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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
Kelsey Davenport

Stakes Grow for Possible Trump-Kim Summit

Diplomacy stalls over meaning of denuclearization as the United States and North Korea seek next steps.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea reiterated that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must include removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in the region, a statement that underscores that diplomatic advances in 2019 will require addressing simultaneously North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its security concerns.

In an image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers (left) talk with a South Korean soldier during mutual on-site verification of the withdrawal of guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone on December 12, 2018. The two Koreas have begun to destroy 20 guard posts along their heavily-fortified border under an agreement reached during the September 2018 Pyongyang summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  (Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)The state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Dec. 20 that denuclearization means “removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.” The United States has focused on a deal in which North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and related facilities in return for a lifting of U.S. and UN sanctions and possibly ending the Korean War.

The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, but the country remains under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that certain joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea would be suspended, and subsequent exercises were modified, but North Korea is still looking for the United States to take additional steps to address its security concerns.

With little negotiating progress evident in late 2018, Trump said he is in no rush for an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even though he had sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” as Pyongyang increased its nuclear and missile capabilities.

The apparent impasse increases the stakes heading to a second Trump-Kim summit, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Dec. 20 radio interview is expected “not too long after the first of the year.”

Kim, in his annual New Year’s address Jan. 1, said that he is “ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime” but that it is up to the United States to take the next steps. If the United States “responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the taking of more definite and epochal measures,” he said.

Kim warned, however, that if the United States fails to follow through, persists in imposing sanctions, and attempts to “unilaterally enforce something,” North Korea “may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Kim referenced North Korea’s decision to suspend its nuclear warhead and missile tests in 2018, which Trump frequently cites, as evidence of its commitment to denuclearization, but North Korea is thought to be increasing its stockpile of nuclear materials for warheads. As a result, time works in Pyongyang’s favor and may make a diplomatic solution more difficult.

Further, the protest resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a strong advocate of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, may raise anxieties in Seoul even as President Moon Jae-in has worked to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

That is because the Trump administration is pressing Seoul to bear more of the burden for keeping 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, leading to speculation that Trump might be willing to pull out some U.S. forces in a concession to Kim. The U.S. troops help with South Korea’s defense preparations and act as a trip wire to reassure South Koreans that the United States would engage if the North attacks.

North Korea’s Institute for American Studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated in a Dec. 17 commentary that North Korea is waiting for the United States to take action to move the process forward, arguing that Pyongyang has taken “proactive denuclearization steps” and Washington must respond in a corresponding manner.

North Korea’s expansive definition of denuclearization is not new. Pyongyang made a similar statement in July 2016 emphasizing that U.S. nuclear weapons in the region must be part of the diplomatic process.

The July 2016 statement said that “the denuclearization being called for by [North Korea] is the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.”

North Korea cited five specific demands in July 2016 to remove the U.S. nuclear threat: public disclosure of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, removal and verification that such weapons are not present on U.S. bases in South Korea, U.S. guarantees that it will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, U.S. assurances that it will not threaten or conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal from South Korea of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons.

This list might provide insight as to what Pyongyang will be wanting from Washington if talks progress.

It was also clear after Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June that Washington and Pyongyang do not share the same definition of denuclearization, which many experts predicted could complicate negotiations.

At a July hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo was pressed on whether the two countries agree on what constitutes the Singapore summit’s commitment to pursue denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Pompeo said that the United States shared its definition with Pyongyang and that North Korea “understands” U.S. expectations for what that process will accomplish, but he would not confirm that North Korea agreed with the U.S. terms.

North Korea may be emphasizing its definition of denuclearization to influence the diplomatic process going forward.

Since the June summit in Singapore, negotiations between the United States and North Korea have failed to gain traction. Initially, the U.S. insistence that Pyongyang complete denuclearization before any U.S. concessions on sanctions or an end of the Korean War appeared to stymie progress, as North Korea insisted on a step-by-step approach with each side taking reciprocal actions.

North Korea’s Dec. 20 commentary may be intended as a reminder that Pyongyang expects the United States to take steps that address Pyongyang’s security concerns as the country rolls back its nuclear weapons program.

The Dec. 17 commentary made a similar point, stating that the United States must realize “before it is too late” that maximum pressure will not work and Washington should take a “sincere approach to implementing” the Singapore statement.

Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in November initially appeared to reinvigorate the process when the two sides agreed to more regular contacts and the establishment of working groups, but there has been little evidence that these developments are being realized. Still, Pompeo described the negotiations thus far as a “great process” in a Dec. 21 interview with NPR.

Although the announcement of working groups meeting regularly would be a step forward in establishing a process for negotiations to proceed, commentary from North Korea suggests that Pyongyang may prefer to deal directly with Trump.

