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Missile Testing

Missile Testing

DPRK Now 0-4 On Long-Range Missile Tests; Now Task Is to Prevent 3rd Nuclear Test

By Peter Crail and Daryl G. Kimball North Korea's Unha-3 missile is readied for launch. Today, the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) followed through with their plan to conduct a long-range ballistic missile test, which failed, according to early assessments. The DPRK claimed the missile launch was intended to put a satellite in space, but many of the technologies used for that purpose also help North Korea further develop a long-range missile capability, which is was probably the DPRK's real aim. Though it was apparently unsuccessful, the missile launch is a clear...

Experts Available to Comment on Iran and North Korea Developments



For Immediate Release: April 12, 2012

(Washington, D.C.) For the first time in 15 months the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) will hold talks with Iran on its nuclear program in Istanbul April 14. The meeting is expected to be the beginning of a series of talks rather than a single session over the weekend. The talks are likely to focus on Iran's enrichment to 20% as a confidence-building step toward broader progress on resolving the nuclear issue.

Meanwhile, North Korea has prepared to launch a rocket it claims is intended to put a satellite in space but which also serves as a test of its long-range Taepodong 2 missile. The launch is expected to take place between today and Monday, April 16. The launch will be the fourth time North Korea has tested a long-range missile technology. The last two attempts were followed by UN Security Council censure and North Korean nuclear tests.

Arms Control Association experts will be available to comment on these developments over the next several days and through the weekend:

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director[email protected] (202) 463-8270 x107.

Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow[email protected] (202) 463-8270 x103

Peter Crail, Nonproliferation Analyst[email protected] (202) 463-8270 x102

Additional Resources:

Priorities for Renewed Nuclear Talks with Iran, by Daryl G. Kimball and Greg Thielmann, April 11, 2012

A Window of Opportunity with Iran, by Peter Crail, March 9, 2012

Chronology of U.S.-North Korea Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy, updated April 2012


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


(Washington, D.C.) For the first time in 15 months the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) will hold talks with Iran on its nuclear program in Istanbul April 14. The meeting is expected to be the beginning of a series of talks rather than a single session over the weekend. The talks are likely to focus on Iran's enrichment to 20% as a confidence-building step toward broader progress on resolving the nuclear issue.

Country Resources:

N. Korean Launch Plan Puts Deal at Risk

Peter Crail

North Korea announced on March 16 that it will launch a satellite in mid-April, a move that threatens to unravel a Feb. 29 agreement the country made with the United States to halt key nuclear and missile activities. North Korea says it is carrying out the launch between April 12 and 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters March 16 that the North’s announcement calls into question Pyongyang’s good faith in committing to the agreement. Nuland said that, in its negotiations with North Korea over the so-called Leap Day agreement, the United States “made clear unequivocally that any satellite launch would be a deal-breaker.”

Under the agreement, the North pledged not to carry out nuclear or long-range missile tests and to suspend its operations at a uranium-enrichment facility “while constructive dialogue continued.” (See ACT, March 2012.)

In return for North Korea’s recent pledges, the United States agreed to provide the impoverished country with 240,000 tons of food aid under “intensive monitoring.”

Although the United States maintains that food assistance is based on “humanitarian need” and is not linked to political issues such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Nuland said that the assistance would be reconsidered in the event of a rocket launch.

“A launch of this kind, which would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that we’ve had with regard to the nutritional assistance,” she said, including Pyongyang’s commitment to allow international monitoring of food distribution to prevent the food from being diverted to the military or North Korean elites.

Pyongyang claims that the satellite launch would not violate the agreement, which it says it will uphold. “[T]he launch of the working satellite is an issue fundamentally different from that of a long-range missile,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said March 19. Also on March 19, North Korean nuclear negotiator Ri Yong Ho told reporters in Beijing that, in order to implement the Leap Day agreement, North Korea invited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the suspension of operations at its Yongbyon uranium-enrichment facility.

In a March 19 statement to reporters, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said that the agency received the invitation March 16, the same day Pyongyang announced the satellite launch, and that the IAEA will discuss the details of any visit with North Korea “and other parties concerned.”

Missile Test Feared

The United States and its allies view a North Korean satellite launch as a way for the country to test its ballistic missile technology, which overlaps in many areas with that of space-launch vehicles. The Unha-2 rocket North Korea launched in April 2009 in a failed attempt to put a satellite in orbit uses a cluster of four Nodong medium-range missiles for its first stage and is believed to be a version of the Taepo Dong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). (See ACT, May 2009.) The UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the Unha-2 launch later that month and, in a June 2009 sanctions resolution, demanded that North Korea not conduct “any launch using ballistic missile technology.”

North Korea says that this month’s launch will use a rocket called the Unha-3. It is unknown whether the system has any significant differences from the Unha-2.

Pyongyang has rejected the council’s demand not to carry out launches using ballistic missile technology and responded to the council’s April 2009 condemnation of the Unha-2 launch by conducting the country’s second nuclear test the following month. (See ACT, June 2009.) Former U.S. officials said they were concerned that North Korea would similarly follow any international rebuke of the Unha-3 launch with another nuclear test.

Launch Planned for Months

The announced launch does not appear to have come entirely by surprise. Evans Revere, former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a March 20 briefing paper for the Brookings Institution that a North Korean official told him Dec. 15 that Pyongyang intended to launch a satellite in the near future.

“The official spoke at length about [North Korea’s] ‘sovereign right’ to conduct such launches and warned that any U.S. effort to interfere with or oppose this plan would make [North Korea] even more determined to carry it out,” added Revere, who is now a senior director with the Albright Stonebridge Group.

He also said that Pyongyang likely made the decision to carry out the launch under the leadership of long-time North Korea ruler Kim Jong Il, who died Dec. 17, leaving his third-eldest son, Kim Jong Un, to lead the country.

Other former U.S. officials say that North Korean negotiators were aware that the United States viewed a satellite launch as a deal-breaker and still agreed to the moratorium Feb. 29, suggesting the mixed messages from the North’s actions point to policy splits under the country’s new leader.

Former U.S. envoy to North Korea Charles “Jack” Pritchard, now president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, said in a March 19 interview that Pyongyang’s decision to carry out a launch that undermines its recent agreement “suggests that this will be an internal crisis that will develop into an external crisis for the North.”

New Launch Facility

The satellite launch will be the first using a new facility, called the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which is larger than the launch site North Korea has previously used at Musudan-ri. The larger site is believed to allow the North to launch larger rockets and carry out launches more frequently.

The Sohae facility is on the country’s western coast, allowing the North to launch its rockets in a southern direction that avoids travel over Japan. North Korea’s 1998 and 2009 launches both overflew Japan, leading to Japanese concerns about the North’s intentions and the risks of falling debris.

Prior to the April 2009 satellite launch, Japan said it would deploy short-range anti-missile batteries and potentially shoot down any rocket components that might threaten the country’s territory.

North Korea announced on March 16 that it will launch a satellite in mid-April, a move that threatens to unravel a Feb. 29 agreement the country made with the United States to halt key nuclear and missile activities. North Korea says it is carrying out the launch between April 12 and 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

Iran Launches Second Satellite

Peter Crail

Iran successfully placed a satellite in orbit June 15, demonstrating increasing proficiency with rocket technology that could also be used in its ballistic missile programs. The move, which marks Tehran’s second successful satellite launch, appears to violate UN sanctions prohibiting Iran from taking any actions related to ballistic missiles.

Iran launched the satellite aboard a two-stage rocket called the Safir-1B, a variant of the Safir-2 system Iran used in February 2009 for its first successful launch. Tehran failed in its first launch attempt, in August 2008. Before that, Iran relied on Russia to place its satellites in orbit. Moscow announced last July that it would no longer launch Iranian satellites.

