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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Daniel Horner

Gottemoeller Tapped as Undersecretary

Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama has selected Rose Gottemoeller to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the White House announced Sept. 10.

Since Ellen Tauscher stepped down from that position in February (see ACT, March 2012), Gottemoeller has been the acting undersecretary while continuing to serve as assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had not scheduled any action on the Gottemoeller nomination as Arms Control Today went to press. Congress is not in session and is not scheduled to return until after the Nov. 6 elections.

President Barack Obama has selected Rose Gottemoeller to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the White House announced Sept. 10.

Israel Raises Doubts About WMD Meeting

Daniel Horner

The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.

The Sept. 19 statement by Shaul Chorev to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna was seen by some observers as indicating an increasing likelihood that Israel would not attend the meeting on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The conference is supposed to take place this year.

The commitment to hold the 2012 conference was a critical piece of the negotiations that produced the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) In that document, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to “a full implementation” of the resolution on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East that, in turn, was central to the agreement at the 1995 review conference to make the NPT permanent.

The participation of Iran and Israel is considered crucial to the planned conference. Iran is an NPT party, but is suspected of using its nuclear program to pursue a weapons capability. Israel is not a party to the treaty and has an undeclared nuclear weapons program.

In his remarks, Chorev said one of the Middle East’s long-standing features has been “the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by despotic regimes, in violation of [all] legally binding international commitments and obligations.”

A WMD-free zone has not been established anywhere in the world, “even in the most peaceful regions,” he said. As he noted, there are nuclear-weapon-free zones, but he said one of the lessons of the world’s experience from those areas is that the process for creating a zone “can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region, and the neighboring states have established sufficient confidence among themselves.” Also, he said, the impetus for creation of a zone must come from within the region and “cannot be imposed from outside.”

Chorev argued that “any initiative to promote the 2012 conference on the Middle East under the banner of the NPT review conference, or the General Conference of the IAEA in complete disregard to the present regional, somber realities, is futile.”

After Chorev made his remarks, there were conflicting reports of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s response to questions about the country’s official position on whether it would attend the conference. In a Sept. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington said, “The only position that has been stated is the [one in Chorev’s] speech.”

In an interview the same day, a former Israeli diplomat said he interpreted the speech as stopping just “short of spelling out ‘no.’”

Advocates of the conference have said on several occasions that no potential participant has said “no” to attending. A member of the team that is organizing the conference used that formulation at a meeting in early September.

The head of that team, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, said in June that there has been “substantial progress” on organizing the conference but that “further and intensified efforts are needed.” (See ACT, June 2012.)

The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.

U.S. Dominated Global Arms Trade in 2011

By Daniel Horner

The United States concluded arms agreements worth $66.3 billion in 2011, representing more than three-quarters of the total value of such agreements worldwide, according to a recently released report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Agreements with developing countries in 2011 accounted for $56.3 billion of the U.S. total, said the report by CRS analysts Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr. That translated into a market share of 79 percent of that category, compared to a 44 percent share in 2010, the report said.

As Grimmett and Kerr noted, the figures were heavily influenced by U.S. deals with Saudi Arabia that were worth $33.4 billion. Under those agreements, the United States is to provide a variety of weapons and related items, most notably 84 new F-15SA fighter aircraft and upgrades to 70 planes in the existing Saudi fleet. Congress reviewed the deal in late 2010 and raised questions about it, but did not make a concerted effort to block it. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The U.S. total for 2011 is three times larger than the $21.4 billion that the report documents for 2010. The global totals were $85.3 billion for 2011 and $44.5 billion for 2010, the CRS authors said. Thus, the U.S. share increased from 48 percent in 2010 to 78 percent in 2011.

The report cautioned against drawing broad conclusions on the basis of the “extraordinary” U.S. increase, which “distorts the current picture of the global arms trade market” because it masks declines by most other major suppliers. The value of arms agreements for Russia, the second-ranking supplier in 2011, fell from $8.9 billion in 2010 to $4.8 billion in 2011. France, which ranked third, was an exception to the general trend, as the value of its worldwide agreements increased from $1.8 billion in 2010 to $4.4 billion in 2011, according to the data in the report (see table 1).

Click ImageThe $85.3 billion in arms agreements is particularly striking because the figure for 2010 was abnormally low. The report covers the years 2004-2011, and 2010 is the only year in that period in which the global total fell below $50 billion (in constant 2011 dollars). Nevertheless, the 2011 total is significantly higher than any other year covered in the report.

