they may build more reactors in Iran. Russia has agreed to provide fuel for the reactor, with the condition that Iran sign an agreement to return the spent fuel, but this agreement has not yet been concluded. Indeed, Russia appears to be increasingly concerned about Iran’s nuclear activities and may even condition the delivery of the Bushehr fuel on Tehran’s conclusion of an Additional Protocol, although Russian officials have issued conflicting statements on this matter.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev June 20 as saying that Russia will only deliver the reactor fuel if Iran “places under IAEA control all of its nuclear facilities and answers the [agency’s] questions.” A State Department official told Arms Control Today June 26 that Washington interprets this ambiguous statement to mean that the fuel delivery is conditioned on the conclusion of the Additional Protocol. The Bush administration intends to hold Moscow to that interpretation, he added.

But Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov indicated in a June 6 interview with Vremya Novostei that a Russian agreement to supply fuel to the Bushehr reactor is not related to whether Iran signs the Additional Protocol.

Although Iran and Russia say the Bushehr reactor will operate under IAEA safeguards when finished, Washington has long opposed the project out of concern that Iran will gain access to dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program. Undersecretary of State John Bolton articulated another objection to the Bushehr project during a June 4 hearing before the House International Relations Committee. He argued that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the reactor for 5-6 years, and chose to withdraw from the NPT.

Russia’s provision of fuel for Bushehr is related to U.S. concerns about Iran’s fuel cycle ambitions. The United States has argued that Iran has no need to develop a complete fuel cycle if it will receive fuel from Russia. Although Iran has countered by saying it cannot rely on foreign suppliers, the State Department official said June 19 that Iran’s known uranium reserves are insufficient to support a civilian nuclear program, but are enough to supply material for more than 100 nuclear weapons.

 

Increasing pressure on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors issued a statement...

Iran Failed to Comply With Nuclear NPT, IAEA Reports

Amid increasing pressure from the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors addressed concerns regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program at a June 16-19 meeting. What follows are excerpts from Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

[The full IAEA document is available at http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-40.pdf.


D. Findings and Initial Assessment

32. Iran has failed to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and use of that material and the declaration of facilities where the material was stored and processed. These failures, and the actions taken thus far to correct them, can be summarized as follows:

(a) Failure to declare the import of natural uranium in 1991, and its subsequent transfer for further processing.

On 15 April 2003, Iran submitted ICRs on the import of the UO2, UF4 and UF6. Iran has still to submit ICRs on the transfer of the material for further processing and use.

(b) Failure to declare the activities involving the subsequent processing and use of the imported natural uranium, including the production and loss of nuclear material, where appropriate, and the production and transfer of waste resulting therefrom.

Iran has acknowledged the production of uranium metal, uranyl nitrate, ammonium uranyl carbonate, UO2 pellets and uranium wastes. Iran must still submit ICRs on these inventory changes.

(c) Failure to declare the facilities where such material (including the waste) was received, stored and processed.

On 5 May 2003, Iran provided preliminary design information for the facility JHL. Iran has informed the Agency of the locations where the undeclared processing of the imported natural uranium was conducted (TRR [Tehran Research Reactor] and the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Centre), and provided access to those locations. It has provided the Agency access to the waste storage facility at Esfahan, and has indicated that access would be provided to Anarak, as well as the waste disposal site at Qom.

(d) Failure to provide in a timely manner updated design information for the MIX Facility [xenon radioscope production facility] and for TRR.

Iran has agreed to submit updated design information for the two facilities.

(e) Failure to provide in a timely manner information on the waste storage at Esfahan and at Anarak.

Iran has informed the Agency of the locations where the waste has been stored or discarded. It has provided the Agency access to the waste storage facility at Esfahan, and has indicated that access will be provided to Anarak.

33. Although the quantities of nuclear material involved have not been large,6 and the material would need further processing before being suitable for use as the fissile material component of a nuclear explosive device, the number of failures by Iran to report the material, facilities and activities in question in a timely manner as it is obliged to do pursuant to its Safeguards Agreement is a matter of concern. While these failures are in the process of being rectified by Iran, the process of verifying the correctness and completeness of the Iranian declaration is still ongoing.

