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

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

The Nonproliferation Treaty Review Process: Major Milestones and the Way Forward


September 2018
By Thomas Markram

My first encounter with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was 30 years ago when I joined a meeting held in August in Vienna between the South African foreign and mineral affairs ministers and the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and United States. The purpose of that meeting was to explore how South Africa could join the NPT. The answer from the depositaries was simple: South Africa could join without nuclear weapons.

Thomas Markram, deputy to the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, briefs the Security Council April 4 on the situation in Syria. (Photo: Manuel Elias/United Nations)Much has been written on the reasons why South Africa joined the NPT in July 1991. Most acknowledge there were in fact a combination of factors.

Geopolitically, under the 1988 Brazzaville Protocol, the Soviet-aligned Cuban forces withdrew from Angola, thereby ending what had been the security rationale for a nuclear deterrent. The top levels of the South African apartheid government had accepted that long-term security would be better assured through the abolition of nuclear weapons. South African President F.W. de Klerk had in fact regarded nuclear weapons as a “rope around our neck.” The years between the dismantlement of the program in 1991 and its disclosure in 1993 were marked by a delicate balancing act by the political leadership in South Africa, seeking to prevent a conservative backlash while undertaking serious fundamental reforms in a transition to a full democracy and obtaining reacceptance into the international community.

Important voices in the African National Congress and anti-apartheid movement had long campaigned against the regime’s nuclear weapons program. The new democratic government in 1994 was keen to demonstrate that South Africa was a responsible possessor of advanced technologies. Its disarmament and nonproliferation policy thus was integral to its commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection. These dynamics also shaped South Africa’s position within the NPT.

Another critical dynamic was the international environment, which, at the time when the treaty was negotiated, was very different than when South Africa joined, in the same review cycle that the treaty was due to expire. According to an account of the negotiations and early implementation, the 1.0 version of the NPT was primarily an affair between the nuclear blocs and about managing the dynamics of the Cold War. It put a brake on further proliferation to give political space for negotiations among the major powers on the arms race and disarmament. This version of the treaty featured a weak safeguards regime, as was eventually discovered in 1991 in Iraq, and a permissive arrangement for nuclear weapons cooperation among allies.

Nonproliferation was never meant as an end in itself, but rather the treaty was conceived as a partial measure for nuclear disarmament and for general and complete disarmament. Between 1970 and the mid-1990s, UN bodies and bilateral negotiations produced a substantial range of agreements aimed at halting the arms race, reducing nuclear arsenals, and strengthening nonproliferation. The treaty’s review process served to support progress in these various efforts.

Beginning in 1995, the review process took on a very different function. NPT version 2.0 became a framework for disarmament and nonproliferation. The negotiations that South Africa joined in 1995 regarding the extension of the treaty were very much between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states.

It was in this context that South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo proposed at the review and extension conference the “Principles for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” and “Strengthened Review Process.” These proposals provided the means through which progress toward achieving nuclear disarmament could be achieved and provided yardsticks to accomplish the goals of the treaty. They formed an integral part of the package deal of three decisions and resolution adopted in 1995 and formed the basis on which the treaty was extended indefinitely.

Under the strengthened review process, the NPT evolved into a de facto negotiating forum for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Its function in this regard has only been reinforced by the long stalemates in the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission. Subsequent review conferences reached agreement on specific steps designed to lead to the full implementation of the treaty, especially Article VI.

In this sense, the review conferences have functioned as more than a mere safety valve designed to vent pressure from parties disgruntled over the pace of progress. They have served as the primary multilateral body within the framework of the United Nations for elaborating agreement between the nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

The agreed outcomes in 1995, 2000, and 2010 were quite distinct from the political declarations of 1975 and 1985. From 1995 onward, states-parties viewed NPT outcomes as politically binding agreements that should be fully and faithfully implemented, which is where the strengthened review process of the treaty has run into real difficulty. In a sense, the 13 “practical steps” of 2000 simply gave substance to the principles and objectives of 1995.

Yet, there continued to be a sense among many parties that too little had been done to implement these agreements in the 15 years following the indefinite extension of the treaty. The 2010 action plan was a remarkable achievement by providing a well-articulated road map for implementation, albeit mostly of past commitments, and the 2015 review conference ultimately failed at continuing this scenario because the parties were unable to agree on benchmarks and timelines.

Nevertheless, 25 years after the indefinite extension, we have perhaps reached a point where even successful efforts to describe old commitments in more granular levels of detail cannot make up for divisions resulting from perceptions of insufficient implementation and their pace. This is perhaps the largest political factor that led nearly two-thirds of member-states to conclude the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty last year.

Ultimately, this leaves us with the question, What is next for the strengthened review process?

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides. Unlike when the NPT was negotiated, we now have to contend with multiple spheres of power and influence; a growing multiplicity of interests, conflicts, and asymmetries; and disarmament machinery hobbled by archaic rules and practices. Rapid technological progress is also lowering political costs for the use of force, tempting states and nonstates to conduct hostile and malicious acts in circumstances that they regard as a grey area in the law and blurring the line between strategic and nonstrategic weapons.

These trends point to a real risk that norms of disarmament, nonproliferation, and common security may give in to what seems like a growing acquiescence for military solutions to international problems. These dynamics are also serving to increase the nuclear risks we face and should compel the pursuit of new measures with a sense of urgency.

So do we need an NPT version 3.0? If so, what would that look like, and how would it function?

On its surface, nothing appears to be wrong with the mechanism, especially as review conferences have succeeded in forging agreements even where less inclusive bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament have continuously failed. Thankfully, the current crossroads at which the NPT finds itself do not reflect any waning commitment to the objective of nonproliferation. It appears that the NPT will remain indispensable and its historical significance at being nothing less than the system of international security at the heart of the United Nations will continue in ensuring no conflict can escalate to the level of an existential threat to humanity.

In this sense, I have no doubt that the legacy of the NPT can continue to endure long into the future. It is the most universal body seized with elaborating effective measures relating to disarmament. It also contains the only treaty-based obligation to negotiate in good faith to this end. Thus, it represents the only forum where non-nuclear-weapon states have any effective leverage in bargaining directly with the nuclear-weapon states.

Although many characterize the 2015 review conference as a failure, I see it instead as a watershed because its result reinforced the perception among a majority of non-nuclear-weapon states that they can bring pressure to bear through various means in the absence of demonstrable steps by the nuclear-weapon states to implement previous commitments.

Reversing this trend will necessitate a return to the traditional conception of the role of disarmament as the ultimate security assurance. This will require states to come back to treating the obligation to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament as an obligation to achieve a result, not as an open-ended invitation to retain nuclear weapons. This is the distinction between making progress “in” disarmament, as opposed to progress “toward” disarmament.

It will require, at a minimum, an unequivocal recommitment by the nuclear-weapon states to their obligations and a serious demonstration of serious progress in implementing past commitments. I think this will be a key factor in ensuring the legacy of the NPT can be preserved for another 50 years.


Thomas Markram is director and deputy to the high representative for disarmament affairs, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. This article is adapted from remarks at the U.S. Department of State conference titled “Preserving the Legacy: NPT Depositary Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” held June 28 in Washington. The views expressed are those of the author.

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides.

NATO Presses Stand on Nuclear Weapons


September 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Leaders of the 29 NATO member nations approved changes to the alliance’s policies on nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation during their July 11–12 summit in Brussels.

NATO leaders gather for a working dinner at the Art and History Museum in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels on July 11. (Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AFP/Getty Images)The 2018 Brussels summit declaration states that “NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe,” a shift from the alliance’s 2016 Warsaw declaration stating that the posture relied “in part” on U.S. forward-deployed nuclear weapons. Neither the 2014 nor 2012 summit statements explicitly referred to the need for U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. (See ACT, September 2016.)

