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U.S. Nonproliferation Policy After Iraq: Toward Enforceable Rules

Testimony of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center executive director, Henry Sokolski, presented before The House International Relations Committee.

Jun 04, 2003
AUTHOR: Henry Sokolski
US Nonproliferation Policy After Iraq-Toward Enforceable Rules (PDF) 14.55 KB

U.S. Nonproliferation Policy After Iraq: Toward Enforceable Rules

Testimony of
Henry Sokolski
Presented before
The House International Relations Committee

June 4, 2003

Mr. Chairman I want to thank you and your committee for allowing me to speak today on U.S. nonproliferation policy. My general message is this: Against the world's Irans and North Koreas, we will not only have to develop sound country-specific strategies - such as cutting off the North Korean military's access to illicit flows of hard currency and building regional security arrangements to hedge against Tehran going nuclear -- but new, enforceable rules and policies that will apply more generally.

What new rules are needed most? Ones to fill disturbing gaps in our current nuclear nonproliferation regime. North Korea recently has threatened to export its nuclear arms. Yet, because Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it is now free to export its nuclear capabilities legally. If North Korea or Pakistan redeployed some of their weapons to another NPT member's soil and claimed these weapons were still under their control, the NPT recipient -- Libya or Saudi Arabia -- could even take delivery (just as Germany did from the U.S.), without violating any rules.

Yet another disturbing gap is how far the NPT allows nations to get in acquiring nuclear weapons. A recent study by my center estimates that in about three more years Iran will have all the peaceful nuclear facilities it needs to breakout with scores of nuclear arms in a matter of weeks. Iran acquired most of its nuclear capabilities covertly, and, yet, was able to do so, for the most part, without violating the NPT. Now, other nations, like Syria and Egypt, see Iran as a possible model for acquiring a nuclear option of their own. Also, any nation, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, Iraq or Iran, can still covertly export the key items needed to make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, without violating any international law.

Closing these loopholes country by country, is all but impractical. Determined proliferators, moreover, rarely agree to restraints or will cheat. That's why an enforceable international usage against them needs to be created like that we already have against piracy and slave trading. In specific, any nation's attempt to redeploy chemical, nuclear or biological warheads outside their borders or to ship the key means to make them without prior public announcement should be deprived the protection of international law - i.e., violators should be subject to arrest and their cargoes seized.

We have already done much of the groundwork to put such rules in play. The key means to make weapons of mass destruction are already listed and internationally recognized. The International Atomic Energy Agency has a list of special nuclear materials. The Australia Group lists a Schedule One of key chemical and biological weapons related items, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group lists critical dual-use nuclear gear. In addition, U.S. law already requires American businesses to preannounce their exports publicly. Several other friendly nations have similar laws. These advances should help in creating the international common usage we need. How?

The most direct way is to first work with our friends. Without delay, we should encourage as many nations as possible to give prior public notification of the selected exports noted above. The U.S. or a like-minded nation should also present the ground rules I have just laid out before the U.N. Security Council. As this is done, it should be made clear that if any nation learns of an exporter violating the proposed rules, they should block him or pass the information on to nations that can.

What other country-neutral rules or approaches are needed right away? Three come to mind. First, the U.S. and its friends should make it clear that nations that gain nuclear technology for peaceful purposes on the pretext of abiding by the NPT should have to pay a price if they withdraw and don't give up the nuclear largesse that they gained. This is immediately relevant to North Korea and Iran and, in the longer term, to their possible imitators.

Second, and related, the U.S. and its friends need to show more self-restraint in the nuclear aid they give. We can hardly complain about Iran's power reactors, if we continue to do nothing to block construction of nearly identical machines for a NPT violator who has withdrawn from the treaty, North Korea. Nor does it make sense as our Department of Energy has proposed, to share breeder reactor and fuel recycling technology - all useful to master weapons plutonium production -- with states that only recently renounced their own nuclear weapons programs.

Finally, when it comes to producing and using nuclear weapons usable materials in civilian reactors, the U.S. and its friends are about to take a wrong turn. I am speaking here of proposed fabrication disposal of nearly 17,000 bombs worth of US and Russian weapons-grade plutonium as fuel for civilian power reactors. Certainly, if, we begin building the multi-billion dollar fuel fabrication plants here and in Russia, the critical nuclear nonproliferation restraints promoted by President Ford will be jeopardized. Global commercial use of hundreds of tons of already separated plutonium and nuclear weapons grade uranium - almost impossible to keep track of and a gift to terrorists and proliferators alike -- is likely to follow.

Of course, there are other general approaches we and our European and Asian allies should be taking nuclear proliferation and against Iran and North Korea, which I will be happy to discuss during the question and answer period.

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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