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Press Releases

DOE Plans to Obtain Tritium From Existing Civilian Reactors

Craig Cerniello

RESOLVING A decade-long controversy over meeting future requirements for tritium, a key component of nuclear weapons, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced on December 22 that the United States will produce it in existing commercial light-water reactors rather than by building a new linear accelerator or through other options. Although DOE's plan, which will save billions of dollars, mixes the U.S. military and civilian nuclear programs, the department concluded that it will not pose a real challenge to U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy.

The United States has not produced tritium, which is used to boost the yield of thermonuclear weapons, since 1988. Although tritium decays at a rate of about 5 percent per year, thus far the United States has been able to replenish its supply from warheads that are currently being dismantled. However, the United States will need a new source of tritium by 2005 in order to sustain a START I force level (6,000 deployed, "accountable" strategic warheads) or by 2011 to support START II levels (3,000–3,500 deployed strategic warheads). Congress has mandated that the United States remain at START I levels until START II has entered into force.

To meet these future requirements, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson announced that the United States will produce tritium at the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) existing Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear power reactors, instead of through the construction of a new linear accelerator at the Savannah River site in South Carolina. Other options considered by DOE included TVA's unfinished Bellefonte reactor or Hanford's Fast Flux Test Facility in Washington. Using the existing reactors is "the only option that doesn't require a large capital expenditure," Richardson explained. "If our goal of reaching further arms reduction agreements is reached, we may not need to exercise this option for many years and we will pay for tritium only when it is needed."

Some critics of the DOE decision argue that it will undermine U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy by encouraging other countries to produce nuclear weapons components, such as plutonium, in commercial reactors. Yet, Joan Rohlfing, senior advisor to Secretary Richardson for national security, disagreed. "In no way is the administration…backing away from U.S. government policy to not encourage the reprocessing of plutonium—let alone the diversion of plutonium from a civil facility to a military purpose," said Rohlfing. She argued that tritium is in a different category than plutonium because a state "cannot make a nuclear weapon from tritium alone."


Nuclear Stockpile Developments

Also on December 22, Richardson stated that he and Secretary of Defense William Cohen had certified to President Clinton that the U.S. nuclear stockpile remains safe and reliable without underground nuclear testing. Clinton established this certification procedure in August 1995, when the United States announced that it would seek a "zero-yield" Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Similar certifications were made in 1996 and 1997.

That same day, Richardson also said the United States will build by 2005 a facility at the Savannah River site designed to disassemble plutonium pits from dismantled nuclear weapons. This facility will help the United States dispose of 50 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium as agreed in principle with Russia at the September 1998 Moscow summit. Negotiations between the United States and Russia on the text of the plutonium disposition agreement are still underway.

Congress Returns Export Control Over Satellites to State Department

PRIMARY CONTROL over the export of commercial satellites will return from the Commerce Department to the State Department under a provision in the fiscal year 1999 defense bill signed by President Bill Clinton on October 17. The president had shifted control over commercial satellite exports from State to Commerce in March 1996 following an interagency review. Though the move was made for chiefly commercial reasons, the Clinton administration has sought to use the lucrative "carrot" of commercial space cooperation as an incentive for China to tighten its controls on missile technology exports.

The legislative reversal was prompted in part by revelations over the summer that two U.S. space firms—Loral Space & Communications and Hughes Electronics—may have provided unauthorized assistance to China in the reconstruction and analysis of a failed satellite launch. (See ACT, May 1998.) Although the Loral-Hughes incident occurred before the transfer of commercial satellite exports to the Commerce Department, critics of the administration's engagement policy with China have used the satellite export issue to attack the administration as being soft on China. Critics contend that U.S. involvement in China's commercial space sector benefits Beijing's military space and missile development efforts.

