What about our children? What about our elderly? What about those of us who like to be outside?
—Brenda Lindell, resident near the Anniston U.S. Army Depot in Alabama, where activists filed a lawsuit today to prevent the depot from burning its chemical weapons.
By Greg Webb
Global Security Newswire
LAS VEGAS — China began a significant reform of its public health system following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, but the sheer size of the country and the extent of needed improvements leaves China with a long way to go before it can adequately face a bioterrorist attack, a leading Chinese health official said yesterday...Full Story
Iran’s nuclear weapons program is now more advanced than Iraq’s, a U.S. official with access to intelligence reports on nonproliferation has said (see GSN, Nov. 18)...Full Story
By David Ruppe
Global Security Newswire
LONDON — A handful of senior Bush administration officials advocated trans-Atlantic missile defense cooperation here Monday and Tuesday in the most visible sign yet of a campaign to urge seemingly reluctant NATO allies to join the ambitious U.S. missile defense effort...Full Story
||Wednesday, November 20, 2002|
By Bryan Bender
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congress last week approved final versions of defense and maritime security legislation aimed at strengthening anti-terrorism efforts at home and abroad and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The legislation would direct the National Guard to establish weapons of mass destruction response units across the country, authorize acquisition of new chemical and biological protective gear, expand nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union and tighten security at U.S. ports.
It also would call on the Energy Department to prepare for the potential lifting of the U.S. moratorium on underground nuclear testing in the near future so that underground nuclear tests could be conducted on short notice. Defense officials have recently raised the prospect of a resumption of nuclear tests (see GSN, Nov. 15).
Before adjourning, the 107th Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act and the Maritime Transportation Security Act. The defense act should authorize nearly $400 billion for programs in the Defense and Energy departments, while the maritime legislation would require improved cargo screening, strengthened security measures and better coordination at U.S. ports of entry considered vulnerable to terrorist attack.
The defense bill directs the Pentagon to nearly double the number of National Guard weapons of mass destruction civil support teams, now totaling 32. The units provide “critical medical and technical advice following a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon,” according to the legislation.
“The secretary of defense [should] establish one WMD CST in every U.S. state and territory,” according to a summary of the bill.
The defense bill, meanwhile, would authorize nearly $1 billion for research and development of new protective gear against weapons of mass destruction and equipment to detect and decontaminate chemical and biological weapons.
It would also authorize more than $400 million to dismantle, secure, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, while granting the president more flexibility to spend CTR funds without having to certify that Russia is committed to stemming proliferation. Lawmakers agreed with CTR proponents that “the heightened importance of stopping WMDs” requires the waiver authority.
However, they also included language to require the Pentagon to provide a report on Russian proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technologies and know-how to Iran and other countries of concern, along with a plan to control these activities.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which manages the CTR program, would receive $456.5 million to develop ways to reduce and counter WMD threats. Half of the money would be spent on arms control programs and technologies capable of defeating nuclear, chemical or biological materials.
The military would also be directed by the legislation to designate a senior Defense Department official to work with other agencies to identify and transfer promising defense technologies that might be useful to state and local first responders to a terrorist incident.
The defense bill would also authorize spending on various programs in the Energy Department, which is responsible to maintaining the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons and materials and undertaking nonproliferation programs of its own in the former Soviet Union.
The National Nuclear Security Administration would be authorized a total of $8 billion to manage the nation’s nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation programs. The agency would spend $1.1 billion to address the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, assisting in safeguarding excess Russian weapons and materials.
The defense bill, meanwhile, also would authorize Energy to spend up to $5 million to assist Russia in safeguarding radiological materials that could be used to construct a so-called dirty bomb. It would set aside $10 million to help Russia down-blend highly enriched uranium into nonweapon-grade form as well as another $10 million to conduct joint research on “proliferation-resistant nuclear energy technologies.”
As it funds nonproliferation programs, the legislation would also order steps to prepare for a possible return to underground nuclear tests. It would direct the department to assess options for restarting underground nuclear tests if it is determined necessary to maintain the health of the arsenal or to test new nuclear weapons designs.
“Although the United States continues to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing, it is essential to the viability and safety of the nation’s nuclear deterrent to maintain an ability to resume underground nuclear testing,” according to the bill summary. The NNSA would be required to provide Congress with plans and cost estimates for “achieving and maintaining test readiness postures of six, 12, 18 and 24 months.”
The NNSA would also now be required to specify a strategic force structure plan, outlining the number and types of nuclear warheads, weapon systems and infrastructure that the United States will need to maintain in the coming years. The plan should be consistent with the Nuclear Posture Review, which this year called for a reduced level of operational warheads to 3,800 by 2007 and between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012, according to the final bill.
