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Former IAEA Director-General
Kelsey Davenport

Senators Push Nonproliferation Budget

Kelsey Davenport

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

The signatories of the Aug. 13 letter, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), urged Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.”

The letter noted that the administration “proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years.”

The Obama administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 would cut the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs by $399 million from the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. Fiscal year 2014 ends Sept. 30.

It is “not the time to pull back on nonproliferation,” the letter said, noting that recent terrorist actions serve as a reminder of the importance of “ensuing that terrorist groups and rogue states” do not obtain nuclear weapons and materials.

The Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, chaired by Feinstein, increased funding for nonproliferation activities to nearly $2.0 billion, $423 million above the president’s request for fiscal year 2015. The subcommittee released its bill and draft report July 24, but no further action has been taken on the bill.

The increases include an additional $136 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.

The letter said the GTRI played an important role in eliminating nuclear materials from 13 countries since 2009 and that “significant work remains” to secure nuclear material at “hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries.”

The senators urged the administration to work with the Senate to “ensure that critical nuclear material security” programs have the necessary resources. The letter urged the administration, in next year’s budget request, to build on the funding levels that the appropriations subcommittee approved for fiscal year 2015.

In addition to Feinstein and Merkley, the signers of the letter included 20 Democrats, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

Congress Questions Policy on N. Korea

Kelsey Davenport

Members of Congress questioned the Obama administration’s policy toward negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program at a July 30 hearing and expressed concern about Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said the administration’s “so-called strategic patience policy is crumbling to pieces” and that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program “continues unfettered.”

As described by U.S. officials, the strategic patience policy seeks to hobble North Korean nuclear and missile programs through U.S. and international efforts to prevent the import and export of proliferation-sensitive materials and restart negotiations after Pyongyang demonstrates its commitment to dismantling its nuclear weapons program. For more than a decade, North Korea has had intermittent talks with the United States and its four negotiating partners—China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—in the so-called six-party talks.

Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy at the State Department, defended the administration’s approach at the hearing, saying that because North Korea “increasingly rejects meaningful negotiations,” the United States is looking for meaningful actions by North Korea before restarting talks. Davies said these actions could include steps by North Korea such as freezing its nuclear program and inviting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back into the country.

Davies said it might take continued diplomatic overtures combined with “the patient application of increasing amounts of pressure” to make North Korea realize its current path is “leading [it] nowhere.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that “both carrots and sticks” are necessary to change North Korea’s behavior. He said the United States should discuss a nonaggression pact with North Korea and work with China to stem the “enormous subsidies” that Beijing sends to Pyongyang.

Davies said that negotiations with North Korea are a “multilateral task” and the United States is making progress working with countries in the region, including China, to push North Korea to take steps toward denuclearization in order to resume negotiations. Washington is also unilaterally tightening sanctions that “increase the cost” of North Korea’s illicit activities, he said.

North Korea committed to denuclearization in a 2005 joint statement with the other members of the six-party talks, but more recently, Pyongyang has said that it wants negotiations on its nuclear program to resume without any preconditions. (See ACT, November 2013.)

Those talks began in 2003 with the goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The multilateral negotiations were held intermittently until North Korea announced in April 2009 that it would no longer participate.

Washington has also negotiated bilaterally with North Korea in the past.

Pyongyang is believed to possess the nuclear material for approximately four to eight nuclear weapons and is working to increase its stockpile of weapons-usable nuclear material. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

At a July 30 hearing, members of Congress questioned the Obama administration’s policy toward negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Iran, P5+1 Extend Nuclear Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six-country group known as the P5+1 agreed in July to extend negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program through Nov. 24, a step officials said they hope will give the parties enough time to find solutions to the remaining gaps and reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

The negotiators originally aimed to conclude a comprehensive agreement by July 20, which marked the end of the implementation of a six-month interim agreement. But the interim accord, which the parties reached last Nov. 24, allows for the initial six-month time period to be extended if all parties agree. (See ACT, December 2013.)

