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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne,
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
China

U.S. Official Mulls Ending NSG Rule Revamp

If the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does not agree soon on new guidelines for selling sensitive nuclear technology, there would be a good argument for dropping the effort, a senior Obama administration official said Oct. 18.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, said, “I think that if we are not able to reach agreement, my guess is that we should probably decide that this is an effort that was just not going to be successful.”

 

Daniel Horner

If the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does not agree soon on new guidelines for selling sensitive nuclear technology, there would be a good argument for dropping the effort, a senior Obama administration official said Oct. 18.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, said, “I think that if we are not able to reach agreement, my guess is that we should probably decide that this is an effort that was just not going to be successful.”

The NSG’s Consultative Group is scheduled to meet Nov. 10-11 in Vienna. The NSG has been working since 2004 to revise its guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. According to the public statement issued at the end of its plenary meeting this June in Christchurch, New Zealand, the group “agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.”

The current guidelines say that suppliers should “exercise restraint” in making such transfers. As Samore described it, that criterion “was interpreted by everybody as ‘don’t sell it.’” In a February 2004 speech, President George W. Bush said the NSG “should refuse to sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants.”

Other NSG members, led by France, favored an approach based on adopting a list of specific criteria that countries would have to meet to be eligible for such exports. The NSG, which currently has 46 members, has not been able to agree on the criteria although the differences are now “down to a couple of words here and phrases there,” Samore said.

Asked about the time frame for making decision to break off the talks, he said, “If we make progress in this next meeting, then we might want to stay at it a little bit longer.” But if the discussion “really looks like it’s stalemated,” he said, “I’m a big believer in not wasting effort on things that are not going to be successful.” If the countries cannot reach agreement on a new set of detailed criteria, “then I frankly think we should just set the effort aside,” he said.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement. (See ACT, December 2008.) When it failed to do so, the members of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries agreed at their 2009 summit meeting to adopt the 2008 NSG text as a national policy for a year. The G-8 extended that policy for another year at its meeting this June. All the members of the G-8—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—also belong to the NSG.

In an October 27 interview, a European diplomat said G-8 adoption of the new guidelines “could be a temporary alternative” to the NSG but not a “100 percent alternative” because the G-8’s membership is so much smaller.

China-Pakistan Deal

Another issue that NSG members are likely to discuss at the Vienna meeting, sources said, is the proposed sale of two Chinese reactors to Pakistan for its Chashma site. China provided little information on that issue at the Christchurch meeting. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

Since that meeting, China has officially confirmed its plan to sell the reactors. At her Sept. 21 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “The Chashma Project III & IV mentioned in recent media reports are carried out according to the cooperative agreement in nuclear power signed by China and Pakistan in 2003,” according to a transcript posted on the ministry’s English-language Web site.

She added, “China has already notified the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] of relevant information and asked for its safeguard and supervision.”

NSG guidelines, which are nonbinding, do not allow the export of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that do not accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not have these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at the Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under NSG “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. (The first reactor is operating; the second is in the final stages of construction.)

According to several accounts, the NSG agreed in 2004 that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

In the weeks before the Christchurch meeting, the U.S. government said the sale of reactors beyond Chashma-1 and -2 would be “inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

The European diplomat said her government “tend[s] to think in a similar direction” but wanted to get more information on the “ins and outs of the deal,” including the Chinese explanation.

Media reports last month quoted Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as saying the United States had asked Pakistan for more information on the deal.

 

NSG Makes Little Headway at Meeting

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

The Chinese-Pakistani deal was not on the formal agenda for the meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, but sources from participating governments said the matter was discussed.

The group’s June 25 public statement at the end of the meeting does not specifically mention the discussions, but it says that the NSG “took note of briefings on developments concerning non-NSG states. It agreed on the value of ongoing consultation and transparency.”

The planned Chinese sale is an issue for the NSG because the group’s guidelines do not allow the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not have these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the group agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

In the weeks before the June 21-25 Christchurch meeting, the U.S. government said the sale of reactors beyond Chashma-1 and -2 would be “inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In its public statements, China has responded to questions about the deal in general terms. At a June 24 press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “China and Pakistan, following the principle of equality and mutual benefit, have been cooperating on nuclear energy for civilian use. Our cooperation is consistent with the two countries’ respective international obligations, entirely for peaceful purpose[s] and subject to IAEA safeguard[s] and supervision.”

It it not clear what additional information China provided at the Christchurch meeting. According to a European diplomat, the discussion was “not confrontational.”

Clarification Sought

In a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a U.S. Department of State official said, “We are still waiting for more information from China to clarify China’s intended cooperation with Pakistan, in light of China’s NSG commitments.”

According to the official, “The United States has reiterated concern that the transfer of new reactors at Chasma appears to extend beyond cooperation that was ‘grandfathered’ when China was approved for membership in the NSG. If not covered by the grandfather clause, such cooperation would require a specific exception approved by consensus of the NSG.”

In 2008 the NSG, led by the United States, granted an exemption making India eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members. Like Pakistan, India does not have full-scope safeguards.

The NSG, which currently has 46 members, operates by consensus. It is not a formal organization, and its export guidelines are nonbinding. Before the 2008 NSG exemption, Russia made and carried out deals with India for reactors and fuel, justifying them on the basis of interpretations of the NSG guidelines that other members considered overly expansive.

Enrichment and Reprocessing

A long-standing issue for the NSG has been its effort to adopt a more rigorous standard for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Since 2004, the group has been discussing a new, so-called criteria-based set of guidelines for enrichment and reprocessing transfers, under which recipients of these proliferation-sensitive exports would have to meet a list of preset requirements. The list drafted by the group includes adherence to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, full-scope safeguards, and an additional protocol, which gives the IAEA enhanced inspection authority. However, the NSG members have not been able to overcome certain states’ objections to the proposal. Current NSG guidelines simply call for members to exercise “restraint” with respect to enrichment and reprocessing exports.

At the end of 2008, the suppliers appeared to be close to an agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but since then they have not been able to reach consensus. According to the Christchurch public statement, “Participating Governments agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.”

In a June 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the European diplomat said that “while progress was made there was no consensus” on the matter. Before the meeting, observers said the main objections were coming from South Africa and Turkey. The diplomat declined to identify the sources of the objections at the meeting but said, “The delegations which have had difficulties in the past continue to have problems.”

