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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

How Will the Iraq War Change Global Nonproliferation Strategies?

Joseph Cirincione

Trying to determine what the Iraq war will mean for global nonproliferation regimes is difficult. The war is less than a month old, and the many uncertainties that remain make it hard to render an assessment with sufficient confidence. Even within the time that it takes to write these words and print them, dramatic events might occur that change this article’s tentative conclusions. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Nonetheless, even at this point, it is useful to examine how leading policy-makers in the administration would like the nonproliferation regimes to change and to outline the key questions we must answer to forge a new strategy.

From Eliminating Weapons to Regimes

If President George W. Bush’s vision of a quick military victory, a benign and untroubled occupation, and the quick construction of a democratic Iraq is correct, the rules and structures of the international system might be further rewritten in favor of a U.S.-centric system. But even if the war goes badly and the occupation is difficult, many in the Bush administration can be expected to push on boldly, lest they lose momentum. In Washington, the executive branch almost always sets the agenda, and the Bush administration is particularly good at this.

Still, it is a bit erroneous to talk about “the administration” as a single unit. Until the White House makes final decisions, there is fierce contention among various groups within the government on national security issues. Most observers see three main factions: the moderate internationalists, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell; the national conservatives, sometimes epitomized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and the aggressive neoconservatives, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Mark Danner of The New Yorker characterizes what I call the moderates as the pragmatists in line with the policies of the administration of President George H. W. Bush. “These are so-called realists. They believe that foreign policy is the patient management of alliances, competitions and, to some extent, conflict.”1

The neoconservatives, on the other hand, “take a somewhat ideological and almost evangelical view of the world,” says Danner. They believe that American power “should be used to change the world, not simply to manage it.” Finally, the traditional conservatives have little use for international organizations and would not favor overseas deployments unless vital U.S. interests were threatened.

Unless the war turns into a quagmire, the neoconservatives can be expected to continue their dominance of the policy apparatus and to press their carefully constructed agenda. That consists primarily of a “permanent regime change” policy focused on the Middle East. “There is tremendous potential to transform the region,” says Richard Perle, a prominent neoconservative who recently resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. “If a tyrant like Saddam [Hussein] can be brought down, others are going to begin to think…and act to bring down the tyrants that are afflicting them.”2

There might be less unity among neoconservatives after the war, however, as some might want to turn their sights on Iran, others on Syria, and still others might argue for action against North Korea. Traditional conservatives who support the Iraq war might split from the neoconservatives’ radical and expensive agenda, preferring to consolidate gains and start bringing troops home. They might find that they have a lot more in common with moderate Republicans concerned about deficits and homeland defense than with neoconservative ambitions for global transformation.

Still, the neoconservatives are firmly established in the administration, and their ideas have captured the minds of the president and his key advisers. Most now see this as a pivotal moment in world history, comparing it to the years 1945-1947 when a small group in the White House led the construction of the institutions that shaped the Western world throughout the Cold War, including the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the development of the doctrine of containment. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice told Nicholas Lemann of The New Yorker that September 11 “has started shifting the tectonic plates in international politics. And it’s important to try to seize on that and position American interests and institutions and all of that before they harden again.”

These institutions are now outdated, according to some, as is the central principle that has guided U.S. nonproliferation policy since World War II. For more than 40 years, there has been a bipartisan consensus that focused on eliminating nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The weapons themselves were the problem: as long as they existed, they would be used. “The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us, ” President John F. Kennedy said in September 1961. “The mere existence of modern weapons…is a source of horror and discord and distrust.” Thus, Kennedy started, Lyndon Johnson completed, and Richard Nixon signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that promised the elimination of nuclear weapons. Nixon unilaterally ended the U.S. biological weapons program in 1969 and negotiated the Biological Weapons Convention that bans these deadly arsenals. George H. W. Bush in 1993 signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that similarly bans chemical weapons, and President Bill Clinton won its ratification in 1997.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been general agreement that the most serious threat to the national security of the United States “is posed by the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery,” as Clinton put it in November 1998. But George W. Bush has changed that formula. Now, as he said in his 2003 State of the Union address, “The gravest danger facing America and the world is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.” (Emphasis added.)

The new clause makes all the difference. The focus has shifted from eliminating weapons to eliminating certain regimes that have those weapons. It is a strategy of picking and choosing good guys and bad guys. Possession of these weapons by allied or friendly regimes is tolerated, even encouraged, while governments designated as threats must not only disarm, but be deposed. In this strategy, universal norms and treaties are a hindrance to U.S. freedom of action, not strategic levers in the battle against nonproliferation.

Burning the Bridges We’re On

To neoconservatives, the construction of new institutions begins with the destruction of the old. They say the failure of George W. Bush to win UN Security Council support for the war shows that the United Nations itself must go. Columnist George Will writes, “The United Nations is not a good idea badly implemented, it is a bad idea.”3 The March 17 cover of the Weekly Standard is devoted to “Present at the Destruction: The United Nations Implodes.” Inside, contributing editor David Gelernter says the United Nations “today is an impediment to world safety. It should be replaced.…The core of the new organization—call it the Big Three—would be a Britain-Russia-America triumvirate.” In another example of neoconservative thinking, Charles Krauthammer, America’s most passionate unilateralist, tells the president in the Washington Post simply to “walk away.”4

Such extreme views are now commonplace in neoconservative circles. Yet, many noted foreign policy experts find it difficult to take this challenge seriously. “What is most striking is just how relevant the United Nations has become,” argues Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “And contrary to all the bluster on both sides of the Atlantic, that will continue to be true.”5

Unfortunately, Slaughter appears to be wrong. Her mistake, however, is understandable. In its public statements, the Bush administration has sought to minimize opposition and please both the neoconservatives and the mainstream foreign policy establishment. The best example of this schizophrenic approach is the Bush administration’s September 2002 National Security Strategy. At one point, the document appeals to more traditional thinkers:

We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances.

The National Security Strategy, however, cut and pasted verbal concessions to outsiders and administration moderates alongside more hard-line views. Indeed, we can now see that the document drafters were willing to put in multilateral boilerplate as long as they could get official blessing for the radical new concepts of pre-emption and unilateral action. They had learned from bitter experience: These ideas were put forward by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz a decade ago in the first Bush administration but were harshly rejected. Given another chance, the neoconservatives have sought to advance their agenda with stealth tactics.

The drive to war in Iraq quickly sacrificed multilateral principles in favor of the more deeply felt new doctrine, also in the strategy: “We will not hesitate to act alone” and, “if necessary, act preemptively.” In this view, there is no need for permanent alliances or permanent multilateral organizations. Indeed, these are seen as impediments to U.S. action, unnecessary fetters on American power. Why should the greatest nation on Earth be forced to seek the approval of Cameroon for its vital national security policies?

Similarly, NATO is now treated as a tool kit for the administration. When they see something they need, they take it; otherwise, it is ignored. As Wolfowitz noted in his draft 1992 defense policy guidance, the United States “should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies” that might not outlive a particular crisis. “The United States,” he argued, “should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated.”

The End of UN Inspections?

The idea that the United States would cast aside key international institutions that we ourselves created and that are so integral to the idea of collective security might seem incomprehensible. Surely, the United Nation’s work on hunger, women, children, and other causes is too valuable to lose? But even if the more extreme views in the administration are moderated and the United States continues to cooperate with the United Nations, the attacks on the inspections process in Iraq might have fatally weakened all international inspection operations.

In order to press the case that war was the only way to save the world from Saddam Hussein, the administration had to diminish, defile, and dismiss inspection efforts. Most of the fire was focused on the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and its leader Hans Blix, but if anything, the International Atomic Energy Agency is hated more, particularly for its repeated rebuttal of administration charges that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program.

If the administration did not trust UN inspectors in Iraq, why should it trust them in Iran, North Korea, or any other state? But what could take their place? After all, the United States depends on UN inspections to monitor compliance with key nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons treaties.

Post-war Iraq might provide an alternative model of inspections more amenable to the neoconservatives’ new doctrines. Senior national security aides have been working on the concept of U.S.-based disarmament teams for months. Former UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors have been drawn into this new disarmament apparatus by the Pentagon, alongside intelligence analysts and veterans from the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which helps secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. “Mobile Exploitation Teams” of inspectors are in Iraq equipped with the latest detection technologies, including:6

  • Chemical Agent Monitors, hand-held devices for rapid detection of chemical molecules.
  • Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy, which uses a neutron beam to identify the contents of sealed containers.
  • Handheld Advanced Nucleic Acid Analyzers, which can identify specific sequences of DNA in biological samples (such as those for anthrax) within 15 minutes.
  • Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, which can precisely identify materials from a distance.

All the plans to find and eliminate Iraqi arms were drawn up independently of UN weapons inspections. They might prove an attractive alternative to chronically underfunded and geographically balanced international inspection teams. These would be under complete U.S. control and could be used in a bilateral process between the United States and the offending country, much as the U.S.-Soviet inspections were conducted during the Cold War, although these would be strictly one-way.

Rebuilding the Regime

Three excellent articles in this and the March 2003 issues of Arms Control Today address the key issues involved with the administration’s policies toward the use of nuclear weapons, the salami tactics being used to bring us closer to resuming testing of new nuclear weapons, and the anemic support provided for nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Representative John Spratt (D-SC) warns in one of these pieces of “a dangerous drift” in U.S. policy. “My greatest concern is that some in the administration and in Congress seem to think that the United States can move the world in one direction while Washington moves in another—that we can continue to prevail on other countries not to develop nuclear weapons while we develop new tactical applications for such weapons and possibly resume nuclear testing,” he writes.

The war is likely to exacerbate this drift. Spratt last month laid out a clear agenda for what he believes is a better course. Similarly, Sidney Drell, James Goodby, Raymond Jeanloz, and Robert Peurifoy in their March article detailed steps to strengthen the NPT. In the current issue, Michael Beck and Seema Gahlaut call for restructuring the current export control regimes. All of these suggestions make sense. They must be placed, however, in the context of a new, overarching strategy that recognizes both the flaws of the existing nonproliferation regime and the value of some of the correctives proposed by regime critics.

This strategy does not yet exist. It needs to be created—and soon. Then and only then can we progress beyond just repairing a regime badly damaged by neglect, disagreement, noncompliance, and outright rejection to rebuilding it entirely into a new, stronger, more universally accepted barrier to the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

“Conservative defense intellectuals and officials deserve credit for highlighting the fact that effective nonproliferation requires changes in the policies of governments of states unwilling to abide by international laws and norms,” notes George Perkovich. “Yet they then proceed to make the reverse mistake, looking only at the outlaws and ignoring the challenges posed by nuclear weapons in general.”7

Still, it will not do to try to go back to the antebellum regime. Clearly, changes are needed, and new approaches must be tried. It should be possible to join the best of both the traditional and the new approaches. This new synthesized strategy could be developed around key questions that I and my colleagues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are proposing as a starting point for our efforts.8

Key Questions for a New Strategy

1. What are the most pressing proliferation dangers that a nonproliferation strategy must address?

2. What are the strengths and liabilities of the traditional, treaty-based approach? How can a regime designed for a world of state actors be adapted to deal effectively with nonstate threats as well? How can recent experiences help strengthen enforcement of the nonproliferation regime?

3. Under what conditions are regime change and/or military pre-emption a viable policy for preventing proliferation or blocking its consequences? Does focusing nonproliferation policy only on certain regimes—Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—while implicitly accepting others’ possession of nuclear weapons—India, Israel, and Pakistan—undermine long-term prospects of preventing proliferation?

