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May 13. 2013 8:38PM

Arms negotiator at St. Anselm discusses the new age of assessing nuclear threats worldwide

GOFFSTOWN - The United States has made significant progress over the last 40 years in reducing the amount of nuclear warheads deployed both here and in Russia, a nuclear arms negotiator told a gathering at the Saint Anselm Institute for Politics and Library Monday.

And although making further reductions in strategic weapons between the two nations remains a primary goal of the U.S., the non-proliferation effort has added a new concern: nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists.

"The bomb is still very much with us," said Rose Gottemoeller, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who said that today's technology and the social networking that it has spawned will be valuable tools in the area of verifying and monitoring illicit nuclear activity in the future.

"The world is changing, and with it the need to verify and monitor," said Gottemoeller. "Our new reality is an incredibly smaller world. It's harder to hide things today and it's easier to be caught."

For example, she told the crowd of about 50 people to consider "the possibility that your tablet could be used to help prevent and detect illicit nuclear tests."

Arms control negotiators, she said, will be looking to harness new technologies and adapt current social networking practices as tools to be used.

In response to a question from the audience, Gottemoeller said the United States' response to North Korea's recent provocations employs a combination of "policy tools" such as sanctions, diplomacy and deterrence.

The United States, she said, moved missile defense capabilities to the island of Guam in response to North Korea's saber rattling. That maneuver, she said, appeared to have some effect on North Korea because little has been heard from them since then.

"We have the sanction efforts underway, but we also have the means of defending ourselves and our allies," she said.

As for the nuclear threat from Iran, Gottemoeller said promises from Japan and South Korea "to ratchet back on their purchases of Iranian oil have been very impressive," and represent one of many ways economic pressure can be brought to bear on Iran and other rogue states.

In response to whether a missile defense shield of the type that Ronald Reagan proposed in the 1980s remains a viable option, Gottemoeller said the focus of missile defense shifted after the end of the Cold War.

"I think it's being shaped in the direction of focusing on the threats from Iran and North Korea," she said. "Although it's nevertheless a potent threat, the threat is quite limited now. It's not like the Soviet Union where we had thousands and thousands of missiles pointed against us."

Despite the Obama administration's commitment to both non-proliferation and the reduction of warheads, both tactical and strategic, Gottemoeller said the United States will never completely abandon its nuclear capability.

"The numbers may shrink, but the United States must maintain a safe, secure nuclear arsenal," Gottemoeller said. "We are absolutely committed to the defense of our allies, and our security guarantees are absolute."

hmetz@unionleader.com


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