Meanwhile, at their June 25-26 meeting in Muskoka, Canada, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries extended their policy to adopt on a national basis the proposed NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing transfers. The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in their summit communiqué, “We reiterate our commitment as found in paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila Statement on Non-Proliferation.”

Paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila statement, issued at the July 2009 G-8 summit in Italy, said the eight countries would implement as “national policy” for a year the draft NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing and urged the NSG “to accelerate its work and swiftly reach consensus this year to allow for global implementation of a strengthened mechanism on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, equipment, and technology.”

 

Is the NSG Up to the Task?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards.

Although the NSG has provided an important check on proliferation, in recent years it has failed to agree to tighter restrictions on the transfer of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology. To their great discredit, a few leading NSG states have reversed or ignored NSG guidelines for commercial profit and improved bilateral ties with nuclear trading partners.

In 2001, Russia sold uranium to India and agreed to build two additional reactors for India in violation of NSG guidelines barring nuclear trade with non-NPT countries. In 2008 the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand. The exemption, which was initiated by the George W. Bush administration and strongly backed by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, reversed the long-standing NSG and NPT policies barring nuclear trade with states that have not accepted comprehensive international safeguards.

Now, China is reportedly planning to sell two nuclear power reactors to NPT holdout and serial proliferator Pakistan, which would violate current NSG rules.

The NSG must respond appropriately or risk irrelevance. Responsible NSG governments should actively oppose the Chinese-Pakistani deal as a violation of NSG guidelines, work to mitigate the damage caused by the India exemption, and agree to tougher rules against the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce fissile material for weapons.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second one on the grounds that the second reactor project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. At the time, however, there was no declaration of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

States at the recent NPT review conference, including China, reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear trade with Pakistan or India would give those NPT nonmembers the rights and privileges reserved for NPT members that follow nonproliferation rules. Worse still, nuclear trade with either country would indirectly contribute to their weapons programs by freeing up domestic uranium reserves for the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes.

Recognizing this danger, NPT parties expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with the two countries. The NPT conference’s final document “urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises.”

In response to the NSG’s 2008 India exemption, Israel and Pakistan, which are still subject to the NSG ban on nuclear trade, have sought similar exemptions—so far unsuccessfully. Also, Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons and has blocked the start of negotiations on a global treaty to ban the production of nuclear material for weapons purposes.

The NSG must hold firm and oppose nuclear trade with Israel, Pakistan, or any country that does not meet commonsense nonproliferation and disarmament standards.

Notwithstanding the 2008 NSG exemption for India, states such as Australia and Japan should resist commercial and political pressures for engaging in nuclear trade with India, at least until New Delhi complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172, passed in June 1998, which calls on India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

Those NSG governments that have decided to sell nuclear material and reactors to India should clarify that if India or any other state breaks its nonproliferation commitments and conducts a nuclear test explosion for any reason, they will immediately terminate nuclear trade with the offending state.

The NSG must address future proliferation risks as well. India and other states in regions of proliferation concern are seeking advanced enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology. In response, the United States and other NSG countries must overcome opposition from South Africa and Turkey and adopt tougher guidelines that would bar the transfer of such technology to those states that have not signed the NPT and do not have in place IAEA comprehensive safeguards and enhanced inspections under an additional protocol.

If the NSG is to remain effective and credible, member states must respect and uphold their own rules, avoid actions that feed the nuclear arms race, and strengthen their guidelines to prevent weapons-related nuclear technology from proliferating in the years ahead.

Op-ed: Time to Act Responsibly on Nukes

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Description: 

Op-ed in The Press by Zia Mian and Daryl Kimball

Body: 

Op-ed in The Press by Zia Mian and Daryl Kimball

"Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world's most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the sale of nuclear technology.

Too often, however, powerful states try to make exceptions from these rules, or simply ignore them, as a way to help their allies and to make money for their nuclear industries."

Click here to read the full op-ed.

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Subject Resources:

Experts, Organizations from 14 Countries Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group to Uphold Rules Barring Chinese Sale of Reactors to Pakistan

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Description: 

In a letter sent this week to the 46-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a prestigious and broad array of more than 40 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 14 countries urged that these nations "reiterate to the Chinese government that it must not engage in nuclear trade with Pakistan in a way that violates nonproliferation obligations and norms."

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2010

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association 1-202-463-8270 x107; Philip White, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Tokyo 81-3-3357-3800

(Washington, D.C.-Tokyo, Japan-Christchurch, NZ): In a letter sent this week to the 46-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a prestigious and broad array of more than 40 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 14 countries urged that these nations "reiterate to the Chinese government that it must not engage in nuclear trade with Pakistan in a way that violates nonproliferation obligations and norms."

In recent weeks, credible reports have surfaced that the Government of China is planning to sell two additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan, which would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China's commitments to the NSG.

The group argues that nuclear trade with Pakistan would not only give a state outside the nonproliferation mainstream the rights and privileges reserved for states that follow nonproliferation rules, but it would contribute to the arms race in South Asia.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group will convene on June 21-25 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The possible China-Pakistan nuclear reactor deal is expected to be a topic of discussion at the meeting.

Under the guidelines of the NSG, countries other than the five formally-recognized nuclear-weapon states-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-are not eligible to receive most nuclear exports from NSG members unless they have International Atomic Energy full-scope safeguards in place. Pakistan is one of only three states never to have signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan does not allow full-scope international safeguards and it continues to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons program.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan's Chashma site. China claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second reactor on the grounds that it was covered in the existing agreement with Pakistan. There was no declaration at that time of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

If China goes forward with the sale, it would be the second major breach of NSG standards in as many years. In September 2008, the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and others. The exemption, which was initiated by the United States and strongly backed by France, Russia and the U.K., blew a hole in the NSG's long-standing policy against nuclear trade with non-NPT parties.

States at the recently concluded NPT Review Conference, including China, also reaffirmed that "new supply arrangements" for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept "IAEA full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons."

In their letter, the experts and NGOs note that "The provision of uranium and/or nuclear fuel to Pakistan or India for safeguarded reactors can have the effect of increasing their respective capacity to produce enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes in unsafeguarded facilities."

At the May 2010 Review Conference, NPT states parties also expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with these countries. The NPT conference final document "... urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises."

Among the former government officials and experts endorsing the letter is Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs and President of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. Other notable signatories include Henry Sokolski, former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense, and Fred McGoldrick, the former U.S. official responsible for civilian nuclear trade negotiations.