34. The Agency is continuing to pursue the open questions, including through:

(a) The completion of a more thorough expert analysis of the research and development carried out by Iran in the establishment of its enrichment capabilities. This will require the submission by Iran of a complete chronology of its centrifuge and laser enrichment efforts, including, in particular, a description of all research and development activities carried out prior to the construction of the Natanz facilities. As agreed to by Iran, this process will also involve discussions in Iran between Iranian authorities and Agency enrichment experts on Iran’s enrichment programme, and visits by the Agency experts to the facilities under construction at Natanz and other relevant locations.

(b) Further follow-up on information regarding allegations about undeclared enrichment of nuclear material, including, in particular, at the Kalaye Electric Company. This will require permission for the Agency to carry out environmental sampling at the workshop located there.

(c) Further enquiries about the role of uranium metal in Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle.

(d) Further enquiries about Iran’s programme related to the use of heavy water, including heavy water production and heavy water reactor design and construction.

35. The Director General has repeatedly encouraged Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol. Without such protocols in force, the Agency’s ability to provide credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear activities is limited. This is particularly the case for States, like Iran, with extensive nuclear activities and advanced fuel cycle technologies. In the view of the Director General, the adherence by Iran to an Additional Protocol would therefore constitute a significant step forward. The Director General will continue to keep the Board informed of developments.


NOTE

6. The total amount of material, approximately 1.8 tonnes, is 0.13 effective kilograms of uranium. This is, however, not insignificant in terms of a State’s ability to conduct nuclear research and development activities.

 

Amid increasing pressure from the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors addressed concerns regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons...

Turning Iran Away From Nuclear Weapons

Daryl G. Kimball

Situated in a rough, nuclear-armed neighborhood, Iran has for more than two decades been on the short list of states with the potential capability and motivation to get the bomb. Troubling revelations make it clear that Iran is now within closer reach of a nuclear weapons-making capacity than previously thought.

With Iran nearing the nuclear weapons crossroads, the international community must redouble its efforts to persuade Tehran’s leaders to accept greater transparency and forego the nuclear weapons route. In the long run, success hinges on whether the United States can fashion a new and more sophisticated strategy to reduce Iran’s incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and increase the benefits of openness and compliance.

Over the years, U.S. policymakers have successfully used the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to conduct special inspections in Iran and further limit Iran’s access to sensitive nuclear technologies. But recent site inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prompted Iran to reveal that it is pursuing a very extensive array of nuclear projects, including uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz that could provide the ingredients for nuclear weapons.

The leaders of oil-rich Iran claim that the projects are strictly for “peaceful” uses and will remain under IAEA safeguards which guard against diversion for military purposes. But without Iranian acceptance of a more intrusive inspection protocol, the IAEA cannot determine whether additional, undeclared nuclear capabilities exist or whether Iran has already enriched uranium, a step that would violate its NPT obligations.

With increased attention focused on its intentions, Iran’s wisest course would be to promptly dispel doubts by signing up to the Additional Protocol and providing the IAEA with honest answers to its inquiries. Without such cooperation, the European Union should delay the establishment of closer economic ties and Russia should withhold further technical assistance on the current light-water reactor project at Bushehr.

U.S. efforts to gain Iran’s support for the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and for reducing Russia’s nuclear assistance are vital but insufficient. Even with greater transparency under the Additional Protocol and strict compliance with the NPT, Iran may still have the capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material within the decade, and it might withdraw from the treaty and build nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, Iran’s leaders will decide whether to pursue the nuclear weapons path, but the United States can help affect that decision and avoid the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. To do so, Washington must finally address the factors that could encourage Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

To begin, the president and his aides must refrain from inflaming Iranian nationalism with bellicose threats and demands. Such statements, along with the inclusion of Iran in the administration’s “axis of evil,” only increase Iranian perceptions of insecurity. They reinforce arguments from hardline clerical leaders in Iran who wrongly believe that nuclear weapons enhance their national prestige, help counter Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and balance U.S. conventional forces deployed in the region.

