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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Peter Crail

U.S., Allies Prod China on North Korea

Peter Crail

The United States and its East Asian allies called on China to place additional pressure on North Korea in December following a series of provocative actions by Pyongyang that they say violated international laws and regional security arrangements.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, speaking at a joint press conference with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Han Min-koo, Dec. 8, said it is now time for Beijing to “step up” to its “unique responsibility” and “guide the North, and indeed the whole region, to a better future.”

He criticized China for not condemning a Nov. 23 North Korean artillery barrage directed at the South Korean island of Yeongpyeong that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. Mullen visited South Korea to discuss joint military exercises in response to the North Korean shelling, as well as “how we view provocations in the future and what kind of responses there should be across the full spectrum of opportunities,” he said.

The United States, South Korea, and Japan called the attack on Yeongpyeong a violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which formally ended hostilities between North and South Korea. The two countries technically remain in a state of war.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a Dec. 6 press conference with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers that the attack was “the latest in a series of provocations” by North Korea in 2010, citing the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March and the public disclosure of a uranium-enrichment facility in November in defiance of UN sanctions. (See ACT, December 2010.)

In response to North Korea’s actions, China urged “restraint” by all parties and called for an emergency session of the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Wu Dawei, Chinese special representative on Korean peninsular affairs, told reporters in Beijing Nov. 28 that, “after careful studies,” Beijing proposed such talks “to exchange views on major issues of concern to the parties at present.” The six-party talks have been held intermittently since 2003 to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo rebuffed the Chinese call for talks, calling for changes in North Korean behavior first.

“We remain committed to seeking opportunities for dialogue,” Clinton said alongside her counterparts, “but we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community.”

She added that the three countries agreed that relations between the two Koreas must improve and Pyongyang must take steps to implement prior denuclearization commitments before the six-party talks could resume.

Sanctions Enforcement

Although the three allies outlined steps that they expected North Korea to take prior to the resumption of negotiations, they also called for the full implementation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang, highlighting China’s role in that effort.

Citing China in particular, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters Nov. 29 that implementing the UN sanctions is “in the interest of the countries in the region, and we expect them to take steps that are consistent with their obligations and all of our obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and to work, as we all must, to uphold them and implement them.”

Since the Security Council first adopted nonproliferation sanctions against North Korea and Iran in 2006, U.S. officials have often stressed the need for Chinese efforts to enforce them. Robert Einhorn, the Department of State coordinator for Iran and North Korea sanctions, traveled to China in September to press for Chinese implementation of the UN sanctions and to raise concerns about Chinese firms exporting illicit goods and technologies to the two countries.

“We did provide some information to China on specific concerns about individual Chinese companies, and the Chinese assured us that they will investigate,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Einhorn’s visit during an Oct. 19 press briefing.

An April 15 Congressional Research Service report on the implementation of the UN sanctions against North Korea said that the Obama administration “may have to calculate the degree of pressure to apply to China if Beijing does little to enforce the Security Council sanctions.” The report noted in particular that Pyongyang relies on North Korean companies with offices in China for its illicit nonconventional weapons trafficking.

Chinese officials have often claimed that although Beijing is willing to respond to any activities of proliferation concern in its territory raised by the United States, Washington does not provide enough information for Chinese authorities to act.

However, a 2007 cable released by the group WikiLeaks and published by the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper Nov. 28 appears to detail efforts by the United States to provide Beijing with specific information regarding North Korean proliferation to Iran. The cable says that the United States provided Chinese officials with detailed information, including the airway bill and flight number, on a November 2007 air shipment of North Korean missile-related goods to Iran transiting through Beijing’s airport.

The cable further says that the United States believed that at least 10 such air shipments had traveled to Iran via Beijing and expected the number to grow in the future. The cable adds that Chinese action was necessary to “make the Beijing airport a less hospitable transfer point.” The shipments were believed to have assisted Iran’s development of solid-fuel missile technology.

The cable also notes that the provision of such details followed a pledge by President George W. Bush during a September 2007 meeting in Sydney to respond to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s request for additional information on suspected illicit transfers.

Former State Department officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said that the level of information provided to the Chinese was not unusual. “It shows the falseness of China’s claims that the US didn’t provide enough information to take action,” one former official said in a Dec. 17 e-mail.

Another former official said China’s response to such cases was “inconsistent” and that the information would only sometimes result in Chinese action. “We would give them what we could and sometimes they’d surprise us” by acting on the information, the former official said.

China’s response to the concerns raised by the United States in the cable is unclear.

 

The United States, Japan, and South Korea called on China to place added pressure on North Korea following a series of provocative actions by Pyongyang and said six-party negotiations could not begin before the North-South relationship improved.

UN Tackles Disarmament Machinery

Peter Crail

Following a rare high-level meeting of UN members in September discussing ways to “revitalize” UN bodies addressing disarmament and nonproliferation, this year’s First Committee deliberations paid considerable attention to the role and methods of the international “disarmament machinery.”

At the heart of the discussions on the disarmament machinery lies an increasing frustration with the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN disarmament negotiating forum, to commence substantive work over the past 12 years. The high-level meeting convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Sept. 24 focused particularly on the working methods of the CD, which requires consensus for substantive as well as procedural issues, and placed the issue on the First Committee agenda this fall. (See ACT, October 2010.)

Diplomatic sources said in October that the First Committee discussions following that meeting only retraced the divisions that existed. The First Committee is the UN General Assembly forum in which UN members discuss disarmament and international security matters.

Although some delegations argued in the committee that the difficulties faced in the disarmament bodies are related to a lack of political will rather than the machinery itself, others pointed specifically to the workings of the UN bodies as hurdles to progress on disarmament issues.

“It is particularly frustrating that, at a time when the momentum on disarmament has rarely been stronger, the machinery itself has become an obstacle to capitalize on this momentum,” Ambassador Hilde Skorpen of Norway said during an Oct. 18 debate on the topic.

A number of countries, including Australia, Japan, and the United States, echoed her sentiments and suggested that if the CD remained unable to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material, such a treaty should be pursued outside the CD.

The CD adopted a work program last year for the first time in more than a decade, but since then, Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations, expressing concerns that a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would not affect India’s existing stocks of fissile material.

In an Oct. 18 statement, Laura Kennedy, U.S. permanent representative to the CD, said that “it strikes us as unwarranted for a single country to abuse the consensus principle and thereby frustrate everyone’s desire to resume serious disarmament efforts.”

Islamabad’s opposition to language on an FMCT in the First Committee was far more pronounced than in previous years. Although Pakistan joined the consensus in a resolution supporting the commencement of negotiations on such a treaty last year, it was the sole country to vote in opposition in October. North Korea and Syria abstained.

Pakistan also cast the sole “no” votes against amendments calling for FMCT negotiations in two separate resolutions on nuclear disarmament and joined China and North Korea in voting against a similar amendment in a third such resolution. The third resolution, sponsored by Japan, not only promoted FMCT negotiations, but also called on states to declare moratoriums on fissile material production.

China is the only recognized nuclear-weapon state not to have declared such a moratorium, although it is widely believed to have stopped fissile material production in the early 1990s.

In an Oct. 14 statement explaining Islamabad’s position on an FMCT, Pakistani Permanent Representative to the CD Zamir Akram suggested that a 2008 exemption for civilian cooperation with India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) “shall further accentuate the existing asymmetry of fissile material stockpiles in our region.” (See ACT, October 2008.)

The NSG is an informal collection of 46 major suppliers of nuclear goods.

U.S. Hesitant on Space Initiatives

In the First Committee’s discussion of outer space and space security issues, the United States continued to highlight its ongoing consideration of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space and of legally binding space security measures following its decision to carry out a space policy review last year. Washington released its new space policy in June in a document promoting confidence-building measures in space and stating an openness to arms control measures “if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.” (See ACT, September 2010.)

Between 2006 and 2009, the United States opposed multilateral arms control initiatives on space.

In spite of the policy shift, the Obama administration indicated that it still would not vote in favor of the specific First Committee resolutions on space, including those promoting transparency and confidence-building steps, and legally binding arrangements.

The United States abstained on a Russian-sponsored resolution calling for a group of governmental experts to study the prospect of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space because of a preambular reference to a Chinese-Russian proposal on a treaty banning weapons in outer space in the CD.

In an Oct. 22 statement, Kennedy said the United States could not support “artificial linkages” between transparency and confidence-building measures on the one hand and “fundamentally flawed proposals for arms control” such as the Chinese-Russian treaty proposal on the other. She noted that China and Russia acknowledge that such a treaty is unverifiable and that it does not prohibit the development of ground-based anti-satellite weapons.

The measure was otherwise adopted with 167 countries voting in favor, none opposed, and none besides the United States abstaining.

The United States continued to abstain on the annual resolution in the CD calling for the negotiation of a treaty on preventing an arms race in space. U.S. officials have said that Washington supports discussions, but not negotiations, on this topic at the CD.

Debate on Small Arms

Prolonged negotiations took place during the committee session over the adoption of a resolution tabled by Colombia, Japan, and South Africa on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

Although no states opposed the measure, Mexico submitted an amendment stating that such illicit trade hampers social and economic development. The language in the amendment was agreed at a June meeting, chaired by Mexico, of states-parties to the UN program of action on small arms, an international instrument on combating illicit small arms proliferation. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The amendment also called for the 2012 program of action review conference to consider ways to strengthen the accord.

Japan indicated that the Mexican language was included in an initial committee draft, but that Japan could not obtain consensus on the language and removed it. Mexico insisted that it would not favor the adoption of the resolution without the amended language.

In an Oct. 29 vote, the Mexican amendment was defeated by a vote of 19-54, with 70 countries abstaining. The states voting against the amendment included major industrialized countries, including the United States, and many developing nations.

The original resolution then was adopted with 167 votes and Mexico abstaining.

 

Following a rare high-level meeting of UN members in September discussing ways to “revitalize” UN bodies addressing disarmament and nonproliferation, this year’s First Committee deliberations paid considerable attention to the role and methods of the international “disarmament machinery.”

Nigeria Intercepts Iran Arms Shipment

Peter Crail

Nigeria has seized a weapons shipment from Iran that appears to violate a UN arms embargo, Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia told reporters in New York Nov. 16.

After “preliminary investigations,” Nigeria’s permanent mission in New York reported the October seizure to a UN sanctions committee, Ajumogobia said.

Nigerian officials said the shipment contained artillery rockets and small arms and ammunition. The French-based company CMA CGM, which transported the containers, said in an Oct. 30 statement that the shipping containers were labeled as “packages of glass wool and pallets of stone” and were picked up in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and unloaded in the Nigerian port of Lagos in July, where they were transferred to a customs depot.

Two sets of shipping documents obtained by the Nigerian authorities were found to have been associated with the 13-container shipment. An initial set consigned the containers to a Nigerian, while a second set said that the shipment was bound for Gambia. Ajumogobia said the investigation into the actual destination was continuing.

The Gambian government issued a statement Nov. 22 indicating that it was severing all diplomatic and economic ties with Iran, providing Iranian officials with 48 hours to leave the country. The statement did not make any mention of the arms shipment.

The shipment is alleged to have violated a 2007 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from transferring “any arms or related material.” This June, the council adopted additional sanctions that tightened enforcement of the penalties against Iran, calling on all countries to inspect shipments to or from Iran suspected of violating the sanctions.

Nigeria’s referral of the matter to the Security Council follows on the heels of a Nov. 12 meeting between Ajumogobia and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the arms shipment.

During a press conference following that meeting, Ajumogobia pledged that Nigeria would report the matter to the council as required if the weapons were determined to be a breach of UN sanctions. Nigeria currently holds a rotating seat on the 15-member council.

