The Role of International Inspections in the Efforts to Prevent the ...

The Role of International Inspections in the Efforts to Prevent the ...

The Role of International Inspections in the Efforts

to Prevent the Further Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction

to States and to Non-State Actors.

Hans Blix

Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring,

Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)

Renewed attention to the need to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction

The terrorist attacks last September, when passenger airplanes were turned into giant

missiles against civilian targets, have prompted new national and international attention

to the question of how can the world prevent terrorist threats. We expect there will be

closer international cooperation between police and intelligence organizations, closer

scrutiny of various financial transactions and cooperation between states to achieve that.

There is already increased physicals control at airports and other facilities for

transportation and of sensitive installations like some chemical industries, hydro-dams,

and power plants – both nuclear and thermal.

The attacks have also triggered a discussion of the question how the world can reduce the

risk that terrorists get hold of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical,

biological – and also long-range missiles. There is an awareness that terrorist

movements might not hesitate to use these weapons, if they were to get them. There is a

similar fear that some states, which may have such weapons or, at least the capacity to

acquire such weapons, might have a rather low threshold against using them.

Thus, a new climate of concern has arrived.

The attack several years ago in the Tokyo Subway used chemical weapons (sarin) and it

appears probable that these weapons are still the least difficult to acquire and to handle.

Therefore, they might still appear attractive to non-state actors. They are also the

weapons of mass destruction that have most often been used by states – extensively

during the First World War and most recently by Iraq in its war against Iran and, indeed,

by Iraq against its own citizens. The use of anthrax, in the United States last year

showed that even the small-scale deployment of a biological weapon had a very strong

terror effect. It also focused attention on the need for increased security at installations

handling biological material and the need for measures to mitigate the effects of any

future biological attack, e.g. mass vaccinations.

It seems further that the Al Qaeda organization had an interest in and acquired a

superficial understanding of how to make – not nuclear weapons but – radiological

weapons, i.e. bombs filled with some radioactive material to be dispersed by a

conventional explosion. The making of such a weapon may require little by way of

infrastructure and this may make it attractive to terrorists. On the other hand the radiation

makes it difficult and dangerous to produce and handle such weapons. Iraq experimented

with a radiological weapon but appears to have found it of little value for battlefield use.

Nevertheless, such a weapon could have considerable terror effect if deployed on a city.

A state bent on using a ‘dirty bomb’ would have no difficulty in acquiring nuclear waste

and other radioactive material to put in a bomb. Terrorists could try to buy such material

on the black market, where it has often been peddled by crooks and criminals. Since

several years the IAEA and its member states have increased the efforts to prevent

trafficking in nuclear material and radioactive material, above all by promoting better

national controls of all such material and better methods and equipment for checks at

international borders.

While the current public debate about efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass

destruction and missiles has been prompted by the activities of terrorists, it is clear that

States generally have much greater resources than non-state actors. If they are ready to

spend such resources – as Iraq did – they will in many cases be capable to produce

chemical, bacteriological and even nuclear weapons. That is why most efforts to prevent

the spread of these weapons have been directed at convincing states to renounce such


Moreover, any non-state actor must necessarily operate from the territory of some state

or states and the obvious way to prevent terrorist organizations from having weapons of

mass destruction is therefore to oblige states to ensure that no such weapons exist on their

territories. This is precisely what existing conventions do. Thus, it is through the actions

of governments with jurisdiction over their territory that terrorists are to be prevented

from equipping themselves with weapons of mass destruction. If governments which host

non-state actors with military activities, fail in their duty to prevent these non-state actors

from acquiring a weapon of mass destruction, other states parties will hold them

responsible and the result may be the kind of action the world has witnessed in


A central problem is that while we want to ensure that chemical, bacteriological or

nuclear weapons are not produced or stored, we obviously at the same time want to enjoy

the products and benefits of chemical industries, which are indispensable to our standard

of living. We have pharmaceutical and biotech industries, which give us medicines and

foodstuff. And we have nuclear power, which gives us significant amounts of electricity

without generating any greenhouse gases. We want to keep these industries but also to

feel confident that they are not misused to make weapons or contribute to weapons


In the chemical and nuclear spheres we have concluded conventions, which establish

reporting and inspection systems designed to give such confidence. In the biological

sphere the world has recently failed in the attempt to create such a system. Effective

control seems also difficult to attain in the missile area, although here there are no

peaceful uses of short and medium range applications to protect.