The value of nuclear weapons for Iran is illusory. They would undermine rather than enhance Iran’s security by increasing the threat of pre-emptive attack from nuclear-armed Israel or the United States. Some Iranian leaders appear to recognize this reality. In 2002, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian defense minister, said, “The existence of nuclear weapons will turn us into a threat to others that could be exploited in a dangerous way to harm our relations with the countries of the region.”

As long as U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy in the region is solely trained on denying Iran nuclear weapons while overlooking NPT outliers such as Israel, Iranian leaders are likely to ensure that they are in a position to produce nuclear weapons relatively quickly, despite the costs. Instead, the United States should convey assurances rather than threats.

One important step would be to clarify to Iran that neither the United States nor Israel will initiate a military attack as long as it does not acquire nuclear weapons, support terrorism, or threaten Israel’s existence. Washington should also reaffirm its longstanding commitment to support a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free-zone.

Iran’s nuclear activities create difficult challenges that defy quick military solutions and will require steadfast and multifaceted diplomacy. The NPT’s safeguards have their limitations, but they provide the fundamental legal and technical basis for preventing proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. Not only must Iran abide by its commitments, but the United States must also adopt a more consistent nonproliferation policy that reinforces the view within Iran that it does not need and will not benefit from nuclear weapons.

 

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,”...

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...

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...

NPT to Tackle Tough Questions in May

Christine Kucia

As delegates from member states of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) meet in Geneva April 28-May 9 for the second in a series of international consultations prior to the 2005 review conference for the treaty, North Korea’s withdrawal from the accord and Iran’s potential challenge to the treaty emerged as focal points of discussion at the conference, if not the formal program.

Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John S. Wolf April 28 described Pyongyang’s actions as “both cynical…and dangerous in its impact on North Korea.”

But Wolf saved some of his strongest words for Iran which he termed “the most fundamental challenge ever faced by the NPT.”

This year’s NPT Preparatory Committee meeting, chaired by Ambassador László Molnár of Hungary, is confronted with a wide range of complicated issues. North Korea’s January 10 announcement of its withdrawal from the NPT—the first time an NPT member state has turned its back on the treaty since it entered into force in 1970—casts a shadow on the meeting. April 10 marked the end of the three-month period the treaty requires from the time a country announces its withdrawal to the time the withdrawal is official.

In addition, new U.S. nuclear weapons use policy that appears to contradict negative nuclear security assurances made in the context of the NPT is likely to elicit criticism at the meeting (See ACT, May 2003), as are U.S. moves to explore development of a nuclear bunker buster and repeal legislation banning research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons. Nuclear-weapon states agreed in Article VI of the treaty to pursue measures leading toward eventual nuclear disarmament, and NPT members also promised to take steps that could enable the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty—most recently at the 2000 Review Conference.

Member states face other outstanding questions, such as finding a way to include India, Israel, and Pakistan—which are believed to have nuclear weapons but have never signed the NPT—in a comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation regime; eliminating tactical nuclear weapons arsenals; and having all member states conclude fissile material safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which would allow the agency to monitor the safety and security of nuclear materials in member states. The unstable relationship between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan is likely to weigh heavily as a regional issue of global concern, as well as tensions from possible nuclear weapons development and possession in the Middle East.

States are also expected to highlight recent successes in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. For example, the U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, ratified by the U.S. Congress March 6, will reduce each country’s arsenal down to 1,700-2,200 strategic nuclear weapons by 2012. Each state currently deploys 6,000 nuclear warheads.

 

 

 

NPT to Tackle Tough Questions in May

Republicans, Democrats Square Off on Approaches to Proliferation

Wade Boese

Despite agreeing on the importance of preventing the further proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have recently unveiled dramatically different visions on how best to accomplish that mission. Republican legislators prioritize bolstering U.S. deterrence and military capabilities, particularly nuclear weapons, while Democrats emphasize seeking diplomatic solutions and decreasing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons.

