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

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Kelsey Davenport

The North Korea Summit Is Trump’s Chance to Pressure Syria About Its Weapons, Too

News Source: 
TIME
News Date: 
June 4, 2018 -04:00

Kim Jong Un’s Quest to Make North Korea Normal Again

News Source: 
Bloomberg
News Date: 
May 29, 2018 -04:00

‘Libya Model’ Upsets Summit Planning


June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport and Terry Atlas

The United States and North Korea engaged in diplomatic brinkmanship over a prospective summit meeting, after provocative remarks by top U.S. officials citing the “Libya model” for disarmament drew a strong pushback from Pyongyang.

For days, it was unclear whether the resulting decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel the historic meeting with North Korean leader King Jong Un would be a serious breakdown, raising the risk of military conflict, or a temporary setback as each side sought advantage ahead of an eventual summit.

North Korean officials watch the demolition May 24 at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where North Korea appeared to destroy at least three tunnels, observation buildings, a metal foundry and living quarters at the remote mountain site. (Photo: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)Less than 24 hours after his cancellation, and following a conciliatory public reaction from Pyongyang, Trump said that the two sides were talking, and summit planning resumed with both leaders signaling they wanted the meeting.

Asked if North Korea had been playing games, Trump said, “Everybody plays games.” And an official North Korean statement, following an emergency meeting May 26 between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said Kim had expressed his “fixed will” to meet with the U.S. president.

Trump abruptly called off the summit May 24, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” shown in North Korean statements. Just hours earlier, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui had said Kim might reconsider the June 12 summit due to “ignorant and stupid” remarks by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

It appeared that Trump wanted to look strong by aborting summit plans rather than risk being dumped, after preparations were upset following remarks from Pence and Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, both hard-liners on North Korea.

In a Fox News interview May 21, Pence warned that North Korea’s government could end like that of Moammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed during a U.S.-backed uprising in 2011, if Kim does not agree to rapid elimination of its nuclear weapons and related infrastructure. Asked if he was threatening Kim, Pence said, “I think it’s more of a fact.”

In her statement, Choe said, “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Trump, in his cancellation letter to Kim made public, said, “I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.” He thanked Kim for the “beautiful gesture” of releasing of three American prisoners and left open the possibility of meeting at a later time.

Trump also included a less-than-subtle threat: “You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Ky Gwan, responding to Trump’s announcement, said North Korea was ready to talk with the United States “at any time.” He said that North Korea’s earlier comments were “just a reaction to the unbridled remarks made by the U.S. side” and that Trump’s unexpected cancellation may be a sign that he lacked the will or confidence to attend the summit.

The cancellation appeared to catch South Korea off guard despite Moon’s White House meeting with Trump just 48 hours earlier. Moon called the cancellation “regretful and disconcerting,” and he subsequently met with Kim May 26 in an effort to get the summit back on track.

A summit has the potential to be a major diplomatic achievement for Trump, who has advocated a Nobel Peace Prize for himself. But it also holds peril given his shortcoming in dealing with the complexities of nuclear negotiations and his need to produce an agreement more demanding than the rigorous Iran nuclear deal he repudiated and abandoned.

The cancellation by Trump came just hours after North Korea, acting on one of its unilateral promises, blew up tunnels at its Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site. The government did not bring in inspectors from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to assess the extent to which the site is no longer usable.

The Trump administration stumbled in its policy coordination, with Pence and Bolton citing the provocative “Libya model” while the president himself publicly indicated flexibility for the timing of disarmament steps. Bolton told CBS on April 28 that the Trump administration is “looking at the Libya model,” which would require Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program quickly before any concessions are granted.

Libya never possessed nuclear warheads, but pursued an illicit nuclear weapons development program, which it gave up in 2003 and dismantled under the presence of inspectors. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) When that process was completed, the United States lifted sanctions in 2004.

That case, however, is freighted with symbolism for North Korea’s leadership since Gaddafi was toppled and killed seven years later by U.S.-aided rebel forces. For North Korea, the nuclear weapons program is seen as a powerful deterrent against U.S. attack, as well as an assertion of its concept of radical self-reliance known as juche.

Kim Ky Gwan said on May 16 that it is “absolutely absurd to dare compare” North Korea with Libya. The U.S. remarks are an “awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” he said.

If Washington insists on forcing “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” Pyongyang will no longer be interested in dialogue, he said.

Trump muddied the waters about the U.S. approach to negotiations the following day, when he downplayed the Libya model. His comments, however, made clear he did not understand that Bolton was referring to the 2003 nuclear dismantlement agreement.