Focus on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons: export controls

In this presentation I shall focus on the efforts to prevent a spread of nuclear weapons. I

want to begin by stressing that international inspection is only one part of these efforts.

There are others, which are of equal importance.

Let me mention first the extensive efforts made through export controls to prevent the

acquisition of nuclear weapons or the development of a nuclear weapons capacity or at

least to make such acquisition and development more difficult. The most crucial part of

this control has regard to weapons grade material – highly enriched uranium and

plutonium—and technology and equipment to produce such material. As far as we know

the effective control of such material by the states, which have it, and international

safeguards have prevented any significant diversion of fissile material. Israel, India,

Pakistan, Iraq and the DPRK have all produced their own fissile material rather than

trying to acquire it from others. There is also no doubt that export controls on relevant

equipment would raise difficulties for any state that would try to develop a nuclear

weapons capacity.

Security policies

The most basic lines of action against the acquisition of nuclear and other weapons of

mass destruction lie in the sphere of foreign policies. The dominant incentive to acquire

weapons of mass destruction lies in perceived security interests. Thus, when we want to

eliminate these weapons and prevent their spread we must look for ways of making states

feel that they are secure without these weapons.

The end of the cold war

The end of the cold war, which reduced the political temperature in many corners of the

world and made many states feel more secure, helped to promote non-proliferation. In

Latin America détente and the return of civilian governments brought Argentina and

Brazil to forego the nuclear weapon option and to begin a policy of mutual openness and

cooperation in the nuclear sphere. In South Africa, with the end of the cold war no

exterior threat was further perceived and the government decided to dismantle its nuclear

weapons, thus making South Africa the world’s first state to roll back from nuclear

weapons. The Algerian renunciation of nuclear weapons probably also was partly a

result of the global détente. With the break up of the former Soviet Union there could

have been a risk that some states of the union would become separate nuclear weapon

states. The post cold war atmosphere that prevailed was no doubt of importance to make

the Ukraine, Belorussia, and Kazakstan join the NPT.

While the end of the cold war and global détente has thus been of great importance to

promote security and the renunciation of nuclear weapons, regional détente has been

helpful for the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones in Latin America (the

Tlatelolco Treaty of 1967), in Africa (the Pelindaba Treaty of 1996), in the South Pacific

(the Rarotonga Treaty of 1985) and in Southeast Asia (the Bangkok Treaty of 1995). In

these cases the renunciation of nuclear weapons by the states of a whole region builds on

détente in the region and, at the same time, adds further to détente, security and mutual

confidence in the region.

By contrast, where there are strong tensions between two states or in a region

proliferation becomes a risk or a reality. This, of course, is the case in the Middle East,

where it is generally believed that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, where Iraq was

shown to have tried to produce such weapons and where Iran is believed by some to

aspire to nuclear weapons, although evidence to that effect has not been presented. While

in the present climate in the Middle East no meaningful discussion could be pursued

about a nuclear weapon free zone, a peaceful and durable settlement of the conflicts in

that region would open the way for—perhaps even necessitate—such discussion.

Currently Iraq, which violated its NPT-obligation, is implying that its obligation to

eradicate all its weapons of mass destruction is part of a wider obligation to establish a

Middle East zone free of such weapons. This, however, is reading too much into the

resolution that the Security Council adopted after the Gulf War in 1991 (Res.687(1991)).

The Council did, indeed, endorse the concept of a zone, but it was seen as a goal, while

the obligation of Iraq to rid itself of its weapons of mass destruction was absolute and

seen as a step toward the establishment of a zone.