The Dec. 17 statement said that Trump “avails himself of every possible occasion to state his willingness to improve [North Korean-U.S.] relations” and targeted the U.S. State Department as “bent on bringing” the relationship between the United States and North Korea “back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

 

U.S., Iran Spar Over Ballistic Missiles

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses Tehran of being in “open defiance” of Security Council resolution.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States and Iran sparred at the UN Security Council last month over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and allegations that Iran is violating UN restrictions on missile activities.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chats with Karen Pierce, UK permanent representative of to the UN, during the Security Council meeting on Iran held December 12, 2018. (Photo: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)The dispute at the Dec. 12 council meeting came as the United States is ratcheting up its rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program and seeking support for more stringent restrictions. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the council session that the United States will “continue to be relentless in building a coalition of responsible nations who are serious in confronting the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity.”

The meeting focused on a biannual report from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and put in place restrictions on the country’s ballistic missile and conventional arms activities. Ballistic missiles and conventional arms are not covered by the Iran nuclear deal.

“No nation can dispute that Iran is in open defiance” of Resolution 2231, Pompeo said.

The report, released Dec. 8, did not definitively conclude that Tehran violated UN provisions prohibiting the transfer of ballistic missiles, but it included evidence that missiles used by Houthi fighters in Yemen originated in Iran.

Debris from missiles that landed in Saudi Arabia bore features similar to Iranian ballistic missiles, the report said, and noted that the UN Secretariat would continue to try and determine if the systems were transferred before or after the council resolution entered into force in January 2016.

Pompeo said the United States has “hard evidence that Iran is providing missiles, training, and support” for the Houthis and transferring ballistic missiles to Shia militias in Iraq. He called on the Security Council to “establish inspection and interdiction measures” to “thwart Iran’s continuing efforts to circumvent” UN restrictions.

Iran, although not a member of the Security Council, was permitted to speak at the meeting. Eshagh Al Habib, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said Iran faces real threats and “will not and cannot compromise on its security and its conventional defensive capability.”

He also said the United States is in violation of Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and “punishing” states for supporting the resolution.

Resolution 2231 calls on all UN member states to support implementation of the nuclear deal and refrain from actions that undermine it. As a result of U.S. sanctions, foreign entities have pulled out of the Iranian market.

The report did not describe the U.S. reimposition of sanctions as a violation of Resolution 2231, but Guterres said that U.S. actions “do not advance the goals set out” in the resolution and expressed regret over the Trump administration’s actions.

The report detailed the dispute over whether Iran’s ballistic missile testing and use of ballistic missiles violated Resolution 2231, which also calls on Iran to refrain from developing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The resolution language on missile development is nonbinding, and there are different interpretations of what “designed to be nuclear capable” means. The Dec. 8 report quoted a letter from Iran arguing that there is no evidence that Iran’s ballistic missiles possess the necessary features for delivering nuclear weapons and the resolution does not prohibit Iran from pursing its ballistic missile program.

In a Nov. 20 letter to Guterres, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany described ballistic missiles fired by Iran into Syria in October as “inherently capable of [the] delivery [of] nuclear weapons.” The three countries did not describe the action as a violation of Resolution 2231, but said it constituted “an activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” saying it was “destabilizing and increased regional tensions.”

Iran acknowledged targeting terrorists in Syria that Tehran says were linked to an attack in Iran and argued that it was acting in “legitimate self-defense” recognized by the UN Charter.

Pompeo said the United States would work with other states to bring back more stringent restrictions on Iranian ballistic missiles, similar to those adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 1929 in 2010. That required Iran to halt development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which is commonly understood to include systems capable of delivering a 500 kilogram nuclear warhead a distance greater than 300 kilometers.

The restrictions in Resolution 1929 were superseded by Resolution 2231, but could be snapped back into place if one of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States) overturns Resolution 2231. Pompeo did not indicate that the United States is planning to take that step at this time.

 

EU Advances Payment Channel for Iran

The European Union is making progress on an alternative payment channel for doing business with Iran, but the so-called special purpose vehicle will likely be limited to humanitarian transactions exempt from U.S. sanctions.

France and Germany reportedly have agreed to host the special purpose vehicle and are aiming to have it set up by early this year.

An alternative payment mechanism is necessary because U.S. sanctions, reimposed after President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, target Iranian banks and foreign financial institutions that facilitate financial transactions with Iran.

In September, the EU and Iran announced that they would set up the alternative payment mechanism, which is designed to preserve legitimate trade by setting up a barter-like system for entitles importing and exporting goods to Iran. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini initially said the special purpose vehicle would be designed to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran permitted by the 2015 nuclear deal, including payments for oil.

European officials have since indicated that the scope of the mechanism will be reduced to cover humanitarian trade exempt from U.S. sanctions, such as food and medicine. Despite the U.S. sanctions exemptions for humanitarian goods, it is difficult to find financial entities willing to process the transactions.

Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, rejected the idea that the special purpose vehicle will be limited to medicine and food. The mechanism “must cover a range of transactions and economic and industrial cooperation,” he said Dec. 17.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Dec. 12 that the United States will examine the payment mechanism when it is set up. The United States will not pursue sanctions penalties for activities consistent with humanitarian exemptions, but “to the extent that there are violations of our sanctions, we intend to enforce them with great rigor against any party who is a participant in those violations,” he said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a Dec. 8 report on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called on all states to support it, that he welcomes “initiatives to protect the freedom” of entities pursing “legitimate business” with Iran.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

U.S. Sets Strategy Against WMD Terrorism

New report shows continuity with past administrations.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The Trump administration released a national strategy for countering terrorists’ efforts to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in an attack against the United States.