Notwithstanding the 2011 results, the global arms market is “not likely growing overall,” and the U.S. figure for that year “seems a clear outlier,” Grimmett and Kerr said. Worldwide financial conditions stemming from the 2008 recession and the European financial crisis have “generally limited defense purchases of prospective customers,” they said.

Nevertheless, some of the data and findings in the report suggest that certain aspects of the 2011 picture could continue. Although the United States faces stiff competition from other suppliers, “it appears likely it will hold its position as the principal supplier to key developing world nations, especially with those able to afford major new weapons,” the report said. In the report, the term “developing nations” includes all countries except Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the United States, and European countries.

According to the report, Washington has a “large and diverse” client base, built up over many years, and these countries will want upgrades, spare parts, ordnance, and support services for the weapon systems the United States provided in previous years. “This provides a steady stream of orders from year to year, even when the United States does not conclude major new arms agreements for major weapon systems,” the report said.

In contrast, Grimmett and Kerr saw some unpromising signs for Russia’s long-term efforts. According to the report, “[T]he absence of substantial funding for new research and development efforts in [missiles, aircraft,] and other military equipment areas has hampered Russia’s longer-term foreign arms sales prospects” as “other major arms suppliers have advanced much more rapidly” in that respect. As evidence of this trend, the CRS analysts cited Russia’s decision to acquire French technology through the purchase of the Mistral amphibious warship rather than developing a similar vessel indigenously.

Yet, the report pointed to some potential growth areas for the Russian arms business. Citing Venezuela in particular, the report noted Moscow’s increased sales efforts in Latin America. More broadly, the study said, Russia in recent years has become more flexible and creative with regard to its customers’ financing and payment arrangements and “continues efforts to enhance the quality of its follow-on support services” as it pursues business with developing countries.

According to the report, Russia’s largest arms transfer agreements in 2011 were a $550 million deal with Syria for 36 Yak-130 fighter-trainer aircraft and a $500 million deal with China for 123 AL-31FN jet aircraft engines.

China also appears in the report as a supplier, ranking fourth with $2.1 billion in arms agreements for 2011. According to Grimmett and Kerr, “Most Chinese weapons for export are less advanced and sophisticated than weaponry available from Western suppliers or Russia.” China’s customers are likely to be Asian and African countries looking for small arms and light weapons, the CRS analysts said.

The report described China as having been “an important source of missiles to some developing countries.” The report said, “According to U.S. officials, the Chinese government no longer supplies other countries with complete missile systems. However, Chinese entities are suppliers of missile-related technology.” Making the same distinction between “entities” and the government, Vann Van Diepen, the State Department’s top missile nonproliferation official, said in a June interview with Arms Control Today that “right now, there’s a substantial problem of Chinese entities providing missile technology to programs in places like Iran and North Korea.”

According to the CRS report, the missile-related deals raise “questions about China’s willingness to fulfill the government’s stated commitment to act in accordance with the restrictions on missile transfers set out in the Missile Technology Control Regime.”

Much of the report focuses on arms transfers to the developing world. The data in the report indicate a general trend in which those countries represent an increasing share of the customer base for the global arms trade. From 2004 through 2007, the first half of the eight-year period covered by the report, developing countries accounted for 67 percent of the value of all arms transfer agreements made worldwide. For the period 2008-2011, developing countries represented 79 percent of those agreements, accounting for 84 percent in 2011.

In addition to documenting arms trade agreements, the report tracks arms deliveries. Arms agreements typically are implemented over years, and the deliveries may not represent the full amount contained in the agreement. The United States led decisively in that category for 2011, with $16.2 billion in deliveries, representing 37 percent of the market. Russia was second with $8.7 billion.

The CRS report on the conventional arms trade has been published annually since 1982 and is widely known as the Grimmett report. Grimmett retired at the end of September.

The United States concluded arms agreements worth $66.3 billion in 2011, representing more than three-quarters of the total value of such agreements worldwide, according to a recently released report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Arms Control Report Sees Little Change

By Daniel Horner and Tom Z. Collina

A recent State Department report expressed concerns about suspected unconventional weapons programs in the Middle East and elsewhere but with language that showed slight or no differences from last year’s assessment for the countries and programs it covers.