On the Korean peninsula, tension remains and while it is not certain that the DPRK has

developed nuclear weapons, it is concluded that it violated its safeguards agreement with

the IAEA and had produced more plutonium than it had declared. It is to be hoped that

détente can be achieved through the foreign policies and joint efforts of the great powers

and all states in the region. Such policies must take into account the perceptions of

security of the Korean states and give both confidence that they are not subject to any

military threat. A treaty making the Korean peninsula a nuclear weapon free zone with

strong inspection arrangements – both bilateral and international – might be an

indispensable part of the solution.

On the Indian subcontinent, proliferation has become a reality with nuclear weapons

tests in India and Pakistan. Although a variety of arrangements can and should be made to

lower the risks of any use of the weapons, only a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue

together with a determined global move away from nuclear weapons could, in my view,

bring a nuclear roll back in this area.

A crucially important result of the end of the cold war and the transformation of

Communist Soviet Union into Russia has been a drastic reduction of all weapons of mass

destruction in Russia, the United States and many other states.

Let us recall that under the Non Proliferation Treaty of 1968 the five states, which had

tested nuclear weapons were only required to negotiate toward nuclear (and general)

disarmament. One might perhaps query how seriously that commitment was viewed by

these five states during the cold war, when they piled up thousands of nuclear weapons on

both sides. However, with détente the stocks have shrunk considerably in the USA and

Russia and the most recent review conference of the NPT confirmed the commitment.

Gradually the attitude of tacit acceptance of a privileged position for a few great powers

has been wearing off and there is today general political agreement – at least on paper –

on the goal of a nuclear weapon free world.

It is, of course, encouraging that the dismantling of nuclear weapons has been

proceeding on a large scale in the USA and Russia and on a small scale in the UK and

France and that this process appears to continue. There is nevertheless a long way to go.

While reductions from 50000 to hopefully within some years around 2000, or even one

day to 500 might not pose vexing problems, trying to get down from 50 to zero will raise

difficulties in any one of the states that has these weapons.

It is true that South Africa did set a first example of going to zero but others will have

difficulty in following the example – some more than others. How can they be sure that

no one is hiding some nuclear weapons or reacquiring such weapons? We have had great

difficulties to verify the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although we

have been using the most intrusive inspection system devised so far. Can we then expect

to create a system that would guarantee that states, which used to have tens of thousands

of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, have done away with each and every

one of them? In my view we shall need to base our future security on many measures in

addition to international inspection and verification.

I should mention here that the other two major conventions for the elimination of

weapons of mass destruction did not create any privileged status for any state – as did the

NPT. Under the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 all parties, great powers and

small powers alike, commit themselves not to produce, acquire or stock biological

weapons and to destroy any stocks they may have. While no agreement has been reached

on verification of compliance, the obligation of the states parties comprises the duty to

prevent anyone within the state’s territory – including terrorists – from producing,

acquiring or stocking biological weapons.

Similarly, the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 contains not only commitments

by all states parties to refrain from acquiring, producing or stocking chemical weapons

but also commitments by all states parties, which have such weapons, to destroy their

stocks. A large program for destruction is, indeed, under way and affects both the USA

and Russia and the OPCW (Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons)

undertakes international verification that all parties respect their commitments. This

Convention, like the one on biological weapons, obliges the parties to prevent any

persons on their territories to acquire, produce or stock chemical weapons.

Nuclear non-proliferation: a half success

By and large the world has been rather successful so far in preventing a spread of nuclear

weapons – at least if compared with the fears expressed by President Kennedy of a future

of dozens of nuclear weapon states in the world. The Non Proliferation Treaty is the most

adhered to treaty of arms control. If global détente is maintained between the great

powers, in particular the US, China and Russia, and regional détente can be created in the

three areas of conflict and tension, which I have mentioned – the Middle East, the Indian

subcontinent and the Korean peninsula – big ifs, the outlook for reducing the number of

nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons states would be good.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are not Siamese twins.