Mottaki, however, told reporters in Afghanistan Nov. 15 that the matter was a “misunderstanding” that had been “cleared up” with Nigeria. “A private company which had sold conventional and defensive weapons to a West African country had transferred the shipment through Nigeria,” he said.

The UN sanctions bar Iranian nationals from transferring arms as well.

Nigerian authorities questioned an Iranian national in the capital of Abuja in connection with the shipment. Ajumogobia said Nov. 16 that the individual was being interrogated and that “he’s been cooperating with the security agents.”

Similar shipments have been found in the past to have violated the UN embargo on Iranian arms transfers. Last December, a report by the committee overseeing the sanctions on Iran said that three such illicit arms shipments had been reported in 2009.

In all three cases, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) was found to be responsible for transporting the shipments. The UN sanctions adopted in June require that countries and firms “exercise vigilance” when doing business with IRISL, and U.S. and EU sanctions prohibit any business with the transporter.

Talks’ Agenda, Venue Undecided

Meanwhile, the months-long effort by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (the “P5+1”) to renew talks with Tehran over its nuclear program continued in November, with a date of Dec. 5 agreed for those negotiations. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who represents the P5+1, announced Nov. 12 that the six countries had accepted the December date proposed by Iran in a Nov. 9 letter.

In late November, however, the two sides continued to disagree over the location of the talks. Iran proposed meeting in Istanbul, but U.S. and European officials maintained that the meeting should occur in Geneva or Vienna, where similar talks among the seven countries have been held previously.

“Istanbul could still be a location for a second or follow-on meeting, but the general consensus is that the first meeting should be somewhere in central Europe,” Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told a Nov. 12 press briefing.

Iran previously had proposed that Turkey, as well as Brazil, join the talks, a prospect that Western countries rejected. Brazil, Iran, and Turkey agreed in May on a plan to swap Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) for fuel for a research reactor. (See ACT, June 2010.) That plan revived a similar U.S. proposal; there was a tentative agreement on it last October, but Iran ultimately backed away from it.

The United States and its allies now insist that the October arrangement must be altered to account for the larger amount of LEU that Iran has stockpiled since that time, which the West fears could be further enriched to weapons-grade levels if Iran chose to do so.

Iran’s LEU remains under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring.

The Western countries also have maintained that the discussions with Iran must address broader concerns raised by its nuclear program, in particular its uranium-enrichment activities, which the Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend. (See ACT, October 2010.) Tehran, however, has suggested that its nuclear program is not up for discussion.

The semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as stating Nov. 9 that the talks “will not be about Iran’s nuclear issue at all.”

However, Mottaki suggested the following day that the agenda of the meeting is still up for discussion. “The agenda is usually set before the meeting, but sometimes the involved parties agree to discuss the desired agenda during the session,” he told a news conference in Tehran Nov. 10.

 

N. Korea Reveals Uranium-Enrichment Plant

Peter Crail

North Korea unveiled a large uranium-enrichment pilot plant to a visiting team of former U.S. officials and academics Nov. 12, complicating efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and potentially providing the country with another path to nuclear weapons.

During a Nov. 23 briefing, former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker said that North Korean officials had showed him a facility containing about 2,000 gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. North Korean technicians claimed that the centrifuges were operating and producing low-enriched uranium (LEU) for a light-water reactor (LWR) Pyongyang revealed it was constructing earlier in the month, Hecker said.

Uranium enrichment can be used to produce LEU to power nuclear reactors but also to produce highly enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear weapons.

North Korea has been suspected for many years of pursuing an enrichment capability, but the scale and sophistication of those efforts has been in question. (See ACT, April 2007.) Hecker said that “it was just stunning” to see “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges at the plant rather than the “couple of dozen” he was expecting. Pyongyang first publicly admitted to an enrichment program in June of last year, stating in September 2009 that the “experimental phase” of those efforts had been completed.

The decision to show Hecker the facility appears to have been made at the urging of former U.S. special envoy to North Korea Jack Pritchard, who visited the country in early November.

During a Nov. 23 briefing with Hecker at the Korea Economic Institute, Pritchard, who heads the institute, said that he was told about the existence of the enrichment plant during a visit to the Yongbyon complex. Upon Pritchard’s return to Pyongyang, North Korean Foreign Ministry officials expressed surprise that he was told about the facility, he said at the briefing. Pritchard said he told Pyongyang that because the international community would be skeptical of North Korea’s claims that it was pursuing enrichment for nonmilitary purposes, international inspectors, or at least Hecker, should be shown the new plant.

North Korea has invited Hecker to visit its nuclear facilities on several other occasions to provide confirmation of certain nuclear activities.

Hecker estimated that the facility is capable of producing two metric tons of LEU each year. That amount would be appropriate for fueling a reactor of the size North Korea intends to construct or for producing up to 40 kilograms of HEU, which is enough for one to two nuclear weapons.

Although Hecker indicated that he could not confirm that the centrifuges were in operation, he said the North Korean claim that they were operational was “not inconsistent” with what he saw. He also described the facility control room where he was taken as “astonishingly modern,” particularly compared to the other nuclear facilities located at the Yongbyon complex, which used decades-old instrumentation.

The centrifuges are located in a facility that formerly housed the metal fuel rod fabrication facility that North Korea used to fashion fuel for its five-megawatt reactor located at the same complex. When it was in operation, that reactor produced plutonium for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. As part of a 2007 arrangement in which Pyongyang agreed to disable key facilities involved in that program, North Korea shut down its reactor and removed critical equipment from the fuel fabrication plant.

U.S. officials were present to confirm that those facilities remained disabled until April 2009, when North Korea backed out of multilateral talks in response to a UN Security Council rebuke of its rocket launch earlier that month and kicked out inspectors.

Hecker said North Korean technicians told him that they had begun constructing the enrichment plant in the former fuel-fabrication facility that same month.

Hecker, along with former U.S. officials familiar with North Korea’s nuclear program, has expressed surprise at the speed with which Pyongyang was able to install and possibly operate a facility of the scale revealed last month. During the Nov. 23 briefing, Hecker said that the centrifuges originally must have been installed in a plant in another location and moved to Yongbyon. He noted that North Korea could possibly have other enrichment facilities, adding that they would be difficult to detect.

The international community has expressed similar concerns over the difficulty of detecting covert enrichment plants in Iran, which was found to be constructing such a plant in secret last year. (See ACT, October 2009.) Tehran also uses gas centrifuge technology to enrich uranium, claiming that it is doing so to produce LEU for nuclear fuel.

The North Korean and Iranian gas centrifuge programs both received crucial assistance from the nuclear smuggling network run by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, including centrifuge designs, components, and complete centrifuges.

In his 2006 memoir, former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Khan provided North Korea with centrifuges and centrifuge components of the P-1 and the more advanced P-2 variety in 2000.

The centrifuges at the Yongbyon enrichment facility are believed to be based on the P-2 model whereas Iran’s centrifuge program has primarily relied on the P-1 machine. Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director-General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen said Nov. 22 that Iran does not appear to have progressed in its development of its own P-2 centrifuge variant.

The P-2 centrifuge can enrich uranium more than twice as fast as the P-1.

Hecker said he was concerned that North Korea was cooperating with Iran on centrifuge development, but he said that the facility he was shown indicates that North Korea’s enrichment program is more advanced than Iran’s. “I would not go to Iran if I were North Korea,” he said adding, “but it might in the future be the other way around.”

Centrifuge capabilities are generally measured in separative work units (SWU), or the effort needed to separate isotopes in the enrichment process. Iran’s industrial-scale Natanz facility is estimated to average less than 4,000 SWU per year while, according to Hecker, North Korea claims that the Yongbyon enrichment plant has an annual capacity of 8,000 SWU.

Hecker said North Korean technicians told him that their centrifuges were based on designs used by the European enrichment consortium Urenco, from which Khan stole the centrifuge designs during the 1970s, and Japan’s Rokkasho-mura enrichment plant.

The relation to the Rokkasho-mura plant is uncertain.

According to Hecker, North Korea admitted for the first time that it was capable of producing uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the feedstock for uranium enrichment. Although Pyongyang has denied possessing a UF6 plant in the past, suspicions mounted when international inspectors discovered UF6 in Libya that the United States believes originated in North Korea.

Libya also was pursuing an enrichment program with assistance from Khan’s network.

North Korea was known to have the capability to produce uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), the precursor for UF6, during the 1990s, but that facility was abandoned some time prior to 2002 due to corrosion and equipment failure.

Hecker said North Korean officials told him that they developed a less corrosive process that was used for UF4 production, which they used to produce UF6 as well.

Despite concerns that North Korea could have additional enrichment plants in other locations for military purposes, there is some question as to whether Pyongyang has sufficient materials to build such facilities.

“They are limited by the materials and the equipment,” Hecker said, noting that the requirements for construction of a centrifuge enrichment plant include high-strength steel and aluminum, ring magnets, bearings, and vacuum valves. Such materials and equipment fall under international controls over nuclear-related technology.

Going Alone on an LWR

Pyongyang claims that the enrichment facility viewed by Hecker is part of a fuel production process for an LWR it began constructing at the end of July. LWRs require enriched-uranium fuel.

Hecker said that the LWR is relatively small, providing about 25 to 30 megawatts of power. He said North Korean officials told him the reactor will provide power for local communities and that, given their lack of expertise in LWR technology, they would begin with a small-scale reactor.

North Korea declared last year that it would “actively consider” building such a reactor in response to the April 2009 Security Council condemnation of its rocket launch, among other steps to bolster its nuclear activities. Although North Korea is not believed to possess the expertise to construct a full-scale LWR, Hecker said the country’s plan to construct a 25- to 30-megawatt reactor “is credible.”

The LWR revelation comes about a month after satellite imagery revealed new construction at the Yongbyon site where the cooling tower for North Korea’s five-megawatt heavy-water reactor once stood. (See ACT, November 2010.) The cooling tower was demolished in 2008 as part of the multilateral denuclearization agreement and the site now is being used for the LWR.

Although two key facilities associated with North Korea’s now-dormant plutonium-production program are being used for North Korea’s enrichment plant and its LWR, Pyongyang could still reinstate plutonium production if it chose to do so.

Hecker said he did not think the new facilities would not significantly delay the reconstruction of the cooling tower, which would take about six months, and North Korea still has fuel rods for its existing reactor. Many of those fuel rods, however, would need to be machined before being loaded into the reactor, a process also estimated to take about six months.

According to Hecker, North Korea officials said that the five-megawatt reactor remains under repair and is “on standby.”

North Korea cannot produce any additional plutonium for weapons until it machines new fuel rods and constructs a new cooling system for the reactor.

Hecker suggested that North Korea’s fastest route to increasing its nuclear weapons capabilities would be for it to restore its plutonium-production facilities. “They’ve tested twice, they know how to build a plutonium bomb, that’s the way they would go,” he said.

He noted that because more-advanced weapons programs generally use plutonium, states that have developed nuclear weapons have switched from HEU-based to plutonium-based weapons, rather than the other way around.

Hecker and Pritchard said North Korean officials told them during their visits that the construction of the LWR, along with a number of major economic development activities, is slated for completion in 2012, when the country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. They both expressed doubt about that time frame.

The construction of an LWR has been a critical issue in negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons efforts.

As part of a 1994 U.S.-North Korean denuclearization agreement, called the Agreed Framework, Washington agreed to facilitate the construction of two 1,000-megawatt LWRs in North Korea in return for a North Korean pledge to freeze and dismantle the facilities associated with its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

An international consortium poured concrete for the first reactor in 2002, but the project was suspended a year later following a breakdown of the Agreed Framework at the end of that year. The reactors, originally due to be completed in 2003, were never constructed. Pyongyang often complained about delays in the construction of the reactors.