Members of a U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard Joint Hazard Assessment Team (JHAT) perform a protective WMD sweep of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., May 4, 2018. (Photo: New Jersey National Guard)The U.S. strategy document, released in December, addresses three main elements to prevent terrorists from using chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological devices: efforts to reduce terrorists’ access to WMD materials globally, pressure on terrorist groups that seek to obtain these weapons, and plans for strengthening U.S. defenses against WMD threats.

But the report says that there are no surefire defenses, and it provides what could be pre-emptive political cover in the event there is a WMD-terrorism attack.

“Despite our technological and military advantages, we cannot eliminate all pathways for terrorists to conduct a WMD attack against the United States and its interests,” the report concludes. “Nonetheless, we can significantly reduce the probability and consequences of such attacks.”

The strategy builds on a number of existing efforts started under the Bush and Obama administrations to prevent WMD terrorism, particularly in efforts to minimize access to necessary materials and technologies. Although President Donald Trump frequently has belittled U.S. alliances, his introduction to the report stresses the need to advance “enhanced partnerships with our allies and partners worldwide” to prevent WMD terrorism.

The strategy calls for prioritizing disposition of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide that “pose the highest risk for terrorist acquisition” and minimizing the use of “highly-attractive” materials in civil programs. This objective continues priorities from the nuclear security summits held biannually from 2010 to 2016, which sought agreement on actions to minimize and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials in civilian programs.

On chemical weapons, the United States states its commitment to strengthening chemical security practices in academic and industrial institutions and says it will consider revising policies and best practices for “responsible conduct” in sciences that use materials applicable to chemical weapons development.

The strategy document also recognizes that terrorists have used chemical weapons and says the United States is exploring ways to work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to prevent nonstate actors from pursuing chemical weapons.

To prevent diversion of biological materials for weapons, the United States says it will promote policies that reduce the risk of misuse and provide more effective oversight for dual-use research.

The strategy also includes objectives to strengthen U.S. defenses against WMD terrorism. The document notes deployed U.S. capabilities, such as technical means to detect certain weapons of mass destruction, rapid counterresponse teams, and intelligence capabilities to prevent WMD attacks, and commits the United States to strengthening its response capacity with an emphasis on minimizing casualties and helping communities recover in the event of an attack.

Better coordination of state, local, and federal efforts and empowerment of state governments also features in the strategy. The Trump administration will continue providing equipment and training to states, with the goal of creating self-sustaining capabilities, the report says.

The strategy recognizes that the threat posed by WMD terrorism will continue to evolve and be affected by technological advances. The report says that the United States will strengthen collaboration with public and private sector entities analyzing the applications of technological advancements. In particular, the report identifies artificial intelligence as “certain to produce security implications beyond our current understanding.”

The United States will also look for opportunities to leverage new technologies to counter WMD terrorism, and the strategy notes how machine learning is already being used to assist in identifying trends and providing insights.

 

Nigeria Ships HEU to China

Nigeria Ships HEU to China

 

Nigeria shipped its highly enriched uranium (HEU) back to China, making it the 33rd country, plus Taiwan, to become HEU free. Nigeria’s one kilogram of HEU was used to fuel a Chinese-supplied miniature neutron source reactor used for a range of research activities. Although one kilogram of HEU is far less than what is necessary for a nuclear warhead, the fuel was enriched to more than 90 percent uranium-235, which is considered weapons grade.

The HEU was flown to China under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Experts from China, the Czech Republic, Russia, and the United States assisted in the process. Yusuf Aminu Ahmed, director of the Center for Energy Research and Training in Nigeria, said the country does not want “any material that is attractive to terrorists” and that removal of the material fulfills Nigeria’s commitment to reduce the use of HEU in civilian applications. As part of the project, China converted the reactor to run on low-enriched uranium fuel. The conversion was completed in October 2018 under a commitment that was part of the nuclear security summit process, which took place from 2010 to 2016.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Iranian scientists persevere under renewed sanctions

News Source: 
Physics Today
News Date: 
January 1, 2019 -05:00

Security Council Debates Latest UN Report on Resolution 2231

At a Dec. 12 UN Security Council meeting on Iran , U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again raised the specter of Iran’s ballistic missile program and called for more stringent missile restrictions than those currently in place under Resolution 2231 , which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear activities and imposed constraints on Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional arms activities. While Iran’s ballistic missile activities pose a regional threat and a proliferation risk, the Trump administration’s blatant mischaracterization of UN Security Council...

Remarks to the 17th Republic of Korea-UN Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues

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Prepared remarks by Kelsey Davenport to the 17th ROK-UN Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues
December 5, 2018

As we look toward the 10th Review Conference of the NPT in 2020, the nonproliferation treaty regime faces serious challenges.

