USIS Washington 

22 January 1999


(Calls Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a "living document") (4950)

Geneva-- Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International
Security Affairs John Holum says the United States views the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty "as a flexible, living document
that should be susceptible to modification as the international
environment changes."

Holum, who is also director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency, told reporters in Switzerland January 21, "It is, as a
practical matter, possible to design a national missile defense in
response to the threat of a few warheads that would not interfere with
the basic purposes of the ABM Treaty. On that basis, we intend to
focus on adjusting on the ABM Treaty, as we have already done in the
case of demarcation between theater and national missile defense, to
adjust the ABM Treaty to accommodate this new concern."

The issue of modifying the treaty again surfaced following the U.S.
announcement of new spending over a five year period for its National
Missile Defense program. Holum said that the budgetary decision,
announced January 20 by Defense Secretary Cohen, "does not constitute
a decision to proceed with a national missile defense."

The $6.6 billion for fiscal years 2000 through 2005 is money that
Cohen has put in the defense budget "for the out years, as it is our
common practice when we are...looking ahead to the possibility of
deploying a new system," Holum said. A deployment decision has not
been made, he underscored, adding "That will be discussed with our
Treaty partners."

The undersecretary pointed out that it is possible "to design a
national missile defense in response to the threat of a few warheads
that would not interfere with the basic purposes of the ABM Treaty,
and that is what is driving the current discussion."

Holum was in Geneva to address the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on
the need for a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and for securing
stronger verification measures for the Biological Weapons Convention

During a subsequent press briefing he was asked about the U.S.
position on anti-personnel landmines (APL). "On the APL ban, we have
the objective of signing the Ottawa Convention, but that is
conditional," he explained. When the convention was being negotiated
last year, the United States "tried very hard to achieve
amendments...that would have allowed for our particular
responsibilities and requirements in (South) Korea," he said, "and
also to deal with the problem of mixed munitions -- anti-tank weapons
that are protected themselves" by APL.

Holum said the U.S. objective "is to phase out pure APL and also to
resolve the problem of mixed munitions" and when that is accomplished
"we hope to sign the Ottawa Convention." In the meantime, the United
States would like to see the establishment of an ad hoc committee in
the CD to limit the transfer of APL. Such a limitation, Holum said,
would fill "an important gap."

Following is a transcript of Holum's remarks:

(begin transcript)

HOLUM: Thank you very much. It is good to be back with all of you, I
recognized some familiar faces, as well as some new participants. I
just want to observe at the outset that we have made a great deal of
progress on important arms control non-proliferation issues in recent
years. Many of these forward steps have occurred here in Geneva. In
particular the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. We also extended
the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, made it permanent. We have
brought into force the Chemical Weapons Convention. So we have been
proceeding with a positive frame of mind. Last year was a wake up call
that reminded all of us that there is still great deal to be done if
we are going to get on top of the problem of non-proliferation. In
particular the nuclear tests in South Asia, missile tests in Iran,
North Korea and Pakistan, as well as continued defiance in Iraq, and
other challenges underscore that we have a great deal of work to do.

I am here in Geneva to focus on two of the leading items of the arms
control and non-proliferation agenda. First is the Biological Weapons
Convention, which is far reaching in terms of its prohibition and
limitations, but has important gaps, in that it is largely reliant on
voluntary measures for enforcement. It needs teeth. And the ad hoc
committee of members of the Biological Weapons Convention has been
working to try to fill those gaps. We are hoping that major progress
will be made this year. I had a number of conversations regarding that
effort yesterday. This is a very high priority in the U.S. and in many
other countries. And then today focused on the CD agenda and in
particular on the effort to complete the Fissile Material Cutoff
Treaty which we regard as an indispensable step on the way to the
ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. It is basically the means we
have to cap the potential for nuclear weapons globally by limiting
their basic ingredients. That is the highly enriched uranium and the
plutonium that are necessary to make nuclear weapons. The CD, having
marked time since the test ban was agreed, now seems in my judgment to
be in the mood to act to get back down to what this committee is known
for. That is producing real, enforceable, effective, practical results
in arms control and non-proliferation. We are looking forward to a
great deal of progress. There are some obstacles, but I think the
negotiations will get underway soon.

