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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Nuclear Nonproliferation

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.”

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Fact Sheet Categories:

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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Lessons from Iran for Trump’s Negotiations with North Korea

The joint statement from the historic June 12 Singapore summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump stated that North Korea will “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and the two countries “commit to hold follow-on negotiations.” Assessing whether the summit was a success or a failure will depend in large part on what the follow-on talks accomplish and if the process leads to concrete steps by North Korea to halt and roll back its nuclear weapons program. The indication in the summit document that the United States and...

Press Briefings on U.S.-North Korean Summit Outcomes

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The Arms Control Association was pleased to convene two telebriefings following the close of the U.S.-North Korean summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

Recordings of the two telebriefings are available to accredited journalists upon request. Contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, to inquire.

On June 12, 2018, we invited an immediate analysis to the joint statement from

  • Ambassador Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Governor Gary Locke, former U.S. Ambassador to China
  • Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation 
  • Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association

The following morning, we invited reactions and perspectives by

  • Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation 
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association 
  • Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association 

Negotiating a denuclearization agreement will be a long-term, complex process. It will be critical for the two leaders to have created a framework for sustained talks and avoid pitfalls that disrupted past diplomatic efforts and risk putting the United States and North Korea back on the path of confrontation.

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Briefing following the close of negotiations in Singapore

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The Fight Continues: Reflections on the June 12, 1982 Rally for Nuclear Disarmament

On the morning of June 12, 1982, as the sun shined down on the green grass in Central Park, people began to gather carrying signs for nuclear disarmament. Throughout the morning, buses arrived from around the country. By the afternoon, nearly every blade of grass was covered. Citizens filled second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, and Madison avenues. By mid-afternoon, the police estimated that over 750,000 people were in Central Park demanding an end to nuclear weapons. By the end of the day, that number had swelled to 1 million. The rally and subsequent march were organized around the United...

The U.S.-North Korean Summit and Beyond

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Toward an Effective Deal on Denuclearization and Peace with North Korea

Volume 10, Issue 7, June 8, 2018

The South Korean-brokered diplomatic opening between leaders from the United States and North Korea that began in January 2018 is a welcome shift away from the missile and nuclear tests and “fire and fury” threats of 2017 that brought the region to the brink of a catastrophic war.

Donald Trump deserves credit for being so bold as to agree to pursue the June 12 summit meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The ongoing inter-Korean dialogue and prospect for a historic U.S.-North Korean summit has lowered tensions but tensions could flare up once again – especially if Trump goes off-script, acts impulsively, or if either side has unrealistic expectations about what the meeting can accomplish.

After creating unrealistic expectations for the planned summit with Kim Jong-un, canceling the encounter and then directing his team to make it happen, Donald Trump finally appears to understand that a single summit cannot resolve the decades-long North Korean nuclear problem.

After meeting with a high-level North Korean official June 1, Trump said the summit was part of a process with North Korea. Indeed, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be a years-long endeavor, requiring reciprocal steps.

The long history of U.S.-North Korean nuclear and missile diplomacy underscores the importance of sustaining progress beyond the glow of the initial diplomatic breakthrough. Both sides need to have the political will and courage to follow through on their commitments, and they must have the skills necessary to overcome the implementation and compliance disputes and delays that will inevitably occur down the road.

The overall goal for the Trump administration, and U.S. allies and partners, should be to continue to move as quickly as possible in the right direction: toward halting and reversing and eliminating North Korea’s nuclear strike potential, and away from a worsening crisis involving a growing North Korean nuclear capability and increased risk of war.

For the June 12 summit in Singapore to be a success and to set a course for real, lasting progress, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will need to agree on a framework for ongoing direct, expert-level negotiations to hammer out the details and timeframe for specific action-for-action steps on denuclearization, as well as concrete steps toward a peace regime on the Korean peninsula that addresses the security concerns of North Korea and other states in the region.

On the Same Page?

In the days leading up to the encounter in Singapore, it is still not clear yet whether top U.S. and North Korean leaders are on the same page about the end goals, the pace, and the sequencing of many steps involved in the complete “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.