We should also take note of the fact that the development of peaceful nuclear power for

the generation of electricity has not in any significant manner contributed to the

proliferation of nuclear weapons. Countries like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Germany,

Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have developed nuclear power programs

and, at the same time renounced nuclear weapons.

The credibility of the Non Proliferation Treaty

What I have said shows that the foreign policy developments in the last 20 years or so

have been beneficial to non-proliferation efforts and the adherence to the NPT is

testimony to this. Yet, there are shortcomings. I have talked about the difficulty of

ensuring that all states adhere to the convention and renounce nuclear weapons. The nonadherence

of Israel, India and Pakistan is an expression of the fact that these states have

not perceived it to be in their security interests to renounce the nuclear weapon option.

Mere exhortation and reference to non-proliferation as a “norm” will not make these

states adhere to the NPT. It will require changes in the foreign policy and security


A second problem is to ensure that all those who have committed themselves to the NPT

actually abide by the obligations they have undertaken. I have in mind breaches of the

treaty and the possible erosion of respect for the treaty by states, which have adhered.

With the discovery in 1991 that Iraq – a party to the NPT – had been secretly producing

highly enriched uranium with a view to making nuclear bombs, and that the DPRK –

another party to the NPT – had produced plutonium – whether grams or kilograms –

which it did not declare, the confidence in the reliability of the treaty was undermined.

This confidence needs to be restored.

Why do we have international inspections under the NPT?

I turn now to the question of inspection and start by asking why do we have inspection at


Until the nuclear weapons made their terrible entry in the world, governments were

content to prohibit the use of indiscriminate or particularly injurious or horrible

weapons—dum-dum bullets, gas and other chemical weapons and bacteriological weapons.

Detection of use was mostly not difficult and deterrent against the prohibited use existed

in the risk of retaliation.

The nuclear weapons were so terrible, however, that governments felt a ban on use was

not enough, but bans on the production and possession were required. You do not use

the weapons you do not have. The Non Proliferation Treaty was concluded. However, a

traditional treaty commitment, a paper commitment, was not considered to be a sufficient

guarantee against acquisition. Violations of bans on the use of weapons would mostly be

manifest, but violations on the production and possession of weapons might not be so

visible. Hence, on site inspections and verification were seen as required to allow states

to have confidence that other States respected their commitments not to divert any fissile

material from peaceful to military use. The IAEA safeguards system was born.

What do IAEA safeguards achieve?

Without much enthusiasm a great many countries accepted safeguards on their nuclear

installations – more precisely on their fissionable material – as a part of their duties under

the NPT.

As time went by, however, the nuclear power industries around the world accustomed

themselves to safeguards inspections. The fears about leakages of commercial and

technological secrets through safeguards proved unfounded. It was also understood that

without safeguards there would be hardly any nuclear trade between states. All states

want to be assured through safeguards that any nuclear material, equipment or technology,

which they permit to be exported, is used only for peaceful purposes. The nuclear

industries further realized that full cooperation under the safeguards system can

demonstrate to the public that their operations do not contribute to any military purposes.

There was and is no illusion that unarmed international safeguards inspectors could be a

kind of global nuclear police who can intervene against violations. However, there is a

general awareness among parties to the NPT that reactions may be expected from other

governments and from the United Nations Security Council, if inspections were to reveal

disregard for non-proliferation pledges. Such awareness in combination with a high risk

of detection of safeguards violations should – so it was calculated -- constitute a deterrent

against violations. Perhaps the risk of detection was not perceived by Iraq and the DPRK

as sufficiently high or the fear of consequences sufficiently strong to deter them from

violating their obligations. We now know, however, that their violations have led to

strong reactions, which we have not yet seen the end of.

In 1991 came the discovery that Iraq had an undeclared large scale uranium

enrichment program and had violated its obligations as a party to the NPT and as a party

to a safeguards agreement without this being discovered by the IAEA. The discovery led

to the conclusion that the safeguards system as designed and operated had to be

strengthened. It had been devised primarily to guard against the risk of diversion of

declared fissile material from declared nuclear installations in the technologically

advanced democratic states – like Germany, Japan, Canada or my own country, Sweden –

which at the time were moving into the nuclear age. The risk of hidden, clandestine

nuclear installations was not a primary consideration with regard to such countries.

