Login/Logout

*
*  

"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Kelsey Davenport

U.S., Canada Boycott Disarmament Forum

Kelsey Davenport

Citing Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to end certain nuclear activities, U.S. and Canadian officials announced last month that the heads of their delegations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) would be boycotting the body while Iran presides over it from May 26 to June 23.

Presidency of the CD rotates alphabetically among the 65 member states. The position is largely ceremonial because the CD has failed to reach consensus on a program of work for the past 15 years. (See ACT, December 2012.)

In a May 13 press release, Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said that Iran’s presidency of the disarmament forum is “highly inappropriate” and the United States would not be represented at the ambassadorial level during Iran’s term. She said the United States believes that any country under UN sanctions for weapons proliferation should be “barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in UN bodies.”

The following day, Rick Roth, spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, said Canada would join the U.S. boycott. In his statement, Roth said Iran is “working directly against disarmament goals” and the principles of the CD.

A spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations defended Iran’s presidency of the forum in a May 14 statement. Alireza Miryousefi said that it is Iran’s right under the “established practice and rules of procedure” to chair the CD.

Canada boycotted the CD in 2011 for the four weeks that North Korea presided over the forum, saying that Pyongyang’s noncompliance with its disarmament obligations undermined the work of the body. The United States did not join the Canadian boycott.

Citing Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to end certain nuclear activities, U.S. and Canadian officials announced last month that the heads of their delegations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) would be boycotting the body while Iran presides over it from May 26 to June 23.

Park Lays Out Korean Trust-Building Plan

Kelsey Davenport

South Korean President Park Geun-hye last month laid out a process for building trust on the Korean peninsula, an approach she said she hopes will lay the groundwork for “durable peace” and eventually unification.

In a May 8 address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Park said South Korea would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and that provocations, like Pyongyang’s Feb. 13 nuclear test, would be “met decisively” but that humanitarian aid will not be linked to the political situation. Seoul and Pyongyang gradually would develop trust “through exchange [and] cooperation,” she said.

Park’s approach has three parts, according to Victor Cha, a former deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear program: it begins with keeping promises, then builds a process, and finally creates institutions between the two sides. At a May 17 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cha cited several impediments to this process, which he labeled “trustpolitik.” He said that emotion has affected decision-making on both sides and that it could be difficult for South Korea to signal good intentions when many confidence-building measures have failed in the past.

During her trip to Washington, Park also called for an international peace park inside the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Cha suggested this could be an attempt by Park to signal her good intentions to North Korea. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said May 9 that it is not possible to build a peace park in the demilitarized zone while the two countries remain at war. The two countries never have signed a peace treaty ending the Korean War.

Park emphasized the importance of the regional parties speaking “with one voice” on North Korea and sending a “clear and consistent message.”

In a joint press conference with Park on May 7, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States and South Korea would engage with North Korea diplomatically and, “over time, build trust” but that Pyongyang must first take “meaningful steps” to abide by its international commitments, particularly giving up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Obama administration has consistently stressed that North Korea must recommit to denuclearization for talks to begin. (See ACT, May 2013.)

Although bellicose rhetoric out of North Korea has decreased over the past several months, Pyongyang remains insistent that it will not commit to giving up its nuclear arsenal to begin talks.

More dramatically, Pyongyang tested six short-range ballistic missiles May 18-20 in what the KCNA said May 21 was part of “a regular military exercise.” South Korea denounced the action as “provocative.” A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry said at a May 21 press briefing that the launches could be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, which prohibit missile launches.

In a May 20 press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he was not aware of the missile launches violating any UN Security Council resolutions but that the United States urged North Korea to “exercise restraint.”

North Korea has several types of short-range ballistic missiles, which have a range of less than 1,000 kilometers. Pyongyang regularly tests these missiles.

North Korea had moved several Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles to one of its test sites, but appears to have moved the missiles to another location.

In a visit to Washington, South Korea’s president laid out a process for building trust on the Korean peninsula, an approach she said she hoped would be a step toward unification.

Egypt Protests Inaction on WMD Meeting

Marcus Taylor and Kelsey Davenport

The Egyptian delegation walked out of a meeting of member states of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on April 29 to protest the failure to convene a conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, and an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said May 17 that other steps may follow.

In his April 29 statement explaining the walkout, Hisham Badr, who led the Egyptian delegation at the April 22-May 3 NPT meeting in Geneva, decried the “unacceptable and continuous failure” to schedule the conference on the WMD-free zone. Badr, Egyptian assistant foreign minister for international organizations and institutions, said Cairo is insisting that an “exact date” be set for convening the conference.

The Geneva meeting was the second of three preparatory sessions for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

In a May 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said that continued delay in rescheduling the conference may cause Egypt to take further actions to “increase pressure” on the United States and other conveners, which may include a boycott of next year’s NPT meeting by “more members of the Arab League.”

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general were designated as the organizers of a 2012 conference on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. The decision to hold the conference was critical to the NPT parties’ agreement on the final document of the 2010 conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava was later appointed as conference facilitator.

The 2012 meeting on the WMD-free zone was supposed to be held last December, but the conveners announced Nov. 23 that the conference would be postponed due to disagreements on “core issues” and “present conditions in the Middle East,” according to the U.S. statement. In making the announcement, the conveners did not set a deadline for rescheduling or holding the meeting. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Before the postponement was announced, every country in the region except for Israel had verbally committed to attending the meeting in Helsinki, although some observers said Iran may have committed to attending the conference only after learning that it would be postponed. (See ACT, March 2013.)