Regional rivalries, a deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations, and qualitative nuclear buildups create significant challenges to efforts to fulfill the goals and objectives of the NPT as it enters its sixth decade.

Given these challenges, it is more important than ever that NPT states parties work together with urgency to seek consensus on steps to strengthen the treaty in this review cycle.

While the success of the Review Conference should not be solely measured by whether or not there is agreement on a final document, these texts are important guideposts to assess progress and to establish political commitments designed to fulfill treaty objectives. Coming off of the failure to garner consensus in 2015, it is more important than ever to work with urgency and creativity to develop consensus solutions in 2020.

As the UN Secretary General noted in his comprehensive disarmament agenda released earlier this year:

“The existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity must motivate us to accomplish new and decisive action leading to their total elimination. We owe this to the Hibakusha—the survivors of nuclear war—and to our planet.”

Over the next 20 minutes I will describe in more detail four key challenges facing the NPT and outline some possible paths forward that hopefully answer the UN Secretary General’s call for “new and decisive action.”

1) Reinvigorating Progress on Article VI

One of the most significant challenges to the NPT is the uncertain future of U.S.-Russian cooperation on arms reduction treaties and the failure to negotiate further reductions as agreed in the 2010 NPT Review Conference action plan. While it is positive that the United States and Russia met New START limits as required earlier this year, prospects for further negotiated cuts remain bleak.

U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated dramatically since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Compounding the situation is the accelerating effort to replace and upgrade U.S and Russian nuclear arsenals, Russian and American nuclear saber-rattling, and the ongoing dispute over Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty.

The Trump administration is demonstrating a marked disinterest in providing leadership on disarmament. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review makes no mention of U.S. legal obligations to pursue arms control and disarmament measures as required by Article VI – rather Washington defers action until security conditions have improved. Nor does the NPR put forward any new proposals for working with Russia on a new round of reductions or steps to reduce risk.

Now, the Trump administration announced Dec. 4 it will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty in 60 days over Russia’s deployment of the noncompliant 9M729 missile. Diplomacy to address the problem has not yet been exhausted and should be pursued. Worse still is the U.S. equivocation about the future of the New START Treaty, which is scheduled to expire on Feb. 5, 2021, unless Moscow and Washington agree to extend it.

While Russia has offered to begin talks to extend New START and restart strategic stability dialogue with the United States, these discussions have not begun.

Without INF or New START extension, in 2021, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972 – in short, the United States and Russia would be in violation of their NPT Article VI obligations.

How can states parties to the NPT prevent this dangerous reality?

First, in the short term, all NPT states parties must press the United States and Russia to agree to extend New START before the start of the 2020 Review Conference and to agree to further, sustained negotiations to reach agreement on verifiable reductions of all types of nuclear weapons, whether strategic, intermediate-range, or short-range.

Second, the United States and Russia, and the United States, Russia and China, must enter into regular strategic stability talks, and engage in an expanded dialogue that also considers the impact of new technologies and advancing ballistic missile defenses. While China may not have numerical parity with the United States or Russia, Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal and delivery systems pose a risk to strategic stability. Perhaps one area of discussion could be moving away from nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and agreement that hypersonic glide vehicles remain conventional. U.S. President Donald Trump opened the door to such discussions with Russia and China during the G20 meeting in Argentina this week.

Third, in the lead up to the 2020 Review Conference and at the conference itself, member states should refrain from using the NPT cycle to continue to debate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The TPNW plays an important role in reinforcing the taboo against nuclear weapons and advances the goal the NPT. But the TPNW is not going to lead to progress on disarmament in the near term and acrimonious debate over it risks continued polarization and entrenchment within the NPT process.

And now I’ll turn to the increased risk of use.

While the prospects of expanding arsenals pose a significant challenge, progress on Article VI cannot be measured through warhead reductions alone. Reductions are an important marker, but there are other critical steps that can and must be taken to reduce nuclear risks and realize disarmament, including checking the expanding role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines.

All five of the recognized nuclear weapon states, as well as states outside of the NPT that possess nuclear weapons, are upgrading and investing in new nuclear-capable missiles– some of which are designed with the intent to make the use of nuclear weapons “more credible.” The emphasis on lower-yield nuclear weapons, nuclear-capable cruise missiles and forays into hypersonic missiles represent a dangerous and destabilizing trend that could lower the threshold for nuclear weapons use. Investments in these new systems contravene the obligations set forth in Article VI.

The 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review expands the circumstances under which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons to include non-nuclear attacks, even if a state is complying with the NPT. Ambiguity and confusion over whether or not Russia’s nuclear doctrine includes an “escalate to deescalate” policy further heightens tensions.

This greater reliance on nuclear weapons – combined with some of the new systems designed to make deterrence more “credible” and the significant portion of the deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that remain on prompt launch– increases the prospect of nuclear use.

Given the global consequences of even a single nuclear strike, this is an area ripe for NPT states parties to press for additional measures that reduce nuclear risks.

