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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2003

Regional Nonproliferation Issues

Andrew K. Semmel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Alternate U.S. Representative to the Second Session of the PrepCom
Remarks to the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference
Geneva, Switzerland
May 2, 2003

The NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) remains the cornerstone of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. While the global nuclear nonproliferation regime remains strong, it has faced significant challenges this past year, from various regions. During these meetings, our focus should be how we respond to the challenges to and noncompliance with the terms of the Treaty. Our discussions should reflect the serious concerns that confront NPT parties in the face of revelations this past year regarding long term and covert nuclear programs pursued by some NPT parties. While the focus of my statement is on compliance, we also remain committed to the goal of universal NPT adherence and hope that India, Israel, and Pakistan will eventually agree to join the Treaty, recognizing that this decision is a sovereign one.

Middle East

Achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East remains a key U.S. foreign policy goal. No country has worked harder to bring a settlement to the long-standing conflict. In supporting nonproliferation efforts in the Middle East, the United States has several priorities. First, we must work toward countering the threat from states pursuing WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missiles, especially states that are sponsors of terrorism. Second, we will work to bring all regional member states who are in violation of the NPT, or those who are acting in ways inconsistent with their obligations, back into compliance with the Treaty. Third, we support the Middle East Peace Process in part to reduce hostilities that are feeding an arms race in the region and to help create an environment conducive to establishing a region free from weapons of mass destruction. Finally, we encourage universal adherence to the NPT and other nonproliferation treaties and regimes.

Mr. Chairman, on September 11, 2001, our nation experienced the evil brutality of terrorists who inflicted unspeakable destruction on two of our cities and killed thousands of our citizens. As tragic as those events were, we are all too aware of the potential devastation that could have been wrought had the terrorists used chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

We are under no illusion about terrorists' interest in acquiring WMD or their willingness to use such weapons against us and others. Therefore, preventing the spread of WMD to state sponsors of terrorism must be our highest national priority and we must address these threats wherever they exist.

Through the actions of our coalition military forces, we have acted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions and disarm Iraq -- an Iraq we now know was harboring terrorists on the most-wanted list. Iraq's construction of secret facilities, including those for nuclear weapon development and assembly, was a demonstration of its violation of Article II of the NPT. Iraq's failure to apply safeguards to the nuclear material used in its nuclear weapon program constituted a violation of Article III of the Treaty. UN Security Council Resolution 707, passed August 15, 1991, concluded that Iraq's non-compliance with its safeguards obligations was a violation of its commitments as a party to the NPT. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, passed last fall -- after more than twelve years of defiance -- afforded Iraq one final opportunity to disarm or face serious consequences. The Iraqi regime failed to take advantage of this opportunity. Coalition military forces have now ended the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and will ensure Iraq's disarmament. Working with our coalition partners and others, we will support the establishment of a new Iraqi government that puts the needs of its people first, reaffirms its NPT commitments, and brings into force an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Additional Protocol.

But as we have eliminated one grave threat to international security, other dangers gather. There are other nations in the Middle East that are taking actions that violate or threaten to violate the NPT. The fact that these countries are also state sponsors of terrorism compounds our concern and makes it all the more urgent.

All of us should be deeply concerned by Iran's aggressive pursuit of a full nuclear fuel cycle capability, and its lack of transparency in doing so. The United States is very concerned that Iran may be using its "civil" energy program as a front for developing capabilities for producing nuclear weapons. The IAEA is currently investigating suspicious activities in Iran to determine whether or not Iran has committed any safeguards violations. We note that the IAEA Director General reported at the March IAEA Board of Governors meeting that there are outstanding "questions" and "actions" that the IAEA is pursuing in Iran. We look forward with great interest to a comprehensive report from the Director General at the June Board of Governors meeting.

As we now know, Iran kept secret and hidden a vast, longstanding program to build a centrifuge uranium enrichment plant and a heavy water production facility both of which can be critical to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. Iran acknowledged these facilities to the IAEA only after a public disclosure that it sought to avoid and did not intend to make on its own. In fact, Iran is the very last NPT state to agree to early declaration of its nuclear facilities, and it did so only after its new sites were publicized and after repeated delays in allowing the IAEA to visit the sites.

Iran also continues to refuse to accept the IAEA strengthened safeguards Additional Protocol, even though the IAEA Director General has repeatedly called on Iran to do so. Without this Protocol, which gives the IAEA increased access to help assure the absence of undeclared nuclear activities and facilities, Iran's claims of nuclear "transparency" are transparently false.

We are deeply concerned about what else Iran may be hiding and deeply skeptical that it could have developed a large uranium enrichment plant without conducting pilot operations that were not reported to the IAEA. The world now knows about part of the secret uranium enrichment program, but much is still hidden. The unanswered questions also include the mystery of why a country would build a heavy water production plant when its only known reactor under construction is based on light water.