The effect of the new law, which reclassifies commercial satellites as Munitions List items rather than dual-use items, will be felt chiefly by domestic space firms accustomed to the Commerce Department's faster, more business-friendly review process. Commerce reviews of dual-use items consider economic and trade interests as well as U.S. national security concerns, proceed on the basis of published regulations and have a 90-day timeline for action. State Department reviews of Munitions List items primarily consider the proposed sale's effect on national security and foreign policy, are open ended and tend to take longer since State assigns fewer people to the process.

The shift in satellite jurisdiction marks the second time that Congress has used the annual defense spending bill to roll back a liberalization by the Clinton administration of U.S. high-tech export controls. In 1998, Congress tightened controls on exports of high-performance computers, which the Clinton administration had eased in 1996, following the discovery of U.S. supercomputers in Russian and Chinese military labs.

Although Commerce Department officials had warned of a presidential veto of the defense bill over the satellite issue, the White House chose to accept the bill after a House-Senate conference committee weakened the satellite provisions. Initially, for example, the House wanted to ban all satellite exports to China. The new legislation, however, only requires the president to certify, 15 days before a commercial satellite export is made to China, that the sale will neither hurt the U.S. space launch industry nor "measurably improve the missile or space launch capabilities" of China.

In a statement accompanying his signature of the legislation, President Clinton objected that the change in jurisdiction for satellite export controls "is not necessary… and could hamper the U.S. satellite industry." Referring to the effective date of March 15, 1999, for the transfer of export control authority, the president urged the Congress to pass "remedial legislation" before the change in jurisdiction is made effective.

Iraq Blocks UNSCOM Monitoring; Security Council Calls for Review

ESCALATING ITS standoff with the UN Security Council, Iraq announced on October 31 that it would no longer allow inspectors from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor sites in Iraq for prohibited weapons activities. On August 5, Baghdad suspended inspections by UNSCOM, which oversees chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which handles nuclear issues, into Iraq's past weapons activities. Iraq's announcement specified only UNSCOM's monitoring activities, but will likely affect IAEA's monitoring work as well, since the IAEA depends heavily on UNSCOM for logistical support. Iraq's action may have been prompted by the Security Council's approval on October 30 of a plan for a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament obligations that was not to Baghdad's liking. The review, provided for in Security Council Resolution 1194 (approved September 9), can only proceed after Baghdad revokes its August 5 decision to suspend UNSCOM and IAEA investigations. Initially supported by states sympathetic to Iraq as means of narrowing the remaining disarmament issues and thus hastening the end of sanctions, the final review plan does not appear to provide Baghdad much leeway.

The Security Council issued a statement on October 31 condemning Iraq's action and demanding that Baghdad "rescind immediately and unconditionally" the bans on both monitoring and inspections. While the United States has taken a decidedly low-key approach to Iraq's August blockage of UNSCOM inspections, the latest interference with monitoring activities is likely to provoke a more robust response. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.) President Clinton termed the Iraqi decision "a clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions" and stated, "From my point of view we should keep all our options open."


UNSCOM & IAEA Reports Presented

Amid the Security Council's deliberations on the nature of the comprehensive review, UNSCOM and the IAEA presented their latest biannual reports on Iraq on October 6 and 7, respectively. The IAEA report stated—as did the previous IAEA report—that "no indication of prohibited materials, equipment or activities" had been found in the last six months, but cautioned that without inspections, the agency is unable "to ensure that prohibited activities are not being carried out in Iraq." The report also reiterated past concerns about missing information on Iraq's nuclear weaponization and centrifuge development efforts, offers of foreign assistance, and documents showing Baghdad has officially ended its nuclear weapons program.

Similarly, UNSCOM's report recalled previous submissions to the Security Council documenting significant gaps and discrepancies in Baghdad's declarations of its ballistic missile, biological and chemical weapons holdings and production capabilities. Highlighting the relatively small number of outstanding issues in the missile and chemical areas, UNSCOM concluded that its disarmament work in those areas "is possibly near its end" if Iraq chooses to cooperate.


