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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
China

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, July 9

By the research staff of the Arms Control Association. To get this P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert delivered to your inbox, sign-up now. Tough Talk from Tehran - What Does It Mean? Talks are still underway in Vienna as the countdown to July 20 drops to 11 days. Yesterday's meetings featured a plenary session chaired by Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Abbas Arachi and Helga Schmid, deputy nuclear negotiator for the P5+1. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. Negotiators seem undeterred by the tough talk from Supreme Leader Khamenei yesterday expressing his support for...

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Talks Alert, July 7

Top diplomats from the United States, five other world powers, and Iran are racing against the clock to seal a long-sought, long-term comprehensive deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran, helps avoid a future military confrontation over its nuclear program, and leads to sanctions relief. This special newsletter compiled by the research staff of the Arms Control Association is designed to provide occasional updates from various sources on the talks, as well as information to help provide journalists, policy makers, and the public with a better understanding of the key issues and options...

China Seen Nearing Sea-Based Deterrent

A Pentagon report released last month says that China will soon have its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.

Brianna Starosciak and Kelsey Davenport

China will soon have its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, according to a U.S. Defense Department report released last month.

The report said Beijing is placing a “high priority” on updating and developing its submarine force and will soon deploy the Julang-2 (JL-2) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on its Jin-class submarine.

The Defense Department is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on China’s military capabilities and force modernization.

The new Pentagon report estimates that China will begin patrols by Jin-class submarines armed with JL-2 missiles sometime this year. China has three operational Jin-class submarines.

At a June 25 event discussing the Pentagon report, Oriana Mastro, an assistant professor at Georgetown University who specializes in Chinese military and security policy, said China’s current focus is on “defensive nuclear weapons.” But Mastro expressed concern that the Chinese could “start using their weapons the way the Pakistanis do” by “trying to deter conventionally superior countries” with their nuclear weapons.

The JL-2 has an estimated range of 7,400 kilometers, which would allow Beijing to hit Alaska from Chinese waters. The missile was originally anticipated to enter service in 2010, but the program was delayed several times. China conducted two successful tests of the missile in 2012. Last year’s Pentagon report said the JL-2 would reach “initial operating capability in 2013.” (See ACT, June 2013.)

The new report says that China is likely to add as many as five ballistic missile submarines to its fleet over the next decade and then move toward developing a second-generation nuclear-powered submarine.

The Jin-class submarine is designed to carry 12 JL-2 SLBMs. Analysts believe that the predecessor to the Jin class of submarines, called the Xia class, was never deployed outside Chinese waters. The 2011 edition of the Pentagon report characterized the operational status of the Xia-class submarines as “questionable,” a description the report also applied to the JL-1 SLBM, the predecessor of the JL-2. The JL-1 had an estimated range of only 1,700 kilometers. The JL-2, which is the sea-based version of China’s Dong Feng-31 (DF-31) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), has a much longer range and will increase China’s ability to deter threats from greater distances.

China has emphasized creating a more survivable nuclear force by adding more mobile missiles to its arsenal, the recent Pentagon report said.

Independent estimates put China’s total nuclear force at about 250 warheads of all types; 180 are thought to be nondeployed, or in reserve. In last year’s report, the Pentagon estimated that China has 50 to 75 ICBMs and a large number of shorter-range systems able to deliver nuclear weapons.

One of the mobile missiles that China has deployed is the DF-31A. It is an ICBM with an estimated range of 11,200 kilometers, meaning it can reach most of the continental United States.

China also is developing its road-mobile DF-41 ICBM. The Pentagon report said that the DF-41 is “possibly capable” of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). This is the only missile in the Chinese arsenal currently declared by the government to have a MIRV capability, according to the report. The Pentagon report said China probably would equip future missiles with MIRVs.

It is not clear when the DF-41 missile will be deployed. It was most recently tested last December.

According to the Pentagon report, increases in the number of mobile ICBMs and the beginning of deterrence patrols with Jin-class submarines will force China to “implement more sophisticated command and control systems and processes” in order to “safeguard the integrity” of the launch authority for a “larger, more dispersed force.”

Mark Stokes, former senior country director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense of International Security Affairs, said at the June 25 event that “the most significant aspect of this development” is who will have “custodianship” over the warheads when they are deployed at sea. Currently, China’s North Sea and South Sea fleets do not have peacetime custodianship of nuclear weapons, said Stokes, who is executive director of the Project 2049 Institute. Control now remains centralized, which is a “very effective way of ensuring peace and stability,” he said.