4. Can the strengths of both approaches be captured in a coherent synthesis? Where do they clash counter-productively?

5. Neither coercive counterproliferation nor the current nonproliferation regime fulfills the requirement for detailed and reliable accounting and monitoring of global fissile material stocks. What steps must be taken to establish such an accounting and monitoring system?

6. How can we strengthen cooperative threat reduction policies and techniques? Conversely, what is the potential of coercive inspections and disarmament techniques?

7. Drawing from the new and the traditional approaches, what are likely to be the most effective strategies for dealing with the toughest remaining cases—North Korea and Iran?

8. Is it desirable or necessary to find a “legal” place for India, Israel, and Pakistan within the nonproliferation regime? If so, how can this be done without weakening the regime? If not, what are the implications of their not being accommodated formally? In either case, how can the threat of nuclear war in South Asia or the Middle East be reduced?

9. Are new approaches needed to replace the two central “bargains” of the NPT?

  • The Article IV commitment by the nuclear “haves” to assist the “have-nots” in gaining the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology and know-how. In the case of Iran, and perhaps elsewhere, the United States argues that peaceful cooperation cannot be prevented from providing military applications.
  • The Article VI commitment by the nuclear “haves,” updated in 1995, to pursue a cessation of the nuclear arms race and other steps toward nuclear disarmament. U.S. refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is only the most dramatic example of disregard for these commitments.

10. If these elements of the old bargain are tacitly being discarded by the nuclear “haves,” will the “have-nots” at some point make this a global crisis? How can the existing commitment of the member states to the NPT be sustained if the terms of the bargain are being changed? What would be the real effects of a weakened or shattered international nonproliferation regime?

A comprehensive, international nonproliferation strategy should be based on solid, validated answers to these questions. Developing those answers will not be easy. Achieving political consensus around them will be even more difficult. However, if there is one assumption that will certainly still be true after the Iraq war, it is that the existence and spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons will remain an urgent public concern and policy problem. The nonproliferation community must forge a new national and international strategy that can win broad consensus, or it risks abandonment by a frightened public or displacement by illusionists promoting quick military cures.


NOTES

1. “The War Behind Closed Doors,” Frontline, PBS, January 25, 2003.
2. Ibid.
3. George F. Will, “U.N. Absurdity,” The Washington Post, March 13, 2003, p. A23.
4. Charles Krauthammer, “Don’t Go Back to the U.N.,” The Washington Post, March 21, 2003, p. A37.
5. Anne-Marie Slaughter, “The Will to Make It Work,” The Washington Post, March 2, 2003, p. B1.
6. Debora MacKenzie, “Experts to Hunt for Banned Iraqi Weapons," New Scientist, March 21, 2003, available at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993534.
7. George Perkovich, “Bush’s Nuclear Revolution: A Regime Change in Nonproliferation,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2003.
8. These questions were developed as part of a collaborative project involving George Perkovich, Rose Gottemoeller, Jessica Mathews, Michael Swaine, Jon Wolfsthal, and others at the Carnegie Endowment. The author alone takes responsibility for the particular wording in this article.

 


Joseph Cirincione is the lead author of Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (Carnegie Endowment, 2002) and the director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

 

Stopping a Dangerous Drift in U.S. Arms Control Policy

Representative John M. Spratt, Jr.

The United States is facing an increasingly diverse set of threats from weapons of mass destruction. War is looming in Iraq, a crisis is developing on the Korean Peninsula, and Iran is moving to develop nuclear weapons. The terrorists who assaulted the United States on September 11, 2001 may have lacked nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but they did not lack the malevolence to use them. We find ourselves in a new arms race: one between the efforts of terrorists and rogue states to acquire them and our efforts to stop them.

There may never have been a more appropriate time to ask how we can more effectively reduce the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and to assess how our nuclear policies help or hinder that goal. Clearly, business as usual is not enough, but we should not slight the steps we have taken—they have helped. A prime example is the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, initiated by former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), which seeks to secure the arsenals of Russia and other former Soviet states in order to prevent proliferators from obtaining nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

The Nunn-Lugar program, based in the Department of Defense, and its companion nonproliferation programs at the Energy and State Departments are entering their second decade, and they have made major progress. As of November 2002, the Pentagon’s threat reduction programs had helped to deactivate 6,020 warheads, destroy 486 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and eliminate 347 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 97 strategic bombers. Perhaps the best known of the Energy Department efforts, the Material Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) Program, has also established a strong track record. With only a modest budget, the MPC&A program has improved safeguards for 192 metric tons of fissile material, enough for some 8,000 nuclear devices.

Still, much remains to be done. It may seem evident that these programs have proven their mettle and merit more funding, but it is not clear to everyone. From the start, those protective of the defense budget looked upon Nunn-Lugar as an interloper, a way of siphoning money off real defense programs and into “foreign affairs.” A few years ago, when I sponsored the second step of this bill, called Nunn-Lugar-Domenici, I could not convince a single Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to join me as a co-sponsor. And when threat reduction measures are passed, they have often been hampered by “certifications” requirements that have held up funding.

Today’s emerging dangers not only validate the concerns that gave rise to those programs; they call for us to do more. Unfortunately, instead of accelerating our nonproliferation efforts, we are allowing threat reduction to tread water. Perhaps worse, after more than a decade of arms control progress, U.S. policy is now drifting in a dangerous direction as the Bush administration contemplates a resumption of nuclear testing and the development of new “bunker-busting” nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration and the Congress need to boost threat reduction activities and halt efforts to increase the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy. Morally, these steps will enhance our authority as we move to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Practically, they will help strengthen safeguards and keep weapons of mass destruction from terrorists and rogue states.

Tepid Support for Nonproliferation

Cooperative threat reduction efforts are slowly but surely undoing the legacy of the Cold War. They are succeeding in spite of impediments, and they deserve more money, more emphasis, and more recognition for what they have accomplished. These programs represent a textbook example of how Congress can innovate and initiate national security policy, but in our system there is no substitute for presidential commitment. Although the Bush administration is officially supportive, its support is hardly zealous. Its stated policies are correct but often not backed up by its budget policies, and the White House seems more inclined toward counterproliferation than nonproliferation.

For example, in the “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction,” published in December, President Bush declared, “We must accord the highest priority to the protection of the United States, our forces, and our friends and allies from the existing and growing WMD threat.” I agree. But the statement lists “Counter-Proliferation to Combat WMD Use” as first among the “Pillars of Our National Strategy,” coming ahead of efforts to “Strengthen Non-Proliferation to Combat WMD Proliferation.” Certainly, nonproliferation efforts cannot rid the world of all the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, and we have to have a wide range of counterproliferation programs. But counterproliferation, even when founded on “active defenses,” interdiction, and a “strong declaratory policy” may do little to actually reduce the spread of—and thus the threat from—weapons of mass destruction. The administration’s priorities seem misplaced.

Ballistic missile defense is a prime example of how the emphasis on counterproliferation comes at the expense of nonproliferation. The administration has increased spending on missile defense systems by nearly 60 percent—from about $5 billion two years ago to almost $8 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2003. The request for FY 2004 is more than $9 billion. Yet, during that time, the administration’s funding requests for nonproliferation were comparatively flat. I am a supporter of ballistic missile defense in certain configurations, such as those centered on ground-based interceptors, but I consider it our last line of defense. Furthermore, today’s greatest threats are not ballistic missiles launched by a nation-state, with return address attached, but an aerosol-spray can with biological agents, chemicals released into a ventilation system, nuclear devices buried in cargo containers, or a radiological weapon in the back of a truck. The heavy emphasis on missile defense draws funding and attention away from these other, more likely threats.

The president’s December strategy statement says that “maintaining an extensive and efficient set of non-proliferation and threat reduction assistance to Russia and other former Soviet states is a high priority.” The stress on “maintaining” implies that we are doing all that we can in the realm of nonproliferation and cooperative threat reduction, but that contention is at odds with the evidence. For example, the administration has said it will “encourage friends and allies to increase their contributions to these programs,” but it has not pledged to enlarge our own efforts. There was much clamor over the “10 Plus 10 Over 10” arrangement made among the G-8 nations last June, under which the United States and Europe would spend a total of $20 billion on threat reduction over the next 10 years. But, in truth, that pledge merely committed the United States to its existing level of nonproliferation spending.

The Bush administration’s support for threat reduction efforts certainly does not reach the level suggested by several independent assessments, most notably that chaired by Howard H. Baker, Jr. and Lloyd Cutler, who, in their January 2001 report, urged tripling the funding of the Energy Department’s threat reduction programs. Although the overall defense budget has grown substantially under Bush, funding for nonproliferation stands essentially where it stood in President Clinton’s last budget. And without congressional support, it would not stand there.

In FY 2001, $443.4 million was appropriated for the Pentagon’s CTR program. Bush’s first real budget, FY 2002, proposed to cut 10 percent from the CTR program, and Congress followed his lead, appropriating just $403 million. The president increased his request by only 3.4 percent in his FY 2003 budget, to $416.7 million, and Congress approved that amount. The administration argued that the CTR budget dipped in FY 2002 only because the first part of a major project—construction of the Mayak fissile material storage facility—had been completed, but that does not explain the modest request for FY 2003.

In fairness, the administration has just proposed a robust increase in the Pentagon’s CTR program for FY 2004, including an especially welcome request for accelerated work at the Shchuch’ye chemical demilitarization facility. But two-thirds of nonproliferation funds flow through the Energy Department, and the president’s FY 2004 request for those efforts is essentially flat compared to last year. The new request follows a trend that dates back to Bush’s first budget. After $864 million was appropriated for Energy Department nonproliferation programs in FY 2001, President Bush proposed a cut of nearly $100 million in his FY 2002 request. Only congressional action, spurred by the reaction to September 11, boosted funding to $803.6 million, and with emergency supplemental appropriations approved later, the total amount eventually reached $1.06 billion.

At first glance, the president’s initial FY 2003 budget request of $1.11 billion for the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs seemed to represent an increase over the 2002 enacted level. However, the increase was deceptive for two reasons. First, the FY 2003 request included $49 million for a program transferred from the Department of Defense (elimination of weapons-grade plutonium at the Tomsk and Kransnoyarsk reactors). Second, the U.S. plutonium disposition program received a $108 million (45 percent) increase in the president’s budget, going from $241 million in FY 2002 to $350 million in FY 2003. If the president’s request is adjusted to exclude the transfer of the Pentagon program and include only the nonproliferation activities outside the United States, the president’s budget for Energy Department nonproliferation programs actually represented a $71 million (9 percent) decrease from the 2002 enacted level.

The FY 2004 request for Energy Department programs, released earlier this month, is similarly deceptive. The total appears to jump by 30 percent, from an amended FY 2003 request of $1.03 billion to an FY 2004 request of $1.34 billion. But the funding request is skewed by an increase of more than $300 million for a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility in Aiken, South Carolina. The MOX facility is crucial: it could eventually process about 34 metric tons of weapons-usable plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel as required by a 2000 agreement that commits Russia to doing the same. But the vast majority of funding for MOX remains in the United States, it does not go to Russia. With the $309 million boost to construction in South Carolina set aside, the president’s budget proposes simply to maintain our current level of effort in the former Soviet Union—there is no increase at all.