This phrasing suggests that NATO credits an increased role to the 150 to 200 B61 nuclear gravity bombs believed to be deployed on the territory of five NATO states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey). The move comes after the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report published in February, which asserted that the B61 warheads contribute to the “supreme guarantee of Alliance security.” (See ACT, March 2018.)

The 2018 declaration also addressed in stronger terms alleged Russian violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The 2016 declaration highlighted the importance of the INF Treaty and called on Russia “to preserve the viability of the INF Treaty through ensuring full and verifiable compliance,” but the new declaration devoted greater attention to the issue. NATO leaders stated that “the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation” of the treaty, as Washington has asserted for several years, and supported a renewed dialogue between the United States, Russia, and NATO allies to bring the treaty back into full force.

Further, the 2018 declaration deviated from previous summit documents on a number of international nonproliferation agreements and treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Iran nuclear deal, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Although the 2016 declaration called for the universalization of the CTBT, the 2018 declaration called on all states “to declare and to maintain a voluntary moratorium [on nuclear testing]…pending the potential entry into force” of the CTBT.

The 2016 summit statement commended the Iran deal, but the 2018 document did not mention it. This reflects European efforts to preserve the agreement after U.S. President Donald Trump’s May 8 decision to have the United States withdraw from the accord, which he labeled “a horrible, one-sided deal.” (See ACT, June 2018.)

The 2018 declaration also praised U.S. and Russian reductions in strategic nuclear weapons under New START and expressed “strong support for its continued implementation,” while stopping short of calling for an extension of the treaty beyond its 2021 expiration date. New START had not been mentioned since the 2010 summit document.

The declaration follows the trend of recent NATO summits to highlight the importance of nuclear weapons in NATO strategy amid worsening tensions between Russia and the West.

In addition to changes on the nuclear policy front, the summit also took steps to buttress NATO’s conventional deterrence posture. These included the establishment of an Atlantic Command post, an invitation to Macedonia to join the alliance, and approval of the “Four 30s” initiative to provide in a NATO-Russia crisis 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days to bolster combat readiness.

Prior to the summit, many feared an explosive performance due to Trump’s worsening relationship with allies in recent months. Trump particularly has criticized NATO’s European members and Canada for failing to share the NATO financial burden, despite increases in their defense spending for the fourth year in a row. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

The alliance meeting ended with leaders disputing Trump’s public assertion that he had won additional defense-spending commitments from them. Still, Jamie Shea, a NATO deputy assistant secretary-general, called the summit declaration “the most substantive…the most complete, [and] the most consensual” NATO agreement in years.

Leaders toughen language favoring forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons.

U.S., North Korea at Odds Over Talks


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

With the United States and North Korea at odds over how negotiations should proceed, the next steps will be critical to the diplomatic process.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during an August 15 ceremony in Seoul marking the 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Moon said that his planned September visit to Pyongyang will be a “bold step” towards formally ending the decades-old war with the North. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at their Singapore summit, called for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and for “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the peninsula.

Yet, in failing to set out detailed steps or sequencing, the two leaders set the stage for misread signals and faulty expectations, as now seems to be the case. Both sides are showing some impatience with their diplomatic engagement, although it is unclear whether that is a bid for negotiating advantage or a danger sign from the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

Washington is seeking concrete action toward denuclearization by Pyongyang. North Korea complains that the United States is demanding unilateral disarmament while dragging its feet on steps to end the Korean War and build a peace regime on the peninsula. Trump told Reuters on Aug. 20 that he anticipates holding another meeting with Kim, but did not say when.                  

Before the June 12 summit, North Korea voluntarily announced a moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests and destroyed tunnels at a site used for nuclear testing. Since the summit, Pyongyang has begun dismantling a test stand used for satellite launches at a missile test site.

Pyongyang describes these actions as “practical denuclearization steps” that demonstrate North Korea’s goodwill and commitment to the process. But these actions have a limited impact, are quickly reversible, and have not been verified by on-site inspectors.

U.S. officials, including White House national security adviser John Bolton, have called on North Korea to do more. Bolton said the United States is still looking for “performance on denuclearization,” not rhetoric. In another interview, he said North Korea has not taken “effective steps” toward denuclearization.

Reporting on the negotiations, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s July visit to Pyongyang, suggests U.S. proposals may be asking for too much, too soon. Vox reported on Aug. 8 that Pompeo has repeatedly proposed that North Korea give up 60 to 70 percent of its nuclear arsenal within six to eight months.

Given the uncertainty about the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, it is unclear how the United States would verify that North Korea met such a target, even in the case that Pyongyang were to agree.

A North Korea Foreign Ministry statement Aug. 9, while not specifically mentioning the Pompeo proposal, denounced the “unilateral demand of denuclearization first” made by U.S. officials during a July visit to Pyongyang. The statement also asserted that North Korea had taken “practical denuclearization steps” but the United States had failed to deliver on other elements of the Singapore statement.

The Trump administration appears to prioritize getting a nuclear declaration from North Korea that provides information about the scope of North Korea’s nuclear program and activities. Such a disclosure is needed for verification although, given the loose talk of preventive strikes by members of the Trump administration, Pyongyang may fear that providing such a declaration so early in the process would amount to handing over a targeting list to the United States.

An Aug. 18 statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called for “bold action” by Trump to break the “current deadlock.” KCNA said the lack of progress is “clearly attributable to the political scramble” in the United States, as “those opposed to dialogue” are trying to derail it with “a fiction” about secret North Korean nuclear facilities.

Some sites are well known, such as the Yongbyon facility where North Korea’s five-megawatt plutonium-production reactor is located, but evidence points toward additional uranium-enrichment facilities at undisclosed locations. Using open sources, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and The Diplomat publicly located in August what the United States suspects is a covert uranium-enrichment facility at Kangson.

Unsurprisingly, North Korea continues to produce fissile material, a fact confirmed by Pompeo at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 25.

Securing a verifiable halt in fissile material production would be a logical next step for the Trump administration. Not only would that prevent Pyongyang from further expanding its stockpile of weapons-usable materials, it would also test whether Kim will abandon his Jan. 1 call for North Korea to ramp up mass production of nuclear weapons and missiles.

While the Trump administration is pushing for additional steps on denuclearization, North Korea wants to see progress on formally ending the Korean War.

A KCNA statement on July 25 said that “adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations” between North Korea and the United States. The agency said that the issue “should have been settled long before,” given the Singapore summit and inter-Korean dialogue.

There are some indications that South Korean President Moon Jae-in intends to proceed toward ending the war, regardless of progress in U.S.-North Korean negotiations.

In an Aug. 15 speech, Moon said that, at the next inter-Korean summit, scheduled for September, the two sides will “take an audacious step to proceed toward the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty, as well as the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Moon said advances in inter-Korean relations will drive denuclearization.

North Korea also has lashed out against continued implementation of sanctions as poisoning the prospects for further talks. North Korea accused the United States of responding to its “practical steps” on denuclearization with “highly despicable actions,” including increased sanctions and hindering the activities of international aid organizations working in North Korea.

A KCNA statement on Aug. 10 called out enforcement of U.S. sanctions on North Korea as “beyond common sense and so outrageous” when Pyongyang has showed “sincere goodwill” by repatriating the remains of U.S. troops July 27 and shutting down its nuclear test site. The statement argued that sanctions are illegal and unlawful because Pyongyang has suspended the nuclear tests and missile launches that prompted UN Security Council sanctions.

