Conservative Party Policy on nuclear non-proliferation

UK Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague speech on Nuclear

   Non-Proliferation, 23 July 2008

/Address to the IISS by Rt Hon William Hague MP, Shadow Foreign
Secretary, 23 July 2008./

       The Rt Hon William Hague MP, “Preventing a new age of nuclear

       insecurity”, International Institute of Strategic Studies,

       Wednesday 23rd July 2008

Two years ago I gave a speech here at IISS in which I warned of a crisis
in the global non-proliferation regime caused by the actions of
countries like Iran and North Korea, the nuclear black market, the
threat of nuclear terrorism, and stalemate over the future of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I called on the international
community to overcome its divided and uncertain response to these
challenges. Since then, while there have been some welcome developments,
the crisis over nuclear proliferation has grown.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. International
sanctions and diplomacy have failed so far to stop Iran.s nuclear
programme. The United States government has presented evidence that
Syria was constructing a secret nuclear reactor with North Korean
technology and assistance. And two weeks ago Iran test-fired a range of
missiles aimed at demonstrating that it can disrupt oil flows through
the Straits of Hormuz and target Israel, U.S. forces in Iraq and even
parts of Europe. Israel has also conducted long-range military exercises
that were widely portrayed as a dry run for a bombing mission against
Iran.s nuclear installations.

Given these events, some might argue that it is the wrong time to talk
about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that governments should
concentrate all their efforts on the crisis over Iran. However I believe
that it is precisely this tendency to deal with each proliferation
crisis as a one-off that fundamentally hampers our ability to stem the
global spread of nuclear weapons. In the space of relatively few years
we have been confronted by confirmed nuclear weapons programmes in Iraq,
North Korea and Libya, and concealed nuclear activities and a suspected
nuclear weapons programme in Iran. While all these cases are different,
they have important features in common – including how these countries
acquired their technology, how they hid their activities (in the case of
Iran for nearly two decades), and how they successfully held off
international pressure for many years.

With every prospect of the pace of nuclear proliferation increasing, we
must lift our gaze to look at the coming crises, not just the current
one. The certainties of the Cold War, when nuclear weapons were
concentrated in the hands of a few and mutually-assured destruction
prevailed, have been replaced by a far more unpredictable array of
threats. We are facing a new era of nuclear insecurity which left
unchecked, could lead to the unravelling of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has been a fundamental pillar of our
global security for the last four decades. We therefore must act now
while time is still on our side and while there is a remaining chance of
turning this tide.

Since I last spoke on this subject there has been a resurgence of
interest in nuclear weapons issues. On the other side of the Atlantic,
George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn have proposed
an initiative to “reverse reliance on nuclear weapons globally…and
ultimately end them as a threat to the world”, which has drawn attention
from around the globe. It has given much needed intellectual force and
impetus to the debate about how to make the world safer from nuclear
weapons and has attracted the support of leading figures from the worlds
of defence, politics and academia, including in this country.

The two US Presidential candidates have also both given major speeches
on the need to make nuclear non-proliferation a higher priority. Senator
McCain has committed himself to reducing the size of the US nuclear
arsenal “to the lowest number” needed to maintain US security and
commitments. Senator Obama has spoken of the need for “deep cuts” in US
and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Both have embraced the vision of a world
free of nuclear weapons.

We welcome the fact that these ideas are being debated in the United
States, as the country with the largest number of operationally active
nuclear warheads in the world and stockpiles second only to Russia, and
whose weight and influence is indispensable to the success of any global

We also welcome the specific proposals put forward by Shultz, Kissinger,
Perry and Nunn for changes to the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear
weapons to reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use, for
action to secure global stocks of fissile material, and for substantial
reductions in the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them
– something that the UK has already done.

Addressing the existence of stockpiles of nuclear weapons is an integral
part of efforts to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons and a fundamental
commitment under the NPT, which requires “negotiations in good faith on
effective measures” on nuclear disarmament and on “a treaty on general
and complete disarmament under strict and effective international
control”. Britain has an excellent record. We have reduced our nuclear
capability to a single system and the explosive power of our nuclear
arsenal by 75% since the Cold War, more than any other nuclear weapons
power, and the government has recently proposed using Britain as a
“laboratory” to explore how disarmament could be verified. Showing that
we take our disarmament commitments seriously is a vital part of winning
the moral argument against nuclear proliferation.