Iran’s official Press TV announced June 16 that the Safir had placed in orbit an imaging satellite named Rasad (“Observation” in Farsi), which is intended to circle the earth 15 times a day for two months. The Rasad will be used for topography missions and high-resolution mapping, Iran’s official Tehran Times newspaper said June 18.

Technical experts said that although Iran did not demonstrate any significant advances in its rocket capabilities with the second successful launch of the Safir, the reuse of the system shows that Iran pursues its rocket and missile development in a methodical and sophisticated way. “I am impressed that they have launched a second satellite with the same vehicle,” former UN weapons inspector Geoffrey Forden said in a June 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “This is what a systematic missile development program would do,” he added.

Uzi Rubin, former head of the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, also noted in a June 21 e-mail that the 29-month span between Iran’s first and second successful launches “is relatively brief, indicating that the Iranians are pouring money into the program.” Iran has announced that it intends to carry out additional satellite launches over the next year and is planning its first manned space flight in 2019.

Iran’s ambitious space program does appear to have met with delays. In March 2010, Iranian officials said the Rasad would be launched in August 2010, later moving the launch to Feb. 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, before finally carrying it out last month.

The Safir launch appears to be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted in June 2010, which bars Iran from carrying out “any activity” related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, “including launches using ballistic missile technology.” Many of the technologies used in space launch vehicles are also important for ballistic missiles. A 2009 U.S. Air Force intelligence assessment of ballistic and cruise missile threats said that the Safir could be used as a test bed for ballistic missile technologies.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today June 24 that the United States intends to bring the violation to the attention of the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee.

Still, the technical experts noted that the Safir is designed as a space launch vehicle rather than a military system, with a lightweight frame and a slow rate of acceleration, and would need to undergo extensive modifications to be used as a missile.

The Safir also is designed to carry only a small payload. The Rasad weighed just slightly more than 15 kilograms, while Iran’s first satellite weighed about twice as much. Nuclear-capable missiles are generally assumed to be able to carry a payload of at least 500 kilograms.

Michael Elleman, a senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain and a former UN weapons inspector, said in a June 19 interview that if the Safir were modified to be used as a ballistic missile, it could potentially carry a 700- to 800-kilogram warhead between 2,000 and 2,400 kilometers. Although such a system would be able to reach possible targets in the region, including Israel, Iran has already successfully tested more capable ballistic missiles that can achieve such ranges.

The 2009 Air Force intelligence assessment said that the Safir could potentially be converted to a missile with a range of more than 3,000 kilometers, but it is unclear what the payload of such a system might be.

Last February, Iran unveiled a larger and more capable space launch vehicle named the Simorgh (“Phoenix” in Farsi), which Iranian officials said was designed to launch heavier satellites and would see its first flight in February 2011.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the House Armed Services Committee March 10 that the Simorgh design “could be used for an ICBM-class vehicle,” referring to intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The technical experts pointed out that Iran unveiled only a mock-up of the system, which may not be ready to launch for some time. “It was very obvious to me at the time that its first flight was still years away,” Rubin said.

Elleman said a number of additional factors could have contributed to delays in the scheduled launch of the Simorgh, including preparations for satellites the Simorgh is designed to carry and the construction of a launch facility appropriate for the system. “It would be quite difficult to launch the Simorgh from existing pads,” he said.

The Simorgh is similar in design to a North Korean rocket launched in May 2009, called the Unha-2, and both systems use a cluster of four North Korean Nodong missiles in their first-stage boosters. (See ACT, June 2009.)

In addition to its satellite launch, Iran appears to be continuing to test its ballistic missiles, although in a far less public manner than it has previously. According to a UN report assessing sanctions against Iran, Tehran carried out two unannounced tests of one of its most advanced missiles, the two-stage, solid-fuel Sajjil-2, in October 2010 and last January. (See ACT, June 2011.) The report, which has yet to be released and was written by a panel of experts appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the panel was informed by another country of the unannounced Sajjil-2 tests.

Iran’s silence regarding the tests contrasts with its previous practice, when it actively publicized its missile tests, often including video footage and press briefings by senior officials.

The experts said the reasons behind such a shift were unclear. Rubin suggested that the UN prohibitions imposed last June were not likely a key consideration behind the change in behavior. “It would be more characteristic of them to flaunt the tests in the face of the [resolution] than hiding them,” he said.

He noted that one factor may be current disagreements between the United States and Russia regarding the U.S. deployment of a missile defense system in Europe, aimed primarily at defending against Iranian missiles. Moscow has argued that the missile defense plans are unnecessary and that Iranian missiles do not pose a threat to Europe. Because the Sajjil-2 places parts of Europe within range, testing such systems “would throw a monkey wrench into the Russians’ logic and make them look a bit ridiculous,” he said.

Iran’s ambassador to Romania, Aminian Jazi, recently denied that his country’s missiles were a threat to Europe, claiming that they were purely defensive in nature. Agence France-Presse reported June 20 that Jazi told a Romanian news Web site, “We believe the anti-missile shield is not aimed at us” but rather at Russia.

A June 20 Romanian Foreign Ministry press release said that Jazi had been summoned to explain his remarks, which Bucharest said “are not constructive.”


Iran carried out its second successful satellite launch, demonstrating greater experience with rocket technologies that also could benefit its missile programs.

Pakistan Tests Short-Range Missile

Peter Crail

The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

The missile, called the Hatf 9, “could carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yields with high accuracy,” the Pakistani military said in a press statement. The statement added, “This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats.”

Pakistan and its nuclear-armed rival, India, have continued to produce fissile material to increase their nuclear weapons stockpiles, and both countries persist in developing and testing ballistic missiles and other delivery systems.

Because of India’s conventional military superiority, however, Pakistan is believed to be seeking both a degree of nuclear parity and a means to neutralize India’s nonnuclear capabilities.

Islamabad is currently constructing additional nuclear reactors similar to those it already uses to produce plutonium for weapons. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program traditionally has focused on highly enriched uranium (HEU) as the nuclear explosive material. However, plutonium is better suited than HEU to producing the type of compact nuclear weapons intended for use in war-fighting.


The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

U.S. Alters Non-Nuclear Prompt-Strike Plan

Tom Z. Collina

Wrestling with an issue that has proven controversial with the U.S. Congress as well as Russia, the Department of Defense has decided not to develop systems for its Conventional Prompt Global Strike mission based on traditional ballistic missiles, according to a Feb. 2 White House report to Congress.

Instead, the report says, the Pentagon will continue to explore “boost-glide” concepts that have a nonballistic flight trajectory, which is deemed less likely to be mistaken for a nuclear attack and would not be counted by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits only missiles with a ballistic trajectory.

The Pentagon’s interest in a conventional prompt-strike capability stems from the fact that the only weapons in the U.S. arsenal that can reach a target anywhere on the globe in less than an hour are deployed long-range ballistic missiles, all of which are currently armed with nuclear warheads. But using nuclear weapons to attack potential non-nuclear targets, such as leaders of a terrorist group or an adversary’s imminent missile launch, would seem to be inconsistent with current U.S. policy for using such weapons. The 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report” states that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to “deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners.” The report also says that the United States will continue to strengthen its conventional capabilities “with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

Moreover, the Bush administration argued that the availability of conventional strike weapons could give the president more options in a crisis, reducing the chance that nuclear weapons would be used. A February 2011 report by the NationalDefenseUniversity made a similar point, saying that a conventional strike weapon “might enhance deterrence and assurance by providing an effective and usable (and thus more credible) strike option.”

On the other hand, skeptics such as Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) argue that conventional strike weapons may prove to be unusable as the United States would lack the necessary intelligence to use them quickly against such time-sensitive targets. The time required to verify that intelligence reports were sufficiently credible to justify action would allow the use of other, slower weapons in the U.S. arsenal, such as conventional cruise missiles, they say. For example, they argue, cruise missile-carrying submarines or airplanes could be moved within range of a potential target while breaking intelligence reports were being assessed.

