Washington (Jul. 16)
President Reagan announced a policy today to avoid the spread of nuclear weapons by encouraging the export of nuclear material, including breeder reactors, to countries which have an advanced nuclear power program as long as there are safeguards to prevent the material from being converted into weapons.
Administration officials stressed that such a policy would give the U.S. greater “influence” to persuade other countries not to build nuclear weapons. “We must establish this nation as a predictable and reliable partner for peaceful nuclear cooperation under adequate safeguards,” Reagan said in a statement issued by the White House.
“This is essential to our non-proliferation goals. If we are not such a partner, other countries will tend to go their own ways and our influence would diminish. This would reduce our effectiveness in gaining the support we need to deal with the proliferation problem” the statement said.
NOT TRIGGERED BY ISRAEL’S ATTACK
At a White House briefing, Administration officials denied that the policy announcement was triggered by Israel’s air attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor last month. Since the June 7 raid, both those in Congress who have denounced Israel’s action and those who have supported it have been urging the Administration to fashion a strong non-proliferation program. Administration officials said today that the new policy had been “many weeks” in the drafting.
Both the President and the officials who explained his statement emphasized that the non-proliferation program was a continuation of the policies of past Administrations. This included a declared need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The officials conceded that the IAEA needed strengthening both in the number of inspectors and its inspection procedures. At Congressional hearings on the Israeli raid, a former IAEA inspector, Roger Richter, said the inspections could not prevent a country from diverting fuel for nuclear weapons. The Administration officials noted today that the IAEA is a “burglar alarm” which alerts the international community when such a diversion occurs.
REAGAN’S PROGRAM IS DIFFERENT
The officials stressed today that what makes Reagan’s program different from past programs is that it encourages working with friendly countries for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. They said this will allow the export of material, including breeder reactors, to countries with advanced nuclear energy programs. The officials denied that the new program was designed to “enhance trade” but said the President had ordered the expedition of export requests once the legal requirements are met.
During today’s briefing, officials refused to discuss any specific country although many questions were aimed at Pakistan with which the Administration recently concluded a major arms deal. Pakistan is developing a nuclear reactor which many fear might be used to build atomic weapons.
The officials conceded that the Administration might use the American supply of conventional weapons to a country to prevent it from turning to nuclear weapons.