However no amount of nuclear disarmament will protect us from the
dangers of nuclear weapons without a more comprehensive approach to
nuclear proliferation, which is by far the biggest challenge we face
today. There is an urgent need for a concerted effort to put the brakes
on nuclear proliferation, without which steps towards reducing nuclear
stockpiles worldwide will have little effect.

The evidence for this is clear: more countries have acquired or
attempted to acquire nuclear weapons technology despite progress that
has already been made in reducing nuclear stockpiles worldwide. The US
and Russia, which together possess 95% of the world.s nuclear weapons,
have destroyed over 13,000 warheads between them since 1987. It is a
little-known and startling fact that one in ten homes, schools and
businesses in the US receives electricity generated from dismantled
Russian nuclear warheads, and that by 2013 the equivalent of 20,000
warheads will have been turned into nuclear fuel – enough to power the
entire United States for about two years. Concrete and progressive steps
to reduce arsenals have been taken, without denting the trend towards an
increasing number of nuclear weapons states.

Although some countries have renounced nuclear weapons programmes or
given up nuclear weapons on their soil, there are many more nuclear
weapons powers today than when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was created,
which aimed to limit the possession of nuclear weapons to five
recognised powers: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
Today the global picture is far more complex – with Israel an undeclared
nuclear power which has not signed the NPT, Pakistan and India as
declared nuclear powers also outside the Treaty, and North Korea which
pulled out of the Treaty and declared itself a de-facto nuclear power.
In the light of this, not only is achieving nuclear disarmament now far
harder than it was even at the height of the Cold War, but the risks of
nuclear confrontation and the spread of nuclear technology are greater.
Furthermore, unilateral disarmament by one or more of the nuclear
weapons states would not change the rationale which drives some
countries to seek nuclear capability.

Take the example of Iran. The driving factors behind Iran.s nuclear
programme . its relative weakness in conventional forces, its perception
of being militarily encircled and its desire to ensure the survival of
the Revolution . will remain whether or not the US and Russia make
further reductions in their respective stockpiles. Iran knows full well
that it cannot match the US or Israel in conventional forces, and that
this position would be significantly altered if it had its own
deterrent. This bigger picture of an uncertain world is also why I
believe that the UK is right to take steps to retain its minimum
strategic nuclear deterrent and why the Conservative Party supports the
decision to renew the Trident submarines.

In short, proliferation, not the risk of accidental or deliberate
nuclear war between the five original nuclear powers, is the greatest
threat we face today. There are five major sources of this new threat:

First, the barriers to becoming a nuclear weapons power are considerably
lower now than they were in the past. It was previously the case that
only the most advanced nations had the technological capability to
develop a nuclear weapons programme. This is no longer true. Although we
have not yet reached the state predicted by President Eisenhower half a
century ago that “the knowledge [then] possessed by several nations will
eventually be shared by others – possibly all others”, it is
increasingly likely to become a reality. Much of the most significant
nuclear technology is 50 years old, and up to 40 countries are now
considered to have the technical know-how to produce nuclear weapons.

Secondly, a thriving black market exists operating as a one-stop shop
for would-be nuclear powers, so that even those countries such as Libya
which did not have the indigenous base for a nuclear weapons programme
were able to import it from abroad, leapfrogging the years of complex
research and development normally needed. Former CIA director George
Tenet argued that “in the current marketplace, if you have a hundred
million dollars, you can be your own nuclear power.” Four years after
the discovery of the operations of the rogue Pakistani scientist AQ Khan
– who Tenet described as “at least as dangerous as Osama Bin Laden”, we
are still trying to piece together the extent of his network, which
spanned 30 different countries. Only last month, encrypted documents on
a computer seized from Swiss members of the network revealed a design
for a compact nuclear device that could be fitted onto a ballistic
missile; an advanced system that no-one had known that AQ Khan was
supplying. More ominously still, we don.t know who may have bought these
designs, or how many other copies exist. Only a fraction of the black
market has been exposed and few people have been successfully
prosecuted. We are also behind the curve in learning how to catch and
expose these individuals, more likely to be engineers and businessmen
than the terrorist of popular imagination.