Signs of a Dangerous Drift

Even with this unimpressive record, my greatest concern is not the administration’s tepid support for threat reduction programs or the questionable wisdom of sinking billions into missile defense as opposed to nonproliferation. My greatest concern is that some in the administration and in Congress seem to think that the United States can move the world in one direction while Washington moves in another—that we can continue to prevail on other countries not to develop nuclear weapons while we develop new tactical applications for such weapons and possibly resume nuclear testing.

The official position of the Bush administration is that it intends to maintain the moratorium on underground nuclear explosions. At the same time, this administration has made plain that it does not support a permanent ban and that it will not seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Furthermore, it has voiced doubts about the effectiveness of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which is intended to maintain the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without testing. In certain quarters of Congress, there has long been skepticism of the program, and it is not news that a cadre of members wants to see the United States resume testing. What is new is that the administration itself has voiced doubts about Stockpile Stewardship.

In the January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, for example, the administration raised concern that two to three years are required to prepare for a new test. The review argues that “a two- to three-year posture may be too long to address any serious defect [in the arsenal] that might be discovered in the future.” This concern led to a 2002 study at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of options for reducing the lead time required for a test. Last spring, NNSA’s top scientist, Everett Beckner, told my staff that the study would probably conclude that 18 months is the shortest feasible lead-time. But testing advocates in the House pushed for shorter lead times. In the final conference agreement on the FY 2003 defense authorization bill, we reached a compromise by asking NNSA to examine the options both shorter and longer than 18 months and to offer a recommendation among those.

Despite testimony last spring and summer that the administration had no plans to resume testing, a memo was leaked in November from Pete Aldridge, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. The memo was directed to the nuclear weapons labs and urged exploration of possible tests. It asked the weapons labs to “assess the technical risks associated in maintaining the U.S. arsenal without nuclear testing” and suggested that “the United States take another look at conducting small nuclear tests.” The memo went on to say, “We will need to refurbish several aging weapons systems” and should “be prepared to respond to new nuclear weapons requirements in the future.”

Indeed, during the 107th Congress, two related efforts were launched to pursue new nuclear weapons. The first supported research, development, and possibly testing of new, low-yield nuclear weapons because some believe they will be needed to counter post-Cold War threats. This proposal went against a law that banned the development of low-yield nuclear weapons—a law that I co-authored 10 years ago with former Representative Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) because I was afraid that pursuing low-yield weapons would lower the threshold for nuclear use. Last year, during debate over the FY 2003 defense authorization bill, House Republicans attempted to overturn that ban via an amendment offered by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA). I urged Representative Weldon to reconsider his proposal, and we were able to negotiate a modification to the law, rather than outright repeal. In the end, however, the law remained untouched, as the Senate included no such modification in its version of the defense bill, and the House language was dropped in conference. But the issue remains contentious, and repeal of the ban on low-yield weapons was formally endorsed in February by the Republican Policy Committee, an arm of the GOP House leadership.

Support for new nuclear weapons also came from the Bush administration, which requested $15 million last year to study the feasibility of modifying existing warheads to create a “robust nuclear earth penetrator” that could destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. The administration has argued that the nuclear arsenal’s existing earth penetrator, the B-61-11 bomb, has “serious limitations for a wide range of target conditions” and that the study would simply investigate options for “repackaging” an existing warhead to survive earth penetration. The Pentagon has vigorously denied that the study will lead to the development of new nuclear weapons; it argues that the study will almost certainly conclude that its goals can be met by hardening the casings of existing warheads. I was unenthusiastic about funding, but it was authorized and appropriated anyway. Conferees to the Defense Authorization Act did, however, agree to require the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of using nuclear weapons to attack hardened and deeply buried targets and report to us this summer. The development of these so-called nuclear bunker-busters was also endorsed by the Republican Policy Committee.

One of the early dividends of the Cold War’s end was the drastic reduction in the number of tactical nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia deployed. On our side, the follow-on to the Lance, a battlefield missile, was canceled, and after that, the warhead for a new nuclear sea mine. Then, atomic landmines and artillery shells were retired from service. Once these weapons were removed, senior officers acknowledged that they had had doubts as to their military worth, particularly given the consequences of going nuclear early in any war. General Charles A. Horner came home from the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and told me, “I have seen the future, and it works. Precision-guided munitions and stand-off weapons make nuclear weapons obsolete.”

The United States would be backsliding badly if it resumed reliance on tactical nuclear weapons. That step would be tantamount to saying, “These weapons are like any other.” Surely, that is not the message we want to convey.

Charting a Better Course

Congress has made some attempts to address the existing deficiencies in U.S. nuclear policy and threat reduction efforts. For example, Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and I introduced the Nuclear Threat Reduction Act in 2001 and again in 2002, and I feel sure we will do the same in 2003. The 2001 bill proposed the following:

  • Reducing the overall number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile;
  • Reducing, where feasible, the alert status of weapons in our active stockpile; and
  • Increasing threat reduction funding to about two-thirds of the amount the Baker-Cutler report recommended.

In 2002, we called for five steps:

  • Authority that would allow the president to waive congressionally mandated certification requirements that prevent CTR funds from being spent;
  • Expanded accounting and inventory of weapons of mass destruction in the United States and Russia;
  • Targeted funding increases for select nonproliferation and counter-proliferation programs, including MPC&A and Shchuch’ye;
  • Clarification of the Nuclear Posture Review, especially of its implications for the size of the U.S. stockpile; and
  • Codification of the nuclear testing moratorium and a 12-month notification requirement to resume testing.

Some of these provisions have become law in one form or another. But as I noted earlier, funding for CTR and nonproliferation programs has been essentially flat for two years. And our proposal regarding the nuclear test moratorium was, of course, not approved. Here are a handful of steps that should be made a priority in the 108th Congress.

Additional Resources for Nonproliferation

Threat reduction programs at the Defense, Energy, and State Departments have proven their mettle. They have already reduced direct threats to the United States more than even a robust missile defense system could hope.

Virtually every independent analysis of U.S. programs to secure and eventually destroy nuclear weapons and materials in Russia has said we should increase the resources we devote to those efforts. In 2001, the bipartisan Baker-Cutler commission recommended spending $30 billion over the next decade, calling the threat posed by poorly secured nuclear weapons and materials the single greatest security threat facing the United States. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has proposed only select, modest increases for threat reduction programs, and the nonproliferation budget is still dwarfed by the budget for less urgent efforts, such as missile defense.

There is a broad bipartisan consensus that the national security interests of the United States demand more than the status quo on nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union and, increasingly, in other nations as well. The president should reconsider his FY 2004 budget request for these critical programs and work with Congress to devote a more appropriate share of our national security budget to them—one that gets us closer to the levels recommended by the Baker-Cutler report.

Codify the Testing Moratorium

With an ever-expanding number of nations looking to develop nuclear weapons, it is critical that the United States affirm its commitment to the nuclear test moratorium by codifying it. Demonstrating our commitment will enhance our standing to argue for a continued worldwide moratorium. The law I proposed last year would provide that the administration can resume tests provided that it gives Congress 12 months’ notice, so that we can thoroughly debate what would represent a major shift in our nuclear posture. I tried to add this language to the FY 2003 defense bill during Armed Services Committee deliberations. When my amendment was defeated in a party-line vote, I offered it as a floor amendment to the defense bill. Although this is serious policy and relevant to the defense authorization bill, the Rules Committee would not allow consideration of my amendment.

Establish a Nonproliferation “Czar”

U.S. nuclear and nonproliferation policy is in a period of transition. In this context, we need someone with the power, access, resources, and ability to focus attention on the issue—a kind of Tom Ridge for nonproliferation. That’s not just my opinion. Panel after panel has recommended creating such a position. In 1995, a panel of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended it. The 1996 Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation called for it, after extensive congressional hearings documented the need. In 1999, the “Deutsch Commission” recommended it. And most recently, the Baker-Cutler report called for it. The United States needs a nonproliferation czar, and the position should be established at the president’s initiative. If Congress imposes the requirement on the president, the position is not going to enjoy the stature, clout, and cachet needed to be effective.

Accelerate HEU Disposition

Our nonproliferation programs need support to keep on doing what they have been doing, but it seems time for them to have a new target, a more ambitious goal. For starters, we should expedite the disposal of Russia’s highly enriched uranium (HEU). The United States has taken a few successful steps, chiefly the 1993 HEU agreement, under which we pay Russia to blend down 500 metric tons of HEU into a non-weapons-usable form suitable for reactor fuel. Under the existing agreement, however, the full 500 tons will not be eliminated until 2013. If Russia proceeds with dismantlement of all its nuclear weapons scheduled to be removed from deployment, there will be hundreds of additional tons of HEU in storage, posing one of the world’s greatest proliferation risks. We should accelerate the 1993 agreement and move aggressively to dispose of any additional Russian HEU.

Last year’s Defense Authorization Act authorized $10 million for exploring options to accelerate the disposition of Russian HEU, and the State Department Authorization Act empowered the administration to pursue “debt for nonproliferation” swaps with Russia. The United States should negotiate with Russia to transfer ownership of its HEU stocks to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in exchange for the IMF discharging some part of Russia’s $6.7 billion debt. The IMF would take title to the HEU and, under our leadership, arrange for it to be blended down. The resulting low-enriched uranium would then be sold as reactor fuel, recouping part or all of the value of the forgiven debt. Russia would reap a financial reward and the global community a significant nonproliferation victory.

Russia’s HEU is a compelling problem because the stockpile is enormous, and the risk that some of it could be pilfered is alarming. However, smaller quantities of enriched uranium are also scattered around the world at some 40-50 research reactors. Most of it is not adequately accounted for, and much of it is poorly secured. These nuclear materials are probably at greater risk of being stolen or misappropriated than Russian HEU, and their security would be another worthy project for the Department of Energy.

If we are to avoid an international security environment even more dangerous than the one we face today—one undeniably even more inimical to U.S. security interests—we must seek new and more effective ways to prevent production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We must not merely settle for measures designed to counter proliferation that has already occurred.

We must also re-establish our credibility as an adherent to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This means we should abandon any push for development of new nuclear weapons, low-yield or otherwise, and reaffirm our commitment to a moratorium on nuclear tests. Only in so doing can the United States credibly urge other nations to cease pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The United States must respond to the unprecedented challenges facing us with a reinvigorated commitment to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This is no time to drift back into dangerous thinking and policies discarded—with good reason—more than a decade ago.

 


John M. Spratt, Jr., congressman from South Carolina, is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

 

Intelligence Chiefs Paint Grim Picture of Proliferation

Paul Kerr

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet issued a pessimistic assessment concerning the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in a February 11 statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The United States has entered a “new world of proliferation,” he said, adding that “the ‘domino theory’ of the 21st century may well be nuclear.”

A February 11 statement by Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, before the same committee echoed Tenet’s pessimism. Arguing that “the long-term trends with respect to WMD and missile proliferation are bleak,” he asserted that “some 25 countries possess or are actively pursuing WMD or missile programs.”

A biannual, unclassified report to Congress that the CIA released January 7 provided additional detail on proliferation activities. The report covers the period from July 1 to December 31, 2001.

Tenet supported his assessment by noting several trends. He said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to control the spread of WMD technology and equipment both to and from nonstate actors, and he said that Washington needs to “think about whether the [arms control] regimes we have in place actually protect the world.”

He added that there is a “continued weakening of the international nonproliferation consensus,” which is having a negative effect on arms control regimes. Tenet cited North Korea’s January withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as an example.

