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"I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them."

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Arms Control Association

Use for factsheets and other jointly written or anonymous content

Vice President Briefed by Lab Directors

On December 16, 2009, the lab directors from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory met with Vice President Joe Biden for a private briefing in the White House. Biden was tapped to be the Administration's point person for CTBT ratification efforts in early 2009. Biden and the lab directors were joined by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, National Nuclear Security Administrator Tom D'Agostino, and officials from the State Department and the Department of Defense. A Los Alamos National Laboratory press...

CTBT Monitoring Station Completed Near Iran

A primary seismic station within the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), used to deter and detect nuclear tests, has finished construction in the Middle East. The station, named PS44, was recently completed near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a few kilometers from the border of Iran. It is one of 337 monitoring stations around the world designed to verify the CTBT. 75% of the IMS has already been built and certified, and is actively transmitting data. The station’s recording facility started transmitting seismic information to the CTBT’s International Data Cenre (IDC) on October 5, 2008...

Fall 2009 Highlights of CTBT News Coverage and Opinions

Some of the notable news articles and op-eds related to the CTBT from this fall include: Daryl G. Kimball, "The Case for the CTBT," Foreign Service Journal, December 2009 . Kaegan McGrath, "Verifiability, Reliability and National Security: The Case for U.S. Ratification of the CTBT," The Nonproliferation Review, November 2008, pp 407 - 433. David Hafemeister, "Assessing the Merits of the CTBT," The Nonproliferation Review, November 2008, pp. 473-482. Daryl G. Kimball, "Why We Don't Need to Resume Nuclear Testing: A Reply to Senator Jon Kyl's 'Why We Need to Test Nuclear Weapons',"...

JASON Report Concludes There is No Need for New Nuclear Warheads

In late November, the long-awaited executive summary of a JASON study on the Stockpile Stewardship Programs was released. Conducted by a select group of eminent independent scientists, the study concluded that the U.S. nuclear arsenal can be maintained indefinitely through existing stockpile stewardship programs, without nuclear testing or pursuing new warhead designs. The study stated that, "Lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date."

Today Marks the 10th Anniversary of CTBT "no" vote

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the Senate’s failed attempt to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In this month’s Arms Control Today, Daryl Kimball writes a “Looking Back” feature , reflecting on the mistakes made and lessons learned from the 1999 vote. Deeply involved in the NGO effort to support CTBT ratification in the 1990s, Kimball recalls the lack of high-level executive leadership on the treaty, and the overwhelming presence of non-substantive, partisan politicking. “The ‘no’ vote had less to do with the substantive issues,” Kimball writes, “and was more a consequence of the...

Article XIV Entry into Force Conference

On September 24-25th, the CTBTO held its 6th biennial Article XIV Entry into Force conference at the UN in New York. The CTBT treaty text contains a special mechanism to promote its entry into force through a conference, held every other year, designed to facilitate concrete steps to promote entry into force, which requires a group of 44 specific states to ratify. The conference was attended by representatives from 103 states, and several NGO representatives. Signaling the Obama administration’s deep commitment to ratification of the CTBT, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the...

Inside the Ring

News Date: 
December 25, 2008 -05:00

Hyping Chinese Espionage

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

With little evidence and flawed logic, the Cox Report has concluded that China, exploiting purloined U.S. nuclear weapons design information, can now match U.S. nuclear weapons technology and emerge as a major nuclear threat to the United States. The report, presented in three lavishly illustrated volumes suitable for coffee table display, is clearly designed to hype a new Chinese nuclear missile threat rather than objectively examine the extent and implications of alleged Chinese nuclear espionage. Whatever the truth about the extent of the espionage, this extreme worst-case assessment is grossly misleading and threatens rational U.S. diplomatic and defense policy toward Beijing.

The report's case rests primarily on a reference in a classified Chinese document to certain aspects of the design of the Trident D-5 missile's W-88 thermonuclear warhead, which indicates Chinese access to classified information from an unidentified source. However, Cox Committee member Representative John Spratt (D-SC), in an act of considerable political courage, has revealed the paucity of evidence supporting the report's stark conclusions and pointed out that the Cox Committee had no evidence that the Chinese had actually obtained any blueprints or detailed engineering specifications on the W-88 or any other U.S. thermonuclear weapon. This important conclusion was also reached by the intelligence community in its damage assessment of the material presented in the classified version of the report.

While China would undoubtedly profit from the details of the W-88, Beijing would pay a steep price to make a "Chinese copy" of the sophisticated W-88, which does not match China's strategic requirements or its existing technology infrastructure. The W-88 is carefully designed to fit inside the D-5's slender reentry vehicle, which is necessary to achieve extremely high accuracy against hard targets. The Chinese ICBM force, numbering only 20 missiles, is clearly intended as a minimal deterrent against city targets where high accuracy is irrelevant. The report fails to recognize that China, with a substantial nuclear weapons program and 35 years' experience since its first test in 1964, already has the ability to develop small thermonuclear warheads based on its own technology. Such weapons would be suitable for China's anticipated, more survivable mobile ICBM or for future MIRVed missiles if it decides to develop them. Consequently, even if Beijing did obtain the detailed blueprints for the W-88, which is pure speculation, this would not change the limited Chinese nuclear threat to the United States that has existed for almost 20 years.

The report's feigned outrage with China's alleged efforts to steal U.S. nuclear secrets is an exercise in naivete or hypocrisy by members of Congress, who approve some $30 billion annually for U.S. intelligence activities and press for the increased use of spies. At the same time, while recognizing the pandemic nature of espionage, one cannot tolerate violations of trust by persons in sensitive positions or inadequate security practices that facilitate such actions. The report has created a cottage industry of recommendations on how to solve this difficult problem. But the answer certainly does not lie in creating insulated, Soviet-style nuclear cities where many of the brightest U.S. scientists would not work.

U.S.-Chinese relations have been dealt a serious blow by the report's implicit message that the United States should not do business with a country that presents a serious nuclear threat to U.S. security and engages in espionage against the U.S. nuclear establishment. However, there is no reason to believe China is any more of a threat today, or will be in the foreseeable future, than it has been for many years; and the charges of espionage, if true, are only the latest manifestation of an international environment where gentlemen read each other's mail whenever possible. Since President Nixon's opening of relations with China, every U.S. president has sought to improve U.S.-Chinese relations. In the interests of U.S. security, this policy should continue to be pursued on its own merits and not be undercut by hyped assessments of the Chinese nuclear threat or espionage activities.

If the Cox Committee is as concerned about Chinese espionage as it professes, it is puzzling that it chose to reject Spratt's proposal to recommend ratification of the CTB Treaty, which would prevent future Chinese tests from exploiting alleged purloined information. Experts agree that no rational state would risk producing thermonuclear weapons based on information, including even blueprints and full technical specifications, obtained from another state without tests, and would not rely on another country's computer codes to simulate the detonation of a device as a surrogate for actual testing. The U.S. Senate now has the opportunity and responsibility to correct this glaring omission by promptly ratifying the test ban treaty, which Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms has held hostage—to advance his own agenda—for nearly two years.

With little evidence and flawed logic, the Cox Report has concluded that China, exploiting purloined U.S. nuclear weapons design information, can now match U.S. nuclear weapons technology and emerge as a major nuclear threat to the United States.

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