Moreover, according to defense experts, the United States routinely deploys military assets to most “hot spots” where a crisis could be expected to emerge, such as submarines off the coast of North Korea or bombers in Afghanistan. The only regions where the United States might not have such reach would be deep inside large countries with significant air defenses, such as China or Russia. One possible mission for conventional prompt-strike weapons, congressional staffers say, is to be able to knock out Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities early in a crisis. China has conducted a series of ASAT tests, most recently on Jan. 11, 2010, according to a Jan. 12, 2010, Department of State cable released by WikiLeaks. “This test is assessed to have furthered both Chinese ASAT and ballistic missile defense…technologies,” the cable said.

The Bush administration had proposed to place conventional warheads on existing Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Congress blocked that plan in 2008 out of concern that Russia might mistake a conventionally armed strategic missile for a nuclear one and perceive that it was under U.S. nuclear attack. For their part, Russian leaders have said they are concerned that even long-range missiles that are clearly identified as non-nuclear could be used against Russia’s nuclear forces and thus should be considered strategic weapons. During the New START negotiations, Russia initially sought to ban the deployment of conventional warheads on strategic ballistic missiles. The United States rejected this proposal, in part because Congress generally has been supportive of preserving the option for a conventional strike mission.

As a compromise, New START’s preamble states that the parties are “mindful of the impact of conventionally armed ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] and SLBMs on strategic stability.” The treaty does not prohibit conventional strike systems, but it would count those based on treaty-limited strategic delivery systems, such as the Trident II SLBM and the Minuteman III ICBM, toward the treaty’s ceiling of 1,550 nuclear warheads. During last year’s Senate debate on New START, some Republican senators were concerned that a large deployment of conventional strike weapons would prevent the United States from deploying all 1,550 nuclear weapons allowed by the treaty. To reassure these senators, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that if the United States were to deploy treaty-limited conventional systems, they would amount to only a “niche capability.” Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, then the head of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress that the United States would size a conventional strike force to avoid “perturbing our strategic relationship with Russia and China.”

According to the White House report, a weapons system with a conventional warhead that does not use treaty-limited ICBMs or SLBMs and “does not fly a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path” would not be counted by New START.


Addressing some congressional as well as Russian concerns, the Defense Department “at present has no plans to develop or field” conventionally armed ICBMs or SLBMs “with traditional ballistic trajectories,” according to the White House report, which was required by the Senate’s Dec. 22, 2010, resolution of ratification for New START.

Instead, the Pentagon will pursue “boost-glide” systems, which use nontraditional ballistic missiles to “boost” delivery vehicles into space that then “glide” at hypersonic speeds in the upper atmosphere for more than half of their flight. In the United States’ view, these systems would not be limited by New START and could be distinguished by Russia from nuclear-armed missiles.

According to the White House report, the “basing, launch signature, and flight trajectory [of these systems] are distinctly different from that of any deployed nuclear-armed U.S. strategic ballistic missile.”

Unlike U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs, which are based in the central United States and at sea, respectively, boost-glide systems would be based on the coasts, possibly at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Cape Canaveral in Florida, or both. Because Russia is “capable of monitoring U.S. ICBM fields, and possibly [SLBM] deployment areas,” according to the report, Moscow could verify that no nuclear launch had occurred. Moreover, says the report, each missile type has a unique infrared signature, and Russia would be able to tell the difference between a Trident SLBM and a missile used for boost-glide, for example.

In addition, Russian early-warning systems can track U.S. launches into space, and boost-glide trajectories look very different from ICBMs or SLBMs. For example, the apogee (highest point) for a boost-glide system is typically less than 100 nautical miles, compared to ICBM or SLBM apogees of 800-1,600 nautical miles, according to the report. Finally, U.S. nuclear-armed re-entry vehicles cannot maneuver as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but the report says a boost-glide system would, enabling it “to provide precision accuracy and to avoid overflight of selected areas.” However, the report notes that, in addition to providing an observable difference from ICBMs and SLBMs, this maneuverability would give the United States an advantage in carrying out an attack because it adds “an element of uncertainty in terms of impact location.”

According to congressional staff, the boost-glide approach should reduce concerns about Russian misperceptions but not necessarily doubts about the need for the system. There are still significant questions about what the weapon is for, against whom it would be used, and how many would be built and at what cost.

Systems Under Development

The Defense Department has not established an acquisition program for a specific boost-glide conventional-strike system, but is exploring three options: the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), and the Conventional Strike Missile (CSM). For fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration has requested $240 million for a conventional strike program that includes the three options; the Pentagon plans to spend approximately $2 billion between 2011 and 2016 for research and development of these systems.

As part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Falcon program, the Pentagon has been developing two HTV-2s at a cost of $308 million from fiscal year 2003 through 2011. The first flight test took place from Vandenberg in April 2010, and “significant hypersonic flight data was captured,” although the HTV-2 signal was lost only nine minutes into flight, according to the report. The second test is planned for this fiscal year, to be launched from Vandenberg, the report says. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The AHW technology experiment is being run by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command. It uses a hypersonic glide body that will have an initial flight test at the Kauai Test Facility in Hawaii in late fiscal year 2011 at a cost of $180 million from fiscal year 2006 to 2011.

The U.S. Air Force Space and MissileSystemsCenter runs the CSM program, the leading contender for the conventional strike mission. Under the current schedule, the CSM program will have a first flight demonstration at Vandenberg in fiscal year 2013 using a kinetic energy projectile (KEP) warhead at a cost of $477 million from fiscal year 2008 to 2013. The report says that an operational CSM could provide “complete global coverage of potential targets” from Vandenberg. The KEP warhead would “neutralize the target” by delivering thousands of “high density, cube-shaped metal fragments” at high speed, the report said.

“New” Strategic Arms?

Although boost-glide systems would not count as existing strategic weapons under New START, they could qualify as “new” kinds of strategic offensive arms, according to an October 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service. As a result, Russia could raise the issue of whether future boost-glide systems should count under the treaty. Nevertheless, the United States would not have to delay its boost-glide programs while such discussions are underway, even if Russia ultimately were to disagree with a U.S. decision to proceed with these systems. The United States would be obligated to try to resolve the issue within New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission, but, according to the State Department’s article-by-article analysis of the treaty, “there is no requirement in the treaty for the deploying party to delay deployment of the new system pending such resolution.”

The Russian legislature disagrees. According to Russia’s resolution of ratification for New START, questions about new kinds of strategic offensive arms should be resolved within the consultative commission “prior to the deployment of" such new strategic weapons.



The Pentagon will continue to explore a concept called "boost-glide" for its Conventional Prompt Global Strike mission, rather than pursuing systems based on traditional ballistic missiles, a White House report says.


Russia Defends Struggling Missile Program

Luke Champlin

Russian leaders remain committed to the Bulava RSM-56 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) despite a number of high-profile test failures, a top military official said Aug. 26.

“We still believe the Bulava will fly,” Chief of the Russian General Staff Nikolai Makarov said at a press conference in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, according to RIA Novosti. Makarov responded to criticisms of the program by contending that the failures were the result of “technical problems in production, rather than faulty design.” The Bulava program has been a centerpiece of Russia’s program to modernize its ballistic missile arsenal.

The most recent test, on July 15, failed when the missile’s first stage malfunctioned shortly after launch. The director of the Bulava program, former Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT) chief Yuri Solomonov, resigned in the aftermath of the test. Solomonov was the principal designer of the Topol-M (SS-27) ICBM. The Topol-M has been cited by Russian leaders such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the future of Russia’s ICBM arsenal and as a means of overcoming U.S. strategic missile defense systems. Solomonov has been replaced as chief of MITT by Sergei Nikulin but was allowed to maintain his post as director of the Bulava program.