Rather, it was thought that in these open states individuals and media would reveal the

existence of any large secret nuclear installations.

Twenty years after the conclusion of the NPT nuclear activities were pursued not only in

open societies but also in the most hermitically closed ones, like Iraq and the DPRK. The

risk image and the safeguards system should have been revised. However, there was no

political support for such action. Only through the shock from the revelations about Iraq’s

nuclear weapons program there emerged a political readiness in governments to accept

more far-reaching measures of inspection and monitoring. I, myself, summed up the need

for change at the time, declaring that the IAEA needed

Greater access to sites

Greater access to information, and

Greater access, if need be, to the Security Council.

It was realized that having a safeguards system that led the world into unjustified

confidence was dangerous. The IAEA immediately undertook such changes in the

safeguards system as it could do without modifying safeguards agreements in force, e.g.

requiring information on nuclear imports and exports, requiring the early provision of

design information regarding new facilities, and introducing new techniques such as

environmental sampling.

In this period the Agency reported, partly as a result of the use of new methods in its

safeguards work, that it had detected that the DPRK must have produced more plutonium

than it had declared – a report which had and continues to have serious and significant


In 1993 the Agency began work on a supplement to the standard model for safeguards

agreements (INFCIRC 153), a process that concluded with the consensus adoption in 1997

by the Board of Governors of two additional protocols, which will considerably

strengthen the detection capacity of the Agency, notably as regards possibly existing nondeclared

nuclear installations.

Five years have already passed since the adoption of the protocols and it is to be hoped

that governments will speed up the adherence to the strengthened system. I am happy to

note that Japan, as one of the first states, has accepted the new system and is

implementing it. When states with large nuclear industries accept it, states with more

limited nuclear activities may find it hard to lag behind. A state persisting to refuse

application of the strengthened safeguards may place itself in a doubtful light.

The strengthened safeguards system gives greater access to sites and to information and,

when fully applied, will have greater capacity to detect violations. One should also notice

that a variety of new techniques and equipment are improving the capacity for detection

through safeguards. Most experts are agreed that the inspector on the ground must remain

a vital element of the safeguards system. However, there are tasks which instruments can

perform faster, cheaper and more timely than inspectors. Surveillance cameras reporting

in real time to monitoring centers, environmental sampling of soil, water or air, sensors,

tagging etc. are all important and ever more powerful means to help the inspectors in the

performance of effective inspection and monitoring. They may also help to reduce the

sense of intrusion experienced by the inspected party at the presence of international


Inspections in Iraq

Although calculated to be significantly more effective than its predecessor, the

strengthened safeguards system of the IAEA is a long way from the verification regime

set up by the Security Council for Iraq under resolution 687 (1991). That regime was

hailed as the ultimate in on site inspection – with rights of immediate, unconditional and

unrestricted access to any site, person or document, the use of satellite imagery, the

assistance by intelligence from member states and by surveillance through satellites, air

planes and helicopters, etc.

Ten years and thousands of declarations, inspections and reports later it is recognized that

UNSCOM’s efforts led to the destruction of more weapons of mass destruction than did

the Gulf war and that the efforts of the IAEA led to an elimination of Iraq’s nuclear

infrastructure. At the same time it is understood that grave uncertainties – and perhaps

prohibited weapons – remain. At the end of 1998, when inspections stopped, rather few

question marks remained in the nuclear field. The largest number were in the biological

field. In its Resolution 1284 (1999) the Security Council explicitly affirmed the existence

of these problems when it referred to “unresolved disarmament issues” and “key

remaining disarmament tasks”. Obviously, with every year that has passed since 1998,

when inspectors left Iraq, the uncertainties have grown.