In a joint statement announcing the extension in Vienna on July 19, Iranian Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief and lead negotiator for the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), said they had made “tangible progress” in some areas but that “significant gaps on core issues” will require “more time and effort” to reach an agreement.

The statement did not give an exact date for the resumption of negotiations, but said that the parties would reconvene “in the coming weeks in different formats.”

On Aug. 7, U.S. officials, led by Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator and undersecretary of state for political affairs, met with Iranian officials in Geneva to discuss the nuclear negotiations.

A European diplomat familiar with the talks told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 14 e-mail that negotiators would likely meet before the UN General Assembly convenes Sept. 16. A ministerial-level meeting during the General Assembly is probable, he said.

He said both sides “remained entrenched” on the issue of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. A comprehensive agreement is unlikely unless both sides are willing to move away from “extreme positions” on what uranium-enrichment capacity Iran needs in the years to come, he said.

Iranian officials have opposed any cuts to the current capacity, which is about 10,200 operating first-generation centrifuges, and want to build up a program that will allow them to provide enriched-uranium fuel for domestic nuclear power reactors Tehran says it plans to build. Iran currently has one nuclear power reactor, Bushehr, and has a contract with Russia for the reactor’s fuel through 2021.

The P5+1 wants to cut Iran’s current capacity and maintain strict limits on uranium enrichment for a number of years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined negotiators July 13-15 in Vienna, said in a statement after the extension announcement that, despite the gaps, there is a “path forward.”

Both sides committed to continue implementation of the measures from the six-month interim agreement and agreed to take several additional steps before Nov. 24. For example, Iran agreed to convert 25 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium powder into fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor.

During the term of the interim agreement, Iran neutralized its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium gas by diluting half to reactor-grade enrichment levels of less than 5 percent and converting the other half to powder form for fuel assemblies. Kerry said that implementation of the interim agreement was a “clear success” and rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time in a decade.

The stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium in gas form was a particular concern to the P5+1 because uranium enriched to this level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade.

The P5+1 committed to allow Iran to transfer $2.8 billion of its funds locked up in overseas accounts back into the country over the course of the four-month extension. U.S. sanctions have prohibited foreign banks from transferring payments for Iranian exports such as oil to Iranian banks. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

IAEA-Iran Cooperation

Meanwhile, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited Tehran on Aug. 17 to discuss how to “strengthen cooperation and dialogue” between the agency and Iran, according to an Aug. 15 IAEA press release.

During his one-day visit, Amano met with President Hassan Rouhani, Zarif, and Ali Akbar Salehi, chairman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

In comments to the press during his visit, Amano said he discussed with Iranian officials how to “move ahead with existing practical measures.”

He was referring to a May 21 joint announcement in which Tehran pledged to provide the agency with information in five areas of concern to the IAEA by Aug. 25. (See ACT, June 2014.) Amano said implementation of these measures had begun and he expected further progress to be made over the next week.

These actions are part of a November agreement, the Framework for Cooperation, in which Iran and the IAEA committed to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.) The IAEA laid out its concerns, including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, in detail in its November 2011 report to the agency’s Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.)

As one of the May actions, Tehran was to provide the IAEA with information addressing allegations that Iran conducted experiments with certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons. Iran also said it would provide information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” another area with direct connections to nuclear weapons development.


Under one provision of the November framework agreement, Iran provided the IAEA with information by May on its past work on exploding bridge wire detonators, which is one of the activities relevant to developing nuclear weapons. Iran maintained in its communications to the agency that the detonators were developed for use in the oil and gas industry. (See ACT, June 2014.)

Amano said the IAEA “followed up” on issues related to the information Iran provided on the exploding bridge wire detonators during his visit. Salehi told reporters on Aug. 17 that Iran “responded to all of the questions” Amano asked about the detonators and said he hoped Amano would “wrap up” this topic. Salehi said future steps would be easier if the topic were closed.

Amano, however, said that to assess Iran’s need for the detonators, the agency will need to consider “all past outstanding issues” and assess them as an entire system.