NGOs and experts from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere endorsed the letter, which was organized by the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

The letter urges NSG governments "to oppose nuclear trade with Pakistan and to refrain from engaging in nuclear trade with India until such time as it complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172," which calls upon India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

The U.S. government "has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations," according to a news report published June 1 in the journal Arms Control Today.

Washington is also reportedly pressuring the Japanese government to change its policy against nuclear trade with India in to open the way for the sale of nuclear reactors built by GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric, which a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba.

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see:

http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/NSGComplianceLetter

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China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal

China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Daniel Horner

China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Under the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, countries other than the five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are not eligible to receive most nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to accept such inspections, known as full-scope safeguards.

In an April 28 article, the Financial Times cited an interview with a Pakistani official and a statement on China National Nuclear Corporation’s Web site as confirming the deal, which has been the subject of conflicting information over the past few months. The Times also cited diplomats in China as saying Beijing had approved the deal, but that it had not been sealed.

The NSG, which is currently chaired by Hungary, is scheduled to hold its annual plenary meeting June 21-25 in New Zealand. In a May 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Hungarian diplomat said that “the Chinese-Pakistani deal on nuclear reactors has not been formally discussed within NSG but we anticipate the issue will be raised” during the New Zealand meeting. The diplomat added, “We hope to learn more about the deal during the plenary after which the Group can formulate a well-informed position on the issue.”

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan.

China made “a declaration of existing projects” that covered Chashma-1 and -2, which “were grandfathered as conditions of China’s NSG membership,” a U.S. official said in a recent e-mail to Arms Control Today.  “There was no declaration at that time, and subsequently no NSG approval, of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chasma,” the official said.

“Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG,” the official said.

The U.S. government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations,” the official said.

In 2008 the NSG, led by the United States, granted an exemption making India, which also does not apply full-scope safeguards, eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

 

U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deal Angers China

Despite strong objections from China, the Obama administration on Jan. 29 unveiled an arms deal with Taiwan worth $6.4 billion. The deal, versions of which have been under consideration since 2001, includes 60 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, 114 PAC-3 missiles and their accompanying radar systems, two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and an array of advanced communications equipment.

Michael Ashby and Jeff Abramson

Despite strong objections from China, the Obama administration on Jan. 29 unveiled an arms deal with Taiwan worth $6.4 billion. The deal, versions of which have been under consideration since 2001, includes 60 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, 114 PAC-3 missiles and their accompanying radar systems, two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and an array of advanced communications equipment.

Initially conceived as an $18.2 billion package including eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, and six Patriot missile batteries, the deal’s path to approval has been complex. Periods of tension between China and Taiwan, Taiwan domestic political wrangling, and Bush administration concerns over the U.S. relationship with China have stalled agreements over the course of the negotiations.

By law, Congress had 30 days to raise objections to the arms sales before the administration could proceed. That period expired Feb. 28 without congressional action.

The arms sale comes at a time of heightened tension between China and the United States over a host of issues, including climate change, trade policy, Google’s threat to leave China, and Iran’s nuclear program.

When asked about the reason for the arms sale, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley said Feb. 1, “We’ve taken this action consistent with our one-China policy and [the] Taiwan Relations Act. We think that these defensive arms will contribute to security and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Under the one-China policy, the United States does not formally recognize or support Taiwan’s independence. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act commits the United States to the defense of Taiwan and authorizes arms sales to aid its defense.

The Chinese response to the announcement of the deal has been sharp. “The U.S. move pose[s] grave danger to China’s core interests and hurt bilateral ties seriously, which will inevitably affect bilateral cooperation on some major regional and international issues,” Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said during a Feb. 2 press briefing in Beijing. China announced that it is suspending its military ties with the United States and that U.S. companies involved in the sale will face sanctions. “In disregard of the strong opposition of China, relevant U.S. companies insisted on selling arms to Taiwan. China will impose sanctions on those companies,” Ma said.

Alan Romberg, a former staff member on China issues at the National Security Council and now a distinguished fellow at the HenryL.StimsonCenter in Washington, wrote on the group’s Web site that Beijing may be miscalculating its leverage. “No one should sell short the importance of ‘the Taiwan issue’ to [China]. It is fundamental. But understanding that does not define the entirety of the issue or limit the legitimacy of the national interests of other players in maintaining peace and stability in the region.”

Notably absent from the sale are F-16C/D fighter jets and diesel-fueled submarines Taipei has been seeking for years. Taiwan’s state-sponsored Central News Agency quoted Premier Wu Den-Yih as saying, “Buying weapons at a reasonable price for the country’s self-defense is the government’s basic guideline. The purchase of F-16C/D jets and submarines is still under discussion, and Washington is evaluating the sale, but negotiations on the submarines will be difficult because of their very high price.” The administration said that it is still reviewing whether the sale of the F-16s is necessary for Taiwan’s defense. Taiwan currently operates a force of earlier-model F-16 A/B fighter aircraft.

A Jan. 21 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of Taiwan’s air defenses, which the Washington Times posted on its Web site, says China has recently “increased the quantity and sophistication of its ballistic and cruise missiles and fighter aircraft opposite Taiwan, which has diminished Taiwan’s ability to deny [Chinese] efforts to attain air superiority in a conflict.” The report outlines shortcomings in Taiwan’s air force and its missile defense capabilities.

Responding to the report, Huang Xueping, spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense said at a Feb. 25 press briefing, “We are highly concerned about the report because the Taiwan issue is a matter of great significance to China’s core interests.” Xinhua, China’s state news agency, suggested this report might be used to justify the sale of the F-16s Taiwan has been requesting.

The controversy may make international cooperation on a global arms trade treaty more difficult. Argentine ambassador Roberto García Moritán, chair of a UN process to develop such a treaty, said during a Feb. 11 meeting in Vienna that “suddenly the political climate certainly has changed.” He added that the proposed sales “will have certain effects in July” when the United Nations resumes work on the treaty. Last year, countries agreed to a series of meetings leading up to a UN conference on the treaty in 2012. Although China has participated in previous expert and working groups related to the treaty process, it has abstained on past votes moving it forward. (See ACT, November 2009.)