The Security Council passed additional sanctions in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests, but the resolutions clearly require North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in a “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” manner. The resolutions also demand that North Korea return to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

China has supported North Korea’s bid to reduce sanctions pressure, and there are signs that other states are backing off enforcement of sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea may need to request waivers on certain sanctions to go forward with inter-Korean projects referenced in the Panmunjom Declaration reached by Kim and Moon at their first meeting in April. Moon said on Aug. 15 that he wants to reconnect the railroads between the two countries by the end of 2018.

Although Trump declared an end to the U.S. “maximum pressure” approach after the Singapore summit, U.S. officials have consistently maintained that sanctions will remain in place and be fully implemented pending denuclearization.

The Trump administration seeks rapid steps toward denuclearization.

ACA Board Chair on Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Sections:

Body: 

Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Remarks by Thomas Countryman
Chairman of the Arms Control Association
to the International Symposium for Peace 
Nagasaki, Japan
July 28, 2018

Introduction

Panelists discuss working toward sustainable peace at the International Symposium for Peace “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition” held on July 28 in Nagasaki. (Photo: Kengo Hiyoshi/Asahi Shimbun) Let me thank the organizers of today’s conference for bringing me again to Japan. In my current focus outside the government of the United States, continuing to push for real progress on nonproliferation and arms control measures, it's always a special pleasure to come to Japan. The Japanese role in leading the international diplomatic challenge to create the highest standards in arms control and nonproliferation is unparalleled. Not only as a partner of the United States but in its own leadership role, Japan has done much to create the modern nonproliferation regime that has greatly reduced but not yet eliminated the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

It is especially moving to be here in Nagasaki. Visiting the memorial yesterday, a sacred place, brought back to me what President Abraham Lincoln said at the site of the bloodiest battle America ever witnessed: that those who have fallen on this site “have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”. I sensed on this spot what no book can convey: the enormous challenge and the risk that humanity continues to face in the presence of 15,000 nuclear weapons in this world. Here I want to commend the very special role the hibakusha have played in preserving vital lessons for the memory of humanity. For 70 years, they have spread the simple truth that a human being is not just a statistic. They will touch future generations long after their own has passed from this world. I wish that every American and every world leader would have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I have.

Current Challenges

It is much easier to talk about the challenges to nuclear disarmament than it is to describe a simple path to a world free of nuclear weapons. So let me dwell first on the current challenges that we face.

First, the two major nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation, have passed a turning point in their nuclear doctrines and nuclear arsenals. After about 40 years of a steady decrease in the size and diversity of their nuclear arsenals and the mission that each assigned to their nuclear weapons, both Washington and Moscow have turned a corner towards expanding the size and variety of arsenals and the circumstances for their use.

U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review from this February is not a radical change from the previous nuclear posture but it is a significant change in direction. In calling for the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States is thinking more actively and – in my view - making more thinkable the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the context of a conventional conflict. As so many have pointed out, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war once that threshold has been crossed. “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon," George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. "You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there."

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review describes with more specificity than before circumstances under which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons to encompass not only first use by an opponent but also a response to a devastating attack by cyber or other means. Just two years ago, the Obama administration considered carefully the possibility of proclaiming a no-first-use doctrine for U.S. nuclear weapons. That U.S. policy has now shifted towards a broader definition of possible first use is of deep concern to me.

Finally, I am most disappointed in the Nuclear Posture Review in that it effectively renounces the traditional leadership that the U.S has exercised on non-proliferation and arms control issues. It makes no mention of America’s binding legal obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue a reduction in arsenals. It makes no new proposals for how the U.S. will move forward in negotiations with Russia and others. And it defers any meaningful action until security conditions in the world have improved. This retreat from global leadership, whether in arms control, in climate policy or in free trade agreements is unworthy of a nation that claims to be a superpower.

Russia

As concerned as I am about the direction of U.S. policy, I am even more concerned about the continuing development by Russia of new weapons and new delivery methods. Russia seems driven by an exaggerated fear, in fact, a paranoia, about the future capabilities of U.S. missile defense. I call these fears exaggerated because I believe that missile defense can never provide an impenetrable shield. Russia is building not only new generations of ICBMs but even more dangerous weapons systems that seem to step out of the pages of a science fiction comic book, including a nuclear torpedo of unlimited range and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia seems intent on probing the boundaries of existing arms control agreements, particularly the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which laid the basis for the next 25 years of successful arms limitations. Even more than the uninformed statements by the U.S. president, the rhetoric of the Russian president - increasingly defining Russia’s national power as a function of its nuclear arsenal - erodes both the prospect of future arms control and the moral taboo against initiating the use of nuclear weapons. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in 2021 and although President Putin has raised the prospect of extending the treaty, President Trump has so far rebuffed such proposals.

Joint Comprehensive Program Of Action

In the shorter term, I am especially concerned about the U.S. decision to withdraw from, that is to violate, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action with Iran. This agreement is unprecedented, both in its inspection and verification requirements, and it prevented the risk of a tenth state breaking into the nuclear weapons club. I do not believe that Iranian development of a nuclear weapon is imminent but I am deeply concerned about the follow-on effects of this decision, that is the undermining of U.S. credibility and commitment to any agreement, the creation of a serious dispute between the U.S. and its best allies in Europe and Asia, the erosion of the international rules-based order and a resurgent radicalism in Iran.

North Korea

I am less pessimistic but still deeply concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. President Trump did the right thing, trading in violent rhetoric for an opportunity for dialogue. There are dozens of reasons to distrust North Korea’s approach to negotiations and to doubt the capability of the Trump administration to negotiate a meaningful, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. But the pursuit of negotiation is far preferable to simply sleepwalking towards war, as we seemed to be doing a year ago.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains central to our shared global ambition to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce existing arsenals. On the surface, the deliberations at NPT conferences often seem utterly divorced from the real world. In fact, all the concerns I’ve just listed have a real effect on the degree of consensus you can reach among NPT parties and on the commitment that other parties show to the treaty.

For the 2020 Review Conference, I can foresee the worst but I am determined to work for the best. The RevCon can easily be upset either by the U.S. and Russia sniping at each other or by the continued inability of the states in the Middle East to sit down together and begin the process of discussing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. But the most severe threat to the unity of states-parties is the growing frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the pace of nuclear disarmament. Seeing no new U.S.-Russian agreements since 2010 and the new threatening developments in Washington and Moscow that I’ve already described, the majority of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states have made clear that they will demand more urgent progress in 2020.

Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World

So what can we do to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons?

Near-Term Steps

There are a number of steps that the United States and Russia could take right now that would change the current trajectory. First and most simply, to hear President Trump and President Putin repeat what Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan said in 1985 - that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought - would be of value, would provide some reassurance that these two leaders understand their responsibilities to humanity. Secondly, the United States and Russia need to extend New START. Third, they need to make a political decision to work harder on resolving the dispute about compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And fourth there needs to be a more regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington on both the military and political level, to pursue risk reduction measures that would prevent a conventional conflict from escalating to a nuclear one and to explore other steps that would allow each to maintain security at a lower level of armament. Finally, the United States should reassert the leadership it showed after 2010 when it led an intensive dialogue among the P5 nuclear-weapon states to give the world greater transparency, to reduce nuclear risks, and to lay the groundwork for future multilateral arms control.