Meanwhile, Congress last week also approved the conference version of the Maritime Security Act, which, among other things, would increase the Coast Guard budget by more than 15 percent to help secure U.S. ports and waterways.
Sponsored by Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), the legislation would improve security at U.S. ports, increase information gathering, build a more secure shipping infrastructure and establish better cargo screening.
“Perhaps the most vulnerable link in our transportation system is the components that few Americans ever see: our major ports,” Hollings said last week.
A key measure in the bill would call for establishing an area security advisory committee at each port to coordinate security plans among agencies involved, including law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Customs, the Coast Guard, immigration and port authorities, shipping companies, and port workers.
“This bill will require for the first time that we know more in advance about the cargo and crew members coming into the United States, says a summary. The more we know about a ship’s cargo — and where it originated — the better our Customs agents and other law enforcement officers can target the most suspicious containers and passengers.”
The Coast Guard would also play a greater role with an increase from $5 billion to $6 billion in its annual budget.
“Ensuring the Coast Guard has sufficient personnel and capital resources could not come at a more important time. Since the tragic events of Sept. 11, far greater demands have been placed on the Coast Guard in the area of homeland security,” the bill summary says.
The U.S. Senate approved the homeland security bill yesterday, paving the way for creation of the third-largest Cabinet department in the U.S. government (see GSN, Nov.18).
The legislation, passed by a 90-9 vote, would bring together more than 20 agencies and 170,000 employees with a budget of more than $35 billion. The House of Representatives passed homeland security legislation last week and a House-Senate conference committee will work out minor differences in the bill before sending it to President George W. Bush, who has strongly supported the new department.
“We’re making great progress in the war on terror,” Bush said. “Part of that progress will be the ability for us to protect the American people at home. This is a very important piece of legislation,” he added.
The overwhelming approval of the legislation came after narrow rejection of an amendment that would have stripped the bill of several provisions that Democrats claimed cater to special interests.
Agencies responsible for securing airports, harbors and commerce would be included in the new department, including the Coast Guard, Customs Service and Transportation Security Administration.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service would be dismantled and replaced with two agencies — one to deal with border security and the other to focus on immigrants. Missing from the new department would be the CIA and the FBI, two agencies that were heavily criticized after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 (see GSN, April 1).
Lawmakers and officials warned, however, that the new department will not be effective and cohesive immediately. The Bush administration must find officials for the new department and locate sufficient funding.
“It’s going to be difficult and it’s going to take longer than everybody thinks — because it’s a part of the federal government,” Sen. Fred Thompson (R. Tenn.) said (Nick Anderson, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 20).
Navy Secretary Gordon England is a candidate for a high-level position at the agency, according to Tom Ridge, White House domestic security adviser.
Officials cautioned that the effort to form the new department could take years and divert attention from domestic security.
“I would be foolish to ignore the reality of the logistics of this. We’re going to look for advice and counsel from a lot of folks,” Ridge said.
Ridge, who is considered the most likely candidate to lead the new department, said he will seek guidance from a variety of sources. He has already consulted with executives from Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin to discuss the difficulties of large mergers.
“I may need to go to church every day,” he said.
“It’s going to take years in order to get this department fully integrated — you’re talking about bringing together 22 different entities, each with a longstanding tradition and its own culture,” said David Walker, director of the General Accounting Office (Philip Shenon, New York Times, Nov. 19).
Lawmakers must now make choices on committee oversight and appropriations for the new department. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) sponsored a resolution in the House Republican conference — which was passed overwhelmingly — to push representatives toward a more streamlined funding process for the new department.
“My goal was to create momentum,” Weldon said. “The vote in the conference was overwhelming. Now it’s up to the [party] leaders to show leadership … If we don’t do it, we doom the Homeland Security Department.”
A new homeland security committee is also a possibility, lawmakers said. Weldon denied that he was proposing a new committee only to gain the chairmanship, but he said that he was the man for the job.
“These are my issues,” he said.
Several committees stand to lose jurisdiction as a result of the new department, including the House Judiciary Committee, which would no longer have oversight of the soon-to-be-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service. The House Ways and Means Committee would not lose jurisdiction over Customs. Members of that committee drafted the security bill to ensure that the Treasury Department — which the committee’s jurisdiction covers — will continue to oversee the collection of revenues by the Customs Service.
“Nobody likes losing jurisdiction — that’s one thing you can count on around here,” a Senate Republican source said (Richard Cohen, Congress Daily, Nov. 20).
Local officials cheered the new department but expressed concern about the lack of new funding for homeland security measures. Congress passed a resolution to maintain 2002 funding levels until January.
“We’re pleased that the homeland security reorganization is going through, but the funding issue is left unresolved,” according to Andrew Solomon, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “These cities are in a really difficult position. They’ve been forced to spend millions” on security without federal assistance, he added.