For example, the report, which was released Aug. 31, said the United States “is concerned” that Syria “may be engaged in activities that would violate its obligations” under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) if it were a party to the treaty. As the report noted, Syria has signed but not ratified the BWC.

Last year’s version of the report said that “[i]t remained unclear” whether Syria “is engaged in activities prohibited by the BWC and whether it would consider the use of biological weapons as a military option.”

Asked about the differences between the two versions of the report in its language on Syria and other issues, a State Department official said in a Sept. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “[a]s a matter of policy, we do not comment on intelligence but suffice to say we have concerns as highlighted in this report.” Independent experts said in e-mail comments that the change in language did not necessarily suggest new intelligence.

A report sent to Congress earlier this year by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that “Syria’s biotechnical infrastructure is capable of supporting [biological weapons] agent development,” without elaborating.

The U.S. government, other governments, and independent experts express much greater confidence about the existence of a chemical weapons program in Syria. The intelligence report to Congress said Syria has had a chemical weapons program “for many years” and possesses a stockpile of agents that “can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles, and artillery rockets.” The State Department report did not assess Syria’s chemical weapons program because the report assesses compliance with arms control treaties and Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Concerns about Syria’s possession and potential use of chemical weapons have increased as an uprising that started in early 2011 appears to making headway in weakening Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power.

In July a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman made comments that were widely interpreted as confirming that Syria possesses unconventional weapons. (See ACT, September 2012.) Der Spiegel last month cited witness accounts as indicating that the Syrian army tested firing systems for chemical weapons systems at the end of August. According to the report, Iranian officers were present at the tests.

The State Department referred to another case of alleged chemical weapons assistance by Iran, noting “reports that Iran transferred [chemical weapons] munitions to Libya in the late 1980s.” The document did not elaborate on the reports.

An article in The Washington Post last November said U.S. officials suspect that, during the rule of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Iran provided Libya with artillery shells used for chemical weapons. Libya joined the CWC in 2004 and began destroying its declared chemical stockpile. After the fall of the Gaddafi government last year, additional, undeclared chemical stocks were discovered.

The main State Department compliance report covers compliance by the United States and other countries with the BWC, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and most other major arms control treaties. Separate documents address the CWC and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

NPT Compliance

On nuclear issues, the report found Iran and Syria to be in violation of the NPT and their safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In the case of Syria, the language of the finding appeared to be blunter than last year’s. For Iran, the report also cited Iranian uranium-enrichment activities that, although under IAEA safeguards, are “inconsistent with” UN Security Council resolutions that require Iran to suspend such activities. The findings on Iran closely track those in last year’s report.

As for Myanmar (Burma), the report says that U.S. concerns expressed in last year’s report regarding Myanmar’s “interest in pursuing a nuclear program, including the possibility of cooperation with North Korea, were partially allayed.” The U.S. government, the report said, is “encouraged” by Myanmar’s commitment to implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit nuclear, ballistic missile, and other weapons of mass destruction trade with North Korea. In addition, the report said Myanmar is “seriously considering” signing an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, which would give the IAEA increased authority to carry out inspections. On those points, the report cited assurances by Myanmar President Thein Sein to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last December.

In spite of the encouraging signs, the United States “will remain alert to any indications” of activities relevant to a nuclear weapons program, the report said.

Assessment of Russia

The report reiterated long-standing U.S. concerns about Russian compliance with the BWC and the CWC. With regard to the BWC, the report says that “[a]lthough Russia had inherited the past offensive program of research and development from the Soviet Union, Russia’s annual BWC confidence-building measure declarations since 1992 have not satisfactorily documented whether this program was completely destroyed or diverted to peaceful purposes in accordance with Article II of the BWC.”

In a Sept. 4 statement posted on its website, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the report “makes unfounded statements with no actual proof” and decried the repetition of the BWC and CWC claims “from year to year.” Regarding the report’s statements that it is unclear if certain Russian activities were “conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC,” the ministry fired back that the uncertainties could have been avoided “if ten years ago [the] American party did not torpedo the process of negotiations on multi-sided elaboration of [a] mechanism of Convention inspection.”

In 2001 the United States rejected a compliance protocol for the BWC on the grounds that the proposed verification mechanism would not improve or increase trust in compliance with the convention. The Obama administration has said that effective verification under the treaty is impossible and has made clear that it will not seek to revive the talks on a compliance protocol.