The July test represents the sixth failure in 11 flight tests for the Bulava. Prior tests have resulted in similar problems, as malfunctions in the first or third stage of the solid-fuel missile caused it to self-destruct. (See ACT, December 2006.) There has been some speculation in the Russian press that these failures have raised doubts about the future viability of the program. Some commentators have suggested that the Bulava will be abandoned in favor of the more successful Sineva RSM-54 SLBM. The Sineva, designed to be loaded into existing Delta IV-class submarines, has been in service since 2007.

At the Aug. 26 press conference, Makarov flatly denied speculation that the Sineva could be deployed in place of the Bulava. “The Sineva is a completely different system,” he said, according to RIA Novosti. To remedy the problems encountered in testing, Makarov has announced that Bulava production will be shifted from the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant to an undisclosed new location.

Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia Aug. 27 that he doubted the relocation plan will succeed. According to Perminov, an attempt to re-engineer Bulava production will require a “great deal of time,” as a reorganization would require “the termination of contracts with existing companies and a new round of bids.” Perminov also said Votkinsk is the only factory in Russia capable of producing solid-fuel missiles.

The Bulava was originally commissioned as a replacement for the failed Bark RSM-52 SLBM program in 1998. The Bulava was designed as the primary SLBM for the new Borei-class nuclear submarines, and many elements of this design were borrowed from the Topol-M.

Russian leaders remain committed to the Bulava RSM-56 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) despite a number of high-profile test failures, a top military official said Aug. 26.

Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions: The Need for Stronger Chinese Action

Hui Zhang

North Korea has recently taken a series of provocative steps to challenge the international community. These steps include test-launching a long-range rocket, walking away from the six-party talks and all disarmament agreements, kicking out international inspectors from its nuclear facilities, conducting an underground nuclear test May 25-a more powerful blast than the one conducted in 2006-testing a half-dozen short-range missiles, and announcing it had resumed plutonium production and started a program to enrich uranium. Pyongyang reportedly also is preparing a long-range missile test and a third nuclear test. If unchecked, North Korea will surely increase the quantity and quality of its arsenal. Even worse, once Pyongyang has more than enough weapons for its deterrent, it might be tempted to sell the surplus. The longer the crisis lasts, the more nuclear capable North Korea will become and the more difficult it will be to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

China, North Korea's most important ally and trade partner, has joined the rest of the international community in responding to the North Korean actions. Beijing has indicated, however, that it wants a balanced approach and does not want to push Pyongyang much harder. Nevertheless, China can and should do more to press its neighbor. North Korea's recent series of actions threatens China's national interests as well as those of the United States and countries in Northeast Asia.

It is important to have realistic expectations for changes in China's approach. Beijing can be expected to support modest UN sanctions against North Korea, as it did in response to the first nuclear test, but it probably will respond less strongly than the United States, Japan, and South Korea would hope. Beijing probably will maintain that any harsh measures should be directed toward facilitating talks over denuclearization but should not destabilize the North Korean regime.

On the other hand, Beijing must recognize that its modest approach, as the past several years have demonstrated, has not successfully constrained Pyongyang's nuclear development. Pyongyang proceeded with its two nuclear tests and has again boycotted the six-party talks. The May test has exacerbated the tense situation on the Korean peninsula and has destroyed regional stability. These results do not serve Beijing's major interest: a nuclear-free and stable Korean peninsula. If Beijing continues to allow Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions to go unchecked, Pyongyang will put Beijing in an embarrassing position, open it to more international pressure, and ultimately pose great risks to China's national interests.

China's Interests

Hours after North Korea's most recent nuclear test, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement strongly denouncing it:

On 25 May 2009, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] conducted another nuclear test in disregard for the common opposition of the international community. The Chinese Government is firmly opposed to this act.... To bring about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, oppose nuclear proliferation and safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia is the firm and consistent stand of the Chinese Government. China strongly urges the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization, stop relevant moves that may further worsen the situation and return to the Six-Party Talks.[1]

Beijing issued a similar statement in response to Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006, condemning the blast as brazen. China's response this time was even stronger. According to media reports, Beijing was informed by Pyongyang less than half an hour in advance of the explosion and was greatly angered and offended by the test because it blatantly disregarded China's calls for denuclearization. Even cautious high-level Chinese officials, including Vice President Xi Jinping and Minister of National Defense Liang Guanglie, have made harsh statements in opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear test. Moreover, Beijing has reportedly canceled some previously scheduled high-level visits to Pyongyang.

China's strategic plan through 2020 is focused on economic development and "building a well-off society in an all-round way,"[2] which requires a stable international environment, particularly among neighboring countries. A nuclear North Korea would stimulate a regional nuclear arms race and undermine regional stability. North Korea's nuclear and missile development provides a pretext for Japan to accelerate deployment of a joint U.S.-Japanese missile defense shield, which could mitigate China's nuclear deterrent. Moreover, a worsening crisis would generate a massive flow of North Korean refugees headed for China.

To bolster its image as a responsible stakeholder in the international community, China should show its willingness to contribute to international nonproliferation efforts. Accepting a nuclear North Korea would set a bad precedent both for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime-from which North Korea has withdrawn-and other countries with nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has long been a thorn in China's side. Pyongyang played a game of brinkmanship between Beijing and Moscow for several decades during the Cold War. Further nuclear and missile development would add a dangerous new element, allowing North Korea's strategic nuclear-strike capability to cover all of China. Thus, China, in the long term if not the near term, faces huge risks from a nuclear North Korea.

Beijing's Leverage

Among the interested players in the North Korean nuclear issue, China has the most significant economic and political leverage over the North Korean regime. China has been a close ally of North Korea over the past 50 years, with a friendship cemented in blood during the Korean War. Also, China is North Korea's largest trading partner, reportedly supplying North Korea with up to 90 percent of its oil imports and about 45 percent of its subsistence-level food supplies. Moreover, cross-border trade in 2008 was reportedly about $2.7 billion, an increase of about 40 percent from 2007.[3]

Since April 2003, China has hosted one trilateral negotiation and six rounds of the six-party talks. During these negotiations, China has acted not only as a host, but also as a mediator and constructive participant. China's major role in negotiations, as former Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the head of the Chinese delegation to the first three rounds of the six-party talks, emphasized, "is contributing to peace and talks" (quan he cu tan).[4] China, according to official statements, hopes the parties to the talks will take actions to build trust, reduce suspicions, enhance consensus, and promote cooperation in order to create a win-win situation.[5]

In particular, China's role became even more proactive in the fourth round of the talks, leading to the breakthrough agreement on a joint statement of principles. During the fourth round, China not only tabled five drafts of the joint statement but also took a "reject/accept" approach to push the United States to accept the joint statement. Beijing also reportedly has lured Pyongyang to each round of the six-party talks with tens of millions of dollars in incentives. U.S. officials have praised China's active role in the talks, saying it has helped U.S.-Chinese relations.

Although Beijing is shifting from its traditional low-profile role in the affairs of the Korean peninsula toward a more active and constructive role in defusing the nuclear crisis, Beijing's leverage on Pyongyang is constrained by two main factors. First, Beijing believes the nuclear crisis is mainly the business of Washington and Pyongyang and, as such, is dependent on the political will of those two players. Second, to maintain regional stability, Beijing's bottom line is that war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim Jong Il regime must be avoided at all costs. Beijing has called on "all parties concerned to respond in a cool-headed and appropriate manner and persist in seeking a peaceful solution through consultation and dialogue."[6]

Yet, Beijing's relatively passive, noninterventionist diplomacy has not helped with its top priority: regional stability, to which the continuing North Korean nuclear crisis poses a huge threat.

More Pressure Needed

Because Beijing has the most leverage on Pyongyang, Beijing is facing great pressure from the international community, particularly Washington and Tokyo. Some Western officials and scholars complain that Beijing's cautious approach to Pyongyang has not constrained North Korea's nuclear development. North Korea has proceeded with its nuclear tests and, since April 14, has boycotted the six-party talks hosted by Beijing since 2003. These actions have called into question Chinese leadership in the region.