BW Concerns Remain

Efforts to verify the destruction of Iraq's biological weapons program have been much less successful, and the UNSCOM report listed gaps in Iraq's declarations on biological weapons munitions, stocks of biological agents, and growth media. The report noted that a panel of international experts asked in July to verify Iraq's latest declarations recommended that no further "expert level" verification efforts be made "until Iraq commits itself to provide substantive, new information."

Another international group of experts assembled by UNSCOM reported to the Security Council on October 26 that Iraq had, contrary to its claims, weaponized the nerve agent VX for delivery by ballistic missiles. The VX panel confirmed the validity of tests (performed by a U.S. laboratory on missile warhead fragments unearthed in May at a warhead destruction site) that found degraded VX and a VX stabilizing agent. Other samples later analyzed by French, Swiss and American labs did not show VX, but revealed the presence of a chemical compound and a decontamination agent that should not have been present had Iraqi claims of the warheads' contents been accurate.


Review in Limbo

With the three reports in hand, and with Iraq continuing to refuse access for inspections, the Security Council adopted on October 30 a plan for the comprehensive review that is slightly at odds with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's original October 5 proposal. Instead of asking UNSCOM and the IAEA to provide evidence to demonstrate that Iraq has not complied with its disarmament obligations, the review plan calls on the two agencies to report on Iraqi compliance with the UN disarmament resolutions and to identify "any tasks which still need to be undertaken."

Pointing out that it cannot "prejudge the outcome of the review," the Security Council nevertheless suggested the process would conclude with the creation of a list of "remaining steps" to be taken by Iraq and a "likely time-frame for this purpose, assuming full Iraqi cooperation." The council also agreed that the review could only take place once the secretary-general has received reports from UNSCOM and the IAEA confirming that they are receiving "full cooperation from Iraq."


U.S. Retains Top Spot in Latest UN Conventional Arms Register

LIKE ITS FIVE predecessors, the 1997 UN Register of Conventional Arms, dated September 2, fell short of being the international repository for data on arms transfers that was hoped for at the register's inception. A majority of states in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and the Middle East opted not to participate in the 1997 register. Most arms exporters, however, submitted information on their weapons transfers, providing a rough guide to the 1997 world market, which revealed that Washington delivered more arms than the other 25 participating exporters combined.

Established in 1992 to shed light on any excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, the register calls on UN members to make annual reports on exports and imports of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missile systems. Countries are also invited to volunteer information on military holdings, procurement through national production and relevant policies.

Participation in the register has never exceeded 97 countries or dropped below 93, the mark for 1997. Of the 26 countries that reported 7,808 weapons exports, all but four were from Europe, including successor states to the Soviet Union, and North America. China, which had participated every year since the register's inception and which reported 137 exports in 1996, did not participate in 1997. Forty countries claimed imports totaling 4,504 arms, while 41 of the reporting states noted no imports or exports.

Some of the disparity between notified exports and imports reflects differing national policies in defining and reporting arms transfers, but much of the gap results from a lack of participation by key importing states, notably in the Middle East. Arab states generally boycott the register, arguing that it should be expanded to include weapons of mass destruction.

Data supplied by exporters indicated that the region received 3,172 weapons, including 918 ACVs, 75 combat aircraft and 1,860 missiles and missile systems (1,502 to Israel from the United States). Yet only Israel, Jordan and Qatar submitted information from the region, claiming a total of 32 imports.

U.S. exports, totaling 4,759, surpassed the total of all other exporting states by 1,710 weapons and more than doubled the 1996 U.S. total of 2,342. Because the export totals do not reflect the wide differences in value and usage among listed weapons—a warship and a missile both count as a single item, for example—the register does to some extent exaggerate Washington's share of world weapons exports. Missiles and missile systems alone accounted for 3,072 U.S. exports in 1997.

