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

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

Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban

Casting doubt on arguments offered by critics of the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons testing, on July 31 the National Academy of Sciences issued Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The report challenged several concerns expressed by treaty opponents over monitoring global testing and asserted that effective U.S. stockpile stewardship does not require further tests.

The panel of experts that wrote the report, including three former directors of the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories, found that the US nuclear stockpile can be safely and reliably maintained without explosive testing. Although strict surveillance of weapons components and retention of high-quality scientists is imperative for the upkeep of US nuclear weapons, “[N]o need was ever identified for a program that would periodically subject stockpile weapons to nuclear tests,” the panel concluded.

In addition, the report said that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty’s (CTBT) verification mechanisms—the International Monitoring System, national technical means, and publicly available geophysical data—would have a “high probability” of detecting tests of 1 kiloton or greater in all environments. Finally, the panel determined that countries with little nuclear weapons development experience would not be able to test below this threshold in a way that would advance their know-how; states with extensive nuclear experience might be capable of concealing low-yield tests, but for them the returns on such testing would be minimal.

Formed in mid-2000, the panel was asked by General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then-special adviser to the president and secretary of state for the CTBT, to evaluate key issues raised during the ratification debate in the US Senate in 1999. The Senate failed to approve the treaty at that time, and the Bush administration maintains that it will not seek reconsideration.

Following is the executive summary of the report. The full text of the report is available from the National Academy Press at www.nap.edu.

Executive Summary

This committee’s charge was to review the state of knowledge about the three main technical concerns raised during the Senate debate of October 1999 on advice and consent to ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), namely:

(1) the capacity of the United States to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its nuclear stockpile—and in its nuclear-weapon design and evaluation capability—in the absence of nuclear testing;
(2) the capabilities of the international nuclear-test monitoring system (with and without augmentation by national technical means and by instrumentation in use for scientific purposes, and taking into account the possibilities for decoupling nuclear explosions from surrounding geologic media); and
(3) the additions to their nuclear-weapon capabilities that other countries could achieve through nuclear testing at yield levels that might escape detection—as well as the additions they could achieve without nuclear testing at all—and the potential effect of such additions on the security of the United States.
This unclassified Executive Summary provides a synopsis of findings presented at greater length in the unclassified report that follows. Additional detail and analysis are provided in a classified annex.

Confidence in the Nuclear-Weapon Stockpile
And in Related Capabilities

We judge that the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under the CTBT, provided that adequate resources are made available to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) nuclear-weapon complex and are properly focused on this task. The measures that are most important to maintaining and bolstering stockpile confidence are (a) maintaining and bolstering a highly motivated and competent work force in the nuclear-weapon laboratories and production complex, (b) intensifying stockpile surveillance, (c) enhancing manufacturing/remanufacturing capabilities, (d) increasing the performance margins of nuclear-weapon primaries, (e) sustaining the capacity for development and manufacture of the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons, and (f) practicing “change discipline” in the maintenance and remanufacture of the nuclear subsystem.

(a) Attracting and retaining a high-quality work force in the nuclear-weapon complex will require adequate budgets, other clear signals about future program direction and scope, long-term program commitments to technically challenging assignments, and greater attention to quality-of-work-life issues (including the nature of the burdens imposed by necessary protection of national-security secrets). The lack of requirements for new nuclear-weapon designs and the end of nuclear-explosive tests have eliminated some of the traditional technical opportunities in the nuclear-weapon field, but there are many professional challenges and opportunities in maintaining and developing the nuclear-weapon technology and science base for stockpile stewardship under a CTBT and in preparing for possible future weapon development, and there are increasingly powerful diagnostic, analytical, and computational techniques available that can make working on these challenges exciting and productive. A CTBT, in itself, need not prevent attracting and retaining the needed high-quality work force.

(b) The first line of defense against defects in the stockpile that would adversely affect safety and reliability is an aggressive surveillance program. Accordingly, the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) includes an Enhanced Surveillance activity that involves increased focus on the nuclear components, an increased number of diagnostic procedures applied to the weapons that are randomly withdrawn from the stockpile, and increased technical depth of the inspections. While it is prudent to expect that age-related defects affecting stockpile reliability may occur increasingly as the average age of weapons in the stockpile increases in the years ahead, and that such defects may combine in a nonlinear or otherwise poorly specified manner, nuclear testing is not needed to discover these problems and is not likely to be needed to address them.

(c) Remanufacture to original specifications is the preferred remedy for the age-related defects that materialize in the stockpile. This makes it essential that a capability to remanufacture and assemble the nuclear subsystems for nuclear weapons be maintained in the US production complex, with a capacity consistent with best estimates of component lifetimes, stockpile trends, and allowances for occasional unexpected problems. Current estimates, based on projections of the size of the enduring stockpile, indicate that the technical challenges of ongoing repair and remanufacture can be met at existing production-complex sites, provided that their facilities are brought up to and maintained at modern standards of operation. Establishment of a limited-quantity production capability for certified pits at Los Alamos is a particular necessity, as no other facility for this exists in the United States.

(d) A primary yield that falls below the minimum level needed to drive the secondary to full output is the most likely potential source of serious nuclear-performance degradation. Because primary yield margins in these weapons can be increased by changes that would not require nuclear testing, it is possible to use enhanced margins to provide a degree of insurance against minor aging effects and changes in material or process specifications arising in the refurbishment of the weapons. We urge that this be done.

(e) Based on past experience, it is probable that the majority of aging problems will be found in the non-nuclear components of stockpile weapons. Since the non-nuclear components and subsystems can be fully tested under a CTBT, it is possible to incorporate new technologies in these weapon parts as long as these can be shown not to have any adverse effect on proper functioning of the nuclear subsystem. If technologies involved in the non-nuclear components become prohibitively difficult to support with the passage of time because they are no longer utilized in the private sector, needed replacements can be based on current materials, technologies, and manufacturing processes. This does require, however, the provision of adequate resources to provide not only the needed manufacturing capability and capacity but also for the associated engineering R&D and systems integration capabilities, on an ongoing basis.

(f) It is important that a rigorous, highly disciplined process be instituted for controlling changes in the nuclear components. Such a process must discourage deviations from the original specifications. Before adopting deviations that are judged necessary, they must be analyzed thoroughly for potential performance impacts. In the long term, the process must also protect against performance degradations due to cumulative effects of multiple small changes in materials and/or processes that may be introduced in the course of periodic refurbishment operations. The required change-control process must begin with a thorough documentation of the original design and manufacturing specifications. Any subsequent deviations must be thoroughly documented. The resulting audit trail should make it possible to include consideration of possible cumulative effects in judging the acceptability of any proposal for further change. In order to avoid the introduction of interference effects between nuclear and non-nuclear components, prudence dictates that a similar discipline be practiced in regard to any changes in design or location of non-nuclear components situated in proximity to the nuclear subsystem.