Trump said that, “in Libya, we decimated that country,” likely referring to the NATO intervention in 2011 and the death of Gaddafi. He said that if an agreement is reached, Kim will remain in North Korea “running that country.” But Trump warned that North Korea would face the same fate as Libya “if we don’t make a deal.” North Korea did not respond publicly Trump’s comments, instead focusing on Pence and Bolton.

During the surprise U.S.-North Korean diplomacy this year, one challenge has been the differing interpretations of “denuclearization,” which the United States regards as the complete, verifiable elimination of North Korea’s entire nuclear weapons infrastructure. For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan. (See ACT, May 2016.)

A comprehensive agreement that addresses North Korea’s entire program in one step may sound appealing, in that it would address the legitimate concern that Pyongyang is just buying time and is not serious about denuclearization. Yet, the size of North Korea’s nuclear program and the role its warheads play in the state’s security make the approach less feasible.

Unlike Libya, North Korea possesses a stockpile of weapons-usable material, 10 to 20 nuclear warheads, plutonium- and uranium-production facilities, a nuclear testing site, and a variety of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against targets in the region and in the United States. North Korea also has a history of cheating on its nuclear declarations to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even in the Libya case, when Tripoli was cooperating with dismantlement efforts, some materials were missed during the dismantlement process.

Beyond North Korea’s explicit rejection of an approach that requires “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterward,” Pyongyang’s characterizes its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. policy. Putting that deterrent on the table ahead of U.S. action to reduce the “hostile policy” toward North Korea is highly unlikely.

An alternative to the Libya model is a step-by-step approach with reciprocal actions. Under this approach, the United States and North Korea would agree on overarching goals at the onset, then pursue a phased action-for-action strategy that exchanges steps toward dismantlement for security assurances and economic relief.

North Korea appears to favor that model. In his May 25 statement, Kim Ky Gwan said “the first meeting will not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way” would improve the relationship.

 

Why U.S. talk of the “Libya model” drew a strong pushback from North Korea.

EU Moves to Block U.S. Iran Sanctions


June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on that country is spurring Europe to block U.S. measures and shore up support to sustain the agreement.

By pulling out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, Trump delivered on a campaign promise to “tear up” the deal with Iran, which he has frequently disparaged as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” In doing so, he rebuffed personal last-minute appeals by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their visits to the White House in late April.

President Donald Trump leaves the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House May 8 after announcing his decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Trump said on May 8 that if he “allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Trump said the process he initiated in January to work with European partners to “fix” the accord is not possible under the “decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” despite U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling allies days before the announcement that he felt an agreement could be reached to address U.S. concerns. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Following up the president’s action, Pompeo in a May 21 speech outlined a broad list of demands on Iran and said the United States will impose the “strongest sanctions in history” to force Iran to end certain nuclear activities and missile programs, aid to the Syrian regime and support for militant groups in the region. The set of demands, stopping just short of an explicit call for regime change, sets the stage for further U.S. tensions with European allies and the Islamic Republic.

Even before Pompeo’s policy speech, Trump’s announcement earned sharp rebukes from Washington’s partners in the agreement, as well as the European Union, and commitments by those nations to continue implementing the accord. The extent to which that is possible is unclear, given that major foreign companies face being cut off from the U.S. banking system and other punishment if they do not adhere to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

European Council President Donald Tusk was particularly direct in his criticism, tweeting on May 16 that “[l]ooking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Iran’s commitment to continue abiding by the agreement, so long as Iran’s national interests are met, and said he was pleased that “the troublesome member has been eliminated” from the deal.

But Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he wants to see “definite reassurance” and “practical guarantees” that Iran will receive the sanctions relief envisioned under the deal.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said that guarantees are not possible but that the EU is determined to “act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments.” She met on May 15 with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK to discuss moving forward without the United States.

How Might Iran Expand Its Nuclear Capacity?

In deciding to violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump has put at risk the extensive measures the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) imposed to block Iran from building nuclear weapons.

How long would it take if Tehran’s leaders now decide to race for the bomb? One accomplishment of the nuclear deal is that it imposed hurdles intended to ensure that Iran could not do it in less than a year. Further, for now, Iran would not be able to attempt it without being detected, thanks to the robust international inspection and monitoring required by the nuclear accord.

That timeline and the inspection tripwires could, however, become less reliable depending on Iran’s actions following the unilateral U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions.

Iranian leaders have raised the possibility of abandoning some or all of the tough nuclear restrictions they accepted in 2015 in return for the lifting of nuclear-related international sanctions. Iran could take steps, such as scaling up its nuclear program or reducing cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, that would violate its JCPOA commitments.

