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Kelsey Davenport

No Date Set for Middle East Zone Meeting

Kelsey Davenport

Middle Eastern countries gathered last month to discuss the agenda for a conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, but made no announcement that they had made progress toward setting a date to convene the conference. The countries continue to disagree over the agenda, an official familiar with the process told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 29 e-mail.

Iran, Israel, and all the Arab League countries attended the meeting, which was held Oct. 21-22 in Glion, Switzerland.

Progress on the agenda has been held up over disagreements as to what weapons the zone’s ban should cover because some countries favor expanding the ban to include limits on certain types of conventional weapons, the official said.

The countries might meet again this month, the official added, but it is unclear if all will attend given the “frustration” over the lack of progress.

At the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general were designated as the organizers of a conference on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. The conference was originally scheduled for December 2012 in Helsinki, with Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava as conference facilitator. But the conveners announced the month before that the conference would be postponed. The United States attributed the postponement to disagreement among states in the region on core issues, including the agenda for the conference. (See ACT, December 2012.)

The decision to hold the conference was critical to the NPT parties’ agreement on the 2010 review conference’s final document. (See ACT, June 2010.)

In an Oct. 8 statement at the UN General Assembly First Committee, Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil, Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations, outlined his country’s initiative for moving forward. The statement provided detail on an initiative presented by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Sept. 28 during the UN General Assembly debate.

The initiative includes two steps, according to the Oct. 8 statement. First, it calls on all countries in the region and the permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to submit letters to the UN secretary-general stating their support for creating the zone. Second, the countries are to simultaneously commit to signing and ratifying the relevant international conventions on weapons of mass destruction by the end of 2013, if they have not yet done so.

The relevant conventions include the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the NPT. Israel is the only country in the region not party to the NPT. Egypt and Israel are not party to the CWC, although Israel signed the convention in 1993. Syria officially became a party on Oct. 14. Egypt, Israel, and Syria also have not ratified the BWC, although Cairo and Damascus are signatories.

Egypt’s Sept. 28 initiative also called for the conference to be held by the end of the year or by the spring of 2014 “at the latest” and called on the facilitator and the conveners to “redouble their efforts” to hold the conference within that time frame.

In an Oct. 16 statement to the First Committee, David Roet, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Israel supports the “annual endorsement of this visionary goal” of creating the WMD-free zone but has “substantive reservations regarding certain elements.” Roet said that if “no progress has been made to date,” it is not due to a lack of cooperation by the Israelis, but because “Arab partners” have not made an effort to “engage with Israel directly on this issue and seek a consensual approach.”

N. Korea Lays Out Conditions for Talks

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea indicated last month that it may be willing to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests if abandoned talks with a group of five countries over Pyongyang’s nuclear activities resume.

In an official commentary released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 9, Pyongyang suggested that it would make this commitment after the talks restart, “not as a precondition” to resume negotiations. Satellite launches would also be exempt, KCNA reported.

The so-called six-party talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, began in 2003 and continued intermittently until 2008, when North Korea said it would no longer participate.

A South Korean official said in an Oct. 28 interview that North Korea made a similar offer at an informal meeting with former U.S. officials in Berlin in September, according to his briefing on the meeting. The South Korean government was not represented at the meeting, nor were any current U.S. officials present, he said. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho represented Pyongyang.

The official, however, expressed doubt about the sincerity of North Korea’s offer, saying that North Korea “often reneges” on verbal and written agreements.

In February 2012, North Korea and the United States reached a deal, known as the “Leap Day Agreement,” in which Pyongyang agreed to a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food aid from Washington. The agreement broke down after Pyongyang attempted to launch a satellite in April of that year. The United States said that satellite launches were part of the moratorium on missile launches, but North Korea disagreed, and the agreement collapsed. (See ACT, May 2012.)

At a Sept. 26 press briefing, Cho Tai-young, deputy minister for public relations in the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said that it is “difficult to say” if the informal meeting, which brought together government officials from North Korea with former U.S. officials, “will immediately lead to the resumption” of the six-party talks, but that South Korea considers it an “occasion to exchange various opinions.”

When asked about the meeting and North Korea’s offer there, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said during an Oct. 10 briefing that “the onus” is on North Korea to “take meaningful steps” to live up to its commitments to “abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing programs.”

Harf said she would not “outline specifically what that might look like.”

North Korea committed to denuclearization in a 2005 joint statement with the other members of the six-party talks.

Reactor Restart Confirmed

The South Korean official also said that his country’s National Intelligence Service reported to the National Assembly on Oct. 8 that North Korea had restarted a reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear site.

Satellite imagery led independent U.S. analysts to conclude that North Korea was restarting the reactor in September, but neither Washington nor Seoul confirmed the initial reports. (See ACT, October 2013.)