Amano said he and Iranian officials also discussed new measures that Iran is to take “in the near future” to address the agency’s unresolved concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, who was in Tehran during Amano’s visit, said on Aug. 18 that Iran is trying to resolve its problems with the agency while protecting Iran’s “principles, interests, and national security.” He said he hoped this cooperation would continue but that some IAEA requests are “irrational” and unacceptable to Iran.

Iran has provided the IAEA with information to address 13 areas of concern since the November agreement. After the August talks, Amano said he was glad to hear “from the highest levels [of the Iranian government] a firm commitment to implementation” of the November agreement.

Amano said that the IAEA remains committed to “resolve all past and present issues.”

Kelsey Davenport’s reporting from Vienna was supported by a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.

Iran and six world powers agreed to a four-month extension for negotiations on a comprehensive deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

Profile: State Dept. Targets ‘Generation Prague’

Kelsey Davenport

Since 2010, the State Department has hosted an annual conference on arms control and disarmament to support President Barack Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, with students and young professionals in the field as its principal target audience.

In interviews, participants in the conferences praised the meetings while suggesting ways to strengthen the effort.

The State Department uses the term “Generation Prague” to refer to the conferences and the next generation of professionals working in arms control. The term is an allusion to Obama’s speech outlining nuclear policy in Prague on April 5, 2009.

The State Department created the Generation Prague concept in 2010 to provide a “forum and framework for collaboration” with young professionals, students, and foreign governments that were energized by the Prague speech, Erin Harbaugh, outreach officer for the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 25 e-mail.

Now in its fifth year, Generation Prague is an event for “educating and empowering the next generation,” Alexandra Bell, director for strategic outreach in the Office of the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, said in the same e-mail.

Young people view nuclear weapons “through a completely different lens” in comparison to other generations because many were born after the Cold War, Bell said. The conferences give emerging leaders an opportunity to discuss nuclear policies that will fit in a more interconnected world, she said.

Making Disarmament ‘Relatable’

Participants at the conference said they benefited from the experience. For Brenna Gautam, a senior at the University of Notre Dame who attended the conference while working as an intern in Washington, the gathering presented “a more relatable image of the issue of disarmament and arms control.” Gautam, a co-founder of her university’s Global Zero chapter, said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that this is important because she feels that nuclear disarmament is “not a very personal issue” for her generation.

Erin Corcoran, a recent college graduate with an interest in the field, said in an Aug. 21 e-mail that, for young professionals to continue making progress in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, it is important to learn about the gravity of the threat posed by these weapons from “predecessors who lived and worked through the Cold War.”

Officials also say they benefit from the conferences. An Energy Department official said in a July 28 interview that the students and young professionals at Generation Prague have “challenged and broadened his thinking.” He said experts need to be reminded that youth “view the value of nuclear weapons differently” because the weapons do not have the same deterrent value today as they did during the Cold War.

One of the young professionals he mentioned was Kingston Reif, who participated in a 2011 panel and is now the director of nuclear nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Reif said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that he was motivated to participate because nuclear threat reduction is the responsibility not only of previous generations, “but our generation and future generations as well.”

Although the conferences bring in high-level officials such as Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Bell said the State Department has also worked to bring in experts from the “policy trenches” to ensure that the “audience gets an idea of how policy is working from top to bottom.”

Shane Mason said he appreciated the opportunity to meet experts who have been in the field for five to 10 years and support high-level officials. Mason, a research associate at the Stimson Center, said in an Aug. 20 e-mail that these experts provide “practical insights” about finding jobs and developing the necessary skills for the field.

Increasing Participation

Mason said that barriers to careers, particularly at the State Department, “seem pretty insurmountable at times.” Although he acknowledged that budget constraints make hiring difficult, Mason said that young people will not stay in the field if they cannot find jobs.

Bell said a “key driver” for reaching out to young people is demographics, as many experts who “built the arms control and nonproliferation regimes” are reaching retirement age. The State Department “wants to recruit their replacements” and is looking for new ways to hire the next generation of leaders, she said.