Thirdly, it is no longer beyond the power of terrorist groups to acquire
the nuclear material necessary to detonate a nuclear device in one of
our cities. We face the nightmarish combination of insecure nuclear
research reactors and stockpiles of nuclear material across the world,
coupled with porous borders and international terrorists groups known to
have sought nuclear capability. Russia is a particular focus of this
concern as its stockpiles are widely dispersed and believed in some
cases to be poorly guarded. Pakistan is another source of worry. The
Director General of the IAEA recently warned that “there are no grounds
for the international community to consider relaxing its vigilance” over
the threat of nuclear terrorism, the consequences of which would be
obviously be devastating beyond anything we have yet encountered in the
long catalogue of terrorist atrocities.

Fourthly, we have to grapple with the dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Once a country knows how to produce enriched uranium for a civilian
power programme, it has overcome one of the greatest hurdles to
acquiring a nuclear weapon. It can do this while being a member of the
NPT, allowing it to “cheat” the Treaty, as North Korea did. Not only is
it extremely difficult to detect the moment when a state possessing
civilian nuclear power decides to switch to a secret nuclear weapons
programme, the international community is also then left with very
little time to react.

Countries no longer even need to continue all the way to a nuclear test,
but can linger on the threshold, being “virtual” nuclear weapons powers
with the ability to assemble a weapon at very short notice. At which
stage therefore should we be alarmed? There were jitters when thirteen
countries in the Middle East announced new or revived plans to pursue or
explore civilian nuclear energy in the space of eleven months between
2006 and 2007. Most will probably choose to buy their nuclear fuel on
the international market, but some may wish to develop the full fuel
cycle as Iran is doing. If Iran does emerge as a nuclear power in their
doorstep, would they then feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear
weapons programmes? The combination of high oil prices, finite oil
reserves, and climate change, means that increasing numbers of countries
will consider nuclear power to meet their energy needs. The dilemma of
the fuel cycle is one which will only get worse. As things stand, we do
not have an answer.

And finally, the absence of effective control of proliferation has
contributed to the reluctance by nuclear weapons powers to assist with
the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology to states who want it. This
has undermined the central bargain of the NPT that states which promised
not to pursue nuclear weapons would receive access to nuclear energy for
peaceful purposes as an “inalienable right”. As a result, non-nuclear
weapons states feel they have lost out on the promised advantages of the
NPT, and the international consensus about how to address nuclear
threats has been weakened. Every five years all members of the NPT meet
to review the progress of the Treaty. The last review conference, in
2005 was so mired in disagreement that it could not even agree a final
document. In the words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan,
“‘mutually assured destruction’ has been replaced by mutually assured
paralysis. This sends a terrible signal of disunity and waning respect
for the Treaty’s authority. It creates a vacuum that can be exploited."
Iran has played on perceptions that non-nuclear weapons states have been
denied access to technology by presenting itself as a champion of the
rights of developing states and pledging to share its nuclear technology
with others, implying that this is a dispute about access to technology
rather than Iran.s violation of the NPT.

It is this serious proliferation crisis which the international
community has not addressed with sufficient rigour so far, and which
requires a new concerted approach. This is not a problem that has arisen
overnight to take the world by surprise. The warning has been written
loud and clear in the actions of Iran and North Korea, in the blunt
responses of countries who say privately that if Iran goes nuclear, they
will have no choice but to consider their options, and in the bulletins
of intelligence communities who tell us that terrorists continue to try
to acquire the means to inflict mass casualties.

