US unsure how to halt spread of WMDs: Armitage
* Says N-plans of N Korea, India, Pakistan and Iran are among most pressing global security concerns
WASHINGTON: The international system for halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction - a major post-Iraq challenge - is not up to the task and must be fixed, but the United States is not sure how, the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, said on Wednesday.
With North Korea, Iran and South Asia posing threats to stability, he urged the world, as well as an audience at the elite National Defence University, to help the administration find solutions to the nuclear, chemical and biological arms problem. “I certainly don’t have all the answers on this. I can’t today tell you exactly how to fix what is broken or how to build the new structures we need to be safe,” Mr Armitage said. The United States justified its invasion of Iraq by citing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons programmes.
While Iraq “illustrates the gaps we have in our global architecture for dealing with weapons of mass destruction, it is not the template. This is not a one size fits all policy,” Mr Armitage added.
Looking beyond Iraq, the nuclear programmes of North Korea, India, Pakistan and Iran and the hunt by terrorist groups for access to this technology “are among the most pressing global security concerns of our time”. “Yet, the system we have in place for dealing with such proliferation challenges does not really offer solutions for these problems,” he commented.
Mr Armitage referred to pacts like the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention and organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which were put in place to curb the most dangerous weapons.
“This is a system that works to dampen the demand for such [weapons] capabilities and to deny the means to develop them with some success, but is not a system that has a clear and consistent way of dealing with nations who pass certain milestones,” he said.
For instance, the United States and the international community have not identified a comprehensive way to deal with the fact that Iran - which signed the treaty pledging not to develop nuclear weapons - has what American officials say is a robust nuclear weapons programme.
The same is true of India and Pakistan, which have not signed the treaty and have defied the international community by developing and testing nuclear weapons. A third case involves North Korea which, despite signing the treaty, has produced at least two nuclear weapons, according to the American officials, and has threatened to make more. Recently, Pyongyang announced its withdrawal from the treaty.
The George Bush administration is divided over how to deal with the North. Some like Mr Armitage favour engagement through negotiations while others want to isolate the communist leadership in an effort to encourage regime change. —Reuters