A recent State Department report expressed concerns about suspected unconventional weapons programs in the Middle East and elsewhere but with language that showed slight or no differences from last year’s assessment for the countries and programs it covers.

Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Arms

Kelsey Davenport and Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama last month warned the Syrian government that using or moving chemical weapons would be seen as a step that was so serious it could trigger a U.S. military response.

At an Aug. 20 press conference, Obama said “at this point” he has “not ordered military engagement,” but emphasized that “[w]e cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”

He said the United States “has communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a redline for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.”

Obama’s comments came as the civil conflict in Syria worsens and President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power appears to be increasingly tenuous. The situation has led governments and independent experts to worry about the possibility that Syrian government forces might use the weapons or that the weapons could spread to other states or nonstate groups, by Syrian design or inability to secure them.

The U.S. military reportedly has completed the “initial planning” for operations in Syria, including securing chemical weapons, in the event of a regime collapse. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

Obama made his comments about a month after remarks by Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi were widely interpreted as confirming for the first time that Syria has chemical weapons. After reading a statement in Arabic at a July 23 press conference, Makdissi recapitulated it in English: “Any stocks of WMD or any unconventional weapons that the Syrian Arabic Republic possess would never be used against civilian, or against the Syrian people during this crisis at any circumstances.… All the stocks of the weapon that the Syrian Arab Republic possess are monitored and guarded by the Syrian army.”

Later in the press conference, he used a similar formulation, but added a qualifier: “Any stocks of any unconventional weapon, any chemical weapon, if it exists, it won’t be used—never, ever—against civilian, against the Syrian people.” The weapons would be used only against “external aggression,” he said.

According to the Associated Press, the Syrian government subsequently sent a statement to journalists, saying that “all of these types of weapons—IF ANY—are in storage and under security.”

A report sent to Congress earlier this year by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Syria has had a chemical weapons program “for many years” and possesses a stockpile of agents that “can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles, and artillery rockets.” The program is dependent on “foreign sources for key elements,” the report said.

In an Aug. 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official said that “Syria has a stockpile composed of nerve agents and mustard gas” and that the U.S. government monitors Syria’s chemical weapons activities “very closely.”

During the July 23 press conference, Makdissi also alluded to biological weapons. According to the intelligence report sent to Congress, “Syria’s biotechnical infrastructure is capable of supporting [biological weapons] agent development.” In the Aug. 23 e-mail, the State Department official said Syria “may be engaged in activities that would violate its obligations” under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) if it were party to the convention.

Syria is not a party to the BWC or the Chemical Weapons Convention. Since 1968, however, it has been a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits “bacteriological methods of warfare” and the “use of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases.”

In a statement on July 24, the day after Makdissi’s press conference, the Russian Foreign Ministry noted Syria’s ratification of the protocol and said it was “confident” that Syria would “henceforth keep to its international commitments.” Russia has been a staunch ally of Syria; along with China, it has blocked efforts in the UN Security Council to apply pressure on the Assad regime.

In a July 25 interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Russia had conducted “urgent work with the leadership of Syria so that reliable protection of chemical weapon storage sites could be guaranteed. And from Damascus we received firm assurances that the security of these arsenals is fully guaranteed.”

He said that the situation in Syria, however, makes it “impossible to rule out” the possibility that chemical weapons “can somehow fall into the hands of the armed opposition as well.”

President Barack Obama last month warned the Syrian government that using or moving chemical weapons would be seen as a step that was so serious it could trigger a U.S. military response.

S. Korea, U.S. at Odds Over Nuclear Pact

Daniel Horner

Talks between South Korea and the United States on renewing their 1974 nuclear cooperation agreement appear stalled, with the main sticking point the countries’ differences over Seoul’s pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Many observers say they do not expect to see significant progress until next year, after the U.S. presidential election this November and South Korea’s in December.

A key point of contention is pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is developing and says is significantly more proliferation resistant than conventional reprocessing. A U.S. official has publicly disagreed with that claim, saying that pyroprocessing is reprocessing. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The current U.S.-South Korean pact gives the United States a strong say in South Korean reprocessing of U.S.-origin fuel. Seoul wants the new agreement to give it a freer hand in activities such as pyroprocessing.

In an attempt to sidestep the disagreement over pyroprocessing or at least prevent it from holding up renewal of the expiring accord, the two countries agreed to conduct a joint fuel-cycle study; work on it began last year.