Beijing is also facing great pressure on the domestic front. The nuclear test has prompted a strong reaction from the Chinese public. More and more Chinese citizens are angered by North Korea's repeated escalation of the crisis and its imperviousness to Beijing's demands for denuclearization. They believe that North Korea is doing great damage to the peace of Northeast Asia, and many worry that Beijing could be dragged into another Korean war by Pyongyang's rash actions.

According to some recent surveys in China, more than two-thirds of respondents believe Beijing should take stronger actions to constrain Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, including cutting economic aid and applying UN sanctions. They consider North Korea a liability that, if unchecked, will create trouble for China's economic and security interests. Many Chinese believe that the concepts of North Korea as a buffer zone and the "lips to China's teeth" are no longer relevant or salient. Beyond concerns about a nuclear North Korea's impact on the stability of China's security environment, they also worry that a nuclear North Korea would pose a huge environmental threat to China's northeastern provinces. Much of the Chinese public fears that an accident from a nuclear test or weapon would cause heavy radioactive contamination in that region.

Recently, the Chinese media have begun to criticize Pyongyang openly for its nuclear program. For instance, Global Times, published by the government-run People's Daily newspaper, ran a June 3 editorial entitled "North Korea Should Not Offend the Chinese People." The editorial said, "The Chinese people's impression of North Korea is at the lowest level in history.... North Korea should understand that offending the Chinese people is shaking and destroying the foundation of the bilateral relationship. The changing attitude of the Chinese people toward North Korea will surely affect the government's policy toward North Korea."[7]

A majority of the public and many experts in China have called on Beijing to adjust its policy on North Korea. Although it may be difficult for Beijing to disregard this appeal, it can be expected that Beijing's position toward Pyongyang will not change significantly in the near future. If Beijing were to make any changes, it would take cautious and gradual steps. Beijing may wish to retain close ties to Pyongyang in order to gain more leverage over it. Also, although Beijing would be willing to strengthen its relationship with other parties in negotiations over the nuclear issue, it is not willing to take sides between Pyongyang and Washington.

China supports new, tightened UN sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test, but it has had to figure out its own appropriate response to Pyongyang. Whether it acts through the United Nations or on its own, Beijing has to strike a balance between being tough enough to teach Pyongyang a lesson and not pushing Pyongyang toward an extreme reaction or even regime collapse. At the same time, Beijing must also meet the demands of Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul in pushing toward a denuclearized and stable peninsula. This overall effort would be a big challenge to China's diplomatic acuity and wisdom.

South Korea and Japan have affirmed that they would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. Thus, a similar affirmation by China would push North Korea to think twice before continuing its nuclear program. China should deliver a clear message to Pyongyang: nuclear weapons are not in North Korea's long-term national security interest. Nuclear weapons will generate increasing international pressure and economic sanctions that will further devastate the already poor North Korean economy.

Beijing's control of energy aid to Pyongyang could be crucial in pushing Pyongyang to denuclearize. Recent history suggests that such an approach could be effective. China reportedly shut off an oil pipeline to North Korea for three days in March 2003 due to "technical difficulties." China's move was widely interpreted as an exercise of its economic leverage to pressure Pyongyang to attend a trilateral meeting held in Beijing in April 2003.

As it pushes Pyongyang, Beijing should maintain its bottom line, which is to avoid war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim regime. One concern is that a U.S. military strike on North Korea could spark a full-scale war that would inevitably harm China's economic development. A U.S. strike could also force Beijing into an embarrassing position because the 1961 Sino-Korean Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance obliges China to provide military aid to North Korea in the event of war. Furthermore, the fall of the Kim government could lead to sudden Korean unification and an uncertain geopolitical realignment, including the prospect of U.S. troops at China's border.

Beijing should be able to adjust its pressure on Pyongyang with a wide range of approaches, broadening its current "pure carrot" approach to include curbs on oil supplies and other exports. It is in Beijing's interests, however, to ensure that the pressure it applies on North Korea is just a means toward denuclearization and not regime change or collapse.

U.S.-Chinese Coordination

Given that Washington holds what Pyongyang covets most-diplomatic normalization and security guarantees-Beijing should privately persuade Washington to engage in bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang under the auspices of the six-party talks and put on the bargaining table a reasonable offer in exchange for Pyongyang's denuclearization. Such an offer should include robust security guarantees, normalization of relations, and economic aid. Any resolution of the nuclear impasse has to address the reasonable security concerns of North Korea. Pyongyang has often said that its nuclear ambitions are driven solely by the U.S. military threat. Thus, Pyongyang would most likely give up its nuclear program if it could get reliable security assurances in addition to economic and political benefits. Without Washington's cooperation, Pyongyang will undoubtedly continue to escalate the crisis, and Beijing's influence on Pyongyang could be expected to produce only limited success. Eventually, regardless of Pyongyang's intentions, if Beijing and Washington cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, Washington must make a serious offer to the North Koreans. Then, Beijing can press Pyongyang to accept such an offer by maximizing its leverage. This would be the most feasible way toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

It should be not difficult for Washington to satisfy Pyongyang's needs. Washington should recognize the importance of regime survival and the need for economic reform in North Korea. Given the long history of mutual mistrust, Washington may not be sure about Pyongyang's real strategic intentions, but the United States should take a chance by starting serious talks with North Korea. Washington's offer should include normalization and economic aid, including energy, following a principle of quid pro quo.

In practice, what North Korea could potentially offer in a negotiation are pledges that, once implemented, are difficult to reverse because they involve physical hardware or infrastructure. Such steps include dismantling known facilities for plutonium production and other processes relevant to a nuclear weapons program, surrendering all plutonium produced in the past, and ending its uranium-enrichment and long-range missile programs. Offers the United States could make, including normalization and pledges of nonaggression and nonintervention, would be easier to reverse if North Korea did not follow its commitment to nuclear disarmament. Thus, any breakthroughs in the negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program would likely have to start with Washington taking the first step.

It is possible that, as Pyongyang has recently said, it will not accept any deal that requires it to give up its nuclear program. If so, Beijing's control of aid to Pyongyang could be crucial in pushing Pyongyang to make its final decision on denuclearization. Because North Korea has very limited energy resources, long-term sustainable economic advancement depends on Pyongyang opening its doors to the international community, especially to foreign investment, trade, and aid from China, South Korea, and Japan. South Korea and Japan have affirmed that they would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. Thus, an affirmation that Beijing would give no support to a nuclear North Korea would force Pyongyang to think seriously about its nuclear ambitions.

Finally, Beijing may show a greater willingness to press Pyongyang if Washington also addresses China's concerns, including U.S. missile defense and space weapons programs,[8] U.S.-Japanese missile defense cooperation, U.S. missile defense sales to Taiwan, and the deployment of U.S. military forces in the Korean peninsula if the North Korean regime collapses. Ultimately, if Washington can clearly demonstrate to Beijing that its long-term strategic intentions in the region would not constrain China, it could receive greater support from Beijing in negotiating with Pyongyang. Some in China are concerned that once the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved, Washington will focus its efforts on containing China. In addition, some suspect that Washington really has no desire for North Korean denuclearization and merely cares about the issue of nuclear transfer from North Korea. They think a nuclear North Korea could provide a pretext for Washington to strengthen its military ties with allies in the region, thereby constraining China.

A Denuclearization Road Map

Given the long history of mistrust and animosity between Washington and Pyongyang, North Korean denuclearization will not be achieved in one step. A road map is needed that links North Korean denuclearization with the gradual delivery of concrete benefits, including security assurances, diplomatic normalization, economic reform, and Northeast Asian security cooperation. In practice, the joint statement of September 19, 2005, already provided the foundation for a "verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,"[9] in which North Korea committed to denuclearization in return for a set of security and economic benefits. The six parties agreed to take coordinated steps to implement the statement in a phased manner, "commitment for commitment, action for action."[10] The United States and North Korea have had very different timelines, however, and the sequencing of actions for the denuclearization process has not been well coordinated. North Korea and the United States are wary of giving the other side something valuable at an early stage in the process.

