Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Nuclear Testing

The Week Ahead, May 19-23: IAEA Report on Iran; Congress Acts on Defense Authorization Bills

The following are some of the key arms control dates and developments to watch in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. - written and compiled by Tim Farnsworth May 19-23: IAEA May Release Report on Iran's Nuclear Program Later this week, the IAEA may release its latest report on the status of Iran's nuclear program for the IAEA Board of Governors, as well as its monthly report on the implementation of the...

Iran's Claims About Its Practical Needs for Uranium Enrichment: A Reality Check

By Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport (updated 12:00 noon EST) Today in Vienna as P5+1 negotiators engage with their Iranian counterparts on each side's proposals for a "comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful," it is clear that the two sides are still far apart on the pivotal issue of Iran's "practical needs" for uranium enrichment. Reuters is reporting that an unnamed Iranian official claims that: "We need at least 100,000 IR-1 (first generation) centrifuges to produce enough fuel for each of our (civilian) nuclear (power) plants."...

Another View from Israel on Iran's Nuclear Program and What it Means

By Greg Thielmann (Image source: Globalzero.org) Comments by the former Director-General of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam, made big news in Israel on May 8 because they seriously challenge key elements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's narrative concerning the Iranian nuclear threat. Excerpts from an Eilam interview appearing in Israel's largest circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth , included four critical assertions: The Iranian nuclear [weapons] program will only be operational in another 10 years. I'm not even sure that Iran would want the bomb. It...

European Missile Defense No Answer to Russia

USS Monterey armed with SM-3 Block IA interceptors and the Aegis missile defense system. The SM-3 cannot intercept Russian long-range missiles. The just-passed House Armed Services Committee plan to accelerate U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland to counter Russian action in Ukraine is all bark and no bite. By Tom Z. Collina The United States has a strategic interest in establishing economic and political stability in Ukraine, reassuring nervous NATO allies, and warning Russia that further interference in Ukraine or elsewhere would be a serious mistake. Congress, however, should be...

N. Korea Warns of New Nuclear Test

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea announced that it is considering a “new form of nuclear test,” according to a statement in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 30.

The KCNA did not provide any further details, but said that the new type of test would help bolster Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrent. Experts speculate that this could involve testing a uranium-based device, a miniaturized device, or simultaneous nuclear explosions.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013. (See ACT, March 2013.) North Korea is thought to have four to 10 nuclear weapons that are plutonium based. Pyongyang possesses uranium-enrichment technology, but it is unclear if North Korea has developed nuclear warheads with highly enriched uranium.

In an April 27 article published on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jack Liu wrote that recent satellite images show increased activity “consistent with what would be expected during pre-test preparations,” near tunnel entrances at the Punggye-ri test site.

Hansen and Liu said that satellite images show what appears to be equipment being moved into the tunnels. The specialists conclude that these activities could indicate that the tunnel entrances have not yet been sealed. Sealing the tunnels is a “key indicator that a detonation is imminent,” they said.

Pyongyang made its announcement about the new kind of test in response to a March 27 UN Security Council statement denouncing North Korea for several firings of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in March.

The statement in the KCNA said the missile launches were part of “self-defensive military drills.” The launches included two medium-range Nodong missiles on March 26 and several dozen short-range missiles over several weeks. The Nodong missile has a range of 1,300 kilometers and is capable of hitting Japan.

The Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches as a violation of Security Council resolutions, Sylvie Lucas, Luxembourg’s ambassador to the United Nations and president of the council for the month of March, said March 27 after the body met at the request of the United States to discuss the matter.

In October 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which required North Korea to suspend “all activities related” to its ballistic missile program, including missile launches.

Further Sanctions

Lucas said that the members agreed to “consult on an appropriate response” at the Security Council meeting, but did not provide details on what measure the body was considering.

Joseph DeThomas, a former U.S. nonproliferation official, said April 10 that there will be a “heavy debate” at the UN over passing additional sanctions in the coming months.

Speaking at an April 10 press event hosted by 38 North, he said that targeting leadership financing could be a “game changer” that brings North Korea back to negotiations but that the small base of U.S. knowledge regarding North Korea makes it difficult to determine who and what the target of the sanctions should be.