Despite the difficulties finding jobs, the number of young people involved in nuclear issues at the global level apparently is growing. Meena Singelee, who has tracked participation by young experts attending conferences that are part of the review process for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said the numbers have “gradually increased” since 2010, due in part to “renewed momentum” on disarmament issues and “new priorities” in areas such as nuclear security.

Singelee, executive director of the International Network Emerging Nuclear Specialists, said there remains a “lack of significant participation by young experts from developing countries,” she said.

The State Department is looking to expand Generation Prague to reach international audiences. Bell noted that the State Department has paired with international partners such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and representatives from countries including Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Harbaugh said that the State Department sees Generation Prague as “one part of a larger push to engage global youth” and welcomes collaborators.

Moving Forward

Several participants agreed that the conferences could accomplish more. Corcoran said that small-group discussions at future conferences might be useful so that there would be more opportunities to “directly engage” with some of the experts.

Reif suggested that the State Department work with universities on events that bring officials to campuses to “demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not just a problem of the past.”

Gautam agreed and suggested that the State Department work with pre-existing clubs on college campuses that are dedicated to arms control issues. She said a stronger online presence could be helpful in reaching out to students who cannot attend events such as the annual conference in Washington. Streaming the conference live would be a good step, she said.

Harbaugh said that the State Department wants to partner with universities and nongovernmental organizations to “offer more opportunities through the year, in and out of Washington.”

She said plans are already underway for next year’s conference and that organizers hope to make it more “interactive.”

For the past five years, the State Department has hosted an annual conference on arms control and disarmament to heighten interest in the issue among students and young professionals.

China Seen Nearing Sea-Based Deterrent

Brianna Starosciak and Kelsey Davenport

China will soon have its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, according to a U.S. Defense Department report released last month.

The report said Beijing is placing a “high priority” on updating and developing its submarine force and will soon deploy the Julang-2 (JL-2) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on its Jin-class submarine.

The Defense Department is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on China’s military capabilities and force modernization.

The new Pentagon report estimates that China will begin patrols by Jin-class submarines armed with JL-2 missiles sometime this year. China has three operational Jin-class submarines.

At a June 25 event discussing the Pentagon report, Oriana Mastro, an assistant professor at Georgetown University who specializes in Chinese military and security policy, said China’s current focus is on “defensive nuclear weapons.” But Mastro expressed concern that the Chinese could “start using their weapons the way the Pakistanis do” by “trying to deter conventionally superior countries” with their nuclear weapons.

The JL-2 has an estimated range of 7,400 kilometers, which would allow Beijing to hit Alaska from Chinese waters. The missile was originally anticipated to enter service in 2010, but the program was delayed several times. China conducted two successful tests of the missile in 2012. Last year’s Pentagon report said the JL-2 would reach “initial operating capability in 2013.” (See ACT, June 2013.)

The new report says that China is likely to add as many as five ballistic missile submarines to its fleet over the next decade and then move toward developing a second-generation nuclear-powered submarine.

The Jin-class submarine is designed to carry 12 JL-2 SLBMs. Analysts believe that the predecessor to the Jin class of submarines, called the Xia class, was never deployed outside Chinese waters. The 2011 edition of the Pentagon report characterized the operational status of the Xia-class submarines as “questionable,” a description the report also applied to the JL-1 SLBM, the predecessor of the JL-2. The JL-1 had an estimated range of only 1,700 kilometers. The JL-2, which is the sea-based version of China’s Dong Feng-31 (DF-31) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), has a much longer range and will increase China’s ability to deter threats from greater distances.

China has emphasized creating a more survivable nuclear force by adding more mobile missiles to its arsenal, the recent Pentagon report said.

Independent estimates put China’s total nuclear force at about 250 warheads of all types; 180 are thought to be nondeployed, or in reserve. In last year’s report, the Pentagon estimated that China has 50 to 75 ICBMs and a large number of shorter-range systems able to deliver nuclear weapons.

One of the mobile missiles that China has deployed is the DF-31A. It is an ICBM with an estimated range of 11,200 kilometers, meaning it can reach most of the continental United States.

