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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

China’s Potential to Contribute to Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament

Li Bin

During the Cold War, China stayed away from most multilateral nuclear institutions and forums while exercising self-restraint with regard to its nuclear force. After it launched its reform and openness policy in 1978, China began to join existing international regimes on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security and to develop new regimes with other countries when its economy was integrated into the world system.

Now, China is fully involved in almost all international institutions on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security. On nuclear disarmament, its declared policy is still that “[t]he two countries possessing the largest nuclear arsenals [i.e., Russia and the United States] bear special and primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament,”[1] although China in fact has been engaged with other nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament issues.[2] It is time for China to take the next step and work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a formal negotiating forum in which they can discuss concrete steps toward disarmament.

China is reluctant to get formally involved in multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament among the five nuclear-weapon states,[3] but this does not suggest that Beijing wants to build a big nuclear arsenal. It has resources and technology to build up quickly if it chose to do so.

China chooses to keep a small, off-alert nuclear force because it believes that this best serves its security interests. The reluctance to get involved in multilateral nuclear disarmament comes mainly from its inexperience in disarmament diplomacy rather than deliberate calculation. China has a unique nuclear philosophy, and the benefits of the philosophy are not yet recognized and appreciated in a discourse in which the West has been dominant. China fully understands the roles of the nuclear taboo against the use of nuclear weapons and does not consider nuclear weapons to have a military use. (The next section will discuss China’s nuclear philosophy in more detail.) The differing nuclear philosophies obstruct communication between Chinese security experts and their counterparts in other nuclear-weapon states.

An additional difficulty is that the United States is developing missile defense systems that may undermineChina’s nuclear retaliatory capability. It is difficult for China to figure out how many nuclear weapons it may need when it faces growing missile defense capabilities in the world. An easy response for China is to leave the option of buildup open if there is not a serious dialogue between China and the United States on missile defense.

The difficulties may be converted into opportunities for China and other countries. If the five nuclear-weapon states successfully create a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, they will have a much better chance to understand each other’s nuclear philosophies. Otherwise it would be very difficult to change the current situation, in which the basic assumptions about the roles of nuclear weapons are very different in each country. Through serious exchanges at a multilateral forum, China’s self-imposed constraints on its nuclear policy may be recognized better by other nuclear-weapon states and therefore spur those states to adopt similar or reciprocal constraints. Some people in other nuclear-weapon states may use China’s absence from the list of countries carrying out strategic nuclear reductions to argue that their own states should not cut their nuclear arsenals further on the grounds that their nuclear dominance would be challenged by China. A disarmament forum among the five nuclear-weapon states could give China a good channel to clarify such concerns. At the forum, China could also address its own concern over missile defense and other issues as Russia does in its strategic reduction negotiations with the United States.

It is time for all five nuclear-weapon states to consider building such a formal forum to discuss further nuclear reductions. China could contribute to the success of the forum by offering both philosophical wisdom on reducing the roles of nuclear weapons and concrete commitments on the small number and low readiness of its nuclear weapons.

The Roles of Nuclear Weapons

The central role of China’s nuclear weapons is countering nuclear coercion, while in other nuclear-weapon states the weapons’ main role is nuclear deterrence. (Nuclear coercion is the sending of threatening nuclear signals to other countries to force them to yield.) Ever since China began to develop its nuclear weapons capability in the mid-1950s, Chinese leaders have acknowledged the roles of the nuclear taboo against nuclear weapons use.China’s no-first-use policy is based on an understanding that first use of nuclear weapons is not a choice in the real world. Nuclear coercion is a much more realistic threat than nuclear attack. In other nuclear-weapon states, nuclear attacks are regarded as primary nuclear threats and the states’ nuclear weapons are claimed to deter nuclear attacks and some other threats. To deter a nuclear attack successfully, a country must create intolerable damage in the attacker in a retaliatory nuclear strike. A certain number of nuclear weapons may be needed to absorb a pre-emptive nuclear strike and therefore ensure that at least a minimum number of retaliatory nuclear weapons can survive the strike. Nuclear weapons ready for launch have a higher chance to be used in retaliation, so high nuclear readiness is considered to be useful for nuclear deterrence although it brings a high risk of a nuclear accident.

To counter nuclear coercion, a country may need to demonstrate that it has a retaliatory nuclear capability, but its nuclear force does not have to be large or constantly on alert. China’s self-imposed constraints in its nuclear weapons policy are rooted in this unique nuclear philosophy that nuclear attack is not a choice of a national government in the real world due to the roles of the nuclear taboo.[4] If it joins a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, China can make its own contributions to deeper nuclear reductions by promoting the philosophy of nuclear taboo.