“Congress really dropped the ball on that,” Dalen Harris, a homeland security specialist with the National Association of Counties, said of the continued funding (Maureen Sirhal, Technology Daily, Nov. 19).
U.N. weapons inspectors yesterday completed talks with Iraqi officials in Baghdad in advance of a new round of inspections (see GSN, Nov. 19).
The talks with Iraqi officials over the impending inspections were “constructive,” “professional” and “businesslike,” according to U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iraq has agreed to provide a full declaration of its WMD programs by Dec. 8 as mandated by a new U.N. resolution, and the first weapons inspections are set to begin Nov. 27, Blix and ElBaradei said after returning to Cyprus from Iraq.
The inspections set to begin next week will be “the real test” of Iraq’s willingness to comply with the new U.N. resolution, ElBaradei said. “We hope their words and commitments will translate on the ground into real, full cooperation,” he added (IAEA Release, Nov. 20).
While in Baghdad, U.N. officials reopened the inspectors’ former headquarters, Blix said. The site had been closed since 1998, when U.N. inspectors left Iraq because of impending U.S. and British airstrikes (Associated Press/Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20).
U.S. War Plans
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has begun requesting contributions of military personnel and support from U.S. allies to aid U.S. troops in the event of a war with Iraq, White House officials said yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 18).
U.S. embassies in 50 countries have been directed to evaluate the willingness of other national leaders to participate in an attack if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is found to have violated the new U.N. resolution, according to the Washington Post.
“Our diplomacy has to be backed by the credible threat of force,” a senior administration official said. “The best way to keep Saddam focused is to make sure he realizes we’re serious. If Saddam fails to disarm, we and other members of the U.N. would seek to enforce the resolution.”
Non-U.S. troops would be of little direct assistance in a U.S. war in Iraq because they often lack technology necessary to work with U.S. troops, the Post reported. U.S. officials believe, however, that non-U.S. troops could play a valuable role in later peacekeeping operations. In addition, special forces units from several countries were involved in the war in Afghanistan, and the United States would probably welcome similar assistance during a military campaign in Iraq, according to the Post.
The White House has received “a great deal of support” from other countries on the idea of possible military action against Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday.
“People, countries are coming in,” Rumsfeld said. “The Department of State has been talking to various countries and there are a growing number of countries that have said that they want to be helpful in the event that it becomes necessary for a coalition of countries to use force in Iraq,” he added.
U.S. President George W. Bush is “not close,” however, to deciding whether to form such a coalition against Iraq, Bush said in an interview with Czech television released yesterday.
“We’re not close to that decision point yet because we’re just beginning the process of allowing Saddam the chance to show the world whether or not he will disarm,” Bush said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department is ready to call up thousands of reservists to active duty without a standard 30-day notification if the situation requires them quickly, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday.
“If it has to be zero and we call them up and say, ‘Report tomorrow,’ we will do that,” said Thomas Hall, assistant defense secretary for reserve affairs (Loeb/Ricks, Washington Post, Nov. 20).
For further information, see:
IAEA Iraq Action Team
Authorities released Pakistani orthopedic surgeon Amir Aziz yesterday after secretly holding him for a month on suspicion of aiding al-Qaeda’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (see GSN, Oct. 22).
Aziz said FBI and CIA agents questioned him about possible involvement in helping al-Qaeda develop nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons. The accusations were “the most ludicrous thing I have heard in my life,” Aziz said.
Aziz was freed in advance of a deadline set by the Lahore High Court, which had twice ordered his release. Authorities never told Aziz why he had been detained nor gave him access to a lawyer, he said.
“They didn’t torture me physically, but can you imagine being in one room for a month, being asked questions for eight hours a day?” Aziz said. “I told them that I was an orthopedic surgeon — what do I know about biological and chemical weapons? — but they were not prepared to listen to this” (Phil Reeves, London Independent, Nov. 20).
Iran’s nuclear weapons program is now more advanced than Iraq’s, a U.S. official with access to intelligence reports on nonproliferation has said (see GSN, Nov. 18).
Iran has improved its program by obtaining technology to produce nuclear reactor fuel and to process spent fuel, Newsday reported today. This fuel cycle can also include the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel to extract weapon-grade plutonium, which is what U.S. specialists believe Iran wants to accomplish, Newsday reported.
“They (Iran) are pursuing clandestinely through false trading companies and a variety of other means an intensive effort to develop those attributes of the fuel cycle which are necessary” to build nuclear weapons, said John Wolf, U.S. assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.