It is also not entirely clear whether the Trump administration itself is of one mind about its own strategy. Top Trump advisors, including National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, contributed to creating a hostile environment just a couple of weeks ahead of the summit by suggesting “the Libya model” for rapid denuclearization by North Korea with promises of security only coming afterward, and threatening war if North Korea does not agree to a deal.

Given the fact that North Korea has long maintained that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against U.S. "hostile policy," it should have been no surprise to the Trump White House that senior North Korean officials lashed out at such an approach.

As the April 2018 Panmunjeom Declaration negotiated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the Republic of Korea’s president Moon Jae-in underscores, the North Korean leadership is only interested in talking about denuclearization if their security interests can be guaranteed.

In the days ahead of the summit, it was reported that "Trump wants Kim to commit to disarmament timetable at summit" but Trump has been advised not to offer any concessions. That is not a winning formula. You don't get something for nothing when you deal with North Korea.

The Summit and Beyond: A Process for Denuclearization and a Peace Regime

To achieve real, lasting progress, the two sides will need to agree on a framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on the specific action-for-action steps toward denuclearization and a peace regime.

The North Korean denuclearization effort would be without precedent and there is no guarantee of success. No country with a nuclear arsenal and infrastructure as substantial as Kim Jong Un’s, and that has openly conducted nuclear weapon test explosions, has given up its nuclear weapons program.

The North Korean nuclear and missile programs involve dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings, and thousands of people. Rapid progress should be the goal, but as Siegfried Hecker and Bob Carlin note in their recent Stanford University study, a comprehensive denuclearization process is complex and will take years to accomplish.

A near-term priority goal for the Trump administration should be to reach a common understanding Kim Jong-un about what denuclearization entails. A good basis for common understanding would be the 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Another near-term priority should be to solidify North Korea’s declared nuclear and missile testing halt and secure a freeze on fissile material production at all suspected sites, which will help ensure that North Korea cannot expand its arsenal of some 20-60 bombs even further. This could be achieved by:

  • Securing North Korea’s pledge to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would help transform its no-test pledge into a legally-binding international commitment, and to secure agreement for on-site inspections by the CTBTO to confirm the closure of its test site. The destruction of the test tunnel entrances at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is a positive step in the right direction, but it does not permanently prevent it from resuming nuclear tests in the future. Additional tests by North Korea could be used to achieve further advances in nuclear warhead design. This action step is likely within reach since Pyongyang has recently hinted that it might join the CTBT;
  • An agreement to halt further ballistic missile tests, including “space launches,” cease new ballistic missile production and decommission all ICBM launch sites, which could stop North Korea just short of developing a reliable long-range nuclear strike system;
  • Securing a freeze on uranium enrichment and plutonium production, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would put a ceiling on the potential number of nuclear devices that North Korea could assemble.

Another early goal should be to secure a commitment by North Korea to deliver a full declaration on its nuclear infrastructure, nuclear material inventory, and its nuclear weapons stockpile to be verified later by the IAEA, using guideline and techniques established by the Model Additional Protocol for nuclear safeguards, with the support and a legal mandate from the United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council.

At a later stage, following more intensive expert-level talks, the two sides could agree to a process and a timeline for dismantling weapons stocks and securing separated fissile material stocks under the supervision of a UN Security Council-mandated technical team consisting of specialists from nuclear weapon states, in cooperation with the technical experts from North Korea.

Facilities that are part of North Korea's nuclear complex and its longer-range missile production and deployment infrastructure would also need to be verifiably dismantled or converted under international supervision. This would be a major undertaking that could build upon the experience and lessons learned from U.S. and Russian cooperative threat reduction programs that helped eliminate excess Cold War-era stockpiles and sites.

Phased Steps to Reduce Tensions on the Peninsula

To achieve real and lasting progress on denuclearization, the U.S. side must be willing to simultaneously take a series of phased, concrete steps to demonstrate it does not have “hostile intent” toward the regime in Pyongyang and that North Korea’s security and sovereignty does not depend on possessing nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged this reality in his press briefing May 31 when he noted that the U.S. side will need to convince North Korea’s leadership that their security will be assured—and be even greater—if they make the strategic decision to pursue complete and verifiable denuclearization.