The reactor produces plutonium, which, when separated, can be used for nuclear weapons. Experts estimate that it would be about 18 months before the first new plutonium produced by the reactor would be separated and available for weapons.

In April, North Korea announced its intention to restart the reactor. It had been shut down and disabled in 2007 as a part of Pyongyang’s negotiations over its nuclear weapons program with the other participants in the six-party talks. Prior to the shutdown, the reactor produced enough nuclear material for six to 12 warheads.

During an Oct. 9 press briefing, Harf declined to comment on reports of the reactor restarting, but reiterated that if Pyongyang has restarted the reactor, it would be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions that require North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

Test Site Activity

Meanwhile, satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicates that Pyongyang is excavating new tunnels that could be used for future nuclear tests, according to an Oct. 23 analysis published by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

38 North’s Nick Hansen, a former military imagery analyst, reported two new tunnel entrances at the site. The activities indicate that North Korea is preparing to conduct further nuclear tests, but there are “no signs” that Pyongyang plans to do so “in the immediate future,” he wrote. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013.

An official commentary hinted that Pyongyang might suspend nuclear testing after six-party talks resume, but a South Korean official expressed skepticism.

Iran, P5+1 Hold ‘Substantive’ Talks

Kelsey Davenport

Negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program were “substantive and forward looking,” according to a joint statement released by officials representing Tehran and six world powers after talks Oct. 15-16 in Geneva.

Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs and the leader of the U.S. delegation, said in an Oct. 16 interview with CNN that the parties held a “detailed, substantive discussion with a candor” she had not heard during the past two years of negotiations with Iran.

The new negotiating team appointed by recently elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met for the first time with representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known collectively as the P5+1, to resume talks on reaching an agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The parties had agreed to resume negotiations after they met in New York on Sept. 26 and Rouhani spoke on the phone with U.S. President Barack Obama on Sept. 27. (See ACT, October 2013.)

After Rouhani took office in August, he called for more-serious talks with the P5+1 to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 broke down in April. (See ACT, May 2013.) Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the international community is concerned that Iran may choose to build nuclear weapons.

At an Oct. 16 press conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country’s delegation and presented the Iranian proposal on the first day of talks, said he believed that the P5+1 “exhibited the necessary political will” to move forward on the negotiations. Now the parties have “to get to the details,” he said.

Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the leader of the P5+1 negotiating team, issued a joint statement at the end of the Geneva talks on behalf of the parties, stating that Iran had presented the outline of a plan “as a proposed basis for negotiation” that is being “carefully considered” by the P5+1 as “an important contribution.”

The Oct. 16 statement also said that the delegations held “in-depth bilateral and joint consultations” on elements of the plan and agreed to meet again Nov. 7-8 in Geneva. In the interim, experts from each side are to meet to “address differences and to develop practical steps.” The technical-level talks were held Oct. 30-31 in Vienna.

Sherman said that the discussions were direct and specific but that “many more details” remain to be resolved and there are “areas of great difference.” During the Geneva meeting, Sherman met with her Iranian counterpart in a bilateral meeting, the first such meeting to take place during nuclear negotiations since 2009.

In a separate press conference Oct. 16, Ashton said that the parties agreed not to release details of the Iranian proposal before the next round of negotiations. But the proposal is reported to include a discussion of a comprehensive agreement and an interim confidence-building measure to be implemented in the next three to six months. Sherman touched on this in her Oct. 16 CNN interview, saying that the two days of talks were “an important predicate” to reaching agreement on a confidence-building step and a final deal.

No steps were taken to relieve sanctions, Sherman said, adding that there is “a lot of work to do” before those steps can be taken. Sanctions experts accompanied the U.S. negotiating team to Geneva because Tehran needs to understand “what it takes to implement sanctions relief,” she said.

Challenges Ahead

Former government officials and other experts said it will be a challenge to negotiate the scope of an interim step to build confidence as both sides work out the conditions of a final deal.

The United States will likely look for Iran to suspend enrichment activities that bring the level of the uranium-235 isotope to 20 percent. Iran also enriches uranium to 3.5 percent. Uranium enriched to 20 percent can be more easily enriched to weapons-grade levels. Suspending 20 percent enrichment was part of the P5+1 proposal at the talks held in February and April in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (See ACT, March and May 2013.)

Iran’s most pressing concerns are sanctions relief and a recognition of its right to enrich uranium, according to Iranian officials.

The Iranian team did not go to Geneva “to seal a deal or take an interim step,” Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, said during an Oct. 18 conference call with reporters.

Vaez, who was in Geneva during the negotiations, said that progress must first be made on a common understanding of the end state of Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaking during the Oct. 18 call, Robert Einhorn, a former State Department special adviser on nonproliferation and arms control, said that although the recent Geneva sessions were “purposeful” and the Iranians are serious about reaching a deal for the first time, it is “not clear if real progress has been made” during the talks.

