Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing: Missile Threats to the United States (Excerpts)

April 20, 1999

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Related Library Documents: 

Related Country: 

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan

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SEN. HAGEL: If we could now ask Ambassador Lilley and Secretary Schneider to come forward, and we'll get started.

Gentlemen, welcome. Once again we have been joined as you can see by our friend and colleague, the distinguished Senator from Tennessee, Bill Frist. He will be poised to ask very insightful, direct questions as we go along. if we could now ask Secretary Schneider for your testimony, then we'll ask Ambassador Lilley, and then get into some questions. Thank you.



Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute


MR. SCHNEIDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate the privilege of testifying before this committee. As you know, I previously served as undersecretary of state and subsequently as chairman of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and more recently served as a member of the commission to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States, the Rumsfeld Commission. This commission as you know delivered its reporting July 1998.

The question of proliferation can no longer be thought of as an isolated and far-off threat to the United States. The burden of evidence that was available to the U.S. government was reviewed by the Rumsfeld Commission and presented to the Congress last July.

Among the major conclusions of this congressionally mandated study are these. First the threat to the United States posed by these emerging capabilities of ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction is more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the intelligence community.

Moreover the warning time the U.S. can expect of new threatening ballistic missile defenses are being reduced. And under some possible scenarios, including rebasing or the transfer of operational missiles, sea or air launch options or shortened development programs that might include testing in a third country or some combination of these, the U.S. might have little or no warning before an operational deployment of ballistic missiles able to reach the United States.

The surge in the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction during the 1990s has created an environmental fact for the United States' national security policy for the next quarter of a century or more. Moreover, the nature of contemporary ballistic missile proliferation and weapons of mass destruction proliferation challenges many of the underlying assumptions of the policy, including the abstention from defense of U.S. territory from long-range ballistic missile attack.

This posture is currently required under the provisions of the ABM Treaty of 1972. My testimony today will focus on proliferation- related developments in Iran and assess the implications of these developments for U.S. security. In starting out, I think it's helpful to try and get an understanding of the nature of the contemporary proliferation process, because the process since the end of the Cold War is qualitatively different from that prior to the end of the Cold War.

Before the end of the Cold War, Russia was an effective party to the non-proliferation regimes in place. Its interests resided in containing rather than facilitating the spread of the technology of weapons of mass destruction. Multilateral export controls limited the access of potential proliferators to scientific and industrial technology and equipment pertinent to the development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. And moreover, the United States and most other governments, apart from China, restricted access to technology relating to weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology.

The end of the Cold War brought about stark changes in Russia and its incentives relating to non-proliferation compliance. Export controls, especially multilateral controls, largely disappeared as an effective counterproliferation instrument. Regional rivalries created an interest in regional powers in deterring outside intervention in regional disputes. This subject was referred to by Secretary Schlesinger during his testimony.

The existing non-proliferation regime has proven to be ill- suited to the manner in which post-Cold War proliferation has taken place. Proliferators have not focused on obtaining the most advanced technology. Instead, they have focused on obtaining obsolescent but functional WMD and ballistic missile technology.

Russia has economic incentives as well as policy incentives to assist Iran and several other countries in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology and the absence of export control barriers to scientific and industrial equipment relevant to WMD and ballistic missile development has made this equipment widely available.

North Korea's successful development of long-range missiles and WMD has made its program one of the engines of proliferation. Its dispersion of manufacturing technology to other countries has contributed to making proliferation largely self-sustaining. The creation of large-scale WMD and ballistic missile manufacturing facilities in North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan has several profound effects for the long-term outlook for proliferation.

First, this infrastructure will soon make these nations largely independent of access to technologies from nations such as China and Russia, who are now the primary suppliers. The major proliferators have insisted on a substantial measure of autarchy in WMD and missile production. They are not simply buying missiles off the shelf. They will be producers. Proliferation is now on the verge of being self- sustaining.