Iran has used front companies to purchase technologies needed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Wolf said. The purchases include “esoteric technologies which only really make sense as part of a weapons development program,” he added.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei is planning a trip to Iran to visit its nuclear sites, according to Newsday (see GSN, May 29). ElBaradei said he would like to visit sites believed to be involved in Iran’s attempts to acquire a complete fuel cycle. Iranian officials have made assurances that “whatever they are building there will be declared” to the IAEA and placed under inspections, he added.
In a speech to the IAEA General Conference in September, Iran indicated that it is seeking to acquire fuel cycle technologies for peaceful uses, according to Newsday. Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, invited “technologically advanced” countries “to participate in my country’s ambitious plan for the construction of nuclear power plants and the associated technologies such as fuel cycle, safety and waste management.”
The “complete transparency of my country’s nuclear activities is a serious commitment by my government,” Aghazadeh said.
Some analysts, however, doubt Iran’s claims that its fuel cycle development would be only for peaceful purposes.
“I think it’s a very dangerous trend,” said Gary Samore of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “I think the Iranians are likely to pursue a nuclear weapons program under the guise of a safeguarded fuel cycle” (Royce/Lane, Newsday, Nov. 20).
By David McGlinchey
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — To pre-empt international questioning and provide more transparency in the U.S. nuclear program, the United States should conduct all subcritical nuclear tests above ground in steel-walled containers, a U.S. nuclear expert said recently (see GSN, Sept. 27).
“These activities are creating an uncertainty,” Frank von Hippel, chairman of the Federation of American Scientists and a Princeton University professor, told Global Security Newswire yesterday.
In lieu of nuclear tests, which are prohibited by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, underground subcritical tests are conducted at the U.S. Energy Department’s Nevada Test Site. Since 1997, the United States has conducted 19 subcritical tests, which help maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile by examining plutonium under high pressure without creating a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
Officials should stop underground operations at the test site, von Hippel said Nov. 14 at a nonproliferation conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“We don’t need to do it underground,” he said. “We should shut down the test sites,” he added.
Underground testing is sometimes difficult to detect and leads to uncertainty and suspicion, experts at the conference said. A full-blown nuclear test conducted above ground would be easily detected using available sensors and could not be disguised as a subcritical test, according to panel members.
If above-ground subcritical tests became the international norm, countries could avoid periodic accusations and misunderstandings regarding underground tests, according to von Hippel. For example, earlier this year, U.S. officials said that Russia might be preparing to conduct nuclear tests, a charge that Russian officials denied (see GSN, May 28).
Subcritical tests could easily be housed in thick steel-walled containers, von Hippel said. Some of the tests might have to be slightly modified, he said, but such containers have been used to conduct previous tests.
The test site facilities are maintained to allow the United States to return to full nuclear testing, if needed, within two to three years, according to von Hippel. It is doubtful that it would take much longer than two years to restart nuclear testing, however, if the facilities were closed down, he said.
“Our posture is that we should be ready … you could put them in some kind of less-ready condition,” von Hippel said.
Pro-Nuclear Political Climate
Republican victories in the recent U.S. elections make it unlikely that the subcritical tests will be moved above ground or that the tests site will be closed, von Hippel acknowledged.
“I don’t think it’s politically practical at the moment,” he said.
Lawmakers and government officials have recently suggested re-examining the U.S. moratorium on nuclear tests (see GSN, Nov. 19), and president George W. Bush has indicated he will not seek the ratification of the test ban treaty, which was signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1996.
A future swing in political momentum could allow von Hippel’s proposal a chance in Washington, he said. Until then, however, the United States seems unlikely to board up its test site.
“It’s a pity that the decision wasn’t made when we signed the test ban,” von Hippel said.
The United States is still considering whether to try to preserve some aspects of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, a senior U.S. State Department official said yesterday. Washington is still committed, however, to diplomatically isolating Pyongyang to force an end to its suspected uranium enrichment program, according to reports (see GSN, Nov. 19).
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said yesterday the United States does not plan to rush to make decisions on the future of the framework, under which North Korea agreed to freeze its suspected nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy assistance (see GSN, Nov. 12).
“The U.S. view on the Agreed Framework is that the North Koreans said it was nullified, and we guess it’s been nullified,” Kelly said. “But we are not in any rush to make decisions on all aspects of it. This is an agreement that has acted for some eight years. It has a number of different elements to it,” he added (Reuters/Yahoo.com, Nov. 19).
Although the United States has not yet determined the fate of the framework, Washington is implementing a strategy of assertive diplomacy to isolate North Korea based on recent statements that Pyongyang has made regarding its suspected nuclear program, according to U.S. officials (see GSN, Nov. 15).
“We are going to contain and isolate them,” a senior U.S. official said.
