There is wide agreement among leaders in the Congress and the administration that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and advanced conventional weapons is one of the key national security threats facing the United States today. In fact, in 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12938 declaring that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them constitutes `an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,' and that he had therefore decided to `declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.' The President reaffirmed this Executive order in 1995 and 1996.
But despite declaring a national emergency, the administration has been unwilling to take actions which would reduce the threat we face, such as enforcement of the nonproliferation laws passed by the Congress and signed by the President. For example, the administration has refused to invoke sanctions on China for the transfer of advanced C-802 antiship cruise missiles to Iran as required by the Gore-McCain Nonproliferation Act of 1992. This act requires the United States to impose sanctions on any entity that transfers `goods or technology so as to contribute knowingly and materially to the efforts by Iran or Iraq (or any agency or instrumentality of either such country) to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or to acquire destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.'
The administration's failure to invoke sanctions as required by law is particularly disappointing in light of the statement then-Senator Al Gore made on the Senate floor on October 17, 1991, about the need for strong actions to combat proliferation. Mr. Gore urged governments around the world to make sales of sensitive technologies `high crimes under each country's legal system; to devote the resources necessary to find those who have violated those laws or who are conspiring to violate them, and to punish the violators so heavily as to guarantee the personal ruin of those who are responsible, and to easily threaten the destruction of any enterprise so engaged.'
In 1996, China sold C-802 antiship cruise missiles and fast-attack patrol boats to Tehran. The C-802 has a range of 120 km with a 165 kg warhead and is especially lethal due to its `over-the-horizon' capability. In an interview last year, Vice Adm. Scott Redd, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet expressed concern that the C-802 gave the Iranian military increased firepower and represented a new dimension to the threat faced by the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.
On April 10, 1997, former U.S. Ambassador to China, James Lilley, testified to the Senate that Iran planned to increase the survivability and mobility of its force of C-802's, by mounting some of the missiles on trucks, which could use numerous caves along the gulf coast for concealment. And just this morning, Secretary of Defense Cohen announced that Iran had successfully tested an air-launched version of the missile earlier this month.
Yet despite these facts, the administration has narrowly interpreted its legal obligations and has not invoked sanctions on China for the sale of these missiles to Iran. The administration concedes that the missiles are advanced, but claims the sale was not destabilizing, thereby dodging the requirement to impose sanctions.
As we saw in 1987, when 37 sailors died from the impact of one missile on the U.S.S. Stark, cruise missiles like the C-802 pose a dangerous threat to U.S. forces and our allies in the gulf. The presence of the U.S. Navy in and around the Persian Gulf is critical to the fragile equilibrium of that region. Iran's possession of C-802 cruise missiles threatens this equilibrium and is clearly destabilizing. As Secretary Cohen said this morning, `Iran's word and action suggests that it wants to be able to intimidate neighbors and interrupt commerce in the Gulf.'
Mr. President, the time has come for us to back up our words about the terrible threat we face from weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional arms with actions. Actions that will reduce the threat we face by punishing those countries that supply these dangerous weapons to irresponsible regimes like the one in Iran. We should begin by enforcing the nonproliferation laws currently in place. The amendment sponsored by Senator Bennett is a meaningful step in the right direction. I urge my colleagues to support its passage.