Second, the size of these infrastructures in place creates incentives for producers to also become exporters. National requirements will be met by a few years of production from the local industrial base. To sustain production, these nations will be obliged to seek export markets. Acquiring ballistic missiles is the least cost approach to regional power status -- an opportunity many nations may seize with very negative consequences for regional stability and peace.

Third, the impact of large manufacturing infrastructures for WMD and ballistic missiles changes the scale of the problem from a few ballistic missiles to hundreds in the next decade -- and perhaps thousands after 2010. Several proliferators are profoundly hostile to the United States and its allies.

Bearing the nature of this proliferation problem, there are a few observations I would like to make specifically with respect to Iran. Iran is well-suited to acquire a very substantial WMD and ballistic missile force. Its acquisition of Scud-series missiles from North Korea during the 1980 to '88 Iran-Iraq conflict helped finance North Korea's development of longer-range systems including what is now known as the Scud-C, which has a 700-kilometer range, the Rodong, which has a 1,300-kilometer range and the Taepo Dong I and Taepo Dong II with an intercontinental range, depending on the weight of the payload.

North Korea sold its Rodong missile to Iran, where it has been upgraded with Russian guidance -- sorry, Russian assistance. The missile was launched in July of '98 and will be deployed later this year. At a September 25th military parade in Teheran, President Khatami praised Russia for the assistance it provided to Iran's missile program. The weapon can deliver a nuclear, chemical or biological or conventional payload to targets throughout the Middle East and can reach targets throughout Europe with a biological weapons payload.

Moreover, because the missile is mounted on a mobile transporter- erector launcher, it can be readily launched covertly from a merchant ship. This technology is hardly new. The United States launched a Polaris missile from a merchant ship in 1962. The former Soviet Union also launched Scud short-range missiles from surface ships. The technique is well understood. Surface ship launch appears to be a likely alternative option for several emerging WMD and ballistic missile states.

More recently, the Financial Times reported on April 16 on the Pakistani Shaheen I missile which was launched the previous day that the missile may be intended for sea launch. The missile, with a one metric ton -- that is, 2200-pound payload -- may be developed so that Pakistan can have a similar capability to that which is deployed by India -- will soon be deployed by India, which is a surface ship- launched ballistic missile.

The modern commercial technology, such as the Inmarsat telecommunications satellite and the global positioning system satellites diminishes the significance of the primary operational limitations of sea-based ballistic missile systems in the past. That is, communications with a ship and positional accuracy.

The use of surface ship launch missiles may be especially attractive to Iran. Iran tends to employ non-Iranian nationals for some of its international terrorist operations. Iran has used personnel from several states in the Middle East region to diminish the risk of accountability for its support for international terrorist operations. Recent terrorist activities, including the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the East African embassy bombings last year, were done without any country claiming responsibility for it.

The option of a covert launch provides another alternative for Iran to extend the geographic reach of its ballistic missile force while diminishing the risk of a retaliation against its own territory.

Iran is developing longer-range ballistic missiles as well. Iran has acquired rocket engines and advisory support from Russia that will permit it to develop intercontinental range missiles able to reach the United States from Iranian territory. The technology is mature since it is based on the German World War II V-2 liquid fuel technology. So little testing is required.

This phenomenon of little testing was reflected in North Korea's development of the Nodong missile. The missile was successfully flown in May of 1993 and has been in serious production since then. Large numbers have been produced and based on observed evidence is quite reliable. The Nodong is used as the first stage in North Korea Taepo Dong missile, which was successfully launched in a trajectory over Japan in 1998. The Taepo Dong I is capable of reaching U.S. territory with a biological weapons payload. The Taepo Dong II will be able to reach the United States with a nuclear payload.

Iran has the components for the Taepo Dong system already in its inventory in that the second stage of the Rodong missile is a Scud missile. So there would be -- sorry, the second stage of the Taepo Dong is the Scud missile, the first stage being the Rodong.

Iran will begin its deployment of its variant of the Rodong missile later this year, the Shahab 3 and this will augment its inventory of Scud missiles. The missile is not accurate enough to be usefully employed with a conventional warhead, and thus it is likely that it will use an unconventional warhead -- biological, chemical or nuclear.