Tenet argued that “the desire for nuclear weapons is on the upsurge,” citing “the example of new nuclear states that seem able to deter threats from more powerful states,” an apparent reference to the current U.S. standoff with North Korea.

Finally, Tenet noted that an increasing number of states that have been importers of WMD technology could begin to sell that technology to other states. He said that “a potentially wider range of countries may be able to develop nuclear weapons by ‘leapfrogging’ the incremental pace of weapons programs in other countries” with suppliers’ assistance.

Jacoby added that “secondary proliferation—today’s technology importers becoming tomorrow’s exporters”—is likely to worsen as those countries’ technological sophistication increases. He cited Iran’s exports of missile production technology to Syria as an example.

Tenet also specifically warned that the widespread availability of relevant technologies was enabling proliferators trying to develop biological and chemical weapons. He emphasized the increasing difficulty of detecting such programs, saying that governments can more easily conceal acquisition and production because they are “less reliant on foreign suppliers” than they are for nuclear programs and can integrate “production capabilities into apparently legitimate commercial infrastructures.” Jacoby said that “over a dozen states” have such programs, adding that the DIA expects “these weapons will be used in a regional conflict” and by terrorists.

The intelligence chiefs also discussed the proliferation of delivery vehicles, especially ballistic and cruise missiles. Jacoby warned that the number and sophistication of these missiles will “increase significantly” and that North Korea, Iran, and “possibly” Iraq will “likely” pose “new [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] threats” by 2015. He identified Russia, China, and North Korea as prime suppliers of missile technology but added that proliferation from Iran and Pakistan is expected to increase.

Tenet also expressed concern about countries’ efforts to acquire land-attack cruise missiles, stating that such missiles could threaten U.S. forces deployed overseas and “possibly…the U.S. mainland” by 2010.

Russian and Chinese entities remain significant suppliers for WMD programs. Tenet said that, despite the export controls that Beijing established in August, Chinese firms continue to supply Iran and Pakistan with missile technologies. (See ACT, September 2002.) Additionally, the CIA report indicates that it “cannot rule out the possibility of…contacts between Chinese and Pakistani entities” concerning Islamabad’s nuclear weapons program.

The CIA report states that Russian export controls need to be strengthened because Russia remains a supplier of dual-use nuclear, biological, and chemical materials to several countries, particularly Iran.

Tenet also expressed concern that terrorist groups might acquire materials to develop weapons of mass destruction, asserting that al Qaeda “seeks chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons.” He reiterated concerns that the group “has a sophisticated [biological weapons] capability,” adding that the group had acquired “both the expertise and the equipment needed to grow biological agents” in Afghanistan.

Tenet emphasized al Qaeda’s efforts to “produce or purchase a radiological dispersal device,” saying that “construction of such a device is well within” the organization’s capabilities.

Although the CIA has long been concerned about the growing threat of WMD terrorism, the January CIA report is the first to say that “unmanned aerial vehicles…and other types of cruise missiles present a serious and growing threat as potential WMD delivery vehicles” for terrorists.

Countries of Concern

The directors’ statements and the CIA report also provide some new details about the proliferation activities of several countries of particular concern.

North Korea
In his Senate testimony, Jacoby called North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs “the most serious challenge to U.S. regional interests in a generation”—a reference to Pyongyang’s plutonium-production and uranium-enrichment programs, which could be used for weapons purposes. The report also says that North Korea might be willing to sell nuclear weapons to other countries in the future.

Whether North Korea currently possesses a nuclear weapon remains unclear. The CIA report indicates that North Korea “probably has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons.” However, Tenet stated that North Korea “probably” possesses “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.)

The CIA report states that Pyongyang has been “seeking…materials in large quantities to support a uranium enrichment program”—the first time any of its public reports have said this. The United States announced in October that North Korea had revealed the existence of the program earlier that month, although Pyongyang denies that it made such an admission. None of the intelligence reports contain details about the program’s progress or potential to produce nuclear weapons.

Both Tenet and Jacoby predicted that North Korea will not easily abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Tenet argued February 11 that Pyongyang’s efforts to use its nuclear weapons program as a bargaining tool “suggest” that North Korea “is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with Washington…that implicitly tolerates…[its] nuclear weapons program.” Pyongyang is “committed to retaining and enlarging its nuclear weapons stockpile,” he added.

North Korea’s ballistic missile development also continues to be a source of concern. Tenet testified during the February 12 hearing that Pyongyang currently possesses a missile capable of hitting the United States. However, a CIA spokesperson interviewed February 24 cited a December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate as the most recent public information available about the CIA’s assessment. That document states that North Korea’s Taepo Dong-2 missile could hit parts of the continental United States in a two-stage configuration and all of North America in a three-stage configuration. However, these missiles have not been tested, the spokesman said.

The longest-range missile North Korea has flight-tested is the Taepo Dong-1, which it launched into the Sea of Japan in 1998. As configured, that missile cannot reach the United States. Pyongyang announced in September that it would extend indefinitely a 1999 moratorium on missile testing. (See ACT, October 2002.)

Iraq
Tenet, Jacoby, and the CIA report all discussed Iraq’s continued efforts to acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The CIA report states that Iraq has constructed facilities to produce solid fuel for use in longer-range missiles prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions and is rebuilding facilities to produce prohibited rocket motors. This information is not included in the CIA’s previous biannual report.

Tenet argued in his February 12 testimony that Iraq “is going to get a nuclear weapon sooner or later,” adding that Baghdad could assemble a weapon in one to two years if it obtained the proper fissile material.

Neither Tenet nor Jacoby were optimistic that Iraq will comply with UN resolutions demanding an end to its WMD programs. Tenet argued that Iraq is deceiving weapons inspectors while Jacoby predicted that Iraq will likely continue to defy the United Nations.

The DIA head also said that Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction against Iraqi citizens, the Kurds, Israel, and other states in the region if the United States takes military action against Baghdad.

Iran
Jacoby and the CIA report stated that Iran is attempting to obtain the technology to enable an indigenous production capability for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems.

The intelligence community has long been concerned with Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor program, believing it enables Iran to obtain technology for a nuclear weapons program. Jacoby estimated that Tehran could obtain a nuclear weapon by 2010 if it acquired the relevant technologies and fissile material.

Tenet expressed skepticism February 11 about the possibility for political change to end the Iranian program, stating that Iran will not give up its WMD programs, “regardless of [Tehran’s] ideological leanings.”

Libya
Tenet and the CIA report expressed a growing U.S. concern about Libya’s possible proliferation activities. Tenet stated that “Tripoli has been able to increase its access to dual-use nuclear technologies” since UN sanctions were suspended in 1999. The CIA report adds, “In 2001, Libya and other countries reportedly used their secret services to try to obtain technical information on the development of…nuclear weapons…[and] Libya’s continuing interest in nuclear weapons and ongoing nuclear infrastructure upgrades raise concerns.”

In addition to nuclear interests, “Libya clearly intends to reestablish its offensive chemical weapons capability,” Tenet said. The CIA has previously reported on Libya’s chemical weapons activities, as well as its efforts to acquire a biological weapons capability and ballistic missiles.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet issued a pessimistic assessment concerning the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in a February 11 statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

North Korea Restarts Reactor; IAEA Sends Resolution to UN

Paul Kerr

Further escalating the crisis over its suspected nuclear weapons activities, North Korea has restarted a small nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework, U.S. officials confirmed February 27. The move came two weeks after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found North Korea in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and referred the matter to the UN Security Council.

The five-megawatt reactor can produce approximately one bomb’s worth of plutonium each year, according to a November 27 report by the Congressional Research Service. Although the reactor poses no immediate threat, restarting it is the most aggressive step that Pyongyang has taken since the crisis began in October, when it allegedly admitted to a U.S. delegation that it was pursuing an illicit uranium-enrichment program.

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 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 tons of heating oil each year while the reactors were under construction.

But in response to North Korea’s alleged admission of a program to enrich uranium, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, the U.S.-led international consortium responsible for implementing the Agreed Framework, announced in November that it would suspend fuel oil deliveries to North Korea.

North Korea then announced in December it was restarting the reactor to produce electricity. During the next few 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 further inflamed the increasingly tense situation by announcing that it was withdrawing from the NPT.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said February 27 that North Korea’s decision to restart the reactor was “another one of these provocative steps in the wrong direction that I think demonstrates that North Korea’s commitments and promises are consistently violated.”

Returning February 25 from a trip to Asia, Secretary of State Colin Powell had told reporters that North Korea had not yet begun to move spent fuel rods stored at the reactor site to the reprocessing facility, and Boucher indicated that that remained the case. Powell’s deputy Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 4 that reprocessing the rods could yield enough plutonium for four to six weapons. Powell said during a February 24 press conference in Beijing that the United States would “view any move by North Korea” to reprocess spent fuel or produce nuclear weapons “seriously.”

North Korea said in a February 14 program on the state-owned Pyongyang Korean Central Broadcasting Station that it withdrew from the treaty and decided to reactivate its nuclear facilities in response to U.S. actions, repeating charges that Washington violated the Agreed Framework and threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

Pyongyang also alleges that the United States is threatening to invade North Korea and impose a blockade. A North Korean army spokesman said February 18 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, according to a report from the state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). A State Department official would not say in a February 25 interview if the Bush administration is considering such a measure.

North Korea also signaled that it might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, which it extended indefinitely during a September 17 summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s ambassador to China Choe Jin Su said that Pyongyang believes it “cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer,” according to a January 12 Los Angeles Times article.

North Korea did test a missile February 24, but it was not one covered by the moratorium. During a February 25 press conference in Seoul, Powell called the test of the short-range, surface-to-surface naval missile “innocuous” and said that Washington had had advance information that it might happen.

Washington vs. Pyongyang

Pyongyang insists that it is not blackmailing the international community or trying to gain concessions with its nuclear program, saying in a February 19 KCNA statement that it wants an end to U.S. “military threats” as well as efforts to “hamstring” its economic development efforts—an apparent reference to U.S. efforts to increase multilateral pressure on the regime. North Korea says that the reactor will produce electricity and that it has no intention of building nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang also continues to call for Washington to negotiate a “legally-binding non-aggression treaty.” North Korea had appeared to soften its demand for a treaty following its withdrawal from the NPT, but KCNA reported January 25 that Pyongyang wanted an agreement ratified by Congress because it does not trust the Bush administration’s assurances of nonaggression. A February 20 KCNA statement indicated that North Korea is willing “to clear the US of its security concern” if the United States concludes such a treaty and “does not stand in the way of [North Korea’s] economic development.”

In a February 25 statement, Powell reiterated that the United States has no intention of invading North Korea but added that military force is an “option that is always available.” He added that Washington might “document such a statement” but would not sign a nonaggression treaty.

U.S. officials have expressed differing views about North Korea’s intentions. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said February 25 that North Korea is “engaged in brinksmanship…to get rewards by the international community.”

In contrast, CIA Director George Tenet argued in a February 12 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea “is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with us…that implicitly tolerates…[its] nuclear weapons program.” Pyongyang is “committed to retaining and enlarging its nuclear weapons stockpile,” he added. Armitage expressed concern during his February 4 testimony that North Korea could sell its weapons.

Powell said February 23 that the Bush administration will not negotiate with North Korea but that it will discuss with Pyongyang “how it can address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear weapons program.” Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said in a February 13 hearing before a House international relations subcommittee that North Korea must dismantle both its enriched uranium and plutonium-based nuclear weapons programs, cooperate with the IAEA, and “come into compliance with the NPT and its Safeguards Agreement.”

