Presentation to the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in Geneva

April 30 2003

From: Regina Hagen


Here is the text of the statement I gave on missiles, missile defenses, and space weaponization. In total, 11 NGO statements were given on the morning of the third day of the NPT PrepCom meeting. It was us speaking and the conference delegates first listening and then asking questions. For the other NGO statements, go to the NPT 2003 section of < >.

Nuclear Disarmament and Ballistic Missile Elimination Go Hand in Hand

NGO Presentation at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Prepatory Conference meeting (NPT PrepCom), April 30, 2003 Speaker: Regina Hagen

Honorable Ambassador Molnar, Distinguished Delegates to this conference, Valued NGO colleagues,

in 1964, in his Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said the following:

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and unguided men.”

Although nuclear weapons are not explicitly mentioned in this quotation, it is clear what Martin Luther King had in mind: ballistic missiles as the means to deliver nuclear warheads. Without delivery vehicles, the possession of nuclear weapons is not of much use.

Ballistic Missiles: the Universal (Regional) Threat

Currently, eight or possibly nine countries have nuclear weapons. And roughly 20 states have missiles with ranges greater than 300 km. Of these, the official five nuclear weapons states with their arsenals of intercontinental (ICBM) and submarine-launched (SLBM) ballistic missiles can target any country in the world. These figures show two things: Firstly, the overwhelming majority of the world’s states do not threaten other nations with either missiles or nuclear weapons. And secondly, the whole world has reason to feel threatened by missiles from other states. Ballistic missiles pose a threat even when they are not equipped with nuclear warheads. From extremely small range missiles in the conflict area around Israel - over precision missiles used in the Afghanistan war - to the recent use of cruise and ballistic missiles in the war against Iraq – missiles pose a threat regardless of the nature of their warheads, be they conventional, biological, chemical, or nuclear.

Threat perception, in particular in the United States, is often associated with the possession of missiles by small, hostile states that could target US or European territory. In reality, missiles pose not a global but rather a regional threat. Two examples may suffice to illustrate this point:

  • If North Korea’s arsenal is a threat at all, it is only the case for the regional countries. The voluntary and unilateral flight test moratorium that was in force for more than four years prevented further improvement in the reliability and target precision of North Korean mid-range missiles and is proof to the effectiveness of diplomatic measures and the power of negotiations.


  • Both India and Pakistan have nuclear missiles in their arsenals.
    Flight times could be as short as five minutes. This bears a high risk
    of accidental nuclear war – the closeness of the two neighboring
    countries does not leave room for double-checking and lengthy
    deliberations. Thus South Asia walks into the trap that Europe has
    luckily escaped.

Missile Disarmament as Part of Nuclear Disarmament

By their accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the States Parties obliged themselves to “nuclear disarmament”. The NPT does not define what a “nuclear weapon” is. However, ballistic missiles are clearly a crucial part of most nuclear weapons systems. This fact is recognized in the Treaty preamble in that it demands “(...) to facilitate ... the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery (...).”As a logical consequence, nuclear disarmament must cover both: the elimination of nuclear warheads and the elimination of ballistic missiles.

This fact has also been recognized in the major bilateral arms reductions treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union and Russia, respectively. The best example is the Treaty on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF Treaty) which eliminated a whole class of weapons, namely ballistic missiles with a range from 500 to 5,500 km. Article IV say: “Each Party shall eliminate all its intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, and all support structures and support equipment (...) associated with such missiles and launchers,” with Article V proscribing the same for short-range missiles. Article VI prohibits flight tests and production of such missiles. It remains noteworthy that this major nuclear weapons disarmament treaty did not eliminate any warheads but the means for their delivery.

When we talk about missiles, missile defense must not be neglected. The Review Conference of the year 2000 acknowledged the close link between missile defense and the danger of nuclear proliferation in the seventh of the 13 “practical steps”, which demands the “(...) preserving and strengthening [of] the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons (...).” With the United States’ withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we are now confronted with the likelihood of a new arms race spiral: if the United States, maybe in cooperation with “friends and allies”, deploys tactical and strategic missile defenses, other countries are likely to increase the size of their missile arsenals in order to preserve their offensive capabilities. Equipping their missiles with multiple independently re-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV) would be another way for countries to preserve their second strike capabilities against a missile shield. Some states might even develop their own missile defense capabilities. And now compare this against the assumption in 1995, when the NPT was prolonged indefinitely, that the military blocks have dissolved and the arms race is over.

