Meeting the Challenges of Weapons of Mass Destruction ProliferationRobert Joseph, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks at the University of Virginia Miller Center
December 9, 2005
(As prepared)What I would like to do this morning is give you an overview of our policy for countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including: some of the tools that we have developed; some of the results we have achieved; and the key challenges that remain. For many years, this issue was considered rather arcane, a matter left primarily to functional specialists. This is no longer the case. Today, the spread of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] by rogue states and terrorists is widely recognized as the greatest security threat that we face as a nation.
This recognition was evident in the earliest days of the Bush Administration when, in his first national address on security threats, the President emphasized that we must give the highest priority to countering WMD and missile proliferation. Given the complexity of the challenge, we began by fashioning the first truly national, comprehensive strategy for combating the threat. Within this strategy, the Administration readily acknowledged that the starting point and initial line of defense, is to prevent proliferation. As a result, we have dramatically expanded efforts to preclude the acquisition of WMD, related materials, and delivery systems.
However, we also knew that prevention will not always succeed. Therefore, we have placed new emphasis on protection from, and response to, the use of these weapons against us or our friends and allies. We are building the counterproliferation capabilities – from missile defense to detection of chemical and biological agents in the field – to deter, defend against, and defeat weapons of mass destruction in the hands of our enemies. And we are acquiring the ability to contain and reduce the potentially horrific effects if these weapons are used against us, in terms of casualties and other costs, such as from biological attacks against our population centers.
To succeed in our effort to combat WMD proliferation, we must apply all elements of national and international power – diplomatic, economic, intelligence, law enforcement, and military. I would like to take each of these tools in turn.
Diplomatic Tools: Beginning with diplomacy, the Bush Administration has given new vitality to the use of diplomatic tools to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. assistance to eliminate weapons and sensitive materials in other countries, such as through the Nunn-Lugar program, has been at record funding levels. Moreover, with the formation in 2002 of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the United States successfully called on our foreign partners to commit their fair share to the effort to meet what is a global responsibility. This little recognized partnership has added over seven billion dollars of commitments of non-U.S. funding to the goal of securing and eliminating sensitive technologies and weapons.
While the bulk of U.S. nonproliferation assistance remains focused on the states of the Former Soviet Union, we have also expanded our efforts to address proliferation threats more broadly. Landmark programs include: the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to reduce fissile and radioactive material worldwide; the Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs to install radiation detection capability at major seaports, airports and land crossings; and redirection programs in Libya and Iraq to provide alternative employment for former weapons scientists and engineers.
The United States has also spearheaded the effort for the UN Security Council to take on its responsibilities to maintain peace and security against WMD threats. A major milestone was the passage in April of last year of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. In adopting 1540, the Security Council – for only the second time since its founding – invoked its Chapter VII authorities to require nations to act against a general, as opposed to a specific, threat to international peace and security. In particular, 1540 requires all states legally to prohibit WMD proliferation activities, such as we witnessed with the A.Q. Khan one stop shopping network for nuclear weapons. It further requires that states institute effective export controls, and enhance security for nuclear materials on their territory.
The United States also has led the way to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to detect nuclear proliferation. We instituted a successful effort to increase the IAEA’s safeguards budget. We have strongly supported the IAEA Additional Protocol, to strengthen the Agency’s ability to uncover clandestine nuclear programs. The President submitted the U.S. Additional Protocol to the Senate, which gave its advice and consent to ratification last year, and called for all other countries to adhere to it as well. The President also successfully urged the creation of a new special committee of the IAEA Board of Governors to examine ways to strengthen the Agency’s safeguards and verification capabilities.
In addition to the President’s proposals to strengthen the IAEA institutionally, he challenged the international community to rectify the greatest weakness in the nuclear nonproliferation system: the ability of states to pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of peaceful energy programs. The lesson of Iran and North Korea is clear: some states will cynically manipulate the provisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to acquire sensitive technologies to enable them to pursue nuclear weapons capabilities – the very capabilities the treaty is intended to deny.
To close this loophole, the President has proposed that uranium enrichment and plutonium separation capabilities – the two primary paths to acquiring fissile material for nuclear weapons -- be limited to those states that already operate full-scale, functioning facilities. In return, he called on the world’s nuclear fuel suppliers to assure supply, in a reliable and cost effective manner, to those states which forego enrichment and reprocessing. Next week, I will meet again with other fuel provider states and with Dr. ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, to advance our work to put in place assurances that will convince states with power reactors that their best economic interest is not to invest in expensive, and proliferation risky, fuel cycle capabilities. If we can succeed, this will be a major gain for proliferation security.
Economic Tools: Economic sanctions are another valuable tool in our overall effort to combat WMD proliferation. We never take such action lightly, but we intend to fully implement existing U.S. laws. Several laws and Executive Orders provide for economic penalties against individuals and companies that proliferate WMD and missile-related equipment. Over the last decade, the United States has imposed sanctions on entities in over 20 countries. When necessary, we will also urge the United Nations Security Council to adopt and enforce sanctions in the most dangerous proliferation cases.