It’s not easy to get either Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to do something that reminds them of Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama. In fact, it’s not easy to get them to do something unless you can convince them that it was their own brilliant idea. But it is an obligation of the rest of the world to continue to press for this. I know from my own experience with bilateral diplomacy that meetings with either Russian or American leaders always have an agenda filled with urgent items and that concerns about long-term items such as arms control simply fall out of the conversation. It is crucial that not only Japanese leaders but all world leaders press both Presidents to take serious action.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Moscow and Washington, what can non-nuclear weapon states do for themselves to move us towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? Many non-nuclear weapon states have sought to answer that question by negotiating a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted last July.

The drafting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year was historic. Some would like to see it as simply an expression of frustration on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. It’s a lot more than that. It is a strong moral and ethical statement. And more than that, it is something tangible, something that can be touched by the hibakusha and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is not born only by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament. I’m well aware of its limitations. The TPNW will not by itself immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. And it does not provide a pathway for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

I don’t see the discussion between advocates and skeptics of the TPNW as being an argument about practicalities or about whether this treaty can work. It is - or it should be - a respectful discussion about deterrence. Nations that face no immediate military threat tend to underestimate the importance that military alliances and military deterrence play for those states that do face actual military threats. Similarly, those states whether in Europe or in Asia that feel reassurance under the nuclear umbrella of the United States tend not to appreciate how strongly concerned other states are about the disastrous humanitarian effects that a nuclear war would cause.

What is needed now is a multi-sided discussion on a topic that is easy to define and extremely difficult to resolve: how to guarantee the security of the world and of each nation without resort to nuclear deterrence. This is a discussion that has to bring together not only the idealists and social activists who helped to bring about the TPNW but also the security experts and military leaders who have the responsibility of providing for their nations’ security. It has to bring together not only nuclear-weapon states but those who are allies of nuclear-weapon states and those who feel themselves to be far from any military threat. Given my own experience with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a place to discuss such difficult issues, I think it has to start smaller than a conference of 190 countries.

UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda

Washington and Moscow are not going to lead this discussion. What can the rest of the world do? The UN Secretary General has laid out a comprehensive blueprint on what needs to be done on disarmament issues to provide genuine security for our citizens. I love the document. I’d like to focus in particular on what he says about nuclear disarmament.

He calls on the United States and Russia to resolve INF compliance concerns, extend New START and pursue additional reductions. He encourages all states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques. He warned that the international community is moving backward on disarmament. “Let us all work together to bring new urgency to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said while unveiling his agenda at the University of Geneva in late May.

So how do we take forward an idea on which not only everyone in this room but most of the world is united upon?

Joint Enterprise

Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states can invite their counterparts - 20 to 30 heads of states of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon countries - to join a one or two day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This could be a starting point for ongoing regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial level. As the former foreign minister Kishida argued, this dialogue must be based both on a clear understanding of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

This is not a new idea. Four of the best American thinkers on such issues - George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn - have been arguing for several years for a Joint Enterprise, a new multilateral effort that would take concrete, practical steps to create the conditions that would make possible genuine nuclear disarmament. As outlined by the “four horsemen,” a Joint Enterprise summit would be supplemented by a joint communique from all participating states and national commitments to work towards disarmament. Unfortunately, the leadership of such an effort will not come from either Washington or Moscow. When the long-time ‘leader of the free world’ is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge. It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.

Discussion of the conditions that would help achieve a nuclear weapons-free world must become as common among world leaders as discussions about tariffs or immigration. The constant raising of this topic is the responsibility of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and it is the duty of citizens of all nations to remind their leaders of this responsibility.

It is written in Pirkei Avot, a well-known Jewish text, that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Here in Nagasaki, we say again that all of us – elected leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens – “we will not desist from this duty.”

Thank you and God bless you!

 

 

Description: 

Remarks by Thomas Countryman to the International Symposium for Peace in Nagasaki, Japan

The U.S. Atomic Energy Act Section 123 At a Glance

April 2019

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: April 2019

Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 establishes the conditions and outlines the process for major nuclear cooperation between the United States and other countries. In order for a country to enter into such an agreement with the United States, that country must commit to a set of nine nonproliferation criteria. As of January 15, 2019, the United States has entered into 26 nuclear cooperation agreements that govern nuclear cooperation with 49 countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Taiwan. 

The nine nonproliferation criteria for section 123 agreements are as follows:

  • Nuclear material and equipment transferred to the country must remain under safeguards in perpetuity.
  • Non-nuclear-weapon states partners must have full-scope IAEA safeguards, essentially covering all major nuclear facilities.
  • A guarantee that transferred nuclear material, equipment, and technology will not have any role in nuclear weapons development or any other military purpose, except in the case of cooperation with nuclear-weapon states.
  • In the event that a non-nuclear-weapon state partner detonates a nuclear device using nuclear material produced or violates an IAEA safeguards agreement, the United States has the right to demand the return of any transfers.
  • U.S. consent is required for any re-transfer of material or classified data.
  • Nuclear material transferred or produced as a result of the agreement is subject to adequate physical security.
  • U.S. prior consent rights to the enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.
  • Prior U.S. approval is required for highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.  An agreement permitting enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) using U.S. provided material requires separate negotiation.
  • The above nonproliferation criteria apply to all nuclear material or nuclear facilities produced or constructed as a result of the agreement.

Section 123 requires that the Department of State submit a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) explaining how the nuclear cooperation agreement meets these nonproliferation conditions. Congress has a total of 90 days in continuous session to consider the agreement, after which it automatically becomes law unless Congress adopts a joint resolution opposing it.

The President may exempt a proposed agreement from any of the above criteria upon determination maintaining such a criteria would be “seriously prejudicial to the achievement of U.S. non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defense of the United States.” Exempted 123 agreements would then go through a different process than non-exempt agreements, requiring a congressional joint resolution approving the agreement for it to become law. There are no 123 agreements in force that were adopted with such exemptions.

In 2006, Congress passed the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act which amended the AEA to permit nuclear cooperation with India, a country which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not maintain full-scope safeguards. The Hyde amendment has been criticized for undermining U.S. international counterproliferation efforts. The 40-year 123 agreement with India came into force in December 2008.

Most recently, the United States negotiated and signed new agreements with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 (notable for having “gold standard” provisions) and Vietnam in 2014 and signed new agreements to replace existing ones with Australia in 2010, Taiwan in 2013 (which also included “gold standard” provisions), China and South Korea in 2015, and Norway in 2016. “Gold standard” provisions refer to a country agreeing to forgo enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material.

The Trump administration submitted signed new 123 agreements with Mexico and the United Kingdom to Congress in May 2018. The United Kingdom was previously covered under the U.S.-European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) 123 agreement, but after the UK withdraws from the European Union, the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the EU will take effect. Japan’s agreement technically expired in 2018, but renewal terms dictate that the agreement shall remain in force until terminated by a party.

The Trump administration is currently negotiating a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. The next agreement which will expire without renewal terms in place (which could trigger an easier automatic renewal without the need to renegotiate or resubmit the agreement to Congress) will be with Egypt in December 2021.

For more information on individual agreements, see the "Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer," by the Congressional Research Service.

The "Gold Standard"

A 123 agreement alone does not permit countries to enrich or reprocess nuclear material acquired from the United States and permission to do so requires a further negotiated agreement.  A debate is currently underway in the nonproliferation community over the “gold standard,” named so following the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement signed in 2009 whereby the United Arab Emirates (UAE) voluntarily renounced pursuing enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies and capabilities.  The UAE agreement stands in stark contrast to the “blanket consent” granted to India, Japan, and EURATOM, who have ENR approval from the United States. 

Additionally, the UAE also agreed to ratify the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Model Additional Protocol. The Additional Protocol aims to gather a more comprehensive picture of a state’s nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including related imports and exports, as well as substantially expanding the IAEA’s inspections authorities. The United States has not in recent years negotiated a 123 agreement with a state that had not signed an additional protocol.