By complementing their overwhelming offensive missile arsenals with unmatched defensive and space technology, the United States aims to achieve what has been declared a military goal for several years: “Full Spectrum Dominance” as a means to control the heavens and the earth. Planning for complementary offensive strike capabilities and missile defense systems is outlined in the US Nuclear Posture Review of January 2002, which foresees for example deployment of a new generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles by the year 2029.

Another aspect should also be addressed: test have so far shown that the hit-to-kill missile defense technology is hard to realize. If test results continue to be unsatisfactory and pressure to get a workable system in place increases, the Pentagon could decide to fall back on nuclear-tipped missiles in order to increase the footprint of the hit attempt.

A Ban on Missiles, Missile Defenses, and on Weapons in Space

The “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” decided by the 1995 NPT Review Conference included a “Programme of action” including “The determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.“

With this in mind, we propose the following systematic and progressive steps be undertaken:

  • Stop testing missiles and missile defense systems.

With test restrictions, the design of new missiles types would be effectively prevented, and even modifications to existing missile technology would be drastically limited. In combination with a stop to missile development and deployment and a halt to missile exports, such a ‘missile freeze’ would immediately end horizontal – i.e. geographical – as well as vertical – i.e. qualitative – missile proliferation.

A missile flight test moratorium can be declared on a unilateral basis at any time. It is true that a unilateral moratorium on missile tests has a discriminatory effect for countries who have shorter range missiles or none. Those countries could precondition entry into force of their own flight test moratorium to a similar declaration from one of the states with long-range missile capabilities. In a missile-owning state, reliability of the existing missile arsenal could not longer be verified with a test moratorium in place.

  • Initiate negotiations for an international treaty banning tests of ballistic missiles and of missile defense systems.

Verification of a missile flight test ban can be done with existing technology. In setting up a verification system, the competent treaty organization could draw on the knowledge and experience of Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, among other verification agencies. It is therefore particularly regrettable that the CTBTO representative has been denied the opportunity to speaking directly to you. We strongly urge that this situation is rectified in the time for the CTBTO to address the 2005 Review Conference.

  • Initiate negotiations for a global treaty banning ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.

A missile ban should cover both missiles and the required infrastructure (such as launch facilities and control systems). A ballistic missile ban could be verified with a mixture of existing national technical means, on-site inspections, and other measures.

As a parallel measures, talks on other means to deliver nuclear warheads should be held at the same time, in particular on long-range bombers. Neither nuclear nor missile disarmament is achieved when warheads are de-mated from their delivery systems or de-alerting measures are performed. Disarmament requires the physical destruction of the weapons systems. A Zero Ballistic Missile Regime is required.

The inherent dual-use of ballistic missiles and space launchers requires specific precautionary measures. In order to not hinder spaceflight, all space missions should be supervised by an international body, with transparency as to the design of the space launcher while protecting proprietary information.

  • Any research, development, testing, building, and deployment of weapons for use in space should be prohibited.

As of today, no weapons have yet been deployed in space. (Admittedly, this statement disregards the fact that during the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted some tests of rudimentary anti-satellite weapons. To date, however, neither country has carried it further).

This could change with US missile defense. The Space Based Laser would be well suited to target satellites of other countries. And even before that, space-based hit-to-kill systems would do away with the weapon-free status of outer space.

Consequently, stopping the development of space weaponization now should have highest priority. We have the opportunity to prevent an arms race in outer space now. Negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space should therefore be started immediately.

Until a space weapons ban is in place, a moratorium on the weaponization of space by all space user states would help to build trust in the feasibility of such an endeavor.

When the nuclear weapons states point to past disarmament measures, they direct our attention once again to the fact that these involve almost exclusively missile disarmament. They thus acknowledge that the NPT conference has very right to focus on the broader issue of missiles, and we wish that this will happen in the current review process. We therefore hope that the proposals lined out in this presentation will be seriously considered in your further deliberations.

Statement prepared by:
Regina Hagen, Coordinator
International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation
c/o IANUS, Darmstadt University of Technology
Hochschulstrasse 4a
64287 Darmstadt, Germany
Tel. [49] (6151) 16 44 68, fax 16 60 39 ;

This paper draws on the work done in the framework of the project “Moving Beyond Missile Defense” which is co-ordinated by INESAP in co-operation with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Further Reading:

Andrew Lichterman, Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana, Jürgen Scheffran, “Beyond
Missile Defense”, INESAP Briefing Paper 8, April 2002.
Jürgen Scheffran, “Moving Beyond Missile Defense. The Search for
Alternatives to the Missile Race”, INESAP Information Bulletin #18,
September 2001.

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