The recent decision by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization to suspend all future shipments of heavy fuel oil to North Korea, a framework provision, is a first step in the isolation campaign, U.S. officials said (see GSN, Nov. 15). The United States expects the International Atomic Energy Agency to condemn Pyongyang for violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, according to the Financial Times. An IAEA board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Another move being considered is a call for effective action by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to end North Korea’s access to materials that could be used in weapons efforts, the senior U.S. official said. Aid to North Korea provided through the World Food Program raises more complicated issues, however, even though there are signs that some of that aid has been distributed to the North Korean military, U.S. officials said (Stephen Fidler, Financial Times, Nov. 20).
Japan said today that the status of scheduled security talks with North Korea is still in doubt (see GSN, Oct. 30).
“We will be making preparations to hold the meeting in November,” Katsunari Suzuki, Japan’s envoy in charge of normalization talks with North Korea, told the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of the Japanese Parliament. “But we are not sure what will happen about it in the end,” he added (Agence France-Presse, Nov. 20).
In Europe, the European Union said yesterday that North Korea risks jeopardizing its relations with it unless Pyongyang ends suspected nuclear weapons efforts.
“The (European) Commission and member states will review their activities regarding North Korea,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller. “I can tell you that failure to resolve the nuclear issue will jeopardize the future development of European Union-North Korea relations,” he said (Agence France-Presse/Times of India, Nov. 19).
Neighbors Prescribe Caution
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung yesterday argued against imposing economic sanctions on North Korea, saying such a move would not result in Pyongyang abandoning its suspected nuclear weapons efforts (see GSN, Oct. 24). Instead, sanctions could prompt North Korea to further develop its weapons program and begin producing weapons, he said. Ultimately, sanctions could lead to another war in Korea, he added.
“In another scenario, the North Korean economy could simply collapse, not being able to bear the impact of economic sanctions,” Kim said. “This would trigger an exodus of millions of North Koreans to South Korea. Economic sanctions are not a cure-all,” he added (Korea Times, Nov. 20).
Meanwhile, Chinese President Jiang Zemin today called on both the United States and North Korea to maintain the Agreed Framework and to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue.
“The 1994 nuclear framework agreement between North Korea and the United States was difficult to come by. It is in the common interest of all sides that it should be conscientiously respected,” Jiang said during talks in Beijing with former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo. “We hope that the concerned problem can be resolved through dialogue and consultations,” Jiang added (Agence France-Presse, Nov. 20).
Russia still does not have firm evidence that North Korea actually possesses nuclear weapons, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said today.
“We have no official information that North Korea has nuclear weapons,” Ivanov said. “The foreign minister has sent a request to North Korea asking to clarify how things stand. As far as I know, there has been no response so far. Therefore, I would not make final conclusions,” he added (Interfax/BBC Monitoring, Nov. 20).
For further information, see:
Agreed Framework Text
By Greg Webb
Global Security Newswire
LAS VEGAS — China began a significant reform of its public health system following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, but the sheer size of the country and the extent of needed improvements leaves China with a long way to go before it can adequately face a bioterrorist attack, a leading Chinese health official said yesterday.
Chinese readiness is “not good enough,” Liming Lee, director of China’s new Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Global Security Newswire on the sidelines of a major bioterrorism conference here.
Improving China’s ability to detect anthrax or other biological outbreaks is the first order of business for Lee, who said he fears that China’s detection system facilitates vast under-reporting of cases of infectious disease. To detect outbreaks, China relies on reporting from hospitals and other medical facilities, but this needs to be improved, he said. In the case of sexually transmitted diseases, for example, public health officials are probably aware of only 10 percent of the cases, he estimated.
In contrast, New York City officials can supplement traditional sources such as doctors and emergency rooms by monitoring over-the-counter drug purchases, prescription orders, calls to nurses’ hotlines, ambulance calls, work absenteeism, autopsies and veterinary cases, according to Farzad Mostashari, an assistant commissioner of the city’s health department. In addition, the city is exploring the possibility of monitoring nonmedical information, for example, tracking sales of orange juice or counting numbers of people coughing captured by city video surveillance cameras.
The primary problem China faces is its size, Lee said. China’s 1.2 billion people are served by 330,000 health agencies, 5.6 million health workers and only 36 public health schools, he said. Recognizing that the infrastructure is unprepared to address a large-scale terrorist action, officials created Lee’s center in January and began to study new national policies and to introduce biological weapons coursework into medical schools (see GSN, June 7).
To further these education efforts, Beijing recently released a handbook to the general population and publications describing the threats posed by biological and chemical weapons to China’s public health experts, Lee said.
China is particularly concerned by the threat of a smallpox attack, Lee said, and a government panel is studying whether to vaccinate some or all of the population (see GSN, Nov. 19). The panel is expected to provide a recommendation by the end of this year, Lee said.
