The lndependent
April 29, 2003

Nuclear War Risk Grows as States Race to Acquire Bomb

by Peter Popham

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

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 program." 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 behavior of the

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 unraveled. At the last NPT review
conference in 2000 all member states signed a 13-point program. 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 organization. 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 popularizing of the term Weapons of Mass Destruction has 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 neighbor.

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

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



Believed to have between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, but has never
acknowledged them. Refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty and does not allow United Nations weapons inspectors into the
country. Has around 90 Jericho 1 surface-to-surface medium-range (311
miles) missiles, and Jericho 2 long-range (1,000 miles) missiles, and
100 aircraft that could deliver nuclear devices.


Development of nuclear power facilities at Busheher using Russian
expertise has stoked US fears that Iran is developing nuclear
weapons, despite an agreement that spent fuel rods will be disposed
of in Russia. Recent tests of a new generation of Shihab 3
medium-range rockets has added to US concerns, and a Shihab 4 rocket
capable of reaching Western Europe is believed to be near to testing.


In 1974, India exploded what the government described as a "peaceful
nuclear device", and has expanded its capability ever since, bringing
nuclear-capable Agni (Fire) II surface-to-surface long-range (1,242
miles) missiles into service last year. Also has short-range Agni I
missiles, and 40 or more aircraft capable of delivering nuclear
devices. Has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.


When hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops amassed on
either side of the line of control in Kashmir last May, Pakistan
test-fired Ghauri, Ghaznazi (Hatf 3) and the Abdali (Hatf 2) missiles
to show it was ready and capable of using short and medium-range
nuclear warheads. It also has 40 or so aircraft capable of delivering
nuclear devices. Has not signed the non-proliferation treaty.


Signed the non-proliferation treaty in 1985 and pulled out in January
this year. This followed a US-led decision to halt oil shipments over
Pyongyang's admission it was restarting its nuclear program. Believed
to have one or two nuclear weapons, and testing of the long-range
Pekodosan 1 (formerly the Taepodong 1) missile continues. Has two or
more aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons.