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

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

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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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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."

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China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal

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.

 

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.

U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deal Angers China

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.”

 

 

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.

China Says N. Korea Wants Better Relations

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.

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.

China, Russia Agree on Launch Notification

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.

 

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.

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

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.

 

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)

Editor's Note

Elisabeth Erickson and Daniel Horner

The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses.

According to Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, growing extremism, an expanding nuclear portfolio, and continuing instability challenge Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear arsenal. He warns in particular against the slow leak of nuclear expertise and materials to nonstate actors.

Feroz Hassan Khan also sees "insider-outsider collusion" as a valid concern, but he emphasizes institutional changes that Pakistan has made to respond to that threat. A potentially much greater threat comes from flawed assumptions and rhetorical excesses, which could lead both Pakistan and the United States down the wrong path, he says.

Neither of the two authors saw the piece the other was writing, but they respond to each other on numerous points, disagreeing in some cases and agreeing in others. The two articles offer a valuable guide to analysts and policymakers navigating a delicate topic that has enormous implications for regional and global security.

Elsewhere in the issue, Hui Zhang addresses another thorny question in Asia as he looks at North Korea's nuclear weapons program and calls for more vigorous efforts by China to end it. He lays out a detailed road map for North Korea and other countries to follow. He argues that China could and should work with North Korea and the United States to pursue such a strategy.

In his "Looking Back" article, Greg Thielmann reflects on the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. He examines the circumstances leading up to it and the impact the legislation has had since its passage. As Eben Lindsey's news article on the Missile Defense Agency's recent testing of the Airborne Laser system indicates, the debates Thielmann describes resonate today.

 

The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses. (Continue)

Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox

Lewis A. Dunn

Soon after the Obama administration took office, Vice President Joe Biden set the tone of the new administration's approach toward Moscow when he called for the United States and Russia to press the "reset button" in their bilateral relationship.[1] This theme was reiterated in the March 9, 2009, meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Providing guidance to their bureaucracies, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, at their meeting on the margins of the April G-20 financial summit in London, "decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace" START.[2]

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Chinese military-defense dialogue that had been suspended by China in November 2008 to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan resumed in February 2009.[3] Again on the margins of the G-20 financial summit, Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed how to "build a positive, cooperative, comprehensive U.S.-Chinese relationship for the 21st century" and went on to announce the creation of a "Strategic Track" as part of a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.[4]

Strategic dialogue and formal arms control treaty negotiations are but two elements of a wider spectrum of cooperative security activities available to U.S. officials and their counterparts to revamp the U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic relationships. Other cooperative security activities include:

  • Information, data exchanges, and transparency measures;
  • Joint studies, experiments, and planning;
  • Personnel exchanges, liaison arrangements, and joint military staff bodies;
  • Joint activities, programs, systems, and centers; and
  • Unilateral initiatives and coordinated national undertakings.

This expanded arms control toolbox also can be used to deepen cooperation among the five nuclear-weapon states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Such cooperative efforts could include the creation of building blocks for pursuing nuclear abolition.

The specific combination of cooperative security activities would vary across today's strategic challenges. Decisions on what particular measures to use will depend not only on U.S. thinking but also on that of U.S. partners. The acceptability of different measures will vary with the underlying political-military relationship, past precedents, and the strategic cultures of the countries directly concerned. The timing of proposals for specific cooperative initiatives will be another important consideration. Not least, the success of U.S. efforts to use an expanded arms control toolbox to help create strong habits of U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic cooperation will depend on comparable commitments to that goal by Moscow and Beijing.

Building a Nonadversarial U.S.-Russian Strategic Relationship

As the Obama administration moves to reset the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, it confronts deep Russian mistrust of U.S. strategic intentions as well as a pervasive official and public belief that the United States "took advantage" of Russia's weakness in the post-Cold War turmoil. NATO expansion from the 1990s onward, U.S. and NATO use of force in Kosovo in 1999, U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the pursuit of national missile defenses, and the recent proposal to deploy missile defenses in eastern Europe all are cited in a Russian bill of particulars.

