U.S. Efforts to Stop the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction

John Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Testimony before the House International Relations Committee, June 4, 2003.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions also present a grave threat to regional and global security and a major challenge to the international nonproliferation regime. At the recent Evian G-8 Summit, the United States and its allies approved this unequivocal language on Pyongyang’s covert nuclear weapons program:

North Korea’s uranium enrichment and plutonium programs and its failure to comply with its IAEA safeguards agreement undermine the nonproliferation regime and are a clear breach of North Korea’s international obligations. We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs, a fundamental step to facilitate a comprehensive and peaceful solution.

Not only are we dealing with a country that has repeatedly violated its international nonproliferation obligations, but we also face the prospect that North Korea could produce and then export fissile material or weapons to rogue states or terrorists. This is a danger that cannot be ignored.

By the mid-1990s, the U.S. intelligence community assessed that North Korea had one, possibly two, nuclear weapons. Since Pyongyang acknowledged in October 2002 that it was pursuing a covert uranium enrichment program, it has rejected international calls for it to reverse course and has taken escalatory actions in further violation of its international nuclear nonproliferation commitments. To summarize, North Korea in late December 2002 lifted its freeze at the Yongbyon plutonium production facilities -- a freeze that had been required under the 1994 Agreed Framework -- and expelled IAEA inspectors. On January 10, 2003, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the NPT. Despite a February 12, 2003 finding by the IAEA Board of Governors that North Korea was in further non-compliance with its safeguards obligations and a report of this finding to the UN Security Council, North Korea restarted the 5 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea claims that the reactor is for electricity generation, but we are confident that the reactor will also produce plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The electricity the reactor generates is roughly equal to that needed for its operation, belying the notion that it will generate electricity of any useful proportion. The reactor’s real utility to North Korea is that it produces spent fuel, which contains plutonium that can be recovered through reprocessing and used for nuclear weapons. North Korea asserts that it has nearly completed reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods stored at Yongbyon. We are concerned that North Korea may decide or has decided to begin reprocessing. The North could produce enough additional plutonium for as many as six nuclear weapons in several months. We have made clear to North Korea that reprocessing would be a serious escalatory step in the wrong direction.

While all options remain on the table, the United States has made clear repeatedly and at the highest levels that we seek a peaceful, diplomatic end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. We insist on addressing the challenge multilaterally with all countries concerned, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, playing an integral role.

Trilateral talks between the United States, China, and North Korea from April 23-25 in Beijing allowed all sides to make their views known. North Korean officials made several troubling statements at the talks. In addition to assertions about reprocessing, they also told us unequivocally on the margins of the talks that they have nuclear weapons. They further threatened to demonstrate this fact, or even transfer nuclear weapons. While they said there is a way to move forward and gave us a proposal, Secretary of State Powell has already indicated that it is a proposal that is not going to take us in the direction we need to go. The proposal simply restated North Korea’s previous demands. These sentiments were recently echoed by the Foreign Minister of South Korea, who noted there was nothing new in the proposal.

North Korea’s claims and threats will not intimidate the United States. We are not going to pay for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program -- a program the North should never have begun in the first place. North Korea’s statements are evidence that it continues to try to intimidate -- even blackmail -- the international community into giving into its demands. We reject these statements, and particularly the intent behind them, in the strongest possible terms. We continue to insist that North Korea must terminate its nuclear weapons program completely, verifiably, and irreversibly. And there will be no inducements to get them to do so. Giving into nuclear blackmail will only encourage this behavior, not only in North Korea, but also in nuclear aspirants around the world. North Korea must understand that its efforts to pressure the United States and the international community into meeting its demands will not bear fruit. Indeed, resolution of the problem North Korea has created by its own pursuit of nuclear weapons can only come through verified elimination of its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea must end its indigenous missile program and missile exports. North Korea possesses Scud and No-Dong missiles and is developing the Taepo-Dong 2. North Korea is by far the most aggressive proliferator of missiles and related technologies to countries of concern. These sales are one of the North’s major sources of hard currency, which in turn allow continued missile development and production. Additionally, the United States believes North Korea has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a biological weapons capability in violation of the BWC. North Korea also has a sizeable stockpile of chemical agents and weapons, which it can employ with a variety of means. North Korea is not a State Party to the CWC.

If North Korea verifiably and irreversibly terminates its nuclear weapons program, the United States is willing to reconsider discussing its “bold approach.” Assistance would be provided to North Korea through the “bold approach” if the North addresses concerns about its WMD and missile program and exports as well as other issues, including its conventional force disposition, narcotics trafficking, human rights, and its continued sponsorship of terrorism outside its borders. In the meantime, we urge North Korea to refrain from further escalatory steps that will only bring more harm to its own national interests and will further its isolation from the international community.