Dianne Feinstein | Low-Yield Nuclear-Proliferation

Tuesday, 29 April 2003 05:03 by: Anonymous
t r u t h o u t | Statement

Wednesday 29 April 2003

Statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein

Concerning the Administration's emphasis on developing 'low-yield' nuclear weapons

``As the United States contemplates the new international order in the wake of the war in Iraq and engages diplomatically with North Korea to convince that nation to relinquish its nuclear ambitions, it is critical that the United States leads the way in both word and deed to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

I am therefore deeply concerned that the Administration's renewed emphasis on the developing so-called 'low-yield' nuclear weapons is taking our Nation's policy in exactly the wrong direction.  This includes possibly repealing prohibitions on developing  'low-yield'  bombs and deep-penetration 'bunker-busters,' and contemplating giving nuclear armaments a role in the new U.S. doctrine of preemption

According to press reports, the Nuclear Posture Review released by the Administration in January 2002 by the Pentagon states that 'new capabilities must be developed to defeat emerging threats.... Development of these capabilities, to include extensive research and timely fielding of new systems to address these challenges, are imperative....'

And the minutes of the January 10, 2003 Stockpile Stewardship Conference Planning Meeting indicate that in August the Future Arsenal Panel plans to discuss computer modeling for new nuclear devices, and what sort of testing, if any, will be required.

In the post-9/11 era, there is no question that a full range of policy options for dealing with new and uncertain contingencies should be on the table.  But I am concerned about the appearance of the United States seeking to develop nuclear weapons that blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear forces.  How can we effectively seek to dissuade others from developing nuclear weapons while we are going forward with the development of new nuclear weapons ourselves?

The bottom line is that the development of these new nuclear capabilities would offer the United States no decisive military advantage while having potentially grave repercussions for U.S. interests around the world. The political effects of U.S. pursuit of new nuclear weapons could well be to legitimize nuclear weapons, and U.S. nuclear planning could serve as a pretext for other countries and, worse, terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, to build or acquire their own bombs.

If we are not careful, our own nuclear posture could provoke the very nuclear-proliferation activities we are seeking to prevent."

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Nuclear War Risk Grows As States Race To Acquire Bomb
By Peter Popham
Independent UK

Tuesday 29 April 2003

A conference on nuclear non-proliferation began in Geneva yesterday, in the shadow of North Korea's departure from the global treaty and with the bleakest prospects for progress in the pact's 33-year history.

John Wolf, US Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Non-proliferation told a news conference on the first day of the meeting that Iran has "an alarming, clandestine programme" to get hold of nuclear technology. "Iran is going down the same path of denial and deception that handicapped international inspections in North Korea and Iraq," he said.

But disarmament experts said that American lack of commitment to non-proliferation was as damaging as the behaviour of the proliferators.

Representatives of 187 countries are attending the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is the second of three sessions that will be held before the Review Conference in 2005.

North Korea became the first state ever to defect from the process Israel, India and Pakistan, all known nuclear states, have never been members when it announced its departure in January. More defections are feared.

This was the Treaty that was supposed to lead to a non-nuclear world, but experts say the risks of proliferation are worse now than for 50 years. In the past two years the multilateral effort to contain and reduce the nuclear risk has unravelled. At the last NPT review conference in 2000 all member states signed a 13-point programme that included an undertaking by the five declared nuclear-weapon states to nuclear disarmament.

"That agreement is now gathering dust on some filing cabinet somewhere," said Dan Plesch, senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute. "For the first time since the 1950s there isn't a global framework ... to get rid of nuclear weapons."

Pyongyang's off-the-record announcement last week that it already had the bomb was a further blow. "Everyone is at a loss as to how to move forward on North Korea," said Kathryn Crandall of the British American Security Information Council, a research organisation. It is expected that the meeting will try to agree on a statement but given the low morale it is more likely to be an invitation to return to the fold than a blast of brimstone.

At least as damaging as North Korea's departure have been successive moves by Washington to distance itself from nuclear disarmament.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the US President, George Bush, signed National Security Presidential Directive 17, which said: "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force including potentially nuclear weapons to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States ..."

This assertion, analysts say, undermined an important prop of the NPT process: the so-called "negative security assurances", initially made in 1978 and strengthened by the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 984 in 1995, not to use nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear weapon states.

The assurances were considered vital in discouraging states from developing their own nuclear weapons. Now people wonder if they are worth the paper it they are written on.

The popularising of the term Weapons of Mass Destructionhas blurred the formerly stark distinction between nuclear and other weapons, and has paved the way for this change, claims Ms Crandall. She said: "Such terminology reduces the understanding of the unparalleled destructive capacity of nuclear weapons compared to the less destructive effects of chemical and biological weapons."

More and more states are likely to buy the argument that the only way to be secure in a unipolar world is to go down the nuclear road "to pre-empt pre-emption", one analyst said. "People look at the different ways that the 'Axis of Evil' states Iraq and North Korea have been treated and they draw their own conclusions."

"What other countries are going to sit around after dinner saying, if Pakistan's got the bomb why haven't we?" said Mr Plesch. On the list of those likely to be holding such conversations, he said, are Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey and perhaps pre-eminently Japan, North Korea's uneasy neighbour.

No long-term ill consequences threaten those that go down such a route. After India, then Pakistan, tested nuclear weapons in 1998, sanctions were clamped and both countries widely condemned. But all that changed after 11 September 2001, when the US needed Pakistan's co-operation.

Last week, America's outgoing Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, spoke of India as "a rising great power of the 21st century" and of how the US and India "have made enormous strides" in the past two years towards "forging concentrated strategic collaboration". "Two years ago, there were economic sanctions ... against India related to its 1998 nuclear tests," Blackwill said. "Today, those sanctions are long gone." India congratulates itself that its stock in the world is higher now than before it got the bomb.

"It's a double hit," said Mr Plesch. "A failure to disarm the world at the end of the Cold War. And now proliferating countries and the United States all deciding that they are not interested in this or other treaties any more ... the whole future of the treaty is up for grabs."

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