Press conference with the members of the International Luxembourg Forum Supervisory Council
08:18 Question.Hello, thank you! John Ingham(?), Daily Express. In the literature that you put out before the conference, you mention that you will be discussing the threat of nuclear terrorism, dirty bombs, radiological material; Des Browne touched on it in his brief address. I just wondered if you could enlarge on that and explain how serious a threat you feel this, what evidence there is, and what can be done to control it? Thank you.
Des Browne.Thank you, John. Those of us who are familiar with the nature of these materials, you know, are aware, of course, that there is weapons-grade material, and then there are other radiological materials which cannot be exploded in the same way as highly enriched uranium and plutonium can be, but if they are dispersed, certain of these materials would have an effect on the environment in which they are dispersed, that would essentially mean that these environments would be a danger to people’s health. So, there are isotopes which generate the possibility of cancers, and there are certain of these isotopes that are more risky than others, so there are those that can be dispersed by explosives and have a – this is not a technical term, but have a stickiness, they will adhere to and become part of the materials that they engage with, and the long-term challenges of cleaning these areas are daunting.
So, it’s known what these materials are, and it’s known where they are, and they are used for peaceful purposes particularly, and they are used in irradiating blood and treatments of certain diseases, and in managing blood transfusions. So, they are dispersed quite widely in medical environments, and they are kept secure, and certainly in advanced countries they are kept very secure, and they are dangerous to people who deal with them directly.
So, there is significant intelligence that suggests that terrorists throughout the world know these materials exist and where they exist, and the efforts have been made to try and get these materials. So, for example, when ISIS took over the city of Mosul, they said that they had removed the cesium from blood irradiators in hospitals in the city of Mosul. I have no way of knowing, because I don’t have access to intelligence system, whether that is true or not, but the fact that they said that reveals that they know the degree of terror that that can generate if they have this in their possession.
So, the organization I presently work with, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, NTI, has a project in cities in the United States, and in parts of the United States, to remove this material from hospitals and replace it with alternative technology which is efficient and does the job as well with X-rays. And I just say this in the passing, my understanding is that when * terrorist investigation in Norway, the Norwegian authorities discovered that the person of interest had information that suggested that he wanted to do this in Norway, acted immediately by removing all of this material from all of their hospitals. So, there are programs in place in New York and in other parts of the world to remove these materials, and they have been removed completely, so you can remove the materials, or, if they have to stay, you can secure them to a level that would not be normal in civilian environment.
I’m not seeking to worry people unnecessarily about this, but I don’t think there is an intelligence brief on this issue anywhere in the world that does not suggest dirty bomb as a threat, and the terrorist organizations are expressing the desire to get their hands on these materials so they can use them in that fashion.
Question.Steve Leibowitz(?) from Israel, ILTV in Israel. There were comments made about the incoming Trump administration and ways to perhaps influence their policies on nuclear issues, but not specifically about his campaign promise, repeated campaign promise to cancel the Iran nuclear deal. I was wondering if there were any thoughts of including perhaps cautions to the Trump administration regarding the Iranian deal.
Hans Blix.Well, the Iranian deal was mentioned here this morning in the possible context that it shows that the P5, when they want to and they have a common interest, they can achieve a joined result. There are other such cases, as when the chemical weapons were used in Syria, again, agreement between the US and Russia in particular, but then agreement of the Security Council also resulted in international action, and we see at present time contacts between the members of the Security Council about trying to get in hand hostilities in Syria. And there are… We discussed also the evident interest among the P5 to get * escalation in North Korea, they have the same interests in US, Japan, Russia, and China. So, in this context Iranian issue was mentioned. I, for my part, certainly hope that the Iranian deal, which was sanctioned by the Security Council, and the whole(?) Security Council stands behind it, the P5 stands behind it, that it will not be torn to pieces by anybody at the present time. It goes without saying that it has to be observed scrupulously, and verified by DIA(?). I don’t know where my colleagues stand, it is my particular view on it, and I hope that’s the way it’s coming out when they have considered it thoroughly in Washington.
Des Browne.I just want to make a certain(?) point of it *. I think people need to understand this is a multilateral deal; this is not a deal between Iran and the United States. You know, this is a deal in which most of the world, and in fact this is a deal which was endorsed by a United Nations resolution, so this is a deal that the world has agreed to; essentially, a little smaller number of countries than the whole of the world negotiated it, but it’s a complex multilateral deal, and all of the parties to this agreement look to each other to observe the good faith of the agreement. So it’s not just the United States and Iran have obligations; everybody has obligations, and many European countries, you know, many European countries exercised the discipline they did in relation to sanctions, because these negotiations were going on, there is no question about that. So, we all own a part of this deal. And if this deal is to be revised, reviewed, reformed, enforced, we all have joint responsibility. So, I think the president of the United States currently, and the incoming president of the United States would be well advised to just bear in mind that the United States does not own this deal. 17:08
24:00 Jayantha Dhanapala.As far as my understanding of the negotiations which were conducted by the P5, and last one, and which came to successful conclusion, this, as Des said, was a multilateral negotiation, and it was finally sanctioned by the UN Security Council. As a country belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement, it was important to have a settlement, a peaceful settlement of the Iran issue. We welcome that issue. And as far as my knowledge of the JCPOA is concerned, it confined itself to the question of the possible development of a nuclear program, ensuring that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes exclusively. The missile issue was not taken up. And the missile issue there is very clearly separate from the nuclear issue, and therefore any development of a missile program is independent of the nuclear issue. Once the nuclear issue settles the concerns of the international community, I think the question of a missile program is a separate issue which may have to be discussed at a subsequent program. There is no international agreement with regard to missile development, many countries have missile development. In fact, when I was Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, I tried to get a conversation going, a multilateral conversation going with regard to limits on missile development. But unfortunately, there was no consensus, no agreement on that. So, all countries have the right to develop missile programs. Missile programs are very closely connected with the launching of satellites as well. And so, therefore it’s a very sensitive area. 26:00
28:00 Gareth Evans.What’s in the toolbox, I think, is really only three things: containment, deterrence, and keeping the door open for negotiations. As difficult and as frustrating as that might be.