Einhorn, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that “fleshing out” a framework for the interim steps will be a “real challenge.”

Vaez said that the “biggest challenges” will be negotiating the details on the limits of the enrichment activities that Tehran will be permitted and the verification measures to be put in place to monitor Iran’s nuclear program.

Future Sanctions Unclear

Reactions on Capitol Hill to the Geneva talks were mixed, with some members calling for further sanctions against Iran while negotiations are ongoing.

In a joint statement released Oct. 18, Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said that the United States “should not suspend” moving forward on new sanctions or release Iranian assets that have been tied up in other countries by existing restrictions until Tehran “suspends its nuclear enrichment activities.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he would be open to “freezing further legislative action” on new sanctions if Iran quickly takes “concrete and fully verifiable steps,” including suspending all enrichment activities and allowing for comprehensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, said in an Oct. 15 statement that the United States “must continue to increase the sanctions against Iran” until Tehran has taken “clear and verifiable steps to halt and dismantle its nuclear program.”

Prior to the Geneva negotiations, in Oct. 3 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sherman said that if Iran did not come to Geneva with a “substantive plan that is real and verifiable,” the administration would support “looking at what pressure needs to be added.”

After the Geneva talks, however, in an Oct. 25 interview with Voice of America, Sherman said that it is time for a “pause” in passing new sanctions so that the negotiations can “gain traction.”

The House of Representatives passed additional sanctions legislation, H.R. 850, in July. If enacted, this law would result in a de facto oil embargo on Iran.

A Senate staffer said on Oct. 24 that similar legislation is being considered in the Senate Banking Committee, but did not provide details

After negotiations in Geneva over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, Iran and six world powers issued a joint statement calling the talks “substantive and forward looking.”

It's Time for Iran to Cooperate with the IAEA to Resolve Concerns About Its Nuclear Activities



Volume 4, Issue 12, October 24, 2013

While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28 to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

These talks provide Iran with an important opportunity to address concerns about its past nuclear activities. Only with such cooperation can the IAEA assure the international community that Iran is no longer pursing actions related to nuclear-weapons development.

Iran-IAEA Negotiations

In an annex to its November 2011 report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA detailed concerns about several types of activities with potential military dimensions that the agency is requesting that Iran address. They include:

  • High-explosives experiments with nuclear weapons implications;
  • Neutron initiation and detonator development;
  • Suspected work to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile, along with arming, firing and fusing mechanisms; and
  • Iranian procurement activities related to its alleged warhead work.

Following up on these allegations, the IAEA submitted to Iran on February 20, 2012 a document identifying the kinds of actions that Iran needs to take to respond to the IAEA's concerns. This document is referred to as the "structured approach." Iran submitted a reply to the IAEA on February 26, 2012, which included an edited version of the structured approach document. The document presented Tehran's preference on how the agency should proceed with the investigations.

In total, Iran and the IAEA have met 11 times to negotiate the approach to the agency's investigations and resolvethe differences first laid out in February 2012. But the sides have failed to make progress on an agreement that will allow the agency to begin its work. In an address to the agency's Board of Governors on June 4, 2013, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that after the first ten meetings, no progress had been made on the negotiations, and that the talks are "going around in circles."

Despite this lack of progress in the past, the October 28 meeting represents an important opportunity to make progress on the structured approach. This will be the second meeting between Iran and the IAEA since Hassan Rouhani took office as President in August. Rouhani, widely acknowledged to be more moderate than his predecessor, pledged to make Iran's nuclear program "more transparent."

Rouhani also appointed a new ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi. Najafi resumed negotiations on the structured approach with the IAEA on September 27, an introductory meeting that both he and IAEA Deputy Director Herman Naeckerts described as "constructive."

Still, significant differences remain, despite the change in leadership. In a September 26, 2013 document submitted to the IAEA following the agency's August 2013 report on Iran's nuclear program, Iran continued to insist that the IAEA provide it access to the evidence upon which it based it allegations about the possible military dimensions and raised objections to the agency's proposed approach to the investigation.  

Disputed Process

A comparison of the approaches favored by Iran and the IAEA indicate several areas of dispute that are preventing agreement on a modality for allowing the IAEA investigation to begin. As indicated by its February 2012 edits to the structured approach document, Iran objects to the IAEA's proposal on the sequence, scope, and allowance for follow-up activities as the investigation continues. While Tehran should have a say about how the IAEA proceeds, placing undue or arbitrary restrictions on the agency's investigations will continue to fuel international speculation that Iran has nuclear weapons ambitions.

Sequencing: In the February 2012 document, the IAEA laid out its intended sequence for investigating the topics of concern, but noted that some of the areas identified "may also be dealt with in parallel." Iran deleted the clause allowing for parallel investigations in its edits to the document and added the following language in a later paragraph "after implementation of action on each topic, it will be considered concluded and then the work on the next topic will start."

