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Rogue Regimes, Tools of Terror: Countering a Lethal Threat

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 1996 – While old enemies have laid down their swords, new foes are taking up the tools of death and destruction, according to Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

The United States must be prepared to counter nuclear, chemical and biological attack from any quarter, Perry said at a recent Pentagon news briefing.

Perry released "Proliferation: Threat and Response," an April 1996 DoD publication detailing threats from the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were at a nuclear standoff, each side prepared to wield its nuclear might. In the 1960s the race was on to close "the missile gap," Perry said. In the 1970s defense experts talked about "the window of vulnerability." In the 1980s, they talked about "a nuclear hair trigger."

Today, the nuclear warheads of the former Soviet superpower no longer aim at Americas cities. Nuclear arsenals throughout the former Soviet Union and in the United States are being dismantled. But the disintegration of the Soviet Union has created a "buyers market" for weapons of mass destruction, Perry said. Theres economic pressure to sell expertise, materiel and technology, he said.

"No matter how backward a country economically, it can still have the capability to build reactors and to generate plutonium, as was demonstrated by North Korea," Perry said. "Some technology and some products that were once controlled are now available by mail order from Radio Shack."

Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, China, India, Pakistan -- many nations are eager to buy and sell. More than 25 countries, many hostile toward the United States and its allies, have or may be developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and the means to deliver them, according to the report. More than 12 countries have ballistic missiles to deliver warheads.

Hostile groups or nations are working to obtain the technology. "For rogue nations, these weapons are a ticket to power, stature and confidence in regional war," Perry wrote in the publication's preface.

Iraq demonstrated its Scud missile capabilities during Desert Storm, officials said. Iran is known to be building its ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction via short-range ballistic missiles. Military intelligence shows North Korea is developing new ballistic missiles with a range of more than 4,000 kilometers. Libya is about a year away from completing construction of an underground chemical weapons production plant, according to defense intelligence officials.

The threat of retaliation may not be enough to prevent terrorists or aggressive regimes from using weapons of mass destruction, Perry said. "Terrorists operate in a shadowy world in which they can detonate a device and disappear, as the poison gas attack in Tokyo illustrates."

Rogue regimes may try to use these weapons as blackmail or to sidestep the U.S. militarys conventional military superiority, he said. "Aggressors may also actually use these weapons in an attempt to gain a decisive edge in a regional war. The bottom line is, unlike during the Cold War, those who possess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons may actually come to use them."

DoDs counterproliferation strategy aims to prevent the spread of these weapons through nonproliferation treaties and threat reduction programs and through arms and export controls. The goals are to roll back proliferation where it has occurred and to deter use of such weapons through maintaining conventional superiority and a nuclear deterrent. DoD is adapting its plans to ensure U.S. forces are prepared to defend against nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, officials said.

Service members can expect to see improved equipment and weapons to deal with these threats on the battlefield, according to Ashton Carter, assistant secretary for international security policy. DoD is doubling its fiscal 1997 investment in protective clothing, for example, he said.

"The suits our troops wore in Desert Storm were very heavy and very hot," he said. "We are, as a result, accelerating the procurement of a new suit for chemical and biological protection that is much lighter, much more comfortable and will not slow down or hinder our forces in war."

DoD is also developing an improved chemical weapon detector, Carter said. "During Desert Storm, we had 1970s vintage detectors," he said. "They had a high false alarm rate, which meant unnecessary anxiety and unnecessary suiting and unsuiting for our soldiers. Next year, through accelerated development, we will field a new chemical weapons detector that has a much smaller false alarm rate."

DoD will field a new Patriot missile, the PAC-3, in 1999, Carter said. "It has a hit-to-kill warhead, not a fragmentation warhead, which gives it far greater lethality than PAC-2." PAC-3 will give troops a much more capable defense against Scud-like missiles than they had in Desert Storm, he said.

DoD has also set up emergency response teams to deal with chemical and biological terrorism like what occurred in Tokyo, Carter said. A DoD counterproliferation council has been established to coordinate activities among the Joint Staff and the services, he said.

"We have to be prepared to prevail on the battlefield, even against opponents possessed of these weapons," Carter said. "Thats the legacy we owe to the future, and thats what were trying to do through these programs."

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