Clearly, differences still need to be ironed out on pacing and sequencing of denuclearization steps and concrete steps to assure the North Korean leadership that they can survive without nuclear weapons. Key measures might include:

  • Agreeing to security guarantees, including a commitment not to initiate the use of force against one another;
  • Removing U.S. strategic bombers and offensive strike assets, including nuclear-capable systems from U.S. and joint military exercises with allies in the region;
  • Formally initiating negotiations on a peace treaty to replace the Korean War Armistice, which would involve talks between the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and Chinese leaders, and pursuing steps toward the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations, beginning with the opening of a diplomatic interest section in Pyongyang and Washington;
  • Jointly reducing military force deployments on both sides of the DMZ in a manner consistent with a future peace treaty.

The Role of Congress

The Trump administration will also need to keep members of Congress better informed on its evolving strategy with regular reports on the negotiations. It will need Congressional advice and support to sustain the process, which will last beyond the life span of the Trump administration.

Members of Congress can and should seek clarification from the Trump administration regarding how it defines the denuclearization process and they should hold the administration accountable as to whether progress is or is not being achieved, but the executive branch will need political space to negotiate the specifics with Pyongyang.

As Senator Robert Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in a May 16 op-ed in The Washington Post, “… even a partial agreement that verifiably begins the process of rolling back North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs would constitute success. Such an agreement should be combined with continued pressure, a strong deterrence posture and a continuation of the emerging North-South dialogue. This would over time provide a reliable pathway to full denuclearization.”

Stay Calm and Carry On

If the planned summit with Kim Jong-un falls apart or does not produce immediate results, Trump must resist the urge to abandon diplomacy and make irresponsible threats, which will only reinforce North Korea's incentive to further improve its nuclear and missile activities and increase the likelihood of a military confrontation.

There is no viable military option to deal with the North Korean nuclear challenge. A second war with a nuclear-armed North Korea would be catastrophic for all sides involved. Tens of millions of people in East Asia and possibly the United States could perish in such a conflict, which would quickly go nuclear.

Trump must also recognize that his policy of “maximum pressure” has real limits. Without a serious, sustained diplomatic effort designed to reach a deal to verifiably halt and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, global support for the existing sanctions regime may erode.

If negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang do ultimately break down, the United States should maintain a principled, sober strategy of diplomacy and deterrence that serves U.S. and allied interests and averts a catastrophic war.

The American people support a diplomatic solution. According to a recent Pew/ Economist/YouGov survey, around 70 percent support direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea, while 62 percent say Trump should not threaten military action against North Korea if it does not give up its nuclear weapons, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.

The June 12 encounter will capture the world’s attention. Barring a dramatic breakdown, it will be viewed as a positive first step.

But the true measure of the Singapore summit between Trump and Kim is whether it will actually lead to concrete, steady progress toward the twin goals of denuclearization and the easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The pursuit of disarmament diplomacy is hard work, and when it comes to North Korea, progress never comes easily, but it is better than the alternatives. —DARYL G. KIMBALL, Executive Director

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What would constitute an effective deal on denuclearization and peace with North Korea?

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IAEA Report Confirms Iran’s Compliance with the JCPOA

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program June 6, and, unsurprisingly, the report found that Iran is complying with its commitments under the multilateral deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) . The report, finalized May 24, was the first since U.S. President Donald Trump violated the nuclear deal May 8 by reimposing sanctions on Iran, and withdrew the United States from the accord. The report bears out what Iranian officials stated after Trump’s announcement – that Iran would remain within the JCPOA, for now...

