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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2003

The Continuing Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction

John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks at the American Spectator Dinner
Washington, DC
November 12, 2003

It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to be here at the American Spectator dinner to discuss the steps the Bush Administration is taking to keep our country and our friends and allies safe from the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Without question, today’s greatest threat to international peace and stability comes from rogue states and terrorist groups that are unrestrained in their choice of weapon and undeterred by conventional means.

Until our Coalition took action last spring, the world faced a serious security threat with Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq. Here was a dictator who, while defying 17 Security Council resolutions, had ambitions to reconstitute his weapons arsenal, had obstructed and deceived international inspectors for twelve years, had used weapons of mass destruction (“WMD”) against his own people, had twice invaded neighboring countries, and who had supported, and in some cases even harbored, terrorist groups. The interim report of the Iraq Survey Group shows that, as we suspected, Saddam never disarmed or disclosed as required. Dr. David Kay reports, for instance, that through interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials, the Group discovered "dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002."

Had we not eliminated Saddam's regime, he would have remained, as Condoleezza Rice said last month, "poised in the heart of the Middle East, sitting atop a potentially deadly arsenal of terrible weapons, threatening his neighbors and the world." Some analysts have said that not finding WMD in Iraq -- to date -- proves that Saddam was not an imminent threat, and that, therefore, our Coalition military action was not justified. These criticisms miss the mark that our concern was not the imminence of Saddam’s threat, but the very existence of his regime, given its heinous and undeniable record, capabilities and intentions. President Bush specifically and unambiguously addressed this issue in his January 2003, State of the Union message when he said: “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”

Given the right opportunity or incentive, Saddam could have easily transferred these weapons to terrorist groups or other non-state actors for their use against us, with potentially catastrophic results. For such terrorist groups, a weapon of mass destruction is increasingly a weapon of first, not last, resort, which they seek to acquire any way they can. State sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya, are aggressively working to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems. Here lies a dangerous confluence of nefarious motives, and we must prevent the one from abetting the other. As President Bush told the United Nations in September, "Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons -- and the means to deliver them -- would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions. These weapons could be used by terrorists to bring sudden disaster and suffering on a scale we can scarcely imagine. The deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away."

Saddam's removal from power has unquestionably improved the international security situation. But we face significant challenges in other parts of the world from terrorist-sponsoring regimes that are developing weapons of mass destruction in many forms. Rogue states such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Cuba, whose pursuit of weapons of mass destruction makes them hostile to U.S. interests, will learn that their covert programs will not escape either detection or consequences. And while we will pursue diplomatic solutions whenever possible, the United States and its allies must be willing to deploy more robust techniques, such as the interdiction and seizure of illicit goods, the disruption of procurement networks, sanctions, or other means. If rogue states are not willing to follow the logic of nonproliferation norms, they must be prepared to face the logic of adverse consequences. It is why we repeatedly caution that no option is off the table.

Iran

Let me turn to the problem of Iran. Although Iran has robust BW, CW, and missile programs, tonight I will focus on their nuclear weapons program. Our strategy is to use bilateral and multilateral pressure to end that program, and to secure international consensus against Iran's pursuit of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. To date, three reports by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) have established that Iran is in violation -- in multiple instances -- of its safeguards obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). While Iran has consistently denied any program to develop nuclear weapons, the IAEA has amassed an enormous amount of evidence to the contrary that makes this assertion increasingly implausible.

On Monday, the IAEA Director General issued the Agency’s most recent report on Iran’s nuclear program. After extensive documentation of Iran’s denials and deceptions over an eighteen-year period, and a long litany of serious violations of Iran’s commitments to the IAEA, the report nonetheless concluded that “no evidence” had been found of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. I must say that the report’s assertion is simply impossible to believe. This is not only the Administration’s view. Thomas Cochran, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the New York Times that “it’s dumbfounding that the IAEA, after saying that Iran for 18 years had a secret effort to enrich uranium and separate plutonium, would turn around and say there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. If that’s not evidence, I don’t know what is.” Gary Samore, a former Clinton administration official now with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London told the London Telegraph that “this is unquestionably a bomb program.”