The top six exporters—the United States, Germany, Britain, Russia, Ukraine and France—accounted for almost 94 percent of reported arms exports in 1997. Germany and Ukraine climbed into the top ranks without exports to the Middle East. All of Germany's exports, except for three warships to Latin America, went to European states, while Ukraine shipped most of its arms to India, Indonesia and Pakistan. London's and Moscow's export totals were roughly the same as in 1996, but Paris almost doubled exports (from 136 to 242), with more than half going to the Middle East.

While intended to hold both importers and exporters accountable for arms deals, the register's value in 1997, as in prior years, suffered from the paucity of importing data to cross-reference with exporting data. Governments also hoped transparency would lead to restraint, but weapons exported in 1997 exceeded those in 1996, 1995 and 1994.

The 1997 UN Register of Conventional Arms: Top 10 Reporting Exporters and Totals

Exporter Battle Tanks ACVs Heavy






Warships Missiles &


United States 169 953 333 205 25 2 3,072 4,759
Germany 26 505       3 468 1,002
United Kingdom   114 25 60 8 5 338 550
Russia 14 389   10 30 2 68 513
Ukraine 105 12   9 2   118 246
France 68 111 56 4 3     242
Netherlands 35 1 92     2   130
Greece 27 39           66
Belarus     6 30 4     40
Israel 15   12       10 37
Total for all

Reporting Exports

(see Note)

491 2,221 576 354 72 19 4,075 7,808
Note: A total of 26 states submitted data on exports to the 1997 UN Register of Conventional Arms. The complete data of the 1997 register—including recipients and reported imports—and all past registers can be obtained from the United Nations at http://www.un.org.

Sources: United Nations, ACA.

U.S., North Korea Meet on Missiles; Japan, S. Korea Press on Defense

LITTLE PROGRESS was reported in the third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks, held in New York on October 1. As in the previous talks in April 1996 and June 1997, the Clinton administration tried to persuade North Korea to cease the development and export of ballistic missiles and technologies controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in exchange for a substantial loosening of U.S. economic sanctions.

Pyongyang, which has made clear its willingness to accept financial compensation for lost missile export revenues, has resisted the U.S. proposal, claiming that Washington is already obligated to loosen sanctions as part of the 1994 Agreed Framework. The text of that agreement, which froze Korea's nuclear weapons program, calls for the two sides to "move toward full normalization of political and economic relations." But U.S. officials insist that Pyongyang has to meet U.S. concerns on the missile and other issues before progress can be made on the political and economic fronts.

Additionally, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin warned North Korea following the October 1 talks that any future testing or export of long-range missiles, such as the three-stage Taepo Dong-1, which Pyongyang tested on August 31, would have "very negative consequences."


Japanese, South Korean Initiatives

North Korea's August 31 missile test has also bolstered initiatives in Japan and South Korea to augment their security with new weapons that are likely, in turn, to concern Russia and China. On September 20, the United States and Japan announced that the two nations would proceed with joint feasibility studies on theater missile defense. On October 23, Japanese Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga announced that the Japanese Defense Agency (JDA) will request roughly $8 million for Japan's 1999 fiscal year to fund joint research with the United States. The JDA reportedly plans to spend about $175 million to $250 million on the joint research program over the next five years. Tokyo has expressed interest in the U.S. Navy's Theater Wide Defense system, which would utilize Japan's fleet of Aegis-radar-equipped destroyers.

Additionally, the Kyodo News Service reported on October 23 that the government will propose development of a "'multipurpose' satellite system with reconnaissance capabilities within three years." Since Japan launched its first commercial satellite in 1970, Tokyo has abided by a Diet resolution mandating the exclusively peaceful use of space.

Jarred by North Korea's Taepo Dong-1 missile launch over Japan, however, some Japanese officials have concluded that a reconnaissance or early warning satellite for "defensive" purposes could be considered a peaceful use of space.