The international community has given the impression of fire-fighting in
the wake of each crisis, with no consistent approach: North Korea has
been dealt with through the Six Party Talks, largely outside the
Security Council. Iran was dealt with initially by the European Troika
of Britain, France and Germany, it then moved to the Security Council
and is now handled by the so-called "P5+1", the five permanent members
of the Security Council and Germany. But proliferation problems cannot
forever be solved one country at a time. What would happen if we were
suddenly faced by five or six cases of proliferation simultaneously, as
could conceivably happen if Iran successfully acquires a nuclear weapon?
How would we prevent the risk of nuclear war when ‘new’ nuclear weapons
powers, not constrained by experience, civil-military checks and
balances or arms control agreements come into conflict? We only have to
think about what the world could look like in five years, to understand
why we have to do better: these problems will become more difficult to
respond to, in a more challenging global environment and with increasing
calls on our diplomats, soldiers and resources.

In short we cannot deal only with the known threats posed by existing
nuclear stockpiles, but we must also address the reality of the
proliferation threat as it evolves and becomes less predictable and even
more dangerous.

I want to set out eight proposals which I believe the British government
should adopt and champion publicly now.

1. First, there needs to be strategic dialogue between Britain, the
United States, France, Russia and China on how to achieve future
reductions in nuclear stockpiles, on ways to reduce further the risk of
nuclear confrontation or accidental nuclear war, and how to make
progress on our disarmament commitments in a way that strengthens the
NPT. Britain should propose a Conference of the five recognised nuclear
weapons powers that should take place before the 2010 NPT Review
Conference to seek agreement.

2. Britain should launch a new effort to address the decline of the NPT
and restore the broken consensus at its heart, with the goal of making
the 2010 NPT Review Conference a success after 10 years of failure and
recriminations. We cannot hope to build better understanding and
cooperation between nuclear and non-nuclear states unless we engage with
countries which have not pursued a nuclear weapon even though they are
considered to have the capability to do so, such as Argentina, Brazil,
and Japan. These are some of the prominent non-nuclear weapons states
and our natural partners in addressing these issues. And as part of the
drive to reinvigorate the NPT, we should aim to bring the three nuclear
powers outside its remit – India, Pakistan and Israel – within the wider
non-proliferation regime.

3. There are specific steps which must be taken to close the loopholes
in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We must seek agreement about how to
respond when a country either commits a serious breach of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty or withdraws from it altogether. At the moment,
there is no automatic procedure whereby a breach of the Treaty will be
referred to the Security Council. This means that valuable time which
could be spent addressing a suspected nuclear weapons programme is lost
in political dispute about whether the Security Council should be
discussing the matter at all. It took two years after Iran.s secret
nuclear programme was exposed to the world for the issue to be referred
to the Security Council, and many further months for UN sanctions to
finally be agreed. Iran has continued its programme almost uninterrupted
throughout this period, with the result that has all but acquired the
ability to enrich uranium to the level needed for a nuclear weapon.
There needs to be a mechanism, preferably a Security Council Resolution,
which would automatically refer a country to the Security Council in
cases where a serious breach of the NPT has taken place. The
international community is also powerless to respond when a country
withdraws from the NPT, as North Korea did. While the Sovereign right of
any country to withdraw from a Treaty has to be respected, the NPT is
not like any other Treaty and the risks associated with its abuse are
uniquely dangerous. This could 12 be addressed by a UN resolution which
again, would immediately trigger discussions at the Security Council if
a country withdraws from the NPT or announces it will do so. The IAEA
would be required to report immediately on the nuclear activities of
that country and whether there were grounds to suspect it was concealing
a nuclear weapons programme. The resolution could also include the
provision for international sanctions if the country in question were
found to have breached the NPT.

4. We have to agree a mechanism to bring the nuclear fuel cycle under
international control. High oil prices and mounting concern about
climate change will make nuclear energy more attractive to many, just as
burgeoning populations and growing economies in the developing world
will make it increasingly necessary to many. We are already seeing an
increased demand for the construction of new nuclear facilities
worldwide as well as the supply of enriched uranium to power them.
Proliferation control needs to keep pace with this fast changing
reality. Whether it takes the form of international partnerships of a
small number of states producing nuclear fuel, or a network of ‘fuel
banks’, these proposals must be adopted and implemented as soon as is
practicable. Britain should make this one of the top priorities of its
international diplomacy. Addressing the dangers of the nuclear fuel
cycle will make it possible to launch wider efforts to make the peaceful
applications of nuclear technology available to all those countries who
desire it.