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said China and the United States can continue to cooperate on proliferation challenges in spite of the controversy over the deal. “We envision this relationship as one where we can work together on issues of mutual concern. We’ve worked together on issues of proliferation, particularly around North Korea,” he said during a Feb. 4 press briefing. “I think that the Chinese will continue to work with us on the important next steps that we have to take relating to Iran because it’s not just in our interest or in others’ interest, it’s quite clearly in their interest as well.”

 

 

China Says N. Korea Wants Better Relations

North Korea wants to return to multilateral denuclearization talks and improve relations with Japan, South Korea, and the United States, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said during an Oct. 10 press conference in Beijing.

Peter Crail

North Korea wants to return to multilateral denuclearization talks and improve relations with Japan, South Korea, and the United States, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said during an Oct. 10 press conference in Beijing.

Wen met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il Oct. 5 to discuss ways to bring Pyongyang back to multilateral talks on North Korea’s denuclearization. During the Oct. 10 briefing, he expressed concern that the chance for restarting those talks, which included Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States as well as China and North Korea, may not last.

“If we miss this opportunity, then we may have to make even more efforts further down the road,” Wen said.

According to an Oct. 5 report by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim told Wen during their meeting that his country was ready to hold multilateral talks “depending on the outcome” of bilateral discussions with the United States.

“The hostile relations between [North Korea] and the United States should be converted into peaceful ties through the bilateral talks without fail,” KCNA reported Kim as saying.

Washington has indicated that it is willing to hold bilateral discussions with North Korea but only for the purpose of bringing that country back to the six-party talks. (See ACT, October 2009.) Pyongyang withdrew from those talks, which had been held intermittently since 2003, in April. (See ACT, May 2009.)

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said during an Oct. 11 press briefing that the United States was “pleased” that Pyongyang reaffirmed its commitment to the talks. He noted, however, that North Korea did so “with some caveats that we’re going to have to explore in greater detail,” an apparent reference to Kim’s linkage between a return to the six-party talks and the outcome of discussions with Washington.

Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly said during an Oct. 20 briefing that there has been a standing invitation from North Korea for U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth to travel to Pyongyang for talks, but that Washington has not decided whether it would accept.

North Korea’s willingness to return to the talks does not appear to be the only U.S. condition for holding discussions with Pyongyang.

Campbell told reporters Oct. 14 that the United States and its allies in the region insist that Pyongyang honor the denuclearization pledges that it has made in the past. “So we’re going to need to see North Korea accepting those provisions for us to move forward in the course of the next several months,” he said.

North Korea has not indicated that it is willing to make such a recommitment. Although KCNA quoted Kim as telling Wen that Pyongyang’s “efforts to attain the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula remain unchanged,” North Korea has also signaled that it would expand its preconditions for denuclearization. Recent statements by North Korean officials and the country’s state media have tied Pyongyang’s denuclearization to broader global nuclear disarmament efforts.

In an English-language statement issued by the Foreign Ministry Sept. 30, North Korea said that its denuclearization “is unthinkable even in a dream as long as there exists the sources that compelled it to have access to nukes,” reiterating Pyongyang’s claim that it developed nuclear weapons in response to “the U.S. nuclear threat.”

The statement was delivered in response to the UN Security Council’s Sept. 24 adoption of a U.S.-sponsored resolution outlining steps that the international community should take to work toward a “world without nuclear weapons.” (See ACT, October 2009.) North Korea rejected that resolution in its Sept. 30 statement, calling it “a double-standards document” which “failed to fully reflect” an international consensus.

At the same time, the statement reiterated that the founder of the North Korean state, Kim Il Sung, called for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, claiming that Pyongyang would pursue that goal in the context of global nuclear disarmament.

North Korea reiterated this broader condition for its denuclearization in an Oct. 14 commentary by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper. “In order to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free, it is necessary to make a comprehensive and total elimination of all the nuclear weapons on earth,” said the editorial, which also highlighted the need for the United States to take steps toward nuclear disarmament first.

The North Korean statements go beyond Pyongyang’s previous denuclearization commitment. In a 2005 joint statement by the countries involved in the six-party talks, North Korea pledged denuclearization in return for an affirmation that there are no nuclear weapons in South Korea, assurances against attack by the United States, and pledges by Washington and Tokyo to work toward normalizing relations with Pyongyang.

Although the United States has not made plans for formal bilateral discussions with North Korea, the two countries recently held informal talks in New York. State Department Spokesman Noel Clay said in an Oct. 24 statement that Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks, met that same day with Ri Gun, director-general of the North American affairs bureau of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, “to convey our position on denuclearization and the six party talks.” Ri visited the United States at the end of October to attend conferences hosted by nongovernmental organizations.

China, Russia Agree on Launch Notification

China and Russia signed an agreement Oct. 13 to notify each other of impending ballistic missile launches. The agreement was part of a large package of economic and political deals signed during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao. Putin called the agreement “a very important step towards enhancing mutual trust and strengthening our strategic partnership,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Luke Champlin

China and Russia signed an agreement Oct. 13 to notify each other of impending ballistic missile launches. The agreement was part of a large package of economic and political deals signed during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao. Putin called the agreement “a very important step towards enhancing mutual trust and strengthening our strategic partnership,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

This agreement would be the first of its kind between China and Russia. Li Daguang of China’s National Defense University said the agreement “shows the special relationship between the two countries...as the launches of ballistic missiles are core state secrets rarely disclosed with other countries,” according to the Chinese newspaper Global Times.

In an Oct. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Pavel Podvig of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation praised the agreement for enhancing transparency between the two countries. Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, also welcomed the increased transparency. The pact “probably reflects a wish in both [countries] to avoid misunderstandings,” he said in an Oct. 27 e-mail.

The new pact is especially significant because China has traditionally avoided agreements, such as the Hague Code of Conduct, that affect its ballistic missile capabilities.

Prior to the agreement with Russia, China had not engaged in bilateral arms control measures with Russia or the United States. The official Chinese media took pains to distinguish the Chinese-Russian notification accord from “offensive agreements” in place between Russia and the United States, as the notification agreement does not limit the nuclear arsenal of either side.