Iran's earlier rejection of parallel investigations would only prolong the process and hinder the IAEA's activities because many of the areas that the IAEA identified are interlinked. It is logical that, if in the course of its investigations in one area, it obtains information relating to another question, it be allowed to direct its attention to these multiple areas simultaneously.

Scope: In 2012, Iran wanted to limit the scope of the IAEA's investigations to only those issues identified in the annex to the November 2011 report.

It may be reasonable to begin with these issues, but the IAEA cannot agree ahead of time not to pursue new areas of concern that might emerge during the process and leave important questions unanswered.

Follow Up: In the 2012 structured approach document, the IAEA stated that it would identify follow-up actions throughout the process as necessary to facilitate its investigations. Iran's proposal on the approach removed that clause that would allow the IAEA to identify any further actions necessary throughout the investigations.

Restricting the agency's ability to follow up if new areas of concern emerge could prevent the IAEA from asserting that all of Iran's nuclear activities are entirely peaceful. In addition, evidence provided to the IAEA about Iran's activities comes in part from intelligence gathered by member states. It is unlikely that this information provides a complete picture of Iran's alleged nuclear activities with military dimensions.

If Iran wants to demonstrate the entirely peaceful nature of its nuclear program, then it should prioritize reaching an agreement with the IAEA that would allow the agency to proceed with its investigation as soon as possible.

The IAEA could encourage Iranian cooperation by assuring Tehran that the agency would not punish Iran in the future if it comes clean about its past activities and the agency is able to conclude that these activities are no longer being pursued.

Additional Transparency Measures

In the September 26 submission to the IAEA, Iran also explained its decision not to implement the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement or Modified Code 3.1 of its safeguards agreement. In both cases, Iran maintains that it has chosen not to observe the agreements because the IAEA's investigations into Iran's nuclear program are politicized and not based on technical or legal justifications.

Iran should reconsider its decision not to implement these agreements. While Iran is not legally required to implement the Additional Protocol, the transparency gained by such actions would go a long way to provide further evidence that Iran's nuclear program is for entirely peaceful purposes, as it claims.

If Iran implements Code 3.1, the IAEA will receive information about any plans Tehran has to expand its nuclear program earlier than it would under the existing safeguards agreement. Iran would also be obligated to share any design changes to existing nuclear facilities. This would give the agency a clearer picture of the trajectory of Iran's nuclear program and provide early assurances about the nature and purpose of new facilities.

The Additional Protocol would allow the IAEA to visit all of the facilities associated with Iran's nuclear activities, including sites that the agency does not currently have access to, such as the uranium mines, Iran's centrifuge production facilities, and its heavy water production plant. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine, undeclared, nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations.

With the Additional Protocol in effect, the IAEA would also be able to visit any site on very short notice. These monitoring and verification measures would give the agency a more complete picture of Iran's nuclear activities and allow for early detection of deviations from peaceful activities. Early notification would give the international community time to respond to any dash Iran might make toward building nuclear weapons.

Implementing the Additional Protocol is a step Iran could take quickly because it already negotiated the agreement with the IAEA. Iran signed the document and voluntarily implemented it between 2003-2006. However, because Tehran did not ratify the Additional Protocol, it is not legally bound to follow it.

Moving Forward

While the scope of Iran's future nuclear activities will be determined by the outcome of its negotiations with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), an agreement is unlikely to be reached if Tehran does not answer the IAEA's concerns and assure the international community that it is not actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

A deal that allows Iran to enrich uranium only to normal reactor-grade levels, limits its enrichment capacity and stockpile, and grants the IAEA more extensive access and monitoring, in exchange for a phased lifting of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities, is still within reach. For it to be realized, however, Iran must cooperate with the IAEA and allow the agency to resolve its outstanding concerns over Tehran's nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.--KELSEY DAVENPORT


The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. Daryl G. Kimball is ACA's executive director.


While much of the world's attention will remained focused on Iran's negotiations with six world powers over its nuclear program, Iran will meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on October 28, to continue talks over the agency's approach to investigating Tehran's alleged weapons-related nuclear activities.

Country Resources:

Myanmar Signs Agreement With IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

The agreement—an additional protocol to Myanmar’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA—will give the agency expanded access to information and sites related to the country’s nuclear activities. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been suspected of pursuing a nuclear weapons program in the past, but announced last November that it would sign and implement an additional protocol.

In an official statement released by Myanmar on Sept. 19, the country said it was “actively pursuing nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation” in international forums and that the additional protocol would contribute toward those goals.

According to a Sept. 17 press release from the IAEA, implementation of the additional protocol in Myanmar will “significantly increase” the agency’s ability to verify that nuclear material in the country is being used for peaceful purposes.

