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North Korea

Second Debate Provides Opportunity to Discuss North Korea

Oct. 9 marks both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s second presidential debate and the 10th anniversary of North Korea’s first nuclear test. This serendipitous timing should push each candidate to present a clear plan of action to confront North Korea’s rapid nuclear development. To date, Clinton has avoided making policy recommendations about North Korea and Trump has provided a handful of troubling remarks. North Korea’s most recent nuclear test Sept. 9 , its fifth thus far, took place only eight months after its last Jan. 6. The explosive yield from the September test was greater than 10...

Interview with The Hankyoreh (Seoul)

Hankyoreh: North Korea its 5th nuclear test at the eight months after 4th nuclear test on January. It was regarded as very unusual beacause North Korea conducted nuclear test at intervals of two or three years so far. What do you think is its implication in terms of technology? Daryl Kimball: The cumulative knowledge of the five nuclear test explosions since 2006, and the dozens of ballistic missile tests, especially in the last 12 months, has provided the DPRK’s technical and military teams greater confidence that they can deploy warheads on their short and medium-range ballistic missiles...

UNSC Test Ban Initiative: Reinforcing The Existing Norm Against Nuclear Testing



Volume 8, Issue 5, September 9, 2016

Diplomats at the UN Security Council (UNSC) are engaged in consultations on a proposal from the United States for a council resolution designed to reinforce the existing global norm against nuclear weapons testing established by the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The resolution would be complemented by a separate political statement from the council's five permanent members (P5) further asserting their support for the object and purpose of the treaty.

North Korea is the only country to test nuclear weapons in the 21st century. All other nuclear powers have voluntarily enacted testing moratoria. The effort is all the more vital in the wake of North Korea’s fifth nuclear weapon test explosion September 9.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna reports that preliminary data from more than two dozen of the seismic stations that are part of their International Monitoring System confirm that the seismic event is in the 5.1 magnitude range, is at very shallow depth, and is in the immediate vicinity of North Korea's Pyunggye-ri test site.

Barring unforeseen diplomatic disputes, the UNSC resolution and the P5 statement will likely be approved later this month at UN headquarters in New York.

The Testing Taboo

As President Bill Clinton said when he became the first world leader to sign the treaty on Sept. 24, 1996: "The signature of the world’s declared nuclear powers … along with the vast majority of its other nations will immediately create an international norm against nuclear testing, even before the treaty enters into force.” 

Since then, 183 states have become CTBT signatories and a robust, international monitoring system has been established that can effectively detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing anywhere in the world. The CTBT has near universal support.

Only North Korea has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century.

However, the door to further nuclear testing by North Korea and possibly other countries remains ajar. There are still eight key states—including the United States—that must still ratify the treaty in order to trigger its formal entry into force.

Until then, it is clearly in the interests of the United States and the international community to strengthen the taboo against nuclear testing and the work of the CTBTO to maintain and operate the global monitoring system and international data center established to verify compliance with the treaty.

What the UNSC Resolution and P5 Statement Would and Would Not Do

According to the State Department, the initiative would not establish new binding legal limitations on nuclear testing. The proposed UNSC resolution and P5 statement are:

  • “… intended to reinforce global support for the CTBT and its verification system” and “stigmatize those that continue to test and to act in ways contrary to the de facto norm of international behavior;” and are
  • “… in no way a substitute for early entry into force of the treaty.”

The proposed P5 statement on the CTBT would reaffirm the support of the five major nuclear powers for the treaty and clarify that “a nuclear test explosion or any other nuclear explosion would violate the object and purpose of the CTBT.

Such a statement would give public expression to an existing obligation by the United States, as a signatory to the CTBT that seeks ratification and entry into force, not to take any action that would defeat the object or purpose of the treaty, which is to halt nuclear explosive tests.

The Misplaced Concerns of Some Senators

Unfortunately, some Republicans in the Senate have mistakenly chosen to interpret this common sense initiative as an effort to circumvent the U.S. Senate’s constitutional role by promoting ratification of the CTBT through the United Nations.

In reality, presidents do not circumvent the U.S. Constitution by seeking support for treaties at the United Nations; they have done this many times in the past without usurping the Senate’s prerogatives for advice and consent. The resolution would, as UN Security Council Resolution 1887 (2009), annual UN General Assembly resolutions, and national statements at the bi-annual Article XIV Conferences on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the CTBT have already done before, exhort states to take the steps necessary to ratify the treaty so the treaty can enter into force.