QUESTION: What would you say would be benchmarks you might use to
determine how things are advancing. If you haven't had progress by,
say, April on such and such point. Is that going to be an alarm

ANSWER: There are many pieces to these negotiations and some of the
issues are highly technical and very complex. I don't expect there
will be agreement by April, for example, on the verification structure
or on the scope of the treaty. The first hurdle, obviously is to
continue what the CD did last August. That is to set up the ad hoc
committee to commence negotiations. It should be a simple step to take
up where they left off last year, and recreate the committees and
other institutions and special coordinators that were set up at the
end of last year. That would be the first milestone. Then I think
there would have to be an assessment of whether countries are coming
to the table with detailed and fully developed positions. Remember
that this concept has been on the agenda for a long time. There has
been a lot of expert work done, there have been consultations with the
IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and a variety of other
steps that have really equipped the Conference on Disarmament to get
down to work. The question would be whether we now are arriving with
positions spelled out as opposed to just getting around to coming up
with national views. My sense is that these positions are fairly well
developed but it will take actual negotiation to confirm that.

Q: I have three questions: The first is connected to the last
U.S./U.K. strike against Iraq. How would you assess the reduction of
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and do you believe that Iraq still
represents a regional threat after these air strikes? The second one
is on the Middle East as a nuclear biological, chemical, weapons, free
zone, and, here, I refer to Israel. And the third one is what is the
U.S. reaction to Switzerland's proposal to host the new biological
weapons organization in Geneva?

A: In terms of the strike on Iraq, there is no question that Saddam
will seek to reconstitute his capabilities with regards to weapons to
mass destruction. So we certainly regard Iraq as a continuing threat
in the region. What is most important now is to find some way to
restore Iraq's cooperation with UNSCOM (UN Special Commission) in
carrying out the necessary inspections, to establish the baseline and
move forward. There is work underway at the UN Security Council to
accomplish that objective, but Saddam Hussein needs to know that until
UN security Council Resolution 687 and the other Resolutions are fully
satisfied the sanctions will remain in place. The potential for action
to prevent his reconstitution will continue.

With the regard to the Middle East resolution on weapons of mass
destruction, this is a concept that enjoys support in the region. We
have favored the concept. At the same time, we have been realistic in
recognizing that the prospects for making headway on such a resolution
are dependent, as a practical matter, on the Peace Process and on
results in that very important and difficult endeavor.

As for your third question, I don't think we have taken a position yet
on the location. Someone may correct me on this, but I think that it
is still an open issue to be worked out in the negotiations.
Typically, the decisions of that kind are resolved more toward the end
of the process than at the beginning but you raise an important point.
One of the things that needs to be done in negotiating the protocol is
to develop an implementing body. It should not be a large bureaucracy,
but a small, efficient group of experts that would be capable of
carrying out the new elements of this regime, including on-site
challenge inspections.

Q: Two questions: Why is it that the U.S. is opposed to destroying the
stock piles of uranium and plutonium, or is it an issue which is on
the table open for negotiation? The second concerns the ban on
landmines: The U.S. has not joined many other countries in the Ottawa
treaty. Is there any change likely in this policy that you see in the
future? Will this be negotiated at the CD?

A: On the question of existing stocks, we are not opposed to
destruction. In fact, the U.S. and Russia are engaged in a series of
cooperative activities to began eliminating the very large stockpiles
of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) and plutonium that are coming out of
weapons, as these weapons are dismantled. We see that, however, as
more appropriately a bilateral or regional effort rather than an
element of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) globally. That is
for very practical reason. I don't know how an international body
could decide on the appropriate procedures for elimination of stocks,
more importantly on what size stocks are appropriate. Do you decide
that Pakistan should have X quantity and that India should have Y
quantity, and how does that relate to countries that are in the
process of disarming? It is just not something you can do in a global

So what we feel we should do in the FMCT is accomplish what can be
achieve here. It is a big step to put a ceiling on the amount of
material there is, even as we are engaged in other efforts bilaterally
with Russia and trilaterally with Russia and the IAEA to reduce these

On the APL ban, we have the objective of signing the Ottawa Convention
but that is conditional. When the ban was being negotiated we tried
very hard to achieve amendments to the Ottawa Convention that would
have allowed for our particular responsibilities and requirements in
(South) Korea, and also to deal with the problem a mixed munitions,
anti-tank weapons that are protected themselves by anti-personnel
landmines. Our objective is to phase out pure APL and also to resolve
the problem of mixed munitions. When that is done, we hope to sign the
Ottawa Convention. But those conditions have not yet been met. In the
meantime, we are obviously very interested in establishing an ad hoc
committee in the CD to limit the transfer of APL, which fills an
important gap.