Sanctions are manifestly not working, changing the North Koreans’ mind; to hope that the Chinese can be persuaded or bludgeoned into putting enough pressure on the North Koreans to change their position is also, I think, a misconceived enterprise. Any military intervention would be crazy, and quite counterproductive in terms of achieving any objectives.
I think the North Koreans do recognize very well that any use by them of their weapons arsenal would not only be homicidal, but suicidal. And that is the best guarantee we have, that this threat will not actually be realized in practice. So, I think we have to stay patient, have to continue to look for opportunities for negotiation, but at the same time make very clear to the North Koreans that any use by them of their arsenals would result in their country and their regime being decimated.
And of course, international sanctions and international pressure to stop any flow of technology or material in and out North Korea are still very important; containment, in that sense, remains very important.
I think the notion of not being prepared to negotiate with the North Koreans without multiple preconditions being satisfied, which has been the position of the Obama regime in recent years, has not been very productive. Makes everybody feel better to say that preconditions should be satisfied, that North Korea should sign up to denuclearization agenda, but realistically it hasn’t achieved anything very much. I think we have to limit our objectives with North Korea to ensure that they… If possible, we get a freeze in the present situation and provide enough incentives for them to act accordingly. But the notion of achieving denuclearization at a backwards movement is going to be very-very difficult indeed, and I think we have to moderate our objectives in that respect.
But others may have a different view about this; there’s quite a distinction in the international community between those who want to be very-very tough indeed and pile on, pile on the sanctions in the expectation that this pressure will deliver results, and others, who, I think, are a little bit more realistic and say that the only way forward is going to be through taking a deep breath and entering into some negotiations. But this is something we’ll be discussing this afternoon, tomorrow, and you don’t want to take my views on this as the views necessarily of all my colleague. But I think negotiations are very important, we have to keep the door open for them. 31:13
31:58 Question.Thank you. Nina Ilyina, Vedomosti Business Daily; my question is to Mr. Blix and Mr. Browne. As my colleague has already mentioned, in October Russia suspended nuclear deal with the United States, mentioning sanctions. At the end of March Russia refused to send its delegation to Nuclear Security Summit hosted by Barack Obama, where dozens of top politicians were presented from all around the world. From your point of view, if we talk purely about non-proliferation and nuclear security, how necessary were both steps? Some critics say that Moscow used it as political tool. How much would they be right? Thank you. 32:46
33:23 Des Browne.OK. So, I think, I mean I think the question of… Some knowledge of this plutonium arrangement… I mean, this is not an area of my particular expertise, but those experts whom I have discussed this agreement with, and I work now in Washington with some people who were instrumental in the earlier processes that led to this agreement to destroy this weapons-grade plutonium, – it was a reciprocal arrangement between the United States and Russia that they would… Was it 34 metric tons? I think 34… Yes, 34 metric tons each.
So, I mean, this is an agreement which… I don’t think either side was meeting the deadlines that were agreed. You know, and in particular in the United States, the proposal was to build a MOX plant and use that plant to reduce, to destroy this material effectively. So, there are, I think, in direct answer to your question, there are many experts who look at this and think this was an agreement which was going nowhere in any event, was effectively suspended if… Because it hadn’t met its deadline. And therefore the formal abandonment of the agreement, or the formal derogation from the agreement was a political statement rather than a statement of reality. And that in fact none of this material is likely ever to find its way back into the weapons construction system, so, you know, the purpose of removing the plutonium in this fashion was to get rid of weapons-grade material, but effectively that was being achieved. Because of the way in which it was being secured and handled.
So, I think the direct answer to half of your question is that most people have the view that it was really a political statement, and the reason for Russia to express the conditionality, the three conditions that they wanted to be achieved before they would put it back together. I think, you know, more broadly, from those of us who are observers of the important relationship of the United States and Russia, it’s another expression of the deterioration of trust and confidence between these two countries, which is crucially important to the objective that we collectively aspire to, that is, the prevention of nuclear catastrophe. Because these two countries possess… I don’t know, what it is? 93% or something like that, of the nuclear weapons in the world? And most of the other countries, whom we would like to move towards multilateral disarmament, look at these large arsenals and say, “These two countries need to show the way, and we will join them when they get proportionally near where we are.”
So that relationship is crucially important. You know, and in 25 years we have seen 75 or more percent of the nuclear weapons in the world disappear, but it’s mostly been done by the United States and Russia bilateral arrangements, rather than multilateral arrangements, so… It may well be just symbolic, but it’s very important there are now really no extant agreements between these two countries that are moving in the right direction, and we desperately need to get back to that kind of relationship. But not at any price. 37:03
39:23 Des Browne.Well, it would be a brave politician who would give anybody any confident outcome for any referendum that took place in the world currently. I mean, your question is completely speculative. I mean, I don’t think there’s any possibility of there being a referendum in this country as to whether or not we continue to be a nuclear arms state. The parliament recently made a decision to renew the boats that are the platform for one nuclear weapon system, and that seems to commit us to nuclear deterrence for the next 50 years. So, I think, the politics of this country suggest that that is improbable that we will move from that in your lifetime and mine. And you’re younger than me. I think it’s improbable that we will move from that. I mean, my own view is that the complexity of the world and the challenges of cyber-security may make us all think carefully about these weapon systems and their command and control in the future, but that’s a different dynamic than politics. 40:42