An Arab League ministerial statement released after the group’s Jan. 13 meeting said that the group would consider boycotting the Geneva preparatory meeting because of concern that the rescheduling of the conference on the WMD-free zone was not being taken seriously, according to several news reports.

The Egyptian official said there was an attempt to hold an informal meeting during the NPT conference to work on an agenda for the meeting on the WMD-free zone, but not all of the countries in the region agreed to attend.

A former member of the Israeli Knesset told Arms Control Today in a May 24 e-mail that Israel was unlikely to agree to attend any preliminary meeting without assurances that “core regional security issues” would be included on the agenda of the conference on the WMD-free zone. He said the Arab League’s “unreasonable insistence” that Israel could attend informal meetings on crafting an agenda only if it agreed to attend the conference was preventing more proactive Israeli participation.

He said that the Arab League is not taking Israel’s “unique security concerns” into account in its planning for discussions on the zone.

The Egyptian official stressed that the United States must play “a more proactive role” to ensure that all countries in the region agree to schedule and attend the conference. At the time of the postponement, the United States said it remained committed to holding a conference, but did not specify a time frame. Russia called for the conference to be held no later than April of this year.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said April 30 that he regretted the Egyptian decision to leave the NPT conference but that it does not affect the U.S. commitment to convening a conference on creating the zone.

Countryman, who led the U.S. delegation to the NPT preparatory meeting, added that “leadership must also come from states of the region.”

In his April 29 statement at the Geneva meeting, Laajava said that there is nothing preventing the rescheduling of the WMD-free-zone conference and that it can “be convened without delay.”

Laajava said that he had suggested that the conference should be “relatively brief” and should aim to reaffirm the “common objective of a WMD-free zone.” He said follow-up steps, such as regional cooperation and expert-level work on arms control issues, could then create a sustainable process for establishing the zone.

Egypt walked out of a meeting of member states of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to protest the failure to schedule a conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

U.S. Considers More Sanctions on Iran

Kelsey Davenport

Congress and the Obama administration are considering expanding sanctions against Iran, as negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear program appear to have stalled again.

Legislation sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and passed by that panel May 22 would further restrict trade with Iran and limit Iran’s access to overseas currency reserves.

An amendment added to the legislation would require that the six countries still importing oil from Iran—China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey—reduce their combined purchases of Iranian oil by one million barrels per day within a year. This reduction would result in a de facto oil embargo because Iran is currently exporting just more than one million barrels per day.

The legislation, which has more than 350 co-sponsors, will “increase the costs” on Iran for continuing to move forward with its nuclear program, Royce said May 22.

But Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, warned Congress in testimony at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing May 15 that if the United States wants to require further reductions in the oil imports, it has to “work very carefully” with the six importing countries.

Under a provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, countries must receive exemptions from the U.S. government to continue importing oil from Iran or face U.S. sanctions, which include restrictions on their access to U.S. financial markets. The U.S. government grants exemptions for 180 days. To renew them, countries must demonstrate that they have significantly reduced their purchases of Iranian oil. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

In her May 15 testimony, Sherman stressed the importance of maintaining unity and international pressure on Iran during negotiations and cautioned against imposing any sanctions that would further limit oil imports by the six countries beyond the reductions required by current law.

China, the largest importer of Iranian oil, is one of the six countries collectively known as the P5+1 negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Its exemption will be up for renewal in June. The other five countries in the negotiations are France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A congressional staffer familiar with the legislation told Arms Control Today in a May 20 e-mail that the legislation introduced by Royce would likely pass the House of Representatives and the Senate before the August congressional recess, with possible Senate amendments imposing further sanctions.

Sherman said the administration is considering additional executive orders that would increase pressure on Iran, but did not provide details. At the same hearing, David Cohen, treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the administration is looking at a “variety of different means” to target Iran’s revenues, Iran’s access to currency reserves in foreign countries, and lower the value of Iran’s currency, the rial.

Cohen noted that on July 1, current sanctions on anyone selling gold and other precious metals to the Iranian government will be expanded to cover sales to private Iranian individuals. Cohen said that due to the decline in the rial’s value, Iranians are “dumping their rials to buy gold.”

Talks Stall

As Washington ratchets up the pressure on Tehran, negotiations between Iran and the six world powers over Iran’s nuclear program appear to have stalled.

On May 15, Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1, met with lead Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul. Ashton said that she and Jalili discussed the proposal put forward during the last round of negotiations and would “reflect” on how to move on to “the next stage of the process.” No date was set for further talks between Ashton and Jalili or the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

Jalili described the meeting as “fruitful” and said that he and Ashton would talk again soon to set a date for the next round of negotiations.

The P5+1 and Iran have met twice this year in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to continue negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program after an eight-month hiatus. The last round of negotiations took place April 5-6. During these negotiations, the P5+1 offered some sanctions relief, including allowing gold sales, but the Iranian negotiators said the sanctions relief was not commensurate with the P5+1 demands on Tehran. (See ACT, May 2013.)

Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Iran might choose to pursue nuclear weapons.