First, given the polarized environment, it would beneficial during the review cycle for all NPT states parties – particularly the United States and Russia - to reaffirm the 1985 statement of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Furthermore, states should unequivocally reaffirm their support for progress on Article VI and, at a minimum, the goals outlined in the 2010 Action Plan.

Second, NPT states parties should call for an end to these “launch under attack” postures and urge all states to adopt a clear policy of nuclear no first use.

As a tangible step toward no first use, states could push all five of the nuclear weapon states to commit at the 2020 Review Conference that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack.

The United States came close to declaring sole purpose for the U.S. arsenal in 2016. as former Vice President Joe Biden said in the final days of the Obama Administration in January 2017, “The President and I strong believe we have made enough progress that deterring—and if necessary retaliating against—a nuclear attack should be the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” And now, in the United States, momentum is gathering around moving toward no first use as policy. For instance, U.S. Representative Adam Smith – who will chair the House Armed Services Committee beginning with the new Congress– will again introduce his bill calling for no first use to be adopted as U.S. nuclear policy.

While the actions outlined previously address some specific and immediate challenges, in looking at Article VI and the NPT more broadly - it also may be to time consider pursuing a new enterprise free from the consensus-based, least-common-denominator thinking and the entrenched positions of established factions within existing forums. As the UN Secretary General noted in his disarmament agenda, existing international institutions for addressing disarmament have stagnated.

One bold idea is a new series of disarmament summits, modeled on the Nuclear Security Summit Process. An NSS-like process that emphasizes the same concept of national and multilateral commitments, would give likeminded states the option to pursue steps that push beyond the status quo on key issues and create political pressure to follow up on pledges and demonstrate progress.

Additionally, the current disarmament architecture has not been able to integrate states that possess nuclear weapons outside of the recognized nuclear order (namely India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) into multilateral efforts. Increasingly, the nuclear arsenals of these states will impact the ability to make progress on Article VI. A summit series could be a more inclusive forum that includes these states.

Ultimately, a summit-like process could help to transform bilateral tracks into multilateral talks that would include both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, creating a process of multilateral arms control and risk reduction that would lead toward a full realization of Article VI of the NPT and the broader goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

2) Preserving and building upon the JCPOA

The 2015 multilateral nuclear deal between Iran, the European Union, and six countries, resolved a decades-long crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, and brought Tehran back into compliance with its NPT safeguards obligations. The deal was endorsed by the UN Security Council, which in Resolution 2231 notes the importance of NPT compliance. The JCPOA also exemplifies the continued centrality of the NPT and the international commitment to prevent proliferation.

But, despite Iran’s record of compliance with the JCPOA and the obvious nonproliferation value of the accord, the United States withdrew from the deal, re-imposed sanctions, and is threatening states with punitive measures if they do not stop legitimate business with Iran allowed under the JCPOA and encouraged by the Security Council.

The remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal with Iran, particularly the European partners, have taken significant actions not only to reaffirm their commitment to the JCPOA, but also to develop mechanisms to protect legitimate trade with Iran. While the EU’s blocking regulation and creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle to facilitate trade sends a strong political signal, these mechanisms are bound to fall short in providing the sanctions relief envisioned under the deal. This puts the long-term viability of the deal in question.

Collapse of the nuclear deal would have profound negative implications for Iran, the Middle East, and the NPT.

In the lead up to 2020, maintaining international support for the nonproliferation value of the JCPOA is critical. The NPT review cycle offers an important opportunity for states to reaffirm their support for the JCPOA and denounce the U.S. withdrawal as not only jeopardizing the deal, but also undermining nonproliferation efforts writ large.

But NPT member states should not stop at defending the JCPOA. The nuclear deal was not intended to set a precedent, but we would be foolish not to look at the unique and positive nonproliferation elements of the nuclear deal and try not to expand upon them to better serve nonproliferation and safeguards efforts in the region and writ large.

Under the JCPOA, Iran, for instance, agreed to real time monitoring of uranium enrichment levels, greater accountancy at uranium mines, and a time-bound process for allowing IAEA access to undeclared sites. Is there value in other states making similar pledges to incorporate such steps into safeguards practice? Learning from the JCPOA to further strengthen safeguards must be explored.

Additionally, we should look to build on the JCPOA to develop ideas that would reduce the threat of proliferation at the regional level. Iran, for instance, agreed to a 15-year ban on reprocessing and said it may never pursue this technology. Why not pursue a region free of reprocessing in the Middle East, initially through voluntary pledges by states? The commitments could be announced at the 2020 Review Conference. This would be a positive step toward realizing the goal of a MEWMDFZ, protect against the development of stockpiles of separated plutonium as states build up nuclear power infrastructures, and bolster the NPT.

This is particularly critical now, as there is a growing interest in nuclear power in the Middle East. This will also provide greater assurance that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful as limitations under the JCPOA begin to expire.

3) Finding a Path Forward on the MEWMDFZ

While we are on the Middle East, let me say a few words about the MEWMDFZ. Nearly 25 years after the 1995 resolution on establishing a MEWMDFZ played a critical role in securing the indefinite extension of the NPT, the promise of the zone has failed to materialize.