In an Aug. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official said the purpose of the study is to “assess the technical and economic feasibility and nonproliferation aspects of spent fuel management options, including electrochemical recycling, otherwise known as pyroprocessing.”

The study, which is slated to take 10 years, includes three phases, the official said. “Questions on how to proceed on spent fuel management options will be addressed once the study is completed,” the official said.

A South Korean nuclear policy observer said the key issue in the study is whether pyroprocessing can be safeguarded. He made the comment during an Aug. 22 joint interview with other South Korean nongovernmental experts who are following the agreement negotiations closely.

If successfully developed, pyroprocessing could “serve as a better alternative to [conventional reprocessing] for future global spent fuel management needs,” he said.

Enrichment also is an issue in the South Korean-U.S. talks. The U.S. government, other governments, and nonproliferation advocates have been arguing for a system of fuel supply assurances to help dissuade countries from pursuing their own enrichment programs.

In the joint interview, however, the South Korean experts said a domestic enrichment capacity would provide greater assurance. Also, they argued, many of the countries that are the target of the fuel supply assurances have power programs of a limited size and therefore do not have an economic justification for a domestic enrichment program.

South Korea’s nuclear power program, with 23 reactors and more planned, is large enough to justify an enrichment program, they said. In addition, an enrichment program would enable South Korea, an emerging reactor vendor, to offer a package to its potential customers, as some other reactor vendors do, the South Korean experts said.

They said South Korea would not seek to develop its own enrichment technology but would pursue a so-called black box arrangement, under which the importing country does not have access to the enrichment technology and therefore cannot replicate it. An enrichment plant in South Korea or as part of a multilateral venture in another country would meet Seoul’s needs, the experts said.

A U.S. observer said South Korean negotiators have been “pretty dogged” in insisting on pyroprocessing but that it is not clear if they are as committed to an enrichment program, which surfaced as an issue in the negotiations more recently, or if they see it primarily as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

For the past two years, there has been debate within the Obama administration over whether the United States should press its potential nuclear partners to give up enrichment and reprocessing. The model for that approach is the May 2009 U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That pact contains a UAE commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing.

The United States is currently in nuclear cooperation talks with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, none of which now has nuclear power plants.

In the Aug. 22 interview, the South Korean experts said Seoul should not be viewed as equivalent to those three countries. If U.S. nuclear trade partners currently are divided between those that have enrichment or reprocessing programs and those that do not, there should be an additional “middle category” for countries such as South Korea, which has successfully operated a nuclear power program for decades, has a large reactor fleet, is a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and adheres to its nonproliferation commitments, they said.

Rather than opposing South Korea’s fuel cycle plans, the United States should support them and make the country a model, demonstrating that good behavior is rewarded, the South Korean experts said. That would be a counterexample to U.S. actions on India, they said.

In 2008 the United States and the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India even though India remains outside the NPT and has not placed its nuclear program under comprehensive international safeguards.

In January, the Obama administration sent Congress a letter that was widely seen as a retreat from the UAE standard. Since then, however, sources inside and outside the government have said the United States is pressing Jordan for a commitment to restraint on its enrichment program.

In July, Global Security Newswire reported that Taiwan is prepared to forgo enrichment and reprocessing in the negotiations to renew its cooperation agreement. But Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argued on the blog Arms Control Wonk that Taiwan is a special case and should not be seen as an indicator of U.S. policy.

Talks between South Korea and the United States on renewing their 1974 nuclear cooperation agreement appear stalled, with the main sticking point the countries’ differences over Seoul’s pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle.

NSG Still Mulling Indian Membership

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

In a statement released June 22, the last day of the meeting, the 46-member group said only that it “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.” That wording was identical to what the group said on the subject in last year’s statement.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

In September 2008, the group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by its members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that, like India, are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In November 2010, during a visit to India, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian entry into the NSG and three other multilateral export control groups. At the NSG’s 2011 plenary meeting, the United States submitted a “Food for Thought” paper on options for bringing India into the group.

A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.

In a June 27 interview, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the new NSG chairman, said members had expressed “a variety of the views” on the issue of Indian membership. As Poneman noted, the NSG makes decisions by consensus. He characterized the discussion as one of “food-for-thought ideas.”

