The Nonproliferation Problem
On May 31 during an address in Poland, President George Bush announced a new and historic initiative intended to stem the ever-growing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—the Proliferation Security Initiative, or psi.
As U.S. Under Secretary of State John Bolton later explained, the psi involves “partnerships of states working in concert, employing their national capabilities to develop a broad range of legal, diplomatic, economic, military and other tools to interdict threatening shipments of wmd [weapons of mass destruction] and missile-related equipment and technologies” (Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, July 16).
This effort is historic in that it marks the first time a group of nations has agreed to physically enforce provisions of past nonproliferation treaties.
The coalition (which currently includes the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Portugal and the Netherlands) had its first meeting June 12 in Madrid. This meeting resulted in the Madrid Initiative, an agreement to change international law to enable ships suspected of involvement in illegal dealings to be interdicted in international waters. In their second meeting, in Brisbane, Australia, on July 9-10, the nations investigated ways, under current international laws, that member nations could intercept suspect ships and aircraft. The meeting ended with an agreement to increase cooperation through sharing intelligence and working toward direct joint action to intercept suspected ships, aircraft and vehicles. The countries also agreed to initiate a series of air- and sea-training exercises in the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea, possibly as soon as September.
As the world embarks upon yet another nonproliferation effort, it is fitting to ask, where have over 40 years of nonproliferation schemes brought us? Will one more plan bring the spread of of wmd to a halt?
In 1962, the Cuban missile crisis brought the U.S. and Russia within a gnat’s breath of full-scale nuclear war, putting fear into the world’s population. Within a year of this incident, both nations began to make efforts toward arms control.
1963 brought the Partial Test Ban Treaty and 1967 the Outer Space Treaty, with the most significant step coming in 1968 when the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (npt) was signed. This treaty was designed to limit the spread of nuclear technology by the nations recognized as having nuclear weapons, including the U.S., the ussr, the UK, France and China. Npt signatories agreed not to develop or obtain nuclear weapons, and those possessing them agreed to work toward disarmament. Non-nuclear states also signing the treaty agreed to allow the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency to oversee their nuclear facilities. Nuclear-capable countries were then to share peaceful nuclear technology with other non-nuclear signatories. To date, 187 nations have joined the npt.
The efforts of all such organizations, treaties and agreements, noble as they may be, have proven themselves a failure from inception. Notice the results of the past 40 years.
Unwanted Benefits to Rogue Nations
Some nations have deceptively used their signatures for international cover while aggressively pursuing the very technologies and weapons banned.
North Korea is a prime example. In the late 1970s and into the early ’80s, tensions rose over suspicions that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence satellites reportedly photographed the beginnings of a reprocessing facility. Shortly thereafter, in 1985, Pyongyang signed the npt.
In reality, this was a grave deceit. The North Koreans simply desired to ease international tension to allow them to quietly build weapons and sophisticated missile technology without the fear of prying eyes. This chicanery finally came into the international limelight when, in 1993, after Kim Jong Il’s government had been blocking United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea) inspections for years, North Korea threatened to withdraw from the very treaty it was defying.
In the case of North Korea, U.S. and world opinion has greatly over-emphasized the risk that its nuclear weapons program poses. As one observer put it, should North Korea ever gain the capacity to fire off a nuclear weapon at the U.S., and trigger it, the world’s singular superpower could fuse it “into radioactive glass”! (www.stratfor.com, Aug. 4).
But the danger of the over-reaction to the tin-pot dictator Kim Jong’s saber-rattling is that it has diverted attention from the real danger of proliferation in Asia. A nuclear Korea could simply prompt the greatest industrial and military power in Asia, Japan, to move from its present position of merely developing its missile-defense capability to a position of actually acquiring ballistic missiles or nuclear warheads. This would disturb the whole balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere, and consequently the globe. So we see how the domino effect of North Korea’s defiance of the npt could lead to an increase in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The same situation prevails in the Middle East, where Iran is flouting the Nonproliferation Treaty. The spokesman for Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called upon the ruling clergy to follow the example of North Korea. “The best and reasonable solution for Iran is withdrawing from the npt,” wrote Hossain Shariatmadar in Kayhan, the Iranian newspaper regarded as being the voice of Khamenei (www.worldtribune.com, July 14).
Iran, like North Korea, has spent years enjoying the signatory benefits of having access to peaceful nuclear technology while, at the same time, covertly working to develop facilities to produce and process weapons-grade nuclear material. The facilities may meet the letter of international agreements, yet they could be quickly transformed for weapons production.
For years, analysts have recognized that Iran is progressing toward building a nuclear weapon. The latest publication to bring this to the public’s attention was the Los Angeles Times, when it came out with an exposé in August asserting that Iran’s commercial nuclear projects are in reality a front for a weapons program.
In the case of these so-called rogue nations, nonproliferation treaties, agreements and organizations have actually proven to assist proliferation.
Business as Usual
China, which has had nuclear weapons since 1964, did not sign the npt until March of 1992. In the 24 years it remained outside the npt and other nonproliferation treaties, China sold Pakistan weapons-grade uranium and a nuclear-weapons design. It also sold medium-range ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia.
According to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, “China agreed in 1991 to abide by the key parameters of the mtcr [Missile Technology Control Regime], but continued to exploit loopholes and ambiguities in its bilateral commitments to the United States to export missile components and missile production technology to countries such as Pakistan and Iran. (China also exported 34 complete M-11 missiles to Pakistan in 1991-1992, its last known transfers of complete mtcr Category i-class missile systems)” (July 24).
Also during the early 1990s, U.S. intelligence agencies believed that China was providing assistance to unprotected facilities in Pakistan capable of producing materials such as plutonium or highly enriched uranium that could be used in building more nuclear weapons.
There remains yet another serious failure in the world’s nonproliferation schemes. Ariel E. Levite terms this problem “nuclear hedging.” In the Winter 2002-2003 International Security periodical from Harvard, he states, “Nuclear hedging refers to a national strategy of maintaining, or at least appearing to maintain, a viable option for the relatively rapid acquisition of nuclear weapons, based on an indigenous technical capacity to produce them within a relatively short time frame ranging from several weeks to a few years.”
Nations known to be employing this strategy are Sweden and Japan. Japan currently possesses huge quantities of weapons-grade fissile material as well as the necessary fuel cycle capabilities to prepare it for bomb building. Levite noted that, according to an official British government report, Japan “has key bomb-making components, including plutonium and the electronic triggers, and has the expertise to go nuclear very quickly” (ibid.).
Japan is not only a npt signatory, but publicly declares itself a champion of nonproliferation and disarmament. How many other nations are sitting on all the necessary components to assemble nuclear weapons and are members of the npt?
The Real Problem
The world has been working for nonproliferation for 40 years and has 187 nations as signatories to the npt. What is the result? Despite all nonproliferation initiatives, worldwide stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, and weapons research and expertise, are still growing, as are opportunities for proliferation. Now, with the psi, a new initiative is underway designed to enable more active cooperation in controlling nuclear proliferation. Will this bring success?
With certainty, we can predict the ultimate outcome of all mankind’s efforts to save itself from nuclear proliferation will be failure, because the world has sought to treat only the effect of proliferation, rather than the cause.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur identified the heart of the problem on September 2, 1945, in a radio address following the surrender of the Japanese. He said, “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found insofar as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.”
Then this old warrior struck at the true heart of the matter: “The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past 2,000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
As the Bible points out, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1). Six thousand years of history have proved that mankind cannot solve the problem of wmd proliferation. It will take a change in the minds and hearts of all mankind.
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