South Korea and the MTCR

Although the Taepo Dong-1 is unlikely to be used against South Korea—Pyongyang's 500-kilometer-range Scud C missiles can already hit any target in the South—defense officials in Seoul have used the "new" North Korean threat to justify their own missile and space-launch ambitions. In particular, South Korea has been campaigning to end its 1979 agreement with the United States, which prevents Seoul from acquiring ground-to-ground missiles with a range of more than 180 kilometers. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.)

Following U.S.-South Korean missile talks in August, the State Department is reportedly close to consenting to South Korea joining the MTCR and acquiring missiles capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload to a range of 300 kilometers—the regime's threshold for control.

According to Seoul's semiofficial Yonhap news agency, South Korea has accepted the MTCR limits for military systems. Seoul, however, is pushing for the right to build commercial space launch systems without any range or payload limits, which the 1979 agreement with the United States does not permit. The Korea Herald reported that Washington is insisting that Seoul accept U.S. monitoring to ensure that commercial space technology is not misused. In an effort to clarify, a State Department official said on October 27 that U.S. policy on MTCR membership does not preclude states wishing to join the regime from keeping their ground-to-ground missile programs as long as the retained systems fall within the regime's threshold for control.

India, Pakistan Commit to Sign CTB Treaty by September 1999

SPEAKING AT the United Nations on September 23 and 24, respectively, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said their nations were prepared to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty prior to September 1999. While both states declared unilateral moratoriums on nuclear testing following their nuclear tests in May, the international community, and especially the United States, have pressured Islamabad and New Delhi to sign the CTB without conditions or delay. The speeches at the opening of the UN General Assembly are the most explicit commitments to signing the treaty that either leader has made to date.

Sharif, referring to the Conference of States Parties that may be convened in September 1999 if the treaty's entry into force provisions have not been met, stated that "Pakistan is…prepared to adhere to the CTBT before this Conference."

Sharif insisted, however, that "Pakistan's adherence to the Treaty will take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure." He cited "restrictions imposed on Pakistan by multilateral [financial] institutions" and the "discriminatory sanctions" of the 1985 Pressler amendment, which precludes U.S. military assistance or sales to Pakistan as long as the president cannot certify that it does not have a "nuclear explosive device."

Vajpayee, noting that India is engaged "with key interlocutors on a range of issues, including the CTB," said that India was "prepared to bring those discussions to a successful conclusion, so that the entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed…." Of the 44 nations whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force, only India, Pakistan and North Korea have failed to sign the treaty.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a modest endorsement to the two UN speeches, stating on September 24 that the commitments to the CTB were "important steps," but noting that "there are many steps that still need to be taken." On September 30, White House spokesman Mike McCurry confirmed that President Clinton had decided to postpone his planned trip to South Asia indefinitely. Clinton is "still eager to make the visit when we have had further significant progress with our respective security concerns," said McCurry.

The administration, which imposed sanctions mandated by U.S. law on the two South Asian states, has been holding bilateral meetings with both countries since July. The United States is pushing India and Pakistan to adopt an international agenda that includes regional arms control proposals and measures to support the global non-proliferation regime, such as signing the CTB and participating in negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

In return, New Delhi and Islamabad have insisted that U.S. and international sanctions be dropped. India is also reported to be pressing Washington to remove restrictions on exports of dual-use technology. Specifically, New Delhi would like access to nuclear power and space technologies currently controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Eager to develop its space and civil nuclear power sectors for economic reasons, New Delhi also wishes to be recognized as a nuclear-weapon state, entitled to commerce in sensitive technologies with the other nuclear powers. Pakistan, meanwhile, is said to be inquiring about future military sales and assistance to help redress its conventional military imbalance with India.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is expected to hold a new round of meetings with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed on November 4 and with the Indian prime minister's special envoy, Jaswant Singh, on November 19. Chances for progress in the talks may have improved following adoption into law on October 21 of a one-year waiver authority for the test-related sanctions. The waiver, which would allow the president to suspend all of the non-military-related sanctions, could give the Clinton administration the bargaining flexibility needed to produce a deal.