“If necessary, we can begin our industrial [uranium] enrichment without any limitations,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8. “We will wait for some weeks and will talk with our friends and allies and other signatories of the nuclear deal, who signed it and who will remain loyal to it. Everything depends on our national interests.”

Iran currently has 5,060 installed IR-1 centrifuge machines and a relatively small inventory of low-enriched uranium of less than 300 kilograms. Iran could quickly begin enriching the material to 20 percent uranium-235, although it would still take at least 12 months to amass enough uranium enriched further to bomb grade for one nuclear device.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on April 21 that if the decision were made, it would take just four days to resume enrichment to 20 percent U-235. Enrichment to that level is short of the enrichment level of 90 percent necessary for weapons use, but it would reduce the time needed to produce bomb-grade material. The nuclear deal limits enrichment to levels below 3.67 percent U-235, suitable for fueling nuclear power reactors.

Iran also could reorient the Fordow underground enrichment complex, which became a physics and technology research center under the deal, and use some 1,000 IR-1 machines there. Iran’s centrifuge-based nuclear infrastructure could be further augmented with the redeployment of some 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges, which were put into monitored storage under the JCPOA. Because these are two to three times more efficient than the IR-1s, their use, along with the IR-1 machines at Iran’s disposal, would reduce the time necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb to two to three months.

With the existing IAEA monitoring system in place, all of these steps would be promptly detected. But within months of a decision to exceed the JCPOA limits, Iran could have a vastly shorter “breakout” timeline.

Breakout calculations must take into account the fact that, before 2004, Iran engaged in an organized program of experiments useful for the development and design of nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA report that program is no longer underway, although it is prudent to assume that Iran has the know-how to assemble a nuclear device.

At present, Iranian engineers and scientists, building on past know-how, would likely need at least a year to assemble a workable nuclear device and mate it to a reliable ballistic missile delivery system.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Subsequently, at a May 17 meeting of the European Commission, the body agreed to take steps in response to Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, including revising a blocking statute used by the EU in the 1990s to protect entities from U.S. sanctions on Cuba. The blocking regulation “forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them,” according to a May 17 press release.

The EU is aiming to have the measure in force by Aug. 6, the day some U.S. sanctions go into effect. Although the United States has reimposed sanctions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on May 8 that entities would be given 90 or 180 days to wind down activities in Iran before sanctions would be enforced.

For large, multinational companies with a significant presence in the United States, the blocking regulation is unlikely to provide enough assurance for them to remain in the Iranian market. Several announced that they are winding down business in Iran and exiting contracts.

The regulation sends a strong political signal, however, and may provide cover for smaller businesses with less of a presence in the United States to continue doing business in Iran. The EU also launched a process whereby the European Investment Bank will be able to support investment activities in Iran.

EU measures to blunt the impact of sanctions call into question Trump’s plan to pressure Iran back to negotiations. Brian Hook, State Department director for policy planning, in a May 18 press conference described the goal of sanctions reimposition as creating “necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework” that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile development and its support for terrorism, as well as its nuclear program.

In the lead up to the 2015 nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU sanctions and EU compliance with U.S. sanctions were a critical part of the pressure campaign that pushed Iran to negotiate. With the EU and China, Russia, and other states retaining business ties with Iran, it is unlikely that the United States will be able to press Iran into new negotiations.

Trump Draws International Criticism for Quitting Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal drew unusually strong criticism from U.S. allies and from partners in the negotiations. Some of those reactions:

“France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision…. The nuclear nonproliferation regime is at stake.”—French President Emmanuel Macron

“Imagine all the mutually contaminating civil wars and internecine conflicts that rage across the Middle East today. Then turn the dial, and add the possibility of a regional nuclear arms race triggered by Iran dashing for a bomb. That is the scenario which the agreement has helped to prevent.”—UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson

Newspapers in Tehran on May 9 headline the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. (Photo:  Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)“The [deal], agreed to with Iran in 2015 and endorsed by the UN Security Council, is not perfect. It has, however, helped to curb a real threat to international peace and security. Canada regrets that the United States has decided to withdraw…particularly given that, according to the [International Atomic Energy Agency], Iran continues to implement its…commitments.”
—Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

“I believe that it’s not right to unilaterally cancel an accord that was negotiated, that was confirmed in the UN Security Council unanimously.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“The action plan does not belong to the United States alone but is a domain of the entire international community, which has repeatedly reaffirmed its interest in the preservation and long-term sustainable implementation of the [Iran deal] for the sake of strengthening international and regional peace and security as well as the nuclear nonproliferation regime.... Russia is open to further cooperation with the other…participants and will continue to actively develop bilateral collaboration and political dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
—Russian Foreign Ministry statement