Confidence in the safety and reliability of stockpiled nuclear weapons depended far more on activities in the first five categories just described than on nuclear testing even when numbers and kinds of nuclear tests were essentially unconstrained. (The sixth category did not play a large role in the past, because weapons were generally replaced by new tested designs before cumulative changes could become a concern.) Most US nuclear tests were focused on the development of new designs; the other major roles of testing were exploring weapon physics and investigating weapon effects. The so-called stockpile confidence tests were limited to only one per year and—with two exceptions (involving weapon types retired soon after the tests)—they involved new-production units, so they would better be described as “production verification” tests. Even in the absence of constraints on nuclear testing, no need was ever identified for a program that would periodically subject stockpile weapons to nuclear tests.

Stockpile stewardship by means other than nuclear testing, then, is not a new requirement imposed by the CTBT. It has always been the mainstay of the US approach to maintaining confidence in stockpile safety and reliability. The fact that older nuclear designs are no longer being replaced by newer ones means, however, that the average age of the nuclear subsystems in the stockpile will increase over time beyond previous experience. (The average age will eventually reach a maximum that depends on the rate at which weapons are remanufactured or retired.) This means that the enhanced surveillance activities that are part of the current SSP will become increasingly important. But that would be so whether nuclear testing continued or not. Nuclear testing would not add substantially to the SSP in its task of maintaining confidence in the assessment of the existing stockpile.

An important component of the Stockpile Stewardship Program is the development of a broad spectrum of advanced diagnostic tools in support of the surveillance function. These tools are intended to yield a more complete understanding of weapon performance and potential failure modes for nuclear as well as non-nuclear components and subsystems. This effort represents a continuation of the traditional knowledge-based approach to problem solving in the nuclear-weapon program, albeit at a significantly accelerated rate of progress. The SSP can already point to significant successes in that regard, as seen, for example, in the implementation of numerous new, relatively small-scale, measurement and analysis techniques ranging from new bench-top inspection instruments to larger-scale laboratory facilities (including, e.g., accelerated aging tests, novel applications of diamond-anvil cells and ultrasonic resonance, synchrotron-based spectroscopy and diffraction, and subcritical and hydrodynamic tests). All of these provide additional assurance that defects due to design flaws, manufacturing problems, or aging effects will be detected in time to enable evaluation and corrective action if such is deemed necessary.

While the smaller-scale diagnostic developments will remain key to a robust surveillance function, and therefore require continued emphasis, to date most of the debate over the need for new diagnostic tools has focused on larger-scale, capital-intensive experimental and computational facilities currently under development or being planned for the future. Current programs include the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydro Test (DARHT) facility, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), and the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program. In the immediate future, because of the enormous scientific and engineering challenges associated with the development and eventual utilization of these tools, they can play an important role in helping the nuclear-weapon laboratories attract and retain essential new technical talent. In the longer term they can also be expected to strengthen the scientific underpinnings of nuclear-weapon technology, and thus offer the potential for enlarging the range of acceptable solutions to any stockpile problems that might be encountered in the future. The initial capabilities achieved in the DARHT and ASC programs have already proven to be of value.

Despite these obvious benefits, the importance of this class of tools to the immediate core functions of maintaining an enduring stockpile should not be overstated. In particular, it would be very unfortunate if confidence in the safety and reliability of the stockpile under a CTBT in the next decade or so were made to appear conditional on the major-tool initiatives having met their specified performance goals. Most importantly, their costs should not be allowed to crowd out expenditures on the core stewardship functions, including the capacity for weapon remanufacture, upon which continued confidence in the enduring stockpile most directly depends.

Although a properly focused SSP is capable, in our judgment, of maintaining the required confidence in the enduring stockpile under a CTBT, we do not believe that it will lead to a capability to certify new nuclear subsystem designs for entry into the stockpile without nuclear testing—unless by accepting a substantial reduction in the confidence in weapon performance associated with certification up until now, or a return to earlier, simpler, single-stage design concepts, such as gun-type weapons. Our belief that the introduction of new weapons into the stockpile will be restricted to nuclear designs possessing a credible test pedigree is not predicated on any conjectures as to the likelihood of DARHT, NIF, ASC or other major facilities achieving their design goals. Thus, we do not share the concern that has been expressed by some that these facilities will undermine the CTBT’s important role in buttressing the non-proliferation regime.

In the event that quantity replacements of major components of the nuclear subsystem should become necessary, prudence would indicate the desirability of formal peer reviews. Evaluation of the acceptability of age-related changes relative to original specifications and the cumulative effect of individually small modifications of the nuclear subsystem should also be subject to periodic independent review. Such reviews, involving the three weapon laboratories and external reviewers, as appropriate, would evaluate potential adverse effects on system performance and the possible need for nuclear testing.

Nuclear-weapon design activities are not prohibited under the CTBT, and preserving the capability to develop new designs—in case such are ever needed—is a stated goal of US policy, and is one means by which the knowledge of retiring designers is retained. The use of ever more capable computational tools and more realistic material models to understand the relevant database from past nuclear tests, together with the use of advanced hydrodiagnostic techniques to study stockpile-related issues, is an important part of preserving this design capability. The associated design and evaluation expertise will aid in interpreting and perhaps anticipating foreign activities in nuclear-weapon development. We do not believe that nuclear testing is essential to maintaining these design and evaluation capabilities, even though such testing would be essential to certifying the performance of new designs at the level of confidence associated with currently stockpiled weapons.

Some have asserted, in the CTBT debate, that confidence in the enduring stockpile will inevitably degrade over time in the absence of nuclear testing. Certainly, the aging of the stockpile combined with the lengthening interval since nuclear weapons were last exploded will create a growing challenge, over time, to the mechanisms for maintaining confidence in the stockpile. But we see no reason that the capabilities of those mechanisms—surveillance techniques, diagnostics, analytical and computational tools, science-based understanding, remanufacturing capabilities—cannot grow at least as fast as the challenge they must meet. (Indeed, we believe that the growth of these capabilities—except for remanufacturing of some nuclear components—has more than kept pace with the growth of the need for them since the United States stopped testing in 1992, with the result that confidence in the reliability of the stockpile is better justified technically today than it was then.) It seems to us that the argument to the contrary—that is, the argument that improvements in the capabilities that underpin confidence in the absence of nuclear testing will inevitably lose the race with the growing needs from an aging stockpile—underestimates the current capabilities for stockpile stewardship, underestimates the effects of current and likely future rates of progress in improving these capabilities, and overestimates the role that nuclear testing ever played (or would ever be likely to play) in ensuring stockpile reliability.

Capabilities for Monitoring Nuclear Testing

Detection, identification, and attribution of nuclear explosions rest on a combination of methods, some being deployed under the International Monitoring System (IMS) established under the CTBT, some deployed as National Technical Means (NTM), and some relying on other methods of intelligence collection together with openly available data not originally acquired for treaty monitoring. The following conclusions presume that all of the elements of the IMS are deployed and supported at a level that ensures their full capability, functionality, and continuity of operation into the future.