Powell said February 25 that the United States wants any talks with Pyongyang to take place in a multilateral setting, arguing that North Korea’s nuclear program affects many countries. No talks have been scheduled, but Powell suggested that Washington is communicating with North Korea via informal channels and that such channels may be used in the future. Powell did not say whether the United States would engage in bilateral discussions with Pyongyang if multilateral talks began.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a January 25 KCNA statement that Pyongyang will not participate “in any form” of multilateral talks, insisting that only the United States can solve the problem because its policies created the current situation. North Korea has continued to characterize U.S. attempts at multilateral solutions as containment. A February 18 KCNA statement dismissed the U.S. position on dialogue as a “farce” and a “tactic to cover up its intent to ignite a war of aggression.”

Kelly said in his February 13 testimony that the Bush administration stands “ready to build a different…relationship” with North Korea, including taking “political and economic steps,” if it fulfills its disarmament requirements. Powell suggested in his February 13 testimony that the United States would likely address North Korea’s energy needs if a new relationship materializes.

Since June 2001, the Bush administration has linked meetings with Pyongyang to discuss missiles and nuclear weapons with other issues, including conventional forces and the country’s human rights record. Powell indicated this is still the case during a February 13 House Budget Committee hearing.

The IAEA Acts

Responding to North Korea’s rejection of two previous IAEA resolutions, the agency’s Board of Governors 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.

The two previous resolutions, adopted in November and January, called for Pyongyang to provide details about its reported uranium-enrichment program, as well as reverse its recent decisions to expel IAEA monitors, remove monitoring equipment and seals from nuclear facilities, and withdraw from the NPT. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

The new IAEA resolution “stresses” the board’s “support” for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. According to a February 19 UN press statement, the Security Council referred the matter to its group of experts, who are to study the resolution and make recommendations to the council.

A State Department official said in a February 25 interview that Washington is consulting with allies about future Security Council action, adding that it is “too soon to speculate” about specific measures. Fleischer explained in a February 12 statement that the council’s options ranged from a statement condemning North Korea’s actions to imposing economic sanctions.

The IAEA board voted 31-0 to adopt the resolution, with Russia and Cuba abstaining. Fleischer expressed the Bush administration’s approval, calling the resolution a “clear indication that the international community will not accept a North Korea nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. allies, however, continued to resist the administration’s approach, arguing that Washington should soon engage in bilateral talks with Pyongyang. A February 17 statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the IAEA referral decision “a premature and counterproductive step.” The statement added, however, that Moscow had been “prepared to support the…resolution” if a “direct dialogue” were established between Washington and Pyongyang.

Newly installed South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun condemned North Korea’s nuclear activities during his February 25 inauguration speech, but he emphasized that the North Korean nuclear issue “should be resolved peacefully through dialogue,” according to a February 25 Channel NewsAsia report.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan stated February 24 that China wants the Bush administration to “begin dialogue as equals” with North Korea, according to a February 24 Xinhua News Agency article.

Hatsuhisa Takashima, press secretary for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a February 21 statement that Tokyo’s priority is to “maintain unity and solidarity” among Japan, the United States, and South Korea, adding that the issue should be “addressed with good care and caution.”

Further escalating the crisis over its suspected nuclear weapons activities, North Korea has restarted a small nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework, U.S. officials confirmed February 27. 

A Strategic Choice: New Bunker Busters Versus Nonproliferation

Sidney Drell, James Goodby, Raymond Jeanloz, and Robert Peurifoy

The United States has repeatedly emphasized the importance of international cooperation in the effort to slow down and, as possible, counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In particular, it has specified that strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is vital to this effort.

Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed the U.S. commitment to bolster the treaty and its efforts to counter the spread of nuclear technology to other nations in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last July: “The committee members know that the NPT is the centerpiece of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. It plays a critical role in efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons including to terrorists and states that support them. The NPT’s value depends upon all parties honoring their obligations. The United States places great importance on fulfilling its NPT undertakings.”

The joint declaration that Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin issued in Moscow on May 24 of last year affirmed that “the United States and Russia will also seek broad international support for a strategy of proactive non-proliferation, including by implementing and bolstering the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the conventions on the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons.” President Bush reiterated the importance of international cooperation in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in his letter issuing the new National Security Strategy on September 17, 2002, as well as in the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction that was published three months later.

There is good reason for the United States to support the NPT and promote its objectives. Today, 57 years after atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just eight nations—many fewer than predicted originally—are believed to possess deployed nuclear weapons. All but four countries in the world (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, which has recently withdrawn) are formally committed to the NPT, which first entered into force in 1970. A number of nations that had started down the road to nuclear weapons have abandoned them. These include Argentina and Brazil, which mutually shut down their advancing programs; South Africa, which destroyed its initial force; and Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which returned all of their nuclear weapons to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is now a norm of nonpossession to which most nations adhere.

But the nonproliferation regime is fragile, and it currently faces severe challenges from Iran, Iraq, and particularly North Korea. Unfortunately, in recent months it has also been challenged by the United States. Statements by the administration, including the portions of the Nuclear Posture Review leaked in March 2002, suggest that the United States needs new, low-yield—and presumably “more useable”—nuclear weapons to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. The world’s only superpower would send a negative signal to the non-nuclear states if it felt the need to develop new types of nuclear weapons.

Such an initiative would further undermine the NPT if it led to a resumption of nuclear explosive testing in order to deploy new weapons designs. In 1995, many of the world’s non-nuclear nations made it clear that their continued adherence to the NPT was contingent on the cessation of all nuclear-yield testing. Although it has adhered to a self-imposed moratorium on such tests for more than a decade, the United States has refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby forgoing the opportunity to strengthen the NPT regime. A decision to resume testing to build low-yield nuclear weapons could deal the regime a fatal blow while providing the United States with a capability of questionable military value.

Utility of Bunker Busters

The Bush administration has said it may need to build a new class of low-yield, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons—sometimes called “bunker busters”—because of its concern about whether the U.S. military can destroy the growing number of hard and deeply buried facilities being built in a number of countries. Citing recent government studies, the Nuclear Posture Review states that more than 70 countries now have such underground facilities for military purposes. These include more than 1,000 known or suspected strategic targets, which are used for storing weapons of mass destruction, protecting senior leaders, and executing top-echelon command and control functions. Among the underground targets of most concern are very hardened structures built at depths of 1,000 feet or so with reinforced concrete capable of withstanding up to 1,000 atmospheres overpressure.

Destroying such targets requires knowing exactly where they are and then precisely delivering a warhead that can penetrate into the earth without damage before detonating. The warhead must also have a sufficiently large explosive yield to transmit a strong shock. These challenges are recognized in the NPR as follows: “New capabilities must be developed to defeat emerging threats such as hard and deeply buried targets (HDBT), and to define and attack mobile and relocatable targets, to defeat chemical and biological agents and to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage.” The NPR emphasizes further that “need may arise to modify, upgrade, or replace portions of the extant nuclear force or develop concepts for follow-on nuclear weapons better suited to the nation’s needs. It is unlikely that a reduced version of the Cold War nuclear arsenal will be precisely the nuclear force that the United States will require in 2012 and beyond.”

The United States has already designed and tested a variety of low-yield nuclear devices that could be adapted for delivery in structurally strengthened warheads for destroying underground targets at shallow depths. Recently it adapted a high-yield weapon—the B61-11 bomb, with yields that exceed a hundred kilotons—in this manner. A key technical challenge is to develop the means to deliver such a bomb intact to depths of 10-20 feet before detonation. Detonation at such depths increases, by a factor of 10 to 20 relative to a surface burst, the energy of the explosion that is delivered into the ground instead of into the atmosphere. The warhead therefore hits the target—a hardened, buried bunker or tunnel—with a much stronger shock than an identical warhead that is detonated on or above the surface.

Taking into account realistic limits on material strengths, about 50 feet is the maximum depth to which a warhead dropped from the air into dry rock soil could maintain its integrity until detonated. This is true even with impact at supersonic speeds. For the shock to reach down to 1,000 feet with enough strength to destroy a hard target in dry rock, the warhead would require a yield significantly larger than 100 kilotons. Accuracy is also crucial. A major challenge for destroying hardened underground targets is the need to improve significantly our ability to locate, identify, and characterize such targets. The payoff of accuracy in target location and delivery of a weapon is significant. It is also important to find any vulnerable points such as tunnel entrances or air ducts.

Given these technical facts, how can the United States hold HDBTs at risk? The most important steps are gaining better intelligence for accurate target characterization and location; improving precision of delivery of warheads; further hardening warheads so they can penetrate the earth to a depth of at least 20-30 feet, instead of just a few feet, as is possible now; and establishing control of the area around localized underground targets using conventional forces and tactics.

But the Nuclear Posture Review, and a number of members of the defense establishment, have suggested that the United States develop a new class of hardened, low-yield nuclear weapons. The implication is that, if their resulting collateral damage can be substantially reduced by lowering the explosive power of the warhead, nuclear weapons would be more politically palatable and therefore more “useable” for attacking deeply buried targets in tactical missions—even in or near urban settings, which can be the preferred locales for such targets.

Consider, however, the radioactive contamination from a one-kiloton warhead, detonated at a depth of 20-50 feet. This is, approximately, just 1/13 the yield that destroyed Hiroshima, yet it would eject more than 1 million cubic feet of radioactive debris from a crater about the size of ground zero at the World Trade Center—bigger than a football field. Indeed, the Hiroshima bomb was detonated at an altitude of close to 1,900 feet in order to minimize radioactive fallout by not digging any crater. A weapon intended to destroy hard, buried targets is therefore going to produce a lot of dangerous radioactive fallout. Of course, a nuclear weapon with a yield capable of destroying a target 1,000 feet underground—a yield well over 100 kilotons—would dig a much larger crater and create a substantially larger amount of radioactive debris.

We emphasize this point because recent reports, columns, and quotes in the media call for the United States to develop new, low-yield nuclear weapons for use against hard, deeply buried targets because they would produce less collateral damage. But even a one-kiloton earth penetrator would be quite devastating in a city, and against really deep targets, yields in the hundreds of kilotons would be required. In the past, the United States has developed, tested, and deployed nuclear warheads with a full range of yields, from small fractions of kilotons up to many megatons. We can make further improvements in their delivery—both in accuracy and earth penetration—that would be significant. But as we have seen, even at the low-yield end of the repertoire, there will be major collateral damage because the blast will eject radioactive debris. Burrowing a few tens of feet into the earth will increase the damaging effects of the shock, but a large proportion of the fallout will still enter the atmosphere and be spread by wind.

Ratifying the CTBT

A further problem would arise if the need to develop “new capabilities…to defeat emerging threats,” as is called for in the Nuclear Posture Review, led the United States to resume underground nuclear explosive tests. As explained earlier, the United States has already designed and tested nuclear devices with a broad range of yields. Building better earth-penetrating nuclear weapons does not require resumed nuclear testing, as has been suggested by bunker-buster advocates who oppose the CTBT. It requires precise delivery with deeper penetration on accurately located targets. A resumption of underground nuclear explosive testing would have minimal technical benefits, but a major, harmful impact on the nonproliferation regime.