“The agreement is not perfect, and we must continue to address concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the region…. The U.S. decision is a step backwards. The Netherlands will work with our partners to find a solution that safeguards our own security and that of the entire European Union.”—Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok

“Australia is disappointed.”—Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Iran has left open the option to resume troublesome nuclear activities in response to the U.S. violation and withdrawal from the deal. In a move likely meant to signal that Iran will leave the JCPOA if the remaining parties to the agreement cannot deliver on sanctions relief, Rouhani ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to be “fully prepared for subsequent measures if needed, so in the case of need, we will start up our industrial enrichment without limitations.”

Other Iranian officials, including AEOI head Ali Akhbar Salehi, have specifically said Iran would resume enriching uranium to 20 percent uranium-235, a level that would put Tehran closer to the 90 percent U-235 required for use in nuclear weapons.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent U-235, a level suitable for nuclear power reactors, using no more than 5,060 installed centrifuges. The accord also limits Iran to a stockpile to 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level, a measure to hinder any nuclear-bomb effort.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed on May 8 that Iran is meeting its commitments under the accord, and the agency’s May 24 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities further confirmed that Tehran had not taken any steps to violate the deal after Trump withdrew.

 

Close U.S. allies push back after Trump rejects personal appeals not to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, May 30, 2018

Joint Commission Discusses U.S. Withdrawal Representatives from the P4+1 and Iran met in Vienna May 25 to discuss the implementation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions and withdrew from the agreement. While officials from the P4+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and Iran have met over the past several weeks , this was the first meeting of the Joint Commission, a body set up by the JCPOA to oversee implementation of the accord, since Trump’s May 8 announcement . The Joint...

Trump calls off the Singapore summit: experts react

News Source: 
NK News
News Date: 
May 25, 2018 -04:00

Trump's canceled North Korea summit: Art of the deal or no deal?

News Source: 
CNN
News Date: 
May 25, 2018 -04:00

Trump Team Undermines Climate for Summit and Negotiated Solution

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(Washington, D.C.)—Even before Thursday’s announcement by President Donald Trump to cancel the planned Singapore Summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, there was ample reason to believe that the two sides were not on the same page about the pace, scope, and sequencing of steps to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and create a peace regime in the region.

It was also clear that the Trump administration itself was not on the same page about the goals of the meeting, nevertheless, the summit would have been a critical opportunity to test the waters, de-escalate tensions, and launch a sustained, serious diplomatic process on denuclearization.

Whether by accident or by design, Trump’s top advisors contributed to creating a hostile environment around the summit. It is unsurprising that loose talk from National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence about “the Libya model” for denuclearization and recent comments from Pence threatening war if North Korea does not agree to a deal triggered a strong reaction from Pyongyang.

The tone of North Korea’s reaction was clearly unhelpful, but it is not surprising.

Unfortunately, Trump got spooked when he should have stayed calm and carried on.

His strongly worded letter to Kim canceling the summit was irresponsible and risks the opportunity for future negotiations with North Korea. His language comparing nuclear weapon sizes only increases the likelihood that the United States and North Korea will return to a tit-for-tat escalation that characterized 2017 and increase the risk of war.

North Korea has long maintained that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against U.S. "hostile policy." Threatening “total decimation" if Pyongyang does not give up its arsenal only reinforces that belief.

Comprehensive, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea and establishment of a peace regime on the peninsula remains the proper long-term goal. But achieving genuine progress requires a negotiating framework and agreement on the details of phased, reciprocal steps rather than U.S. economic rewards only after full denuclearization is achieved. Such a process requires time and patience and persistence.

Successful diplomatic nonproliferation outcomes do not come easily or quickly.

In the coming days, Trump must resist the urge to abandon diplomacy and make irresponsible threats, which will only reinforce North Korea's incentive to further improve its nuclear and missile activities and greatly increase the likelihood of a catastrophic confrontation. There is no viable military solution to the North Korean challenge.

We urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in coordination with our allies and partners in the region, to continue engaging with his North Korean counterparts to advance efforts to halt and reverse the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs and to reduce tensions with Pyongyang, including by supporting the inter-Korean dialogue.

Description: 

Successful diplomatic nonproliferation outcomes do not come easily or quickly. But Trump’s top advisors contributed to creating a hostile environment around the summit. North Korea’s reaction was not surprising. Unfortunately, the president got spooked when he should have stayed calm and carried on.

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