Remarks to the Second Global Conference on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Terrorism: Mitigation and Response
When the United States and other nations began working together on the problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction over thirty years ago, the world was a very different place, where the largest source of the most dangerous materials was contained within two superpowers. Weapons of mass destruction [WMD] were considered weapons of last resort. Non-state actors were not yet considered to pose a meaningful threat, since they were not linked to abundant sources of supply. With the end of the Cold War, however, the international security environment changed and the proliferation problem increased. Now, more states are seeking increasingly advanced WMD capabilities; more states are entering the supply market; and all of this is compounded by the fact that terrorists are also seeking weapons of mass destruction. When the world witnessed the destructive potential of terrorism on September 11, [2001,] we were reminded of the need to remain steadfast in recognizing emerging threats to our security, and to think one step ahead of those who wish to do us harm.
Today, the United States believes that the greatest threat to international peace and stability comes from rogue states and transnational terrorist groups that are unrestrained in their choice of weapon and undeterred by conventional means. The September 11th attacks showed that terrorist groups were much better organized, much more sophisticated, and much more capable of acting globally than we had assumed possible. Our concept of what terrorists are able to do to harm innocent civilians has changed fundamentally. There can be no doubt that, if given the opportunity, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda would not hesitate to use disease as a weapon against the unprotected; to spread chemical agents to inflict pain and death on the innocent; or to send suicide-bound adherents armed with radiological explosives on missions of murder.
A Confluence of Nefarious Motives
Terrorist groups seek to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons any way they can; state sponsors of terrorism are actively working to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems. Here lies a dangerous confluence of nefarious motives, and we must prevent the one from abetting the other. As President Bush said in September, "In cells, in camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale."
To ensure that terrorist groups and their state sponsors are never able to gain access to chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, or the means to deliver them via missile, the United States is employing a variety of methods to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including multilateral agreements, diplomacy, arms control, threat reduction assistance, export control, and other means where necessary. Most importantly, we must maintain an unvarnished view of the proliferators and disrupt their supply of sensitive goods and technology before it contributes to an increased WMD capability or falls into the hands of terrorists or other rogue states.
Without question, the states most aggressively seeking to acquire WMD and their means of delivery are Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, followed by Libya and Syria. It is no coincidence that these states, which are uniformly hostile to the United States, as well as to many of our friends and allies, are among the ones we identify as state sponsors of terrorism.
Iran, one of the most egregious state sponsors of terror, is known to be seeking dual-use materials, technology, and expertise for its offensive biological and chemical weapons programs from entities in Russia, China, and Western Europe. It is also seeking to upgrade its large ballistic missile force with the help of Russian, North Korean, and Chinese firms. Our intelligence clearly shows that Iran seeks to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, and thus we are extremely concerned about transfers to Iran of dual-use materials. Once a rogue state’s intentions become apparent, we should assume that the dual-use technologies it acquires will be used for illegitimate purposes.
Iraq, despite UN sanctions, maintains an aggressive program to rebuild the infrastructure for its nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs. In each instance, Iraq’s procurement agents are actively working to obtain both weapons-specific and dual-use materials and technologies critical to their rebuilding and expansion efforts, using front companies and whatever illicit means are at hand. We estimate that once Iraq acquires fissile material -- whether from a foreign source or by securing the materials to build an indigenous fissile material capability -- it could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year. It has rebuilt its civilian chemical infrastructure and renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, and VX. It actively maintains all key aspects of its offensive BW [biological weapons] program. And in terms of its support for terrorism, we have established that Iraq has permitted Al-Qaeda to operate within its territory. As the President said recently, "The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. And there are Al-Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq." The President has made his position on Iraq eminently clear, and in the coming weeks and months we shall see what we shall see.
Now let us turn to North Korea.
As you know, last month during official talks between the United States and North Korea, North Korean officials acknowledged that they have a program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. This constitutes a violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Nonproliferation Treaty, North Korea’s International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In the course of this brazen admission, the North Koreans declared the Agreed Framework nullified. As Secretary Powell later said, "When we have an agreement between two parties and one says it’s nullified, then it looks like it’s nullified."
The fact that the North Koreans are seeking a production scale capability to produce weapons-grade uranium is a cause of grave concern to us, to the states in the region, and to the world as a whole. The U.S. Intelligence Community already assesses that "North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons." In consultation with the other four nuclear powers, our allies in the region, and other interested states, we are now considering what our next steps will be. President Bush has made it very clear that the North Koreans must comply with its commitments under the Nonproliferation Treaty and eliminate its nuclear weapons program immediately in a verifiable manner. He has also stated that he wants to resolve this matter peacefully and through the exertion of maximum diplomatic pressure on North Korea. We want to emphasize that this is a global problem, not simply a regional one. The security of all nations, as well as the continued credibility of the Nonproliferation Treaty, hinge on the successful resolution of this problem.
North Korea poses other dangers. We have long been aware of North Korea’s role as the world’s number one exporter of missile technology and equipment. These sales are one of its major sources of hard currency, which in turn allow continued missile development and production. As the CIA publicly reports: "North Korea has assumed the role as the missile and manufacturing technology source for many programs. North Korean willingness to sell complete systems and components has enabled other states to acquire longer-range capabilities."
