The quest for nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons and the missiles to deliver them creates serious challenges to U.S. interests around the world. Many states have agreed voluntarily to terminate their weapon development programs, but others have not. This section discusses the threat from proliferation to regional stability, U.S. defense strategies, and other interests of the United States and its allies.
The United States faces several regional proliferation challenges. North Korea's decades-long threat to the security of Northeast Asia, and in particular to South Korea and Japan, has become more serious as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has in recent years significantly advanced its nuclear, chemical, and ballistic missile programs. The United States is leading international efforts, through implementation of the October 1994 Agreed Framework, to bring North Korea into compliance with its nonproliferation obligations including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and the North-South denuclearization accord. In the Middle East/North Africa region, the United States remains concerned about the threat that Iran, Iraq, and Libya pose to the stability of the region and to the security of U.S. interests, allies, and friends. The United States continues efforts to prevent Iran and Libya from advancing and Iraq from reconstituting their weapon programs. In both regions, the Middle East/North Africa and Northeast Asia, where states are seeking to incorporate these weapons of mass destruction into their militaries, the Department of Defense is working to ensure that the United States retains the ability to defend its interests and to maintain the credibility of U.S. defense commitments to our allies and friends.
In the former Soviet Union, the vast amount of nuclear technology and material in the region presents an attractive target for determined proliferators, including terrorist and criminal groups. Maintaining control over the accountability of these capabilities and materials presents a daunting challenge to the United States, the new governments of the region, and the rest of the international community. Several bilateral and multilateral agreements with Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union, such as those supported by the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, have significantly reduced the proliferation threat from that region.
In South Asia, the United States has important security interests in enhancing stability in the region and preventing another Indo-Pakistani war. The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of India and Pakistan threaten the stability of the region and could result in grave loss of life. The United States seeks first to cap and then reduce and, eventually, eliminate regional capabilities to produce NBC weapons and the missiles that deliver them.
In some areas, nonproliferation efforts have already greatly enhanced regional security. For example, the proliferation threat in sub-Saharan Africa has largely receded as South Africa has dismantled its nuclear weapons program, joined the NPT, and accepted full-scope safeguards on its nuclear facilities. Similarly, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have accepted full-scope safeguards on their nuclear facilities and brought into force the Treaty of Tlatelolco, and Argentina and Chile have joined the NPT. In addition, the Treaty of Tlatelolco is approaching full implementation with the anticipated ratification by Cuba. All these steps have reduced the danger of nuclear rivalry in the Western Hemisphere.
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