ENR capabilities are controversial because the process transforms raw uranium into highly enriched uranium or spent nuclear fuel into weapons-grade plutonium. While these capabilities are generally used for energy purposes, there are concerns of serious proliferation risks when a country obtains the technology because the same technology can be used to make nuclear weapons. Gold standard provisions for 123 agreements would require any state-party to a 123 agreement with the United States to renounce ENR activities. The Department of Energy and the U.S. nuclear industry advocate a continuance of the case-by-case approach followed thus far in renewal agreements. A case-by-case approach allows countries to apply for ENR permission, and has been successfully pursued by India and Japan.

The term “gold standard” was coined during the very end of the George W. Bush administration when the U.S.-UAE deal was signed in January 2009, and it was declared the new standard for nuclear cooperation agreements, though several subsequent agreements did not uphold the supplementary standard under the Obama administration. A 2011 letter from the Obama administration to Capitol Hill renounced the idea of a uniform approach to 123 agreements and advocated for a case-by-case approach in future negotiations.  (See ACT, March 2012). The Trump administration has been even less clear on their position regarding gold standard provisions. This has been particularly prevalent in the ongoing negotiations on a Saudi Arabia 123 agreement.

Ongoing Saudi Negotiations and Congressional Actions

The Trump administration began formal negotiations on a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia in February 2018, though negotiations have been off-and-on since 2012. The negotiations are being led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry,. Though some officials, particularly at the State Department, have said that the administration is pressing Saudi Arabia to commit to forgoing the ability to make nuclear fuel and to adopt the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, reports suggest Saudi Arabia has been resisting these restrictions. Concerns about nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia grew after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year that Saudi Arabia would develop nuclear weapons if Iran did and after the October 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Congress has shown bipartisan support for both encouraging gold standard provisions and a more active role for Congress in overseeing both the ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia specifically, and 123 agreement more broadly. Members of Congress have expressed concern over reports on senior administration officials’ potential conflict of interest in negotiating a US-Saudi civil nuclear cooperation agreement, and the secrecy around the current negotiations and recently provided authorizations by the Trump administration, claiming that they have not been appropriately appraised as per the Atomic Energy Act.

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The Nuclear Security Summits: An Overview of State Actions to Curb Nuclear Terrorism 2010–2016

July 2018

The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit brought to a close President Barack Obama’s high-level initiative to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and secure weapons-usable nuclear materials. The four biannual summits from 2010-2016 played a significant role in bringing high-level political attention to the threat posed by vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world and strengthening the global nuclear security regime.

Download this report.

Summit Reflects New Attitudes, Old Challenges


July/August 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The historic Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have emphasized pageantry over substance, but the document both leaders signed could start a serious negotiating process on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they sit down with their respective delegations for the U.S.-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12.  (Photo:  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Their June 12 joint statement committed North Korea to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and both countries to hold follow-on negotiations at the “earliest possible date” to implement the leaders’ understandings.

Upon his return to Washington on June 13, Trump claimed to have achieved his goal, tweeting misleadingly that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." The reassurance was premature at best, given that the summit statement did not commit Kim to take any specific steps to halt his nuclear weapons program. Negotiations on what comes next are bound to be difficult, and the history of failed agreements (see box) will weigh on the talks.

Still, by talking rather than threatening, Trump and Kim have stepped back from what seemed to be an accelerating slide toward a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons use in 2017. Kim, one of the world’s most isolated leaders, bolstered his standing by attaining a one-on-one meeting with a U.S. president. It remains to be seen if the meeting created the necessary political momentum to begin a negotiating process or if it sends the wrong message about leveraging illicit nuclear activities for political gain. Iran, for one, may note the disparity in U.S. treatment.

The U.S. negotiators, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, must try to convert the declared understandings into detailed commitments and then into actions leading to North Korea's complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament—the very goal that has eluded negotiators in the past. How this goes in the coming weeks, months, and perhaps years—not the day-after celebratory tweets from the U.S. president—will determine whether the meeting was a historic turning point or another diplomatic disappointment.

Going into the summit, North Korea and the United States had different expectations about what denuclearization entails. (See ACT, May 2018.) The reference to “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” does not appear to have resolved those differences, and gaps are already discernable between the two countries’ interpretations of the summit commitments.

Before the summit, Pompeo told reporters in Singapore that the “complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.”

When pressed by reporters after the summit on why there was no inclusion of the word “verification” in the summit document, Pompeo said that verification was understood as part of “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” A June 13 statement on the summit published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention verification.

Differences in interpretation have plagued U.S. negotiations with North Korea in the past. Most recently, a February 2012 moratorium on long-range missile tests collapsed when North Korea conducted a satellite launch in April of that year. Satellite launch vehicles were not expressly mentioned in the so-called Leap Day deal; the United States said it was understood that such launches were also prohibited, whereas North Korea said they were permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

The KCNA statement said that the two leaders agreed “it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action” to achieve peace, stability, and denuclearization.

John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, said June 20 in an interview with Fox News that all sanctions will remain in force until there is evidence of North Korean denuclearization.

It may be difficult for the United States to retain sanctions pressure, given the steps Kim has taken to halt nuclear weapons and certain missile tests and to engage in negotiations with the United States and South Korea.

Following the summit, China called for the UN Security Council to support the diplomatic process and adjust sanctions, “including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions” if North Korea “acts in accordance” with Security Council resolutions. In addition to requiring North Korea to halt nuclear weapons and missile tests, the Security Council resolutions also demand Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.

In follow-up negotiations, Pompeo will need to clarify with his North Korean counterparts the expectations for denuclearization or run the risk that Pyongyang may exploit any ambiguity in the future.

Despite differences over scope and sequencing, the summit may yield concrete results. Kim is more likely to take verifiable steps to halt and roll back his nuclear and ballistic missile programs if there is a fundamental shift in U.S.-North Korean relations, and despite the insults Kim and Trump traded last year, the two leaders seem to have developed a personal chemistry.

North Korea has long stated that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against “U.S. hostile policy” toward the country. The KCNA statement on June 13 said that if the United States is willing to take “genuine measures to improving trust” between the two countries, North Korea will take commensurate steps. The statement also said the two countries should commit to refrain from “antagonizing” one another and noted that Trump and Kim have “deepening friendly feelings.”

Trump’s expressions of admiration for Kim, despite myriad human rights abuses, and his announcement at the June 12 summit news conference that the United States would suspend joint “war games” with South Korea may demonstrate that Washington is willing to take steps to respond to North Korea’s security concerns.

Trump’s decision to suspend all military exercises and his adoption of Pyongyang’s term of “war games” to describe the drills caught many off guard, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. military forces in Korea. South Korea later agreed to suspend the planned exercises in August.

Pompeo had acknowledged in his June 11 news conference that addressing North Korea’s security concerns and steps on denuclearization must go hand in hand, but did not indicate that Trump was putting a suspension of exercises on the table during the summit.

Trump did say that the United States would resume military exercises if negotiations with North Korea fail to make progress. He did not indicate if the continued suspension was tied to a continuation of North Korea’s voluntary pledge in April to halt long-range ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests.

China has long pushed an interim “freeze for freeze” proposal in which North Korea would agree to halt testing in exchange for a halt of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Last year, U.S. officials including H.R. McMaster, the then-national security adviser, rejected that concept. (See ACT, November 2017.)

As the dominant regional power, China is playing an important, if unclear, role. Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping twice in the lead-up to the summit and again on June 19. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on June 12 that the Trump-Kim summit has “important and positive meaning.”