With regard to chemical weapons, there is little doubt that North Korea has an active program. Despite efforts to get North Korea to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, it has refused to do so. In a recent report to Congress, the U.S. Government declared that North Korea "is capable of producing and delivering via missile warheads or other munitions a wide variety of chemical agents."
The news on the biological weapons front is equally disturbing. The U.S. Government believes that North Korea has one of the most mature offensive bioweapons programs on earth. North Korea to date is in stark violation of the Biological Weapons Convention
Indeed, at times North Korea has flouted it. In the 1980s, the North Korean military intensified this effort as instructed by then-President Kim Il-sung, who declared that, "poisonous gas and bacteria can be used effectively in war." The United States believes North Korea has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a BW capability and that it has developed and produced, and may have weaponized, BW agents in violation of the BWC. North Korea likely has the capability to produce sufficient quantities of biological agents within weeks of a decision to do so.
Finally, North Korea has one of the world’s largest armies -- nearly one million men under arms. This force has over 10,000 artillery tubes, many of which can reach Seoul and surrounding areas south of the Demilitarized Zone. Such a force, far larger than needed for legitimate defense needs, is capable of inflicting massive damage, as it would most likely be charged with deploying chemical and biological weapons during the course of an attack.
In addition to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, other rogue states that concern us include Libya and Syria. Libya continues to pursue an indigenous chemical warfare production capability, relying heavily on foreign suppliers for precursor chemicals, technical expertise, and other key chemical warfare-related equipment. Moreover, the United States believes that Libya has an offensive BW program in the research and development stage, and it may currently be capable of producing small quantities of biological agent. It continues efforts to obtain ballistic missile-related equipment, materials, technology, and expertise from foreign sources. Further, we are persuaded that Libya is continuing its longstanding pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the suspension of UN sanctions against it has increased its access to nuclear-related materials and equipment.
Syria, through foreign assistance, is seeking to expand its chemical weapons program, which includes a stockpile of nerve agent. We believe that it is developing biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents. Syria is also pursuing assistance from North Korea and firms in Russia for its missile development programs. The country has become a major transshipment point for goods and technology going to Iraq.
Among these regimes flow dangerous weapons and dangerous technology. States such as these rely heavily on front companies and illicit arms traders to seek out arms, equipment, sensitive technology, and dual-use goods for the benefit of their WMD programs. A growing concern is that cooperation among proliferators is increasing, recipients have become suppliers, and this "onward proliferation" presents yet another difficult problem. It is on these rogue regimes in particular that United States and its partners in multilateral nonproliferation agreements must focus a watchful eye.
An Emphasis on Compliance
To this end, we have placed much weight in our arms control policy on strict compliance with existing multilateral treaties and agreements. This Administration strongly supports treaties such as the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. But in order to be effective and provide the assurances they purport to bring, they must be carefully and universally enforced among all signatories. It is for this reason that we are reinvigorating the Department of State’s Verification and Compliance Bureau. The United States must do its utmost to be forthright in letting the public know when states violate their commitment not to acquire or transfer the tools and materials necessary for making weapons of mass destruction.
This has been our aim in particular with the Biological Weapons Convention. This international treaty, signed by more than 140 countries, prohibits the production, use, and stockpiling of biological weapons. While the vast majority of the BWC’s parties have conscientiously met their commitments, the United States is extremely concerned that some states are conducting offensive biological weapons programs while publicly avowing compliance with the agreement. To expose some of these violators to the international community, a year ago I named publicly several states the U.S. Government knows to be pursuing the production of biological warfare agents in violation of the BWC -- including Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and Libya. Later in the year I named Cuba, which we believe has at least a limited, developmental offensive biological warfare R&D effort, and which has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. Such states will not be given a pass on their violations simply because they are signatories to the treaty.
We are also concerned about the activities of some states not party to the treaty including Syria and Sudan. The Administration believes it is critical to put such states on notice. Should they choose to ignore the norms of civilized society and pursue biological weapons, their actions will not go unnoticed.
The United States last fall proposed several important measures to combat the BW threat. In the past year great progress has been made to combat the threat posed by biological weapons. National, bilateral, and multilateral efforts have made it more difficult for those pursuing biological weapons to obtain the necessary ingredients and made it easier to detect and counter any attack.
The Bush Administration firmly believes that, as the President said, "Almost every state that actively sponsors terror is known to be seeking weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them at longer and longer ranges." It is not simply coincidence that those states we know to be seeking chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons are also the states designated as sponsors of global terrorism.
In the past, the proliferation and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction fell outside the definition of "terrorism." But we are in a new era. We must be very clear: the U.S. Government believes that the threat of terrorism, the actions of state sponsors of terrorism, and the proliferation and potential use of weapons of mass destruction are inextricably linked. As President Bush said last month, "Terror cells, and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction, are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both. And the United States Military is capable of confronting both."
America is determined to prevent the next wave of terror. This means directing firm international condemnation toward states that shelter -- and in some cases directly sponsor -- terrorists within their borders. It means uncovering their activities that may be in violation of international treaties. And it means having a direct dialogue with the rest of the world about what is at stake.