The Pentagon report states that China has more than 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles in its arsenal and is adding conventionally armed medium-range ballistic missiles.

China has also developed an anti-ship missile called the CSS-5 Mod 5 (DF-21D) with a range of 1,500 kilometers and a maneuverable warhead.

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

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

Report: China May Have New ASAT Weapon

A report by the Secure World Foundation has presented new evidence that a Chinese rocket launch last May was actually a test of a new anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.

Timothy Farnsworth

A report by the Secure World Foundation has presented new evidence that a Chinese rocket launch last May was actually a test of a new anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.

In a press release shortly after the event, the Chinese Academy of Sciences originally characterized it as a scientific launch originating from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in western China. A high-altitude sounding rocket carried a scientific payload 10,000 kilometers above the earth’s surface to study the magnetosphere, according to the press release.

Drawing on open-source materials and commercially available satellite images, the report by Brian Weeden, a technical adviser to the foundation, finds that the evidence, although not conclusive, appears to show that China is testing a rocket component of a new ASAT weapons system derived from a road-mobile ballistic missile that could reach geostationary orbit, about 36,000 kilometers above the earth. Weeden said in a March 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today that, from a U.S. military perspective, “the altitude has some very important implications because [the United States] has some very important national security space assets at those higher altitudes.” Some of these assets include satellites that provide early-warning launch notifications or communications for nuclear forces or help fly drones. Weeden, a former U.S. Air Force space analyst, said in his e-mail that the United States has considered these systems safe and probably could not defend them from deliberate attacks.

According to the report, no other country has tested a direct-ascent ASAT weapons system that could hit satellites higher than 2,000 kilometers. A direct-ascent weapon is launched from the earth’s surface with the goal of hitting a target in space, but the weapon itself does not remain in orbit.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Monica Matoush told the Air Force Association on May 15, 2013, that “[t]he launch appeared to be on a ballistic trajectory nearly to geosynchronous Earth orbit.”

A ballistic trajectory typically means that a rocket is on a suborbital flight path and neither it nor its payload stays in orbit. Rockets that are used for space launches follow a different trajectory in order to keep the payload in orbit after flight.

According to the report, data suggest that the apogee of the rocket—the point at which it was farthest from the earth—was higher than the 10,000 kilometers that China claimed.

In the report, Weeden said that satellite images of the Xichang launch site approximately a month before the launch point toward a new weapons system because sounding rockets, typically used for scientific tests and research of the upper atmosphere, generally are launched from fixed structures on launch pads. None of the satellite images show a “viable sounding rocket” on any of the pads, the report says. That fact, in combination with other information, further puts the Chinese claims in question, the reports says.

The report notes that none of China’s current ballistic missiles could reach the altitude of the May 2013 test, leading Weeden to speculate the test could be China’s new Kuaizhou solid-fueled rocket space-launch vehicle. The Kuaizhou rocket was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in September 2013, and amateur imagery of that launch shows it to be based on a mobile launch platform, Weeden said in his e-mail.

The State Department and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency did not respond to inquiries by Arms Control Today regarding details of Weeden’s report.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968.(Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.) By Daryl G. Kimball Forty-five years ago today, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and dozens of other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. In his remarks at the July 1, 1968 signing ceremony , U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called it "... a very reassuring and hopeful moment in the relations among nations. We hope and expect that virtually all the...

Pentagon Sees China Progressing on SLBM

A recent Defense Department report says that China is nearing completion of its latest submarine-launched ballistic missile, which may soon provide Beijing with a functional sea-based nuclear deterrent

Marcus Taylor and Eric Tamerlani

China is moving closer to fielding a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capable of striking the United States, according to a new Defense Department report on China’s military capabilities.

Released May 6, the Pentagon report says that Beijing’s newest SLBM, the Julang-2 (JL-2), is poised “to reach initial operational capability in 2013.” Once deployed on Beijing’s Jin-class ballistic missile submarine, the JL-2 “will give the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the report says.

The Defense Department is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on China’s military capabilities and force modernization.

The 2013 report indicates China’s progress in upgrading certain elements of its nuclear forces. In the 2011 version of the report, the Defense Department described the operational status of the first-generation JL-1 SLBM as “questionable,” and it is widely believed that the Xia-class submarine on which that missile is carried has never been deployed on a strategic patrol outside Chinese regional waters. Independent analysts from China have described the JL-1 and the Xia-class submarine as a “failure,” according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

China conducted a successful test of the JL-2 on Aug. 16, 2012.