The years of inspections by UNSCOM and the IAEA in Iraq have also led to some soul

searching as to how effective and reliable a verification system can be made. I think

one significant conclusion, which the Security Council has rightly drawn upon in its

resolution 1284 (1999), is that confidence about the absence of prohibited items –

whether nuclear or other – can only arise, if the inspected state genuinely cooperates in

all respects with the authority that carries out inspection, verification and monitoring. It

is not enough that the state simply opens its doors and submits that if the inspector finds

no prohibited items, the conclusion must be drawn that there are none.

I am not contending that anyone can fully prove the absence of something in a large

country. Yet, it is the absence of any nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and longrange

missiles in Iraq that the Security Council and the world want to be assured about.

To be sure, during seven years of inspections Iraq presented a great deal of documents

and data, provided much information and many interviews. However, much was divulged

only when it was realized that the information was available anyway, for instance through

suppliers and during the seven years Iraq also sought to mislead and hide information and

material from the inspectors.

A high level of assurance can only come through action in which Iraq genuinely

cooperates, searches for prohibited items in its store-rooms, factories and industries,

whether in the military or civilian sector, and delivers what it may find. It can only come

through Iraq searching and presenting relevant documentary evidence in the records,

budgets, instructions, orders, accounts, invoices, production and destruction protocols,

transportation and delivery bills, etc. to which it has access and through seeking and

presenting relevant information from individuals with knowledge of past programs and


Even with very full cooperation there will inevitably remain a residue of uncertainty.

There is no such thing as a completely ‘clean bill of health’ – neither in medicine nor in

inspection. It is not practically feasible to search for every possible relevant item or data

in large weapons programmes lasting over many years. The best that can be attained is

that after very thorough inspection and good cooperation no significant questions remain

and no indications of proscribed items are found.

Genuine cooperation should not be difficult to recognize and identify.

I mentioned that at the beginning IAEA safeguards inspections were greeted by parties to

the NPT with moderate enthusiasm, However, gradually states have got used to the

presence of international inspectors and got used to providing needed access and needed

information. Gradually, too, have they come to appreciate the advantages, which

international confidence gained from their openness and cooperation gives in the area of

security and nuclear trade. Conversely, states will quickly realize that grudging

cooperation or lack of cooperation required under international inspection regimes may

undermine confidence and affect security and trade. The difference between genuine

cooperation and lack of cooperation or grudging cooperation should not be hard to


Against this background I should like to conclude by arguing that international on site

inspection should be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a burden. If a receiving

state genuinely cooperates with the international inspectors, and the latter do their job

thoroughly, effectively and correctly, the state may be able to achieve something, which

it cannot easily do by its own declarations, namely, convince neighbours and the world,

through the inspectors’ testimony, that it has no prohibited weapons or weapons programs

and is not diverting any fissile material. South Africa, which had nuclear weapons and

wanted to convince the world that it had effectively eliminated them, realized that it

could only do so through wholeheartedly opening up to and cooperating with IAEA

inspectors. Independent, professional international inspectors in command of the state of

the art and enjoying the cooperation of the inspected state can achieve a credibility from

which the state can benefit.

ウプスラ 大 学 、コロンビア 大 学 で 学 び、ケンブリッジ 大 学 にお

いて Ph.D.を 取 得 。

1959 年 ストックホルム 大 学 国 際 法 助 教 授 、1978 年 外 務 大 臣 ,

1981 年 から 1997 年 まで 国 際 原 子 力 機 関 事 務 局 長 、2000 年 3 月

から 国 連 ・ 監 視 , 検 認 , 査 察 委 員 会 ・ 特 別 委 員 長 を 務 める。


国 連 監 視 ・ 検 認 ・ 査 察 委 員 会 特 別 委 員 長

Hans Blix

The Executive Chairman, United Nations

Monitoring, Verification and Inspection

Studied at the University of Uppsala; at Columbia University, and at

Cambridge University (Ph.D.).

1959, Associate Professor in International Law at Stockholm

University, 1978, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1981-1997:

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency,

Since March 2000, Executive Chairman of the United Nations

Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission


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