The LWR issue was raised again in a 2005 agreement involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, in which the six parties “agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision” of an LWR to North Korea.

Hecker said North Korean officials told him that the possession of an LWR is important for energy production and for symbolic reasons and that Pyongyang maintains that it has a right to pursue nuclear energy.

North Korea still claims it is willing to honor the 2005 denuclearization agreement, a key U.S. condition to restart negotiations. (See ACT, October 2010.) It is unclear how the new enrichment facility would be addressed in any renewed talks.

The September 2005 joint statement commits North Korea to abandoning all nuclear weapons “and existing nuclear programs.” The two Koreas also pledged in that statement to abide by a 1992 joint declaration on denuclearization, which prohibits either country from developing enrichment or reprocessing technologies.

A decision to maintain an enrichment facility, even for peaceful purposes, would appear to be inconsistent with the 1992 declaration.

Pritchard said that, during his visit, North Korean officials talked about “a little bizarre reordering of priorities” with respect to the 2005 agreement, highlighting the U.S. commitment to discuss a formal peace treaty, normalization, and compensation for North Korean commitments, rather than the denuclearization process.

UN Report Details Proliferation

In the midst of revelations regarding North Korean nuclear activities in defiance of UN sanctions, a 75-page UN panel report released Nov. 10 detailed Pyongyang’s efforts to circumvent international controls and import and export prohibited goods.

The report was drafted by a seven-member panel established by UN Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted in response to North Korea’s May 2009 nuclear test. Diplomatic sources said that the release of the report, which was completed in May, has been delayed for several months by China.

The report says that North Korea “has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” noting that such exports are a key source of foreign currency for Pyongyang, amounting to about $100 million each year.

It indicates that Pyongyang is involved in nuclear- and ballistic missile-related activities in certain countries, including Iran, Myanmar (Burma), and Syria, and calls on states to prevent such transfers.

The panel concludes, however, that UN sanctions have “significantly constrained” Pyongyang’s illicit arms sales. To get around international sanctions, North Korea employs a “broad range of techniques to mask its financial transactions, including the use of overseas entities, shell companies, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers and barter arrangements.”

The report notes that North Korea relies on air cargo to transport high-value and sensitive arms exports. Resolution 1874 includes less-detailed enforcement measures for air cargo than for suspicious overseas freight.

 

North Korea unveiled a large uranium-enrichment pilot plant to a visiting team of former U.S. officials and academics Nov. 12, complicating efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and potentially providing the country with another path to nuclear weapons.

North Korea's Uranium Enrichment Challenge

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Volume 1, Number 36, November 22, 2010

The revelation regarding North Korea’s Yongbyon uranium-enrichment plant provides new insight into long-held suspicions about the country’s enrichment efforts, but also raises new questions. More importantly, it demonstrates that the proliferation challenge from North Korea will continue to grow if it is not addressed, and pursuing renewed negotiations with Pyongyang is the only viable option to tackle the problem.

What We Know

Dr. Siegfried Hecker has revealed that North Korea has a 2,000-centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. North Korea claims that the facility will produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for a light-water reactor (LWR) North Korea has also revealed that it is constructing at the same complex, but the plant can be converted to produce highly-enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons. North Korea likely has a smaller-scale facility elsewhere which it operated before progressing to this point. That facility may have already been used to produce small amounts of HEU, as U.S. technicians detected HEU particles on North Korean aluminum tubing and the operating records of key nuclear facilities in 2008. Whether or not North Korea has other facilities of the scale viewed by Hecker which are dedicated to a military program is unknown.  Finding out will be a difficult prospect without a verifiable denuclearization process.

A recent Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) assessment suggested that North Korea intensified its procurement efforts for a gas-centrifuge uranium enrichment program over the past several years, and acquired enough materials for a pilot-scale plant. This procurement would have built on early and sustained assistance from Pakistan during the 1990s and early 2000s. The apparent sophistication of the Yongbyon enrichment plant does raise questions as to whether Pyongyang received enough centrifuges and centrifuge components from Pakistan at that time to build a 2,000-machine facility, or if North Korea continued to receive assistance form other sources, such as Iran, after the AQ Khan network was shut down. Iran also received materials, equipment, and technology for the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges from Pakistan and has carried out extensive work on enrichment. Whereas Iran has primarily focused on the P-1 model, however, North Korea’s Yongbyon plant is apparently based on the P-2 variety.

What This Means for North Korea’s Weapons Capabilities

In the long term, if North Korea's capability is not addressed, this new plant will likely advance its nuclear capabilities. Once the facility becomes fully operational, and it is not certain that it is despite North Korean claims to that effect, it would be capable of producing enough material for 1-2 bombs each year. This is roughly the same rate at which it produced plutonium for its weapons. However, Pyongyang would still need to turn that material into a weapon, and then develop a means to deliver it. Plutonium-based weapons, which North Korea has relied on to date, are easier to miniaturize to fit on a missile, and North Korea may not have developed such a capability up to this point. Such miniaturization for HEU weapons will likely prove even more challenging and could require additional nuclear test explosions.

In the meantime, this development does not move North Korean military capabilities forward. In fact, North Korea seems to have abandoned the prospect of restarting its plutonium-producing reactor in the near term. The fastest way to begin producing nuclear material again would have been to restart its existing reactor by rebuilding the cooling tower and refueling it. Instead, Pyongyang is building a light water reactor where the cooling tower would have been and built an enrichment plant in the fuel fabrication facility for the plutonium-producing reactor. This does not rule out a reconstitution of the existing reactor operations, but Pyongyang has made the enrichment effort a priority, apparently at the expense of the plutonium program.

This means that, until North Korea can effectively run its centrifuges to produce HEU for weapons, its stockpile of weapons material is still limited at around 10 weapons, and likely fewer. On that basis, there remains an opportunity to cap the military program. Unfortunately, it also means North Korea is likely to argue that its “peaceful” enrichment program is off limits in any negotiation, pursuing a similar argument as that of Iran.

It is also important to remember that, while North Korea will not likely hesitate to use the enrichment plant to make HEU, just as Pyongyang genuinely wants the ability to launch satellites and long-range ballistic missiles, they do seem to want to have both a military nuclear capability and a capability that can be used for nuclear power. The possession of a light-water reactor program has been an issue of political symbolism for North Korea. That does not mean that North Korea should be able to violate its obligations for symbolic reasons, but that motivation should be considered when determining the nature of the threat that Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment efforts pose and ways to rollback its nuclear program.

What Needs to Be Done

There is only one way to seriously address this development and North Korea’s nuclear program as a whole, and that is through engagement. There are no viable military options and, even with the most stringent sanctions to date in force, North Korea was still able to construct this new plant. Moreover, this development should give pause to those who wish to pursue “strategic patience,” because Pyongyang is only using that patience to move its nuclear program forward.

The latest situation requires a renewed diplomatic push, led by Washington, in concert with its allies and China, aimed at freezing and then verifiably dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program without further delay. The construction of this new plant likely means that such a process will be drawn out even longer, with many steps being taken to roll back North Korea’s nuclear activities, but that means it is all the more important to start sooner rather than later, before Pyongyang expands its capabilities even further.

At the same time, the development of this plant is a violation of North Korea's denuclearization obligations and North Korea could not have acquired the materials and technology without violating international sanctions. The international community, and in particular the members of the UN Security Council and the Six-Party Talks participants, cannot turn a blind eye to such transgressions. In fact, North Korean tricks to skirt the sanctions were described in detail in the recent UN North Korea sanctions committee panel report.

China, as North Korea’s key economic and political partner, has an important role to play in demonstrating that Pyongyang cannot violate its obligations with impunity. Beijing may have sought to delay or prevent the publication of the UN panel report, but it cannot run from its findings and implications. Particularly since North Korea is believed to acquire many of the materials that it needs for its enrichment program through front companies based in China, it is in Beijing’s own interest to ensure that its territory is not being used to circumvent the very sanctions that it voted to put in place. Beijing should be able to address North Korean proliferation without undercutting its concerns about the stability of the regime, and the impact instability would have for China.

There is also an important lesson to be learned from the history of U.S. efforts to address the North’s suspected uranium-enrichment program. In 2002, the United States accused North Korea of pursuing a uranium-enrichment program, leading it to halt the implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, resulting in North Korea’s unfreezing of its plutonium program and its development of a nuclear weapons capability. But in the years since, the size and sophistication of that program came in doubt, and there was little evidence that North Korea had developed a functioning facility geared towards producing HEU for weapons.

It appears that it is only now, eight years after the Bush Administration scuttled the Agreed Framework, that North Korea has a pilot facility that could be used eventually to produce HEU. In other words, by acting on exaggerated threat perceptions, a working diplomatic process was abandoned in favor of a strategy of isolation and sanctions, which did nothing to stop North Korea from producing enough material for up to a dozen nuclear weapons and carrying out nuclear tests.

A diplomatic process is not easy, and the United States and its allies should not pay any asking price North Korea brings to the table over its nuclear activities. But we should not be afraid to go to the table to glean from the North Koreans directly what their positions and motivations are, and convey to them directly where our red lines are and what they stand to benefit from a change in direction. – PETER CRAIL

For more information see these additional ACA Resources on North Korea

ACA Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball responds to the revelation over the uranium-enrichment facility in the ArmsControlNow blog post, “North Korea’s Uranium Enrichment Gambit Signals Trouble Ahead and the Need for Active U.S. Engagement with Pyongyang.”

The following articles: “Can Washington and Seoul Try Dealing With Pyongyang for a Change?” by Leon Sigal, and  “Work at North Korea Reactor Site Unclear” by Peter Crail, can be found in the current issue of Arms Control Today.

Also see ACA’s detailed Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy.

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Volume 1, Number 36

The revelation regarding North Korea’s Yongbyon uranium-enrichment plant provides new insight into long-held suspicions about the country’s enrichment efforts, but also raises new questions. More importantly, it demonstrates that the proliferation challenge from North Korea will continue to grow if it is not addressed, and pursuing renewed negotiations with Pyongyang is the only viable option to tackle the problem.

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Work at North Korea Reactor Site Unclear

Peter Crail

North Korea is engaged in new construction work near its dormant nuclear reactor, the South Korean Defense Ministry said Oct. 5, raising concerns that Pyongyang is preparing to reconstitute the plant used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons. Yet, experts said that the purpose of the construction work seen via satellite photos is not clear and does not appear consistent with efforts to rebuild critical reactor structures.

North Korea is restoring nuclear facilities and continuing maintenance activities at Yongbyon,” a ministry spokesman said, citing Defense Minister Kim Tae-young’s comments to parliament the day before. The Yongbyon nuclear complex houses several facilities involved in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including a nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for weapons and a reprocessing facility to separate that plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel.

In 2007, North Korea disabled three critical nuclear facilities at the complex as part of a February 2007 six-party agreement that included China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. (See ACT, March 2007.) Pyongyang withdrew from those talks in April 2009 and subsequently reconstituted its reprocessing facility to separate an estimated bomb’s worth of additional plutonium. (See ACT, May 2009.)

Seoul’s claim appears consistent with a Sept. 30 analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which said that commercially available satellite imagery showed construction at the former site of the Yongbyon reactor’s cooling tower. The reactor’s cooling tower was destroyed in June 2008 as part of the six-party talks. It would have to be rebuilt before the reactor could operate again unless Pyongyang decided to construct an alternative cooling system or run the reactor at far lower levels.

The ISIS analysis said, however, that “there is no indication in the imagery that North Korea is rebuilding its cooling tower.” The report notes that North Korea has constructed two buildings of unknown purpose instead and identifies construction or excavation equipment visible in the satellite photos.

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker, who has visited the Yongbyon complex on several occasions, said in an Oct. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today that there is no need to construct buildings to replace the cooling tower. “They must be doing something else,” he said.