Asked about India’s lack of NPT membership, which some countries have indicated would be a stumbling block, Poneman said that there are “numerous ways [the Indians] can attest their commitment to nonproliferation norms” and that “the full panoply of [Indian] commitments is being looked at.” Among India’s commitments is its declaration that it is adhering to the NSG export guidelines.

Pressing China on Reactor Deal

On another ongoing issue for the NSG, Poneman said the United States and other countries were continuing to seek information from China about its plans to sell two reactors to Pakistan, which is not an NPT party.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. By most accounts, China told the NSG members that its agreement with Pakistan covered those two units but that it would not supply Pakistan with any reactors beyond those. China reportedly now is arguing that the proposed additional reactors also are grandfathered.

When word of the planned sale of the so-called Chashma-3 and -4 reactors emerged two years ago, a U.S. official said, “Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In the interview, Poneman said the United States is “not the only government that has this set of concerns.” The U.S. government “has been very clear” about its concerns and has “repeatedly asked” China for more details, he said. The Chinese have replied, but the United States would like more detail, he said. “We’ve been pressing for answers, and we’re still pressing,” Poneman said.

Lists Being Updated

In its statement at the Seattle meeting, the NSG “emphasized the importance of keeping its lists up to date with technological developments and took stock of the ongoing fundamental review process” through which it keeps its export control lists current. Poneman said the highest U.S. priority for the upcoming year was to complete the review. Some changes to the list were approved at the meeting, and more are coming, he said.

According to the statement, NSG members also “discussed brokering and transit and agreed to consider these matters further.” In the case of some exports, the main proliferation concern may come not from the supplier or the ultimate recipient but from an intermediary, Poneman said. The group wants to be sure “not to turn a blind eye if that’s a vulnerability” and will take up that issue “in a way not done until now,” he said.

In an interview last September, Poneman’s predecessor, Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands, discussed the possibility of creating “stronger relationships with different [NSG] stakeholders, be it media, be it civil society.” Poneman said that, at the Seattle meeting, de Klerk provided a briefing on those ideas, which got an “overall positive response.” The group will “continue consultations” on transparency issues, he said. It makes sense “to open the aperture,” and the group will look for opportunities to do that, he said.

The NSG chairmanship rotates annually among the member countries. A country kicks off its chairmanship year by hosting the plenary meeting.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

Libya Sets Date to Destroy Chemical Arms

Daniel Horner

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) came days after the date by which all parties to the treaty were to have destroyed their holdings of chemical weapons. It had been known for years that Russia and the United States, which held the vast majority of the chemical weapons that were declared when the CWC entered into force in 1997, would not meet the deadline of April 29, 2012.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, the treaty parties essentially recognized that those two countries and Libya would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work, including a requirement for a “detailed plan” that specifies “the planned completion date.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya joined the CWC in 2004. It began destroying its chemical stockpiles in October 2010 and was able to destroy about 13.5 metric tons—slightly more than half—of its supply of Category 1 chemical weapons before a heating unit in the disposal facility broke down in February 2011. Under the CWC, Category 1 covers agents, such as the chemicals sarin, soman, and VX, that are considered to pose the highest risk.

The breakdown occurred at about the same time as the beginning of the protests that ultimately toppled the Gaddafi regime. Chemical weapons destruction has not yet resumed, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said in a May 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “The destruction facility has been repaired but additional infrastructure work and security arrangements must be completed by the Libyan authorities before OPCW inspectors can be deployed on-site and operations resumed,” he said.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü discussed the destruction program in a May 27 meeting in Tripoli with Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Saad Ben Khaial, “who expressed his strong commitment that Libyan authorities will continue to closely coordinate with the OPCW on these operations,” Luhan said.

Last November and this February, the new Libyan government declared additional quantities of Category 1 and Category 3 chemical weapons to the OPCW. Luhan said the newly declared weapons included “several hundred” munitions loaded with sulfur mustard agent together with a few hundred kilograms of sulfur mustard stored in plastic containers.

Libya has declared a total of 26.3 metric tons of Category 1 weapons and has destroyed 13.5 metric tons, according to the documents distributed at the meeting. The remaining 12.8 metric tons are to be destroyed by December 2013.

According to the documents, the Category 3 weapons—a category that includes unfilled munitions, devices, and equipment designed specifically for use with chemical weapons agents—would be destroyed by May 2013. Category 2 weapons, precursor chemicals, would be destroyed by December 2016. Libya, which already has destroyed 556 metric tons of Category 2 weapons, has another 846 metric tons to destroy, according to the documents.