The House Republican Policy Committee released a report February 13 declaring that “nuclear weapons and deterrence remain as relevant today as they were at the height of the Cold War.” The lawmakers argued that the threats might have changed from one pre-eminent foe—the Soviet Union—to more disparate and smaller threats—namely, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea—but the value of nuclear weapons in protecting U.S. security remains the same.

The report, Differentiation and Defense: An Agenda for the Nuclear Weapons Program, argues that, for nuclear weapons to retain their role as a credible deterrent, the U.S. nuclear weapons complex must be revitalized by halving the time needed to conduct a nuclear test explosion from today’s 24-36 months. It also calls for researching new types of nuclear weapons and modernizing and preserving the nuclear stockpile.

In addition, the report recommends that the United States field different types of nuclear weapons to enable it to threaten a variety of targets. As part of this approach, the report calls for research into low-yield warheads—with a yield of five kilotons or less—which has been prohibited by legislation passed in 1993. It also recommends continued research into nuclear warheads for destroying deeply buried and hardened targets. (See ACT, April 2003.)

The report touts missile defenses as a key element to dissuade adversaries from investing in illicit weapons programs and dismisses arms control regimes as having limited worth. “The states that are seeking to develop these weapons are largely uninterested in limiting their programs through negotiation or in honoring the agreements they make,” the report asserts.

Senate Democrats took an opposite view. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) co-sponsored a resolution March 5 recommending that the United States move “away from the increased reliance on and the importance of nuclear weapons.” Thirty-seven other Senate Democrats and Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) have endorsed the initiative. Ten co-sponsors of the resolution also expounded earlier on this theme in a February 21 letter to President George W. Bush urging him not to contemplate using nuclear weapons against Iraq.

The resolution calls on the Bush administration to develop a strategy stressing multilateral and bilateral negotiations, including “direct and immediate talks with North Korea,” to strengthen international controls and nonproliferation norms. These Democrats argue that other countries might become more motivated to acquire nuclear weapons if they perceive the United States as assigning expanded roles to nuclear weapons or increasing its willingness to use them.

Both the House Policy Committee report and the Democratic resolution offer proposals for frustrating proliferation in progress. Yet, the Republicans call on the United States to rely on its own intelligence and technological capabilities to “overtly and covertly disrupt” proliferation activities, while the Democrats recommend negotiating a “protocol to interdict shipments of such weapons and delivery systems.”

Both also professed support for cooperative programs to help Russia protect and eliminate its dangerous weapons and materials. Although the Republican report suggested re-energizing the programs by increasing U.S. private sector participation, the Senate resolution called for increasing U.S. funding as recommended by a January 2001 bipartisan task force, which specified an ideal amount of $3 billion per year. The Bush administration pledged last summer to spend $10 billion over 10 years as part of a Group of Eight initiative. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)

Despite agreeing on the importance of preventing the further proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Republican and Democratic lawmakers...

North Korea’s Uranium Program Moving Ahead, Kelly Says

Paul Kerr

North Korea’s suspected uranium-enrichment program is “not so far behind” its plutonium-based nuclear program in its capacity to produce nuclear weapons-grade material, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly testified in a March 12 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Kelly said the uranium-enrichment program could produce fissile material in “probably…months and not years.” This assertion differs somewhat from earlier U.S. government estimates. A February 27 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report cites a December 2002 CIA statement that Pyongyang’s uranium-enrichment program “likely” could produce a nuclear weapon in 2004, apparently supporting Kelly’s claim. Previous reports have indicated that North Korea is building an enrichment plant—with the ability to produce enough fissile material for at least two nuclear weapons per year—that could be operational by mid-decade.

Kelly’s testimony came shortly after the Bush administration’s February 27 announcement that North Korea had restarted a small nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework. (See ACT, March 2003.) That reactor could produce approximately one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year, according to the CRS report.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons activities were supposed to have been halted by the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to shut down its plutonium-based nuclear facilities, including the reactor, a fuel-rod fabrication plant, a reprocessing plant, and two partially completed larger reactors. In return, the United States agreed to provide two proliferation-resistant reactors and supply North Korea with 500,000 metric tonnes of heating oil each year while the reactors were under construction.

