Press Conference on the Proliferation Security InitiativeJohn R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
U.S. Consulate General in Krakow
May 31, 2004
[Also: Under Secretary Bolton's remarks.]
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Thank you all very much for coming. Of course we are here because this is the first anniversary of President Bush’s speech in Krakow that announced the Proliferation Security Initiative. The initiative has made great progress in the year since the President announced this idea to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and WMD-related materials in international commerce.
In another speech in February at our National Defense University the President proposed expanding the initiative to do an addition to interdiction going after manufacturing and research facilities for weapons of mass destruction, international financial flows and other aspects of the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. And tomorrow we will celebrate the first anniversary. The government of Poland hosts approximately sixty nations – six zero nations – worldwide that have announced their support for PSI. But today we had a critical elaboration of PSI, as the fourteen members of the core group confirmed that the Russian Federation would join the core group. This is a development that the United States has been working on almost since the beginning of PSI’s one-year existence. It’s a development we welcome and we look forward to active participation by Russia and PSI interdiction activities globally. The Russian Foreign Ministry has just within the past half hour, I believe, issued a statement in Moscow. I saw it on the Internet before coming over here, so some of you from the wire services, I think your colleagues in Moscow have already put it on your respective wires. The Russian delegation, in fact, participated in the core group meeting this morning at the salt mine. I won’t try and pronounce it but I’ll ask that somebody do justice to the name, but in this wonderful place where we had the meeting their delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak and by Colonel General Yuriy Baluyevskiy who is the Deputy Chairman of their Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the Polish host said this was the first underground PSI meeting. It was a wonderful idea. I’m glad I went there. But let me just return to Russia for a minute. This is a major development, a very welcome development from the perspective of the United States and all the PSI members. We expect that our intelligence-sharing and law enforcement and military assets working with the Russian Federation will make a major contribution to our effort to interdict WMD trafficking worldwide.
And I’ll just make one more point and then I’ll be happy to take questions. As I said, tomorrow the Polish government will host this first anniversary celebration with approximately sixty nations participating. You can see that we started from our original meeting of eleven countries in Madrid in June of last year and now we’re at sixty countries, which have declared their political support for PSI. Now there’s certainly considerable additional work to be done, but I think that the turnout here demonstrates the widespread acceptance of PSI and demonstrates the importance of taking robust action to cut off trade in weapons of mass destruction. And it’s a demonstration of how in just one short year PSI has become a major weapon in the struggle against WMD proliferation. So I’ll stop there and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.
QUESTION [George Jahn, Associated Press correspondent]: Can you talk about any concrete successes?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The most important concrete success was the diversion in early October of the German-owned ship, the BBC China which was carrying a shipment of uranium centrifuge equipment to Libya. It’s not related to the BBC or China. That’s just the name of the ship. Not only did that operation represent a successful interdiction, a kind of paradigm of how PSI works on a case-by-case basis, but it was also a major contributing factor in the decision of the Libyan government to give up entirely the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But I don’t disguise that there’s still a lot of preparatory work to do. One of things that PSI has focused on is the active involvement of many countries, exercises, doing air, land and sea interdictions to help establish common procedures and common command and control arrangements to facilitate actual operations when the opportunity arises. And of course because so many of PSI’s activities rely on sensitive intelligence information, which we don’t comment on publicly, there’s much that we can’t talk about. I’d be delighted to talk about it but we’re not going to.
QUESTION [Malgorzata Wosion, Polish Press Agency]: I wanted to ask. Could you explain a little what the core countries in the PSI, what they’re allowed to do, what they’re empowered to do, allowed to do that other countries aren’t currently empowered to do in questions concerning weapons of mass destruction?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, in operational terms there really isn’t any difference. What we want is to have as many countries as possible working with us operationally and sharing intelligence, in having their military and law enforcement assets work together, and in conducting interdictions or having a major deterrent effect on would-be proliferators. We have a saying about PSI. We say it’s an activity, not an organization. It’s an activity, not an organization, so it’s not like the UN Agency. And it’s really designed and would be measured by how effective it is, not in how many diplomatic meetings it holds but what it does to international trafficking and WMDs. But the core group members have demonstrated both willingness and a capacity to engage in operational activities, in addition to taking in Russia today. In Lisbon just a few weeks ago we took in Canada, Norway and Singapore, which I think, particularly with Singapore’s addition, shows the global nature of the initiative.
QUESTION: I think we’re also discussing the nuclear crisis concerning the armaments’ race in the Korea peninsula. What is this group of states thinking of doing concerning North Korea. Is there a diplomatic solution to this crisis given the current deadlock lasting months and years? And the question whether the Koreans have a nuclear capability or not.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We don’t in PSI discuss the diplomatic track to the solution of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. I think we’re all relying on the six-party talks that China has been hosting. What we talk about with respect to North Korea is its extensive history of outward proliferation activities. North Korea is one of the most extensive proliferators in the world. They’re probably the largest proliferator of ballistic missile technology and we fear that if they develop sufficient quantities of weapons grade uranium or plutonium that they, based on their history, would be prepared to sell that or actually sell weapons to other rogue states or terrorist groups. North Korea’s outward proliferation activities earn them hard currency, which in turn they use to finance their nuclear weapons program. So curtailing North Korea outward proliferation is not only positive in of itself, but it also impedes their pursuit of nuclear weapons. In addition to PSI the United States and others have engaged in extensive diplomatic activity over the past year to reduce North Korea’s sale of ballistic missile and other weapons technology. We think we’ve had some success in that regard and we think that PSI has been an important part of that.