Many nations signed on to the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 on the explicit condition that the nuclear powers would cease all nuclear-yield testing. This situation presented the United States and the other nuclear powers with a strong political and strategic incentive to formalize the moratorium on testing by ratifying and working to bring into force the CTBT. It is obviously one of the critical cornerstones of the NPT, which, as Secretary Powell said in his Senate testimony, “is the centerpiece of the global nonproliferation regime.”

A U.S. decision to resume testing to produce new nuclear weapons would therefore dramatically undermine the NPT. Conversely, a U.S. decision to ratify the already signed CTBT and lead the effort to bring the treaty into force would be an effective way of strengthening the NPT and, through it, worldwide nonproliferation and counterproliferation efforts. Bringing the treaty into force would have the added technical advantage of allowing for the full implementation of the international monitoring system intended to verify compliance with the CTBT. Implementation would add challenge inspection protocols that would further strengthen the verification regime and increase its transparency.

Many U.S. allies in NATO, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, have signed and ratified the CTBT, as have Japan and Russia. Others, including China, have indicated they will work to bring the treaty into force once the United States has ratified it. As of March 2003, 166 nations have signed the CTBT and 97 have ratified it, including 31 of the 44 “nuclear-capable states” that must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force. But the U.S. Senate refused to consent to ratification of the treaty when it came up for a vote in 1999, and the Bush administration has refused to reopen the question. The administration continues for the time being, however, to honor a moratorium on all testing that President George H. W. Bush established in 1992.

Why is the United States reluctant? In addition to the dubious need to develop “concepts for follow-on nuclear weapons better suited to the nation’s needs,” including nuclear earth penetrators against HDBTs, opponents of the CTBT have asked, “How can we be sure that many years ahead, we will not need to resume yield testing in order to rebuild the stockpile?” The answer is that total certainty never can be achieved. But it is possible to ensure that there is a strong program in place with the necessary support of competent engineers and scientists, who would sound a warning bell should a serious, unforeseen problem arise.

With the enhanced, multifaceted, science-based program of stockpile stewardship established during the past seven years, the United States can have confidence in its ability to understand the character of the stockpile and the way in which special bomb materials age. As a result of the stockpile surveillance program, a number of flaws have been reported and dealt with appropriately. The flaws thus far uncovered within the nuclear devices themselves are related to design oversights. That is, the flaws, or their precursors, were present when the weapons were put into the stockpile. In comparison, unexpected flaws due to the unknown effects of aging thus far appear to be minimal.

The United States can be assured that the CTBT is consistent with the ability to retain high confidence in the reliability of its existing nuclear force for decades. This conclusion has been demonstrated convincingly since 1995. Specifically, a number of detailed technical analyses by independent scientists working with colleagues from the weapons community, including leaders involved in creating our current nuclear arsenal, reached this finding. It was that determination that led the United States to negotiate the CTBT and sign it in 1996.

Most recently, in August 2002 the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive study on technical issues related to the CTBT. The study group, which included retired directors of weapons labs, bomb designers, and technical and scientific experts, concluded that the United States can maintain confidence in its enduring stockpile under a ban on all nuclear-yield testing, provided it has a well-supported, science-based stewardship and maintenance program, together with a capability to remanufacture warheads as needed. The study group also verified that the United States could monitor compliance by other CTBT signatories to standards consistent with its national security.

Two years earlier, a similar detailed analysis led by General John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was conducted with government cooperation and authorization. It reached the same conclusion and affirmed that the CTBT “is a very important part of global non-proliferation efforts and is compatible with keeping a safe, reliable U.S. nuclear deterrent.” General Shalikashvili further added, “I believe that an objective and thorough net assessment shows convincingly that U.S. interests, as well as those of friends and allies, will be served by the Treaty’s entry into force.”

Strengthening the NPT

Although it raises the question of the need for new nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Posture Review does not discuss nonproliferation efforts, nor does it discuss the potential impact of its initiatives on the strategic policy and weapon-acquisition decisions of other nations. This is curious because their nuclear weapons decisions are apt to have greater impact on the United States than ours will have on them. Rather than developing nuclear devices for new tactical missions, the focus of the U.S. nuclear weapons program should continue to be maintaining a credible strategic deterrent and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries. A weakening or collapse of the worldwide cooperative effort to counter nuclear proliferation would hurt U.S. interests more than any gains from testing and building new low-yield nuclear weapons would help.

The nonproliferation regime is clearly under stress, and a significant weakness is the apparent failure of its verification provisions. Events since the end of the Cold War have made clear the urgent need for nations to join forces in an effort to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. In 1991, after Desert Storm, the international community was surprised to find that Iraq, a signatory of the NPT, was well on the way to a nuclear capability. Similarly, in the 1990s the United States learned of the North Korean program to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon, and it recently confronted Pyongyang over its attempts to enrich natural uranium.

Recognizing the limitation of its verification abilities under current arrangements, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has been engaged in ongoing negotiations to strengthen the NPT’s compliance provisions. Until the early 1990s, the IAEA was not used to discover and frustrate secret nuclear weapons programs because its member states had not agreed to that goal. Rather, the IAEA was used to see that agreed safeguards were applied to installations declared to be engaged in peaceful uses of nuclear materials. Thus, the agency did not go beyond the inspections of installations declared as nuclear by the inspected states, such as Iraq. This deficiency can be fixed by giving the IAEA the power to inspect suspect sites that are not reported by member nations as nuclear installations. A protocol proposed by the IAEA—and supported by the Bush administration and others—would correct this situation. A diplomatic campaign should be mounted to secure its ratification.

Greater care also needs to be taken with export controls. Under the NPT, nuclear-weapon states were encouraged to provide the non-nuclear states all that they needed to reap the peaceful benefits and uses of nuclear energy. That was the basic deal that caused non-nuclear weapons states to accept the limitations of the NPT. The sovereign rights of buyers or sellers of exports relevant to nuclear facilities were limited by an understanding among supplier countries that, in effect, prohibited the transfer of technology useful for fabricating a nuclear weapon. But dual-use technology always presented a problem. It is now up to the nuclear suppliers to agree to and police even stronger restrictions on the sale or transfer of items that could be used for weapons production by non-nuclear countries. Unless these types of transactions can be stopped, the whole nonproliferation effort will be seriously undermined.

These are tough problems and require more international cooperation than has been mustered to date. Rather than moving to develop new nuclear weapons, the United States should push to strengthen the nonproliferation regime through example and through stronger compliance measures directed at those who flout its basic purposes.


Sidney Drell is professor emeritus of physics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. James Goodby was an adviser to President Clinton on the CTBT and is diplomat-in-residence at Stanford University. Raymond Jeanloz is a professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California at Berkeley. Robert Peurifoy was a vice president of Sandia National Laboratories.

 

Bush Administration Releases Strategy on WMD Threat

Wade Boese

On December 11, the Bush administration released a three-prong strategy for tackling threats posed by biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Divided into sections on counterproliferation, nonproliferation, and consequence management, the strategy reiterates the administration’s readiness to act pre-emptively against potential adversaries and to consider using nuclear weapons in retaliation for any attack on the United States using weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Released about three months after the Bush administration unveiled a document explaining its overall national security strategy, the new National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction focuses on the Bush administration’s approaches to stopping and defending against the spread of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Its release came as the United States faces escalating tensions with Iraq and North Korea over their weapons programs.

The strategy is based on a classified document, National Security Presidential Directive 17 (NSPD), which the president signed in September, according to an administration source familiar with the document. A NSPD sets out official U.S. policy.

All of the substance of the new strategy has been laid out in previous administration statements, particularly the Pentagon’s January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review. (See ACT, January/February 2002.) But a spokesperson for the National Security Council explained in a January 2 interview that the White House “wanted to go into more detail,” because weapons of mass destruction in the hands of hostile countries or terrorists are the “preeminent threat” facing the United States.

The administration contends in its new strategy that there is no single solution to every country’s pursuit or possession of WMD. “Because each of these regimes is different, we will pursue country-specific strategies,” the document states. This approach is seemingly reflected in the different tactics the White House is taking toward Iraq and North Korea.

“Counterproliferation”

Claiming that experience shows the United States cannot always thwart proliferation, the Bush administration says in its new strategy that it is ready to counter or deter the potential use of WMD through interdicting weapons and technology transfers, punishing WMD use, and striking adversaries before they attack.

To stop dangerous cargo from moving between hostile countries or from regimes to terrorists, the United States must improve its capabilities to intercept such trade before it reaches its destination, according to the strategy. Interestingly, the day the strategy was presented to reporters, the administration announced that, at its urging, Spanish forces had seized an unidentified ship loaded with North Korean ballistic missiles en route to the Middle East. The NSC spokesperson said the two events were not linked, however, and the ship with its missiles continued on its way after Yemen claimed to have purchased them. (See ACT, Jan/Feb 2003.)

Like past administrations, the Bush team is ambiguous about whether it would use nuclear weapons to respond to an attack with biological or chemical weapons—though it has taken the extra step of making that ambiguity official policy. The strategy reads, “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force—including through resort to all of our options—to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.” The administration source said NSPD 17, the classified version of the strategy, explicitly states that “overwhelming force” potentially includes nuclear weapons.

In February 2002, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that President Jimmy Carter’s 1978 declaration that the United States would only use nuclear weapons against countries without atomic arms if they attacked in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state remains Bush policy. However, he added, “If a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response.”

Since the Carter administration first formally articulated its “negative security assurance,” later administrations have reaffirmed the pledge, particularly within the context of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). At the same time, U.S. officials have implied from time to time, for instance just prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that the United States might use nuclear weapons to respond to a biological or chemical weapons attack. The Bush administration has now adopted that ambiguity as standing U.S. policy.

The Bush strategy further stresses that the United States might not wait on an attack to act. U.S. forces must be prepared to “detect and destroy an adversary’s WMD assets before these weapons are used.”

To better deal with potential WMD-armed adversaries, the United States “must accelerate efforts to field new capabilities to defeat WMD-related assets.” The Bush administration is researching modified nuclear warheads for destroying hardened and deeply buried targets, which Washington contends could be used to hide and store deadly weapons stockpiles.

Bush officials have not said whether the United States would consider using nuclear weapons to pre-emptively destroy weapons of mass destruction before they are used.

“Nonproliferation”

Although the Bush administration devoted scant attention to arms control measures in its September strategy document and regularly expresses skepticism about the value of international agreements, the newly released strategy states that the United States will “actively employ diplomatic approaches in bilateral and multilateral settings in pursuit of our nonproliferation goals.”

According to the document, the United States will seek to strengthen existing agreements and regimes, including the NPT, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. However, the strategy offers few proposals on how the administration plans to bolster each.

The White House strategy further declares that the United States will seek new agreements as needed, specifically listing negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. U.S. diplomats have been trying to launch negotiations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament for several years on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would halt production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes. Their efforts have been bogged down, however, by demands from other countries for parallel negotiations that the United States opposes, namely formal talks on prevention of an arms race in outer space and nuclear disarmament.

No reference is made to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the administration has said it does not support. Some Bush officials have suggested the United States may need to resume nuclear testing, a move that would be at odds with the U.S. 1996 signature of the CTBT and a ten-year U.S. moratorium on testing.

In addition to multilateral agreements, the Bush administration asserts it will continue to support bilateral programs to better secure and destroy WMD stockpiles and materials in Russia and other former Soviet states. Efforts to improve security of dangerous goods and technologies in other countries will also be pursued, although the administration does not name specific countries.

In the strategy, the administration also pledges to tighten controls on exports that could aid another country’s pursuit of WMD, and it promises to “develop a comprehensive sanctions policy.”