We cannot forget that it was disagreement over the MEWMDFZ that prevented consensus on a final document in 2015. And failure to outline a path forward ahead of 2020 risks derailing consensus on the NPT Review Conference again.

Yet few new and creative ideas are being brought forward to advance the zone. The United States and Russia appear unwilling to take a leadership role and have lost credibility since 2015.

The Arab League purports to seek progress on the zone, but it is not apparent that any of these states have reached out to Israel to engage in discussions over the zone or brought forward new and creative ideas. And when some of these states also fail to condemn statements by Saudi Arabia threatening to pursue nuclear weapons and when they fail to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it erodes the credibility of these states as honest brokers for the zone. It gives the impression that the politics of the issue are more important than achieving results.

Building on the JCPOA, as highlighted above, to make progress on the zone is one idea. Another positive step could be a new consultative process, similar to the lead-up to 2015. Perhaps the UK, as one of the three conveners, could take a leadership role in facilitating a new dialogue for a conference agenda ahead of 2020.

Alternatively, the UN General Assembly First Committee voted in favor of an Arab League proposal on the zone in November, which would require the UN Secretary General to convene a conference on a zone in 2019 and every year after until the zone is realized. There are critical questions yet to be answered about the scope of this process. And, as Israel voted against it, it is unclear if all states in the zone will be willing to engage with it. But a UN-led process could serve a similar consultative role in developing a path forward if states are willing to engage in good faith.

Additionally, ahead of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, members of the Arab League and the broader Non-Aligned Movement that recognize that a weakened NPT bodes ill for the zone, should make clear that realistic steps toward the MEWMDFZ will be supported, but holding consensus on the 2020 Final Document hostage by insisting on unrealistic and arbitrary demands for the zone concept will not be tolerated.

4) The North Korea Challenge

North Korea represents a dual challenge to the NPT – bringing Pyongyang back into compliance with the treaty and the current lack of agreed upon consequences of withdrawal.

At the end of 2017, the United States and North Korea were locked in a spiral of escalating tensions and increasingly hostile rhetoric. Thanks to the leadership of South Korean President Moon Jae-in in reaching out to Pyongyang, the crisis stabilized and a path for meaningful negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was opened. And in an historic meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two leaders agreed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to build a peace regime.

While North Korea’s voluntary actions early in the process, such as the long-range missile and nuclear test moratorium, and blowing up the test tunnels at Punggye-ri are positive steps that have limited qualitative advances in the country’s nuclear arsenal, North Korea continues to expand its nuclear arsenal and develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in direct contravention of its NPT obligations and UN Security Council resolutions. Continued failure by both the United States and North Korea to agree to reciprocal steps in the negotiations risks a return to the escalating tensions of 2017.

One step that the NPT member states should encourage is exploring how to convert the voluntary test moratorium and dismantlement of Punggye-ri into a legally-binding commitment to refrain from nuclear testing by securing North Korea’s signature and eventual ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In a special, high-level meeting on the CTBT at the UN in September, a group of foreign ministers led by Japan called on Pyongyang to solidify its voluntary nuclear test moratorium announced in April by signing and ratifying the treaty. Interim steps could include deploying monitoring equipment at the North Korean test site.

As another interim step in this vein, NPT states should encourage the United States to include the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in any visit to inspect the dismantled test site. Not only would the presence of the CTBTO aid in assessing the condition of the test site and the reversibility of North Korean actions, it would also gauge North Korea’s willingness to work with international inspectors, such as the IAEA, which must be part of any verification regime agreed to as part of a denuclearization process.

Furthermore, the North Korea case highlights the critical need to make progress on the consequences of withdrawal. Withdrawal by any state undermines the security and benefits envisioned by the NPT.

In the 25 years after North Korea first announced its intent to withdraw from the NPT, insufficient action has been taken in the NPT context to address the gaps highlighted by the North Korean case. Even if the 2015 Final Document had been adopted, it would not have addressed this serious, outstanding issue that is more urgent now than ever, given the current geopolitical climate.

States could agree, by consensus at the 2020 NPT Review Conference, that any state will be held responsible under international law for actions committed by a state in violation of the treaty prior to their withdrawal.

Similarly, a consensus endorsement of the principle that states can demand the return of materials and technology transferred to any state that choses to withdraw from the NPT, would be a common sense step and provide further assurance that peaceful programs cannot be converted to nuclear weapons programs without consequence.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by again quoting Secretary-General Guterres: “ There are moments in history when individual and collective courage and conscience come together to change the course of events.”

The NPT faces unprecedented challenges; but with dedication, urgency, and creativity they can be overcome and goals of the treaty realized.

Thank you.

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, December 5, 2018

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran will give the European Union more time to work out the details of its Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), destined to facilitate trade with Iran, but said that Tehran will not “wait forever.” While Iran remains in compliance with the multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that Tehran will abandon the agreement if it is no longer in the country’s best interest. The SPV, announced by EU foreign policy...

Iran Vows to Resist U.S. Sanctions

The United States abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, but Tehran continues to comply for now.