On the U.S. side, there is continuing uncertainty about Moscow's intentions. Russia's use of military force against Georgia in August 2008 heightened concerns about Moscow's pursuit of a restored sphere of influence. Sometimes, questions also arise about whether Russian officials would welcome a nuclear Iran as a check on U.S. power. Areas of cooperation exist, most prominently efforts to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but the goal of a nonadversarial relationship characterized by U.S.-Russian strategic cooperation has eluded each of Obama's immediate predecessors-George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Successful negotiation of a START replacement is the necessary first step. Even as those negotiations accelerate, however, U.S. and Russian officials can draw on the full set of cooperative security activities to address mutual uncertainties, deal with key disputes, and lay the building blocks for longer-term, mutually advantageous cooperation.

Joint Studies, Experiments, and Planning

Given today's deep mutual uncertainties, Washington and Moscow need to find better "windows" into each other's thinking, plans, and programs. Traditionally, arms control negotiations partly served this purpose, and the START follow-on process will do so again.

Strategic dialogue can be another means to provide such windows. To serve that goal, however, a new U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue will require a changed approach on each side. U.S. officials will need to go beyond the recent scripted presentations of U.S. positions of the Bush administration that did little to meet Russian concerns; Russian officials will need to break out of their Cold War confrontational habits of thinking.[5] On both sides, sustained top-level attention and a robust institutional structure to ensure bureaucratic follow-through will be other keys to success.

Joint studies would be a natural complement. There are many possible topics, including the emerging proliferation threat, future nuclear weapons requirements, new concepts of strategic stability, and the political-military conditions of nuclear abolition. Participants could be drawn from the two countries' respective defense establishments, militaries, and nuclear weapons laboratories. Each country's participants would address and then discuss an agreed set of issues. Even if the two sides could not produce a consensus written report, the process would provide each side with valuable insights into the other's thinking. Official intergovernmental studies would be preferable, but so-called Track 2 efforts of retired officials and experts could be an initial stepping stone.

Joint experiments would also provide windows into each side's thinking and build cooperation by addressing shared problems. Ample precedent exists in both the Joint Verification Experiment of the late 1980s, looking at enhanced verification measures for the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, and the U.S.-Russian-IAEA Trilateral Agreement of the late 1990s, looking at monitoring nuclear warhead storage. Building on the Trilateral Agreement, a joint experiment on nuclear warhead storage monitoring would be a logical first step. This action could be followed by a joint experiment on procedures for the mutually monitored dismantlement of nuclear warheads, including consideration of what types of international involvement or exchange of information could be provided.

Joint military-defense planning is another area to explore. Possible joint responses to nuclear terrorism are one example. Consider a situation in which a non-nuclear-weapon state had thwarted a terrorist attempt to smuggle an improvised nuclear device or even a stolen nuclear weapon through its national territory or waters. What type of assistance would such a country want from the nuclear-weapon states to render that device or weapon safe, how would that assistance be provided in an extremely urgent fashion, and what would be done with the device or weapon? Comparable joint planning could focus on all of the actions that then would be necessary to seek to attribute the terrorist device to its source and to determine the identity of possible aiders and abettors. Crisis gaming also could be used to build habits of cooperation in dealing with the shared terrorist nuclear challenge.

Institutionalizing Defense-Military Engagement

More institutionalized engagement between Russian and U.S. military and defense officials is another cooperative security activity. U.S. readiness to move ahead in this area, however, has not been matched by Russia, reflecting some combination of the downward slide in the overall relationship between the two countries, lingering Cold War thinking, and uneasiness about a U.S. presence at Russian military sites and institutions, even on a reciprocal basis.

Assuming greater opportunity for cooperation in today's changed political context, one possibility would be regularized exchanges of personnel at each other's military training institutions, for example, in the United States at the National Defense University and Army, Air, and Naval War Colleges. More formal military liaison arrangements also could be explored, with senior Russian officers present at one or more U.S. defense sites and vice versa. Such liaison arrangements would build on the presence of Russian military personnel at the North American Air Defense Command during the Y2K transition from December 1999 to January 2000. The two countries could create two joint, standing Senior Military Staff Groups, one in Moscow and one in Washington, each with flag-rank officers from each side, for exchanges on issues of mutual concern as well as approaches to shared challenges.[6] Regardless of the specific mechanism, the purpose of these activities would be to help improve each side's understanding of the other's thinking, plans, and programs and, again, to build habits of cooperation.