China has more recent smallpox vaccination experience than the United States, Lee said. It stopped routinely administering the vaccine in 1980, nearly 10 years after the United States ended its vaccination program, he said.
Officials are also concerned about anthrax, Lee said, adding that hundreds of cases are typically reported each year in rural communities. Such an experience means that China is well equipped with antibiotics to treat anthrax, Lee said, but he added that he remains worried about 125 letters containing “white powder” that were sent through mail system following the anthrax attacks in the United States.
The fact that China currently deals with many infectious diseases makes it better prepared to treat possible bioterrorist attacks because its medical personnel are experienced at delivering aid throughout the country.
“On the one side, it’s bad news for us. On the other side, it’s good news because we have experience treating these situations,” Lee said.
By David McGlinchey
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — If the United States wants to prevent biological terrorism and misuse of biological technology, it must concentrate its efforts on people and institutions that actually work with dangerous pathogens, experts said last week (see GSN, Nov. 15).
Scientists would object to a plan that would impede legitimate scientific efforts in the process of thwarting biological terrorism and warfare, several experts said at a nonproliferation conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“We have to be very careful to make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease,” said Nancy Gallagher, associate director for research at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.
Any regulation handed down from the top levels of government and applied to anything “but the most obviously dangerous bioscience is a misfit,” said Jeanna Kwik, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a fellow at the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies. Kwik currently works on a project funded by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to determine how officials can prevent misuse of biology without hampering important research.
The government must also persuade researchers to accept the legitimacy of its efforts or the initiative will fail, Kwik said. Such legitimacy will be easier to achieve if biological experts, rather than government officials, make decisions, she suggested.
“We have to assure the community that no, we’re not trying to close down the beneficial things you are doing, we are trying to manage these very serious risks,” said Gerald Epstein, former assistant director for national security at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Agreement Through Dialogue
If officials cannot realistically and effectively work to secure the biological technology field they should not address the issue, according to Epstein. An open dialogue between scientists and security experts can achieve this, he said.
“It is important for the scientific community to see how the law enforcement community approaches the world, and it’s important for the security community to understand how the scientific community works … things that are effective, things that are not effective, things that are fatal if they are not managed correctly,” Epstein said.
If the lines of communication are not kept open, scientists may end up under controls that were built without their contribution, Epstein said. Unless experts can convincingly explain why certain controls would be worse than the status quo, lawmakers will want to take action, he said.
“Congress is a pretty blunt instrument. In general they’ve got a red button and they’ve got a green button,” he said.
The difficulty of defining dangerous science makes it tough to decide on controls, Kwik said. For example, aerosol technology that can be used to quickly administer medicine can also be used to quickly disperse deadly biological agents.
“Ever since sticks have been sharpened and fires have been lit, technology has given the power to do good things and to do bad things,” Epstein said. The government does not want to restrict valuable studies, he added.
“We don’t want to label knowledge as good or bad — knowledge is something that is enabling — but the consequences are very hard to predict,” Epstein said.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Nuclear Threat Initiative is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.]
All of the sites where stockpiles of Soviet-era anthrax were buried on the Vozrozhdeniya peninsula in the Aral Sea have been decontaminated, Bakhyt Atshabar, director of the Kazakh Scientific Center for Quarantine and Zoonotic Infections, said yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 20).
The 10 anthrax burial sites were decontaminated during the summer through a project organized by the Untied States and conducted with the assistance of Uzbekistan, Atshabar said (see GSN, May 15). A team of Kazakh specialists is scheduled to travel to Vozrozhdeniya in May of next year to collect air, soil and water samples to evaluate the decontamination effort, he added (Khabar Television/BBC Monitoring, Nov. 19).
Danish police yesterday arrested Gen. Nizar Khazraji, former Iraqi military chief of staff and potential replacement for President Saddam Hussein, on charges stemming from alleged Iraqi chemical weapons use against Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians (see GSN, Oct. 30).
Following a report by a Kurdish immigrant, police have investigated Khazraji in the town of Soroe during the past year, according to the London Times. He has been charged with war crimes, violations of the Geneva Conventions and other human rights abuses, the Times reported.
Khazraji’s arrest will damage Iraqi opposition efforts to develop a credible government to replace that of Hussein, Iraqi oppositions sources said (see GSN, Nov. 11). They also said Khazraji could have played a valuable role in an Iraqi opposition conference scheduled to be held in London next month.
Khazraji’s “arrest is a major setback for us,” an Iraqi opposition official said. “He is a man with credibility back home. His arrest will make it that much harder to encourage other officers to defect if they fear that they will be charged, too” (Richard Beeston, London Times, Nov. 20).
