November - December 2003

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 33, Number 4, Jerry Strope, Editor

In this Issue: 

"The goal of the United States is not for a freeze of the nuclear program. The goal is to dismantle a nuclear-weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way."

President George W. Bush, December 11, 2003

Will China Tame North Korea?

China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, visited with President Bush on December 9 in the Oval Office. He wanted Bush to warn the Taiwanese not to hold a referendum that might lead to a bid for independence from the mainland. Bush wanted Wen to help denuclearize North Korea. When he met Wen on the South Lawn of the White House, he called China and the United States "partners in diplomacy" committed to "stability" on the Korean Peninsula.

China has been attempting to reconvene six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program. A date of December 17 was announced but agreement on talks quickly collapsed. Wen brought news that North Korea was willing to discuss a freeze on its nuclear weapons program in return for concessions. The Bush Administration, with support from Japan and South Korea, has proposed steps that would lead to the end of the program in return for written assurances from the United States on North Korea’s security.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry called the US proposal unsatisfactory because it would "completely eliminate our nuclear deterrent force by giving just a piece of paper cslled ‘written security assurances.’" Bush’s response to the freeze proposal is this issue’s "quotable quote."

It looks like a quid pro quo situation between China and the United States. China can force North Korea’s Kim Jung Il to get out of the nuclear business by withholding the support that keeps him in power. Bush can lean on Taiwan not to push for "two Chinas." On December 9, Bush made the first move. He told reporters, "The United States policy is one China. We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo. The comments and actions by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally that change the status quo, which we oppose."

Human rights activists and many conservatives were appalled by this seeming abandonment of the Taiwanese. But Eugene Chien, Taiwanese Foreign Minister, said in Taipei, "The United States doesn’t want our referendum to affect the stability of the Taiwan Strait. We fully understand this." That the phrase, "stability of the Taiwan Strait" echoes the phrase, "stability of the Korean Peninsula" is probably no accident. So it is now China’s turn. Will Wen drag North Korea to the bargaining table? If not, the Taiwanese referendum has not been cancelled.

Meanwhile, on December 11, an Aegis cruiser successfully intercepted a dummy warhead over the Pacific Ocean, the fourth success in the last five tries. A Standard Missile-3 from the USS Lake Erie off Kauai made its intercept outside the Earth’s atmosphere on the target’s descent. So, the race goes on—the race between North Korea’s putative nuclear arsenal and the US ballistic missile defense.

President Bush has ordered deployment of an initial ground-based BMD by September 2004. The sea-based BMD, using the Aegis battle-management system, will be integrated into a multilayered ballistic missile defense shortly thereafter. The Aegis system is deployed on 67 US cruisers and destroyers and is being added to at least 22 additional ships. With focus on the North Korean threat, Aegis is the primary weapon system on the Japanese Kongo-class destroyers and will be deployed on South Korea’s newest destroyers.

December 13, incidently, was the second anniversary of President Bush’s announcement that the US would abrogate the 1972 ABM treaty. The Senate Republican Policy Caucus used the occasion to issue an eight-page call for increased effort to build a multilayered missile defense. Their report argued, "As US vulnerability to ballistic missiles is reduced, so will the incentive for rogue states to produce them."

The Gilmore Commission Reports

What do you know about The Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (APADRCTIWMD)? This panel, better known as the Gilmore Commission, was brought into being by Congress back in 1998, well before the 9/11 attack. It has been led for the past five years by former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. It submitted its final report to the Congress on December 16 and will dissolve in mid-February 2004.

If one reads the title of the panel carefully (and its mission fits the title,) the assessment should concern response capabilities in event of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. The panel of 19 members couldn’t keep their heads off preventive measures, however. So they spent a lot of time on intelligence gathering, civil liberties, alert systems and the FBI. The mass media jumped on this aspect and Gilmore was quoted as saying, "We believe that freedoms and security must co-exist equally."

One had to read quite a bit of this before discovering that the panel feels that there has been a loss of momentum in efforts to help state and local governments prepare to respond to terrorist use of WMDs. Among other things, the panel wants coordination of homeland security initiatives brought back to the White House, wants all grant programs under one office, and wants better priorities for funding state and local efforts.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) got the message right away, "Despite the best efforts of the administration’s public-relations department, this report, like so many before it, confirms what many of us in Congress have known for months: The nation is not as prepared for a terrorist attack as it should be." Whether the recommendations made by the panel are likely to improve the WMD response capability is a matter that deserves scrutiny as the report becomes available.