The details of the weapons program are not known. But as the deployment of the Shahab 3 is imminent, it is likely that Iranian authorities have already identified the missile's warhead. Iran has previously employed missile-delivered lethal chemical agents in 1980 to '88 in its conflict with Iraq. Even without foreign assistance, Iran is capable of missile delivery of anthrax- or smallpox derived biological weapons in bulk form. A more effective mode of biological agent delivery using sub-munition may also be available to Iran.

This sub-munition technology for biological agents is at least four decades old. Sub-munition systems for biological agents were developed in the 1950s. Missile-delivered sub-munitions filled with biological agents were extensively developed and produced by the former Soviet Union and continue to be available in Russia today.

Access to nuclear weapons is dependent on Iran's ability to acquire special nuclear material. Foreign acquisition of such material is unlikely to be observed by the United States. We learned from experience in the 1980s that Pakistan obtained a tested nuclear weapon design and a significant quantity of special nuclear materials -- in this case highly enriched uranium from China. This development permitted Pakistan to acquire a nuclear capability without the necessity to conduct the nuclear tests -- although it did so for apparently political reasons in response to India's nuclear testing.

The Shahab 3 poses a threat to U.S. forces and allies deployed in the Middle East region and to Europe as well if a biological weapons payload is employed. If the Shahab 3 is covertly deployed on a merchant ship, it can then be employed against U.S. territory. Provisions of the ABM Treaty prevent the United States from deploying missile defenses against this threat.

The proposed national missile defense is designed to have no capability to intercept ballistic missile with a range of less than 2,000 miles. This is so to comply with provisions of the treaty. The treaty prevents the use of theater missile defenses in a national missile defense mode. Hence it preclude deploying our own theater missile defense against a sea-based threat -- such defenses as the Patriot system would not be permitted under the existing terms of the ABM Treaty.

Iran's missile forces are poised for rapid growth. Russian assistance to Iran has intensified since 1998. Iran's production of the Rodong completes the building block for multi-stage missiles. It is likely that Iran will continue development of multi-stage missiles, although some of these may be disguised as space launch vehicles. The option is attractive for Iran and may help preserve the ambiguity of its ballistic missile programs.

In the case of space launch vehicles, only software and payload changes are required to shift from a civil space launch to a military missile. Moreover, any missile with sufficient energy to deploy a payload into orbit around the earth also has the capability to deliver payload to a target on the surface of the earth at intercontinental range.

Finally, in this regard, a new channel of proliferation may soon emerge if Russia obtains relief from existing arms control limitations on the number of space launch sites it can create outside of its own territory. Most of the ICBMs it developed, manufactured and deployed are used in modified form for space launch application. The proliferation of such activities could create yet another path for the proliferation of long-range missiles.

The ABM Treaty in its present form poses an obstacle to an important policy objective of the United States, deterring Iran from making further investments in long-range missiles. Further, the provisions of the treaty prevent the United States from deploying missiles against the two most plausible forms of ballistic missile threats now available or will soon be available to Iran, covert sea- launched missiles and land-based ICBMs.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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Senator Frist.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Schneider, I was particularly interested to hear your comments that Iran might pose a ship-based short-range missile threat to the United States in the near term. And I guess I'd ask you to elaborate on that. And do you believe that any national missile defense deployed by the United States should be able to neutralize this threat?