The specific provisions of the new agreement have not been released. The agreement was signed by Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Kolmakov and Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

The new agreement builds on a precedent established by the first launch-notification regime concluded between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1971 at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). That accord, known as the Accidents Measures Agreement, required each side to notify the other in advance of missile launches that resulted in missiles traveling beyond the country’s borders. These measures were expanded by the 1988 Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement, which relied on Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers established in 1987 to exchange information in advance of all launches of ICBMs or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

START further codified and expanded this regime by requiring the sides to provide telemetry data from every ICBM or SLBM launch. This notification system has served as a confidence-building measure intended to prevent an accidental nuclear exchange. The agreement between China and Russia apparently is intended to serve a similar function, as China continues to improve the range and capability of its ICBM force.

 

Ending North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions: The Need for Stronger Chinese Action

North Korea has recently taken a series of provocative steps to challenge the international community. These steps include test-launching a long-range rocket, walking away from the six-party talks and all disarmament agreements, kicking out international inspectors from its nuclear facilities, conducting an underground nuclear test May 25-a more powerful blast than the one conducted in 2006-testing a half-dozen short-range missiles, and announcing it had resumed plutonium production and started a program to enrich uranium. Pyongyang reportedly also is preparing a long-range missile test and a third nuclear test. If unchecked, North Korea will surely increase the quantity and quality of its arsenal. Even worse, once Pyongyang has more than enough weapons for its deterrent, it might be tempted to sell the surplus. The longer the crisis lasts, the more nuclear capable North Korea will become and the more difficult it will be to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. (Continue)

Hui Zhang

North Korea has recently taken a series of provocative steps to challenge the international community. These steps include test-launching a long-range rocket, walking away from the six-party talks and all disarmament agreements, kicking out international inspectors from its nuclear facilities, conducting an underground nuclear test May 25-a more powerful blast than the one conducted in 2006-testing a half-dozen short-range missiles, and announcing it had resumed plutonium production and started a program to enrich uranium. Pyongyang reportedly also is preparing a long-range missile test and a third nuclear test. If unchecked, North Korea will surely increase the quantity and quality of its arsenal. Even worse, once Pyongyang has more than enough weapons for its deterrent, it might be tempted to sell the surplus. The longer the crisis lasts, the more nuclear capable North Korea will become and the more difficult it will be to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

China, North Korea's most important ally and trade partner, has joined the rest of the international community in responding to the North Korean actions. Beijing has indicated, however, that it wants a balanced approach and does not want to push Pyongyang much harder. Nevertheless, China can and should do more to press its neighbor. North Korea's recent series of actions threatens China's national interests as well as those of the United States and countries in Northeast Asia.

It is important to have realistic expectations for changes in China's approach. Beijing can be expected to support modest UN sanctions against North Korea, as it did in response to the first nuclear test, but it probably will respond less strongly than the United States, Japan, and South Korea would hope. Beijing probably will maintain that any harsh measures should be directed toward facilitating talks over denuclearization but should not destabilize the North Korean regime.

On the other hand, Beijing must recognize that its modest approach, as the past several years have demonstrated, has not successfully constrained Pyongyang's nuclear development. Pyongyang proceeded with its two nuclear tests and has again boycotted the six-party talks. The May test has exacerbated the tense situation on the Korean peninsula and has destroyed regional stability. These results do not serve Beijing's major interest: a nuclear-free and stable Korean peninsula. If Beijing continues to allow Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions to go unchecked, Pyongyang will put Beijing in an embarrassing position, open it to more international pressure, and ultimately pose great risks to China's national interests.

China's Interests

Hours after North Korea's most recent nuclear test, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement strongly denouncing it:

On 25 May 2009, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] conducted another nuclear test in disregard for the common opposition of the international community. The Chinese Government is firmly opposed to this act.... To bring about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, oppose nuclear proliferation and safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia is the firm and consistent stand of the Chinese Government. China strongly urges the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization, stop relevant moves that may further worsen the situation and return to the Six-Party Talks.[1]

Beijing issued a similar statement in response to Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006, condemning the blast as brazen. China's response this time was even stronger. According to media reports, Beijing was informed by Pyongyang less than half an hour in advance of the explosion and was greatly angered and offended by the test because it blatantly disregarded China's calls for denuclearization. Even cautious high-level Chinese officials, including Vice President Xi Jinping and Minister of National Defense Liang Guanglie, have made harsh statements in opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear test. Moreover, Beijing has reportedly canceled some previously scheduled high-level visits to Pyongyang.

China's strategic plan through 2020 is focused on economic development and "building a well-off society in an all-round way,"[2] which requires a stable international environment, particularly among neighboring countries. A nuclear North Korea would stimulate a regional nuclear arms race and undermine regional stability. North Korea's nuclear and missile development provides a pretext for Japan to accelerate deployment of a joint U.S.-Japanese missile defense shield, which could mitigate China's nuclear deterrent. Moreover, a worsening crisis would generate a massive flow of North Korean refugees headed for China.

To bolster its image as a responsible stakeholder in the international community, China should show its willingness to contribute to international nonproliferation efforts. Accepting a nuclear North Korea would set a bad precedent both for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime-from which North Korea has withdrawn-and other countries with nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has long been a thorn in China's side. Pyongyang played a game of brinkmanship between Beijing and Moscow for several decades during the Cold War. Further nuclear and missile development would add a dangerous new element, allowing North Korea's strategic nuclear-strike capability to cover all of China. Thus, China, in the long term if not the near term, faces huge risks from a nuclear North Korea.

Beijing's Leverage

Among the interested players in the North Korean nuclear issue, China has the most significant economic and political leverage over the North Korean regime. China has been a close ally of North Korea over the past 50 years, with a friendship cemented in blood during the Korean War. Also, China is North Korea's largest trading partner, reportedly supplying North Korea with up to 90 percent of its oil imports and about 45 percent of its subsistence-level food supplies. Moreover, cross-border trade in 2008 was reportedly about $2.7 billion, an increase of about 40 percent from 2007.[3]

Since April 2003, China has hosted one trilateral negotiation and six rounds of the six-party talks. During these negotiations, China has acted not only as a host, but also as a mediator and constructive participant. China's major role in negotiations, as former Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the head of the Chinese delegation to the first three rounds of the six-party talks, emphasized, "is contributing to peace and talks" (quan he cu tan).[4] China, according to official statements, hopes the parties to the talks will take actions to build trust, reduce suspicions, enhance consensus, and promote cooperation in order to create a win-win situation.[5]

In particular, China's role became even more proactive in the fourth round of the talks, leading to the breakthrough agreement on a joint statement of principles. During the fourth round, China not only tabled five drafts of the joint statement but also took a "reject/accept" approach to push the United States to accept the joint statement. Beijing also reportedly has lured Pyongyang to each round of the six-party talks with tens of millions of dollars in incentives. U.S. officials have praised China's active role in the talks, saying it has helped U.S.-Chinese relations.