Keep in mind, one of the important steps that has been taken in the
APL field is the negotiation of a protocol on conventional weapons
that basically bans long-lived, non-self destructing landmines that
are deployed in unmarked fields. Those are the APL that are causing
civilian casualties around the world. This is the great horror of
long-lived APL. They wait around when the war is over and attack
innocent victims. Farmers returning to their fields; children at play.
All the major landmine producing and using countries have agreed on
that protocol. If you couple that with a ban on transfers and with a
strong and increasing landmine removal program as the U.S. and other
are pursuing, you have a fairly strong and comprehensive program to
attack this scourge. But we still have the objective of signing the
Ottawa Convention at some point.

Q: What do you think are the prospects of forming an ad hoc committee
on landmines and going into a viable negotiation at the Conference on

A: That's hard to say. My impression is that the Fissile Material
Cutoff negotiations is likely to proceed on a faster track than APL
transfer ban. There are still some countries who resist the notion of
that having being done here. I think, there is general agreement that
the FMC is ripe for negotiation.

Q: On biological weapons: have delegations expressed concerns to you
that any international inspections regime might be used or misused for
potential spying subsequent to the revelation about UNSCOM?

A: One of the difficulties in negotiating the biological weapons
protocol is to balance the need for intrusiveness that would be
reliable as an inspection regime against the requirements of industry
and sensitive defense efforts on biological weapons to protect either
proprietary or national security information. We will undoubtedly not
come up with a perfect regime that satisfies everyone. This is an
industrial area where a company can be built on a single biological
process, and so loss of that proprietary information could mean the
difference between success and failure for the company. By the same
token, in the security area we are obviously anxious not to telegraph
our directions in terms of defending against biological weapons, to
make the task of cheater easier. So there would be a difficult trade
off. In the end, I think we will arrive at a regime that adds
measurably to our confidence in enforcement of the Biological Weapons
Convention without crossing lines that would make it excessively
harmful from those standpoints.

Q: Two questions: why are the delegation representatives and a number
of governments against having the WHO (World Health Organization) as a
kind of check point for the Biological Weapons Convention? It is the
only organization which has a number of immunologists available of
high quality and no one wants the WHO to intervene, to become a party
of the Convention. Number two: There have been a number of new weapons
developed, I am referring, for example, to cluster bombs which have
been dropped by the tens of millions in South East Asia and in Iraq,
Kuwait. Is there a reason not to consider those weapons as mass
destruction weapons?

A: I am not up to speed on the relationship between the WHO and the
BWC. I know it has been a matter of discussion as to whether the WHO
would have an appropriate role or not in investigating outbreaks of
diseases. Obviously, there is an existing structure there. One of the
triggers that we have supported for an inspection under the BWC would
be a suspicious outbreak of diseases that would appear to be the use
of biological weapons. That is a matter of some controversy. But I
can't give you a definitive description of where things stand on that.

In terms of new weapons of mass destruction, it is an important point
to recognize that we focus on weapons that are capable of wiping out
whole cities at a time, but there are weapons, mostly small arms, that
in fact, do routinely wipe out whole cities a few people at the time.
APL are obviously in that category. There are incendiary weapons and
others that fall into the Convention on Conventional Weapons, which
focuses particularly on those dangerous to civilian populations. I
don't know if cluster bombs are appropriate to bring up in that
context. I am not an expert on their use and consequences. But that's
the right framework for addressing that kind of issue.

Q: Secretary Cohen has said that the U.S. is going to revise the ABM
treaty. Don't you see it as a potential threat to your idea to come
closer to eventual nuclear disarmament as you said in your speech?
What threat pushes the U.S. to increase its military budget by 12
billion dollars this year?

A: On national missile defense: I would dispute the premise that it is
in conflict with the goal of ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.
I can envision as a practical matter that at some point national
missile defenses would be indispensable in a decision to eliminate
nuclear weapons. They would be a safeguard against the possibilities
that someone might retain a few. Remember that missile defenses are,
by their very definition, defenses, not offenses, and they are not
based on nuclear capabilities. That's a long term answer, the nearer
term answer is that over the course of the past year, missile tests,
particularly by North Korea and Iran, plus the Rumsfeld Commission
Report, have had the impact of dramatically reducing the time that the
intelligence community previously estimated it would take for any
country to acquire an intercontinental ballistic missile capability
that could threaten the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction.