In the absence of special efforts at evasion, nuclear explosions with a yield of 1 kiloton (kt) or more can be detected and identified with high confidence in all environments. Specific capabilities in different environments are as follows:

  • Underground explosions can be reliably detected and can be identified as explosions, using IMS data, down to a yield of 0.1 kt (100 tons) in hard rock if conducted anywhere in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. In some locations of interest such as Novaya Zemlya, this capability extends down to 0.01 kt (10 tons) or less. Depending on the medium in which the identified explosion occurs, its actual yield could vary from the hard rock value over a range given by multiplying or dividing by a factor of about 10, corresponding respectively to the extremes represented by a test in deep unconsolidated dry sediments (very poor coupling) and a test in a water-saturated environment (excellent coupling). Positive identification as a nuclear explosion, for testing less than a few kilotons, could require on-site inspection unless there is detectable venting of radionuclides. Attribution would likely be unambiguous.
  • Atmospheric explosions can be detected and identified as nuclear, using IMS data, with high confidence above 500 tons on continents in the northern hemisphere and above 1 kt worldwide, and possibly at much lower yields for many sub-regions. While attribution could be difficult based on IMS data alone, evaluation of other information (including that obtained by NTM) could permit an unambiguous determination.
  • Underwater explosions in the ocean can be reliably detected and identified as explosions, using IMS data, at yields down to 0.001 kt (1 ton) or even lower. Positive identification as a nuclear explosion could require debris collection. Attribution might be difficult to establish unless additional information was available, as it might be, from NTM.
  • Explosions in the upper atmosphere and near space can be detected and identified as nuclear, with suitable instrumentation, with great confidence for yields above about a kiloton to distances up to about 100 million kilometers from Earth. (This capability is based on the assumption that relevant instruments that have been proposed for deployment on the follow-on system for the DSP satellites will in fact be funded and installed.) Such evasion scenarios are costly and technically difficult to implement. If they materialize, attribution will probably have to rely upon NTM, including interpretation of missile-launch activities.

The capabilities to detect and identify nuclear explosions without special efforts at evasion are considerably better than the “one kiloton worldwide” characterization that has often been stated for the IMS. If deemed necessary, these capabilities could be further improved by increasing the number of stations in networks whose data streams are continuously searched for signals.

In the history of discussions of the merits of a CTBT, a number of scenarios have been mentioned under which parties seeking to test clandestinely might be able to evade detection, identification, or attribution. With the exception of the use of underground cavities to decouple explosions from the surrounding geologic media and thereby reduce the seismic signal that is generated, none of these scenarios for evading detection and/or attribution has been explored experimentally. And the only one that would have a good chance of working without prior experimentation is masking a nuclear test with a large chemical explosion nearby in an underground mine. The experimentation needed to explore other
approaches to evasion would be highly uncertain of success, costly, and likely in itself to be detected.

Thus, the only evasion scenarios that need to be taken seriously at this time are cavity decoupling and mine masking. In the case of cavity decoupling, the experimental base is very small, and the signal-reduction (“decoupling”) factor of 70 that is often mentioned as a general rule has actually only been achieved in one test of very low yield (about 0.4 kt). The practical difficulties of achieving a high decoupling factor—size and depth of the needed cavity and probability of significant venting—increase sharply with increasing yield. And evaders must reckon with the high sensitivity of the global IMS, with the possibility of detection by regional seismic networks operated for scientific purposes, and with the chance that a higher-than-expected yield will lead to detection because their cavity was sized for a smaller one.

As for mine masking, chemical explosions in mines are typically ripple-fired and thus relatively inefficient at generating seismic signals compared to single explosions of the same total yield. For a nuclear explosion that is not also cavity-decoupled to be hidden by a mine explosion of this type, the nuclear yield could not exceed about 10 percent of the aggregate yield of the chemical explosion. A very high yield, single-fired chemical explosion could mask a nuclear explosion with yield more comparable to the chemical one, but the very rarity of chemical explosions of this nature would draw suspicion to the event. Masking a nuclear yield even as large as a kiloton in a mine would require combining the cavity-decoupling and mine-masking scenarios, adding to the difficulties of cavity decoupling already mentioned.

Taking all factors into account and assuming a fully functional IMS, we judge that an underground nuclear explosion cannot be confidently hidden if its yield is larger than 1 or 2 kt.

Evasion scenarios have been suggested that involve the conduct of nuclear tests in the atmosphere or at the ocean surface where the event would be detected and identified but attribution might be difficult. NTM of the United States and other nations might provide attribution, without being predictable by the evader.

The task of monitoring is eased (and the difficulty of cheating magnified), finally, by the circumstance that most of the purposes of nuclear testing—and particularly exploring nuclear-weapon physics or developing new weapons—would require not one test but many. (An exception would be the situation in which an aspiring nuclear weapon state had been provided the blueprints for a weapon by a country with greater nuclear weapon capabilities, and might need only a single test to confirm that it had successfully followed the blueprints.) Having to conduct multiple tests greatly increases the chance of detection by any and all of the measures in use, from the IMS, to national technical means, to sensors in use for other purposes.

It can be expected, in future decades, that monitoring capabilities will significantly improve beyond those described here, as instrumentation, communications, and methods of analysis
improve, as data archives expand and experience increases, and as the limited regions associated with serious evasion scenarios become the subject of close attention and better understanding. Of course, the realization of this expectation depends on continued US public and policy maker recognition of the importance of this country’s capacity to monitor nuclear testing, with concomitant commitments of resources to the task.

Potential Impact of Foreign Testing
On US Security Interests and Concerns

The potential impact on US security interests and concerns of the low-yield foreign nuclear tests that could plausibly occur without detection in a CTBT regime can only be meaningfully assessed by comparison with two alternative situations—the situation in the absence of a CTBT, and the situation in which a CTBT is being strictly observed by all parties. The key questions are: How much of the benefit of a strictly observed CTBT is lost if some countries test clandestinely within the limits imposed by the capabilities of the monitoring system? In what respects is the case of limited clandestine testing under a CTBT better for US security—and in what respects worse—than the case of having no CTBT at all? If some nations do not adhere to a CTBT and test openly, how do the technical and political impacts differ from a no-CTBT era?

In these comparisons, two kinds of effects of nuclear testing by others on US security interests and concerns need to be recognized: the direct effects on the actual nuclear-weapon capabilities and deployments of the nations that test, with implications for military balances, US freedom of action, and the possibilities of nuclear-weapon use; and the indirect effects of nuclear testing by some states on the aspirations and decisions of other states about acquiring and deploying nuclear weapons, or about acquiring and deploying non-nuclear forces intended to offset the nuclear weapons of others. A CTBT, to the extent that it is observed, brings security benefits for the United States in both categories—limitations on the nuclear-weapon capabilities that others can achieve, and elimination of the inducement of states to react to the testing of others with testing and/or deployments of their own.