In what can only be an attempt to build a capacity to develop nuclear materials for nuclear weapons, Iran has enriched uranium with both centrifuges and lasers, and produced and reprocessed plutonium. It attempted to cover its tracks by repeatedly and over many years neglecting to report its activities, and in many instances providing false declarations to the IAEA.

I repeat: The United States believes that the massive and covert Iranian effort to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities make sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program. Iran is trying to legitimize as "peaceful and transparent" its pursuit of nuclear fuel cycle capabilities that would give it the ability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. This includes uranium mining and extraction, uranium conversion and enrichment, reactor fuel fabrication, heavy water production, a heavy water reactor well-suited for plutonium production, and "management" of spent fuel -- a euphemism for reprocessing spent fuel to recover plutonium. The recent IAEA Director General’s report confirms that Iran has been engaged in all of these activities over many years, and that it deliberately and repeatedly lied to the IAEA about it.

The international community now has to determine whether Iran has come clean on this program and how to react to the large number of serious violations to which Iran has admitted. If Iran takes all the steps called for in the September 12 resolution, that would represent a major advance toward its integration into civilized society. If it is continuing to conceal its nuclear program and has again lied to the IAEA, the international community must be prepared to declare Iran in noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards obligations.

North Korea

With regard to North Korea, President Bush’s objective is quite clear: the United States seeks the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs. We seek to bring this about, as we have said repeatedly, through diplomatic dialogue in a multilateral framework involving those states with the most direct stakes in the outcome. Other states may yet be involved as appropriate. The North Korean nuclear program is not a bilateral issue between the United States and the DPRK. It is a profound challenge to regional and even global stability, and to the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

By pursuing this course, the President is determined that blackmail and bad behavior on the part of North Korea will not be rewarded. North Korea will not be given inducements to reverse actions it took in violation of its treaty commitments and other international obligations.

During the August six-party talks in Beijing, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea emphasized that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons. North Korea further isolated itself by threatening provocative actions such as nuclear tests -- adding to threats it made in April that it might build more nuclear weapons and perhaps even transfer nuclear material or weapons to third parties.

We should not forget, however, that -- like Iran -- North Korea's violations of international norms are hardly restricted to its pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Although the DPRK has maintained its September, 1999, self-imposed, long-range missile flight test moratorium, it has remained active in the research, development, testing, deployment, and export of ballistic missiles and related materials, equipment, and technology. During a September 2002, meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, DPRK President Kim Jong-il stated that North Korea would maintain its missile flight test moratorium through 2003. We are concerned, however, that North Korea may be trying to circumvent its promise by cooperating in testing and development with foreign missile programs.

North Korea probably continued a biological warfare capabilities effort that began in the 1960s. Pyongyang's resources include a rudimentary biotechnical infrastructure that could support the production of infectious biological warfare agents such as anthrax, cholera, and plague. North Korea is believed to possess a munitions-production infrastructure that would allow it to weaponize biological agents, and may have biological weapons available for use.

North Korea's chemical weapons capabilities include the ability to produce bulk quantities of nerve, blister, choking, and blood agents using its sizeable, although aging, chemical industry. We believe it possesses a sizeable stockpile of these agents and weapons, which it could employ should there be renewed fighting on the Korean peninsula.

Syria

As I have recently testified to Congress, we are concerned about Syria's nuclear research and development program and continue to watch for any signs of nuclear weapons activity or foreign assistance that could facilitate a Syrian nuclear weapons capability. We are aware of Syrian efforts to acquire dual-use technologies that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program. In addition, Russia and Syria have approved a draft program on cooperation on civil nuclear power. Broader access to Russian expertise could provide opportunities for Syria to expand its indigenous capabilities, should it decide to pursue nuclear weapons.

Since the 1970s, Syria has pursued what is now one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin that can be delivered by aircraft or ballistic missiles, and has engaged in the research and development of more toxic and persistent nerve agents such as VX. We believe that Syria is continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability as well.