Already in possession of several elite units to respond to chemical and biological warfare, the Czech Defense Ministry announced this week that it plans to form a new, mobile anti-chemical unit by 2003 (see GSN, Nov. 13).
The unit might become part of a new 20,000-member NATO force, the Boston Globe reported today. NATO leaders are expected to create the force, designed to be rapidly deployed, during a Prague summit that is to begin tomorrow (see GSN, Nov. 19).
“They are leading the way,” a senior U.S. military official in Europe said of the Czech Republic. “Their planning is fitting well into what NATO is looking at doing, what they want to bless at the summit,” the official added.
The Czech military specialized in responding to chemical warfare when it belonged to the Warsaw Pact, the Globe reported. Czech personnel are now assisting Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania to develop their own niche forces.
“We tried to figure out how to play the best role as a small country with limited resources,” said Jan Vana, director of Strategic Planning at the Czech Defense Ministry. “The idea was to specialize, but we weren’t going to specialize in cooks,” he added (Brian Whitmore, Boston Globe, Sept. 20).
Alabama residents and environmental activists filed a lawsuit yesterday to stop the U.S. Army from incinerating chemical weapons stored at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama (see GSN, Sept. 23).
The lawsuit contends that chemical burning at the depot — which houses 9 percent of the U.S. arsenal of chemical weapons — is too close to Anniston’s residents and poses an “imminent and substantial danger to public health.”
The lawsuit asks that the Army investigate newly discovered alternative chemical disposal technologies. Army officials said the incineration method is safe, but they have acknowledged that some mortar shells and rockets are leaking trace amounts of nerve gas.
The incineration project “has already safely eliminated 25 percent of the nation’s total stockpile, including 38 percent of all munitions using the current technology,” said Michael Abrams, spokesman for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.
Residents have learned to identify the sound of the most serious public alert distress signal, and local officials have said they will pass out gas masks and duct tape to seal houses, but such precautions have prompted further concern among residents, according to the New York Times.
“If there is an accident, there is no way to protect us,” local resident and activist Brenda Lindell said. “What about our children? What about our elderly? What about those of us who like to be outside?” (Jeffery Gettleman, New York Times, Nov. 20).
By Mike Nartker
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — Following a similar move by South Asian rival India, Pakistan has decided to not participate in a proposed international code of conduct to halt ballistic missile proliferation, a Pakistani Embassy spokesman told Global Security Newswire yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 8).
Pakistan has decided “not to subscribe” to the International Code of Conduct against the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles, spokesman Asad Hayauddin said yesterday in a written statement. The code “does not reflect an equitable approach on missiles” and “does not take into account” Pakistan’s concerns, he said.
In part, Pakistan has rejected the code because it does not deal with the issue of complimentary delivery platforms such as cruise missiles and sophisticated military aircraft, Hayauddin said. India is either developing such systems or importing them from members of the European Union, he said.
There are also Pakistani concerns related to the code drafting process, Hayauddin said. Negotiators constructed the agreement through a short series of meetings that did not take into account the position of Pakistan or of several other countries, he said. Missile proliferation would be better addressed through the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, he added.
Concerns about Pakistan’s missile proliferation activities have recently increased following a Washington Post report alleging that Pakistan provided nuclear weapons assistance to North Korea in exchange for missile components (see GSN, Nov. 13). Following India and China, Pakistan is the third country of possible proliferation concern to abandon the code in the last two weeks (see GSN, Nov. 14). Supporters of the agreement plan to sign it Monday in a ceremony at The Hague.
Although Pakistan has decided against joining the code, it supports the agreement’s objectives and remains opposed to missile proliferation, Hayauddin said. Pakistan’s commitment to opposing exports of sensitive missile technologies goes beyond that of members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, and Pakistan regularly notifies its neighbors of its missile tests, he said.
“Pakistan is a responsible missile power” and it is “against missile proliferation,” Hayauddin said.
For further information, see:
Draft International Code of Conduct (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)
Missile Technology Control Regime (U.S. State Department)
By David Ruppe
Global Security Newswire
LONDON — A handful of senior Bush administration officials advocated trans-Atlantic missile defense cooperation here Monday and Tuesday in the most visible sign yet of a campaign to urge seemingly reluctant NATO allies to join the ambitious U.S. missile defense effort.
“The train is about to pull out of the station. We invite our friends, allies and the Russian Federation to climb on board,” Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton told a conference here yesterday.
Bolton was among five senior U.S. officials speaking at the conference, organized by the Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies and sponsored by Boeing Co. to examine possibilities for international missile defense cooperation. Also speaking were U.S. NATO Mission defense adviser Evan Galbraith, U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle and Defense Science Board Chairman William Schneider. The latter two spoke as private citizens.