Much of the logic Iran claims for its nuclear fuel cycle program does not hold up under scrutiny. Iran says it needs the capability to make its own reactor fuel because it cannot count on foreign suppliers. By its own admission, Iran does not have sufficient indigenous uranium resources to fuel even one reactor for a lifetime, not to mention the six reactors Iran says that it intends to build. Russia and Iran have already agreed that Russia will supply all the fuel for the lifetime of the Bushehr reactor -- the one reactor Iran will operate for at least the next decade. Thus, we are asked to believe that Iran seeks uranium enrichment to make fuel for reactors that do not exist with uranium that Iran does not have. If Iran obtained these reactors, the uranium it would need for them would in all likelihood have to be obtained from foreign suppliers, contradicting Iran's desire to avoid reliance on others.

Iran claims it is pursuing expensive and indigenous nuclear fuel cycle facilities to meet expanding electricity demands, while preserving oil and gas for export. Such as rationale is very difficult to believe. In light of Iran's vast oil and gas reserves, the large expenditures it would make on nuclear facilities makes no economic or energy sense.

NPT parties must look very closely at the facts. If you do, I believe you will draw the inescapable conclusion that Iran's newly revealed nuclear facilities make sense only as a means to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Because of these and other outstanding questions, my government strongly encourages Parties to support rigorous IAEA efforts to disclose the true extent of Iran's nuclear activities. The IAEA should rigorously investigate and determine whether, in fact, Iran has scrupulously adhered to its NPT-required safeguards obligations, or, as we strongly suspect, has violated both the letter and spirit of the NPT. Unless and until it is clear that Iran is verifiably meeting its NPT obligations and has satisfied all concerns about its intentions, we urge countries to refrain from nuclear cooperation with Iran.

We must be clear: any Iranian effort to turn the NPT on its head by seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability under false claims of peaceful intent would represent an unacceptable security threat to the world. The U.S. looks forward to working closely with other NPT members concerned about preserving the Treaty's credibility and meeting the challenge of Iran and any other State that may seek to undermine it.

We urge Iran to verifiably turn away from nuclear weapons and to demonstrate transparency by signing and fully implementing the IAEA Strengthened Safeguards Additional Protocol. Iran's national statement April 29th acknowledged that "more capability necessarily prompts more responsibility," but the statement was notably silent about any intention to sign the Additional Protocol.

The United States is also concerned about other NPT parties in the Middle East region. Libya must understand that acceptance by the international community means foregoing its WMD and missile programs. We have long been concerned by an ongoing pattern of Libyan procurement attempts of nuclear-related material and technology. The suspension of UN sanctions in 1999 provided Libya the means to enhance its nuclear infrastructure through foreign cooperation and procurement efforts. We urge the closest possible scrutiny by potential suppliers and the strictest possible enforcement of export controls to prevent sensitive nuclear transfers to Libya.

Statements from Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi assert that Arab countries have the right to pursue nuclear weapons as a deterrent against other weapons in the region. Such statements -- and any intentions behind them -- reflect a lack of regard for the NPT and the legal obligations that Libya has undertaken, and undermine collective efforts to prevent proliferation. No one should ignore or dismiss such statements. If it has nothing to hide, Libya, too, should sign and fully implement the Additional Protocol.

We have already learned two hard lessons about deception with Iraq and North Korea; the international community does not need any more lessons. We simply cannot allow NPT parties who are provided access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes -- benefits that are not afforded to countries outside the NPT -- to exploit that technology to violate the Treaty by pursuing clandestine nuclear weapon programs.

We encourage all NPT parties to avoid nuclear cooperation with countries whose actions call into question their NPT commitments, and to underscore the absolute importance of their adherence to their Treaty obligations.

Other U.S. actions to promote compliance with the NPT in the Middle East and elsewhere include support for strengthening of IAEA safeguards through negotiation and entry into force of the IAEA Additional Protocol, and adoption of NPT safeguards agreements. Several countries in the region still have not concluded their full-scope safeguards agreements with the IAEA required by the NPT. It is essential that each of them do so as soon as possible.

While actions to prevent proliferation of WMD and to promote compliance are essential, the single best way to rid the Middle East region of all forms of weapons of mass destruction is through the establishment of comprehensive peace. The Bush Administration is deeply committed to the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. President Bush has made clear his commitment to implementation of the road map -- the authoritative international plan for peace -- developed by the Quartet group of the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia, and delivered on April 30th -- just two days ago -- to Israel and the Palestinians. A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the new Palestinian government acts decisively against terror and builds a functioning democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary to normalize and improve the lives of Palestinians and help establish a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state. The United States is committed to working with the two parties, our Quartet partners, and others in the region and around the world in pursuit of those goals. Delegations here in Geneva have a clear choice -- they can use their words to stir or vent their emotions, they can repeat the words of the past, they can launch counterproductive efforts as if nothing has changed; or they can lend their collective voice and get behind this unprecedented important new initiative for peace, an initiative backed by the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