China also is developing its road-mobile DF-41 ICBM. The Pentagon report said that the DF-41 is “possibly capable” of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). This is the only missile in the Chinese arsenal currently declared by the government to have a MIRV capability, according to the report. The Pentagon report said China probably would equip future missiles with MIRVs.

It is not clear when the DF-41 missile will be deployed. It was most recently tested last December.

According to the Pentagon report, increases in the number of mobile ICBMs and the beginning of deterrence patrols with Jin-class submarines will force China to “implement more sophisticated command and control systems and processes” in order to “safeguard the integrity” of the launch authority for a “larger, more dispersed force.”

Mark Stokes, former senior country director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense of International Security Affairs, said at the June 25 event that “the most significant aspect of this development” is who will have “custodianship” over the warheads when they are deployed at sea. Currently, China’s North Sea and South Sea fleets do not have peacetime custodianship of nuclear weapons, said Stokes, who is executive director of the Project 2049 Institute. Control now remains centralized, which is a “very effective way of ensuring peace and stability,” he said.

The Pentagon report states that China has more than 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles in its arsenal and is adding conventionally armed medium-range ballistic missiles.

China has also developed an anti-ship missile called the CSS-5 Mod 5 (DF-21D) with a range of 1,500 kilometers and a maneuverable warhead.

A Pentagon report released last month says that China will soon have its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.

Iran Provides Detonator Details to IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about the country’s past development of a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said last month in a quarterly report.

The report also found that Iran is complying with the measures outlined in an interim agreement it reached Nov. 24 with six world powers that restricts its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The “technical exchange” with the IAEA on the issues related to possible nuclear weapons development was the first since 2008, the May 23 report said.

According to the report, Iran supplied information on its need for exploding bridge wire detonators and said that the tests were for civilian applications. Although the report did not specify the application, this type of detonator can be used in drilling for oil and gas.

In the report, the IAEA said its assessment of the information that Iran provided is ongoing. The agency will need to evaluate all of the issues related to possible weapons development together as a “system,” the report said. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Exploding bridge wire detonators were among the issues included in a November 2011 report to the IAEA Board of Governors in which the agency detailed its allegations of Iranian activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, December 2011.)

Providing information on the detonators was one of seven actions that Iran on Feb. 9 had agreed to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into unresolved IAEA concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

The Feb. 9 announcement followed an agreement reached Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore; information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, which is under construction; and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

The May 23 IAEA report said that Iran completed these actions.

Man Charged for Violating Iran Sanctions

The U.S. Justice Department indicted a Chinese national April 28 for violating sanctions on Iran. The indictment’s seven counts include several for the sale of materials that could be used in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

The charges against Li Fangwei, also known as Karl Lee, include using the U.S. financial system to facilitate the illegal transactions.

The United States has imposed a wide range of sanctions that prohibit Iran from buying goods that could be used for its nuclear and missile programs. The sanctions are part of a broad effort by the United States and other countries, prompted in large part by concerns that Iran could choose to develop nuclear weapons. Additional sanctions are aimed at preventing any entity from using U.S. financial institutions for illicit business transactions with Iranian banks.

According to an April 29 Justice Department press release, Li’s companies have conducted business totaling $8.5 million with Iranian entities since 2006. The release said Li is a “principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program” and is a supplier of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and Aerospace Industries Organization.

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the press release that the allegations showed that Li used “subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions.”

In 2009, Li was prohibited from doing business within the United States without a license from the Treasury Department after investigations concluded he was supplying Iran with banned items that could be used to develop weapons.

According to the press release, Li never applied for a license, and the 2009 restriction forced him “to operate much of his business covertly.” Li developed a network of “China-based front companies to conceal his continuing participation” in activities that violate U.S. sanctions, the release said.

The U.S. government has seized more than $6.8 billion from bank accounts attributed to Li’s front companies. In addition, the Treasury Department added eight of the companies to a list of entities that are blocked from doing business in the United States.

