Remarks by Project Director Joseph Cirincione

Arms Control Association Press Briefing, October 20, 2000

Thank you very much Spurgeon. Thank you very much to the Arms Control Association for sponsoring this briefing. I think that it is extremely important at this point to emphasize how far we have come and how critical the Agreed Framework in 1994 was in bringing us to this point. I am proud to be up here with the other members of the panel and proud to be joining them in support of that agreement despite the withering criticism that congress has leveled against the Agreed Framework over the past six years. And I think that it stood the test of time and has proved to be the correct path for it. Let me just say a few words about the item at the top of Joel’s list: missiles. I believe that Secretary Albright’s visit to North Korea may be the most historic and important trip of her tenure. If the Clinton administration can resolve the North Korean missile program, it will largely, though not completely, solve the missile proliferation problem globally. The end of North Korean testing and export of missiles will dry up the major well feeding several key national missile programs and eliminate the major justification for a national missile defense system here in the United States.

North Korea has exported Scud missiles to such “states of concern” as Iran, Syria, and also Egypt, Pakistan, and possibly Libya. More disturbingly, it has sold medium-range Nodong missiles to Iran and Pakistan. There is an unconfirmed press report that Nodong missiles were delivered to Egypt, to Libya earlier this month and our administration officials cannot confirm that report in the Daily Telegraph earlier this week.

Let us look at the global picture why this visit can be so important and the why the North Korean missile program is so central to the global proliferation problem. There are 33 nations in the world outside of the nuclear five that possess ballistic missiles. However, 27 of those 33 nations have only short-range ballistic missiles, missiles that fly less than 1,000 kilometers. That leaves six nations that we are concerned about with medium-range or longer ballistic missiles that could potentially threaten U.S. allies, troops, or the United States itself. Those six nations are Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia—which are not considered threats to the United States—Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea.

Those last three are all tied together. Pakistan’s Ghauri missile, a medium-range missile over 1,000 km—various versions are estimated to have gone from 1,300 to over 2,000 km—is a Nodong missile, is a North Korean missile shipped to Pakistan. Iran has tested a medium-range missile three times that they call the Shahab-3. It has succeeded in one of those flight tests. It has an estimated range of 1,300 km. That too is a Nodong missile.

If North Korea can be convinced to stop its exports, not only does the North Korean program end, but the Iranian program significantly slows down. It does not terminate, Iran has two other sources of assistance—Russia and China. If Russia and China can be convinced to end all of their assistance to Iran, that essentially will strangle the Iranian missile program. This is not an indigenous program. Iran cannot build missiles by itself.

So follow the chain here. If you eliminate the North Korean missile program, you eliminate the immediate justification for a rush to deploy a national missile defense system. We have heard administration officials say that they have to deploy the system by 2005 because the National Intelligence Estimate was that North Korea possibly could have a missile that could reach the United States by 2005. You eliminate the North Korean program, you eliminate that timeline, you eliminate the rush. If you also eliminate the North Korean exports, you eliminate the second justification for a national missile defense program. The national intelligence estimate is that Iran might be able to have a long-range ballistic missile that could hit the United States by 2010. Eliminating North Korean assistance, and if we also eliminated Russian and China assistance, that would certainly curtail, if not completely eliminate, the Iranian program. What that would mean globally for the United States is that the pressure would be off on the development of a national missile defense system. Theater missile programs could proceed. But without a national missile defense system as an irritant in the U.S.-Russia relationship, or the U.S.-China relationship, those relationships could enjoy continued progress. We could also improve our relationship with the U.S. allies. So this small, impoverished country actually plays a key role in U.S. global relations primarily because of it missile program.

We do not know if Secretary Albright is expecting to have any kind of progress on the missile program. We do not know if President Clinton’s visit is contingent on a deal on the missile program. But these visits can certainly help resolve some of the most thorny issues the U.S. has confronted over the past few years. Thank you Spurgeon for letting me be here today.


  • Click here for the full text of the Arms Control Association Press Briefing held October 20, 2000