Before North Korea can operate its reactor once again, it also must restore its secondary cooling loop, which was severed as part of the 2007 agreement, and prepare additional reactor fuel. Hecker said that restoring the cooling loop only requires replacing or rejoining the piping system, which “could be done in days to a week.”

A more time-consuming step is the preparation of fresh fuel for the reactor. North Korea still has about 2,000 fuel rods for the Yongbyon reactor left over from 1994, when the fuel fabrication facility last operated. It also has about 12,000 bare fuel rods for a larger reactor whose construction was halted that same year under a nuclear freeze agreement with the United States. A large portion of those fuel rods would need to be modified and clad in magnesium alloy before they can be used in the Yongbyon reactor.

“This may take up to six months,” Hecker said, “in which time [North Korea] could easily reconstruct the cooling tower.”

The Yongbyon reactor is North Korea’s sole source of plutonium for weapons, leaving its plutonium stockpile effectively capped until it is restarted. Pyongyang is believed to possess enough plutonium for four to 12 weapons.

North Korea also is believed to be pursuing a uranium-enrichment program, which can provide highly enriched uranium for weapons. After years of denial, Pyongyang first admitted to carrying out work on uranium enrichment last year. An Oct. 8 ISIS report assesses that Pyongyang has escalated this work, moving beyond “laboratory-scale work” to a possible pilot plant.

Pyongyang has recently repeated claims that it would strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Gil Yon told the UN General Assembly Sept. 29, “As long as U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail in the seas around our country, our nuclear deterrent can never be abandoned, but should be strengthened further.”

In an annual meeting of U.S. and South Korean defense ministers Oct. 8, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that, in response to nuclear and conventional-weapons threats from North Korea, Washington is “committed to providing extended deterrence using the full range of American military might, from our nuclear umbrella to conventional strike and ballistic-missile defense.” A joint communiqué issued by the two countries the same day said that they agreed to institutionalize the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee to enhance the effectiveness of the extended deterrence relationship.

 

North Korea is engaged in new construction work near its dormant nuclear reactor, the South Korean Defense Ministry said Oct. 5, raising concerns that Pyongyang is preparing to reconstitute the plant used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons. Yet, experts said that the purpose of the construction work seen via satellite photos is not clear and does not appear consistent with efforts to rebuild critical reactor structures.

Iran Nuclear Efforts Face Critical Limits

Peter Crail

Iran continues to face considerable technical difficulties with key aspects of its nuclear program, the former head of safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in October.

Olli Heinonen, who was the deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA until August, said in an Oct. 22 interview with Haaretz that because of problems Iran is facing with its gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant, “they are losing materials…and so, with this defective equipment, they will have a hard time enriching the material to a level high enough to enable the production of nuclear weapons.”

Deficiencies in the centrifuge operations have led to substantial amounts of wasted uranium hexafluoride gas, the feedstock for enrichment. At higher enrichment levels, these deficiencies become more severe, wasting larger mounts of material.

Iran’s uranium-enrichment program lies at the center of concerns surrounding its nuclear ambitions. Gas centrifuges are used to enrich uranium to low concentrations of the fissile isotope uranium-235 for use in power reactors or to higher concentrations, which can be used in nuclear weapons. Tehran claims that its enrichment program is intended only to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors. Many countries, however, have charged that the real purpose is to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons.

Heinonen’s assessment echoes that of U.S. administration officials who have asserted that Iran’s technical difficulties provide time to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, said during a May 11 press briefing that because of technical hurdles with Iran’s enrichment program, “the nuclear clock is not ticking as quickly as some had feared.”

These technical challenges also appear to be borne out in IAEA reports on Iran’s program. The latest such report, in September, indicates that Iran’s commercial-scale enrichment facility at Natanz currently houses about 8,800 centrifuges, but only about 3,700 are operating. (See ACT, October 2010.)

In addition to Iran’s difficulty operating the centrifuges it has built, due to a lack of critical materials such as maraging steel, it likely faces an upper limit on the number of machines it can produce.

Knowledgeable sources said in October that Iran likely only has enough materials for about 12,000 machines. The IAEA has previously estimated that Iran had enough components to manufacture about 10,000 machines. (See ACT, December 2008.)

Iranian officials have said that the Natanz plant is intended ultimately to run about 50,000 centrifuges.

The centrifuges Iran is currently operating are based on a 1970s-vintage Dutch design acquired through the nuclear smuggling network led by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. Called the P-1, the centrifuge design is known to be problematic.

Iran has been developing more-advanced centrifuge designs based on the so-called P-2 machine, but to date has tested only small numbers of those centrifuges. Iran is also believed to be dependent on outside sources of critical materials, such as carbon fiber, for its advanced centrifuges.

International sanctions prohibit the export to Iran of materials and technology that could be used in a gas centrifuge program.

Heinonen told Haaretz that due to the technical challenges Iran is facing, it is not likely to have the capacity to produce HEU for weapons for another one to two years.

Such hurdles do not pertain only to Iran’s enrichment program. Over the past several years, Iranian officials have justified their controversial enrichment program by describing an ambitious plan to build nuclear power reactors. However, Tehran does not appear capable of fulfilling such aims, particularly under international sanctions.

In the latest iteration of Tehran’s nuclear power plans, parliamentary spokesman Kazem Jalali told reporters Oct. 13 that the Iranian parliament adopted legislation urging the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to build up to 20 additional nuclear power plants by 2030 to produce about 20,000 megawatts of power.

Those plans mirror intentions expressed by the shah of Iran during the 1970s for a plan to produce 20,000 megawatts. The plans were abandoned following Iran’s 1979 revolution. Although the United States was engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran at that time, Washington suspected that the shah was seeking a capability that could be used for nuclear weapons and objected to Iran’s development of certain sensitive fuel-cycle technologies.

In order to fuel its ambitious nuclear power program, Iran also would need access to sufficient amounts of uranium. Iran has two uranium mines located at Saghand and Bandar Abbas, but only the latter is operating. The Saghand mine contains low-grade ore, which is less economical to mine.

In an Oct. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mark Fitzpatrick, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said these reserves are “barely sufficient for one reactor,” let alone the larger numbers that Iran has cited as part of its nuclear power plans.

He added that additional reserves may be found with extensive searching, “but it is highly unlikely that reserves would thus expand to anywhere near the amount required for self-sufficiency in uranium for the envisioned program.”

UN sanctions adopted in June prohibit Iran from acquiring stakes in uranium mines abroad. Prior sanctions resolutions prohibit Iran from importing uranium.

In October, Iranian officials announced that the country would intensify its search for uranium reserves and indicated that the government had allocated funds to begin uranium ore extraction at the Saghand mine.

The Tehran Times quoted AEOI Director Ali Akbar Salehi Oct. 21 as stating, “We have expanded our exploration activities…and have focused on places where there are hopes of greater uranium reserves” in order to become self-sufficient to fuel Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Russia, however, has agreed to provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor, which it constructed, for at least the next 10 years. According to Russian diplomats, Moscow’s state-run nuclear conglomerate Rosatom has not provided Iran with the proprietary information needed to manufacture the reactor fuel.

Iran has recently proposed a joint venture with Russia for nuclear fuel production, an arrangement that might provide it with some proprietary rights or information needed to build the specialized fuel assemblies.

Following years of delays, Iran’s Bushehr plant was completed last year, and the lengthy process of loading fuel for the reactor began in August. (See ACT, September 2010.) However, due to technical problems, the fuel loading has been delayed.

AEOI Deputy Director Mohammad Ahmadian told the Islamic Republic News Agency Oct. 16 that “there are some minor problems including a small leak in a pool in the middle of the reactor which was fixed.” He added that correcting the problem will take about one month.

Talks Proposed for Mid-November

Meanwhile, senior Iranian officials appeared to respond favorably last month to a proposal by six world powers to hold negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in mid-November, potentially paving the way for the first such talks in more than a year. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany have been involved in diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program since 2006.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during an Oct. 15 press conference in Brussels that he welcomed upcoming talks with the group, known as the P5+1.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has already proposed late October or early November as appropriate time for negotiations,” he said.

On behalf of the P5+1, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton Oct. 14 proposed holding negotiations with Iran Nov. 15-17.

The six countries are waiting for a formal response from Iran.

Iranian officials have said that Tehran still needs more details on the nature of the talks before formally responding.

Iran’s state-run Press TV Oct. 20 quoted Tehran’s deputy nuclear negotiator, Abolfazl Zohrehvand, as saying that Iran received a letter from Ashton but that it “only addresses issues such as where, when and how long the talks should be and does not deal with more important issues, such as the framework, aim and direction of the talks.”

Reuters reported Oct. 22, and diplomatic sources confirmed, that a letter Ashton sent to Iran’s EU ambassador that same day re-invited Iran for talks and stated that “the main focus of the meeting would be on the question of the Iranian nuclear program, not excluding any other items pertinent to the discussion.”

 

Iran continues to face considerable technical difficulties with key aspects of its nuclear program, the former head of safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in October.

Olli Heinonen, who was the deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA until August, said in an Oct. 22 interview with Haaretz that because of problems Iran is facing with its gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant, “they are losing materials…and so, with this defective equipment, they will have a hard time enriching the material to a level high enough to enable the production of nuclear weapons.”

Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2009-2010 Report Card

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On October 27, the Arms Control Association released Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2009-2010 Report Card at a briefing at the National Press Club. A transcript of that event is below.

 

ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION

ASSESSING PROGRESS ON
NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION AND DISARMAMENT:
2009-2010 REPORT CARD

WELCOME/INTRODUCTION:
DARYL KIMBALL,
DIRECTOR,
ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION

SPEAKERS:
PETER CRAIL,
NONPROLIFERATION ANALYST,
ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
GEORGE PERKOVICH,
DIRECTOR OF STUDIES
DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR POLICY PROGRAM,
CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C.



Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.




DARYL KIMBALL:  Good morning everyone.  Welcome to the National Press Club on a rainy Wednesday morning.  I’m Daryl Kimball.  I’m director of the Arms Control Association, and for those of you who don’t know, we’re an independent nonprofit organization.  We’ve been around since 1971 and we’re dedicated to addressing the challenges posed by chemical, biological, nuclear and certain conventional weapons and today we are releasing a first of its kind study, or at least we think it’s the first of its kind study, that grades the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally recognized nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security categories over the last 18 months.

With me this morning to explain the findings and to provide some commentary and perspectives on it are Peter Crail, who’s the lead researcher on the report card.  He is ACA’s nonproliferation analyst.  He’s been with us since 2007 and previously he served as consultant with the U.N. department of disarmament affairs and has a master’s degree in international policy studies from the Monterey Institute for International Studies.  

Also with us, George Perkovich, director of studies and the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, a longtime researcher and thinker on nuclear weapons issues.  So I’m glad that George has joined us.  

To start, I’m going to explain the purpose of the report, the basis of the 10 categories of standards, as you’ll hear us refer to these, and then I’m going to briefly describe what we see as some of the five bottom-line conclusions that we see coming out of the data, the information in this study.

So first, the purpose of this report card – this is the first time we have done this at the Arms Control Association and one of the reasons is that since the beginning of the nuclear age, governments have all agreed that there is a need to address the problems and the dangers of nuclear weapons but they have struggled to agree on a common strategy.  Progress has been difficult to measure because in part there are differing perceptions on the nature of the threat and what constitutes responsible behavior regarding nuclear weapons, nonproliferation and disarmament.  

So with this report, fundamentally we set out to document what constitutes the mainstream of nonproliferation and disarmament behavior expected of responsible states and to provide a simple, transparent tool to evaluate progress of key states in getting those responsibilities.

