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Gov. Says U.S. Must Address Nuclear Threat

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON— Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that America needs a "Manhattan Project" type of effort to prevent a "nuclear 9/11" and vowed to elevate nuclear non-proliferation to a Cabinet-level policy area if he's elected president.
    Richardson, who's seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said nuclear terrorism is among the most dangerous threats facing the United States. But he voiced hope that it can be prevented.
    "I believe that if we give this matter the attention it deserves, we can prevent a nuclear 9/11," Richardson said during a 30-minute policy speech at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
    Richardson, a former Department of Energy secretary and United Nations ambassador under President Clinton, said he worries that the Bush administration has not put enough emphasis on securing fissionable nuclear materials around the globe.
    He said al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are actively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, some of which are unaccounted for in Pakistan and the former Soviet Union.
    "Al-Qaida has said that they wish to kill 4 million Americans, including 2 million children," Richardson said. "In their madness, they claim that such a slaughter of innocents would 'balance the scales of justice' for crimes that they allege we have committed against Muslims. We would be mad not to take them at their word."
    He called for a new American policy of "global realism" in which the United States aggressively engages other nations in diplomatic talks to find the best ways to mitigate the nuclear threat.
    Richardson said a global nuclear security plan, crafted under the leadership of the United States, should:
   
  • Halt nuclear weapons production and reduce the size of nuclear arsenals;
       
  • Halt or secure civilian programs that require or produce bomb-grade materials; and
       
  • Require all nuclear power production to be conducted at a limited number of highly secure facilities.
        Richardson said a plan for accomplishing these objectives could be forged at a global summit of industrial and non-industrial nations. The governor said he envisions the United States as the leader in crafting the plan, but stressed that Russia, India and China would be critical players as well.
        "We need a new global non-proliferation agreement which prevents states from developing nuclear fuel-enrichment capabilities, and then abandoning the NPT (non-proliferation treaty)," Richardson said. "We also need to negotiate a tough universal verification system that gives international inspectors immediate and unfettered access to all sites, worldwide."
        He also said the United States and Russia owe it to the world to lead by example and reduce their stockpiles.
        "We should reaffirm our commitment to the long-term goal of global nuclear disarmament, and we should invite the Russians to join us in a moratorium on all new nuclear weapons," Richardson said. "And we should negotiate further staged reductions in our arsenals, beyond what has already been agreed, over the next decade."
        Richardson also said America can't bully other countries into accepting its foreign affairs policies.
        "Others follow us not because we intimidate them with the argument of our power, but because we inspire them with the power of our arguments," Richardson said.
        The governor stopped short of calling for a global abolition of all nuclear weapons— including the American stockpile— but he said the U.S. has a moral duty to lead the global effort to secure loose nukes or nuclear materials.
        "America led the world into the age of nuclear fear because we were compelled to do so by totalitarian enemies," Richardson said. "We now have the urgent moral duty to lead the world out of the age of nuclear fear— ironically because we confront a very new and different kind of totalitarian enemy."
        Richardson said the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "not only because it is good policy, but also to send a signal to the world that America has turned a corner, and once again will be a global leader, not a unilateralist loner."
        The governor emphasized the need to work with Russia, especially, to make sure its nuclear weapons and materials don't fall into rogue hands.
        He proposed that America reduce its own arsenal as an incentive to Pakistan and other nuclear nations.
        "Negotiations to reduce our arsenal also are our diplomatic ace in the hole," Richardson said. "We can leverage our own proposed reductions to get the other nuclear powers to do the same."


    E-MAIL writer Michael Coleman