Further Proliferation of WMD Is Unacceptable and Will Not Be Tolerated
Further Proliferation of WMD Is Unacceptable and Will Not Be
First IISS Gulf Dialogue : Australia's policy concerning
Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counter Proliferation. Speech given by
Robert Hill, Minister of Defence and Leader of the Australian Government in the
Senate in Bahrain on Sunday, December 5, 2004.
Source: DoD, Canberra.
Australian Minister for Defence, The Hon
Robert Hill (DoD
Photo © Commonwealth Copyright)
Let me first express my appreciation to His Majesty King Hamad for agreeing to
host this important conference. The personal support for the conference program
by His Majesty, and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman, is particularly
Let me also congratulate the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)
for once again demonstrating its unique capacity. It has brought together a wide
group of representatives from this important region, and from countries further
afield who have an interest in the Gulf.
As Australia’s Minister for Defence, I supported the extension of IISS
activities to the Asia Pacific through establishment of the Shangri La Dialogue
in Singapore, which has now met over three consecutive years. It has quickly
earned its place as an important regional security meeting and I hope the Gulf
Dialogue does the same.
Australia is a long way from the Gulf. But my country has consistently
demonstrated a strong interest in the region. Whether it is through people ties,
trade and investment, cultural linkages, or security, Australia has a long
history of engagement with the Middle East. Our active security involvement
reflects Australia’s judgement that the strategic impact of events here have a
Most recently, we participated, of course, in the military operation which
removed Saddam Hussein, and still have nearly a thousand military and civilian
Defence personnel deployed in this area. I am grateful for the continuing
support of Gulf countries for Australia’s deployments.
Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means
of delivery, is not a problem unique to the Middle East. We in the Asia-Pacific
are particularly focused on the nuclear program of North Korea, but each such
program has the potential to affect us all.
The global imperative remains to discourage any further spread of WMD. Most
countries have given support for this objective through their signature of the
key treaties: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons
Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
We assume, I think properly, that the fewer states armed with WMD, the less
likelihood there is for use of these weapons. And the less need there will be
for other states to feel threatened by the weapons programs (or possible
programs) of their neighbours, with whatever strategic advantage this might be
thought to entail.
Now of course we also need to be concerned not only by the potential acquisition
of WMD by states, but also the interest in WMD displayed by trans-national
terror groups. Recognising this possibility, the United Nations Security Council
passed Resolution 1540 earlier this year requiring all states to take effective
measures to prevent proliferation.
Without doubt, the existence of chronic security problems is a powerful motive
for some nations to pursue the development of WMD. Solutions to WMD
proliferation must address broad security issues, and persuade nations that
their vital interests can be preserved without resort to possession of weapons
of mass destruction.
But whatever the claimed justification, the bottom line must be that further
proliferation of WMD is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
The record on counter-proliferation is a mixed one. I thought that I would focus
on some of the achievements.
Possibly the most significant positive development has been
the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Iraq possessed WMD, and used them
both internally and against other countries. Not only did Australia, as one of
the coalition countries, believe that Iraq had ongoing WMD programs – I think
this conviction was nearly universal – but we accepted the need to take more
effective measures in response to Iraq's serial evasion of the inspection and
reporting requirements to verify its compliance with international demands.
With the benefit of the Iraq Survey Group reports, following on the reports by
various UN inspection groups over the years, we now have a much clearer idea of
what Iraq had and didn’t have.
Through the work of the Iraq Survey Group we have a unique insight into the
activities and outlook of a regime that was committed to proliferation. The
Duelfer report on the work of the Iraq Survey Group has found that, while severe
international pressure in the form of sanctions was able to contain the
development and proliferation of WMD, Saddam Hussein retained the strong intent
to resume weapons programs in his country as soon as sanctions were lifted. To
this end, he maintained core capability in Iraq’s WMD research whilst winding
down program activity to be below the threshold of inspections.
After a decade of sanctions against Saddam’s regime, the sobering conclusion –
and Duelfer is quite specific about this – is that Saddam’s regime maintained
the strategic intent to regenerate its weapons programs as soon as international
pressure was lifted.
History shows that Saddam did not see WMD simply as a strategic deterrent – he
The world is safer now that this possibility has been permanently removed.
