Globe and Mail Update
OTTAWA — Hans Blix, the UN's former chief weapons inspector, and a blue-ribbon international commission say the United States should halt deployment of its missile defence system and concentrate instead arms control measures.
In a report to be presented to the UN Thursday, Mr. Blix and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission warn that missile defence systems like the one being built by the United States threaten global peace and security.
Deployment of such systems risk “creating or aggravating arms races,” says the commission's final report.
Mr. Blix, the chairman of the commission, was the chief weapons inspector for Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion. His recommendation to allow inspectors more time to try to find weapons of mass destruction was ignored by President George W. Bush's administration, which now admits there were no such weapons.
This new report is likely to receive a cool welcome in Washington as well. Mr. Bush made deployment of a missile defence system a high priority early in his administration. Some ground-based interceptors - rockets intended to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles - have since been installed in Alaska, but their reliability has been questioned by an independent oversight agency of the U.S. Congress.
Mr. Blix's international commission, whose 14 members include William Perry, a former U.S. defence secretary, says that rather than trying to build a missile defence shield the U.S. should negotiate new treaties to eliminate the threat of ballistic missiles.
The 40-year-old Outer Space Treaty, which banned nuclear weapons in space after the U.S. conducted nuclear tests there, should be broadened to cover all proposed types of space weapons, the commission said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and any other country thinking of deploying missile defence systems should refrain from “any tests against space objects or targets on earth from a space platform.”
In the past decade, the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars researching space-based weapons, including possible development of orbiting high-intensity laser cannons.
The previous Liberal government in Ottawa said Canada would not participate in U.S. missile defence programs involving space-based weapons. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Conservative ministers have said that while they are not racing to embrace missile defence they would consider any concrete proposal Washington might make down the line.
The Blix commission, whose work was financed chiefly by the Swedish government and partly by the Vancouver-based Simons Foundation, also said the U.S., Russia and other nuclear-weapons states need to take their obligations to eliminate all of these weapons of mass destruction.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty requires countries to eventually get rid of all nuclear weapons, but disarmament efforts have been stalled in recent years despite the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.
All countries should begin “planning for security without nuclear weapons” and begin incremental steps to get rid of their arsenals.
Current U.S. nuclear doctrine - issued just three months ago - “parted ways with the UN Charter provisions on self-defence,” Mr. Blix says in a preface to the report.
The Bush administration's doctrine leaves open the possibility of using a nuclear weapon to pre-emptively destroy another country's own nuclear arsenal. U.S. officials have said they want to keep this option in case North Korea or Iran develop nuclear weapons.
As long as any one country has nuclear weapons others will want them as well, the report says.
The report also urges the Bush administration to reverse its opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nuclear warheads, saying the U.S. has the leverage to lead by example. If the U.S. does not take the lead “there could be more nuclear tests and new nuclear arms races.”