No Progress in Iran-IAEA Meeting

Also on May 15, Iran met with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to continue negotiations on the so-called structured approach, which will define the scope and sequence of the agency’s investigations into Iranian nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts, who led the agency delegation, said May 15 that the parties “could not finalize the structured approach document.” He said that the agency’s commitment to dialogue was “unwavering” but a date for the next meeting had not been set.

In a November 2011 report to its Board of Governors, the IAEA laid out the evidence of the alleged activities. The meeting on May 15 was the 10th meeting between the parties since the beginning of 2012.

Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a Dec. 6 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that the talks should not continue “without producing any concrete result.” In her May 15 testimony, Sherman seemed to make a similar point, saying that, “at some point,” Amano will have to tell the UN Security Council that it must take further action because of the lack of progress.

The Obama administration and Congress are considering measures to expand sanctions against Iran, as negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program appear to have stalled again.

North Korea Sets Conditions for Talks

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea spelled out its conditions for resuming negotiations over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but U.S. officials say that they are unacceptable and reiterated that Pyongyang must make clear its commitment to denuclearization in order to resume talks.

North Korea’s National Defence Commission said in an April 18 statement that before the talks can restart, the UN Security Council must lift sanctions placed on Pyongyang for its past nuclear and ballistic missile activities. Additionally, the United States must withdraw all “nuclear war means” from the vicinity of South Korea, and Washington must stop joint military exercises with Seoul because “dialogues and war games can never go together,” the defense commission said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Pyongyang’s terms “unacceptable” as a basis for negotiations. Kerry said on April 18 that he was prepared to look at the announcement as a “beginning gambit,” but that Washington needs to see “clear evidence” that Pyongyang is willing to live up to its international obligations to resume negotiations.

North Korea’s announcement of preconditions came after several weeks of escalating rhetoric from Pyongyang in response to joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

Multilateral negotiations between North Korea and China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, known as the six-party talks, began in 2003. In 2005 the parties reached an agreement under which Pyongyang said it would abandon and dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for possible future assistance on a peaceful nuclear energy program.

In April 2009, however, Pyongyang announced it was withdrawing from the 2005 accord and the six-party talks. (See ACT, May 2009.) The announcement came in response to a UN Security Council statement on expanding sanctions against North Korea for attempting to launch a satellite. A prior council resolution banned North Korean satellite launches because satellite launch vehicles use technology directly applicable to ballistic missile development.

During a trip to South Korea last month, Kerry reiterated the U.S. position on negotiations, saying on April 12 that Pyongyang must be willing to make it clear that it will “move to denuclearization as part of the talks.”

The April 18 statement from the North Korean defense commission said that denuclearization of “the Korean Peninsula” remains “the unshakable will” of North Korea.

New Nuclear Strategy

In an April 16 interview, Leon Sigal, a Korea expert with the Social Science Research Council, said that North Korea will not return to negotiations under conditions that require it to abandon and dismantle its nuclear program. Referring to a March 31 statement on a new policy laid out by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Sigal said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons might now be more important to the regime.

Evidence of N. Korean Nuclear Test Grows

Monitoring stations in Japan and Russia detected radioactive gases that likely came from North Korea’s declared Feb. 12 nuclear test, the organization tasked with detecting nuclear explosions announced April 23.

Tibor Tóth, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said in a speech in Geneva that the timing of the detection “coincides very well” with the Feb. 12 event.

The CTBTO maintains a worldwide monitoring system to detect nuclear explosions. Of the system’s 337 planned stations, 275 are currently operating. The system monitors seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide activity to detect nuclear explosions. The CTBTO detected seismic activity consistent with a nuclear explosion in the area of North Korea on Feb. 12. (See ACT, March 2013.) The detection of radioactive gases is the “ultimate proof” of a nuclear explosion, according to the organization.

A separate April 23 statement issued by the organization said that the CTBTO was in the process of “eliminating other possible sources” of nuclear activity that could have released the gases.

A monitoring station in Canada detected radioactive gases from North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, two weeks after the explosion occurred. The monitoring system did not detect any gases after the second test in May 2009, but the organization said seismic activity was indicative of an explosion.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    According to the statement, published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim is planning to emphasize building up North Korean nuclear forces along with economic development. Sigal said this could indicate that Pyongyang will spend less money maintaining its aging conventional forces and increase its reliance on nuclear deterrence for national security.

    Sigal said Pyongyang’s commitment to this new policy is unclear and should be tested in negotiations. He suggested, however, that North Korea would not give up its nuclear weapons for economic aid or seek international recognition as a nuclear-weapon state. Pyongyang will retain its nuclear weapons as long as it perceives a “hostile policy” from the United States and South Korea, he said.

    Sigal suggested that the United States should rethink its position to focus negotiations on impeding the development and expansion of North Korea’s nuclear program. A process that prevents Pyongyang from testing further nuclear devices or ballistic missiles is more likely to be successful and would prevent North Korea’s nuclear arsenal from growing, he said.

    As an example of such a process, he cited the February 2012 Leap Day agreement between North Korea and the United States. Under that accord, North Korea agreed to refrain from nuclear and missile testing in exchange for aid from the United States. The deal broke down in April 2012 after Pyongyang attempted to launch a satellite. (See ACT, April 2012.)