Beijing has three operational Jin-class submarines and another two under construction in different stages of completion. The Jin-class submarines are expected to carry 12 JL-2 SLBMs each, according to an April report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on Chinese naval modernization. The submarines are based on Hainan Island in the South China Sea and will be capable of conducting deterrence patrols from that base, according to the Defense Department report.

Military Role Seen in Chinese Cyberattacks

China’s military and government are directly behind some of the intrusions into many of the computer systems around the world, including the U.S. government’s, according to the most recent edition of an annual report to Congress by the Defense Department.

The May 2013 report marks the first time that the Pentagon has linked the Chinese government and military to the thousands of cyberattacks against the United States. According to the report, these attacks are focused on extracting information and giving Chinese military planners “a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”

Last year’s report concluded that many of the computer intrusions around the world “originated within China” and that “China’s persistent cyber intrusions indicates the likelihood” that Beijing is using cybernetwork operations to “collect strategic intelligence.” But it did not specifically state that the government or military were responsible.

The 2013 report says China’s cyberwarfare capabilities could help the Chinese military in several areas. The intrusions could be used to collect data to constrain or slow an adversary’s response time during conflict by targeting communications, logistics, and commercial networks and could be used in conjunction with traditional warfare.

In February, the private computer security firm Mandiant released a report that said a particular unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Unit 61398, was responsible for many of the cyber intrusions and data thefts in U.S. government agencies and private companies. The unclassified version of the 2013 Pentagon report did not go as far as naming a specific PLA unit.—TIMOTHY FARNSWORTH

    That report says that China possesses 50 to 75 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Beijing’s ICBMs are believed to be armed with a single nuclear warhead each.

    The 2013 report says China has approximately 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, but it does not estimate how many may be nuclear tipped. Independent estimates put China’s total nuclear force at about 240 warheads of all types, of which 180 are considered to be nondeployed, or in reserve.

    In the report, the Defense Department says it expects the JL-2 to have a range of 7,400 kilometers. Given the range of the JL-2, the Jin-class submarine could launch an attack reaching targets in Alaska from Chinese waters, targets in the western half of the U.S. mainland from “mid-ocean locations west of Hawaii,” and “targets in all 50 states from mid-ocean locations east of Hawaii,” the CRS report says.

    However, according to that report, the Jin-class submarines produce a great deal of noise. This makes them “relatively easy” for the U.S. Navy to detect and will make deployment away from Chinese-protected waters a risky endeavor, possibly constraining Beijing’s ability to threaten the U.S. mainland, the CRS report says.

    The Defense Department report says that once Beijing begins patrols with ballistic missile submarines, the PLA will have to “implement more sophisticated command and control systems and processes that safeguard the integrity of nuclear release authority.”

    In a May 13 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said it is unlikely that control of the nuclear warheads will be handed over to the PLA Navy during peacetime, meaning that the Jin-class submarines would be fitted with nuclear warheads only during a crisis, not during routine patrols. The mating of the JL-2 missile and warhead during peacetime would be a “significant change in Chinese nuclear policy” and remains unlikely, Kristensen said.

    According to the Pentagon report, China is expected to begin development of a third generation of ballistic missile submarines over the next decade.

    The report also says that China is developing a “new generation of mobile missiles, with warheads consisting of MIRVs [multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles] and penetration aids.” Penetration aids are designed to increase the likelihood that a ballistic missile can penetrate defense systems by obscuring the identity of the real nuclear warhead. The MIRVs and penetration aids are intended to counter U.S. and, to a certain extent, Russian precision strike capabilities and improvements in ballistic missile defense technology, according to the report.

    Beijing is performing research on advanced penetration aids such as maneuverable re-entry vehicles, decoys, thermal shielding, and radar jammers, according to the Pentagon report. The report says these efforts, combined with recent combat simulation exercises focusing on ICBM maneuverability and concealment, show an increased focus on the survivability of Chinese nuclear forces. According to the report, “[T]hese technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and enhance its strategic strike capabilities.”

    China has taken several steps to develop an indigenous ballistic missile defense system, including the flight test of a land-based missile interceptor Jan. 28. (See ACT, March 2013.) According to the report, Beijing is researching and developing a “missile defense umbrella” to intercept ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase—a technique used by the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense—utilizing a so-called kill vehicle and a kinetic “hit-to-kill” warhead.