Nevertheless, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) convened a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee September 7 to examine the issue.

On September 8, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and 32 other senators threatened U.S. funding for the seismic monitoring stations that detected the North Korean test the next day. (Photo: U.S. Senate)

In a letter to President Obama dated August 12 and in the hearing, Corker expressed concern about the language in the proposed P5 statement “expressing the view that a nuclear test would violate the object and purpose of the CTBT.” He suggested that this “… could trigger a limitation on the ability of future administrations to conduct nuclear test explosions.” 

In a letter to the White House published September 8, a group of 33 Republican senators went much further, threatening that: “If you decide to pursue a Security Council Resolution that accepts the imposition of international obligations the Senate has explicitly rejected, we would make every effort to prevent the authorization or appropriation” of the

These arguments rest on two incorrect assertions:

  1. The George W. Bush administration’s decision not to pursue the Senate’s consent to the CTBT’s ratification has, in effect, constituted a permanent repudiation of the CTBT even though the United States did not formally notify the depository; and
  2. The Bush administration’s position on the CTBT reflected a shared understanding between the legislative and executive branches. Corker erroneously suggested in his August 12 letter that: “The planned U.N. effort would reverse course on that shared understanding between the Senate and Executive Branch.

These assertions are incorrect for several reasons:

  • Sometimes administrations pursue the ratification of treaties negotiated by their predecessors, and sometimes they don’t. For example, the Geneva Protocol banning the use of asphyxiating gases remained on the Senate Calendar for 50 years until the Senate responded to the strong urgings of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford to consent to its ratification. The fact that their predecessors did not seek the Senate’s consent did not constitute formal repudiation of the Geneva Protocol, any more than the Bush administration’s lack of interest in the CTBT did.
  • Political statements of intent regarding treaties do not formally release the United States from its Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties Article XVIII obligation “not to take actions that would defeat the object or purpose” of a treaty Washington has signed. When the Bush administration wanted to formally release the United States from the legal obligations established when President Clinton signed the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, they did so by formally notifying the depositories. This was not done vis-a-vis the CTBT.
  • Ever since the Oct. 13, 1999, vote on the CTBT in the Senate, the treaty remains before the Senate. The Senate has not voted to discharge the treaty and send it back to the executive branch. The executive branch does not have the right to unilaterally withdraw from the Senate a treaty that is still formally before the Senate. In other words, there has never been any shared understanding that the CTBT would not be reconsidered. As Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said Oct. 13, 1999: “Treaties never die, even when defeated and returned to the Executive Calendar of the Senate.”
  • Even if political statements by the executive branch during the Bush years provided a sufficient legal basis for releasing the United States from its obligation as a signatory not to take actions that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty, the Obama administration’s many statements of support for the CTBT and its intention to seek and obtain ratification recommitted the United States to its obligations as a treaty signatory.

There is no technical need or military requirement for the resumption of U.S. nuclear testing. If, however, a U.S. president did seek to resume nuclear explosive testing, he/she would need to formally notify the depository that the supreme national interests of the United States require such an action and that the United States no longer intends to seek ratification of the treaty. This would be the case even were there not a P5 political statement expressing the view of the leaders of the P5 about what action(s) would violate the object and purpose of the CTBT. 

Reality Check

In response to the questions about the administration’s UNSC initiative on the test ban, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter September 7 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He stressed that the initiative on the test ban will not establish any new binding legal limitations on nuclear testing and “will not cite Chapter VII of the UN Charter or impose Chapter VII obligations.”

It will,” Kerry writes, “be a nonbinding resolution that advances our interests by affirming the existing nuclear testing moratoria, while highlighting support for the CTBT and its verification regime.

Kerry underscored that the proposed P5 statement will give public expression to an existing U.S. (and British, Chinese, French, and Russian) commitment not to test. The United States, as a signatory state that seeks to ratify the CTBT, is obligated under customary international law not to take any action that would “defeat the object or purpose of the treaty,” which is to halt “any nuclear weapon test explosion and any other nuclear test explosion.”