In addition, Syria's failure to secure its border with Iraq to guerrillas and terrorists poses a continuing threat to Coalition forces in Iraq. We have seen Syria take a series of hostile actions toward Coalition forces, such as allowing dual-use and military equipment to flow into Iraq on the eve of and during the war. Syria permitted volunteers to pass into Iraq, volunteers who sought to attack and kill our service members during the war. Although the situation on the Syrian border has improved somewhat in recent weeks, the infiltration of these fighters into Iraq continues to be a significant problem for us, and we call on Syria to stop such traffic from moving across its borders. The message that the Bush Administration and the Congress are sending is clear: Syria must immediately change course and change its behavior on all of these fronts, or face the consequences.

New Initiatives

To roll back the proliferation activities of the rogue states, and to ensure that any of their WMD progress is not passed on to terrorist groups, the United States is employing a variety of methods, including multilateral agreements, diplomacy, arms control, threat reduction assistance, export control aid, and other means where necessary. Most importantly, we and our partners in the international community must maintain an unvarnished assessment of the proliferators, and disrupt their supply of sensitive goods and technology before it contributes to an increased WMD capability or falls into the hands of terrorists.

In situations where we cannot convince a state to stop proliferant behavior, or where items are shipped despite our best efforts to control them, we also have the option of interdicting shipments to ensure the technology does not fall in to the wrong hands. These interdiction efforts are an important addition to our comprehensive strategy to prevent proliferation.

Proliferation Security Initiative

One of our newest and most promising nonproliferation initiatives, the Proliferation Security Initiative (“PSI”), was announced by President Bush on May 31. An essential component of the U.S. strategy to combat proliferation is to work with other concerned states to develop new means to disrupt the proliferation trade at sea, in the air, and on land. In this context, the United States and ten other close allies and friends -- Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the UK -- have worked to develop this new initiative. Our goal is to create a more dynamic, creative, and robust approach to preventing WMD, missiles, and related technologies flowing to and from countries of proliferation concern.

The PSI has been a fast-moving effort, reflecting the urgency attached to establishing a more coordinated and active basis to prevent proliferation. On September 4, after just three months, agreement on and publication of the PSI "Statement of Interdiction Principles" was achieved. The Statement of Interdiction Principles has been shared with countries around the world, with more than 50 countries already indicating they support the PSI and are ready to participate in interdiction efforts. We are moving to establish the practical basis for cooperating on interdictions with such countries.

It is important to note that our interdiction efforts in PSI are grounded in existing domestic and international authorities. By coordinating our efforts with other countries, we can draw upon an enhanced set of authorities for interdiction; that is, the sum of our efforts may be more effective than taking action individually.

Properly planned and executed, the interception of critical technologies while en route can prevent hostile states and non-state actors from acquiring these dangerous capabilities. At a minimum, interdiction can lengthen the time that proliferators will need to acquire new weapons capabilities, increase their cost, and demonstrate our resolve to combat proliferation.

G-8 Global Partnership

The G-8 Global Partnership Initiative, launched by G-8 Leaders at the June 2002, Kananaskis Summit, is also an important nonproliferation achievement of this administration. The goal of the Global Partnership Initiative is to raise up to $20 billion over ten years for nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear safety cooperation projects to prevent the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction.

President Bush is committed to raising half of this total. Counting the U.S. contribution, the G-7 countries have pledged a little over $16 billion to date, and Russia intends to spend about $2 billion on its priority projects. We hope to see the remaining gap closed by the next G-8 Summit. The G-8 welcomed the participation of six additional countries -- Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland -- this past summer. The initial focus has been on projects in Russia, but we expect the Partnership to recognize additional states of the former Soviet Union as recipients in the coming year, beginning with Ukraine.

Conclusion

These initiatives move us closer to a more secure world where we are able not only to prevent the spread of WMD, but also to "roll back" and ultimately eliminate such weapons from the arsenals of rogue states and ensure that the terrorist groups they sponsor do not acquire a shortcut to their deadly designs against us. As President Bush said last month, "After all the action we have taken, after all the progress we have made against terror, there is a temptation to think the danger has passed. The danger hasn't passed.... America must not forget the lessons of September 11th." Indeed, that danger is present in a growing number of places, and we must be vigilant in recognizing -- and then confronting -- the emerging threats against our common security.



Released on November 13, 2003

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