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

Nuclear Weapons and Rogue States: Challenge and Response

John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks to the Conference of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Fletcher Schools International Security Studies Program
Washington, DC
December 2, 2003

It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to be here at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis to discuss the risks we face from nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states, and the steps the Bush Administration is taking to deal with those threats. Progress by terrorist states towards a nuclear weapons capability, while often slow and uncertain, concealed and camouflaged, must nonetheless engage American attention in a sustained and systematic fashion. Often undertaken in conjunction with ambitious ballistic missile programs, efforts to attain nuclear weapons pose a direct and undeniable threat to the United States and its friends and allies around the world. Whether the nuclear capabilities of states like Iran, North Korea and others are threats today, or “only” threats “tomorrow,” there can be no dispute that our attention is required now before the threats become reality, and tens of thousands of innocent civilians, or more, have been vaporized.

This is not to say by any means that we should not also be gravely concerned about chemical and biological weapons programs. We are, and many of the steps that we take internationally against nuclear weapons are applicable to chemical and biological threats as well. In fact, states around the world are closely scrutinizing the way we deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and you can be sure that they will draw the appropriate conclusions about the utility of other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) based on our performance in the nuclear field.

Of course, our information about WMD programs in other countries is not perfect. No one is more aware of the uncertainties that we face than the senior American intelligence officials and policy makers who deal with these life-and-death issues. Some analysts have said that not finding WMD in Iraq -- to date -- proves that Saddam was not an imminent threat, and that our Coalition military action was therefore 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, intentions, and longstanding defiance of the international community. 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 WMD capabilities to terrorist groups or others for their use against us, with potentially catastrophic results. State sponsors of terrorism are aggressively working to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems. While Saddam's removal from power has unquestionably improved the international security situation, we face significant challenges in other parts of the world. 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. While we will pursue diplomatic solutions whenever possible, the United States and its allies are also willing to deploy more robust techniques, such as the interdiction and seizure of illicit goods. 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 discuss two problems in particular: Iran and North Korea. Although Iran has biological, chemical and missile programs, I will focus today on their nuclear weapons program, which Iran itself has acknowledged has been underway for at least eighteen years -- all in violation of Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (“NPT”). Our strategy for nearly three years has been to use bilateral and multilateral pressure to end that program, and to secure international consensus against Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. On November 26, the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution that “strongly deplores Iran’s past failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement….” There was also unanimous agreement that “should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the Board of Governors would meet immediately to consider...all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and Iran’s Safeguards Agreement.”

This decisive action followed three successive reports by the IAEA’s Director General, which established beyond doubt Iran’s multiple violations. 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 denial increasingly implausible.

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. For example, the IAEA Director General reports that Iran conducted uranium enrichment experiments with centrifuges using uranium Iran told the IAEA was “lost” due to its leaking valves. Iran conducted unreported uranium conversion experiments with uranium Iran declared to the IAEA as process loss. And Iran delayed IAEA inspectors until key facilities had been sanitized.

I repeat: The United States believes that the longstanding, 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 the "management" of spent fuel -- a euphemism for reprocessing spent fuel to recover plutonium. The 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 needs to decide over time whether Iran has come clean on this program and how to react to the large number of serious violations to which Iran has admitted. Unfortunately, Iran itself has already indicated that it has mixed feelings about its obligations to adhere to the IAEA’s resolutions. Last Saturday, Hasan Rowhani, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and the man who concluded the October deal in Tehran with the three European foreign ministers, gave Iran’s most recent interpretation of the IAEA’s actions. He said, “Our decision to suspend uranium enrichment is voluntary and temporary. Uranium enrichment is Iran’s natural right and [Iran] will reserve for itself this right....There has been and there will be no question of a permanent suspension or halt at all.” Rowhani went on to say, “We want to control the whole fuel cycle. Since we are planning to build seven nuclear fuel plants in the future, we want to provide fuel for at least one of the plants ourselves.”

The IAEA’s November 26 resolution should leave no doubt that one more transgression by Iran will mean that the IAEA is obligated to report Iran’s noncompliance to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations, in accordance with Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute. This Statute explicitly states that when non-compliance is found, the “Board shall report the non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council.” Iran’s Safeguards Agreement similarly provides that if the Board finds “the Agency is not able to verify there has been no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded,” the Board may report to the Security Council. The real issue now is whether the Board of Governors will remain together in its insistence that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is illegitimate, or whether Iranian efforts to split the Board through economic incentives and aggressive propaganda will succeed. For our part, the United States will continue its efforts to prevent the transfer of sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile technology to Iran, from whatever source, and will monitor the situation there with great care.