Overall, the resolution and the P5 statement would strengthen the barriers against testing in the years ahead, encourage action by CTBT holdout states to sign and ratify, and reinforce support for the treaty’s nearly complete International Monitoring System to detect and deter clandestine testing.

As ranking member of the committee Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) explained in his opening statement at the September 7 hearing:

“We do not need nuclear active testing to have our deterrent stockpile. It’s the countries that are trying to develop a stronger capacity in nuclear weapons that could benefit by active nuclear testing. It’s those countries that we don’t want to test. It is in our national security interest that they don’t test. Therefore, as I look at this, if we are capable of putting more pressure on those countries not to test, it’s in our national security interest.”

Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear test should underscore why it is irresponsible for some senators to threaten to cut off funding for the CTBTO’s international monitoring system out of misplaced and overwrought concerns that efforts to strengthen global support for the existing norm against nuclear testing would infringe upon their role in the treaty ratification process.

The New Senate Should Take Another Serious Look at the Treaty

Lost in the legal back-and-forth about executive and legislative branch authorities is the fact that the Senate has not taken a serious look at the CTBT for well over a decade.

Much of the skepticism that is expressed by some Republicans is based on outdated information and misconceptions about nuclear testing and the test ban treaty.

Much has changed since the Senate last examined the CTBT in 1999 and rejected the treaty after a brief and highly partisan debate that centered on questions about the then-unproven stockpile stewardship program and then-unfinished global test ban monitoring system.

A decade and a half later, those programs are fully functioning and have been proven effective. Today, the three U.S. nuclear weapons lab directors report that they are in a better position to maintain the arsenal than they were during the era of nuclear weapons test explosions. No ally or foe questions the lethal power of the U.S. arsenal. All U.S. allies want Washington to ratify the CTBT.

As former Secretary of State George Shultz has said, “Republican senators might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now.”

Bringing the CTBT back to the Senate for another vote requires a lengthy, intensive educational and outreach campaign by the executive branch to present the new information, answer detailed questions, and dispel misconceptions about the treaty. But the process of reconsideration should begin—and soon, with the new president and Senate.

Until such time as the U.S. ratifies and the CTBT enters into force, it is common sense U.S. policy to strengthen the barriers against nuclear testing by others.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, Executive Director


North Korea’s nuclear weapon test explosion September 9 underscores the need to reaffirm the existing global norm against nuclear testing and early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

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Statement on North Korea's Fifth Nuclear Test by Daryl Kimball and Kelsey Davenport

Fifth North Korean nuclear test is alarming and cause for action to freeze its programs and reinforce global testing taboo—Statement by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball and Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport, 5am GMT, September 9, 2016.

North Korea Shifts on Denuclearization

September 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea has publicly redefined its denuclearization policy, a move that some experts say may have been intended as an overture to resume nuclear negotiations until the U.S. decision to sanction the North Korean leadership likely closed off any opportunity for new talks.

A July 6 statement by a spokesman for the North Korean government said that “the denuclearization being called for by [North Korea] is the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.”

A man in Seoul, South Korea, watches a news report September 15, 2015, on North Korea’s declaration that it had resumed normal operations at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and that the nation is improving the “quality and quantity” of its nuclear arsenal. [Photo credit: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images]North Korea is estimated to possess approximately six to eight plutonium-based warheads. South Korea does not have nuclear weapons, and the last U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea were withdrawn in 1991. 

Robert Carlin, a former U.S. State Department senior policy adviser to the special ambassador for talks with North Korea, said the statement marked a change from North Korea’s past characterizations of denuclearization, which stated that Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons only when countries such as the United States disarm.

Carlin, speaking at a July 13 press briefing hosted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said that the new position, which called only for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, is more practical and “clearly and very deliberately” lays out a definition of denuclearization similar to North Korea’s position in the 1990s, when the two Koreas signed a joint denuclearization agreement for the Korean peninsula. 

Yet, just hours after Pyongyang’s statement, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and several senior officials because of human rights violations. This was the first time that the United States directly targeted the North Korean leader. 

Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that action was taken to highlight Washington’s “condemnation of this regime’s abuses and our determination to see them stopped.” 

The sanctions imposed by the United States are a “dialogue killer,” said Joseph DeThomas, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, at the July 13 press briefing. Sanctioning Kim was a “major step” because states do not take lightly such a decision against a foreign leader, and it is unlikely that he would have been targeted personally if the United States was interested in negotiations at that time, DeThomas said. 