Congress Okays KEDO Funding; Japan Lifts LWR Funding Block

BACKING AWAY from previous threats, Congress agreed in the final rounds of fiscal year (FY) 1999 budget negotiations to provide the full $35 million requested by the Clinton administration to fund U.S. obligations under the 1994 U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework. President Clinton signed the $500 billion omnibus appropriations bill on October 21. The appropriation for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) will be used to help purchase the 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for Pyongyang required annually by the denuclearization agreement.

Congress, in addition to requiring the president to appoint a "North Korea Policy Coordinator" and mandating North Korea-related reports to Congress from the secretaries of State and Defense, also inserted several policy conditions aimed at prodding the administration to take a more active approach to North Korean security threats. The legislation, however, provided the president with the authority to waive these conditions on national security grounds.

The waiver provision was the key to the legislative-executive compromise on the issue, as it allowed congressional critics of the administration's North Korea policy to signal their displeasure without effectively canceling KEDO funding. Since KEDO's inception in 1995, the administration has provided funding through the use of the standing national security waiver authority in Section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. (U.S. law forbids the provision of foreign aid to states that are communist, state-sponsors of terrorism or are at war with the United States.)

Most recently, on September 29, President Clinton used the so-called "614 authority" to reprogram $15 million of other foreign assistance for use by KEDO in buying heavy fuel oil. Despite a 1998 U.S. contribution of $26.4 million for oil purchases ($30 million total), provision of $17.6 million from the European Union and donations from a few other states, KEDO has been unable to meet this year's $60 million to $65 million oil-buying budget, in part because of redemption of past debts.

The State Department announced on September 10 that North Korea had tacitly accepted a U.S. pledge to complete the delivery of this year's fuel oil by the end of the calendar year rather than the scheduled date of October 20. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.) As of the end of October, KEDO had delivered 315,000 tons of fuel oil to North Korea. It plans to ship another 50,000 to 55,000 tons in November. However, funding for the remaining 130,000 tons of fuel oil the United States committed itself to providing before January 1, 1999 remains uncertain. The money, approximately $12 million, will most likely come from the FY 1999 appropriation following use of the presidential waiver authority.


Light-Water Reactor Project

On October 16, Tokyo announced that it was lifting its suspension of participation in the cost-sharing agreement for construction of the two light-water reactors (LWRs) in North Korea called for in the Agreed Framework. KEDO's Executive Board, which includes the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union, had reached a cost-sharing agreement for the LWR project on July 28. Originally the agreement was to have been signed on August 31, but Japan suspended its participation following Pyongyang's launch of a space-launch vehicle that overflew Japan. Despite Tokyo's October 16 announcement, the cost-sharing deal remains unsigned due to what a State Department official called "technical details."

Meanwhile, KEDO is continuing with construction of site infrastructure for the two LWRs. Negotiations between KEDO and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) on the prime contract for the LWR project are continuing as well, though the finalization of a cost-sharing agreement among KEDO members must precede conclusion of the contract.

CIA Holds to Assessment of Ballistic Missile Threat to U.S.

IN A SEPTEMBER 17 speech, Robert D. Walpole, national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, unveiled key aspects of the CIA's classified 1998 Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Missile Developments. Walpole said that the ICBM threat to the United States from so-called "rogue states" is unlikely to materialize before 2010, with the possible exception of North Korea. The CIA's analysis, which is consistent with the 1995 National Intelligence Estimate on the missile threat (NIE 95-19) and its subsequent review chaired by Robert Gates, marks the U.S. government's most substantive response thus far to the findings of the independent "Rumsfeld Commission." The commission concluded in July that the United States may have "little or no warning" before facing an ICBM threat from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq. (See ACT, June/July, 1998.)