It is, as a practical matter, possible to design a national missile
defense in response to the threat of a few warheads that would not
interfere with the basic purposes of the ABM Treaty. On that basis, we
intend to focus on adjusting on the ABM Treaty, as we have already
done in the case of demarcation between theater and national missile
defense, to adjust the ABM Treaty to accommodate this new concern. We
regard the ABM Treaty as a flexible, living document that should be
susceptible to modification as the international environment changes,
and the environment is changing.

I underscore that the budgetary decision that Secretary Cohen has
announced does not constitute a decision to proceed with a national
missile defense. Rather he has put funds in the budget for the out
years as it is our common practice when we are thinking, or looking
ahead to the possibility of deploying new system. But the deployment
decision has not been made. That will be discussed with our treaty

The increase of the defense budget relates to a long standing and
intensified concern about force readiness that the Joint Chief of
Staff have described to the Congress and the response to that concern
is upgrading force readiness.

Q: You mentioned earlier that there would have to be some difficult
tradeoffs between chemical interests and national security sensitive
research. Can you elaborate on your latest consultation with industry.
Are they still not on board on mandatory inspection of facilities?

A: I hesitate to speak for industry, they can certainly speak for
themselves. We have consulted at great length on this particular
problem. It is fair to say that the still have strong reservations
about a visits outside of challenge inspections. We have resolutions
from the latest rounds of the ad hoc session to examine a number of
new ideas. We'll be consulting with industry as well as among the
various interested federal agencies. I hope and expect that in the
course of all of this, we'll come up with a set of procedures that
meet the basic concerns of industry yet, at the same time, provide a
sufficiently intrusive inspection regime that we can say we have
measurably improved the enforceability of the Biological Weapons

Q: You mentioned earlier that the missile development seen in
Pakistan, Iran, India and North Korea, has been an issue of concern.
Could you elaborate the concerns highlighted by the Chinese recently
on the U.S.-Japanese missile initiative which in many ways has been a
response to North Korean missile testing?

A: That is certainly a concern and an area which has quite reasonably
made Japan more interested in the possibility of cooperation on the
Theater Missile Defense. They are, after all, within range of North
Korea's medium-range missiles. This was a particularly egregious case
from their stand point because the Korean missile overflew Japan's
territory without notice. It doesn't help to say it was a satellite
launch, because as you know, satellite launchers and missiles are
essentially the same thing. To the extent that China is concerned
about the possible development of Theater Missile Defenses in Japan,
it gives China a strong interest in joining us in working to restrain
the North Korean missile programs that are the impetus for those

Q: I still possess interviews I did with General Daniel Graham in
Washington many years ago. If you remember he was the forefather of
the Protection System. What do you think has made the situation
changed so much since he invented and now?

A: What has changed are reference to national missile defense is two
broad trends: one is a reconstitution of what we talking about in
terms of National Missile Defense. Nobody, only a very few people, are
advocating a global large national missile defense that would defend
against the possibility of attack from Russia, a country that has an
advanced and developed missile capability. So what we have done is
focused the missile defense effort on the more realistic possibility,
first in the theater area, shorter range attack, to build theater
range defenses which is a somewhat less challenging requirement, still
challenging because we haven't had a lot of success in the test
program for the THAAD (Theater High Altitude Defense) system. Plus
building a nationwide defense against the possibility of a rogue state
threat, a relatively small number of missiles. That is one
development. The other development has been that the threat has grown
much more rapidly than have been anticipated. The concern has been
intensified based on the Rumsfeld Commission Report which is a very
serious effort and focused, more than had been the case in the past,
on the sharing of technology among countries that are interested in
developing longer range missile capability. The launch from North
Korea which arguably foreshadowed the capability of reaching U.S.
territory with something. It was a three-stage launch. A third stage
capability means, as it is perfected, a greater range. And thus, the
potential within a few years, to launch a weapon of mass destruction
against U.S. territory. That's why we have intensified the effort, and
why Secretary Cohen made the announcement he did yesterday.

Q: How do you assess, now that we are at the end of the first session
of five of the BWC prospects for getting somewhere by the end of the
year? If you could just comment on how far the U.S. is willing to go
to meet demands by South Africa and others in the CD for a committee
on nuclear disarmament. Are you prepared to go beyond accepting just
consultations, could you clarify?