    China Conducts Missile Defense Test

    China successfully launched a land-based missile interceptor Jan. 28, according to Xinhua, the country’s official news agency.

    Timothy Farnsworth

    China successfully launched a land-based missile interceptor Jan. 28, according to Xinhua, the country’s official news agency.

    In a statement released after the test, a Chinese Defense Ministry official said it had accomplished “the pre-set goal,” but did not say what the goal was. The test was “defensive in nature and target[ed] no other country,” he said.

    It was not clear from the Chinese statement whether the test involved a target for the interceptor to hit. China’s only previous missile interceptor test, on Jan. 11, 2010, did involve a target.

    In 2007, China conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) test, destroying one of its own satellites instead of a test warhead. (See ACT, March 2007.) That test prompted objections from numerous countries, in part because of the debris it created. The two later tests took place at a lower altitude and created no debris.

    In a Feb. 12 interview, Li Bin, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the latter two tests were focused on developing and understanding missile-intercept technology rather than assessing the performance of a deployable missile defense system.

    According to Li, the Chinese versions of the statements released after each of those tests were identical. Li said, however, that the official English translation of the Jan. 28 statement omitted the word “technology” from the phrase “land-based mid-course missile interception technology test,” the term that China used in 2010. He said the use of the word “technology” indicates that China was trying to better understand missile defense capabilities and was not testing in order to deploy a national missile defense system.

    Li said Beijing has three options: keeping the technology in reserve, deploying a regional missile defense system around major cities, and deploying a national system. Li said the first two options are more likely because it would be too costly to create a national system that could defend against an adversary that has a large number of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    Experts disagree on whether the main goal of the Chinese program is to develop a national missile defense system or an ASAT system. In a Feb. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, David Shlapak, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, said that there are differences in the development paths for the two systems. The numbers of interceptors and the “engagement dynamics”—the way the interceptors strike the target object—associated with targeting an enemy’s satellites “are much easier to manage than those associated with large-scale missile defense,” he said.

    “I don’t think that the testing we’ve seen to date reveals much about China’s intentions. China could be experimenting with technology, seeking to develop a real capability, or sending a message,” he said. “Unless and until we see more activity, it’s going to be hard to make a conclusive determination.”

    Previous Tests

    In 2007, China destroyed an aging weather satellite with a hit-to-kill interceptor approximately 850 kilometers above the earth. According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, the tally of space debris created by the test had reached 3,037 pieces as of September 2010, of which 97 percent remained in orbit. Much of the international community, including the United States, condemned the test, which U.S. officials often cite as an example of how space has become more “congested, contested, and competitive.”

    According to a January 2010 State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks, the target of the 2010 test was a CSS-X011 medium-range ballistic missile rather than a satellite and took place at an altitude of 250 kilometers, much lower than the 2007 test. But the two tests used the same interceptor vehicle, the SC-19, the cable said. The cable also said that U.S. missile-warning satellites detected the launch of the interceptor and the target missile, as well as the actual interception.

    International Reaction

    The United States and other countries have expressed concerns about China’s ASAT and missile defense tests. In a Jan. 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official said, in regard to the 2007 ASAT test, “the United States has consistently urged Beijing through diplomatic, military-to-military, and scientific channels not to conduct further anti-satellite weapons testing in space.”

    India, another country that has nuclear weapons and a growing space program, recently increased its own missile defense testing and closely watches China’s ASAT and missile defense tests. (See ACT, January/February 2013.)

    According to Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, the 2007 Chinese ASAT test sparked a debate within and outside India’s government, “forcing a re-evaluation of India’s policy against militarization of space.” In a Feb. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Rajagopalan, a former assistant director of India’s National Security Council Secretariat, said that since the 2007 test, “there has been fresh pressure brought about for an Indian ASAT system” and “a need for India to have demonstrated ASAT capability.” Although the Indian government has not made a total shift in its policy, “[t]he growing Chinese capabilities (be it ASAT or missile defense capabilities) have clearly upped the ante in the region,” Rajagopalan said.

    She questioned the effectiveness of the “space security regime” and the ability “of the major global powers to respond [to] and affect” China’s behavior. “India has continued to argue for [a] legally binding mechanism to deal with the myriad challenges [of the] space domain,” Rajagopalan said.