Indeed, U.S. officials could consider unilaterally proposing a Russian military presence at one or more U.S. sites, even without asking for reciprocity. Given Moscow's concerns about U.S. missile defenses and the erosion of Russia's deterrent, two possibilities to explore would be a nonreciprocal Russian liaison presence at the North American Air Defense Command or at the Missile Defense Agency. The latter option would complement possible pursuit of a joint missile defense capability along the lines discussed in the next section.

Squaring the Missile Defense Circle

A joint U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defense system could square the circle on the potential deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe. It also could be part of a more comprehensive, if somewhat longer-term, approach to addressing the deep and continuing U.S.-Russian differences over national missile defenses. The possibility of joint U.S.-Russian missile defenses, whether globally or for Europe, has been broached periodically by U.S. and Russian officials and experts over the past two decades.

The most recent proposal came in June 2007 from Russia's then-president, Vladimir Putin, in response to U.S. plans for deploying missile defenses in eastern Europe. Current U.S. plans for this "third site" would put ten longer-range interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic. But Putin, who is now prime minister, had proposed instead that Russia and the United States develop a joint missile defense for Europe based partly on a Russian radar in Azerbaijan. Some serious technical work on joint activities has been done, both in the 1990s and after Putin's proposal.

A joint missile defense system could begin with a pilot project to test the feasibility of combining available radars, interceptors, and command and control assets, including decision-making rules, to defend Iran's immediate neighbors against that country's existing medium-range missiles. In parallel, U.S., Russian, and NATO experts could define the architecture, components, and associated procedures for a follow-on joint system to counter a more advanced Iranian nuclear missile threat, as well as other threats to Europe. The particular sites for deploying new interceptors and radars would be addressed as part of designing this overall joint follow-on architecture.

Pursuit of a joint missile defense program by the United States, other NATO members, and Russia would help meet Moscow's fears that U.S. missile defenses ultimately are aimed at negating Russia's nuclear deterrent. The potential payoffs of such a proposal for a joint missile defense program in Europe as a means of reassuring Russia and avoiding new arms competition would be increased were it joined to a U.S. commitment promptly to follow a successful START replacement with additional U.S.-Russian negotiations to reach an agreement on offense-defense limitations. A joint program and system also might provide all parties concerned with a credible way to step back from the currently configured plans for deploying missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Not least, U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defense cooperation could be part of a broader strategy of offering Iran's leaders a choice between, on the one hand, the benefits of economic, political, and social integration into the wider international community, including steps to meet Iran's security concerns, and, on the other hand, the risks of further isolation and military containment by the United States, Russia, and other countries. In effect, cooperation would send a very strong signal to Iranian leaders that if they actually acquire nuclear weapons, the great powers will act together to ensure that Iran will not gain from that move. Finally, proposing joint missile defenses would be a good test of the potential nonproliferation payoffs for the United States of addressing Russian strategic concerns.

In addition, Moscow and Washington could act to implement their 2000 agreement to create a Joint Data Exchange Center for early-warning data. Officially, implementation has been prevented by disputes over liability; in practice, neither side has perceived a significant advantage in going forward. Implementation would be an important symbolic step to demonstrate both countries' interest in a changed relationship.

Nuclear Posture Review

Congress has mandated a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to be carried out by the secretary of defense in consultation with the secretaries of energy and state. The review will consider all nuclear weapons issues, from the role of nuclear weapons to the future nuclear weapons complex. Its answers will affect the evolving U.S. strategic relationship with Russia, both directly and as a result of Russian reactions.

At the least, U.S. officials should consider informing the Russians of the ongoing progress of the NPR, the key issues being discussed, and eventually the key conclusions reached. U.S. officials even could exchange views formally or informally with Russian officials about selected issues being addressed during the NPR. For example, U.S. officials could raise questions about Russia's own strategic programs, goals, and intentions as well as its views on broader global strategic issues. How to do so would raise its own issues. Engagement of Russia on the NPR would have to be conducted in a way that protected sensitive information on detailed U.S. operational practices and capabilities. It also would need to be done in a manner and at a level that would be taken seriously by the top levels of the Russian military-defense establishment. Such a unilateral U.S. initiative would reduce uncertainties and misperceptions that could affect the parallel START negotiations, would avoid U.S. or Russian misunderstandings and missteps, and would open windows into each other's strategic thinking.

