U.S. puts new stress on arms control Christopher cites proliferation

June 04, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- After several months in which U.S. foreign policy was dominated by the Balkans, Russia, the Middle East and Haiti, the Clinton administration will shift its overseas focus to controlling the global spread of arms, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher said yesterday.

In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Christopher said: "It's time for us to now turn to the president's new agenda, broader agenda."

He placed nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles that deliver them at the top of the list.

The heart of the new strategy, he indicated, will be tougher enforcement of a host of Cold War-era statutes that control the worldwide shipment of items that could be used in development of weapons of mass destruction, as well as other laws that impose various sanctions on companies and countries that violate them.

The United States has greater freedom to enforce the laws strictly now that it no longer has to weigh the impact on competition with the former Soviet Union, he said.

He vowed to "keep the pressure up" on U.S. allies and Russia not to fuel arms proliferation for commercial gain.

"We clearly have some education and persuasion to do," he said.

The administration already finds itself in the midst of its first proliferation crisis: a threat by North Korea to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty and block international inspection of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

A day of high-level U.S.-North Korean talks Wednesday in New York was "disappointing," Mr. Christopher said, although he said concessions often come at the last minute in negotiations.

He did not rule out continuing the dialogue beyond today's second session, and said the United States would launch a drive for United Nations sanctions against North Korea if the talks end in failure.

Another country of great concern is Iran, which is suspected of pursuing nuclear arms. But the United States has had little success in preventing international financial institutions from making loans to Tehran as a form of economic sanctions against weapons development.

To facilitate the new high profile on arms proliferation, Mr. Christopher has assured the survival of the U.S. arms-control agency, overruling subordinates who wanted it eliminated as a relic of the Cold War.

Mr. Christopher said that he has recommended to President Clinton that the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) remain a separate entity, rather than having it merged into the State Department. Mr. Christopher's decision to preserve and strengthen ACDA is expected to be endorsed by Mr. Clinton. It ends a months-long bureaucratic tug-of-war that hindered development of the administration's long-awaited strategy to control proliferation of nuclear and other dangerous weapons.

Saying ACDA still plays a "significant role," Mr. Christopher said: "I see a real value in an independent voice on arms control and on nonproliferation in the current period." He said he backs the idea of a "reinvigoration" of the agency.

Under a reorganization plan put forward by senior State Department officials, about 100 of ACDA's 250 employees would have been folded into two department bureaus that report to the undersecretary for international security affairs, Lynn Davis. The aim, apart from saving money, was to integrate arms control and nonproliferation with other foreign policy goals.

Jack Mendelsohn, deputy director of the Arms Control Association, an advocate for keeping the agency, said of Mr. Christopher's decision: "It's the right outcome, but it's incomprehensible to me why State would have wanted to expend the bureaucratic energy on this in the first place."

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