The United States today faces a more urgent and immediate threat from proliferation of weapons by North Korea than by Iraq, a former U.S. ambassador-at-large warned a standing-room-only crowd in Wong Auditorium on Feb. 6.
"North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and it has taken steps towards producing more. For Iraq, production of nuclear weapons could take several years," said Robert L. Gallucci, dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Gallucci served as ambassador-at-large in the Clinton administration and as special envoy on ballistic missile proliferation. He was a deputy director of the U.N. commission overseeing the disarmament of Iraq in 1991 and he was a chief negotiator of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea. Sponsored by the Center for International Studies, Gallucci's talk was one in the CIS Starr Forum series.
Gallucci acknowledged the likely presence in Iraq of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction despite the presence of U.N. inspectors, and he advocated the inspection team's ongoing presence in Iraq.
But he endorsed neither the "axis of evil" rhetoric nor the single-focus picture of the dangers of Iraqi weapons painted by President Bush in his State of the Union speech delivered on Jan. 28 and by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his address to the U.N. on Feb. 5.
"The administration's approach--Iraq first, North Korea later--is unrealistic. North Korea has a record of exporting weapons and technology. It has conventional ballistic missiles, and it has taken steps to restart plutonium production and reprocessing, in violation of the Agreed Framework. 'Mating' conventional missiles with nuclear production is a dangerous prospect," Gallucci said.
Gallucci recommended that North Korea be required to meet demands for 'transparency' in its production and handling of fissile material; that it accept monitoring and verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency; and that its spent reactor fuel containing plutonium be sealed in canisters and shipped out of the country.
Gallucci revealed in his 90-minute address some of the personal qualities that have kept him engaged in international politics, including enthusiasm for the process of negotiation itself, a sense of humor and a concern for human rights.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 12, 2003.