In March, in a report to the Security Council, a panel of experts recommended focusing on implementing existing measures rather than passing further sanctions. (See ACT, April 2014.) Together, Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 prohibit arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to North Korea, ban the sale of luxury items to Pyongyang, and give states broad authority to inspect North Korean cargo suspected of violating these measures if it passes through their territories.

When asked about the panel’s recommendations, DeThomas said that implementation is a problem in countries with smaller regulatory agencies because they cannot monitor everything at ports of entry.

Another difficulty in implementing the current sanctions is that some countries take a “narrow interpretation” of the authority granted by the Security Council or are “unwilling to use the authority because of economic and strategic interests,” he said.

Six-Party Talks

Meanwhile, the Obama administration dismissed reports last month that the United States was prepared to relax its preconditions for resuming negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Washington has repeatedly said that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization before negotiations resume. (See ACT, October 2013.) Pyongyang said it would abandon and dismantle its nuclear weapons program as part of an agreement in 2005 in return for possible future assistance on a peaceful nuclear energy program. That agreement collapsed in 2009, and North Korea has since taken steps to build up its nuclear arsenal, including restarting a reactor that produces plutonium that is particularly suitable for weapons. (See ACT, September 2013.)

In an April 11 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that “nothing has changed” regarding the U.S. position on preconditions for the talks and that the “approach remains the same.”

The reports that Washington would relax its preconditions followed an April 7 trilateral meeting in Washington among Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Washington has negotiated bilaterally with North Korea in the past but also together with China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea as part of the so-called six-party talks.

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.

Davies also met with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, in New York on April 14-15 and in Washington on April 18. In addition to hosting the six-party talks, China has the strongest ties to North Korea of the parties involved in the negotiations.

Last June, Davies said Washington’s current strategy for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program involves coordinating with partner countries in the region so that they speak with “one voice” before negotiating with Pyongyang on denuclearization. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

In an April 15 statement, the State Department said that the United States and China “agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea” and that the countries will continue to work together peacefully to achieve this goal.

After the April 18 meeting, Wu said that Washington and Beijing have “narrowed the differences” regarding the resumption of the six-party talks and the North Korean situation.

North Korea said it is considering a new type of nuclear test, but did not provide any details on the nature of the test or the date.

Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Week Ahead, April 27-May 3: NPT Prep Com Opens; Syria CW Deadline; Deep Cuts Commission Releases Report

The following are some of the key arms control dates and developments to watch in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. - written and compiled by Tim Farnsworth April 28: Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee Meeting, New York From April 28 to May 9, the representatives of the states parties to the NPT will meet at UN headquarters in New York for their final preparatory meeting before the 2015 Review...

The Week Ahead, April 7-11: Iran Talks Resume; Hagel in China; CTBTO Group of Eminent Persons Meets

The following are some of the key arms control dates and developments to watch in the coming week. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. - written and compiled by Tim Farnsworth April 7-9: P5+1 Talks With Iran Resume Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are meeting April 7-9 in Vienna to continue discussing elements of a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program...

Rubio Approach on INF Treaty Concerns Is Counterproductive

By Tom Z. Collina (UPDATED March 29) Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other members of Congress are right to be concerned that Russia may not be complying with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The State Department confirmed in January that Russia may have breached the agreement by testing a new cruise missile, and the administration has formally taken up the issue with Moscow. But Rubio and his colleagues* go too far with a March 25 resolution that would hold Russia accountable for "being in material breach of its obligations" under the treaty by calling for a halt to...

The Mixed Message of the Senate Letter On the Iran Nuclear Talks

By Daryl G. Kimball (UPDATED 8:00pm) Clearly, Congress has an important role in implementing any comprehensive, final-phase agreement between the P5+1 and Iran to "ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful." Those talks are now underway in Vienna. In that role, members of the Senate and House have a responsibility to support the efforts of the P5+1 on the basis of a clear understanding and realistic expectation for what the negotiations can deliver and for what is necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. In a letter to the President signed by 83 Senators that was released...


Subscribe to RSS - Nuclear Testing