Some congressional Democrats are likely to cite the CIA report in support of their position that deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) is not necessary at this time. A number of congressional Republicans have pointed to the Rumsfeld report as justification for immediate NMD deployment.

In his speech, delivered at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Walpole said the CIA report concluded that North Korea could deploy its 4,000- to 6,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-2 in "a few years," thereby putting parts of Alaska and Hawaii within striking distance. Beyond this threat (as well as the existing Russian and Chinese threat), the report stated that it is "unlikely" that any country "will develop, produce, and deploy an ICBM capable of reaching any part of the United States over the next decade," even if given foreign assistance.

Although Walpole admitted that there are alternative scenarios under which a rogue state could acquire an ICBM capability sooner, such as through the purchase of complete systems, he stated that the CIA viewed these acquisition paths as "unlikely." (Walpole noted that unlike the Rumsfeld Commission, the CIA specified the likelihood of particular scenarios in its report. Hence, while some of the scenarios in the Rumsfeld report may be conceivable, the CIA has judged them to be unlikely.)

Walpole said the CIA and Rumsfeld reports agree on North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities, the importance of foreign assistance in the spread of missile technology, and the fact that under some scenarios warning time may be dramatically reduced. The reports differ, however, in their assessments of the Iraqi and Iranian missile threats. While the Rumsfeld Commission argued that Iran and North Korea are further along than Iraq, the CIA believes Baghdad is ahead in some respects because it has not lost its technological expertise since the Gulf War. Moreover, while the commission claimed that the North Korean and Iranian missile programs are at the same level of maturity, the CIA noted that Iran's Shahab-3 is based on North Korean technology tested several years ago.


The Russian and Chinese Threat

Walpole also said Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal is being modernized and will remain "formidable," even as deployed warhead levels are reduced in the years ahead under the START process. He stated that China currently possesses about 20 CSS-4 ICBMs, a higher figure than some non-governmental experts had previously reported, and that this number is likely to increase as Beijing modernizes its strategic forces. The CIA report noted, however, that an unauthorized or accidental nuclear launch from Russia or China is "highly unlikely" under present circumstances. According to Walpole, "Russia employs an extensive array of technical and procedural safeguards and China keeps its missiles unfueled and without warheads mated."

OAS to Draft Arms Transparency Convention

ON OCTOBER 6, the Organization of American States' (OAS) Committee on Hemispheric Security established a working group to negotiate a convention for transparency in arms acquisitions. When completed—a draft is expected by the end of this year—the convention would mark the first time that any region required annual reports on major weapons exports and imports, as well as timely notifications of arms acquisitions through both imports and domestic production.

The convention, as proposed by the United States and Brazil, would require each OAS country that ratifies the completed convention to make annual reports to the OAS General Secretariat on weapons exports and imports in the seven categories of the voluntary UN Register of Conventional Arms. (Those categories are tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missile systems.) Only 13 of the 34 OAS members submitted reports to the UN register for 1997.

OAS members would also be called on to provide advance notification of arms acquisitions through both imports and national production in the same seven weapon categories. However, states would have 90 days from the inclusion of the weapons into their inventories in which to make the notification. No notifications or reporting is to be mandated for small arms or power projection equipment such as transport helicopters.


The Working Group Begins

The OAS working group, which is co-chaired by Brazilian Ambassador Carlos Alberto Leite Barbosa and U.S. Ambassador Victor Marrero, met for the first time on October 27 to begin discussions on the text of the convention. Mexico, which has expressed skepticism regarding the convention, is seeking to include a commitment to future talks on arms limitations and reductions, but other OAS states are not likely to endorse such talks. A U.S. government official familiar with the negotiations said the convention "represents an important first step as we wait for the political will [among OAS states] to develop for more ambitious arms control measures."