In the reference case of no CTBT at all, the Nuclear-Weapon States Party to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) would be able to test without legal constraint in the underground environment (except for the 150-kt limit agreed to by the United States and Russia under the bilateral Threshold Test Ban Treaty), and non-parties to the NPT would similarly be able to test without constraint. Non-Nuclear-Weapon-States Party to the NPT would be constrained legally from testing. In this circumstance:

  • China and Russia might use the option of testing to make certain refinements in their nuclear arsenals. In the case of Russia, it is difficult to envision how such refinements could significantly increase the threats to US security interests that Russia can pose with the previously tested nuclear-weapon types it already possesses.
  • In the case of China, further nuclear testing might enable reductions in the size and weight of its nuclear warheads as well as improved yield-to-weight ratios. Such improvements would make it easier for China to expand and add multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV) to its strategic arsenal if it wanted to do so, and changes in these directions would affect US security interests. But China could also achieve some kinds of improvements in its nuclear weapons without nuclear testing, and if it wanted to do so it could achieve considerable expansion and MIRVing of its arsenal using nuclear-weapon types it has already tested.
  • India and Pakistan could use their option of testing, as nonparties to the Nonproliferation Treaty, to perfect boosted fission weapons and thermonuclear weapons, greatly increasing the destructive power available from a given quantity of fissile material and the destructive power deliverable by a given force of aircraft or missiles. (Of course they might also do this under a CTBT that they had not signed, but the absence of a CTBT and the resumption of testing by others would make it politically much easier for them to do so.) The likelihood that either of these countries would use nuclear weapons against the United States seems very low, but the United States and its allies would nonetheless have serious concerns about the increase in nuclear-weapons dangers and arms-race potential in and around South Asia that such developments would portend.
  • Plausibly larger than the direct effects of testing by Nuclear-Weapon States and nonparties to the NPT in the absence of a CTBT is the potential indirect effect of such testing in the form of a breakdown of the NPT regime, manifested in more widespread testing (by such countries as North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, for example), which could lead in turn to nuclear weapons acquisition by Japan, South Korea, and many others.

A future no-CTBT world, then, could be a more dangerous world than today’s, for the United States and for others. In particular, the directions from which nuclear attack on the United States and its allies would have become conceivable—and the means by which such attack might be carried out (meaning not only intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) but also, among others, ship-based cruise missiles, civilian as well as military aircraft, and truck bombs following smuggling of the weapons across US borders)—would have multiplied alarmingly.

In our second reference case of a CTBT scrupulously observed, nuclear threats to the United States could still evolve and grow, but the range of possibilities would be considerably constrained. Boosted fission weapons and thermonuclear weapons would be confined to the few countries that already possess them and to those to which such weapons might be transferred, or to which designs might be communicated with sufficient precision that a trusting and competent recipient might be able to reproduce them. Other countries might have less stringent confidence requirements than does the United States, but, in general, they also are much more limited in the technology available for pursuing an exact reproduction; substitution of materials or techniques might bring uncertainty or even failure. Perhaps most importantly, in a world in which nuclear testing had been renounced and the NPT remained intact, nuclear proliferation would be opposed by a powerful political norm in which Nuclear-Weapon States and other parties to the NPT and CTBT would find their interests aligned.

In the case we now wish to compare to the no-CTBT and rigorously-observed-CTBT reference cases—that of clandestine testing under a CTBT, within the limits imposed by the monitoring system—we distinguish between two classes of potential cheaters, those with greater prior nuclear testing experience and/or design sophistication and those with lesser prior testing experience and/or sophistication. The purposes and plausible achievements for testing at various yields by countries with lesser versus greater prior nuclear test experience and/or design sophistication are summarized in the following table. Table ES-1 describes what could be done, not necessarily what will be done. (Please see table below.)

States with extensive prior test experience are the ones most likely to be able to get away with any substantial degree of clandestine testing, and they are also the ones most able to benefit technically from clandestine testing under the severe constraints that the monitoring system will impose. But the only states in this category that are of possible security concern to the United States are Russia and China. As already noted, the threats these countries can pose to US interests with the types of nuclear weapons they have already tested are large. What they could achieve with the very limited nuclear testing they could plausibly conceal would not add much to this.

If Russia or China were to test clandestinely, within the limits imposed by the monitoring system, because they thought they needed to do so to maintain the safety or reliability of their enduring stockpiles, this would not add to the threat they would have posed to the United States in the circumstance that they were able to maintain the safety and reliability of their stockpiles without testing. Clandestine testing by Russia or China to maintain their confidence in their stockpile—although in violation of the CTBT, threatening to the nonproliferation regime, and not to be condoned—might actually be less threatening to the United States than either their losing confidence in the reliability of their weapons and building up the size of their arsenal to compensate, or their openly abrogating a CTBT in order to conduct the testing they thought necessary to maintain or modernize their stockpiles.

US security could reasonably be judged to be threatened by clandestine Russian and Chinese testing for stockpile reliability only if the Russians and Chinese were able to maintain the reliability of their stockpiles by means of this cheating while the United States, scrupulously adhering to the CTBT, was unable to maintain the reliability of its own stockpile. This is precisely what has been hypothesized by some critics of the CTBT, but we judge (Chapter 1) that the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain the reliability of its existing stockpile without testing. If really serious reliability problems that only could be resolved through testing did materialize in the Russian or Chinese arsenal, moreover, it is unlikely that the degree of testing needed to resolve them could be successfully concealed.

In contrast to the cases of Russia or China, where their substantial prior experience with testing makes it at least plausible that they might be able to conceal some substantial degree of testing at yields below the threshold of detection, states with lesser prior test experience and/or design sophistication are much less likely to succeed in concealing significant tests. This is in part because of the importance of test experience in constructing cavities that can achieve seismic decoupling without leaking radioactivity, and in part because considerable weapon-design experience is required to achieve low yields. Countries with lesser prior test experience and/or design sophistication would also lack the sophisticated test-related expertise to extract much value from such very-low-yield tests as they might be able to conceal. They could lay some useful groundwork for a subsequent open test program in the event that they left the CTBT regime or it collapsed, but they would not be able to cross any of the thresholds in nuclear-weapon development that would matter in terms of the threat they could pose to the United States.
In relation to two of the key “comparison” questions posed at the beginning of this section about the implications of potential clandestine testing, we therefore conclude as follows:

  • Very little of the benefit of a scrupulously observed CTBT regime would be lost in the case of clandestine testing within the considerable constraints imposed by the available monitoring capabilities. Those countries that are best able to successfully conduct such clandestine testing already possess advanced nuclear weapons of a number of types and could add little, with additional testing, to the threats they already pose or can pose to the United States. Countries of lesser nuclear test experience and design sophistication would be unable to conceal tests in the numbers and yields required to master nuclear weapons more advanced than the ones they could develop and deploy without any testing at all.
  • The worst-case scenario under a no-CTBT regime poses far bigger threats to US security—sophisticated nuclear weapons in the hands of many more adversaries—than the worst-case scenario of clandestine testing in a CTBT regime, within the constraints posed by the monitoring system.

Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences

Table ES-1 Purposes and Plausible Achievements for Testing at Various Yields

Countries of Lesser Prior Nuclear Test Experience and/or Design Sophistication*
Countries of Greater Prior Nuclear Test Experience and/or Design Sophistication
Subcritical testing only (permissible under a CTBT)
  • Equation-of-state studies
  • High-explosive lens tests for implosion weapons
  • Development & certification of simple, bulky, relatively inefficient unboosted fission weapons

Same as column to left, plus

  • Limited insights relevant to designs for boosted fission weapons
Hydronuclear testing (yield < 0.1 t TNT, likely to remain undetected under a CTBT)
  • One-point safety tests (with difficulty)
  • One-point safety tests
  • Validation of design for unboosted fission weapon with yield in 10-ton range
Extremely-low-yield testing (0.1 t < yield < 10 t, likely to remain undetected under a CTBT)
  • One-point safety tests
  • Validation of design for unboosted fission weapon with yield in 100-ton range
  • Possible overrun range for one-point safety tests
Very-low-yield testing (10 t < yield < 1-2 kt, concealable in some circumstances under a CTBT)
  • Limited improvement of efficiency & weight of unboosted fission weapons compared to 1st-generation weapons not needing testing
  • Proof tests of compact weapons with yield up to 1-2 kt (with difficulty)
  • Proof tests of compact weapons with yield up to 1-2 kt
  • Partial development of primaries for thermonuclear weapons
Low-yield testing (1-2 kt < yield < 20 kt, unlikely to be concealable under a CTBT)
  • Development of low-yield boosted fission weapons
  • Eventual development & full testing of some primaries & low-yield thermonuclear weapons
  • Proof tests of fission weapons with yield up to 20 kt
  • Development of low-yield boosted fission weapons
  • Development & full testing of some primaries & low-yield thermonuclear weapons
  • Proof tests of fission weapons with yield up to 20 kt
High-yield testing (yield > 20 kt, not concealable under a CTBT)
  • Eventual development & full testing of boosted fission weapons & thermonuclear weapons
  • Development & full testing of new configurations of boosted fission weapons & thermonuclear weapons

*That is, lacking an adequate combination of nuclear-test data, advanced instrumentation, and sophisticated analytical techniques, and without having received assistance in the form of transfer of the relevant insights.


Chinese Nuclear Forces to Grow, Report Says

September 2002

By Christine Kucia

Reinforcing recent intelligence reports on China’s strategic weapons development, the Pentagon released a report July 19 indicating that China is upgrading its nuclear forces and will increase the number of ICBMs that could be targeted at the United States.

Mandated by Congress in the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China notes that China’s strategic weapons modernization “is improving its force, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in all classes of missiles.”

According to the report, China’s nuclear arsenal development could significantly bolster the number of Chinese ICBMs deployed by the end of the decade. Currently possessing around 20 ICBMs that could target the United States, China might have as many as 60 such ICBMs by 2010, the paper says. The Pentagon report is consistent with projections from other parts of the intelligence community.

In addition, China might enhance its nuclear deterrent by equipping some of its CSS-4 Mod 1 missiles, liquid-fueled ICBMs capable of hitting the mainland United States, with multiple warheads. The Pentagon report speculates that this change in the Chinese nuclear force might take place in response to U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system. (The CSS-4 is also known as the DF-5A.

An earlier report from the CIA also pointed to an increased number of nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States. The December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate suggested that the Chinese ballistic missile force could target 75-100 warheads at the United States by 2015—a goal that could be achieved with fewer than 75 ICBMs if China develops multiple-warhead missiles.

Modernization of China’s nuclear arsenal also will yield both modified and new weapons, the report said. The CSS-4 Mod 1 will be replaced starting in 2005 with the longer-range CSS-4 Mod 2. In addition, deployment of the solid-fueled DF-31 (also known as the CSS-X-9), a mobile missile that could reach Alaska, could begin by mid-decade. Modified versions of the DF-31, as an extended-range ICBM and as a submarine-launched missile, could be added to China’s arsenal by 2010.

Chinese Nuclear Forces to Grow, Report Says

Chinese Companies Sanctioned for Proliferation

September 2002

By Rose Gordon

On July 9, the Bush administration sanctioned nine Chinese entities and an Indian individual for knowingly contributing to the efforts of Iran and possibly Iraq to acquire weapons of mass destruction or advanced conventional weapons.

Effective immediately, the sanctions, levied under the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act and the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, prohibit the United States from conducting business with or providing financial or technical assistance to any of the 10 entities. The sanctions, in place for a year under the Chemical and Biological Weapons law and two years under the Iran-Iraq law, also bar the United States from providing the 10 entities with military and dual-use technology, items on the U.S. Munitions List, and certain other items requiring a government-issued export license.

These are the first entities to be sanctioned under the 10-year-old Iran-Iraq law, which applies to entities that transfer goods or technology that could assist either Iran or Iraq in acquiring “chemical, biological, nuclear, or destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.” The Chemical and Biological Weapons law applies to entities transferring goods or technology that could help any country or group to “acquire, use or stockpile chemical or biological weapons.”

State Department officials declined to specify which entities were transferring what types of items to which country, but in a July 19 press briefing State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that eight of the entities were being sanctioned for transfers to Iran, and two were being sanctioned for helping Iran develop chemical weapons.

As listed in the July 25 Federal Register, these Chinese companies were sanctioned under both the Iran-Iraq law and the Chemical and Biological Weapons law: Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import and Export Corporation, China Machinery and Equipment Import Export Corporation, China National Machinery and Equipment Import Export Corporation, CMEC Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company Ltd., CMEC Machinery and Electrical Import Export Company Ltd., China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company, Wha Cheong Tai Company Ltd., and Chinese citizen Q. C. Chen.

Sanctioned exclusively under the Iran-Iraq law were the China Shipbuilding Trading Company and the Indian individual Hans Raj Shiv, who the State Department believes resides in the Middle East.
Chinese companies have been sanctioned three times this year for helping Iran to develop chemical or biological weapons. (See ACT, March 2002 and June 2002.)

Five of the 10 entities have been previously penalized by U.S. sanctions. Under the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which bans the transfer of equipment that could aid Iran’s “development of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, or ballistic or cruise missile systems,” the Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import and Export Corporation was sanctioned in June 2001, the China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company in January 2002, and the Wha Cheong Tai Company Ltd. and the China Shipbuilding Trading Company in May 2002. This is the fourth time Chinese citizen Q. C. Chen has been charged with violating U.S. nonproliferation laws since 1997.

If an entity is currently under previous sanctions, the new sanctions extend the time they are subject to penalty, Boucher said.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed opposition to the U.S. decision, calling the sanctions “unreasonable,” Agence France-Presse reported July 22. China also called the sanctions levied in January and May “unreasonable.” The sanctions do not apply to the Chinese government.

Chinese Companies Sanctioned for Proliferation

CD Inches Closer to Starting Negotiations

July/August 2002

By Wade Boese

China backed away from a longstanding demand for immediate negotiation of an outer space treaty in June, creating the slim possibility that the Geneva-based UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) might break through an almost four-year impasse, during which it has failed to conduct any negotiations.