Although Beijing is shifting from its traditional low-profile role in the affairs of the Korean peninsula toward a more active and constructive role in defusing the nuclear crisis, Beijing's leverage on Pyongyang is constrained by two main factors. First, Beijing believes the nuclear crisis is mainly the business of Washington and Pyongyang and, as such, is dependent on the political will of those two players. Second, to maintain regional stability, Beijing's bottom line is that war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim Jong Il regime must be avoided at all costs. Beijing has called on "all parties concerned to respond in a cool-headed and appropriate manner and persist in seeking a peaceful solution through consultation and dialogue."[6]

Yet, Beijing's relatively passive, noninterventionist diplomacy has not helped with its top priority: regional stability, to which the continuing North Korean nuclear crisis poses a huge threat.

More Pressure Needed

Because Beijing has the most leverage on Pyongyang, Beijing is facing great pressure from the international community, particularly Washington and Tokyo. Some Western officials and scholars complain that Beijing's cautious approach to Pyongyang has not constrained North Korea's nuclear development. North Korea has proceeded with its nuclear tests and, since April 14, has boycotted the six-party talks hosted by Beijing since 2003. These actions have called into question Chinese leadership in the region.

Beijing is also facing great pressure on the domestic front. The nuclear test has prompted a strong reaction from the Chinese public. More and more Chinese citizens are angered by North Korea's repeated escalation of the crisis and its imperviousness to Beijing's demands for denuclearization. They believe that North Korea is doing great damage to the peace of Northeast Asia, and many worry that Beijing could be dragged into another Korean war by Pyongyang's rash actions.

According to some recent surveys in China, more than two-thirds of respondents believe Beijing should take stronger actions to constrain Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, including cutting economic aid and applying UN sanctions. They consider North Korea a liability that, if unchecked, will create trouble for China's economic and security interests. Many Chinese believe that the concepts of North Korea as a buffer zone and the "lips to China's teeth" are no longer relevant or salient. Beyond concerns about a nuclear North Korea's impact on the stability of China's security environment, they also worry that a nuclear North Korea would pose a huge environmental threat to China's northeastern provinces. Much of the Chinese public fears that an accident from a nuclear test or weapon would cause heavy radioactive contamination in that region.

Recently, the Chinese media have begun to criticize Pyongyang openly for its nuclear program. For instance, Global Times, published by the government-run People's Daily newspaper, ran a June 3 editorial entitled "North Korea Should Not Offend the Chinese People." The editorial said, "The Chinese people's impression of North Korea is at the lowest level in history.... North Korea should understand that offending the Chinese people is shaking and destroying the foundation of the bilateral relationship. The changing attitude of the Chinese people toward North Korea will surely affect the government's policy toward North Korea."[7]

A majority of the public and many experts in China have called on Beijing to adjust its policy on North Korea. Although it may be difficult for Beijing to disregard this appeal, it can be expected that Beijing's position toward Pyongyang will not change significantly in the near future. If Beijing were to make any changes, it would take cautious and gradual steps. Beijing may wish to retain close ties to Pyongyang in order to gain more leverage over it. Also, although Beijing would be willing to strengthen its relationship with other parties in negotiations over the nuclear issue, it is not willing to take sides between Pyongyang and Washington.

China supports new, tightened UN sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test, but it has had to figure out its own appropriate response to Pyongyang. Whether it acts through the United Nations or on its own, Beijing has to strike a balance between being tough enough to teach Pyongyang a lesson and not pushing Pyongyang toward an extreme reaction or even regime collapse. At the same time, Beijing must also meet the demands of Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul in pushing toward a denuclearized and stable peninsula. This overall effort would be a big challenge to China's diplomatic acuity and wisdom.

South Korea and Japan have affirmed that they would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. Thus, a similar affirmation by China would push North Korea to think twice before continuing its nuclear program. China should deliver a clear message to Pyongyang: nuclear weapons are not in North Korea's long-term national security interest. Nuclear weapons will generate increasing international pressure and economic sanctions that will further devastate the already poor North Korean economy.

Beijing's control of energy aid to Pyongyang could be crucial in pushing Pyongyang to denuclearize. Recent history suggests that such an approach could be effective. China reportedly shut off an oil pipeline to North Korea for three days in March 2003 due to "technical difficulties." China's move was widely interpreted as an exercise of its economic leverage to pressure Pyongyang to attend a trilateral meeting held in Beijing in April 2003.

As it pushes Pyongyang, Beijing should maintain its bottom line, which is to avoid war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim regime. One concern is that a U.S. military strike on North Korea could spark a full-scale war that would inevitably harm China's economic development. A U.S. strike could also force Beijing into an embarrassing position because the 1961 Sino-Korean Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance obliges China to provide military aid to North Korea in the event of war. Furthermore, the fall of the Kim government could lead to sudden Korean unification and an uncertain geopolitical realignment, including the prospect of U.S. troops at China's border.

Beijing should be able to adjust its pressure on Pyongyang with a wide range of approaches, broadening its current "pure carrot" approach to include curbs on oil supplies and other exports. It is in Beijing's interests, however, to ensure that the pressure it applies on North Korea is just a means toward denuclearization and not regime change or collapse.

U.S.-Chinese Coordination

Given that Washington holds what Pyongyang covets most-diplomatic normalization and security guarantees-Beijing should privately persuade Washington to engage in bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang under the auspices of the six-party talks and put on the bargaining table a reasonable offer in exchange for Pyongyang's denuclearization. Such an offer should include robust security guarantees, normalization of relations, and economic aid. Any resolution of the nuclear impasse has to address the reasonable security concerns of North Korea. Pyongyang has often said that its nuclear ambitions are driven solely by the U.S. military threat. Thus, Pyongyang would most likely give up its nuclear program if it could get reliable security assurances in addition to economic and political benefits. Without Washington's cooperation, Pyongyang will undoubtedly continue to escalate the crisis, and Beijing's influence on Pyongyang could be expected to produce only limited success. Eventually, regardless of Pyongyang's intentions, if Beijing and Washington cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, Washington must make a serious offer to the North Koreans. Then, Beijing can press Pyongyang to accept such an offer by maximizing its leverage. This would be the most feasible way toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

It should be not difficult for Washington to satisfy Pyongyang's needs. Washington should recognize the importance of regime survival and the need for economic reform in North Korea. Given the long history of mutual mistrust, Washington may not be sure about Pyongyang's real strategic intentions, but the United States should take a chance by starting serious talks with North Korea. Washington's offer should include normalization and economic aid, including energy, following a principle of quid pro quo.