The U.S. officials said international cooperation on missile defense against long-range threats and threats to home territory and population became possible last June when the United States pulled out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. European governments, however, have so far shown mixed signals about whether they might sign on to the U.S. program, which involves developing multiple systems for identifying, tracking and intercepting potential short-, medium- and long-range ballistic missile threats.
Nongovernmental organizations and legislators have criticized the U.S. program substantially in the European news media. The United Kingdom — which is considered one of the most likely partners given its strong ties with the United States and location — has indicated reluctance to join. A top British defense official speaking at the conference said that the United Kingdom’s current priority is developing theater missile defense for British forces.
“Protection of our deployed forces remains our priority at this stage,” Lord Bach, undersecretary of state and minister of state for defense procurement, said.
Similarly, British Secretary of State for Defense Geoffrey Hoon suggested in a Nov. 12 speech that the time for a British decision on pursuing the U.S. approach could be some time off.
“As the threat grows and technologies develop, there may come a day when we need to decide to add a further capability to our current range of responses by acquiring missile defenses for the United Kingdom and for Europe as a whole, in the way the United States has already decided,” Hoon said.
On the other hand, this month the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political and decision-making body, approved initiating a feasibility study on developing national missile defenses to protect allied territory and population centers against long-range threats and other dangers, Bolton said. In June 2001, before the end of the ABM Treaty, the alliance had contracted for an 18-month feasibility study of shorter-range theater missile defenses for protecting troops.
Alliance defense ministers last June issued a statement saying that “alliance territory and population centers will also face an increasing missile threat.” The statement called for an assessment of ways to address the perceived threat “in an effective and efficient way through an appropriate mix of political and defense efforts.” The United States has been urging NATO heads of state attending the alliance’s Prague Summit Thursday and Friday to issue a statement in favor of examining various options for defending against missile threats.
Arguments in Favor
U.S. officials argued that existing proliferation threats warrant a U.S.-European defense system, that previous concerns that such a system would undermine arms control have proven groundless with the demise of the ABM Treaty and that the time to join the United States is now, while the concept of the system is still being developed.
With the demise of the ABM Treaty, which restricted international long-range missile defense cooperation, “we can identify opportunities and options for increased cooperation with friends and allies,” Bolton said. “Without the ability to protect allied territory and population centers from missile attack, NATO’s vulnerability to political coercion and blackmail will only increase,” he said.
“The initial need for missile defense is in Europe. The threat is coming from places like Libya, like Iraq, like Iran,” Galbraith said. “The fact that governments are hesitating to perceive this threat is rather discouraging,” he said.
Schneider said the ballistic missile threat is “not an episodic problem that is related to a particular, regional or bilateral security problem.”
“It’s an enduring problem that derives from the nature of the technology itself, its pervasiveness and its accessibility,” he said.
Missile defense development could discourage potential adversaries from developing ballistic missiles, Schneider said. It could “persuade countries that are investing in it now that this is not a sensible investment,” he said.
Kadish maintained recent successful intercept testing of U.S. missile defense systems has proven the basic technology. “We are embarking now on something real ... We have confidence that this technology can work,” he said.
Kadish said the United States is open to a variety of cooperative arrangements.
“We’ve offered potential partners government-to-government agreements, in-kind investments, not necessarily monetary investments ... Or we could cooperate with entities, such as NATO or a European missile defense agency, or some other construct that might arise out of this discussion,” he said.
“But again, we have only been thinking about this since we withdrew from the treaty in June of this year,” he said.
Different Approaches to Dealing With Threat
Lord Bach said he believes there is a long-range ballistic missile threat. He cited other ways in which he said London is addressing the issue through diplomacy, deterrence, multilateral export controls of missile technology and a scheduled multinational plan to adopt a code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation at the Hague later this month.
A possible issue, however, that may force a British decision on joining the U.S. program is a U.S. request for use of radar at a British air force base. Sites in the United Kingdom and Greenland are considered possible locations for U.S. national missile defense radars. Kadish was to visit a prospective site at the Royal Air Force base Fylingdales later this week, a British official said.
Hoon said Nov. 7 that the United States had made no formal request to use British air bases for its long-range missile defense activities.
British Foreign Office Minister Mike O’Brien this month told the House of Commons that if such a request is received, “the government will consider it. But the government would only agree to use of U.K. facilities if satisfied that the overall security of the U.K. and NATO would be enhanced.” NATO member defense officials said the United States has yet to present an architecture for the proposed system, which would require them to make a decision about whether to cooperate.
U.S. missile defense officials, however, have said they do not intend to settle on an architecture until they the technologies are much more mature and the system is more fully developed.
The U.S. missile defense program is “a huge enterprise that will take years to come to fruition and there [are] yet no decisions about the overall shape of the defenses that they might deploy operationally,” Lord Bach said.
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