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Interview with Daryl Kimball - 2003-02-13


Iran and North Korea have both announced that they are activating their nuclear power capabilities. Analysts fear that it is not for power generation but for nuclear weapons production. Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, spoke with VOA-TV’s David Borgida on the NewsLine program about those nuclear threats, as well as threats from other weapons used by terrorist groups.

MR. BORGIDA:
And now joining us, Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, a private, nonprofit group here in Washington.

Mr. Kimball, thanks for joining us today.

MR. KIMBALL:
Thanks for having me.

MR. BORGIDA:
The big question that we're going to focus on is nuclear proliferation. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, decided to refer the case of North Korea to the U.N. Security Council, which is very, very busy these days.

MR. KIMBALL:
Right.

MR. BORGIDA:
The Board of Governors at the IAEA moved to do that. How serious is this and what does this mean?

MR. KIMBALL:
This is the latest in a series of action/reaction moves involving North Korea over the last year or so. This now being referred to the Security Council makes this a very serious matter, because what is likely to happen at the Security Council is a motion to try to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea. And North Korea has, in the last few weeks, said that that action would constitute an act of war. So, this would ratchet this crisis up a notch further.

And we have to remember what is going on with North Korea, which is that they unfroze the nuclear facilities that have been frozen for about a decade, under a 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration, and now they have the capability to produce enough plutonium to make about six bombs in about six months. So, the clock is ticking on this crisis, which many believe is even more urgent than that which we're facing in Iraq, because Iraq's nuclear programs are far less well developed than North Korea's.

MR. KIMBALL:
And I want to talk to you a little bit, too, about the nuclear program in Iran. The U.S. CIA Director George Tenet told Congress the other day that -- I think in his words -- we've entered a new world of proliferation, citing what's going on in a number of countries. Do you agree with that assessment? And give us a little detail about Iran and how serious that is.

MR. KIMBALL:
There are a number of nations around the world who have been pursuing nuclear technologies through the years. Iran is another one of them. They live in a dangerous neighborhood. From their perspective, they want to have nuclear technologies to give them the option of producing nuclear weapons. They say that their current program is not for the purpose of nuclear weapons but for energy production. Many here in the United States don't believe that. Iran being a major oil producer really does not need new energy from nuclear power.

The other controversy with Iran has been the extent to which Russia has been aiding Iran with the development of technologies that could produce the spent fuel necessary to extract plutonium or to enrich uranium, the ingredients necessary to make nuclear bombs. So, Iran is acknowledging that they're pursuing this program. The IAEA will be visiting the facilities that are in question here to ascertain whether Iran's work right now is compliant with their Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations or not. So, that's another area of concern.

But as CIA Director George Tenet said, there are a number of countries interested in nuclear weapons. This is nothing really new. This has been a problem for decades. And I think what we have to think about is why is this, and what can we do to deal with this problem. And I think that part of it has to do with the supply and part of it has to do with the demand. It is very difficult to control these technologies, to limit access.

And at the same time, the states with nuclear weapons, like the U.S., the global powers, need to be doing what is necessary to make it clear that nuclear weapons are not necessary for protection. They are illegitimate tools of war. These are different weapons and we have to treat them as such, and that this is behavior that the international community will not tolerate.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, Mr. Kimball, let's bring this a little bit home to the United States and, more sharply, the Washington, D.C. area. Quickly, if you might, this is new ground for many Americans, the notion that chemical and biological weapons are out there. What is it doing to the American public's psyche, this fear of all this?

MR. KIMBALL:
This has been an amazing year, beginning with the 9/11 attacks and now the threat, I think the very real threat, that there could be chemical or biological attacks, especially in response to a possible U.S. military action in Iraq. And I think the public is very concerned. I think the fears are heightening. And there is also a sense of lack of control. And I think this is where the government comes in, where the President and the Congress need to exercise some leadership and make it clear that we are trying to do everything we can do to prevent the emergence of these threats. That is really the key. Because chemical or biological use is so dangerous, we simply need to avoid it.

MR. BORGIDA:
We do need to avoid it. The views of Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit group here in Washington. Thanks, Mr. Kimball, for joining us. We appreciate it.

MR. KIMBALL:
Thank you.

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