There are some new difficulties in conducting nuclear reductions beyond the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The United States believes that tactical nuclear reductions should be considered in the future because Russia has a much larger tactical nuclear arsenal while Russia wants future nuclear reductions to include nuclear warheads in storage because they allow the United States to double the size of its operational strategic nuclear force in a short time. The technical concerns of the two countries are fundamentally different. This contrasts with past U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions, which have been symmetrical. The asymmetrical concerns in the United States and Russia may be a problem for the two countries as they explore ways to reach a new consensus on nuclear reductions. Some new momentum is needed to promote asymmetrical and reciprocal nuclear reductions: the United States cuts its nuclear warheads in storage while Russia cuts its tactical nuclear arsenal.

The willingness of the United States and Russia to cut their nuclear arsenals depends on how they view the roles of nuclear weapons. Some people in the two countries may want their nuclear weapons to serve many different purposes, for example, to deter non-nuclear attacks, to limit the damage of a nuclear attack, or to symbolize the leadership of their countries. These expectations are obstacles for deeper nuclear cuts in the United States andRussia. If the two countries eventually agree that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attacks, they are likely to be willing to cut their nuclear arsenals significantly. At a multilateral negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, China will have much more influence on the United States and Russia to encourage them to agree that this is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons.

It is an opportune time to include the topic of no-first-use in multilateral discussions among the five nuclear-weapon states, as the United States expressed its willingness in its Nuclear Posture Review to establish conditions under which the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack[5] and the United Kingdom recently made a new “clean” negative security assurance to all non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.[6] If all nuclear-weapon states agree that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack, they will not need more nuclear weapons than those required for minimum nuclear deterrence, usually estimated as several hundred strategic nuclear weapons for each country. The United States is likely to feel much less reluctant to reduce its nuclear arsenal down to the level required for minimum deterrence while Russia probably will feel that maintaining a big tactical nuclear arsenal is unnecessary. When theUnited States and Russia cut their nuclear arsenals, the other three nuclear-weapon states should have no reason to go beyond the minimum deterrence level. At the minimum deterrence level, nuclear-weapon states can have confidence that any nuclear attack against them and their allies would be deterred as their retaliatory strike can inflict minimum but intolerable damage on the attacker.

The notion of a nuclear taboo also can encourage countries to cut their nuclear arsenals further. If countries assumed that the threats of nuclear attack against them were serious, they would have to maintain minimal nuclear arsenals to deter such threats by ensuring destruction in retaliatory strikes. It would be difficult to go below the level of several hundred nuclear warheads. However, if they have some confidence that other countries are unlikely to launch nuclear attacks, they can significantly lower the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. In the real world, it is an extremely difficult decision for governments to launch nuclear attacks on others even if they do not face destructive nuclear retaliation. The nuclear taboo could replace nuclear deterrence in the role of a brake on launching a nuclear attack. Nuclear deterrence may not be as necessary as stated in the declaratory policies of many governments.

Although there are different declaratory policies on the use of nuclear weapons, most security experts involved in various nuclear dialogues among nuclear states acknowledge the roles of the nuclear taboo. There are two common understandings on the nuclear taboo in these dialogues: No matter what the declaratory policies of their governments are, most participants strongly believe that the nuclear taboo is in effect for their governments, and most participants have some confidence that the nuclear taboo also is in effect for other nuclear-weapon states. The difference among these states is that some experts do not want the nuclear strategies of their countries to be based on the assumption that the nuclear taboo will work and some do. At a multilateral forum on nuclear disarmament, China could provoke international discussions on the nuclear taboo and help develop an epistemic community that fully acknowledges the taboo. Such a common understanding will be a key factor in reducing the roles of nuclear weapons and in leading to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Small Numbers and Low Readiness

If the five nuclear-weapon states develop a formal negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament, the first important topic would probably be how the United States and Russia further reduce their nuclear weapons while China,France, and the United Kingdom support the reductions by making their own commitments to refrain from building up. China needs to adopt some concrete provisions binding its nuclear force. Politically and technically, it is not a problem for China to make binding commitments as it has been exercising self-restraint in connection with its nuclear weapons. The difficulty is that China is still inexperienced in translating its self-constraints into reciprocal international arrangements. The exchanges among the five nuclear-weapon states at a formal forum may stimulate Chinese security experts to explore possible reciprocal and technical arrangements on nuclear disarmament.

China could make two major, concrete commitments at a multilateral disarmament forum. These commitments correspond to the two lines in U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions.

The first line is reducing the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed. In their strategic arms control negotiations, the United States and the Soviet Union developed a set of counting rules to calculate how many strategic nuclear weapons each had. The rules have evolved slightly over the past several decades. In New START, the numbers of strategic weapons are regarded as those of “accountable” nuclear warheads, that is, warheads subject to the treaty’s counting rules, on operationally deployed strategic delivery systems. The actual numbers of deployed warheads may be larger than those of accountable nuclear warheads because several warheads contained in a single delivery vehicle may be counted as one to simplify the verification arrangements. More importantly, the United States and Russia could upload nuclear warheads to their strategic delivery systems to expand the sizes of their strategic forces quickly if they choose to do so. This does not suggest that the strategic reductions in the United States and Russia are meaningless. The reductions in the last several decades significantly reduced nuclear tensions between the two countries and the associated risks of accidents by reducing the numbers of nuclear warheads ready to be launched.

According to START counting rules, China has nearly zero nuclear weapons because its strategic delivery systems do not carry nuclear warheads except in very rare cases in which individual warheads are uploaded for technical assessments.[7] Nuclear warheads are kept separately in storage. China can upload these warheads to its delivery systems but chooses not to do so in peacetime. China’s nuclear warheads in storage would not be counted as nuclear weapons if START counting rules applied to China. When the United States and Russia consider further reducing their deployed strategic weapons by continuing along the lines of New START, China could support the reductions by making a commitment to keep its nuclear weapons off alert. Such reciprocal arrangements should be good for all parties. For the United States and Russia, their cuts from 1,550 deployed warheads—the level stipulated under New START—to hundreds would receive a reciprocal limitation of nearly zero deployed warheads for China. For China, it would encourage deep U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions by committing to a constraint that China already is observing.

The United States and Russia may consider another approach to nuclear reductions. They could reduce the total numbers of their nuclear warheads, that is, they could include in their count the warheads in storage as well as the ones that are deployed. In addition to carrying out strategic nuclear reductions under their bilateral agreements, the United States and Russia have been dismantling their nuclear warheads on a voluntary basis. They could bring the voluntary reductions in total numbers into the multilateral disarmament forum. These reductions are very important as they reduce the potential for a quick rebuilding of nuclear arsenals.

China can encourage this kind of reduction by limiting its potential to catch up with the United States and Russia in total numbers. Because China has a very small stockpile of fissile materials for weapons, some limitations on its fissile material stockpile are useful to demonstrate its commitment to refrain from a buildup. China could make progressive commitments at different stages when the United States and Russia cut the total numbers of their nuclear weapons from thousands to hundreds or lower.

China could begin with a promise to give active support to the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). As follow-up steps, China could declare a moratorium on military fissile material production, join an FMCT once it has been concluded, declare the size of its military fissile material stockpile, and eventually join the reductions in total numbers of nuclear weapons. These commitments would be worthwhile for China if they could encourage the United States and Russia to negotiate reductions in the total numbers of their nuclear weapons, a long-standing request by China. The commitments should be feasible for China as it has “delinked” the negotiations on an FMCT from those on arms control in space.

China has some experience in multilateral arms control diplomacy from its active participation in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Its support for the treaty is still useful to show its commitment to limiting its nuclear arsenal. Neither China nor United States has ratified the CTBT. China does not have a problem with the content of the treaty. This is evidenced by the fact that China actively joined all preparatory activities of the CTBT after the treaty was concluded in 1996 while the Bush administration avoided any linkage to some events it did not like, for example, those dealing with on-site inspections.

China’s reluctance to ratify the treaty comes from its inexperience in multilateral arms control. When the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, it made some reservations relating to the arrangements for on-site inspections, but the convention does not allow reservations relating to verification procedures if they are incompatible with the treaty’s object and purpose. China does not know what will happen when the United Statesratifies the CTBT. A safe approach is to wait and ratify the CTBT after the United States does. China should continue its full support of the treaty no matter the status of CTBT ratification in the United States.

If China joins a multilateral nuclear disarmament forum, it would gain more experience and confidence in arms control diplomacy. In turn, this will encourage China to take more active steps toward CTBT ratification and show its constraint on nuclear development.

">U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear reductions, which were symmetrical in the past, may become asymmetrical. IfChinaFrance, and the United Kingdom get involved, they will bring additional asymmetrical factors into the process. It is reasonable to recognize the asymmetry, and it is useful to develop asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangements in the multilateral nuclear reductions. The self-constraints mentioned above make it feasible forChina to accept two kinds of asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangements: a commitment to low readiness of Chinese nuclear weapons, which can encourage START-like nuclear reductions; and some limitations on China’s military fissile material stockpile, which can support reductions in total numbers.