So what do I mean by the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream?  What do we mean when we refer to the nuclear nonproliferation system or the nonproliferation regime?  There is a body of obligations, standards and rules of behavior regarding nuclear weapons that has emerged and has been established over the decades.  At the core is the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970.  It went into force in 1970, and is now recognized by all but four states.  

The system has been updated and expanded, reinforced through bilateral nuclear arms control and reduction agreements, U.N. resolutions, Security Council decisions, ad hoc coalitions of countries, standards of behavior for nuclear technology supplier states, for instance, and through concrete actions by individual states.  So the report card organizes these various standards and commitments into 10 categories which we describe beginning on page three of the report and I won’t go through the list.  They’re there for you to see but they range from banning nuclear weapons test explosions to criminalizing and preventing illicit nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism.  

So I should note here that these standards and goals are, in our opinion, generally not adequate enough to address the overall nuclear weapons threat and we believe that additional measures are needed to reduce and eventually eliminate the nuclear threat.  

But unlike other report card papers and reports that have been put together in past years, we are not grading states’ work and progress in meeting the Arms Control Association’s own preferred policy goals and initiatives but rather it assesses the key states’ performance in meeting commitments they themselves have made at various points over time and that have been established in one form or another by the international community and the bodies that help establish what these norms and expectations are.  

Of course, as the international community works on the problem of nuclear weapons and agrees on additional steps to strengthen the nonproliferation system, these standards that we have listed here today can be expected to evolve over time.  Now, the other thing, as I said, we have set out to do is to develop a relatively simple and transparent system by which members of the public and policymakers can better understand how well or how poorly key states are meeting their nonproliferation obligations and Peter is going to explain a little bit more about the system that we have come up with in a few minutes.

But on this issue, I also wanted to note that it’s clear from the nonproliferation system that we’re describing that every state has a responsibility to uphold and strengthen the system but it’s clear that certain countries have a more critical role in upholding the system and executing it.  So this report card focuses on 11 key states.  It also would have been extraordinarily difficult, just from a practical standpoint, to try to extend this evaluation into the dozens of other states that are out there.

So what the report card does is it gives grades to China, France, Russia, the U.K., the United States, India, Israel and Pakistan, all of whom possess nuclear weapons, and North Korea, which maintains a nuclear weapons capability, as well as Iran and Syria, which don’t have nuclear weapons but are under investigation – active investigation – for possible nuclear weapons-related activities.  

So what does this comprehensive snapshot of the record of these key states over the period 2009, 2010 tell us?  We believe that there are a number of conclusions that can be drawn.  I’m going to focus on five and then we’ll shift over to Peter who’s going to talk a little bit more about some of the highlights and the lowlights with particular countries, as well as some other interesting points from the report.  

So first, first bottom line conclusion is the global system that has been established over the decades to reduce nuclear weapons dangers is neither on the verge of collapse nor is it on the cusp of success.  None of the states possessing nuclear weapons merit an overall “A” grade.  Only North Korea, which has violated nearly every nonproliferation and disarmament standard over the past two years, warrants an overall grade of “F” and most states’ grades are in the middle ranges.  

Two, while there has been widespread rhetorical support for the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, the record shows that the world’s nuclear weapons possessor states all have more work to be done to get to that ultimate goal.  The past two years have seen relatively stronger support from the five original nuclear weapons states for the international norm against nuclear testing, for an end to the production of fissile material for weapons purposes and there is clearly renewed progress to verifiably reduce U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles through the new strategic arms reduction treaty.  

However, China for instance continues to build up its own nuclear arsenal.  It’s small but it continues to build up its arsenal.  India and Pakistan continue to produce fissile material for weapons and the United States and Russia continue to maintain their weapons on a high state of alert.  

Number three, the report card reflects the fact that over the past 18 months, the Obama administration has indeed affected improvements in the U.S. record in some key areas that we’ve measured here, such as verifiable nuclear force reductions, the U.S. commitment for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, nuclear material security with the April 2010 Nuclear Material Security Summit and negative nuclear security assurances which were updated in the 2010 nuclear posture review.

But progress has been slower and some U.S. grades lower due to the fact that several U.S. nuclear risk reduction measures require congressional action and support.  The test ban treaty for instance, the new START treaty, which is still before the Senate, has not yet been ratified.  There are four nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties that still must be ratified.  

The Obama administration has said that they are going to pursue ratification of a couple of these but have still not forwarded the documentation to the Senate yet.  All of these still require Senate approval for ratification and there are even two international accords that help address the problem of nuclear terrorism that require the adoption of implementing legislation.  So clearly, U.S. leadership on these issues requires stronger congressional support and the grades in the future will reflect whether or not that exists or not.  

Number four, India, Israel and Pakistan, the only three countries never to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, earned slightly lower grades in the “C” range due largely to their policies on nuclear testing, their continued production of fissile material and the gradual increase of their nuclear forces, and Pakistan right now, in particular, is responsible for blocking multilateral talks on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty.  

Although India claims to be a responsible nuclear power and its record is relatively better in some categories, it has not taken on many of the obligations that are expected of nuclear armed states.  To move further into the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream, as we’re calling it, both India and Pakistan have to take steps that would slow down their arms race, including codifying their current nuclear test moratoria.  

Finally, number five, a few words about North Korea.  It really is no surprise in a report like this that North Korea is receiving an overall grade of “F” because it’s violated nearly every nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament standard in the past two years.  But one thing to keep in mind, and we think is an important bottom line lesson, is that it could be even worse.  There is in the nuclear nonproliferation world an overall grade that’s worse than an “F”.  

Perhaps it’s an “F-minus” or a “G,” and that is because North Korea is not known to have transferred nuclear weapons material to other states or terrorists and preventing renewed North Korean fissile material production and preventing its sale to others needs to be a priority in future years in order to preserve the nuclear nonproliferation system and global security.  So let me stop there and I’m going to turn it over to Peter and you can stay there if you want, Peter.  You want to come up here?

PETER CRAIL:  I can stay here.

MR. KIMBALL:  Okay, and Peter is going to talk a bit more about some of the particulars in the grades for these countries and the methodology and I would just like to note before I turn it over to him that we think it’s very important to take a closer look at the grades beyond the overall grades.  As you all know from being college students, your grade point average might have been a 3 but you got a 3.7 in your major.  So it’s very important to take a look at the details in these grades I think in terms of the meaning of this report.  That’s just as important as the overall average that we’ve put together here.  So Peter?

MR. CRAIL:  Thanks, Daryl.  Good morning everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  Now that Daryl has laid out what the report is looking at and has given some of the key takeaways, I wanted to share a little bit on how we arrived at the grades and talk a little bit about some of the trends that we’ve seen in the standards that we’re measuring.  Now, since the intention was to craft an actual report card, we worked on the basis of an “A” through “F” evaluation, based on how a state was adhering to each of the 10 standards.  

So an “A” means that a country is essentially adhering fully to the international standard or has even gone beyond what the expectations are of the international community.  “B” and “C” grades represent some degrees of steps being taken towards implementation of the standard and a “D” essentially means that no action has been taken.  Now, that means that an “F” doesn’t necessarily mean a failure to do something but it essentially means that the country is moving in the opposite direction or that it has violated its obligations in some way.  

Now, of course these standards can’t all necessarily be measured in the same way.  They differ in terms of the types of steps that states are supposed to take, from ratifying agreements like the nuclear terrorism convention to carrying out specific actions like reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles.  They also differ in terms of how clearly the international community has identified how these standards are supposed to be fulfilled.  The comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty has been spelled out clearly as the standard for how states demonstrate their commitment to banning nuclear testing.  

But when it comes to some other standards such as reducing nuclear weapons alert levels, you have a general principle of de-alerting nuclear weapons and increasing the timeframe for their use but you have fewer agreed steps about what exactly that entails.  So in order to address some of these discrepancies between the types of expectations and the degree of specificity with which the international community has determined what those expectations are, we felt it was important to lay out beforehand what the specific criteria were for each standard to receive each grade and that’s presented in one of the sheets that you have in your packet.  

Now, we thought that since transparency was important to make sure that readers knew exactly how we arrived at the grades but also as a bit of a check on ourselves to make sure we were fair and treated states as evenly as possible.  In addition, I would say that since transparency is an important standard of the nonproliferation regime itself and we felt that if we were going to be issuing these grades, we should apply it to ourselves as well.  

With that in mind, I’d like to turn to some of the key findings that we’ve seen from some of the standards.  Now, since there is a lot to cover, I’m not going to go through each one step by step.  You’re certainly free to ask questions on any of them.  I just wanted to give a sense of some of the highlights.  On nuclear testing, unfortunately we did have a North Korean test last year.  But thankfully I don’t think we’re going to see a new round of testing in response.  

In fact, in the last 12 years, the only country to have tested a nuclear device has been North Korea and all of the countries with the capability to do so have pledged in one form or another not to.  We see from the grades that they’re fairly high across the board, which suggests that adherence to the standard remains quite strong.  

But there are still key risks.  India and Pakistan have declared testing moratoria but aren’t willing to take the important step of signing the CTBT and India has been resisting calls to provide stronger assurances that it would not test as part of nuclear cooperation negotiations, including most recently with Japan.  I would say that the “D-plus” that India and Pakistan receive are perhaps more serious than North Korea’s “F” because, as we’ve seen, there is a bit of an expectation that North Korea has consistently violated nonproliferation obligations.  

However, renewed testing by either India or Pakistan might have broader reverberations on efforts to ban nuclear testing in general.  Turning to efforts to end fissile material, what we have is a standard in search of a treaty in that there have been longstanding international calls to negotiate a fissile material treaty and the U.N. secretary-general hosted a high level meeting just last month to try and kick start that process but Pakistan primarily is holding it up.  So what we’re measuring is not only whether or not countries have stopped producing but also whether or not they’re working towards an FMCT.  

The real issue separating the grades, though, is continued production.  We see a stark difference between the five nuclear weapons states and the three other nuclear powers, two of which are producing more material and the last of which, Israel, which continues to operate its plutonium producing reactor.  On nuclear force reductions, the situation overall is fairly poor according to the standards that we have.  Now, much of that is due to the fact that China, India and Pakistan are still increasing their arsenals and North Korea has certainly gone in that direction since negotiations in the six-party talks fell apart last year.  

But another reason is that where reductions are being carried out, they aren’t being verified, they aren’t being done irreversibly, meaning weapons are being destroyed, or both.  The principles of transparency and irreversibility have been recognized as principles that should apply to nuclear arms reductions.  

In one bit of good news, we have the new START agreement this year which not only carries out further reductions between the United States and Russia but also includes verification.  We did not give the United States and Russia full credit because, as Daryl mentioned, they still have to go through their ratification process and of course I should mention that as the two countries with the largest arsenals, they should be expected to lead the way in arms reductions.  

Now, if you look at the nuclear weapons state that is leading the way in terms of having the smallest arsenal, the U.K., it gets a ‘D-plus’, which may seem a little bit out of place. But since we’re looking at ongoing reductions and not arsenal levels, the fact that the latest U.K. reductions took place – or were completed a few years ago meant that it wasn’t credited for those reductions in this report.  However, since we concluded the report, the U.K. has carried out its strategic defense review and announced that it intends to pursue additional arms reductions and so the picture will likely change in the near future.  

Moving on to export controls, I think the fact that this can be called a standard at all is a positive thing.  This is really just a recent development.  It’s only been in the past few years that there has been an international expectation that all states will implement controls to prevent the spread of sensitive nuclear and missile technologies.  Much of this has been led by the Security Council, including efforts to address Iran and North Korea.  But the main challenge, though, is still implementation and as we show in the report, certain critical countries such as China and Russia are believed to remain key sources of technology for proliferators because they don’t have stringent enough enforcement in place. Of course we also have countries like Iran and North Korea that actively try and get around those controls.  