    Since the Leap Day agreement fell through, Pyongyang successfully launched a satellite into orbit last December and tested a nuclear device Feb. 13. The UN Security Council unanimously expanded the sanctions against North Korea after each incident. (See ACT, January/February and March 2013.)

    Reactor Restart

    Recent actions by North Korea also appear to support its policy of expanding its nuclear arsenal. On April 2, Pyongyang announced its intention to restart the heavy-water reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear facility that produced the plutonium that North Korea later separated to use in nuclear weapons.

    The reactor was shut down in July 2007 and dismantled later that year as part of the 2005 action plan concluded during the six-party talks. The International Atomic Energy Agency verified the shutdown.

    An April 2 KCNA article quoted a spokesman for the North Korean General Department of Atomic Energy as saying that restarting the reactor would solve the critical tasks of “expanding and reinforcing nuclear forces” and resolve development constraints caused by the “strained electricity supply.”

    Mark Fitzpatrick, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told Arms Control Today in an April 17 e-mail that it is difficult to determine how long it may take North Korea to restart the reactor. The reactor could be “too old and defective” to operate or may require “extensive renovation” after six years of lying dormant, he said.

    Fitzpatrick, now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said North Korea already could have begun preparing fresh fuel for the reactor. In that case, replacing the cooling system, which could take about three months, would determine the time frame for restarting operations, he said. North Korea blew up the original cooling tower in June 2008 as part of its commitment to dismantle its nuclear program.

    North Korea is estimated to possess enough separated plutonium for four to eight warheads. Pyongyang could have additional uranium-based warheads, but it is unclear how much weapons-grade uranium, if any, North Korea has produced.

    Also at the Yongbyon complex, North Korea is constructing a light-water reactor. Although such reactors are not typically used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, they can be configured for that purpose. (See ACT, October 2012.)

    Missile Threat

    North Korea’s ability to deliver its nuclear weapons using ballistic missiles remains unclear. U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast April 16 on NBC that the United States does not believe that North Korea has the capacity to fit a warhead onto a missile, although Washington must deal with “every contingency.”

    Obama’s remarks qualified a conclusion reached by the Defense Intelligence Agency in March, which said in a written report that it had “moderate confidence” that North Korea could miniaturize a warhead to fit onto a ballistic missile. This statement, made public April 11 by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, was mistakenly labeled as declassified, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during an April 18 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Clapper said only that it is unknown if North Korea actually has the ability to “make a weapon that will work” for use on missiles.

    Although North Korea has tested and deployed short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the status of its longer-range systems is unclear. Pyongyang’s Musudan missile, which is estimated to be able to carry a 500-kilogram warhead approximately 3,000 kilometers, has not been tested. Experts say the road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea unveiled in April 2012 are mock-ups, rather than actual missiles.

    North Korea announced its conditions for resuming negotiations over its nuclear program. U.S. officials called the terms unacceptable.

    P5+1 Package Seeks Transparency in Iran

    Kelsey Davenport

    The proposal six world powers brought to the April 5-6 talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program contains transparency measures, including provisions that would require Iran to give inspectors increased access to facilities and provide information to address allegations of possible activities related to making a nuclear bomb, according to a former Iranian nuclear negotiator and two Western diplomats.

    In an April 17 e-mail, Seyed Hossein Mousavian said that the proposal presented by the six countries known as the P5+1 would require Iran to address International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands for transparency. The inclusion of these transparency elements in the P5+1 proposal has not previously been reported. Two officials from P5+1 countries who are familiar with the negotiations confirmed the accuracy of Mousavian’s description.

    In March 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium in the future under “very strict conditions” and IAEA inspections if it responded to international concerns regarding weapons activities and “irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program.”

    The State Department did not respond by press time to a request for comment on whether the provisions in the proposal would meet the conditions for uranium enrichment laid out by Clinton in her 2011 testimony or if further transparency measures would be required.

    The proposal by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States would give the IAEA access to certain Iranian facilities so that its inspectors could obtain information to address questions about possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program.

    The IAEA laid out its concerns about Iranian nuclear activities with military dimensions in a November 2011 report. Iran and the IAEA have been negotiating an agreement to allow the agency to investigate these allegations in talks separate from the P5+1 process. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

    Iran and the IAEA have met nine times, but have failed to make any progress negotiating a document that outlines the scope and sequence of the agency’s investigations, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said March 4. They will meet again May 15, the IAEA said April 23.

    Mousavian and the two officials said the transparency measures for Iran in the P5+1 proposal also include committing to an additional protocol, which supplements the basic IAEA safeguards agreement with a country and gives agency inspectors increased access to facilities, and to the modified version of the subsidiary arrangement to Iran’s safeguards agreement known as Code 3.1, which requires notification to the IAEA of any planned nuclear facilities at the time the country makes the decision to build them. Iran agreed to a modified Code 3.1 provision in its subsidiary arrangement in 2003 and negotiated an additional protocol with the IAEA the same year, but has not completed ratification of the protocol, despite having voluntarily implemented it for a period between 2004 and 2006.

    The package offered by the six countries during negotiations in 2012 was updated before talks in February in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The April 5-6 meeting was the second high-level meeting between Iran and the P5+1 to take place this year, after negotiations resumed in February following an eight-month hiatus. (See ACT, March 2013.)