5. We need to strengthen the IAEA and the international system of
safeguards and inspections. We need to face the fact that the existing
inspections regime was unable to detect Iraq, Libya or Iran.s covert
programmes. After over four years of inspections, we still do not know
the extent of Iran.s nuclear programme and any activities they may be
concealing. We still cannot be sure that Iran does not have secret sites
where it is enriching uranium or conducting weaponization studies. This
hampers our diplomacy and indeed increases the risk of military
confrontation. The Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA extra
inspection powers, ought to be made a universal requirement for all
countries within the NPT at the 2010 Review Conference, the momentum for
which needs to be developed now. We must also ensure that the IAEA has
the resources it needs. The IAEA monitors hundreds of tonnes of nuclear
material in hundreds of facilities across the world, to ensure that it
is not diverted from civilian to military purposes. It has sounded a
warning about its ability to maintain this important work over the long
term, since the amount of nuclear material it has to monitor has
increased more than tenfold since the 1980s, while its budget has
remained virtually static. Indeed as one report noted, the safeguards
budget of the IAEA is not more than the budget of the police department
of the city in which it is located. We have a vital interest in making
sure the Agency.s budget will be able to sustain the growing demands it
will face and have to ensure that Member States are devoting sufficient
resources to it.

6. We must urgently improve the international ability to track and block
the trade in nuclear weapons technology and to isolate countries engaged
in these practices. For an example of why this is important, one only
has to look at Iran.s missile capability, which includes Shahab-3
missiles based on North Korean technology which may one day give Iran
the ability to threaten Europe. Part of the solution must be increasing
our ability to interdict suspect vessels carrying such material. This
currently happens on an informal basis under the Proliferation Security
Initiative, which is a set of principles to which member states adhere
and resolve to "seriously consider" boarding suspect vessels of another
state, and does not impose mandatory steps on its members. It also has
no international secretariat, no shared databases, and no established
funding. This flexibility might be strength, but it doesn.t guarantee
its sustainability. Its reach is also limited. Key countries such as
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan remain outside the PSI, as do India,
China, and South Korea. The urgent need to counter proliferation from
North Korea makes it vital that we increase Asian participation in the
PSI, as well as other important countries which still do not
participate. To do so we must find ways of making it more acceptable to
those countries currently opposed to involvement.

7. We must act to disrupt the financial networks that support the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Identifying and blocking
these activities is essential as a means to slow down illicit nuclear
programmes and to put pressure on the governments behind them. The
Iranian regime, for example, has been accused of disguising its hand in
terrorism and weapons proliferation by using front companies and
intermediaries to obtain dual-use technology and materials. The Security
Council decided in 2007 to ban a major Iranian bank, Bank Sepah from the
international financial system. The Financial Action Task Force has also
warned that Iran.s lack of money laundering and counter-terrorism
controls means that it poses a significant threat to the international
financial system. These developments have had a significant effect on
the willingness of international banks and companies to do business with
Iran and increased the isolation of the regime. We await the Financial
Action Taskforce.s report on Proliferation Finance, which will study the
techniques and trends of proliferation finance, and provide
recommendations to all governments on how to address the threat.
Building on these recommendations, we must urgently develop the capacity
at a national and international level to isolate nuclear proliferators
from the international financial system. We must ensure that we have the
right expertise and experience within our government departments to keep
on top of this fast-expanding area and the capacity to assist other
countries which do not have the means to do so. Many countries have been
unable to meet their obligations under UN Resolutions to establish
domestic laws and controls against WMD proliferation. This must be
addressed, for our collective security against nuclear proliferation or
a nuclear attack could be shattered by a single point of vulnerability.