Pyongyang responded July 11 by saying in its state-run central news agency that it would cut off communication with the United States after Washington “impaired the dignity” of North Korea’s leadership by imposing sanctions. 

North Korea and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, but communicate via the so-called New York channel at the United Nations. North Korea said it cut off the channel after the United States refused to drop the sanctions. 

When asked about North Korea’s decision, State Department spokesman John Kirby said July 11 that the United States does not comment on the details of diplomatic exchanges, but he called on North Korea to “refrain from actions and rhetoric that only further raise tensions in the region.”

North Korea’s Conditions

In its July 6 statement, North Korea cited five specific demands for achieving denuclearization on the peninsula: public disclosure of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, removal and verification that such weapons are not present on U.S. bases in South Korea, U.S. guarantees that it will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, U.S. assurances that it will not threaten or conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal from South Korea of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons. 

North Korea said it would take “corresponding measures” if the United States satisfies its conditions. 

By invoking the names of past leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung in the statement, Carlin said North Korea was signaling that this position comes from the highest authority and that Kim was putting himself behind denuclearization. 

Carlin said that there are clear similarities between these points and the 1992 joint denuclearization declaration between North Korea and South Korea and that the United States has met or generally agreed to meet the first four of the five North Korean demands. It is difficult to tell if North Korea’s offer will be completely abandoned or remain available for consideration after Pyongyang’s outrage about the sanctions dies down, Carlin said. 

IAEA Safeguards Report

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), last month completed his yearly report on the application of IAEA safeguards in North Korea for the agency’s General Conference and Board of Governors meetings.

IAEA inspectors have not been in North Korea since 2009, but the agency continues to monitor Pyongyang’s nuclear activities through such means as satellite imagery and submits a report on any developments ahead of the IAEA General Conference, which is scheduled for Sept. 26-30.

According to the Aug. 19 report, there were no indications that the reactor at Yongbyon was operating from mid-October to early December 2015. The report noted that this time period “is sufficient for the reactor to have been de-fuelled and subsequently re-fuelled.” 

North Korea shut down the reactor in 2007, but restarted it in 2013. In the past, North Korea separated plutonium from the spent reactor fuel to provide fissile material for its nuclear warheads. 

The IAEA report also said that, from early 2016 to July 2016, there were “multiple indications consistent with the Radiochemical Laboratory’s operation.” 

The Radiochemical Laboratory was used in the past to reprocess spent fuel from the reactor at Yongbyon. If a full load of spent fuel from the reactor was reprocessed, it could yield enough separated plutonium for two to four nuclear warheads. 

The IAEA report called on North Korea to cooperate with the agency and resume full implementation of its safeguards agreement.

North Korea issued a statement redefining denuclearization, but new U.S. sanctions likely closed off any opportunity to test Pyongyang’s intentions, according to experts.

The Complex and Increasingly Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Geometry of Asia


By Greg Thielmann
July 2016

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While much of the world’s attention is focused on efforts to halt the nuclear and missile tests of North Korea, the nuclear arsenals and ambitions of India, Pakistan, and China also pose significant dangers and deserve more attention.

The complicated nuclear weapons geometry of Asia extends from the subcontinent to the other side of the world. While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons program against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the United States’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the United States and its allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theater missile defense capabilities.

In order to fully understand how the pace and direction of nuclear proliferation can be influenced, the interconnections of these countries must be considered, along with the kinds of nuclear weapons they have at their disposal.


Asian states Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea comprise four of the world's nine nuclear-armed states. The interconnections of these countries must be considered to fully understand how nuclear nonproliferation can be influenced.

Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds



For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016," is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under-attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament,” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces,” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations,” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Philipp said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

Table of Contents

Download this report.

UN, IAEA Denounce N. Korean Actions

July/August 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

Last month, the UN Security Council condemned two new launches of North Korea’s Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised concerns about Pyongyang’s recent activities at a nuclear site. 

Council president François Delattre of France stated in a press release on June 23 that the Security Council “strongly condemned the most recent ballistic missile launches” by North Korea. The council released the statement after holding an emergency consultation on North Korea on June 22, following the June 21 test of two Musudan missiles. 