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 stability, and to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

We look forward to the earliest resumption of the next round of six-party talks. Secretary Powell has repeatedly emphasized a special thanks to the People’s Republic of China for the work that they have done to encourage North Korea to come to the negotiating table. At those talks, we hope to make tangible progress toward the goal of a nuclear weapons-free North Korea. We are prepared to provide a written document on security assurances to Pyongyang with other participants in the talks. Such assurances can only be provided, however, in the context of agreement and implementation of an effective verification regime that would provide assurances to us that the DPRK will not reconstitute its nuclear program. For the United States, irreversibility is a paramount goal.

We are determined that 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. Moreover, attempts to delay or postpone the six-party talks simply because one or more of the parties wishes to raise issues of vital concern should be rejected. Japan, for example, feels strongly that it should have the right at least to raise the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens over the years. For Japan, this is a fundamental issue, and Japan’s desire to raise it should be respected. Japan’s participation in the six-party process is essential. Whether North Korea yet understands these fundamental precepts of American policy remains to be seen.

As in the case of Iran, of course, the Security Council is another logical venue in which to discuss the threat to international peace and security represented by the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program. To date, China, supported by Russia, has argued that the DPRK issue is better handled in the six-party context rather than the Security Council, and we have agreed. Similarly, France, the United Kingdom and others urged recently that the case of Iran not be reported to the Security Council, and we agreed to that, too. Of course, we hope that the other four Permanent Members of the Security Council are aware of the long-term implications of these decisions, as we are. Policies intended to bring about the termination of the Iranian and DPRK nuclear weapons programs, which result in reducing the Council’s role under the Charter, would be truly unfortunate and ironic.

The Proliferation Security Initiative

To roll back the proliferation activities of rogue states and to ensure that their WMD progress is not passed on to terrorist groups or their state sponsors, the United States employs a variety of diplomatic and other methods. President Bush announced our newest and most promising effort, the Proliferation Security Initiative (“PSI”), on May 31 in Krakow, Poland. The United States and ten other close allies and friends have worked to develop this initiative, which seeks to combat proliferation by developing new means to disrupt WMD trafficking at sea, in the air, and on land. Our goal is to create a more robust approach to preventing WMD, missiles, and related technologies flowing to and from would-be proliferators.

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, we published the PSI “Statement of Interdiction Principles” and shared it with countries around the world. More than 50 countries have signaled that they support the PSI and are ready to participate in interdiction efforts.

To date, PSI participants have agreed on a series of ten sea, air, and ground interdiction training exercises. Four have already taken place, and the remaining exercises will occur in the coming months. Australia conducted the first exercise in October in the Coral Sea, involving both military and law enforcement assets. The United Kingdom then hosted the first PSI air interception training session, a table-top exercise to explore operational issues arising from intercepting proliferation traffick in the air. In mid-October, Spain hosted the second maritime exercise, this one in the western Mediterranean Sea. Finally, France recently hosted a third maritime exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. PSI nations have now trained for maritime interdictions in both the Mediterranean and the western Pacific Ocean, two areas that are particularly prone to proliferation trafficking.

The eleven original PSI participants are now involving additional countries in PSI activities. Last month, the Japanese Government hosted a meeting to inform Asian governments about PSI and encourage their cooperation in interdiction efforts. There was broad support among the governments that further efforts needed to be undertaken to stop proliferation and that they would study the PSI as a new tool for addressing nonproliferation.

Later this month, the United States will host the fifth PSI operational experts meeting, which will bring together military and law enforcement experts from the original eleven participating countries, as well as Norway, Denmark, Singapore, and Canada. Since PSI is an “activity” rather than an “organization,” the meeting will develop military and law enforcement capabilities and preparations for interdictions.

As the PSI moves forward, we expect other countries will join in training exercises to enhance global capabilities to respond quickly when governments receive intelligence on proliferation shipments. President Bush has made clear that our long-term objective is to create a web of counterproliferation partnerships through which proliferators will have difficulty carrying out their trade in WMD and missile-related technology. As the President said, “We're determined to keep the world's most destructive weapons away from all our shores, and out of the hands of our common enemies.”

Our PSI interdiction efforts rest on existing domestic and international authorities. The national legal authorities of each participant will allow us to act together in a flexible manner, ensuring actions are taken by participants with the most robust authorities in any given case. By coordinating our efforts with other countries, we draw upon an enhanced set of authorities for interdiction. At the December operational meeting, legal experts will analyze their authorities against real world scenarios and examine any gaps in authorities that can be filled either through national legislation or policy or international action. Experts also will work to enhance our ability to share information with law enforcement and military operators in a timely and effective manner, in order to allow operators to increase the number of actual interdictions.

Properly planned and executed, the interception of critical technologies can prevent hostile states and terrorists 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.

Conclusion

Our initiatives move us closer to a more secure world where we are able not only to impede 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 recently, "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, danger is present in a growing number of places, and we must be vigilant in recognizing -- and then confronting -- these emerging threats against our common security.


Released on December 2, 2003

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