To address that obstacle, China should act as a mediator and play a more proactive and constructive role by offering its own road map for North Korean denuclearization. That detailed road map should include a timetable and delineate the reciprocal actions each side should carry out at certain stages. For each stage, the road map should clearly establish what North Korea should pledge to do, what inspection and verification provisions should be taken, and what benefits North Korea would receive regarding security assurances and economic aid. To promote North Korean denuclearization, China could play a number of active roles. For example, China, alone or together with Russia, could provide North Korea with some kind of security guarantee to reduce its security concerns. China could also help settle some of the disputes between Pyongyang and Washington during the verification stages. In addition, China could monitor and press both parties to implement faithfully their pledges at each stage.

The following is a road map describing three stages toward North Korean denuclearization: the first stage would focus on refreezing and disabling plutonium production; the second stage would involve dismantlement and decommissioning of all plutonium programs; and the third stage would entail the dismantlement of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program. Each stage should be completed with adequate transparency and verification measures. At the outset, the six parties would agree to a joint statement of specific commitments under the road map. For example, North Korea would commit to abandon all of its nuclear programs (plutonium and HEU programs) and return to the NPT and to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. North Korea would also pledge not to transfer any nuclear weapons, fissile material, or knowledge during the implementation of the three stages. The United States and others would pledge to respect Pyongyang's sovereignty, normalize their diplomatic relations with North Korea, negotiate a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula, and pursue a mechanism for Northeast Asian security cooperation. The United States and other countries should also commit to provide North Korea with economic cooperation and energy assistance, adding specific pledges to the general principles articulated in the 2005 joint statement.

First Stage: As a first step to revive the six-party talks quickly, the United States should commit to having direct bilateral talks with North Korea for diplomatic normalization at an early stage under the six-party talks. Meanwhile, China should press North Korea to return to the six-party talks. All parties should reaffirm their commitment to the 2005 joint statement and the 2007 agreement on disablement. While North Korea is disabling its plutonium-production facilities and freezing its HEU program, the United States and other parties should take reciprocal actions, including security assurances and energy aid. The United States should affirm its commitment of security assurances to North Korea by respecting Pyongyang's sovereignty, not seeking a regime change, and formally stating it had no intention to attack or invade. North Korea, South Korea, and the United States should negotiate a trilateral peace treaty. The need for such a treaty is now particularly urgent because North Korea has withdrawn from the 1953 armistice treaty that ended the Korean War.

At that point in the road map, the United States would begin to take steps to lift economic sanctions, establish a liaison office, and assure economic cooperation between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and Japan. All relevant parties would resume energy aid to North Korea at the earliest possible time. To jump-start a new round of the six-party talks, Washington would send a prominent figure-a former president or other high-level official-to visit Pyongyang to help break the ice.

Second Stage: The second stage would include two phases to dismantle North Korea's plutonium program. In the first phase, North Korea would dismantle all of its plutonium-production facilities as a step toward a long-term decommissioning program. To reciprocate Pyongyang's cooperation in this phase, the United States and others would provide further security and economic benefits, including the replacement of U.S. liaison offices with an embassy and the establishment of full diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, Japan would normalize its relations with North Korea after resolving the remaining abductee issues.[11] Finally, in order to get to full normalization with Washington, Pyongyang would agree to a treaty ending its development of long-range missiles and halting all exports of missiles and missile technology.

After Pyongyang and Washington established normalized relations, Pyongyang would move quickly to the second phase: dismantling its plutonium weapons and all facilities associated with the weaponization program, as well as surrendering all of its plutonium.

It should be noted that the key to denuclearizing North Korea is the timing of normalization. Although Washington made an offer of normalization in the 2005 joint statement, it made the offer subject to the two countries' "respective bilateral policies." According to Washington, there will be a long road to normalizing relations with Pyongyang. That road will include not only denuclearization, but also discussions on human rights, biological and chemical weapons, ballistic missile programs, conventional weapons proliferation, and terrorism and other illicit activities. Pyongyang, however, wants normalization at a much earlier stage, before dismantling its nuclear program.

North Korea will not dismantle its nuclear program before receiving tangible security assurances, in particular, normalized relations with Washington. The only leverage that Kim Jong Il possesses is his threat to go nuclear. Therefore, Pyongyang fears that once it dismantles its nuclear weapons, there will be no deterrent against a U.S. military strike. Washington, however, as the world's pre-eminent military superpower, would have considerable strategic flexibility. If the United States provided North Korea with security assurances in return for denuclearization and North Korea then reneged on its commitment, the United States would not have lost much. Such a scenario could be frustrating and embarrassing for the United States, but that country's security would not be at risk. In contrast, if North Korea gave up its nuclear program and the United States later reneged on its security assurances, perhaps even by supporting or participating in an invasion, North Korea's very existence could be seen as being put at risk.

Third Stage: In the last stage, North Korea would complete dismantlement of its HEU program. The level of verification required for the HEU program depends on the status of the program, such as whether or not it has produced HEU. Its status could be somewhere between the research and development level and pursuit of the capability to construct a pilot experimental facility. If Pyongyang is only at the beginning of a uranium-enrichment program, as it indicated June 13, North Korea could be years away from producing enough HEU for one bomb.

Beyond denuclearization, North Korea would also sign and implement the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. Furthermore, the United States, China, and other relevant parties would negotiate a permanent peace regime in Northeast Asia. Such an agreement would play a major role in liberating the Korean peninsula from its Cold War quagmire and going to the root of the North Korean nuclear issue.

Pyongyang would need to cut its conventional forces gradually to achieve parity with South Korean and U.S. forces. That step would facilitate North Korean economic reform by significantly reducing the economic burden on the country of maintaining such a large military. Particularly valuable encouragement for North Korean force reductions would come from the removal of U.S. troops from the South. Furthermore, all other interested and involved parties would help the two Koreas pursue gradual integration toward unification. During this third stage, other countries would continue to aid North Korea's economic reform, help North Korea improve human rights, and provide funds and technologies for the modernization of its economic infrastructure.


A nuclear North Korea would put China's national interests at great risk. Beijing can increase pressure on Pyongyang, using positive inducements and punitive measures. The chances are low, however, that Beijing will radically adjust its North Korea policy, at least for the near future. Beijing will continue to maintain its bottom-line approach, avoiding war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim regime. From China's perspective, these scenarios must be avoided at all costs because they are contrary to China's primary interest in a stable environment.

Given that Washington holds what Pyongyang desires most (security guarantees), Beijing should persuade Washington to engage in bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang. China should push the United States to put reasonable offers on the bargaining table, including robust security guarantees, normalization of relations, and economic aid. At that point, China could maximize its leverage and press North Korea to accept the terms offered. This strategy may be the only way to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

This strategy may not work. Pyongyang may decide not to give up its nuclear program for any sort of deal. Yet, if all of North Korea's neighbors, including China and the United States, make it clear that they will never tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea and that international isolation therefore will inexorably continue, Pyongyang may decide to give up its nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang will not yield to a purely "stick" approach, however, and eventually a desperate and nuclear North Korea may take actions that are in no one's interests.

To achieve a stable and denuclearized Korean peninsula, all parties concerned must come back to the negotiating table. In particular, Beijing must press Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible. Given that Washington and Pyongyang deeply mistrust each other and neither side wants to go first, China, as a mediator, should play a more proactive and constructive role by offering its own road map for North Korean denuclearization. The six-party talks espoused a general principle of "commitment for commitment, action for action" as a means to denuclearization, but there were no specific timelines or sequencing of actions in the denuclearization process.