 

North Korea's Past Nuclear Agreements at a Glance

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” as stated in the Singapore summit statement, follows a history of agreements that at times curbed but ultimately failed to stop North Korea from producing and testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Following is a summary of some of the previous agreements.

Jan. 20, 1992: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons or to possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium-enrichment facilities. They also agree to mutual inspections for verification. The following year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that North Korea had clandestinely separated a small amount of plutonium.

Aug. 12, 1994: The United States and North Korea sign an “agreed statement” that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant power reactors to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors.

Oct. 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the Agreed Framework. The accord calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors. North Korea agreed to allow the IAEA to verify compliance through special inspections and to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country, in exchange for heavy fuel oil shipments and the construction of two, more proliferation-resistant light-water reactors. Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang’s development and export of ballistic missiles. The agreement broke down by 2002 over accusations by
each side that the other had failed to comply with key obligations.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have “agreed to resolve” the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The declaration included promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

Sept. 19, 2005: The participants in the six-party talks conclude a statement of principles to guide future negotiations. North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to IAEA safeguards. It also called for the 1992 Joint Declaration to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea. The statement commits the participants to achieving “the verifiable denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula “in a peaceful manner.” Implementation disputes arose, and North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion on Oct. 9, 2006.

Feb. 8-13, 2007: The fifth round of the six-party talks concludes with an action plan of initial steps to implement the September 2005 joint statement on North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea agreed to halt the operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon during a 60-day initial phase in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. The action plan also established five working groups to “discuss and formulate specific plans” regarding economic and energy cooperation, denuclearization, implementation of a “Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism,” North Korean relations with the United States, and North Korean relations with Japan. The statement called for Pyongyang to provide a complete declaration of all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities in return for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or its equivalent. By the end of 2008, however, the last of the six-party talks ended in a stalemate due to a U.S.-North Korean dispute over the verification of North Korea’s declaration.

Feb. 29, 2012: Following a Feb. 23–24 meeting between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, the two countries announce in separate statements the “Leap Day” agreement by North Korea to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium-enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests. The United States says that it would provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons of food aid under strict monitoring. The agreement fell apart over a dispute about whether it prohibited “space launches” and North Korea’s March 2012 attempt to use a rocket to loft a satellite into orbit.

March 8, 2018: Following a series of ballistic missile tests in 2017, including successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flight tests; threats of military attack from the United States; and North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, 2017, senior South Korean officials convey an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

June 12, 2018: Trump and Kim meet for about four hours in Singapore and sign a joint communique in which they agree to establish “new” U.S.-North Korean relations, build a “lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, and recover remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War. Kim commits to “work toward complete denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula, and Trump commits to provide unspecified “security guarantees” for North Korea.

By talking rather than threatening, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stepped back from an accelerating slide toward a conflict. Still, eliminating Kim’s nuclear weapons is a
tall order.

IAEA Safeguards Agreements at a Glance

June 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: June 2018

Introduction

Safeguards agreements ensure that all nuclear activity a state undertakes is for peaceful purposes and that a state is not engaging in illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is the independent organization charged with applying safeguards.

The IAEA and Canada concluded the first safeguards agreement in 1959 and in 1961, the IAEA’s Board of Governors approved a document outlining the principles of safeguards. Since 1961, both the scope and application of safeguards have evolved.

Under Article III of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), all non-nuclear weapons states-parties are required to conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), known as a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA or INFCIRC/153 corrected). Given the near-universal membership in the NPT, safeguards are now widespread.

These agreements allow for states to exercise their right under the NPT to peaceful nuclear energy without causing concern that they may actually be developing nuclear weapons in violation of the treaty.

The five NPT nuclear weapons states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are not required to have IAEA safeguards agreements under the NPT. All five, however, have signed voluntary offer safeguards agreements that permit the IAEA to apply safeguards to material in select eligible facilities. This covers civilian nuclear material and sites. All five nuclear weapon states have also concluded additional protocols to the voluntary offer safeguards agreements.

States with minimal or no nuclear material may sign a small quantities protocol, abstaining them from some of the obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement as long as they meet certain criteria. The small quantifies protocol was revised in 2005, and now contains fewer exemptions.

Non-states-parties to the NPT may also sign safeguards agreements with the IAEA known as item-specific safeguards agreements.  India, Pakistan and Israel for instance, have placed civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and India has an Additional Protocol in force.

IAEA safeguards measures do not prohibit additional bilateral or multilateral safeguards measures. For instance, Brazil and Argentina reached an agreement on bilateral safeguards inspections in 1991 (ABACC) and Euratom’s safeguards, which predated the NPT requirement, and contribute to its member states’ safeguards agreements negotiated with the agency. 

Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA)

The Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) is required for non-nuclear weapon states under the NPT and is an option for non-NPT members. In concluding a CSA with the IAEA, states must declare the type and quantity of material subject to safeguards in an initial report. The IAEA verifies that a state’s declaration of nuclear material is correct and complete. A CSA also gives the IAEA the authority to independently verify that all nuclear material in the territory or jurisdictional control of a state is not diverted for nuclear weapons or explosives purposes and that nuclear facilities are not misused. 

The IAEA notes four main processes for the implementation of safeguards. 

  1. Collection and evaluation of safeguards-relevant information: The IAEA collects safeguards-relevant information to determine if a state’s declarations about its nuclear program are correct.
  2. Development of a safeguards approach for a state: A safeguards approach indicates which safeguards measures are needed to verify a state’s declarations.
  3. Planning, conducting and evaluating safeguards activities: The IAEA then develops a plan to conduct the safeguards activities based on the safeguards approach and identifies areas that may need to be followed up.
  4. Drawing of a safeguards conclusion: Upon completing the safeguards implementation cycle, the IAEA issues safeguards conclusions, which provide credible assurances to the international community that states are abiding by safeguards commitments.

According to the IAEA, there are 174 states with Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, as of June 2018. Each year the IAEA reports on safeguards implementation to the agency’s Board of Governors, which is comprised of IAEA member states.

Strengthening Safeguards

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an effort in 1993 to better constrain NPT member-states' ability to illicitly pursue nuclear weapons after secret nuclear weapons programs in Iraq and North Korea exposed weaknesses in existing agency safeguards.

Program 93+2

Iraq, an NPT state-party, successfully circumvented IAEA safeguards by exploiting the agency's system of confining its inspection and monitoring activities to facilities or materials explicitly declared by each state in its safeguards agreement with the agency. To close the "undeclared facilities" loophole, the IAEA initiated a safeguards improvement plan known as "Program 93+2." The plan's name reflected that it was drafted in 1993 with the intention of being implemented in two years.

Putting "Program 93+2" into effect, however, took more time than expected, and the program has subsequently been implemented in two parts. The IAEA, within its existing authority, initiated the first part in January 1996. This first step added new monitoring measures, such as environmental sampling, no-notice inspections at key measurement points within declared facilities, and remote monitoring and analysis.

Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to a Safeguards Agreement

Modified Code 3.1 requires countries to submit design information for new nuclear facilities to the IAEA as soon as the decision is made to construct, or authorize construction, of the facility. Modified Code 3.1 was introduced in the early 1990s to replace the 1976 code, which only required states to inform the IAEA of new facilities not later than 180 days after the beginning of its construction. States that implement Modified Code 3.1 provide the IAEA with additional time to respond to a state’s expansion of its nuclear program and to adjust safeguard agreements as needed. 

