16 April 2002
U.S. Warns of Nations Seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction
(State official cites cooperation of states seeking WMD) (4630)
A real axis of evil exists among states that are trying to acquire or
develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver
them, according to a senior State Department official.
"The phenomenon is real," said John Wolf, assistant secretary of state
for non-proliferation, at a Washington Foreign Press Center briefing
April 16. "There is an intense sort of cooperation that goes on among
countries that are trying to acquire such weapons."
North Korea is prepared to sell missiles to any country, he said,
while Iran is developing its programs with help from North Korea,
Russia and China. Iraq, meanwhile, is actively trying to reconstitute
its WMD program in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions, he
Even more worrisome for Wolf is the fact that countries that had
clandestine programs to acquire or develop WMD and ballistic missile
programs are now also exporting those products and technologies,
"which makes the risk that much greater," he said.
Wolf cited some aspects of progress against such threats: the
cooperative programs developed over the past decade with Russia to
safeguard fissile materials and alternative employment programs for
Russian scientists with expertise in chemical or biological weapons
production. He also noted the differences between America and Russia
over Russian entities providing assistance to Iran's nuclear and
missile programs, but expressed hope that progress could be made even
before the mid-May bilateral summit.
The State official mentioned the need for Europe and Japan to increase
funding for Russia's and other ex-Soviet Union states'
non-proliferation programs. And he discussed the need for Japan to
boost its assistance to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which
he called "the critical front line of the international community in
terms of ferreting out clandestine nuclear programs."
Wolf discussed India's and Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs as an
important issue for Central Asia, and the need for both countries to
find confidence-building measures that could reduce the risk of a
nuclear exchange between them.
He also discussed the gap between China's stated policies on
preventing proliferation of WMD technologies and that nations' current
lack of an effective control regime. "[T]he words point in the right
direction, but the actions are not yet there," Wolf said.
Following is a transcript of Wolf's briefing:
JOHN S. WOLF
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NONPROLIFERATION ISSUES
THE FOREIGN PRESS CENTER
APRIL 16, 2002
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHN WOLF: Thank you. Thank you for coming -- what
I hear is very early for the press corps. But I thought I'd make a few
remarks about what we're trying to do in the nonproliferation area,
and to frame our discussion.
I think a lot has been done in the past few years, but in the wake of
September 11th, I think there has been much greater public awareness
of the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose, not only in the
hands of states that are seeking to acquire these capabilities, but
also the risk that weapons of mass destruction could pass into the
hands of terrorists. And we have all seen -- we all worry about the
implications of that. The discovery effort that has taken place in
Afghanistan indicates, for instance, how clearly that al-Qaida was
intent upon acquiring weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
Now why are we concerned? Well, the spread of such weapons and their
delivery capabilities contributes to insecurity -- insecurity in
regions. It spreads uncertainty and instability. That's certainly true
whether it is in the Middle East and the areas adjacent, or whether
it's in South Asia or in East Asia. Weapons of mass destruction,
missiles also constitute a clear and direct threat to U.S. forces that
are deployed around the world, as well as a threat to our allies
around the world and to our friends.
Now President Bush has spoken and spoke in the State of the Union
address about the "axis of evil," and I know that there's been an
intense effort -- there was an intense effort for weeks afterwards to
try to parse those phrases, dissect the terms. It talked about a
phenomenon. The phenomenon is real. There is an intense sort of
cooperation that goes on among countries that are trying to acquire
such weapons. North Korea is prepared to sell missiles to any country
that has money to buy. Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction
and missiles with help from North Korea, from Russia, from China. Iraq
is clandestinely diverting or smuggling in components that are helping
it to reconstitute its weapons capabilities and its missile
capabilities, all of which would be in defiance of [U.N. Security
Council] Resolution 687, passed 11 years ago, and successor
resolutions of the United Nations.
And it's not just those three. It's not just North Korea or Iran or
Iraq. There are other countries that are in the same position. And the
worrisome part of the phenomenon is that countries which
clandestinely, covertly were trying to develop weapons of mass
destruction and importing technology and components are now also, --
many of them -- exporting, which makes the risk that much greater.