MR. SCHNEIDER: Thank you, senator. First, with respect to Iran's ability to do so, I believe Iran has the ability to do so now. It can be done with Scud missiles, which are deployed on mobile transporter erector launchers. These devices can be simply picked up by a conventional cargo crane, and the entire apparatus dropped in the hold of a ship, with the hatch closed, and it would not be possible by national technical means to identify the cargo in that ship. The -- when Iran deploys the Shahab-3, which is likely later this year, it is also deployed on a mobile transporter erector launcher, and could similarly be deployed. And Iran is particularly troublesome in this regard, because as I said its history of being able to use non-Iranian nationals for activities for which it shows not to accept responsibility, and hence the possibility of this I think needs to be taken seriously. I mentioned in my response to Chairman Hagel's question that our architecture of theater missile defense needs to be threat-compliant rather than treaty-compliant -- or at least the threat needs to drive the way in which we perceive the architectural requirements. And because the nature of the threat is both short-range missiles launched from surface ships clandestinely, as well as long-range ICBMs, that the architecture of our national missile defense system needs to reflect that. So we have to have a component that is able to intercept missiles not only coming from relatively short range, which mean they have a low altitude, trajectory, as well as those that come from long range, which have a relatively high altitude trajectory. The short-range systems will also be capable of being launched from virtually azimuth, as Secretary Schlesinger suggested. Therefore I believe the architectural proposals, whether they are made by the administration or the Congress, should be subjected to a criteria that asks whether it is responsive to the threat.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. Ambassador Lilley, should the United States be concerned over continuing reports that China may be pursuing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles?

AMB. LILLEY: I think we should be concerned, but I don't think there is anything we can do about it, except tighten our security at Los Alamos and various other places. They have been after MIRV for a long time. They tried to get the SS-18 from the Soviet Union intact. I think Secretary Perry had mentioned this some time ago that they may have succeeded. That's a solid-fuel missile with MIRV capability. They're determined to get MIRV. And I think one of the most specious arguments made is that theater missile defense will force them to get MIRV. You hear this from the Chinese apologists. They're going ahead anyway. It's in their national interests. And they can use theater missile defense as an excuse, and have Americans run around parroting their line, but they're after it. They're after it.

And unless we get into extensive missile talks with them, which certainly haven't happened yet, because they have put out the word for instance among a lot of the Chinese Americans in the academic community, that they haven't deployed the missiles -- they're not there. We are wrong. And they say it's too expensive, we don't have the engineers, we don't have the underground sites. It's an American fallacy, or as somebody put it an Arabian nights story.

And it's this particular disconnect you have with them when they deny it flatly -- Did you commit espionage in the States? Did you hear the response the premier made? It is our government policy not to do this. Nobody told me we did it. I asked the military, and they didn't know anything about it. Did he ever deny it?

But so I think the evidence is overwhelming they're engaged in this, but they deny it. They deny illegal campaign funding. We don't do it. Or how about -- (inaudible) -- his daughter, Johnny Chung money -- nothing happened. It didn't happen.

So when you get into the missiles you have got to get into some pretty hard ground, as we did with the Russians. And the way you do that of course is to make it really difficult for them by having a capability to deal with missile coercive diplomacy. And that's where I think the Americans have shown some vacillation. And I think they see a window of opportunity the next 24 months to press very hard to get us to commit ourselves.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you.

Mr. Secretary, I'm on another committee on the Foreign Relations Committee. I serve as chairman of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, and have a real interest in dual-use technologies. With the increasing availability of dual-use technologies, particularly through the space-launched programs, we see this enhancing of the ability of countries to produce ballistic missiles and reentry vehicles. Now because of limitations contained in the START treaty, Russia has been constrained in its ability to set up space-launch facilities in foreign countries such as Iran and China. But the Clinton administration has offered to change the START treaty and give Russia the opportunity to locate as many as three new, in quotation marks, "space-launch facilities" outside of its territory. But when asked by Chairman Helms to make its offer conditional upon a formal Russian agreement that it would not put facilities in any country that is pursuing ballistic missiles, the administration refused. Do you think it is wise for the administration to make such an offer to Russia at this time, without obtaining the commitment I've described? And what would be the impact of a Russian space-launched program in a country like China or Iran?

MR. SCHNEIDER: I think it would be a high risk to U.S. proliferation objectives for the U.S. to acquiesce in an expansion of the number of launch sites, especially in countries that are ballistic missile proliferation risks. The -- as I mentioned in my testimony, most of the Russian ICBMs have also been modified for space-launch purposes. One that is being marketed now is a variant of the SS-25, which is a mobile solid-fuel ICBM. And the amount of technology transfer that is associated with the conduct of space-launch activities makes it inevitable that military ballistic missile technology would be transferred to a recipient, and hence the proliferation objectives of the U.S. would be frustrated by such a course. So I would urge that the U.S. government abstain from liberalizing this regime.

