Iran, North Korea Pose a Challenge to Effective Multilateralism

Washington –- If governments are determined to acquire nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, normal international mechanisms to prevent that are not always sufficient, a senior State Department official says.

In the cases of Iran and North Korea nuclear programs, existing multilateral tools must be used in the manner that they were designed, according to Stephen Rademaker, the acting assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation. 

Rademaker was addressing the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on May 18, where he also proposed that the conference take up the task of concluding a treaty to halt the further production of fissile material. (See related article.)

The challenge posed by Iran follows a three-year investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which uncovered a clandestine program of uranium enrichment stretching back 18 years. 

Rademaker said that means the United States expects the U.N. Security Council to address Iran’s “threat to international peace and security” posed by its illegal nuclear weapons program.  Depending on which chapter of the U.N. charter that is invoked, Security Council resolutions can have the effect of international law on member states, as evidenced by a series of resolutions passed concerning Iraq in the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War.

“[I]t will be a defeat for effective multilateralism should the council fail to live up to this responsibility,” he said.

Rademaker explained that the long-term effort of Iran to hide the program, as well as its unconvincing explanations for needing enriched uranium argue against Iran’s credibility in the matter. (See related article.)

In North Korea’s case, said Rademaker, the Pyongyang regime withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, undertook the enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material and claims to have nuclear weapons.

However, when North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States met in September 2005(the Six-Party Talks), North Korea committed in a joint statement “to abandon all its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs,” he said.  Pyongyang also pledged to return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to IAEA safeguards “at an early date.” (See related article.)

“It is imperative,” Rademaker said, that North Korea does not renege on its pledge.

The full text of Rademaker’s statement is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.