Russia has previously said it plans to complete its destruction by the end of 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States recently extended its timetable by two years, from 2021 to 2023. (See ACT, May 2012.)

According to OPCW figures circulated at the meeting, the United States had, as of April 29, destroyed 24,924 metric tons of its 27,769 metric tons of declared Category 1 weapons. That figure does not include another 1,434 metric tons that the United States destroyed prior to the CWC’s entry into force. Russia had destroyed 24,961 metric tons of its declared total of 39,967 metric tons.

The documents circulated at the May meeting also provide a timetable for the destruction of so-called abandoned chemical weapons in China, which are a legacy of Japan’s occupation of the country during World War II. Under that schedule, the goal is to destroy by 2016 the chemical weapons at locations other than Haerbaling in northeastern China. The target date for the weapons at Haerbaling, where more than 300,000 chemical munitions are estimated to be buried, is 2022.

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Work Seen Needed on Mideast Meeting

Daniel Horner

Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.

The comments came in the first report by the facilitator, Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava, to the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Delegates from NPT member states gathered in Vienna from April 30 to May 11 for the first of three meetings to prepare for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Laajava said the increased efforts would have to come from him and “the conveners and the States of the region.” The conveners are Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general. The three countries are the depositary governments of the NPT and were the co-sponsors of a resolution at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference calling for the establishment of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

That resolution was critical to the decision at the 1995 conference to make the NPT permanent. For the next 15 years, however, there was no progress on the creation of a zone. In the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to “a full implementation” of the 1995 resolution and mandated that a conference on the issue be held in 2012.

The language on a Middle Eastern zone was the last major sticking point at the 2010 conference, and agreement on it allowed the parties to reach consensus on the final document. (See ACT, June 2010.) Last October, Laajava was named the facilitator, and Finland was designated as the host country for the conference. (See ACT, November 2011.)

In his report, Laajava said he has encouraged the Middle Eastern states “to adopt an open and forward-looking approach and to engage with each other in constructive dialogue and cooperation.” He emphasized that although “the international community and the facilitator can provide important support, the ownership and ultimate responsibility for a successful Conference and the establishment of the zone lies with” the Middle Eastern countries.

In a joint statement during the Vienna meeting, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States made a similar point but more emphatically: “We are prepared to assist in any way requested, recognizing that zones free of nuclear [weapons] and other WMD cannot be created counter to the will of the region by the efforts of extra-regional powers or international organizations…. The impetus for the establishment of such a zone, must originate from the States of the region, who are ultimately responsible for creating and establishing the political and security conditions that will provide a sustainable foundation for such a zone.”

Another statement at the Vienna meeting, delivered by Egypt on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement, called on Laajava and the four conveners to accelerate and intensify their efforts to ensure a successful 2012 conference. A statement by the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab League noted that the 2010 final document called for the conference “to be attended by all States of the Middle East.” That is because “it is the participating regional States that will determine the follow-up procedures that will be undertaken by the facilitator,” the Arab states said.

Iran and Israel

The issue of full participation is widely seen as crucial to the conference; in particular, Iran and Israel must attend, officials and other observers say. Iran is an NPT party, but is suspected of using its nuclear program to lay the groundwork for a weapons capability. Israel is not a party to the treaty and has an undeclared nuclear weapons program.

Ensuring that these two key countries attend is an area in which “the depositary states have some leverage,” an official from a Persian Gulf country said in a May 21 telephone interview. The United States could intercede with Israel, and Russia could do the same with Iran, he said.

Iran’s “noncompliance” with its NPT safeguards obligations is a “serious concern” and will have to be rectified as part of the process of establishing a WMD-free zone, just as Israel will have to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, the official said. However, Iranian compliance issues “shouldn’t distract” people from the need for Iran to attend the conference, he said.

In a May 21 interview in Washington, a U.S. official said the United States could not pressure Israel to participate. There is “nothing the U.S. can do on the ground” if the Arab states insist on singling out Israel for criticism and refuse to address Israeli concerns that they would use the conference as a forum for doing that, he said.

With regard to Iran, he said Russia does not have an “obligation” to bring Iran to the table. Engaging Iran directly is a task for which the organizers might rely heavily on Laajava, he said. However, as with Israeli and Arab participation, the states of the region must take ultimate responsibility for working to ensure that Iran participates, he said.