Nuclear Nonproliferation Malpractice


June 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

The global nuclear nonproliferation system has always relied on responsible leadership from the United States and other global powers. The effort to create, extend, and strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which was opened for signature 50 years ago on July 1, 1968, has succeeded, albeit imperfectly, because most U.S. presidents have made good faith efforts to back up U.S. legal and political commitments on nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a speech, “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy”, at the Heritage Foundation, in Washington, D.C, on May 21, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]Beginning in 2003 when Iran was discovered to have a secret uranium-enrichment program, key European states, along with China, Russia, and later, the United States under President Barack Obama, put enormous effort into negotiating the complex multilateral deal to curtail and contain Iran’s nuclear program and to verifiably block its pathways to nuclear weapons: the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

But now, with his May 8 decision to unilaterally violate the JCPOA, President Donald Trump effectively has ceded the traditional nonproliferation leadership role of the United States, opened the door for Iran to quickly expand its uranium-enrichment capacity, and shaken the foundations of the global nuclear nonproliferation system. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran and any businesses or banks that continue to do business with Iran puts the valuable nonproliferation barriers established by the JCPOA at grave risk.

If the accord is to survive Trump’s reckless actions, EU governments and other responsible states must now try to sustain it without the United States by taking bold steps to ensure that it remains in Iran’s interest not to break out of the JCPOA’s rigorous constraints.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said May 8 that “[a]s long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear[-]related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal.

Europe Union states, as well as China and Russia, have little choice but to part ways with the Trump administration on the Iran deal because Trump has rejected reasonable proposals from leaders of the E3 countries (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) to address his concerns and because his new “strategy” to pursue a “better deal” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is pure fantasy.

To try to address Trump’s complaints about the JCPOA, the E3 worked in good faith for several months to negotiate a supplemental agreement designed to address concerns about Iran’s behavior that fall outside the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, including its ballistic missile program and its support for radical groups in the Middle East.

That effort failed because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee to the E3 that if they entered into such an agreement, he would continue to waive nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

Trump administration officials say they will try to “cajole” the European powers and other states to reimpose even stronger sanctions on Iran to try to compel Iran to come back to the negotiating table to work out a “better” deal for the United States and a more onerous one for Iran.

In the meantime, Trump is demanding that Iran must still meet the JCPOA’s nuclear restrictions and submit to its tough International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring provisions. Such arrogant bullying has no chance of producing a cooperative response from leaders in Tehran or in other capitals.

If European and other powers fail to adequately insulate their financial and business transactions with Iran from U.S. sanctions, Iran could decide to quickly expand its enrichment capacity by putting more machines online and increasing its uranium supply. Asked on May 9 how he would respond to such actions, Trump said, “If they do, there will be very severe consequences.”

Within hours of Trump’s May 8 announcement, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “If Iran acquires nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same.”

Incredibly, the Trump administration, which is in the process of negotiating an agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with Riyadh, failed to respond to this alarming threat from the Saudi monarchy to violate its NPT commitments.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA is also a body blow to efforts to strengthen the NPT system in the run-up to the pivotal 2020 NPT Review Conference. Statements from U.S. diplomats about how others should advance NPT goals will ring hollow so long as the United States continues to ignore or repudiate its own nonproliferation obligations.

For instance, at the NPT gathering in May, U.S. representatives argued that progress toward a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East suffers from a “lack of trust” and nonproliferation “noncompliance” by states in the region. Unfortunately, U.S. noncompliance with the JCPOA has ony excacerbated these challenges.

Trump’s decision on the nuclear deal has transformed the United States from a nonproliferation leader to an NPT rogue state. For now, the future of the hard-won Iran nuclear accord and maybe the NPT as we now know it will depend largely on the leadership of key European leaders and restraint from Iran’s.

The global nuclear nonproliferation system has always relied on responsible leadership from the United States and other global powers.

THE NPT AT 50: A Staple of Global Nuclear Order


June 2018
By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the bedrock of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. Although the accord is far from perfect, its many accomplishments should be recognized.

The NPT was created at a time when the world was confronted with the bipolar threat of annihilation driven by the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. During that period, the superpowers clashed politically and ideologically, dividing the world between East and West and between democracy and communism. A half-century later, the NPT endures, even though the East-West divide has morphed into a multipolar world era in which the new security risk of nonstate actors has added to the nuclear threat.