Similar to export controls, you have more attention paid recently to efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism and the illicit trafficking in nuclear material.  The profile of those efforts was raised just this year with the nuclear security summit.  In fact, this is one of the few areas that none of the states receives an “F”, which essentially, according to our standards, would mean that a state has transferred nuclear material to non-state actors or to other states.  

Now, this is also an area where a few grades may also seem a little bit out of place, particularly for the United States, which has initiated a number of efforts in regard to nuclear security, including not only the nuclear security summit this year but also leading back to the ‘90s with the Nunn-Luger program. In fact, some of the measurements that we’re using for illicit trafficking and nuclear security are based on whether or not countries have agreed to join or adhere to some of the initiatives that the U.S. has led.  

But, again as Daryl mentioned, there are two key international instruments that the United States has promoted, including during the summit this year, which it has yet to join because Congress has not yet adopted the implementing legislation.  Now, the Congress has already provided consent to ratify.  So these aren’t controversial provisions and I would expect and hope that in a nonelection year next year it can finally be completed.  

Now, the second is Pakistan, which is the one country that we included an asterisk by regarding efforts to implement nuclear security or regarding nuclear security commitments.  Pakistan has been engaged in efforts to alleviate concerns regarding the security of its nuclear weapons facilities and materials by joining international and multilateral nuclear security initiatives.  These positive steps do not mean, however, that it has taken adequate measures to address the particular concerns regarding the political instability and security situation in Pakistan and we had seen some events last year, including attack on the Pakistani army headquarters that still give some reasons for concern.  

To conclude, given what we’ve seen over the past 18 months and even before then, I wouldn’t think that many of these grades are too surprising and I think that they do help to give a fairly decent snapshot of where things are in the disarmament and nonproliferation regime and delve a little bit into what needs to be done and by whom.  But I’d echo a point that Daryl made.  Even though we’re just looking at these 11 states as some of the states that are most critical for making progress in the regime, all countries have their roles to play and have important steps to take as well and in one of the chapters that we include at the end of the report are many of those efforts for states beyond the ones that we’re looking at.  With that, we appreciate George joining us to comment.

GEORGE PERKOVICH:  I’m going to stand here only just because I couldn’t see those guys, so I hope – I want to commend Peter in particular for this project and ACA for doing it.  It’s not as easy as you – it’s not easy being a teacher.  Okay, we kind of know that because we’ve all had teachers.  But anybody trying to do this, it’s actually really not so easy and I think the way that they went about it makes a lot of sense in terms of taking what are already agreed and internationally recognized commitments and then defining how you would get a grade on each of those.  

So I commend the effort and I hope that it will stimulate discussion.  Obviously that was the intention, is to stimulate further discussion, perhaps international consideration amongst the relatively few people in the world who pay attention to these things, about, well, was this grade deserved or what do grades mean.  So that’s a useful purpose.

I only have a couple of comments.  One is that there is another obligation and it’d just be interesting to hear Peter on why you guys didn’t include it.  It comes out of the 13 steps that were agreed in 2000.  But I think it was to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy and so forth.  I think that one’s harder to quantify, so I can imagine that you considered it and didn’t do it because it’s very hard to set up what an “A” would be, what a “B” would be, et cetera.  

But I do think it’s very important for a variety of reasons but in particular because of the point that you alluded to in the last page of the report where you talk about other countries and in a sense that gets to a second point, which again you guys recognize, and you just did in your concluding remark, Peter, which is—if part of the point of this exercise is to perhaps stimulate all of the relevant states and actors to improve their grades, then one of the questions is how states that weren’t graded but are key actors, as you guys recognized at the end, how they will react to all this.  

So I think the issue of the role of nuclear weapons is one that the other states feed off a lot.  So it’s not a critique of the report card but it’s just kind of saying as we interpret or go forward, the thinking about how to use it, that issue would be there.  Second of the three points I would make is, again, I think you guys did a great job in explaining why you focus on the 11 states that you did and there are kind of objective reasons for having done that.  

Then as you acknowledge, the future of the nuclear order, especially the nonproliferation regime, is going to be determined by a bunch of states that aren’t graded and aren’t on the list and you list them in the back and I think do a nice job encapsulating some of the things they did.  I would highlight Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Turkey.  There are others.  

So my question, again, and this isn’t about the report card but it’s what happens after the report card or the further kind of consideration is how would those states grade the states you all graded because, again, they’re key actors in the international discourse.  But also, if you guys were going to grade them, you’d have to use different criteria in many ways but kind of a sense of have they been contributing even though they’re not nuclear arms states.  

In many ways they’re good students or however the metaphor would work.  But what are their obligations because in many ways, as we all know, whether it’s Article 6 or any other article, all states are obligated to do that.  That’s another project or it’s a way to gauge reaction to this project.  

But as I read it, I thought, gee, I wonder how they would do this.  Then my last point is context.  I mean one of the things when one sees grades, like in the report card kind of structure, I always – I think personal experience – my father got hit for getting a “B”.  His father was a tough guy and, Georgie, what is this “B”, bam – and my son got hugged for getting a “C” because he had difficulty in school.  

So the question is what’s the expectation, whether we have it or others in the world have, what are they expecting.  I think where the report card metaphor also works more clearly is you’re always looking for trajectory.  Is there improvement and what you really don’t want, whether it’s an “A” student or a “C” student, is a downward trajectory.  They’re doing bad.  You go, oh, there’s trouble.  

But so then the question is, and again this is kind of going forward and building on this, the question is what do people do if their trajectory is downward or if you conclude and the world concludes “C” is about as good as we’re going to get, given the states that are out there, and then at some point – this is extending the metaphor too far I’m sure – at some point you say, well, maybe Johnny’s not cracked up to be a student and he ought to drop out of school and go do something else.  So where do you go, and I mean this seriously, where does the world go if we’re just getting “C”s because the average grade was a “C” if you take it all together, of these states.

MR. KIMBALL:  Or if there are dropouts.

MR. PERKOVICH:  And if there are dropouts, then the average must get lower.  So where does everybody go?  What do people decide to do?  I don’t have remotely the answer to that question and that’s part of why, again, I would go ask other states how they would do the grading.  But is “C” enough to keep you in school or does it suggest something else and if so what’s the equivalent of driving a lorry or trade school or whatever that you then do to still try to have a productive life.  Again, that’s not part of the report card but you can tell I was stimulated in meaning to think of kind of ways that you can kind of riff off this and think about its implication.  So I applaud the effort and thanks for having me.

MR. KIMBALL:  Thank you, George.  Well, perhaps what we might do is Peter, if you want to kind of address a couple of George’s points and then we can turn it over to the audience for questions that you might have in any aspect of the presentations of the report.  But why don’t you briefly take your pick on some of the several points that George raised, particularly the one on the reduced role of nuclear weapons, which we did discuss.

MR. CRAIL:  Yeah, thanks again, George.  I guess I would just start with talking a bit about the last point that you mentioned in terms of what the expectations are and in terms of the trajectory.  As Daryl had mentioned in the beginning, I think that one of the things that we hope to do with this is to do it on a recurring basis and I think that one of the – part of the value of it will essentially be seeing where the changes occur and in what direction are the changes and in what particular standards.  

So I think over time, while this was certainly difficult to put together in the first case initially, I think the value increases over time as we see where states are going in each of these areas and I think that’s part of the point of creating a report card is that it’s an easy way to measure that.  We can all explain the events over, say, a five to 10-year period and what states have done what.  But in order to try and come up with some kind of consistent measure to see the – just to find what the trajectory is, I think was an important component of it.

In terms of expectations, I would say that some of the standards I think were – the expectations were higher than others.  I think for some, like banning nuclear testing, you have a clear expectation that states are going to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.  For some others, like negative security assurances, providing assurances to non-nuclear weapon states that countries with nuclear weapons wouldn’t use weapons against them, to get an “A”, essentially we have – states have to provide legally binding assurances and I think that that’s a prospect that isn’t something that we’re likely to see soon.  So that’s one area where the standard is fairly strong.  

So across the standards, the different grades may mean different things.  Now, on the point of reducing the role of nuclear weapons, yeah, we certainly did consider that.  In fact, for a lot of these categories, basically we settled on 10 but these could be expanded out to any number.  What we tried to do was not only to highlight specific key standards but also look at some that are – that might encompass other standards more broadly.  So in terms of reducing the role of nuclear weapons, since that’s something that’s difficult to really measure and quantify, but some of these standards like reducing alert levels, security assurances and things like that, the level of commitments that states show demonstrate what the role of nuclear weapons are for that country.

MR. KIMBALL:  Just one other brief point to address some of your very good observations, George, one of the other things that we were really trying to do here is we were trying to establish a baseline of measurements on some things upon which there is relatively little argument in the international community.  It is difficult to quantify, as Peter just said, whether a country is reducing roles.  We also chose not to try to measure, for instance, leadership efforts.  How do you measure leadership efforts?  The Obama administration, for instance, has devoted a lot of attention to this subject in the last 18 months and yet it’s virtually impossible to measure that in any straightforward objective fashion.

Arguments can be made back and forth about it wasn’t enough, it was the wrong kind of leadership, et cetera.  So we’re trying to measure results and create a baseline and there are all of these intangibles that you do rightly point out that have to be taken into consideration when one is looking at what is needed to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons.  Then one other final note on the methodology that I think is important to just keep in mind is we did not attempt to try to rank these 10 standards, sets of standards and commitments.  

One could do that.  Everyone has their view.  Every country has their own particular perspective on is it more important that there are nuclear weapons reductions, is it more or less important that there is effective efforts to end nuclear trafficking, et cetera.  We have not tried to rank those.  But there is an averaging when we come out with the cumulative grade that is just the collection of all of these as if they were all equal in weight for the international security system.  

So with that, let’s turn to your questions, comments, observations about this study and its implications.  If you could just – Matt, if you could bring the microphone to the person and if you could identify yourself before you – thank you.

Q:  Thank you very much.  I’m Vladimir Karamozov with RTV Television.  I’d just like to ask you to comment on three countries with three different grades:  Russia, “B-minus,” Israel, “C-minus”, and Iran, “D”.  If you could just quickly on those three in particular?  Thank you.

MR. CRAIL:  Certainly.  Starting with Iran, I think that particularly looking at the timeframe of this report, we saw a number of – there’s been increasing concern regarding efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program.  Just last year, you had revelations regarding a secret facility, an enrichment facility being built at Qom.  You have increasing difficulties by the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate Iran’s nuclear program and most recently you have another U.N. Security Council resolution.  

Now, I think that one of the – one of the more interesting things with Iran is that given all of the concerns that we have, you’ll see that its best grade was actually for banning nuclear testing.  Iran actually has signed the CTBT and while there are some concerns about some studies that the Iranians may have carried out, which could potentially suggest that they were considering or are considering a nuclear test, Iran has tried to make good on its claim that it is following the nuclear nonproliferation regime and therefore it has been willing to make some efforts to join certain international commitments.  So I think that’s one thing I’d like to point out.  

In regard to Israel, while it, like all of the states that haven’t signed the NPT, has tried to present itself as a responsible power, and has tried to take steps to address its nuclear programs responsibly, it suffered most from a lack of transparency regarding its nuclear program.  

So in efforts like ending fissile material, Israel hasn’t made any commitment or even really much comment on its efforts to end fissile material for nuclear weapons.  It has also wavered a bit in its support for concluding an FMCT.  But it’s not believed to be producing plutonium.  It’s not believed to be producing materials for weapons.  But because it doesn’t provide the additional assurance, its grade still suffers for that.  Similarly with reducing nuclear weapons alert levels, its weapons are believed not to be mated with its delivery systems but because of its policy of opacity, that’s not an assurance that it’s provided the international community. So even where Israel might be acting responsibly, the benefits of that responsibility are not seen by the outside world in the form of clear assurances, so how can we credit it with doing so.