NATO Enlargement and Russia's Near-Abroad Posture

Successfully resetting the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship will require addressing Russia's opposition to NATO enlargement. Conversely, it also will require addressing U.S. concerns about Russia's political intentions on its borders. These issues far exceed the scope of this discussion. Successful pursuit of the types of cooperative security activities set out here would build needed habits of U.S.-Russian cooperation and bring both countries closer to their oft-stated goal of a nonadversarial strategic relationship. Within that changed milieu, Russian attitudes could change (e.g., at least toward NATO enlargement in the past and Russia's need for a security buffer zone); existing mechanisms could prove more effective (e.g., the NATO-Russia Partnership); and now inconceivable options could be considered (e.g., bringing a nonadversarial Russia into a NATO transformed to deal with 21st-century threats).

Building U.S.-Chinese Habits of Strategic Cooperation

Improved relations between Taiwan and China since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office a year ago have reduced the dangers of a military confrontation involving China, Taiwan, and the United States. Nevertheless, miscalculation by China or the United States remains conceivable, as does the danger of growing strategic competition. Chinese officials are uncertain and concerned about the eventual scope of U.S. missile defenses as well as growing U.S. longer-range conventional strike capabilities.[7] U.S. officials continue to watch closely the growth of China's military power and are uncertain about Chinese strategic plans, programs, and intent.[8]

Beijing and Washington have compelling reasons to avoid military confrontation and competition, while building habits of strategic cooperation. They have strong economic interdependencies as well as many shared regional and global security interests. Cooperative security activities again can contribute to shaping a stable and cooperative relationship. Yet, historical memories, a mix of congruent and competing interests, and differing strategic cultures all shape what cooperative security activities may be practicable and how soon. Moreover, although precedents exist, including, for example, the six-party talks on North Korea, they are much weaker than in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Thus, the bilateral goal should be to achieve some initial cooperative successes, create some additional precedents, and begin a longer-term process.

Defining Principles, Institutionalizing the Process

Resumed strategic dialogue between the two countries promises to provide needed windows into each side's thinking on strategic issues, but China's leaders have been prepared to cut off past strategic discussions, as well as other military-to-military contacts, to express displeasure with perceived U.S. provocations.

Obama's announced visit to China later this year could provide an opportunity for the two presidents to define the overarching principles that would govern their resumed strategic dialogue and their broader strategic relationship in the early 21st century. One important principle would be affirmation of the importance of institutionalizing a renewed U.S.-Chinese strategic dialogue and of insulating it from future political ups and downs. Ongoing working groups could be established to address baskets of issues between high-level meetings.

In negotiating these principles, one particularly difficult question likely will be whether the United States can accept and acknowledge limited nuclear vulnerability because of China's capabilities. Such acceptance may be necessary to avoid growing offense-defense competition, with its adverse spillovers. The United States may have no choice, given China's apparent readiness to invest whatever it deems necessary to hold at least one U.S. city at risk. Acknowledging China's limited deterrent would require language that accepted strategic reality but did not unintentionally reinforce more adversarial ways of thinking in China and the United States. The United States also would need to be careful not to undermine Japan's confidence in the U.S. security relationship.

"Soft" Transparency

Calls for greater strategic transparency have been resisted by Chinese officials. China's periodic White Papers on National Defense, including its 2008 paper, are a partial exception. The arms control model of "hard" transparency-exchanges of data on numbers of warheads, systems, and locations-runs counter to China's historic strategic culture, its continuing sense of weakness, and its operational practices. A different approach would emphasize the "softer" side of transparency, including, for example, discussions of perceived threats and required capabilities for responding to them, as well as of nuclear doctrine, roles, missions, and decision-making. Both sides' views of conventional ballistic missiles-shorter-range in China's case, longer-range in the U.S. case-also could be part of this set of exchanges. "Soft" transparency could prove more acceptable to China but still be useful to both countries.

From Dialogue to Joint Studies

Joint studies may be a particularly promising next step after strategic dialogue to reduce the risk of mutual miscalculation, lessen mutual uncertainties, and build habits of cooperation. Studies would entail more focused and sustained, rather than limited and ad hoc, discussions. By way of example, topics could include global proliferation trends, dimensions of WMD terrorism, sources of strategic miscalculation and miscommunication, possible futures of nuclear weapons, and pathways to nuclear abolition. Depending on Chinese readiness to participate officially, an initial study or assessment might need to be carried out, not on a government-to-government basis but by some mix of experts and retired government or military officials with official observers. It also might be necessary to frame the issues generically rather than specifically to the U.S.-Chinese relationship. As with Russia, there would be no need to produce a consensus report.