The 66-member CD works by consensus and has been deadlocked for the past few years primarily because of a dispute between the United States and China. Washington views a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, as the sole issue ripe for negotiation, but Beijing asserts that the prevention of an arms race in outer space is of equal importance and urgency. China had insisted that negotiations on both issues start together or not at all, a linkage strongly opposed by the United States.

China privately informed CD members June 12 that it would no longer insist on immediate outer space negotiations and would settle for less formal discussions with the caveat that the talks be held “with a view to negotiating [a] relevant international legal instrument.”

The U.S. delegation, which previously said Washington would hold talks and exchange views on the subject, has indicated that the new proposal is unacceptable because it prejudices the talks toward concluding an agreement.

One European official in Geneva commented that the significance of the Chinese offer “in the terms of an absolute softening of the Chinese position remains open to debate.”

China still strongly desires an eventual treaty on the outer space issue, evidenced by the June unveiling of a draft working paper on such an accord co-authored with Russia. The draft’s principal element is a prohibition against any type of weapon being stationed in space.

The conference divides each year’s negotiating session into three parts and finished the second part on June 28. Its third and final part begins July 29 and ends September 13.

Any mandate for negotiations agreed on during the final session would expire on September 13. A new agreement needs to be reached again next year to restart the negotiations unless the conference members reached a decision this year that the negotiations would resume automatically.

The conference last agreed to start fissile material cutoff negotiations in August 1998, but the talks were not resumed the following year.


CD Inches Closer to Starting Negotiations

CD Ends First Part of Session in Deadlock

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded the first third of its three-part annual session on March 29 without starting any treaty negotiations and with little prospect that negotiations will begin when the conference resumes May 13.

Speaking the day before the CD ended its first round of the year, Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi left little doubt that the U.S.-Chinese standoff over negotiating priorities for the conference would continue. Hu told the conference that China believed the prevention of an arms race in outer space was “just as important…if not more” than a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban production of the key materials needed to make nuclear weapons. Hu made clear that China favors negotiations on both subjects.

Yet the United States staunchly opposes negotiations on the outer space issue. The United States, which is pressing for the immediate negotiation of a cutoff treaty, maintains that it would consent to outer space discussions, but nothing more.

Although neither Washington nor Beijing signaled any intent of yielding, other CD members expressed frustration with the continuing stalemate. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham reminded the UN body on March 19 that it “does not exist merely for the sake of debate.” Speaking at the close of February, German CD Ambassador Volker Heinsberg succinctly summed up the state of the conference, claiming it does “not look very promising.”

The conference, which has only held negotiations for a couple of weeks in August 1998 since completing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, requires consensus among its 66 country delegations to begin any treaty negotiation. Although unable to start any negotiations during its first several weeks, the conference appointed three special coordinators to look at reviewing the CD’s agenda, expanding its membership, and improving its operation. These coordinators will submit reports on their findings before the CD concludes this year’s session on September 13. Special coordinators have been established in previous years on these same subjects.

Nuclear Posture Review Leaks; Outlines Targets, Contingencies

Philipp C. Bleek

A leaked version of the Bush administration’s classified nuclear posture review lists seven countries against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons and outlines a broad range of circumstances under which it could do so. The document also calls for a large-scale revitalization of the nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure and discusses the development of new or modified nuclear weapons.

Mandated by Congress to clarify U.S. “nuclear deterrence policy and strategy…for the next 5 to 10 years,” the nuclear posture review, produced by the Defense Department in consultation with the Energy Department, was publicly summarized at a January 9 Pentagon briefing. (See ACT, January/February 2002.) The review remains classified but was obtained by The Los Angeles Times, which first reported on it March 9, and The New York Times. Substantial excerpts of the review were subsequently posted on the Web site of GlobalSecurity.org, a policy organization.

The review states that “greater flexibility” in nuclear forces and planning is needed to maintain a “credible deterrent” against adversaries “whose values and calculations of risk and of gain and loss may be very different from and more difficult to discern than those of past adversaries.”

Despite press reports characterizing the Bush review as a break with past policy on nuclear weapons use, former Clinton administration officials said in March interviews that the review appears to represent only a modest shift in emphasis compared with the previous posture review, conducted in 1994.

Secretary of State Colin Powell rebutted criticism that the Bush review had lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in March 12 testimony before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, saying, “There is no way to read that document and come to the conclusion that the United States will be more likely or will more quickly go to the use of nuclear weapons.”

Discussing “requirements for nuclear strike capabilities,” the report lists Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria as “among the countries that could be involved in immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies.” Two former Clinton officials indicated that, although the 1994 nuclear posture review addressed the problem of “rogue states,” it concluded that the threat they posed did not warrant significant changes in U.S. nuclear forces or policies.

The Bush review also indicates that the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, citing “the combination of China’s still developing strategic objectives and its ongoing modernization of its nuclear and non-nuclear forces.”

Finally, although the review repeats Bush administration assertions that Russia is no longer an enemy, it says the United States must be prepared for nuclear contingencies with Russia and notes that, if “U.S. relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future, the U.S. may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture.” Ultimately, the review concludes that nuclear conflict with Russia is “plausible” but “not expected.”

The nuclear posture set forth by the 1994 review was based on Russia’s large nuclear arsenal. But despite Bush administration statements that a threat from Moscow is no longer driving U.S. strategy, Russia still appears to be the key driver of U.S. nuclear forces and policies, as demonstrated by the administration’s decision to maintain a large strategic arsenal and substantial reserve forces.

President George W. Bush has said that the United States will reduce its operationally deployed forces to 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads within 10 years. A Defense Department official indicated in early March that the administration has decided that by 2012 the United States should deploy the upper limit of that range and maintain an additional 2,400 reserve strategic warheads in operational condition, all of which could be deployed within three years. The administration also intends to stockpile additional strategic warheads in nonoperational condition.

The policy of maintaining substantial warhead reserves while reducing the deployed arsenal was established by the 1994 review.

The new review says nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.” The review also says “nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).” Three specific “nuclear strike” contingencies the review discusses are “an Iraqi attack on Israel or its neighbors, a North Korean attack on South Korea, or a military confrontation [with China] over the status of Taiwan.”

An official involved with the 1994 review indicated that the inclusion of such contingencies in the review is not novel, saying the 1994 review specifically discussed nuclear contingency plans involving North Korea and also China as a result of a crisis over Taiwan. But the official also speculated that the administration appeared to be seeking to “enhance deterrence” by adopting a less veiled retaliatory stance toward possible attacks by non-nuclear-weapon states.

President Bush buttressed that argument when he said March 23, “The reason one has a nuclear arsenal is to serve as a deterrence…. We’ve got all options on the table because we want to make it very clear to nations that you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us or our allies or friends.”

But using nuclear weapons against any of the five “rogue states” identified in the review would violate a longstanding U.S. pledge, termed “negative security assurances,” not to use nuclear weapons against states that do not possess such weapons and are members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A senior official called the administration’s adherence to that policy into doubt last month, but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher subsequently reiterated the policy in a February 22 briefing. (See ACT, March 2002.)