In practice, what North Korea could potentially offer in a negotiation are pledges that, once implemented, are difficult to reverse because they involve physical hardware or infrastructure. Such steps include dismantling known facilities for plutonium production and other processes relevant to a nuclear weapons program, surrendering all plutonium produced in the past, and ending its uranium-enrichment and long-range missile programs. Offers the United States could make, including normalization and pledges of nonaggression and nonintervention, would be easier to reverse if North Korea did not follow its commitment to nuclear disarmament. Thus, any breakthroughs in the negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program would likely have to start with Washington taking the first step.

It is possible that, as Pyongyang has recently said, it will not accept any deal that requires it to give up its nuclear program. If so, Beijing's control of aid to Pyongyang could be crucial in pushing Pyongyang to make its final decision on denuclearization. Because North Korea has very limited energy resources, long-term sustainable economic advancement depends on Pyongyang opening its doors to the international community, especially to foreign investment, trade, and aid from China, South Korea, and Japan. South Korea and Japan have affirmed that they would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. Thus, an affirmation that Beijing would give no support to a nuclear North Korea would force Pyongyang to think seriously about its nuclear ambitions.

Finally, Beijing may show a greater willingness to press Pyongyang if Washington also addresses China's concerns, including U.S. missile defense and space weapons programs,[8] U.S.-Japanese missile defense cooperation, U.S. missile defense sales to Taiwan, and the deployment of U.S. military forces in the Korean peninsula if the North Korean regime collapses. Ultimately, if Washington can clearly demonstrate to Beijing that its long-term strategic intentions in the region would not constrain China, it could receive greater support from Beijing in negotiating with Pyongyang. Some in China are concerned that once the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved, Washington will focus its efforts on containing China. In addition, some suspect that Washington really has no desire for North Korean denuclearization and merely cares about the issue of nuclear transfer from North Korea. They think a nuclear North Korea could provide a pretext for Washington to strengthen its military ties with allies in the region, thereby constraining China.

A Denuclearization Road Map

Given the long history of mistrust and animosity between Washington and Pyongyang, North Korean denuclearization will not be achieved in one step. A road map is needed that links North Korean denuclearization with the gradual delivery of concrete benefits, including security assurances, diplomatic normalization, economic reform, and Northeast Asian security cooperation. In practice, the joint statement of September 19, 2005, already provided the foundation for a "verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,"[9] in which North Korea committed to denuclearization in return for a set of security and economic benefits. The six parties agreed to take coordinated steps to implement the statement in a phased manner, "commitment for commitment, action for action."[10] The United States and North Korea have had very different timelines, however, and the sequencing of actions for the denuclearization process has not been well coordinated. North Korea and the United States are wary of giving the other side something valuable at an early stage in the process.

To address that obstacle, China should act as a mediator and play a more proactive and constructive role by offering its own road map for North Korean denuclearization. That detailed road map should include a timetable and delineate the reciprocal actions each side should carry out at certain stages. For each stage, the road map should clearly establish what North Korea should pledge to do, what inspection and verification provisions should be taken, and what benefits North Korea would receive regarding security assurances and economic aid. To promote North Korean denuclearization, China could play a number of active roles. For example, China, alone or together with Russia, could provide North Korea with some kind of security guarantee to reduce its security concerns. China could also help settle some of the disputes between Pyongyang and Washington during the verification stages. In addition, China could monitor and press both parties to implement faithfully their pledges at each stage.

The following is a road map describing three stages toward North Korean denuclearization: the first stage would focus on refreezing and disabling plutonium production; the second stage would involve dismantlement and decommissioning of all plutonium programs; and the third stage would entail the dismantlement of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program. Each stage should be completed with adequate transparency and verification measures. At the outset, the six parties would agree to a joint statement of specific commitments under the road map. For example, North Korea would commit to abandon all of its nuclear programs (plutonium and HEU programs) and return to the NPT and to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. North Korea would also pledge not to transfer any nuclear weapons, fissile material, or knowledge during the implementation of the three stages. The United States and others would pledge to respect Pyongyang's sovereignty, normalize their diplomatic relations with North Korea, negotiate a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula, and pursue a mechanism for Northeast Asian security cooperation. The United States and other countries should also commit to provide North Korea with economic cooperation and energy assistance, adding specific pledges to the general principles articulated in the 2005 joint statement.

First Stage: As a first step to revive the six-party talks quickly, the United States should commit to having direct bilateral talks with North Korea for diplomatic normalization at an early stage under the six-party talks. Meanwhile, China should press North Korea to return to the six-party talks. All parties should reaffirm their commitment to the 2005 joint statement and the 2007 agreement on disablement. While North Korea is disabling its plutonium-production facilities and freezing its HEU program, the United States and other parties should take reciprocal actions, including security assurances and energy aid. The United States should affirm its commitment of security assurances to North Korea by respecting Pyongyang's sovereignty, not seeking a regime change, and formally stating it had no intention to attack or invade. North Korea, South Korea, and the United States should negotiate a trilateral peace treaty. The need for such a treaty is now particularly urgent because North Korea has withdrawn from the 1953 armistice treaty that ended the Korean War.

At that point in the road map, the United States would begin to take steps to lift economic sanctions, establish a liaison office, and assure economic cooperation between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and Japan. All relevant parties would resume energy aid to North Korea at the earliest possible time. To jump-start a new round of the six-party talks, Washington would send a prominent figure-a former president or other high-level official-to visit Pyongyang to help break the ice.

Second Stage: The second stage would include two phases to dismantle North Korea's plutonium program. In the first phase, North Korea would dismantle all of its plutonium-production facilities as a step toward a long-term decommissioning program. To reciprocate Pyongyang's cooperation in this phase, the United States and others would provide further security and economic benefits, including the replacement of U.S. liaison offices with an embassy and the establishment of full diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, Japan would normalize its relations with North Korea after resolving the remaining abductee issues.[11] Finally, in order to get to full normalization with Washington, Pyongyang would agree to a treaty ending its development of long-range missiles and halting all exports of missiles and missile technology.