December 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran vowed to resist U.S. sanctions and continue implementing the nuclear deal after U.S. measures targeting its oil and banking sectors went back into effect.

Ahead of renewed sanctions imposed by the United States, Iranians protest November 4 outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran, marking the anniversary of the start of the 1979 hostage crisis. At rallies in the capital and other Iranian cities, protesters carried placards that mock President Donald Trump, wiped their feet on fake dollar bills, and engaged in the ritual of burning the U.S. flag.  (Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)Although the sanctions are already curtailing Iran’s oil sales, the Trump administration did issue waivers Nov. 5 allowing seven countries (China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey) and Taiwan to continue purchasing oil from Iran. In addition, the Trump administration agreed to allow certain nonproliferation projects outlined under the Iran nuclear deal to proceed.

Preserving the nuclear cooperation projects and some oil revenue will likely provide Iran with enough benefit to continue complying with the nuclear deal, at least in the short term, even though Trump pulled the United States out of the accord. The oil waivers, however, only last six months.

Under the reimposed sanctions, states importing oil from Iran must make a “significant reduction” in purchases every 180 days to be eligible for a waiver. Unlike the Obama administration, which defined “significant reduction” at about a 20 percent cut, the Trump administration evaluated each country on case-by-case basis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the waivers as a victory for Iran because the United States initially said it would “reduce Iran’s oil sale to zero.” Rouhani also said on Nov. 5 that Iran will continue to sell oil and “break sanctions.”

In a Nov. 5 news conference on the sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the oil waivers as “temporary allotments to a handful of countries” in order to address “specific circumstances and to ensure a well-supplied oil market.” He noted that more than 20 states already eliminated oil imports from Iran, reducing the country’s oil exports by more than 1 million barrels per day.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted that the sanctions will impact Iran’s economy, but said the sanctions “will not change policy” in Iran. He said the United States “has an addiction to sanctions” and that the country believes they are “the panacea that resolves” all problems.

The Trump administration has made clear that it intends to continue ratcheting up pressure. Pompeo said the “ultimate goal” remains to “convince the regime to abandon its current revolutionary course” and the campaign of economic pressure is “at the center of this effort.” Pompeo also said that the United States will continue to push the remaining eight nations permitted to buy oil from Iran to zero out their imports.

Administration officials say the effort is to force behavior changes by the Iranian regime, not to drive for regime change. But officials such as Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, advocated for regime change in Iran before they joined the administration. Also, the administration has been working closely with Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief regional rival, both of which seek a regime change in Tehran.

Details of the sanctions waivers were not made public, but Bloomberg News reported that India will be limited to 300,000 barrels of oil per day, down from 560,000 in the first half of 2018. China’s waiver permits 360,000 barrels per day, down from an average of 658,000 in early 2018. China and India are Iran’s largest oil purchasers and resisted the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.

Revenues from the oil sales will be held in accounts in the importing countries, and Iran can use the funds to purchase goods from those countries.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Tehran on November 19. The UK is among the countries seeking to soften the impact on Iran of renewed U.S. sanctions so that Tehran continues to comply with the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images )Although the revenue from oil sales is likely to be critical in influencing Iran’s decision whether to stay in the deal, the waivers issued for the nonproliferation projects were key for permitting the P4+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) to remain in compliance with the deal. The multilateral group committed to assist Iran in converting several nuclear facilities to reduce their proliferation threat, and failure to conclude these projects could allow Iran to argue that the P4+1 were violating the accord.

Additionally, after Trump repeatedly disparaged the value of the nuclear agreement and referred to it as the “worst deal ever,” Pompeo acknowledged on Nov. 5 that “allowing these activities to continue for the time being will improve ongoing oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program and make these facilities less susceptible to illicit and illegal nuclear uses.”

Waivers for the projects were necessary because the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) was one of the 700 entities sanctioned Nov. 5 by the United States.

As part of the nuclear deal, the AEOI was removed from the sanctions list to meet U.S. commitments under the accord. With the AEOI now subject to sanctions, foreign entities would be penalized for working with the organization on the specified projects.

The projects in question concern an unfinished heavy-water reactor at Arak, the centrifuge facility at Fordow, and the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

China and the United States, which was succeeded by the UK under the agreement, had agreed to assist Iran in redesigning the unfinished Arak reactor to produce significantly less plutonium on an annual basis than is necessary for a nuclear weapon. If the reactor were completed as originally designed, it would have produced enough plutonium for about two nuclear weapons every year.

Iran removed and destroyed the original core of the Arak reactor in 2015. Work has commenced on designing the new core and on the contract for Chinese assistance on the project, but it does not appear that modifications at the Arak site have begun.

At Fordow, Iran agreed to forgo uranium enrichment at the facility for 15 years and convert it to an isotope research and production center. Russia is assisting in the facilities conversion.

The waivers also allow Russian work to continue at the Bushehr site. Russia provides nuclear fuel for the sole operating nuclear power plant at that site and is responsible for removing the spent fuel.