Conclusion

At a multilateral forum among the five nuclear-weapon states, China could gain new opportunities to address its own security concerns associated with nuclear disarmament. Those concerns include the factors that may change nuclear calculations in the world—for example, missile defense. Constructive dialogues and negotiations at the multilateral forum will be useful for China to maintain a safe and friendly environment for its economic and social development.

A formal negotiating forum among the five nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament could bring new momentum to future nuclear reductions. In the last two decades, China has joined or jointly built almost all the international regimes on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security. China also could work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament. Based on its existing self-constraints, China could contribute to the philosophical and concrete dimensions of future nuclear reductions. With regard to the philosophical dimension, China could promote the notion of the nuclear taboo and therefore help reduce the expected roles of nuclear weapons in the world. This will be useful in creating an environment conducive to a nuclear-weapon-free world. On the concrete level, China could commit to keeping its nuclear weapons off alert and to limiting its military fissile material stockpile. This would be an example of an asymmetrical and reciprocal arrangement to encourage deeper U.S. and Russian reductions in nuclear weapons both in operational deployment and in storage.

The conference of the five nuclear-weapon states on September 3-4, 2009, in London on confidence-building measures toward nuclear disarmament is a good beginning in this direction. The five countries could develop a formal negotiating forum on nuclear disarmament based on the experience of this conference and possible follow-on conferences.


Li Bin is a professor in Tsinghua University’s Department of International Relations. He directs the Arms Control Program in the department.


 

1. Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “China’s National Defense in 2008,” January 2009, p. 75, www.gov.cn/english/official/2009-01/20/content_1210227.htm.

 2. For example, on September 3-4, 2009, ChinaFranceRussia, the United Kingdom, and the United Stateshad a conference in London discussing confidence-building measures toward nuclear disarmament issues. SeeUnited Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “P5 Statement on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues,” September 4, 2009, www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=20804873.

3. Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states are China,FranceRussia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

4. On China’s nuclear philosophy and policy applications, see Li Bin, “Understanding China’s Nuclear Strategy,” World Economics and Politics, No. 9 (2006), pp. 16-22 (in Chinese).

5. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. 16, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf.

6. “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” Cm 7948, October 2010, p. 37, www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191634.pdf.  The United States has made a similar but somewhat more hedged statement. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” p. 15.

7. Li Bin, “Tracking Chinese Strategic Mobile Missiles,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2007), pp. 1-30.

China should work with the other nuclear-weapon states to develop a negotiating forum in which they can discuss concrete steps toward disarmament. Such a forum would give China new opportunities to address its own security concerns associated with nuclear disarmament.

P5 to Meet in Paris on Nuclear Transparency

Tom Z. Collina

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plan to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency issues and ways to verify additional arms reductions, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va. Gottemoeller’s comments added some detail to an earlier announcement by France that it would host “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.” The five nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, known as the P5.

The agenda for the meeting, which could take place in June, is currently under negotiation, but would be similar to that of a previous meeting, held Sept. 3-4, 2009, in London, called the “P5 Conference on Confidence Building Measures Towards Nuclear Disarmament,” Gottemoeller said. According to a P5 statement issued after the September event, the group discussed issues relating to “confidence-building, verification and compliance challenges.” Gottemoeller said French officials are interested in having a nongovernmental event alongside the Paris meeting, providing an opportunity for a “public-private dialogue to take place.

 

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plan to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency issues and ways to verify additional arms reductions, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va. Gottemoeller’s comments added some detail to an earlier announcement by France that it would host “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.” The five nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, known as the P5.

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U.S., Allies Prod China on North Korea

Peter Crail

The United States and its East Asian allies called on China to place additional pressure on North Korea in December following a series of provocative actions by Pyongyang that they say violated international laws and regional security arrangements.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, speaking at a joint press conference with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Han Min-koo, Dec. 8, said it is now time for Beijing to “step up” to its “unique responsibility” and “guide the North, and indeed the whole region, to a better future.”

He criticized China for not condemning a Nov. 23 North Korean artillery barrage directed at the South Korean island of Yeongpyeong that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. Mullen visited South Korea to discuss joint military exercises in response to the North Korean shelling, as well as “how we view provocations in the future and what kind of responses there should be across the full spectrum of opportunities,” he said.