The “repeated launches are in grave violation” of North Korea’s obligations under Security Council resolutions, Delattre said. He expressed the “serious concern” of council members that the tests were conducted “in flagrant disregard of the repeated statements of the Security Council.” Security Council members agreed to “take further significant measures” in response to North Korea’s actions, he said. 

His statement included a call to member states to “redouble their efforts to implement fully” nonproliferation measures imposed on North Korea by the council. The council adopted Resolution 2270 in March in response to North Korea’s nuclear test on Jan. 6 and space launch using ballistic missile technology on Feb. 7. (See ACT, April 2016.)

The United States separately denounced the launches. In a White House press briefing on June 22, spokesperson Josh Earnest stated that Washington “strongly condemns the provocative actions by the North Korean government that is a flagrant violation of their international obligations.”

The two test launches on June 21 were the fifth and sixth tests of the missile system, following previous attempts in April and May 2016. (See ACT, June 2016.) The first four launches of the Musudan were failures. 

The June launches represent a “partial success” for the development of the Musudan system, according to John Schilling, spacecraft propulsion expert and engineering specialist at The Aerospace Corp. The latest missile test “finally demonstrated the full performance of the missile’s propulsion system, and at least a minimally functional guidance system,” he said in a June 23 analysis for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. 

The first missile tested on June 21 exploded midflight after flying 150 kilometers, and the second one achieved a distance of 400 kilometers, according to a June 22 report in the Korea Times citing the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. The missile is believed to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers.

Also in June, the IAEA discussed the resumption of activities at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site.

The activity observed by the IAEA indicates that North Korea may have restarted its five-megawatt electrical reactor, expanded enrichment capacity, or resumed reprocessing, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a June 6 press conference. The IAEA has not had access to the Yongbyon site since April 2009, but is “monitoring the situation, mainly through satellite imagery.” The IAEA “cannot state for sure” the type of activity at the site without inspectors on the ground, Amano said. 

The recent activity at the Yongbyon site suggests that North Korea is “preparing to commence or has already begun” reprocessing nuclear material to separate additional plutonium for weapons use, according to analysis by 38 North dated May 31. Satellite imagery shows delivery of supplies to the radiochemical laboratory and exhaust coming from that facility, according to the report. The imagery, however, indicates that the reactor is operating intermittently and at a low level. North Korea had previously shut down the reactor, but restarted it in 2013. 

Speaking to the application of nuclear safeguards in North Korea, in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on June 6, Amano said that he remain[s] seriously concerned about Pyongyang’s nuclear program and that it is “deeply regrettable that [North Korea] has shown no indication that it is willing to comply with the Security Council resolution adopted in response to its nuclear test earlier this year.” 

On June 7, U.S. and Chinese officials spoke on the North Korean issue while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew were in Beijing for the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Kerry met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, where the two sides “had an in-depth exchange of views on the Korean nuclear issue,” according to Yang. At the press conference, Kerry stated that “neither one of our nations will accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and we are both determined to fully enforce…UN Security Council Resolution 2270.”

The UN and IAEA criticized North Korea for continuing to test ballistic missiles and for conducting nuclear activities.  

Resuming Negotiations with North Korea


By Elizabeth Philipp
2016 Scoville Fellow
June 2016

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The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from fielding nuclear-armed ballistic missiles is closing. Diplomatic engagement with North Korea has been scant in recent years. In response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, the United States and other countries, through actions of the United Nations Security Council and independent policies, have adopted an approach of increasing political and economic isolation. Yet, during this time, Pyongyang has improved its nuclear weapons capability quantitatively and qualitatively.

The next presidential administration must prioritize reviewing and renewing Washington’s diplomatic approach to North Korea. With each successive nuclear and missile test, North Korea advances its knowledge and consolidates its capability. History has shown that it is far easier to convince North Korea to negotiate away a military capability it does not yet possess. Washington’s stated primary concern is a North Korean nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Pyongyang will achieve this capability if it is not reined in through a diplomatic agreement or understanding. Once Pyongyang achieves this status, the security balance in Asia will be disrupted and U.S. diplomats will be hard-pressed to convince North Korea to abandon the capability.


The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear-armed ballistic missile systems is closing and Washington should explore every serious diplomatic overture from Pyongyang.

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