Li is currently a fugitive, and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    New Measures

    Iran and the IAEA have agreed on five new actions that Iran is to take by Aug. 25, according to a May 21 joint statement by Tehran and the agency. In one of the actions, Iran has pledged to give the IAEA information dealing with allegations that Iran conducted experiments with certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons. Iran also said it would provide information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” another area with direct relevance to nuclear weapons development.

    Under the other measures, Iran is to give the IAEA information on and access to a centrifuge research and development center and centrifuges assembly workshops and to reach agreement with the agency on the “safeguards approach” for the heavy-water reactor at Arak.

    The IAEA and Iran met May 5 to discuss safeguards for the Arak reactor after Iran provided the agency with updated information on the reactor’s design.

    Iran has said it intends to use the Arak reactor for making medical isotopes, but the international community is concerned about the weapons-grade plutonium the reactor will produce in its spent fuel.

    The May 23 report found that Iran is complying with the terms of the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action, an initial agreement reached between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). These countries are currently negotiating a comprehensive deal during the six-month implementation of the initial agreement, which ends July 20.

    One of the key provisions of the initial agreement deals with Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Uranium refined to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade than if it begins as reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent.

    As part of the Nov. 24 deal, Iran agreed to dilute half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent. The May report confirmed that Iran had completed this dilution as required by April 20.

    The remaining half of the 20 percent-enriched uranium is to be converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

    The IAEA reported that Iran had converted about 67 kilograms as of May 19 and that about 38 kilograms remained to be converted before July 20.

    Talks Continue

    Iran and the P5+1 met again May 13-16 in Vienna to continue negotiations and begin drafting the comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

    In a press conference after the talks, Iran’s deputy chief negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, said that there was a good “atmosphere” during the talks but that progress is slow and there is “much difficulty.”

    This meeting was preceded by three rounds of talks in February, March, and April, during which both sides laid out their positions.

    A senior U.S. official said during a May 16 press briefing that the talks have entered the “drafting and negotiating phase,” which both sides knew would be difficult. The official said that there are “significant gaps” between the positions of the two sides.

    A European diplomat familiar with the talks said in a May 20 interview that the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program will be “one of the more difficult areas [on which] to find compromise” because the sides remain “very far apart in their assessments of Iran’s fuel needs.”

    Under the interim agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in November, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has been frozen at its current levels for six months. The interim agreement says the program should be defined in the comprehensive agreement by Iran’s “practical needs.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

    Iranian officials define “practical needs” as including the projected needs of Iran’s current and future nuclear power plants, so they are pushing to increase Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium over the next decade.

    Iran currently has one nuclear power plant, Bushehr, for which Russia is supplying the fuel under an initial contract that runs until 2021. Tehran has said it plans to build as many as 20 additional power reactors over the coming years.

    Reuters reported May 15 that a senior Iranian official said Iran would need 100,000 IR-1 centrifuges to produce enough fuel for each plant. Under the interim deal, Iran is currently operating about 10,200 IR-1 centrifuges. The IR-1 centrifuge is Iran’s first-generation model. Tehran is testing more-advanced models.

    The P5+1 “will not accept a 100,000-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program in the earlier phases of the deal,” the European diplomat said.

    The P5+1 has not made any public statements regarding the ideal size of Iran’s centrifuge program under the comprehensive agreement, but independent experts say that the P5+1 is likely to ask for reductions in the current number of operating centrifuges.

    In contrast to the three previous rounds of talks, the two sides did not issue a joint statement after the May talks.

    The diplomat said that the lack of a statement should not be seen as a “negative indication.” Deciding on a joint text for a statement was “not a priority” during the discussions because all sides are committed to reaching a deal, he said.

    During the May 16 briefing, the senior U.S. official said that the parties are “concerned about the amount of time left” but that all parties believe an agreement can be reached by the July 20 expiration of the interim agreement. That accord can be extended for six months if all the parties agree.

    Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with details on a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said in a report.