After Pyongyang and Washington established normalized relations, Pyongyang would move quickly to the second phase: dismantling its plutonium weapons and all facilities associated with the weaponization program, as well as surrendering all of its plutonium.

It should be noted that the key to denuclearizing North Korea is the timing of normalization. Although Washington made an offer of normalization in the 2005 joint statement, it made the offer subject to the two countries' "respective bilateral policies." According to Washington, there will be a long road to normalizing relations with Pyongyang. That road will include not only denuclearization, but also discussions on human rights, biological and chemical weapons, ballistic missile programs, conventional weapons proliferation, and terrorism and other illicit activities. Pyongyang, however, wants normalization at a much earlier stage, before dismantling its nuclear program.

North Korea will not dismantle its nuclear program before receiving tangible security assurances, in particular, normalized relations with Washington. The only leverage that Kim Jong Il possesses is his threat to go nuclear. Therefore, Pyongyang fears that once it dismantles its nuclear weapons, there will be no deterrent against a U.S. military strike. Washington, however, as the world's pre-eminent military superpower, would have considerable strategic flexibility. If the United States provided North Korea with security assurances in return for denuclearization and North Korea then reneged on its commitment, the United States would not have lost much. Such a scenario could be frustrating and embarrassing for the United States, but that country's security would not be at risk. In contrast, if North Korea gave up its nuclear program and the United States later reneged on its security assurances, perhaps even by supporting or participating in an invasion, North Korea's very existence could be seen as being put at risk.

Third Stage: In the last stage, North Korea would complete dismantlement of its HEU program. The level of verification required for the HEU program depends on the status of the program, such as whether or not it has produced HEU. Its status could be somewhere between the research and development level and pursuit of the capability to construct a pilot experimental facility. If Pyongyang is only at the beginning of a uranium-enrichment program, as it indicated June 13, North Korea could be years away from producing enough HEU for one bomb.

Beyond denuclearization, North Korea would also sign and implement the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. Furthermore, the United States, China, and other relevant parties would negotiate a permanent peace regime in Northeast Asia. Such an agreement would play a major role in liberating the Korean peninsula from its Cold War quagmire and going to the root of the North Korean nuclear issue.

Pyongyang would need to cut its conventional forces gradually to achieve parity with South Korean and U.S. forces. That step would facilitate North Korean economic reform by significantly reducing the economic burden on the country of maintaining such a large military. Particularly valuable encouragement for North Korean force reductions would come from the removal of U.S. troops from the South. Furthermore, all other interested and involved parties would help the two Koreas pursue gradual integration toward unification. During this third stage, other countries would continue to aid North Korea's economic reform, help North Korea improve human rights, and provide funds and technologies for the modernization of its economic infrastructure.

Conclusion

A nuclear North Korea would put China's national interests at great risk. Beijing can increase pressure on Pyongyang, using positive inducements and punitive measures. The chances are low, however, that Beijing will radically adjust its North Korea policy, at least for the near future. Beijing will continue to maintain its bottom-line approach, avoiding war on the Korean peninsula and an abrupt collapse of the Kim regime. From China's perspective, these scenarios must be avoided at all costs because they are contrary to China's primary interest in a stable environment.

Given that Washington holds what Pyongyang desires most (security guarantees), Beijing should persuade Washington to engage in bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang. China should push the United States to put reasonable offers on the bargaining table, including robust security guarantees, normalization of relations, and economic aid. At that point, China could maximize its leverage and press North Korea to accept the terms offered. This strategy may be the only way to roll back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

This strategy may not work. Pyongyang may decide not to give up its nuclear program for any sort of deal. Yet, if all of North Korea's neighbors, including China and the United States, make it clear that they will never tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea and that international isolation therefore will inexorably continue, Pyongyang may decide to give up its nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang will not yield to a purely "stick" approach, however, and eventually a desperate and nuclear North Korea may take actions that are in no one's interests.

To achieve a stable and denuclearized Korean peninsula, all parties concerned must come back to the negotiating table. In particular, Beijing must press Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible. Given that Washington and Pyongyang deeply mistrust each other and neither side wants to go first, China, as a mediator, should play a more proactive and constructive role by offering its own road map for North Korean denuclearization. The six-party talks espoused a general principle of "commitment for commitment, action for action" as a means to denuclearization, but there were no specific timelines or sequencing of actions in the denuclearization process.

The three-stage road map detailed above should fill this gap and satisfy the principal goals of all the parties involved. Pressing for a road map is a step that holds few risks for China and could contribute greatly to resolving the long-standing international stalemate with North Korea. That success, in turn, would help China achieve its chief priority: a stable and a denuclearized Korean peninsula.


Hui Zhang is leading a research initiative on China's nuclear policies for Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a physicist and a specialist in nuclear arms control and Chinese nuclear policy issues.


ENDNOTES

1. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Statement of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs," May 25, 2009, www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/1179/t564332.htm (in Chinese). The other participants in the six-party talks are Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

2. "Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at 16th Party Congress," November 17, 2002, www.china.org.cn/english/features/49007.htm.

3. See, for example, AFP, "China, NKorea Trade Boom Despite Rocket Tensions," channelnewsasia.com, April 6, 2009, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific_business/view/420413/1/.html.

4. Wang Yi, statement at a press conference on the first round of the six-party talks in Beijing, August 29, 2003 (in Chinese).

5. See, for example, the declaration by Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who served as chairman of the fourth round of the talks and head of the Chinese delegation, on the adoption of the joint statement at the fourth round six-party talks, held in Beijing on September 19, 2005.

6. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Statement of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

7. "North Korea Should Not Offend the Chinese People," Global Times, June 3, 2008. See http://blog.huanqiu.com/?uid-94539-action-viewspace-itemid-204519 (in Chinese).

8. Hui Zhang, "Action/Reaction: U.S. Space Weaponization and China," Arms Control Today, December 2005, pp. 7-9.

9. U.S Department of State, "Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks," September 19, 2005, http://merln.ndu.edu/archivepdf/northkorea/state/53490.pdf.

10. Ibid.

11. Just before the second nuclear crisis in October 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002 in an effort to speed up Japanese-North Korean diplomatic normalization. Kim Jong Il made a surprise admission during this trip that North Korea had abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the abductee issue has been a key obstacle to normalized relations between the two countries.

 

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