    Other provisions in the new proposal require Iran to stop producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, but would allow Iran to keep part of its stockpile of that material to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor. Iran may also be allowed to produce enriched uranium at its Fordow facility in the future, Mousavian and the two officials said. The previous P5+1 proposal from the 2012 talks required Iran to shut the Fordow enrichment plant permanently and ship its entire stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium out of the country. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

    Because of worries within the P5+1 that Tehran is moving toward a nuclear weapons capability, the stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent is a primary concern. Starting from material enriched to that level—rather than reactor-grade material, which typically is enriched to 3.5 percent—would make it much easier for Iran to reach weapons-grade uranium-enrichment levels if it chose to do so. Iran says it requires the 20 percent material to make fuel plates for its research reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

    In return, Iran would receive some sanctions relief, according to press reports from the February Almaty talks. The P5+1 would offer to relax sanctions on trade in gold and precious metals with Iran and petrochemical sales. Additionally, the P5+1 would modernize and provide fuel for the research reactor, provide Iran with medical isotopes and with spare parts for aircraft, and cooperate with Tehran’s acquisition of a light-water reactor to produce medical isotopes.

    Mousavian characterized the P5+1 proposal as “extremely unbalanced” because it did not include any “substantive sanctions relief” or recognition of Iran’s “right to enrich” uranium under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which he identified as the two key demands for Iran.

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the talks for the P5+1, said April 6 that although the negotiations were detailed and substantive, they reflected the wide gap between the substantive positions of each side.

    No date was set for the next meeting, but Ashton said she would remain in contact with her Iranian counterpart, Saeed Jalili.

    In an April 11 statement, Ali Bagheri, undersecretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the delay in setting a date to resume negotiations was due to the need of the P5+1 delegates need to consult with other officials in their respective governments. Bagheri said there were “serious disagreements” among the representatives.

    U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at an April 8 press briefing that the P5+1 was “very united.”

    It is unclear if negotiations will resume before Iran’s presidential election on June 14. Mousavian said that sanctions relief and recognition of enrichment rights will remain Iran’s key concerns regardless of who is elected but that “a moderate figure with international respect and loyal to the [Supreme] Leader would be instrumental for a broader deal” with the United States on issues beyond Tehran’s nuclear program.

    The proposal that six world powers brought to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program contains transparency elements that would require Tehran to address allegations of possible activities related to making a nuclear bomb, sources said.

    U.S. Cites Evidence of Syrian Sarin Use

    Kelsey Davenport

    The U.S. intelligence community has determined with “varying degrees of confidence” that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against its own people, the White House said last month.

    The April 25 letter, sent to Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), said that the nerve agent sarin may have been used “on a small scale” in Syria but that the United States cannot confirm “how exposure occurred and under what conditions” because the “chain of custody” for the evidence, which included “physiological samples,” is “not clear.” More evidence is needed to provide “some degree of certainty” to inform U.S. decision-making, said the letter, which was signed by Miguel Rodriguez, President Barack Obama’s director of legislative affairs.

    Last summer, Obama said that the use or movement of chemical weapons in Syria is a “redline” for the United States and there would be “enormous consequences” in the event of either action. (See ACT, September 2012.)

    A White House official reaffirmed this redline in a April 25 press briefing, but in an apparent reference to erroneous intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons program prior to 2003, said that the United States has learned from its “recent experience that intelligence assessments are not alone sufficient” and “credible and corroborated facts” are necessary to determine if chemical weapons were used. If such a determination is made, “all options are on the table” for a U.S. response, the official said.

    Obama said in April 26 remarks that the United States will work with the international community to obtain “strong evidence” of chemical weapons use, which he said would change the calculus of how Washington approaches Syria.

    Because Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which requires member states to declare and destroy their chemical weapons, the exact size and composition of its program is unknown. However, according to the U.S. intelligence community’s most recent “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” Syria possesses a “large, complex, and geographically dispersed” chemical weapons program, which includes a stockpile of chemical warfare agents, such as sarin, sulfur mustard, and VX, that can be delivered by “missiles, aerial bombs, and possibly artillery rockets.”

    The April 25 letter said that the administration believes that the Assad regime “maintains custody” of Syria’s chemical weapons and that any use of chemical agents “very likely” would have been by the regime.

    The U.S. statement follows similar allegations made by France, Israel, Qatar, and the United Kingdom. In an April 26 interview with the BBC, British Prime Minister David Cameron said there is increasing evidence that chemical weapons have been used, likely by government forces. Three days earlier, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence research and analysis division, said that, “to the best of our understanding,” there was lethal use of chemical weapons in Syria.

    UN Action

    In the April 25 letter, the Obama administration said it would push for a comprehensive UN investigation to evaluate the evidence of chemical weapons use.

    After allegations that chemical weapons were used near Aleppo on March 19, Assad requested that the United Nations investigate the claims. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the UN would investigate in conjunction with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees implementation of the CWC, and the World Health Organization. (See ACT, April 2013.)

    The team planned to begin investigations in Syria early last month, but in an April 17 statement, Ban said that Syria has not allowed investigators into the country due to a disagreement over the scope of the UN inquiry. Syria wants the UN investigation restricted to the March 19 incident, which it blames on the rebels, whereas Ban said the mission must be to investigate “all the allegations” made by member states.