Adopting many of the tools developed in the war against terrorism, we are also working with our partners to cut off the financial flows that fuel proliferation. Security Council Resolution 1540 requires states to take and enforce effective controls on funds and services related to export and transshipment that would contribute to WMD programs. Consistent with 1540, in July of this year, G-8 Leaders called for enhanced efforts to combat proliferation through cooperation to identify, track and freeze financial transactions and assets associated with proliferation-related activities.
President Bush augmented U.S. efforts in this area when he issued in July a new Executive Order, which authorizes the U.S. Government to freeze assets and block transactions of entities and persons, or their supporters, engaged in proliferation activities. Currently 16 entities – 11 from North Korea, 4 from Iran, and one from Syria – have been designated under the Order, and we are actively considering additional ones.
Our efforts to combat proliferation can also be aided by other financial tools which are not specifically designed against WMD proliferation. For example, in September, the Treasury Department applied authorities under the PATRIOT Act against an Asian bank that provides financial services to North Korean illicit activities, such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking. In designating Banco Delta Asia as a "primary money laundering concern" under the PATRIOT Act, Treasury acted to protect U.S. financial institutions while warning the global community of the illicit financial threat posed by the bank.
Defensive Measures: We refer to another set of tools as "defensive measures." A key requirement of counterproliferation is to protect ourselves from WMD-armed adversaries. Combating WMD requires both offensive and defensive capabilities. To be successful, we must bring a full range of capabilities to bear. One element of the solution set is missile defense, as well as improved counterforce and passive defense capabilities, together with capabilities to eliminate adversary WMD and to manage the consequences of WMD attacks.
Still other defensive measures are dual-use. Dual-use capabilities have long been considered proliferation problems, but dual-use capabilities can also be part of the solution. For example, the same disease surveillance and medical countermeasure responses required for public health protection against infectious diseases are critical for defending against biological weapons attacks.
Perhaps one of the most important defensive measures undertaken by the Bush Administration to combat weapons of mass destruction is the Proliferation Security Initiative, which shows the close interaction among – and the creative use of – diplomatic, military, economic, law enforcement, and intelligence tools to combat proliferation. PSI countries have put all of these assets to work in a multinational, yet flexible, fashion. The participating countries are applying laws already on the books in innovative ways and cooperating as never before to interdict shipments, to disrupt proliferation networks, and to hold accountable the front companies that support them. PSI has now expanded to include support from more than 70 countries, and continues to grow. It is not a treaty-based approach, involving long, ponderous negotiations which yield results only slowly, if at all. Instead, it is an active -- and proactive -- partnership, to deter, disrupt and prevent WMD proliferation. And it is working.
Bringing It All Together – The Case of Libya
The most dramatic successes of the Bush Administration’s comprehensive approach to WMD proliferation have been the dismantlement of the A.Q. Khan network and Libya’s elimination of its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its longer range missile capabilities. Success in both of these cases required the application of a number of tools, including diplomacy, intelligence and force.
Intelligence penetration of the A.Q. Khan network gave us knowledge of the shipment of thousands of centrifuge parts bound for Libya on the ship BBC China. PSI cooperation among the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy resulted in the diversion of the ship and the seizure of its deadly cargo. Interdiction of the BBC China, followed by cooperation from the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Malaysia, Turkey and several European countries, led to the dismantlement of the Khan network and the on-going investigation, prosecution, and imprisonment of many of its leading members.
In turn, just two months after the BBC China interdiction, Libya announced its historic decision to eliminate its WMD and longer-range missile programs. Several factors were at work: the exposure and disruption of Libya’s nuclear weapons program; the potentially severe costs of proliferation, demonstrated by the resolve of the United States, the United Kingdom and our partners to counter WMD in Iraq; and the potential benefits from adhering to international nonproliferation norms.
In the months after Libya’s decision, Tripoli worked with the United States and UK to disclose fully its WMD and missile efforts, and to eliminate weapons and equipment. In return, the United States has lifted many economic and political sanctions on Libya, paving the way for benefits for the Libyan people. Libya has been established as a good model for other proliferators to follow – give up your weapons of mass destruction programs and receive the benefits of being in good-standing within the international community.
Now let me turn to three proliferation challenges.
The first is to end the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs. There should be no doubt that both countries have such programs. President Bush has made clear that, while all options remain on the table, our strong preference is to address these threats through diplomacy.