Last October, however, Kelly said North Korea admitted to a U.S. delegation that it was pursuing an illicit uranium-enrichment program in violation of its commitments under the Agreed Framework and other international nuclear nonproliferation commitments. (See ACT, November 2002.)

North Korea’s admission of an enrichment program prompted the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization—the U.S.-led international consortium responsible for implementing the Agreed Framework—to announce in November that it would suspend fuel oil deliveries to North Korea.

In response, North Korea announced in December that it would restart the plutonium-based reactor to produce electricity. During the following weeks, North Korea removed seals and monitoring equipment from its nuclear facilities and ordered IAEA inspectors, who had been charged with monitoring the freeze, out of the country. On January 10, Pyongyang announced that it was withdrawing from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The withdrawal clause of the NPT, however, requires states to give 90 days’ notice before officially withdrawing.

North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT has prompted fears that Pyongyang would begin to reprocess spent fuel rods stored at the reactor site, although North Korea has said it has no plans to produce nuclear weapons. In a March 18 interview with International Wire Services, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that there was no indication that Pyongyang has begun reprocessing the fuel rods.

North Korea could extract enough plutonium for four to six nuclear weapons if it reprocesses the rods, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified in February. Kelly stated in his March 12 testimony that North Korea could do this within approximately six months after beginning reprocessing.

A State Department official interviewed March 24 reiterated the administration’s position that reprocessing would be a matter of “grave concern” to the administration, but the official did not elaborate.

Although North Korea currently possesses the fissile material for a nuclear weapon, it remains unclear whether the country has constructed one. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet stated that North Korea “probably” has “one or two plutonium-based devices” during a February 12 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. A State Department official was more definite in a January interview, saying that North Korea has already produced these weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

Missile Test

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether North Korea will continue to adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles. North Korea conducted a missile test March 10—its second in less than a month. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a March 10 statement that the missile was a “land to sea cruise missile” that is not covered by the moratorium. The missile tested last month was of a similar type and also did not violate the moratorium, he said.

North Korea denied that it is planning any long-range missile tests in a March 17 statement from the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), but Pyongyang asserted in a March 19 KCNA statement that it has the “sovereign right” to have a “peaceful” missile program. Pyongyang agreed to extend indefinitely its moratorium on missile testing during a September 17 summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

It is unclear what effect Japan’s March 28 launch of two spy satellites will have on North Korea’s missile test moratorium. Earlier in March, North Korea said Japan’s plans to launch a satellite threatened its security, and, in response, Pyongyang threatened to break its moratorium on testing long-range missiles if Japan launched a satellite, according to a March 18 KCNA report. Shortly after the satellites were launched, Japanese Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima rejected North Korea’s criticism. “[W]e have been making it very clear that this launch of the information-gathering satellite system is not a hostile action, nor does it pose a threat to anybody,” he said in a March 28 press briefing.

U.S. Policy

Washington’s position that a resolution to the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program should be negotiated through a multilateral forum remains unchanged. Fleischer reiterated in a March 19 statement that the administration’s policies “focus on working in a multilateral fashion with…other nations involved” to achieve a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, although he added that “all options are on the table,” which could include military force.

Kelly said in March 12 testimony that the administration will engage in direct discussions with Pyongyang, but “in a multilateral context,” although he added that Washington is not “ruling out” engaging in bilateral talks. Kelly also stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be involved in any verification agreement.

Powell suggested in a March 6 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that Washington is engaged in some behind-the-scenes diplomacy to “get a multilateral dialogue started,” but no multilateral talks have been announced.

North Korea continues to reject multilateral talks and the involvement of the IAEA, arguing in a March 11 KCNA statement that the United States has threatened its security and is trying to “evade its responsibility” for the current crisis.