Another positive sign is the recent adoption by the
International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of a resolution confirming
Iran’s agreement with the EU to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing
activities. This action is the first step towards restoring the global
community’s confidence that Iran is committed to non-proliferation. It is vital,
however, that Iran maintains full suspension of enrichment and reprocessing and
cooperates fully with the IAEA on verification of the suspension agreement with
It is vital also that Iran cooperate fully with the IAEA to enable resolution of
outstanding concerns about Iran’s past undeclared nuclear program. This last
week has been a good start to addressing Iran’s nuclear program and the
international community will continue to watch Iran’s progress closely.
A success story in cooperative counter-proliferation has been
achieved in the case of Libya. It is now nearly a year since Libya announced
that it would eliminate its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, abandon its
long range missiles, and accept inspections and monitoring to verify all these
It followed this announcement by permitting the removal or destruction of its
WMD materials and providing valuable information, particularly about foreign
suppliers. International inspections have gone ahead.
In return for such cooperation, the international community has progressively
lifted the sanctions previously applied to Libya and is stepping up cooperation
with that country.
While there are many reasons for this change in Libya’s policy, the strong
approach and consistent action by the international community in general has
been instrumental in helping to bring about this resolution.
It takes courage for a nation like Libya to take such a step, but the reward for
such courage is much greater than removal of sanctions. Libya has shown WMD
programs can be given up peacefully, through open engagement, in ways that add
to a state’s future certainty and security.
Proliferators operate globally so any weaknesses in national
controls, including on transhipments and transits, risk being exploited. This is
especially true in key transportation hubs such as the Gulf.
Through a number of mechanisms states are giving greater attention to the
problem of the inadvertent facilitation of the spread of WMD. For example, as
chair of the Australia Group, the export control regime concerned with dual-use
chemical and biological materials, Australia would be ready to assist
Governments in the region to improve the management of their export controls.
We need also to further engage with commerce and industry to ensure that
dual-use materials and technologies do not fall into the wrong hands.
The Proliferation Security Initiative is a recent addition to
the armoury of counter-proliferation measures. The PSI seeks to build the
capability to identify and intercept the illegal transfer of WMD or their
precursors. Hopefully, such a capability will act as a deterrent to those
proposing to behave illegally.
Australia is a founding member of PSI. We strongly support this initiative
because we see the need for new tools to counter proliferation. PSI is a
framework and enabler for counter-proliferation activity, not an organisation.
It operates within national and international laws, bringing together nations
that have committed to act pragmatically and effectively in response to
PSI is not aimed at any particular states, but at proliferators in general. Any
actions undertaken by PSI supporters to counter proliferation are still the
responsibility of national governments, acting in accord with their national
interest and international responsibilities.
Since it started only eighteen months ago, PSI has attracted growing
international support. More than 60 countries have endorsed the PSI. Numerous
PSI exercises have been held to improve interoperability amongst nations for
interdicting the illicit movement of WMD materials by sea and air.
Earlier this week I opened the eighth PSI Operational Experts Meeting in Sydney.
The meeting welcomed the more active involvement from the Asia Pacific region
through the addition of Thailand and New Zealand to PSI activities.
The development of the PSI has been a positive development and can continue to
grow and strengthen.
With these positive developments to report, and others that I
could have mentioned (such as the G8 Global Partnership Against Weapons and
Materials of Mass Destruction), why are we still so concerned about
An underlying problem for counter-proliferation is the growing capacity for
countries to pursue WMD should they wish. Inexorably, it seems, the path to WMD
is becoming a less difficult one, because of the increasing availability of
relevant knowledge, materials and dual use goods in the globalised world.
The threat is made greater by the existence of proliferation networks able to
meet the demand for WMD materials and technology. The most spectacular example
is the A.Q. Khan network, which has been characterised as providing a ‘nuclear
Wal-mart.’ It is significant that this network could carry out its blackmarket
endeavours without national governments and the international community being
able to detect and frustrate it at a much earlier stage.
Overall, there is reason to be encouraged by some signs of progress in the fight
against WMD proliferation.
At the same time, we must not become complacent. Notwithstanding the
achievements that I have noted, the threat of proliferation of WMD is very real
and the potential consequences dire.
Countering the threat must remain one of the highest priorities of states. As
members of the international community we must show our determination and
commitment to work together to effectively counter this major threat to global