    N. Korea Has Nuclear Missile, Expert Says

    Kelsey Davenport

    North Korea probably can make nuclear warheads that are small enough to fit on its ballistic missiles, and activities at its nuclear test site and satellite launch facility likely indicate that Pyongyang is planning further tests to continue improving its nuclear arsenal, a former South Korean official said last month.

    In a May 19 interview, the former official said that Pyongyang can “likely fit a nuclear warhead on a Rodong missile” although it is not certain that the warhead would detonate properly.

    The medium-range Rodong missile, also known as the Nodong, is a deployed system with a range of 1,300 kilometers. This places South Korea, Japan, and parts of China within its range.

    Experts have expressed skepticism in the past about North Korea’s ability to deliver a nuclear warhead via a missile, but that sentiment apparently is beginning to shift.

    The former official said his opinion was based on recent North Korean statements and actions, including a February 2013 nuclear test and two Nodong missile tests in March.

    But he cautioned against the assumption that North Korea has deliverable nuclear warheads.

    When delivered via ballistic missile, nuclear warheads must survive re-entry into the atmosphere, a process that is difficult to perfect even with “advanced resources and technology,” which North Korea does not have, the official said.

    One of the key difficulties in delivering a nuclear warhead via a missile is making it small enough to fit. The process of making a nuclear device compact enough for delivery is often referred to as miniaturization.

    North Korea conducted nuclear tests in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013. (See ACT, March 2013.) After the 2013 test, North Korea said the device was “smaller and lighter” than past devices. Partly on the basis of that statement, some experts thought that the 2013 test might have used a miniaturized warhead. No public evidence of such a capability has emerged since then.

    According to a U.S. intelligence assessment released in January, Pyongyang’s “employment concepts”—the ways in which it would use nuclear weapons—are unknown.

    Pyongyang is thought to have four to 10 nuclear weapons that are plutonium based. Last year, it restarted a reactor that produces plutonium that could be separated for additional weapons. (See ACT, October 2013.) North Korea also possesses uranium-enrichment technology, giving it another potential route to making nuclear weapons, but it is unclear how much highly enriched uranium, if any, it has produced.

    According to experts, satellite imagery of the Yongbyon nuclear test site shows continued activity indicative of preparations for another test. North Korea announced in March that it is considering a “new form” of nuclear test, but did not give specifics as to the meaning of that term or the timing of the test. (See ACT, May 2014.)

    In an May 13 article posted on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jack Liu wrote that activities at the Punggye-ri test facility indicate that a fourth nuclear test is not imminent, despite speculation to the contrary.

    According to Hansen and Liu’s analysis of satellite imagery, activity in the West Portal area of the site shows continued excavation of a test tunnel. Workers also appear to be widening a road leading to the tunnel portal, Hansen and Liu said. If a test were imminent, North Korea would need to seal the tunnel.

    The two analysts wrote that if a test was imminent, there would be a “high level of activity” in the site’s Main Support Area, which has a key role in preparing for a nuclear test. The current activities “seem consistent with those needed for routine maintenance,” Hansen and Liu said.

    They also said activity is evident at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in northwest North Korea.

    In a May 20 piece, the analysts wrote that recent satellite images show construction projects at the Sohae site that could be intended for mobile launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). They concluded that it is “too soon to make a definitive judgment” on the purpose of these projects, but noted several developments consistent with the hypothesis that North Korea is planning to test ICBMs at the site.

    North Korea has displayed mock-ups of an ICBM known as the KN-08, or Hwasong-13, in several military parades dating back to April 2012.

    According to Hansen and Liu, construction of a “circular facility with a diameter of 50 meters” could be a launch pad for a mobile missile such as the KN-08. The presence of a new reinforced concrete road connecting the possible launch pad to the missile assembly building at the site supports the hypothesis that North Korea is building a mobile launch pad for ICBM tests, they said.

    The analysts said that this hypothesis is also supported by evidence of “ongoing KN-08 engine tests” at the Sohae facility.

    The January U.S. intelligence report said that North Korea has “already taken initial steps” toward fielding the KN-08 but it remains untested.