The additional protocol will enter into force when Myanmar notifies the IAEA that it has the statutory requirements in place to meet its obligations under the agreement.

There are currently 121 countries with additional protocols in place.

Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

Images Signal N. Korean Reactor Restart

Kelsey Davenport

Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future, analysts say, but one of the analysts estimates it will be about 18 months before Pyongyang will have more plutonium available for weapons.

In a Sept. 11 piece published by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jeffery Lewis concluded that satellite images from Aug. 31 showed steam coming from a building near the reactor that was consistent in “coloration and volume” with bringing the reactor’s electrical generating systems online. The reactor is “in or nearing operation,” said Hansen, a former military imagery analyst, and Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

In April 2013, Pyongyang said it intended to rebuild and restart the reactor at its Yongbyon facility. Given the disabling of the reactor in 2007 and the destruction of the reactor’s cooling tower in 2008, it was unclear if North Korea would be able to operate the reactor. (See ACT, May 2013.) The reactor, built in the 1980s, provided North Korea with the plutonium that it separated for use in its nuclear arsenal, an amount estimated to be sufficient for six to 12 warheads.

Although the steam indicates that the reactor is restarting, the facility may not be fully operational. In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said that the initial steam “probably indicated a test” of the reactor. Fitzpatrick, now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that, after six years of dormancy, the reactor will have to go through a “series of start-up tests” before normal operations begin. Imagery showing “successive days of steam” will prove that the reactor is operating, he said.

The reactor at Yongbyon was first shut down in 1994 as part of an agreement reached with the United States, under which Pyongyang was to freeze all nuclear activity and eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal. In exchange, North Korea was to receive energy assistance in the form of fuel oil and light-water reactors, which are less proliferation sensitive than the heavy-water reactor at Yongbyon.

In 2002 the agreement broke down, and North Korea restarted the reactor. It operated until 2007, when Pyongyang shut it down and sealed it, as required under a 2005 agreement that was negotiated with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States during the so-called six-party talks that began in 2003. U.S. experts verified the disabling of the reactor in November 2007.

According to Fitzpatrick, it will be about 18 months before the “first new bomb-ready plutonium” is available. For North Korea to maximize plutonium production, irradiation of the reactor’s fuel should continue for about eight months before the spent fuel is unloaded, he said. It will then need to cool for at least six months before reprocessing. Fitzpatrick said that reprocessing takes about three months but there could be some disruptions because the reprocessing facility also has been dormant.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the organization’s Board of Governors on Sept. 9 that he remains “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s nuclear activities. Amano said the agency’s knowledge of Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains limited because the IAEA has been unable to carry out any verification activities in the county since 2009.

Talks Remain Unlikely

The State Department declined to comment on reports of the reactor restart. But in a Sept. 13 briefing, spokeswoman Marie Harf said restarting would be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and North Korea’s 2005 commitment to denuclearize.

The denuclearization agreement was part of the six-party talks that have been stalled since 2008 despite various calls by different states to revive the talks since then. On Sept. 18, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called for the resumption of the six-party talks “without preconditions.”

The United States has repeatedly said that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization before negotiations resume.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, reiterated that position during a recent trip to Japan. In Sept. 13 remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Davies said that the North Koreans are trying to make the talks about “their right” to be a nuclear-weapon state, which the United States “cannot countenance.”

Davies, whose trip included stops in Beijing and Seoul, said denuclearization is the “most important issue” of the six-party talks for the United States.

Current U.S. policy toward North Korea also includes tightening sanctions and working with China to pressure North Korea to resume negotiations based on Washington’s preconditions.

Fitzpatrick said that although the reactor restart is a “prima facie case of U.S. policy failure,” a different policy might not have been any more successful. He recommended that, for now, the United States pursue a “quiet exploration of a return to the 2012 Leap Day deal.”

He was referring to a February 2012 U.S.-North Korean agreement under which North Korea accepted a moratorium on its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in return for food aid. (See ACT, March 2012.)

The agreement broke down when North Korea attempted to launch a satellite in April 2012. The United States maintained that the satellite launch violated the missile launch moratorium, while North Korea said it was permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

Illicit Trafficking Continues

North Korea also continues to flout UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import and export of conventional weapons.

According to new accounts, UN inspectors found that the Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean ship detained by Panama on July 15, was carrying a variety of small arms and light weapons. At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Sept. 26, Chairman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said that “small arms and light weapons ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery ammunition for anti-tank guns” were part of the shipment.

After the ship was seized, it was found to be carrying large weaponry systems, such as MiG aircraft. Havana said the weaponry was to be repaired in North Korea and sent back to Cuba. UN Security Council resolutions ban the export or import of weapons by North Korea. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Hugh Griffiths, who heads the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s project on illicit trafficking, said that “only a very small proportion” of North Korean violations are detected. In a Sept. 22 e-mail, he said that a wide range of companies may be “inadvertently involved” in violations of the sanctions on imports and exports because they do not have the “capacity to recognize risk indicators.” Seizure of the North Korean ship’s cargo was unusual, Griffiths said, because only a few states have the “awareness and capacity to know what constitutes a vessel or voyage of proliferation concern.”