A: On the BWC, my own judgment is that I am disappointed in the first
session. I hoped that there would have been more progress. At the same
time, we have crystallized some decisions that would need to be made
between now and the next session. We have 16 weeks of negotiating time
this year, up from 13 last year. That signals that countries are more
serious about making progress. If you measure progress as a linear
commodity, we should be one fourth of the way there. We are not. We
certainly have a lot of work to do. I'm still optimistic that we can
by the end of this year or early next year, get to a basic text on the
content of this Treaty.

On nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament, the logical
next step is the FMCT, which is a nuclear disarmament activity. I am
very skeptical about the Conference on Disarmament engaging in formal
negotiations on timetables for eliminating nuclear weapons or other
kinds of devices. If it is a negotiation, I don't think it can work
here. The appropriate way to get to zero nuclear weapons is to
continue the bilateral process and eventually extend to the five, in
the way we have been doing. That process is making headway.

My concern is that activities in the CD will actually slow that down
because we are getting into other sets of arguments over what the
position should be to negotiate here. It will not advance the process
to have a distinct set of negotiations. On the other hand, if it is
not a negotiation, if it is a place to declare national positions or
ask questions. The CD should not do it. We can discuss nuclear
disarmament in the First Committee, the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty) Review Process, in the Disarmament Commission, in a variety of
places, and we do routinely. This is a negotiating body. Whether it is
a negotiation or not a negotiation, I don't think it should be done

Q: With regard to FMCT, in today's CD are you stated that FMCT will
prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives by
states not party to the NPT. How do you think the key countries not
the party to the NPT will agree to the inspections?

A: Of course it is conditional on their participating in the
negotiations, then participating in the treaty. It would require them,
like us, to undergo the kind of inspection procedures that I was
talking about in my remarks. Basic access to facilities that enrich
uranium or reprocess plutonium and then downstream possessors of those
commodities. We are not talking about in this treaty dealing with
existing stocks. But we are talking about an obligation against
further production for weapons and in monitoring of the facilities
that will be engaged in that activity.

Q: Could you tell us as of today, how many tons of plutonium and HEU
do the States has for the military stocks? Do you have any idea of
calling for a moratorium of the production of fissile materials once
the annihilation starts.

A: I confess, I don't know the precise answer to the first question,
although it very large quantities. But also emphasize that we have
agreed to remove permanently, from military use between the U.S. and
Russia, hundreds of tons of HEU and plutonium already. A big part of
that will be done in the form of removing HEU from military programs,
blending it down, and burning it in power reactors. The two countries
have agreed that each would remove 50 tons of plutonium for weapon
programs and dispose of them through arrangements still to be
negotiated. It is much more complicated to get rid of plutonium.

As for your second question, we have proposed that in light of the
South Asian activities and the benchmarks that have been established
by the UN, the P5, the task force on South Asia, and others, that one
very useful step would be an agreement among countries that have
tested nuclear weapons, to stop the production of plutonium. We are
not producing these materials, others are not, but there is nothing
formal about that. It doesn't take away from the requirement for the
FMCT with the necessary verification processes. But it would help a
great deal, particularly in avoiding what could otherwise be a runaway
arm race in South Asia. There is a very strong need in that region to
cap fissile material where it is.

Q: You talked about seeing the mood of the CD shifting from marking
time from actually doing something. Could you amplify a bit on what
indications you see of that in the CD and any reasons?

A: The conversations I had here, and with delegations in New York,
create a building sense that the CD have not been productive since
1996. The Romanian Ambassador had an interesting characterization: '97
was a year of reflection, '98 was a year of decision, and '99 will be
the year of action. I identify with that concept, even if I did not
quote him exactly. I though it was a very good characterization of
where the CD is. This institution is vitally important to the process
of multilateral arms control, and that's where so much of the action
is. It had has a long periods in its past history of not producing
much. But now it's in a position where expectations are higher because
it has done more on the CWC, on the test ban. So the world looks to
this institution to be productive. The Ambassadors and their
colleagues here feel that. They have to live up to expectations.
That's one trend. The other trend is that we are realizing more widely
that this is a very dangerous world, and so we gained more impetus by
what happened in 1998 on the non-proliferation front. These are not
theoretical problems. They are real ones, and it's time to get back to

(end transcript)