Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
1. Thank you, Mr Hawtin, team. I hope you are
not planning to have lunch before one o'clock because I do not
think we are going to let you escape before then. Threat comprises
`capability' as well as `intent', as has been said a million times.
In what sort of timescale does the MoD envisage that a rogue state,
state of concern, whatever, and the well known names are North
Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, will have the capability of reaching
the UK with ballistic missiles? In the MoD's unclassified version
of Missile DefenceUS Plans and UK Interests, it
says that, were a country from the Middle East or North Africa
to acquire and complete a long range ballistic missile system,
a capability to target the UK accurately could emerge within the
next few years. That is the rather difficult question you are
being asked to kick off with.
(Mr Hawtin) As you say, it is indeed
a difficult question. The position is that one cannot be absolutely
sure when a ballistic missile threat might develop. As we said
in the memorandum, we see no significant threat at the moment.
It depends very much on the developments in particular in the
countries of concern, but were a country in the Middle East or
North Africa to acquire a complete long range ballistic missile
system then there is a capability to target the United Kingdom
that might emerge within the next few years. It is difficult to
be more precise than that. It obviously depends on a range of
factors, not least on the ability of any of the states in that
area to acquire missile systems and indeed on the source of them.
Our particular concern, as comes out in the memorandum, is that
North Korea has been a major proliferator of ballistic missiles
and related technology for several years. They have provided,
for example, the No Dong missile to Iran and to Pakistan and shorter
range missile technology to a number of other countries, including
Syria, and were that proliferation and export of missiles and
technology to continue then there is that risk, but I cannot give
you a precise date and obviously one would watch the situation
2. I hope we are watching the situation very
(Mr Hawtin) Absolutely, and take appropriate steps
to prevent it from happening as far as one could.
3. Perhaps we will come back to that later because
it is obviously very important. How much sooner is there likely
to be a threat to UK interests in such places as Gibraltar or
the sovereign bases on Cyprus? Can you treat them as a threat
separate from the United Kingdom?
(Mr Hawtin) I would not personally treat them as a
threat separate from the United Kingdom. They are obviously part
of the United Kingdom's interests in terms of the factual position
as it were. Cyprus would be in range of Iraqi Scuds already and
indeed Syrian Scuds and the Iranian Shahab-3b missile, but that
is not to say that there is any immediate threat to Cyprus. I
am giving you the factual position in terms of range of missiles.
Gibraltar is no closer than the United Kingdom to threats from
the Middle East. The threat is of course a combination of capability
and intention and we have no reason to think that any country
specifically intends to target UK interests.
4. In terms of our perception of the threat
regarding capability and intention, to what extent does our perception
differ from that perhaps of the United States or of our European
allies? I am thinking in terms of magnitude, states of concern,
timescales. Is there a correspondence of views on this?
(Mr Hawtin) Basically, Chairman, as far as the United
States and the United Kingdom are concerned we have a very similar
assessment of the threat. There are occasional differences of
degree and emphasis and perception, but basically our views on
the areas of concern, the states of concern, are very similar.
The United States, I think it is fair to say, has a particular
concern, given its regional responsibilities, over North Korea
and a particular focus for them, but there are no basic fundamental
differences. Likewise there are no fundamental differences between
the United Kingdom, the United States or other European countries
over the growing threat.
5. Just to stay with capability, we have briefly
touched on that in terms of missiles. I want to move on to what
would be in the missiles. We faced ballistic missile threats per
se in the Second World War, but obviously the threat of weapons
of mass destruction is on a different scale in terms of nuclear,
biological or chemical agents. How do you see the risk developing
over the next few years that states will acquire capabilities
to put such weapons into their ballistic missiles?
(Mr Hawtin) The combination of development programmes
for weapons of mass destruction and the delivery systems of ballistic
missiles is one of the prime concerns and something we are watching
very closely. We believe, for example, that Iran is seeking to
acquire nuclear weapons and may have the technology to produce
biological weapons. Likewise Iraq is a real cause for concern
in terms of its potential capacity to acquire and build nuclear
weapons and its existing chemical and biological capabilities.
6. Is it just those two?
(Mr Hawtin) No. The four major states of concern are
Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya.
7. And the concern is shared both over the delivery
system and the weapons of mass destruction they might want to
put in them?
(Mr Hawtin) Yes.
8. Which types of weapons of mass destruction
or warhead do you expect to pose the earliest threat, and ideally
I would love you to tell me from which states?
(Mr Hawtin) I think I would find it very difficult,
as I said earlier to the Chairman, to put a precise timetable
on the emerging threat or which particular weapon of mass destructionnuclear,
biological or chemicalmight pose the first threat. In combination
they are a real and growing concern, something that we are watching
with very close attention. The only other thing I would add is
that when the UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq in 1998 we had real
concerns about their capability to regenerate chemical and biological
and to acquire nuclear. Obviously, with the absence of inspections
on the ground, that is an area of uncertainty.
9. Therefore you are saying there are particular
concerns in Iraq, possibly more so than the other three?
(Mr Hawtin) I would not want to give you the impression
that I am distinguishing between one and another. I was trying
to give you a slightly more helpful answer. The four states are
all of concern to us. As I said earlier, North Korea is a particular
and immediate concern for the United States.