At the Palais des Nations in Geneva, diplomats from more than 100 countries participate April 30 at the international conference to prepare for the 2020 review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (Photo: Alicia Sanders-Zakre/Arms Control Association)During those 50 years, periods of tension arose between the treaty and its signatories. Yet, consider its accomplishments: an overwhelming number (185) of non-nuclear-weapon states, a dramatic 85 percent reduction in the global nuclear weapons stockpile, a lower number of states possessing nuclear weapons than predicted, and the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, which have made the entire Southern Hemisphere devoid of nuclear weapons.

Still, divisive issues remain, including the NPT’s universality, the extent and pace of nuclear disarmament, the measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the NPT’s inability to prevent nonsignatories India, Israel, and Pakistan from crossing the nuclear threshold and to prevent former NPT signatory North Korea from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Nevertheless, the NPT played an instrumental role in creating the foundation of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, which remains today.

Why the NPT?

By 1968, there was a broad consensus that a greater number of states possessing nuclear weapons would be detrimental to international peace and security. With five nuclear-weapon states and the Cold War arms race in full swing, the pressure to prevent proliferation was growing. Worried about the spread of nuclear technology, U.S. President John Kennedy predicted in 1963 that an additional 21 countries might develop nuclear weapons in a decade.1 From the perspective of the nuclear-weapon states, a greater number of states possessing nuclear weapons would not only end their small and exclusive nuclear club, but would result in a less stable and secure world. These concerns provided sufficient motivation to create a treaty to prevent more countries from developing a nuclear weapons program.

The creation of the NPT involved a fairly tumultuous nine-year process, starting with an Irish initiative in November 1959. The main source of tension came from nuclear-weapon states that opposed a disarmament clause (China, France, Russia, and the United States), while the non-nuclear-weapon states were simultaneously insisting on one. The process culminated in a treaty negotiated by the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee by July 1968. A disarmament clause was accepted, but the time frame for disarmament was left unspecified, a source of continuing dispute today. The treaty opened for signature in London, Moscow, and Washington on July 1, 1968.2

What Is in the NPT?

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson described the NPT as “the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.”3 Indeed, the NPT has helped prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology, while providing non-nuclear-weapon states access to peaceful uses of atomic energy. The NPT is one of the most widely signed international legal treaties. Since it opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, 190 out of 194 UN-recognized states have signed. In fact, between 1968 and 1998, there was at least one signatory per year.

The NPT established a two-tier bargaining system between the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the nuclear haves) and the other signatories (the nuclear have-nots). The nuclear-weapon states would work toward nuclear disarmament and help the non-nuclear-weapon states acquire peaceful nuclear technology. In exchange, the non-nuclear-weapon states agreed never to seek a nuclear weapons program. At the time, such a promise led many of the non-nuclear-weapon states to openly criticize the NPT, denouncing it as unfair, discriminatory, and insufficient in providing appropriate security guarantees. One particularly relevant critique came from the Argentines, who described it as “the disarmament of the disarmed” treaty.4

The 11 NPT articles comprise its three essential pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. A cursory glance at its articles may suggest that the NPT is fair and unbiased and that the grand bargain was upheld. For example, the “inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty” to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy has its own article (Article IV), as does the commitment to disarm (Article VI).

A closer look, however, reveals a different conclusion. For example, the NPT does not have an article that offers the non-nuclear-weapon states negative and positive security assurances, in spite of the non-nuclear-weapon states insistence on these clauses throughout the negotiations. Such assurances would provide guarantees to the non-nuclear-weapon states that they would be protected against a nuclear attack and so would not be tempted to become nuclear-weapon states themselves. In addition, while Article VI commits the nuclear-weapon states to disarm, it does not outline when disarmament will begin, who will verify it, and what the repercussions might be for the nuclear haves to not disarm and therefore maintain their nuclear stockpiles.5 The same section requires negotiations, rather than results, without imposing any conditions or a timeline. Understanding that timing is relative, is it fair to ask whether 50 years later is still within the parameters of an “early date”?