We and our friends need to act together. I think a myth has grown up
over the last two years that somehow this administration is a
unilateralist administration. The facts in the nonproliferation area
belie that. The Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] remains a bedrock of
our nonproliferation policy. We want much more active enforcement of
the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
We are working in a whole host of multilateral export control regimes.
We look for early signature of an international code of conduct to
create an international consensus against the spread of ballistic
missiles. We are working bilaterally with our friends to try to halt
the spread of technologies and components that would aid the
development of weapons of mass destruction.
But we are prepared to act unilaterally where our own interests are
directly threatened. Let me just mention some of the things that we
work on, and some of the areas where we have concerns. Certainly one
of our largest efforts in the nonproliferation area is to work with
Russia, and we have been for over a decade, to secure Russian fissile
materials -- plutonium, highly enriched uranium. We do that through a
variety of programs in the Department of Energy, the Department of
Defense. We're working to engage Russian scientists in productive work
and to redirect them away from BW [biological weapons] or CW [chemical
weapons] research and development, and give them alternatives to the
effort that are made by countries like Iran to entice them to help
support their own weapons development.
We have an active dialogue with Russia about the technical assistance
that Russian entities provide -- Russian individuals and entities
provide -- to Iran for Iran's efforts to develop weapons of mass
destruction. It's simply not consistent with the kind of broad new
relationship that President Bush and President Putin laid out, and we
think it's important that the help that Russians give to Iran's
nuclear efforts and its missile efforts, as well as the sale of
advanced conventional weapons, it's important that that stop.
We are working actively in the [U.N.] Security Council to develop a
new export control system for Iraq.
This has been a major effort, and that -- we hope that we will see
this new export control system put into place as -- we hope that the
Security Council will vote to put it in place this month, and that it
will take effect in June. We strongly support the return of U.N.
weapons inspectors. We're working, as I say, in a variety of export
control -- for [the] Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia
Group on biological and chemical weapons, the Nuclear Suppliers Group
to expand the scope of their efforts and to make sure that dual-use
technologies, which have many legitimate purposes, are used for those
legitimate purposes, and not used to help expand clandestine weapons
of mass destruction programs around the world.
We're working actively with friends in Central Asia to tighten export
controls, and in fact, our export-control program works around the
world. We are actively engaged with discussions on the risks that the
nuclear-weapons programs of Pakistan and India pose to stability in
South Asia. It's an important issue. We stay engaged. The fact that we
lifted sanctions last fall doesn't mean that nonproliferation is not
an issue for us, is no longer an issue for us. It remains an issue not
only in terms of South Asia, but the risks of those various
technologies -- not just nuclear -- escaping from -- being
clandestinely exported from South Asia. This would be true for both
Pakistan and for India.
We work, as I say, closely with our friends and allies. And in fact,
we have active discussions with Europe and with Japan on the need to
expand the work we do together on nonproliferation. The United States
has spent over $6 billion in the last 10 or 11 years, working with the
countries of the former Soviet Union. That is magnitudes larger than
the European and Japanese contribution, and we think it's important
that all of us increase our efforts. We, for one, are doing that in
fiscal year 2003. The president's budget includes nearly $1.3 billion
for funding for nonproliferation programs in Russia and the former
The president said on March 11th that every nation in our coalition
must take seriously the risks of terrorists armed with biological,
chemical or nuclear weapons. He said we will act with due deliberation
in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He said
inaction is not an option.
So that's what we do. It's a huge task but very important to proceed.
We've made progress. There's more that we have to do. I'd be glad to
answer your questions.
QUESTION: It is not clear to me how you view the nuclear issue in
South Asia. I was under the impression that after September 1 (sic),
India, as an ally, assuredly the world's largest democracy -- the
populace now at a billion -- needs all the modern weapons, just like
the U.S. or Britain or France or any of them. And secondly, what,
exactly, are you suggesting with respect to the part of India in South
Asia? It's not very clear to me.
Also, India has said from the beginning that it is for the complete
dissection of all the nuclear weapons, where the nuclear posture
statement of the United States appears to clear the groundwork for
expanding nuclear weapons in the tactical field and use them even
against Third World countries.