10. So basically you are saying to us that you
are equally concerned about those four countries and you are equally
concerned about the nature of the threat from those four countries
in terms of the various sorts of warheads they may be able to
put on missiles?
(Mr Hawtin) In general terms, yes. This is an open
session. There are obvious degrees of differences in potential
development programmes, the state of capability of each of those
countries, but again I do not want to give you the impression
that each of them has exactly the same state of development of
missile programmes and weapons of mass destruction. We are concerned
about all of them.
11. That is just capability. If I could stray
a little bit into intent, how does that change the picture?
(Mr Hawtin) As our memorandum says, and as I said
a few minutes ago, we have no reason to think that any of those
countries has any specific intent to target the United Kingdom
or its interests. The obvious point over threat is that if one
has capabilities or one is seeking to acquire capabilities intentions
can change very quickly. That is the element of the equation that
12. Would you say that those weapons are being
developed for a deterrent effect by all those countries or do
you have concern over the intention that some may have to use
(Mr Hawtin) There is certainly an argument that all
of those countries are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction
and developing missile defences, ballistic missiles, for regional
purposes, but the question I would pose in regard to that is that
if that is simply a regional issue why is it that they are developing
ballistic missiles with much longer ranges? They are seeking to
acquire capabilities that go far beyond anything they might require
for regional deterrent purposes.
13. Clearly, if we are projecting that they
are extending the range and there is potential for intercontinental
missiles carrying any one of those types of warheads, there is
a timetable and in the memorandum you talked of a few years. Are
we responding rapidly enough in terms of how we might defend against
those so that we would be ready in a few years?
(Mr Hawtin) We are carrying outand we can go
into this in detail if you wisha whole series of studies
on the feasibility of missile defences and I think we have made
available to you the unclassified version of our recent TRRAP
study. We are doing a lot of work on missile defence as such.
As far as the overall position on deterrence is concerned, this
is something that is a combination of factors, a combination of
a very comprehensive strategy, ranging again, as we set out in
our memorandum, from arms control measures through export control
regimes, through diplomacy, through deterrence measures, and the
deterrent capability that we have in the form of Trident is obviously
a very important deterrent capability against any threat of that
kind to our interests. Through active and passive defences and
missile defences and active defence we have again, and I am very
happy to go into detail, a whole range of what we call passive
defensive measures, NBC suits and so on.
14. Mr Hawtin, President Bush referred in his
"axis of evil" speech to three countries: North Korea,
Iran and Iraq. The Ministry of Defence here includes Libya. Can
you explain why Libya is included by us but omitted by the United
States, and could you tell us whether you think Libya has the
capability to manufacture or whether it would just be a consumer
of products from North Korea?
(Mr Hawtin) I think the reason we have included Libya
is that geographically that is a state of concern which is rather
closer to Europe than it is to the United States. It is not for
me to say why the United States has chosen a particular set of
countries, although I dealt with three of them earlier. As far
as Libya's particular capabilities are concerned, again we currently
assess that there is no ballistic missile threat from them to
the United Kingdom. They are heavily reliant for weapons programmes
on foreign expertise and that is something again that is a concern
to us in relation to North Korea. What we are concerned about
is what we have described as the states of concern and I have
mentioned four rather than the three in the President's State
of the Union address.
15. Based on what you have said so far is there
any risk of a potential accidental launch coming from any of those
countries and what capabilities do we have to prevent that happening?
(Mr Hawtin) I do not think we see accidental launch
as a major problem. It is something that from time to time features
in the debate in the United States about the states of concern
but it is very clear, I think, that their major focus is on missile
defence against an active and positive decision to launch a missile.
As far as accidental launches more generally are concerned, P5
powers and existing nuclear powers have very clear arrangements
for prior notification of launches. There are hot line arrangements
and so on and we do not see that as a real problem.
16. Did the North Koreans tell people when they
tested their missile that they were firing?
(Mr Hawtin) I do not know the answer to that.
17. I do not think they did.
(Mr Hawtin) To pick up the point of your earlier question,
again what we cannot say with any certainty is what arrangements
North Korea has for command and control of its missile and other
18. Is there a risk that any of these states
who have the capability of producing a ballistic missile which
could range its targets from Europe to North America potentially
are willing to give one of those missiles into the hands of a
terrorist group who might choose, for other reasons than a state
one, to use one of them?
(Mr Hawtin) We do not at the moment see any risk that
terrorists will acquire ballistic missiles in the sense that we
are discussing them at the moment. They are large assets, they
are not easy to acquire or to operate unnoticed. What is of rather
more concern to us with regard to terrorism is the covert delivery
of certain elements of weapons of mass destruction.
19. Are you seriously saying that a ballistic
missile, which can be moved around quite easily and fired from
a mobile launcher, is not something that terrorists would aspire
to having in their hands?
(Mr Hawtin) I cannot speak for terrorist aspirations.
What I am saying is that there would be other options open to
terrorists of a rather more viable and less obvious nature. Our
concern, as I say, is with the states of concern I have mentioned
andlet me add this pointcertainly with the help
and assistance that some states of concern are giving generally
to terrorists, but in terms of acquisition of ballistic missiles
that I would not regard as the key concern.
12 Note from Witmess: They did not make any
announcement prior to the Taepo Dong-1 launch on 31 August 1998. Back