Finally, Article X does not outline any repercussions of a state withdrawing from the NPT and subsequently proliferating. It is not new or different for a treaty to have a withdrawal clause. Article X outlines the conditions for a state-party intending to withdraw from the treaty: it must give the UN Security Council three months’ notice of its intention and provide the council with its reasons for withdrawal. This provision was intended to give the Security Council an opportunity to deal with any withdrawal that might produce a threat to international peace and security.6

Yet, who might have thought back in the 1960s, when the NPT was being drafted, that any country would invoke Article X, provide the required notice, and leave the treaty? It was not until 2003 when North Korea claimed that it was within its national sovereign right to withdraw and to withdraw “effective immediately.”7 Three years later, it tested its first nuclear weapon.

Not a Disarmament Treaty

The above clarifies what the NPT is not. It is not a disarmament treaty. It has a disarmament article, but there is a reason it is not called the Nuclear Disarmament Treaty. Article VI was negotiated largely at the insistence of non-nuclear-weapon states, particularly Brazil, India, Mexico, and Sweden.8 India and Sweden separately wanted a “package solution” that linked nonproliferation to a variety of measures, including a freeze on nuclear weapon production.9 Other states, such as Romania, favored a provision by which the nuclear-weapon states would undertake to adopt “specific nuclear disarmament measures.”10 Because neither of these recommendations were acceptable to the United States or the Soviet Union, Mexico proposed an alternative, which was an obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith” to achieve nuclear disarmament, and this obligation made it into the NPT.11 Yet, what does “good faith” mean?

During the 1960s, as the treaty was being drafted and negotiated, most of the nuclear-weapon states categorically dismissed all proposals committing them to any specific measures of disarmament or to any time limits, hence the vague language in the NPT. Had the non-nuclear-weapon states insisted on specifics, the NPT might never have been completed. France and China—both latecomers to the NPT, having signed it in 1992—were also opposed. France believed that the only solution to Article VI was the total destruction of all existing arsenals while banning the ability to manufacture new nuclear weapons, which is why it chose not to sign the treaty in 1968. China believed that Article VI was unfair to the non-nuclear-weapon states, given the unlikelihood that the nuclear-weapon states would disarm. Only the United Kingdom seemed to approve. UK Foreign Minister Fred Mulley remarked in 1968 that Article VI was “certainly the most important by-product of the treaty and one of its most important provisions.”12



Regardless of the vague language, Article VI mandates the NPT nuclear-weapon states to reduce their nuclear stockpiles and to work toward global zero. Even though they are not close to zero, all except China have drastically reduced their nuclear weapons stockpiles over the years. (fig. 1). Russia and the United States show the largest reductions, of 89 percent and 85 percent respectively (table 1). Even though the nuclear-weapon states except for China have decreased their nuclear weapons stockpiles, the NPT does not prohibit modernizing existing nuclear weapons. So although they have reduced their nuclear stockpiles, they are “modernizing” their arsenals at the same time, investing in nuclear weapons for generations while making them more reliable.

Not Designed for Withdrawal

In addition to not being a disarmament treaty, the NPT is restricted from acting against a country that withdraws from the treaty and subsequently develops nuclear weapons. The 90-day provision outlined in Article X is intended to provide the Security Council an opportunity to address any withdrawal that might produce a threat to international peace and security. In 2003, however, North Korea provided the council with only a single day’s notice, leaving the council essentially powerless to act.13



It is impossible to determine whether the Security Council would have acted if North Korea had provided the full 90-day notice, but it could have. In fact, according to the UN Charter, if the council finds that the withdrawal might foreshadow a threat to international peace and security, it has the authority to take action.14 A withdrawal from the NPT that might produce a threat to peace would give the council jurisdiction to prohibit or condition the withdrawal. Yet, it seems unlikely that the council could have done anything, short of further sanctions and perhaps even war, that would have stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, given their intent and subsequent actions in developing nuclear weapons.

North Korea is the only state to withdraw from the NPT in its 50 years of existence. Although North Korea was sanctioned heavily, ostracized, and granted pariah status after withdrawing, the NPT was unable to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

Contribution to Peace and Security

In spite of its flaws, the NPT has made a significant contribution to overall stability. Lead proponents contend it has been a force of good over the past half-century. The NPT can be credited for curbing the number of states with nuclear weapons because it created an international norm against nuclear proliferation, which can be explained through three examples.