However, consistent with statements by officials from previous administrations, Boucher qualified the pledge, saying that, if a weapon of mass destruction—typically defined as a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon—were used against the United States, “We will not rule out any specific type of military response.” Still, a pre-emptive nuclear attack against any of the five states, all of which are members of the NPT, would violate the declaration.

But appearing to broaden the range of scenarios in which the administration might contemplate the use of nuclear weapons, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a March 10 television interview that the posture review “preserves for the president all the options that a president would want to have in case this country or our friends and allies were attacked with weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological, chemical, or for that matter high explosives.” Pentagon officials declined to comment on whether Myers’ categorization of conventional explosives as weapons of mass destruction represented a policy shift.

Consistent with its recommendation to give the president a broader range of options, the posture review suggests the development of new types of “[nuclear] warheads that reduce collateral damage” as well as “possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility.” The review also specifically cites the need to improve “earth-penetrating weapons,” designed to threaten hard and deeply buried targets, such as command-and-control and weapons storage bunkers.

An existing weapon designed to threaten such targets, the air-dropped B61-11 bomb, is described in the review has having only a “very limited ground-penetration capability.” That weapon was developed as a result of a similar call for new capabilities in the 1994 review and was deployed in late 1996. (See ACT, March 1997.)

Asked at the January 9 briefing on the posture review if the Bush administration planned to develop new nuclear weapons, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy J. D. Crouch said, “At this point, there are no recommendations in the report about developing new nuclear weapons.” But Crouch subsequently qualified that statement, saying, “We are trying to look at a number of initiatives,” including modifying existing nuclear weapons to give them “greater capability against…hard targets and deeply buried targets.” (See Energy Department to Study Modifying Nuclear Weapons.)

The review highlights the need to establish a “responsive defense infrastructure.” The ability to “upgrade existing weapons systems, surge production of weapons, or develop and field entirely new systems…can discourage other countries from competing militarily with the United States,” the review says. Suggesting a need for new weapons systems, the review states that “it is unlikely that a reduced version of the Cold War nuclear arsenal will be precisely the nuclear force that the United States will require in 2012 and beyond.”

Highlighting past “underinvestment in the infrastructure,” the review calls for “a revitalized nuclear weapons complex that will…be able, if directed, to design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads in response to new national requirements” as well as “maintain readiness to resume underground nuclear testing if required.” The review says the administration is already restoring the ability to produce nuclear weapon components, including both primary plutonium “pits” and thermonuclear secondaries.

The review also details plans for the long-term maintenance and modernization of U.S. delivery vehicles, citing the need for a new ICBM by 2018, a new ballistic missile submarine and submarine-launched ballistic missile by 2029, and new strategic bombers by 2040. According to the review, possible new systems to meet these needs are already under study.

The leaks generated little reaction from key U.S. allies but strong critiques from nations listed as potential targets by the review. “There is a feeling that the document was written during the Cold War,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said March 13. “We think this does not agree with the spirit of our relations”

But after talks with senior U.S. officials, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said March 15 that Washington’s explanations “satisfy us,” the Associated Press reported.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said March 11, “Like many other countries, China is deeply shocked by this report” and called on the United States to explain its policies, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key centrist figure in Iranian politics, accused the United States of intimidation, saying, “America thinks that if a military threat looms large over the heads of these seven countries, they will give up their logical demands,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency carried a March 13 statement from a foreign ministry spokesman saying, “Now that nuclear lunatics are in office in the White House, we are compelled to examine all agreements with the U.S.,” an apparent reference to the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea committed to dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

In the United States, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) voiced support for the policies in a March 10 television appearance, saying they would cause “renegade nations” such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea to “think twice about the willingness of the United States to take action to defend our people and our values and our allies.” Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), meanwhile, said March 12 that the report represented a “profound shift…in our thinking about arms control” and suggested that it might expand the potential uses of nuclear weapons.

Intelligence Estimate Upgrades Chinese, Iranian Missile Threats

Alex Wagner

On January 9, the intelligence community released an unclassified summary of its 2001 report on foreign ballistic missile developments through 2015.

In general, the report differs little from the last public National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), issued in 1999, but the new estimate upgrades the threat posed by the Chinese and Iranian missile programs and indicates that terrorists with weapons of mass destruction pose a greater threat to the United States than ballistic missiles.

The estimate emphasizes that the United States is “more likely” to be attacked by weapons of mass destruction delivered by “nonmissile” means rather than by ballistic missiles and that a terrorist is the “most likely” actor to carry out such an attack. The report is the first intelligence estimate to reach such a conclusion, although Robert Walpole, the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, made the same assessment during February 2000 testimony to Congress on the 1999 estimate.

The new report says China’s nuclear-armed ICBM arsenal will increasingly threaten the United States, judging that by 2015, Beijing could have between “75-100 long-range warheads deployed primarily against the United States.” The 1999 estimate said that China is likely to have tens of [single-warhead] missiles capable of targeting the United States” by 2015.

The estimate notes that a Chinese decision to deploy multiple warheads and missile defense countermeasures on its ICBMs “would be factors in the ultimate size of the force.” Citing China’s attempt to develop “a modern, more survivable strategic deterrent,” the report also states that Beijing is currently developing an 8,000-kilometer road-mobile DF-31, a longer-range DF-31, and a JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

By 2015, Beijing could have “about two dozen shorter range DF-31 and DF-4 ICBMs that could reach parts of the United States,” according to the NIE, although the DF-4’s 5,500-kilometer range would only allow it to target remote parts of Alaska. At present, China deploys approximately 20 single-warhead DF-5A ICBMs, which have a range of 13,000 kilometers and are the only Chinese missiles currently capable of reaching the United States.

The intelligence community has also upgraded the potential threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles. While the previous estimate said that the United States will “probably” face an ICBM threat from Iran by 2015, the new report says that the United States is “most likely” to encounter such a threat by that time. However, one agency, reportedly the State Department, deems it “unlikely” that Iran will successfully test an ICBM by 2015.

According to the report, Iran’s 1,300-kilometer Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is “in the late stages of development,” despite the fact that Tehran’s most recent flight test of the Shahab-3 in September 2000 is believed to have failed. (See ACT, October 2000.)

The NIE includes new sections on India and Pakistan, augmenting the scant details provided in the 1999 report. While saying that India has made “progress toward its aim of achieving self-sufficiency for its missile programs,” the report notes that New Delhi continues to rely “heavily” on foreign assistance.

The estimate states that India will “probably” deploy the 2,000-kilometer Agni-2 missile before 2010 and that New Delhi is also developing the Sagarika, an SLBM that the intelligence community does not believe will be deployed before 2010. The report notes that the 150-kilometer Prithvi-1 continues to be New Delhi’s only currently deployed ballistic missile.

Notably, India “could convert its polar space launch vehicle into an ICBM within a year or two of a decision to do so” because “most components needed for an ICBM are available from India’s indigenous space program,” according to the report.