    Paul Walker, a former senior adviser for the House Armed Services Committee, told Arms Control Today in an April 25 e-mail that the first step is to allow UN inspectors to visit all the sites they requested to see, meet possible victims of the alleged attacks, and review the medical reports from the injured and dead. He said any samples taken should be “strictly controlled and analyzed by OPCW licensed labs.” Laboratories on the territories of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council could also be used “in order to bring in the Russians and Chinese,” said Walker, who now is director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a April 25 statement that, on the basis of the intelligence assessment, the redlines “have been crossed” and action must be taken to prevent large-scale use of chemical weapons. She said the UN Security Council should take “strong and meaningful action to end” the conflict in Syria.

    If new accusations are referred to the Security Council, Russia, a main ally of Syria, will be the “big elephant” in the room because Moscow will feel it is being outmaneuvered by Ban, the United States, and Israel, said Walker, who is a board member of the Arms Control Association.

    The U.S. intelligence community has tentatively concluded that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, but is seeking further evidence.

    Amano Reports No Progress on Iran

    Kelsey Davenport

    Clarification made online on June 4, 2013.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not made “any progress” in talks with Iran on clarifying Tehran’s responses to the agency’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear activities, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

    The IAEA first laid out its suspicions about Iranian nuclear efforts allegedly relating to weapons development in a November 2011 report to its Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.) Iran and the IAEA have met nine times since then to negotiate a framework for resolving the agency’s concerns, but have failed to come to an agreement about the scope and sequence of the investigation. At the most recent meeting, on Feb. 13, IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts said the two sides had not set a date for further talks. (See ACT, March 2013.)

    In his March 4 remarks to the board’s quarterly meeting in Vienna, Amano discussed the findings of a Feb. 21 IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program and said that Tehran “is not providing the necessary cooperation” to enable the agency to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.

    In a Feb. 22 letter to Amano, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh disputed the findings of the Feb. 21 report, saying that “all declared nuclear material in Iran is accounted for” and remains under IAEA surveillance.

    Iran, P5+1 Hold Technical Meeting

    Iran and six world powers held a technical-level meeting in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the details of proposals put forward by each side during negotiations in February to address international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

    Iran and the six countries—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as the P5+1—had agreed on arrangements for the March meeting during Feb. 26-27 high-level political negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Almaty talks marked the resumption of negotiations between the parties after an eight-month hiatus. (See ACT, March 2013.)

    The meeting allowed experts from the two sides to “explore each other’s positions on a number of technical subjects,” according to a statement issued after the March 18 meeting by a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief and P5+1 lead negotiator. Ashton did not attend the meeting; Stephan Klement, her personal representative on nonproliferation issues, led the P5+1 delegation on her behalf.

    The statement confirmed the agreement from the February meeting that high-level political talks will resume in Almaty April 5-6. In his statement after the March 18 meeting, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the talks should progress toward a path that recognizes Iran’s “peaceful nuclear rights and obviates the concerns” of the international community.

    Meanwhile, in a March 18 statement marking the Iranian holiday of Nowruz, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States and the international community are ready to reach a diplomatic resolution that would “give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy” while resolving concerns about the “true nature of the Iranian nuclear program.” Iran must take “immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions,” Obama said.

    The current P5+1 proposal is based on a package offered during talks last year. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) U.S. officials said it was updated to reflect developments in Iran’s nuclear programs over the last eight months. In a March 16 forum in Brussels, Ashton described the proposal as a “first confidence-building measure” rather than the “end package.”

    In key changes, the revised proposal reportedly provides limited sanctions relief and allows Iran to keep a portion of its stockpiles of 20 percent-enriched uranium. The stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium is a key concern of the P5+1 because uranium enriched to that level can be further enriched to weapons grade with relatively little additional effort. Iran maintains that it needs the 20 percent-enriched material to produce medical isotopes.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

      Last November, at the previous board meeting, Robert Wood, the U.S. representative to the IAEA, said the United States would urge the board to take “appropriate” action in March if Iran did not begin substantive cooperation with the IAEA. Despite Amano’s assertion that no progress was made, the board did not take any new action.

      In a March 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official said, “If Iran continues to refuse to cooperate with the IAEA and take steps to come into compliance with its international nuclear obligations, the United States will work with our friends and allies on the Board of Governors to agree on the most appropriate action to deal with Iran’s intransigence.”

      The official noted that the group of six countries, known as the P5+1, that is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program “made a joint statement, welcoming continuing but purposeful negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, and calling on Iran to stop stonewalling the IAEA and answer the outstanding questions about its possible nuclear military activities.”

      In his March 6 statement to the board, Joseph Macmanus, who succeeded Wood as U.S. representative to the IAEA, said the United States would “not accept further delay” by Iran in implementing its IAEA obligations and that “the separate P5+1 diplomatic process cannot be a substitute for such implementation.”

      Macmanus said that the board will need to “consider carefully, and soon,” what steps must be taken to “hold Iran accountable for a continued cycle of deception and delay.”

      IAEA Report

      Tehran is moving forward with the installation of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, according to the Feb. 21 report. That facility produces reactor-grade uranium enriched to 3.5 percent.