The first is the sheer number of signatories and the relatively low number of states with nuclear weapons. It is a remarkable accomplishment that only nine states have nuclear weapons, five of which are formally considered nuclear-weapon states under the NPT, given that more than 50 states could have pursued a nuclear weapons option but decided against it. Similarly, the NPT has contributed to the existence of fewer nuclear weapons today. At the height of the Cold War, there were about 64,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. Even though the NPT entered into force in 1970, the number of nuclear weapons did not start to decrease until 1988 (fig. 2). Still, the dramatic 85 percent reduction in the global nuclear weapons stockpile can be attributed at least in part to the NPT, given the sharp decline in stockpiles since 1970.



The second example of the international norm involves Switzerland, which was dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapons program because of the nonproliferation norm. Switzerland signed the NPT in 1969 and clarified that it would wait until other countries ratified before it did.15 Switzerland ratified the NPT in 1977, by which time 99 states had ratified it and the nuclear nonproliferation norm had become significant.

The third example is nuclear rollback, the unilateral and voluntary dismantling by a country of its nuclear weapons. The only such case to date is South Africa. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the countries of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited and ultimately removed former Soviet nuclear weapons. Their rollback, however, occurred under entirely different circumstances, mainly because all three countries for the most part were eager to remove them.16

When the South African government moved to end apartheid, newly elected President Frederik de Klerk announced in 1989 that he wanted to make South Africa a respected member of the international community. He believed political reform and accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state were prerequisites for such an outcome.17 To rejoin the international community and end economic sanctions imposed against apartheid South Africa, it had to remove suspicions surrounding its nuclear weapons status. Acceding to the NPT and becoming a proponent of a nuclear-weapon-free zone covering the entire African continent was a clear indication that subscribing to the global nuclear nonproliferation norm was an effective way to reintegrate with the international community.

The NPT can also be credited with the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, a regional approach that strengthens global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts. These zones restrict areas on the ground and in space where nuclear weapons may be freely produced, moved, tested, stationed, and used. They serve to gradually limit and denuclearize at a regional level in order to move toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. States are encouraged to establish zones in their respective territories through Article VII of the NPT. In most zones, the NPT nuclear-weapon states sign protocols to the treaty pledging their support toward the zone by agreeing to not test, store, or use nuclear weapons in the designated area.

There are currently five areas in the world that are not covered by a nuclear-weapon-free zone: North America, Europe, South Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East, areas in which states with nuclear weapons are housed. Everywhere else around the world, encompassing approximately 115 countries, is protected by a zone.18 These zones are one of the most important and effective ways to advance nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. They are an inherent part of the global nuclear order, contributing not only to regional and world peace
but also to regional and global security and stability.

Even though countries within the five areas of the world that are not protected by a nuclear-weapon-free zone are faced with an existing nuclear threat based on the mere existence of nuclear weapons on their territory, there have been limited efforts in turning these regions into zones. There have been discussions over the years about creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but political tensions and difficulties stalled both endeavors.

In the context of the difficulties affecting the NPT and wider disarmament and nonproliferation negotiations, nuclear-weapon-free zones provide a glimmer of hope. Important lessons can be learned from their formation because they were negotiated not only during the tensions of the Cold War but also during the complex politics and conflicts of the post-Cold War period. In general, these zones evolve out of a regional perception of an existing or imminent nuclear threat, thereby requiring regional groups to create binding treaties to ban the use, storage, and testing of nuclear weapons in their region.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones have been successfully implemented in regions with major nuclear rivalries (e.g., Argentina and Brazil) and where nuclear weapons have already been developed or deployed (e.g., Africa and Central Asia). They are arguably one of the largest yet most underexplored success stories of the NPT and a significant contributor to international peace and stability.

