Now, I don’t want to leave this podium without addressing something that has aroused a great deal of concern here and in my country, and that is the fact that we have not yet found enough evidence of Saddam Hussein’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. We will. I have absolute confidence about that. Indeed, the fact that it has taken us this long to find the evidence is a chilling reminder that these programs are far too easy to move, and I believe far too easy to hide.
Consider, for example, that UNSCOM was only able to confirm the existence of a biological warfare program that Saddam Hussein claimed not to have after years of inspections, because a high level defector walked in and gave them the evidence. Dr David Kay was part of the original UN inspection team, and today he is back in Iraq working for us, continuing the search. He’s making solid progress in finding the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s WMD program. But he’s also finding that deception and concealment were an extensive and embedded part of the program perfected over the course of two decades. It’s going to take some time to find not just the weapons, but the equipment and the people and the materials that made up this program.
President Bush has made it crystal clear that we don’t intend to stay in Iraq any longer than is necessary, but I will make it crystal clear to you today that we are not going to leave until we find and destroy Iraq’s capability to produce biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. One thing is very clear about Iraq, however, and that is that the world cannot afford to keep coming back to this point. For 12 years the international community could find no answer to a number of difficult challenges. How do we deal with a sovereign state which is led by a criminal, one who has little regard for his people, let alone for international law and international order? And in particular, most particularly, how do we deal with the determination of such a regime to acquire weapons of mass destruction? For us, just as for Australia, war is never going to be the preferred answer. But in the absence of any other solution, it will always have to be a consideration.
In the present environment, the international community needs to come up with a workable, muscular diplomatic answer to such unanswered challenges, and Asian states in this regard have an important role to play to come up with these answers. In no part is that clearer than in the question of North Korea. Again, as our Australian friends know all too well, we’re talking about a repressive regime that is supporting itself in the main through criminal activities, trade in weapons and drugs most particularly.
This alone has a destabilising effect across the region, and we have to take into consideration the more recent North Korean nuclear threats. The United States has tried a variety of solutions to this situation, including some creative bilateral mechanisms, everything short of military action, but thus far to no avail. It is only now, through the concerted effort of nations, and of Asian nations in particular, that we are beginning to see some progress. And indeed, I think we can say that anything that can be accomplished in the region can and will be accomplished more effectively with the active participation of the People’s Republic of China, and movement towards a peaceful resolution with North Korea is a powerful case in point.
Of course, we’ve also made it clear to the North Koreans that we plan to consult with our allies and our partners regardless of who is actually sitting at the table in the multilateral setting, and so we will continue to look to Australia for guidance in this matter. At the same time, we will also continue to explore other effective means for dealing with the proliferation challenges from North Korea, Iran, or any other country who chooses to export or collect materials in defiance of the system of international controls. And this is going to have to include novel means for dealing with such transfers, such as the new Proliferation Security Initiative.