Curiously, the very day of the delivery of the report of the Gilmore Com-mission, the White House leaked the news that there existed a top-secret "Bio-defense End-to-End Assessment" that systematically evaluates the gaps in our security stance against biological attack and lays out a plan for filling those gaps. This is exactly the sort of thing the Gilmore Commission says ought to be done by the Homeland Security staff in the White House. Guess who did this study? Right! It has been led by General John Gordon, who replaced Tom Ridge as President Bush’s homeland security advisor when Ridge was picked as Secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security.

"This is the first time anybody tried to look at the whole bio problem across the board," said one participant. In a statement acknowledging the existence of the effort, General Gordon said: "Working with all government agencies responsible for biodefense issues, the Homeland Security Council is leading and coordinating an assessment of US preparedness, vulnerabilities, and capabilities for defending against bioterrorist attack. This assessment will enable us to evaluate the wide range of biodefense activities throughout the government and further improve our ability to protect the American people against this threat."

General Gordon is former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and former deputy director of the CIA. Do you suppose there is a similar top-secret assessment underway on defense against nuclear terrorism?

Gadhafi Gives Up

On December 19, President Bush an-nounced that Moammar Gadhafi, dictator of Libya, has renounced terror and agreed to "disclose and dismantle" his strategic missiles and his programs for development of weapons of mass destruction. ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, immediately swung into action, promising to send in inspectors as early as the following week.

Gadhafi seized power in Libya in 1969 and has supported terrorist operations and anti-American policies for more than 30 years since then. The most notorious terrorist act was the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, by means of a bomb in a suitcase. Gadhafi has paid compensation to relatives of the 259 people who lost their lives. A Libyan intelligence agent is serving a life sentence for the deed.

Libya now has agreed to tell the IAEA about its nuclear development program, adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and sign an additional protocol that permits surprise inspections. It turns out that the US and Britain have been secretly negotiating with Gadhafi for more than nine months to curb nuclear proliferation. What led him ultimately to cave in? Apparently, it was the war in Iraq, otherwise known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. "I will do whatever the Americans want because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid," he is reported to have told the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Another motivation may have been to escape the burdensome sanctions imposed on Libya. The U.N. Security Council voted to eliminate its sanctions in September when Gadhafi agreed to pay compensation for the Lockerbie bomb but US sanctions remain in force.

As a result of the Libyan disclosure, Pakistan has admitted the possibility that some of Libya’s nuclear development equipment and technical knowledge may have come from Pakistan. A Pakistani official told reporters, "Some individuals may have been doing something on their own." The Pakistani government has denied allegations that it has aided the nuclear programs of Iran, North Korea, and Libya. American investigators note, however, that accusing rogue scientists is a convenient excuse that does not account for much of the traffic. Only a few months before Gadhafi decided to abandon his program, the Americans and British stopped a ship bound for Tripoli with parts for uranium separation equipment. The Pakistani government is investigating.

Iran Finally Signs

On December 18, Iran formally signed the protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that requires Iran to submit to intrusive and surprise U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities. This occurred after months of delays and haggling over details. The attitude of the Bush Administration was "wait and see." Kenneth Brill, the US envoy to the IAEA, called the accord "a useful step in the right direction" but said only aggressive inspections would erase doubts sown by Iran’s "nearly two decades of deception."

Indeed, the "wait and see" attitude applies almost as much to the IAEA as it does to Iran. The judgment is that it is impossible for an organization such as the IAEA to plan and carry out a "surprise" inspection. Also, such inspections as occur are often less aggressive than they could be. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the accord a first step. "For the international community to have full confidence in Iran’s nuclear program, they are going to need to abandon enrichment and reprocessing, and they are going to need to cooperate with the international atomic agency," Boucher said.

Then, at Christmastide, Iran suffered a devastating earthquake in the south-eastern part of the country. Deaths approached 30,000 in the city of Bam. All strategic differences were engulfed in a tide of humanitarian aid from around the globe and, notably, the US.