Timing Uncertain

Another potentially troublesome issue is the timing of the conference. Over the past year, U.S. officials have expressed attitudes ranging from caution to outright pessimism that the conference could take place in 2012, given the upheavals in the region resulting from the Arab Spring. (See ACT, April 2012.) In a May 8 statement at the Vienna meeting, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said “these fundamental political shifts” have created a situation in the region “much different” from what it was in May 2010, when the review conference met. These shifts “will be a factor in determining how to move forward…in a manner that is most conducive to a constructive dialogue and positive outcome,” he said.

In contrast, Mikhail Uliyanov of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We are determined to spare no efforts in order that this most important international event takes place exactly within the determined timeframe, i.e., in 2012.” Holding it in December, as has been “frequently mentioned,” is “quite acceptable,” he said. “We consider it utterly erratic and counterproductive to raise the idea that it is worth[while] to postpone the Conference until the total stabilization of the situation in the Middle East and creation of the ‘necessary political conditions’ first,” he said.

For his part, Laajava said in his report, “The facilitator and the conveners have a clear goal and commitment towards the organization of the Conference in 2012 as agreed.” The U.S. official said he fully agreed with that characterization but that the prospects do not look good for holding the meeting this year. “I don’t see the regional states taking the steps that need to be taken,” he said, but he emphasized that the United States was “not walking away” from its commitment.

The Gulf state official said the issue of timing is “a critical point.” Although there would be “potentially not much difference” in practical terms if the conference took place in January 2013 rather than December 2012, postponing it beyond the date specified in the 2010 declaration would be “sending the wrong message,” he said.

“We realize that [establishing a WMD-free zone] is not a simple process,” but there need to be “some initial steps” to generate momentum toward “the ultimate goal,” and that is “why we insist on having [the conference] in 2012,” he said.

Other key aspects of the conference also are still open. Laajava’s report called for “intensified consultations in order to finalize the agenda, modalities and rules of procedure.” He added that the meeting “has been proposed to consist of a plenary and, if so desired by the States of the region, a number of subcommittees or working groups relevant to the agenda to be agreed upon.”

The Gulf state official said that “to be realistic is the key here.” As the participants will be meeting for the first time, the main goal should be to create an “environment in which they feel comfortable” so that they can “discuss topics around a table” and agree to meet again.

In his May 8 statement, Countryman seemed to be setting a similar goal. “Our approach should be one of setting realistic expectations and encouraging serious engagement on a difficult set of issues,” he said. “A successful Conference can lead to a continuing process. An unsuccessful Conference cannot lead to a process.”

NPT Context

The Gulf state official said the issue of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone has played a large role in determining the success or failure of NPT review conferences and that the current “fragile consensus” on the NPT “might not hold for long” if the issue is not addressed.

In the May 21 Washington interview, a second U.S. official argued that other issues also are crucial to the future of the treaty, such as how to handle cases of noncompliance.

She said that the recent preparatory meeting in Vienna suggested that the “spirit of 2010,” which enabled countries to compromise to reach consensus on the final document at the review conference, remains largely intact. At the Vienna meeting, some countries seemed to be modifying their long-standing positions on contentious issues, she said. The changes are “subtle, but you’ve got to start somewhere,” she said.

She noted that the parties were able to take care of the procedural issues in a few hours at the beginning of the meeting, a step that often has required days because countries had used the procedural portion of the meeting to press disagreements on a range of issues. The quick resolution therefore is “a big deal,” she said.

Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.

U.S. Chemical Arms Schedule Extended

Daniel Horner

Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.

Under the new schedule, destruction would be completed at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado in 2019 and Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky in 2023. The so-called life-cycle costs of the program are now estimated at $10.6 billion, an increase of about $2 billion, the ACWA release said.

The materials to be destroyed at the Pueblo and Blue Grass depots represent the last 10 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. The ACWA program said it might not need the extra two years if it is able to draw lessons from the work to date.

The potential schedule slippage “comes as no surprise,” Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said in an April 19 e-mail. “The most important goal in abolishing our enormous Cold War weapons stockpiles is not any deadline, but rather that no one be hurt in the process,” he said.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), possessors of chemical weapons were supposed to eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. Libya, Russia, and the United States did not meet the deadline.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, CWC parties essentially recognized that the three countries would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.

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