      The report confirmed that, on Feb. 6, Iran sent the IAEA a letter with information on the planned cascade configuration for the second-generation, or IR-2M, centrifuges, but did not include any details from the letter. As of Feb. 19, 180 centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings were installed at Natanz, according to the IAEA. The unit of the building in which the centrifuges are being installed can hold 3,000 machines, according to experts familiar with the facility. Although experts agree that these machines will be more efficient than the first-generation centrifuges, it is not clear how much more efficient they are going to be. (See ACT, March 2013.)

      Iran also is continuing to test advanced centrifuge designs other than the IR-2M. The report noted that Iran installed the IR-6 and IR-6S models in its research and development area at Natanz for the first time and began testing the machines.

      The IAEA also verified the production of Iran’s first fuel assembly for the heavy-water reactor being constructed at Arak. Iran has said the Arak reactor would not be operational until early 2014. The fuel assembly was transferred to a research reactor for irradiation testing.

      Iran maintains that the heavy-water reactor will produce medical isotopes, but experts argue that it is ill suited to that task and poses a proliferation risk because it will produce plutonium more suitable for weapons than a light-water reactor does. Iran does not have a known separation facility and has not declared its intention to build one.

      The report also noted an increase in Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to 167 kilograms from the 135 kilograms noted in last November’s report. If Iran decided to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, the task would be much easier if it were starting with material enriched to 20 percent rather than reactor-grade uranium.

      According to the IAEA, approximately 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched material, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough for one bomb. Tehran maintains that it needs to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent to fuel a currently operating research reactor that produces medical isotopes.

      U.S. Assessment

      The U.S. intelligence community’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” issued on March 12, said that although Iran has made progress that “better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium” using its declared uranium stockpile and facilities, Iran “could not divert” material from its current stockpile for further enrichment without discovery.

      In testimony the same day to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said it remains unknown if Iran will decide to build nuclear weapons and that the decision to do so rests with the country’s supreme leader.


      The April 2013 news story “Amano Reports No Progress in Iran” said that according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), about 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough to make one nuclear weapon. That figure has appeared in published articles and was confirmed as accurate by an IAEA staff member, but the IAEA has not made such an estimate in an official document or statement.

      The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not made “any progress” in talks with Iran on clarifying Tehran’s responses to the agency’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear activities, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

      UN Imposes New Sanctions on N. Korea

      Kelsey Davenport

      The UN Security Council on March 7 unanimously adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test.

      Several former U.S. officials, however, said that heightened sanctions will not defuse the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

      At a March 7 press briefing after the sanctions were adopted, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Resolution 2094 demonstrates to Pyongyang the “increasing costs” of “defying the international community.” But in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day, Stephen Bosworth, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, warned that the United States should not be “under any illusions that sanctions are going to solve this problem.”

      Resolution 2094 builds on three earlier resolutions, dating back to October 2006 (see box), that require North Korea to refrain from nuclear and ballistic missile testing and abandon its nuclear program. The resolutions also restrict North Korea from importing conventional weapons, luxury goods, and materials to develop its nuclear and missile programs. Resolutions adopted in October 2006 and June 2009 were responses to nuclear tests, while the third resolution, passed Jan. 22, followed North Korea’s satellite launch last December. North Korea is prohibited from launching satellites because the technology is directly applicable to ballistic missile development.

      In addition to extending the list of materials that Pyongyang cannot import, Resolution 2094 gives states broader rights to inspect cargo that passes through their territories if the states suspect that the cargo may contain illicit materials being imported or exported by North Korea.

      At the March 7 hearing, Glyn Davies, who succeeded Bosworth as North Korea envoy in January 2012, said the interdiction measures in the resolution were a positive step because the export of armaments is a “key source of income” for Pyongyang. The United States should keep working in this area “first and foremost,” he said.

      The resolution also prohibits “bulk” cash transfers into North Korea, restricts Pyongyang’s financial activities, and calls on UN member states to “exercise enhanced vigilance” over North Korean diplomats.

      Carney said that the Security Council also “will take additional measures in the event of another nuclear test or launch.”

      Security Council Sanctions on North Korea

      Over the past seven years, the UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities. All four resolutions passed unanimously.

        Resolution 1718 (Oct. 13, 2006). Adopted in the wake of North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, Resolution 1718 prohibits Pyongyang from conducting future nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches and calls for a complete halt to efforts to pursue nuclear weapons development. The resolution bans a range of exports and imports, notably military weapons and equipment, and imposes an asset freeze and travel ban on people and entities tied to the nuclear program. The resolution also establishes a monitoring body to assess implementation of the sanctions and investigate reported violations.

          Resolution 1874 (June 12, 2009). Further sanctions on North Korea were included in Resolution 1874 in response to the country’s second nuclear test, conducted in May 2009. The resolution imposes restrictions on Pyongyang’s weapons development programs and tightens sanctions on additional goods, including all imports and exports of weapons, and on additional persons and entities with ties to the nuclear program. Financial transfers or loans that could be used to aid the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles also are prohibited. States are authorized to inspect and detain cargo passing to or from North Korea through their territory on land, sea, or air if the cargo is suspected of being used to develop nuclear weapons.