8. Finally, we must deal more resolutely with existing cases of nuclear
proliferation, learning the lessons of Libya and North Korea. First and
foremost this means a step change in the international community.s
response to Iran.s nuclear programme. The components of a successful
diplomatic strategy have been slowly and painfully assembled in the form
of limited sanctions, and a diplomatic offer holding out of prospect of
normalisation of relations and economic benefits if a long-term
settlement is reached. However there has yet to be any breakthrough
comparable to North Korea.s recent symbolic destruction of the notorious
Yongbyon tower at its main atomic reactor and declaration of its nuclear
facilities. Success in persuading Libya to relinquish its nuclear
programme, and recent progress with North Korea, was the result of an
intensity of diplomacy, incentives and isolation we have barely yet to
muster on Iran. In the Conservative Party we have argued that the
ability of the US to dangle carrots in front of Iran requires Europe to
wield a bigger stick. In particular, Britain and other European nations
should ban new investment in Iranian oil and gas, and the use of export
credits to subsidise trade with Iran. As a part of the strategy to deal
with Iran, Britain should also increase its level of dialogue with
Middle Eastern and particularly Gulf countries most affected by Iran.s
nuclear programme, to address their security concerns and gain their
fullest possible support for international sanctions.

The need for further decreases in nuclear stockpiles and working towards
a world free of the fear of the use of nuclear weapons is as important a
goal as tackling global warming. But a strategy to achieve this goal
must go beyond unilateral action by the nuclear weapons states. Nuclear
weapons are no longer a stand-alone issue in relations between the great
powers – but are bound up into wider issues of energy security, regional
security, regional power, and actions by non-states actors. Our strategy
to deal with nuclear proliferation needs to be commensurately broad.

The NPT is the world.s most universally upheld treaty . only four states
in the world are not members. It entrenched a consensus that nuclear
weapons are among the most dangerous threats to our planet and that
reducing these dangers requires efforts by all countries. We must not
allow it to be fatally undermined by threats that the makers of the
treaty could not have predicted. Governments, including our own, have to
accord counter-proliferation the highest priority. Reducing the risk
posed by weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in particular
is not a party political issue but a vital national interest which needs
a common purpose and shared vision. We welcome the steps that the
British government has taken to put Britain at the forefront of the
debate on nuclear reductions and to propose a means of bringing the fuel
cycle under international control. But such action now needs to be
raised to a higher level of political priority and government commitment.

As a case in point, the EU adopted sanctions in 2007 banning Iranian
students from receiving training in nuclear sciences in any member
state, only for it to emerge later in the year that 60 Iranian nationals
had been granted places at British universities to study advanced
nuclear physics and engineering. This did not give the impression of an
effective and joined-up counter-proliferation strategy.

We have to impart greater urgency to our efforts. Reading the great
speeches of the 1950s and 1980s which led to the creation of the NPT and
the International Atomic Energy Agency, one is struck by the vividness
of the threat and the extent of the terror caused by the spectre of
nuclear war. JFK, for example, spoke of a “nuclear sword of Damocles”
hanging “by the slenderest of threads” over “the head of every man,
woman and child” in the world, and “capable of being cut at any moment
by accident or miscalculation or madness”. This sense of urgency no
longer pervades the debate on nuclear proliferation. I believe we need
to have a galvanising moment somewhat akin to the momentum mustered by
the early champions of nuclear arms control if the division and inertia
of recent years is to be overcome.

We cannot afford to be complacent and must recognise that proliferation
is a moving target – that the decision for states to forgo nuclear
weapons is not irrevocable – and that the decision-making process of
states about their security needs is a continuum. We cannot afford to
switch off for a number of years while we are preoccupied in other areas.

We need to take action now to address the financing of nuclear
proliferation and the nuclear black market; to create a nuclear fuel
mechanism to prevent proliferation through the fuel cycle, to establish
a chain of response enshrined in a UN Security Council Resolution to
deal with countries which breach the NPT or withdraw from it, and above
all, we must redouble of efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a
nuclear weapon and shattering the NPT.

As the starting point for a such a concerted strategy to revive the NPT,
we should seek a common approach with America which would combine the
influence of one of the world.s most powerful nuclear weapons states
with the moral authority of the UK as the nuclear weapons state with
arguably the best record in this area. An important starting point might
be dialogue between the US and UK about ways to build a consensus and
bring in other countries . a vital issue for the incoming President of
the United States. We ought to seize the opportunity of combining a new
US administration with a major British effort to push these and similar
ideas. This would be a real and meaningful use of the special
relationship. It is an urgent one.

*Source:* International Institute for Strategic Studies,

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