WOLF: We consider -- I consider -- I think that the situation in South
Asia remains still one that is very worrisome. Two countries engaged
-- are facing each other across the Line of Control and the
international border, with nearly a million troops. Yes, the tensions
have reduced, but the fact is that both countries are armed with
nuclear weapons and missiles, and that is -- and that is of concern.
Hopefully, as the tensions ease, both countries will look at this
crisis and look at ways to -- to adopt the kinds of
confidence-building measures that would reduce the risks of a nuclear
exchange in South Asia. I'm not saying that that's where things are
going, but there is the risk. These are new capabilities. The doctrine
is still to be well-defined, and I think it's important that both
countries, separately and together, over time find ways to reduce the
risks of accidental warfare.
Proliferation: the risks of proliferation from South Asia are real. I
think both Pakistan and India need to take -- to pay continuing close
attention to the risks that individuals may seek to exploit -- export
controls that are not -- are not sufficient for the task. It's not to
say that export controls in South Asia or in Russia or in China are
weak, and export controls here in the United States are strong. We
have our own problems here. But we work very actively at trying to
enforce our export controls. When we -- we look for -- we look for
people who are violating them; when we find them, we try them. If we
-- if they're found guilty, we punish them. It's important that the
message in the marketplace, wherever -- whether it's in South Asia or
in Europe or in East Asia -- it's important that the message in the
marketplace be that governments will not tolerate exceptions to their
export controls. Governments need to band together to stop the threat
that individuals will always pose. So it's a question of constant
vigilance. Not -- you know, it's not by way of an accusation; it's
simply a fact of life that there are lots of people out there who are
trying to make a fast buck.
There are lots of people out there who are prepared to export
technologies or to provide technical assistance, and governments need
to find them, and they need to stop it, because failure to arrest --
and I use that word advisedly -- failure to arrest those tendencies
allows technologies to escape to countries that pose real risks to
regional stability, pose real risks that the technologies could
migrate to terrorists, and real risks that such weapons -- that
weapons that might be developed from those technologies will be used
somewhere around the world. And so it's an everyday vigil.
Q: Sir, I have an impression that -- excuse me. How successful
Russian-American talks on nonproliferation are? When talking
specifically about Iran, I have an impression that both sides simply
keep on saying that -- well, you say that obviously there are leaks
from some Russian entities of these products and technology to Iran,
and the Russian side simply denies it. Is -- I mean, are you heading
anywhere in these talks? Do they know --
A: Well, in general -- on the general question, I think we have
addressed a number of issues together. As I say, we have had very
successful cooperation over more than a decade, in terms of improving
the security that Russia attaches to its own fissile materials, in
terms of working with scientists -- BW and CW scientists, through the
Science Center in Moscow. There are a variety of efforts that we're
doing on plutonium disposition, on ending the production of new
plutonium and plutonium production reactors. The work that we have
done together -- the discussion that we've had together, for instance,
over the last five months on a new export control regime system for
Iraq, to ensure that goods can go to Iraq's civilian economy, but the
dual-use items that Iraq would seek to acquire to expand its weapons
of mass destruction -- that those are controlled and stopped. So, in
general, we have a very good discussion.
On the question of Iran specifically, there does seem to be a
difference. I would note that there appear to be a number of
individuals in at least one area that are now under investigation.
That's a good sign, because it shows that Russian investigative
agencies are getting out there and looking for problems. You can't
find problems if you don't look for them. When you find them, though,
you have to be -- one has to be rigorous in terms of developing the
case, taking the case to trial, and punishing the individual. It is
not enough to slap a proliferator on the wrist; you need to slap him
And it would be difficult to believe, based on our own experience,
that Russian controls are so effective that there are no individuals
or entities that are clandestinely providing assistance, for instance,
to Iran in the nuclear area or in the missile area. It would be
difficult to believe. There are Americans who do it. We catch them; we
punish them. So for Russia to simply say there is -- that nothing
happens is not sufficient. For Russia to say, "Well, give us the
evidence and we will act" really begs the question. The question is
using Russia's own investigative agencies to find the problems -- and
they are real -- and to stop them. And that's real, and the need is
real if our bilateral relationship, the confidence in our bilateral
relationship is going to continue to grow.
And I think we've had good discussions. There's more to go. But I
think it's an important issue, and one where we hope we can make
progress in the weeks ahead, even before the summit meeting in
Q: Can you tell me, please, when there will be the -- when and where
will be the next round of these talks? You'll go to Moscow, or you
expect Russians here? Thank you.
A: We discuss it very regularly at a variety of levels, both
Undersecretary Bolton and I, but [also] people from the Defense
Department. So, whenever there is an opportunity, the issue tends to
Q: What do you think is the likelihood of China signing on to the 2000
agreement you were speaking to them about? And would it be fair to say
that the issue of arms sales to Taiwan was played down at a recent
conference between the U.S. and China? And if so, why do you think
this was the case? Because I know that in the past, China has said
that arms sales to Taiwan are a kind of proliferation. Thank you.
A: We have had at least five or six rounds of discussions with Chinese
officials since last summer on restoring the November 2000 agreement
on missile -- on holding the spread of missile technology. The issues
that need to be addressed, I think, are very clear to Chinese
officials, and the issues are very important.
China has said that its policy is one of not allowing proliferation of
missile technology capable of supporting rockets that can go further
than 300 kilometers, or carry a payload more than 500 kilograms, or
actually capable of carrying a nuclear device. And we think it's
important that China put in place the export controls that will
achieve that, and then rigorously enforce those controls across -- all
across the Chinese marketplace.
So we -- the discussions continue, but actions are what are necessary,
not talk. And the actions would be issuance of the export controls,
and then firm implementation, firm use of that to cut off the kinds of
efforts which undercut that commitment not to export missile
technology -- missile-related technology.
Q: And Taiwan?
A: It hasn't been a subject that I've been discussing.
MODERATOR: Is there more up front here? In the back?
Q: I'd like to follow up on what [the previous questioner] asked. Did
China promise to you that they would tighten the control of export in
terms of WMD themselves? If so, is it possible that the United States
would sign on any agreement with China by the time when Vice President
Hu Jintao comes to Washington? That's my first question. My second
question is: Could you kindly elaborate on the cooperation of Japan in
nonproliferation of WMD and missiles?
A: I think the point for China is that it has stated, as its policy,
that it does not condone and it will not support proliferation of
missile technology -- missile technology, nuclear technology, chemical
and biological technology. It states that as a matter of state -- it
expresses that as a matter of state policy. And we welcome that,
because they're not doing a favor to us; they're defining their
national interests. And they, like many others, make the point that it
is not in China's interest to have countries acquiring weapons of mass
destruction and the means to deliver them. And we applaud that stance.
The key is, and they have said that they are on their own developing
improved controls in the nuclear area, chemical-biological area and
the missile technology area. We welcome that. It's important to get
those laws and those regulations in place. And it is important for
them then to rigorously enforce their laws. It's all the worse to have
laws on the books and have people who violate the laws freely. So we
will see where those discussions go.
We can't force the pace. It's for China to determine when it does what
it chooses to do. They have told us that they intend to tighten up
their controls in the four areas. We look forward to seeing that in
the marketplace. More importantly, we look forward to seeing how those
new export controls are implemented.
It is important, as we work together on our broad relationship -- this
is an important issue where we still have differences -- to carry the
broad relationship forward that President Bush and President Ziang
have talked about. We need to deal with some of the overhang that's
still there, and we're not yet in perfect harmony on the questions of
nonproliferation. The discussions -- the words point in the right
direction, but the actions are not yet there.
On the question of Japan, Japan participates actively in many of the
-- in all of the multilateral export control regimes: NPT, you know,
in the IAEA. I guess I would say that especially there, I didn't say,
but one of our goals in this administration is to strengthen the IAEA.
It is the critical front line of the international community in terms
of ferreting out clandestine nuclear programs. For countries -- and it
is not sufficient simply for countries to be in compliance with their
IAEA safeguards, if behind the scenes -- as Iraq did, as North Korea
did, as Iran is doing -- they are seeking to acquire fissile material.