The Model Additional Protocol (AP)

The second part of "Program 93+2" required a formal expansion of the agency's legal mandate in the form of an additional protocol to be adopted by each NPT member to supplement its existing IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA adopted a Model Additional Protocol on May 15, 1997. The essence of the Additional Protocol is to reshape the IAEA's safeguards regime from a quantitative system focused on accounting for known quantities of materials and monitoring declared activities to a qualitative system aimed at gathering a comprehensive picture of a state's nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including all nuclear-related imports and exports. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine 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. NPT states-parties are not required to adopt an Additional Protocol, although the IAEA is urging all to do so.

The model protocol outlined four key changes that must be incorporated into each NPT state-party's Additional Protocol.

  1. Expanded amount and type of information to be provided to the IAEA
  • In addition to the current requirement for data about nuclear fuel and fuel-cycle activities, states will now have to provide an "expanded declaration" on a broad array of nuclear-related activities, such as "nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities—not involving nuclear materials" and "the location, operational status and the estimated annual production" of uranium mines and thorium concentration plants. Thorium can be processed to produce fissile material, the key ingredient for nuclear weapons.
  • All trade in items on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) trigger list will have to be reported to the IAEA as well. The NSG is a group of 48 nuclear supplier countries that seeks to voluntarily prevent the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes by restricting nuclear and nuclear-related exports.
  1. Increased number and type of facilities the IAEA can inspect
  • In order to resolve questions about or inconsistencies in the information a state has provided on its nuclear activities, the new inspection regime provides the IAEA with "complementary," or pre-approved, access to "any location specified by the Agency," as well as all of the facilities specified in the "expanded declaration."
  • By negotiating an additional protocol, states will, in effect, guarantee the IAEA access on short notice to all of their declared and, if necessary, undeclared facilities in order "to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities."
  1. Streamlining the visa process for inspectors
  • The agency's ability to conduct short notice inspections is augmented by streamlining the visa process for inspectors, who are guaranteed to receive within one month's notice "appropriate multiple entry/exit" visas that are valid for at least a year.
  1. Increased right to use environmental sampling
  • The Additional Protocol provides for the IAEA's right to use environmental sampling during inspections at both declared and undeclared sites.
  • It further permits the use of environmental sampling over a wide area rather than being confined to specific facilities.

Credit: International Atomic Energy Agency

As of June 2018, 132 countries and Euratom have concluded Additional Protocols that are now in force. Another 16 states have signed Additional Protocols but have yet to bring them into force. Iran applies its Additional Protocol pending its pursuit of ratification as part of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1. 

Although the Additional Protocol is widely accepted as a standard safeguards practice, several states have opposed the expansion of safeguards to include it.

Integrated Safeguards

In addition to strengthening safeguards through the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol, in the late 1990s and 2000s, the IAEA also developed methods to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards implementation for states with both CSAs and APs in force. The IAEA began using a “state-level concept” to evaluate a state’s compliance with safeguards agreements comprehensively, instead of on a facility-by-facility basis. It also began issuing “broader conclusion” determinations for states in order to ease safeguards implementation burdens by applying the state-level approach.

Broader Conclusion

The IAEA began issuing a “broader conclusion” designation for certain states with both the CSA and AP in force as part of a continuing effort to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards and to cut costs. The IAEA must recertify a broader conclusion each year, verifying that a state’s declaration is both correct and complete. In other words, its nuclear material must remain in peaceful purposes with no indication of diversion.

If the IAEA derives a broader conclusion for a state, it may implement “integrated safeguards,” which are tailored to each individual state. Therefore, the resulting safeguards enforcement for that state becomes less burdensome and less costly.

The first state with a broader conclusion was Australia in 1999. The IAEA drew broader conclusions for 69 states in June 2017. 

State-Level Concept

Over the years, the IAEA has also developed the state-level concept, which has become the designation for an integrated safeguards approach. Under the state-level concept, the IAEA considers each state as a whole when implementing and evaluating safeguards, including nuclear-related activities and capabilities, instead of examining each facility in a given state separately. Based on the broader range of information, the agency can then tailor a safeguards approach to the specific country.

The term “state-level concept” was first used in an IAEA document in 2005 although the IAEA had been following the practice since the early 1990s. The state-level concept is used for all states with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, an Additional Protocol in force, and a broader conclusion finding.  In a 2013 report, the Director-General of the IAEA indicated his intent to continue to develop state-level approaches for safeguards implementation for additional states.

Note: This factsheet was previously titled “The 1997 IAEA Additional Protocol at a Glance.”

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The Six-Party Talks at a Glance

June 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: June 2018

The six-party talks were a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently since 2003 and attended by China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks were hosted in Beijing and chaired by China. North Korea decided to no longer participate in the six-party process in 2009. In subsequent years, other participants, notably China, have called periodically for a resumption of the process. 

Leading up to the Six-Party Talks

The United States and North Korea negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework amidst rising concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, including North Korea’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The agreement halted that decision and as part of the accord, North Korea pledged to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid, including two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors.

The Agreed Framework collapsed in October 2002 due to alleged violations from both sides. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly claimed that in a bilateral meeting, North Korea had admitted it possessed a uranium-enrichment program, which Pyongyang denied, and which would violate the deal. The United States was slow to deliver the energy aid promised in the agreement. The construction of the future light-water reactors was far behind schedule. The first reactor was initially slated for completion in 2003 but was not likely to be operational until 2008 at the earliest. See the U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance for more information. In January 2003, North Korea declared its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). For more information, see Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy.

In early August 2003, North Korea declared its willingness to attend six-party talks to be held in Beijing. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, the six-party talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement. While the steps were never fully realized, and North Korea remains outside of the NPT, Pyongyang did disable the nuclear reactor that produced plutonium for its weapons program.

First Round

The First Round of talks began August 27, 2003 in Beijing. The initial North Korean position called for a normalization of relations and a non-aggression pact with the United States, without which, Pyongyang maintained, a dismantling of its nuclear program would be out of the question. The United States had previously rejected a non-aggression pact proposal earlier that summer and remained firm on that point during the talks; this stumbling block precluded any substantive agreement in the First Round. On the second day of talks, the North Korean delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il stated that North Korea would test a nuclear weapon soon to prove that it had acquired that ability.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi outlined six points of consensus that had been reached by the end of the round. These included a commitment to work to resolve the nuclear issue through peaceful means and dialogue, pursuing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula while bearing in mind the security of North Korea, and avoiding acts that would aggravate the situation further.

Second Round

While China called for a return to the forum, South Korea, Japan, and the United States met separately to discuss joint strategies for the next round and possibilities for a verifiable inspection system. In late October 2003, China secured an agreement from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to return to the six-party talks, after U.S. President George W. Bush expressed an openness to providing informal security assurances short of a non-aggression pact or peace treaty. The United States, however, still would not allow its diplomats to hold direct talks with North Korean negotiators and demanded unilateral concessions on the part of Pyongyang. The central U.S. demand was that North Korea declare its willingness to the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of its nuclear programs, a policy that had come to be known as CVID.

The Second Round of talks began February 25, 2004. On the second day of talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Russian lead negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Losiukov, both reported that North Korea had offered to destroy its nuclear weapons program, but would not discontinue its peaceful nuclear activities. This represented a partial reversal from its January offer. While both China and Russia supported an agreement on this new basis, the United States, Japan, and South Korea insisted that the North eliminate all of its nuclear facilities and programs. U.S. officials believed that the North Korean civil nuclear program was impractical for economic use and was likely a front for other activities.

The Chairman’s paper that was eventually circulated at the end of the discussions in lieu of a joint statement did not include any initial steps agreements, but reaffirmed all parties’ commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free Korean peninsula.