“Consequence Management”

In the event that the United States is attacked with a weapon of mass destruction, the White House Office of Homeland Security is assigned the responsibility for coordinating the federal government’s response and making sure that local and state governments are prepared for such a contingency.

The WMD strategy document provides little additional information on how the United States would respond domestically to a WMD attack, noting that the issue is covered more extensively in the National Strategy For Homeland Security, a 90-page report the White House published last July.

On December 11, the Bush administration released a three-prong strategy for tackling threats posed by biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. 

North Korea Quits NPT, Says It Will Restart Nuclear Facilities

Paul Kerr

In a provocative decision, North Korea announced December 12 that it was restarting nuclear facilities that had been frozen since 1994, and it ordered international monitors to leave the country. As international concern grew that Pyongyang was resuming its nuclear weapons program, North Korea announced January 10 that it was immediately withdrawing from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In response to North Korea’s actions, the Bush administration’s policy has been shifting. After initially refusing to meet officially with North Korea, Washington is now saying that it is open to talks but not formal negotiations.

North Korea’s nuclear facilities—a small, plutonium-producing reactor, a fuel-rod fabrication plant, a reprocessing plant, and two partially completed larger reactors—had been frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States. That agreement was concluded after a tense standoff following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) discovery that Pyongyang had been diverting spent fuel from the reactor for a nuclear weapons program.

Under the Agreed Framework, the United States agreed to provide two proliferation-resistant reactors and to supply 500,000 metric tons of heating oil each year to North Korea while the reactors were under construction. The IAEA was charged with monitoring the freeze on North Korea’s nuclear facilities.

The United States and the IAEA have expressed concern about the consequences of North Korea reviving its nuclear facilities. A November 27 Congressional Research Service report states that the reactor could produce a sufficient amount of plutonium for one bomb annually, and the CIA states in a 2002 report to Congress that the spent fuel rods “contain enough plutonium for several more weapons.”

Whether North Korea already possesses nuclear weapons is unclear. A State Department official interviewed January 3 said that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea has already produced one or two nuclear weapons from plutonium produced before the Agreed Framework. But publicly the CIA says only that Pyongyang “has produced enough plutonium” for one or two weapons.

The Freeze Ends

The crisis started in October when, after being confronted by a U.S. delegation, North Korea allegedly admitted that it had a uranium-enrichment program in violation of several agreements meant to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons. However, North Korea has denied it said this. A November 27 Korean Central Broadcasting Station broadcast cited by Agence France-Presse termed the U.S. charge a “fabrication,” adding that it actually told the U.S. delegation that it is “entitled to possess nuclear weapons if the United States violates their nuclear agreement.”

In response, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the U.S.-led consortium responsible for implementing the Agreed Framework, announced November 14 that it would suspend fuel oil deliveries to North Korea.

The situation escalated when Pyongyang sent a December 12 letter to Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, stating that North Korea had decided to resume operations of the facilities governed by the Agreed Framework. The letter requested that the agency remove seals and monitoring equipment, which are used to ensure compliance with the agreement, from all the facilities.

Through the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a North Korean spokesman said December 12 that it was restarting the reactor in order to generate electricity and indicated that the United States had violated the Agreed Framework. It cited the KEDO decision and the fact that President George W. Bush had called North Korea part of an “axis of evil.” The spokesman also accused Washington of targeting North Korea for a “preemptive nuclear attack.”

In September, the Bush administration released a report which emphasizes pre-emptively attacking countries developing weapons of mass destruction. It explicitly mentions North Korea. In addition, a leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons, but it does not mention pre-emptive nuclear strikes. The Agreed Framework requires the United States to “provide formal assurances to [North Korea] against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.”

In a December 12 letter, ElBaradei asked Pyongyang not to remove the agency’s equipment, but December 14 North Korea replied that the freeze was a matter between the United States and North Korea and “not pursuant to any agreement” with the IAEA. The letter stated that North Korea would take unilateral action to remove seals and monitoring cameras if the IAEA did not act.

North Korea proceeded to make good on its threat. Between December 22 and 24, it cut all seals and disrupted surveillance equipment on the reactor, its spent fuel pond, the fuel reprocessing plant, and the “nuclear scrap” and equipment at the fuel fabrication plant, according to a December 30 IAEA report. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said in a December 26 Agence France-Presse article that North Korea has begun moving fresh fuel rods into the reactor. According to the IAEA report, North Korea has said it will restart its reactor in one to two months.

Then, on December 27, Pyongyang ordered the IAEA inspectors out of the country. When ElBaradei protested in a letter that day, North Korea simply reiterated its demand. The IAEA inspectors left the country December 31, according to the IAEA Web site.

On January 10, North Korea increased tensions by announcing its withdrawal from the NPT. Its statement, however, says that Pyongyang has “no intention to produce nuclear weapons…at this stage.” Although the NPT requires a three month’s notice if a party is to withdraw, North Korea says its withdrawal is immediate. North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 1993 but suspended its withdrawal just before it was to take effect after reaching an agreement with the United States.

U.S. Reaction

In its December 12 statement, North Korea said that any decision to “refreeze” the facilities depends “entirely…on the attitude” of the United States, but Washington’s response has been in flux and remains unclear.

Initially, the United States maintained it would not engage in formal talks or negotiate with North Korea until it agreed to give up its prohibited nuclear programs. But a meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG)—a consultative body consisting of the United States, Japan, and South Korea—produced a statement January 7 saying the United States is now “willing to talk to North Korea about how it will meet its obligations to the international community.” The statement emphasizes, however, that Washington “will not provide quid pro quos to North Korea to live up to its existing obligations.”

Pyongyang has not responded to the U.S. offer for talks, a State Department official said in a January 9 interview.

The TCOG statement also repeated that Washington “has no intention of invading” North Korea. U.S. officials have reiterated several times Bush’s 2002 statement in Seoul saying that Washington has no intention of attacking North Korea. Its inclusion in a written statement, however, is widely viewed as a more formal commitment.

North Korea has continued to call on the United States to sign a “non-aggression treaty” with Pyongyang in order to resolve the current situation. North Korea’s statement announcing its withdrawal from the NPT, however, suggested a softening in this position. It indicated that it might halt its nuclear activities if the United States “drops its hostile policy to stifle” North Korea—language suggesting that North Korea might want KEDO to resume fuel oil shipments.

The State Department official would not clarify what the United States would ask of North Korea or what form any talks would take. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in a January 8 statement that the renewal of fuel oil shipments or a nonaggression pact would not be part of discussions.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a January 7 press briefing that Washington expects Pyongyang to dismantle its uranium-enrichment program. However, the State Department official would not discuss the U.S. position on North Korea’s decision to restart its frozen reactor, except to say that North Korea should not be producing nuclear weapons.

It is unclear under what conditions Washington would agree to negotiate with Pyongyang. Boucher stated January 3 that North Korea must “verifiably and visibly dismantle” its nuclear programs before Washington will enter into negotiations, but a White House official interviewed January 6 would not say what the United States would do if North Korea complies with its demands. State Department and White House officials’ statements after the TCOG meeting did not clarify the issue.

Since June 2001, the Bush administration has linked meetings with Pyongyang to discuss missiles and nuclear weapons with other issues, including conventional forces and the country’s human rights record. Boucher said in his January 7 statement that these issues are still “on the table and…need to be addressed in the context of any improvement in relations.”

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, suggested in a January 9 Washington Post interview that there might be room for negotiation with North Korea, saying, “that’s what diplomacy is about” when asked about prospects for meeting North Korea’s request for a nonaggression pact.

Boucher said in a December 13 statement that Washington was talking with “other governments” about ways to “bring diplomatic pressure” on North Korea. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said December 30 that the United States would not necessarily apply sanctions. The “pressure” comes from Pyongyang being forced to forego the benefits of future diplomatic and economic engagement with the international community, according to a State Department official in a January 3 interview.

International Reaction

Meanwhile, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution January 6 condemning North Korea’s decision to restart its nuclear reactor and related facilities in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework. 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.”

ElBaradei said during a January 6 interview on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer that North Korea must respond to the IAEA within weeks. If the country fails to do so, the IAEA will report the matter to the UN Security Council, he said. Boucher said January 6, however, that it is unclear whether the council will become involved.

Pyongyang condemned the IAEA resolution when it announced its withdrawal from the NPT, calling it a “grave encroachment upon [its] sovereignty.”

The IAEA had already adopted a resolution November 29 that called upon North Korea to “clarify” its “reported uranium-enrichment program.” North Korea rejected the resolution, saying the IAEA’s position is biased in favor of the United States.

Although the international community unanimously condemned Pyongyang’s actions, there was less agreement on a solution. Most U.S. allies have come out in favor of dialogue with North Korea. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung argued against isolating North Korea or placing economic sanctions on them, Reuters reported December 30. South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun expressed a similar view the next day, according to a December 31 AFX News report.

Japan has strongly condemned North Korea’s actions, but its Foreign Ministry said in a January 7 statement that “direct channels” are still open between Tokyo and Pyongyang. The two countries had agreed in September to hold normalization talks, but the talks have been stalled since late October over North Korea’s weapons program and its earlier kidnappings of Japanese citizens.

Although the TCOG statement says that Pyongyang’s “relations with the…international community hinge” on its compliance with the statement’s disarmament demands, it also highlights the value of Japan and South Korea’s bilateral dialogues with Pyongyang, referring to them as “important channels to resolve issues of bilateral concern.”

Russia and China have said they favor dialogue between the relevant parties, although both have criticized North Korea’s decision to resume operations at its nuclear facilities.

A January 5 statement from KCNA warned against the involvement of other countries, saying that “the situation on the Korean Peninsula will be pushed to a phase of crisis” if they join with Washington in putting pressure on North Korea.

In a provocative decision, North Korea announced December 12 that it was restarting nuclear facilities that had been frozen since 1994, and it ordered international monitors to leave the country.

Beyond the 'Axis of Evil'

Daryl G. Kimball

In response to the rapidly worsening crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the George W. Bush administration has quietly reversed itself and agreed to restart direct talks with Pyongyang—and none too soon. Recently, North Korea has said it would unfreeze its plutonium facilities and withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The shift in the administration’s strategy, along with South Korea’s mediation offer, provides a stronger basis for a peaceful solution to end North Korea’s defiant and dangerous bid to become the world’s ninth nuclear-weapon state.

The Bush policy adjustment follows the failure of the administration’s attempts to coerce Pyongyang to implement its denuclearization commitments and threatening punitive economic measures if it does not. Upon its arrival in office, the Bush administration abandoned its predecessor’s policy of engagement, which had produced important, if limited, success in freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile activities. In early 2002, Bush also stoked North Korean security fears by naming it as one of three “axis of evil” states subject to the administration’s policy of pre-emption.

Following the Bush administration’s announcement that North Korea admitted it was pursuing prohibited uranium-enrichment capabilities in October, the White House organized a strong response, including cutting off heavy-fuel oil shipments. But the situation worsened as the United States stubbornly refused to talk with the North until it verifiably ended the uranium work. Not surprisingly, Pyongyang has reopened its more advanced plutonium-based nuclear weapons facilities and expelled international inspectors.

As of now, it is estimated that North Korea could—in less than six months—separate enough plutonium for six bombs. If North Korea builds nuclear weapons, a dangerous nuclear action-reaction cycle involving Japan, South Korea, and China would likely ensue. In addition, given Pyongyang’s propensity to proliferate dangerous weapons technology, that nuclear material could very well be sold to terrorists or other states seeking nuclear weapons.