Stretching the U.S.-Chinese Envelope

The time is not ripe for traditional bilateral arms control negotiations aimed at legally binding, verifiable agreements between Beijing and Washington, let alone trilateral negotiations involving Moscow. U.S. officials will be absorbed over the coming year with negotiating a follow-on to START, while outside experts are only beginning to think beyond a bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control process. Chinese officials continue to assert that the United States and Russia bear the immediate burden for nuclear disarmament, while opposing the type of hard nuclear transparency that would be essential for formal treaty negotiations. The eventual ripeness of legally binding arms control agreements also will depend on pursuing negotiations cooperatively rather than in the very adversarial style that characterized much of the U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian arms control experience.

Multilateral efforts, such as working to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to reach agreement on a treaty setting limits on fissile material production for nuclear weapons, are valuable for Beijing and Washington. In particular, ratification of the CTBT by both countries would be the most dramatic means by which they could implement their nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT. Their ratification would create significant momentum for the CTBT's entry into force, helping to strengthen support for the NPT and for nonproliferation actions by the NPT's many non-nuclear-weapon states. These nuclear risk reduction initiatives, however, address only one part of the overall U.S.-Chinese strategic relationship. By contrast, more thinking is needed on the potential contributions of other cooperative activities, including actions aimed at eventually bringing China into an arms control process involving the United States, Russia, and China.

As with Russia, one step would be for U.S. officials to brief Chinese officials on the results of the NPR, if not also to exchange views with them formally or informally as the process proceeds. From a Chinese perspective, exchanges on the NPR could provide a potentially irresistible incentive for eliciting Chinese thinking on their own strategic thinking, programs, and plans. Even if such exchanges during the process are ruled out, Chinese officials will be highly attuned to the NPR results and to how China will be treated in it. Better for them to hear the answer officially and accurately from the United States than via leaks and third-party descriptions.

As already noted, given mutual uncertainties about each other's strategic plans, programs, and intentions, there is a danger of growing U.S.-Chinese offense-defense arms competition in the years ahead. Parallel national undertakings-i.e., those pursued in coordination but without a formal treaty commitment-by the United States and China could be part of the overall approach to avoid that outcome. One relevant historical precedent is the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991, which committed the United States and Russia to withdraw ground-launched and ship-based nonstrategic nuclear weapons to their national territories and destroy them. U.S.-Chinese coordinated national undertakings could be used to set out limits on U.S. missile defenses and Chinese strategic offenses. In turn, should the United States and Russia follow up a new START by negotiating legally binding limits to regulate their own future offenses and defenses, one important issue would be how to involve Beijing in that process. China could be encouraged to associate itself with that agreement by accepting restraints on its own strategic offensive capabilities in parallel with U.S. and Russian restraints on their offenses and defenses.

Planning for Nuclear Abolition

Speaking in Prague on April 5, Obama declared "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" and later stated that the United States would host a Global Summit on Nuclear Security within the next year.[9] This U.S. pledge followed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's March statement that the "recognized nuclear weapon states must show unity and leadership" on nuclear disarmament.[10] A year before, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had set out French thinking on an "action plan" for the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, including agreement on transparency measures.[11]

Dialogue among these five countries on the goal of nuclear abolition will assuredly accelerate in the months ahead. As part of that dialogue, U.S. officials could not only encourage or support joint studies and experiments but also explore possible development of an action plan for nuclear disarmament.

Joint Studies and Experiments

The United Kingdom has already conducted its own technical assessment of verification of nuclear disarmament[12] and is cooperating with Norway to address monitored dismantlement of nuclear warheads.[13] It has proposed an assessment by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states of the technical conditions of nuclear disarmament. Such a study would be a good next step. In addition, it could be broadened over time to entail examination of the political, military, and legal conditions for nuclear abolition and how they might be brought about. Another possible step would be an analysis of technical options for the monitored storage, dismantlement, and disposition of nuclear warheads. How best to engage the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states in the nuclear disarmament process also could be assessed. The format, participants, and product of such studies would be shaped by what the five governments are prepared to support initially and over time. As this process of interaction continued, they then could undertake a joint experiment on the monitored storage of nuclear warheads prior to their elimination.