Most importantly, the NPT is here to stay. Article X called for its signatories to convene a conference to be held 25 years after the treaty’s entry into force in order to determine whether the treaty would remain in force indefinitely or for other additional periods of time. At its review and extension conference held in May 1995, the NPT signatories agreed to the treaty’s indefinite extension, even though the non-nuclear-weapon states expressed disappointment with the lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament and feared that a decision to extend the treaty indefinitely would enable the nuclear-weapon states to continue to maintain their nuclear arsenals in perpetuity and avoid any accountability in eliminating them.19

Next 50 Years

The NPT is not without flaws, but it has played an instrumental role in maintaining international peace and security. Skeptics may justifiably ask, “When a treaty’s only nonsignatories are states with nuclear weapons, what is the point of effectively prohibiting non-nuclear-weapon states from crossing the nuclear threshold when many of them have no desire to develop nuclear weapons?” From an international peace and security perspective, there is great value in having a treaty that prevents further nuclear proliferation, and it is a blessing that the international community’s efforts in pursuing the creation of such a treaty were not in vain. Fifty years on, its legacy continues.

In a time during which nuclear threats and hostilities are on the rise, with uncertainty in the relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the pledge in the 2018 U.S. “Nuclear Posture Review” to add new nuclear capabilities, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unveiled “invincible” nuclear weapons, the NPT’s successes stand out. Look forward to another 50 years, by which time perhaps the international community will gather to commemorate the complete and verifiable disarmament of all nuclear weapons.

ENDNOTES

1. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), p. 280.

2. For the definitive work about the negotiation and the first decade of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), see Mohamed Shaker, The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Origins and Implementation, 1959-1979 (London: Oceana Publications, 1980).

3. President Lyndon Johnson made this remark on July 3, 1968, and again at the signing of the NPT on July 19, 1968. “Remarks at the Signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” American Presidency Project, n.d., http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28970 (accessed May 12, 2018).

4. “Disarmament of the disarmed” was first articulated in 1968 by José María Ruda, Argentine ambassador to the United Nations. Jorge Aja Espil, “Argentina,” in Non-Proliferation: The Why and the Wherefore, ed. Jozef Goldblat (London: Taylor and Francis, 1985), pp. 73-74.

5. Article VI of the NPT states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

6. George Bunn and John B. Rhinelander, “NPT Withdrawal: Time for the Security Council to Step In,” Arms Control Today, May 2005.

7. North Korea’s stated reasons for withdrawing were that the United States was threatening its security through its perceived hostile policy toward North Korea. According to North Korea, the United States had singled it out as a target of a pre-emptive nuclear attack and had threatened it with a blockade and military punishment. See Frederic L. Kirgis, “North Korea’s Withdrawal From the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Insights, Vol. 8, No. 2 (January 24, 2003).

8. Thomas Graham Jr., “NPT Article VI Origin and Interpretation,” in Rebuilding the NPT Consensus, ed. Michael May, April 8, 2008, http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/RebuildNPTConsensus.pdf.

9. Shaker, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, p. 508.

10. Ibid., p. 570.

11. Ibid., p. 571.

12. Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament, “Final Verbatim Record of the Three Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Meeting,” ENDC/PV.358, January 23, 1968, para. 23.

13. North Korea provided its notice of withdrawal from the NPT in 1993. This notice was suspended shortly thereafter due to its ongoing negotiations with the United States.

14. United Nations, Charter of the United Nations, October 24, 1945, 1 U.N.T.S. XVI, ch. 7, arts. 39, 41, and 42.

15. The declaration made in separate notes dated November 27, 1969, addressed to the UK and U.S. governments.

16. For a comprehensive overview of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine’s nuclear weapons dismantlement, see Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, Politics and the Bomb: The Role of Experts in the Creation of Cooperative Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreements (London: Routledge, 2014).

17. David Albright, “How South Africa Abandoned Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center Occasional Paper, No. 25 (1995).

18. Marc Finaud, “The Experience of Nuclear Weapon Free-Zones,” BASIC, May 2014, http://www.basicint.org/sites/default/files/finaud_nwfz-fin_1.pdf.

19. Arms Control Association, “Timeline of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” May 25, 2015, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Timeline-of-the-Treaty-on-the-Non-Proliferation-of-Nuclear-Weapons-NPT.


Sara Z. Kutchesfahani is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and senior program coordinator for the Fissile Materials Working Group. This piece draws on material from her forthcoming book tentatively titled Global Nuclear Order (Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2019).

 

Why the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains important and relevant today.

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