In regard to Russia, of course some of the highest grades are in regard to nuclear testing, in regard to basically agreeing to many of the – agreeing and ratifying many of the nuclear nonproliferation agreements that are standards for the international community.  In terms of issues of particular concern, I would note the issue of reducing nuclear weapons alert levels it shares with the United States, the fact that both countries still maintain weapons on fairly high alert status.  

In addition, another issue that I’d point out would be on – as I mentioned, on export controls.  There are still concerns that technology is coming out of Russia to states of concern and that it isn’t necessarily because of policies by the Russian government but because of a lack of the capability or will to really enforce the laws on the books to make sure that this technology doesn’t spread.

MR. KIMBALL:  So let me just note that in the packet there is on the right side a short summary of some of the country-by-country highlights which is just kind of a distillation of what’s in each of the chapters in the report itself.  George, did you have any thoughts about those?  

MR. PERKOVITCH:  (Off mike.)

MR. KIMBALL:  Okay.  Yes, please?

Q:  Hi, I’m Lauren McGauhy from the Asahi Shimbun.  It’s a Japanese newspaper.  Specifically on the DPRK, which I guess is kind of the kid in class that’s gotten held back a couple of times, they had a couple of “D”s.  So not all of it was “F”s.  Which of those do you think they could or would improve, maybe is most likely to be improved in the near future or the middle term?

MR. KIMBALL:  Let me just respond quickly and then Peter maybe you can explain what the “D-plusses” are about.  I mean, the place in which North Korea could clearly improve its record is to return to implementation of some of the basic obligations of the six-party agreement, beginning with ending the production – further production of fissile material for weapons and resuming the process of trying to bring either U.S. or international inspectors back to their nuclear facilities to verify that they are implementing the obligations in the six-party arrangement.  Currently they are not.  That would be the most important, the most meaningful.  But Peter, if you could just explain the “D”s on North Korea?

MR. CRAIL:  Right.  Well, there were three “D”s for North Korea for reducing nuclear weapons alert levels, and that’s essentially because North Korea hasn’t said anything about what its nuclear posture may be other than a lot of very scary statements that it likes to issue from time to time.  The two that I think are perhaps the most interesting and the areas where North Korea might be able to do something are on nuclear security and illicit trafficking.  

First of all it’s important that those don’t go further, that those don’t become “F”s because those are fairly clear red lines which if North Korea were to cross I think we would be really faced with a very dire situation and perhaps dire choices to make.  When the negotiations with North Korea were ongoing, the North Koreans actually had expressed some interest in cooperative threat reduction programs, essentially some sort of effort to say if it were to scrap its nuclear program or at least certain facilities, what would happen with the nuclear scientists, what would happen with some of the work that it had been doing.  

If the talks were to start again and were to make progress and certain key North Korean facilities were to actually be scrapped, even if that didn’t get us all of the way to dealing with the North Korean situation, if certain interim steps were done to address North Korean nuclear materials and nuclear scientists, I think that’s an area where things could improve.

MR. KIMBALL:  One final note on North Korea as it relates to some of the countries not specifically addressed in this report, I mean we’ve all mentioned the importance of other states providing leadership in strengthening, supporting, implementing the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament system.  North Korea is a country that – to use the academic analogy a little bit here and my wife warned me against doing this but I’m going to do it anyway – a no-child-left-behind policy is very important with respect to the nonproliferation system.  We can’t have countries dropping out.  

Really, it’s not something that can happen because the country is still going to be in the international system.  It is not just the responsibility of that individual country to fulfill its obligations but it is the responsibility of other countries throughout the world and particularly in its region to take actions that help move that country to a place where it is complying with its obligations regarding nuclear weapons.  

So in that regard, the six parties – or the five parties other than North Korea – in the six-party process have a huge role to play and while the United States has been the leading partner, countries like Japan and South Korea as well as China and Russia have a huge role to play in not simply watching a situation deteriorate but to take proactive steps to restore some order to what currently is a very worrisome situation.  

Other questions that we have here?  Yes, why don’t we start in the back and we’ll – I’m sorry Alexis.  Thank you.

Q:  Thank you.  My name is Sam Kim Sun from Voice of America.  I have a follow-up question on North Korea.  It’s not in the report but I want to ask your analysis on current development related to North Korea.  First, North Korea is in the transition period of leadership change.  So do you think that the risk of this worse scenario is higher in this situation?  My second question is there is some movement in Yongbyon which is captured by satellite, new construction, and also there are some reports that North Korea might be preparing the third nuclear test.  So I just want to ask your analysis on this current, recent movement.  Thank you.

MR. KIMBALL:  Peter, do you want to –

MR. CRAIL:  Yeah, I can address this quickly.  In terms of how the succession process is playing out with North Korea’s nuclear program, I think we don’t know.  So I think it’s difficult to say whether or not things will improve in any of these areas as the succession process takes place.  But I think that what we can basically expect is that things will essentially remain the same.  A lot of the key players now are still going to be the key players.  

In terms of some of the recent news about movement at Yongbyon, clearly they’re doing something at the site of the reactor.  But it’s not clear what exactly they’re doing.  It doesn’t look exactly like they’re rebuilding the cooling tower that they destroyed last year but again, it’s still not clear.  Hopefully we’ll know in the coming months.  In terms of reports of a nuclear test, I think we hear reports about a possible nuclear test intermittently.  So I’m not sure that there’s enough to really make anything of it at this point.

MR. KIMBALL:  I think all of those signs and signals at the reactor site is just another reminder that this is a situation that needs to be addressed proactively by the North Koreans and by the other parties.  We don’t want to see – we can’t afford to see another regression in some of these areas.  Why don’t we come over here?

Q:  Hi, Alexis Morell from the French Embassy.  I had a question and a comment.  My question is related to a criteria you alluded to but apparently that you didn’t retain as to grade the countries and this is transparency, which is a very important step on the road to disarmament and again, this question is not meant to improve the grade of my country.  But this is an area in which we think that there is a huge progress to be done and huge discrepancies including among nuclear weapon states.  

Then my comment was to emphasize George’s point on expectations.  I think it’s critical to measure not only the progress of a country but the general situation and to take into account the expectation in this regard and I feel very comfortable to comment about it because it’s not relating to my country, but to me, the “D” for the U.K. doesn’t make sense compared – I mean, if you take the size of the British arsenal, I don’t think that our expectation – giving a “D” to the U.K. gives the impression that you have a strong expectation towards U.K. reduction, U.K. arsenal reduction, whereas we all know which countries we would like to reduce their arsenal in priority.  So this is just to echo the comment about the necessity to take a good measure of expectation.  Thank you.

MR. KIMBALL:  All right, well thank you.  Those are good observations.  I mean, let me first mention that the report does take into account, to the best we can, the importance of transparency and we do note, and I’m not just saying this because you asked the question, but France has taken some steps with respect to transparency that other countries have not and is a good example that go beyond the existing expectations for nuclear armed states – the closure of its weapons material processing facilities and allowing the IAEA to verify that, also the closure of the nuclear test sites in the South Pacific, a step that goes beyond and that is a step in the direction of greater transparency.  

But one of the things that we struggled with is clearly from an analytical standpoint and a nonproliferation advocate’s standpoint, it is useful – it would be useful for all nuclear armed countries to declare how many nuclear weapons they have and yet one of the things that we could not do is to say that that is an expectation that has been established by the international system for all countries.  It just doesn’t exist.  It is not a norm that has yet been established or that we can identify.  

So for instance, at the nuclear nonproliferation treaty review conference last May, the United States made a declaration that it has 5,113 nuclear weapons in active service.  That’s a good useful step and yet that goes beyond any step that the international community has demanded or asked of the nuclear weapons states.  So for that reason, that’s not in the report and perhaps in a future edition we need to kind of take note of some of these things that are not on the official list of expectations and standards.  

Finally, with respect to the U.K., I mean we have acknowledged in various places in the report the estimates of the numbers of nuclear weapons that various countries have.  But we have very deliberately tried to put together a report that is a snapshot of progress towards the goal and the goal is reducing nuclear weapons.  Perhaps we could have added an eleventh category that is simply a grading scale of the total number of nuclear weapons in which “A” is zero.  

But that would have been pretty obvious and it doesn’t take the Arms Control Association to figure that out really.  So what we have tried to do is we have tried to take a snapshot of progress because it is progress that the international community has established as the expectation and the norm and the United States and Russia are the ones, though they have the largest arsenals, about 90 percent of the world’s arsenals, that are actively reducing.  So that’s why we have organized the grades in that way.  When we do this report in 2012 or so, hopefully the U.K. will have implemented its reductions and it will move up to the “B” category.  Any other questions, comments?  Yes, sir?

Q:  Hi.  I’m Gabe Joselaw from Voice of America.  I’m wondering about Pakistan and the decision-making that went behind giving it an asterisk next to its security commitments.  Obviously you note the political situation is a serious concern there.  So why separate it that way?  Why acknowledge it without including it in the grade?  Secondly, they got an “F” in weapons-related export controls and yet this “A” in security commitments.  Those seem to be at odds to me.  If they’re maintaining this illicit procurement network, how can they be effectively securing nuclear material?

MR. KIMBALL:  Peter, why don’t you – I think you’re best able to take those on.

MR. CRAIL:  Yeah.  In terms of your last question, the security commitments and the export controls are two different things.  Essentially for the export controls, that’s a measure of whether or not states are violating controls abroad or illegally importing things for their programs or are illegally exporting things to other countries.  The “F” essentially reflects the assessments that Pakistan continues to rely on illicit procurement networks in order to acquire materials for its nuclear program.  

For nuclear security commitments, one of the things that we wanted to cite for both nuclear security and illicit trafficking was to – we made sure to include the word commitments because we’re not necessarily measuring how far states are implementing different types of controls to secure nuclear material or prevent it from getting abroad.  It’s a measure of what kind of initiatives have they joined for that purpose.  

So that’s essentially where Pakistan’s “A” comes from for nuclear security commitments is that as part of its efforts to provide assurance that, look, all of our assets are safe, nothing is going to get to the terrorists or anything like that, they’ve joined a number of U.S.-led efforts, a number of international agreements and things like that, which have the expectation that if implemented, they’ll do the job.  They’ll prevent nuclear material from getting where it – from spreading.  

Particularly since we had really started putting this report together after last year there were a lot of events in Pakistan that had given rise to increasing concerns about its abilities to secure its program, to secure its facilities and material, we felt that while according to our standards it had met – it basically had met he standards for the commitments that it had made , whether or not it had addressed its sufficient situation adequately was something that we felt was reason enough to highlight this special case.

MR. KIMBALL:  Yeah, one example here on the nuclear security category where – I mean, the international standards for behavior expected of responsible states is probably not sufficient to deal with the problem and this is a relatively new standard, if you will.  So as Peter said, the asterisk was put there to make it clear that we’re not somehow measuring with our Arms Control Association inspectors in Pakistan whether Pakistan is actually executing these commitments or not.  So I mean that’s – this is just one of many examples of some of the tricky methodological issues here and there are ways in which I think reasonable people could disagree with how we went about this but what we have tried to do is to show our work so that you can see how we arrived at these results.  Any other questions?  Yes, we’ve got a couple more.

Q:  My name is Pieter Etravan (ph), ITAR-TASS News Agency and my question is if the new START treaty is ratified by the legislature in Russia and in the U.S., will these countries move up into a high category?

MR. KIMBALL:  They would move up slightly with ratification, according to our scale, I think, Peter, right?  That’s how we –

MR. CRAIL:  (Off mike.)