Nuclear Transparency

The time has come for a favorable response to Sarkozy's call for agreed transparency measures. Obstacles exist, not least Chinese "transparency skepticism." But greater transparency, even if put in place incrementally, is an essential building block toward the goal of nuclear abolition. With that in mind, the Obama administration should declare its support for the Sarkozy proposal. One approach would be for the nuclear-weapon states to exchange views on the full set of soft and hard transparency measures, the benefits and risks of those measures, and possible ways to mitigate perceived risks. Their goal would be to identify incremental transparency actions acceptable to each of them. This process would also provide the basis for a joint transparency initiative at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Nuclear Abolition Action Plan

Finally, the five countries should pursue their own action plan for nuclear abolition. This plan would include a reaffirmation of the goal, discussion of conditions for nuclear abolition, identification of building blocks, and specific objectives for action over the next decade. If agreement were reached, this action plan could be presented at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Even if agreement proves too tough, the process of engagement would help demonstrate the countries' commitment to their Article VI nuclear disarmament obligations, prepare them for the give-and-take at the review conference, and pave the way for later action.

Conclusion

The Obama administration has moved swiftly to take arms control out of the "cold storage" where it was relegated by the Bush administration. The primary focus of the new administration has rightly been on resetting the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship and on negotiating a replacement for START. The administration also has acted to reinvigorate the strategic dialogue with China, while signaling support for a wider nuclear dialogue among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states.

In pursuing these goals, U.S. officials can draw on a rich array of other cooperative security activities, in addition to strategic dialogue or negotiated agreements. Within this expanded arms control toolbox, some of these complementary activities are more "ready to go" than others. The many possibilities for joint studies and, to a somewhat lesser degree, joint experiments stand out. Other activities would stretch the envelope of existing cooperation, including new ways to institutionalize defense and military engagement between the United States and Russia and between the United States and China. Still others would break with long-ingrained thinking, whether pursuing soft transparency among the nuclear-weapon states or ongoing exchanges by the United States with Russia and China on the NPR. Several activities would build on past precedents but in very different ways, perhaps best typified by joint U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defenses. Also in this category is the use of parallel coordinated national undertakings to lessen the risk of U.S.-Chinese offense-defense competition and to begin to integrate China into the bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control process.

The bottom line of this analysis can be stated quite simply: as part of an expanded arms control toolbox, many different cooperative security activities can contribute to reshaping the U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic relationships successfully, as well as building habits of cooperation among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states. U.S. officials and their counterparts in other countries should take advantage of the full spectrum of these activities.

 

 


Lewis A. Dunn, a senior vice president of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), served as assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and ambassador for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the Reagan administration. The views herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of SAIC or any of its sponsoring organizations.


ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Vice President, The White House, "Remarks by Vice President Biden at 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy," February 7, 2009.

2. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Joint Statement by Dmitriy A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, Regarding Negotiations on Further Reductions of Strategic Offensive Arms," April 1, 2009.

3. "China, U.S. to Resume Military Dialogue," Reuters, February 15, 2009.

4. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Statement on Bilateral Meeting With President Hu of China," April 1, 2009.

5. See Stephen J. Blank, "Russia and Arms Control: Are There Opportunities for the Obama Administration?" Strategic Studies Institute, March 2009.

6. This idea builds on a suggestion made by former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Director Maj. Gen. William Burns (retired).

7. On Chinese attitudes, see Lewis A. Dunn et al., "Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Policy and Posture," December 2006 (report prepared for the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office, Defense Threat Reduction Agency).

8. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2009," March 2009.

9. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Remarks by President Barack Obama," April 5, 2009 (in Prague).

10. Gordon Brown, speech on nuclear energy and proliferation, London, March 17, 2009 (hereinafter Brown speech).

11. Nicolas Sarkozy, speech, Cherbourg, March 21, 2008.

12. "Verification of Nuclear Disarmament: Final Report on Studies Into the Verification of Nuclear Warheads and Their Components," NPT/CONF.2005/WP.1, April 18, 2005 (working paper submitted by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

13. Brown speech.

 

Soon after the Obama administration took office, Vice President Joe Biden set the tone of the new administration's approach toward Moscow when he called for the United States and Russia to press the "reset button" in their bilateral relationship.[1] This theme was reiterated in the March 9, 2009, meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Providing guidance to their bureaucracies, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, at their meeting on the margins of the April G-20 financial summit in London, "decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace" START. (Continue)

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