SEN. FRIST: Mr. Ambassador, do you have any comment on that, this issue of space launch or the Russian space-launch program in a country like China or Iran?

AMB. LILLEY: Well, again, I think China is going to proceed with a space-launch capability. We think they are going to have a man in space perhaps for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. They see clearly that -- their writings reflect their fascination with the use of satellites to direct warfare, and certainly their military has been directed as a high priority to work on taking out your satellites -- putting out your eyes. So they are thinking very much along these lines, and I don't think they'll be inhibited by any international agreements that are reached. I think this is a matter of national defense, and they'll proceed as they must.

SEN. FRIST: Mr. Secretary, I agree that we should move ahead quickly to deploy a missile defense. Do you believe we should negotiate with Russia to allow for such a defense within the confines of a revised ABM Treaty, or should we move forward on deployment and invite Russia to join us on the more cooperative measures?

MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I share Secretary Schlesinger's concern about the fragility of politics in Russia and especially bilateral relations. However, the rapidity with which the threat has matured to the United States makes this an urgent matter of national security. And the requirements for liberalization in the ABM Treaty extend far beyond those that are required to support the proposed national missile defense. And I mentioned some of them during my testimony.

So unless we can get a very far-reaching revision of the terms of the treaty, then I think that we should take advantage of the provisions of the treaty that allow for withdrawal of the treaty upon six months' notice and proceed to produce a missile defense system that addresses the threat we face.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. I want to shift gears again a bit to away from both of your oral presentations to South Africa. South Africa became a nuclear power, even in the face of what was supposed to be political and economic and military and geographic isolation. Different factors than those in the former Soviet Union have led to what some term a "brain drain" among South African whites, but on a much smaller scale. Certainly disaffected elements of South Africa's military have achieved notoriety or infamy as extremely effective military assets out there for hire.

With that potential outflow of knowledge and talent from a functioning nuclear weapons and missile technology program, I wanted to ask if you could help me address several of the issues for me to gain a better understanding of the potential proliferation issues that this represents.

I guess first, have we seen a brain drain of nuclear weapons talent or technology from South Africa, either to specific programs or to specific countries, or to the open market to the extent that it may exist?

MR. SCHNEIDER: The South African nuclear program was a clandestine program -- it was not an announced program. And so the identification of the players in that program have been fairly limited. But I think it's important to appreciate that modern technology doesn't require the kind of labor mobility that would have been required even a decade ago. And now a lot of the pertinent data is readily available through network computers, i.e., the Internet, as well as a very substantial means of electronic communication. The fact that some individuals from South Africa may be traveling to other parts of the world is certainly a possibility, as is the case with Chinese, Russian, North Korean, Pakistani, Indians and so forth. The mechanism for the diffusion of knowledge about these is so substantial that it's probably beyond control now. There are a couple of Internet web sites that have precise industrial engineering detail for the manufacture of first- and second-generation fission weapons. So the need for extensive clandestine contact with experts is much diminished over what it would have been a few years ago.

SEN. FRIST: How important is the current South African government's treatment of what is left of the country's discontinued and disbanded nuclear weapons program -- how important is that -- or of any ballistic missile programs -- to them?

MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, Senator, South Africa has a substantial reservoir of expertise that it developed based on its national requirement for autarchy. I believe the U.S. government has had a very favorable response from the South African government concerning the protection of sensitive technologies. South Africa has enacted a statute and has, as far as I understand it, been quite successful in complying with a statute with respect to the protection of sensitive technologies and avoiding their export.

So I think at least at this stage the reaction has been quite good and I think we have some basis for optimism that South Africa sees it in its interest to avoid the export of sensitive technologies. SEN. FRIST: So it sounds as if your level of confidence in our defense and intelligence communities' understanding of what's left of these programs is pretty good.

MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, in this case we have a fairly high level of cooperation from the South African authorities, supported by a statutory regime in which we have some access and continued contact and it makes it possible for us to have higher confidence in what we do know about South Africa. And this of course contrasts sharply with some of the other countries where we do not have such access, where clandestine WMD and ballistic missile programs are well underway.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. Ambassador Lilley, given your assessment of China's motivations, which you outlined very well, for acquiring missiles, do you favor our deploying a national missile defense?

MR. LILLEY: No question, sir. We should. May I just add something to your last question, though. I think a much more serious problem in terms of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the former Soviet Union and the degree to which it is involved in China. We get indications of it -- it's enormous.

And it's not just the weapons systems I talk about here, but it's the Russian nuclear engineers, it's Russian propulsion engineers, it's Russian jet engineers building up a Chinese military capability. Outflow of experts that -- as far as I know, we've been able to monitor some of it, but not enough of it.

The other thing I'd say is that we have been more successful in curbing nuclear missile programs with our friends. We stopped one in Taiwan and in South Korea, whereas both China and North Korea have proceeded with nuclear programs when we have bottled up the programs in Taiwan and South Korea. And you can think about the strategic implications of that -- whether we did the right thing.

We did it, and we did it successfully. We stopped those programs. What's unfortunate in all of this is I do think our North Korean deal and the agreed framework undercuts our position. I think Secretary Schlesinger mentioned this -- that you're selling them two 1,000 megawatt reactors for shutting down a known nuclear facility in Yongbyon, in a country with 11,000 (caves ?) and an absolute determination to get nuclear weapons and long-range missiles -- that their survival depends on it. And they aren't going to commit suicide. It's built into their psyche.

And so we have a problem here, certainly in convincing the Chinese that it's in our common interest to curb North Korean ambition and this has succeeded to a limited extent.

But the other areas we have to work with, we have to think about very carefully -- how we manage a Chinese missile threat. What are the stages that you have? Do you go from a theater missile defense to an ability to knock down a token number of missiles in an exercise, to an alternate ability to disrupt their systems through electronic warfare? Or do you have an ability to take out their launching sites after a first launch? Or in the final determination, do you consider massive retaliation? A whole series of, it seems to me, counter- missile measures that have to be thought through when you deal with a major missile threat.

SEN. FRIST: With deploying a national missile defense -- and I guess you went through China's motivation for acquiring missiles - would a failure to deploy a national missile defense just reinforce Chinese views that missiles are a critical military equalizer vis-a- vis the United States?

MR. LILLEY: That's certainly been the evidence so far. When we look at their tactics, we see that they've clearly spelled out missiles as their first priority. I mentioned in my testimony that one of their leading defense generals made this statement flat out, this is what we're after. And we looked through their writings, and this is what they're going to do. And we see it in terms of watching the work of their institutes, the engineers and scientists they select for this priority work, the money that goes into it -- it's clearly a first priority. How do you deal with this? That's our question. They've made up their mind what they're going to do. I don't think there's very much question about that.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, the Rumsfeld Commission of which you were a member determined that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq would and I quote be able to inflict major destruction on the U.S. within five years of a decision to acquire such a capability, 10 years in the case of Iran. What are your views on whether that decision have been taken or not by North Korea and Iran?

MR. SCHNEIDER: That's one of the areas that it's virtually impossible to tell. We will not know when a decision like this has been made. We do know that in states that have clandestine WMD and ballistic missile programs take extraordinary to protect the secrecy of their decision processes.

In the case of Iran, for example, it has a parallel system of government -- one government led by President Khatami, which is the civil government, a separate and parallel government led by Islamic authorities. And it's the Islamic authorities that are running the WMD and ballistic missile programs.

The Iranian constitutional system permits this sort of thing to flourish. And we are likely never to know when these programs - - when they've decided to go ahead with the deployment of a ballistic missile program, we'll only know after we begin to see them in the field.

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. The Clinton administration has negotiated an agreement with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, to formally reconstitute the ABM Treaty which dissolved along with the Soviet Union. Is this a sensible approach to take?

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