Regarding Pakistan, the report estimates that Islamabad will continue to make progress toward developing a “survivable, flexible [medium-range missile] force,” but it does not mention any Pakistani pursuit of an ICBM capability. The report characterizes Pakistan’s Ghauri-1 missile simply as a Nodong acquired from North Korea, whereas a January 2001 Defense Department report said that the 1,300-kilometer Ghauri was “based on” the Nodong.

Despite North Korea’s continued moratorium on missile tests and stated willingness to end its indigenous missile program and missile exports, there was no change in the intelligence community’s view of the North Korean missile threat from the last report. But the new estimate says that North Korea continues to develop the nuclear-capable Taepo Dong-2, which may be ready for flight testing and would be capable of reaching any target in the United States.

Although United Nations inspectors have not been in Iraq since December 1998, the intelligence community’s estimate of Baghdad’s missile capabilities is nearly unchanged from 1999. The report states that “most” of the agencies tasked with creating the new estimate “believe that Iraq is unlikely to test before 2015 any ICBMs that would threaten the United States, even if UN prohibitions were eliminated or significantly reduced in the next few years.” (Emphasis in original.) The current Iraq sanctions regime, in place since the Persian Gulf War, prohibits Baghdad from possessing or developing missiles with ranges over 150 kilometers.

The new NIE adds details to the 1999 estimate about Iraq’s potential development of MRBMs, saying that with “substantial foreign assistance, Baghdad could flight-test a domestic MRBM by mid-decade.” (Emphasis is original.) However, if coupled with “rapid erosion of UN prohibitions” and a “willingness to risk detection of developmental steps,” the report says that an Iraqi MRBM test by 2010 is likely.

Like the 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, the new report predicts missile developments independent of “significant political and economic changes,” a practice that generated much criticism by experts when the 1999 estimate was released. (Emphasis in original.)

No Deal Reached on Chinese Missile Proliferation

Alex Wagner

During a February 21-22 state visit to China, President George W. Bush failed to resolve concerns about Beijing’s implementation of a deal to curb Chinese missile proliferation, despite a recent report that agreement could be within reach.

The Bush administration contends that China has repeatedly violated a November 2000 agreement in which Beijing committed not to help states develop “in any way…ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons” and to enact a comprehensive missile and missile-technology export control system. (See ACT, December 2000.)

As recently as January, the CIA accused China of breaching its commitments under the deal, noting that during the first half of 2001, China provided Pakistan with “missile-related technical assistance” and that Chinese firms transferred “dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, and/or assistance” to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said that the United States wants China to design and implement a national export control law that was required by the November 2000 agreement. Beijing has yet to do so and, according to a February 27 New York Times report, insists that the United States first meet a promise it made under the deal to resume processing applications for U.S. companies to launch their satellites on Chinese rockets, a process that has been suspended since February 2000. This would require Washington to waive sanctions that bar the United States from exporting satellites to China for launch. Beijing also wants Washington to lift sanctions levied on a Chinese firm in September 2001 for missile proliferation. (See ACT, September 2001.)

Rice also said that Washington wants China to cease implementing missile-related contracts signed prior to the November 2000 deal, but China appears unwilling to meet that demand. “The agreement is for the future, not the past,” according to an unnamed Chinese Foreign Ministry official quoted in a February 26 Associated Press report.

A New York Times report appearing the day of Bush’s first meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin cited a senior White House official as “hopeful” that Beijing would meet Washington’s demands in exchange for waiving the satellite-export sanctions. However, after a meeting between Bush and Jiang on February 21, Rice said, “There is no agreement, but…work is underway.” Three rounds of working-level talks have been held to date, most recently in late November. (See ACT, January/February 2002.)

Clark Randt, the U.S. ambassador to China, highlighted the importance Washington places on Chinese missile proliferation in a January 21 speech in Hong Kong to the Asia Society. “I should be crystal clear on this point, that nonproliferation is a make-or-break issue for us,” Randt said. He added that, given the events of September 11, the “stakes are much higher than ever before [and]…the type of activities that possibly had been going on can no longer be tolerated.”

Both sides are prepared to resume discussions when China’s chief arms control negotiator, Liu Jieyi, is in Washington March 4-5 to attend a conference of high-level U.S. and Chinese arms control officials and scholars.

China Sanctioned for Chem, Bio Transfers to Iran

Seth Brugger

On January 16, the United States sanctioned two Chinese companies and an individual for transferring to Iran sensitive equipment and technology used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

According to the State Department, the transfers have taken place since January 1999 and involved goods restricted by the Australia Group, an informal body of 33 countries that coordinate their controls on biological and chemical weapons-related exports. The United States last sanctioned a Chinese entity for chemical or biological weapons-related transfers in June 2001, according to an administration official.

Levied under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and effective for two years, the latest sanctions prohibit the U.S. government from conducting business with or providing assistance to the Chinese entities: Liyang Chemical Equipment, China Machinery and Electric Import and Export Company, and Q. C. Chen. The sanctions also bar certain weapons and defense-related sales to the entities, as well as sales of goods requiring particular export licenses.

In a January 25 written statement, the State Department said, “For many years we have made known to the Chinese Government our concerns about specific Chinese entities providing assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. Q. C. Chen has been among the entities we have raised on multiple occasions.”

Chen is already subject to U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 for assisting Iran’s chemical weapons program; the other two entities were not already under sanctions. When asked, the State Department could not say whether the United States currently conducts business with the three entities.

The sanctions could have been waived, but Washington “did not believe it was appropriate” to do so, the State Department said in its statement. More information on the nature of the transfers was not publicly available, but the fact that the sanctions were levied about a month before President George W. Bush traveled to China could indicate their seriousness.

China’s Foreign Ministry rebutted the U.S. charges in a January 25 statement, saying the sanctions are “unreasonable” and “should be cancelled,” Agence France-Presse reported. “China is opposed to any country developing chemical weapons, and furthermore does not help any country develop chemical weapons,” the statement said.

China Purchases More Russian Destroyers

On January 3, China signed a contract, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, to purchase two advanced warships from Russia. Delivery of the ships, expected within about four years, will double the number of Sovremennyy-class destroyers that China possesses.

China’s first purchase of two Sovremennyy-class destroyers several years ago received a lot of attention because the warships are equipped to fire the SS-N-22 “Sunburn” anti-ship missile. The Sunburn is a supersonic, sea-skimming missile that can be armed with a nuclear warhead, although China’s Sunburns are thought to carry conventional warheads. The Pentagon viewed delivery of the ships, which has taken place over the past two years, as a qualitative improvement for the Chinese navy but not as a significant change to the military balance in the Taiwan Strait.

Although discussions on China’s possible purchase of the first two destroyers began in 1994, according to an October 2000 report by the Congressional Research Service, China negotiated the deal after an incident in March 1996, when the United States responded to Chinese military exercises opposite Taiwan by sending two U.S. carrier battle groups to the region.

Last spring, the Bush administration agreed to supply Taiwan with four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers even though long-time Taiwan supporters in Congress were calling for the United States to provide more advanced Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis combat system. The new deal between Russia and China could increase congressional pressure on President George W. Bush to authorize transfers of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to Taipei in the future.


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