Russia has broken ground on two additional nuclear power reactors at Bushehr since the nuclear deal was implemented in 2016. Annex III of the accord, which deals with nuclear cooperation, raises the option of collaborating with Iran on light-water reactors, but does not require it.

It is unclear if additional Annex III projects, such as the Nuclear Safety Center that the European Union is interested in pursuing in Iran, will be permitted to go forward.

In addition to the reimposed sanctions, the Trump administration succeeded in pressuring SWIFT, the Brussels-based international financial messaging service, to cut off Iranian banks that were on the list of the 700 entities sanctioned Nov. 5 by the United States. SWIFT was not required to disconnect the Iranian banks, but made a “regrettable” decision to do so in order to maintain stability in the international banking system, the organization said.

A group of Republican senators said they would introduce legislation to sanction SWIFT if the body did not cut off the Iranian banks. Without SWIFT, it will be more difficult to facilitate financial transactions with Iran, even for permittable humanitarian trade such as medical supplies.

 

North Korea Pushes for Sanctions Relief

There is talk of a second Trump-Kim summit as diplomatic efforts stall over next steps.


December 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea is stepping up pressure on the United States in its push for the Trump administration to grant sanctions relief early in the denuclearization process.

A South Korean government photo taken November 15 shows President Moon Jae-in meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore. The South Korean government said the two discussed recent diplomacy with North Korea and preparations for a second meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. (Photo: South Korean government)In addition to canceling the meeting scheduled for Nov. 8 in New York between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his negotiating counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, North Korea drew attention to its military capabilities by announcing that it tested a new, unspecified “ultramodern tactical weapon.”

These steps come as Pyongyang is ratcheting up its condemnation of U.S. sanctions policy and calling for relief earlier in the process. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Although Pyongyang’s voluntary testing moratorium only covers its long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, until now North Korea has refrained from military activities and testing in 2018 that might be viewed by South Korea or the United States as provocative. This Nov. 16 test might be a signal to Washington that North Korea will test military systems if talks do not produce results soon.

North Korea did not provide details about the weapon, but emphasized that it was a tactical system. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was described in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as “expressing great satisfaction” in the test and noting that it was a “striking demonstration” of the “rapidly developing defense capability of the country.”

The Trump administration downplayed the test, and the State Department issued a statement saying that the United States remains confident the promises of the Singapore summit document will be fulfilled.

The State Department initially blamed the meeting cancellation on scheduling difficulties. After North Korea announced it had canceled the meeting, Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Pyongyang was not ready and so the talks had to be postponed. No new date has been announced.

The cancellation comes as North Korea and the United States continue to trade barbs over the pace of sanctions relief and next steps in the process.

Initially it appeared that North Korea was seeking U.S. agreement on a peace declaration ending the Korean War, but it increasingly looks like Pyongyang is now prioritizing sanctions relief. North Korea may be emboldened by support for sanctions removal from Russia, China, and, to a lesser extent, South Korea, all of which are calling for the United States to ease restrictions earlier in the negotiating process.

KCNA quoted Kim on Nov. 1 as saying that “vicious sanctions” imposed by “hostile forces” stand in North Korea’s way “toward promotion of peoples well-being and development.”

The following day, KCNA ran a commentary criticizing U.S. sanctions and saying that the United States “should not forget what it promised” in Singapore and that there is “no justification for sanctions” after the “active and preemptive” steps taken by North Korea.

The steps likely referred to North Korea’s voluntary moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing issued in April and dismantlement of the nuclear test site in May. (See ACT, June 2018.)

Haley said on Nov. 8, however, that it is North Korea’s turn to act and said that the United States has “given a lot of carrots up until now” and will not “get rid of the stick because they have not done anything to warrant getting rid of the sanctions yet.”

The United States continues to press for full sanction implementation until the denuclearization process is completed, but there is already evidence that adherence is slipping.

The annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, released in November, concluded that “Beijing appears to have already started to loosen enforcement of sanctions on North Korea, undermining the U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ campaign.”

The report recommended that the Treasury Department provide a report assessing Chinese enforcement and a list of entities that continue to conduct trade with North Korea.

Haley called out Russia after a UN Security Council meeting for pushing to lift certain sanctions on North Korea, particularly as they apply to what Russia describes as “serious humanitarian problems.” The Russian mission to the United Nations said in a statement that the current situation is “absolutely unacceptable” because it violates decisions made by the council that sanctions should not be directed at the North Korean people.

Haley said that the U.S. goal is to ensure that humanitarian aid is not compromised and that the Trump administration is “taking our time in vetting that very carefully.”

Despite the stalled progress, planning appears to be continuing for a second summit between Trump and Kim.

Vice President Mike Pence said on Nov. 15 in an NBC interview that the summit was going to happen and the two leaders would decide on a “verifiable plan” for North Korea to make a declaration detailing its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Contrary to expectations, Pence said that the United States will not require that North Korea provide a complete list of its nuclear weapons and missile sites ahead of the second summit. The Trump administration reportedly had been pursuing such a declaration from North Korea since Pompeo went to Pyongyang in July after the Singapore summit. (See ACT, September 2018.)

 

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