Panama originally detained the ship because it was suspected of trafficking drugs.

Griffiths said that a “major issue” is the difficulty that UN member states have in working out how to share classified information with the United Nations. This results in an “information deficit” on monitoring and sharing information about North Korean ships or flights that pose a proliferation concern, he said.

Griffiths said that it is necessary to keep the option of further sanctions on the table. He said that North Korean-owned vessels and aircraft are often used to transfer prohibited items to and from North Korea, so “designating these assets at a later stage could be a potent form of leverage.”

Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future...

Pakistan to Focus on Short-Range Missiles

Kelsey Davenport

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on developing and improving short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to deter India’s conventional military superiority despite the second successful test of India’s long-range, nuclear-capable Agni-5 missile, experts said in recent interviews.

Although India and Pakistan are nuclear rivals, New Delhi’s forays into longer-range missile systems do not seem to be spurring reciprocal developments in Islamabad.

In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Naeem Salik, a retired Pakistani brigadier general, wrote that Pakistan is “not unduly concerned” with India’s development of longer-range missiles, such as the Agni-5, because it would not be cost effective to fire them at reduced ranges to target Pakistan. Because Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “aimed only at India,” Salik said, Pakistan does not require longer-range systems because Islamabad can reach “any target” in India with its current inventory of missiles.

Salik added that Pakistan’s “self[-]imposed restraint” on its missile ranges also is a “conscious decision” not to develop missiles that would allow Islamabad to target Israel. This prevents “unnecessary hostility” from Israel and “pro-Israel lobbies in the United States,” he said.

India’s Sept. 15 test of the Agni-5, its longest-range missile, “met all the mission objectives,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement released following the test. The Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile that can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload 5,000 kilometers, according to reports. It was first tested in April 2012. (See ACT, May 2012.)

In a Sept. 19 e-mail, Toby Dalton, a former senior policy adviser to the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security at the U.S. Energy Department, offered an analysis similar to Salik’s on some key points. Pakistan is not responding “solely or even primarily” to India’s nuclear developments but rather to New Delhi’s “conventional military plans and growing [conventional] capabilities,” he wrote.

Dalton, now the deputy director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that India’s nuclear developments are “primarily driven” by China’s growing nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s presumably growing conventional forces.

The reported 5,000-kilometer range of the Agni-5 puts it just below the 5,500-kilometer threshold for classification as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), but it is capable of reaching most of China, including Beijing, and the Middle East.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Sept. 15 that China “noted relevant reports” of the Agni-5 test and that “both sides should make concerted efforts to enhance” political trust and stability in the region.

Pakistan’s Focus

As India pursues longer-range systems, Salik said that Islamabad is focused mainly on development of two types of missiles: cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.

The emphasis Islamabad is placing on cruise missile development is important, Salik said, because of India’s “ongoing efforts to indigenously develop or acquire ballistic missile defense systems.” Ballistic missile defense systems are not designed to target cruise missiles.

For the past several years, Pakistan has been testing several types of cruise missiles, including the Babur, which has a range of 700 kilometers with a 300-kilogram payload. The Babur can also be launched from naval surface platforms. Islamabad also is testing an air-launched cruise missile, the Raad, which has a range of 350 kilometers. Salik noted that the Raad will give Pakistan a “stand-off capability,” which allows pilots to launch a weapon at a distance from the target, thus allowing them to avoid defensive fire.

Pakistan also has been focusing more attention on its short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including the Nasr. Islamabad began testing the Nasr, which has a range of 60 kilometers, in April 2011. It is “ostensibly for use as a battlefield nuclear weapons delivery system” to deter India from launching its Cold Start strategy, Salik said.

Cold Start is India’s conventional military doctrine aimed specifically at responses to Pakistani incursions into India. It involves quick, limited strikes into Pakistani territory.

India’s conventional military capabilities exceed those of Pakistan.

Dalton said that Pakistan is focusing on shorter-range systems to deter Indian conventional operations to address “substrategic” deterrence gaps. Pakistan’s current focus on short-range systems does not preclude the development of longer-range systems in the future, but at this point, “the objective of such a development is not clear,” Dalton said.

Future Agni Development

In a Sept. 15 press release, the DRDO called the successful Agni-5 test a “major milestone” and announced that the missile will now be tested from a canister, which is how the missile will eventually be deployed.