            Resolution 2087 (Jan. 22, 2013).Resolution 2087 was passed after North Korea’s December 2012 rocket launch and again condemned Pyongyang’s pursuit of a ballistic missile program. It calls on North Korea to resume the six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. It strengthens existing sanctions and calls again for states to enforce inspections of North Korean cargo suspected of being involved in the nuclear program and found in transit within a state’s territory. The resolution calls on states to “remain vigilant” in monitoring sanctioned individuals and entities.
              Resolution 2094 (March 7, 2013). Passed in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013, Resolution 2094 condemns the test, expands and strengthens existing sanctions, and gives states broader rights to inspect, detain, and destroy North Korean cargo suspected of including banned materials. The resolution especially targets Pyongyang’s access to hard currency by denying “bulk” cash transfers into North Korea and calling for sanctions on any assets or bank accounts tied to Pyongyang’s nuclear program. It sets further limits on imports of luxury goods to target elites in North Korea and freezes the assets of and issues travel bans on additional individuals and entities tied to the nuclear program.—ALEXANDRA SCHMITT

                 

                North Korean Response

                The day after the sanctions were adopted, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson as saying that Pyongyang viewed the sanctions as a “hostile act” that is “creating [a] vicious cycle of tension.”

                The ministry also announced that the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which ended hostilities in the Korean War, would be invalid as of March 11 and reiterated its earlier statement that the joint denuclearization declaration it signed with South Korea in 1992 was void. Under the terms of the joint declaration, both countries agreed not to test, produce, receive, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.

                Another former U.S. special envoy to North Korea, Joseph DeTrani, said on March 21 that North Korea’s rhetoric and actions were no longer “normal” and that the situation “needs to be defused quickly.”

                Speaking at a March 21 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, DeTrani, who also served as director of the National Counterproliferation Center and now is president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, said that Pyongyang’s actions over the past month have been an attempt to “lock in its nuclear program” so that “negotiations become nonproliferation discussions, not disarmament discussions,” that therefore focus on preventing North Korea from spreading its weapons or technology to others.

                U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated the U.S. policy of denuclearization in a March 7 statement, saying that the “entire world stands united” behind this goal.

                Bosworth, who is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said in his testimony that a solution to North Korea’s nuclear program will come only by addressing “broader considerations of a peace treaty to replace the armistice,” diplomatic relations, economic aid, and energy assistance.

                China’s Role

                DeTrani said China could play an important role in defusing the building tension and in reinstituting talks with North Korea, noting that Beijing played an integral role in bringing Pyongyang into the six-party talks in 2003.

                Those talks, which also include Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, broke down in 2009 when Pyongyang declared it would no longer participate. In 2005 the talks resulted in an agreement under which North Korea in 2007 dismantled its heavy-water reactor, which had produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for an estimated four to eight warheads.

                Bosworth said he was not optimistic about relying on China. Beijing faces an “essential conundrum” because China does not want a nuclear-armed North Korea but is concerned that too much pressure may cause the regime to collapse, he said.

                Officials argue that China needs to play a stronger role in implementing existing sanctions. Davies said in his testimony that the United States takes Chinese officials “at their word” that sanctions are being enforced but that Washington will “continue to engage” with Beijing to “ensure that the Chinese do the maximum amount they can” in this area.

                Intercepted Cargo

                On March 18, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed reports from last November that Japan had intercepted a ship from North Korea carrying aluminum rods that Pyongyang is banned from exporting because they are suitable for building centrifuges. (See ACT, December 2012.)

                The cargo was shipped through China last August on a Singapore-flagged ship, according to the statement. Suga did not confirm the final destination of the cargo. Newspapers, however, quoted officials in November as saying it was bound for Myanmar. In a Nov. 27 letter, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who left office in January, asked Myanmar President Thein Sein to explain the shipment. The Myanmar government said that the materials were being shipped to a private company, rather than the state.

                Former officials testifying at the March 7 hearing agreed that North Korea’s illicit networks pose a significant proliferation concern. Robert Joseph, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the committee that North Korea is a “serial proliferator” and “will sell what it has” to states and subnational groups. DeTrani called these proliferation concerns a central issue and said China is aware of them.

                The UN Security Council on March 7 unanimously adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test.

                Amano Endorsed for Second IAEA Term

                Kelsey Davenport

                The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 6 endorsed Yukiya Amano to serve a second four-year term as the agency’s director-general.

                The 35-member board voted by acclamation to renew Amano’s term, according to a statement by John Barrett of Canada, the board chairman. The IAEA’s 159 member states now must formally confirm the board’s decision at the agency’s General Conference in September. Amano’s new term will begin in December.

                Amano did not face any competition for the post. That contrasts with 2009, when he needed five rounds of balloting to secure the necessary two-thirds of the board’s votes. At the time, several countries expressed concern that Amano, then Japan’s representative to the board, was too close to the United States and would not be an independent director-general. (See ACT, May 2009.)

                In a March 6 press conference following the board meeting, Amano said he was “deeply grateful” for the trust of the board members.

                Meanwhile, Tero Varjoranta of Finland has been tapped to succeed Herman Nackaerts as the agency’s top safeguards official in October, the Finnish government said in a March 4 press release. Nackaerts, who is retiring, has led the agency’s negotiations with Iran over its controversial nuclear activities.

                The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 6 endorsed Yukiya Amano to serve a second four-year term as the agency’s director-general.

                Pages

                Subscribe to RSS - Kelsey Davenport