Third Round

On June 23, 2004, the six states reconvened to begin the Third Round of negotiations. Expectations were muted by uncertainties generated by the Presidential election in the United States later that year.

In the run up to the talks, the United States circulated its first set of formal proposals for a step-by-step dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program. (See ACT, July 2004.) The proposal granted North Korea a three-month preparatory period to freeze its programs, and also requested the transmittal of a full account of activities. South Korea presented a similar proposal that largely adhered to the base U.S. demand for CVID. At the opening ceremony of the Third Round, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan reiterated that his country was willing to accept a “freeze for compensation” program that would lead to renunciation of its nuclear weapons program.

Again lacking the consensus necessary for a joint statement, a Chairman’s statement was issued instead. In addition to reaffirming commitments made previously, the parties stressed the need for a “words for words” and “action for action” process towards resolution of the crisis.

Fourth Round

Nearly a year of uncertainty divided the Third and Fourth Rounds of the six-party talks. In part, this was due to the Presidential election in the United States, which took place in early November 2004 and resulted in a second term of office for George W. Bush. North Korea stated that it intended to wait for a restatement of the second Bush administration’s policies before deciding on whether to attend the next round of talks.

In early February 2005, North Korea declared itself in possession of nuclear weapons and said it would not attend future six-party talks. It accused the United States of attempting to overthrow its government and referred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement in her confirmation hearing that North Korea was an “outpost of tyranny.” Finally, following a July 2005 meeting in Beijing with the new U.S. lead negotiator Christopher Hill, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan announced that his country would be willing to attend a new round of talks during the week of July 25, 2005.

One of the inducements which drew North Korea back to the negotiating table was a U.S. recognition of North Korea as a sovereign state coupled with a statement that it had no intention to invade North Korea. These were reiterated on the first day of negotiations. The resulting talks were considerably longer than previous rounds, lasting a full 13 days. The United States softened its opposition to a North Korean civil energy program, while a joint statement based on resurrection of a 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that barred the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons was discussed. The United States also engaged in lengthy bilateral discussions with the North Korean delegation, lifting prior restrictions prohibiting U.S. negotiators from engaging the North Koreans directly.

On September 19, 2005, the six parties achieved the first breakthrough in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis, issuing a joint statement on agreed steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “in a phased manner in line with the principle of commitment for commitment, action for action.”

North Korea committed itself to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing programs, returning to the NPT and accepting IAEA inspections. In return, the other parties expressed their respect for North Korea’s assertion of a right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and agreed to discuss the provision of a light water nuclear reactor “at an appropriate time.” The United States and South Korea both affirmed that they would not deploy nuclear weapons on the peninsula, and stated, along with Russia, China, and Japan, their willingness to supply North Korea with energy aid. The United States and Japan, further, committed themselves to working to normalizing relations with North Korea.

The day after the Joint Statement was agreed, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry declared that the United States should provide a light water reactor “as early as possible.” (See ACT, November 2005.) Although Pyongyang appeared to back away from that demand in the following days, disagreements over the timing of discussions on the provision of such a reactor remained.

Fifth Round

The next round of talks began on November 9, 2005 and lasted three days. The Six Parties expressed their views on how the Joint Statement should be implemented, but no new achievements were registered and substantial negotiations were neither attempted nor envisioned. U.S. lead negotiator Christopher Hill said, “We were not expecting to make any major breakthroughs.” The meeting concluded without setting a date for the next round of talks.

Following the end of the first session, the negotiating climate deteriorated significantly. U.S. sanctions on North Korean trading entities as well as Banco Delta Asia of Macau provoked strong condemnation from Pyongyang. North Korea boycotted the six-party talks once again, and conducted multiple missile tests in July and its first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.

In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1718 on October 14, requiring North Korea to refrain from further nuclear or missile testing, abandon its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missile programs, and immediately rejoin the six-party talks.

Further discussions resumed in February 2007 which concluded in an agreement on initial steps to implement the 2005 Joint Statement.  The February 13 agreement called for steps to be taken over the next 60 days in which North Korea committed to shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and to discussing a list of its nuclear-related activities with the other parties. The United States and Japan committed to engaging in talks to normalize relations, while all parties would work to provide 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, all within the 60 day period. The United States also agreed to begin the process of removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with regards to North Korea. The agreement set a March 19, 2007 date for a Sixth Round of talks and outlined a framework for follow-on actions by the six parties to implement the September 2005 Joint Statement.

Sixth Round

The next round of talks began on time but came to no substantive agreement in its initial sessions after the North Korean delegation walked out over delays in the release of funds from the sanctioned Banco Delta Asia. Diplomats had been optimistic that issues surrounding the bank had been temporarily resolved, but a technical delay in the transmittal of funds led to the announcement of another adjournment.

The IAEA confirmed in July 2007 that the 5 megawatt Yongbyon nuclear reactor had been shut down and sealed. When talks resumed in September-October 2007, a second phase implementation plan was agreed upon which called for the disablement of three key nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex and the provision of a list of North Korean nuclear activities, both by the end of the year. North Korea further committed to not transferring nuclear materials, technology, or know-how to other parties. The other parties agreed to increase aid to North Korea to a total of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or fuel oil equivalents and to a continuation of the diplomatic normalization processes.

Following numerous delays in implementation, U.S. and North Korean negotiators met in Singapore in April 2008 and agreed on three steps through which North Korea would detail or address its nuclear activities: a declaration provided by North Korea regarding its plutonium program, the publication of a U.S. "bill of particulars" detailing Washington's suspicions of a North Korean uranium-enrichment program and Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation to other countries, and a North Korean understanding of the U.S. concerns. (See ACT June, 2008.)

Further six-party talks continued in June 2008, ending with the transmittal of North Korea’s declaration of nuclear activities. At the same time, U.S. President Bush announced that he had removed North Korea from the Trading with the Enemy Act and had notified Congress of the country’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Difficulties in agreeing on a verification system delayed the second action until October 11, 2008. The need for a verification system had been reaffirmed in a July 12 joint communiqué issued by the six parties. An August 11, 2008 proposal from the United States to allow verification inspections at sites throughout North Korea was rejected emphatically. Insisting that inspections be limited to Yongbyon, North Korea announced that it was reversing disablement actions and said it would restart its reprocessing plant. A verbal agreement was established after Hill visited Pyongyang in early October. The agreement allowed for inspections outside of Yongbyon when China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States agreed by consensus.

Progress again foundered in November when North Korea denied that it had committed in the verbal agreement to allowing the collection of samples at Yongbyon. Another session of six-party talks in December yielded no new consensus. North Korea maintained that if sampling were to take place, it would not be during second phase implementation.

On April 5, 2009, after repeated warnings from the United States, Japan and South Korea, Pyongyang test-fired a modified Taepo Dong-2 three-stage rocket, ostensibly as part of its civilian space program. The UN Security Council issued a presidential statement April 13 calling the test a violation of Resolution 1718, and expanded sanctions on North Korean firms shortly afterwards. North Korea responded on April 14, declaring that it would no longer participate in the six-party talks and that it would no longer be bound by any of the previous agreements reached in the discussions.

Since the last round of talks, each of the parties involved has at times called for their resumption. In December 2010, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States called for an emergency session of the six-party talks. In 2014, a North Korean special envoy told Russian President Vladimir Putin that North Korea would be ready to resume the six-party talks. China has continued to call from their resumption, as recently as August 2017. However, there has been little progress towards continuing the six-party talks recently.

Agreements and Declarations from the Six-Party Talks

Research by Xiaodon Liang

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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