    North Korea can likely fit nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles, according to a former South Korean official.

    Saudi Arabia Displays Missiles

    Kelsey Davenport

    In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

    This display is Saudi Arabia’s first public acknowledgement of the purchase of Dong Feng-3 (DF-3) missiles.

    It remains unclear how many missiles were part of the sale. Estimates range from 30 to 50.

    The DF-3 was developed by the Chinese in the 1960s and first deployed in 1971. Saudi Arabia is not known to have tested a DF-3.

    It is a liquid-fueled, single-stage missile with a range of about 3,000 kilometers for a 1,000-kilogram payload. It can carry nuclear weapons, but the missiles sold to the Saudis have conventional warheads. China reportedly provided guarantees to the United States that the missiles were modified to prevent them from ever being used to carry nuclear warheads.

    The range of the DF-3 allows Saudi Arabia to target Iran. Some experts believe that Saudi Arabia may have displayed the DF-3 as a show of strength, given the hostile relationship between the two countries and Riyadh’s concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

    Saudi Arabia reportedly purchased more-modern missiles from China, including the DF-21, a medium-range ballistic missile. No DF-21 missiles were displayed in the April parade. Reports of the sale first emerged in 2010.

    The DF-21 is a two-stage, solid-fueled missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. China first deployed the DF-21 in 1991. It is considered a more reliable system than the DF-3, and its solid fuel makes it more mobile.

    In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

    India Tests Ballistic Missile for Subs

    Kelsey Davenport

    India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

    The test of the missile, known as the K-4, took place off the southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal using a submerged pontoon. The two-stage, nuclear-capable missile traveled approximately 3,000 kilometers, the news accounts said.

    India did not immediately publicize the missile test. But The Hindu on May 8 quoted officials who were present at the test as calling it “excellent” and saying that they would conduct “many more missions” like it to increase the reliability of the missile.

    The K-4 eventually is to be deployed on Indian submarines, the first of which is currently undergoing testing.

    Avinash Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said May 13 that India would be conducting a test launch of the K-4 from the INS Arihant “within the next few months.”

    The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

    India announced the successful development of a shorter-range SLBM, the K-15, in July 2012 and indicated at that time that the longer-range K-4 was under development. (See ACT, September 2012.)

    According to the DRDO, the K-15 has a maximum range of 700 kilometers for a 700-kilogram payload.

    Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

    India is planning to develop four nuclear submarines in total, and the boats are designed to carry four K-4 missiles or 12 K-15 missiles. New Delhi is planning to deploy the submarines by 2023.

    India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarinelaunched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

    South Korea Tests Longer-Range Missile

    Kelsey Davenport

    South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.

    According to spokesman Kim Min-seok, the new missile can deliver a 1,000-kilogram payload at a range of up to 500 kilometers.

    The missile was launched from a test site on the west coast of South Korea on March 23. The launch was the first to take advantage of a 2012 agreement between Seoul and Washington allowing South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles.

    Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea had been limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers for a 500-kilogram payload. But in October 2012, Washington and Seoul announced a revision to the 2001 agreement, allowing South Korea to extend the range to 800 kilometers. (See ACT, November 2012.) The revision kept the payload cap at 500 kilograms.

    Kim said that South Korea plans to develop missiles with an 800-kilometer range.

    Under these revised guidelines, South Korea will be able to target any site in North Korea from anywhere in its own territory. At the time that the October 2012 revision was announced, the United States said the range extension would allow South Korea to improve its ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

    North Korea is believed to have several varieties of operationally deployed ballistic missiles, including the Nodong, which has a range of approximately 1,300 kilometers. North Korea also is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), although it has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile in that category. It has displayed ICBMs in parades, but many experts have said those missiles were mock-ups.

    The (North) Korean People’s Army complained in an April 5 statement that Seoul did not provide adequate warnings that it was planning to test the missile.

    NK News, an independent website focused on developments in North Korea, reported April 7 that international organizations that provide alerts on missile launches for maritime and aviation purposes were not told that the launch would take place on March 23.

    South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.



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