DRDO Director-General Avinash Chander said that the Agni-5 “canister-launch” should take place early next year. In Sept. 15 remarks, Chander said that, after three or four more tests, the Agni-5 will be stored and deployed in canisters to “drastically” reduce the reaction time for launching the missile, a priority for India. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Recent statements indicate that New Delhi plans to focus on increasing the range of its ballistic missiles in the future. India is in the initial stages of developing an ICBM with a range of at least 6,000 kilometers, the Agni-6, DRDO officials have said on several occasions.

In his Sept. 15 comments, Chander said that increasing the range of future ballistic missiles is the “least problematic” area for India. New Delhi could develop a missile with a 10,000-kilometer range in two and a half years, he said. India does not currently “see the need” for that range, he said.

The DRDO is working on technology for multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), which will allow future Agni missiles to carry several warheads. Although the Agni-5 is being tested with a single warhead, the Agni-6 could be equipped to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, a DRDO scientist told the New Indian Express on Sept. 18.

Dalton said that on “technical drivers” of Indian missile development, including areas such as MIRVs, the DRDO is “often out front of the rest of the government in claims about its technology developments that may not in fact be settled policy.”

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on improving its short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, despite India’s advances in long-range ballistic missiles, experts say.

Iran, U.S. Push Nuclear Diplomacy

Kelsey Davenport

Following a high-level series of diplomatic exchanges and meetings between U.S. and Iranian leaders in late September, both sides say there is a strong basis for a diplomatic resolution to the long-running impasse over Iran’s nuclear program.

In the highest level of contact between the two governments since 1979, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone about Iran’s nuclear program Sept. 27, Obama told reporters at a White House news conference later that day.

“While there will surely be important obstacles” and success is not guaranteed, “I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution” to the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program, Obama said.

“[T]he test will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions” by Iran that would “bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions,” he said.

Obama’s conversation with Rouhani followed a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations on Sept. 26 that Kerry described as “constructive.” Zarif’s presentation to six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on the nuclear negotiations had a tone that was different from the one Iran had taken in previous meetings with the group, known as the P5+1, and was “very different in the vision” of possibilities for the future, Kerry said afterwards.

Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have been intermittent and largely unproductive for more than a decade. The P5+1 met three times with Iran in 2012 and once each in February and April 2013, but failed to reach an agreement.

The two sides will resume talks in Geneva on Oct. 15-16, a senior State Department official said during a press briefing following the Sept. 26 meeting.

Kerry said that he hoped the negotiations lead to “concrete results that will answer the outstanding questions” about Iran’s nuclear program. Zarif, speaking later that evening at an event organized by the Asia Society in New York, said that he was “optimistic” about negotiations and now the parties need to “match our words with actions.”

In a statement following the Sept. 26 meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the head negotiator for the P5+1, said that the group had put forward a proposal that would remain on the table. (See ACT, May 2013.) Iran can “respond directly” to that proposal or put forward its own at the October meeting, she said.

One-Year Timetable

Zarif said he and Kerry “agreed to jump-start the process” and move to agree “first, on the parameters of the end game.” Iran and the P5+1 will think about the order of steps that need to be implemented to “address the immediate concerns of [the] two sides” and move toward finalizing a deal within a year, Zarif said.

The senior State Department official said that Iran was “urged” to “add some substance” to the ideas presented during the meeting and share some details before talks resume Oct. 15.

The Sept. 26 meeting marked the first set of talks the P5+1 had with Iran under Rouhani, who took office Aug. 3 and is widely seen as more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama said in a Sept. 24 speech at the UN that he made it clear in letters to Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Washington prefers to resolve its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program “peacefully” but remains determined to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. Obama said the United States “respects the right of the Iranian people to access nuclear energy.”

Since his election, Rouhani made several speeches indicating that Tehran was more serious about making a deal. In his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, he said that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and nuclear weapons have “no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine.”

He said it was “imperative” that Iran “remove any and all reasonable concerns” about its nuclear program.

Colin Kahl, a former Defense Department official in the Obama administration, told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 26 e-mail that Rouhani “signaled his willingness to reach some accommodation” and claims to have “sufficient leeway” from Khamenei to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue.

Sanctions Relief Sought

Rouhani told the United Nations that any deal must respect Iran’s right to enrich uranium and provide relief from the “unjust sanctions.”

Iran is subject to UN Security Council sanctions for failing to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and provide answers to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding activities that could be applicable to developing nuclear weapons. The European Union and the United States and other countries have imposed their own sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed further sanctions against Iran in July that would result in a de facto oil embargo within a year if signed into law. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee is considering sanctions legislation of its own. That bill had not been publicly released at press time.

Kahl, now with the Center for a New American Security, said that if Iran is motivated to negotiate seriously and work toward a deal, “maintaining the current level of pressure is sufficient for now.”