North Korea continues to call for bilateral negotiations with the United States to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programs and other security issues. The country has said it would consider a U.S.-North Korea verification agreement but not international inspections. North Korea also continued to call on the United States to “conclude a non-aggression treaty” and reiterated charges that the United States is planning to attack North Korea, citing recent U.S. military exercises with South Korea and the addition of some U.S. military forces in the region.

Although Washington has rejected Pyongyang’s demand for a treaty, the Bush administration has repeatedly said that it has no plans to attack North Korea, and Kelly referred to several bilateral U.S. security guarantees in his March 12 testimony as “precedent” for similar future agreements.

Kelly argued March 12 that North Korea’s refusal to engage in multilateral discussions is not Pyongyang’s “final position,” adding that Pyongyang might accept such discussions because it does not want to remain isolated from the world community.

Kelly also asserted that multilateral talks are necessary because North Korea’s actions affect many countries and because such talks will be more effective than bilateral negotiations. Kelly stated March 12 that the bilateral nature of the Agreed Framework made it easier for the North to “abrogate” the agreement. A State Department official interviewed March 24 said North Korea would incur greater costs if it breaks a multilateral agreement, because such an action would affect Pyongyang’s relationship with many countries. Although the Agreed Framework is a bilateral agreement, it obligates North Korea to accept full IAEA safeguards when a “significant portion” of the reactor project is complete.

Kelly also repeated in his March 12 testimony that the administration will not “dole out rewards to…North Korea to live up to its existing obligations” but will consider a “bold approach” to take “economic and political steps” to help North Korea and move the bilateral relationship “towards normalcy” if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear programs.

Since June 2001, the Bush administration has linked meetings with Pyongyang to discuss missiles and nuclear weapons with other issues, including conventional forces, terrorism sponsorship, and the government’s human rights record.

Washington also continues to argue that North Korea is engaging in provocative behavior in order to blackmail the United States. The State Department official cited Pyongyang’s demand for a nonaggression treaty as evidence of blackmail in a March 24 interview and asserted that North Korea would demand further concessions before it would “live up” to commitments it has already made.

North Korea repeated its claim that it is not engaged in blackmail or asking for a “reward” from the United States in a March 4 KCNA statement, but it wants a guarantee that the United States will not “stifle” Pyongyang “by military force.”

UN Action Stalled

Meanwhile, there has been little movement in U.S. attempts to put pressure on North Korea through the UN Security Council. The IAEA reported the matter to the council when it adopted a resolution February 12 declaring Pyongyang in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the NPT. The board decided to report the matter to the UN Security Council, in accordance with agency mandates.

A U.S. official interviewed March 24 said that the United States was working with the permanent five members of the Security Council to get draft language approved for a Security Council president’s statement condemning North Korea’s actions and calling for Pyongyang to come back into compliance with its international nonproliferation obligations. China, however, has not been willing to “engage” the other members of the Security Council in drafting the statement, he said.

The official also said that Washington might try to overcome China’s reluctance by sharing the draft language with the rest of the Security Council in an attempt to gain their approval in the hope that Beijing will then go along. China’s approval is essential because such a statement requires consensus from the entire Security Council, he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan stated in a March 13 press conference that U.S.-North Korean dialogue is “key” and that Security Council involvement is not “appropriate” at this time.

Several other key countries continue to have reservations about the administration’s approach. Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov said in a March 17 interview with the ITAR-Tass news agency that a settlement of the North Korea issue should “include a bilateral dialogue” between Washington and Pyongyang, “supplemented” by a multilateral dialogue.

South Korea also supports a peaceful solution to the crisis, and South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan stated that Washington should show “more willingness to settle substantial issues” with North Korea, the Associated Press reported March 12.

Takashima expressed somewhat stronger support for the U.S. position in a March 22 statement, arguing that military action is not yet “appropriate” and that the matter “can be resolved diplomatically.”

North Korea’s suspected uranium-enrichment program is “not so far behind” its plutonium-based nuclear program in its capacity to produce nuclear weapons-grade material...

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