In the Six-Party Joint Statement from September, North Korea committed to abandoning all its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. This was a notable development, but we still must agree on, and implement, the detailed requirements of North Korean denuclearization and its verification. That task will certainly be difficult. Indeed, North Korea’s demand for a light water reactor – in contrast to the Joint Statement – underscores the difficulties ahead. And most recently, following a brief session of the fifth round last month, Pyongyang indicated that it may boycott further negotiations until the United States rescinds what North Korea calls "economic sanctions" against it. We have made it clear that, while we are committed to pursuing successful Six Party negotiations, we have no choice but to continue our defensive measures to ensure that we can protect ourselves from the proliferation actions of the North, as well as from its illicit activities such as money laundering or counterfeiting.
In some ways, the challenge Iran poses to the nuclear nonproliferation regime is even more daunting and complex than the North Korean threat. Although the evidence – including Iran’s 20 years of hiding sensitive nuclear fuel cycle efforts – clearly indicates a weapons program, Iran continues to argue that its work is peaceful. In September, the IAEA Board of Governors formally found Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations. This finding requires a report to the UN Security Council. The Council will not replace the IAEA effort, but reinforce it – for example, by calling on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, and giving the IAEA additional authority to investigate all Iranian weaponization efforts. We continue to work with other IAEA Board members on the timing and content of the report of Iranian noncompliance to the Security Council. We also continue to support the efforts of the United Kingdom, France and Germany – the EU-3 – to bring Iran back to the negotiations.
We are working closely with the Europeans, Russia, India, China and other countries to form an increasingly united coalition to block Iran’s efforts. At the last IAEA Board meeting, on 24 November, we decided to support the request of the EU-3 to defer again, for a short period, the report to the Council. While we believe that we had a majority of the votes, we thought it best to seek an even broader international grouping to pressure Iran to return to the negotiations on the basis of the original terms. Those terms include no uranium conversion, which is ongoing in Iran and represents a significant proliferation step on its part. We welcome Russia’s efforts to get Iran to return to negotiations, but our patience is not infinite. Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a danger to all of us.
Absent a verified change of course in Iran, including a return to negotiations and full Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, we believe that very little additional time can pass before the Board must report Iran to the Security Council, and further action must be taken.
The second challenge is to end proliferation trade by rogue states, individuals and groups. As I described, we have made progress over the last few years. We have moved from the creation of international export control standards to their active enforcement – through enhanced national legislation, PSI interdictions, international law enforcement and financial cooperation. We have shut down the world’s most dangerous proliferation network. More and more states are endorsing PSI; most recently Jordan has added its commitment to this global effort.
In October, I traveled to Central Asia to secure broader support for and participation in the PSI. Central Asian states now almost unanimously have endorsed the PSI and are prepared to take action to ensure their airspace will not be abused by proliferators. Given these states’ geographic location as a crossroads for proliferation activity, especially air traffic between North Korea and Iran, the strong stance of the Central Asian governments will further complicate the actions of the principal state proliferators.
Similarly, we are working with Singapore, Japan and Australia to broaden PSI participation in Asia. These PSI participants not only understand the global dangers posed by proliferation, but fully grasp the need to participate in PSI for their own national and economic security.
We have had considerable success in PSI, steadily reducing the opportunities available to proliferators. But we must continue to expand and deepen our efforts – using all available national and international authorities and, where necessary, creating new ones until the proliferation trade has been effectively ended.
The final challenge that I would mention is the need to prevent terrorist acquisition and use of WMD, and especially of biological and nuclear weapons. If terrorists acquire these weapons, they are likely to employ them, with potentially catastrophic effects. A well-organized terrorist group with appropriate technical expertise could probably create a crude nuclear device once it gained access to fissile material. On the biological weapons side, with today’s dual-use capabilities and access to particular pathogens, some of which occur naturally, the bioterror challenge presents a low-cost means of a potentially high-impact attack.
Many of the tools we have in place to combat proliferation by rogue states are relevant against WMD terrorism. A few examples are reducing the global stocks of fissile material and securing those which remain; improved nuclear and biological detection capability; and the interdiction of illicit traffic in nuclear and biological materials. A key difference, however, is one of scale. We cannot rest as long as enough material for even one nuclear weapon remains unsecured.
While many of the tools are the same, preventing WMD terrorism requires different approaches from those we have followed against state WMD programs or against conventional or non-WMD-related terrorism. Intelligence collection and action against the two have in the past been quite different, with anti-terrorist intelligence focused on individuals and groups, and anti-WMD intelligence focused on state-based programs. We are working hard to close any gaps in our intelligence collection, analysis and action on WMD terrorism.
As with countering state programs, we also require sustained strategic approaches – national, multilateral, and global – to combat WMD terrorism. We will work with our international partners to harness all relevant collective resources to establish more coordinated and effective capabilities to prevent, protect against, and respond to the global threat of WMD terrorism.
Let me conclude by noting that the strategic approach to combat WMD proliferation which the President laid out over four years ago continues to provide a guide to action against this paramount threat. Our strategy, and the new measures we have adopted to implement it, is flexible and dynamic, suited to the changing nature of the proliferation threat. We have accomplished much, but much work remains.
Released on December 9, 2005