DOD Official Says NMD System May Require Treaty Withdrawal

IN OCTOBER 2 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre said that "our recourse would be to withdraw" from the ABM Treaty if a decision were made to deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system requiring amendments to the treaty and if these amendments could not be negotiated in the necessary timeframe. Hamre's statement is the strongest to date by the Clinton administration on the relationship between NMD deployment and the ABM Treaty. At the same hearing, General Joseph Ralston, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined, for the first time, the schedule under which such amendments would have to be negotiated to enable the United States to deploy an NMD system by 2003.

Despite these disturbing developments, the United States and Russia, together with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine reaffirmed the "fundamental importance" of the ABM Treaty at its fifth review conference, conducted during the September 9–October 14 session of the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) in Geneva.


NMD and the ABM Treaty

In his prepared statement, Hamre said: With respect to NMD deployment, at the time of a decision to deploy an NMD system, we would determine whether the system we intend to deploy would comply with the ABM Treaty. If we determined that deployment of an NMD system would require changes to the Treaty, we would seek agreement on such changes. If, contrary to our expectations, we were not able to reach agreement in the necessary timeframe, then our recourse would be to withdraw from the Treaty because of supreme national interests, which the Treaty permits on six months' notice. Secretary [of Defense William] Cohen has authorized me to be very clear on this point. (Emphasis added.) Although the United States intends to engage Russia on possible amendments to the ABM Treaty allowing for NMD deployment, Hamre said, "[W]e will not permit protracted negotiations to delay our deployment and prolong a risk to our people."

The Clinton administration has consistently stated that the development phase of its NMD program is compliant with the ABM Treaty, but that the deployed system, depending on its configuration, may require amendments to the treaty. Hamre's testimony took this long-standing policy one step further by mentioning the possibility of withdrawal from the treaty.

In his testimony, General Ralston stated that in order for the United States to be able to make an NMD deployment decision in fiscal year (FY) 2000, as planned in the administration's "3+3" program, ABM Treaty modification issues "may need to be fully addressed and evaluated" by December 1999, with negotiations completed by May 2000.

During the same hearing, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) called on the administration to immediately begin "preliminary discussions" with the Russians on NMD deployment and the ABM Treaty. The United States "might as well begin discussions now…since it may take some time for those discussions to bear fruit," Levin argued. On October 6, Cohen told the committee that he favored preliminary discussions with Russia on the NMD deployment issue.

These developments occurred as several members of Congress continued to attack the ABM Treaty and called for more robust missile defenses. In an October 5 letter to Clinton, a group of eight senators, led by Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC), stated that "the ABM Treaty did not survive the dissolution of the Soviet Union." The treaty can only be revived, declared the senators, if the Senate approves the memorandum of understanding (MOU) identifying Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine as the successor states to the former Soviet Union under the treaty.

In an October 21 letter to Clinton, Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) urged the administration to commit to an NMD system "that includes ground-based, sea-based, and space-based components," the last two of which are prohibited by the ABM Treaty. That same day, Clinton signed the FY 1999 omnibus appropriations bill, which includes an additional $1 billion for ballistic missile defenses beyond the $3.5 billion already approved for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.


ABM Review Conference

In an October 14 joint statement following the latest mandated five-year review of the ABM Treaty, representatives from the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine "agreed that the [ABM] Treaty continues to operate effectively and reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the Treaty, as a cornerstone of strategic stability, for strengthening international security and for promoting the process of further reductions in strategic offensive arms."

The representatives stressed the importance of the September 1997 package of ABM-related agreements in ensuring the treaty's effective implementation. This package, which has been submitted to the Russian Duma but not the U.S. Senate, includes agreements on treaty succession, establishing a "demarcation line" between permitted theater missile defense (TMD) systems and restricted ABM systems, confidence-building measures (CBMs) pertaining to TMD deployment, and new operating regulations for the SCC.

Also at this session of the SCC, the five states completed implementing details for the CBMs agreement. In the eyes of key Duma members, the positive outcome of the SCC meeting may partially offset the damaging statements on NMD made at the October 2 Senate hearing.


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