United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

Wolfowitz Calls Spread of Terror Weapons 'Urgent Threat'

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2003 – "The spread of weapons of mass terror is one of the most urgent threats facing the globe today," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told members of the Proliferation Security Initiative here today.

Wolfowitz addressed the group, in which 16 nations are represented, during PSI's conference at the National Defense University.

"The threat is global, and our response has to be global as well," he said. "We have to address this threat now, before an attack that would make the events of Sept. 11 pale in comparison."

The PSI is a response to the growing challenge posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials worldwide. It originally consisted of 11 countries: Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Five countries -- Canada, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Turkey -- have joined since President Bush announced the initiative May 31.

Wolfowitz said the group's "international and multilateral efforts" will only be successful to the extent that the group can get broad cooperation.

PSI's initial statement of interdiction principles was published in September. During that time, more than 50 nations offered their support and readiness to take part in interdiction efforts against WMD trafficking, he said. "It's been fast-moving," he said, noting that he expects more nations to join PSI efforts as time goes on.

"I think there are already some impressive achievements that should encourage many more countries to join the PSI principles," he said, "and hopefully give pause to some of those countries whose activities we are trying to stop."

Wolfowitz said the good news since Sept. 11, 2001, is that the United States has been able to avoid more terror attacks on U.S. soil. He added that a coalition of some 90 countries has been relatively successful, preventing many attacks worldwide.

But he said a side-effect of the coalition's success in preventing terrorist attacks is a "dangerous" complacency "that people may think that somehow Sept. 11 was the high- water mark of terrorism, and the worst that we will ever face."

He warned the group that, in fact, "if terrorists can get their hands on chemical or biological or, God forbid, nuclear weapons, they could make the events of Sept. 11 pale in comparison."

Wolfowitz said weapons of mass destruction in the hands of "bad actors" and "rogue states" are something that the international community cannot continue to live with. He said that for too long, the United States relied on diplomacy, arms control, nonproliferation treaties and export controls to stop the trade of WMDs.

He said that although major successes were achieved through nonproliferation, it became increasing clear over time that certain nations and terrorist groups were not going to be stopped by the "normal standards of a nonproliferation treaty or international agreements."

Wolfowitz noted that when he served on the Ballistic Missile Defense Commission in 1998, one surprise he encountered was to see that a "fundamental rule" had changed.

"It used to be that when countries joined the so-called nuclear club," he said, "they seemed to think the club had just about the right number of members and they wanted to stop further expansion."

Wolfowitz said that in the last 10 years or more, the United States has seen a "very dangerous trade in the most dangerous materials, and the most dangerous technologies among these countries that lie outside the nonproliferation regimes." He said a concerted international effort is needed to prevent the "rogue trade of rogue materials from coming home to any of us in disastrous form."

"The need for interdiction has never been greater," he said. "Given the growing number of states pursuing WMD and missile programs, combined with the threat that arises from the possible connections between those programs and terrorists, we have to go beyond the pre-existing nonproliferation architecture."

He said the fate of Saddam Hussein has sent a powerful message to those who would make it their business to support exporters of terror.

"One way or another, the world is determined to put them out of business," he said.

The deputy defense secretary noted that even before Saddam was found last weekend, President Bush had said, "No terrorist network will gain WMDs from the Iraqi regime because that regime is no more." Part of the job of PSI is to help make sure there are no "safe harbors" for terrorists or the trade of WMDs, he said.

Wolfowitz said that since May, four operational exercises led by Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain and France have tested key areas of proliferation trafficking, such as the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. He said the exercises were important at the symbolic, political and operational levels.

He said the operations help to "show the flag" and to deter proliferators by demonstrating a commitment to stopping the WMD trade, but that they also "enhance our capability to take real action, when action is necessary."

Wolfowitz said the Defense Department is committed to PSI and the exercises associated with it, and to making interdiction an essential mission the U.S. military. He said the United States soon would begin negotiations with major shipping nations to facilitate boarding and inspections.

The deputy defense secretary said that while PSI agreed during meetings in Brisbane, Australia, that North Korea and Iran are of particular concern with threats of WMDs, "We know that our efforts cannot be confined to just any one or two countries alone. Our efforts have to be aimed at the larger global trade in WMD materials that pose a threat to all of us," he said.

Contact Author

Additional Links

Stay Connected