“Piling on additional sanctions now, prior to testing Rouhani’s will to strike a deal” and his ability to sell it in Iran, could be “highly counterproductive,” Kahl said. New sanctions would “provide ammunition to Iranian hardliners,” allowing them to argue that “Tehran’s new, more conciliatory approach has made circumstances worse, not better,” he said.

Passing new sanctions if Iran “refuses to engage seriously and move toward meaningful concessions” could be a useful tool for diplomacy, Kahl said.

‘Very Constructive’ IAEA Talks

Iran resumed negotiations Sept. 27 with the IAEA over an approach for the agency’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) The IAEA negotiations have had little visible progress over the past two years.

Herman Nackaerts, deputy director-general of the IAEA, and Reza Najafi, Iran’s new ambassador to the IAEA, struck a positive tone in comments to reporters.

Speaking before the meeting, Najafi said that the parties would “exchange views” on how to “continue cooperation to resolve these issues.”

Nackaerts said after the meeting that the sides agreed to meet again on Oct. 28.

Following a high-level series of diplomatic exchanges and meetings between U.S. and Iranian leaders in late September, both sides say there is a strong basis for a diplomatic resolution...

IAEA Members Reject Israel Resolution

Kelsey Davenport

A resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program, revived after a two-year hiatus, failed to pass the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month.

The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by a group of 18 Arab states, would have called on Israel to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and put all of its nuclear sites under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. The measure, referred to as “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” on the IAEA agenda, failed by a vote of 43-51 on Sept. 20, the last day of the conference.

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, an Egyptian official and head of the Arab League’s mission to the IAEA, told Reuters on Sept. 20 that the world needs to know about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and that its nuclear arsenal is “not playing a constructive role.”

Israel does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have an arsenal of approximately 80 warheads. Israel has not joined the NPT, but is a member of the IAEA, and its nuclear research activities are subject to IAEA monitoring and verification.

In a Sept. 18 statement at the conference, Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that introducing the resolution “inflicts a serious blow to any attempt to embark on a regional security dialogue.” He called on states to “condemn the Arab initiative” and “decisively defeat this motion.”

The United States voted against the resolution. In a statement delivered after the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus said that the United States regretted that the resolution had been brought to a vote or even discussed at the IAEA.

A diplomat who attended the conference told Arms Control Today on Sept. 26 that about 30 European countries also voted against the resolution, as did Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

China, Russia, and South Africa were among the countries that voted with the Arab League. More than 60 IAEA members abstained or were absent during the vote.

A similar resolution passed the IAEA conference for the first time in 2009, after being voted down for several years. An attempt the next year failed. The Arab states refrained from putting the measure on the agenda in 2011 and 2012, saying they hoped that Israel would be more likely to attend a regional meeting on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East if it did not feel singled out for condemnation in the region.

As part of an accord that was crucial to reaching consensus on the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the treaty parties agreed to hold a meeting on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East by the end of 2012. The meeting was set for Helsinki last December, but the conveners, which included Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced that the conference would be postponed because some states from the region had not yet agreed to attend and because there were disagreements over the agenda for the meeting. (See ACT, December 2012.)

At the time of postponement, Israel was the only country not to have publicly committed to attending a meeting.

A June 12 memorandum and letter submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, on behalf of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories asked that the resolution be placed on the agenda of the IAEA conference. According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to pursue passage of the resolution.

In his Sept. 20 statement, Macmanus said that the United States would continue to work toward “constructive dialogue” on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and called on “all concerned states” to “engage directly and on the basis of consensus and mutual respect” to establish the zone.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, member states voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program.


Israel Back on Agenda of IAEA Conference

Kelsey Davenport

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

An item on Israel’s nuclear capabilities has been on the annual conference’s agenda since 1987, but 2009 was the only year in which the member states approved a resolution on the topic.

In 2011 and 2012, the Arab states refrained from submitting a resolution on Israel’s nuclear program, a move they said they made to encourage Israeli participation in the process of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

A June 12 memorandum submitted by Oman’s ambassador to the IAEA, Badr bin Mohamed Al Hinai, said that Israel “continues to defy the international community” by refusing to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This refusal threatens peace and exposes the region to “nuclear risks,” the memorandum said. Al Hinai submitted the memorandum and an accompanying letter on behalf of the Arab Group, which is made up of 18 Arab states and the Palestinian territories.

Ehud Azoulay, Israel’s ambassador to the IAEA, told Reuters on July 9 that the Arab states “are taking a counterproductive route by raising this issue…and trying to bash Israel.”

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, despite the government’s insistence that it will not be the first country to introduce such weapons into the region.

According to the memorandum, the “recent course of events” failed to meet the expectations of the Arab states, motivating them to put the resolution on Israel’s nuclear program back on the agenda for the IAEA conference.

A meeting was scheduled to be held in December 2012 on creating the WMD-free zone in the region, but was postponed.(See ACT, December 2012.)

Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.


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