The United States, South Korea, and Japan called the attack on Yeongpyeong a violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which formally ended hostilities between North and South Korea. The two countries technically remain in a state of war.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a Dec. 6 press conference with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers that the attack was “the latest in a series of provocations” by North Korea in 2010, citing the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March and the public disclosure of a uranium-enrichment facility in November in defiance of UN sanctions. (See ACT, December 2010.)

In response to North Korea’s actions, China urged “restraint” by all parties and called for an emergency session of the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Wu Dawei, Chinese special representative on Korean peninsular affairs, told reporters in Beijing Nov. 28 that, “after careful studies,” Beijing proposed such talks “to exchange views on major issues of concern to the parties at present.” The six-party talks have been held intermittently since 2003 to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo rebuffed the Chinese call for talks, calling for changes in North Korean behavior first.

“We remain committed to seeking opportunities for dialogue,” Clinton said alongside her counterparts, “but we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community.”

She added that the three countries agreed that relations between the two Koreas must improve and Pyongyang must take steps to implement prior denuclearization commitments before the six-party talks could resume.

Sanctions Enforcement

Although the three allies outlined steps that they expected North Korea to take prior to the resumption of negotiations, they also called for the full implementation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang, highlighting China’s role in that effort.

Citing China in particular, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters Nov. 29 that implementing the UN sanctions is “in the interest of the countries in the region, and we expect them to take steps that are consistent with their obligations and all of our obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and to work, as we all must, to uphold them and implement them.”

Since the Security Council first adopted nonproliferation sanctions against North Korea and Iran in 2006, U.S. officials have often stressed the need for Chinese efforts to enforce them. Robert Einhorn, the Department of State coordinator for Iran and North Korea sanctions, traveled to China in September to press for Chinese implementation of the UN sanctions and to raise concerns about Chinese firms exporting illicit goods and technologies to the two countries.

“We did provide some information to China on specific concerns about individual Chinese companies, and the Chinese assured us that they will investigate,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Einhorn’s visit during an Oct. 19 press briefing.

An April 15 Congressional Research Service report on the implementation of the UN sanctions against North Korea said that the Obama administration “may have to calculate the degree of pressure to apply to China if Beijing does little to enforce the Security Council sanctions.” The report noted in particular that Pyongyang relies on North Korean companies with offices in China for its illicit nonconventional weapons trafficking.

Chinese officials have often claimed that although Beijing is willing to respond to any activities of proliferation concern in its territory raised by the United States, Washington does not provide enough information for Chinese authorities to act.

However, a 2007 cable released by the group WikiLeaks and published by the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper Nov. 28 appears to detail efforts by the United States to provide Beijing with specific information regarding North Korean proliferation to Iran. The cable says that the United States provided Chinese officials with detailed information, including the airway bill and flight number, on a November 2007 air shipment of North Korean missile-related goods to Iran transiting through Beijing’s airport.

The cable further says that the United States believed that at least 10 such air shipments had traveled to Iran via Beijing and expected the number to grow in the future. The cable adds that Chinese action was necessary to “make the Beijing airport a less hospitable transfer point.” The shipments were believed to have assisted Iran’s development of solid-fuel missile technology.

The cable also notes that the provision of such details followed a pledge by President George W. Bush during a September 2007 meeting in Sydney to respond to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s request for additional information on suspected illicit transfers.

Former State Department officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said that the level of information provided to the Chinese was not unusual. “It shows the falseness of China’s claims that the US didn’t provide enough information to take action,” one former official said in a Dec. 17 e-mail.

Another former official said China’s response to such cases was “inconsistent” and that the information would only sometimes result in Chinese action. “We would give them what we could and sometimes they’d surprise us” by acting on the information, the former official said.

China’s response to the concerns raised by the United States in the cable is unclear.

 

The United States, Japan, and South Korea called on China to place added pressure on North Korea following a series of provocative actions by Pyongyang and said six-party negotiations could not begin before the North-South relationship improved.

U.S. Official Mulls Ending NSG Rule Revamp

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.

 

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.”

 

China and New START

By ACA Intern Matt Sugrue and Scoville Fellow Rob Golan-Vilella In an op-ed for the New York Post , Heritage Foundation analyst Peter Brookes warns against New START on the grounds that treaty reductions may increase the strategic threat from China's arsenal. According to Brookes, "[U.S.] lawmakers haven't yet fully faced the problem that, as we build down our strategic nuclear forces (by some 20 percent under New START) in the White House's hopes that others will disarm, China is involved in a strategic buildup. So, before there's any final vote on an arms-control pact that would endure for...

NSG Makes Little Headway at Meeting

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.”

 

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.

Is the NSG Up to the Task?

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.

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)

Op-ed: Time to Act Responsibly on Nukes

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

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