The three-stage road map detailed above should fill this gap and satisfy the principal goals of all the parties involved. Pressing for a road map is a step that holds few risks for China and could contribute greatly to resolving the long-standing international stalemate with North Korea. That success, in turn, would help China achieve its chief priority: a stable and a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Hui Zhang is leading a research initiative on China's nuclear policies for Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a physicist and a specialist in nuclear arms control and Chinese nuclear policy issues.


1. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Statement of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs," May 25, 2009, www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/1179/t564332.htm (in Chinese). The other participants in the six-party talks are Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

2. "Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at 16th Party Congress," November 17, 2002, www.china.org.cn/english/features/49007.htm.

3. See, for example, AFP, "China, NKorea Trade Boom Despite Rocket Tensions," channelnewsasia.com, April 6, 2009, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific_business/view/420413/1/.html.

4. Wang Yi, statement at a press conference on the first round of the six-party talks in Beijing, August 29, 2003 (in Chinese).

5. See, for example, the declaration by Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who served as chairman of the fourth round of the talks and head of the Chinese delegation, on the adoption of the joint statement at the fourth round six-party talks, held in Beijing on September 19, 2005.

6. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Statement of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

7. "North Korea Should Not Offend the Chinese People," Global Times, June 3, 2008. See http://blog.huanqiu.com/?uid-94539-action-viewspace-itemid-204519 (in Chinese).

8. Hui Zhang, "Action/Reaction: U.S. Space Weaponization and China," Arms Control Today, December 2005, pp. 7-9.

9. U.S Department of State, "Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks," September 19, 2005, http://merln.ndu.edu/archivepdf/northkorea/state/53490.pdf.

10. Ibid.

11. Just before the second nuclear crisis in October 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002 in an effort to speed up Japanese-North Korean diplomatic normalization. Kim Jong Il made a surprise admission during this trip that North Korea had abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the abductee issue has been a key obstacle to normalized relations between the two countries.


North Korea has recently taken a series of provocative steps to challenge the international community. These steps include test-launching a long-range rocket, walking away from the six-party talks and all disarmament agreements, kicking out international inspectors from its nuclear facilities, conducting an underground nuclear test May 25-a more powerful blast than the one conducted in 2006-testing a half-dozen short-range missiles, and announcing it had resumed plutonium production and started a program to enrich uranium. Pyongyang reportedly also is preparing a long-range missile test and a third nuclear test. If unchecked, North Korea will surely increase the quantity and quality of its arsenal. Even worse, once Pyongyang has more than enough weapons for its deterrent, it might be tempted to sell the surplus. The longer the crisis lasts, the more nuclear capable North Korea will become and the more difficult it will be to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. (Continue)

Progress Seen in Iranian Missile Test

Peter Crail

Iran carried out its first successful flight test of a two-stage solid-fuel ballistic missile May 20, demonstrating increasing sophistication with its medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), U.S. officials and technical experts said.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said just after the test that Iran would begin mass-producing the missile, called the Sajjil-2, that same day.

White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism Gary Samore told the Arms Control Association's annual meeting May 20 that the test was "a significant step forward in terms of Iran's capability to deliver weapons." He added, "[O]bviously, this is just a test. There is much more work to be done."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense May 20 that the test was successful. Tehran unsuccessfully tested nearly identical systems called the Sajjil and the Ashura in 2008 and 2007, respectively. (See ACT, January/February 2008.) Najjar said the Sajjil-2 uses a guidance system that is more advanced than ones in the previous tests.

Iran has traditionally relied on liquid-fuel technology for its ballistic missile arsenal. Solid-fuel propellants, however, offer a number of advantages over liquid fuel, including a shorter launch time, easier handling and storage, and the possibility of deploying smaller missiles.

The test "shows that Iran has a major program on solid-propellant missiles," former UN weapons inspector Geoffrey Forden said in a May 20 e-mail. The group of Iranian solid-propellant experts is perhaps as large as the one dealing with its liquid-fuel program, he said.

Uzi Rubin, former director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, told Arms Control Today in 2007 that Iran gained experience developing solid-fuel propellant domestically from its extensive work on large-diameter solid-fuel rockets. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

Unlike Iran's liquid-fuel programs, which depend heavily on Russian-origin technology, the Sajjil represents a significant advance in indigenous capabilities, Forden said. "As far as I can tell, only the jet vanes are probably dependent on imported Russian technology," he said.

Najjar claimed May 20 that the Sajjil is "100 percent indigenous."

The Sajjil-2 is the first multistage missile that Iran has successfully flight-tested. Staging involves the use of multiple engine systems, which are stacked on top of one another. The stages fire at different times during the missile's flight, allowing the missile to cover much longer ranges. Iran successfully launched its first multistage rocket in February, when its Safir-2 placed a small satellite in orbit. (See ACT, March 2009.)

Advances in staging technology appear to have provided Iran with a moderate increase in the reach of its missiles. Gates said May 20 that the Sajjil has a range of about 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers. Yet, "because of some of the problems they've had with their engines, we think, at least at this stage of the testing, it's probably closer to the lower end of that range," he said.

Iran is believed to have deployed an extended-range version of its Shahab-3 missile. That missile has an estimated range of about 2,000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching parts of eastern and southeastern Europe. The Sajjil extends Iran's potential reach further into those regions but remains in the category of "medium-range," under the Department of Defense's classification system. MRBMs have a range of 1,000 to 3,000 kilometers, according to the Defense Department scale.

According to an unclassified U.S. intelligence report to Congress on the proliferation of nonconventional weapons, the intelligence community judges that "Iran is currently focusing on producing more capable MRBMs." The report, released in May, said Iran views its ballistic missiles "as its primary deterrent."

Iran carried out its first successful flight test of a two-stage solid-fuel ballistic missile May 20, demonstrating increasing sophistication with its medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), U.S. officials and technical experts said.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said just after the test that Iran would begin mass-producing the missile, called the Sajjil-2, that same day. (Continue)

N. Korea Launches Rocket, Renounces Talks

Peter Crail

North Korea's long anticipated rocket launch April 5 set off a chain of events resulting in international sanctions on North Korean firms and Pyongyang's withdrawal from six-way talks to end its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea, which warned that any UN response would provoke a hostile reaction, insisted that it is no longer bound by multilateral agreements reached with the United States and countries in the region and stated its intention to reconstitute the nuclear facilities that it temporarily disabled under those accords. In an April 25 Foreign Ministry statement, Pyongyang declared that it had begun separating plutonium to enhance its "nuclear deterrence."

Rocket Launch

More than a month after indicating that it would attempt to launch a satellite into space, North Korea fired a three-stage rocket April 5, defying calls by the United States and countries in the region not to take such an action. Although Pyongyang declared the launch a success, other countries have concluded that the rocket did not place a satellite in space.

The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) issued a statement April 5 explaining that the first stage landed in the Sea of Japan while "the remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean." NORTHCOM said that "no object entered orbit."

The rocket, which North Korea calls the Unha-2, is believed to be a modified version of the North's Taepo Dong-2 missile first tested in 2006. That test failed about 40 seconds after launch. The recent launch, in spite of its failure to orbit a satellite, therefore demonstrated some improvement of North Korea's proficiency with its longest-range missile system.

Independent estimates suggest that, in a ballistic missile configuration, the Taepo Dong-2 may be able to carry a 500-kilogram payload about 9,000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii, and the western coast of the continental United States. The rocket's first stage is believed to be powered by a cluster of four Nodong medium-range ballistic missiles, offering considerable lift capacity. The makeup of its second and third stages is unclear.

Although the NORTHCOM statement referred to the rocket as a satellite launch vehicle, the United States and its allies said the rocket launch was intended to test North Korea's long-range ballistic missile technologies, which have many similarities with satellite launchers. (See ACT, April 2009.) Additional modifications are needed for the rocket to serve as a nuclear-weapon delivery vehicle.