A true Middle East peace will not be achievable as long as states in the region fail to live up to commitments they have solemnly undertaken, including nonproliferation commitments. This is why full compliance with the NPT is of paramount importance. My government has growing concerns about noncompliance by NPT parties that bears directly on the prospects for ensuring a Middle East free of all forms of weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea

North Korea's nuclear weapon ambitions present a threat to regional and global security and an urgent challenge to the international nonproliferation regime. Not only are we dealing with a country that has repeatedly violated its international nonproliferation obligations; we also face the danger that North Korea would produce and then export fissile material or weapons to rogue states or terrorists. This is a danger that cannot be ignored. It is a danger that affects us all.

North Korea's noncompliance with its NPT obligations was first brought to light over a decade ago. Despite a good faith effort by many countries and the IAEA, North Korea has failed to take any meaningful steps toward compliance. Last year as the United States was prepared to launch a comprehensive approach that would have expanded relations between our two countries, evidence became clear that North Korea was pursuing a clandestine uranium enrichment program, as North Korea itself admitted.

North Korea's clandestine uranium enrichment program is a violation of North Korea's commitments under the 1994 U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework, its IAEA Safeguards Agreement and therefore the NPT, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Since the revelations about its uranium enrichment program, and rejecting international calls for it to reverse course, North Korea has escalated tensions in the region in an effort to pressure the international community into meeting its demands. In December, North Korea disabled IAEA seals and cameras and expelled IAEA inspectors. The next month it announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT, and restarted its 5MWe nuclear reactor.

North Korea's policy of provocation and escalation has deepened its isolation by demonstrating a complete disregard for its international commitments and the will of the world community.

While all options remain on the table, the United States has made clear repeatedly and at the highest levels that we seek a peaceful, diplomatic end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. We supported establishment of a multilateral framework within which to address how North Korea can fulfill its international obligations. We firmly believe that the issue must be addressed multilaterally with all countries concerned, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, playing a role.

Multilateral talks that China hosted in Beijing April 23-25 were useful in allowing all sides to make their views known. North Korean officials at those talks said that North Korea has nearly completed reprocessing of 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods at Yongbyon. On the margins of the talks, they told us unequivocally that they have nuclear weapons. They also said there is a way to move on and gave us a proposal. As Secretary of State Powell has said, it is a proposal that is not going to take us in the direction we need to go, but we are nevertheless studying it. The United States will not be intimidated by North Korea's claims or threats. We have made clear that we are not going to pay for the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program -- a program the North should never have begun in the first place. North Korea's statements are evidence that it continues efforts to try to intimidate -- even blackmail -- the international community into giving into North Korea's demands. These statements, and particularly the intent behind them, should be rejected in the strongest possible terms.

We continue to hope that North Korea will come to understand that resolution of the problem it created can only come about through verified elimination of its nuclear weapon program. In the meantime, we urge North Korea to refrain from further escalatory steps that will only bring more harm to its own national interests. We encourage other countries to urge North Korea to return to compliance with international nonproliferation norms, and to make clear to North Korea that its actions affect global interests. We do so in order to underscore the important point that North Korea must answer to the international community about its actions.

North Korea's actions present a serious and challenge, both to the NPT and to the broader security regime. However, we believe the security regime will weather this challenge. contravention of the NPT represents a violation norms that twice in ten years has led to strong disapproval of its nuclear program. We firmly believe it will be through the global resolve of NPT parties -- in the region and elsewhere -- that North Korea will come into compliance with NPT obligations or face serious consequences.

South Asia

Turning to South Asia, our focus there is not on compliance, as neither India nor Pakistan adheres to the NPT. And while we remain committed to universal NPT adherence, our focus in South Asia has been and remains on preventing actions that would undermine the global nonproliferation regime and regional stability -- be it through nuclear testing, deployment, nuclear use, or proliferation to other countries.

The United States has raised its concerns with Indian and Pakistan officials on many occasions. We continue to call on them to maintain their nuclear testing moratoria, to refrain from assembling or deploying nuclear weapons, to bring to an early end the production of fissile material, to bring their export control policies in line with international standards, and to take steps now to reduce regional tensions, avoid hostilities, and prevent use of nuclear weapons.


Mr. Chairman, now, more than ever before, all countries must take their obligations and commitments to the NPT seriously. We will continue to work to strengthen nonproliferation norms in South Asia, North East Asia and the Middle East. Furthermore, we will continue to support those who work for comprehensive and balanced solutions to regional nonproliferation issues. But in this critical period, as the NPT is challenged and tested, each nation needs to be a part of the solution, not the problem. All nations must act to ensure that the NPT remains strong. We pledge to do our part.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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