QUESTION: My question is what kind of activity do you expect from Russia to take on? Do you also expect that the access of Russia to the initiative may cause the other countries to follow suit like China. For instance, in other countries do you expect to reach that effect? And what concrete activities do you expect of Russians to take?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well I think as a political signal Russia joining the core group of PSI is very profound. And I think its implications will reach far and wide. Since September 11 Russia and the United States have already had extensive intelligence interchanges on questions of international terrorism and I expect that we will now enhance our intelligence sharing in the area of trafficking and weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a great naval power and it has extensive land and air space that can be used for commercial activities, which we hope and expect will now be closed to proliferators.
In the immediate future we’re hoping that Russia will participate in the next meeting of what we call Operational Experts, which is basically intelligence, law enforcement and military people. It will be hosted by Norway in early August.
You know, when President Bush came into office he talked about creating a new strategic framework with Russia involving strategic offence, strategic defense and non-proliferation. In strategic offence we now have the Treaty of Moscow that will substantially reduce both country’s strategic nuclear warheads. In strategic defensive terms we have moved beyond the ABM Treaty of 1972 and in fact we’re now engaged in discussions with Poland about the possibility of basing interceptors and radars here. And on the third aspect of the new strategic framework of non-proliferation we’ve done many things, but Russia joining the PSI core group is another example of strengthening of that leg of the strategic framework between Russia and the United States. So I can go on at length.
Pursuant to the decision that President Bush and President Jiang Zemin made at the Crawford Summit we have been engaging in a strategic dialogue with China over the last two years. And we have certainly been discussing PSI activities. In fact we have had some operational cooperation with China in interdiction activities. And I expect as part of the strategic dialogue between China and the United States we will continue to discuss PSI and whether there will come a time when China’s prepared for closer cooperation is really up to them. But let me go back to the point I made before – PSI is an activity, not an organization. If China cooperates fully with us on operational matters that would suit us just fine.
QUESTION [Jacek Stawiski, Radio RFM]: I have a question for you. Would you be willing to call this PSI a new kind of alliance that replaces the present ones?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well I could say an innovative way of approaching a problem that only in recent years have we come to realize and identify fully. During the Cold War years the problem with proliferation was largely frozen and with the end of the Cold War the problem of spreading WMD technologies to rogue states has become more important. PSI is an answer to that. What is different about it is that it’s an activity, not an organization. It has no Director General, it has no Headquarters, it has no Secretariat, it has no budget. It’s a question of the participating nations cooperating in a variety of ways when the occasion arises. If you say it’s an activity, not an organization long enough all kinds of things become clear.
QUESTION: Could you clarify the difference between the core group and the others?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The core group really just began in Madrid a few weeks after President Bush’s speech in Krakow when eleven countries got together hosted by Spain and began working on what PSI would look like.
And in September in Paris, September of last year the group developed what we call the Statement of Interdiction Principles, which essentially is the document that describes what PSI would do. We’ve only added four countries to the core group since then because we think that the real test of PSI success will be the operational activities carried through working groups that we’ve established among the intelligence services and the military and law enforcement agencies. The real question is whether other countries participate in, one way or another, in interdiction activities. Some of them are prepared to have that known publicly, others are not. We respect those decisions. We just want to encourage more countries to work with us in a variety of ways to conduct interdictions and other disruptive activity.
QUESTION [Jerzy Sadecki, Rzeczpospolita Daily]: What would your assessment be of the role of and the place of Poland in the initiative? Is Poland only the venue in which it has once been declared and now it’s the follow-up meeting or Poland does something that you can evaluate for us?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well Poland has been a very active participant right from the beginning in all of the meetings of the core group, in shaping the Statement of Interdiction Principles and in the various statements that the core group has issued over the past year. Poland has also hosted one ground interdiction exercise and has participated, I believe, in almost all of the other interdiction exercises around the world. Poland has also done a number of what we call ‘outreach activities’, that is to say, working with countries that want to learn more about PSI, trying to get their interest explained, its importance and garner their support. So I would say that the government of Poland has been very cooperative, very active in the past year and it’s one reason why they will… they… based on…. The celebration that will occur tomorrow will be called the Krakow Initiative.
QUESTION [George Jahn, Associated Press]: Intelligence gathering for WMDs suffered huge setbacks. How much will you repeat the same mistakes regarding WMD proliferation worldwide?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, intelligence is a difficult business, but we’ve had some major intelligence successes in connection, for example, with the BBC China, that I mentioned before and the rolling up of AQ Khan’s black market network in nuclear proliferation activities. I think personally that all of my counterparts and other governments that deal with weapons of mass destruction issues know the inherent uncertainty of intelligence and understand that we’re doing the best we can with the information we have. And although the chattering classes may not like to hear this, the Iraq WMD issue has not adversely affected our other activities to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION [Kathy Andrusz, Bloomberg News]: I’m an English native speaker but I’m still not quite sure what you mean by "interdiction," because for me that does actually suggest a kind of prohibition that one would only have as an organization, rather than as an activity.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: If I use the word interception would that make it clearer to you? But believe me, don’t feel badly, you’ve touched on a debate that our navy has had internally for quite some time. The interdiction can take place, for example, you may remember the ‘Sans San’ interdiction of December 2002, was a ship of Scud missiles bound from North Korea to Libya. A Spanish vessel launched Spanish marines and helicopters, which landed on the deck and took the ship over. That’s one kind of interdiction. Sending the BBC China with the permission of the ship’s owner into harbor in Italy is another kind of interdiction. Stopping a ship in a harbor and not letting it leave would be another kind of interdiction. And everything you can say about doing that to ships at sea you can say about airplanes, trucks, trains and other forms of transportation.
PAO WILLIAM BELLIS: I’m afraid we’ve run out of time, but thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Okay, thank you very much for coming.