    Nuclear North Korea: the View from Seoul

    Robert Gallucci, former U.S. negotiator with North Korea at the 2013 Asan Nuclear Forum. By Kelsey Davenport ( Seoul, Republic of Korea )—North Korea's third nuclear test on Feb. 12 sparked concern in the international community about possible qualitative and quantitative improvements to Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. But concerns about an increasing number of nuclear weapons on the Peninsula should not solely be limited to the North. Recent polling data collected by the Asan Institute indicates that the majority of South Korean favor acquiring their own nuclear arsenal. A public opinion poll...

    Op-Ed: Opponents of Nuclear Cuts Misread Trends

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    Description: 

    The press recently reported that the Pentagon is preparing options for President Barack Obama as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. The mere notion of restructuring U.S. nuclear forces unleashed panicked reactions from Capitol Hill’s most ardent nuclear weapons enthusiasts.

    Body: 

    By Greg Thielmann

    The following piece was originally published in Roll Call on April 18, 2012.

    The press recently reported that the Pentagon is preparing options for President Barack Obama as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. The mere notion of restructuring U.S. nuclear forces unleashed panicked reactions from Capitol Hill’s most ardent nuclear weapons enthusiasts.

    With the president reaffirming in his visit to South Korea that he will seek to negotiate further reductions, the pro-nuclear camp will be up in arms. It shouldn’t be.

    U.S. security will only be improved by further reductions. For the most part, opponents of nuclear cuts focus their concerns on Russia, but they have difficulty figuring out how to characterize the Russian threat more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War. In one moment, they cite Moscow’s surly rhetoric and stated intention of reinvesting in Russia’s strategic defense budget. In the next breath, they dismiss arms control efforts as unnecessary in light of Russia’s decline and as irrelevant for addressing more urgent threats from China, North Korea and Iran.

    Policymakers need to engage in a serious discussion about what the U.S. nuclear arsenal can and should deter, but smart planning should be grounded in the reality that the U.S.-Russia relationship, while contentious, is no longer the zero-sum game of a prior era.

    A prerequisite for that overdue debate is a sober and realistic accounting of the existing balance of forces — a process fiercely resisted by devotees of nuclear weaponry. Thirty-four Members of the House wrote to Obama, warning of “the growth in quantity and quality of nuclear weapons capabilities in Russia, the People’s Republic of China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and, perhaps soon the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

    They declined to provide a time frame for this alleged “growth,” no doubt because the reduction in Russian forces during recent years has actually led to an overall reduction in the number of nuclear weapons possessed by America’s potential enemies.

    In an attempt at resuscitating a debate he lost in 2010, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) declared in February that “Not a country in the world has reduced warheads since the signing of the New [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] except the United States,” but the latest data exchanged under the treaty shows a March 1 Russian warhead number lower than the initial count one year earlier — already below the New START limit. The U.S. remained 187 warheads above the limit.

    Of course, any consideration of U.S. nuclear policy should start with an evaluation of Russian trends because the nuclear forces controlled by Moscow dwarf those of all other nuclear weapons states, except our own. Such consideration reveals a continuing decline from the enormous arsenal Moscow inherited from the Soviet Union.

    While both parties are obligated to reduce operational warhead levels further before the New START’s 1,550 ceiling goes into effect in 2018, many U.S. and Russian experts predict that Russia’s actual warhead count may fall significantly below that. This is a trend we should encourage.

    Rather than giving Russia an incentive to rebuild its nuclear forces after their numerical decline, it is in America’s security interest to safely follow a similar path, seizing the opportunity to eliminate unnecessary U.S. nuclear forces and using the savings to provide a boon to America’s fragile economic recovery.

    The anxious Representatives’ letter also warned of China’s “ambitious” nuclear program. But China fields about 50 warheads on intercontinental systems, compared with the 1,737 deployed by the United States — a roughly 35-to-1 ratio. And China has no intercontinental bombers, no adequate strategic warning and no multiple warheads on its ballistic missiles.

    An objective look at the nuclear balance and the narrowed function of nuclear weapons should lead to a number of important changes, including eliminating categories of targets only appropriate for nuclear war-fighting rather than deterrence and easing requirements for rapid launch capabilities, thus removing pressure on national command authorities to make hasty decisions.

    Empowered with updated and modernized guidance, American planners can significantly reduce the number of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, both enhancing U.S. national security and saving billions of tax dollars in the bargain.

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