In March, Pyongyang provided international agencies with information on where the rocket's first two stages were expected to land in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. The first stage landed in the expected location while the second reportedly landed hundreds of kilometers short of the area in which North Korea estimated it would land, about 3,150-3,950 kilometers from the launch site.

Security Council Condemnation, Sanctions

The UN Security Council responded to the launch by issuing a presidential statement April 13 condemning it and declaring that it was "in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1718." The council also imposed sanctions on three North Korean firms believed to be involved in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs. Presidential statements by the council are issued with the approval of all 15 members but do not have the same legal force that resolutions do.

Although the statement fell short of a new resolution sought by the United States and Japan, those countries did appear to win concessions from China and Russia to declare that the launch contravened Resolution 1718 and to levy sanctions under that resolution.

The council adopted Resolution 1718 in October 2006 in response to North Korea's nuclear test earlier that month. (See ACT, November 2006.) It prohibited Pyongyang from engaging in "any ballistic missile activity" and required that all countries freeze the assets of designated North Korean entities believed to be involved in that country's nuclear and missile programs. Prior to April, the council had not designated any entities.

China and Russia previously maintained that because the Unha-2 was intended to orbit a satellite, the launch was not prohibited by Resolution 1718. The United States and Japan argued that the resolution barred all activities with ballistic missile applications. (See ACT, April 2009.) To prevent any continued legal dispute, the April 13 statement demanded that North Korea "not conduct any further launch."

Beijing and Moscow had also warned against taking any steps, such as new sanctions, that would jeopardize negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear program.

Following the launch, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters that it was important "not to give in to emotions" and lose sight of the "main goal...the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

After the UN statement, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Seoul April 24 that Moscow stood behind the council's decision to penalize North Korea for the rocket launch. During an April 23 visit to Pyongyang, Lavrov told North Korean officials that Russia would be willing to launch their satellites.

The United States and Japan were also able to win agreement to sanction North Korean entities under Resolution 1718, though not as many as they had wanted. On April 24, the council agreed to place financial restrictions on three North Korean firms: Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., Tanchon Commercial Bank, and Korea Ryongbong General Corp.

Reuters reported April 21 and Arms Control Today confirmed with diplomatic sources that the United States sought to sanction 11 firms, while Japan proposed that the council list those 11 entities plus an additional three.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has placed financial restrictions on 10 North Korean firms suspected of involvement in the country's nuclear and missile programs, including the three firms now designated by the council.

In addition to seeking UN penalties, Japan extended its own sanctions against North Korea April 10, including an embargo on North Korean imports and limitations on exports and remittances to the isolated state. Moreover, in contrast to its usual practice of extending the sanctions for six months, Tokyo imposed them for an additional year. The sanctions have been in place since 2006.

Hours after the council adopted its statement, the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a declaration "resolutely" rejecting the UN action and outlining steps that Pyongyang would take in response. In the April declaration, North Korea argued that "there has never been a case in history that the [council] took issue with a satellite launch."

Nuclear Talks Denounced

Alleging that the other participants in the six-party talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula had infringed on North Korea's sovereignty by issuing the council statement, Pyongyang declared that it "will never participate in such talks and will no longer be bound" by any of its agreements.

South Korea and current Security Council members China, Japan, Russia, and the United States have been the participants in the talks with North Korea.

The six countries have reached three formal agreements since the talks were initiated in August 2003 in response to Pyongyang's withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) earlier that year. In a 2005 joint statement, the parties concluded a key overarching agreement outlining the goal of the negotiations. In that agreement, North Korea pledged to abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" and to return "at an early date" to the NPT.

Two subsequent agreements reached in February and October 2007 detailed initial steps to implement the 2005 statement, including temporarily rendering North Korea's key plutonium-related facilities temporarily inoperable. The process, which requires reciprocal steps by North Korea and the other five countries, has not been completed.

In spite of Pyongyang's withdrawal from the negotiations, other participants have insisted that the six-party talks continue.

Department of State spokesperson Megan Mattson told reporters April 25, "The United States remains committed to the six-party goal of the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner through the six-party talks."

Lavrov similarly stated during an April 24 press conference that "our joint task is to create conditions towards the resumption of the negotiating process" with North Korea. He had traveled to Pyongyang one day earlier to discuss the talks with key members of the North Korean leadership. Based on those meetings, Lavrov said at the press conference, "today, North Korea is not ready to return to the negotiating table."

In its April 14 statement, North Korea said it would reverse the steps taken under the 2007 agreements to disable its nuclear facilities, "putting their operation on a normal track." On April 16, Pyongyang ejected international and U.S. monitors from its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Escalating the situation further, Pyongyang also declared that it would "fully reprocess" the spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor in order to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons. The 8,000 spent fuel rods from the reactor contain about 7-10 kilograms of plutonium, enough for one or two nuclear weapons. (See ACT, October 2008.)

In an April 25 Foreign Ministry statement, North Korea said that it has already begun separating this plutonium. "The reprocessing of spent fuel rods from the pilot atomic power plant began as declared in the Foreign Ministry statement dated April 14," said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The statement said the move "will contribute to bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defense in every way."

It is unclear whether the reprocessing facility has been restored to its normal working condition. Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, told Arms Control Today last September that it would only take "a month or so" to restart operations at that facility once the equipment was moved back into place. (See ACT, October 2008.) In the September interview, he said that "the reprocessing facility was the one that was disabled the least." The disablement work on the reprocessing facility focused on the "front-end" loading operations because the other portions of the facility contain high-level radioactive waste, Hecker noted.

South Korea Considers Full PSI Membership

Seoul is mulling its own response to the Taepo Dong-2 launch. South Korea indicated prior to the launch that it would consider formally joining the U.S.-initiated Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) if North Korea went ahead with the action. (See ACT, April 2009.) Although Seoul appears to be in favor of joining the effort, reported divisions in the South Korean government seem to have delayed any final decision.

The Korea Herald reported April 23 that the delay is due in part to "competing foreign policy camps within government." The disagreement reportedly centers on concerns that North Korea may stoke a conflict in response to a South Korean decision to join the PSI. Pyongyang has warned that Seoul's membership in the PSI would constitute an "act of war," a threat it has reiterated in recent weeks. A South Korean diplomat told Arms Control Today in April that Seoul has begun taking additional precautionary steps to protect its civilian ships from threats by North Korean vessels.

The United States established the PSI in 2003 as an informal grouping of states that pledged to share information on and interdict suspected shipments of unconventional weapons and related goods. (See ACT, September 2003.) That year, the first 11 key participants identified North Korea as one of the "states of particular concern" with respect to the goals of the initiative. Seoul is currently an observer to the effort, which now includes more than 90 participants.

South Korean presidential spokesperson Lee Dong-kwan said during an April 14 press conference that the government planned to announce its decision after a high-level security policy meeting the following day. After that meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Moon Tae-young told reporters that although Seoul was committed to joining the initiative, it was postponing an announcement until the end of that week.

April 15, the date of the originally expected announcement, is also the date that North Korea celebrates the birthday of its founder, Kim Il Sung. As of April 24, South Korea had yet to make an announcement on the PSI.

Although it has not publicly disclosed its decision, South Korea does appear to have shared it with PSI members. The Korea Times quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official April 15 stating that Seoul "informed related countries of our plan to take part in the initiative," adding "we are also conducting internal procedures."



North Korea's long anticipated rocket launch April 5 set off a chain of events resulting in international sanctions on North Korean firms and Pyongyang's withdrawal from six-way talks to end its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea, which warned that any UN response would provoke a hostile reaction, insisted that it is no longer bound by multilateral agreements reached with the United States and countries in the region and stated its intention to reconstitute the nuclear facilities that it temporarily disabled under those accords. In an April 25 Foreign Ministry statement, Pyongyang declared that it had begun separating plutonium to enhance its "nuclear deterrence." (Continue)


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