MR. KIMBALL:  I think it also would depend in the 2011-2012 period on whether the two countries indicate further movement or progress in reducing beyond what the new START agreement calls for and the United States at least has expressed an interest in pursuing further discussions with Russia following the ratification, implementation of new START on all types of nuclear weapons, strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and non-deployed.  

That certainly would be a qualitative improvement in the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction process which has to this point been focused on strategic nuclear weapons and primarily deployed strategic nuclear weapons.  We have a couple more questions here.  Why don’t we go with Martin and then we’ll come back to you?

Q:  Martin Matishak with Global Security Newswire.  I’m just curious about reaction to this report card.  Have you shared it with the folks in the administration or in Congress or with representatives from countries that you have named in it and so far to date what has their reaction been?

MR. KIMBALL:  We have shared the report with a number of people in the U.S. government, the executive branch.  This still has to make its way to the Congress.  It’s on its way to other government representatives and it would be interesting to see what their views are upon seeing the grades in all these different categories.

Q:  Michelle Nelbondi (ph) from NTI.  You mentioned that you decided not to rank or weigh each standard.  What was the reasoning behind that?

MR. KIMBALL:  Let’s see.  I’m just trying to think back here months, Peter.  I think the main reason why we didn’t do this, and feel free to add or correct, is that there simply is no objective way to rank these 10 major categories.  What we were trying to do, as I said at the very beginning of this session, is to describe in a straightforward fashion what are the standards, what is the mainstream, what are the expectations of responsible states without making a judgment about which of these is more or less important.  

The fact is all states are responsible in one way or another, to perhaps a lesser or greater degree or another, to help support and implement all of these standards and commitments.  If you’re in one corner of the world, you might consider one of these or two of these more important than others.  If you’re in another corner of the world, you might see it a little bit differently.  

So we chose not to apply our opinion, our perspective to this issue by somehow ranking these 10 in order of importance.  I mean, this is meant to be a tool for people to see how well states are making progress in each of these categories and perhaps someone else can come up with some interesting ranking system.

MR. CRAIL:  I would just add to that, that’s the substantive reason that we didn’t decide to weight the different standards and essentially the thing that put it over the top to make the decision for us.  The other answer is that we felt it was complicated enough at this point.  We tried to strike a balance between something that was fairly rigorous and something that would be fairly accessible.  Hopefully we managed to do that.  But if we were to get into trying to weigh different things, it might not be as accessible and transparent as we hoped that it would be.

MR. KIMBALL:  All right.  Any other questions, comments?  If not – yes, sir?

Q:  I just had an out-of-the-box question.  I’m curious about the rest of the class.  These are some of the most important members of the class for the subject dealt with.  But is there any way one should get right now for all those other countries for the standards that apply to non-nuclear weapon states, like the CTBT members, members of nuclear-weapons-free zones.  If you averaged out everyone who is not on this table, would they be getting – is “C” an average or is “B” an average?  Is there any way at this point to kind of characterize all those not specifically mentioned?

MR. KIMBALL:  Well, I don’t think we could tell you what the average would be because we didn’t attempt to grade the dozens of other countries that have significant responsibilities beyond this group.  In the additional states section on page 46 of the report, we discuss some of the developments and the actions of other states in other areas that are important for the nuclear nonproliferation system.  

We talk about the importance of Indonesia’s commitment to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.  It’s one of the 44 countries that must ratify for the treaty to enter into force.  Egypt is another one of those countries.  We discuss developments related to the ongoing goal of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which is going to take the action and support of many more states outside of the ones discussed in this report.  

Likewise, other countries have made commitments and have responsibilities in connection with nuclear-weapons-free zones.  The entire Southern Hemisphere today is a nuclear-weapons-free zone.  So there are hundreds – over a hundred countries that are involved there and they do have responsibilities as members of a nuclear-weapons-free zones that you might not think about, such as the South Pacific nuclear-weapons-free zones countries have committed as part of that treaty not to sell nuclear technology to states that are not members of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.  So that means Australia is not supposed to be selling uranium to India, for sentence.  

So there are a lot of other countries that were discussed in this section, not necessarily in totally comprehensive fashion but we’ve tried to touch on some of the key developments, another one of which is the role that NATO members can play in changing NATO policy with respect to the tactical nuclear weapons – U.S. tactical nuclear weapons still deployed in Europe.  All right, thank you all very much for being here and with that we’ll conclude and there will be a transcript of this event on our website in a few days.  The full report is also available online.  Thank you for coming.

(END)

Description: 

Transcript of October 27 event at the National Press Club.  Speakers include Daryl Kimball, Peter Crail, and George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Author:

U.S. Considers New North Korea Talks

Peter Crail

The United States is in discussions with its diplomatic partners in Asia on the potential resumption of talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said last month.

They cautioned that progress is unlikely in the near future, as Pyongyang still must meet certain conditions before negotiations could resume. During visits to China, Japan, and South Korea for discussions on the possible renewal of denuclearization talks, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth told reporters Sept. 15 that “it is going to take some time” for negotiations to resume, adding that North Korea must show that it is prepared to take “specific and concrete” actions.

When asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing the following day what conditions need to be met before talks could restart, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said “an essential first step…needs to be some sort of re-engagement between North and South Korea.”

Tensions between the two countries increased dramatically in March with the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan, believed to have been caused by a North Korean torpedo attack. (See ACT, May 2010.) U.S. and South Korean officials said following the suspected attack that efforts to re-engage North Korean on the nuclear issue would need to be delayed until the incident was resolved.

Although North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, making an early resolution of the incident unlikely, the two Koreas have engaged in some efforts to improve relations in recent weeks. Bosworth said during a Sept. 16 press briefing that “there is some reason to be somewhat optimistic that [North-South re-engagement] has begun.”

North and South Korea held a series of discussions in September over the possibility of reuniting families separated since the 1950-1953 Korean War. Those talks are scheduled to continue this month.

U.S. officials have said that in addition to improving relations with Seoul, Pyongyang must show that it is prepared to make progress on denuclearization. Campbell told the Senate panel that Washington has sought “clear signals” from Pyongyang that it would be willing to fulfill its commitments made in the six-party talks in 2005.

In September 2005, North Korea reached an agreement with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States to abandon its nuclear weapons and nuclear programs in return for political and economic benefits. Pyongyang withdrew from those negotiations in April 2009 after the UN Security Council rebuked its rocket launch earlier that month.

In a Sept. 15 op-ed in The New York Times following his unofficial visit to North Korea in August, former President Jimmy Carter said that he received “clear, strong signals” from Pyongyang that it wants to restart negotiations on a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War and on denuclearization. North Korean officials “referred to the six-party talks as being ‘sentenced to death but not yet executed,’” Carter said.

Carter met with North Korea’s second-most senior official, Kim Yong Nam, among other key officials for discussions while securing the release of Aijalon Gomes, a detained U.S. citizen accused of trespassing into North Korean territory in January. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was visiting China at the time of Carter’s trip.

North Korean officials have previously said that Pyongyang would be willing to resume negotiations once sanctions are lifted. (See ACT, March 2010.) The UN Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions on North Korea. Aimed at its nuclear and missile programs, the sanctions include an arms embargo, financial restrictions, and a ban on exports of luxury goods. Bosworth told reporters Sept. 15 that the discussion of lifting sanctions is “very premature.” Washington expanded its own sanctions on North Korea in recent weeks.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Aug. 30 that expanded financial restrictions on North Korean entities believed to be involved in illicit activities, including money laundering and trafficking in arms, luxury goods, and narcotics. The same day, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned eight additional North Korean organizations and individuals for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Some former U.S. officials have cautioned against easing sanctions in return for talks with Pyongyang because North Korea is not prepared to abandon its nuclear program. Michael Green, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration, said in a Sept. 23 e-mail that direct talks with North Korea “are not worth reducing sanctions or curtailing other defensive measures since the prospects of these contacts leading to denuclearization in the near term are close to zero.”

But Joel Wit, who served as the U.S. coordinator for a 1994 bilateral denuclearization agreement with North Korea, said that there were greater risks to missing an opportunity to lower tensions and re-engage with North Korea and that Washington will need to be ready to ease some sanctions in the context of any renewed negotiations.

“The sanctions can communicate resolve and show that the temperature is rising,” he said in a Sept. 24 interview, but they “will not be effective in stopping a determined proliferator.”

 

The United States is in discussions with its diplomatic partners in Asia on the potential resumption of talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said last month.

IAEA Vote to Press Israel Falls Short

Alfred Nurja and Peter Crail

The members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 24 narrowly voted down a resolution expressing concern over Israeli nuclear capabilities and calling on the country to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The resolution, which was offered by the Arab Group, came to the floor on the last day of the week-long meeting of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna. The 51-46 vote against the resolution, with 54 abstentions or absences, marks a shift from last year, when a similar resolution passed by a vote of 49-46.

For nearly 20 years, Arab states have sponsored resolutions targeting Israel’s nuclear policy and calling on it to join the NPT. Last year’s vote was the first to succeed. The votes split primarily between Western countries and members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a bloc representing 118 developing nations.

The General Conference is the agency’s highest decision-making body, comprising all 151 IAEA members.

The United States lobbied extensively against the motion, saying that it risked undermining ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as well as prospects for a 2012 conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. In a statement welcoming the outcome of the vote, Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said that “rejection of the resolution has not created winners and losers, but instead preserved the opportunity for progress” on those two objectives.

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May, the parties to the treaty endorsed steps toward establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, including convening a conference of states in the region in 2012. Those steps are intended to advance a 1995 resolution calling for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. That resolution was key to securing Arab consensus on extending the NPT indefinitely.

Prior to the vote, the United States sought to persuade sponsors of the resolution to withdraw it for consideration this year and agree to a one-year moratorium on the issue. “Regrettably, there was no positive response to this proposal,” Davies told the conference.

The U.S. position was echoed by the European Union. In a letter sent to IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said that the resolution’s “non-consensual approach” would not help the 2012 agenda.

Speaking at a press conference in New York Sept. 24, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said he regretted the outcome of the vote and warned of a regional arms race if Israel maintained nuclear weapons. “It is inconceivable that only one country [in the region] will have nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that “the Middle East should be free of all weapons of mass destruction.”

In a statement to the IAEA conference before the vote, Israel Atomic Energy Commission Director-General Shaul Chorev accused the resolution’s sponsors of seeking to divert attention from Iran and Syria, “the real cases of dangerous proliferation and non-compliance” in the Middle East. An approach that singles out Israel “defeats the prospects for the advancement of arms control measures in the Middle East region,” he said.

Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, has tied any decision to sign the NPT to progress on a comprehensive peace agreement in the region. Arab countries say that Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal is a major hurdle to any peace negotiations. Israel’s position is not to confirm or deny having nuclear weapons. Accession to the treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state would require Israel to abandon its ambiguous nuclear policy and place all nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring.

Last year’s resolution required the IAEA director-general to report on progress in securing Israel’s accession to the NPT and in safeguarding all of its nuclear facilities. Amano’s Sept. 3 report said that Israel’s “nuclear material, facilities or other items to which safeguards had been applied remained in peaceful activities” but that the agency “is not in a position” to determine the extent of Israel’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities. In a Sept. 16 statement, the Arab League criticized the report, saying that it was “devoid of any substance and not up to the typical level of the Agency’s reporting.”

 

The members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 24 narrowly voted down a resolution expressing concern over Israeli nuclear capabilities and calling on the country to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The resolution, which was offered by the Arab Group, came to the floor on the last day of the week-long meeting of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna. The 51-46 vote against the resolution, with 54 abstentions or absences, marks a shift from last year, when a similar resolution passed by a vote of 49-46.

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