Caught between North Korea’s brinksmanship and the absence of effective U.S. leadership, South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has launched an important initiative to restart direct talks with Pyongyang and to develop a formula for a new agreement to end the crisis. Seoul is reportedly suggesting that if Pyongyang ends its nuclear weapons work and readmits international inspectors, Washington should offer a formal pledge of nonaggression and resume heavy-fuel oil supplies.

The initiative, and growing bipartisan congressional pressure for talks with the North, might help the White House move beyond its failed “axis of evil” policy and give North Korea a face-saving opportunity to cease its reckless defiance of international nuclear nonproliferation norms.

In line with this approach, Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul issued a strong yet positive joint communiqué on January 7. It forcefully calls upon North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons program and fully comply with its nonproliferation commitments. It also endorses direct dialogue with the North. In contrast to the U.S. stance on Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction, the statement also says the United States “poses no threat and has no intention of invading North Korea.”

Although the White House is now willing to talk to North Korea, it has wisely stressed that it will not give way on the bottom line: the North must end its nuclear weapons work and comply with international nonproliferation norms. To compel North Korean compliance, however, Washington must also fulfill its earlier promises. As the South Korean formula suggests, Bush should formally reaffirm earlier U.S. security pledges and resume support for oil and economic assistance pledged under the 1994 Agreed Framework, which defused a similar nuclear showdown a decade ago.

Although the U.S. policy adjustment offers hope, many obstacles lie ahead. North Korea might continue to miscalculate and accelerate work to separate plutonium for weapons. Even as Washington focuses on the search for suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it cannot afford to wait to begin talks to halt North Korea’s known and more advanced nuclear bomb program. At risk is East Asian security, U.S. credibility, and the future of global nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

Tough rhetoric and finger pointing will seldom produce nonproliferation results, especially if the United States itself wields the nuclear-weapons stick. With a little help from our allies, the administration may have finally hit upon a strategy that can end the current crisis, or at least avoid making it worse.

Cuba Accedes to NPT, Joins Tlatelolco

Cuba submitted its instrument of ratification to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) November 4 in Moscow, according to an IAEA spokesperson November 25. Russia is designated a depository government of the NPT. Cuba’s accession leaves India, Israel, and Pakistan as the only countries that are not parties to the treaty.

Cuba’s ambassador to Russia, Carlos Palmarola, stated in a ceremony marking the accession that Cuba’s participation in the NPT demonstrates its “political will” to support international arms control agreements. Palmarola reiterated Cuba’s opposition to the nuclear-weapon states’ failure to make progress toward their disarmament requirements under Article VI of the NPT and expressed irritation with Washington’s “hostile” Cuba policy, asserting that this policy included the potential for invading Cuba.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov participated in the ceremony. Russia praised Cuba’s decision, saying that it is “especially important and timely” because the nuclear nonproliferation regime is going “through a period of serious trial,” according to a Foreign Ministry report quoted by the Interfax News Agency November 4.

On October 23 in Mexico City, Cuba submitted its instrument of ratification for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, according to the IAEA spokesperson. Mexico is a depositary government for the treaty.

The treaty prohibits the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons by its signatories and establishes a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Latin America. Cuba signed the treaty in 1995 and is the last country in the region to ratify it.

North Korea Admits Secret Nuclear Weapons Program

November 2002

By Paul Kerr

North Korea revealed that it has a clandestine nuclear weapons program during an early October meeting with a high-ranking U.S. official. The admission, which the United States made public October 16, indicates that Pyongyang has violated several key nonproliferation agreements, raising concern worldwide.

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Suk Ju admitted that Pyongyang has a uranium-enrichment program during October 3-5 meetings with a U.S. delegation after Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly confronted him with intelligence data proving the program’s existence, Kelly stated during an October 19 press conference in Seoul.

The intelligence included evidence that Pyongyang was purchasing material for use in a gas centrifuge program that could enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, according to Bush administration officials. Various press reports have cited Russia, China, and Pakistan as potential suppliers. All three governments have denied any role.

The status of the program is unclear. Kelly said during the Seoul press conference that the enrichment program is “several years old,” but Bush administration officials have reported to Congress and allies that North Korea’s program still appears to be in its “early stages” and would take a relatively long time to produce enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear device. It is unclear how much time that is.

Kelly stated that North Korea’s nuclear program violates “its commitments” under several international agreements: the Agreed Framework, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Pyongyang’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The United States and North Korea concluded the Agreed Framework in October 1994, ending a standoff resulting from the IAEA’s discovery that Pyongyang was diverting plutonium from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors for use in nuclear weapons. The Agreed Framework requires North Korea to “freeze its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities,” thereby ending its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

In exchange for shutting down its reactors, the United States agreed to provide North Korea with two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors (LWR), to create an international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to build them, and to provide shipments of heavy fuel oil in the interim. The first reactor was originally scheduled to be completed by 2003, but construction has fallen behind schedule, and the reactor is not expected to be finished before 2008, barring further delays.

The Agreed Framework requires North Korea to accept full IAEA safeguards when “a significant portion of the LWR project is completed”—a milestone that is approximately three years away. Under those safeguards, Pyongyang must declare the existence of any nuclear facilities and allow the IAEA to inspect them.

The Agreed Framework does not specifically mention uranium-enrichment, a different method of obtaining fissile material for nuclear weapons, but it does require North Korea to remain a party to the NPT, under which non-nuclear-weapon states agree “not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The framework also says that North Korea “will consistently take steps to implement” the 1992 Joint Declaration, which states that “South and North Korea shall not possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.”

The Agreed Framework has been controversial, with some Republicans, including President George W. Bush, questioning whether the United States can trust North Korea. The Bush administration refused last March to certify that North Korea was fully complying with the agreement, a congressionally mandated condition for KEDO to receive U.S. funding. Bush waived the certification requirement, however, allowing funding to continue. Then, in August the United States asked North Korea to allow immediate IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, although they are not required by the Agreed Framework at this time.

Meanwhile, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in September that the agency has not been able to verify that Pyongyang “has declared all the nuclear material that is subject to Agency safeguards.” U.S. intelligence estimates that North Korea separated enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons before signing the Agreed Framework. Other spent fuel produced before the Agreed Framework is under IAEA safeguards, but if North Korea decided to reprocess it, the country could recover enough plutonium in six months for approximately six nuclear devices.

The current and future status of the Agreed Framework is unclear. Kelly said during the October 19 press conference that North Korean officials “declared that they considered the Agreed Framework to be nullified” when he met with them. Regarding the agreement, he added that “we haven’t made any decisions since we were informed it was nullified.” In an October 20 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated that Pyongyang had declared the agreement “nullified,” but he would not say that it was “dead.” Powell explained that Washington had to consult with its allies before deciding on the framework’s future.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said October 25 that past U.S. actions had already invalidated the Agreed Framework, citing reactor construction delays, U.S. economic sanctions, and U.S. threats of pre-emptive attack against North Korea, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The Agreed Framework requires the United States to “provide formal assurances to the DPRK [North Korea], against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” Recent U.S. reports and statements have reportedly raised concerns in North Korea that the United States might consider a nuclear pre-emptive strike on the country, although the United States has not directly threatened North Korea. (See ACT, October 2002.) For example, a leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary.

KEDO’s work continues despite North Korea’s admission, according to a KEDO spokesman, but it is unclear what decisions the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the European Atomic Energy Community—KEDO’s executive board members—will make in the near future. KEDO’s most recent shipment of fuel oil arrived in North Korea October 18, according to a State Department official interviewed October 30.

International Response

President Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung issued a joint statement October 26 during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, saying that the uranium enrichment program violates Pyongyang’s nuclear agreements. The statement also calls upon Pyongyang to “dismantle” the program “in a prompt and verifiable manner and to come into full compliance with all its international commitments.”

The declaration stresses the three countries’ desires for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue. The declaration also indicates that both Japan and South Korea intend to continue their bilateral engagement efforts with Pyongyang but that “North Korea’s relations with the international community…rest on…prompt and visible” dismantlement of its uranium-enrichment program.

On October 29 and 30, Japan and North Korea held normalization talks in Kuala Lumpur that covered a variety of issues, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry statement. In the October 26 joint statement, Koizumi indicated that relations could not be normalized without resolution of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs, but the talks ended without an agreement on the programs, according to an October 30 BBC report.

South Korea has also continued its engagement efforts with the North. The two governments held interministerial talks October 19-22 in Pyongyang. According to a KCNA October 23 statement, the two sides agreed to “make joint efforts to ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula” and “to seek negotiated settlement of…the nuclear issue.” The next meeting is to be held in mid-January 2003, KCNA reported.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Jiang Zemin stated after an October 25 meeting with Bush in Texas that Beijing and Washington would “work together to ensure a peaceful resolution” to the North Korea nuclear problem, adding that China is a “supporter of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”

Russia called for talks between Washington and Pyongyang and for both sides “to renounce the policy of mutual threats and military pressure,” emphasizing the importance of adherence to the NPT and “implementation” of the Agreed Framework “by all concerned parties,” according to an October 25 statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

What Next?

Pyongyang has proposed that the United States conclude a nonaggression treaty with North Korea in order to resolve the dispute. An October 27 KCNA statement says that Washington should negotiate such a treaty, which would include a guarantee that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against North Korea, “if the U.S. truly wants the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” North Korea “will be ready to clear the U.S. of its security concerns” if the United States does so, according to the statement.

North Korea also proposed further engagement with the United States to discuss its nuclear program during the October 3-5 meeting. When asked during the Seoul press conference if, in exchange for discussions about ending the enrichment program, Pyongyang had requested U.S. diplomatic recognition and guarantees that the United States would not attack North Korea, Kelly stated that North Korea had suggested “measures…generally along those lines” but that North Korea must dismantle the program before any discussions could take place.

Powell stated at an October 26 press conference during the APEC meeting that Washington has “no plans…for a meeting” with North Korea and that the United States would not negotiate for the dismantlement of the uranium enrichment program. He added that the “international community” agreed that applying “political” and “diplomatic” pressure on Pyongyang was the best course of action, but he did not elaborate.

Powell also stated that “we have no intention of invading North Korea or taking hostile action against North Korea”—a promise Bush made earlier this year in Seoul. Powell also restated Washington’s policy of requiring discussions about missile development and proliferation, nuclear issues, human rights abuses, and North Korea’s conventional forces in order for negotiations to begin. Kelly also articulated this position during the meeting in Pyongyang, Powell said.

Pyongyang’s admission occurred against a backdrop of what appeared to be increased engagement between North Korea and the United States. Kelly is the highest-level U.S. official to visit Pyongyang since Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did so in October 2000. The United States had also sent Jack Pritchard, State Department special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, to the August 7 KEDO ceremony in North Korea marking the pouring of the concrete foundation for the first LWR that the United States agreed to provide under the Agreed Framework. (See ACT, September 2002.) And North Korea had pledged to indefinitely extend its moratorium on testing long-range missiles—a top U.S. security concern. (See ACT, October 2002.)

The Bush administration’s decision to seek a peaceful resolution with North Korea contrasts with its position on Iraq, where it has threatened to use military force to overthrow the government in Baghdad because of its weapons of mass destruction programs.

North Korea Admits Secret Nuclear Weapons Program

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