So one place where I know we are in discussions with Japan is on the
question of how best we can move forward to strengthen the IAEA, and
those are discussions, which we think are very important. Japan plays
a major role throughout the multilateral community, U.N. community,
and so we look for Japanese leadership there too. There are budgetary
implications, but the dollars that we're talking about are very small
in comparison to the consequences that we would face were there to be
another successful clandestine nuclear program, or were we to face the
consequences of some kind of development of -- you know, something
that impacted on nuclear safety around the world.
MODERATOR: Anyone in the back? A follow-up?
Q: I take it that you don't expect either India or Pakistan to roll
back their nuclear weapons and become non-nuclear weapon powers. And
if that is so, realistically, won't it serve your purpose of
subjecting them to the same regulations, restrictions and
responsibilities as the five nuclear powers by inducting them formally
And I know the problem with the Nonproliferation Treaty was in -- does
not allow the Medes and the Persians -- set in stone. Surely what has
been written can be revised.
MODERATOR: Any other questions?
A: It doesn't serve our purpose. It undercuts the treaty in ways that
would cause fundamental harm to what we're trying to achieve
Q: Sorry for asking a question about Taiwan, but I was under the
impression that Taiwan had been raised by a mainland delegation at a
recent conference at the Monterey Institute. And I was just wondering
how you counter their claims that sales of arms to Taiwan is a form of
proliferation. Thank you.
A: Well, first of all, we are careful in terms of what we sell. We
don't sell missile systems, for instance, that have -- that exceed the
Missile Technology Control Regime limits. We certainly don't support
CBW and nuclear programs. That's what -- when I talk about
nonproliferation, I'm talking about those four clusters of things. And
advanced conventional weapons -- I think, there are a series of
U.S.-Chinese agreements with which we remain -- which remain as part
of broad U.S. policy. I think every administration, dating back to the
-- to President Nixon has subscribed to them, and we do, too.
MODERATOR: Final questions?
Q: Now in New York, the NPT Preparatory Conference is being held. And
there has been certain criticism about the Nuclear Posture Review of
the United States, saying that it is contrary to the 2000 Review
Conference agreement, particularly the unequivocal undertaking of the
total [tape gap] of nuclear weapons. I would like to know how you
respond to these critics.
A: I think we have said that we are confident -- we have explained in
some detail -- and I won't try to go in any length here -- that we are
in full compliance with our NPT Article Six obligations. We are
building down. We are reducing deployed nuclear weapons.
There is a whole lot of discussion about the Nuclear Posture Review,
most of which was misinformed. But there are plenty of administration
spokespersons who have explained it in far more detail than I can
here, or could if I had the time. The fact is that every
administration looks -- I mean, we have nuclear -- we still have
nuclear weapons. Those nuclear weapons are meant for our defense, and
they are part of the broad defense relationships that we have with a
series of allies. Each administration looks at how nuclear weapons
would be used; that's sort of prudent management.
But the basic point is that if you look at the trend lines for
deployed nuclear weapons, you will see they are going down: delivery
systems going down. We are moving in the right direction. Russia is
moving in the right direction on this question.
We are meeting our commitment. The concern is not the United States.
The concern is the countries out -- the concern should be about the
countries that are out there that are clandestinely trying to develop
weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons. And there
are -- there is more than one that's moving in that direction.
The concern should be countries like North Korea, which is not yet
moving to implement the Agreed Framework in ways that would give
confidence to the international community. The concern is Iraq, which
for nearly -- for 11 years has remained in defiance of its obligations
to the United Nations -- its obligations. We don't have to prove what
they're doing. They have to prove to the world that they are -- that
they're not doing what we all know they are doing. We know they are
trying to reconstitute their weapons of mass destruction capabilities,
their missile capabilities, and their conventional weapons
capabilities, and that is in defiance of [U.N. Security Council]
Resolution 687 and a host of resolutions since.
There are other countries that are out there -- IAEA members or not --
which are developing nuclear weapons. Acquisition of nuclear weapons
around the world is not some panacea. There seems to be the idea that
you can keep -- for those who have them, that you can acquire more,
and that it's not destabilizing.
Our experience with the Russians is that we're trying to build down.
So when people start talking about wrong directions, they should be
looking somewhere else, not at us.
MODERATOR: Very good, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.
MR. WOLF: Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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